«COMMERCIAL RADIO INQUIRY Report of the Australian Broadcasting Authority Hearing into Radio 2UE Sydney Pty Limited February 2000 Sydney ISBN 0 642 ...»
the RTF when he conducted the interviews and made his comments. For example, Mr Laws referred repeatedly to ‘the truckies we call ‘Today’s Truckies’,’ to the Road Transport Forum and to ‘Today’s Truckies’ and in his interview with Carl Scully. No listener to that interview could think that Mr Laws was a ‘disinterested’ commentator upon these issues, and would put such value on his comments as the listener thought fit, knowing of Mr Laws’ affinity with trucking interests.945 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:
Laws uses the expression ‘My mates at the Road Transport Forum’ which reinforces the perception of his predisposition.946 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on political and economic issues of relevance to the community.
The Panel finds the available fact of Mr Laws’ commercial arrangement with the Australian Trucking Association was withheld during the broadcast. The existence of Mr Laws’ commercial arrangement with the Australian Trucking Association was not disclosed in the broadcast.
The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because:
♦ Mr Laws supports and advocates the Australian Trucking Association’s position regarding the diesel fuel excise. For instance, Mr Laws says ‘more than half the price of the diesel fuel is tax, and yet only about three cents of that 40 cents goes back into the roads. Is that reasonable? I don’t think it is’;947 and ♦ the broadcast was favourable to Australian Trucking Association. Mr Laws says that ‘one group that deserve a fair go – well, there’s a few groups that do, but one in particular – today’s truckies’.948 The Panel notes 2UE and Mr Laws’ submissions that Mr Laws had been publicly associated with the Australian Trucking Association (through public appearances, blockade interventions, musical compilations, product placement and a press release) over some years, and that this must condition listeners’ expectations regarding his disinterestedness or otherwise.
The Panel is concerned here with the presentation of current affairs programs. To the extent that these broadcasts purport 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. Listeners are entitled to assume that the public appearances or blockade interventions of Mr Laws are Submission made by Mr John Laws – Australian Trucking Association (Formerly Known As The Road Transport Forum), paragraph 11.
Submission made by 2UE - John Laws Broadcasts - Breach of Clause 2.2(d) of Code of Practice 2, D5 ATA.0003.0441 ATA.0003.0441 undertaken due to personal conviction, rather than financial obligations, to the Australian Trucking Association. Mr Laws’ public appearances and blockade interventions for the Australian Trucking Association are not, in the Panel’s view sufficient disclosure of a commercial relationship between him and the Australian Trucking Association.
Similarly, Mr Laws’ involvement in musical compilations and product placement, do not, in the Panel’s view, provide sufficient information to enable listeners to discern that Mr Laws had a commercial agreement with the Australian Trucking Association.
Further, the Panel notes that the press release issued by the Australian Trucking Association was issued on 20 July 1999, after the Media Watch program on 12 July 1999. While the Panel notes Mr Edmonds’ evidence that the Australian Trucking Association never sought to keep secret the existence of their commercial arrangement with Mr Laws,949 the Panel is of the view that there has not been sufficient disclosure to ensure that listeners would not be misled in the context of this broadcast.
The Panel also notes the submission of 2UE that Mr Laws’ reference to ‘My Mates at the Road Transport Forum’ is sufficient disclosure of his predisposition to the Trucking industry.
The Panel is unconcerned with Mr Laws’ predisposition to any particular issue. The Panel is concerned however, where Mr Laws, who holds a financial agreement with an entity, mentions that entity on-air without disclosing the existence of the agreement. The Panel is of the view that the reference by Mr Laws to his ‘mates at the Road Transport Forum’ is not sufficient to disclose the existence of a commercial agreement with them.
The Panel therefore does not accept the submissions of 2UE and Mr Laws in this regard.
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 Australian Trucking Association.
The Panel finds 2UE to be in breach of clause 2.2(d) of the Codes.
INTERVIEW WITH MR VAILEMaterial Provided to Mr Laws The Australian Trucking Association provided Mr Laws with a document entitled ‘Tax Pack
Questions for Mark Vaile 19 August 1998’. The script reads:
Mark, your [sic] in Toowoomba … talking the tax package … and it sounds as though you’re in the right place … Because this package has a lot of good things for all Australians … for instance halving the diesel excise … now that’s a big step forward … because the more efficient Today’s Truckies run the better the country runs … cheaper groceries … improved exports … a boost to local industry and of course jobs, jobs, jobs … have I hear right?
What are we going to do about roads … are we going to finally fix them … I had hundreds of people fax me a few months ago about how bad they are … and my mates the Today’s Truckies helped me out … and I suppose they’re going to help you out now when you replace the diesel fuel excise … But is the remaining 18 cents going to find its way back into roads … Transcript, Mr Edmonds, p. 173.
Isn’t it time for some integrity in the road funding issue and make local and state government accountable and spend our roads money on roads.
I love life … and I love the things around me … my Toyotas … Wild Turkey … my house … lots of things … but without Today’s Truckies I wouldn’t have any of it … and no one would … because everything around you … around all Australians … in the supermarkets … everything comes on a truck … so the GST won’t really make our groceries dearer … In fact when you take into account the cuts in diesel fuel tax … Won’t this put some real money back into everyone’s hip pockets?
I heard from some people that housing prices will increase … but once again the rebate you’ve got in the package for first home buyers … combined with reduced transport costs because of the reduced diesel costs … may actually make the reverse happen … and your houses could end up cheaper.950 Material Broadcast by Mr Laws
On 19 August 1998 Mr Laws broadcast the following interview:
MR VAILE: Mark Vaile, Transport Minister, calling in. How are you today, John?
MR VAILE: I’m up in Toowoomba in Queensland and it’s a beautiful day here today …
MR VAILE: We’re up here actually campaigning with our candidate Bruce Green in the seat of Groome but particularly talking to a lot of the transport industries in the area. As everybody would understand, Toowoomba is actually a road transport hub in South Eastern Queensland.
MR LAWS: I don’t blame you for doing that and it’s a good thing and I bet Today’s Truckies are just delighted with the news. I know they lobbied very hard for it, they worked very hard for it, they campaigned very hard for it and you came good and I think it’s great.
MR VAILE: They did work very hard for it and I think that it’s an indication of the professional attitude that the road transport industry is taking today in working in partnership with government to achieve these outcomes that are not just going to benefit their industry, John, but they’re going to benefit all consumers and producers in Australia.
MR LAWS: Yes, well you see, that’s the thing because if the efficiency of Today’s Truckies is improved and they run better then everything runs better. It means things like cheaper groceries, I guess, improved exports, boost to local industry, plenty of jobs, if it works the way we all hope it’s going to work MR VAILE: I think it’s fairly simple the way it will work and the indications are that there are some major benefits will flow right through the system, not just to consumers, as I say, but to producers and exporters importantly, and that’s going to generate jobs.
MR LAWS: Surely this is going to affect people who sell goods because everything that goes anywhere is delivered on a truck. The bit of paper I’m holding in front of me and the paper clip I’ve just been fiddling with all came by way of a truck and everything that goes into a store goes by way of a truck.
ATA.0004.0661, Ellipses in original.
Now, if the store is going to have problems with the GST, and some seem to think they will, at least the delivery of the goods to the store should be made cheaper or certainly no more expensive.
MR VAILE: Absolutely correct, and I think what we shouldn’t lose sight of, the fact we shouldn’t lose sight of is that with all those consumer goods we’ve got to factor in the cost savings as far as transport is concerned, particularly in regional Australia where predominantly all consumer goods are transported by the road transport industry and so we’ve got to put that in the equation as well and not just look at the wholesale sales taxes coming off this product, the GST is going on, these are the changes, we’ve got to factor in the greater efficiencies that are going to be had in that industry.
We’ve had an indication from an operator in Western Australia, operating a B-double truck, that the savings could be as much as $1,730 a week on his operation.
MR LAWS: Isn’t it expecting a lot of anybody, whether it be a truckie or a train driver, to provide his services for less money?
MR VAILE: It is and the road transport industry is a very, very competitive industry and obviously we want to see that industry run profitably and viably and efficiently and that means greater road safety, obviously, by doing that and so there’s not an ask that absolutely everything is passed on but we want to ensure that there is a reasonable amount of savings passed on to the consumer to ensure that those products that appear on the shelves appear to have a lower freight content in them.
MR LAWS: There’s going to be, what, 18 cents left as the levy on diesel.
MR VAILE: Yes, it’s still an excise, John, it’s been reduced from 43 cents to 18 cents.
MR VAILE: I’d put the argument that it does now. We’re spending $1.6 billion on roads in Australia now. We would be hoping to spend more in specific areas. We have done a lot of work with different interest groups, particularly the road transport industry, to identify where their critical needs are, to make their industry more efficient, to make our roads much safer and we want to sort of expand that where we can but we’ve got to balance that up in the overall economic management of Australia as well.
MR LAWS: Yes, only about half of the original levy was going to roads or less than half, wasn’t it?
MR VAILE: If you drew what’s called an hypothecation line across but bear in mind that fuel taxes across Australia develop just as a tax. They do help to pay for education and health and those sorts of things.
The 18 cents that we’ve ended up with, there has been a fairly clear indication from industry that that is what they think they should be paying in terms of using the infrastructure. That’s how we got to that figure and we’ve worked very closely with industry on this.
MR LAWS: Yes. It’s good news. It’s terrific news for the truckies and I’m sure that the appreciation will be displayed wherever they see you and let’s hope it’s passed on to the consumers because it’s one way of offsetting what could be an increase in certain areas.
MR VAILE: In some products, that’s exactly right and that will help bring that CPI increase down to what we’ve projected to be 1.9% and I’m sure with the professional way that the road transport industry have conducted and developed their business in recent years, they certainly will pass the majority of those savings on to ensure that this package that we’ve put together actually benefits all those people; those consumers, the producers and the exporters in Australia to help bolster our economy for the future.
MR LAWS: Yes, and it certainly gives them a whole lot more room to be competitive, doesn’t it, and that’s the important thing.
MR VAILE: It does and we’ve obviously, in terms of equity, the same charge on diesel used in rail operations across Australia will apply so rail operations will be working on 18 cents a litre the same as roads and it will be incumbent upon all those transport industries to ensure that our consumer goods and our exports are transported much more cheaply.
MR LAWS: OK, good to talk to you, Mark. Thank you for your time. Have a good time in Toowoomba and I hope I see you soon.
MR VAILE: Certainly do, John. Thank you very much.
MR LAWS: Mark Vaile, Federal Minister for Roads and Transport, with some good news and that is good news, about the 18 cents levy which is a tax anyway, or excise which is a tax anyway, on diesel fuel.
But bear in mind we have to wait for it but I guess it’s worth waiting for. They’ve certainly tried hard long enough to get the reduction. Finally it’s there.
I just do hope that the 18 cents is going to find its way back onto the roads. 951 Mr Laws’ Submission to the Hearing
Mr Laws made the following submissions in relation to this broadcast: