PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 5441


Photo of Fraser, Malcolm

Fraser, Malcolm

Period of Service: 11/11/1975 to 11/03/1983

More information about Fraser, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/09/1980

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 5441

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the 13th Conference. of
the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. This welcome is
strengthened in the knowledge that you represent an important.
part of the activities of an institution that Australians value
very highly the Commonwealth of Nations. May I also say how
pleased I am to see here the General Manager of our own national
broadcasting service Sir Talbot Duckmanton.
Sir Talbot has been a leading figure in Australian broadcasting
for many years now and I know his contribution to the development
of Commonwealth broadcasting has been considerable. We welcome
him back after a protracted illness.
This Conference is virtually a microcosm of the Commonwealth; drawing
together people f rom countries of diverse economic and political system;
countries which range in population from the smallest to ' the biggest
in the world; in geography from our nearest neighbours to some who are
farthest removed from this region. Yet there are bonds between our
nations which make a strength of this diversity; which enable it to
serve as a framework of co= mmunication and co-operation beneficial
to us all.
As an international association, the Commonwealth of Nations is
unique. For it is not based on the same geographical region; like
ASEAN, or the organisation of African unity. Nor is it based on
a common ideology or interest, like the non-aligned movement.
But members of the Commonwealth share a common history, a language
and a heritage of values. And these give rise to a shared vision
of the kind of world we are working together to create.
Nowhere is this vision better enshrined than in the Declaration of
Con-monwealth Principles, unanimously adopted by 31 Heads of
Government in Singapore in 1971. These cover such fundamental
matters as international peace and order; the liberty of the
individual; racial prejudice; disparities in wealth between
countries of international co-operation.
Of course, the Commonwealth could simply have gone through the
motions of pursuing ti-lese principles, preserving-a facade of unity
by avoiding contentious issues. Indeed, for a long time, the
Commonwealth had to contend with the defeatist and negative view
that it did not have the potential for a continuing and
constructive role in world affairs. / 2

It is not such a long time ago that many people openly.
questioned the very purpose of the Commonwealth in a ' modern world.
It was regarded as an anachronism; a relic of the British Empire,
with little relevance in a world of completely changed political,
economic and social realities. I think that scepticism has
been firmly put to rest over the last few years.
-The Commonwealth has proven itself able to adapt to change, to
become a vehicle for constructive action, and exchange. Indeed,
it has retained the active involvement of so many nations
precisely because it has faced all the major issues head on.
One need only look at the agendas and communiques of the meetings
of Heads of Government to appreciate that fact.
Of course, the most dramatic example of the potency of the
Commonwealth in international affairs was given by the 1979
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Lusaka. It laid the
framework for a settlement of the conflict in Zimbabwe, a
settlement that had eluded the prolonged efforts of major powers..
I have recently returned from a meeting of Regional Commonwealth
Heads of Government in New Delhi. There, our discussions covered
key developments in this part of the world including trade and
energy, and the vexing problems in Kampuchea and Afghanistan.
. Regional meetings of this kind'are a good example of the ability
of the Commonwealth to adapt to new situations.
Indeed, the concept of a regional meeting arose-from an Australian
perception that the special concerns and interests of South and
South-East Asia, and particularly the Pacific Ocean region, could
usefully be discussed in the informal and frank way that has
characterised larger Commonwealth meetings. It was seen as a
regional complement to what the Commonwealth. Heads of Government
Meeting does on a global scale.
Australia consulted its Asian and Pacific Commonwealth neighbours,
found the idea well received, and issued invitations to a meeting
in Sydney in February, 1978. This meeting demonstrated that the
CHOGRM concept had indeed responded to a genuinely felt need by
the participants.
The subsequent meeting in New Delh i, and the agreement to hold a
third meeting in Fiji in 1982, have underscored the success of
this initiative.
Of course, the next 12 months will be of particular interest to
Australia as we prepare to host the 1981 Heads of Government
Meeting in Melbourne. This will be the most important
international meeting ever held in Australia, bringing together
more than 40 Heads of Government. We are honoured to have been
chosen as host for the meeting and accept this honour as a
recognition of the constructive role that Australia has played in
Commonwealth and international affairs.

Arrangements are already in hand for the organisation of-this
meeting; and I am confident that it will enjoy the succe'ss that
has characterised past meetings; and that it will make a
significant contribution to the consideration of imoportant world
issu es ' ahd the furthering of Commonwealth co-operation.
But in the longer term the strength and vitality of the Commonwealth
depend on far more than the links between Heads of Governm~ nt.
Most importantly, they rely on the links betw~ een people at all
levels. In a couple of years' time, Australia will be the proud
host of the Commonwealth Games. This must surely be the biggest
single event that brings Commonwealth people together, because
it is an event that is shared, not only by those who participate,
but also by the millions who follow it through the media.. And that
is something which underscores the special role played by the
organisations you represent at this Conference.
For the vast majority of our populations who cannot attend
conferences, Games and gatherings of this kind, the reality of the,
Commonwealth and its value is derived, in large part, from what you,..
the broadcasters, say about it. And also, from what you don't say.
As a pol * itician, I am very aware of the importance of the media in
shaping popular perceptions and creating the environment within
which the politician must operate. Commonwealth Heads of Government'
have explicitly recognised the importance of mass communication
in a number of ways.
Part of the Lusaka Declaration on Racism and Racial Prejudice
reads: " We are particularly conscious of the importance of the
contribution the media can make to human rights and the eradication
of racism and racial prejudice by helping to eliminate ignorance
and misunderstanding between people and by drawing attention to the
evils which afflict humanity. We affirm the importance of
truthful presentation of facts in order to ensure that the public
are fully informed of-the dangers presented by racism and racialism".
Lusaka also saw two initiatives, both suggested by the Australian
Government, of relevance to this Conference. The first was the
establishment of a Commonwealth Committee on Communications and
the Media. This Committee has been identifying the most pressing
communications and media problems experienced by Commonwealth
countries, especially the developing ones, and suggesting suitable
forms of practical co-operation to tackle them. Its frame of
reference covers some of the areas that are right in the forefront
of current international discussions such as the role of the major
international news agencies. The agencies have a traditional
European and North American orientation which shapes the news
they cover.
This creates concern, particularly among developing countries, that
many of the problems and perspectives which they regard as important
are not being adequately covered. It is an extremely thorny issue
and we will be looking with great interest at the Committee's
report to the next Heads of Government Meeting in Melbourne.

No doubt, the CBA will be one of the bodies-involved in * 1
implementing any recommendations which flow from this report.
A second Lusaka initiative was the establishment of the
Commonw-ealth media exchange scheme, and I understand that the
CBA was involved in the formulation of its criteria. Iloves are
now underway for the first of the proposed exchanges to take
place, taking Australian journalists to agencies in developing
Commonwealth countries and bringing journalists from such
-countries here. These exchanges will heighten the sensitivity
with which news is gathered and interpreted. Such sensitivity
can be of inestimable value in prom~ oting the awareness and
understanding we have of one another; for the people of the media
are so often our only source of knowledge of far-off places.
and events.
Education, information, entertainment; broadcasting is
absolutely central to all of ther.. The organisations representedin
the C. B. A. broadcast television and radio to a combined
population of about 1000 million people. This gives you enormous
power, but it brings with it great responsibility a. s to how
this power is exercised. It also means that, on occasions, the
accurate presentation of world events requires that men and women
from your organisations live in the shadow of danger.
Only-this year, a young and talented member of our o-wn national
broadcasting service lost his life-. I know that these dangers
; are faced and accepted as part of the respons'ible pursuit of
truth. But too often, as we benefit from the world being brought
into our drawing rooms, we are una-ware of the high professionalism
and sense of responsibility that attend much of what goes on in
bringing to us all, the news of the world.
I know that many of the topics you will be looking at at this
Congress reflect your awareness of the twin concepts of power
and responsibility. For example, " impartiality and fairness" in
news and current affairs broadcasting; and " violence on
television". These and other broadcasting issues, such as the
choice of appropriate technologies, are current in Australia.
There is much for us to learn from you in these matters, and, f
no doubt there is much in our experience from which you will benefit.:
And this is essentially what the Commonwealth representis a basis
for the exchange of ideas and information; a platform for
co-operation. I wish you well in your deliberations. You face
a most formidable and challenging agenda; and I have no doubt
that your discussions and your resolutions will contribute not only
to-the needs of the Commonwealth; but to those of the wider
world beyond.
I am grateful for the invitation to be with you today and I have
much pleasure in declaring this Conference open.

Transcript 5441