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More pressure on ABC chairman to conduct urgent enquiry



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MEDIA RELEASE

THE SENATE

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S E N A T O R T O N Y M E S S N ER SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS 8/88

MORE PRESSURE O N ABC CHAIRMAN TO CONDUCT URGENT ENQUIRY

Allegations about political interference in the management of the ABC will not rest until an urgent enquiry is undertaken.

Senator Tony Messner, Shadow Minister for Communications, said that he has now written to Mr Somervaille, Chairman of the ABC/ to conduct a detailed enquiry into the serious allegations that have been made about political censorship and interference in the running of the ABC.

"The Opposition will not rest until the matter of political intervention in the management and day-to-day running of the ABC has been settled.

"The Prime Minister has been notable by his silence since these issues arose this week, raising real doubts about his involvement in ABC staffing and programming decisions.

"The longer the Prime Minister tries to ignore the issue, the greater will be the suspicion that these allegations have substance.

The seriousness of the allegations deserves a prompt and full enquiry, leading to a report that should be made available to the public.

"Only then can the lingering smell of political censorship of some ABC activities be stamped out", Senator Messner said.

"Attached is a copy of the letter I have written to Mr Somervaille.

14 JANUARY 1988 ENQUIRIESΪ SENATOR TONY MESSNER (08) 213 2240 (w) V (08) 272 8085 (h)

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PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA - T H E S E N A T E

S E N A TO R T H E H O N . A,J, MESSNER SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Parliament House

Canberra, A.C.T. 2 6 0 0

Tel.: (0 6 2 ) 72 7111

Adelaide, S A . 5 0 0 0

Tel.: (0 8 ) 213 2 2 4 0

Facs: (0 8 ) 212 7777

Commonwealth Parliament Offices

100 King William Street

14 January 1988

Mr R Somervaille Australian Broadcasting Corporation GPO Box 9994 SYDNEY NSW 2001

Dear Mr Somervaille,

I refer to recent publicity concerning allegations of political and high level managerial interference within the ABC. For the record, I list the more serious of these allegations below:-the decision of senior management to override

an earlier decision to employ journalist Wendy Bacon;

the Alan Ramsey story as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 6 December 1987, which alleged that you had been told by the the Prime Minister that "we don’t fund the ABC to do programs on Peter Abeles", with the implied

suggestion that you, as Chairman of the ABC, should exert pressure to have the Four Corners program desist in its intention to present a program on the business activities of Sir Peter Abeles; and

the article by Jonathon West appearing in the Melbourne Herald of 11 January 1988, reporting comments by a former ABC executive producer, Mr John Beeston, which claimed that he had been instructed not to use tapes of

a speech delivered by Mr Paul Keating at a recent National Gallery occasion which was thought to be embarrassing to the Treasurer.

In the course of the last few weeks, these matters have been raised within the Parliament, and publicly by Members of Parliament, including myself as the official Opposition spokesman on ABC matters. The thrust of my statements has been to call upon you to initiate

an enquiry into the reports of these allegations.

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Without a detailed enquiry at the highest level, I believe that a significant degree of mistrust and disrespect for the ABC will remain in the general community and within the ABC, In the best interests of the ABC and the public, serious allegations of political interference in the management and day-to-day operations of the ABC cannot go unanswered. As you will appreciate, the

independence and integrity of the ABC should not only be beyond reproach, it should also be seen to be beyond reproach.

Until such time as an enquiry is undertaken, further allegations of political repression and censorship of information within the ABC will undoubtedly continue, I, and the Opposition as a whole,

believe that all allegations concerning political intervention in the ABC should be investigated, in particular, those outlined above, and a report issued in relation to the findings as soon as possible. Only then can the lingering smell of political censorship be stamped out.

Yours sincerely,