Station: ABC 612 BRISBANE Date: 13/07/2006
Program: DRIVE Time: 03:05 PM
Compere: KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE Summary ID: B00022639175
Item: HIGGINS-DEVINE SAYS ABC MANAGING DIRECTOR MARK
SCOTT HAS BEEN VISITING LOCAL STAFF TODAY.
INTERVIEW WITH MARK SCOTT
INTERVIEWEES: MARK SCOTT, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ABC
Demographics: Male 16+ Female 16+ All people ABs GBs
12400 12500 24800 5300 12400
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: Mark Scott is the new Managing Director
of the ABC. He has been visiting local staff today.
Six days into the job, and of course had intentions
to visit staff in Brisbane, but that meeting has come
a little quicker than expected after another staff
member was diagnosed recently with breast cancer -
- the 12th case in the past decade. As you'd know,
last Friday ABC staff in Brisbane called a snap
strike demanding management propose plans for
relocating local operations within seven days. And
tomorrow is that deadline.
Mark Scott, good afternoon and welcome to 612.
MARK SCOTT: Hi Kelly, good to be with you.
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: So you held a meeting with staff earlier
this afternoon, they want off this site. What's your
MARK SCOTT: Yeah Kelly I've had a very interesting day here with
staff. I've done a tour of the site, I met with a
number of the women who'd been diagnosed with
breast cancer over the last decade, and I had a full
meeting with staff in the cafeteria over lunch time.
And firstly, I thank the staff for their frankness and
their openness in talking with me about their
concerns here, and there is a reality that we have to
deal with and that is that a number of our colleagues
have been diagnosed with breast cancer – that's very
That is a fact. What we don't know is a few critical
things. We don't really have the scientific evidence
that says it's an atypical number -- that it's a spike
even though we fear it might be. And then what we
don't know is, is there something about the building,
is there something about the premises, is there
something about the technology we use that may
have been a cause, or a trigger, of that breast cancer.
So, you know, you and I are both trained as
journalists and so what do we do in circumstances
where the facts aren't known? Well firstly we try
and find out what the facts actually are and if in fact
those facts are confusing, then we go to experts to
try and explain, and work out what the facts mean
and what we should do. And that's what I've done.
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: Is that what you're doing?
MARK SCOTT: That's what I've done. What I've done today,
announced to staff, is that I'm setting up an expert
advisory panel to advise me on issues related to the
illnesses that have arisen at the site. That panel is
going to be chaired by Dr, Bruce Armstrong, who's
a Professor of Public Health, and he also heads the
Sydney Cancer Centre.
And we're going to be pulling together an advisory
panel of epidemiologists and breast cancer
specialists. They're going to look at the previous
research work that's been done on the site, and the
previous testing results. They're going to tell us
whether there is any another work that we need to
do – be it surveys of staff, be it scientific testing, be
it anything else. And then they're going to give me
advice arising from that.
I mean it's a most unusual circumstance. I know the
staff are very concerned, and it is distressing that
people have got sick. But we really don't know, and
that's why I've taken advice on the very best panel
that I can find. I consulted the Chief Medical
Officer of the Commonwealth – he said if you could
get anyone, Dr Bruce Armstrong would be the best
person to get, and I'm delighted that he's come on
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: Mark, we had Professor Beth Newman
from QUT, a leading breast cancer expert in here
talking with us yesterday. And the upshot of her
conversation, with staff, was that we don't really
know what causes breast cancer.
We know risk factors, but we don't really know
what might trigger it in somebody, and somebody
with all the risk factors may never get it, somebody
with only one might get it, somebody with none
might get it.
When we were talking about all the technology and
how that might be interfering, she said who knows.
The guts of that conversation was, we don't really
know. We could do months and months, and years
of study and may never know what the problem is.
Whether it's the site, whether it is just, it just
happens to be coincidence, one of those things that
What if in 12 months after the panel does their
work, we're back to square one again? What are you
going to do? Because in the end we're rolling the
dice on people's lives.
MARK SCOTT: Well I think that's a fair question Kelly. One of
things I think we can know for sure that we don't
know yet, is to complete the work that says is this
an atypical spike or not? Now there have been two,
and to do that, I have asked for the staff's help and
support on this today and I have had a very positive
One of the things we've got to try to find out is –
yes we know people have had breast cancer, but is
it, given people's backgrounds, given that they're
genetic background, family background, other
things to do, within a sense their lifestyles and
whatever else – is this an atypical spike?
Now Queensland Health weren't able to be
definitive on that, and in order to do that we need
staff members to be pretty open and pretty honest to
complete surveys, to talk about their family history,
to talk about decisions they've made in their lives, I
guess -- lifestyle decisions. We need that
And in fact if you could get that, then in fact your
part of the way to unlocking the mystery because it
says look, this isn't just coincidence, this isn't just
chance, we've got an issue here.
Even though you may not then be able to go the
second step and identify environmental factors. I
would say that there are identified some
environmental factors that trigger and cause
cancers, and they would be things that you would
want, you know, the advisory panel might say they
want to do further testing on.
But I don't want to put the cart before the horse. I
mean, one of the things that is inevitable that you
want to do, is you want to speculate and you want
to come up with theories and hypotheses. I found
myself doing that myself. That's why I've got the
And I think, you know, one of the things that they
might say is we think you've got a problem with the
site but we can't work out what that is.
And what I've said to the staff here is quite clear. If
the advice I get from the expert panel is – you've
got a problem with the site, we believe that keeping
staff here increases their risk of becoming unwell –
we will move.
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: In the meantime, why not move staff off,
just in case it is the site because otherwise we've
spent 12 months at a site where there is something
MARK SCOTT: Yeah, I think that's a fair question.
Firstly I've never said that it's going to take 12
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: Sorry, well whatever time period it might
MARK SCOTT: Yeah, and as I think the advisory committee will
find out, staff here are very concerned. They don't
want to wait, and I'm going to be doing everything
that I can to expedite the work that's being done, so
if the committee wants testing done, it will be done
as soon as we can possibly to do. If there's surveys
of staff they want done, we'll do them as soon as we
possibly can, so we're really going to try and
Why not move off? You see part of the question
we've got to deal with here is that, is it the building?
Is it the site?
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: But while we don't know...
MARK SCOTT: Is it the technology?
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: Why not move them? While we don't
MARK SCOTT: Is it because -- if it's the technology we'd be moving
the technology with the people. If it's the site, you
could be relocating people on the site and moving
them to another part of the site.
We think the absolute priority is to get the
information and get the data. And some of that
might be preliminary reports. What I'm not
envisaging a process here – I've said to the staff,
we're going to be very open. I'm not going to get a
report from the professor that I don't share with the
staff. When I have more information, I'll let them
And I think part of the thing I'll be asking them is,
do they have any initial advice given the data we
have now, and whether it would be better to move
or relocate on a temporary basis. And if I'm told
that by the experts, then I will – it's very hard for
people because it's so emotional. But as journalists
we kind of do this all the time.
We ask what are the facts and what are the experts
telling us. And that's what I ask the people here. If
the experts tell me, that it would be smart to move
people out, we'll move them out. But I'm not going
to make that judgement. I'm encouraging staff not
to, to simply leap to that, but we've engaged the
experts to provide the advice and that's what we're
going to do.
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: If in the end, and I realise that you don't
want to pre-judge the panel, but if in the end, and
from what Beth Newman said yesterday, it's quite a
possibility that they can come up with no definitive
answer -- if no causal links are found -- what can be
done then? Because staff are frightened. The
women who work in that building, and the men as
well, are frightened for their lives. And that's just
the truth of it.
So, how do you convince those people to stay with
the ABC that they love working for, and to stay in a
building that they don't trust?
MARK SCOTT: Look, I think that's a fair question and I don't know
the answer to that yet. I want to talk with the
experts, see what they say and see what they advise
me with. We aren't the only organisation to ever
face this. Other organisations have faced this and
had to deal with this, and I will take advice.
But I do want to create an environment -- you
know, as Managing Director of the ABC, what
struck me in my first six days Kelly, people are
immensely proud of working at the ABC, they're
proud of their work and they love working here. I've
been amazed at how positive and upbeat people
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: I think we're all cynics.
MARK SCOTT: Yeah, about working at the ABC. People love it.
And I want to create an environment whereby
people feel safe and secure at their work and that
you can come to work and people at the ABC can
come to work and worry about creating great
programs, breaking important news stories, rather
than worrying about their health.
So that is of concern to me. But, you know, one of
the things my wife said to me over the weekend as
we were discussing this, because this arrived on my
plate on you know day two in the job – we've got
three daughters and she said to me -- would you be
happy with your daughters to work in that site?
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: Would you?
MARK SCOTT: Well let me tell you how I worked that through. I
mean they're teenagers and it's a hypothetical
question, so it's very easy to say yes and that's not a
meaningful answer. What's a meaningful answer is
when your children face some threat, or when your
children face some difficulty, what do you do? If
your child is sick, what do you do? Or if you're
fearful of your child, what you try and do, and what
we've had to do in circumstances in our family –
you ring around and find out who are the very, very
best people to help you in this. Who are the
specialists in this area? Who does this better than
Then you go to them and you do what they say to
do. You have the medical tests done that they say to
have done. If they say you need surgery done, you
have the surgery done. You put your trust in their
expertise and their insight. And that's really what I
am trying to do now.
Now finally, they might come back to me this panel
and say, we've done all we can do, but finally
decisions need to be made by the ABC. If they say
that, then decisions will be made by the ABC,
Kelly, and I'll be back talking with you explaining
to you what those decisions are and why we've
I've been very clear and upfront with the staff today.
I've answered every question that they've asked.
We've got nothing to hide. And on day six, I've got
nothing to hide. I'm not the least bit defensive here.
There are no previous decisions that have been
made that we have to cover up or be worried about.
We want to know – that's why we've got the panel,
and that's what we've engaged them to help us with.
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: We'll be talking with Bruce Armstrong, the
head of that panel after five o'clock.
MARK SCOTT: Terrific.
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: Mark Scott, new indeed, thank you very
much. Let's hope that your next six days are a little
bit less eventful than your first six days.
MARK SCOTT: I appreciate that. Bye.
KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: That's Mark Scott, the new Managing
Director of the ABC.
* * END * *
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