As we enter a new election year, it may be inspiring to remind ourselves of an impressive article about the ABC written some years ago by a former ABC board member, and legendary Australian scientist, Professor Fiona Stanley.
In a 2014 commentary written for the then Fairfax newspapers, Professor Stanley issued what ABC Victoria friend and former Editor-in-Chief of The Age, Ranald Macdonald, has described as a “clarion call.”
In her opinion piece, Professor Stanley said:
Why is the ABC so important for Australian democracy? Society faces a number of what are called “wicked problems” – complex in their causation, having major impacts on people and nations, costly and difficult to manage, and demanding whole of government responses. These problems include climate change, environmental degradation, mental illness (including problems caused by substance abuse), obesity and inequality.
Citizens need to be informed about these issues to support appropriate political and whole of government policy solutions. Australian citizens depend upon the public broadcaster to present the issues and the science in critical and clear ways so that we can make the best decisions and help our politicians and bureaucrats to do the same; spending taxpayers funds on policies and solutions that work now and in the future. The ABC is crucial because we are poorly served by other parts of the media. Too often, problems become politicised, the science is discarded and rational debate and decision-making go out the window.
Science is not perfect, particularly when you are dealing with the kinds of complex problems mentioned above. What we need is the best science to guide us as we continue to research and improve policy responses as more becomes known.
It must be noted that the government replaced Professor Stanley with a representative of the mining industry.