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Aug 31, 2011

Gillard scores own goal; shoots Herself in foot doing it.

Cartoon: By Bill Leak.

Whoever termed the phrase; “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” had never seriously pissed off a journalist.

Over the weekend a story began to emerge that Gillard was in trouble when Andrew Bolt wrote on his blog at the Herald Sun about 'a tip on something that may force Gillard to resign. He claimed, ''On Monday, I'm tipping, a witness with a statutory declaration will come forward and implicate Julia Gillard directly in another scandal involving the misuse of union funds.”

On Monday though, Bolt announced, “No politics until further notice. Principles to weigh up. Faith to keep. Sorry.” The Australian however published an opinion piece by journalist Glenn Milne on how Gillard had been unknowingly implicated in a "major union fraud" while she was working as a lawyer in Melbourne before she entered parliament. Apparently, as a solicitor acting on instructions, she had set up an association later used by her lover to defraud the Australian Workers Union (AWU).

Although the article stressed that there was no suggestion that Gillard knew about the origin of the money, Gillard made angry phone calls to The Australian's publisher, John Hartigan, and editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell after which the article was pulled. This was accompanied by an apology from the paper, saying that the allegations about Ms Gillard were untrue, and that no attempt had been made to contact her for comment before publication.

News Limited appears to have been adopting caution while it checked its legal position, but now seems to have cut Bolt loose in a report today:
The issue was her judgment in having a professional and romantic relationship with a man now exposed as a conman - and whether Gillard could afford scrutiny like this when she was already hopelessly tangled in defending backbencher Craig Thomson from allegations that, while he was the Health Services Union's secretary, his union credit card was used to withdraw $100,000 and pay for prostitutes.

Gillard's office hit the panic button. Gillard herself rang Hartigan on Saturday to check whether I or another News Limited journalist would be pursuing the story.

After calls were made to me and papers I write for, she was assured I was not. But I don't write for The Australian, which on Monday ran Milne's column.

Gillard, I'm told, went "ballistic" and "nuclear". She made "multiple" calls to Hartigan and also to The Australian's editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell, demanding an immediate retraction.

Normally, someone aggrieved would not be able to call the CEO of a newspaper and normally a newspaper would, on being alerted to an error, correct or remove only those parts of its report that were false or defamatory. …

You may blame News Limited for being weak, but never has it felt so politically vulnerable. Gillard had for weeks exploited Britain's News of the World phone hacking scandal to threaten News Limited with inquiries that might force it to sell some of its papers or address what the Greens called its "bias."

Like the News of the World, News Limited is part of the Rupert Murdoch empire, and Prime Minister Gillard, long seething at the critical coverage of her performance by The Australian and The Daily Telegraph, now claimed the Australian papers also had "serious questions to answer." …

You see, Gillard could have simply pointed out the errors and ridiculed the accusers as muckrakers. Instead, it appears as if she pulled strings and, with threats of inquiries and forced sales left hanging in the air, sought to shut down a debate. I thank News Limited for defying the Prime Minister and letting me write as I have above.

But be aware how endangered is our freedom to speak as we find, especially of this Prime Minister.
Gillard has probably brought down a great deal of wrath on her head by her over the top reaction to an article which did little more than question her judgment over a matter that occurred in the past. Something that could have been easily resolved has been compounded by her overreaction, and her misuse of power in attempting to prevent a fairly mild criticism from being published, even after the horse had bolted.

National leaders need to use sound judgment, not engage in histrionics.

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