ABC rejects ‘impartiality breach’ in Sarah Ferguson interview

Sarah Ferguson has defended an interview she conducted with Treasurer Joe Hockey last year on 7:30 following an audit of ABC TV’s budget coverage.

“The interview speaks for itself,” she told Fairfax Media.

But the tone of the interview, audited by former editor of The Australian Financial Review, Colleen Ryan, may have breached the ABC’s impartiality guidelines.

“In my view, the language in Ferguson’s first question was emotive,” she found. “I also believe that the average viewer would consider that the Treasurer was not treated with sufficient respect by the interviewer.”

Ferguson had asked Hockey:

“Now, you’ve just delivered that budget…..It’s a budget with a new tax, with levies, with co-payments. Is it liberating for a politician to decide election promises don’t matter?

Ferguson continued:

“I don’t need to teach you, Treasurer, what a tax is. You know that a co-payment, a levy and a tax are all taxes by any other name.”

Ryan found: “In my view, these two exchanges do not meet the impartiality guidelines to treat the interviewee ‘with civility and respect unless there is a compelling reason not to do so’.”

But she also found Ferguson “is an aggressive interviewer who treats both sides of politics in the same manner and gives no sense of where her own political views may lay”.

ABC Head of News Kate Torney responded, “ABC News does not believe Ms Ferguson’s questions were hostile or unbalanced; rather they were astute and prescient.”

Ferguson was nominated for a Walkley Award for the interview.


  1. This is dangerous stuff. An outstanding reporter asked the Treasurer some very pertinent and pointed questions. That’s what real reporters do. The fact that the Treasurer had difficulty with the answers is irrelevant. When we stop having reporters who ask the tough questions, then we are in big trouble. I fear we are rapidly heading in that direction. We should not even be having this discussion. Wake up Australia – you have elected a government that screams bias every time things don’t go its way, a government determined to weaken the ABC…..danger, danger, danger.

  2. The ABC has no editorial control and its so called journalistic standards are long, complex, subjective and have escape clauses all over the place so that they are meaningless. The ABC can thus dismiss any complaint and never admit they were wrong.

    Here they asked an experience and respected journalist to review their reporting, and when instead of giving the expected party line they pointed out that Ferguson is neither polite nor civil, as she is supposed to be, they automatically dismiss this claim the reviewer is wrong for daring to criticise anything about the ABC.

  3. Secret Squïrrel

    If people actually watch 7:30 they would see that Sarah Ferguson and Leigh Sales give politicians from both sides equal curry. This is what they should be doing. Nailing these slippery squirming people who are making decisions on our behalves that affect our livelihoods, and forcing them to actually answer a question truthfully, clearly, and fully.

  4. Who was on the audit committee? I read that Janet Albrechtsen was appointed to the ABC board by the LNP government.

    I am pretty sure the audit committee was stacked with rightwing mates of the LNP.

  5. @ dwuuu I believe Sarah drove herself to the ABC studio, thus forfeiting her right as a ‘poor’. An official proclamation that she [Ferguson] be damned to condemnation by the powers that be, namely you dear dwuuu. I thank you good Lord.

  6. Well if he answered the Question, without skirting around the answer, she wouldn’t need to be aggressive. What is it with Politician’s and not being able to give a simple yes or no answer, without having to give a 10 minute speech, while not actually answering what was asked.

  7. Sarah Ferguson handled politicians perfectly. She refused to allow any of them to spin their way through non answers. We need more interviewers of this standard. Eventually politicians would get the message and learn to be honest with us, the voting public.

    Less spin, more honesty!

    • Great interviewer, she needs to teach her husband Tony Jones how to deal with people on QandA, better still, replace him with her, and let her stop them waffling on and not answering.

  8. A wink by the Prime Minister of Australia does not encourage respect.
    You nailed him Ferguson, good and proper.
    Big bad lies are not the goodies, but the baddies.
    Reality TV? You betcha.

    • A great interview, asking a Treasurer who promised “no new taxes” about his all-new taxes.
      “I also believe that the average viewer would consider that the Treasurer was not treated with sufficient respect by the interviewer.” – “Respect” has to be earned. You don’t earn respect by promising one thing and then doing the opposite.
      “Ferguson was nominated for a Walkley Award for the interview.”

      • Jason – She was caught making an aggressive left-wing impartial judgement. That’s fine if this was 2GB or The Bolt Report, but the 7:30 Report should be held to higher standards of balance and fairness. Her tone throughout the interview was presumptuous and wasn’t factual, persisting the same line of questioning on taxes over and over despite the fact there were no new taxes.

        • @dwuuuu I wonder if you would be saying the same thing regarding the 7.30’s questioning of Kevin Rudd which sent him into a red-faced rant (see YouTube). I think you will find that ABC’s perceived bias crosses to both sides of the political fence.

        • Hockey says “there are only two tax adjustments”. How can they be adjustments? They are new taxes. Deficit “levy”and Medicare “co-payment” don’t exist so how can they be “tax adjustments”? They are new taxes.
          Didn’t some “panel” with someone from the UK conduct a look at ABC “bias”and determine there wasn’t any – it was all in the eye of the LNP beholder?

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