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Tuesday, 30 November 1976

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (WANNON, VICTORIA) (Prime Minister) -The Government is determined to guarantee the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to establish circumstances in which governments are less able to control what happens in broadcasting than has ever been the case in the past. Honourable gentlemen, I think, have not given adequate attention to the fact that the Broadcasting Tribunal will now be the final determinant of who does and does not get licences. In the past there has aways been the circumstance where the Australian Broadcasting Control Board made recommendations to the Government, but the Government had the final determination as to whether those recommendations were accepted or not. Under our proposals the Tribunal will have the final say in these matters and there will be no appeal to the Government as such.

So far as the Australian Broadcasting Commission is concerned, we believe that there ought to be a proper balance between the States. I find suggestions that some States are unable to provide people worthy to fill positions on the Commission as utterly offensive to those States. There will be a proper balance in these particular matters.

There is one other point I would like to mention. In our industrial relations policy we have emphasised time and time again that there ought to be permanent mechanism for consultation between the management and the people employed in a particular industry or operation. The legislation for discussion in the Parliament will contain a requirement that there be such a permanent mechanism in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This would open up avenues for consultation between the ABC and its own employees on a broad-ranging front and I would hope on a regular basis. I hope that that would be consultation not merely with one person but with a significant number of people so that of the people employed by the ABC all the different shades of opinion could be represented adequately on that particular body. I would hope that from time to time the whole Commission might well meet with such a body and that the meetings, at least with management of that body and the chairman of that body, would be on a regular basis. This is designed to establish a real and effective basis for consultation which will give weight and depth to the sort of things that ought to occur.

One of the things in which the Government has a very real degree of sympathy is that those on the producing end of the ABC, in the news broadcasts, the news rooms, on This Day Tonight, on State of the Nation and the drama programs- the producers and others who actually get the programs on the air- appear to be the ones who are taking the brunt of the cuts in relation to the ABC. People who have spoken to me on these particular matters have pointed to very large scale engineering staff, engineering divisions, which are preparing and designing certain equipment which they also tell me can be bought down the street on a ready-made commercial basis or at least from overseas but that the ABC has preferred to do these things for itself. The complaint from those on the sharp end has been that these particular areas in the ABC have not suffered any reductions in expenditure, that the administrative arm has protected itself and has taken it out on those who are producing the news services, the State of the Nation program and those producing the drama programs. So far as the Government is concerned we will be doing what we can to protect those who are producing the news services, the drama programs and the commentary programs. These are the people in whom the public are interested.

Mr Innes - How about a program on devaluation?

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