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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 2035

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the Minister for the Media aware that on the night of Friday, 16 November- that is, the day before the New South Wales State election- Channel 9 in Sydney on more than one occasion televised a short film showing a ballot box and a flag with the word 'Liberal' clearly marked on it and also showing the Premier, Sir Robert Askin, dropping a ballot paper into the ballot box while a voice reminded viewers to vote on the following day? Does the Minister agree that this constitutes a clear breach of section 116 of the Broadcasting and Television Act? Will he take appropriate action against Channel 9 in respect of this breach?

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that what is known as a promo, a promotional advertisement, was shown by Channel 9 on Friday, 16 November, advertising the election coverage of the station on the evening of the election on Saturday, 17 November.

The Australian Broadcasting Control Board advised me that that promotional advertisement included a film clip of Sir Robert Askin and also of the New South Wales Australian Labor Party leader, Mr Hills. I understand that it had a background voice reminding people that the next day was election day and urging viewers to watch Channel 9 for the election coverage. I am told that there were 2 visual shots comprising clips from news film- one of Sir Robert Askin walking though a gate into a school polling booth, and another showing the New South Wales Labor leader, Mr Hills. Both were on the one promotional clip. I am asking the Control Board to obtain for me or the station to provide for me a copy of the promotional advertisement so that I, and, it is hoped, the Attorney-General also, can view it.

Recently my colleague Senator James McClelland suggested that Channel 9's licence be revoked or suspended because of an alleged previous breach. I can tell the honourable senator that I had a long discussion with officers of the Attorney-General 's Department on that matter, and their clear advice to me was that in that instance there was no breach of the Act. Probably no one in this Parliament has been more critical than I have been in the past of the political activities of what one can commonly refer to as the Packer organisation. I have said it in this Parliament-

Senator Marriott - What about the Rupert Murdoch organisation?

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -The honourable senator should not have interjected. I know that honourable senators opposite were very vociferous about this type of matter at a time when there was quite an upheaval in their ranks as to who should be the leader of this countryMr Gorton or Mr McMahon. They too were very critical then of the activities of the Packer organisation.

The PRESIDENT - Minister, I think you are beginning to debate this now.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Mr President,I merely wish to assure Senator James McClelland that I have told Sir Frank Packer and indeed all networks that this Government will not tolerate political bias of the type that this country may have seen previously under Liberal administrations.

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