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J & U MEDIA RELEASE WARWICK SMITH M.P. Shadow Minister for Comrnunlcations

22 January 1992


Attached is a letter forwarded to Members of Parliament by the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters. It is in my view a most important letter in that it points out the absolute farce of the ads ban. As Campaign Director in the seat of Bass for the current State Election I can testify to the stupidity of the ads ban.

If you want to have a public meeting you cannot use radio to let people know that a public meeting is even on. Those who are in the remote parts of the electorate are denied the opportunity of hearing from candidates. Indeed what is the impact on the disabled impaired of hearing or sight.'?

These are all issues that have not been considered. Campaigning in January is difficult at the best of times but without access to the medium by which most people in the community receive their basic information it is made doubly difficult and in fact undermines the very fabric of our democracy.

The way in which the ABT has had to address the matter is a clear signal to the Government that the whole arrangement is a farce. We now have the ABT advising that ads in Victoria may impact on a local government election in New South Wales. Nothing could be more ludicrous and more constraining to

the democratic process. The threat of licence rejection by the ABT has meant that the television and radio stations have curtailed beyond what was ever expected their role in community affairs. Radio now is "neutered" as is television in making comment about election material.

To add to the confusion the type of ads that are to be run on television during the free period are very restrictive and are very sterile. The ability to reach people with information has been dramatically curtailed.

I predict that there will be a very high "no show" on Election Day in the Tasmanian State Election and also a very high informal vote. Surely this is the very worst thing that can happen in our democratic process.

The Keating suggestion that there ought to be a review of the legislation does not go far enough. It would be far better to totally reject the legislation. Is this bold new Prime Minister going to be any different to his predecessor or is it just going to be more of the same? He is leading us nowhere economically and by supporting the ads ban in the way that he is he is undermining the very fabric of the democratic process in Australia. Contact: 003 31 4322 (w)

003 83 8517 (h ) j c o m m o n w e a l t h