Disbelief over push to sell ABC
THE Turnbull Government is scrambling to rule out any sell-off of the ABC after the Liberal party membership voted in favour of privatisation on the weekend.
On Saturday, the Liberal federal council passed a motion with a two-to-one majority calling on the coalition to sell off the ABC, except in regional areas.
The government has not supported the motion, which was reportedly supported by a majority of the 110 delegates by a show of hands.
Government frontbencher Josh Frydenberg backed Saturday's assurance from Treasurer Scott Morrison that the government had no plans for privatisation.
"The Liberal party membership are entitled to their views and are as frustrated as we are from time to time about the coverage on the ABC," Mr Frydenberg told Sky News on Sunday.
"But the reality is this is an iconic national institution which will remain in the public's hands."
Finance minister Mathias Cormann went further, saying the coalition will not be privatising the ABC.
"If that is the most important issue that the Labor Party wants to focus on, a policy change that is not happening, while they are voting against more investment and more jobs in Australia, then go their hardest," he said.
Former Nationals leader and deputy prime minister Tim Fischer also defended the public funding of the ABC.
"Good, bad or interesting, the ABC is part of the core, official fabric of the nation and should never be sold," Mr Fischer told AAP on Sunday.
However, not everyone agrees, with Liberal Democrats upper house MP in Western Australia, Aaron Stonehouse saying he felt "excited" when he heard about the vote.
"It's the Liberal party getting back to its roots," he told Sky News.
"You can't call yourself a Liberal party and support continuing the public ownership of the ABC.
WA Liberal Democrats MP @StonehouseMLC on the Liberal federal council voting to sell the ABC: You can't call yourself a Liberal party and support continuing the public ownership of the ABC.— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) 17 June 2018
MORE: https://t.co/t6zKD4ESNp #pmlive pic.twitter.com/HzcjcuZr6t
Labor has already latched onto the successful motion, with opposition leader Bill Shorten claiming Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is at odds with his base.
"If you love the ABC, you'd be wise to not trust Mr Turnbull," Mr Shorten told reporters in Tasmania on Sunday.
"This idea that somehow Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party are two separate entities, two strangers at a bar, is rubbish."
Labor's communication spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said the federal council motion was proof the Liberals were out to destroy the ABC.
"It's official, the Liberals do not support public broadcasting and (they) want to sell off the ABC," she said.
"The out-of-touch Liberals want to dismantle a vital institution in our democracy and silence the independent voice that has spoken to and of our nation for over 85 years."
Ms Rowland claimed privatising the ABC could mean advertisements during programming and putting high-quality Australian content behind a paywall. Labor also called on the National Party leadership to call out their coalition partner over the vote.
"This has everything to do with the Liberals' obsession with culture wars," Labor's regional communications spokesman Stephen Jones said. "And nothing to do with providing good quality programming and services to regional Australia."