Turning back the ABC fact-checker

It was late when the ABC’s latest power couple, fact-check supremo Russell Skelton and Virginia Trioli, retired to the boudoir and love was in the air. What a wonderful evening it had been! Oh, how they had laughed when The Chaser crew showed conservative columnist Chris Kenny fornicating with a dog. Quality humour, that — the sort no commercial broadcaster would even dare to think of putting to air.

Now, as Russell reclined upon the pillow, Virginia’s favourite banana in pyjamas, she caught his eye in the mirror, where she was practicing those off-camera facial contortions ABC staffers find so amusing when a conservative is in the hot seat.

Hair in curlers, bunny slippers now side-by-side beneath bed, Virginia slipped between the covers and planted a peck of affection on her partner’s cheek. How very handsome he is, she thought, and how very smart, especially his Twitterings. It would have been just too terrible if he had remained atThe Age, destined to be left jobless and forlorn when that poor, poor newspaper’s brave decision to write and report only for inner-city Greens finally brought about its demise. No such problems at Our ABC, she recalled yet again, a tremor of delight arcing the length of her slender frame and making the flannelette quiver.

At the national broadcaster, where there is never a need to turn anything so base and vile as a profit, it was perfectly safe – indeed, expected – that content and comperes pay no heed whatsoever to the views and tastes of them, the little people whose sole contribution to the public good was the $1 billion-plus in tax revenues they handed over every year. Some 53% of Australians had just voted in a conservative government, which was their right, but they would never enjoy the satisfaction of seeing a Tory host on ABC telly, ABC Local or Radio National! That isn’t the way things work, not at Russell and Virginia’s national broadcaster.

If some didn’t approve of things like Josh Thomas’ fabulous examination of an emerging gay man’s dilemma about “sticking things up his bottom“, bugger them all (no pun intended). The ABC is there to lift the proles’ horizons, ideally to elevate minds to the point where they can appreciate the wit of those Chaser boys and all the other ABC favourites whose shows, regardless of ratings, never lackfor an immediate green light.

What a lovely, happy coincidence that Russell had beaten all those other candidates aiming to secure the fact-check unit’s corner office. Raw talent and fate must have willed it. That was the only explanation.

Virginia flicked the light and was drifting off to sleep, warm and fuzzy visions of the superbly impotent Mark Scott dancing before her drooping eyes, when Russell’s hand found her knee.

“Not tonight, darling,” she muttered, “not tonight.”  She wrapped herself a little tighter in the organic cotton, 300-count, fair-trade sheets, one of the many blessings a pair of very nice salaries can bestow upon a righteous and thoroughly deserving ABC household.

He must not have heard because now, to the accompaniment of a murmured and playful “this little piggy”, those fingers were walking ever higher.

Love him she did, but this was too much! The ABC-2 morning show was but hours away and Virginia needed her sleep if she was to be at her best, knowing as if by instinct when to smirk at mention of an Abbott initiative, how to eye-roll at any guest’s denial of an imminent war with Indonesia 0r, when a particular guest represented the Coalition, to interrupt with an efficiency not even the accomplished Tony Jones of Q&A could ever hope to match.

“Darling,” she repeated in a tone that brooked no appeal, “I’m turning you back.”

Her hand came down to block the questing digits’ path and that was it for romance . With a sigh her would-be lover scuttled his hopes of amour, rolled over and was soon snoring the sleep of the just, as do all ABC employees.

Just as well, thought Virginia. If randy Russell had not set aside his lusts, she would have been obliged to take the sash from her dressing gown, lash it to his prow, bend it around the bedpost for leverage and tow him back to the other side of the bed.

Not that he would ever grasp the difference between “tow” and “turn”, mind you. Not her Russell nor his entire Gillard-funded ABC fact-checking unit, bless ’em one and all.

Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online


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