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Tuesday, 30 August 1994
Page: 553


Senator JONES —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the minister had concerns expressed to him about the potential impact on Australia-Malaysia relations, including business relations, of the segment of the Foreign Correspondent program on 23 August which drew attention to certain aspects of the Malaysian government system and, in particular, links between government and business? What is the government's response to any such expressions of concern?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I have had some expressions of concern retailed to me about the potential impact on Australia-Malaysia relations, including in particular business relationships, of the relevant segment of the Foreign Correspondent program on 23 August. My response is as follows: the ABC program in question did contain a segment addressing aspects of government in Malaysia and, in particular, links between government and business in that country. I make no comment on the substance of the program, except to say that I understand that most of the issues raised have already been the subject of vigorous and public debate in Malaysia itself.

  However this is perhaps an appropriate occasion to say again that, while the ABC is of course funded by the Australian government, it functions as a totally independent organisation. The government is not associated in any way with the ABC's decisions on programming policies, including the case of that Foreign Correspondent report on 23 August. The government cannot, nor would we wish to, exercise any control over any aspect of the ABC's editorial policy. There is no connection to be drawn between views expressed editorially on this or any other ABC program and those of the Australian government.

  The relationship between Australia and Malaysia is longstanding, broadly based and fruitful for both sides. We are committed to a constructive relationship with Malaysia, provided that commitment is reciprocated. We certainly have no intention of allowing the media to dictate the agenda for our relationship and we are confident that the Malaysian government also understands that.