“Lacked context”: ABC News boss issues statement following Laura Tingle remarks

Updated: ABC News Director Justin Stevens has spoken to Laura Tingle following her remarks at a writers' festival that Australia is "a racist country."

ABC News Director Justin Stevens has issued a statement following reports of ABC presenter and Board Member Laura Tingle’s comments at the Sydney Writers’ Festival where she described Australia as a “racist country”.

“Laura Tingle’s remarks at the Sydney Writers’ Festival 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,” Stevens said in a statement.

“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.

“Laura Tingle is one of Australia’s most experienced, knowledgeable and accomplished journalists. During her career, including working for The Australian, the AFR and the ABC, she has always sought to better inform Australians by cutting through the politics that often alienates them. The ABC strongly believes hearing informed and independent voices is valuable to our society.”

“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,’’ Tingle told the Australian Financial Review.

“I wasn’t saying every Australian is a racist. But we clearly have an issue with racism. For some months now, for example, The Australian newspaper has been devoting considerable space to its alarm about a rise in anti-Semitism in Australia.

“Without even going into the historic record, there is also ample evidence that racism remains a particular problem in our legal and policing systems. A coronial inquest underway in the Northern Territory has become mired in an expose of racism in the NT’s elite policing unit. Racism and racial profiling repeatedly show up as an issue of concern in our policing and justice systems.”


ABC Managing Director David Anderson Opening Statement to Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications

“I welcome this opportunity today to address with the Committee a recent issue I am sure I will receive questions about.

“Laura Tingle is among the most respected and admired journalists and political commentators in the country. Her reporting across broadcast and print platforms, at numerous media organisations, has always been characterised as candid, honest and accurate.

“She is valued and admired by her ABC colleagues and the public.

“Like all ABC journalists, Laura understands the ABC is held to a higher standard than other media organisations. The higher standards the ABC Editorial Policies demands of our journalists is necessary for a public broadcaster with legislative requirements for impartiality and accuracy. It is also the bedrock of the trust Australians place in us.

“The ABC’s Director News Justin Stevens has explained in a public statement why recent comments by Laura during a panel at the Sydney Writers Festival would not have met our Editorial Standards if they had been made on an ABC platform. He has reminded Laura of her responsibilities to our Editorial Policies.

“As 730 Chief Political Correspondent, Laura is required to ensure her comments, even at an external event, have sufficient context to support the statements made.

“Contrary to some media reports, the issue Mr Stevens raised with her was not a response to Laura calling out racism in Australia. 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.

“In a separate statement, endorsed by Mr Stevens, Laura has provided the context that sits behind her analysis and our audiences are the better for it.

“Mr Stevens’ leads the largest news team in the country. They do an outstanding job in keeping the country informed, engaged and able to understand the key issues that drive our national debate.

“Australians expect the highest standards from our journalists because they need and demand information they can trust. Journalists like Laura and Justin come to work every day with this responsibility at the centre of everything they do.

“And they do an excellent job. I am grateful for the professionalism and dedication they bring to their respective roles. Their hard work reflects their overall ambition to provide Australians with the news, context and analysis they need.

“Australia is not unique in coming to terms with issues such as racism, the cost of living, or immigration. They are issues being debated around the world, as they should be.

“A mature nation, regardless of political views, should be able to discuss such issues in a respectful and intelligent way. The ABC’s role, and the work of journalists like Laura, is to help facilitate those debates on our platforms.

“Finally, Laura does not deserve the ferocity and frankly vicious attacks we have seen this week.

“I now welcome any questions you have.”

21 Responses

  1. The fact that this is still such a controversial statement kinda proves the point. What fantasy land are people living in where Australia is this socially progressive utopia where racism doesn’t exist? This isn’t a new thing and if we still can’t even get to the point where we can acknowledge racism, how are we ever going to progress on the issue?

  2. As an experienced journalist Laura should have known better, words are always open to interpretation and using ‘Australia’ in a pejorative context is not that clever even if was intended to be mostly political, just like saying ”we are a racist country”, that is just not correct.

    1. Try convincing several players in different professional football codes that have been called… and do call players… derogatory and racist names…that Australia.. “is not racist”…considering there are a lot of players with mixed race who play…even if unintentionally it happens…that is no excuse…unfortunately it happens in social games on weekends..including children’s games too.

      1. Journalists at the national broadcaster are held to a higher standard than others- whether they like it or not. It’s not their job to share opinions, Australians want them to gather and report on the news, while presenting it in a fair or balanced way. The journalist should not become the story or start sharing their thoughts and views. This has crept in to a lot of ABC content in the form of alleged “analysis” and it is detrimental to the news brand. Justin Stevens and David Anderson have shown leadership in calling it out and saying at the very least- context or evidence has to be shared when you make claims.

        1. Not their job to share “their” options..but share the options they have..one instance comes to mind..the coronation..which resulted in racial abuse..and a resignation..I’m not interested in “brand”…my point is ..Australia is racist and Laura Tingle was stating the obvious…what the ABC. do is up to them..but people need to realise racism exists in Australia..like it or not.

          1. What you should say is ‘in my opinion’ Cats PJ, people don’t have to ‘realise’ anything or ‘like it or not’, but they can have an opinion. Thankfully.

  3. Good on the ABC for reprimanding her. A message of general deterrence needed to be sent to other employees. They’ve gotten away with it for too long

  4. In addition to this, or what has been mentioned, I feel very strongly about this as outside of the Ultimo or inner-Sydney, and Canberra bubble, there is the same implementation for broadcast and university services, of which The 7.30 Report is a part of, being broadcast in the original ABC Open Learning, or elements related to SBS Learn timeslot in the early morning. I don’t think that politics should be getting in the way of education.

  5. I thought the adage was that management would have their employees’ backs and support them, not throw them under the bus.

    Given that Ms Tingle has also issued a lengthy and detailed statement to clarify her comments, was it necessary for ABC to make a public point of having “counselled” her.

    This will now just serve as fodder for the News Corp/Sky anti-ABC brigade because they will latch onto the management-speak from her boss, regardless of any statement or clarification she has made.

      1. “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.” — does not exactly shout undying support from management. The statement reads like she’s been reprimanded.

  6. Thank goodness Laura provided some balanced context in the end. It’s both major parties that have made comments related to race and immigration throughout the years. It was disgraceful that the initial comments were biased and one-sided. I have much greater appreciation for Leigh Sales now, as she was always balanced and neutral.

  7. I’ve seen and experienced racism first hand…my daughter is of mixed race and she suffered verbal abuse when she started school and she still gets abused now she is an adult and married a person of a different race herself, it sadden me when I see this type of thing and how it effects people…it’s not where you come from or how you look..it’s who you are as a person that matters and accepting people for who they are not colour, race or creed…I do not believe in racism in all its forms is acceptable..this is the 21st century not the dark ages..we can all make the effort to accept one another and strive for peace..not divide this country.

    1. It is an absolute shame that your daughter had to go through that. Moreso now that she is an adult. It simply should not be happening.
      Unless there is some reason they have brought that verbal abuse on themselves, and one assumes not by your words, then those who behave in that way toward her are small minded ignorant jerks.
      As hard as it might be, your daughter, and I would say the same to my daughter, should just ignore those jerks and put herself above them, mentally and emotionally. Hard, but doable.

      1. My daughter handles the verbal abuse by telling them…while they are having a go at her they are leaving someone else alone..I bought her up to be proud of who she is..and that kindness and love doesn’t cost a thing..but they are richest gift you can give..

      1. It was reported that Tingle was appearing privately. The ABC’s social media and objectivity policies still apply though. Tingle delivered op-ed not journalism and used the speech to make a political attack on Dutton.
        The ALP’s policy is to reduce student visas by a large amount by refusing visas to students from certain countries and capping numbers in private colleges and high risk universities. This is because Morrison removed caps on working hours for students visas. This lead to colleges offering fake courses, migration agents providing fake English scores and students here to work not study. They continue to illegal work hours, seek a series of bridging visas and are often under paid . Dutton has just promised slightly higher reductions for two years. The rental vacancy rate in Sydney is currently 0.3%, and there is not enough student accommodation for the students so they are competing against other renters.

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