ABC Friends Victoria members and supporters are increasingly concerned by persistent rumours that the government is considering further cuts to ABC funding.
The Federal Government has announced it will be tabling its new budget in October.
There is talk within the corridors of power that it is possible that a two percent Efficiency Dividend may be imposed on our ABC, so as to hammer another nail into its coffin.
The rumours follow recent statements by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, who have both said that, in spite of evidence to the contrary, ABC funding is increasing.
Even the Parliament’s own 2018-2019 Budget Review says:
“…the Government will pause indexation of the ABC’s operational funding to achieve savings of $83.7 million over three years from 2019–20 to 2021–22.”
The government’s assertion was recently contradicted by a study by two independent University academics at RMIT and Sydney University.
Dr Alexandra Wake and Prof. Michael Ward examined the cuts that the ABC has faced over the past seven years, saying they amounted to a cumulative budget shortfall of $873m.
(RMIT University’s Dr Alexandra Wake & Sydney University’s Michael Ward, former ABC Senior Executive)
A separate study, undertaken by Per Capita’s Emma Dawson, said that more than 1000 jobs had been lost at the ABC since 2014 – 40 per cent of which were a “direct result of the 2014 funding cuts.”
Emma Dawson said:
“The ABC has never been more valued, or more valuable, than during this [COVID-19] crisis.”
“While we are unable to gather together, the ABC represents the ties that bind us together as Australians. It is, quite literally, the voice of our nation.”
According to the Parliamentary Library, the ABC was exempted from the most recent round of so- called “Efficiency Dividend” cuts because of:
“…election commitments from both major parties to ‘maintain the real level of funding’ for each broadcaster…”
A report in The Canberra Times said some government agencies that the Coalition is disposed to have been given exemptions from the Efficiency Dividend.
The report says:
“The government said that only the National Disability Insurance Agency, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s former employer Tourism Australia, collecting institutions like the National Gallery of Australia and the National Library of Australia and agencies with fewer than 200 employees were exempt from the efficiency measure.”
The Efficiency Dividend system, which was first created by Bob Hawke’s government, has been widely criticised.
In the Australian Public Sector Review, Australian National University economist Maria Racionero said the measure’s claim of driving efficiency was false:
“What governments call efficiency dividends are simply budget cuts.”
“Using the term efficiency is at best misleading and at worst harmful.”
And in a document entitled “Withholding Dividends: Better Ways to Make the Public Sector Efficient,” also published by the APS Review, the author, Alexander Philipatos said:
“The efficiency dividend, which is an across-the-board cut to the funding that agencies receive for running costs, has fundamentally failed to drive efficiency in the public sector.”