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