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When is a quote not a quote?


There was an article in The Australian by Hedley Thomas on Saturday that got Paul Kelly asking questions of the PM.

According to the article, Thomas inferred that the PM had to resign as a direct result of an incident dealing with her ex Bruce Wilson. The article said it had received a two page statement from a equity partner in New York. So lets see how much of this two page statement actually made it to print. Below are all the quotes the author attributed to the man.

“recorded and transcribed”

“took a very serious view”

“and accepted her resignation”

“The firm was scrupulous to ensure these matters were both properly investigated and Ms Gillard was given every opportunity to explain her involvement,”

“Ms Gillard conveyed to me that she thought she had been ‘shabbily’ treated after eight years of service.”

“she could not categorically deny AWU union or (AWU) Workplace Reform Association monies”

“legal and related work to establish the AWU Workplace Reform Association in Western Australia”.

“she did not open a file at the firm”

“to her recollection, no other lawyer was consulted”

“was not involved in opening or operating any bank accounts for the association,”

(and now one big chunk)

“She understood the purpose of the association was to hold re-election funds for union officials contributed by individual union members and fundraisers. She stated it was referred to as a re-election or slush fund. She had been in a relationship with Mr Wilson for nearly four years commencing in late 1991.

“She and Mr Wilson attended the auction of 85 Kerr Street, Fitzroy in early 1993 where Mr Wilson made a successful bid for the house which was purchased in the name of Ralph Blewitt. Mr Blewitt did not attend the auction. She understood the house was a property investment made by Mr Blewitt, and that Mr Wilson would live there as a trusted tenant. She believed this arrangement suited them both.

“She had extensively renovated her own house in Abbotsford. Mr Wilson had assisted in the renovations. She believed she had paid for all the work and materials, and had receipts which she agreed to produce. She was aware someone had sought payment from the AWU for work and materials he had supplied for the house. He was mistaken or misinformed. But she could not categorically deny AWU union or Workplace Association monies had been used for any of the work. As at the time of the interview, her relationship with Mr Wilson had recently ended.”

That’s all I could see from a two page statement. It always interests me when sometimes a quote will be reported in chunks as with the last section, and when they cut and paste choice words as they did at the beginning.

Without a copy of the full statement it is not clear why the author may have done this. It certainly wasn’t to save space in his column.

I actually had a debate on twitter the Saturday the article came out and I pointed out one just construction of cut and pasted words.

Mr Styant-Browne, now a Seattle-based lawyer, said the partnership “took a very serious view” of these and other matters, “and accepted her resignation”.

As you can see, when you place those two part quotes together you get a misleading summary. It is possible the intent was as quoted by the author and its possible they did not. In fact, if you allow me some creative license

[note I am making this up as I dont have access to the statement, but it could have been]

At Slater and Gordon we “took very serious view” on these and other matters”. . He could have then mentioned what happened, how the PM denied she did any wrong doing. How she submitted receipts. How the investigation found no wrong doing. How the PM thought she was shabbily treated in the matter and as a result of this treatment resigned. And how she tended her resignation to them. Since she was not happy with her treatment they there had to do as she requested “and accepted the resignation”

As I say, I dont have the statement nor was it published. I could most likely be wrong. But I dont need to see the statement when Hedley Thomas offered an opinion piece on his own piece to know he made something up. This stood out a mile to me straight away.

The outcome, says Styant-Browne, was that the partnership “took a very serious view of these matters, and accepted her resignation”.

Do you see what Hedley did here? He took two distinct quotes he had printed in the first article and in his opinion merged them into a third totally different quote.

Always go to the source Hedley. In fact, you might have wanted to start with this article from 2011

Not only is no news good news, it seems any news is now not news at all.


A. Ghebranious 2012

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