Tim Blair


New Criterion



Thursday, August 21, 2003

On last night's Late Night Live, Philip Appropriator Adams's guest, that archetypal insider turned inside-out, Daniel Elsberg, delivers a stroke of Gastropodian proportions to our own Andrew Wilkie.

Just on principle, it seems, for while Elsberg brought with him the block-busting Pentagon Papers, our own 'Gunner' Wilkie brought only the assurance that he might have been about to be a significant player in Iraq intelligence.

He didn't know much about Iraq, but Gunner's instinct for self-promotion had a PhD at birth.

Today, in the Aus's Media supplement, he repeats the shifty technique displayed so effectively, with Henny Herald's help, before his appearance before the UK Select Committee on Intelligence.

Gunner briefs compliant hack Paul Ham on what he's gunner say to Australia's Parliamentary Committe on WMD evidence tomorrow. Just like he briefed Henny from London, so they could pretend that it actually happened. What transpired, after Henny's deadline, was a comprehensive wipeout of the self-proclaimed expert.

Ham doesn't make that mistake. He does, however, broadcast Wilkie's transparently empty rhetorical escalation of his campaign. He's gunner "tell the parliamentary enquiry into intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that Prime Minister John Howard lied to the Australian people." To date he's only said Howard "grossly exaggerated" the risk the WMD posed to Australia.

Why the up-hype?

I'll say this for our Gunner, he's delightfully transparent about his motives. "I want to give the government a serve" he tells Ham.

Wilkie's motive is, to be even more honest, that he wants to be a politician, and needs to maintain the rhetorical temperature if he's to wangle Labor pre-selection before the media get sick of hearing what he's gunner do.

Ham's article describes how Wilkie played his media hand for all it was worth, even delaying his resignation so that he could walk from the office into Laurie Oakes's interview.

It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. Will Gunner fire? It's shorter odds on a squib, in Uncle's book.

One thing's certain. It won't be a vice-regal dunny for this out-house rodent. Pre-selection or bust.