Rebekha delivers on Fund Our ABC promise

Rebekha delivers on Fund Our ABC promise

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie honoured another by-election commitment this week by lodging a motion calling on the Government to reverse nearly $340 million in funding cuts to the ABC.

The Centre Alliance MP also tabled a petition signed by nearly 700 people from Mayo calling for a return to pre-2014 funding for the national broadcaster and an end to speculation that the Government would privatise the ABC.

“These names are just a snapshot of the depth of concern in the Australian community that Australia's public broadcaster is being ‘privatised by stealth’,” Rebekha said.

“We are not talking about idle rumours. We are talking about a systematic campaign to slash the budget of the ABC combined with sustained attacks from various sections of the political right to question the integrity of the ABC and to sell it off.

“It started with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s 2014 budget that resulted in $254 million in funding cuts and now in 2018 under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the ABC faces a further cut of $84 million over the next three years.

“We heard in Senate Estimates that the ABC has shed around 1000 jobs since 2014.

“That figure equates to nearly a quarter of the ABC’s full-time equivalent workforce of around 4100 employees, so the impact of these cuts are enormous.”

In addition to calling on funding restoration, Rebekha’s motion noted strong connections between the Government and the conservative think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs and their views about privatising the ABC.

The motion stated that:

  • Many members of the Government are former staffers and/or members of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA);
  • The IPA has advised the Government to privatise the ABC and has published “Against Public Broadcasting: Why We Should Privatise the ABC and How to Do It”;
  • On 7 October 2008, Senator Fifield, now Minister for Communications, gave a speech entitled “Fiscal Contraception: Erecting Barrier to Impulsive Spending” and in that speech, the Senator stated that “Conservatives have often floated the prospect of privatizing the ABC and Australia Post and there is merit in such proposals.”
  • The Liberal Party’s 2018 Federal Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the “full privatisation of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, except for services into regional areas”;
  • No Government Ministers present at that Federal Council spoke against the motion during the debate.

“I find it staggering that the Federal Council could vote overwhelmingly in favour of the privatisation of the ABC and not one Government Minister at that event defended the ABC during the debate,” Rebekha said.

“Frankly, the fact that the Communications Minister and the Prime Minister came out later and denied privatisation would ever happen sends conflicting messages to its rank and file party members and the Australian public.

“Is it any wonder that supporters of the ABC are deeply concerned about the future of our public broadcaster?

“You do not have to go very far back in our political history, the GST being just one example, to see that Governments regularly change their minds on significant policy positions, especially if they are ideologically inclined to do so.

“The funding cuts combined with these events are clear warning signs that the Government is paving the way for a sell-off despite the Communication Minister’s statement to the contrary.”

Last month Rebekha became the first politician in Australia to receive an ABC Friends “Defenders Badge” in recognition of her ongoing support for Australia’s public broadcaster.

“Australians who value the ABC are speaking up and I know that I and my Centre Alliance colleagues will be advocating strongly to restore the ABC's funding to pre-2014 levels."

Sue Pinnock, Friends of the ABC (SA/NT) President and SA representative on the ABC Friends National Committee, welcomed the motion and petition.

“Rebekha has made a strong call for the Government to reverse the funding cuts it has imposed on the ABC since 2014 and to protect the ABC from privatisation,” she said.

“Last month Rebekha, a committed member of the Parliamentary Friends of the ABC, was the first politician in Australia to receive an ABC Friends “Defenders Badge” in recognition of her ongoing support for Australia’s public broadcaster.

“A well-funded and independent ABC is crucial for our democracy."