Today in the Punch David Penberthy continues with his flawed attack on the NSW Greens, which he began on Friday with a manufactured preference deal that never was. Not only is Penbo refusing to correct the story, he’s actually muddying the water further by reinterpreting his own words from Friday.

The Greens are taking The Punch to the Press Council over my column of last Friday accusing them of pushing Pauline Hanson ahead of the ALP by refusing a preference swap with Labor at last weekend’s NSW election.

No Penbo, that’s not what you said on Friday. Here it is once more, in case you’d forgotten:

To the enduring disgust of the Labor Party, the Greens chose to direct preferences to the One Nation founder

You didn’t accuse the Greens of “pushing Pauline Hanson ahead” Penbo, you stated as fact that “the Greens chose to direct preferences to the One Nation founder”. It appears that Penberthy has decided to invoke the Humpty Dumpty defence “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”, because there’s no other way to explain away the fact that he was completely wrong on Friday, and is refusing to admit it.


Hilariously, Penberthy now accuses the Greens of preferring:

…a pedantic discussion about their on-paper refusal to distribute preferences, rather than any debate over the actual impact of their refusing a preference deal with the ALP.

Apparently at The Punch, accuracy is now considered pedantic. If Penberthy wants to have a discussion about the impact of the major parties not engaging in preference deals to lock out smaller parties then let’s do so, but that discussion needs to include the ALP and the Liberal party, who each have a lot more voters they can advise on preference distribution than the Greens do. If the ALP were so concerned about Pauline Hanson they could have directed their voters to put the Greens second in the LC, even if the Greens didn’t reciprocate, but they chose not to.

As we mentioned in an update to an earlier post on this issue, the article by Mark Kenny has been edited to remove the false assertion that the Greens preferenced Hanson, which Penberthy explains was:

re-worded … after the party complained to avoid an ongoing stoush.

There’s no correction on Kenny’s piece, or any indication that it’s been changed post publication. We’re not talking about fixing up an errant apostrophe here, it’s a pretty big claim that’s been sent down the memory hole without acknowledgement on the original piece.

Perhaps even more worrying though is the caviller disregard that Penberthy appears to have for the Press Council.

If the Press Council rules against us we will happily publish its ruling on the site, as we have done in the past.

If, the Press Council rules against us? If? Is Penberthy seriously suggesting that the Press Council may find in his favour, despite the Greens complaint being about a claim that is demonstrably false? If Penberthy is unconcerned with being censured by the Press Council, doesn’t that seem to indicate that it’s not actually doing its job? If there are no serious consequences for refusing to correct false statements, then what incentive does our press have to strive for any kind of accuracy in their reporting?

In light of Penberthy’s refusal to back down it’s fascinating to speculate whether the original error has come about because the authors didn’t understand the differences between a Federal Senate election, where every party must submit a preference ticket to the AEC for preference distribution, and the NSW Legislative Council, where preferences are entirely at the whim of the voters, who can indicate multiple preferences above the line. What would be more embarrassing for two senior News Limited journalists, admitting that they’d made stuff up about the Greens, or that they didn’t understand the differences between electoral systems that they’re commenting on? Curiouser and curiouser.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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