Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 570


Senator JONES —Mr President, my question is directed to you. Are you aware that the staff of the parliamentary refreshment rooms this morning voted to withdraw catering and liquor services to all members of the Press, which I later established means the media generally, because of an article which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 13 March? The article was seen by the catering staff as implying that one of them leaked information and this, of course, is strongly denied. In view of the fact that such a ban, if extended for any length of time, could result in a considerable drop in Commonwealth revenue, could you, or one of your senior officers, intercede through the due courses of conciliation and, if necessary, arbitration and bring this unfortunate dispute to a happy conclusion?


The PRESIDENT —I am aware of the ban that has been imposed by all Commonwealth parliamentary refreshment rooms staff on all members of the Press Gallery working in Parliament House. The ban relates to an article published in the Daily Telegraph on 13 March under the authorship of one Col MacKay who, I understand, is not an accredited member of the Press Gallery. The headline of the article was 'Canberra's good life-and you foot the bill!'. The article then went on to refer to the increase in crime in the Australian Capital Territory. In the last paragraph of the article on that date-I understand there was a follow-up article-the following passage appeared:

A steward in the Members' bar at Parliament House had a far better grip of the situation when he told me over an off-duty drink: 'The local coppers might have a bad record for solving crimes, but most of the crimes I hear being planned by pollies in the Members' Bar could never be solved.'

Staff of the members' bar have taken umbrage at those remarks and have had discussions, as I understand it, with a representative of their union. The union representative sought a retraction by the editor of the Daily Telegraph of that section of the article. The editor of the Daily Telegraph refused to retract the paragraph in question.

As a result, members of the Commonwealth parliamentary refreshment rooms met, I understand, shortly before lunch and imposed a ban on all members of the Press Gallery. I understand the anguish and anger of the staff of the parliamentary refreshment rooms at the remarks, because the very nature of their job requires them to maintain confidentiality of all conversations that might take place in the bar. Having said that, I hope that common sense will prevail and that the staff of the Commonwealth parliamentary refreshment rooms might be prepared to give consideration to lifting the ban on all members of the Press in the Parliament.

Nonetheless, I can say that I did discuss the matter briefly with the Speaker at lunchtime, and he was considering the question of conciliation, as has been suggested by Senator Jones. However, we will keep a watchful eye on the situation. At this stage, I urge all members of the staff of the Commonwealth parliamentary refreshment rooms to give consideration to lifting the bans that they have imposed.