Aussie PM`s speech writer `protected` US source: WikiLeaks

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard`s speech writer has been a confidential source of information for US Embassy officials in the country, local media reported citing leaked diplomatic cables.

Last Updated: Dec 16, 2010, 21:15 PM IST

Melbourne: Australian Prime Minister
Julia Gillard`s speech writer has been a confidential source
of information for US Embassy officials in the country, local
media reported on Thursday citing leaked diplomatic cables.

Gillard`s speech writer Michael Cooney had been
designated a "protected" source by the US embassy here,
according to US diplomatics cables released by whistle-blower
website WikiLeaks.

Cable 08CANBERRA609, sent on June 13, 2008, revealed
that Cooney, a former senior adviser to Labor leaders Mark
Latham and Kim Beazley, spoke in glowing terms of his future
boss to US officials.

The cable stated that Cooney, speaking before he took
up the job with Gillard, told US officials, "She has been very
impressive as a minister: knowledgeable on the issues, listens
to advice from subordinates and civil servants and is not
afraid to delegate responsibility."

`The Australian` daily quoted a spokesman for the
Prime Minister as saying, "The government has made it clear
that it will not be commenting on the contents or veracity of
confidential US cables."

Cooney`s comments on Gillard are contained in a cable
sent by former US ambassador to Australia Robert MacCallum.

The cable states that "Two stars have emerged in the
government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd: Rudd himself and
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard."

The cable focused on the prominence Gillard had
achieved since Labor won government in November 2007, stating,
"Through the first seven months of the Rudd government,
Gillard is the only ALP politician who has approached PM Rudd
in national prominence."

In the same section containing Cooney`s comments,
titled "Gillard the pragmatist", another protected source, NSW
Labor aenator and powerbroker Mark Arbib described Gillard as
"one of the most pragmatic politicians in the ALP", while
Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes, another protected
source, points out that although she is a member of Labor`s
left faction "she votes with the Right".

Capital Circle understands that Gillard and Cooney
developed a good working relationship during the period in
which Mark Latham was leader of the ALP.

Cooney kept his job as a senior policy adviser for
Beazley when he took over as Labor leader in early 2005, but
he stopped working as a federal Labor staffer when Kevin Rudd
took over from Beazley, as the pair are said to have had a
fractious relationship.

Cooney went to work for left wing think-tank Per
Capita, before becoming chief of staff to ACT Education
Minister Andrew Barr. From there he launched a bid that
ultimately failed to replace former federal MP Annette Ellis
when she retired from the seat of Canberra.

PTI