Ted Baillieu Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
A tape recording of a conversation between former premier Ted Baillieu and a journalist has been widely distributed via email to sitting Victorian MPs.
In the recording Mr Baillieu is critical of some of his parliamentary colleagues, including upper house MP Bernie Finn and rogue Frankston MP Geoff Shaw. An email accompanying the recording calls for penalties to be imposed on Mr Baillieu.
Fairfax Media believes the private conversation was taken from the tape recorder of The Sunday Age’s state political editor Farrah Tomazin, which was stolen just after the state budget in May.
Bernie Finn Photo: Matthew Furneaux
An email containing the stolen recording, and an edited transcript of that recording, were emailed to sitting Liberal MPs on Tuesday.
The email claims that Tomazin is actively involved in the Liberal Party preselection process with Mr Baillieu, “as she and Mr Baillieu conspire to attack sitting MPs and candidates in the media”.
Editor in chief of The Age, Andrew Holden, said he was ‘‘appalled by the defamatory claims made in the email and rejects them totally’’.
‘‘Our reporters do not take part in the internal matters of political parties and we always respect confidentiality of information and sources,’’ Mr Holden said.
‘‘Indeed, we have been to court many times at great cost to protect our sources from legal challenges.
‘‘It appears that the dictaphone of one of our reporters has been stolen, and one conversation on that recorder used to attack her and a member of parliament. The actual recording proves that the transcript has been edited in such a way as to support those attacks.
‘‘I will leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions as to who might be behind this campaign. It is a simple fact that The Age provides independent coverage of politics untainted by any political allegiances.’’
The email, which purports to have been sent by a Liberal Party member - who does not appear to exist - also alleges that the tape recording was released by The Age state political editor Josh Gordon last week, after a private conversation with a person in the Liberal Party.
“I strenuously deny the allegations,” said Gordon.
“At no stage have I ever been privy to or had access to the private conversations of my friend and colleague Farrah Tomazin. I did not contact anyone last week to discuss internal party matters and I certainly did not email any private conversations to anyone in the Liberal Party," he said.
“Integrity is paramount in journalism. I would certainly not risk compromising my integrity or undermining a friend and colleague in the manner described in the email.”
The email is highly critical of Mr Baillieu and accuses him of “briefing out against his parliamentary colleagues”.
The email also identifies possible breaches of the Liberal Party constitution by Mr Baillieu.
The former premier is defying the wishes of rival factions within the Liberal Party by standing for re-election in November.