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Wednesday, 3 December 2003
Page: 23752

Mr Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 14 October 2003:

(1) Is he aware that last week the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) Independent Complaints Review Panel upheld 17 of 68 complaints of alleged bias brought by his predecessor in relation to the ABC's coverage of the Iraq war.

(2) What guidelines exist to assist the Panel to ensure fair investigation of the complaints brought against the ABC.

(3) Did the Panel speak with any of the broadcasters or ABC news staff who were the subject of his predecessor's complaints; if so, (a) to whom, and (b) what are the details of those enquiries; if not, why not.

(4) What action is he taking to ensure that future investigations conducted by the Panel are undertaken in accordance with natural justice and procedural fairness principles.

Mr Williams (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes.

(2) The ABC has advised that the ABC Board established the Independent Complaints Review Panel (ICRP) in 1991 to review complaints relating to allegations of serious cases of bias, lack of balance or unfair treatment arising from an ABC broadcast or broadcasts. ICRP members are appointed by the ABC Board and conduct their reviews in accordance with Section 12.6 of the ABC's Editorial Policies 2002. The ICRP operates independently from the ABC Board and Management.

(3) The ABC has advised that it understands that in this particular case the ICRP decided there was no automatic need to speak directly with program personnel or to seek further representations from the ABC.

(4) The ABC has advised that its complaints handling processes are administered under a policy of continuous review with the aim of ensuring an effective, rigorous and transparent system of handling complaints. The ABC has also advised that its current complaints handling system, which has been in place for over 12 months, is being reviewed to ensure it continues to meet best practice.