Sydney Morning Herald

23 December 2008


The broadcaster, the Labor MP and the off switch


By Wendy Frew, Urban Affairs Editor
December 23, 2008 - 12:40PM

A RADIO show broadcast in Wollongong that aired corruption allegations about the ALP, including allegations about the state MP Noreen Hay, has been shut down with the help of local police.

The broadcaster Paul Matters, a former head of the South Coast Labour Council, was removed from the station by Wollongong police on Saturday when he arrived at Vox FM in Wollongong to broadcast his program, Struggle Street.

Mr Matters had presented the program, which examines issues related to unemployed people, for 12 years. More recently he had aired material about alleged corruption in Wollongong and criticised what he saw as Ms Hay's inappropriate relationships with developers.

Ms Hay, who was named in a wiretap played to corruption hearings into Wollongong council earlier this year but was not named as a person of interest by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, is one of Vox FM's advertisers.

Mr Matters and his supporters claimed he was removed so as to shut down discussion about the ALP's alleged role in corruption. The station's board of directors disputed the censorship accusations, saying Mr Matters's aggressive behaviour was the reason for his removal.

No charges were laid against Mr Matters.

"Disciplinary action has been taken against a small number of Vox members for behavioural issues constituting unacceptable conduct within the workplace," the secretary of the Vox board, Hanno Stanojevic, said yesterday.

He later told the Heraldthe board was unhappy with some of the accusations broadcast by Mr Matters.

"Paul was moving away from talking about unemployment to talking about corruption, including allegations he made about our dealings with council about our new premises."

Mr Stanojevic said the station called the police because it was worried about what Mr Matters might do, following a rowdy meeting the previous Thursday involving board members, Mr Matters and some of his supporters.

Mr Stanojevic said a threat made earlier in the year by Ms Hay to sue Mr Matters, Vox FM and its board of directors, was a concern.

"She felt the stories were not correct and she told us to run a correction and to stop more stories being broadcast," he said. "We don't know if the stories were right or wrong but our solicitor and insurers warned us we were in a bit of trouble."

Mr Matters told the Heraldthe program had always had a political edge but that ALP interests connected with the station had been unhappy with his attacks on the party.

"We said the most outrageous things about John Howard and there was not a peep out of [the board of directors]. The problems began when we started talking about the ALP," Mr Matters said.

"Hay is a sponsor of the station, which is unusual for a politician," he said.

Ms Hay said she knew nothing about any corruption allegations against her but did write to the station about derogatory remarks Mr Matters had made about her physical appearance.

"My letter said to tell [Mr Matters] to desist making personal comments about me," Ms Hay said. "I am still a sponsor of the station and will continue to be," she said.

Mr Matters, who is also a member of the group Wollongong Against Corruption, yesterday vowed to present his program every Saturday morning in the Wollongong mall in front of Ms Hay's office and to "name names".

Vox FM said
Struggle Street would return to air in the new year with a different presenter.