Vale Bill Leak
Video - group of African men on Adelaide train this month

ABC News editorial director's statement on not being invited to Pauline Hanson's party

The ABC describes Pauline Hanson's decision not to invite the ABC to her election night party as an attack on democracy.

How then to characterise the ABC's decision not to report on the Victoria Police investigation into Gillard, including the search warrant executed on her former office.  That decision was contemporaneous with Gillard's substantial increase to the ABC's budget.

Statement from ABC Editorial Director: exclusion of ABC journalists by One Nation officials

 

       

The ABC is deeply concerned at the decision by One Nation to single out and exclude ABC reporters from its official election night function in Perth on Saturday night.

I have been in communication with One Nation officials since early Sunday seeking an explanation.

Despite the fact that One Nation has claimed that all media were treated appropriately and obtained material from a pool camera on the night, the facts remain that:

  • Other media representatives from a range of organisations attended on the night without any prior arrangements or permission being required.
  • Those other media representatives, who included broadcasters, agencies and newspaper reporters from inside and outside Western Australia, were granted immediate access to the event.
  • The ABC was denied access, and was treated differently to all other media.

Throughout the Western Australian election campaign, the ABC has provided accurate, impartial and independent political coverage and all political parties have been the subject of appropriate scrutiny and questioning.

If the ABC has been denied normal access to political events for simply doing its job, then that is an attack not just on the public broadcaster but on the fundamental role of the media in a democracy.

We will continue, as we always have, to report without fear or favour.

Alan Sunderland

ABC Editorial Director

 

ENDS

For more information

Nick Leys
Media Manager, Corporate Affairs
03 9626 1417
leys.nick@abc.net.au

 

Compare and Contrast

When Aunty turned a blind eye

Julia Gillard

Figures in the story the ABC ignored: Julia Gillard; whistleblower Ralph Blewitt; and Gillard's former boyfriend, Bruce Wilson. Source: AFP

 

WHEN important and difficult stories break, you will hear about them on your ABC. We will not succumb to pressure to suppress or ignore legitimate stories to protect those in power. - Kate Torney,ABC director of news, on the Indonesian phone-tapping story.

THIS year, the ABC has studiously ignored every major development in the Victoria Police major fraud squad investigation into the Australian Workers Union scandal. Even the proceedings of Victoria's courts on the matter - the bread and butter of local journalism - have eluded the national broadcaster's local reporters.

On May 15 this year, Gillard was closing in on her third anniversary as prime minister. By 11am, she had introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme legislation into the House of Representatives.

That same day, detectives from the major fraud squad visited the Melbourne Magistrates Court to give sworn evidence in an application for a warrant to search and seize documents from Slater & Gordon. Magistrate Lance Martin heard their evidence and duly issued the warrant.

The law does not provide for search warrants to seize documents for background information, or to provide leads for further investigation. Before Martin could issue the warrant, he - not police - had to believe on reasonable grounds that a serious crime had occurred and that the things he specified in the warrant would afford evidence of that crime.

We know Martin's warrant directed police to seize all documents held by Slater & Gordon relating to Wilson, Blewitt, Gillard, the AWU Workplace Reform Association (the slush fund) and a property at 1/85 Kerr Street, Fitzroy, bought with the slush fund's money by Wilson, who attended the auction with Gillard, and put in Blewitt's name.

The warrant described further evidence: Gillard's personnel files; her invoices/billings, time sheets and travel records; personnel files in the name of her former secretary; and any record of the exit interview conducted by Peter Gordon with Gillard on September 11, 1995 (redacted portions of that interview were published in The Australian in August and November last year).

Martin included documents pertaining to Gillard and the AWU, the conveyance and mortgage file relating to the $150,000 loan advanced to Blewitt for the purchase of 1/85 Kerr Street and deed registers involving the AWU.

By May 17, police had seized the documents set out in the warrant, leaving the Slater & Gordon premises with boxes of material.

Our critics have employed a series of arguments, each one weaker than the last. The first argument was that there was no story.

- Torney, on the Indonesian phone-tapping story.

THE fraud squad was as tight as a drum with information about the raid. Nothing leaked. Slater & Gordon was similarly motivated to keep the police visit confidential. But with police contacting the clients of Slater & Gordon the story was bound to surface. On June 17 it was front-page news in The Australian. The next day, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald followed up with a report noting that police expected to have the issues of client privilege finalised within two weeks.

On July 19, the ABC wrote to a listener in answer to a complaint about the ABC not covering the story, that: "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."

Even the most basic of journalistic skills - making a few phone calls - eluded the nation's largest employer of journalists.

Audiences must not be able to reasonably conclude that the ABC has taken an editorial stand on matters of contention and public debate.

- Mark Scott, ABC managing director, October 17, 2006.

ON September 16, with the court documents published online, Adam Doyle from ABC News wrote this email in answer to a listener complaint about the ABC's lack of coverage:

"Thank you for your email regarding investigations being conducted by Victoria Police.

"It is a matter of public record that some form of investigation is under way. We know this because the ABC extensively reported the fact that Ralph Blewitt and others took information to the police.

"Beyond this, there are few confirmed facts which would reach the threshold of ABC editorial standards for reporting. We accept that other media may operate to a different standard, but we do not intend to compromise our own.

"Reporting that the prime minister of the nation is under police investigation is an enormously significant call to make. It cannot be made on supposition, on rumour, or on hearsay.

"You have said that Vic Pol have confirmed this in writing, but we have not cited (sic) this media release or public communication.

"According to The Australian they've been collecting files but you would expect any police investigation to gather up this sort of primary documentation. That does not mean Ms Gillard is under investigation. For all we know, the investigation could be into Ralph Blewitt, or Bruce Wilson or Slater & Gordon or any number of other individuals and entities.

"Rather than mimicking other media reports, the ABC is following fine principles of reporting confirmed fact. When such facts become available, you can be sure the ABC will report them.

"Yours sincerely,

"Adam Doyle,

"ABC News"

No questions, no follow-up, no investigative reports. The ABC would await a media release.

News is what someone somewhere doesn't want you to print; everything else is advertising.

- Torney, on the Indonesian phone-tapping story

Perhaps the best insight into its group-think comes from its Canberra-based news editor John Mulhall, responding to (another) listener complaint about ABC failure to report on Blewitt's statements at the time.

"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 & Gordon, but the ABC is unaware of any allegation in the public domain which goes to the Prime Minister's integrity."

He closed his note by reassuring us that "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".

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