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Australian Financial Review questioned over China content sharing deal

Questions have been raised about the Australian Financial Review's decision to sign a content-sharing agreement with a Chinese media outlet subject to Chinese Government oversight.

Key points:

AFR has begun publishing content from Chinese media outlet Caixin Global
Caixin seen as one of the most outspoken outlets in tightly-controlled Chinese landscape
AFR says Caixin articles will augment, not detract from, the newspaper's China coverage

The Fairfax newspaper signed a deal in Sydney this week with the Beijing-based Caixin Global, which paves the way for the two outlets to publish each other's content.

Caixin is seen as the most influential financial news outlet in China and is widely regarded as one of the most outspoken and reputable in a tightly-controlled environment.

But experts warn there are no completely independent Chinese media outlets.

“Caixin is licensed by the state, has attracted significant state investment, and like other Chinese news outlets its jo..

Questions have been raised about the Australian Financial Review's decision to sign a content-sharing agreement with a Chinese media outlet subject to Chinese Government oversight.

Key points:

  • AFR has begun publishing content from Chinese media outlet Caixin Global
  • Caixin seen as one of the most outspoken outlets in tightly-controlled Chinese landscape
  • AFR says Caixin articles will augment, not detract from, the newspaper's China coverage

The Fairfax newspaper signed a deal in Sydney this week with the Beijing-based Caixin Global, which paves the way for the two outlets to publish each other's content.

Caixin is seen as the most influential financial news outlet in China and is widely regarded as one of the most outspoken and reputable in a tightly-controlled environment.

But experts warn there are no completely independent Chinese media outlets.

"Caixin is licensed by the state, has attracted significant state investment, and like other Chinese news outlets its journalism is subject to state oversight," Dr David Nolan from The University of Melbourne's Centre for Advancing Journalism said.

Caixin Global is the English language arm of Caixin Media, a group established in 2010, which publishes magazines, online content and books.

China Media Capital (CMC) is the majority shareholder in Caixin Media and was set up with government backing.

CMC is headed by a former top Shanghai government official, Li Ruigang, who is also known as "China's Rupert Murdoch".

The AFR published its first stories from Caixin Global on Monday.

University of Melbourne senior journalism lecturer Louisa Lim said one of the articles was "extolling the virtues of the Belt and Road Initiative quite uncritically."

"One would hope that the AFR would be thinking very carefully about just printing sort of propaganda pieces, which have no investigative reporting component," she said.

"I think every news outlet … needs to think very carefully about at what price they're selling their own credibility."

'Caixin wanting to push the [censorship] boundary'

The AFR's editor in chief Michael Stutchbury said the newspaper was not being paid to run Caixin's content, and the article in question was not by Caixin but was an opinion piece commissioned for a forum on Chinese investment in Australia, co-hosted by the AFR and Caixin.

"We understand that Caixin's ownership structure has some Chinese state backing, which is not exceptional in the Chinese system," he said.

"Notwithstanding this, Caixin and its publisher-founder Hu Shuli have a track record of detailed investigative reporting, including into Chinese companies such as insurance giant Anbang and in exposing corruption in Chinese business and government."

Hu Shuli sitting down, speaking into a microphone with a World Economic Forum banner in the background.

Hu Shuli is one of China's most respected journalists, has won numerous international awards and was named in Time magazine's 100 most influential people list in 2011.

She is also said to be well connected to the Chinese Communist Party.

"[Hu Shuli] has close ties with top Party leaders, such as Wang Qishan and Xi Jinping," said Deakin University's Dr Jian Xu, referring to the Chinese President and Vice-President.

Despite concerns about Caixin's independence, some said the partnership was a good idea.

"We're information-poor about China," Lowy Institute senior fellow for East Asia Richard McGregor said.

"There's kind of only upside to this. Caixin magazine is not the China Daily, it's not the People's Daily, it's not an arm of the Chinese state, anybody reading it will know where the content comes from because it's marked.

"I just don't see any real downside."

Media studies professor at the University of Technology Sydney Wanning Sun also said Caixin was known for its good journalism and was a logical choice of Chinese partner for the AFR.

"Caixin is known for wanting to push the [censorship] boundary and push the envelope," she said.

A screenshot of the homepage of the Caixin Global news website.

'Soft power attempt'

It is not the first time Chinese media outlets have linked up with Australian publishers, and media experts are questioning the purpose of this latest deal.

"It would appear that these [Caixin stories] are soft power attempts to influence, and that's probably what people need to be aware of," Professor of communication at Deakin University Matthew Ricketson said.

"You might ask … whether there is a question [that] by having this material whether it jeopardises or calls into question their [the AFR's] own independence."

Xi Jinping sits in a meeting

Mr Stutchbury said the arrangement would augment, not detract from, the AFR's existing "vigorous and independent" China coverage.

Caixin Globlal declined to comment to the ABC but said in its own news report that the partnership would help get its content to a wider audience.

"With rising global interest in China, we are bringing our original, investigative journalism to international readers through enhanced English-language offerings," Ms Hu said.

"The tie-up with the highly respected Australian Financial Review is an important step in this endeavour."

Caixin already has partnerships with other news outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News and the BBC while the Australian Financial Review also collaborates with others such as the Financial Times, The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph in the UK.

The ABC has also been criticised in the past for partnering with the Shanghai Media Group in 2015.

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Australia

Michelle Guthrie suing ABC after being dumped as managing director

Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie is taking the broadcaster to court over her dismissal, with sources confirming she will claim the board “had no reason to trigger the termination clause”.

Key points

Ms Guthrie was sacked last month, mid-way through her five-year tenure
At the time of her sacking, Ms Guthrie said she was considering her legal options
By the end of that week, the broadcaster's chairman Justin Milne had resigned

Ms Guthrie has begun the formal legal process and lodged paperwork at the start of this week.

A spokesperson for Ms Guthrie told the ABC she had lodged a claim with the Fair Work Commission, but did not confirm what damages were being sought.

The ABC also confirmed Ms Guthrie had made a complaint, but according to a spokesperson, “details of the complaint are not a matter of public record”.

Ms Guthrie was last month sacked from the position, mid-way through her five-year tenure.

At the time of her departure, then-ABC chairman Justin Milne..

Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie is taking the broadcaster to court over her dismissal, with sources confirming she will claim the board "had no reason to trigger the termination clause".

Key points

  • Ms Guthrie was sacked last month, mid-way through her five-year tenure
  • At the time of her sacking, Ms Guthrie said she was considering her legal options
  • By the end of that week, the broadcaster's chairman Justin Milne had resigned

Ms Guthrie has begun the formal legal process and lodged paperwork at the start of this week.

A spokesperson for Ms Guthrie told the ABC she had lodged a claim with the Fair Work Commission, but did not confirm what damages were being sought.

The ABC also confirmed Ms Guthrie had made a complaint, but according to a spokesperson, "details of the complaint are not a matter of public record".

Ms Guthrie was last month sacked from the position, mid-way through her five-year tenure.

At the time of her departure, then-ABC chairman Justin Milne said directors had resolved it was not in the best interests of the broadcaster for Ms Guthrie to continue to lead the organisation.

He said the board had made the decision in the interest of "the millions of Australians who engage with ABC content every week".

He would not be drawn on exactly what had led to the decision "out of respect" to Ms Guthrie, however when pressed, said her "leadership style" had been a factor.

At the time, Ms Guthrie said she felt her termination was unjustified and that she was considering her legal options.

"While my contract permits the board to terminate my appointment without cause and with immediate effect, I believe there is no justification for the board to trigger that termination clause," she said.

"At no point have any issues been raised with me about the transformation being undertaken, the Investing in Audiences strategy, and my effectiveness in delivering against that strategy."

Ms Guthrie was sacked on Monday, September 24, and by the end of the week Mr Milne had also resigned amid accusations he interfered in the broadcaster's editorial independence.

In the days after Ms Guthrie's acrimonious departure, explosive reports in Fairfax and News Limited publications claimed Mr Milne had urged the then-managing director to sack two prominent reporters because the Government "hated" them.

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Australia

Unions furious about Government’s decision to join casual workers court case

Related Story: Unions slam push for 'perma-flexi' workers that would see casual loading slashed

The Federal Government has joined a court case trying to stop casual workers “double dipping” on leave entitlements, arguing recent decisions have caused “anxiety” among small businesses around the country.

Jobs Minister Kelly O'Dwyer said a case currently before the Federal Court risked allowing casual workers to claim leave entitlements on top of their casual pay loading.

“It's generally one or the other, but not both, and the certainty needs to be made very clear,” Ms O'Dwyer said.

“That's why the Commonwealth is intervening in this particular case, small businesses need that certainty.

“Each and every day they face decisions about whether or not they employ people, and that is somebody's future.”

Labour hire firm WorkPac has brought the case against an employee, after the Federal Court ruled against the company in a similar dispute to allow a cas..

Related Story: Unions slam push for 'perma-flexi' workers that would see casual loading slashed

The Federal Government has joined a court case trying to stop casual workers "double dipping" on leave entitlements, arguing recent decisions have caused "anxiety" among small businesses around the country.

Jobs Minister Kelly O'Dwyer said a case currently before the Federal Court risked allowing casual workers to claim leave entitlements on top of their casual pay loading.

"It's generally one or the other, but not both, and the certainty needs to be made very clear," Ms O'Dwyer said.

"That's why the Commonwealth is intervening in this particular case, small businesses need that certainty.

"Each and every day they face decisions about whether or not they employ people, and that is somebody's future."

Labour hire firm WorkPac has brought the case against an employee, after the Federal Court ruled against the company in a similar dispute to allow a casual truck driver to claim leave entitlements.

"This is a new test case particularly looking at the offset arrangements," Ms O'Dwyer said.

"I am intervening in this case to clarify what was not clarified in the previous court decision.

"The anxiety that this has created among small businesses right across the country is one that needs to be settled and settled very quickly."

Unions are furious with Ms O'Dwyer's decision, accusing the Minister of fundamentally misunderstanding both the law and the circumstances of the case.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Michele O'Neil said the truck driver in the first case had been employed for two-and-a-half years, and was paid 30 per cent less than permanent workers at the company.

"What the company did was, instead of employing him as a permanent worker as they should have, they used a labour hire firm to bring him in on a rate that was 30 per cent less," Ms O'Neil said.

"So how is that worker doing anything other than ensuring that his rights are protected? And that's what the court has done.

"The court has looked at the circumstances and said, 'This isn't casual, this is fake casual and he's entitled to be paid his accrued annual leave'."

She said Ms O'Dwyer was wasting taxpayer funds, and was simply backing big business.

"The Minister doesn't understand the law, this is not that unusual a decision," Ms O'Neil said.

"There's been more than 20 years of precedent cases like this where the courts have said if you enter into a sham, if you have someone that's employed long term, if you have someone that's on a regular shift, regular hours, then you can't just call that person a casual and get away with it.

"So for the Minister to suggest, and for the business lobby to suggest that somehow this is an unusual case that has put at risk the whole employment of casuals is wrong."

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The South Tyrol question, explained

A South Tyrolean separatist holds a sticker saying: “South Tyrol will be free!” Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

South Tyrol, known to Italians as Alto Adige, has been a bone of contention between Austria and Italy for decades. Here's what you need to know about the latest dispute.

The Austrian government has angered Italy with plans to offer dual citizenship to the majority German-speaking population of South Tyrol province.

As voters elect the province's parliament this weekend, with dual citizenship a hot-button issue during the election campaign, here are some facts about a region where many still feel a deep affinity to Austria.

What is South Tyrol's status?

South Tyrol, or Alto Adige in Italian, covers an area of around 7,400 square kilometres and has a population of around 500,000.

It formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for 550 years until it was ceded to Italy in 1919 just after World War I. After World War II, South Tyrol and the neighbourin..

A South Tyrolean separatist holds a sticker saying: "South Tyrol will be free!" Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

South Tyrol, known to Italians as Alto Adige, has been a bone of contention between Austria and Italy for decades. Here's what you need to know about the latest dispute.

The Austrian government has angered Italy with plans to offer dual citizenship to the majority German-speaking population of South Tyrol province.

As voters elect the province's parliament this weekend, with dual citizenship a hot-button issue during the election campaign, here are some facts about a region where many still feel a deep affinity to Austria.

What is South Tyrol's status?

South Tyrol, or Alto Adige in Italian, covers an area of around 7,400 square kilometres and has a population of around 500,000.

It formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for 550 years until it was ceded to Italy in 1919 just after World War I. After World War II, South Tyrol and the neighbouring province of Trentino formed the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige.

The rights of the German- and Ladin-speaking minorities were officially protected under the 1948 Autonomy Statute. But the South Tyrolean People's Party began pushing for greater provincial autonomy in the mid-1950s, and in the 1960s German-speaking militants even carried out a series of sometimes deadly bomb attacks against symbols of Italian state authority.

A revised statute came into force in 1972, devolving most powers to the provinces and setting up power-sharing between the linguistic groups in South Tyrol.

Around 65 percent of South Tyroleans identify themselves as German speakers, 27 percent Italian and four percent Ladin, a Romance language.

Are people happy with the current status quo?

Most people seem to be. The Open Democracy website reports that the proportion of South Tyroleans
comfortable with "socio-political cohabitation" between the linguistic groups rose from eight percent in 1991 to 53 percent by 2014.

While many parties representing German- and Ladin-speakers still have pro-independence statutes, the province is proud it is frequently held up as a model of peaceful cohabitation.

READ ALSO: Italy's South Tyrol: where an identity crisis lingers

Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

What is Austria's proposal?

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's idea is to offer Austrian passports to South Tyrol's German- and Ladin-speaking populations, but not to Italian speakers. But Vienna has not spelt out in detail who would be eligible.

Guenther Pallaver, political science professor at Innsbruck University, sees two possibilities.

"The first would be historical or genealogical, where the applicant must prove that their parents or grandparents were citizens of the former Austrian Empire," Pallaver said. "But as successive generations pass, such a lineage becomes increasingly difficult to prove."

The second variant would be ethnic and linguistic. "South Tyroleans must officially choose which linguistic group they belong to. But no language tests are carried out to verify a person's fluency," Pallaver said.

Another complication is that Austria does not permit dual nationality.

Who is for and against?

Most parties representing German- and Ladin-speakers are in favour, while most of the Italian parties are against, echoing Rome's position.

South Tyrol's Green Party says excluding Italian speakers would be problematic and could fuel resentment between the different language groups.

Some opponents also argue the scheme could be used as a back door for migrants to gain Austrian nationality.

Is a solution likely any time soon?

With no concrete proposal on the table from Vienna and fierce resistance in Rome, no solution is in sight in the near term, says Marc Roeggla, researcher in minority rights at the EURAC institute in Bolzano.

"It's very, very difficult to say. I could say it will happen within the next few years." But it all depends on what solutions Austria puts forward, he says.

READ ALSO: Italy and Austria at odds over South Tyrol dual-citizenship


Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

By AFP's Simon Morgan

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