A Veiwer's Complaint

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					     H.R. NICHOLLS
                                                      A Viewer’s
      Reforming Australia’s
       Industrial Relations
                                                                        PETER PRIEST

      XXIST CONFERENCE                            AVID Bowman’s article ‘In       Aboriginal community in the Northern
     ‘Beating the Bush Blues:
         Creating Jobs in               D         praise of the ABC’ in the
                                                  February 2000 issue of The
                                                  Adelaide Review has
                                     prompted the following observations.
                                                                                  Territory. At least Mr Downer made the
                                                                                  effort to visit there as the Liberal Op-
                                                                                  position Leader—I have not heard
                                                                                  of any senior Labor figure visiting this
        Country Australia’           The thrust of his article appeared to be     remote community to that time, or
                                     that the ABC is independent, not bi-         since.
                                     ased and should not be restricted finan-          Similarly, the ABC only presented
        Keynote Address:             cially or otherwise by the Coalition         one side of the Hindmarsh Island Bridge
     The Hon Tim Fischer, MP         Government.                                  saga: it ignored the disadvantaged dissi-
                                         I hold an alternative view regarding     dent Aboriginal women whose informa-
                                     criticisms of the ABC, as it seems that      tion was supported by the subsequent
                                     only those who have the appropriate          Royal Commission. Where is the bal-
     Commercial Club (Albury) Ltd,   sympathies, or have become so used to        ance here?
      Dean St, Albury NSW 2640       behaviour, or who only watch or listen            Surely the ABC’s duty is to provide
           Friday 5 May &            to the ABC and/or read like-minded           both sides of the story, particularly as it
                                     newspapers, would consider the ABC to        is taxpayer-funded by people from all
        Saturday 6 May 2000          be balanced. In my opinion, the ABC          sides of politics. If it cannot do this, steps
     For conference bookings and     is so imbued with the Labor viewpoint,       should be taken to ensure that it does.
                                     and has been so for many years, that              Why is it that, for years, the 7:30
          further details ring:
                                     many apparently fail to notice it.           Report has had two people with Labor
          (03) 9685 6479 or              The ABC should take note that, in        backgrounds (Kerry O’Brien and Barrie
       1800 630 572 (toll free)      the ‘Cash for Comments’ affair, the Aus-     Cassidy) regularly on the programme,
                                     tralian Broadcasting Authority made a        particularly when it is obvious that they
        Fax: (03) 9685 6400          statement about ‘the importance of           find it difficult to hide their dislike of         Broadcasting and that it must be fair and    Coalition people? Why not one with a
                                     balanced’. The ABC should be moni-           Coalition background who could serve
                                     tored by the Australian Broadcasting         at least equally as well as Kerry or Barrie,
                                     Authority to ensure that any favours and     so that there is a person from each side
          The Aims of the            support by the ABC for the Labor Party       of politics to provide the balance which
        H.R. Nicholls Society        are dealt with so that its broadcasting is   is lacking in the 7:30 Report?
                                     indeed ‘fair and balanced’.                       Moving to recent weeks, the follow-
 • To promote discussion about           Mr Bowman went back to 1970,             ing activities in the ABC TV news and
   the operation of industrial       mentioning the Liberal Gorton Govern-        the 7:30 Report seem noteworthy.
   relations in Australia includ-    ment and its proposal to reduce funding           On 7 January 2000, Maxine McKew
   ing the system of determin-       to the ABC. Richard Alston was also          interviewed Labor’s Bob McMullan and
   ing wages and other condi-        mentioned for ‘massive funding cuts’         Liberal’s Tony Abbott regarding the
   tions of employment.              and for ‘hounding the ABC’, in recent        Church-based employment agencies.
                                     times. Mr Bowman did not mention,            There was no hard evidence produced
 • To promote the rule of law        however, that when Labor’s Bob Hawke         to support Labor’s claims that non-
   with respect to employers         came to government in 1983, he sacked        Christians were being discriminated
   and employee organisations        Dame Leonie Kramer and her entire            against. Maxine kept interrupting and
   alike.                            ABC Board. Imagine the furore if the         talking over the top of Tony Abbott, so
 • To promote reform of the          Coalition tried to do something like         that he was not able to present his side
                                     that.                                        of the story.
   current wage-fixing system.           Before detailing some of the ABC’s            Some of the points relevant to this
 • To support the necessity for      activities in recent weeks, it is worth      interview and which Mr Abbott subse-
   labour relations to be con-       looking at some of the ABC’s past his-       quently made in his article titled ‘True
   ducted in such a way as to        tory. It did its very best to crucify John   Believers need not apply’ in the Febru-
   promote economic develop-         Hewson over his attempt to bring in the      ary 2000 issue of The Adelaide Review are:
                                     GST, and also Alexander Downer over          • Church-based agencies have been
   ment in Australia.
                                     a minor bumble he made at a remote                delivering government-funded em-

                                                                                                         REV I EW
24                                                                                                              MARCH 2000
    ployment services for nearly 20 years.    emphasize this message. If it had been       are considered might have conservative
• Performance at putting job-seekers          Kim Beazley going to meet the workers        or Coalition tendencies?
    into work was the chief factor in as-     I am confident that Geoff Sims would              While genuinely funny pieces are
    sessing job-network tenders               have been rather more positive.              welcome, the so-called skits by John
• If Church agencies’ employment                   Tim Lester, of the 7:30 Report, was     Clarke and Brian Dawe against the Coa-
    practices were acceptable under the       very supercilious and sarcastic and          lition, on Fridays on the 7:30 Report, are
    former Labor Government it is hard        showed no indication of that basic re-       disgraceful and quite unfunny. These
    to see how identical practices can be     spect to which everyone is entitled,         men and the ABC are hiding behind the
    unacceptable now.                         when interviewing Tony Abbott on 9           guise of satire in their continuing efforts
• Kim Beazley wants to discriminate           February 2000, regarding Employment          to denigrate John Howard and the Coa-
    against high-performing Church            National, and when giving a report on        lition. If they should ever satirize Labor,
    agencies in favour of a low perform-      John Howard, the Government and the          I have no doubt that Labor would be
    ing government agency.                    National Textiles affair on 10 February      treated without the same degree of deni-
Labor’s attacks, supported by the             2000. Such behaviour does nothing to         gration.
ABC—who should be impartial—con-              improve the image of the ABC.                     The recent survey by Newspoll and
stitute an assault on what has been set-           In the 7:30 Report on 28 January        commissioned by the ABC (‘Johns
tled Australian practice at least since the   2000, Alan Kohler made the statement,        warns : people on Aunty’s side’, The Aus-
time when Liberal Bob Menzies began           ‘the Reserve is worried about the GST,       tralian, 27 January 2000) is surely very
state aid to Catholic schools in the mid-     it thinks Australia should not be putting    misleading. The survey included people
1960s.                                                                                     who do not watch or listen to the ABC:
    Historically, Church agencies have                                                     so how can they possibly offer a legiti-
received government funds because they                                                     mate viewpoint on something they do
have been good at their job. Surely the                                                    not watch or listen to?
role of the ABC is to ensure that the            Surely the ABC’s                               Alternatively, if you take the ratings
public is fully informed and not just fed                                                  into account, only, say, eight per cent
the Labor line?
    In the 7:30 Report on 4 February
                                                duty is to provide                         to 15 per cent of the population watch
                                                                                           or listen to the ABC. The reported
2000, Kerry O’Brien interviewed Coa-                                                       Newspoll findings do not differentiate
lition Senator John Tierney regarding            both sides of the                         between those who watch or listen to
the entitlements of the textile workers                                                    the ABC and those who do not. What
in the Hunter Valley who had lost their                                                    is the point of taking such a survey un-
jobs. Kerry didn’t want to know that               story … as it is                        less it reflects the actual situation so that
Labor had done nothing about the prob-                                                     it will not mislead people?
lem of workers losing their entitlements                                                        As an example of the ABC’s audi-
during Labor’s 13 years in government,
                                                funded by people                           ence, David Dale in his article ‘ABC
or that what the Coalition Government                                                      muscles in on bullies’ (Sydney Morning
was doing to help the workers was un-
precedented. Instead Kerry said, ‘Why
                                                  from all sides of                        Herald, 12 February 2000) states that on
                                                                                           Monday, 7 February 2000, ‘The Vicar of
has it taken so long?’                                                                     Dibley got 1.45 million (viewers) an
    It is interesting to note the com-                     politics                        amazing figure for any ABC show’. Even
pletely different attitude adopted by                                                      at its very best, this equals only 8 per
Kerry over the long-running Yallourn                                                       cent of Australia’s population. And this,
power dispute in an interview with                                                         and other programmes, not only cost
Steve Bracks on 7 February 2000. Kerry        up prices by 10 per cent’. Alan Kohler,      taxpayers $500 million, but we are not
introduced the programme with the             and any other person who wants to know,      getting the ‘fair and balanced coverage’
words ‘Victoria’s Labor Government            understands that when the GST is in          that the Australian Broadcasting Au-
wins in its showdown with unions over         place, the currently hidden wholesale        thority considers broadcasters should
a crippling power dispute’ and followed       sales tax will be abolished. Many prices     provide.
that up by saying ‘for the first time in      will be reduced and others will not go up         Finally, unless the ABC can present
recent memory a State government has          by 10 per cent. Alan Kohler should have      fair and balanced coverage of the po-
invoked its emergency powers to guar-         explained this, and not misled the pub-      litical scene, then the $500 million of
antee the supply of electricity’.             lic into thinking that everything will go    funds spent annually on the ABC may
    This was the complete opposite to         up by 10 per cent—again the Labor line.      be better, and more equitably, spent on
the approach to Senator Tierney and the            The ABC makes a practice of iden-       health, education and other community
Coalition’s efforts regarding the             tifying anyone who may have conserva-        needs including, say, workers in similar
National Textiles workers as detailed         tive or Coalition leanings such as Piers     situations to those from National Tex-
above.                                        Ackerman, David Barnett, Donald              tiles.
    Also, on the TV News, when John           McDonald or Michael Kroger. The ABC               In short, non-Labor taxpayers need
Howard met with the National Textiles         also has clear ‘targets’, such as Ray Mar-   to be assured by the Australian Broad-
workers, the ABC applied its usual sar-       tin, who they hound at every opportu-        casting Authority that they are not just
casm and denigration towards the Coa-         nity, the last unacceptable occasion I       supporting the Labor Party through the
lition, Geoff Sims saying sarcastically       saw being on Media Watch on 7 Febru-         ABC.
that the Prime Minister flew in and the       ary 2000. Progressive or Labor-leaning
textile workers came by bus. Video of         people do not get similarly identified.                  Peter Priest is a retired bank manager.
the PM’s plane and a bus were shown to        Why the tag for those who have or who                                                  I P A

MARCH 2000                                                                                                                                25

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