Howard ‘lobbied’ to retain Flint

Prime Minister John Howard reportedly urged then Communications’ Minister, Richard Alston, to change a Cabvarchar(15) submission to support the reappointment of David Flint as ABA Chairman.

The claim has been made by an unnamed former Cabvarchar(15) Minister.

The Courier-Mail’s National Affairs’ Editor, Peter Charlton, says Mr Alston had favoured Michael Gordon-Smith, another ABA Board member, who had stood in when Professor Flint had been forced to stand aside from the original cash for comment inquiry.

The former Minister says Mr Howard had argued strongly for Professor Flint to keep his position.

Mr Alston was on holidays and could not be contacted yesterday.

John Laws is standing by claims that Alan Jones said at a dinner party that he’d told Mr Howard he would lose his support if Professor Flint was not retained as ABA head. Mr Howard has said he had not been threatened by Jones and would not have responded to any threats.

There was more embarrassment for the Government yesterday when a fax, defending Jones, went astray (see previous story which contains a copy of that fax).

Mr Howard has repeated his rejection of Laws’ claims that Jones had tried to influence him over the 2000 reappointment of Professor Flint.

On his radio program yesterday, Laws said he had given an honest account and he had five witnesses: “Either Alan Jones or the Prime Minister is a liar.”

Mr Howard has decided to seek “advice” over the Flint letter, which effusively praises Jones.

“As to the suggestion that he tried to heavy me under threats that if I didn’t reappoint David Flint, he wouldn’t support me in the election campaign, is absurd and wrong.

“No such conversation at Kirribilli House or anywhere else took place between Mr Jones and myself. Indeed I can’t recollect Mr Jones ever raising Mr Flint’s position with me. No such threat has ever been made to me by Jones or anybody else and, if it were, I’d tell them to get lost.”

Laws has since claimed he’s been told of the existence and dates of three more letters between Jones and Professor Flint. In one of those letters, Jones is said to express a general ‘allegiance’ with Professor Flint.

While David Flint has survived a two hour special ABA board meeting, his position remains shaky, especially with the Prime Minister seeking official department advice.

The ABA Board has confirmed he will stay on as Chairman – a Government appointed position.

radioinfo has been told Professor Flint retains the full support of the Board.

Former ABA Board member, Kerry Henderson, says Professor Flint should make all the relevant correspondence public.

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