Tim Blair


New Criterion



Tuesday, October 05, 2004
ABCwatch apologises for failing in its duty to comment on the ABC's outrageous defamation of Archbishop Pell and Tony Abbott.

When I first saw the replay of what the left commentators saw as the 'gotcha' moment in Tony Jones's interview with Abbott I was firmly unconvinced.

You recall that Jones found Abbotts' memory failed to recall a meeting with Archbishop Pell when Jones introduced the subject, out of the blue, during an interview about health policy on Lateline last Thursday. Jones, through his sarcastic questioning, insinuated that the meeting between the two men was related to the Archbishop's later statement, jointly with his Anglican counterpart, opposing the Labor Party's policy for defunding some private schools. The insinuation was supported by the fact that the meeting had taken place, according to Jones, shortly before the bishops' public statement.

It was good enough for the left commentariat that crowed 'gotcha!' with one voice. Even its veterans, like Alan Ramsay, the Krusty the Clown of Henny Herald's pack, saw no need to look behind the Jones story (registration required).

Pell himself promptly categorically denied discussing schools policy with any politician, but that cuts no ice with Auntie or the Herald.

As someone who has never been a member of the Pope's batallions, or an Abbot-admirer, it seemed to me that Abbott had been not only surprised when Jones dropped the subject of his meeting with Pell into the discussion, but sincerely puzzled at its irrelevance to health policy and irritated at the invasion of his private life. This was no more than you would expect if, as Abbott claimed, his meeting with Pell had been entirely concerned with personal matters.

ABCwatch lacks the resources to pursue such matters, but I should have found time away from Rathergate's demonstration of how left-wing media activism corrupts public debate to, at least, express the reasonable doubts raised by Jones's ambush. I didn't and I am sincerely sorry.

But never mind, because Gerard Henderson has done the simple work of the journalist and destroyed the Lateline set-up as surely as internet commentary exposed Rathergate.

The meeting between Pell and Abbott took place before Mark Latham announced his attack on the richer, predominantly Anglican, private schools. End of one story, start of another.

And in the new story of Auntie's left-wing bias there are not even transparently-forged documents to disguise the communards' malice against the conservatives. Just someone's girl-friend or boy-friend who happened to see Abbott walk in Pell's door and didn't bother to record the date.

Were our media not so far corrupted by left partisanship as they are, Pell and Abbott would both receive public apologies from Auntie, and Jones and his incompetent crew would be shamed from their responsible jobs as Rather and friends eventually will be.

But it won't happen here, and on behalf of all Auntie's shareholders may I apologise to the people of Australia.

Henderson also draws attention to the peculiar fact that 'journalists' like Jones and Ramsay, and the rest, never see a problem in the political interventions of that flock of left-wing prelates and preachers, like Bishop Pat Power, Archibishop Carnley, Pastor Tim Costello, etc.

But I won't apologise for the communards on that score. It'd be like apologising because your dog widdles on trees.

But if you wish to see the more of the corrupting power of ideology in action, just look at Auntie's coverage of the Family First Party.

" is Family First a genuinely broad-based, socially conservative party or is it seeking to disguise a narrower religious agenda?" Kerry O'Brien askes rhetorically on the 7.30 Report.

If you stop to think about that - and with Auntie thinking about her prejudices can occupy the entire time of the programme you're listening to - it's a puzzle. Is Auntie arguing that Family First is trying to convert us all to evangelical Protestantism by means of the electoral stump? Why should they bother? Or is 'religious' an adjective that disqualifies all that it is attached to from serious consideration by all non-believers?

I doubt I'll ever have much cause to clap along with Family First, but they make a simple point that Auntie's communards refuse to see. They sprang from the Assemblies of God church, and continue to canvass votes there, but the Party is constitutionally separate and has an agenda to push that is clearly distinguishable from their religion.

I haven't seen Family First's constitution, and it may make hypocrites of them, but Auntie's journalists haven't seen it either. From the communards' point of view no distinction between party and important constituency is possible, by definition.

That is, for parties supporting the hated Conservatives. No such problem exists for parties of the left. Have you heard lately on Auntie how the Labor Party's constitutional subordination to the trade unions makes it just the mouthpiece of Trades Hall? And we won't go near the Greens.

So sad, so predictable.

Later: Here's an example of episcopal politics that won't excite Auntie's serial commentators.
A week out from the October 9 federal election, [Peter]Carnley [Anglican Primate of Australia] used the opening of the General Synod in Fremantle to deliver an intensely political address. ...

On Iraq, Carnley told his congregation that the coalition of the willing had, in liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein, resorted to terrorist tactics.

This was not just brazen political intervention. It was also rank hypocrisy. Just a few days before Carnley criticised his fellow Anglican archbishops, Sydney's Peter Jensen and Melbourne's Peter Watson, for commenting on Labor's education policy.