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Kevin Rudd all but confirmed in the Killing Season that he was behind the leak that derailed Julia Gillard's national press club appearance. If this fact had been known, this may have put a completely different light on Laurie Oakes' revelations (Image screenshot abc.net.au)

ABC TV’s 'Killing Season' has not only exposed the rot in the Labor and Liberal parties but also the malice, lies and hypocrisy of the Canberra press gallery, writes Alan Austin.

ABC TV’s brilliant three-part seriesThe Killing Season has revealed the destructive malice and odious hypocrisy within both the Labor and Liberal parties. It has also exposed the complicity in these evils of Australia’s news media — particularly the Canberra press gallery.

Many examples emerge of critical information for voters deliberately withheld, distorted or blatantly falsified.

1. Former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry is usually credited as architect of Australia’s successful response to the devastating 2008 global financial crisis (GFC). At least, by those prepared to acknowledge Australia’s success.

Not true, according to Henry himself:

“I think it is extremely likely that he [then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd] was better prepared for this stuff than any political leader anywhere else in the world ... I said to him subsequently that I thought his instincts were better than mine. And I still think that.”

2. Rudd played a central role in formulating not just Australia’s response to the GFC, but the global response also.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the man at the epicentre, said of Rudd that

“... he understood not just the politics. He understood the economics.”

Then UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown was even more emphatic:

“Kevin Rudd was one of the first leaders who realised that we were in a long term crisis that was quite fundamental, that it had ramifications right across the world.”

Australia’s media did not report this.

3. Australia’s stimulus response – which began with direct cash payments to households – was the most rapid in the OECD. It resulted in Australia alone in that group of 34 developed countries avoiding recession and deep unemployment. This was falsified by several news outlets.

Deputy prime minister at the time Julia Gillard recalled:

“We all sort of inherently knew that there was this potential liability for Labor. Inevitably there would be someone who got that stimulus payment that the media then saw taking it down to the pokies or coming out of the pub with slabs and slabs of alcohol on their shoulder. And it would play out as a waste and mismanagement story.”

It did. And still does. The Gillard Government did not, however, expect the ferocity and mendacity of that campaign, chiefly in Murdoch publications and the ABC.

4. Rudd’s crucial role in setting up the G20 global summit of world leaders was not just ignored, but actively denied.

Gordon Brown again:

“We [Rudd and Brown] had decided that this financial crisis was far deeper than people had imagined it to be, that there had to be coordinated international action to deal with it. And that we would have to set up an organisation that was capable of doing so, which eventually became the G20. You know, Kevin was absolutely central to these discussions.”

This is confirmed by historians, including Sheffield University’s Professor Tony Payne who credits the creation of the G20 to Rudd, Brown and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy – in that order.

The Australian denied this truth in a tawdry story headed ‘Kevin Rudd reinventing history of G20’.

Greg Sheridan wrote:

“You often hear newsreaders and commentators praise Rudd for his role either in founding the G20 or getting Australia included in the G20. Both these claims are completely ahistorical, or to put it another way, no such thing ever happened.”

That malicious piece, of course, quoted no-one actually part of the history — such as Gordon Brown. who has now slapped Sheridan down.

5. Both Brown and Ken Henry paid emphatic tribute to Rudd for the global Copenhagen climate accord achieved in 2009.

According to Brown:

“Kevin stood up to those [national leaders] who wanted to say ‘no’ on climate change ... The fact we got a Copenhagen declaration which has now led to the next stage ... is in no small measure due to him.”

Australia’s media, in contrast, amplified Tony Abbott’s false depiction of the outcome as a "comprehensive failure".

6. The Killing Season confirmed the reality that PM Julia Gillard’s 2011 ‘Malaysian Solution’ to the refugee crisis was almost identical to Abbott’s later Cambodia policy. Gillard was shown saying with Thatcherian steel:

“If you spend your money, you get on a boat, you risk your life, you don’t get to stay [in Australia]. You go to Malaysia.”

There are two major differences between the schemes which Australia’s media have failed to report.

First, Malaysia has a far better record of human rights than Cambodia and a much higher standard of living (more than seven times higher, according to the CIA factbook).

Second, Abbott’s Coalition opposed Labor’s stronger policy in 2011 – destroying bipartisanship and ensuring continuing deaths at sea – for political advantage. Labor supported the Abbott’s weaker policy in the Westminster tradition of bipartisanship on security matters.

The media continues to spread the falsehood that Labor did not have an effective plan and the Coalition now does.

7. In July 2010, veteran "journalist" Laurie Oakes ambushed then Prime Minister Gillard at the National Press Club with a near verbatim account of her private conversation with Rudd on the eve of her successful leadership challenge.

Gillard welching on an agreement with Rudd was the nub of the question — which she deftly side-stepped. The accusation still became the story of the day. Great story. No question. But whence did the leak originate? That was even bigger news, which Oakes refused to tell his audience.

Soon after, during the 2010 election campaign, another cabinet leak to Oakes led to more destructive headlines claiming Gillard had opposed the landmark paid parental leave scheme and 'had reservations about' the 2009 pension increases.

According to then Treasurer Wayne Swan:

“Paid parental leave and fixing up the base rate of the age pension went to the very core of Labor values.”

Gillard recalled:

“I thought, you know, this was the election losing moment. That basically the election could not be won from here.”

That was certainly another hot story.

But more important issues were these:

  • Who was the cabinet member – or associate thereof – ratting on the Government?
  • Was the leaker still in Parliament and bound by an oath of office? Or outside and employed elsewhere? By whom?
  • What was the motivation for seeking to change political history in secret?

Oakes knew the answers. But with the connivance of his employer he withheld them from voters.

Item one of the journalists' code of ethics requires:

'1. Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts.  Do not suppress relevant available facts ...’

Of course, naming the leaker would close that source of juicy "news". Understood. But that lost advantage to one ‘reporter’ – and to one malevolent MP or ex-MP – is clearly outweighed by the betrayal of the duty of full disclosure. Not to mention damage to the political process.

Oakes is shown in The Killing Season telling Gillard sneeringly from his Channel Nine desk:

“Well, PM, you know this information didn’t come from the Liberals. You’ll need to look a lot closer to home.”

Perhaps. But for responsible journalism, Australians need to look a lot further than Oakes and the rest of the national press gallery.

You can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @AlanTheAmazing.

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