Last night’s Four Corners programme was another shining example of how the ABC plays a crucial role in our democracy.
In the absence of any federal anti-corruption commission, and in an environment of compliant print and other commercial media, the role of watchdog falls to our precious public broadcaster.
It’s just one of very many examples where it would be fair for observers to ask: “Where would we be without our ABC?”
The Four Corners programme, entitled Profiting from the Pandemic, exposed the story of Aspen Medical — a company that obtained access to senior coalition government officials by participating in political fundraising and appointing former Liberal cabinet minister Michael Wooldridge to its board.
The company has earned $1.6 billion over the past two years, the bulk of which was courtesy of federal personal protective equipment contracts issued without a public tender.
Its pre-tax profits during this period have totalled more than $420 million.
It was also the ABC which first broke the so-called “Sports Rorts” affair, which has hung over the federal government now for years.
The investigation was first broadcast on November the 11th, 2019.
Kicking-off the long-running affair, the report opened with the line:
Key marginal electorates including Eden-Monaro, Dawson and Boothby received twice as much funding as the average seat under the Government’s pre-election sport grant program.
When the pork barrelling of the so-called “Car park Rorts” affair that followed was first exposed on the Michael West Media website, it was the ABC, largely through the 7.30 programme, that kept the government’s feet to the fire on the issue.
In one incisive article, for example, 7.30’s Laura Tingle outlined what she described as one “shocker” of a week for government accountability.
As the current Morrison government failed to introduce legislation for a promised independent federal anti-corruption commission, ABC outlets continued to probe.
In one case, the ABC RMIT Fact Check unit found that claims about one possible iteration of the proposed commission, that were made by a government minister, were “overblown.”
Unfortunately, all this excellent public interest journalism is used by detractors as “evidence” that the ABC is biased against the federal government.
But any conservative politician who makes such claims must surely have a short memory.
The ABC, over its many decades, has held all governments to account, and has fearlessly pursued any form of possible misconduct by officeholders from across the political spectrum.
As the election nears and our advocacy for a strong ABC ramps up, it is important to for us to remember the importance of the ABC’s journalism to our political system, at all of its levels.