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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Tory Shepherd

From ‘crazy’ to Walkley: Australian Financial Review’s PwC tax leaks scoop takes top journalism prize

Winners of the 2023 Walkley Awards on stage
Winners of the 2023 Walkley Awards. The Australian Financial Review’s Edmund Tadros (centre right, holding award) and Neil Chenoweth (centre left) won the Gold Walkley for their coverage of the PwC tax leaks. Photograph: Walkleys Foundation

Australian journalism’s biggest and sparkliest shindig, the Walkleys, was held on Thursday night. The top gong – the Gold Walkley – went to The Australian Financial Review’s Edmund Tadros and Neil Chenoweth for their uncovering and subsequent coverage of the PwC tax leaks. That story is still unfurling in the corridors of power.

Tadros drew laughs for a self-deprecating speech about being described by editor in chief Michael Stutchbury as “a little bit crazy” and told he would work well with Chenoweth who was also “a little bit crazy”. It seems to have paid off.

Chenoweth said he was thankful for the members of the Tax Practitioners Board who “put their jobs on the line” to speak out, while Tadros thanked current and former PwC staff who also spoke out.

“There are good people there, they were just wildly let down by their leaders,” he said.

Chris Masters and Nick McKenzie got a special gong – the Walkley Honour for Media Freedom – to recognise Nine’s telly and newspaper work on the Ben Roberts-Smith saga.

Eight women; Geraldine Doogue, Karla Grant, Joanne McCarthy, Kate McClymont, Colleen Ryan, Marian Wilkinson, Pamela Williams and Caroline Wilson were honoured for their Outstanding Contribution to Journalism. The whopping list of winners is available here.

One for mum, one for dad, and one for Greg Sheridan?

Under the headline “We need babies more than we do migrants”, The Australian’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, argued that women are not having enough babies “because of an ideological and sexist denial of women’s choice”. That particular sentence linked to a story about how – because of education and employment – women are delaying having children and depending on IVF too much.

Sheridan graciously conceded that people have the right to make their own decisions about having babies, but said such choices are being made “in the face of coercive feminist and green ideology that depicts children as enemies of self-fulfilment and destroyers of the planet, and in an atmosphere where the entire western project is demonised”.

Women’s Agenda editor, Angela Priestley, pointed out that Sheridan did not mention the cost of living, the cost of childcare, the inadequacy of paid parental leave, the housing crisis, or the many women who are trying to have children, but can’t.

In response, Sheridan said that he does mention “the way we have structured our economies”, which includes all those things. Women want more children than they are having, he said.

On the ideology point, he said while some nations embrace “some degree of pro-natalist policy” green ideology’s “standard refrain” is that children wreak environmental damage and contribute to climate change, while particular feminists see children as “inherently and necessarily limiting self realisation”.

Crikey staff out the door

As winners and wannabes got gussied up for the Walkleys, staff at Private Media got sat down for some sad news. Word is there will be about five redundancies in the commercial arm of the business (whose offerings include Crikey and The Mandarin), and about three in editorial.

“Like much of the market, Private Media has had a very challenging year for advertising revenue,” head honcho, Will Hayward, said.

“We have now made the decision to reduce our commercial headcount. We are working with the union on any changes to our editorial team.”

Private Media was on the defamation rollercoaster this year, before News Corp’s new boss, Lachlan Murdoch, dropped his case against them.

Swinging diktats

Ominous full-age ads from paid streaming channels warning that the “government wants to control your TV” clearly pressed the buttons of the free-to-air mob.

The government had taken issue with the likes of Foxtel, Binge and other paid-for services being given prominence on tellies’ pre-programmed apps over the ABC and free-to-air channels. The Pay TV providers were hardly going to turn the other cheek, and accused the government of Big Brother -esque behaviour.

The free, commercial broadcasters in turn painted the paid mob as Big Brother.

“Don’t let big tech take your free away,” their campaign said. “When big tech controls your TV, you’re the one who pays.”

Meanwhile, there’s a new industry player with a distinct Aussie flavour in the streaming world.

Umbrella Entertainment has launched Brollie, a free and ad-free streaming platform specialising in hard to find Australian content. Brollie’s offerings include movies, television shows, documentaries and a category specifically for First Nations work.

No word on what prominence the television manufacturers will give to Brollie’s app.

‘Grubby buffoon’ v Melbourne’s ‘gronk’

Kyle Sandilands and Jackie “O” Henderson are hoping their top-rated radio show can make the leap from bright, brash Sydney to cool, more cultural Melbourne.

The KIIS 1065 pair not only signed another mega, decade-long deal (worth potentially $200m, according to The Australian’s calculations), they’re launching into the Melbourne market.

“Love us or loathe us, Jackie and I will be continuing with our politically incorrect nonsense for a long, long time,” Sandilands said.

Melbourne radio man Steve Price, was in his other gig on The Project when he called Sandliands a “grubby buffoon”. “I don’t think grubby buffoons work in Melbourne. I probably shouldn’t call him a grubby buffoon. He’s just a grub,” Price said.

“Who cares if Melbourne doesn’t like us? We still get paid,” Sandliands said on Thursday, before calling Price a “gronk”.

You wouldn’t get that on Triple R.

Switz splits with ABC

Radio National presenter, Tom Switzer, will ease the cognitive dissonance of working for both the ABC and the “classic liberal” (read: libertarian) thinktank the Centre for Independent Studies by leaving the public broadcaster.

The last edition of his show, Between the Lines, will be on 20 January, before he leaves to concentrate on his role at the CIS.

Switzer copped some flak earlier this year for a an opinion piece he wrote in The Australian in which he decried the audacity of Stan Grant to have an opinion.

The piece was written amid a media pile on after Grant’s coverage of King Charles’s coronation.

Switzer and Janet Albrechtsen’s piece in The Australian was headlined: “We stand with Stan? Give us a break. Stand for quality journalism.”

Grant had morphed into a “celebrity activist”, the ABC radio host opined.

Switzer’s switch follows ABC Sydney afternoons host Josh Szeps’ resignation. Szeps said on air that there were “penalties for speaking bluntly”. “Having truly rational, bullshit-free conversations about controversial issues is risky these days,” he said.

Michelle Rowland at the National Press Club on Wednesday.
Michelle Rowland at the National Press Club on Wednesday. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Greening the news deserts

Too many questions were barely enough when it came to the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, appearing at the National Press Club. She was quizzed on the television prominence laws, the government’s misinformation bill and the gambling industry, after announcing a new crackdown on social media – because of the “rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric on X [formerly known as Twitter]”.

She did manage to squeeze in a bit of forward sizzle about the government’s plans to, perhaps, create some oases in Australia’s vast news deserts. The abandonment of rural and regional Australia by media businesses has left swathes of the country without local coverage.

Rowland said she expected to announce “in the near future” the government’s News Media Assistance Plan (NewsMAP).

“And that is based on research that is being informed by the ACMA’s work around diversity and areas where for so many years we did not understand where these news deserts existed or where potential ones were emerging,” she said.

“So, we will have more to say shortly in terms of our broader media reform program.”

• Tory Shepherd is filling in for Amanda Meade, who will return to Weekly Beast in early December

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