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Wednesday, 9 March 1977
Page: 68

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - If the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope were to say that God was dead, the very high offices that those 2 gentlemen hold would justify prominence in reporting their statement. If a man in the street were to say that God was dead, it would not be reported. I refer to the Australian Broadcasting Commission's news service last evening. Those who fortunately or unfortunately saw it would recall that the opening segment related to the visit to Canberra of the Queen. The matter I raise this evening is a protest. In a crowd of say 5000 to 7000 people, all but about 100 were there to display their affection and loyalty to our monarch. Some 50 per cent to 55 per cent of the ABC news segment last night relating to the Queen's visit to the national capital was dedicated to the activities of a group that represented between 1 per cent and 2 per cent of the actual crowd. The ABC on this occasion, as it has on previous occasions, has magnified the presence of larrikins and louts who I concede are entitled to an opinion. But it has magnified their presence far beyond the actual proportion that they represented at the gathering. If there be those who doubt the accuracy of my claim I ask them to read today's newspapers which reported their presence more in perspective than did the ABC.

I believe that the ABC should stand for at least 3 things: A for accuracy in reporting; B for balance in presentation; and C for consistency. Because one is a commission or one belongs to an organisation that is a commission it does not mean that that commission or organisation is given licence to behave recklessly and irresponsibly. The ABC is fortunate in that those who have the power to approve the finance that allows the Commission to function have little time to watch over its activities. Generally we have to rely on public reports and it is hard to judge secondhand information.

I recall my own efforts last year to make a judgment of a program called Late Line. I had a number of protests in respect of this program and I asked the ABC on 2 occasions to provide me with a transcript. That request was treated with complete and utter contempt. I would say that an auntie has a very special position in the hearts of all. An auntie can get away with much. But let me warn this nation's most careless aunt that if she is going to tamper with the truth she will create an enemy in me and others on this side of the House who will make her life less than pleasant.

Through the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley), who is at the table, I would urge that my request be conveyed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson); namely, that if the Minister did not see the program itself, he take steps to view the news segment last night and if he comes to the only conclusion he can- the one that I have reached that the program was reported without balance, without accuracy and without consistencyhe bring before him the commissioners of the ABC and warn them. The Minister should tell the commissioners that they have been charged with responsibilities and if they do not carry out those responsibilities as they should be carried out this Government will have no hesitation whatsoever in removing them and replacing them with people who will do the job properly, a job paid for by the public purse. He should tell them that the finance that they cringed and crawled to have increased in recent months will be curtailed to ensure that their activities are commensurate with the financial assistance they deserve. Frankly, the ABC made an unbalanced attack on a tradition and institution which is very, very dear to the great majority of Australians. I resent the unfair and unfactual way in which last night's coverage was presented.

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