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ABC cop-out over Paul Bongiorno's slur against Warren Mundine AO

We've been following Warren Mundine AO's complaint to the ABC about Paul Bongiorno's slur against him on Twitter.

Today Mr Mundine received this cop-out from the ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie - in summary, there will be no consequences for Bongiorno.

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Warren's written again today:


31 July 2018


Dear Ms Guthrie

Thank you for your response to my letter of 15 July 2018.

I think you have misunderstood the purpose of my letter and the nature of my complaint against the ABC.

I am not holding the ABC responsible or accountable for Mr Bongiorno’s tweet. I am not claiming that the ABC had editorial control over his tweet. I am seeking a response from the ABC as to the consequences under ABC’s policies and standards for Mr Bongiorno having made the tweet.

Since writing to you I have been provided with a copy of the ABC’s Social Media Policy. It is written in very clear and plain language and states:

“Personal and professional use of social media by ABC staff and contractors must not bring the ABC into disrepute, compromise effectiveness at work, imply ABC endorsement of personal views or disclose, without authorisation, confidential information.”

Under the heading “Who it applies to” it states “All Workers”. The expression “Workers” is defined as:

“Any person who carries out work in any capacity for the ABC, including work as: an employee; a contractor or subcontractor; an employee of a contractor or subcontractor; an employee of a labour hire company who has been assigned to work at the ABC; an outworker; an apprentice or trainee; a student gaining work experience; or a volunteer.”

Mr Bongiorno is a paid contractor of the ABC and a “worker” as defined in the policy. Therefore, the policy applies to him.

The policy lists four specific “standards” that “apply to work and personal use of interactive services by Workers using both ABC accounts and personal accounts at any time”. These include:

“1. Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.

2. Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.

3. Do not imply ABC endorsement of your personal views.”

Mr Bongiorno’s tweet calling Sky News commentators such as myself “Uncle Toms” was made in a specific defence of the ABC. He was seeking to counter a claim that the ABC’s Insiders program did not have a politically balanced line up.

His tweet received widespread publicity and a great deal of condemnation. It included a racial slur. He is a paid ABC commentator and highlighted on the ABC website as key talent. Also, contrary to the statement in your letter, Mr Bongiorno has not deleted the tweet. As at today’s date it remains on Twitter.

Mr Bongiorno has a clear case to answer to the ABC under its Social Media Policy for bringing the ABC into disrepute and breach of the other standards.

I am not seeking any particular consequence for Mr Bongiorno. It is up to the ABC as to what disciplinary action, if any, it takes.

What I do expect of the ABC, as a public agency, is to formally review Mr Bongiorno’s tweet under its Social Media Policy (and any other policies that may be applicable), make a formal decision whether the policy has been breached and, if so, determine what, if any, disciplinary action should follow. I also expect those decisions and the reasons for them to be communicated to me.

The ABC has in the past taken a very strong stand against racism and its news and current affairs highlighted the impact of racism on Aboriginal people. It has ensured arts and culture programming includes Aboriginal performance and stories and has given great opportunities to Aboriginal talent in the arts. I find it difficult to reconcile how the ABC could take the view that one of its paid commentators using a racial slur does not bring it into disrepute, without even taking the time to properly review and apply its own standards.

It would be very disappointing to see the ABC wash its hands of one of its paid commentators abusing others with a racial slur in a public forum and fail to apply its Social Media Policy which very clearly applies.

Yours sincerely

Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO

Justin Milne, Chairman ABC
Senator The Hon. Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications