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Tuesday, 10 November 1964

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) . - Senator Cant has adverted, to a matter which he had already raised in the Senate. He has advanced no new argument to bolster his case. He has raked through incidents in relation to which the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been involved in some controversy and has advanced them in support of his case in regard to the " Four Corners " programme about the application of the death penalty in Western Australia. He referred to the Commission's programme on housing. Senator Sir William Spooner, who is in the chamber at this very moment, gave the lie direct to Senator Cant's accusation in that respect. I suggest that we cannot have a better refutation than that.

Senator Cantreferred to a programme dealing with the activities of the Returned Servicemen's League and said that Sir Charles Moses, the General Manager of the A.B.C. - as is his right within the powers of the Act - commented that the programme was not balanced. Tonight the honorable senator, in the climate of an imminent election campaign, has tried to whip up an argument about the " Four Corners " programme. Yesterday the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) was confronted in another place with a question on this programme and gave an answer which, I think, should resolve for all time any doubts on the subject that the honorable senator may have. Senator Cant said tonight that nothing has been done to assure the public that there is no substance in the proposition that there has been interference with the Commission in the control of the " Four Corners " programme.

I propose to read the precise words used by the Postmaster-General in his answer yesterday. He said -

I have tried to make it clear to the House in the past that neither the Government, nor I, as the responsible Minister, interferes with the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

That is the assurance that the honorable senator is seeking, given in the words of the

Postmaster-General, the Minister who is directly responsible. He continued -

The Commission is granted its authority and charter by the Broadcasting and Television Act, which was passed by this Parliament.

That is the point I made to Senator McClelland when I answered his question on this issue several days ago. The PostmasterGeneral then said -

I did inquire into the origin of the current con troversy and discovered that it arises from a question asked by a Labour member of the Western Australian Parliament who asked the Premier of Western Australia to make representations to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Premier of Western Australia promised to do so, but he merely sent to the Australian Broadcasting Commission the relevant issue of the Western Australian "Hansard".

That was the beginning of this matter, and the first I knew of it was when I read about itin the Press. In the same way, the first I knew of any staff adjustments by the Australian Broadcasting Commission was when I read about them in the Press.

It is the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to create, abolish or reclassify positions. As the responsible Minister, 1 have no intention of interfering with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and I hope that no other Minister or member of the House will interfere with it.

The Postmaster-General has given an unqualified assurance that he knew nothing about the controversy until he read of it in the Press. I ask, in all truth and conscience, what more can Senator Cant want? I must say to the honorable senator that this is not an occasion to try to create a political controversy. There is no basis for such an attempt. It is quite clear, as the PostmasterGeneral said, that the responsibilities and obligations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are laid down by an act of Parliament. The Commission is performing its functions in accordance with that act.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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