THE media coverage in The Mercury on the alleged fox incident at Old Beach amounts to a beat up based on questionable evidence …

A big call but the whole scenario as it was rolled out over a week of daily updates amounted to a very effective way of convincing the State Government at the eleventh hour to blink on ongoing fox taskforce funding.

Well oiled PR machines will alway trump a little voice of query … it was ever thus.

As explained in earlier Tasmanian Times postings on the Old Beach incident and the Fox Review Panel’s report (Analyses here), there was much sensationalism and brash confidence in the reportage, however, the corroborative evidence just refuses to materialise.

Fox blood, but no fox; suspicious animal enters a chicken coup killing many chickens but no dead chooks for forensic investigation; camera images of every other potential chicken killer but no foxes amongst them; and another anonymous owner.

Lots more questions than answers again. 

The previous cry-fox incident at Lillico — again copiously covered by The Mercury’s resident fox reporter — was never corroborated with further evidence to show that a live fox or foxes ever occurred at this site.

Eve of the Budget … yet another fox incident

The inference provided in the early weeks of the State Election was that it was a young fox — probably the progeny from a successful breeding in the vicinity.

No party political response came from State Labor, State Liberal Party or the Tasmanian Greens. No knee-jerk releases promising resources to maintain funding to Fox-Free Taskforce program. And I wondered why. If this incident was so credible, why wouldn’t all the pollies jump on this populist band-wagon? Maybe they knew that it wasn’t a vote catcher; maybe they had their doubts.

Why?

And so on the eve of the Budget, yet another fox incident — with fox blood confirmed by DNA — is published as an exclusive in The Mercury. What the paper didn’t tell the readers was that location of this incident had been under surveillance by the FFTF/DPIW for several weeks prior to the so-called “Newsbreaker” in The Mercury on 14 June 2006 and that the DNA result was known for at least a week.

And so when the final version of Fox Review Panel report was released by David Llewellyn on the first day of Budget Estimates hearings (Monday 26 June), the report had already been seen by both the State and Commonwealth governments and it already included details on the newest incident at Old Beach.

Earlier drafts of this long awaited Review were made available to DPIW many weeks prior to this incident and someone also leaked drafts to The Mercury fox office. When the newspaper published an apparently well-researched article on foxes (15 June 2006) it used phrases from the Review Report that David Llewellyn was to release publicly on the following Monday!

Conspiracy of fox smuggling

I believe that the earlier versions of the Review Report were far more equivocal on the overall assessment of the evidence than the final version reflected. Even still, the final report was hardly a ringing endorsement. Remember that this Review Panel was set up in October 2005 and due to report before March 2006. And the Lillico and Old Beach incidents both occurred during the period when the Panel was established.

Until there is credible corroboration to follow up on the sensational reports of fox blood at Old Beach and the discovery of a dead flattened fox 6 weeks after the event at Lillico, I’m not strongly persuaded by these offerings.

David Llewellyn as Police Minister from 1998-2006 and Minister responsible for quarantine matters from 1998-2002 and again now, would know how foxes really get into this state. And he would know it doesn’t rely on a conspiracy of fox smuggling.

All it needs is inadequate biosecurity safeguards and quarantine measures. 

Postcript: The Mercury  reporter Rohan Wade — who has reported extensively on foxes — is joining State Government employ; working for the Braddon Labor MHAs Bryan Green (Deputy Premier) and Steven Kons (Attorney General).

Hagnote:
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And Rohan joins an illustrious list of senior experienced journos either embedded within Minister’s Offices, Government Departments or operating directly from the Chief Propaganda Unit, the Media Unit.

Off the top of Hag’s gorgeous head she can think of the loss to mainstream Tasmanian journalism of a wealth of talent and experience … from Norm Andrews (former Mercury Editorial Writer), Sue Bailey (former senior Mercury journo),  Jane Lovibond (former senior Mercury journo), Rod Scott (former Examiner Editor), Moya Fyfe (former senior Mercury journo), Matthew Rogers (former Mercury political writer), Sean Rigby (politics, one of the telly stations) … then there are the ones who shifted earlier, ranging from Ken Jeffries (former state ABC political reporter), Julie Pellas (Advocate) to Michael Lester (former state political writer, The Mercury, now in PR) …

And that, gentle reader, is just the start.

Who can compete with the most powerful media organisation in Tasmania: The Lennon Labor Government.

David Obendorf

Fox blood, but no fox; suspicious animal enters a chicken coup killing many chickens but no dead chooks for forensic investigation; camera images of every other potential chicken killer but no foxes amongst them; and another anonymous owner. Lots more questions than answers again.  The previous cry-fox incident at Lillico — again copiously covered by The Mercury’s resident fox reporter — was never corroborated with further evidence to show that a live fox or foxes ever occurred at this site.