Rob Oakeshott yesterday complained of being the target of a National Party publication masquerading as a local newspaper. After The Port Paper — “100% local owned and totally independent” — produced a story by Sharon Davidson on Oakeshott’s plummeting popularity, the independent MP issuing the following statement yesterday:
“The editor of The Port Paper is still on the Australian Parliamentary staff list as an employee of the National Party’s Luke Hartsuyker, Member for Cowper. Accordingly, along with referrals to the New South Wales Electoral Commission and the Press Council, anything written by this ‘paper’, which only began in March 2011, will not attract a response from my office.”
The Port Paper story was gleefully picked up by News Ltd as part of its ongoing campaign against Oakeshott, although inconveniently The Daily Telegraph got the outlet’s name wrong. The Australian reported today that Davidson had left the employment of Hartsuyker in April.
So what is The Port Paper? It’s a bi-weekly publication that has only existed since March, and was established by Rob Nardella, who was the initial editor and also obtained the domain name for the site on February 9 this year. Nardella is a former staffer for ex-Nats leader Mark Vaile, who used to hold Lyne. Nardella later became a local councillor in the area.
And where is Nardella now? He’s on the staff of NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner — as none other than The Tele informs us today. The Sydney Morning Herald first drew attention to The Port Paper‘s dubious provenance as an independent media outlet back during the NSW election campaign, when it ran an aggressive campaign against Oakeshott’s independent state successor Peter Besseling, earning the praise of far-right shock jock Ray Hadley in doing so.
And who conducted the opinion poll, which included the poor technique of asking voting intention after other issues-based questions had been asked instead of before? A direct marketing company called ReachTel.
Reachtel does do the occasional poll, and has worked with the Ten Network. But there was an interesting addition to its CV last year. One of the questions asked in the Oakeshott poll — before voting intention — was what he should do about pokies reform. Last year, ReachTel proudly announced it was an associate member of Clubs Qld, which has this year been campaigning aggressively against the Andrew Wilkie-led poker machine reform push. The Port Paper story fails to disclose that.
Still, “100% local owned and totally independent”. That’s The Port Paper.