Greens Senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Katy Gallagher moved two separate motions to block the inquiry announced by the Morrison Government’s chief ABC agitator two weeks ago.
The inquiry was launched by Senate Environment and Communications Legislative Committee Chairman Andrew Bragg only weeks after the ABC opened its own inquiry into its complaints handling process.
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The motion to suspend the inquiry until the ABC completed its own investigation was passed 23-22 with all crossbenchers in the Senate voting against the Government.
Ms Hanson-Young also pushed for any future probe to be undertaken by the references committee which she chairs.
Inquiry into ABC ‘simply the Senate’s role’
The Greens Senator celebrated the decision and slammed the Morrison Government for using a “backdoor process to attack and undermine the independence of the ABC”.
“The inquiry was a partisan attempt to use the Legislation Committee to undermine the independence of the public broadcaster,” Ms Hanson-Young said in a statement on Tuesday night.
“It was another tactic in a long line of attacks from the Liberals and Nationals who have spent eight years trying to crush the ABC.”
However, Mr Bragg hit back at the decision to block the probe, arguing a Senate inquiry would provide the best opportunity for “meaningful direct engagement in our democracy”.
“Restricting community access to the Senate Committees is a backward step for our democracy,” he said in a statement.
“Motions considered by the Senate to silence Australians are very troubling. It raises further questions.
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“While I am disappointed with the result, I respect the Senate’s right to do so but reserve my right to undertake additional steps. The Inquiry has already received several sensitive but critical submissions. We must not close the door on these Australians.”
Mr Bragg previously told SkyNews.com.au the Senate inquiry would be the “strongest mechanism” to improve the public broadcaster.
“It’s clear that the ABC review is an internal review and it’s clear that the stronger review is the Senate review and I see it as complimentary,” Mr Bragg said.
“It’s clear there are major problems in the complaints handling function. This is the best and strongest mechanism to improve the ABC.”
ABC Chair Ita Buttrose delivered a blistering attack on the Morrison Government following the launch of the inquiry, calling it “political interference”.
“This is an act of political interference designed to intimidate the ABC and mute its role as this country’s most trusted source of public interest journalism,” Ms Buttrose said in a statement.
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“Any incursion of this kind into the ABC’s independence should be seen by Australians for what it is: an attempt to weaken the community’s trust in the public broadcaster.
“If politicians determine the operation of the national broadcaster’s complaints system, they can influence what is reported by the ABC.”
The public broadcaster recently launched an independent probe into the processes after it came under scrutiny in recent months over its complaints system with a particular focus drawn to two of its primetime documentaries this year: “Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire”, and “Juanita: A Family Mystery”.
Mr Bragg said it was clear the ABC’s review – headed by former Commonwealth Ombudsman John McMillan and former SBS news and current affairs director Jim Carroll – was not adequate to address significant issues.

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