Claims emerge of opinion poll rigging


By Barry Tucker                    31 August, 2013

Evidence has emerged that at least some opinion polls are rigged. In one case, a journalist is alleged to have skewed his story to suit the agenda of his boss.

Earlier this week mining millionaire Clive Palmer said he gave large amounts of money to polling companies when he was a director of Queensland’s Liberal National Party (LNP*).

The Murdoch owned The Australian’s online edition quoted Mr Palmer as saying: “When I was a former party director there were polling companies that I used to give large donations to and they’d write the results for them [polls],” he said. This quote is not accurate. A transcript shows Mr Palmer was interrupted and The Australian’s journalist completed his remark for him.

The paper was reporting on Mr Palmer’s appearance on ABC TV’s Lateline on Tuesday night, 27 August. The link above takes you to a video replay and a transcript.

This is the exchange from the transcript of the Lateline interview:

“EMMA ALBERICI: In 11 days time you expect to win as many as 15 seats at the election, what gives you that confidence given the latest Channel seven ReachTEL poll has you winning no seats at all?

CLIVE PALMER: ReachTEL never have you winning anything. When I was former party director there were polling companies I used to give large donations to and they would write …

EMMA ALBERICI: Are you saying the polling’s rigged?

CLIVE PALMER: Of course the polling’s rigged. Rupert Murdoch owns Galaxy** poll and Newspoll and the media tries to set the agenda and determines the result of an election before it’s been held. That’s not a democracy, it’s up to the people.”

In today’s online magazine Crikey, senior journalist Andrew Crook wrote that Murdoch’s The Daily Telegraph has been caught out “spinning” the result of a Galaxy poll “designed to sledge Labor’s National Broadband Network” (NBN). Mr Crook did not say who had caught out Galaxy. Presumably it is himself.***

Mr Crook also points out that the poll was financed by listed virtual office company Servcorp, but this is not declared in the Telegraph story on the poll’s findings. Mr Crook also mentions that Servcorp has donated more than $1 million to the federal Liberal Coalition (the Opposition parties), although he states these donations do not appear in the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website. Cash donations to political parties have to be declared to the AEC and stories are emerging that donations totalling many millions have not been reported.

Labor watcher and biographer Bob Ellis has been running a series of articles on his blog and in online magazine Independent Australia (IA), claiming polls are being rigged. Mr Ellis and supporters also conduct small flash polling in limited areas. In an IA article published yesterday, Mr Ellis reported on a conversation he had with an unnamed Newspoll employee.

The story begins with a segment from the Lateline interview referred to above. Scroll down for the Newspoll conversation.

See also: Can news media influence election outcome?

* The Liberal National Party (LNP) is the Queensland version of National Party of Australia (the Nationals), the coalition partner of the Liberal/National federal Opposition.

 ** I am not sure that Murdoch owns Galaxy Research. Wikipedia says its poll results are published in Murdoch newspapers:  Herald-Sun, Courier-Mail and The Daily Telegraph. Newspoll data are published in The Australian.

*** On 4 October, 2007, Crikey’s Peter Brent reported on polling, under the headline: Forget the election contest, look at the pollsters

Update, 21 March, 2014

I have read a few academic articles that have wrestled with the question of what, if anything, drives the opinion polls. It’s a struggle that usually ends in an unsatisfying draw, the learned “judges” being unable to decide the matter.

On Monday, 17 March, 2014, I tweeted the following:

My tweet

Blogger and former Liberal party insider Paula Matthewson took up the issue with an article in The Hoopla the following day. In a brief piece, Ms Matthewson did what the academics and researchers have not been able to do. It’s simple psychology stupid. And a fair bit of logic.


Is Rupert Murdoch planning a home coming?

By Barry Tucker                   29 August, 2013

Rodney E. Lever once worked for Rupert Murdoch and is today a Murdoch watcher, commentator and blogger.

In an article in online magazine Independent Australia, Mr Lever writes about some of the pressures building up around Murdoch and his influence on news coverage during Australia’s current federal election campaign.

Murdoch, born in Melbourne, traded his Australian citizenship to comply with rules affecting ownership of USA television companies. Mr Lever speculates that Murdoch is backing a Liberal election win because a Liberal government would welcome him back but a Labor government would not. It’s a long bow, in my opinion, but it’s always interesting to read Mr Lever for his opinions and insights.

Here’s another point of view, from The Australian Financial Review’s Neil Chenoweth, author of three books on Murdoch, the latest being Murdoch’s Pirates. He is talking to the ABC’s Richard Aedy on Radio National’s Media Report, 30 August, 2013.

The ABC MP3 audio file has headlines first, then the interview with Mr Chenoweth.

Enter the baron, exit the truth

media fail

By Barry Tucker                    26 February, 2013

Vince O’Grady was a police constable in the UK before migrating to Australia in the 1970s. He found a different society, one with a better mannered news media than the one he left behind. He was just in time to witness the emergence of two news media barons: first Kerry Packer and then Rupert Murdoch. Mr O’Grady says the nature of Australia’s news media has changed under the influence of these two men. In the case of Rupert Murdoch, it has changed for the worse.

After detailing the background, Mr O’Grady contrasts the work of on-line magazine Independent Australia and their investigative contributor, Peter Wicks, on The Thomson Affair with the interest the mainstream news media (MNM) has shown in the matter. Mr Wicks worked with an informant and upstaged the MNM by detecting flaws in their “evidence”.

After making his own investigations, Mr O’Grady tried to interest the MNM in an alternative narrative, without success. His approach to the ABC’s 7.30 Report, Lateline and Media Watch received a “thank you” note from Media Watch only.

Mr O’Grady comments:

“There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the ABC is compromised as a purveyor of the truth with respect to the affairs of the Australian Parliament and their reporting of events surrounding Craig Thomson and his alleged wrongdoing. And their silence on Jacksonville confirms this bias. They have a Charter to inform the Australian public in a balanced way — they have breached this promise.

“One might expect the commercial free to air channels, who are often the purveyors of journalistic rubbish, may be inclined to ignore the truth — but it is the treatment of this issue by the ABC that is most disturbing.”

You can read Mr O’Grady’s story here: Independent Australia

Old media caught with pants down, again!

By Barry Tucker          January 25, 2013

(Edited, amended and added to on January 26, 27, 2013)

Kim Powell

Kim Powell

Kim Powell is a former journalist who is now studying for a media doctorate and comments on the news media (and sexism) on the News With Nipples blog. Ms Powell has a Masters degree in journalism and considerable experience in the field. Her blog has won a citation from the Sydney Writers’ Centre.

In a recent blog, Kim gave a bucketing to the shallow and negative reporting of two senior political journalists writing for The Sydney Morning Herald and the National Times on Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s selection* of Ms Nova Peris to represent Labor in the Senate.

“There’s a story in the Sydney Morning Herald today that’s a great example of how meaningless political journalism has become. It’s not about a manufactured scandal, or a gaffe, or something that happened decades ago, but is just the everyday political journalism that is, frankly, rubbish.”

Ms Powell proceeds to pick apart a largely negative and unbalanced story on reaction to the Prime Minister’s unilateral selection* of an Aboriginal woman and Olympic gold medallist to run for the Senate.

The everyday shit they call journalism

Ms Powell’s article is a bit ranty in parts. But her criticism of unsubstantiated comments, anonymous comments, insufficient research and (on the National Times online version) irrelevant photographs is reasonable and correct.

Nova Peris

Nova Peris

The main fault with the SMH/National Times story is its generally negative nature and complete failure to provide the background for Ms Peris’ recent work that supports and justifies the Prime Minister’s* choice. You can read a more sympathetic appraisal of Ms Peris’ qualifications here: in an article by close acquaintance Catriona Wallace.

The SMH (Fairfax Media) story is by-lined Mark Kenny and Jonathan Swan. Until recently Mr Kenny was National Political Editor, Canberra, for Adelaide’s The Advertiser (a News Limited publication).

Mr Kenny’s Tweets on his Advertiser account (, last used on November 27, 2012, are often negative towards Labor and positive towards the LNP Coalition, as I have come to expect from a News Limited journalist.

Now that he works for the Fairfax Media owned SMH, Mr Kenny will have to sing a different tune. The SMH and sister publication Melbourne’s Age became slightly more Labor friendly several months ago.

Ms Peris, if successful, will be the first Aboriginal woman to enter Parliament. This will be a significant event in Australian history and is more deserving than the treatment it initially received.

The announcement immediately drew criticism of the Prime Minister for a unilateral* decision, for failing to consult with Northern Territory Labor party officials and for riding roughshod over sitting Senator Trish Crossin.

That was followed by an attempt to smear Ms Peris with allegations of removing furniture from a girls’ college she established. It turns out Ms Peris removed personal furniture because education authorities decided to replace it with new furniture. No scandal at all.

Mr Kenny made amends for Thursday’s story with a more detailed and backgrounded story the following day. That story covers Prime Minister Gillard’s activities designed to get indigenous representation in the Australian Parliament and provides more information about Ms Peris’ qualifications for the role of Senator.

Prime Minister Gillard’s decision was not as unilateral as it was first reported. Mr Kenny wrote yesterday:

“While nobody saw her political arrival coming, the idea was hatched in November — the brainchild of the ALP national secretary, George Wright, and Mr Butler, now a member of Ms Gillard’s cabinet.

“It was the culmination of a nearly six-month search for a suitable indigenous candidate commissioned by Ms Gillard.

“Since then, an exhaustive process of due diligence has been run out of the PM’s office to make sure there were no lurking issues in her [Ms Peris’] past.”

In fact, Mr Kenny began yesterday’s story by writing that Ms Gillard’s interest in an indigenous candidate goes back to May 2001, at least.

Read Mr Kenny’s follow-up story here:

One aspect of the story that has not been explained is why the ALP has displaced a sitting and presumably successful Northern Territory Senator in favour of Ms Peris. This puts Labor in a similar position to the Queensland Liberal National Party when it decided to drop the very successful Queensland MP Peter Slipper in favour of Mal Brough, a former Minister seeking re-election.

Labor lost the last Northern Territory election. A significant factor in the loss was the former NT government’s decision to interfere with the structure of councils in outlying areas — a move that Aboriginal communities said seriously disadvantaged them.

Tess Lawrence

Tess Lawrence

Independent Australia’s Contributing Editor-at-Large Tess Lawrence has dug much deeper into the background of the decision to replace Senator Crossin with Nova Peris. Ms Lawrence says the storyline about “indigenous representation” should be taken with “a grain of epsom salts”.

Follow that story here:

Liberals Allowed to Beat Their Drum Loudest

A detailed analysis by ABC Gone to Hell ( of the political make-up of guests on the ABC television program The Drum, from June 2011 to June 2012. Published August 12, 2012

Includes pie charts compiled from data provided by the ABC.

February 9, 2013. The story has migrated to the Independent Australia (IA) website.

Following a response from The Drum presenter Steve Cannane, some of the political affiliations of the guests have been reviewed, some revised and some reinstated.

The story now contains Mr Cannane’s response, revised pie charts, a reply to Mr Cannane from author/researcher Andrew Kos and a contribution from the IA Editor.

Read all about it (on IA) here: