Government Senators Matt Canavan and Chris Back have accused the SBS of an “abuse” of its position as a public broadcaster for it’s support of marriage equality during a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra today.
The Senators’ concerns stem from SBS’s decision to publicly declare themselves as supporters of marriage equality earlier this year, and for participating in a marriage equality campaign which saw the SBS logo appear in full page advertisements in major daily newspapers alongside the logos of large companies who also support marriage equality such as Qantas, Optus and Google.
SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid (pictured) fronted this morning’s Senate Estimates – a regular process for government expenditure – and was swiftly accused of abusing his position by Senator Canavan.
“I do feel this is a little bit of of an abuse of your position, Mr Ebeid, to have come to a corporate position based on no legal advice and little understanding of the different views in the debate other than ‘it’s all just about equality’,” Senator Canavan said.
Mr Ebeid told the Senate committee that he viewed same-sex marriage as a social issue rather than a political one.
“SBS, in its whole foundation and purpose of being, is about promoting cultural diversity and social cohesion,” Ebeid said.
“We are an organisation that does everything we can to support equality. As an employer, we have joined other employers to say we support equality in all its forms and don’t discriminate against our employees.
“I don’t think this is an issue that’s a political issue. It’s a societal issue, not a political issue at all.”
Mr Ebeid also addressed concerns raised by Senator Back regarding SBS’s ability to provide unbiased coverage of the proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage arguing that SBS has a “long history” of airing both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.
Mr Ebeid’s answers were not, however, enough to sway Senator Canavan’s opinion that government funded agencies should not be free to exercise the same liberties as private companies in taking declarative positions on political issues.