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ABC boss David Anderson defends Laura Tingle’s writers’ festival comments

Jack QuailNCA NewsWire
ABC managing director David Anderson appeared before senate estimates on Thursday evening. NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Camera IconABC managing director David Anderson appeared before senate estimates on Thursday evening. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

The ABC’s managing director David Anderson has defended comments made by the network’s chief political correspondent for the 7.30 program, Laura Tingle, after she openly criticised Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s budget reply address.

Appearing in a panel at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on Saturday, Ms Tingle voiced disapproval with Mr Dutton’s speech where he outlined that the Coalition planned to cut the permanent migration intake to deal with the housing crisis. Ms Tingle said that she could not remember a time when a political leader had said “everything that is going wrong in this country is because of migrants”.

Ms Tingle also labelled Australia “a racist country”.

The comments fuelled accusations of bias at the national broadcaster, with Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce accusing the ABC of being “mad left wing”.

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Camera IconABC managing director David Anderson appeared before senate estimates on Thursday evening. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

In his opening statement before senate estimates on Thursday evening, Mr Anderson pre-emptively defended Ms Tingle’s comments, and said he was grateful for the professionalism she had brought to the role.

“Laura Tingle is among the most respected and admired journalists and political commentators in the country reporting across broadcast and print platforms … and has been characterised as candid, honest and accurate,” he said.

“The issue was, the public comments at the recent Sydney Writers’ Festival did not provide the relevant context and explanation to support her analysis of the opposition’s post budget policy position on immigration.”

Facing a barrage of questions from Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson over whether the comments breached editorial standards, Mr Anderson said they would not have met them had they been made on an ABC platform.

“Ms Tingle has expressed regret at those comments. The way that they were summarised and truncated,” Mr Anderson said.

“I think that and I agree with her that that was a mistake.”

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Camera IconThe ABC’s chief political correspondent Laura Tingle. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Asked if Ms Tingle should leave the ABC, Mr Anderson said no.

“I don’t believe Laura Tingle should leave the ABC, again, I think what needs to be said (is that it was a) conversation off the cuff at the Sydney Writers Festival, she has regretted not having context,” Mr Anderson said.

Senator Henderson further pushed Mr Anderson, asking if he was sorry to Mr Dutton, however the ABC boss fended off the question.

“Senator, I think when political leaders put things out for debate, I think the course that that takes, I can’t be sorry for because I can’t be accountable for what is said off an ABC platform,” he said.

Questioned by Liberal Senator Dave Sharma if Ms Tingle’s comments had undermined perceptions of impartiality at the public broadcaster, Mr Anderson it may have for some. 

“I think in the eyes of some people that will have in the way that this has been characterised and reported, and there are some people that will find that it is confirmation for what they believe rather than for what the explanations are,” Mr Anderson said.

“We must always think about what our obligations are to the Australian people regardless of that, to maintain trust with the Australian people.”

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Camera IconThe ABC managing director admitted that it undermined perceptions of impartiality at the public broadcaster. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Greens take aim at ABC board’s lack of diversity

Under questioning from Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi over the representation of LGBT+ individuals, those with a disability, people of colour, or Indigenous Australians on the ABC’s, Mr Anderson admitted that none of these groups were appointed.

Responding to questions that the board did not represent all Australians, Mr Anderson said its members were committed to reflecting Australians more broadly.

“It’s a high-quality board, you’re right when it comes to representation of all members of the community, you could say no,” he said.

“The board appointments are made by the government, but I do think that their commitment to ensure that we do reflect that nation back to itself, is evident.”

Originally published as ABC boss David Anderson defends Laura Tingle’s writers’ festival comments

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