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Would Minister Alston really try to block supply?

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Senator John Cherry Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Communications th 29 May, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/ 382

Would Minister Alston really try to block supply?

The Australian Democrats have slammed Minister Alston’s clumsy and savage attempt to intimidate and censor the ABC.

Democrats’ Communications spokesperson, Senator John Cherry, said Minister Alston’s crude suggestion that Parliament may de-fund the national broadcaster was part of an ill-conceived campaign to hound the ABC into submission.

“Threatening to de-fund the ABC is nothing more than shallow political rhetoric designed to intimidate,” Senator Cherry said.

“I am confident the Minister would not seek to block elements of the Government’s own supply bills.

“Of greater concern than the latest bout of anti-ABC rhetoric is the Government’s broad hostility to important national institutions.

“The ABC, Universities, Medicare, the CSIRO and the National Museum are all under attack from a Government that is determined to impose its narrow social and political vision on Australians.

“The systematic attacks on our major national social, cultural and intellectual institutions is fundamentally anti-democratic,” said Senator Cherry.

“Personal attacks on the ABC’s Director of News and Current Affairs, Max Uechtritz, and the performance of the radio program AM is a thin-skinned response to the ABC’s entirely predictable decision to end multi-channelling due to budgetary constraints.

“The fact is that the Minister has no capacity to direct the ABC under the Act, and the Democrats will certainly never vote to give a Minister such power. The independence of the national broadcaster is fundamental to our information culture.

“In the case of Mr Uechtritz, the agenda seems to be about pay-back against people associated, rightly or wrongly, with the downfall of former ABC Managing Director Jonathon Shier.

“Minister Alston is more engaged with the politics of vendetta than any substantive issues of bias,” Senator Cherry concluded.

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