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Speaking of media independence, how does Aunty fare?

There’s been a heavy focus in the past week on the independence or otherwise of the Australian media   — although the ABC has missed out on its share of scrutiny amid the carnage at Fairfax and News (bar a few swipes from The Australian). So, just how political are the journalists at Aunty? Crikey decided to do a little digging on the subject. The results might surprise you …

It’s long been perceived wisdom in some quarters that the ABC is a hotbed of pro-Labor sentiment and a training school for ALP candidates like Maxine McKew. Last Wednesday, Paul Kelly wrote for The Australian: “Australia can no longer afford a heavily taxpayer-funded ABC locked into a fashionable ‘writers festival’ political culture that caters to a dedicated ‘true believer’ minority.”

This certainly isn’t the first time that The Australian has accused the ABC of left-wing groupthink — but it does come soon after former ABC journalist Sarah Henderson won preselection for the federal Victorian seat of Corangamite. ABC managing director Mark Scott rebuts the accusations, saying they were a little ironic coming from The Oz.

In an attempt to see past the political mud-throwing, Crikey hunted for ex-ABC people who went on to work for Labor or the Coalition — and we’ve found the spread is pretty even. As of Tuesday morning, we’ve found 15 ex-ABC people who went on to the Labor politicians (or candidates), while 13 went to the Coalition camp.

Here’s the list — it’s a work in progress, and we’re counting on Crikey readers to delve into their memories and add more names. Send your tips and we’ll update the list.

ABC to Labor:

Maxine McKew, began her career as a cadet on This Day Tonight at the ABC’s Brisbane office in 1975.  She then worked on the ABC’s flagship current affairs programs, Nationwide, and AM and PM, later moving onto the 7.30 Report. She then joined the ALP and won John Howard’s seat of Bennelong in federal Parliament for the Labor Party, only to lose it in 2010.

Frank McGuire was an award-winning journalist for the ABC, and is currently the Labor state Parliament member for the seat of Broadmeadows.

Mike Bailey, a former ABC weatherman who ran against Joe Hockey in the seat of North Sydney in the 2007 election for the ALP and lost.

Deborah O’Neill, once worked for the ABC, O’Neill in 2010 won preselection for the seat of Robertson — Belinda Neal’s patch — for the ALP and won.

David Hill, ran in the 1998 election for the ALP in the federal NSW seat of Hughes, after he stepped down from his role as Managing Director of the ABC.

Leon Bignell, ex-ABC sports reporter and now a minister in the SA Labor government.

Bob Carr, former Labor Premier of NSW and now federal foreign minister for the ALP, once worked for the ABC as a current affairs journalist.

Mary Delahunty,was a gold Walkey Award-winning news journalist for the ABC, appearing on Four Corners and the 7.30 Report before becoming  chief newsreader for the ABC in Victoria. She  was elected to the seat of Northcote in the Victorian Legislative Assembly at a 1998 by-election. She was minister for education, 1999-2002, minister for the arts 1999-2006, minister for women’s affairs 2002-2006 and minister for planning 2002-2005. Delahunty did not contest her seat at the 2006 state election.

John Bowler, Formerly of the ABC and now proprietor of The Golden Mail. In 2001 he was elected as the ALP Member for Eyre in the WA Parliament. He is currently the Independent member for Kalgoorlie.

Bob Debus, Energy Minister and Attorney General in the Carr Government who was an ABC broadcaster, Executive Producer of the ABC’s Department of Radio Talks and Documentaries in the 1970s.

Clare Martin, The ALP’s former chief minister in the Northern Territory was the morning presenter on ABC 666 Canberra in the1980s before becoming media adviser to chief minister Rosemary Follett in the first ACT government in 1989. She later moved to Darwin where she returned to the ABC and was at one stage presenter of The 7.30 Report.

Malarndirri McCarthy, Northern Territory Labor MLA for Arnhem and one of the first Indigenous women in an Australian Parliament. Barbara was an ABC news presenter in Sydney and Darwin and a contributing reporter to the ABC series Blackout.

Neville Oliver, the former head of sport at the ABC failed when he ran as Labor’s candidate in the Tasmanian lower house seat of Franklin in 1998 but in 2002 he achieved his goal by replacing Fran Bladel.

Diana Warnock, long time ABC radio personality and subsequent Labor politician for Perth in the WA Parliament from 1993 until retiring in 2001.

Ian Baker, the former ABC news chief of staff in Victoria was Agriculture Minister in the Kirner Government.

Alan Carpenter, 7.30 Report presenter to WA Labor Premier.

And here are some of the ABC staff who went on to be Labor staffers: Mark Bannerman was a journalist for 30 years, working on several programs for the ABC, such as AMPMThe World Today and Background Briefing. He also worked as an adviser to the-then Labor minister for industry, technology and commerce Senator John Button. Barrie Cassidy is the current host of Insiders on the ABC; he was Bob Hawke’s press secretary from 1986 to 1991. Kerry O’Brien is the former host of the 7.30 Report on the ABC and the present host of the current affairs show Four Corners.  He worked as the press secretary for Labor’s Gough Whitlam. Jeremi Moule, worked for ABC news then later became a minder for the ALP.

ABC to the Coalition

Sarah Henderson, Before she went into politics, her media work included host of the Victorian edition of the 7.30 Report, newsreader for Channel Ten Melbourne and reporter for the acclaimed ABC-TV program, The Investigators. Then in 2010, she contested the federal election as the endorsed Liberal candidate for Corangamite, and lost.  She has won preselection for the next election.

Dai Le, stood as the Liberal candiate for the seat of Cabramatta at the October 2008 byelection and again in the March 2011 NSW state poll. Dai was a journalist with the ABC from 1994 until 2008.

Gary Hardgrave, a former minister in the Howard government, is a former journalist with the Brisbane bureau of the ABC’s 7.30 Report.

Peter Collins, leader of the Liberal Party in NSW for several years, was also a former ABC TV journalist.

Pru Goward, a Canberra-based high-profile ABC journalist, who reported on federal politics for several years.  She is currently the Liberal representative for the state seat of Goulburn, NSW.

Rob Messenger was an ABC radio broadcaster in Bundaberg.  He then went on to become the National Party member for Burnett in the Queensland Parliament. Earlier this year he bowed out of politics in order to run for mayor in his local electorate.

Grant Woodhams, National Party member for Greenough in WA, worked with ABC radio in Tasmania, South Australia, NSW and Victoria.

Eoin Cameron, the former Liberal member for the federal seat of Stirling, presents the breakfast program on ABC local radio in Perth.

Cameron Thompson worked for the ABC in Longreach and Darwin before winning the federal seat of Blair for the Liberal Party.

Scott Emerson, a former ABC journalist, won the Queensland state Parliament seat of Indooroopilly for the Liberal National Party.

Ian Cover, a member of the ABC’s Coodabeen Champions, served as a Liberal member of the Victorian Parliament between 1996 and 2002.

Peter McArthur, a former current affairs reporter and TV newsreader for the ABC, served several years in the Victorian state Parliament as a Liberal member.

Bruce Webster was a sports broadcaster for the ABC and later the Liberal member for Pittwater in the NSW Parliament.

Peter Kennedy, worked for ABC news then was later the unsuccessful liberal candiate for the seat of Bendigo.

And here are some of the ABC staff who went on to be Coalition staffers: Michael Duffy, presented Counterpoint on ABC’s Radio National, he now works for the NSW Liberal government. Chris Wordsworth, after resigning as ABC Queensland state director in 2008, became a Coalition staffer. Cathy Job, a current affairs presenter for ABC radio in Brisbane, became a media adviser to David Kemp after resigning from the ABC. Vicki Thompson, a senior political reporter for ABC radio in Adelaide, became chief of staff for John Olsen, Liberal premier of South Australia. Chris Nicholls, an Adelaide ABC journalist, went on to work for Liberal Senator Grant Chapman. Jim Bonner, after leaving the staff of Malcolm Fraser, held senior editorial positions with ABC radio and television in Canberra and Adelaide.  He later assumed the position of director of the Liberal Party in South Australia. Ken Crooke, state director of the National Party for 13 years, and a close associate of Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, was an ABC journalist before taking up his position with the National Party. Mark Tobin, the veteran ABC 702 state political reporter who left the public broadcaster to work as a media adviser to NSW premier Barry O’Farrell. Josephine Cafagna, former State 7.30 Report presenter went onto become head of strategic communications for Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu. (And while it’s going the other way, we feel obliged to include ABC Managing Director Mark Scott on this list - in his younger times he worked for then NSW Liberal education minister Terry Metherell). Allen Callaghan, a former Brisbane ABC staffer, became the late Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersens media adviser.

 

*Know any more ex-ABC journalists who went on to a career with a political party? Any ex-ABC journalists go on to a career with the Greens? Let us know at boss@crikey.com.au and we’ll update the list.

19
  • 1
    Holden Back
    Posted Monday, 25 June 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Josephine Keffania, former State 7.30 Report presenter now Baillieu spinner

  • 2
    GarryB
    Posted Monday, 25 June 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Just note the number of clips ABC News show of Abbott compared with Gillard and it may be revealing. Regardless of what’s his latest stunt is. And who didn’t get sick and tired of the nightly shot of Howard strolling somewhere in Canberra?
    The “left wing” drivel is a complete lie. The shift has been far more to the right in the latter years.

  • 3
    barfiller
    Posted Monday, 25 June 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    And here are some of the ABC staff who went on to be Labor staffers … Mark Tobin, the veteran ABC 702 state political reporter who left the public broadcaster to work as a media adviser to NSW premier Barry O’Farrell.

    Um?

  • 4
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Monday, 25 June 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t Crikey itself produce a list of journalist (albeit not just ABC)-politician interchanges a few years back? Yes, here it is, crikey dot com dot au/2007/02/27/journalists-in-parliament/, from which apparently at least several others can be added:

    Ian Baker: the former ABC news chief of staff in Victoria was Agriculture Minister in the Kirner Government

    John Bowler : formerly of the ABC and now proprietor of The Golden Mail and ALP Member for Eyre in the WA Parliament.

    Bob Debus: Energy Minister and Attorney General in the Carr Government who was an ABC broadcaster, Executive Producer of the ABC’s Department of Radio Talks and Documentaries in the 1970s.

    Clare Martin: The ALP’s former chief minister in the Northern Territory was the morning presenter on ABC 666 Canberra in the1980s before becoming media adviser to chief minister Rosemary Follett in the first ACT government in 1989. She later moved to Darwin where she returned to the ABC and was at one stage presenter of The 7.30 Report.

    Barbara McCarthy (now Malarndirri McCarthy): Northern Territory Labor MLA for Arnhem and one of the first Indigenous women in an Australian Parliament. Barbara was strongly promoted by Emily’s List and was an ABC news presenter in Sydney and Darwin (and 7:30 presenter in Darwin?) and a contributing reporter to the ABC series Blackout.

    Neville Oliver: the former head of sport at the ABC failed when he ran as Labor’s candidate in the Tasmanian lower house seat of Franklin in 1998 but in 2002 he achieved his goal by replacing Fran Bladel.

    Diana Warnock: long time ABC radio personality and subsequent MLA for Perth in the WA Parliament from 1993 until retiring in 2001.

    The above would have to go close to tipping the balance in the Labor direction.

    Oh and Holden Back, did you mean Josephine Cafagna?

  • 5
    mikeb
    Posted Monday, 25 June 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I guess the Labor side has more high profile ABC ex staffers in it’s fold.
    Mind you - I’d be interested in whether arts & journo types are more labor inclined overall - not just at the ABC.

  • 6
    Student T
    Posted Monday, 25 June 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    ABC TV is not too bad. But the radio is a long advert for the Greens. Have you ever heard ABC TV give balanced coverage on (a) gay marriage, (b) refugees or (c) aboriginal relations?

    I sometimes tune into RN and have a bet with myself to see if they can get through 30 minutes without prosletysing on one of these issues. I have never lost yet!

  • 7
    Roberto Tedesco
    Posted Monday, 25 June 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    @Student T

    I’m surprised you get to listen to RN in between your shifts at Coles.

    Clearly, you need to listen to the thrilling insights of 2GB and the other commercial red-faced-men-shouting stations if you want real balanced reporting.

  • 8
    Posted Monday, 25 June 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    derr - Mark Scott!

  • 9
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 26 June 2012 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    We saw what happened to Stephen Long, just over 10 days ago.
    But it was nice to see Leigh Sales getting stuck into “Reith-Morrison” tonight digging
    for a Conservative answer, for a change. But for a laugh dig out one
    of her interviews with Labor’s Chris Evans (in the portfolio), a couple of
    years ago - for real paint-stripping demeanour (was that “personal”?).
    Or Gillard - on “Latteline” - when Sales “changed her hair colour for the night”?
    That “grab-bag of Labor embarrassments” she threatened Plibersek with?
    Then there was Emma Alberici’s job on Clare (more “cannon-fodder” Labor member), Friday night - going in with her prejudices blazing away, shooting herself in the foot while she was at it -
    among other things the time zone from which she staged her ambush?

    Then Mark Scott wants to lecture on the intrusion of personal opinion?
    What about when it affects their approach to an interviewee - and their
    differing approaches to members of different parties - according to party,
    either sweet or sour?

    Kerry O’Brien……..”? He could dish it up to either side with the same intensity.

  • 10
    Gocomsys
    Posted Tuesday, 26 June 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    As far as the ABC is concerned all I am asking for is for them to provide an hourly NEWS service on RADIO NATIONAL. Where NEWS must contain only relevant FACTS presented by an ABC newsreader and ABC reporters. No opinion, no gossip, no spin - plain facts. Is that too much to ask for? How about implementing a public and national interest test and dumping their flawed so called “balanced” charter. I believe the ABC would do much better without the likes of Mark Scott!
    I can certainly do without Barnstable Joyce for example telling me about the outcome of his chuck raffle or the latest spin machinations of Limited News! Interesting times indeed. I just had to switch off the RN so called news in disgust. What amateurs! We deserve better!

  • 11
    Alex
    Posted Tuesday, 26 June 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Well career choices of ex-ABC staff aside, my imperfect recollection of
    the numerous politically inspired reviews, investigations &
    assessments that the ABC’s undergone in the not so
    distant past, many of them instigated by the Howard government
    attempting to reveal “Reds under the beds”, is that the ABC’s always
    passed the litmus test. One particular review, from
    the earlier days of the Gulf War, stands out when the Libs accused
    the ABC of bias. Turns out, their critism of the war & our decision to
    participate, was if anything, understated!

    I also recall, that during the first year or more of the Labour
    government, monitoring of the ABC revealed that opposition pollies
    were consistently getting more air-time than Labour. Might still be
    happening.

    Try reading the “Republican Brain”; very enligtening.

    Cheers, Alex.

  • 12
    mikeb
    Posted Tuesday, 26 June 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    @Gocomsys. RN is not a news network. If yuu are so concerned about “news” then listen the NewsRadio - also on the am band.

  • 13
    fisher greg
    Posted Tuesday, 26 June 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    GarryB

    Earlier this year the coalition were running the line that they had not been on the Insiders all year. It turned out to be a tactic. While coalition frontbenchers had consistently been asked, they consistently had made themselves unavailable. Since they were outed, its been basically alternate weeks. Which of course means they are over-represented, given they did not win either a majority of the popular vote or a majority of seats in the last election

  • 14
    Penny MacDonald
    Posted Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Don’t forget Kevin Naughton from ABC Darwin, who moved to South Australia and worked for the
    Liberal party and leaked some incorrect information about Kevin Foley was it?

    When he was still at the ABC in Darwin he complained loudly about Clare Martin using the photocopier after she went back to the ABC after she was defeated the first time. Apparently she might have picked up important ABC secrets

  • 15
    Youthy
    Posted Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Chris Uhlman is married to an ALP MP, although he did run for a socially conservative independent group for the ACT elections in 1998.

  • 16
    C@tmomma
    Posted Friday, 29 June 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I think you’d have a very interesting list of News Ltd journos going to the Coalition.

  • 17
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 3 July 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Cat - why would Limited News journo’s “go to the Coalition”?
    Most are already there, being paid for their politics and don’t have to
    face elections - like “ordinary politicians”!

  • 18
    Cuppa
    Posted Friday, 6 July 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/chris-kenny-28134.html

    Chris Kenny is a journalist, author and former political staffer.

    He recently served as Chief of Staff to then Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull. He was also Chief of Staff to Alexander Downer, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the former Howard Government. In State Governments he was Director of Strategic Communications for Premier John Olsen and Chief of Staff to Premier Rob Kerin.

    Previously, Chris was a leading political journalist in his home State of South Australia. After working for a country newspaper, the now defunct Adelaide News and the ABC’s 7.30 Report he covered state politics for Channel 10 and then Channel 9 in Adelaide.

  • 19
    Edward James
    Posted Friday, 6 July 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    The over view of all this is our politicians will use our money to give jobs to problem journalist, and the underline is most of those journalist can be bought! Edward James

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