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.
Based on first-hand experience, I have come to the conclusion that Kevin Rudd does not trust the common sense, good judgement and decency of the average Australian.
And although masked by feel-good notions of empowering the people, Rudd’s party “reforms” – which are now collapsing in tatters – are really about protecting his own hide and motivated by his insatiable appetite for revenge.
These conclusions were made clear to me following my recent involvement in Joe Hildebrand’s mini-series for ABC2 – “Shitsville Express”. In the final episode, we had the opportunity to articulate frankly and honestly our “big idea” to solve what we believe to be the biggest problems facing the nation today. We were to pitch our vision to a group of captive schoolchildren, in the presence of the soon-to-be-recycled prime minister, Kevin Rudd.
When it was my turn to spill my “big idea” – which is to make our politicians truly accountable by empowering the rank-and-file between elections – he rejected it outright. Although it was once Labor policy, it is clear that he does not believe Australians can be trusted to apply their good judgment to make common sense decisions in the best interests of our nation. Typical of his class, it would seem he believes he is superior to the average elector.
Australians are increasingly disappointed in our politicians. So it is not a surprise that, whilst holding a gun to the heads of the faceless men, Kevin would try to secure his occupancy of the top job. At the same time he is falsely presenting this to the people as a solution to their concerns. However he has failed to address the principle, but not the only problem in the ALP – that is the blatant gerrymander through the bloc votes the union bosses control. Remember, union bosses are no longer real workers who have risen from the shop floor. Instead, they are factional apparatchiks – inner city elites – parachuted in to do the factions bidding.
Leaving the party to the faceless men leads not only to bad government, but to corruption – and that applies to the other mob too. This will inevitably attract an ICAC style investigation.
Although Kevin Rudd is still riding a honeymoon period, his resurrection will change nothing. It is a hoax to suggest that changing a prime minister is the same as changing the government. We must remember that Australia does not operate under a presidential system – and the proof is in the pudding. The policies which have been applied over the last six years have all been faithfully supported by Kevin Rudd, whether as prime minister, a minister or a back bencher. They are policies of the Labor party, with the prime minister only the first amongst equals.
If Kevin Rudd is genuine about empowering rank-and-file Australians, he would, at the very least, introduce some form of US style primary – that is allowing rank-and-file Labor supporters a direct say in the pre-selection of their local candidate. In fact, all sides of politics should have candidates who are chosen on merit, not for their allegiance to some faceless powerbrokers.
Australians would flock in droves to the political party which demonstrates true leadership by becoming open, democratic and transparent and by putting their money where their mouth is. This will be by showing they are serious about making politicians truly accountable. And not just in blank cheque election every three or four years, but on every day, of every week, of every month and of every year. Just as Australians are in their jobs.
Jai Martinkovits is is Executive Director of CANdo and recently co-authored "Give Us Back Our Country" with Professor David Flint, published by Connor Court. Follow Jai on Twitter at @jaimartinkovits.
[This article first appeared on www.MenziesHouse.com.au. To access the article, click here]
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]
Despite its vibrancy and diversity, government-controlled community television is struggling to survive in Australia.
The government's vision for community television is clearly not working and needs to be rethought. Their current policies are neither fair to those involved in community television, nor to the nation as a whole.
Not only have governments failed to support this crucial sector in any meaningful way, they have over regulated the industry to the point where it is bordering on being unable to support itself. To further burden those interested in community television, they have also failed to assure the future of community television broadcasting rights.
CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE IS NEEDED TO RESTORE DEMOCRACY, ARGUE DAVID FLINT AND JAI MARTINKOVITS
There is widespread belief among Australians that their country has been taken away from them and that there is something very wrong in the way in which the country is governed. Across the country, in our towns, cities and suburbs, on our farms and in our mines, in our pubs and clubs, Australians are asking how this happened and what they can do. They are intensely dissatisfied with their politicians. They want something more than being compelled to vote every three or four years, effectively signing a blank cheque in favour of one of two teams.
They increasingly realise candidates are rarely chosen openly and democratically, and not necessarily on merit but for their loyalty to one or other of the ‘‘ faceless men’’. These are the factional powerbrokers who exercise inordinate and undeserved power and authority in modern Australia.
We must never forget that when our forebears decided to come together as one people, this continent was already home to some of the most advanced democracies in the world. They achieved federation not through our politicians taking the decision for us, but by the people deciding how it would be done. Once they set their mind to this at Corowa in 1893, this was achieved with the full co-operation of the British in a remarkably short period of time. And let’s not forget this was done without modern communications and transport. When we did come together as one nation, we continued to be an exciting laboratory of new ideas empowering the people.
As with any human venture, the model we chose was not perfect. The greatest weakness was in only partially empowering the people in elections and by ensuring their consent was only necessary for constitutional change.
What the founding fathers did not foresee was that our representative democracy would become increasingly dominated by a rigorous twoparty system controlled essentially by cabals of ‘‘ faceless men’’, the factional powerbrokers.