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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7874

Mr BROAD (Mallee) (16:50): When people buy a ute—and they should buy a good quality ute—in the electorate of Mallee they get the dealer of that ute to tune the radio to the ABC for them. One of the things I say when people criticise the bias of the ABC is that, when people take that ute in after they've been driving it around for 10 years and the windows don't wind up because they're full of Mallee dust, the radio is still tuned into the ABC. And do you know what? They vote National Party. Isn't that interesting. To those who say that the ABC is completely biased I say two things: one is that it is clearly not biased enough, because the voters who listen to it vote for the National Party; and the other is that you could draw the conclusion that the people in my patch are not easily swayed and they like to have a good old ding-dong argument with radio.

ABC radio, in particular, is very important. I would point out one great injustice here, and that is that in the township of Hopetoun you cannot get Triple J. There is a farmer who contacts me regularly, so incensed by the injustice. He wants to listen to Triple J but can't get it. That isn't a result of the ABC being cut; it's just never been broadcast there. That is something we need to do.

I've got a better one than the petition to save the ABC. We had a group of ladies who baked a cake in the shape of the ABC outside my office. If you want to protest to an MP, that's the way to do it, I've got to say. Don't worry about a placard; bake a cake. They came up to my office and we sat down and we had a conversation, and that's really how it works.

The ABC does play a very important role. The changes that have been made fairly recently are very important to rural MPs. It's essentially put video journalists in its country radio stations. In the past, it used to fly the helicopter out to the country—that was when it did have plenty of money—and often the stories wouldn't quite get told; whereas what's happening now is that our ABC radio journalists are doing video footage, and so the stories of regional Australia are increasingly being seen in the city. I think that's one of the things that is very important in a public broadcaster. A public broadcaster should be bringing people together, and bringing people together is telling the great stories of regional Australia in the cities. Something I would always advocate for but have not had any success with yet is the good old Country Hour. It is the longest-running radio program with the two most important things being its market report—I've just got to get that on the record—and the weather forecast. But Country Hour isn't broadcast in our capital cities. If we're to gain a greater understanding of the issues of regional Australia in our capital cities, wouldn't it be great to see Country Hour broadcast in our cities?

There is something unique about an Australian broadcaster. It was disappointing to me that, in one of the cuts that were made, the part of the ABC that broadcasts overseas was removed. I think that was a poor step. I've got to say there is a role in talking about what our community does and what our country does and sharing that with other parts of the world. It is true, though, that the very nature of the media is changing. The ABC does need to change. It does need always to look for new efficiencies. I'm reasonably comfortable with the new management and where they're heading, but there are a couple of things that are very important in growing a regional community. One is access to public transport. Another is that there are adequate jobs. There should be educational opportunities for children. The next one is adequate telecommunications. The other is doctors, which is something very important. But the other thing—and Saul Eslake did a study on this—is someone to tell the community's story. That can be a local newspaper, but in so many of our country towns it is our country broadcasters and the ABC. That talkback where people have a conversation and people get a sense of pride in their community is critical for the economic growth of those communities.

I would like to see more ABC staff in the regions; I would like to see fewer in the city. I would like to see more robust discussion perhaps on Q&A—those more regional based audiences when those programs are at their best. People on my patch are so happy with the ABC they're prepared to bake a cake and come to their MP and argue for it. That's the way to effect change.