When it comes to Ukraine, David Speers forgets he is a journalist

David Speers, the ABC employee who hosts the Insiders political current affairs show on Sunday morning, is not known for being afraid to confront his guests during an interview. He interrupts them frequently, always trying to get a point across and validate a narrative that he has.

But in front of Ukrainian Ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko on 2 July, Speers was like a lamb, never asking the envoy anything that would cut across the latter’s view of the Ukraine war — obviously a sympathetic one — and seemingly unable to ask even a single contradictory question.

There was plenty to question Myroshnychenko about: for example, there have been a number of reports that a bid for peace between Russia and Ukraine in April-May last year was quashed by the intervention of Boris Johnson at the instigation of the US.

Additionally, Speers could well have asked the envoy whether his frequent references to an Ukrainian victory were based in reality. But the ABC employee, like most of the rest of his Australian mainstream media colleagues, did not deviate one iota from the government’s position – which, of course, is the American position: Vladimir Putin is a bad man and the war is totally his fault.

One would be guilty of making a gross understatement if one were to aver that there is more than a bit of history to this war that Australian journalists never canvass, but Speers was content to sit there and let Myroshnychenko spin tales that were aimed at viewers’ emotions.

Speers seemed keen to get Myroshnychenko to admit that the recent announcement of a $110 million arms donation by Australia to Ukraine was too little and that Canberra should have offered much more. But then it was silly to try and get the ambassador to piss on the country which is his host.

The one bit of military hardware that will make a difference to the Ukrainians is artillery. The Russians have a much bigger store of artillery, something like a 5:1 imbalance, and that, in the main, is helping Putin’s forces consolidate and pulverise the Ukrainian army. The US has no capacity to manufacture artillery and shells, neither does any country that is in Ukraine’s corner. Russia has plenty of capacity in this regard.

Was Speers unaware of the role that artillery plays in a war of this kind? Or was he keeping mum as he did not want to go outside the official view?

The other bit of hardware that could help in a war of this kind is tanks. This, Speers did raise, asking if Myroshnychenko would like Australia to give Kyiv the Abrams tanks that are a year or so from being mothballed, having been dumped on Australia by the US. However, the envoy knows this is unlikely to happen and said so in as many words.

Speers did not call his guest out on some really stupid assertions, one being a hint that Australia was benefitting financially from the war and hence was kind of obliged to give Ukraine more money. Was Ukraine then fighting Russia to ensure that commodity prices rose and countries like Australia benefitted? To call such a suggestion ludicrous would have been stating the obvious. But Speers kept mum.

In the end, Speers came off as a PR practitioner, not a journalist; a coward who has his tail between his legs, fearful lest he offend his government mates. But then I forget: this program is called Insiders for a good reason. The people who work for it mollify their government mates so that the drops will not end. These folks are not part of the fourth estate; nay, they are just government toadies.

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