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6 February 2008

Radio Australia


HAHN TRAN: This is the multicultural face of Radio Australia. We are staffed mainly by migrants from the first generation. Working with Aussie-borns we represent the country to Asia Pacific region.

Radio Australia is the voice of Australia. We broadcast to the region in an arc of what we call influence from in the far west we've got the Maldives on the other side of India, north to China, throughout that North Asia area and then we concentrate in South East Asia and then in the Pacific we go as far as Cook Islands.

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Over the week our audience would number between one hundred and two hundred millions.

JOHN WESTLAND: We started in 1939, particularly as a shortwave service.

VOICEOVER: Australia calling the world. I have the honour to introduce the Prime Minister of Australia, the Right Honourable R.G. Menzies.

MENZIES: The time has come to speak for ourselves.

JOHN WESTLAND: Traditionally shortwave I suppose, has been I suppose because we've had to go across borders because there's been tight regulation in other parts of the world.

Shortwave works particularly well across borders.

It travels a very long way. You can send a signal from the southern part of Australia which will reach comfortably to Europe.

NUIM KAIYATH: People were listening to Radio Australia even in isolated places like in the forests and the jungles of Kalimantan. In its heyday, in the 60s, 70s, 80s, we really were the voice of Australia in South East Asia in particular but in the region when we used to receive up to 300,000 letters a year. We would be receiving so many letters we didn't know what to do with them.

HAHN TRAN: We broadcast in seven languages. We broadcast in pidgin, French, Chinese, Indonesian, Khmer, Vietnamese and English.

VOICEOVER: Protesters in New Zealand tried to disrupt a visit by Australia's Foreign Minister.

JOHN WESTLAND: Radio Australia prides itself on its independence.

HAHN TRAN: Independent of government, independent of political and commercial interferences.

MARK SCOTT: We are free and independent to do our reporting and to do our broadcasting as we see fit.

NUIM KAIYATH: It is not the voice of the government. It is the voice of the people of Australia.
Culturally, in places like Indonesia, like in Malaysia, it would not happen that a government that finances you would not have say in what you have to say. Here is a government that is giving millions of dollars but still has no say whatsoever in the running of Radio Australia.

JOHN WESTLAND: There's been a couple of cases in particular where that's brought us into conflict with regional governments. In Indonesia in particular, there was a period in the 70s when a correspondent, Warwick Beutler, was expelled from Indonesia.

VOICEOVER: Here is the news from Radio Australia, read by John Sloan.

And the political events in Fiji dominate the bulletin this morning.

JOHN WESTLAND: And more recently in Fiji when a correspondent going in for the ABC for Radio Australia, Peter Cave, ran into some difficulties with the local government.

NUIM KAIYATH: We are telling our audience things that they would not hear in their own countries.

HAHN TRAN: We also allow the regional partners a voice. They can engage us, they can tell us how they feel about certain things. People might not feel safe speaking to their own media, sometimes they're not allowed to. There were times when people, opinion leaders in these countries, they would speak to Radio Australia rather than to their own domestic channels.

Our future is moving away from a traditional medium like shortwave and so on and concentrate on something that young audience really use like FM radio, like internet.

JOHN WESTLAND: And of course that gives access to any of our material in any part of the globe.

VOICEOVER: Radio Australia news. I'm Duncan Ness. The headlines...

JOHN WESTLAND: We believe that the way that we go about being heard is by being heard as an equal rather than by being an overriding big brother and part of the way that we do that is to assist with training and assist with development.

MARK SCOTT: We are part of Asia and increasingly our future is part of Asia and we have very strong relationships through the Pacific region.

NUIM KAIYATH: People want to know what Australia thinks about the region, what Australia thinks about the Pacific and about Asia.

MARK SCOTT: Australia has an important role to play as a broadcaster to the region, on radio, on television and online, and we're planning with confidence that the funding will be there to allow us to continue to grow the service in the future.