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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2029

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (Gorton) (21:10): I rise to make some comments about the recent efforts by the federal government to attack the ABC. Before I do, I would like to respond to the comments made by the member for Eden-Monaro. He talks about deceit. The member for Eden-Monaro, of course, was one of the strongest advocates for Work Choices that this parliament will ever see—a deception on the Australian people. Every worker in Eden-Monaro should not forget that. When Work Choices was introduced, you could not get a bigger supporter for Work Choices and the ripping away of penalty rates and conditions of employment from those people, including all the workers in Eden-Monaro, than the member for Eden-Monaro.

I rise today to talk about, as I said, some of the concerns I have with comments made by members of the government in relation to the ABC. The ABC is a very important institution. The ABC is an independent statutory body and needs, in my view, to maintain sufficient funding so we can have an independent voice in the media.

I would like to quote Malcolm Long from the Financial Review of last week. He said in relation to the IPA director John Roskam's efforts to convince the government to sell the ABC:

This is a nonsense—Tea Party-style fundamentalism at its most mindless and irrational. Real-world experience in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and even the United States, along with Australia, shows public broadcasting has a critical place in a free society.

What we have had recently is the Minister for Communications summonsing the chief executive officer of the ABC to his office, which of course is not the proper way to proceed; Senator Cory Bernardi seeking the slashing of the ABC's budget; and other commentators jumping on the bandwagon, with, I would suggest, a conflict of interest, working as they do for other media outlets. Janet Albrechtsen called for the sacking of Mark Scott, and the journalist Greg Sheridan called the ABC an ideological institution.

This is an assault on the ABC that looks very much organised, organised by those members of the government that want to see the end of an independent voice in this country, a statutory body that has served listeners and viewers well over many, many years. They want to cow the ABC into reporting in a way favourable to the government. I understand that, because some of the reporting of some private organisations may favour the government, which is entirely up to those organisations, the government may not understand what an independent voice is. They so often see media outlets defend or rationalise, or give the view of a government such favour that they cannot hear an independent voice when they are listening to one. But the fact is this: in a civil democracy it is vital that there is public money put aside to ensure that vested interests alone do not prevail in this space.

As I said, if you look at the BBC in Britain, at institutions in Canada or even at public broadcasting in the United States, you find that they are institutions funded by taxpayer dollars to provide that form of independence. At the moment we are seeing, in some media circles, an attempt to change the Australian viewers' and listeners' relationship with this august institution and to prevent it reporting independently and fairly. This must stop. This is the Prime Minister bullying the ABC.