09 June 2013


The ABC as Road Kill

Email to Lateline complaining about an interview.

On Friday 31/5 Lateline I watched Emma Alberici interviewing Liberal backbencher Kelly O'Dwyer and Labor backbencher Stephen Jones. I am a Labor supporter but what happened goes beyond Left-Right differences. Ms O'Dwyer simply took the debate to a level of farce that was breath-taking, demonstrating a contempt for Alberici,  Jones and the viewing public by her repeated presentation of falsehoods and evasion of questions. She might just as effectively have faxed in a media release of Liberal Party talking points. The interview, as a genuine exchange of political questions and viewpoints, never occurred.

Ms O'Dwyer falsely claimed that the Intelligence services have had their budgets cut despite evidence available showing that there had been an increase.

On the issue of boat people and Tony Abbott's "turn back the boats" policy she cited Abbott's visit to Indonesia as implied proof that such a policy had at least been discussed with Indonesian leaders. It is a matter of public record that the topic was never raised there by Abbott. Ms O'Dwyer would have been fully aware of this but chose to actively lie and misrepresent this fact to the Australian public.

On the issue of public funding for political parties and Tony Abbott's letter of agreement with the Gillard government, the established facts are abundantly clear to any fair-minded critic. Abbott did agree to the legislation, he did have access to all but minor details of the final legislation, and he did renege on the deal. Kelly O'Dwyer followed the party line of simply denying all these truths without discussion.

Ms O'Dwyer also confirmed that the Liberal Party will be providing no policy budgeting details until after a Treasury briefing only a few weeks before the election. This is despite the fact that the Treasury itself has said that the briefing will present no significant new information. This is a matter of no small consequence to the Australian public and Emma Alberici let it pass.

On every point Kelly O'Dwyer followed what has become a Liberal Party game plan:

(1) Argue on facts that are demonstrably wrong and simply restate your falsehoods when called out on them.

(2) Lie to the public by using selective and misleading statistics to argue for Labor Party ineptitude or criminality when such statements are demonstrably false on even the most cursory inspection. Use words like 'chaos' and 'crisis' at every opportunity as if they are self-evident truths.

(3) Answer only questions or parts of questions that suit the Liberal Party electoral talking points.

(4) Refuse to discuss any costs associated with Liberal Party electoral policies.

(5) Refuse to acknowledge or respond in any way to aspects of personal behavior of Tony Abbott or senior Liberals including ethical standards that would be of interest to the voting public.

 (6) Ignore the interviewer and any Labor debaters. Treat them as interrupting blips, to be tolerated before returning to a repetitious spruiking of Liberal party talking points.

I can tell you the viewing public is very offended and badly served by such practices. National politics is a serious business. The public have every right to adult, informed political debates and not to be presented with tactics fundamentally contemptuous of them. I know that Lateline must be tempted to claim that both sides got to express their views and so the outcome was acceptable. But it wasn't. The bottom line is that Kelly O'Dwyer ran that interview, not Emma Alberici. If that is professionally acceptable to the ABC and Lateline then you need to have a serious rethink. If I was Stephen Jones I would have walked out once the general pattern had become clear.

Emma Alberici is usually a competent interviewer and she needs to find ways to shut down this kind of obfuscation and dishonesty. She got it right occasionally by stating that O'Dwyer had not answered her question but she allowed her subject to come back and simply continue the abusive behavior. The host should interrupt more often and much sooner, declaring their answer to be an evasion, and moving directly to a further question to the other interviewee, ignoring any protestations. Brutality is needed here and will be publicly respected. Fairness be damned! Kelly O'Dwyer was not being fair to anyone.

The current crop of Liberal fraudsters have taken a leaf out of the US hard Right political playbook by lying big and lying often. The general practice is thoroughly dangerous to the well being of democracy as a whole. The ABC needs to kick this contemptible set of practices to the kerb. At the moment there are Liberal Party tyre marks all over Lateline and the ABC.

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