The Integrity of Ray Stevens and Channel Nine

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All that Channel Nine released from Ray Stevens' Integrity Commission advice (Image grab from Gold Coast Bulletin, 28 March 2015)

Why did Ray Stevens give his long concealed Integrity Commission advice only to Channel Nine and why did Nine not release it until IA followed it up with them? Managing editor David Donovan reports.

AS WAS discussed yesterday, even a cursory reading of LNP MP Ray Stevens’ long hidden Integrity Commission advice about the Gold Coast Skyride project showed it did not give him the unqualified sign-off he had claimed in Parliament and elsewhere. It stood to reason that this would be the case, as Stevens does have an obvious conflict of interest, being a major investor and advisor in a highly controversial business development in a national park that only legislative changes he had voted for, made by the Government he was a senior figure in, had made viable.

Not only that, but Stevens had clearly been desperate to avoid revealing this report prior to this year’s January 30 Queensland election, going into hiding, avoiding the media for months and then becoming insanely agitated as I asked him questions about it outside a Gold Coast pre-polling booth on January 21. This culminated in him receiving widespread public ridicule after he was caught on camera waving his hands in my face and performing his now career defining “chicken-dance”.  

So, when Ray Stevens stood up in Parliament in February, after a barrage from Queensland’s new Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk about his suspect integrity, to say he had given the Integrity Commissioner’s report to Channel Nine, I was surprised.

Given all the history and the fact Stevens’ chicken dance was one of the highlights of the Queensland election campaign, I expected Nine to do a story on the advice — or at the very least release it to the public. I waited patiently for a month for them to release more details about this report than a few blurry excerpts in a two minute television story.

Nothing was forthcoming.

Eventually, I contacted Channel Nine reporter Shane Doherty on Twitter asking him whether Channel Nine did indeed have a copy of this report.

He replied:

yes - ran something last month. Would you like it?’

Would I like it…

To his credit, after receiving my contact details, Doherty graciously emailed me the eight page long document almost immediately. Let me also say, I am not inferring any improper motives to Doherty. I regard him as being a good and fair reporter. Decisions about pursuing particular issues are not always in the hands of the TV reporter, but rather their producers and employers.

Questions need to be asked about this matter.

Firstly, questions need to be asked about why Ray Stevens chose to release the report only to  Channel Nine and not the numerous other media outlets who have been pursuing Stevens over this matter, notably Fairfax, the Gold Coast Bulletin and, of course, Independent Australia. Does Stevens’ have a special relationship or understanding with Channel Nine?

Secondly, when did Channel Nine receive the advice? Why did they choose to sit on it and not release it to the public — and then only when pressed? Did they not feel the public had a right to know what was actually in the advice?

Thirdly, given the extremely equivocal nature of the advice, apparent even from a cursory reading, why did Channel Nine not detail the extremely qualified nature of the advice rather than one or two selective, fleeting excerpts in a news report to suggest he had been given a “clean bill of health” by the Integrity Commissioner?

Fourthly, why did Channel Nine not undertake a detailed legal examination of the report (like IA did with barrister Alex McKean) to determine whether Stevens had provided accurate information to the Commissioner?

I note that Channel Nine have, at the same time as the Integrity Commission report came into their hands, devoted seemingly endless amounts of screen time pursuing Billy Gordon. It would be interesting to know what has gone on behind the scenes to induce them to apparently seek to protect and shield Ray Stevens. Could it be that Ray Stevens is a powerful and well connected member of the Queensland establishment, whereas Billy Gordon is an Indigenous person.

Whatever the reason, we await a response from Channel Nine and Ray Stevens. I suspect we might be waiting some time.

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