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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2247

Senator PETER RAE(5.00) —I do not have a hang-up about anybody in particular in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, nor do I have a hang-up about the Corporation itself. I am asking questions about the administration of a Commonwealth statutory authority which has a budget of almost $400m a year and about which there is considerable public interest, as evidenced by the huge number of letters, questions and media items we have seen. Ms McCarthy's potential conflict of interest as a Board member and as an author, as a journalist for the magazine Look and Listen, who receives a salary for writing about what happens on the Board of the ABC, has been the subject of some attention; she is employed by what appear to be two publicly funded bodies which receive considerable public attention-that is, the ABC and the Australian Bicentennial Authority. She has been the subject of much correspondence. Mr Jackson of the ABC was the author of one of the letters defending Ms McCarthy. All of those things have drawn attention to the matters I am pursuing. Were I to pursue every one of these matters I would take a very long time. I have tried to be selective in regard to the matters raised in the correspondence. I proposed to do no more than ask about four matters, and potential conflicts of interest in dual roles is one of them. I have summarised that as briefly as I can using, in particular, the example of Ms McCarthy. Perhaps the Minister would indicate whether there is anything in the answers provided relating to the potential conflict of interest of a journalist, who is also a Board member of the ABC, being employed and paid by Look and Listen, which is funded under a special arrangement by the ABC, to write repeatedly for issues of that magazine about what happens in regard to the Board. It has been described to me as follows:

It is therefore inescapable that Ms McCarthy derived income from writing about ABC affairs with the distinct advantage of inside knowledge derived from her appointment to the Board for which she was separately remunerated.

This letter I have received further states:

Ms McCarthy wrote about major issues of policy and practice in her columns, e.g. the appointment of the Managing Director and other senior staff (October 1984 edition) and the achievements of the first year of the Board (August 1984 edition) and the corporate advertising campaign (January 1985 edition).

Does the Government or the ABC see any conflict of interest in this situation?