Keep ABC in region: Nationals candidate

WESTERN Victoria’s ABC branches must avoid the federal funding axe for the sake of their growing regional communities, Nationals candidate Sonia Smith says.

Nationals candidate for Buninyong Sonia Smith. FILE IMAGE

Nationals candidate for Buninyong Sonia Smith. FILE IMAGE

Ms Smith, who will contest the newly formed seat of Buninyong, said expected growth in Ballarat would increase the demand for broadcast services.

“It’s important our country and regional areas aren’t sacrificed at the expense of metropolitan areas because it’s too often overlooked,” she said.

A recent Victoria in Future report released by the Department of Planning, predicted the Ballarat region would grow to 266,400 people by June 30, 2051.

And Ms Smith said the broadcaster, which “already runs on a shoestring budget”, was vital for keeping the community informed.

“Local radio is a good way to engage with the local-level community and provide democracy,” she said.

The ABC declined to comment, however managing director Mark Scott, in a recent interview on the broadcaster’s Radio National program, said $120 million would be cut from the ABC’s budget over the next four years. 

Ms Smith took aim at Mr Scott, suggesting his salary should be cut.

“Mark Scott’s on $700,000 a year. When we’re looking at cuts, it may be that we should look at executive pay cuts rather than cuts to journalists in country areas,” she said. 

Labor member for  Ballarat East Geoff Howard said Ms Smith was commenting on something that was “clearly not a state issue”.

“People appreciate the ABC as an independent provider of news services,” he said.

“The concept of having a large ABC in regional Victoria is something I fully support.”

Liberal candidate for Buninyong Ben Taylor would not be drawn on his federal colleagues’ decision to withdraw funding, but said the ABC provided great emergency services for regional Victoria.

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