.

  • Written by Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra
Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo has had an "appropriate conversation" with minister Peter Dutton- but that conversation was not a harsh one. AAP/Mick Tsikas

When Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told his departmental secretary Mike Pezzullo he shouldn’t go ringing up senators to set them straight, it was a rebuke laced with empathy, a message delivered from one hard man to another in a sympathetic manner.

After last week’s police raid on News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst’s home (a day before the raid on the ABC), Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick issued a statement declaring that Dutton and Pezzullo “clearly hate media scrutiny”.

He said the police actions “are very clearly intended to have a chilling effect on journalistic inquiry”. There would be questions to be answered when the Senate sat, the senator warned.

Pezzullo, a veteran of sparring with Senate committees and never one to take a backward step, decided to get in first, with some direct answers to his critic.

He’s been angry ever since publication of the Smethurst article, which revealed bureaucratic discussions about widening the remit of the Australian Signals Directorate, an agency that carries out electronic spying. Elements of the story were denied at the time, as misconstruing what was being discussed.

Pezzullo contacted Patrick. According to Patrick, Pezzullo told him he considered his remarks slanderous, although quickly making it clear he wouldn’t be pursuing that element. He said it was unfair for Patrick, holding a high office, to criticise him when he had no way to publicly rebut the criticism.

Patrick said Pezzullo was polite – he wasn’t aggressive or offensive. Pezzullo told him the Smethurst article had been inaccurate and referred back to evidence he had given to a Senate committee on it.

Patrick said it wasn’t the content of the call but its intent that concerned him, when he reflected on what it had been about.

He concluded Pezzullo was trying to stop him criticising the Home Affairs department. But, he added, as a former submariner “I’ve lived in an environment of sharks – much bigger sharks than Mr Pezzullo”.

Pezzullo has rejected the construction Patrick put on the call. He told the ABC: “My sole request […] was to ask that he reflect on his adverse references to my purported view of media scrutiny.

"His comments were unfounded and not able to be responded to by me in the media as quite properly I lack the public platform that he has, and uses.

"I was grateful that he took my call and appreciative of the fact that he undertook to consider my representations, which of course he was under no obligation to do.”

Asked whether he had any concerns at Patrick saying he felt Pezzullo was trying to intimidate him, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters: “I do find those things concerning”.

He and Dutton had discussed the matter, he said, and Dutton “has had an appropriate conversation with the secretary”.

That “appropriate conversation” was not a harsh one. The statement later issued by Dutton included both a sharp negative character reference on Patrick and an understanding of where Pezzullo was coming from.

“Secretary Pezzullo and I discussed the matter this morning. Like me he is disgusted at some of the outrageous lies and slander he and I are regularly subject to, but nonetheless I advised the secretary it was inappropriate to contact Senator Patrick even if just to point out the inaccuracies in the senator’s press release,” Dutton said.

“Further I advised it was counter productive because I have always found Senator Patrick to be a person of the sort of character who would seek to misrepresent the secretary’s words, and the secretary agreed the contact was not appropriate and that is where the matter ends.”

Patrick – who has foreshadowed a private member’s bill for a referendum to write press freedom into the constitution - said as far as he was concerned also “that’s the end of the matter. I’m relatively confident [Pezzullo] won’t do something like that again”.

But more generally, the issues of the raids and press freedom are far from at an end. There is consideration of a Senate inquiry, or a review of some other kind. Senate leader Mathias Cormann has indicated more will be said later in the week.

In deciding its reaction, the government is trying to gauge how much the press freedom issue is a matter of public concern – as distinct from the concern of the media itself.

ABC chair Ita Buttrose met Morrison on Tuesday. The meeting was arranged before the raid on the ABC and covered other matters, but Buttrose made it clear she would take a strong line in the talks on media freedom. She said afterwards that Morrison had “taken on board” what she had said.

Asked whether he would support a parliamentary inquiry into press freedom, Morrison said on Tuesday, “What I’m going to do on this issue is listen carefully. I think we have to keep these matters in perspective”.

He pointed to stronger legal protections for journalists that had been enacted.

He said it was important to honour two principles – that no one was above the law and that press freedoms were central to our democracy.

“And if there is a suggestion, or evidence, or any analysis, that reveals that there is a need for further improvement of those laws, well the government is always open to that. […] I intend to proceed calmly, and soberly, and consultatively.”

Asked whether better protections were needed for whistleblowers in the public service, Morrison said: “This is something that is regularly looked at”, suggesting it would be a topic in any review. “But it is also important that we balance the issues of national security, the primacy of our laws, and that no one stands above them, whether they’re politicians, or journalists, or editors, or anyone else.

"And that the rule of law applies to everybody in this country.”

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Read more http://theconversation.com/view-from-the-hill-a-soft-reprimand-from-one-hard-man-to-another-118619

Interesting Ways to Have Fun Without Leaving Your House

Having fun isn’t synonymous to going out. This is what a lot of people should know if they’re looking to do fun things without leaving the comfort of their homes. The truth is that spending time...

News Company - avatar News Company

Become Independent and Install a Solar Power System in your Property

We are certainly living in a very exciting time, and when you consider the technological advances we have witnessed in the last 50 years, it really is amazing. In the 1960s, the Internet emerged and...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Amazon is on fire – here are 5 things you need to know

Huge fires are raging across multiple regions of the Amazon Basin. Guaira Maia/ISARecord fires are raging in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, with more than 2,500 fires currently burning. They are ...

Danilo Ignacio de Urzedo, PhD candidate, University of Sydney - avatar Danilo Ignacio de Urzedo, PhD candidate, University of Sydney

It's not just athletes who get Achilles tendon pain, but exercising is the answer

Basketball fans around the world were recently sickened by the footage of NBA star Kevin Durant’s Achilles tendon rupturing during a game. But while many think it’s only elite athletes...

Sean Docking, Post-doctoral researcher, La Trobe University - avatar Sean Docking, Post-doctoral researcher, La Trobe University

Australia's energy woes will not be solved by reinforcing a monopoly

Australia's energy market has a logjam, Sean Davis/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SAThe possibility of blackouts affecting half of Victoria has attracted plenty of attention to a document once read only by industry...

Bruce Mountain, Director, Victoria Energy Policy Centre, Victoria University - avatar Bruce Mountain, Director, Victoria Energy Policy Centre, Victoria University

Tim Fischer had his blind spots, but he was an unsung champion of an Asian-facing Australia

Amid the tributes to former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer and the stories of his authenticity, courage and quirky interests – like trains and military history – what has struck me most...

Tim Harcourt, J.W. Nevile Fellow in Economics and host of The Airport Economist, UNSW - avatar Tim Harcourt, J.W. Nevile Fellow in Economics and host of The Airport Economist, UNSW

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on Tim Fischer's legacy - and Scott Morrison's first year

Michelle Grattan talks about the sad news of the passing of former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer with University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Professor Deep Saini. They also discuss Scott Morrison&...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Catastrophic Queensland floods killed 600,000 cattle and devastated native species

In February, about 600,000 cattle were killed by catastrophic flooding across north Queensland’s Carpentaria Gulf plains. The flood waters rose suddenly, forming a wall of water up to 70km wi...

Gabriel Crowley, Adjunct Principal Research Fellow, James Cook University - avatar Gabriel Crowley, Adjunct Principal Research Fellow, James Cook University

Four home traps that contribute to the gender pay gap

KPMG says Australia's gender pay gap declined from $3.05 an hour in 2014 to $2.43 in 2017. www.shutterstock.comAustralia’s gender pay gap is diminishing, says a new report, but some contributors...

Emma Willamson, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Monash University - avatar Emma Willamson, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Monash University

Australia wants to install military technology in Antarctica – here's why that's allowed

Technology, such as satellite systems, can be used for both military and scientific purposes. ShutterstockThis week, the ABC revealed that the Australian Defence Force wants to roll out military tech...

Tony Press, Adjunct Professor, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania - avatar Tony Press, Adjunct Professor, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania

Why some feminists oppose allowing people to choose their sex on birth certificates

Legislation in Victoria would allow people to change the sex on their birth certificates with just a declaration, not sex reassignment surgery. ShutterstockA bill currently before the Victorian parlia...

Holly Lawford-Smith, Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy, University of Melbourne - avatar Holly Lawford-Smith, Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy, University of Melbourne

Plants are going extinct up to 350 times faster than the historical norm

Plant extinctions have skyrocketed, driven in large part by land clearing and climate change. Graphic Node/Unsplash, CC BY-SAEarth is seeing an unprecedented loss of species, which some ecologists are...

Jaco Le Roux, Associate Professor, Macquarie University - avatar Jaco Le Roux, Associate Professor, Macquarie University

Vital Signs: economically, Australia is at risk of becoming Germany, and not in a good way

Once, emulating Germany would be something to be proud of. Not at the moment. ShutterstockIt’s four years since then Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned Australia had been heading to “a Gree...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

'What is wrong with me? I'm never happy and I hate school'

Remember, there is always someone to talk to about these things. Wes Mountain Hi, I was just wondering if something’s wrong with me because I’m never happy and never want to do anything a...

Louise Remond, Clinical Psychologist, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Louise Remond, Clinical Psychologist, University of Technology Sydney

Friday essay: how a Bengali book in Broken Hill sheds new light on Australian history

The large book bearing a handwritten English label, 'The Holy Koran', was not a Quran, but a 500-page volume of Bengali Sufi poetry. Samia KhatunSome 1,000 kilometres inland from Sydney, over the Blu...

Samia Khatun, Senior Lecturer, SOAS, University of London - avatar Samia Khatun, Senior Lecturer, SOAS, University of London

Unlawful strip searches are on the rise in NSW and police aren’t being held accountable

Being strip searched by the police can be intrusive, humiliating and harmful. Typically, strip searches involve being required to strip naked in front of police officers, who often give the direction ...

Vicki Sentas, Senior Lecturer, UNSW Law, UNSW - avatar Vicki Sentas, Senior Lecturer, UNSW Law, UNSW

How to make good arguments at school (and everywhere else)

There are more important things than winning an argument – like making everyone feel valued. www.shutterstock.comFrom as early as Grade 3 teachers start teaching children how to put across thei...

Luke Zaphir, Researcher for the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project; and Online Teacher at Education Queensland's IMPACT Centre, The University of Queensland - avatar Luke Zaphir, Researcher for the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project; and Online Teacher at Education Queensland's IMPACT Centre, The University of Queensland

GM crops: to ban or not to ban? That's not the question

The South Australian government recently announced its intention to lift the long-standing statewide moratorium on genetically modified (GM) crops, following a statutory six-week consultation period. ...

Rachel A. Ankeny, Professor of History and Philosophy, and Deputy Dean Research (Faculty of Arts), University of Adelaide - avatar Rachel A. Ankeny, Professor of History and Philosophy, and Deputy Dean Research (Faculty of Arts), University of Adelaide

Grattan on Friday: Courting 'quiet Australians' from 'bubble central', it's been a remarkable first year for Scott Morrison

Can Scott Morrison maintain the image of separation from the Canberra elite, given he's its most powerful member? AAP/The ConversationEven Scott Morrison, with his abundant self-belief, couldn’t...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Interesting Ways to Have Fun Without Leaving Your House

Having fun isn’t synonymous to going out. This is what a lot of people should know if they’re ...

A Guide for Tenants

The cost of purchasing a home has been increasing, and the size of deposits needed, make buying pr...

Top ways for men to look after their skin

According to Jack Simmons, from Aboutmen, more and more men are taking pride in their appearance a...

Top 10 Caravan Storage Tips & Tricks

Taking caravan trips is a popular Aussie pastime, but if you have spent more than a few days in ...