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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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She was discovered by a guard patrolling the parking lot, and he heard her cries from inside the van at about ten o’clock, told officials. The owners of the van were paged on the club intercom, but they didn’t respond. So, the club officials broke into the van. The windows of the van were only down about an inch, and the little kid was obviously distressed. And they found the baby’s parents playing the poker machines around eleven o’clock at night.

Now, this happened at Canterbury. Very responsible club, let me tell you. I’m a patron of that club, and I don’t like stories like this. They’ve banned the parents from the club, and I suppose they can’t do much more than that. That’s if they’re not coming back again.

–  –  –

But it’s heartbreaking to hear so much about parents who lose interest in everything else, when avarice takes over, when people feel the need for money is so strong, it’s more important than their family. A very sad situation. I mean there’s nothing wrong with having a bet. It’s good I suppose, and good fun too. Same as there’s nothing wrong with having a drink. It’s only when these things become the sole focus of your life, they then become a problem. Hopefully, anyone with alcohol or gambling problems seeks help, rather than risk the welfare of their family.

And I know, because I have a very close association with Star City, in the city of Sydney, which I think is a terrific fun place. I just happen to like it. People are sometimes critical of it. I just happen to like it. And I know Neil Gamble very well. He’s a mate. And I’ve known him for a long time. They care about problem gambling, and then set millions of dollars of money aside to fight problem gambling. I mean, they have an appreciation of it.

And we all should. I[t] can be a problem, like alcoholism, or even drug addiction. And it’s a pity we don’t have more responsible people like Neil Gamble in the community, to say, well, we’ve got to do something about it. I mean, Canterbury’s done its best; they’ve banned these people. They’re not coming back to the club again.

Problem is there they’ll just join another club.900 A Media Monitors News Alert records a summary of what Mr Laws broadcast on 9 March 1999:

Laws comments on a couple leaving their 8 month child locked in their car while gambling at the Canterbury Leagues Club. Mentions Star City Casino.901 Events After the Broadcast

On 10 March 1999 Mr Gamble wrote the following to Mr Fordham:

On another matter, would you please pass onto John that I really appreciated his comments onair yesterday regarding the unattended child situation at Canterbury Leagues Club. This is obviously a touchy subject and from our point of view, John handled it very well.902 Mr Laws’ Submission to the Hearing

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

Dealing with the first alleged breach, this concerned a broadcast by Mr Laws in which he commented upon a couple leaving their eight months old child in their car while gambling at the Canterbury Leagues Club. He went on to mention the Star City casino and its facilities.903 Regrettably, the Media Monitors ‘News alert’ in Exhibit 38 does not contain a transcript of Mr Laws’ comments. He gave evidence about this broadcast (which was recently replayed on the 7.30 Report). In the course of that broadcast, after criticising the practice of people leaving

children in car parks in order to gamble, Mr Laws said words to the effect:

‘‘I have a close association with Star City’ and …’ Exhibit 75.

Exhibit 38.

SCH.0001.0062 This broadcast is referred to in paragraphs 3 and 4 of p. 6 of the submissions of Counsel Assisting.

He then continued with references to its facilities.

As the submissions of Counsel Assisting indicate, Mr Laws gave evidence … as follows:

‘Q: Didn’t you say in that interview and in that statement that you made after you commented about the appropriateness of the mother leaving the child that you had a close association with Star City?

–  –  –

Q: And then you went on to say what Star City did about that issue; is that right?

A: Yes, I did that because that was correct, yes.

Having regard to this rather specific disclosure before making his comments about Star City, the submission of Counsel Assisting that Mr Laws and this broadcast presented his material about Star City in a misleading manner by failing to disclose a relevant available fact, namely, his relationship with Star City should not succeed.904 2UE’s Submission to the Hearing In addition to the general submissions made by 2UE, 2UE also made the following

submission in relation to this broadcast:

There is insufficient evidence of the content of the broadcast. Only a summary report is produced.905 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on social issues of relevance to the community.

The Panel acknowledges the media summary report tendered and the summary transcript provided in submission by Mr Laws accord with the full transcript of the broadcast acquired from Media Monitors and reproduced above. In addition the evidence of Mr Laws906 and Mr Gamble907 regarding their recollections of the broadcast also accord with the full transcript. The Panel also notes Mr Laws’ submission that it is regrettable that Exhibit 38 does not contain a full transcript, and 2UE’s submission that insufficient evidence, in the form of a summary transcript, exists.

The Panel notes the lack of conflict in the media summary report, the evidence of witnesses and the final submissions, and is of the view that the full transcript provides a useful resource in considering this matter.

The Panel does not accept the submission of Mr Laws that the statement ‘I have a very close association with Star City’ is adequate disclosure of a commercial relationship between

Mr Laws and Star City. The Panel notes Mr Brennan’s evidence:

Transcript, Mr Laws, p. 755; Submissions made by Mr John Laws – Star City, p. 2.

Submission made by 2UE - John Laws Broadcasts - Breach of Clause 2.2(d) of Code of Practice 2, C1 Transcript, Mr Laws, p. 755.

Transcript, Mr Gamble, pp. 623, 627.

Mr Hilton. Being the experienced broadcaster and business person that you are, would you infer from that that there just might be a commercial relationship between John Laws and Star City?

–  –  –

A. No. You can have a close association with an organisation because you have great friends there …908 The Panel notes in this regard Mr Laws’ statements following his comment that ‘I have a very close association with Star City’. Mr Laws does not say that the reason that he has such a close association is because of his commercial agreement, but rather because ‘I just happen to like it. And I know Neil Gamble very well. He’s a mate. And I’ve known him for a long time.’909 To the extent that this broadcast purports to represent the views or opinions of Mr Laws on matters of current affairs, listeners should be entitled to assume, in the absence of appropriate disclosure, that he is not receiving financial compensation to express those views.

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

The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because:

♦ the issue is of concern to Star City. Mr Laws proposes it is problem gambling that was responsible for the incident at Canterbury, not gambling generally, ‘It’s only when these things become the sole focus of your life they then become a problem’. Mr Laws states ‘I mean there’s nothing wrong with having a bet. It’s good I suppose, and good fun too’;910 ♦ the broadcast was favourable to Star City. Mr Laws states Star City is a ‘terrific fun place.’ Mr Laws commented on the incident in a way that directed favourable attention to Star City’s measures for dealing with such matters. Mr Laws praised Star City saying they ‘care about problem gambling, and then set millions of dollars of money aside to fight problem gambling’;911 Mr Gamble appreciated the comments made by Mr Laws.912 ♦ 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 Star City Entertainment Pty Limited.

Transcript, Mr Brennan, p. 1272 Exhibit 75; Media Monitors Transcript, S17983010 Exhibit 75; Media Monitors Transcript, S17983010 Exhibit 75; Media Monitors Transcript, S17983010 SCH.0001.0062 The Panel finds 2UE to be in breach of clause 2.2(d) of the Codes.


Events preceding the broadcast

On 9 November 1998, Mr Laws sent to Mr Gamble a letter. The text of the letter read:

I am in receipt of your letter dated Friday, 6 November, and I can understand your concern about Jeff Kennett’s comments given you didn’t hear the program.

Jeff Kennett was being his usual larrikin self and was obviously laughing when he made the comments, as you would have heard if you’d heard the entire conversation.

You are correct in saying I made no attempt to defend Star City, but only at that time. When I was broadcasting from Melbourne earlier in the week (as Jeff Kennett had made the comments to me on Monday of last week) we gave Mr Kennett a very ‘round serve’ concerning many of the comments he made, including comments on Star City.

It is now early on Monday morning and it is my intention to again return to Friday’s comment and to again defend Star City. The comment I played on Friday was played as an addendum to comments I made about the Premiers Meeting in Canberra.

I believe that I have displayed my loyalty to Star City constantly and perhaps in a way in which you aren’t aware. We get reasonably frequent calls wanting to be critical of Star City, as we do with faxes and e-mails. I either dismiss them totally or defend Star City. At no time did I allow any comment on the unfortunate incident concerning the security guards even though I was strongly encouraged to do so. We have provided, I believe, absolute support for anything that Star City is doing. I have written and talked about the functions being held there, as recently as the Fred Hollows ball, singing the praises of the ballroom and the staff involved.

In summary, let me say I understand the reason for your letter given the limited information you have but transcripts don’t always transcribe well as the tone of voice, the intonation, is not discernible.

I shall also be defending Star City today in light of the fact that many people are critical of Mr Kennett by fax or e-mail.

Again, let me reassure you of my total support for Star City. If only people who bring the negatives to the attention of busy people like you could also bring attention to the positives – but that doesn’t happen.913 Material Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 9 November 1999 Mr Laws broadcast the following:

I’ll tell you, I got plenty of reaction to Jeff Kennett’s comments about the Sydney Casino. Ohoh-oh! Jeff, I think you might have drawn a blank there. Not too many people who agree with you. And I’m even hearing the story being told that you haven’t even been there.

JL.0002.0296 and JL.0002.0304 I know it was jocular, Jeff. I know that you were saying it with mischief in your mind when you said it. But you said it. And I’ll tell you what, the reaction has not been favourable from those who go to Star City. I happen to love Star City, incidentally. I’m not a great gambler, but I happen to love Star City.

We have functions down there. The Fred Hollows Ball was held there recently. It’s got to be one of the best ballrooms in Sydney, but what Jeff said about it has incurred the wrath of many.

There are obviously many people who not only go to Star City to gamble their time away, but there are many people who go to Star City.

And we also had stuff from interstate, from people who said that they go to Star City to stay in the hotel as much as anything else, and to see shows like The Rocky Horror Show, and South Pacific. Any maybe Mr Kennett should lighten his life up a little by spending some time in Star City, where at least he can have a good time, which is more that you can do in Victoria, one person said.

So, there you are, Jeff, and I’m sure there’s more to come, too.914 Mr Laws’ Submission to the Hearing

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

Mr Laws’ program was not a current affairs program;

Mr Laws’ statements of fact were true, and his statements of opinion represented his own, genuinely held opinion (he was not cross examined to suggest otherwise);

That his comments were made against the background of the Star City agreement did not make the comments misleading, as more specific disclosure of the agreement would not have rendered the comments otherwise than wholly true and accurate;

It was not put to Mr Laws that his comment ‘I happen to love Star City’ did not represent his genuine state of mind. His evidence in paragraphs 125 and 128 of his statement, Exh.49, was that he considered the opening and conduct of the Star City complex as an important event for Sydney, likely to be of interest to a substantial part of his audience and that he relished the opportunity, derived from his association with Star City to be the first person to interview many of the performers booked to perform there. It is consistent with Mr Laws’ history as a disc jockey, singer and show business personality that he would consider these interviews to be entertaining to his audience and add to the appeal of the program.915 2UE’s Submission to the Hearing In addition to the general submission made by 2UE, 2UE also made the following

submission in relation to this broadcast:

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