ABC Friends News

Porter — “It was the ABC’s Fault.”

Former front bench minister Christian Porter may have fallen on his sword after breaching ministerial standards, but he made sure to take one more swipe at the ABC before going down.

Facing mounting legal costs after failing to sue the ABC for defamation over historic rape allegations that he strenuously denies, Mr. Porter decided that it was fine for him to accept secret money from an undisclosed source.

Instead of demanding that the former Attorney General disclose where the money came from, the Prime Minister demoted Mr. Porter to the back bench.

In a long resignation statement, Mr. Porter singled out the ABC, saying that it had conducted a campaign against him, when, instead, it was actually reporting serious accusations faithfully and dispassionately. 

The statement said:

From the moment the ABC article was published, I entered what appears to me now to be an inescapable media frenzy where the evidence, or in this case lack of it, appeared to be irrelevant.  Instead, all that appeared to matter was the presence of an accusation. To my disbelief, even in some mainstream media the onus of proof was completely reversed.  The Sydney Morning Herald summed up the new reversed standard of proof in its declaration just days after the ABC article was published that: ‘It’s up to the Government to convince Australians that the Attorney General is innocent.’

The most frightening indicator that the public broadcaster was central to this shift to a presumption of guilt in a trial by media is the fact that the ABC – seemingly with great care and effort – has reported only those parts of the information that it has in its possession which feeds into its narrative of guilt. I have recently been provided from a source outside the ABC with a copy of the only signed document that the person who made and subsequently withdrew the complaint ever made. Many parts of that 88-page document are such that any reasonable person would conclude that they show an allegation that lacks credibility; was based on repressed memory (which has been completely rejected by courts as unreliable and dangerous); which relied on diaries said to be drafted in 1990/91 but which were actually words composed in 2019; and, was written by someone who was, sadly, very unwell.  This material, which remains unreported, clearly does not feed the ABC’s predetermined narrative of guilt by accusation. And presumably because this document detracts so substantively from the credibility of the allegations there has been careful and deliberate avoidance in reporting it or publishing the parts of it that run counter to the chosen narrative.   

Having set in motion its trial by accusation, the ABC unleashed the Twitter version of an angry mob. In this online mob environment the mere accusation – reported by Australia’s national broadcaster – was determined adequate to assign guilt, with no regard to evidence or, indeed, lack of evidence. All that seemed to matter was the fact that the accusation had been made and the identity of the person accused.

READ THE FULL PORTER STATEMENT

READ A “LAWYERS WEEKLY” REPORT

Unsupportable accusations like these are extremely dangerous for the ABC in the current political environment, with Coalition politicians looking for any excuse they can to further undermine funding.