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Wednesday, 3 June 1970


Mr HULME - If I may take the latter part of the honourable members question first., he referred to this matter yesterday. ] remind him and other honourable members of some of the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act which relate to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In the first place, the Parliament is required to determine the amount of money which is made available year by year for the expenditures of the Commission. There may be a mistaken view within the House and also in the community that the radio and television licence fees which are charged are adequate for the financing of the ABC. In the current year - that is the year which ends on 30th June next - the amount of licence fees will fall short of the total expenditure by Slim :ind this amount will be found from the normal taxation revenue. To this degree. I think it is recognised that the Government has a responsibility, as have Government departments, in determining the amount of money which is to be made available to the ABC.

Secondly, there is in the Act a provision which gives me as Minister the right to prohibit or to require the showing of certain films. 1 say quickly that I have not exercised that right during my 61 years as Postmaster-General. That right has seldom been used in the history of this Parliament. Nevertheless, it exists. This authority is given to the Minister by the Parliament. Another requirement is that my approval must be obtained where expenditure in excess of $40,000 is proposed. In a Bill which 1 introduced on 4th March it is proposed that the amount be increased to $100,000. This approval is extended to cover contracts and leases beyond 5 years. I believe that these provisions enacted by the Parliament require me to exercise a judgment over the whole area of ABC expenditure. It may be that times have changed since the provision was first incorporated in the Broadcasting and Television Act.

It is for honourable members to 'indicate whether they believe times have changed and whether they believe that I should have no responsibility in relation to programming at this stage. But having regard to the tremendous cost of programmes and acknowledging the requirements of the Act, I believe that I have a responsibility to accept or reject programmes. I repeat that I have not exercised that authority, but it exists. This is why in answer to questions I have said that the ABC has almost complete autonomy in programming. I stress, however, that as Minister I have a discretion under the Act. What I said when opening the staff rooms at North Sydney several years ago I believed, but times change. Total circumstances within the community, economic and otherwise, change. If 1 express a view, as I did recently, it is because with the effluxion of lime 1 have come to that view. As I said in reply to a question yesterday, when we come to debate the Estimates I may be prepared to make some comment about the matter.







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