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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1725

Senator GARETH EVANS (General)(11.45) —Senator Jack Evans's heartfelt plea falls on ears that, while not wholly unreceptive, are slightly hard of hearing on this present occasion. I regret that the Government's decision on this matter will stand. I rise to my feet once more simply to give Senator Harradine an answer to the point that he raised earlier about free time for the referendums, although what this has to do with the present subject under debate is a matter for some speculation. The situation is that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation proposes to allot 30 minutes each for the proponents of the Yes case on the one hand and the proponents of the No case on the other hand , not by reference to particular parties but by reference to how people voted here in the Parliament.

Senator Macklin —Does that include us? We have not been asked about anything yet, even the preparation of the case. It probably went against the Act, I would have thought. I believe it had some reference to us.

Senator Durack —You voted against us.

Senator Macklin —We voted for it.

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Australian Democrats voted for it but they were opposed to the substantive content of the--

Senator Macklin —We should at least have been asked.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Coleman) —Order! Senator Macklin, that is a matter you can debate with the Attorney-General at another time.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I think Senator Macklin was making a fairly formal point when he made it absolutely clear that the content of the referendums was opposed , albeit that their being put to the people was in fact supported. I hear what he says and I do not think there is any legal substance to the point he makes, although he may claim otherwise. The only matter that seems to be not quite fully resolved so far as the allocation of free time is concerned, is whether the 30-minute allocation is capable of division into several bits. That would be a matter apparently for the proponents of the respective cases to agree among themselves. I wish Senator Harradine the best of British luck in seeking to gain a chunk of some possible part of the No case for himself.

Senator Jack Evans —Who determines that time allocation?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is a matter for the proponents to determine the content of it.

Senator Macklin —If they are not even asked, how will they get a leg in?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is a matter for the ABC--

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Order! That is nothing to do with the amendments before the chamber at the moment.

Senator GARETH EVANS —We can pursue the matter in Question Time should the honourable senator wish to do so, but for the moment that is as much information as I am able to give to the honourable senator in the time available. Apparently the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke ) ten days ago conveying the ABC's decision and the ABC is in the process of writing to all those who have inquired about the allocation of time, laying out the ground rules. I have not seen a copy of any such correspondence. I am not in a position to inform honourable senators further, but I will endeavour to make sure that that information, in a slightly more detailed form, is made available as soon as possible to honourable senators here in the chamber today, if that will satisfy them. I hope that we can now proceed to a vote on this rather overdue matter of the deceptive advertising.

Question put:

That the amendments (Senator Macklin's) be agreed to.