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Types of outcomes
Complaints to the Council may result in one of three broad types of outcome:
ADJUDICATION: the Council or its Adjudication Panel issues an adjudication on the complaint;
REMEDY WITHOUT ADJUDICATION: the publication agrees to take some remedial action (provide an explanation, right of reply, correction or apology) and the complaint is not referred for adjudication;
Summaries of Adjudications
Summaries of recent adjudications are provided in chronological order, below, beginning with the most recent adjudication.
Full texts of adjudications
The full texts of all adjudications since March 2005 are available here. Texts of earlier adjudications are available through the AustLII website.
You can also use a more thorough search on our Adjudications by using our Document Finder or by using the AUSTLII Database Search. Just type in the specific keywords you require, i.e Accuracy, Fairness, etc.
Remedies without adjudication
Examples are provided here of complaints in which remedial action has been provided and there has been no referral for adjudication.
Statistics about the nature and outcome of complaints
Statistics about the nature and outcome of complaints are published in the Council’s Annual Reports. Recent statistics which have not yet been published in an Annual Report are here.
Summaries of Adjudications
Adjudication 1652: Paul Lynch/AAP (September 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.
Adjudication 1658: Complainant/Hamilton Spectator (September 2015)
The Press Council considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by an editorial in the Hamilton Spectator on 25 April 2015 about the punishment of two child sex offenders.
The editorial said a suspended sentence for an 83 year old priest “seemed pointless”. It also said that a former teacher had “got 18 months gaol for merely touching an U16 girl’s breast and genitals”. It suggested that it could be seen as “misguided curiosity” and more like “appalling manners”.
The Council accepted that some of the opinions in the editorial may have been poor expression, but its effect was to trivialise the crime. The expressions “merely touching” and “misguided curiosity” reflected a significant misunderstanding of the seriousness of this type of offending.
The newspaper published a number of critical responses. A follow-up editorial on 29 April expressed regret, although no apology, and it stood by the comments which had been made. A subsequent piece published on 2 May contained a more general but qualified apology.
Council concluded that the editorial would have caused substantial offence to a large number of victims and others. The measures taken by the newspaper in publishing responses had not removed the effects of the breach, nor did the rather grudging apology prevent it being treated as a significant breach. Accordingly, the Council found a breach of General Principle 6 of its Standards of Practice.
Adjudication 1648: Complainant/The Age (September 2015)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article published in The Age on 8 December 2014 which appeared in the Education supplement of the print edition, headed “Young refugees learn by joining in” and online as “Refugees learn English by doing, playing, working”. It referred to successful students in a youth program run by Victorian-based Adult Migrant Education Service (AMES) and “a research paper commissioned by AMES” said to confirm the benefits of the program but did not disclose that the researcher was a long-term employee of AMES. The article was authored by an employee of AMES.
The Council considered the print version of the article clearly indicated the author was employed by AMES and welcomed the publication’s prompt action in applying the same disclosure to the online version. The Council concluded that the disclosure was adequate in advising readers of the writer’s connections. Based on the available evidence, the Council was not able to determine with sufficient certainty whether or not reasonable steps were taken to ensure there was no influence on published material.
The Council concluded that the term “research…commissioned” suggests an independent, external evaluation of the program, but the article failed to reveal such research was produced by an employee, and this omission created a misleading impression. It also concluded that there was a lack of clarity regarding the nature of the funding relationships between AMES and AMEP which was also misleading. Accordingly, these aspects of the complaint were upheld.
Adjudication 1655: Complainant/Gold Coast Bulletin (September 2015)
The Press Council considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by the publication on 16 April 2015 of an online article in the Gold Coast Bulletin headlined “Police forced to use taser on transgender woman in dramatic Southport arrest”.
The article reported the arrest of a transgender woman in the early hours of a morning. The woman allegedly became violent during a confrontation with police, during which she allegedly produced a knife, which she refused to drop. The woman was tasered during the confrontation. The material included references to the woman's transgender status in the headline, the first paragraph and four other places in the article. The article referred to her as a "pre-surgery” transgender woman. It included five photographs of the woman taken during the incident.
The Council was sensitive to the issue of the media’s portrayal of transgender issues. However, the alleged offender’s transgender status was central to the police explanation of the reason for use of the taser. Accordingly, there was no breach of General Principle 3 or 6.
The Council also noted the steps taken by the publication to address the complaint and to ensure such issues are covered sensitively.
Adjudication 1654: Complainant/The Northern Star (September 2015)
The Press Council considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by material published on 30 January 2015 about the apparent discovery of a discarded syringe at a local sports oval. The material consisted of a newsagent display poster headed “JUNKIE SCUM: PICK UP SYRINGES” and two associated articles published in print and online, one on the cover page of the paper headed “Blood filled syringe a sharp reminder” and the online article “Blood-filled syringe found on junior sports ground”.
The Council considered that the headlines prominently promoted the claim that the syringe was “blood-filled”. It is apparent from the image that this is an exaggeration. At most there appears to be some trace of what might be blood. The Council noted that the basis of the report was material taken from a social media source and the publication had adopted the information with little effort to establish the accuracy of the assertion and without qualifying the assertion about the location of the syringe. Similarly, the publication did not take reasonable steps to provide fairness and balance in the report by reporting the circumstances in a more qualified way. Accordingly, the Council found a breach of its General Principle 1 in relation to accuracy and General Principle 3 in relation to fairness and balance.
The Council also considered an implication that all syringe users are “junkie scum” was likely to cause substantial offence. Accordingly, the Council also found a breach of its General Principle 6. In doing so, the Council noted and welcomed the publication’s apology in this regard.
Adjudication 1623: Dale Gietzelt/The Australian (August 2015)
The Press Council considered a complaint by Ms Dale Gietzelt about a report in The Weekend Australian of 11-12 January 2014 headed “Colleagues suspected Gietzelt was a communist” and an opinion piece in the same issue. The articles concerned whether the complainant’s father Mr Arthur Gietzelt, a former Labor Senator and Minister, was at any time a member of, or had close associations with, the Communist Party.
The Council concluded that as the articles did not state a firm and specific conclusion about Mr Gietzelt’s involvement, there was not a failure to take reasonable steps to be accurate and that aspect of the complaint was not upheld.
The Council considered that the requirements for fairness and balance take account of the length of the articles and their publication at a highly sensitive time for the family. The article should have quoted or paraphrased statements from two ASIO documents, one of which stated “without further corroborating evidence a statement that Gietzelt was a secret Party member would not stand close scrutiny”.
The detailed nature of the articles, including new evidence, meant that Ms Gietzelt should have been given more detail and a longer period to comment before publication. Also, the basis of denials by her father and his family should have been reported in greater detail and prominence. Failure to do so made it unreasonable not to publish any of the critical letters which were subsequently sent to the newspaper. The Council concluded that there was a failure to provide reasonable fairness and balance and a reasonable opportunity for a balancing response. Accordingly, that aspect of the complaint was upheld.
The Council does not consider that publication of the articles constituted a greater intrusion on the family’s privacy and grief than could be justified in the public interest and that aspect of the complaint was not upheld.
The Council considered that the letter on which the complainant’s allegation of conflict of interest on the part of the reporter was based showed only a tenuous link so disclosure was not required. Accordingly, that aspect of the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1649: Complainant/The Advertiser (August 2015)
The Press Council considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by an article in The Advertiser on 3 January 2015. The headline was “How Labor jihad dented PM’s law on terror travel” (in print) and “Labor to blame for watering down law that make it harder to jail returning jihadis” (online, published a day earlier). The article asserted the federal Labor opposition was responsible for “watering down” proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Foreign Fighters Bill.
The Council considered that “jihad” is a term with connotations of extremist behaviour. Its use in the headline had the result that the material was not presented with reasonably fairness and balance.
The Council was not satisfied the article is inaccurate or misleading in that it accurately attributes the recommended changes to the “joint intelligence committee, which included Liberal MPs”. However the 11 member Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security which recommended the changes had a majority of six Coalition members and Labor members made up the minority. The Council concluded that the omission of this significant fact from the article together with the headline, and the lack of any explanation to support the assertion that the recommendation is wholly attributable to the Labor opposition, contributed to the article’s lack of fairness and balance.
Accordingly, the Council was not satisfied that the material was in breach of General Principle 1. The material was accurate as far as it went, but the material was presented in a manner which gave rise to a breach of General Principle 3.
Adjudication 1651: Complainant/The Sydney Morning Herald (August 2015)
The Press Council considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by articles in The Sydney Morning Herald on 22 January 2015 about police investigations into a missing child, William Tyrrell. The print article was headed “Investigation focuses on tradesman” and the online article, “William Harrie Spedding the focus of William Tyrell [sic] investigation”.
The Press Council’s General Principles require material to be presented with reasonable fairness and balance and to avoid intruding on a person’s reasonable expectations of privacy. This is especially so in cases reporting on police investigations, as prominent treatment of a person may cause readers to infer the culpability of a person who may not in fact be implicated in a crime. However, this does not necessarily require omission of matters which are on the public record or significantly in the public interest, provided such details are reported accurately and fairly.
The Council considered the articles accurately reflected the shifting focus of a lengthy police operation of great public interest. The police interest in Mr Spedding had intensified with police conducting searches of two properties of his in the public gaze. The expectation of privacy in such circumstances is lower and the article did not infringe on a reasonable expectation of privacy. As to fairness and balance, the article informed the public of the progress of the investigation and of the level of scrutiny focused on Mr Spedding at that time. The headline did not imply that Mr Spedding was the only person of interest.
Accordingly, Council concluded that its Standards of Practice were not breached.
Adjudication 1650: Complainant/The Courier-Mail (August 2015)
The Press Council considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by the publication of articles in The Courier Mail on 7 October 2014 reporting on the murder and mutilation of Mayang Prasetyo by her partner Marcus Volke. The material consisted of a front page article and headline together with a large photo of the victim wearing a bikini. The reporting on later pages included a further headline and included additional photos of the victim from an “escort website” and a photo of Ms Prasetyo in a white swimsuit from her Facebook page. The articles contained references to the victim’s sex work activities and also quoted from her advertisements for sex work.
The Council considered the prominent treatment given to Ms Prasetyo’s gender and the repetitive detail of her sex work was gratuitous and contributed to substantial offence which was not sufficiently warranted in the public interest. For the same reasons, Ms Prasetyo’s death was presented in a manner that was not reasonably fair and balanced. The Council found a breach of its Standards in General Principles 3 and 6.
The Council noted the steps taken by the publication to address the complaints and commended its work to ensure such issues are covered sensitively in future, including a follow up editorial, letters to the Editor and training and counselling of its relevant editorial staff. This aspect of the complaint was not found to be a breach of General Principle 4.
Adjudication 1644: David Murray/The Sunday Times and Perth Now (August 2015)
The Press Council considered a complaint about an article published on 31 August 2014, in the Sunday Times print edition headed “IT’S NOT FAIR: Tanning salons snub safety laws”, and in Perth Now online headed “Pressure on WA Health Minister Kim Hames to pull plug on solariums, with tanning salons in Perth flouting safety regulations”. The article dealt with a reporter’s attendance at three tanning solariums to enquire about having tanning.
The Council’s Standards of Practice require publications to take reasonable care to ensure factual material is accurate and presented with reasonable fairness, and that opinions are not based on inaccurate or omitted key facts. The Council considered the article did not adequately explain the way in which the reporter’s skin type analysis was arrived at, nor reveal the extent to which the reporter had misrepresented her self-assessment, and the impact this information may have had in triggering a more rigorous assessment by the operators or further interrogation which may have been deemed necessary.
The Council considered that while the article could have highlighted deficiencies in the regulations, it did not do so but instead alleged that the operators were flouting the regulations. In addition, the omission to inform readers that the assertions that operators “snub” or “blatantly flout” safety laws was predicated on forms that were filled out untruthfully by the reporter was unfair and significantly misleading. Accordingly, the Council upheld the complaint.
Adjudication 1647: National Welfare Rights Network/The Daily Telegraph (July 2015)
The Press Council has considered a complaint by the National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN) about articles published in The Daily Telegraph on 30 September 2014.
The articles referred to how recipients of the Disability Support Pension (DSP) could “fudge a bludge” and quoted website forums said to share information for claimants on how to obtain or remain on the DSP, including the use of “form letters” for doctors.
The Council concluded the article inaccurately and unfairly implied the NWRN ran a forum, that quotes in the article came from its website, and that the form letter it produced was part of an attempt to “con” doctors. The Council considered this implication was particularly strong in the online version given the nature of the online headline. Accordingly, this aspect of the complaint is upheld.
Given the article’s inaccurate imputations about the complainant’s practices, the Council did not accept that using parts of the complainant’s letter in a subsequent article without consulting the complainant was adequate remedial action. However, the publication’s subsequent offer to print the complainant’s letter in full did constitute the taking of reasonable steps under the Council’s standards. It was not obliged to meet the complainant’s request for placement in the paper other than in the letters section. Therefore the Council considered there was a no breach of its Standards in this respect.
Adjudication 1645: Complainant/New Weekly (NW) (June 2015)
The Press Council considered a complaint about an article in New Weekly (NW) on 5 January 2015, headlined “Full-colour photo prince”.
The article featured a large photo of young African children sitting with UK Prince Harry, who appeared to be showing the children a camera screen. The image is captioned with speech bubbles, and Prince Harry’s speech bubble says to the children ‘these are the “private” Christmas pics’. A second speech bubble positioned below one of the young boys says ‘Hot damn! Granny is a GILF’ (an acronym for Grandmother I’d Like to F-ck).
The Council considered that the image involved children in a sexual theme, and many readers would consider the material to be inappropriate and offensive for this reason. However, the Council concluded that the level of offence must be considered in the overall context of the magazine and its readership, and the article was not so substantially offensive as to breach the Council’s Standards.
Adjudication 1640: Complainant/The Australian Financial Review (June 2015)
The Press Council considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by an article “When babies are a good career move” in The Australian Financial Review on 3 September 2014.
It referred to the “gender pay gap” as being “18.2%” and described it as a measure of “the difference between what men and women are paid for the same job, same hours”. It quoted a report by an Agency that the “national gender pay gap” is 18.2%. However, the report defined that gap as “the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings”.
The Council considered that the article clearly stated as fact that the “gender pay gap” was 18.2% when measured by reference to remuneration for the “same job, same hours”. However, the agency report on which it relied for this statistic defined and measured the gap as being, in effect, for the same hours but not necessarily in the same jobs.
The Council concluded there was a failure to take reasonable steps to ensure factual material is accurate and not misleading.
The Council’s Standards also require a publication to provide a correction or other adequate remedial action if a significant inaccuracy occurs. In this instance, the publication failed to do so. Where an inaccuracy is significant and not reasonably disputable it is usually necessary for the publication to make the correction in its own name.
Accordingly, the Council concluded that there was a breach of the Standards of Practice in these respects.
Adjudication 1646: NECA/The Australian (June 2015)
The Press Council has considered a complaint by the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) about articles published in The Australian on 9 and 27 September 2014 relating to pattern EBAs.
The Press Council concluded that the statement in the first article that NECA had “forced” its members into pattern EBAs was not an accurate reflection of NECA’s business practice, which was to represent those members that requested NECA to negotiate on their behalf. Although the articles were opinion pieces and the writer was entitled to express her view that there was a lack of disclosure by NECA about its returns from severance funds, the Council noted that the term “secret commissions” used in this context tends to connote illicit payments, and the article lacked fairness and balance in omitting that the payments were in fact disclosed in NECA accounts. Accordingly, these aspects of the complaint were upheld.
The Council also considered that NECA’s letter of 10 September raised claims of serious inaccuracies in the first article. As these claims were not addressed in the second article and the only response published was a letter from a former state director of NECA several weeks later, the Council concluded that reasonable steps were not taken to provide a published response from NECA or other adequate remedial action and these aspects of the complaint were also upheld.
Adjudication 1638: Complainant/The Age (May 2015)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a headline published on the homepage of The Age on 2 October 2014, which stated “James Hird removed as Essendon coach”. However, Mr Hird was not removed and continued to be the coach.
The Council considered that reasonable steps were not taken to ensure accuracy in the headline and accordingly, concluded that its Standard of Practice relating to accuracy was breached.
The Council’s Standards also require that reasonable steps be taken to publish a correction or take other adequate remedial action where published material is significantly inaccurate. The publication promptly updated the online report, and a print headline the following day confirmed Mr Hird had not been removed as coach. The Council was not satisfied the publication failed to take reasonable steps to take remedial action and concluded there was no breach in this respect.
Adjudication 1636: Complainant/The Sunday Mail (April 2015)
The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by material in The Sunday Mail on 25 May 2014 headed “Poll supports asset sales”. The same text appeared online under a different heading.
The text of the print and online material included the statement that “our Galaxy Poll today clearly shows that Queenslanders are embracing asset sales rather than reduce government services or increase taxes”.
There was no reference to where details of the poll results were. A separate online article on the same day said the survey involved 800 Queenslanders and found “38 percent of peopled believed asset sales were the best option to reduce debt, compared to 21 per cent for increased taxes and 24 per cent for reduced services”.
The Council considered that the material was part of an editorial or of a comment piece. However, in this case, the unexplained and unqualified reference to the poll results relating to asset sales, government services and taxes was not distinguishable as the publication’s opinion about the meaning of the poll. The material was likely to be read as a statement of fact.
The failure to indicate where detail of the poll findings and methodology could be found and the fact that the detail which was provided elsewhere did not enable readers to ascertain whether the statement in the material was opinion or fact, meant that relevant facts were not disclosed.
Accordingly, the Council considered that the material was in breach of its Standards of Practice.
Adjudication 1641: Macquarie Group Ltd/The Sydney Morning Herald (April 2015)
The Press Council has considered a complaint by Macquarie Group Ltd (“Macquarie”) about articles published in The Sydney Morning Herald from 1-5 August 2014, in particular two articles in print on 2 August.
One was headed “Financial planning: Existence of ‘Penske File’ revealed. Macquarie supplied cheat sheet to advisers” (published online on 1 August under a different headline). The second was headed “Down the hole: The silver doughnut that left a big hole” (published online on 2 August under a different headline).
The Council considered the headline of the first article implied that assistance to cheat had been provided with high-level corporate approval. The text, however, did not provide evidence to support that allegation. The complaint about the headline was upheld.
The Council considered that Macquarie was given a fair opportunity to provide relevant information about whether a document was circulated, and that its responses were adequately reported. Accordingly, the complaint on that ground was not upheld.
The Council considered the second article’s conjecture about misclassifications was serious enough that Macquarie needed to be given specific notice and a fair opportunity for its response to be included in the article. Accordingly, that aspect of the complaint was upheld.
There was a strong case for Macquarie being given a prior opportunity to comment on its dealings with a particular client that were reported at length in the article. But the client’s hesitancy about revealing his identity, and the company’s generally uncooperative response to the publication’s investigations, lead the Council to conclude that the complaint on that ground should not be upheld.
As the Council considered that Macquarie’s responses to the second article were reasonably reported, the complaint on that ground was not upheld.
Adjudication 1637: Complainant/The Weekend Australian (April 2015)
The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by a front-page photograph in The Weekend Australian on 19-20 July 2014 of part of the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17.
In the foreground were two or three clothed figures, one was apparently female and lying on her side with an elbow in the air. Another figure appeared to be partially covered by plane wreckage, but the nature and colour of their clothing was distinct.
The Council considered the graphic depiction of bodies was likely to cause substantial offence and distress to a significant number of people, especially as the full impact of the tragedy was still unfolding and many victims were Australian.
It also considered, however, that the nature and scale of the disaster, including many Australian fatalities and the controversy about its cause, provided a very strong justification in the public interest for powerfully conveying the tragic consequences.
The Council noted the importance of avoiding undue distress and especially the risk of victims’ relatives or friends being able to identify the bodies. This risk could have been reduced by, for example, suitable pixilation.
On balance, the Council did not consider there was a clear breach of its Standards of Practice. This was due mainly to the steps taken by the publication to reduce the risk of severe offence or breaches of privacy; the scale of the tragedy; the undoubted public importance of its alleged causes and implications; and the number of Australian victims.
Adjudication 1643: Kylie Keel/The Moorabool News (March 2015)
The Press Council has considered a complaint by Kylie Keel about The Moorabool News Facebook page relating to a car accident on 9 October 2014, in which the driver later died.
Ms Keel said the images of the accident scene and some readers’ comments on the Facebook page caused great offence to the family and breached its privacy.
The Council appreciated that the images would have been distressing to family members but it considered they were not so graphic that they overrode the public interest justification. The Council was concerned about the very rapid posting of the images but considered its Standards of Practice were not breached due to the images’ relative lack of identifying features and the police having said the driver’s father already knew of the collision. Accordingly, those aspects were not upheld. The Council emphasised that its Standards apply to its publisher members’ Facebook platforms. This means the publication must take reasonable steps to monitor readers’ comments and delete them if they breach the Council’s Standards.
In this case, the publication noticed and deleted some comments, but not those the driver’s family understandably found to be very offensive. Indeed, it did not delete them even when asked to do so by the family. The fact that by then the report and comments may already have been read widely did not justify failing to delete them. Accordingly, this aspect was upheld.
Adjudication 1632: AIMPE/The Australian Financial Review (March 2015)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article headed “$390k tugboat workers to strike for 40pc rise” in The Australian Financial Review on 7 August 2014. It reported about proposed strike action over wage conditions by 52 members of the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE). The article was published two days before the proposed strike.
The Press Council has concluded that the headline was inaccurate, misleading and unfair in describing the engineers as “390k tugboat workers” when that figure was at the top of a large range of earnings across which individual tugboat workers earnings might lie. The Council has arrived at the same conclusion about the description of the claim as being for a “40pc rise” when negotiations were proceeding on the basis of a much lower figure.
The article itself described each of these aspects of the situation more accurately than did the headline, but that does not adequately compensate for the failings of the headline. It cannot generally be assumed that readers of a striking but inaccurate headline will also read and analyse all or most of an accompanying article which explains the situation more accurately. As there was no adequate justification for such an assumption in this case, the complaint was upheld.
Adjudication 1630: Jane Butler/Macedon Ranges Free Press (March 2015)
The Press Council has considered a complaint by Jane Butler about material headed “Clarification” published in the Macedon Ranges Free Press on 8 April 2014.
The “clarification” related to a letter by Ms Butler claiming that the Macedon Ranges Shire Council had wrongly issued an Animal Keeping Permit and was not providing honest answers about the issue. The Clarification was written at the instigation of the Shire Council but was not attributed to it and Ms Butler was not consulted about it.
The Press Council considered that the Clarification was presented as if it was a news report and that it inaccurately and unfairly said that Ms Butler had claimed the Macedon Ranges Shire Council did not respond to her queries. The Press Council also considered that the publication did not take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy, fairness and balance of its statement in the Clarification that the Shire Council had never denied issuing the permit.
The Press Council considered that the publication was justified in not publishing the very long letter submitted by Ms Butler in response to the “Clarification”, but that in the particular circumstances of this case, the publication should have discussed with Ms Butler the possibility of providing a shorter version of a letter which could be published.
Accordingly, the complaint was upheld.
Adjudication 1639: Complainant/The Observer (Gladstone) (March 2015)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about the way in which The Observer handled a letter to the editor.
The complainant said that when submitting the letter she explicitly requested that her name and address be withheld to avoid possible adverse effects on her employment. She said the publication nevertheless published her name with the letter, thereby causing severe repercussions from her employer of which the letter had been critical.The publication acknowledged to the Council that publishing her name was a highly regrettable staff error. It said that the letter should not have been published and she should have been contacted to explain its policy of not publishing anonymous letters. It also said the complainant had been contacted by a senior editor, a sincere oral apology had been made and a written apology had been offered. It said it had taken steps to ensure relevant staff understood its procedures for assessing letters and its requirement for greater consultation with letter writers before publication.
The Council considers that publishing the complainant’s letter with her name was a very serious and damaging breach of privacy. The request to withhold her name was clear, and there was no ground on which failure to do so could be justified as in the public interest. Accordingly, the complaint is upheld.
The Council welcomes the publication’s apology to the complainant. It also welcomes the steps which the publication says have been taken to avoid similar mistakes in future. In the absence of these responses, a formal censure might well have been considered necessary in light of the gravity of the mistake and its predictable consequences.
Adjudication 1625: Tony Murphy/The Age (March 2015)
The Press Council has considered a complaint by Tony Murphy about an article headed “Former boss at second building union named as scandal widens” on 10 February 2014.
The article said Mr Murphy was “implicated in kickbacks for contracts racket” and that the publication “can also reveal that [Mr Murphy] sought kickbacks from several subcontractors in return for helping them win work on sites”. It said that senior plumbers union officials removed him from his role in early 2012 “after hearing allegations of his improper behaviour”.
The assertion about kickbacks was very serious and was presented as a statement of fact, not an allegation or suspicion. In these circumstances it is usually necessary in the interests of both accuracy and fairness to make reasonable efforts to contact the person before publishing the article.
The information obtainable by the Council does not enable it to be entirely sure whether the publication made reasonable attempts to contact Mr Murphy, including its reliance on an associate of Mr Murphy to make the necessary contact. However, the apparently incorrect statement by the associate that he could not and did not contact Mr Murphy, together with the subsequent refusal of Mr Murphy to put his side of the case, tend to confirm the publication’s assertion that he was given sufficient opportunity to comment before and after the article appeared. They also tend to confirm that the publication had taken reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of its assertions. On this basis, the complaints were not upheld.
Adjudication 1633: Complainant/Gippsland Times (February 2015)
The Press Council has concluded that its Standards of Practice were breached by an article in The Gippsland Times on 15 April 2014 headed “Labor labelled as health ‘hypocrites’”. The article drew substantially on a press release by the Victorian Health Minister David Davis. The passages taken from the release were attributed to him except for the words “Labor MPs voted against the interests of Victorians and voted in favour of Julia Gillard’s $107 million cut to Victorian hospitals in 2012-13”.
The Press Council considered that newspapers are entitled to draw heavily on a press release provided that in doing so they comply with the Council's Standards. Any material taken from a press release should be presented in such a way that facts or opinion being asserted by the issuer of the release are clearly distinguishable from those being asserted by the publication itself.
The Council considered that the article’s failure to present the sentence quoted above as a statement of opinion from the Minister’s release constituted a breach of its Standards of Practice. The Council welcomed the publication’s acknowledgement of error and of the need to avoid repetition. It commended this approach for adoption by other publications.
Adjudication 1635: Complainant/The Daily Telegraph (February 2015)
The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by the publication of a photograph in The Daily Telegraph on 21 August 2014.
The image occupied much of the front page and showed journalist, James Foley, kneeling in front of a hooded person who had one hand clasped around Mr Foley’s jaw as the other hand brandished a long knife in close proximity to Mr Foley’s throat.
The Council considered that the image was likely to cause substantial offence and distress to a significant number of people. On the other hand, the Council agreed it is sometimes in the public interest for people to be exposed in a powerful way to realities which they may find upsetting but about which it is important that public opinion is well-informed.
The Council considered that the image could well have been published on an inner page without losing its effectiveness. On balance, however, the Council concluded that publication of the image was not a breach of its Standards. This was mainly because of the very strong justification in this case for bringing unpleasant realities to public attention.
The Council welcomed the careful consideration in the publication of images of this nature, but emphasised that where the justification is less powerful than in this case, some images may breach its Standards of Practice if published on the front page rather than less prominently.
Adjudication 1634: Complainant/The Sydney Morning Herald (January 2015)
The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by a cartoon in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 July 2014.
The cartoon was associated with an opinion piece on the conflict in Gaza. It depicted an elderly man with a large nose, wearing the distinctively Jewish head covering called a kippah or yarmulke, and sitting in an armchair emblazoned with the Star of David. He was pointing a TV remote control device at an exploding cityscape, implied to be Gaza.
The Council considered the cartoon’s linkage between the Jewish faith and the Israeli rocket attacks on Gaza was reasonably likely to cause great offence to many readers. A linkage with Israeli nationality might have been justifiable in the public interest, despite being likely to cause offence. But the same cannot be said of the implied linkage with the Jewish faith that arose from inclusion of the kippah and the Star of David.
The Council welcomed the prominent, extensive and closely-reasoned apology by the publication and its subsequent action to reduce the risk of repetition. It commends this approach to other publications.
However, the Council concluded the cartoon was a clear breach of its Standards of Practice because it caused greater offence than was justifiable in the public interest.
Adjudication 1628: Complainant/Sunday Herald Sun (January 2015)
The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by material in the Sunday Herald Sun on 2 March 2014 while the Australian Sports and Drugs Agency (ASADA) was looking into the possible administration of banned drugs to players at the Essendon Football Club (EFC).
The material included “EXCLUSIVE The 12 AFL stars still in ASADA limbo: DONS DRUG HELL” (on page 1), “BOMBERS IN THE DARK: Thirteen months after the drugs in sport scandal broke, these AFL players are still looking for closure” (on pages 8-9) and an online version “Bombers in the dark: The 12 AFL stars still in ASADA limbo”. It also included prominent photographs of 14 players it named as having told ASADA they thought they had been injected with peptides during their time with the EFC. These disclosures to ASADA had been made on a confidential basis.
The Council considered the disclosures clearly intruded on the players’ privacy and may have caused them significant harm. Despite this impact, disclosure could be regarded as in the public interest due to the importance of the allegations to AFL, its administration and player safety, as well as dispelling unjustified suspicion of other EFC players. On the other hand, disclosure could be regarded as against the public interest due to the risk of discouraging candour with ASADA and hindering investigation of matters of considerable public concern.
Having balanced these competing considerations, the Council was not satisfied there had been a clear breach of its Standards of Practice. It was influenced partly by the late stage of the protracted investigative process at which the disclosure was made.
Adjudication 1620: Complainant/The Sydney Morning Herald (December 2014)
The Press Council has concluded that its Standards of Practice were breached in relation to an online article in The Sydney Morning Herald on 22 January 2014 headed “Bidding war for Schapelle Corby’s first post-jail interview”. The article said the Corby family was negotiating about the first TV interview with Ms Corby after her release from jail and that her mother, Rosleigh Rose, “even allowed the (Seven) network to fly her to Bali”.
The Council could not be sure whether the Seven network paid or arranged for Ms Rose’s flight and whether the publication took reasonable steps to check the assertion before the article appeared. However, the Council concluded that in the particular circumstances of the case the publication did not make sufficient attempts to contact Ms Rose after the article appeared so she could have a reasonable opportunity for a balancing response. This constituted a breach of the Council’s Standards of Practice.
Adjudication 1627: Complainant/The Daily Telegraph (December 2014)
The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by material published on the front page of The Daily Telegraph on 22 May 2014 relating to the Disability Support Pension (DSP).
The material included a large headline “Slackers & Slouch Hats” above which was a secondary heading “NSW Disability Support Pensioners now outnumber Australia’s total war wounded by more than 44,000”. Alongside the headline was a single sentence of text reading: “The state’s army of disability pensioners has hit record levels with NSW’s tally of DSP claimants soaring almost 20,000 in the past 3 years to 270,415, outnumbering Australia’s war-wounded by more than 44,000.”
Above this material were two large photographs presented in a way which reflected the invitation to draw the comparison made in the secondary heading. One photograph showed a queue of about twenty people, none of whom had an apparent disability. Superimposed were the words “NSW DSP Recipients: 270,415”. The other was a well-known and striking photograph of a severely wounded soldier being helped to walk through the jungle of Papua New Guinea during World War II. Superimposed were the words “Nation’s war wounded: 226,016”.
The Council considers 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. The evidence provided did not justify this implication. 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 Council has concluded that the headline, headings and text on the front page collectively breached the Standards of Practice relating to accuracy and fairness, and to causing greater offence than is justifiable in the public interest.
Adjudication 1626: Judith Troeth/The Age (November 2014)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about two articles in The Age concerning Austin Hospital’s waiting times and booking system.
The Council concluded that the first article implied a particular knee replacement did not occur until more than three years after it was needed. In fact, it occurred only about eight months after the specialist recommended it. The operation could have been earlier if the patient had not wanted to wait for a particular surgeon.
Accordingly, the complaint about this article was upheld on the ground of failure to take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and fairness. The related complaint that the error should have been promptly corrected was not upheld because the hospital had not promptly provided adequate evidence of the error and had refused an offer of a follow-up article.
The Council concluded that the headline of the second article stated as a fact that a miscommunication between the hospital and a patient had been due to a new booking system. But the publication had not taken reasonable steps to ensure that statement was accurate and fair, and the headline did not fairly reflect the text of the article in which the hospital’s differing version was mentioned at some length. Accordingly, the complaint about the headline was upheld on those grounds.
Adjudication 1618: John McLean/Crikey (November 2014)
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.
Adjudication 1617: John McLean/Climate Spectator (November 2014)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article by Elaine McKewon headed “Fairfaxfalls for the climate conman” on the Climate Spectator website on 14 January 2014. The heading was subsequently changed to “Fairfax misleads on self-titled climate expert”.
The article described John Mclean, the author of an article published inFairfaxnewspapers, 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 “conman” 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 the word “conman” 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. The publication’s subsequent change to the headline was welcome but did not eliminate the initial breach. In any event, the initial headline was likely to have been read by many people and to be permanently available on the internet through re-publication by others.
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 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.
Adjudication 1624: Complainant/The Daily Telegraph (October 2014)
The Press Council has considered complaints about a photograph in The Daily Telegraph on 27 May 2014. The photograph occupied much of the front page, showing a body-sized shape wrapped in a tarpaulin and floating in the ocean. A foot in a shoe could be seen protruding from the tarpaulin. It was later confirmed that the body was that of student whom police believed had been murdered a week earlier in relation to a drug deal.
The Council considered that, especially by showing the foot, the photograph was likely to cause great offence to a significant number of people, including those who merely saw it on a newsstand. Also, a substantial number of people who saw it are likely to have known the student. On the other hand, the Council considered that powerful exposure in this way of the risks of involvement in drug deals can be of substantial importance in the public interest. This effect would have been less powerful if the foot had not been shown to establish that the bag contained a body.
The Council’s principal concern was that the photograph was shown on the front page and was very large. Placing it on a very prominent inner page, with a clear warning on the front page, could have greatly reduced the risk of offence while not greatly reducing its effectiveness as a warning of the drug trade’s dangers.
On balance, however, the Council concluded that publishing the photograph did not breach its Standards, even though it was very prominent on the front page. This is mainly because there was a very strong justification in the public interest and also because the foot was not shown in graphic detail. Accordingly, the Council concluded that its Standards of Practice were not breached.
Adjudication 1610: Complainant/Herald Sun (October 2014)
The Press Council has upheld a complaint about an article, “Murder sex tape link – Fresh look at killing of mother and daughter”, in the print edition of the Herald Sun on 20 March 2013, relating to unsolved murders more than 25 years earlier. The article said the tape showed the mother with a man whose wife later discovered it and confronted the mother. The article included several other statements tending to suggest the wife arranged the murder of the mother and daughter.
The Council concluded that the newspaper did not take reasonable steps to ensure these statements were accurate and fair, especially as they were presented as being established facts, not allegations. It acknowledged the newspaper said the statements were based on highly credible sources, but said she should have been given an opportunity to comment on them before publication, and in the particular circumstances there was no credible risk of hindering police investigations by doing so.
The Council also concluded that the wife’s privacy had been breached because, although not named, she was likely to be identifiable to some people. It recognised that breaches of privacy in reports of “cold cases” could sometimes be justifiable in the public interest, but that in this particular case there was no sufficient justification.
Adjudication 1619: Allan House/The Sydney Morning Herald (September 2014)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from Allan House concerning an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 25 February 2014 about Waratah Rivulet.
The article stated that iron concentrations in the rivulet were at levels which exceeded Australian Drinking Water Guidelines by 30 per cent. It said “the health of part of the water supply to Sydney’s 4.6 million consumers” was “at stake”.
The Council considered that the article was inaccurate and unfair in suggesting the iron levels posed a risk to the health of consumers. The article should have made it clear the level exceeded in the rivulet was an aesthetic standard which only applied to filtered water and was not a health-related standard. Accordingly, this aspect of the complaint was upheld.
The Council considered that use of the term “contamination” in the article might have been accurate in a technical sense but it was likely to be misunderstood by many readers. On balance, the Council concluded that the breach of its Standards was not sufficiently significant for this aspect of the complaint to be upheld.
Adjudication 1622: Nikki Sutterby/The Weekend Australian (September 2014)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article which was headed "Roo the day" in the Food and Wine section of The Weekend Australian on 11-12 January 2014.
The Council decided that the statements about kangaroo harvesting in the article were likely to be read as subjective assessments by the journalist rather than verified statements of fact. In relation to the methods used by Macro Meats, the producer on which the article focused, the Council concluded that no significant evidence of inhumane or unhygienic processes had been omitted. Accordingly the aspect of the complaint relating to inaccuracy and unfairness was not upheld.
The Council decided that the involvement of Macro Meats in proposing and sponsoring the author’s trip to observe its processes amounted to a potential conflict of interest and should have been disclosed explicitly to readers. Accordingly, that aspect of the complaint was upheld. The publication’s subsequent disclosure in the online archived version of the article was welcome but does not eliminate the breach.
Adjudication 1621: Sharon Doyle/Bundaberg News Mail (August 2014)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article in the Bundaberg News Mail on 23 April 2014 headed “Fatal car crash a sad end to Easter” in print and “Cruel Carving left on tree as tragic crash is investigated” online. The article concerned a fatal collision between a car and treeThe Council considered that the article, coming two days after the initial report of the accident, gave more emphasis than necessary to the selective speculation of the police officer about the possible cause of the accident, and might have given more emphasis to the behaviour of whoever carved the offensive words in the tree (which the witness described as "horrific"). The Council has concluded it was sufficiently in the public interest to report the witness’s statement, the police speculation and the words on the tree, despite the likely impact on the grieving family. Accordingly, while the article might have been written with more sympathy for the family, the complaint is not upheld.
However, the Council reiterates the need for great caution in cases of this kind to avoid causing unnecessary distress or invasion of privacy, particularly in reporting speculation about the cause of an accident
Adjudication 1612: Michael Burns/The Sydney Morning Herald (August 2014)
The Press Council has partly upheld a complaint about two articles in The Sydney Morning Herald concerning the deaths of Kate Malonyay and subsequently, her former partner Elliott Coulson. The first was published on the website on 3 May 2013 and the second was published on the website on 9 January 2014 and in print a day later.
Ms Malonyay’s family complained the first article included material which the publication obtained by attending her funeral. The Council emphasised that, in general, publications should check directly with the family or funeral director whether they can attend a funeral, publish images of it or quote material from the ceremony. It was not sufficient to rely, as in this case, on the apparent approval of a police officer, especially as the publication had reason to believe the family itself might not consent.
The Council did not consider coverage of this funeral was sufficiently important in the public interest to justify publishing the material without the family’s consent. It emphasised that a matter is not in the public interest merely because members of the public are interested in it. Accordingly, it upheld the complaint that attending the funeral and publishing material obtained by doing so was a breach of privacy. The Council decided that delay of almost a month between learning of a very serious error in the second article and publishing a correction was excessive. It also said the very brief correction should have had a heading to identify the topic for people who might be interested in it. Accordingly, it upheld the complaint about late and inadequate correction.
The Council did not consider, however, that the second article was unduly insensitive or sensationalist in its coverage of Ms Malonyay, especially as it appeared eight months after her funeral. Accordingly, this aspect of the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1614: Complainant/The Daily Telegraph (August 2014)
The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by material published on The Daily Telegraph's website on 3 February 2014 relating to the death of the actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman. The material was headed “Kids grieve for junkie actor dad” and included a photograph of his children and an assertion about what their response would be to the circumstances in which Mr Hoffman died.
The Council has concluded that the combined impact of the references to the children and their alleged feelings, a photograph of them and the use of the term “junkie”, was highly unfair and offensive, especially as the material was published only a few hours after Mr Hoffman’s death.
The Council also concluded that serious breaches of its Standards of Practice occurred in this case even though the offending aspects were removed from the website within an hour. The Council noted it is entirely foreseeable that, as occurred in this instance, material which has been removed from a website may nevertheless be seen widely before its removal, and remain permanently available from other internet sources.
Adjudication 1607: Complainant/The Sydney Morning Herald (August 2014)
The Press Council has considered whether a series of articles in The Sydney Morning Herald between August and December 2013 breached its Standards of Practice relating to fairness and balance.The articles concerned public and parliamentary debate about a Bill in the NSW Parliament seeking to define a foetus as a legally recognised person after reaching a specified stage. This would have broadened the scope of the crime of causing grievous bodily harm to a person.The Council considered the publication might well have achieved better fairness and balance, but it concluded that the failure to do so in these particular circumstances was not so significant as to constitute a breach of the relevant Standard of Practice.
Adjudication 1609: MaryAnn Beregi/Mosman Daily (July 2014)
The Press Council has not upheld a complaint by a North Sydney Councillor, MaryAnn Beregi, about an article headed “Save our park” in the Mosman Daily on 12 December 2013 concerning proposals for an indoor sports centre and car park underneath St Leonards Park in Sydney. The complaint was that the article was misleading about the status of the proposals and did not give a reasonably balanced coverage of the range of views on the matter.
The Council concluded that the article was not misleading and that, in the context of the newspaper’s continuing coverage of the issue, it was not so unbalanced as to constitute a breach of the Council’s Principles. Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1598: Cameron Byers and others/The Australian (July 2014)
The Press Council has upheld complaints arising from a front page article and an editorial in The Australian on 16 September 2013 and a subsequent item headed “clarification” on 21-22 September. The items related to an impending report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), especially about observed rates of global warming of surface air temperature.
The Council concluded that an erroneous claim in the headline of the article about a revised warming rate was very serious, given the importance of the issue and of the need for accuracy (both of which were emphasised in the editorial that repeated the claim without qualification). It considered that there had been a failure to take appropriately rigorous steps before giving such forceful and prominent credence to the claim. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld on that ground. The Council considered that the gravity of the error, and its repetition without qualification in the editorial, required a correction which was more substantial, and much more prominent, than the very brief “clarification” on page 2. It said the heading should have given a brief indication of the subject matter to help attract the attention of readers of the original article and editorial. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld on those grounds.
The Council welcomed the acknowledgement of error and expressions of regret which the publication eventually made to it. But it said they should have been made very much earlier, and made directly to the publication’s readers in a frank and specific manner. It expressed considerable concern that this approach had not been adopted.
Adjudication 1593: Frank Carbone/The Sydney Morning Herald (July 2014)
The Press Council has upheld part of a complaint by Frank Carbone about an article, “Treasurer Chris Bowen’s lieutenant was the landlord at an illegal brothel”, in The Sydney Morning Herald on 2 September 2013. It reported that he had been the landlord of a business that had operated as a “massage parlour” in 2005.
The Council concluded that the headline unfairly implied knowledge and acceptance by Mr Carbone of brothel operations on the premises. It also concluded that describing him as “Treasurer Bowen’s lieutenant” and as “a key local lieutenant of Treasurer Chris Bowen” was inaccurate and unfair in view of his limited involvement. Accordingly, the complaints about these aspects were upheld. Other aspects of the complaint, however, were not upheld.
Adjudication 1605: Geoff Lake/The Daily Telegraph (July 2014)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from Geoff Lake about three articles in The Daily Telegraph in August 2013. At the time, Mr Lake was the ALP candidate for Hotham in the 2013 federal election.
Two of the articles focussed mainly on an incident in 2002 involving Mr Lake and a fellow Monash councillor. The third article reported the ALP’s dis-endorsement of him as a candidate and also referred to the incident in 2002. The articles also referred to allegations that Mr Lake had stalked another councillor, improperly used entitlements to print election material, and resigned as a candidate when the printing allegations were raised with him by the ALP.
The Council upheld Mr Lake’s complaints that the allegations of stalking unfairly failed to mention their rejection by a magistrate, and that the claim he resigned because of the printing allegations was incorrect and unfairly implied he had acknowledged fault. It upheld his complaint about the publication’s failure to give him an opportunity to respond to a particular aspect of the incident in 2002. However, it did not consider that other aspects of the coverage of that incident were unfair.
Adjudication 1604: Geoff Lake/Herald Sun (July 2014)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from Geoff Lake about two prominent articles in the Herald Sun in August 2013. At the time, Mr Lake was the ALP candidate for Hotham in the 2013 federal election. The first article focused mainly on an incident in 2002 involving Mr Lake and a fellow Monash councillor. The second article reported the ALP’s dis-endorsement of him as a candidate and also referred to the incident in 2002. The articles also referred to allegations Mr Lake had stalked another councillor, improperly used entitlements to print election material, and resigned as a candidate when the printing allegations were raised with him by the ALP.
The Council upheld Mr Lake’s complaints that the allegations of stalking unfairly failed to mention their rejection by a magistrate, and that the claim he resigned because of the printing allegations was incorrect and unfairly implied he had acknowledged fault. However, it did not uphold his complaint that the coverage of the incident in 2002 was unfair.
Adjudication 1608: Complainant/The Age (June 2014)
The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by an opinion article, "Auto report is a fantasy tale with a tragic twist", in The Age on 6 February 2014. The author criticised the Productivity Commission’s approach to assessing the viability of the car manufacturing industry in Australia. He also referred to the Prime Minister’s response to the announcement by General Motors Holden to withdraw from manufacturing in Australia Holden: “Abbott, when asked about the Holden workers who will lose their jobs, said they should be grateful they were being liberated from slaving on an assembly line, moving to living off Newstart and Work for the Dole.”
The Council considers that, in general, when an article states that a person has “said” something, the description of what he said must either be an accurate quote or a reasonably accurate paraphrase.
The Council concluded that the article misrepresented what Mr Abbott said. A transcript shows he drew a distinction between workers who would find it difficult and those who would pursue new opportunities. It was only the second group which he said would “probably be liberated”. Mr Abbott neither used the word “grateful” nor referred to Newstart or Work for the Dole. Accordingly, the Council has concluded that the publication breached the Principle concerning misrepresentation of facts in an opinion article.
Adjudication 1611: Rodney Adler/The Sunday Telegraph (June 2014)
The Press Council has upheld a complaint about an article headed "Adler owes it all to his wife – How Lyndi has built a business empire" in The Sunday Telegraph on 29 December 2013. The article mentioned Rodney Adler’s imprisonment in 2002 on charges relating to his directorship of HIH Insurance. It said he still had nine years before being allowed to be a director or manage a corporation, but his wife Lyndi Adler “is building up a sizeable business portfolio” and “has taken on 14 new roles in different companies, many of them in June and July last year”. It also said: “Many of the total 34 companies Mrs Adler has a role in are investment and venture capital vehicles, once Adler’s passion.”
Mr Adler complained it was inaccurate and unfair to say his wife was building a “business empire” and to publish an article which could be read as an invitation to regulators to review his conduct. He said most of the companies were concerned with family matters such as trusts for their children, and did not amount to an “empire”. He also complained that several other statements in the article were inaccurate, including that he “spent 2½ years in jail for his role in the $5 billion collapse of insurer HIH”. He complained that the article breached his privacy and that a subsequent correction in the newspaper was not sufficiently complete, prompt or prominent.
The newspaper said it was reasonable and in the public interest to report and examine the increase in Ms Adler’s directorships and business activities at a time when her husband was still prevented by court orders from directing or managing a company. The publication said as soon as it became aware Mr Adler’s offences did not relate to the collapse of HIH Insurance, and of its inaccuracies in reporting his investments and his role in court action about the synagogue, it had published a correction. The publication did not refute Mr Adler’s assertion that his wife’s directorships were largely of vehicles for her family’s investments which did not involve other people’s money. In the absence of any evidence of wider business activities, the Council concluded the description of Mrs Adler’s business activities was unfair. It also concluded that the description of Mr Adler’s conviction was inaccurate and unfair, as the judge explicitly said it did not relate to the company’s collapse. Accordingly, these aspects of the complaints were upheld.|
The Council did not consider, however, that the privacy of Mr Adler and his family was breached by the article. It also said several other statements did not amount to serious inaccuracies. The newspaper’s delay in correction was due to understandable miscommunications and the prominence was sufficient because, although not toward the front of the newspaper, it was prominently headed “Correction: Rodney Adler”. Accordingly, these aspects of the complaint were not upheld.
Adjudication 1616: Complainant/Townsville Bulletin (June 2014)
The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by an article on 22 February 2014 headed "Bringing Home The Bacon". The article reported a man’s guilty plea to various counts of theft from large retail outlets. Each of the thefts involved attempts to conceal the merchandise down the front of his pants. On one occasion this consisted of three packets of bacon. Under the main heading there was a smaller one reading: “Pigs fly as thief stuffs the full hog down his pants undiebelly style.” A heading at the end of the article read “...And That's No Porkies”. At the end of the article it was reported that the man’s solicitor told the court he was on daily medication for schizophrenia.
The Council considered the unusual nature of the man’s attempts to conceal the merchandise, and the solicitor’s reference to his schizophrenia, should have alerted the publication to the need for some sensitivity in covering the issue. However, it was also relevant that no particular emphasis was given to his condition at the hearing.
Accordingly, the Council considered that the publication should have exercised more sensitivity in the headings but, on balance, the failure to do so was not so serious as to constitute a breach of the Standards of Practice.
Adjudication 1615: Complainant/Fraser Coast Chronicle (June 2014)
The Press Council has concluded that its Standards of Practice were breached by print and online articles on 8 February 2014 about the intensive care unit (ICU) at the Hervey Bay Hospital. Headings on the print article read: “Intensive care unit scrapped, Exclusive: Lives put at risk as $ axe falls on Hervey Bay ICU.”
The publication acknowledged the original report of closure was seriously incorrect, despite the confidence it had in sources used, and that further efforts at clarification should have been made before publishing the article.
The Council concluded the publication did not take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and fairness when reporting closure of the ICU. It also considered the publication’s online efforts to correct the report were insufficiently clear and that it should have apologised online and in the next print issue. It welcomed, however, the publication’s detailed acknowledgement to the Council that it had not handled the matter appropriately.
Adjudication 1606: Norilsk Nickel/The Weekend Australian (June 2014)
The Press Council has upheld a complaint about an article, "Legacy warning in mine collapse", in The Weekend Australian on 23 November 2013. The article began: “The subsidence of an abandoned mine site in remote Western Australia has highlighted the ‘gigantic legacy headache’ posed by deserted mines in the state.” It said “a farmer stumbled across the collapsed mine at Norilsk’s Lake Johnston nickel operations, 540km east of Perth”.
It reported a Conservation Council spokesman saying the mine posed “an enormous safety issue”, “anyone can blunder into this hole and the fissures where the walls will continue to collapse”, closed mines were “a gigantic legacy headache for government”, and that legal action should be taken against directors and managers who walk away from mines without rehabilitating them.
The Press Council concluded that the article inaccurately described the mine as “abandoned” and unfairly implied it was a prime example of the safety and rehabilitation problems caused by abandoned mines. Concerns about public safety were exaggerated by inaccurately stating that the mine had been “stumbled“ upon, when it had been deliberately visited by crossing a fence with “no entry” signs. It was also unfair to describe the site as a “collapsed mine”. The assertions of the spokesman who had not visited the site were insufficient justification in the face of Norilsk’s denials.
Adjudication 1613: Complainant/Port Macquarie News (June 2014)
The Press Council has considered whether an article in the Port Macquarie News breached the Council’s Standards of Practice. The article concerned a trial of a man for an alleged sexual offence against a girl who was a minor at the time. The article quoted the prosecutor’s graphic words detailing the alleged act of digital penetration as well as a bugged telephone conversation between the man and the girl which referred in colloquial detail to what the man had allegedly done.
The Council considered the frequency of reference to details of digital penetration was more than necessary to explain the differences between what was alleged by the prosecutor and by the defendant, and was very likely to disturb many of the publication’s readers. In particular, the relevant quote from the telephone call could have been omitted or paraphrased, especially as the significance of the graphic word in it was debatable. The age of the girl added to the Council’s concerns.
Accordingly, the complaint is upheld on these grounds. However, the Council noted the thought given to the issue by the publication and its decision not to publish the graphic details on page one. The Council also welcomed the publication’s constructive engagement with it.
Adjudication 1603: Complainant /The Age (June 2014)
The Press Council has upheld a complaint about an article on The Age website on 10 October 2013 reporting the findings of the jury in the trial of Robert Meade for the murder of his former wife, Sally Brooks. After separating from Ms Brooks, Robert Meade had re-married and moved cities with his new wife (the complainant) and her daughter.
The complainant said the report breached the privacy of her daughter, who was 17 at the time, by naming her when there was no need to do so. The publication replied that the girl’s name was read out in court and there was no suppression order preventing the publication of her name.
The Council considers it in the public interest to report on findings of the court. However, it decided that publishing the girl’s name was not sufficiently in the public interest to outweigh the need to respect her privacy, especially as she was a minor and still at school. The publication had withheld the names of three other children mentioned in court, and had only named the complainant’s daughter in the version of the article published on its website (and not in the still-lengthy version published in the newspaper).
These aspects contributed to the suggestion that the names of the children involved in the matter were not required for a full, frank and accurate report of the crime.
Adjudication 1584: Australian Christian Lobby/The Age; The Sydney Morning Herald; The Canberra Times (June 2014)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from the Australian Christian Lobby about an article, "Smoking healthier than gay marriage", published on the publications' websites on 5 September 2012.
ACL complained the headline and first sentence were not accurate and fair representations of comments made by its then Managing Director, Jim Wallace, at a public debate. It also said the inverted commas around the headline incorrectly implied Mr Wallace had said the exact words in the headline. ACL’s concerns about the headline were seen by the Council as understandable. It noted there is confusion within the media about whether words in single inverted commas in headlines can be paraphrases or must be precise quotes. The Council indicated it intends to develop a Specific Standard on this issue to assist publications and readers.
The Council considered the headline and the first sentence of the article were reasonably accurate paraphrases of what Mr Wallace said, and the precise quotes were provided later in the article. On balance, these factors sufficiently compensated for the fact the headline might be incorrectly interpreted by some readers as a direct quotation. Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1599: Cassandra Rowe/The Advertiser (May 2014)
The Press Council has partly upheld a complaint by Cassandra Rowe about an article in The Advertiser on 24 August 2013 reporting on her case for compensation and reinstatement as the Senior Primate Keeper at Monarto Zoo. At an interim hearing, the Federal Circuit Court refused Ms Rowe’s request for reinstatement pending the full hearing of her claim.
The Council has concluded that the combined impact of the headline, the first sentence of the article and the photograph caption inaccurately implied that her claim to reinstatement had been finally rejected by the court rather than deferred for consideration at the full hearing. This was exacerbated in the print version of the article in not mentioning her statement made outside court that, after the interim hearing, she remained confident in the success of her claim.
The Council also upheld Ms Rowe’s complaint concerning her pregnancy, being described as “high risk”, without referring to the fact she strongly disputed this claim. However, it did not uphold her complaint about a breach of privacy for mentioning other aspects of her health as they were referred to in the judgement and the Council considered it was reasonable for them to be reported.
Adjudication 1602: Complainant/The Chronicle (May 2014)
The Press Council has concluded that an article on pages 1 and 3 of The Chronicle on 3 October 2013 breached its Standards of Practice. It concerned possible noise levels at the Wellcamp Airport, which is being built and financed by Wagners group of companies. The heading of the article said “Jet noise no louder than dishwasher”, and the article stated “Initial noise level projections carried out by Wagners showed residents in Westbrook would typically experience readings of less than 55 decibels as 717 jets took off from the airport”. The article included several quotes from the Managing Director, Dennis Wagner, but none from other sources.
The publication acknowledged it could perhaps have sought comment from a defence or noise expert, but said there had been very few letters opposing the airport and it had published everything submitted on the subject. It said Wagners itself had conducted a survey of affected residents which showed overwhelming support for the airport.
The Press Council decided the noise claims may or may not be accurate but The Chronicle did not take reasonable steps to ensure their accuracy. The Chronicle did not ask to see the study by Wagners on noise level projections, and it did not seek the opinion of any specialists on the subject. In addition, while the Council’s Principles do not require complete, or almost complete, fairness or balance, the comments by Dennis Wagner were so prominent and so overwhelmingly positive, some attempt should have been made to include alternative views, such as those evident in letters and in reader comments published on its website.
Adjudication 1601: Complainant/News.com.au (May 2014)
The Press Council has considered there was no breach of the Council’s standards in an article on the news.com.au website on 12 October 2013. An entry on the homepage, which linked to the full article, was headed Teen hangs himself after streaking and read, “A teenager has committed suicide after he faced being put on a sex offenders list for streaking at a high school gridiron game”.
The article reported that a 15 year-old boy from Alabama in the United States ran naked across the field of a gridiron game. The school then threatened him with expulsion and he was arrested, but not charged, over the incident. A week later he hanged himself. The article mentioned that in Alabama the offence of indecent exposure can lead to a listing on the state’s sex offenders register.
The Council emphasised that in accordance with its Specific Standard on reporting suicide, great caution is needed in this area. It considered that in this particular case reporting of the details of the streaking and his death were sufficiently in the public interest to be disclosed, especially because fear of being put on the sex offenders list might have contributed to the suicide.
Adjudication 1595: Elise Chapman/Bendigo Advertiser (May 2014)
The Press Council has partly upheld complaints about six articles in the Bendigo Advertiser from February to May 2013 concerning Cr Elise Chapman. Following complaints to the Council from other people, Cr Chapman complained about the accuracy and/or fairness of the articles. The publication replied that each article was accurate and fair and was written in response to an issue that was in the public interest. Most had included a comment from Cr Chapman.
The Council upheld three of the complaints. It decided an article on a local swimming pool inaccurately reported that Cr Chapman proposed $50,000 be spent on mediation, when she had proposed the amount be spent on investigation and design work which could lead to the re-opening of the pool. The Council also decided Cr Chapman should have been given the opportunity to comment on a report about a court case involving a debt for which she had a payment plan in place, as the article also mentioned her campaign for stronger economic management by the Greater Bendigo Council. In an article on childcare costs, the newspaper should not have simply reported Cr Chapman’s comment as “none of your business” when she had offered to provide comments if the questions were put in writing.
The complaints about the other three articles were not upheld.
Adjudication 1596: Ian Seddon/The Courier Mail (April 2014)
The Press Council has partly upheld a complaint about a front page article with the heading "Kev’s $733m bank heist", continuing on page 6 as "Rudd’s raid on our savings". Above the main heading on page 1 was a smaller heading which read, "Tax on beer, cigs … and now your savings". The first sentence of the article began “Bank customers will be forced to help prop up the Rudd government’s budget…” The article was accompanied by a digitally-altered image depicting the Prime Minister as a bank robber. It concerned a decision of the Rudd Government to establish a Financial Stability Fund and impose a 0.05 per cent levy on the first $250,000 in any bank deposits.
The complaint was that the article and image did not accurately or fairly represent the Government’s policy, which was to establish a levy on banks to protect depositors against collapse, not to impose a charge on customers. It was said to be inaccurate to report that customers “will be forced” to contribute to the budget measure. It was also said that such a fund, which existed in other countries, had been recommended by the Council of Financial Regulators. The publication said the policy would in effect be a levy on savings as in all likelihood it would be passed on by banks to depositors. It said Government sources had explicitly acknowledged that if the levy was passed on by banks, it would reduce the interest earned on deposits. The Australian Bankers’ Association had stated it was ultimately likely to be passed on to customers. The publication also said the longer online version of the article included a reference to Australia being one of only a few countries not to have a “deposit insurance scheme”. The article was accompanied by a pointer to two other articles on the same day which provided information on these schemes.
The Council decided that while some or all of the levy might be passed on to customers, this possibility did not justify the certainty which was expressed by the headlines and article. Accordingly, that aspect of the complaint was upheld. The other aspects of the complaint, however, were not upheld.
Adjudication 1591: Stephen Pate/The Daily Telegraph (March 2014)
The Press Council has upheld a complaint about two articles in The Daily Telegraph in August 2013 concerning the Sydney City Council.
Mr Pate said the second article, "Electric car club a shocking waste", contained errors relating to Sydney City Council’s membership of a sustainable business association. The publication conceded the errors and published a correction. The Press Council decided the publication did not take reasonable steps to avoid the errors.
Stephen Pate complained that the first article, "Clover wants ban on casino cars", suggested the Council and its Lord Mayor were seeking to ban all parking at Barangaroo. The publication replied that other parts of the article indicated the Council was seeking only to prevent an increase in parking spaces. The Press Council concluded the headline and first sentence clearly inaccurately suggested the Lord Mayor was opposed to all parking at Barangaroo, and nothing else in the article was sufficiently clear and prominent to correct this error.
Adjudication 1592: Jamie Parker/The Sunday Telegraph (March 2014)
The Press Council has upheld a complaint by Jamie Parker MP about an article on 24 March 2013 concerning his campaign to help save the Annandale Hotel. He complained about the headline, Green tries to save pub he trashed, and a statement that when previously on Leichhardt Council he “voted 11 times to continue legal action that eventually contributed to [the hotel] going bankrupt”. The Press Council noted the minutes of Leichhardt Council meetings clearly showed that while Mr Parker voted in 2005 against a requested extension to 3am and later in favour of an extension to 1am, he did not vote at any time about the Leichardt Council’s response to legal action by the hotel.
Accordingly, the Council concluded that the publication did not take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and fairness. It also concluded that the publication itself should have promptly and prominently corrected the error, rather than merely offering an opportunity for Mr Parker to assert his version in a letter to the editor.
Adjudication 1594: Nicole Lamb and others/News.com.au (March 2014)
The Press Council has considered complaints about an article in September 2013 that provided “a guide on how to pick a child molester”. A section headed “The damaged” said paedophiles have often been the victims of molestation when children; “if you know this about a person’s past, beware”; and “don’t [let] them anywhere near young people you know”. It also said “child molestation victims often seek out children at the stage of physical development at which they were molested”.
The complaint was that the comments were inaccurate, deeply offensive, and served to marginalise victims. The publication removed them from the website soon after receiving complaints and it published a critical response. It acknowledged to the Council that they were misleading and should not have been published.
The Council concluded the article over-stated how often victims of molestation becoming perpetrators. It also decided the comments were gravely offensive to a very wide range of the community, without sufficient justification on public interest grounds. Accordingly, the complaints were upheld.
Adjudication 1590: Dr Timothy Hawkes/The Sun-Herald and The Sydney Morning Herald (March 2014)
The Press Council has upheld two complaints from Dr Timothy Hawkes about articles in December 2012 concerning a student from The King’s School in Sydney who was charged with a serious criminal offence while on an oversees exchange program. The articles described the response by the school and by Dr Hawkes, its Headmaster. Police later dropped the charges.
The Council decided that the articles breached the student’s privacy, without there being justification that it was in the public interest to do so. It also decided that Dr Hawkes should have been given an adequate opportunity to respond to the serious criticisms of his school which were presented in the articles. Accordingly, these aspects of the complaint were upheld.
Dr Hawkes also complained the article reported a comment by him in a way that suggested he did not adequately realise the seriousness of the criminal charge. The Council decided it could not be sure about the nature and context of the comment made by Dr Hawkes. Accordingly, this aspect of the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1589: Santo Santoro/The Australian Financial Review (February 2014)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from Santo Santoro about three articles in March 2013.
The Council agreed with Mr Santoro that the articles implied a statement by him about the role of Eddie Obeid Jnr in Australian Water Holdings had been made as a response and challenge to a comment by Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos.
The Council concluded that the newspaper failed to take reasonable steps to check the accuracy of this implication because there was insufficient justification to assume that Mr Santoro had known of Sen Sinodinos’ comment at the relevant time. It should have checked explicitly with him or some other appropriate source. The Council also concluded that the headline “Santoro backs away from Sinodinos claim” was inaccurate and unfair because he had not made a claim in relation to Sen Sinodinos. The complaints were upheld.
Adjudication 1573: Margo Kingston/The Daily Telegraph (February 2014)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a report on page 17 on 13 December 2012 which concerned the Federal Court’s dismissal of legal proceedings by James Ashby against Peter Slipper MP as being an “abuse of process”, pursued for political purposes.
The commencement of the proceedings in April 2012 was reported across the first three pages, including highly-detailed allegations. Subsequent developments prior to the dismissal were reported very frequently.
The newspaper initially described the allegations as “amongst the most serious ever raised” in Australian political history and “potentially deadly”. It later said Mr Slipper’s decision to step down as Speaker had occurred “after The Daily Telegraph revealed [these and other] allegations” as a result of which “the government loses a precious vote”.
Given the exceptional circumstances of the case and the newspaper’s extensive coverage of it, the dismissal should have been reported with much greater prominence than occurred. The difference between it and the initial reports was so stark as to be a clear breach of the Council’s Principles on fairness and balance. The complaint was upheld.
Adjudication 1586: Ka Chun Tse/Bairnsdale Advertiser (December 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an editorial headed "Our part in child abuse" on 8 July 2013. Ka Chun Tse complained about linking transgenderism with paedophilia and sexual abuse of children and said the editorial did not acknowledge the perspectives and difficulties of transgender people. Instead, it likened them to people imprisoned for sexual abuse of children. The publication said the writer had not intended to target transgender people at a personal level. In any event, the editorial was clearly an expression of opinion and freedom of expression required that a newspaper be free to publish strong comment, even at the risk of offending some people.
The Council noted the editorial did not appear to be referring to actual changes in gender, but parts of it were clearly open to be read in the way the complainant did, namely linking transgenderism with paedophilia. It may also have caused very great offence to some people, but the importance of freedom of expression is so great that the Council considered the editorial did not clearly breach its Standards.
Adjudication 1583: Steve Foy/The Daily Telegraph (December 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article on 29 January 2013 entitled "Carbon tax puts squeeze on business". It concerned a business group’s survey of estimates by businesses of the impact of the carbon tax on their energy bills. The article reported the survey results as if they were actual increases, not estimates. No mention was made of the clear warning by the business group that, based partly on its past experience, the actual increases might be lower than was estimated.
Accordingly, the Council concluded the article was inaccurate about the issue which was its principal focus.
Adjudication 1588: Alan Ashmore/Herald Sun (December 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article on 19 May 2013. It concerned changes to a Federal Government program providing funding to assist veterans to access home and community care services. Alan Ashmore complained that the headline, "Veterans lose home care support – Cut to care program a ‘slap in the face’", was not a fair and accurate assessment of the changes and the article inaccurately said an in-home care service was to be cancelled. The publication said a program giving assistance to veterans and widows was being cancelled. It said it had accurately reported criticisms of the decision to cancel the program as well as the comments of a Government spokeswoman, and the article as a whole provided further information and context for the decision.
The Council upheld the complaint on the ground that errors in the headline and first two sentences which suggested a program providing in-home care services had been cut were not sufficiently clarified by later paragraphs.
Adjudication 1587: Matthew Press/The Daily Telegraph (December 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article on 13 June 2013 headed "Extreme danger – How elite police stopped heavily armed Muslims from hit on armoured van". It concerned an attempted armed robbery of a security van by three men. Matthew Press complained that the headline and article placed gratuitous emphasis on the religion of the men who attempted to rob the security van. The publication said the report did not seek to denigrate Muslims, and that word had been included after extensive interviews with police and revelations in court that phone calls had been intercepted between some of the men.
The Council upheld the complaint about the headline. It considered the very prominent and unequivocal description of the three men as “heavily armed Muslims” was unjustifiably gratuitous because there was no evidence that their actions were due simply to being Muslim, rather than, for example, possibly being extremist or jihadist Muslims. However, the references in the body of the article were not gratuitous and, in any event, were sufficiently in the public interest to comply with the Council’s Standards.
Adjudication 1585: Gladstone Ports Corporation/The Australian (December 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about articles in February 2013 reporting concerns of dredging in Gladstone Harbour and the effectiveness of environmental monitoring by Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC). GPC said the articles inaccurately and unfairly blamed harbour dredging for the sickness and death of marine life. It also complained about an allegation of breaches of its audit requirements, which it said was mentioned only briefly in a lengthy interview with its chief executive, and of which it was subsequently cleared by a Departmental investigation. The publication said all the articles reported flooding as a possible cause of the harm to marine life, and it had reported comments from a range of sources on the issue. It said it had accurately and fairly reported claims about the audit requirements, GPC’s rejection of the claims, and the Federal Minister’s eventual endorsement of that rejection.
The Council decided the publication took reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and fairness, both in relation to reporting the various claims about effects of dredging on marine life, and the allegation about audit breaches. The complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1571: Complainant/Namoi Valley Independent (December 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a photograph and caption headed “Naked Man Stops Traffic” on 31 January 2013, depicting a naked man standing on a traffic island in the main street of Gunnedah. The man’s sister complained that although the newspaper had partially obscured his face with a black bar and blurred his genitals, he was still identifiable to people in the town, and that the newspaper should have done more to inquire into his mental health condition. The newspaper said the man’s actions created a traffic incident of public interest. It noted the steps it had taken to obscure his identity, and said it had no reason to believe he had a mental illness.
The Council did not uphold the complaint, noting the public location and impact of the incident. However, it was concerned there were grounds to suspect the man might have a mental health problem, and the newspaper did not do more to inquire into the reasons for his actions. The Council noted that the risks involved in publishing photographs of this kind of a mentally ill person can be very grave and publishers should take great care.
Adjudication 1579: Catherine Cusack/The Sydney Morning Herald (December 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from The Hon. Catherine Cusack MLC about a report on 2 April 2013, “Gay slurs take AIDS fighter by surprise”. Ms Cusack complained about several aspects of the report, including the heading, which she said implied she had made slurs about gay people. The publication said the report accurately reflected her remarks, and the heading was not intended in the way Ms Cusack suggested. Ms Cusack also said a statement suggesting her questions at a parliamentary committee “stunned colleagues” was inaccurate and unfair.
The Council found the heading was ambiguous but the text clearly referred to slurs made by gay men against women, not to slurs by Ms Cusack against gay men. Accordingly, on balance the Council did not consider that the headline’s ambiguity was sufficiently serious to breach its Principles. However, it decided there was no evidence to justify the claim that her colleagues had been stunned by her remarks. Accordingly, that aspect of the complaint was upheld.
Adjudication 1582: Michael Costa/The Sydney Morning Herald (December 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from Michael Costa about three reports between December 2012 and February 2013. The reports mentioned Mr Costa’s involvement with Australian Water Holdings. As NSW Treasurer in 2008, after seeking advice from the Solicitor-General, he had ordered AWH and Sydney Water to attend mediation over a contractual dispute. After leaving Parliament, he served for a period as Chair of AWH.
The Council decided that accuracy and fairness required the publication to report that before consulting the Solicitor-General, he had been given two conflicting sets of legal advice. Instead, it had mentioned only that he had received advice favouring Sydney Water and had then “sought another legal opinion”. The Council also decided that, having noted the benefits he received as Chair of AWH, it should have noted that they were no greater than his predecessor, Arthur Sinodinos, had received. Accordingly, these aspects of the complaint were upheld. Another aspect was not upheld and two more were withdrawn.
Adjudication 1580: Luke Walladge/The Age (December 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article on 4 March 2013 headed “Union secretary asked to cover the tab”, above which was a smaller heading, “Debt case: Sex worker to get money owed under court’s ruling”. The report concerned a court order that Luke Walladge pay an amount to a Perth woman who was described as a sex worker. The court was said to have ordered that any debt owed to Mr Walladge by the secretary of the Health Services Union in Victoria be “appropriated” to pay the Perth woman.
The Council found that the transcript of court proceedings did not show that a debt by the union secretary had been appropriated. As Mr Walladge had subsequently claimed there was no such debt, the publication should have made further inquiries before publication. In addition, while it was reasonable for the article to refer to the woman’s occupation as a sex worker, references in the headline and first sentence, and in an accompanying tweet, unfairly suggested the debt was for sexual services. Accordingly, these aspects of the complaint were upheld, but a complaint about breach of Mr Walladge’s privacy was not upheld.
Adjudication 1581: Cr Ben Shields/The Daily Liberal (November 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from Cr Ben Shields about a report headed “Naturalists object to Shields’ claims”. It was published on 28 August 2012, shortly before the local government elections, and reported objections by a local conservation group to claims made by Cr Shields in a campaign leaflet. Cr Shields complained that the article criticised him unfairly and he was not given an opportunity to comment. The newspaper acknowledged comment should have been sought before publication, but said it lacked the resources to do so.
The Council decided Cr Shields should have been given an opportunity to comment prior to publication, or at least before the election. It acknowledged the paper’s lack of resources, but emphasised the need to ensure fairness. The Council stressed it is particularly important to avoid the unfairness that can arise when an electoral candidate is not given an opportunity to respond to criticisms before an election.
Adjudication 1577: Gregory Bradley and others/The Age (November 2013)
The Press Council has considered complaints about an opinion article published on 27 May 2013 headed “Don’t look now, the white elephants are multiplying”, particularly about the part of the article dealing with the National Broadband Network.
The Council decided that while some statements of fact had less convincing support than others, there was at least some tenable basis for each of them. The journalist should have qualified or explained the basis for some of his comments, but the absence of such information was not of sufficient significance to constitute a breach of the Council’s Standards. Accordingly the complaints were not upheld.
Adjudication 1576: Jonathan Marshall/The Sydney Morning Herald (November 2013)
The Press Council has upheld a complaint from the journalist Jonathan Marshall about a report in The Sydney Morning Herald on 2 October 2012 which mostly described his early career in New Zealand.
The Council decided the publication did not take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and fairness in relation to claims about the methods Mr Marshall used to obtain stories, and that it should have given him a reasonable opportunity to comment before publication.
Adjudication 1574: Fransyl Marmolejo and the Church of Scientology/Woman's Day (November 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a report on 25 March 2013 headed, “Scientology tore my family apart”. It presented the story of Adrian Kelsey, describing his separation from his wife and children and from the Church of Scientology.
The Council upheld complaints from Mr Kelsey’s former wife, Fransyl Marmolejo, and the Church of Scientology. It decided the publication did not take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and fairness in describing the family situation, and that it should have published comments from Ms Marmolejo and the Church of Scientology in the original article or in some other manner. The Council also decided the publication in full of a highly personal email from Mr Kelsey’s 13-year old daughter breached her privacy.
Adjudication 1578: Cr Len Roberts/Myall Coast Nota (November 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from Cr Len Roberts about a letter published on 6 September 2012, in the lead-up to the local council elections. The letter was from a constituent opposing a pro-development view for the area, including what he called the “bigger than Forster” vision of Cr Roberts, who was standing for re-election.
The Council has previously urged publications to be wary of causing unfairness by publishing critical material about an election candidate when there will be no opportunity to publish the candidate’s response before the election. In this case, the newspaper should have avoided unfairness by either declining to publish the constituent’s letter in that edition or seeking agreement with Cr Roberts on an edited version of his response to be published at the same time as the letter.
Adjudication 1575: Paul Russell/The Age (November 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a series of three articles on the subject of suicide, published in April 2013. Two of the articles presented the story of a woman who had recently taken her life, and one was headed “Rational Suicide: Why Beverley Broadbent chose to die”.
The Council decided the articles handled the subject in a serious and restrained manner rather than sensationalising or trivialising the issues, and included prominent publication of other views. On an issue of such importance and sensitivity, it might have been preferable to avoid the term “rational suicide”, and to avoid providing other information that could possibly assist with the process. On balance however, these matters were not of sufficient significance to breach the Council’s Standards and the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1566: Slater & Gordon/The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times (September 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint by law firm Slater & Gordon about two articles relating to the role of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard while a partner at the firm and the impact of publicity about the matter on the friendship of two of the firm’s former partners. Both articles were published on 13 October 2012.
The Council found the publications failed to take reasonable steps to ensure fairness in the articles because they included seriously adverse statements by several people about Slater & Gordon, about which the firm was given no opportunity to comment prior to publication. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld.
Adjudication 1570: Libby Burke/The Sunday Mail (September 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a report from 2 December 2012 of comments by Hillary Clinton, regretting the announcement of new Israeli settlements. The complaint was that the report was unfair and unbalanced in not mentioning Mrs Clinton's comments were made in the middle of a speech in which she strongly reiterated the United States’ general support of Israel and its opposition to the recent UN admission of Palestine as a non-member observer state.
The Council does not necessarily require each news report on a particular topic to provide a fair and balanced overview of that topic. This applies especially where the report is principally describing a new development in a long-running topic. In this case, the new development was Mrs Clinton’s criticism of the settlements. US opposition to the UN vote had been reported promptly and the generally supportive position of the US towards Israel had been reported on many previous occasions. Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1572: Complainant/news.com.au (September 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a report on the conviction of a man for the murder of his mother. The report was titled “Autistic man convicted of murdering WA mum” and the first sentence also referred to the man’s autism.
The Council decided the headline and first sentence were likely to have led many readers to conclude, incorrectly, that autism had been found to be the main cause of the murder, or at least one of the causes. Nothing in the remainder of the article would have corrected this misunderstanding and, accordingly, the complaint was upheld.
Adjudication 1569: David Penington/The Age (September 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a report on the conflict between Israel and Palestine in November 2012. The complainant said the article provided no substantiation for the claim that “Israel also stepped up its attacks on journalists in Gaza for the third day in a row”.
The Council decided that while some strikes may have been principally targeted at communications infrastructure, there were reasonable grounds for concluding that journalists had been the target of at least some of the attacks. Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1568: Margaret Moir/The Advertiser (September 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a report on 18 January 2013 that was based on an estimate of the cost of welfare fraud in South Australia. The headline stated “Welfare fraud costs us $78m”, a claim repeated in the first sentence of the article. Single-parent women were said to be the “most likely to cheat”.
The Council has decided the article was seriously inaccurate. The cost of welfare fraud was vastly overstated, with the real cost to the state being about $2.5 million. While recognising the publication’s efforts to address the error, the Council found the “Clarification” published on the following day did not sufficiently explain the issue for readers. It should have been headed “Correction”, with both a reference to the subject matter and published in a more prominent position.
Adjudication 1563: Daniel van der Molen/The Examiner (July 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article describing the rapidly deteriorating medical condition of the complainant's daughter, Lucy. The description was based on a statement to the newspaper by Lucy's step great-grandfather, who had not previously been a source for publication of such sensitive information about her.
The Council considered that in such circumstances the newspaper should have sought confirmation from her parents or some other close relative who was clearly able to speak on their behalf and authorise publication. It noted, however, the reasons which led the newspaper to rely on the step-grandfather and the assistance it had provided earlier to the family’s fund-raising for Lucy's treatment.
Adjudication 1567: Donald Cook/The Daily Telegraph (July 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a news report of 21 August 2012 concerning the death of a man while installing house insulation. The report referred to the Federal government’s home insulation program as “bungled”, “botched” and “much maligned”. The Council requires publications to take reasonable steps to ensure that news reports are accurate, fair and balanced. It does not necessarily require, however, that each report on a particular topic must provide in itself a fair and balanced overview of that topic.
The Council decided the publication had complied sufficiently with the requirement relating to accuracy, especially as serious failings in implementation of the scheme had been acknowledged by the government. It also decided that, in the circumstances of this particular article, the requirement concerning fairness and balance had not been breached. Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1564: Andrew Nikolic/The Sydney Morning Herald (July 2013)
The Press Council upheld a complaint about a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of threats said to have been made on Facebook by Andrew Nikolic, in response to comments about him from other Facebook users. Those comments were responses to a satirical article about him on the Facebook page of a local online-only publication, edited by a person using a pseudonym.
The Council concluded the importance of the distinction between making a threat and intending to carry it out had not been adequately recognised in the report. It also concluded that the potential significance of the actual identity of editor of the satirical publication had not been adequately recognised and investigated, especially as the report included a strongly-worded quotation from him. Accordingly, the Council upheld the complaint on the grounds that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and fairness.
Adjudication 1565: Jan Winstanley/The Daily Telegraph (May 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a front-page photograph of Peter Slipper MP, digitally altered to depict him with the distinctive features of a rat and accompanied by the headline “KING RAT DESERTS THE SHIP”. The material was published on the day after Mr Slipper resigned as Speaker of the House of Representatives and the photograph was taken of him delivering his resignation address from the Speaker’s Chair. A small caption indicated the image had been digitally altered.
The Council concluded that the term “King Rat” in this specific political context was not so unfair and offensive as to outweigh the importance of allowing robust expressions of opinion as a matter of freedom of expression. It considered the highly pejorative nature of the digital alterations and their prominence on the front page created a substantive risk of excessive offence and unfairness. But it concluded, on balance, that these impacts were also outweighed by the public importance of freedom of expression.
Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld. The Council emphasised, however, that politicians should not be regarded as “fair game” for extreme levels of abuse and ridicule. Such behaviour can unreasonably inhibit their freedom of expression and thereby damage important processes of democracy and good governance. It warned also that digitally-altered photographs are not entirely analogous to cartoons and may be more at risk of breaching the Council’s principles.
Adjudication 1559: Terry Hastings/The Australian (May 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a colour cartoon in pre-war Soviet-style published on the front page in May 2012. The page was headed "Smash the rich, save the base" over reports and commentary pieces on the previous night’s Federal Budget.The Council recognised the cartoon’s association of the Prime Minister and Treasurer with the violence of the pre-war Soviet era may have caused deep offence to those who would see such comparisons as grossly inaccurate and unfair. On the other hand, many readers were likely to have interpreted the cartoon as being in the tradition of those cartoonists who use deliberate hyperbole to make a strong comment without necessarily intending to be taken literally.
The Council noted that it does not look favourably on unjustified and offensive imputations of violence, but it also believes robust freedom of expression on political issues is of fundamental importance in the public interest. Moreover, the government’s description of its budget was extensively reported in the newspaper and a reader’s letter criticising the cartoon was published. On balance, the Council has decided in this particular instance the material did not constitute a clear breach of its principles. Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1562: Nick Green/The Australian (April 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a report in The Australian online headed "Europe won't be 'lectured' by Julia Gillard, EC chief Jose Manuel Barroso has said". The second sentence under the headline put the word “lectured” in double inverted commas.
The Council has concluded the words “has said” and the single inverted commas around the word ‘lectured’ in the headline, along with the double inverted commas around the word “lectured” in the article itself, inaccurately indicated Mr Barroso actually used the word “lectured”. The relevant transcript shows although he said the EU was “certainly not coming here to receive lessons from nobody”, he neither used the word “lectured” nor did he mention Ms Gillard or Australia. The Council has frequently emphasised the importance of accuracy in the use of quotations. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld.
Adjudication 1561: Nick Green/The Daily Telegraph (April 2013)
The Press Council has upheld a complaint about part of a report in the online version of The Daily Telegraph of comments by the head of the European Commission at the G20 Summit in 2012. The article was headed “PM Julia Gillard 'slapped down' at G20 summit by the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso” and the opening sentence said: "The PM has been publicly slapped down at the G20 summit by the President of the European Commission for lecturing Europe on how to solve its economic crisis.” The following sentence referred to “an embarrassing swipe at the PM.”
The Council considered part of Mr Barroso’s comments may have been a veiled reference to Ms Gillard amongst other leaders. But his words were too measured, and their target or targets were too vague, to be accurately reported as a public slap down of her. That description conveys a sense of public, vigorous and directed criticism which he did not make and which, if he had done so, would have been of much greater diplomatic significance.
Adjudication 1560: Complainants/Milton-Ulladulla Times (April 2013)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a report of the launch of an autism support group. The article named a child and described him as autistic. The child’s parents complained that the newspaper had not checked with them whether their child was autistic or sought their consent to name him.
The Council recognised the newspaper intended to support a community initiative and that it had relied on comments from a source who described herself as a "close friend" of the child's mother. But it considered the publication should have confirmed the child’s condition with the parents and obtained their consent to publish the information. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld.
Adjudication 1555: Donaldson and others/The Australian (December 2012)
The complainants provided strong evidence against the article’s allegations of adverse medical impacts from wind farms. However, the evidence did not reach the very high threshold which is necessary for the Council to conclude that allegations are clearly untenable and therefore a breach of its principles. Other complaints, concerning the article’s allegations about the amount of power generated by wind farms and the size of subsidies for them, were also not of a kind on which the Council could make a decision. These are, however, issues on which the Council’s principles mean that publications should provide a reasonable degree of balance over time.
In this instance, the Council considered the requirement was met because views contrary to those of Mr Delingpole were published shortly before and after this article appeared.
The Press Council has considered a number of complaints about an article by James Delingpole concerning wind farms. The Council upheld a complaint that the Federal Government subsidy scheme for wind farms could not accurately be called “a kind of government-endorsed Ponzi scheme”. Even the weaknesses alleged in the article do not amount to criminal fraudulence, which is an essential element of a Ponzi-type scheme. It also upheld a complaint that a law firm was wrongly alleged to have sought court orders to gag opponents of wind farms and that a quote from an unnamed source that “the wind farm business is bloody well near a paedophile ring” should not have been included.
Adjudication 1558: Ellett and others/Herald Sun (December 2012)
The Press Council has considered several complaints about an article by Andrew Bolt on climate change. Mr Bolt said “the planet hasn’t warmed for a decade – or even 15 years according to new temperature data from Britain’s Met Office”. His attention had been drawn to the data by an article a few days earlier in the UK’s Daily Mail which drew a similar conclusion that was criticised immediately by the Met Office as “entirely misleading”.
The Council said Mr Bolt was clearly entitled to express his own opinion about the data but he did so in a way which was likely to be interpreted as implying that the Met Office had the same view. He should have mentioned the Met Office comment, especially as it had been drawn to his attention by a reader, even if he then rebutted it. Accordingly, this aspect of the complaints is upheld. The complaints also focused on Mr Bolt’s descriptions of relatively short-term trends in sea and ice conditions which he argued did not suggest global warming.
The Council considered that he should also have mentioned that they were consistent with the continuance of long-term trends in the opposite direction. On balance, however, it does not uphold this aspect of the complaints because he acknowledged that there might be only a pause in global warming and had emphasised the importance of keeping an open mind on the issue.
The Council emphasises this adjudication neither endorses nor rejects any particular theories or predictions about global warming. On such major issues, the community is best served by frank disclosure and discussion rather than, for example, failure to acknowledge significant shorter or longer term trends in relevant data.
Adjudication 1556: Debra Creevy and others/Herald Sun (November 2012)
The Press Council has upheld a complaint concerning reports on 22 May 2012 about a speech by Craig Thomson MP to Federal Parliament. The material occupied most of the first seven pages of the newspaper.
The 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 material on the front page and page seven was highly unfair to Mr Thomson in 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.
Adjudication 1554: City of Casey/Sunday Herald Sun (October 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about coverage of the City of Casey Council by the Sunday Herald Sun over a substantial period.
The Press Council concluded the newspaper published a number of items of inaccurate and unfairly negative material about the city council during that period. Accordingly, it upheld that aspect of the complaint. It also concluded, however, that there was no evidence of a sufficiently clear and sustained imbalance in the reporting over the period to constitute a breach of Press Council principles. Accordingly, it did not uphold that aspect of the complaint.
Adjudication 1553: Andrew Wilkie/Launceston Examiner (October 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from Andrew Wilkie MP about two editorials in The Examiner concerning the impact of his agreement with the federal government in 2010 to provide $340 million for rebuilding the Royal Hobart Hospital.
The Council concluded that the newspaper misrepresented the impact of the agreement on the Tasmanian health budget. It also concluded that the newspaper failed to respond adequately to Mr Wilkie’s request for a correction. Accordingly, it upheld the complaint on both grounds.
Adjudication 1552: Save Albert Park/The Age (October 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about the way in which The Age reported attendance figures for the 2012 Formula One Grand Prix.
The Council concluded that the newspaper reported highly specific figures as if they were entirely reliable, without mentioning there were very strong grounds for disputing their accuracy. Accordingly, it regarded the reports as neither fair nor balanced, and upheld the complaint. The Council did not uphold a complaint that the newspaper had failed to disclose a conflict of interest.
Adjudication 1551: Tom Lalor/smh.com.au (October 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article on the publication's website that included the heading "Bolt link to racist review of books".
The Council concluded that the heading, and a picture caption on the same post, was likely to be interpreted by many readers as suggesting, falsely, that columnist Andrew Bolt was associated with or condoned racist views, an implication avoided in the print version of the same article, which carried a more neutral headline. Accordingly, it upheld the complaint.
Adjudication 1550: Gold Coast City Council/Gold Coast Bulletin (September 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a front-page article asserting that Gold Coast City Council loan costs would increase as a result of a change in its credit rating by the Queensland Treasury Corporation (QTC). When the City Council disputed the assertion, the newspaper made no additional effort to check its accuracy with the QTC.
The Council concluded that the central assertion was inaccurate and error was made worse by the front-page treatment of the matter. The Council also concluded that the redress given to the city council by the publication of its contrary view was inadequate. Accordingly, it upheld the complaint.
Adjudication 1549: Andrew Williams/The Courier-Mail (September 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about the publication's handling online of a story about the standing down of a police officer. The website posted for several hours an article linking the standing down to the Surfers Paradise Police Station though it had occurred in a different police region. When it was alerted to the error, it removed the story but did not publish any correction or inform readers of the inaccuracy.
The Council concluded that the newspaper did not take sufficient care in publishing the original article and, having made the error, should have corrected it with due prominence, not merely removed the article. Accordingly, it upheld both aspects of the complaint.
Adjudication 1548: Paul Fletcher/The Sydney Morning Herald (September 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a "Special Report" on the National Broadband network, published as a supplement to The Sydney Morning Herald on 23 April 2012. Mr Fletcher complained the reports in the supplement were insufficiently balanced and the provenance of the supplement not made clear enough for the reader.
The Council agreed such supplements were not sufficiently balanced unless they were clearly identified as being promotional or as not purporting to provide a balanced coverage. It decided that in this case the identification had been sufficient. The name "special report" had not been sufficient for that purpose though other aspects of the presentation had provided adequate identification. The Council said it would be preferable to use a clear title such as "promotional supplement" and give a prominent description of the purpose of the supplement and any sources of financial support for it.
Adjudication 1547: Nigel Jackson/The Weekend Australian Magazine (August 2012)
The Press Council has upheld a complaint about a reference to the late Eric Butler in a Philip Adams column in The Weekend Australian Magazine. Mr Adams described Mr Butler as a "traitor" to his country during World War II without mentioning he served in the armed forces for much of the war, including a hazardous overseas posting. The Council also upheld a complaint that a letter mentioning this service and rebutting other allegations had not been published by the magazine.
A complaint about Mr Butler's attitude towards Jewish people was not upheld.
Adjudication 1545: Adam Burling/Huon Valley News (July 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a particular photograph published amongst a series of other photographs of protestors at a local rally. The concern was the photograph showed a sign held by a protestor referring to a specific person and was highly offensive.
The Council concluded the photograph was not so offensive as to override the strong public interest in newspapers being able to report views expressed at public events. Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1544: Kay Johnston/echonetdaily (July 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a front-page article alleging a house controversially approved for development had subsequently been listed for sale.
The Council concluded that the allegation was inaccurate and echonetdaily had not taken reasonable steps to check its accuracy. It also concluded that after the error was pointed out to it, the publication failed to correct it promptly and with due prominence. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld and a censure was issued to echonetdaily.
Adjudication 1546: Alison Couston/Shepparton News (July 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article and an editorial concerning the Victorian Ombudsman's report into governance and implementation of water savings projects in northern Victoria.
The Council concluded that the article did not accurately represent aspects of the Ombudsman's findings. It also concluded that the editor-in-chief's membership of a relevant steering committee should have been disclosed with the editorial (not only with the article). Accordingly, the complaint was upheld on these grounds.
A general complaint about a lack of fairness and balance in the coverage was not upheld.
Adjudication 1542: John Newton/The Daily Telegraph (July 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about the alleged inaccuracy of assertions in a column by Piers Akerman relating to the influence of "environmental activists" within the International Panel on Climate Change, and the extent to which major countries have "walked away" from the Panel.
The scope for doubt about the meaning of the assertions and the relevant facts has led the Council to conclude that the complaints should not be upheld. At the same time, the Council has re-emphasised an earlier adjudication that opinion writers do not have an "unfettered licence" and, for example, must not make an assertion they could reasonably be expected to know is false. It has also emphasised that if extensive coverage is given to a particular view on a strongly controverted issue, reasonable opportunities must be given for publication of other views.
Adjudication No.1543 Ben Keneally/The Australian Financial Review (June 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a comment in the Rear Window column concerning former Premier Kristina Keneally and the US celebrity Kim Kardashian
Accordingly, the Council did not uphold either aspect of the complaint.The Council has concluded the comment was not so offensive as to outweigh the great importance in the public interest of allowing robust public discussion. It has also concluded that the columnist’s past political involvement was not of such a nature as needed to be disclosed in this instance.
Adjudication 1541: Glenelg Shire Council/The Portland Observer (June 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from the Glenelg Shire Council about the Portland Observer's coverage of the Council's lagoon infill project.
The Press Council has concluded that, while a number of articles during the period in question focused on protests against the development, this was largely justifiable as the protests were the principal activities being undertaken at that time. However, it has upheld a particular aspect of the complaint relating to a report of the Portland Yacht Club president’s comments on the development.
Adjudication 1538: Dr Pankaj Banga/The Area News (June 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from Dr Pankaj Banga that published material about a staffing crisis at the Griffith Base Hospital unfairly and inaccurately implied he had some role in it.
The Council has concluded that the material did not carry this implication. Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1540: Cr Colin Hampton/Herald Sun (June 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a report of comments by Cr Colin Hampton concerning difficulties faced by women wanting to stand for local government.
The Council has concluded that parts of the report misrepresented Cr Hampton’s comments. It also found that the newspaper should have corrected the misrepresentation.
Accordingly, it has upheld both aspects of the complaint.
Adjudication 1539: Ken Perry/The Advertiser (June 2012)
The Press Council has considered complaints about an article concerning the life of the late Emily Perry, published on the day after her funeral.
The Council concluded that, given the extraordinary nature of Emily Perry’s legal battles, it was not inappropriate to focus on them in an article immediately following her death, despite the distress which might be caused to relatives and friends. However, it concluded the article lacked adequate balance by omission of relevant material at a time when balance was especially important. Accordingly, the complaint has been upheld on that ground.
Adjudication 1534: Kerrie Byrne/The Melbourne Weekly (June 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that an article about the complainant's disagreement with a tenants' group over an alleged conflict of interest was unbalanced.
The Council concluded the newspaper failed to provide adequate explanation of the background of the disagreement and this had resulted in an unbalanced article. It also made an inaccurate assertion on a key issue. The complaint was upheld.
Adjudication 1537: Stephen Pate/The Daily Telegraph (June 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about a series of articles concerning Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and her plans for cycle lanes.
The Council concluded some headlines expressed the newspaper's opinion rather than reflected facts in the news stories and that some of the descriptions failed to separate fact from opinion. Those aspects of the complaint were upheld. The overall coverage was held to be not so unfair or unbalanced as to constitute a breach of the Council’s Standards.
Adjudication 1533: Peter Geelan-Small/The Sydney Morning Herald (June 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that an image and caption on a story about oil price rises, including the possible impact of the "Arab Spring", reinforced a stereotypical view of Arabs as violent.
The Council concluded the material did not convey a negative view of Arabs. The complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1536: Anna Krjatian/The Daily Telegraph (June 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about three headlines relating to the release of asylum seekers into the community: "Open the Floodgates", "Thousands of boat people to invade NSW" and "Detainee deluge for Sydney".
The Council concluded the headline "Thousands of boat people to invade NSW" was gravely inaccurate, unfair and offensive. The complaint against this and the other headlines was upheld.
Adjudication 1535: Alan Corbett/The Courier-Mail (June 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article that included a description of the composition of panels that adjudicate complaints made to the media union, the MEAA.
The Council concluded that the description was not entirely clear and accurate but the ambiguities were not sufficiently grave to uphold the complaint.
Adjudication 1532: Adrian Smyth/smh.com.au (June 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that a "Dear Sam" blog was inaccurate and unfair to men in its characterisation of their relationships with women.
The Council concluded the article did not convey such full and consistent support for that view as to constitute a breach of the Council’s principles. Balance was provided in the publication of a lengthy response. Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1531: Mark Latham/The Sunday Telegraph (May 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint by Mark Latham about articles in The Sunday Telegraph on 11 and 18 December 2011 describing his alleged altercation with the supervisor of a swimming lesson attended by his young children. The supervisor’s three-person team of teachers included the reporter’s mother.
The Council upheld Mr Latham’s complaint that this relationship should have been disclosed in the articles. It also upheld his complaint that the articles were an unjustified intrusion on his children’s privacy.
Adjudication 1530: Jim Culbertson/Herald Sun (April 2012)
The Press Council has considered complaints that an opinion piece referring to sexuality as a choice was inaccurate and offensive. The Council considered that, although the article was likely to cause widespread offence, the newspaper was entitled to publish it provided that, due to its likely impact, a competing view was published promptly. In some circumstances, immediate publication of a different view may be essential.
The Council concluded these requirements had been met to an acceptable degree in the print edition, but the online version had not provided links to the article expressing the competing view. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld in relation to the online version but not the print version.
Adjudication 1529: Chris Dardis/Herald Sun (April 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that the headline and first paragraph of an article were inaccurate, unfair and offensive by stating that a predicted influx of asylum seekers would “flood the suburbs”.
The Council concluded the words connoted an overwhelming and adverse impact on the community which was misleading and unfair. Accordingly, the Council upheld the complaint. A complaint that the accompanying photograph conveyed unfairly negative connotations was not upheld.
Adjudication 1528: Fast Access Finance/The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (April 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that a report of a decision by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal could prejudice a subsequent appeal, contained a number of inaccuracies and had been published without seeking comment from the complainant.
The Council concluded that reporting tribunal proceedings is normal practice and did not uphold this aspect of the complaint. The Council upheld one of the complaints of inaccuracy but dismissed the remainder of them. It concluded that in the particular circumstances the failure to seek comment was not a breach of its Standards of Practice.
Adjudication 1527: Fast Access Finance/The Courier Mail (April 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that a report of a decision by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal could prejudice a subsequent appeal and was also inaccurate and misleading. The Council concluded that reporting tribunal proceedings in these circumstances is normal practice and did not uphold this aspect of the complaint.
The Council upheld the complaint in relation to two inaccuracies, which the newspaper had conceded, but dismissed the other allegations of misleading content.
Adjudication 1526: Senator Bob Brown/The Examiner (April 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint about failure to publish Senator Brown’s response to a letter from a company criticised in an earlier advertisement authorised by him.
The Council concluded that his letter did not substantially address the points in the company’s letter, focussing instead on other concerns about the company. Accordingly, the newspaper did not breach the Council’s Standards of Practice concerning publication of a response, and the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1525: Adam Black/The Advertiser (April 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that a prominent headline using the term “illegal immigrant” was inaccurate, pejorative and unfair. The newspaper said it was not its policy to use the term in this context and attributed it to an error.
The Council concluded that the term was inaccurate and unfair in this context and accordingly upheld the complaint.
Adjudication 1524: J.A. Rovensky/The Advertiser (March 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that the newspaper’s coverage of the effects of wind farms, including possible damage to health, was unbalanced.
The Council shared some of Ms Rovensky’s concerns about the limited attention given to a Senate report highlighting the need for further research and State Government’s changes to planning appeal rights, but it concluded that, overall, the complaint about lack of balance should not be upheld.
Adjudication 1523: Michael Atkinson/The Advertiser (March 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint from a former Minister about an article describing him as having attempted to “censor” internet blog forums. He said this misrepresented his attempt to extend to the internet a law that during election periods letters to the editor must bear the author’s name. He also said the newspaper refused to publish his response to the article.
The Council upheld the complaint, concluding there were strong grounds for regarding the term “censor” as inaccurate or unfair in this context, and in any event, having used such a strong and disputable term, the newspaper should have published his letter.
Adjudication 1522: Linda Smith/The West Australian (March 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that the newspaper’s coverage of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was unbalanced. Ms Smith said it favoured people who argue medication is being over-prescribed and did not give enough attention to experts and people who, like her, have family experience of the benefits of the medication. The newspaper offered to consider publishing a letter from Ms Smith but she said they should approach experts.
The Council said there might have been some imbalances but there are many circumstances that justify a greater emphasis being given to particular perspectives in the coverage of an issue. In this instance, it concluded that any differences were within justifiable limits and accordingly the complaint was not upheld.
Adjudication 1521: Nicole Johnston/brisbanetimes.com.au (March 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint by a Brisbane City councillor about a report of a Council meeting she attended.
The Council concluded the website was inaccurate in stating that Cr Johnston accused the Chair of the meeting of being corrupt. In upholding that aspect of the complaint, it noted that great care must be taken before saying that a person has made a serious allegation of that kind. It said a separate assertion in the article that she refused to apologise to another councillor was not so clearly inaccurate or unfair that this aspect of the complaint should be upheld.
Adjudication 1520: Anthony Shaw/Moorabool News (March 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint by a school principal that an article about local schools being “ripped off” by “rorting” of the BER program was inaccurate and damaged his school’s reputation. Mr Shaw said the newspaper was aware his own views had changed since he made critical comments about the building work about 15 months earlier.
The Council upheld the complaint, concluding there was not sufficient ground for the article’s implication that Mr Shaw had supported allegations of rorting and that the newspaper should have sought an up-to-date comment from Mr Shaw. It also should have printed his letter to the editor or sought agreement on an edited version.
Adjudication 1519: Stephen Gageler/The Australian (March 2012)
The Press Council has considered a complaint by the Solicitor-General, Stephen Gageler, that a correction to an erroneous front-page report was not sufficiently prominent to remedy damage to his reputation. The correction was made the following day in a small box at the bottom corner of page 2, acknowledging that the High Court had not criticised Mr Gageler.
The Council welcomed the prompt correction but upheld the complaint that it was not sufficiently prominent to be likely to be seen by people who saw the original article.
The Press Council has considered a complaint by the wool industry's peak body, AWI, that an article about aspects of its governance was inaccurate and misleading.
The Council concluded that the description of recent rearrangements contained a number of errors which, although not seriously misleading, needed to be corrected. Only some of them had been corrected by the newspaper prior to the adjudication. The complaint was upheld on that ground and the Council called on the newspaper to correct the remaining errors. The Council concluded AWI had not established that the article’s account of a conflict of interest amongst directors, and the Board’s response thereto, was inaccurate or misleading. Accordingly, that aspect of the complaint was dismissed.
Adjudication 1517: Penny Campton/NT News (December 2011)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that a front-page pointer to a court report of an incident involving a single asylum seeker making a threat to kill Australians had erroneously referred to "asylum seekers" making the threats. The newspaper did not correct the error when it was pointed out, but offered the reader an opportunity to have a letter to the editor published.
The Council concluded it was a serious inaccuracy requiring immediate correction. A letter to the editor would have been insufficient. Accordingly, it called on the newspaper to take the remedial action which should have been taken at the time.
Adjudication 1516: Harshula/The Sydney Morning Herald (December 2011)
Council has considered a complaint about an article concerning the war between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers). The description of an incident in which Tamil leaders, allegedly under a white flag, were killed by government troops was said to be inaccurate.
The Council concluded that the description was misleading and lacking in balance because, although saying a UN report rejected the government's version of some events during the period, it did not point out the UN explicitly said it could not reach a conclusion about the white flag incident. The complainant also said the reporting of a named official was unfair by casting him as a likely war criminal, yet not specifying any law he may have broken. The Council dismissed this aspect of the complaint because the official had been quoted extensively in his defence in a front-page article in the same edition.
Adjudication 1515: Jamie Benaud/The Daily Telegraph (December 2011)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that three separate articles in June and July 2011 about aspects of the National Broadband Network (NBN) were inaccurate. The complaint was that the first article understated the number of NBN customers taking up offers, the second misstated the costs of not taking up current NBN offers, and the third made misleading comparisons of the costs of connections.
The Council upheld all three complaints on the basis they were inaccurate and, in two instances also misleading and unfair, and that the errors were not corrected promptly when brought to the newspaper's attention.
Adjudication 1514: Fluer Blum/HRmonthly (November 2011)The Press Council has considered a complaint that the words "Executive Education: Can women be ‘taught’ to lead?" on a magazine's front cover were offensive, largely in implying women are inherently incapable of leadership. The words related to a following article in the magazine about how much emphasis should be placed on leadership courses as a way of increasing the number of women in executive positions.The Council concluded the words could reasonably be interpreted as having the meaning complained of or as conveying the same unobjectionable message as the article itself. Accordingly, it did not uphold the complaint, though it emphasised the need for care to avoid using words which might cause great offence even without an intention to do so.
Adjudication 1513: Dale Mills and Vivienne Porszolt/The Australian (November 2011)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that print and online headlines on reports of a protest about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the Israeli government were inaccurate and presented opinion as fact. The print headline was "Anti-Jew protest condemned" and the online headline was "Prominent Australians fight anti-Semitism with hot chocolate". The complainant said the BDS protests were against Israeli government policies, not "anti-Jew" or "anti-Semitic".The Council upheld the complaint about the print headline because it presented opinion as fact and misrepresented the tenor of the article. The Council dismissed the complaint about the online headline because it could be reasonably read as describing the opinions of the prominent Australians, not as a statement of fact.
Adjudication 1508: Matt Durrant/The Maitland Mercury (October 2011)The Press Council has considered a complaint that an article named a deceased victim of a traffic accident before his identity had been confirmed.The Council upheld the complaint because it considered the newspaper did not have sufficient basis for absolute certainty as to the identity of the victim, and because it did not use qualifying words such as "believed to be" in naming the deceased man.
Adjudication 1512: John Barnes/The Ballarat Courier (September 2011) The Press Council has considered a complaint about a front-page headline and article on the incidence of youth crime.The Council upheld the complaint because the article seriously misstated the incidence and the newspaper then failed to correct the error when brought to its attention, or publish the letter to the editor which did so.
Adjudication 1511: Naomi Anderson/The Australian (September 2011)The Press Council has considered a complaint that an article comparing the Disability Support Pension and Newstart Allowance was inaccurate and unfairly misrepresented the views of the people mentioned in it.The Council upheld the complaint on these grounds.
Adjudication 1510: Andrew Robertson/The Daily Telegraph (September 2011) The Press Council has considered a complaint that an article, by implying that climate scientists deserved abuse and death threats, was unfair and offensive.The Council did not uphold the complaint because it considered the words in question reasonably open to other interpretations.
Adjudication 1509: Just Media Advocacy/heraldsun.com.au (September 2011)The Press Council has considered a complaint about an online headline, “Court theatrics sees Islam rear its ugly head again” on an opinion article relating to a confrontation outside a court.The Council upheld the complaint because the headline was inaccurate and unfair and did not reflect the tenor of the article.
Adjudication 1507: Profs Donovan and Wilkes/The West Australian (September 2011)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that the newspaper misrepresented a previous complaint to the Council and the reason why it was upheld.The Council considered the article incorrectly implied the earlier complaint and the Council’s reason for upholding it had related solely to the subject photograph, as they actually related to the cumulative effects of the photograph, its caption and some letters to the editor. Accordingly, the second complaint was upheld.
Adjudication 1506: The Australian Greens/The Daily Telegraph (September 2011) The Press Council has considered a complaint from the Greens about an article stating that their negotiations about the Federal Budget had reduced funding for flood relief.The Council upheld the complaint because there was no evidence to support the key assertion, which remains uncorrected.
Adjudication 1505: Steve Foy/smh.com.au (September 2011)
The Press Council has considered a complaint that an online comment was unfairly edited and an introductory line added, without consultation with the writer.The Council said it was unable to determine the newspaper had deleted or added words but it would be developing specific Standards of Practice on the editing of readers’ comments.
Adjudication 1504: Jarvis/The Courier-Mail (August 2011)The Press Council has considered a complaint that a report about a possible new NRL team in Brisbane did not disclose News Limited's majority ownership of the current Brisbane-based team.The Council said, in general, a newspaper’s close financial relationship should be disclosed in articles which may affect that interest. In this case, however, the complaint was dismissed because the relationship was well-known amongst the vast majority of likely readers and the article was clearly not favourable to the newspaper’s interests.
Adjudication 1503: Save Albert Park/Herald Sun & Sunday Herald Sun (August 2011)The Press Council has considered a complaint by a lobby group, Save Albert Park, concerning four articles about the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. It related principally to quotes from the Grand Prix Chair stating specific figures for the financial benefits of the Grand Prix and for attendance at it.The Council upheld the complaint because although the papers had previously reported material contesting the claims, they should have stated the claims were disputed.