The curious affair of The Australian, Jenny Macklin, Aurukun and the good ship MV Pikkuw drags on. It began when The Australian’s reporter, Padraic Murphy, questioned why the Aboriginal Affairs minister had stayed on board the “boutique” fishing charter vessel at $680 a night instead of bedding down on dry land behind the “razor wire” perimeter of the community’s $90 a night guest house.

What he didn’t mention, and what the various subsequent reports from the paper have also ignored, is that the Pikkuw was built by the community as a CDEP project and is now proudly operated as a not-for-profit source of revenue and pride for all at Aurukun.

Murphy’s quoted $680 a night is the daily fishing charter rack rate. Overnight accommodation on-board is available for $150 and includes breakfast and dinner. This is what the minister paid. Her guests at the Aurukun “boat barbecue” paid $20 a head for their meal. Locals say the guest house was full on the night in question.

The simple facts are that The Australian’s story was an erroneous beat up. The minister never paid anything like the money quoted, and arguably did very much the right thing by patronising a community-based commercial venture. And unlike any minister before her, she actually stayed the night at Aurukun rather than scuttling off to the Hyatt at Cairns. Could it be that the thing that miffs The Australian most is that a Fairfax writer also spent the night on board? 

Peter Fray

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