Tim Blair


New Criterion



Sunday, June 22, 2003
HENNY HERALD COMES CLEAN, sort of, but it doesn't mean to.

You won't find it on Henny's website, of course, but on page 38 of Saturday's very large newspaper it is revealed that:

What remains at issue is whether Wilkie is a credible witness for Howard's - or, for that matter Tony Blair's - prosecution. The former senior analyst with the Office of National Assessments... has conceded that he was not privy to some of the most sensitive prewar intelligence material (a "small amount").

He has also admitted that his opinions were not shared by any of his former workmates, though outside the hearing he said there "are many people in intelligence community [sic]" who felt the public had been sold a pup on Iraq.

I know who's been sold a pup. Wilkie has been squired around by Herald journalists for weeks, given a front-page send off to his supposed moment of fame in London, and it took some pommy politicians to extract a couple of simple truths about the man that have been staring at us all from the first time this pathetic limelighter called a media conference.

He's not the conscience of Australian spookdom, he's a narcissistic self-promoter whose views are not shared by a single one of his former intelligence colleagues. On his own admission.

Last week, according to the ABC on-line news report, Wilkie insists there are serving officers in both countries who agree with him.

Do you think Henny, left to its own devices, would have asked the questions, or told us the answers?

Even now they try to bury their shame. The continuing campaign to turn the victory against Saddam into a political defeat for Howard is now lead on Henny's front-page by Marian Wilkinson, with the discredited Wilkie dropped to the back of the bus.

Front page for the promise of significance, back page for the reality.

Henny's London correspondent, or a Sydney editor, further obfuscate their embarrassment with a weird introduction that seeks to make much of the fact that a Wilkie's evidence was followed by "a handshake from Canberra's own "spy" at the proceedings".

The disqualificatory quotes around 'spy' mean that Peter Fray has no reason to think the High Commission staffer was a 'spy' and didn't bother to try to find out. He would rather have us believe this was 'an unexpected gesture from an Australian high commission staffer."

"But then," says Fray, "it's hard to doubt the sincerity of someone who who chucks in a well-paid public service career on a principle and then sticks his neck out to tell the world about it."

Peter Fray has never before met a politician.

Strange, since he's employed by some of the shiftiest political operators to disgrace the calling of journalism in this country.