Who revealed the private texts from colleagues deriding the PM as a “horrible, horrible person”? There’s one way to find out.
If you’re wondering how text messages between former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and a mystery friend who thinks the Prime Minister is “a complete psycho” made their way into the public domain, it’s time to pull up a chair.
It’s the question everyone wants answered, except Scott Morrison himself, who was keen to insist he is “not fussed” about a NSW premier allegedly calling him a “horrible, horrible” person.
OK? Not worried at all. Got it? As the Prime Minister likes to say: “How good!”.
For her part, Gladys Berejiklian “can’t recall” using that language or receiving the “psycho” text – which doesn’t sound like a fulsome denial, to me.
In case you missed it, let’s recap how we found ourselves once again examining the entrails of a politician’s text messages.
The saga began at the National Press Club on Tuesday when Channel 10’s political editor Peter van Onselen rose to his feet shortly after 1.30pm.
He revealed he had the “psycho” texts to Gladys in his hot little hands and proceeded to read them out on national television.
It was one of the biggest dead cats to throw on the National Press Club long table since Laurie Oakes confronted Julia Gillard in 2010 over the night she replaced Kevin Rudd as prime minister.
Mr Morrison blinked and raised his eyebrows. As you would. No. He did not agree with the sentiment he was a complete psycho.
The journalist who ambushed the Prime Minister remained coy for nearly 24 hours on whether the MP who said those words was a federal or state minister.
But after NSW Treasurer Matt Kean came under fire as the chief suspect, and was forced to publicly deny the allegation, van Onselen went on Sydney radio to point the finger at a mystery federal frontbencher.
But he wouldn’t say who the alleged leaker was because, guess what?
That’s right, the person who called the Prime Minister “a complete psycho” is also the guy that leaked his own text messages to Peter van Onselen.
“It’s as simple as this. The minister is the source. I didn’t get these from a third party. I’ve got the screenshots. As a consequence, the deal done is that I wouldn’t out the minister,’’ van Onselen said.
Just to narrow the field, van Onselen said the leaker was a “serving” cabinet minister to avoid any suggestion the source was his friend Christian Porter.
“Yes. A current minister. That’s the only thing that I clarify. I didn’t want people to think it was a former minister. I’m well known to be friends with one former minister, I didn’t want people to think it was that person. It is a current serving cabinet minister,’’ he said.
“They are old text messages from quite some time ago.”
So, that’s intriguing too. If Network Ten has been sitting on the text messages for months, or even years, why confront the Prime Minister with the messages now?
It might mean that there’s no clear “motive” for the leaker right now, they were just blowing off steam six months ago. Or longer.
What do we know about the motive? Well, here’s where it gets interesting because, while the motive remains as mysterious as the identity of the MP texting Gladys, what we can say is that the NSW MPs have form.
Back in August I had a senior NSW Liberal call me up keen as mustard for me to write a story involving the former NSW premier calling the Prime Minister “a bully” behind closed doors.
There was the whisper of text messages too. But when they weren’t forthcoming to verify the claim I decided against publishing the story.
Just a few days after we politely declined to run the “bully” story without hard evidence, it appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Berejiklian went so far as to tell a colleague that Morrison’s behaviour was “evil”,’’ the story stated.
That time, she denied point blank she had said those words, which is pretty much why we had refused to run the story without being provided with the text messages.
Then just weeks later, we were leaked details of her “losing her s–t” over the Prime Minister’s office leaking against her in a meeting, a story we published that was never denied.
So forget what the former NSW premier says about the Prime Minister being the best man for the job. She may think that but she’s also had her rumbles with him too. The text messages ring true in the context of that history.
Not since the Prime Minister’s own correspondence with French President Emmanuel Macron mysteriously made their way onto the front page of newspapers has the private correspondence of the political class been so carefully examined.
But that affair provides a good lesson for this latest furore.
The lesson is this: If the text messages are between two people that tends to narrow the field of the alleged leakers. The truth is out there.