How will your vote on Saturday affect the ABC?
Over the past couple of weeks, ABC Friends WA has been sending a questionnaire to candidates to gauge their support or otherwise for the ABC. We concentrated on the marginal electorates of Cowan, Swan and Hasluck, but the surveys went out to most candidates in most electorates. You can see it here.
Responses (or lack thereof) are described below.
Not a single WA candidate returned the completed questionnaire. Instead, ABC Friends in several states, including WA, received a short statement, without a signature, attached to an email titled ‘Morrison Government response to ABC Friends’. The statement mentions that the ABC receives $1 billion in funding per annum .. (plus) .. an additional $43.7 million for the enhanced news gathering program. It ends by stating that it (the Government), will never privatise or sell the ABC. You can see the letter here.
In the last 6 years the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison governments have slashed more than $500m from the ABC’s budget with a resultant 1,000 job losses, centralisation, and reductions in programming.
In 2018 the Liberal Party Council voted to privatise the ABC.
Only 3 candidates responded. Dr. Anne Aly (Cowan) not only ticked the boxes, but also contributed some thoughtful comments. Kim Travers (Pearce) returned the questionnaire with all the ‘Yes’ boxes ticked, and Shelley Payne (O’Connor) wrote of her support for the ABC. Though it’s disappointing that more candidates did not respond, the ALP have already committed to reversing the cut of $83.8m over 3 years which is due to take effect on 1st July (and will inevitably result in further program loss). The ALP will provide a total of $140.7m in extra funding and has made a commitment to ABC broadcasting in the Asia Pacific region. The ALP also supports extending the ABC’s budget cycle from 3 to 5 years.
Bill Shorten announced the extra funding at a Leaders’ Forum, organised jointly by ABC Friends Victoria and the ABC Alumni, in Melbourne on last Friday (10th May). Leader of the Greens, Richard di Natali, also took part. Neither PM Scott Morrison, or Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield, or any other LNP representative attended.
10 out of a total of 16 Greens candidates completed and returned the questionnaire together with the Greens’ policy on the ABC. The returned questionnaires all provided positive responses to the questions. The Greens have promised to restore funding cuts and also support a 5-year budget cycle.
United Australia Party
Questionnaires were sent only to UAP candidates in the marginal seats already mentioned plus Stirling. One response was received from Peter McLernon in Swan who gave positive responses except for the last question. No other responses were received.
The Western Australia Party
The WAP sent their policy document as a response from all their candidates. The document’s emphasis was on Western Australian jobs going east and included a section on the ABC, mentioning the decrease in coverage of WA events such as WAFL and other outside broadcasts, the loss of a state-based current affairs program etc.
No responses from the Australian Christians, the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party, the Australian Justice Party or Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party. Leslie Stewart, independent candidate for Curtin, was surveyed but did not respond.
We were unable to contact Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party; there was an ‘email bounce’ from a generic email address.
ABC Friends (WA) Inc.
Below is a statement from ABC Friends’ National President, Margaret Reynolds. Access it online (with photos) on ABC Friends’ national website here:
‘Vote For the Candidate you Trust with Your ABC’ –
the slogan of ABC Friends this Federal Election.
Melbourne’s Political Leaders Forum, sponsored by the ABC Alumni and ABC Friends Victoria. demonstrated that voters can only rely on Labor and the Greens to protect the ABC from further savage funding cuts and continuing threats of interference and privatisation.
For six years ABC Friends National has tried to depoliticise public broadcasting so that ABC and SBS are accepted for their public service in giving Australians independent access to news, information and entertainment.
Some countries control state broadcasting and others leave it to the commercial sector, but strong democracies understand that independent public media is essential to maintaining informed commentary which is not influenced by either governments or commercial interests.
It is unfortunate that neither the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, nor his Deputy, Michael McCormack, accepted the invitation to outline the Coalition’s public broadcasting policy at the Forum.
Even the current Minister for Communications, Victorian Senator Mitch Fifield, could not manage to attend to detail future plans in his current portfolio.
In contrast, both the Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, and Greens Leader Senator Richard di Natale, were there to give strong guarantees about the future of Australian public broadcasting and detail specific initiatives.
A Labor Government would reverse funding cutbacks and offer new funding for enhanced journalism and Australian content.
Mr Shorten emphasised certainty of funding, a non-political board and, most importantly, that the ABC’s voice be heard again in Asia and the Pacific.
Senator di Natale reinforced his announcement of restoring funding cuts and ensuring five year funding for the ABC.
ABC Friends National urges voters on May 18 to vote for the candidate they feel they can trust to preserve and strengthen their ABC.
How is it possible to back Coalition candidates when their political leaders fail to commit themselves to supporting Australian public broadcasting?
ABC Friends National
13th May 2019