Kate McClymont and Peter Overton recognised in Australia Day honours marred by Bettina Arndt controversy

Sydney Morning Herald investigative journalist Kate McClymont and Nine News presenter Peter Overton are among the media personalities who were honoured on Australia Day.

However, they were joined as members of the Order of Australia (AM) – the third-highest rank under the country’s civic honours system – by controversial media commentator Bettina Arndt, whose appointment has generated controversy and dominated column inches.

Arndt was bestowed with the same honour that the likes of McClymont, Overton and Johanna Griggs received

Arndt, who has written for the likes of The Australian and Sydney Morning Herald, is a commentator and sex therapist, but rose to notoriety in 2017 when she conducted an interview with a convicted paedophile and teacher, who was jailed for grooming and raping his student. In the interview, uploaded to YouTube as ‘Feminists persecute disgraced teacher’, Arndt said: “Over the years I’ve talked to many male teachers about sexually provocative behaviour from female students.

“Sensible teachers of course run a mile from these girls, but the teachers are still really vulnerable because they can easily be subject to false accusations if they reject or offend the young woman in question.”

The author of #MenToo (about discrimination against men) and instigator of a university speaking tour about the ‘fake rape crisis’ ultimately apologised for the tone of the interview, but said it had been selectively edited.

On the weekend, she was recognised by the awards council for her “significant service to the community as a social commentator” and “gender equity through advocacy for men”.

That recognition drew immediate, widespread, criticism, including from domestic violence campaigner and 2015 Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty.

Arndt responded by claiming Batty’s domestic violence campaigning “denies women’s role in family violence” and she was “playing the feminist puppet”.

Arndt told The Guardian that those unhappy about her “receiving an award because of the Bester [the convicted paedophile] issue, I suggest they acquaint themselves with the background to the video” and said her supporters lodged complaints to the Press Council about “media manipulation” in response to the interview.

“The quiet Australians aren’t happy about the constant male-bashing in our society and I’m working to try to change that,” she said.

Her recognition has somewhat overshadowed that of her fellow winners, including McClymont and Overton.

McClymont was recognised for her contribution to print media and investigative journalism

Both were appointed members of the order (AM), alongside Arndt, TV host Johanna Griggs, former journalist and radio host Dr Gael Jennings, former foreign correspondent and war reporter Robert Penfold, media executive and radio host Gary Roberts, and founder of communications agency Mahlab Bobbi Mahlab.

McClymont, whose award-winning journalism has uncovered corruption and earned her seven Walkley Awards, was recognised for “significant service to the print media and to investigative journalism”, while Overton’s charity work was also singled out.

Overton is an ambassador for a number of charities

He is an ambassador for the likes of Kookaburra Kids, which helps children living in families affected by mental illness, and the Sony Foundation, which helps young people through the likes of youth cancer care program, You Can, and youth homelessness initiative, Youth Off the Streets. The council acknowledged his “significant service to the broadcast media and to the community”.

ABC Science Show and Ockham’s Razor host Dr Robyn Williams was appointed an officer of the order (AO) for “distinguished service to science as a journalist, radio presenter and author, and to education”.


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