Welfare Recipients 'Milking the Taxpayer'? Australian Press Council Rules against Herald Sun - iMediaEthics

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A member of the Australian Women's Land Army milking a cow on a mixed farm at Sturt, South Australia in 1943. (Credit: Smith, D. Darian via State Library of South Australia)

Australia’s Herald Sun shouldn’t have said people on welfare were “milking the taxpayer,” the Australian Press Council ruled. The Herald Sun is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

The newspaper’s July 6 article, “Welfare reforms ‘needed,'” was originally published by the Daily Telegraph, another News Corp.-owned Australian newspaper.

The article claimed:

“More than 70 per cent of people on the dole have been milking the taxpayer for more than a year, as the federal government battles an annual welfare bill that is now double the entire NSW budget spend.”

The Herald Sun stood by its reporting as factual and defended its phrase “milking the taxpayer” as “consistent with terminology used by the Government to describe its objectives and approach on welfare reform,” the press council reported.

The phrase was “not inaccurate or misleading of itself, and was a fair and suitable” term, the newspaper argued.

It was wrong to say “milking the taxpayer,” though, the council ruled because it “clearly had a pejorative sense” and there was “no basis for that factual statement.”

The council also ruled that the Herald Sun didn’t clearly differentiate between news and opinion. “To the extent the reference may have been an opinion of the journalist, the Council notes no facts were presented to support that opinion nor did the article include any balancing explanatory comment,” the council said. “Moreover, the article did not purport to be an opinion piece but rather was presented as news.”

Australian media news site Mumbrella noted that the Herald Sun article was actually a republication of an article from sister publication Daily Telegraph. The Australian Press Council explained to Mumbrella that since the complaint over the article was over the Herald Sun‘s publication of the article, they ruled against that newspaper and not the Daily Telegraph.

The Herald Sun published the press council’s ruling on its website.

News Corp. Australia, owner of The Herald Sun and Telegraph, declined to comment to iMediaEthics about the ruling.

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Welfare Recipients ‘Milking the Taxpayer’? Australian Press Council Rules against Herald Sun

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