Doorstop Interview – Canberra





SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Tony Abbott’s broken promise on the ABC; FoFA regulations.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: The night before the election, Tony Abbott promised Australians – promised Australians – that if you voted for Tony Abbott and his Liberal National Coalition, there would be no cuts to the ABC and no cuts to SBS. Well today every SBS viewer, everyone who watches or listens or uses the ABC has learned that Tony Abbott lied to them and he is now cutting vital services. So Tony Abbott today has effectively declared war on the public broadcaster, he wants to make it less relevant, he wants to make it weaker. He wants to deny literally millions of Australians who rely upon the ABC, and indeed SBS, the opportunity to get the same quality services. Tony Abbott’s lies will be his undoing and this again is another demonstration that his unfair Budget is based upon lies before the election. I might hand over to my colleague the shadow spokesperson for communications, Jason Clare.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thanks very much, Bill. The long laundry list of broken promises has just got bigger. Half a billion dollars bigger. As Bill said, the night before the election the Prime Minister said there would be no cuts to the ABC and no cuts to SBS. He’s now broken that promise, but it is not the only broken promise. He also said there would be no cuts to health. He’s broken that promise. He said there would be no cuts to education. He’s broken that promise as well. He said there would be no changes to the pension. He’s broken that promise as well. He said there would be no new taxes and he’s broken that as well. This is not just about broken promises anymore, this is about trust. This is about trust. This Prime Minister has broken so many promises that you put him on a polygraph and I think it would break.

The other point I’d make today is this: we’re now starting to see division in the ranks of the Liberal Party and the National Party over this. Unbelievably, this morning Christopher Pyne put out a petition urging people to sign up to try and stop the cuts in South Australia. Most people thought this was a prank, thought this was a hoax. Even Malcolm Turnbull when he was asked about this about an hour ago slapped down Christopher Pyne, invoking Francis Urquhart in ‘House of Cards’. And we’ve got Barnaby Joyce barnstorming around the bush attacking the Government for cutting radio services. I’d say to Christopher Pyne and Barnaby Joyce, you can’t be a lion in the bush or a lion in Adelaide and then b a mouse in Canberra. You’re in the Cabinet. You should stand up to Malcolm Turnbull and you should stand up to Tony Abbott, and you should tell the Prime Minister to stop lying to the Australian people.

SHORTEN: Thanks Jason. Are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: Why should the ABC be different to any of the other public servants who will be losing their jobs, any other government departments like AusAID or DFAT, for instance? Why should the ABC be exempt?

SHORTEN: Australians want a strong public broadcaster. We are not going to let Tony Abbott off the hook. He wilfully and deliberately lied to the Australian people before the election. He wanted people’s votes, and he made a contract with the Australian people that if you voted for Tony Abbott there would be no cuts to the ABC or the SBS. Tony Abbott said it. Now he wants to walk away from his own broken promises. Labor believes that organisations can always be more efficient, certainly we do. But when it comes to efficiencies, the ABC has already enacted efficiencies which allowed it to develop News 24 and iView. What we believe is that the constant process of the ABC becoming more efficient shouldn’t see the public broadcaster robbed of money, but rather that it keeps developing its future. Better ABC services for the regions, better specialist services, developing its online presence more. I think every Australian knows that the Abbott Government wants to hand away an independent public broadcaster strength and just leave it to the market forces with all that that entails.

JOURNALIST: Just on SBS, the Government’s obviously said they’re going to push ahead with changes there that will allow SBS to move ads from low-rating times to primetime. What’s your opinion on that and that obviously has to pass through parliament, that change?

SHORTEN: Labor doesn’t believe that we need more television ads on television. This is just simply an attempt to cover up the cuts to the SBS. This is not a good move. What they need to do with SBS and ABC is just keep your promise, Tony Abbott. Just once in your life as Prime Minister, keep your promise, don’t cut the ABC, don’t cut the SBS. And Tony Abbott is really underestimating the loyalty that Australians have to the ABC. We’ve all grown up with it. It’s our national anthem when the news comes on, it is what unites us in Australia and overseas. When we hear that chime of the ABC anthem, we know of a certain quality and a strong public broadcaster. If Tony Abbott wants to wreck this country he’s going to have to come through us first.

JOURNALIST: Labor would oppose that change?

SHORTEN: The case has not been made out to put further advertisements on SBS. The case has not been made out. It’s just a whitewash for his dirty, underhanded cuts to public broadcasting in this country.

JOURNALIST: Do you see merit in splitting the roles of managing director and editor in chief at the ABC?

SHORTEN: I think the matters should be best dealt with through the administration of the public broadcaster. The last thing we want is Tony Abbott to play chief news supremo in Australia. I might ask my colleague Jason Clare to further expand upon that answer.

CLARE: Malcolm Turnbull, as well as confirming the broken promises today, also said he was going to recommend some things to the ABC board and management. We’ll have a good look at those. We haven’t seen the details of those yet, but the main point today is this is broken promise day. Another broken promise wilfully done. This wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t something that they said ‘look, we might cut the ABC’. The Prime Minister said ‘we won’t cut the ABC’. And extraordinarily Malcolm Turnbull again repeated what he said on Q & A the other night where he said, ‘it’s not really a broken promise because I said something and do you really think Tony Abbott would say something different to me?’ Children come up with better excuses for not doing their homework than the excuse this Government is coming up with to try and explain this broken promise. We’re keeping Tony Abbott to his word. The people of Australia have a right to expect that the Prime Minister of Australia will keep their word. This person has broken their promise time after time after time, wilfully and deceitfully, and we’ll hold him to it.

JOURNALIST: Are these decisions then, the splitting of roles and internal appointments, these are things that should be left to the ABC and not be a matter for Government in terms of the structure?

CLARE: On the detail of that, Malcolm Turnbull said they are matters for the ABC board and management and he would put them to it as he can under the Act, and it’s then up to them to decide if they will or won’t.

JOURNALIST: Is it time for Mark Scott to move on?

CLARE: They are decisions for the ABC board to make. What it’s time for, it’s time for Tony Abbott to keep his promises.

JOURNALIST: Would the ABC board, would they be cowards in cutting programs? You know, Malcolm Turnbull says they can absorb these cuts without any affect to TV or radio programming.

SHORTEN: Well you ask the question about what will get cut. I mean, is Peppa Pig going to get cut? Tony Jones for the chop? Bill Shorten’s zingers on Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell? I tell you what, I tell you Shaun Micallef, I’m as mad as hell and we’ll fight for your show.

JOURNALIST: So you do believe that it’s possible that programming will be reduced because of these cuts?

SHORTEN: Well, we all know that this Government has got a sneaky agenda to undermine the public broadcaster. We know this Government doesn’t like criticism. We know this is a Government who’s got a low tolerance to anyone criticising them. If you don’t think that there’s politics involved in Tony Abbott cutting the ABC, well I’ve got a bridge at the mouth of the Yarra to sell you. This is a clear case that Tony Abbott is going after his political critics because he just doesn’t like people who disagree with Tony Abbott’s narrow view of the world. This is politics. This is not about the best interests of public broadcasting in this country. Tony Abbott, what he’s doing here, is a real attack on public broadcasting in this country and these are dangerous changes.

JOURNALIST: How do you see the impact on job losses?

SHORTEN: Well again, if Tony Abbott – why is it that Tony Abbott and some of the far right conservatives are so obsessed about the ABC? I wish they could get on and create some jobs in this country, they’re so obsessed about the ABC. I sort of wish that Tony Abbott had run for an election to be CEO of the ABC, get it out of his system, but the problem is he’s the Prime Minister of Australia. This is a bloke who will always go for politics over policy. The ABC does a great job and they have a higher trust regard in the Australian community than Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott should take his hands off the ABC.

JOURNALIST: Is Labor playing with fire when it relies on Jacqui Lambie to try and get the FOFA changes disallowed in the Senate?

SHORTEN: I love it, when Jacqui Lambie votes for the Government we don’t hear too much about it. As soon as Jacqui Lambie votes against the Government there are squeals of outrage. What interests me –

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

SHORTEN: I’m answering your question, but your question is about somehow that Jacqui Lambie, when she votes against the Government that’s a disreputable action and that was part of the question, I think, and] Labor should never vote with Jacqui Lambie. But what about when Jacqui Lambie has worked with the Government and the Government pursue her vote?

What really matters here is not Senate voting, how a Senator votes, it is the future of financial advice in this country. One of the greatest, shameful behaviours of this government is the way that they have been ruthlessly ripping up consumer protections for ordinary people. There are thousands of Australians who’ve lost their money in plenty of scams perpetuated by the bad end of the financial planning town, and now what we see is this Government carrying out, acting for vested interests. I accuse the Government on their FOFA changes of acting for vested interests and not the consumers. There’s been a last-minute reprieve for consumers. Labor’s fighting it tooth and nail in the Senate trenches. We’re determined to help protect consumers.

JOURNALIST: But if Clive Palmer can’t trust her with her vote, how can you?

SHORTEN: Again, you want to make the personalities the story. For me the story here is the protection of literally thousands and thousands of consumers. Everyone knows there’s been a string of financial scandals, everyone knows that this government, in a bizarre act of policy, is trying to water down protections for consumers. I just wish the Government would focus less on the personalities in the Senate, and more listening to the voices of tens of thousands of ordinary Australians who’ve had their life savings squandered because of poor regulation and protection of consumers.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe the ABC’s coverage is accurate and impartial?


JOURNALIST: Even with Shaun Micallef?

SHORTEN: Well, he’s funny but I’m still as mad as hell about these cuts, Shaun. Thanks everyone.