Monday, December 01, 2014

It’s time to lift your ABC game

Piers Akerman

In the next few weeks, ABC supremo Mark Scott is going to receive an unwelcome and long overdue letter from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull which will point out the obvious shortcomings in the public broadcaster’s operations.

It will contain reasonable, thoughtful requests some of which were foreshadowed in a speech Turnbull delivered in Adelaide last week.
It will not, for example, point out that the bloated workers’ collective is abysmally run by Editor-in-Chief and Managing Director Mark Scott.

That should be self-evident and is a point that hardly bears repeating. But it may reiterate the palpable need for Scott’s two roles to be separated to ensure that there is the chance that at least one of the functions will be performed adequately.

As Turnbull said, the current structure creates the impression that the Managing Director is directly in charge of ABC News and Current Affairs which he is not, and given the wide range of his responsibilities, could not be.

Scott’s role as Editor-in-Chief created the impression that he is directly in charge and responsible for the ABC’s news and current affairs programs but clearly he isn’t.

The buck never stops with him as it would if he were running the show.

Turnbull is effectively challenging the current board to pull its collective finger out and address some of the ABC’s inherent problems instead of sticking its collective head in the sand.
He said the board should expect the head of news and current affairs, like the CFO, to report to it directly as well as to the managing director, so the board can discharge its statutory obligation “to ensure that the gathering and presentation by the Corporation of news and information is accurate and impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism.”

Turnbull has been the target of complaints from taxpayers who assume that the minister is responsible for ensuring that the ABC’s news and current affairs is accurate and impartial.

That is not his role, nor the government’s role, nor should it be.
“The Government does not and should never have any control over the news and current affairs of the ABC or SBS. Mr Putin’s model of media management is no more admirable than his foreign policy,” Turnbull said in his address Wednesday. “But their boards are responsible for their objectivity and accuracy.”

Turnbull said he had heard directors say “they do not want to get involved” and made the understandable point that if they do not want to get involved they should resign. The board of each broadcaster has a responsibility and must discharge it, and be seen diligently to discharge it, or the board members should quit.

Extraordinarily, the ABC doesn’t have a chief financial officer. That role is currently undertaken by the chief operating officer, David Pendleton, the Chief Operating Officer who, in that role, is responsible for most of the resources and cost base of the ABC.

A company like the ABC should have a qualified CFO who reports directly to the Board as well as the CEO, someone who is fearlessly independent, ensuring that the management and board understand precisely where and how funds are being spent and what everything costs.

The ABC’s audience is ageing. In its attempts to attract a more youthful following it has dumbed down its products and encouraged productions that are offensive to the large sections of the population.

It cannot compete with its commercial rivals but it uses more than a $1 billion of taxpayers’ funds annually to try and steal their hard-won audiences.

In an age of increasing media diversity with a rapidly expanding range of delivery options, the need for state-funded broadcasters is itself highly questionable.

Yet the ABC clings to the myth that it fulfils a vital national need as if on the one hand its listeners were patiently seeking out its broadcasts with crystal sets and cats whiskers, even as it extends into the digital marketplace.

The days of the blue-rinsed Blue Hills’ audience have gone, and even if they had not passed with age, they would have fled from the foul-mouthed ideological commentary the ABC now offers routinely.

The task before the board is simple. Stop the blatant featherbedding that takes place at the bloated workers’ collective and reject the views of the highly-unionised workforce as the charter demands.

The immediate appointment of a fierce and fearless independent bean counter removed from the operational side of the organisation would be a good start.

The appointment of a managing director prepared to accept that the buck actually stops with him or her, and not with a functionary down the line, would be another worthwhile move.

If the board wants to continue to shirk its statutory obligation to ensure the CEO acts in accordance with the ABC charter it should do the decent thing and let the government appoint individuals who will not be afraid to address the ABC’s problems.



The Labor party won the election by a big margin so the churches now have a real worry about the matters below

The Labor and Greens proposal to change Equal Opportunity laws to allow judges to decide fundamental religious doctrines, beliefs and principles of faith, in order to promote equal opportunity, has created an unprecedented alliance. The policies of the Labor Party on this issue are highlighted in the recently released  Christian Values Checklist for the Victorian election on Saturday 29th November 2014.

The Catholic, Anglican, Coptic Orthodox, Lutheran, Baptist and Presbyterian churches have all joined together to call upon the parties contesting the Victorian elections to maintain the current fair and balanced Equal Opportunity laws. Jewish Rabbis and Muslim Imams have also publicly expressed their concern.

1.  Rabbi Mark Shimon + Catholic and Islamic Leaders speak out:

2.  YouTube Rev Mark Durie:

3.   Combined Church Statement:   

"The right to religious freedom of faith-based organisations, such as schools, hospitals, charities, welfare agencies, counselling and support services to employ those who share their beliefs and values, is embedded in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Labor and Greens proposal to amend the state law is a way of avoiding the intention of this important International Covenant," John Miller, spokesman for the Australian Christian Values Institute said in an issued media release.

"At the heart of the issue is the freedom of religious faiths to employ staff who affirm their beliefs. They have an internationally established right to do this. It is more than the right that the Labor and Greens parties claim for themselves when they select staff who share their ethos and values. The Labor and Greens parties would object if they were forced to employ Liberal party members in their offices".

"If the Labor, Greens and the Sex party, who also back the proposal, want to change the law then they should be prepared to apply it to themselves, and the trade unions, in the interests of a level playing field."


Witnesses setback for Julia Gillard at union royal commission

JULIA Gillard has suffered a ­setback in her bid to demolish ­allegations she received “wads of cash” from a corrupt union boss boyfriend in the 1990s, after the evidence of two key witnesses was accepted as reliable.

The counsel assisting the royal commission into union corruption, Jeremy Stoljar SC, yesterday dismissed the former Labor prime minister’s argument her evidence should be given more weight than that of Wayne Hem, a former Australian Workers’ Union staffer, and Athol James, a retired builder who helped to renovate Ms ­Gillard’s home.

The only plus for Ms Gillard in Mr Stoljar’s official reply to her legal response to his recommendations was the counsel ­assisting’s slight tempering of savage criticism that Ms Gillard could have helped prevent fraud by her then boyfriend Bruce ­Wilson if she had been more ­rigorous as a lawyer in setting up a slush fund for him.

Mr Stoljar appears to stick with his finding that Ms Gillard’s legal work on the fund was “questionable” — but he accepts Ms Gillard’s submission that it would still have been possible for Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt to “achieve their aims by other means” if the future prime minister had acted differently.

The counsel assisting has ­recommended to Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon QC, who will hand down an interim report on December 15, that Mr Wilson and his former AWU sidekick Ralph Blewitt face ­charges of criminal fraud and conspiracy arising from the AWU Workplace Reform Association that Ms Gillard helped them set up.

Despite criticism of Ms Gillard’s conduct and a finding that Mr Wilson paid for some of her home renovations, Mr Stoljar accepts Ms Gillard was not involved in criminal conduct and only later became aware that her then boyfriend’s slush fund was used to commit fraud.

Sticking with his view that Mr Hem and Mr James were telling the truth, Mr Stoljar yesterday gave “no probative force” to Ms Gillard’s request in a submission this month “to give significant weight to (her) good character and reputation” and to consider that the commission had little or no evidence about the character and reputation of two witnesses with accounts that conflicted with her account.

The counsel assisting said that while Ms Gillard was someone who had “enjoyed a long and immensely successful career in public life”, the inference could not be drawn that because Mr Hem and Mr James were “private persons” without power and influence that they were “not of good character and reputation”.

No evidence was called about their characters in cross-examination, Mr Stoljar said, and they were under no obligation to positively prove it.

Mr Stoljar rejected Ms Gillard’s claim that some of Mr Hem’s evidence was “strongly suggestive of recent invention”, saying it was difficult to understand any possible basis on which Mr Hem would “deliberately give false evidence on oath”.

“Mr Hem’s demeanour when giving evidence was of a person doing his best to remember what occurred. He was not cross-examined to the effect that he was ‘inventing’ his evidence. As will be recalled, Mr Wilson was careful not to deny that he had given Mr Hem $5000 in cash to deposit in Ms Gillard’s account.”

Mr Stoljar gave Mr Hem’s evidence further credibility by contrasting it with the inconsistencies of Con Spiridis, a builder whose “recollection of events is clearly unreliable”.

In another blow to Ms Gillard’s response submission, Mr Stoljar disputed her claim it was “inherently unlikely” that she would have told Mr James “in detail about intimate personal financial matters” to the effect that Mr Wilson was paying for renovations on her house. On the contrary, Mr Stoljar said, what Mr James had said Ms Gillard raised with him were not intimate personal financial matters, but remarks about “how payment of invoices would be effected”.

In other formal replies, Mr Stoljar slapped down the claim of Health Services Union official Kathy Jackson that he had departed from a planned “theme” of dealing with her treatment as a corruption whistleblower. He noted Ms Jackson’s barrister had said on August 28 he did not contend she was “ambushed” — as she had claimed in July — when he questioned Ms Jackson about her own alleged misuse of union funds. Only this month had Ms Jackson’s lawyer said her ambush complaint “has a degree of validity”.

Mr Stoljar rejected claims by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union that the commission had been inconsistent by recommending charges against its officials when there was civil court action occurring, but refraining from pursuing Ms Jackson in areas of ongoing court action.


Lambie off to bad start with meaningless ANPHA stand

On her first full day as an independent, Jacquie Lambie joined three other crossbench senators in pointlessly thwarting the government's bill to formalise the abolition of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) - an agency that was already dismantled earlier this year, with many of its responsibilities reassigned within the Department of Health.

ANPHA has already ceased to exist, and stopping the repeal bill is not going to resurrect it. Even as a symbolic gesture, this is a poor move on Lambie's part, because if ever an agency were ripe for cutting, it's ANPHA.

During its three years, the agency focused primarily on obesity, alcohol, and tobacco - a narrow segment of the broader category of preventive health. Its initiatives included a healthy eating cookbook featuring recipes for such basic dishes as spaghetti bolognese; a project that received nearly $190,000 in funding.

As an attempt to address obesity-related diseases, ANPHA was not cost-effective, it was wasteful.

The CEO of ANPHA is still being paid an annual salary of over $300,000 even though the agency has been closed down. Louise Sylvan, whose contract runs until 2016, declined to take a redundancy package earlier this year, and without legislation her contract - and salary - remain in effect.

From Louise Sylvan's perspective, declining the redundancy was the smart thing to do. But from the taxpayer's perspective, it's just money down the drain.

Preventing the repeal bill from going through does nothing to protect ANPHA. All it protects is bureaucratic jobs that have been literally 'do-nothing' for several months already.



Paul said...

Labor and the Greens in Victoria have managed to unite the Jews, Catholics and Muslims. Maybe we should round up Andrews and his "team" and parachute them into the Middle East.

(BTW, we've just moved out of slowly-dying Cairns onto six acres of tranquility in Malanda. Glorious.)

jonjayray said...

A long commute

Paul said...

Not that often.