Business commentator Bob Gottliebsen retired from The Australian last week in a blaze of glory – but this week he’s back in print in a big way. The reason is this ad placed in yesterday’s Australian and Financial Review by Tenix (below), which strongly criticises a Gottliebsen column of last week.

It’s most unusual for a company to criticise a journalist through an ad – but even more unusual was the decision by the Fin Review to refuse Gottliebsen the right of reply to the ad they published in their own paper. The Australian (not surprisingly) published a response by Gottliebsen on its letters page today (find it by following the links to letters here).

Crikey understands the Fin’s
decision not to publish Gottliebsen’s letter was made personally by
editor Glenn Burge – not a Gottliebsen fan. But Crikey has no such
internecine problems, so here’s the Gotty letter the AFR refused to publish:

Yesterday both The Australian Financial Review and The Australian carried advertisements from Tenix criticising my comments in The Australian
last week. In essence I revealed that Tenix had “double dipped” –
having written down its Williamstown facility in the frigate contract
it amortised it again in the warship contract. I believe large amounts
were involved and it was a key factor in them losing the contract.

Prior
to writing the article I phoned the Tenix press relations officer
asking to speak to CEO Paul Salteri about the matter. I detailed what I
was planning to write including the amounts of money involved. About
two hours later the Tenix spokesman phoned back and confirmed a write
down. They did not dispute my figures but tried to justify the
company’s “double dip” action. In yesterday’s advertisement the company
has revised its story and now claims that the amount involved in the
“double dip” was only $25 million. I am stunned they did not mention
this figure in the earlier conversation. In time the truth will emerge
but to win big contracts you have to know what you are about.

Robert Gottliebsen

CRIKEY: The Financial Review has put petty prejudices ahead of an important and fundamental principle: the right of reply. The AFR was prepared to publish the Tenix allegations (in an ad, but the AFR
is still the publisher of that ad), yet refused to publish the response
to those allegations by the subject of the criticism. Scoreline:
pettiness 1, reputation 0.

Peter Fray

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