On 17 August, 2012, Peter van Onselen had had enough of his viewers writing to him.
He said, "There is no evidence, there is no way that any credible commentator is going to go any further than credible commentators already have on this saga". He was talking about Julia Gillard and The AWU Scandal, now the subject of a Victoria Police investigation being conducted by the Major Fraud and Extortion Squad.
He asked if anyone had anything more than, "some morbid version of a full spectrum."
He then spoke directly to his viewers saying, "I am getting sick and tired of getting bombarded with these emails, let me tell anyone that takes that view straight down the barrel of the camera right now, without more evidence I am not interested in your emails, stop sending them."
Here's the video.
Not everyone was as sick of reading things as Peter van Onselen. Hedley Thomas read the 11/9/95 Record of Interview between its then managing partner Peter Gordon, general manager Geoff Shaw and soon to be former salaried partner Julia Gillard. Hedley decided it was news.
The day after van Onselen's advice to his listeners, The Australian newspaper ran this news article:
JULIA Gillard left her job as a partner with law firm Slater & Gordon as a direct result of a secret internal probe in 1995 into controversial work she had done for her then boyfriend, a union boss accused of corruption, The Weekend Australian can reveal.
Nick Styant-Browne, a former equity partner of the firm, broke a 17-year silence yesterday to reveal that the firm's probe included a confidential formal interview with the Prime Minister - then an industrial lawyer - on September 11, 1995, which was "recorded and transcribed".
In the interview, Ms Gillard stated that she could not categorically rule out that she had personally benefited from union funds in the renovation of her Melbourne house, according to Mr Styant-Browne.
The next day, Sunday, 19 August, 2012, the Prime Minister appeared on Sky's Australian Agenda with Paul Kelly and Peter van Onselen.
Paul Kelly interviewed the Prime Minister Gillard, who was assisted by Peter van Onselen:
PM: Paul I’m not getting into specifics about issues 17 years ago when you are not able to put to me any contention about why this is relevant to my conduct as Prime Minister today.
I mean join the dots for me Paul. What matters about this today, for Australia and me being Prime Minister? Just articulate that.
Paul KELLY: Well I will. I mean the point is that a partner in your former firm has made a series of allegations which go to your integrity.
PM: And the relevance to me being Prime Minister today, Paul?
Paul KELLY: Well I think when accusations are made about the integrity of the Prime Minister going to the professional position that she had before she came into politics, surely that is relevant.
PM: And Paul, I did nothing wrong. Are you challenging that?
Paul KELLY: No, I’m just asking questions?
PM: Well and this is the issue, isn’t it? Because I understand you’re being asked to ask questions today.
Paul KELLY: No, no, no sorry. There’s no one asking me to ask questions.
PM: Well that wasn’t my advice from a little bit earlier before this show.
Paul KELLY: I’m sorry Prime Minister, I ask my own questions. Nobody tells me what questions to ask.
PM: And I’ll give you an answer to them. I did nothing wrong Paul. Have you got an allegation to put to me? If you do not, why are we discussing this?
Peter van ONSELEN: Can I just ask one question on this and then we move on – last question. Why not just put it all out there? I believe you, that you did nothing wrong. I made a comment on Friday on my show the Contrarians that I thought this is all a beat-up and that we should move onto the major issues. But why not just address it straight down the barrel so that we can move on and all of the scuttlebutt that goes on online, which frankly I’m sick of people emailing me about this, we can just move one from it.
PM: Well Peter let me welcome but also question your grand naivety. The people who are dealing with this online in their malicious and motivated way would not stop no matter what explanation I gave.
You know that, I know that and that is why there is no point in flogging through all of the details of this, because the people who are pursuing this malicious campaign will continue to do it. They are not at all interested in the truth.
The truth is I did nothing wrong, no one has put any direct assertion to me. You haven’t done it today, it hasn’t been done in the newspaper, that I did anything wrong. In these circumstances why are we, 17 years later, when these matters have been dealt with on the public record for the best part of a decade and a half, still talking about this?
Later that Sunday, 19 August, Slater and Gordon released a media statement that provides the misleading impression that Ms Gillard left the firm in order to campaign for the Senate.
Today Peter van Onselen wants to make that interview news again. I don't know why, he hasn't contacted me, I've never spoken to him - but his column in today's Sunday Telegraph gives our website this free run today.
Peter van Onselen: Ex-shock jock Mike Smith's shock adverts
OUT-OF-WORK former radio shock jock Mike Smith decided some time ago to go out on his own and set up a website.
He uses it to push his many causes, most of which include dumping on the government (with no small amount of innuendo on the way through).
I haven't thought much about Smith since receiving an unsolicited email from him late last year on the eve of interviewing the Prime Minister on Sky's Australian Agenda.
He was offering his services for the interview, wanting to join the panel. Suffice to say the email went straight into my trash folder. Anyway, for some reason or another I was looking at his website the other day when I noticed a range of companies that choose to advertise with him: Flight Centre, Subaru, Snap Printing and Bell Potter.
Private companies can advertise wherever they like, of course (just as you can boycott their products for the choices they make).
But what interested me most about who chooses to advertise with Smith was when I saw a government ad, about education if my memory serves me correctly.
I've always had a problem with the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on government spin, but now I have a fresh reason to consider it a waste.
I'd always wondered what happened to that email! When I saw Peter speaking to his viewers the way he did that Friday, 17 August 2012, I felt for him. It's a path to ruin if you alienate and demean your audience. I've seen it first hand on the radio. If you tell your audience they're stupid, you're smarter than them - or worse still if you ignore them they'll soon find you out.
I took Peter on face value when I wrote to him on the evening of 17 August, 2012. I believed he was sincere when he said that he'd change his view if he saw the evidence (poor guy - imagine how he would have felt to open The Australian the next day and see Hedley Thomas's story on the front and several other pages!)
Here's my email to him from that night:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: michael Smith
Date: Fri, Aug 17, 2012 at 7:43 PM
Subject: Michael Smith - erstwhile 2UE broadcaster
To: [email protected]
I would be happy to appear on your show on Sunday morning with a few questions for the Prime Minister. I have the benefit of a full year of detailed research into the Wilson AWU affair, including several hours of interviews with Bruce Wilson and hundreds of hours of interviews with other key players.
I have the WA Police Fraud Squad investigation file (received under FOI). I have detailed notes. My research has been reviewed by Arthur Moses SC, who told the Federal Magistrates' Court that my material was "factually based, soundly researched and was subject to review by Fairfax Media's external defamation lawyers."
I have retained Peter Faris QC of counsel to advise me on the criminal and ethical/professional offences disclosed by the behaviours and courses of conduct engaged in by Bruce Morton Wilson, Julia Eileen Gillard and Ralph Edwin Blewitt.
Let me know how you feel about having me on.
At least now I've had the courtesy of a reply from the apparently well-mannered young man - an unusual, belated reply via a newspaper article, but a reply none-the-less. Thank you Peter for letting me know.
And I can help you with an insight into the internet and how advertising businesses make money on the world wide web. Google is the leading arranger of information and insights. It monitors web-users activities online and matches its insights into their preferences with advertisers who have wares to sell. When I sell space on my web-site to Google, it's Google who decides what ad to present to my readers - thus your kind insight into your own interests in flights, brand new cars, business support services, stock-broking services and the Federal Government's education "reforms".
I'm relieved you didn't use your column to berate me for promoting singles, dating services or other services tending to proclivities that are even more complicated to explain Peter. With Google, as with complex frauds or even the diss-ing of one's subscription audience - every touch leaves its trace.