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Rothmans national press photo awards opening of exhibition at national press club



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PRIME MINISTER

WEDNESDAY, 21 MAY, 1980

ROTHMANS NATIONAL PRESS PHOTO AWARDS OPENING OF EXHIBITION AT NATIONAL PRESS CLUB

It is a great pleasure to be with you at the National Press Club this evening. It's the last place one would expect Malcolm Fraser to be invited on his birthday.

This is a magnificent array of photographs - a magnificent display of Australian talent. I could not help but notice that it is graced - some may use another word - by so many pictures of myself. The judges of course have shown their ' usual perspicacity, by awarding a prize to a-photograph of Malcolm Fraser. Naturally, that was in the "happy news" section.

As you all know, it has been one of my chief aims in life to make as many people as possible happy. Particularly, I like to keep journalists happy.

I must apologise now for not being able to present the awards at your function earlier this .year - I remember with pleasure last year's, award night in Melbourne. I am disappointed that obligations overseas prevented me from being at your award ceremony this year.

Australia's press photographers have an enviable record. They certainly rank with the best in the world. Since the inception of the. world press photo contest, just three years ago, Australians have won three firsts, a second and two thirds

in that contest. That is an enviable record when one realises that most of the top world press photos usually depict very violent scenes. In Australia our press photographers generally

have to do with something less.

Fortunately, we enjoy a life relatively free from hijacks, hostages and racial riots. I notice however, that the "press photo of the year" shows a kind of violence that's somewhat foreign to Australia. The impact of the pictures has become '

paramount in shaping attitudes in the Twentieth Century. The ability of a still photograph to portray a complete, often moving situation places'greater emphasis on the photographer's ability to capture the feeling - the horror, the excitement

or the tragedy - of a moment.

Photographers have to be on the spot - where it is all happening - to capture that moment. For a politician who happens to close his eyes for that split second, at the wrong moment, that click can be immortal. More often than not it places him or her in

a dangerous situation. I have found that press photographers take that very much in their stride. . . . 1 2

Today's photographer of course is being revolutionised by new technology. It is no longer just a matter of pointing and shooting - the skills of your profession place you in the ranks of the artist. No-one can deny the place photography has made for itself as an art form.

Apart from the very evidence around us this evening, I am pleased to see that the importance of this exhibition has been recognised by the Arts Council of Australia. 240 of these great photographs have been duplicated and are to be

taken on tour through regional centres throughout Australia by the Arts Council. '

Such a tour will allow hundreds of thousands of Australians to appreciate what we see here tonight. As a politician, I ' would be the first to admit that newspapers play a crucial role in our society. Despite the appeal and speed of

"instant news" from radio and television, people still turn to newspapers for searching and complete analyses of events. This is a weighty responsibility.

The fair and untrammelled presentation of news in our society has always been paramount. It is important to our freedom for all of us to know what is happening without distortion or political censorship. For instance, I wonder how many of you have thought about how much the Soviet people know of their

Government's decision to invade Afghanistan.

We know! Our free press tells us. I do not think the same can be said of Pravda and Tass. An untrammelled press is the hallmark of a democratic society. It is one. of our most valued possessions. Such importance renders obligations on

those, such as yourselves, who capture the news, whether it be on film or in words.

You have obligations to be objective, fair and accurate - and when I'm uncharacteristically scowling - you have obligations to wait a second. It is encouraging to see companies such as Rothmans providing the incentive for the recognition

of your place in our society. I have much pleasure in declaring this wonderful exhibition open.. -

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