Twenty-year Australian Financial Review veteran John Quiggin has been sacked from the business daily, apparently due to ideological differences with the paper’s bullish editor-in-chief Michael Stuchbury.
Quiggin, a hallowed University of Queensland economics professor, told Crikey this morning that Stutchbury “had a line to push” and he was “not surprised” by his axing.
“Michael has taken the paper in a certain direction on issues like productivity and the paper is now much more activist,” he said.
Opinion editor Joanne Gray told Crikey Quiggin was removed because “we’re refreshing our commentators in the opinion section”. “He’s one of the people writing for us for quite some time … it’s time to get some new voices into the paper,” she said.
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Quiggin was in the process of penning this week’s piece when Gray delivered the bad news via email this morning. Ironically, Quiggin was hired 20 years ago by Stutchbury is his previous role as the Fin‘s opinion editor. He has served as a permanent contributor for most of that time.
News Limited titles shouldn’t get any ideas — Quiggin has ruled out writing for a Murdoch publication, including The Courier-Mail in his home state. Other Fairfax papers already had their own economics correspondents and were too state-focused, he said.
Last year in his previous role as The Australian‘s economics editor, Stutchbury launched a intemperate spray at the globally-respected economist who he sledged as an “unedited blogger” of “Green Left Weekly polemics”. Quiggin originally wrote that Stutchbury had been instructed to write the piece from on high, but after pressure from Stutchbury he accepted that might not have been the case.
Quiggin’s final AFR column published two weeks ago focused on the fallacy of income-producing state asset sales, and accused privatisation advocates of failing to argue their case correctly. Many believe the AFR has hitched its wagon firmly to a neoliberal agenda, which Quiggin debunked in his recent Zombie Economics tome, an Australian version of which will be released in May.
Quiggin notionally rotated every second Thursday with Mark Latham on the inside op-ed page, but Gray said the former Labor leader remained a columnist and if “there were any plans with respect to Latham we would not share them”.
She confirmed to Crikey she had spoken to Stutchbury about the change but refused to reveal any detail of internal dialogue. She also remained mum on future hirings or layoffs: “I’m not going to reveal anything … I don’t have anything to add to that.”
Last month, the Fin launched part two of its “revolutionising the agenda” campaign that confirmed Stutchbury, with the firm support of AFR CEO Brett Clegg, was going to push a more fevered editorial line in an apparent bid to take on The Australian.