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Monday, 30 August 1993
Page: 472

Senator BOSWELL —My question is addressed to the Minister for Transport and Communications. In view of the government's involvement in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation—that is, it appoints the ABC board—has the minister or the ABC management received any complaints about the presenter of the ABC's 7.30 Report, Pamela Bornhorst? Why was it so urgent that Ms Pamela Bornhorst be sacked when her contract was due for renewal in only a couple of months time? Why was it so important that the issue could not have been left to the local management, instead of the national director, Philip Chubb, and the general manager, David Hill, having to fly to Brisbane to do the task? Did the fact that the Queensland Premier and a number of state ministers were refusing to appear on the program have any bearing on her sacking?

Senator COLLINS —As I have said in response to a number of similar questions over the years, staffing arrangements of the ABC are a matter for the management of the ABC, and that is the way it will remain. I am certainly happy to inquire about this specific issue for Senator Boswell and provide him with whatever advice I can. But it is certainly a matter for ABC management to determine the disposition of its staff.

  As far as the last part of the question about the refusal of various ministers to appear on the program is concerned, I have no knowledge of that, although I would have to say from my own experience in the Northern Territory that the refusal of ministers to appear on the 7.30 Report and on ABC radio, which has happened at regular intervals from time to time, has never ever deterred ABC broadcasters from continuing to broadcast programs or provide any disposition of staff. From my own observations, even attempts by government ministers to strangle ABC journalists have not deterred those same journalists from turning up again to attempt to interview people. So I do not think that issue would have been at all relevant to the question of what happened to this particular staffer.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Do you think Gossie might have put some political pressure on?

Senator COLLINS —There is no political pressure, at least successfully, applied to the ABC in terms of the disposition of individual members of staff, and I have said that repeatedly for all of the time I have represented that portfolio here in the Senate. I will happily take up this matter that Senator Boswell has raised with the ABC and get him an answer.

Senator BOSWELL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for advising that he will refer the matter back to the Senate. Was the minister informed that Ms Bornhorst's contract would have been cancelled?

Senator COLLINS —I was not personally informed of that but I will inquire as to whether the Minister for Communications, Mr Beddall, was informed of that matter, and respond to Senator Boswell as soon as I can.