- The Guardian
- Issue #1995
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has been a federal budget target for the Coalition since it first returned to office in 2013. Since that time, the Coalition has slashed over half a billion dollars in funding ($526 million).
There are at least three reasons why these cuts in federal funding to the ABC are alarming.
The first is that in 2013, the Coalition was elected after promising no cuts to the ABC and SBS. However, it reduced funding in the 2014 budget. Coupled with the pause in the indexation of funding in 2018, the Coalition have lied and broken a promise to the Australian people. The ABC reported these cuts to Senate estimates and further highlighted that it would be dealt an ongoing reduction of $106 million in base funding by 2021-22.
This promise to Australians that the ABC would not be the target of cuts in the budget is no small matter. According to The Guardian (UK), an Australia Institute “poll of 1,000 voters conducted by the Australia Institute found that fifty-two per cent want the $84m cut from the ABC in the last three years to be restored, more than double those who oppose it (twenty-five per cent).” And while the issue is ideologically divisive, even Coalition voters were more in favour of increased funding (forty-three per cent) than not (thirty-six per cent).
Another reason why the cuts are alarming is because of the service and jobs the ABC provides. Starting with the latter, the ABC has lost over 600 jobs. In a post-COVID-19 world, mixed with the continuing cuts to funding, a further loss of jobs to a public broadcaster makes zero sense when framed against the effects on the economy and role the ABC has played during the pandemic. The ABC has played a crucial role in communicating the rapid changes around policy and delivering information from both the state and federal governments. In 2019, it also played a crucial role in delivering vital information to many living in the areas surrounding the catastrophic bushfires.
Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – we, the people, need a public, independent broadcaster, free from corporate ownership. This is not just something progressives recognise, but most Australians do as well. According to the same poll, “sixty-one per cent of respondents agreed that ‘a strong, independent ABC is critical to a healthy democracy’ with only nineteen per cent disagreeing” (Guardian (UK)). This is significant because it highlights that Australians understand perfectly well the role the ABC plays in delivering the news in a fair manner.
As Australia Institute senior research, Bill Browne stated “cuts to the ABC undermine its truth-telling mission, cost hundreds of people their jobs and mean Australians miss out on quality broadcasting […]. […]The ABC is an essential part of Australia’s democracy and accountability infrastructure.”
We must ensure that the Coalition does not return to government, with the immense amount of misinformation being spread throughout the world, let alone Australia, we must ensure we have a media outlet that Australians can rely on in the future.