Is Australia’s ABC up for sale?

Members of the Liberal Party holding a vote for privatisation. (Photo: ABC)

Who can speak better for Australia’s commitment to a cleaner and more sustainable future than a reputable public broadcaster? It is no joke when neoliberal politicians have voted to sell it.

Australia’s ruling Liberal Party convened over the weekend and voted to sell the nation’s public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC).  The ABC has been labelled as “green activist”.

The move was backed by a free-market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), and has suggested the sale to a media mogul, a mining magnate or simply the “people of Australia who already owns it.”

High-profile delegates who attended the national convention in Sydney included Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Treasurer Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The motion, supported by a majority of the 110 delegates, calls for the full privatisation of the ABC, except for services into regional areas that are not commercially viable, according to media reports.

Nothing is new. It has been a long-standing plan from the right-wing politicians to privatise ABC. It came to a head in time of the upcoming federal election set for 2019.

Back in 2014, the IPA denounced the ABC as a “green activist” and has accused the broadcaster for its “bias” in reporting on fossil fuels and renewable energy. It has commissioned iSentia to conduct media analysis of ABC’s reporting on Australia’s energy choices.

The iSentia data showed that the ABC treated the renewable energy industry highly favourable, the coal industry unfavourable, and the coal seam gas (CSG) industry highly unfavourable.

See the Green Journal AU’s earlier story here.

(Image: IPA)

Backlash

The result of the vote did not come without a backlash.

The Australian Greens said in a statement the Liberal Party Council has finally opened a can of worms exposing Malcolm Turnbull’s secret plan to sell off the ABC.

Prior to the vote, Greens media spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Turnbull had a secret deal with Pauline Hanson from the One Nation Party known for its intense dislike to immigrants and refugees. Hanson-Young said Turnbull talked with Hanson to ‘whack off’ money from the ABC’s budget.

The Greens called the sale of ABC electorally toxic and completely out-of-touch with the Australian people.

“If the ABC is privatised, there will be no going back. The media landscape in Australia will be worse off, and The Greens will be fighting this move with the community every step of the way between now and the next election.

The Friends of ABC is set to march in the streets nationwide to stop the impending sale while GetUp! has re-commence a campaign to thwart any privatisation plan and it is mobilising a plan to fight back.

The Friends of the ABC are holding rallies all round Australia next month to protest the continual cutting of ABC funding, the harassment of a publicly trusted institution (which is by statute politically independent) AND this latest Liberal Party move to promote the selling off of the ABC”

ABC Friends National is calling for all Liberal Party voters to reject any sell-off of the ABC as being  both anti Australian and anti democratic.

“Australian Public broadcasting has an eighty-year history, and is supported by more than 80% of the community,” said ABC Friends National President, Margaret Reynolds adding, “It is not a plaything of the extremists who have dismissed public opinion in pursuit of their preoccupation with private profits.”

Playing Defensive

Following the vote, the Turnbull Government was scrambling to rule out privatisation of ABC. Some members distanced themselves from the vote, while Turnbull himself denied any plan to sell the public broadcaster.

“The ABC will always be in public hands. It will never be sold. That is my commitment. It is a public broadcaster. It always has been and it always will be,” Mr Turnbull told the media on Monday.

Government frontbencher Josh Frydenberg backed Saturday’s assurance from Treasurer Scott Morrison that the government had no plans for privatisation. Finance minister Mathias Cormann went further, saying the coalition will not be privatising the ABC

Nationals Leader and Deputy PM Michael McCormack has also distanced his party from the Liberal Party peak council, which voted to the privatisation.

“The Nationals does not, and has no intention of ever supporting the privatisation of the ABC,” Mr McCormack said in a statement.

IPA research fellow Chris Berg suggests options such as selling it to the stock market, media mogul, ABC staff or Australian taxpayers..Berg has co-authored a book with Sinclair Davidson why ABC has to be sold.

Early in May, IPA launched the book, Against Public Broadcasting, at the largest free market, pro-liberty conference in Asia Pacific.

Communication Minister Fifield, an IPA member quickly distanced himself from the book and tried to convince the public ABC would remain in public hands.

Promises Fulfilled

Back in 2014, it was a landmark victory for then Prime Minister Tony Abbott to abolish the carbon tax put in place by his predecessor, Julia Gillard, to tax polluters. It was his election promise. He was swift to fulfill his other promises — to abolish the climate change authority and disband the Clean Energy Fund.

The IPA claims itself as the world’s oldest right wing think tank representing big businesses with close links to the Business Council of Australia. It advocates free market economics, privatisation, deregulation, limited government, and a free market approach to environmental problems.

IPA is accused of being an instrument in forming the Liberal Party and is also a fund raiser for the party with major donors from the resource industry such as ExxonMobil, Telstra, WMC Resources, BHP Billiton, Phillip Morris, Murray Irrigation Ltd., Clough Engineering, Caltex, Shell, Esso, Electricity and Mining companies, and British American Tobacco among others.

See the Green Journal AU’s earlier story here.

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Australia’s new Fairfax media to promote mining agenda?

Following Gina Rinehart’s massive share buy outs last week, Fairfax announced its long-overdue plan to go digital via paid subscription— scrapping outdated print versions of Australia’s major broadsheets, namely the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart is now one of Australia’s most powerful women (Photo: AAP)

The media company is set to shut down the printing presses of the two papers located in Chullora in Sydney’s south-west and Tullamarine in north-west Melbourne, respectively, the ABC reported.

About 1,900 jobs have to go in the next three years shocking workers at the presses.

Andrew Jaspan, former editor-in-chief of The Age and a current editor of The Conversation, also said about about 20 percent of the editorial staff, about 150- 200, are also poised to lost their jobs. He added that the media company can still produce a “premium print” edition using a few journalists.

He said the media company has been mismanaged by people who do not have direct experience in the media industry.

Fairfax announced massive job cuts (Photo: Julian Smith)

The print editions, he said, are outdated formats invented 155 years ago noting that the Internet has radically changed the nature and the way news are distributed. He said “rivers of gold” generated by advertising have been dried up.

One by one Fairfax was stripped of its classified advertising “rivers of gold”. The jobs went to Seek.com.au, Cars to Carsales.co.au, homes to Realestate.com.au.

He proposed the digitalisation of Fairfax way back in 2007 when the company’s market value was $5 billion. After five years, the value dipped to as low as $1 billion. The shareprices also collapsed from $5 per share to 60 cents which predators like Rinehart has taken advantage of, he added.

The former Fairfax editor said Rinehart will not run the media like an investor but instead she will use the media to sway public opinion.

Back in 2010 she and her fellow mining barons spent $22m to get rid of Kevin Rudd’s proposed mining tax….. And so successful was the campaign that they got rid of Rudd and saved themselves an estimated $20bn in taxes.

Rinehart’s appointment of Australia’s leading climate change sceptic, Ian Plimer, as an advisor to her mining companies is simply a taste of what’s to come. As one senior Fairfax editor remarked, expect this kind of front page once Rinehart gets control. “Exclusive: Climate Change is a Hoax”.

Activists group, GetUp, tell supporters to exposed the “truth” behind Rinehart’s Fairfax raid. (Photo: GetUp)

Rinehart grabbed nearly 19 percent of the total shareholding of Fairfax Media in two separate buy outs last week. Her company, Hancock Prospecting ,confirmed she has increased her stake at the company from 13 percent, a status which already made her the majority shareholder. She cannot hold more than 20 percent unless she bid for a takeover as stipulated under Corporations Act, the ABC said.

Related article here.

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