It's just not fair...

In Britain, attacking the BBC for bias is a right of passage for politicians.

In a way, it's comforting to learn other countries have to endure the same ramblings.

A similar row has opened up in Australia, between the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and its equivalent to the BBC, the ABC.

Mr Abbott's objection is identical to so many other foot-stamping politicians: it's just  not fair.

Not fair that journalists keep covering news stories he'd rather they ignored, not fair that they keep asking him bloody questions. Couldn't they spend more time telling people what a great job he's doing?

The Prime Minister used a radio interview to complain the ABC takes "everyone's side but Australia's". Except that by "Australia's side" he actually means his side.

In particular, he objects to coverage of Edward Snowden's surveillance revelations, saying the ABC appeared to "delight in broadcasting allegations by a traitor".

He's also unhappy it covered claims asylum seekers were mis-treated by the Australian Navy, insisting the ABC should give the military "the benefit of the doubt".

This is nothing new. Winston Churchill wanted to take over the BBC at the start of the Second World War, Margaret Thatcher was furious the Corporation didn't drape its newsroom in the Union flag during the Falklands War, and a former Australian Prime Minister - Bob Hawke - couldn't contain his fury at simply being asked questions.

It's depressing though, to see ostensibly intelligent people wasting so much time and energy on such evidently stupid arguments.

Tony Abbott was probably a lot less keen on the idea of the ABC being a mouthpiece of government six months ago, when he was leader of the opposition. It's amazing how different the world looks from behind a government desk.

Do our political leaders want to copy North Korea, where perpetually furious newsreaders scream the latest pronouncements from the desk of the glorious leader, and critics are fed to the dogs? Of course not.

What they do want, though, is an easier ride from journalists. A constant flow of complaints keeps reporters on the back foot -- they won't stop asking the toughest questions, but they will be far more cautious when they take on the government.

And while Tony Abbott's complaints about the ABC have been condemned by his rivals, deep down they know that in his place, they would do exactly the same thing.

Broadcasters, unlike newspapers, try to remain impartial, standing equally apart from politicians of left and right. 

The problem is, if you stand on the political right, this balanced position is to your left -- therefore, from your position, it appears left-wing.

By contrast, a politician of the left sees a balanced position to the right of their views, and this is why broadcasters just can't win.

Journalists must hold those in power to account -- it's our job. And criticism from politicians, whether justified or just idiotic, is equally part of the job.

Perhaps, if organisations like the ABC fought back more often, fiercely defending the right of a free and impartial media to challenge those who wield power, it might be a slightly more even fight.

Too often, they roll over, afraid to get into an argument with elected politicians, however idiotic their claims may be.

And that means people like Tony Abbott will keep moaning, much like a petulant teenager who feels the whole world is against them.

But, like the parents of the most petulant teenagers, those exposed to this nonsense will most likely simply ignore it.