Above: Byron Bay Echo page 5, 12th June 2007
Ian Cohen MP is there on p11 of the Sydney Daily Telegraph in typically sensationalist terms apparently facing a complaint to police by a "Byron Bay business woman Donna Davis" alleging assault of some kind. This could be an allegation of anything from an unwelcome chinese burn to the wrist, to something more serious. Who would know.
One takes a sceptical view not so much of the woman making the complaint per se but of the purveyor of the story, and therefore it's truth.
How so? Let me count the ways, and subject to a reservation found below:
1. The Telegraph, and specifically this editor, David Penberthy, have a proven unsafe track record when it comes to reporting the private life of political enemies of conservative politics. John Brogden was a moderate targeted by the ultra right loyalists to John Howard. The blowtorch was so exagerated especially (from memory) the gratuitous third front pager the anxiety riven MP and Opposition leader tried to commit suicide in a fit of deep depression. The Liberals lost the seat of Pittwater there was such a blow back.
2. Again from memory Cohen has won an undisclosed defamation payout from the Telegraph for falsehood written by Piers Ackerman via top barrister Clive Evatt for Cohen. I seem to recall Cohen having another defamation proceedings under way though memory is vague on that. If this is so, we could be seeing a nasty revenge tactic, just as News Ltd run knee jerk attacks on Ch7 - owned by Kerry Stokes as Stokes sues them for alleged business thuggery over the marginalisation of the Stokes C7 pay tv venture (notice too James Packer another party defending the C7 litigation as owner of PBL/Ch9, has effectively sold out of the litigation with sale to private equity).
3. The timeline in the story itself is curious. The incident is said to be June 2 2006 but the complaint was made to police in January 2007 just prior to the state election. It was so damaging (not?) as to have been unheard of prior to the state election in March 2007. Even accounting for Cohen not being up for re election himself, it's hard to believe such ammunition, if it had strength wasn't flushed out in that seriously adversarial climate. The timing does seem equivocal as to whether the complaint was delayed for entirely human reasons, or to leverage the pressure of the election which would be quite cynical but sadly pretty common to relationship breakdowns.
4. In a reading of his book Green Fire at its launch in the 90ies Cohen outlined a moving account of domestic violence by a male protester in the Chaelundi forest protest camp around 1990, where the sisters in the blockade all lined up and literally spat on a young man who had offended their own social code. And how that young man took his humiliation in front of the whole camp. Powerful stuff. Is that the kind of guy who has lost his sense of right and wrong? Even in a tense relationship breakdown?
5. There is an overt feminist, but really power politik battle being fought for the female vote in the lead up to this tough federal election, and one of the covert battle fronts is in NSW State Parliament, including leverage of the media. So people are playing angles, Prue Goward MP, ALP Leader Iemma MP with his telegenic policy yuppies, and if Cohen is collateral damage well all to the good would be the attitude of the duopoloy major party gerrymander.
6. Then there is what I would call the Byron Bay factor. Fraught internecine social and no doubt sexual power politics amongst the new age and business hippie crew trying to invent a new society up there.
The one qualification is that the story is not by the usual attack dog Luke McIlveen, but a double headed byline of old hand Bruce McDougall with Kate Sikora. There is also mention of witnesses. On the other hand the hallmark ridicule of the Greens Party by reference to Cohen allegedly "fond of surfing, cycling, colourful [also described as "outlandish"] suits and slip-on shoes" is there for daring to stand against said duopoly gerrrymander/Big Media complex. Pathetic journalism really which trivialises the serious questions underpinning the story.
In all the context, it looks very much like an innocent until proven guilty type situation. Time will tell.
This writer can't say Ian Cohen is our favourite MP even if on roughly the same side of politics, given we don't like the haughty culture of parliamentarians in general. Nor can we say that Cohen is above power games at the expense of his rivals inside and outside the green movement. But it's a whole different thing to join in an invitation to emotional and professional thuggery by the Daily Telegraph, or one David Penberthy.
I mean we just don't know if staff of the Daily Telegraph have stopped beating their own wife, spouses, girlfriends or children yet? We do know they are episodic drug addicts (Stephen Mayne reports of culture there), serial defamers (senior reporters regularly and successfully sued), racist abusers of an ethnic security guard (refer IR legal decision), apologists for mass murder in Iraq (refer pro Bush war coverage) etc, and an insult to real editorial standards (common mentions Media Watch ABC) but that's a whole different matter. Or is it?
Declaration: The writer, Tom McLoughlin, was a member of the Green Party from 1993 - 2000, an ex girlfriend was a parliamentary staffer for Ian Cohen 97-99 or so.
Postscript #1, 13th June 2007 When we spoke yesterday 12th June neither Ian Cohen MP's office, nor Andrew Clennell state political editor at the Sydney Morning Herald seemed to think there is any relation in the timing of the report out mid yesterday that Paul Gibson MP of the NSW ALP would not be facing formal charges of domestic violence from some 17 years or more ago, involving alleged victim then MP Sandra Nori:
SANDRA NORI has broken her silence on her refusal to give a police statement about allegations that she was assaulted by her former partner and fellow Labor MP, Paul Gibson, saying she "has had enough of this issue to last a lifetime".
We are indeed more cynical. The Cohen story as flaky as it sounds does take the edge off the Gibson 'not charged' ALP embarrassment story, but even more significantly off MP Nori, who refuses to lodge a witness statement so she can move on with her life. For instance you can expect female MP friends colleagues of Cohen will have just that much greater pause to not engage on the Gibson/Nori matter today.
For instance that's a hallmark of systemic patriarchal abuse really that Nori does not feel free to tell the facts, which if she did would all likley echo back to say .... professional sport like rugby league ... do yer think?:
A scandal story not so easy to find via google as it appeared front page Sydney Morning Herald on June 1st 2007.
Who released the details of Cohen allegation? Apparently it ran in the Fairfax Sun Herald of 10th June, then quite big story as above Murdoch Daily Telegraph 2 days later. The kind of story police might have organised, or ALP to diverrt attention of their own? That would never happen in Sydney surely not.
Here is that Sunday Sun Herald first story which indeed was issued by NSW Police
Date: June 10 2007
A NSW MP has been accused of assaulting his former partner.
In a statement issued to The Sun-Herald on Friday, police confirmed they were investigating the alleged domestic assault.
The statement said that on January 31 this year a 56-year-old woman contacted police alleging that an incident took place on June 2 last year where she was assaulted by the man, whom she knew.
Detectives then launched an investigation.
A police spokesman said it took several months for key witnesses to come forward.
After further inquiries, several new witnesses were identified.
No one has been charged.
The police spokesman said that while investigations into the alleged assault continue, no further comment would be possible.
SAM news blog draws these conclusion: A media story management fix is in at the expense of the Greens, motivated by perhaps the NSW Police, perhaps the ALP Iemma Govt ministers.
June 12 2007
Statement in response to today’s Daily Telegraph article
NSW Upper House Greens MP Ian Cohen issued the following statement
today in response to an article appearing in The Daily Telegraph:
“The accusations in the Daily Telegraph are false, malicious and
“I strenuously deny all such allegations which have been made eight
months after the alleged occurrence.
“This type of attack is unfair and personally devastating.
“I have instructed my solicitor to bring proceedings for defamation
in respect to these false accusations made to the media,” Mr Cohen
Adviser, Greens MLC Ian Cohen
Macquarie Street, Sydney, 2000
Tel: +61-2-9230 3305, Fax: +61-2-9230 2267
Mobile: 0417 742 754
Christian Kerr writes:
Greens v boys in blue? "The Greens' chief policy strategist in Victoria has admitted she helped organise a cannabis festival," the Melbourne Herald-Sun reported over the weekend. "Freja Leonard, chief-of-staff to Victorian Greens MP Greg Barber, used to be a coordinator at Mardi Grass, Nimbin's pot celebration," it breathlessly continued. The story has left more people than just a few old stoners scratching their heads and asking what Greg Barber has done to cop such a story. Could it be calling for an independent crime commission to be established in Victoria along the lines of those in NSW and Queensland? Such a body in Victoria might well cause embarrassment for both the ALP and the boys in blue.