The ABC astonishingly has shelled out over $670,000 to RMIT University for a collaborative fact-checking initiative designed to verify the accuracy of claims by public figures and politicians.
This funding of $165,000 per year since 2020 has reportedly been invested in staff, equipment, and operational costs.
Liberal senator James Paterson revealed the figures in a Senate question on notice, criticising the investment, particularly in the wake of allegations that the RMIT ABC Fact Check and FactLab departments have censored content through questionable fact checks.
These departments, overseen by director Russell Skelton, have also lost their International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) certification, which expired last December.
Paterson was unequivocal in his criticism:
"Over half a million dollars of taxpayers' money has been funnelled into a fact-checking unit we now find out isn't even accredited, and which stands accused of bias in the voice referendum,” he said.
“The ABC should urgently reassess its partnership with RMIT."
In response, RMIT ABC Fact Check stated that its work "focuses on the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in public debate."
It also clarified that its operations were not reliant on IFCN accreditation.
Tech behemoth Meta recently suspended its partnership with RMIT FactLab following complaints of bias related to the voice referendum.
RMIT stated that the ABC’s funding was vital for staffing and operations of its Fact Check unit, adding that it was "not about pushing any agenda but arming the public with the facts."
The ABC has not issued a comment on the matter. However, it recently published a fact-check disputing Senator Jacinta Price's comments on the negative impacts of colonisation, noting that "experts disagree" with her stance.