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June 11th 2015 print

Roger Franklin

TURC: Unworthy of the ABC’s Attention

To judge by the little AM and PM  have put to air over the past 48 hours of sensational revelations, union corruption is small beer, certainly nowhere near so important as Treasurer Joe Hockey's bluntly accurate advice that homes are expensive and those who wish to buy one had best hold steady jobs

blind eyeEvery weekday morning Radio National puts to air AM, which grandly bills itself as “Australia’s most informative morning current affairs program“, a description which rather implies a comprehensive look at all the day’s major stories. Come late afternoon, PM takes up the baton with the stated intention of providing a broad spectrum of issues relevant to all sections of Australia’s geographically and culturally diverse community.

Big stories, you say? Like, for example, the ongoing hearings of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, which has lately been making a number of Labor leaders more than a little uncomfortable? In Victoria, Government Whip Cesar Melham has been forced to relinquish his post, while on the national stage former AWU chieftain Bill Shorten has been, if not lost for words, certainly running a deficit in candour.

So the national broadcaster will be all over these revelations of workers stiffed by union bosses, of shady deals and shakedowns, right? Its gun reporters and commentators will be fighting for airtime to explain why a union leader with political ambitions might wish to inflate his membership rolls, thereby gaining extra clout and a handier foothold in climbing Labor’s greasy pole. As Shorten is both the alternate Prime Minister and a man who, until recently, was trouncing Tony Abbott in the popularity polls, his travails and incoherent explanations should be grist for the ABC’s mill.

Tired of waiting for Their ABC to cover the TURC hearings? Watch them here live.
Unlike the national broadcaster, it won’t cost you a billion dollars a year

Don’t be silly! If we are to judge by what AM and PM have put to air over the past 48 hours of quite sensational revelations, the TURC hearings are small beer, as the story which most concerns the nation is Treasurer Joe Hockey’s bluntly accurate advice that homes are expensive and those who wish to buy one had best be in steady employment.

Yesterday (June 10), AM‘s news list devoted three slots to stories about Hockey and house prices, the topic consuming more than half the 45-minute broadcast.

And of Shorten and the TURC hearings? Not a peep.

Today (June 11) the focus on housing and Hockey continued, with two more extended items. And once again, TURC coverage didn’t get a look-in.

As for PM, it did a little better, but not by much. A full day and a half after Melham’s anticipated resignation was tendered and accepted, the news show finally reported that he was in a bit of strife. As to Shorten, Melham’s ally and the man who passed him the baton to serve as AWU leader, there was this and only this:

BILL SHORTEN: In my time working as a union official, I always put the interests of my members first every time, every time. I have no time for any workplace corruption, whoever is guilty or found to be doing it full stop.

And that was it. Bill Shorten is, by Bill Shorten’s accounting, an honest man. Having ticked that box, PM returned to pursuing some of its pet passions, which yesterday included the imminent demise of the Great Barrier Reef and the Liberal government of Tasmania’s plans to destroy forests in the name of tourism, jobs and vile commerce, each item running longer than the brief and day-old report of the TURC revelations.

The ABC budget, one would have thought, might cover the cost of reporting a major story on union corruption. And yet, on Radio National’s two flagship news programmes, the TURC hearings have seen a total of five minutes’ coverage in two days while a monumental beat-up about an “insulting”, “out of touch” and “let them eat cake” Treasurer’s off-the-cuff remark has scored 40 minutes.

One billion dollars a year is what the ABC consumes, a lot of money forlisteners to be left in the dark — indeed, an obscene sum, given that any citizen with a broadband link can watch the TURC testimony as they unfold.

At the ABC, however, where Mark Scott loves to boast about his minions’ cyber-dude savvy, it seems they prefer to look the other way.

Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online.