Why Nurses And Midwives Should Care About Cuts To The ABC

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Nurse Kerry Rodgers asks then-Treasurer, Joe Hockey, a question on the ABC's Q&A, 2014

The Federal Budget handed down two weeks ago by the Coalition Government has a number of problems. No new public hospital funding, no effort to mandate ratios in aged care and continued cuts to the ABC are some of the clear sticking points. While the lack of health funding is an obvious issue, Professor Ed Davis explains below why cuts to the ABC will impact nurses and midwives too.

The federal government has recently delivered the 2018 budget and it is a shocker. The budget promises massive cuts for the ABC, Australia’s premier public broadcaster. The ABC receives approximately $1.1 billion pa. In real terms, this is 28% less than it received in the mid-1980s. Around this time, ABC funding represented 0.6% of government revenue; this has been halved to 0.3%. Over the last four years, ABC funding has been cut by $250m, with a loss of more than 400 jobs. The 2018 Turnbull-Morrison cuts will mean a further $120m ripped from the ABC. ABC top management has warned that the organisation will not be able to deliver the high quality news, current affairs, entertainment and other programs that the community expects. The ABC’s future is at stake and the 80% of Australians who say they trust and treasure the ABC must speak up; they must be heard.

Importance of Public Broadcasting

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has underlined the critical importance of public broadcasting. In a recent paper it stated: “Public broadcasters encourage access to and participation in public life. They develop knowledge, broaden horizons and enable people to better understand themselves by better understanding the world and others.” The Commissioner for Human Rights in Europe recently published a paper that said: “Well-funded and strong public service media are a good indicator that a democracy is healthy”. There is less extremism and less corruption where public broadcasting is strong. The Commission was concerned at the growth of governments’ willingness to cut funding for public broadcasting and to meddle with its independence.

These papers point to the critical importance of public broadcasters to the quality of citizen’s lives and the health of their democracies. Australian nurses and midwives share this general stake in good public broadcasting but they have a particular interest too. It is the ABC, above all other media in Australia, which has presented streams of very high quality programs, on radio and television, on health issues. Programs such as All in the Mind, Catalyst, Life Matters and of course the Health Report have investigated and explored a broad range of pressing health issues. Four Corners too has presented distinguished programs scrutinising issues and practices, shining light into dark places and promoting discussion and policy change. Nurses and midwives must make their view known; the senseless cuts proposed for the ABC will not be tolerated.

Hanson-Turnbull Pact

Of great concern is a pact between Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party and the federal government. In return for her Party’s support for government legislative proposals last year the government has demonstrated its support for her demands for increased cuts to ABC funding and for changes to the ABC’s Charter, designed to curb its independence. The ABC incurred Pauline Hanson’s wrath when a Four Corners’ investigation shone its torch on a raft of dubious practices within her Party (see, Please Explain, 3rd April, 2017).  The ABC is now tied up with five government inquiries, established by the federal government, into aspects of its operation

In this era of fake news and a multitude of media pushing their own barrows, the role of public broadcasting is of supreme importance. The ABC is arguably the most trusted institution within Australian life. A host of independent surveys have shown that the ABC presents accurate and impartial reporting. But, the ABC is under dire threat. Cuts to its funding and major losses of staff put its ability to operate in peril. This should be of concern to all Australians and nurses and midwives, in particular.

Professor Ed Davis AM, NSW President of ABC Friends

ABC Friends began in 1976 as a group of people in Melbourne concerned at threats to government funding for the ABC and to its independence. Over the decades, ABC Friends has grown in strength and now has a national voice. Its main focus has been pressing governments of all colours for proper funding for the ABC and for legislation to ensure its independent governance. Appointments to the ABC Board must be at arms-length from the government so that it is not stacked with people committed to carrying out a party political agenda. The Friends have also responded to the extraordinary attacks on the ABC from ‘hard-right’ politicians and from the Murdoch News Corporation camp.

For more on ABC Friends see, https://www.abcfriends.org.au/. Membership is $30 pa or $20 pa for pensioners. Donations are welcome and support our efforts to defend the ABC.

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