Leigh Sales has admonished those in power who continually ‘let down’ the Australian public.

The host of the ABC’s 7.30 barely drew breath for five minutes at a Sydney media lunch this afternoon, as she reeled off a long list of offenders from phone companies to sex offenders, sports cheats and Robodebt.

At the event hosted by the Sydney Media Club and the Kennedy Awards at M Bar in Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay, Ms Sales was being interviewed by ABC executive editor and head of investigations John Lyons about her role as anchor of the highly regarded current affairs program and her nearly 30-year career as a journalist.

But after a few whimsical stories about encounters with celebrities the journalist, known for her hard questioning of politicians, turned up the heat.

 Asked by Lyons “how would you describe what’s going on in Australia at the moment?” Sales began reflecting on the recent protests against the treatment of women.

In front of an audience of around 100 people the multiple Walkley Award winner listed all the things she thinks the Australian public is fed-up with.

Ms Sales comments, which were met with rapt applause when she finished, are repeated here verbatim:

“We are seeing women say that they have had enough. They have had enough of people in power using the system to enshrine their power and keep women as less powerful. But I also feel that that is fitting in a broader context about awareness of power generally, because I feel like every single night when I’m hosting 7.30, that I see stories in which people in power are exploiting or taking advantage of people with less power.

“In many cases, people that they have been paid to care for, or have expressly said that they promise to serve and I see it all the time, every night on the show. I feel like I’m constantly asking myself this question ‘did something change in this country?’ Did something change, that the standard for behaviour now is not ‘I have to do the right thing’ or ‘I have to do what I promised I said I would do’, but instead ‘how much can I get away with?’

“I think that, from what I hear people say on 7.30 Australians are sick of this kind of situation.

They’re sick of financial advisors who take people’s life savings… knowing the entire time that they’re fleecing them.

“They’re sick of banks gouging their accounts with fees and charges while somehow missing large scale money laundering, that’s funnelling millions of dollars overseas to terrorism or child exploitation.

“They’re sick of highly profitable nursing homes taking money from families, and then neglecting or abusing mum or dad.

“They’re sick of financial advisors who promise to take people’s life savings and help them pay for their retirement, knowing the entire time that they’re fleecing them.

“I think the unemployed, students, pensioners were pretty sick of being harassed by a powerful government department to repay debt that they never actually even owed in the first place.

“People are tired of private health insurance constantly upping fees, then you go to a specialist and they go ‘oh sorry it’s not covered by private health’.

“They’re sick of telecommunications companies that promised the world when you sign up for the Internet, and then when you’re having a problem with it and it won’t work, they won’t pick up their phone to answer your call in any kind of timely fashion.

“They’re sick of rich multinational companies underpaying their workers and then not even having the common courtesy to ring people when those workers are killed on the job.

“They’re sick of priests abusing children in their care, or scoutmasters. They’re sick of the priests who cover up for those kinds of priests.

“They’re sick of 59-year-old teachers who rape 15-year-old students.

“They’re sick of government after government telling people that they’ll close the gap on Indigenous life expectancy and then decade after decade it stubbornly remains at about 20 years. You deserve 20 years less life in Australia, apparently, if you’re Indigenous.

“They’re sick of politicians acting like public money is their own private fund and giving development deals to their mates or grants to their political allies and in the worst cases are taking kickbacks to line their own pockets.

“They’re sick of film producers, who have won life’s lotto and yet still treat young actors like they should be molested and manipulated.

“Even the Australian Cricket team let down the ordinary Australian fan with cheating and ball-tampering. You can’t even trust as an Australian that you won’t be made a fool of by the Australian cricket team.

We are not doing a good enough job in this country… of looking after the least powerful members of our society.

“I mean, this is night after night on 7.30 that we have these stories and I just think it is sickening to see this constant situation where powerful people and institutions exploit less powerful people.

“And I think from what the public says to me on the street, that they are sick of people coming on my show, when they get found out and saying, ‘oh, I’m so sorry, I had no idea this was happening – can’t take any more questions about it, because we’ve commissioned a report into it’. And then that report, when it comes through, sits in a bottom drawer, gathering dust and the same thing happens again and then they commission another report. It’s well past time that this kind of thing needs to change

“What do a lot of these stories that I’ve mentioned have in common? Who holds the levers of power, mostly, in this country? In boardrooms? In CEO suites? In the media? In governments? In cabinet? It’s men.

“And we are not doing a good enough job in this country, as you will see, any night when you watch 7.30, of looking after the least powerful members of our society.”



Story by Soofia Tariq @soofiatariq

Main picture Leigh Sales, right, with John Lyons at M Bar today. (Photo: Travis Radford @trav_is_rad)

Audio editor: Kay Powell @writingwithkay