ABC and SBS to receive an extra $60m if Labor wins, says Bill Shorten

Bill Shorten has announced a $60m funding injection for ABC and SBS if Labor wins the election on Saturday.

$40m of the funding will go to ABC while $20m will be given to SBS. The funding is in addition to the ALP’s promise to scrap the $84m indexation pause imposed by the Coalition government, which is due to come into effect on July 1.

Speaking in Melbourne on Saturday at an event jointly organised by ABC Alumni and ABC Friends, ALP leader Bill Shorten said the Liberals have to learn to keep their hands off the ABC.

Shorten said the new funding would enable more Australian drama, more children’s programming and more music content.

“A strong quality national broadcaster does require resources,” he said.

“The government would criticise this cost, I call it an investment.”

The indexation pause was announced while Michelle Guthrie was still in the managing director position, with Guthrie saying at the time she was “very disappointed and concerned by the measure”. The decision will cost the broadcaster $84m over three years.

ABC Alumni has been behind the lobbying for the restoration of over half a billion dollars that has been removed from ABC funding over the past five years.

Shorten speaking at the event

Alumni co-director Matt Peacock said: “This commitment is greatly welcome, and hopefully will avert more program cuts and hundreds of job losses that are certain if the Coalition is re-elected.

“The ABC still needs full restoration of the funds stripped out over the past five years – and then some – if it’s to maintain Australian culture in the global digital age.”

Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale also spoke at the event, lending his support to the restored funding.

“There is no more important public entity than the ABC,” said Di Natale.

“We will ensure that the ABC remains proudly and fiercely independent.”

All major political party leaders were invited to speak at the event, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, communications minister Mitch Fifield and Nationals leader Michael McCormack declining to attend.

Nationals deputy leader Senator Bridget McKenzie also did not attend, but in a statement described the ABC as “a crucial institution in regional Australia”.

“The Nationals do not and have no intention of ever supporting the privatisation of the ABC,” she said.

The rally was also attended by ALP arts spokesperson Tony Burke, Senator Kristina Keneally and candidate for Higgins Fiona McLeod, and the Greens’ communication spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. Alumni including Kerry O’Brien, Maxine McKew, Quentin Dempster, Dr Gael Jennings and John Cleary also attended.

“If the Scott Morrison Coalition is re-elected, the ABC faces an immediate downsizing to accommodate the $83.7m indexation cut; and it faces the prospect of further substantial cuts to output if the latest efficiency review recommendations from former News Corp and Foxtel executive Peter Tonagh – which the government has yet to release – are implemented,” said Dempster.

At the event, Shorten also said the ALP would move to provide ABC with secure funding over a five-year cycle. The current cycle is three-years. The broadcaster is pushing for a 10-year cycle, such as that held by the BBC in the UK.

Kerry O’Brien told the meeting that “The ABC is not one of the most trusted institutions in Australia, it is the most-trusted institution. Funding is essential”.

“This election next Saturday will determine the future of the ABC,” he said.

Shorten also used the weekend to address his ongoing feud with News Corp’s The Daily Telegraph. Speaking on ABC’s Insiders, Shorten, who had pre-recorded his interview that morning so he could take part in a Mother’s Day Fun Run, said he was not going to use his position to go after News Corp, should he win the election this coming Saturday.

“I realise they are what they are. You could pick up the front page of that paper and all that’s changed is the date across the top. They are campaigning against Labor. It’s not all of News Limited, some of their mastheads and a lot of their journalists I don’t lump in the same bucket. But if some newspapers want to be political parties they should just come out and say it,” said Shorten.

“The real problem here, and let’s not even talk about the Telegraph, but if you like, traditional media, is that they’re under threat. And I have some sympathy that the new media platforms get a lighter run in terms of regulation and taxation than they do, so in that aspect I might surprise you, I’m sympathetic to traditional media. But the way forward for them isn’t just to become more frenzied,” he said.

“Perhaps rather than doubling down on an old business model of playing the gossip, of going for the attack stuff and not focusing on the journalism, maybe there’s another way forward for them to look at. But hey, I’m just another consumer.”

When asked by Insiders’ Barrie Cassidy if his issues with the Telegraph were behind the reason he chose not to meet with Rupert Murdoch in the lead up to the election, Shorten only had one thing to say.

I’ll deal with Australian businesses in Australia.”

Cassidy also asked Shorten about his comments at the Alumni rally regarding a potential move to a five-year funding cycle for ABC, during which Shorten said he ‘fundamentally believed’ in the need for an independent broadcaster, and could see the ‘sense’ in a five-year funding cycle, but that the conversation would need to wait until he was elected.

“To anyone who loves the ABC, be it in the bush, people who need the emergency warnings, I’ve got two words. My view is ABC everywhere. Everywhere in reach and availability and including in the Pacific,” said Shorten.


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