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October 01st 2015 print

Roger Franklin

It’s Greek to Mitch Fifield

Is it worth noting that, yet again, the ABC has violated any and all notions of fairness, balance and professional decorum, courtesy of Tony Jones and the Q&A crew? Probably not. It is not as if our PM's new Communications Minister is the sort to give his master's promoters a dose of salts

golden dawnSenator Mitch Fifield hails from Victoria, which explains rather a lot. When the ABC’s latest ministerial overseer says, as he did on Monday, that the national broadcaster could not have had a better steward than Mark Scott, it is important to supply the needed context, which is this: To a Garden State Liberal, long accustomed to failure and adversity, anything marginally more pleasant than armpits swollen with buboes qualifies as a great success.

Fifield’s is the state — or was until premiers Baillieu and Napthine handed it straight back to Labor after a single do-nothing term — which actually recorded a swing to Gillard in 2010. That was the election Tony Abbot came thisclose to winning, and it was Victoria which cost him most dear while inflicting on the rest of the nation a two-year dose of Tony Windsor’s bitchy spite and Rob Oakeshott’s prolix incoherence. It was in Victoria, too, where Fifield’s state colleagues swore blind that they would repeal our state’s Charter of Human Rights, another playground for lawyers, provocateurs and sinecured grievance mongers, only to repudiate that pledge upon election with barely a pause for breath. If there is any hope whatsoever to be drawn from the minister’s kind words for the national broadcaster’s managing director and self-appointed editor-in-chief it is that, as a leading Victorian Liberal, not a syllable he utters can be taken seriously.

Sadly, given that he was elevated to his portfolio by a Prime Minister still sudsy from the prolonged soft-soaping of Scott’s newsroom minions, Fifield’s instantly stated delight in the excellence 0f the ABC is likely inspired, if not by sincerity, certainly by an astute desire to get no one offside, especially his new leader. Why, the tongue-bathing he lavished upon Scott could even work! When the election is called, the ABC might, just might, re-pay the favour of Fifield’s praise by making some pretense of unbiased coverage. This hope that being nice to those who detest you will reap dividends is another characteristic of Victorian Liberals, as Baillieu demonstrated by annually sharing a table at the Premier’s Literary Awards with the keyboard-ticklers of Melbourne’s grant-fed literary set. The luvvies thought him a great bloke, but only when he was within earshot and had a cheque book handy. In gushing over Mark Scott while pointedly neglecting to make any mention of budget cuts, nepotism, secret contracts, huge salaries, sweetheart gigs for semi-retired talking heads, higher programming standards and doctored photos of pants-down conservatives mounting dogs, Fifield is honouring another aspect of his Victorian heritage: comfort your enemies, spurn your friends.

All of the above is by way of an introduction to what will be, without a doubt, yet another case of a Victorian Liberal pointedly ignoring both duty and, if only Fifield had the kidney to exploit it, a prime opportunity to emphatically remind the ABC of the obligation to observe its Charter. The moment that will, undoubtedly, go un-seized came midway through Monday night’s Q&A, when host Tony Jones unburdened himself of a dim-witticism directed at Fifield’s party colleague on the red benches, Cory Bernardi.

“You mentioned Cory Bernardi there and some on the Right have urged him to start his own Right-wing party — Cory Bernardi’s Golden Dawn or something …” quipped Jones.

Golden Dawn is, of course, the jackbooted, Nazi-saluting party for Jew-hating crypto-fascists whose ranks have swollen in response to the incompetence, corruption and escalating chaos inflicted by Greece’s succession of spendthrift leftist leaders (thus does one trash pile spawn another). Jones, an alleged news-biz professional, could reasonably be expected to know as much. But no, he is no better than a superbly remunerated ignoramus, according to Q&A executive producer Peter McEvoy, whose response to Bernardi’s complaint figures in the senator’s latest newsletter. The relevant section is reproduced below:

“… yet Tony Jones thinks it is okay to link a conservative Federal Senator to such a disgusting movement.

I contacted the producer of Q&A to register my disgust at such a reference and received a response that included the following passage:

“Tony’s remark was flippant – giving a fictitious party name to a proposal circulated by Senator Bernardi’s supporters, including Andrew Bolt.”

What the producer was telling me was that the ABC’s pre-eminent current affairs host had no idea that Golden Dawn was actually a real political party even though he had reported on them in recent years.

The excuse was almost as offensive in its ignorance as the original deliberate slur…”

Q&A is accustomed to this sort of flack; indeed, it thrives on the long, loose leash that allows it, time after time,  to shrug off the reactions to its latest outrages. If not for Islamic hotheads, stacked audiences, thrown shoes, feral invasions and the fun of betting on the number of times Jones interrupts conservative guests (allowing that the show’s bookers actually invite a conservative, that is), the show would not be worth watching at all. Like a gruesome car crash, however, with fairness and balance mangled and twisted in the wreckage, it can be hard to look away no matter how much you might want to.

Thing is, though, the official Q&A response is very hard to credence — not, mind you, the implication that Jones is an overpaid dill, but the assertion that, on the topic of Golden Dawn, he is an uninformed dill. On October 5, 2012, Jones himself introduced a Lateline segment on Greece’s turmoil which not only made prominent mention of Golden Dawn but actually included a few words with one of its prime movers. Before McEvoy dashes off another cavalier dismissal, let us concede that Jones might not have been paying attention to the clip he prefaced. There are are monitors all over TV studios and the temptation to admire his own image might have been a distraction.

Harder to ignore — impossible, actually — is Jones’ more recent mention of Golden Dawn which went to air in April on Q&A. This airing demonstrates beyond doubt or quibble that Jones knew exactly what he was saying when he made that crack about “Bernardi’s Golden Dawn”. Jones was swapping views with guest Nana Mouskouri when the following exchange went to air. Notice in particular Jones’ reference to the 17 seats Golden Dawn occupies in the Greek parliament. Not only does he known the name of the party and what it represents, he can state with precision how many representatives it boasts.

NANA MOUSKOURI: Some people, the other side, maybe is more exigent. How do you say? More demanding, but they all have something right. You cannot condemn. Of course, the crime is very hard, yes.

TONY JONES: Can you actually reason with, for example, in Greece you have a political party called Golden Dawn?

MOUSKOURI: Yes. Yes.

JONES: Openly, the leader describes himself as racist.

MOUSKOURI: Yes.

JONES: Can you reason with a political party like that, I wonder?

MOUSKOURI: No, I cannot, but, you know, the problem is that people have voted and they are in the Parliament. So, they have to find a reason why this was created and maybe we are – in Greece also we have a responsibility to ignore maybe the social situation sometimes and so that the people come to have help from a party like this and it is voters and they are really in the government.

JONES: Yes, I think they have 17 seats.

So just to re-cap: A TV host drawing his significant salary on the public purse makes a cheap, vile crack about an elected politician. His bare-faced producer, who has form, then asserts it was all an innocent mistake despite, presumably, being well aware that his show’s star discussed Golden Dawn in detail just a few weeks earlier. One hesitates to use the word “liars” but in this instance, under these circumstances, a better descriptor does not come readily to mind.

But wait, there is more. In addition to its other activities — amongst them, stealing market share from for-profit news outfits and thereby putting non-ABC journalists in Centrelink queues — the national broadcaster also struts its hip-dude presence on Facebook. Have a look at this page and do note the month-old dates on the various comments. As the page may well vanish down the ABC’s memory hole, the rankest posts have been preserved for posterity via the screen grabs below. The question to which the ABC invited Facebookers to respond: “What do you think of the Golden Dawn Party”, which had just announced its intention to send a party of election workers to Australia in quest of votes from the Greek diaspora.

cory facebook3

Could Jones have spied the above comment and made a mental note? There is plenty more of the same where that came from, but not a trace of the balance the ABC’s Charter obliges it to observe:

cory facebook 5

cory facebook2

 

cory facebook1

 

 

 

 

 

Remember, all of the above is from the Facebook page of the same ABC which is pledged to inform and entertain all Australians, not just Greens, Labor’s left and unwashed layabouts afflicted with father issues and arts degrees. It is the easiest thing in the world to delete offensive Facebook comments, yet ABC employees have allowed this bile to dribble down its Facebook page for well over a month.

Minister Fifield might want to investigate and, perhaps, insist on the appropriate disciplinary action. Then again, given his new leader’s fawning respect for the ABC, which did so much to install him in The Lodge, perhaps not. After all, that nice-and-lovely approach worked so very well in Victoria.

Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online.

Comments [12]

  1. DRW says:

    If Mexicans are sucked in by the ABC they deserve Labor with it’s agenda of debt, regulation and crushing Freedom of Speech while handing work places over to the unions.

  2. Richard H says:

    It’s long past the time for investigations or disciplinary actions at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It must be closed down – not privatised – and all evidence of its malign presence eradicated. Corporatio delenda est.

  3. Simon says:

    I wonder, if the Ray Martin investigation into ABC bias does in fact come up with issues (however unlikely that is), what Mitch Fifield’s position will be then?

    Or am I out of date and the investigation has already been cancelled by the Turnbull government?

  4. Jody says:

    These politicians must have a bad case of gravel rash from grovelling to the ABC. Pass the bucket please.

  5. Jody says:

    I’m reading with disgust today reports that Turnbull has put everything on the table in his talks with ‘stakeholders’ – capital gains tax, negative gearing, superannuation tax breaks for the over 60. These are Labor party policies. If adopted he will face a coup of his own, sooner rather than later. He is creating stalking horses!!

    • Just A View says:

      Jody, one of three games are being played here. 1. The classic softening up process so that when some changes are announced they don’t appear as bad as rumours so everyone breathes a sigh of relief; 2. they’re testing the waters to see what they can get away with; 3. our new PM is fabulously wealthy – good luck to him – and will remain so even if they remove a lot of the concessions you mention, many years ago Victor Davis Hanson pointed out that many wealthy people believe in higher taxes for the middle class because it doesn’t actually impact their affairs and they don’t care that their preferred tax policies stop others getting wealthy just like they once did.

    • PT says:

      Jody, you can’t really be surprised by this surely! Turncoat makes David Cameron look like an ultra conservative.

      Turncoat is an egomaniac. Most people I’ve discussed it with believed his involvement in the republican issue in the ’90′s was to a large part driven by his notion people would be writing books about him in 100 years!

      Given that, what’s a few extra taxes on “little people” compared to funding such a vision?

      Let’s look at his associates. His partner in that merchant bank: Nicholas Whitlam (Gough’s son of NRMA fame). He was given the Rhodes Scholarship on Wran’s recommendation. There’s also (in my mind anyway) a question mark over the “advice” he gave the HIH board. Strange that he began his political career in the wake of it. Need I go on?

  6. Just A View says:

    Roger, I’m a bit tired of these constant references to the legal requirement of the ABC to follow its Charter and the Board’s impartiality obligations. Personally I would prefer that it were privatised, with the remote broadcasting unprofitable activities could be out out to a formal tender.

    The issue I have with this constant reference to legal requirements is that it fails to acknowledge one fundamental point – namely, there are no penalties for non-compliance with the relevant sections. Yes, abiding by the law is important but a law without penalty is not a law. Perhaps an analogy might be helpful – I happen to think speed limits in Australia are mostly silly and too low; I don’t drive dangerously but I speed most of the time however I breach the limits cautiously because I don’t want to get fined and I need my license to fulfill my work and family obligations. In other words I kind of obey the speeding laws because of the penalties for not doing so.

    You can’t expect the ABC Board or management to follow rules when no one can punish them. Only someone ethical would follow what is expected of them. And on that note your entry on this website above probably shows I don’t need to say much more!

  7. Incensed says:

    I wonder what would happen if a conservative ABC commentator or journalist – I know, I know, but let’s just assume existence for the sake of the argument – called the Deputy Leader of the Opposition a Stalinist or referred to the Greens as the Communist Party. I suppose the conservative would become surplus to requirements because of the former comment. On the other hand, it’s entirely reasonable that the Greens would welcome this as a term of endearment.

  8. Turtle of WA says:

    “Like a gruesome car crash, however, with fairness and balance mangled and twisted in the wreckage, it can be hard to look away no matter how much you might want to.”

    Here’s a better analogy. It’s like your football team has to play an away game every week in front of an opposition home crowd. You are never allowed to field a full team, and the opposition is usually allowed to have more than a full team on the ground. Sometimes you are not allowed to let any players on to the field. The umpires are always openly biased against your team, and will even invite supporters of the other team known for their heckling ability onto the ground to disrupt play when your team have the ball. The umpire usually wears an opposition jersey. Your team loses every week, but you keep watching in the hope that someone will notice that this game is totally unfair and the rules mean nothing.

  9. en passant says:

    “I received this appalling post-assassination smarmy communication from Senator Fifield. Every time I think no politician will be able to move the ‘I have Principles!’ bar any lower, another one does.
    FIFIELD: “I am humbled to have been appointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts & Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government. As well as retaining my current role as Manager of Government Business in the Senate. (how much can one genuflect to Richard III before the gravel rash draws blood?)
    I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the disability and the aged care sector on bold reforms like the National Disability Insurance Scheme and consumer centered Aged Care.
    (Really? I think a friend of mine added a touch of reality to the smooth words when he replied:
    “I’m sure that you’re pleased to have signed agreements for the full NDIS. Now here’s a reality check:
    a) NDIS Agency is directionless and lost in a sea of meetings about what AND how to roll out NDIS
    b) The recipients (clients) are confused about what they need to do, and the parents of many are bewildered – the support infrastructure is under-prepared.
    c) If you’ve EVER helped the aged or disabled you wouldn’t say you “thoroughly enjoyed” working with them. So I doubt you’ve ever experienced their distress or dire circumstance.
    But please, keep up appearances. We are all working to ensure that politicians with substance and character will replace you & your dishonourable team.
    PS Please don’t be taken in by the hype that the left-wing media espouse about Turnbull et al. I would suggest that you update your resume”)

    I have really relished representing the Minister for Communications in the Senate and look forward to taking on my new role with excitement and optimism. ( the palpable excitement of being thrown a few scraps is grotesquely cringe-worthy)
    My own reply was as follows:
    “There is plenty to be humble about in your support for an unelected narcissist. You and 53 other did neither yourselves, nor the electorate any favours. Your actions disgust me and after I will now work to replace you and as many of the Turncoat minions as possible at the next election
    Have a nice time in the “Ministry of the Damned” as you savour the whiff of sulphur. Sharia for Oz will be higher on the ballot paper than the Liberal Party.

  10. Incensed says:

    Towards the end of Q&A last night Tony Jones begrudgingly ‘clarified’ – not to be confused with an apology – his statement likening Cory Bernardi to neo-nazi/fascist Golden Dawn. Three points. 1) For once the activist and partisan (oops, I mean, unbiased presenter) spoke on air instead of hiding behind written words on a long forgotten transcript. Not much I know, but perhaps all that can be expected. 2) Note the audience’s mocking laughter. 3) Note the unbiased presenter’s smirk.