November 25, 2014
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has criticised ABC management for flagging the closure of its Morwell office, when savings could have been found in other areas of the national broadcaster.
Mr Chester said the ABC would still receive $5.2 billion over five years, instead of the $5.5 billion originally planned and shouldn’t be targeting regional areas for savings.
“I’m bitterly disappointed ABC management has turned straight to regional areas to achieve savings, when there is every indication the ABC has become a bloated bureaucracy in Melbourne and Sydney,” Mr Chester said.
“It’s a bizarre decision to shut down the Morwell newsroom, which has broken a number of important local and national stories this year. This is another example of the twisted priorities of the city-centric management team.”
Mr Chester said ABC would likely end up paying back money saved from rent through increased travel expenses for journalists. It’s understood the ABC will re-locate the Morwell journalist position to Sale – about 65km away.
“Managing Director Mark Scott said he understands the ABC’s obligations to cover news in regional Australia and that’s why closing the Morwell office, when other savings options were available, doesn’t make sense,” Mr Chester said.
ABC management had been involved in an efficiency study which found there was ample capacity for the ABC to achieve savings without impacting on programing, the MP said.
“The ABC has an obligation to provide services in regional and rural Australia – and this includes having journalists on the ground, with all the associated costs involved,” Mr Chester said.
“Regional taxpayers pay their share to fund the ABC and should get a better deal in the future.”
Mr Chester said the Lewis efficiency study of ABC and SBS operations showed savings could have been found in areas such as transmission costs and shared facilities and resources.
The Federal Government had been forced to act because it was elected to fix Labor’s debt, and that no government-funded body could be immune from savings, Mr Chester said.
“The government inherited a budgetary situation which requires significant changes to ensure the longer term sustainability of all government services,” he said.
“The government is making sure the ABC operates as efficiently as possible, which happens with every other taxpayer-funded organisation.
“This is about making sure taxpayers’ money is treated with respect.”
Mr Chester said he had written to Mr Scott and would continue to make this case in the Parliament and ABC board and management.