Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (13:32): As someone who worked for the ABC as a journalist and presenter for nine years, I’m a great supporter of our national broadcaster and the important role it plays in our democracy. However, I want to see an ABC that is the best possible version of itself, trusted by all Australians, with a reputation for impartiality in its reporting of news and current affairs. I am also a strong defender of the ABC’s editorial independence. Regrettably, the ABC has not in all respects been meeting the high standards Australians rightly expect. I’m very pleased that the chair, Ita Buttrose, has agreed to meet with me about my deep concerns, which include the ABC’s decision to cut to regional Victorian radio services at a time when the ABC should be investing in more Australian regional services.

While I welcome the ABC’s review of its complaints process, the responsible Senate committee has every right to also inquire into these matters, and it’s quite wrong to suggest, as Ms Buttrose did, that this interferes with the ABC’s independence. I hope the result is a more robust, accountable and independent complaints process where complaints are taken much more seriously. Regrettably, the ABC continues to allow its employees and contractors to freelance on social media in a manner which is inconsistent with section 8 of the ABC Act, which requires the ABC to disseminate news and information accurately and impartially. This risks damaging the ABC’s credibility as a source of impartial news. Of course, this could be fixed if the ABC were to require its staff to comply with its editorial policies when posting on personal social media accounts, but it has declined to do so. In the 1990s, when I worked for the ABC, if I had done a similar thing—made a public statement that was not authorised—that would have been misconduct. As I say, the ABC must be a broadcaster for all Australians.

22 November 2021

Categories: Speeches