Drugs, hookers and $350 steaks: Our media is supposed to reveal this behaviour, not fund it

Despite extraordinary claims and counter claims of drugs, prostitutes and living large, there can be no winners when politics, media and the courts lay bare their worst behaviour, writes Madonna King

Apr 04, 2024, updated Apr 04, 2024
Bruce Lehrmann arrives at the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney.  (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Bruce Lehrmann arrives at the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Imagine your boss picking up the tab for a 1.9kg steak, with a price tag of $361. And a side serve of prawn toast worth $48. And not a single question being asked.

Or the generosity of someone you’ve never met handing you a $517 meal from a restaurant at Sydney’s ritzy Potts Point.

How do you even eat that much, to have a bill like that delivered to the table?

Certainly, it seems on the surface, Bruce Lehrmann didn’t have any difficulty. A second meal in Sydney’s CBD had a price tag of $450, and a third came in at $555.

Oh, and I shouldn’t forget the massages worth $10,000, the round of golf that cost more than $400, and a fortnightly rent bill of $4000!

Seven’s generosity, if we are to believe the claims of one of its former staffers, is beyond comprehension. Illegal drugs and sex workers were also allegedly part of its largesse.

Oh, and Bruce Lehrmann wasn’t only granted free accommodation for a fortnight. He did a deal with Seven to put him up for a year, at a cost believed to be more than $100,000.

There has to be a catch, right?

Of course. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and Seven has been painted as desperate for exclusive access to what Lehrmann had to say.

About what?

Lehrmann hadn’t cured cancer. Nor had he been named philanthropist of the year. And it looks like he has also now missed out on being Governor-General.

Seven wanted to know what Bruce Lehrmann wanted to tell them; his side of the story in an ugly episode that started in a Parliament House office in the early hours of March 23, 2019, and continues in his blockbuster defamation claim against Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson.

That story will continue today (Thursday), where ex-Seven staffer, Spotlight producer Taylor Auerbach is expected to give evidence. Those claims around Seven’s expenses bill will be tested, and that’s an important part of the process.

But the damage is already done. While the focus on this awful episode has covered everything from consent to Parliamentary practices, security to the treatment of young women, it has also shone the Spotlight – no pun intended – onto the role of the media.

Some media.

Certainly questions remain about the process and practices involved at Network 10, which has responsibility for a story that is aired, and the role of their presenter in that.

But put that aside for a moment, because today that will be muted by those accusations that one of our biggest media outlets allegedly pays six-figure sums for one party to a story to air their side.

Under no media ethics, law, common sense or common decency is that right.

It never has been. And it never will be.

Could it be right, ever, for a media organisation to fund illegal drugs and sex workers – because that is the accusation being waged – for someone so that they have exclusive rights to their side of the story?

No. No. No. No. No. And that is the answer whether the talent is God, the Pope, or Bruce Lehrmann.

So this is not about the alleged practices of all media. Just some media. Seven, owned by Seven West Media, where Kerry Stokes is the principal shareholder; the same Kerry Stokes whose deep pockets have supported the legal shenanigans of disgraced soldier and former Seven employee Ben Roberts-Smith.

Seven – which is likely to have more to say during this week’s court hearing – maintains it didn’t pay Lehrmann; it “assisted’’ with accommodation.

Thank goodness, if it’s lost its moral compass, it hasn’t lost its way with words.

But even if some of those claims are disproved, court documents show Lehrmann’s extravagant rent bill was paid for a year – so that Seven could air a story or two.

That should ensure its viewers – those struggling with the cost of rent and housing and petrol – that it understands fully how difficult it is for them to put food on the table.

Especially $517 worth.

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy