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Thursday, 26 May 1983
Page: 1068


Mr DUFFY (Minister for Communications)(8.25) —I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Bill was amended after extensive debate in the Senate. The amendments were moved by the Australian Democrats and agreed to by all parties in the Senate. The amendments to clauses 82 and 11 provide for the appointment of community affairs officers, who will consider complaints under clause 82, to be appointed on the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's advisory councils. The amendments to sub-clause (3) of clause 11 and paragraph (b) of sub-clause (3) of clause 82 provide for the appointment of a Principal Community Affairs Officer to be made by the Managing Director on the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Advisory Council. The amendments to sub-clause (4) of clause 11 and paragraph (a ) of sub-clause (3) of clause 82 provide for the relevant State or Territory Advisory Council to advise on the appointment of a community affairs officer in that State or Territory. In the event that no advisory council has been established in a State or Territory the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Advisory Council will make the necessary recommendation. The amendments go some way to meeting the concerns that have been expressed that community affairs officers will be appointed by the Managing Director of the ABC. It is considered that this altered basis for appointing community affairs officers will effectively give those bodies established to provide advice on a national State and Territory basis the responsibility of making recommendations on the persons who should deal with the complaints. The other proposed amendment is an addition to clause 27 which explicitly states:

The Corporation shall develop and maintain an independent service for the broadcasting and televising of news and information . . .

The Government has already incorporated words in sub-clause (3) of clause 27 to satisfy the concerns of people worried that the ABC's independent service might be compromised by allowing the ABC to procure news and information from domestic news agencies and other sources. The proposed amendment reinforces this assurance. The matters that I have just covered in relation to the amendments therefore affect two aspects of the Bill. The first one relates to the method of appointment of the community affairs officers. Some concern was expressed regarding the fact that the appointment was to be directly made by the Managing Director. That has now been overcome by the fact that the Managing Director shall make the appointments on the advice and the recommendation of the Advisory Council. The second matter is merely a reinforcement of the existing provisions in respect of news services. It must be said that the amendments which were moved in the Senate by the Australian Democrats are very thoughtful amendments. When one looks at the extensive debate which took place in this chamber on the Bill one will see that if amendments of substance are put to this Government it is prepared to consider them on their merits, as was done in this case. We consider that the amendments moved by the Australian Democrats were significant and worth while. For that reason they were accepted by the Government. As I indicated earlier, they were accepted by all parties in the Senate.