From ABC News (slightly rearranged for readability)
Prime Minister John Howard’s office has denied allegations that he took instructions from broadcaster Alan Jones to reappoint Professor David Flint as head of the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA). ..Rival broadcaster John Laws has aired an allegation that Mr Jones told him he had pressured the Prime Minister to have Professor Flint reappointed. John Laws said on Southern Cross radio in Sydney this morning that he was at a dinner party with Mr Jones and others on November 28, 2000, when Mr Jones warned him not to criticise Professor Flint…. “Alan Jones then went on to say in fact, ‘I was so determined to have David Flint reelected that I personally went to Kirribilli House and instructed John Howard to reappoint David Flint or he would not have the support of Alan Jones in the forthcoming election’,”
“The Prime Minister does not take instructions from anybody in the media about appointments or indeed anyone else in the discharge of his responsibilities as Prime Minister,”
the spokeswoman said.
He has no knowledge of any conversation that may have taken place between Mr Laws and Mr Jones at a dinner party.”
Now suppose that (most improbably) a videotape turns up showing Alan Jones telling Howard that he should reappoint Flint or lose his (Jones’) support. Howard could perfectly plausibly say that he doesn’t take orders (instructions) from Jones, and that he was going to reappoint Flint anyway. And of course, there’s no reason to suppose that Howard has any knowledge of what Jones said to Laws. No-one ever suggested he did.
Update 29/4 It didn’t take long for the nondenial quoted above to be subject to the same kind of close reading I offered – people are used to the need for this kind of thing now. After a pointless round of “not to my recollection” and “I don’t recall”, Howard has finally produced a clear denial.
I specifically deny any conversation remotely resembling what has been alleged,” Mr Howard said.
“If somebody approached me, somebody from the media with a threat that they would withdraw support from me if I didn’t do such and such I would to use the Australian vernacular tell them to get lost.”
The only problem is that Laws has witnesses who recall Jones’ statement to him. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Jones lied to Laws when he claimed to have spoken to Howard. Equally, it’s possible that Jones and Howard are both lying now. In the light of his thirty years in political life, are there any readers who have sufficient faith in Mr Howard’s word that they are willing to dismiss out of hand a second-hand report from a dinner party three years ago?