Interview with David Speers – Sky News PM Agenda – Monday, 24 November 2014






SUBJECT/S: Cuts to the ABC and SBS

DAVID SPEERS: As we’ve seen this afternoon the Opposition has been attacking the Government, the Prime Minister in particular in Parliament over the cut to the ABC, pointing out that he said on election eve that there would be no cuts to the ABC or SBS, along with health and education and other areas as well. The Government says this is just an efficiency dividend, something the ABC was exempt from for several years and has demanded to know whether Labor would restore the two hundred and fifty million dollars that’s been taken from the ABC.

Joining me now is Labor Communications Spokesman, the Shadow Minister Jason Clare. Welcome to the program.

So just on that question, will you restore the two hundred and fifty million?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: We’ll make a decision closer to the election, but what I’ve been saying to people very clearly is judge us on our record. Labor in office gave the ABC the biggest increase in funding in twenty five years. Now compare that to the Liberal Party whether it’s Fraser, or Howard or now Abbott there’s one thing they’ve all got in common, they all cut the ABC. Labor by contrast has increased investment to do things like create ABC3, the children’s program.

SPEERS: So why in Government did Labor leave the ABC exempt from these efficiency dividends?

CLARE: It wasn’t just the ABC that was exempt from efficiency dividends, Defence didn’t pay an efficiency dividend either. We formed the view that the ABC needed to grow and to do different things such as create ABC 24 and such as create a bigger online presence. So efficiencies were found under us in Government for the ABC. Mark Scott made this point in his interview with you earlier today. We found efficiencies and used that money to create additional services and my argument has been that the Government should find efficiencies in the ABC and use that money to create new services and new programs for the Australian people.

SPEERS: So essentially you believe the ABC needs to keep on growing in size?

CLARE: I think particularly in this area of digital, which has been controversial, where people have said the ABC should vacate the field and keep to its knitting. I think that’s the wrong approach. Not only is it in its charter but secondly if you adopted that approach in the 50’s there would never be ABC television. Thirdly if you don’t go digital, you die. Everybody knows that.

SPEERS: Do you do that at the expense of regional radio for example? There are these five regional stations that are going to close, in Gladstone, in Nowra and in Morwell. Do you do that at the expense of keeping alive all this online activity? Online news is one thing but the opinion stuff and everything else at the ABC does.

CLARE: It’s a good question and we’d have the answer to it if Malcolm Turnbull released the Peter Lewis Report. The efficiency report into the ABC which identified areas where efficiencies could be found but it’s being kept secret. The Minister could release the report, I’ve asked him to release it in full and he could redact areas that the ABC or SBS say they would like to keep confidential. He’s refused to do that.

SPEERS: On the face of it do you think the way Mark Scott has gone about implementing this two hundred and fifty million dollar cut is appropriate – in cutting these regional services but keeping all the online stuff, keeping the marketing budget untouched? Is that the right way to go?

CLARE: I feel for Mark Scott, he expected the day after the election there wouldn’t be any cuts to the ABC, just like twenty odd million Australians thought there wouldn’t be any cuts to the ABC but what we’ve found is that the Prime Minister lied. Now he’s had to go and find savings, Malcolm Turnbull says it could all be done via back office.

SPEERS: So the way that he’s done it though?

CLARE: Mark Scott has consistently said, to be fair to Mark Scott he’s been saying over a number of weeks that it’s binary, that you can’t just cut the back office, it’s connected to the front office and that means it will affect content, it will affect programs and it will mean people will lose their job and four hundred people have lost their job as a result of this Tony Abbott lie and these cuts to the ABC.

SPEERS: This whole argument that you believe the ABC should be able to do all these news things but the way Mark Scott has come out with these cuts today mean they are going to sacrifice some regional services.

CLARE: If you don’t go digital you die. People want to watch programs like your interviews a couple of hours after the interview has been done. They can’t necessarily watch it live but they’ll come home tonight and want to watch catch up TV or they will be sitting on the train and they will want to watch the interview or they will want to read what’s on the Sky website or on an ABC website. That’s just the way society is.

SPEERS: The way we consume media.

CLARE: That’s right and the ABC needs to follow that path otherwise it will become less relevant.

SPEERS: So to do all of that you are still unsure whether you would put that money back in?

CLARE: In this circumstance they’ve got to make a decision about where they make the savings and they’ve made that decision. That’s a decision for them to make. They’ve said they can’t exempt content and it’s been proven correct.

SPEERS: Ok but I’m asking whether you would restore that funding or not? When would you be able to make that decision?

CLARE: We’ll make an announcement before the election. Until then, let me make it very clear, judge us on our record. Labor invests in the ABC, the Liberal Party cuts it.

SPEERS: If it’s so important, surely you can say now yes we will increase funding for the ABC.

CLARE: I’m not going to announce it on your program David.

SPEERS: I’m not saying announce the full policy but will you increase it or not?

CLARE: We will go through the normal Shadow Cabinet process and make an announcement before the election. What you’ve got here is a rolled gold broken promise made the night before the election.

Tony Abbott said no cuts to health, he’s broken that, no cuts to education, he’s broken that, no changes to the pension he’s broken that as well, no cuts to the ABC and SBS, he’s broken that. There’s one to go and that’s the GST.

SPEERS: Jason Clare, thank you.

CLARE: Thanks very much David.