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Thursday, 31 May 2018
Page: 5192


Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (15:44): To get back to the real world, it is abundantly clear that this government would like us to think that somehow there have been no cuts to the ABC in this budget. They would be the only ones, and they would be denying what is actually in their own MYEFO and on page 79 of Budget Paper No. 2. But if they wish to deny that these are cuts, we are very happy for them to go out and keep telling the Australian public that there are no cuts to the ABC. Australians know full well that in 2013, just before this government was elected, we had then Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott look down the barrel of a camera, the night before the federal election, and explicitly promise no cuts to the ABC.

And we know that it was the now Prime Minister, when he was communications minister, who presided over a quarter of a billion dollars in cuts in this government's very first budget in 2014. So if those opposite want to deny that this happened, if they want to deny their own MYEFO, if they want to deny that somehow they had their own cuts, then, please, be my guest. Not only are they treating the Australian public like mugs on their policy for the ABC and denying how important the ABC is, they're treating the Australian people like mugs for denying that a pause in indexation is actually a cut. It is actually a cut.

So what are they saying? Are they saying that Michelle Guthrie is wrong? Are they saying that Justin Milne is wrong?

Mr Hawke: Yes.

Ms ROWLAND: They're saying yes! So clearly they know more than those who are running the ABC.

Mr Hawke: Absolutely.

Ms ROWLAND: Absolutely he says! Clearly they know more.

It does take some gall to deny that there are cuts, but this is really in the same vein as the current communications minister. This budget was about cutting, amongst other things, the ABC. He put out a release on budget night, and the media release was called 'Strengthening Australia's connectivity, creativity and cultural heritage'. So that's how you do it, that's how you strengthen Australia's connectivity, creativity and cultural heritage—by making cuts to the ABC. It's right up there with the media release the NBN put out the day they announced the HFC was being paused. They put out a media release saying, 'Taking the customer experience to new heights, to new levels of customer experience'. But that's okay; we're very happy to acknowledge the Orwellian doublespeak of this government.

The reality is that those cuts do have consequences: the hundreds of staff jobs that have been lost; short-wave radio being shut down; the drop in drama and the drop in documentaries. But, more than anything, the attitude of this government when it comes to the ABC will come back to bite them. They are so out of touch. They think that somehow it's only Labor people, Labor voters, who support the ABC. I can tell them this: this is an issue that goes across demographics, it goes across geography and it goes across political parties. So if this government wants to not only deny that there have been cuts but also justify these cuts to the ABC, then be our guest. The reality is that the ABC is a trusted brand right across Australia. Eighty-three per cent of Australians value their ABC.

And if you want to talk about these cuts, have a look at some of the polling that has been done specifically about these cuts in the budget. The Australia Institute found that 58 per cent oppose cuts to the ABC—58 per cent! Essential polling went through a number of line items. One of them was 'Cutting spending on the ABC'. The total number opposed was 45 per cent. It's not as those these numbers are somehow an aberration; they are real.

I will end on this point: if those opposite somehow think that the Australian people are going to fall for what they have pedalled in terms of saying 'no cuts to the ABC' and carrying on with their lies, they'll find the Australian people won't wear it. This reminds me exactly of the movement, the grassroots movement, when those opposite wanted to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. We had a grassroots movement that stood up to them. We won then, and we'll win again.