Retired ABC royalty Kerry O’Brien back in interview mode in Kooyong

The independent Voices of Kooyong and Kooyong Independents Group have joined forces to set up their eco-tanks for Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s lawn with a town hall meeting next week in the Treasurer’s electorate of Kooyong featuring former independent MP Cathy McGowan, who dispatched Liberal Sophie Mirabella in the rural Victorian seat of Indi.

Kerry O’Brien interviews Cathy McGowan as Josh Frydenberg watches on. Credit:John Shakespeare

McGowan will be interviewed by retired ABC royalty Kerry O’Brien. He is not keen to enter the political fray but is a member of the ABC Alumni group, which will campaign at next year’s federal election to protect the ABC.

The independent Kooyong groups have ensnared 660 people to sign up for the live-stream and are expecting hundreds to attend in person at $10 a ticket at the Renaissance Theatre in Kew on Tuesday.

In his 2019 brick-sized book, A Memoir, O’Brien forecast the rise of independents even before Abbott slayer Zali Steggall won in Warringah at the last federal election and Helen Haines maintained Indi’s independent status by succeeding McGowan.

And that was before the rise of the independents and Voices Of movements, not to mention the intervention of green energy investor and Hawthorn resident Simon Holmes a Court, who founded the Climate 200 political donation machine. He is taking a keen interest in whomever both movements chose as an independent candidate to take on Frydenberg. Watch this space.

SEASONAL TICKET

Getting in early, federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese will host his Grin and Bear It drinks, otherwise known as Christmas drinks for the Canberra press gallery, next week at a pub in Canberra’s hipster enclave of O’Connor. Yep, the Parliament House press gallery is decamping across Lake Burley Griffin and heading northside.

“There will be drinks and snacks aplenty – and a small number of shadow ministers to make excellent conservation with”, the ALP’s invite read. So any Labor frontbenchers not invited can wonder if the leadership considers them to be conversational dullards.

Meanwhile, Scott Morrison hosts his annual drinks at The Lodge on Monday night, where guests are “encouraged” to be double vaccinated. No vaccine mandates when it comes to providing festive hospitality to the jackals of the press. This is in contrast with Albo’s event, which has a vax requirement, given it is in a local pub.

ScoMo has asked that the gallery turn up with a present for the Kmart Wishing Tree gift drive in support of the Salvation Army Appeal.

Outgoing ABC news boss Gaven Morris.Credit:ABC NEWS

ACTING BOSS

This column is far too modest to say we told you so.

So we merely note that one day after we flagged ABC internal plans to elevate the broadcaster’s head of network and newsgathering, Gavin Fang, to the role of acting news director in place of outgoing boss Gaven Morris – hey presto! – an email from managing director David Anderson arrived in staff inboxes. Morris will finish up at the broadcaster on December 3 and Fang takes his place – in an acting capacity.

“Fang … will take over as Acting Director, News and will work with Gaven during a two-week handover period that has already commenced,” Anderson told staff, while simultaneously giving Fang’s tyres an almighty pump up.

Staff were told, “Gavin is one of News’ most experienced leaders” who “along with the News Leadership Team … will ensure our teams are fully supported in continuing to provide outstanding journalism and services to our audiences … until the recruitment process is finalised.”

If that doesn’t secure him the permanent gig, nothing will.

For the punters, a job ad has gone live searching for “an experienced news editorial leader who has a deep understanding of – and passion for – quality news and current affairs, for the needs of Australian audiences and a strong connection with the ABC’s purpose and mission”.

ABC HOLDING PATTERN

But there are other factors in Fang’s favour – including the gift of timing.

He will act in the role after a giant ABC management headache has been kicked into touch. Readers will recall ABC chair Ita Buttrose blew up about the proposed Senate inquiry into the ABC complaints handling process, labelling it political interference as Aunty had undertaken its own review.

ABC chair Ita Buttrose.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

After Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young tried to kybosh ambitious Liberal senator Andrew Bragg’s probe, Labor senators succeeded in suspending the inquiry. Now the Bragg inquiry risks becoming a political Flying Dutchman … circling the earth and never coming into port.

The inquiry attracted 19 submissions from the public in the week or so of its existence.

But just one of them is public – a suggestion from former NSW Court of Appeal judge Ken Handley, who is concerned the public broadcaster needs external oversight.

“It is a case of the ABC investigating the ABC,” he wrote. He wants the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to have oversight of complaints decision. The other 18 submissions are with the ABC, which has been invited to respond to criticisms. But the inquiry’s delay means they are now likely never to see the light of day.

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