Lesson #837 in how the media won’t cover anything that doesn’t fit the current narrative.
On Monday, Reserve Bank board member Roger Corbett was interviewed by Janine Perrett on her new Perrett Report on the Sky Business Channel (the transcript is available here).
Just over a month ago, Corbett attacked the government’s health reform plans, describing them as “bizarre” and a “formula for disaster”. Corbett’s comments received extensive media coverage, including from The Australian and the ABC.
On Monday, Perrett asked Corbett about his view of the Resource Super Profits Tax. “Is there a danger we could kill the golden goose with the new resources super profit tax?” she asked.
CORBETT: Well, clearly it may need some restructuring. But it’s not a Western Australia and Queensland asset alone, it’s an Australian asset, and it should be taxed as an Australian asset. There should be sensible redistribution, although the economic model does redistribute part of it, but we should be taxing it appropriately, and you could argue what appropriately meant. We should be stowing some of it away in terms of a future fund or some other fund for the future, because the gas will run out one day, the iron ore and the coal will run out, and we should be taking a portion of this and building a national asset. We should also be redistributing it in all fairness to the benefit of all Australia, because these are, as I said, Australian assets.
PERRETT: Your argument sounds remarkably like the government’s stance. Are you saying that the tax is on the right track, but just needs some fine tuning?
CORBETT: Clearly all businesses should be taxed. All individuals should be taxed.
PERRETT: The mining industry says they pay a lot of tax.
CORBETT: They do indeed. So I use the word appropriate, what is an appropriate level of tax, and what is an appropriate mechanism to tax those industries I think is a question that is clearly being debated at the present time, and the government are obviously in discussion with the industry to work out clearly what that should be.
Corbett also said that he thought last week’s Budget was “particularly responsible” given it is an election year, and suggested that Tony Abbott might have erred in trying to make the election all about the RSPT. He also noted that Wayne Swan had called him after his attack on the government health reforms to say there would be no repercussions.
So how much coverage did Corbett’s comments receive this time around? Zero. Actually, that’s not correct. The Australian covered the interview: Strewth had an item today about how Perrett had wound up the interview by asking Corbett about his bus driving licence (acquired when he was a Woolies executive). And Andrew Main mentioned that Corbett had said he gets calls from his business peers about Fairfax’s news coverage.
As for the actual substance of the interview, not a skerrick — certainly not at the Financial Review, which has led an hysterical and deceitful attack on the RSPT proposal, nor at Business Spectator (which shares premises, a content deal and some investors with Crikey), where Robert Gottliebsen has campaigned for a capital strike by miners. Business Spectator is part-owned by prominent corporate advisors John Wylie and Mark Carnegie, whose outfit Lazard is presently advising BHP on its JV proposal with Rio (Stephen Mayne has previously commented on Business Spectator’s relationship with BHP). I asked Business Spectator’s managing editor James Kirby about the role of Carnegie and Wylie. He noted that their involvement is disclosed on the BS website (which also notes that Carnegie and Wylie have non-voting shares and do not sit on the board). “We operate entirely at arm’s length,” he said.
But it was left to coalition attack grub Glenn Milne to show just how low the campaign against the RSPT could go when he used Monday’s Australian to attack Wayne Swan’s wife, Kim, for an investment decision that it would be generous to describe as tangential to the RSPT proposal. Milne’s pretext was that reporting that Peter Dutton had bought shares in BHP after the RSPT announcement was “grubby”, a strange description given Parliament requires MPs to put such transactions on the public record and their coverage by the media is routine. It was also rich coming from Milne, who reported federal politics for years without revealing his wife worked for Liberal Party polling outfit Crosby Textor. Thankfully, that’s a job Milne has now relinquished, because he is no longer a political journalist, simply one of News Ltd’s stable of anti-Labor hate merchants, whom he once himself mocked as not understanding politics.
Funny how we were all talking a couple of weeks ago about how the government had shied away from real reform in the Henry Review. The hysterical reaction to the RSPT suggests otherwise.