Go back

Transcript: Vandalisation of the ABC Overseas Service – An Insider's Perspective

Published 03 Feb 2015

AIIA NSW – Quentin Dempster

At our first speakers’ night for 2015 at Glover Cottages on 3 February, prominent former ABC broadcaster Quentin Dempster had some trenchant things to say about the Corporation’s treatment at the hands of the Abbott government during its first year in 2014.  He mentioned how Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had unilaterally terminated DFAT’s contract to run the ABC’s Australia Network service. Her grounds had been that by broadcasting deleterious stories, including of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and how the telephones of the former Indonesian president and his wife had been invigilated by Australian intelligence, the ABC was not fulfilling its contract to promote Australian public diplomacy. The termination came despite DFAT being contractually obliged not to censor or control ABC news material, a fiercely and long-held ABC principle since it took over Radio Australia from the government after World War II.

Quentin detected in Ms Bishop’s decision the influence of News Corporation, which could not tolerate competition in digital media by the ABC, a free broadcaster.

Quentin then gave a comprehensive list of ABC services and capabilities that had been cut or reduced by the Abbott government. They included the cutting of many current affairs programs on Television, Radio National and Radio Australia, termination of the Corporation’s overseas television contract, and closure or reduction of numerous ABC overseas offices, many of which had taken years to get established. He ended what was a most lively and stimulating address by calling for an urgently-needed public debate on the merits of Australia having the capacity to provide a non-commercial, objective and comprehensive news service to the Asia Pacific region and the world beyond.