‘ABC in danger of losing its social licence to operate’

Senator wants triple j sold immediately.

Newly elected Queensland National Party Senator James McGrath has slammed the ABC in his first parliamentary speech.

In his maiden speech yesterday he said:

As someone who grew up in regional Queensland, I grew up with the ABC. But the ABC has left people like me and my constituents behind.

I want to support the ABC. I like the ABC. But while it continues to represent only inner-city leftist views, funded by our taxes, it is in danger of losing its social licence to operate.

I am calling for a review of the ABC’s charter. And if they fail to make inroads to restore balance, then the ABC should be sold and replaced by a regional and rural broadcasting service.

In the meantime, Triple J, because of its demographic dominance and clear ability to stand on its own, should be immediately sold.

Opening his speech with a reference to the centenary or World War One, he gave his views on freedom and liberty, then discussed his career and the people who influenced him. He said: “My life has not been about the pursuit or gain of power but to confiscate power back from government to free people.”

The paragraph above was his only mention of the ABC, but later in his speech, he did discuss his views on free speech:

Like many on this side of the chamber, I am a graduate of the greatest political training school in the country—namely, the Young Liberal Movement and the Australian Liberal Students Federation, both strong voices for freedom of association and liberty of thought. Compulsory student unionism, or SSAF as it is now called, is an attack on the fundamental freedom of association. Students, like anyone, should have the freedom to decide for themselves whether they join a student body or union. I give notice that I will be moving a private member’s bill to abolish the SSAF and bring back true voluntary student unionism—and I hope all freedom lovers will join me in supporting the bill.

Likewise, freedom of speech should never be restricted by government, because when speech is regulated in any manner, it is no longer free. People will say hurtful and bigoted and stupid and dumb things. People will make racist and sexist and homophobic comments. Those views are wrong, but the right to express them is not. If you believe in democracy, you cannot cleanse it of the views you disagree with. The true test of a democratic nation is not how we treat those with whom we agree but how we treat the rights of those with whom we disagree. The best way to deal with those with whom you disagree is not to force them into the dark shadows but to let the sun shine, to let the disinfectant of light and public scrutiny judge those offensive views.

View the full Hansard transcript here.

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