Is the ABC biased?

Law graduate Michelle Guthrie became the first woman to hold the position of Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) when she took over from Mark Scott in May 2016.

She is a worthy appointee to arguably the most politically sensitive management position in the land, apart from that of the Prime Minister. Since it was officially launched in 1932 the ABC, “Aunt of the airwaves” has become a beloved part of the Australian way of life, initially following a BBC model, and offering a broad range of news, current affairs, entertainment and cultural enrichment.

The political party in power at its inauguration was the United Australia Party, a forerunner of the Liberal party.. The Prime Minister was Joseph Lyons, former Labor Premier of Tasmania (the only Tasmanian to hold this office). He with several others defected from Federal Labor to the Nationalist Party to form the UAP which continued until being dissolved in 1945.

With its nation-wide news coverage, both major political parties when in power, have sought to possess her and cried unfair political bias, when she has seemed to favour their opponents more than themselves in its programming and news content.

The ABC however does have a charter to follow, some items of which are listed as:

  • programs that contribute to a sense of national identity, inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community
  • broadcasting programs of an educational nature
  • to transmit such programs to other countries
  • to encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia

Everyone has an opinion as to how the ABC has fulfilled, or not met its obligations, but few would not agree that it has done much to enrich our lives.

In recent years the criticism has intensified that the ABC wittingly or unwittingly, is biased to the left of politics, and fails to give a voice to strongly conservatives opinions.

The Bolt Report last night I believe unfairly criticised the ABC, and in particular Michelle Guthrie, for scheduling a Q and A (7th August) as part of the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land (NT), and for sympathizing with the aspirations of the Indigenous people of Australia as expressed in the Uluru statement.

The comments herald vehement opposition to any constitutional change that both major parties might wish to present in a referendum to support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, and assist them in preserving their culture. The comments suggest indifference to their health and social needs, in harsh and remote regions of Australia.

In a sense, it would be a shame if the negative ultra-right media toned down their unfair rhetoric. It is becoming increasingly apparent to Australians how elitist they are, and indifferent to the needs of ordinary Australians. Their anti-Turnbull rants are uniting the LNP party as nothing else could. the ABC

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Is the Liberal Party Uniting?

The announcement by Prime Minister Mr Malcolm Turnbull this week for a new super-portfolio under the direction of present Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, to oversee and coordinate issues of national security, had been under consideration for at least several months. It will involve supervision of ASIO, AFP, and the Border Force.

See article  January 10, 2017 written by Sharri Markson in The Daily Telegraph:

In the Immigration portfolio Peter Dutton has proved to be a serious, methodical and no-nonsense minister. With the experience of nine years as a policeman, a Bachelor of Business Degree, 16 years of parliamentary experience serving in several portfolios, and a leading Conservative, he is a logical choice to be promoted to the new ministry.

I would have thought that this initiative would have been welcomed by the Right of the party, when the threat of terrorism is growing world-wide, but perhaps predictably it has been bucketed by the one-eyed, ultra-conservative, Turnbull-phobic media, as a political move to weaken their ranks in parliament.

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Happy (political) days are here again!!

Don’t you just love political intrigue!

This is Peta (Incredible) Credlin.

She has the Libs in a spin They are already fighting over her; and she is not yet even in Parliament.

She is revered as a “fierce political warrior”, and is touted as a future champion of the Liberal “Dries”.

Watch out for her in the coming months. She stands for more generous superannuation concessions for the most wealthy, more coal for all, and more money for all Catholic schools. And, Down with Turnbull!! Shorten is preferable.





This gay fellow is the life of Canberra, South Australia’s Christopher Pyne! Don’t you just love him! He is a leading “bed-wetter”, and thinks he is on the side of the winners, to the irritation of the conservative Conservatives. Watch out for him. He was Minister for Education, but is now Minister for Defence Industry!




This is the Liberal Leadership duo Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, (apologies to the absent Deputy Leader Julie Bishop). They look a little dreamy don’t they? Imagining life without Peta to worry about; and not too concerned about the alternative prospect I think.




Then there is the Prime Ministerial come-back kid, the likeable larrikin, Tony Abbott. Watch out for him. He just might get moved on.



Tony Abbott


Keeping quiet and growing in stature, is the discrete Anthony Albanese, representative of the Labor talent waiting delightedly in the wings.



Urging the contestants on whilst the audience grows and the dollars roll in, are media giants Sky News, and Newscorp.







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Who’s behind the current Liberal Party Brawl?

Ostensibly it’s an ideological war between the conservatives, slanting policies to preserve the privileges of the more wealthy, and those promoting more egalitarian legislation.

Margaret Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister of the UK between 1979 and 1990, and it was she who first coined the derisive name “wets”, for those members of the party she perceived as lacking in hardness, and willing to compromise with the union movement. In retaliation, those of her ilk were labelled “dries”.

Provocative for the “dries” was the 2017-2018 Budget released on the 9th May 2017 which funded major policies in education and health previously introduced by Labor when in office. Although these and other widely applauded initiatives in the Budget have been criticized by the Conservatives, it has been the Energy debate which seems to be generating the most heat.  Particularly vocal have been coal promoting climate change skeptics who believe the issue could again be a vote winner for the Coalition.

Noteworthy is the fact that in spite of all the vitriol in the media, there is no groundswell of opinion within the party to dump Malcolm Turnbull as Leader. Even religious right champion Corey Bernardi had no criticism of him when he left to form his own Conservative Party. He is still preferred above Bill Shorten as preferred Prime Minister by 54.1% to 45.9% even after the recent in-fighting, according to a Sky News/ReachTEL poll 30 June 2017.

It is not surprising therefore that it was 54 year old Liberal “has been”, Campbell Newman, who last week became the first person to actually call on Malcolm Turnbull to resign. A little premature one would conclude, when no opponent has stepped up to the plate to challenge him.

The supposition is that Tony Abbott, like Kevin Rudd in 2013, is campaigning to regain the leadership he lost by 10 votes in a ballot on the 14th September 2015. There are good reasons for doubting this.

Tony Abbott was dumped because he refused to demote his controlling and obstructionist Chief of Staff Peta Credlin. He was well-liked and there would have been no ballot against him had he heeded the unanimous advice of his colleagues and severed his intimate and dependent relationship on her.  His was virtually an Edward VIII-like abdication of office. It was his choice, and at the time, he made a commitment not to undermine subsequent leadership. He cannot expect to make a come-back just because she may now have side-lined him.

A Sky News/ReachTEL poll 30 June 2017 showed that 72.8% of Coalition voters prefer Malcolm Turnbull over Tony Abbott. Would Abbott really wish to further undermine his standing within the Liberal party by compromising its chances of re-election?

Tony Abbott is now 60 years old, has an intermittent tremor and mask-like facies that might indicate latent health issues.

If he is not providing the impetus for a change in Liberal leadership, from where is it coming? Clearly it is not from within the party, so perhaps the leading contender is the Sky News Bolt Report on which the hauntingly beautiful Peta Credlin appears. Tony Abbott often praised her as as a fierce warrior, and has suggested that she would be an ideal candidate for Liberal Party preselection.








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Might longer parliamentary terms reduce leadership wrangling?

Australia’s last federal election (the 45th) was held on the 2nd July 2016, and resulted in only a  two seat majority for the Coalition in the House of Representatives. The outcome was: Coalition – 76 seats, Labor – 69 seats and 5 cross-bench seats (Independents 2, The Greens 1, Katter’s Australian Party 1, Nick Xenophon Team 1).

This election was called a few months earlier than necessary to accommodate a full senate vote (double dissolution) because of an hostile Senate with 18 cross-benches who refused to pass key legislation. The ploy was not successful since the vote increased the cross-benches to 20, with the Coalition losing 3 seats to 30, and Labor gaining one to 26, in the 76 seat House.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had became Australia’s 29th Prime Minister in a leadership ballot held on the 14th September 2015 as a result of which he inherited a 30 seat absolute majority in the House of Representatives won in the September 7, 2013 election by Tony Abbott.

As an election winning first-term Prime Minister, like Kevin Rudd five years earlier, Tony Abbott was naturally aggrieved, and is now the focus on continuing in-fighting within the Coalition, despite there being two years before the next federal election in 2019. This is fomenting discord, hindering mid-term decision making, and may well hand victory to Labor at the next election.

Under our Constitution the Prime Minister is required to call an election at any time within three years of taking office. Exercise of this discretion has resulted in the average parliamentary term since Federation being just 2 years and 7 months.

It is a call which few leaders would wish to relinquish, but it diverts attention from the serious business of governing and framing legislation in the best interest of the nation to arguing and jostling for power within the party as the next election approaches. Since parties, not voters, elect the leadership, incumbent leaders may be unfairly scrutinized and dumped in favour of contenders perceived to have better prospects for success.

In 1715 UK parliamentary terms were increased to a limit of 7 years, from 3 years,  to reduce cost and improve the stability of government. However terms were limited to 5 years in 1911 and in 2011 fixed terms of 5 years were introduced.

In spite of this, UK Prime Minister Theresa May was able to foolishly call an election for 8 June 2017, after a term of just 2 years and 32 days. She lost majority government, and raised questions about her own political nous, and ability to negotiate favourable terms for Britain’s departure from the European Union.





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Politicking, the price of democracy?

It is barely a year since the last federal election, but already the political heat is building to discard Malcolm Turnbull as Leader of the ruling Coalition Party.

Turnbull is charged with departing from the core conservative values of the Liberal Party, to embrace the policies of the left, such as needs-based education funding, the national disability scheme, and now seeking consensus with the opposition on the future of energy planning in relation to climate change. Furthermore there is scare-mongering that the next target will be the legalization of gay marriage!

It is not that long ago (2007) that Kevin Rudd similarly had an over-whelming win over a jaded John Howard. Yet he was deposed by Julia Gillard in the lead-up to the 2010 election. She did manage to scrape back in for Labor by forming a minority government, but eventually, three years later, Kevin Rudd had his revenge and was re-instated to the leadership. Not-surprisingly, he lost the subsequent election.

Will political history be repeated by the Liberal Party? Whatever the outcome in the next 6-12 months, the in-fighting is likely to be damaging for their chances of winning another term. A Labor win would almost certainly ensure the passage of gay marriage legislation.

I dislike repetitive sloganeering, such as Abbott’s labeling of carbon trading charges as a “carbon tax”, and Shorten’s oft repeated assertion that the Coalition would dismantle Medicare. But it is the unbalanced reporting of news events, and at times ridicule of political opponents, by powerful biased media figures, that I find most distasteful.

Alan Jones September 2012, trying to be funny, suggested on air that Julia Gillard should be “put into a chaff bag and thrown into the sea”. In the height of bad taste he also suggested that Julia Gillard’s recently deceased father died of shame thinking he had a daughter who told lies every time she stood for parliament.

Politicians are duty bound to represent the interests of their supporter base, but also have an obligation to all Australians. The public is more likely to support moderates who respect the national interest than those with extreme or narrow views.

Arguably Tony Abbott lost office because he gave the perception that he was more concerned with preserving privilege for conservative supporters, than in promoting private enterprise and the upwards mobility of the less fortunate.





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A plea for more evidence-based political decision making.

The Impossible Dream?

What odds would you give that the besieged Turnbull government will be able to achieve bipartisan agreement on how to tackle climate change? Australia has had a decade of political point scoring between the two major parties, on this issue of immense global concern. Unfortunately, party ideology and political expediency, often take precedence over objective evidence, regardless of what is in the best interest of all Australians.

Then there is an ideological power play simmering within the Coalition Party ranks over the direction of Energy policy. This  centers on the future of coal-mining, in relation to emission targets.

Stoking the coal fires is a coterie of leading media voices, mostly climate change skeptics, who blame the shift from coal-fired electricity generation to renewable energy production, for the rise in the price of electricity. But coal generation plants are ageing, and more will soon need to close.  Renewable power generation has now become the cheaper option, but because appropriate battery storage capacity is not yet adequate, some new low-emission coal powered stations remain in the energy equation.

Fossil fuels are finite resources, and need to be conserved as much as possible. Non-polluting renewable energy generation must be the way for future generations.

To whom should you listen?

Certainly not unqualified persons chanting ideological mantra. If you have a problem you need independent and competent specialist advice, advice based on the weight of evidence. This the government has in the Finkel Report.



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A referendum Australia needs to have.

Since Federation in 1901, there have been 19 referendums proposing 44 potential changes to the Constitutional framework of Australia’s Commonwealth government, uniting the State and territory administrations of the British colonial settlements. Only 8 measures have been approved.

Now in 2017, Australia is on the brink of calling for another referendum. On the 7th December 2015, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten appointed a 16 member referendum Council ostensibly to pave the way for a referendum which would seek recognition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.

It was only in 1967 after a successful referendum vote, that our aboriginal peoples were included in the census held once every five years. At a recent convocation of Indigenous Leaders at Uluru, it was made clear that they now desired above all else a say in their own affairs, in planning their own destiny. They have long been disadvantaged, and felt voiceless in the land that was theirs, until white colonization some 230 years ago..

When the Constitution was framed at Federation, the Aboriginal people were widely regarded as uncivilized savages, Aboriginal culture was not valued, and there was no such thing as Native Land title. Their population was estimated then at about 93,200 in a general population of just over 3 million.

The situation is far different today. The population of pure-bred, and part-caste Australians identifying with their Aboriginal heritage, had increased to 670,000 in 2011 and may soon exceed 1 million, and 3-4% of our population. Annual growth is estimated at 2.2% compared with 1.6%. The median age for Aboriginal people at present is 22, compared with 37 in the general population.

Indigenous skills and culture are now well recognised and appreciated, particularly in sport, and the arts, whilst they are also admired for their ability to survive in harmony with Australia’s harsh environment. Some have qualified for the professions, and a few have become articulate and appreciated politicians.

But heart-breaking problems persist within their societies.

  • high rates of youth crime, incarceration and ongoing deaths in custody.
  • poor housing, unhygienic living conditions and rampant health problems, combined  with difficult access to medical services.
  • low standards of education
  • few employment opportunities
  • frequent alcohol and drug abuse.
  • the abuse of women and children.

Two-thirds of our indigenous population now live in urban and regional areas of Queensland and New South Wales.

But for the other one-third, their plight is greatly exacerbated by the isolation under which they live in outback Australia, far removed from the community support and services available to others.

It has often been the women and children who have suffered most at the hands of drunken menfolk in remote communities. Indeed the problem a few years back was so urgent that it necessitated the prompt intervention of the Commonwealth government.

Now that a vast area of wilderness Australia has Native Title, perhaps the Commonwealth Government should create a new Indigenous Territory administration supported in part from Mining royalties, to provide the infrastructure and services that are so deficient for Indigenous residents.










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Is Journalism becoming meddlesome?

Australian Journalism is alive and vibrant, but unfortunately journalistic talent is being constrained. Static traditional Australian media outlets are being phased out as the public turns from reading well-written papers and magazines, to ad-ridden, often ugly interactive digital media, in a search for the sensational and the entertaining, regardless of its validity.  Comment, informed or otherwise, is becoming irrelevant unless spiced with controversy.

The spread of news is not just fast now. It is instantaneous. With the announcement of factual events, come rumours, suppositions, and innuendo. These are tools able to mould public opinion, and to deliberately interfere in political processes.  Surely this brings a responsibility for professional journalists and others, to assert appropriate ethical standards to ensure we are not swamped with so-called “fake-news”.

We expect our media voices to have their opinions, to give their perspectives, and even to suggest avenues for change. But this is not Çarte Blanche to lobby for their own political agenda. It is more deplorable if the issue under debate is critical for the nation’s welfare, and if in their arguments, inadequately qualified sources are used to bolster their case.

A Sky News TV program last night interviewed retired meteorologist, William Kininmonth a scientist who argues that climate change is due to natural causes independent of human intervention. He has been a meteorologist, making weather observations, but  has no experience in climate-change research, as pointed out by the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology.





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A voice and a veto for indigenous Australians? A third house of parliament?

Last night’s Q and A broadcast from Parliament House in Canberra was moving and memorable. It marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum and 25 years since the Mabo decision, landmark events for Australia’s disadvantaged indigenous minority. It followed a convocation of indigenous leaders at Uluru in celebration of Reconciliation Week 2017. Leaders rejected the idea of mere recognition in the constitution, instead calling for a representative body to be enshrined in the nation’s founding document and a process established working towards treaties. The Uluru delegation called for First Nations Voice enshrined in the constitution, and a truth and justice commission. The concluding Uluru Statement “From the Heart” was the result of three days of deliberations during the national gathering.


The distinguished panelists of Q and A were:

  • Noel Pearson Strategic Advisor, Cape York Institute
  • Pat Anderson Co-chair Referendum Council and Chairperson of The Lowitja Institute
  • Megan Davis UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous
  • Nakkiah Lui Playwright and actor in ABC’s Black Comedy
  • Stan Grant ABC Indigenous Affairs Coverage Editor

From this broadcast it seems to me, the dream of both veteran, and the new generation of articulate and well-educated representatives, is for the right to have a voice in the formulation of the laws that parliament enacts which impact on their own welfare. They seek genuine self-determination. Past government paternalism delivered travesties of justice such as the policy that resulted in “The Stolen Generation”. To meet their aspirations, it must be more than token change. But will anything more substantive than placatory rhetoric be acceptable to the people of Australia in a referendum?

A perhaps radical solution that may be worth considering is the formation of a third house of parliament, with two or three elected representatives from each state or territory, to review and approve all legislation affecting indigenous affairs. The cost would be modest. The boost to indigenous morale and well-being could be immeasurable.

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