The year’s first major public rally in support of the ABC was held in federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s Kooyong electorate in Melbourne on Saturday night, 8 May. Organised by ABC Friends Victoria, the well attended fundraiser heard from speakers including the MEAA’s vice president and former ABC journalist Karen Percy, and former ABC journalist Jim Middleton representing ABC Alumni. Our Victorian convenor Peter Marks, who assisted the event’s organisers, reports on the night’s proceedings.
ABC: Under Attack Rally in Melbourne
By Peter Marks / 9 May 2021
Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg did not attend the meeting at Hawthorn Town Hall on Saturday night, 8 May – he was in Canberra ahead of delivering the Federal Budget on 11 May – but about 450 people did.
However, a message from Mr Frydenberg was read in full to the audience.
After assuring them that the Australian Government is “committed to maintaining the health and vibrancy of the ABC”, the treasurer prompted some laughter and astonishment as he repeated the Coalition’s position that there have been no cuts to the ABC.
Here’s what he said:
“It is important to note that the ABC’s budget has not been cut. ABC funding is locked in for the current three year period or triennium (2019-20 to 2021-22) and rises each year within that period. In the last budget the ABC received a further $43.7 million for regional and local news gathering. As you may already be aware, the government provided funding to the ABC of $1,046 million in 2018-19; in the three years of the current triennium, the ABC is receiving $1,062 million (2019-20); $1,065 million (2020-21); and $1,070 million (2021-22).”
This is in contradiction to independent research by Sydney University and RMIT which shows that under the Coalition the ABC has lost $783 million in funding since 2014, an average of 10 per cent cut every year. ABC Friends Victoria provided a detailed response in an open letter to the treasurer, which you can read here.
Speakers at the evening included ABC Friends Victoria president Michael Henry; past chair of the ABC Advisory Council and director of the Victorian College of the Arts, Professor Andrea Hull; Professor Ed Davis AM; vice president of the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) and former ABC journalist, Karen Percy; and on behalf of ABC Alumni, former ABC journalist Jim Middleton.
GetUp! campaigner Tosca Lloyd showed a film produced by the political activist group, titled “Murdoch and Morrison vs the ABC”, which drew together the broad community support for the ABC and illustrated the concerted campaign by Murdoch media and the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) to weaken or even privatise the ABC.
The panel discussed the impact of budget cuts to the ABC experienced so far during the Coalition government’s eight years in office, including the loss of key programs and dwindling staff levels. More subtle attacks on the ABC including efficiency reviews and frequent criticism of ABC program-makers in Murdoch media were also discussed.
A video of the event is available: https://fb.watch/5mOzOCWOdJ/
It was our pleasure to work in a small way with ABC Friends Victoria president Michael Henry and in particular key organiser and ABC Friends Victoria vice-president Marcus May in the preparation of the event. Our thanks to Jim Middleton for stepping up to speak and be on the panel.
Further rallies are anticipated around the country in coming months.
Peter Marks is ABC Alumni’s Victorian state convenor.