Thank God for Tom Switzer. Without him how could the likes of the ABC and the United States Studies Centre even attempt to rationalise the acute lack of political diversity within these two taxpayer-funded organisations?
On November 16, ABC radio announced what were claimed to be “key changes to its content and presenter line-up for 2017”. In fact, it was more of the same. Much was made of the fact that, on Radio National, Switzer will take over as Sunday Extrapresenter and continue his Behind the Lines program.
The suggestion was Switzer would add political diversity to the ABC. In fact, neither Sunday Extra nor Between the Lines are prominent programs. Moreover, Switzer is not a traditional conservative. For example, he opposes the interventionist foreign policy of John Howard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull.
Despite Switzer’s extra duties, the public broadcaster will remain a conservative-free zone without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.
It’s much the same with the USSC at the University of Sydney. It was set up by the Howard government with a $25 million handout in 2006. This was never a good idea. Howard should have understood that any organisation established within the social sciences area of an Australian university will almost certainly be stacked by leftists or at least left-of-centre types. And so it came to pass with the USSC. This was dramatically, and embarrassingly, revealed when USSC chief executive Simon Jackman appeared on Sky News’s Paul Murray Live on November 9, not long after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election.
Not one of Jackman’s colleagues had predicted a Trump victory. What’s more, USSC staff not only openly barracked for Clinton but ridiculed and sneered at Trump. For example, in an article in Fairfax Media on November 3, the USSC’s Brendon O’Connor depicted Trump as an “ugly American” and even bemoaned the fact (allegedly) his “diet lacks sophistication and imagination”.
Mark Latham was on the Paul Murray Live panel and interviewed an obviously uncomfortable Jackman. Latham said there were 30 academics at the USSC and asked whether Jackman was embarrassed and felt humiliated that the USSC “has completely missed the Trump phenomenon”.
Jackman replied: “We’ve got a very balanced line-up at the studies centre; you know, we’ve got Tom Switzer on our panel.” The problem for Jackman was Latham was aware of Switzer’s views.
The following conversation ensued. Latham: “He’s (Switzer’s) not pro-Trump … can you name anyone who was pro-Trump?” Jackman: “At my place?” Latham: “Yes.” Jackman: “No, no, I can’t actually, no.”
Despite this admission, Jackman went on to state there was a “good mix” of views at the USSC.
No there isn’t. The USSC is a bit like the ABC, where everyone tends to agree with everyone on most, if not all, issues. Consequently, it was no surprise so many ABC presenters not only failed to accept Trump had a chance of defeating Clinton but openly campaigned against him.
It seems the ABC’s anti-Trump agenda is now official ABC policy. Addressing a conference on November 17, ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie warned political parties “on the perils of failing to engage with disenchanted voters struggling in the new economy”. Here’s an idea. The ABC has given Kim Williams, an unsuccessful contender for ABC managing director, his own program on Radio National next year. Why not give Guthrie a program as well to proclaim her political insights?
Guthrie went on to claim the US presidential campaign “was a bruising experience for women everywhere”. She also said the election led to a discussion with her “daughters about what the result means for women aspiring to leadership roles”.
But the fact is Kellyanne Conway, who played a key role as Republican campaign director in Trump’s victory, has said she will have a role in the new administration. The president-elect has announced Nikki Haley will be the US ambassador to the UN next year. And Betsy DeVos has been appointed education secretary. These appointments suggest the Guthrie family need not worry too much about women aspiring to leadership roles.
Early indications are Guthrie will be a more able leader than her predecessor, Mark Scott, who failed to deliver on his core promise to bring about greater diversity at the ABC. However, she needs to be conscious of avoiding the temptation to adopt the prevailing mindset in the conservative-free zone over which she presides.
The unfashionable fact is Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News has a group of left-of-centre Democratic supporters who are paid contributors and appear at least weekly on its prominent programs. The ABC does not have one right-of-centre equivalent on its major programs. The problem with a lack of political plurality is it can lead to a mindset at odds with reality. It stands to reason no one at the ABC or the USSC regarded Trump as a likely election victor since they could not imagine a majority of Americans in the swing states would support him. They underestimated Trump’s support among women, African-Americans and Hispanics.
The USSC is based at a university that is not safe for a leading Coalition minister or a prominent conservative to visit. The left-wing stack is evident in Sydney University’s Peace Foundation. Year after year it awards leftists, most recently Naomi Klein and before that the likes of Julian Burnside, Noam Chomsky and so on.
Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, headed by leftist Jake Lynch, is in constant conflict with Israel. This is the reality in so many of Australia’s taxpayer-subsidised institutions. It won’t change by the occasional appointment of a Switzer to a university position.