The ABC won’t survive another coalition government

There is always so much to mull over after any federal budget.

  • The $140 billion over ten years in personal tax cuts that will enable many of us to get those extra three potato cakes and a can of soft drink a week that we’ve all been craving.
  • The major tax reforms are actually not costed in this budget, in fact they won’t have to be costed until the 2022 budget. That’s not budgeting, that’s forecasting. A smoke and mirrors act.
  • The LNP’s sudden fundamental belief in treasury forecasts that make the assumption the budget surplus should climb to more than one per cent of GDP in 2026, is extremely tenuous at best. Mike Pence could be a wartime President by then.
  • The forgotten debt and deficit disaster has given way to a multi-billion-dollar election spree of infrastructure investments in marginal seats right across the country.
  • There was no mention of climate change, no raise in the Newstart allowance and a continued freeze in foreign aid funding.
  • And the increasingly silly dogma that $35 billion in corporate tax cuts will end the stagnation in real wage growth for millions of workers, something that hasn’t happened anywhere corporate tax cuts have been reduced.
  • Overall the budget does little to the growing inequity inherent in society, and it could be argued it does more to entrench it. 

These are all points worthy of note, however one of the smaller fiscal measures, with one of the largest impacts, is an $84 million ‘indexation freeze’ of funding to the ABC over three years. In other words, another cut to the national broadcaster. These newly announced cuts come in addition to the $254 million in cuts announced in the infamous 2014 budget.

In recent years the ABC has come under constant attack by ideologues, almost exclusively on the right, that accuse it of being left leaning and biased towards the progressive side of politics. Pauline Hanson would like to see the ABC privatised and has long wanted the salaries of high profile ABC presenters publicised as a matter of public record. Peter Dutton has declared the broadcaster dead to him and a multitude of rightwing pundits, usually in poorly lit Sky News studios, have been hell bent for the ABC’s destruction while quietly longing for its audience share.

Our 28th Prime Minister Tony Abbott sums up the attacker’s position best. When asked if he wanted an apology from the ABC after being labelled the "the most destructive politician of his generation” by ABC Political Editor Andrew Probyn, Abbott responded - “now I’m not asking for an apology … because I’m not that kind of a person, but given the chronic bias in the ABC, given the incorrigible left-liberal cultural position the ABC adopts, you’d think if they wanted to encourage people to have a bit of faith in them, the very least they would do when such a finding has been made against them in respect of a conservative politician, is apologise.”

This ongoing criticism comes despite 80 per cent of ABC television news and current affairs audience’s belief that coverage is fair and balanced.

The end of result of the incessant attacks is a government that has been given the greenlight to diminish an already diminished broadcaster. To continue its ideological war on the national broadcaster, which has become one of the main fronts in the mind-numbing culture wars as evidenced by an additional salvo, will see $48.7 million of the savings made from the ‘indexation freeze’ be redirected to a series of commemorations and monuments to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia!  

The real losers in all this? Us. None lose more than those in rural and remote communities. A quick look at the reach of the number of ABC local radio stations shows unparalleled reach in to regional and remote settings.

The ABC plays a pivotal role as a provider of independent journalism. Journalism that provides a voice for issues affecting these communities. For nearly 85 years, the ABC has played an important role in informing and educating generations of Australians.

It has become intertwined into the fabric of Australian culture.

It provides multi-platform content that caters for the needs of the community and in remote settings, can be the only window to national and international current affairs reporting. 

I guess at this point, those of you who are familiar with my ramblings, expect me to write about the importance of the ongoing coverage of issues such as Closing the Gap, high incarceration rates of Aboriginal people, the epidemic rates of the HTLV-1 virus affecting remote Aboriginal communities would be right.

The ABC provides a strong and authentic voice to issues that commercial mainstream media outlets would not go near.  Public discussion cannot be left to the Sunrises of the world to call for a new stolen generation. We can’t leave it to shock jocks to bemoan and be befuddled  by terms like cultural safety.   

We need a strong and present national broadcaster that can expose the unpleasant truths about ourselves, the ABC is the mirror and the frame in which we can honestly look at our own society and sometimes it’s not a pretty sight.

In the world of ‘fake news’ we need institutions that we trust to be as strong and vibrant as ever.

The ABC, through independent journalism, tells us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear.