The system works

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 (�Big government addicts can’t afford tax cuts�, 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.

22 thoughts on “The system works

  1. OMG… Hell has frozen over, apparently. Does this mean that the AGW denial crew are right?

  2. Albrechtsen and Switzer have done the right thing and should be congratulated for this.

    Let me be the first on this blog to congratulate Albrechtsen and Switzer. Congratulations to them both for a timely response and a timely correction.

  3. Well done John for spotting the probable factoid and to those who helped demonstrate it was. Its a good outcome and, John, my guess is that you have acquired at least 1 more committed reader of your blog!

  4. You never know, word may come down from Rupert requesting a change in direction.. after all, he’s started spruiking for Hillary.

  5. Phillip Adams, in one article I read a couple of years ago, to my dismay, promoted the Murdoch myth that the Whltlam Government was incompetent and deserved to be removed. I would be most happy if he retracted that.

  6. This is an an excellent outcome for all. Well done. And hopefully Katz (on the previous thread) will also retract his/her coment:

    Katz Says: May 10th, 2006 at 3:30 pm “Add Jono to the list of Rightists who think that lying in a good cause is quite acceptable.”

  7. I see Blair commenting, we will have to wait till hell really does freeze over waiting for him to retact anything thought he could start with Iraq

  8. That’s a model of how the MSM should react to and interact with the sphere. Switzer could make a motza in the US advising his counterparts, who are still struggling with the concept that the not so great unwashed out here on the superhighway might sometimes have a better handle on the facts and often an alternative view worthy of consideration.

  9. And what John Ryan said. Iraq is the best example of the blind spots (huge vast great holes really) that have relegated the MSM to the fringe of reliable information sources for sensible and independent people. Your blairs helped cement the propaganda in the public mind in order to invade and then cheered the carnage on thereafter, accusing anyone who disagreed or even doubted of sympathy for terror. Then they sat back when it all went pear-shaped and whistled nonchalantly with increasing desperation, neatly sidestepping the the growing opportunities afforded them to repent their sins. And even for an athiest like me, these are fair dinkum sins.

    You’d expect or maybe just hope for at least a sheepish withdrawal if not an outright apology from them, but no, it’s business as usual for the well paid spinners. Paul Sheehan wrote a column that chopped Tony Blair down to size the other day; this three years after a paean to the man’s statesmanship, lucidity and moral weight, with bonus slights for the kneejerk antiwar Saddam loving left. I can’t say for sure if he cut his cloth publicly between these two poles to make room for such a shift; if so, I’ve not seen it. The point is, is doesn’t matter WHAT they say or how wrong they are, so long as they stay on establishement message, whatever it is at the time. 2003 – Blair good; 2006 – Blair bad; that’s the consensus so that’s the warmed over serve we get of Sheehan or blair or Devine or whoever. I can remember Devine scoffing at those of us who doubted Bush’s capacity let alone his sanity, recounting his ‘business successes’ for God’s sake. I wrote replies to several of these but none were published.

    Fair enough, but they keep publishing people who are demonstrably incapable of sniffing the wind with any acumen or insight at all. They are rare as hen’s teeth in the MSM, but grow on trees out here. Had Sheehan tacked so violently on this blog or others, he’d find it difficult to pretend it never happened. Which is another reason we prefer this format to theirs.

  10. “This is an an excellent outcome for all. Well done. And hopefully Katz (on the previous thread) will also retract his/her coment:

    “Katz Says: May 10th, 2006 at 3:30 pm “Add Jono to the list of Rightists who think that lying in a good cause is quite acceptable.â€? ”

    I’ll retract under the conditions outlined below:

    I will retract when and if JA can prove with telephone and/or email records that she had, in her precise words, emailed to Terje, several (let’s say, more than five) conversations with Statistics NZ in the week leading up to the publication of the column in question:

    “I had numerous discussions with Statistics NZ to ensure I was comparing like with like.”

    It would be easy for Albrechtsen to prove me wrong.

  11. Congratulations on the ‘correction’?

    When I read the article I thought the figures looked highly suss, so well done on getting an acknowledgement from the Oz.

    BUT, the correction’s crap really. The bogus comparison betwen the size of the NSW and NZ public sectors basically undermined the premsie of the article.

    So I’m with Katz on this one. Sounds to me like another example of JA going off half-arsed yet again.

    Any thoughts on why the correction contained no statment/explanation from JA, which would have been usual in the circumstances?

  12. I’m happy enough to get a correction that gives the correct facts. When I picked Devine up about a fabricated quote attributed to Rachel Carson her correction said, entirely falsely, that it was a paraphrase. (By comparison, I report the incorrect inference that she had originated the fabricated quote, rather than just recycling it, but I gave a full correction).

    Also, whatever JA did or didn’t do, that doesn’t help Jono. He was prepared to back her up regardless, because he liked the line.

  13. To James Sinnamon: Gough Whitlam hasn’t been PM for 31 years. Probably time to let it go….

  14. can I be a sourpuss and not congratulate JA? There is so much silliness talked at other times I just cant make it balance. One correction is a drop in a pond as regards the stream of incorrectness.

  15. Oh well – I suppose I can manage a small congratulations (for checking and correcting) but why didnt they investigate the research properly to start with? The number of categories of public sector employees would not have been hard to check at all. It was only to serve a right wing argument about “too big a public service in Australia” anyway wasnt it? I think we need a bigger public service. We only have a small population and cant get economies of scale in many industries, are prone to dominance by oligopolies and a strong public sector employment would see us far healthier especially now in downturns. We dont need this high unemployment and the private sector is insufficient here.
    be careful what you reward or thank. Its the same tired argument underneath.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s