Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Alexandra Kirk reported this story on Friday, December 28, 2012 
TONY EASTLEY: Opposition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull has called on web entrepreneurs to set up one or more "rigorous fact checking websites" to hold public figures, like politicians, to account.

Mr Turnbull used a public address at the Woodford Folk Festival yesterday to argue for less spin in politics, saying it's never been easier in public life to get away with telling lies and to deliver glib one-liners.

Mr Turnbull is speaking here to Alexandra Kirk.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Malcolm Turnbull, why do you think it's so easy for politicians to get away with lies and glib one-liners?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, it's a good question. It may be because the media cycle is so short and there's so little time for reflection and that no sooner is one story out then it's replaced by another or it may be as I said in Queensland that the media has become so cynical about politicians that they are not surprised when they tell lies.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Well, would they be right in being cynical?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, I think they are being too cynical if that's the case. You know, the problem with false information being peddled whether it is by politicians or by the journalists themselves or by other people in the public domain is a very real one. The challenges we face as a nation are truly profound. The solutions are not terribly obvious whether it is global warming, whether it is dealing with the regional security issues, whether it is dealing with global financial issues - all of these challenges are very, very profound but we need to be addressing them in an accurate, factual context.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Presumably you'd say that you don't tell lies?


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But what about glib one-liners?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, I try to avoid those. I get accused more often than not of speaking at too great a length but the key message I wanted to get across with this - was that we must resolve in 2013 to do the right thing, all of us, by the Australian people and that is to inform rather than to obscure.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Well, your leader Tony Abbott is fond of catchy one-liners - stop the boats, stop the carbon tax, axe the tax - are they in your firing line?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: I'm not targeting anybody. I'm saying a one-liner I guess is defensible if it is backed up by argument and by fact - if it's a headline, every story has to have a headline, but all too often we see headlines and no story.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: You'd like to see one or two quote "rigorous" fact checking websites but what about your own party? It has lots of resources, why not utilise the resources of your own party to keep your party on track and supposedly not tell lies or come out with glib one-liners?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Let me just make this point about lies first Alex, that most of the false statements that are made in the public domain are not lies in the sense that the speaker knows what they're saying is untrue. They are false statements that are made because people haven't bothered to go to the trouble of ensuring what they're saying is accurate. So it's not simply a question of lying, it is important to get the facts straight.

No, I think there is a real role as has developed in the United States for a fact-checking, an independent and objective fact-checking website or service that can hold all of us to account, whether it is columnists writing about big issues and misleading people in their columns or whether it's politicians doing the same.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Well, does the fact that there isn't one tell you something?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well it tells me there isn't one. It could be perhaps a good role the ABC and I suppose all of the media organisations could check each other but there is in the United States an independent fact checking website which I think has, I think was very useful in the last campaign. I don't think it prevented people making false statements or outrageous claims but it certainly held them to account and I have no doubt that one of the elements in Governor Romney's defeat was the fact that the Republicans made so many outrageous claims and they were caught out.

TONY EASTLEY: Opposition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull speaking there to Alexandra Kirk. 

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