Jack
Reilly was the Socceroos goalkeeper at the 1974 World Cup and had just
returned from Germany after watching the three group matches in June
when he was invited on to 774 ABC Melbourne to discuss the Italy defeat
during the Drive shift with his old mate Drew Morphett.

Suddenly,
just before he was to be put to air, Reilly was pulled and the stated
reason from the producers was his intention to run for People Power at
the November Victorian election.

Now as someone who has
literally spent hundreds of hours on 774 over the past six years,
including hosting 20 Drive and Morning shifts last year, I should be
the last person to complain. Indeed, after six years of weekly spots on
774, I signed off by mutual consent six weeks ago because it is unfair
to be given regular publicity on the ABC in the lead-up to an election.
Couldn’t agree more.

Reilly lodged a complaint and received an
apology from ABC management but the situation does raise an interesting
question about how the ABC should treat declared or preselected
candidates. No one suggested that John Howard or Steve Bracks couldn’t
talk about the World Cup, yet suddenly it was inappropriate for a
former Socceroo to do a one-off spot talking soccer because he was
running for political office in five months time.


How does this approach sit with the enormous publicity AWU national
secretary Bill Shorten was given over the Beaconsfield mine rescue
after he’d won preselection for the safe federal seat of Maribyrnong?
Why was Richard Glover giving Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru
Goward publicity on his 702 ABC Sydney Drive program last month about Big Brother when she’s running for Liberal preselection in NSW?

Similarly,
surely it is inappropriate for the Bracks Government to continue to pay
Mark Dreyfus QC $4000 a day to represent it at the toxic dump inquiry when he is the endorsed candidate for the seat of Isaacs at next year’s Federal election.

These
sorts of debates pop up in most elections. Remember how ABC management
in Brisbane cancelled a regular spot that Peter Beattie had with then
612 Morning presenter Andrew Carroll, a former Beattie staffer, during
the 2001 election? It triggered Carroll’s departure, a bitter unfair
dismissal claim and then a tilt for the Greens at the 2004 Queensland
election.

Clearly, the ABC needs to be as balanced as possible
during elections, but there doesn’t appear to be a clear policy about
giving publicity to candidates who have high profiles away from
politics.

Peter Fray

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