Reporters from former Fairfax-owned newspapers have condemned their new bosses at Nine for hosting a $10,000-per-head Liberal Party fundraiser at the media organisation’s headquarters.
- Staff at the former Fairfax-owned newspapers have complained to Nine about the fundraiser
- The staff issued a joint statement to their chief executive and director of publishing
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison, some frontbenchers and former minister Arthur Sinodinos were reportedly at the event
In a joint statement released through the journalists’ union, the MEAA, reporters from the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Australian Financial Review said their new parent company risked its independence by hosting political fundraisers.
The staff, who addressed their statement to chief executive Hugh Marks and director of publishing Chris Janz, said the event left reporters to question “where Nine newspapers’ political loyalties lie”.
“The former Fairfax mastheads have a long history of political independence,” the statement read.
“If this has changed and we are now associated with the Liberal Party, this should be conveyed to staff.
“A decision to host fundraisers for Labor or other political parties would be of equal concern.”
Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media merged in a $3 billion deal last year.
Former federal treasurer and Liberal MP Peter Costello is the chairman of Nine Entertainment.
The organisation’s chief executive, Hugh Marks, hosted the event.
Nine Media has reported Prime Minister Scott Morrison, frontbenchers Alan Tudge, Stuart Robert, Dan Tehan, Paul Fletcher and Jane Hume — as well as former minister Arthur Sinodinos — were at the event.
Senator Sinodinos is soon to become Australia’s ambassador to the United States, replacing former treasurer Joe Hockey.
“We strongly object to our reputation for independent journalism being compromised by the hosting of party political fundraisers,” the staff statement read.
“This can only serve to make the job of working journalists more difficult.
“Our mastheads have done much to expose the corrupting influence of money on politics. It is vitally important that we remain independent of the political process.”
Nine defends fundraiser
The most recent Australian Electoral Commission political donation figures show Nine donated $27,500 to the federal Liberal and Labor parties in 2017-2018.
Nine also donated $750 to the Victorian Liberal Party and $800 to the NSW division that year.
In 2015-2016, Nine donated $27,500 to Labor and almost $36,000 to Liberal parties across federal and state divisions.
A Nine spokesperson said its management and board support the organisation’s charter of editorial independence.
“We participate actively in our democracy and speak to all parties to press our case around regulation and other political issues that concern our business and the ability of our people to perform their role,” the spokesperson said.
“We took the opportunity last night to present our case to the Liberal Party at their business forum and today to the Labor Party at their event and dinner with their leader.”
Seven West Media, which owns Channel Seven and The West Australian newspaper, donated $11,500 to the Liberal Party and more than $20,000 to Labor across state and federal divisions in 2017-2018.
The ABC contacted the Liberal Party for comment.