Monday, 9 November 2020
Broadcasting Services Amendment (Regional Commercial Radio and Other Measures) Bill 2020; Second Reading
I rise to continue speaking about the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Regional Commercial Radio and Other Measures) Bill 2020. Where I left off, I was talking about the continuing crises—the bushfires and COVID, but also the crisis in regional media. This government—those opposite—are unfortunately proactively making things worse by cutting the ABC's funding.
Since 2014, around 800 ABC staff have lost their jobs. The Australia Network—so important to our relationships in the Indo-Pacific—has been axed. Shortwave radio has been shut down; that was so important to people on the land and waters of Australia so they can get news and information, whether it is out on a cattle station or on a prawn trawler. The number of hours of ABC's factual programming has dropped by 60 per cent, drama by 20 per cent, and documentaries by 13.5 per cent. What that means is less telling of our stories and fewer jobs for our creative Australians who are telling those stories, including Indigenous storytellers. It's NAIDOC week this week. Those cuts to the ABC are not good for closing the gap, for full reconciliation in our nation or for truth telling.
It is the role of the federal government to make sure that we have a strong independent media. At a time when the government should be investing in the ABC, or at least not cutting it to the extent that they are, the Morrison government is locking in almost $84 million of cuts to the ABC over three years. This is stupid, because we all know that during times of crisis—like in my electorate when there are cyclones bearing down, coming out of the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea—the ABC, through its role and charter, saves lives. The ABC saves lives. In all times of crisis, Australians turn to our national broadcaster for that trusted news and information. Obviously, recent events demonstrate just how much we value and need a strong and independent ABC.
When it comes to kids' television, the federal government have decided that they're going to give funding for kids' TV in Australia to the Australian Children's TV Association and to Screen Australia for production of kids' TV. This shows that they either don't understand the sector or that they deliberately don’t want to spend any money on educating our kids. The problem with giving funding to those two organisations instead of the ABC and NITV is that largely Australian producers and Australian businesses can't access them. It's largely for development funding, not to actually make content. So what the government are doing is exactly anti jobs and growth.
In the time I have remaining, I want to give a shout-out to some of our community radio stations in the Northern Territory that provide information and entertainment into my electorate. There's Hot 100. On the weekend it was great to catch up with Pratty and Joshua—young fella—from Hot 100. They're going to ride an old 1984 Statesman down the track to Adelaide in the Variety NT Bash, raising money for young Territorians. So well done to Pratty and his mates, and well done to Hot 100. Mix FM's Katie Woolf's show in the morning provides great information and debate on local, national and international issues.
I want to acknowledge Radio Larrakia's chair, Donna, the Fox and their hardworking First Nations staff. They get good product out through their radio stations. I have a lot to do with Territory FM and in particular Mel Little. I just want to give you a shout out, Mel, for all the volunteering you do in our community. I want to thank these radio stations along with the ABC because they keep my electorate informed. There's also Top Country and Darwin's 97 FM. They are really good people with good values. They all love the Territory; they make me so Territory proud.
What doesn't make me proud, though, is when I see a government faced with a $1 trillion debt that prioritises things that aren't important over funding our ABC, which we all know, not only in times of crisis but every single day, is vital to our democracy and to fair reporting in our country. I ask the government and I ask the minister to have a good look at yourselves. Fund the ABC, because it's an investment in our nation.