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Schapelle Corby (right). Photo: Dimas Ardian. Cassandra Sainsbury faces 20 years jail if convicted. Photo: StarNowSix days from freedom, many years later and a million years wiser, you could easily imagine what Schapelle Corby was thinking if she had a60 Minuteslive stream in Bali on Sunday night.
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Just who got their money’s worth here?

Answer: Not the woman behind bars. And probably not the program waving the big bucks.

Almost 13 years to the day after the Corby family pocketed its first alleged Channel Nine cheque to tell the alleged story of an alleged innocent waif abroad caught up in an alleged drug-smuggling sting, the family of alleged Colombian jailbird Cassandra Sainsbury took the same alleged time-honoured route to … what?

What – allegedly – indeed?

It’s hard to know what anyone is thinking when these cluster-farts of media hysteria and foreign judicial systems collide in an explosion of moral outrage and moral confusion, breathlessly presented to a national audience over Sunday night dessert.

Colombian police released this photo of Cassandra Sainsbury with the drugs she is alleged to have smuggled. Photo: Colombian National Police

But once again on60 Minutes– direct from the streets of Bogota, Colombia and the red-lit doorways of Sydney – came a tale of moral turpitude and questionable ethics, most of it related to the program delivering the story.

Here were some of the opening lines from a program Nine flagged as a “special edition”.

If only there had been anything special about it; alas, it was entirely predictable.

“The most extraordinary development….”!

“But that’s not all about Cassandra’s secret past…”!

“Her life as a prostitute…”!

“An admission she did it…”!

“Her lawyer tells us she…”!

“Our investigation…”!

The latter line – “our investigation” – should be treated with caution when dealing with a program whose investigative techniques have sometimes amounted to throwing large sums of money in the direction of people who’ll talk to them.

In 2004, it was60 Minutesand Nine who did more than most to forge the national belief that Schapelle Corby came from a Brady Bunch-like clan from the classier areas of the Gold Coast, and that her unjust incarceration deprived the nation of a young heroine’s wisdom on eyebrow maintenance. And when Corby went down in 2005, it was60 Minuteswho paid their way into both the courtroom and the family’s post-conviction Bali villa.

Cassandra – Schapelle for a new generation? Please, no! – risks the same fate, at least as the subject of gratuitous media carry-on.

One wonders what Sainsbury’s mother, Lisa Evans, and sister, Khala, are thinking this morning, after viewing Sunday night’s chequebook-laden tale. It came complete with staged jail phone calls and pointless but camera-friendly hollering outside the prison walls – juxtaposed with a second story reported from Sydney.

In this back-after-the-break knees-up, the harbour city’s allegedly long-dead nightlife was given an alleged new lease on life: “This is ‘s party strip, the notorious Kings Cross in Sydney’s eastern suburbs”.

One imagines the only people cheering were the city’s tourism chiefs, relieved to finally have someone painting the area allegedly known as “the notorious Kings Cross” as still breathing, let alone notorious.

60 Minutes’ endeavours to convince us that it, too, is still breathing consisted of interviews with Cassandra’s mother and sister, conducted in environs ranging from the back of a cab, to a park bench, to the aforementioned hollering outside prison walls, to breast-laden pictorial renditions of Sainsbury’s alleged previous life as a Sydney sex worker. (Corby-case aficionados will recall that Schapelle’s downfall included allegations that she had taken a similar path in Japan, prior to her alleged Bali misfortune.)

On60 Minutes, the story of Sainsbury’s alleged previous life was delivered with the implication from an alleged former colleague that Cassandra’s alleged life was (take your pick) illegal, immoral or that she-got-what-she-allegedly deserved: “I can guarantee you 100 per cent that is her body, that is her in that profile”.

This was a judgment no doubt encouraged by the60 Minutespromise to the woman making it: “We have agreed to conceal her identity and change her voice.”

The main alleged conclusion to draw from it all?

That60 Minutesmay be willing to conceal the identity and change the voice of the people it pays for stories … but none of it conceals the modern identity of the program itself.

You can pay for anything – but you can’t buy credibility. Allegedly? No, you can bank on that.

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