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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2535

Senator CHAPMAN (10.06 p.m.) —Here we have it. This press release was handed out in the dead of night tonight. It shows that we now have the `Australian Labor Party Broadcasting Corporation'. It is no longer the Australian Broadcasting Corporation; it is the `Labor Party Broadcasting Corporation'. With the now confirmed appointments of Mr Bannon and Ms Silver we have seen a blatant determination by this government to stack the board of the ABC.

  As Senator Alston said in moving this motion, which I second, there are now five out of the nine non-employed directors of the ABC with close links to the Labor movement. We have already got Les Hingley, the federal secretary of the Australian Bank Employees' Union and an executive member of the ACTU, on the board. We have former Labor pollster Rod Cameron. Tonight we have had Janine Walker, an industrial officer with the Queensland branch of the AWU, reappointed. Janine Walker is also a failed Labor Party candidate in addition to her union links. Tonight, in the last minutes of the parliamentary sitting, to avoid the parliamentary scrutiny of these appointments, we have the official announcement of the appointment of Mr Bannon and Ms Silver.

  What does the minister say about the appointments in this press release? He says that Mr Bannon will bring a strong background in government and community affairs to the ABC board. What a joke! He also says that Ms Silver has proven financial expertise and a comprehensive background in public sector administration and welfare issues. In the earlier debate on this issue we have seen only too clearly Mr Bannon's lack of expertise. He is the major figure in the collapse of the State Bank, which has cost South Australians $3 billion, and was hounded from office in disgrace.

  Ms Silver was a political apparatchik for the Labor Party in Western Australia and an adviser to the Burke Labor government, which was another government hounded from office in disgrace. These are the sorts of people that this government is putting on the board of the ABC.

   Who is the government dispensing with? The only person with any commercial or communications technology expertise—Mr Michael Terlet. In this press release there is not one mention of the stirling service that Mr Terlet has given to the board of the ABC. Because of this desperate need to stack the ABC board with Labor appointees, the government is too embarrassed to mention that it is sacking Mike Terlet, who is the only man who has any real capacity to contribute to that board. It is an absolute scandal and disgrace that this has happened.

  Contrary to what the minister said in his response to Senator Alston, this matter ought to be raised at this late hour because it is an urgent matter. This has occurred in the dead of night. We have been trying all day to find out whether these appointments would be officially announced today. At the last minute we find that a press release has been put out. We could not get hold of it for hours.

  The government is clearly trying to hide these appointments. It is trying to avoid debate—

Senator Alston —They're ashamed of them.

Senator CHAPMAN —As Senator Alston said, it is ashamed of them. It is trying to hide the appointments. It is trying to avoid any sort of debate about them in this parliament, and that is not good enough.

  Contrary to what the minister has said and contrary to what the Democrats have said, that is why we need to have a decent debate on the way in which the Labor Party is stacking the board of the ABC. We have five out of nine people on this board who have close Labor Party connections. These are the non-employee directors. When we take David Hill, a former senior adviser to Premier Wran, and someone who has close links with the Labor Party, we end up with six out of the nine board members who have close Labor Party connections.

  There is absolutely no doubt that in the future the people of Australia cannot regard the ABC as impartial and unbiased on the basis of the people who make up the board. These are the people who have the overall responsibility for the way in which the ABC operates. Importantly, they have responsibility for some $500 million of taxpayers' funds which are provided for the operation of the ABC.

  As I said earlier, Mr Bannon has demonstrated a complete lack of capacity in financial management when we consider the way in which he handled the finances of the state of South Australia. He was a key player in the failure of the State Bank. During his period in office he also demonstrated an incapacity to make hard decisions. What is he going to bring to the board in terms of providing any direction or any focus for the ABC, particularly in these times when it is heading into the high risk commercial areas such as pay TV, satellite television into Asia and all the rest of those issues that are currently before the board? It is extremely important that we debate this issue tonight; it cannot be pushed under the carpet. I believe that this motion ought to be carried.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I call Senator Kemp.

Senator Faulkner —What about the agreement? Two speakers? You liar!

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Faulkner, will you please withdraw that remark?

Senator Faulkner —Yes, I will