It was emotional, noisy, sweaty, energetic and organised chaos, as 1000 public broadcasting enthusiasts scrambled and fought their way into the 400 seat NSW Teachers Federation auditorium in Surry Hills.
(Note, this report is written by a staunch Melbournian)
Lead speakers author Tom Keneally, broadcaster Phillip Adams, former Four Corners host Kerry O’Brien and comedian, author and actor Magda Szubanski received wild applause as they attacked the Government’s interference in the ABC’s activities, its budget cuts and the raft of inquiries, complaints and legislative changes proposed to the ABC Charter.
Kerrie O’Brien said a central issue was “not the ABC’s dislike of the Liberal Party, but rather the Liberal Party’s dislike of the ABC”
Both he and Magda Szubanski said that many Liberal and National party voters, though, supported and trusted the ABC.
They stated that campaigning for a better deal for the public broadcaster should not become a nationally divisive issue.
This view was given statistical backing by Ebony Bennett of the Australia Institute, who quoted recent and substantial national surveys showing that all parties backed the continuing existence of the ABC and trusted its journalistic voice. She added that support extended to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation voters.
Phillip Adams said that in his many years of fighting to stop politicians interfering with the ABC and for proper funding, he believed now was the most perilous of times for the broadcaster.
He called for a minute’s silence for all in audience to think about what the ABC meant to them – then said the prospect of Australia’s independent voice being stilled was a frightening prospect.
The Sydney public meeting was organised by the NSW Friends, whose president Professor Ed Davis praised all who contributed to the event and attended it.
“The response has given us a great boost in the fight to both preserve and strengthen the ABC”, he said
There will be a major rally in the Melbourne Town Hall next Sunday, July 15, commencing at 2 pm.
It will be chaired by fighter for journalistic freedom Peter Greste, who was jailed in Egypt for 400 days in 2014/5.
He will be supported by former ABC board member Prof. Fiona Stanley, radio broadcaster Jon Faine, Magda Szubanski and Friends National President Margaret Reynolds, a former Federal Senator for Queensland. Others, including those from the audience will be able to have their say.
Details for reserving seats in Melbourne, and of other rallies and meetings around Australia, are on the Friends website <abcfriends.org.au>
Ranald Macdonald is a former Managing Director and Editor in Chief of The Age newspaper. He is an ABC 3LO morning presenter and Friend of the ABC.