LABOR PROMISES ABC FUNDS BOOST

LABOR PROMISES ABC $40M - SHORTEN TELLS LIBERALS "HANDS OFF THE ABC"

Bill Shorten speaks at the joint ABC Alumni /ABC Friends rally in Melbourne

The ABC will receive a further $40 million if Labor wins next Saturday’s election. This comes on top of the ALP promise to scrap the $84 million “indexation pause” imposed by the Coalition government, due to take effect on July 1.

ALP leader Bill Shorten told a joint ABC Alumni/ABC Friends rally in Melbourne "the Liberals have to learn: 'hands off the ABC'."

Mr Shorten said the new ABC funding would enable more Australian drama, more children’s programming and more music content.

“A strong, quality national broadcaster does require resources,” he said. “The government would criticise this cost. I call it an investment.”

ABC Alumni has been lobbying vigorously for restoration of more than half a billion dollars that has been stripped from the ABC over the past five years, despite then-Liberal leader Tony Abbott’s now notorious 2013 election eve promise that there would be no cuts to the national broadcaster’s budget.

ABC Alumni co-director Matt Peacock welcomed the ALP funding commitment.

"It's greatly welcome, and hopefully will avert more program cuts and hundreds of job losses that are certain if the Coalition is re-elected.

“The ABC still needs full restoration of the funds stripped out over the past five years – and then some – if it’s to maintain Australian culture in the global digital age.”

Restoring funding to the ABC is supported by Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale, who also addressed the rally at Deakin Edge, Federation Square.

“There is no more important public entity than the ABC. We will ensure that the ABC remains proudly and fiercely independent," he said.

Capacity crowd at the ABC Friends/Alumni Melbourne rally. pic Marcus May

ABC Alumni John Cleary Gael Jennings Quentin Dempster Maxine McKew Matt Peacock & Kerry O'Brien at the Melbourne rally

Several independents have previously pledged their support for restored ABC funding, including Wentworth MP Kerryn Phelps and Warringah candidate Zali Steggall, who hopes to oust former prime minister Tony Abbott.

Leaders of all major political parties were invited to speak at the rally. Prime minister Scott Morrison, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Nationals leader Michael McCormack declined. Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie also did not attend, but, in a statement, described the ABC as “a crucial institution in regional Australia”.

“The Nationals do not and have no intention of ever supporting the privatisation of the ABC,” she said. (Liberal Party policy still includes privatisation.)

Other politicians attending the packed rally included the ALP arts spokesman Tony Burke, Senator Kristina Keneally and candidate for Higgins Fiona McLeod, and the Greens’ communications spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Prominent alumni included Kerry O’Brien, Maxine McKew, Quentin Dempster, Gael Jennings and John Cleary.

Mr Dempster, a former staff Board member who has been at the forefront of the Alumni campaign, outlined the ABC’s many contributions in the public interest.

These include numerous royal commissions and inquiries following Four Corners reports – the banking and aged care royal commissions among them.

Mr Dempster warned the ABC faces a grim future if the Coalition is re-elected, including the $83 million indexation cut, and further substantial cuts from the as yet unreleased efficiency review by former News Corp and Foxtel executive Peter Tonagh.

Matt Peacock Maxine McKew and Quentin Dempster at our Melbourne rally pic Marcus May

Mr Dempster, a former staff Board member who has been at the forefront of the Alumni campaign, outlined the ABC’s many contributions in the public interest.

These include numerous royal commissions and inquiries following Four Corners reports – the banking and aged care royal commissions among them.

Mr Dempster warned the ABC faces a grim future if the Coalition is re-elected.

"The ABC faces an immediate downsizing to accommodate the $83.7 million indexation cut, and it faces the prospect of further substantial cuts to output if the latest efficiency review recommendations from former News Corp and Foxtel executive Peter Tonagh – which the government has yet to release – are implemented.”

Mr Shorten told the capacity crowd the ALP would move to provide the national broadcaster with secure funding over a five-year cycle. This is in line with ABC Alumni’s recommendation to the recent Senate Inquiry into the ABC of a minimum secure quinquennial funding cycle.

Under the current three-year cycle, government is able to cut funding at any time.

“This uncertainty of funding makes it impossible for the ABC to properly budget or plan for the future,” said Alumni co-director Helen Grasswill.

“And the situation is exacerbated by the complexity of multiple media platforms and evolving technologies in the digital era, which often require longer-term planning. Ideally we would like to see a 10-year cycle like the BBC has.”

If there is a change of government, ABC Alumni says further funding will be needed to address priorities including restoration of Radio National’s capacity to produce the in-depth and cutting-edge specialist programming for which it has long been renowned worldwide, renewal of a weekly state-based current affairs television program, and better coverage of Pacific affairs.

Senator Di Natale told the rally the Greens would support Labor’s initiatives, and more. He said the Greens would work to lock into law a minimum of five-year secure funding for the ABC, and the party would also advocate to restore all funding cut since the 2014 budget.

“Let’s work together on this,” he said. “We want to see the $460 million that’s needed restored to the ABC.”

Kerry O’Brien told the meeting that “the ABC is not one of the most trusted institutions in Australia, it is the most trusted institution. Funding is essential.”

He was greeted with applause when he told the audience that ABC Alumni and ABC Friends want to be non-partisan, but this is impossible.

“This election next Saturday will determine the future of the ABC,” he said.

Alumni speaker Gael Jennings summed up the majority view at the rally when she said “this government needs to go if the ABC is to survive.”

ABC Alumni acknowledges and thanks ABC Friends, our joint organisers of the rally.

pic Marcus May