ABC Climate Activism Unearthed By IPA FOI

Written by:
18 May 2020
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As uncovered by Chris Kenny in The Australian today, over 300 pages of Freedom of Information documents obtained by free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs have exposed the motives behind the ABC staff initiated ‘Climate Crisis Advisory Group’ which put the ABC completely at odds with mainstream Australians.

Upon hearing about the initiative by ABC staff member Barbara Heggen who sent an email to all staff proposing the initiative, many staff responded with glee at the flawed idea of “solutions-based journalism” for climate change reporting.

The responses well and truly demonstrate that the ABC is run by a staff collective.

After some of the emails were leaked to The Australian, ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose ruled out the group. She even said “The ABC leadership team and managing director (David Anderson) have thought otherwise.”

These FOI documents suggest the group is well and truly going, with meetings planned for as recently as January.

ABC News Director Craig McMurtrie suggests that there was legitimate debate between staff that the ABC would follow The Guardian model of journalism, which even the ABC admit “tends towards more advocacy journalism”.

The fact that the ABC would even consider following an activist form of journalism would not only be a breach of their charter, but proves how completely out of touch ABC staff are.

The responses from ABC staff and endorsement of a biased form of reporting prove that they are completely at odds with mainstream Australians.

Some of the replies are rather amusing. One staff member says “Sometimes when I’m on the late shift in Brisbane I go around and try to find remotes to turn the TVs off. They’re everywhere and no-one is watching them, often during the day… Best to avoid hypocrisy where possible.”

Imagine being colleagues with the killjoy that goes around turning TV’s off at the Brisbane studios. Surely it’s the main job of staff at a news station to monitor what’s on their channel.

Many bemoan the lack of solar panels in the Melbourne Southbank studios. One staff members states: “There are so many other things that should be happening but aren’t in this building… We should be encouraging the café on site to charge much more for coffees in takeaway containers and a bigger discount for keep cups.”

One staff member replies with “A friend asked if it was possible to have a “climate” tab on our news web site. I would say the issue is as fundamental as politics and deserves it’s own tab. I email [blanked out] but haven’t back. I would also go so far as trying to lobby management to work internally at doing our own bit even further!! Making our facilities as environmentally sustainable as possible. In Hobart we have a large surface area of roofing, perfect for solar panels and water catchment, along with our car park area, collecting this water and storing it to irrigate the ridiculous amount of grass around the building”

The FOI also reveals that ABC Director of News Gaven Morris was not pleased with the reply-all email chain full of replies to the entire organisation which cheered on partisan news coverage. He responded to a staff member who asks staff not to reply-all with “For the love of god… thank you”.

Many staff clearly do not seem pleased with Barbara Heggan’s climate activism, one replies with “please stop hitting “reply all” and littering ppl’s inboxes with the stuff that is irrelevant to work. Thanks”

How can we expect the ABC to cover very serious policy discussions like the cost of climate policies impartially, when so many staff hold an activist position on the topic?

These FOI documents highlight that it is well and truly time for a serious and sober debate post-coronavirus on privatising the ABC. If ABC staff want to run a biased broadcaster, then Australian taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund it.

A poll released by the IPA recently found that only 32% of Australians believe the ABC represents the views of ordinary Australians, yet 100% of Australians are forced to fund it.

Despite the direction of the ABC’s chairwoman and managing director, the ABC appears to be completely run by a staff collective.

Download the full FOI documents here.

Evan Mulholland is Director of Communications at the Institute of Public Affairs.

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