Veteran journalist verballed in quote about PM staff 'lawyering up' - Australian Associated Press
Newly elected President of the National Press Club Laura Tingle speaks ahead of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressing the National Press Club in Canberra, Monday, February 1, 2021. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

Veteran journalist verballed in quote about PM staff ‘lawyering up’

AAP FactCheck June 21, 2021

The Statement

Multiple social media users have shared a purported quote from ABC political journalist Laura Tingle that suggests Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s staff are “hiring lawyers to protect themselves from him”.

One Australian user posted the quote in a meme alongside the comment: “From Laura Tingle!! of all people.. I haven’t found the source for this, but it speaks volumes!”.

At the time of writing, the June 15 post had been shared more than 900 times. Numerous other Australian Facebook pages have published the same meme – see examples here, here, here and here.

Facebook post
 A quote on a social meme attributes the source to ABC political journalist Laura Tingle. 

The Analysis

The quote has been wrongly attributed to the long-standing political reporter – rather, it is from a political blog and has been falsely ascribed in the meme.

On March 24, the Kangaroo Court of Australia website, which says it is focused on investigating political, judicial and police corruption, published a commentary article titled: “Scott Morrison’s office staff lawyer up because they do not trust him regarding the Brittany Higgins alleged rape cover-up.”

The article claims staff in the Prime Minister’s office are hiring lawyers “to protect themselves” from an internal investigation into how rape allegations put forward by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins were handled. The review is being overseen by the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Philip Gaetjens.

The Kangaroo Court of Australia article includes comments from Tingle about the investigation drawn from ABC’s 7.30 program on March 17. The article then continues in a lengthy commentary section that includes the quote from the meme.

In the 7.30 broadcast, Tingle, the program’s chief political correspondent, told host Leigh Sales that “there are quite a lot of lawyers involved” in the Gaetjens review “with staff wanting to make sure that their positions are protected”. The full exchange is as follows:

LEIGH SALES (2min 40sec): Can you give us an update, Laura, please, on the Gaetjens review which is the one that is looking at who knew what in the Prime Minister’s office about the Brittany Higgins case?

LAURA TINGLE: Yes, you would think that this wasn’t all that complicated, Leigh. That the prime minister could just go and ask his staff, but he has got the head of PM and C (Prime Minister and Cabinet) to investigate this. He has told parliament today that he still hasn’t got that report. He still has not said whether it will be made public and there are suggestions that there are quite a lot of lawyers involved now with staff wanting to make sure that their positions are protected in whatever they say to the Gaetjens review, so that may be why the whole review has been slowed down.

Tingle does not say the words attributed to her in the meme during the interview, nor does the Kangaroo Court of Australia article claim she said them.

In an email to AAP FactCheck, Tingle said she was “rather mystified” by the commentary from the article being wrongly attributed to her.

“(The article) quoted me saying people were lawyering up and then made the other observations themselves. Someone has accidentally or mischievously attributed the whole thing to me,” she said.

The publisher of the Kangaroo Court of Australia website, Shane Dowling, also confirmed to AAP FactCheck via email that he was responsible for the words included in the meme – not Tingle.

The same meme was previously posted to Twitter in March, Dowling said, prompting him to issue a tweet on April 2 correcting the source of the text.

“I suppose it is the ultimate form of flattery when someone takes what I said and gives credit to Laura Tingle for saying it,” he tweeted.

Laura Tingle addressing the National Press Club in Canberra
ABC journalist Laura Tingle addressing the National Press Club this year. 

The Verdict

Journalist Laura Tingle did not say the words attributed to her in the Facebook meme. The quote was taken from a commentary piece on a political blog, whose author confirmed he was responsible for the quote.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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