Senator
Dana Wortley is scarcely a household name. The Labor representative from South Australia has only been there since last
July.

Wortley
hasn’t even made it onto the Crikey pollies who were journos list yet – but that’s exactly what she used to do. And she was state secretary
of the journos’ union, the MEAA. Which made it very interesting when she
started questioning ABC heavies over bullying in the broadcaster during
Estimates last week.

Twenty
two on-air people have left the Adelaide newsroom of the ABC since 2004.
That’s about a third of the staff – a very significant turnover. When this sort
of thing happens in commercial media outlets, they lose a lot of money. They
risk going broke. Not our ABC, however. The public funds are always there, so
journalists are treated as a disposable commodity.

Several
of the departures have involved legal gag orders imposed by the ABC as part
of the terms of settlement. That means John Cameron, the Director of News and
Current Affairs, and MD Russell Balding got off light.

But there’s still plenty in the Hansard – some rather awkward questions like this:

Senator
WORTLEY—Can you make comment as to whether it is usual ABC practice to target senior
experienced journalists by changing their job, their hours of work and their
authorisation to work across the ABC without any real consultation? Is the ABC
aware that this often leads to job dissatisfaction and a loss to the ABC and,
therefore, the Australian public?

And there are questions specifically on a major
report into ABC bullying procedures, instigated by Balding:

Senator WORTLEY—I, too, would like to welcome
you, Mr Balding. I am sure that your staff around Australia will be pleased to note that you
made it here this evening. The first question I would like to ask I will just
put generally; whoever needs to answer it obviously will do so. A human
resource consultancy firm, IHR Australia, was last year appointed to
independently review the ABC’s anti-bullying policy and procedures. I
understand that review was concluded in December. What were the findings of
that review and what are the financial implications of the findings of that
review?

Mr Balding—I actually commissioned that
review, and to my knowledge that review has not been fully completed at this
stage. Mr Pendleton was oversighting that review for me.

Mr Pendleton—Senator, the extent of the work
has substantially grown from the time we started that review…

Actually, sources say a draft report was
fast-tracked in January because the results are so alarming. The issue is being closely followed. Crikey
understands the MEAA has delivered the transcript to all national house
committees.

Peter Fray

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