No judgement Turnbull called Royal Commission based on "unbalanced, sensationalist" ABC 4Corners report
Malcolm Turnbull has no judgement.
Within hours of this ABC 4 Corners report going to air, he called a Royal Commission.
We now hear that the ABC's program was “the antithesis of a balanced report” and “calculated to have maximum sensationalist impact”.
Turnbull did nothing with the Trade Union Royal Commission case studies.
Yet within hours of watching this melodrama (pun intended), he established a Royal Commission into - what?
Four Corners report ‘unbalanced’
The accusations can be revealed after Don Dale royal commission backflipped on an earlier move to shield the ABC from Mr Elferink’s criticisms, at the behest of the broadcaster’s lawyers, by unredacting sections of his statement it had previously withheld.
In the statement to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT tendered this morning, Mr Elferink said he had sought assurances in advance from the ABC’s reporter, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, that the program would not be a “hatchet job”.
“Meldrum-Hanna said words to the effect that any story which she produced would be balanced because she was bound by the highest editorial and journalistic standards in the country because she worked for the ABC and its flagship program Four Corners,” the statement said.
“The Four Corners program which was ultimately broadcast and which was the catalyst for the calling of this Royal Commission was the antithesis of a balanced report and was in fact misleading.
“By way of example, vision of alleged assaults being perpetrated on detainees was accompanied by assertions that the government had done nothing in relation to such matters when it was a matter of public record that officers had been criminally prosecuted for some of the incidents broadcast by the ABC and, moreover, had been acquitted.”
The statement accused the ABC of omitting other crucial facts and of failing to seek a proper response to the only new information the report presented: the CCTV footage of incidents that had already been investigated.
“I was pressed on issues concerning the treatment of detainees in old Don Dale, although the vision which was shown in Four Corners was never put to me,” the statement said.
“If it had been I would have been able to point out that the events depicted in some of that vision had been the subject of criminal prosecutions and acquittals. I did however repeatedly point out that my policy was to insist that any such matters which were brought to my attention had to be taken to the police.”
The program portrayed Mr Elferink as a motorcycle-riding renegade. It failed to give equal weight to efforts his government had made to address problems with youth justice that arose, in many cases, prior to his tenure, according to Mr Elferink’s statement.
“The problems in the youth justice area had been highlighted in the Vita Report and, as I have already noted, the Vita recommendations had been accepted by the Government and were being progressively implemented,” the statement said.
“I did not want a report to concentrate on the historical negatives without balancing it with the steps which had been taken to improve the position. Moreover, there were initiatives such as Sentenced to a Job and SEED of which the Government was justly proud and which any balanced report on Corrections in the NT would need to include. These, amongst other initiatives, evidenced the commitment of the Government to reduce the incidence of reoffending and to reduce the unacceptable level of indigenous incarceration.”
“Nowhere in the Four Corners report is there any reference … to the detailed examination of the vision of the ground stabilisation of Dylan Voller by Justice Barr in the Supreme Court appeal in the Tasker matter and the conclusions of His Honour that the force employed was reasonable and lawful.
“I note that the Meldrum-Hanna asserted that the response to the incident on 21 August 2014 of using CS gas ‘beggars belief’ however Justice Kelly in the Supreme Court civil proceedings has recently held that this response was justified by the circumstances which presented themselves on the night and was lawful.
“The vision which was broadcast by the ABC is confronting however in my view it was presented by the ABC in a way which was calculated to have maximum sensationalist impact and to wrongly portray it as the position which appertained in youth corrections in 2016. It gave no context to the unique circumstances which appertained in August 2014 and which did not appertain in 2016.”
Mr Elferink said he had “accepted Meldrum-Hanna’s assurances that Four Corners would produce a balanced report.”
“She also responded to my request that a report about NT Corrections be fair by saying that she considered positive programs such as the youth boot camps to be vital,” the statement said.
“None of these things featured in the Four Corners program.”