OPINION: If Australians are to fix their structural deficit, every citizen must be prepared to suffer hardship: this we all accept.
But it is a very sad day indeed when Peppa Pig, a porcine cartoon beloved by every thinking and feeling three-year-old across the country, is thrown on the fiscal bonfire to burn, like a scrap of surplus bacon, as a sacrifice to the god of national prosperity.
Peppa is the star of her eponymous show and, without wanting to cause offence to Babe or Miss Piggy of The Muppets, she is this country's favourite pig. Together with her pink parents and small pink brother, Peppa delights and educates toddlers and provides the kind of sweet relief to harried parents that no amount of taxpayer cash (or indeed strong opiates) can deliver.
And yet Peppa's revered status did not stop ABC managing director Mark Scott from holding a metaphorical gun to her head and threatening to blow her little piggy brains out as a result of the A$35.5 million (NZ$38.6m) in cuts the government made to the national broadcaster in the budget.
During a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday, Scott said his priority was to save programming from cuts. But asked if he could guarantee certain programs and services such as Peppa would stay, he would not.
"We have contracts to continue to deliver Peppa Pig, but of course the service we provide depends on the funding envelope provided," he told the committee.
Scott's ominous words are simply the latest development in the shameful story of Peppa's politicisation.
Late last year, the conservative commentator Piers Akerman criticised Peppa's political leanings during a long and thoroughly entertaining (although perhaps not in the exact way he meant it to be) tirade against the ABC.
"Even the cartoon character Peppa Pig pushes a weird feminist line that would be closer to the hearts of Labor's Handbag Hit Squad than the pre-school audience it is aimed at," he fulminated.
But Peppa may be sent to the sausage factory before she gets a chance to indoctrinate the next generation of toddlers with her blue-stocking views. The words of Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, who has seen more than a few pigs in his time, were particularly sinister.
Asked about the cartoon during a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Senator Joyce gave a chilling response.
"Last time I had Peppa Pig it was number 23 in my local Thai restaurant," he said.
- Sydney Morning Herald