Did Kerry Stokes have Kennett story pulled all those years ago?

Last week in its coverage on the Worner / Harrison affair, 7:30 referred back to a 1996 incident in which a Today Tonight story on then-Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett was held over after instructions from senior management.

The story was about the Premier’s ties with pokie boss Bruce Mathieson.

Host Jill Singer collapsed during the TT program and reporters were told the next day their contracts would not be renewed. Singer later told Four Corners it was withheld “to placate the Premier” (who as it happens, now sits on the Seven West Media board). Like it or not, the allegation has lived on as media folklore ever since…

But former Seven Network executive Laurie Patton, who was responsible for News and Current Affairs at Seven at the time, objected to 7:30 re-airing the suggestion last week and complained to news boss Gaven Morris, executive producer Jo Puccini, host Leigh Sales and even managing director Michelle Guthrie last week. He claims the Singer version is incorrect.

He writes in Crikey today, “On the day concerned, the network’s in-house counsel, Michael Lloyd-Jones, traveled to Melbourne from Sydney and viewed the Kennett story in the company of external senior counsel. Late in the afternoon, I received advice from Lloyd-Jones that the journalists involved in producing the story had failed to provide Kennett with the right to respond to the allegations they were intending to make against him, as was the legal precedent prevailing at the time pursuant to the Theophanous ruling (subsequently reversed).

“The story was simply held over so that this legal requirement could be fulfilled. The executive producer of the program was informed in advance of its scheduled airing that it could definitely run the following night once Kennett had been contacted. There was never any suggestion this would not be the case. It ran unchanged.”

On Friday 7:30 read a statement saying, “We stand by the story but should have included that Channel Seven maintains that it held the story over for legal reasons.”

Patton remains unhappy there was not further clarification from ABC.

“As it stands, the retraction made on Friday and currently included at the head of the online version of the 7.30 story leaves open the interpretation that the ABC still believes Singer, and not me or Lloyd-Jones,” he writes.

You can read more here.


  1. The words “and reporters were told the next day their contracts would not be renewed” requires comment. There were retrenchments, much later. By then I was running Seven Queensland. I don’t know if there was any connection. Some TT staff moved to 730!! Also in Crikey, “…I have the highest regard for Sally Neighbour…and have no doubt her informants were persuasive. I know many of them and don’t doubt their views were honestly held. As for Singer, I’m sure she “believed” what she said. But she was disturbingly wrong”. In an email to Sales, “I consider it personally offensive and an appalling lapse in journalistic standards for 20 year old material to be included in your broadcast in these circumstances and in this manner. It assumes every journalist working at Seven at the time, including myself, allowed an unacceptable event to occur without any subsequent actions or repercussions (for Seven)”. Sadly, Jill is seriously unwell right now and could go without this matter being gratuitously regurgitated. I hope she recovers soon and have sent her my best.

  2. spectrum warrior

    A lot of smoke hanging around channel seven at the moment. Is someone trying to discredit them ? Or should ACMA or the department of communications be looking into this fire. After all, the spectrum is being given to these companies rent free and they are taking money away from the Australian tax payer.

    • The fact that a story was held over for “legal reasons” is of little concern to ACMA. The TV Networks pay a “Resource Rent Tax” in the form of licence fees, which are a meagre 3.375% of their revenue. It’s consumers that provide the $billions to run commercial FTA with taxpayers only coughing up to fund the ABC and partly fund SBS.

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