May 23, 2010

Give my friend David Campbell space

David Campbell is a good friend.  Christine and I saw him socially a few weeks ago with his wife Edna.  They were visiting this City.

I was horrified and appalled last Thursday to see Channel 7 News sneaking around like our security services filming David in his own time, in a car that he was allowed to drive, visiting a place he was allowed to visit, and being pilloried for doing so.

The "fourth estate" have a vitally important function to guarantee our freedom and prevent oppressive conduct on behalf of the state.  As can be seen in Andrew West's column on the Sydney Morning Herald Website on Friday, the publishers do not do so with clean hands.  According to Crickey neither does the journalist.

It was famously said by someone many would regard as the Messiah; "He who is without sin may cast the first stone."

The moral judges of Channel 7 certainly casts stones to a great man who did not sin in my view, not like the record of the moral judges in Channel 7.

Manufactured scandal leaves another political career in tatters by Andrew West. May 21, 2010 
Sydney Morning Herald.

"David Campbell should not have resigned from the NSW cabinet for entirely personal behaviour, that was – as far as anyone can establish – neither illegal nor exploitative.

He had lost interest in, or focus on, his job as Minister for Transport, but his performance was no worse than that of the government as a whole. His second life as a gay man had no bearing on his public duties.

Of course, if Campbell had been a stellar minister – instead of an affable journeyman of politics – and if he were serving in a good government, he may have been able to survive with the perfectly reasonable argument that he had committed no offence, other than the private pain to his wife and family.

Once again, we have seen a political career end in a scandal that is manufactured by the media, based on a series of so-far thin justifications.

Campbell had never set himself up as a ''family values'' campaigner. A photograph of himself with his wife and sons is merely that – a family photograph – not a morals crusade.

But even more obnoxious than the faulty justification is the self-righteousness of journalists and TV executives who set themselves up as arbiters of public morals.

Politics and journalism are careers of remarkably similar character. They both attract some shallow individuals in it to make money and acquire fame. They also attract people who are, in some measure, committed to the public interest.

But the most common trait is that politics and journalism often create broken lives. The newsrooms and TV studios of this country are littered with failed marriages, alcoholism, drug abuse and, yes, people living double lives.

For journalists, of all people, to moralise over politicians’ personal lives is a repulsive conceit. In the case of Channel 7 news chief, Peter Meakin, who signed off on the story that revealed  Campbell’s gay life, it is problematic.

Unlike Campbell, who has committed no offence that we know about, Meakin recently faced jail after his third conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. He had been found guilty of dangerous driving – having blown 0.1, double the legal limit – and of attempting to evade the police after they tried to pull him over. Meakin was originally sentenced to weekend detention but got off with 250 hours of community service.

His offence, of driving while boozed up in a way that could have endangered the lives of innocent people, far outstrips any personal lapse by Campbell.

There was no public benefit in outing Campbell as a gay man, just as there was no public benefit in revealing the extra-marital affair of his erstwhile cabinet colleague John Della Bosca. Both men may have betrayed their marriage vows but that remains a matter solely for their families and, if relevant, their God.

These stories are nothing more than prurience and, one day, it will rebound on the predators. One day, a politician with a long memory, good connections and nothing to lose will get up in parliament and detail all he or she knows about the ''complex'' lives of those who report them.

We may end up living in interesting times – and remember the Chinese meant that as a curse.

Andrew West is the Sydney Morning Herald’s transport reporter and a long time political observer."

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