ABC defends Four Corners probe
ABC managing director says episode on the conduct of high-ranking ministers was in the public interest.
ABC Managing Director David Anderson yesterday defended a Four Corners episode before a Senate Estimates committee.
The episode “Inside the Canberra Bubble” made allegations about members of parliament and staffers, drawing attention to their behaviour in the context of Malcolm Turnbull’s “bonk ban.”
Anderson said that ABC Chair Ita Buttrose contacted him after another ABC board member had been contacted by a Morrison Government staffer to ask whether the story was in the “public interest”.
“I can tell you that the Chair Ita Buttrose phoned me, to let me know, that a ministerial staffer had phoned a member of the board,’’ he said.
“I had already briefed the Chair. The Chair has seen the program and supports the decision to publish it.
“Our independence is absolutely intact. It’s paramount. There is nothing that we received that dissuaded us or otherwise of publishing this story.”
Anderson also confirmed he had not received any direct emails from the Prime Minister’s office about the program.
The political pressure applied to the ABC behind the scenes over this story has been extreme and unrelenting. All credit to the ABC’s leadership for withstanding it. ‘Inside the Canberra Bubble’, tonight on #4Corners pic.twitter.com/z0o9PijASu
— Sally Neighbour (@neighbour_s) November 8, 2020
The #4Corners team spoke to more than 200 people while researching this story over the course of five months, in an exhaustive and scrupulously forensic investigation…
— Sally Neighbour (@neighbour_s) November 9, 2020
Following the program Acting Immigration Minister, Alan Tudge issued a statement:
“Tonight, matters that occurred in my personal life in 2017 were aired on the ABC’s Four Corners program.
“I regret my actions immensely and the hurt it caused my family. I also regret the hurt that Ms Miller has experienced.”
Liberal staffer, Rochelle Miller told ABC she had a consensual affair with Tudge in 2017, but said of rumours, “He put a lot of pressure on me and quote-unquote asked me to ‘war-game’ the lines that I was going to give the journalists to try and kill the story.
“‘Make sure you don’t talk, make sure you get your lines straight, make sure you don’t answer your phone, actually it would just be better if you don’t answer your phone at all,” she recalled.
Former PM Malcolm Turnbull also confronted Christian Porter in 2017 over allegations of inappropriate conduct with a young woman in a bar and warned him “the risk of compromise is very real”.
In a statement last night Attorney General Porter said the “depiction of interactions in the bar are categorically rejected”.
He said “the other party subjected to these baseless claims directly rebutted the allegation to Four Corners yet the program failed to report that”.
“If I had known at the time what was broadcast tonight, I would have made further inquiries before I made him attorney general – I think that’s true,” Turnbull told Q&A.