‘Kick in the Teeth’: Mayor Lambasts Public Broadcaster for Bringing Racism Into Alice Springs Reporting

Australia’s government-funded public broadcaster is facing tough criticism for framing a town hall meeting in Alice Springs—hosted by frustrated locals in response to rampant youth crime—as an outpouring of racism and white supremacy.

The mayor of the besieged town, Matt Paterson, has called for an apology from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) saying its reporter focused on covering the grievances of a select few individuals—some who had left early—rather than capturing the general mood of the 3,000-strong crowd.

“For the ABC to have their Indigenous Affairs correspondent report like that is astounding—they could have brought so much positive drive and support for the Aboriginal culture here in town, but they’re obviously not concerned with that; they’re more interested in making it look like a problem when it’s not,” he said in comments obtained by news.om.au.

“The arrogance, language, name-calling, and everything else came from this very small group, which were the ones reported on by the ABC. It just wasn’t needed in the room, which is why I called [an end] to the meeting,” he added.

A Town Under Siege

The meeting was convened by local business owner Garth Thompson and was ended after 20 minutes due to heckling from a disgruntled few.

Media reports suggest over 2,000 to 3,000 people attended the meeting—from a town of 25,000—in response to rampant youth crime.

One example is a recent harrowing incident where a young man was set upon by three juveniles (of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander appearance), stomped and kicked, while also being struck repeatedly by what appeared to be an axe. The 15-year-old did not sustain any cuts.

Paterson has said parents “can’t even go shopping in the afternoon because there’s someone wielding a weapon” in an interview on Radio 2GB on Jan. 17, 2023.

“Our library was broken into on Sunday afternoon with over $20,000 worth of damage caused, and the police took seven hours to respond. Our police are doing an amazing job, but clearly, we don’t have enough resources.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, amid increasing pressure, made a flying visit to the Alice for a few hours last week and handed down restrictions on purchasing alcohol.

The lifting of an alcohol ban last year has been blamed for a dramatic uptick in violent incidents. Alcohol has been one contributor to domestic violence incidents in Indigenous families, which in turn, has forced youths onto the streets.

The ABC’s Coverage of the Alice

In recent days, ABC’s Carly Williams has featured prominently in the outlet’s TV reporting on the issue.

In a Feb. 1 story, business owner Thompson can be seen speaking on stage before being heckled and sworn at.

He asked the person to come on stage to say it directly to him before adding, “We need to bring welfare to these kids; they deserve it,” to which the crowd applauded.

ABC reporter Williams then said she spoke with several attendees, including “some non-Indigenous people,” who said the meeting was “distressing” and others that it “incited violence against Aboriginal people.”

An audio clip of an interview with one man was played, saying: “The little [expletive] are gonna start to get belte if something doesn’t come out of it.”

The story then cuts to several attendees who all had negative feedback about the town meeting.

“It’s just a total white supremacist fest in there, and I tell you what, the vibe, it was scary,” said one non-Aboriginal interviewee.

“Sit with us, invite us in, but don’t bring in a crowd like that today,” said an Aboriginal interviewee.

A follow-up ABC report framed the situation in a similar vein.

The ABC has defended its reporting saying its long-running reporting of Alice Springs has incorporated a range of perspectives, from residents to business owners.

“Many strong and conflicting views are expressed within the community, including some that are confronting, and the news coverage reflects that and doesn’t shy away from it,” the outlet said in a statement.

“The ABC had reporters and crew inside and outside the community forum at the Alice Springs Convention Centre on Monday. One report included interviews with attendees as they left the meeting. Their comments were accurately quoted.”

A ‘Kick in the Teeth’ for Residents

Paterson called the report a “kick in the teeth” for residents.

He commended local ABC reporters who were “very sensitive” to the issues in the town but said the problem was with non-local journalists.

“The language of the reporting in this story is so important,” he told the Today show. “The level of anxiety in the community is extremely hard to describe already.”

Opposition leader Peter Dutton said the ABC was losing credibility.

“Everybody wants independence from the national broadcaster,” he told Radio 2GB on Feb. 2. “We’ve seen in other parts of the world where they can report objectively and then let the reader, listener, or viewer make up their own mind once they’ve got all of the facts.

“But telling people what to think is not part of their mandate. Prosecuting political arguments and taking sides on political issues is not the mandate of the ABC.”

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