Letter to the Editor:

The Herald Sun seriously misled its readers in the lead up to the 2004 Federal election.

The Australian Press Council found a 31 August 2004 Herald Sun article headed ‘Greens back illegal drugs’ to be ‘irresponsible journalism’ which ‘seriously misled’ readers and damaged the Greens. The Herald Sun’s appeal against that decision, the Press Council’s most severe ruling that I am aware of, was rejected.

The Herald Sun stated, “We reject that finding” (that the article was irresponsible journalism and seriously inaccurate), in its publication following the loss of its appeal, entreating readers with “You be the judge”.

While the Press Council found “the actual electoral impact cannot be known”, as the Victorian Greens’ 2004 Senate Candidate, my belief from first hand experience is that the Herald Sun’s attack had a major impact.

That should be no surprise. In my experience, most of us are more likely to believe a newspaper they want to trust, than politicians they try not to. Especially if the correction is months after the election is over.

A further irony is that some of the information wrongly passed off as Greens’ policy looks very much like claims made in a Liberal Party document, also misstating Greens policy.

The 2004 election gave the Coalition control of our Parliament, and despite the Greens vote climbing to more than four times that of Family First, preference deals by the Liberals, ALP and Democrats gave Family First a ‘full back pocket’ position in a Coalition flooded Senate.

Like footy, politics is a rough game. Players take knocks and things get through to the keeper behind the scenes. But ultimately, like footy, it should played for the good of the people it serves.

The Herald Sun failed to fairly represent the Greens. It should accept the result of the umpire, as I have had to.

Among the privatisation of Telstra, changes to the tradition of a living wage with which to feed, clothe and house your family, and everyone’s right to affordable healthcare through Medicare, one of the radical changes likely after the Coalition takes control of the Parliament is to media ownership rules aimed at protecting your choice of media to read, listen to or see in your hometown.

Whoever gets the broadcast rights for our democracy in the future, lets hope the competition is as vigorous, free and fair as it can and should be.

David Risstrom
Victorian Greens Senate Candidate