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Tuesday, 10 October 2006
Page: 140

Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, in writing, on 9 August 2006:

(1)   Is the Minister aware of reports that ABC Radio Station 774 censored criticism of the appointment to the ABC Board of Mr Keith Windschuttle.

(2)   Is it correct that on the Sunday Arts program, Helen Razer interviewed film director Bob Weis about his documentary, Women of the Sun - 25 Years Later, which charts the stories of Aboriginal women.

(3)   Is it correct that during this interview Mr Weis stated that: “While David Irving - the Holocaust denier - sits in prison, the Australian Government. . .”, but was cut off by Ms Razer before he could complete the sentence.

(4)   Is it the Government’s view that ABC program hosts should cut off interviewees who are about to criticise Australian Government actions.

(5)   Does Australia continue to enjoy freedom of speech and expression.

Mr McGauran (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

(1)   Yes, the Minister is aware of newspaper reports about the interview.

(2)   Yes.

(3)   The comment by Mr Weis that went to air was “While David Irving, the Holocaust denier, sits in prison”. At this point, he began to make a comment that both Ms Razer and her producer thought was potentially defamatory. He was cut-off using the seven-second delay button.

(4)   Internal operational and programming decisions are the responsibility of the ABC Board and management. However, the ABC is obliged to operate within its Charter and legislative obligations.

(5)   The Government provides an overall level of funding for the ABC, but has no power to direct the ABC in relation to programming matters. Parliament has guaranteed this independence to ensure that what is broadcast is free of political interference. Internal ABC programming decisions are the responsibility of the ABC Board and Executive.