A couple of days ago, I pointed out that a claim by Janet Albrechtsen that New Zealand had far fewer public servants than Australia seemed dubious, and called for a factoid check Almost instantly, readers of this blog were able to get the correct figure, showing no significant difference. Thanks particularly to Katz, Tom Davies and Sir Humphrey on this.
Terje Petersen emailed Janet Albrechtsen to ask for a retraction, a course I thought likely to prove fruitless. Yesterday however, she emailed him to advise that the error would be corrected, and Today’s Australian includesn:
IN her column on Wednesday (â€?Big government addicts canâ€™t afford tax cutsâ€?, page 24), Janet Albrechtsen compared the size of the public services in Australia and New Zealand using figures put out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Statistics New Zealand. The comparison was incorrect because the figures from SNZ did not include some public sector areas that were included in the ABS figures. As a result, the size of the public service in New Zealand is much larger than indicated in the column.
I also got an email from Tom Switzer, opinion editor at the Oz, thanking us for picking up the error. I worked with Tom while he was opinion editor at the Fin, and while our politics couldn’t be more different, he was always very professional.
Albrechtsen and Switzer have done the right thing and should be congratulated for this. And the whole story is a case study in how blogs can be effective in both challenging and improving the mainstream media.