2GB interview with Luke Grant

Luke Grant: Now, I have to be honest and say to you, there are plenty of things in the world that, frankly, don't belong in bed together. Some would say chewing and chocolate, I would disagree, many would say chalk and cheese. Fair enough. Apples and oranges. You know what I'm talking about here? Two things that should be separate, wherever possible are news and superannuation. But that's not the case with the industry funded New Daily. That's the industry fund funded New Daily and their involvement with, yes, the national broadcaster, the publicly or the taxpayer funded broadcaster. Now it's under the spotlight with Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg calling on the ABC to provide more details of contracts with the New Daily. Senator Bragg says the New Daily is being used to attack critics of superannuation and political opponents, which is something the ABC should surely steer clear of. Well, they have to, don't they? Let's get the latest on this with the good senator who's on the line. How are you, Andrew?

Andrew Bragg: G'day Luke, how are you?

Luke Grant: I'm very well indeed. So, this relationship between the ABC and the industry super fund funded New Daily. It does allow the national broadcaster to at least appear to be on occasions, the voice of that sector, doesn't it?

Andrew Bragg: Well, look, I think it's a very bad idea for the ABC to be in bed with the super fund lobbyists and their propaganda arm, which is called the New Daily. I'm worried that could infect the coverage of superannuation by the national broadcaster. But I'm also very worried about the waste of money. I mean, this is worker's savings after all.

Luke Grant: Yes, but just for those that aren't up with the news, what is actually happening here?

Andrew Bragg: There's a secret deal, well has been until recently, a secret deal between the ABC and an organisation called the New Daily, which is owned by the super funds themselves, owned by their lobbying arm. And the super funds have been paying the ABC for content, which means that your super is paying the ABC for something. And what we're trying to do is to get all the information out into the public because we think it's a bad idea.

Luke Grant: So when you say content, these would be news stories that they'd then republish. Is that what it is?

Andrew Bragg: Yeah, that's right.

Luke Grant: Wow. How do we come to understand this even existed?

Andrew Bragg: Well, there's this wonderful process called Senate Estimates where you get to ask a thousand questions. And I've been pursuing it with David Anderson, the managing director of the ABC, and he promised me that the ABC would provide details of the revenue arrangements to me as a Senator and to the Senate, and they haven't done that yet. They've only provided really minimal information, so we don't know the full extent of the deal and so there's more work that we need to do.

Luke Grant: You know what? We often will. I watch, of course I'm a tragic probably a bit like you a tragic in terms of the body politic, I hasten to add. I watch much of the Senate Estimates and it surprises me to think that the ABC that you inquire into the ABC and the CEO or whoever it might be, indicates they'll come back and they seemingly never come back, at least for those of us who are playing along at home. Can you compel the ABC to act a bit smarter? And can they be? Shouldn't they be more forthcoming? I mean, they are taxpayer funded, for goodness sake.

Andrew Bragg: Luke, one of the things I've learnt in my short career here is that you need to write things down. And then when people come back for Estimates the next time in six months, you need to go through and ask them again what you ask them for six months ago. Because often the strategy is from their perspective, is to just assume you'll forget what you asked last time, provide you with a baseless answer and then move on. So, you've got to really pursue these issues with vigor. And that's what I've tried to do on this occasion. But also, I should say, with APRA, which is the prudential regulator for super I mean, they are they supposed to be making sure that the super trustees aren't wasting people's money.

Luke Grant: Yeah.

Andrew Bragg: But they have presided over a system where all the structures have been set up. Which is contrary to the law, so we look, we need better regulators, Luke, it's very important.

Luke Gran: Yeah. Do you have to go and answer those bells just out of interest?

Andrew Bragg: No, I'm okay.

Luke Grant: Everything okay?

Andrew Bragg: Okay.

Luke Grant: Beautiful, right oh. So should the ABC have any commercial deal on content with anyone, given that if you follow it far enough down the chain, you're going to find someone who might be, you know, trying to get influence or whatever it might be?

Andrew Bragg: The ABC needs to be very careful about getting into business with organisations that have a political agenda. It needs to be a non-biased national broadcaster and an organisation like a lobby group for the super funds is not an appropriate partner for the ABC. Even the perception that the ABC's coverage on something as important as super...

Luke Grant: Yeah.

Andrew Bragg: Could be brought into disrepute.

Luke Grant: Yeah. Is this against their in any way their editorial guidelines? I once had the misfortune of going for a job there and it was drummed into me because of my commercial background that I couldn't have an opinion on anything. Fair enough. That's what they do, because it has to be seen to be independent and right down the middle. Is there anything within the charter that bans this?

Andrew Bragg: Well, let's see I mean, I'm not certain that the ABC knew exactly who they were contracting with. The organisation that the... There's so many different organisations within the industry super movement. I mean, one of them that the ABC's contracting with is called Motion. Now, that is not true to label. I mean, they might not have known that was the super funds they were doing business with. I'm not sure. But we need to pursue this. I will be writing to David Anderson to seek an explanation because the answer that he's provided is insufficient.

Luke Grant: Yeah. What's the Labor Party's position on this? Have they said anything?

Andrew Bragg: Well, they supported my motion today in the Senate.

Luke Grant: Wow.

Andrew Bragg: So, they may be coming around. I think it was only the Greens that expressed concern about that the motion to get more transparency on these arrangements.

Luke Grant: If you add this along to the Four Corners episode, there's not a lot of love between government and the taxpayer funded broadcaster right now?

Andrew Bragg: Well, I mean, we... The position of our government is we don't think that the ABC should be doing deals with, you know, unsavoury organisations. Certainly, they should be keeping themselves free of politics and I don't see how they can maintain a deal with a hyper partisan, hyper political organisation like the super funds, and claimed to maintain a high standards Luke.

Luke Grant: Yeah, fair enough. Alright, Senator Bragg, we will follow this story with great interest. Andrew, I appreciate your time very much.

Andrew Bragg: Thanks, great to have a chat.

Luke Grant: Thank you. That's Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg calling out agreements for the ABC and the New Daily. Again, The New Daily is a publication, if you will, a news resource funded by industry super.

MEDIA | John Mangos | 0401 392 624

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