Last night’s Four Corners program on the ABC wasn’t just compelling viewing because it featured reporter Sarah Ferguson embracing her inner A Current Affair and chasing someone down the street with camera crew in tow (in the TV industry, this practice is called “bouncing”).
Or for the fact that after tracking a band of people smugglers around the world, she ended up getting them on camera having coffee with an ABC whistleblower at a coffee shop a hundred metres away from the broadcaster’s headquarters in Ultimo.
It was a ripper story that raised some serious questions about the process people go through to gain asylum here. Ferguson exposed a small group of people smugglers who infiltrated Australia as asylum seekers to tout their business with our refugee community.
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Australia is a proud and beautiful country. The people are warm, progressive, well-educated and known across the globe for their outstanding hospitality. It is no wonder that Australia ranks No 2 on the global human development index.
This is why the world watched in shock last year when we became aware of the horrific circumstances that Australia’s live export industry was willing to supply animals to Indonesia.
While Animals Australia’s investigation and the subsequent award-winning ABC Four Corners program generated outrage across Australia, the images of Australian cattle being eye-gouged, kicked, whipped and tortured created a similar outpouring of rage across the globe. The vision that we had of Australia as an ethical and forward-thinking nation changed in that moment.
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I’m in a chopper flying low over the cattle yards of one of the biggest live exporters in the country. This cattle station is almost the size of a small European country. We’ve spent the day constructing new cattle yards about an hour’s dusty drive from the homestead - in one of the ‘near paddocks’.
It’s a long way from somewhere in the Top End, Northern Territory. The cattle here are tough. Brahman cross shorthorn. Their sweet faces and floppy ears belie their true grit; surviving on red-brown grass in 45 degree heat and semi-wild conditions.
These are the same breed of cattle shown in the vision aired on Four Corners on Monday night. Intelligent beasts being flayed and tortured - sickening images. Now we’ve all been whipped into a frenzy over it. We want to lash out. Like an animal running blindly with emotion we are bound to trip over. Banning the live meat exports to Indonesia makes as much sense as Chicago’s Prohibition laws: good intentions but disastrous results.
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Tonight marks the swansong for Kerry O’Brien on the 7:30 Report. It’s a sad day for us all.
The 7.30 Report is quintessential viewing for anyone with a remote interest in current affairs.
It’s the last bastion of a genre that’s been bludgeoned to death and is long past its halcyon days of 60 Minutes (the Jana Wendt era) and A Current Affair (the Jana Wendt era).
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