PRESENTER Liz Jackson ended last night’s Media Watch with the “pulping of Peter Cundall”.

Said Jackson:

“What a relief now to get out into the peace and quiet of the garden, and hear from Australia’s favourite gardener, Peter Cundall.

Here he is on ABC TV, with Andrew Denton a couple of weeks ago:”

We’re living in a kind of a fool’s paradise. I mean I come from Tasmania, you can see, there, that forests are being destroyed, irrespective of what new little rules and regulations come out. Where I live, in the Tamar Valley, the most beautiful valley, they’re going to put in a giant pulp mill. A massive one with a 100-metre stack so that the poisonous fumes are supposed to not drift down the valley.

Enough Rope with Andrew Denton, 13 June 2005

The Australian picked up on Cundall’s comments and a couple of days later this appeared.

Garden guru digs in against pulp mill

“I believe that what we’ve got here is a massive mistake on a massive scale. Anyone investing in this project is going to be confronted with immense opposition.”

– Pg 4, The Australian 17 June 2005

Jackson detailed a follow-up interview with ABC Radio in Hobart, done by Drive Time presenter Trevor Jackson.

Cundall continued to be forthright about the pulp mill and was asked by Trevor Jackson:

You’re not concerned that by expressing your own views on such a contentious issue that you’ll anger ABC management?

Peter Cundall – Well no, what I say is basically my own viewpoint on things and all I do is tell the truth as I see it.

– ABC Radio, Interview not broadcast. Recorded 17 June 2005

But, said Liz Jackson, “ABC management was concerned, so concerned the interview never went to air.”

Tasmanian local radio manager, Cath Hurley, defended the decision on the basis that “His closeness to the ABC made it inappropriate for him to express a personal view on the network on such a contentious issue.”

But, said Liz Jackson: “Peter Cundall doesn’t agree.”

If I was news and current affairs fair enough, but I’m a bloody gardener.

– Peter Cundall to Media Watch

Cath Hurley told Media Watch that it wasn’t Peter Cundall’s opposition to the mill that was a problem – it was the fact that he expressed a point of view at all.

The issue is what the public thinks about an ABC presenter expressing his views on a highly contentious issue…it wasn’t the content of the interview, it was the perception it would create.

– Cath Hurley statement to Media Watch

Liz Jackson concluded: “Gunns – the logging company behind the mill – is vigorous in defending its reputation and its interests. Last year the company took legal action against 20 anti-logging activists and groups it claims have vilified and damaged its operations.

And Peter Cundall believes the ABC has been intimidated.

There’s an atmosphere of fear in Tasmania and a fear of being sued if you speak out about this pulp mill…

– Peter Cundall to Media Watch

Peter Cundall says that no-one from the ABC has told him why his radio interview was dropped.

I want to know and I want it in writing…I’ll never shut up. What can they do to an old bugger who’s nearly 80? They can only sack me.
– Peter Cundall to Media Watch

The full transcript: Peter Cundall pulped

HAGNOTE: Peter Cundall’s experience continues the fine tradition of Tasmanian media subtly acquiecesing to the powerful in Tasmania, and cosying up for warm and fuzzy interviews with the political leadership; sometimes called Party Political Broadcasts. There was no better example of indefensible acquiesence than the Bacon Affair: Controlling the Pack