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Wednesday, 23 May 1973
Page: 2567

Mr Kerin asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:

(1)   Does the ABC's 'Guidelines for Current Affairs' stipulate that (a) controversial subjects must be treated with due impartiality with a view to assembling as much information as possible on the subject so that a balanced opinion will be achieved which will better inform the general public, (b) contributions to the discussion of most controversial issues must be balanced over a reasonably short period of time, and on some occasions, depending on the nature of the subject, within the same program, and (c) the achievement of a balance of views must be planned for; it should not be left to chance.

(2)   If so, on how many occasions between 2 May 1972 and 2 December 1972 did the refusal of someone or some organisation prevent coverage of a controversial subject?

(3)   What were the circumstances of each of these occasions?

(4)   Will the Minister ensure that in future these guidelines will not be applied in such a manner that public coverage of a controversial subject is prevented or hindered by a refusal of one party to participate in a program?

Mr Morrison (ST GEORGE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Science) - The Minister for the Media has supplied the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   and (3) I am informed by the ABC that it does not keep such records but that as far as can be recalled there was no occasion during the period mentioned when the coverage of a controversial subject was prevented by the refusal of a person or representative of an organisation to be interviewed. The Commission informs me that on one occasion the presentation of an interview for "This Day Tonight' with the Secretary, of the Postal Clerks' and Telegraphists' Union was delayed because a representative of the Post Office was not available to reply to certain statements about the Post Office. However, I am advised that statements by the Union Secretary, Mr Baker, similar to those made in the 'This Day Tonight' program, were shown on the ABC TV news.

(4)   The honourable member will be aware it is government policy to guarantee political and programming independence to the ABC However, I have brought the honourable member's suggestion to the attention of the Chairman of the ABC for consideration by the Commission.

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