A conspiracy theory is bound to develop soon around the regularity with which The Australian distorts the reporting of its own Newspolls to put Kim Beazley in the worst possible light.

Whenever the news is bad for Labor a Shock-! Horror! page one story by political editor Dennis Shanahan is certain. When the pollster has Labor six points in the lead for the second time in a month as happened this week, the news is relegated to an inside page with some incidental poll finding given the headline treatment.

This morning The Oz excelled itself. After hiding the normal fortnightly Newspoll release on Tuesday it topped the front with the headline “Beazley leaves voters in marginal seats dissatisfied: poll”.

Underneath was the news that in marginal seats “voter dissatisfaction with Kim Beazley’s leadership is undermining Labor’s election-winning lead.” Some undermining! In the accompanying tables was the news that Labor is leading the Coalition by four percentage points – 52 to 48 on a two party preferred basis.

The initial response of a reader to this treatment of the polls would be that Shanahan and his paper are running some kind of campaign against Beazley.

True conspiracy theorists will not fall for that. They will understand that the underdog is the preferred position for a politician and that those devilish Murdoch lackeys are doing their best to save Kimbo from the damage that would come from being seen as a winner.

Peter Fray

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