Corangamite 2022 candidate ratings

In the lead-up to the 2022 Federal Election, the ABC Friends Geelong group asked candidates for Corangamite about their support for the ABC.

We were able to formally interview the sitting member, Libby Coker of the ALP, and Liberal challenger Stephanie Asher.

We rated their spoken and written responses to a questionnaire that included a call to support these 6 commitments:

  1. Guarantee that ABC services will remain independent of government, free-to-air and free-to-access, and publicly funded from consolidated revenue.
  2. Improve funding certainty and the ABC’s ability to plan ahead, by introducing five-year funding agreements, indexed annually to compensate for inflation.
  3. Enable the ABC to fulfil its charter obligations, including the provision of comprehensive rural and regional services, by progressively restoring the ABC’s operational budget to the level of funding it received before the budget cuts imposed in 2014.
  4. Ensure that all ABC Board appointments are made from a short-list selected on merit by an independent non-partisan nominations panel, as laid down in the ABC Act.
  5. Restore and enhance funding for ABC International, so it can resume its vital role as Australia’s trusted voice in the Asia-Pacific.
  6. Ensure that good quality ABC radio and television broadcasts can be received throughout rural and regional Australia.

Here are our ratings and reports on their response.

Libby Coker, ALP

Libby is a long-standing supporter of the ABC. She’s a member of both ABC Friends Victoria and the Parliamentary Friends of the ABC, mentioned ABC radio in her maiden speech, started a petition protesting against the Morrison government’s cuts in her first term and is “very proud of my ABC socks”.

“We’re so lucky to have the ABC,” Libby told us.

“It’s the last bastion of media that’s frank and fearless – and unbiased, in my view.

I wholeheartedly agree that the ABC must remain independent from government. I particularly want to see ABC radio well funded so that you can get reliable, honest, balanced reporting on daily issues. It’s how I get a lot of my news. And it’s trusted – people trust their ABC.

“Political interference is the enemy of good journalism and it shouldn’t be allowed to occur. It’s becoming a real threat under the Morrison government and we’ve got to stop it.”

Libby enthusiastically agreed to all 6 of our commitments except one. Labor has agreed to increase ABC funding, but not to restoring all the money that’s been lost under the Coalition.

Our rating against the 6 commitments

Stephanie Asher, Liberal Party

Stephanie began our conversation by declaring her support for an independent ABC and describing herself as a regular listener to ABC radio. However she made a number of critical remarks, including: “There is political bias there, I have evidence of it. Bias is very unfortunate for its impact on the political conversation. I’d say the same thing about Sky News. I would love the ABC to go back to being fact-based. Things like the emergency service [are] what I really support.”

Stephanie said she thought all reporting should have to meet strict standards set by each media organisation, but seemed unaware that the ABC does have such standards – far more rigorous ones than commercial media.

She expressed support ‘in principle’ for some of our 6 election commitments, but pushed back on others. She specifically rejected the idea of a 5-year budget cycle and wouldn’t endorse any of the other funding commitments. Her comments suggested that she has not been reading the news about ABC funding cuts and staff losses over the last 9 years.

“I don’t have any insight into the ABC’s financial status,” she said. “I do believe the ABC should be fulfilling its statutory obligations. How well are they living up to their charter? I know an incredible amount of money has gone into the ABC. Have they spent it well?”

Stephanie asked for time to consider the questionnaire and supply a more detailed written response. In the end, Liberal campaign headquarters in Melbourne provided that written response on her behalf and scored 1 out of 6. They stood by their terrible record on both funding and appointing ‘captain’s picks’ to the Board. The only firm commitment they made was a guarantee not to privatise the ABC or put up a paywall.

Our rating against the 6 commitments

Alex Marshall, The Greens

Our initial offer to meet Alex somehow failed to get through to her and she hasn’t yet responded to the questionnaire. This high rating is based on The Greens’ official policy platform. They have committed to fully restoring the ABC’s funding to pre-2014 levels, keeping it in public ownership and strengthening the safeguards of its independence.

Our rating against the 6 commitments

Paul Barker, Liberal Democrats

We have had a brief, informal chat with Paul but didn’t ask him about any of the specific commitments. The Liberal Democrats are not ABC fans and think the corporation should be converted into a subscription service, which logically means they would be completely opposed to all 6 commitments.

Our rating against the 6 commitments