Flat White

Nothing like proving the(ir) ABC’s a sheltered workshop

28 July 2020

5:00 AM

28 July 2020

5:00 AM

Im waiting for white knight Jimmy Barnes to come to the rescue of Ita Buttrose.  

Ita has taken a cold chisel and cracked open a world she never even realised has existed. 

Ita is uncovering a lot at the billion-dollar taxpayer funded organisation she heads. 

Decades of working in commercial newsrooms, her eyes have been well and truly opened. 

She has now seen firsthand into the workings of the sheltered taxpayer funded workshop that is the ABC. 

I believe, I believe that Australia’s trailblazing media National living treasure Ita has been hung out to dry in recent days! 

Cold Chisel’s adoration of Ita was ironically penned in a long-gone era that many of us remember with fondness and perhaps some rose coloured glasses. 

Barnsey has recently belted out a Beatles cover song to thank Sydney hospital staff for assisting him when he was rushed to hospital with a stomach bug.  

But our working-class man may well be secretly thinking that his Ita is now the one who “needs a godmother” to wave a magic wand on this one. 

While there is no longer a “magazine to get her through”, all Australians could still “get a dose of integrity” on this one. 

To get you up to speed quickly, Ita Buttrose made comments at the Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce in London that “millennials lack the resilience” of older generations and need “hugs” to get through a day of work. 

The 78-year-old ABC Chair has copped it in the neck from both young and old Australians over her comments. Even Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has jumped on the outrage bandwagon attacking her comments. 

He claims young people are “doing it tougher than anyone and deserve respect.” 

Of course, you cannot tar all young people with the same brush. But during 29 consecutive years of economic growth, several generations have never lived through a crisis like the one we are experiencing today. 

But the oh-so-easily-outraged are all missing Ita’s point. They are hearing what they want to hear rather than listening to what she has evidently experienced since she became ABC Chair last year. 


Put the COVID-19 pandemic to one side just for a moment. 

Could it be that Ita has found that the millennials working at the ABC are attracted to working at the organisation she heads precisely because of the working conditions that have been allowed to flourish as the decades passed by? 

Remember the ABC’s leaked internal documents in 2013, exposing the handy salaries of ABC luminaries like Paul Barry? 

Barry declared his salary was $191,259 for hosting a weekly 15minute program. 

That salary is paid for by Australian taxpayers. Then there was the revelation that the top 20 presenters were each earning more than $225,000 a year. Hardly representative of the majority of Australians who pay their salaries.  

Perhaps Ita’s controversial comments are controversial because she speaks for previous generations who didn’t dare ask about their leave entitlements at their job interview and certainly didn’t expect to book their first set of holidays before they even had their first day on the job. 

In newsrooms, if your dog or cat died, it died. There was no bereavement leave for dead pets. You dealt with it. In your own time.  

Even once you had accrued leaveat Christmas and Easter you had to go to the back of the pecking order because that’s when the experienced hands got first choice 

The sheltered workshop at the ABC already makes it practically impossible for anyone to get sacked so the entitlement mentality just keeps growing.  

It has even become the norm in the private sector where employers to have to grapple with complex rules and red tape whilst dealing with the “work to rule” mentality of some staff.  

Let’s check some of the things Ita actually said: 

“It seems to be that today’s younger workers they need much more reassurance and they need to be thanked, which is something many companies don’t do …You have to understand that they seem to lack the resilience that I remember from my younger days.” 

Does anyone seriously think Ita’s most famous boss, the late Kerry Packer, would have dished out the thanks and the hugs? What you delivered on deadline as a journalist would have been exactly what would have been expected.  

Ita is right, but perhaps she has also discovered that it is the ABC culture itself that has fostered a certain type of attitude and attracted a certain type of staff member. 

In commercial media, journalists weren’t constantly thanked – or hugged – by news directors or editors for daily stories. 

Journalists were thrust into the thick of it. Not so long ago, and certainly in the era that Ita was so famous they were writing hit songs about her, there were no mobile phones, no internet, no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Linked In. You just had to think outside the square. 

There were also no excuses made for not delivering. 

You just knew you had to deliver on every assignment. 

Tyrannical bosses in our industry were the reason why we learned how to achieve. Was it pleasant? No. 

Was a designated lunch hour provided? No. I ate more vegemite sandwiches and leftover cold Chinese noodles in a car rushing from story to story than I care to remember. 

Newsrooms were not politically correct places, but you learned a hell of a lot in them. 

Being thanked for nabbing an exclusive was just not a done thing. Would it have been nice? Maybe 

But it was instinctive in every journalist to just get on with it, get the scoop and move to the next story. 

Each generation does knock the youth coming up behind them. It isn’t fair as there are some terrific young people but the culture of an organisation is often reflected in both its long term and new staff. 

Finally, it’s worth remembering that Ita’s comments were made under Chatham House rules at the function. Seems like nothing is off limits nowadays. 

Younger journalists would do well to remember that perhaps in the future their sources who say certain things may become so concerned about their confidence being kept that they may end up simply saying “no comment” 

Where’s the scoop in that?  

No hugs required.  

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