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We’ve caught the Senator for Fashionable Causes, Natasha Spot Destroyer, trying to turn a committed staff member into an independent ABC broadcaster for a few weeks and we want some answers fast.

Has Australian Democrat Deputy Leader Natasha Stott-Despoja – or the South Australian management of the ABC – compromised the much vaunted “independence” of our public broadcaster? That’s the question being asked after an embarrassing episode in Adelaide last week.

On Thursday last week, Alison Rogers, a former JJJ personality turned host of the Drive program on local ABC Radio 891 underwent a particularly humiliating experience. She began her program in an unlikely way – by telling listeners that she had accepted a job with Stott-Despoja, stated that the ABC valued its independence then handed over to another presenter.

Rogers had referred to her new position on air the previous day – but stated then she would be staying on until the ABC began its national summer programming in December. Local ABC management were completely taken aback by the uproar this generated – and Rogers was off the air 24 hour later.

In her defence, Rogers claimed she didn’t do many political interviews – but a whole range of questions remain over the affair.

The ABC makes much of its independence – and the Australian Democrats and Stott-Despoja in particular are precious defenders of the public broadcaster.

So, some answers please:

First, for Ms Rogers:

When did you accept the job with Senator Stott-Despoja?

What was the nominated start date for the job?

When did you notify ABC Radio 891 management that you accepted the job?

Did you offer to resign immediately? If not, why not?

Who suggested that you stay on until summer national programming began?

Did you declare your decision to accept the appointment to your listnership at the first available opportunity? If not, why not?

Did you consider that staying on as an ABC presenter compromised the Corporation’s independence?

Did you inform your producers of your new appointment? If not, why not?

What was your producers’ response to the new appointment?

You state you did not cover many political issues on the program. Does this mean you would have carried out no interviews on any political issues whatsoever between accepting the position with Senator Stott-Despoja and leaving the ABC? Does it mean you would have only not interviewed serving politicians, former politicians or what? Is there any other criteria you would have used to determine what was “political” or not?

For the ABC Radio 891 management:

When did Ms Rogers inform you she had accepted a position with Senator Stott-Despoja?

What date did Ms Rogers state she would resign from?

Was the immediate resignation of Ms Rogers discussed or considered, either with Ms Rogers or privately?

Was more senior and/or national management of the ABC informed of her appointment and an opinion sought? If not, why not? If so, what was that opinion?

Who suggested that Ms Rogers stay on until summer national programming began?

Was Ms Rogers required to tell her listnership of her new appointment at the first available opportunity? If not, why not?

Did you consider that Ms Rogers staying on as an ABC presenter compromised the Corporation’s independence?

Were any guidelines set by management over what issues Ms Rogers could cover and who she could interview while she remained at the ABC? If so, what were they? If not, why not?

Why was the decision to allow Ms Rogers to stay on air reversed?

Was this decision made in Adelaide or by ABC management elsewhere or management outside ABC Radio 891?

For national ABC management:

Do you consider appropriate process was followed in this matter? If not, why not?

Do the circumstances followed after Ms Rogers acceptance of a political appointment reflect those followed when Ms Cathy Job accepted a position with Education Minister Dr David Kemp or when Ms Pru Goward accepted a potion within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet? If not, why not? How has a different procedure been followed?

And finally, for Senator Stott-Despoja herself:

When did you make the job offer to Ms Rogers?

Did you nominate a start date for the position?

Did you offer Ms Rogers any advice about remaining on air with the ABC or suggest when she resign from?

Did you believe that there was a conflict of interest if Ms Rogers remained on air until the start of the summer national broadcasting?

Did you offer any advice to Ms Rogers or her producers on what could be considered appropriate content for broadcast?

Do you consider that you have compromised the independence of the ABC by allowing Ms Rogers to remained on air after accepting a job with you?

To all of you naughty people, send those replies to [email protected]

Peter Fray

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