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Archives for November 2012

George Brandis Press Conference On Gillard AWU Allegations

The year’s final parliamentary sitting week was dominated by claims that Prime Minister Julia Gillard had something to explain about the AWU and her time at Slater and Gordon in the 1990s.

As the Opposition came under criticism for unsubstantiated claims that Gillard had committed a criminal act, Senator George Brandis, the Opposition’s shadow Attorney-General, held a press conference to recapitulate the coalition’s case. [Read more…]


Cameron And Miliband Respond To Leveson

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Opposition Leader Ed Miliband have spoken in the House of Commons in response to the Leveson inquiry report.

Cameron accepted the principles of the Leveson report but rejected the need for a statute, whereas Milband called for Leveson’s proposals to be accepted “in their entirety”. [Read more…]


Leveson Report On UK Media Released

Lord Justice Leveson’s report into the “culture, practices and ethics of the press” has been released in London.

Leveson

Leveson read a prepared statement about his report and said he would take no questions nor make any future public statements. “The ball is now back in the politicians’ court,” he said. “They must now decide who guards the guardians”.

The Executive Summary of Leveson’s report is shown below. All four volumes of the report can be downloaded here:

Extracts from Lord Leveson’s statement.

For over 40 years, as a barrister and judge I have watched the press in action. I know how vital the press is – all of it – as guardian of the interests of the public, as a critical witness of events, as a standard bearer for those who have no one else to speak up to them. Nothing has changed that view. The press operating freely is one of the true safeguards of our democracy. As a result it holds a privileged and powerful place in our society.

But this power and influence carries with it responsibility to the public interest in whose name it exercises these privileges. Unfortunately as the evidence has shown beyond doubt, on too many occasions those responsible along with the editors code of conduct – which the press wrote and promoted – have simply been ignored. This had damaged the public interest, caused real hardship and on occasion wreaked havoc on the lives of innocent people. What the press do and say is no ordinary exercise of free speech; it operates very differently to blogs on the internet and other social media such as Twitter. Its impact is uniquely powerful.

A free press in a democracy holds power to account but, with a few honourable exceptions, the UK press has not performed that vital role in the case of its own power. None of this however is to conclude that press freedom in Britain, hard won over 300 years ago, should be jeopardised. On the contrary – it should not. I remain firmly believe that press, all of it, serves the public very well well most of the time. The are truly countless examples of great journalism, great investigations and great campaigns. Not that it is necessary for the press to be pursuing serious stories for it to be acting in the public interest. Some its most important functions are to inform, educate and entertain, and when doing so to be irreverent, unruly and opinionated. But none of that means that the press is beyond challenge. I know of no organised profession, industry or trade in which the serious failings of the few are overlooked because of the good done by the many. In any other case the press would be the first to expose such practices.

12-11-29_leveson-inquiry-report_executive-summary


Albie Doubleyou: Cricket Commentator Reviews The Season

This is the final Clarke & Dawe segment from the ABC’s 7.30.

The program announced that Clarke & Dawe would be back on ABC1 in 2013 but did not say whether they would be appearing on 7.30.

 


Gillard Fights Back Over AWU Allegations: Complains To Fairfax, Attacks Opposition

Julia Gillard’s office has reacted strongly to suggestions that the Prime Minister did something wrong in her work as a solicitor at Slater & Gordon in the 1990s.

As the final day of parliamentary sittings for the year unfolded, Gillard has complained to Fairfax newspapers over “the grievous misrepresentations in your reporting” of the AWU slush fund affair.

Her office has also issued a statement calling on the opposition to give up its “discredited smear campaign”.

Text of statement from Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s spokesperson, as published in Fairfax newspapers.

Statement from a spokesperson for the Prime Minister:

It’s time for the Liberals to give up their witch hunt and start talking about things that matter.

The whole country is sick to death of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop pursuing a discredited smear campaign against the Prime Minister, when we could be talking about jobs, health, and education.

After months of speculation about a smoking gun, the Liberals have nothing.

So, the Prime Minister wrote to the WA Commissioner? So what? She did what lawyers do. Act on instruction. Provide legal advice.

So, the Prime Minister can’t remember writing one letter from 20 years ago. So what? Lawyers write thousands of letters in their careers. [Read more…]


Press Council Rules Against Herald Sun Over Portrayal of Craig Thomson

The Australian Press Council has upheld compaints against the Herald Sun newspaper over its portrayal of Craig Thomson.

Herald Sun

The complaints related the Herald Sun edition of May 22, 2012. The News Limited Melbourne tabloid portayed Thomson on its front page with a Pinocchio nose.

Four pages inside the paper attacked Thomson over his statement to the House of Representatives on May 21 about the investigation into his behaviour as an official of the Health Services Union.

The Press Council concluded: “… that the overall impact of the front page and page 7 was highly unfair to Mr Thomson by seeking to convey too close an analogy with a courtroom conviction on criminal charges, especially at a time when the laying of such charges was being widely demanded and anticipated. Accordingly, the complaints against the newspaper’s coverage are upheld on that ground.”


Herald Sun

Herald Sun

Text of Australian Press Council Adjudication No. 1556. Available on the APC website.

Adjudication No. 1556: Debra Creevy and others/Herald Sun (November 2012)

28 Nov 2012

The Australian Press Council has considered complaints by a number of people about the coverage in the Herald Sun on 22 May 2012 of the speech by Craig Thomson MP to Federal Parliament on the previous day. The coverage featured a very large photograph of Mr Thomson, digitally altered to have a Pinocchio-like nose, over which was a headline reading “Teary Thomson claims he’s a victim of bizarre conspiracy”. A headline lower on the page read “But reader’s jury says his story is full of holes:” under which was a further headline reading “We don’t believe you”.

Pages 4 to 7 of the newspaper comprised a series of reports and comments about the speech (each of which had a banner headline running across the top which read “We don’t believe you”). Pages 4 and 5 were headed “Cops doubt Thomson phone clone claim” and quoted “law enforcement experts” to that effect. Page 5 consisted largely of a section headed “Reasons we know Craig is lying” which listed a number of his claims and reported evidence from court documents and the report of a Fair Work Australia investigator which appeared to conflict with those claims.

Page 7 consisted mainly of a section with the principal heading “The Reader Verdict”, above which was a heading “We asked our own jury if they believed Craig Thomson’s claims”. The names and photographs of each of twelve people were shown, together in each case with the heading “Don’t believe” (or, in two cases, “Can’t decide”) and a few sentences were shown as quotes of their views. The page also reported, under a heading, “What you said”, that of the 12,082 readers who replied to a poll on the newspaper’s website asking “Do you believe Craig Thomson was set up and did nothing wrong?” some 89% had answered in the negative.

Some complainants concentrated on the front page, but others were concerned about the overall coverage. The principal criticism was that the material unfairly pre-judged Mr Thomson and constituted “trial by media”. Some complainants thought the coverage did not provide adequate balance or was unreasonably offensive. It was also complained that the quoted comments accompanying some of the “verdicts” headed “Don’t believe” were not as unequivocal as that summary suggested.

The newspaper responded that the trustworthiness of parliamentarians was of crucial importance in a democracy and therefore required very close scrutiny by the media, especially when there were such strong grounds for concern. It said the coverage should be assessed as an overall package and had been accurate, fair and balanced. It said that the coverage accurately represented its readers’ opinions, as shown by its jury and poll, as well as those of many parliamentarians and press gallery members.

The newspaper said the coverage did not imply a jury verdict in a court of law, as the term jury was also used in many other, non-legal contexts. It said each juror had been shown the full speech by Mr Thomson and then chosen whether his or her views should be summarised as “Don’t believe” or “Can’t decide”. It also pointed out that the digital alteration of Mr Thomson’s photograph had been acknowledged on the front page.

The Press Council considers that detailed and forthright description and analysis of the issues in this case was not only acceptable but a matter of considerable public importance. It was reasonable to include extensive reference to the views of the newspaper’s readership and other members of the public, as well as the kind of trenchant criticism of Mr Thomson’s claims which was provided in the articles on pages 4 and 5.

The Council has concluded, however, that the overall impact of the front page and page 7 was highly unfair to Mr Thomson by seeking to convey too close an analogy with a courtroom conviction on criminal charges, especially at a time when the laying of such charges was being widely demanded and anticipated. Accordingly, the complaints against the newspaper’s coverage are upheld on that ground.

Supplementary Note (not required for publication by the newspaper):
Although many of the complaints focused especially on the altered image of Mr Thomson, the adjudication does not mean that the image in itself constituted a breach of the Council’s principles. It also does not imply any change in the Council’s principles relating to depictions of people in cartoons.

Relevant Council Standard (not required for publication by the newspaper):
This adjudication applies part of the Council’s General Principle 1: “Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced.”


Labor MP Kirsten Livermore To Retire At 2013 Election

The Labor member for the Rockhampton-based electorate of Capricornia in Queensland has announced she will retire at the next election.

Kirsten LivermoreLivermore is a former union organiser and solicitor. She has held Capricornia for five elections since winning it in 1998 at the age of 28.

Whilst serving as a shadow parliamentary secretary for six years from 2001, Livermore was never given a post in the Rudd or Gillard governments.

At the 2010 election, Livermore secured 45.77% of the primary vote to 40.42% for the LNP candidate. There was an 8.40% swing against the ALP on the two-party-preferred vote. Livermore won 53.68% of the two-party vote.

Livermore’s departure is unlikely to assist the ALP to hold the seat.

Statement from Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

I pay tribute to my parliamentary colleague and friend, Kirsten Livermore MP, who has announced her retirement from politics after 15 years as Member for Capricornia.

Kirsten and I came into Parliament at the same time and have forged a strong friendship. [Read more…]


Ralph Blewitt Interviewed on 7.30

Ralph Blewitt, the former sidekick to Australian Workers’ Union official Bruce Wilson, was interviewed by Leigh Sales on the ABC’s 7.30 program this evening.

At her press conference today, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said this of Blewitt:

“Let me remind you who Mr Blewitt is. Mr Blewitt is a man who has publicly said he was involved in fraud. Mr Blewitt is a man who has sought immunity from prosecution. Mr Blewitt is a man who has fled Indonesia to avoid a police interview in relation to land fraud, although he denies wrongdoing in the case. Mr Blewitt says he owes money on another Asian land deal. Mr Blewitt admits to using the services of prostitutes in Asia. Mr Blewitt has published lewd and degrading comments and accompanying photographs of young women on his Facebook page. Mr Blewitt, according to people who know him, has been described as a complete imbecile, an idiot, a stooge, a sexist pig, a liar, and his sister has said he’s a crook and rotten to the core. His word against mine, make your mind up.”

 


Gillard’s Second Press Conference On The AWU And Slater & Gordon

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has held her second press conference on matters concerning her time as a lawyer with Slater & Gordon in 1993-95.

Julia Gillard

Speaking to the Canberra press gallery 50 minutes before Question Time in the House, a sharp and at times angry Gillard, her voice occasionally wavering, took questions for 48 minutes about her dealings with Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt and her role in the formation of a slush fund. [Read more…]


Government And Opposition Reflect On Five Years Of Rudd/Gillard

Asylum seeker policy and a two decades old scandal at the Australian Workers’ Union dominate political debate on the fifth anniversary of the election of the Rudd government.

At a media conference today, Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Wayne Swan, talked up the government’s achievements. The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, and his immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, concentrated on asylum seekers and described the government as incompetent and untrustworthy. [Read more…]