Six days on from the ABC buckling to pressure from the government and censoring its senior economics journalist, the Financial Review is still attacking Emma Alberici in what is beginning to look like one of those Holy Wars The Australian launches against those it deems guilty of thoughtcrime.

The latest attack is from Aaron Patrick, who accused Alberici of placing the ABC in danger because she had offered her opinions. He perpetuates the claim that Alberici’s piece was opinion, when it was a list of facts that, so far, no one has disputed. Signally, Patrick, too, failed to engage with any of the facts put forward by Alberici. This is the important aspect of both the assault on her and the broader company tax debate: tax cut spruikers refuse to engage with why, in other countries that have undertaken the policy they recommend, real wages have either fallen or underperformed Australian wages, and why investment has failed to match that enjoyed by Australia.

More offensive was his snide attack on Alberici for making claims “arguably beyond the competence of Lateline‘s last host, who has a BA majoring in Italian from Melbourne University.” Clearly a woman with a humanities background (including studying, erm, economics at Deakin Uni) should keep her nose out of hard things. That sort of stuff is beneath Patrick, who is normally an excellent journalist.

The ABC has not said a single word in defence of one of its most senior journalists; instead, Alberici has been left to face attacks from the government and other outlets alone. Perhaps her treatment is a deliberate signal to other ABC staff — and the many outside journalists who’ve been brought into the ABC recently — that management won’t back them if their journalism becomes politically inconvenient.

Meantime the AFR, in perfect seriousness, ran a piece from John Kehoe, their man in the US who is charged with finding a silver lining to every Trumpian cloud, about how the chairman of the Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers told him Trump’s wage cut would be good for workers. That Trump’s man would spruik Trump’s policies is certainly stunning news and well worth the “exclusive” slapped on Kehoe’s piece.

There’s something deeply disturbing about all this and it’s nothing to do with the purported threat to the ABC from Alberici. Journalists from one outlet demanding that journalists elsewhere be silenced so that facts that contradict their preferred narrative aren’t reported is the antithesis of a free press. And if that’s the best that advocates of company tax cuts like the AFR can do, it shows how flawed their case really is.

Peter Fray

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