We know they’re not exactly the most progressive types at The Weekend Australian, which makes the weekday issue look like The Socialist, but you’d have thought they’d be aware that many of us have access to this thing called the internet.

A marvellous invention, the internet allows you to read newspapers in other countries the day they’re produced. Providing access to foreign media used to be the monopoly of local broadcasters and newspapers, which often relied on them for copy on foreign affairs.

Which brings us to Peter Wilson’s report on the UK MPs expenses scandal in The Weekend Oz. Wilson provided a very good analysis of the debacle in the “Inquirer” section, which makes it all the more peculiar that his report on p.11 of the print edition (a heavily-amended version is available online) makes for an interesting comparison to a Times article by its political editor Philip Webster.

Webster: Although Mr Morley has repaid the money and said that his claims were “inadvertent”, legal experts said that he might have breached the 2006 Fraud Act and the 1968 Theft Act. Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, threatened a private prosecution if no police action was taken.

Wilson: Lawyers said Mr Morley might have breached the 2006 Fraud Act and the 1968 Theft Act, and Matthew Elliott of the Taxpayers’ Alliance lobby group threatened a private prosecution if no policy action was taken.

Fair enough. There aren’t too many ways of saying someone was going to launch a “private prosecution” under specific pieces of legislation. Buuuuut….

Wilson: The Speaker continued to lose authority, with the Liberal Democrats effectively withdrawing their support and MPs preparing to table a no-confidence motion.

Webster: Authority drained away from Michael Martin, the Speaker, after the Liberal Democrats effectively withdrew their support and MPs prepared to table a no-confidence motion.

It’s hardly strict cutting-and-pasting. Until…

Webster: Two Labour peers were recommended for suspension from the Lords — the first since Oliver Cromwell’s time in the 1640s — after accusations that they had shown themselves willing to change laws in return for cash;

Wilson: Two Labour peers were recommended for suspension from the Lords — the first since Oliver Cromwell’s time in the 1640s — after accusations that had offered to change laws in return for cash.

I don’t think there were too many Labour peers in the 1640s, but that’s neither here nor there.

Wilson: The Lords Privileges Committee found Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn “failed to act on their personal honour” by telling undercover reporters from The Sunday Times posing as lobbyists that they would seem amendments to government legislation in return for cash.

Webster: The Lords Privileges Committee found that Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn “failed to act on their personal honour” by offering to help undercover reporters posing as lobbyists to seek amendments to government legislation in return for cash.

and

Wilson: A YouGov poll for The Sun showed Labour at its lowest ever level — 22 per cent. The survey of voting intentions for the European elections on June 4 found the Tories also suffered, dropping 9 points in a month.

Webster: A YouGov poll for The Sun showed Labour at its lowest ever level — 22 per cent. The survey of voting intentions for the European elections also found that the Tories had suffered, dropping 9 points in a month.

To be fair to Wilson, this sort of quibbling was hardly in the class of the outright lie that The Weekend Oz offered on its front page. “PM plans to raid super for projects” the front-page headline screamed, suggesting Kevin Rudd poised, like a thief in the night, to break in and nick your retirement savings to pay for some boondoggle railway line.

The story, by Adele Ferguson, was a good one, but it didn’t bear too much relationship to the headline. In fact, none at all, to be strictly accurate.

For a start, Kevin Rudd didn’t feature in the story in any way, except as having worn a hardhat during the week. Instead, it was about Infrastructure Australia:

The Weekend Australian has learned the Government’s advisory group, Infrastructure Australia, has turned its post-budget focus to developing new investment pathways to funnel super funds into infrastructure.

As for “raiding” super, that wasn’t mentioned either, except once:

Infrastructure Australia Partnerships executive director Brendan Lyon said the level of investment required to meet Australia’s infrastructure needs was well beyond the capacity and scope of government.

“Australia has the fourth-largest pool of superannuation savings in the world, so we have to evolve to a model that harnesses this money to build infrastructure for the future,” he said. “This must not mean treating superannuation as a piggy bank to be raided for infrastructure purposes through mandated levels of investment — super funds must always be invested on commercial terms and for commercial purposes.”

So, the story had nothing to do with Kevin Rudd and the ruling out of “raiding superannuation” was one of the few definite ideas in an article primarily about options for policy analysis by a Government advisory body.

But apart from that, Rudd plans to raid super front page headline was bang on.

Do they think we’re complete idiots?

Peter Fray

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