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Wednesday, 30 August 1972
Page: 523

Senator CARRICK - My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, concerns the current public discussion as to the responsibilities of the Commissioners of the Australian Broadcasting Commission towards the administration and control of the ABC staff in order to ensure adequate and comprehensive programmes in accordance with the Act. I ask the Minister: Has his attention been drawn to an article headed: 'ABC censorship move stirs new staff challenge' which appeared in the Communist Party newspaper 'Tribune' of 3rd June 1970? Does this article assert that a significant number of ABC employees have set out to achieve and, in fact, have achieved, what they call workers' control and self-management of the ABC, free of Commission control, for the purpose - in their words - of using the mass media for left wing ideological purposes towards a radical change in the culture of this country?

Senator GREENWOOD - I know that it is the obligation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission - I think that section 59 of the Broadcasting and Television Act covers this - to provide adequate and com prehensive programmes es. This is the obligation which the Par.liament has conferred upon the Commissi in. I have seen the specific article to which Senator Carrick has referred. I have seen also other articles which carry much the same impact. I think that we all should be aware of the alarming implications of this particular article. It appeared in the Communist 'Tribune' in June 1970. It sets out a pattern which is being followed today by many employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I do not know why the commentators who make their comments on this current controversy pay no heed to what is clearly an attempt by some employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to determine for themselves, without control by management or by the Commission, what shall be seen and shown on Australian Broadcasting Commission stations.

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - Do you believe in censorship?

Senator GREENWOOD - I say that if the Australian Labor Party wants to score points off the Government and does so by hitting the attempts of the PostmasterGeneral to persuade the Commission to exercise responsibility, it can do so at its peril, because what is happening in the Australian Broadcasting Commission is, in effect, an ideological activity which is designed to ensure that there will be no control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. (Opposition senators interjecting)-

Senator Hannan - Mr Acting President, I take a point of order. For the past few minutes, I have not been able to hear one word of the Minister's very important answer. I ask that the Minister answer the question again as this is a matter of very grave significance.

Senator Georges - I support that and also rise to order. The Attorney-General should be permitted to repeat his answer in full so that the Australian electorate at large shall be clear as to his strange attitude-

The ACTING PRESIDENT- Order! That is not the basis for a point of order. I wish to make it clear - I have expressed this view before - that it is the right of every honourable senator asking a question to be heard in silence. It is correct too that the person answering a question should be heard in silence. It does not speak very well for honourable senators who will not listen to answers from Ministers. 1 ask for silence during the directing and answering of questions. If we do not get silence, the necessary steps will be taken. I call the Attorney-General.

Senator GREENWOOD - For some people, the truth hurts. I was indicating in response to the question that this is a matter which ought to be heeded by everybody in this Parliament and by many people outside the Parliament who are interested in this controversy. May I refer briefly to some excerpts from the article to which Senator Carrick has addressed himself to indicate the character of what is taking place?

Senator Georges - It is a couple of years old.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is the date?

Senator GREENWOOD - This is an article by a well known Communist in this country.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is the date again?

Senator GREENWOOD - I said earlier that it was June 1970. In fact it is 3rd June 1970. As I indicated, there is being carried through into 1972 a programme which was evident and being talked about in 1970. lt was stated in the article:

Last week, me 3 main organisations of ABC employees began united steps that could lead to a challenge to the whole present structure of bureaucratic government control of the ABC.

This article also stated:

A powerful body of mass media employees are setting their sights on a struggle, an intervention, aimed at weakening the bureaucratic grip on the ABC and carving out a degree of independence hitherto unknown.

It concluded:

It is therefore essential that every left and democratic organisation and individual gives energetic and public support to the ABC employees.

As I have said, members of the Australian Labor Party support that sort of programme at their peril.

When we consider the meeting which took place on 22nd August this year when a resolution was passed by the ABC employees who attended that meeting to condemn Government Ministers, we find that the ABC employees said that they objected to internal political censorship exercised either by management or by the Commission. That indicates that they themselves want to determine what goes on the ABC programmes. The whole purpose of what Sir Alan Hulme said, as Postmaster-General, during the past fortnight was to urge the Commission to exercise the responsibility and control which Parliament has given to it. That is a view in which he has the 100 per cent support of the Government.

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