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Is the ABC’s ‘Insiders’ balanced?

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Monday, 19 April 2010 11:35 by Ad astra

The only tenable answer is ‘sometimes’.  This Sunday’s Insiders was balanced, many other editions, not.  I expect most political tragics take a look at this programme on ABC TV each week.  In recent times there have been complaints on this blog site and elsewhere about the lack of balance in the comments of the panel.  Some lament that the programme has become so tabloid that they no longer bother viewing it.  This short piece canvasses the issue of balance and seeks feedback from visitors.

By balance, let’s agree that in a political context it means giving all sides of a debate and all parties to the debate comparable opportunities to express a view so that the viewing audience has before it sufficient information and opinion for it to reach a considered judgement, a conclusion.

The approach to ‘balance’ by news and current affairs programs seems to take several forms that differ not so much by degree, as they do by underlying philosophy.

Some outlets seem to believe that you achieve balance by having roughly equal representation of conflicting views.  To give an example, if the debate is about climate change, they believe in the quantitative approach - that having equal numbers of climate change believers and deniers or sceptics, and giving then equal time, will result in balance.  But if there is no qualitative assessment of the credentials of the opponents, or the scientific plausibility of their arguments, balance will likely not be achieved.  If soundly advanced scientific facts and arguments are pitted against questionable facts and faulty reasoning, there will be no balance if both are given equal credence; in science some opinions are simply not worth as much as others.  Yet we have seen them given equal weight time and again.  This is especially dangerous when the audience does not have the scientific background to differentiate between fact and falsehood.

In the context of Insiders having panellists with diametrically opposed views does not produce balance.  To begin with there is no Labor-leaning, anti-Coalition journalist that could match the Coalition-leaning anti-Government bearing of, for example, Piers Akerman, Andrew Bolt and Glenn Milne.  Even David Marr, who might be seen as pro-Labor, cannot and never does match the ferocity of Akerman’s and Bolt’s anti-Labor attacks.  Marr can be as critical of the Government as of the Coalition.  I have heard Akerman only once agree with Kevin Rudd, and that was when he condemned Bill Henson’s photos of adolescent girls.  Otherwise, according to Akerman everything Rudd has done is bad or incompetent, going right back to the 20 year old Heiner affair in Queensland that he is still trying to pin on Rudd.   Bolt is able occasionally to utter words that are not anti-Rudd, but that is uncommon.  Milne is more subtle, but he takes frequent sneering sideswipes at Rudd and his Government.  There is no way that these partisan advocates can be balanced by anyone on the opposite side – they don’t exist among the journalists on the Insiders’ panel.  Even if they could be found, what sort of debate would result?  Would viewers want from both sides the ranting that appears day after day in Akerman’s and Bolt’s columns replicated during their appearances on Insiders?  The simple fact is that whoever else appears with them, when Ackerman and Co are on the Insiders panel, balance is not possible.

I have several times emailed the benign host of Insiders, Barrie Cassidy, about the inclusion of these three, but the response is always that their presence is to achieve balance.   It seems not to be apparent to Cassidy that their very presence precludes balance.

Balance may be possible when the panel comprises journalists from the various sides of the political spectrum but only if they are capable of acknowledging the validity of positions on the several sides to the debate.  Gerard Henderson is an example of a conservative columnist who can take a positive view of non-conservative positions, and offer balanced views on a variety of topics.  So panellists from one side of the political spectrum can be balanced although selecting such people runs the risk of imbalance.

The best balance seems to result from selecting panellists who have no obvious political leanings and can make comments that are for or against the Government, and for or against the Coalition or the Greens or the Independents, with equal facility and feeling.

We came close to balance in early March when Chris Uhlmann was the moderator and the panel comprised Laura Tingle, Brain Toohey and Phillip Coorey.  While Brian Toohey seems often to be anti-Government in his views, he can and does offer pro-Government opinions. The other two seemed to be neutral. We saw balance at its best last Sunday when Misha Schubert, Phillip Coorey and Lenore Taylor were panellists.  They all seemed to be neutral in their views and balanced in their comments.  It was a delight to watch this episode of Insiders.  Whether or not one agreed with the views expressed, it was gratifying to observe a balanced debate.

In my view, if Insiders wishes to retain its viewing audience and enhance its credibility as a current affairs programme that give viewers a balanced appraisal of the political landscape, party policies, projects and programmes, political manoeuvres, politicians and their actions, the views of the people, opinion polling, and possible election outcomes, it is essential that the moderator select panellists who are capable of giving a balanced opinion, preferably those with no apparent political leaning, and rigorously exclude those incapable of taking a balanced view, particularly if they are overflowing with venom towards one party.

What do you think?

Comments (56) -

April 19. 2010 02:18 PM

Ian

Apart from the 'balance' issue, there also remains a serious problem with the way some guests offer their opinion or commentate rather than impartially report and/or analyse the issues. They are supposed to be 'Insiders' - implying they have a greater understanding of and access to the machinations of politics. Too often, they resort to offering a glib or banal (or politically skewed) opinion - I could do that. Perhaps some guests are chosen for their willingness to create tension rather than any particular journalistic ability? I may be proved wrong but it seems Australian coverage is fairly immature compared to other countries. Imagine if viewers could learn more about an issue without needing to presume what side of politics the journalist leans toward? Probably impossible but that to me, would be balance.

Ian

April 19. 2010 02:59 PM

Ad astra reply

Ian
If this is your first comment on TPS, welcome.  Please come again.

I have often wondered if some panellists are selected, as you say, “for their willingness to create tension rather than any particular journalistic ability.”  Because of that suspicion, I have accused the producers of Insiders of becoming ‘tabloid’.  But that accusation has been refuted with the argument that they are seeking ‘balance’ by selecting such panellists.

You are right, balance would be when, as you say, ”...viewers could learn more about an issue without needing to presume what side of politics the journalist leans toward.”

Ad astra reply

April 19. 2010 03:18 PM

fred

I watched "Insiders" once, a year and a bit ago.
And then, just to make sure, watched it a second time a few weeks later.

And not since.    

fred

April 19. 2010 04:10 PM

Holden Back

The Christina Kenneally interview this week had my eyes glazing over, and I realised I had almost no idea of the details of current health funding arrangments, so her possible new arrangments were meaningless to me. Most reporters are so very quick to opine, that there has been precious little information available in the mainstream press. This is not to deny the fourth estate its views, but perhaps to pouint out that the space taken up by unsupported assertions seems to be ever expanding at the expense of explanation.  I recognise the responsibilities of the citizen in informing herself, and do so myself as time permits, but I don't buy the story that itis the government's responsibility to 'sell' and isue.  Which is all by way of wishing Insiders were different o the rest of the media and actually provided knowledge not tittle-tattle and predictable posturing.        

Holden Back

April 19. 2010 04:54 PM

Ad astra reply

Holden Back
Like you, I long for informative articles where the facts are completely and accurately stated, where opinion is clearly separated from fact, and where that opinion is not influenced by partisan bias.  I’ve looked around for an example of such an article among today’s MSM but couldn’t find one!

Ad astra reply

April 19. 2010 05:12 PM

BK

AA, you asked what do I think. Well, I think exactly the same as you. Well done again!

BK

April 19. 2010 05:28 PM

david

I used to watch insiders regularly but tired of the rants of Ackerman and Bolt and their apparent lack of balance.  I emailed Barry and suggested he get some balanced panelists rather than 'irrational demigogues'.  I watched it last Sunday, for the first time since the 2007 election, and enjoyed it.  If Bolt or Ackerman had of been on I would have turned it off.

david

April 19. 2010 06:57 PM

Agnes Mack

Our household has long been outraged by Insiders' version of balance.  The inclusion of a couple of non ideologically aligned journalists does not balance Bolt or Ackerman.
Insiders would be vastly improved if it stuck with panels of dispassionate journalists who are not part of the cheer squad for any political party. Last weekend's program was much more enjoyable than usual simply because the three journalists did not view the issues and the surrounding politics through the prism of any political position.

Have also been wondering why last week we saw three Fairfax journalists and the week before it was three from News Limited. News Ltd has been campaigning strongly against the Rudd government which could surely make it difficult for journalists from that stable to express a contrary view in a public forum

Agnes Mack

April 19. 2010 07:04 PM

Agnes Mack

Forgot to say how much I enjoy your work Ad astra. Also totally agree with your comment that the standard was much higher when Chris Uhlmann was in the chair. The Coorey/Toohey/Tingle panel moderated by Uhlmann made for intelligent and informed commentary, something often lacking in Barrie Cassidy's Insiders these days.  My vote for best possible panel would be George Megalogenis, Laura Tingle and Lenore Taylor, with Phillip Coorey not far behind. And of course, Chris Uhlmann in the chair.

Agnes Mack

April 19. 2010 07:32 PM

janice

I rarely watch The Insiders now.  The programme has great potential but with Barrie Cassidy in the chair and the lousy choice of panelists such as Akerman, Milne and Fran Kelly, makes it nothing more than a rehash of the OO propaganda.

As our National Broadcaster I expect better of our ABC.  Gone are the days when we could rely on aunty for factual and non-partisan reporting.  

janice

April 19. 2010 07:59 PM

Sir Ian Crisp

I must admit that I don't watch The Insiders. My opinions are informed by other things.

Sir Ian Crisp

April 19. 2010 08:19 PM

lyn

HI AD AND EVERYBODY

HERE WE HAVE GROG WITH ANOTHER ENJOYABLE, DELIGHTFUL PIECE FOR US ALL Thankyou Grog

Polls, Idle Polls, I know not what they mean  by GROG, GROG'S GAMUT

grogsgamut.blogspot.com/.../...-not-what-they.html

lyn

April 19. 2010 08:23 PM

Ad astra reply

BK, david, Agnes Mack
Thank you for your comments and kind remarks, and welcome david and Agnes Mack to TPS.  I agree with you nominations, Agnes Mack.

janice, like you, I agree that the choice of panellists makes all the difference.  Insiders could be a top programme if the panellists were more prudently chosen.

I hope someone from Insiders is reading the comments on this blog, and acknowledging how viewers regard it and how it could be improved.

Sir Ian
Tell us please what you feel provides you with superior information – we may all benefit.

Ad astra reply

April 19. 2010 08:44 PM

Sir Ian Crisp

I'm not saying I receive superior information, I'm saying that I don't need to watch The Insiders TV program nor do I have to read Andrew Bolt to gain information. The Insiders and Bolt provide mere background material.

Let's examine the blank cheques being signed by K Rudd to handle the illegal arrivals issue -v- the lack of support (which includes funding) for Aborigines in Port Augusta  highlighted by Port Augusta Mayor Joy Baluch. Haven't we kicked the hell out of Aborigines enough. Why is K Rudd ignoring Aborigines. How come the Australian PM can keep writing cheques for illegal arrivals yet he tells Aborigines to get to the back of the line?

I form the opinion that K Rudd is once again treating our own Aborigines like second class citizens. I don't need The Insiders or Andrew Bolt to tell me how bad K Rudd is treating Aborigines.

That's how my opinions are informed.


Sir Ian Crisp

April 19. 2010 09:07 PM

lyn

Hi Ad

I stopped watching the Insiders quite sometime ago.

I have written twice to the ABC and been answered back the same old story, we think we have a fair and balanced panel.

I have written to Barrie Cassidy, and did not receive a reply.

Anyway they should take notice, about the quality of the program.

The time slot 9am Sunday morning is annoying, especially bad when the whole hour is destroyed by Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman, Glen Milne, Fran Kelly.

lyn

April 19. 2010 09:31 PM

Grog

Good article AA. I watch Insiders every week, and mostly despair. They should ditch the "your shout" bit, and give Laura Tingle the old Paul Kelly "gravitas" segment.

Grog

April 19. 2010 10:47 PM

Grog

Newspoll 54-46.

The Oz leads with "Tony Abbott makes ground on Kevin Rudd: Newspoll"
www.theaustralian.com.au/.../story-e6frgczf-1225855705699

Grog

April 19. 2010 11:24 PM

Michael Cusack

The presence of Bolt and Ackerman is evidence thar Cassidy and his producers don't take seriously the opportunity they have been given. If they don't take the program seriously, why should I? I have not watched it since the first episode.
If they can't attract the attention of a political/current affairs tragic such as me, the program has problems.

Michael Cusack

April 20. 2010 12:09 AM

Daisey May

54-46. Not too bad considering the troops were marshalled against Rudd. The Libs are cactus and everyone knows it. I understand that everyone has to play their part in this tawdry little drama but is it too much to ask that the wishful thinkers not veer off into la-la land with such gay abandon? Large chunks of the population are watching you people who purport to be journalists and repeatedly you folk are found wanting. Poor old Dennis in particular is beyond caricature now and I almost feel sorry for him. I picture him at his desk, half sozzled with the latest Newspoll to hand, The Ride of the Valkyries blaring away in the background as he blazes into obscurity. If it wern't truly pathetic it would almost be tragic.

Daisey May

April 20. 2010 07:46 AM

Neil

Defining insiders as only being Politicians and journalist/commentators is inherently biased. It ignores all the other genuine insiders who should be questioned. The show is dreadful and biased. How often do senior public servants, business leaders or experts in a field appear?

Neil

April 20. 2010 08:43 AM

jayne

When the Insiders and the rest of the ABC realize that balance does not mean giving the same weight to a lie as you do the truth,then that will be the day I return to watching the insiders.

jayne

April 20. 2010 09:25 AM

HillbillySkeleton

jayne,
      You have really hit the nail on the head there!

HillbillySkeleton

April 20. 2010 09:54 AM

lyn

TODAY'S LINKS

Newspoll  54 46, by William Bowe, The Poll Bludger

blogs.crikey.com.au/.../

Newspoll says 54 to 46, by Peter Brent, Mumble

http://mumble.com.au/

Do we still need state govts, Bernard Keane, Crikey

http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/04/19/what’s-at-stake-today-maybe-a-lot-more-than-health-or-kevin-rudd’s-election-prospects/

Rebel states to defy voters and reject health deal, Phillip Coorey, Stock journal

sj.farmonline.com.au/.../1806145.aspx?src=rss

Follow the numbers: why the Coalition's task is so daunting ,Andrew Catsaras, National Times

www.nationaltimes.com.au/.../...20100418-smt3.html

Minding Abbott’s business, By James Thomson, Smart Company

www.smartcompany.com.au/.../...ott-s-business.html

Abbott and the new Catholic Conservatism, by Michael Furtado, Eureka Street

www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=20525

Five Reasons Turnbull should stay, by Peter Martin

petermartin.blogspot.com/.../...l-should-stay.html








lyn

April 20. 2010 10:19 AM

HillbillySkeleton

Ad Astra,
         Sterling insight, and a true reflection of what many have been thinking, about Insiders but also, in my mind, about political commentary wrt panel shows in general.
  As the 24/7 political media space fills up we have seen the rise of the political analysis show, and the morphing of it into political entertainment. As one perceptive commenter said recently, the Sunday morning politics shows are just Saturday morning cartoons for grown-ups. Sadly, it seems some producers and hosts are taking this attitude too literally. I think about Mark Riley, on Channel 7, who routinely resorts to slapstick and visual gags in his commentary about Australian political matters, often running a co-opted song, with suggestive lyrics, to underline covertly the opinion he is giving. I find that it trivilaises the reporting of weighty matters too much.
   Of course, 'Insiders' has seen this 'innovation' and followed suit, so that we now have at the start of the show a montage presented, based around a chosen topic, set to a song whose purpose is to make some sort of tongue-in-cheek, or negative meme, be reinforced and stick in your head. Let me also say, that the day I see one of these 'Mash Ups' comment in a favourable way about the actions of the Rudd government, is the day I'll walk naked to Canberra to express my gratitude to Barrie Cassidy himself! In other words, I don't think it will happen anytime soon, as, and this was a thought that occurred to me in a general sense just recently, political punditry, and the shows that showcase it, have assumed the persona of the male homosexual bitch.
  Too often now, the de facto stance of much that is written about politics is one that is dripping with sarcasm, as if the demonstration of same shows that the commentator 'sees through' the game of politics and thus wants you to know that it's all basically theatre at its core. Part and parcel of being an 'Insider' maybe, but it also serves the negative purpose of trivialising the whole shebang. Or, why should we take politics seriously when they certainly don't ?
  Which only serves to encourage a race to the bottom in my eyes, trivialising political practice as it does. Also, it seems, the politicians need to come up with ever more ridiculous visual stunts, in order to satisfy the 'Gallery', who give a running commentary approximating a 'Thumbs Up', or, 'Thumbs Down' gesture.
  Which is why we must start the walk back from the coralling of the judges chairs by those who just want to see a show, and those who want to be the journalistic Ringmasters of a political circus, relentlessly cracking the whip to make the politicians dance to their tune, and perform like trained seals, responding to the instructions that have been handed down from on high by Emporer Murdoch.  Which has led to the more self-interested of the 'Commentariat', with the biggest barrows to push, driving their agendas like chariots over less forceful and more reasonable & impartial commentators.
  We don't want the judging box taken up by those whose pre-determined judgement is a given. If the ABC wants to achieve 'balance' they must not confuse it with 'accomodation'. They must thus take seriously the concept of true balance, and realise that it means a broad range of views, as opposed to hysterical ranting from the Right attempting to shout down and use well-honed disruption techniques to drown out the reasonable voices.
  Feedback from the Australian public should be encouraged, and responses from the producers and presenters to complaints about the shows should be transparent, and provided in real-time via their website. Also, as ABC Breakfast does, the presenters should encourage e-mails and texts as the show progresses, so as to be sensitive to the program's consumers' opinions as well.
  Also, if the producers could stop sending out their journalists for the 'Your Shout' segment with, as I said before, a pre-loaded 'attitude', which seems to involve asking the 'public panel' loaded questions in order to as much as possible elicit negative comment about the federal government, and ladle as much dismissive comment into the segment as possible, such that it drips with sarcasm and sneering from the journalist doing the interviewing, counterpointed by, it regularly seems, one person who totally agrees with the negative sentiment and reinforces it, one person who agrees with most suggestions by the interviewer, but stands up to the most egregious assertions, and another who seems to battle manfully for the reasoned truth throughout the segment. That is not a true Vox Pop. I just feel that if the overlying bias was taken out of the questions put to the 'Your Shout' citizens by the roving ABC journalist, then we might see some more rational debate in this segment, and some more honest opinions all round.
  In fact, that's essentially what needs to happen overall wrt political 'entertainment',
such as it is in the new media environment. Which I think will only become exacerbated if the ABC decides to continue down this path with its new 24/7 News Channel. That is, decides to follow the Sky/Murdoch media model, as opposed to the BBC, PBS America, model.
  It's all at a very important juncture, therefore, and I only wish I knew of a way to get through to management at the ABC how much it means to us, the electorate and consumers of their product, for them to not go tabloid, which the embrace of the News Ltd. vipers to their chests, will lead to.

HillbillySkeleton

April 20. 2010 11:47 AM

FFreddy

I think not only 'balance' but the very existence of the show and what it says about the ABC's priorities and ethics is an issue. For instance when Federal Parliament is sitting the 'Insiders' appears in political primetime but 'Order in the House' is screened often after midnight on a Monday morning. Also given this nations dependence on our mineral exports to keep us afloat how long before we get a 'Landline' type program concentrating solely on mining? Now I could think of a primetime spot just right for this!!  

FFreddy

April 20. 2010 11:51 AM

Ad astra reply

Grog
Thank you for your kind remarks.  Like you, I agree that Laura Tingle has gravitas but does not display it as overtly as does Paul Kelly.  I wish she was on Insiders more often.  ‘Your shout’ is pretty useless, using as it does a highly unrepresentative sample.  It really is ‘tabloid’.

I followed your comments on PB about the appearance of Dennis Shanahan on Lateline last night, and like you wondered what was behind it – did it portend a good poll for the Coalition?  In retrospect, it would be reasonable to conclude it was arranged before the Newspoll results were available to him, and was possibly related more to reporting on the COAG meeting, which in fact took precedence over the Newspoll result.

As you said on PB Dennis performed in a reasonably even-handed way, even conceding that the TPP was not all that different from the last one (and in fact not all that different from the whole of 2010).  He couldn’t resist though a couple of softly stated negatives; I suppose when looking down the lens at who knows how many thousand viewers he was more circumspect than when writing his columns with no one looking at him.  I see this morning that any inhibitions he may have had last night have disappeared with his three headlines:
Labor whacked on boatpeople in Newspoll www.theaustralian.com.au/.../story-e6frgczf-1225855718824  
Asylum policy scuttles Labor www.theaustralian.com.au/.../story-e6frgczf-1225855705719  
Things failing to fall Rudd's way on issues www.theaustralian.com.au/.../story-e6frg6zo-1225855708994

His true colours are starkly displayed; as usual he is squeezing the lemon hard for positives for the Coalition and exaggerating what little juice he has extracted.

Labor’s primary vote of 43 is the same as last time and in fact the equal best all year.  The Coalition vote has gone up two points to 40 at the expense of the Greens.  The resultant TPP is the best for Labor all year 54/46 except for the last one (56/44), which even Labor supporters felt was too high. So there’s not much there for the Coalition to jump up and down about, a point Shanahan concedes.

There was a small dip in Kevin Rudd’s personal ratings but they are about the same as all year.  Tony Abbott’s personal ratings too have been similar all this year, but because the satisfaction/dissatisfaction rating has jumped from positive one to positive six since the last poll to 46/40, Shanahan thinks that is worth a big tick.  Abbott was 48/38 in February but dipped after the Great Health Debate, so he’s recovered somewhat from that.

Again, the better PM rating has been much the same since the beginning of the year, but because it moved in Rudd’s favour after the Health Debate to 59/27 and is now 56/29, Shanahan sees that as Abbott clawing back support, presumably as the memory of his performance in the debate fades.

On the question: “Who do you think would best handle the issue of health and Medicare?” Labor has been at 48 for most of the last three years but this poll has it at 45, a small dip.  Shanahan makes much of this, arguing that despite all the debate about health in recent weeks Labor has made no progress.  He doesn’t point out though that the Coalition has sat at around 30 during this time, where it is in this poll.  A gap of 18 points in Labor’s favour is not acknowledged as significant, which it is.  Nor does he make any reference to the two-thirds of people in the Nielsen poll who want the Government to proceed with its health reforms.

It is on the question of “Who do you think would best handle the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia?” that Shanahan goes to town.  Over the last twelve months Labor has scored 27, 20 and 26 (this time), while the Coalition has scored 27, 23 and 44, the latter being a significant jump at the expense of the ‘Uncommitted’.  So both parties have improved their position, but the Coalition more so.  Shanahan interprets that as “Labor whacked on boat people...”.  Again he makes no mention of the Essential Research Report poll that showed 69% approval of the Government’s move to temporarily suspend processing of asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. www.essentialmedia.com.au/.../...Report_190410.pdf and the 58% who did likewise in the Nielsen poll.

Shanahan’s headlines paint a dire picture for Labor and an improving one for the Coalition.  But when we look at the actual figures, the picture is not as he portrays it. resources.news.com.au/.../...5-100420-newspoll.pdf  Neither does he ever compare Newpoll results with any other polling.  We know he regards Newspoll as the definitive poll, but as an analyst of Federal politics he really ought to include the others.  But of course his task is not comprehensive analysis but extracting what joy he can for his Coalition and giving scant credit for any Labor gains unless they are so significant they cannot be dismissed.

I enjoyed your piece “Polls, Idle Polls, I know not what they mean” for which Lyn provided a link.  As usual, it was a very readable and informative analysis, and exposed the inappropriate headlines our papers inflict upon us, which influence those uninterested in probing deeper and discovering the headline is a distortion of the truth.

Ad astra reply

April 20. 2010 11:54 AM

dirt armature

Great original post and one of the best critiques I've read of the insiders from HillbillySkeleton. I still watch the insiders, not for any real insight into federal politics--which you can get from Crikey and ABC radio national shows like In the national interest--but to see how a small group of commentators (not journalists) are spinning certain stories. Laura Tingle is perhaps the least embedded, but you can get some quality Laura also through Philip Adams' Monday night Canberra Babylon segment.

Australians treat their politics like a sport and sport with all the analytic seriousness of politics. Having Barry Cassidy host a politics and sports show on Sunday morning confirms this notion. The 24 hour news/entertainment media cycle is the enemy of analysis and explanation but so has been the dedemocratising effects of Neoliberalism in Australia, and elsewhere, over the last 30 years.

dirt armature

April 20. 2010 12:02 PM

Marilyn

There is no such thing as an illegal immigrant in Australia and Rudd has not given a blank cheque to refugees who arrive to ask for help.

He has written a blank cheque to jail completely innocent human beings on a mound of birdshit in the middle of the Indian Ocean and is breaking umpteen of our own laws to lock up those lads in Port Augusta in what amounts to a smaller jail.

It is illegal to jail asylum seeker kids and has been since 2005, but we do it anyway.
It is illegal to stop processing claims and arbitrarily lock up refugee claimants without letting them make a claim and Evans has had a number of serious legal opinions pointing that out and ignores them all.

One thing about Insiders is that none of them even seem to understand the law and don't bother to find out - except when Farr and Toohey pointed out that refugee claims are not based on country conditions.

I stopped watching the program some years ago now as it is just a big wank by a lot of hot air balloons.

Marilyn

April 20. 2010 12:03 PM

adelaidegirl

"The presence of Bolt and Ackerman is evidence thar Cassidy and his producers don't take seriously the opportunity they have been given. If they don't take the program seriously, why should I? I have not watched it since the first episode.
If they can't attract the attention of a political/current affairs tragic such as me, the program has problems.
Michael Cusack"

I can't help but disagree with this.  Prior to the 08/09 summer break, Insiders seemed to be a much better show to me.  When it came back in 09, some obvious changes had been made.  First, the montage - a waste of quality time.  The reason I watch Insiders, read blogs and read letters pages is because I'm interested in what people think!  Then the change to Your Shout.  This used to be three apparently random people (friends, colleagues, etc.) given a chance to express their opinions on a particular issue.  I don't remember the questions being loaded, just simple things like who do you think will win the election, or who is the better manager of this or that.  The new format, dripping with sneering sarcasm (thank you for another brilliant contribution, HillbillySkeleton) is less interesting and edifying.  At that time, too, the actual minutes devoted to the panel seemed to reduce, often not really starting until after 9.30.

Seems to me something happened over the summer break of 08/09 and maybe Barrie doesn't have any choice?

Barrie and his bosses should take a look at Jim Lehrer's Newshour's commentary section with David Brooks and Mark Shields.  I think I know where they lean politically but I'm not really sure.  Their discussions are mature, considered, balanced and, above all, INTERESTING!.  The sheer tabloid inanity of some of the comments on Insiders is cringeworthy.


adelaidegirl

April 20. 2010 12:21 PM

2 tanners

I just don't watch it any more.  They used to play it in the golf club where I lived and the right wing faction gathered around to get their fix.  I don't mind that, but the unrelieved diet did show that balance was not what was being presented, and the trivialisation of the issues was what turned me off.  I got a better grade of information and discussion on the golf course than from Insiders.

When I hear that it has improved, I may give it another chance, but frankly the blogosphere has more information, viewpoints and assessments than the booob tube.  I virtually always disagree with Sir Ian, for instance, but he backs up his opinions with evidence, not bile.  (For the record I totally agree with his post above.)

2 tanners

April 20. 2010 12:38 PM

Ad astra reply

LYN'S DAILY LINKS updated.

Ad astra reply

April 20. 2010 12:57 PM

Ad astra reply

Michael Cusack
I agree – including Akerman and Bolt so diminishes the credibility of Insiders that it raises the question of the real objective of the programme – tabloid entertainment or serious political analysis.  Perhaps there is some contractual arrangement between the ABC and these two; if so, for the sake of the programme, it would be better to pay them out.

Daisey May
My views about Dennis Shanahan correspond with yours, as I have expressed in my response to Grog, which analyses today’s Newspoll.

Neil
Exactly, why are there only journalists and politicians on Insiders?  It would add another valuable dimension to add those you mention.  I do hope someone from insiders is reading the comments on this blog site.

jayne
You put your finger on a fundamental point – equal numbers and equal time for opponents in a debate does not give balance – equal credibility is crucial.

FFreddy
You make a salient point – it is not just balance on Insiders that is important, but balance in the ABC’s handling of all its political, business, rural and current affairs programmes.  I suppose someone oversees this – I hope so!

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April 20. 2010 01:43 PM

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HillBillySkeleton
Thank you for your thoughtful and incisive analysis.

Political entertainment seems the object of many political programmes.  Mark Riley’s ‘Riley Diary’ is almost totally so.  But when he does get round to sensible analysis he is capable of making balanced remarks.

The collage with which Insiders now begins is ‘Riley-like’ but not so frivolous.  That they think it’s necessary suggests that they anticipate part of their audience is not up to speed with the events they portray.  If that is so, they are not catering solely for a well-informed group.  Maybe that is part of their problem – trying to cater for too varied a group.

Is it any wonder the public holds politicians in contempt when their actions are so trivialized by political shows, when they are so often painted as devious and Machiavellian, when they paint the Government, and to some extent the Opposition, as incompetent and bungling?  Like you, I look forward to the day when something laudatory is said about their actions.  But as Paul Kelly says in his recent book, journalism thrives on conflict, so that’s what they dish up, day after day.  As you say they embellish their words with sarcasm and self-importance; after all they are the experts and we’d better realize that.

Although some will disagree, I believe we would achieve more in our political discourse if politicians were accorded the personal respect that most deserve, attempting as most do to make a difference, to improve this nation.  Less derogatory language and a focus on analysing their statements and policies rather than their supposed motives might elevate their performance and the public’s appreciation of it.  Too often commentators try to ‘shoot the messenger’.  Bolt and Akernam are serial offenders in this regard.

I agree strongly with your suggestion that feedback from the viewing public would benefit Insiders and indeed any ABC programme.  At present we are restricted to post hoc emailed comments, which, in my experience evoke a response comprising mainly platitudinous boilerplate.  Feedback during the programme might be difficult to handle; I wonder though would a small screen for displaying comments as they arrive in one corner of the TV, moderated of course, add a telling dimension?  I imagine any ABC producer reading that suggestion might become pale and sweaty!

How do we get through to the ABC?  Emails may, but it’s impossible to know if any changes that follow are the result of the email, or simply coincidental.  I guess we can only keep trying; if enough say the same thing change might be possible.  And I do hope someone from Insiders reads the comments on this blog-site.

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April 20. 2010 02:16 PM

HillbillySkeleton

  Thank you, Ad Astra, adelaidegirl, and dirk armature. Smile
Thank you also dirk for the link to Phillip Adams and Laura Tingle. Do you have any more specific info about it, like what time it happens on a Monday night?

HillbillySkeleton

April 20. 2010 02:25 PM

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dirt armature
Welcome to TPS.  do come again.

Thank you for you kind comments about this post; I agree with your assessment of HillbillySkeleton’s analysis.

You make a telling point when you say that politics is treated like a sport.  This is particularly apparent when poll results are analysed – one side is getting ahead of the other or falling behind; positions that have slipped are ‘clawed back’, or someone is leaving someone else in their wake.  And when elections near there is frenzied anticipation and predictions about  who might win – tipping contests all over again.  We’re a sporting nation, but political discourse could do without the continual preoccupation with who is winning and losing.

Marilyn
Welcome back to the comments box.

It would be helpful if the debate about asylum seekers could be kept at a factual level instead of it being contaminated by misinformation, rhetoric, dog-whistling, threats and hollow promises.  Too often the debate is used to score political points, and for the most part any concern for the refugees is simulated and used as a political lever to paint opponents in a bad light.

adelaidegirl
I agree with you about the montage – it’s unnecessary for serious politics watchers.  ‘Your shout’ has deteriorated and is rendered useless when the interviewer asks loaded questions that portray bias from the beginning.  It is not a serious attempt to sample opinion; the numbers are too small and the cross-section hopelessly inadequate.  Its only purpose is entertainment, and not very good entertainment at that.  It would be better replaced with more discussion time among the panellists.

2 tanners
Welcome to TPS. Do come again.

While Insiders was much better last week, who can guarantee it will be next week.  We can be sure that when Akerman, Bolt and Milne reappear the standard will drop like a stone.

Re Sir Ian, while we often disagree with him, at least he does express his views with confidence.

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April 20. 2010 03:06 PM

Rx

Well I have not watched it for more than a year now. And will not watch it whilever Akerman and Bolt are on the regular guest-list. I don't know why Akerman doesn't just appear wearing a Liberal Party T-shirt and be done with it. Any program that features him and Bolt has no place purporting to be 'balanced'. I don't honestly know how the ABC can continue to get away with dishing up such partisan dross. That they do so is a disgrace in my opinion. How the ABC has gone downhill in recent years. In content, style and bias it's begun to resemble a Murdoch media organisation sans the advertising. I used to be one of the ABC's most passionate fans and defenders. Now I find myself watching and listening to less with each passing month. What was once a significant part of my life (enjoyment of ABC programs) is now replaced more and more by non-traditional, non-ABC media. Very sad in a way that it's come to this.

Rx

April 20. 2010 03:35 PM

Marilyn

What would be helpful is if the media all published a simple fact of law in their daily rags instead of inciting hate and violence.


Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries".

End.

Marilyn

April 20. 2010 04:03 PM

dirt armature

HillybillySkeleton,

The Laura Tingle chat with Philip Adams occurs every Monday fortnight on Adams' radio national late night live show. The segment is called Canberra Babylon, it runs for about 8 mins at the start of the show, and last night's can be downloaded here: www.abc.net.au/.../2877041.htm or, if this post goes up real soon, you can listen to it repeated now on Radio National (4:05pm Tuesday)

You do need to work out if it's Laura's week or Christian Kerr's week: Adams alternates them!

dirt armature

April 20. 2010 04:07 PM

Gareth Perkins

I agree with alot of the previous posters.

If Milne, Bolt or Ackerman are on the program, i turn it off.

All three are too compromised to offer any sort of analysis without their personal (and sometime rabid) opinion seriously clouding the analysis.

Gareth Perkins

April 20. 2010 04:22 PM

Sir Ian Crisp

Thanks for the heads up dirt armature...I know to avoid Uncle Phil's show. With Uncle Phil involved it should be Canberra Babble On. Uncle Phil is still on his campaign to have Keating beatified.

Uncle Phil is quite the comedian. He once told how he along with others gathered in the home of the late Dr Jim Cairns to receive the word. He also helped out with crowd control. Two more seats in the kitchen....squeeze a bit closer on the lounge and make room for one more...space for three more sitting over in the corner.

Gee DA, Uncle Phil is as bad as the duds on The Insiders.

Sir Ian Crisp

April 20. 2010 05:03 PM

lyn

Hi dirt armature

Thankyou very much for the link to www.abc.net.au/.../2877041.htm

lyn

April 20. 2010 05:13 PM

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Gareth Perkins
Welcome to TPS  Please come again.

You can see you have lots here who agree with your view of Akerman, Bolt and Milne.

I see just now that Bolt has greeted the historic health reform agreement with all states except WA, with headlines: That’s your billions that just went on bribing Premiers It begins: When Premiers have to be bribed to accept a new funding model, can it be any good?:
blogs.news.com.au/.../thats_your_billions_that_just_went_on_bribing_premiers

Could Rudd do anything, anything at all that would bring forth any commendation by Bolt.  NO.

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April 20. 2010 05:52 PM

macca

Perhaps the "friends of the ABC " may be able to help?

macca

April 20. 2010 06:07 PM

Marilyn

Bolt and Akerman have both banned me from their hate fests because I sent them detailed documents proving that a family who was the object of their hate fest for years had been telling the truth from day one and it was the government of the day doing the lying.

I feel sure we remember the Bakhtiyari's?     5 little kids locked up for years on end because DIAC said dad was an Afghan, couldn't decide a country for mum and the kids and then decided to turn the dad into a bogus Pakistan who seems to have three different id cards and numbers in a number of different names and years of birth.

Not one of them was Ali Bakhtiyari as the Afghan government finally confirmed to Paul McGeough in Afghanistan.

They don't like the truth, Akerman is stuck on the non-existent Heiner affair (well it existed but not the way Akerman presents it) and the non-role Rudd and even Quentin Bryce are supposed to have played in it.

They lie, berate, abuse and vilify innocent human beings and call it journalism.

Marilyn

April 20. 2010 06:21 PM

bilgedigger

Marilyn, thanks for bringing the Bakhtiyari family back to the public view.  Recently there was some prominence given to the National Geographic photo of a young girl who had been on the front cover (in 1984 I think). A film crew and reporter spent time and effort tracking the girl down and presenting her to the television audience as she is currently.  I have often, and still do, wonder what has happened to the Bakhtiyari family who were treated so disgracefully by the Australian Government of the day (and for that matter the majority of Australians).
For me, the question arises as to the ongoing responsibility this country bears to right the many wrongs done during a black period of recent history.

bilgedigger

April 20. 2010 06:31 PM

HillbillySkeleton

Not only has Andrew Bolt seen the glass as empty after the PM achieved his historic Health deal, but the increasingly notorious Joe Kelly(must admit I've never seen his face before but he keeps popping up on the by-line with Dennis Shanahan), has had this to say:
www.theaustralian.com.au/.../story-e6frgczf-1225856073218
  As in, 'Man of Principle', Colin Barnett stands steadfast against the PM's attempted 'clawback' of the GST.
  Why don't the writers at The Australian just put the Liberal Party masthead at the top of their stories and be done with it?
  I watched the entirety of the Press Conference between the Premiers, Chief Ministers and the PM, and the only questions with a bitchy spin came from, you know who, Matthew Franklin and Dennis Shanahan from The Oz. Sigh.

HillbillySkeleton

April 20. 2010 06:32 PM

HillbillySkeleton

Marilyn,
        Give the dog a bone, will you? You are sounding like a broken record.

HillbillySkeleton

April 20. 2010 06:52 PM

lyn

Hi Hillbilly Skeleton,

Thankyou for the link to Joe Kelly's piece.

What do you make of this though:

However, Mr Barnett said Western Australia was prepared to pay an equivalent amount of money into a state controlled fund.

“In other words, the outcome would be exactly the same, but we would not agree to the Commonwealth taking in a pre-empt way one third of the GST.”


www.theaustralian.com.au/.../story-e6frgczf-1225856073218

lyn

April 20. 2010 07:11 PM

Sir Ian Crisp

And while you're feeding the dog Marilyn take the time to read the Australian Constitution particularly s51 which gives parliament the right to make laws etc and those laws may apply to aliens. Our High Court has already ruled that the parliament can detain aliens for a non specified period if it wishes.

Sir Ian Crisp

April 20. 2010 07:27 PM

HillbillySkeleton

lyn,
    I think Liberals just like being spoilers. Or maybe Colin Barnett was under instructions from Head Office in Canberra. Smile

HillbillySkeleton

April 20. 2010 08:20 PM

Marilyn

yes Ian, but they are not aliens, just refugee claimants and there are caveats on the cases.

In the first case of LIM in 1994 the detention was only legal while there was process and time limits.

In the second case of Al Kateb that was only detention pre deportation and only for so long as the process of deportation was in train.

Locking up innocent people because you suspended their human rights outside the law is not legal.

Marilyn

April 20. 2010 08:26 PM

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Folks
I've just listened to the Laura Tingle segment on the Phillip Adams show of yesterday evening.  It's interesting listening, but illustrates the old dictum - a day is a long while in politics.  If anyone has the link for Laura's comments tonight, please post it.

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April 20. 2010 09:17 PM

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Folks
I've just posted a nice piece from Bushfire Bill Liberals' universal solution to everything: Just say 'No'  Enjoy

I'll keep comments open on this post until you're finished.

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April 21. 2010 10:32 AM

inside bias

Who cares - only 100,000 bother watching.

inside bias

April 21. 2010 02:49 PM

Sir Ian Crisp

Sorry Marilyn, you are wrong.

Introduction
In three sets of judgments handed down simultaneously in August 2004, the High Court declared that the federal government can detain rejected asylum seekers indefinitely —perhaps for life —regardless of their inability to be deported to any other country and irrespective of the intolerable conditions inside the government’s immigration detention centres.
www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/UWSLRev/2004/7.html


Sir Ian Crisp

April 21. 2010 04:48 PM

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Folks
As we're now getting mainly spam here, I'm closing comments.

Please comment on the current piece.

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Comments are closed