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Furore as a leading ABC political commentator brands Australia racist and savages Peter Dutton

Remy Varga and Matt Shrivell
The Nightly
Laura Tingle branded Australia racist at a writers festival.
Laura Tingle branded Australia racist at a writers festival. Credit: The Nightly

Political leaders from both sides of the divide have denied claims made by one of the national broadcaster’s most senior political journalists and prominent commentators that Australia is a racist country.

ABC chief political correspondent Laura Tingle is under increasing pressure after she made the accusation and criticised opposition leader Peter Dutton when appearing at a panel at Sydney’s Writers Festival on Sunday.

Northern Territory Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, shadow communications minister David Coleman, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce on Monday defended the nation against the accusation of racism.

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Tingle, a veteran journalist who was last year promoted to the ABC board as staff elected director, made the comments before crowds at Carriageworks in the inner Sydney suburb of Eveleigh.

“We are a racist country, let’s face it,” Tingle reportedly told the panel, which was moderated by former ABC Insiders host and Labor staffer Barrie Cassidy.

“We always have been and it’s very depressing.”

Tingle also accused Mr Dutton of encouraging racism towards migrants and said she couldn’t remember a political leader saying that “everything that is going wrong in this country is because of migrants”.

The opposition leader has proposed slashing the permanent migration rate by 25 per cent, banning foreign investors and temporary residents from buying existing homes and reducing the number of international students in a bid to ease pressure on the housing market.

Tingle told the crowd on Sunday that when she heard Mr Dutton’s budget reply speech, she had a “flash” that the proposed policies could encourage the racist treatment of people who “look a bit different” at property inspections.

“Basically he [Dutton] has given them licence to be abused, and in any circumstance where people feel like they’re missing out,” she said.

As the chief political correspondent for the ABC’s flagship current affairs program 7.30, Tingle has one of the most influential voices in Australian politics.

According to ABC editorial policy, impartiality is a fundamental standard that is “central to its [ABC] public service purpose and to its reputation as a credible and trustworthy broadcaster.”

Shadow communications minister David Coleman called on the ABC to explain how Tingle’s comments were compatible with her role at the national broadcaster.

“Ms Tingle’s reported comments about Mr Dutton are extraordinary and completely indefensible,” he said on X.

“In addition to her comments about Mr Dutton, Ms Tingle has made further statements about her views on the Albanese Government and the Coalition.

“While every Australian has a right to their political views, not every Australian is Chief Political Correspondent for ABC’s 7:30 program.”

Senator Price, who was one of the leaders in the No campaign during the referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament last year, said she was disappointed a false narrative of racism continued to be pushed in Australia.

“Laura Tingle has demonstrated over and again 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 in fact acceptable,” she told 2GB.

Senator Price, a Warlpiri woman, said the overwhelming No vote majority at last year’s referendum was evidence most Australians rejected racial divisions.

Earlier, Ms Plibersek denied Australia was a racist country when asked on Seven’s Sunrise program, instead describing it as a “magnificent multicultural country” where some Australians had suffered racism.

The Environment Minister said she supported Tingle’s point that slashing migration, a policy advanced by Mr Dutton, was not going to fix Australia’s housing crisis.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce also denied Australia was a racist country but said Tingle’s comments raised questions for the national broadcaster, which he said was only talking to half the country.

“The question has to be asked, why do we fund something that only wants to talk to half of Australia?” he said.

“Maybe not even half of Australia?”

The Nightly approached the ABC for comment.

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