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Thursday, November 26, 2020

ABC boss defends Four Corners probe into ‘toxic’ parliament culture

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Allegations to be aired on Monday night about toxic culture around women in federal parliament is “absolutely” in the public interest, the ABC boss says.

The national broadcaster’s managing director David Anderson has appeared at a Senate estimates hearing hours before the Four Corners program is due to air about ministerial conduct.

Mr Anderson said more than 200 people had contributed to the program and the investigation had taken months.

“What people came to us with was concern over a culture and a culture that was considered to be a toxic culture that was otherwise characterised as a women problem,” he said.

“(There are) allegations that are serious allegations that sat in there.

“It’s an important story to tell in the public interest and it goes to conduct of ministers, ministers of the Crown, to be held to the highest standard in society.”

ABC managing director David Anderson says the program is in the public interest. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Taylor
media_cameraABC managing director David Anderson says the program is in the public interest. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Taylor

Mr Anderson said he had been copied into emails from government ministerial offices and received some directly, as well as a phone call from a ministerial office, questioning whether the story is in the public interest.

Mr Anderson also said ABC chair Ita Buttrose told him a ministerial staffer contacted the ABC board to alert them that the story was coming.

Earlier, Four Corners executive producer Sally Neighbour tweeted that the political pressure applied to the ABC behind the scenes over the story was “extreme and unrelenting”.

The Four Corners program was investigated for months, ABC boss David Anderson says.
media_cameraThe Four Corners program was investigated for months, ABC boss David Anderson says.

Mr Anderson said he was unaware of any direct threat to pull the story, which features at least one Liberal party senator and a former Liberal staffer.

“It is absolutely in the public interest. It has been through all our policies,” he said.

Mr Anderson added it is “extraordinary” to be peppered with such questions ahead of the program screening.

“To critique a story that hasn’t been published yet is quite extraordinary.

“This program will raise important issues that hopefully will be addressed over time.

“You can judge it for yourself. I’ll let the journalism speak for itself.

“We have been impartial in the way we’ve done this.”

He added Ms Buttrose has seen the program and backed the decision to air it.

“Our independence is absolutely intact,” he said.

“There is nothing that we received that either persuaded us or otherwise from publishing this story.”

Mr Anderson said the subjects of the allegations in the “Inside the Canberra Bubble” Four Corners special were given two weeks to reply but had not taken up the offer to appear on the program.

Originally published as ABC boss grilled before explosive story

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