May 10, 2018

Just how ‘vindictive’ was the government’s ABC cut?

The government singled out the ABC for particular punishment in this year's budget, while it has showered cash on its competitors.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The government’s $84.7 million cut to the ABC from 2019, which may cost up to 160 jobs at the national broadcaster, stands out in a budget broadly committed to raising spending.

Between the 2017 and 2018 budgets, the government decided to spend an additional $3.6 billion this year and across the forward estimates beyond what it had already committed. This is in addition to its tax changes, and “parameter variations” that automatically shift spending and revenue in the absence of policy changes. According to last year’s budget papers, the ABC would have received $880 million in 2019-20 and $902 million in 2020-21. It will now receive $851 million in 2019-20, $849 million in 2020-21 and $855 million in 2021-22. This will make a 0.006% difference to government spending in 2019-20.

What’s more noteworthy is that the ABC is virtually alone in receiving a significant cut in the budget. 

The Attorney-General’s Department will lose $20.3 million over five years “through efficiencies in departmental activities of the Attorney-General’s portfolio and through improved targeting of program expenditure.” The Department of Agriculture is losing $15 million over five years, but those are unspent grants funds, not departmental expenses.

Austrade is losing $6.6 million over five years internally and from programs. Immigration is losing over $250 million over five years, but it has been merged with other agencies and has significant duplication to cut, and is also receiving additional program funding and a big injection of cash for its IT systems. Industry is losing $30 million over two years but that’s from unspent grants. The Fair Work Ombudsman has had its funding frozen in 2019-20. As the Financial Review pointed out, corporate regulator ASIC is losing $26 million (the precise amount is complex because of equity injections, capital and amounts carried forward from previous years, but ASIC will lose 30 staff at a time when it is under attack for its inability to effectively regulate the banks).

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Some agencies are getting more money: PM&C is getting $23.3 million over two years. Finance is getting $11 million (funny how central agencies, always so forensic in their examination of what line departments can cut, end up with more money). ASIO and ASIS received extra funding. The Governor-General’s Office is getting more funding. Only the ABC received a major cut, which comes four years after the Abbott government cut $35 million from the ABC’s base funding, meaning the government will have cut just under $120 million from the ABC’s base funding over eight years by 2022.

In contrast, last year News Corp-owned Foxtel received a grant of $30 million over four years in the budget. The media ownership reform package was accompanied by a $50 million regional and small publishers fund (extending to firms like Crikey). And the government also gave commercial television broadcasters a windfall of $415 million over five years by cutting licence fees, which came on top of licence fee cuts under Labor. 

Those within ABC management who have deemed that it’s in the national broadcaster’s financial interests to pander to the government and suppress journalistic voices committed to reporting facts that may embarrass Malcolm Turnbull and Co might do well to reflect that the result is that the ABC is now both underfunded and cowed.


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13 thoughts on “Just how ‘vindictive’ was the government’s ABC cut?

  1. gjb

    The funding cuts lead to production cuts leads to reduction in quality and local content leads to reduced viewer ratings leads to questions like why are tax payers funding this shit?
    This is about the only evidence of long term planning from this government, unfortunately its a negative

  2. brian crooks

    Murdoch`s lackey Guthrie is doing the job on the ABC that Turnbull and Murdoch sent her to do, and all the crawling by the remaining ABC staff to hold onto their jobs will be wasted as they are soon to replaced by other Murdoch appointees, its embarrassing to watch Leigh sales and Trioli attacking any labor politicians but grovelling to Morrison and Turnbull at interviews, this is the end of the ABC as we know it and completes the total media take over by the turnbull/murdoch 4th Reich.

    1. klewso

      The Sweet and Sour Sauce isn’t confined to Sales and Trioli, there’s Lane, Alberici and even Jones, the difference in measure of scepticism and defference that make up their interviews – along party lines? Their blancmange servings of Limited News Party could send a diabetic into shock.
      ….. I miss seeing Palmer baste Jones in florid flattery.

  3. klewso

    “Welcome to Rupert Turnbull’s Mushroom Farm – Careful How Ewe Go.”

  4. PhilGC

    Anti-democratic, small minded, selfish and vindictive vandels. I believe the majority of Australian citizens would appreciate our representatives learning to live with less, before they are allowed to trash essential services and institutions. This is not a budget. This is a crime.

  5. zut alors

    Some of us can recall when interviews were fearless on the ABC – the best example in the 21st century being Kerry O’Brien. He of steady nerves and with steely eye pinning his subject. If O’Brien has the stomach to listen to the ABC’s political interviews these days he must cringe in frustration and disbelief.

  6. klewso

    Tonight’s Red Dwarf Dum :-
    We had Adam “Kryten(?)” – conservative commentator, Stutchbury-Patrick clone and Murdoch “economist by training” service mechanoid, talking down Myriam Lyons and defending his Limited News Party’s Budget – last night it was The Sloan Ranger playing the same role (Q&A this Monday)? What great “economists” they are – remember how far ahead of the everyone else they were when they told us that the GFC was coming?
    And Erica Betz’s brother, Peter, doing Arnold Rimmer?
    Along with conservative Cat Julia Baird.

    1. CML

      Well said, Klewie!
      Tonight on the Drum, it was Miriam Lyons against THREE conservatives + the host!!
      Very ‘balanced’…NOT!!!

  7. Draco Houston

    Had a chuckle at the last paragraph. They really have been especially pathetic lately.

  8. The hood

    I hope the ABC management finds their $83m worth of efficiencies by cutting rural services. That may get the Nats to wake up that ABC provides a vital service to all Australians, especially people in remote areas. They may want to rethink this strategy of retribution against the ABC for not kowtowing to the LNP.

  9. klewso

    Tonight Sales went fishing for negative carp over Shorten’s Budget reply and couldn’t get a bite from Tingle or even Richardson.
    Then she had a go at Shorten with the embarrassing proposition that, “as PM, you’d say one thing and then blame others when you couldn’t deliver”? Has she ever put that analysis to Turnbull on the various times when he’s done just that – as PM [“Labor’s Mediscare campaign” : “Labor’s negative gearing policy will decimate your home values and ruin the economy” springs to mind]? …. Or Morrison on Tuesday?

    The other night with her St Peter (Costello – Honest John’s Jelly Roll Treasurer) – on to give his opinion on what the Budget needed?
    Costello? With his record = “a figure of credibility”?
    * Who pissed the mining boom up the wall of political popularity?
    * With his legacy record of tax cuts that nobbled subsequent governments, by cutting taxes thereby handicapping those future government’s ability/capacity to raise necessary revenue in more straitened times? Knowing as we do how easy it is to reverse tax cuts as needed; when following Limited News Party governments have to implement “levy that isn’t a tax” after “levy that isn’t a tax” to cover Costello’s foregone revenue legacy?
    * Who elevated middle-class welfare to such an art form. From negative gearing incentivising asset-rich investors to outbid first-home aspirants (placing home ownership beyond the reach of the mewling Turnbull’s “hard working Australian families” for years if not generations) and capital gains hand-relief; to “franked credits” (“getting tax back that you haven’t even paid”?) : all paid for, in no small part, by plebs who could have used those funds themselves for better things than funding tax cuts for the better-off? And we all know how easy it is to wind back middle-class welfare.
    And not one Sales pitch reflexion on that “St Peter’s PB” record?

    {All credit to Bowen who pointed out her bias when he belled her cat twice with “you’d laugh (us) out of the studio” and “you would be very critical” if Labor was doing what this government is doing : that she doesn’t seem to notice when it’s the Limited News Party doing it?}

    1. klewso

      “Left bias” my bottom.

  10. leon knight

    That smarmy twerp Breheny was parroting the IPA efficiency twaddle the other day….how does he keep getting invited back on? He is no friend of rhe ABC and probably played a key role in achieving another debilitating round of cuts.

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