A few days ago, a conspiracy theory took off on social media that the ABC, possibly at the behest of new Managing Director Michelle Guthrie, had urged Four Corners to delay its broadcast on juvenile detention in the Northern Territory until after the federal election, so as not to hurt the Liberal vote. We didn’t even bother telling you about it, because the journalist behind the broadcast, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, very quickly dismissed the theory and labelled it offensive. Before the theory had even gained ground, Four Corners’s EP Sally Neighbour had given an interview to The Guardian in which she said the footage and pictures that made the story so explosive were only secured by the ABC a week before broadcast.

Liberal MP Cory Bernardi now has another theory about the broadcast, but it’s the other way. He fears the ABC delayed the episode not to save the Coalition in the federal vote, but to hurt the Coalition in the upcoming NT election. As he wrote in his “Weekly Dose of Common Sense” newsletter yesterday:

“Such information gives me cause to question why the ABC chose now to present their story. Could it have anything to do with the Northern Territory election due this month?

“Surely, such a politically charged program wouldn’t present events that occurred under a previous Labor administration; events that had already been investigated and resolved by a court of law, as new material damning of a conservative government just weeks out from an election?

“The mere thought of such a thing happening should alarm anyone who values the charter of independence of our ABC.”

So did the ABC delay the broadcast to hurt the NT government? Neighbour tweeted: no.


Peter Fray

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