Stutchbury: The Oz’s ‘incompetent’ claims are ‘disappointing’

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 12.46.54 PMEditor-in-chief of The Australian Financial Review Michael Stutchbury says he is “disappointed” at personal attacks” levelled at him and senior journalist Neil Chenoweth in today’s The Australian, over a story which News Corp had received $882m tax windfall from the tax office.

On Monday the Financial Review reported News Corp Australia, which publishes The Australian, had received one of the largest cash payments ever made by the Tax Office after the Federal Court allowed  the publisher to claim a $2 billion deduction.

In the wake of the article, The Australian has responded with a series of articles including an opinion piece by business editor Geoff Elliott, a news story critical of the original story and also a fierce editorial which denounced Chenoweth as “deranged” and Stutchbury as “incompetent”.

The editorial today calls on Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood to remove Stutchbury and concludes with a paragraph: “Stutchbury, who was considered incompetent by staff of this newspaper before his removal as editor, and his senior editors should be held to account for publishing Chenoweth’s blatantly dishonest reporting.”

“Personally I am disappointed at The Australian’s personal attack on myself, which its editors know to be incorrect,” said Stutchbury, who is also a former editor of The Australian, and moved to the AFR in 2011. 

“The Australian is perfectly entitled to challenge any story in The Australian Financial Review. But the guts of the yarn remains entirely legitimate,” he said.

“While The Australian is entitled to challenge any interpretation of these facts, its personal attacks on the Financial Review’s Walkley award winning Neil Chenoweth do not advance its argument. Chenoweth’s long history of investigative reporting, from Rene Rivkin to Eddie Obeid, is unsurpassed in Australian financial journalism.”

When asked if he was considering taking an legal action he said: “I won’t be suing”.

However, he also said it was important to note the context of the story.  “The Australian Tax Office paid $882 million to News Corporation last year,” he said. “This came after a Federal Court ruled against the ATO’s disallowance of a $2 billion tax deduction claimed from a series paper transactions between the company’s subsidiaries. At the same time the ATO was deciding not to appeal the court decision, News Corp newspapers in Australia were running a vigorous campaign against the then Labor government.”

“The payout to News Corp, which is one of the largest tax payments made by the ATO, only came to light following the release of the company’s group accounts last week. The issue of multinational tax payments of course is one of the key agenda items on the G20 finance ministers’ meeting to be chaired by Treasurer Joe Hockey this weekend.”

In 2013 Stutchbury did a video interview with Mumbrella content director Tim Burrowes where he spoke about the rivalry between himself, Chris Mitchell and The Australian.

Nic Christensen 


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.