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Tuesday, 7 December 1976
Page: 3409

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - Mr Deputy Chairman,I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the Committee if I moved both amendments together.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-Is that course agreeable? There being no objection, that course will be followed.

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) -I move:

Omit proposed section 111c.

At the end of proposed section111e add the following sub-section: " ' (9) Nothing in this section empowers the Secretary to make orders or give directions relating to matters of program content. ".

The first amendment omits from the Bill proposed section 1 1 lc which enabled, with the approval of the Treasurer, moneys to be appropriated by the Parliament for financial assistance to commercial broadcasting. This was drafted in the Bill. There is no real need for it. My understanding is that no Minister of the previous Administration or of previous Liberal-Country Party administrations acted upon it. Apparently it was an old provision which would have enabled the Government to give specific assistance to small rural stations. As honourable members would know, there is within the Parliament an opportunity to appropriate funds for specific purposes should the need arise. Therefore I have moved the amendment to omit the proposed section.

The second amendment adds a proposed section 1 11e. It is designed to be quite specific because, with the planning coming back to the Department, there is concern that power could be used by a secretary and, indirectly, by a Minister. We have disbanded the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The quasi-judicial powers for licensing have gone to the new Tribunal. Planning, which is akin to policy, has come back to the Department. To make it perfectly clear that secretaries of the Department and Ministers do not interfere with the day-to-day program content of commercial broadcasters, we seek to add the new section. Nothing in it empowers a secretary to make orders or to give directions relating to matters of program content. I think that ought to be acceptable to the Opposition because it makes perfectly clear that there will be no political interference by secretaries or Ministers in commercial broadcasting.

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