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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calls for greater ABC voice in the Pacific to protect national security

Written by Javed Iqbal

The Prime Minister says it is a matter of national security for the ABC to make more content that projects Australian values ​​and interests to the Indo-Pacific region.

Anthony Albanese gave a speech at the ABC in Sydney on Friday night to celebrate the broadcaster’s 90th anniversary.

The event was attended by ABC Chair Ita Buttrose, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, Opposition Communications Spokesperson Sarah Henderson and award-winning actor David Wenham.

Current and former ABC staff were also in attendance, including former 7.30 host Kerry O’Brien and former Lateline host and Parliamentary Secretary Maxine McKew.

Anthony Albanese with ABC reporters
Anthony Albanese with past and present ABC identities (L-R) Fran Kelly, Jonathan Holmes, Kerry O’Brien and Maxine McKew.(Delivered: James Alcock)

The Prime Minister stressed the importance of a strong Australian voice in the Pacific to keep out other influences.

“When the ABC vote was removed from the Pacific, guess which nation moved in? Simple as that, a major foreign policy mistake.”

He said Australia’s “identity, values ​​and interests” must be projected to the Pacific.

“Beyond all other considerations, it is a prudent investment in our national security as well as our national interest.

“[This] was underestimated by the previous government, even downplayed. It was a mistake.”

Sir. Albanese reaffirmed his government’s commitment to an Indo-Pacific Broadcasting Strategy, which increases ABC International funding so Australian content can be boosted in the region.

Since taking office in May, Mr Albanese has vowed to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the Pacific region and restore Australia as the partner of choice.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has already made four trips to the Pacific, and both she and Mr Albanese have met the prime minister of the Solomon Islands, which signed a security pact with China in April.

Ita Buttrose stands for a lecture
Ita Buttrose said the ABC was a major contributor to Australian democracy.(Delivered: James Alcock)

Albanese reiterated earlier promises to restore $83.7 million in funding to the ABC, as well as five-year funding terms and financial sustainability options that safeguard against political interference.

He appeared to take aim at the former Morrison government, saying no government should ever fear the ABC “unless it fears the truth”.

“A government that chooses to attack a public broadcaster [is] motivated by either ideology or fear — or a toxic cocktail of the two,” he said.

“A government secure in its own ideas and principles should embrace independent questions as essential to the democracy it purports to uphold.”

He described the ABC as a “beacon of trust” and an “insurance policy” against misinformation and disinformation.

The organization, he said, would play an important role in the discussions on an indigenous voice for parliament.

He also took a swipe at ABC critics who claim the broadcaster is too focused on “inner city elites”.

“We have all heard the mantras about the ABC as a haven for inner-city elites, repeated with straight faces by critics based in our inner cities.

“I hope these commentators take note of the 48 regional ABC bureaus scattered in a large constellation across the country, and the continued existence of the landline.”

Anthony Albanese holding hands with human-sized Bluey figures
Anthony Albanese poses with Bluey and Bingo from the popular ABC TV show Bluey.(Delivered: James Alcock)

Ms Buttrose, who once described the broadcaster’s relationship with the Morrison government as “strained”, pleaded with Mr Albanese to continue to defend the ABC, even if it meant intense pressure on his government.

“Prime Minister, I have no doubt that our brilliant journalists will occasionally annoy your government. Let us all be grateful for that,” she said.

“This process strengthens the Australian democracy we all love.”

Ms Buttrose, who hailed the ABC’s focus on arts and culture, hit back at critics who have suggested the broadcaster does not represent “mainstream” Australians.

“Can you be more mainstream than reaching 20 million Australians every week? I don’t think so,” she said.

ABC chief executive David Anderson said the government’s commitment to the ABC was “reassuring” and public broadcasters should never be taken for granted.

“We will continue to hold the highest editorial standards and remain fully accountable to the Australian people,” he said.

“As global giants offer more news and entertainment choices and commercial investment in Australian content declines, the ABC will need to play an even greater role in sharing and promoting Australian stories and culture.”

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Javed Iqbal

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