Our Auntie is Not a Murdoch

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The tried and tested means of transferring invaluable public assets—assets that were established by generations of citizens—into private hands goes like this:

  • Use the excuse of budget shortfalls to cut public spending to the poorest people in our community as well as to areas that benefit most members of the community, such as health, education and information services that enable the community to hold their decision makers to account.

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Australians trust the ABC because it employs journalists who understand that their job is to accurately and impartially convey information. For this reason it is a national treasure.

Meanwhile, the current ABC Board and executive team seem to be having problems understanding the traditional role that the ABC plays in informing and educating Australians with independent information. Sadly, these administrators don’t seem to recognise the difference between talented, dedicated journalists and industry spokespeople who are mouthpieces for vested interests.

At 5.45am last Wednesday 14 December, armed with the red line of fabric that led more than 10,000 climate protestors through the streets of Paris* at the conclusion of COP21 this time last year, the Climate Guardians descended on the ABC Southbank studios to lock out industry stooges who are hijacking Australia’s public broadcaster and national information provider. We signified the ABC’s iconic Lissajous curve logo with our red fabric and carried signs reading:

  • OUR AUNTIE IS NOT A MURDOCH
  • INDUSTRY LOBBYISTS ARE NOT QUALIFIED SCIENTISTS
  • SCIENTIFIC FACTS ARE NOT INDUSTRY-AGENDA OPINIONS
  • INDEPENDENT ABC NOT MOUTHPIECE FOR POLLUTERS
  • INVOICE TO: GUATAM ADANI FOR: LAST WEEK’S CARMICHAEL COAL MINE ‘ADVERTORIAL’ AMOUNT: Incalculable (ABC NOT ‘open for business’)
  • ALL LIVES DEPEND ON A SAFE CLIMATE
  • KEEP COAL, OIL AND GAS IN THE GROUND

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We intend to continue holding the ABC Board to account for allowing Australia’s national public broadcaster to be used as a mouthpiece for anthropogenic climate change deniers with close ties to industry front groups, including the Institute of Pubic Affairs (IPA) and Centre for Independent Studies (CIS).

It’s thanks to countless talented, trained journalists at the ABC that generations of Australians have been highly independently informed and educated about our world and our nation’s position and responsibilities within it. But now, driven by business and industry and their political supporters, there has been an increasing and illogical expectation that the ABC ought to dumb down its content in line with commercial stations that are beholden to the vested interests of advertisers and corporate partners. Peer reviewed science is not the same as ‘opinion’ no matter how many times right wing commentators assert that it is, as a strategy to mislead and confuse the public.

Given that a) the Australian public has built the ABC to be independent and reliable, and b) 97 per cent of scientists are in agreement re: anthropogenic climate change, we believe that Australian taxpayers have a right to know why in recent times:

  • The ABC’s Board has an obvious bias towards neoliberal leaning directors lacking experience in the provision of independent information and educational services;
  • A disproportionate number of spokespeople from climate denier industry front groups are now being given airtime on the ABC;
  • Transparency is being severely compromised at the ABC—for instance, spokespeople from special interest groups who are now regularly appearing on ABC programs are not currently obliged to disclose the funding behind their positions;
  • Multiple award-winning and highly popular ABC science programs that have been a major source of public education relating to climate science, including startling rapid changes happening in Australia’s environment right now, as well as information re: how to respond during climate-induced extreme weather events such as firestorms, are now being reformulated in ways that appear to be setting them up to fail;
  • Expressing basic concerns over food and water security, and preserving Australia’s unique environment, is deemed ‘political’? (which also begs the question about why taking an interest in politics is allegedly something that should be shied away from?);
  • ABC news coverage of the latest developments re: the proposed Adani Carmichael Coal project (including a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money being promised for infrastructure to help cart coal for shipment through the extremely vulnerable Great Barrier Reef) reads more like an ‘advertorial,’ making little or no mention of the catastrophic impacts the project would have on the local environment and the global climate, not to mention the 69,000 jobs that currently depend on a healthy reef; and
  • Australians are losing trust in the ABC’s Board and executive team for allowing the ABC’s independence to be severely compromised.

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We cannot address climate change and deliver on Australia’s promises to the world community under the Paris Climate Agreement while industry lobbyists are allowed to use our national public broadcaster and information provider as a mouthpiece. Having come from the Murdoch Empire, Michelle Guthrie knows full well that there are more than enough opportunities for industry driven opinions to be expressed via the commercial Newscorp empire.

It is precisely because the ABC is our trusted public broadcaster and national information provider that climate deniers have an obvious agenda to exploit it. Providing substantial coverage for the agenda of industry groups with vested interests—whose lobbyists are on the record referring to themselves as the Greenhouse Mafia and bragging about turning Australia into a ‘polluters’ paradise’—under the guise of providing ‘balance’ is wrong.

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* in defiance of a state of emergency ban on protesting following the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on the eve of it hosting the 2015 UN climate conference.

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