The Australian Electoral Commission details of donations to Australia's political parties 2012/13
The ABC's staff choose what gets seen and heard on $1BN worth of prime media space every year. That makes this story very much about the ABC.

3 formal statements from the ABC, including MD Mark Scott on what sort of untested allegations ABC News will report

This is a formal statement from the ABC's Editor in Chief Mark Scott and his Director of News Kate Torney.

I have reproduced it exactly as it appears on the ABC Corporate website published today.

As you read it you might consider the ABC's decision not to report on the Victoria Police search warrant executed on Slater and Gordon last year.

The ABC was aware that an alleged raid had occurred.  However, we were unable to confirm it had happened and therefore, we did not report it.


ABC Statement

The ABC, along with other national media, has been covering an important story about recent asylum seeker boats being turned around and investigating what occurred on board those boats. There have been allegations from asylum seekers that Navy personnel mistreated and caused injury to some of them – allegations that have been strongly denied.

This is an important story and the ABC makes no apologies for covering it. In the course of carrying out its work, the ABC’s own reporting has come under criticism. It is important to be clear about how we have gone about covering this story.

Claims of mistreatment by the Australian military are very serious and a responsible media, acting in the public interest, will need to seek an official response and pursue the truth of the claims. This is exactly what the ABC has done throughout.

Asking questions and seeking evidence is in no way disrespectful of such important institutions. It is because these institutions are trusted and important that any allegations concerning them are investigated.

Allegations by asylum seekers of mistreatment were widely reported across the Australian media in early January. The Navy denied the allegations but provided no further information, following the current policy of providing no details of current operations involving asylum seekers at sea.

Subsequently, the video obtained exclusively by the ABC, showing asylum seekers with burns, along with reports that Indonesian police were investigating the matter, raised further important questions. These include: how did the injuries occur, were they linked to the asylum seeker claims of mistreatment or were they obtained as a result of actions or activity whilst under the control of the Australian Navy or some other series of events? The video also established that the injuries were real. This was a significant development.

The ABC’s initial reports on the video said that the vision appeared to support the asylum seekers’ claims. That’s because it was the first concrete evidence that the injuries had occurred. What the video did not do was establish how those injuries occurred.

The wording around the ABC’s initial reporting needed to be more precise on that point. We regret if our reporting led anyone to mistakenly assume that the ABC supported the asylum seekers’ claims. The ABC has always presented the allegations as just that – claims worthy of further investigation.

Those personnel in a position to provide their own description or explanation of what happened on board the vessel under Navy control have not been in a position to resolve the uncertainty because of the ban on discussing operational detail.

Nevertheless, media outlets like the ABC have continued to undertake further investigation, interviews and reporting in an effort to come to a full understanding of what went on.

The ABC has not attempted to play judge and jury on this matter. We have reported the asylum seeker claims, broadcast the video showing burns and consistently sought more detail from witnesses and officials.

The release of the video, and asking further questions in the light of it, was in the public interest and remains so. Our journalists will continue to investigate and cover this story, and we will continue to urge Australian authorities and the Government to disclose more to the Australian public about the events on board those boats.

Our intention is clear: to seek the truth on a matter of public importance, not to pre-judge any matters.

Mark Scott, Managing Director, and Kate Torney, Director News


Compare and contrast the noble notions Mr Scott and Ms Torney refer to above........

covering an important story - allegations from asylum seekers - This is an important story - the ABC makes no apologies for covering it - Claims of mistreatment by the Australian military are very serious - Asking questions and seeking evidence is in no way disrespectful - allegations as just that – claims worthy of further investigation - Our intention is clear: to seek the truth on a matter of public importance, not to pre-judge any matters

....with what their own staff told our readers about why the ABC ignored The AWU Scandal for most of last year.   Here's some background.

On 15 May police gave evidence on oath to Magistrate Lance Martin of the Victorian Magistrates' Court at Melbourne in an application for a warrant to search Ms Gillard's former offices at Slater and Gordon.  On 17 May, 2013 police attended Slater and Gordon's offices and executed the warrant.

On 29 May I published a letter sent to the Legal Services Board with a detailed complaint about the Slater and Gordon Solicitors' Trust Account and the way it records the proceeds of an AWU Workplace Reform Association cheque for $67,722.30 used to finance Wilson/Blewitt's house purchase.

On 31 May the Legal Services Board wrote back to say it had accepted the complaint and begun investigating.  The Legal Services Board investigates the conduct of lawyers only, not firms and not clients.

On 17 June Hedley Thomas of The Australian published the first media report about the police search warrant and seizure.  It is authoritative and comprehensive and names the then Prime Minister.

On 18 June, Mark Baker of The Age published a further comprehensive report, confirming the details of the raid and the fact police would appear in court within two weeks to seek the court's approval to use in evidence the documents they had seized.

On 18 June I had a detailed conversation with the Legal Services Board's Executive Director of Complaints and Regulation.  I have kept the details of that conversation confidential but it is referred to in a letter I received from him later that day.

The letter refers to my complaint about the Slater and Gordon Trust Account irregularity and says:

Slater and gordon irregularity

On 18 June 2013 our reader "P" wrote to the ABC.

Dear Sir,

As an avid reader of ABC online news, I am disappointed that there has not been any coverage of the Victoria Police raid on Melbourne's law firm Slater and Gordon. I am led to believe the raid is associated with documents handled by the firm and in particular Ms Julia Gillard relating to the AWU Workers Reform Association slush fund.
When will the ABC report on this very important and newsworthy matter. It's not every day that a law firm which once employed the Prime Minister is raided.
Thank you


On 19 June the ABC wrote back.

Sent: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 10:01 AM
To: 'P
Subject: RE: Victoria Police Raid on Slater and Gordon

Dear Mr P

Thank you for your email.

The ABC was aware that an alleged raid had occurred.  However, we were unable to confirm it had happened and therefore, we did not report it.

Kind regards
ABC News Online

A police raid pursuant to a search warrant issued by the Magistrates' Court of Victoria which named a serving prime minister and directed police to seize her travel records, billing details, personnel file and other material.   And the ABC didn't lift a finger.

That note followed on from a statement of ABC policy made by one of its Canberra news editors in this October 2012 email.


From: John Mulhall 


Sent: Tuesday, 23 October 2012 2:08 PM

Subject: ABC News query

Dear Mr Parker,

Thank you for your email regarding Mr Blewitt's statements. The ABC is aware of
these statements but we do not at this stage believe it warrants the attention
of our news coverage.

To the extent that it may touch tangentially on a former role of the Prime
Minister, we know The Australian newspaper maintains an abiding interest in
events 17 years ago at the law firm Slater and Gordon, but the ABC is unaware
of any allegation in the public domain which goes to the Prime Minister's
integrity. If indeed Ms Gillard has had questions to answer, ABC News reported
those answers from her lengthy media conference of 24/8/12 in which she
exhausted all questions on the issue.

However, if any allegation is ever raised which might go to the Prime
Minister's integrity, the ABC would of course make inquiries into it and seek
to report it. As for matters concerning Mr Bruce Wilson, ABC News will cover
the case against him as it proceeds.

Once again thank you for your query.

Best regards,

John Mulhall
News Editor, ABC News
In June 2013, Stephen Conroy's department published this statement regarding ABC funding.



The ABC is primarily financed by the federal government through triennial funding arrangements. In the 2013-14 Budget, the government is providing the ABC with an additional $30 million over three years to meet the growing demand for its digital services. The ABC will also receive $69.4 million over four years from 2012-13 to expand its news and current affairs services. In addition, the government will provide a loan of $90 million over three years to the ABC to assist with the construction of a purpose-built ABC facility at Southbank, Melbourne.

In 2013-14, government funding to the ABC will total $1.05 billion.