The ABC is “hostile territory” for conservative politicians, says Peter Costello in his latest op-ed. “With the ABC,” Costello wrote this week for Fairfax, “the line of questioning is always predictable. It always comes from the Labor/Green perspective.”

The former Treasurer says he decided to unveil his insights into institutional bias at the ABC because, “I am not now at the mercy of the media so I can afford to say what everyone on the conservative side of politics knows.”

But this is no rhetorical flourish — Costello presents a catalogue of evidence to support his claims of ABC bias:

  • The flagship national current affairs programs AM, PM, and The 7.30 Report have “a consistent editorial perspective”.
  • The Labor Party only gets “a hard time” on the ABC if it is “perceived to be betraying ‘true Labor principles’ or being too ‘pro-business’ or being insensitive to the environment”.
  • Several senior Labor polticians like former WA Premier Alan Carpenter and former NT Chief Minister Clare Martin used to work at the ABC.
  • The 7.30 Report “is hosted by “former Labor staffer” Kerry O’Brien”.
  • Phillip Adams — ”the emblematic figurehead of the pro-Labor left intelligentsia” — broadcasts on Radio National “five nights a week”.

Costello’s insinuations, which he presents as facts, are an outrageous attack on the ABC’s most senior journalists and managers and its board. If his catalogue of bias is right, many of the ABC’s leading journalists and managers should be sacked because, according to Costello and “everyone on the conservative side of politics”, they are guilty of systemic unprofessionalism, breaching the ABC’s Editorial Policies and Code of Practice, and essentially hijacking the national broadcaster’s airwaves to present a structurally biased coverage of politics.

Of course, attacking ABC Leftism is a long-established practice by conservative politicians. But to suggest that the ABC’s flagship daily current affairs programs have a “consistent” editorial bias is not about politics, it is an attack on the very heart of the ABC’s editorial professionalism.

If Costello can prove he is right, the journalists and managers responsible for these programs should be sacked and ABC current affairs should be overhauled. If his allegations can’t be substantiated he should be sued for libel.

Peter Fray

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