17 September 1996
Mr Bob Mansfield
PO Box 1873
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Dear Mr Mansfield,
We refer to the Terms of Reference 3 a, b, and c. It would appear to us that in order to safeguard these criteria it is imperative that the ABC should not provide part time employment for employees of giant multi-national corporations. When and where such employees gain access to ABC programmes then they can potentially, a. promote the interests of their other wealthy employer, and b. suppress information adverse to the interests of their wealthy employer.
We would draw your attention to the employment of a Dr Jonica Newby as a part time reporter on the Science Show. Dr Newby's other occupation is as consultant to the Pet Care Information and Advisory Service (PIAS). PIAS is owned by the giant multi-national confectionery and pet food Mars Corporation. Dr Newby is also a Director of the Australian Veterinary Association which is sponsored by and promotes the interests of divisions of the Mars Corporation.
PIAS devotes considerable resources to school visits throughout Australia. It is unlikely that primary school children would know of the connection between PIAS and its parent company. When a PIAS employee appeared in an infotainment segment (which we believe served to promote the interests of the Mars Corporation) on Radio 2BL on 5 February 1993 there was no mention of the parent company. Coverage on the ABC and in schools carries connotations of official approval and is of correspondingly greater value to the advertiser.
In recent years we have been attempting to bring to the notice of the Australian community the dangers and costs associated with the consumption by pets of artificial pet foods. It is true that the issues have received an airing in the press, on radio and responsible programmes such as The Investigators. Nevertheless the community is far from being informed of the extent of the problem in the face of widespread advertising by the pet food companies and the suppression of vital information by the veterinary authorities.
We therefore respectfully submit that the ABC should be mindful that professional and commercial organisations may pursue their interests which may be to the detriment of the community. In order to counter these activities the ABC should be proactive and:
1. Introduce and enforce requirements that its employees should not be in receipt of commissions from large outside commercial interests.
2. Introduce and enforce requirements that its employees should declare any position of responsibility held with any outside body or organisation.
3. Should ensure that organisations should not in the guise of infotainment, either by themselves or by proxy, gain ABC air time for the advertising of their goods or services
4. Should seek out and report upon matters raised by whistle blowers in all professions and occupations.
Perhaps outside of the Terms of Reference of the ABC Review but nonetheless important we believe that the ABC should carry out a wide ranging and in depth investigation into the Veterinary Profession and its links with the artificial pet food industry. In this and the other matters raised we would be pleased to provide additional details as you may require.
Dr Alan Bennet, Bligh Park
Veterinary Hospital, Bligh Park, NSW 2756 Tel: 045 877177
Dr Ian Billinghurst, Mort Street Veterinary Clinic, Lithgow, NSW 2790 Tel: 063 522822
Dr Tom Lonsdale, Riverstone Veterinary Hospital, Riverstone, NSW 2765 Tel: 02 9627 4011
Dr Breck Muir, Stella Street Veterinary Clinic, Long Jetty, NSW 2261 Tel: 043 326 026
Cc Whistle Blowers Australia and other interested parties.