Calls Journalists Liars For Accurately Reporting Treasurer's Plot To "Destroy Howard'
So how hammered was foreign minister Alexander Downer during his interview on Lateline last night? About half a glass of Glenfiddich away from slurring whole sentences.
Perhaps he needed to be pissed to go on the ABC and deny that the Treasurer Peter Costello plotted to "destroy" John Howard, when he clearly did, and then dare to accuse one of Australia's most respected political journalists of being a flat-out liar.
Hilariously, Downer actually tried to claim that the Australian public were more likely to believe him and Costello over respected Australian journalists. How much more comprehensively out of touch with their own people could a couple of politicians actually be?
On Lateline, Downer repeated himself so often that host Tony Jones had to intervene to get him back on track. By the end of the interview, Downer was clearly slurring, his thoughts muddled and clouded. He looked ready for another double.
Michael Brissenden of ABC's 7.30 Report is one of the three journalists that both Downer and Costello have now accused of being stone-cold liars. An excerpt from his report on the scandal follows below.
Naturally, the whole scandal comes down to Costello's ceaseless boasting in 2005 that if John Howard didn't step aside and allow for an orderly leadership transition, to Costello, by early 2006, he would bring down Howard, all of which he tries to continue to deny.
Costello told numerous journalists of his plans, back in 2005, and said as much to the writers of a new Howard biography. He even gave a more subtle version in front of television cameras when he tried to encourage the PM to step aside last year.
How stupid do Costello and Downer really think people are? That they would trust either of them, particularly Downer, over the sober reporting of three journalists, who took short hand notes of their conversation with Costello, because it was on the record.
They'll find out soon enough, when the Liberal Party goes down in flames, and torrents of horrid shrieking, at the federal election.
Here's some of Brissinden's report on the fresh and already blood-soaked "I'll Destroy Howard" scandal. It all began with a dinner in early 2005 :
Present at that dinner were journalists Paul Daley, Michael Brissenden, veteran political reporter Tony Wright - then also a Bulletin writer now working with the Melbourne Age, and the Treasurer's press secretary.
The dinner was held on March 5, 2005, where the leadership question had been swirling its way through yet another eddy.
The Treasurer was in an expansive mood.
The three journalists still have the notes of that discussion.
Michael Brissenden says Mr Costello told the group he had set next April 2006 as the absolute deadline - "that is mid-term" for Mr Howard to stand aside.
If not, Mr Costello would challenge Mr Howard.
Mr Costello said a challenge "will happen then" if "Howard is still there".
"I'll do it," Mr Costello said, also saying he was "prepared to go to the backbench".
Mr Costello said he would "carp" at Howard's leadership from the backbench and "destroy it" until he won the leadership.
He says he would do it "because he (Howard) would lose the election".
Mr Costello said he could beat [then Opposition Leader Kim] Beazley but that Howard cannot win "without me".
He said April is the deadline, "then it's on".
The journalists all left the dinner that night with the understanding that the story - as background - could be reported.
The Bulletin planned to splash with the story the next week. The ABC agreed to run the story the night before the magazine was published.
But by 1pm the day after the dinner, the Treasurer had a change of mind.An agitated press secretary rang pleading for the conversation to be now placed off the record and that the Bulletin pull its report.
Reluctantly, the journalists agreed.
The journalists, however, kept their detailed notes of the meeting, and Costello's bold claims, and have now made them public.
Costello had been caught out in a lie when he was questioned on the quotes by journalists yesterday. So why did he try and deny it?
But he did. Not only did he deny he ever said those words about destroying Howard, Costello tried to disparage the journalists involved :
"You find actually over the years that you get attributed with a lot of things you didn't do and you don't get afforded a lot of things you did do and I must say when I read some of these things, I wonder where the journalists get them from.The journalists were sitting at a table, with Costello, while he spoke on the record.
"They generally speak to somebody who has spoken to somebody who was down the back of a pub who heard the barman say, and that gradually finds its way into magazines or articles."
Last night Alexander "Tulip" Downer had his drunken try at discrediting the journalists :
...you think the public would believe journalists over Peter Costello, well that's an interesting proposition, by the way.
that's the claim of the journalists and did that happen? No. And they claim that these conversation took place two years ago. I mean, you know, get real. At the end of the day journalists claim something was said two years ago, the Treasurer, who's a man of decency and integrity, has denied it.
Howard, Costello and Downer love to waffle on about their vast experience, and yet they still don't understand that when you're caught out in a lie, the worst thing you can do is try and deny it. Particularly when journalists recorded the lie.
So much for all that experience. And credibility.
Labor will have a field day with this scandal, as they well should.
Another bloodbath on the road to the Howard government's decimation has begun.