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June 23rd 2015 print

James Allan

Balance Through ABC Eyes

I was wrong about the national broadcaster. It really does present differing points of view with the semblance of balance. Alas, while those to the right of the Labor/Greens vantage point are ignored or derided, it is the perspective of Islamist savages that is accorded invitations, airtime and respect

zaky 2I like to think I’m prepared to admit when I am wrong.  For some time now I’ve been saying that the ABC is failing to adhere to its statutory obligation to be impartial.  Not a single right-of-centre presenter or producer on any of its big ticket current affairs shows, including the biggest of all, Q&A.  It’s lefties, lefties and more lefties as far as the eye can see.  This in a media organisation that sucks more than one billion dollars a year from taxpayers of this country it was established to humbly serve.

When a visiting English journalist can say that ‘the ABC swings so far to the left that it makes the BBC look like Fox News’, then I used to figure there was a problem with that little thing called its ‘legal obligation to be impartial’.  And so for these sort of reasons I railed against Managing Director Mark Scott, on his three-quarters of a million dollar annual salary, sitting in his office and inanely telling the 53% of us who voted for the Abbott government that a producer and presenter’s pre-existing political proclivities in no way at all affect their ability to be impartial.  ‘No! No!, No! The ABC is even-handedness incarnate’, has been Herr Scott’s basic defence.  We never got to test that claim by seeing what he would say if everyone were from the right, because he wasn’t about to test the claim in those circumstances, now was he? (editor’s note: That ‘visiting English journalist’ is James Delingpole, whose on-air encounter with an ABC archetype, Jon Faine, is not to be missed.)

And I also railed against the ABC Board.  I thought it should long ago have fired Mr. Scott.  I thought its members weren’t doing their jobs. And don’t forget these people are getting paid huge sums to attend a few meetings, presumably to do things such as, you know, insisting that the ABC actually meet its statutory obligation to be impartial.

Heck, I’ve even railed against Mr. Turnbull, the minister in charge of the ABC.  Why in the world this most left-wing of Coalition MPs is in charge of the public broadcaster is beyond me.  Mr. Turnbull also once seemed to me to be failing in his job.  And the fact the ABC occasionally put him on air — ‘There’s no real problem here, folks. All good. Maybe a bit of misjudgement now and again, but that’s it!’ — really didn’t change my mind.

The thing is that on every single highly charged issue going, everyone in this country knows the ABC’s basic position.  On stopping the boats?  The ABC is against.  On hefty carbon dioxide imposts in the name of saving the world?  The ABC is in favour. On Australia moving to become a republic? Ditto, and notice how the ABC views align with Mr Turnbull’s.

Almost anything coming out of the Pope’s mouth (and note here, as a matter of laying my cards on the table, that I am an out-and-out atheist), the ABC is vehemently against.  Well, they’re stridently against the Pope when his thoughts have anything to do with contraception, abortion or euthanasia.  But should the Pope make some idiotic claims pertaining to global warming, well the ABC is more Catholic than the Pope himself, to the point that Mr. Abbott is being urged to take his marching orders from Rome.  And the same sort of dreary predictability is true as regards alleged wrong-doing by Julia Gillard (nothing to see here, folks), by Tony Abbott (no doubt there’s more to this than a uni student punching a locker, folks), by the Australian Navy (let’s go with these claims of torture before we check it out, guys), and so on and so on.  If anyone has ever been surprised by the general slant of an ABC current affairs show, please let me know.

So the appearance of bias and lack of impartiality seemed pretty clear to me.  The attempted defences were lame beyond belief.  And don’t mistake my views.  I have no problem at all with people getting as much and many lefty views as they can stomach.  I just want them to pay for it themselves – rather than all of us taxpayers forking out for what has seemed to me to be the propaganda arm of the Greens Party, because, truth be told, the Labor Party is criticised from time to time.  It’s just that the ABC criticism comes from further to the left.  The non-Keynesian, stop-the-boats, don’t-waste-money-on-carbon-tax policies, well those views pretty much aren’t allowed to exist, let alone be heard, on the ABC.  At best they are framed as no more than off-the-wall minority views to be trotted out in the form of one panellist against four or five  acceptable others.

So, all things considered, I was pretty certain that the statutory obligation to be impartial was nowhere near being met. But as of this week’s Q&A  (June 22), I realise that I’ve been looking at this whole thing the completely wrong way.  The ABC does do impartiality.  Okay, it’s not the left/right of politics sort of impartiality that you and I might have thought was meant by the statute.

No, the impartiality is between, on the one hand, a view of the world anchored in democracy, equal treatment for women, the integrity of science and a perspective that takes seriously individual liberty. We can perhaps call this a Western worldview.

On the other hand the worldview that is anything but secular, which supports Australians heading off to fight with ISIS, that sees nothing much wrong with the odd woman being stoned to death, that glories in violence against non-believers and that will resort to any contortion in order to paint the wrongdoing as coming from Australia and Australians (and Mr. Abbott, if at all possible), rather than from the Stone Age holders of such views.

When the clash is between these two approaches to life, you certainly can depend upon Their ABC to be impartial.  Now I see that I was wrong. Mea culpa.

James Allan, Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland, is the author of Democracy in Decline

Comments [4]

  1. Patrick McCauley says:

    That particular little Islamic savage with the marijuana leaf coming out of his head is emblematic of many (perhaps a couple of thousand) ISIS fiddling young Muslim Australian men desperate for a revolution to reflect the egos they have grown in Australian freedoms.They are aggressive and dangerous.Waleed Aly has never heard of them

    That the ABC, and Tony Jones in particular, is prepared to give this gutter snipe, convicted of threatening to murder an ASIO officer, a National voice to recruit ISIS terrorists and threaten our Government, our Prime Minister and a Member of our Government – on National Television – is utterly unacceptable. Tony Jones is enabling sedition and as such is a traitor to the Australian people, whom,he claims, love him. He has grown far too clever for an Australian audience and should be shipped off to compare in paradise.

    When this rotting monolith actually begins to fall – we will find its infection runs long and deep into the Australian community and we will have to pull it out root and branch, year after year like perennial weeds.

  2. Jody says:

    Forget Waleed Aly; he is (very aptly) currently appearing on “The Project” with people whose collective IQs are lower than the Dow Jones index of October, 1929!! What the Left will do for filthy lucre!! (The very same thing they’d excoriate us for doing!!!!!)

    Waleed is used to 18 y/o university students agreeing with his exquisite moral virtue during tutorials. Forget him. This man contributes zero to the national discussion; well, anything I couldn’t hear from an 18 year old.

    As I see it, either the ABC goes via a privatization or Turnbull goes. Once he shackled his ideology to the ABC he sealed his own fate. The organization is completely out of touch with ordinary Australians.

  3. Alistair says:

    Sorry James, I think you were right before. Mea Culpa not needed.
    The Gramscian Marxists have an agenda to sweep away the old liberal democratic order and replace it with a Marxist State. The Muslims have an agenda to sweep away the old liberal democratic order and replace it with an Islamic State. The ABC is not impartial – It sides with the Gramscians but will provide a platform for any group, including Muslims, who it considers will advance their agenda of the destrcution of the “western world view”. Their support for “equal treatment for women, the integrity of science and a perspective that takes seriously individual liberty” extends only as far as when these things can be used as weapons in the war. It dumps them as soon as these things become inconvenient. Their support for Islam also extends only so far as it can be used as a weapon. Therefore, I think the ABC, the Gramscians, and the Muslims are on the same side, for the moment.

  4. Jody says:

    They played Q&A again today; it was repeated! How’s that for a two-fingers signal to the government and the constituency!!!