Roger Corbett, the ABC and commercial TV fail Australian democracy

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With secret Liberal Party member, Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett, attacking Kevin Rudd on Lateline, and commercial TV censoring GetUp!, Australia is looking less free all the time. Rodney E. Lever and managing editor David Donovan report on this week's troubling developments.

(Modified screenshot from ABC Lateline. Click on image to see interview or read transcript on ABC website)

THE FINAL DAYS of the Federal election campaign have seen more allegations of dirty tricks, with the chair of the Fairfax newspaper company, Roger Corbett, entering the fray to attack the Government without disclosing his Liberal Party membership.

Corbett’s attack on Kevin Rudd on ABC's Lateline program on Tuesday, while brushed aside by Kevin Rudd, is nevertheless an unexpected intrusion by someone who seems willing to lose some of the respect with which he has been previously accorded.

Although the Fairfax papers maintained a less absurd coverage of the election campaign than the riotous and ridiculous Murdoch gutter press through most of the campaign, the Corbett attack came out of the blue and was clearly designed to do as much political damage as possible to Kevin Rudd and Labor.

Also coming into question has been the role of the ABC, which replayed the most damaging parts of the interview on a loop the following morning on ABC NewsRadio, ABC News 24, as well as featuring it on other news and current affairs programs. However, not until the following afternoon did they disclose that Corbett was a long-term financial member of the Liberal Party.

According to IA's sources within the ABC, Corbett's party political affiliations were well known throughout the public broadcaster well before the interview.

It has the appearance of being a carefully contrived set-up, designed to cause maximum political damage — something to which the ABC, who are obliged to disclose the relevant affiliations of their guests, appear to have been complicit.

To rub salt into the teetering Government's wounds, a completely unrepentant Corbett attended a $500 a head Liberal Party fundraiser in Sydney last night, where Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was guest of honour. Corbett was photographed giving Abbott's speech a standing ovation:

Roger Corbett, AO is one of Australia's most high profile businessman. He became the non-executive chairman of Fairfax Media Limited in late 2009 after serving on the board since 2003. He has also served or serves on the boards of such major retail companies as Woolworths, BIG W and Wal-Mart (US) and on about a dozen other companies. More importantly, he is a director of the Reserve Bank of Australia and, as such, helps determine Australia monetary policy.

He is also a friend and supporter of both John Howard and Tony Abbott and in this election campaign,  appears to have acted as little more than a secret agent for the Liberal Party.

As a member of the Liberal Party, Corbett chose to enter the campaign at the last possible minute to throw a spanner into the way elections are supposed to work.

And by neglecting to mention his affiliation and calculatedly taking a stance on such a high profile current affairs programme, his role as a director of the Reserve Bank has been called into question, with some Labor politicians, including Doug Cameron, calling for his resignation (see video above).

Of even more concern to this publication is the attitude of the ABC in not disclosing Corbett's party affiliation.

For some time, sources have said many journalists at the ABC are attempting to curry favour with what they see as the incoming Government so as to protect their job security in anticipation of swingeing public service cutbacks.

If the ABC has surreptitiously taken sides in the political debate – apart from breaching its charter and code of practice – it has arguably put our democracy at serious risk.

We have asked the ABC to comment on the Corbett matter but, at time of publication, have received no response.

If you would like to complain to the ABC about this matter please click here.


DO Australian commercial television networks have the right to refuse to run an important election comment with an advertisement because it might upset Rupert Murdoch?

Is Australia still a free country? Is the sky falling? Those two questions surely should bring a resounding: “NO!”

But when it happens just 48 hours before one of the most important elections ever to have taken place in this country, it shows just how powerful the mainstream media believes it has become.

The activist group GetUp!, as reported by IA yesterday, raised money from its members and supporters so they could run an advertisement criticising the Murdoch papers in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane for their disgraceful attempts to demolish the Government and win election for the Liberal Party through publishing insults, untruths, half-truths and opinion dressed up as news.

The advertisement uses the humour of a copy of the Brisbane Courier-Mail cleaning up doggy poo as a comment on the newspaper coverage of Labor’s record of government.

Yet the management of Channels 10, 9 and 7 have all decided to reject the ad.

Apparently, the Nine Network was paid $80,000 and ran one advertisement before orders came through to cancel the small campaign. Channels 10 and 7 both refused point-blank to run them at all.

It should be noted: Lachlan Murdoch is a major shareholder and director of the 10 Network.

Are the media barons of this country becoming so afraid, they have introduced a form of wartime censorship to protect themselves?

Will they turn their attention next to the online news media?

We are entering dangerous times for our democracy.

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