A gaping wound has emerged in the Liberal Party over the ABC’s reporting of the bugging of the Indonesian president, his wife and various ministers.
The Abbott-Howard clique, which represents the right wing of the Liberals, is furious that Australia’s spy agencies have been caught out – redhanded.
But more importantly they are incandescent that the spy revelations were given global coverage by The Guardian Australia in an editorial arrangement with the ABC.
Meanwhile, The Spectator magazine, a bible for conservatives, has published a devastating editorial supporting the ABC’s decision to publish.
Battle lines have been drawn between Abbott and Spectator editor Tom Switzer. They share a 25-year professional association in the mainstream media working at various times for Rupert Murdoch, the late Kerry Packer and Fairfax.
For the past week Abbott and his media “luvvies” have been snidely – and then publicly – condemning the ABC, virtually accusing it of treason. The Australian’s leading pro-Liberal harridan, Janet Albrechtsen, even called for ABC managing director Mark Scott to be fired.
(Albrechtsen was a former member of the ABC board of directors: she was a Howard appointment).
Abbott called a press conference at Parliament House this week to accuse the national public broadcaster of “very, very poor judgment” over its agreement with The Guardian to publish the spy revelations made public by Edward Snowden.
“I think the ABC were guilty of poor judgment in broadcasting the material, which was obviously difficult for Australia’s national security and long-term best interests,” he said.
Abbott’s statement begs the question: how is it in Australia’s “national security and long-term best interests” to bug the personal phone of the wife of Indonesia’s president?
Abbott continued: “Why should the ABC be acting as an advertising agent for a left-wing British newspaper?”
Murdoch song book
It was almost as if he was reading from a script provided by Rupert Murdoch. After all, that is a line straight from Murdoch’s song book. The debauched phone hacker has been slandering the BBC in the same fashion for decades, gradually kicking it into line while extending the footprint of his BSkyB network and growing its profits. All at the expense of the BBC.
Tragically, Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, the shadow foreign minister, gave the Abbott maddies comfort by saying that she thought the spy material would have been better not broadcast – a point picked up by Abbott and used mercilessly.
But while Abbott was deploring the ABC’s coverage of the spy fiasco, the conservatively-minded Spectator carried a major editorial calling for an adult debate on the Snowden revelations and supporting their publication by The Guardian in tandem with the ABC. (Stop attacking Aunty – In defence of the ABC, 30 November, 2013)
“This magazine rarely misses an opportunity to criticise the ABC. So readers may be surprised to find us defending Aunty at a time when our fellow conservative friends are taking aim at the public broadcaster.
“Apparently the ABC’s sin was to team up with The Guardian Australia on 18 November to air intelligence reports that Australia spied upon the Indonesian President and his inner circle, including his wife. But defend the ABC we must, and it is important to keep in mind a key issue at stake is the principle of editorial independence.”
The feisty editorial concluded: “… it is also unfair, and frankly absurd, to blame the ABC. Aunty is merely behaving as any media organisation, publicly funded or otherwise, should do in a well-functioning democracy free of government interference.”
What? Tony Abbott “unfair” and “absurd”? In The Speccie?
You know things are going very badly in the Liberals when this kind of warfare breaks out two months after a federal election victory.
* Declaration of interest. I have written three diaries for The Oz edition of The Spectator. I have never written for The Australian and don’t wish to.