Anthony Albanese looks out to the audience, he wears a yellow tie with a suit

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calls for greater ABC voice in the Pacific to protect national security

The Prime Minister says it is a matter of national security that the ABC makes more content that projects Australian values ​​and interests to the Indo-Pacific region.

Anthony Albania delivered an address at the ABC in Sydney on Friday night to celebrate the broadcaster’s 90th anniversary.

The event was attended by ABC Chair Ita Buttrose, Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland, Opposition spokesperson for communications Sarah Henderson and award-winning actor David Wenham.

Current and former ABC luminaries were also in attendance, including former host of 7.30 Kerry O’Brien and former host of Lateline and parliament secretary Maxine McKew.

Anthony Albanese with past and present ABC identities (LR) Fran Kelly, Jonathan Holmes, Kerry O’Brien and Maxine McKew.(Supplied: James Alcock)

The PM stressed the importance of a strong Australian voice in the Pacific in order to keep other influences out.

“When the ABC voice was removed from the Pacific, guess what nation moved in? Simple as that, a major mistake of foreign policy.”

He said Australia’s “identity, values ​​and interests” must be projected to the Pacific.

“On top of every other consideration, it is a prudent investment in our national security as well as our national interest.

“[This] was undervalued by the previous government, even trivialised. That was a mistake.”

Mr Albanese reiterated his government’s commitment to an Indo-Pacific broadcasting strategy, which increases ABC International funding so Australian content can be boosted in the region.

Since taking office in May, Mr Albanese has vowed to counter China’s rising assertiveness in the Pacific region and restore Australia as the partner of choice.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong has already made four trips to the Pacific, and both she and Mr Albanese have met with the Solomon Islands Prime Minister, who signed a security pact with China in April.

Ita Buttrose stands at a lecturn
Ita Buttrose said the ABC was an essential contributor to Australian democracy.(Supplied: James Alcock)

Mr Albanese reiterated previous promises to restore $83.7 million in funding to the ABC, as well as five-year funding terms and options for financial sustainability which safeguard against political interference.

He appeared to aim at the former Morrison government, saying no government should ever fear the ABC “unless it fears the truth”.

“A government that chooses to attack a public broadcaster [is] motivated by either ideology or fear — or a toxic cocktail of the two,” he said.

“A confident government of its own ideas and principles should embrace independent questioning as crucial to the democracy it purports to uphold.”

He described the ABC as a “beacon of trust” and an “insurance policy” against misinformation and disinformation.

The organisation, he said, would play an important role in the discussions about an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

He also made a small jibe at ABC critics who claim the broadcaster is too focused on “inner-city elites”.

“We’ve all heard the mantras about the ABC as a haven of inner-city elites, repeated with straight faces by critics based in our inner cities.

“I hope those commentators take note of the 48 regional ABC bureaus spread in a great constellation across the country, and the continued existence of Landline.”

Anthony Albanian holds hands with human-size Bluey characters
Anthony Albanese poses with Bluey and Bingo from the hit ABC TV show Bluey.(Supplied: James Alcock)

Ms Buttrose, who once described the broadcaster’s relationship with the Morrison government as “strained”, implored Mr Albanese to keep defending the ABC even if that meant intense pressure on his government.

“Prime Minister, I have no doubt that our brilliant magazine will occasionally irritate your government. Let us all be grateful for it,” she said.

“This process strengthens the Australian democracy we all love.”

Ms Buttrose, who paid a special tribute to the ABC’s focus on arts and culture, hits back at critics who have suggested the broadcaster does not represent “mainstream” Australians.

“Can you be any more mainstream than reaching 20 million Australians each week? I don’t think so,” she said.

ABC managing director David Anderson said the government’s commitment to the ABC was “reassuring” and public broadcasters should never be taken for granted.

“We will continue to hold the highest editorial standards and remain fully accountable to the Australian people,” he said.

“As global giants offer more news and entertainment choices, and commercial investment in Australian content declines, the ABC will need to play an even bigger role in sharing and promoting Australian stories and culture.”

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