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Tuesday, 23 October 2018
Page: 10813

Mr DICK (Oxley) (16:06): In the past few months we've seen trusted Australian institutions come under sustained attacks. This goes all the way to the very top, including the office of the Prime Minister, as those opposite know only too well. I made mention earlier in the House today the book by David Speers, On Mutiny. He had to say something about the government and their own internal battles. What it reveals is a deceitful, treacherous and toxic government hell-bent on plotting, revenge and undermining to remove a Prime Minister, all the while forgetting about the Australian people.

But government attacks have not just been on themselves. They've aimed at iconic institutions like the ABC, which Australians have loved and trusted for almost 100 years since it was founded on 23 November 1923. There has been outrage in the community—and rightly so. That's why over 100 local residents joined me at our save-the-ABC community forum last Friday at McLeod Country Golf Club to voice their support for protecting the ABC. Let's not forget that this is a government that has cut $83.7 million from ABC funding in their last budget, taking total cuts to $282 million in reduced funding since 2014, resulting in a loss of 800 jobs and a reduction in Australian content.

These are all devastating blows for our national broadcaster, which is continuously torn down by this government. But I'm here to say Australians won't stand for it. At last Friday's forum, residents came forth and signed our ABC pledge to show their support so the ABC is independent, free from political influence, properly funded and a voice for all Australians. We saw last week Senator Fifield table a statement and the report of his Clayton's inquiry in parliament. It was nothing more than a whitewash designed to cover up the government's involvement in the recent political interference scandals.

With all due respect to the secretary of the department, who was placed in an invidious position by the then minister, the inquiry report creates more questions than answers. It was unable to ascertain all the facts, given lack of powers to compel parties or documents. It leaves key questions unanswered and points to an insidious level of government pressure, with both the former chair and managing director expressing the view that there was no doubt about the government being very concerned and that they did consider that 'these concerns would affect the ABC's standings, relationships and support within government, including for future investment and funding support'.

On this side of the House we were and are still very keen to get to the bottom of this, and that's why we called for a Senate inquiry into the alleged political interference with the ABC. The fact that the government voted with the Greens is proof that Senator Fifield did not want to face Labor's inquiry. Labor's proposed inquiry would have ensured a forensic and constructive focus on governance at the ABC. Instead the Liberals and the Greens teamed up for an ill-defined inquiry that may simply provide the government with yet another avenue to attack the ABC. These undermining attacks have gone on long enough.

Today I call on the government to cease with the undermining and wrecking of the ABC and instead protect it as all Australians would expect.