TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop, Sydney, Saturday 22 November 2014

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Subject/s: ABC cuts, Ebola.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: We’re here in Town Hall Square where in the next hour or so we’ll see a crowd gather to show its support for our national broadcaster, the ABC. The ABC and SBS provide a valuable service to Australians and they have for many years. Just as we’ve grown as a nation, so we’ve seen the ABC grow, from its early days with just a few programs and the unusual spectacle of Australian stories told in an Australian voice for the first time on our TV screens and on our radio bulletins, to now a very sophisticated media organisation that can compare well with the best in the world. Before the election Tony Abbott said as clear as day, no cuts to the ABC, no cuts to SBS. He didn’t say it once, he said it many times and Australians are shocked and horrified to think that this is another broken promise from the Abbott Government. Before the election Tony Abbott said “No cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to the GST, no change to pensions, and no cuts to the ABC or SBS”, now every one of those promises has been broken. There is no promise that he’s made left to be broken. Australians want to defend the ABC and SBS because they value the ABC and SBS. Particularly at times of crisis when there are bushfires, when there are floods, when there are natural disasters they turn to the ABC for the information that keeps them safe. And when they’re overseas, if they wish for information from Australia, they tune in wherever they can to stories from home. Australians want to hear Australian stories told in Australian voices and they want a television industry here in Australia that tells those stories with Australian actors and Australian story lines. Stories like Redfern Now, and back in the day Sweet and Sour, so many programs that have reflected the way Australia has changed over the years. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Talking of these cuts, the Government explains them away as not cuts but as efficiency dividends, do you buy that?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think everybody knows a lie when they’re being told a lie. Before the election Tony Abbott said “no cuts to the ABC” and now we’ve seen, if you include the Australian network and the cuts in the previous budget, more than half a billion dollars cut from the ABC and SBS, now I don’t know how anyone can think they can get away with cutting half a billion dollars and then saying nothing to see here, no cuts here. A lie is a lie is a lie.

JOURNALIST: Do you think we’re going to see an impact on content?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course we’ll see an impact on content, I mean isn’t it extraordinary that you’ve got Christopher Pyne launching a petition in Adelaide because he knows that programming will be cut and he knows that jobs will go in Adelaide. And isn’t it extraordinary that you’ve got National Party members saying don’t touch programming in the bush. I mean these are the people who have supported these cuts and then they want their own patch of turf protected. If you cut half a billion dollars from the ABC and SBS, you can’t protect broadcasting, you can’t protect programming, you can’t protect Australian content. We will see all of these things negatively affected, jobs will go, 400 to 500 jobs are predicted to go, you can’t keep making fine quality TV and radio when you’re cutting hundreds of staff and half a billion dollars.

JOURNALIST: Do you think a rally like this will make any difference, isn’t it too late now?

PLIBERSEK: Well no, I think rallies like this are absolutely vital because the fact that Christopher Pyne and National Party members are out there saying to the Government ‘don’t cut my patch, hands off my ABC’ shows that they know Australians care for the ABC and care for SBS. In fact, the very fact that Tony Abbott made this promise before the election shows that he knows Australians want the ABC and SBS protected. The fact that he made the promise that he broke shows that he knows that people care. So I think rallies like this are absolutely vital and I think people should be contacting their Liberal Party and National Party MPs and Senators and saying hands off my ABC.

JOURNALIST: How seriously should we take the comments from the United Nations today about discrimination against refugees that have Ebola?

PLIBERSEK: Well isn’t it extraordinary to see our Foreign Minister at a Security Council meeting lecturing the world on Ebola when Australia has been so slow to act, dragged kicking and screaming to doing anything. It is an extraordinary scenario to have Australia lecturing countries that have done so much more than we have in terms of providing medical assistance and humanitarian support, and extraordinary to have Australia lecturing the world about discriminating against countries where Ebola is prevalent when the Foreign Minister and the Immigration Minister can’t even get their story straight about whether we’ve got visa bans or we don’t.

JOURNALIST: Do you think there has been a contradiction there from what the Minister said in terms of those visa applications from people coming from Ebola affected countries?

PLIBERSEK: Well Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop have said two completely different things. I don’t know whether this is part of their continuing turf war or whether they just don’t know – the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. But they’ve made two completely contradictory comments about whether we are or aren’t processing visas from Ebola affected countries.

JOURNALIST: Doesn’t the Government have a responsibility though to take precautions like this to protect their citizens?

PLIBERSEK: The first and most important responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens. What we’ve said all along is the best way to protect Australians is to fight Ebola in West Africa, at the source of where the virus is spreading. We know now that close to five and a half thousand people have died from Ebola. We’ve been told by the World Health Organisation, the Centres for Disease Control, the United Nations, the Security Council in the past, our own AMA, our own Public Health Association, the International Crisis Group, that the best way to fight Ebola is at the source, in the countries where most of the infections are occurring, and the best thing that Australia can do is help the international effort to contain the spread of the virus. We’ve got Julie Bishop saying that at the Security Council, but not doing it here at home. I think this is an example where deeds matter more than words and our deeds so far have been inadequate. 


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