Given the reporting of bullying and harassment allegations inside the ABC and that Alan Kohler’s comment came in a hearing looking at those claims in one particular case, you can imagine Kerry O’Brien’s sensitivity to the comment, whether it was right or wrong. And you can also imagine the reaction by John Cameron to Kohler’s comments against the background of the case in which he was appearing and other cases in Victoria and in Perth.

The ill-considered comment before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission which got Kohler into strife was as follows: “I’d like to see how she’d go with Kerry O’Brien, who goes completely berserk.” Kohler’s letter of apology read:

My remark about Kerry O’Brien at the Industrial Commission hearing into the ABC versus Barakat matter was nothing more than a jocular and inappropriate aside meant to illustrate a point that sometimes raised voices are a normal part of a tense newsroom environment.

For the record, I have never seen Kerry O’Brien go completely berserk, or for that matter go berserk at all, and I don’t believe he does.

Then there’s the series of unanswered questions flowing from the appearance in February of ABC management — including MD, Russell Balding — about bullying and harassment claims at the ABC and the Corporation’s handling of those. Many of those unanswered questions were from Labor Senator, George Campbell. The tenor of the questions was quite ‘serious’.

Campbell, was well briefed on many of the claims, judging by his questions and the amount of information in them. Have they been answered yet? “Berserk” has a meaning of ‘out of control with anger of excitement’. Given the sensitivity through all levels of the ABC to these continuing bullying and harassment claims, saying someone goes or went “berserk” is bound to cause a problem.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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