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Tony Abbott blasts national broadcaster: ABC takes 'everyone's side but Australia's'

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Tony Abbott slams the ABC

Prime Minister Tony Abbott tells Ray Hadley on 2GB radio that the national broadcaster takes "everyone's side but Australia's".

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has berated ABC News, arguing that it is taking ''everyone's side but Australia's'' and that journalists should give the navy the ''benefit of the doubt'' when it comes to claims of wrongdoing.

In comments that also suggest the media should act as cheerleaders for the country, Mr Abbott ramped up his recent criticism of the ABC.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has attacked the ABC over its reports on asylum seekers claiming to have been burnt by the Navy.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has attacked the ABC over its reports on asylum seekers claiming to have been burnt by the Navy. Photo: Andrew Meares

''You would like the national broadcaster to have a rigorous commitment to truth and at least some basic affection for the home team,'' he told Macquarie Radio on Wednesday.

Mr Abbott also said that it ''dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everybody's side but our own'', adding, ''I think that is a problem''.

The Prime Minister's comments follow Coalition criticism of the ABC late last year, after it and Guardian Australia broke a story, based on leaks from the US National Security Agency, about Australia tapping Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's phone.

At the time, the Prime Minister condemned the head of the ABC, Mark Scott for ''very, very poor judgment''. Other Coalition MPs also expressed concern about the ABC during a recent party meeting and Liberal senator Cory Bernardi called for its funding to be cut.

In November, Mr Scott defended the ABC's decision to publish the phone tapping story, arguing it was in the public interest.

On Wednesday, Mr Abbott said he wanted the ABC to be a ''straight news gathering and news reporting organisation''.

He also sympathised with broadcaster Ray Hadley, when he complained that "right-leaning" shock jocks such as himself were regularly referred to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, while the ''left-leaning'' ABC was "left to their own devices". 

''I can understand your frustration, Ray, because at times there does appear to be a double standard in large swathes of our national life,'' the Prime Minister said.

As a broadcaster, the ABC, like Mr Hadley's station, 2GB, also comes under ACMA's complaints system.

The body does not monitor broadcasts and is prompted to investigate possible breaches of radio and TV codes by public complaints.

When contacted by Fairfax Media, the ABC had no comment to make about Mr Abbott's renewed criticism of the ABC.

Mr Abbott also referred to a recent ABC report containing video footage of asylum seekers claiming they had suffered burns due to mistreatment by the Royal Australian Navy.

The navy has denied the claims, which were also dismissed by the government.

''If there's credible evidence, the ABC, like all other news organisations is entitled to report it, but . . . You shouldn't leap to be critical of your own country,'' he said.

''You certainly ought to be prepared to give the Australian navy and its hard-working personnel the benefit of the doubt.''

PM's comments part of 'plan' to cut ABC funding: Labor

Acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek defended the ABC on Wednesday as a "longstanding part of Australia's cultural fabric", while Labor's communications spokesman, Jason Clare, said that Mr Abbott's comments were part of a plan to cut funding to the ABC.

"Now it seems Tony Abbott is laying the groundwork to break another election promise," Mr Clare said, noting that the Prime Minister had said before the election that there would be not cuts to the national broadcaster.

Earlier Ms Plibersek said that every government had been subjected to close scrutiny by the ABC since the broadcaster began, "and we should all welcome that".

"Tony Abbott's comments today show he'll blame everyone – including the media - for the promises he continues to break," she said.

"He should stop complaining about media coverage and start behaving like a Prime Minister."

ABC a 'great contributor'

NSW Nationals senator John "Wacka" Williams praised the ABC, noting that it was a "great contributor" to regional Australia through programs like Country Hour.

But he rubbished recent ABC reports such as the allegations of navy abuse and the SBY phone tapping.

"The ABC should think carefully before it puts out stories that are damaging to [Australia's] reputation," he told Fairfax Media.

After Mr Abbott's criticism of the ABC, Employment Minister Eric Abetz drew on the national broadcaster's reporting this week – in conjunction with Fairfax Media – on the building industry to back up his call for the re-establishment of the Coalition's construction watchdog.

''Given the revelations from the ABC and Fairfax Media, it is quite clear we need to re-institute the Australian Building and Construction Commission," he said.

When asked if the ABC gave taxpayers good value for money, Senator Abetz deferred to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but added that the ABC and Fairfax had done a "great public service" in their reports of union and construction industry corruption.

When asked if he agreed with the Prime Minister's view that there was a perception that the ABC barracked for everyone but Australia, Senator Abetz said "I think every Australian will make up their own mind in relation to the ABC".

Mr Abbott also continued to pressure Labor to support the re-establishment of the ABCC.

"The issue for the Labor Party and for Mr Shorten is whose side are they on?" he said.

"Are they on the side of law abiding citizens? Or are they on the side of people with a tendency to break the law?"

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1179 comments

  • It is this sort of stuff that really scares the hell out of me about Abbott. As our leader, he is reducing everything to an us versus them mentality. Left versus right. Australia versus Non-Australia’s.
    It’s not the media’s role to judge whether it supporting the right side. Its job is to report facts and let the public decide what is important. If the media report uninteresting rubbish, people will look elsewhere. Wasn’t this the Liberal party’s response to claims of Murdoch bias prior to the election.
    What scares me most, however, is the crass nationalism. Abbott seems to be saying, if you don’t support ‘us’ you are, somehow, un-Australian. Put differently, don’t try to see things through other peoples’ or other nations’ perspectives.

    Commenter
    Andrew
    Location
    Fitzroy
    Date and time
    January 29, 2014, 11:40AM
    • if he was not doing a bad job of it he would not be in the position he finds the COALition in

      Commenter
      nikraf
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 11:46AM
    • Its the old "if you're with us you're against us". This man worries me.

      Commenter
      steve
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 11:47AM
    • the only thing destroying australia is abbott. simple.

      Commenter
      harry
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 11:47AM
    • I totally agree - Abbott is down in the weeds and it's about time he lifted his sites and governed for all Australians.

      Commenter
      Liberal defector
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 11:48AM
    • Just appalling.
      The truth is the truth right or left.
      Shame on you mr Abbott.

      Commenter
      Tadd
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 11:50AM
    • Yes - fair media will judge - impartially. Unfortunately the ABC is neither fair nor impartial. Meanwhile I think JG was the leader in throwing anything she could against her critics - particularly the gender card (if you criticise JG then you are sexist etc...). Nobody can beat that..

      Commenter
      John
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 11:51AM
    • Not too many watch the abc anyway according to the stats, so a very weird comment from abboat,.....
      .. maybe he's trying to fool the few people that do watch that the abc, that the abc are left orientated when in fact the place is run by an ex-lib staffer, and the last time I looked the abc were more than happy to unionbash and trot out anti-kev and anti-julia stories, while allowing abboat to get away without being interview about anything of any substance(if he turned up at all)....

      Commenter
      moreabbottporkies
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 11:53AM
    • @ Andrew,

      There is some truth to what Abbott is saying. The ABC has a role of professionalism and to be unbiased. Time and time again it is the left agenda which gets favourable air play and other opinions treated with disdain. The ABC costs the tax payer lots of money and at present is being run by lefties with their own agenda. The incident with the BBC was atrocious and as our national broadcaster it has an obligation to serve the countries best interests. Get rid of the ABC! It is riddled with lefties pushing their own agenda and costs the tax payer too much money.

      Commenter
      Anthony
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 11:53AM
    • @Andrew - the story was a beat up from the very beginning. Reporting is no longer about presenting the facts, it has become about drumming up emotion and luring the reader to an assumption using bias. This is a very clear case of a news reporter chasing that "big story" by embellishing a little to make it into a crisis where the public calls out for blood.

      Just ask yourself......who would benefit from the situation? The poor defenceless refugees trying to get sympathy so they can illegally enter our country and jump the queue to be processed, or the Navy with professionally trained service men and women who have devoted their lives to serving the country and protecting life. After all the mistreatment of humans in other defence establishments and detention centres around the world, do you really believe that Australian Navy members would purposely hold another human's hand on hot pipes to burn them? The story and the allegations within it stunk to high heaven from the very first line. Hopefully the rest of Australia aren't so gullible and will stand behind our service men and women who are often face with this sort of backstabbing by the media.

      Commenter
      RamROD
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 11:54AM

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