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Australian Democrat spokesperson on electoral matters comments on speculation that the ban on radio and television political advertising may be lifted

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: What exactly the Federal Government will try to do with the controversial ban on political radio and television political advertising remains unclear today. Prime Minister Keating says the ban will stay on for the Will's by-election but that the issue is under consideration. But the National President of the ALP, Stephen Loosely, says the Government is unlikely to radically review the ban, and the Minister for Administrative Services, the man responsible for the legislation, Nick Bolkus, insists that if there are adjustments to the legislation they'll only be minor.

The National Director of the Liberal Party, Andrew Robb, told the World Today, yesterday, that he expects the ban to be dropped, and today the Australian Democrats have backed that assessment. The Democrat spokesperson on electoral matters, Senator Cheryl Kernot, is speaking to Doug Weller in Canberra.

CHERYL KERNOT: I'm just making a political judgment on the fact that the Minister isn't saying anything, and Paul Keating has a good record of success in getting his own way lately; and I don't ever see him doing things spontaneously. I think this is orchestrated. This is the introductory phase and we'll see more.

DOUG WELLER: But the Minister continues to say that the ban will not be dropped, so why would that be the case?

CHERYL KERNOT: I hope he's right, but I think Paul Keating can sense that he'd like to get on with more of that gladiatorial confrontationist, head-kicking style of politics that he excels at. And I think he thinks that being muzzled by talking heads and free time is not his style and it won't assist their campaign. I think it's as brutal as that.

DOUG WELLER: Well, if the ban is dropped, what would the reaction be from the Australian Democrats? What would you people do?

CHERYL KERNOT: Well, obviously the Liberals would welcome the ban being dropped. I mean, I can see them foaming at the mouth in anticipation, already. If the Liberal Party votes with the Government, then there's nothing we can do except left with principles on our faces, which is what I've been saying, because there are two principles here. The first one is that money shouldn't buy government, and the second one is that there should be full disclosure of all political donations. Neither of those principles has changed since Paul Keating became Prime Minister. What I'm looking forward to is seeing the Chris Schachts, the John Falkners and the Michael Beahans of this world stand up in Parliament and argue the opposite case.

DOUG WELLER: You say you think there will be a change to this ad ban; do you think there will also be changes to the disclosure of political donations?

CHERYL KERNOT: I can't see why there ought to be, except for a few bureaucratic bugs to protect volunteers at their sort of branch level of parties. Certainly, we're looking at that. I had a successful amendment for a review of the whole legislation after two federal elections. It's hardly had a fair trial so far.

DOUG WELLER: But you say you can't see why there should be, but what if there is? Do you expect that?

CHERYL KERNOT: Not at this stage I don't.

DOUG WELLER: Why not?

CHERYL KERNOT: Oh, I think the Labor Party is committed to full disclosure. I don't know whether the fact that corporate donations are down by 50 per cent for both the Labor and the Liberal Party has got anything to do with this or not; it's a bit suspicious.

DOUG WELLER: Yes, both the ALP and the Liberal Party claim that donations are way down. What's the situation with the Democrats?

CHERYL KERNOT: Well, we never get any money anyway, so they're not down at all.

DOUG WELLER: So it doesn't concern you at all?

CHERYL KERNOT: Well, the principle concerns me, but if people are afraid to have publicised where they're giving money to, so that the public can't make judgments about whether there are any favours involved, then I think, you know, we're going 10 years backwards there. I would be really surprised if we don't hold to the disclosure provisions. Dr Hewson's made a big deal out of this, although he's said it has to be full, fair and equitable disclosure, which to the Liberal party means getting at the trade unions.

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: Democrat Senator, Cheryl Kernot.