EXCLUSIVE: A woman who was double the drink-drive limit when she crashed her car on the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge in an incident which a judge claimed was a miracle nobody died is actually a staffer for Treasurer Jim Chalmers, it can be revealed. The failure by the press to link the pair is yet another example of the mainstream media protecting The Treasurer’s reputation at the expense of the truth. Pierce Field reports.
In March 2022, the political faithful were waiting with anticipation for then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison to call the 2022 Australian federal election.
Door knocking, letter boxing and community events dominate the spare time of any campaign team wishing to retrain their seat or defeat an incumbent.
However for Crystell Jade Lane – electorate officer for the Federal Member for Rankin and now Federal Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers – Friday, 25 March, 2022 was not about preparing for a weekend of hitting the hustings with her boss or serving constituents.
It was about getting drunk at a wedding, jumping behind the wheel of a hired Mercedes Benz and driving down a wet Sea Cliff Bridge, north of Wollongong.
As reported by the News Corp-owned Illawarra Star, at around 4:30pm in the afternoon Lane lost control of the luxury car and collided with an embankment, becoming airborne and landing five metres above the iconic roadway.
The court heard Lane made the decision to drive due to a “wardrobe malfunction.”
The life-threatening situation came to an end after hitting a tree and coming to a stop on the south-bound lane. Lane was then cut from the car by emergency services and taken to Wollongong Hospital.
She returned a blood-alcohol reading of 0.104 – double the legal limit.
Lane returned to the Illawarra to plead guilty to mid-range drink driving at Wollongong Local Court on Tuesday 16 August.
Crystell Jade Lane: Staffer to Treasurer Jim Chalmers crashed a Mercedes Benz near Wollongong while over twice the drink-drive limit (Image: Illawarra Star / Supplied)
As the Illawara Star reported two months ago, representing herself, Lane pleaded for leniency but in a bizarre turn of events, continuously interjecting whilst the magistrate attempted to deliver the sentence.
“You keep interrupting me, please keep quiet,” Magistrate Kasey Pearce said.
The magistrate also appeared to be unimpressed by the Federal Labor staffer’s conduct and the lack of respect shown to the New South Wales court.
“You’ve already spoken before like you were one of the best QCs in Australia,” Magistrate Pearce admonished Lane at one point during the hearing.
“How no one was killed I have no idea.”
– Magistrate Pearce
Lane received a $1,500 fine and was suspended from driving for 12 months.
The guilty verdict and disrespectful display in court could prove to be very embarrassing for the Treasurer, who’s home state of Queensland has seen an 23% increase in road deaths in which alcohol was a contributing factor.
Staffers getting behind the wheel after a few drinks is nothing new. Peta Credlin, the infamous chief of staff of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, escaped conviction in the ACT after returning a blood alcohol reading of 0.075 after the 2013 Federal Budget.
Credlin’s matter was widely reported by media at the time yet not one outlet has made the connection between Lane and Chalmers, despite more than two months passing since the court report about the Labor staffer’s appearance in the NSW judiciary system.
The question is – why?
Jim Chalmers with wife Laura, a former News Corp journalist, and family (Image: JimChalmers.org / Supplied)
This is not the first time the Treasurer has avoided media scrutiny for matters outside of his portfolio. True Crime News Weekly became the first media outlet to name Chalmers as the subject of a non-discolsure agreement for an alleged sexual assault.
Now, it can be further revealed that News Corp intended to publish a story on those very same allegations two days prior to the 2022 federal election, yet nothing came to fruition.
And the reason is not due to journalists such as Samantha Maiden suffering from the same inability as Lane to not get hammered and drive.
Enter stage right the Doctor’s wife – Laura Chalmers. A former media advisor to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Laura has worked for News Corp publications the Adelaide Advertiser and the Brisbane-based Courier Mail.
Is News Corp protecting the Treasurer to save the reputation of his wife? Whilst on paper that maybe the ‘right’ thing to do in protecting an innocent party, it flies against public interest journalism.
Time will tell. They have the stories, all they need to do is hit the print button.
Meanwhile, questions sent by True Crime News Weekly to the office of the Treasurer as well as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese about Lane’s drink driving charge were not responded to.