Murdoch Columnist Wrote Speeches for Australian Minister

Alexander DownerA parliamentary committee reviewing government expenditures was informed that Christopher Pearson, a conservative columnist who writes on national politics and foreign affairs for the Weekend Australian, was paid $A11,364 to help ghostwrite seven speeches in 2005 and 2006 for the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer. Weekend Australian is published by News Limited, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Pearson's work for Downer, the Sydney Morning Herald reports, was not disclosed in his columns. Speeches Pearson assisted with included one for an evangelical Christian conference and others on terrorism, regional foreign policy and environmental issues. Pearson was previously a speechwriter for Prime Minister John Howard and the former parliamentary leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party, Kerry Chikarovski. After government officials detailed the speeches and the amounts paid, Senator Robert Ray commented, "Not only have we got the snout in the trough; we have all the trotters as well."