The ABC of unintended consequences

How to drop yourself in it.

By Gary Scarrabelotti

The ABC’s “alliance” with the Indonesian government against our own newly elected federal government is dumb. I wouldn’t say it’s malicious; and I wouldn’t say it’s treasonable; but it is dumb. 

That the ABC, in co-ordination with The Guardian, has released new material, stolen from the US National Security Agency by Edward Snowden, that implicates Australia in running intelligence operations against the Indonesian leadership, is no surprise.  

Both news institutions are cut from the same cloth. Both exhibit a moral superiority over, and of a deep distaste for, the kind of societies in which they operate. Both have taken it upon themselves to identify their enemies and to wage political warfare daily upon them.    

The Hon Tony Abbott MP is a “conservative”, in their sense of the term. Even worse, he is a Catholic whose head and heart are still disposed to Catholic things. And, unspeakably, he is an accomplished destroyer of sacred cows — Labor prime ministers, Labor governments, climate change consensus.  As such, for keepers of the secular religion at The Guardian, the ABC, and elsewhere in the media, Abbott is Public Enemy No. 1. 

For the ABC, in particular, the disintegration of the Rudd-Gillard governments, and the election of their bogey-man as Prime Minister, has been a shattering experience. It wasn’t supposed to happen. 


One of the strangest bits of television viewing I have experienced was the ABC’s election coverage on the night of September 7. 

Crestfallen, disconsolate faces were everywhere. The technical whizz-bangery of the ABC’s virtual tally room provided a chill mechanical backdrop to a foreground of human misery and dismay. Apart from the happy professional mien of psephologist, Anthony Green, never have I witnessed, on so many faces, such a yearning to flee. 

The Coalition victory did not, however, leave the ABC sprawling for too long.  Prior to Abbott’s 30 September visit to Indonesia, the ABC opened what seemed like a campaign calculated to undermine in advance the PM’s mission. 

Senior Indonesians, like Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and leading foreign policy adviser Dewi Fortuna Anwar, were given regular spots on ABC news and current affairs and were invited to attack the Coalition’s asylum seeker policies.  The Indonesians obliged. 

September 7: The technical whizz-bangery of the ABC’s virtual tally room provided a chill mechanical backdrop to a foreground of human misery and dismay.

As it happened, the PM’s visit to Indonesia seemed to go well.  The Natalegawa-Anwar drum beat of rejection fell all but silent and thereafter the flow of illegal immigrants via Indonesia dropped dramatically in the space of six weeks.  

Notwithstanding a tug-o-war at sea over returning intercepted asylum seekers to Indonesia – a game played, no doubt, to test Australia’s resolve — the Indonesian authorities have been collaborating, albeit reluctantly, to interdict asylum seekers on land and water.  

Add to this the benefit of Kevin Rudd’s last shot at stemming the flow of “illegals” with his PNG solution, and the Abbott government’s Operation Sovereign Borders seems to have been launched with good initial success. 

Operation Defeat Abbott 

Now, according to The Guardian itself, since May of this year, it has been sitting on evidence of an Australian electronic surveillance operation run in 2009 against Indonesia and targeting, among others, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. 

We also know that The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, and the ABC’s managing director, Mark Scott, are close collaborators and that there are regular high-level communications between the two organisations. 

And, finally, we observe that news of the Australian intelligence operation was broken simultaneously, and by mutual agreement, by The Guardian and the ABC … and precisely at this most delicate moment in Australian-Indonesian relations. 

As Jack Waterford wrote in The Canberra Times on November 17, 

“There are many people, including me, who want to see our shameful policies fail.” 

Mr Waterford, we understand. But thank you all the same.


As I say, I wouldn’t call it malice and I wouldn’t call it treason – the latter, in any case, a moral concept meaningless to high-minded media types who just know that the Australian people got it totally wrong on September 7 and whose mandate, favouring effective border controls, must be reversed “by other means”. 

It is dumb, however.  

It is dumb because destroying collaboration with Indonesia on illegal migration leaves our government with no option but to move the more rapidly toward implementing the toughest kind of laws and administrative measures against unapproved arrivals.

This is surely not what the advocates of open borders want.    

It is dumb because it should encourage the federal government to reinstate the old system of D‑Notices to prevent publication of material deemed vital to the national interest. 

This is surely not what anyone in the Australian media wants. 

It is dumb because what the ABC has just done what should be sufficient to convince the Abbott government to privatize the national broadcaster. 

This is surely not what the ABC intends. 

Leave a Reply