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Tuesday, 23 April 1985
Page: 1361

Senator WALSH —Senator Sir John Carrick yesterday asked me a question in which he referred to a question he had asked me on 28 February in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Communications, Mr Duffy. I apologise for not having procured a reply before this. It is a fairly lengthy reply. I will read it if the honourable senator wishes; otherwise I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows-

The Minister for Communications has provided the following answer to the Honourable Senator's question:

On 27 February 1985 I announced that amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 (ABC Act) and associated legislation would be introduced as soon as possible to provide for a determination of service areas and related technical conditions for licensed broadcasters, the ABC and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

The introduction of the service area amendments will streamline and modernise existing legislation and enable it to cope with the demands for new and technologically advanced services.

While it is proposed to apply the service area concept to the SBS, no changes will be made to its operating provisions until the Government has made a decision on its future role.

The Committee of Review of the SBS reported to the Government on 31 December 1984. A number of recommendations contained in the Report would, if accepted, require changes in the present legislation. I will also be making a statement on this aspect when the Government has had an opportunity to consider the Report.

The Government intends to introduce amendments to the ABC Act during the Budget sittings which will invest the ABC with a greater degree of freedom in the exercise of its powers and functions under the legislation. Specifically, the amendments will empower the ABC to:

establish subsidy companies to undertake business activities appropriate to the activities of the ABC in association with private companies;

provide for the forfeiture of office of ABC employees on certain grounds consistent with the provisions of the Public Service Act; and

enable the ABC to employ staff as unattached officers consistent with the Public Service Act.

Amendments will also repeal the Minister for Communications' power to prohibit broadcasts as this is a power which is considered to be incompatible with the freedom of a democratic society in time of peace. The position of the staff elected Director on the ABC Board will also be formalised in time for future elections.