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Thursday, 23 March 1972
Page: 894

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I advised the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) in his capacity asMinister representing the Postmaster-General that I would be speaking on the adjournment of the House this evening in connection with an answer that was given to me by him on behalf of the Postmaster-General. When the Parliament assembled in February, I placed a question on the notice paper asking:

Why did the Australian Broadcasting Control Board call for the tapes of the 'Brian White Show' in the first 2 weeks of this year?

Brian White is a very well known radio commentator on radio station 2GB in New South Wales. In fairness to the station and to the show, I should state that it is an excellent public affairs programme which informs and educates as well as entertains. If all commercial broadcasting stations adopted the type of programming arranged in the Brian White programme, the Australian community would be very well served by the commercial broadcasting system.

My complaint concerns the perfunctory nature of the reply which was given to me by the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) which I assume came through him from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. This morning, in reply to my question, the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral said:

The Australian Broadcasting Control Board called for a copy of the record of the Brian White programme broadcast on station 2GB for the period of 2 weeks in early February for the Board's purposes in accordance with its functions under the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942- 71.

Frankly I do not regard that as an answer. Indeed, I regard it as an insult not only to me but also to the Senate as part of this Parliament. More importantly, it is an insult to the Australian people who are concerned at the manner in which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is administering its responsibilities under the Broadcasting and Television Act. 1 do not know why the Broadcasting Control Board will not come to this Parliament with clean hands and tell us why it is interfering with programmes of this nature. I believe that coercion was adopted by the Government and by the Control Board to try to stop Brian White making some of the utterances which he has been making. I suggest that the reason why the Control Board called for the tapes of the Brian White show was that the PostmasterGeneral had been carpeted by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) over his handling of the postal dispute which was then in train in relation to the decision by the Postal Telecommunication Technicians Association not to connect business telephones.

The fact is that Mr White went away on holidays, I think some time in December. He resumed duty some time in February. At about that time an article appeared in the Sydney 'Daily Telegraph'complaining that the Government was doing nothing to settle the postal dispute and saying, thank goodness, there is Mr Hawke who is at least doing something to handle it. Mr White, immediately upon his return from holidays, went on record as saying that it was about time that the Postmaster-General showed some energy towards settling the dispute. The information given to me is that the Prime Minister sought the attendance of the Postmaster-General-

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - Who gave the honourable senator the information?

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is common rumour among journalists.

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - We denigrate people by rumour in this place, do we?

Senator DOUGLASMcCLELLANDLet the rumour be denied. I am not denigrating anyone. I am saying that it was a political fact. I assume that the Prime Minister would call in the PostmasterGeneral at any' time he wished. But then suddenly the tapes of these programmes are called for. I make the allegation now. I ask the Broadcasting Control Board and the Postmaster-General to deny it. The Broadcasting Control Board and the PostmasterGeneral were given the opportunity to state the reason on 22nd February when I put the question on the notice paper. It took them until 23rd March to give me an answer. The answer was merely that the Control Board called for the tapes for the Board's purposes in accordance with its functions under the Broadcasting and Television Act. I regard this as a very serious matter. These broadcasting stations are licensed under the Broadcasting and Television Act to provide adequate and comprehensive programmes serving the best interests of the Australian public. When tapes of this nature are called for by the Control Board and when questions are asked in this Parliament I suggest that the Control Board has a responsibility to state the reasons to the Parliament.

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