TRANSCRIPT – 2GB Ben Fordham Live

TRANSCRIPT – 2GB Ben Fordham Live
Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Subjects: Lidia Thorpe’s Canberra airport allegations, Labor’s culture.

E&OE

BEN FORDHAM:

Well there’s been a massive reaction to our coverage of the Lidia Thorpe story. So much so that the ABC has decided to block people from commenting on their interview with the Greens MP. Senator Thorpe claims she was racially profiled last year at Canberra Airport, but she provided no evidence, and when she was asked what happened she said she had to wait in line for seven minutes and was told her carry on luggage was too heavy – that was it. But she thinks she was racially profiled. Two and a half months after the incident, she wrote an official letter of complaint and she’s now logged the incident on a register aimed at highlighting genuine cases of racism.

There are many holes in her story, but that didn’t stop the ABC’s Radio National from giving Senator Thorpe six minutes of air time yesterday. But even ABC listeners weren’t buying it. One said on Facebook, “I’m Indigenous and I think this is ridiculous.” Another said, “She was told she couldn’t board the plane because her carry on was overweight. She then refused to comply, so security was called. It sounds like another self-entitled politician.” And following the negative feedback, the ABC has suspended comments on their story.

Our coverage of the controversy has received more than 2,000 comments on Facebook. And one of them came from the new Indigenous senator Jacinta Price. She had this message for Lidia Thorpe, “Perhaps stop assuming everyone around you is racist, when in fact it is you Lidia, who exudes hatred for those you refer to as ‘white people’ all the time. There is no evidence this incident has anything to do with race, just the size of your bag.” That’s from the new Indigenous Senator Jacinta Price. And it’s not racism, it’s standard protocol at an airport. We suspect what’s happened here is that Lidia Thorpe has turned up late for her flight, so it was too late to check-in her luggage. And the carry-on luggage was too big. Isn’t it sad? So tragic!

[Excerpt of Lydia Thorpe on ABC]

BEN FORDHAM:

Oh yes, thoughts and prayers for Lydia Thorpe. She had to wait in a queue for seven minutes, and then she was told her carry-on luggage was too heavy. It’s just unbelievable that this stuff is treated seriously. But thankfully, most people aren’t treating it seriously at all, including the ABC’s listeners. You should see the comments they left on the ABC Facebook page, which is why the ABC said oh we’ll, suspend comments, there are too many coming through – and clearly too many negative ones.

On the line, Amanda Stoker, the Liberal Senator and the Assistant Minister for Women, who's also been on the end of a spray from the Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe.

Amanda Stoker, good morning to you.

AMANDA STOKER:

Hello Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:

Have you had problems at an airport before?

AMANDA STOKER:

Who hasn't? But as with most people who are travelling, we try and be patient. We try and use our best manners and show some understanding for the fact that the job that people in an airport do isn't always easy. One thing that might have got lost in the course of the complaint and the remarkably common sense response of Australians to it, is that, as senators, we get treated really well in airports and as we travel. A lot of understanding shown for the fact that we often have difficult timetables, and that we often have papers and items that we need to bring with us. We actually, I think, get really good treatment. And a little bit of basic respect and patience goes a long way.

BEN FORDHAM:

Yeah, well, Lidia Thorpe has previously posted selfies from the Chairman's club at Qantas, so she knows how to enjoy the benefits of her role. But it's really upset people, I think, because she played the race card on something that had nothing to do with race.

AMANDA STOKER:

And this is the problem. When well-meaning institutes like, you know, this project out of the University of Technology Sydney, solicit complaints of racism from arguably one of the most privileged Indigenous people you could find in this country – because of all the advantages that are provided to us in part of our role as senators – we devalue the difficult experience of Indigenous people who are experiencing serious disadvantage. Like the little girls in remote communities who aren't safe in their own homes from predators within their own communities. We dismiss the experience of those who suffer violence in our Indigenous communities. It's usually at the hands of, you know, fellow members of their clan – but not exclusively of course. And it doesn't help bring economic opportunity or jobs or stability to our most at-risk Indigenous people.

The problem with projects like this is that while racism is still a problem wherever it occurs, and we should always be taking steps to make it less common, we've got to be realistic. There's never been better community understanding of racism then we have now. Our society has never been safer and fairer for minorities than it is now. And there is, in an objective sense, less of it. And so sometimes when projects like this, albeit well-meaning, solicit complaints that – like the one Senator Thorpe has put forward – are comparatively pretty petty in the scale of the kinds of disadvantage some Indigenous people face, you get regular punters who are common sense offside. They become less sympathetic to the needs of people who genuinely do need help, and that's divisive. It's the same problem that's raised every time. The senator who cried wolf, senator who cried racism, Senator Thorpe, describes everything she doesn't like as racist.

BEN FORDHAM:

Yeah, we mentioned yesterday she says the police are racist, the parliament is racist, the army is racist. Andrew Twiggy Forrest is racist, even though he employs more Indigenous Australians than just about anyone else in the country.

If I can switch gears for a moment, Kimberley Kitching, I see that Anthony Albanese, the Labor leader, still doesn't want to talk about Kimberley Kitching. He still won't have an investigation.

AMANDA STOKER:

No, he won't. And when I think about the loss to this country and to the Parliament that comes from the passing of my friend in Senator Kimberley Kitching – noting that she's from across the aisle. She epitomised that bipartisan spirit, that principled way of working that people think of when they think of the parliaments of old. But let's be real here; if a construction worker or a shop assistant passed away or suffered serious health consequences because they had been so bullied at work that it adversely affected their health, then there would automatically be a workplace health and safety investigation. It would be thorough, and those who might have perpetrated the kinds of acts that led to that harm would face consequences in their employment, and there would probably be things like compensation that flowed if there were findings that the person had been bullied.

Not only is that not being triggered by the party who claims to be associated with the unions that are always going on about safety, but he refuses to observe that there's a problem. He refuses to even engage in the inquiry that might get to the bottom of whether or not this is what happened here. And there's plenty of people in her family and friends who say that it was. And you can only assume that the reason is that he is not prepared to take on that cantankerous cabal, to use Kimberley's husband's words, of mean girls, and that he is not prepared to face the scrutiny that comes from the failure of Labor's leadership to act.

BEN FORDHAM:

Well, those calls are getting louder. I mentioned earlier, Jenny George, the former ACTU boss, has added her name to the list of people calling for that investigation. Look, we've got to run, we've got the news creeping up. We appreciate your time this morning, Amanda.

AMANDA STOKER:

Thanks for having me, Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:

Amanda Stoker, the Liberal Senator and Assistant Minister for Women. And prior to the funeral the Labor leaders were saying, oh no, it would be inappropriate to talk about this before the funeral. Now the funeral is out of the way, they’re still not talking.