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Asian ABC journalist slams diversity target as former chairman hits out at hiring policy

Asian ABC journalist slams diversity target as former chairman hits


John* is an experienced ABC journalist who is well regarded by his peers.

He felt he achieved his position by being good at his job.

But at the ABC, this Asian man is part of an ethnicity target, with the national broadcaster aiming to have 15 per cent of its journalism and production staff hail from a ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ background by August 2022. 

John said the national broadcaster’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan is a ‘joke’. He said there was a culture of hiring to meet benchmarks instead of the most talented staff which made those from a non-Anglo Saxon background feel they were given the position based on their ethnicity.

He also believes staff hired as part of the targets had less pressure than other workers to fulfil their job requirements.  

‘I’ve earnt my place here as a journalist,’ he told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘They’re more concerned with ticking off the diversity boxes.’

John* is an experienced ABC journalist who is well regarded by his peers. He felt he achieved his position on merit by being good at his job. But at the ABC, the Asian man believes he is just an ethnicity target (Pictured: Ultimo headquarters in Sydney)

John* is an experienced ABC journalist who is well regarded by his peers. He felt he achieved his position on merit by being good at his job. But at the ABC, the Asian man believes he is just an ethnicity target (Pictured: Ultimo headquarters in Sydney)

The ABC’s justification for ethnicity targets

The ABC Diversity and Inclusion Plan meets the requirements of the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987.

The Act requires the ABC to promote equal opportunity in employment for women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people from a non- English speaking background and people with disabilities.

Australia has one of the most culturally diverse populations in the world and the ABC is committed to reflecting and representing that fact in our content and workforce, including people from different genders, ages, sexual orientations, social backgrounds, people with disabilities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We are not alone in this: diversity and inclusion are strategic priorities for all media organisations, in order to be relevant to their audiences. 

Our Diversity & Inclusion Plan encourages people from a broad range of backgrounds to work for the ABC, while also supporting current employees to develop their careers and achieve their best.

He said the ABC had a ‘one-eyed focus’ on filling their diversity numbers rather than hiring staff based on merit.

The ABC employs more than 4,000 staff and receives $1billion a year from the taxpayers. 

Maurice Newman, who was ABC chairman from 2007 to 2012, said the idea of hiring anyone based on their ethnicity is ‘totally condescending’.  

‘It’s polarising, it’s divisive, it tends to treat people not according to their ability or their character but according to their race,’ he told Daily Mail Australia

‘It’s in pursuit of an ideology, which puts these things as a priority, in other words this is identarian.’

The ABC’s Australia Talks online survey of 60,000 people found 76 per cent of respondents regarded Australia as still being home to ‘a lot of racism’.

An ABC spokesman said the national broadcaster aimed to reflect Australia’s diversity with its hiring policies.

‘Australia has one of the most culturally diverse populations in the world and the ABC is committed to reflecting and representing that fact in our content and workforce, including people from different genders, ages, sexual orientations, social backgrounds, people with disabilities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,’ he said.

Mr Newman said in his experience, those pushing affirmative action hiring policies based on race lived in inner-city Sydney, near the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters.

‘Of course there is groupthink,’ he said.

‘It is endemic, it’s pervasive, it’s essentially what drives them and if you happen to express views which don’t conform to groupthink, then you will be ostracised and probably will leave and that’s a circular arrangement where they simply employ people who meet those sorts of criteria.’  

But ABC Radio National contributor Dr Tanveer Ahmed supported the need to recruit more ethnically diverse journalists, arguing the Australian media was still very white.

The national broadcaster aiming to have 15 per cent of its journalists and production staff hail from a 'culturally and linguistically diverse' background by August 2022

The national broadcaster aiming to have 15 per cent of its journalists and production staff hail from a ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ background by August 2022

‘I think there is a problem in the Australian media regarding diversity,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

‘SBS is basically ethnic media done by white people.’ 

However the practising psychiatrist, who grew up in a Muslim Bangladeshi family, said the ABC tended to prefer hiring minorities with left-wing views and overlooked conservatives.

‘If you’re Labor or Greens they don’t make a big thing whereas if you’re remotely conservative, they make a much bigger thing,’ the Liberal Party member said.

‘While the ABC would like to have people of different racial backgrounds, if you have certain political views that still cancels you out in getting involved with the ABC.’

Dr Ahmed said the ABC needed to be opened minded about hiring socially conservative minorities to make itself more relevant in the outer suburbs where elections are decided. 

‘I’m supportive of the ABC trying to be more ethnically diverse but the problem is, there still seems to be a sticking point if that ethnic diversity includes political views that are deemed unpalatable at the ABC,’ he said.

‘Ethnic groups are increasingly more socially conservative and they are increasingly the ones voting for the Liberal Party and conservative parties.’ 

But ABC Radio National contributor Dr Tanveer Ahmed supported the need to recruit more ethnically diverse journalists, arguing the Australian media was still very white. But said the ABC needed to recruit minorities with politically conservative views from outside the media

But ABC Radio National contributor Dr Tanveer Ahmed supported the need to recruit more ethnically diverse journalists, arguing the Australian media was still very white. But said the ABC needed to recruit minorities with politically conservative views from outside the media

Dr Ahmed said hiring journalists from outside the media who have had another career was a better way for the ABC to recruit staff from a variety of ethnic backgrounds to better represent modern Australia.  

The ABC is also planning to collect data on the sexuality of its employees with a view to hiring more same-sex attracted people. 

‘We will start capturing diversity data on sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time and will decide in our mid-term review on whether to set a new target for LGBTQI+ representation in our workforce,’ its Diversity and Inclusion Plan said.

Dr Ahmed said ethnic minorities who openly opposed gay marriage would be unlikely to have a job at the ABC. 

Mr Newman is also opposed to the ABC’s policy of women comprising 50 per cent of executive roles by August 2022, along with its plan for 3.4 per cent of content makers from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.

‘It’s demeaning that you actually got the job because you’re female, not because you’re any good,’ he said.

The ABC's Australia Talks online survey of 60,000 people found 76 per cent of respondents regarded Australia as still being home to 'a lot of racism'. Pictured are co-hosts Annabel Crabb and Nazeem Hussain

The ABC’s Australia Talks online survey of 60,000 people found 76 per cent of respondents regarded Australia as still being home to ‘a lot of racism’. Pictured are co-hosts Annabel Crabb and Nazeem Hussain

As ABC chairman, appointed in early 2007 when John Howard was still prime minister, Mr Newman said he had little power to overturn policies like diversity hiring.

‘With the board’s backing, you can try and enforce editorial policies but you find there’s  a lot of obfuscation,’ he said. 

Mr Newman said Coalition governments, despite being conservative, were reluctant to intervene with ABC policies.

‘It doesn’t matter whether it’s Coalition or whether it’s Labor, those policies tend to conform to a greater or lesser extent to what the Left want to see implemented,’ he said. 

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher declined to comment on the ABC’s minority hiring policies.

Maurice Newman, who was ABC chairman from 2007 to 2012, said the idea of hiring anyone based on their ethnicity as 'totally condescending'.

Maurice Newman, who was ABC chairman from 2007 to 2012, said the idea of hiring anyone based on their ethnicity as ‘totally condescending’.

The ABC is also planning to collect data on the sexuality of its employees with a view to hiring more same-sex attracted people

The ABC is also planning to collect data on the sexuality of its employees with a view to hiring more same-sex attracted people

‘The ABC has editorial and operational independence—staffing is a matter for Board and management,’ his spokesman told Daily Mail Australia.

Mr Newman, a former chancellor of Macquarie University which offers a media studies degree, said the ABC overwhelmingly hired communications graduates with left-wing views.

‘They employ people from journalist schools who come out as extreme because they’ve been indoctrinated in their particular university or journalistic school,’ he said.

While affirmative action policies have existed in the Australian public service since the 1970s, Mr Newman said hiring people based on race divided society and undermined democracy.

‘You end up in some form of authoritarian dictatorship. Democracy disappears,’ he said. 

Shemara Wikramanayake, the chief executive of Macquarie Group, is a woman of Sri Lankan ethnicity who climbed to the top through hard work and merit in 2018 after 31 years with the company

Shemara Wikramanayake, the chief executive of Macquarie Group, is a woman of Sri Lankan ethnicity who climbed to the top through hard work and merit in 2018 after 31 years with the company

Australia’s highest-paid CEO is a woman of Sri Lankan ethnicity who rose to the top after three decades with the company. 

Shemara Wikramanayake, the chief executive of Macquarie Group, is a woman of Sri Lankan ethnicity who climbed to the top through hard work and merit in 2018 after 31 years with the company.

In 2019, she was Australia’s highest paid corporate leader with an $18million remuneration package. 

Australia’s highest paid professionals, surgeons, are also chosen on merit, being required to spend seven years completing a Bachelor of Medicine before spending at least five years studying their area of specialty.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons doesn’t have ethnic diversity quotas for hiring, but it has scholarships to encourage indigenous people to study medicine.

Dr Ahmed said medicine had more ethnic diversity because more Asian people of academic ability more often preferred that field to the lower rate of pay in media. 

‘In certain industries, there are lots of different ethnic groups, medicine is a classic: if anything, you need a policy to try and get white people,’ he said.

* Not his real name 



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