ABC breaches Code for calling Tony Abbott a “destructive politician.”

The ABC has breached the ABC Code of Practice after ABC Political Editor Andrew Probyn editorialised that former PM Tony Abbott was ” the most destructive politician of his generation.”

In October Probyn was reporting on a climate change speech by Tony Abbott, to the Global Warming Policy Foundation think tank.

“Tony Abbott, already the most destructive politician of his generation, now intends on waging war on what he calls ‘environmental theology,'” he said.

While media watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority gave most of the report the all-clear, it found the editorialising was a breach of the ABC Code of Practice. The ACMA investigation, following a complaint, found the statement was judgemental, not in language considered as analysis.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said, “The impartiality provisions in the ABC’s own code require it to demonstrate balance and fair treatment when presenting news, and avoid conveying a prejudgement.

“This is only the second breach by the ABC of its impartiality rules since 2011. While this demonstrates strong compliance with these important provisions of the code, the ABC did not get it right on this occasion.”

In responding to the complaint, ABC referred to the Macquarie dictionary for a definition of ‘destructive’ as “’….tending to overthrow, disprove, or discredit’. It is the case that Mr Abbott over his long political career has succeeded in overthrowing his political and ideological opponents, and in his speech to the GWPF he sought to discredit or disprove the consensus on climate science. In the highly competitive context of federal politics, ‘destructive’ is not necessarily a pejorative descriptor,” it suggested.

ABC has since advised ACMA that ABC News will incorporate the finding into its editorial compliance training programs.


  1. The ABC must’ve missed the Dudd and Dillard years. But the ABC would never call out the Left politics. Any taxpayer who is right of centre should feel short-changed by the constant left-wing bias the ABC displays. The only happiness I can take out of the ABC is that is is cannibalising Fairfax’s market share and driving it’s share price south. As the Left wing fairfax media have to compete with a 100% tax-funded $1B behemoth. Only one will survive longer term.

  2. I suppose it depends on your point of view when you use the word ‘destructive’ to describe a politician, the underlying political ethos of the ABC tends to rub some right wing politicians up the wrong way anyway, especially Liberal politicians like Tony Abbott, Kerry O’Brien certainly halted any further LNP interviews on the 7.30 report after his probing political interrogation of Mr Abbott, even today the ABC still has difficulty getting Liberal PM’s to appear on their news shows, for a national broadcaster this is not a good thing the public need to hear the policy statements from our political leaders whether they like them or not, and not endure left wing celebrity journos looking to create clickbait headlines.

  3. estherhoffman

    Yes,the truth hurts,doesn’t it?Unfortunately the A.B.C will be cowed into submission by this and will be even more timid than they already are.

  4. daveinprogress

    The blowhards on Paul Murray Live were bagging Probyn relentlessly last night. I recall seeing that report and thinking it was a little too much like an editorial on a 7pm News story, but if that ain’t the pot calling the kettle black. Sky is merciless with their endless derision of the left. They would argue their shows are opinion based; unlike what Paul Murray termed the 7pm news the straight bat of the network. On that point I through gritted teeth, agree. 7pm News is the flagship of the ABC. There’s the Drum, Insiders etc for opinion. I like Andrew Probyn though.

  5. Under this Lying Nasty Dirty Coal Out of Touch Narrow Minded People Party government, we may well be living in the Republic of Gilead…

  6. So, let me get this straight – the ABC tells the truth and it gets penalised for it.
    Probyn was just telling it like it is about Abbott.

  7. Needless to say the shock jocks in Sydney are having a feeding frenzy over this. No doubt it will be all over The Australian tomorrow. Yawn.

    • Today. Online edition anyway. Also Corey Bernadi showing very little understanding of the complaints / regulatory system when comparing this to Tonightly language, which is a bit of a worry.

    • At least The Australian will report accurate and tested facts and not mere motherhood statements and opinions like SMH and the Guardian

      • Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha! ?

        Oh dear, thanks, I needed that. I haven’t had such a good laugh since I watched Tony Abbott’s brain lock up when asked “Who are you?”… ?

  8. Ask Malcom Turnbull his opinion and I think you’d find “Destructive” would be well down the list of pejoratives he’d be using for Abbott!

    • I think he’d be taking inspiration from another Malcolm, the fictional one that has been in town for the past fortnight. A Mr Malcolm Tucker.

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