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Tuesday, 30 November 1976
Page: 2998

Mr YOUNG (Port Adelaide) - I rise tonight to place on the Hansard record a very disturbing development which has come to the notice of people throughout Australia in the past week. I am referring to the confirmed authenticity of a letter that passed between the Federal President of the Liberal Party, R. J. Southey, and the then Prime Minister of Australia, the right honourable member for Lowe, Mr William McMahon. I raise the question because the letter seems to reflect the mentality of the Liberal Party and its relationship with and its interpretation of the role of the Press and other media in Australia. I think it is an opportune time to reflect on what Mr Southey had to say in his letter, in view of the attacks that have been made on the trade unions involved in working for the media and the attacks that are now being undertaken by this Government on the Australian Broadcasting Commission-thc only link in the media throughout Australia that it cannot conclusively control. I should like to relate to the House the letter written by Mr Southey, the Federal President of the Liberal Party, prior to the 1972 general election to the then Prime Minister. It stated:

But may I direct attention to two or three things which at the moment seem to be particularly important?

The first is the attitude of the Press. I want to say that, after mature reflection, I do not believe that the individual journalists are going to improve. People like Allan Barnes are coldly determined to destroy us, and I do not think that, however well we perform, they are going to alter their tune very much. The Age is having a very destructive effect in Victoria, and is much more bilious than most of the other Australian newspapers which I see. Unless the Editor of the Age can be persuaded to alter the tune, their attitude will be increasingly serious. I am unable to find out how the Age really works internally. Are you? Am I correct in assuming that Graham Perkin really calls the tune, and that Ranald Macdonald is little more than the creature of Perkin? What influence has Warwick Fairfax? I wish I could be of some help to you here, but frankly I am a babe in that sort of jungle, and all I am really sure of is that whoever the real enemy ls in the Age, and I think it is probably Perkin, he must be brought into line or circumvented.

I am much less concerned about the Herald and the Sun, for the Herald is reasonably trustworthy, whilst Oakes of the Sun is less damaging than Barnes. I know that Henry Bolte has very strong links with the Herald, and I wonder whether you have spoken to Henry about this, or whether I ought to do so myself. In straightening out the Press, it is much more important that this should be done thoroughly, than that it Should be done in a hurry.

If ever there was a sick letter written in Australia, this is it. The mentality of the members of the Liberal and National Country Parties is demonstrated in their not being able to have a proper relationship with the Press. They stand in this House day after day and year after year defending what they call the freedom of the Press yet freedom of the Press turns out to be Press that can be stood over by the Liberal Party- Press that will only reflect the views and attitudes of the Liberal Party. When members of the Liberal Party cannot deal with the people involved they have to be, as Mr Southey says, circumvented. Their attitude is that they have to talk to the proprietors. We saw a classic example of this in 1975 when we saw the role that Rupert Murdoch played in supporting the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser. Again in 1972, as evidenced by Mr Southey 's letter to Mr McMahon, he was going to circumvent the late Mr Graham Perkin as editor of the Age to try to see whether the Age could be brought into line- whatever it meant by bringing the Age into line. It only adds to the suspicion from this side of the House about what is going on in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

What is the role of the Government in relation to the ABC? There can be no doubt that the attitude of the Liberal Party is that all the media in Australia must bow to the whims of the Liberal

Party; the media in Australia must only reflect the wishes and whims of the Liberal Party. That is exactly what is happening with the ABC. The thousands of people who assembled throughout Australia yesterday and today realised exactly what the Government is up to because they have seen demonstrated to them in this letter between the President of the Liberal Party and the Liberal Prime Minister of Australia what the Liberal Party really interpret as freedom of the Press. That same mentality exists today. That same relationship between the Liberal Party and the proprietors of the Press of Australia is still maintained. No more letters may come to our attention because the Liberal Party may have learned its lesson. But there can be no doubt that the relationship which existed prior to 1 972 will continue to be maintained.

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