Lateline, Norington and a problem with the facts

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Norington's recent Lateline appearance to discuss his book on the HSU saga was misleading and focussed instead on Bill Shorten. Peter Wicks reports.

ON FRIDAY, after The Australian's Brad Norington appeared on Lateline to promote his new book Planet Jackson on the Health Services Union (HSU) saga, many approached me for my opinion.

Others took to Twitter to vent their frustration at a “Murdoch hack” going on Lateline to dump on Bill Shorten.

I’ll start out by saying that Norington is not just another “Murdoch hack”, he is one of those from the mainstream media who did a lot to turn public opinion around on Kathy Jackson. Norington uncovered the ugly battle over the estate of David Rofe QC. This involved Jackson and partner Michael Lawler seemingly taking advantage of an ageing dementia patient in order to inherit millions from his estate, with Lawler even purchasing a neighbouring house to Jackson’s with Rofe’s money. So it’s fair to say I have a lot of respect for Norington and look forward to his book.

However, I do have some concerns after watching his interview on Lateline.

Lateline (and perhaps Norington's publishers) may have an interest in talking about Bill Shorten, Cesar Melhem, and the Royal Commission regarding the Australian Workers' Union (AWU) but I don’t understand how it relates to the HSU case. Lateline host Emma Alberici stated that Norington focussed

“ ... significant attention in the book on Bill Shorten and his appearance before the Trade Union Royal Commission.”

Shorten's appearance at the Royal Commission and his actions at the AWU are not related to the HSU saga, so one can’t help but wonder why “significant attention” is given to this, or why any attention would be given to this in a book about another topic altogether. Perhaps there is another agenda at play here?

When discussing allegations involving Craig Thomson, Norington claimed:

" ... Craig Thomson's alleged — well, now in fact proven misuse of union credit cards on prostitutes."

I was expecting more from Norington than highly misleading commentary such as this.

In fact, there has not been “proven misuse” at all. Thomson defended these charges in court and was proven innocent. Thomson was in fact cleared of credit card misuse in the criminal proceedings. Norington is referring to civil proceedings, which after years of defending himself in other proceedings, Thomson could no longer afford the legal fees to defend. These civil proceedings saw evidence entered into court unopposed and therefore, accepted by the court for financial reasons. Norington, however, omits this from his account.

This is exactly the type of reckless misreporting that saw the magistrate in one of Thomson’s court cases publicly berate and slam Norington's colleagues, Ean Higgins and Pia Akerman for making deliberate false claims about court proceedings on the same topic of prostitutes.

Accepted into evidence is a far cry from “proven”. And, in fact, in the criminal proceedings (where Thomson had legal representation) these allegations were dismissed due to the prosecution's complete and utter inability –despite going to great lengths – to prove any expenditure on prostitution.

Craig Thomson says Norington has not approached him regarding the book or the claims. While most journalists try to provide balance, it would seem Norington has relied on prosecution court documents. Lucky he wasn’t writing a book on Lindy Chamberlain.

Norington claims that things went quiet after 2009 when allegations against Thomson were first made. The inference seeming to suggest Jackson had a clear run up until the Royal Commission when the mainstream media finally woke up to her.

On the contrary, things were not so quiet. Jackson spent a great deal of this time being praised by (Norington's employer) News Corp as a hero, Lateline also referred to her as a heroic whistleblower and she was lauded all over the mainstream media as some kind of wonder woman.

Also during that time, I was making quite a lot of noise. My articles on Wixxyleaks and Independent Australia were making enough noise for Norington's newspaper, The Australian, to publish a front page article in an attempt to discredit me. Enough noise, also, to see me receive legal threats via email and phone from Norington's colleagues and, to defend legal challenges by Kate McClymont and Michael Lawler. Independent Australia’s managing editor David Donovan and I spent a lot of time fending off legal issues brought on by those in the mainstream media, who now like to pretend we never existed.

It wasn't just me, either, making noise about Jackson’s alleged corruption. Well before I arrived on the scene, there was Andrew Landeryou and Vex News.

I guess you could say it was about as quiet as a Motorhead concert in an echo chamber. However, those with selective deafness like to say they missed all the racket. Make no mistake, the mainstream media in this country are a club and those who expose their shortcomings are not welcome.

For those wondering, my book on the matter is still a work in progress as there is so much yet to come.

Norington said that “if” the police take action against Jackson it will be before the end of the year. A pretty big window from the journalist who insisted the utterly damning portrayal of Jackson and Lawler by Four Corners was going to be a puff piece once again promoting Jackson as a heroic whistleblower.

My inquiries lead me to believe we can expect something from police much sooner.

Stay tuned.

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW State Labor candidate. You can follow Peter on Twitter @madwixxy.

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