ALLAN HALSE AGAINST WAIKATO TIMES / STUFF

Case Number: 2691

Council Meeting: JULY 2018

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Waikato Times

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Unfair Coverage

Overview

1. Allan Halse complains that a story published by Waikato Times and Stuff on 7 and 11 June 2018 respectively headed “Boot on other foot for bully battler”breaches the Media Council’s principle 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance).

2. The story referred to a recent Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision to penalise Mr Halse, one of his colleagues and their company CultureSafe for breaching suppression orders made in a case before the ERA. Culturesafe had represented a party in that case.The story reported the ERA as having strongly criticised the complainants for breaching its orders regarding confidentiality. The story referred particularly to the ERA’s characterisation of emails sent by Mr Halse after the ERA’s original decision as “hectoring” and “bullying”. The ERA fined Mr Halse and his affiliates the maximum available for the breaches.

3.The story reported Mr Halse as “slamming” the ERA decision. Mr Halse was said to be feeling “persecuted” for his call to have the ERA “overhauled”. Mr Halse was reported as calling for the ERA’s chief to be removed for “corrupt behaviour”. The story mentioned Mr Halse’s intention to appeal the decision.

The Complaint

4. Mr Halse‘s lengthy complaint can be summarised. He claims crucial details of his client’s case before the ERA were omitted from the story. More importantly, to Mr Halse’s mind, the story was unfair since it belittled the sterling work he says his organisation performs on behalf of countless vulnerable people who suffer extreme work place bullying in New Zealand.

5. Mr Halse says the ERA is not equipped to provide proper redress for the people he represents. He goes further in claiming the Employment Relations Act 2000 is the wrong legislation to address endemic workplace bullying. The weak are “powerless”. Mr Halse concludes by saying it is “frustrating and downright demoralising” for the press to humiliate and disparage him. He presumes the story is “part of a campaign run by vested parties to suppress the actions of CultureSafe”.

The Response

6. Waikato Times and Stuff firmly reject the complaint. The publications say, fundamentally, that the story is balanced and fair. It reported the ERA decision accurately. Mr Halse’s objections insofar as the ERA is concerned and his intended appeal were noted. There was no breach of principle 1 in this case.

The Decision

7. The Media Council agrees with Waikato Times and Stuff.Mr Halse cannot say the story breaches principle 1. The publications reported the ERA decision as they were entitled to do.The fact the decision was scathing of Mr Halse was not a disqualifying factor. To the contrary. The publications were not required to refer to CultureSafe’s arguments before the ERA on behalf of its client. Nor were they required to somehow mitigate the effect of the decision by making positive references to Mr Halse’s other work. And there is nothing suggesting the story was part of a campaign by other interests to somehow discredit CultureSafe.

8. The complaint is not upheld.

Media Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Hank Schouten, Christina Tay, Tim Watkin and Tracy Watkins.

1. Allan Halse complains that a story published by Waikato Times and Stuff on 7 and 11 June 2018 respectively headed “Boot on other foot for bully battler”breaches the Media Council’s principle 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance).

2. The story referred to a recent Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision to penalise Mr Halse, one of his colleagues and their company CultureSafe for breaching suppression orders made in a case before the ERA. Culturesafe had represented a party in that case.The story reported the ERA as having strongly criticised the complainants for breaching its orders regarding confidentiality. The story referred particularly to the ERA’s characterisation of emails sent by Mr Halse after the ERA’s original decision as “hectoring” and “bullying”. The ERA fined Mr Halse and his affiliates the maximum available for the breaches.

3.The story reported Mr Halse as “slamming” the ERA decision. Mr Halse was said to be feeling “persecuted” for his call to have the ERA “overhauled”. Mr Halse was reported as calling for the ERA’s chief to be removed for “corrupt behaviour”. The story mentioned Mr Halse’s intention to appeal the decision.

4. Mr Halse‘s lengthy complaint can be summarised. He claims crucial details of his client’s case before the ERA were omitted from the story. More importantly, to Mr Halse’s mind, the story was unfair since it belittled the sterling work he says his organisation performs on behalf of countless vulnerable people who suffer extreme work place bullying in New Zealand.

5. Mr Halse says the ERA is not equipped to provide proper redress for the people he represents. He goes further in claiming the Employment Relations Act 2000 is the wrong legislation to address endemic workplace bullying. The weak are “powerless”. Mr Halse concludes by saying it is “frustrating and downright demoralising” for the press to humiliate and disparage him. He presumes the story is “part of a campaign run by vested parties to suppress the actions of CultureSafe”.

6. Waikato Times and Stuff firmly reject the complaint. The publications say, fundamentally, that the story is balanced and fair. It reported the ERA decision accurately. Mr Halse’s objections insofar as the ERA is concerned and his intended appeal were noted. There was no breach of principle 1 in this case.

7. The Media Council agrees with Waikato Times and Stuff.Mr Halse cannot say the story breaches principle 1. The publications reported the ERA decision as they were entitled to do.The fact the decision was scathing of Mr Halse was not a disqualifying factor. To the contrary. The publications were not required to refer to CultureSafe’s arguments before the ERA on behalf of its client. Nor were they required to somehow mitigate the effect of the decision by making positive references to Mr Halse’s other work. And there is nothing suggesting the story was part of a campaign by other interests to somehow discredit CultureSafe.

8. The complaint is not upheld.

Media Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Hank Schouten, Christina Tay, Tim Watkin and Tracy Watkins.