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Thursday, 2 June 1994
Page: 1271

Senator CHAMARETTE (7.25 p.m.) —I will be brief. I do not want to delay the Senate but I have an issue of importance. It comes from my concern about whistleblowing in the public interest and the fact that there are very few mechanisms available to the members of the community regarding issues of that kind. They need to have recourse to the parliament to be able to raise those matters.

  There have been a number of allegations concerning possible political influence over the ABC's operation in Queensland for some time now. I understand that I am not the only senator who has received representations regarding these matters. There is a great deal of conflicting information about the case of the dismissal of Ms Pamela Bornhorst from the Queensland edition of the ABC 7.30 Report program and the allegation that that dismissal was caused, motivated or effected by political influence. For example, in terms of the conflicting information, the evidence presented to the Senate estimates committee by the National Director of ABC Television, Mr Conroy, in November last year about Ms Bornhorst's dismissal appears to be at variance with the facts of the case as presented by Ms Bornhorst and some of her colleagues.

  It is very much in the public interest, I believe, that any serious allegations of political influence in our national public broadcaster be carefully examined. These allegations are as important as, if not more important than, other matters raised in the print media inquiry, for example, because they involve Australia's publicly owned and funded broadcaster.

  I have been approached by the Queensland Greens to support the concerns that have been raised in Queensland on this matter. In their communication with me, they refer to the widespread belief that Queensland state government pressure led to the dismissal from the 7.30 Report of Pamela Bornhorst. They also believe that there is a concern that other dismissals of and resignations by journalists and program management staff may have been as a result of government or other pressure, or have been caused by staff discontent with perceptions of such pressure.

  It is vital for freedom of expression in Australia that the national broadcaster be not only free of such pressures but also be seen to be free of them. Evidence of such pressures and influence is notoriously difficult to uncover without access to the information and without the power of a formal inquiry. At this point, I request permission to table information to enlighten the Senate on this important issue. I seek leave to table the report.

  Leave granted.

Senator CHAMARETTE —I conclude my remarks.