Michael Kirby: Seven are serial homophobes for outing David Campbell and they hounded my friend to death

Former High Court Justice Michael Kirby has accused the journalists of the Seven Network of being “serial homophobes” over the outing of transport minister David Campbell, and accused the broadcaster of hounding former Law Society president John Marsden to death.

His comments came in a speech to about 700 people at the TEDx Sydney conference.

Kirby raised Thursday night’s outing of NSW transport minister David Campbell by Seven News.

The network secretly filmed the married politician entering a gay sex club in Kensington. Campbell immediately resigned his post.

Kirby told the audience (12m, 35s in video):

“The humiliation of a minister, the destruction of a career, the damage to his family, revealing that he went to a gay sauna. Human sexuality is a spectrum of nature and it’s not a big deal.

“But The exploration of it is just not acceptable to the newsroom of Channel Seven. Channel Seven Sydney should hold it head in shame. They are serial homophobes.”

Kirby also referred to the late John Marsden, former president of the Law Society of New South Wales.

In the mid 1990s, the Seven Network made a series of allegations alleging that Marsden had sex with minors. Marsden successfully sued in a marathon legal case.

The final amount the Marsden received from Seven was never revealed. But when the High Court ordered a new trial in 2002 to take into account Marsden’s hurt feelings, the network settled for a reported $6m to $9m dollars.

Marsden died of stomach cancer in 2006 after an illness of around four years. Kirby delivered the eulogy at his funeral.

Today Kirby told TEDx: “Don’t forget that it was Channel Seven that hounded the first openly gay president of the Law Society of this state – hounded him to his death. I saw him deteriorate and die. Homophobia is endemic in Australia and America.”

Kirby’s speech received loud applause from the audience.

The outing of Campbell has by Seven has sparked furious debate over the journalistic ethics involved.

At the time of posting, Seven had not responded to Mumbrella’s request for comment.


Peter Meakin, Seven’s head of news and current affairs, told Mumbrella: “I’m disappointed that Mr Kirby should feel that way. I didn’t think sexual preference was the issue.”


  1. Bill Posters
    23 May 10
    12:17 am

  2. “The newsroom of Channel Seven should hang their heads in shame.”

    But they won’t, least of all three-time drink-driver Peter Meakin.

  3. Mark
    23 May 10
    9:34 pm

  4. Hmmm, Mumbrella stories about this comercial, that ad agency big-hitter, or Kyle and Jackie’s odiousness attract hundreds of posts. But this awful matter…just one.

    What does that say about the advertising community? Does it all get a bit too hard when we’re dealing with real life? Is the gay angle a bit scary for our fixie riding social media loving whizz kids?

    I don’t get it.

  5. Context
    24 May 10
    9:42 am

  6. For me this is symptomatic of a bigger issue with the ‘newsrooms’ of the commerical networks. They’re playing to the lowest common denominator so anything mildly salacious or ‘un-Australian’ in their eyes gets a run. The old adage of ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ is probably now more accurately ‘if it’s a gay or asian threat to a dinky di Aussie way of life……’. A month ago all the stories on ACA and TT were about ‘Asians taking away the chance for Aussies to buy their first homes’ supported by footage of Asian looking people attending house auctions etc. (for all we know those people were here since the gold rush but that would spoil the beat up so why mention it). No doubt if Seven wanted to run a story on pollies misusing their parliamentary cars they had plenty of opportunities to choose from. Their decision to out David Campbell in this way has caused not just political questions to be asked, but a completely unnecessary family tragedy, unfolding right in front of our eyes.

    Is 7 homophobic? Are they racist? I would say yes…all the way to the top of the ratings.

    Now where have I heard the phase ‘dinky di’ used most recently? Oh thats right, it’s a favourite of Tony Abbott. 1950’s here we come!

  7. mumbrella
    24 May 10
    9:51 am

  8. Hi mark,

    I was a bit surprised myself, but I suspect the relatively slow comment stream on this one may also simply reflect the fact that this topic is being discussed on many different sites rather than a lack of interest in the debate.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  9. henry
    24 May 10
    9:53 am

  10. The reality is, Mark, that gay is still a dirty word in mainstream Australia media, as this case clearly shows.

    David Campbell is crucified not for using the government car (most of the broadcast content from all networks haven’t even mentioned this element of the case, which in actuality is the technical reason for his resignation) – instead they’re clawing at the lurid details of his family life, his children, his marriage, in constrast with his sex life as a gay or bisexual man. etc.

    Peter Meakin’s assertion that this wasn’t to do with sexuality indicates one of two things: he’s either too stupid to understand what he and his team are doing is homophobic, or he does understand and he just doesn’t care.

    I’m assuming it’s the latter.

  11. Mark
    24 May 10
    10:57 am

  12. Hi Tim,
    I appreciate your touching defense of the industry! You might be right but I suspect not. After all the Jackie/Kyle business was scarcely ignored by the major media, and yet it received mountains of response on Mumbrella.

    I agree with the other postings on this site, that channel 7’s actions were indeed homophobic (and boy what else is a homophobic press capable of …oh, wait Context’s post answered that excactly). I also agree that they play to the lowest common denominator although I think they often misjudge that as being representative of Aussie tastes. This is just representative of poor judgement, mind you the average TV exec makes it pretty clear where the lack of intelligence emanates from (who’d put Eddy McGuire in charge of a station for gods’ sake?).

    What really disturbs me is whether the lack of Mumbrella postings here is a sign that an ‘enlightened’ corner of our society that’s supposed to be filled with bright, open-minded people – yes I’m talking the ad industry – is also showing homophobic tendencies.

    I’m not taking a position on this I merely flag it for consideration and as a reminder to you as a media outlet and to us as an industry to be alert to the issue.

  13. Context
    24 May 10
    11:19 am

  14. Mark, this is an industry that can barely look women in the eye (Refer to article on Communications Council) and you wonder if there is systemic discrimination towards gay people? Now I’m not saying everyone in this industry has ‘issues’ with people unlike themselves, but if you look at the top of the tree, it’s a pretty homogenous view.

  15. zeff
    24 May 10
    12:01 pm

  16. This was a disgusting show of ratings grabbing by a decidedly grubby newsroom. There is a way to reach a broad audience without having to stoop to this sort of sordid sensationalism. I think they’ll have lost the trust of a lot of viewers over this one.

  17. MattP
    24 May 10
    12:47 pm

  18. @zeff. I concur, 7 could and should have been smarter with this one.

    Now when will Meakin be a real man and take accountability for his personal actions?

  19. Scott Kilmartin
    24 May 10
    1:18 pm

  20. Taking another view, the former High Court head wig wearer Michael Kirby is one strong man. Our little country could use more ballsy people like him.
    He’s consistently rattled the tree [same sex Superannuation inheritance rights] and defended his beliefs against attacks from the likes of Howard era henchman Bill Heffernan.

    Peter Meakin’s actions speak for themselves.

  21. Ron
    24 May 10
    1:29 pm

  22. @henry: The car was not actually the issue: “….ministers are actually allowed to give their drivers the night off and drive the car themselves”.


  23. L
    24 May 10
    1:58 pm

  24. Meakin is a complete tosser anyway so what could we really expect? It’s good to see that Kirby had something to say.

    Realistically I don’t think Seven really cares about all the anguish from the public following their story. It’s just another day for them

  25. michelle n
    24 May 10
    2:03 pm

  26. this story isn’t news. It’s a private issue that should have been left for his family and him to discuss.

    Campell didn’t breach any laws or conduct for visiting a sex club, gay or straight using his car. There was no need to film him, and there was no need to expose him.

    This goes back to news outlets chasing tabloid appeal – and at any cost.
    They did this with Mike Rann and the TV news station, who believed it was in the public interest to know for whatever bullshit reason they cited, only backed off when Rann and his lawyers made an application to sue.

    Campell should sue the arse off Channel 7 and any other news outlet that profited from his misery.

  27. Boycott
    24 May 10
    2:04 pm

  28. It would seem that the Mumbrella audience thinks Seven did the wrong thing. Will marketers be voting with their ad dollars? That is the only way to send a clear message that this is unnacceptable.

  29. J Grez
    24 May 10
    2:05 pm

  30. Why do people even watch channel 7 news/current affairs?

    Or nine or ten for that matter?

    God it makes me cringe, and how about the fear that 7 are pumping into the soccer fans going to South Africa. “You’re all gonna die!!!!!”

    Simple solution: ABC/SBS.

  31. Rex
    24 May 10
    2:06 pm

  32. I have superglued the 7 button on my remote.

  33. R. Mugobme
    24 May 10
    2:14 pm

  34. This comes back to the same ground as the Channel 9 Camera man sacked for racist attacks outside the court.

    Anything, Yes ANYTHING for a RATING.

  35. TT
    24 May 10
    2:14 pm

  36. Perhaps the lack of response to this article will increase now that it’s on the newsletter. That’s certainly why I’m reading.

  37. Brad
    24 May 10
    2:14 pm

  38. Peter Meakin outed the Transport Minister just because he could. There was ZERO news worthiness to the issue. David Campbell’s career and family life has been truly and utterly destroyed by Mr Meakin for no apparent reason.

    Kudos to Mr Kirby for speaking out against the bigots at Channel Seven. I hope Mr Campbell sues the s**t out of Seven in a protracted, expensive and high profile defamation case.

  39. Anonymous
    24 May 10
    2:17 pm

  40. This is an absolute disgrace by Seven. David Campbell handled himself with absolute grace in response to the situation.

  41. R. Mugobme
    24 May 10
    2:24 pm

  42. Michael Kirby shame on you for giving vent to the issue. David Campbell clearly wishes this will go away quickly. Mr Kirby by extending the public scrutiny you pile on the pressure that caused Mr Marsden so much pain. I suspect that you are clever enough to realise this. But your personal crusade takes no prisoners from either side of the debate…

    In the end what Mr Campbell did was far less worse than the PM and and his side kick turning up at a Bronco’s match with lots of paid people in tow and at least three motor vehicles.

    But then that’s a case of Football and Meat Pies over Campari and Gay Guys. Obviously one is still a sackable offence… Time we all grew up and dragged Mr Campbell back to work…

  43. Jack Young
    24 May 10
    2:39 pm

  44. a total set up, not hard to guess who give the leads to channel 7. who knows what Peter Meakin is getting out of this. david campbell was in hot water before hand, resignation is just a matter of time. now channel 7 forces him in dead corner. extremely irresposible for channel 7 to use sexuality to make a deal out of it, more tragicly now public will see a double life was the reason why he resigns.sexuality is a double life.what about serial killers?channel 7.not cool.not good msgs to pass around.hope he and his family will survive this.very sad day. :(

  45. John tualers
    24 May 10
    2:39 pm

  46. I don’t think Seven did anything wrong. Would you all be up in arms if Seven had filmed a politician visiting a regular old brothel? No. Besides, you can’t be ‘family values’ politician, go to gay bathhouses, then expect the media to shut up about it when they find out.

  47. RJ
    24 May 10
    2:42 pm

  48. I knew there was a good reason why I hated watching anything on 7.

    Some are of the view that homosexuality is an illness or disease.
    Let’s all try calling in queer to work “Sorry, can’t work today, still queer.”

    Attitudes towards gay people goes far beyond this thread. I think discrimination will be an issue for a long time which is sad. Mentally so many people are stuck in the dark ages!
    One benefit I guess we can take from cases lke this as it brings it to the forefront of people’s discussions and gives people the opportunity to stand up for themselves and try to open the minds of others.

  49. anon1
    24 May 10
    3:22 pm

  50. Terrible story, sad story, digusting story (in terms of intrusion). But should they have run it?

    Yes. Because it was a public figure and it was a story. That’s news.

    The media only gives people what they want because all the media cares about is ratings. If this does turn out to be a fuck up in that regard and viewers boycott Seven, then we’ll probably see a big shift and news “values” will change.

    However, I doubt this will happen. We live in a country where gays can’t even marry, for fuck’s sake, despite all the claims to “secularism”. And we have prayers every day in our supposedly secular parliament to a religion and a god that has condemned, persecuted, jailed and killed homosexual people (and an assorted range of adulterers and unchaste women and sex workers) for centuries.

    Channel Seven – and the entire media – is just a mirror of that.

  51. Not Craig Davis
    24 May 10
    4:36 pm

  52. Further to the above, what irks me more is that Meakin will get a big pat on the back for it all – perhaps even a Harley like when he was at 9 – so why don’t we hear from the “management” of 7 on this (or attack them)?? Or are they too busy rubbing their hands and wallets with glee????
    Anyone know?

  53. henry
    24 May 10
    5:02 pm

  54. @john – your post sadly illustrates the nuanced flaws in the Australian media’s view of homosexuality – i.e, the implication that having family values and being gay are mutually exclusive positions.

    Who says you can’t still back in “family values” (whatever that means), and also be gay? And what exactly are “family values”? As a gay man, who has a family, and values them, I find this a pretty confusing and grey concept that conservative media & political bodies hide behind to win soft votes during elections and use wedge policies, demonising minorities and handing pitchforks to the white australian masses: Children Overboard, anyone??

    What this man did was wrong, in that it betrayed his wife, and his children Seven and it’s predominantly white, anglo saxon, male, heterosexual lynch-mob fo staffers is acting as if Campbell lied to the australian people under oath – as if it’s a betrayal of their trust in him, because it is implied in the coverage that being gay is somehow disgraceful, dirty, and second-rate. And by the way: check out the ’07 elections: Kevin’s ratings as preferred PM went UP when he was found to have gone to a strip club.

    Hence, not only the media, but in this case, the australian public actively endorsed the sexual objectification of women, but renounce consentual gay sex betwen two men in their own time as deplorable and deceptive.

  55. Jooja
    24 May 10
    5:31 pm

  56. Kirby is a legend. If we had more people like Kirby in positions of power Australia would be a better place and I would be able to proudly label something un-Australian.

  57. Mark
    24 May 10
    5:57 pm

  58. Do we actually know that he led the much criticised ‘double life’ thus ‘betraying’ his family? Apparently his gayness was an open secret in government, so maybe it also was with his family. We don’t know and it’s none of our business.

    One thing’s for sure, we all have the absolute right to withhold personal information from the media no matter what our position, and the media should not be allowed to trample that right in this way.

    Somebody above said it…where is the principled client that’s prepared to boycott buying Seven on the back of this? Did the Kyle/Jacqui issue result in any loss of support from the media buying sector…will this? Within our ranks are those who have the greatest possible leverage on the media, those who control ad spend. Do those people care about anything beyond ratings? Are media buyers even prepared to have this discussion with their clients? or is rearranging a buy simply too much hard work?

  59. anon1
    25 May 10
    7:57 am

  60. >One thing’s for sure, we all have the absolute right to withhold personal information from the media no matter what our position, and the media should not be allowed to trample that right in this way.

    Don’t be so ridiculously naive. What about the need to expose hypocrisy and corruption?

  61. Mark
    25 May 10
    8:11 am

  62. We have a right to hypocrisy or anything else when it comes to our personal lives..that’s why they call it personal, my friend. As for corruption, nobody has alleged any such thing in this case. But anyway, I am not arguing nor has anyone in this thread argued that the media should not expose stories that are in the national interest, but the whole point about this story is that it was not that at all.

    I note you have posted as anon. Hypocrisy is not a crime, as you have shown.

  63. farrel Brest
    25 May 10
    10:36 am

  64. Disgraceful reporting by 7. This is not a 50s witch-hunt.

  65. R. Mugobme
    25 May 10
    10:52 am

  66. DC vs JC

    Yesterday we were all up in arms about 7 airing footage of a govt minister (DC) skulking away from a gay club in his ministerial car.

    Today we are shooting down the GO! Channel for not airing the Bloody Mary (JC)episode of South Park!

    So who amongst you thinks the DC bit shouldn’t air and JC bit should??

  67. anon1
    25 May 10
    1:37 pm

  68. “We have a right to hypocrisy or anything else when it comes to our personal lives.”

    If you believe this, then I am sorry for you. I do not agree with it. I believe public figures have a duty to demonstrate honesty and integrity. And if their private behaviour seriously conflicts with this (though I do not believe that it did in the case of David Campbell) then the media has a duty to expose them.

  69. Sam
    26 May 10
    10:01 am

  70. And what about Adam Walters? He was the journo on the witch-hunt, he is a disgraceful human being and he should so ashamed of himself!

    I’ve worked in government media and David Campbell was one of the good guys but regardless no-one deserved to have their privacy violated like this.

    I’m heartened that there has been support from other media outlets about the injustice of it all, it’s the lowest form of media sensationalism and Channel 7 seriously need to do some soul searching. I’m so disgusted by the whole scenario!


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