“They regularly say that the ABC is wrong. They regularly attack the ABC, and as we have seen time and time again in this Government, what the hard right wants from the Liberal Prime Minister, the hard right gets from the Liberal Prime Minister.
“If you don’t believe me, let’s all just send a big cheerio to Malcolm Turnbull watching this on [ABC] iview in New York.”
If elected, Mr Shorten told the crowd, a Labor government would provide an extra $40 million to the ABC for scripted drama, comedy, children’s entertainment and music programs. An additional $20 million is also promised towards the funding of SBS.
The pledge comes after a series of cuts made by the Coalition in recent years, with the ABC warning of redundancies and impacts on programming should an indexation freeze on its $1 billion annual base funding come into effect from July.
Mr Shorten avoided making any specific comments about News Corporation, after the media empire’s tabloids ran front pages earlier this week criticising a story he told on ABC TV’s Q&A about his mother.
However he alluded to the company when he said “big, non-government media organisations” might say that the funding promise to the ABC was unfair.
“Well, I have a message to them. We will make sure that a conservative government does not get re-elected, because we will make sure that neither you nor the right-wing of the Liberal Party get their hands on the ABC,” he said.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale also spoke at the function, telling the audience that a strong ABC was a “bulwark” against the “malignant influence” of News Corporation.
“Rupert Murdoch and many of his hate preachers are not going to stop at anything to protect their stranglehold over the media landscape,” he said.
Mr Di Natale said he welcomed the funding announcement from Labor but said more was needed to restore previous cuts made to the ABC’s budget.
“[The ABC] is one of the most important democratic institutions, it speaks truth to power, we need to not just protect it but we need to nourish it, we need to grow it,” he said.
“We need to make sure that in perpetuity it remains the most important media organisation in our nation.”
No one from the government spoke at the event, although organisers said they had invited Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other senior Coalition figures, however they were unable to attend.
Tom Cowie is a journalist at The Age covering general news.