Indigenous “group” created days before Nine’s Hanson-Uluru stitch-up
Nine and Pauline Hanson rejected invitations to tour the red centre from Uluru’s Traditional Owners and a respected indigenous NT Senator. Instead, Hanson and Nine’s film crew turned up at Uluru and announced they had been “invited” there – and given “approval” to actually climb the sacred site – by something called the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders. That group didn’t exist beyond Facebook. Now it has emerged the entity was created immediately before Nine launched its Uluru saga. Anthony Klan investigates.
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The alleged “group” of indigenous elders that Nine Entertainment claimed gave far-right senator Pauline Hanson approval to climb Uluru was created just days before the news giant kicked off its manufactured six-week controversy last year.
The Klaxon can exclusively reveal the so-called Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders – which doesn’t exist beyond a Facebook page – was created on July 7 last year, just one week before Nine broadcast the first segment in its divisive Hanson-Uluru climb series.
It can also be revealed that despite a flurry of activity on the Facebook page in its first week of existence, the page has been largely dormant ever since.
Nine has told The Klaxon it denies “outright” that it was involved in the creation of the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders.
However Nine has failed to directly answer key questions, such as whether it gave money to that “group” or to any of its associates.
Nine has also previously deeply misled the public about its involvement in the saga.
Last month The Klaxon revealed that Nine had orchestrated the Uluru stunt, which saw Hanson and its film crew climb the sacred site, directly against the wishes of its caretakers, comprised of Traditional Owners and Federal Government agency Parks Australia.
It was also revealed that the Indigenous woman from the “Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders” who dealt most closely with Nine in its stunt, Tjimpuna Ruby, was allegedly gagged by Nine.
How the Klaxon broke the story last month. Source: The Klaxon
The climb occurred on August 22 last year.
It was highly controversial and made international headlines.
Shadow minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney was quoted describing the climbing of Uluru in the circumstances as “baffling”, “disrespectful” and “poses a question about what the people making this climb think about Aboriginal culture”.
Hanson’s Uluru climb was a “divisive stunt”, the ALP said.
Nine moved to hose down vocal public concerns when it aired the story, with A Current Affair Host Tracy Grimshaw telling audiences: “We did not pay senator Hanson, and the visit was not our idea”.
However last month The Klaxon exclusively revealed that Nine had not only paid for flights and accommodation for Hanson to tour the red centre to conduct the stunt, it had also paid for flights and accommodation for her disgraced One Nation chief-of-staff James Ashby.
Both are deeply controversial figures: Hanson has moulded a political career around making racist comments; while Ashby, just months before the climb, was outed on the global stage having engaged in corruption by trying to sell Australian parliamentary favours to the US National Rifle Association (NRA) for $20m.
The Klaxon also revealed that Nine provided thousands of dollars worth of travel, before and immediately after the climb, to Tjimpuna Ruby, the woman ostensibly from the so-called Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders, who dealt with Nine regarding the stunt.
On Friday afternoon last week The Klaxon approached Nine regarding the so-called Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders.
Nine responded with a written statement just after 9pm that night.
“It’s ridiculous to suggest we had anything to do with the creation of a Facebook group for the Council of Elders – we deny the allegation outright”, wrote Nine spokesman Nic Christensen.
Nine did not comment when asked, in follow-up questions, whether it had made payments to any person or entity connected to the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders Facebook page, only saying it had not paid “any interviewee in the story”.
That did not rule out payments to people or entities associated with the Facebook page who did not appear on camera in the A Current Affair program.
It has been an explosive week for Nine.
On Saturday afternoon, in a shock announcement, CEO Hugh Marks announced his resignation after chairman (former senior LNP politician) Peter Costello called an emergency board meeting on Saturday morning.
Aside from the fact it occurred on a Saturday, Marks’s announcement was particularly unusual because Nine’s annual general meeting – where succession plans are dealt with – had occurred just two days earlier and no mention had been made of Marks leaving the group.
The full circumstances around the ousting of Marks remains unclear, however the Nine boss has said one reason involved him having a relationship with a fellow senior executive, Alexi Baker.
Baker, technically a “subordinate” to Marks (she reported directly to him), left Nine last month, in a move she said she had taken to be able to continue in the relationship without governance concerns.
The Matey Bunch. Source: HS
The Anangu Mayatja Facebook page made its first post at 9pm on Sunday July 7.
The page is unusual because unlike businesses or community groups it is registered on Facebook as a “person”.
It contains no contact details and does not say who it is run by.
The Facebook page says: “Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders. Council is made up of 15 Anangu Mayatja APY and NPY Anangu Lands”.
In the first 24 hours, on July 7 and July 8 last year, the site posted four Facebook “survey” questions, including one asking to “hear from Anangu” and asking whether or not people lived in the remote APY Lands, near Uluru.
There are eight posts in the first week.
Then there is a post on August 23, the day after the Hanson climb.
The next day there is another post. It is in response to the NITV report stating the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders had no official recognition.
There is a post on November 11 and two posts on November 18 last year.
There are no other posts on the page until April 6 this year, and the page contains no posts since then.
The August 24 post states: “It was reported by NITV that the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders have no recognition”.
“Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders contacted NITV this morning and have agreed to help NITV understand our Anangu recognition.
“Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders agreed that Anangu Mayatja Ms Tjimpuna Ruby will be able to talk to the media as of Tuesday morning after Monday night’s A CURRENT AFFAIR exclusive.
“Any further media requests will only be handled by Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders via Anangu Mayatja Tjilpii Senior Lawman Mr Murray George,” the post states.
The Klaxon’s attempts to contact George were unsuccessful.
The only media that appears to have noted the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders had no official recognition was Indigenous News service NITV News which made the observation on August 21 last year, and again a week later, on August 27.
The August 27 article stated that the Facebook group was “not a formally recognised Indigenous organisation” and described it as a “Facebook group calling itself the ‘Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders’.”
NITV News also reported Ruby as saying A Current Affair’s story “did not accurately reflect the intentions of the group” and that “our voice never got told through the current affairs show last night”.
This week The Klaxon asked Nine if it had made any payments or provided any benefits to Murray George.
Spokesman Christensen responded in writing: “No we did not”.
Of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board of management’s 12 members, eight are indigenous board members nominated by Anangu Traditional Owners, three are NT and federal ministers who have been “approved” by Anangu, and the 12th is the federal national parks director.
“Ms Tjimpuna Ruby will be able to talk to the media as of Tuesday morning after Monday night’s A CURRENT AFFAIR exclusive”
— Facebook post by the so-called “Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders”
The timing is interesting.
Nine kicked-off its controversy on its breakfast TV program Today on July 15 last year, when it ran a pre-planned segment involving Hanson and “conservative” radio shock-jock Steve Price discussing their opposition to the then upcoming climb ban.
The next day, amid the expected outrage, Today hosted respected Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy.
“This is an important opportunity for her to go to Uluru and to meet the Anangu Traditional Owners to get herself informed,” Malarndirri said.
Hanson and Nine ignored the offer.
The following month, on August 22 – six weeks after the “Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders” was created – Hanson and a Nine camera crew, led by reporter Martin King, climbed on Uluru and it was aired on Nine’s A Current Affair program.
Hanson was an employee of Nine throughout the Uluru scandal, having been paid to appear weekly on its breakfast TV program Today.
“The Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders have invited me to the rock for discussions about their future following my calls for the climb to remain open,” the post said.
The Klaxon contacted Ruby, ostensibly from the so-called Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders, ahead of the Uluru expose last month.
Nine attacked after Hanson stunt revelations. Source: The Klaxon
Ruby said she had invited Hanson to visit Uluru in the days after Hanson and Price voiced their opposition to the climb ban, on July 15.
Ruby said she had been in Canberra at the time.
She said she had visited Hanson’s office to make her own offer to the senator to visit Uluru.
Ruby alleges Hanson then, for reasons that have not been explained, called Nine and allegedly invited Nine along.
Then Nine paid for Ruby, who lives in the red centre, and her daughter, to travel from Canberra to Sydney, including to visit the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Ruby told The Klaxon.
Nine then flew the pair to Uluru.
Ruby said that after Hanson’s climb, Nine flew her to Canberra for some undefined “extra work”.
Ruby also told The Klaxon that she and the “Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders” were gagged by Nine.
“We had a list of questions to ask (Hanson) – and told not to ask about this and that,” Ruby said.
The gagging allegedly extended to discussions with media.
“(We were told) when other media found out, if Uluru comes up, we can only talk for one minute about the closure,” Ruby told The Klaxon.
Regarding the Hanson-Uluru controversy, Nine itself late last year described it as a “social division” which had “divided the nation”.
Despite The Klaxon’s expose last month being widely covered, none of Nine’s newspapers, including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, published a single word about the scandal, raising serious concerns over editorial independence at the former Fairfax Media titles.
Nine took over Fairfax, publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review, in a $4.2 billion merger, announced in 2018.
Since the takeover, journalists at The Age have repeatedly raised serious concerns over the paper’s editorial direction, including expressing their “alarm” in a letter to Nine’s group executive editor James Chessell.
Responding to The Klaxon’s expose last month, Bruce Guthrie, a prominent former editor of The Age (also a former editor of News Corporation’s The Herald Sun), said the scandal presented a crossroads for the Nine media giant.
“At some point Nine Entertainment is going have to decide whether or not it embraces journalistic ethics across the business,” Guthrie posted to social media.
“You can’t claim to be honest and reliable at, say, 6pm, but not at 7pm.”
Coming soon: The other bombshell question we put to Nine’s board last Friday afternoon.
Questions to Nine
As part of our attempts to get to the bottom of Nine’s Hanson-Uluru saga, we asked Nine the following:
Did Nine make any payments, or provide any benefits, to the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders, or to any of its members, associates or affiliates, in connection to the Hanson Uluru climb featured by A Current Affair last year (and if so specifically what were those payments and/or benefits provided and to who)?
Did Nine pay any One Nation entity, member, associate or affiliate in relation to Hanson and her chief-of-staff James Ashby’s involvement/connection to the Uluru climb, (other than paying for Hanson and Ashby’s flights and 2×2 nights accommodation as disclosed in Hanson’s register of interests) and if so, specifically what were those payments and/or benefits provided and who/what entity or entities were they provided to?
Nine did not respond directly to those two questions, responding only: “Nine did not pay any interviewee in this story”.
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