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Monday, 27 June 1994
Page: 2020

Senator MURPHY (4.25 p.m.) —Senator Alston, who proposed this matter of public importance, is no longer in the chamber. This demonstrates how important the opposition really considers this issue. It shows quite clearly exactly what this proposal is all about—it is about taking a cheap political shot at people who are not here to defend themselves. Moreover, this matter of public importance is a substantial waste of this Senate's time. We have got much more important issues to debate. The proposal is really a reflection on the capacity of those opposite to come into this chamber and debate any issue of substance. Over the last two weeks not one issue of substance has been raised by the opposition by way of proposals such as the one now before us. The matters of public importance have been personal attacks on either the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) or somebody else associated with the Australian Labor Party or the trade union movement.  As Senator Collins pointed out earlier, it really is a question of identifying that as the real point of this game.

  Those opposite do not raise matters that concern the appointment of people with Liberal Party or National Party associations. It is very important to restate the names of people with Liberal Party associations who have been appointed to the boards of the ABC and the SBS. Sir Nicholas Shehadie was appointed the chair of the SBS board and Dame Leonie Kramer was appointed the chair of the ABC board. More importantly, Warwick Smith, a former Liberal member in Tasmania and a solicitor, was appointed as the telecommunications ombudsman. On the basis of Senator Alston's arguments, what expertise does Warwick Smith have with regard to telecommunications? This is about the issue of fairness.

Senator Sherry —Except that he likes being on TV.

Senator MURPHY —That is exactly right—of course he likes being on TV.

  The matter of public importance now before the Senate is concerned with the `government's confusing policy approach to the ABC'. What is the opposition's policy on the ABC? Senator Collins pointed out earlier that the opposition's Fightback policy was to cut the funding by $50 million. If we go back in history and look at the policies of and the statements made by those opposite with regard to the ABC, we will see that they would sooner not have an ABC. They have made claims in this chamber about the ABC being a puppet of the government. Opposition senators should not come in here and make claims about the morale in the ABC because if they were in government the level of morale would be zilch.

  This matter really goes to the question of the credibility of those opposite in regard to issues that they deal with in this chamber. I have to ask again—and I do not like repeating myself: when have we seen them come in here and debate issues of substance, the issues of the day in respect of the people of this country? We have not seen one example of this in the last two weeks. We have wasted a lot of time debating various other matters. Senator Chapman has been chasing issues in respect of former Senator Richardson. He has been taking cheap political shots which, at the end of the day, he cannot back up—not one of them.

Senator Panizza —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. The subject at hand is very definite and I cannot see what the policy of the opposition or Senator Chapman's questioning on other matters has to do with this debate. I ask you to ask him to be relevant and to bring him back to the matter under debate.

Senator MURPHY —Mr Acting Deputy President, on the point of order raised by Senator Panizza: this matter of public importance refers to the `government's confusing policy'. I think it is quite legitimate in terms of addressing the government's policy on the ABC also to address and raise the opposition's policy.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Childs)—I do not uphold the point of order. Senator Murphy was ranging across the area but he should not stray too far from the point.

Senator MURPHY —Senator Collins outlined the government's policy regarding funding for the ABC. We have given a total commitment of over $1 1/2 billion over the next three years. In 1994-95 the government will provide funding of $515 million to the ABC and $75.7 million to the SBS. (Time expired)