Press Council Adjudication

The Press Council considered a complaint from Cr Greg Bennett about a letter to the editor published under the heading "Choose Wisely" in The Northern Star in print on 10 September 2016. The letter, submitted by Cr Simon Clough, Deputy Mayor of Lismore City Council, expressed the writer's views of what "Cr Greg Bennett, of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party ... and his conservative colleagues ... will seek to do" if they "get the majority of seats on Lismore City Council", and the possible implications and risks of such actions, and urged voters to "carefully consider" what they wanted.

The complainant said the letter had been published on the day of the local government election and the publication had not contacted him to inform him and allow him the opportunity to reply in that edition of the newspaper. He said he had previously submitted letters for publication and would have done so had he known the letter was to be published on the day of the election. He said the letter was not accurate but this was the subject of a complaint by him to another body and he did not raise this issue with the Council.

The complainant said he believed the letter was published to cause maximum damage to his electoral prospects. He said the letter was signed off as "Deputy Mayor", when on the day of the election that position was declared vacant, and it created a misleading or unfair impression that the complainant stood as a Shooters member when he stood as an Independent candidate.

He said he was the leading candidate for mayor at pre-polling and most likely lost the mayoral election due to votes cast on election day. He said a retraction or apology was of no value as the damage had already been done.

The publication acknowledged the complainant did not have an opportunity to respond to the letter and in retrospect, regretted this. However, it said the letter appeared to be Cr Clough's honestly held view on the stated positions of the complainant and there was no significantly inaccurate material or omission of key facts. It said as the letter run on the "YOUR SAY" page, it was clearly understood by readers to be the writer's opinion. The publication also said the complainant had not to its knowledge submitted a letter to the editor in the last two years.

The publication denied the letter was published to inflict damage to the complainant's electoral prospects. It said its coverage had been fair and balanced and it had published articles supportive of some issues raised by the complainant, and provided fair and balanced coverage of all mayoral teams which was more prominent than the letter. It said that when submitted the reference to Cr Clough as Deputy Mayor was accurate and the letter did not state the complainant was standing as a Shooters candidate.

It said the letter ran in print only and the readership includes four other local government areas besides Lismore, all holding elections on that day, so there was only a very small percentage of readers eligible to vote in the Lismore election, certainly not enough to sway the result one way of the other. It noted that after first preference formal votes were counted, the complainant trailed by a significant margin behind the candidate elected as mayor and was in any event, returned as a councillor.


The Council's Standards of Practice require that publications take reasonable steps to ensure factual material is presented with reasonable fairness and balance and writers' expressions of opinion are not based on significantly inaccurate factual material or omission of key facts (General Principle 3) and where material refers adversely to a person, provide a fair opportunity for subsequent publication of a reply if that is reasonably necessary to address a possible breach of General Principle 3 (General Principle 4).

The Council considers that the letter set out Cr Clough's arguments to the electorate against the complainant's candidacy and the factual material in support of them. As the letter was published on election day, the only fair time for the publication to afford the complainant an opportunity to respond was in the same edition, which did not occur. The Council concludes that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to present factual material with reasonable fairness and balance and afford the complainant a fair opportunity for reply. Accordingly, the publication breached General Principles 3 and 4 in this respect. The Council considers it was not necessary for this conclusion to determine the effect, if any, of the publication of the letter on the election result.

Teen actor stars in The Dark Tower

BIG SCREEN: Alstonville's Nicholas Hamilton will be seen in some exciting films this year.

Alstonville's Nicholas Hamilton is part of the cast of the film.

Hogan holds firm on Australia Day date

MP Kevin Hogan at the opening of the Ballina Marine Tower on North Wall.

PAGE MP slaps down Lismore City Council over planned date change

Gig guide: hot shows on our stages this week

DUO: Beccy Cole and Adam Harvey are touring together to perform songs from their album Great Country Songbook Vol 2. Adam Harvey and Beccy Cole have stayed at the forefront of Australian country music for close to two decades, and the combination of these two dynamic performers has proven to be a hit with live audiences having toured the country on several occasions since their first encounter almost 20 years ago. Adam and Beccy have finally taken their favourite list of country duets to the studio and they have now hit the road with The Great Country Song Book Volume II Tour. At the Ballina RSL Club this Saturday from 8.30pm. Details from

Music, theatre, karaoke, forums and more

Local Partners

Design student makes it to semis for prestigious awards

DAREL Bonanno has been selected as a semi-finalist in the international Adobe Design Achievement Awards.

Bee Gees music is 'stayin' alive' 40 years later

HOT HITS: The Australian Bee Gees Show is coming to the Northern Rivers.

Show celebrates 40 years of Saturday Night Fever

Expo to help you discover your career

Do you know someone who would benefit from a Careers expo?

Richmond Valley youth are invited to careers expo on August 28.

Connect with North Coast artists on 2017 Mud Trail

On the path of the 2017 North Coast Mud Trail.

"To have completed a piece created by your own special.”

The two stars who intimidated Chris Hemsworth

HE plays a superhero on the big screen, but Chris Hemsworth has revealed that he was ‘weirdly shaken’ when he met two other big name actors.

Sam Newman: How a Playboy magazine changed everything

The new crew of The Footy Show.Source:Supplied

How a Playboy magazine changed everything.

Leah slams Matty: ‘I was incredibly disappointed’

Leah says she was ‘incredible disappointed’ with Matty J.

BACHELOR evictee's controversial chat with Kyle and Jackie O.

John Eales finds peace with the haka

Inia Maxwell and John Eales in a scene from the documentary John Eales Reveals: The Haka.

Rugby legend is on a quest to learn about a sacred Maori tradition/

The Bachelor recap: Secret pasts publicly exposed

Matty J is left speechless on The Bachelor.

TWO Bachelor contestants’ secret adult pasts have been exposed.

Mother-daughter duo passes Top of the Lake test

Alice Englert, Jane Campion and Nicole Kidman pose for a photograph at the Top of the Lake: China Girl Australian premiere in Sydney.

Alice Englert is a feisty addition to the cast of mum's crime drama.

What's on the big screen this week

Idris Elba in a scene from the movie The Dark Tower.

IDRIS Elba debuts as the Gunslinger in The Dark Tower.

Airbnb, Stayz and co tipped to squeeze Coast housing market

HOLIDAY BOOM: Airbnb letting is putting a further squeeze on long-term rentals.

Councils exploring options to manage the industry

Developer tears up couple's contract for new home

Jade and Edward Roberts were stung by the sunset clause on the first day of their honeymoon.

The developer has the right to do this under the sunset clause

Reports of Ibrahim family connections to farm and food hub

John Ibrahimat Bluesfest 2012.

REPORTS circulate colourful Sydney family have investments on the NR

Stunning, heritage-listed Coast home going under the hammer

STUNNING: Buderim House, a stunning heritage-listed Queenslander estate, is going to auction.

Coast home that played host to royalty is set for auction