Melbourne ABC local radio breakfast announcer Red Symons is facing a drop in income when a “pre-existing arrangement with a commercial company” – believed to be a deal to spruik for a hardware chain on TV – expires.

This week’s Senate Estimates Committee hearings on the ABC saw the question of his outside commercial interests probed, and the activities of senior ABC News and Current Affairs executive, Walter Hamilton also got a brief mention.

Labor Senator George Campbell led the questioning on both issues. He asked ABC managing director Russell Balding: “Did the ABC give permission to Red Symons to appear and continue to appear in advertisements?”

Mr Balding—I believe it did. Ms Howard would be able to address that.

Ms Howard—Under the editorial policies, we can allow people, if they have pre-existing contracts, to continue those arrangements. When Mr Symons joined the ABC he had a pre-existing arrangement with a commercial company. Until that contract runs out, he will continue to honour it.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL—Would he be expected to finish that contract at the time it terminates?

Ms Howard—At that point we would not agree for its renewal—that is correct.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL—Does the ABC allow staff members to utilise ABC resources for outside projects?

Mr Balding—No, not for private purposes, unless they get specific approval for it. But, as a general rule, no. ABC assets should only be used for ABC business.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL—What is the current status of Mr Walter Hamilton?

Mr Balding—Mr Hamilton is on 12 months’ leave without pay at the moment.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL—Has Mr Hamilton been using the facilities of the ABC in Japan during this period?

Mr Balding—I am not aware of that. I would have to make inquiries.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL—Could you make inquiries as to whether or not the resources of I think the Tokyo facility—

Mr Balding—We have a Tokyo bureau.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL—Can you take that on notice and find out whether that is occurring?

Mr Balding—I will.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL—In terms of the application of the code of conduct, is a different set of rules or a common set of rules applied to all of your employees, whether they are your so-called stars—for example, Sally Loane or Geraldine Doogue—or not? Do the same principles apply?

Mr Balding—It is common for all employees.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL—It applies to everyone?

Mr Balding—Exactly.