Good morning and welcome to the first day of the last sitting fortnight of the year. There might be Christmas drinks aplenty but the cheer is in short supply particularly around the ABC and the Palmer United Party.
Thanks once again for your company. Andrew Meares, Alex Ellinghausen and I are here to take you through all the day's events.
Later this morning - 11am - the managing director of the ABC, Mark Scott, will address staff in a national phone hook up. Mr Scott will outline how the ABC board and executive have decided the $254 million budget cuts will affect operations.
We will have the details of those cuts at 11.30am.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott spoke at the event.
"I speak as the father of three daughters, as the brother of three sisters, and I say that nothing is more horrifying than the knowledge that there are women and children right around our country today who are living in fear because of some male who is in their household and instead of being the love of their life, the apple of their eye, or the hero of their being, that person has become their tormentor," Mr Abbott said.
Mr Abbott urged women feeling vulnerable and frightened to contact police for help.
"You should not duffer in silence and know from today's even that you are never alone," Mr Abbott said.
"All of us are there to help anyone who is being persecuted, anyone who is being oppressed, but particularly women and children who are being persecuted, who are being oppressed, who are being victimised in their own homes. It must never happen and our job is to make sure that it stops."
Opposition leader Bill Shorten also spoke.
"We need a national change of attitude and that starts with men. Until we change, nothing will change," Mr Shorten said.
"Family violence is not a women's issue, it is a men's problem. It's time for men to start talking to men about family violence. This is not about a certain type of offender from a particular class or ethnicity, nor indeed is is about 'powerless' women. Family violence can be perpetuated in any postcode, it can afflict any woman. And until we change our attitudes, our behaviours, there will always be women turned away from shelters, there will always be children who grow up thinking that violence against women is the way of the world."
It's always heartening when politicians are able to put aside their party differences and come together to support a cause greater than daily point scoring.
Domestic violence is one such cause. Tomorrow is White Ribbon Day, the national day of action to stop violence against women and children.
This morning, for only the second time, all of Australia's and New Zealand's police commissioners met with politicians at Parliament House to pledge their support and raise awareness of the issue.
Last Wednesday Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull made known the extent of the cuts to the ABC and SBS.
Since then there has been much speculation about what will be cut and when.
The team at Radio National's Bush Telegraph show has been told they are one of the programs that will go:
There have been a number of National Party MPs walking a difficult line over the past few days. On the one hand, they have been supportive of the financial reasons behind the decision to cut the ABC's budget. On the other, they know how important the ABC is to people outside the major metropolitan areas.
It will be very interesting to hear what they think of the end of Bush Telegraph, Radio National's daily, hour long program devoted to rural and regional issues.
Jacquie Lambie has got to her feet in the Senate.
Senator Lambie: "Tasmanians don't want a hand out, they want a fair go and a hand up."
Senator Lambie says she thanks her friends and family for their support.
She wishes Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer "and his beautiful family" all the best.
"God bless Australia, God bless my Tasmania and our beautiful Southern Cross," Senator Lambie concludes.
Senator Lambie says she will "never vote for the government's proposed changes to higher education and Medicare co payments".
But, she says, there is room to negotiate on the issue of Defence Forces pay. Kind of.
"If Mr Abbott admits his mistake, apologises and allocates the extra $121 million to raise the ADF pay offer to 1.5 per cent as well as Christmas leave and travel entitlements then I feel sure the Australian people will forgive him and he will be viewed as a better leader."
Senator Lambie is resigning from the Palmer United Party. She apologises for the confusion of the past few days and weeks.
Senator Lambie's resignation from the Palmer United Party is effective immediately. She will sit on the cross bench as an independent.
Which has made the government's lot in the Senate that much trickier and diluted the power of Palmer United Party boss Clive Palmer.
Senator Lambie is about to hold a press conference to provide more detail about her decision to leave the Palmer United Party and sit as an independent on the cross bench.
Senator Lambie is speaking to the media.
She says there is no contract between herself and Mr Palmer. She says she sold her house to pay for her campaign.
Senator Lambie says she feels "like a great big weight" has been lifted from her shoulders and now she wants to get back to being a senator.
"Tasmanians are my boss," Senator Lambie says.
They wanted her to quit.
Senator Lambie says she started considering her position with the Palmer United Party four to six weeks ago.
Senator Lambie says she last spoke to Mr Palmer on November 10. He has done nothing to try and keep her in the party.
She informed him of her resignation at ten o'clock this morning.
If she sees him today Senator Lambie says she will "smile and say hello because that's the polite thing to do".
Right now the managing director of the ABC, Mark Scott, is addressing staff about the future of the broadcaster.
South Australian ABC reporter Beck Brice has tweeted this image of staff listening to Mr Scott:
Newcastle will be downgraded to a regional station.
Local radio host Carol Duncan has confirmed she is a victim of the cuts.
As I have already noted (see 10.09 am post) Senator Lambie's resignation from the Palmer United Party changes the dynamics of the Senate. Mr Palmer becomes less pivotal while the independents gain in strength.
Enter the now veteran independent Senator Nick Xenophon.
Political correspondent Heath Astonwrote an interesting piece yesterday about how Senator Xenophon is being talked about as the new go to man in the Senate. It's worth a read.
Coalition, Labor and Greens senators were in the chamber to watch Senator Lambie as were Family First Senator Bob Day and independent Senator John Madigan.
Senator Lambie's now ex PUP colleagues were not present.
Senator Lambie: "I'll continue to get on with the daily grind of being in the Senate."
Senator Lambie says "it would be very nice if the Coalition" could come and speak to her about the issue of Defence pay.
Senator Lambie says she wants to talk to the government about the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the renewable energy target.
"We've been getting the worst end of the RET," she says in relation to her state of Tasmania.
"I'm a very big supporter of the solar, I'm a very big supporter of the hydro that's in Tasmania. The rest is up for negotiation."
Senator Lambie says Mr Palmer is "a man of great vision" and she would be happen to talk to him about voting together on legislation.
She does not want to join another party.
"Once bitten, twice shy," she says. "I could do a much better job on my own two feet as an independent."
She will vote against the changes to the dole and does not support the government's paid parental leave scheme.
Extra security has been hired at ABC headquarters at Ultimo, Sydney.
Members of the public will not be allowed for several hours today.
Radio bulletins are likely to be shortened. The top of the hour news will no longer be ten minutes.
400 jobs - or ten per cent - of the workforce will go.
The locallly based, Friday night editions of 7.30 will go and be replaced by another night of the national version of 7.30.
Lateline will be moved to the ABC's 24 hour news channel.
The Adelaide television production studio will be closed.
(I guess that's the response Education Minister Christopher Pyne has been seeking from Mr Scott in relation to his petition.)
This is the scene outside the ABC's headquarters in Sydney captured by The Sydney Morning Herald's Anna Patty:
The Morwell, Wagin, Port Augusta, Gladstone and Nowra offices of the ABC will be closed.
Foreign bureaus will be restructured but a new Beirut bureau will be opened.
Mr Scott and other senior executives will forgo their annual pay increases.
The SBS has declined the ABC's offer to co locate operations in Sydney and Melbourne.
News Radio will move into the main ABC newsroom.
Mr Scott has guaranteed no changes will be made to the broadcaster's emergency coverage.
Sport is not exempt. Cuts to the stated based Grandstand teams are expected.
I can now bring you ABC managing director Mark Scott's official statement.
"My thoughts go out firstly to those who have losing their jobs," Mr Scott says. "As other companies in the media sector have found, structural change can have painful personal consequences. We anticipate that more than 400 people - close to ten per cent of our ongoing workforce - face redundancy as we adjust our activities. We regard the changes as vital to securing the long term health of the organisation but I acknowledge that is no comfort to those who may lose their positions."
Mr Scott says the cuts have been focussed "primarily on overheads and back office functions" but "there is no simple quarantining formula for cost cutting".
Detailed annual reports on local production will be delivered, Mr Scott says, to monitor the impact of the funding cuts.
Of the five "very small regional radio posts" to go (Wagin, Morwell, Gladstone, Port Augusta and Nowra) Mr Scott says the number of staff affected is "minimal and there are no content implications".
"The ABC will always have and need a strong regional footprint," Mr Scott says. "But we need to be responsible in how we allocate resources and maintaining these sites is not best practice."
Mr Scott says although there will be programming changes the money saved will be reinvested in programming.
Mr Scott acknowledges the "level of debate" about the decision to cease the local Friday night version of 7.30.
"But we want to focus on delivering more local news and analysis when it happens during the day, rather than confining it to Friday nights," Mr Scott says.
Mr Scott concludes by saying the broadcaster's responsibility "is to recognise the internal and external realities and confront them".
"We need to manage our budget cuts in a way that best protects audiences. But we also need to realise there is an opportunity cost of the Government taking back the money that we normally use to meet our reinvestment priorities."
"What we've proposed today is in the best interests of the ABC and its many stakeholders. it is designed to position the organisation for the future; to ensure its pivotal place as the home of Australian stories and conversation."
Please be aware that many details of how the cuts will hit are yet to be determined.
As Mr Scott points out: "It is difficult, at this stage, to provide absolute precision on the size and impact of cuts. Nor can we provide a definite number on redundancies. With more than 40 separate proposals to cut overheads and backroom costs, we need time to work through the processes."
You may recall Education Minister Christopher Pyne has been busy collecting signatures on a petition to give to the ABC asking it not to close television studios in Adelaide (it must have got lost in the post).
Mr Pyne will press on regardless of this morning's announcement:
ABC managing director Mark Scott is now being interviewed on ABC television.
He says the organisation will abide by the enterprise agreement it has with staff when it comes to redundancies.
Mr Scott says the organisations needs to keep people of a range of ages with "the right mix of skill sets".
"We know we are the most trusted media source in the country," Mr Scott says.
"We want to do nothing to sacrifice quality."
Mr Scott says the organisation must follow its audience as more and more people move online.
"Unless we do that then we will be a weaker organisation, a less relevant and less compelling organisation."
The SBS has announced there will be no redundancies as a result of the funding cuts it is also grappling with.
Palmer United Party boss, Clive Palmer, has welcomed Senator Lambie's decision to leave the party saying it was a "good outcome" which had saved the party the trouble of ousting her.
Senator Lambie was pretty gracious about Mr Palmer this morning.
Mr Palmer did not return the favour: "I don't think she'll achieve very much as a senator generally."
Only month to go until Christmas.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott this morning revealed the Prime Minister's Christmas Tree - isn't it pretty? It will support the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal. From now until Christmas Eve visitors and guests to Mr Abbott's office will be encouraged to bring a present to leave under the tree.
Mr Abbott: "We want all families to have the best possible Christmas."
Fortunately Christmas remains a bipartisan affair.
Mr Shorten says he and Mr Abbott "don't give each other enough presents, maybe the periodic bit of free advice".
Mr Abbott suggests that "something in the Senate would be nice".
To which Mr Shorten replies: "It's not Christmas yet, but you never know."
One quarter of the redundancies - 100 jobs - at the ABC will come from news, the director of news Kate Torney has just told staff.
But new digital jobs will be created so the net job losses are 30 (which won't come as much comfort to the people whose jobs are going).
Ms Torney says all news bulletins (except for those at 7am and 7.45am) will be cut back to five minutes (they are now ten minutes).
The Auckland bureau of the ABC will be closed.
London, Jakarta, Beijing and Washington D.C. will be the ABC's only fully staffed foreign bureaus (although Washington D.C. will lose one reporter's position).
The others will become video journalist solo operations.
Four Corners, Australian Story and Landline face cutbacks, Ms Torney has told staff.
The reaction to the fallout of the ABC funding cuts continues.
Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam says the public broadcasters are the victims of the government's political agenda.
"The government is attempting to weaken the ABC and SBS from the inside through the first tranche in what will no doubt become an ongoing series of annual cuts to the broadcasters," Senator Ludlam says.
I'll press pause on our coverage of the cuts to the ABC to give us all time to take a breath before Question Time.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott begins with a condolence motion for former Fraser government minister Reg Withers who died earlier this month.
Mr Abbott says Mr Withers preferred to be a "toe cutter not a fence sitter".
We now have condolence motions for former Queensland premier Wayne Goss.
Says Opposition leader Bill Shorten: "He dragged Queensland out of the darkness and into the sunshine."
And on with the business of the day.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten has asked Prime Minister Tony Abbott to deny comments he made the night before the 2013 election in which he said there would be no cuts to health, no cuts to education and no cuts to the ABC.
Mr Abbott does not so much deny them as walk around them.
Deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek - unsuccessfully - tired to table the budget papers which outline cuts.
The latest government MP offering about how the ABC should handle its funding cuts:
Prime Minister Tony Abbott fends off a question from Opposition leader Bill Shorten about cuts to Medicare.
"There have been no cuts to Medicare," Mr Abbott explains. "We do have a modest co payment in place."
The Opposition would dearly love Mr Abbott to admit their tactics were too tricky, yes he did break election promises and then end it all with a profuse apology. Or a face palm.
Sadly for the Opposition this is not going to happen.
Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek is keen to hoist Mr Abbott on his own words in relation to the ABC and SBS.
The changes made in relation to the ABC and the SBS, Mr Abbott says, are "effectively the application of an efficiency dividend".
Opposition spokesman Jason Clare has seconded the case for a suspension of standing orders by mentioned Bill Clinton, a dog getting desexed, Jedis and the lawyer from The Castle, Dennis Denuto.
I have no idea where he was going with all of that but golly it was entertaining.
Not surprisingly the motion is unsuccessful.
And there ends Question Time.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon is not taking today's announcement about the ABC funding cuts quietly.
Senator Xenophon wants an inquiry into the way the ABC executive is managing the cuts and has flagged a legislative move to alter the ABC charter. He wants the charter changed to guarantee content "by and for" the regions and small states. It would also quarantine funding for regional television production outside Sydney and Melbourne.
"It's everyone's ABC, not just Sydney's," Senator Xenophon says. "The ABC is arguably already breaching the charter with its determined policy of centralisation in Sydney."
Let's return - briefly - to the Opposition's attempt to censure the Prime Minister in Question Time.
It centres on an interview Mr Abbott gave on September 6, 2013, aka election eve. Mr Abbott spoke to Anton Enus on the SBS in which he was asked whether an incoming Coalition government would cut areas such as education, health and the public broadcasters. Mr Abbott said no. The footage of the interview is available as is the transcript.
The Opposition has been using this to prove that the Government lied in the lead up to the 2013 election. Today it tried to get Parliament to condemn the Coalition for doing so.
As hard as Labor tried the Coalition was never going to let it get its way. That's part of the beauty of having enough numbers to form government.
What is particularly galling is the Coalition arguing night is day. It can badge the cuts to the ABC as an efficiency target until the cows come home but a cut is a cut. Giving them a new name doesn't help anyone. It doesn't do politics any good. All it does is contribute to the disenchantment many people feel about politics. And this disenchantment stems, in part, from a belief that politicians are nothing but liars.
Way back at the beginning of the day was the suggestion that the government's plan to deregulate the university system might be going somewhere, legislatively speaking.
The legislation was listed for debate in the Senate today.
But, reporter Dan Harrison informs me, the Education Minister's office is no longer expecting it to happen today.
Here we are at the end of the day. What happened?
- the managing director of the ABC, Mark Scott, outlined the effect of the government's budget cuts on the broadcaster;
- regional newsrooms will be closed, Lateline will be moved to ABC24, the local versions of 7.30 will go and 400 positions will be made redundant;
- the Opposition focussed on the government's broken promises in Question Time;
- Prime Minister Tony Abbott defended his record saying he never promised the ABC would get "special treatment";
- Jacqui Lambie left the Palmer United Party to sit as an independent; and
- politicians joined police commissioners from Australia and New Zealand to pledge their support to end violence against women and children.
Thank, as always, for your company. Alex Ellinghausen, Andrew Meares and I will be back with you tomorrow.
Until then I will leave you with a photo of Christmas cheer.
No comment necessary.
Texts from Julie.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne (who is also the manager of government business) is making the government's case.
"Bill the Knife," Mr Pyne begins before launching into I think what we might safely call a personal attack on Mr Shorten.
"He couldn't stay loyal to one prime minister, let alone two...He was so ruthless in his pursuit of power that he stabbed two prime ministers stabbed in the back."
You will not be surprised to hear that Opposition leader Bill Shorten is beginning on a theme of broken promises.
Au contraire, the Prime Minister says. Did you not hear us promise and then see us stop the boats and axe the carbon tax?
Regular readers may have noticed I make a point of never commenting on female politicians' clothing. While I am often itching to do so I control myself because of the ridiculously unfair scrutiny female MPs are subject to. I sometimes make a comment about a male MP's attire merely to make the point that it is always women whose clothes are commented on.
What can I say? I like to hop up on my high horse and charge about as much as possible.
But today I can mention the clothes of Julie Owens, Anna Burke and Natasha Griggs without an attack of conscience because they are all wearing Australian designed and made clothes today. They did so to highlight their involvement in the group, Parliamentary Friends of Aussie Fashion.
Government ministers are much happier talking about the free trade agreement with China which was signed last week.
"People said it couldn't be done, but it has been done and done by this government," Mr Abbott says. "The Howard government started it and the Abbott government finished it."
Communications Minister as emoji.
Treasurer Joe Hockey is a Mr Magoo man himself.
Mr Turnbull ponders the unintended consequences of the ABC funding cuts. Starved of money the broadcaster is left with no choice but to broadcast QI 24 hours a day.
The Opposition is now trying to censure the Prime Minister for "misleading Parliament and the people" in relation to broken election promises on health funding, education funding, the ABC's funding and pension funding.
The Government, obviously, does not give Mr Shorten leave to do this.
Mr Shorten moves to plan B - an attempt to suspend standing orders to do pretty much the same thing.
The Opposition is basing its strategy on an interview Mr Abbott gave to SBS on September 6, 2013 (the night before the election) in which he said there would be no cuts to health, education or the ABC.
Mr Shorten tries the question another way and asks if the transcript is accurate.
Speaker Bronwyn Bishop saves the Prime Minister by saying he is not responsible for matters of accuracy transcription and so is therefore unable to answer the question.
"It's a protection racket," Labor MPs cry.
Mr Shorten rephrases the question.
Mr Abbott rephrases his answer: "I never said there would be special treatment for the ABC."
Mr Shorten is outlining the government's broken promises to the chamber in his attempt to suspend standing orders.
"They now lie about lying. Shame, Prime Minister, shame," Mr Shorten finishes.
While this is happening it is customary for Mr Abbott to turn his back to Mr Shorten and engage in conversation with his frontbench. It must appear light hearted lest anyone watching thinks he is actually bothered by any of this.
"We should never waste one dollar," Mr Pyne says as his face takes on a hue not usually seen outside the visage of Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Members are now voting on the motion.
"As always, the voters lose to a bigger game of political bastardry," Michael writes. "They lose a rich and robust national broadcaster, diminished through death by a thousand cuts. And they lose a vital platform through which regional Australia is illuminated for the betterment of all Australians."
You can watch Prime Minister Tony Abbott maintain that he's "fundamentally kept faith with the Australian people" and "never promised special treatment for the ABC" in this video.