Some sources do say there is leadership stirring going on in Liberal ranks. (Certainly, News Corp appears to be helping fuel the situation — it’s a nice irony that a lot of trouble is coming from the Government’s favourite media organisation, not the one it so dislikes, the ABC.)
Are they going to allow a toxic combination of revenge politics, anti-climate change ideology, panic over the Longman result, and sheer muddle-headedness kill the chance of giving certainty to energy investment and tear down or mortally wound their Prime Minister?
Tony Abbott says “Emissions targets that made sense three years ago when all countries were supposed to be in Paris and we didn’t need policy change and wouldn’t face economic dislocation do not make sense now. @TurnbullMalcolm take note.
Sureley this in itself reveals that all Abbott is doing is stirring the pot of personal political revenge. Here he’s calling for flexibility in the National Interest which would best be by regulation. Any change by Legislation would lock Australia in to a far more rigid position.The man’s simply out to destrot the LNP and if he wins this it will be for a very long time.(ODT)
Cutting the ABC and Concentration of Private MSM spells the era of Fake News is growing, Australia needs teh ABC more than ever (ODT)
“This proposed merger means it is about to get even more concentrated,” Ms Rowland said, declaring it “beyond belief” for Senator Fifield to proclaim his government supported media diversity.
“Democracy suffers if you have too few media voices, workers suffer when mergers inevitably lead to job losses and citizens, consumers and communities get less diversity, less coverage and less choice.”
The most destructive organization in Australia (ODT)
Australia has a big problem. The democratic processes and freedom of the press is under threat. Not content with having an out of control Murdoch-owned media, the Institute of Public Affairs is now attempting to destroy the only balanced mainstream media outlet in the country: the ABC.
This deplorable organisation is made up of some of the wealthiest people in Australia. The IPA was founded in 1943 by none other than Rupert Murdoch’s father. It is a pressure group, and increasingly is now enmeshed into the political system itself, with over a dozen politicians in parliament affiliated with this partisan, extremist group.
THE ABC EARNS around $100 million a year from its commercial activities (mainly ABC shops). Its annual operating budget is more than a billion dollars.
The organisation would not exist without the triennial funding provided by taxpayers (not by Treasurer Scott Morrison, who this week ludicrously claimed that he funded the ABC). You can’t privatise a business that doesn’t make a profit. So let’s call the demand from last weekend’s Liberal Party conference for what it really is; effectively a proposal to close the ABC and sell off its assets, the prime of which would be its broadcast spectrum.
But even that is hardly practical, or likely. Ironically, while the ABC haters with their ideological objections to public broadcasting would like to see it happen, there would be little or no appetite from the commercial television sector for starters.
ABC radio and television broadcasts focus on genres that are far removed from commercial output. We have no interest in reality TV formats, chequebook interviews and the music genres of commercial FM – programming that draws the biggest and therefore most lucrative audiences for commercial media. Nor are we in competition for rights to any of the marquee sports events. Instead, we complement the market as the trusted, independent source of Australian conversations, culture and stories.
Ms Guthrie cited a forthcoming report by Deloitte Access Economics, commissioned by the ABC, which she said would reveal the broadcaster contributed $1 billion to the national economy last financial year – about a third of which fed into the broader media landscape. In addition to its 4000 employees, the ABC helps to sustain more than 2500 full-time equivalent jobs across the supply chain – such as artists, writers and technicians – Ms Guthrie said, citing the Deloitte research.”Amid the debate over the ABC’s purpose and its funding, we should all remember that there are 2500 jobs outside public broadcasting at risk in any move to curtail our remit and activities,” she warned.
Admonishing the ABC’s critics in government, Ms Guthrie asserted there was a sinister agenda at work involving overtures to the Coalition’s base.Related Article Footage from Liberal Party meeting reveals who voted to sell the ABC “In a complex world it is too easy for the powerful to do their work in dark corners: t so-“Good journalists call that out. Today, I want to channel some of that skill and emphasise real facts in what has become an increasingly febrile debate over the value and future of the ABC.”
Israel not only spreads propaganda but actively tries to interfere with the world’s media that doesn’t report it. It invests in and uses world media like MEMRI TV to put out fake news on their behalf hiding their investment.
Mainstream media around the world didn’t express any level outrage in Israel’s massacre NYT actually apologized for under reporting of over 120 Palestinians killed in fact they whitewashed the wounding of 13,000 +, leaving over 300 in intensive care and 27 amputees and Israel isn’t satisfied. How stupid drawing attention to themselves yet again.When no injuries occurred and rockets were fired by both sides.
Israel’s agents in Australia have erupted on the behalf of the Zionist state simply because they didn’t get the attention they felt they deserved to make Israel’s actions look justified. OMG you should have heard what the Palestinians were yelling from the death side of that fence in Gaza that alone justified the sniper bullets of death. No Israel through its agents have demanded the attention they think they deserve to justify their fishbowl slaughter.
I’m sorry Hamas can’t control all its agents just as Israel can’t control all their snipers who decided to kill,press medics nurses children and women. We know however the order to kill was given carte blanche but we don’t know that was the same for the firing of rockets by Hamas. Again we know the order to retaliate was given by Israel’s top brass. Is Israel the only country in the world that is given the get out of jail free card and allowed to simply say “oops” and hope nobody will notice when people are butchered? Do they deserve front page attention only when nobody is hurt? Good on the ABC they made the right choice. (ODT)
AIJAC executive director Colin Rubenstein said the public broadcaster had exhibited a “serious lack of balance” by declining to cover one of the largest rocket attacks against Israel in many years.
You know the ABC is doing it’s job and doing it well when governments and News Corp are heard complaining (ODT)
The Turnbull government has lodged a second series of complaints to the ABC about the network’s chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici, this time over her reporting on innovation tax credits.
In today’s terms the ABC funding is the same as it was in 1985 and Corman claims it’s an efficiency measure. The ABC couldn’t be more efficient. So why support the inefficient private opinion sector and news free zone of News Corp et al ? (ODT)
Ostensibly, the competitive neutrality review was payback to Pauline Hanson (and by Hanson) for supporting the changes to media ownership rules last year. But, through The Australian, News Corp has been keen to claim credit, pointing out it came “after media industry leaders demanded a review of the charters outlining the purpose of the ABC and SBS in light of evidence they were ramping up activities that encroached into the commercial sector”.
In proposing a freeze over the three years, Australia is following the lead of the New Zealand National government which froze Radio New Zealand funding for eight years, only relenting with a partial increase last year.
The message is simple: “We’re on your side.” Where “we” is the LNP and “you” is the old media oligopolies. That’s why the message was too urgent to wait until after the election. There’s a message to the ABC in all this as well: leave the emerging digital space to the private sector and, in particular, to the existing private sector players.
Of course, in its digital activities, the ABC is not doing anything that couldn’t be done by the free-to-air broadcasters or Foxtel or pretty much anyone with a computer and a broadband connection. However, the traditional oligopolies seem to have the view that their business model would be fine if people couldn’t access the ABC (or, if there wasn’t so dang much of the ABC to access). In that parallel universe, we’d all keep watching the free-to-air channels (topped up by Foxtel for a bit of diversity), just like we did in the good old days.
Seven in 10 Australians believe a strong, independent public broadcaster is critical to a healthy democracy, according to a poll by the Australia Institute. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP
A majority of Australians believe a strong, independent ABC is critical to a healthy democracy and oppose a cut to ABC funding, according to a new poll.
The Australia Institute poll found 70% of people wanted a strong ABC and 60% agreed the ABC needed a “boost to long term funding”.
United States President Donald Trump has bragged about a crushing winning record in the estimated 3,500 legal cases he has been involved in over the past three decades, but Stormy Daniels has him twisted in knots.
“Private Media” acts like the Mafia organization, bovver boys protecting their turf as if they have a patent on profit and fear the free association of Australian Taxpayers to organize and print there own news. The ABC our independant statuary body readily and publicly apologizes for it mistakes unlike the privateers who generally have to be forced into the courts for an apology or only do it behind the closed doors of non disclosure agreements. Their notion and use of the term “grovelling apology” is indicative of the Fairfax and News Corp never to say sorry for errors or the fake news they publish reducing their product to a news free propaganda zone. Thank taxpaing Australians for our ABC and keep the bastard corporate hands off Aunty she is ours love her, hate her she belongs to the family of Australians (ODT)
If journalism’s role is to be independant and critically question with ipmartiality what’s going on around us can’t be Conservative but it doesn’t mean it favours the Left either. To critically question everything is consistent and impartial. The stupidity here lies not in what Alberici wrote but the the inappropriate push back by the Government to it’s independance. It’s not the place of the government to judge that meaning whatever it political values. Say what you like but keep your hand off our ABC (Old Dog)
PS If Trickle Down is not a questionable Economic proposition then the world is Flat are Australians required to experience Groundhog Day?
Switzer is one ABCs resident critic and declares The Drum Panel format biased debate. Should the format be more Bolt Reportish? (Old Dog)
These are polarising times. There is so much ideological claptrap in journalism, both here and abroad.
- by Tom Switzer
This is especially so in the United States, often cited by Australian conservatives as evidence of the value of tax cuts. Here, claims made by the Trump Administration to defend its corporate tax cuts are widely disputed by economists, including Larry Summers and Paul Krugman.
Even within the business community, there is scepticism. Investment guru Warren Buffett is not impressed and even Moody’s rating agency concluded that the cuts would most likely direct tax windfalls into share buyouts and shareholder dividends rather than heightened investment and employment.
For these ideologues, the corporate tax issue is not simply one of economic efficiency, but is central to an important reordering of power within society — one which rejects the right of democratic governments to force wealthy individuals to hand over large portions of their wealth to pay for public goods, like welfare, health and education.
When you force the ABC to take down an article that questions your logic you know something is wrong. Since when has Turnbull taken on the role of ABC editor?
On Friday, the ABC took down Alberici’s analysis, citing that it did not conform to the broadcaster’s editorial standards. Frankly, the article – which has been republished on John Menadue’s blog, is not all that different in focus from analyses by Ian Verrender published by the ABC last year, The Age’s Peter Martin and various others, including myself.
Arguing that company tax cuts may not have the impact that the beneficiaries say will result is hardly controversial.
As I noted in January, Moody’s credit rating agency said of the US company tax rate cut from 35% to 21% (compared with a reduction from 30% to 25% proposed here) that “we do not expect corporate tax cuts to lead to a meaningful boost in business investment”.
But given most people don’t get excited by business investment (or increased business profits), companies here have followed the lead of their US counterparts, and are saying a tax cut is needed to increase wages.
It’s all a bit of smoke and mirrors.
“Our tendency is to stop seeing ourselves as people striving together to overcome our common problems, and to view ourselves instead as people striving against each other,” he writes.
The age of ‘me ‘ has taken over the age of ‘we’.
Matter of Fact will be about big minds discussing big ideas: smarter not angrier. George Monbiot is among our first guests.
Matter of Fact is on the ABC News Channel at 9pm, Monday to Thursday.
flagship offerings on ABC Radio, they are unique in our broadcasting line-up and critical to our collective education. The World Today, the lunchtime wrap, and PM, in the evening, will run to just 30 minutes, down from one hour. One has to ask, where is the logic? Stop the dumbing down of the ABC
“Hanson & Bolt call for Media Profit, value Uniformity over Debate and can’t be trusted; The ABC provides Debate, Diversity & values information for all Australians and is trusted. Privatised News is no News.” Old Dog
The ABC Four Corners program, Pumped, has uncovered what could be one of the largest known cases of alleged water theft in Australia’s history and evidence that the NSW Government did nothing to stop it.Four Corners has exposed allegations that the NSW Government has failed to prosecute rogue irrigators and may have shut-down active investigations into this water theft.
It was inevitable that James Ashby’s One Nation would fall out with the ABC. James likes to very much control the questions that can be asked of his band of miscreants, and by who, and he likes the power to terminate the interview when he sees fit. And is it any wonder. When One Nation…
Yesterday’s press conference laid bare President-elect Donald Trump’s strategy for dealing with the press as president: He will seek to delegitimize news outlets that provide critical coverage, try to turn them against one another, reward sycophantic coverage from openly pro-Trump sources, and encourage others to follow in their lead. The c
Alan Austin’s story on the ABC employing rightwing commentator and ABC critic Andrew Bolt was his second in the top ten.
Kim Williams to host show called What Keeps Me Awake but at least 20 full-time staff plus casuals will lose jobs. Plus: a former Fairfax hack gets a status upgrade
Some of the ABC’s most prominent presenters have urged their colleagues not to resist change.
Let’s not rush to criticise the ABC as appeasing Aunty’s political masters and critics will only hasten her demise and the rise of a media Murdochracy.
What Michelle Guthrie and her band of redundancy-happy managers are doing to the ABC is a crime against the public interest.
The ABC has axed the Friday broadcast of the 7.30 program just under two years after it replaced the eight state-based editions of the show.
The ABC has missed an opportunity to explore the many complex arguments from within Indigenous Australia itself
In the west, free speech is often seen as a sacred right, but how can that be balanced with the need to protect minorities from hate? Scott Stephens, Waleed Aly and political theologian William Cavanaugh discuss.
Malcolm Turnbull is happy to send children to concentration camps and happily interferes in the ABC. Australia, meet the new boss — just like the old boss, except shinier.
The ABC is hopeful the instillation of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister will allow it to claw back some of the $250 million slashed from the broadcaster last year as tension between the government and broadcaster cools off.
The Abbott Government has a far better record than its Labor predecessor, but in politics these days successes don’t make up for mistakes. The Prime Minister needs a year of clear air.
A furious Tony Abbott has told the ABC he will personally turn off its Twitter at the wall if the national broadcaster doesn’t bring its flagship show Q&A into line.
The demand comes following last night’s show during which a tweet by @AbbottLovesAnal briefly appeared on screen.
“Either you turn it off, or I’ll do it for you,” Mr Abbott is believed to have told ABC staff. The PM was also concerned about the cost producing so many tweets. “I’m told Q&A now produces 40,000 tweets per episode. Someone has to pay for that – we need to draw the line somewhere”.
After a terse phone call from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the ABC has agreed to remove the offending tweet from repeats of the episode, to ensure those who watched the live broadcast are the only people to see the tweet.
“I think through our swift actions we’ve managed to stop this from growing further,” a Government spokesperson said.
The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin will present the ABC’s seven o’clock bulletin from next week, in a move designed to ensure Australians hear the right news.
Ms Credlin – who will take on the role in addition to her existing responsibilities – has extensive media experience and is seen as having a better grasp than her predecessors of the types of stories Australians should hear.
“She’s got her finger on the pulse, that’s for sure,” one colleague said of Ms Credlin today, noting that she had an uncanny knack of getting wind of the most important stories of the day before anyone else.
“The issues she’s talking about today will be the ones our politicians will be talking about tomorrow. The ABC will really set the agenda with Credlin behind the desk,” the colleague said.
A senior ABC executive said it was a positive step for the national broadcaster, and part of the ABC’s vision to appeal to a broader range of Australian MPs. “I think it’s true that we have become a bit niche. I think it’s true that we’ve been slow to modernise. And I think it’s fair to say we’ve lost sight of what Australian Governments in the 21st Century want from their news”.
Privatisation and cuts to respected public services might be the agenda of the Coalition government, but it’s certainly not that of the Australian people
My dad used to make us watch the ABC news every night. As a child, I hated it. It was always with a certain amount of resentment that I watched afternoon cartoons give way to the “youth programming” I could bear, if not understand. But the news was a step too far into a bleak space. Dad was stern on this point. “If you don’t watch the news, Van,” he’d admonish me, as I wriggled and whined, “you don’t know what’s going on”.
In the wake of the extraordinary cuts to the ABC and SBS this week, I can only imagine that the architects of this savage attack on our national broadcasters – the Coalition government, its supporters in the Murdoch press and the conservative “free market” think tanks – were told by their own ideological papas the exact same thing.
My dad plonked me in front of the unbiased, articulate and meticulous news reporting of the ABC because he was educating his daughter in how to be a good citizen. By closing ABC news outlets, firing journalists and nobbling independent journalism, the Coalition affirm not only their preference for corporate news but destroy alternatives to the corporate news worldview. Citizens “knowing what’s going on” in the era of climate change, expenses scandals and “on-water matters” is precisely what the Coalition are trying to head off.
Independent and autonomous by charter, the ABC is consistently recognised as a trustworthy brand. Relentless academic scrutiny of the national broadcaster shows that, even with former Liberal party staffer Mark Scott as director, its journalism is balanced and responsible. The Coalition’s neurotic sensitivity to political criticism have tempted them to believe their own propaganda, decrying responsible journalism as “ABC bias”.
Their language game is the dead giveaway that this is no mere budget cutback: according to Malcolm Turnbull, ABC journalists “who work hard every day to report the news objectively and without partisan bias or self-interest will feel very let down” by Quentin Dempster’s appearance at the weekend’s rally to defend those very journalists’ jobs. Andrew Robb chipped in, too: “The ABC … has been a protected species for a long time, has to make its share and its contribution”.
Their rhetoric is so egregious because they know the ABC can’t engage in its own political defence.
Of course, the Murdoch papers are cheering on the Coalition’s attacks: Rupert Murdoch’s media baron father Keith was complaining about the competition a national news service provided to his corporate interests as far back as the 1930s. Corporate media serve corporate interests, which are indivisible from the Abbott government’s interests under their “open for business” mindset. They’ve been happy to shed the Australia Network to create a market for a new Sky-owned “Australia channel”, because national broadcasters – like state enterprises, welfare, environmental protection, universal healthcare or accessible education – are founded in community values the Abbott government doesn’t share and is isolating, starving and weakening.
The “budget emergency”, like so many other Coalition campaign slogans, was long ago exposed as a fairytale. The Coalition flagrantly spends on its own preferences: the useless Direct Action pay-the-polluters scheme, the derided school chaplains program, the diesel rebate to wealthy corporations. All are of greater priority to this government than autonomous journalism and sanctioned, independent critique.
It might be the agenda of the Coalition, but it’s certainly not that of the Australian people. Australians oppose the privatisation of services like the ABC. The Coalition’s work is not popular: as we watch the shredding of beloved programs and the sacking of trusted journalists – let alone what’s happening in healthcare, climate policy and universities – the internecine carnage of the Gillard and Rudd years will increasingly look like a bygone golden age.
Bill Shorten needs to articulate the rage and betrayal felt in the electorate. If Labor and the Greens can rise above their inner city gang wars and share a respectful stage the way that Shorten and Adam Bandt did at the weekend’s “save the ABC” demos, there is a chance not only to remove Abbott’s government at the next election, but to serve the interests of the vast majority of Australians. At this point, Shorten barely needs to get out of bed in the morning to provide a more cohesive alternative to the government. With a policy platform that articulates what the Australian community actually wants, he’d be unbeatable.
Abbott lied about cuts to the ABC, SBS and everything else because he would have been unelectable had he campaigned on his true agenda. To pretend otherwise is as disingenuous as the prime minister himself. Save the ABC.
Australia has lost its ability to have constructive, informed and ambitious national conversations. In this guest post David Frizzell wonders how much of our malaise can be traced back to four embarrassing minutes in the public life of our Prime Minister.
Tony Abbott’s lengthy press conference on Monday fell a long way short of achieving its purpose for the government. Far from drawing a line under the coalition’s growing list of woes, putting to bed their political demons before parliament rises for the Christmas break, it simply served to highlight the virulent disposition of this government that made such a desperate press conference necessary in the first place.
Some of the language we heard from the Prime Minister on Monday was reminiscent of his May 2010 interview with Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report. When Abbott this week uttered the words, ‘On the subject of broken promises, I accept that what we’re doing with the ABC is at odds with what I said immediately prior to the election,’ we were reminded of his mauling at the hands of O’Brien.
In that interview O’Brien was taking Abbott to task over his position reversal on the subject of paid parental leave. Abbott had made a complete about-face on the issue within a month and offered to the 7.30 audience, ‘it wasn’t absolutely consistent with what I’d said’.
‘It was the opposite,’ interjected O’Brien.
The interview then spiralled horribly out of control for Abbott who went on to stammer and bumble his way through, eventually uttering the now infamous ‘Gospel Truth’ defence.
If only someone with the spine and intellect of O’Brien were given a microphone and position next to Abbott on Monday to insert a level of truth and perspective into his Clayton’s attempt to come clean to the electorate. As if.
It’s worth reflecting on that interview from 2012 in light of Abbott’s subsequent behaviour. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps that interview was the turning point in Tony Abbott’s relationship with Australia.
After receiving such a public mauling in the O’Brien interview, Tony Abbott, the then PM aspirant, could have learned a number of valuable lessons. He might have learned that it’s important to take a clear and honest position on significant matters and pursue them loyally. He might have learned that some sections of the media will hold him to account for the things he says and the things he does – and the difference between the two. He might have learned of the importance of simply being honest, no matter how uncomfortable.
But no, not Tony Abbott. What he learned from that interview was the importance of being tricky and deceitful, the usefulness of inserting an object of plausible deniability – no matter how absurd – into every situation. It taught him to be reliant on obfuscation when confronted by uncomfortable questions. It made him determined to deny everything no matter the evidence to the contrary. But most of all, it steeled his already ideologically intrenched determination to dismantle the ABC at the earliest possibility.
Rather than reflect on that embarrassing lesson in a way that could help him become a man of integrity, Abbott took a step deeper into the dark side. And he took us with him. With Abbott as a prominent figure in Australian public life – as Opposition Leader and now as PM – we have lost the ability to have constructive national conversations that are informed by facts and context, pollinated with ideas and dreams.
Imagine an alternate universe. Imagine if Abbott came clean in that interview and had a conversation with O’Brien about the reason for his about-face. It may have sparked a wider conversation, supported by research, about the benefits of paid parental leave. We may have talked about findings into the relative merits of parental leave and child care support.
The subsequent national conversation may have drilled into the true motivation for Abbott’s new commitment. Was it really an effort to boost female participation in the workforce? If so, what do the experts say about the barriers to parents returning to work? Who should pay for it? Why was child care being ignored as a factor? Is there an element of conservative ideology flavouring the policy? If so, what is the competing ideology of the Labor party? What do the Greens and independents have to contribute to the conversation?
And what effect could a quality conversation about such an issues have on our country? Parental leave might have been the perfect place to start. Perhaps we’d develop a collective skill. Perhaps the Australian public would develop a little more interest in the substance of what is being discussed. Perhaps we’d get better at consulting professionals in relevant fields.
Then imagine the knock-on effect a deft ability to have comprehensive conversations might have on the other issues plaguing our national consciousness: asylum-seekers, mandatory detention, climate change, renewable energy, our response to the treat of terrorism at home and abroad, domestic violence, media ownership, privacy…
But that’s not what happened. We didn’t wake up the next morning discussing the merits of paid parental leave versus alternate ideas. We woke up the following morning aghast at the squirming dishonesty, chuckling at the mother of all ‘got ya’ interviews.
In response, Abbott made a pact with himself to never again be exposed in such a way.
Since August 2012 Abbott has limited himself, almost exclusively, to the on-air company of ideological allies such as Channel 10’s Andrew Bolt and 2GB’s Alan Jones. Apart from a couple of puff pieces – most notably Chris Uhlumann’s impotent matey catch-up on 7.30 in September this year – Abbott has hardly been sited on Australia’s most trusted source of information.
The reason for the Abbott government’s inherent dishonesty is obvious: when your true agenda would be so morally unpalatable to the vast majority of your constituents you have to either tone it down or lie pathologically.
We all know which way our current government and their allies have decided to go. The neo-conservative power players – the Abbott government, the IPA and the Murdoch press – have nothing to gain and everything to lose from informed national debate.
Abbott as PM has been a destructive embarrassment to himself, his party and our nation. He possesses not only a bitter determination to pursue a cruel ideology and to silence his critics, but a determination to deny everything – even when the evidence against him is comprehensive and tangible.
We now have a Prime Minister who is willing to deny the existence of the nose on his face. We’re left to wonder just how instrumental in the destruction of our national conversation was that four minutes of seat-shifting, stammering tomfoolery with Kerry O’Brien in 2012.
Julie Bishop out of pure retribution cut the ABC’s DFAT contract. 40 years of Broadcasting to the Pacific Island Nations has been handed to the Chinese. So much for us being the pivot of the Pacific pillock is closer to the mark.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity … it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. Charles Dickens
From one vantage point, these have been the best of times for the Abbott government: the Prime Minister delivering exactly what was promised at the G20 summit; signing a landmark trade deal with China; and elevating the relationship with India to a new trajectory of boundless promise.
It was Vladimir Putin who reflected the views of visiting heads of government when he lauded Abbott’s collaborative style, discipline and chairmanship of the Brisbane summit. And it was India’s Narendra Modi who simply dubbed him the “perfect host”.
In the Parliament, Abbott revealed a side of him we rarely see when introducing Modi. Reflecting on his three months as a student backpacking around India, and without so much a glance at his prepared text, he recited lines from a Gujarati poet about the father of the Indian nation, Gandhi.
To those who saw the concentration on foreign policy as a distraction from the main game, the Abbott message was one of reassurance: “The objective of all our international engagements is, yes, a better world, but particularly, a better Australia.”
So why, then, are the polls so dire? Why is the usual cheer squad so angst-ridden? Why do Victorian Coalition MPs, especially those holding marginal seats, fear an Abbott backlash will consign them to being part of the state’s first one-term government since 1955?
The answers were as much on show this week as the official banquets, signing ceremonies and cuddly koala photo opportunities for foreign leaders. The first was Abbott’s failure to anticipate the importance and urgency his guests placed on the issue of climate change and other concerns.
It showed in the discordantly parochial opening statement to the leaders’ retreat on Saturday when, after Barack Obama’s rallying cry to young Australians to make their voices heard, Abbott “kicked off” proceedings by reporting how he had axed the carbon tax.
It showed when, in the same sentence, he told G20 leaders how his government had “stopped the boats”. Only the previous day, Turkey’s Prime Minister had explained to a Brisbane audience why his country had opened its borders to some 1.8 million refugees from Syria and Iraq. “We cannot close our borders because they are our relatives, our neighbours, but before everything they are human beings,” remarked Ahmet Davutoglu.
While some commentators branded Obama’s focus on climate change impolite, and others an act of bastardry, Abbott finally seemed to get the tone right on the issue after one-on-one talks with his French counterpart on Wednesday.
Abbott’s commitment to a “strong and effective” agreement in Paris next year on carbon emissions cuts vied for attention with Communication Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement that funding to the ABC and SBS would be cut by more than $300 million over five years. It fell to Turnbull and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann to explain how this sat with Abbott’s election-eve promise of “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS”.
Turnbull’s argument was essentially the same as Labor’s explanation for Julia Gillard’s “no carbon tax” edict on the eve of the 2010 election – that the words had to be seen in the context of previous statements that were more equivocal and qualified. Both he and Treasurer Joe Hockey had indicated on several occasions that, if circumstances necessitated across-the-board cuts, then the ABC and SBS could not be exempt, Turnbull explained.
But this was just like Labor spinners arguing that Gillard’s “no carbon tax” pledge had to be heard in the context of Labor’s consistent support for pricing carbon to tackle climate change. Both arguments fail what Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones this week dubbed the “pub test”.
The main focus of Jones’ rage was what he considered a one-sided China trade deal, but he summed up the concern of listeners in broader terms: “We don’t believe the people who are elected to represent us are speaking our language”.
On the ABC cuts, Cormann was even less convincing than Turnbull. Asked by the ABC’s Chris Uhlmann what judgments he thought the Australian people would make, “when the night before the election the Prime Minister says there’ll be no cuts to the ABC and SBS and then there are cuts afterwards”, Cormann said flatly: “Well, they’re not cuts.”
Cormann was being interviewed in response to the third sign of a government in trouble: the coup that saw a breakaway Senate group (branding itself the Coalition of Common Sense) demolish the Government’s changes to Labor’s financial advice laws. The changes were adopted with the support of Palmer United Party senators in July, but two senators who backed the deal, Jackie Lambie and Ricky Muir, are now convinced the changes are grossly inadequate to protect consumers. Once again, the government found itself on the wrong side of an argument about fairness.
Finally, there was Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that asylum seekers who registered in Indonesia after July 1 will no longer be eligible for resettlement in Australia, and that the few refugees who will be taken (who registered before the cut-off) face a “much longer wait”.
Much can be said about the unfairness of the decision, particularly to the 1000 unaccompanied children in Indonesia, whose prospects of reunion with family members in Australia or resettlement elsewhere have been drastically diminished. But just as troubling is the way it was announced, with Morrison saying the Indonesian government had been “briefed” on the decision which was “designed to reduce the burden, created by people smugglers, of asylum seekers entering Indonesia”. Here, once again, was Australia deciding what was best for Indonesia and setting back any prospect of a genuine regional framework to deal with asylum issues. The contrast with the focus on collaboration in Brisbane could hardly have been more stark.
With the exception of boats, where the hard-line approach is still a vote winner, the common denominator is a government that has failed to take the people with it or be seen as acting in their interests. No wonder some federal Coalition MPs are worried that they, too, could be out of office after just one term.
Michael Gordon is political editor of The Age
Chinese president Xi Jinping signs five agreements with Fiji as part of China’s Pacific engagement strategy
Chinese president Xi Jinping has signed five agreements with Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama, with the aim of strengthening economic and strategic ties with Pacific island nations.
Five memorandums of understanding (MOU) were signed following a meeting between Mr Xi and Mr Bainimarama.
They cover increased economic and defence cooperation, the “provision of goods to address climate change”, and visa exemptions for Fijians travelling to China.
One of the MOUs includes the establishment of a Chinese cultural centre in Fiji.
Mr Xi is also hosting bilateral meetings with leaders from Samoa, Vanuatu, Niue, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia, and a round-table discussion with all the Pacific leaders.
Pacific a diplomatic focus for China and India
His visit comes after Indian prime minister Narendra Modi stopped over in Fiji also to court regional leaders, who form one of the largest voting blocs at the United Nations.
Both leaders targeted the Pacific as a vital stop on their way home from the recent G20 summit in Australia.
During a traditional welcoming ceremony in the tourist town of Nadi last night, Mr Bainimarama said Fiji wanted China to be fully engaged in the Pacific.
In a thinly veiled swipe at Australia and New Zealand, he said China had been “a true friend of Fiji” and had never interfered in Fiji’s internal politics.
Australia and New Zealand loudly criticised Mr Bainimarama and imposed sanctions on Fiji after he seized power in a military coup in 2006.
Mr Xi said that Fiji is the first Pacific island country to establish diplomatic relations with China and the two countries have witnessed ever-deepening political mutual trust and fruitful practical cooperation over the past 39 years.
“China views Fiji as a cordial friend and an important partner'” Mr Xi said.
“China supports the people of Fiji in choosing their own development path and improving livelihoods.”
Before his arrival in Fiji, Mr Xi released a statement saying he would meet the leaders of all Pacific island countries that have diplomatic ties with China to draw what he called a blueprint for future mutually beneficial cooperation.
“The friendly exchanges between the people of China and Pacific Island countries date back to a long time ago,” he said.
“We feel a natural kinship with each other.”
Federal MP Christopher Pyne launches online petition to save ABC jobs in Adelaide
Federal MP Christopher Pyne has launched an online petition to save jobs at the ABC in Adelaide.
Mr Pyne told 891 ABC Adelaide he had launched the petition this morning urging the board’s chairman, James Spigelman, not to close its television production house in the South Australian city.
The petition comes amid speculation 150 jobs will be lost in Adelaide as a result of the Government cutting the broadcaster’s funding by $50 million a year.
Mr Pyne said the ABC had been provided with an efficiency review that outlined ways to reduce spending at the broadcaster without impacting on production and programming.
“It is a deliberate act of political vandalism because they know, they have the report in front of them in black and white showing how to reduce costs without affecting production and programming,” Mr Pyne said.
“They [job cuts] could all be in the back office area, for example, in administration, in costs incurred particularly at Ultimo.
“I think [ABC managing director] Mark Scott and the board need to get out of Ultimo and go around Australia and find the place where the ABC is most popular.
“It’s in regional Australia, where it is the lifeline to a lot of country towns and regional areas.”
Petition receives mixed reaction
Mr Pyne’s petition has had a mixed response on social media, and it was posed to Mr Pyne the Government had broken an election promise not to make cuts to the ABC.
However, Mr Pyne said at the time Mr Abbott made the promise, he was not aware how “dire” the country’s economy was.
“At that time I don’t think he was necessarily as aware as we are now about the dire situation we face … we have to reduce the budget debt and deficit and that’s what we’re doing,” Mr Pyne said.
However, the federal MP for Port Adelaide, Mark Butler, said that defence was not good enough and suggested the Government should have put conditions on the cuts to the ABC.
“There has been an agenda for some time from other parts of the ABC as I understand it, to rationalise to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane,” he said.
“Maybe Christopher didn’t know about that when he voted in the cabinet to cut the ABC’s budget to the degree that it is, but this petition is just an extraordinary front on his part.
“Did they put any conditions on those cuts on the ABC management? It’s all well and good for Christopher Pyne to launch this Pontius Pilate petition after the fact.
“There were very significant efficiencies being made by the ABC during our term in Government, but instead of returning that money to the budget or spending the money on something else, we supported the ABC’s decision to create ABC24 and an ABC online platform with those efficiencies.”
Fears local Anzac Day coverage could be lost
What happened in NSW battalions is not so relevant in South Australia. We have our own local military history and you get that with a local production.
Bill Denny, RSL Anzac Day committee chairman
Bill Denny, chairman of the RSL Anzac Day committee, told 891 ABC Adelaide the loss of local television production would result in the loss of local content.
“I just think one of the things we are really going to lose in the state is the capacity to produce the Anzac Day package,” Mr Denny said.
“In recent years the ABC has done a marvellous job of preparing an Anzac Day package. [It’s] very important to veterans because as Christopher would know our service history is generally localised.
“What happened in NSW battalions is not so relevant in South Australia. We have our own local military history and you get that with a local production.”
Mr Denny said next year’s Anzac Day coverage had been guaranteed, but he believed but from then on locals will be shown Sydney’s march “and then a flash for five to 10 minutes to each of the other states”.
“That’s just downright insulting and it diminishes the whole spirit of Anzac and our recollections of it,” Mr Denny said.
Mr Pyne said it was up to the board to save local content.
“Ultimo needs to be told this isn’t allowed to happen,” Mr Pyne said.
“We have to try and save the Adelaide production and programming and I am going to do what I can to do it.”
Two ABC audits have found no widespread bias in the national broadcaster’s news coverage. But a clean bill of health for the ABC is unlikely to soothe its detractors.
Last December, ABC chairman James Spigelman said the public broadcaster would begin conducting four audits a year looking for bias in its news coverage. Spigelman told the National Press Club:
“Since my appointment I have naturally been concerned with the frequency of allegations of a lack of impartiality. I do not accept that it is systematic, but I do accept that it sometimes occurs. Every news and current affairs program endeavours to ensure balance, whilst avoiding the pitfall of irrelevant dullness.”
This morning, the first two reviews were released, and they pose little to worry about for the public broadcaster. One of this morning’s audits, by the BBC’s former chief editorial policy adviser Andrea Wills, dealt with ABC radio’s coverage of the 2013 election. While it made some suggestions, it concluded that the ABC had done no wrong:
“On the whole interviewers asked well-informed and relevant questions that their audience would reasonably expect to hear, and they were robust and consistent in their dealings with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. I have to say that it was impossible to detect any actual ‘pre-judgement’ or personal positions of interviewers in this sample.
“Finally, I concluded that the 23 items analysed for this editorial audit were duly impartial within themselves and complied with Section 4 of the ABC’s Editorial Policies.”
Another audit, by former SBS director (and Coalition appointee) Gerald Stone, dealt with the ABC’s coverage of asylum seekers on Lateline and 7.30. This review was more critical — finding four reports (out of a total 97 examined) where editorial standards appeared to have lapsed — but it also cleared the ABC of biased reporting on the issue in its conclusion:
“In the course of this audit I have routinely checked for indicators of bias as typical TV viewers might believe they have detected it. Were interviewers tougher on some and notably softer on others? Did there appear to be an uneven distribution of time given to one topic or another? One political side or another? To academics and other expert commentators espousing humanitarian views as opposed to those more concerned with the practical need to protect Australia’s borders and deter people from resorting to people smugglers?
“As an independent observer, I found no grounds for concern in any of those measurements.
“The overall coverage of both programs included as wide a range of opinions as practical. Meanwhile, the air time given to any particular topic was in keeping with the newsworthiness of the asylum seeker debate as it progressed through the weeks nominated for this audit.”
Most concerning to Stone was a 2012 Lateline report in which Helen Brown visited an impoverished Indonesian fishing village, home to people smugglers held in Australian jails. “The segment appeared to have only one purpose — to exploit the bias of imagery to evoke sympathy for crew members of people-smuggling vessels,” Stone wrote.
He also criticised the interview with the people smugglers’ lawyer, who he said made dubious claims without being questioned on them. “It portrayed them — without any semblance of proof — as frequently misled as to their real mission and too naive to understand why they are offered more money for one voyage than the average Indonesian fisherman makes in a year,” he wrote. ABC news director Kate Torney accepted the criticism that more scrutiny should have been applied.
Another Lateline story came in for criticism from for supporting the claim that Australia’s treatment of Tamil refugees is so inhumane that it should not sit on the UN Security Council (Stone said many countries with far worse human rights records sat on the council).
Another segment, aired on 7.30, was deemed not to have made it clear that a Tamil asylum seeker’s claims about being tortured by Sri Lankan intelligence officers had not been proven, with the asylum seeker himself saying he couldn’t be sure who tortured him. Stone said the story should have used the word “alleged” in relation to the claim — the program responded that it wouldn’t have fit its conversational style.
Another segment, also with Tamil asylum seekers, did not probe their responses enough, Stone wrote.
Stone’s review only considered reports aired from August 2012 and December 2013. This means the most controversial ABC story on the issue — George Roberts’ piece reporting claims that the Australian navy had burnt the hands of asylum seekers en route to Indonesia — was not examined in the audit. It aired on January 22 this year.
Spigelman has welcomed both audits, saying they showed “95% of the content examined attracted no criticism or concern”:
“Consistent with other processes, these reviews have once again demonstrated that against the background of thousands of stories produced … The error rate is quite small.”
The next review, the chairman revealed, will be into how well the ABC’s daily radio programs cover the issues that matter to their audiences.
Michael Gawenda, a research fellow at the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne, says it’s no wonder the ABC is happy with the result. “And why wouldn’t they be? The radio review basically said everything was hunky dory. The other one found four programs had some problems. But even with those, once the reviewer went back and spoke to the executive producers, there were explanations for a lot of the problems,” he said.
This raises another question. The audits were released by the ABC, and while the people writing them weren’t ABC employees, how much can we trust reviews commissioned by the organisation being reviewed? Matthew Ricketson, professor of journalism at the University of Canberra, says that self-scrutiny doesn’t come easily to many people, and that’s especially true for media organisations. Nonetheless, he told Crikey: “The ABC does it better than any other mainstream media organisation in this country.”
Will this be enough for the ABC’s critics? Gawenda reckons: not a chance.
But Ricketson thinks we shouldn’t be so cynical. “The ABC’s critics are not a monolithic group. A large news organisation will always have critics because of the sheer volume of material created, because of the difficulties of creating journalism against tight deadlines and because of the contentious subject matter that serious journalism necessarily delves into,” he said.
“Open-minded critics will, I believe, welcome the ABC’s commitment to reviewing and improving its practices. Close-minded critics of the ABC will find material that is grist to their mill. As Daniel Okrent, former public editor of The New York Times, once put it: such people are able to identify all biases except their own.