A Freedom of Information dump by the ABC this morning reveals previously unseen correspondence between Media Watch and reporters at The Australian, as well as the work expenses claimed by the ABC’s corporate affairs team.

The documents are, for the most part, shorn of any salacious details, but do reveal the Commonwealth car usage of ABC managing director Mark Scott (he uses the car about once a week, usually to get around Canberra) along with the lengthy negotiations needed to secure Fairfax MP Clive Palmer on the ABC’s table at the Midwinter Ball earlier this year.

Perusing the documents this morning, we learned that ABC spinner Nick Leys bills his subscription to Crikey to the taxpayer (it’s the only publication he reads he doesn’t pay for out of his own pocket — we’re not sure whether to be complimented or offended by that). Also detailed are two lunches he claimed expenses for. In March, Leys took The Australian Financial Review’s Rear Window columnist Will Glasgow to lunch at Gill’s Diner in Melbourne, spending $129.10 (it’s listed as “stakeholder relations” on the expense form). But Jon Faine, host of mornings on ABC 774, wasn’t treated to such a fancy lunch. Leys spent a $46.50 on lunch with him in June.

The most expensive lunch claim was by corporate affairs director Michael Millett. He spent (and billed the ABC for) $236.50 on lunch in Darwin with managing director Mark Scott, ABC Grandstand‘s Charlie King and Chris Smyth, the ABC’s Northern Territory director. They were there to discuss “the situation in the NT”, but alas, there’s no more detail than that on the expense claim. The ABC also funds Leys’ mobile bill, and corporate affairs director Millett’s home internet.

The FOI documents also reveal the lengths to which the ABC went to invite Clive Palmer onto its table at the Midwinter Ball. The renegade MP took a whole month to confirm his attendance — the somewhat tedious toing and froing between respective executive assistants is there for all to see on the ABC’s website. You can also check out Media Watch‘s response to questions asked by The Australian after it slammed the paper for its plain packaging crusade earlier this year.

It’s not clear who requested the FOI documents (the name is redacted, and it wasn’t Crikey), but given the above have all been areas of interest to Australian media editor Sharri Markson, we’re willing to hazard a guess she was the one to lodge the FOIs. Asked to comment on the documents, an ABC source said they “showed how efficient ABC management is and how conscious they are of cost-cutting”.

Correction: An earlier version of this story says Mick Millett had lunch with, among others, Chris Smith in Darwin. It was actually Chris Smyth, the ABC’s NT director, which makes a lot more sense. We blame Millett’s handwriting. 

Peter Fray

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