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Wednesday, 14 August 1974
Page: 876

Senator GUILFOYLE (VICTORIA) - I noted with interest yesterday the comments of the Minister for the Media with regard to the treatment that he and his Department have received from the feature writers of the Melbourne 'Age'. In order to clarify the varied and general Press reports which have been made during the past few days, will the Minister advise, firstly, whether the reports that the Priorities Review Staff has recommended that policies for the control and licensing of radio should be in the hands of a ministerial committee is correct? If so, was this the reason that the Minister advised that grants could not be approved to assist public broadcasting? Secondly, were Press reports that the Department of the Media should not be given the authority to formulate policy for the introduction of FM broadcasting correct? Were the Press reports that the Government printing publishing and advertising services were to be removed from the Department of the Media correct? In the absence of definite statements from the Minister or from the Prime Minister, is it possible that conjecture could develop further as to the future functions of the Department of the Media?

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - It is true that early last June the Prime Minister and I had a discussion. Subsequently he wrote to me saying that he would refer all aspects of the expansion of the AM and FM spectrum bands to the Priorities Review Staff for consideration and in so doing he suggested that the Priorities Review Staff should report to the Government by 31 July. That report has now been made available to the Prime Minister, to the Minister for Overseas Trade, to me and probably also to my colleague the Postmaster-General. The Government will be giving consideration to all aspects of that report and eventually after Cabinet has determined the outcome of its deliberations an announcement will be made. So far as the second portion of the honourable senator's question is concerned- that relating to the Public -Broadcasting Association and my refusal to provide a grant of $30,000 to that Association for the purpose of developing a concept of public broadcasting- I can assure the honourable senator that my decision was in no way connected with or influenced by the Priorities Review Staff. The simple fact of the matter is that if the -honourable senator peruses the estimates for my Department she will see that no votes for grants are provided by the Treasury funds for my Department to make for that purpose.

In regard to the publications and advertising matter, the last matter to which the honourable senator alluded, I have seen reports suggesting that, as a result of a Cabinet decision, certain sections of my Department will be transferred to a proposed procurement commission. I can tell the honourable senator that the discussion by Cabinet of the Scott Committee's report- this was a Committee of inquiry set up to advise on the desirability and practicability of establishing a procurement commission- is far from complete. Until such time as a statement is made by the "relevant Minister, namely the Minister for -Manufacturing Industry, I certainly do not intend to comment further on this matter. However, I think that I can well and truly say that unlike the Liberal Party, which at the last election undertook, if elected to office, to abolish the Department of the Media, whilst there is a Labor government in office there certainly will always be a Department of the Media. It will be an effective Department of the Media, notwithstanding what the feature writers of the Melbourne 'Age' and some other journalists may have to say.

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