ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose accuses Morrison government of trying to ‘intimidate’ the public broadcaster with new inquiry
- Senate inquiry launched into complaints handling processes at ABC and SBS
- ABC chair Ita Buttrose hit back, describing it as blatant attempt to usurp board
- Is duty-bound to call out action that seeks to undermine ABC’s independence
- Comes after the ABC launched its own inquiry into in-house complaints process
ABC chair Ita Buttrose has unleashed a scathing attack accusing Scott Morrison‘s government of ‘political interference’ and ‘intimidation’.
Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg launched an Senate inquiry into the complaints handling processes at the national broadcaster and SBS on Thursday following alleged ‘public concerns’ about current procedures.
It comes just weeks after the ABC commissioned its first independent review in 12 years into its in-house complaints process.
Buttrose hit back with a furious statement on Sunday, claiming the Senate inquiry was a ‘blatant attempt to usurp the role of the broadcaster’s board and undermine its operational independence’.
ABC chair Ita Buttrose (pictured) has accused the Morrison government of ‘political interference’ and ‘intimidation’.
‘This is an act of political interference designed to intimidate the ABC and mute its role as this country’s most trusted source of public interest journalism,’ she wrote.
‘Any incursion of this kind into the ABC’s independence should be seen by Australians for what it is: an attempt to weaken the community’s trust in the public broadcaster.’
‘If politicians determine the operation of the national broadcaster’s complaints system, they can influence what is reported by the ABC.’
Buttrose wrote that the broadcaster’s independent review was well underway and already interviewed Senator Bragg.
‘I will leave it to Senator Bragg to explain his motives, but the impact of this action is clear. As chair of the ABC board I am duty-bound to call out any action that seeks to undermine the independence of the national broadcaster,’ she said
‘A fundamental democratic principle underpinning the ABC has been its independence from interference by those motivated by political outcomes.
Senator Andrew Bragg (pictured) will lead an Senate inquiry into the complaints handling processes at the national broadcaster and SBS
‘Politicians, like all citizens, are welcome to criticise anything they find wrong or objectionable that is published by the ABC but they cannot be allowed to tell the ABC what it may or may not say.’
Buttrose ended the lengthy statement by calling on the Senate to terminate or suspend the inquiry until the independent process commissioned by the ABC board was completed, when parliament resumed later in November.
Senator Bragg announced the Senate inquiry into the ABC and SBS last week, claiming public concerns were raised over the current system.
‘As a strong supporter of the ABC, I am worried that complaints are not being seriously addressed and this is undermining the organisation,’ he said.
‘If mistakes are made, Australians expect the national broadcaster to swiftly resolve them.
‘Having made extensive complaints myself, I am concerned this is not the case.’
Ita Buttrose claimed a new Senate inquiry into the broadcaster is a ‘blatant attempt to usurp the role of the ABC board’
The Senate’s Environment and Communications Committee will take submissions and hold public hearings in the coming months, with the committee due to report by the end of next February.
The ABC will also seek public submissions for its own ‘rigorous and thorough’ review with findings will be released by the broadcaster two months later in April.
Opposition Labor’s communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland vowed to defend the national broadcaster.
‘This Senate inquiry has nothing to do with improving the national broadcasters and everything to do with the Morrison Government’s aversion to scrutiny and accountability,’ she said.
The Senate inquiry just weeks after the national broadcaster (pictured) commissioned its first independent review in 12 years into its in-house complaints process
ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose lashes out at Scott Morrison Government over inquiry into broadcaster