There have been two significant stories broadcast by the ABC over the last week or so that I’d like to briefly discuss today.
Firstly, the Four Corners story on juvenile detention in the Northern Territory (NT) which aired last week. There is no doubt that the broadcast images were confronting, resulting in the Prime Minister establishing a Royal Commission (RC) within hours of them going to air.
The officer originally chosen to head up the RC has now resigned and two others have been appointed in his place. The appropriateness of the appointments is the subject of debate but suffice it to say that, in the case of one appointee, I am most surprised that ancestry seems a more important qualification than judicial experience.
The fact that he had already rendered his verdict via social media prior to his appointment may also concern some but this seems to have been excused by many as emotive intemperance. Perhaps not the ideal characteristic for an independent reviewer of a highly charged matter, however, the decision of appointment has been taken by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General and we are reliant on their prudence and judgment in this instance.
However, subsequent to the program, new evidence has emerged via an interview with NT Corrections Commissioner Mark Payne that the ABC presented footage of incidents that had already been investigated and characterised it as ‘news’. The ABC program also seemed to ignore the serious injury and damage that juvenile corrections officers have suffered as a result of violent offenders under their custody, which could assist in placing context around some of their actions.
Such information gives me cause to question why the ABC chose now to present their story. Could it have anything to do with the Northern Territory election due this month?
Surely, such a politically charged program wouldn’t present events that occurred under a previous Labor administration; events that had already been investigated and resolved by a court of law, as new material damning of a conservative government just weeks out from an election?
The mere thought of such a thing happening should alarm anyone who values the charter of independence of our ABC.
Our national broadcaster also chose to devote an entire episode of their flagship news program 7.30 to allegations of inappropriate behaviour by Cardinal George Pell. It was filled with dramatic re-enactments and sinister claims without a single counter view presented.
How the ABC can justify such a smear in the absence of any charges beggars belief. Nonetheless, they tried to when they released a statement on 28 July which stated:
“There is a clear public interest case for reporting on this matter. Cardinal George Pell is a significant public figure, a senior figure in the Catholic Church, and he also has had direct responsibility for the Church’s response on the issue of child sex abuse.”
Now, whether or not you agree that broadcasting unsubstantiated 40-year-old allegations designed to smear a public figure is appropriate, one must surely contrast the treatment by the ABC of George Pell with their treatment of another high-profile individual.
You may recall that a couple of years ago a ‘senior Labor figure’ was the subject of rape allegations dating back to the 1980s. The allegations were investigated by Victorian police who found there was no case to answer and no charges were laid. The law did its job.
The media also did its job, choosing not to publicly smear this politician by mentioning his name in any of the stories that reported on the matter before the police investigation concluded. As far as I can recall, the coverage given to the entire tale by the major media outlets was minimal; one can logically presume because it would seriously damage the accused and the allegations were unproven.
Sound familiar: unproven allegations dating back decades and personally damaging to the accused? Much like the smears broadcast last week by 7 30, however the Labor figure is protected and the Catholic cleric is publically vilified.
How could such different treatment be handed out by our billion dollar taxpayer-funded independent national broadcaster? Unfortunately, the answer is so clear to anyone who wants to see: the ABC’s bias is out of control. I only hope the new Managing Director, Michelle Guthrie, is willing to do something about it.