Dr Mumbo

Ten’s sudden Peter van Onselen about-face

What a difference a year can make, especially when you’re a television network with hurt feelings because a once-beloved former employee has pooed on you in the media.

Network Ten was back in the NSW Supreme Court late last week for the latest instalment of its lawsuit against its ex-political editor Peter van Onselen.

It was a performance Dr Mumbo almost needed popcorn for.

Peter van Onselen left Network 10 earlier this year.

In seeking a permanent gag order against PVO thanks to his infamous pot-shot in The Australian a few months back, Ten’s barrister Arthur Moses SC described him as “not an even-tempered individual”.

“He has a megaphone, and he thinks he can use it,” Moses told the court, apparently discovering for the first time what a media commentator actually does.

Perhaps he was distracted by his partner Gladys Berejiklian being branded corrupt by ICAC at about the same time, but Dr Mumbo digresses.

Ten’s colourful courtroom temper tantrum about a journalist it once adored wasn’t the most curious part about the showdown. Nor was it PVO’s appearance via video link from the Amalfi Coast, where he found cause to utter the words “fucking a goat” as part of his testimony.

But rather, Dr Mumbo was struck by the about-face Ten has performed in the space of just 12 months, when it was last forced to publicly comment on a separate PVO-related legal matter.

Back in June last year, an updated statement of claim was filed in support of court action being taken by political reporter Tegan George, who had first complained in June 2021 about her former boss PVO allegedly bullying her and Ten of doing nothing about it.

George’s lawyers claim her employer dragged their feet for several months, allegedly mishandling her complaint in ways that affected her health and wellbeing.

In January 2022, she began proceedings in the Federal Court against the network, alleging its Canberra bureau was “toxic workplace” that was “hostile to women”.

PVO, who was named in the statement of claim but not sued personally, was accused of bullying George. Ten is being sued for what George’s lawyer describes as a “complete failure” to protect her wellbeing. PVO has strenuously denied the allegations and any wrongdoing, and Ten was fiercely supporting him every step of the way in fighting George’s claim.

And it seemingly continues to, despite now seeking to discredit him and prevent him from ever discussing its business.

George’s battle with Ten has now dragged on for two long years, during which she has been unable to work, has been hospitalised for periods of time, and has been subjected to the network’s ham-fisted treatment of her claims.

As Maurice Blackburn’s Josh Bornstein, acting for George, explains: “In June 2021, Ms George provided Network Ten with a detailed complaint about her treatment. Since that time, the company has failed to investigate her allegations, citing variously that it wasn’t sure if she wanted to proceed, that the allegations were not sufficiently detailed, that they thought that the complaints had resolved to her satisfaction, and that they were conducting a ‘culture review’. In contrast to the complete failure to investigate Ms George’s detailed complaints, when Ms George overheard snippets of a conversation between two colleagues which contained sexist remarks about a third colleague and reported it to a manager, she was threatened with disciplinary action if she refused to make a formal written statement about it. Ms George was concerned about why Network 10 were taking such an approach to that matter, while failing to address much more serious issues in the workplace. In any event, management had the information necessary to address the matter if they wished. Any suggestion that Ms George refused or failed to report an incident of sexual harassment is false.”

George’s updated claim in June last year alleged “torment” of her by PVO, pointing to various Tweets he had posted – while still employed by Ten.

In one, he wrote: “… accusations are not always accurate. Sometimes they say more about who points the figure without actual evidence. Most of us don’t know enough to form any kind of judgement”.

And in another: “Frivolous misuses of the federal court really do need to be stamped out …”

And in another, in response to criticism about the case: “Your thoughts of if the hospitalised person is backgrounding journalists? Stoking attention. Very genuine question.”

Following George’s filing, Ten issued a furious response in defence of its megaphone-wielding star.

“We are astonished that Maurice Blackburn Lawyers is seeking to prosecute these claims through a press release, pre-empting due process of the court and the proper administration of justice,” Ten said in a statement at the time.

“In its filed defence, Network 10 has previously denied the claims of victimisation and adverse action. Network 10 intends to seek to strike out the new claims of sex discrimination. The court has established a timetable for that action.

“Network 10 values and supports all employees. Any inference to the contrary is completely false.”

George’s case against Ten is ongoing. So too is Ten’s against PVO. Isn’t that something?


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