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ABC’s Laura Tingle under fire for ‘racist Australia’ comment

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

One of the ABC’s most senior journalists is under fire after declaring Australia a “racist country”.

The ABC’s political correspondent, Laura Tingle, made the comments at a panel discussion for the Sydney Writers Festival on Sunday.

“We are a racist country, let’s face it. We always have been and it’s very depressing,” she reportedly told the audience at Sydney’s Carriageworks.

The event was hosted by former ABC TV Insiders host and Labor staffer Barrie Cassidy on Sunday. It also featured other political journalists Niki Savva, Bridget Brennan and Amy Remeikis.

Tingle’s comments were a reaction to the budget reply by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton earlier this month, in which he pledged to slash permanent migration to just 140,000 a year.

They follow a budget analysis column by Tingle, in which she said Dutton was “determined to bang this drum” of “deadly simple but very dangerous politics”.

“The Opposition Leader has opened the doors to migrants being blamed not just for housing shortages but for all these other problems, too,” she wrote.

On Sunday, Tingle said that, after listening to Dutton, she “had this sudden flash of people turning up to try and rent a property or at an auction and they look a bit different – whatever you define different as – [and] that basically (Dutton) has given them licence to be abused, and in any circumstance where people feel like they’re missing out”.

But as the comments emerged on Monday, there was criticism of Tingle’s view, including from Indigenous Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.

Price, the Coalition’s Indigenous affairs spokesperson, said she was “really disappointed” at Tingle’s claims that Australia is racist.

“This continued narrative … is being pushed within our country that does not provide any sense of pride for our children,” she said.

“It absolutely creates division. We had enough of it during the [Indigenous Voice] referendum and leading journalists, well, supposedly leading journalists, like Laura Tingle should know better than to use that sort of rhetoric.”

Price said the comments reflected Tingle’s opinion, rather than being a reflection of Australia. She also accused Tingle of political bias against Dutton, saying it reflected poorly on the ABC.

“Laura has demonstrated her bias and I think [ABC chair] Kim Williams needs to explain why having someone so blatantly partisan sitting in the top political commentator position is acceptable.”

Elsewhere, Albanese government minister Tanya Plibersek also took issue with Tingle’s comments.

“I think it’s a fantastic multicultural country but we have to protect against incidents of racism which occur in our community as they do in every community,” Plibersek told Seven’s Sunrise on Monday.

“My parents came to Australia after the Second World War from Europe and I am so grateful every day that Australia took them in and that we were born here and able to grow up in this fantastic country.”

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who shared Plibersek’s morning TV slot, turned the question into an issue of ABC funding, saying the broadcaster was run by the “mad left wing”.

“The question has to be asked – why do we fund something that only wants to talk to half of Australia? Maybe not even half of Australia,” he said.

In 2023, Tingle became the staff-elected director on the ABC board.

Williams took over as ABC chair from Ita Buttrose earlier this year. In March, he stressed the importance of staff aspiring always to be “fair-minded”.

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