Australian history

The ABC is left wing? You must be joking!

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Despite what you may have heard, the ABC is far from being left-wing, say 3CR radio host Bill Deller.

By Bill Deller

Despite what post-modernism has done to intellectual life around the world, truth is knowable.

Despite the efforts of the Sarumans and Wormtongues ,who service reaction and appeal to idiocy, there are particular and universal truths.

I am a particular truth, not because, as old Rene Descartes would have it, I think therefore I am ― but rather, I am and therefore I have an opportunity to think.

My ancestors were made emigrants by the enclosure process in England and Scotland in the 1840s and 50s.

Like thousands and millions of others, they made a perilous journey, losing children on the way, to establish a better future for the future generations than they had experienced (the truth of universal aspiration).

Four generations later, I had the privilege of growing up in a post-war Australia that enabled me, as the youngest of my family, to attend a state school (thanks Ms Crump for introducing me to books and the Geelong Regional Library ― a fortnightly bus trip to the  glorious world of reading, another universal truth for gubbas (whitefellas) in this occupied territory).

Despite the extraordinary trials, tribulations and amazing adventures they must have endured, there were no family stories passed down the generations ― another universal truth.

I had only vague insights into the degree of my privilege and absolutely no understanding of the obligation(s) that should be attached to the cosmological accident of my birth.

Among the richest eight per cent of the world's population, I should have been dancing with joy ― but with only a father who worked and received the basic wage, it was never easy.

The Christmas Bowl appeal at the Breakwater Baptist Church gave me an understanding there were lots of people worse off than myself; didn't the existence of missionaries prove that?

One summer, I heard reports that the Australian Wheat board had dumped shiploads of wheat into the sea because there were no markets for the excess supply.

It didn't mean much except that I thought ― why am I donating 20 cents when we could have given the starving those very same shiploads of wheat? (Therein an embryo of consciousness.)

I made it through to matriculation  because my elder siblings had all started work and reduced the pressure on family finances and, thanks to an education department bursary to LaTrobe University for a three year indulgence in reading, and discovering the amazing array of cultural offerings that uni life offered. (Surely not another universal truth for us gubbas?)

I discovered the power of classical music and delved into the classical world of Literature. Zorba the Greek introduced me to the notion that one should live every moment to the max.

I heard at a smoking concert, the late great Dutch Tilders, with no more than a guitar and hob-nailed boots on a board, play infectious funk music called the Blues – oh that indominatable spirit – and, oh yes, I did inhale.

I didn't respond all that well to academic life, but boy am I grateful for those three years.

I also had discovered that the ABC did more that broadcast footy and cricket, and I have been both grateful and indebted to my eight cents a day ever since.

I eventually had the overwhelming desire to go searching for more and was heading off to the Hippy Trail though India to Africa and onto the spiritual homeland of most of us gubbas ― Europe.

I got side-tracked on the way and found myself in Dampier,WA, and the union movement. I didn't even know at the time that my old man was in the TCFUA (textile mills reminiscent of Dickens' time.)

Through a series of accidental developments, I was soon the president of the Combined Unions Council in Dampier and on a steep learning curve and a lifelong love affair with working class politics.

I did my first radio interview with the amazing and wonderful Claudia Wright, who occupied the chair now in the hand of Neil Mitchell, on the subject of prostitution in the mining industry.

I was still largely ill-informed, but instinctively in support of legalisation of the industry and in support of the rights of workers in the so-called oldest trade.

This position was largely informed by a month or so in the sanest mining community in Kalgoorlie, which was the direct product of the tolerant attitude towards that section of town that housed the brothels.

In the mid-seventies, I was a regular guest on the ABC local radio mornings programmes hosted by Robin Juniper and later, back in Victoria, a guest with Doug Aiton on Drive and Terry Laidler in the evenings.

I love the ABC and have been to bed with both Phillip Adams and his predecessors on Late Night Live.

In the seventies the hosts ran a campaign against the use of asbestos, highlighting the consequences of its continued presence.

Was that left wing or simply an accurate truthful assessment of the impact that asbestos has had and continues to have on the lives of tens of thousands of Australians and other around the world?

It continues to be  a criminal act that both Canada and India continue to mine and use this killer substance. As you fly into Bombay airport you see the roof tops of the shanty towns where the only alternative to galvanised iron is Asbestos. All the slums have roofs and walls made of slow murder.

I owe the ABC a debt that can never be repaid. From music to ideas, it has made an inestimable contribution to my growth as a human being and, yes, there may be a large number of people who would sit to the left in the French revolutionary Parliament, where the term originates, but like their French Counterparts, they resent the gains of the Enlightenment ― that is, a commitment to science and rationality.

Today, as a sign of the times they "balance" these enlightenment values with the likes of Piers Akerman and, formerly, Bolt ― who both vie for the title of "Wormtongues" (feel free to run your own competition to determine who deserves the title).

Then there is In Bed with Phillip, who cries over the deterioration of the ALP, but who supports Ruddster and other elements of the right faction. So, Phillip acknowledges he comes from the left, unlike many others (as many former ABC staffers have run for the Tories as have gone to heaven in the ALP caucuses around the country).

In Victoria, my home state, I appreciate the humanitarian views expressed by Stubbs, Epstein and totally gorgeous-voiced Lindy Burns, who are clearly intelligent decent human beings, but are often attacked as being "lefties".

It is here that the conflation of intelligence and leftism is most clearly displayed and used by all the Sarumens as they assault the progress of science and reason.

As for the Faine boy, his flirtation with lefties in the 80's at Monash University has been buried by the landslide of balance, that now has him in almost the same camp as War Radio's Neil Mitchell.

Faine's treatment of leftists is both shameful and a reflection of cowardly retreat in the face of the onslaught that is a constant in reactionary circles and the privately owned (profit driven) commercial media.

There is a much more complex debate to be had as to the meaning of left and right in both particular and universal questions, but that is for another time.

(If you want to listen to left wing or progressive, even revolutionary ideas, listen to 3CR and in particular to Solidarity Breakfast on Saturday mornings at 7.30 am or, if the brain doesn't work at that hour on a Saturday, podcast it from to hear the difference.)

[vimeo 18956769]

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