Raiding the Piggy Bank

It’s been a fortnight since the most vicious budget in recent memory, and it has this week been suggested that it will affect not only the old, the sick, the poor and the young, but also the country’s dead university students, victims of child sexual abuse and animated pigs.

More mystifying than the on-then-apparently-off idea of debt-collecting ghouls chasing students into the afterlife, more mystifying, even, than “that the attorney general considers the child abuse royal commission a piggy bank to be raided” (as one survivor of child abuse put it), are the latest developments concerning the Parliamentary Friends of the ABC and a pig called Peppa.

During Wednesday’s senate estimates inquiry, ABC director Mark Scott said he could not guarantee the future of the beloved children’s television show Peppa Pig if the ABC’s budget was cut further. “The services we provide depend on the funding envelope,” Scott said.

The new parliamentary lobby group, which will advocate for a well-resourced and independent ABC, was announced on Wednesday afternoon, and includes representative politicians from all major parties. The Friends, who include Western Australian Labor MP Melissa Parke, NSW Liberal MP Craig Laundy, Nationals MP Bruce Scott, Greens senator Scott Ludlam and independent senator Nick Xenophon, were welcomed warmly by communications minister Malcolm Turnbull, who then gave an impassioned speech in defence of the national broadcaster.

Turnbull, who will have no hand at all in deciding Peppa’s fate, tweeted on Wednesday night: “Contrary to media rumours, Peppa’s is the one snout we are happy to have in the ABC trough.”

The prime minister has also weighed in on the “butchering of Peppa Pig,” telling The Australian that the ABC should consider saving money and “trimming the fat” by instead cutting overseas broadcasts of Q&A.

It’s tempting to believe that the prime minister simply has the interests of the nation’s toddlers in mind, though the benefits of keeping safely away from international audiences the broadcast of a show on which Coalition members mock recently-deceased rock legends, reject the “alarmist, hysterical” link between CO­2 and climate change, fail to show emotion over the collapse of fellow panelists or death stare audience members can’t be overlooked.

You might think that the idea of a national leader taking time out of his day to speculate on the fate of an animated pig would be worthy of ridicule, but Abbott is not one who is scared to sweat the small stuff. Just last week The Washington Post ran a piece that went into great detail about “How Australia’s winking Tony Abbott became one of the world’s most unpopular prime ministers”. The article cites everything from Abbott’s “draconian austerity budget” to his plans to dredge the Great Barrier Reef, before recounting how the Stop Tony Meow browser extension program has “flummoxed the prime minister to no end”. When the creator of Stop Tony Meow made an FOI request for correspondence from Abbott’s office that referenced the program (which replaces photos of Tony Abbott on the web with images of kittens), he was informed that a five-and-a-half hour search had turned up 130 pages worth…and that over 36 hours of “decision-making” time had gone into his request.

So if our tax dollars can’t be used to save an animated pig who loves lollies and is only interested in hugs and Grandma’s chocolate cake, we can at least relax – albeit poorer and much less comfortably – in the knowledge that they’re being put to some good.

Michaela McGuire

Michaela McGuire is a journalist and the author of Last Bets: A True Story of Gambling, Morality and the Law and the Penguin Special A Story of Grief. Visit her blog, Twirling Towards Freedom.

@michaelamcguire

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