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Tuesday, 22 August 1972
Page: 224

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -

Has the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral recently seen statements attributed to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the PostmasterGeneral, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission's current affairs programme "This Day Tonight' is showing too much bias? Has the Minister's attention been drawn to a report in this morning's Melbourne 'Age' which states that that newspaper has not yet received one letter in support of these ministerial assertions? Can the Minister square the recent pronouncements and assertions by these senior Government Ministers with the statement made in Parliament by the Postmaster-General, as recently as 24th February, that in all its programming 'This Day Tonight' presented a balance of views on issues of concern to the Australian people?

Senator GREENWOOD - I have seen the statements attributed to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General and, knowing what they said, I feel that it is alarming that there should be such a misconstruction of what they said by elements in the media hostile to the gentlemen to whom the honourable senator referred. I think it is unquestioned that 'This Day Tonight' does present an unbalanced viewpoint, and one does not have to look very far to find corroborative evidence for that suggestion. Not only is it said, I think, by the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and by the Postmaster-General that hundreds of complaints are received with regard to ABC current affairs programmes but the newspaper the 'Australian', which Opposition senators often suggest to Government senators is the one newspaper upon which one can rely, said in an editorial yesterday that it is patently clear that there is a lack of objectivity and balance in current affairs programmes on the ABC, which would Include 'This Day Tonight*. The 'Australian' then proceeded to give, in its own judgment, as patent a case of bias as one could imagine which had been on This Day Tonight' last Friday night.

I mention these matters only to say that there is a widespread view, contrary to the suggestion made by Senator Douglas McClelland, that there is bias in these programmes. I think that the point that the Postmaster-General was concerned to make when he initially made his statement was that there was a responsibility on the part of the commissioners, as the independent people whom the Parliament has appointed, to exercise authority and control in their own domain. It is quite apparent from recent statements which have been made by some staff people in the ABC that they regard themselves as a law unto themselves. It was to encourage the Commission to exercise that authority that the Postmaster-General made his statement. He made that statement and, as I understand it, nothing more. I feel in those circumstances that the suggestion made by many people, who want to back the Australian Labor Party, that there is an attempt at political censorship is quite unjustified.

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