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Tuesday, 30 November 1976
Page: 2944

Mr JULL (BOWMAN, QUEENSLAND) - Could the Minister for Post and Telecommunications tell the House what aspects of the Green report are to be instituted immediately by the Government? Has the Minister directed his Department to proceed with any other proposals of the report? Has a senior officer of his Department called an interdepartmental meeting for 2 December to establish the guidelines for the granting of licences for frequency modulation radio stations in accordance with the Green report recommendations?

Mr Keating - I take a point of order. This will be the second announcement by a Minister of policy or detail at question time. I put it to you that Ministers should give statements to the Parliament on decisions the Government has taken and not use question time to advantage supporters by announcements of policy.

Mr SPEAKER -There is no substance to the point of order.

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - The main thrust of the Government's decisions have been in the area of the structure of broadcasting. One of the principal decisions is to disband the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and to replace it with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. As the Prime Minister said earlier, it, and it alone, will have the right to decide the allocation of licences for commercial and public broadcasting. There will also be a broadcasting council which will bring together the national network, the public broadcasting, the commercial network, the Department and the community so that we can have a greater community involvement in broadcasting.

Mr Innes - I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, I refer you to standing order 1 43, which reads:

Questions may be put to a Member, not being a Minister or an Assistant Minister, relating to any Bill, motion or other public matter connected with the business of the House . . .

The next standing order lists the general things that can be put. I draw your attention to the fact that there is before the House a Bill which involves this question. I ask for your ruling as to whether the question is in order.

Mr SPEAKER -The question is in order. A member is entitled to ask questions, and a Minister is entitled to give answers, that relate to legislation before the House. That is what the Minister is doing, and that is what he was asked to do by the questioner.

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - This broadcasting council, which will have a consultative role, will be of great assistance to the Australian community and to the industry generally. The industry and the community will be better informed. The council will reduce the political involvement in the broadcasting system. That is desirable. That is the thrust of the Government's decision.

One of the changes to the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be that although the Commission of nine will remain the same there will be a requirement for each State to have at least one representative. Of the 9 members, two will have to be women. At present the Act requires that only one of the nine be a woman. Another change will be that the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be subject to an independent inquiry, perhaps every 5 years. It would be a good thing for the Commission and for the Australian nation if the community had the right from time to time to comment independently and, if necessary, to criticise the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This will not be a directive. The Commission will be free to act upon those comments and upon that inquiry as it sees fit.

Of course the Department is working on the Green report. We have looked only at the structure. The Green report contains a number of recommendations. The Department is looking at some of those recommendations. There are meetings in the Department and with other departments on matters pertaining to and flowing from the Green report. I say to the honourable member for Bowman that no decision will be reached. I think he asked particularly about a meeting on FM scheduled for 2 December. I understand that there is to be a meeting. I assure the honourable member and everybody else that no decision on FM will be taken until the new year. It will be the subject of a separate submission to Cabinet.

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