ABC economics correspondent Emma Alberici was accused by the Prime Minister’s Office of repeating “Labor talking points” and “interviewing only people who agree with her”, newly released documents reveal.
A letter from Malcolm Turnbull’s office to the ABC, released to the Senate on Tuesday, offers an insight into government’s fury at the now infamous tax cut story.
Advisers claimed Ms Alberici sought to “ignore or undermine anyone who disagrees”.
“Alberici has a habit of including comments from and interviewing only people who agree with her,” the letter said.
The Prime Minister’s Office also claimed Ms Alberici’s use of the word “giveaway” to described the proposed tax cuts was “a direct lift from ALP talking points”.
The news story and analysis article, which were revised after complaints from the government and business community, sparked a political fight in February and emboldened the ABC’s critics, while also sparking concerns among others about the broadcaster’s independence from political interference.
The New Daily reported in February that lawyers were involved as Ms Alberici fought to have the analysis piece republished and protect her credibility, reputation and career.
Ms Alberici has remained tightlipped about the saga but been active on social media throughout the controversy.
After Mr Turnbull slammed the articles during Question Time, Ms Alberici retweeted and ‘liked’ a tweet by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten that linked to the article and said it showed the “real story”.
The Prime Minister’s Office questioned whether this retweet was “appropriate for a ‘fair and balanced’ ABC journalist”.
Letters from Qantas boss Alan Joyce and Business Council chief Jennifer Westacott were also released as part of the Senate Estimates process.
Mr Joyce accused Ms Alberici of writing a “slanted analysis that can only be described as demonstrating an anti-business bias”.
Ms Westacott said she held “extreme concerns with the ABC’s coverage”, adding that it was “extremely irresponsible that we were not approached for input or comment on this story”.
She also requested a right of reply, arguing the article was “grossly inaccurate and unbalanced” and “implies these reputable Australian companies have broken the law”.
The documents provided to the Senate also revealed nine errors or omissions of fact identified by the ABC.
In fiery scenes during Senate Estimates last month, Labor senators clashed with ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie and ABC editorial boss Alan Sunderland over their handling of the story.
They were unable to name any of the nine alleged errors during the hearings.
In responses to questions, the ABC said: “ABC News and the Editorial Team identified errors in fact as well as omissions of fact that required editing.”
The errors listed included the headline incorrectly stating “Australia’s largest companies haven’t paid corporate tax in 10 years” when in fact “all the top 5 and most of the top 10 companies by market capitalisation have paid corporate tax”.
Mr Alberici did not write that headline but was consulted on it.