Stories today and last Thursday in Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper, The Australian, made a number of false imputations. We will address the main ones.

GetUp! financed michaelwest.com.au to conduct an investigation into the tax affairs of 20 multinational companies. The deal was a one-month sponsorship arrangement worth $500 per investigation into each company’s financial statements.

THE AUSTRALIAN:

“GetUp! declined to say how much it is paying West, but his fee could well exceed $100,000.”

THE FACTS:

The fee was actually $10,000, one-tenth of The Australia’s mooted figure. The Tax Justice Network is also tipping in $1,000. The funding will cover the website’s costs for a month.

As the corporate regulator charges $38 just to search one set of financial statements, GetUp! has also agreed to fund the dozens of company searches required.

THE AUSTRALIAN

This is not the first time West has been involved in a GetUp! campaign. GetUp!’s promotional material for West’s articles says: “Last year, West was an integral part of GetUp!’s campaign to stop the sale of the ASIC registry — a move that would have seen big business take control of Australia’s corporate database.”

THE FACTS:

Contrary to the false imputation that there was a commercial arrangement regarding the ASIC registry, I was not paid. I was approached by GetUp! and agreed to do a video to assist in the campaign purely for reasons of public interest.

THE AUSTRALIAN

“West, a former Fairfax Media and News Corp journalist, was invited to provide a statement explaining why the independence of his journalism had not been compromised by his links with GetUp!”

THE FACTS:

Since establishing a monthly payments schedule last month michaelwest.com.au has picked up 500 paying subscribers. Most are paying $5 a month, a few are paying $20 and $100.

Since inception last year, the venture has been funded by members of the public and by my Fairfax Media redundancy cheque. The purpose of the website is public interest. There is no paywall. I expect that the start-up venture will be self-funding in two months as it attracts more paying subscribers.

The independence of our journalism has not been compromised in any way by GetUp! or any other party, including the Australian Conservation Foundation which paid for a report last month into the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and the Adani coal project. Again, appropriate disclosures were made. This was no secret either.

THE AUSTRALIAN

Throughout its coverage – “payments to West came to light” etc – the newspaper has imputed that the arrangement with GetUp! has been tainted and somehow kept secret from the public and from readers.

THE FACTS:

The GetUp! arrangement has been disclosed at the bottom of the multinational tax avoidance coverage on michaelwest.com.au. GetUp links back to our website. It is no secret. The Australian could have checked this with the stroke of a keyboard. Perhaps it chose to ignore this inconvenient fact.

QUESTIONS PUT TO NEWS CORP

michaelwest.com.au put these questions to News Corp this morning:

1. Please detail the commercial arrangements between News Ltd, The Australian and the oil and gas industry.

There was no response to this question.

2. Please detail the extent of the financial losses by The Australian last year. Did the losses exceed $50 million?

News Corp spokesperson: “The claim of a $50 million loss for the Australian is totally wrong.”

When asked what the magnitude of the loss was, the spokesperson declined to respond.

3. Please provide a statement explaining how News Ltd and its media assets navigate the independence and conflict of interest issues vis-a-vis having commercial arrangements with large advertisers while their reporters write about these companies.

There was no response to this question.

4. In the latest accounts for News Australia Holdings, the $400m loan to Foxtel has an interest rate of 10.5 per cent. As News can borrow at less than half that rate, why is it charging its associate so much interest? Is this tax evasion?

There was no response to this question.

5. Is News still deemed by the ATO to be the nation’s number one “tax risk”?

There was no response to this question.

CONCLUSION

A key point in all this is that The Australian refuses to disclose its commercial arrangements while demanding a start-up business dedicated to the public interest disclose its commercial arrangements.

Media minnow is grateful for swipe by foreign media gorilla News Corp