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Jul 2, 2014

Crikey says: don't re-politicise the ABC, SBS boards

The ABC and SBS should not be re-politicised. The Abbott government has made a serious mistake in appointing Liberal sympathisers to key roles at the public broadcasters.


Right-wing culture warrior Janet Albrechtsen and former Liberal Party deputy leader Neil Brown have been appointed powerful government jobs: a seat each on the panel which oversees the appointment of people to the ABC and SBS boards.

The fact that the government has appointed Albrechtsen and Brown to these highly influential roles should ring alarm bells for those who want a strong and independent ABC and SBS, operating at arm’s length from the political masters of the day.

The appointment of Albrechtsen, or any other figure seen as an ideologue with close sympathies to the Abbott government, re-politicises a process that was, briefly, de-politicised under Labor.

After decades of both sides of politics using the ABC and SBS boards as retirement gift for mates and opportunities for ideological control, the Rudd government established a far more independent process focused on — shock horror — appointing people to the broadcasters’ boards on merit.

Albrechtsen getting the gig signals this is being brought to an end, and ideology will once again be a key criterion for appointment to oversee the national broadcasters. Worryingly, people with little or no broadcasting experience could end up with the jobs. People like Ron Brunton, Keith Windschuttle and Christopher Pearson (who all sat on those boards under John Howard).

Pearson in particular — a former speechwriter for both John Howard and Alexander Downer — was a disaster for SBS. Unlike the ABC, which has multiple levels of management, SBS is a small organisation and there is little filter between the board and those with the power to hire and fire. Staff who were seen as “against the government” or “anti-Australian” in their international coverage were sacked.

When we alerted you to the rumour of Albrechtsen getting this job, in our edition on Wednesday, we urged Abbott not to go ahead with it. As expected, that had no effect. But we stand by our view; this decision is an error, and all those who value a strong and independent ABC and the SBS should pay attention to what happens next.


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32 thoughts on “Crikey says: don’t re-politicise the ABC, SBS boards

  1. David Hand

    Don’t re-politicise the ABC????


  2. Graeski

    I believe “David Hand” may well be a Liberal Party plant.

    The following sums up our current government:

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

    Joseph Goebbels

  3. leon knight

    David Hand has bucket-loads of form on this site, always useful to provide insights into what the morally and intellectually bankrupt side of politics are up to….I am sure he will endorse Albrechtson for the job, as she has no compunction about lying for cash.

  4. pinkocommierat

    Perhaps the government thinks it hasn’t infuriated enough people yet.

  5. David Hand

    What’s a “Liberal Party plant?

    What lie are you talking about?

  6. Nonda Pass

    How can the ABC remain independent with someone like Janet Albrechtsen on the board. Might as put Rupert Murdoch there and be done with it, as he will be lurking in the background if Ms Albrechtsen is appointed.

  7. Liamj

    @ Graeski – authoritarians like David Hand all think the ABC is politicised, they see anything other than fawning as antagonistic bias. I think its related to their always being or having syncophants, & consequently, incredibly fragile egos.

  8. graybul

    The PM agenda is based upon incremental change designed around ideological objectives. Inserting Albrechtsen onto INDEPENDENT Public Broadcaster Panels overseeing appointments to ABC/SBS Boards are further evidence of that intent.
    Albrechtsen’s appointment, means throttling the independence of the ABC . . SBS to be collateral damage! The Federal Govt objectives are clear. Control of Public Service; imposition of National Security priorities; Unaccountability to both Public and Parliament; Secrecy and oppression of minorities; Re-drafting of legislative, regulative language; Dismantling, removal of much of previous Govt initiatives.
    Is Fascism the ideological driver replacing the compassionate Nation of “the fair go”? Yes!

  9. klewso

    This would have been cleared or initiated from The Credlin?

  10. Bill Hilliger

    Ah the Rebecca Brooks of the ABC. Another Rupert appointment and imposition on thinking Australians.

  11. AR

    As so often with the boosters & flack for the rabid right, failure is no barrier to preferment – wasn’t Planet A’s first 5 years on the ABC board (2005-10)enough to demonstrate her utterly unsuitability.
    This time she’ll be overseeing senior appointments sop let’s just hope that there is no repeat of the risible brain-fart that made Jonathan Shier MD for almost 20 months of mayhem & madness in 2000-1.
    Re OneHand, the problem is that he’s not even a good RW troll/astroturfer – again, why are such blatant failures paid?

  12. Electric Lardyland

    I do find it interesting, that to the modern right wing ideologue, a situation where appointments are made on merit, is seen as something that needs to be fixed. To me, this represents some of the deep seated reasons, why their mind set is such a problem for many of the saner members of society.
    Firstly, I think that many of them realise, deep down, that if promotions and appointments, were always made on things like; learning, perceptiveness and the ability to get along with other members of the organisation, then they themselves would stand little chance. So instead of admitting to any defects on their own account, they construct a world view that paints themselves as victims of bias. Thus, if their childish, petulant, largely evidence free, opinion pieces, are not seen as equal or better, than the work of talented, committed and well trained journalists; then this means that the organisation responsible for these outrageous slights, now becomes a target for their ‘reforms’.
    I also thinks that this reflects good and bad hierarchies. A good hierarchy, is a constructed social grouping, where people are taught by the educated and experienced, and with the aid of this learning, they progress up the hierarchy and while moving upward, become teachers themselves. And hopefully, this expands the group knowledge and functionality of the organisation. Whereas bad hierarchy, is largely based on conformity of ideas, sycophancy to the powerful and the endless repeating of slogans. It is also based on furiously attacking any evidence based ideas, that suggest your upward progress may be based on some very dodgy tenets.
    Which I suspect, may be a fundamental reason, why so many modern rightards, do seem to be particularly hostile to science, academia and well respected cultural organisations.

  13. David Hand

    Hey AR.
    I pay good money to subscribe to Crikey.

    That’s something, isn’t it? I pay my subscription and post comments here. Under my own name at that. Crikey is an open site where anyone can subscribe and comment. So I do.

    What “blatant failure” are you talking about?

  14. Electric Lardyland

    Yes, David, can I just say that I often enjoy your contributions. Even though I often disagree with what you write, I do think that your posts are usually well written and thoughtful. And of course, if everybody was of the same opinion, then it would be a very dull site.
    And I do have a certain amount of respect, for someone who constantly puts their head up, where it’s likely to be whacked…er…I think?

  15. JohnB

    Planet Janet is yet another unflushable tu rd, along with her fellow travellers Alan Jones and co.

    We may have to put up with them for another two years, but eventually, even the most obnoxious unflushables get dislodged… or should that read dis-Lodged?

  16. klewso

    I just hope Labor (and the Right-winged media) is taking notes on “How It’s Done”, for when they eventually get the chance?

  17. Matt Hardin

    I’ll second Electric Lardyland’s opinion. I have disagreed with David Hand often but he does engage with ideas clearly and fairly.

  18. Sailor

    Errrr, Electric Larrdyland & Matt H, , …”Don’t re-politicise the ABC???? Hahahahahahahaha.” is well-written & thoughtful?


    Posted by Peter Cox, David Hand.

    And to me, your posts always appear factless diatribe by someone who does not believe in evidence but Shibboleths, dogma.

    Different ways of looking at the world don’t mean the world cares. The Abbott Gov’t & the John Howard Lieberal Party will not change what actually happens. It’s not the world’s future we have to wrry about, it’s ours.

    And Abbott’s and his acolytes’ blizzard of lies before (and after) September 2013 will be, I suspect but cannot prove, a burden for them in the future.

    Do you REALLY want the Australia that Abbot’s incompetent mob of zealots are pushing us into?

    If so, I despair that you will ever understand what “evidence-based” actually means.

    Poor fellow, my country.

  19. Sailor

    Ouch! I meant to write “And to me, TOO MANY OF your posts……”

    And “wrry” is actually spelled “worry”.

  20. Cathy Alexander

    The last thing we would want is Crikey comments full of people who agree with each other. An echo chamber; how dull. David Hand, you are welcome to keep expressing your views, as people from all over the political spectrum are.

  21. Rohan

    I’d also like to put it on record that David Hand’s well articulated and considered contributions are a significant part of the reason I subscribe to Crikey.

    Maybe Crikey should consider paying him a commission, or better still, inviting him to write an article 😉

  22. rhwombat

    Goose=Gander=re-heated Howard. Cons don’t evolve because they can’t – ’cause that would mean that Daddy might have been wrong (or, in Rupert’s case, ‘humble’).

  23. David Hand

    Thanks to the commenters who have no problem with me contributing even though I expect most of you to have quite different views. Viva la difference!

    Well Sailor,
    My first post could have been written to say that I believe the ABC already has a left of centre political bias and that the groupthink within its elite broadcasters might benefit from an infusion of right of centre political views.

    But I’m sure you were able to work that out through the smart-arsed tone I chose to use.

    Your fears about the Abbott government can be fixed in 2016 when the country has an opportunity to vote them out. In my opinion, this depends on how much of the apocalypse predicted by the budget naysayers actually comes about.

    Here’s a fact for you. In 6 years, the government net debt rose from minus 3.8% to about 12.5% of GDP. That’s a trajectory of nearly 3% per year and clearly unsustainable. Bear in mind that GDP has been growing but government expenditure has been growing faster. Add to that the rapid decline in Australia’s terms of trade which will depress GDP growth.

    Then add all the future unbudgeted spending commitments by Labor in the NDIS, Gonski, the health partnership agreement and the inevitable swallowing by the taxpayer of the financial disaster that is the NBN and others. Someone has to pay for all that and it’s taxpayers who must cough it up. This is the problem that Hockey’s budget is designed to address. I got those numbers from the Guardian which got them from the budget papers.

    Don’t hold your breath if you expect to see such analysis on the ABC. They’re still banging on about that tried and true lefty concept with its Marxist roots, “fairness”.

  24. Venise Alstergren

    I wonder if Rupert Murdoch’s plan is to sit back and wait until Janet Albrechtsen completely screws the ABC/SBS. At which point Murdoch will buy up the company. That way he will own 99.9% of Australia’s media. Well done Rupert, you bastard.

  25. David Hand

    That story is from 2002 – 14 years ago! It merely canvasses a spat between David Marr of all people and Janet Albrechtsen – in support of Marr I might add.

    Attaching Albrechtsen to Joseph Goebbels is pretty lame isn’t it? Surely you can do better than that?

  26. Sailor

    David Hand/24
    Indeed, David, I don’t doubt that Govt expenditure has grown, though you don’t acknowledge the reduction in spending put in place by Labor during its terms. And I’m no supporter of the dopey way they failed to counter Abbott’s hysteria nor of their many idiocies.

    Worse than the expenditure growth, though, was the sharp fall in tax revenues. Which you ignore.

    John Howard bears most of the blame for this problem because of his unsupportable personal tax changes that depended on the stupid assumption that the massive flow of money to his Govt in the first half of the 2000s would endure no matter what the future bought. He p****d the bulk of $313B up against the wall buying elections. Read the IMF report for the facts.

    “the future unbudgeted spending commitments by Labor in the NDIS, Gonski” you mention is one of the idiocies, but Abbott’s & Hockey’s mad obstructionism bears a great deal of the responibility for the inability to increase tax to repair the tax take position. When did Hockey ever support a Labor attempt to increase Govt revenue by increasing tax? And most of their attempts were focussed on increasing the fairness (a concept you sneer at) of the tax system.

    As to your claim that the NBN is or will be a “financial disaster”, on what evidence do you base that claim? How’s Tasmania going with it? IMHO, the NBN is a far-sighted plan to increase the communication power of all Australians.

    “Someone has to pay for all that and it’s taxpayers who must cough it up”, you say. You are blind to the difference between investment & expenditure – like a shameful war against Iraq hubristically fomented by John Howard, & which so crippled the action in Afghanistan that the initial aim got lost….so we’re still reading about it & the news is not encouraging)

    And if you actually assess Hockey’s budget fairly, it is “designed to address” a non-emergency. Yes, the projected difference between Govt money out vs in gets worse with time, but you cannot have studied the Budget except in the Murdoch press. A far more gradual approach attacking the real problem of falling tax revenues left over from John Howard’s time would cause far less needless pain to the less well-off.

    As for the astounding attempts to defy logic & evidence in, as just one example, the push to gut the FOFA legislation, I can only imagine these all arise from the zealotry, ideology, and a blind faith in dogma that I mentioned in my first post. The anti-science push against anything to do with reversing the helter-skelter rush towards restoring the atmospheric conditions existing during the Carboniferous era is just another example of this.

  27. klewso

    David’s opinions are all Right – til they come to the haughty patronising dismissal of others to hold opinions, here in “the crypt”?

  28. David Hand

    You touch on the conundrum about whether the deficit should be reduced by increasing taxes rather than holding and reducing government spending.

    There’s a lot of enthusiasm on the left, using that favoured cliché “fairness” that of course the rich are sitting on all the money and they should just be slugged more. This runs contrary to the economic orthodoxy of both sides of politics since about 1985 which have favoured lower taxes, particularly income tax because it stimulates economic growth. Indeed, as I’ve said before, next year’s GDP does not exist yet and a wise government thinks about how the wealth should be created so it is actually there to tax.

    When you look at the country’s dismal economic performance in the 1970’s the top marginal income tax rate was as much as 70%. Add to that the European model today where income taxes are high and the whole EC edifice looks ready to fall over. When people say Australia’s tax is low by OECD standards, that’s because Europe has disappeared down the tax and spend plug hole so far, they’re in deep trouble and not to be envied or admired.

    There’s no easy answer to Australia’s government debt though focusing on spending rather than taxes supports economic growth. At the same time, the budget aims to move people from welfare to work, from being a drain on taxpayers to being taxpayers themselves.

    Paying 830,000 Australians a disability support pension is not an investment in the country’s future. Getting those able to work into work is. Paying the dole to young Australians is not an investment in the country’s future. Getting them into work or education is.

  29. Sailor

    David, you are are prisoner of your misconceived ideas which I suspect are part of the dreadful & discredited fantasies/theories like the non-existent “Trickle-down Effect” that Reagan babbled about so memorably.

    That turned into the “Torrent-Up” gush of money into the offshore bank accounts of the very wealthy in many countries, incliuding Australia, with its well-publicised ( if you study sources which report fact-based opinions instead of the diatribe & polemic that Mudroc’s piffle-mongers do) dreadful resurgence of entrenched inequailty. Once again, I urge you to read the facts – what actually happened – than the dogma you cling to.

    I believe I’ve given you a fair go, and you’ve not budged from your shibboleths of the cretinous Chicago school of “economists” inspired by the nonsense of Hayek. That crap has been comprehensively disproved by facts – like, what actually does happen when you remove all regulations from financial & economic activities?

    Lehmann brothers. Trio Capital. Westpint. CBA financial crooks. It’s a very long list of failures of your position of laissez faire capitalism.

    Read more of Stiglitz and nothing of the nongs you obviously have read up to now, and you might be able to understand that the past ~50 years have reinforced the need for that stupid, human, concept of “fairness” you despise so much.

  30. David Hand

    I love it Sailor,
    You have facts while I have dogma.

    I don’t despise fairness. I don’t have much time for Marxism though.

    The thievery and criminal activity in the financial community is a non sequitur. It has very little to do with laissez faire capitalism. Socialist “servants of the people” around the world have salted away billions but that doesn’t negate socialist theory.

    There are crooks on all sides of politics and economics.

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