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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7875

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (16:55): I think we're all in agreement that the ABC matters—the ABC matters a great deal. If only because a strong independent media is one of the very foundation stones of a strong democracy. But all around the country, especially in regional areas, especially in a place like Tasmania, it has always been a very important training ground for young men and women who have wanted to enter the media world. Many of them have joined the ABC as cadets or trainees—or whatever they're called. They've cut their teeth, come up through the ranks and gone out to fill really important roles throughout the media and throughout the country.

The ABC also—and this is unique to the ABC—fills a very important role when it comes to emergency broadcasting. I will just recount very briefly what happened in Tasmania, over five years ago now, with the terrible bushfires around Dunalley. At that time, the mobile phone network went down. There were many, many people right throughout that part of Tasmania who were relying on the ABC emergency broadcast, on their little portable radio or the radio in their car, simply to know what was going on and where to go. If we didn't have that ABC media footprint in that area at that time, perhaps people could have died.

We also need the ABC because it is just so accessible and trusted. Surveys show that something like 71 per cent of all Australians access the ABC in one form or another every week and 82 per cent of all Australians surveyed trust the ABC. They rate it as a far more trustworthy source of news than any other news channel.

Unfortunately, despite all of this, the ABC is under attack, and it is absolutely remarkable that, at the Liberal Party Federal Council a couple of months ago, the overwhelming majority of Liberal Party council members voted to sell off the ABC. I regret to say that my own Premier in Tasmania, Premier Will Hodgman, did not vote against that motion.

And then of course we've got the funding cuts—another way in which the ABC is under attack. Perhaps the government thinks: if we can't sell off the ABC, let's at least cripple it. In fact funding cuts from 2014 that'll run out to 2021 now gross up to $338 million, $254 million of which is in the 2014 budget and then another $84 million effectively cut over three years in the 2018 budget going out to 2021.

I think there's no better way to illustrate the decline of the ABC than perhaps these two measures. One is that 30 years ago they used to say the ABC was costing us 8c a day. It's now on a per capita basis costing us 4c a day. In other words—

Ms McGowan interjecting

Mr WILKIE: that's right, Member for Indi—over 30 years real spending on the ABC on a per capita basis has halved. The other way to illustrate my point is just to recount what's happened at the ABC headquarters building in Hobart. Some of you might have seen it down there near the roundabout where the old railway station was. It wasn't that many years ago that this fairly big building was full of ABC staff and ABC capabilities. But if you go down there now, the minority of the building is filled by the ABC and its staff and the majority of the building has been leased out to the College of GPs, to the University of Tasmania, and—perhaps most ironically—to WIN TV. I think that says a lot about what has happened to the ABC in recent years and the trend is on for the future. It is under attack at every turn.

We need to make the point again that the majority of members on the Liberal Party national federal council want to sell it off. If they can't sell it off, they're going to reduce the funding until it is a shadow of itself. If that trend continues, if one day we lose the ABC as a strong, genuinely independent broadcaster, we're going to ask ourselves: how on earth did we get here? Because you know what? It might cost us 4c per person per day to keep it but, when it's gone, it will be gone for good and we'll miss it.