Flint should Regret Jones’ Letters: PM

In an apparent toughening of his stance, Prime Minister John Howard says embattled ABA chief, David Flint, should regret not disclosing his praising letters to Alan Jones.

Mr Howard says it’s right for the ABA Board to be concerned about the letters.

“Obviously, the ABA had views and, obviously, he regrets very much and he should regret not having disclosed that correspondence.”

The Board has expressed serious concerns about the letters, written on ABA letterhead.

After its last meeting, the Board also announced Professor Flint would stand aside from the Iraq ‘bias’ inquiry.

Meanwhile, Labor is calling on David Flint to disqualify himself from investigating any complaints relating to this year’s Federal election campaign.

Upper House Leader, John Faulkner has written to the ABA, complaining about a broadcast by John Howard on the Prime television network.

The regular broadcast, ‘Landscape’, is a two and a half minute spot every month in which the Prime Minister speaks about issues touching the Government.

Speaking on ABC Radio’s ‘PM’ program, Senator Faulkner says the broadcasts are political, without authorisation and the Opposition is not given a right of reply.

Labor says Professor Flint should stand aside from the investigation because, as an active Liberal Party member, he would be biased.

Senator Faulkner also says the ABA head has made several extraordinary and partisan attacks on ALP Leader, Mark Latham: “Professor Flint must disqualify himself from handling this complaint and, for that matter, any other issue relating to the upcoming election, or where the Liberal Party or Government is involved.

“Any reasonable person would accept Professor Flint is not neutral in these issues and Labor is asking for a fair go.”

Also on ABC, Telstra’s role as sponsor and paymaster in the Flint/Jones/Laws controversy has been brought to the fore, along with the part played by media powerbroker, Sam Chisholm.

‘The 7.30 Report’ has raised further questions about Chisholm, who is not only Macquarie Radio Chairman, but also a high profile Telstra director.

For a full transcript of the story, click on the link below.

In other recent developments:

* Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, says he has no problem with Telstra paying for endorsements, like the $1.2m to Alan Jones, as long as it is within the rules.

* The ABA’s former legal counsel has contradicted the Flint explanation for not disclosing the Jones’ letters.

* The Federal Opposition says a Labor Government would close loopholes to ban ‘hidden’ cash for comment arrangements such as Telstra’s $1.2m sponsorship with Macquarie Radio, saying they have the ‘potential to undermine democracy’.

* The Australian Democrats will instigate legislative changes in two weeks to ensure a merit based system, free from any political interference, is used for all future ABA appointments.

* Telstra might not renew its $1.2m sponsorship of Alan Jones’ program when it expires in June 2005, because of increasingly negative publicity. But, Telstra has defended the arrangement, saying it is a commercially sound investment and does not impinge on 2GB’s editorial comment about the telco or its competitors.

For more on Flint/Jones/Laws from the newspapers, click on ‘Paper Clips’ in the red left hand column.