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1 month ago
Morrison Government inaction and buck passing in relation to emergency broadcasting in regional Australia is putting lives at risk, while the Nats are Missing In Action.
The Senate Inquiry into lessons to be learned in relation to the Australian bushfire season 2019-20 heard that the Morrison Government still has no plan to enhance emergency broadcasting in regional Australia, either in terms of ABC newsgathering, ABC broadcast site resilience or ABC Local Radio black spots.
ABC Managing Director, David Anderson, confirmed reports that the ABC has, on repeated occasions, approached the Government with a proposal to invest more in regional newsgathering if the Government reverses the ABC indexation pause but is yet to receive a response.

The ABC has also raised further proposals for the extension of the Enhanced Newsgathering program and additional investment in regional Australia, including with the Minister for Regional Communications, Mark Coulton, and remains hopeful that the proposals remain active in the lead up to the Federal Budget.

BAI Communications CEO, Peter Lambourne, confirmed that BAI’s proposal to enhance the resilience of ABC broadcast infrastructure at up to 291 transmission sites across Australia has not been progressed, despite the roadmap for delivery commencing in Q3/Q4 in 2020 in preparation for the next bushfire season.

Meanwhile no Government Department seems to take responsibility for keeping Australians safe when it comes to ensuring adequate funding for ABC emergency broadcasting and site resilience.

Emergency Management Australia, within the Department of Home Affairs, said it relies on the Department of Communications when it comes to the ABC, while the Department of Communications said it is not responsible for risk assessment when it comes to the adequacy of ABC funding for emergency broadcasting.

Australians in bushfire-prone areas will take no comfort from the hands-off approach of the Department of Communications which considers that the resilience of emergency broadcasting is a matter for market participants, and that ABC funding decisions are entirely a matter for the Government.

It is troubling that the buck stops with the Minster for Communications, Paul Fletcher, whose claim that ABC funding is rising each year was found to be misleading by Fact Check, and who wants to exclude the ABC from the opportunity to invest revenue from the proposed ACCC news media code into regional news.
Local radio provided by commercial, community and public broadcasters saved lives during the recent bushfires and, when all else fails, can be the only form of communications that remains.
The Government’s cuts to the ABC and lack of investment in ABC site resilience and blackspots risk the safety of Australians in regional areas.
The question remains: why won’t the Nationals, especially the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Michael McCormack, or the Minister for Regional Communications, Mark Coulton, stand up for the ABC in regional Australia?
Communications and the Arts