The Rudd Government and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) had demonstrated a very strange set of spending priorities in recent months, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
Senator Birmingham, as Deputy Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts, has today been involved in questioning the taxpayer-funded broadcaster’s management in Senate Additional Estimates.
Under questioning today, ABC Managing Director Mark Scott has confirmed:
  • Boston Consulting Group was paid more than $1 million for work leading to the ‘Project W’ report into merger opportunities with SBS, which SBS managing director Shaun Brown attacked as a waste of money;
  • the Rudd Government’s new board appointment process for the ABC and SBS has cost approximately $202,000, but no directors had yet been appointed;
  • spending $65,870 on legal assistance and counselling to former South Asia correspondent Peter Lloyd, convicted in Singapore on drugs charges; and
  • external consultants were paid an as yet undisclosed amount to resolve an internal dispute with broadcaster Stephen Crittenden – suspended for three months – over the axing of Radio National’s Religion Report.
“It is particularly strange that the ABC would secretly spend $1 million finding ways to allegedly save $41 million annually through integration with SBS, yet never bothered to talk to SBS about it and now seems to have abandoned any of the options presented.
“The Minister seems to have been missing in action as Australia’s two public broadcasters have engaged in a costly turf war at taxpayer’s expense.
“Rather than allowing bad relations to simmer and fester, Minister Conroy must make clear exactly what level of integration between the ABC and SBS is or is not acceptable and encourage the two organisations to work cooperatively for their mutual benefit.
“It’s time for the Government to focus on the main game of quality broadcasting for the new digital age and reign in expenditure that is wrong and wasteful.”