Whip Me, ABC, Thrash Me Again

The depths to which ABC journalism has sunk is dramatically laid out for all Australians to see  on the Prime Minister’s website.

On January 4, as media excitement about Scott Morrison’s supposed incompetence threatened to exceed actual coverage of the NSW and Victorian bushfires, the Prime Minister found time for lengthy interviews with 2GB and the ABC.  It was the day he announced the call-up of reservists and the allocation of extra funds for extra water bombers. His Media page, which records daily the transcripts of his major interviews without fear or favour, reveals the following contrasting approach. 2GB was obviously seen as friendly territory as the interview began:

PM: G’day Luke, and mate, thanks for the work you guys are doing today. It’s a very difficult day, particularly all around the state, but a lot of the other areas you’ve just been talking about as well. So, you know, thanks for helping people today and all your listeners.

No such atmosphere on ABC News Radio, as Sandy Aloisi began (after a lengthy summary of the government’s plans for troops and more funds):

A welcome announcement of these extra resources, but why has it taken so long to do that?

Mr Morrison explained that for weeks the role of the Defence Forces had been increasing, but now there was a new phase. “Previously we’ve asked for requests, now we are just moving in and then integrating with the local command and what’s taking place on the ground.”

Aloisi: But did you need a disaster announcement (by Victoria) to make you aware of just how serious the bushfire crisis was in Victoria, and of course, in NSW?

PM: Well, of course not…..that’s why we’ve had Defence Force people deployed since September of this year. We’ve been supporting the emergency services and firefighting efforts by the states and territories now for many months, and we’ve had 2,000 people involved in that.

Aloisi: (Not listening, but following the ABC prerogative to cut in): “I’m sorry to interrupt you, you’ve only announced the up-scale of that this afternoon. Why has it taken so long?

PM: Well no the upscale has been occurring now for several weeks.

Morrison went on to explain that ADF personnel had been directly deployed into the incident response centres in towns across NSW and Victoria. But nothing he could say would divert Aloisi from her pre-determined attack. This is how the interview progressed:

Aloisi: But Prime Minister, were you not warned of the scale and the extent of this bushfire season as far back as last March?

and then came this

Aloisi: Prime Minister, I spoke to [Labor MHR] Susan Templeman, the federal member for Macquarie. She has a home at Winmalee in the Blue Mountains and is playing that awful waiting game that so many people in those bushfire areas are playing. She says you visited the area in December, in early December. You were told then by people, residents, that the bushfire season that was coming was going to be a very tragic one unless something was done. She asked this afternoon why something wasn’t done after those conversations.

PM: Things were happening even then [interrupted again]–.

Aloisi:they weren’t evident, obviously.

PM: I can’t help it if Susan Templeman isn’t aware of all the things that the ADF were doing at the time. I think it’s very important that at times like this, it’s not a time for point scoring. It’s just a time of getting things done.

 Aloisi: I think Susan Templeman really epitomised what many people on the fire grounds are feeling this afternoon, and that is that they really don’t feel like there’s any there’s been any leadership in this bushfire crisis.

You’re aware of the criticism yourself. What do you say to that?

Aloisi by now was in full cry. It was entirely predictable that footage of the PM being abused by  foul-tongued bush ferals, complete with piercings, mohawk mullets, Led Zeppelin T-shirts and a goat on a rope would be cited. The ABC presenter didn’t disappoint.

Aloisi: Prime Minister, why then do you think you’ve been heckled when you visited various fire grounds and people have really asked you not to come back unless you can provide further resources?

PM: Well, there was a bit a mixture of responses, and it would be very unfair to characterise it as that being the overwhelming response, that that has not been the overwhelming response in the places I’ve been. There’s been a mixture of responses.

Aloisi: And I think they were angry and upset at you, Mr Morrison.

PM: Were you there?

Aloisi: Well no, I wasn’t. I saw the vision.

PM: Well, I was there and I met with many people on that day. And many people were pleased to have Jenny and I there. And many people were pleased that their isolation had been recognised and that so soon after the event, I was able to get there. I listened very carefully. They said they wanted more resources for the Rural Fire Service, that’s what they said.

Aloisi: So finally, Prime Minister, do you feel you can look Australians in the eye this afternoon and say, ‘I have done my best for you as your Prime Minister? As far as this bushfire crisis goes?’

Over on 2GB, Luke Grant handled the same basic material this way:

Grant: Now this morning you’ve come to a conclusion that we need to send reservists to some of these fire zones. I think the number PM is about 3,000. How soon will they get there and what can they do to help?

The 2GB compere received a very detailed answer on what the 3,000 reservists will be doing, Morrison no longer making the important point that the Commonwealth was not waiting to be asked for assistance – it was proactively stepping in. For those who could understand, he was saying diplomatically that NSW had failed to ask for military help, as had Victoria.

There was a sensible question about what might happen in February and March, but after a straightforward interview, in which he extracted detailed information, Grant spoiled it with a bumbling sycophantic final question:

Grant (in part): You wouldn’t be a human being if you didn’t walk in there as a Prime Minister just offering support and help and to hear that response and not think yourself, you know what a people expect me to do, as you’ve said before, you don’t hold a hose. If you get asked to do something, you do it. In my experience, I think what you’ve done today is brilliant. You’ve answered the calls of the other states, but as a human being, you hear that, it’s got to affect you PM?

With its aggressively opinionated interviewing and manifest hostility for the Morrison government and ubiquitous insertion of a “climate change” theme into every fire and weather story, the ABC is demonstrating every day what a sad caricature it has been allowed to become of the news organisation it once was. The above exchange leaves no doubt about that.

  • Peter OBrien

    Thanks Geoffrey,
    this bias has become so ubiquitous that the temptation on the part of many conservative MPs is to shrug and ignore it as just the ‘cost of doing business’. But that’s no longer good enough. It must be called out ad nauseam.

  • Peter Smith

    The ABC is an irresolvable problem. I no longer watch or listen and depend upon those with the fortitude to do so to report (thanks Geoffrey) on its never-ending propagandising. An equal problem is that it has an audience which laps up its propaganda or which simply has no other news source and therefore accepts what it says as the truth. I have given up.

  • ianl

    Thanks for the detailed script, Geoffrey.
    The question of why these conservative MP’s and other non-left commentators subject themselves to guaranteed unfair treatment (planned “gotchas”) has some intertwined answers, I suggest.
    The primary one is ego – “I’m smart enough to handle this”.
    Following that, the lure of an opportunity to show off the primary assumption becomes irresisitble – “Look, I handled this, so I’m extra smart”.
    In fact, that intertwine just reveals desperation – “I really need any publicity”. The ABC producers and journos are smart enough to know this. It really is a statement of the bleeding obvious.
    Cutoffs, deliberate interruptions to destroy a point by preventing it from being made, assertions of “fact” before a long, preambled question (ie. a setup) – none of these are in the control of the hapless target . Yet still the hunger for publicity triumphs, the ego craves it.

    I see no hope of retrieving the situation back to any semblance of rationality. If anyone does, then how, please ? Practical suggestions only.

  • Stephen Due

    The ABC is a partisan broadcaster promoting socialism, feminism and Green ideology. The Prime Minister should take steps to privatise the ABC. In any case, there is no need for a government-funded broadcaster in Australia today. The rationale for establishing the ABC has been fully discredited by its lamentable performance – proof, if that were needed, of the utter folly of the socialist agenda. The BBC is another fine example of the same phenomenon.

  • Guido Negraszus

    The solution is simplicity itself: cut their funding 5% every year and argue it with extreme bias (breach of charter). If they restore balance including employing some right of center journalists funding can be restored. Obviously, the ABC, Labor and the Greens will go in meltdown. So what? The Liberals have absolutely nothing to lose. They already get a shocking treatment. Oh yes and don’t EVER give any interviews. Just ignore them. By the time the ABC received their 2nd 5% cut I’m sure some heads at that organization will start to think.

    I know, nothing of the kind is going to happen. Our leaders are just too scared and weak and ianl is probably right too: EGO!

  • padraic

    The ABC is the pits. I agree with all of the above.

  • JM

    Why do conservative politicians go on ABC shows when they know they will be treated with contempt, baited, talked over, have what they say twisted and be humiliated? This question and reluctance to clip the ABC wings causes speculation about the obvious imbalance in the relationships between conservative pollies and the ABC. Why do they go down to their local ABC office willingly every now and then to get a good public thrashing by some leftwing snot and not do anything about it? It makes no sense.

  • Doubting Thomas

    As Peter says, the ABC is an irresolvable problem. It speaks only to the converted and to the occasional masochist like Geoffrey who, like Rowan Dean, takes one for the team by watching it so we won’t have to.
    If we could only persuade the Libs that there’s nothing to be gained by pandering to them and their idiot audience they, and we, could just get on with our lives ignoring them, especially at budget time.

  • Citizen Kane

    The paradox with the(ir) ABC is that the harder they push their lamentable university politics world view and agenda driven journalism the more they push the average punter away. Many in the community can perceive the lack of balance and absurd lack of rationality presented by the activist journalists who make up the ABC. And just like the Hollywood class that Gervais so brilliantly mocked, the bulk of these journalists a privileged snots who have never got their hands dirty serving the community in any meaningful way. They demand we all change in order to massage their own virtue signalling yet their hypocrisy knows no bounds. The whole ABC edifice from TV to Radio to online is a massive industrial complex in its own right with an enormous carbon and environmental footprint relying on huge resources and infrastructure to exist, from production to dissemination through to receiving the leftist propaganda on a computer, tv or radio in someone’s house consumes incalculable energy and resources. Their ABC represents a monumental intellectual and moral fraud. And just like the BBC in the UK all the fear monger in the world did not alter the populace’s view on Brexit or their voting intentions. The Australian government should learn from that and rebuff the ABC and it’s agenda at every opportunity. In the interim we can take solice from some real journalism like Keith Windschuttle’s excellent piece just yesterday.

  • Geoffrey Luck

    Michal Rowland repeated the same line of questioning, almost word for word. in his 7.30 “interview” of the Prime Minister on Thursday night. The purpose of interviewing was once to extract information!

  • Greg Williams

    I have been married to my dear wife for 48 years. In the beginning, we both enjoyed the ABC, although politically we usually voted opposite to each other. As we live together, our votes cancel each other most of the time. However, as time has marched on, I refuse to have anything to do with the ABC, whereas my wife increasingly uses it as her only source of information. Needless to say, on many issues, heated discussions occur. We now have a holiday place up on the Sunshine Coast, where, to my great delight, we get Sky News on channel 83. Currently, the main presenters (Credlin, Bolt, Jones, Richo, etc) are on holiday, but there is a 1 hour “Behind the News” at 6 pm (Qld time) each day. What has been a revelation has been my wife’s absolute revulsion at me sitting down for an hour listening to a non-ABC journalist. While she has ABC 24/7 when back in Perth, and she blissfully brings up all the ABC data on any issue with which we are engaged in discussion, she just can’t stand me listening to an alternative. My wife is one of the smartest people I know, but she has a real blind spot when it comes to the ABC.

    IMO, the ABC has been captured by its employees and it serves no useful purpose in today’s Australia. Someone earlier suggested a 5% reduction per annum. I suggest a 100% reduction.

  • whitelaughter

    agree with all of the above…but that raises the question: why does the ABC survive? I would have thought that any politician wanting publicity would do better to announce that they will not under any circumstances talk to the ABC, and sit back and let the talking heads scream blue murder.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Like Greg’s, our marriage has been a long one – 52 years despite the old adage that mixed marriages never last. But in our case we are as one when it comes to the ABC. Both of us were raised on farms in western NSW in an era when the ABC was almost universally trusted as the Gold Standard of just about everything. (The one exception for me was Jimmy Gussey and the ABC Dance Band whose weekly “Hit Parade” was an unlistenable veritable *hit Parade” that must embarrass old ABC programmers to this very day.)
    But we both agreed years ago that for the sake of our mental health that we would never watch ABC News and current affairs programmes ever again. I think the last straw for me was watching Maxine McKew’s all too vivid orgasms whenever she interviewed an ALP politician.
    So, on that issue at least, our marriage is fireproof.

  • brandee

    Geoffrey with luck one day a conservative government will have a Minister for Communications more reformist than the Turnbull supporting present one ,Paul Fletcher,
    Perhaps then he could follow the suggestion of the British PM who suggested the BBC be funded by cable subscription.
    Only One Nation with its Pauline Hansen and Mark Latham has the spine to challenge the media lefties.

  • DG

    Its not so much that the ABC is biased, which it is, but that it is hubristically amateurish. If the board cannot lift its performance and create a culture of disciplined objective professionalism, then they need to exit stage left.

  • pgang

    I think the real problem is that journalism is dead. Look at The Australian – it barely reports any news at all but is really just an opinion magazine. Their coverage of the fires for example has been abysmal. I was sourcing TA in the beginning for information on what was burning and what was lost. But all they produced was sensationalism with zero practical content, so in the end I just gave up having any clue about what is actually happening and with that, frankly, went my care factor.
    So what is the ABC supposed to do? Re-invent journalism? They merely reflect the state of contemporary public information.

  • Rob Brighton

    Why would anyone at the ABC care what we think of their service? They don’t need to compete for our business so they keep offering up their swill. Shrug, socialism writ large.
    I watch the ABC news (while holding my nose) so I can understand what foolishness the left is up to, it allows me to know the green numbskulls talking points for the next day. That is its only use as near as I can tell certainly, it is not the place to get information.
    The nightwatchman (who surprised most by holding his bat) will always get it in the neck, he is an avowed Christian and a member of a despised class who won the election by not being Bill Shorton.

  • DG

    In addition to my comment above, the ABC presenter’s and/or audience’s lack of knowledge of emergency management arrangements is laughable. State responsibility, and I agree, states dropped the ball. In reality, nothing here for the PM at all. States have to make the call for ADF resources, but they didn’t. Heck, they didn’t even use their own resources properly.
    Fire-fighting aside, field deployment of ‘human’/community services front offices and community support mobilisation should have been immediate upon the disaster-of-their-own-making scaling up. My memory of what were (and maybe still are) called displans (disaster plans) is that they include community support reactions. But none happened AFAIK on the South Coast of NSW in a timely manner.

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