The ABC’s decision to air unsubstantiated allegations against Australian service personnel last week is an example of what Stephen Colbert calls thruthiness – a preference for the things one wishes to be true over the things one knows are true.
In the ABC current affairs department, the claim that asylum seekers were beaten and forced to hold onto hot pipes requires no empirical verification. Denials by ministers and officials are considered so unreliable that they cannot kill the story.
Truthiness has come to characterise the ABC’s coverage of border security. It reflects not only the groupthink pervading the corporation, but a marked decline in professional standards.
On October 14 last year, Peter Lloyd introduced a report from Fiona Ogilvie on PM with an unqualified statement:
An asylum seeker being held in detention on Nauru is expecting twins.
Lloyd and Ogilvie were not the first to report the story. Heath Aston had written in The Sydney Morning Herald 10 days earlier that the woman was 22 weeks (seven months) pregnant and had been on the island since September 27.
According to Aston she was living…
…in an environment where detainees live in tents in temperatures of 40 degrees celsius and above.
Lloyd and Ogilvie disagree with Aston, saying the asylum seeker was
six months pregnant
and confined to a tent
where daytime temperatures can reach 50 degrees.
Lloyd and Ogilvie then disagree with one another.
Ogilvie: PM contacted the Immigration Minister’s office for comment but they have not responded yet…
Lloyd: The Immigration Minister’s office has gotten back to PM with this response; “The Government does not respond to unsubstantiated claims about persons claimed to be resident at offshore processing facilities”.
They appear to agree, however, that the mother-to-be is:
an Iranian woman.
And there’s more:
Ogilvie: PM understands that there is another woman on Nauru who is pregnant, also with twins, and that she has diabetes.
Eight days later, the Minister flatly denies the claim:
Scott Morrison: This suggestion that there’s a pregnant woman with twins on Nauru is simply not true… I strongly suggest that the media should more thoroughly interrogate the sorts of claims that are represented to you.
I raised these discrepancies with David Marr when I appeared on ABC News24’s The Drum on January 14. Curiously, that particular episode appears to missing from the online archive.
As I recall, Marr said the pregnancy had been real and that the woman had been flown to Brisbane to give birth.
Indeed Ogilvie had reported on AM on November 8 that the asylum seeker
gave birth via caesarean section in a hospital in Brisbane on Wednesday.
The Iranian woman, however, was now
The Rohingya woman from Myanmar…
We also discover she gave birth to only one baby. Tony Eastley tells us the woman
was told after undergoing scans on Nauru that she was having twins, but it wasn’t until she was brought to Australia that she discovered that wasn’t the case.
Is it credible that a mother carrying one baby could be scanned at either six months (the ABC’s estimate) or seven months (Fairfax’s estimate) and be misdiagnosed as carrying twins?
And when will the ABC tell us what happened to the second woman on Nauru who is pregnant with twins?