Malcolm Turnbull has appeared at the UN in New York, making his first public comments since he lost the top job in August. Picture: Sean Davey.
Malcolm Turnbull has appeared at the UN in New York, making his first public comments since he lost the top job in August. Picture: Sean Davey.

Turnbull defends ABC criticism

FORMER Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended his complaints to ABC Chair Justin Milne, saying they were made to protest accuracy which has "deteriorated over recent years"

Denying he had ever called for the sacking of particular journalists, Mr Turnbull said his complaints came because of mistakes in ABC stories.

Justin Milne Chairman of the ABC.  Picture:  Gary Ramage
Justin Milne Chairman of the ABC. Picture: Gary Ramage

Asked whether Mr Milne should resign, Mr Turnbull said "those are matters for Mr Milne."

"I want to be very clear, I have not complained and do not complain about left/right bias," he said. "My concern has been purely about the accuracy and impartiality of news and current affairs reporting on the ABC," he said.

"The ABC board has an obligation under section 8 of its act to ensure that news and information on the ABC is accurate and impartial in accordance with the accepted standards of objective journalism.

 

Malcolm Turnbull says he never asked for ABC reporter Emma Alberici to be fired.  Picture:  Supplied
Malcolm Turnbull says he never asked for ABC reporter Emma Alberici to be fired. Picture: Supplied

"It is more important than ever that the ABC upholds standards of accuracy and impartiality."

"Everybody is entitled to express their views about the ABC and ministers do and prime ministers have done always, and that's very important," he said. "The ABC is independent. The chairman and the board are independent of government but these complaints that have been made have related to accuracy.

"It has failed in that regard in a number of occasions in recent times," he said.

Asked if he had asked for specific ABC reporters to sacked, he said: "That is not right. The bottom line is I have never called for anybody to be fired."

"My concern has been on the accuracy and impartiality of reporting," he said.

 

ABC Chairman Justin Milne and Managing director Michelle Guthrie.  Picture:  John Feder/The Australian.
ABC Chairman Justin Milne and Managing director Michelle Guthrie. Picture: John Feder/The Australian.

He said in "an era of social media and in an era of fake news ... the ABC is more important than ever. But that is why it's vital that it has high standards of journalism, that its reporting is accurate and impartial.

"But accuracy is critically important and I have to say… it (the ABC) has failed in that regard in a number of examples in recent times".

Malcolm Turnbull says he has moved on from politics.  Picture:  Picture Kym Smith
Malcolm Turnbull says he has moved on from politics. Picture: Picture Kym Smith

Mr Turnbull would not comment on whether he had "forgiven" the colleagues who tipped him out of his job.

"I am retired from politics, I am not involved in partisan politics any longer," he said.

"From time to time I will express my views, as any citizen does on matters of public importance, but I am not involved in matters of partisan politics any longer and I wish all those who are the very best."

He also admitted he had some tricky conversations in New York when asked about why he was no longer prime minister.

"Yes, I have had questions about it, but they are the same questions that Australians have asked," he said.

"And the answers are difficult to provide. I think the best description that I can give is the one that I gave, and many others gave, at the time, that the whole episode was a form of madness."

Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull have been spending time in the US and Canada. Picture: Getty Images for Netflix
Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull have been spending time in the US and Canada. Picture: Getty Images for Netflix

Mr Turnbull addressed a United Nations General Assembly side event to launch a tobacco-free finance pledge, which he had co-signed with French President Emmanuel Macron when he was prime minister.

The pledge sees more than 120 corporations and governments end "all business and financial ties" with tobacco, which is responsible for more than 7 million deaths a year and is the leading cause of preventable fatalities, according to the World Health Organisation.

The initiative was started by Australian NGO, Tobacco Free Portfolios, headed by radiation oncologist and CEO Dr Bronwyn King.

Mr Turnbull praised Dr King's work.

"The way you have taken your professional life's work as an oncologist, you have taken the love and the compassion that you have for our patients and you have turned that into dynamic global action that is saving lives today on a scale that even the most skilled oncologist would never be able to do by herself," Mr Turnbull said.

"You have united the financial community."

Former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy, pictured in New York earlier this month. Picture: Supplied
Former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy, pictured in New York earlier this month. Picture: Supplied

Among the signatories are companies including AXA, BNP Paribas, AMP Capital and Natixis, as well as pension funds worth billions of dollars.

Among the other speakers were Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, and Dr Tedros Adhanom, the Director General of the World Health Organisation.

Dr King said described the event as "a historic moment".

"For the first time ever, we have global leaders in health, finance and government standing together on the issue of tobacco control," Dr King said.

Thomas Buberl, CEO of AXA group, said: "As a health insurer, we see every day the impact of smoking on people's health and well being."

"In 2016 we were the first global insurers and investor to cease investing in and insuring tobacco, with the strong conviction that only a collective action can bring about change," he said in a statement.



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