FORMER Victorian chief police commissioner Christine Nixon has accused Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd newspapers of being instrumental in bringing down her successor in the job, Simon Overland.
She also said she believed she had been subject to a relentless campaign by News Ltd papers, particularly the Herald Sun, since she retired following the Black Saturday bushfires on February 7, 2009, to force her from public life.
''In the 2½ years since retiring, they have run a vendetta against me. They have published articles and beat up stories saying I am not supposed to teach courses, shouldn't be allowed to sit on boards, not allowed to do leadership lectures, should have quit my job as chair of the Bushfire Recovery Authority, should not mentor people, and the final one is I am not allowed to write a book.''
Ms Nixon's book, Fair Cop, jointly written with Age journalist Jo Chandler, is due to be launched by Prime Minister Julia Gillard next Wednesday.
In an interview yesterday, Ms Nixon cited a News Ltd campaign against her and Mr Overland, who quit on June 16 after controversy relating to misleading crime figures, as an example of how the organisation operated against people who did not bend to its wishes.
She said the company turned on Mr Overland after he criticised The Australian for publishing leaked information that he said could have compromised a major terrorism raid.
Ms Nixon said the attacks were not confined to Melbourne, and that on the weekend in Adelaide a News Ltd paper had run an article attacking her for a lecture she was to give in that city on Tuesday to the Governor's Leadership Program.
''I haven't been put off and I have continued doing the things I have wanted to do, but in the background there is always the knowledge that there will be criticism. They went for me both in my time as chair of the Bushfire Authority [from which she resigned in July last year] and in my life since. They have even attacked Julia Gillard, saying she should not be launching my book.''
Ms Nixon said what had emerged overseas following the News of the World hacking scandal was that News Ltd tries to intimidate people who get in its way.
''They make people fearful of saying anything in case they have the [News Ltd] guns targeted at them. Against me they used vehicles like the Police Association to fire the bullets. The person who loads the gun is the Herald Sun and The Australian.''
In her book she reflects how Herald Sun editor Simon Pristel rang her media person one night at 6 o'clock during the Bushfires Royal Commission and asked if it was true that on the night of Black Saturday she had held a party at home to celebrate her departure from Victoria Police. The spokeswoman told him it was not true, but that Ms Nixon had gone to a local hotel for a quick meal with her husband, her father and a friend.
''It was a fishing exercise. Pristel was still quite new to the job, and one of the trademarks of his editorship would be to bring to the Herald Sun - once distinguished by its concise, straight-bat coverage of issues - more of the shrill Fleet Street 'red top' tabloid formula of 'name and shame' campaigning,'' she wrote.
''It would cast itself as moral arbiter. Such a culture can have little regard for fairness, or for nuance, and a lot to do with selling newspapers and, sometimes, with pursuing its own agendas.
''In the wake of the royal commission, I was informed by sources that the Herald Sun had told them unequivocally that they would see me brought down, the attacks would continue until I quit or was sacked. By now, the paper was heavily invested in demonising me to its audience, and so my pursuit also became a matter of editorial ego. The prize would be my scalp.''
In the book, Ms Nixon says she believed the Bushfires Royal Commission had failed to achieve its aim of producing better leadership.
Instead, it was likely to lead to risk-averse management, with leaders constantly on the lookout to ''cover their arse'' during a disaster. ''This is dangerous. Such thinking might dissuade leaders, whether at the political level, in the crisis room, or out at the fire front, from bold and brave decisions in the moment.''
The commission found that Ms Nixon's approach to emergency co-ordination during Black Saturday ''left much to be desired'' and condemned her performance as ''hands off''.
It said she should not have left emergency headquarters at dinner time, particularly when she had no deputy acting in her place.