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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 209

Senator WOODLEY (1.26 p.m.) —There is an African proverb which goes something like this: `When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.' That is especially so when those elephants represent political power, and the trampled grass represents individuals who get in the road of political power brokers. When the stakes are high, particularly, little people are very likely to be trampled. In Queensland there has been a quite long-running dispute about political influence and interference in the ABC.

  I do not want to run that debate again today, or even to take sides in the debate, but I do want to put on record that in that particular debate a number of individuals have been trampled or at least hurt in the fight between powerful factions. One of these is a longstanding friend of mine, Chris Griffith, and I would like to read into the record a letter which he has written to me. It is a letter in which he corrects some aspersions cast on his character that I think really do need correcting. This is what he says:

I wish to place a statement on the Senate record following an article in The Courier-Mail dated Friday June 10 dealing with alleged political influence in the ABC, and with the events surrounding last year's sacking of Pamela Bornhorst, the host of the Queensland edition of The 7.30 Report.

You may remember that earlier this year Senator Christabel Chamarette tabled an anonymous submission dealing with this subject.

The article in The Courier-Mail infers that I, Ms Bornhorst, and former Criminal Justice Commission media officer Marion Smith were responsible for preparing the submission.

I state categorically that I am not party to the submission, and to this day have not sighted it. I believe it is extremely important this be stated in the Senate because our journalistic reputations are on the line when the authorship of documents we have not sighted is attributed to us. For the record, Mr Peter Charlton, the journalist responsible for The Courier-Mail article, did not contact me before publication. I am, however, grateful to Queensland Newspapers' Editor-in-Chief Mr Jack Lunn who undertook to publish letters to correct the myth created.

I say again, I was not an author of this document, nor was I aware of its contents nor recommendations, nor of its tabling in The Senate prior to it happening.

Having said that, I and many Queenslanders remain concerned about the treatment meted out to Ms Bornhorst and to some other ABC staff who supported her. I still believe there is cause for concern about some ABC management practices.

I must say that I also share that concern, but that is a debate for another day. It is important, however, that I place on the record the contents of the letter which I have just read in order to correct what I believe to have been an injustice to certain individuals.