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Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Page: 5517


Ms SAFFIN (Page) (17:25): I have a question, Minister. It is to do with the record funding for the ABC and SBS, but I have a statement that I want to make about it first. The ABC and SBS are two of Australia's most important and trusted cultural institutions. The government is proud of its track record in supporting the national broadcasters, and it is a track record built upon the recent budget and the triennial funding announcement.

The government will provide the ABC with $89.4 million in additional funding over the next three years to expand news and current affairs services and for digital delivery of ABC programs. The government is also providing the ABC with a loan of $90 million over three years so it can consolidate the majority of its Melbourne based operations at its Southbank site. This will allow the ABC to achieve operational savings while continuing to deliver high-quality broadcast content. In addition to new funding announced in the budget, the ABC will receive $2.5 billion over three years in ongoing base funding from 2013-14. That base funding is important.

The SBS will receive $20 million in new funding over the next triennium to build on the success of its digital initiatives and to continue to develop its programming and services to reflect and promote multicultural and Indigenous Australia. The new funding is in addition to the $158.1 million over five years provided as part of the 2012-13 budget to ensure that SBS remains a vibrant and dynamic national broadcaster.

Both the ABC and SBS will continue to be exempt from the efficiency dividend, and I will say more about that.

In the last triennial funding round in 2009, the Labor government provided the ABC with the largest increase in its operational base funding since 1983. I remember the ABC out lobbying too at that time and walking around the halls of parliament, and I also remember that I wrote a letter about that to the minister, lobbying on it. I was at that stage the only MP who had written a letter on it. Then I led the charge to make sure that all the other MPs did that as well, and that was across the parliament.

The funding provided in 2012-13 represented the most significant funding boost SBS has ever had. This is in stark contrast to the previous government, whose first budget stripped $55 million per year from the ABC's base funding, crippling the national broadcaster's ability to keep pace with the changing media environment.

Can I say that I get a bit tired of the whole debate about the ABC: 'Is it biased or is it not?' I am sure every MP in here has an experience and a view. I do get a bit fed up with that, particularly from the coalition. The honourable member for Wentworth is fond of asserting that the public broadcasters have no greater friend than him.

Mr Turnbull: I don't think I've said that, but it's probably a fair comment.

Ms SAFFIN: The honourable member for Wentworth has said words to that effect. I was maybe putting it more eloquently than the honourable member might have. But it was only last week that the honourable member for Wentworth was refusing to rule out slashing the budgets of the national broadcasters under a coalition government. When it comes to the national broadcasters—

An honourable member interjecting

Ms SAFFIN: yes, I tell you, yes—the coalition cannot be trusted. A friend would be saying: 'Funding won't be slashed. Funding is secure, and I agree to no efficiency dividend.'

But this new funding that I have talked about ensures that the ABC and SBS can continue to build on the extensive range of services they provide to their audiences, especially the growing demand for their innovative digital services. The national broadcasters provide a range of programs, news and information across television, radio and digital platforms accessed by millions of Australians every day. In a changing media environment they are more important than ever as a source of news and current affairs, local content and telling stories.

I have seen a quote from the honourable member for Wentworth, which reads as follows:

But if there is a broader austerity of some kind across the board then all departments may have to bear some of the pain.

I repeat: there is no efficiency dividend. My question is, Minister: would you like to— (Time expired)