Snowden Leak Fallout: Despite Criticising ABC for Indonesia Spy Stories, Abbott Rejects Calls to Reform Broadcaster

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By Sunny Peter | December 3, 2013 6:08 PM EST

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had no plan to reform the way ABC operates, in spite of accusing the country's public broadcaster of "poor judgement" for publishing leaked NSA documents of Edward Snowden about Australia's intelligence gathering operations in Indonesia.

Mr Abbott's comments about ABC functioning came after ABC Managing Director Mark Scott defended the broadcaster's decision to partner with Guardian Australia to publish the Indonesian spying revelations. Since ABC broke the story in partnership with Guardian Australia, there has been calls within the Coalition party for reforms in ABC way of operations.

Reports based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden had revealed that Australia had tapped the phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and senior government functionaries. The revelations sparked a major diplomatic crisis between Indonesia and Australia, with the former halting all bilateral cooperation and demanding an explanation and apology.

Although he criticised ABC of "very poor judgement," Mr Abbott stopped short of saying he would take action against the public broadcaster.

"I think the ABC were guilty of poor judgment in broadcasting that material which was obviously difficult for Australia's national security and long-term best interests," he said.

"As for the ABC's other activity, I can understand why a lot of people in the media think that it's not a level playing field when it comes to competition, given that the ABC is funded to the tune of a billion dollars or so a year by the taxpayer, but it's been thus for many a long year and this Government has no plans to change that," Mr Abbott said.

The Australian prime minister had accused ABC of acting as an advertising agent for "a left-wing British newspaper."

Raising similar concerns, earlier on Friday, Communication Minister Malcolm Turnbull reportedly told a Liberal Party function that it was an "error of judgement" for the ABC to publish the story.

"[The Guardian] were going to publish it and they just basically wanted a partner to help them amplify their publication," Mr Turnbull said.

Defending ABC's decision to carry the story, Managing Director Mark Scott had termed it a significant news story that deserved publication.

"I would say that every politician I meet has a view and a perspective on ABC stories or ABC programming," he said.

"The Guardian Australia came to us on that original story.

"We independently reported it and we checked it out and went to our own sources around it.

"We're an independent media organisation. Sometimes we publish stories that politicians won't be happy about but we are an independent media organisation, that is the role we need to play," Mr Scott said.

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