My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 12 June 2018

by ray goodlass

We need to defend public broadcasting

It has been gratifying to see Letters to the Editor (DA 6 June) defending the ABC, for recent weeks have seen sustained attacks on our public broadcaster from the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), the Lib/Nats coalition government, News Corps’ The Australian/Daily Telegraph, and Pauline Hanson and what is left of One Nation.

The Turnbull government has even resorted to bogus attacks against three ABC journalists including Emma Alberici.

At the same time the powerful, ultra-conservative IPA think tank published a new book: Against Public Broadcasting: How and why we should privatise the ABC.

It gets worse. Turnbull’s Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, the politician who holds the fate of the ABC, is a paid up, card carrying member of the IPA.

And they’re having a devastating impact. The Coalition Government has already cut more than $250m from the ABC’s budget, and now they’re cutting a further $84 million.

The ABC has lost 1,012 jobs since Tony Abbott’s first round of cuts in 2014, and Pauline Hanson has successfully mounted a chilling inquiry into both the ABC and SBS. The threat of privatisation has never been so palpable.

The Turnbull Government is becoming increasingly brazen in their ABC attacks. Why? Because they assume the only voters it bothers are rusted on ‘lefties’ who’d never vote for them anyway. They assume wrong.

The ABC is one of Australia’s most liked and trusted institutions, with supporters from right across the political spectrum.

It took a while but the ABC chairman, Justin Milne, finally went public in defence of the ABC reported the Guardian Australia last week.

“Australians should not be fooled by the current battle being waged against public broadcasting,” Milne wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald. “Fringe political interests, populists and commercial media all have a shared interest in weakening the ABC and confining it to market failure activities.”

Apart from writing Letters to Editor there is a lot we can do to save the ABC. We can lobby our MPs, for example. Get Up has launched a campaign to save the broadcaster, and has pointed out that it would be very useful to target the most strategic electorates including the ‘Super Saturday’ by-elections and especially in the South Australian seat of Mayo, where the Liberal candidate has described the ABC as a “despicable waste of taxpayer’s precious money”.

Labor didn’t commit to restoring the funding at the last election. They are yet to decide what they’ll do now.

Thankfully the Greens are much more committed to saving public broadcasting. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has launched a campaign, making it clear that the Greens are committed to restoring every dollar lost under the Abbott and Turnbull Governments.

It’s not just funding, either. Malcolm Turnbull has launched the single biggest assault on the broadcaster’s independence in living memory.

The ABC is subject to a series of reviews and pending legislation that will hobble its ability to speak truth to power.

The Government is treating the ABC like a bargaining chip in getting One Nation to support its agenda. Nothing is off the table. Pauline Hanson said she wanted the Treasurer to “whack” millions off the ABC. This Budget, he did.

We want every dollar back. Nothing less. Pauline Hanson and her right-wing mates in the Turnbull Government don’t like the ABC because it holds them to account. But that is exactly what we need our public broadcasters to do.