Wednesday, 14 November 2018
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 1080, standing in my name, relating to the funding of the Australia Network. I understand that the amendment has been circulated in the chamber.
I move the motion as amended:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 states that the “corporation or prescribed companies [are] to be the only providers of Commonwealth-funded international
(ii) the Abbott Government stripped funding for the Australia Network from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), and
(iii) the Morrison Government has indicated that it plans to work “with our commercial media operators to ensure the Pacific can connect to quality Australian media content”; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to reinstate the Australia Network and award the public funding for the Australia Network broadcasting in the Asia-Pacific to the ABC.
The ABC already broadcasts internationally as per its charter, and the government is not changing that. The government is not proposing that commercial media undertake their own broadcasting into the Pacific. Rather, the government wants to work with commercial broadcasters to make more Australian content available to domestic Pacific nation broadcasters. This will ensure that our Pacific friends have access to more quality Australian content on television and other platforms.
Labor is sympathetic with the sentiment behind this motion but does not support it as originally drafted or as amended. Labor notes that the ABC charter sets out international broadcasting as a function of the ABC and that the ABC Act prescribes the providers of Commonwealth funded international broadcasting services. Labor notes that the Liberal government's short-sighted cuts to the ABC and the dismantling of the Australia Network have undermined both the ABC and Australia's presence in the region. Labor notes that the government's 'soft power' review and the review of Australian broadcasting services in the Asia-Pacific are yet to conclude. Labor's policy positions on international broadcasting and the Pacific will be considered through Labor's usual caucus process.
This motion calls for the money that the government has now promised for broadcasting in the Asia-Pacific to be directed to the ABC. If we are going to be spending public money on broadcasting in the region for the purposes of soft diplomacy, it should be done through our public broadcaster. It was a mistake by Mr Abbott to slash the Australia Network and the ABC's contract at that time. There was obviously some acknowledgement in the government that that was a mistake. Fix it properly. Refund the ABC and let them get on with their job.