PSsst! Unsourced, nonfactual garbage

By The Mandarin

Friday July 30, 2021

mailbox
Mailboxes across much of regional Australia are getting a surprise. (Andrey Popov/Adobe)

PSST

Some treasure should stay buried

Does anyone remember that Clive Palmer was once named a Living National Treasure?

Yep, in 2012, Australians voted the honour on the billionaire mining magnate. Apparently, all his staff were ordered to vote for him at the time, but that’s another story.

The Palmer story seems never-ending, however. No longer a federal MP, he still has his fingers in the political pie and loves to distribute misinformation (his $60m 2019 election spend?). 

His United Australia Party is planning an invitation-only event in Canberra next month where a ‘big announcement’ will be made about the next federal election and who the candidates might be.

Meanwhile, Palmer is continuing with his dangerous COVID misinformation campaign designed to undermine the nation’s health officials and all public servants. He is trying to discredit efforts to control the spread of the virus and to tear down any confidence in the available vaccinations.

And now his efforts in this venture are no longer contained to his own state of Queensland. Mailboxes across much of regional Australia are being stuffed with official-looking, tear-open, four-page booklets full of unsourced, nonfactual garbage. And no one seems to be holding him to account over these lies. So he’s probably on track to get plenty of votes for his party then.  

TikTok, time’s up

Kudos to the crack team inside NSW Health who masterminded a sting to foil a prankster pretending to be psychic over the state’s COVID case numbers. 

For five days in a row, Jon-Bernard Kairouz accurately predicted on TikTok the NSW daily coronavirus cases before they were released.

He didn’t take himself too seriously; instead light-heartedly crediting all sorts of bizarre mathematical manoeuvres for his insight.

NSW Health took it seriously though, especially when social media lit up, erroneously blaming calculations from the state’s own COVID-19 app for the comedian’s daily predictions.

No, Kairouz was stopped in his tracks when fake numbers were released to departmental staff in order to sniff out the leak.

Did it work? Yes. Was it through the employ of questionable ethics? No comment.

Three par Pete powers on

This column first mentioned in May, defence minister Peter Dutton’s direction to his department that media requests should be pretty much given short shrift.

The issue was initially brought to light by Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter after the journal got its hands on a leaked email from the minister’s office to the department.

The email was titled ‘Media Response Advice’ and gave strict instructions:  

  • Responses are to be as brief and succinct as possible.
  • Guidance is to limit responses to three paras, regardless of the breadth of the question(s); additional information can be offered on background.
  • Capability-related interviews are unlikely to be approved, be rigidly flexible to revert to written responses.

The matter has since been raised in senate estimates. Most recently, The Guardian got its hands on the email through an FOI request and published their take on it this week. All the while, the minister and department are standing firm and giving very little away to even the most innocent media enquiries.

It is understood, however, that more than a few inside Defence Media would actually really, really like to be able to do their jobs.

Off yer bike

As reported earlier this week, federal parliament will impose tight restrictions from next Monday in a lockdown, hoping to halt the spread of any COVID strain politicians might bring in from various parts of the country. 

Parliament will be sitting, but there will be: limits on numbers for both houses, staffing reductions, and no public admissions.

Parliament House eateries will pivot once more to take-away orders and no-contact room delivery only. Functions have been cancelled, so too school visits. More check-ins will be required and masks recommended.

But what seems to be causing the most angst for many of the regular Canberra-based staff, officials and officers who work permanently in the building is that the parliamentary gym and pool will be shut down completely — for a whole month. Some staffers fear they could soon be looking as portly as some of their political masters they serve.

Edge of deja vu

The federal government has appointed Bill Edge, a former partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers and former chairman of the Financial Reporting Council, as the full-time chairman of the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board for a 12-month period. Those in the accounting world with greying hair will know this appointment will be a bit of deja vu for Edge. 

He was the chair of the auditing standard setter when the board was still a creature of the accounting profession. It was snaffled up by the Howard government after Enron collapsed, Andersen imploded, and the United States congress decided to tighten regulation of auditing almost 20 years ago. 

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