4 cents a day

Former Chairman of the ABC Board, Justin Milne fell on his sword after sacking the Managing Director, Michelle Guthrie, recently. The discussion around this will continue for quite a while, especially if the ex-MD follows through on her threat to sue for wrongful dismissal. Where that particular saga ends up is anyone’s guess and hopefully when the government does appoint people to the vacant positions, they will follow the legislated process of ‘rubberstamping’ the recommendations of the independent panel that is responsible for research and character checking. In fact, it is probable that the current dramas wouldn’t have occurred if the recommendations were followed last time by Communications Minister Fifield.

It was interesting to watch the change in focus over the week when Guthrie and Milne walked the plank. On Monday, Guthrie was claimed to be someone who was completely out of touch with the demands of the job, by Thursday the narrative had changed to Milne apparently instructing Guthrie to sack journalists who were ‘critical’ of the government, an instruction Guthrie refused, demonstrating how ‘in touch’ she was!

It really doesn’t matter who said or didn’t say what to whom. Milne and Guthrie are victims of a process of the current government to eliminate criticism of their actions. There was significant media coverage at various times suggesting that Turnbull and Fifield were not happy with perceived errors, criticisms or inaccuracies in some ABC current affairs reports. Fifield has also been regularly filing complaints with the ABC for trivialities. You can’t really blame Milne for making the assumption that the government was ‘not happy’ with the actions of some of its journalists, albeit his subsequent actions were apparently wrong. However it is important to note that most of the ‘inaccuracies’ Turnbull and Fifield complained about were actually factual.

Rather than going down ‘he says, she says’ rabbit holes, have a look at the core problem. Yes, the government of the day funds the ABC using taxpayer funds. So the current ABC ‘yours’ marketing campaign is correct — we all own the ABC. The reporting of information that doesn’t necessarily reflect positively on the government of the day’s actions or behaviours is something that demonstrates that we as taxpayers are getting value for money. This is evidenced by the journalists we employ, who are doing their job and reporting fact without fear or favour to those that control the funding source. After all, one of the many criticisms of governments such as the one in North Korea is that adverse commentary, let alone dissent, on the actions of the government or questioning the government policies is strictly prohibited.

Ex-PM Turnbull has been reported in various media outlets as not directly asking anyone to sack anyone. He’s probably literally correct in that he didn’t get on the phone to Milne and order anything happen to anyone. But he didn’t have to. Waleed Aly’s recent opinion piece in Fairfax publications claims the recent ABC goings on are part of a bigger issue. Aly writes about a phone call between Peta Credlin (in her role as Abbott’s Chief of Staff) ringing Chris Mitchell (the editor of The Australian) demanding the sacking of an opinion piece writer, a journalist wrongly caught up in the Centrelink ‘robo-debt’ fiasco and, after writing a blog piece on her experiences, having personal details leaked by the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government to the media. In addition, the federal parliament has passed legislation allowing certain issues, say a hypothetical ASIO raid on the office of the Opposition Leader, to be retrospectively claimed as a ‘national security’ issue. Those that have filed their reports on the matter prior to the declaration would then potentially endure jail time because they reported on a ‘national security’ matter. ABC funding is also an area of implied editorial control by starving the organisation of cash to pay the researchers. At the same time, the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government claim to be promoting free speech for ‘persecuted’ right wing Christian groups!

We could also discuss the undue influence in Australian politics of the likes of News Corp, who’s proprietor chose to forego his Australian citizenship to further his business interests; or radio announcers such as Alan Jones, who recently lost another defamation case through his lack of attention to facts in his commentary — but we all probably have better things to be doing for the rest of the day.

The ABC ran a campaign in the 80s saying it costs each Australian 8 cents a day. Their Chief Financial Officer recently suggested the cost had gone down to 4 cents a day. For our 4 cents a day (or $14.60 per year), we get reporting by some of the best practitioners of the journalism trade in Australia and relevant content targeted to most demographics in this country across many media platforms. What we shouldn’t get is real or implied political interference because the reporting is perceived to be critical of government or their policies.

Some will always believe that our government should be the best that their money or influence can buy, and they are entitled to their opinion. However, the recent interest in the ABC’s independence demonstrates that the majority of us want fair, unbiased reporting rather than self-censorship because of interference. We also seem to have a tolerance for the demonstration of the maxim: if you don’t occasionally stuff it up, you’re not trying to do your job to the best of your ability. As the owners of the ABC, we need to remind all politicians that media independence is our expectation and criticism comes with the turf.

What do you think?

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Joe Carli


I see the corruption throughout those once trusted institutions and authorities is now endemic...I cannot see how anything short of a physical pogrom to purge ALL influences of LNP "stacking" of those placements as cleansing the problem..and THAT in itself will cause issues..

To quote one who was very well versed on the methodology of corruption..: Machiavelli ..:

" . . . And I will presuppose a City very corrupt, such difficulties come to rise very fast, as there are found there neither laws or institutions that should be enough to check a general corruption. For as good customs have need of laws for maintaining themselves, so the laws, to be observed, have need of good customs. In addition to this, the institutions and laws made in a Republic at its origin when men were good, are not afterward more sui, when they men have become evil. And if laws vary according to circumstances and events in a City, its institutions rarely or never vary: which results in the fact that new laws are not enough, for the institutions that remain firm will corrupt it. . . "  


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Joe Carli

Machiavelli was right. What hope is there? We see his words of wisdom played out every day, all around the globe from the smallest to the largest organisations. 

Joe Carli


I think Machiavelli gives us the clue there at the end of that quote, in that the laws themselves have to be rewritten by decent people...and THAT would mean a purge by judgement in courts of those who have corrupted the "customs" as he says...and when we can see high institutions the ADF bulking at investigating and / or charging corrupt individuals because of their power...when we see the judiciary bulking at condemning from the bench those charged with contempt of the court of law in the case of Hunt, Sukkar and Tudge because it would bring a corrupt govt' down...When we see the main-stream media cowering from exposing too soon those obviously corrupted..When we see a electorate that will overlook the immoral and degenerate behaviour of a candidate EVEN over one of it's own community members and family!!..to place such an individual BACK into our parliament ???....need I go on?...

When we see so much corruption operating so visibly within our own "line of sight" .. I have to say that only the most dramatic lancing of the boil would have to suffice....and when we have so many of our politicians and senior standing business people who have graduated from those same institutions that have nurtured the most corrupt even down to the most honest with a "consciousness of kind" affiliation...I just cannot see it happening soon.

Anyway...I think it is becoming irrelevant now with climate change becoming the big player in human destiny..and no matter how much political power or wealth one has, I don't see any hiding from THAT purging for too long...bitterly ironic how perhaps the destruction by mother nature just might "save" us all !!

Joe Carli


For your amusement....

Ode to Machiavelli’s Discourses of Titus Livy.

Y’know..I can sympathise with ol’ Machiavelli,

Seeing how things at this moment are not very Agreeable..somewhat friable..if’n you’ll allow…

And HE did avow to explain with a lengthy refrain

The deeper meanings of one : Titus Livius..THE man.

I have picked over his “Discourses” as one does pick,

Thread-bits from a new coat..or the currants, thick

From granny’s fruit loaf..very nice..’til she thanks

You with a rap of the wooden spoon, you’ll soon

Learn to pay close attention to such indelible rune..

And wonder, he, whether such honour indeed,

Bestowed upon those ancients, and their seed be

But an impersonation of admired esteem,

Less one’s smarts be seen as hollow sincerity, given as trope

To impertination so vain as to promenade that path again and again….and again?

Wisdom admired..but never imitated, even diluted, you may plea,

So that WE, who have gained this Earth and now lost our soul,

Given, on the whole, as fuel to the false god of intellectual flattery.

Assault and battery on lost integrity exchanged impressionably

For mutual back-slapping and the odd “gold echidna”.

I wouldn’t be kidding yer if I was to say, with an underbreath ; “Ole’”

That the measure of intellect today is, sadly, awry,

Y, ‘Tis enough to make one cry..given what history has bequeathed

So each generation in turn could turn over a new leaf.

With so much, so ample that we have more than sample..it’s that simple.

“For our civil laws are but decisions by ancient Jurisconsults,

That teacheth our present Jurisconsults systems by which to judge…”

A drudge with nought to follow but example and re-assemble

Forebears preamble on things “socially medicinal”, as an endocrine?

Should work out fine ..if we but listen, not descend to vicious hissing.

The biggest mistake being; not understanding history,

But make mystery of what we WILL NOT see..Is it just me?

Or is it thee who takes more pleasure from the infinite variety

Of incidents in this or that society and such scandalous pleasure

As your measure of understanding, rather than demanding

We take heed to the answers to those deeds, as if these

Times have changed the behaviour of men and then of women too

It’s a shoo-in to see ; the Sun the Moon, the sea and thee

Have not changed their motions and power, hour on hour

From ancient times, I’d avower and from such error; allora!

I’d therefore call thee to hark to the wisdom of Titus Livy

And give time to study the erstwhile text of Machiavelli

Written in testament for us to understand such history

For ; Zanobi Buondelmonti and Cosimo Rucellai..

Which for this pleasure I now bequeath to thee…from me.

I have two politicians and add 17 clowns and 14 chimpanzees; how many clowns are there?