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NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Why Adele Ferguson should say sorry to a grieving family before packing her desk

AdelefergsuonshameOne of Fairfax’s most respected journalists has disgraced herself with a mistake too big for a grieving family to forgive.

Colleagues say Adele Ferguson works hard, is detail-focused, even if her writing is occasionally a little uninspired. She’s a nice person, even if a little dour, they say. She’s taken seriously.

On Friday, The Age’s “multi-award-winning” (her own undoubtedly accurate description) senior business writer and columnist splashed on the front-page with a story claiming the Chairman of the insolvent Banksia Financial Group killed himself. It got a lot of attention.

As you can see, the print-edition headline read:

Banskia boss died in truck smash

Her column was headlined:

Chairman’s untimely death clouds Banksia probe

and went to describe Hankin as the “long-standing chairman of Banksia Financial Group.”

The story claimed – snidely implied – it was a suicide “because financial pressure on Banskia was mounting.”

Even before once-excitable tulip collectors raised muskets to their own heads after the Dutch Tulip Bulb bust, suicide has been long associated with financial collapse so it was considered a great story, a spectacular one, suggesting very dark goings-on at that failed firm.

But the story by one of Fairfax’s most-decorated scribes simply wasn’t true.

ERRONEOUS
The Chairman of Banksia is actually Peter Keating. He is alive and well. Or at least as well as a bloke can be when you’ve had to appoint receivers in circumstances where folks are owed $650 million.

The poor man who died was someone called Ian Hankin. Not the Chairman of Banksia Financial Group. He had left any involvement with Banskia in March 2009 and had no ongoing involvement in the firm. He was a lawyer. And a much respected figure in Ballarat.

No credible source suggests Banksia had difficulties at the time of his departure. And while his law firm referred clients to Banskia, so did many other regional Victorian law firms.

OUTRAGEOUS
A former colleague of Mr Hankin, Graham Hills expressed outrage at the slur on behalf of grieving friends, family and colleagues in comments to John Dagge at the Herald Sun:

“He had no insight to any problems at Banksia, what’s disappointing and hurtful is the connection that has been drawn by The Age and his death and Banksia. It is just outrageous.”

Indeed it is.
Ianhankin

The Age and Sydney Morning Herald has corrected the record although has left its offensive article – complete with its false insinuations about Hankins’ involvement in Banksia’s recent troubles – in place.

Also still in place is Adele Ferguson. In any other workplace, such a noticeable, disgraceful and horrible mistake would be punished severely and drastically.

It’s easy to make mistakes. We all make them. There’s probably a typo or two on this page. But if we were reporting on the death of a man, we’d probably take the time to check – and double-check – the precise nature of his role in the failed and controversial company before tying him to it and implying he killed himself to escape the consequences of dastardly deeds.

BY ADELE FERGUSON WE SHALL JUDGE THEM
That one of The Age’s most notoriously detail-focused scribes buggered that up says a great deal about them, the consequences of outsourcing quality control and the real costs to real people that come from a newspaper asylum where the lunatics are firmly in charge.

This mistake is so serious that she ought to consider her position. Perhaps take one of the Tattslotto-sized redundancies Fairfax have been paying out lately. If she won’t pursue those options, in any serious news organisation, she’d be shown the door.

PAT NOLAN STANDS UP WHILE HINCH SLITHERS
To their great credit Fairfax’s own Ballarat Courier seemed appalled by the mistake. The author of that article Pat Nolan was even tweeting other journos during Friday, urging them not to repeat The Age’s falsehoods. Slow-boned Fairfax radio jock Derryn Hinch had made his usually subtle observations, accepting The Age’s assertions and claiming Hankin was a despicable coward. His rant remains on his website. No apology. No clarification.

The ABC’s Ballarat-based Anthony Stewart tweeted:

Ian Hankin had not been the Chairman on #Banksia Securities for almost three years when he died in a car accident earlier this year. front page story does not make this clear. Family and colleagues in Ballarat are angry and distraught

None of this is good enough. When the shutters go up on The Age, there’ll be a gaggle of academics, ex-scribes and commentators nostalgically recalling their past exploits and saying its demise is a blow to quality journalism in Australia. Ian Hankin’s grieving friends and family will know otherwise.

UPDATE: Grieving family and friends get the last word, telling John Dagge at the Herald Sun of their distress.

Mr Hankin’s family was distressed by The Age’s report and its failure to issue an apology or a prominent correction.

He said Mr Hankin had battled depression for 25 years and at the time of the accidents had been suffering blackouts.

Mr Twomey was instructed by the deceased’s family to clarify his medical background in light of speculation about his death.

“The family certainly didn’t want any details of Ian’s prior medical history being a matter of public record but this seems to be the only way to defend his reputation,” he said.

“The stress this has caused Ian’s wife, two children and his elderly parents has been quite devastating.”

His friend John Twomey makes it clear that the central premise of The Age’s story, that Ian Hankin took his own life to avoid the consequences of Banskia’s collapse was a lie.

The executor of Mr Hankin’s estate, Ballarat accountant John Twomey, said yesterday the death of his client and friend had nothing to do with Banksia.

“The events are completely unrelated,” Mr Twomey said.

And still no apology, no resignation, no retraction from those responsible.

 

 

Discussion

Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Dear Ms Ferguson,
    Come take a walk with me.
    Let’s pretend we’re just two people and
    You’re not better than me.
    I’d like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly.

    What would you feel if you saw all the grieving in Ballarat?
    Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?
    What do you feel when you look in the mirror?
    Are you proud?

    How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
    How do you dream when kids have no chance to say goodbye?
    How do you walk with your head held high?
    Can you even look me in the eye
    And tell me why?

    Dear Ms. Ferguson,
    Were you a lonely girl?
    Are you a lonely girl?
    Are you a lonely girl?
    How can you say
    Multi-award winning?
    We’re not dumb and we’re not blind.
    They’re listening to funeral church bells
    While you pave the road to hell.

    What kind of journo would take a dead man’s rep away?
    And what kind of journo wouldn’t let facts get in the way?
    I can only imagine what the editor has to say
    You’ve fell a long way from Qulls and Walkleys.

    How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
    How do you dream when a loved one has no chance to say goodbye?
    How do you walk with your head held high?
    Can you even look me in the eye?

    Let me tell you ’bout hard work
    Three decades at a law firm all the way
    Let me tell you ’bout hard work
    Rebuilding your house after the fires took them away
    Let me tell you ’bout hard work
    Building a life of honesty and hard knocks
    Let me tell you ’bout hard work
    Hard work
    Hard work
    You don’t know nothing ’bout hard work
    Hard work
    Hard work
    Oh

    How do you sleep at night?
    How do you walk with your head held high?
    Dear Ms Ferguson,
    You’d never take a walk with me.
    Would you?

    Posted by Stink | November 4, 2012, 15:27
  2. The Age story did however say that Hankin was killed in a head-on crash with a truck only a short period after he has a similar head-on crash. This is either bad luck or Hankin had something wrong with himself (eg) stroke or black out or suicide over an related or unrelated matter.

    If it was suicide it could have been over something not related to Banksia Financial Group.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | November 4, 2012, 16:49
  3. [deleted – disrespectful of dead]

    Posted by chris | November 4, 2012, 17:12
  4. [deleted – disrespectful of dead]

    Posted by chris | November 4, 2012, 17:13
  5. [deleted – disrespectful of dead]

    Posted by chris | November 4, 2012, 17:18
  6. IS THE AGE sure it wasn’t Tony Abbott’s fault?

    Posted by Sceptik | November 4, 2012, 17:24
  7. Correction.. stick with as Aussie car. Some Jap cars are tough as anything Germany produce.

    Posted by chris | November 4, 2012, 17:30
  8. The silly ignorance of some in shown in the response that the well known former PJK is somehow involved with the person is actually Peter Keating.

    Posted by Marilyn | November 4, 2012, 18:17
  9. oh Peter.. whoops! I try to speed read Andy’s drivel. PJK is still a crook though.

    Posted by chris | November 4, 2012, 18:23
  10. oh Peter.. whoops! I try to speed read Andy’s drivel. PJK is still a croo k though.

    Posted by chris | November 4, 2012, 18:24
  11. oh Peter.. whoops! I try to speed read Landy’s drivel usually. PJK is still a crook though.

    Posted by chris | November 4, 2012, 18:25
  12. oh Peter.. whoops! I try to speed read the crap at the top of the Vex pages usually. PJK is still a crook though.

    Posted by chris | November 4, 2012, 18:26
  13. [deleted – disrespectful of dead]

    Posted by chris | November 4, 2012, 18:44
  14. [deleted – disrespectful of dead]

    Posted by anon | November 4, 2012, 19:58
  15. Well to those people who think that this coward of a prick.May have blacked out or had a stroke..I can tell you from first hand experience that neither of those things happened to him.He was driving on the west bound side of the highway.Then as i approached he came half and half onto my side of the road.I flashed my lights at him hoping he would go back to his side.But as we got closer,and i moved to the left hand shoulder as far as i could.He moved even further over towards me.And i can tell you now..He was looking up at me.And he was wide awake;eyes open.And im the one who has to live with this for the rest of my life.All i can say he was no hero.HE WAS A BLOODY COWARD.He could have killed me;and he had no way of knowing if i would survive.He has taken away my living..As i will never drive trucks again.And this was a job i had been doing for 38 years.And a job i loved doing.Now i don’t know what i’m going to do.As truck driving is all i know.And im trying to get over this TRAUMA.

    Posted by Ronnie. | November 4, 2012, 20:27
  16. Adele Furguson has nothing to say sorry about..So she may have made a mistake.But the bastard she wrote about made a bigger mistake.By involving me in what he did.Who is going to say sorry to me and my family?Who is going to help me save my house?Everyone seemsto be forgetting one thing.He has ruined two truck drivers lives.I know to people like him we are just trash.But remember we are the life blood of this great country.Without us truck drivers everyone would run out of fuel out of clothes out of food.While people are at home asleep.We are out there making sure you all have food and fuel and clothes to help you all live better..So when this sort of thing happens we wonder why we do this sort of work.We have enough to contend with out on the roads.Without selfish lame pricks doing this sort of thing.

    Posted by Ronnie. | November 5, 2012, 0:34
  17. [deleted – disrespectful of dead]

    Posted by jamie rudd | November 5, 2012, 7:42
  18. Hang your head in shame Adele you bitch

    Posted by Flied Lice | November 5, 2012, 11:50
  19. [deleted – disrespectful of dead]

    Posted by anon | November 5, 2012, 12:00
  20. It is always a game about protecting the elites and powerful. Adele Ferguson simply pointed out the suspicious facts.

    Posted by gaugua | November 5, 2012, 13:03
  21. Not being a chairman does not mean that Ian Hankin has nothing to do with Banksia; does not mean that Heinz & Partners has nothing to do with Banksia.

    Posted by gaugua | November 5, 2012, 13:07
  22. Fraud and dishonest usually go back many many years. It is likely Hankin’s grubby fingers are all over the original site of the problem.

    Posted by anon | November 5, 2012, 13:08
  23. And what a great lawyer Hankin is, before he decided to finish his life, still try to squeeze insurance money out of the public purse.

    Posted by gaugua | November 5, 2012, 13:12
  24. it is so typical that in small communities, people like lawyers and accountants explore the community by trust and loyalty.

    Posted by gaugua | November 5, 2012, 14:07
  25. Gaugua I think you mean ” people like lawyers and accountants fleece the community after building trust and loyalty”.

    Posted by anon | November 5, 2012, 17:37
  26. Oh dear, Adele does it yet again.

    So many wrong reports since her celebrity hiring; so many yet insufficient to the error corrections; so much damage; so little concession or necessary confession.

    Yet the Fairfaxes maintain her in place when nothing of news or discovery is done by her.

    So much in breach of the ethical code and the Press Council precedents, yet on it goes.

    The latest is a disgrace and a moral outrage.

    But there have been so many now.

    Those who are the parties to the earlier can’t speak to them because of the terms of correction settlements agreed by Fairfax; particularly where it paid costs.

    Those costs recoveries have been most substantial as against Fairfax.

    Little is known of this.

    There are Court records not reported which disclose her partisan involvement, duplicity and mendacity in stories she has reported and for which then she has had to correct and apologise .

    She should surely retire herself with regrets to all she has damaged , including her trade..

    Posted by Anonymous | November 5, 2012, 20:38
  27. Anyone who has had direct dealings with La Ferguson can tell of classic journo abuses: wilful distortions, misrepresentation, basic factual error and, frankly, untrustworthiness.
    “Most respected” indeed.

    Posted by Jasbo | November 6, 2012, 8:13
  28. Chris. You are low scum.

    Posted by Col | November 6, 2012, 13:10
  29. Who is the low life scum, me or Ian Hankin?

    Here is Vince’s story;
    “Hello My name is Vince and i was the Owner Driver of the truck ian hit in July…. Im a 25 year old from melbourne and third generation Owner Driver. All im going to say is i was shocked when i found out that this guy did it on purpose. Im not sure how many people have been in my position. Wondering if i was going to hit the 22,000 volt power pole i was heading towards after the 42.5 tonne truck i was driving was turned into an uncontrolable missile by Mr Hankin, all i was thinking about was my not even 3 year old daughter and praying. Once i came to a stop i jumped ( more like fell as the steps from the side of my truck were now gone ) from my cabin and ran back to his aid just hoping i didn’t kill anyone, hoping there were no kids in the car as i seen the dust clearing from the wreakage. But really i thought he fell asleep at the time never thinking somebody would do that. later in the week I called the police asking about his condition. Then a couple of weeks later i got a phone call he thanked me for saving his life. he asked how my truck and i were, i was sore i told him. My truck was a wreak and a write off. I remember saying as long as your ok mate because even though i wasnt in the wrong i would have hated your death on my consceince. I told him how important family was and that i was glad that my actions led to him being alive and seeing his family again.
    Now I am infuriated. I risked my life for a man trying to take his. I know that every day on the road is a risk but this is insane. Now i get nervous when a car so much as hisatates in front of me. and I am not enjoying my job.
    I LOVED my job. I have sore shoulders and lower back. and for what. I had nightmares for 3 weeks. Not to mention the constant stress of living nearly 2 months with no income. During this period i was going though a custody battle and when i went to court i was such an emotonal and fiancial mess i had no chance of having my daughter in any real fulltime capacity. Then there is the fact that this has hurt my business. put me back and having me let down customers. There are no rental trucks to do my job and even if there was they wont cover you for all your down time. This is just a disaster. And i have people relying on me and im letting them down now as im trying to set myself up again and get on my feet. Sorry there is so much to read but believe me i have much more to say…….”

    3aw.com.au/blogs/blog-with-derryn-hinch/a-delicate-taboo-issue-suicidebytruck/20121102-28p5c.html

    Posted by chris | November 6, 2012, 16:45
  30. Who is the low life scum, me or Ian Hankin?

    Here is Vince’s story;
    “Hello My name is Vince and i was the Owner Driver of the truck ian hit in July…. Im a 25 year old from melbourne and third generation Owner Driver. All im going to say is i was shocked when i found out that this guy did it on purpose. Im not sure how many people have been in my position. Wondering if i was going to hit the 22,000 volt power pole i was heading towards after the 42.5 tonne truck i was driving was turned into an uncontrolable missile by Mr Hankin, all i was thinking about was my not even 3 year old daughter and praying. Once i came to a stop i jumped ( more like fell as the steps from the side of my truck were now gone ) from my cabin and ran back to his aid just hoping i didn’t kill anyone, hoping there were no kids in the car as i seen the dust clearing from the wreakage. But really i thought he fell asleep at the time never thinking somebody would do that. later in the week I called the police asking about his condition. Then a couple of weeks later i got a phone call he thanked me for saving his life. he asked how my truck and i were, i was sore i told him. My truck was a wreak and a write off. I remember saying as long as your ok mate because even though i wasnt in the wrong i would have hated your death on my consceince. I told him how important family was and that i was glad that my actions led to him being alive and seeing his family again.
    Now I am infuriated. I risked my life for a man trying to take his. I know that every day on the road is a risk but this is insane. Now i get nervous when a car so much as hisatates in front of me. and I am not enjoying my job.
    I LOVED my job. I have sore shoulders and lower back. and for what. I had nightmares for 3 weeks. Not to mention the constant stress of living nearly 2 months with no income. During this period i was going though a custody battle and when i went to court i was such an emotonal and fiancial mess i had no chance of having my daughter in any real fulltime capacity. Then there is the fact that this has hurt my business. put me back and having me let down customers. There are no rental trucks to do my job and even if there was they wont cover you for all your down time. This is just a disaster. And i have people relying on me and im letting them down now as im trying to set myself up again and get on my feet. Sorry there is so much to read but believe me i have much more to say…….”

    Posted by chris | November 6, 2012, 16:45
  31. Disgraceful reporting and not the first time

    Posted by Athol Guetemeler | November 6, 2012, 20:58
  32. Banksia’s relationship with law firms always remained strong. In 2008, the then Banksia chairman Ian Hankin, who was also a partner at Heinz and Partners, told the Ballarat Enterprise magazine that much support for Banksia came from the firm’s existing clients.

    Posted by gaugua | November 8, 2012, 14:38
  33. You’re still low scum.

    You can’t know the facts even though you inadequate IQ probably leads you to think you do. To write what you did about Ian Hankin in a public forum without knowing the facts makes you low scum. To do it while people are obviouly in mourning makes you low scum.

    Did you read the article? (Are you capable of reading the article?)

    Nearly three years since Ian Hankin was involved in Banksia. He had no ongoing involvement. Banksia was in no financial difficulties at the time of his leaving. This is what IS known.

    What we don’t know are the circumstances surrounding his death.

    Yet you, the scum that you are, have accused him of some nefarious deed, prosecuted the case against him, set yourself up as judge and jury and found him guilty. All in your tiny little head. Then, being the cowardly scum that you are, you hide behhind you anonymity and declare our verdict to the world in vile terms.

    Scum!

    Posted by Col | November 8, 2012, 17:30
  34. To any informed, intelligent person it is clear beyond doubt that Ian Hankin’s death is in no way related to the downfall of Banksia.

    Posted by Justine | November 9, 2012, 15:34
  35. Time will tell. Who wants to make a bet?

    Posted by chris | November 9, 2012, 17:19
  36. col, I don’t see your surname shown. He knew he would not have to face a court for risking the lives of others, but can’t avoid the court of public opinion. He is a gutless coward whether his suicide was connected to Banksia or not. I am not suggesting we dig up his gravestone like Saville, just put a byline saying here lies a gutless maggot

    Posted by chris | November 9, 2012, 17:29
  37. You’re learning resistant, aren’t you Chris.

    Posted by Col | November 9, 2012, 21:49
  38. Well well. Stone the crows. O’Dwyer, Ryan, Fifield, Smith , Panopolous and O’Brien smashed in the YL elections today. Goes to show that 3 years of branch stacking for the Senate has gone down like the Titanic with ordinary folk around the Liberal Party in Victoria. Gideon rules.

    Posted by Elai | November 11, 2012, 18:15
  39. Ms. Ferguson show some respect for both the families of the truck drivers and of the poor man who died. It is never the right time to generalise about lawyers or the type of car someone drives. Please show some respect for the family of the deceased.

    Posted by kate smithson | November 11, 2012, 22:14
  40. Chris.

    I’m not the anonymous accuser making scurrilous accusations, in contradiction of the available evidence, against a man who is unable to defend himself, using the cowardly forum of a public blog.

    You are!

    You contemptible maggot!

    Posted by Col | November 12, 2012, 23:16
  41. you are living in la la land Col.

    Please take a moment to read the statements above from the two truck drivers, Vince and Ronnie, and then tell me what I have said is in contradiction of the available evidence.

    If you want to be able to defend yourself, don’t commit suicide. Simple. If you want your stupid friends like Col and Vex to defend your memory, you might as well kill yourself.

    Posted by chris | November 13, 2012, 5:58
  42. Chris, what you have written is absolutely abhorrent, yet I still hope that you never have to face the situation that the Hankin family must be dealing with. No one should have to deal with these terrible lies written about a deceased loved one. I hope that you can see that things are not black and white. You need to know facts before you make accusations.

    Posted by kate smithson | November 13, 2012, 17:19
  43. you need to take your blinkers off and see things like you would if it was your son or daughter who Ian targeted on the road.
    Have a read of Ronnie’s statement above and then try to make excuses for your mate;
    “Well to those people who think that this coward of a prick.May have blacked out or had a stroke..I can tell you from first hand experience that neither of those things happened to him.He was driving on the west bound side of the highway.Then as i approached he came half and half onto my side of the road.I flashed my lights at him hoping he would go back to his side.But as we got closer,and i moved to the left hand shoulder as far as i could.He moved even further over towards me.And i can tell you now..He was looking up at me.And he was wide awake;eyes open….”

    Posted by chris | November 13, 2012, 19:52
  44. Chris, who are you to talk about guts when you are writing all of this hiding from behind a computer screen. Come to ballarat and say what you have said on here face to face to his grieving family, you wouldn’t do it you worthless piece of shit

    Posted by Mh | November 22, 2012, 11:34
  45. His grieving family are the ones who had him sectioned in a mental hospital earlier in the year.

    If you leave your name and address I will happily come over.

    Posted by chris | November 22, 2012, 12:44
  46. Bullshit you will

    Posted by Mh | November 22, 2012, 12:56
  47. try me

    Posted by chris | November 22, 2012, 13:01
  48. Have you even thought about the devastation you and your fellow haters would have caused with your comments. What if someone spoke about one of your family members who had died like that?

    Posted by Mh | November 22, 2012, 13:02

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