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Monday, 20 May 1985
Page: 2201

Senator PETER RAE(10.00) —I refer to the report of Estimates Committee C and to the proceedings in which we received some rather unsatisfactory answers in relation to matters dealing with not only the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, but also the Special Broadcasting Service. I direct the attention of the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes) to some of the questions which could not be answered at the time and which have been published in written replies to questions asked during Estimates Committee C. I start off with what I would have thought was a fairly simple request, that is: Could the Minister please endeavour to reconcile two apparently conflicting statements? On page 19 it is stated:

The Chairman has been present at all Board meetings since the inception of the Corporation. He has presided at all meetings.

That statement was made in answer to a question as to the percentage attendance by the Chairman at meetings of the Board and whether he has always chaired the meetings if he was present. I refer back to page 16 where, in reply to a question, it is made clear that on 13 February a number of Board members discussed certain matters. At page 136 of the transcript of the proceedings of Estimates Committee C a question was asked as to whether the decision that was taken to settle the particular action, which was referred to, was a decision of the Managing Director or of the Board. It was stated that it was a decision of the Board. There is no reference to the Chairman of the Board being present. There is a reference to the fact that the Deputy Chair was present, presided over the proceedings and was in fact the moving spirit, one gathers, or was in charge of the operations at the time at which a decision was reached which was referred to as a decision of the Board. How can the Minister reconcile the apparently irreconcilable statement, 'The Chairman has been present at all Board meetings since the inception of the Corporation. He has presided over all meetings', with the statement made three pages earlier, that is, that he was not present at all when a Board meeting took place on 13 February and on 14 February at which a decision was taken which was one of some considerable significance and sensitivity? I will not refer to the matter in more detail in asking my question.