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Tuesday, 18 October 1983
Page: 1819

Mr ANTHONY —I ask a question supplementary to that which I asked earlier of the Minister for Communications. The Minister referred to Sir Robert Sparkes and Mr Mike Evans as making a disgraceful lie. I ask the Minister whether the statement by Mr Beattie, as reported in the Sunday Mail last Sunday, that he had contacted his office is correct. If it is not correct, will the Minister tell the House who is telling the truth? Will he also say whether it is correct, as reported in the newspaper, that Mr Beattie said there would be a change in the ratio? Is Mr Beattie correct or is he not?

Mr Hayden —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. This question is based on a newspaper report. It has been a long-standing practice in this House, covered by the Standing Orders, that anyone who directly applies a newspaper report as the basis of a question must be prepared to vouchsafe the accuracy of that newspaper report.

Mr SPEAKER —Is the Leader of the National Party prepared to vouch for the accuracy of the newspaper report?

Mr ANTHONY —I have a copy of the newspaper report, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the National Party may continue.

Mr ANTHONY —If the Minister is prepared to sue Sir Robert Sparkes and Mr Evans, will he likewise sue Mr Beattie if his report is not accurate?

Mr DUFFY —The Leader of the National Party has referred to a statement in the Sunday Mail, I think he said of the sixteenth. Is that correct?

Mr Anthony —Correct.

Mr DUFFY —The article stated:

The National Party is to protest against ABC news coverage of the State election.

The party's move, with a call for the sacking of the Communications Minister, Mr Duffy, follows protest action by ABC journalists on Friday . . .

According to the article, Mr Evans went on to say:

. . . the Minister was guilty of 'unwarranted interference in the autonomy of the ABC'.

That is a blatant lie, as I indicated earlier. Mr Evans continued:

A direction like that-

A direction was never given by me. As I indicated earlier today, no direction was given by me or any member of my staff to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, nor will there ever be any such direction, as far as I am concerned , in relation to news coverage. Mr Evans went on:

A direction like that is so frightening it is getting back to the days of Hitler and Goebbels the National Party . . .

Mr Anthony —That is not in the Sunday Mail report.

Mr DUFFY —It is in the copy I have of the Sunday Mail. The right honourable member must have a different Sunday Mail. Do they print one for the honourable member and one for other people?

Mr Anthony —This is the one where Mr Beattie admits having contacted you.

Mr DUFFY —Does the right honourable member have the Sunday Sun or the Sunday Mail?

Mr Anthony —The Sunday Mail.

Mr DUFFY —I am afraid that this is in the Sunday Mail that I have:

The National Party's specific protest relates to news coverage on Thursday night . . .

The article then goes on and on with this incredible diatribe of Mr Evans. What I want to point out to the right honourable member is that in today's Courier- Mail there is this report of a statement made by the ABC:

Mr Prior said from Sydney he was unaware of any approaches by politicians or political parties to interfere with the editorial approach of the ABC . . .

He had directed the Brisbane news staff to aim towards a ratio of roughly 43 per cent Labor and 28 per cent each for the Nationals and the Liberals . . .

The right honourable member might not understand why that is. That is an attempt to reflect the vote in the preceding election. That was the statement made by the ABC. In respect of Mr Beattie's contact, Mr Beattie contacted my office to ascertain what the coverage was. He sought information.

Mr Anthony —So he did contact your office?

Mr DUFFY —Yes, he did contact the office; I did not say he did not. He contacted the office to seek information. That information was obtained for him. As indicated to the right honourable member earlier-I will repeat it because obviously it is very difficult for him to follow these things-at no time did Mr Beattie or any other person ask me to direct or otherwise influence the ABC in any way. Information was sought. That information was obtained from the ABC via the Department of Communications. That was it.