Australia: The Squad runs riot at our ABC

Australia: The Squad runs riot at our ABC. By Janet Albrechtsen.

There is a group of women at the ABC that helps explain what’s gone wrong with the public broadcaster. The Squad, he called them. He listed Louise Milligan, Sally Neighbour, Laura Tingle, Annabel Crabb, Virginia Trioli, Fran Kelly and Sarah Ferguson. I’d remove Trioli and insert Patricia Karvelas.



The label fits because the left-wing politics of these women, as with their US congressional counterparts, are no secret. A few are charming. Some throw their weight around at the ABC more than others. But they all showcase a set of beliefs that hardly reflects the diversity of this country.

The Squad is part of why the highest-profile programs at the ABC have gone from bad to truly rotten. Kelly features a conga line of journalists on RN Breakfast who parrot the Canberra press gallery consensus. That’s not balance. And it’s so boring. Her obsession with climate change fails to stretch to scrutiny of the world’s biggest emitters: China and India. That’s not balance, either.

Why should the ABC be a political playground for staff? Taxpayers should not have funded Crabb’s one-sided program about women in parliament. Karvelas’s panels are mostly conservative-free zones. And note how Tingle’s sharpness depends on who she is interviewing: the disgruntled has-been Julia Banks was given an embarrassingly easy ride.

When I was a board member, the question was what to do about Aunty. How to make it better, more entertaining, true to a good charter that requires it to be a broadcaster that reflects the country, not a sliver of inner-city obsessions. That is more imp­ort­ant today because the rot has set in at those parts that emanate from the big cities. A putrid mix of institutional arrogance and personal fiefdoms serves up a middle-finger salute to taxpayers too often. …

The ABC has always been a series of silos, some run as personal fiefdoms. Only it’s worse today. Look at the juvenile behaviour at Four Corners, the sheer indulgence of Ferguson putting together a one-sided program on Donald Trump that a first-year cadet journalist could have done at a fraction of the cost. …

When journalists stuff up, timorous managers at the ABC say the fault lies with policies, not the journalist. So policies are redrafted. This has had several advantages: it has snowed some on the board, protected the recidivists from personal accountability and buried the issue at hand, usually forever. …

At a normal outfit, performance pay and bonuses are used to hold managers to account for management failings. Not at the ABC. I saw first-hand how bonuses were paid irrespective of compliance with the charter or failing to rein in personal fiefdoms.

Personnel is policy. So sack them.

Then fund the ABC out of voluntary payments, not tax collected with the threat of violence. It’s a moral thing.

See also The Australian ABC: 45 years of Cultural Dominance by the Political Left in Australia.