Features Australia

Fact-checker? What about a bias-checker?

8 June 2019

9:00 AM

8 June 2019

9:00 AM

ABC chair Ita Buttrose has got interested in the bias issue. Melbourne ABC 774 Drive host Rafael Epstein fished last week for a ‘no-bias’ endorsement. Ita set him back: ‘Sometimes I think we might be biased, I think sometimes we could do with more diversity of views.’ Check the transcript on Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog.

By coincidence, I’d been checking bias myself by sampling ABC’s flagship Victorian TV  news of Saturday May 25  to Monday May 27.

On Saturday 7pm I sought news of the terror attack in central Lyon, since I’d got back from a Paris holiday on Friday. A bomb packed with shrapnel injured thirteen bystanders. Not a word or picture made the trivia-laden bulletin. On Sunday and Monday’s 7pm, zip. But Monday’s ran a piece about a bomb in Kathmandu that killed four and injured seven. It was blamed on some Mao-ist sect, whereas an Algerian you-know-who is the arrested suspect in Lyon. Take your pick: ABCTV protects its ‘religion of peace’ narrative, or has no idea about news priorities.

Next, how’s this from Sunday’s bulletin on the European elections. Presenter Mary Gearin: ‘Major parties are warning cohesion of the continent is at stake as they battle to defend liberal democracies against a right-wing populist surge.’ So if cheesed-off Europeans vote against borderless immigration, costly renewables and EU stultification, it’s a ‘populist surge’ attacking ‘liberal democracies’? In ABC code, ‘populist’ is ‘bad’ except when the Left becomes popular.

The EU item, by Europe correspondent Linton Besser, focused entirely on Hungary where PM Viktor Orban has spruiked his version of ‘illiberal democracy’. By the way, weren’t Julia Gillard and Stephen Conroy implementing Orban-style ‘illiberal democracy’ in 2012 with their legislation to muzzle the ABC-unfriendly Murdoch press?

On Monday I caught the end of The Drum. The panel, hosted by Kathryn Robinson, was a full-on leftist stack. There was the Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher. He called Boris Johnson, British PM contender, historian, ex-London mayor 2008-16 and ex-minister of state for foreign affairs 2016-18 ‘a buffoon, a funny buffoon’. Kerryn Phelps was there: ‘Good to see you again’ as the host said, ‘again’ being an understatement. Phelps was the anti-Coalition independent who won then lost Malcolm Turnbull’s Wentworth seat. Plus Avril Henry, gender diversity consultant who had previously used the ABC to grieve ‘Oh the inhumanity!’ about asylum seekers. And the obligatory Aboriginal activist, in this case Karen Mundine of Reconciliation Australia. Ita is right about lack of ‘diversity of views’.

Host Robinson addressed Dr Phelps, ‘Kerryn, as a former MP, a leader, was that something that ever crossed your mind about keeping your emotions intact…’. Better would be, ‘Kerryn, as a former MP, a loser…’. Heavens, how would Robinson have addressed Phelps if she’d actually retained Wentworth and helped PM Shorten to puff up ABC funding? ‘Empress of the Universe’?

The trophy item was from the Saturday 7pm bulletin. Fijian coastal villagers are resisting government pressure to move to higher ground to escape the rising seas of climate change, according to foreign affairs (Asia Pacific) reporter Stephen Dziedzic.

‘Here in Kokova traditions linger and the sea gives life,’ Dziedzic intoned. His village spokesman, Mr Paki, claimed they fled from another climate-drowning island 30 years ago – Dziedzic never asked which (mythical) drowning island.

Mr Paki’s brother can certainly talk the climate talk. He tells Dziedzic he hopes the West will help save his village from rising seas ‘by tackling climate change. If the scientists warn us that what we are doing is destroying life on the planet, we should refrain from doing it.’ Dziedzic sums up: ‘People in the Pacific are already grappling with how you plan for rising seas… The people of Korowa remain hopeful.’ Mr Paki book-ends the piece: ‘Somehow the ocean is giving us time.’ Asks Dziedzic, or maybe Paki, ‘But how much time remains?’.

Actually, lots of time. There’s no sea rise around Fiji. Prime Minister Bainimarama was president of the UN’s COP23 climate-fest in Bonn in 2017 and he milked the ‘poor drowning Fiji’ meme for all it’s worth, which is zero. The lowest-lying Pacific nation Tuvalu has actually gained 73 hectares since 1970 – that’s 73 rugby fields worth. Prime Minister Turnbull’s crew, distressed by this drowning-island nonsense, shelled out $21 million in bilateral climate-change aid to Fiji in the three years to 2017-18, plus more via our $300m into Paris’s ludicrous Green Climate Fund that seeks $US100 billion a year from the West. (Turnbull  promised $1 billion). The Fiji funding wasn’t one hundred per cent wasted as some went to cyclone-disaster aid.

Anyway, to help Fiji at Bonn with some data, sea-rise expert Nils-Axel Morner earlier went to Fiji’s Yasawa islands to measure their sea-level history from rock faces undercut and etched by tides. Morner concluded, ‘This documentation implies that there is a total lack of signs indicating a present rise in sea level; on the contrary, our results are indicative of quite stable sea level conditions. Consequently, our records may be taken as reassurance for low-lying coasts and islands that potential for flooding in the near future is unlikely.’ Dziedzic’s sea peril item is a crock.

To relax, job done, I took in Laura Tingle’s 7.30 on Thursday May 30. On her item about Robert Mueller’s Trump comments, Tingle said, ‘I spoke to Republican political strategist, Rick Wilson’. Wilson, who also got an ABC ‘Republican’ graphic, then bagged Trump rotten as Russia’s picked candidate in 2016 and ‘for 2020 they will be behind him 100 per cent once again and the collusion is in plain sight now’.

This is from a ‘Republican strategist’? It’d be like calling today’s Turnbull ‘a Liberal strategist’. I was googling Wilson before Tingle had even finished. His last job for Republicans was in 2000. In 2016 he called Trump’s base ‘Neo-Nazis’ and ‘Frog Meme Idiots’. His book last year was, Everything Trump Touches Dies. Last week he tweeted regarding a different Trump expose, ‘It is without question that @realDonaldTrump is the most petty, thin-skinned, trifling no-account sh-tbird to ever hold the office of President. What a weak-dick move.’

7.30 did a false-flag job with its ‘Republican strategist’. How did Ms Tingle expect to get away with this? We’re not all witless out here.

Over to you, Ita, fellow bias-checker.

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