The ABC has invited both major party leaders to a nationally televised election debate. But regrettably this invitation has been declined by the Prime Minister in favour of two commercial free-to-air networks, and one subscriber-only channel.
And yet it is the ABC that is required by law to cover parliamentary sittings, question time and inquiries by parliamentary committees as part of its Charter obligations to the Australian people.
ABC Alumni believes Mr Morrison’s avoidance of the ABC is because only the ABC, in its news and current affairs programs on radio, TV, and online, regularly conducts robust interviews that hold both federal government ministers and federal opposition leaders to account. By comparison, Sky News clearly favours the Coalition. That appears to be why Mr Morrison, with the acquiescence of Mr Albanese, has preferred to conduct the first debate on a Pay TV channel rather than with the national broadcaster, despite inevitably smaller audiences.
The commercial broadcasters cover federal politics much less thoroughly than the ABC.
ABC Alumni believes that it is a disgrace that the ABC, with its broad reach to metropolitan and regional Australians, and a raft of expert and seasoned political interviewers and correspondents, should be excluded from broadcasting at least one debate. There is now a case for legislation requiring a nationally televised debate or debates under clear rules, which could be simulcast by the ABC and all commercial networks in the days or weeks immediately before polling day.
Since its foundation in 1932 the ABC has been an institutional pillar for our Australian democracy. If democracy means anything it means that sovereign power ultimately lies with the Australian people. The ABC should be allowed to take a full part in ensuring that voters are fully informed and fully engaged.
On behalf of ABC Alumni
4 May 2022