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PETER VAN ONSELEN: So you’re NOT speaking for the ABC when you slam Peter Dutton’s nuclear policy? Chairman Kim Williams has got to be kidding himself – as he makes his own Laura Tingle-style howler

Do as I say, not as I do. That’s the message new ABC chairman Kim Williams sent when he publicly criticized Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s nuclear energy policy.

It comes just weeks after ABC’s top political journalist Laura Tingle was formally sanctioned for criticizing Dutton’s policies on immigration at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

In March this year – shortly after Williams took over the ABC chairmanship – he boldly declared that there is no place for political ‘activism’ in the public broadcaster and that anyone who cannot adhere to that standard should up and leave .

But with just over four years to go, I can only assume Williams won’t follow his own advice.

I’m not sure what offends me more: the stupidity of the ABC chairman making these comments, especially in the current climate, or the clear political bias they so openly display.

We should note that Williams is not bound by the ABC’s editorial guidelines. He’s not a journalist.

But if he didn’t want to be accused of hypocrisy – the pot calling the kettle black, as it were – he should have kept his mouth shut.

Anthony Albanese appointed Kim Williams chairman of the ABC at the beginning of this year

Anthony Albanese appointed Kim Williams chairman of the ABC at the beginning of this year

Instead, Williams joined the After The Fact panel, along with the director of the Vivid Festival and the CEO of IndigenousX, and told his audience that Dutton’s nuclear policy “does not contain any normal tissue of policy formulation.”

Putting Williams’ paranormal powers aside (the opposition’s nuclear policy hasn’t actually been released yet), surely the new chairman of the ABC must realize how inappropriate it is for him to meddle in such an issue?

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Apparently not, as he also told his audience that he was only speaking as an ‘Australian citizen’, as if it were that easy for one of the most prominent roles in Australian media to put on and take off his ABC hat whenever he want to. a few partisan barbs.

Would Tingle’s comments have been okay if she had made this weak distinction when she said, “We’re a racist country, let’s face it”?

It shouldn’t be too difficult for someone in a role like Williams to do better.

He could express his reflections on Dutton’s nuclear policy credentials privately, at home, among friends and family. Out of earshot of anyone with a recording device, and certainly not on the stage of a public event.

Think about it calmly if you want.

It’s unbelievable that this comes so quickly in the wake of the Tingle saga, and with so many parallels. ABC director David Anderson even had to appear before the Senate Budget in Canberra and admonish the behavior of his star journalist.

Yet Williams has now done this. Perhaps the worst part of what has happened is that Tingle and others at the ABC may be learning the wrong lesson and thinking that two wrongs make a right. If the chairman can do it, we can do it too.

The extent of Williams’ denial became clear when, after addressing Dutton’s allegedly poor policymaking skills, he told the audience: “I’m not political.”

Real? Maybe it was an example of George Costanza from Seinfeld: “Jerry, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

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Would Williams even have been invited to take part in a panel marked as a discussion of ‘soundbite politics’ if he were not the chairman of the ABC?

Given the obvious political content likely to be discussed by the panel, shouldn’t Williams have known better and politely declined?

Laura Tingle (left, with Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame) sparked controversy when she described Australia as a 'racist country' during a panel discussion

Laura Tingle (left, with Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame) sparked controversy when she described Australia as a 'racist country' during a panel discussion

Laura Tingle (left, with Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame) sparked controversy when she described Australia as a ‘racist country’ during a panel discussion

The rest of the ABC chairman’s attempt to dismiss Dutton’s policymaking skills as insufficient unfortunately only revealed his own ignorance of how the policymaking process works in the opposition.

Williams confidently asserted: ‘I grew up at a time when governments published green papers… and then published white papers… from which a debate would follow in parliament… that was the traditional process for formulating public policy… I think it’s a pretty good system.’

Guess what Kim, it’s a pretty good system – and it still works that way.

But Dutton is not in government, he is in opposition.

The same policy-making processes do not exist because the opposition does not have a team of departmental bureaucrats to design their policies.

It also has no control over parliament, or at least not over the lower house. Oppositions therefore cannot follow the traditional policy-making cycle as governments should, and sometimes do.

But beyond Williams’ (failed) attempt to educate Dutton on the policy-making process, he simply should not have addressed such a hot-button political issue.

And he’s definitely kidding himself if he thinks he can take off his ABC hat whenever he wants to cooperate.

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That’s not how the real world works.

If Williams, having been appointed Speaker by the current Labor government, has no choice but to express his views on one of the central policy issues likely to dominate the next election campaign, he should do so alone over a beer under friends.

Or more likely in the case of the former head of the Sydney Opera House Trust, while enjoying a nice glass of chardonnay.

If he cannot adhere to that basic rule, he must quit.

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