Media payback

Newspapers are never at their best in campaign mode. Today’s Age leads with a story headed ‘Judge savages Andrews’. The article begins:

A FEDERAL Court judge has launched an extraordinary attack on Kevin Andrews over the involuntary removal of a man to New Zealand, claiming the Immigration Minister’s behaviour had been “truly disgraceful”.

The Immigration Department yesterday removed Timothy John Borstrok from Australia, even though he had lodged an application to appeal to the Federal Court over a decision to cancel his visa on character grounds

Only a dozen paragraphs in, long after most people have stopped reading, are we informed:

But a spokeswoman for Mr Andrews said: “While the …removal was done by the authority of the Immigration Department, the minister had no knowledge of, or involvement with the court hearing or the removal.”


What seems to have happened here is the Mr Borstrok, who had previously left Australia after his visa had been cancelled, had returned in November 2005 on a fraudulent passport. He had been found in November 2006 and detained since. This case, though, was apparently over the original visa cancellation. A federal magistrate had this week dismissed Borstrok’s application to have the visa cancellation reviewed.

Mr Borstrok – perhaps because he is a cleaner from New Zealand rather than a politically fashionable refugee – was representing himself in court, and though he had lodged an appeal to the Federal Court, he had not sought an injunction from the Magistrates Court to prevent his deportation while he appealed. So the Immigration Department sent him back to New Zealand.

Given the thousands of immigration cases Ministers can hardly be expected to monitor this level of detail in every instance. If indeed Justice Margaret Stone called the Minister’s behaviour ‘truly disgraceful’, as The Age claims, she was indulging in the kind of hyperbole best left to the likes of Julian Burnside.

While an outburst from the bench may be slightly newsworthy – though Google News suggests that no other Australia media outlet even thought this story was worth reporting, let alone as the page one lead – the prominence of this article strongly suggests that this was an attempted payback on Andrews for breaching the soft left code of silence on ethnic groups with troubles, and had nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of Borstrok’s deportation.

The Age
is certainly not the only paper to do this kind of thing. But they all damage their credibility when they so obviously politicise their reporting.

8 thoughts on “Media payback

  1. The Age has been truly feral lately. I wonder if it’s payback from the staff for the paper’s endorsement of Howard at the last election.

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  2. Given Howard Ministers stock-in-trade “I didn’t know. I wasn’t told. I wasn’t advised”, Andrew’s would say that, wouldn’t he. It’s been misused too many times to have much credibility. Who’s to know the truth of the matter?

    Politicians and the MSM are two sides of the same coin feeding incestuously off each other for their own nefarious ends. Neither are deserving of our sympathy when one crosses the other.

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  3. Andrew you’re drawing a long bow by attributing devious motives to the editorial staff. Today’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ led with ‘Drinkers’ alert: two a day is new limit’. Does this suggest a sinister plot by the SMH to pay back the liquor industry for some past sin? I think the more likely explanation for both stories is that Fairfax thought it was a very slow news day.

    On the substantive point though, the incident illustrates the fundamental deficiency in so much of the recent legislation covering personal liberty. It delegates functions to ‘the minister’ when in fact, as you correctly observe, there are far too many of them to be attended to by the minister personally. The functions therefore end up being carried out by functionaries of unknown integrity and competence. In the old days, ministers were nevertheless held accountable for the behaviour of their departmental staff. That convention has long since been abandoned, so that today the people making the decisions aren’t accountable at all. I can understand why judges get pissed off.

    Disclaimer: I have no connection with Fairfax or indeed any other media outlet :-).

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  4. I just think that every day The Age seeks to attack the government on some ground. If they cannot think of some half decent target they invent something.

    If the Judge said this he is disgraceful but The Age is a disgrace for blowing the whole thing up.

    It may be politicisation but it comes close to deception. There is a campaign targeting Andrews and this fell neatly into that.

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  5. Rajat – I agree. The Age is truely feral. Another example is it’s front page treatment of Al Gore snaring the Nobel Peace Prize and its’ complete silence about the British judge who found this film was unbalanced and many of his claims could not be sustained. My favourite is this claim that sea levels will rise by up to 7 metres. His co-winners, the IPCC, claim that, at worse, sea level could rise by 60 cm by the end of the century.

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  6. Sorry Johno, but you’ve clearly been reading too much of the News Limited misreporting on this. The judge did NOT find that An Inconvient Truth was unbalanced: in fact, Justice Burton found that:

    “Al Gore’s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.”

    Nor did the Justice find that the film contained nine errors, as The Australian and others had reported.

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  7. If the Minister is not ultimately responsible for the actions of the Immigration Department, who is?

    Would the finding have been less or more worthy, judicially and news-wise, were “the Department” substituted for “the Minister”?

    Has the judge been penalised by the Court, or the government, for her outburst?

    Given the other stories in The Age that day, what should have gone onto the front page? Personally I am stunned that Melbournians are so blase about the Storm winning the NRL, but maybe that’s just me.

    If the media stop reporting cases like this, is clarity about Australian immigration policy and its enforcement likely to improve, or decrease?

    Now that the battle is joined, is Kevin Andrews likely to lose his seat and if so, what contribution will Stone J and The Age, let alone Mr Borstrok, have on that?

    Has Stone J heard a number of immigration appeal cases, such that this case was the final straw that led her to make a remark some might consider intemperate (and media outlets newsworthy)?

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  8. Andrew E – The Minister is responsible for the overall policy framework; public servants are responsible for implementation. Persistent failure by public servants should lead to them being sacked or reshuffled to more appropriate tasks. There is insufficient material reported here to know whether the Department stuffed up, and far too little to say that the Minister personally behaved in a ‘disgraceful’ way. What is his policy on people who fail to seek injunctions in the Magistrates Court?

    It seems to me that regardless of whether Borstrok had a case to appeal the initial visa cancellation, he still had a serious problem with the fraudulent passport. His was a hopeless case in more ways than one.

    At worst, this seems to be process problem, with no substantive injustice.

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