Guest post: Vikki Campion – Aunty plays favourites

IF you defamed someone, would your boss pay the legal bill? That’s exactly what’s happened when the ABC paid the legal bills of journalist Louise Milligan who defamed someone on her social media accounts.

If it had been any other government agency that forked out $79,000 in damages and $50,000 in costs — paid for by the taxpayer — for the same crime, the ABC would go feral.

The ABC answering questions on notice recently told the Senate there was a distinction between official ABC social media accounts and ABC staff using their social media.

“In the former case, the ABC accepts editorial responsibility for content provided on official ABC social media accounts and editorial policies apply,” it said.

“In the latter case, the ABC does not accept editorial responsibility and editorial policies do not apply.”

So why did they pay Louise Milligan’s legal bills?

“Particular and exceptional circumstances,” we are told.

A private media company would have to explain to its shareholders if they covered the legal costs from an employee’s personal social media account. But the ABC is not a private media company.

Its shareholders are the Australian taxpayer who can’t attend an annual AGM. Since 2015, the ABC has had to pay court-ordered damages, costs, or settlements 18 times for defamation cases, and we don’t know the price.

We have a right to know this because we own and pay for this organisation whose operating budget is the price of two rural training hospitals, or $880.56 million a year.

As other media businesses struggle, the ABC has had the taxpayer-funded benefits of increasing them by 120.

When the ABC was asked on notice during Senate Estimates, who was handed an eye-watering bonus of more than $50,000, about the annual wage of a regional reporter that would make a few Cartier watches seem cheap, the ABC made a Public Interest Immunity Claim: “The ABC believes that disclosure of this information could result in an unreasonable invasion of privacy for the individual, resulting in undue public attention and speculation.”

An immunity never afforded Australia Post boss Christine Holgate — she of Cartier watch-gate — by the ABC.

And when asked about publishing unsubstantiated rape claims against Christian Porter and Bill Shorten from the 80s? “… that does not prevent in certain circumstances allegations of criminal conduct being reported”.

So no undue public speculation there? When Extinction Rebellion protest against something, the headline generally reads: “Grandparents fighting for the future of their grandchildren.”

But when backbencher George Christensen appeared at an anti-lockdown rally in Mackay, according to the ABC he “posed just metres from QAnon supporters”.

When Extinction Rebellion protests, they are carers; when George does, he is a terrorist.

When the ABC wants a dissenting voice from the Liberal Party, they go straight to Malcolm Turnbull.

But they never give Mark Latham the royal treatment, despite him being a former Labor leader.

What triggers the bush is when they don’t use regional reporters in their prestige programs.

A Four Corners hit job on Murray Darling Basin water was orchestrated from inner-city Ultimo instead of by the well-regarded ABC Shepparton correspondent Warwick Long.

Why have a city reporter do a rural story?

Ultimo urbane’s apparent assumption is their city kids are more discerning, while us rural types are sitting backwards on a horse eating a banana — a generalisation about some eight million Australians.

If they only talk to half of Australia, they only need half the budget, and we should give the other half to another view.

We could have The Drum with Julia Baird followed by The Drum with Peta Credlin.

We could have Late-Night Live with Philip Adams followed by Catherine Macgregor Live.

We could have Q&A with Virginia Trioli followed by Q&A with Alan Jones. Would Ultimo pay for Sky News? Of course not.

So why should the bush pay for someone else’s ABC?

The ABC buys the Akubra and claims to support the bush whenever they are under attack, so what new regional offices have opened?

Sydney ABC commentariat keeps calling for greater lockdowns — if they are the greatest advocate for staying at home, some Ultimo reporters should find a new home in Dubbo. When Senator Ben Small asked where ABC content makers lived by postcode, he was told that was “confidential” and that question remains unanswered and is overdue months after they took it on notice.

From Ultimo, they can see Glebe, Chippendale, Annandale, Pyrmont, and Surry Hills.

Moore Park is the bush. Parramatta is the outback.

As they say in the genuine regional areas, it’s cattle for the country; you buy the appropriate beast for the country you live.

The ABC’s country is the inner city, and this is the type of beast it is.

If the trotted out guilt trip is funding cuts would hurt the regions, then move your legal budget to the west of the Great Dividing Range, and bring your management too.

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August 28, 2021 9:33 am

the ALPBC paid the legal bills

Incorrect, Vikki.

Taxpayers paid the legal bills of that disgusting defamatory cow.

Let’s please have some “truth in reporting” for a change.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
August 28, 2021 9:47 am

The ATO should now send a bill to the ABC for about $177,000, this being the FBT and medicare levy on the imputed grossed-up $358,000 given to Milligan for her legal fees, the damages and her victim’s legal fees.

It clearly is a non-salary benefit she has received. So it should be taxed like everyone else.

August 28, 2021 9:53 am

So why should the bush pay for someone else’s ABC?

Why should any of us pay for “their” ABC? It needs to be sold off to the 10% or so that want it – or the entire organisation fed through the trash-compacter.

One thing we can take to the bank; the Morrison regime, including his spineless Communications Minister, will do nothing to rein the putrid thing in.

August 28, 2021 10:10 am

BoN – I like your thinking!

August 28, 2021 10:10 am

If they only talk to half of Australia, they only need half the budget, and we should give the other half to another view.


Cassie of Sydney
August 28, 2021 10:15 am

Excellent piece Vikki and one that I generally agree with….however..

1. You write “Christian Porter and Bill Shorten from the 80s?”. I don’t recall their ABC doing any in depth exposure into the allegations against Shorten….they certainly (and rightly so) kept quiet about it during the police investigation back in 2014. They did not divulge anything unlike they did with the far less credible Porter allegations. The woman who accused Shorten is alive and well yet I’m not aware of any in depth ABC investigation into her allegations by the likes of Louse Nilligan or in fact any allegations about any Labor or Greens politician…and they exist! It’s very clear that their ABC is only interested in the shmutz (Yiddish word for gossip / dirt) if it involves Catholic prelates such as Pell or right of centre (supposedly conservative) politicians such as Tudge and Porter. Has there been an ABC investigation into the circumstances around the Emma Husar stuff? No.

2. Why does your other half legitimise this progressive smear outlet by appearing on it…such as he did on Insiders a few weeks ago? As far as I’m concerned, by doing so, he confirms that he’s willing to tolerate the organisation’s bias and he’s content to be made a fool of…which is why they ask him on. They have no respect for him.

Shy Ted
Shy Ted
August 28, 2021 10:29 am

Your husband had not been back in parliament 5 minutes when he was drunk at Question Time. If that was me I’d have been sacked. Why hasn’t he been?

August 28, 2021 10:52 am

ABC programs increasingly consist of members of the ABC coterie interviewing or schmoozing other members of the ABC. Surely it is possible somehow to clean out the stable. We are entitled to an impartial national broadcaster. It says so in their charter.

August 28, 2021 10:56 am

At least I don’t have to be the bad guy.

There is a choice. Rich corinthian leather or the moral high ground.

My choice would be to stand with Newman, Kelly & Latham etc.

Just my opinion, I’ve said my piece.

Cassie of Sydney
August 28, 2021 11:04 am

“There is a choice. Rich corinthian leather or the moral high ground.

My choice would be to stand with Newman, Kelly & Latham etc.

Just my opinion, I’ve said my piece.”

You’ve said it best Dot…but also add Christensen too.

August 28, 2021 12:05 pm

It clearly is a non-salary benefit she has received. So it should be taxed like everyone else.

Ive had a few shots at trying to find out if it should be taxable.
Definitive answer is maybe…..

But disbanding the ABCcess and selling its staff for organ transplants would be a far more final…solution….

August 28, 2021 12:08 pm


Big brass balls.

A US Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who posted a video demanding accountability from military leaders over the evacuation of Afghanistan has been relieved of his duties and will leave US service, the Marines and the officer involved said on Friday.

Stuart Scheller posted his video to Facebook and LinkedIn on Thursday, the day 13 US service members, 11 of them Marines, and reportedly as many as 170 Afghans, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at the airport in Kabul.

“I have been fighting for 17 years,” said Scheller, then commander of the advanced infantry training battalion. “I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: ‘I demand accountability.’”

Scheller said he knew someone killed in Kabul, but was making his video “because I have a growing discontent and contempt for … perceived ineptitude at the foreign policy level, and I want to specifically ask some questions to some of my senior leaders.”

Scheller said he was “willing to risk my current battalion commander’s seat, my retirement, my family stability to say some of the things that I want to say”. Doing so, he said, would give him “some moral high ground to demand the same honesty, integrity, accountability for my senior leaders”.

Scheller criticised the commandant of the Marine Corps, David Berger, for a note sent to Marines about how they might feel about the near-20-year US presence in Afghanistan.

“I’ve killed people and I seek counselling and that’s fine,” Scheller said. “There’s a time in place for that. But the reason people are so upset … is not because the Marines on the battlefield let someone down … people are upset because their senior leaders let them down. And none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, ‘We messed this up.’

“We have a secretary of defense [Lloyd Austin, a former army general] that testified to Congress in May that the Afghan national security force could withstand the Taliban advance. We have [the] joint chiefs [of Staff], the commandant is a member of that, who’re supposed to advise on military policy. We have a Marine combatant commander. All of these people are supposed to advise.”

Scheller said he was “not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan for ever, but I am saying: ‘Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say, hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram airfield, a strategic airbase, before we evacuate everyone?’ Did anyone do that?

“And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say, ‘We completely messed this up’?

“I’ve got battalion commander friends right now that are posting similar things, and … wondering if all the lives were lost, if it was in vain … Potentially all those people did die in vain. If we don’t have senior leaders that own up and raise their hand and say, ‘We did not do this well in the end,’ without that we just keep repeating the same mistakes.

“This amalgamation of the economic-slash-corporate-slash-political-slash-higher military ranks are not holding up their end of the bargain.”

The video went viral. Less than a day later, on Friday afternoon, Scheller said on Facebook he had been “relieved for cause based on a lack of trust and confidence as of 14.30 [2.30pm] today”.

He would not comment further until he had left the Marine Corps, he said, adding: “My chain of command is doing exactly what I would do … if I were in their shoes.”

Boambee John
Boambee John
August 28, 2021 12:08 pm

Bruce of Newcastlesays:
August 28, 2021 at 9:47 am
The ATO should now send a bill to the ABC for about $177,000, this being the FBT and medicare levy on the imputed grossed-up $358,000 given to Milligan for her legal fees, the damages and her victim’s legal fees.

It clearly is a non-salary benefit she has received. So it should be taxed like everyone else.

Not only should Their ABC get hit with the FBT, the $177,000 should appear on Seven Niligan’s tax return as a “Reportable Fringe Benefit”, on which she should pay income tax.

August 28, 2021 12:11 pm

Apologies that was meant for the open thread…

Old Lefty
Old Lefty
August 30, 2021 7:50 pm

Just remember: whenever you watch, listen to, or read anything on the ABC, you are dealing with a shrieking, sectarian propaganda organ of the Rhiannon Stalinst wing of the Greens. Everything will fall into place, including their occasional embarassment of the ALP: they only ever attack Labor for not being far enough to the left.

I almost wish I had a tax debt for 2020-21. Why? So that I could send a cheque endorsed ‘not a cent for Louise Milligan’. (Tolkien fans will recognise the reference.)

Old Lefty
Old Lefty
August 30, 2021 7:57 pm

Gladys puts off parliament because of the Chinese Communist Party plague: fascist dictatorship, according to the ABC:

Dan Xi Man in Yarragrad postpones it for much longer: all hail the Great Leader and anyone who objects is a fascist imperialist pig-dog.

  1. Vic can’t upkeep it roads, probably the smallest network per head in Oz. From what I’v heard other Gov services…

Oh, you think that, do you? Care to put it on record?x