Leading article Australia

Juvenile and clueless

6 October 2018

9:00 AM

6 October 2018

9:00 AM

‘Juvenile and clueless’ is how the Australian’s esteemed Editor-at-Large Paul Kelly deems the suggestion by Liberals and conservatives (including many who write for this magazine) that the government should privatise our floundering national broadcaster. Mr Kelly claims that the ABC is a ‘great institution’ and that ‘Australia needs it’. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard used to struggle to pronounce the word hyperbole, (preferring ‘hyperbowl’) but she understood the word’s meaning: a ludicrously embellished exaggeration. All four of Mr Kelly’s chosen descriptors – both in damning the ABC’s critics and in praising the institution itself – clearly fall into the ‘hyperbowl’ category.

Rather than being seen as juvenile, any decision regarding the privatisation (or partial selling-off, or merging with SBS) of the ABC could only be seen as the opposite: a mature decision. And the maturity would be on both sides. A mature, adult government deciding that the ABC was itself mature enough to have outgrown adolescence and be capable of fending for itself in the big wide world. Ditto the public. With ever-declining ratings, it is clear that today’s public has long since moved on from relying upon the ABC as its major source of world news, current affairs, informed opinion and cultural enlightenment, and now seeks those pleasures via the myriad alternatives of the digital age. Yes, a young and juvenile Australia did need the ABC. But now Australian society has matured, it is only the spoilt brats of Ultimo hiding behind their pot-plants and peddling left-wing dogma as ‘news’ that can accurately be described as ‘juvenile’. As any loving parent knows, the best way to teach a recalcitrant, pampered juvenile how to thrive in the world is to cut off its pocket-money (currently around $1.3 billion a year) and tell it to go find its own digs – preferably where the rent is cheapest out in the western suburbs.

‘Clueless’ is an even sillier word for Mr Kelly to toss around, as if he himself has some secret knowledge about how unsuccessful (or unpopular) privatisation of the ABC would be. If we are indeed looking for clues, then let’s start with the privatisation of other government behemoths, such as Qantas, Telstra or the Commonwealth Bank. The standout is of course Qantas, which, putting aside its current fad for virtue-signalling and identity politics, has literally soared. Once upon a time it was unthinkable that a travelling nation such as ours would not have its own government-operated airline. Since being privatised in 1995, the airline has become a global brand that is as dear to the hearts of many Aussies as it always was. Others can’t stand the airline. But so what? Isn’t that what diversity is all about? Telstra’s ‘Mums-and-Dads’ privatisation has also largely been a success, although it has been sullied by association with the counter-productive NBN. And as for ‘Commbank’, putting to one side the disgraceful issues raised by the Royal Commission, the reality is that for most of us over the past three decades Commbank’s focus on customer service (and new technology) that was frequently missing from the creaky old CBA bureaucracy has been a plus. Although there are pitfalls in any privatisation process, the most likely scenario is that if handled well, an ABC sell-off would not only re-invigorate what is clearly a dysfunctional and floundering outfit, but could even strengthen the love for the ABC in the hearts of many Australians. Especially those who’d own shares in it.

Then we come to Mr Kelly’s claims as to why we should keep the ABC as is. A ‘great institution’? Maybe once, but sadly not in its current state; riddled with disgruntled and politicised staff led by a self-serving, virtue-signalling board where genuine merit and talent have been replaced by left-wing, green faddishness. Do we ‘need it’? Of course not. To be sure, there are some terrific people at the ABC. There is no reason for them not to have highly successful and lucrative careers building up an ABC capable of being weaned off the teat of impoverished taxpayers, many of whom could – but don’t currently – choose to watch it.

Cold September

Climate change alarmists had best sit down and take a deep breath. Because the latest data suggests that September 2018 was the coldest September – globally – in a decade; that global temperatures have declined 0.3 degrees Celsius since the notorious Paris Climate Conference of December 2015; and that global temperatures are now back to where they were 35 years ago. Global warming enthusiasts are advised to take a chill pill. Literally.

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