Bill Shorten

KCA interview with reporter Mark Day of The Australian.

A few weeks ago I did an interview with journalist Mark Day of The Australian newspaper with his story being published on the 21st May 2012. He makes a statement of fact that one of my posts is defamatory yet provides no credible evidence to support the claim. Although he does say the rumour has been “rigorously checked out by senior journalists employed by several newspapers” and “no evidence” has been found.

The post in question is the Bill Shorten post titled “Has Bill Shorten gotten one of his staff members Pregnant? Shorten calls the lawyers.” (Click here to read the post)

Below is the Mark Day story in full. Under fair use policy I am only meant to use a small part then put the link back to the website. But given that Mark Day has had a swipe at me and my site and in the interests of defending myself the whole story is below.

Web tangled, no scuttlebuts about it

by: Mark Day

From: The Australian

May 21, 201212:00AM

THE role of news organisations is to deliver news, and most of the time that’s exactly what they do. It is rare that stories raise more questions than they answer, and this put the recent reports about the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, and his wife Chloe firmly in the curious basket.

After a little digging it is clear that, in spite of thousands of hours of research, hearings, evidence, academic papers and the reports of the Convergence Review and the Finkelstein inquiry, we still have a major disconnect in the way the law operates when it comes to reporting in newspapers and on the internet.

Come with me and let’s walk on legal eggshells as we look at the Shorten matter from the standpoint of an ordinary reader taking ordinary meanings from published words.

A week ago, the Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun, along with other mastheads in the News Limited Sunday stable, published a story saying Shorten and his wife had “gone public today about rumours regarding their private lives”. It was hardly tucked away: the story was the paper’s splash, under the heading “Our love is strong” and it appeared across Pages 4 and 5 running to almost 1800 words. It would not have been out of place in New Idea as Mrs Shorten spoke of bringing up kids, relations with her mum, dance classes and the sometimes torrid aspects of public life.

The story said the high-profile couple — he a potential prime minister; she the daughter of the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce — had been the subject of “a hurtful political smear over the past few weeks” and they had “called for an end to the ugly personal attacks sweeping politics”.

It added: “Mr Shorten, who has taken legal advice over the slur, said he did not want to comment on the specific details.”

I am confident most people reading the story would have concluded that whatever the rumours were, they were wrong. In fact, inquiries have convinced me the reports, which have been doing the rounds for months rather than weeks, have been rigorously checked out by senior journalists employed by several newspapers based in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. They have not been published because in each case no evidence to support them could be found and, further, evidence of their falsity was revealed.

At the same time, the average reader might also have recalled that the previous Friday, May 11, Daily Telegraph columnist Piers Akerman wrote of a discussion with a senior minister during the budget lock-up in Canberra. Akerman detailed rumours allegedly attached to the minister but did not name him. He wrote that the minister was clearly distressed and that false and malicious rumour-mongering was a high price to pay for a public life. His commentary was made in the context of current politics where gossip, scuttlebutt and innuendo in relation to the Thomson and Slipper matters seem to be an increasingly appreciating currency.

The thought that there may be a link between Akerman’s comment and the Sunday Herald Sun story may well have caused a curious reader to enter a few words into Google’s search engine. Anyone doing that would immediately see a link to websites giving detailed accounts of a rumour concerning Shorten.

The matter on the websites is defamatory because it is not true. It is tempting, at this time of debate about how the media should be regulated, and by whom, to see this incident in the context of mainstream publishing versus the web. Standards applying to newspapers are non-existent when it comes to the internet, and there is a strong argument that whatever the shape of future regulation, it should be platform-agnostic.

This is recognised by the reports of both the Convergence Review and Finkelstein.

But it misses the point here. It is defamation law at issue here, and the divide between mainstream and cowboy is just as wide as it has been since the days of the scandal sheets that circulated on the streets of London and New York a couple of centuries ago.

Most websites and blogs that carry such rumours are unsigned and therefore anonymous. What is unusual about one of the website blogs carrying details of the Shorten rumours is that it also carries the name, email address and telephone number of its author and moderator. I called him, but decided not to name him and publicise his site. When I spoke to the originator of the site he told me no action had been taken to ask him to remove the material, to threaten legal action or move to take down his site. He said: “They won’t come near me because I get the facts right.”

An equally likely answer lies in a later response. I asked: “If you were sued and lost a defamation action, do you have any assets?” He replied: “Not really.”

That’s the nub of it. Any action would probably be successful, but also fruitless, whereas if the information appeared in a mainstream publication, the rewards could be put to use constructing, say, a tennis court or swimming pool.

Put another way, if you look for an answer as to why mainstream publications tread warily on these matters while cowboys heed no caution, it lies in the comment of a newspaper executive who said: “We’ve got money and they don’t.”

In my view this is not a satisfactory state of affairs, but it is one that has existed for many years without redress. In past eras, scandal sheets might have served the same purpose as today’s cowboy websites, but their impact was minuscule when compared to the reach and accessibility of the web.

At this stage it is probable that Shorten is ahead of the game. He clearly decided to bat away the rumours and used the mainstream press and the massive reach of the News Sunday mastheads to firmly signal that they are false. But he hasn’t snuffed them out and probably never will, because embedded in the psyche of human beings is a willingness to embrace gossip, the salacious and the secret.

While ever there is a will for someone to invent a scandal, there will be ways to spread it.

End of Article (Click here for the article)

I have highlighted the key parts above as I see them.

have been rigorously checked out by senior journalists employed by several newspapers based in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne.”

This type of so-called evidence would not hold up in court. All the media knew the former federal politician Gareth Evans was having an affair with another politician Cheryl Kernot for 5 years but no one wrote about it. It never came to light until 2002 when it was revealed by the Bulletin and Nine Network correspondent Laurie Oakes. (Click here to read) So just because journalists are not writing about it means nothing.

The matter on the websites is defamatory because it is not true.”

Once again where is his evidence to support that. I did not say in post that Bill Shorten did get one of his staff members pregnant. What I stated was that was the rumour going around. It certainly became a public interest story when Bill Shorten did the interview with the Herald Sun and denied the rumour but did not say what the rumour was. He could not sue me on that basis even if he wanted to.

Standards applying to newspapers are non-existent when it comes to the internet” and “It is defamation law at issue here

Bloggers and journalists on the internet are just as liable for defamation law as any news organisation including the newspapers. Last year TV book show celebrity Marieke Hardy paid $13,000 in relation to a defamation lawsuit. She alleged on her website that Joshua Meggitt had been running a blog defaming her which was not true. Hence the $13,000 payout. (Click here to read more). So much for Mark Days comment “Standards applying to newspapers are non-existent when it comes to the internet”. And Mr Day does not seem to understand defamation law.

They won’t come near me because I get the facts right.” and An equally likely answer lies in a later response. I asked: “If you were sued and lost a defamation action, do you have any assets?” He replied: “Not really.” and “We’ve got money and they don’t.”

Based on that Mr Day is saying as long as you tell people you do not have any assets you will not be sued. He is also working on the premise that people only sue for the money. The problem being is that most people do not sue for defamation motivated by the money, they are seeking to repair their reputation. The money factor is almost an afterthought and more about teaching the defamer a lesson. Although some who do sue are clearly just chasing the money.

Whether or not Mr Shorten did get one of his staff members pregnant at this stage in unknown although my personal opinion is that it is true based on Mr Shorten behaviour which is odd in the extreme to deny a rumour without saying what it is.

But in the same post I said this about Bill Shorten “The reality is Bill Shorten is a grub from start to finish. As minister for employment and workplace relations he has been up to his neck in corrupting Fair Work Australia.” Which is true and the evidence is a mile long. Surprisingly Mark Day makes no mention of that in his article.

Under normal circumstances I would suspect that Mark Day has done a deliberate hatchet job on me and my site. But I have spoken to a number of people in the media and they have asked me how I get away with writing what I do which I find strange coming from people in the media. The answer is simple, I get away with it the same way other media get away with accusing people of being criminals. I make sure I have the evidence to support it.

Reporter Kate McClymont of the SMH recently wrote a story titled “The full Monte: this cheat wants to be mayor” about  private investigator Frank Monte which starts off “Almost 25 years after this PI started ripping off clients, he’s still at it.” (Click here for the article) And many journalists write make similar allegations about people all the time yet no one asks them how they get away writing what they do nor should anyone ask me. If I get serious allegations wrong about people I am in a lot of trouble and so I should be. That’s why I make sure I get it right.

Mark Day correctly points out that my name and contact details are on this site. I do not hide from what I write and say. I stand behind it 100%. I have never been sued for defamation nor do I expect I will. What I write is very much in the public interest.

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27 replies »

  1. This is an example of what happens when aspiring politicians of hitherto noble virtue and intent enter the public arena. It is quite childish to consider they are not entitled to public scrutiny and comment. Watching the Craig Thomson display of hurt and indignation,”You have unleashed the Lynch mob” at accusations he stole from the Union members to pay prostitutes. So profound an impact on the Prime Minister’s leadership, that a Dirt Squad is established for the sole purpose of tit for tat. How childish,indeed, even for the chicken farm that is the Parliament.

  2. Freedom of speech has to be protected. If people are defamed and sued successfully, the liar pays with loss of integrity, and this damage is worse than the defamation in the first place. . . because an innocent party is always innocent.
    Freedom of speech has to be protected, otherwise we go down the path of other dictatorial states, and their people have no recourse but complete revolution.

  3. i agree if shorten had not done this deed why didn’t he say the allegations and innuendo and alleged rumors about this and defend himself and not still leave it open to scrutiny or here say. i agree with you i don’t think he has the goods to be a prime minster it’s bad enough with the one we got.

  4. I suspect Mr Shorten may have observed the trouble his colleague Mr Thompson got himself into when he attempted to use the court system to imtimidate journalists from writing about him. Labour have a new strategy which is to play the sympathy card which both Bill and Craig have employed more recently.

    Returning to Bill, Kangaroo Court is quite correct in pointing out Mr Shorten’s peculiar behaviour in the way this was handled. I suspect Bill didn’t pursue a defamation case as he did not want to risk perjuring himself.

    If character were to be considerred, it might also bring to light the equally murky story of his earlier infidelities from his prior marriage.


  5. @mark day: the day of reckoning is coming… politicians, lawyers, AND JOURNALISTS who lie &/or cheat &/or steal &/or manipulate the truth are slowly being exposed. i ecstatically see the number of followers of this site growing steadily, and i gladly direct everyone i know to this site. do you report the truth or are you one of their goons covering up for them and providing mis-information?

  6. Why do Journalists and the parliamentary press gallery in particular appear to bow to this corrupt government? Shorten is nothing less than a union thug in a suit and better educated than most union thugs. Something smells when you are so offended and under Australia’s punitive libel and slander laws don’t sue. Finally Mr Day you are right I do hide behind anonymity it allows me to speak freely without fear of being muzzled or sued.

  7. There are uniform Defamation Acts across Australia but NSW for example, see:

    s31 – the defence of honest opinion
    s32 – the defence of innocent dissemination

  8. p.s. in mark day’s article his opening line states “THE role of news organisations is to deliver news, and most of the time that’s exactly what they do.” in my opinion his credibility is down the drain right there. i ask you mr day… how much IMPORTANT news DOES NOT GET DELIVERED? surely you as a journalist would know the TRUTHFUL answer to this. from what i have seen and heard both directly and indirectly much of the news is ignored, concealed or distorted. it’s time that some journalists broke away from the chains of their masters/wallets and stood up to the intimidation or resisted the temptation to get something in return. WE WANT TO KNOW THE UGLY TRUTH and from that WE WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

    • They package, prescreen, sanitize and neutralize the product they finally deliver to us as “News”. That applies to pring, TV, radio and mainstream Internet. ABC or SBS, equally bad, possibly worse than usual lately.

  9. This relates to the print media and the problems they all are experiencing at the moment. We often hear of situations where something was common knowledge in and around say the beltway but once again no one was prepared to write or publish whet was going on.

    Once upon a time journalists went out of their way for the “BIG STORY” but no longer, they are either to scared or to controlled to tell the real story and now they wonder why their publications are under threat of imploding.

    What we need is for the print media to give us a reason to go out and buy their publication now, not to hear of what they know now in 2 yrs time.

  10. Mark Day should practice what he preaches
    I am 77 years of age and can remember the the dubious trash when he ran the MELBOURNE TRUTH
    EG ..Articles on Bob Hawke

  11. Concerned Aussie,
    No only is Mark Day’s employer without credibility, it applies generally to the controlled mass media, including ‘our’ ABC and the SBS. The msm ‘journos’ must be awakening to the fact that the public are reading the alternative private media via the net over the world, as the msm shrinks to ‘just cannot believe them anymore’ (if ever!). Its is called loss of credbility, as we all know.
    Go to the internet and read up on how Mark’s employer is going at the Levenson Inquiry. The claims that Mr Day’s boss pushed fro a war with Iraq tells us what? Pretty simple, the msm media are a mongrel lot of whoremongers. (wmd’s anyone?) Look up who owns the mssm in the US: 90% of the msm is controlled by 6 corporations, from memory two of them are arms manufacturers.
    So what agenda/s does the msm have and who is there daddy? (same applies to our Fed pollies!)
    Keep it up Shane, shame the bastards and make them honest, or they go join the Dodo. Matter for them.
    May I suggest Mr. Day; either get a life or put a sock in it.
    PS: I only buy papers on Saturdays for professional reasons and that may well soon stop if sites like this start being more common.

  12. Dear oh Dear.. Come on Bill get a bit fair dinkum.You know the rules, ‘Jack the Goat’ is starting to get embarrassed.
    The Bro

  13. Interesting …. Mark Day (of all people) holding himself up as the epitome of journalistic rectitude and according himself the authority to pass judgement on the integrity of fellow ‘scribblers’.

    Let’s see …. on September 13, 2010, in a piece entitled “The fourth estate is now needed in parliament, more than ever”, Day said this;

    “A LOT has been said in recent weeks about our new world of minority government.
    And about new ways of thinking and working together; a kinder, gentler polity built on mutual respect, trust, understanding, ethical behaviour, inclusiveness and baby whales in the Derwent.

    Don’t believe a word of it. Behind the facade of new paradigms it will be politics as usual – deals, nods and winks, chicanery and all the usual bludgeons of power.”

    “As PM Julia Gillard acknowledged, sunlight is the best disinfectant and the media, imperfections notwithstanding, is best placed to bring transparency to the political processes over the next parliament.”

    Sorry to be so wordy Shane, but if there’s anything that needs responding to, it’s the pontifications of a flunky churno like this character, and that’s the Truth of it.

    Kangaroo Court has become our ray of “sunlight”, shining into all the nooks and crannies of the murky machinations of these Fraudsters and isn’t it fun to watch all the cockroaches scuttling for cover?

    • Is that the same Mark Day who edited Melbourne’s notorious racing guide disguised as a soft-core porn tabloid called (laughingly) “Truth”? Yeah, he sounds reeeaaally credible.

  14. Journalists and politicians have a cosy little club that lives “inside the tent”.May I suggest you seek the views of scribes who work “outside the tent” for example such notables as Robert Fisk,Greg Palast,John Pilger etc.These are people of integrity,unfortunately only one of them is Australian and he lives overseas!
    In regard to Shorten being prime minister material,he’s just your usual run of the mill narcissistic sociopath.The vast majority of politicians are PM material,what we need is a statesman.

      • Plumber Perth.
        Thanks for the reply.There are plenty of “Honourable Members” in parliament,but what we need is Quality not Quantity.

      • Plumber.
        Please name them if possible. Also indicate those who have spoken out and opposed our joining of the coalition of the killing in Afghanistan and Iraq and next; Syria and Iran.

      • I think uloola is referring to honourable members in the same sense that Sir Les Patterson referred on occasion to his “Honourable member”.

  15. What a hypocrite Mark Day is! I remember when he was editor of the Melbourne Truth newspaper which survived on advertising sex services and mudslinging of the worst kind. I wouldn’t trust anything from Day or Shorten for that matter and just remember, if Shorten is aspiring to be the next PM he cannot complain about any scrutiny especially that this mob now have a ‘Dirt File Unit’ heaven forbid.

  16. Journalists are part of the machine. They go to University and are instructed by lecturers who have certain view of the world, go straight into a newsroom for their indoctrination (cadetship) where peers/mentors have a certain view of the world, hang out with yuppie rainbow latte friends who all have a similar certain view and then write stories for the newspapers with a certain point of view. Those of us in the real world don’t share said view because it conflicts with what we are living, our real life experience. It troubles me that main stream journalists aren’t onto the stories that Kangaroo Court is telling. Great they haven’t shut you down Shane. Mark Day is an absolute dill, I never read his stories.

  17. Big bad Property developer.Your opinion about journalists is on the money.One other aspect of journo’s is that their opinions have been strengthened because nowadays it is no longer possible to obtain an unbiased viewpoint from academics etc because so many universities rely on government funding which will mysteriously disappear.By stifling this viewpoint everybody is now singing the same song.

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