Old mate Duncan Riley - a former Liberal Party apparatchik, but I try not to hold that against him - blogs from Thailand about why he thinks the Abbott government's decision to bone the Australia Network is wrong.
The tl;dr version is that nearly everyone in South East Asia who has some form of pay TV has Australia Network.
Oh, and if you’ve never left Australia: you can walk around the worst slum in Bangkok and see each house with a pay tv dish.
I’m not going to pretend to understand the subtleties of “soft diplomacy” but I do have a degree that includes Marketing: The Australia Network must, at some level promote Australia in the region.
$270m roughly over 10 years or $27m a year isn't a lot of money to broadcast Australian TV shows and culture across Asia.
It really isn’t.
Of course the reason that Abbott is doing this is to appease his old mate Rupert Murdoch, who have had AN in their sights since Sky News lost a (questionably run) tender on the contract under Gillard. Murdoch has long sought to get footholds in Asian pay TV markets, and the AN has evidently been an easy option for Asian providers to get a bit of cheap English language content from the region without having to pay Murdoch for the privilege. Boning the AN would give Murdoch a much better negotiating position.
If there is anyone whom Tony Abbott owes big time for his seat in the big chair at Parliament House, it is Uncle Rupert. You only have to look at Terry McCrann's recent stuff defending the deficit levy, or the Daily Telegraph's blaring headline today attacking Howard's middle class welfare, to know how much in lockstep the News Ltd papers are with Cabinet messaging. (As an aside: I am perfectly fine with that... I have faith that the vast majority of the Australian public are smart enough to twig exactly what is going on, and adjust their reactions to News Ltd journalism accordingly, and all is well.)
The falderol over the debt levy - which, in its new watered-down form where it only kicks in at $150,000 earnings rather than the original $80,000, is in typical Abbott administration fashion a near-complete waste of time and effort for all concerned - hides a number of these sort of minor but still important pennies that are being pinched for reasons other than straight budget propriety. Look for more of these sops to special interests to dribble out in the days ahead, and the government's credibility to crumble as a result.