The Federal Opposition and Democrats have stepped up their calls for ABA Chairman, David Flint, to resign or be removed, with Labor vowing to end ‘cash for comment’.
Shadow Communications’ Minister, Lindsay Tanner, says a Labor Government would ban ‘hidden’ cash for comment arrangements such as Telstra’s $1.2m sponsorship with Macquarie Radio, saying they have the ‘potential to undermine democracy’:
“We pledge to close the loophole allowing such deals and prohibit Telstra from engaging radio personalities in such undeclared advertising.
“I’m angry that a Government owned organisation like Telstra is, in effect, paying under the counter to get propaganda presented as genuine comment by an influential commentator.
“Alan Jones is basically a puffed up, two bit bully. Elected politicians must take a stand against him.
“He may intimidate the toadies like Professor Flint and Danna Vale. He might frighten the PM, but he certainly doesn’t intimidate me.”
Turning to Professor Flint, Tanner says two further issues make his position even more untenable: “Before an ABA hearing into 2UE in 1999, he stated his contact with Alan Jones consisted of two social meetings at a book launch and a memorial.
“Professor Flint failed to mention his letter of praise to Jones, which is now on the public record. He also failed to mention the ‘stream of letters’ between them. At best, Professor Flint failed to fully
disclose his contact with Alan Jones at an ABA public hearing he presided
over. At worst, he misled the hearing.
“Leaked ABA minutes also show several Board members canvassed new conflict of interest concerns about their Chairman only four weeks ago.
“The documents also reveal an ABA Board, deeply concerned about Professor Flint’s conduct.
“Professor Flint’s position is untenable. He must resign immediately.”
Labor and the Australian Democrats are heartened, at least, that Professor Flint has stood aside from the ABC Iraq ‘bias’ inquiry.
However, Democrat Communications’ spokesman, John Cherry, will instigate legislative changes in two weeks to ensure merit based appointments in future.
“Professor Flint’s position has been “hopelessly compromised” and he’s seen as too partisan a figure to be dealing with complaints.
“Professor Flint has continued to be politically active and his views on the ABC, Alan Jones, the Iraq war and many other political issues are well known.
“In the current environment, the ABA must be seen to be above any perceptions of bias or political impartiality.
“Professor Flint has just six months to run on his term as ABA Chair. He should carefully consider the damage his comments have done to the ABA’s standing, and whether it would be in its best interests for him to stand down early.
“The Democrats want a merit based appointment process, free from any political interference, to be used for all future ABA appointments.
“I will be moving to amend the Broadcasting Services Act, when Parliament resumes in a fortnight, and I call on the Opposition and Government to support such amendments.
“The ABA, as the media regulator, must be seen to be above the political fray, and it cannot afford to have any member, perceived to be batting for one side.”
For more on Flint/Jones/Laws from the newspapers, click on ‘Paper Clips’ in the red left hand column.