No special treatment promised to ABC: PM


Prime Minister Tony Abbott says no public sector - including the ABC and SBS - is exempt from the search for savings.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has denied he broke an election pledge not to cut funding to the ABC and SBS, saying he never promised the public broadcasters any special treatment.

Both the ABC and SBS on Monday revealed how they intend to manage with $300 million less over five years.

More than 400 jobs will go at the ABC among changes to production and programming.

In parliament, Labor pursued the prime minister over his pre-election promise not to cut funding to the broadcasters.

But Mr Abbott insisted his government had "fundamentally kept faith with the Australian people".

"We never promised special treatment for the ABC or SBS," he said.

The government was simply applying to the ABC the kind of efficiency dividend it was applying to almost every other part of government.

Mr Abbott challenged Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to promise to restore funding to the ABC if Labor won office.

"If he won't do that he is a fraud," he said.

Mr Shorten said no one had forced Mr Abbott to give the promise, one day out from the 2013 election.

"I'm sure there are now ministers in the government slapping their hands over their foreheads saying: `What on earth was the prime minister thinking?'," he told parliament.

The ABC will close five regional radio outposts, axe the state-based editions of TV's 7.30 program and end Radio National's Bush Telegraph.

The decision has angered The Nationals, including cabinet minister Barnaby Joyce, who last week sought an assurance that rural and regional news services wouldn't suffer.

His colleague Senator Bridget McKenzie said she was not convinced that cutting programming was Mr Scott's only option and will raise the matter with the ABC board.

She said Bush Telegraph played a crucial role in connecting urban and rural Australians, adding its axing will "decrease the voice of regional Australia at a national level."

Rural independent MP Cathy McGowan says the decision may widen the divisions between city and regional residents.

However, ABC managing director Mark Scott insists the ABC will do its best to keep its commitment in regional and rural Australia.

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne, whose seat is in Adelaide, said he was deeply disappointed the ABC was closing its South Australian production facilities as well as a regional office in Port Augusta.

Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam warned the cuts were just the government's first round of attempts to weaken the ABC and SBS.

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