I rise to take note of the answers to questions regarding the ABC. I take people back to three weeks before the last election. Tony Jones, on Q&A, was speaking to the Treasurer, Mr Joe Hockey, and said: ‘Look, while we’re on the subject, is the ABC immune from cuts?’ Mr Hockey said: ‘I’ll just say to you, is there any waste in the ABC at all, Tony?’ Tony Jones said: ‘Say that again.’ There was a following conversation. Mr Bowen took part in it. Tony Jones, at the end, said: ‘A quick response to that, Joe Hockey.’ The Treasurer said: ‘If there is waste, we will cut it.’
That is a very clear statement from the coalition that where there is waste we will cut it. I go to the comments of Louise Evans, a former manager at ABC Radio National and a former managing editor of The Australian. She wrote: ‘Pockets of the ABC have been allowed to get too fat, flabby, wasteful and unaccountable.’ Very clearly, we see that people having worked within the ABC, comparing that to the private workplace, recognise that there is a lot of waste within the ABC.
Let us link back to that comment by the Treasurer on Q&A: ‘If there is waste, we will cut the waste.’ Now let us go to that statement by the Prime Minister, which was on SBS World News on the eve of the election, that everybody loves to quote. Anton Enus said: ‘What about the public broadcasters, Mr Abbott—another soft target? Are the ABC and SBS in the firing line?’ What did the Prime Minister actually say? He said: ‘I trust everyone actually listened to what Joe Hockey said last week and again this week: “No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS”.’ He was referring to comments by Mr Hockey.
What did Mr Hockey say about the ABC? He said: ‘Where there is waste, we will cut it,’ which is the same approach Labor has taken with efficiency dividends. It is the same approach the coalition is taking to all government departments. Why are we taking it? We are taking it because of the debt this country has been left in by the maladministration of the former Labor government that sees us borrowing huge amounts of money—every month—just to pay the interest on Labor’s borrowings.
In South Australia we are building a new hospital. Everybody is excited about the hospital but saying it is a huge amount of money. For the amount that we are borrowing to pay Labor’s interest we could have six new hospitals, every year, in South Australia. That is how significant the amount is. This government is prudently—and in keeping with its consistent promises leading up to the last election—addressing the nature of Labor’s legacy, which is to spend more than we receive. One of the ways you do that is by cutting waste and inefficiency.
The government has commissioned a report by Mr Peter Lewis, who has deep experience, in Seven West Media, in understanding media companies and how they run. The report he delivered to the government and the ABC has identified a whole range of areas where the ABC could save money. These are in the ABC’s: technology; procurement; reducing radio-TV news-management overheads; outsourcing payroll and automating accounts payable; updating its broadcast technology; pooling staff and production managers into a shared service model; and implementing self-service rostering. There are a whole range of ways that the ABC could be making those savings to get rid of that waste and not cut programs. There is no reason for Mr Scott and the ABC to cut programs.
In South Australia, Dream Build is listed as one of the 12 most popular Australian-made shows. There is The Cook and the Chef, Poh’s Kitchenand Behind the News. These are all valuable contributions that regional and local ABC officers are making, in accordance with the ABC’s charter. The ABC needs to be a responsible member of the Australian community and take the measures required to get the efficiencies that will deliver the savings, without going against their charter and without undermining the services or the creative talent that is resident around this nation in regional and local areas.