Protests over ABC budget cuts will hit the federal government’s doorstep this week as Tony Abbott remains under fire for backing down on an election promise.
Following weekend rallies in Sydney and Melbourne over the proposed $254 million cut the next protest venue is the lawn in front of Parliament House, Canberra on Tuesday.
More than 2000 people turned out at Sunday’s ABC rally in Melbourne, where Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the government’s move to slash funding to the broadcaster was “ripping at the heart” of a vital public institution.
He told the crowd it was time for Australia to “be there” for the ABC.
The rally followed a protest in Sydney on Saturday.
Protesters will now rally at Parliament House with Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer expected to speak.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s election eve promise to make “no cuts to the ABC or SBS” continues to hamper his government’s move to slash $254 million from the ABC’s budget over five years.
SBS has also been asked to find $53 million in savings over the same period.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this week said he assumed Mr Abbott meant there would be no “cuts with the intent of reducing ABC services”.
But Mr Shorten said the government was launching a brutal attack despite clearly promising otherwise.
“This is not a government of competition – this is a government of censorship,” he said on Sunday.
He said the public broadcasters reflected “our national identity … our national soul” and Australians would need to fight to have the cuts reversed.
“Our ABC has always been here for us. It is now time for us to be there for the ABC,” Mr Shorten said.
Greens communications spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam said the government had profoundly misjudged the public mood, while Greens Federal MP Adam Bandt said the prime minister was feeling pressure over the issue.
“Tony Abbott if you want to relieve the pressure you’re under the answer is as simple as A.B.C. – abide by commitments,” Mr Bandt said ahead of the rally on Sunday.
The crowd was told the budget cuts would amount to 500 ABC staff losing their jobs, and more facing insecure employment via casual or part-time work.
Some TV shows and local news bulletins would be discontinued, websites and web services would be shut down and production facilities centralised away from regional areas.