Foundation For Humanity’s Adulthood v ABC

Media Release 30 May 2003

Renowned mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape AM and biologist and author Jeremy Griffith—both founding directors of the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood (FHA)—were seriously defamed by a 1995 Four Corners program, a NSW Supreme Court jury found today.

The jury found Mr Macartney-Snape was defamed by the Four Corners program’s depiction of him as being deceitful and misusing his influence. Further, it found that Mr Griffith was defamed by the broadcast’s portrayal of him as having no scientific support from the scientific community.

Mr Macartney-Snape said the outcome was a great relief in his and Mr Griffith’s eight year struggle for justice against the ABC and the program’s guest reporter Reverend David Millikan.

This is a major breakthrough for this very important project which has been set back years by the appalling and unjust stigma applied by the ABC,” Mr Macartney-Snape said.

“This outcome is not just a big step towards redressing the serious damage that has been done to our livelihoods and reputations. More importantly, today’s decision is a tremendous victory for the freedom of new ideas to be debated fairly and tolerantly in our society.

“Humans have been engaged in a search for knowledge, ultimately towards self-knowledge, and it is this frontier science now faces. The human condition is the crucial area of inquiry into which we must venture if there is to be a worthwhile future for our planet.

“Rather than leading inquiry into the human condition, the ABC has been a proponent of ignorance. It has failed its primary and public duty. As such we are determined to bring the ABC to account and in so doing help restore the moral and social fibre our national broadcaster once had.”

The ABC and Reverend Millikan are also being sued for deceit and injurious falsehood in relation to the production and broadcast of the Four Corners program. The FHA’s defamation action against John Fairfax Publications Pty Ltd, over a Sydney Morning Herald article also by Reverend Millikan, is expected to follow later this year.

The FHA, a small pioneer organisation which supports the biological understandings of the human condition, will launch Jeremy Griffith’s third book, A Species In Denial, at the Australian Museum on 5 June 2003. The book includes a foreword from biologist Charles Birch, and reviews from the likes of New Zealand zoologist and theologian John Morton.

The ABC’s Track Record On Fair Debate Found Wanting

In 1995 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) engaged the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood in a Four Corners program, said to be a journey of exploration of the organisation’s insights into the human condition.

Instead, the FHA found itself the victim of a defamatory expose at the hands of Reverend David Millikan of the Uniting Church, the guest commentator for Four Corners.

The FHA learnt of the intent of the program prior to the broadcast, and sent dozens of letters of appeal to the ABC, including a (18/5/95) half-page advertisement ‘open letter’ in The Australian to ABC managing director, Brian Johns.

Following the program the FHA alerted the ABC to the main inaccuracies and falsehoods in the program, and requested an apology. After initially filing a complaint with the ABC’s Independent Complaints Review Panel in 1996, the FHA went on to lodge a 900-page submission with the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA).

In 1998, the national media-watchdog found Four Corners ‘inaccurate, unbalanced and partial’. In what was its strongest ruling to date, the ABA ‘concluded that the program was not balanced in its presentation of the experience of parents of Foundation members. The ABA also concluded that the program was inaccurate in its representation of Mr Griffith and inaccurate and lacked balance in its representation of Mr Tim Macartney-Snape’.

The FHA again requested an apology—the ABC again refused.

The ABA then took the unprecedented step of telling the ABC (8/7/98) that in light of its findings, ‘the ABA is of the view that out of fairness to the complainant it would be appropriate for the ABC to broadcast some form of apology to the Foundation’.

The FHA continued to seek an apology, but the ABC refused, despite not exercising its right to challenge the ABA ruling. Instead it continued to defend the integrity of the program and as a result the FHA was forced to commence defamation action.

“What the FHA is really up against is the dishonesty of the ABC’s culture. Their solution to the problems facing humanity is to dogmatically impose idealism on the world. It is a culture that denies reality, that treats the underlying real issue before us as a species of the human condition as an anathema. The FHA’s inquiry into the human condition challenges their culture of denial and like any denial it resists exposure. But if there is to be any future for the human race humans must find the courage to face the issue of the human condition.” (Jeremy Griffith, May 30 2003)