Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell—Assistant Minister for Home Affairs) (15:39): Well, we do have a list of vexatious litigants in the vein that the Leader of the Opposition was talking about. There are members of this House, I'm happy to report, who are very concerned about the accuracy and the bias in the ABC. There are a number of members in this House, and I want to go to them. I have a list of them, as provided in Senate estimates. The member for Ballarat, on 3 April 2017, was concerned about a constituent and the accuracy of an article that was provided by the ABC about The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Senator Kim Carr, a member of the other chamber, complained about an inaccurate article about the weather—weather graphics. If we're speaking of vexatious litigants, I have three complaints from the member for Lyons about bias at the ABC. So if the Leader of the Opposition is looking for vexatious litigants, he could go no further than the member for Lyons, who was not concerned not about a weighty matter of national significance; he was concerned that an article on salmon farming was biased—not a grave political issue of the day, but salmon farming.

Mr Champion: It's actually pretty important to the electorate.

Mr HAWKE: I'll take the member for Wakefield's interjection—yes, it's an important matter for constituents. The second complaint from the member for Lyons—come right in; I'll reel you in like a salmon on the hook!—was the complaint about the quality of spelling in an online news story—spelling!

Mr Champion: That's also important. Are you saying spelling is not important?

Mr HAWKE: Spelling is not important? So, all of a sudden, the Labor Party is on a crusade against the ABC. This is your MPI, member for Wakefield.

Mr Champion interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The member for Wakefield!

Mr HAWKE: You're saying that the ABC is a model of virtue, but now you're saying that what you should really be worried about with the ABC's billion dollars a year is that they don't spell right. Is that what you're telling us: 'Don't cut any money out of the ABC, but they don't spell good over there in the ABC'?

Mr Champion interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Wakefield is warned.

Mr HAWKE: That was the second complaint from the member for Lyons, but he wasn't finished.

Ms Swanson interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Paterson is outside her correct seat and will be quiet as well.

Mr HAWKE: The member for Lyons was then concerned that a complaint about the elements of an online story about Michaelia Cash was based on supposition rather than journalistic fact. So, when we look at who is complaining—and I haven't gone into all of the Labor Party complaints about bias in the ABC—and who the vexatious litigants are in this House, it is the Labor Party. What you didn't hear from the Leader of the Opposition and what you didn't hear from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was any explanation of why the Labor Party, when they were last in office, protected the ABC from the efficiency dividend that they set for the federal government. They excluded the ABC from the efficiency dividend. They said, 'Only the ABC in the entire federal government is efficient.' Does anyone in this House believe that there are no efficiencies to be found in a billion-dollar organisation? Can any one of you look us in the eye and say that our defence department, which protects our country and serves our nation, should find an efficiency but the ABC should not? 'Yes!' the members opposite say. So our soldiers should be more efficient, but the state funded journalists should not be more efficient. It is a completely nonsensical argument for a well-funded organisation like the ABC.

This government brings to this parliament and to the community the right approach to government—which is that all departments should find efficiencies, where those efficiencies exist; that we should live within our means; and that we should reduce our spending. We set an efficiency dividend for the ABC. We said, 'We're going to pause your indexation,' which is the basis of the claims that the ABC funding is being cut. It's not a real cut, but a pause in indexation. That's what's going on. What does the ABC say to that? Well, no, again, they are a paragon of government virtue: there are no efficiencies to be found within the ABC. Only the ABC. You couldn't find a dollar. You couldn't find a dime. You couldn't make anything better or improved or more efficient or get better value for money.

That is the opposition's approach to government. That is why, when they're in government, they fail—because they are spending your money. They are spending the money of the Australian people. For the Labor Party to come in here—for Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, and for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to come in here—and go all nostalgic on us and say, 'When I was a kid I used to love this organisation, and therefore I'm going to spare them from any efficiency dividends, when our soldiers have to find efficiencies.' is false, is wrong, and the Labor Party have no shame.