Senate debates

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Statements by Senators

Edwards, the Hon. Sir Llewellyn Roy (Llew), AC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

1:40 pm

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to pay tribute to a man who made an incredible contribution to my home state of Queensland and to my party, Sir Llewellyn Roy Edwards AC. Sir Llew first left school at 15 and started out as an electrician, working in the family business in Ipswich. A few years later a fall from a ladder would see him in hospital with a broken back. He spent his time recovering in hospital thinking, and he decided to change the course of his life. He finished school, and he went on to study medicine and become a doctor. It was while he was working as a local GP in Ipswich that another great of Queensland politics, Sir Gordon Chalk, paid him a visit and convinced him to run for state parliament, for the seat of Ipswich. While he was considered an outside chance—Ipswich is Labor heartland—his personal popularity and respect in the community saw him defy the political odds of the day and become the first Liberal member for Ipswich in 1972.

The 1970s and 1980s was a time when Queensland was coming into its own, and Sir Llew was a steady hand on the tiller. He was promoted to become the state's health minister in 1974 before going on to become Deputy Premier and Treasurer, working with the great Sir Joh. Quietly determined, Sir Llew was a true coalitionist, working with colleagues across the political spectrum to modernise the health system and invest in regional hospitals, and to build the roads and dams that would help our state prosper for decades. Sir Llew was a builder of modern Queensland. Sir Llew knew that Queensland was brimming with potential, full of passionate people and brilliant ideas, a place blessed not just with good weather and plenty of bananas but with a great story to tell and an exciting future ahead.

Sir Llew knew that the best days of Queensland were in the future, so he took that opportunity to share the story with the world when he left parliament in 1983 and became CEO and chairman of Expo 88, an event that would capture the imagination of a generation and transform Brisbane from a big country town to an ever-growing city. I can remember driving down from Innisfail with my parents to visit Expo 88. For those at that age, we got a passport, and, being the cheeky kid I was, I learnt that you didn't go in the front entrance of all the exhibits; you could go in the back entrance and still get your passport stamped without having to go through the rigmarole of going through all the displays!

Sir Llew went on to use his expertise in private enterprise, most notably in his work as a director of James Hardie Industries and chairman of the Medical Research and Compensation Foundation, established to compensate asbestos victims. In 1993 he was elected the 12th chancellor of his alma mater, the University of Queensland—a role he held until 2009. In that time he shook the hands of no fewer than 88,000 excited graduates at graduation ceremonies. Fittingly a building at the university's St Lucia campus is named in honour of his contribution.

Sir Llew was a giant of my party and, more importantly, a giant of Queensland politics. He was a true gentleman of the old school who had no concept of prejudice. He offered wise counsel to many and extended a warm greeting to all. He leaves a truly incredible legacy that his loving family attributes to hard work, sacrifice and a dedication to community service. On behalf of my party, the Liberal National Party: thank you, Sir Llew, for your vision, your determination and your service to the people of Queensland.

Now, what are we going to do about the ABC? What are we going to do about the taxpayer funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation? This ABC has become this mosh pit of Labor-Green wokeness. The ABC needs to be urgently reformed to save itself. At the moment, the ABC seems to be run by a staff based workers' collective who are in control of the joint, a cabal who demand diversity, except when it comes to diversity of political opinions. The ABC workers' collective who are running this billion-dollar taxpayer funded organisation need to understand that taxpayers are sick of funding this opinionated, gobby blob. Twenty years ago, disaffected viewers of the ABC had no choice of where they could go. There was little plurality in the media market. What the ABC fails to understand is that centre-Right listeners and viewers now have options. We can go to streaming services. We can go to Sky News. We can go to the web to get our news sources. And so the ABC fails to understand that it is losing generations of centre-Right thought leaders. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is no longer the national broadcaster. Indeed, it is becoming the un-Australian national broadcaster, a broadcaster that only accepts views of the centre Left or the far Left.

I am a fan of the ABC and I have a three-point plan to help save the ABC from itself. We need to sell all of the inner-city offices. We need to sell the headquarters in Brisbane, in Sydney at Ultimo and in Melbourne. Sell them off. Move the staff to the regions or to the suburbs. I notice that today the ABC have said they are shifting 300 staff from Ultimo to Parramatta. That's a good start. They get half a tick for that. But they should shift all the staff from Ultimo and sell the building. I will put an ad on Gumtree or the Trading Post and sell it. It's worth about $300 million.

We need to review the ABC Act and charter to make it fit for purpose. But, in the meantime, let's sell Triple J. Triple J, as the ABC keeps telling us, does quite well in the ratings. Well, brilliant. If it was designed to fill a gap in the market and if the market is happy to pay for it let's also put Triple J on the Trading Post or Gumtree and sell it off. The taxpayers don't need to fund it. We should also put ads on the ABC. If the ABC is that good, let commercial businesses and commercial operators put ads on the ABC, as we have done with SBS, to take the burden off the taxpayers.

We should also open up staff recruitment. This goes to an earlier comment. The ABC seem to believe in diversity, and they are very good at making sure they talk about how diverse they are. But they are not diverse when it comes to their staff selection. I'm sure there are many good and great people who work at the ABC, but they all tend to be left wing. They all tend to be quite left wing. There used to be a kids' game called Where's Wally? If you try and find at the ABC where the poor conservative is, they're all hiding in a closet somewhere or they're not even in the building. The issue with the ABC is that we need to make sure that the ABC reflects modern Australia, because this bumbling, burbling, taxpayer funded, sneering, tweeting blob takes the taxpayer for granted. On behalf of the taxpayers of Australia, I'm saying enough is enough. If the ABC is not going to represent all of Australia, it is time for reform. If people aren't going to reform the ABC then it's time to send the ABC to the knacker's yard.