AQ: Australian Quarterly

Game of Sabotage: The culture war for the ABC

Well, you could do what some New South Wales Liberal Party members did in 2018 by putting up a motion at a state party conference calling for the ABC to be privatised. You might even find, as they did, that there’s a fair bit of support in the room. You could pass the motion, hoot and holla with acclamation and wait for the media to amplify the vote to become a national media story. Yes, you could do that. But if you do, you should also safely predict that no action will follow, and the ABC will likely remain stubbornly in public hands.

John Howard’s chief of staff, Grahame Morris, said something very telling about conservatives’ relationship with the ABC… “our enemy talking to our friends.”

Back in the 1990s, Prime Minister John Howard’s chief of staff, Grahame Morris, said something very telling about conservatives’ relationship with the ABC. He described the national broadcaster as “our enemy talking to our friends.” It’s a quote that’s cited often because it hints at the reasons for the coalition’s suspicions about the ABC, while perfectly summing up the frustrations conservatives feel whenever they attempt to curb its influence.

While quite a few coalition MPs dislike the ABC, most of their voters, whether they’re from the bush or the suburbs, tend to love its programming, even though some might have reservations about some of its news and current affairs coverage. Attacking the ABC, therefore, risks alienating a significant number of supporters, as well as a large proportion of swinging voters. So, the last thing the Liberal and National Parties want is for the ABC’s

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