Saturday 21st of May 2022

hypocrite and disingenuous scomo...


The Prime Minister has defended a government senator's move to investigate the ABC's complaints handling process, saying no government agency is above scrutiny.

Key points:
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison says an inquiry into the ABC's complaints system is part of regular government business
  • The ABC's chair, Ita Buttrose, has called the inquiry an attempt to undermine the broadcaster's independence
  • Ms Buttrose says relations are "strained" and senators should be contacting her if they have concerns

Senator Andrew Bragg, who heads the government-dominated Senate communications committee, last week announced an inquiry into how the ABC and SBS respond to complaints.

In a statement, the ABC's chair Ita Buttrose said the inquiry was a "blatant" attempt to undermine the ABC's independence, especially because an independent external inquiry into the issue was already underway.

Ms Buttrose told ABC Radio National the government's inquiry was an attempt to "intimidate" and "mute" the national broadcaster.

"What we have here really is a partisan political exercise under the guise of using its Senate legislation committee for government senators to undermine the ABC's independence, there's no other way I can take this," Ms Buttrose said.

"We're already conducting an inquiry."


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Studying the weasel words of Scott Morrison, one can see that he is biased against the ABC... Ita Buttrose is correct. This Yet Again One More New inquiry into the ABC is a political exercise to muzzle the ABC which is already suffering from MASSIVE budget cuts from the COALition government. Scomo is a soiled nappies marketing expert... A hypocrite and a liar. THE SENATE SHOULD REJECT THIS WITCH-HUNT. Australians should boot him out at the next elections...


See also:


you need your ABC...


the mirror never lies...


FREE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW... helping keep Julian Assange in prison is the worst of hypocrisy by Scomo, who is a liar and a fat deceiver. Scomo should be ashamed of himself, but he won't...

captain's pick...

Ita Buttrose was Scott Morrison’s “captain’s pick” for chair of the ABC.

When he appointed her in 2019, he said “Australians trust Ita, I trust Ita and that’s why I have asked her to take on this role.”

If he was right that “Australians trust Ita”, she has shown why, in pushing back in the most unequivocal terms against a Senate inquiry into the ABC’s complaints procedure. With a long, diverse and demanding media career behind her, Buttrose is her own woman.


The inquiry was announced by NSW Liberal Andrew Bragg, chair of the Senate’s communications committee, late last week.

What has particularly raised Buttrose’s ire is that the move is despite the ABC itself having under way an independent inquiry into the handling of complaints.

In his announcement Bragg, who says it was his idea, described the inquiry, which also takes in SBS, as “surgical”, a rather odd term.

Bragg drew on his own experience of making “extensive complaints” in saying the current arrangements are wanting.

His inquiry will report late February, before the ABC one is concluded.

Buttrose was quick out of the blocks with a long, strongly worded statement, targeting Bragg directly, and she followed up by appearing on ABC radio.

Her core accusation was succinct.

This is an act of political interference designed to intimidate the ABC and mute its role as this country’s most trusted source of public interest journalism. If politicians determine the operation of the national broadcaster’s complaints system, they can influence what is reported by the ABC,” she said.


Governments over the years have had a history of battles with the ABC, but under this Coalition government the conflict has been more sustained and intense.

The period has also included a major implosion in the ABC (admittedly not the first) which led to the sacking of Michelle Guthrie, who was managing director, and the departure of then chair, Justin Milne, amid accusations of his interfering in the organisation’s editorial independence, with a swirl of controversy about high-profile journalists.

ABC investigations and stories have caused much angst in the government, most dramatically those relating to Christian Porter, but also to other individuals and a range of issues.

In general, government critics claim the public broadcaster is biased to the left, in political orientation generally and in the subjects it features.

Tensions have deepened as the media have become more polarised. News Corp in recent years has increasingly run unrelenting attacks on the ABC, driven by a combination of ideological and commercial factors. Some Coalition parliamentarians feel much more at home with Sky, believing they’re talking to their base when they appear on Sky after dark.

News Corp was angered by a recent Four Corners investigation calling out Fox News, about which Fox News lodged a complaint.

It’s not always the right of politics complaining – a program on the Luna Park “Ghost Train” fire stirred wrath for a reflection on the late Neville Wran.

Bragg describes himself as pro-ABC. He said, when interviewed on the ABC on Monday:“There’s been quite a lot of concern from different community groups about the way that the ABC has handled complaints. So as a supporter of the ABC, I’d like to see those complaints handled in a better and stronger way.”

Bragg mentioned veteran and multicultural groups, an apparent reference to discontent over reporting of alleged war crimes in Afghanistan and complaints by Jewish groups about the coverage of the most recent Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Dealing with complaints properly is vital to a media organisation’s credibility. But even with the best intentions, it is not as easy as it sounds.

Some lapses – errors of fact, unacceptable behaviour – will be clear. Others will be a matter of interpretation. (Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor and NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, both Liberals, might view the same report on a climate issue and have different opinions on whether it was “biased”.)

Acknowledging this is a very tricky area, the ABC needs a complaints procedure in which the public generally, and the political class to the extent possible, have confidence.

The independent inquiry, being undertaken by former federal ombudsman John McMillan and former SBS director of news and current affairs, Jim Carroll is directed to ensuring that.

It’s hard to see, beyond the politics, how a Senate inquiry can be justified on the grounds of need. Buttrose wants the Senate to stop or suspend the inquiry until the ABC one is finished.

But despite a report in The Australian that Bragg had been “rapped over the knuckles” by the Prime Minister’s Office for his initiative, there has been no retreat by the government, or Bragg.

Morrison on Monday supported Bragg, not Buttrose. The PM said it was a matter for the Senate “and I don’t understand why that would be an extraordinary initiative to take”.

Pressed on being comfortable with the inquiry, Morrison said the ABC was “a government agency. Yes, they have their independence, and no one’s questioning that. But they’re not above the scrutiny for how they conduct themselves using taxpayers’ money.”

A lot of public money does go into the ABC – of course there has to be accountability. And there is: ABC executives regularly appear at Senate estimates, at which they are questioned about a range of things including editorial decisions.

But the ABC is not like any other “government agency”, and its “independence” is of a special nature.

To subject its complaints procedure to what inevitably will be a political inquiry, with senators very likely dividing along party lines, is not simply or even primarily an exercise in accountability – it is sending a wider message.

Buttrose says Australians should see the message “for what it is: An attempt to weaken the community’s trust in the public broadcaster.”

When it comes to “trust” the surveys indicate the ABC starts well ahead of the politicians.

Nevertheless, the ABC is in for a testing time between now and the election.

That might, however, be mild compared with how it would fare under a re-elected Coalition.



The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.


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Gus: According to some sources, Bragg would not get his "piece of the ABC" via the normal Senate committee system, so he went to a "senate legislative committee" to organise his attack on the ABC, which is totally contrary to the way the system should work. By doing so, Bragg has shown that his attack on the ABC is purely POLITICALLY MOTIVATED — nothing else.


Kick ScoMo out of government. Oh and by the way, there are rumours about Christian Porter floating around town... 




scomo's govt is a dangerous bully...


Under fire: Ita Buttrose goes into battle for ABC independence



By Quentin Dempster — former chairman of the Walkley Foundation, is a contributing editor at The New Daily.


For the current government “the enemy” appears to be anyone trying to hold that government to account — and right now, that’s the ABC.


Her statement was explicit.


The fact that these powers [legal responsibility for the gathering and presentation of accurate and impartial news and information] are given to the board, not to the government of the day, is a key pillar of the ABC’s operational independence.


In complaining about a preemptive inquiry initiated by a government-controlled Senate communications committee chaired by Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg, ABC chair Ita Buttrose has put herself in the firing line.

Buttrose, then 77, was hand-picked by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in February 2019 to take the chair of the ABC, sidestepping the ABC Act’s requirement for a prior merit selection process for ABC and SBS directorships.

She accepted the job after one of the biggest political and boardroom boilovers in the ABC’s history.

In one week in September 2018, the then ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie was sacked by her board and, following leaked emails alleging political interference involving ABC journalists said to be hated by the Turnbull government, the then chairman, Justin Milne, felt obliged to resign to clear the air.

The Buttrose appointment was considered by Canberra observers to be an effort by Morrison, then the new prime minister, to diffuse or neutralise the ABC as a hot button election issue. This seemed to work through the 2019 federal election which resulted in the Morrison government’s re-election.

Since taking statutory responsibility for the ABC in 2019 Buttrose, an experienced publisher herself having edited metropolitan newspapers for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and national magazines for the late Kerry Packer’s PBL, has overseen highly contentious ABC investigative content. She did not commission this content.

It emerged from the ABC’s long standing editorial system of following up substantive tip offs from viewers, whistleblowers, complainants and informants in both the private and public sectors.

The new chair walked straight into controversy: an Australian Federal Police raid on the ABC’s Ultimo offices in pursuit of the identity of the ABC’s informants for its coverage of alleged Afghanistan war crimes.

The day before, the AFP had upended the Canberra home and personal possessions of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst in pursuit of incriminating evidence and the identity of her informant for her earlier published story exposing Home Affairs and Defence Department emails proposing domestic cyber surveillance of Australian citizens.

The brutality of the search left Smethurst traumatised but in the aftermath Buttrose joined News Corp’s Australasian chairman, Michael Miller, Nine Entertainment CEO Hugh Marks and all Australian mainstream media in a “Your Right to Know” campaign with legal challenges to the High Court to push back against security agency and police over-reach threatening freedom of the press in Australia. The raids made world headlines.

At each ABC board meeting directors receive reports from the ABC’s legal department about defamation actions, police inquiries and all litigation where the corporation is to be held liable for any and all of its broadcast content.

As a publisher in her past life Buttrose had sometimes found herself in court being held to account for content she had approved for publication.

Now at the ABC, Buttrose found herself back in the management and governance thicket of contentious media publication.

At the ABC her publisher’s responsibility soon included the documentary series Revelationbroadcast in March 2020, which alleged the Australian Catholic Church’s Cardinal George Pell was an opportunistic child molester.

While Pell, in a statement, rejected the evidence of on-camera complainants and witnesses he did not sue the ABC over Revelation. Pell was acquitted seven-nil by the High Court in April 2020 of a criminal charge of sexual assault of two boys from 1996 and 1997. He had been convicted by a Victorian jury and jailed on the charge, and was released from prison when the decision was overturned.

This acquittal was seized upon by ABC critics and claimed to be evidence of a secular ideological agenda by the ABC in all its coverage of Pell and the Catholic Church. This ignored the historic findings of the combined state, territory and federal Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which exposed Australia-wide systemic cover-up of child abuse, not just within the Catholic Church.

The royal commission was established after the ABC’s Lateline program exposed NSW police cover-up of child sex abuse within the Maitland-Newcastle diocese with the courageous help of a serving police officer Peter Fox.

In November 2020 the ABC’s Four Corners broadcast “Inside The Canberra Bubble which, through eye-witness complainants, alleged two government ministers had behaved inappropriately with women in social gatherings.

The program, reported by Louise Milligan, enraged the Liberal Party as examples of similar misbehaviour by players from other political parties were not canvassed. But the program helped to expose a culture of bullying, misogyny and sexism inside Parliament House.

This culture was later further exposed by News Corp journalist Samantha Maiden when she reported the rape allegations of political staffer Brittany Higgins.

In February 2021, Milligan wrote an online article published on the ABC News website reporting complaints from friends of a deceased woman alleging historic rape by a then unnamed but current federal cabinet minister.

In extraordinary scenes, the then attorney-general Christian Porter named himself as the cabinet minister at the centre of those claims, and Four Corners followed up with “Bursting the Canberra Bubble”, broadcast in March 2021.

“It never happened,” Porter said. Police had not laid charges as there was insufficient probative evidence. Porter sued the ABC for defamation over the online article, but the dispute was settled out of court without any payment of damages but with the ABC reaffirming its reporting did not presume guilt.

In June 2021 Four Corners broadcast “The Great Awakening, a family divided by QAnon“, which explored Morrison’s friendship with a follower of the far-right QAnon movement. Morrison denied any undue influence from any personal association and although politically controversial (with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation acknowledging 40 per cent of its resources were having to be deployed to monitor white supremacist extremism including QAnon) there has been no reported ongoing security concern involving the current prime minister.

Through all this Buttrose, as chair of the ABC board, has had to take responsibility with her fellow directors (all but the staff-elected director appointed by the current Coalition government) and all bound by the ABC Act and charter to maintain independence from government.

But Buttrose found herself subjected to personal vilification by Liberal Party notables, with Victorian Liberal Michael Kroger calling for her resignation, declaring that she had lost control of the ABC and that she clearly was suffering “Stockholm syndrome” having been “captured by the ABC collective”. Kroger claimed that Four Corners was always “throwing acid in the face of the Liberal Party”.

This ignored the history of the ABC’s exposure journalism including allegations by NSW stipendiary magistrates of perversion of justice in the Labor Wran era of NSW politics in the 1980s.

It ignored the ABC’s blanket coverage, along with Sydney Morning Herald journalist Kate McClymont and the NSW ICAC, which exposed Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid and then minister Ian Macdonald in corruption involving a lucrative coal exploration licence. The ABC’s prime time coverage was significant in discrediting the NSW Labor Party, once known as “Sussex Street”, with that state’s voters.

As the ABC current affairs journalist leading that coverage I once received a Christmas card from then state Liberal president, Arthur Sinodinos AO and state director Mark Neeham: “Keep up the good work”. The Liberal-National Coalition parties benefited politically from that coverage, won a landslide victory in 2011,  nd have held power in NSW ever since. State incumbency has helped the Liberal Party build its federal constituencies in western Sydney.

While the ABC has a charter obligation to report to a high ethical standard through its code of conduct and in adherence to the ABC Act requirement for objective journalism, it now appears that the Liberal and National parties do not and will not accept that they must expect to be held to account, particularly when they are in government.

This is now a long-term problem for the ABC. While many Liberals and Nationals will privately acknowledge the ABC’s institutional contribution to Australia’s free media in a liberal democracy, they are reluctant to speak publicly in the ABC’s support, for fear of being vilified as “turncoats” by News Corp outlets in the contemporary battle for political power.

The ABC’s current relationship with the government has been hostile to say the least through all this, in spite of the institution having reached the highest levels of audience trust and engagement in its 90 year history, mainly through the 2019-20 climate change bushfires and the need for accurate information and analysis in the public health crisis — the COVID19 pandemic.

In the digital revolution the ABC has achieved a significant demographic transition from older Australians to youngsters now accessing ABC content on their devices. This has been achieved in spite of operational defunding of 10 per cent since the election of the Abbott government in 2013.

Buttrose was acutely aware of the government’s hostility through a threatening letter she received from Communications Minister Paul Fletcher in December last year.

The letter demanded answers by December 15 to 14 questions alleging governance failings by Buttrose and her board arising from the Four Corners Canberra Bubble report. Portentously the letter threatened Buttrose and the board with dismissal: “Why should an objective observer not conclude that the program demonstrates a failure by the board in its duty under Section 8 of the ABC Act to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news and information by the ABC is accurate and impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism.”

Buttrose publicly defended the board’s oversight of ABC journalism and Four Corners but neither she nor the minister released the ABC’s written response to that letter.

There has been no statement from the minister accepting the board’s response or acknowledging that the ABC has a role in Australia’s media in holding government and its ministers to account.

Ever since that episode neither Buttrose nor the ABC’s managing director David Anderson have been able to get an assurance of future funding certainty for the ABC beyond the current appropriation which ends on June 30 next year.

While the board appointed external experts to review the documentary series Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire  following complaints and noted the withdrawal from iView of another crime documentary Juanita: A Family Mystery after producers acknowledged a credibility problem with a key informant, it also moved to review its complaints handling protocols.

The ABC has had a well-staffed complaints handling unit external to editorial line management since the abolition of the Independent Complaints Review Panel after a 2009 review by then ABC chairman Maurice Newman and then editorial director Paul Chadwick.

The unit has the power to enforce corrections and clarifications or take down content adjudicated, sometimes with great anguish by affected content creators, to have failed the ABC’s editorial standards.

The board appointed former Commonwealth and NSW ombudsman John McMillan AO and former SBS news director Jim Carroll to review complaints handling.

It was Bragg’s reportedly unilateral action in setting up his government controlled Senate committee inquiry which has provoked Buttrose and the ABC board to publicly object.

Perhaps the recent history of the ABC board’s adherence to the ABC Act to govern the organisation independently of government canvassed here will help to explain Buttrose’s “duty bound” determination:

“This review is well underway and members of Parliament, including Senator Bragg, have already been interviewed as part of the review process. An issues paper will be released shortly and the review will then be seeking public submissions. The review will be rigorous and thorough and its findings will be released by the ABC board in April 2022.

“Instead of respecting the integrity of this process, the Senate committee under the leadership of Senator Bragg has decided to initiate a parallel process. I will leave it to Senator Bragg to explain his motives but the impact of this action is clear. As chair of the ABC board I am duty bound to call out any action that seeks to undermine the independence of the national broadcaster”.

In the context of the current battle for political power in Australia with the pending federal election it appears Buttrose and her directors are not prepared to allow Bragg to mount a smear or harassment campaign against the ABC under cover of what they judge to be a politically motivated and preemptive complaints handling inquiry.

She has appealed to the Liberal Party by saying the ABC is accessible for complaints and is not “the enemy”.

But when it comes to accountability of the current government “the enemy” appears to be anyone trying to hold that government to account.


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