Coalition jokes "Sophie Mirabella should run ABC"

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has threatened to extend the parliamentary sitting calendar into Christmas during a joint party room meeting consumed by fiery speeches about an ''unbalanced'' ABC and a joking suggestion that former MP Sophie Mirabella could take over the running of the national broadcaster.

Parliament is scheduled to finish for the year on December 12, but Mr Abbott told the Coalition party room that he was prepared to keep sitting from the week starting December 16 and beyond over four issues – the carbon and mining taxes, temporary protection visas and the debt ceiling.

But the longest discussion of the Coalition's meeting was about the ABC, according to Attorney-General George Brandis.

One Liberal Party member gave a long speech in which he said it was "not our ABC".

He went on to call the national broadcaster a "taxpayer-funded behemoth" and added that the ABC did not need four television channels.

He also accused the ABC of engaging in "cannibalisation of commercial media" and abandoning its charter.

"His remarks were received very warmly by the party room," Senator Brandis said.

At one stage during the speech, a Coalition colleague interjected: "Make Sophie MD [managing director]", Senator Brandis said.

"It was a very well received speech," the Attorney-General reiterated.

In all, three Liberals and the Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, rose to speak about the ABC.

Mr Turnbull said he disagreed that the national broadcaster was contributing to the ruin of newspapers. He said the publishing industry suffered from a lack of advertising revenue, not from a lack of readers.

But Mr Turnbull repeated his criticisms of ABC managing director, Mark Scott, who had made a "shocking error of judgment" by collaborating with The Guardian Australia to publish the spying leaks by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"The real question," Mr Turnbull reportedly told his colleagues, was whether "the ABC was adhering to its statutory charter".

It was a question Mr Turnbull raised but did not answer, according to Senator Brandis.

Another problem with the ABC, according to Mr Turnbull, was that it employed "last century work practices" – a description that was not explained or elaborated upon.

At another point in the joint party room meeting, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop compared Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote – a reference understood to relate to his bumbling tactics in question time.

Senator Brandis refused to say whether the analogy meant that Education Minister Christopher Pyne was the Road Runner.

- SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

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