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New South Wales: Premier says he did not threaten John Singleton.

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Thursday 18 September 2003

New South Wales: Premier says he did not threaten John Singleton


LINDA MOTTRAM: To the New South Wales Premier Bob Carr. He doesn't deny that he had a telephone conversation with John Singleton ahead of the election, and he admits he may have mentioned the Australian Broadcasting Authority in that call. He does vehemently deny though that he made any threats, the row erupting as Mr Carr heads overseas tonight on a two week business trip across Europe with his wife Helena. 


A short time ago, Bob Carr spoke with AM 's Alison Caldwell. 


BOB CARR: Look, I've gone through periods of having strong disagreements with the broadcaster Alan Jones and I did complain about the coverage on the program, on the radio station, to John Singleton, but not by way of making a threat. I wasn't in a position to make a threat but I did complain about what I described as a jihad against the Carr Government from the radio station. 


ALISON CALDWELL: Well John Singleton says quite specifically, and he's repeated this, that you threatened to use the Australian Broadcasting Authority and ICAC to make sure he and his station never held a broadcasting licence ever again. 


BOB CARR: No, that's not right and I'm not in a position to make that threat. I… our conversation has been reported I might say. I complained about coverage as I do, as any political leader does from time to time with media outlets. 


ALISON CALDWELL: But did you quote the Australian Broadcasting Authority in that conversation? 


BOB CARR: … have referred to them in passing, but I am not in a position to threaten them, threaten the radio station with them because they're not a State instrumentality. 


ALISON CALDWELL: But you may have referred to them in passing? 


BOB CARR: Sure I may have, yes. 




BOB CARR: I don't recall that, I don't recall that and again, I don't know how the performance of a radio station could get to ICAC. 


But that's really not the issue. The issue here was an extraordinary threat delivered at the, at me as an elected leader of the Government, a threat that if we didn't change Government policy we would cop a $5-million advertising campaign demonising us. 


The message was very explicit; you drop the policy or you cop this and anytime an interest group makes a threat like that to a political leader, I think the political leader, the head of Government is duty bound to share that with the electorate, to talk about it immediately and not allow it to fester. 


ALISON CALDWELL: To many people though, ahead of a State election, a Premier ringing the boss of a radio station and complaining about bias and using or even mentioning the Australian Broadcasting Authority in a conversation like that could be seen as a threat. 


BOB CARR: No, it wasn't a threat and again the only threat delivered that deserves our attention today is the threat, an extraordinary threat put to me as head of a government, by an interest group, that you either change your policy or you cop an advertising campaign, specifically designed to demonise you. 


ALISON CALDWELL: Is John Singleton exaggerating then that conversation he had with you before the March election? Is he lying about that conversation? 


BOB CARR: Oh, there's exaggeration in it. I rang to complain about his station's coverage. That has been reported. 


ALISON CALDWELL: So it's an exaggeration, but not a lie? 


BOB CARR: I'd call it an exaggeration yes, but the far bigger issue is the threat he made on behalf of a well-funded interest group and my action in sharing that with the public I think is entirely valid. 


ALISON CALDWELL: The Opposition leader John Brogden is saying this exposes the way your government does business, threats and counter threats. 


BOB CARR: Well it clearly doesn't. It clearly doesn't. 


LINDA MOTTRAM: The New South Wales Premier Bob Carr speaking to Alison Caldwell a little earlier.