Following its being called out by ABC Media Watch the other day over its crude attempt to pretend Australia’s plain packaging law is not working, Murdoch title The Australian has fought back: in a righteous, rambling and shamelessly self-justificatory editorial, it claims Media Watch was playing the man, and not the ball. Then it goes after Media Watch’s sources, playing, er, the man and not the ball.
And in an eyebrow-raising move, The Australian is complaining about Media Watch: this is rather like the Murdoch or Rothermere press complaining to Ofcom about the hated BBC. Similar language is deployed: accusations are made of “Big public broadcasting” and “taxpayer-funded activism”. But elsewhere, the shilling for Big Tobacco is encountering resistance.
The next battleground for plain packaging opponents is Ireland: here, the Irish Times is covering The Australian’s campaign today, warning “Smoke and mirrors as Big Tobacco fights Australian plain packaging law ... Misleading ‘exclusive’ in newspaper about tobacco sales gains traction overseas”. It notes the Times, Telegraph and Spectator running the story without checking first.
And it notes that “It was a great scoop. Except it isn’t true ... In fact tobacco consumption in Australia is at its lowest since statistics were first gathered in 1959”. Public health expert Mike Daube is quoted as telling “the tobacco companies want stories ... that will say plain packaging hasn’t helped in Australia. That’s the main game for them at the moment”.
So opinion formers in Ireland are forewarned: meanwhile, The Australian is being opposed by the Australian Medical Association (AMA): “AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, today condemned The Australian’s front page promotion of smoking and Big Tobacco, and its constant attacks on tobacco plain packaging legislation, one of the greatest public health initiatives in Australia’s and the world’s recent history”.
And, as for the idea that plain packaging laws might be repealed, “A/Prof Owler said today that Australia’s leadership on tobacco control, including the plain packaging laws, has bipartisan support and has been applauded by public health advocates around the world”. So that’s another hare that won’t be running anywhere soon. The Australian Department of Health confirms the recent decline in smoking.
“Recent figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that total consumption of tobacco and cigarettes in the March quarter 2014 is the lowest ever recorded, as measured by estimated expenditure on tobacco products”. Yet The Australian said sales were rising. Investigative journalism, and shilling for Big Tobacco, are not the same thing – it’s no use pretending otherwise.
But good to see the Murdoch empire is consistently dishonest around the globe.