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Day to Day Politics: How do you take a leak?

Saturday 21 May 2016

Leaking is not unusual. In politics it is the fat from which journalists feed. One of the most famous was during the height of the Iraq war when the Howard Government came under a lot of criticism from Andrew Wilkie. Wilikie had worked as an intelligence officer for the ONA. Howard leaked classified information to Andrew Bolt who then did a stitch up job on him.

There are many others of course. The following are from an article in the Drum 2/2015:

There was the leak in the Australian that the Howard Government had considered a unilateral invasion of Iraq contrary to what it had said.

Fairfax published excerpts of two candid and blunt emails from Liberal treasurer Phil Higginson about the conflict of interest of husband and wife pairing of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, and the party’s federal director, Brian Loughnane.

Remember the leaking of private note from Party President Shane Stone to Laurie Oakes in which he described the Howard government as ‘’mean and tricky.

In 2012 a leaked video of Kevin Rudd losing his temper and swearing found its way onto social media.

In 2002, the Democrats faced what proved to be an existential crisis when letters were leaked in which former leader Meg Lees attacked her successor Natasha Stott-Despoja.

In 1988, Prime Minister Bob Hawke agreed to hand over the Labor leadership to Paul Keating after the 1990 election, but later reneged.

Laurie Oakes, who revealed the pact for Channel Nine, later said the leak had come from Keating’s leadership campaign manager Graham Richardson.

And what about Rudd’s constant leaks in order to destabilise Julia Gillard and Abbott’s leaks against Malcolm Turnbull.

In the last few weeks details were leaked about the Coalition’s plan to use taxpayer funds to promote a political advertising campaign in support of the May 3 Budget.

Of course these are only but a few. There have been more than 20 leaks on national security, leaks from the national security cabinet that have not been investigated.

Internationally we have had Wikileaks and the Panama papers. As a result of the Panama papers 800 Australians are under the investigation of the ATO.

Leaks are common in politics. Parties do so to embarrass their opposition or to promote themselves. Budget week is a typical example.

Often informers leak because they see dishonesty before them and want it corrected. They take an enormous risk in revealing information. Others obtain information illegally with no other thought than to damage their opponents.

What makes the raid on the Labor party’s member’s premises different is important for three reasons. Firstly it most unusual, even unheard of, to do such a thing during the course of a federal election. Secondly the NBN Co is not independent of the government, it is owned by government.

It is beyond plausibility, beyond the pub test, to believe that someone in the Government didn’t know that the raids were to take place. The Government has two directors on the board. Surely they knew and it would have been fed to the Prime Minister.

Thirdly it has the footprint of the AFP written all over it. Conservative governments have not been reluctant to give, at a very high cost, all the resources it required. It is not always even-handed. In the case of the Bali nine they allowed a crime to be committed when they could have prevented it. It cost two young men their lives.

They have been sitting on the Mal Brough investigation for what seems an eternity. Only recently have they got of their bums to do anything about it.

As Tony Burke points out:

“The thing that I also know with this, is during the life of this Parliament, on 23 different occasions we’ve asked about leaks from all parts of this government, right through to the national security committee of cabinet. The night before the budget government staffers were handing out cabinet in confidence documents around the press gallery”.

“I know how many of those inquiries have resulted in police raids. I don’t know how many times they’ve been referred to the AFP”.

Kaye Lee writing for The AIMN had this to say.

“The other thing that is weird is that the cost blowout to $56 billion was reported by the Minister himself in August 2015 when NBNco released its corporate plan. They made a referral to the AFP in December. But it wasn’t until February that the leak was published of a “damning internal progress report” showing that the project has fallen two-thirds short of its benchmark construction timetable and connection costs to each house or business are also blowing out”.

So what were they complaining about in December?

The leaks relate to a story published by Fairfax media in the Sydney Morning Herald. The story said that the NBN network was facing mounting delays and rising costs, based on documents marked “commercial in confidence” and “for official use only”,

This is what triggered the raid.

At the time the article caused “immense damage” to the Prime Minister as former communications minister. There was a massive blow out of costs of billions and billions of dollars, and of course huge delays in the roll out of the NBN.

Malcolm Turnbull when talking about the NBN brushes off any criticism as though there were not a worry in the world. Greg Hunt does the same on the environment. The fact is we are getting an inferior NBN compared with Labor’s proposal at a higher cost.

I’m not sure if political campaign strategists Crosby Textor are working on LNP strategy for this election but all this seems to have their mark on it.

Crosby is known for what Boris Johnson describes as the dead cat theory. It goes like this:

“Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as ‘throwing a dead cat on the table, mate’’.”


“The dead cat strategy which involves distracting the public from a politically difficult issue by creating shocking news’”.

Like many other policies Turnbull has compromised his beliefs for the sake of position and power.

My own view is that Labor has been given a gift. One where they can exploit Turnbull’s abysmal performance with the NBN. During Howard’s tenure the LNP had 13 attempts to get it right and made a complete mess each time. Howard didn’t know how to send an email. Abbott thought it was just for porn and the Attorney General can’t use a computer. Luddites the lot of them.

My thought for the day.

On the NBN. The problem with designing a network to meet the needs of today is that it denies you the ability to meet the needs of tomorrow”.

PS: The Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook [PEFO], which is prepared by the two central economic agencies and released without the involvement of government within 10 days of an election being called does not look good.


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  1. Terry2

    The interesting thing about this leak is that it was information on the performance of NBN and the roll-out of the national network to which we are entitled – after all we are paying for it and we are entitled to know about the massive cost blowout AND the inferior nature of the service.

    Remember the Cabinet leaks in 2015, what Abbott called the ‘come to Jesus moment’. At that time Abbott told his Cabinet colleagues of Liberal and National Party MPs that Cabinet ministers had Monday night been reminded of their responsibilities to maintain confidentiality.

    He warned ministers of the “personal and political” consequences of divulging Cabinet processes — consequences that could include being dumped from the ministry.The Prime Minister told the meeting of MPs that it was a “come to Jesus moment”,

    Whilst this was a much higher level security breach involving Cabinet the AFP didn’t find it necessary to raid any LNP politicians or their staff..

    I’m smelling a political rat !

  2. Möbius Ecko

    Also interesting is that NBN Co and Turnbull said at the time the leaks made the papers that the information was out of date and irrelevant.

    Seems it wasn’t that irrelevant for it to be referred to the AFP at the time.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Regarding the timing of the complaint in December (remembering that the ‘leaked’ document was dated February 19), the original referral to police must have been prompted by questions asked in Senate committees which are subject to parliamentary privilege.

    “Parliamentary privilege is a function of the separate constitutional roles of parliament and the courts which enable these institutions to go about their business without being subject to outside interference or control.

    These powers and immunities are fundamental to the operation of free institutions. They protect the right and ability of the Houses of the Parliament, and their committees, to carry out their functions of inquiring, debating and legislating without interference, and to deal effectively with any attempted interference.

    The chief immunity from the ordinary law is the freedom of parliamentary debates and proceedings from question and impeachment in the courts. For example, members of Parliament cannot be sued or prosecuted for anything they say in debates; witnesses before parliamentary committees cannot be sued or prosecuted for giving evidence or for the content of the evidence they give.

    The principal powers of the Houses are:
    •the power to compel the attendance of witnesses, the giving of evidence and the production of documents; and
    •the power to adjudge and punish contempts.

    A contempt is a breach of the immunities of a House or any action which improperly obstructs a House or its members in the performance of their duties.”

    In my non-legal opinion, the AFP by accepting and acting on the complaint in December, are in contempt. The Senate is entitled to ask questions without interference.

    If the problem is the leak to the media of the confidential document in February, I ask again, what was the content of the December complaint?

  4. Lord John

    This is Turnballs Watergate.

  5. Terry2

    Memo to AFP:

    Priorities chaps : all those rogue unionists are still on the loose and Kathy Jackson hasn’t been charged yet !

  6. Jaquix

    Perhaps this is a monumental example of Turnbull having “no judgement”, as Paul Keating famously said of him.

  7. cornlegend

    Having been out on the road with campaigning on the Central Coast and Western Sydney for the past few days, it was a bit of an eye opener from what us political tragics see as important and those in the real world.
    A whole bunch of people asked yesterday afternoon/night about the AFP raids overwhelmingly fell into the “Who cares” or “the cops have to do their job” range
    It also seems that the thing keeping Turnbull in the race is their Asylum seeker policy going by responses .
    It seems with 6 weeks to go, people are switching off early and not taking too much interest in the campaigns.

    Now footy is always a winner with the public but have you ever heard of “Doc McStuffins”? “A magical animated series about a six-year-old girl, Doc McStuffins, who has the ability to talk to and heal toys and stuffed animals”
    On TV ratings, trailing way behind the footy,{352,000} in 12th place was Doc McStuffins {55,000″] and in 13th place the debate bewteen Turnbull and Shorten {54,000}


    12 DOC MCSTUFFINS Disney Junior 55,000


    Not sure how the apathy gets turned around, but I might get myself a Doc McStuffins T-Shirt

  8. Miriam English

    Memo number 2 to AFP:

    Remember to pick up the cheque from the LNP and Murdoch.

  9. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    The AFP’s actions over the past few days of raiding Labor premises could and should be legally challenged for abusing parliamentary privilege. Also, if there is an action against the AFP, it would become public information what the December complaint was.

    This would help to put more holes in Malcolm Muck’s boat and to cause embarrassment for the LNP.

    Furthermore, the AFP have proven themselves incompetent in controlling institutional corruption while being partisan to the LNP and should be disbanded once the New Government begins governing on 3 July.

  10. Glenn K

    We are in deep,shit in this country when the AFP can be influenced by one particular polical party and be subtly aligned to one. I have always considered it corrupting behavior for Abbott to stay at AFP accommodatn when he was in Canberra. That was and is so wrong.

  11. Slapsy

    If this isn’t enough to convince the ALP of a need for a federal ICAC,nothing will.

  12. Möbius Ecko

    I’ve already lost count on the number of times crosses to Shorten and interviews with him and other ALP members have been cut short by the ABC, usually with the excuse of loss of picture, feed or for some announcement or another. It just happened again on their cross to Shorten at Campbelltown.

    It never happens that I’ve seen when Turnbull or any other L-NP member is speaking, and didn’t happen with the interview with Turnbull right before they crossed to Shorten.

    The same thing occurred during Gillard’s time as PM. Abbott and co were never cut short or had a technical issue during an interview or presser, yet it often occurred with Gillard and her government members.

    This has to be more than a coincidence.

  13. townsvilleblog

    I don’t “take” a leak anywhere, when I leak, I “have” a leak, because at least so far, I am NOT a yank.

  14. kerri

    When I read about the raids by the AFP my first thought was Godwin Grech!
    Turnbull cannot help himself!
    He is impatient and will do whatever he can quickly (and lazily) do to undermine his opponents.
    Anyone who thought Turnbull’s time on the backbench and as a minister had set in stone his behaviour was sadly well fooled. It goes to the character of the man. Turnbull has always been in a position throughout life to do his own bidding whenever he wants. He is his own man which is in direct conflict with being a Prime Minister (or any other politician) as the role needs a man/woman for the people they serve.
    Kerry Packer may have controlled him but I would love to see David Marr research his time as a Packer minion and outline the conflicts and how they evolved and concluded.
    And as I have said many times recently any conservatives who have seen how quickly Turnbull sold his beliefs to get the PM job should think twice about how quickly he will again sell his principles if his personal betterment requires it.

  15. Diane

    I’m sure I heard a brief mention of Border Force staff having been found to be working with drug and alcohol smugglers..but that’s not had much coverage since, so maybe the dead cat was the AFP trying to make us look the other way, rather than the LNP – I still can’t see what advantage it is to Malcolm to have everyone remembering his part in the awful NBN-replacement…

  16. Maxoz

    Is the headline picture an example of the trickle-down effect ?

  17. Florence nee Fedup

    PM is talking as if documents taken from Conroy’s office are the alleged stolen ones. How could he know this? He said Conroy shouldn’t be keeping them from the police, Where is evidence he has them>

  18. Florence nee Fedup

    Interview with Wong/Dreyfus worth following up. Very long. Laurie Oakes, Telegraph not behind paywall has much to say,

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