A Four Corners episode investigating an alleged toxic culture in the Coalition has been met with condemnation from one of the men at the centre of the report.
The ABC’s Four Corners revealed Attorney-General Christian Porter was warned by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2017 after being spotted “kissing and cuddling” a young staffer at Canberra’s Public Bar. Turnbull told the program he was concerned the then-married minister could be at risk of compromise or blackmail.
The ABC report also noted that now acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge had “angrily demanded” a journalist delete a photo of Porter and the woman. Tudge was, separately, engaged in an affair of his own, Four Corners reported.
Barrister Katherine Foley also made allegations of inappropriate and sexist behaviour against Porter dating back to his time studying and lecturing in Perth.
The Four Corners investigation, furthermore, revealed Turnbull’s “bonk ban” was not just aimed at former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, but at Porter and Tudge, as well.
Since the report aired, Tudge has issued an apology, shared via Twitter.
But the attorney-general has rejected reports of the bar incident and alleged that the “other party” denied the story but was not quoted in the program. He also accused ABC journalist Louise Milligan of not contacting his office for comment.
However, the story includes a response from Porter that alleges he never had a complaint from Turnbull over his work as attorney-general “until the last week of his prime ministership when we had a significant disagreement over the Peter Dutton citizenship issue”.
“Given the defamatory nature of many of the claims made in tonight’s program, I will be considering legal options,” Porter said.
The ABC’s executive producer Sally Neighbour, in response, said the bar incident had not been rejected by anyone and was witnessed by at least five people speaking to the program.
Milligan tweeted that she had given the attorney-general two weeks to reply but “he provided nothing. His staffer kept telling us he couldn’t possibly put this story to the Attorney.”
Without fear or favour. If you value ABC editorial independence, if you think Ministers of the Crown who govern the rest of us should be held to a high standard of probity, watch Inside the Bubble on @4corners & question why the pressure to shut this down was applied. #auspol https://t.co/4mpPszehbj
— Louise Milligan (@Milliganreports) November 8, 2020
Furthermore, the ABC has been the recipient of political pressure due to the report, with The Sydney Morning Herald reporting that ABC managing director David Anderson told a Senate estimates hearing that he had received about “half a dozen” emails from ministerial staffers whose offices had been approached by Four Corners for comment.
They questioned whether the story “was in the public interest”.
The Herald also reports Chair Ita Buttrose, who has seen and supports the decision to publish the report, told Anderson a staffer had contacted a member of the ABC board over the story.
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