An Open Letter to the Australian Financial ReviewPosted: June 27, 2013
To the Australian Financial Review,
I wanted to make you aware of the behavior of one of your columnists which is damaging your brand. I was also going to tell you that this columnist is diminishing public decency in Australia, however I don’t think you care much about that, so let’s stick with your brand.
The columnist in question is Wendy Grace Collier (now known as Grace Collier). Grace writes for you on what appears to be a fairly regular basis about industrial relations and unions. She is Managing Director of Australian Dismissal Services. Considering how many non-expert columnists there are in the Australian media, commenting on things that they have no expertise in, you should ordinarily be congratulated for finding someone who works in a particular field to provide expert commentary. In other circumstances, I might even go as far as saying this shows balance, and a respect for the facts.
But there’s just one problem. And this is that Grace Collier has shown on her Twitter account, in numerous examples, that she is not fit to be providing expert commentary on anything related to the Labor government, when she has such a deep, nasty and personal hatred of our previous Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and most of Gillard’s Labor colleagues. I’m not sure if you’ve seen Collier’s Twitter feed, which is why I’m bringing it to your attention now. After your parent company, Fairfax Media, severed their working relationship with columnist Catherine Deveny, it concerns me that you have not taken similar action over Grace Collier’s behavior. Wouldn’t it be slightly hypocritical for you to continue publishing Collier’s columns, when your company gave this explanation for why they could no longer publish Deveny:
“We are appreciative of the columns Catherine has written for The Age over several years but the views she has expressed recently on Twitter are not in keeping with the standards we set at The Age”.
Standards. Let’s have a look at the standards of behavior which Collier thinks are acceptable, which I assume that you don’t. I should mention here that I did not know Grace Collier existed until I recently heard her on Jonathan Green’s ABC Radio National Show Outsiderson June 16 of this year, where she said it was unprofessional for the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to show cleavage in parliament. I was horrified. After Googling Collier’s name, I found her business, and I found that she was an AFR columnist. I also found Collier’s Twitter feed. At first I thought this must be a satirical account, as I couldn’t believe that someone could be this nasty and rude about Julia Gillard, and also get given space to provide opinion in what I then regarded as a fairly professional, national newspaper and media website. But I have seen no evidence that this is a faux account. It appears to be Collier’s own words. Hence why I felt the need to bring these words to your attention.
As it says clearly on Collier’s profile, she is not a journalist, and everything she Tweets are opinions she stands by:
That is fine. Not everyone who writes for a newspaper is a journalist. And of course everyoneis entitled to his or her own opinion. But, in a respectable society, I would have thought there was some standard to be adhered to when it came to voicing these opinions. I would have thought that those people who choose to be blatantly derogatory, who choose to accuse the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard of being a criminal, who take great pleasure in spreading vile and nasty messages of hate on social media, would not be the very same people that respectable media outlets would choose to comment on political policy and industrial relations. It beggars belief that Collier is the one calling Julia Gillard ‘unprofessional’ when she is the one producing this mess of hate filled commentary, accessible to anyone with a Twitter account or access to Google.
As outraged as I was by Collier’s comments on Outsiders, I was far more upset by her Tweets last night during Kevin Rudd’s leadership challenge. At a moment when I was watching Julia Gillard, a woman who has achieved so much for the country, who has been bullied by the media, undermined by many in her caucus, who has stood up for ordinary Australians and never stopped fighting to secure once in a lifetime reforms, a woman who I admire as deeply as Collier hates her, a woman who is stoic in the face of all the hatred, the ‘ditch the witch’ placards, the comments about her deceased father, the nastiness around her childlessness and her partner’s sexuality, who has put up with all of this and retained her dignity, and while she was finally torn down, I see this Tweet from Collier:
At this point, I would like to ask the AFR a question about standards. What has happened to the standards of behavior in this country if one of your columnists thinks it acceptable to direct this sort of public commentary towards Julia Gillard at a moment of devastation for her and those who have supported and admired her? I understand that Collier might not agree with Julia Gillard’s politics, but how has it come to be that a civilized country can be so full of such personal and derogatory hatred towards our first female Prime Minister, and how can these people not set higher standards for themselves? Because of course, this isn’t just about Collier. This is about everyone who behaves like her and who make people like her think it’s ok for them to behave like that too. It’s for the thousands of people on Twitter and Facebook who produce hate speech about Gillard, it’s for the Shock Jocks, it’s for the comments on news sites which are full of bile, but are completely unrelated to anything Gillard has ever said or done as a politician, as part of her service to the country as Prime Minister. And how has it come to be that you, a national business newspaper, would employ someone who behaves in this way to provide commentary on the policies of Gillard’s government, when it’s clear Collier’s personal opinion of Julia Gillard couldn’t possibly be put to one side when she is writing about Gillard’s government and the policies of this government? Surely there is someone with higher standards of acceptable behavior who could provide commentary on industrial relations, who doesn’t denigrate the act of providing commentary, the act of putting words to paper, with her vile behavior on social media? If you can’t find someone better, I suggest you haven’t looked very hard.
If you’re not already convinced, and slightly ashamed of ever publishing Collier in the first place, here are some other tweets from her Twitter feed which give further insights into the type of behavior I am talking about:
(Is this one promoting violence towards the Prime Minister?)
Please consider what I’ve said, and for your own self-interest, if not also the interests of our society, think about whether Grace Collier is an appropriate representative for your brand.
Yours sincerely as always,