01 April 2019

Joint with Senator Kristina Keneally.

The Report of the Senate Inquiry into allegations of political interference in the ABC, tabled today, demonstrates that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has used practically every lever at its disposal to try and interfere with the ABC: Attacks, Board appointments, and Cuts.

The Inquiry found this Coalition Government was complicit in the events of 2018, and the report is a document of the insidious ways in which it has worked to undermine our national broadcaster:

  • It is an indictment on Scott Morrison that the Senate Committee has recommended the ABC Act be amended to spell out the meaning of the term ‘consult’, given he demonstrated that even the current Prime Minister of Australia can’t be trusted to follow the letter and spirit of the law when it comes to appointing the ABC Chair.
  • It is a sad reflection on this Liberal Government’s politicisation of Australia’s democratic institutions that the Inquiry finds that even the work of the independent Nomination Panel, set up precisely to avoid political interference, needs greater transparency and accountability, given the use of Liberal chum recruitment firms to meddle in the merit-based process for Board appointments. 
  • It is a condemnation of this Liberal Government’s unfair cuts and efficiency reviews, and its pointless competitive neutrality inquiry, that the Senate Committee recommends funding stability for the ABC as a guard against political interference.

The ABC Board faced a ‘perfect storm’ for political interference, with a hostile Government, an IPA card-carrying Minister who used the ABC as a bargaining chip with Pauline Hanson, an activist Chair, and a Managing Director who did little to alert the Board of the Chair’s conduct until her own job was on the line. The Committee found deficiencies in the Board’s response to the allegations of political interference and has indicated that the Board should review these events, including the findings of this inquiry, to understand the lessons learned and take steps to guard against a similar occurrence in future.

The Australian public expects the highest standards of governance at its most respected public institution, and they deserve a Government, Prime Minister and Minister for Communications and the Arts who respect the ABC.

The Liberals came to government on the promise of no cuts to the ABC. That was a lie.

They’ve ripped hundreds of millions of dollars out of the ABC, meddled in its affairs and launched relentless ideological attacks on public broadcasting,

Labor has already committed to restoring Scott Morrison’s unfair cut of $83.7 million to the ABC and guaranteed funding stability for the ABC over the next budget cycle.

Whatever the Government may announce for the ABC in the last six weeks before the election, they can’t erase what they’ve done to the ABC over the last six years.

The evidence is clear: you can have a strong and independent ABC, or a Liberal Government. You can’t have both.