The Australian censured by Press Council over superfund opinion piece

The Australian has been admonished by the Australian Press Council over its ‘Industry super must be taken to task’ opinion piece for a failure to ensure claims made within the article were accurate and not misleading.

The article by Judith Sloan, the paper’s contributing economics editor, was published on December 3, 2015. It discussed standards of governance of industry super funds and made the claim “supply chains are tightly held by union-related entities – in relation to funds management, investment, financial advice and custodial services” and “[t]he market is never tested because doing business with union mates is so much easier, it would seem”.

Industry Super Australia – which manages collective projects on behalf of Industry Superfunds – complained about the opinion article. It told the Press Council that while the article appeared as a ‘comment’ in the print edition and in the ‘opinion’ section online, the statements about supply chains being tightly held by union-released entities was presented as a statement of fact, which Industry Super Australia contended was inaccurate.


It said custodial services for industry funds are provided almost entirely by major commercial financial institutions that have no relationship whatsoever with unions. The circumstance in which one organisation providing custodial services is a listed company, which acquired an entity originally set up by a number of super funds, does not make it a “union-related” entity.

The body also argued the opinion piece’s statement around the market never being tested was also presented as a statement of fact, and was not fair and balanced.

The Australian, which is owned by News Corp, defended the piece, saying the statements were made in the context of a comment article and should be read as opinion and not as statements of fact.

The broadsheet said it would be open to publishing a balancing opinion piece to contribute to a robust debate on the issues but it was not prepared to make a correction or clarification as there was no inaccuracy, and the complainant did not make such a request before lodging a complaint with the Press Council.

It was the Press Council’s view that while the article was headed as “comment” or “opinion”, the statements in question were expressed as statement of fact and not merely an expression of the author’s opinion.

The Council ruled The Australian failed to take reasonable steps to ensure both statements were accurate and not misleading.


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