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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3213

Senator PETER RAE(10.15) — There are several matters in relation to which I wish to detain the Senate briefly. I can imagine the enthralment of a number of those who have been held back here on a Friday night to consider matters of great import to those who debated them. I wish to seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the answer given to me by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Button) in relation to why the Bureau of Industry Economics let a consultancy to the Australian National University for certain trade data. I mention that the Minister in his covering letter said; 'If you would care to have it incorporated in Hansard please advise me and I will arrange for this to be done'.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

Senator Rae asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce-Why the Bureau of Industry Economics let a consultancy to the Australian National University for certain trade data.

Senator Button-The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:

The Bureau of Industry Economics recently undertook a study of Australia's role as a supplier of goods into East Asian countries. The study covered the period 1970 to 1980, and relied on trade data for Australia and for each of the East Asian countries based on the United Nations standard international trade classification (SITC). These SITC classifications were altered around 1975. Australia and each of the East Asian countries modified their trade statistic classifications accordingly. This change in commodity classification caused a problem for the study, for in order to gain comparability over the decade 1970 to 1980, either:

post-1975 trade data for Australia and each of the East Asian countries had to be re-classified to correspond with the pre-1975 breakdown; or

the pre-1975 trade data had to be reclassified to correspond to the post-1975 SITC code.

The Bureau of Industry Economics explored this classification problem with both the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Trade. It was apparent that substantial computing resources would have to be devoted to accomplishing this task, and it was judged that, while the project was of considerable value, computing resources were not available.

The Bureau of Industry Economics then explored alternative means of obtaining these data. At the time, the Australian National University had just gained access to World Bank trade data. The World Bank has devoted substantial computing resources to converting post-1975 trade data for most countries in the world back to the pre-1975 SITC classification. For this reason, the Executive of the Bureau of Industry Economics decided an approach should be made to the Australian National University to assess whether it would be possible for the Bureau of Industry Economics to access that data bank. Agreement was reached and a consultancy was arranged.

Throughout this particular project, there has been much co-operation between officials of the Department of Trade, the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Bureau of Industry Economics. Some of the results were recently presented to a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which is enquiring into Australia and ASEAN relations. I table a copy of that presentation for interested Senators to consult.

It is probable that the Bureau of Industry Economics will again access the World Bank trade data bank available at the Australian National University for work that it is doing on the impact of North-East Asian developments on Australia. I am sure that Senator Rae will agree that this is an eminently sensible division of labour between one arm of the bureaucracy and the Australian National University. If comparable data had been available in the private sector, I am confident that the Bureau of Industry Economics would have considered quotations from that source alongside quotations from the Australian National University.

Senator PETER RAE —I thank the Senate. I am also in a position to express a degree of concern about a document called Ploughshares which is published under the name of Senator Jean Hearn, Australian Labor Party senator for Tasmania, and which makes some allegations which I regard as matters which require an answer one way or another. I will seek leave to table the document in due course. Page 4 of that document states:


The split was a result of a situation where National Civil Council elements had disrupted the work of the Labor Party to such an extent that, in Victoria at least, they could no longer remain within it. Their 'new' party, the DLP, was ideologically to the right even of the Liberal/ National Party Coalition, to whom they invariably gave their preferences. The opposed every aspect of Labor policy. They totally supported Australia's involvement in the Vietnam war and campaigned against a wide range of social issues, especially those relating to women.

The existence of the DLP kept Labor out of office for almost two decades. To refer to NCC adherents as being members of the labour movement is a travesty of the truth. Their sole remaining parliamentary representative, Brian Harradine, supports the ruling class even to the extent of legalising bottom-of-the-harbour tax-dodging schemes. All this is recent or present-day history, not a hangover from 30 years ago.

I seek leave to table the remainder of the document. I do so on the basis that I believe that either Senator Hearn should withdraw or Senator Harradine should take action in relation to the matter.

Leave granted.

Senator PETER RAE —I table the document.

Senator Georges —Are you objecting on behalf of Senator Harradine?

Senator PETER RAE —I am always looking after democracy. Let me talk about a further aspect of democracy. I have noted that recently an article has appeared in the Tasmanian Press, particularly on Wednesday, 13 June, in the Examiner, entitled 'Let me rejoin-McCoy'. In the Mercury newspaper of the same day a headline stated: 'McCoy applies for ALP membership'. I wish to read part of what was said. The Mercury states:

The man who said there would be blood on the streets during the Franklin River blockade and described the Labor Party as a group of 'greenies' has applied to join the Australian Labor Party. The former leader of the Organisation for Tasmanian Development-

the OTD as it was known-

Mr Kelvin McCoy, applied to join the party last week.

There are likely to be howls of protest from many ALP members because of remarks Mr McCoy made during the dams debate.

Members have 14 days to object to Mr McCoy gaining membership and objections will be heard by the ALP Rules Committee.

But already it seems unlikely Mr McCoy will be granted permission to join the party.

The State Secretary of the ALP, Mr Eugene Alexander, said there was a party rule that no person who had 'campaigned, worked or stood against a party candidate' could become a member of the party.

Mr McCoy was working last night and could not be contacted for comment on his application.

In the Examiner newspaper it was stated:

Mr Kelvin McCoy, one of the Labor Party's fiercest critics during the dams debate, has applied to rejoin the party.

Mr McCoy, was chairman of the pro-dam lobby group, the Organisation for Tasmanian Development which staunchly supported the State Liberal Party policy to build the Gordon-below-Franklin dam.

Labor party sources said yesterday his involvement in that campaign could lead to objections to his membership application.

Under the party's rules objections to his application must be made by June 22 by a branch or union.

If objections are lodged, the matter will be determined by the rules committee.

I would be most interested, having been the subject of a considerable amount of publicity generated by Mr McCoy who suggested that my endorsement should be withdrawn by the Liberal Party of Australia--

Senator McIntosh —Hear, hear!

Senator PETER RAE —The honourable senator may well say 'Hear, hear!', but there were a sufficient number of people in Tasmania who did not agree. Fortunately, as far as I, the Liberal Party and democracy are concerned, there was a sufficient number of people who did not agree with this gentleman, Mr McCoy, who campaigned under the guise of being the self-styled leader of the OTD, a semi- fascist organisation that tramped up and down the streets of Queenstown, Burnie, Hobart and Launceston, that goose-stepped its way around Tasmania. This gentleman who was a former member of the Australian Labor Party and who is now applying to rejoin the ALP, had the temerity to suggest that my endorsement as a Liberal senator should be withdrawn. Fortunately, the democratic vote was 19 to 7 the other way. I remained No. 1 on the Senate ticket as far as Tasmania was concerned, notwithstanding the efforts of Mr McCoy, the ex-Labor paid, subscribed member of the Organisation for Tasmanian Development, and a Mr John McKean who applied for endorsement against me, whose previous move in politics was to apply to the Labor Party for endorsement. Strangely enough, he found it desirable to campaign against me vigorously, publicly and openly. I can say with the greatest confidence that he did not receive a single solitary vote from the Liberal Party selection committee but he did gain a lot of publicity for his efforts. In any consideration that may be given to the application for readmission of the late lamented member of the Labor Party, Mr Kelvin McCoy, who visited Bulgaria and found that its trade union movement was the most democratic that he had struck outside Tasmania or something or the other, who has distinguished himself in many ways, perhaps without credit but certainly with notoriety, who chose to call for my removal from the Liberal Party Senate ticket I simply ask the Labor Party and Senator Grimes in particular as the senior Liberal from Tasmania, the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party--


Senator Grimes —Mr President, I ask you to ask the honourable senator to withdraw that statement.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I have drawn it to the attention of the honourable senator .

Senator PETER RAE —The insult to Senator Grimes was not intended, nor was the insult to the Liberal Party. I ask the senior socialist from Tasmania: Will he, when he is applying his consideration in this very senior position to this particular application, ask whether a condition could be imposed that the Organisation for Tasmanian Development be disbanded formally, that the funds which it may have raised be subscribed to some worthy cause-any that are left after Mr McCoy's activities-and that as a condition of his readmission to the ALP he accept that he behaved as a front group for the ALP which was designed to give an alternative participation to Labor voters and to entrap unwary Liberals and others into lending their support, financial or otherwise, to the extremist activities of that section of the Australian Labor Party? I hope that the Minister will consider that matter. If he does not, so be it.

I pass now to certain other matters which relate to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the circumstances of the appointment of people to positions of power in the Corporation. Since Senate Estimates Committee A considered the appropriations for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation I have been inundated with material. My filing system is almost incapable of dealing with the material which I have received from various people in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, as it is now called, and the details of the way in which various activities took place. I will start off by saying that it has been alleged to me-I know nothing of these matters but I raise them because this is the last night on which Parliament is sitting and I think it is important that they be raised and answered-that the board employed, in relation to the appointment of the managing director, outside consultants Stuart Spencer and Associates. They had no previous experience with regard to that type of employment and no previous experience with regard to the particular requirements for a person to be employed in the position of managing director of the ABC. The questions which it is suggested that I ask are: What was the total cost to the taxpayer to engage this consultant? What were the qualifications and experience of the consultants in broadcasting for the purpose of assessing broadcasting qualifications and experience of candidates. The answer to the second question is, as I understand it, that the consultant did not have any particular qualifications. The third question is: In the process of selection, did the consultant interview applicants by himself and form judgments without the normal benefit of an interview committee drawn from the ABC? As I understand it the answer to that question is that they were interviewed by the consultant alone. I also understand that the board delegated to the consultant the responsibility to select a short list and reject applicants without interview and that this rejection was unmonitored by the board.

I further understand the board did not take the responsibility of selecting the acceptable applicants under the terms of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act but rather that a sub-committee of the board was appointed to interview applicants on the short list, reject applicants and make a recommendation. The board did not know of or see the names of the applicants, other than those the Board's sub-committee interviewed, prior to the appointment. The appointment was made without reference to the board by the sub-committee on the Friday before a meeting of the board on the following Monday. I ask: Is it a fact that an offer was made and accepted before the full board met to make its formal decision? Is it also a fact that a member of the board interviewed the person who had been offered the appointment and who had accepted it before the board met to formalise the appointment and that the interview was conducted for ABC radio on the basis that the person had been appointed on the date of the interview which was before the full board met?

I understand the chain of events to be that interviews were conducted on the last Thursday and Friday of October 1983; that an offer of appointment and acceptance of such an offer was made on the Friday; a radio interview was conducted on the Friday or Saturday by a member of the board before the applicant went back to New Zealand. I further understand that the full board met on the Monday and Mr Myer made a statement before the full board met to the program AM. Yet the Australian Financial Review of 31 October said there was a statement to the effect that the Board would meet that day to make its final decision. I further understand that the appointment was announced on the afternoon on Monday, 31 October, after the full board meeting and that immediately after the announcement the interview with the successful applicant, which had been made before the full board meeting, was played on the ABC immediately following The World To-day program.

This is almost one of the most bizarre combinations of sequences of events that one could imagine. The general thrust of the questions which I ask involved the cost and the qualifications of the consultants and whether the board's legal right under the Act to give the responsibility to select a candidate to a non- board, non-ABC person and then for the board to fail deliberately to deal with all the applications is legal and legitimate under the law existing in Austrlaia at the moment. Apparently, the board has failed to answer the questions in relation to this matter and it has been referred to the Ombudsman. I understand that the Ombudsman has not yet responded to the matter which has been referred to him but is considering what action he intends to take. It is alleged to me that the reviewed board is now costing the ABC over $100,000 per month although the previous board cost about the same amount per annum. I am told further that the new chairman of the board, in the first six months of his chairmanship, has hardly ever been within the geographical extremities of Australia. He has been present for board meetings but otherwise the deputy chairman does most of the running of the operation. The chairman has apparently been out of Australia for 22 of the 26 weeks of his chairmanship. I ask: Who is really running the ABC?

The restructuring within the ABC has been done in a policy vacuum. It has been based on two articles of faith. One is that the new structure is better in some measurable way than the previous structure and the other is a strongly held belief within the ABC that the new structure will be immeasurably more expensive than the old. It is held that by causing disruptions to staff the new people will be substantially better at running the ABC than the existing staff. That is allegedly the belief of those who are restructuring the organisation that by causing disruptions to staff the new people, those who are able to take control, will be substantially better. Both of the questions which I have raised are open to serious investigation as to the validity of the articles of faith. I am told by many people-I emphasise this-that the amount of disharmony, the amount of distrust and the amount of discredit within the organisation of the ABC at the moment is a matter which is almost beyond belief and a matter which at this stage, late though it may be in the sitting of the Parliament, ought to be given an airing.

I ask Senator Grimes whether he will endeavour to obtain from his misinformed colleague, Mr Duffy-who regrettably, when asked a question some time ago by Ms McHugh, did not even manage to distinguish between Senator Peter Rae and the unanimous report of the Senate Estimates Committee A-some responses, and to publish some responses to the matters that I have raised which I believe are causing great concern, disharmony and disunity within the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to the detriment of the public function which it is there to perform.

Senator Grimes —I gather you don't like him.

Senator PETER RAE —I am not pointing a finger in any particular direction. I am responding to some of the complaints which I have received. The final one to which I am responding is that the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Industry and Commerce-whom the Minister for Social Security ( Senator Grimes) represents tonight-had a shot at me some time ago about the unlimited number of questions I had asked. I point out, as a final part of our happy proceedings in this autumn session of the Parliament, that I am still awaiting an answer to the question which I asked the Minister on notice on 6 March 1984. It was a relatively simple question about tractors and self- regulation, and I still cannot even get an answer to that question out of that man.

I thank the Senate for the opportunity to raise these points, all of which I believe are matters which are reasonably relevant when we are required to stay here on a Friday night, and matters which I would have liked to have raised on other occasions, but in deference to the Senate, to the staff and to Hansard and all of the rest of the people here, I have not. I therefore take the opportunity as I may be the penultimate speaker to say what has not been said. I thank those who have served the Senate well during the autumn session, the people who have helped the Parliament to operate successfully. I thank Hansard, the Senate staff and a whole cross-section of people. I add that there was one slight problem for a few days when we did not have much to eat, but I do not know that that did too much harm to us. I just add those words in concluding the proceedings of the autumn session of the Senate. Thank you, Mr President, for your patience. I thank the staff for what they have done. I thank Senator Grimes for the undertaking he gave by nodding his head that he would endeavour to obtain some answers to the matters which I have raised.