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.

Link to Asian Correspondent

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Free market think tank urges privatisation of ABC

The proposed privatisation of  the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) could be an ultimate blow to Australia’s clean energy policies if it pushes through. The county’s fossil fuels think tank highly recommends the public broadcaster to be silenced by transferring its management to the private sector.

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA)  released a report this week saying that the ABC is bias against the fossil fuels industry and  is leaning towards the left with favourable reporting on  renewable energy. IPA commissioned iSentia in March to do an analysis based on ABC’s coverage of energy policy issues, including the coal-mining, coal-seam gas, and the renewable energy industries.

Privileged occasions where Abbott-Murdoch-Rinehart get together. Top photo shows Gina Rinehart whispers to PM Tony Abbott while below, Murdoch is with the mining goddess.

“If bias at the ABC is systemic, only structural reform will solve it. A new board or management won’t change the culture. Privatising the ABC is the only way to ensure taxpayers’ money is not used to fund biased coverage,” IPA said in its website.

But oppositions to the fossil fuels industry are saying the contrary. Privatising the ABC would limit reporting on renewable energy policies, giving way to big-scale investments on fossil fuels. GetUp! said privatising the ABC will thwart Australia’s burgeoning renewable energy industry in favour of fossil fuels.

A speech delivered by Len Cooper, secretary of Communications Workers Union, in Wodonga on 16 June 2014 also said Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a  pre-election pledge. He promised his party, industry think tanks, and supporters to dismantle policies that are not favourable to encourage investments. Cooper added, “the IPA has over 100 policy demands it has wanted and wants the Abbott Government to implement.”

Copper revealed the guests who attended the 70th Anniversary IPA dinner in April 2013 before the federal election. She said high profile guests included mining queen, Gina Rinehart and media mogul, Rupert Murdoch who was one of the keynote speakers. Early on, Abbott assured his guests his government will repeal the carbon tax, 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.

Cooper accused the IPA 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.

ABC Friends also noted how Abbott praised his fellow keynote speakers, especially Murdoch.

Without specifying what items on the IPA’s list to radically transform Australia he would not implement, Abbott’s broad response was: “a big ‘yes’ to many of the 75 specific policies you urged upon me”. So what would be the result if the IPA’s policy for the ABC was implemented? Public broadcasting – gone. The ABC to be broken up and sold off, and SBS to be fully privatised.

Large-scale protests are already brewing to lambast Abbott’s leadership policies..GetUp! said “we actually had a good laugh, until we realised – this is no joke. “

GetUp! said the IPA’s report purports to have  uncovered “media bias” but the fact remains that “As we all know by now, the right-wing think tank just happens to be supported by the likes of Murdoch and Rinehart.”

Dark, thick smoke from coal-fired power plants is belched into the atmosphere. (Photo: ABC)

The scary truth is right now we are watching the IPA’s radical conservative agenda become a reality before our eyes – from the dismantling of the carbon price to a budget that elevates big business over everyday Australians. Its seemingly impossible wish list of 75 conservative items has been rapidly ticked off as our Prime Minister adopts them with abandon.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne described the Coalition as an ‘Abbott-Murdoch-Rinehart collaboration directed and promoted by the IPA.’

Meanwhile, the Guardian said there are many indicators how to determine whether news reporting is objective or biased. But whether ABC is bias or not, “A KPMG report leaked in 2006 considered the ABC to be highly efficient and underfunded.”

A positive mention of Crikey: “The ABC provides a high volume of outputs and quality relative to the level of funding it receives … the ABC appears to be a broadly efficient organisation.”

Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent