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Ita Buttrose puts Chris Kenny in his place as Sky News’s ABC doco draws blanks

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-06-24
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Ita Buttrose singled out Sky News presenter Chris Kenny during her Andrew Olle address last week, scolding him for saying she was too old when she was appointed to chair the ABC, aged 77, in 2019.

“I know a bit about career obstacles,” Buttrose said as she glared at Kenny, who was on the Sky News table at the ABC function. “There was always a reason for someone to say no. I was either too young or too old. When I was appointed chair of the ABC, too old. Thank you Chris Kenny.”

Kenny, an associate editor at the Australian and avowed ABC critic, turned up to the black-tie event at Sydney’s Ivy and told anyone who would listen that he was desperate to get someone from the ABC to talk to him for his Sky News “documentary” about the ABC to mark its 90th birthday. As he said on his show this week, it’s easy to get critics of the ABC on his show but he can’t find any supporters of Auntie prepared to talk to him.

Everyone from Buttrose and managing director David Anderson to ex-ABC staffers Jonathan Holmes (Media Watch) and Jon Faine (ABC Melbourne Radio) have said “thanks, but no thanks” to approaches from Kenny’s producers. As Faine wrote in the Sunday Age: “I do not think it possible for Chris Kenny to present a balanced assessment of the ABC.”

Undeterred by rejection Kenny approached the 80-year-old at her table after her lengthy speech and engaged her in conversation. Having failed to convince anyone inside, Kenny had a Sky News camera crew waiting with him outside the venue and he attempted to collar guests as they left. Broadcasters Patricia Karvelas and Annabel Crabb waved him off but Anderson and Insiders host David Speers stopped briefly to answer predictable questions about alleged ABC bias.

It’s good to know Kenny has lost none of his foot-in-door style from his days as a reporter at Nine’s A Current Affair.

Meanwhile, a group of staffers caused a bit of a stir themselves, taking the opportunity to express their dismay at plans to restructure the archives division, holding up protest signs just metres from Anderson and his executive team.

All sizzle, no sausage

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance had a barbecue at the ABC in Ultimo on Wednesday to encourage union members and non-members alike to come and talk about wage negotiations. To encourage attendance, union organisers advertised a sizzling “democracy sausage” would be provided on the Dot Strong Terrace. Only the barbecue would not fire up, despite repeated attempts, and ABC staff were left with a sad piece of bread and no sausage.

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Flame out: the sausage sizzle that wasn’t. Photograph: Amanda Meade

Wishful thinking

Australian Financial Review senior correspondent Aaron Patrick launched his new book on Thursday night, at Bar Lume underneath Nine Entertainment’s North Sydney headquarters. Patrick’s invitations read “Please join Malcolm Turnbull at the official launch of Aaron Patrick’s new book Ego: Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party’s Civil War”. At least one journalist, Nick Tabakoff from the Australian, took the invitation at face value writing: “And let’s just say that the person Patrick has teed up to launch the book is a surprise, to say the least.”

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The invitation to Aaron Patrick’s book launch. Photograph: Amanda Meade

“Who would have thought that Turnbull himself would want to launch a book that has as its core thesis that the ex-PM had played a pivotal role in the destruction of the Morrison Government? Either Patrick is an irrational optimist – or he’s pulled off the book-launching coup of the year.”

Well, neither. If you look closely at the invitation you can see an asterisk next to Turnbull* and in tiny print *TBC. Patrick, who is well connected to the right of the Liberal party, sees Turnbull as a “centre-leftist impostor and opportunist” and was dismissed when he asked the former member for Wentworth to factcheck his book.

We can confirm Turnbull was not in attendance, because he was giving a speech in Paris, but he was annoyed by the publicity stunt and complained to the publisher. His son, Alex Turnbull, who has had run-ins with Patrick over the book himself, said: “The only people who will buy this book are people who are intending to launch defamation suits.”

False flag

You’d think a publication called TheDailyAus might recognise the Aboriginal flag, but the “social media first” website mistakenly Photoshopped a German flag on to a picture of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to illustrate the New South Wales government’s plans for the Aboriginal flag to have a permanent spot by the end of the year.

It is almost certainly a coincidence that the editor, Billi FitzSimons, advertised for a factchecker the very next day, posting on LinkedIn that she wanted “someone with meticulous attention to detail who can critically examine sources”. The German flag, which also has the colours of yellow, red and black, was quickly replaced with the correct one.

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TheDailyAus youth website mixes up its flags, with a mock-up of the German flag. Photograph: TheDailyAus

Climate of change

Sophie McNeill and Mark Davis reached the peak of their profession as journalists, winning multiple awards for the ABC and SBS, before walking away to pursue different careers.

Davis, a former Gold Walkley winner and SBS Dateline host, is now working as a lawyer, defending, among others, climate activists.

McNeill, who quit Four Corners to join Human Rights Watch as Australia researcher, recently teamed up with Davis to help the protesters, who have been hit with heavy penalties.

McNeill: “Climate protesters are being increasingly and disproportionately subjected to vindictive legal action by Australian authorities that is restricting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.” Davis, who also successfully represented Friendlyjordies producer Kristo Langker when he was accused of stalking John Barilaro, is representing the climate activists for reduced fees.

Channel 10 defends Lisa Wilkinson

Channel 10 has defended its star host Lisa Wilkinson after widespread criticism of her Logies acceptance speech.

On Thursday, the ACT supreme court delayed the trial of Bruce Lehrmann for the alleged sexual assault of Brittany Higgins due to public commentary about the case.

But Ten says the reporting of Wilkinson’s comments has been inaccurate and unfair: “This reporting is now causing significant harm, and we ask these organisations to cease this harassment to allow Lisa the best opportunity to give her evidence in court and to enable the trial to go ahead in a fair and timely manner.

“We are closely monitoring all coverage of this issue and Lisa and Network 10 reserve their rights in respect of any future defamation claims.

“Network 10 continues to fully support Lisa in her ongoing and full commitment to doing the right thing as a witness in the trial.”

The case will now be heard from 4 October, for a four to six-week trial. Lehrmann denies any form of sexual activity took place in early 2019 and is pleading not guilty.

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