MAKE no mistake, the Premier has misled Parliament and the Tasmanian people over Betfair and his dealings with the Packer family.

He has also smeared a Walkley award winning journalist, and alleged an almighty conspiracy to deflect any responsibility for his grievous error of judgment in accepting Packer family largesse just days before signing Tasmania up to Betfair.

If we are to believe the Premier’s statement yesterday that Cabinet had decided to give Betfair the tick on October 24 last year, then the first misleading of Parliament occurred on October 25 when he stated categorically no decision had been made. But then maybe, he was telling the truth at the time?

What of those persistent rumours circulating in State ALP circles that Cabinet had not in fact agreed on Betfair before the deal was signed?

Labor Cabinet ministers should be grilled on this issue, and without delay.

The Premier’s misleading of Parliament on November 8 last year is clear to any person who understands the English language. In denying he accepted free hospitality, the Premier denied reality. If being upgraded to a luxury room which can cost up to $4000 a night is not free hospitality, then what is?

The Premier’s performance on ABC breakfast radio today has done him more harm than good. When he asked what motivates newspapers like the Herald Sun to behave in the way they do, Paul Lennon revealed he does not support a free press if he is the target of its scrutiny.

Good on Ellen Whinnett for having the necessary scepticism and initiative to undertake a Freedom of Information search on the details of Mr. Lennon’s stay in Melbourne. This is a case of a journalist acting in the public interest. If she had not done so, Tasmanians would still be in the dark about the crude mechanics of the Betfair deal, and the events preceding its
signing by the Premier and James Packer.

To allege a colossal Murdoch press conspiracy is laughable

Yesterday’s nationwide revelations were not, as Mr. Lennon claimed today, “tabloid journalism at its worst”. They were vitally important to the citizens of Tasmania, who will make a judgment on Lennon Labor’s performance at the polling booth this year.

As a former journalist myself, I read every word of the Mercury coverage and found it to be a straightforward retelling of fact — a hallmark of Whinnett’s style.

And to allege a colossal Murdoch press conspiracy is laughable. The Premier is in strife because, at best, he did something incredibly politically naive in checking into room 3188. At worst, he is hopelessly compromised by the timing of the stay in Melbourne and the signing of the Betfair deal.

It also displays the double standard which is a feature of his leadership. While the number of homeless in Tasmania is sharply rising (Mercury 11 Jan ’06) and Lennon Labor does naught to assist them, our Premier lives the high life as a guest of the mega-rich.

Instead of conceding that he made a terrible mistake in accepting thousands of dollars worth of free hospitality from the Packer family before signing up to Betfair, the Premier is playing the victim. When it’s convenient and the pressure is on, he trots out his family as the wounded party.

If the Lennon family suffers — and no one would wish that upon them — it is their patriarch’s lack of judgment that has caused it.

Cassy O’Connor is Greens’ Candidate for Denison

What Peg reckons:

MEDIA RELEASE
For comment: Cath Hughes, Media Advisor, 0419 886 304
Peg Putt MHA
Tasmanian Greens Opposition Leader
Friday, 13 JANUARY 2006

EMBATTLED PREMIER MUST GO TO THE PEOPLE
And Call an Election Immediately

The Tasmanian Greens today called for the Premier to present himself to the people for judgement by calling an election immediately after he failed to resign over twice misleading Parliament and accepting the benefit of free hospitality in dubious circumstances.
Greens Opposition Leader Peg Putt MHA believes that the Premier’s behaviour was not only a massive error of judgement but may constitute a criminal offence because he was negotiating a lucrative deal with the company who supplied him with a free hospitality upgrade, and has been compounded by his twice misleading Parliament and refusing to recall the House to face the music.
The Greens outlined the growing litany of unacceptable behaviour by the Premier, comprising:
• Allowing actual or perceived influence on his Betfair decision by accepting a free hospitality upgrade from the company which stood to gain from that decision;
• Misleading Parliament on two separate occasions over Betfair issues;
• Breaching the Government’s own Ministerial Code of Conduct;
• Disgracing Tasmania in the eyes of the nation;
• Refusing to resign or take responsibility;
• Failing to recall Parliament.
“The Premier has thumbed his nose at Parliament and his duty to account honestly for himself when he has breached the norms of acceptable behaviour in public office, so he must go to the people now and allow them to make that judgement on him,” Ms Putt said.
“An election should be called immediately.”
“The key issue will be that of honesty and decency in Tasmanian politics and the arrogance, impropriety and cronyism of Paul Lennon.”
“The man has a thick hide and has blamed everyone but himself whilst launching diversionary tactics, but the people of Tasmania are dissatisfied and want him called to account.”
Ms Putt has received a disappointing response from the Police Commissioner refusing to launch an investigation into a possible breach of Section 71 of the Criminal Code on the basis that the media have not printed evidence that Paul Lennon understood he was being influenced.
“It is up to the police to investigate whether the Premier was influenced by the lavish treatment he received, not the media to do this work for them,” Ms Putt said.
“Because I believe in upholding high standards in public office I will follow this matter up by now referring it to the DPP for consideration.”

What Will reckons:

Media Release

WILL HODGMAN, MHA
Deputy Leader of the State Opposition
Friday January 13, 2006

Labor reps continue to distance
themselves from damaged Premier

Members of the Labor Party, both from within and outside of Tasmania, were continuing to distance themselves from beleaguered Premier, Paul Lennon, following his stupid and foolish behaviour over the Betfair Suite Scandal, Deputy Leader of the State Opposition, Will Hodgman said today.

Mr Hodgman said that two Victorian Labor Government Ministers yesterday eagerly denied that politicians regularly received hotel upgrades, directly contradicting statements by their Labor colleague, Premier Lennon who said upgrades were all part of the business.

“The whiff of cronyism, stupidity and arrogance is now the aroma of Tasmania’s beleaguered Premier, Mr Lennon, and a significant number of Labor identities is attempting to distance themselves from the awful stench,” Mr Hodgman said.

“Behind the scenes the Labor Party is hard at work undermining Mr Lennon and discussing how they can remove him from the leadership post before the Labor Party is subject to yet more damage.

“The Labor Party’s Franklin MP has been effusive in his criticism of the Premier describing the Premier’s behaviour in the Betfair Suite Scandal as “silly and stupid.”

“Yesterday, Victorian Health Minister, John Thwaites distanced himself from the activities of Mr Lennon whilst the Victorian Gaming Minister, John Pandazopoulos was openly critical of Mr Lennon’s decision to even licence Betfair.

“For Premier Lennon’s colleagues in Tasmanian State Parliament, this scandal is a matter of life and death in terms of their parliamentary careers. Either they openly support Mr Lennon and attach themselves to damaged goods or they work behind the scenes attempting to claim the scalp of the beleaguered leader and perhaps save their electoral hopes.

“Since Premier Lennon’s potentially corrupt activities were revealed:
· Racing Minister, Jim Cox, hurriedly moved to distance himself from the Betfair Suite Scandal by denying he stayed at Crown Casino;
· Labor sources said that the Betfair Suite Scandal revelations had heightened internal unhappiness with Mr Lennon’s leadership;
· Labor’s Franklin MP, Harry Quick said “I can’t believe someone would be so silly and stupid”;
· Bass Labor MHA, Kathryn Hay, deserted the sinking ship, announcing her retirement at the next election;
· Members of the Labor Party’s Left faction looked to replace Mr Lennon but said that there were no obvious replacements among Labor’s talent-less group of 18 Upper and Lower House MPs; and
· Sources said that ALP State Secretary, David Price, was working behind the scenes surveying numbers for leadership aspirant, Minister Bryan Green.

“We can’t be expecting to get good governance out of people more concerned with plugging in the massive holes in their sinking ship than reducing the worst hospital lists in the nation, improving declining standards in our schools and upgrading the State’s crumbling roads,” Mr Hodgman said.