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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 ...»

-- [ Page 45 ] --

Dealing with the interview with Doug Gillies on 13 May 1997 about Qantas maintenance and safety practices,878 Mr Laws said that he ‘thought my listeners would be interested in these matters and, given I had an association with Qantas, it was the obvious source of information about these issues. If we were having a discussion about airline safety, and obviously that was the case, why would I ring American Airlines? My association with Qantas would allow me to get the best information.’879 From the transcript of the interview, it is obvious that the media had been critical about maintenance and safety practices at Qantas. As Mr Laws said in evidence, he thought his listeners would be informed and assisted if they could hear Qantas’ response to these issues – effectively from the ‘horse’s mouth’. As he said, who should he contact about Qantas safety practices: American Airlines?

Counsel Assisting referred to QAN.0008.0074 headed ‘Main Points for Qantas’. As Mr Shirley said in evidence,880 these were points which he prepared for Mr Gillies as prompts to use in any interview and he forwarded a copy to Mr Laws. Doubtless, these enabled the interview to proceed in an ordered and informative manner.

QAN.0002.0461 QAN.0002.0461 Statement of Mr Laws, Exhibit 47, paragraph 163.

Transcript, Mr Shirley, p. 367.

It does not follow from any of this that the primary purpose of the interview was other than to inform listeners about Qantas’ response to the safety issues. Hence, it should not be characterised as an advertisement. Nor was there anything misleading about the manner in which the interview was conducted, more particularly given that the evidence establishes his listeners must have known of the existence of the commercial relationship between Qantas and Mr Laws.881 2UE’s Submission to the Hearing In addition to the general submissions made by 2UE, 2UE also made the following

submissions in relation to this broadcast:

There are particular features of the broadcast and the announcer’s position which would have dispelled, or limited the scope and nature of the assumption of disinterestedness.

Mr Laws said in his statement, and was not challenged, that any listener to his programme must have known that he had a relationship with Qantas.882 Bernard Shirley on behalf of Qantas gave evidence883 to the effect that Qantas wanted it to be publicly known that Laws was associated with Qantas.884 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on social and political issues of relevance to the community.

The Panel finds the available fact of Mr Laws’ contractual agreement with Qantas was withheld. The existence of Mr Laws’ agreement with Qantas was not disclosed in the broadcast.

The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because:

♦ Mr Laws defended Qantas. Mr Laws says ‘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’;885 ♦ the broadcast was favourable to Qantas. Mr Laws praised Qantas’ commitment to safety and the company’s expenditure on safety measures as well as Qantas as an employer;

and ♦ Qantas was given an opportunity to respond to the criticisms regarding the company’s treatment of apprentices. For instance, Mr Laws says ‘So rather than a dismissal of a bunch of apprentices, it was a turning over?’, to which Mr Gillies replies ‘Absolutely’.886 The Panel notes Mr Laws’ submission regarding the purpose of the interview. The interview is favourable to Qantas and contains material which Qantas wanted raised during the Submission made by Mr John Laws – Qantas, p. 5.

See Exhibit 49, paragraphs 146-165.

Transcript, Mr Shirley, p. 383.

Submission made by 2UE - John Laws Broadcasts - Breach of Clause 2.2(d) of Code of Practice 2, B2 QAN.0002.0461 QAN.0002.0461 interview. The existence of the agreement with Qantas is a relevant available fact which should have been disclosed.

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 Qantas.

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

SACKED APPRENTICES

Material Provided to Mr Laws

On 18 November 1997, Mr Shirley sent a fax to Mr Laws. It states:

As discussed yesterday, I am sending you the following points for your consideration … Could you ask Jodee to let me know if she would like anyone to go on air. This decision is the biggest single threat to apprenticeship training since the war.887

The attached document covers the following points:

Yesterday’s decision by the Vice President of the IRC Iain Ross, will send a chill down the spine of all of those responsible employers who provide training to apprentices in Australia.

In case you missed the report he’s the bloke who yesterday upheld a claim by three graduate apprentices that they had been dismissed by Qantas at the end of their four year indenture period … Qantas has predictably appealed the decision on the ground that it was fundamentally flawed and that the IRC had no jurisdiction in the matter.





But as it stands the finding puts a gigantic question mark over the provision of all apprenticeship training in Australia.

Not just big companies like Qantas but small businesses, the whole lot;

These people will hardly want to provide training for apprentices if there is a precedent which obliges them to provide what seems to be a job for life;

The point Qantas makes is that apprenticeships are a means of providing training for future tradespeople and do not involve the guarantee of a job at the end of that period;

What if Qantas and other big as well as small providers of apprenticeship training said they were not going to do this any more;

Unrealistic to guarantee every apprentice a job. Young people who complete an apprenticeship get the advantage of the training and if they do it properly, the skills for a trade so they can make a future for themselves. That’s a big start in life.888

–  –  –

Material Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 18 November 1997 Mr Laws broadcast the following:

That was something that bothered me about the decision made yesterday by the Vice-President of the Industrial Relations Commission who – and, really, this decision should send a chill down the spine of all those responsible employers who provide training to apprentices in Australia. They are not ripping off anybody. They are providing training for apprentices.

In case you missed the report, this Iain Ross fellow is the bloke who upheld a claim by three graduate apprentices that they had been unfairly dismissed by Qantas at the end of their four year indenture period in May.

Now, Qantas has predicably appealed the decision on the grounds that it was fundamentally flawed and that the Industrial Relations Commission had no jurisdiction in the matter. But, as it stands, the finding puts a gigantic question mark over the provision of all apprenticeship training in Australia. And this is what you’ve got to think about. It’s very important to understand here that we are not just talking about Qantas or big companies but everybody, from the airlines or your hairdresser or your local garage or your butcher or your baker or your race horse trainer, the whole lot.

You know, I hardly think that any of these people will want to provide training for apprentices if there is some kind of precedent which obliges them to provide what seems to be a job for life irrespective of whether or not there are any vacancies or whether the business needs any more employees at the time. I mean, you get the apprenticeship in order that you be trained and then you go out and get a job. Now, if there is jobs available at your hairdressing salon or your garage, fine.

The point that Qantas makes is that apprenticeships are a means of providing training for future tradespeople and do not involve the guarantee of a job at the end of that period. Qantas, apparently, never guaranteed anybody a job. Now, what would happen if Qantas and all other big as well as small providers of apprenticeship training said enough is enough? We are not going to do it anymore because we are going to be in trouble if we do.

I mean, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. People should think about it. People like the Vice-President of the Industrial Relations Commission should think about it.889 Mr Laws’ Submission to the Hearing

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

Dealing finally with the comments made by Mr Laws on 18 November 1997 about the unfair dismissal of three apprentices, which had received significant publicity in the media, Mr Laws said … that he had received many calls from listeners about the issue of the lay off of these apprentices, which was also the subject of considerable comment in the media.890 Mr Laws said he was interested to know Qantas’ response to these issues and considered his listeners would be interested to receive its side of the story. Hence, he went to Qantas for its response, formed the judgment that what it had said about the decision of the Industrial Relations Commission was valid and accordingly criticised the decision on-air using the material provided to him by Qantas.

QAN.0008.0081 Exhibit 49, paragraphs 162 and 164.

Counsel Assisting criticised Mr Laws, in effect, for making comments which essentially followed a set of talking points faxed to him earlier that day by Mr Shirley. They submit that his comments, including the phrase ‘I hardly think’, which reflected the talking points, although there had been no prior discussion with Mr Laws as to whether this actually did represent his views, require a conclusion the comments were presented in a misleading manner.

This draconian conclusion does not follow from the premise.

Accepting there was no prior discussion with Mr Shirley, it does not follow what Mr Laws said on-air did not represent his views. He was not cross examined to suggest he followed Mr Shirley’s talking points like an automatum [sic]. In his statement891 he gave evidence to the effect that he considered Qantas’ criticisms of the decision were appropriate and valid. As that evidence has not been challenged, it is effectively submitted there was nothing misleading about the manner in which this broadcast was presented.892 2UE’s Submission to the Hearing In addition to the general submissions made by 2UE, 2UE also made the following

submissions in relation to this broadcast:

There are particular features of the broadcast and the announcer’s position which would have dispelled, or limited the scope and nature of the assumption of disinterestedness.

Mr Laws said in his statement, and was not challenged, that any listener to his programme must have known that he had a relationship with Qantas.893 Bernard Shirley on behalf of Qantas gave evidence894 to the effect that Qantas wanted it to be publicly known that Laws was associated with Qantas.895 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on social and political issues of relevance to the community.

The Panel finds the available fact of Mr Laws’ contractual agreement with Qantas was withheld. The existence of Mr Laws’ agreement with Qantas was not disclosed in the broadcast.

The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because:

♦ Mr Laws defended Qantas and is critical of the adverse finding made against the company. Mr Laws says ‘that was something that bothered me about the decision made yesterday by the Vice-President of the Industrial Relations Commission’;896 ♦ the broadcast was favourable to Qantas. Mr Laws refers to Qantas as ‘one of the responsible employers who provide training to apprentices in Australia’;897 and Exhibit 49.

Submissions made by Mr John Laws – Qantas, p. 6.

See Exhibit 49, paragraphs 146-165.

Transcript, Mr Shirley, p. 383.

Submission made by 2UE - John Laws Broadcasts - Breach of Clause 2.2(d) of Code of Practice 2, B2 QAN.0008.0081 QAN.0008.0081 ♦ Mr Laws relied upon the talking points provided by Qantas. For instance, the talking

points provide:

Yesterday’s decision by the Vice President of the IRC Iain Ross, will send a chill down the spine of all of those responsible employers who provide training to apprentices in Australia.898 ♦ During the broadcast Mr Laws says:

That was something that bothered me about the decision made yesterday by the Vice-President of the Industrial Relations Commission who – and, really, this decision should send a chill down the spine of all those responsible employers who provide training to apprentices in Australia. They are not ripping off anybody. They are providing training for apprentices.899 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 Qantas.

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

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

NEGLECTED CHILD AT THE CANTERBURY LEAGUES CLUB

Material Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 9 March 1999 Mr Laws broadcast the following:

There’s been another frightening example of people becoming so consumed by the need to increase their net worth and gamble they forget everything else, including the welfare of their children. An eight month old baby girl was found locked inside a van at a Sydney leagues club, while her parents were inside playing poker machines.



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