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September 2018

Re Turnbull, the ABC, Emma Alberici and GILLARD

From reader PWH (with many similar sentiments from others)

Turnbull ringing the ABC Chairman to get rid of "a journo" Screams ( rightly) that is untenable. EVERYWHERE. Where were the screams when Gillard did the same thing to you

I'd add to that.

Where was the outrage when the ABC was gifted an extra $190M by the Gillard government - and while it pointedly refused to report on the execution by police of a search warrant on Gillard's former law offices?

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We now know that warrant turned up irrefutable documentary evidence that Gillard and Bernard Murphy knew of Bruce Wilson's criminal behaviour - and conspired with him and others to conceal it.

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Police raid Gillard;s former office "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."

The ABC brought us speedy and appropriate reports today of the breaking news that Kathy jackson's home has been raided by police armed with search warrants

The "breaking news" reports were just that - incomplete, breaking and with the notation "more to come".   Later ABC reports include a statement from the police who, after being contacted by journalists doing their job said:

A Victorian Police spokeswoman said several warrants had been executed in Wombarra at a number of properties.

The warrants relate to a Victorian Police investigation.

Perhaps the ABC might include today's reporting in its "how to" manual - because today's reports are in start contrast to the Corporation's abject failure to report anything about the police search warrant executed on then Prime Minister Gillard's former offices, using a search warrant that named Ms Gillard as a person of interest to police.

Here's a report I wrote for The Australian, published on 30 November, 2013

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".

Moving house

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As some of you may know my family and I live in the Shire in a typical family home. It has a mortgage, it needs a bit of work and no front fence. Neighbours and friends have always been able to just walk up and say hello as we’ve sat on the front verandah. That’s how we like it.

Our home is where our best family memories are. BBQ’s, birthdays, curry nights with friends and family.

While our house in Port Hacking has been great for us as a family, sadly we can’t make it work in my new role as PM. For security and convenience, the sensible thing for us to do as a family is to relocate to Kirribilli House, which is set up for the job. This will also be more convenient for our neighbours, who we will miss.

While our address will change, our home will remain in the Shire. Our involvement in the local community will continue. Our church, the girls‘ sport and school, swimming at Wanda, Shark Park, movies at Miranda, all of this will stay the same. 

It’s has always been an incredible honour to be the member for Cook, and to now serve as your PM is incredibly humbling. I will take the lessons and values of our community into the job.

Finally, as a family, me and Jen are so very appreciative of all the kind notes, texts, letters, emails, cards and hugs we have received wishing us well. I won’t let you down.


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Police clear hero Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG over allegation Fairfax/ABC publicised

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Six weeks after Mr Roberts-Smith was named in media reports as being the subject of a domestic violence complaint, ACT Police have written to him to advise he has no case to answer.

In a letter dated September 21 and addressed to Mark O’Brien, Mr Roberts-Smith’s lawyer, ACT Chief Police Officer Justine Saunders said police had looked at the allegation and were taking no further action.

“I write to inform you that ACT Policing has undertaken an investigation of the allegation and has concluded on the basis of available information (that) there is insufficient evidence to support any prosecution,’’ Ms Saunders wrote. “Consequently, ACT Policing will not be taking any further action in respect of this matter.’’

The letter is the latest instalment in what has been a murky investigation into Mr Roberts-Smith’s personal life and military service record, one that has played out in the pages of news­papers and courtrooms.

Mr Roberts-Smith has blamed a small group of disgruntled SASR troopers for running a malicious whispering campaign against him.

Last month, he instructed his lawyers to begin defamation proceedings against Fairfax Media after it published a magazine article accusing him of assaulting detainees while a trooper in Afghanistan, bullying fellow soldiers and committing an act of domestic violence against a woman with whom he had been in a relationship.

ABC statement on sacking Michelle Guthrie

UPDATE from the executive producer of ABC 4 Corners



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The ABC Board has announced that Michelle Guthrie today departed from the role of Managing Director.

The decision follows discussions over several months that concluded when directors resolved that it was not in the best interests of the ABC for Ms Guthrie to continue to lead the organisation.

Chairman Justin Milne said the Board believed that new leadership would benefit the organisation, its dedicated employees, and the ABC’s audiences.

“In resolving to seek fresh leadership, the Board’s foremost consideration was the long-term interests of our own people and the millions of Australians who engage with ABC content every week,” Mr Milne said.

“This decision has been driven by our commitment to deliver the best possible outcomes for our loyal audiences and the best possible experience for our own people.

“We understand that transitions can be disruptive in the short-term. However, the ABC is fortunate to have an experienced and capable executive team that will provide continuity in the months ahead.

“The board wishes to thank Michelle for her contribution to the ABC. We are very grateful for all her hard work,” Mr Milne concluded.

The ABC Board has invited David Anderson to serve as Acting Managing Director until the role is filled on a permanent basis in coming months.

Mr Anderson is currently Director, Entertainment & Specialist, responsible for broadcast television networks and associated services, radio music networks, podcasts and specialist radio content. He has enjoyed a successful career in the broadcast television and media industry for nearly 30 years.

“I recognise the challenges involved in transitions of this kind but I am honoured to accept the Board’s invitation and look forward to working with our outstanding people to execute our strategy,” Mr Anderson said.

Succession planning receives continuous attention from the ABC Board. It has commenced a formal search process that will involve internal and external candidates. By law, Managing Directors are selected by the ABC Board independently of the Government and Opposition of the day.

For more information

Emma McDonald
ABC Head of Public Affairs
[email protected], 0407 389 639