Melbourne's #SaveOurABC rally: 'Keep your grubby mitts off'

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Prof Peter Greste speaking at the Melbourne #SaveOurABC rally on Sunday, 15 July 2018.

The message at Melbourne's packed #SaveOurABC rally was clear: 'Keep your grubby mitts off OUR ABC'.

The Melbourne rally held on Sunday (15 July) was the final in a series of national protests, which were announced after the Liberal Party Council voted to privatise Australia's public broadcaster.

The Liberal Party motion stated: 

'That federal council calls for the full privatisation of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, except for services into regional areas that are not commercially viable.'

Despite PM Malcolm Turnbull's subsequent denials, this move has hung like a dark cloud over Australia and is the latest in a series of attacks including savage funding cuts and yet another Government inquiry into the ABC (and SBS), due to hand down its findings in September.

Already making an impact with protests in Sydney and Brisbane, organisers, ABC Friends, used the events to rally Australians in defence of the public broadcaster and to publicise its resolution to maintain the ABC in public hands. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has agreed to support the resolution and has promised increased funding for the ABC. This was confirmed to IA by Federal Member for Batman Ged Kearney.

The national rallies were promoted as an opportunity

' ... to protest against the ABC funding cuts, continual political interference against our public broadcaster and any suggestion of selling off or privatising the ABC.'

The event had all the elements of a great show, with star performers, a time-honoured venue and even its own soundtrack. And Melbournians turned out in droves to support Australia's much-loved national broadcaster, filling the Melbourne Town Hall to the brim and spilling out onto the street for three blocks. Indeed, many were turned away as, although it was referred to as a "rally", it was more a peaceful meeting and there just wasn't room beyond the 2,000 attendees, which already packed the venue to capacity.

Those who managed to get inside the hall, however, were treated to an esteemed panel of speakers, including journalist and media freedom advocate Professor Peter Greste (panel chair), radio king Jon Faine, epidemiologist Professor Fiona Stanley, actor and democratic advocate Magda Szubanski, ABC Friends spokesperson Margaret Reynolds, and emcee Ranald MacDonald.

Other well-known attendees, many of whom also spoke about the importance of the ABC for our democracy, included Federal Member for Melbourne Adam Bandt and Federal Member for Batman Ged Kearney, former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, actor Kerry Armstrong, former Member for Lalor Barry Jones and the much-loved Father Bob Maguire, among others.

Indeed, it's a brave political party that dares to privatise Australia's national broadcaster, which enjoys widespread and non-partisan approval, and is consistently found to be our most trusted news source.

A theme song, written by Mike Brady and performed by Tim Solly, 'Where Would We Be Without Our ABC?', had the crowd joining in with much enthusiasm.

It is the words of this song that perhaps best articulate the commitment and passion Australians have towards our ABC: 

Where would we be without our ABC?

That's why we stand here so proud

It's not for sale, it was built to last

That's why we need to say it loud

Where would we be without our ABC?

And everything that it means?

It's brought us dramas, docos and comedy

And great investigative teams

But there are some who'd like to see it gone

To suit their commercial ends

But it still stands for truth and reason

And that's why we'll defend

Where would we be without our ABC?

We'd make it stronger if we could

So just keep your grubby mitts off, 'cos if it goes it's gone for good

So just keep your bloody, grubby mitts off, 'cos if it goes it's gone for good.

IA spoke with several of the panel speakers about their determination to help maintain the independence of our national broadcaster.

Watch IA's interviews with Magda Szubanski, Professor Peter Greste and Professor Fiona Stanley here:

You can follow senior editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9.

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