Guys, don’t cancel me, but in our household we’ve watched ABCTV 7pm News (Vic) for 40 years. It’s an addiction – like heroin, crystal meth, fentanyl. Close to 7pm we get twitchy for our fix – will the iView app work on our Smart TV (IQ just above 100)? Up to Tuesday (September 26), we accepted the assurances of the ABC Charter that ABC flagship TV would be impartial, professional and devoid of green-Left spin. But last night’s news (Tues) shattered my illusions.
I must now put in a complaint to the ABC Ombudsman (properly, Ombudswoman) Fiona Cameron. She will consider it carefully before, as I expect, rejecting it , her role being “to build on the credibility and trust Australian audiences have in the ABC.”
The same item was in the NSW 7pm news (21.30mins), and I assume around the nation. This item even wound up on the France 24 news channel, in English, albeit with some clips that didn’t make the ABC compilation. These dual versions enable me to do a compare and contrast exercise.
The item is about the Electoral Commission’s job of setting up polling stations in remote areas like Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands. The distances are formidable and the AEC ‘s efforts commendable. The ABC itself threw in substantial resources to get its reporters around.
So what’s my beef? Well, judging by the ABC footage, the Yes vote out there is 100 per cent. A Yes tally of 50 per cent, 60 per cent or 70 per cent might be remotely (pun) plausible. In some tiny communities (the ABC mentions one comprising ten people), even 90 per cent might be the go. But 100 per cent across the board?
This smacks of ABC desperation as polls show the Yes armies heading for their Waterloo. A potent argument for No is that the Aboriginal community is thoroughly split, so why should we balandas deliver them a permanent pack of Aboriginal-Industry aristocrats?
I can imagine the conversation at Ultimo as the 7pm News piece is packaged into shape:
ABC Senior Editor: Remember we’re storytellers. Let’s go through all these grabs and vox pops and make them tell a story.
ABC Junior Editor: Good thinking! What story line do you have in mind?
ABC Senior Editor: [Guffaws] Well doh! Why are we here, you cretin?
So here’s the anatomy of the finished item. ABC Melbourne’s Tamara Oudyn, dressed all in white (is that a wrong note?), teleprompts how the AEC is encouraging vote-averse blacks to vote.
14.24 mins: Shot of shed for remote polling, with two and a half big VOTE YES! signs outside.
14.26: ABC reporter Roxanne Fitzgerald says, “Signs are up and teams are ready to go.” She must mean, “YES” signs are up and “YES” teams are ready to go.
14.29: An Aboriginal man in a white YES 23 shirt hands out a voting card.
14.32: An Aboriginal woman lodges her vote. She is holding a pamphlet which from the logo, colour and text I can identify as a YES pamphlet.
14.37: We’re now in the Tiwi Islands. ABC vox pops an Elder Bernard Tipoloura who says, “I strongly believe in people talking for us in Canberra.” Behind him are two VOTE YES! placards.
14.50: Another vox pop Aboriginal says, “Yeah, Vote YES! We need some changes!” He waves his VOTE YES! sign at the camera.
15.14: Remote Voter Service’s Aboriginal Ebony Williams Costa says, “And I’m also about getting out and informing people about Aboriginal rights.” This seems code for YES. I can’t imagine her pushing their “rights” not to have a permanent non-elected Voice assembly. Reporter Roxanne says a funeral and sorry-business is reducing voter turnout.
15.43: Marion Scrymgour, federal Labor MHR for Lingiari, is interviewed with three VOTE YES signs in the background.
15.54: Two young Aboriginal women are shown casting their votes. The one on the left holds a single flyer for YES.
16.00: Two Aboriginals with VOTE YES! shirts stand in front of no fewer than five VOTE YES! signs. Roxanne says, “Despite traditional low voter turnout, remote communities will see more voter service than ever before, with voting extended by a week to try to ensure everyone gets a say.” Everyone, that is, who votes YES, judging by the ABC item.
To sum up, in the piece’s two minutes we see 13 “VOTE YES! ” signs, three “VOTE YES!” T-shirts, two “VOTE YES!” flyers, and the ABC finds three vox-poppers to deliver YES messaging. The ABC’s score for the “NO” camp: zero, zero, zero, and zero respectively.
Maybe Ombudswoman Cameron will tell me that the ABC crews trudged hill and spinifex looking for NO case material out there to balance the item and, sadly, none was to be found.
A friend of mine who knows how things work in such remote places, suggests this might even be true. The reason: each little settlement is controlled by a “big man” who well recognises that a Canberra Voice could operate to reinforce his power and patronage. Hence before the ABC’s visit, Big Man has patrolled to ensure no trace of NO material is seen and filmed. He might not even need to, because no-one out there wants to tangle with him.
Now let’s check out the France 24 TV version from stringer James Vasina.
He’s apparently taken a feed from the ABC as some shots are the same or similar. But he runs other clips which the ABC perhaps left on its cutting-room floor.
He includes a scene (0.13mins) at Mowanjum on the mainland, showing a community store – and with a VOTE YES sign outside.
At 0.24 Vasina has an elderly man saying, “Our voice has to be heard somewhere, especially Parliament House and all that. It’s hard to understand what it really means. A few people voted NO, I’m not sure why, I just decided to go with this.”
So there we have it, remote NO voters do exist, but the ABC couldn’t find any or found them and ignored them.
Vasina (0.47) then abandons the backblocks in favor of high political theatre, saying,
The Prime Minister blames these No votes on misinformation campaigns, given that the Referendum aims to provide Australian’s indigenous people with a representative body to advise Parliament.
The PM doesn’t seem respectful of us NO voters, and Vasina omits that the Voice would also have the right to hector the executive. By omission, Vasina implies to Francophiles that Aborigines don’t already have advisory systems, let alone a peak $4.5-billion-a-year body, the NIAA, with 1300 staff, plus heaven knows how many other bureaucratic beasts.
Vasina at 1.00 wheels out Mr Albanese himself, but not Opposition Leader Dutton or an inconvenient Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, to spruik the YES case. The PM tells France 24 he is confident that remote Aborigines will “overwhelmingly” vote YES.
At 1.14 we see the AEC sign “Polling Place” on a remote-station fence. About 1.5 metres distant and tied to the same fence are two VOTE YES! signs (is that legal?). The cameraman (again, I’m assuming it’s an ABC person) pans into loving close-up of the upper VOTE YES! sign, then scrolls down and pans lovingly on the second VOTE YES! sign. Two more VOTE YES! signs are inside the yard. A fifth VOTE YES! is across the track. Some message here perhaps?
Unlike the ABC, France 24 then plugs in (1.35) stock footage of perhaps 200 people at a city rally. At first sight it’s a YES rally, with a chap in foreground wearing a T-shirt with “Stop the Genocide” on the back. It’s actually a NO rally and the TV crew (ABC?) are sneakily emphasising a lone anti-NO campaigner.
At 1.40 someone there holds up a sign (at last!), “VOTE NO – Fairaustralia.com.au”. At 1.48 we even get to see two more VOTE NO signs, one reading, VOTE NO – Do Not Comply”. The item then fades out with Vasina mentioning that conservatives don’t want Australia divided on racial lines.
If you ask me, Vasina is out of his depth in this coverage, and maybe allows in a smidgeon of NO material by accident or because it’s tough trying to explain complex things to a beret-wearing audience 17,000km away.
My task now is to persuade my rusted-on ABC household to subscribe to Sky News, or at second-best, haul up France 24 on YouTube. Although head of the household, I still prefer consensus.
Tony Thomas’s new book from Connor Court is Anthem of the Unwoke – Yep! The other lot’s gone bonkers. $34.95 from Connor Court here
 The Duke of Wellington is running the NO camp.
 I might be wrong and the shots might have come from some TV pool arrangement.