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Monday, 18 June 2018
Page: 3048

Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield. On the eve of the 2013 federal election the then Liberal Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, promised that under a Liberal-Nationals government there would be 'no cuts to the ABC'. Given that the Turnbull government's cut to the ABC of $83.7 million, announced in this year's budget, comes on top of over $250 million in cuts imposed in 2014, can this minister confirm that the Abbott-Turnbull government has broken its promise that there would be no cuts to the ABC?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:00): I'm sure colleagues recall that the Turnbull government was re-elected in 2016 and, as is well known, we are in the midst of the current triennium of funding for the ABC, which has a year to go, and funding in the current triennium has not been altered. In the budget the government announced that there would be an indexation pause in the next triennium of funding for the ABC. The next triennium commences in 12 months. Paired with the indexation pause, the government announced that there would be an efficiency review to support the ABC in looking to ensure that the ABC as an organisation is the best possible steward of taxpayer dollars that it can be.

On this side of the chamber we believe it is important that every Commonwealth government entity is the best possible steward it can be of precious taxpayer dollars. The measures this government has announced all have the objective of helping to support the ABC to be as efficient as it can be, as transparent as it can be and as accountable as it can be.

The PRESIDENT: A supplementary question, Senator Wong.



Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:02): On Saturday the Liberal Party's national council voted overwhelmingly in support of the privatisation of the ABC. Despite not one delegate speaking against the proposal, government ministers now deny any plan to privatise the ABC. Well, Minister, are these denials about as reliable as former Prime Minister Abbott's promise that there would be no cuts to the ABC?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:02): The ABC will not be privatised. The ABC always has been in government hands, on trust for the Australian community. The ABC will always be owned by the government, on trust for the Australian community.

The PRESIDENT: A final supplementary question, Senator Wong.



Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:03): Given that this minister himself has previously said that the privatisation of the ABC has 'merit' and the government today refused to debate a resolution to never support the privatisation of the ABC, isn't it clear that Australians simply can't trust the coalition when it comes to the ABC?

Senator Watt interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Watt, I'll call Senator Fifield when there's quiet.



Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:03): The ABC will forever remain in the hands of the Australian government, on trust for the Australian people.