Fury at bias of TV chief

AS AUSTRALIA'S election campaign entered its last two days, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was at the centre of a political storm yesterday. Staff were calling for the resignation of its chairman, Donald McDonald, after he intervened in the campaign by praising John Howard, the Prime Minister.

Mr McDonald was confronted at a board meeting yesterday over his generous praise of Mr Howard when he introduced him at a campaign lunch in Sydney last week attended by some of the ruling conservative Liberal Party's staunchest supporters. Among them was Kerry Packer, the media tycoon, who sat at Mr Howard's table.

Mr Packer declared afterwards that "of course" Mr Howard deserved another term after the election on Saturday, and that Kim Beazley, the Labor opposition leader, needed "another few years in the wilderness".

When he stood at the podium and introduced Mr Howard to the audience, many of whom contributed to the Liberal Party's campaign coffers, Mr McDonald described him as "entirely decent", "without malice", "a proud man possessed of deep humility", then called amid applause for the guests to "celebrate John Howard".

Mr McDonald's action was unprecedented for a chairman of the ABC, the country's main public broadcasting organisation, whose charter of political independence mirrors that of the BBC. Its timing was remarkable: in the heat of an election campaign in which Mr Howard himself has accused the ABC of showing bias towards the opposition Labor Party in its coverage.

Uproar followed Mr McDonald's remarks. Leading newspapers rebuked him, while ABC staff called for him to stand down. Mr McDonald is a friend of Mr Howard, who appointed him. He appeared shocked by the outcry and maintained he was merely expressing personal warmth for an old friend. He refused to quit at yesterday's board meeting where Kirsten Garrett, a staff-elected board member, put the staff's demands to him.

She wrote in The Australian: "What has happened during the past few weeks is an attempt to paint the ABC into a phoney party-political corner. Not only is this patently wrong. It is impossible."

Mr McDonald's apparent failure to distinguish between his friendship with Mr Howard and his role as ABC chairman has spawned much speculation over the motives for his intervention. Since it came to power in 1996, Mr Howard's government has cut the ABC's budget by one-tenth and its staff by one-fifth. Radio Australia, its overseas service, has been starved into a skeleton existence.

In some respects, Mr McDonald's remarks undermined the Prime Minister's charge of Labor bias at the ABC. But, if Mr Howard wins on Saturday, ABC staff are bracing themselves for more cuts.

No one is taking Mr Howard's re-election for granted, even though Labor will have to win at least 27 more seats to form a majority in the 148- seat House of Representatives. The polls indicate the result will be decided, finally, by the distribution of second votes from minor parties under Australia's preferential system.

In the past few days, the coalition leaders have come under fire over their remarks about aborigines. On Monday, Tim Fischer, the Deputy Prime Minister, and leader of the National Party, accused the two main aboriginal land councils in the Northern Territory of "blood-sucking" public funds.

His choice of words was seen as a last attempt to pander to voters for One Nation, the racially bigoted party led by Pauline Hanson, who wants to halt spending on aborigines.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Network Infrastructure Technical Lead - up to £45k DOE - Surrey

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Year 2 Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Technical Architect - Surrey - £35k-£45k DOE - Permanent

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Year 3 Teachers needed for supply roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week