Topic: independent media
Picture: ABC TV website Australian Story last Monday, with priceless free media profile for Foreign Minister Downer, but is it also a cunning legal booby trap for Crikey ezine distinctively alone in the Big Media attacking Downer for ostensible nepotism.
Sent: Thursday, April 26, 2007 5:04 AM
Subject: Georgina Downer, some free legal advice for Crikey
Well, you guys have really cut loose again with your opening editorial recently about nepotism, from a long run up of reports and accusations, around Georgina Downer with a 3rd class honours getting a prime traineeship with the Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
But there is something about Minister Downer's brazenness which I think might be reason to give you pause in a legal sense.
(I have one of those intuitive legal feelings which reminds me a little of the legal stand off over Milne assaulting Mayne balanced against Kerr admitting in Crikey he defamed Milne. Both walk away or it will end in tears for the parties, and happy lawyers.)
The clue about Downer's daughter I think can be found from a similar media mugging by the Daily Telegraph of one junior NSW Minister Reba Meagher: She is supposed to be MP for Cabramatta so why is she living in Coogee? Sounds like a fair complaint until you consider one dead MP in John Newman PM - Ngo found guilty of Newman murder
Picture: Reba Meagher MP for Cabramatta (NSW) regularly sledged for living in comparatively safer Coogee at least for an ALP politician.
So the smear was pretty cheap, and malicious, oft repeated including here in the more up market The Australian: Iemma picks new minister for education | News | The Australian
How does an ALP politician, or any politician for that matter, tell their constituents it's not safe to live amongst them? This was the real point of the Daily Telegraph sledges - they wanted to promote the Alan Jones, Tim Priest, Richard Basham thesis of ethnic crime out of control as here The Rise of Middle Eastern Crime in Australia - Tim Priest ...- and the way to do it was by putting the torch to Reba Meagher: To force her to admit it was too dangerous for her there. Or force her to live there and take her chances with her very life in scary Sydney. A win win from the News Ltd point of view. In the meantime they could ostensibly run the Reba Meagher domicile in Coogee as simply a case of chardonnay socialism.
Who is the moral superior in such an equation? The Telegraph indulging its habitual domestic psychological violence in the so called 'public interest', or the state ALP for putting Meagher in a desperate situation, or herself for such an ambitious subterfuge? Or none of the above.
Which brings us to young ambitious Georgina Downer. No getting around the fact that her father is a warmonger. He barracked for the tragic Iraq war, and he still does now following pretty much the brilliant diagnostic piece here by Ross Gittins: Why 'never again' will never work.
So where does that leave a child of the father? For one thing an enhanced security profile as one imagines for the children of all senior politicians in the Cabinet of this Howard government. We have people convicted or charged with terrorism offences in Australia. We have examples of terrorist violence on trains in London and Madrid. Get the picture? It's a constrained life forever more. And where is this security most practical and convenient? A DFAT bunker and father's secure home in Canberra likely is one of the few professional options. And not a word to be spoken about either.
So again who is the moral superior here? Crikey.com.au for simplifying this situation as nepotism, the Howard government for putting G Downer in this situation, or the young ambitious woman herself. She does get a life too right?
Which brings us to the legal dimensions of this situation. It might look like a case of open and shut nepotism on Australian Story last Monday, condemned in leading terms by the Crikey editorial this week. But one short document from the intelligence agencies of young Downer's security profile and options, endorsing her DFAT placement as sensible and viable would, well, smash that thesis to smithereens.
Does such a document exist? Undoubtedly. If I can think it, some one surely has done it. And therein lies the thorny tentacles of a potential defamation action. Ask the question in the public interest by all means. But go easy on the high moral ground there Crikey. You may just get an answer which is financially inconvenient. And that would not be good for independent media in Australia.
Tom McLoughlin, solicitor in NSW.