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Tuesday, 19 August 1980
Page: 21


Mr HUMPHREYS (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I ask the Prime Minister whether he recalls saying in this House in July 1975 the following:

Ten per cent or even SO per cent of the truth is as good a way of misleading this Parliament and the Australian people as a downright lie. The half-truth, the partial answer and the slipping over of the full facts are misleading of this Parliament.

If so, will the Prime Minister apply these standards to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and ask the Minister to resign?


Mr MALCOLM FRASER -The honourable gentleman seems to fail to be able to grasp that over a large number of years this particular section, whether under the present Act or under the earlier Act with the old arrangements, has applied. He seems to fail to understand, as the Leader of the Opposition patently fails to understand, that it has been normal practice for the authorities under the older circumstances and under the present ones to give a company in breach time to get back within the law. The Minister has indicated this has happened in forty or more cases. The Minister has drawn attention to the fact that during the Labor years one particular licence was re-issued while a company was in breach.

One might have throught, if one wanted to be pedantic about it - the Opposition is now showing great concern about this provision- that at least the re-issuing of the licence would have been held up on a temporary basis pending the company getting back within the law. But the licence was re-issued. It was re-issued because it was normal practice for a licence to be issued and for companies to be given time to get back within the provisions of the Act.


Mr Hayden - The circumstances are totally different and you know it. You are trying to protect a wealthy patron.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER -The Leader of the Opposition chatters away, interjecting all the time, because he knows we are on the air.


Mr Dawkins - While you mislead this House.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER -The House has been misled only by the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Fremantle will withdraw.


Mr Dawkins - I withdraw.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER -The only misleading of the House has come from the Opposition which has tried to pretend, for patently political purposes, that this one case in which the company concerned made it plain that it would get back within the law is different from the other dozens of cases of breach that have occurred. I would like to read part of a letter from Mr Connolly of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. I think it explains the present philosophy and the previous philosophy in relation to how these affairs have been conducted. Mr Connolly says:

However, it has been the practice over the years for such contraventions to be corrected either through negotiation with the parties concerned or voluntarily by such parties as soon as they realised the situation in which they were placed. There is no record of any prosecutions having been launched in connection with contraventions which have occurred from time to time.

It is the opinion of the Tribunal that continuation of the previous attitude to contraventions is desirable where it is clear, as is the case in regard to the News Group purchase of the Ansett shares, that every attempt is being made to remedy the contravention as soon as possible. On the general question of the institution of court proceedings regarding contraventions, the Tribunal believes that the powers and functions conferred upon it by the Act do not impose any responsibility for it to initiate prosecutions in relation to contravention of the ownership and control provisions. However, the Tribunal accepts that where a contravention exists and the offending party refuses to take corrective action, the Tribunal should hold a public inquiry and, if appropriate, direct the divestment of the excess interests. If such a direction were to be ignored, the Tribunal would report the matter to the Minister with a view to the Commonwealth instituting legal proceedings.

That shows clearly the Tribunal's understanding of the precedents that have been set over the years. It represents a fair and reasonable way of conducting the business in relation to contraventions of this Act. The Minister has applied those provisions and the Tribunal is seeking to apply those provisions. The only people trying to do something new, something out of order, in relation to this matter are members of the Australian Labor Party. They are doing so for the basic political reasons which have been indicated. They are still pursuing the old vendetta of 1975.







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