Remember When The Turnbull Staffer Said This?

The sacking of SBS reporter Scott McIntyre after a series of controversial tweets with respect to ANZAC Day has certainly stirred up a whirlpool of reaction, and fired up the free-speech debate in Australia.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull got involved, making sure that McIntyre’s tweets were seen by his boss, SBS managing director Michael Ebeid.

“Mr Turnbull, who has described the comments as “despicable”, drew them to the attention of SBS’s managing director Michael Ebeid.

Now, whether or not Turnbull directly requested/required/suggested the sacking of McIntyre isn’t really the point. Personally, I doubt that he did, but his actions did put McIntyre and his employment directly in the firing line of SBS management.

“But in his capacity as a reporter employed by SBS he has to comply with and face the consequences of ignoring the SBS social media protocol.

Maybe – but ignoring the content of the tweets for just a moment, all McIntyre was doing was expressing his view – who are SBS – (and Turnbull, for that matter) – to decide what is and isn’t an appropriate level of free speech?

Is expressing free speech a breach of SBS social media policy?

On the evidence – apparently so, and that’s a big concern. Turnbull’s basic view of the matter was that the tweets were “offensive”.

Perhaps they were, perhaps they weren’t – that’s the point of free-speech – not everyone is going to agree with what we say.

McIntyre certainly wasn’t rude in his tweets, he just expressed an unpopular opinion.

Boohoo – we all confront unpopular opinions every single day of our lives.

Get over it.

But how far should a public person, or someone representing a public person go when it comes to addressing public issues?

Remember when one of Turnbull’s own staffers said this?

“Nobody challenges your numbers because nobody takes your psychotic rantings seriously. Nobody. Nevertheless they are all wrong. All of them – you don’t have a clue about the existing deal, much less how it might be modified. Given what you write is a delusional fantasy that exists only in your own mind, you can get fucked.”

Turnbull of course, when it was brought to his attention tried to mop things up neatly:

“Turnbull, the shadow communications minister, addressed the spat on Twitter on Wednesday, posting: “Regret my staffer’s lapse into vulgar Anglo-Saxon in an email to a blogger. Charm remediation has been administered and equanimity restored.””

So apart from an apparent tickle over the wrist with a metaphorical piece of soggy celery, the staffer wasn’t disciplined, and certainly was not separated from his employment.


While the tweets sent by McIntyre were in regard to a much more sensitive subject than that which extracted the definitive expletive from Turnbull’s staffer in 2013, Turnbull has seemingly made sure he was shot down for speaking his mind.

If you are Michael Ebeid, when Malcolm Turnbull – (your boss) – rings you to bring some tweets to your attention, he isn’t ringing you to have a laugh about them – he wants action taken. Why else would he do it? Turnbull saying that it wasn’t up to him is nothing more than semantics, something he is very good at.

You can express an unpopular view, and lose your job. Or you can tell a constituent to “get fucked” and all is sweet.

Whether you agree with the sentiments expressed by McIntyre or not, Turnbull has managed to front up with a double standard that should be explained.