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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3105

Senator PETER RAE(11.50) —I wish to speak very briefly in relation to the Australian Film Commission's annual report for 1985, which, notwithstanding the fact that my esteemed friend, as I would like to call him, Phillip Adams, is its part time Chairman, has done something which I regard as a matter which ought to be brought to the attention of the Senate and questioned. I have taken a considerable interest over a large number of years in the question of accountability and the nature of reporting to the Parliament. The Commission has presented a report by way of video. I produce in the chamber a videotape which it has supplied, as I understand it, to all members of the Parliament as a report.

I am curious, for several reasons, as to why the Commission should have done this. First, I am curious as to why it should regard the videotape as being a report which I could interpret. I do not happen to be one of those who possess a videotape player in their homes. In my experience, those who apply for legal aid tend to have one, but I know that a large number of other people do not have one. That might be regarded as a supercilious remark and, if so, I withdraw it. All I mean is that it is not something which is available in the home of every member of this chamber or of every member of this Parliament. The idea that a report should be made to the Parliament and to the people of Australia by way of a video presentation seems to me to indicate a quite obnoxious assumption that people have the necessary facilities. These facilities are obvoiusly appropriate and relevant to the Australian Film Commission but they are not available to a large percentage of Australians, and to them this form of report is inopportune.

I was curious also about the cost of that form of report. We are used to having reports printed in colour and sometimes in exotic colour. Certainly the Australian Film Commission, as one might expect, has indulged in exotic colour in the presentation of its fiscal printed report. I have no objection to that, but I wonder what the cost of the video presentation is. I asked some people who may have some idea about the cost. They told me that the cost of a similar video which was produced as a training video for people employed to perform commercial roles was between $35,000 and $38,000. I do not know what the cost of this video was but apparently it has been distributed to every member of the Parliament and to goodness knows how many other people as an annual report.

Senator Puplick —It is actually a 10-year report.

Senator PETER RAE —The interjection is that it is actually a 10-year report. I divide the cost by 10 and still ask whether it is warranted as a method of presenting a report when, apart from anything else, I personally, unless I queue up in the Senate party room and manage to get the use of the video machine there or go to one of my local television stations or something or other, will not be able to watch it. It does not mean a damn thing to me unless I do something like that. Quite frankly, it does not seem to me to be a way of reporting to the Parliament or to the people. After all, the report to the Parliament is a report to the people. I do not know how one translates what one has visually and auditiously accepted into a transmissible form. As I have said, notwithstanding my respect for the part time Chairman of the Commission, Phillip Adams-I quickly add that I have a very great respect for Phillip Adams--

Senator Gareth Evans —I don't think it is going to be reciprocated after tonight.

Senator PETER RAE —I thank Senator Evans. I was going to go on to ask him whether he would apply somewhat less extravagant means of reporting in the future. It is interesting that Senator Evans should have interjected. I was going to mention one other matter in the adjournment debate. Earlier today I had occasion to take exception to the fact that I had been misrepresented in relation to certain comments I made about the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission. I note that we still have an outstanding problem in relation to CSL which neither Senator Evans nor I have concluded. It just so happen that I have the information with me. I will refer to it briefly. It is an article in the Bulletin entitled: `How bureaucratic venom threatens your life'. The article states:

Last week a new anti-venom saved the life of a boy bitten by a funnel-web spider. Yet a bureaucratic war in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories means that only a few doeses are left to save spider victims-and that research has virtually ground to a halt.

I simply raise this question: When will we resolve how we deal with problems such as that? When will we resolve the problem about which I know-I say this, in no way provocatively-Senator Evans and I are genuinely concerned? Earlier today I spoke about certain aspects of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I speak now about another one, and that is: How will we resolve the problems that arise in relation to the difference between commerciality and the need for research development, as exemplified in that instance?

I have raised two matters tonight. I will summarise them. Firstly, I have asked the Australian Film Commission to justify the cost of the video presentation of its annual report which I believe to be extravagant in the extreme and unrealistic in that it certainly will not get through to me and it is not likely to get through to a large number of other people. I have asked the Commission kindly to inform me whether I can return it so that it can be used for some other purpose. I have raised again the question of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and the problem of the reconciliation between research and administration.

Friday, 6 December 1985