Showing posts with label Australian Press Council. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian Press Council. Show all posts

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Climate change denier Ian Plimer in the news again

YouTube GWPF video snapshot
Former mining geologist Ian Plimer (left) is nothing if not persistent. 

North Coast Voices has been noting his biased, inaccurate & frequently irrational opinions since December 2008.

This was the fall-out from one of his articles published nine months ago.

The Guardian, 24 July 2020:

An op-ed by Prof Ian Plimer in the Australian, which was condemned as blatantly false by climate scientists, has been found to have breached standards by the Australian Press Council. In November, his column titled “Let’s not pollute minds with carbon fears” argued that there “are no carbon emissions. If there were, we could not see because most carbon is black. Such terms are deliberately misleading, as are many claims.”

The article also referred to the “fraudulent changing of past weather records” and “unsubstantiated claims polar ice is melting”, as well as “the ignoring of data that shows Pacific islands and the Maldives are growing rather than being inundated”.

Despite a chorus of criticism at the time, the former editor John Lehmann defended Plimer’s article, saying “his voice is one of many which are important in the mix”.

In a lengthy adjudication the Oz was forced to publish on page two on Friday, the press council said the article contained inaccurate and misleading material in its claims that the Bureau of Meteorology had fraudulently changed weather records and that Plimer’s claims that there was no evidence polar ice was melting were misleading.

The newspaper breached two of the general principles of reporting: ensuring factual material is accurate (principle 1) and ensuring facts are presented with reasonable fairness and balance and opinion is based on fact (principle 3).

The council found that while it would have preferred Plimer’s links to the mining industry were disclosed in the column, the Australian did not breach guidelines in not disclosing because Plimer’s “past or present directorships of mining companies and advocacy in the debate around climate change were so well known” that it was not required.

Plimer is a professor of geology and well-known climate change denier who has served as a director of a number of mining firms, including Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill Holdings and Queensland Coal Investments.

In reviewing the article last November, University of New South Wales professor Katrin Meissner wrote: “This article is an impressive collation of the well known, scientifically wrong, and overused denier arguments. It is ideologically motivated and, frankly, utter nonsense.”….

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Australian Press Council names Herald Sun for sloppy and misleading journalism

The Australian Press Council named News Corp’s Herald Sun for sloppy and misleading journalism and the editor inserted this in the newspaper on 28 April 2017:
Press Council Adjudication
Herald Sun
April 28, 2017 12:00am
The Press Council considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by an article published online in the Herald Sun on 13 January 2017, headed “Thousands of public servants got a free week off at Christmas, and critics want to know why”. The headline was repeated in a caption accompanying a stock photograph of clinking wine glasses, with “free paid-up week off” substituting “free week”.
The article began: “EXCLUSIVE: TENS of thousands of public servants were gifted a bonus week’s paid holiday between Christmas and New Year’s Day”. The second paragraph stated that “News Corp Australia can reveal workers at the Australian Taxation Office [ATO], Department of Social Services, Safe Work Australia and Treasury were among the government divisions simply given three days’ leave on full pay from Wednesday December 28 to Friday December 30, following the Christmas and Boxing Day public holidays”.
The article then featured another photograph, of an office building, captioned: “Free week off at the Australian Taxation Office in Canberra City”. The concluding paragraph of the article included a comment from a spokesperson for the Community and Public Sector Union, that “the extra days of leave were a ‘trade-off for something else’ such as a lower overall pay rise”.
The Council asked the publication to comment on whether it took reasonable steps to ensure that its description of the leave to workers at the identified public service divisions was accurate and not misleading (General Principle 1) and was presented with reasonable fairness and balance (General Principles 3).
The publication said its information was obtained from government sources, including from the Department of Employment, and that it also specifically asked all of the government departments whether they were in effect giving “free” days off. It said it received several responses explaining there were trade-offs in the conditions that allowed this, but that others such as the ATO, Treasury and the Department of Employment made no express mention of trade-offs for the leave. In particular, the publication said the ATO’s statement to its reporter contained no suggestion that the days off were part of its enterprise bargaining agreement.
As the comment provided by the ATO offered no justification for the additional days, it was not included in the article.
The publication said there is a public interest in the discussion of public servants being granted such leave, which is unavailable to other workers, given private sector trends towards obliging many workers to use annual leave over the Christmas period.
The publication added that it received no request to remedy the article from any of the government divisions, but would have considered any request.
The Council considers that in the overall context of the article, the statement that “News Corp Australia can reveal workers at the Australian Taxation Office, Department of Social Services, Safe Work Australia and Treasury were among the governments divisions simply given three days’ leave”, is presented as a verified fact. The Council considers that the article did not contain any evidence substantiating or supporting this statement.
First, the Council accepts the publication obtained its information from government sources, including the Department of Employment. Second, the Council accepts the publication asked the ATO and Treasury whether they were in effect giving “free” days off, and that in their response, they made no explicit mention of trade-offs for the leave. Third, the Council also accepts the publication asked the Department of Social Services and Safe Work Australia whether they were in effect given “free” days off. On the information available to the Council, it is unable to conclude whether the publication received any response from these divisions or if any such response confirmed there were no trade-offs for the leave. In the circumstances, the Council considers that the publication needed to make further enquiries to verify this information.
The Council does not consider that the lack of an express denial or the absence of any response amounted to sufficient verification to present the statement as a verified fact. The Council considers that the publication did not take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy, fairness and balance, given the unqualified nature of the statement. In any event, the statements that the three days’ leave constituted a full “free week”, a “free paid- up week” or a “bonus week” were inaccurate and unfair. Accordingly, the Council concludes that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy, fairness and balance, in breach of General Principles 1 and 3. In the circumstances, and in the absence of any complaint from the identified divisions, the Council does not consider the publication breached General Principle 2 or 4, in respect of corrections or rights of reply.

This adjudication applies the following General Principles of the Council.

Publications must take reasonable steps to:
1. Ensure that factual material in news reports and elsewhere is accurate and not misleading, and is distinguishable from other material such as opinion.
2. Provide a correction or other adequate remedial action if published material is significantly inaccurate or misleading.
3. Ensure that factual material is presented with reasonable fairness and balance, and that writers’ expressions of opinion are not based on significantly inaccurate factual material or omission of key facts.
4. Ensure that where material refers adversely to a person, a fair opportunity is given for subsequent publication of a reply if that is reasonably necessary to address a possible breach of General Principle 3.

This is the second time in seven weeks that the Herald Sun received a rap over the knuckles for the same type of behaviour:

The Press Council has considered a complaint from Industry Super Australia about an article in The Australian on 3 December 2015, headed “Industry Super must be taken to task”. The article said industry super funds’ “supply chains are tightly held by union-related entities — in relation to funds management, investment, financial advice and custodial services”, and that “[t]he market is never tested because doing business with union mates is so much easier, it would seem”.

The Council considered that although the article was headed “COMMENT” in print and “OPINION” online, the statement in the article that industry super funds’ “supply chains are tightly held by union-related entities — in relation to funds management, investment, financial advice and custodial services, was expressed as a statement of fact and not merely an expression of the author’s opinion. The Council considered it meant that union-related entities dominated each of the named supply areas. The Council was satisfied on the material available that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to ensure this statement was accurate and not misleading.

The Council considered the statement that “[t]he market is never tested because doing business with union mates is so much easier” was also presented as a statement of fact, notwithstanding the addition of the words “it would seem”. The Council considered that the publication did not take reasonable steps to ensure this statement was accurate and not misleading, having regard to its definite terms. Accordingly, the publication also breached General Principle 1 in this respect.

As the publication offered a balancing opinion piece in response, given the nature and context of the material, the Council considered that the publication took reasonable steps to provide adequate remedial action. Accordingly, it did not consider that General Principles 2 and 4 were breached. 


Sunday, 24 January 2016

The outcome of three complaints about newspaper articles

Australian Press Council dealing with unsubstantiated serious allegations and unfairness, lack of balance and inadequate remedial action:

Adjudication 1659: Complainant/WA Today (December 2015)The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article in WA Today on 9 May 2015 headlined “Bong claims Santa Maria teacher’s job: You’ve got to be toking?”, which was also posted by the publication on Twitter and Facebook.
The article referred to a teacher losing her position at a named Catholic girls’ school as a result of a “social media incident”, said to involve a photograph of her holding a bong . The incident had been referred to in a local radio station’s “Rumour File” segment. The WA Today article was accompanied by a stock image of a person apparently smoking a bong. That article suggested a topless photograph of the teacher may also have been behind the loss of her position.
The Council concluded that drugs played no part in the teacher’s resignation and accepted that no photograph of the teacher with a bong or topless existed. As the article had originated from the radio station’s “Rumour File” segment and the allegations were serious, the publication was required to take greater care to establish the facts. In addition, even after the school Principal's denials, the publication repeated the allegations and the article remained online without sufficient remedial action, despite concerns raised by the teacher.
The Council concluded that the publication failed to ensure accuracy and fairness in the initial article and subsequent revisions or to provide adequate remedial action and therefore found a breach of its Standards of Practice.
The Council accepted there is public interest in highlighting the impact of social media on individuals’ professional lives. However, the inaccuracy in the headline and the reporting of unsubstantiated serious allegations that intruded upon the teacher’s privacy and caused her significant distress were not justified in this public interest. Accordingly, the Council also found a breach of its Standards of Practice in this respect.

Adjudication 1652: Paul Lynch/AAP (October 2015)The Press Council has considered a complaint by NSW Labor MP and Shadow Attorney General Mr Paul Lynch about an article published by AAP on 5 February 2015 headlined “Labor MPs at pro-Russian rebel event” which related to his attendance at the 24th St Sava Youth Festival at the Serbian Cultural Club.
The article referred to the event as “a meeting organised in support of pro-Russian separatists”. It said the meeting was attended by Mr Lynch and others, including Mr Semyon Boikov the “leader” of the Zabaikal Cossack Society of Australia, and that Mr Boikov spoke “calling for a swift victory in Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists”.
The Council considered the description of the event as being “in support of Pro-Russian separatists” was not accurate. The terms used, including the word “meeting”, implied that Mr Lynch was party to the pro-Russian separatist sentiment. The focus on Mr Lynch’s attendance was compounded by the failure to mention the many other attendees and, as a result, the event was not reported with reasonable fairness or balance. The failure by the publication to seek more accurate information about the event from other sources or to provide more time for the complainant to respond resulted in the material not being presented with reasonable fairness and balance. Accordingly, the Council found a breach of its Standards in this respect.
The Council also noted the revised version, “NSW: Anger as MP poses with man on ASIO list”, maintained a focus on pro-Russian separatist elements and described the event as a “meeting” rather than a traditional St Sava celebration. The revised article also failed to correct inaccurate and unfair aspects of the original article. Accordingly, the Council also found a breach of its Standards about adequate remedial action.

The NSW legal system dealing with a defamation claim……….

On 7  October 2010 The Sydney Morning Herald published an article which began; Dozens have been sued, felt harassed to work longer hours or otherwise fallen foul of Australia's richest doctor, writes Natasha Wallace.

In November 2010 the named millionaire doctor sued Fairfax Media Pty Ltd and others for defamation and injurious falsehood. The matter winding its way through the courts to a conclusion in late June 2015 with both claims struck out.

In September 2015 The Sydney Morning Herald published the doctor’s death notice.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Australian Press Council tippy toes around climate change "theories or predictions"

The Australian Press Council found a Crikey journalist should not have used the word “hoodwinked”, rejected the remainder of John McLean’s complaint and, then carefully moved on tip toes around the subject of global warming and climate change. Presumably in the hope that Tony Abbott and Andrew Bolt’s winged monkeys would not descend in angry hoardes.

The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article by Elaine McKewon headed “Big Oil-backed climate denier who hoodwinked Fairfax” on the Crikey website on 13 January 2014.
The article described John McLean, the author of an article published in Fairfax newspapers, as being “misinformed”, “falsely presented as an expert on climate science”, “not affiliated with any university”, and having “no verifiable qualifications in the field of climate science” or “standing or expertise in climate science”. It also said he was a member of the ICSC which was a body aimed at “discrediting authoritative science on climate change” and had funding links to the oil company Exxon.
Mr McLean said the claims about his lack of standing and expertise were inaccurate and unfair. He denied deceiving the newspapers about his expertise and said that, in any event, they were under no obligation to publish only the opinions of climate science experts. He especially criticised the word “hoodwinked” in the article’s headline. He also complained that the statements about his links with the ICSC and its funding were inaccurate and unfair.
The Council considered that the word “hoodwinked” in the headline could reasonably be read as implying that Mr McLean had actively deceived the newspapers and readers. As no reasonable basis for that implication had been provided to the Council, this aspect of the complaint was upheld.
Mr McLean’s claims to standing and expertise, however, were not of sufficiently compelling force to establish misrepresentation or suppression by Ms McKewon in that respect. The same applied to his criticisms of her references to the ICSC and its funding. Accordingly, these aspects of the complaint were not upheld.  But it was emphasised that this conclusion did not amount to a finding that her claims were necessarily correct. It also did not involve an endorsement or rejection of any particular theories or predictions about climate change warming and related issues.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Some newspapers never learn.......

On 12 December 2014 the Australian Press Council released its findings in Adjudication 1627: Complainant/The Daily Telegraph:

The Council considers that the headline and other material on the front page collectively imply that a high proportion of DSP recipients are “slackers” and should not be receiving DSP. This implication is due partly to the fact that the comparison in the words prominently super-imposed on the two photographs, and in the article on the front page, was between the full number of war-wounded people and the full number of DSP recipients. The implication is also contributed to by the stark contrast between the apparently able-bodied people in the queue and the severely wounded soldier. The impact of the front page presentation was not adequately dispelled by any of the material that appeared on subsequent pages, and evidence provided did not justify the implication. Accordingly, the Council has concluded that the headline, headings and text on the front page breached the Standards of Practice requiring reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and fairness.
The Council also considers the implication that a high proportion of DSP recipients are “slackers” and should not be receiving DSP was offensive to an extent not justified by the public interest. Accordingly, the material also breached the Standards of Practice on that ground.

The very same day, in print and online The Daily Telegraph was at it again, this time using the term “rorters” and “lowlife rorters”:

RORTERS who try to falsely claim millions of dollars in ­Disability Support Pensions will be flushed out of the ­system under a ­crackdown on the $16 billion welfare scheme.
From January 1, all new DSP ­applicants will be sent to ­Commonwealth-appointed doctors before they can be ­approved as part of a sweeping overhaul that will stamp out the “doctor shopping” rort.
The federal government will today announce that regular doctors will no longer be allowed to approve new DSP applications in the new year….

The Daily Telegraph failed to point out that a DSP applicant’s treating GP does not have the final say on whether or not a person is granted what its journalist described as "handouts".

It also avoided the subject of the need for applicants to provide corroborating evidence of their diagnosed conditions/symptoms from medical specialists and, supply reports from allied health professionals along with the results of diagnostics tests and any physical tests or assessments.

The newspaper also neglected to mention that the departmental Impairment Tables which have applied to all new applicants for DSP and any existing DSP recipients selected for medical review since 1 January 2012 are function-based not diagnosis based ie. The presence of a diagnosed condition does not necessarily mean that there will be an impairment to which an impairment rating may be assigned.


mUmBRELLA 15 December 2014:

The Australian Press Council has confirmed to Mumbrella the edition has attracted “at least one complaint” by 4pm, but did not specify how many, or the nature of them.

* Images from Your Democracy and mUmBRELLA   

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Australian Press Council finds The Daily Telegraph not fair and balanced in its 2012 reporting dismissal of case against Slipper

Adjudication No. 1573: Margo Kingston/The Daily Telegraph (February 2014)  
Document Type: Complaints
Outcome: Adjudications
Date: 27 Feb 2014
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article in The Daily Telegraph on 13 December 2012, headed “Court rejects Slipper case”. The article reported a Federal Court decision on the previous day to dismiss as an abuse of process a legal action for sexual harassment brought against Peter Slipper MP by James Ashby. It appeared on page 17 of the newspaper and on the publication’s website.
Margo Kingston complained that the report of the dismissal on page 17 did not give it sufficient prominence in light of the newspaper’s very prominent and detailed coverage earlier in the year of Mr Ashby’s commencement of the legal proceedings and his allegations against Mr Slipper. The “exclusive” report on 21 April 2012 about commencement of the proceedings and Mr Ashby’s allegations had occupied all news space on pages 1 and 2 and most of page 3. On the next day, Mr Slipper had stood aside as Speaker.
The Daily Telegraph said page 17 was a prominent page and the top half had comprised the report on the dismissal, a photograph of Mr Ashby and an article on another aspect of the proceedings. It had also published reports about the matter on its website on the previous afternoon and in the next few days had published related reports online and opinion pieces in print. The story also was covered widely in other media outlets.
The newspaper said placement on page 17 was partly because of an unusually high number of other important articles on that day. The greater length and prominence of the coverage in April was due to the topic having much greater political significance as Mr Slipper was then the Speaker and his acceptance of that position had crucially influenced the balance of votes in the House of Representatives. It was also partly because the April story was an “exclusive”.
The Council agrees that the political significance and “newsworthiness” of an event are obviously relevant to the length and prominence with which it is reported. By the time of the dismissal of the proceedings, the political situation had changed considerably, especially because Mr Slipper had stood aside and then, in October, resigned as Speaker. Also, several unrelated news stories (especially the funeral of a police officer) clearly merited prominent coverage in the issue of 13 December.
The Council’s relevant Principle states: “Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced”. The Principle does not necessarily require complete, or almost complete, fairness or balance. But a combination of factors meant that avoiding serious unfairness or imbalance was of special importance in this particular case.  
First, the commencement of legal proceedings was a story the newspaper had “broken” in April, describing the allegations as “amongst the most serious ever raised” in Australian political history and “potentially deadly”.
Second, the allegations, and progress of the proceedings, were reported prominently on many occasions in ensuing months, often in the first few pages of The Daily Telegraph.
Third, dismissal of the proceedings raised important questions about Mr Slipper’s decision to stand aside as Speaker, which in the words of the newspaper happened “after The Daily Telegraph revealed allegations of sexual harassment and Cabcharge misuse - [which] means the government loses a precious vote in parliament”.
Fourth, readers of a daily newspaper of this kind can reasonably expect to be informed by it of such a key development as the dismissal of these proceedings as an abuse of process for political reasons, especially when it had previously given the matter great prominence.
In the circumstances of this case, it is not reasonable to assume that readers who saw the very prominent coverage across pages 1-3 of the 21 April edition were likely to see the very much less prominent report of the dismissal on page 17 of an edition eight months later or see the report on its website. It also is not reasonable to regard the newspaper’s obligations of fairness and balance as having been met by the story being widely covered in other media outlets.
The Council upholds the complaint due to the very stark difference between the detail, tone and prominence of the newspaper’s initial coverage on 21 April and of its report on 13 December of the dismissal. The later report did not need to match the prominence and detail of the earlier report by, for example, being of similar length and on the same pages. But in the circumstances of this case the degree of difference was so great as to constitute a clear breach of the Council’s Principle concerning fairness and balance.
It is not the Council’s role to say precisely how this unfairness or imbalance should have been avoided. There were clearly a number of possibilities between which the publication could choose.
Additional note (not required for publication by the newspaper):
The newspaper said that the prospect of an appeal by Mr Ashby influenced its decision not to give the issue more extensive treatment. The Council notes, however, that it is common and accepted practice to report court decisions, sometimes in great detail, even though they may be subject to an appeal.
The newspaper also quoted from an Advisory Guideline of the Council on bias. The words which it quoted relate to bias and fairness in publishing different political opinions, but this adjudication relates to fairness and balance in the reporting of facts.
Relevant Council Principles (not required for publication by the newspaper):
This adjudication applies part of General Principle 1: “Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced.”
The Daily Telegraph’s hissy fit ‘editorial’ on Page 59 of its 27 February 2014 issue:

Sunday, 22 September 2013

So Fairfax media chose to publish untrue statements about Slater & Gordon

It  appears to have taken the Australian Press Council over nine months to come to the conclusions set out in the adjudication below. It was published just ten days after the federal election was held.

Australian Press Council
Adjudication No. 1566: Slater & Gordon/The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times (September 2013)  
Document Type: Complaints
Outcome: Adjudications
Date:17 Sep 2013

The Press Council has considered complaints by a law firm, Slater & Gordon, about two articles that appeared in The Age on 13 October 2012 as well as in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times. The first (“Gillard gave support for union group’s registration”) was a news report which led with a claim about the role of Julia Gillard in the incorporation of the AWU Workplace Reform Association in 1992. The second (“Parting company: ‘Brothers no more’”) was a lengthy investigative piece by the same journalist focussing on the impact of publicity about Ms Gillard’s departure from Slater & Gordon on a friendship between two former partners, Nick Styant-Browne and Peter Gordon.

The news report

Slater & Gordon complained that two statements in the report inaccurately and unfairly implied it was concealing the existence of a file about incorporation of the association and preventing or delaying release of the file to a person who was entitled to it (namely, the alleged client, Mr Ralph Blewitt). The first statement was that another law firm had been “pressing Slater & Gordon for more than a month” to enable Mr Blewitt “to gain access to the association incorporation file”. The second statement was that a former lawyer had “accused the firm of stalling” in providing access to the file.

The firm said that the journalist should have given it an opportunity to comment before the material was published. It said the journalist would then have been informed that it did not hold any files about incorporation of the association and the only documentation it knew of about the matter had been created by Ms Gillard and was not recorded by her in the firm’s system or held by it. The journalist would also have been informed that Mr Blewitt was not the client for Ms Gillard’s work on the association and therefore would not be entitled to access any file on it. The firm said Mr Blewitt had been a client for other work by Ms Gillard for which the firm did have files and had provided them to him within days of being asked to do so.

The publication replied that in the same article it had reported that Ms Gillard had not created a “formal file”. It had also reported in a subsequent article that Slater & Gordon said it could not find any documents relating to the matter. It denied that the article suggested Slater & Gordon was hiding files, and also pointed out that the claim about stalling was in a quote from the former lawyer, not a statement by the journalist. It said comment had not been sought from the firm before publication because it had seen legal correspondence from and on behalf of Slater & Gordon which supported the claim of delay, and because there was a real risk of injunction to prevent publication.

The Council has concluded that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to ensure fairness in the report in relation to whether the firm held a file on incorporation of the association. Even if the story is interpreted as having done no more than report allegations, rather than endorse them, their gravity was such that the firm should have been given a reasonable opportunity to respond prior to publication. The legal correspondence relied on by the publication did not provide sufficiently strong grounds for its failure to do so. The Council has also concluded that failure to seek comment for fear of triggering an injunction may be justifiable in some circumstances but in this instance the risk of an injunction did not relate to the statements in question and they could readily have been checked with the firm.

Accordingly, the complaint about the report is upheld on these grounds.

The feature article

Slater & Gordon complained that it had not been given a reasonable opportunity to respond to five passages in the article which implied it had engaged in a whitewash to protect the office of the Prime Minister. The publication replied that the relevant assessments and descriptions of the firm were fair comment, and that Mr Gordon’s views had been detailed fairly and comprehensively.

The Council has concluded that two of the passages in question were so serious and adverse that the firm should have been given a reasonable opportunity to respond before publication. They are the quotation of Mr Styant-Brown as saying that “[Slater and Gordon], in my view, have this sort of untrammelled objective of protection and hiding adverse material at all costs”, and the article’s description of a working draft of Mr Gordon’s media statement as “a document that made a mockery of [a] media statement” by the firm’s managing partner.

Accordingly, the complaint against the article is upheld in relation to those two passages. It is not upheld in relation to the other three passages.

This adjudication applies part of General Principle 1: “Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced.” and General Principle 3: “Where individuals or groups are a major focus of news reports or commentary, the publication should ensure fairness and balance in the original article. Failing that, it should provide a reasonable and swift opportunity for a balancing response in an appropriate section of the publication.”

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Thanks Rupert Murdoch, but Australians can choose their own government

On Friday 23 August the Chair of the Council, Prof Julian Disney, wrote to major newspaper editors reminding them of the Council's longstanding guideline on election coverage. A copy of the message is below.
Dear editor,
In response to concerns expressed by members of the general community as well as within the media industry, I am writing to the editor of each metropolitan daily newspaper to emphasise the importance of the advisory guideline on election reporting. It was issued by the Press Council in 2009 and continues in operation.
In particular, I draw your attention to the 2009 opening section of the guideline which reads as follows:
“The Council upholds the right of a newspaper to have its own political position; to accept certain beliefs and policies and to reject others; and to favour the election of one party and to oppose the election of another.  However, the Council has emphasised strongly that newspapers that profess to inform the community about its political and social affairs are under an obligation to present to the public a reasonably comprehensive and accurate account of public issues. As a result, the Council believes that it is essential that a clear distinction be drawn between reporting the facts and stating opinion. A paper’s editorial viewpoints and its advocacy of them must be kept separate from its news columns.”

We seek your cooperation in observing this guideline during the current Federal election campaign. The full text is available at

Yours sincerely,
Prof Julian Disney AO
Australian Press Council
23 August 2013

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

What will the Australian Press Council do about this?

The Daily Telegraph's blatantly false Page One headline of 18 March 2013

Mr Denmore @MrDenmore
Oh, the author of The Tele's carbon collapse fiction is our friend Steve Lewis, he of Ozcar and Ashby fame.
Mr Denmore @MrDenmore
The Tele's source for the 'carbon collapse' are unnamed 'experts'. Odd as the share market is at a 4-year high and business confidence is up
Yesterday morning I happened on these two tweets and this snapshot on Twitter. Given New Limited's involvement in the current hysteria surrounding the Federal Government's response to the 2011 and 2012 independent media reviews, I went to that day's issue of The Daily Telegraph and this is what I found. The Daily Telegraph's Steve Lewis and Phil Jacob are asserting that: New data from the corporate regulator reveals insolvencies have hit a record high over the past 12 months, led by widespread failures in manufacturing and construction, which accounted for almost one-fifth of collapses. The Australian Securities & Investments Commission reports there were 10,632 company collapses for the 12 months to March 1 - averaging 886 a month - with the number of firms being placed in administration more than 12 per cent higher than during the global financial crisis. While the high Australian dollar is seen as the main factor behind manufacturing closures, experts say the carbon tax is adding to increasing cost burdens for many firms struggling to stay afloat. The first problem with this statement is that it is plain wrong. The "10,632" figure does not come from a twelve month period ending on 1 March this year - this total is for the 2012 calendar year. A clue for these two journalists might have been found in the fact that the data set was released on 18 February 2013. What The Daily Telegraph journalists also do not say is that in the total figure quoted almost half of these external administration/insolvencies occurred before the introduction of the 'cabon tax' and, that prior to the tax, in February-March 2012 there were 2,137 insolvencies which made this the highest combined figure for two consecutive months in a data set which begins in 1996. As for the more than one business is going the wall every hour in Australia found in text in the snapshot above - I suggest that The Daily Telegraph invest in new batteries for the office calculator as that Page One assertion is wrong on so many levels. So what else in that Lewis-Jacob article is open to question? Well, let me start with Grain Products Australia the country’s only manufacturer of caramel and dextrin and one of only two wheat starch and gluten manufacturers. A company in liquidation since 11 March this year and one the journalists try hard to mold into a carbon tax victim. Over six months before the introduction of the carbon price, this company went into voluntary administration citing the high cost of wheat and what were then solely state electricity charges. That leaves Penrice Soda Holdings the only Australian soda ash manufacturer. It was quoted by the Lewis-Jacob team as saying that the reason it was ceasing local raw material quarrying and importing its soda ash was that the carbon tax was effectively the straw that broke the camel's back. However, a little basic fact checking would have shown that last February it told its shareholders and the Australian Stock Exchange that the factory closure was reflecting deteriorating demand conditions in soda ash and quarry material markets as well as impacts from a high Australian dollar. There was not one word about the carbon tax. Finally, the biggest whopper these two journalists told about the business sector in 2012 which is this line; with the number of firms being placed in administration more than 12 per cent higher than during the global financial crisis. The Global Financial Crisis began in 2007-08 and did not lose momentum until 2009-10. Even the most mathematically challenged News Limited employee would realise that the business external administration/insolvency totals for those years far exceed the 2012 total which The Daily Telegraph is currently treating as an end of days event. So what will the Australian Press Council do about a newspaper which so distorts the facts and journalists whom I'm told now know that they have based their 10,632 company collapses on a dodgy premise? Why its twenty-three members will pretend that they never saw or heard of this article - unless a member of the public makes a formal complaint. UPDATE: The Leader of the Opposition makes the mistake of relying on the Lewis-Jacob article during the House of Representatives Question Time on 18 March 2013. A reliance the Minister for Industry and Innovation and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet, notes during that same Question Time: ...over the last couple of days the Leader of the Opposition, the New South Wales government and the Daily Telegraph have been misleading the public yet again about the impact of carbon pricing. Yesterday it was a false claim about electricity prices in New South Wales. Today the Daily Telegraph is back with ridiculous claims about economic catastrophe, repeated here today in the very first question by the Leader of the Opposition—there seems to be some commonality of approach that we are witnessing. The Telegraph story today takes the misuse of statistics, hysterical headlines and distortion of facts to levels that would have done Pravda proud during the height of the Cold War.