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Thursday, 14 November 1985
Page: 2206

Senator COLSTON(6.34) —This afternoon in Question Time I asked a question about the racing service provided by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Queensland. I must say that I was dissatisfied with the answer but I in no way reflect upon the Minister who answered the question, Senator Walsh. I do, however, reflect upon the advisers who provided the information for the Minister. I provided the Minister with the question beforehand, which gave the Minister and the Department of Communications the opportunity to obtain the answer before Question Time. It seems to me that someone in the Department or in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation itself is doing his best to snow anybody who asks questions about the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's radio racing service in Queensland.

The plain fact is that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Brisbane terminated the contract of Larry Pratt, who used to broadcast races from the various racing locations in Brisbane. Those broadcasts were sent out over the airwaves of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation not only to the metropolitan area but also to all regional areas of Queensland. For some reason, which I have not yet been able to determine-I have been given some reasons but I do not believe them-the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Queensland decided to terminate Larry Pratt's contract in relation to radio. I understand that he still does some television work for the Corporation. Since then the ABC in Queensland has not really had a racing service as such. I suppose that if one wanted to be pedantic one could say that it does have a racing service because it takes the broadcasts of the races around Brisbane from station 4BC and relays these to areas outside Brisbane. Within Brisbane there is no broadcast of the races themselves. I suppose one could say that the ABC does have a racing service because it provides a few tips in the morning and some results during the afternoon service, but it is not really a racing service as such. To be a proper racing service it would have to have its own broadcaster at the races. This afternoon I asked the following question:

Does regional Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio in Queensland broadcast a racing service which is relayed from a Brisbane commercial radio station?

The answer was no. That so astounded me that in Question Time this afternoon I asked one of the very few supplementary questions that I have asked in this place, just to make sure that I had heard correctly. The answer was:

. . . No, the ABC produces its own Saturday afternoon sporting program for regional areas of Queensland, which includes the ABC's own racing service.

Again, I am not reflecting on the Minister; I am reflecting on the person who provided the information for the Minister. I am not quite sure whether that person was trying to be too smart by half by saying that the sporting program includes the ABC's own racing service. It does not really; it includes a service which is provided by station 4BC. I asked:

Does the ABC have any concern that radio commercials are also sometimes relayed when the racing service is connected.

I referred to a report in the Sunday Sun of 10 November 1985. The answer I got was this:

The Sunday Sun of the 10 November was not specific. The ABC takes a `clean feed' . . . of the course broadcaster and does not relay the commercial station's program.

I tried to obtain some information about that this afternoon but, because it is fairly difficult to obtain that sort of information within a couple of hours, the information that I have is probably not comprehensive. However, I intend to follow the matter up tomorrow, and probably over the weekend, to find out what this clean feed is and whether a clean feed actually occurs. The information I was given this afternoon was that there could be an assumption that a clean feed was made, but it is impossible to have a clean feed. Exactly what that means I am not sure, but I will follow it up over the weekend. The information that was given to me this afternoon was that the ABC is channelling in on the 4BC program, which means that commercials will come over if there is a delay. It was implied in the answer this afternoon that the commercials do not come over the ABC because of this `clean feed', but information given to me this afternoon was that the commercials do come over when there is a delay. This afternoon I referred to the Sunday Sun of 10 November. I now refer to the Sunday-Mail. It is an indication that I did not read the Sunday-Mail very carefully last Sunday that I did not see, until this afternoon, this comment by Greg Atherton, who is a racing journalist for the Sunday-Mail, regarding country races:

Complaints continue unabated from country areas regarding the totally inadequate racing service being received through the ABC since the sacking of race-caller Larry Pratt.

Most object to the impersonal service being doled out by Aunty. But no real blame can be laid with the studio man at the ABC. After all, he depends on whatever 4BC provides as he has no direct link with the caller at the track to ask for information. However, every cloud has a silver lining. A number of commercials are sneaking over the ABC air waves, to the joy of the advertisers.

All I want to indicate this evening is that I am not satisfied with the answers that were given. However, I stress again that I do not put any blame at the foot of the Minister. I think honourable senators would understand what I mean by that. The Minister is given information from the Department through the Minister in the other place. What I am saying is that there are some people in the Department or in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation itself who are upset that questions are being asked about what is really a serious situation for many people in rural areas in Queensland. It is a serious situation for many people who are just outside the range of regional transmitters in some northern and southern parts of Brisbane who cannot pick up 4BC and cannot get anything over the ABC. It is a serious situation.

What I intend to do is to find out, over the weekend, more about the actual questions that I asked. If it seems that people in the Department of Communications or the ABC are deliberately trying to snow a senator in this place I shall raise the matter again. For those people in Communications and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who will obviously read the Hansard record of what I have had to say, I warn them that just because they have made a wrong decision in Queensland on some very dubious grounds they should not try to hide the facts of what is happening. I am a fairly persistent character and if I think that somebody is not providing me with the information I will keep digging until I am able to obtain it.