It’s the question that has been asked over the weekend, or at least asked far more often than the question The Daily Telegraph posed on Saturday. David Penberthy, the Editor of the rag responsible for publishing the most outrageous piece of trash printed in an Australian newspaper for the last decade, now seems to be flailing around like some silly child caught throwing rocks at houses – desperately reaching for any excuse, however implausible, however pathetic, that could remotely justify the disgraceful behaviour of the Telegraph on Saturday.

After getting deservedly slapped around all weekend for one of the larger acts of stupidity undertaken by a major daily in recent history, one would think the Tele would have cut its losses, basked in its sensationalism and enjoyed the few extra eyeballs the exercise generated for their advertisers – but the collective slapping by the deep end of the economic and political gene pool apparently stung a little more than was expected, bringing the Telegraph not only the eyeballs it was after, but a large hit on the credibility of the paper itself – and that definitely wasn’t in the plan.

This morning’s sordid attempt by Penberthy to vindicate the odious cocktail of personal attack and economic fantasy that was thrown at the Governor of the RBA Glenn Stevens would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. Putting on his “everymans” face – the writing style that’s supposed to relate to the “common man” as if it somehow exonerates the piffle that will inevitably follow, Penberthy argues:

Stevens’ public relations problems started on March 27.

Channelling the unlamented Malcolm Fraser, he decided to give mortgagees a bit of tough love, mounting what has served as a defence of the (many) banks which have opted to (significantly) overshoot the bank’s current official cash rate of 7.25 per cent.

“The presumption that their lending rates should only move with the official rate isn’t really realistic in this period, and we’ve indeed seen bank lending rates moving independently of the cash rate,” he said.

“I think that’s just life in this environment.”

Maybe it is. But it was about as helpful as saying – sh-t happens.

Good grief – “sh-t happens”? We certainly know where. When the Governor of the RBA answers to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, his role is to answer any questions posed honestly, in his capacity as the head of the most powerful economic institution in the country. It’s one of, if not the most important presentations the Governor makes. To demand, as Penberthy seemingly does, that the Governor should put his answers to this Committee through a public relations meat grinder shows either a profound ignorance of the underlying importance of the Governor’s appearances before this Committee, or the depths of desperation that Penberthy is willing plumb to try and recover some of the major losses in credibility that this outburst has inflicted on the paper.

Just when we thought that these miserable excuses couldn’t get anymore obnoxious, Penberthy then has the audacity to start arguing that there are serious policy consequences that legitimise the papers grubby attacks – he states:

More important is its effect in policy terms. That is, will it have the innocent effect of giving a context to the banks’ decision to raise rates above the official cash rate? Or will it have the much more alarming effect of giving the big banks a collective sense of legitimacy, where they can hide behind the skirts of the bank and hold up ANY additional rates increase as defensible in light of events overseas?

There is no doubt as to what the readers of The Daily Telegraph believe.

Well there’s probably not much doubt now after the Telegraph went out of its way to pile this rubbish four foot deep through the minds of their readership on Saturday. And what great evidence does Penberthy produce to back this spurious nonsense up? Well, he continues:

…Whether he likes it or not, Stevens’ comments have clearly given the banks that sense of legitimacy. Within three hours of his appearance at the House of Representatives committee last Friday, where he amplified his defence of over-the-odds increases, the Commonwealth Bank jacked up its rates again, by 0.12 per cent, adding another $25 a month to the average mortgage.

Penberthy would have us believe that the Commonwealth Bank jacked up their rates out of the blue and purely as a result of what Stevens said in the Committee.

Fair dinkum, what a load of dogs cobblers. The idea of the Commonwealth Bank being able to do anything within three hours is amusing in itself – initiating the not insubstantial process involved to raise their own rates in that time frame?

Pull the other one – it plays serious journalism.

The Telegraph goes in hard over “personal responsibility”, it’s a staple of their tabloid diet – parents should be responsible for their tearaway rugrats, criminals should be responsible for their crimes, politicians should be responsible for their policies.

David Penberthy needs to shoulder some responsibility of his own for the outrageous rubbish that the Telegraph engaged in – by taking a very long walk of a short plank and resigning.

Peter Fray

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