Australian Media Agencies Missing the Point

PRESIDENT’S COLUMN: After almost a month on the road – three weeks outside the country – it is a salutary experience to come back to Sydney, and to experience the parochial nature of its media.

Especially the television news, and the ABC’s flagship 7 o’clock news is no exception. It is amazing to think that the ABC has the largest number of full-time overseas correspondents of any Australian media. Where are they all? Maybe I missed it, but I saw nothing of the change of leadership of the Japanese Liberal Democratic party, which is likely to bring Shinzo Abe back into power next year, a move that will please the Americans.

Or the purging from the Chinese Communist Party of Bo Xilai, who will stand trial on corruption charges, probably ahead of the Central Committee handover of power now definitely slated for mid-November.

There was, it is true, reporting of the prime minister’s address at the United Nations, with foreign minister Bob Carr playing down the prospects of Australia winning a temporary seat on the Security Council, and a very strange report in The Australian by Greg Sheridan claiming it was all in the bag and that Senator Carr’s caution was really just a front to show how well the prime minister had battled to win the day.

The party was spoiled by Tony Abbott, whom I heard tell Macquarie Radio, “Instead of swanning around in New York talking to Africans, she should be in Jakarta right now trying to sort out the border protection disaster”.

Of course, Abbott has done a bit of “swanning about” New York himself this year, where he made a somewhat unremarkable speech, and, to my mind, this piece of public rhetoric was completely out of order, and not something we would have heard from Julie Bishop, the foreign affairs, spokesman who has a better grip on international affairs than her leader.

But this paled beside the awful comments of Macquarie’s Alan Jones at a Sydney University Liberal Party gathering that the prime minister’s father had “died of shame”. Criticism of Jones was fast, furious and withering, but Abbott’s men at the university’s young Liberals event did neither Abbott nor themselves any favours by describing the speech – and the nation’s most influential broadcaster – as “brilliant”.

Have they taken leave of their senses? This man is not a broadcaster, in the normal sense of the word. He is a shock-jock, paid by John Singleton to be outrageous. Actually his repeated verbals against Ms Gillard are by no means the worst of his repertoire.

The following exchange between Jones and the National Party Senate leader, Barnaby Joyce, took place on Macquarie’s 2GB last month. It referred to development aid given to support equality of women in the South Pacific Islands:

Alan Jones:

She’s promised $320 million to promote “Gender Equality” in the Pacific region.

Senator Joyce:

Well I’ll take that to the Dirranbandi Hotel. I’m sure that will make a lot of sense there. Instead of fixing the problem here, we’re going to have gender equality in the Pacific.

Alan Jones:

It’s got to pass the Dirranbandi Hotel test (Laughs). Fair dinkum mate, this is borrowed money – $320 million to increase the number of Pacific women in leadership and decision making roles, to increase women’s access to financial services and markets, to improve the safety of women through better violence prevention. She said: “We know that societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating”. Women are destroying the joint. Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here, honestly. “And we know too that a key indicator of economic advancement is the full inclusion of women if the life of a nation.” $320 million Barnaby, it would buy Cubbie Station.

Senator Joyce:

And do you think for one moment that the $320 million that they are going to put up against walls is going to make any difference whatsoever about fixing up Southern Pacific equality…?

Alan Jones:

None whatever.

Now, like most, I’m in favour of a free media. But surely ACMA, the broadcast regulator, has a duty to revoke or threaten to revoke the licences of radio stations that broadcast this kind of highly sexist comment? In Britain, which has a media that is much more free than ours, Jones’s boss, Singleton, would, by now, have received more than a warning.

Robust debate is great. But these kinds of broadcasts, for which Jones is infamous for, only play into the hands of people like Senator Stephen Conroy who seeks to limit media freedom.

Colin Chapman is the President of the AIIA (NSW).

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