Protect ABC Gippsland from cuts says council

FEDERAL government cuts of $254 million to the ABC’s budgets have prompted Wellington Shire Council to request the quarantining of Gippsland ABC from any more financial and staffing cuts.

At Tuesday’s council meeting Cr Darren McCubbin proposed a last minute notice of motion, asking council to recognise Gippsland’s regional ABC network’s valued services.

He particularly emphasised its broadcast service’s efforts in promoting community and localised news services, debating local issues and most importantly providing essential notification of emergency service information during times of crisis.

Services which he said, until funding and staff cuts brought in last year, had included dedicated weekend and evening reporting services.

“There have been cut backs in staff members,” Cr McCubbin told council.

He said the ABC’s regional network was no longer seen as part of a career for broadcasters but simply a short term contract job.

“There are no outside broadcasts, they can’t afford those,” he said.

Cr McCubbin pointed out ABC Gippsland had been recently recognised for 10 outstanding years supporting the community as an emergency broadcaster, yet because of recent reductions in staffing levels it had been unable to provide those services during the region’s most recent emergency events.

“Very important to us is the emergency response, we used to get seven days a week, all over the weekend we would get emergency response.

“Now that is delegated to a Melbourne station and that was particularly found (to be) lacking in the Jack River fires earlier this year.

“That station couldn’t properly pronounce the names of the townships, plus it was difficult for them to explain to local people what was going on, because they simply don’t live here,” he said.

“To explain the intricacies of the fire front to a community that is at risk is very, very difficult for them.

“It is cutting back on a level of service that we in Gippsland have relied upon.”

“This is not to have a go at the federal government . . . about those cuts.

“It’s not our point, if you like, whilst we all have personal opinions as to whether the ABC should be cut back or not, the case we are making as a council is our local regional ABC should be quarantined, must be quarantined from those cuts which are occurring.

“If you have to make cuts, make them, but do not make cuts to a vital local service which is keeping people informed about emergency situations and simply dealing with our communities’ well-being.”

Councillors unanimously voted to ask the chief executive officer to write to Gippsland MHR Darren Chester advising him that Wellington Shire Council recognised the valuable work of the regional ABC network and request that he seek support to quarantine ABC Gippsland from the budget cuts and that services return to their pre-2012 levels.

The councillors also asked the chief executive to speak to all Gippsland councils asking for their support in contacting their local Federal members about the matter.