Labor’s byelection pitch to restore ABC funding 

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Labor believes the funding squeeze on the ABC resonates as an issue in the electorate, where the national broadcaster had a vital communications role during the bushfires, writes political columnist MICHELLE GRATTAN.

ANTHONY Albanese has promised a Labor government would reverse the Coalition’s $83.7 million cut to ABC funding, as he campaigns in the last days before the Eden-Monaro byelection on Saturday.

Michelle Grattan

This would “save regional jobs, protect critical emergency broadcasting and support local news and content,” Albanese said in a statement with Kristy McBain, the ALP candidate for the Labor-held marginal NSW seat.

Labor believes the funding squeeze on the ABC resonates as an issue in the electorate, where the national broadcaster had a vital communications role during the bushfires.

Scott Morrison has denied ABC funding has been “cut”, because the cut takes the form of a pause in indexation.

Last week the ABC announced up to 250 jobs would go and programming changes would include scrapping to 7.45am radio news bulletin.

Albanese said the ABC’s emergency coverage saved lives during the fires. The funding promise “builds on Labor’s pledge to improve broadcast coverage across Eden-Monaro with a focus on ABC local radio black spots, as well as power back-up for broadcasting transmission facilities so they work for longer during natural disasters”.

“This Saturday, the people of Eden-Monaro have the chance to send the government a message. Don’t cut ABC jobs, regional news or emergency broadcasting,” he said.

The by-election is the first head-to-head test between Morrison and Albanese. It is particularly important for Albanese because a loss could destabilise his leadership.

The pandemic has seen a rise in people voting early and applying for postal votes.

ABC election analyst Antony Green reported that already in pre-polling “21.6 per cent of the electorate had voted – 24,697 votes compared to 21,982 pre-poll votes in the same period at the 2019 election.

“There has also been a huge increase in postal vote applications, more than double those received in the 2019 election campaign, 16,391 so far versus a total of 7428 in 2019. That’s 14.3 per cent of the electorate having applied for a postal vote,” Green wrote on his blog.

Michelle Grattan is a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra. This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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Michelle Grattan
Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra, Michelle Grattan is one of Australia's most respected and awarded political journalists.

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