2GB's Alan Jones opens his show with the AWU Scandal and Blewitt charges
WA's Director of Public Prosecutions to explain to District Court why charges against Blewitt were dropped

Jon Faine and Barrie Cassidy on the "collapse of the case" against Ralph Blewitt

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Every Thursday Barrie Cassidy and Jon Faine get together on ABC Melbourne Local Radio to share The Knowledge about politics.

Today they spoke about The AWU Scandal - to summarise their thoughts (they agreed on everything)

  • there was never any crime,
  • Gillard did nothing wrong,
  • the dropping of charges against Blewitt is the end of the matter and
  • the "collapse of the case against Blewitt" is proof is was all a Tony Abbott witch-hunt.

There was no commentary about the evidence.

No commentary about alternative charges to the fraud informations Blewitt faced (ie secret commissions).  

No advice to their audience about new evidence  - for example Bernard Murphy's file with its notes recording Wilson's admissions to secret commissions and the Cain/Murphy role in the "we'll walk if you promise us no police report/investigation" deal to cover the crimes up.

The Faine/Cassidy bit is preceded by my thoughts on their performance today and the implications for the rest of us - given that the ABC holds a fair bit of sway as an outlet of record for The Left and Australia's political class.  Fast forward to 3.30 if you only want to hear Faine/Cassidy.


A bit rich from Jon Faine to claim the adverse finding against him is the result of the way he reported "the facts"!

And even richer of him to suggest he's since been vindicated!

It's not over yet Jon.

Here's Media Watch on Faine & Facts!

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A lesson in impartiality?


The ABC has upheld no fewer than 17 complaints against radio presenter Jon Faine for an interview with Michael Smith.

There was nothing accidental about another so-called "lapse in standards", for which the ABC apologised last week. 

It occurred, according to a ruling by the Audience and Consumer Affairs department, when one of ABC Local Radio’s star presenters, 774 Melbourne’s Jon Faine, conducted what he’s described as two "robust" interviews last November. 

Complainants said that interviews with Mark Baker, Editor-at-Large at The Age and Michael Smith, former 2UE talkback host, lacked balance, were conducted aggressively, and that the presenter demonstrated bias.

— ABC Online, 1st February, 2013

The ABC upheld no fewer than seventeen formal complaints about the interviews. It wrote to one of the complainants...

... Jon Faine has been reminded of his obligation to gather and present news and information content with due impartiality.

— Michael Smith News.com, 30th January, 2013

But Faine is unrepentant. He told his listeners on Friday morning...

Jon Faine: I am unhappy with a finding at this stage in an ABC complaints process... 
and I've asked for it to be reconsidered with a submission from me about why.

— ABC Radio 774, Mornings with Jon Faine, 1st February, 2013

Faine has declined to elaborate to Media Watch. But one of the two interviewees, The Age’s Mark Baker, told Crikey last week...

"I don't have a quarrel with his interview ... He was pretty aggressive ... but I wasn't fazed by that."

— Crikey, 1st February, 2013

The second of the two, former 2UE presenter Michael Smith, had a different take. He’s said on his own website...

Michael Smith: He hectored me, had a go, good on him. I mean, it’s up to, you know, he can do that if he wants, but he can't do it on the ABC.
... go and work for 2GB, mate, if you want to be an opinionated chap, expressing your opinions. You can't do it while we pay you.

— Michael Smith News.com, 1st February, 2013

It’s certainly true that hectoring interviews are commonplace on Sydney’s 2GB. 

You may remember breakfast host Alan Jones interviewing climate scientist Professor David Karoly back in 2011 about the evidence for human-induced global warming.

Alan Jones: Where in chapter 9? Where can I open chapter 9, 'cause I looked? Where in open chapter 9 is that evidence? Where is it?
David Karoly: It's... I can't tell you the page number because I don't have the page in front of me...
Alan Jones: No, no, no, no, no it's not there. It's not there.
David Karoly: Well no Alan...
Alan Jones: It's not there. You're the chapter review editor. It's not there. 

— ABC1, Media Watch, 30th May, 2011

I had a go at Jones about that interview. "Part interrogation, part harangue", I called it. 

Now let’s sample Jon Faine interviewing Michael Smith last November about the evidence that Julia Gillard might have been guilty of wrongdoing when she was a partner at Slater and Gordon in the early1990s. 

Her then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, was an official of the AWU, one of the firm’s biggest clients.

Michael Smith: It’s improper to have a relationship of that character while you’re working for a client that’s paying the bills, the AWU..
Jon Faine: Who says it’s improper? Where’s the rule that says you have to disclose who your boyfriend is when you’re a lawyer?
Michael Smith: The Law Institute...
Jon Faine: ...No, it doesn’t...
Michael Smith:...has a view about that, about ethical conduct...
Jon Faine: ...There’s no, there's no rule saying you have to tell your employers who your boyfriend is – that’s rubbish...
Michael Smith: ...Let’s let’s look at what it-Well, when it’s your client...
Jon Faine: ...That’s rubbish...
Michael Smith: ...Let’s look at what happened then, Jon, as a result of that...
Jon Faine: ...Let’s move on. What else are you worried about?

— ABC Radio 774, Mornings with Jon Faine, 23rd November, 2012

Michael Smith was worried about plenty else, but Jon Faine simply wasn’t listening...

Jon Faine: What’s your best shot, Michael? Because we’re moving on in a moment and I’m giving you a last chance, because this either has to go away or it’s got to stand up. And so far it’s a house of cards. 

— ABC Radio 774, Mornings with Jon Faine, 23rd November, 2012

As Smith told Crikey last week...

"He didn't have me on to hear what I had to say; he had me on to act as a lightning rod to his own commentary."

— Crikey, 1st February, 2013

Precisely so. 

Now, that interviewing style may be acceptable to 2GB’s management. But not to the ABC’s. Its Code of Practice states that among the 

...hallmarks of impartiality...

— ABC Code of Practice, 2011 (Revised in 2013)


Fair treatment

— ABC Code of Practice, 2011 (Revised in 2013)



— ABC Code of Practice, 2011 (Revised in 2013)

In my view, Faine’s interview with Smith wasn’t fair, and it certainly wasn’t open-minded. Like the ABC, I think the complainants had a point.

But – and it’s a big but – the wording of the ABC’s ruling opens a bigger can of worms – especially this sentence in its letter to one of the complainants:

The argumentative style of the interviews by Mr Faine, combined with a pattern of strongly stated personal opinions ... was not in keeping with the ABC’s rigorous impartiality standards for current affairs content. 

— Michael Smith News.com, 30th January, 2013

Now, until the editorial policies were shortened and simplified a couple of years ago, the ABC made a distinction between news and current affairs, and other topical and factual programs.

But now, it seems, the same "rigorous impartiality standard" applies to all news and information content. But should it?

Of course it would be wrong for Tony Eastley on AM or Mark Colvin on PM to expound their personal opinions about controversial matters. 

But does the same standard now apply to Jon Faine on 774? To Phillip Adams or Amanda Vanstone on Radio National? For that matter, to Jonathan Holmes on Media Watch? 

When we asked that question, ABC management told us


— Michael Millett, Director Corporate Affairs, 3rd February, 2013

And it appended a list of rather obscure criteria by which it assesses 

the impartiality due in given circumstances:

— Michael Millett, Director Corporate Affairs, 3rd February, 2013

Read it on our website. 

But I still think that by wording its ruling as it has, the ABC has handed a rod to its critics, who’ll be only too happy to wield it in this long election year.

That’s my opinion, at least.

Until next week, goodnight.