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Aug 31, 2011

Andrew Bolt sulks then fires back

News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt has returned from self-imposed exile to launch a frenzied defence of free speech by using his regular column and radio slot to attack the prime minister.


News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt has returned from self-imposed exile to launch a frenzied defence of free speech — using his regular Herald Sun column and his radio slot on low-rating Melbourne station MTR to attack the prime minister for complaining about a false and defamatory column filed by disgraced Australian scribbler Glenn Milne.

In his regular Wednesday spray under the anodyne headline “Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s hand overplayed”, Bolt — who went on strike yesterday to protest the deletion of two of his blog posts by News Limited management — was in crusading form, lambasting the PM for calling News CEO John Hartigan about his company’s coordinated Bruce Wilson hatchet.

“What are you so afraid of? What else would you stoop to in order to cling to power? I was considering resigning as a News Limited columnist,” an incredulous Bolt stormed.

“I thought this company that I love, that I have long admired for its defence of free speech, had caved in to pressure from a Prime Minister to close down reporting of a matter of public interest.”

After Milne’s column wading back into tired 16-year-old claims over Gillard’s former partner was yanked from The Oz’s website and a grovelling apology issued on Monday morning, the incorrect line over the PM’s living arrangements that drew her ire remained on Bolt’s blog.

The post and a previous entry warning the scandal could topple the government was deleted later that afternoon, prompting Bolt to chuck a midnight hissy fit declaring “no politics until further notice”. The next morning he went on 2GB with Ben Fordham and got all sarcastic in the style of a wounded schoolboy.

After long discussions with News management yesterday, the “associate editor” finally felt up to again hitting the keyboard. But the issues he raises over the Wilson saga still don’t stack up.

According the Bolt, “the matter was Gillard’s former relationship, professional and romantic, with union official Bruce Wilson who, unknown to her, was ripping off employers and members of the Australian Workers Union, of which he was state secretary” [emphasis added]. “But”, Bolt wrote, “questions are raised about Gillard’s judgment in having had this relationship.”

The logic seems to be that the ex-Slater and Gordon partner was supposed to avoid her boyfriend because of issues she had  no knowledge about.

He was at it again this morning on 2GB’s Melbourne sister station MTR. In a discussion with co-host Steve Price, Bolt said that if you couldn’t tell “the full truth about the political situation I think you’re defrauding, you’re conning listeners, viewers, readers … and I couldn’t be part of that”. He went on, suggesting that Milne’s column was mostly right:

“But what I find really bad about this is, one, the number of really amped up phone calls from the prime minister to demand the retraction entirely of a story that was 95% correct … the normal procedure would be to apologise for or remove only those bits that were incorrect, not the whole lot.”

What gives him comfort, Price asked? “The fact they ran my column today.”

In the Hez, Bolt also launched a faux-sledge at his own employer, perhaps to restore his credibility in the eyes of his readers, some of whom thought he’d developed weak knees.

“I thank News Limited for defying the Prime Minister and letting me write as I have above. I apologise for doubting its commitment to free speech. But be aware how endangered is our freedom to speak as we find, especially of this Prime Minister.”

But Bolt was hardly alone at News. This morning, his associates also hit back in loss-making national broadsheet The Australian, with CEO John Hartigan claiming he was “disappointed” at Gillard’s statement yesterday that the paper had breached “all known standards of journalism”.

On MTR Bolt reckoned The Australian‘s correction was overdone and the company regretted it.

“I’ve said that I thought News Limited overreacted and I see comments today from John Hartigan and the editor of The Australian to suggest they believe that too in that there seems to be a repudiation or at least a clarification in some of the things that were said in an apology to the prime minister printed by The Australian in place of where the column written by Glenn Milne used to be.

“They pulled the column and put an apology and said things they now perhaps regret.”

The backstory to the fracas was very important, Bolt mused:

“People have got to understand why News Limited overreacted and it is forgivable to some extent, and that is the government has been for a long time … claiming that News Limited is on a campaign to get rid of Julia Gillard … this is the whole back story. And they have been looking for ways to intimidate and shut down News Limited. They know the ABC is in their pocket, they know that Fairfax is generally very supportive, but some News Limited papers are not. They wanted to shut that down.”

He then suggested, with nothing much to go on, that Gillard had issued an “implied threat” to News that the government would proceed with an inquiry into media ownership mooted by the Greens.

If the scandal has any further to run, it might come via an extension of Stephen Conroy’s freezing out of News when it comes to briefing journalists. But there’s also a commercial angle. Laura Tingle’s Australian Financial Review piece this morning suggested ministers were considering withdrawing government advertising from The Oz, with potentially devastating consequences for its already severely eroded bottom line.

As Crikey revealed last year, around $8-10 million of taxpayer cash ends up each year in the paper’s coffers from Australian Government job ads, concentrated for the most part in its 300,000-selling weekend edition. Before he resigned, finance minister Lindsay Tanner often aired the strong view that the massive spend should be heavily pared back.


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34 thoughts on “Andrew Bolt sulks then fires back

  1. Tomboy

    Message to Alan…Bolt, Jones et. al: People in glass houses should never throw stones. Labor in Opposition can be very nasty.

  2. Son of foro

    Eventually the world comes to agree with Andrew Bolt and we all agree that he was right all along. Sometimes it takes as long as 24 hours for us to realise the foolishness of our ways and come to our senses, but we always get it right in the end. I admire his 100% track record of always being right, it’s actually better than God’s when you come to think of it.

  3. leonard stall

    “What are you so afraid of?”

    i’m going to now print off fd’s truthinator sketch and stick it on my tv screen. who needs news when you have news ltd.?
    the most hilarious thing is they all take themselves so damn seriously. truly they can’t se what a farce they all are.

  4. SusieQ

    Actually, the idea of withdrawing advertising from the OZ reminds me of the Kennett govt here in Victoria in the 90’s – I’m pretty sure they withdrew state govt advertising from the Age because they didn’t fall at Jeff’s feet in adoration.

  5. Mark from Melbourne

    Polt is acting more and more like a primadonna every day. Must be that he is a TV star. Or maybe he has just been studying Jones’ outrage that people dont just roll over and do what he says.

    I was going to say “faux” outrage but I actually think Jones believes every little bit of puffery he comes up with.

    Are these people for real? Or do they just exist in some half twilight world where they believe they are the gods they would have us believe.

  6. John Bennetts

    Presumably, Bolt has ready access to expert advice re defamation law. His target, being ex-Slater & Gordon, most certainly knows the ropes.

    This might turn very nasty, especially if the target finds herself with plenty of time on her hands on the Opposition benches in a year or two, with nothing more to lose.

    One thing’s for sure – Andrew Bolt is being very brave.

  7. sharman

    How much of a sook is Andrew Bolt? People who threaten to resign never do it. Who else would give him a job anyway? All he ever does is moan about the Labour party, he has never broken a real story.

  8. heavylambs

    Bolt’s numbers are obviously flagging.

  9. Big Jimmy

    Now, I’m sure that most people accept that Andrew Bolt is not a human flesh-eating bog-monster from the planet Znorg , and I’m certainly not suggesting he is, but I feel that , in the interest of free speech, it is important to debate this possibility. If Mr Bolt has nothing to hide, then surely he has nothing to fear?

  10. Bill Hilliger

    To the usual megaphone set, Jones, Milne, Bolt, Lawsie, etc. Unbridled support of free speech is the way to go here. How dare politicians and other people affected by the facts you all report question the veracity of the information peddled you all as news or comment which of course is meant to be taken as fact. Indeed, there are many out there who believe what is written or spoken about someone especially if it has a whiff of scandal about it, must be fact. I mean, everything that is being exposed about the News of the World phone hacking scandal is fact; there are pending criminal charges, I surprised there is only scant factual news about Rupert and James ever published in that News Limited rag The Australian. What is required to complement vitriol that passes as the right of freedom of speech or comment we all hold so dear is strengthening of the defamation and libel laws in favour of the people that are so often affected by that freedom of speech. Strengthening these laws would enable you all to be easily chased down for libel and defamation damages.

  11. John Robinson

    So,a government commanding day-to-day activities based on un-related reaction to an opinion or perceived slant is good? Sounds the same nonsense one would read from a Jones or a Bolt. Any remnants of credible media should be seeking propriety from the government, not this crap.

  12. Iain Hall

    Careful what you wish for because when there is a change of government Eric Beecher might start getting similar attentions form a Coalition PM when Crikey publishes “crap”….

  13. Gail

    I keep reading “sulks” as sucks”. Must be some sort of Freudian optical delusion.

  14. michaelwholohan1

    Can you possibly imagine what this all looks /sounds like in the civilized world.
    when Gandhi was asked ‘what he thought of Western Civilization’ he replied ” I think it is a good idea”……………….qed.

  15. SharkTrager

    Bolt is suggesting that News Ltd would prefer to pull stories rather than face an enquiry. Why would that be?

  16. jenauthor

    Free speech goes both ways — the right to “Not Advertise” can be spun that way.

    I am pushing for everyone I know to cease buying anything from News Ltd advertisers. Hit them where it hurts.

    Bolt is screwed and he knows it.

  17. T.D.G.

    They should cut the spending on advertising in The Australian, award the Australia Network contract to the ABC, and then give the money saved from advertising to the ABC to fund an expanded Australia Network in addition to the planned $20 million per annum. That’d really piss them off.

  18. Jef Fozz

    Why the he’ll is the government advertising employment positions in the dead tree press anyway? Why would you even want employees who can only find jobs offline in this day and age?

  19. Filth Dimension

    Precisely Fozz. Why is the government spending any smidgeon of our tax dollars on a paper that is run at loss for the joy and ego of some multimillionaire that reneged on his Aussie citizenship. pffft! Who finds a job trawling through the woods these days anyhow?

  20. Lord Barry Bonkton

    Andrew , i told you to go to your bedroom and think about what you said and don’t come out till i tell you to .

  21. GocomSys

    Sorry, anybody tell me who is “Michael” Bolt again? On second thought, I really don’t give a damn!

  22. Just Me

    Exactly. All they need is a single website listing all federal govt job vacancies, and just point everybody there. Will not take long for word to get around.

    Few million in savings on commercial advertising there, I would think. Surely something economic rationalist right at The Oz would support.

  23. Bellistner

    They should pull advertising from all limited news publications. Lets face facts, News isn’t going to slack off their campaign even if the Govt doubled advertising, so withdrawing it altogether isn’t going to make a lick of difference either. And the rest of the ALP should follow Conroys lead and release answers to News LTD questions to everyone, so we can see the full context of what gets misreported the next day. Transparent government and all.

    Hell, maybe Andy should resign. He can probably cut a deal with Noos to take his IP and user database with him, and have Gina set him up a blog elsewhere on the web. She’s probably got more money behind her for lawyers than Noos LTD anyway, and Andy would be out from under the stifling thumb of Noos censorship of his free speech to make up and publish whatever he wants.

  24. Johnfromplanetearth

    Careful lefty’s your slip is showing, talk about desperate. Lefty do gooders are the definition of the word sulk.

  25. Mord

    ““What are you so afraid of? What else would you stoop to in order to cling to power? I was considering resigning as a News Limited columnist,” an incredulous Bolt stormed.”

    Oh, if only!

    Amazing how he manages to backflip his stance within the same damn sentence. If he’s that confident about what Glenn Milne wrote then why would he threaten with his resignation if it’s, as he puts it, the truth? I think the limelight is starting to seep into his brain.

  26. Fran Barlow

    Bellistner said:

    [They should pull advertising from all limited news publications. Lets face facts, News isn’t going to slack off their campaign even if the Govt doubled advertising, so withdrawing it altogether isn’t going to make a lick of difference either. And the rest of the ALP should follow Conroys lead and release answers to News LTD questions to everyone, so we can see the full context of what gets misreported the next day. Transparent government and all.]

    Exactly so. Frankly, I can’t see why the government these days spends even a single dollar advertising in dead tree technology or its online counterparts, but certainly, no news outlet that dominated the market in the way News does would be getting a dollar of public money were I in charge — even if they were sympathetic to the concept of professional news reportage.

    In addition, were I running a presser, I’d simply ignore all questions put by the emissaries of the Murdochracy, and if the only questions left were from these creastures, I’d say “no more questions? … there being none from professional news gathering organisations, thank you all” and leave.

    Nor would phone calls or other contacts from News be returned or remarked upon, except to highlight their inadequacies. I’d describe them as recklessly ignorant hypocrites who ought to be destroyed in the court of public opinion, paraphrasing their description of their attitude to The Greens. It is their right I’d note, to campaign for regime change. This is a free country. It’s the right and duty of the government to point out however, that they are lying about public policy and defaming the people the public asked to implement it. The public is entitled to as why they allow their commerical news outlets to run at a loss, if not to pursue some other more important agenda. In the end, people can adjudge for themselves, who is truthful and who is constantly lying. .

  27. Dogs breakfast

    @ Fozz and Filth

    “Why the he’ll is the government advertising employment positions in the dead tree press anyway? Why would you even want employees who can only find jobs offline in this day and age?”

    It’s much worse than that fellas. To employ someone who is not an Australian citizen (usually business 457 ) requires a statement and verification that you have ‘tested the market’ across Australia and not been able to find a suitable candidate.

    As the Australian is the only national paper it is the easiest way to make that statement, so it isn’t only government advertising. The immigration process also strongly supports advertising in the Australian from the corporate sector.

    Personally, I can’t remember us attracting a quality candidate from an advert in the Australian, and this goes back over 15 years to the time before broad acceptance of online advertising.

    It was always just a sop to get around the immigration requirements. I doubt that anybody regularly gets good candidates (or even candidates) from advertising in the OZ.

    @ Johnfromplanetearth. Mate you might want to change your alias before you get done for false advertising.

  28. Bob the builder

    You have a strange dictionary! Mine defines sulk as “be silent, morose, and bad-tempered out of annoyance or disappointment”
    But given your inability with apostrophe’s (yes, pedants, that was deliberate), maybe you’ve got a bad grasp of English right through.

  29. FunkyJ

    Hey John,

    I don’t believe in a conspiracy to unseat the Government by News Limited (Honestly, they’re doing a good enough job of doing that themselves).

    However, if your boy Bolt had a truthful, unbiased, public interest story, why wasn’t it printed? And if they wouldn’t print it, why didn’t he take the story to a place like Crikey or some other website, if he was so committed to the truth of the story?

    The courts would be on publisher’s side if it were to be challenged by the Government and found to be true.

    This is simply Bolt having a big cry about his employers stopping a potential lawsuit, which is completely in their interest to do so.

    Either Bolt has no balls to stand up for what he believes in, or he has no story which can be published.

  30. Captain Planet

    I find it fascinating when the phrase “do gooder” is used as a pejorative.

    It is very revealing of the mentality of the individual employing the term as an intended insult.

    In order to utter “do gooder” as a sneering put down, one must first start from one of a few similarly pessimistic and misanthropic preconceptions:

    a) no good can be done and anyone who tries is therefore wasting their time and effort.
    b) no good should be done because the intended recipient does not deserve it.

  31. Fran Barlow

    Captain Planet:

    Good is bad! You know it makes sense …

  32. guytaur

    A lot of those that hurl the “do-gooder” insult profess to be Christians. Followers of that great historic figure (myth or not) of Jesus Christ. Thus making those hurler of label big big hypocrites.

  33. Guffaw

    The biggest revelation to come out of this whole brou-haha, is Mr Bolt’s assertion columnists have no duty to contact their target to verify the accuracy of their allegations.
    Sad to say, Margaret Symonds on this blog supports Mr Bolt’s contention.
    Personally, I think there is a big difference between contacting the columnist’s target for comment, and contacting them for verification of accuracy.
    Some might think that a futile exercise, but what does the Journalist’s Code of Ethics say?

  34. Daryl...

    Bolt is utterly consistent. Always. He is the only reason why I listen to MTR, he is my choice for Sunday morning and his blog makes a regular appearance in my reader also.

    If more media types were a little more probing, and a little less biased, then there would be more worthwhile media out there and maybe we wouldn’t be in the terrible position we are facing as a nation.

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