To use a line of someone else, I’ve always thought Senator Santoro was a pretty grubby sort of character. He’s one of those people who’s been happy to make pretty base allegations against people. Against ABC journalists in particular.

The Senator is famous for asking countless questions in Senate committee hearings about alleged bias within the ABC, and his departure from the Howard Ministry has resulted in some rather lighthearted reflection on this apparent obsession with the national broadcaster.

Some have poked fun at his incessant questioning, but his interrogations were more than playground banter. His questions were a sustained, aggressive right wing political attack on the ABC, aimed at bullying the Corporation into submission.

Under the guise of Senate Estimates and with the use of parliamentary privilege, Senator Santoro unleashed a series of grubby accusations against a series of people – amounting to personal attacks on many ABC journalists.

Take, for example, his attack on the then JJJ current affairs ‘HACK’ presenter, Steve Cannane. As previously reported by Crikey, Mr Santoro effectively accused Mr Cannane of a verbal anti-Semitic tirade in which Mr Cannane was supposed to have used the phrase “those awful jews” (details here).

It transpired that Mr Cannane had said no such thing and that Mr Santoro had been relying upon the rantings of some right wing blogger rather than checking what actually went to air on the ABC.

Senator Santoro let his accusations against the JJJ reporter lie on the public record for three months before finally being forced to apologise to the Senate.

Santoro’s ABC attack role has been taken over by Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Let’s hope she learns something from the Santoro affair. More importantly let’s hope ABC management learns something about standing up to bullies.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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