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Tuesday, 19 August 1980
Page: 17

Mr John Brown (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I refer the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to a series of questions asked of him between IS May and 22 May this year seeking information on what action the Minister took following a written complaint by Sir Reginald Ansett of alleged breaches of the Broadcasting and Television Act. Does the Minister recall saying in this House on 20 May that an answer to these questions was being prepared and nothing will be held back'? Having given this House an assurance that nothing would be held back, why did the Minister in his subsequent series of written answers on 22 May omit all reference to a departmental minute dated 13 December 1979 which advised him that News Ltd's takeover of Ansett Transport Industries 'was in clear breach of the ownership and control provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act'?

Mr STALEY (CHISHOLM, VICTORIA) (Minister for Post and Telecommunications) - The simple situation is that nothing that should have been revealed was in any way concealed. I tabled in the House a letter to my Department from the Secretary of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal which made it quite clear that the company concerned had acknowledged the contravention of the Act to the Broadcasting Tribunal. That is in the letter which I tabled in this House at that stage. It is also the case that it was a matter of public note in newspapers at the time that the trading in shares had led to contraventions of the Act which meant, of course, that certain broadcasters had to divest themselves of interests which were in excess of those allowed under the Act. For instance, the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 December, referring to market activity by both the Murdoch and Fairfax groups, stated:

Both the Murdoch and Fairfax groups have to divest themselves of shareholdings in other cities as a result of these acquisitions.

I point out also that the way in which I referred the matter to the Tribunal was entirely in accord with past practice. Indeed, on a quick look, the Broadcasting Tribunal has found 41 cases between 1967 and 1980--

Mr Hayden - Not bad, seeing that it was formed in 1977. It was a board before that. Stop falsifying your evidence. There was no Tribunal before 1977.

Mr STALEY (CHISHOLM, VICTORIA) - I did not say there was.

Mr Hayden - It was a totally different procedure before 1977. Stop trying to falsify the evidence.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to cease interjecting while the Minister is answering a question put by a member of the Opposition.

Mr Hayden - He should be accurate in his facts.

Mr SPEAKER -I ask the Leader of the Opposition to cease interjecting, and especially to cease interjecting on me. I call the Minister.

Mr STALEY - Mr Speaker,the Leader of the Opposition simply does not know what he is talking about because the same section of the Act applied through all those years. As I said, I referred the matter to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal for advice and it advised that between 1967 and 1980 there were 41 cases where apparent contraventions of the Act were remedied by voluntary agreement of the broadcasters concerned. Included among those cases were a number of cases which arose during Labor's years in power. Moreover, the fact is that in 1973 a Minister of the Labor Government actually renewed a licence while a breach of the Act existed, on condition that the breach be remedied. I feel I need say little more, but for the information of honourable members I table a summary of apparent contraventions of the ownership and control provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act provided by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.

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