The holding company of a purportedly “independent newspaper” set up by National Party staffers to secretly attack Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott under the cover of journalistic impartiality has collapsed.
An administration notice for the notorious Port Paper‘s parent company, Australian News & Media, was published in The Australian‘s company notices section this morning, however its significance appears to have eluded the national broadsheet’s news editors.
The Port Paper‘s homepage is now blank, with the paper’s individual stories attacking Oakeshott stating instead that the site “is currently undergoing redevelopment”.
One notorious yarn penned by the paper’s editor Sharon Davidson — a very recent staffer of the Nationals’ Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker — that claimed Oakeshott was unpopular based on flawed polling has vanished. As Crikey explained last month, the polling was picked up by The Daily Telegraph and run as a straight news item under the headline ‘Poll shocker for MP Rob Oakeshott as support plunges’.
Davidson was recently in the news after it was revealed she was hired to work as a spin doctor for disgraced north coast state MP Steve Cansdell shortly before the state election.
Oakeshott has filed two complaints to the Australian Press Council over the paper’s coverage and has also made a submission to the feared NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. A separate investigation is being conducted by the NSW Electoral Commission.
Crikey understands that after The Australian ran a story last month reporting that Oakeshott has referred the paper to the authorities, most of its advertisers headed for the hills.
Administrator Domenic Calabretta from Hall Chadwick confirmed late this morning that had the paper had folded and wouldn’t be resurrected. He said he was attempting to flog off the masthead but that “it doesn’t seem that there’s much interest in the paper.”
Calabretta, who blamed soft retail demand for the closure, said he was also trying to offload a monthly lifestyle magazine also owned by Australian News & Media. The company’s sole director is former police officer Paul Loughland, a close family friend of founding Port Paper editor and initial sole shareholder Rob Nardella — a former Port Macquarie councillor who now works for NSW Nationals deputy premier Andrew Stoner.
(According to ASIC records, in March Nardella’s shares tranferred to Loughland, his brother Anthony Nardella and Craig Dixon. Only Mr Dixon’s shares are beneficially held).
A meeting of creditors will be held next Friday at Hall Chadwick’s Sydney offices.
As Crikey reported in August, The Port Paper was established by former Mark Vaile staffer Nardella in March. Nardella, a member of Mr Stoner’s campaign team in the lead-up to the March state election, registered the domain name portpaper.com on February 9, 2011 and actively sought advertisements for his publication.
Records show that AN&M was originally registered on December 14 last year by the National Party’s Lyne Electorate Council chairman, Noel Atkins.
Mark Vaile was Oakeshott’s predecessor in Lyne before his resignation in July 2008. Following Oakeshott’s victory at the resulting byelection, a cabal of National Party figures have battled to reclaim control of the electorate that they argue is rightfully theirs.