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ABC pulls corporate tax analysis for failing to meet ‘editorial standards’

The ABC has removed an analysis piece by Emma Alberici which discussed the proposed changes to company tax rates after it failed to meet the national broadcaster’s “editorial standards”.

At the same time, the ABC revised the news story which accompanied Alberici’s opinion piece following criticism from various business commentators and reports of complaints from the Prime Minister’s office about both articles.

On February 14, ABC News online published two stories, one which examined why various Australian companies did not pay corporate tax and the other, an analysis by the ABC’s new chief economics correspondent, Alberici.

The news article by Alberici was not removed, but was amended with extra information and context

The analysis piece claimed one in five of Australia’s top companies had paid zero tax for the past three years, while the news story – which remains on the ABC website – also criticised Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and his company, for not paying tax since 2009. Joyce is a strong supporter of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed plans to cut business tax by 25%.

Alberici’s analysis was criticised by Joyce as “very misleading”, telling the ABC on Thursday his company had not paid company tax because it had not made a profit.

It was also critiqued by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier in the week,  as “one of the most confused and poorly researched articles I’ve seen on this topic”.

Alberici’s article was described as “incredibly misleading” by Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce

The Australia Financial Review’s Rear Window columnist Joe Aston said the article exposed the author’s “innumeracy“, explaining the available data the Australian Taxation Office show that 32 of Australia’s 50 largest companies paid $19.33b in company tax in FY16. He added the other 18 paid nothing due to losing money, or carrying over previous losses.

On February 16, the ABC released a statement, informing readers the analysis has been removed for further review, and the original news story had been updated with information and further context.

“Complaints about the stories have been referred to the independent complaints handling unit Audience & Consumer Affairs, which will examine the editorial issues that have been raised,” the statement said.

“Any suggestion the ABC is responding to outside pressure over these stories is incorrect. They have been subject to the normal ABC editorial processes. The internal review of the stories was begun before any complaints were received by ABC News.”

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