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Monday, 23 March 1987
Page: 1284

Mr BARRY JONES (Minister for Science) —I claim to have been misrepresented and I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Madam SPEAKER —You have done it all in one; go ahead.

Mr BARRY JONES —On Friday 20 March I agreed to an interview by Channel 7 television news on the Government's price surveillance activities and the interview duly took place at lunchtime at the Woolworths supermarket at Manuka. The interview was shown on Channel 7 news Melbourne the same night and presumably in other cities as well. I indicated before the interview began that I needed to buy some cream for a painful skin condition. I was not aware that this was recorded and my search for the skin cream duly appeared on the television news that night. Channel 7 then proposed the following scenario: It would provide me $20 to buy food. I asked off camera for whom the food was intended and I was told I should buy food as if I were to feed myself in the unlikely event that I spend an entire weekend in Canberra.

Mr McGauran —You made a fool of yourself, Barry.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The Minister will continue. Honourable members on my left will be quiet.

Mr BARRY JONES —I did so and bought meat, vegetables, fruit juice and fruit amounting to $20.02 in all.

Mr McGauran —Have you still got the rash?

Mr BARRY JONES —The honourable member for Gippsland still suffers from nappy rash. A dropped nectarine duly appeared on the news as well. I later gave the food to Channel 7. The interview proper then began. In an interview lasting several minutes I made the following points: Firstly, that the interview was a highly contrived and artificial situation, and it was hard to see the point of it; secondly--

Opposition members interjecting-

Madam SPEAKER —Order! Those on my left will cease interjecting. I ask them to heed the Chair.

Mr BARRY JONES —That I never shopped in Canberra for my own food; thirdly, that--

Opposition members interjecting-

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The Minister would do well not to take any notice of the interjections.

Mr BARRY JONES —I want honourable members opposite to hear me-that my selection of food would not be typical of food purchases for a normal family; fourthly, that at my level of income, a $5 price variation would not be critical but it would be for people on--

Madam SPEAKER —Will the Minister get to the point? If those on my left ceased interjecting we might get there quicker.

Mr BARRY JONES —Fixed or low incomes, and it was to assist such people and to maintain equity and fairness in the context of the prices and incomes accord that emphasis be placed on price restraint. In the course of the interview I made a verbal fluff. I told the interviewer that I had made a mistake and asked to repeat my answer. This was done. When the program appeared none of my interview was shown, except for the material which I had fluffed and which appeared uncorrected.

Mr McGauran —Where have you been misrepresented?

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Gippsland is pushing it a bit. The Minister will get to the point of misrepresentation.

Mr BARRY JONES —As I was making my purchases, the interviewer's voice-over was heard to say that my purchases did not represent normal family needs and that, at my income level, I was insensitive to price fluctuations; thus my own complaints about the artificiality of the interview were turned against me to create an impression of cynical disregard for the poor. A brief comment by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) on my alleged failure in the prices area concluded the segment.

In my 25 years in and around television I have never been `Pilgered' in this way before. The material was edited so selectively as to misrepresent my position totally. The only element missing was a custard pie in the face. I am surprised that Channel 7 News left it out. I am seeking a tape of the material and will lay a formal complaint to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal over what I regard as an outrageous misrepresentation of my position and, I may say, a precedent that is not in the interests of any member of this House.