During its brief and unremarkable existence, the New Examiner ( Facebook here ) parodied dozens of public figures. We paraded Lara Giddings as an incompetent nincompoop. Portrayed Eric Abetz as a power-hungry tyrant. We even had a gentle dig at a few of the landed gentry, campaigning for the Liberal Party under the banner of Give it Back.
Clive Palmer was a target, as was the Rinehart girl; both of whom could afford legal counsel with hourly rates exceeding the value of the New Examiner’s real estate holdings.
Kim Yong-un may have missiles set to launch against our Bothwell office, and Claire Van Ryn has possibly spoken to her Lord, and trouble awaits us in the afterlife.
Yet other than a glare from the Premier’s Chief of Staff one day in Hobart, none of our targets has taken us seriously.
Except retired Brigadier Andrew Nikolic.
Nikolic first drew the attention of the New Examiner when, accompanied by (supporter) Brett Lucas, he invaded the Launceston mall, disrupting a peaceful protest being held by a handful of environmentalists. Such was his belligerent attitude, police were called ( TT: Police called as Nikolic heckles ).
And as Nikolic, the endorsed Liberal candidate for the seat of Bass had been using any possible opportunity to link his military career with his candidacy (including parking his campaign vehicle endorsed with slogans across the road from the Anzac Day dawn service, then moving it twice to ensure media coverage during the Anzac Day march) we thought he was a fair target for some gentle satire.
So we published some.
In May last year, we stole some satire from The Onion, and wrote a story which was nothing more than a harmless dig at Nikolic using his army record to pick up votes. Initially, it was about as popular as a gay couple at a Liberal conference – fewer than 500 people read the story, and just 13 ‘liked’ it on Facebook. More fool them.
Within 48 hours, Andrew Nikolic fired some shots from the bunker, warning all 13 that he would be contacting their employers. Further, he wrote to the New Examiner, saying in the absence of a retraction he would be ‘contacting the employers and influencers of those involved.’
We stood fast. Over the next few days, the story went from being a piece of harmless satire, to a news article on Nikolic’s reaction (within 14 days, more than 500,000 people had read the New Examiner story). ( TT: Andrew Nikolic and The New Examiner. 48,000 visit New Examiner ... )
Leading the exposure of Nikolic’s reaction was the Sydney Morning Herald, who rang the parliamentary hopeful, who initially denied threatening to contact the employers of those in question. The story was then syndicated and copied worldwide, with the notable exception of Launceston’s Examiner (the editor’s wife Facebook friend of Nikolic, and likes nearly every post he makes).
So in a first for the New Examiner, today we heard news that Nikolic had made a formal complaint to the Press Council in relation to the Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage of what is known around Launceston as Nikolgate. ( SMH: here ) ( Mercury report here )
The adjudication, which was released earlier today, can be read in full in the attached link:
However it is worth quoting one important extract:
``Mr Nikolic also complained the article was unfair because it did not report or investigate his claim that the editor of the New Examiner was a political opponent, whom he named. He said he had told the SMH journalist about this person. He also said the SMH should have reported his claim that many of the Facebook users were political activists.’’
If the Press Council report is an accurate reflection of Nikolic’s original complaint, then it is demonstrably untrue. At the time the satirical piece was written, the New Examiner’s editor had no political ambitions beyond standing for local government, which he had done so unsuccessfully a number of times.
The claim that the Facebook users in question were political activists is also dubious. They include a teacher, a couple of shopkeepers, a stay at home mum, two or three students and some office workers. To the understanding of the New Examiner, none has ever broadened their political influence beyond voting at various elections.
What is true is that some weeks after Nikolic’s threats and associated publicity, the New Examiner’s editor formed a personal view than Nikolic’s behaviour and temperament made him unsuitable to represent the people of Bass. It was at that point; not before, that the decision to enter the contest for Bass was made. Hence it is not only implausible, but impossible that the editor could have been a political opponent.
The New Examiner has spent much of today in discussion with the Press Council. That body was at pains to stress their determination was limited to suggesting the journalist at the SMH should have dug more deeply. They did not suggest Nikolic was in any way ‘innocent’ of the threats made against the New Examiner and its readers.
In summary, the facts are these.
• The New Examiner wrote a satirical article about Andrew Nikolic.
• Andrew Nikolic then proceeded to threaten the employment of at least 13 of the New Examiner’s readers.
• When confronted by the media, Andrew Nikolic denied making the threats.
• The writer of the article was not, as claimed by Andrew Nikolic, a political opponent.
• The people threatened by Andrew Nikolic were not political activists.
The New Examiner, the editor and contributors remain steadfast in our view that our original posting was intended as satire. We are concerned that Andrew Nikolic has pursued this matter as far as the Press Council, making allegations which we believe are false. The editor will continue to maintain Mr Nikolic has made false representations to the Press Council, and looks forward to a robust engagement as voters decided who is, and who isn’t morally qualified to represent the people of Bass in the Federal Parliament.
Main pic: Andrew Nikolic, above, right, talks to a police officer during the heckling incident, February 14, last year.
*Martin Gaylord is known to the Editor.
• Dave, in Comments: Regrettably military training in Australia has been under an increasingly dark cloud for some years which brings me to the questions I have wanted to put to the Liberal candidate for Bass for some time. What did he know about the problems we are hearing so much about from senior officers who he once would have served with. When did he become aware of the problems and what did he do to make sure that the young men and women under his command were not bastardized, bullied, sexually discriminated against or assaulted? It is a sad reflection of today’s defense force and officers both past and present but I feel strongly that anyone seeking a career in public life who has come from the background the Candidate from Bass has come from really should be asked these questions and his or her answers placed on the public record before the election. I would liked to have seen my questions asked by an Examiner reporter or someone from the mainstream Tasmanian media but that hasn’t happened. And as far as I can see it won’t happen at least the questions won’t be posed by the Examiner. So yet again TT draws the short straw