The Voice

No Doubt Whatsoever How the ABC is Voting

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.[1] 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.

16.36: Ends.

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.[2] 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 –”. 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

[1] The Duke of Wellington is running the NO camp.

[2] I might be wrong and the shots might have come from some TV pool arrangement.

19 thoughts on “No Doubt Whatsoever How the ABC is Voting

  • IainC says:

    Tut, tut, Tony. The ABC is certainly unbiased and even-handed – it gives equal air-time to Green and Labor Socialist Left policy positions.

  • Tony Tea says:

    I note in passing, that in his address to the Press Club, Noel Pearson flicked the switch to MLK with his exaggerated drawl and drawn-out pauses. I’ve leaarrrrrned the hard way, daaay after day (rhyme) yeaar after yearr, decaaade after decade, (a triple for rhetorical effect) listennning makes it possible, etc.

  • wdr says:

    Why on earth a Federal Coalition govt hasnt drastically cut the budget of this left wing propaganda mschine, which is just as fair and balanced as was Pravda under Stalin, is a complete mystery. A 20% cut immediately would be welcome. The ABC was founded in 1932 in imitation of the BBC at a time when remote Australia had few independent news sources. This is absurd today when there are hundreds, available online instantaneously. Since then the ABC has been hijacked by the left and violates its charter re fairness every day. Keep the Classical music and jazz etc programs and ditch the rest!

    • Doubting Thomas says:

      A Federal Coalition Government knows full well that even the slightest hint of doing anything significant to the ABC will be met instantly by a veritable howling storm of opposition not only from the ABC’s inmates, but also from the farthest corners of the wider media, including from those in the conservative channels like Foxtel who criticise it for fun. Hell hath no fury like a journalist in defence of other journalists.
      Then you have the classical music lovers who believe that the ABC is the only source of good music and who never listen to anything but the music.
      It is a popular myth that the ABC is trustworthy. As someone who has twice been libelled by the ABC, I know better from bitter personal experience.
      But there are no votes in doing anything about it, and lots of political misery.

    • Solo says:

      For me, I’d just make it a subscription service. If you want your news to have a particular flavour you usually have to pay (say for example, the Australian). I don’t see why ABC can’t be the same.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    It would appear that time is not on the side of the ‘yes’ camp. Warren Mundine, Jacinta Price and Lidia Thorpe are three prominent Aboriginal identities who are not in favour of the Voice.
    It strikes me that to vote ‘yes’ is to fit a ticking bomb to the Constitution. If ‘yes’ gets up, which other identifiable racial group with then step up for their own ‘voice’ as well? Cases can be made for other racial ‘voices’ – Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, etc.
    If you want to convert a polite conversation or otherwise peaceful discussion into a full-blown row, start introduce race, sex, politics or religion into the proceedings. Parliamentary conversations are politics by their own very nature, but throughout history, the others have been divisive enough to finish up occasionally as full-on civil wars. Vide the wars of religion in Europe, starting in 1517. World War 2 was fought in the cause of selling ideas of racial superiority to people in the mood to buy them.
    As well, rather important details like how one might qualify as ‘Aboriginal’ enough to vote for candidates desiring to become ‘Voice’ MPs has been left vague, which cannot have been by accident or oversight. It has to have been deliberate.
    We are being asked to open a can of parliamentary worms.


    The ABC’s lack of moral scruple regarding their YES campaign propaganda machine, which in reality is stealing public funds, to push their own political agenda: That’s a clear moral obligation to respond with a NO vote.

  • sabena says:

    I wonder how they will treat the matter if the referendum answer is no,as it appears,at this stage,it will be.
    Probably similar to the republican referendum,namely that we have shamed ourselves in the eyes of the world.

  • Davidovich says:

    I had always regarded this writer with high esteem and admired his discernment. However, to read he and family have enthusiastically tuned into the 7pm ABC News for 26 years and only recently discovered there was significant bias in the organisation’s news presentations leads me to shake my head in bemusement.
    In fairness, I’ll pretend he watches their ABC so that the rest of us don’t have to but don’t insult my intelligence by saying he has only just realised their dishonest bias,

  • bomber49 says:

    I’ve pretty much given up on the ABC apart from Macca, Australia All Over and Hard Quiz, where I can watch nerdy lefties endure humiliation. And now I’m struggling with late night national host Philip Clarke. Fortunately, there’s only 2 more weeks of him and his biased guests lamenting the dying days of The Voice, Yes vote. The whole bunch are so sanctimonious, feeding off each others grief. I didn’t realise how misguided Warren Mundine was until I heard it on late night ABC. Some people rely 100% on the ABC for important news and information. A quick quiz soon reveals that they don’t know a whole lot. You can’t have a robust discussion on some topics because they have not heard about the issue.

  • Helmond says:

    Yes, the talking heads at the ABC are well and truly left of centre and are unafraid to push their views through the airwaves.

    There is good news however. Its ratings for radio and TV programs are woeful, and if it were a commercial enterprise then heads would surely roll.

    Thankfully its blatant support fot the YES cause is likely to have little impact. Any regular listeners and viewers were probably YES voters anyway.

    I suppose it’s nice to see the odd good drama or documentary free of cost and free from advertisments. But that’s hardly a justification for it’s existence.

    What about news? No need these days. Everyone with a smart phone can get any news they want instantly.

    Finally, don’t complain to the ABC. It’s simply a waste of time.

  • Tony Thomas says:

    I’m pleased to see that with commendable speed, the ABC Ombudsman’s Office has responded to my complaint, as follows,
    Dear Tony Thomas,

    Thank you for contacting the ABC about ABC News.

    Your complaint has been received by the ABC’s Ombudsman’s Office. The office is separate to and independent of content making areas within the ABC. Our role is to review and, where appropriate, investigate complaints about ABC content concerning the ABC’s editorial standards. The standards require the ABC to present a diversity of perspectives over time, but do not require that every perspective receives equal time, nor that every facet of every argument is presented within a single discussion or program. The presentation of perspectives on contentious issues should include principal relevant perspectives and reflect a balance that follows the weight of evidence.

    I note that ‘yes’ imagery can be seen in the report you referred to, however the editorial focus of this report was about voting and voter turnout in remote communities, rather than arguments for or against the voice. In relation to your complaint, the relevant program area has explained:

    The ABC Darwin newsroom were invited to attend a remote polling station on the Tiwi Islands at Wurrumiyanga with the Australian Electoral Commission. Like most indigenous communities in the NT, the communities are guided by their Elders and we have found in travelling across the NT to cover The Voice, some communities are mostly on the NO side, where are other communities are mostly on the YES side. The Tiwi Islands, in speaking with those on the ground, are planning on voting yes. The camera operator filmed the remote setup and while there were ‘yes’ posters, there were no visible ‘no’ posters. If there were, the video editor would have included a mix of the posters to show the situation on the ground.

    The Darwin newsroom have covered both ‘no’ and ‘yes’ sides, and often not with equal time across each story. Only yesterday the newsroom ran a ‘no’ article which was almost 100% giving voice and weight to the No campaign.

    The ABC’s role in relation to the Indigenous Voice to Parliament Referendum is to provide fact-based, trustworthy, impartial information and, in doing so, foster engagement and strengthen Australia’s democracy. The ABC has committed to comprehensive reporting on matters relating to the Voice in the lead-up to the vote, representing a diversity of perspectives relevant to the focus and context of each individual story. This includes producing special programs which explore the Voice in detail and a broad range of content about the Voice posted on the ABC website.

    In addition to accurately explaining what the Voice is, the ABC will continue to ensure that substantive and significant perspectives in favour and against are heard in a respectful manner, and make efforts to include less prominent perspectives, especially those of Indigenous community members. This is in recognition of the fact that the Voice Referendum is an event of national significance, with particular relevance for Indigenous Australians.

    While we have decided not to investigate your complaint, please be assured that your concerns are noted. Thank you again for taking the time to write to us. Should you be dissatisfied with this response to your complaint, you may be able to pursue the matter with the Australian Communications and Media Authority:

    Your sincerely,

    Investigations Officer, ABC Ombudsman’s Office

  • Tony Thomas says:

    I see that links in the ABC response have failed to transmit when I posted it.
    For example, the Ombudsman says, with a link,
    “Only yesterday the [Darwin] newsroom ran a ‘no’ article which was almost 100% giving voice and weight to the No campaign.”
    However, the link
    is to a story involving Senator Lidia Thorpe, pictured with raised fist, attacking the Voice choice from the left as not radical enough. Moreover, it includes a two-minute video of PM Albanese, the ABC’s Fran Kelly and an Aboriginal woman all spruiking the Yes case.
    As if that is not enough, the ABC includes there a second short video with the Aboriginal woman, Fran Kelly and a lawyer Tony McAvoy SC continuing to spruik for Yes.
    Another link cited by the Ombudsman as indicating fair play by the ABC includes,
    “Amid distrust, skepticism and misinformation, this series aims to bridge knowledge gaps with entertaining, engaging, and informative stories. From the team behind Planet America and China Tonight, in collaboration with the Indigenous Affairs team, this series will focus on communities to show how the Referendum campaign and result will ultimately redefine how Australia views itself in 2023.
    Four Corners – Monday 11 September at 8:30pm
    Dan Bourchier travels to North, West and Eastern Australia asking what sovereignty/ self-determination means and looks like to First Nations people and where a Voice to Parliament fits with those visions.”
    Another such link in the Ombudsman’s claim of fair treatment of the No case, starts with Maori urgings for Treaty– “When asked what his thoughts were if Australia were to embark on a treaty, Minister Kelvin Davis responded by saying: ‘It’s a unifying moment. The amazing thing for Australia is that this is your moment … but I think you have to get it right because this is the foundation for your country, for years to come,” he said.”
    On the same supposedly even-handed page is a piece of misinformation “debunking misinformation” , eg that the Uluru statement is more than one page. Another piece reads, “Victorian Supreme Court judge uses retirement speech to call for constitutional recognition.” In this welter of Yes coverage, there are one or two subordinate pieces involving the No/Don’t Know case in a glancing way, and one piece supposedly setting out both Yes and No cases. This one is a shocker: An ABC woman sets out the Yes case, and another ABC woman, political reporter Claudia Long, purports to discuss the No case but does no such thing.
    By drawing attention to such ABC efforts reeking of bias, the Ombudsman has surely scored an own-goal.

  • John James says:

    The outstanding leader of the No case has been Indigenous Senator Jacinta Price with marvelous support and expertise from Senator Liddle and Warren Mundine.
    The contrast between the Indigenous leaders from the respective sides of this debate has been striking. The NO case has been placed before the Australian people with clarity and conviction while the Yes leaders have indulged in personal invective and obfuscation, best exemplified by Yes advocate Pearson accusing Senator Price of ” punching black fellas.”
    Price is a future leader of the Conservative forces in the Australian Federal Parliament.
    Own goal of the No campaign ought to go to the conservative leadership of the NSW Liberal Party who organized a meeting, ostensibly to promote the No case and then invited NSW Opposition leader, Mark Speakman, a Yes advocate, as keynote speaker. The NSW Liberal conservative leadership urgently needs. renewal.

  • Tony Thomas says:

    I complained to the Electoral Commission on September 30 about Yes signage virtually alongside AEC signage at one remote polling centre. Today (October 2) with commendable response time, I received the following email from the AEC:
    Campaigners are free to campaign 6 meters away from the entrance of a polling place. The AEC signage in this instance is further than 6 meters away from the entrance therefore campaigners can put up signage.

    Both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns have had access to remote voting locations / schedules for some time. It is up to campaigns where, when and how they choose to campaign.

    If one side or the other does or doesn’t campaign outside a polling venue. That has nothing to do with the AEC. AEC polling teams are organised by the AEC, they travel alone and their job is to conduct polling. The AEC has nothing to do with any campaign presence.

    Jess Lilley | A/g Assistant Director, Media
    Media & Digital Engagement
    Australian Electoral Commission

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    We haven’t watched the ABC News for thirty of those last forty years, Tony, and glad to have Sky so we don’t have to. I guess in far too many households it still holds that institutional ‘believeability’ status it once had far more honestly. You can also get some of Sky on the internet if you search for it. Don’t suffer in silence at home.
    We’re currently travelling in Italy, Germany and Austria and no-one has asked us anything about this Referendum yet. If No gets up, which I strongly hope it does, then we should be ready with the explanations about how misrepresented the whole issue was, how poorly conceived and how useless it would be in assisting any latent aboriginal disadvantage.

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