Feb 5, 2018

Did the ABC and Fairfax just kowtow to our bumbling, repressive government?

The ABC and Fairfax got lucky in getting access to sensitive documents. In both cases they decided to play fair with a government hellbent on undermining transparency.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

ABC head of investigations, John Lyons

Twice last week Australian journalists and media organisation executives had the opportunity to shine a light on how our government operates. Twice they decided to instead cooperate with the government and pander to an obsessive hostility to transparency that hides under the name of “national security”.

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33 thoughts on “Did the ABC and Fairfax just kowtow to our bumbling, repressive government?

  1. klewso

    Our Murdoch Guthrified ABC (with Lyons and his lineage) ‘kowtow to this bumbling, repressive government’? Perish the thought …… but hand me that form guide.

    1. leon knight

      Well said Klewso, and I wonder if gas prices and availability are in the form guide as well? Or the Murray Darling fiasco? Or flogging workers and the unemployed to death?
      What utter bastards the LNP are, and how piss poor has the ABC become….

      1. thelorikeet

        Would that your comment were complete, Leon. Alas there is bipartisan complicity in the ‘national security’ dodge. Once lost, rights are extremely hard to regain, even small ones. Rights-stripping, dressed as national security, is even harder to reverse, such as the once-easy amble over Canberra’s parliamentary roof, the ability to visit a court house without ‘security scanning’, to wander unobserved in park taking the air … Folly to visit the blame on the LNP alone.

  2. susan winstanley

    Yes, ABC should have done a NYT and then would not look like it sent some cub reporter into the basement to riffle through the papers to find the dirty bits.
    There are now too many fleas jumping off the shaggy dog tale about The Cabinet Files from the self-appointed gatekeepers at the ABC, including ex-Murdoch hacks like John Lyons, and McKinnon, with an astonishing number of relatives in sensitive government jobs, who was apparently the first point of contact with the (ahem) “Canberra Bushie”, and junior journalists who seem to have no idea how public admin works (high security cabinet documents collected over “five governments”? hello?). PM&C took the blame for “losing” the documents, even though PM&C is not located in Parliament House, from where the ABC has assured us, the cabinets originally came (how does the ABC know that?) . Hope someone is keeping tabs on who is investigating what, and watching for any outcome, because we all want to know what really happened. Yours sincerely, Godwin Grech.

    1. MJM

      I agree Godwin. The story of two filing cabinets found in an ex-govvie store in Fyshwick sounds very suspicious to me. The papers of five governments all stowed in two cabinets? And no-one noticed that those two filing cabinets weighed so much? (Paper weighs a lot whereas empty cabinets are light.) Not those who despatched the cabinets, those who moved them, those who received them, the person who bought them? It was only when the purchaser drilled open the locks that the papers we’re discovered?

      Next week it will be “ABC finds recently purchased bridge was already owned by NSW Govt”.

  3. Dion Giles

    Notice how the ABC meekly disguised the faces of the members of the secret political police who were ransacking the ABC’s office?

  4. Brett D. Wright

    Bernard, I don’t say this too often, but you are absolutely right. To make matters worse, the ABC’s director of news is quoted in Lyons’s fond, rambling account about snags and utes saying that the ABC “could have told hundreds of stories over weeks or months,” but instead “chose to be selective and responsible in what we broadcast.” Just how did these faux reporters, given their extensive training in operational intelligence, actually make these choices? How did they, as Lyons explains, weed out the documents that “could endanger public safety or national security if published”? It seems to me the ABC was too worried about its relationship with this government and its budget to seriously challenge the alarmism peddled by the intelligence agencies. So, in a semi-panic it ran a few embarrassing but safe yarns about the pollies and hurriedly handed the rest back. And this is what passes for journalism at the national broadcaster.

    1. lykurgus

      No Brett – this is what has always passed for journalism everywhere.
      Remember that the Grey Lady gave us Judy Miller (who won a prize named after a gossip columnist).
      There was never a golden age when their self-indulgent preaching of “speaking truth to power” or “outside the tent pissing in” or “taking the bullys lunch money” or self-identifying as parsnips or whatever the f*ck they’re doing these days, ever meant what it said. Kronkite would not be remembered if it had (because what would distinguish him?).
      Aforesaid eager seeking (and jealous guarding) of insider status* – and the inch deep pond beyond which this self-referential pod is unable to see (and certainly baulks at venturing from) has always defined journalism as it actually gets practiced.
      If you haven’t noticed this, you’re probably a journalist (but then so is Andrew Bolt).

      *(Laurie Oakes built a whole career on ‘drops’, and that was before we crossed the “Senator in correspondent pool” rubicon)

      1. Brett D. Wright

        Lykurgus, pull your head in. Did I make mention of a golden age? Of course, journalistic practice has always fallen short of its ideals. But to deny, as your comment appears to suggest, that good journalism still happens out there is to imply we don’t need journalism at all, which makes me wonder why you’re reading Crikey. In this instance the ABC fell well short of the ideal; indeed it seemed from Lyons’s musings that some journalists don’t even know what the ideal looks like. I will leave the over-generalisations to others.

  5. zut alors

    Well said, Bernard. Those brownie points are worthless to the ABC – the Coalition will continue to target our national broadcaster & slash their budget. The ABC is like a battered wife who returns willingly for more punishment.

    Consider if the files had been carelessly despatched to an op shop under a Shorten Labor govt – ye gods, News Corp would be demanding the PM’s scalp (if not all the government scalps), ‘national security’ would be depicted in tatters, the media barrage would continue for weeks. Notice how quickly this Coalition cock-up is fading.

  6. The Curmudgeon

    While apparently misattributed to Goebbels concerning culture, I am thinking “Whenever I hear the words ‘national security’, I reach for my luger.” Metaphorically, of course.

  7. Robert Pullan

    Cooperating with authority to suppress information contradicts the fundamental which all journalism exists to defend and the self-injury the ABC and Fairfax inflicted on themselves–and on us, the people–is as always immeasurable (one of the main reasons these pre-emptory buckles continue even in the digital age). Robert Pullan

  8. Graeski

    It’s not really the ABC anymore, is it? It’s a Murdoch rag published at taxpayer expense. Which was the Liberal/Fascist objective all along.

  9. MJM

    “Twice they decided to instead cooperate with the government and pander to an obsessive hostility to transparency that hides under the name of “national security”.” Great description.

  10. Susan Timmins

    Peter Timmins
    Those whose memory of the seventies has been revived by seeing ‘The Post’ and the doco ‘The Newspaper Man’ are thinking what Ben Bradley would have done.

    1. Marilyn J Shepherd

      Yet in the Pentagon Papers case it was Katharine Marshall who was the hero while the pathetic board men were hand wringing over the stock exchange.

    2. AR

      We’ve already seen how the Grauniad dealt with the affront to their dignity of Wikileaks, Fauxfux didn’t even pretend and the ABC is, as it has been for a decade at least, MIA – presumed dead, good riddance.

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