August 20, 2018


I think it is a disgrace that only one member of the government has had the conviction to stand up for the ABC. I might have expected it from Liberal members, but why more Nationals aren't standing up for the people of the bush I can't fathom. I well remember the promise by then opposition leader Tony Abbott in 2013 that there would be no cuts to the ABC. We all remember that.

What an absolute joke it proved to be. Since 2014, the ABC funding has been cut by $366 million and 800 jobs have been lost. Some of those people are people that I studied journalism with. That newsroom in Sydney has shrunk beyond recognition. In this year alone, $83.7 million has been cut.

Funding cuts are one thing, but two damaging public broadcasting inquiries and three pieces of legislation to
undermine the ABC charter take it to a new level. This is the biggest attack on the ABC's independence that we
have seen. It shows the real intent on that side of the House. This is a federal government willing to use the ABC
as a bargaining chip in its deals with One Nation. If you let that sink in and think of what the consequences of
that are, it is horrific that they're willing to trade off the ABC for whatever purpose.

We know the ideology is driven by the Institute of Public Affairs, which several government MPs have been
former staffers of. They have advised the government to privatise the ABC. Nearly a decade ago, the minister,
Senator Fifield, gave a speech in which he stated:

'Conservatives have often floated the prospect of privatising the ABC and Australia Post. There is merit in such

That is an outrage! We should never look at privatising the independent voice that is funded by taxpayers, that
cannot be influenced because it has a charter that protects it. But what's really driving this government in its
efforts to demonise the ABC is it's ideology. That's what's behind the recent Liberal Party federal council vote
to proceed with a full privatisation of the ABC, except for services in regional areas. Well, small mercies there.
Was this hotly debated? By all accounts, no. Not a single government minister at that federal council spoke
against the motion.

Let's look at the consequences of these cumulative attacks on the ABC. The ABC says that the financial impact of
the decision cannot be absorbed by efficiency measures. They have cut and cut already. It used to cost Australians
8c a day to run the ABC; now it costs 4c a day. Yet the ABC is delivering across so many more platforms.

These funding decisions make it difficult for the ABC to meet its charter requirements and to meet the audience
expectations. Part of me wonders if that's what this is all about: 'Let's undermine the ability of the ABC to deliver
to the community; let's undermine it in any way we can to destroy the support that we know is out there in the
community.' And that support is not just in Labor held seats; that support is also in Liberal and National held
seats, as well as, clearly, in Independent held seats.

My seat, the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury, has a very large Friends of the ABC—one of the largest groups in the country. I was lucky enough to attend the rally in Sydney to support the ABC, and that was packed to overflowing.

What are the things that people care about? No. 1, let's talk about the independence of news—that is the foundation of a strong democracy—and the ability of journalists to be able to go out and do their job without fear or favour and
without worrying what a proprietor might think. For someone who's come out of commercial radio, I can tell you
that's something to be valued and protected. Also, we have the ABC helping us understand our place in the world
because they have Australian reporters all across the world. Those things start to be cut when funding gets cut.

The ABC has a commitment to telling Australian stories in homemade dramas—and, Deputy Speaker, you and
I both know the importance of that—and a commitment to quality children's television. It's not just Play School
and Bananas in Pyjamas, which my children grew up on, but also a variety of voices that reflect who we are
as Australians. I want to know that any grandchildren I might end up with one day will have the same benefit
of growing up with those Australian voices. There's also a commitment to covering in a thorough and balanced way issues on radio and online that wouldn't rate a mention anywhere else.

There's a commitment to making sure Australian musicians are heard—whether it's broadcasting classical music from our symphony orchestras or Unearthed for the new up-and-coming musicians on Triple J. These are the things that matter—and, yes, bushfires. We need the ABC.