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Thursday, 24 August 1972
Page: 382

Senator HANNAN - I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster General. It refers to recent public announcements by Sir Robert Madgwick, Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, relative to bias in Australian current affairs programmes. Is it a fact that when giving sworn evidence on 6th June 1971 before the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, as recorded at page 224 of the transcript, Sir Robert said, inter alia:

I have never said that the ABC programmes have always in my opinion been impartial.

When speaking to the ABC Staff Association on 5th June 1971, as reported in the Canberra Times', did Mr Whitlam strongly dispute the requirement put on the ABC to provide balance in its programmes? In the same speech was Mr Whitlam reported as saying:

I confess there is an authoritarian streak in my Party as strong as exists among my opponents.

I know because all my battles within the Party have been directed against authoritarianism and intolerance.

Does this mean that an ALP Government would simply set the ABC current affairs programmes up as a pure organ of propaganda?

Senator GREENWOOD - I think that the Senate should be indebted to Senator Hannan for his exposure of facts which ought to have the widest currency. In the first place, I earlier confirmed that Sir Robert Madgwick did give evidence before one of the Senate standing committees. I recall seeing the remarks that Senator Hannan attributed to him, together with a lot of other statements which Sir Robert Madgwick made and which persons interest in the conduct of the Australian Broadcasting Commission would be well advised to read. As to the second part of the honourable senator's question as to whether Mr Whitlam had said the words attributed to him, my information, culled from the newspaper report, is that Mr Whitlam did say them. In my understanding, he said in a report in the 'Daily Telegraph' on 5th June 1971:

It would be dishonest for me to assert that the ABC would be free of criticism, free of pressure under a Labor government. I confess that there is an authoritarian streak in my own Party.

But what is so alarming is that although the staff of the ABC, over the past week or so have been critical of Sir Alan Hulme for saying far less than Mr Whitlam said, there was not one protest from the staff of the ABC against the statements which were made by Mr Whitlam. That very lack of balance, I think, gives absolute proof that there is a tendency for the staff to use the ABC to present an unbalanced viewpoint. In fact, there is more than a tendency. There is evidence of it.

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