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Sharing the pain claim doesn't stack up

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Senator Cheryl Kernot Australian Democrats Parliamentary Leader

17 July, 1996____________ MEDIA RELEASE___________________ 96/418

SHARING THE PAIN CLAIM DOESN’T STACK UP ABC cuts part of a “get square"

The Federal Government's slash-and-burn approach to the ABC is inconsistent with its Budget strategy of “sharing the pain", Australian Democrats' Leader Senator Cheryl Kernot said today.

She said the Government’s excuse for the ABC cuts was contradicted by its decision to quarantine the Defence Department budget from any cuts.

Senator Kernot said: “W e are told that everybody has to take a share of the pain - except defence which has been quarantined, guaranteeing it funding increases of $540 million (over the next two years).

“This represents the entire budget of the ABC and draws into question government priorities and government hypocrisy when one considers that the defence budget has risen by 58% over the past 10 years.

“There have been-α number of reports by the Auditon-GerwaLntitir.ising the accountability of defence contracts. ·

“Yet the Federal Government choses to single out the ABC Board’s financial management.

“The Government says it will quarantine defence from budget cuts because it has already been cut to the bone.

“The ABC has had its marrow exposed and the Government is now preparing to perform more major surgery.

"This scorched earth budget approach is inconsistent with special needs of special sectors, in special circumstances.

“The Government should be well aware that the last decade has seen massive concentration of media ownership and the consequent reduction in diversity. This strengthens the special case for an adequately resourced public broadcaster.”

Senator Kernot said comments made today by Communications Minister Senator Richard Alston on ABC’s Radio National, and by Queensland Graingrowers’ boss Ian McFarlane exposed an alarming Government agenda of “pay back”.


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Senator Cheryl Kernot Australian Democrats Parliamentary Leader

17 July, 1996_____________________________________________________ PAGE -2-

She said Senator Alston’s comments also reflected the Coalition Government's desire to influence the news direction at the ABC.

Senator Alston told Pru Goward on Radio National this morning:

“Well I think that what John Howard said is, for example, that you can often find almost entire ABC programmes dominated with issues like racism and Aboriginal Affairs.”

He then said:

Ί mean the big story I would have thought out of yesterday would have been the blowout in the underlying budget deficit. Now I don’t know to what extent you’ll be having exhaustive analysis on this but the talk back on ABC radio this morning seems to be about ABC cuts rather than that issue."

Senator Kernot said: "As well as being the chair, and the defacto managing director, Senator Alston now wants to be news editor for the ABC.

“The Government appears to have its own equivalent of Nixon’s notorious enemy list. Too of the list: the trade union movement, public servants and the ABC.

“I do believe the savagery of the cuts to the ABC budget is a pay back. For more than a decade we’ve heard complaints of bias against the ABC from members of the Coalition."

Senator Kernot said her concerns were realised in the form of a comment from Queensland Graingrowers’ chief Ian McFarlane. He told Brisbane ABC radio:

I ’ve had a senior government minister say to me that he can't wait to get his hands on the ABC budget and he wasn’t even in communications. So I think there is a bit o f 'get square“ in it. ”

Senator Kernot said: “The truth is, this government doesn't like some of what the independent voice has to say.”

To arrange comment, contact: Cheryl Thurlow (07) 3844 3696 or 0418 630 137.

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