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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1241


Mr O'NEIL —Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware that radio personality, Mr John Laws, of Sydney station 2GB, has been mounting attacks not only against government programs to help Aboriginals but also against Aboriginal people in general? Is the Minister prepared to take any action to deal with these allegations?


Mr HOLDING —I thank the honourable member for his question. I am aware of the statements made by Mr Laws on his program.


Mr Cadman —Ring him up and talk to him.


Mr HOLDING —I would be perfectly happy to appear on Mr Laws's program. However, I do not believe it would be appropriate for a responsible Minister of the Crown or a shadow Minister to lend himself to a program which has repeated on a five-minute basis a series of disparaging remarks directed against any group in Australian society and which has attributed to people-in this case Aboriginal people-concepts which are not only defamatory but with which no decent Australian would want to associate himself. If Mr Laws wants to query me on any aspect of a government program, that is perfectly appropriate.

Having obtained a copy of the transcripts of the program over the last three days, I am perfectly happy to make them available to honourable members, who I think will agree with me that Mr Laws has virtually been indulging in a kick-a-black week. There is a fine line between the exercise of what we would all want to encourage, that is, the freedom of radio commentators to support or oppose any aspect of government policy, and the making of statements which are clearly designed to derogate any section of the Australian community on racial terms. Unfortunately, these remarks have caused grave distress to many members of the Aboriginal community. I understand that they are seeking legal advice as to their rights. I will certainly encourage that. I will also bring to the attention of the Minister for Communications what I believe to be a gross and irresponsible abuse of the rights attached to radio communication and the thoroughly irresponsible and disgraceful way in which Mr Laws has behaved.