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Tuesday, 24 February 1987
Page: 512

Senator COLSTON —On behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, I present an interim report on the amalgamation of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator COLSTON —by leave-I move:

That the report be adopted.

The interim report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts which I have tabled today sets out the Committee's interpretation of the reference from the Senate on the planned amalgamation of the ABC and the SBS. Honourable senators will recall that on 5 December 1986 the Senate asked the Committee `to report on the Government's reasons for proposing to amalgamate the ABC and the SBS'. A strict construction of the words of the reference might require the Committee merely to report to the Senate the reasons the Government has already outlined for the proposed amalgamation of the ABC and the SBS. I doubt, however, that this was the Senate's intention.

The Committee's reading of the speeches made during the second reading debate on the ABC/SBS Amalgamation Bill 1986 indicates that some honourable senators may have had in mind a wide-ranging inquiry. For example, there were references in these speeches to the concerns of ethnic communities and an implication that the Government had not given the real reasons for the amalgamation. The Committee does not support the idea of a wide-ranging inquiry. It does not believe that the terms of reference would justify such an approach. Moreover, a wide-ranging inquiry would necessarily cover much of the same ground as the Committee of Review of the Special Broadcasting Service, the so-called Connor report. Instead, the Committee has decided on the following interpretation of the reference:

The impact of the Government's proposed amalgamation of the ABC and the SBS, with regard to:

(a) financial savings;

(b) administrative arrangements; and

(c) possible advantages or otherwise of a single national broadcaster in Australia.

The Committee suggested that our approach would allow the Committee to consider the reasons given by the Government for its decision. This approach would also allow the Committee to inquire into factors affecting the proposal, such as terms and conditions of employment and transfer of assets.

The Committee recommends that the Senate should adopt this interpretation of the reference. Although the Committee has agreed unanimously to the interpretation I have described, it does not wish to commence public hearings on the reference until the Senate confirms that this interpretation accurately reflects its intentions. The Committee, therefore, has resolved to present this interim report to seek the Senate's endorsement of this approach to the inquiry. I commend the motion to the Senate and seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.