Laura Tingle responds to ‘pile-on’ over ‘racist country’ remark

Leading ABC journalist Laura Tingle is embroiled in a row after taking aim at Peter Dutton's migration plans.

Leading ABC journalist Laura Tingle is embroiled in a row after taking aim at Peter Dutton's migration plans. Photos: AAP

The ABC’s chief political correspondent for 7.30, Laura Tingle, has defended her observation that Australia is a “racist country”, as the public broadcaster “counselled” her over the remarks.

In a lengthy statement on Wednesday, Tingle provided context and facts supporting her comment at last weekend’s Sydney Writers’ Festival.

“I did indeed make the observation on Sunday that we are a racist country, in the context of a discussion about the political prospects ahead,” she said.

“I wasn’t saying every Australian is a racist. But we clearly have an issue with racism.”

Tingle said she had been asked to comment on Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s budget reply speech, which blamed migration for the housing crisis and other problems in Australia.

Tingle said another panellist, journalist Niki Savva, had quoted some of Dutton’s points that too many migrants meant it was hard to buy a house, to see your GP or get into childcare.

Savva noted that Dutton seemed to bring everything back to immigration.

“In agreeing with that observation, based on Mr Dutton’s own quotes, I once again raised the risks for the political debate of a major political leader doing this, which I truncated as ‘everything that’s going wrong in this country is because of migrants’,” Tingle said.

“That was simply a result of trying to summarise a point in a much less-structured forum and was not intended to imply he had said that verbatim.

“If I had been speaking on an ABC platform, or not in a five-way discussion, I would have provided all that context, as I do in my stories for the ABC.”

Public ‘pile-on’

Tingle said she regretted that she was not able to support her comment with “every quote substantiating them”.

“This has created the opportunity for yet another anti-ABC pile-on,” she said.

“This is not helpful to me or to the ABC. Or to the national debate

“I am proud of my work as a journalist at the ABC, on all its platforms, and I let that work speak for itself.

“It is based, always, on solid research and a lifetime of experience reporting on Australian politics.

“That work is built on, and delivered in, the framework of the ABC’s very high editorial standards.”

ABC news director Justin Stevens also released a statement on Wednesday, saying Tingle had been “counselled”.

Stevens said Tingle’s remarks at the weekend “lacked the context, balance and supporting information of her work for the ABC and would not have met the ABC’s editorial standards”.

“Although the remarks were conversational, and not made in her work capacity, the ABC and its employees have unique obligations in the Australian media.

“Today she has explained her remarks in more detail to ensure there is a factual record of the relevant context and detail.

“The ABC’s editorial standards serve a vital role. Laura has been reminded of their application at external events as well as in her work and I have counselled her over the remarks.”

Topics: Peter Dutton
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