Remember the last time the Coalition government was insinuating treachery on the part of the ABC, and making like it was about to take a cricket bat to it? That was back in the days when Prime Minister Howard’s government was keenly promoting our mission to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. (And by gee didn’t that turn out well?).
Back then Senator Richard Alston was considering installing an independent censor with powers over the ABC , if they didn’t answer the 60 charges of bias against the AM Program who had offended the government by improperly focussing on the quagmire aspects of the Iraq adventure rather that the glorious patriotic motives behind the decision to send brave lads off to war. Then as now the government reaction was just the pointy end of a broader campaign by the New New Guard to dismantle the national broadcaster.
Nothing much happened that time of course other than the ABC getting a bit of a rap over the knuckles, and installing some board stacks , it all eventually just ebbed away, until we returned to the general background noise of the quasi-conservative bloggers and their semi-literate fanboys muttering their incantations and poking pins in their ABC voodoo dolls.
The tide went out. But now its back in. The exhortations, wailing and gnashing of teeth of the ABC haters has once again risen to a frenzy, and the Coalition government has been suckered into the fray, with first the ridiculous accusation by Minister Morrison that the reporting of burnt hands of asylum seekers somehow constitutes ‘sledging’ and blackens the name of the entire Navy, and now the highly irrational statements by the Prime Minister that the ABC weren’t barracking for the home team. Oh come on get a grip.
It’s fortunate that this period of fizzing indignation happens to coincide with a moment when an Australian journalist is being held by an unelected semi-dictatorship in an Egyptian prison on charges of fabricating news and tarnishing Egypt’s reputation abroad. Because it allows us to see that it is just a tiny dial setting higher than the accusations laid by the government against the ABC. The remedy in both cases apparently is to shut down the source of the irritating distraction. The Egyptians have the luxury of being able to employ a ‘go directly to jail – do not pass go’ approach, but the ABC-haters have to take a more subtle long-term approach to dismantling one of our most long-standing and important democratic institutions. So cue the unprovable accusations of bias – cue the demands to sell it off or privatise it because taxpayers dollars are being wasted on something for an elite few, and cue the manful table thumping from a few in the manfully manned up Abbott cabinet.
Of course those of us who appreciate the ABC needn’t worry too much. It’s just high tide again in the Anti-ABC slops bucket, and the tide will recede once more. We can be confident in that because Australians don’t like radicals, and Australians’ conservative nature will never let the radicals, who wish to tear apart such a long-standing and significant institution, have their way.
After all what are they proposing to replace it with? Nothing? Is that it? Just empty radio and TV frequencies and and URL taken over by a cybersqatter? Or is it privatisation – Advertisements up the wazoo like all the commercial crap we’ve already got? Yeah as if that will win the hearts and minds of the Australian people.
See that’s the thing. The ABC haters only ever talk about its bias and about tearing it down, they never talk about what happens next. They just don’t have a convincing alternative.
The Abbott Government won’t do much to the ABC. Firstly they haven’t got the guts, it’d be political suicide, and secondly, It’s not in the nature of conservatives to tear things down and this Abbott Government is nothing if not conservative.