SUBJECT/S: Abbott’s lies on cuts to ABC and SBS; White Ribbon Day



MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Good morning. Yesterday we had the unedifying spectacle in Question Time of Prime Minister Tony Abbott lying about his own lies. We all know that the night before the election Tony Abbott promised the Australian people “no cuts to the ABC and no cuts to the SBS”. Even in Question Time yesterday, despite the fact that Joe Hockey on a previous occasion has pleaded guilty to these cuts, despite the fact the Australian people know a cut when they see it, Tony Abbott still refuses to concede that he has broken these promises, and that he even said those words the night before the election. What we have seen yesterday is some 400 jobs to be lost from the ABC. We have had half a billion dollars in cuts for the ABC and we have also had substantial cuts for the SBS. At a time when Australians value content, at a time when Australians value Australian voices and diversity, this is not the time when our public broadcasters should be left to cope with so little and suffer the consequences of Tony Abbott’s broken promises.

JOURNALIST:  Will Labor reverse these cuts?

ROWLAND: We’ll have to see after the election, if we get back in at the next election of course or whenever Labor does return to power, what exactly is left of the ABC. We’re having production areas completely closed. We have had substantial job losses as I’ve already mentioned so we will need to see what the state of the ABC is, in addition to the state of the books. But I can tell you this: the ABC and the SBS, our public broadcasters, will always be in better hands under a Labor Government.

JOURNALIST: But would you restore funding [inaudible]

ROWLAND: As I said, we would need to see exactly what the extent of the damage is but it will always be better off, our public broadcasters, under a Labor Government. We would always ensure that they would be receiving more money.

JOURNALIST: Michelle, we’re seeing efficiency dividends that we saw under the previous Labor Government, the ABC and SBS have always been exempt from efficiencies. Do you think that this needs to be looked at, and in the future perhaps when efficiency dividends are imposed across all government agencies so the ABC is included so they know where they stand and it’s more [inaudible] than having a big cut like this?

ROWLAND: Laura, I think there’s two things there. Firstly the fact that this Government has decided that they will be part of an efficiency dividend, so that decision has already been made by this Government. But the more important point that I will make is that this is a Prime Minister who, the night before the election, made an explicit promise on this point. Whether you call it an efficiency dividend, whether you call it any other name, the reality is the promise was no cuts.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that people who are arcing up about this decision today would be disappointed that Labor as well didn’t reverse those cuts fully?

ROWLAND: Reversing cuts to?

JOURNALIST: The ABC. Because you’re saying here, and Bill Shorten has said repeatedly, they have refused to say that they will bring back that money in full back to the ABC. You can understand people would be a bit upset if that didn’t happen.

ROWLAND: Well firstly I think people are more upset by the fact that they have got local representatives, in regional Liberal members, but also National party members, who have all of a sudden discovered that there are consequences to cuts. I think that’s what people are most disappointed about in our elected representatives today on this matter. We have seen members of the Government, backbenchers as well as frontbenchers, doing petitions, writing letters to Mark Scott, all this feigned indignation. We didn’t hear a peep out of them when the Commission of Audit was released.  We didn’t hear a peep out of them when the Budget was released, and all of a sudden they’re concerned about their own patches. Where were they? Where were they? They are the people whom the Australian public are disappointed in.  But I can tell you this: our public broadcasters are valued by Labor. It is quite clear they are not valued by this Government. The choice is absolutely stark and the consequences will be borne, not only by the ABC staff, but by our public identity in the long run if our public broadcasters are not properly resourced.

JOURNALIST: Michelle, today is White Ribbon Day. [inaudible] is here in Parliament House, against violence against women and children. Every single [inaudible] commission said gender inequality is a problem. Again, the Prime Minister is looking at that saying the Paid Parental Leave scheme is one of his solutions. Don’t you agree that this is part of a positive?

ROWLAND: Well firstly, we already have a paid parental leave scheme in Australia which is working well. When we talk about gender equality as one of the factors that go towards family violence, that’s absolutely correct. But I would absolutely disagree that having Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave is somehow going to resolve these issues and for Tony Abbott to seek to rely on that is completely misguided. I will say on the issue of family violence and this being White Ribbon Day, I think all of us in this Parliament are absolutely united on the fact that violence against families, violence against women must stop and that relies on all of us to have a combined commitment. I spent ten years as a duty solicitor for a domestic violence advocacy service, it’s the only time I got to go to court. In those ten years, the things I saw, the people whom I had to represent, greatly influenced my life and my feelings on these issues. I believe that above all there is one thing we should remember and that is the Australian public, the Australian Government, anyone in a position of public influence cannot allow these things to go silent. We all must be supportive of people who need assistance. I saw people who looked like they were everyday, well-dressed career women. I would think that sometimes they were other lawyers. These were people affected by family violence. It doesn’t matter what background you have, what your occupation is; everyone in Australia, regardless of their background, is touched by family violence and we should all be united on this issue. Thank you.