It was interesting to watch Insiders yesterday morning (August 26th, 2018), with Barrie Cassidy hosting Annika Smethurst (Herald Sun), Andrew Probyn (ABC) and Shane Wright (West Australian) on the couch. One of the topics on which they touched (at 47.26) was the recent statement by journalist Chris Uhlmann (Channel 9) that ‘conservative’ media outlets Murdoch’s News Corp, Sky News and radio station 2GB were deeply involved in demonising Malcolm Turnbull, thereby setting off the omnishambles that was the Liberal leadership spill last week, which resulted in the replacement of Turnbull with Scott Morrison. They discussed it only in reference to the destabilisation of Turnbull. When asked about it, Andrew Probyn said, after snorting and stumbling, “It’s a difficult question, isn’t it”, seemingly ignoring the Murdoch pachyderm in the room. Even more ludicrous was Barrie Cassidy’s assertion that “If Peter Dutton had won the leadership, the one benefit for the Coalition, [or] for the Liberal Party, would be that these people would finally have turned their guns on Bill Shorten”. Where has Barrie been over the last 5 years? Has he not seen the numerous ‘kill Bill’ stories in the Murdoch media, of which I have highlighted but a few3,4,5,6,7,8,9? Or did he just have a sudden onrush of timorousness because Annika Smethurst was on the couch? She is a ‘ruperter’ from one of the most egregious of the Murdoch stable of what are inaccurately termed ‘newspapers’, the Herald Sun, or the ‘Hun’ as it is sometimes known, for its right-wing drivel. The Murdoch media outlets are indeed the cancer eating at the core of democracy in Australia10.
What this demonstrates is that the ABC has been cowed by the government, by the constant complaints against it when it does its job and holds the government to account, and by the installation of people favourable to the Coalition on the board and in the upper echelons of the organisation. This is one of the ways corrupt governments attempt to deflect attention from their behaviour; by co-opting or neutering the media. We continue to let this happen at our peril.