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Rural health leader condemns ABC cuts

Cuts to the ABC are of critical concern to rural health advocates.

Gordon Gregory, chief executive officer of the National Rural Health Alliance, writes below that “Australia’s rural and remote people are yet again being denied access to essential services by centralised decisions which show every sign of being uninformed by the reality of rural and remote circumstances”.

 ****

Trimming the ABC: no dividend for country people

Gordon Gregory writes:

ABC radio is ‘the channel of choice’ for many people in rural and remote areas. For many more, an ABC radio station is the only one available. 

And for people in even more remote areas, there is no regular radio reception at all. This is the case for instance on cattle stations east of Marble Bar. Depending on the weather conditions, there is intermittent but crackly ABC radio reception from Port Hedland.

In many households in places like the Wheatbelt of Western Australia, on the Eyre Peninsula, in the Gippsland, and in Western New South Wales and Central and Western Queensland, ABC radio is on in the home continuously.

Depending on the program and the time of day, it may be from two sources. In the case of the Northern Wheatbelt of Western Australia, some of the programming is from Perth and some from Geraldton. The Geraldton programming is as ‘local’ as it gets, with no radio station at all in the small towns in the area except for one part-time community radio station playing music.

If you live at Cunnamulla you’re spoiled for TV reception – as long as you don’t mind the fact that all the ads are for Alice Springs. But unless you want to try through your computer, there are just two radio stations to choose from: the ABC out of Toowoomba or 2WEB out of Bourke. (Our correspondent tells us that radio reception is pretty good in the car and in the bedroom, but no good in the kitchen. And there is no Radio National or ABC-FM.)

A great many families in such regions rely heavily on the ABC. It is their lifeline for national and international  news and current affairs, and for regional news. ABC radio also provides essential services such as storm alerts, cyclone warnings, information on harvest bans and vehicle movement bans, on bushfire updates (on the quarter hour when needed) and market prices (for cattle and sheep, for mining products).

If everyone living in these areas was technically proficient and had fast, reliable and affordable internet download, they could no doubt tune into any radio station they chose. But this is not the case on either of those fronts – personal aptitude or infrastructure.

It is therefore of considerable concern that, due to the imposition of an ‘efficiency dividend’, the ABC management has decided to close five regional radio stations. The five are in Wagin, Morwell, Gladstone, Port Augusta and Nowra. People in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia are not impressed with the notion that their evening news and current affairs bulletins come out of Perth – never mind Sydney.

In considering these damaging changes, one needs to be careful not to shoot the messenger (ABC General Manager Mark Scott), who undoubtedly has a perfect understanding of the importance of regional radio to the families and communities of rural and remote areas.

Instead, the blame needs to be sheeted home to where it belongs: with a national government which is attempting to resolve a medium-term budget issue by putting all of its eggs in the ‘savings’ basket.  

It is now understood that a number of TV and radio programs are to be axed, including Radio National’s Bush Telegraph. When combined with the loss of five regional radio stations, this might be interpreted as meaning that more than their fair share of ‘efficiency dividend lifting’ is being done by country people. (This possibility may seem to be mitigated by the fact that people in quite well-settled rural areas cannot receive Bush Telegraph anyway.)

Usually the NRHA’s work is around seeking ‘a one-third fair share’ of access for the people of rural and remote areas to various goods and services deemed to be essential for quality of life.

Right now, however, our concern is that Australia’s rural and remote people are yet again being denied access to essential services by centralised decisions which show every sign of being uninformed by the reality of rural and remote circumstances. 

• Gordon Gregory is chief executive officer of the National Rural Health Alliance

• For more detail about the cuts, see the Public Interest Journalism Foundation’s statement. (Declaration: Melissa Sweet is chair of the Foundation).

***

Meanwhile, from the Twittersphere

Comments 5

  1. Norman Hanscombe says:

    Having lived and worked in rural areas such as Pilliga Scrub Timber Camps and western NSW mining/rabbiting/wheat, abattoir, industrial and fruit picking communities, I know how important a role the ABC can be.
    That said, while the ABC can be introducing new programmes such as “Bogan Date” [which is NOT related to Bogan Gate, another community about which I enjoy fond memories] I shall remain convinced that if any worthwhile contributors to rural life are axed, it’s not Government Funding which should be blamed.

  2. graybul says:

    Norman . . You and I both know the ‘Bush’ lives or dies on reliable access to information and literally, it means life or death. If Gordon’s comment is about pinning blame on one or another . . how high up the tree would you rate Warren Truss and National Party?

    Blame is a useless emotion. ABC and high speed NBN is what isolated peoples need most. Why is the Govt. standing aside from a situation of their own making?

  3. Norman Hanscombe says:

    graybul, I don’t “know” that it’s much use to assert as you do that literally the Bush [whatever you mean by that term] lives or dies on reliable access to information in a manner which is somehow different from the rest of us
    Regardless of how I “rate Warren Truss and National Party”, I believe most people in the Bush would place them ahead of Labor’s Powerbroker Bosses.
    As you say, “Blame is a useless emotion”, but analysing where it should lie is needed, and Labor’s NBN scheme, like our Pink Batts and School Building Revolutions, was primarily an attempt to buy votes regardless of us knowing these schemes were wrong.

  4. graybul says:

    Norman . . Obfuscation? You are fully aware of the colloquial term ‘the bush’ so will refrain . . but on reflection, such term might extend to say the western suburbs of some major cities wherein mainly labor voters pursue their dream. ‘Cause generally, that’s all there is available!

    Most, living in the ‘bush’ in my experience, don’t give a rat’s . . about political parties, but they do feel strongly about politicians utter indifference to residents living in small isolated communities, cattle stations et al. Mate, can’t let you get away with comment about NBN, Pink Batts and School Building Revolutions. Wrong they were not! The latter two lacked appropriate oversight/accountability, nevertheless their purpose ie to rapidly disburse monies to sustain and strengthen the economy at time of a global financial meltdown was essential . . and successful.

    The NBN was and remains an essential Nation building project. To the nation’s cost, Turnbull has deep-sixed and indefinitely delayed the inevitable!

    Gregory’s comment is accurate, pertinent and shares the ‘Bush’ deep concern that withdrawal of ABC services will inevitably create further disadvantage, now and into the future . . all of which translates into a health issue.

  5. Norman Hanscombe says:

    graybul, if you genuinely don’t know about the scandalous background to the NBN, Pink Batts and School Building Revolution scams, you didn’t follow them carefully enough. The quantum spent wasn’t the scandal, it was HOW it was miss-spent.
    Labor’s NBN roll out, by the way was good politics but Economic stupidity.

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Summer reading 2020-2021
Tasmanian election 2021
Testing Croakey News category 1
The Croakey Archives
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Croakey Conference News Service 2013 – 2019
2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013
Australian Health Promotion Association Conference 2013
Closing the Credibility Gap 2013
CRANAplus Conference 2013
FASD Conference 2013
Health Workforce Australia 2013
International Health Literacy Network Conference 2013
NACCHO Summit 2013
National Rural Health Conference 2013
Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014
CRANAplus conference 2014
Cultural Solutions - Healing Foundation forum 2014
Lowitja Institute Continuous Quality Improvement conference 2014
National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
#CRANAplus15
#HSR15
#NRHC15
#OTCC15
Population Health Congress 2015
2016 conferences
#AHHAsim16
#AHMRC16
#ANROWS2016
#ATSISPEP
#AusCanIndigenousWellness
#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20
#CATSINaM17
#ClimateHealthStrategy
#IAHAConf17
#IDS17
#LBQWHC17
#LivingOurWay
#OKtoAskAu
#OTCC2017