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Tuesday, 18 October 1983
Page: 1884

Mr DUFFY (Minister for Communications)(11.00) —I reply to the matters raised earlier this evening by the Leader of the National Party (Mr Anthony). I go back to where this matter began. I refer to a Press report which was in two Sunday newspapers, the Sunday Mail of 16 October and the Sunday Sun of 16 October. I think the Leader of the National Party has now cleared up the problems regarding the newspapers from which he quoted today. He was not clear as to which paper he was talking about. He has now clarified his position.

The matters which concern me relate particularly to the two reports. The Sunday Mail of 16 October reported:

The National Party is to protest against ABC news coverage of the state election.

The Party's move, with a call for the sacking of the Communications Minister, Mr Duffy-

The report stated further on:

National Party state director Mr Mike Evans said last night the Minister was guilty of 'unwarranted interference in the autonomy of the ABC'.

'A direction like that is so frightening it is getting back to the days of Hitler and Goebbels,' the National Party state director, Mr Mike Evans, said last night.

The Sunday Sun of 16 October stated:

The National Party wants the Federal Communications Minister sacked for directing the ABC to give the ALP move news cover.

We then move to Monday, 17 October, when the Daily Sun reported:

The National Party is seeking Crown Law advice on claims that the ALP breached the Criminal Code by inducing the ABC to give Labor a political advantage in news broadcasts.

Later on, that report stated:

Sir Robert--

referring to Sir Robert Sparkes, the National Party State President--

claimed the State A.L.P. had induced the Federal A.L.P. to direct the ABC news to give Labor 60 units of airtime and 40 units each to the Liberals and the Nationals.

As a result of those Press reports, the Leader of the National Party came into the chamber today and asked a question in relation to these matters.

I will clear up once and for all a couple of points. Those Press reports were known to me when the question was asked today. In fact I had read them. The allegations made in those Press reports can only be said to be totally baseless. I repeat what I said at Question Time today: Those allegations in fact represent disgraceful lies. No person--

Mr Anthony —But contact had been made.

Mr DUFFY —Would you just be quiet and listen? You have interrupted this chamber twice tonight without any good reason at all. No person whatsoever-I repeat, no person whatsoever-had spoken to me about anything remotely connected with this allegation until Monday, 17 October, when the Press reports to which I have referred were brought to my attention. I have made inquiries of my staff as I indicated to the right honourable gentleman at Question Time today. They have advised me that not one of them was asked by anyone-I would like the right honourable gentleman to listen to this-to request, direct or otherwise influence the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to change its current policy concerning the allocation of broadcasting time. They advised me that not one of them had spoken to the ABC on any matter connected in any way with the Queensland elections. Nothing can be clearer than that.

Tonight I came into this House and corrected an answer given to a supplementary question asked by the Leader of the National Party. I said this:

The Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Anthony), in a supplementary question without notice this afternoon, asked me whether it was true, as reported--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The Minister's time has expired. Is it the Minister's intention to use the second speaking period available to him, as no other Minister is rising?

Mr Duffy —Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I call the Minister for Communications.