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Monday, 11 May 1987
Page: 2894

Mr SHARP —I direct my question to the Minister for Communications. Is the Minister aware of the concern expressed recently by both the Iranian and Russian governments about the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program The Dingo Principle? Have those governments expressed an intent to cut valuable trade between themselves and Australia as a result of that program? The Minister will know that Australia's combined trade with those countries is an immense $1,274.7m, representing 4 per cent of Australia's total export income during 1985-86. How much does that program cost the taxpayers of Australia? Is it true that its audience rating is pathetically low? Has the ABC done a cost-benefit analysis of The Dingo Principle? In the light of its poor ratings and potentially disastrous effects on the Australian economy, will the ABC axe it altogether and provide something that the viewing audience wants to watch?

Mr DUFFY —I thank the honourable member for Gilmore for his question. He has not been a member for the whole of the past four years, so I reiterate that programming is a matter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I have not sought to become involved in the issue; it would be wholly inappropriate for me to do so. I draw the attention of honourable members to some of the points that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Managing Director, Mr David Hill, made on 6 May. He said that the Corporation had not at that stage received a complaint from the Russian Embassy-he was referring to that particular episode of The Dingo Principle-and that while Press reports said that the Russian Embassy had protested to the Australian Government about the program, it needed to be understood that the ABC was completely independent from government in program matters. The interesting aspect is the final point made by the ABC's Managing Director-that it was completely independent from government in programming matters. That was probably clearly misunderstood, having regard to the last part of the honourable member's question. As I have said in this House on many occasions, on this sort of issue members of the public, members of this House, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition are entitled to complain about any program about which they are concerned. The point that I wish to make, which I have made over and over again-and it is a position from which I do not propose to shift under any circumstances-is that I have not contacted the ABC about this matter, and neither has anyone on my behalf, and I do not intend to do so.