Buttrose Accuses Federal Government Of Political Interference In The ABC

Buttrose Accuses Federal Government Of Political Interference In The ABC

ABC chair, Ita Buttrose has gone on the attack and accused the Federal Government of “political interference” following the establishment of a Senate Inquiry into the public broadcaster’s complaints handling process.

In a statement released on Sunday, Buttrose took aim at Liberal MP, Andrew Bragg, who leads the Senate committee on environment and communications, saying the inquiry was “a blatant attempt to usurp the role of the ABC board”.

“Once again, an elected representative has chosen to threaten the ABC’s independence at the expense of the integrity of this irreplaceable public service,” Buttrose said.

“Any incursion of this kind into the ABC’s independence should be seen by Australians for what it is – an attempt to weaken the community’s trust in the public broadcaster.”

Buttrose appealed to the upper house to “defend the independence of the ABC” and pass a motion to suspend the Senate inquiry until the independent inquiry commissioned by the ABC last month was completed.

Other parties have backed-up the national public broadcaster, including the Federal Labor opposition.

“The Morrison-Joyce government has overseen funding cuts to the ABC, misled the public about these cuts, attacked the ABC board in response to a Four Corners investigation, and failed to act on the recommendations of two inquiries into press freedom in the wake of AFP raids on journalists at the ABC and News,” Labor’s communications spokesperson, Michelle Rowland, said.

Bragg – who announced the inquiry last Wednesday – said in a public statement: “As a strong supporter of the ABC, I am worried that complaints are not being seriously addressed and this is undermining the organisation.

“If mistakes are made, Australians expect the national broadcaster to swiftly resolve them.”

Buttrose said the Senate’s decision to establish an inquiry only three weeks after the ABC had established its own external review with two independent experts showed the Federal Government did not respect the national broadcaster’s integrity or processes.

“I will leave it to senator Bragg to explain his motives, but the impact of this action is clear,” Ms Buttrose said.

“As chair of the ABC board, I am duty-bound to call out any action that seeks to undermine the independence of the national broadcaster.

“A fundamental democratic principle underpinning the ABC has been its independence from interference by those motivated by political outcomes.

“Politicians, like all citizens, are welcome to criticise anything they find wrong or objectionable that is published by the ABC, but they cannot be allowed to tell the ABC what it may or may not say.

“Transparency and accountability are important, and the Senate committee performs a vital role.

“The ABC attends Senate estimates hearings on multiple occasions every year and answers hundreds of questions on notice.”

In December 2020, Buttrose accused the Federal Government of repeated behavioral instances which “smacked of political interference”.

She also said the Federal Police raids on the ABC offices in 2019 – the same year Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Buttrose as new ABC Chair – were “designed to intimidate”.

In a recent interview with Sky News host, Chris Kenny, Senator Bragg likened the ABC complaints handling process to “a kid marking their own homework”.

He later told Guardian Australia he believed the Senate inquiry will be a “stronger mechanism”.

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