VC hero fronts Qld colleagues after expletive-riddled spray

 

Embattled war hero and Seven executive Ben Roberts-Smith fronted staff in the Sunshine Coast studio on Thursday following scathing comments he made about the network and its Queensland employees.

Mr Roberts-Smith, hired to help run Seven West Media's state operations in 2014, arrived at the Maroochydore premises before daybreak to respond to explosive audio recordings in which he called his Queensland colleagues "smiling assassins" who had "f---ing ... worn me down, and down and down to now I'm like, 'you know what? F--- 'em'."

In the recordings made public earlier this week, he also accused staff of starting "bullshit rumours" and demanded "f---ing proof" of allegations of bullying and sexual harassment.

He slammed Seven West Media as a dysfunctional business led by inept fellow executives, and said he was "going to do everything I can to f---ing destroy" those he felt had maligned him, including "all those journalists".

Ben Roberts-Smith leaves Channel 7 studios at Maroochydore on Thursday. Picture: Lachie Millard.
Ben Roberts-Smith leaves Channel 7 studios at Maroochydore on Thursday. Picture: Lachie Millard.

Thursday's meeting is understood to have lasted several hours and staff were instructed to switch off their mobile phones beforehand.

Also present were Seven West Media's managing director and CEO James Warburton and CFO Jeff Howard.

The Courier-Mail understands the meeting was originally part of a January road trip by the top brass to touch base with staff but was postponed due to COVID.

While the "town hall" meeting was initially unrelated to any issues concerning Mr Roberts-Smith, in light of his claims about staff and confirmation on Wednesday that the Australian Federal Police was investigating the former soldier, staff were offered an opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.

In an email to Seven staff on Wednesday, Mr Roberts-Smith said he regretted his remarks.

"While born out of frustration, that is no excuse and I take full responsibility for my comments, which I deeply regret," he said.

"I have the utmost respect for the executives and staff at SWM and feel privileged to be able to lead our Queensland operations."

The rival Nine Network, through its 60 Minutes program, has alleged Mr Roberts-Smith buried sensitive material in his backyard and attempted to intimidate a witness in an active investigation into war crimes.

It has accused the Victoria Cross recipient of burying, in a child's lunchbox, USB sticks containing classified information including reports from an SAS mission in southern Afghanistan, drone footage and photos.

Nine has also alleged Mr Roberts-Smith sent emails and letters intimidating people he believed would give evidence against him to war crimes investigators.

Mr Roberts-Smith has denied all allegations against him and is suing Nine's newspapers, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times, over a series of 2018 stories alleging he committed war crimes in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012.

The audio recordings were of several conversations between Mr Roberts-Smith and three other people and happened during the Brereton inquiry.

Originally published as Embattled war hero fronts Qld colleagues after 'smiling assassins' leak