Posted July 10, 2007
Have Your Say


[start of ABC article]

Australian Broadcasting Corporation



Broadcast: 17/08/2004

'Children overboard' debacle continues
Reporter: Greg Jennett

TONY JONES: The man who claims he told John Howard three days before the 2001 election that his children overboard story was false is tonight threatening to bring a former colleague into the public arena to back him up.

Former Defence adviser Mike Scrafton is doing all he can to verify his claim, even going as far as sitting for a lie detector test in front of television cameras.

And, as Greg Jennett reports from Canberra, the Opposition and minor parties also look set to give him a parliamentary platform to tell his side of the story.

GREG JENNETT: Throughout the Senate's inquiry into the children overboard fiasco, Labor never wanted to test its powers to force witnesses to appear.

SENATOR JOHN FAULKNER, LABOR SENATE LEADER (OCTOBER 2002): I don't want to turn Senate inquiries into a witch hunt.

I don't want a McCarthyist Australian Senate.

GREG JENNETT: But former Reith staffer Mike Scrafton's sudden willingness to talk has changed things.

The Senate is likely to re-start its inquiry when it returns in a fortnight, inviting Mr Scrafton to come and repeat his claim under oath that he told the Prime Minister three days before the 2001 election there was no evidence children had been tossed into the sea.

MARK LATHAM, OPPOSITION LEADER: I'd expect that the Senate will go down that path And when they do, the important thing is for the Prime Minister to take the gag off.

Take the gag off the ministerial staff and anyone else so that the truth can be fully known.

GREG JENNETT: Mike Scrafton isn't the only one Mark Latham wants to front the committee.

He also has the team of prime ministerial advisers who were at The Lodge on November 7, 2001 in his sights.

But the chances of them appearing are slim.

Falling back on precedent, Mr Howard's office says: "The policy of both Coalition and Labor governments has always been that staff do not appear before committees.

They are accountable through their ministers."

That leaves only John Howard's and Mike Scrafton's conflicting versions of what was said in their phone conversations.

ABC RADIO BROADCASTER: Would you be prepared to release phone records to indicate whether two or three was the correct number of calls?

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'll check that.

GREG JENNETT: What about lie detector tests?

JOHN HOWARD: Look, I'm not getting into gimmicks like that.

If people don't believe what I say on the basis of looking at me and listening to my words, going through a mechanical process like that is not going to alter their opinions.

GREG JENNETT: Mike Scrafton has no qualms.

POLYGRAPH CONDUCTOR: These are just sensors.

What happens is we put them on your fingers.

GREG JENNETT: He subjected himself to one today.

Apparently he passed.

Arriving in Gunnedah tonight, Mr Howard stayed put on his plane as advisors working the phones.

He eventually stepped off, but passed up the opportunity to comment on Mr Scrafton's credibility.

REPORTER: Prime Minister, Mike Scrafton passed his lie detector test with flying colours.

GREG JENNETT In a potential escalation of the issue, Mr Scrafton has tonight suggested there could be another former senior public servant prepared to back him up.

He says he spoke to the person about his conversation with the Prime Minister the morning after it occurred and he or she might speak out to verify it.

ABC 'PM' RADIO BROADCASTER: So this conversation takes place on a mobile phone in a car on the morning of November 8 on the way back from Sydney to Canberra?


ABC 'PM' RADIO BROADCASTER: And is this person willing to come forward if necessary?

MIKE SCRAFTON: If necessary, they are.

GREG JENNETT Prolonged detention to his credibility wouldn't have been in John Howard's pre-election campaign, nor the two polls out today showing support for the Coalition is on the slide.

Greg Jennett, Lateline.

[end of ABC article]

Related: John W Howard selling off the Murray-Darling River into private hands - Vic Premier Steven Bracks quiets over the scam.


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