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«COMMERCIAL RADIO INQUIRY Report of the Australian Broadcasting Authority Hearing into Radio 2UE Sydney Pty Limited February 2000 Sydney ISBN 0 642 ...»

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(v) Briginshaw-v-Briginshaw (1938) 60 CLR 336 established that in a case involving a serious matter such as contravention of a Code of Practice having obviously profound consequences, both for Mr Laws and Radio 2UE, a tribunal should not find itself reasonably satisfied of the contravention by inexact truths, indefinite testimony or indirect inferences. As Rich J said (p.354): ‘The satisfaction of a just and prudent mind cannot be produced by slender and exiguous proofs or circumstances pointing with a wavering finger to an affirmative conclusion. The nature of the allegation requires as a matter of common sense and worldly wisdom the careful way of testimony, the close examination of facts proved as a basis of inference and a comfortable satisfaction that the Tribunal has reached both a correct and just conclusion.’ (vi) With respect to the ABA, and to the submissions of Counsel Assisting, it is simply not open to conclude that there was anything misleading about the manner in which the broadcast set out in Exhibit 39 was presented. To conclude otherwise is to invent or contrive an alleged obligation on every occasion to disclose the existence of a sponsorship or other commercial agreement between a presenter and a company, or between 2UE and the company when the Codes of Practice clearly do not so provide. Whether they should now so provide is another matter, which doubtless the ABA is addressing. However, it is not open to the ABA to remedy what is now perceived to be a lacuna in the Codes by creating, retrospectively, such an obligation.869 2UE’s Submission to the Hearing

In addition to the general submission made by 2UE, 2UE made the following submission:

Mr Laws makes plain his partiality for the Registered Clubs Association. On page 2 of the

transcript Mr Laws says the following:

‘And I support the Registered Clubs Association, I think they do a huge amount for the community and I have a lot of good friends involved in clubs all over the place, as you can imagine, because I spend a lot of time drinking booze, so I know a lot of people. I’m not a gambler, but I know a lot of people in the club’s movement. And I just think they do wonderful, wonderful work.’ There is no allegation that these statements do not accurately reflect the views of Mr Laws. The statements plainly alert the listener to the announcer’s partiality. If one of the purposes of Code of Practice 2 is to allow listeners to know ‘by whom they are being persuaded’, then that objective has been met in the subject of the broadcast.870 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on political and social issues of relevance to the community.

The Panel notes Mr Laws’ submission that his interest was adequately disclosed: listeners ‘would know where he was coming from’871 and 2UE’s submission that ‘the statements plainly alert the listener to the announcer’s partiality’.872 The Panel does not accept these submissions. While Mr Laws does state ‘And I support the Registered Clubs Association’, the reason given is that ‘I have a lot of good friends involved in clubs all over the place, as you can imagine, because I spend a lot of time drinking booze … And I just think they do wonderful, wonderful work.’ The Panel is of the view that this is not sufficient disclosure of a commercial agreement between Mr Laws and the Registered Clubs Association of NSW.

Submission made by Mr John Laws – Regarding Exhibit 39.

Submission made by 2UE’s – Regarding Exhibit 39.

Submission made by Mr John Laws – Regarding Exhibit 39.

Submission made by 2UE’s – Regarding Exhibit 39 The Panel finds the available fact of Mr Laws’ contractual agreement with the Registered Clubs Association of NSW was withheld. The existence of Mr Laws’ agreement with the Registered Clubs Association of NSW was not disclosed in the broadcast.

The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because:

♦ the broadcast was favourable to the Registered Clubs Association of NSW. Mr Laws praised Labor’s new gambling policy but states ‘the Registered Clubs Association made the announcement before you did, they got in first’;873 and ♦ Mr Laws endorses the Registered Clubs Association of NSW. Mr Laws states ‘I think they do a huge amount for the community and I have a lot of good friends involved in clubs all over the place … And I just think they do wonderful, wonderful work’.874 The Panel finds that, in the presentation of a current affairs program, Mr Laws presented material in a misleading manner by withholding a relevant available fact, namely the existence of a commercial relationship between himself and the Registered Clubs Association of NSW.

The Panel finds 2UE to be in breach of clause 2.2(d) of the Codes.

Qantas Airways Limited The Panel notes that Mr Laws was aware of the existence of his commercial relationship with Qantas (see ‘Mr Laws’ Agreements and His On-Air Conduct‘ on page 47).


Material Provided to Mr Laws

Mr Shirley provided a document entitled ‘Main Points for Qantas’ to Mr Laws.875 It states:

Qantas wants to put the record straight on claims in the media about both its maintenance and safety record.

I would preface my remarks by saying that Qantas will not compromise its safety record.

The fact is that we spend well over $800 million a year on maintenance.

We are increasing our inventory of spare parts by around four per cent a year to a value of $792 million this financial year and $821 million next financial year.

We have 29 engineering and maintenance people posted at our 12 main overseas ports to ensure our standards are maintained with our aircraft operating through those cities.

–  –  –

The 185 positions the E&M division identified last week as surplus to our requirements will not have an impact on maintenance. The fact is that Qantas plans long term. For example the apprenticeship intake graduating this year would have been planned in 1992, when circumstances were vastly different. For example, in that period Qantas was the only international Australian airline. There was no single aviation market with New Zealand.

Government policy then did not favour new entrants as it does now, there have been resultant changes in our operational flying requirements and staff attrition rates have remained low.

Other major changes since then have been that Qantas [has] been integrated with Australian airlines and in July 1995 the Australian Government sold its remaining 75 per cent of Qantas, resulting in its listing on the Stock Exchange.876 Material Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 13 May 1997, Mr Laws broadcast the following:

CALLER: Hello, my name is Doug Gillies. I’m ringing from Qantas and what I would like to do is discuss with you some of the comments that have been made in the media recently about maintenance and safety practices at Qantas.

MR LAWS: Yeah Doug, there’s been a few funny things said. Are they said with any foundation?

MR GILLIES: No not at all. Most of the comments have been made from union leaders with obviously particular interests in which they are trying to advance.

MR LAWS: I suppose they are angry with Qantas at the moment.

MR GILLIES: They may well be. In fact Lance Webb, who’s head of the Flight Attendants’ Union, in fact ceases to be a member today and in fact will be kicked out of office later on today so I guess he’s got particular motives to make the comments he has.

MR LAWS: Well it’s unfortunate when we have what is considered not only by people here but people round the world as one of the fine airlines of the world with a terrific safety record to be hearing funny stories about Qantas, I don’t think does anybody much good.

MR GILLIES: No it certainly doesn’t and the facts actually speak for themselves. We are actually increasing our maintenance spending – MR LAWS: Tell me what it is that they are suggesting. Are they, because they are a bit miffed about other problems they might have, are they now suggesting there’s maintenance problems or safety problems?

MR GILLIES: Yes, they are suggesting that what we are doing is compromising our maintenance standards and our safety standards in an effort to increase profitability of Qantas and that’s just not correct.

MR LAWS: Yeah, you spend a lot of money I know on maintenance, a huge amount, something like 800 million.

MR GILLIES: Over $800 million a year on maintenance and that’s increasing year by year.

This year we’ll spend 30 million more than what we did last year.

MR LAWS: So how can these people suggest that you are compromising?

–  –  –

MR GILLIES: Because I guess they’ve got their own motives to make these sort of accusations.

MR LAWS: How many people do you have working there on maintenance, constantly?

MR GILLIES: We have over five and a half thousand people employed in engineering and maintenance, not only in Sydney but right around the world.

MR LAWS: It’s a lot of people, isn’t it?

MR GILLIES: It certainly is. It’s probably one of the highest percentages of internal employees of the total staff of any airline in the world.

MR LAWS: Is their concern, or the foundation for their unrealistic comment coming from these 185 positions that we are hearing about identified last week as surplus to Qantas requirements, including those apprentices? I’ve got to say I felt very sorry for a lot of people.

It’s an awful thing to lose your job. Is that’s what’s caused your problem?

MR GILLIES: I suspect that’s been the catalyst but obviously Qantas is going through a privatisation process and is determined to become a very efficient organisation as a company as well as an airline and some of the comfort zones that the union leaders had been operating on had been in fact, shaken a little bit and they are not too comfortable with changing the world as it is.

MR LAWS: Yeah, I had a caller the other day who told me that on the day the apprentices, and I’d been away, in fact I came in Qantas that morning, and there was a lot of talk about it when we were getting through the airport there, and I had a caller who said that on the day that those apprentices were terminated, they weren’t dismissed, they were made redundant, weren’t they?

MR GILLIES: No, they weren’t even made redundant. Their indentures were completed as an apprentice – MR LAWS: So they are now qualified people?

MR GILLIES: They are now qualified tradesmen and when they were taken on as apprentices there were very clearly stated to them in writing that they may or may not be taken on at the end of their indentureship, depending on whether we had positions available for them.

MR LAWS: Yeah, and there was some talk on the day they were dismissed, other apprentices being put on, but I don’t know why anybody would question that. I mean doesn’t it mean Qantas is still doing the right thing continuing to train people even if they can’t ultimately employ them, there are qualified people who can get out into the workforce and there’s got to be room for them surely.

MR GILLIES: There certainly is and we’ve got over 400 apprentices still under training and what you said was correct. We are about to take a new intake of apprentices on and we will continually maintain our apprenticeship scheme to make sure we do have qualified tradesmen available.

MR LAWS: Yeah, and these apprentices, is it made clear to them when they begin, because they are learning, and they are learning something they couldn’t learn anywhere else, are they told that there’s a possibility that they may not be retained after the end of the apprenticeship?

MR GILLIES: Absolutely, it’s actually written into the paper work that we sign when we take them on as an indentured apprentice, that there may or may not be a position available and there’s no guarantee of employment at the end of the time.

MR LAWS: So rather than a dismissal of a bunch of apprentices, it was a turning over?

–  –  –

MR LAWS: Okay, I think it’s very unhealthy when people who have an ulterior motive make comments that can be very damaging to an organisation like Qantas, an organisation of which we are all very proud. I mean it’s a very highly-respected airline all over the world and to be making silly statements about compromising safety or maintenance, just spell it out to me again. You said you are spending well over 800 million a year on maintenance and it’s going up all the time.

MR GILLIES: That’s correct and we are increasing our inventory of spare parts. There have been accusations that we don’t have enough spares.

MR LAWS: That’s right. I heard that. What sort of value would the spare parts be that Qantas have to keep on hand?

MR GILLIES: We have over three-quarters of a billion dollars worth of spare parts. In fact, this financial year we will be back up around $790 million worth of spare parts and generally that inventory has been increasing by about 30 million a year, year on year, as we make sure that we have got sufficient parts available to ensure the aircraft are safe and well maintained.

MR LAWS: Okay, well it’s very good of you to call Doug. You’ve put our minds at rest and I appreciate it. It was interesting to talk to you too, thank you very much.

MR GILLIES: Thank you for the opportunity.

–  –  –

Mr Laws’ Submission to the Hearing

Mr Laws made the following submission in relation to this broadcast:

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