Scott Morrison has mocked the Labor Party’s policy on re-funding Radio Australia on the election campaign trail today.
“I sent in the AFP, the Labor Party wants to send in the ABC,” he said, commenting on Labor’s policy to increase funding for the national broadcaster and its external service Radio Australia, amidst campaigning about foreign policy.
Radio Australia switched off its shortwave transmissions to remote parts of northern Australia and across the Pacific in January 2017 and some of those frequencies were subsequently taken over by Chinese broadcasters.
Prime Minister Morrison referenced Australia’s assistance in the Solomon Island capital Honiara during the period of civil unrest in November last year. “They are playing politics with the Pacific and the only ones who are benefiting from Labor’s attacks on our government is the Chinese government and, it would seem, the ABC,” Morrison said of the Labor policy.
Labor unveiled a package of wide-ranging reforms aimed at boosting Australia’s diplomatic and military relationships in the Pacific. The party says its Pacific plan is a “whole of government effort” which will combine “defence, strategic, diplomatic and economic power to reassure the region they can rely on Australia.”
Labor plans to expand Australian broadcasting in both the Pacific and the broader Indo-Pacific, partly by boosting the ABC’s international programming budget by more than $30 million dollars over four years and potentially restoring Australian shortwave radio broadcasting into the region at a cost of $8 million.
Under Labor’s Pacific broadcasting and publishing initiative, content will promote “Australian identity, values, and interests” while partnerships and training with Pacific journalists will be strengthened.