John Adams: Trial by Media is a Dangerous Precedent

Australia must avoid delivering justice through ‘trial by media’.

Across the western world, a sweeping phenomenon is now underway to expose current and historical hidden and entrenched sexual misconduct as well as organisational cultures that enable sexual misconduct.

This phenomenon, whose forces have been building overtime, was recently triggered by the Harvey Weinstein revelations.

This phenomenon hit Australia early last week through a joint Fairfax Media/ABC report which catalogued a series of allegations against former TV presenter Don Burke.

These allegations against Burke, stemming back from the 1980s and 90s, covered behaviour which range from inappropriate language to workplace bullying of a non‑sexual nature to sexual misconduct.

A number of the claims made are denied by Burke, who has engaged legal counsel that specialises in defamation.

According to Fairfax Media’s reporting, Channel 9 was responsible for the production of Burke’s Backyard up until 1991, when Burke himself took over the show’s production from 1991 via his firm CTC productions meaning that Burke’s relationship with Channel 9 was in the form of supplier‑customer defined through a commercial contract between the two parties.

Therefore, staff employed to work on Burke’s Backyard prior to 1991 were employees of Channel 9, while afterwards, staff employed by CTC Productions were effectively Burke’s employees.

It is alleged that inappropriate conduct took place both prior to and after the establishment of CTC Productions (i.e. before 1991 as well as from 1991 and beyond).

Fairfax Media reports that Channel 9 claims it never received any official complaints against Burke during the period when Channel 9 was legally responsible as an employer (i.e. prior to 1991) nor were any payouts made.

This assertion, if true, is extraordinary as it underscores Australia’s historically endemic secretive culture that emphases not to ‘dob’ on other people.

It is this culture which has enabled many a scandal in Australia whether it be institutional child sex abuse or endemic police corruption as catalogued by the 1995 NSW Wood Royal Commission.

There is no honour or virtue in remaining silent and taking no action whether you are the victim, a witness, employee, contractor or manager, etc.

Remaining silent will only create the environment and conditions for the next victim to suffer the same injustice.

Moreover, there is no honour or virtue to remaining silent or taking no action while economic benefits are being solicited, only to come out on the public record many years later once those economic benefits have dried up.

 

No employee, irrespective of gender, ever asks to be mistreated at work and no one, in an ideal world, should ever be subject to mistreatment.

In cases of workplace bullying or sexual harassment, if an organisation is not willing to take action against toxic managers or employees (especially when the toxicity comes from the company’s ownership) and legal recourse is not available, then the only recourse is for an employee to leave.

As I noted in an appearance last week on the ABC’s the DRUM, throughout my professional career, I have resigned from two jobs due to workplace bullying without any regard to my personal financial circumstances.

In hindsight, those two decisions have been great decisions.

Empirical research indicates that working in a toxic work environment results in poor organisational performance as well as detrimental employee outcomes such as stress, depression, insomnia and other psychological trauma.

Fairfax Media’s reporting establishes that Burke’s professional reputation and behaviour was effectively well-known throughout the industry and in some instances, women who experienced inappropriate behaviour were warned ahead of time, which they choose to ignore.

In other instances, according to Fairfax Media’s reporting some women were requested to be interviewed at Don Burke’s private residence.

The world has always been a jungle and everyone must ultimately assume responsibility to advance their own interests. This can include avoiding people with poor reputations or conducting due‑diligence before entering into a commercial or employment relationship.

For those who worked at CTC Productions (employees or contractors) and were subject to workplace bullying or sexual harassment, a prudent student would have quickly observed that it is near impossible to take-on an owner through internal organisational procedures.

For these people as well as other stakeholders dealing with CTC Productions, the only recourse would have been in a free market system is to take action which would have harmed its commercial interests including resigning from CTC Productions, taking industrial action (including striking), taking legal action through seeking compensation or going public which would have harmed the company’s reputation and would have applied pressure on other parties (including channel 9) not to conduct  business with CTC Productions.

Obviously, in instances of criminality, all members of the public have the ability to seek redress from the police.

It is in this regard, when people who had prior knowledge, or who were requested to attend professional meetings in non-professional environments or have been the victim of ongoing harassment, did I mean when I spoke on national TV that: “people should not put themselves in these situations’.

This position, which sparked outrage on social media following my appearance on the DRUM, is now supported by Hollywood star Pamela Anderson who stated last week that with respect to Weinstein, women in Hollywood could have done more to avoid being victimised given how widely known Weinstein’s reputation was.

Obviously, in my remarks on the ABC, I was not speaking about women who had no prior knowledge and found themselves in regrettable situations.

Having said this, Australians, more broadly, must be cautious to rush to judgement when sensational publications against individuals are made both in terms the specific claims made against an individual or the overall impression made by a media organisation.

Fairfax Media, in particular, does not have clean hands in this regard as it has lost several high‑profile defamation cases when challenged in court, in particular the Joe Hockey and Chris Gayle cases.

The automatic presumption of guilt when untested allegations are aired by media organisations is a dangerous mechanism in which to deliver justice.

In a globalised media environment, false accusations which are published can cause significant and potential irreparable damage to the accused career.

Two cases which highlight the dangers of the ‘trial by media’ from last week are worth mentioning.

Firstly, a number of media organisations rushed on Thursday morning to report that an unnamed source lodged a complaint against actor Geoffrey Rush to the Sydney Theatre Company of inappropriate behaviour during his time working on King Lear in 2015-2016.

A bewildered, and caught out, Rush, quickly sought clarification as to the nature of the allegations from the Sydney Theatre Company to which he was denied.

Rush’s lawyer by late Thursday afternoon issued a statement stating:

“Not to afford a person their right to know what has been alleged against them, let alone not inform them of it but release such information to the public, is both a denial of natural justice and is not how our society operates.”

Rush announced on Saturday he was stepping down as president of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts “effective immediately and until these issues have been resolved”.

Secondly, a series of allegations of sexual misconduct against republican senator candidate Roy Moore made during the current political contest for US Senate senator appear to be politically motivated and now have collapsed under close scrutiny.

In the most serious allegation against Moore, contradictory statements, the withholding of key items of evidence from independent scrutiny and the accuser’s stepson and former boyfriend stating that the accuser is not a creditable person has the campaign against Moore reeling.

Recent polling suggests that Moore has now recovered his position in the polls and is on track to be elected as a United States Senator.

There can be no excuse for inappropriate workplace behaviour sexual or otherwise.

As a husband and a father of a young daughter, I want nothing more than women to be treated fairly and with respect both in and out of the workplace.

To the extent campaigns led by media advocates such as Tracey Spicer result in the delivery of justice through proper legal channels and the improvement of organisational culture in Australia for both women as well as men, this should be both supported and applauded.

However, Australians must be cautious about being swept up by ‘trial by media’ which can easily be misused as a mechanism to tarnish reputations of innocent people whose reputation may not be able to recover.

John Adams is a former Coalition Advisor. This op-ed first appeared in The Spectator.

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40 Responses to John Adams: Trial by Media is a Dangerous Precedent

  1. C.L.

    Hear hear.
    As I asked here last week, who appointed Tracey Spicer a director of public prosecution?

  2. stackja

    What is the media agenda?

  3. Howard Hill

    Australian media have always been judge, jury and executioner. Just watch an episode of A Current Advertisement on the Nein Network. That grimface bitch is almost as bad as their ABC.

    stackja asked: What is the media agenda?

    Sensationalism comes to mind. IOW, Fake news!

  4. RobertS

    ” throughout my professional career, I have resigned from two jobs due to workplace bullying without any regard to my personal financial circumstances.”
    Who was being bullied John?
    I’m 70 and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen or experienced what I consider bullying. I’m an average size guy and spent 17 years in the ADF from the age of 18.
    So why are we different?

  5. Ƶĩppʯ (ȊꞪꞨV)

    mus respect da wamen!

  6. BorisG

    In this context a series of cases from the UK must be mentioned. In particular, the tragic case of Carl Sargeant, who took his own life after unproven allegations about some inappropriate touching led to his dismissal from a ministerial position in Welsh government as well as extensive media reporting of the allegations, details of which were not disclosed to Sargeant.

    So far this is the most tragic of all the consequences of the current wave of allegations.

  7. nerblnob

    The worst thing about workplace sex is that other employees think they’re losing out to favouritism.

    The “exploitation by powerful boss” angle is way overplayed by comparison.

  8. Rob MW

    Well said John and much overdue to be said as it has been plainly obvious for a fair while that trial by the 24 hour media cycle, working hand in glove with SJWs, is way out of control. I can’t see anyway other way to put the brakes on other than to drastically overhaul and harden defamation laws by moving them into the criminal justice system putting the onus on the accuser and the due diligence of the person/outlet publically voicing the accusation.

  9. Boris

    I can’t see anyway other way to put the brakes on other than to drastically overhaul and harden defamation laws by moving them into the criminal justice system putting the onus on the accuser and the due diligence of the person/outlet publically voicing the accusation.

    This won’t work in the age of internet.

  10. This is a well argued article and I have no opposing views to it.
    I would however make the following observations.

    For many years now, those on the left of the political spectrum, the Progressives, have vilified and crucified many conservatives, especially middle aged men. Men with longstanding good reputations have been ruined.

    Now that the forever outraged have run out of male middle aged conservative victims, they are turning on those who were on their side and indeed were shoulder to shoulder with these accusers while taking down conservative men.

    The inevitable is happening, the rabid ones are turning on their own. And since women are higher on the victim scale than men, they are cannibalising their own men.

    So I say grab your beer, pop some corn, sit back and enjoy the show because this is just the beginning.
    It’ll last about 5 more years, at which time the forever outraged will have become victims themselves and they themselves will demand changes to laws and attitudes with just as loud voices as they’ve screamed while taking down conservative men.

    Basically, enjoy the show and fuck’em.

  11. egg_

    Dumbass Oz Leftoids are Weinsteining their own – cannibalism.

  12. Rob MW

    This won’t work in the age of internet.

    Bullshit. Everything finger print on the internet is discoverable.

  13. Boris

    Defamation law is a balancing act between the presumption of innocence and free speech. These laws are what they are and won’t be changing any time soon.

  14. J.H.

    Stalin’s Soviet Union used bogus “Sex crimes” charges to arrest dissidents and other regime undesirables. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn mentions it in his ‘Gulag Archipelago’.

    Western standards of Jurisprudence are founded on “Rules of Evidence”… It is dangerous to stray to far from it.

  15. Rob M W

    Bullshit Boris (again). There is no presumption of innocence in defamation law – the onus is on the accused to prove the accusation false. Free speech, amigo, is not a defense to an injury.

  16. yarpos

    I think the authors reference to a cause of this syndrome being some cultural leaning to not dobbing people in is a bit of personal pet theory rather than reality. Power imbalance is usually a major factor , where the victim feels (real or imagined) that the perpetrator has power over them or have power to impact their future lives.

  17. Irreversible

    John Adams thinks Susie O’Neill made up the incident where Burke likened a painting in her home to a vagina. Deborah Hutton too. And so on.
    Why would they do that? Even Meakin and Leckie have dumped him in it.
    Is it so hard to accept that some men do awful things?

  18. win

    The now elderly ladies who threw their nickers on stage at rock concerts,Tom Jones etc. and spent nights out side hotels in a bygone era are remarkably quiet or is it just dementia setting in.

  19. Tel

    In this context a series of cases from the UK must be mentioned. In particular, the tragic case of Carl Sargeant, who took his own life after unproven allegations about some inappropriate touching led to his dismissal from a ministerial position in Welsh government as well as extensive media reporting of the allegations, details of which were not disclosed to Sargeant.

    This is not unique, it’s been going on for years. Friend of a friend but I’ve heard of similar stories within NSW government where people are accused in secret, never get to know what they are accused of nor who is accusing them, never get any legal representation, and are put onto paid leave then at a certain time given an answer yes/no whether they can have their job back again. It’s stressful and disruptive and wide open for abuse.

    If that’s not bad enough, just plug the word “healthquest” into your favourite search engine, you get stuff like this:

    http://wbde.org/documents/My_name_is_Qu%27ach_Nhung_HealthQuest_ruined_my_life_here_in_Australia.php

    I went to my appointment at HealthQuest. When I went in the doctor said “I am a psychiatrist.” He made me fill out questionnaires and IQ tests. I said “Why do I have to do this?” He would not tell me. I tried to tell him that I was having trouble with the smoking. He was not interested. He asked me about my past, he made me recall horrors that I did not want to think about any more. He questioned me about Vietnam and about the journey to Australia until I was crying. Then he said I could go.

    He did not listen to my lungs. He gave me no proper examination. I had a letter to say I was on sick leave and I was not allowed to go to work until the government medical officer said I was fit again.

    These guys were in the business of finding people insane if they complained about anything. We never fully dragged this out in public, it all just quietly fizzled and then no one talked about it.

    Plenty of stories you hear about teachers (especially male teachers) being removed after accusations they had basically no capability to defend themselves against.

  20. Tel

    Try going through Christopher Booker documentation of families destroyed and children taken in the UK. The entire concepts of guilt, innocence, evidence, procedure don’t even get the slightest consideration.

    https://theytookourchild.wordpress.com/tag/christopher-booker/

  21. Diogenes

    John Adams thinks Susie O’Neill made up the incident where Burke likened a painting in her home to a vagina. Deborah Hutton too. And so on.

    Did you read the same article I did ?

    Mrs D said that if Don Burke had come to our house, and made remarks like those he is alleged to have made to Susie O’Neill or Debra Hutton he would have been out on the street, and he didn’t leave willingly then police would be called. By continuing with the interviews, Susie and Deborah enabled him/ condoned his behaviour. And THAT is exactly the point that John and Angela Lansbury and Pamela Anderson are trying to make. Susie continued with the interview, because she was presumably getting some career enhancement out of it (audition for a post swimming media career ? )

  22. classical_hero

    The comment to Susie was crude, but not illegal.

  23. Rich

    What if the fairer sex believes in care based morality, not justice based morality? What if, to them, trial by gossip is commonplace?

  24. Niner

    classical hero? + Diogenes + Rich: You must be very young people. In the 1980s and 1990s the media and advertising industries (among others) were havens for alcoholics, megalomaniacs and plain nasty pricks. Nine was an especially whacky joint because Chisholm ran the place like Hollywood and his offsiders ran amok. Sorrell in Melbourne was a barbarian. Leckie and others could not complete a sentence without an expletive. Jana Wendt was royalty. The 60 Minutes crew carried caviar to Timor for lunch picnics. Burke was a total arse and his female staff were the victims.
    Contrary to what Adams says above, many did quit. Because they had no chance of having anything change and it did not change. Until now, when they speak up.
    Rush, by the way, is notorious.

  25. Charlie

    Typical cuck nonsense. Instead of whining about trial by media why not follow Trump’s example and fight back against the bastards.

  26. PB

    The attack on Roy Moore was based on the “whatever-it-takes” principle, and did not require resolving. It only needed to exist until as close as possible to the election date. They ran the plot too soon, and it blew up in their faces.

  27. Bruce in WA

    Plenty of stories you hear about teachers (especially male teachers) being removed after accusations they had basically no capability to defend themselves against.

    Yep. Waiting for some vindictive (now middle-aged) woman I taught years ago to come out with, “But he ….”

  28. Motelier

    X television star reporter @TraceySpicer is all a twitter about this.

    I fail to see the difference between these claimed harrassment cases and the harrassment she is currently performing.

    She must be felling pretty powerful with all of this “evidence”.

    I warned her early on to be careful with false accusations and the reply was “Mate, I’m a journalist.”.

    Probably sums it all up.

  29. struth

    If someone did something criminal to you and you didn’t report it immediately, you are an accomplice to his/her/it’s next attack.
    If he/she/it did something that was not criminal but you didn’t feel the need to protest to them at the time, or to let the rest of the girls know, you have no right in bringing it up now.

    These are just more publicised cases of what has been going on for some years, purging the world of white men in positions of power to get da wimminses in there.

    These women are by far the lowest scum imaginable in most cases, and let’s face it, anyone who can’t see what is really going on here is extremely naïve at best, and have no idea when it comes to (some)females and their use of sexuality to get themselves up the ladder.
    It’s a bit rich to take the whores of the entertainment industry as the violated petals they now, many years later, claim to have been.
    Without an ounce of integrity or concern for the next so called victim, they have stayed silent, a crime in itself.
    Spare me the banshee whores of entertainment as they try to stick a halo on their head that they lost many years ago and accuse others now for what they accepted back then.

  30. struth

    Stalin’s Soviet Union used bogus “Sex crimes” charges to arrest dissidents and other regime undesirables. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn mentions it in his ‘Gulag Archipelago’.

    All of this has happened before.

    The moral degradation and anti family policies of the USSR, the degradation of 1930’s Germany, basically the disgarding or outright banning of Christian society’s cultural benefits.
    It needs to be done before the revolution can commence.

  31. Motelier

    If someone did something criminal to you and you didn’t report it immediately, you are an accomplice to his/her/it’s next attack.
    If he/she/it did something that was not criminal but you didn’t feel the need to protest to them at the time, or to let the rest of the girls know, you have no right in bringing it up now.

    Well said. So well said I just had pinch it and bash Tracey Spicer over the head with it.

    Ta.

  32. Kneel

    “…the reply was “Mate, I’m a journalist.”.”

    No, you’re a sensationalist. If it makes a “big splash” you’ll run it, true or not. Otherwise, it will sink like a rock.

  33. egg_

    Hear hear.
    As I asked here last week, who appointed Tracey Spicer a director of public prosecution?

    Her hair brush?

  34. BorisG

    If someone did something criminal to you and you didn’t report it immediately, you are an accomplice to his/her/it’s next attack.

    care to provide a link to the relevant law? does it apply to children?

  35. duncanm

    If someone did something criminal to you and you didn’t report it immediately, you are an accomplice to his/her/it’s next attack.

    care to provide a link to the relevant law? does it apply to children?

    I doubt if anything Burke did is a serious indictable offence (5 years gaol), but there’s the NSW crimes act316 CONCEALING SERIOUS INDICTABLE OFFENCE

    (1) If a person has committed a serious indictable offence and another person who knows or believes that the offence has been committed and that he or she has information which might be of material assistance in securing the apprehension of the offender or the prosecution or conviction of the offender for it fails without reasonable excuse to bring that information to the attention of a member of the Police Force or other appropriate authority, that other person is liable to imprisonment for 2 years.

  36. George gell

    I am making out s list of old enemies now. When it is complete I am going to put on a skirt and walk into a Fairfax office.
    I am sure I can dream up something juicy on the train on the way in.

  37. BorisG

    fails without reasonable excuse to bring that information to the attention of a member of the Police

    Any idea what ‘reasonable excuse’ might be?

  38. Reading many of the replies above one can readily see what women have had to put up with.

    The situation will not change until in all assaults, sexual and otherwise, the presumption is that the woman is telling the truth and the male/s have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they had consent.

    Along with that conviction ought to carry a minimum jail sentence.

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