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‘Crying Cockles and Mussels, alive-alive-o’

17/12/2012


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Ever since Peter Slipper became Speaker, the coalition warned that the had him in their sights. On the same day Slipper dropped ties to the LNP and declared himself an Independent, the media interviews with members of the coalition front bench, including Tony Abbott, were riddled with allegations of his ‘dodgy’ past and how can the PM ‘make him speaker’ knowing this.

Insert reality here people. The PM does not make ANYONE speaker, the entire house of representatives do. But the coalition steam roll reality don’t they? CO2 is weightless!

So the James Ashby matter was for the coalition inevitable due to Slipper being ‘dodgy’. But only because they helped make it inevitable.

First there was the whole ‘I had nothing to do with it’ claims from Mal Brough. This was followed up, and only after persistent reporting, that yes indeed Mal had talked to Ashby, but only on the phone. And this was followed up by a Sunday Weekend spread on Mal and the wife in the papers on how he felt that he had to get involved and how on hearing Ashby, he was obliged to help meeting once.

He still claimed he was unaware of any details. Despite just admitting that he was moved by Ashby’s case. Tony Abbott called this honest and upfront.

Well. Maybe not upfront enough. Turns out Mal had over 6 meetings with Ashby.

Almost within the minute of Ashby filing for sexual harassment, News Limited seemed to be well ahead of their competitors. Turns out that since they helped in the lead up, they had inside knowledge.

Journalism once again meets its age old challenge. The challenge, for those who may not know what I am referring to is the one photographers or camera people are often asked. ‘You can see that a incident was about to occur. Why did you not get involved? Why continue to film knowing one of the two had a knife. Or gun. Why continue to film and not administer first aid’.

Its a big question. Are journalists there to document only, or do they have a greater responsibility. But in this case, Steve Lewis was not just documenting an event, but helped make it an event. A very thin line.

Anyway, while Slipper was still overseas, News Limited had waged a media campaign that had already cost him his job well before a court outcome, and well before he was able to return to the country. The pressure swung to the PM. If the government had been ahead in the polls, they may have wore this out. But this was in April. The government had had a bitter leadership challenge. The carbon price was yet to be made law and the myths were high.

Slipper removed himself to the back office. The media campaign continued. Remember folks. A court case has been filed. But there was the News Limited with stories ranging from how Peter Slipper still attends functions to bringing up the personal details of cab charge drivers linked to Slipper.

Of course News had inside running. No way would their articles about Slipper and dodgy cab charges influence the case because they KNEW that Ashby and his team always intended to drop those charges. So they ran the smear cases knowing the damage they cause to Slipper in public, would not be tested in court.

But it was.

Yes, Justice Rares does say that a person with a bona fide sexual harassment could be offended by some of the texts. But he also pointed out that early in the exchanges, Ashby had texted that he had enjoyed the discussions they have.

He too saw the talk from the coalition of sex videos and cab charges when Slipper was made Speaker, was way too much of a coincidence when they appeared in the Ashby claim. He also clearly understood that Ashby was not in parliament in 2003 let alone out of high school, and therefore any of those must of come from people who where: Mal Brough, Pyne, Bishop, Hockey. While he could not make the conclusion of this greater conspiracy, he did mention it. And he did conclude that Mal Brough and elements of the LNP were involved.

The outcome we all know. Slipper was forced to resign. And for what? For a comment about mussels in September 2011. And lets be fair to Slipper. It was clearly a word association test. Ashby had mentioned Mal Brough and the first thing that came to Slipper’s mind was female genitalia . Quite understandable dont you think?

The coalition jumped on how the language was dirty and filthy etc etc, this despite Abbott no doubt had used similar expressions for at least all his university life. Does not take away from the fact that it was a text sent in September… BEFORE Slipper became Speaker. And BEFORE Ashby became his staffer. A private conversation only made public due to a abuse of court by Ashby, Brough, Doane, Lewis (inadvertently apparently) and at least one other from the LNP. A case that was designed to cost Slipper his job and has done despite being found to be a abuse of justice.

The media that pushed the wheel barrows crying ‘cockles’ and ‘mussels’ for months have gone silent. A man lost his job because of a politically motivated smear and abuse of justice. And the response from the media? Silence. Deafening silence.
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A. Ghebranious 2012

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