Conservative columnist and ABC Board member, Janet Albrechtsen, has breached her promise not to criticise the ABC in public after yesterday taking a swipe at Melbourne’s 774 presenter, Jon Faine.

In her column Albrechtsen dived into a silly debate triggered by Faine two weeks ago when he made the suggestion that media outlets should sack some of their conservative cheer leading commentators now that the electorate has ousted the Howard Government.

Here’s what Albrechtsen said:

Ever since Howard was defeated, members of the Left have declared the culture wars over. They have called for a culling of conservative voices or a “cleansing” as ABC Radio’s Jon Faine suggested recently. It’s easy to discard these figures as irrelevant, living in a parallel universe void of reason and logic. It’s an entirely different matter, a more serious one, when the government of the day institutes a policy that seeks the same outcome…

But soon after her controversial appointment to the ABC’s Board in February 2005, Janet Albrechtsen told Nick Grimm on the ABC’s AM program that she would not be taking the cudgels to ABC staff in The Australian.

“I have been critical of the ABC in the past, but it’s not the place for a director to be talking about that in public. If there are issues in the future, that needs to be taken up at board level.”

She reiterated this later in the interview:

“I have made it clear that I won’t be commenting in public via my column or elsewhere on ABC matters…”

An explanation seems appropriate Janet.

Faine has brought himself a lot of grief by suggesting that newspapers shed some of their stale right wing columnists because of a change of Government. His interview on the topic with Herald Sun editor in chief, Bruce Guthrie, was always going to raise the heckles of the columnists concerned and those commentators were always going to interpret Faine’s comments as ideological censorship and therefore another chapter of the Culture Wars.

Albrechtsen, like other conservatives such as Andrew Bolt and Gerard Henderson, have made much of Faine’s throw away use of the word “cleansing” which Faine would have been much better off avoiding. He would have been wiser to call on the major newspapers to seek out new voices to complement the right wingers because now, more than ever, it makes sense to have the contrarians around to both keep the Rudd Government on its toes and for the sheer pleasure of seeing them turn on their own and tear apart the conservative parties.

Peter Fray

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