The anti-Liberal, anti-bloke agenda permeating the ABC is finally catching up with it, and not before time.

As of this week the public broadcaster’s star journalist, Louise Milligan, looks to have caused her employer, and therefore hardworking Australian taxpayers, what must be more than $1m in legal fees, costs and settlements.

First was the defamation case launched by Liberal minister Christian Porter against the ABC and Milligan, which cost the ABC $780,000. Now Milligan has been ordered to pay Liberal MP Andrew Laming $79,000 in damages and his legal costs, reported to be about $50,000, plus legal costs for lawyers Bird & Bird, the amount of which they have not yet revealed.

Unfortunately for the ABC, Milligan’s legal settlement with Laming comes just a week after the conclusion of Annabel Crabb’s series Ms Represented.

Crabb’s show was supposed to be about the many firsts women in Australian politics have achieved.

Instead it turned out to be an anti-Liberal and anti-Liberal bloke hit job. Any way you cut the figures, it reeks of an attack on the Liberal Party and Liberal men.

In a program that was apparently about women, male Liberal prime ministers or opposition leaders feature about 29 times. Former prime minister John Howard rates about six unfavourable mentions and former prime minister Tony Abbott rates around 12.

Labor male prime ministers or opposition leaders feature just nine or so times and not in a particularly negative manner.

In episode two, former Labor treasurer John Dawkins ends up as the collateral damage of allegations aimed at the late Andrew Peacock. Notably, Dawkins not only absolutely denies the claims against him but was denied the opportunity to respond to this effect before the show went to air.

When you consider this bias against the backdrop of Liberal cabinet minister Marise Payne appearing in the show just 12 times (as many as Abbott), compared with senator Penny Wong’s 27 or so spots, and that overall Liberal women feature about 120 times versus Labor, Greens and Democrat women 192 times, the lack of balance is undeniable.

The problem for the ABC is that this sort of behaviour is beginning to look deliberate, especially the targeting of Liberal men, and Crabb, in particular, has form.

It was Crabb who lent her home to Jo Dyer so Dyer could be interviewed for a Four Corners episode that made the most serious of allegations against Porter, a fact revealed thanks to Dyer’s intervention in Porter’s defamation action against the ABC.

Crabb and Dyer also exchanged several messages that included Crabb writing she felt “such a boiling sense of rage and grief” and later “what a strange dude CP is. And how amazingly arrogant to think you can mistreat people and get away with it for ever.”

Crabb and Milligan are not the only ones running this anti-Liberal, anti-man agenda.

As host of 7.30, Laura Tingle asked former Liberal MP Julia Banks just two questions in 10 minutes about her book Power Play, allowing Banks a 10-minute nearly uninterrupted rant about Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

It is also the ABC’s 7.30 that stands accused of coaching female witnesses who pursued unsuccessful legal action against actor Craig McLachlan. Veteran journalist Mark Llewellyn stated the “coaching is unlike anything I have ever seen. It is not normal journalistic behaviour and nor should it be normalised.” Senior journalist Chris Kenny shares similar views. McLachlan is reportedly pursuing the ABC for defamation.

The cumulative effect of these numerous examples brings to mind the words of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell: once, misfortune; twice, carelessness. But the third, fourth and fifth times in as many months looks downright deliberate.

So, too, does the fact these ABC programs and legal battles sit alongside still unexamined alleg­ations made by female Labor staff in a Facebook group detailing the most serious behaviour by male current and former Labor MPs, including punching walls, disgraceful and dangerous sexist abuse, sexual harassment and non-consensual sex (“Female Labor staffers expose MP and male staffers ‘secrets’ ”, March 15, news.com.au).

The question is, can chairwoman Ita Buttrose and managing director David Anderson wind back the damage done and restore any semblance of proper journalistic balance at the ABC?

Published in The Australian