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Thursday, 11 September 2003
Page: 19916

Mr PEARCE (4:34 PM) —I had planned to respond to the matter of public importance that the opposition raised today. Unfortunately, we ran out of time so I would like to take this five minutes in the adjournment debate to respond to that discussion. On the afternoon of the last sitting day in a parliamentary week, the best the opposition can do is raise a matter of public importance entitled, `The Government's attacks on the ABC.' To be honest, I have not heard so much emotional drivel in this House for some time. It was a pretty sad effort.

The opposition spent 25 minutes trying to convince themselves that the government is attacking the ABC. The only way to really know what the Labor Party are up to is not to listen to what they say but to actually look at what they do. The member for Melbourne, the shadow spokesperson on communications, accuses the government, the minister for communications and the Prime Minister of making outrageous attacks on the ABC and trying to influence them. I took some time today to look at the track record of the member for Melbourne. I have to say that when it comes to attacking the ABC, I think the member for Melbourne is quite good at it himself. Going back to 4 February, I have a press release from the member for Melbourne headed, `ABC must answer for cutting Labor off.' This is a press release in which the member for Melbourne is attacking the ABC for cutting the Leader of the Opposition off.

How dare the member for Melbourne attack the ABC! What hypocrisy! Let us have a look at a press release of 26 August from the member for Melbourne. It is entitled `ABC independence begins at home' and it states:

Reports today that the ABC Religion Presenter, Stephen Crittenden, has been stood down for writing an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald are of serious concern.

The ABC cannot have it both ways.

How dare the member for Melbourne attack the ABC. I think the best thing about this ludicrous MPI today of all days for the member for Melbourne is in fact what Bob Carr has done today. The New South Wales Premier has come out today and—guess what?—attacked the ABC. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled `Carr queries ABC on network' says that the Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, has joined criticism of the ABC's delayed coverage of tomorrow night's national league grand final and that the Premier wrote to the ABC yesterday evening saying that he was concerned about the treatment of the national league grand final. Here we have Bob Carr—the man who wants to come to Canberra to save the Australian Labor Party—attacking the ABC. What an absolute outrage! The Australian Labor Party come into this place and say that the government attacks the ABC. Here is an example of New South Wales Premier Bob Carr today attacking the ABC. Just this year there are two examples of the shadow spokesperson attacking the ABC.

The fact of the matter is that the government support the ABC. The Howard government have always supported the ABC and always will. We hear about and are attacked for the fact that we reduced the funding by $55 million in our first year of office, 1996. But the Australian Labor Party forget to tell you that that was largely because they left us with a $10 billion black hole deficit. Ever since then, the government's funding for the ABC has increased time and again. The fact of the matter is that the Australian people own the ABC. We are the government that the Australian people have elected, we represent the Australian people and we will hold the ABC accountable. The Australian people expect us to do that.

There is a problem with the ABC. There is a cultural problem and a problem of bias. Today there was another very good example. Greg Sheridan wrote today in the Australian about the ABC's Lateline journalist Jane Hutcheon having a go at the Israelis, again misquoting and not stating the facts. Again, there is a problem with the ABC. This government does not walk away from its responsibilities to Australian taxpayers to make the ABC accountable and transparent and to ensure that each and every bit of Australian taxpayers' money that goes to the ABC is expended in an effective and responsible manner. (Time expired)