Senate debates

Monday, 24 November 2014

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

3:21 pm

Photo of Chris KetterChris Ketter (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise also to take note of answers given by Senator Abetz in relation to the ABC and SBS cuts. The ABC cuts leaked over the past few weeks, before being announced by the communications minister, are another broken promise that will hang around this government's neck.

I am indebted to Senator Fawcett for reiterating the offending sentence, which the Prime Minister uttered prior to the last election. I will repeat that sentence, because it is extremely important to remind people of this. In fact, it is one of those sentences you would think of entering into the Guinness World Records as the sentence in which the most broken promises have been compressed by any political leader. Again, that sentence is:

No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.

These half a billion dollars in cuts to the ABC and SBS show the absolute ineffectiveness of the Nationals in standing up for regional Australians—regrettably, there are not any Nationals senators here at the moment. Much media commentary of late has been made of the bargaining power of the minor parties and Independents in the Senate of late, but there is one minor party that is sleepwalking itself into irrelevancy through its own inaction and absolute unwillingness to stand up to the Liberals on many matter—that is, the Nationals.

Today, we have seen the itemisation of what the government's cuts to the ABC—yet another broken promise—will mean on the ground. I would like to briefly focus on what this will mean for regional Queensland, but before I do I will quote from the media release issued by the Managing Director of the ABC, Mark Scott, today, where he says:

The Government has confirmed that, in addition to the May 2014 budget cut of $120 million, the ABC budget will be cut from July 2015 by a further $207 million over four years. The schedule of cuts outlined by the Government acknowledges that extracting efficiencies incurs a big upfront liability for the ABC in the form of redundancies and early transitional costs. We must fund these costs from our current funding allocation and asset base. Because the cuts are back-end loaded, in the latter years the accumulated impact to the ABC is over eight per cent a year. We face immediate work to meet the 2016-17 ask of more than $60 million. This target requires concerted, disciplined action to meet our twin challenges. We must make significant savings to ensure that our content is largely protected from external funding shocks.

The ABC is an institution in regional Australia, where often it is the only source of local news and current affairs through radio, TV and online services. Amongst the details of the cuts announced by ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott, now we will see the closure of the Gladstone ABC radio station as well as the axing of the state 7.30 programs on Friday nights. The closure of the Gladstone radio post is a blow to a growing region whose economic development and investment in recent years has helped drive the Queensland and national economies. Some Queensland Nationals and Liberal senators may even be pleased at the axing of Queensland 7.30. This was a program, after all, that in recent months aired very revealing interviews with former LNP heavy-hitters Dr Bruce Flegg and Dr Chris Davis. Quite simply, Queensland 7.30 is one of the best and only programs for in-depth political coverage of issues specific to Queensland. There are reports today that Landline will also bear the brunt of these cuts.

There are other instances where the Nationals have capitulated to the Liberal Party. We saw that in the expression of Minister Joyce's disappointment, in respect of the China free-trade agreement concerning sugar, rice and cotton. We saw it in rural health funding, with Senator Nash saying that the Nationals' commitments were not coalition commitments. We saw it with Minister Joyce ignoring SPC because they were in a Liberal seat, with the Nationals being duped on fuel excise increases and with Minister Joyce being rolled on his own agricultural competitiveness paper. So the fact that the Nationals have rolled over on these cuts is the only certainty for Queenslanders.

Federal Minister for Agriculture Joyce last week said that he wanted assurance that rural and regional news services will not suffer as a result of the ABC cuts, and Senator McKenzie has also said that she is disappointed. (Time expired)


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