Michael Danby Spent $4574 of Taxpayer Funds on Ads Attacking ABC Journalist

Labor MP Michael Danby charged taxpayers $4574 for two newspaper advertisements attacking the ABC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to documents released to blogger William Summers under freedom of information law, the sum spent by Mr Danby as part of his parliamentary communications allowance comprised $1650 for each of the half-page ads in The Australian Jewish News as well as graphic design costing $1274.

The MP for Melbourne Ports, an electorate with a large Jewish population, has long been outspoken in his defence of Israel and previously defended the advertisements criticising ABC journalist Sophie McNeill, saying he had spent a “small amount”.

In its advice to Mr Danby on the first request, the Department of Finance said it complied with the rules, which required the spending be on “parliamentary or electorate purposes”, but warned he might “need to publicly justify and defend the item if required”.

At the time, Fairfax Media reported Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was “deeply unimpressed” with the his factional ally’s behaviour and had unsuccessfully asked him to stop the second advertisement being published.

In the material, Mr Danby attacked McNeill for “double standards” in her reporting and leading Australians to “have a distorted understanding of that part of the world”.

In the first advertisement, he accused her of giving generous coverage to the eviction of a Palestinian family from their East Jerusalem home but ignoring the murder of three Jewish settlers by a Palestinian.

The ABC rejected the claims, saying McNeill’s work had been demonstrably accurate and impartial and noting Mr Danby’s “pattern of inaccurate and highly inappropriate personal attacks on Ms McNeill”.

In the past, Mr Danby called McNeill an “advocacy journalist” and said she was obsessed with the “Palestinian narrative”.

Mr Danby has been approached for comment.