Seven News Sydney has won this year's prestigious Walkley Award for Television News Reporting for its series of stories that revealed the NSW Government went against its own advice to support ethanol blended petrol – a decision which favoured one of its biggest donors.
The five-month investigation by Sharri Markson, Lee Jeloscek, Adam Walters and Michael McKinnon shamed the NSW Government into overturning a policy that favoured one of its biggest donors, and would have cost NSW drivers millions of dollars.
The team uncovered classified documents showing State Cabinet had ignored warnings that banning regular unleaded fuel would push up petrol prices – and the Government voted not to tell motorists about it.
The stories also examined millionaire Dick Honan’s relationship with the NSW Liberal Party.
The Walkley judges described the reports as “gripping and engaging,” saying it was “original and outstanding political journalism.”
In December 2011, Cabinet quietly introduced a law to ban regular unleaded petrol. The ban was to begin from July 2012.
The law would have handed Mr Honan, a major political donor, a virtual blank cheque as a monopoly supplier of ethanol.
The stories exposed the Premier for proceeding with legislation that, according to its advice, was not in the public interest yet delivered financial rewards for a major donor.
Treasury, the Energy department and even the Crown Solicitor had advised against the policy.
In addition, the Government was told Dick Honan’s Manildra Group was already operating like a monopoly supplier and, without competition, would push prices up further.
One week after the primary story went to air on January 23, Premier Barry O’Farrell overturned the ban on regular unleaded fuel in his first major backflip.