21st April 1999
By Brett Debritz
Australia's print media watchdog has accused a senior One Nation party figure of encouraging people to waste its time and resources.
The Australian Press Council (APC) criticised the webmaster of One Nation's Internet site, Scott Balson, of Karana Downs, for using the body for "partisan political purposes".
Mr Balson has put his name to an e-mail advising people to complain to the APC once a week. The e-mail said the APC only received 434 complaints last year "because no one knows about their role in policing the media".
However, APC executive secretary Jack Herman said the body was advertised widely and many newspapers encouraged people to use it.
Mr Herman said the APC had a limited budget and a staff of three.
He said the APC existed "largely to help members of the public who have little or no method or seeking redress" for complaints about newspapers.
He said Mr Balson and the One Nation party already enjoyed a level of access to newspapers that other people did not have, because their letters to the editor were usually published and they were often sought out by journalists to express their views on certain subjects.
"One Nation is not the first party to try to use the Council for its own ends nor the first to perceive a bias against it in the media or in particular newspapers," he said.
"The Council has in the past dealt with similar concerns from the Democrats, Labor, the Coalitions, unions and many others. In most cases that bias has been more in the eyes of the beholder, and often the same newspaper has been accused of bias against two or more competing interests in the same election."
Mr Herman said the APC was happy "to deal seriously with all complaints where they raise genuine issues".
Mr Balson said his e-mail, which was sent to his personal mailing list independently of One Nation, encouraged "people of all political persuasions, not just One Nation" to use the APC.
"I have qualified my request by making it quite clear that people must follow the APC guidelines in determining whether a complaint is valid before submitting it," he said.
"The APC is the best kept secret in the media," he said. "I see my role as being to blow that cover so that people can have an avenue for policing the out-of-control reporting".