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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has berated ABC News, arguing that it is taking ''everyone's side but Australia's'' and that journalists should give the navy the ''benefit of the doubt'' when it comes to claims of wrongdoing.
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Tony Abbott slams the ABC
Prime Minister Tony Abbott tells Ray Hadley on 2GB radio that the national broadcaster takes "everyone's side but Australia's".
In comments that also suggest the media should act as cheerleaders for the country, Mr Abbott ramped up his recent criticism of the ABC.
''You would like the national broadcaster to have a rigorous commitment to truth and at least some basic affection for the home team,'' he told Macquarie Radio on Wednesday.
Mr Abbott also said that it ''dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everybody's side but our own'', adding, ''I think that is a problem''.
The Prime Minister's comments follow Coalition criticism of the ABC late last year, after it and Guardian Australia broke a story, based on leaks from the US National Security Agency, about Australia tapping Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's phone.
At the time, the Prime Minister condemned the head of the ABC, Mark Scott for ''very, very poor judgment''. Other Coalition MPs also expressed concern about the ABC during a recent party meeting and Liberal senator Cory Bernardi called for its funding to be cut.
In November, Mr Scott defended the ABC's decision to publish the phone tapping story, arguing it was in the public interest.
On Wednesday, Mr Abbott said he wanted the ABC to be a ''straight news gathering and news reporting organisation''.
He also sympathised with broadcaster Ray Hadley, when he complained that "right-leaning" shock jocks such as himself were regularly referred to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, while the ''left-leaning'' ABC was "left to their own devices".
''I can understand your frustration, Ray, because at times there does appear to be a double standard in large swathes of our national life,'' the Prime Minister said.
As a broadcaster, the ABC, like Mr Hadley's station, 2GB, also comes under ACMA's complaints system.
The body does not monitor broadcasts and is prompted to investigate possible breaches of radio and TV codes by public complaints.
When contacted by Fairfax Media, the ABC had no comment to make about Mr Abbott's renewed criticism of the ABC.
Mr Abbott also referred to a recent ABC report containing video footage of asylum seekers claiming they had suffered burns due to mistreatment by the Royal Australian Navy.
The navy has denied the claims, which were also dismissed by the government.
''If there's credible evidence, the ABC, like all other news organisations is entitled to report it, but . . . You shouldn't leap to be critical of your own country,'' he said.
''You certainly ought to be prepared to give the Australian navy and its hard-working personnel the benefit of the doubt.''
PM's comments part of 'plan' to cut ABC funding: Labor
Acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek defended the ABC on Wednesday as a "longstanding part of Australia's cultural fabric", while Labor's communications spokesman, Jason Clare, said that Mr Abbott's comments were part of a plan to cut funding to the ABC.
"Now it seems Tony Abbott is laying the groundwork to break another election promise," Mr Clare said, noting that the Prime Minister had said before the election that there would be not cuts to the national broadcaster.
Earlier Ms Plibersek said that every government had been subjected to close scrutiny by the ABC since the broadcaster began, "and we should all welcome that".
"Tony Abbott's comments today show he'll blame everyone – including the media - for the promises he continues to break," she said.
"He should stop complaining about media coverage and start behaving like a Prime Minister."
ABC a 'great contributor'
NSW Nationals senator John "Wacka" Williams praised the ABC, noting that it was a "great contributor" to regional Australia through programs like Country Hour.
But he rubbished recent ABC reports such as the allegations of navy abuse and the SBY phone tapping.
"The ABC should think carefully before it puts out stories that are damaging to [Australia's] reputation," he told Fairfax Media.
After Mr Abbott's criticism of the ABC, Employment Minister Eric Abetz drew on the national broadcaster's reporting this week – in conjunction with Fairfax Media – on the building industry to back up his call for the re-establishment of the Coalition's construction watchdog.
''Given the revelations from the ABC and Fairfax Media, it is quite clear we need to re-institute the Australian Building and Construction Commission," he said.
When asked if the ABC gave taxpayers good value for money, Senator Abetz deferred to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but added that the ABC and Fairfax had done a "great public service" in their reports of union and construction industry corruption.
When asked if he agreed with the Prime Minister's view that there was a perception that the ABC barracked for everyone but Australia, Senator Abetz said "I think every Australian will make up their own mind in relation to the ABC".
Mr Abbott also continued to pressure Labor to support the re-establishment of the ABCC.
"The issue for the Labor Party and for Mr Shorten is whose side are they on?" he said.
"Are they on the side of law abiding citizens? Or are they on the side of people with a tendency to break the law?"