Radio National’s Fran Kelly retires and the Australian’s Gerard Henderson is ungracious

Travelling from Bendigo to Melbourne along the Calder on a regular basis, I am grateful for the news, information, entertainment and podcasts that are offered to me by ABC radio.

There is nothing like being absorbed in an interview with an author or historian or musician to make the kilometres speed by. And if tiredness is starting to creep up, I find listening to conversations and being involved in the content is a much more effective way of staying alert than listening to music which can sometimes have an anaesthetic effect.

Last week I was particularly absorbed by the ABC’s farewell to Fran Kelly who was signing off from her morning Radio National gig, Breakfast, after 17 years with the program. Such is the respect with which Fran Kelly is held, she was farewelled by politicians from both sides of the aisle who commented that she was always thoroughly prepared, presented her program without bias, and pursued a line of questioning in the face of obfuscation.  Further to these qualities, Kelly has an innate authority which gives her audience confidence and the ability to relax when listening to her. There are no gaffes on Kelly’s program.

Later on, during the evening of Kelly’s retirement, Barrie Cassidy interviewed her on the ABC’s One Plus One which gave us an opportunity to learn of her background, including her other life as a musician. In fact, music was an element she often inserted into the hurly burly of the fast news cycle. Another One Plus One revelation was Kelly’s personal difficulty during the controversy over the Same Sex Marriage bill. She and her wife have raised children together and in the face of some vicious comments relating to gay marriages, Kelly had to bite down hard on her tongue.    

While the ABC was fulsome in its acknowledgement of Kelly’s quality journalism, it took the Australian’s Gerard Henderson to rebuff that acknowledgement and describe it as being “self-indulgent”. An attitude which came across as churlish and small minded. Murdoch’s newspapers clearly support the cause of the Coalition, but surely journalists such as Henderson can step back from their anti-ABC position and recognise the element which they claim is missing from the ABC, the element of independent and fearless reporting.

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