Malcolm Turnbull Defended Tony Abbott’s “No Cuts To The ABC” Election Promise

The whole saga over the now announced $254 million cuts in funding to the national broadcaster ABC continues to get far murkier before anything even remotely nears getting clearer.

The cuts in and of themselves aren’t exactly unexpected – conservative Government’s prickly relationships with the ABC are the stuff of legend – and the cuts were flagged back in the May when the Abbott Government handed down its first Federal Budget. But what’s really getting people’s backs up about the situation is this much talked about quote from now Prime Minister Tony Abbott during his ultimately successful election campaign:
No cuts to Education. No cuts to Health. No changes to pensions. No changes to the GST. No cuts to the ABC or SBS under any Government I lead.”

This, quite blatantly, can be now viewed as a broken election promise.
Enter, arguably the Liberal Party’s intellectual heavyweight in Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose eloquence and turn of phrase are, frankly, sorely lacking in other realms of his political party. The Coalition’s Raging Bull has already gone on the attack following his announcement of the nearly 5% cut in funding yesterday, pre-emptively charging at any potential detractors who could potentially suggest that these cuts will force a downsize in programming, stating that any attempt to do so would be “cowardly.”
Now he’s gone even further, somehow trying to play bro to his pal Tony Abbott following repeated condemnation of the cuts in the wake of the previously stated election promise.
Appearing (perhaps somewhat ironically) on the ABC’s 7:30 Report last night, Turnbull went head-to-head with notorious thorn in politician’s side Leigh Sales over the remark. We’ll let their own words do the talking here.

So how come we’re here having a discussion about a five per cent cut to the ABC when in the election campaign, the Government unequivocally said, “No cuts to the ABC”?

Well, the Prime Minister said that in one interview I think the night before the election. But Joe Hockey and I had made it very clear on a number of ABC programs in fact that we – that if that there were going to be cuts across-the-board, as plainly there would have to be – across the board of government, I mean – to address the budgetary problems, the budget deficit and so forth, then the ABC and SBS couldn’t be exempt. But we would be seeking to address waste and inefficiencies and not, as some people were urging us to do, cut the ABC’s budget with the intent of reducing its digital presence or its broadcasting activities.

You must understand that for voters, when someone says “no cuts”, you think no cuts.

No, look, I understand that. But to accept that Tony Abbott meant the ABC and SBS, out of all of the agencies of government, would be exempt from any savings measure, to accept that, you would have to assume that he had decided on the eve of the election to overrule and contradict the very carefully considered statements that Joe Hockey and I had been making. Now, that’s a big call too.
So in short, what Turnbull seems to be saying here is that when Tony Abbott says something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that should be taken as gospel, as often there’s hidden meaning that should have been interpreted by voters, rather than taking what – at least on paper – appeared to be a very clear cut election promise at face value.
In the realms of narrative fiction, you can call that an “unreliable narrator,” and it’s a very handy tool for crafting stories that aren’t constrained by the established storyline that precedes it.
A nice idea, sure. It’s just that this isn’t fiction. It’s politics. And in politics, we tend to call blunt contradictions like that “lies.”
Photo: Torsten Blackwood via Getty Images.
via ABC.