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‘Sick and unhinged’: Senator Mitch Fifield condemns Quadrant over ABC bombing comments

Minister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield has spoken out against Quadrant after the publication suggested the bomb which went off in Manchester at an Ariana Grande concert killing at least 22 people would have been more justified if it was detonated at the ABC’s headquarters.

Speaking to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee today in Canberra, Fifield called the comments “sick and unhinged” and said Australia had reached a new low in public debate.“Under indulgence, I just want to draw attention to a matter for the Committee,” he said.

“Overnight, the publication Quadrant, in their online edition posted some offensive comments, words to the effect that if there was any justice the horrific terrorist bombing in Manchester would have taken place in the ABC’s Ultimo studio and killed those assembled.

“As the Minister responsible for the ABC I just want to make absolutely clear that I think this constitutes a new low in Australian public debate, and the comments are sick and unhinged.”

He noted politicians and the public don’t have to agree with media outlets – but joined the ABC’s managing director Michelle Guthrie in condemning the article.

“The managing director of the ABC has written to the editor of Quadrant, John O’Sullivan and the editor of Quadrant online, Roger Franklin, making clear her views on behalf of the organisation.

The article by Quadrant’s online editor Roger Franklin

“And in the letter to Quadrant she says and I quote ‘I ask that this letter be posted prominently on the Quadrant website, but I also ask that the article, which continues to contain entirely inappropriate comments about possible bombings at the ABC be removed and apologised for.’

“I am certain that I speak on behalf of all my colleagues here at the Committee in condemning what Quadrant has posted online.

“We can all disagree with what particular media outlets do and say. That is appropriate in a democracy. But the comments by Quadrant are sick and unhinged.”

Despite speculation the national broadcaster is considering shutting down public access to its headquarters in response to the inflammatory comments, an ABC spokesperson told Mumbrella plans to redevelop the Ultimo foyer had been underway for sometime.

“The ABC has for several months been considering plans for the redevelopment of the Ultimo foyer. Part of those discussions include a review of security for staff. These discussions are not the result of any specific security issue. We will share our plans for the redevelopment of the ABC Ultimo foyer in due course,” the spokesperson said.

UPDATE 8:15am 25 May:

Quadrant’s editor-in-chief Keith Windschuttle issued an apology last night acknowledging “the article represents a series error of judegement and should not have been published”.

“Even though I do not share all of the interpretations expressed in your letter, I accept your assurance about the offence it caused you and your staff. You have my unreserved apology for any concerns it might have given you,” the letter said.

Windschuttle said Franklin had been counselled and the publication’s editorial processes would be reviewed.

He said the article would be “withdrawn completely from our website”, however as of this morning, it remained online.

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