ABC and SBS need people power, says Dempster

Kerri Carr

Quentin Dempster at the Ryde-Macquarie TA dinner

Without a strong political support base Australia’s public broadcasters are in grave danger, Walkley award winner Quentin Dempster told Ryde-Macquarie Teachers Association’s annual dinner last month.

“We need people power to counter the forces out to undermine and destroy the tangible and intangible benefits to be derived from quality journalism and program making,” he said.

“These institutions … have legislated Charters requiring all program makers to regard their audiences as citizens in a robust democracy and not consumers to be delivered up to advertisers. Programs should be commissioned on the basis of their creative merit, sometimes with risk. On-air conversations should facilitate the clash of ideas, not be devised by agents provocateur, radio shock jocks or Murdoch Press ranters for political propaganda. Interviews should interrogate both the information available and the advocate or mouthpiece. This requires experience, skill, and lots of preparatory research.”

He urged all Australians to join the Friends of the ABC or Save Our SBS “to stake a claim on this country’s future as an informed, engaged and cohesive polity”. He said the need to join the groups was now more urgent if there is a double dissolution and early election, possibly in March.

The event, held during National Gonski Week, showcased the need for the full funding of the six-year Gonski model, if schools are to have the resources they need to give all students a quality education.

The NSW Liberal National Government is fully funding its share of the Gonski agreement, signed between the state and federal governments in 2013. However, the Federal Liberal/National Government is refusing to fund its share of the final two years of the Gonski deal.

Federation Organiser Theo Bougatsas said: “Smaller class sizes, more in-class support for students, intensive literacy and numeracy programs and other creative programs funded by the additional Gonski dollars are benefiting students’ learning.”

“The last two years are critically important because the majority of extra resources will be delivered to schools during this time,” he said.

“So much good work has already been done with Gonski funding but there are still gaps in resources and children missing out on support. We need the full six years of Gonski to make sure our schools have the resources they need,” he added.

Mr Dempster touched on the Gonski needs-based schools funding model: “The Prime Minister promises us a smart, intelligent, inclusive culture full of start-up innovation and entrepreneurship, presumably with an education system embedding his friend David Gonski’s recurrent funding formula to overcome educational disadvantage which has been proven to exist.”

He suggested the Gonski model would “only be entrenched in recurrent funding beyond 2017, it now appears, through an increase in the goods and services tax to 15 per cent.”

“I, for one, think it must happen with appropriate offsets but as part of fair tax and structural reform…This country needs to broaden its revenue base. And for sure a G20 crackdown on corporate tax avoidance through offshore tax havens must be a part of the fix. With a rapidly growing population this country’s revenue base has to be increased and diversified, not just to drive us back to budget balance.”

Federation President Maurie Mulheron also spoke at the dinner and then led a toast to public education.

Quentin Dempster’s address can be read here.