Research indicates that the typical ABC journalist's political beliefs are well to the left of the general population. A recent survey found that over 40% support the Greens, over 30% support Labor, and just 15% support the Coalition.
Any reasonable estimation must leave Australians lamenting the way "aunty" has become so blatantly riddled with political bias - and not only in the selection of political issues, but the emphasis and persons selected to comment. Almost without exception, the ABC takes the line of the hard left.
There are numerous examples of this, including climate change, asylum seekers, same-sex marriage, and indeed almost any topic which is discussed on the farce which is Q&A. Most recently, we saw the release of information about Australia's alleged spying on Indonesia through high-profile phone tapping. Despite the fact that this was alleged to have occurred under the Rudd Government's watch, the information was released only when the newly elected Abbott Government was handling relations well with Indonesia, making significant inroads to restoring the integrity of our borders. The ABC says that it was The Guardian that sat on the information. If so, why did they chose to become the advertiser for this left-wing news outlet, giving the report the gravitas in Asia which only an official Australian TV service can?
In the case of private outlets, journalist's leanings, left or right, should not be cause for concern in itself. After all, so long as comment is clearly distinguishable from news, readers (or viewers) may, as they have done in the case of Fairfax, vote with their feet. However, Australians should be concerned that they are forced to pay in excess of $1bn for the left-wing propaganda they are being drip fed.
This, perhaps through pure desperation, has led to calls for the full privatisation of the ABC. I believe that would be a mistake. A prime reason for the existence of the ABC today should be to provide services which commercial broadcasting either does not or cannot provide - for example some regional broadcasting. And complementary doesn't mean politically complementary, as the ABC is not supposed to have any political agenda.
Instead, we must find a way to ensure strong editorial leadership. Of singular importance in achieving this is the office of Managing Director which, as the incumbent, Mark Scott, so correctly identifies, is two-facetted. The first role being CEO and the second role - the one which Mr. Scott is charged with failing to deliver - being Editor-in-Chief.
So much of the problem can be attributed to the ABC's legal and de facto structural weaknesses. All power is effectively vested in the Managing Director, with the Chairman and Board of Directors so constrained by the structural defects, they are demonstrably impotent in dealing with systemic bias. If the Managing Director prefers the advantages of a quiet life, he soon learns that his primary role is to defend and excuse the ABC in public and let the left-wing collectives run the joint.
I believe that the solution lies in democratising the ABC.
Firstly the Managing Director should be selected in the usual way, but crucially not have tenure. Instead, he or she should serve at the pleasure of a newly established Council (a group which I shall return to shortly). Just as in business.
Instead of a Board of Directors, effectively appointed by the government, we should rely on the common sense, good judgement and basic decency of the average Australian. Let's be a real democracy and let the people elect a Council of the ABC. To weed out the usual suspects and carpetbaggers, let them all be volunteers. And as all politicians should be, subject to a right of recall by the people. This Council of rank-and-file Australians would then elect a Board of Directors from amongst its members.
A public enquiry into public broadcasting could, amongst other things, determine the most appropriate way to conduct such elections. One such way would be an election of half the Council as and when a Federal election is held. This would result in approximately six-year appointments and would place little extra burden on taxpayers and electors. Alternates could also be elected to ensure casual vacancies are not treated as “jobs for the boys” as they blatantly are in the Senate.
Another significant problem any such enquiry must consider - one which is shared by other institutions such as the High Court - is that Canberra-Sydney-Melbourne centric view of our nation.
As well as democratising the ABC, it should also be federalised.
Whatever the electoral system, it should ensure the equal representation of states and not fail to neglect regional Australia. Each state could be divided into two electorates, one in the capital city agglomeration (e.g. Sydney/Wollongong/Newcastle), the second the rest.
Few would argue that the ABC - with its world view relayed through an extraordinarily vast number of outlets, stretching even into print - is not in desperate need of reform. The ABC, being responsible for the dissemination of information, is unique and should be treated as such.
Those in the government who feel this problem is best left in the too hard basket should recall G.K. Chesterton's observation that "the whole modern world has divided into conservatives and progressives. The business of the progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected." This is an opportunity for Tony Abbott to demonstrate that he has the vision, foresight and fundamental strength of character to address a problem which goes to the very fabric of Australian society.
Jai Martinkovits is the author with David Flint of Give Us Back Our Country (Connor Court, 2013). You can follow Jai on Twitter at @jaimartinkovits.
[This article first appeared on www.onlineopinion.com.au and has been republished with full permission]
The attempted rebirth of an already discredited proposal to build a second airport at Badgerys Creek would almost certainly produce a white elephant. However, western Sydney residents could be forgiven for believing that they have been presented with a fait accompli.
The claimed cost of $2.3 billion - a figure which will blow out and which does not take into consideration the substantial costs of infrastructure, which, based on previous industry experience, is likely to add a further $4 billion to $5 billion - raises the question: is this a raw deal?
Is this just another case which reinforces the widely held view that today's politicians lack long-term vision, instead only focusing on the next election cycle?
The jobs, jobs, jobs rhetoric which has been drip-fed to the people, admittedly compounded by the recent absence of a well-thought-out and cohesive ''No'' case, has led to polls suggesting majority support.
But of course there are no jobs in failed infrastructure projects and there are important economic, operational and environmental considerations, all of which point to the need for a better outcome.
Proponents should know an independent alliance of concerned citizens is in the process of incorporating to advance this case.
Common sense suggests you must get the most out of what you've already got. Proponents of the push for a second airport at Badgerys Creek ignore the real capacity potential of Sydney Airport and surrounding land.
The airport is, by international standards, remarkably well located and, unlike Badgerys Creek, offers the potential for safe and quiet departures and approaches over the sea. We must exploit this asset to its full potential.
Then, there are very serious doubts, based on international experience, around the operational and economic viability of second airports generally. The international aviation landscape is littered with recent failures.
One such example is Ciudad Airport in central Spain, which has just gone up for auction for a measly 100 million euros (after a cost to build of one billion euros). Despite its capacity to handle 10 million passengers a year, it has not received a commercial flight since 2011.
A failed second airport at Badgerys Creek may deliver upfront rewards for its proponents, but will deliver no long term benefits for western Sydney, and Sydney more generally.
Further, there are legitimate environmental concerns. Due process has written off Badgerys Creek as an inappropriate site for a second airport owing to environmental concerns, including air quality, noise pollution, risks to our water supply and ecological sustainability.
Operational constraints imposed by fog and wind shear problems, coupled with the risks associated with the supply of fuel by truck, are further downsides.
If our politicians are genuine about boosting the western Sydney economy, they must give serious consideration to a solution based around high-speed rail.
A well thought out combination of north-south and east-west high-speed rail, implemented on a progressive stage by stage basis, and supporting localised public transport services, will deliver genuine economic and connectivity benefits for the people of western Sydney in both the medium and long term.
This also offers the internationally demonstrated potential to stimulate regional growth and development and will alleviate much of the demand on Sydney Airport.
State and federal governments of both persuasions don't have a great track record of extracting efficient use from the assets they already own, in particular air space over railways and runway/curfew arrangements at Sydney Airport that reflect international best practice.
They also have a tendency to try to solve the problems of the eastern suburbs, the north shore and the inner west, while failing to address the burdens of the two million Australians in the western suburbs, who already face exorbitant tolls and congestion.
The NSW government will not enjoy support from western Sydney for a second airport at Badgerys Creek unless the essential road and rail connections are delivered before a second airport is operational.
And for those who still choose to travel by air, may I suggest that if the good citizens of Penrith knew that they could jump on a train and be at Sydney Airport in, say, 32 minutes, you can bet your bottom dollar that any support for a second airport at Badgerys Creek would quickly evaporate.
[This article was first published by The Sydney Morning Herald, both in print and online at: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/badgerys-creek-airport-will-be-a-white-elephant-20131215-2zf8x.html]
Following the Ex-HSU boss Michael Williamson's guilty plea, Jai Martinkovits speaks with 2UE's Dicko and Sarah about the state of the union movement in Australia.
Jai Martinkovits speaks with Tibor Meszaros about Give Us Back Our Country on West TV's "One on One Shadow Boxing".