SUBJECT: Impact of cuts to ABC and SBS on rural and regional Australia.

JOEL FITZGIBBON:  There is plenty of competition, but what the Government did to the ABC in rural and regional Australia yesterday is probably the greatest act of betrayal this year, as I said, there is plenty of competition given what occurred in the Budget.  I just heard Bob Baldwin on Local ABC Newcastle, who yesterday committed to talking to Malcolm Turnbull yesterday, he just told ABC Newcastle he didn’t get around to it.  That is how important an issue this is for local MP Bob Baldwin.  My challenge to National Party MPs and Coalition MPs representing rural and regional seats today is to get out from behind their desks where they are writing to Mark Scott and trying to blame him for what is happening in rural and regional Australia and to stand up in the Parliament, we will give them all the 90 seconds if they want in the lead up to Question Time, stand up in the Parliament and condemn what the Government has done to the ABC and SBS in clear breach of what was a very solid pre-election promise. Not during the Election Campaign, but as I say, but the night before Election Day, Tony Abbott said he would not touch the ABC.  This is playing out very badly in rural and regional Australia, people are losing their jobs, ABC Newcastle has lost half, one half of its production staff. It has been hit hardest.  But right around the country, where people rely upon, in rural areas, the ABC for their news, for the stimulation of public debate, for emergency services broadcasts, for example, people are hurting, people are angry.  National Party and Liberal MPs representing rural seats have deserted their local communities.  I challenge them today to get up in the Parliament and to start defending them.

JOURNALIST:  Have you had time then to speak to Bill Shorten and urge him to reinstate, or at least commit to reinstating all this funding?

FITZGIBBON:  I have talked to Bill Shorten about my concern that the way this mob is going we will be lucky to have an ABC to save in two years.  There is obviously an ideological  agenda behind of all this as well, and by the way, Bob Baldwin and Senator Macdonald and others are saying this is ABC payback in rural and regional areas for what the Government has done – well this is an recognition in itself that this is a clear election promise but how does he explain why the Hunter region with four Labor MPs has been harder hit than any other region or city in Australia. 

JOURNALIST:  Why is it so difficult to make that commitment to reverse these cuts?

FITZGIBBON:  Well, no political party makes commitments on Budget two years out from an election, I think it is a silly proposition, in any case, as I said, the way things are going under this mob we will be lucky to have an ABC to save in two year’s time.  But we spent a record amount of money on the ABC the last time we were in Government, the Labor Party always spends more money on the ABC because we are more committed to ABC public broadcasting and we understand better than them the impact these cuts will have on rural and regional Australia and how important public broadcasting is in rural and regional Australia.  In rural and regional Australia from now on you will get five minutes of news, five minutes of news is what people living in the bush will get from now on and yet all Liberal and National MPs can do is blame Mark Scott for what has been one of the worst decisions, Government decisions of all.

JOURNALIST:  Keith Pitt told the House last night that in fact he doesn’t see Direct Action as a good policy – he actually sees it as an Emissions Trading Scheme.

FITZGIBBON:  Well hallelujah to Keith Pitt, he may be the first Coalition MP to break ranks and to state the obvious, two obvious points really.  One, Direct Action won’t work, and two, the land sector, the agricultural sector will not be able to compete under Direct Action.  This idea that this Carbon Farming Initiative is going to have the same effect as Labor’s scheme is just wrong.  The land sector will not be able to abate the carbon at a competitive price in the reverse auction and on that basis will not benefit from the Direct Action scheme.  So from that point, good on Keith Pitt, it is about time more National Party MPs, more Liberal Party MPs representing rural and regional seats got out from behind their desks and started standing up for their local constituencies.

JOURNALIST:  And just on White Ribbon Day, I know you were at the event yesterday with all the Police Commissioners, but there was only maybe about 20 MPs, Ministers and Shadow Ministers on both sides of Parliament, were you disappointed that perhaps more people didn’t turn out to that event yesterday?

FITZGIBBON:  Well I will say as a former Defence Minister I am used to seeing rooms full of people in uniform, but not withstanding that I could not help but be impressed by the lineup of the Police Commissioners there yesterday, I think that was an important thing and I think that rightly sent a very, very powerful message into the community and particularly to those who would consider perpetrating such terrible crimes.


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