Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021


Australian Broadcasting Corporation

7:44 pm

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The ABC is out of touch. The ABC has a wilful disregard for the majority of the Australian people who fund its operations. The ABC, like the surly teenager it is, has no regard for the consequences of its reporting, even if it is inaccurate, false or misleading. Its own complaints process is a dodgy cover-up act in disguise that would make Alan Bond blush. The respected role the media plays in our democracy does not mean the ABC has a free licence to wilfully persecute individuals on a whim without factual basis and then prosecute on the assumption of guilt, especially when it comes to the slandering of the brave men and women who have served our country.

In October last year, the ABC alleged members of the November Platoon had committed war crimes by executing a prisoner in Afghanistan. Members of the November Platoon have strenuously denied the allegations, and they have suffered in their mental health, reputation and welfare from the reporting. ABC journalists made these allegations based on the accounts of an unnamed US marine. Arguably, such an allegation would warrant further investigation, but, at the time, the ABC would not afford members of the November Platoon the right of reply. In recent weeks, damning evidence has emerged against this allegation. It has emerged that this US marine was in fact not a witness, but instead based their conclusions upon a popping sound on the radio that was assumed to be a gunshot.

In light of this reporting, former November Platoon commando Heston Russell sent a 10-page letter to the ABC detailing the impossibilities around the broadcaster's allegation and requesting a review. Mr Russell has described the level of nonresponse from the ABC as nothing short of condescending and adversarial. Mr Russell believes it appears that the response has been provided without the ABC even reviewing the 10-page letter of justifications. Not only does this seem irresponsible and unprofessional, but it is nothing short of malfeasance, which highlights the absolute shambles of the ABC's complaints process. The ABC can no longer be trusted to internally manage complaints made against it. Mr Russell has also asked for a live interview on the ABC so that he can defend the members of November Platoon. The ABC are refusing.

Currently, the ABC fox is guarding the truth henhouse, as the ABC only ever protects itself. There are more effective and responsible ways for handling taxpayers' complaints, especially when the taxpayers are the ones funding it. Currently, the ABC fox is guarding the henhouse and truth is on the menu. But even the Senate has seen firsthand the protection racket being run for the ABC by Labor and the Greens, as seen in the voting down of a Senate inquiry into the ABC complaints process. Shame! Of course, Heston Russell and the other members of November Platoon are not the first Australians to have had complaints mishandled by the ABC. Australians recently witnessed in horror up to $200,000 of taxpayer money being dished out to pay for the legal costs of ABC journalist Louise Milligan.

I don't know the men of November Platoon. I know of them. I know they, and all who serve, do so with honour. I know they risked all for freedom, and I thank them and their families for that. I speak freely in this parliament because of those who served. I do know the ABC, with spite, malice and falsehoods, has used freedom to attack, defile and denigrate the service record of men who cannot defend themselves. Shame, ABC, shame.

I call upon the ABC to deal with the complaints process properly and to deal with the concerns of Mr Russell and the members of November Platoon—or is the ABC really another country and no longer our national broadcaster but the un-Australian national broadcaster?