Interview with Mark Colvin – ABC PM – Wednesday 19 November 2014






SUBJECT/S: Cuts to the ABC; Tony Abbott’s broken promises.

MARK COLVIN: Malcolm Turnbull’s office [led] us yesterday to understand that he would be available for an interview this afternoon, then told us this afternoon that he wouldn’t. They and he gave us conflicting reasons for the decision but at any rate he was not available. In his absence, I spoke to his Labor opposite number, Jason Clare.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: The first thing about this is this is a broken promise. The night before the election Tony Abbott said there would be no cuts to the ABC, no ifs, no buts. There were no qualifications and he can’t walk away from what he said, he said there would be no cuts to the ABC, this proves he is a liar.

COLVIN: He said in his speech today – “Unless you believe that Mr Abbott was, in that one line, intending to contradict and overrule the very careful statements of intention made by Mr Hockey and myself, his remarks can only be understood in the same context, which left open savings of a kind which would not diminish the effective resources the ABC and SBS had available to produce content”. So he’s saying, I suppose, this is what he’s saying, that that’s not a broken promise.

CLARE: Mark I don’t think any reasonable person believes that. That doesn’t pass the pub test. That’s the most pathetic attempt to excuse blame for a broken promise that I’ve ever seen. Tony Abbott said there would be no cuts to the ABC and he’s cutting it. It means he’s a liar and we will hold him to his word.

Malcolm Turnbull’s promise that these cuts are so small that it’s just the back office I think will prove to be wrong as well. Mark Scott the Chief Executive of the ABC has said this is going to cost hundreds of jobs and that good programs, programs that people love and enjoy are going to be lost as well.

COLVIN: But he goes on in the speech directly to talk about the Lewis Report, the report that he commissioned, done by very experienced Commercial TV Chief Financial Officer, is he right about that? Was that report, did that report prove that there was a lot in the back office that ABC and SBS could save?

CLARE: Well Mark who’d know? This report hasn’t been released. If Malcolm Turnbull wants to have a transparent debate about the ABC, release the report because he hasn’t done so today.

COLVIN: What do you know about the inner workings of the ABC because another thing that he’s saying is that the ABC isn’t transparent enough?

CLARE: The general point I would make is that any organisation, whether it’s the ABC, a government department, a private company, any organisation can be more efficient and you should find efficiencies in an organisation and use that money to create new services and products. That’s what we did when Labor was in government. We found efficiencies in the ABC and they helped to fund things like ABC 24, twenty four hour news service on television or ABC online. That’s what could and should be happening now, but instead what the Liberal Party is using this for is an excuse to cut money out of ABC and SBS.

COLVIN: Why do you say that they are breaking this promise?

CLARE: Because the night before the election they said they wouldn’t and they have.

COLVIN: I’m sorry what I mean is, what are you accusing them of? What’s the motivation you are accusing them of?

CLARE: This is not a symptom just restricted to the ABC, there is something happening here which is much broader than that. Tony Abbott promised no cuts to health, he broke that promise. No cuts to education, he’s broken that promise. He promised no changes to the pension, he’s broken that promise as well. No new taxes. He has broken more promises than most people have had hot dinners. It now goes to an issue of trust. Prime Ministers depend upon people trusting and respecting them and he is fast losing that because of his obvious, willful decision to break all of these promises.

COLVIN: Labor’s Communication Spokesman, Jason Clare.