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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2249


Senator PETER RAE(5.16) —I acknowledge that the National has changed both its format and its ratings. Perhaps some good came out of what otherwise might have been seen as some undue publicity received by the National. From some of the comments which have been received, it would seem that there is some room to go, but the program is certainly improving its acceptance ratings.

I refer to page 3 of the answers given by way of information in which a response refers to pages 116 and 117 of the Hansard of the Estimates Committee in which I asked about details of cuts of $8m and $30m which Mr Whitehead claimed he had effected to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's budget. That claim was made in an interview. The answer is:

The cuts referred to were related to proposals made by ABC departments and divisions which were rejected or considerably pruned by the Managing Director before submission to the ABC Board. It is not unusual, though perhaps not technically accurate, to refer to such reductions as savings. In the broadcast interview which was extemporaneous and live to air, Mr Whitehead was speaking in the context of accountability at all levels of the ABC and giving examples of the need to examine critically all proposals for expenditure.

I suppose one can only say: 'There we go again'. This is almost similar to the mini-Budget debate, as to what constitutes a cut and what constitutes the normal reductions which take place in the preliminary bids. Is my understanding correct that Mr Whitehead was really not strictly accurate in saying that he made cuts of $8m and $30m during his first period as Managing Director, but rather that in the assessment of proposals which were made, in putting them to the Board, he pruned them before they went to the Board? In other words, this was not committed expenditure which was cut, but rather proposals for expenditure which were pruned.