In the wake of Four Corners’ recent episode on the situation of refugee children on Nauru, part of the government’s criticism was that Immigration Minister Peter Dutton had offered to do a live interview on the program, but the ABC had turned him down.

The ABC responded by saying it had offered Dutton an interview on Lateline, or on AM the next day — both offers were declined.

Now Debbie Whitmont, the reporter behind Four Corners’ documentary, has further explained the ABC’s reasoning, saying that allowing Dutton to chew up minutes wouldn’t have been the best use of time.

Four Corners is the only one program on the ABC that’s a long-form crafted documentary program,” she said on 2SER’s Fourth Estate on Thursday night. “We have many other outlets with live interviews. We’re structuring a documentary. It’s not going to work to take 10 to seven minutes off the end to have an interview that may go nowhere in that seven minutes, and there are many other outlets on the ABC where that can occur. And the minister was offered a live interview on Lateline or AM – both were declined.”

“This play has occured before,” she added. “The ABC should be seen as a whole entity.”

The most disappointing thing about the criticism of the program, Whitmont says, was that the children interviewed by Four Corners would have seen it.

“I felt really bad for the young people we spoke to. They’re really very smart, they follow the Australian media, they know what’s gong on. I felt awful that response to this program was — rather than looking at concerns they had raised or anything they said — to criticise the ABC. That’s not the first time it’s happened, but that’s the most disappointing thing.” — Myriam Robin