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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7878


Mr PERRETT (MoretonOpposition Whip) (17:06): I'm happy to speak in support of the motion put forward by the member for Mayo, standing up for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I welcome her back after a little intermission. I'm always happy to speak in support of our ABC, our Aunty. I also particularly mention it because the ABC was born the same year as my mum, and I think it almost knows more than my mum—just kidding, Mum!

I believe the ABC is an important institution in Australia. It's part of the fabric of our nation and has been for over 85 years. Who wasn't brought up watching Play School? In my home town of St George, we only had one channel, and that was the ABC. Big Ted, Little Ted and Jemima are as familiar as our own toys. The theme song, 'There's a Bear in There', was the soundtrack to our early childhood. There's also Sesame Street—I will give a big shout out to my special Kermit the Frog, Leo, who can do a great Kermit the Frog impersonation—the cricket, the Hottest 100 countdown and Bananas in Pyjamas. We could go on for half an hour about the staples of our childhood and of young children today. There is some comfort in this fast-paced, ever-changing world that there is one thing that grounded my childhood and continues through to my children's formative years—the familiar, dependable and always educational ABC.

Sadly, the coalition government, the Turnbull government, do not share my appreciation for our strong and independent ABC. The Turnbull government have made it clear that they are on a mission to destroy our public broadcaster, or to so weaken it that it will be unable to do its job. This Liberal-National coalition has launched its biggest attack on the independence of the ABC in a generation. I note that, on this speaking list, we've had one National Party MP speak in support of the ABC and, after that, silence. They are damned by their silence, I would suggest.

Since 2014 the coalition government has cut $282 million from the ABC. What does that mean? It means 800 jobs lost, a drop in Australian content, and services like shortwave radio shut down, which actually sabotages remote Australia—something the National Party should be ashamed of. In this year alone they've cut $83.7 million from the ABC funding. We are not talking about trimming fat; we are cutting into muscle.

Destroying the ABC through slashing funding is not enough for this destructive government. They've launched two damaging public broadcasting inquiries and have three bills before parliament to meddle with the ABC's independent charter. The Liberal Federal Council even voted to privatise the ABC. What would that mean? Privatising the ABC would see our kids seeing ads during children's programming; commercial influence on ABC news and current affairs, perhaps; missing out on popular ABC programming like Four Corners, Australian Story and Gruen, to name but a few that would never exist on commercial networks; an end to innovation through public funding like ABC iview; putting high-quality Australian content behind a paywall; and reductions in the diversity of Australia's media sector.

The ABC is a constant and reliable source of information for 17 million Australians every week. In regional Australia, the National Party homeland, the ABC has a more important role in keeping regional communities connected, providing them with local news and, in particular, emergency information in times of bushfires, cyclones and floods. At a time when people in regional Australia are facing crippling droughts—and the effect of years of drought on farmers and community has been severe—we see cutting the information services and the jobs that go with them in these communities as rubbing salt into the wound. It is a heartless act of an inept government. This Turnbull government is completely out of touch with ordinary Australians and, dare I say, especially the bush. Putting on an akubra for five minutes does not mean that you are looking after the bush.

For the community to have trust and faith in our institutions, like the ABC, they need a healthy public interest media sector, and a trusted institution like the ABC to continue to deliver independent content that is tested and supervised and that you know will ring true. Australians know the value of a strong, independent national broadcaster. We have seen survey after survey showing that Australians trust the ABC—as does Labor. Even though occasionally we will have our arguments with the ABC, I personally will always trust that the ABC will do their job well, that they will be strong and independent and that they will look after the interests of all of the nation, not just the inner city. If we want what our children see on our screens to be a reflection of our modern Australian community, we need to protect the ABC. It's about priorities, and it's clear that this Prime Minister is only concerned about the top end of town, and his own— (Time expired)