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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3306

Mr LLOYD —by leave-The ministerial statement by the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) tonight concerning the inquiry into the Special Broadcasting Service continues the policy of this Government of bad mouthing any initiative taken by the previous Government in relation to ethnic broadcasting. I cannot remember one good word by any member of the Australian Labor Party at any time on the Special Broadcasting Service. The Minister's statement tonight is full of innuendo against the Special Broadcasting Service. I believe this is all to build up an image that somehow or other the Special Broadcasting Service is an unsavoury and corrupt organisation even though Mr Oswin in his investigation of the practices of the Special Broadcasting Service-he made a fairly lengthy report on this matter-has been unable to sustain any such allegations of corruption.

Mr Duffy —I said that.

Mr LLOYD —I acknowledge that the Minister did say that. I believe it is the intention of the Labor Government to abolish the Special Broadcasting Service and any special and separate ethnic broadcasting organisation in this country. To achieve this aim there has been a softening up by the Government for such a decision. First of all, there was the investigation by Mr Oswin into these allegations of corruption. As the Minister has said in his statement, no such corruption was found but, nevertheless, we still have this inquiry. This public inquiry is just not to look at the charges that have been made and refuted, or certainly not substantiated, and not just at changes within the Special Broadcasting Service, but at the very future of the organisation. Already Labor has shown its intent by the earlier Government decision to disband the ethnic radio working party and with it any long term future for a separate and distinct ethnic radio in this country.

There has not been time to read both the Oswin report and the reply of the Special Broadcasting Service to that report as they were tabled in this Parliament only this evening and presented to me this afternoon. But after reading certain sections of the two reports and also some reports in today's paper by a so-called government source giving advance information as to what the Minister would be doing today, and after listening to the Minister's statement here tonight and reading the terms of the inquiry into the Special Broadcasting Service, I believe the Opposition's criticism of the ultimate intent of the Government is justified. There is a comment in the Oswin report and the SBS response which is worthy of quotation tonight. It is worth quoting this comment, above any other, from this bulky document. It states:

The SBS registers its protest that in the course of such a wide ranging review, neither Mr Oswin nor officers of the Review team deemed it necessary or desirable to formally interview Board members or the Executive Director of the SBS.

Mr MacKellar —They didn't talk to anyone.

Mr LLOYD —That is right. We have this great investigation and report and at no stage, according to the SBS response, was it interviewed to answer these allegations and these charges.

Mr MacKellar —They didn't have the decency to talk to the Director?

Mr LLOYD —I believe the honourable member is quite correct in the comments he has just made. In today's papers a number of articles, attributed to a government source, relate to the statement the Minister made tonight. I will quote from the Australian because it is representative of the articles that appeared today after this unattributable background briefing. The article states :

The Federal Government will launch a public inquiry into allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds at the Special Broadcasting Service, which operates, among others, Channel 0/28 in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.

The Minister for Communications, Mr Duffy, is expected to outline the terms of the inquiry in Parliament today.

'There have been rumours around for some time that some people in the SBS were lining their own pockets, and inefficiency was rife within the service,' a government source said today.

'We just want to get to the bottom of these allegations and clear them up.

'The SBS has been the subject of pretty vicious attacks by sections of the ethnic press, some or all of which may well be false. An inquiry is the only way to really find out.'

I return to the point that I made before; that the Minister said in his statement tonight, referring to the Oswin report, that no allegations of corruption have been sustained. Yet in this background briefing it was said that somehow or other this inquiry will be following up this process. This is part of a softening up process by the Government to find a reason to abolish a separate identity for ethnic broadcasting and telecasting in this country. When one looks at the terms of reference for the inquiry, it is not about these charges at all but about the future of the Special Broadcasting Service. These unproven charges of corruption are mentioned only as the reason why there should be an inquiry. I make the point, on behalf of the Opposition, that the Opposition warns the ethnic communities of Australia, as we attempted during the election campaign, that the Labor Government is committed to the termination of a separate and distinct broadcaster for the ethnic communities and for Australians generally.