As something of a political junkie, I follow politics in the same way that I like to follow Manchester United and Chelsea; I don't like any of the players in the game and wish that they'd all lose. Sometimes, following politics very closely, means that you can get to report on news before the major news outlets do and this morning at the Senate Estimates Hearings was one of those cases because I heard it all live.
Here's what we know. Michael McKinnon at the ABC met with someone who has only ever been known as "the Bushie" who reported that he went to a second-hand auction house in Canberra late last year to buy some filing cabinets and when he got them, they were full of uncleared documents.
The ABC has repeatedly refused to spell out what steps that it has taken to verify the truthfulness of the Bushie's story; nor whether or not the statements that he got the filing cabinets from the second-hand auction house, were true. The ABC quite rightly defends the confidentiality of its sources, claiming that journalists have the responsibility to maintain the anonymity of their sources if a fair and free press is to remain fair and free.
The actual documents in question come from quite a number of government departments, specifically named was Penny Wong's office while she Minister for Finance and Deregulation, dating forward through the hand over to Mathias Cormann; as well as other government departments in the following Abbott and Turnbull Governments.
Mostly the documents were of procedural and routine correspondence but the fact that they had escaped into the wild without government clearance, was of a sufficient threat to national security and required ASIO to enter Parliament House to retrieve them from the ABC's offices. security and required ASIO to enter Parliament House to retrieve them.
For its part, the ABC correctly reported that there was a breach of national security, took diligence and due in the reporting of just 9 stories on the subject, kept them in secure storage at unnamed premises in the organisation, and then when asked by ASIO to hand the documents back, did so entirely voluntarily.
No questions in the Senate Estimates Hearings probed into the nature of how the cabinets in question actually ended up in the second-hand auction house in Canberra late last year, in the first place; neither were there any questions asked about who the Abbott/Turnbull Government officers were who should have been responsible for the disposal of either the cabinets or the documents.
As far as I can tell, the ABC looked remarkably diligent and sensitive with the information that it had received and as the nature of the vast bulk of the documents is still unknown to the public, they have acted with higher regard for security than the government department who was reponsible for looking after them in the first place; yet some how the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Eric Abetz, has been trying to make the ABC look weak in all of this. Furthermore, the ABC sat on the documents for four months before it even indicated that it had them; as the nature of what was in front of them was vetted by the legal department.