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Monday, 27 June 1994
Page: 2022

Senator McKIERNAN (4.37 p.m.) —I find it very difficult to believe that members of the opposition are serious about the content of this matter of public importance that they have put forward this afternoon. Not only did Senator Alston fail to convince himself about the importance of the issue, but also he certainly failed to convince the chamber.

Senator Kemp —Rubbish; he convinced me!

Senator McKIERNAN —Senator Kemp was not here. His colleague Senator Tierney came in afterwards. All he sought to do was talk about the record of Mr Hill when he was chairman of the State Rail Authority in New South Wales; and tip a bucket on him. We saw Senator Chapman, again, seeking to use the forum of the Senate to tip a bucket on individuals who are not here to defend themselves. Senator Chapman did it in the form of having a go at John Bannon, former Premier of South Australia.

  I find it a bit sad when people can character assassinate individuals merely on the basis of their political affiliations. We heard that Senator Alston is writing a letter to the Governor-General. A few short years ago, in this place, the opposition was having a go at that very same Governor-General, before he was appointed, merely because at one stage he was part of the Labor Party.

  If we are going to be consistent we should say that if the ABC board is going to be contaminated by Mr Bannon's or Ms Silver's presence, the Aids Council of Australia will also be contaminated because the good former Senator Peter Baume is part of the Aids Council. Peter Baume is a former Liberal Party senator. He was appointed on the basis—

Senator Chapman —You obviously did not listen to what I said.

Senator McKIERNAN —Senator Chapman should wait a minute. We have had enough of his muckraking. I did not intrude on his speech. I want to have a go now and say a few things. Senator Collins mentioned a few names of other people who were appointed to positions. Governments should be looking to appoint quality people to important positions. I believe that has been done in the appointment of John Bannon and Wendy Silver to the ABC board. Before I run out of time I want to make a comment on a couple of the issues that Senator Bourne raised.

Senator Kemp —How could you describe John Bannon as a quality appointment?

Senator McKIERNAN —Senator Bourne suggested that the government was penny pinching and not fully funding the ABC to undertake its commitment—

Senator Kemp —A quality appointment!

Senator McKIERNAN —Senator Kemp should put a sock in it for a minute—to enable the ABC and SBS to fulfil their commitments in their charters. Senator Bourne made a very important point by saying that the SBS and the ABC were two of the best public broadcasters in the world. Unquestionably, she is accurate about that. The emphasis I should stress here is on the word `two'. I think we are the only country in the world that has two public broadcasters. If there is a problem about competition for money, perhaps it is the word `two' that we ought to look at. Why do we need two public broadcasters? I am not at all convinced that we actually do need two.

  In saying that I am not having a go at the ABC or the SBS. I must commend the SBS on its tremendous coverage of the World Cup, a truly international game, in which the SBS, as a public broadcaster, is serving its constituency. It is unfortunate that many of the other broadcasters in this country are not picking up that matter.

  Let me finally conclude on the matter of character assassination of individuals. It is very sad that individuals such as ourselves in our privileged position can use privileges endowed on us in this place to have a crack at people of such achievement in our society as David Hill. David Hill can never be described as a crook managing director. It is a pity Senator Tierney did not walk that 25 yards out there into the public arena, make the same statement and then be asked to support that statement in the courts of this country. It really is very sad—actually, it is pathetic—when we have to stoop to those lengths to have a go at individuals merely because of their association with the political process in this country.