Daily Telegraph, The (Sydney), 21/07/2001, pg. 2

A LIBERAL Party volunteer who worked for two of Prime Minister John Howard’s closest political confidantes passed allegedly damaging documents about Paul Keating’s piggery interests to journalists.

The man, a former Austrade officer, worked out of the Sydney office of close Howard allies, then Senator Michael Baume and later Senator Bill Heffernan, the Parliamentary Secretary to Cabinet.

It is understood John Seyffer’s role is featured in a Four Corners program which was pulled last week by ABC chief Jonathan Shier, a former Liberal staffer.

The program will be aired on Monday night after an appraisal by ABC lawyers and a Sydney QC picked by Mr Shier.

The story also reportedly features film of a senior Liberal politician “muckraking”.

Mr Seyffer is understood to have undertaken volunteer work such as mail-outs for then Senator Baume and carried out similar tasks from the same office when Senator Heffernan took it over following Senator Baume’s posting to New York in 1996 as Australia’s Consul-General.

Senator Baume had led the party’s attack on Mr Keating’s piggery dealings in Parliament.

Mr Seyffer’s role in the Keating piggery matter will raise questions about the involvement of Liberal figures in the compilation of a 60 Minutes program on Mr Keating’s business interests. The program sparked calls for a probe into the former prime minister’s business dealings which was rejected by the Howard Government.

It is understood former Sydney property developer Greg Malouf, who had a long-running battle with the Commonwealth Bank over a cancelled loan facility, had documents relating to the Keating piggery deal which he offered to Mr Seyffer. The documents were passed on to journalists.

In 1999, 60 Minutes revealed the bank had written off most of an $11.5 million debt former Keating partner Al Constantinidis owed.

Mr Keating accused former Federal Liberal Party president Tony Staley of having a hand in the 60 Minutes program.

Mr Staley said this week he had never acted improperly and questioned whether Four Corners should rely on Mr Malouf.

He quoted part of a NSW Supreme Court judgement in a case involving Mr Malouf, which said: “Gregory’s account … so departs from reality as to cast doubt on his ability to give reliable evidence generally.”

At a Senate Estimates Committee hearing in May 1999, Labor Senator Robert Ray asked if Mr Seyffer had been employed by the Government solely to research Mr Keating’s piggery interests.

Program politics

July 16: Four Corners fails to broadcast allegations how Liberal Party figures get damaging information about former prime minister Paul Keating’s business interests July 18: ABC managing director and ex-Liberal Party staffer Jonathan Shier said to have sought external legal advice and stopped program

July 18: Opposition Leader Kim Beazley attacks Mr Shier: political independence of ABC “on trial”. Former Liberal Party president Tony Staley says it legitimately pursued Mr Keating’s financial dealings

July 19: Mr Shier clears the program for broadcast on Monday with minor changes

Copyright 2001 / The Daily Telegraph