I've been working as an investigative journalist with CHOICE for two years now and one of the biggest learning curves (along with getting my head around the details of Australian Consumer Law) has been understanding the way companies relate to the truth.
Prior to joining CHOICE, I worked at SBS News and I wrote primarily about the federal government on issues such as immigration, asylum seekers, refugees and politics.
They don't bother to even pretend, or evade you, they just straight out lie
Dealing with government departments and ministers' offices is like dealing with a slippery sponge – you ask direct questions, you look politicians straight in the eye, and say, 'Tell me, did this happen?' And how do they answer?
They duck, they dodge and they weave, they give you long, convoluted replies to totally different questions than the one you asked; they give you half an answer, leaving out key information. They do everything they can to not tell you what you want to know. But they do it with an art, a sly grin and pretending they have answered your question all along.
Time and again while working at CHOICE, where the subject of my work is primarily companies behaving badly instead of governments, I have found that companies have no qualms about lying to my face. They don't bother to even pretend, or evade you, they just straight out lie.
Companies have been caught out using facial recognition cameras in their stores and have told the media, without missing a beat, that they weren't using them – only to later have to admit that, guess what? It was true – they were!
Companies have insisted that events didn't happen, when I've had proof that they did, or have claimed we didn't email them to give them a chance to comment on a story, when I have the email chains to show otherwise.
Companies have been caught lying about using facial recognition cameras.
Often these lies are told to protect themselves or to paint CHOICE in a bad light to the rest of the media. When you point out that they are lying to you, they either double down or just go silent. Either way, there is no hint of shame.
It was naïve of me to think, initially, that everyone must have some kind of ethical standard, or at least something resembling a vague relationship to the truth. I certainly don't think that any more. Every company claim or statement I hear is now taken with a grain of salt.
These companies and their willingness to lie to the media and to everyday consumers only highlights the need for strong, independent investigative journalism that holds corporate power to account in Australia.
Because, if we don't put in the time, effort and resources to watch and keep them accountable, who will?
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.