Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has vowed to end a funding freeze on the ABC if his government is elected. The move would effectively restore $83.7 million AUD in funding for the public broadcaster over the next 3 years.
The Coalition Government has enacted plans to halt the annual funding indexation of the ABC from July 2019, which would mean that funding would no longer rise with inflation. Senior Coalition members have said that the funding change was necessary to teach the ABC to “live within its means”.
However, ABC leaders have warned the government that such cuts could affect Australian audiences and that the new funding freeze fails to account for $250 million in cuts announced back in 2014.
Mr Shorten has said that Labor would, if elected, guarantee certainty of funding for the ABC’s 3 year budget cycle. Mr Shorten noted that the ABC had lost over 800 jobs since the Coalition government came into power, adding that “enough is enough”.
Mr Shorten expressed that the ABC was “part of our national fabric” and that he and Labor would “stand up for the ABC” in a battle against “the conservatives’ ideological war”.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann defended the cuts to the ABC, noting that the broadcaster would still be getting $3.2 billion over the same 3 year period. Mr Cormann also noted that other taxpayer-funded organisations needed to “find” their savings.
Earlier in the year, Mr Shorten said that the ABC was one of the “pet hates” of Australian conservatives and implied that the decision to reduce funding was ideologically motivated.
When the freeze on ABC funding was first announced, Michelle Guthrie, the ABC’s managing director, said that it was disappointing that the Government was apparently overlooking the savings the ABC had made over previous years.