Review of the complaint concerning the Hindsight Rear Vision by lindash


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									Review of the complaint concerning the Hindsight Rear Vision Program,
Papua New Guinea: Nation State or Failed State?


The above Hindsight program (“the program”) was broadcast on 29 May 2005
and repeated on 2 June. It was introduced by Annabelle Quince, as being the
second episode of Rear Vision, “the new Radio National series that puts news
and current affairs into a historical context.” The program was “going to take
a look at Australia’s relationship with her nearest neighbour, Papua New

It is clear that the program was triggered by the recent demise of Australia’s
Enhanced Co-operation Program with PNG, which had resulted in the recall of
Australian police and administrators, who had been sent to PNG to assist in
its implementation. The program was in documentary form and covered,
through the edited comments of expert participants, the period of Australia’s
involvement with the area from the nineteenth century onwards.

The complainant, who had had experience in PNG, from 1956 to 1958 and,
for five years from 1962, as the ABC’s Journalist in Charge and then as the
ABC’s News Editor, took great exception to the program. He sent an email to
the producers, complaining of bias in the program, in that the opinions were
selectively chosen and countervailing viewpoints were not put. In a letter of
the same date to the ABC’s Managing Director, he complained that the
program contained “errors of fact or sweeping generalisations with half truths
which were assembled to support the central thrust of the program: That
Australia’s uncaring, racist, selfish, incompetent administration of Papua New
Guinea was wholly responsible for the problems the country faces today.”

In his reply, on behalf of the Managing Director, Mr Geoffrey Crawford did not
accept these criticisms. He asserted that the program examined “a range of
view points” and that “it was not the intention of the program or the ABC to
provide a definitive examination of the history of the relationship between
Papua New Guinea and Australia.”

The complainant did not accept this response. In a further letter to the
Managing Director, he reiterated his complaint of bias, asserting that the
program was a “libellous and definitive assassination of the Australian
trusteeship.” He attached a “detailed critique” and requested that this
document be referred to the Independent Complaints Review Panel (the
Panel), as a complaint for review. The Panel has accepted the complaint for

After referring to certain provisions of the ABC’s Code of Practice (the Code)
and the ABC’s Editorial Policies (the Policies), the complainant asserted that
“in its entirety the programme is designed to lead the listener to conclude that
Papua New Guinea’s current crises are due to dereliction of duty….. by
Australia and Australians in the so-called colonial period.” He further said,
“not only is criticism not balanced by contrarian views which would put a

different complexion on events, but also the program, by its selection of
contributors and their contributions, creates emotional and sensationalist
distortions of the truth.” He then set out sixteen “elements which aggregate to
this distorted view.” It will be necessary to refer to these elements later in
these reasons.

The ABC made a detailed response to this complaint, which resulted in the
Panel putting certain questions to it. These questions were answered in a
further response.

Before considering the complaint and the responses, it is convenient to
consider the provisions of the Code and Policies which bear upon this matter.

The Provisions of the Code and Policies

The complainant referred to S.5.2 of the Code, which provides that “every
effort must be made to ensure that the factual content of such programs is
accurate and in context and does not misrepresent viewpoints.” He also
referred to S.10.1.1 of the Policies, which provides: “the media both reflect
and influence community standards and values through the use of language,
images and sound. Recognising this, the ABC must maintain high standards
of integrity in its programming, avoid sensationalism and maintain
impartiality.” He also referred to S.7.2.3 of the Policies which provides that
“all programs containing factual content are required….. to comply with all
relevant editorial policies.” The complainant asserted that the program had
transgressed these requirements.

The ABC, in its first response, made the point that the program was not a
news and current affairs program and was not subject to the editorial
requirements affecting such programs. The Panel sought further clarification,
in view of the fact that the program related to a current event in the PNG. The
ABC’s response indicated that the program was not produced by the News
and Current Affairs Division but was produced by Radio National for
broadcast “in the established social history, documentary timeslot for
Hindsight, which is “a social history program which aims to offer new
perspectives on history in a documentary format.” It was pointed out that, in
fact, in a separate program, ABC News and Current Affairs had covered the
Enhanced Co-operation Program and the removal of police from PNG, whilst
“the Hindsight program provided a distinctly different treatment of these
issues” which was “in a structured narrative form” and was “largely about
opinions”. It was also pointed out that the ABC had produced a number of
programs dealing with Australia’s involvement with the PNG, including the
“classic social history of the Kiaps, Taim Bilong Masta”.

The Panel notes that ABC Online describes the Hindsight program in the
following way:

     “Hindsight is the only program on Australian radio devoted exclusively to
     social history. Hindsight offers new perspectives on well known aspects

        of the past – and brings to light those stories long-ignored on the public

The Panel has decided that the program in general and this specific episode
should not be classified as news and current affairs. This has the important
consequence that it is not subject to S. 5.1 of the Charter of Editorial Practice,
which specifically requires “balance” and “impartiality” in such programs.

The Panel notes the complainant’s reference to S.10.1.1 but has concluded
that, in accordance with general principles of construction, the special
provisions of S.7, to which reference will be made later, should take
precedence over the general statement, in S.10.1.1, which, in any event,
appears to be somewhat anomalous, as being in apparent conflict with the
express provisions of S.7, particularly S.7.2.2. The complainant also relied on
S.7.2.3, but the Panel is satisfied that the “editorial policies” therein referred to
do not include S.5.1 policies but, as submitted by the ABC, refer to “policies
such as those dealing with television program classification, use of warnings,
intrusion into grief, and so on.”

The ABC has submitted that this complaint falls to be determined under
certain provisions of S.7 of the Policies, which, including the headings, read
as follows:

7.              Factual Content

7.1             Introduction

7.1.1           There are many programs other than news and current affairs
                that contain significant factual content but do not comprise both
                news and information relating to current events. These
                programs include documentaries as well as educational, review,
                magazine, sports and lifestyle programs (such as cooking and

7.1.2           Every effort must be made in these programs to ensure that
                factual content is accurate and in context and does not
                misrepresent any viewpoint.

7.2             Relevance and diversity

7.2.1           The ABC is committed to providing programs of relevance and
                diversity which reflect a wide range of audience interests, beliefs
                and perspectives, presented in a wide variety of program styles.

7.2.2           In order to provide such a range of views the ABC may decide to
                broadcast programs which explore, or a re presented from,
                particular points of view, such as documentaries and programs
                containing opinion and comment.

In the Panel’s view, reference should also be made to S.7.2.4 which provides
that, in addition to the requirements of these provisions, “the following parts of
S.6 News and Current Affairs should be noted:

S.6.7         Use of specialist commentators

6.7.1         It is ABC policy to provide a range of views on significant issues
              over time, ensuring the broadcast and publication online of a
              diversity of perspectives. To achieve this program makers
              should use a number of different commentators and analysts.

6.7.2         If a guest commentator or analyst has a relevant interest in the
              issue being discussed, that interest should be declared. If
              specific information about the commentator would alter the
              audience’s perception of the view presented, that information
              must be disclosed. These disclosures must not invade the
              legitimate rights to privacy of a commentator or analyst.

As the Panel, as will appear, has experienced some difficulty in determining
whether the program properly falls for consideration under the S.7 provisions
referred to by the ABC, it is convenient, also, to set out S.6.1.1, which forms
part of the Introduction to S.6, which deals with “News and Current Affairs,
and Information programs comprising both news and information relating to
current events”. It reads as follows:

6.1.1         This section applies to all programs on radio, television and
              online produced by the News and Current Affairs Division of the
              ABC and other information programs that comprise both news
              and information relating to current events. Other information
              (factual) programs and services are dealt with in S.7.

Also, having regard to the complainant’s assertions as to the motivation of the
program makers, the Panel considers that it is also appropriate to refer to S. 2
of the Code, which, under the heading “General Program Codes”, provides
that “The guiding principle in the application of the following general program
codes is context. What is unacceptable in one context may be appropriate
and acceptable in another. However, the use of language and images for no
other purpose but to offend is not acceptable”.

Although this provision has no direct application to the program or to the
complaint, which does not relate to the use of language and images, it is
included as being indicative of an underlying philosophy in the Policies that no
program should be produced for the purpose of making a deliberately biased
and unwarranted attack upon a person or organisation.

The Construction of S.7

The Panel has found it difficult to determine the scope of S.7 of the Policies
and the way in which the provisions should be applied. It is necessary that it

reach a view on its proper construction, as the ABC’s submission places
considerable reliance on it.

In the first place, S.6.1.1 appears to postulate a dichotomy between “News
and Current Affairs and Information programs comprising both news and
information relating to current events” and “Other information (factual)
programs and services” which “are dealt with in S.7.”

This wording would seem to suggest that any given program, containing
factual information, must fall into either one or the other of these categories.

This approach tends to be borne out by the wording of S.7.1.1, in its reference
to programs in the second category as including “documentaries as well as
educational, review, magazine, sports and lifestyle programs (such as cooking
and gardening)”. Such programs may well contain considerable information,
which does not relate to news and current events.

However, there is another requirement in S.7.1.1, namely that programs that
fall within it (including documentaries etc.) must “contain significant factual

Reference to “factual content” also appears in Ss.7.1.2 and 7.2.3. However,
no such reference appears in Ss.7.2.1 and 7.2.2, where the emphasis lies on
relevance and diversity of perspectives, points of view, opinion and comment,
a matter which is reflected in the heading S.7.2.

“Factual” or “Factual Content” are not defined in the Code or Policies. It may
be noted, however, that ACMA has expressed the view, in relation to S.4.1 of
the Code, where the words “factual content” appear in a provision similar to
S.5.1.3 of the Policies (see also S.5 of the Code), that the expression
“envisages the type of factual content which is easily verifiable. Expressions
of opinion, implications and inferences do not constitute factual content and
are not subject to the requirement of accuracy.”

There appears to be no good reason why the Panel should not accept this
definition. The result is that the programs which are defined in S.7.1.1 and, by
S.7.1.2, are made subject to the requirement of accuracy and lack of
misrepresentation must contain a significant proportion of easily verifiable

The question remains, however, whether the programs referred to in Ss.7.2.1
and 7.2.2 are also intended to be subject to the requirement that they contain
“significant factual content”. In other words, does this requirement in S.7.1.1
govern all the programs referred to in S.7? Arguably, it does, because the
heading for the whole section is “Factual content”, whilst the heading
“Relevance and diversity” is not given the same prominence.

However, if this were the case, then there would be simply no provision for
programs which consisted either wholly or predominantly of opinion or
comment, with little or no factual content. The enabling provisions of Ss.7.2.1

and 7.2.2 would not apply to them. Nor, would the restrictions of S.5.1 and
S.7.1. In effect, no policy guidance would be provided for such programs, in
that none of the provisions of S.5, S.6 or S.7 would apply to them. They
would be adrift without a rudder.

The Panel cannot accept that this is the intention of S.7 of the Policies. It is
appropriate that the provisions be given a benevolent construction, to ensure
that they fulfil a proper policy role. This can be achieved by reading Ss.7.1.1
and 7.1.2 together, so that they apply only to programs containing significant
factual content. Ss.7.2.1 and 7.2.2 should be read as not containing any
requirement that the programs referred to in them should contain significant
factual content. Rather, their governing theme is relevance and diversity, in
the various ways set out.

It is unfortunate that provisions as important as those contained in S.7 should
not be clear in their meaning and application. In the Panel’s view it would be
appropriate for them to be redrafted. However, the Panel is satisfied that the
provisions of S.7 can be relied upon by the ABC in relation to the present
complaint, even if the program is not one containing significant factual

In the result, it is the Panel’s view that the program is not subject to S.5
requirements of balance, impartiality and accuracy, but, in accordance with
Ss.7.2.1 and 7.2.2, it may reflect a wide range of perspectives, explore
particular points of view and contain opinion and comment.

Steps in Consideration of the Complaint

The Panel has had regard to the tape and transcript of the broadcast, the
correspondence to and from the complainant and the ABC, the ABC’s
response to the complaint and its further response to questions directed to it
by the Panel. As the complainant had provided extensive and detailed
arguments in his complaint, it was not considered necessary for the Panel to
direct questions to him.

As the complaints related, in part, to alleged factual inaccuracy and also
contained an allegation of deliberate intent to produce a biased and slanted
program, involving the selection of particular interviewees to achieve this
purpose, the Panel sought information from the ABC as to the development of
the program’s concept, the selection of interviewees and as to the way in
which the program was constructed for broadcast. It did so because of the
possibility that requirement in S.7.1.2 that “every effort must be made to
ensure that factual content is accurate and in context and does not
misrepresent any viewpoint” might apply to its considerations. Also, it wished
to consider the making of the program, in relation to the requirements of S.6.7
of the Policies and S.2 of the Code.

In response to its request, the Panel received the following information from
the ABC, which should be quoted in full. It is as follows:

“Creation of the Rear Vision series

The topic for each of the six Rear Vision programs was determined on a
week-by-week basis, depending on the issues that had featured in the news.
In the case of Papua New Guinea: Nation State or Failed State? it was the
removal of Australian police and public servants from PNG, after the PNG
courts had rejected elements of the Australian billion-dollar assistance
package known as the Economic Cooperation Package (or ECP), that
initiated the program. The program makers saw this as a crisis in the
relationship between PNG and Australia, and were keen to explore how the
relationship had come to this point.

Once the topic was identified, the producer and presenter worked together
with an associate producer to define the elements and debates of the story.
Material was gathered from local newspapers, journal articles and media
reports to get a sense of who was writing and commenting on the topic. The
program makers also conducted a library search to identify relevant academic
material, including the leading historians, economists and so on.

Once all of this material had been collected, the program makers focused on
examining all of the material to pull out the critical arguments. One strand of
argument quickly came to the fore: the debate over whether PNG was a failed
or a failing state. This debate was reflected in PNG’s rejection of any
comparison between it and the Solomon Islands, particularly in relation to the
AFP’s insistence that its officers be granted immunity from PNG law while
serving in the country.

The key proponent of the viewpoint that PNG was a failed or failing state was
Helen Hughes, Professor Emeritus and Visiting Fellow in the Department of
Economics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian
National University, and Senior Fellow, Centre for Independent Studies.
Helen Hughes was a senior manager at the World Bank from 1967 to 1983,
gave the Boyer Lectures in 1985 and has published widely on the Australian
economy, development and international trade and capital flows. She has
written extensively on PNG and other South Pacific nations. She argues that
the ECP doesn’t go far enough.

One of the key academics arguing that PNG, while vulnerable, was not a
failed state, and that the ECP was the wrong approach for assistance to PNG,
was Professor Allan Patience. Professor Patience is professor of political
science at the University of Papua New Guinea, on leave from Victoria
University, Melbourne.

Both Professor Hughes and Professor Patience are respected academics who
have written extensively on the topic under consideration by the program.
They represent considerably different schools of thought on the subject of the
ECP, as well as PNG’s success or otherwise as a nation state. Both were
eminently qualified to contribute to the program.

Two of the key historians who have written about the history of PNG are
Professor Hank Nelson and Professor Donald Denoon. The program makers
read excerpts from their various books and interviewed both men. In the end,
however, only material from Professor Nelson was used in the program as
both Nelson and Denoon had quite similar perspectives on the relevant
history and the program makers were keen to also include voices from PNG.
The program makers also spoke to a number of other Australian academics,
all of whom confirmed that Professor Nelson and Professor Denoon were two
of the best historians on this topic.

Tracking down historians in PNG was more difficult because there are so few
of them. Several names were suggested, including Professor John Waiko,
whose book the program makers did obtain as a reference. Unfortunately,
Professor Waiko was away from Port Moresby for a number of weeks and
unable to be contacted. The program makers spoke to many academics in
Australia and the University of PNG and eventually tracked down Joseph
Ketan from the Pacific Institute of Advanced Studies in Development and
Governance, University of the South Pacific. Mr Ketan’s research is in the
areas of governance in traditional and contemporary Pacific societies,
electoral governance and viability of the nation-state, and his area of expertise
is state-society relations, leadership and political
culture. Mr Ketan is the author of The Name Must Not Go Down: Political
Competition and State-Society Relations in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea
(IPS, 2004). Importantly, Mr Ketan’s English was also excellent.

As the program makers had been talking with academics and historians here
and in PNG about who they might talk to, many had suggested Sir Michael
Somare, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, because in many way his
story was the story of PNG in the later part of the 20th century. The program
makers approached him over a period of two weeks. At first, he was reluctant
to speak with the program as the controversy over the shoe incident at an
Australian airport had just died down. However, he did eventually agree on
the understanding that the program took a historical approach and did not ask
about current political issues.

The focus of the interview with Sir Michael was what he remembered about
the period of colonial rule, his relationship with Andrew Peacock, how well
prepared he felt PNG was for independence, the sense of hope that had
existed at independence, what he felt had gone wrong and what could have
been done better. These were personal reflections from one intimately
involved in the entire process.

The program makers also interviewed Dame Josephine Abaijah, a Papuan
woman who had opposed the unification of Papua and New Guinea at
independence. She and many other Papuans had expected and wanted
Papua to become a state of Australia and still argue that this should and could
have occurred. While her contribution was an interesting part of the story, the
program makers ultimately decided that this was to some extent a side debate
to the main issue, and her interview was not used in the program.

Five voices are usually more than enough in an hour program like Rear Vision
and after talking with people and reading the historical material the program
makers felt that these guests could cover the debates and raise some critical
questions. The program makers were also satisfied that the participants were
both engaging and understandable by an Australian audience; these are
critical factors for a radio program like Rear Vision.

Each of the five guests was interviewed extensively prior to the recorded
interview and their written material, whether articles or books, had been read
and researched. Each of the guests knew who the other guests were and
were told how the program would be put together”.

The ABC’s response also indicated that each of the recorded interviews ran
for about 20-25 minutes and that the questions were asked “in a neutral way”.
Portions of each interview were used in the program and “every effort was
made to ensure that comments were not taken out of context and that all
relevant qualifications and explanations by the guests were included in the
program.” The Panel notes that the ABC has informed it that it has received
no complaints from the participants about the treatment of their contributions.

The response provides the following further information:

“In structuring the program, the program makers had several objectives: to
coherently tell the story of Australia’s participation in PNG; to look critically at
Australia’s role in the process of decolonisation; and to examine the post
colonial era. The program makers were also conscious of ensuring that there
were a variety of voices through the program, that as many of the current
issues were covered as time allowed, and that there was an engaging mix of
personal stories and factual material.

Ultimately, the ABC believes that the final program provided the right balance
between the personal experiences and views of the participants, and the facts
of what had occurred. Some of the participants’ views and experiences were
readily verifiable and some were not. In a historical program like Rear Vision,
it is impossible for the program makers to conduct primary research, such as
would be required if studying for a PhD. To a considerable extent, they must
rely on the expertise of their guests who have done that primary research,
either archival or on the ground”.

The Panel has no reason to doubt the accuracy of this account, the
qualifications and expertise of the program’s guests or the sincerity of the
views they expressed. It appears that an attempt was made by the makers of
the program to balance the competing views of the guest experts around the
program’s theme, “Papua New Guinea: Nation State or Failed State?”. It is
not the role of the Panel to comment upon the success or failure of this

Against this background, the Panel will now consider the complaints.

The Complaints

The complainant makes a broad allegation of bias, in the sense that the
program was created with the specific intent of denigrating Australia’s
involvement with PNG up to Independence and thereafter.

The Panel accepts that the program was created with the purpose and in the
manner and with the time constraints, set out in the ABC’s response. Whilst
strongly held contrary points of view, such as the complainant’s, may well
exist, the ABC was under no obligation, imposed by the Code or the Policies,
to present them in the program. “Particular points of view” were explored
through the contributions of the expert guests. The ABC was not required to
“balance” them by introducing other arguments from other guests or from
interventions by the presenter. The failure to take this course does not, in the
Panel’s view, reveal any fundamental bias in the program, deliberately aimed
at denigrating Australia’s contribution to the development of PNG. Also, the
Panel is satisfied that there was no breach of S.6.7 in the selection of the
interviewees, all of whom were adequately introduced by the presenter in a
way that indicated their areas of expertise.

The complainant’s broad complaint, therefore, is not upheld. His specific
complaints will now be considered in the order in which he presented them:

   1. The program depicted an exploitative relationship with PNG with
      Professor Nelson’s comment that “Australia’s primary concern with the
      island of New Guinea was with defence.”

The Panel does not consider it reasonable to derive an allegation of
exploitation from the professor’s remarks. It accepts that his statements in the
program that “……at least from the middle of the nineteenth century, the
various Australian colonies could see that New Guinea was the stepping
stone for an enemy” and that, in the 1880s, the fear became greater because
“Germany had seized the north east of the island”, which led to British New
Guinea becoming, in 1901, “the first territory of the Australian federation” do
no more than point to the importance of New Guinea to Australia’s defence.
This was amply demonstrated in WW11. The Panel cannot accept that these
remarks were derogatory of Australia’s relationship with New Guinea, since
they reflected practical realities at the time.

   2. The program perpetrated a lie about continuing constitutional confusion
      “right up till the 1960s”.

In the Panel’s opinion, the professor’s comments in the program that
uncertainty about the status and direction of Papua continued until the 1960s
is no more than a professional view point, the expression of which in the
program is not a breach of the Code or Policies.

   3. The program implied that Prime Minister Hughes was incompetent or
      lacking in foresight in relation to negotiations during the 1919 Versailles

       Treaty to secure the former German New Guinea for Australia.

The lengthy complaint is accurately summarised in this statement. In the
Panel’s view, it is not borne out by the reading of Professor Nelson’s
contribution. It does not reasonably give rise to an implication that Mr Hughes
had failed Australia in the negotiations at Versailles. The professor
emphasises that Mr Hughes was successful in securing German New Guinea
for Australia, against Japanese opposition, and with the risk of alienating
Woodrow Wilson. The passage indicates that Mr Hughes believed that the
acquisition of German New Guinea was essential for Australian defence. The
professor made the point that it was ironic that, at Versailles, the Japanese,
who were then our allies, got mandates over islands “to the north, just beyond
the horizon”, which, in WW11, constituted a threat to our security. This
statement cannot be accepted as being critical of Mr Hughes. It was not
suggested that, realistically, he could have obtained these mandates for
Australia or prevented them from being granted to Japan.

Accordingly, this complaint is not upheld.

   4. The program included an ignorant politically motivated attack on the
      Patrol Officer.

Under this heading, the complainant attacks Professor Nelson’s statement in
the program that “right up until the 1960s, the Australian government (of PNG)
is really government by patrol.” He describes this as “unrealistically
simplistic”, in that “by the 1960s the entire country was officially ‘controlled’;
town administration was wide spread; there was an embryonic national
parliament; local government had been introduced; co-operatives and savings
societies had been established. In many areas on the coast, and especially in
New Britain, native enterprises were well established, independent and
thriving; European owned plantations were training local communities in cash
cropping, by extension. Only in more remote or more recently opened up
areas did the administration need to rely on patrols ‘walking from village to
village.’ That was in any case the most efficient means of bringing law and
order, not to mention western medicine, to former warring tribes. The
program’s interpretation was deliberately pejorative.”

The Panel has considered whether Professor Nelson’s statement has,
relevantly, “factual content” but is satisfied that it should more properly be
accepted as being a statement of his opinion or viewpoint. He is looking at,
basically, the same factual situations as the complainant, but characterises
them in a different way. His view is not fundamentally at odds with the degree
of national development referred to by the complainant.

It is a matter of degree and emphasis. Whatever the amount of development
in settled areas, the vast hinterland of villages was administered by the patrol
officers (Kiaps). The professor does not criticise their administration. Indeed,
the complainant, himself, says that it was the most efficient way of
establishing law and order. The Panel is satisfied that no breach of S.7.1.2 is

established. The program is merely putting forward the professor’s viewpoint.
There can be no suggestion that this involved any relevant misrepresentation.

The complainant also takes exception to what Professor Allan Patience said
of the patrol officers, after the presenter had questioned whether the “romantic
image” of them “in Australian mythology” was, perhaps, “not the whole truth”.
The Professor said:

“I think it’s a mythology that’s only recently begun to be really challenged. Dr
Chris Ballard at ANU, for example, has begun looking at some of the really
quite horrendous murdering that went on in conjunction with some of the early
opening up of the country, of various patrols and so on that went through - of
Australians who - initial contacts with Papua New Guineans behaved
appallingly. But this historiography is only just coming to light in a not
unsimilar way to the way in which a few years ago Henry Reynolds’ history of
Aborigines began to open up Australians’ eyes to how they really had been
treating Aborigines. Australians are awfully good at patting themselves on the
back about colonising other peoples. But in fact the reality is sometimes far
worse than the myths that they like to accrete around them would lead us to

In his complaint, the complainant asserted that this was “proof of the political
and intellectual bias of the programme” in that the statement went
“unchallenged and was left unbalanced.” He said that “Authorities with real
experience of Papua New Guinea, had they been invited to contribute, could
have denied these bald assertions.”

This is an allegation of lack of balance and impartiality. As such, it is a not a
valid attack on this part of the program. The program maker was entitled to
explore Professor Patience’s viewpoint, without introducing countervailing
material unless it could be said that she was introducing “factual content”,
without appropriate effort to ensure its accuracy.

In this regard, the Panel raised with the ABC whether that part of the
statement which referred to “really quite horrendous murdering etc” did not
amount to the introduction of “factual content” with the corresponding
requirement of effort to ensure accuracy (S.7.1.2). After considering the
ABC’s response, the Panel is satisfied that it is not a case of “factual content.”
Professor Patience is only stating, as a fact, that Dr Chris Ballard has been
looking in to the relevant early history of the opening up of the country.
Indeed, it is not clear that Professor Patience is actually saying that Dr
Ballard’s research is associating the Kiaps with the alleged murdering. Again,
no relevant breach has been established.

   5. The program used Professor Nelson to deliberately invoke an image of
      Australian racism in relation to PNG with his remarks about WW11.

In the program, Professor Nelson, after referring to the WW11 battles in the
PNG said:

“The images that are appearing in Australian newspapers of Papuans working
as carriers, serving along side Australians in the Pacific Islands Regiment and
so on – were unthinkable a few years before. A Papuan man, a black man is
made a cover picture of the Australian Women’s Weekly. Given the racial
values in Australia in the 30’s, it would take a world war to bring about that
sort of transformation. But it takes place.”

The complainant appears to criticise this passage as wrongly suggesting that,
prior to WW11, photographs of Papuans had been suppressed in Australia on
racial grounds. The Panel does not accept that this inference can be drawn
from Professor Nelson’s statement. He is merely emphasising his view of the
impact of the war in New Guinea upon Australian’s attitudes to the Papuans.
He contrasts those attitudes with the attitudes existing “in the 30s”, when
there would have been significantly less interest in the Papuan people
displayed by Australians, such as those who were regular readers of the
Australian Women’s Weekly.

It is not clear whether the complainant is asserting the presence of factual
inaccuracy in Professor Nelson’s statement by, in effect, claiming that, in the
30s, Australians had a similar attitude to the Papuan people, to the one that
developed in the course of WW11. In any event, the Panel is of the opinion
that Professor Nelson is really only expressing his considered view rather
than seeking to make a statement of historical fact. The Panel is satisfied that
no relevant breach has occurred.

   6. The program used Michael Somare’s recollections of life in the 1950s
      to support the racist line but did not invite him to follow through with
      changes in subsequent decades.

Sir Michael gave his personal recollections of life under Australian colonial
rule. The Panel considers that they were his own personal views. There is no
suggestion that those views were misrepresented in any way. No breach is

   7. The program was inaccurate in its description of housing and clothing
      for natives.

Sir Michael Somare was introduced as the current and first Prime Minister of
PNG and as having grown up “in the post WW11” years and as recalling “life
under Australian colonial rule”. He spoke of “discriminatory practices”, such
as the local inhabitants “not even being allowed to swim in the same spot as
Europeans.” There were separate living places for Australians from which the
indigenous people were barred. Natives were not allowed to wear shorts,
shirts or shoes, only calico wrap-arounds, when serving in hotels or houses.

The complainant agreed that at Ela Beach, Port Moresby, a 200 metre stretch
was designated as a European swimming area but that the rest of the beach
was open to the locals who, in any event, did not “swim in the Australian
sense”. He disputed the ban on shorts and stated that household servants
were discouraged (not prohibited) from wearing shirts, for health reasons and

that “in any case, these people had always gone naked above the waist in the
village life.”

Sir Michael Somare’s statement had been elicited by a question from the
interviewer, “what do you personally remember about that colonial period?” In
his answer, he was clearly speaking about his own personal experiences.
Although these recollections might be said to contain some factual content,
the Panel has decided that they should more properly be characterised as
expressions of viewpoints. To a large extent, Sir Michael Somare and the
complainant are speaking of the same things, but interpreting them from
different standpoints. There was no obligation on the program, in these
circumstances, to challenge Sir Michael’s recollection or introduce
countervailing material. No breach is established.

   8. The program used comments from Helen Hughes in attacking
      “nostalgia about the colonial power” and the Kiaps.

In the relevant passage, Dr Hughes speaks of being told by a World Bank
reporter that he had “never seen a colonial society that was so racist as the
Australian colonial society” and that, notwithstanding “nostalgia about the
Kiaps”, they were “authoritarian; they treated the villagers like children.” She
related a personal anecdote about a white barman at an airport hotel
performing a job pulling beer which “an ordinary Papua New Guinean” could
have done, and concluded by stating “don’t get me wrong, the were some
excellent Kiaps, excellent young men who went out and did a terrific job. But
there was a racist culture while Australia was the colonial power.”

The Panel has decided that Dr Hughes’ statements do not contain factual
content of the type that can be contemplated by S.7.1.2. In the first place, she
relates an opinion provided to her by “a world bank reporter”. Her personal
anecdote, although it contains some facts, is, basically, a statement of her
opinion. Her final statement as to the existence of “a racist culture” can only,
sensibly, be regarded as an expression of her own viewpoint or expert
opinion. There is no suggestion that the program has misrepresented her
viewpoint. Accordingly, no breach is established.

   9-10. The program included inaccurate references to the number of PNG
         university graduates and the extent of the educational

In the program, Sir Michael asserted that, at independence, there were only
six university graduates, who were trained in Australia, and that “Australia did
not leave anything about either tertiary education or higher education for us at
the time.”

Helen Hughes stated “Australia failed to provide primary education to Papua
New Guinea or to establish a central Department of Education and make sure
that Papua New Guineans could read and write and speak English. And the

village schools were largely left to the missionaries. The whole education
system – we just failed Papua New Guinea on education before

The complainant described Sir Michael’s statement as “a lie which he should
not have been allowed to assert without challenge.” He stated “the University
of Papua New Guinea was established in 1965, ten years before
independence and graduated its first students in 1970….. The University of
Technology began teaching in 1967. There were high schools established
through the Territory. The Sogeri High School near Port Moresby had been
started in the 1950s.”

As to Dr Hughes’ statement, he asserted that there had been a Department of
Education, naming three directors of education who had held office before

The Panel raised with the ABC the question whether factual content was
included in these statements. It accepts the ABC’s submission that Sir
Michael Somare was providing “largely personal reflections” which “should not
be interpreted as incontestable factual material”, in that he was a key
participant in political events of the time and was, therefore, unlikely to have,
or be perceived by listeners to have, “an impartial viewpoint.” It is also
satisfied that his viewpoint was not misrepresented. It also notes that the
number of graduates was independently supported by Mr Ketan, which would
have provided a basis for the program’s acceptance of the number referred to
by Sir Michael Somare.

As to the existence of an educational infrastructure before independence, the
ABC has submitted:

“Comments about the lack of education infrastructure in PNG at the time
appear frequently in the literature. One example is from the publication
Education for Economic Development in South Pacific.

The situation in Papua New Guinea was a source of particular
embarrassment to the Australian Colonial Administration since, by 1960, only
100 Melanesians had completed secondary school and there no university
graduates. This resulted in a sudden push for the establishment and
expansion of formal education in the 1960s and 1970s in preparation for
independence in 1975.”

The Panel also notes that Michael Somare, in the program, speaks of things
including education, accelerating after the establishment of the Ministerial
system “in about 1964, 68”. This accords with what the complainant said
about the establishment of tertiary education institutions in that period.

Although the Panel has felt some concern as to whether these parts of the
program might have benefited from a less accepting approach to these
contributions and, also, that further detail as to the existing educational
infrastructure could have been elicited, it has concluded that, on the whole,

the passages complained of should be categorised as expressions of the
participants viewpoints rather than, relevantly, containing factual content
requiring effort to be made to ensure its accuracy (S.7.1.2). Accordingly, no
policy breach has been established.

     11-13. The program was inaccurate and lacked balance in its discussion
            of the speed of moves to Independence.

A close reading of the complaint reveals that what he takes exception to, is
lack of balance and the absence of contrary points of view in relation to “any
worth while discussion of the merits and disadvantages of what others saw as
a dangerously precipitate rush to independence.”

The Panel is satisfied that the material in this part of the program amounts to
the presentation of “particular points of view” reflecting a range of
perspectives. The program may well have been improved, and certainly
made more acceptable to the complainant and others who held similarly
strong views on the benefits provided to PNG by Australia’s pre-
Independence administration, if these contrary views had received some
exposure in the program. However, there was no policy requirement that this
be done. No breach is established.

     14. The comments of Hughes and Patience on the quality of people
         recruited by the new government and defects of the provincial
         government system are unfairly critical of Australia.

The Panel is satisfied that this part of the program is, again, an exposition of
the particular viewpoints of the contributors, which are not misrepresented.
Accordingly no breach is established.

     15. The program distorted the story of the Bougainville Copper Mine to
         reflect as badly as possible on Australia.

The views expressed were those of Professor Hughes. She is an eminent
economist and was clearly speaking from that viewpoint. She was not
referring to the design of the mine from a geological or mining engineering
viewpoint. The complaints, in this regard, are not apt. Although there could
be disagreement with the views that she expresses, the Panel is satisfied that
they are, relevantly, her own opinions and comments, which have not been
misrepresented. Accordingly, no breach is established.

The balance of the program, dealing with problems relating to agriculture and
the communal ownership of land, clearly consists of an exchange of views by
experts. Again, disagreement with these views does not indicate, any
relevant breach of Code or Policy in the broadcast program.


The Panel understands the complainant’s assertions and the sincerity with
which they are held. There was, in all likelihood, a body of respectable

opinion contrary to at least some of the views expressed in the program. Its
absence from the program resulted, objectively, in a degree of imbalance
which caused concern and irritation to the complainant and, probably, to
others who held his views.

However, the Code of Practice and Editorial Policies did not require balance
or impartiality in this type of program. The Panel’s role is only to determine
whether breaches of relevant provisions of the Code and Policies have
occurred. It is not concerned with any wider considerations, which fall within
the ambit of policy making. It is not involved in the creation of ABC policies
and has no advisory role in relation to them.

For the reasons already given, the complaints are not upheld.

Michael L Foster QC
ICRP Convenor
February 2006


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