ABC sacks Quentin Dempster
Dismayed: The host of 7.30 NSW, Quentin Dempster, an ABC employee of more than 30 years, was sad about the loss of his program. Photo: Wolter Peeters
When veteran ABC broadcaster, Quentin Dempster, says
"bye-bye" in his Queensland, boy-from-the-bush way next Friday night, it
will be for the last time.
After more than 30 years with the national public
broadcaster, Dempster told viewers on Friday night that he plans to go
out with a "bang".
"Next Friday will be the final edition of 7.30 NSW," he said.
"I will be leaving the ABC after 30 years to return to the private sector. It has been an honour to work with Australia's great and unique public broadcaster."
The ABC is abolishing local TV current affairs programs including 7.30 NSW.
"I think the ABC is making a big mistake in axing these shows
and will have to revisit the deficiency in future years," Dempster
Within two hours of ABC managing director Mark Scott's
announcement to staff on Monday that 400 jobs would be lost around the
country, director of news, Kate Torney, called Dempster into her office
to tell him he had no future role at the ABC.
"I will be among 300 staff retrenched in the first round of the ABC's cuts," he said.
"This is a very emotional time for me.
"I have worked extremely hard for the ABC to faithfully use the opportunity it has given me."
On why he was being "sacked", Dempster says he "only ever
sought to uphold the integrity of Her Majesty's institutions, the
Parliament and the police, in Queensland and NSW."
"That's not left-wing," he said. "There could be nothing more conservative.
"Why isn't Rupert Murdoch being sacked for phone hacking,
invasion of privacy, intimidating the politicians, his tax havens and
all those tits on page three? Just asking."
In what has been described as a "Hunger Games" approach to
staff culling, colleagues with similar skill sets have been grouped into
small pools and told that some within that group will be among 300 to
lose their jobs by Christmas Eve.
"This has been a brutal and bruising process for all affected people," Dempster said.
"During this week I have been assisting and comforting staff
as they go through what's called a 'pooling' process and made to
scramble among each other for available jobs in skills categories."
Ms Torney confirmed she had met with Dempster on Monday to inform him he would have no future position with the ABC.
"It is with deep regret that we lose someone with the
experience, integrity and reputation of Quentin and viewers and
colleagues alike will greatly miss the enormous contribution he has made
over such a long period," she said.
Dempster, 63, hosted 7.30 Report before it was turned into a national program hosted by Kerry O'Brien in 1997.
He later became a part-time presenter of a program called Stateline at 6pm on Fridays.
"With executive producer Murray Travis [the late Paul
Lyneham's producer] we worked hard to make the program relevant even
with a timeslot which put us up against Brian Henderson's 6pm news on Nine and the Channel 7 news with Ross Symonds," Dempster said.
Stateline moved to a 7.30pm Friday slot in 2001 and was renamed as 7.30 NSW in 2009.
"Since then the show was seen to make a very valuable
contribution to localism, even though I have been agitating since 1997
to have local current affairs returned to a nightly schedule, preferably
at 6.30pm weeknights [with 10 minutes] of local news," Dempster said.
"While the ABC acknowledged there was a deficiency the reinvestment
could not be approved because of cost."
In 1992, Dempster was awarded the Order of Australia for
services to the media, "particularly in the fields of journalism and
current affairs". Ten years later, he was honoured with a Walkley Award
for the "most outstanding contribution to journalism".
Dempster started his journalism career in newspapers and was chief political reporter at The Telegraph in Brisbane before joining the ABC in 1984. Within three years he was fronting 7.30 Report in Queensland.
While covering the Fitzgerald inquiry into police and
political corruption, he wrote daily re-enactments and analysis to break
down its complex evidence in a way that was easy for viewers to
In 1990, after moving to Sydney to host 7.30 Report in NSW, he turned his attention to police corruption in NSW while covering the Wood royal commission.
He is the author of several books including Honest Cops, Whistleblowers and Death Struggle.
An active member of MEAA, the journalists' union, he was also a staff-elected director of the board of the ABC.