Wednesday, September 14, 2011

News Limited, carbon tax and the NSW government

Today's Financial Review has the story:

How to cook up a carbon tax story

Michaela Whitbourn

Four days after the Gillard government released details of its carbon tax policy on a cold Sunday in July, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell's office was presented with an attractive plan.

The national political editor at Sydney's The Daily Telegraph wanted to run a front-page story on Friday, claiming the tax would drive NSW commuters to switch from public transport to cars.

The Premier's communications director, Peter Grimshaw, swung into action, say documents produced in state parliament through a request by the Labor Party.

Mr Grimshaw fired off an email at 9.39am on Thursday, July 14 to government staffers including O'Farrell's policy director and his chief of staff, copied to the Premier.

"The 'Tele' is very keen to do a story for tomorrow's paper on the impact of the carbon tax in relation to Public Transport v Cars, with the theme being there will be an incentive for people to use cars under Gillard's plan," he wrote.

"If we have any figures/modelling he thinks he can get a big run on this tomorrow . . . Can we pull together any info/figures asap that would back up this case."

There was a hitch. The Department of Transport had been working on a note for the Transport Minister that came to a different conclusion.

By 2.18pm, Mr O'Farrell's policy director Matthew Crocker had seen the note – including some "not so helpful quotes" – which said the tax would have little effect on commuters.

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's policy director Mark Roberts was more helpful. He emailed Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian's chief of staff and advisers later that day with a "gold mine of attack points!" on the possible effect of the tax on Sydney Ferries.

The Transport Department, in contrast, advised the government the carbon tax would have no "measurable effect" on transport choices. It would increase prices by less than 1 per cent.

At 3.10pm, Mr O'Farrell's office sent the Telegraph figures it said were NSW Treasury's first advice on the impact of the carbon tax on public transport fares.

The front-page story on Friday July 15 said the tax would push up fares by up to $150 a year, increasing weekly multi-pass tickets from $57 to $60 a week by 2013 –a 3.5 per cent rise, six times higher than the 0.5 per cent estimated by federal Treasury.

The tax would "increase passenger fares by up to 3.6 per cent," Mr O'Farrell said in a media release at midday that day.

He feared Sydney commuters would "turn away from public transport".

Hours earlier, the Transport Department confirmed "the figures quoted do not come from Treasury...

Continued at

Related Posts

. They do things differently at NewsCorp

. Crude, distorted, dangerous - Garnaut on News Limited

. News Limited doesn't like ads made by millionaires