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Wednesday, 27 November 2019
Page: 4334


Senator McGRATH (QueenslandDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (13:01): It has been nearly a month since the national broadcaster, our ABC, broadcast comments on its flagship show Q&A which promoted the use of violence as a political tactic. At the time those comments were broadcast, I wrote to the chair of the ABC, Ms Ita Buttrose, and asked some obvious questions about how this could occur. Yet more than three weeks after asking these Q's, I am still waiting for the A's from the ABC. We have heard a lot over recent months from the ABC and the wider media about the public's right to know, yet ironically, when it comes to answering questions from taxpayers about how their money is spent, the ABC seems hesitant to respond—a classic case of the ABC telling Australians to do as they say, not as they do.

What we do know is that the ABC has confirmed in estimates that they are reviewing their property portfolio, that the recent controversial episode of Q&A is under review and that, despite having a property portfolio of more than $500 million and an annual budget of over $1 billion, the ABC cannot find $1 million for the radio broadcast rights for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. By the ABC's own reports, this decision will mean that, for the first time since the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, the ABC will not have a live broadcast of the games.

Senator Farrell: Shame!

Senator McGRATH: That is shame—I will take that interjection from the Labor Party. For the first time since 1952, there will be no live broadcast of the Olympic Games. I say to the ABC as your friend—and I am a friend of the ABC, but the best friend you can ever have is an honest friend—that you are becoming the Westpac Bank of the media world in that you are focusing on everything else apart from your core business. If you cannot broadcast the Olympic Games across Australia through your radio networks, then what is the point of having a $1 billion funded national media organisation? It is no wonder that the ABC is increasingly being seen as the un-Australian broadcaster rather than the national broadcaster.

I have a three-point plan to save the ABC, because I do want the ABC to be saved from itself. Point one: I believe there should be a wide-ranging independent review of the ABC, including the ABC Act, and the corporation's charter. I think we need to look into whether there should be advertising on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

I also believe that the centralisation of the ABC is reflected in its property portfolio. Answers provided in Senate estimates to questions on notice earlier this year stated that, of the 37 properties in the ABC's portfolio, three of them account for 81 per cent of the property portfolio's value. That's $426 million. What is this achieving for the taxpayer? What I'm saying is that those three properties in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane should be sold off and those ABC headquarters moved to the regions or to the suburbs. This will deliver greater value for all Australian taxpayers. Sales of property assets are not without precedent at the ABC and could help contribute to retiring our national debt.

Lastly, the third point of my three-point plan to help save the ABC from itself is that I want to make sure that the ABC increases transparency with regard to appointments to broaden the diversity of views within the organisation and better reflect the views of the corporation's most important stakeholder, and that is the Australian public. The problem with the ABC is that it has become this giant group-think, this giant blancmange, this giant left-wing jelly of progressive views. I don't want the ABC to be the left-wing ABC or the right-wing ABC; I want the ABC to be our national broadcaster and reflect all views. I challenge Australians to name one presenter on the ABC who they might regard as being right of centre. If the challenge, on the other foot, was to name one presenter on the ABC who is left of centre you could just get the staff directory out, because they're all left of centre. The ABC, which is funded by taxpayers, those hardworking Australians, should reflect the views of the taxpayers, not those latte lickers in those inner-city suburbs. The ABC should be broadcasting the Olympics for $1 million instead of wasting its money on these inner-city headquarters. Shame on the ABC. As for the chair, I look forward to your response—it is about time you answered our questions.