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Friday, 18 August 1989
Page: 420

Senator BOSWELL —My question is directed to the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment and Territories.

Senator Robert Ray —And Tourism.

Senator BOSWELL —And Tourism-and propaganda. I refer the Minister to the Budget's 134 per cent increase in appropriations for his Department's information and advertising subprogram to $3.7m and the 30 per cent increase in appropriations for its corporate services and information subprogram to $23.5m. The purpose of these programs is euphemistically described as, inter alia, to ensure effective communication of government information to all Australians and efficient media liaison services to Parliament and associated agencies. What agencies will benefit from this massive increase in the amount to be spent on Government propaganda? What specific advertising campaigns does the Government envisage contributing to this expenditure blow-out? In what month or months has the Government projected the bulk of this additional expenditure occurring, and why?

Senator RICHARDSON —I am delighted to have the opportunity to explain something of the functions of the National Media Liaison Service and those bodies which have received some publicity in recent times. I can understand the concern of some members of the Opposition-not for the reasons stated by Senator Boswell but because in recent weeks all we have seen is a government body providing information. I would have thought that the citizens of Australia were entitled to the provision of information. It seems to me to be not only reasonable but essential that the citizens of this country are provided with a proper information service by the Government. More importantly, it is also important that as information is acquired around the nation it is communicated to the Government.

Senator Lewis —It is not providing it to the citizens; it is providing it to your Ministers.

Senator RICHARDSON —Senator Lewis has actually interjected here. I thought he might, because the one person who really suffered was Senator Lewis-not because the National Media Liaison Service did anything wrong but because he was silly enough to say that he would get interest rates down to 5 per cent. I know that if he were to stand up and turn around we would see the imprint of Mr Peacock's boot all over his bottom. And why not? We would see it because Senator Lewis made such a clown of himself. We cannot blame the National Media Liaison Service for the stupidity and disunity that exists amongst those on the other side. It was not the Service's fault that Senator Lewis made a clown of himself.

Senator Stone —The Australian Broadcasting Corporation doctored the tape. Did it report to you Rod Henshaw's retraction the next day?

Senator RICHARDSON —It was not the Service's fault that Dr Hewson and then Senator Stone, who is also interjecting, contradicted their leader.

Senator Stone —Can you answer the question?

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Stone, will you cease interjecting. I suggest that the Minister answer the question he was asked.

Senator RICHARDSON —Those are considerable problems for the Opposition, but certainly not for the Government or the Service. During the course of the next 12 months there will be, on occasions, times when the Government will have to allocate funds to campaigns. We do not always know in advance exactly what campaigns we will need. For example, if we had to monitor the take-up rate of social security programs and found that a take-up rate was low, it might be necessary for campaigns to be approved which might, hopefully, address that problem. From time to time there needs to be a contingency for such matters. I am more than happy for the Government's information activities to be under public scrutiny; they ought to be. But all of them will stand up to that scrutiny.