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Wednesday, 30 August 1972
Page: 550

Senator HANNAN (Victoria) - It is gratifying indeed to note Senate Gairs substantial approval of the Budget. I share his disappointment that his larynx may have affected his eloquence. I wish him a speedy recovery from his indisposition and assure him that despite his ailment he has put a very sound view to the Senate tonight.

Senator Mulvihill - Are you, too, joining the DLP?

Senator HANNAN - I am often accused of it - without truth, of course. Like the whole population of Australia, I support this Budget. Lt is a Budget which has made major advances in social services, major reductions in taxation and it has entered into many fields of Australian life wherein governments have in the past rarely moved. It is not my intention to traverse in detail all the benefits which the Budget confers. But I shall make reference to a few of the matters. I think that the substantial increase in old age pensions of $1.75 coupled with the promise to abolish the means test within 3 years is a real breakthrough. How serious is this breakthrough is shown by the fact that Mr Whitlam, probably without the authority of his Federal Executive, has felt compelled to slash 3 years off the 6 years in which he had promised to abolish the means test.

One very important aspect of this matter is the fact that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has said that it will be abolished within 3 years. Of course, that does not mean that it will take 3 years to do it. If, as I would assume, we are successful at the forthcoming election I would not be at all surprised to see the means test go by the board very smartly. I approve of the increase in home savings grants, the new home nursing care scheme, the child care scheme, repatriation and general taxation remissions. Defence and immigration are to be maintained at their present high level. The immigration decision is particularly significant as being diametrically opposed to the ALP policy on population. The Government realises that to have a secure nation we need more people. This country of 13 million people has been estimated by various authorities to be capable of carrying between 50 million and 1 00 million people.

Senator Mulvihill - Do you say that in the face of mechanisation and automation?

Senator HANNAN - I will deal with the honourable senator in a minute. I just want to explain this point. We are to assist to increase our population by a sane, intelligent immigration policy which will maintain in essence the homogeneity of our population. At the discredited ALP Federal Conference at Launceston last year the Labor Premier of South Australia, Mr Mr Dunstan, recommended an Asian intake of approximately 27,000 a year. I do not know what some of the trade unions think of this figure or, for that matter, what the Australian electorate thinks. At the same time, the ALP Federal Conference resolved that it should persuade Australian women not to have more than 2 children - that it was selfish to do so. What arrant nonsense. The members of the ALP want to open the floodgates to foreign immigration and at the same time restrict our natural increase in population. They are talking drivelling nonsense about zero population growth, abortion on demand and so forth. I say that Labor's philosophy is the philosophy of a decadent and moribund political party, the policy which destroyed ancient Rome and if adopted would destroy modern Australia.

Of course, this leads quite naturally to the Labor Party's current preoccupation, that is, tinkering with the currency or revaluation. Mr Whitlam has announced that a Labor government would appreciate the dollar and at the same time implement reductions in tariffs. This is simply a formula for reducing the income of the man on the land, for reducing our receipts from exports from mining companies and - what is not generally appreciated by honourable senators opposite - for increasing unemployment in the factories in our cities. I note that Mr Wiltshire, President of the Australian Industries Development Association, said last week:

An upward revaluation of the dollar would largely negate the economic stimulation which the Budget is designed to provide . . .

Mr Wiltshirewent on to say:

The proponents for revaluation appear to overlook that the present level of unemployment is largely due to falling employment in manufacturing industry and a complementary falling off in employment growth in industries servicing manufacturing industry. The main purpose of the Budget is to step up demand, increasing the market for Australian production, and thus take up idle capacity and increase employment. This is the only way in which the present level of unemployment can be substantially reduced.

It is of very great significance and most important that we make known that the effect of revaluation will be felt not only in the primary industry sector of our economy. Mr Wiltshire continued:

Any Australian Government which in the present circumstances is misguided enough to revalue the Australian dollar and/or arbitrarily apply substantial tariff cuts will not see the steady reduction in unemployment that the Budget aims for . . .

I turn now to a matter of great significance in relation to the taxpayers' television service, namely, the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The ABC, more than the commercial channels, puts out wide ranging public affairs programmes. They are made possible by generous funds from the Australian taxpayers' pockets. It would be a most serious fault in this service if the programmes were unfair, biased or unbalanced. There is no doubt in my mind that ABC public and current affairs programmes are biased and unfair. I. hope to explain that statement to the Senate before I finish. I quote from portion of the Sydney Morning Herald' of 26th August. Even my friend, Senator Mulvihill, will concede that the 'Sydney Morning Herald' is not exactly in the pocket of the Government. Under the heading 'Not a Sacred Cow' the editorial states:

Once again, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is under fire, from political quarters, for its treatment of current affairs, particularly on television . . . The latest hue and cry has been raised by Sir Alan Hulme. His suggestion that members of the Commission should preview programme material is hardly practical. That is the function of management.

I interpolate here to say that the management of the ABC is merely the executive to carry out the will of the Commissioners and I want to make it abundantly clear that my complaint is not directed at the top management of the ABC. The newspaper editorial continues:

He is, however, perfectly justified in complaining of bias, political and otherwise, on programmes such as 'This Day Tonight'. Here he has been joined by Mr McMahon . . .

Senator Mulvihill - Your Prime Minister refuses to go on.


Senator HANNAN -I do not know why this should disturb the honourable senator so much. I continue: . . and, more tentatively, by Mr Anthony. Sir Charles Moses, who as a former ABC general manager can speak with authority, freely concedes the danger of'young people with missionary zeal finding it difficult to resist pushing their particular barrow*. It is more than a danger; it has happened repeatedly over a long period. Not for nothing, and not altogether unfairly, has 'This Day Tonight' been rechristened 'Hawke's Half Hour' or Today's Distortion Tonight'.

Too often, with the use of bullying tactics in interviews, it has been grossly partisan and biased. It should be made plain to these 'young people' that they are paid out of taxpayers' pockets and that (hey are not being paid to air their own callow prejudices.

The paper continues -

One commissioner feels that the constant criticism is having a'pretty devastating effect on the morale of oar people'. For this they deserve no sympathy at all. Some of them should stop behaving like hysterical ninnies and treating all criticism as self evident heresy. If they are such sensitive plants that they cannot take criticism as well as handit out they should get out of the current affairs' field. The ABC is not a sacred cow and should never be treated as one'.

I thinkit is important in this context to point out some answers given by Sir Robert Madgwick, the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, during a hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts on 6th June 1972. The evidence taken is contained in the Hansard report. I would like to read to the Senate from the Hansard report some of the questions I asked Sir Robert and the answers that he gave. They are as follows:

Senator HANNAN - Did I understand you to say, Sir Robert, that there was no parliamentary control of programme content?

Sir RobertMadgwick ; This is right.

Senator HANNAN - So you have an entirely free band in all public affairs matters which you transmit?

Sir RobertMadgwick ; That is right , yes.

Senator HANNAN - You are under no direction from the Government or the Opposition?

Sir Robert Madgwick ; No

Senator HANNAN - Pressure from either side?

Sir Robert Madgwick ; No

Senator HANNAN - I take it from your introductory statement that you are a strong protaganist of the independence of the ABC?

Sir RobertMadgwick; That is right.

Senator HANNAN - You would agree perhaps with Sir James Darling who was a distinguished predecessor of yours when he said that the ABC has only the right to independence if it is impartial?

Sir RobertMadgwick; I think so , yes. But I would go further than that.

Later on the same occasion Sir Robert - and I want honourable senators opposite to take particular note of this - said:

I have never said that the ABC programmes have always in my opinion been impartial. What 1 have said and what I believe to be true is that they never set out consciously not to be. When I say that I have never claimed that in my opinion they are always unbiased or impartial I do underline, if I may, the interpolation of the 3 words 'in my opinion' because these judgments are and must be subjective.

We have here an admission on oath - I repeat on oath - from Sir Robert Madgwick that for whatever reason, he does not claim that his programmes are always impartial or free from bias. This is a claim which has been made even by my distinguished friend opposite, Senator Douglas McClelland, who is one of my favourite television performers.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I never said that.

Senator HANNAN - Oh, yes you did senator. I can recall your discussion with the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) in another place. Whilst Mr Jess pointed out that there was distinct bias in the Yugoslav programme which has preceded his segment you yourself felt that the whole thing was free from bias and impartial. So here we have the situation. For some reason which completely escapes me, honourable senators opposite seem to object to the American fairness doctrine.

Senator Mulvihill - But you do not understand - -

Senator HANNAN - I think that when it comes to broadcasting and television that I understand a little more than the honourable senator.

It is no wonder that the PostmasterGeneral complained. He would have been lacking in his duty to the nation if he had not. On 4th June 1971 - over a year ago - that distinguished democrat, Mr Whitlam, spoke to the ABC Staff Association. As reported in the 'Canberra Times' of the following day Mr Whitlam said inter alia - and I will not quote the whole article because it was a long speech:

I confess there is an authoritarian streak in my party as strong as exists among my opponents. I know better than anybody, because if you examine it, all my battles within the Party have been against authoritarianism and intolerance.

Just to show how tolerant he was, Mr Whitlam is reported as follows:

He strongly disputed the requirement put on the ABC that it should attempt to provide 'balance' in its programmes.

In my view it is not surprising that Mr Whitlam's disciples in the ABC have taken their master at his word. Balance is obviously the last thing they worry about.

One of the interesting aspects of discussions over the last fortnight has been the fact that whereas certain newspapers were making the claim that the ABC's public affairs programmes were as pure as the driven snow, they have now discovered that they contain not only a modicum of bias but substantial slant. They have now decided - that is, those organs to which I have referred - that it was inevitable, that the Government just had to be criticised. Whilst I object strongly to political censorship from either side, all that I argue for is a fair go.

Senator Mulvihill - Did you ever worry when-

Senator HANNAN - That may be contrary to the political philosophy of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.

Senator Mulvihill - Who is the democrat now?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Byrne) - Order! Senator Mulvihill, kindly let Senator Hannan continue.

Senator HANNAN - This, Mr Acting Deputy President, is consonant with Senator Mulvihill's philosophy since obviously he does not believe in the freedom of speech. He does not believe that we should get a fair go on the ABC. He believes that the present slanted, biased and distorted programmes pedalling his wretched political philosophy should be continued.

I want to return to the fact that even one of the ABC Commissioners - Commissioner Richardson - who rushed in to defend his brood had to concede:

It does not surprise me that current affairs staff producing programmes 5 days a week under constant pressure are sometimes a little off balance.

This must rank as the understatement of the century. This matter could well perhaps have failed to receive the examination which it has received if it had not been for the courage of one of the ABC Commissioners. I refer to a report of Mr James Tehan which appeared in the 'Sun' on 18th August 1972. In part the report stated:

A Victorian member in the Australian Broadcasting Commission yesterday criticised a small minority of the ABC current affairs staff.

Mr JamesTehan, 66, a commissioner since last year, said this minority pushed a consistent idealogical line on their programmes.

In a statement Mr Tehan, a grazier near Mansfield, said it was with great reluctance that he entered the dispute.

I do so because the chairman and one other member of the commission may by their published statements have created the impression that their views represent the majority opinion of the commission.

So much so, that should I remain silent my own position could be seriously misrepresented.' (Quorum formed.) 1 return to my quotation from Mr Tehan:

Let me make this clear: No one has called into question the policy being implemented by the senior management of the ABC, in particular by the general manager.

The issue, I fear, has been clouded. "The Minister has not criticised the general manager, rather has he criticised those employees who should be subject to the general manager but who have attempted to supersede his rights.

Let me emphasise that the vast majority of our employees are perfectly loyal and understand both the rights and responsibilities which flow from the autonomy of the ABC

A small minority in current affairs have by their actions caused great criticism of the commission and have been unfair to their own colleagues through their persistent ideological line.

It is misleading for any member of the commission to create an impression that there is unanimous support for these people.

All that the Government has ever asked for is a fair go, an application of what the Americans call, under the Federal Communications Commission, the implementation of the fairness doctrine. This simply means that where one side of a public controversy has been put the other side must also be put. This is not always easy. I concede that there are difficulties. It does not mean that the balance must be achieved on the same session, but it should be within a reasonable time. It certainly does not mean what one of the sillier columnists of the Melbourne 'Age', a certain Pinkney, put recently, that every controversial statement has immediately to be rebutted.

In support of my proposition that the ABC is running a particular line in its current affairs programmes, I turn to an address given by Mr Gerald Stone, senior reporter of the ABC's programme 'This Day Tonight', when addressing a seminar of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom on 27th May 1971. I do not propose to quote his remarks in toto because his address was longer than one of Senator Mulvihill's adjournment speeches. I propose to pick out sentences from his address. I am quite prepared to table the document, but because of its length I can refer only to particular paragraphs in the course of my remarks. He said:

In that time, the programme has had a considerable Impact on Australian society.

That is true. It has an excellent format and it is well produced. It is the bias to which 1 take exception. With the same modesty which characterises journalists everywhere Mr Stone went on to say while talking about the success of the programme: we have working for us some of the most talented, intelligent journalists in any news organisation in the country. Not the so called pretty boys of previous years in broadcasting - the ones with the big, dramatic voices and the empty minds - but experienced professional journalists

A little later in his address, referring to Mr Ormsby Wilkins, a well known Melbourne commentator, he said:

Mr OrmsbyWilkins, for example, has said that our programme is cleverly produced to push a left-wing line . . . We are broadcasting over a publicly owned network-

That is the burden of my song, that he has no right to editorialise - in a highly sensitive area of communications. We have the potential to do a great deal of damage, as well as a great deal of good. People of a set political or moral persuasion have a right - and perhaps even a duty - to look at us closely to judge whether we are giving a fair portrayal of causes and events.

That is just what I am asking the Senate to do tonight in respect of the programme This Day Tonight'. Mr Stone continued: . . one of the main requirements of a TDT reporter is that he not only be competent at his on-camera work, but that he be able to contribute ideas and criticism.

Translating this into action, it means that he must be able to think up some knocking ideas. Mr Stone continued:

The standards we use for selecting our material are basically the same as in any editorial unit. Our judgments are made within the framework of 3 broad values: First, our concept of the mandate handed to us by the ABC management in setting up the programme; secondly, our concept of our audience, its tastes and range of interests; third, our concept of journalistic integrity - of the duty to report matters of public importance and urgency regardless of any apparent conflict with the other 2 factors 1 have just mentioned.

In other words, Stone is going to tun and show exactly as he likes. Later in the same speech he said:

A little while ago I assured you that This Day Tonight does not set out to propagandise for any political party or movement. I'm afraid I can't be as emphatic in talking about our approach to particular causes or issues. Anyone who has viewed our programme over the years will know that we have tended to emphasise certain stories: censorship, the treatment of Aborigines and attitudes towards colour, deficiencies of social welfare, dissent and the conflict between civil liberties and the needs of the state.

I do not think it is necessary to pursue Stone's address very much further because what 1 have quoted is a complete admission that the programme editorialises. Towards the end of his speech he said:

Trying to look as objectively as possible at myself and my colleagues, I would say that any individual bias we might have influencing our programme decisions shows itself in 3 basic assumptions.

I ask the Senate to note these extraordinary assumptions, and why a Canadian should make them I do not know. He said:

We, as Australians, are not as free as we should be. We are not as well off as we think we are. We are not as good to each other and to outsiders as we claim to be.

This strikes me as being a pretty rotten philosophy on which to base a programme on current affairs.

My time is running out, but I do want to make a passing reference to the work of Mr George Shipp, a lecturer in the School of Political Science at the University of New South Wales. The circumstances in which he prepared the article from which I propose to quote included the fact that he was the first speaker to comment on the address made by Mr Gerald Stone. I have not time to read the whole article which appeared in the May- June 1971 issue of Quadrant'. Shipp announced that he proposed scientifically to analyse a continuous series of segments of the TDT programme to ascertain whether there was any observable bias. He did not say whether there was any, but it was his purpose to find out whether there was any. Later in this chamber I hope to deal with Shipp's points in detail, but for the time being I propose to refer with precision and accuracy to the things that happened to Shipp once he announced that he intended to make this inquiry. Shipp said at page 33 of the issue of 'Quadrant' to which I have referred:

The attempts to dissuade me from proceeding wilh the project made before I gave the talk on which this article is based are mild when compared to what followed. The attacks then made displayed a degree of fury, malice, unscrupulousness and disregard for the truth which allow only one interpretation: they were designed to intimidate me -

What do honourable senators opposite say about that? He continued: into abandoning the project, to destroy my reputation and fitness as an academic, to question my competence and personal integrity, and to prepare the way for attacking the findings of the research should they, as the attackers knew or feared, be harmful to their ideological and political interests. An incidental consequence (if not purpose) of the viciousness of the reaction was to dissuade those who may have been aware of the falseness of the charges from entering the controversy . . .

This is the point that I want to make: Shipp is a scientific university investigator. He announced no bias. He did not know whether there was any bias in the programme, but when he set out to ascertain by scientific investigation whether there was any he received this stream of abuse and there was an attempt to prevent him from carrying out his investigation. Why would anyone want to try to stop Shipp from making that observation? I think the Postmaster-General's complaints were completely and thoroughly justified. J revert to my original remarks for a moment to say that I think this is a thoroughly good Budget.

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