OPINION: Simple as ABC: it’s a broken promise
COMMENT BY BILL HOFFMAN: "NO cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS" was the 2013 election eve commitment from Tony Abbott to voters. No equivocation about it, laid out without hesitation and spoken by a man then bidding to be Australia's Prime Minister.
Regardless of how you perceive the ABC's performance, that was the commitment.
By this week the word "cuts" had been replaced by the term "efficiency dividend" with the announcement the ABC would lose 10% or $250m of its funding over the next five years.
The argument being offered by Coast-based Abbott Government MPs is that any impact on programming was the responsibility of ABC management.
As National Party leader Warren Truss's spokesman put it: "The purpose of the Efficiency Study was to assist the ABC and SBS to manage their businesses more efficiently and, in particular, to examine the 'back of house' costs of operations and to identify savings through increased efficiencies and reduced expenses without impacting on the quality and extent of program content."
The argument runs that businesses and families are struggling to make ends meet. Why then is it unreasonable to expect the ABC to share some of the load?
The government cites the national debt as the imperative. It is taking a calculated gamble the electorate will allow the election eve promise to go through to the keeper.
The gamble is considerable, coming after heightened distrust by a Federal Budget that sought to increase the cost of a tertiary education, to raise the retirement age, and to introduce a $7 Medicare co-payment.
Mr Abbott this week would not acknowledge he had broken a promise, claiming his government "has fundamentally kept faith with the Australian people by doing what the people elected us to do, to deliver the policies, to make the tough decisions that this country needed".
He also seemed to argue that the electorate should have paid less attention to him and more to what his then shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey had said.
"Before the election the Treasurer, then the shadow treasurer, said very publicly of the ABC, 'If there is waste we will cut it'," Mr Abbott told Parliament.
Whether you view the ABC as full of biased, left-wing, bloated bludgers as many defending the cuts on social media clearly do, or as a national broadcaster of high quality, reach and objective analysis, is not the point.
At issue is the breach of a promise clearly made by a national leader who in Opposition was strident in his condemnation of any perception of such behaviour by the then government.