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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 20220


Mr PROSSER (9:05 PM) —I want to raise the issue of the ABC's axing of the program Behind the News. It is disappointing that the board of the ABC chose to axe Behind the News, as it is such an important program for schools and students. Doesn't the ABC listen to what the schools and children of this country want? I share the concerns and anger of the students at the Carey Park Primary School in my home town of Bunbury in Western Australia and of all the other students in my electorate about the ABC's decision to axe Behind the News. Why did they chop this program and not other programs like Consuming Passions, James Can Cook, The Occasional Cook or even Gardening Australia? Did they chop these programs? No, Mr Speaker; they chose to chop Behind the News instead.

The ABC board's decision to chop Behind the News was made without any consultation with the government and is unacceptable, given that the government has maintained the ABC's triennial funding in real terms. I am angry about the ABC's decision to axe such an important and worthy program, which has been running for 34 years, with an audience of some 1.3 million students a week. I am told that the cost of this news program is only 0.1 per cent of the ABC's total annual funding. The students, teachers and indeed the principal, Mr Kevin Lynn, of the Carey Park Primary School have all written to me expressing their shock, surprise, anger and dismay at the axing of such an important program, which the school has been viewing for some 25 years. The program is a great general knowledge tool and current affairs information program for these children, and I should like to quote some of their comments.

Erin Godley says she has been watching Behind the News for two years and it is easier to understand than any other adult national or international news program. Matthew Barnett says Behind the News is the only show that explains the news to children and makes it interesting for them to watch. He now thinks that the ABC does not care about kids and has brought his protest to me as his federal member to say that kids do matter. I agree and, more importantly, this government agrees with the children of Australia. But here is the reality: the federal government did not axe theBehind the News program; it was the ABC's decision alone. The ABC should have taken these views into consideration before axing Behind the News.

Allivia Bartlett, in her letter—which is a ripper—to the Chairman of the ABC, advises that she thinks it is a big mistake to take away Behind the News. She warns that when she is older she will be an ABC worker and will insist on Behind the News being reinstated and, she says, normal news programs will be axed. Kerry O'Brien, watch out! She adds that that would not be fair, would it? Allivia also makes the suggestion that the ABC should axe a `dumb' program like The Saddle Club instead and put Behind the News back on in its place. Now why didn't the ABC think of that? Josh Caswell writes that it was cruel and wicked and that he was shocked to hear Behind the News had been axed, as it gave children a better picture and understanding of what is going on in the rest of the world.

Taliha Walker lists the reasons Behind the News should stay, ranging from it's being interesting for children, educational for all ages and reaching out to children's levels of understanding through its friendly presentation and its uniqueness to it keeping children informed about Australia and the world and, best of all, allowing them to have their say and vote and express their opinions on what they have viewed. Kiara Dunbar writes that the children do not deserve to have Behind the News cut. She believes the program explains the news more fully than the 6 p.m. news does and takes longer to explain in depth what is happening within Australia and around the world. She really enjoys having this program and enjoys the voting.

These children from Carey Park Primary School are indeed having their say and putting their objections and protests forward. I believe it is imperative that the ABC not only explains its reasons for axing this program but also gives due consideration to maintaining such a vital educational news program for children throughout Australia. It is time the ABC took note of the groundswell of public opinion, with most of that opinion coming from schoolchildren and teachers, and reinstated the Behind the News program because, as Matthew Barnett of Carey Park Primary School quite rightly points out, kids do matter.