Why did the ABC’s panel programme "Q&A", broadcast across the nation on 28 April on the subject of the Royal Wedding and a republic, accept without question a questionable story about the Duke of Edinburgh’s reaction to the 1999 referendum?
The unsourced and uncorroborated story suggests that in a conversation with The Queen he wanted Australia to become a republic.
By the normal standards of journalism, the story had to be received with extreme scepticism. If the ABC wished to repeat this, it should have done so with a caution as to its reliability. The programme failed its duty in unconditionally broadcasting fiction as if it were fact.
This is the standard which Pravda presented to the world. It is not the standard we expect of a public broadcaster modelled on the high standards set so long ago by Lord Reith for the BBC.
…Richard Butler repeats the story…
This improbable tale was repeated by Richard Butler on the 7.30 Report on 18 August, 2003 when he was about to become Governor of Tasmania.
“The Queen herself made clear she expected Australia to become a republic and was rather non-plussed when we didn’t.”
He was not challeneged to provide some evidence of the veracity of this extrordinary allegation.
On the Richard Glover program on ABC Sydney Radio, Mr Butler went one step further- he even claimed the Queen had supported Australia becoming a republic.
As we said then, he “…should not, indeed he should never, attribute to his Sovereign words for which there is not a tittle of evidence she ever uttered.
We asked the questions any trainee journalist would have asked :
“When was this said?
“In whose presence?
“Where is it recorded?
The absence of any evidence as to the veracity of this story suggests that it is a figment of someone’s imagination.
A “report” of an alleged and obviously imagined conversation about the referendum between The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh appears in an English book but the writer does not explain when, where, and how he overheard this.
Prior to the 1999 referendum the Queen always made it clear that she would respect the result of the democratic vote of the Australian people.
On her two subsequent visits to Australia the Queen made it clear that she was delighted that she would remain the Queen of Australia.
…from someone who was there…
Readers may be interested in comparing this with the evidence of someone who was actually dining with the Queen and the Duke on the night of the referendum.
The widely syndicated Canadian, Mark Steyn, says with complete authority in the leading Canadian journal, Macleans on 21 April, 2006:
“As the only journalist on the planet within six feet of a royal facial expression that day, I can exclusively reveal that I haven't the foggiest as to the Queen's or the Duke of Edinburgh's feelings.”
…royal watchers: an exposé …
In a review of Robert Dunn's book, William and Kate, in The Sydney Morning Herald's Spectrum supplement on 19 February 2011 Bruce Elder make some observations about royal watchers confirming what most of us already know.
“Let me tell you a secret about Royal reporting. Apart from rare interviews with members of “The Firm” (Royal Watcher's argot for the Royal Family), it is all surmise, speculation, guesswork, fantasy, widely available but unsourced gossip and innuendo.
“Having worked many years with a colleague who was a royal reporter (and a rogue, to boot), I know that a lack of hard evidence never meant a lack of engrossing copy.”
Notice that even the gossip and innuendo is not that of some exclusive circle. It is widely available.
So why is it published? Because this junk sells. But this does not make it true. It is not news. It is just surmise, speculation guesswork fantasy, and widely available but unsourced gossip and innuendo.
….gossip and innuendo..
Mr. Elder continues:
“My (royal watcher) colleague kept a huge pile of clippings.
In these days of the Internet, the task of cobbling together a plausible story is so much easier, as none demonstrates in this picture book, with minimal text, designed to cash in on the engagement.”
…quoting private Royal conversations – invariably invented…
But let's hear it again about royal watching: it is all surmise, speculation, guesswork, fantasy, and widely available but unsourced gossip and innuendo.
Such stories should be taken with a large spoon of salt. The Queen and the Duke would hardly talk about such a matter in the presence of a witness. The proposition that either would leak details of their conversation is laughable.