With a Federal Election rapidly approaching, divisions within the coalition government about ABC funding are still pronounced.
Some (particularly Liberal) MPs have voted to support the idea of privatising the national public broadcaster, while others voice their enduring support.
Friends of the ABC could do well to remember that the Liberal national conference voted to privatise the corporation.
Although Liberal parliamentarians have made it clear that privatisation is not government policy, the clear disenchantment with the ABC voiced by so many members make further budget cuts a real possibility.
There are a swathe of Victorian federal parliamentarians, from both coalition parties, who have made it clear in their voting that they think privatisation is an agenda item.
Privatising the ABC was cemented into Federal Liberal Party policy in 2018, when a national conference voted overwhelmingly for an ABC sell-off.
Soon after, Victorian Senator James Patterson, who (along with the Liberal member for Glodstein Tim Wilson) is a former senior operative of the Institute of Public Affairs, voted down a Senate motion to condemn the Liberals’ resolution.
He was joined by Victorian Liberal Senator Jane Hume and Nationals Senator Bridget Mackenzie in quashing the motion, which said:
(c) condemns the Liberal Party’s decision over the weekend to support the privatisation of the ABC, noting that no members of the Turnbull Government, including the Minister for Communications, spoke against the motion.
Soon after the vote, Treasurer and Victorian MP Josh Frydenburg said:
Of course, everyone has some frustrations from time to time with the coverage on the ABC and it is important to vent those frustrations and make them known, but it is in the public hands for a good reason. The parliamentary party decides the policy of the government and the government’s policy is not to sell the ABC.
The notion of selling-off the ABC is not a new one for Victorian Liberals in particular.
in 2013 a group of Victorian state Liberals made it clear to Tony Abbott that they, too, wanted to see the ABC privatised.
However, some Natioals MPs and one Victorian Liberal MP, say they don’t agree with privatising the ABC.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan, the member for Wannon in Victoria’s west is quoted as saying:
It’s not the government policy to privatise the ABC and it’s my personal view that the ABC should not be privatised,.
I am a big supporter of the ABC, being from the country — it provides programs like The Country Hour or broadcasting of local cricket and football.
So far the coalition has been silent on what ABC policy it will take to the election, and it will be interesting to hear what they announce, if they announce anything at all.