On 2 March, Centre Alliance member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie introduced a motion in Parliament to recognise the ABC’s impressive work during the recent bushfires, and calling on the Federal Government to reverse the $83.7 million in cuts to the ABC stemming from the cancellation of its normal funding indexation.
Image: Members of ABC Friends ACT Region with Helen Haines (on left) and Rebekha Sharkie (on right)
In her speech, Rebekha Sharkie noted the significant drain on the ABC’s finances and staff time that the bushfire coverage required, and the importance of the ABC being properly resourced to continue to carry out its emergency role, alongside other core services.
Ms Sharkie’s motion was seconded by Helen Haines (Independent, Indi), and supported by a number of Labor MPs, and by Russell Broadbent (Liberal, Monash). Other Liberals acknowledged the importance of the ABC but declined to support calls for increased funding.
Time for debate expired before all speakers were heard, so the motion has been re-scheduled for further debate at a later time.
Below is the motion taken from the hansard:
Ms Sharkie, pursuant to notice, moved—That this House:
- thanks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) for its service in delivering vital emergency broadcasts and comprehensive coverage during the catastrophic fires;
- acknowledges the dramatic rise in emergency broadcasts—from 256 in 2017 to 371 in 2018-19 and 673 so far this year, which have been delivered without additional funding to cover the resources which have been poured into the emergency broadcast effort;
- recognises that since Boxing Day, as bushfires raged across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, the ABC handled more than 100 emergency broadcasts in a single week, receiving widespread praise for the practical, life‑saving information and the professionalism on display;
- notes the heavy damage sustained to ABC radio and television network infrastructure during the bushfires, particularly at Bateman’s Bay in New South Wales and East Gippsland in Victoria;
- commends the ABC for mobilising to restore local radio stations as a priority because of their critical role in providing information to communities during disasters;
- acknowledges that the ABC should not be put into a position of having to economise on its emergency broadcasting due to Government funding cuts; and
- calls on the Government to reverse the $83.7 million paused in indexation funding as a matter of urgency.