Young Liberals are pushing for the privatisation of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) after a members’ vote saw more than half in support of the move.
The vote was part of the Liberal Party’s annual federal council currently being held in Sydney, which is the last before the next federal election.
The Young Libs’ privatisation bid is calling for the “full privatisation of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, except for services into regional areas”.
Explaining the reasoning behind the bid, council delegate Mitchell Collier, the federal vice president of the Young Liberals said, “High sentimentality is no justification for preserving the status quo.
“There are several ways we could privatise the ABC – we could sell it to a media mogul, a media organisation, the government could sell it on the stock market.
“Privatising it would save the federal budget $1 billion a year, could pay off debt and would enhance, not diminish, the Australian media landscape.”
The vote had particular backing from conservative think-tank Institute of Public Affairs.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was not present for the vote.
Despite the bid’s popularity amongst Liberals, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said it categorically would not happen.
Treasurer Scott Morrison echoed Fifield’s statements, adding, “I know some out there might think that the Labor party already owns it, but certainly not the government and it’s important that people understand that position.”
News of the vote has already garnered plenty of attention, with Labor leader Bill Shorten taking the opportunity during a regional press conference to criticise privatisation talks.
Speaking to press, Shorten said, “Frankly, it is outrageous that the governing party, the party in government in Canberra, are saying they want to privatise the ABC.”
“We’ve got this highly implausible fairytale where Turnbull says I’m not really with them,” Shorten said.
“Well, he’ll be the Liberal candidate for prime minister. If he gets another chance as prime minister after an election the Liberal Party will be emboldened and they will sell off.
“This idea that somehow Turnbull and the Liberal Party are two separate entities, two complete strangers sitting at a bar talking to each other, is rubbish.”
While the ABC is yet to release a statement on the vote, the broadcaster’s managing director Michelle Guthrie will publicly address the vote and explain the “added value” the ABC has to the community.
Two weeks ago, ABC Chairman Justin Milne penned an op-ed about the broadcaster’s critics, claiming they took delight in watching the ABC’s demise.
“Some people delight in undermining trust in public broadcasting because they’d rather darkness where we shine a light, or because their commercial interests are served when Australians have less media diversity and choice,” Milne said.
“Fringe political interests, populists and commercial media all have a shared interest in weakening the ABC and confining it to market-failure activities.
“Each would benefit in their own way from a poorer, less capable, less nosey and less relevant ABC,” he adds.
Following the budget, Guthrie promised to “oppose the decision and seek every opportunity to reverse the cuts in the coming months before they take effect”.