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Tuesday, 30 May 1972
Page: 2229

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES)

My question is directed to the AttorneyGeneral in his dual role as AttorneyGeneral and Minister representing the Postmaster-General. It relates to the question I asked him on Friday and to the question Senator Carrick asked him this afternoon. Was the Attorney-General or his Department consulted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in any way as to whether the programme 'Our Man in Canberra' breached section 116(2.) of the Broadcasting and Television Act? Was that section written into the Act by the Chifley Labor Government as a result of the 'John Austral' series of radio broadcasts which were dramatisations of political matters deliberately connected with an election and deliberately designed to influence the results of a Federal election? Is the programme Our Man in Canberra' a comedy or a satirical programme designed for entertainment purposes and not designed for the purpose of deliberately influencing the result of an election? As the Commission has decided that the programme is in breach of the section, can the Minister say whether it is true that some commercial stations are showing interest in the purchase of the programme? Finally, can the Minister explain why, on the one hand, the ABC is adopting an apparent literal interpretation of this section of the Act towards the programme which employs Australian actors and which is written by an Australian while, on the other hand, commercial television stations apparently are allowed to write their own law so far as the replay of football matches on Sunday mornings is concerned?

The PRESIDENT - Order! Before I call the Attorney-General I wish to give him the option of deciding which hat he will wear.

Senator GREENWOOD - Insofar as I can answer in my role as Attorney-General I shall do so and indicate that the other matters ought to be put on notice. With regard to events relating to this project of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I have not been consulted by the PostmasterGeneral or by any person connected with the ABC and, to the best of my knowledge, no-one in my Department was asked to give any advice with respect to it. Section 116(2.), the provision which prohibits the broadcasting or televising of any matter which dramatises current political events, is a section upon which advice was sought - I forget whether it was by the Commission or by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board - at some time in the past and a general interpretation of that section was given. I am aware that that interpretation was given. All I can say is that as far as I am concerned no advice has been given recently. As to the broader questions relating to the Postmaster-General I think the nature of the questions asked is such that they ought properly to go on notice, together with the honourable senator's question of last Friday so that an answer can be given to them by the responsible Minister.

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