1994 Illegal tape

Late one night towards the end of 1994, two duck shooters, one a senior member of gun club Field & Game Australia (FGA), made the mistake of mentioning on their Analog mobile phones that a Liberal Minister in the
Kennett Government had asked the senior FGA member “to design a season which is acceptable scientifically and that he can sell”. At that time, Victoria was in serious drought.

The conversation was accidentally picked up by a ham radio scanner. He didn’t quite understand the implications, but contacted Laurie Levy at 2am one morning to say he had just picked up a random conversation which might be relevant to helping native waterbirds. At first, Levy thought he was being targeted in a duck shooter prank, but after asking that the tape be played over the phone, he immediately recognised the distinctive voice of the senior FGA member.

Levy obtained the tape and had a legal transcript made. He then told his lawyer he was going to send copies to The Age newspaper and to top-rating radio presenter, Neil Mitchell at radio station 3AW. Following the furore over a previous illegally taped conversation between the then Opposition leader Jeff Kennett and Federal MP Andrew Peacock, Levy was advised by his lawyer that releasing the tape would probably result in him going to jail. The Australian Federal Police had cracked down not only on the illegal taping of conversations, but also on providing copies to the media.

However, knowing how important this was to native waterbirds, Levy sent the tape and transcript to Neil Mitchell and The Age, although he didn’t expect the illegally taped conversation to be aired. Mitchell ran with it as his lead story, until 3AW lawyers stopped the recording being broadcast after about 25 seconds on air because of its illegal nature. Mitchell, though, then read out the official legal transcript and followed by interviewing the senior Field & Game official (who refused to confirm or deny that it was his voice on the tape).

Levy was then informed by the Department of Conservation that the Minister wanted to listen to the tape, so a copy was immediately forwarded to the Department and was subsequently handed to the Minister.

Consequently, the 1995 duck shooting season was cancelled (and Levy never heard from the Australian Federal Police).

The Age also published the story below (21 December 1994).