Culture

The ‘Australian’ Tried To Go After Duncan From #QandA And It’s Backfiring Spectacularly

Stones in glass houses, guys.

Since his appearance on Q&A on Monday night, 45-year-old father of two Duncan Storrar has spoken to numerous media outlets about the difficulties of raising two kids on low-paid, unstable work, received an avalanche of online support via the #IStandWithDuncan hashtag, and become something of an election celebrity. In less than a day, more than 500 people have donated over $15,000 to a crowdfunding campaign so Duncan can take his kids to the movies.

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But not everyone’s too happy about someone like Duncan having a moment in the limelight. In an apparent attempt to poke a hole in Duncan’s new profile, the front page of today’s Australian carries the headline “ABC’s ‘budget fairness’ victim pays no net tax”.

The story itself, which is available online, is a lot more nuanced than the gotcha headline suggests. The opening paragraph clarifies that Storrar “pays no net tax and relies on Austudy payments after a difficult life marked by ill health,” and the article goes on to note that “he lives with his mother, sporadically working as a truck driver on $16 an hour and ­relying on a $520-a-fortnight ­Austudy ­allowance to survive”. It interviews Duncan for his perspective, and quotes him extensively.

But headlines — especially front-page ones — are powerful. They’re all that most people read of a news story, and they shape how people perceive what they’re reading. Of all the important and serious issues discussed in the article, picking the fact that Storrar doesn’t pay net tax and splashing it over the front page is a pretty cynical exercise in punching down on the Oz‘s part.

Needless to say, it hasn’t taken long for that front page to get a very dim reception — especially given the fact that News Australia Holdings, the company that owns the Australian, didn’t pay any tax in the 2013/14 financial year despite raking in around $2.8 billion in revenue. Unfortunately for the Oz, that inconvenient fact is beginning to get picked up on.

Given that huge companies not paying their fair share of tax is shaping up to be one of the election’s biggest issues, the Australian might have just unwittingly helped Storrar’s case.