This article was first published in FARMONLINE on Monday the 6th of October 2014.
The Coalition's track record on rural and regional communications has been one of failure and deceit.When it comes to our public broadcaster, the conservative side of politics is letting down the bush.
The ABC is the lifeblood of regional communities across the country. It is our voice, we rely on it.
In 2007, the worst flood in our history devastated the Hunter region. Thousands of residents watched years of emotional and financial investment in their homes and property snatched by the ferocity of a storm the likes of which I had never seen.
During this traumatic natural disaster it was the local Newcastle ABC radio which provided the around-the-clock coverage, ensuring residents and emergency services could share critical information.
The wider media did not provide coverage of the devastating impact on many of our smaller communities, but 1233 ABC Newcastle did. At the time I paid tribute to the ABC in the Parliament on this very point.
That & rsquo's one of the reasons we country people have such an affinity with ABC regional services, but there are many more reasons.
Most people in rural and regional Australia rely on the ABC as their main source of news and weather information. Many of our local community events would not enjoy coverage in the absence of a well-resourced ABC.
All these things give us reason to be angry with the Abbott Government for lying about funding cuts.
"There will be no cuts to the ABC," Tony Abbott promised the night before the 2013 election.
Since then, the government has cut more than $240 million from the ABC. The Budget papers described this cut as a "down payment".
Malcolm Turnbull went even further, promising more cuts to come which would be "substantial".
What about the Nationals and regional Liberal MPs, who say one thing to their local communities about supporting the ABC but do the opposite when they go to Canberra? They tell all and sundry how much they value the ABC, but do nothing to protect it.
In the space of a year the government has gone from "no cuts to the ABC" to "substantial" cuts! Last week, after previously denying his government’s broken promises, Malcolm Turnbull finally admitted what we all knew: he is cutting the ABC.
What will be the consequences of these cuts and why should the rural and regional communities care?
ABC managing director Mark Scott has made it clear that something will have to give because, "the service we provide depends on the funding envelope provided".
It has also been reported that ABC job losses could top 300, programming cuts are being examined and a restructure is being considered.
It's time for rural and regional Coalition MPs to come clean on where they stand on cuts to the ABC and the impact on their communities, and, more importantly, what they're going to do about it.
Australians deserve effective representation from their local parliamentarians.
Unfortunately, as history has shown, we have rightly come to expect little from our conservative MPs. They hail from the same Party which let down the bush when it sold off Telstra. Now they fail to fight for equivalent wholesale pricing in broadband to end the city-country digital divide. And they've failed to ensure drought assistance reached those who need it.
Rural and regional Australians deserve better.
This article was first published in FARMONLINE on Monday the 6TH of October 2014.