Media Analysis

ABC’s Insiders doesn't serve its viewers or the nation

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Insiders host David Speers talks with Prime Minister Scott Morrison (image via YouTube)

The case for a review of Insiders and sacking its producers, presenter and most regular guests has strengthened as the year has progressed, writes Alan Austin.

PRESENTER OF THE ABC's Insiders program David Speers enthusiastically endorsed the Morrison Government’s economic credentials on 7 November:

The Prime Minister is urging us to move on and you can see where they want to spend the coming weeks and months ... on the better news we are seeing on the economy. The Reserve Bank this week had some pretty rosy forecasts... roaring back to life, unemployment dropping back to 4%, steady increase in wages... It’s clear this is what the Government wants to make its central election pitch.

This exemplifies one of many well-rehearsed deceptions Insiders deploys continually to spruik the Morrison Government. It bases the claim that the Coalition is superior in economic management on predictions of what might happen in the future.

This was repeated in the year’s final program on 5 December when Treasurer Josh Frydenberg claimed:

“We've already seen the OECD increase their economic outlook for Australia next year from 3.3 to 4.1%. You've got the RBA forecasting growth of up to 5.5% by the end of next year.”

None of the guest “journalists” pointed out that congratulations are due only on actual outcomes, not forecasts. The Morrison Government’s economic record has been the worst since the 1950s, a provable reality which Insiders consistently conceals.

Recurrent themes of Insiders

Themes Insiders reinforces constantly, besides that the Coalition is managing the economy wonderfully, are that any economic declines are due to the pandemic; both sides of politics are as bad as each other on corruption; and Parliament has a problem with the abuse of women. All these are false in some way.

Realities not acknowledged are that Australia has tumbled in most global economic rankings, government waste is now in the hundreds of billions, corruption is endemic, most current federal ministers lie routinely, the Morrison Government is despised worldwide and Australians would be vastly better off with a change of government.

Downplaying serious corruption and incompetence

Australia is loathed globally not just for its climate action obstruction and callous treatment of asylum seekers but, as exposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, for its Prime Minister who lies without hesitation.

In the last Insiders program, the Australian Financial Review’s Phil Coorey denied Macron’s claim that Morrison lied to him, despite Coorey obviously not having been privy to all conversations.

Coorey said:

“It’s not clear either way. Certainly, there’s a level of duplicity involved in our cancellation of that submarine contract. You’ve got two leaders, both of whom have elections next year... It suits [Macron] to run around and say he was blindsided. It’s clear he wasn’t blindsided as he claims to be.”

To her credit The Guardian’s Lenore Taylor immediately smacked Coorey down with a list of the evidence proving Morrison did indeed deceive the French.

She concluded:

 “There’s a very strong case on the public record that we were deliberately keeping the French in the dark and that’s what has led to this level of concern and upset on the French side.”

Taylor’s corrective was a rare moment of genuine public service. 

Abuse of women in Parliament House

Insiders depicts the treatment of women as a problem with the Parliament today. It isn’t. It is a problem with the Coalition today.

As an exercise, we asked a large group of Facebook users to name those working in the current Parliament – MPs and staff – accused of abusing women. 11 men were named, ten from the Coalition parties and one from Labor. The one Labor MP has in fact had the accusations against him – relating to an alleged incident in 1986 – investigated by the police and found not to be credible. None of the ten Coalition men named has yet been exonerated.

The last Insiders program ran a clip from Scott Morrison on this topic claiming: 

“We all share in these problems and we all share in their solution.”

Later, Speers referred to an insult by a female Greens Senator aimed at another Senator, immediately apologised for and used this to assert:

“Point is, across the board, you’ve got disgraceful behaviour.”

Yes, all parties breach decorum from time to time. But only one side of federal politics today has an entrenched problem with the abuse of women by men. It is not necessarily “across the board”.

When the allegations of physical and mental abuse by former Education Minister Alan Tudge were raised, the discussion was not about how to get rid of obnoxious MPs for the benefit of Australia, but how to salvage Tudge’s reputation for the benefit of the Coalition.

“Can Alan Tudge survive this?”, Speers asked anxiously.

Murdoch "journalist" James Campbell reassured him:

“People close to him are saying that he has evidence that will quote unquote exonerate him... He [Prime Minister Morrison] didn’t waste any time moving Tudge back onto the back bench.”

When Speers quizzed Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on the abuse of women, he replied, twice: “it's a multi-party process”.

False claims on scare campaigns

Former Murdoch journalist Patricia Karvelas, now with the ABC, tried to tar both sides of politics with the same brush on 21 November:

“Labor has been guilty of their own scare campaigns. Remember Mediscare. Just to be fair here. Both sides of politics do that.”

That is false. That was not a scare campaign. Labor warned that the Coalition would cut Medicare if returned to office. That is what happened.

Refusal to challenge Coalition ministers on blatant lies

Treasurer Frydenberg said on the last program:

“We've seen 350,000 jobs since the start of September ...”

Not according to the latest data from the Bureau of Statistics.

He said:

 “We've seen strong household consumption.”

No, we haven’t. Household consumption in the financial year to June was just 1.8% higher than the year before. That is the second lowest annual rise since records began. The worst annual outcome was last year, when consumption fell by 1.4%, the only decline in history.

Frydenberg said:

“When we came to government, real wages were falling, unemployment was rising in those years before the pandemic, after we came to government real wages increased every year.”

That is blatantly false, as shown in many analyses. 

Wage growth 21 years to June 2021 FC.jpg

Frydenberg then claimed:

“We saved more than 700,000 jobs. And as a result, unemployment now is at 5.2% lower than when we came to government.”

Again, completely false. The data shows 8.5% of the workforce are now working zero hours. These must be added in.

Frydenberg claimed:

“Now, the way to get higher wages is to get a tighter labour market.”

No, it isn’t. It is to have governments, employers and unions collaborating to see national income is distributed fairly. As IA has shown several times, the share going to workers has hit an all-time low since Frydenberg became Treasurer. 

Profit wage share 70-21 E.jpg

Frydenberg’s blatant fabrications betray his party, his country and his own integrity. If Insiders won’t call him out, who will? Yet, neither the presenter nor any of the guest commentators alerted viewers to these deceptions.

Particular blame might be directed at Phil Coorey from the Australian Financial Review, whose principal role in life is reporting on the state of the economy. He knows Frydenberg lies through his teeth and has had ample opportunity to set the record straight.

Coorey is not the only offender, however. On 14 November, former Murdoch employee, now with The West Australian, Lanai Scarr, gushed that:

“WA, on the latest figures that came out, was 3.9%, the lowest in the country and the lowest in a decade.”

Again, this conceals the reality that hundreds of thousands of workers in her state are recorded as having a job but work zero hours. She should know this.

Refusal to compare Australia’s economy with other countries

Few if any mainstream media journalists global ever compare Australia’s economic outcomes with the rest of the world. Insiders doesn’t, although Speers knows it should.

On 24 October, he observed with regard to the pandemic:

“It is really important, I think, to keep an eye on what’s happening around the world when it comes to immunisation, booster shots and so on.”

It is indeed. But not just on health matters.

Dominated by untrustworthy Murdoch agents

Over the year, guest journalists made 133 appearances on the 44 Insiders programs. If we count presenter David Speers, that is 177 contributions. Of these, 92 were current or former employees of Murdoch’s News Corporation, the most untruthful and discredited “news” organisation in the English-speaking world.

That’s 52%. Another 32 journalists, or 18%, were from the pro-Coalition Nine Entertainment network.

There is no need for the public broadcaster to engage employees of organisations with proven records of falsifying data, suppressing vital information and blatant political manipulation. Australia has many journalists with excellent credentials Insiders could have used. 

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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