Friday, January 28, 2011

The Oz’s position on the levy is a rough passage

On today’s front page of The Oz  we saw an example of journalism that would make Brooke Vandenberg proud.image

There was a nice big photo of a young woman in a pretty nice house on Brisbane’s riverfront, sitting underneath the headline of

Rough passage for Julia Gillard's flood levy

Now the woman in question, Samantha Gregg, had absolutely nothing to do with that David Uren story, but never mind, the online version of the story used her picture (guess The Oz thought Uren’s words need a bit of a visual distraction).

The story in which Ms Gregg featured was the one below the photo.

The article by Rosanne Barrett featured an interview with four people from Brisbane’s riverside area – Ms Gregg, Jan Carroll, Gabriel Edwards and Waylon Palmer. Carroll, Edwards and Palmer were all in favour of the flood levy. Ms Gregg was not, but admitted she wouldn’t even have to pay it, but her partner would. Ms Gregg even admitted that if the levy was just for a year “then it’s OK”.

So we have 3 for the levy; one not really, but not dead set against it either. So what headline did The Oz use?

Not happy, Julia Gillard - we've done our bit

And the lead? Did Barrett lead with a person who reflected the majority of those whom she interviewed? No. Here’s what she led with:

SAMANTHA Gregg doesn't begrudge her neighbours in flood-hit New Farm more help - it's just that she believes she did her bit before the government came along and put its hand in her pocket.

imageAh the old “hand in her pocket” line. No negative connotations there. I guess it’s a bit like the front page of the Herald Sun with its very lame use of a photo shopped hand. (Would love to know which Herald-Sun journo got to be the hand model!)

To see just how easy it is to slant a story to get the line you want to get, go read the Barrett article, then read my version of it below. In my ‘article’ everything in blue are actual words from the original article – I’ve kept pretty much everything.

Now I’m not suggesting my version is bias-free. But it shows that The Oz has decided to take a line on the flood levy, and regardless of what quotes they got from people, they were desperate to push that line. For mine, if 3 people told me something was OK and one said “meh”, that would be the story I would write.

But then, what do I know?


Flood levy? We’re ready to do our bit

Jan Carroll is eligible for the disaster recovery payment of $1000 and exempt from the Government’s flood levy, but she is willing to pay her bit.

The debate playing out along her Brisbane suburb, which flooded to varying degrees a fortnight ago, will resound across Australia after Julia Gillard yesterday detailed how every taxpayer earning more than $50,000 and not classified as a direct flood victim would pick up part of the multi-billion-dollar cost of rebuilding.

Jan Carroll watched and worried as the Brisbane River inched up through her garden and basement a fortnight ago, but she considers herself lucky that its waters did not enter her home of 17 years. "We thought we were safe, but you're never quite sure," she said. Her electricity was cut for more than two days, making her household . But Mrs Carroll said she had not even considered applying for the payment and did not mind contributing to the tax.

"It's like the bushfires in Victoria; we certainly gave to them," Ms Carroll said.

"When people are in trouble, you help them."

The generally positive reception for the flood levy was reflected on the streets of New Farm yesterday. The riverside inner-Brisbane geography, and the propensity of the usually placid river to flood, mean that it was a patchwork of affected and untouched properties.

imageOn riverside Oxlade Drive, less than 1km from Ms Carroll’s home, Gabriel Edwards had water through her yard and lost power for more than 48 hours, the trigger point for a federal disaster recovery payment of $1000 per person and $400 per child. But the part-time business owner and mother of one said she would not apply for a payment - even though it would exempt her from paying the flood levy.

"We haven't (applied) because we don't need it," she said. "We keep saying we can't believe how lucky we are. Those people who have lost their homes - their lives have changed forever.

"I don't think we can do enough for people who were affected. If taxes pay for people who were affected by this flood then I'm glad to be part of this society."

Nearby on the riverfront, Further down Oxlade Drive, student Waylon Palmer, 26, collected the $1000 disaster payment after his power went out for four days, following a nervous time waiting to find out if his rental home would be flooded.

He agrees with a levy to get the disaster areas back to business as quickly as possible. "It all helps to get people back on to their feet - it really was a disaster."

Similarly Samantha Gregg doesn't begrudge her neighbours in flood-hit New Farm more help - it's just that she believes she did her bit before the government came along and put its hand in her pocket.

Ms Gregg, 23, is prepared to pay the new federal flood levy, but it doesn't mean she is happy the Prime Minister is imposing the temporary tax on middle- and high-income earners.

Her partner, Massimo Guida, donated his time as an electrician to help people get back into their homes around Brisbane, and with the voluntary donations they made on top of that the couple estimates they gave up to $11,000 in time and in-kind donations. "We helped out as much as we could," she said.

"We bought groceries for friends and my partner worked for free checking the wiring."

In the coming financial year, the couple will be up for an additional 0.5 per cent of any taxable earnings above $50,000, and 1 per cent of earnings over $100,000 to fund the rebuilding of infrastructure across Australia. They have not yet totalled their likely tax bill, but believe it will run into the thousands. This is unlikely as to pay over $2,000, a person would need to earn over $275,000 per annum.

In any case, Ms Gregg believes her pay as an administration worker will be under the threshold of the levy, but Mr Guida is resigned to paying the levy. He does however understand that in such time sacrifices are required, and he remains hopeful it will get Queensland back on its feet and kickstart the economy. Ms Gregg’s attitude as well reflects the strongly community minded spirit of those who are not impressed with the flood levy: "I'm not happy about it, but what can you do?" she said. "If it's for a year, then it's OK, even though it will cost us."


Unenergy said...

News Corp started with the line :
Gillard gave only $1 million to flood appeal whilst giving millions away in overseas aid.
False choice number 1

Then went on to push the line that Brisbane was flooded by bad choices (government mandated) made at Wivenhoe dam when to release water.

Followed closely on the heels by pure posturing by Tony Abbott. If one didn't know better, you'd think Murdoch and the LNP are agitating for this to become Gillard's 'Katrina' no matter whom it hurts.

But tell me, how does one predict, prepare for or control this :

Dermott Banana said...

I wouldn't like to be in the newspaper proclaiming that I had worked out a price for helping my friends and neighbours; or that I was unhappy at helping share the burden. Not if I lived in riverside Brisbane. Great way to make friends in the neighbourhood? Maybe not.

Nathan said...

It's a wonder they didn't try finding more people to interview. Surely if they looked hard enough they could have found people whose opinions matched theirs.

2353 said...

I could get $2800 in "Immediate disaster payments" as we evacuated for 3 nights and for the majority of that period, we couldn't get home. We also got water in our street.

I won't be claiming anything as our clean-up cost about $12 (two bottles of an anti-mould preparation readily available at supermarkets).

Channel 7 Brisbane ran a story tonight about the "horrible" Flood Tax, the next story was about sporting clubs not getting enough money to rebuild after the flooding. The media can't and shouldn't have it both ways.

If it was good enough to pay levies for gun buyback, milk rationalisation, sugar rationalisation and so on - why isn't it good enough to pay for the reconstruction of an area that is larger than most of Europe if you include the current Victorian flooding?

Kirsty said...

This is typical of the line being taken by most mainstream media on this issue. I was flabbergasted when watching Sunrise this morning by the blatant bias against the proposal. By the time I left the house I was completely over the repetitve and predictable rant that occurred every 15 minutes about how it was a bad idea and that the government should use their secret slush fund instead of "slugging" taxpayers with the bill.

It is clear that the flood levy is not an ideal proposal and does set a dangerous precedent for future disasters but at least the government is taking some action - but then again, it is obviously not the "right" action for The Oz and Sunrise, etc.

It doesn't matter what Labor does, it will never recover in the eyes of the media and is destined to get bad press all the way to the next election - let's just hope they can recover enough to counter the negative and reactionary stance of the Coalition which seems to be holding sway in the face of Labor's current malaise.

Sir Ian Crisp said...

The federal government collects in excess of AUD$185 billion through personal income tax, company tax and indirect tax. Are we to believe that its handling of the economy is so slipshod that it can't even find $5 billion dollars? Instead it goes for the simple formula of mulcting the few.

Get A Dog! said...

I may be called callous for this, but after seeing dome before/after photos of the flood, I am inclined to feel that those "living in a nice riverside house" are not the sort that need the flood relief monies. In the before photos (from the ABC site) there were many a house with pools, jetties, boats and tennis courts.

I am happy to pay the levy, and reject the nay-sayers, most of which can afford to pay.
Lets home it gets to the people who do need it most.

NormanK said...

@Get A Dog! While it is admirable that you are willing to pay the levy despite your reservations, I do feel compelled to point out that the levy will go towards rebuilding infrastructure such as road, rail, ports, bridges, schools and so on which will be to the benefit of all Australians. The Premier's Fund will be used to assist individuals and businesses who fell victim to the floods. A very clear distinction must be made between the two.
Grog, you show how easy it is for a journalist to put any slant he/she chooses on to a story no matter what the source material indicates.
Christians the world over should be glad there was no reporter from The Australian covering the Sermon on the Mount - who knows what we might have ended up with - a little bit of Python perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Sadly I am not surprised at the Australian's pathetic agenda driven headlines. What does surpise me is they are either so lazy or couldn't find people to interview who would at least support their headline. I suppose they know their readers are not particularly interested in the content of their propaganda only in the headline they can repeat verbatim like some childrens nursery rhyme. This countries news media is a sad joke. Most are only town cryers bleating out the press release of their favourite team, whoops I mean party.

2353 said...

1. The Federal Govt does collect a lot of money - and the reason the levy has been introduced is because people like Sir Ian Crisp whinge, bitch, moan and complain every time they have to pay a cent to support someone else in this so called egalitarian society.
2. There are under 1000 homes in Brisbane that have direct riverside access, there are thousands in areas like Rocklea and Oxley that are nowhere near the river and are some of the cheaper areas of Brisbane. The entire suburb of Rocklea and a fair proportion of Oxley flooded as well - trust me, the owners aren't millionaires with river views.
3. NormanK is correct in that this levy will go towards infrastructure replacement - not rebuilding homes.
4. In regard to the media, while the floods were in progress most of them reported factually and accurately - now we have Channel 7 and News Corp going back to what they do best, showing political bias and a complete disregard of the full story.

Regardless of how the levy is implemented, Gillard was at least up here and useful, unlike Abbott who came up here, saw and threw some mud around - and is continuing to do so. Unfortunately there is still a lot of mud lying around.

han said...

For top prize in whinging, no one beats NSW Premier Kenneally who claimed yesterday that Sydneysiders should not have to pay at the same rate for the levy as others because we have a higher living cost. How pathetic is that...

Sonia said...

Yeh I am pretty offended by Kristina Kenneally. Guess it is a desperate attempt by a desperate woman to hold onto some Western Sydney seats. Embarassing

Greg Jericho said...

han, I thought that act by Kenneally was about as pathetic as it gets. Does she charge less state charges to people in Sydney than the rest of the state because they have a higher cost of living?