Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, a long-time advocate and defender of freedom of
the right sort of speech for all the right sort of people, has said he sees no problem with SBS sacking long-serving sports reporter, Scott McIntyre for expressing his personal opinions about ANZAC Day celebrations via his personal twitter account.
Appearing on ABC’s Lateline programme, Wilson insisted the issue of McIntyre’s firing was a simple workplace matter about contractual obligations and did not fall under his purview. “Now, if he had been attacked for racially vilifying people, inciting hatred, or saying things that are completely untrue, I would’ve been in there like a shot. I know my job,” Mr Wilson said.
“Look, SBS didn’t say that he can’t say the things he said or that they have no basis in truth, just that he can’t say them where anyone might hear or read them. My understanding is SBS’s Department of Truth even offered him the opportunity to keep his job by issuing a fake apology, deleting the tweets, and pretending they never existed and that he doesn’t really believe what they never said. Bizarrely, he refused. Ethics or something.
“Frankly, it eludes me how anyone could even conceive of employers determining what you are allowed to say as a private citizen as being a freedom of speech issue. It certainly doesn’t bother anyone at News Corp.”
The incident began on Saturday, April 25, when McIntyre tweeted his thoughts about the political manipulation and mythologising of the ANZAC Day ceremonies.
Things escalated when Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull continued his resolute avoidance of any personal activity that could promote himself as an alternative LNP leader, and immediately condemned the tweets publicly, tweeting: “Difficult to think of more offensive, inappropriate, despicable comments. And I know about offensive, inappropriate, & despicable #LNPpolicy”
In a further bid to stay out of the limelight and not exert influence over a public broadcaster, Turnbull is reported to have then contacted SBS Managing Director, Michael Ebeid, to “draw his attention” to the matter. It is unclear whether Turnbull was doing his famed ‘Godfather’ impersonation at the time.
Noted humanitarian and open-government advocate, Scott Morrison has come out in support of his colleague’s actions and the sacking. Speaking on 2GB – renowned for its promotion of calm, rational and reasoned debate – Morrison said: “It is a free country (if you can afford the entry fee and are the right colour), you can say what you like, but there are consequences for when you say stupid and ugly things. Unless you’re rich … or a Minister.”
With the glacial pace common to public organisations and their involved review processes, it was over an hour after Turnbull’s attention drawing that SBS management announced that McIntyre had been dismissed and released a statement.
“As with any sensible government-funded organisation, respect for whatever the government wants us to respect is paramount at SBS,” the statement reads, “especially in a pre-budget period.
“SBS apologises for any funding uncertainties caused by Mr McIntyre’s comments, which in no way reflect the views of management. SBS has devoted unprecedented resources to coverage of the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings in place of other programming or projects that may have actually reflected our Charter.”