Was the Australian senator Richard Di Natale both a cheapskate and a hypocrite? The Age, a daily newspaper in Melbourne, claimed as much, reporting that Di Natale paid three au pairs poorly to watch his children even while claiming, as a politician, to be focused on workers’ pay and conditions.
The senator himself didn’t complain about the article but someone else did, so the Australian Press Council looked into the story and found it was inaccurate and unfair. The Age, the council said, had no evidence for its claims and didn’t contact the au pairs to find out whether the claims were true. iMediaEthics has contacted Di Natale’s office for comment.
The Age‘s story claimed that Di Natale, leader of the Australian Greens party, “paid three au pairs to help with his family as little as $150 a week after tax, or $3.75 an hour – based on a standard 40-hour week – as well as room and board worth $300 a week.” The newspaper noted that Di Natale “says he made up the difference and paid above minimum wage requirements [based on advice from a payroll services company] and by requiring only 25 hours of work a week.” The Age‘s May 19 article was headlined “Election 2016: Greens leader Richard Di Natale fails to declare home, pays au pairs low wage.”
Even though Di Natale said the au pairs only worked 25 hours a week and the newspaper had no evidence to the contrary, The Age argued they were being stiffed because they were probably working 40 hours a week. The Age also said it didn’t believe room and board for the area where Di Natale lives was worth the $300 a week estimate the Senator made.
The Press Council explained why it was wrong for The Age to do so: “Although it took five days for the publication’s repeated requests for documents to be met and then only partially, at the time the article was published the publication had no evidence to contradict the initial information provided by the Senator’s office. At the time of publication, there was no reasonable basis for the publication to imply the au pairs may have worked a 40-hour week and on this basis, may have been paid ‘as little as $150 a week after tax.'”
Further, the council noted that au pairs typically have “a significant amount of flexibility and informality” and as such don’t often come with “keeping of careful records” or a “standard 40-hour working” system.
The Age published the ruling here, its spokesperson noted in an e-mail to iMediaEthics.