ABC denies holding emergency talks after Laura Tingle’s ‘racist country’ comments criticised in Murdoch press

<span>Laura Tingle said she was afraid Peter Dutton’s policy announcement would give license to people worried about housing to say ‘everything that’s going wrong in this country is because of migrants’.</span><span>Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP</span>
Laura Tingle said she was afraid Peter Dutton’s policy announcement would give license to people worried about housing to say ‘everything that’s going wrong in this country is because of migrants’.Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

The ABC has flatly denied the board held emergency talks after News Corp lambasted Laura Tingle for criticising Peter Dutton’s immigration policy at the Sydney writers’ festival.

On Sunday, while discussing the Coalition’s plans to cut immigration, Tingle said: “We are a racist country, let’s face it. We always have been, and it’s very depressing.”

Murdoch outlets pounced on the comments, with the Australian newspaper claiming on its front page on Tuesday that the ABC was holding an emergency board meeting.

Related: Peter Dutton’s migration cuts would cost budget $34bn over coming decades, thinktank calculates

“ABC board members hold emergency discussions over Laura Tingle outburst,” the Murdoch broadsheet reported, citing “some sources close to the ABC”.

In an editorial the Australian newspaper also accused Tingle of demonstrating “loathing for the country the ABC is funded to serve” and called on the ABC chair, Kim Williams, to act.

But a spokesperson for the ABC denied the reports, saying: “Reports of an emergency ABC Board meeting are incorrect and baseless.”

According to the festival transcript seen by Guardian Australia, Tingle’s comments came in response to a question from the session convener Barrie Cassidy about analysis in the Australian which said that Dutton’s plan to reduce permanent migration is “simplistic” and “foolish”.

Tingle said the Coalition’s policy announcement sent a “terrible chill running through me” as she was afraid it would give license to people worried about housing to say “everything that’s going wrong in this country is because of migrants”.

The Australian said Tingle’s assessment was wrong: “It is not depressing because it is not true. No society, including ours, is perfect but Australia is one of the world’s most open, harmonious, multicultural societies, in which migrants have thrived”.

The Sky News host Paul Murray accused Tingle of spreading “fear” about cuts to immigration.

“She is talking about an Australia that doesn’t actually exist that she is afraid of, turning on Australia that, again, doesn’t exist,” Murray said.

The shadow minister for communications, David Coleman, labelled Tingle’s comment “completely indefensible”.

The articles in the Australian did not mention comments made on the same panel by the ABC News Breakfast co-host Bridget Brennan, a Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta woman, who said “there is so much racism embedded in this country” when she was asked about the failure of the voice.

“So it was no surprise to Aboriginal people because we know what exists in Australian society,” Brennan said at the festival. “We see it every day.”

The commentary in the Australian which sparked Tingle’s comments were that Dutton was selling a “simplistic migration fix” that would damage Australia’s prosperity. “The Opposition leader’s sound bite of a policy is as foolish as it is simplistic, regrettably bringing into his fold the dumb and desperate in the provinces.”

The Australian newspaper’s criticism of Tingle comes as Murdoch outlets are heavily promoting a Sky News documentary, The Fight Against Antisemitism, which airs claims antisemitism is “spiralling out of control”, including comments from Sir Peter Cosgrove that “Hitler would be proud” of what is happening in Australia today.

Presented by the former Coalition treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the documentary was promoted on the front pages of the Murdoch papers on Tuesday.

The ABC managing director, David Anderson, will appear at Senate estimates on Thursday.

Advertisement