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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2456

Senator BROWNHILL(10.37) —I would like to ask the Minister for Community Services a question regarding the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the control the Government might have over the independence of that Corporation. I want to quote some figures about the coverage of the Australian Labor Party conference and the coverage of the Liberal Party of Australia conference. The on-air coverage for the ALP conference was something like 12 minutes and 26 seconds on the news. The coverage of the Liberal Party conference was four minutes and nine seconds on the news. The coverage for the ALP conference on The 7.30 Report was 44 minutes and 39 seconds and the coverage for the Liberal Party conference was five minutes and four seconds. The Carleton-Walsh Report gave on-air coverage to the ALP conference of something like one hour and 38 minutes and the Liberal Party conference nine minutes and 18 seconds. In the answer the ABC gave to substantiate that coverage, it said:

The level of coverage extended to the ALP Conference was predicated on the fact that this is a biennial conference which historically has had a key decision making role in the ALP policy.

I ask the Minister whether that is correct, because policies were made on uranium mining at that conference and, of course, the Government has changed that policy here, so conference policies do not seem to bind the Government. Is the ABC independent of government control in respect of the amount of time that is given to political parties? Also, does the key decision making role of those conferences predicate the amount of time that is given each conference?

Senator Elstob —You would have to agree that our conference is very good.