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Monday, 18 June 2018
Page: 3109

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (17:13): In making a contribution to this debate, I do want to acknowledge that I think the ABC plays an important role within Australia's way of life. Particularly in regional and rural communities it provides an opportunity for redressing market failure, and I have to say—at the risk of defragging some of their careers—it has some very good journalists working for it. I'll mention Leigh Sales, whose interviews I enjoy enormously. There's Sabra Lane, of course. In South Australia we've got David Bevan and Ali Clarke. They add a mix of political depth and engagement. I've probably just cruelled their careers with the ABC forever but, nonetheless, I'll call it as I see it.

But I do think the ABC is just too big, too bloated and too biased. There are very few conservative voices on the ABC. It has a reach and scale that would be the envy of any commercial media outlet. In fact, it would be prohibited from existing under the auspices of the commercial legislation as it stands now. To go to the extreme of privatising the ABC would, in effect, create another commercial competitor that would have a scale, volume and reach just as monstrous as that in existence today. The Australian Conservatives have a very sensible and prudent approach that would not only preserve the integrity of the ABC—the ability of governments to reach every citizen and community in Australia in times of emergency and to redress signs of market failure—but save about $500 million or $600 million a year.

Firstly, we would merge the SBS and the ABC. We would restrict them to a couple of national radio stations and a couple of television stations. We would encourage them to provide news and current affairs. We would ensure the independence of their charter and also the fact that they have to provide a diversity of views within the ABC, and that means having conservative commentators there, not just token conservatives that they can beat up. There is something fundamentally wrong when even a mooted comedy program on the ABC can refer to a conservative candidate for a federal seat in the most vile terms. It gets repeated again and again. When complaints are quite legitimately made, the ABC says that they've done nothing wrong. You could go on and on.

The disparaging nature and the attacks upon people who have a different view than the Zeitgeist within the ABC belittle it and bring it down. I remember Tony Jones on Q&A basically referred to my political party as Golden Dawn, which is a neo-Nazi party in Greece. It's appalling. It's abhorrent. We shouldn't have to put up with it. We expect better standards from our national broadcaster. It needs to be brought into line financially and— (Time expired)