10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr: Speaker (Hen. SirLittleton. Groom) took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the (Government taken into consideration the operations of the Performing. Rights Association, its efforts to secure certain copyrights, and the demands it makes upon the executives of public halls and broadcasting companies for the payment of fees for the use of copyrighted material? If so, will the Prime Minister say how the Government proposes to deal with the matter?
– The matter about which the honorable member asks is one of extraordinary complexity and difficulty, and the Government has given muchconsideration to it. The copyright laws of the Commonwealth are in conformity with the international convention for the protection ofcopyright, and therefore the difficulty to which the honorable member has referred cannot be met by a mere alteration of the Copyright Act. There is, however, a general desire to find some solution of the problem. It affects not only the rights of people who, by the exercise of their brains, have produced something for which they are entitled to remuneration and protection against piracy, but also the conduct of broadcasting. After full consideration the Government has concluded that the best thing will be to get the parties concerned together, to see if. a mutually satisfactory arrangement cannot be arrived at. Therefore, at the instance of the Government, a meeting will he held in Sydney next Tuesday, at which there will be representation of the Performing Rights Association, broadcasting companies, and those who were present at a conference which was held in Sydney three or four weeks ago. At that meeting, at least a preliminary survey of the situation will be taken to see what can be done.
– The Prime Minister has stated that the Government will be represented at the proposed conference. Will its representative keep a close eye on the proceedings of the conference to see that no kind Of a monopoly is created, even’ in connexion with copyrights.
– I said, not that the Government would be represented at the conference, but that it was calling a’ conference. The Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department will preside. The purpose of the conference is really to try to remedy a very difficult situation. No action will be taken or countenanced by the Government that would create an improper monopoly respecting any of the matters that are discussed.
– A fortnight ago, I addressed a series of questions, on notice, to the Prime Minister regarding the position of officers’ of the Postmaster-General’s Department in relation to accumulated leave of absence. The answer I received was ‘that the matter required investigation, and I should get a reply later. Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to supply the desired information ?
– I have not yet received the information, but I have been informed that a report has been received from the Public Service Board, and also comments from the Postmaster-General’s Department, and that the matter was again referred to the Public Service Board yesterday. I hope shortly to bo in a position to supply answers to the honorable member’s questions.
construction of LAKES.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories whether a report has been received from the Public Works Committee condemning the proposal for the construction of lakes at Canberra. Seeing that the lakes form a part of the original plan of the Federal Capital, should not the advisability of their construction be decided by Parliament rather than by the Public Works Committee!
– A report concerning the matter will be tabled by the chairman of the Public Works Committee, and it will then be for the House to decide what shall be done.
Issue of Gold Mining Leases in Mandated Territory.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories whether he is aware that it is reported from the Mandated Territory of New Guinea that gold-mining leases covering 240 acres are issued’ to individuals, and that several persons, by getting together quietly, have been able to secure control of 5 square miles of country. Will the Minister have the matter investigated, and submit a report upon it to the House later?.
– I have not heard the report to which the honorable member refers. I shall have inquiries made through the Department of Home and Territories, and shall advise the honorable member of the result as. soon as possible.
– Can the Prime Minister indicate approximately the date of the promised opportunity to discuss the Locarno Pact ?
– Two aspects of the Locarno Pact concern this House. One is the Treaty of Mutual Guarantee itself, the general question of its usefulness as a means for promoting and ensuring world’s peace, and its relation to the League of Nations and the ideals underlying the establishment of the League. Then there is the position of Australia to be considered as one of the self-governing dominions, in view of the fact that the British Government is a party to the Treaty. The first subject can be dealt with when the discussion takes place upon the agenda for the forthcoming meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations, and an opportunity for that discussion will be afforded in the near future. An opportunity to discuss the other matter will be afforded on the consideration of the agenda forthe forthcoming Imperial Conference. In reply to a question submitted yesterday, 1 stated that I propose either at the end of the present week, or at the beginning of next week, to present that agenda paper, and move that it be printed. 1 shall then make a statement on the subject.
Mr.R. GREEN.- Prior to the acceptance of tenders for the recently sold expropriated properties in New Guinea, were the upset prices disclosed to tenderers? If so, for what reason?
– At the time of asking for the first set of tenders the upset prices of the properties were not disclosed to any of the tenderers, but, subsequent to the first tenders being received, the upset prices of the remaining properties were disclosed to all the tenderers and an opportunity thereby given them, as well as by public notification, to submit fresh tenders. As a result, the whole of the properties offering were sold.
– If, as the result of any inquiry made respecting the price of agricultural machinery in other countries, it is found that our manufacturers are charging lower prices than those ruling elsewhere, will the Prime Minister authorize another inquiry to ascertain whether the duties on that type of agricultural machinery could not be reduced ?
– All inquiries regarding the increase or reduction of duties affecting the Commonwealth protectionist policy have to be carried out by the Tariff Board, and should the need arise for consideration or reconsideration of any duties, a reference will be made to the board.
– Many items of news of a partisan character are broadcasted by the companies which receive subsidies from the Commonwealth in the form of licence fees. Is any control exercised by the Postal Department over the dissemination of such news?
– I understand that the honorable member is referring to “A” stations. A certain control is exercised over the programmes of “ A “ stations. They have to be approved by the PostmasterGeneral before being broadcasted.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether any finality has yet been arrived at with reference to the Pacific Islands mail and services subsidy?
– Finality has not yet been reached in regard to this matter. A further statement will be made at an early date.
Larkin Aircraft Supply Company Limited
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Can the Minister now give an answer to the questions asked by the member for Richmond on the 18th September, 1925 (Hansard, page 2555), regarding the Larkin Aircraft Supply Company Limited?
– If the honorable member will refer to pages 2625 and 2626 of Hansard, he will see that answers to his questions were given on the 23rd September, 1925.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
International Labour Organization : Conventions and Recommendations. “ Mr. COLEMAN asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many conventions and recommendations requiring Federal ratification have been received from the International Labour Organization of the League of Nations since the inception of that body?
What action (if any) has been taken to ratify such conventions and recommendations?
How many conventions and recommendations have not been ratified and/or adopted, and why?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Social Welfare Work
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Allan Wilkie Company : Reduction of Fares and Transport Charges
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Board of Review
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Tender Vessels - North-west Coast.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the proposed duty on petrol will apply to mineral turpentine?
– Yes. Mineral turpentine is a petrol product, and has always been included in item 229 c.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked theMinister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer upon notice -
In connexion with the amount of the balance of the Consolidated Revenue Fund paid by the Commonwealth to the States from the beginning of federation to the end of the financial year 1906-7, what was -
Total amount paid to all States; and
Segregated amount paid to each State?
– The amount paid to the States from the beginning of federation to the end of 1906-7 from the balance of one-fourth of the net customs and excise revenue which the Commonwealth was entitled to expend was as follows : -
A further amount of £330,740 in excess of three-fourths of the customs and excise revenue was paid to the States in 1907-8.
Supply of Medical Chests
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the information desired by the honorable member will be supplied as soon as possible.
asked the Minister re presenting the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Horseshoe gold mine, will he go into the question of employing this very fine class of workmen on the completion of this very necessary
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Refunds in Western Australia.
asked the Treasurer upon notice -
What has been the amount of refund by the Federal Taxation Department on the federal taxation of incomes in Western Australia for each year of the past four financial years?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question is as follows: 1922-23, £47,123 18s. 8d.; 1923-24, £33,801 13s. 0d.; 1924-25, £24,374 6s. lid.; 1925-26, £14,556 14s. 4d. -
– On the 27th May, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following question: -
Will the Prime Minister have prepared and laid on the table of the House at an early date a list of the works of art purchased and presented to the Commonwealth, as suggested by questions of the honorable member for Melbourne on the 26th May?
A list on the lines suggested has been compiled, and is now laid on the table of the House, as requested by the honorable member.
Mrs. Flora Gilmore - Sale of Expropriated Properties
– On the 15th July, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked the following questions: -
The Custodian of Expropriated Properties has now furnished the following replies: -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Wakefield (MrFoster) asked the following questions: -
The Custodian of Expropriated Properties has now furnished the following replies : -
– I have laid on the table the report of Sir George Buchanan on the ports and harbours of North and North-western Australia. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) asked a question yesterday in regard to further reports by Sir George Buchanan, and I said that I had no idea when they would be received. To-day I received a cablegram from Sir George Buchanan saying that a f urther report dealing with transport in Australia generally was posted on the 15th July.
The following papers were presented : -
Ports of North and North-Western Australia
Report, dated 30th April, 1926, by Sir George Buchanan, K.C.I.E.
Ordered to be printed.
Meteorological Service - Report by the Commonwealth Meteorologist for the year 1924-25.
– I move -
In connexion with the preparations for the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra it is necessary to provide housing accommodation for civil servants. There is no prospect of private enterprise undertaking this work within the time available, or even at all, and there is no alternative to provision of the necessary housing by the Government. The Federal Capital Commission was asked to develop a scheme for the building of houses, and it prepared plans of various standard types for which tenders were called and accepted. The commission was under the impression that the erection of cottages did not come within the scope of the Public Works Committee Act; but this matter has been recently referred to the Crown Law authorities, who have advised that these cottages could not be regarded as a number of separate works, but must be considered as one work, and therefore come within the provisions of that statute. It is. therefore, desired to place this matter in order by referring it to the Public Works Committee, which will be invited, if this House approves, to deal with it as a special subject, provided leave is given for the committee to meet while the House is sitting. If this leave is not granted, the committer will be unable to bring in its report before Parliament rises. The delay that would be thus involved is undesirable, in view of the necessity of having the necessary housing completed and ready for occupation by the civil servants when they are transferred next year.. The commission has prepared standard types of plans and specifications with a view to keeping down the cost of the houses as much as possible; but the designs may be modified to suit the requirements of civil servants who are now stating their wishes after inspection of them. It is not known what total number of each type will be required, pending the completion of returns by all civil servants affected. The estimated costs of the various types range from £950 to £2,030, and the average cost per house may, therefore, be taken to be under £1,500; but this will depend upon the proportion of lower-priced houses that may be required. I produce plans and specifications of the types of houses, and further particulars will be given in evidence before the committee. I understand that the committee is prepared to deal with this matter expeditiously, and will visit Adelaide at the week-end. It may not be possible for it to return to Melbourne before Wednesday, and the second portion of my motion, if agreed to, will cover the absence of honorable members from the House on Tuesday next.
– What effect will this inquiry have upon contracts already let?
– I assume that the committee will report to the House on that aspect of the matter.
– Is it not extraordinary that the Government should allow building operations to commence and should then institute an inquiry as to whether the houses should be built?
– That is a matter upon which the House is entitled to express its opinion. The Government is taking immediate action to give effect to the declaration of the Crown Law authorities that the erection of these houses should have been referred to the Public Works Committee.
.- The Government’s reference amounts to closing the stable door after the horse has escaped, since the proposal should have been submitted to the Public Works Committee before the work was begun. Contracts have already been let, and, if the committee reported adversely where would the Government then stand?
-It is not likely that the committee would do that.
– I hope not. The decision of the Crown Law . authorities should administer a lesson to the Federal Capital Commission.
– The fault lies not with the commission but with the Government.
– In either case what object can be served by now referring the work to the committee ? The Government should accept responsibility for what has been done, and say that the contracts must stand. The Government admits that the commission acted illegally in letting the contracts before referring the work to the committee.
– Parliament as well as the Government is responsible for that.
– The work has gone so far that the Public Works Committee can now merely give its formal assent to it.
– Does the honorablemember think that it is too late to put the responsibility on the committee?
– Yes, because the plans have been adopted and the contracts let. I hope that the erection of the cottages will not be delayed, because if Parliament is to meet at Canberra in May next, they will be required for the officers who are to be transferred there.
– Have contracts for the whole of the 300 cottages been let ?
– I am told so. The Government should take the responsibility, and admit that a mistake has been made. I have received telegrams from Canberra’ complaining of the slanderous remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) concerning the workmen employed there.
– Order! The honorable member may not refer to remarks made in another debate.
– The honorable member has slandered certain Government employees, and I propose to defend them. He poses as a builder, but I doubt if he could build a fowlhouse. Some of those men are as capable as any in Australia, and their work will bear comparison with that done in Melbourne or Sydney. The honorable member, who has no qualifications as a builder, should not have had the audacity to slander his own countrymen. The commission had a hard task in securing the necessary men for the work at Canberra in the early stages, because plenty of employment was available in the building trade in the capital cities: Therefore, the Commonwealth is under an obligation to the men who were prepared to sacrifice the comfort of their homes, and undergo the rigorous winter conditions prevailing at Canberra.
– The Government was lucky to get them.
– That, is so. The workmen at Canberra are entitled to fair play.
. -It was not I, but the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), who complained of the shoddy work done at Canberra. What I took exception to was the fact that the men were not giving the full quantity of work for the money paid them, and I still contend that they are not earning their wages.
– I am glad that this motion has been submitted. It proves that my remark of a few days ago, that the commission and the Government had badly blundered, was correct. The Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) challenged the accuracy of my previous statements.
– The honorable member may not refer to a previous debate.
– I do not think that I shall disclose a secret when I say that the Crown Law authorities pointed out that if the contracts were terminated the Commonwealth would sustain considerable loss. This showed conclusively that the contracts had been let, although the commission made it appear that it was letting contracts for one house at a time. The fact is that the contracts havebeen let, and they cannot now be repudiated. The Public Works Committee may point out that a wrong course of action has been pursued, but the work must continue. The honorable member for South Sydney need not fear that the move to Canberra will be delayed. The building will go on all too rapidly. I hope this experience will be a lesson to the three kings of Canberra that they cannot override the provisions of an act of this Parliament.
– The Government should have referred the matter to the Public Works Committee.
– Evidently it did not do so ; but permitted the Commission to proceed to carry out its recommendation. I am pleased that - even at this eleventh hour I was going to say, but really it is later than that-
– Anyhow, it is a moral victory for the honorable member.
– It is an admission that the charges that were made were justified. I wish’ to make a brief reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) in regard to his visit to Canberra. He, like myself, paid only a flying visit to the city, and was well paid for doing so. We did not see the men atwork for five minutes. The only man that the honorable member crossed swords with was a Scotch bricklayer, and very few words passed between them before the honorable member ran for his motor car as quickly as he could. He started to argue with this bricklayer about laying 1,000 bricks a day.
– On a point of order, I wish to state that the honorable member is making a misstatement. I did not have one word with the bricklayer.
– That is not a point of order. If the honorable member thinks that his remarks are being misrepresented, he will have an opportunity to make a personal explanation later.
– It is quite true that the honorable member did not have one word with the bricklayer; he had half a dozen, and it was more than enough. It is unfair to charge the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) with saying that shoddy work was being done at Canberra.
– The honorable member is now referring to a previous debate of this session; that is not in order.
– Has any one ever known of a public building being constructed as quickly as the . provisional Parliament House at Canberra?
– That work was a credit to the men engaged upon it, for it is being done speedily and well.”
– It is being done too speedily.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) made a wise observation - an unusual thing for him - when he was speaking on this matter last week. He said that a good deal of the blundering was due to our unseemly haste to get to Canberra. I should be well pleased if it took us 50 years to get there. I am glad that the Government took this step. It had only two courses in the matter, one of which was to bring down a bill to validate the illegal act that was done, and the other to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee. I think the right course has been taken. I should be glad to know whether the scope of reference to the committee will be sufficiently wide to enable it to inquire into the cost of the houses.
– The Government was well advised to seek the authority of “ Parliament, through the Public Works Committee, for the expenditure involved in these Canberra contracts, but I did not gather from the Minister’s remarks whether the scope of the inquiry would be wide enough to enable the committee to investigate the suitability of the types of houses that are being erected. Perhaps the Minister will make that point clear when he replies. With regard to the workmanship in the houses at Canberra, so far as I can see, no fault can be found with it. Nor do I think there is any room for complaint about the quality of the materials that are being used. Perhaps, as regards the use of shingles with which some of the cottages are being roofed, there is room for difference of opinion as to the wisdom of using such roofing material. Perhaps the committee could also inquire into that matter. I am quite sure that the Canberra Commission is doing its best, within the limited time at its disposal, to provide the necessary accommodation to enable the transfer to be made in May of next year. I do not think any blame is attachable to it for the oversight that has apparently occurred in connexion with the letting of a contract exceeding £25,000 without reference to the Public Works Committee. I understand that the Public Works Commission is to be given permission to make its inquiries while Parliament is sitting, so that the inquiry may be expedited and any avoidable delay obviated. I hope that its report will be submitted . to the House before it rises for the vacation. Any “fear that the work at Canberra will be delayed or interfered with on account of what has happened may, I think, be dismissed. Such interference would involve the country in serious financial loss, for the contractors would have to be compensated in case of any breach of their contract by the commission or the Government. The Public Works Committee, in view of all the circumstances, will undoubtedly pursue its inquiry as rapidly as possible and submit its report without delay, and very little expense is likely to result in consequence of the unfortunate oversight in not referring the matter to it in the first instance.
.- I should not have risen to participate in this debate but for the apology that has just been made in behalf of the Ministry. I have no desire to throw the blame for this mistake on the shoulders of the commission. The Government should have seen that the matter was referred to the Public Works Committee, and it must accept responsibility for not having done so. So far as I can recollect, this is the first time that a mistake of this kind has been made, and the only thing we can do now is to rectify it and get on with the work. I trust that the reference to the committee will be broad enough to enable it to inquire into the value of the cottages that are to be erected, and intimate whether such heavy rents as public servants have been notified will be charged are really justifiable. I do not think it is fair that Commonwealth officers with limited incomes should have to pay high rents, which are really beyond their means, for the cottages.
– Would the honorable member suggest writing down the capital cost?
– Yes. I hope that the committee will take the whole matter into consideration, and will see that suitable cottages are provided for public servants at a reasonable price.- The initial mistake has been made, and it is of no use to cry over spilt milk now. It is necessary to get on with the job.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The statement of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) was not in accordance with the facts. I did not say anything to the bricklayer at Canberra, but I saw the honorable member for Ballarat and two other honorable members on that side of the House talk with him, and they wasted a lot of his time in doing so.
.- I am pleased with the Government’s action, which justifies the opposition of certain honorable members , to proposals for restricting the scope of,; the Public Works Committee. I hope that no time will be lost in inquiring into the erection of the cottages. I direct the attention of the Minister and the Government to the fact that thousands of .people are anxious to go to Canberra to witness the ceremony in connexion with the opening of Parliament there. I suggest that the Government should proceed as quickly as possible with the erection not only of the cottages referred to, but also of as many others as possible. The taxpayers are finding the money for this venture, and those desirous of attending the opening ceremony, which will be one of the most important in our history, should, if possible, be provided with accommodation.
.- I do not wish to cross swords with any honorable member on this side of the House on the question of apportioning the blame for the bungling that has taken place. I am prepared, if necessary, to halve the blame. There is no doubt that both the Federal Capital Commission and the Government are to blame. Parliament made the initial mistake of appointing a commission, and if the advice of honorable members on this side ‘had been taken, the bungling would not have occurred. We suggested that those who had previously been responsible for constructional work at Canberra should remain in charge. Although the appointment of the commission may relieve the Government of some responsibility, there is al- ready ample evidence that it needs watch- ing carefully. I understand that about 2,000 cottages are needed, and, if they cost about £2,000 each, substantial profits will be made out of the Government. I hope that the committee will investigate the tenders submitted by contractors, and will inquire as to the cost of materials. A proper investigation will probably disclose that the contractors are calculating on a handsome profit. Australian workmen are the best in the world, notwithstanding the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), “and, under proper supervision, Canberra could be built better and more cheaply by day labour than by contract. The members of the commission are believers in the contract system, and they will, therefore, play up to contractors. I am not imputing anything dishonest; but, because the commissioners believe that the contract system is the best, and will consequently favour contractors, they should be watched. Until the commission was appointed, works at Canberra proceeded satisfactorily under the control of departmental officers, who knew their jobs thoroughly. “We are now paying thousands of pounds a year to a commission to protect the funds of the Commonwealth, and it has already disregarded the provisions of an act of Parliament, and the expressed views of honorable members. As bricks and tiles are made at Canberra, and all conveniences exist there for the landing of materials on the job at the cheapest possible rate, it is strange that cottages should cost such an enormous
Bum of money. I shall peruse with interest the report of the committee, and I hope that it will disclose something better than the contract method of building cottages.
[3.281. - The fault has undoubtedly been with the commission and not with Parliament. The commission has exceeded its duties; but, at this stage, it is farcical for the Government, at great expense, to send the Public Works Committee to Canberra to investigate something in regard to which it must report favorably. I do not mean that the committee must report that the houses are being built at a reasonable cost, but it must report in favour, of voting money to _ continue the scheme. The members of the committee will appear to the public as automatons, who have to do as they are told. They will find fault with the buildings, and may allege that too much money is being spent; but in the end they will condone what is being done. An inquiry should be made as to the cost of these buildings, which, in my opinion, and in the opinion of other honorable members, is excessive. The commissioners have exceeded their duty by spending more money than they are entitled to spend, and now this Parliament should shoulder the responsibility and legalize what the commission has done, instead of placing the onus on the Public Works Committee. The report of the committee should have nothing to do with the voting of the money.
.– The discussion this afternoon has justified the criticism in this Chamber the other day, when the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) moved to have this matter referred to the Public Works Committee. I would remind the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) that the members of the Public Works Committee inquire into every matter submitted to the Committee. They report on the facts as they find them, and are not influenced in any way by party considerations. I have risen now chiefly because the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) has charged me with having made an attack upon the workers at Canberra. I contradict that statement and, in support of my contradiction, I propose to quote what I said on the matter.
– Order ! The honorable member will- not be in order in quoting from a previous debate of this session.
– I said that the houses at Canberra were jerry-built and went on to refer to the builders and not to the men who actually carried out the work. When a foreman is placed in charge of a job, the workers on the job have to carry out his orders. What I condemned was the system under which the houses were built at Canberra. It will be remembered that I complained that some of the houses were roofed with cheap shingles instead of with a better form of roofing. No one would charge the men who did that work with responsibility for the selection of the inferior roofing. I attributed the shoddy, work done at Canberra to speeding up under the contract system. The honorable member for Franklin did refer personally to the workers. He said -
Many of these cottages have been built by day work.
– Order! The honorable member must not quote from a previous debate of this session.
– The honorable member for Franklin charged me this afternoon with having attacked the workmen at Canberra. I did not do so. It would not have been right for me to do so. What I attacked was the system under which the houses were built. The honorable member for Franklin said that many of the houses were built by day labour by men receiving 25s. and 30s. a day, who were not tradesmen. To-day he says that he did not make an attack upon the workmen. What he said is on record, and can be compared with the statement he made this afternoon. He has referred to time lost in a conversation with a workman. I was present when the conversation referred to took place. It did not occupy more than three or four minutes, and, as a matter of fact, the workman referred to did not cease his work for an instant during the conversation; he complained that the workers were condemned for not doing a great deal of work when, as a matter of fact, they were working as hard as they could. His grievance was that a number of persons were going about Canberra in motor cars, looking at the works m progress, while only a few were doing the hard graft, and he was one of them. I am very pleased that these works are to be referred to the Public Works Committee. The decision to make the reference is a victory for those who advocated the adoption of that course weeks ago.
.- I should not have taken part in the debate were it not for some remarks made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Perkins). The honorable member seems to be in doubt as to whether the Public Works Committee, the Federal
Capital Commission, or the Government is responsible for what has occurred. I desire to make a few brief quotations from the correspondence that has taken place. On the 21st May, the Public Works Committee addressed a letter to the Minister for Home and Territories, the material paragraph of which reads -
The committee is unanimously and strongly of opinion that the carrying out of a work such as that indicated, involving a large expenditure of public money, is a distinct evasion of the act, and some members were desirous of ventilating the matter on the floor of the House. At my suggestion, however, they had consented to defer any such action for the present, nml I am taking this opportunity of bringing -the matter under your notice in the hope that the committee may obtain your assurance that this project will be referred for its investigation before the work is put in hand.
To that letter the Public Works Committee received a reply from the Minister for Home and Territories, dated 13th July, in which, referring to the failure to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee, the statement is made -
The failure to do so is due entirely to inadvertence, it having been assumed, after full inquiry had been made, that this work, which embraces the construction of 500 cottages, was one in relation to the individual cottages, and not to the contract for the 500 as a whole.
I am sure I need not stress to you or to your committee the fact that neither the commission nor my predecessor, in failing to refer the work to you, was either desirous of avoiding tlie provision of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act, or of showing any discourtesy to the committee.
It lias also to be borne in mind that the date for the transference of the Capital to Canberra would have to be postponed if the question of these cottages were now to be investigated by the Public Works Committee, as the commission, working at full pressure, would only he able to make the necessary arrangements for the transference on the 9th May, even if the work is not interrupted in any way.
In view of these circumstances, the two courses which it appears possible to pursue are: (1) That there shall be a formal reference of the works to your committee, and that your committee should formally approve them, and in its report to the House set out the circumstances under which that formal approval is given; or (2) That a bill should be introduced into Parliament authorizing .the works.
I have here the opinion of the SolicitorGeneral, in the course of which he says -
The material fact to be considered in determining whether section 15 of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act applies in anyparticular case is the estimated cost of completing any one work, and not the amount of money proposed to be expended, irrespective of the number of works to be completed.
The question to be determined in the present instance is, therefore, whether the construction of the 300 cottages in question at Canberra in pursuance of the contracts let is one work, or whether the construction of each cottage is a separate work.
I am, therefore, of opinion that the construction of the cottages in question constitutes one work for the purposes of section 14 (4) of the Seat of Government Administration Act, and section 15 (1) of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act, and that, as the total estimated expenditure appears to exceed £25,000, the proposed work should be referred to the Public Works Committee.
To the letter from the Minister for Home and Territories the Public Works Committee sent a reply dated 16th July, in the course of which it stated -
While anxious to avoid any action which may tend in any way to delay the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra, the committee, after carefully considering the matter in all its aspects, is of opinion that the only course it can recommend is that the work be referred in the usual way in accordance with section 15 of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee act 1913-1921.
To that letter the committee received the following reply, dated 16th July: -
I desire to acknowledge the receipt of your memo of this date, relative to the question of referring to your committee the proposal to erect a number of cottages at Canberra, and to inform you that it is noted that, upon a reference of this work being made to the committee, the committee will concentrate upon the subject, and endeavour to present its report to Parliament at the earliest possible date.
It will be seen from the correspondence that it was the Public Works Committee that first brought this matter under the notice of the Minister for Home . and Territories. I think that the correspondence proves that the Federal Capital Commission was quite innocent in the matter, and that there was no intended discourtesy to the Public Works Committee, or any desire to wilfully evade the Public Works Committee Act.
– The honorable mem ber should not apologize for them. Some one was to blame.
– There is no occasion for anology.I think I have done only my duty in placing the facts of the matter before the House.
– The question resolves itself into whether the Federal Capital Commis sion or the Government called for tenders for these works, and committed a breach of the Public Works Committee Act. When the Seat of Government Administration Bill was recently under consideration, it will be remembered that my reply to the second-reading debate on the measure was interrupted by the adjournment of the debate. I had at the time before me the whole of the facts of the case, and the correspondence between the Public Works Committee and the Government, and it was my intention then to make a statement on the subject to the House. It has been stated that the commision; or the Government, or both, has tried to go behind the Public Works Committee Act. I have said previously, and I say again, that nothing was further from the minds of both the commission and the Government. When the matter was brought to the notice of the Government, it was immediately referred to the Crown Law authorities. The commission has certain powers for the carrying out of works when money is voted by Parliament for them. It must be remembered that the commission is carrying out works every day. It is making roads, extending the sewer services, the electric light and power services, and the water mains, and all those works are costing more than £25,000.
– It is time that they, too, were investigated.
– That is so. Every work which the commission undertakes, such as the construction of a road costing, say, £10,000, does not come within the Public Works Committee Act, but the commission may construct a number of such roads.
– Each road would be a separate work.
– The same argument might apply to cottages. Each cottage would be a separate building.
– What does the Crown Law Department say?
– That department has decided that the construction of roads, or extensions of water mains and sewer services are to be regarded as one work, and not a number of works. If, as honorable members have said, the Government bad intended to camouflage the position, and to deceive this House, it might easily have taken some other action.
– No one has said such a thing.
– Honorable members have to-day said that the Government and the commission had gone behind the back of Parliament to carry out certain works. Had the Government had any desire to deceive honorable members respecting the erection of cottages at Canberra, instead of moving to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee, it could have passed a validating measure through this House. Neither the Government nor the commission had any desire to go behind the back of Parliament to build works at Canberra. The commission has been straightforward throughout, and rightly referred the matter to the Government for decision. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) was absent when I replied to some of the statements that he made” the other day respecting the use of shingle roofs at Canberra. I would inform him that only six houses there have shingle roofs, and that the residents of Sydney are to-day paying more for shingle roofs than for tiled roofs. That completely discredits the statement of honorable members that shingle roofs are shoddy and absolutely useless.
– If they are ofany use, why limit the number to six ?
– Honorable members may build their own houses at Canberra.
– No honorable member will build his home at Canberra.
– Arrangements are being made at present for the erection of honorable members’ houses.
– Does the Minister intend to build a house there ?
– Very probably. I think that the House is satisfied generally that neither the Government nor the commission had any intention to go behind the back of Parliament. The Government has taken the first opportunity to bring the matter before Parliament, and I ask honorable members to agree to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee for consideration and report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth public Works Committee Act 1913-21, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigations : - The erection of a building at Canberra for accommodation of Commonwealth Departments.
The report of the Public Works Committee was tabled in the House and ordered to be printed on the 7th of July last. It was not circulated amongst honorable members until to-day because of the pressure of work in the printing office. In the approved plan of Canberra, a special zone has been created for parliamentary and official activities, and a proper layout has been made for all structures in this area, so that the’ permanent’ offices to accommodate the various administrative departments of the Commonwealth may be arranged in accordance with an orderly and dignified scheme, with due provision’ to meet expansion for many generations. It will be remembered that the original proposal was that provisional buildings be erected, in the first instance, to accommodate the departments, but this House, on the recommendation of the Public Works Committee, passed a resolution on the 24th August, 1923, that such provisional buildings be not authorized, but that an architectural competition be held instead for the design of the first unit of the permanent administrative offices. This competition was held, and the design for which the first premium was awarded was duly referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. Its report has recently been presented to Parliament. The building, as proposed, will contain five floors, including lower ground and mezzanine floors, and will be constructed of concrete, faced with stone. Australian materials will be utilized wherever possible in its completion. Its equipment will include hot water heating, vacuum cleaning, hot water service, a refectory, strong rooms, and modern appliances generally.’ The planning aims at the convenient location of the departments, and a standard unit of floor space has been adopted to afford economic subdivision or utilization in large office spaces as may be found necessary. Access and internal communication by stairways and lifts have also received special study. The general finish will be as simple as possible, consistent with the requirements of an important permanent national building at the Seat of Government. The estimated coat of the building is £631,819, but to this should be added -
Either of two corresponding sites - one on each side of the main city axis - in the government area is available for these offices, and it is proposed to erect the building on whichever site affords the cheaper foundation. In due course, when required, and subject to the prescribed inquiries, the other site will be occupied by a building of similar design to form a balanced scheme. The conditions of competition provided that the winning design may be used in the future for the second building without employment of the successful architect, or payment of any fee. It is estimated that the building will require about four years for its completion, and when that is accomplished the balanceof Central Administrative staffs will be transferred. The cost of the building will be borne by the Federal Capital Commission. The Public Works Committee has made a very exhaustive inquiry into this proposal, and its report contains valuable suggestions for improvement and reductions in the cost of building. These will receive careful attention in working out the further details of the project. This will be the first permanent governmental office to be erected at Canberra. Even Parliament House, which is now nearing completion, is a temporary building, estimated to serve from 60 to 100 years. The Government intended in the first place to erect temporary offices, but the Public Works Committee reported unfavorably on that proposal, and the House, on the 24th August, 1923, passed a resolution providing for the erection of permanent administrative offices. Plans and specifications were prepared and submitted to the Public Works Committee for inquiry and report. Its report was tabled in this House on the 7th of this month. The committee has recommended that the building of the administrative offices be proceeded with as speedily as possible, so that accommodation may be provided for the public servants and the staff to be transferred to Canberra within the next three or four years.
– Will public tenders be invited for the erection of the building?
– I should think so. The Government at present intends to call for tenders for the work. The architect whose design was accepted will supervise the erection of the building. I cannot say definitely whether the work will be carried out by day labour or by contract, because that has not yet been decided by Cabinet. The policy of the Government is to carry out permanent works by contract, and I understand that it will be adopted in this case.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported : -Si-
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill.
Development and Migration Bill.
Excise Tariff Bill.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from 16th July(vide page 4314) on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the first item inthe Estimates under Division I. - The Parliament- namely, “ The President, £1,300” be agreed to.
.- In discussing the budget, honorable members may either range the universe or confine their attention to a single theme. In the observations I have to offer I intend to follow the latter course. With the approval of my leader I move -
That the item be reduced by £1.
If that amendment is agreed to, it will be a direction to the Ministry to request His Excellency the Governor-General to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the various wireless services controlled, or partially controlled, by the Commonwealth, and especially -
This is a subject which I have had occasion to ventilate in this Chamber on more than one occasion, but more particularly when it camebefore the Parliament in 1921, and when the agreement thensanctioned was modified in 1924. It is necessary, therefore, that I should publish a synopsis of previous chapters, as it may well be that the pressure of other important matters and the flight of time have caused honorable members to lose the continuity of the narrative. Moreover, since I last spoke, new members have come into this Chamber. Regretfully I have to admit that they have come from the wrong direction, carried in on a high tide of hysteria and terror artfully created by the Government which I have the honour to oppose. When the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was speaking in regard to land tax, upon which he is an acknowledged expert, he described the history of the taxation of Crown leaseholds as a drama, of which the phase with which he was then dealing was the fourth and final act. Following the example of the honorable member, but adopting a different analogy, I shall call my dissertation on wireless a saga, and I introduce it with these words of Longfellow -
And then the blue-eyed Norseman told
A saga of the days of old - a”’ saga which, however, will be supported by history and will be regarded, if I may paraphrase the words employed by the new judge of the Arbitration Court, as an historical verity. I am glad to be able to give an historical review of the subject, because history ison the side of the Labour party. It is bearing out our prophecies and turning to dust andashes the promises and prophecies of the Government. Therefore, in the public interest, history must be faithfully told. Besides, the poet has said, rightly, that “ hope springs eternal in the human breast,” and we hope, in face of the inexorable logic of facts and history, that the Government may yet see its way to mend its course in regard to this most questionable and questioned agreement with Amalgamated Wireless Limited. The first epoch of this history may be said to have been ushered in by the draft agreement presented to this Chamber by the then Prime Minister, the right honorable W. M. Hughes, in the latter days of December, 1921. I do not pretend to know what were the influences that persuaded the right honorable gentleman to accept the draft agreement with the company, but I do know that he is still a director of it. The directorate consists of three representatives of the company and three representatives of the Commonwealth, the six electing a seventh director, and the whole seven, in due course, electinga chairman. The right honorable member for North Sydney is the seventh director, and I understand that, giving a wise and’ broad interpretation of his position and powers, he has decided that he cannot be removed unless by the unanimous decision of the other directors. That, I think, is characteristic of the right honorable gentleman. There is, however, some time limit to his services, but no doubt he will meet any change in the situation when the need arises. It was in December, 1921, or a little earlier, that that versatile gentleman, the present managing director of Amalgamated Wireless Limited, first made his presence felt in the lobbies of this Parliament, where he wore out a good deal of shoe leather while addressing himself,quite unsuccessfully, I am happy to know, to the then PostmasterGeneral (Mir. Wise), who, wisely but somewhat curtly, if not absolutely brutally, turned him down. Notwithstanding the strong stand taken by that Postmaster-General, Mr. Fisk was active in other directions. This busy bee, after attempting to draw honey from the precincts of Federal Parliament House, proceeded to London, where he alighted on the then Prime Minister, who was attending an Imperial Conference. Apparently he was more successful with him than he had been with Mr. Wise, for as soon as the right honorable gentleman returned to Australia he submitted the proposed agreement to this House for ratification. By common consent the agreement was one which this Parliament could not accept. We of the Labour party succeeded in rallying to our support sufficient members on the Ministerial side to have the question referred to a select committee. The Opposition did everything possible to ensure that after the committee had dealt with the agreement it should come again before this House for further consideration, but we were overborne, and the House decided that if the agreement were approved by the committee it might properly be signed by the Prime Minister. The agreement referred to the committee was of such a nature that it is hardly credible that any responsible man could have advocated its acceptance by Parliament. Pre-eminent amongst many radical defects was the provision that a majority of the directorate should represent Amalgamated Wireless Limited. Let me say at this stage that for all the practical good that resulted from their efforts the committee and the Opposition might well have saved themselves their trouble, because whatever was gained by the committee’s inquiry and the suggestions which it subsequently made, and whatever improvements were made to the agreement as a result of its deliberations, have been successively given away by the present Government. Upon examination of experts, the committee found that there was no scientific certainty that a commercial wireless service of the kind required between Australia and the United Kingdom could in any circumstances be supplied in our present state of scientific knowledge. In that regard I shall quote from the notes of evidence which accompanied the published report of the committee, and which have been previously referred to in this Chamber. I think that we owe it principally to Senator Millen that these notes were prepared and embodied in the report, and the Prime Minister would, no doubt, be one of the first to acknowledge their accuracy, and the services rendered to the committee and the public by that honorable senator. On page 16 the report states -
On the one hand, the committee had the very valuable report of the Imperial Wireless Telegraphy .Commission of 1920, which dearly defined a commercial wireless service as one that guaranteed rapid, reliable, and continuous operating for 24 hours every day, and which also very positively stated that such a service was not practical beyond a distance of 2,000 to 3,000 miles. On the other hand, they had before them the draft agreements of the Amalgamated Wireless Company and the Radio Communication Company, which inferentially set out that a one-step service between Australia and the United Kingdom was commercially possible.
The following reference is made on the same page, to Mr. Fisk’s position: -
Mr. Fisk stated that the Marconi Company has developed devices which would effectively prevent atmospherics interfering with received signals, and that the efficiency of any system depended on the provision of such contrivance. He was unable, however, to adequately reply to the opinions expressed by certain noted physicists and wireless technicians that some really effective anti-atmospheric eliminating invention was still urgently required to remove this most serious limitation to longdistance radio-telegraphy.
Mr. Fisk, under cross examination, submitted a number of documents. I should here point out that this gentleman, who although our manager is without responsibility to us, took upon himself ‘ to declare that this proposal, in which Commonwealth money was being invested to the extent of half a million, was, in fact, easily capable of consummation, whereas in truth and in fact he admitted, under crossexamination, that he had no scientific data to justify such a statement. He submitted a number of log books, and,, according to the notes of proceedings -
These documents indicated that signals had been read from some of the European and American stations for a certain number of hours per day, but, unfortunately, no prolonged interception was made of any particular station. There was also a significant fact noted in these logs of the very many requests sent out by trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific stations for repeats of messages transmitted from points within comparatively short distances, betokening the serious effects of some interfering agencies.
Then the committee called Mr. Coffey, of the Radio Department of the Post Office, who submitted a series of concrete results of communications of this kind. It will be found, on turning to page 17 of the report, that at that stage there was no historic record of anything approaching a satisfactory commercial service of the nature for which we were bargaining. I recall these facts now because, while the Managing Director of Amalgamated Wireless Limited declared at that time that this system was so firmly established that it only awaited the necessary capital to enable it to be put into operation, the fact remains that even at the present time there is no scientific data upon which any sensible person would conclude that a commercial service of the kind promised could be furnished.
– The contrary, rather, is the case.
– That is so. I need hardly say that Mr.Fisk, in making his declarations of the competency of Amalgamated Wireless Limited to “ deliver the goods,” was obviously influenced by an intense desire to have £500,000 of Commonwealth money put into an undertaking which at that time had a capital, at the most, of £200,000. I propose to endeavour to show that that capital was largely of a fictitious character, and probably did not amount to as much as even £100,000. In addition to the Commonwealth, under the agreement, putting half a million into the company, the latter was to take over the Government plant at a valuation. If we turn to clause 6 of the agreement, which was executed on the 28th March, 1922 - an agreement approved of by the majority of the committee, although I, as a member of it, did not approve of it - we find that the company was to take over the following:
Under clause 5 the company undertook
In particular the company will forthwith undertake the following programme: -
Proposed Wireless Rates.
Full rate messages, 2s. per word.
Deferred messages,1s. per word. Week-end messages, 6d. (minimum, 10s. per message).
Government messages,1s. per word.
Press messages, 5d. per word. Deferred press messages, 3d. per word.
Those were the main undertakings of the company; but, of course, it had become obvious to the committee and to the Prime Minister that it was idle to enter into an agreement with an optimistic gentleman such as the managing director of Amalgamated Wireless Limited without substantial guarantees, particularly in view of the facts elicited by the committee, not with the aid of Mr. Fisk, but in spite of him, as to the technical and scientific difficulties in the way. The Prime Minister, who was chairman of the committee, and became Treasurer at about that time, was probably the most insistent member in exacting guarantees from the company. I mention that, because history discloses that, although he was the strongest, as chairman of the committee, in standing for guarantees, as Prime Minister he has been the weakest in giving them away. At the top of page 10 of the agreement we read “ That the company shall not enter into or be a party to any commercial trust or combine, but shall always be and remain an independent British business.” 1 pass on with the single remark that that undertaking also has been broken. That was the subject of some comment, and many questions were repeatedly asked by myself and other honorable members as to when the company would proceed to ‘ deliver the goods. “ The Prime Minister, in reviewing the matter afterwards, when many extensions of time for which there did not appear to be any justification had been granted, said that the tender of the Marconi Company was accepted in September, 1923, and that it contemplated the erection in Australia of a station with 20 masts, each 800 feet high, at an approximate cost of £480,000. It was at that stage that the Marconi Trust first came before the footlights. Members of the Labour party had suspected, and alleged, that Amalgamated “Wireless Limited was an agent of the Marconi Trust, although it did not appear in that light in the agreement with the Commonwealth. On the contrary, wo were to have an allAustralian and British company, which was not to be associated with any trust. If Amalgamated Wireless Limited was not to operate the stations, why did it enter into the agreement with the Commonwealth for their erection and for the “delivery of the goods?” Most naturally, and as we had suspected it would, it immediately entered into an agreement with the Marconi trust. Tenders were called for, and were returnable at such short notice that it was perfectly obvious that only the Marconi trust, which had the fullest information on the matter, could possibly tender. We appealed to the Government to grant an extension of time at least for the acceptance of tenders, but it said, “ No; the matter is too urgent to grant an extension of time for even a few weeks.” But it was not too urgent to extend the time for months and years to satisfy this com pany. Of course, Amalgamated Wireless Limited may as well have entered into an agreement with itself, or at least with “ father.” We recognize that, apart from the financial gift of this generous Government, Amalgamated Wireless Limited is insignificant in comparison with the Marconi trust. The two companies are substantially one, or so closely akin as to make the difference between them negligible. At all events, an agreement was made under which the Marconi trust undertook to build stations and to give us the specified commercial service. Subsequently, according to practice, it applied for an extension of time. When I submitted to the Prime Minister a question as to whether, in view of the repeated failure of the Marconi trust to carry out its contract, he would cancel the agreement, as he had every right to do, he said that he had no intention of doing so-. Then came the anti-climax, the introduction of the Wireless Agreement Bill, in 1924, which subsequently became an act of this Parliament, the effect of which, to sum it all up, was to confirm the company in all its rights, and to relieve it of ail its material obligations. That is clearly shown by the following clause, which appears in the new agreement, which is the schedule to the act : -
The company shall be relieved from the following obligations under the principal agreement, namely: -
Its obligation to arrange for the operation of suitable corresponding stations in the United Kingdom under sub-clause (e) of clause 5 of the principal agreement;
its obligation under sub-clause (d) of clause 5 of the principal agreement to arrange the rates to be charged for messages between Australia and the United Kingdom transmitted or received by the company;
its obligation to provide a main trunk station in the United Kingdom in pursuance of sub-clause (/) of clause 5 of the principal agreement;
its obligation to arrange for the erection and operation of a station in Canada in accordance with subclause (g) of clause 5 of the principal agreement;
its obligation under clause 12 of the principal agreement to enter into an agreement providing for the erection and operation of stations in the United Kingdom and Canada in pursuance of sub-clauses (f) and(g) of clause 5 of the principal agreement; (/) its guarantee, referred to in clause 12 of the principal agreement, to make provision for a direct commercial wirelessservice between Australia and the stations in the United Kingdom and Canada hereinbefore referred to.
That gives away without consideration everything that the right honorable gentleman had taken such pains to secure, and upon which he had prided himself so much and so justifiably, in connexion with the work of the committee. It is true that that measure is an act of Parliament, and it is not for me to quarrel with the wisdom of Parliament in passing it; but it is for me, in giving the history of this matter, to state that what was done then was done through this Government misrepresenting the position. The Prime Minister, in introducing that bill, which was to relieve the company of its obligations, said that the new beam system that had been invented had completely revolutionized wireless, and changed the whole aspect of this matter. In passing, I make the following comment on that statement. First of all, so far from the beam system being new in 1924, Marconi had applied for a patent for it in 1917, and his application was rejected on the ground of want of novelty. As for the system revolutionizing wireless, the fact is that neither by the beam nor the high-power system has it yet been demonstrated that a commercial service is possible. One admitted fact about the beam system is that, if it meant anything at all, it meant cheaper and lower-powered stations and less expense. But the company, instead of requiring less and giving more, is giving less and requiring more. In fact, it is requiring the whole of the £500,000 which this Commonwealth so unwisely contracted to give. On the 28th August, 1924, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked the Prime Minister the following pertinent questions in regard to the matter.: -
To which the Prime Minister replied -
That was a very subtle jest from such an unlikely quarter. The Prime Minister said, in effect, “ If the cost is less, it will cost us less “ ; but he was not quite sure about it. The evidence before us at that time was that a beam station was being erected in England for about £36,000. Yet under the new agreement with the Amalgamted Wireless Limited, beam stations to be erected in Australia were estimated to cost the extravagant maximum of £120,000. The reason that the managing director of Amalgamated Wireless Limited wanted the £500,001 was that he intended to spend £480,000 on a high-powered station. In the light of the facts before us, £120,000 was undoubtedly an extravagant maximum for a beam station; but it certainly gave opportunity for much saving as against £480,000 for a high-power station. A little later I shall suggest some reasons for requiring the larger sum, but I wish to return for a few moments to the new wireless agreement of 1924, in which the managing director set out the excuses, rather than the reasons, which the company gave for asking, and asking not in vain, to be relieved of its obligations. These are set out in the preamble of the act as follows: -
Whereas at the time of the making of the principal agreement the parties thereto believed that the British Government would be ready and willing to grant licences for the erection and operation of a trunk station and other stations in the United Kingdom for communication with Australia: And whereas the British Government refuses to grant licences for the erection and operation of commercial wireless stations in the United Kingdom, with a view to communication with Australia, and the Marconi Company is by reason thereof unable to obtain the necessary licence to erect or operate the said trunk stations in the United Kingdom for that purpose-
It was said, in effect, that the company was led to believe that the British Government would issue licences for the erection of these stations in England, and that, by not doing so, it had deceived the company. I wish to say that successive British governments have made it perfectly clear that they would not give a licence to the Marconi trust to control wireless traffic with Australia. It is equally certain, on the other, hand, that the British Government would at any time issue a licence to this Government to erect and operate stations in England for the purpose of communication with Australia. Although I am not aware that I am famous for having placed any stones in the temple of Empire, I must say that it is a very poor compliment to British governments, whether Labour, Liberal, or Conservative, to allege that they have, in a churlish way, stood in the light of Australia providing . inter-Empire wireless communication. There is not a single historical fact upon which such a. charge could be justly made, though there aro abundant facts to show that various British Governments have regarded the operations of this partly German, partly American, and partly Italian and French trust as being inimical to Britain. I think they rightly refused, in our interests as well as their own, to allow it to be the sole controlling agency of wireless communication with- Australia.
– The honorable member should know that the British Government has refused equally to grant licences to the Australian Government, Amalgamated Wireless Limited, or any one else, and that it says the business should be managed through the post office.
– The British _ Government’s contention is that the business must be controlled by the British Government itself. Does the right honorable gentleman expect to be allowed to establish in the heart of Britain power stations that are not subject to the control and supervision of the British Government? Would we allow Great Britain, or any other country, to construct in Australia, for the purpose of communication with the world, stations over which we had no control? And would be allow a foreign trust to do so? Assuredly we would not.
– Licences are granted by the British Government for communication with foreign countries.
– I know that; but they are limited in number and purpose, and are under strict British supervision.
– The Marconi company has a licence to communicate with foreign countries.
– But it is a limited licence, and the operations of the company are under the supervision of the British Government. The right of a foreigner in Great Britain to communicate, under supervision, with foreigners, is decidedly different from the right of the Marconi trust to control inter-Empire communication.
– No one has asked for that.
– The right honorable gentleman has said that it was a breach of faith by the British Government that prevented the Marconi trust from carrying out its obligations. He cannot substantiate that statement. The Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr), when he was seeking to discredit me and others who had spoken on this subject, raised the point just mentioned by the Prime Minister. He introduced his speech with the observation that “ Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” and he very soon proved that he was no angel. The Marconi trust has been allowed to erect a station in England, as has been frequently mentioned; but the conditions are that the station is not to cost more than £50,000, that it is to be subject to British control, and that it is to be built on the principle of “no goods no payment.” I find nothing in the conditions applicable to that station about relieving the Marconi trust of its obligations. The Prime Minister, on the 28th August, 1924, in supporting the view that the British Government had broken faith, said -
Mr. Bonar Law, the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, made a statement that has always been interpreted to mean that the British Government was prepared to alter ita policy in regard to the issue of licences to private companies or individuals for the erection of stations for communication with the dominions. He said -
It was not considered any longer necessary to exclude private enterprise from participating in wireless within the Empire, and the Government were ready to issue licences for wireless stations in this country for communication with the dominions, colonies, and foreign countries, subject to the conditions necessary, and subject to Great Britain controlling the suitable arrangements for the working of the traffic.
The quotation from a speech by Mr. Bonar Law is the modified declaration upon which the Prime Minister relies for proof of his statement that the British Government has broken faith. The attitude of the British Government has been the same throughout. One peculiarity of the second broken agreement - which does not, by the way, entirely abrogate the previous agreement - is that the Parliament was asked to give these concessions on condition that the company entered into further agreements with other companies to supply the service. Clause 3 of the agreement reads -
Upon the company entering into an agreement -
providing to the satisfaction of the representatives of the Common wealth and the board of directors of the company for the erection in Australia of a main trunk station capable of providing (as soon as a suitable corresponding station has : been erected in the United Kingdom and/or Canada) a commercial wireless service to communicate with such corresponding stations with a traffic capacity as regards each of such corresponding stations of at least twenty-one thousand six hundred (21,600) words per day each way for three hundred (300) days per year at an estimated capital cost not exceeding one hundred and twenty thousand pounds (£120,000).
containing guarantees of such a nature and to such an amount as are approved by the Commonwealth representatives on the board of directors for the erection of the said main trunk station and for its capability to provide the service stipulated in the last preceding paragraph; the company shall be relieved of the following obligations under the Principal Agreement.
That is the same arrangement as before. The company was to agree, and the Government was to have guarantees; and the Government signed the agreement cheerfully. The guarantee was entered into by the company, and subsequently dishonoured. The Leader of the Opposi tion (Mr. Charlton) asked some questions of the Prime Minister on the 3rd June, of the present year - this brings us up to date - and they were answered on the 14th June. The first of those questions was -
Is it a fact that the contract signed in January, 1025, between the Amalgamated Wireless Company and the Marconi Company for the erection of beam wireless stations in Australia contained a provision for the completion of the stations within nine months of the sites being available?
Honorable members will understand that the agreement referred to was that which the relieving bill required the company to enter into to secure the service. The answer to the question was - “ Yes.” Therefore, it is a fact that the contract signed in January, 1925, provided for the erection of the beam wireless station within nine months of the site being made available. The next question asked by the Leader of the Oppositon was -
When were the sites made available?
And the answer was - 1st May, 1925.
If we add nine months to May, 1925, we arrive at the time when we were to have a service of 21,600 words both ways. The third question was -
What are the reasons for the long delay in the completion of the stations in Australia and in England?
The answer was another gem -
The delays are due to a variety of causes beyond the control of the Amalgamated Wirelesss Company.
– What were those causes ?
– Who knows? The fourth question was -
Is there any foundation for the statement that grave technical defects in the beam wireless system may cause a radical alterationin the system?
And to that the Prime Minister replied-
I am advised that the statement is without foundation, and that all technical difficulties have been solved.
The technical difficulties had been solved, according to the managing director of Amalgamated Wireless, in 1921. The Leader of the Opposition further asked -
Will the Prime Minister inform the House when it may be expected that the direct services between Australia and the United King: dom and Canada will be commenced?
The Prime Minister’s reply to that question was -
This question has been referred by cable to the Marconi Company, who are the contractors for the erection of the station, and the following is their reply: - “Coal strike causing great difficulty in obtaining supplies of materials necessary for completion of beam stations. In consequence of this, regret we cannot anticipate communication will be effected between England and Australia until some date - in October, and Australia and Canada until end November orbeginning of December.”
The difference between the two undertakings of 1921 and 1924 was the difference between twenty words a minute for twelve hours a day and 300 days a year, and 21,600 words a day for 300 days a year. Something, of course, has been done. Stations are partly erected atRockbank and Ballan; but no service is available. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked what were the causes beyond the control of Amalgamated Wireless Limited. No one knows. It is probably true that there are causes beyond the control, and beyond the knowledge, of that firm. Beam wireless had not been sufficiently developed scientifically to enable the company to pledge itself, and to pledge the Commonwealth in the way it was allowed to do in 1921; and the position was practically unaltered in 1924. Still this company hoodwinks the Government with promises that it knows it cannot fulfil, or at the best hopes that it may be able to fulfil. The Government, when it entered into the last agreement, had before it conclusive evidence of serious technical difficulties. It knew that the managing director, Mr. Fisk, had understated the difficulties, and had attempted to mislead the committee regarding them. It knew, or ought to have known, when it entered into the second agreement, that the position was practically unchanged. It knew, or ought to have known, that the reasons alleged for broken faith were fictitious and disparaging to successive British Governments. And it knew perfectly well that the Marconi trust was a foreign corporation of world-wide influence, regarded as inimical to British interests by successive British Governments; and that Amalgamated Wireless Limited was, as it still is, a creature of this foreign trust. In these circumstances the obvious course for the Government was not to despise the advances of science any more than I despise them, but, taking advantage of scientific discovery so far as it had gone, to conduct its own experiments on the cheapest possible lines in step with the march of scientific progress. If it had done so, at a cost of probably one-fifth of the amount for which it has pledged the Commonwealth in connexion with this matter, it might have been to-day as far advanced, so far as communication between England and Australia is concerned, as it is under this agreement, and probably much further, because it would not then have introduced this foreign element which the present and previous British governments have been constantly resisting. In any case, we would not then have pawned our national assets and services.
That brings me to another phase of the matter. Our money is invested under a management that is not responsible to this Parliament. In this regard, again I congratulate the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) for putting a wisequestion on the 3rd September, 1924. He asked -
Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether there is any provision in the agreement with the Amalgamated Wireless Company for the presentation of an annual report and audited balance-sheet regarding the operations of the company?
The reply was -
As an ordinary registered company Amalgamated Wireless Limited is legally bound to present a balance-sheet every year. It can be laid on the table of the House, and honorable members may propose any action in regard thereto that they choose.
I believe that honorable members will account it something of a humiliation that they have to take a balance-sheet filed in the office of the RegistrarGeneral, signed by directors over whom they have no control, or very partial control, prepared by a staff which is not on the pay roll of the Commonwealth, and accepted by the board of directors, as these reports and balancesheets usually are, in the most perfunctory manner in the presence of halfadozen shareholders, on a motion moved by one interested person, seconded by another,, and carried usually without discussion.
– We could get as much as that from any private company.
– That is so. I have obtained a copy of the balance-sheet for the year ended the 30th. June, 1925. It does not come under the purview of the Auditor-General, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong elicited. My information is the result of a private search. I find amongst the assets of the company * Patent rights, ?93,000.” I challenge that item. I say that when the committee considered this question in 1921 it had expert evidence before it to show that many of the patents claimed by the Marconi trust were either expired and valueless, or were at least contested. We had evidence of which the committee took serious notice that claims made as to the value of Marconi’s patents were grossly exaggerated. I ask the Prime Minister whether any one has examined the value of these patents alleged to be worth ?93,000. The Commonwealth is the principal shareholder in Amalgamated Wireless Limited. On paper it has 50 per cent., and one more of the shares. I venture to say that the Commonwealth owns four-fifths of the capital actually invested. Surely we should know something about the value of these patents, especially in the light of the history of that matter, and also because when it was before Parliament on a previous occasion a very interesting address was given by Senator Millen, to whom I have just referred. Referring to the history of actions brought by the Marconi trust against the Commonwealth, he pointed out that we had brought Mr. Swinburne, an expert from England, to examine the authenticity of the patents claimed by the Marconi’ trust, and that gentleman had reported favorably to the Commonwealth in the action then brought against it by that very trust. In spite of that fact the Government of the time unloaded a good deal of Commonwealth money under pressure. of an action by the trust on whom it is now dependent. Senator Duncan, interjecting in the course of Senator Millen’s speech, and referring to the Marconi trust, said -
You did not know what sharp people you were dealing with.
Senator Millen replied
There is not a shadow of doubt about that. We did not; and in view of this sharp practice so many of us have lost all faith in the propositions that the Government would be well advised to tear up the whole agreement and end the business.
That was advice from a friend. It is amazing, therefore, that Oris company, which not only was regarded as unfriendly by the “British Government, buthad instituted actions against the Commonwealth, and wrung damages from us in the courts on doubtful claims, should have been allowed to continue to control through Amalgamated Wireless Limited the whole wireless operations of Australia.. I have to- add in this regard that even the steel that is used in the erection of the towers at Ballan and Rockbank - if I can trust the information supplied to me by a workman on the job - has been brought across the seas from England, notwithstanding the covenant in the agreement that where practicable local manufactures will be used for the requirements of the company.
– Who is to be the judge of what is practicable 1
– I wonder; probably Amalgamated Wireless Limited. In the balance-sheet I find another item - “ Plant, freehold land, and premises- - ?270,000.” I challenge that item, too. Has the Government any information as to whether Amalgamated Wireless Limited had, or has now, freehold land, premises, stock, furniture, or fittings to that value? Here is ‘ another item. “Sundry debtors - ?84,000.” I do not know who they are, but probably they are mostly bad. Then comes the item, “ Shares in other companies.” This company, in which our money is invested, has the right within its memorandum of association to invest in other companies. Until recently it has had a very much larger sum invested in other companies, but at the end of June, 1925, it had ?12,352 invested in other companies.
– Are they Australian companies ?
– We do not know. All the balance-sheet says about them is “ other companies/’ We speculate our money upon this chimera of a wireless service that has not been shown to be practicable with a company that has the right to invest that money with other companies to the top of its bent. Here is another item from the balance-sheet - “ War loan bonds and fixed deposits - ?36,000.” I take no exception to that. . It is gratifying to know that some of the money we put into this business is invested in safe securities. I quote again from the balance-sheet - ‘’ Coat to date of establishment of new service - £119,948.” Then there is an amount for cash in hand, profit” and loss account. The most interesting item of this balance-sheet is “ Operating expenses, directors’ and auditors’ fees, and general administrative expenses, £128,291.”
– Is that for one year?
– So the balancesheet says. It is for the year ended the 30th June, 1925.
– That needs inquiry.
– I can suggest some explanation for it. It possibly occurs in this way: In the report we find that the chairman and managing director “ are at present abroad arranging agreements.” In another report I find these words -
Our company’s managing director has recently returned with his staff. During the year they investigated the latest- high power commercial wireless telegraph service, the latest developments in wireless telephony and broadcasting, and also the latest manufacturing methods in Britain, on the Continent, and in America. ‘ They made arrangements valuable to the company’s business, and they brought back much information the value of which is very high.
But, apparently, not capable of being assessed at £128,291. I give the figures as they appear before me in a copy of the balance-sheet, but they may be subject to correction. In any case, they seem almost incredible. Even if they should turn out to be incorrect, the fact remains that the whole of the management and its staff are under no responsibility to this Parliament. The managing director is probably receiving a salary - I hazard the guess - of between £3,000 and £4,000 a year. When a judge is appointed to the High Court of the Commonwealth at a salary of £3,000 a year, one of the highest appointments in the gift of this Parliament, he is subject to the ultimate control of the Parliament. Every member of the Public Service passes, as to his salary, under review before this Parliament every year before a penny can be paid to him ; but the managing director of Amalgamated Wireless Limited has no responsibility whatever to this Parliament. We have no control over Mr. Fisk. He gambols like an irresponsible bellwether in the rich pastures which the Commonwealth provides for him, but, by a most unnatural inversion of the usual order, instead of yielding himself to the shears of the Commonwealth taxpayer, the taxpayer has to yield himself to Mr. Fisk, to be shorn in due course. In Queen-street, Melbourne, and in Yorkstreet, Sydney,, are immense buildings1 erected by Amalgamated Wireless Limited, and in them a staff of workers is engaged carrying on business and selling the manufactures of that company. We know nothing about them, who they are, what they do, or how they are paid. We know nothing about any system of bonuses, gifts, or graft which exists be-‘’ tween the managing director and any other person. We only know that we have invested £500,001 in this company, and that those who contracted to deliver the goods have flagrantly dishonoured their undertakings. Is it not time that the Commonwealth Government was censured for this? In 1924 we made out a case respecting the then broken agreements, and the Prime Minister then succeeded in obtaining the vote of the majority of honorable members on this side of the House by virtue of the new guarantees which he was able to secure for their acceptance. Now after two years of futility on the part of the company, the Government should be prepared to admit that we have made out a case. Surely it will either retrace its steps, and relinquish the business altogether, or at least put the cards on the table, and let us investigate the facts. I do not believe, on the facts before us, that Amalgamated Wireless Limited has £50,000 of assets, apart from our money. The money in the company, for all practical purposes, is ours. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), to whose diligence I am indebted for some of my information, asked several questions in the House the other day. He asked, “ What amount has been paid to Amalgamated Wireless Limited for working expenses to 30th June, 1926 ?” The answer was, “ £251,958 lis. 9d.” He asked,. “ What is the total amount that has ‘ been paid to the capital of Amalgamated Wireless Limited to 30th June, 1926?” The answer was “£250,000 10s.” He asked, “What is the total amount that the Government has received from Amalgamated Wireless Limited to 30th June, 1926?” The answer was £106,228 lis. lOd. That leaves a debit balance of £145,729 19s. Hd. The honorable member for Hindmarsh asked, “Do the Commonwealth Government and
Amalgamated Wireless Limited share equally in any profits received from the transactions of the partnership % “ The answer was, “ The Commonwealth Government, as holder of 500,001 shares in the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, will receive just over half of the profits of the Company, if any.” The honorable member for Hindmarsh asked, “Does the Commonwealth Government accept full liability for the losses in the business transactions of the partnership in wireless matters between the Amalgamated Wireless Limited/ and the Commonwealth Government ? “ The answer was, “ No, the only losses the Commonwealth Government would bear would be those as a shareholder in the Company.’] That is not very consoling to us. To bring the matter absolutely up to date, we find in the Estimates, page 405, under the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the item, “ Subscription to capital of Amalgamated Wireless Limited 1926-27, £250,001 ; erection of wireless stations and testing and experimental equipment, £2,000.” It seems to me that we not only paid up in full, but have exceeded our liability of £500,000.
– That item has nothing to do with Amalgamated Wireless Limited.
– The total amount to be subscribed is £500,001. The total amount subscribed to the 30th June, 1926, including £50,000 paid from revenue in 1921-22, was £250,000. The total subscription to the 30th June, 1927, is estimated at £500,001. No goods have been received, and yet the capital is to be fully paid up. There is no guarantee of any value in return, because the repeated guarantees of defaulting debtors are of no use. There is no guarantee that the goods will be delivered. Those honor able members who have cared to inquire, know that no guarantee can be given because there is no scientific knowledge to justify a guarantee of the kind. This company goes its way, and carries on its business in its palatial places in * York and Queen streets. It levies a toll of 5s. for every 25s. that private individuals throughout Australia pay for their wire less licences. It levies toll upon the strength of its patents. I challenge the value of its patents, and its right to make these exactions on the people of Australia.
– The honorable member will agree that as that matter is the subject of inquiry it cannot be discussed.
– I believe it to be a dishonest transaction, but if the matter is sub judice, I leave it at that. It will probably be said that we have Commonwealth representatives on the board. We have, but who are they and to what extent are they answerable to us? They join the board and hear the announcements of the managing director - the gentleman who toured America and the Continent with his staff - and with the other directors they say “ Aye “ to his recommendations. They draw their fees and depart. To what other extent are they responsible to us? We can no doubt recall them, but we have no supervision of them, no means of knowing what they do, or what are the impulses which move them when they meet on a directorate. From every point of view it is high time that we called a halt respecting Amalgamated Wireless Limited. It would be generous and veracious for the Government at least to admit that it has made a mistake. I would feel much more respect for the Prime Minister, for whom at present I certainly entertain great respect, if he would candidly admit that he has been taken in, and that the influence of the Marconi Trust has been too subtle for him, having got the best of him in making this bargain. He should take the opportunity which now presents itself to cancel the agreement. When this Government keeps on giving away concessions to a contracting party, concessions which have a monetary value, it is doing politically as dishonest a thing as if it were dipping its hands into the Treasury and paying out the cash of the Commonwealth to that party. The Government has to justify its actions. T. shall take the opportunity to check the figures that I have quoted, one item of which is enormous, and may conceivably be a typographical error but, whether it is so or not, the principle is not affected. The Government deserves the severest censure of this House for investing large sums of money in a public company on a purely experimental and speculative enterprise; for entering into a fresh agreement with a defaulting party to a previous agreement, without obtaining adequate security for the interests of the Commonwealth in either agreement; for not attempting to enforce such agreement; for not investigating the real value of the alleged capital of the other contracting party; for paying into the company large sums of money in excess of its proven requirements, without audit or investigation as to how its moneys have been spent; and for allowing the company improperly to levy toll on the general public in respect of broadcasting.
– I have heard the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) speak on many occasions in regard to wireless, and to-day I anticipated that in view of the all-embracing character of the amendment that he has moved, his speech would com.tain some substance, and constitute at least what might be termed an indictment of the Government and its action. But actually he said nothing that lie has not said many times before, and which he did not mention on a censure motion moved on a previous occasion. It is, however, necessary that I should deal again with the subjects raised by the honorable member. He referred to the beginning of the transaction under review, when an agreement’ was placed on the table of this House for the establishment .of a high-powered station in Australia, and the investment by the Commonwealth Government of £500,000 in Amalgamated Wireless Limited. That agreement was the subject of investigation by a committee of which I was chairman, and the honorable gentleman a member. When we began our investigations we found that long-distance wireless on a commercial basis was not quite so simple and so sure as certain persons appeared to think. We had to investigate the technical possibilities of wireless for a distance as great as that between Great Britain and Australia. After hearing a great deal of evidence, the committee came to the conclusion that there was a prospect of a service being established and maintained between Great Britain and Australia, and, having regard to the tremendous importance to Australia of new and improved methods of communication, it recommended the agreement for acceptance, subject to cer tain modifications. To all the proceedings of the committee the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was a party. He was one of the two lawyers who drafted the amended agreement, and at that time he gave no indication of dissent from the views of the majority of the committee. When the investigation had been completed, and every member of the committee was under the impression that the modified agreement had received unanimous approval, the honorable member forwarded a dissenting report. The honorable member had had ample opportunity to raise many of the objections which he has voiced to-day, but the only question to which he addressed himself was whether the patents which Amalgamated Wireless Limited claimed to own were of the value stated in its balance-sheet. If the honorable member was at that time seised of the importance of the matters with which he has dealt to-day he should have brought them before the committee. The fact that he failed to do so is evidence that these criticisms are mere afterthoughts. The real substance of the honorable member’s objection to the agreement has always been that the control of wireless services should be retained by the postal department, and that no contract should be let to any private company. That view the honorable member is quite entitled to hold, but the majority of honorable members of this Parliament in 1921 did not agree with him, and decided to ratify the agreement with Amalgamated Wireless Limited. To-day the honorable member has told us that we should have examined the assets of the company in order to ascertain whether they actually held the patents, land, and other things which they claim to possess. The honorable member did not make that suggestion in 1921, probably because he knew perfectly well that such a course of action would be ludicrous. When he is thinking of investing a portion of that surplus wealth that I hope he possesses in a. company, the balance-sheet of which, duly certified by a reputable firm of auditors, he has studied, does he proceed to inspect the title deeds of the land which the company is supposed to hold, and does he appoint a valuator to check the values set down in the statement of assets and liabilities? Of course not, and the honorable member was talking arrant nonsense when he suggested that the Government should have made such an inquiry in regard to “ Amalgamated Wireless Limited. In dealing with the original agreement he referred particularly to paragraph 6, which contemplated the taking over by the company of the coastal wireless stations which had been, up to that time, operated by the postal department. This clause of the agreement provided that representatives of both parties should be appointed to value the assets to be taken over, and if they could not agree upon a valuation, an independent chairman should be appointed. The Commonwealth was to be entitled to set against its subscription to the company the amount of the valuation finally agreed upon. The honorable member for Batman wrongly said that nothing has been done to give effect to that provision of the agreement. Representatives of the parties did examine the stations and plant. Naturally their valuations dif.fered, and Mr. Swanton, an independent expert, was appointed to adjudicate between them. Thus all the requirements of paragraph 6 have been complied with.
– The Prime Minister is speaking of the Commonwealth’s plant. I said that the Government did not analyze the value of the company’s plant.
– I have dealt with the plant of the company.
– The right honorable gentleman does not answer my criticism merely by declaring it to be arrant nonsense.
– I indicated that when the honorable member served on the committee he completely forgot to give any of the admirable advice he has given today. In regard to the high-power station and the maintenance of an overseas service, the agreement provided that the company should construct and maintain a high-power station in Australia and reciprocal stations in Great Britain and Canada. Tenders for the erection of the Australian station were called. The honorable member for Batman said that insufficient time was allowed for tenders to be. received, with the result that only the Marconi Company could tender. That is an old charge that has been refuted on previous occasions. The main point of the honorable member’s criticism to-day was that Amalgamated Wireless Limited was relieved of its obligations under the agreement, and that the Marconi Company was relieved of its contract to erect a station in Great Britain. He said that the act passed in 1924 confirmed Amalgamated Wireless Limited in all its rights, and relieved it of all its obligations. After tenders had been invited in the ordinary way, a contract was made by Amalgamated Wireless Limited with the Marconi Company for the erection of a high-power station in Australia. One very prudent condition of the contract with the Marconi Company was that Amalgamated Wireless Limited required it to take over the obligation to provide a reciprocal station in Great Britain. Both when the original agreement waa made, and subsequently when the contract was let to the Marconi Company, it waa believed that the British Government would be prepared to issue a licence for the erection and maintenance of a highpower station in Great Britain. The honorable member for Batman had a good deal to say about the British Government’s refusal to do that. One of the witnesses before the select committee was the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who stated that the institution of a chain system of wireless, which involved the erection of a series of stations each with a radius of 2,000 miles, had been discussed at the Imperial Conference in 1921, He had declared that such a system would not suit Australia, which proposed to endeavour to establish direct wireless communication with the United Kingdom, and the British Government had indicated that it would place no obstacles in the way of the establishment of the necessary station. The right honorable member told the committee that there was not the least shadow of doubt that the erection of such a station would be permitted, and that the station would be licensed by the British Government. Subsequent history disproved that statement. Mr. Bonar Law had made a statement in the House of Commons that the British Government was prepared to issue licences for the erection of stations for communication within the Empire. The subsequent ‘ actions of the Commonwealth “ Government and Amalgamated Wireless Limited were based upon that assurance. Later, however,’ the British Government declined to act in accordance with the promise given by Mr. Bonar Law on behalf of his Ministry, and declared that no licence would be issued for a high-power wireless station communicating within the Empire. I stress the words “ within the Empire.” When that happened, it was obvious that we could not hold the company to the obligation to provide, equip, and operate a station in Great Britain. Consequently, the 1924 agreement was drawn up, and it was endorsed by this Parliament. That agreement relieved Amalgamated Wireless Limited of an obligation which it was impossible for it to fulfil, because of the action of the British Government. Does anybody suggest that there is anything sinister in the fact that the company was not held to its contract, and that damages were not sought for the non-fulfilment of terms that could not be carried out ? That is my first reply to the statement that the agreement was one to confirm the company in all its rights and to relieve it of all its obligations. The suggestion is ludicrous.
I am amazed that an honorable member should take up the attitude that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) assumed regarding the British Government’s action in the matter of licences. His enthusiastic support of that action was due to his wish to suggest that there was some sinister connexion between the Commonwealth Government and the Marconi Company. He wished it to be inferred that the British” Government saw through the Marconi Company, and was determined not to grant it a licence. He suggested this, and tried to establish a connexion between the Commonwealth Government and the Marconi Company in order that he might do harm to the present administration. I ask the honorable member to reflect whether, knowing the circumstances as he did, that was a proper thing for him to do. As a matter of fact the Marconi Company to-day has a licence from the British Government to communicate by wireless in Great Britain with foreign countries. But the British Go’vernment has said to Australia and the other dominions, “ We shall not grant a licence to you or to any company to communicate by wireless from stations in Great Britain.” Personally, I have taken a determined attitude on that matter, and I propose to continue to do so. I recognize that every government is en- titled to say who shall receive a licence for wireless transmission within its territory; but the protest that I have made, and will continue to make, is against the action of the British Government in granting licences in Great Britain for wireless ‘ communication with foreign countries, and refusing to give us a similar licence.
– Can the right honorable gentleman say why the British Government will not grant this licence!
– It wishes to retain control of wireless within the Empire. We have indicated our willingness to give any guarantees, and abide by any conditions intended to safeguard Empire communication, that the British Government may choose to prescribe; but we do not subscribe to the view that the whole of our business should be conducted through the British Post Office while wireless communication between other countries may be conducted through other agencies to which licences have been issued. The honorable member, however, suggested that there was some sinister connexion between this Government and the Marconi Company, and that the reason why we could not obtain a licence from the British Government was that that Government was suspicious of the Marconi Company, with which the Commonwealth Government appeared to be so friendly. For that suggestion, there is not the slightest foundation.
The other matter that the honorable member emphasized was the cancellation of the original contract for the establishment of a high-power station and the substitution of a beam station in its place. He suggested that there -was not the slightest ground for believing that a beam station would be a success, and spoke as though the conditions - relating to wireless were exactly the same now as they were three or four . years ago. The fact is that great advances have been made, and it cannot now be disputed that the beam system is successful, and can be operated over great distances. To have persisted in the original proposal to erect a high-power station, at a cost of nearly £500,000, instead of substituting for it a beam station at a maximum cost of £120,000, would have meant ignoring these advances in wireless communication.
– Why do wireless stations cost four times as much in Great Britain as they do in Australia?
– They do not. The British station was to cost £44,920, if a public electrical supply was available, or £50,420 if that was not available. The figure mentioned by the honorable member for Batman was not the correct one. The honorable member spoke about Australian material in a manner intended to prejudice the fair consideration of the whole matter, and therefore it is necessary for me to give the exact facts. When the question of supplying Australian material arose, the chairman of the board, who is one of the directors nominated by the Government, communicated with the Ministry and asked what was its attitude on the matter. I replied that the directors should ensure that the same system was . adopted in regard to purchases by Amalgamated Wireless Limited as operated in Commonwealth departments; that a certain preference, in addition to the tariff protection, was to be given. The actual amount of the preference was indicated, but, for obvious reasons, it is not desirable that it should be made public. There is no justification for the suggestion that all the material was to be imported, and that Australian industries were to be overlooked. The honorable member referred to the fees paid to the board of directors. He took the balancesheet and quoted the sum of £128,000 which appeared on the expenditure side in the ordinary trading account. He did not explain that that figure represented the expenditure for the conduct of the business of the company for a year, nor did he quote figures from the other side of the balance-sheet showing what business had been done. In the accounts of even the most successful trading concern, the expenditure is affected by the quantity of business done ; but the honorable member tried to give the impression that this £128,000 was made up of excessive travelling fees paid to directors and other improper items. In the Wireless Agreement Act it is provided that three of the directors of the company shall represent the Commonmonwealth and three other directors the old company, and that there shall be a seventh director, but it is not provided that the seventh director shall be the chairman. At the present time, the Government directors are Sir George Mason Allard, Sir William Vicars, and Senator J. D. Millen. The honorable member quoted with a good deal of approval the opinions of Senator Millen, and he is probably convinced that the interests of the Commonwealth are fairly well safeguarded by having Senator Millen on the board. There are three other directors representing the shareholders in the old company, and the seventh director is the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was appointed to the board when Prime Minister, and when great difficulty was experienced in obtaining a seventh director acceptable to both sides. The chairman of the board is Sir George Mason Allard, a director nominated by the Government. That fact should convince the committee that the Government’s interests are fairly well represented. The chairman was elected by the vote of the whole board. Another point that the honorable member dealt with had reference to patents. I shall not deal at length with that matter at present, for legal actions are pending, both with regard to patents for transmission, such as would interest broadcasting companies, and patents with regard to reception which would apply to receiving sets owned by individuals. It was extraordinarily improper for a member of the House to enter upon a discussion of the matter seeing that it is sub judice. Although one might forgive the ordinary lay member, it is difficult to forgive a member who is a legal practitioner, for having expressed the opinion that the honorable member for. Batman did in the few words he said about the patents owned by Amalgamated Wireless Limited, especially as he had no personal knowledge of them.
– I had knowledge of them long before the litigation commenced.
– Although the validity of these patents is the subject-matter of action in our law courts, the honorable member, notwithstanding that he is a lawyer, did not hesitate to suggest that the patents of Amalgamated Wireless Limited were worthless. It was extremely improper for him to do so. Another matter which the honorable gentleman presented to the committee - as he always does in these circumstances in the way that suits him, and irrespective of the facts of the case - had relation to the amount which had been paid by the Government to Amalgamated Wireless Limited in connexion with the operation of our coastal stations. After the agreement was entered into with Amalgamated Wireless Limited the coastal stations, conducted by the Government, were handed over to the company to work on behalf of the Government, but the Government accepted for three years the responsibility for the actual operating losses. On this point the following questions were asked me in this House -
What amount has been paid to Amalgamated Wireless Limited for working expenses to the 30th June, 19261 What is the total amount that the Government has received from the receipts of Amalgamated Wireless Limited to the 30th June, 1926?
My replies were - £251,958 lis. 9d. and £106,228 lis. lOd. respectively. Those figures show that the Government paid out £147,729 19s. lid. more than was received, or something like £35,000 a year under this heading. The honorable member for Batman told the committee, on the strength of figures that he quoted, that this was a fairly good thing for Amalgamated Wireless Limited, but an amazing undertaking for the Government. The honorable member was a member of the Wireless Committee, and he knows, what is not known to the majority of honorable members of the committee, that prior to handing over these stations the Government was losing between £35,000 and £40,000 a year in respect of them. Under the arrangement with Amalgamated Wireless Limited it was relieved of every obligation in the matter from the 30th March, 1926. In the future, Amalgamated Wireless Limited will itself bear any loss incurred. I venture to say that on this point, as well as on others that I have referred to, the honorable member presented his case in a grossly unfair way. If he had not known the facts, one could have excused him on the ground that he had quoted the figures in good faith ; but no honorable member of the committee knows the exact position better than he, and his presentation of the case was calculated to mislead the House. The honorable member next proceeded to deal with the subscription of capital to Amalgamated Wireless Limited. Under the agreement the Government is under obligation to provide capital to the extent of £500,001 as and when it may be called up. The utilization of the capital, or the manner in which it shall be called up, depends upon the business the company does. If its operations are successful, and it is rendering a really valuable service to the country, it is quite possible that the whole £500.001 may be called up this year; but if it is not successful, very little may be required. The amount that the Commonwealth has paid over so far is £250,000 10s., representing 10s. on each £1 share it holds.
– Have the other shareholders also paid 10s. per share ?
– Prior to the Commonwealth joining the company, its capital was about £200,000. Subsequently, when the erection of high-power stations was contemplated, the capital was increased to £1,000,000, of which the Commonwealth undertook to subscribe £500,001. The balance, consisting of the difference between the amount already subscribed by the old shareholders and £499,999 due bv them, is to be subscribed by the other shareholders. The capital due by them and by the Commonwealth is called up in equal amounts. The idea that Amalgamated Wireless Limited is only another name for the Marconi Company ran all through the speech delivered by the honorable member for Batman; but I do not know how, with the facts in his possession, he could even suggest such a thing. At any rate, I am sure that honorable members will not entertain the idea for a moment when I put the position clearly before them. In the first place, 500,001 of the 1,000,000 shares in Amalgamated Wireless Limited are held by the Commonwealth Government. T regret that I have not the names of the other shareholders with me at the moment, but the merest consideration of the list would be sufficient to dismiss the suggestion that the Marconi Company is even a considerable shareholder or could influence a large body of shareholders. The register of shareholders is open for inspection by honorable members at the company’s office. If they would examine it they would find that the Marconi Company owns about 40,000 or 50,000 shares. I am speaking from memory, but my impression is that the number is not above that. Amalgamated Wireless Limited is not, and cannot be, brought under the domination of the Marconi Company. The only way in which the Marconi Company comes into the picture at all is as the successful tenderer for the erection of the beam stations just outside Melbourne. Tenders were invited for this work in the ordinary way, and the Marconi Company was successful. But in the light of all the facts, its passes ‘my comprehension how any person could imagine for a moment that it controls Amalgamated Wireless Limited. I am sorry that this matter has occupied so much attention, and that the committee has been delayed in its consideration of what I may call more modern affairs. The honorable member for Batman seems to find it necessary to give the subject an airing every now and again, but I assure the committee that there is nothing whatever in his charges.
– I shall continue to give the subject an airing until the goods are delivered or the company disgorges the money.
– The case submitted by the honorable gentleman depended for its impressiveness upon his creating an atmosphere of suspicion that some body or some one was acting improperly; but he did not produce an atom of evidence to substantiate his charges. He has merely tried to surround the subject withsuspicion in the hope that some of the mud which he has thrown about with such a free hand will stick. He has adopted an absolutely improper attitude, and I have no hesitation in asking the committee to refuse to accept his statements, and to reject the amendment.
.- I am pleased to support the case submitted by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and I regret that very few honorable members opposite were in their places to hear the serious indictment he levelled against the Government. It is significant that as soon as the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) rose to reply the party Whips got to work, and brought all the supporters of the Government into the chamber to punctuate the right honorable gentleman’s speech with “ hear, hears.”
Mr. Brennan.Toparaphrase the poet, “ One side enough for me.”
– That is so. A number of honorable members opposite who did not hear the speech of the honorable member for Batman have not hesitated to express their approval of the remarks of the Prime Minister. In my opinion the honorable member for Batman has rendered the country a great service in bringing this important matter before the committee. If all the lights were turned on and the whole history of Amalgamated Wireless Limited disclosed, there would be something approaching a grave scandal. If the honorable the Treasurer were still, sitting on the ministerialcross benches he would support the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) by demanding a full investigation of the operations of this company. The right honorable the Prime Minister tried to make it appear that the honorable member for Batman had done something objectionable, atrocious, absurd, and ludicrous. He said that the honorable member had talked “arrant nonsense”; he did not attempt to reply to him, but tried to discredit him by casting aspersions upon the way in which he had presented his case. It is not necessary for me to tell honorable members, who heard the honorable member for Batman, that he presented his case in a masterly manner. Senator Millen, who is a nationalist, and was a member of the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the wireless agreement presented to this Parliament in 1921, speaking in the Senate on the 11th September, 1924, criticized Amalgamated Wireless Limited for not fulfilling its obligations under the 1922 agreement. He said -
The position is becoming a scandal, if not in a legal sense, at any rate in a moral sense. Amalgamated Wireless Limited has practically ignored the agreement.
Because the honorable member for Batman has pointed out to-day that the beam station is six months overdue, and that Amalgamated Wireless Limited has not carried out the terms of the agreement, he is told by the Prune Minister that he is talking “ arrant nonsense.” In the next breath the Prime Minister praised Senator Millen as a man who could be trusted ; but Senator Millen’s opinion is that the Government had no right to enter into the agreement, that the company has flouted the agreement, and that “ the position is becoming almost a scandal.” When Senator Millen said that, he. knew his book; it was then two years after the first agreement had been entered into, for he was speaking during the discussion in the Senate on the Wireless Agreement Bill of 1924. Can any honorable member say that Senator Millen did not know the facts? What did the Government do to quieten him? It placed him on the board of management. No doubt it was dangerous that such a man should be directing attention to what appeared to him a scandal. He will do his part on the board as well as he can, but he is only one man among seven, and his wings will be clipped.
I intend to deal with this subject under two headings. The first is “Broadcasting,” with particular reference to copyright patent royalties, and licence fees. The second heading is “ the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and Amalgamated Wireless Limited.” The honorable member for Batman has dealt so ably with the agreement that it is not necessary for me to state all the details, but, as a representative of the electors in this Parliament, I- want to know what the Government is obtaining for the huge sums of money put into Amalgamated Wireless Limited. All honorable members, irrespective of party, should insist upon knowing what the Government has obtained from the agreement, and what it is likely to obtain in the future. Are the gentlemen connected with Amalgamated Wireless Limited to be allowed to flout the agreement, and to make the right honorable the Prime Minister their apologist in this House ? Must we accept the Prime Minister’s statement that the company has done everything that can reasonably be expected of it, and that certain circumstances beyond its control have prevented it from carrying out the terms of the agreement? That plausible excuse might be accepted in the Nationalist party or Country party caucus, but it is not accepted by honorable members on this side of the chamber. The Government has admitted, in reply to questions, that it has paid £250,000 10s. into the capital of Amalgamated Wireless Limited, and £251,900 towards the working expenses of the company. Is it any wonder that honorable members en this side say that the Government, instead of entering into this partnership, should have nationalized wireless in this country? The Imperial Wireless Com. mittee of 1924, when reporting on wireless in England, said: -
The public ownership of all wireless stations in Great Britain on the principle of telegraphs would be an ideal scheme.
That committee was not composed of Labour members, but was a representative committee consisting of Robert Donald, Esq., L.L:D., chairman, CB.; F. J. Brown, C.B.E., assistant secretary, General Post Office; Professor W. H. Eccles, Dr. Sc., F.R.S.,; Sir D. Drummond Fraser, K.B.E., Sir Henry H. Slessner, K.C.H.M., SolicitorGeneral; secretary: W. E. Weston, England, principal secretary’s office, General Post Office. When the honorable member for Batman makes the same suggestion here the same as the Imperial Wireless Committee made in England, he is told that he is talking “ arrant nonsense.” The Prime Minister was in a tight corner this afternoon, and when he found that he could not reply to the allegations of the honorable member for Batman, he resorted to abuse, which is frequently the refuge of those who are bereft of argument. Amalgamated Wireless Limited has paid to the Government £106,228, and the Government has paid to the company £250,000 10s. towards its capital, and £251,900 towards its working expenses.
– The honorable member is mixing up the figures.
– I am quoting accurate figures which were supplied by the Minister. I should like to know how much money was paid to the company in -respect of clause 6 of the agreement, which reads: -
The sites, buildings, masts, plant and other assets of the stations to be taken over by the company in accordance with paragraph h of clause 5 of this agreement, shall be taken over at a valuation to be made by a committtee including two representatives of the company and two representatives of the Commonwealth, wilh an -independent chairman to be agreed upon by the other four representatives or a majority of them, and in default of agreement to be determined by arbitration in the manner provided by clause 20 of this agreement, the basis of valuation shall be the value of the assets for the purpose of supplying the new service to be undertaken by the company in pursuance of this agreement. The amount of the valuation shall be credited to the Commonwealth in part payment for the 500,001 shares to be allotted to the Commonwealth, and shall be deducted from the last payments of capital to be made by the Commonwealth.
– Will the honorable member read clause 7?
– -Clause 7 provides that -
During the period of construction and reorganization, or for a period of three years from the date of this agreement, whichever is the less, the Commonwealth shall pay to the company monthly all amounts expended in carrying on the existing Commonwealth radio stations, and the company shall pay to the Commonwealth monthly all sums received as revenue from the working of those stations.
In the case of the existing radio station in the territory of New Guinea, for a period of seven years, from the date of this agreement, the Commonwealth shall pay to the company monthly all amounts expended in carrying on those stations, and the company shall pay to the Commonwealth monthly all sums received as revenue from the working of those stations.
I should like to know whether there is included in the £106,228 paid to the Commonwealth any sum in respect of equipment mentioned in clause 6 of the agreement.
– That matter was fully explained in reply to questions by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) .
– Was the amount paid in cash or credit for equipment, was it in part payment for - shares, or was it payment for certain buildings, masts, and other equipment taken over? No wonder the public is demanding to know what Amalgamated Wireless Limited is doing with its money ! It is time that a royal commission was appointed, and a thorough investigation made into the company’s operations, and into broadcasting generally, including patents, copyrights, and licence fees.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– When we adjourned for dinner, I was discussing our financial relations with Amalgamated Wireless Limited. I have said that the Commonwealth has paid Amalgamated Wireless Limited, in respect of working expenses, the sum of £251,000, and that the company has paid to the Commonwealth Government a sum amounting to £106,228, under clause 7 of the agreement, according to the Prime Minister. The difference between these amounts is £145,672.
– They have no bearing; whatever upon each other.
– I desire to elicit the facts, and I hope that the Minister, iti replying to the debate, will give us the necessary information.
– The Minister said that the payment was made by the company under clause 7 of the agreement.
– That is so. The Government apparently desires to shroud the whole thing in mystery, and information concerning the operations of the company has to be dragged from it. The honorable member for Batman was aware that the service was conducted at a loss before the establishment of Amalgamated Wireless Limited. The Prime Minister has said that the loss was approximately between £35,000 and £40,000 per annum. At the time of the establishment of Amalgamated Wireless Limited the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) offered members of this House a sugar-coated pill. He said that, if we put this money into Amalgamated Wireless Limited, we should get rid of the annual deficit of approximately £40,000 on our wireless service and should secure a. most efficient international service in addition. Three years later we find that nothing has been done to give us the efficient international service we were promised when Parliament was asked to put over £500,000 of the people’s money into this company, and the annual deficit in connexion with wireless services is mounting up. The aggregate of the outstanding amount has now reached the sum of £145,672.
– The ledger, we were told, was to be squared in March, 1925, and it is now July, 1926.
– In March, 1925, the ledger was to be squared, and we were to have an efficient international wireless service and to have got rid of the annual deficits on the previously existing service. Nearly fifteen months have since elapsed, and we have received nothing for the money we have put into Amalgamated Wireless Limited, and are still faced with the colossal outstanding sum of £145,672. The Prime Minister mentioned that Great Britain would not grant Amalgamted Wireless Limited a licence to work a high-power station in England as a channel of communication with. Australia. The right honorable gentleman has given that as the reason why Amalgamated Wireless Limited has failed to carry out its obligations under the agreement. He has said that the refusal of the British Government to grant the company a licence to operate a highpower station in England was due to a feud between the British Government and the Marconi Company. Speaking on the 26th of August, .1924, when introducing the bill dealing with the matter, the right honorable gentleman said -
When I arrived in Great Britain the two parties were hopelessly at loggerheads.
As a matter of fact, there was no feud between the British Government and the Marconi Company, but the Ramsay MacDonald Government at the time was averse to granting licences for wireless to Amalgamated Wireless Limited, because it suspected that it was really the Marconi trust, and its policy was to grant licences only for high-power stations controlled by the British PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The attitude of Great Britain in the matter is shown in the Donald report of 1924, which clearly sets out the view of the experts who inquired into the matter, which was that the public ownership of wireless stations in Britain on the principle of the telegraphs was the ideal scheme. The British Government knew that the real power behind Amalgamated Wireless Limited was the Marconi trust, and the attitude adopted by the MacDonald Government was in the circumstances quite justified. It was known that Amalgamated Wireless Limited represented an amalgamation of the Teleffunken Company of Germany domiciled in Australia and the Marconi Company in Great Britain, and the MacDonald Government believed that such an important matter as a high-power wireless station should not be controlled by Amalgamated Wireless Limited. There would not have been any opposition to the grants ing of a licence to the Australian Government. The business thing for the Commonwealth Government to have done was to cable the British Government and ascertain its views upon the proposal before it entered into any obligations with Amalgamated Wireless Limited. That is the course which should have been followed before the people of Australia were committed to an expenditure of over £500,000. We are told by the Prime Minister that his Government is a business government; hut it has not acted as one would have expected a business government to act. If any member of the committee were purchasing a property with a view to building on it, he would enter into any obligations concerning it until he had found out all about the building by-laws in the council area concerned. Mr. Ernest Fisk, when asked by the select committee appointed to inquire into this matter whether he could give guarantees that certain things could be done said that he would have to cable to Marconi.
– Who said that?
– Mr. Fisk, who is really a representative of the Marconi trust. Is it any wonder that the honorable member for Batman should say that Ernest Fisk was being used by and was a representative of the Marconi trust. At various times Fisk was responsible for newspaper stunts in regard to wireless, and said that he had communicated satisfactorily between his home and that of Marconi. This shows that he was in constant communication with Marconi. He endeavoured to show that the wireless system which he advocated was a commercial system. The honorable member for Batman never denied, what was admittedly true, that wireless communications did pass, but, as he rightly pointed out, there was no guarantee of a continuous service such as that stipulated to be supplied under the agreement. I should like to know from the PostmasterGeneral when we are to get the beam station which was promised, and which is to-day six months overdue.
– And the 21,000 words per day
– Yes; and the service of 21,000 words per day which was promised. The honest thing for the Government to do is to answer those queries, and not endeavour to throw “mud” upon an honorable member who brings up questions like this, which are of great public importance. We should like to know what Amalgamated Wireless Limited is doing for the money which the Commonwealth has invested in the company. Is the money being used to meet certain payments for patents held in America?
These are questions upon which I should like to hear the Postmaster-General tonight.
Another matter upon which I should like to touch has reference to broadcasting stations. I want to know from the Postmaster-General how often these stations issue a balance-sheet, what is their financial position, how much they spend on programmes, what interest they are making on the money invested by their shareholders, and what the public is getting from them for what it pays. Cannot the programmes be improved? The Argus of the 24th June, 1926, in its special wireless column, asked for some information on these points. I purpose to quote what it said, because Ministers try to make out that honorable members on this side bring up these questions merely for party political purposes. This is what the Argus said -
Under the Broadcasting Regulations, which were prepared two years ago, it is competent for the Postmaster-General’s Department to review generally broadcasting conditions in Australia at the end of next month. (That means at the end of this month.) … As the licences under which “ A “ Class stations are operating were issued for a period of five years, it is unlikely that any radical change in broadcasting conditions will be made; but there is a wide scope for the department to make alterations of a more detailed nature, which, nevertheless, may have an important effect onbroadcasting conditions in Australia. Broadcasting finance is one of the matters which genuinely require attention. . . . Dissatisfaction is steadily growing at the fact that the financial operations of so important a public service as a broadcasting station are not made public. As the broadcasting companies are removed from the category of ordinary private enterprises, by the fact that they are enjoying a monopoly, it is felt that the regulations should be amended to provide for an accountbeing given of the manner in which money collected from listeners-in is expended. . . . Host people will agree with the opinions expressed at Ballarat, on Tuesday night, that action to improve the broadcasting service for country listeners is now justified.
What is the Minister’s reply to that statement? Will he present the balancesheets of the broadcasting stations, and let us know what they are doing? Will he tell us how the listening-in fees are being expended, and whether it is possible to provide better programmes for the general public ?
– Why does not the Government establish more stations?
– Why does not the Government nationalize the broadcasting stations? That should have been done before it handed over what is now virtually a monopoly to 3LO. The listening-in fee charged to-day in Australia is 27s. 6d. per annum, 2s. 6d. of which is claimed by the Postal Department, and seven-tenths of the balance, or 17s. 6d., is claimed in the case of Victoria by 3LO, and the remaining threetenths,7s. 6d., by 3AR. The PostmasterGeneral, in reply to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) stated -
The broadcasting companies pay 5s. for each listener-in to Amalgamated Wireless Limited for alleged patent rights, which we are told we must not refer to because of certain legal action which is being taken.
– The honorable member is assuming that the listener-in pays a fee of 27s. 6d.
– That is one of the regulation fees.
– No. There are three fees. In the inner zone the fee is 27s. 6d., in the central zone 22s. 6d., and in the outer zone 17s. 6d.
– Does the Commonwealth Government obtaina share of the profits ?
– The Commonwealth Government does not meet any of the losses.
– There is no loss. It is estimated that in Victoria over 60,000 persons pay licence fees, that the total amount of revenue received by 3LO is £1,000 a week, and by 3AR £440 a week, 15 per cent, of which is paid by 3AR to the Copyright Association for that portion of its programmes consisting of copyrighted items. 3LO station, which is connected with J. C. Williamson’s Limited, Allan’s Music Warehouse, J. and N. Tait, Buckley and Nunn’s, Farmer’s, and Palings, pays 8d. a number, or approximately 4 per cent, of its receipts to the Copyright Association. In America no licence-fee is charged at all, and in
England the fee is 10s. per annum. I urge the Post.inaster-G-ener.al to review the charges made to listeners-in. Many people use crystal sets. The actual instrument costs about 7s. 6d., the head phones 15s., and the aerial material 2s. 6d., making a total cost of 25s. The licence fee for the owner of such a crystal set is 27s. 6d. every year. If it were not for the advancement in the science of radio a small crystal set would last for a number of years. Capitalized over a period of five years such a
Bet would cost only 5s. a year, and yet the licence-fee for it is 27s. 6d. a year. The whole position . needs reviewing. I suggest that the PostmasterGeneral charge the listener-in a licence fee of 5s. for a crystal set, 10s. for a onevalve set, 15s. for a two-valve set, 20s. for a three- valve set, 25s. for a fourvalve set, and 30s. for a five-valve set. It is difficult to ascertain the profit that 3LO is making, because no balancesheet has- been presented. The public does not know whether listeners-in are getting a fair return for their money. Practically a monopoly has been given to a small coterie of persons who are using 3LO to advertise themselves. It is estimated that the weekly income of 3LO is £1,000. It costs that company approximately £65 a week for rental paid to Amalgamated Wireless Limited. The orchestra is paid about £60 a week, and about £200 is paid in royalties on the transmission plant to Amalgamated Wireless Limited. The artists are paid, approximately, £200 a week, and the wages of the staff amount to about £50 a week, making a total weekly expenditure of £575. The revenue of the company is £1,000 a week, and taking its expenditure at, approximately, £600, its net profit is £400 a week. The nominal capital of the company is £100,000, but the actual paid-up capital is, approximately, £6,000. Therefore, the company is making a profit of 346 per cent, on the paid-up capital. Under the wireless regulations the PostmasterGeneral may call upon a broadcasting company to produce its profit and loss account and its balance-sheet, which documents may be tabled in the House. I am anxiously awaiting the tabling of the balance-sheets of 3LO and other companies. We shall then be in a position to know whether, at the expiration of five years - the term for which, the A-class licence was granted to 3LO - broadcasting should be placed under the control of a public corporation, such as that which will control broadcasting in Great Britain, in accordance with the recommendation made by the British Broadcasting Committee of 1925, and approved by the British Government. What is the position in Australia to-day? Those controlling 3LO are trying to obtain control of other broadcasting stations, and so get a monopoly. I am told that £1,666 13s. 4d. has been paid by 3LO as a deposit in connexion with the purchase of 3AR.
– I rise to a point of order. The matter to which the honorable member is referring is now before the court, and is, therefore, tub judice.
I ask the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) not to discuss that matter in detail.
– What proof have we of the accuracy of the Postmaster-General’s statement that the matter is sub judice ?
– The proof is that a writ has been placed in the hands of the PostmasterGeneral to restrain him from making payment of moneys due to 3AR.
– I rise to a point of order. When an honorable member, especially a Minister, raises the objection that a matter is sub judice, he should supply the committee with some information about it. The Postmaster-General has not yet given you, sir, any particulars as to the nature of the claim, or to whom, and when, the writ was issued. If points of this kind can be raised on frivolous grounds, it is competent for any Minister to stifle the discussion of a matter by merely declaring that a writ concerning it has been issued. The Minister must prove, to your satisfaction, that a writ has been issued, and that it affects the particular matter to which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) was referring.
– The statement of the Postmaster-General that a writ has been issued by the company which the honorable member for Capricornia was discussing, must be accepted by the Chair. It is not necessary for the Minister to produce the writ or to give details of it.
– You, sir, are not informed as to what the writ is about, or by whom it has been issued. In those circumstances, how can you rule that the honorable member for Capricornia was not in order in discussing a certain matter?
– The PostmasterGeneral said definitely that the writ related to the matter that was being discussed by the honorable member, and I have accepted his assurance.
– Who are the parties in the case, and what is the nature of the claim? This national Parliament is discussing a matter of far-reaching importance, involving, among other things, the consideration of the Marconi Trust, whose operations are recognized to be world-wide. It is clearly obnoxious to both common sense and elementary justice if an honorable member, wishing to discuss the subject in all its various ramifications, can be met with the objection that somewhere some person has instituted legal proceedings, which touch it at some point. If the Postmaster-General satisfies you, sir, that a writ has issued affecting specific parties, and that the claim is definitely connected with the matter under discussion, you are acting rightly in preventing the continuance of the discussion ; but I hope that you will not use your position to prevent a complete ventilation of what we consider to be grave scandals in connexion with this matter, merely on the ground that some person’ has commenced legal proceedings, which touch one of the parties, or their various interests, at some particular point.
– The Chair has no alternative but to accept the Minister’s assurance that the writ served upon him covers the matters that the honorable member for Capricornia desires to discuss.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I am sorry that the debate is being stifled, because I would prefer the matter to be threshed out at this stage.
– The PostmasterGeneral raised the point of order that this matter was sub judice, and, therefore, could not be discussed.
– I am surprised at a member of the legal profession wishing to discuss a matter that is now before the courts. A writ has been issued by Victorian Broadcasters Limited, to restrain the Postmaster-General from paying over to 3 AR. an amount of money due to that firm, the reason for the restraint being that 3 LO. has purchased the broadcasting station 3 AR. The courts have been dealing with the matter, and the Postal Department is refusing to pay over any money until the decision of the courts is given.
– Has the Chair ruled that no discussion can be allowed on any matter that has been referred to the courts ?
– My ruling is that any matter that is under consideration by the courts cannot be discussed in this committee.
– At what stage does a matter become sub judice?
– When it is under consideration by the courts.
– I do not think this matter is under consideration by the courts.
– I am quite sure that it is.
– I am inclined to dispute the statement of the Postmaster-General. The matter is not yet before the court. Over a week ago the Postmaster-General prevented me from discussing this matter by saying that it was sub judice, and I have since been assured that I was wrongly ruled out of order on that occasion. I believe that your ruling now, sir, is wrong, and I ask under what standing order it is given.
– The invariable practice of this House and of the House of Commons is that a matter that is before the court, and, therefore, sub judice, may not be discussed in Parlia- . ment. I refer the honorable member to page 264 of the tenth edition of May -
A matter whilst under adjudication by a court of law should not be brought before the House by motion or otherwise.
The Chair, having been informed by the Postmaster-General that a writ has been served on him in relation to the matter which the honorable member for
Capricornia desires to discuss-
– The matter has been before the court, and the hearing has been adjourned until to-morrow.
– In those circumstances, the Chair cannot permit any discussion of the matter.
– If the PostmasterGeneral had not intervened so hurriedly, a great deal of time -would have been saved. .His interruption of my remarks creates the impression that there is about this matter something murky and suspicious which he does not want the public to know. I was about to say that 3AR controls the Tasmanian broadcasting station 7ZL, and holds a large block of shares in the South Australian broadcasting station 5CL. In order to get a monopoly, 3LO arranged to purchase the business of 3AR, but the shareholders in the latter company refused to ratify the agreement made by its directors, and the matter is now the subject of litigation. It is not in the public interest that one firm shold be allowed to get a monopoly of wireless broadcasting throughout Australia, especially as I have been informed that 3LO is making a profit of 348 per cent, on the capital invested. Wireless will be of immense importance in the future development of Australia, and if properly managed it should convey to the people in the backblocks, and on remote portions of our coast, the educational and recreational advantages to be derived from hearing the best speakers and entertainers in the continent. If, however, the business is to be commercialized, and a few people are to be allowed to monopolize broadcasting in order to make great profits, the best programmes will not be distributed, and broadcasting will not be the popular and the great national service that it could and should be. The first A class broadcasting licences in Australia were issued to Farmer and Company Limited, Sydney, one for New South Wales, and one for Victoria. The latter was sold to 3LO, Melbourne, the consideration being 39,999 shares paid up to 17s. per share in a company of 100,000 shares, known as the Broadcasting Company of Australia Proprietary Limited, whose broadcasting station is 3LO. The shareholders in that company are Farmer and Company, Sydney, 39,999 shares, paid up to 17s. ; J. C. Williamson Limited, 3,999 shares; J. and N. Tait, 3,999 shares; Buckley and Nunn, 5.000 shares and one-third of the profits derived from the sale of sets; and the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, 15,000 shares, each paid up to ls. 3d. -Farmer and Company, of Sydney, and Buckley and Nunn, of Melbourne, are practically under the one control. J and N. Tait controls Allan and Company, the music warehouse, of Collins-street, and reaps both the copyright charges and a share of the profits of the broadcasting company.
– And the Herald and Weekly Times Limited gets a monopoly of the advertisements.
– Yes, and the printing of the programme. The directors of J. C. Williamson Limited are Sir George Tallis, Mr. Theodore. Fink, of the Herald and Weekly Times; Mr. John Tait, of Allan and Company; and Major W. Condor, associate director and manager of 3LO. I now ask honorable members to note the similarity in the names of the directors of the Broadcasting Company of Australia, who are Sir George Tallis, Mr. John Tait, Mr. Theodore Fink, Mr. Felix Lloyd, manager of Buckley and Nunn Limited, and late of Farmer and Company, of Sydney, and Major Condor. This octopus has put out its tentacles in many directions. The Copyright Association of Australia is largely controlled by Paling and Company, of Sydney, and Allan and Company, of Melbourne, the latter firm being controlled by Tait’s. The manager of the Copyright Association, Mr. George Sutherland, is also manager of Allan and Company, of Melbourne. We also notice that the Listener In is connected with this little group. The circulation of that journal is approximately 42,000. It is conducted by the United Press Limited, which is controlled by the Herald and W’eekly Times. The advertising manager is Mr. Phil Finkelstein, publicity manager of J. C. Williamson Limited. The Listener In is the only newspaper in Victoria to which 3LO will supply a full week’s programme ahead, and the PostmasterGeneral allows that to be done. Others have endeavoured to obtain similar information, but they cannot get it.
– Surely the PostmasterGeneral does not stand for that !
Mr. FORDE. Evidently he does. I understand that the Listener In pays the broadcasting company £6 a week for the exclusive information that it receives.
– There appear to be many facts that warrant the appointment of a royal commission.
– Yes. Such an inquiry is urgently needed. The Herald is able to disseminate news by wireless in such a way and at such times that it will not interfere with the sales of its daily newspaper, because it broadcasts only stale news. The news published in the Herald at 4 p.m. is not broadcast by wireless until 10 p.m. This journal, of course, gets a good advertisement, and so also does the Argus, but what about the A ge? The present Government should not be a party to the granting of privileges to a favoured few. Let us now consider the advantages that J. C. Williamson Limited enjoys. Its wireless programmes are so compiled that they do not conflict with its ordinary “ shows.” This firm gives publicity to such portions of its other entertainments as it desires to transmit by wireless. It advertises its own artists, who supply listeners- in with “ dressingroom talks.” I do not know how Mr. Hugh Ward gets on; he, apparently, is “not in the joke.” Only songs on which copyright charges are payable to Allan and Companyare broadcast, other songs are suppressed. That fact alone is sufficient to justify an inquiry. Although there are quite a number of gramophones on the market, “ Sonora “ records only are played by the Broadcasting Company, Allan and Company being the agents for the “ Sonora “ gramophone.
– They even advertise those records on Sunday mornings before church time.
– Yes; they might give them a rest on Sunday morning. Buckley and Nunn’s, of course, receive a special advertisement. There are “ fashion talks “ over the wireless by members of their staff. I do not know what Myer’s think of this. The other drapers in Melbourne certainly have a real grievance.” For some time the 3LO orchestra was announced as Buckley and Nunn’s studio orchestra. It should be borne in mind that the Listener In also is controlled by the various shareholders whose names I have mentioned, and no adverse criticism can be published in its columns although it is supposed to be the official organ of the listen ers-in. Comments along the lines I have followed were frequently heard in Great Britain, and the British Government, realizing the importance of broadcasting to the country and to the Empire, sub mitted the whole matter to a broadcasting committee in 1925, consisting of the following : -
The RightHon.the Earl of Crawford and Bal carres, K.T. (Chairman).
The Right Hon. Lord Blanesburgh, G.B.E.
Captain Ian Fraser, C.B.E., M.P.
The Right Hon. William Graham, M.P.
Rudyard Kipling, Esquire.
Sir William Henry Hadow, C.B.E.
The Right Hon. Ian Macpherson, K.C., M.P.
The Right Hon. Lord Rayleigh, F.R.S.
Sir Thomas Royden, Bart., C.H.
Dame Meriel Talbot, D.B.E., and Mr. W. E. Weston, secretary of the British Post Office.
That committee held sixteen metings, and received evidence from 22 groups. The terms of reference received by it were -
To advise as to the proper broadcasting service, and as to the management, control, and finance thereof, after the expiry of the existing licence on the 31st September, 1926. The committee will indicate what changes in the law, if any, are desirable in the interests of the broadcasting service.
After a full investigation, the committee presented a report which was adopted. The following is a summary of its principal recommendations: -
That the broadcasting service should be conducted by a public corporation acting as trustee for the national interest, and that its status and duties should correspond with those of a public service.
Broadcasting Company should be taken over by the new commission.
The broadcasting company’s accounts in Australia should be audited and laid before Parliament. The decision in Great Britain to nationalize broadcasting was arrived at, not by a Labour Government, but by the Baldwin Administration. According to a statement published in the press some time ago, the British Government decided to adopt all the recommendations of the broadcasting committee in detail. The British Post Office will, in future, control broadcasting in Great Britain, and it will not be commercialized and exploited for the benefit of one section of the people to the detriment of the general community. The six big electrical’ firms in Great Britain will no longer have complete control of it, as they have had since its inception. I hope the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) will allow that to sink into his mind. The British control will be vested in a broadcasting commission on which the interests of the general public and listeners-in will be represented. The Labour party desires similar action to be taken in Australia. I urge the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into this matter. I am sure that careful consideration of the subject would cause the Government to follow the example of Great Britain, and not allow broadcasting here to continue to be controlled by a few private companies. I am glad to say that the Queensland Government took care that no private company should obtain a monopoly of broadcasting in that State. It established its own station, which is known as 4QG. I have dabbled a little in wireless, and in New South Wales I know that 4QG can be heard even better than the Sydney stations.
– Does the 4QG wireless station pay?
– The PostmasterGeneral can have inquiries made into that matter if he desires. My point is that the station is run for the benefit of the nation, and not in the interests of a few private shareholders. That is as it should be. We do not run our Education Departments with the idea of making a monetary profit out of them. There is something which far transcends all considerations of that description. In the future, wireless is destined to play a large part in educational affairs, particularly in the back-blocks of Australia. The Queensland Labour Government has no ambition to make a mere financial success of its broadcasting station, but spends all the revenue obtained from it in improving the programmes. It will be regrettable if wireless in Australia becomes a profitmaking concern for a few shareholders in wireless companies. 3LO is making a profit of 346 per cent, on its actual paid-up capital. About twelve months ago, the New Zealand Government, in consequence of complaints that had been made, gave its attention to problems of broadcasting, and introduced a bill, which Parliament passed, empowering it to conduct all the broadcasting business in that dominion. I submit that we should do the same. Another matter for serious complaint in regard to broadcasting is that heavy royalties are demanded on all gramophone records and copyright music that is broadcast. The Australian Performing Rights Association, which represents principally such firms as Allan and Company and Paling and Company, demands substantial fees as copyright royalties from the broadcasting companies.
– Supposing that I bought a gramophone record and took it to a broadcasting station to have broadcast, should I have to pay a fee?
– I advise the honorable member not to try that. The Australian Performing Rights Association recently applied to the court to restrain. 5CL broadcasting station in Adelaide from broadcasting any musical -works the copyright of which was vested in that association, and, in consequence, that station has been practically forced to eliminate musical items from its programmes. It is reprehensible that such rapacious demands should be made by the association.
– Has the Government taken any action in this matter?
– None at all. The Australian Performing Rights Association claims to control the copyright in Australia of 98 per cent, of copyright musical works, and it has refused to give 5CL particulars of the works it controls. Thus 5CL only has 2 per cent, of available copyright works which it can broadcast without the consent of the association. The board controlling 5CX in a statement on this matter said -
Our difficulty is the greater since the copyright can exist without being registered. So far we have been unable to find any means by which we can ascertain whether the Performing Rights Association control any particular copyright work. This morning we asked Mr. Edwards, the secretary of the association, to go through our musical programme for to-day, to-morrow, and Monday, and inform us whether any items included were works of which his association controlled a copyright. Mr. Edwards replied that he could not do so without referring the matter to Sydney.
The broadcasting companies are undoubtedly being unfairly interfered with, and the whole matter demands investigation. The Australian Performing Rights Association demands from each “A” class station in Australia 10 per cent, of its revenue from broadcast listeners’ ordinary licences, after deducting the royalty payable to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, for the use of the patented articles at the station. Amalgamated Wireless Limited received 20 per cent, of the 5CL’s revenue from all sources. The listeners’ licence-fee is 27s. 6d., out of which the Government takes 2s. 6d. ; approximately 5s. is payable to Amalgamated Wireless; and now this association demands 2s. for each licence.
But the payment does not end there. That 10 per cent, confers upon 5CL the right to broadcast not more than 8,400 performances of the association’s copyright musical works for the year, or approximately one such item during each half-hour of its programme, which begins at 11 a.m. and ends at 11 p.m. daily. The management of 50L, commenting on this, said -
It will be impossible for 5CL to limit their programme to one musical item every halfhour, and if we exceed that number we are likely to become liable to the association for a further payment, for the association seeks to bind us to paying an additional 1 per cent, of our revenue from ordinary licences for every 840 performances in excess of 8,400. If we broadcast on an average two copyright musical items every half-hour, they would seek to call upon us to pay an additional 10 per cent, or 20 per cent, in all. If we entered into the agreement which the association sought to impose on us, we would not know what expenditure we were, incurring until we received tlie association’s account. In the present state of our knowledge we would have no means of cheeking that account. These payments for patent and copyright would make such inroads into our revenue that after paying our ordinary working expenses, including engineers, staff, and maintenance of plant, there would be only a limited amount of revenue available for programmes, which would suffer in consequence.
I contend that the time is ripe for the Commonwealth to legislate in regard to copyright and patent fees, under paragraph xviii. of section 51 of the Constitution, which confers upon this Parliament the power to deal with “ copyrights, patents of inventions and designs.” I have still another complaint. The position in regard to broadcasting band music is very unsatisfactory. At a radio conference held in Sydney in May of this year, Mr. W. J. Mc. Maclardy, of Broadcasters Sydney Limited, pointed out that the Performing Rights Association demanded a fixed licence fee of £100 a year in respect of band music, but reserved the right to alter that to any amount at any time it thought fit. That shows what a tight grip the association has on broadcasting. Mr. Maclardy has also stated that he had had 250 plays and musical comedies withdrawn from him by J. C. Williamson Limited, about 100 of which had been withdrawn lately, to say nothing of what the actual musical copyright people had withdrawn. No reason was given for the withdrawal of these plays and Broadcasters were not given the opportunity to use them even by the payment of a fee. The Residential Hotels Association took counsel’s opinion as to the power of the Performing Rights Association to enforce its demands, and it appears that, as the law stands at present, it can do absolutely anything it likes in the matter. This also is surely a matter that merits the closest investigation. It is remarkable that at present three royalties are demanded on every gramophone record. One is paid in America, another is paid when a record reaches Australia, and still another when it is broadcast. I am of the opinion that the Commonwealth Government should fix, without delay, the scale of fees that shall be paid in respect of copyrights and patents. At present, the Performing Rights Association is taking about 21 per cent. The copyright law provides for payment of a copyright fee for the life of the author, and for 40 years afterwards; but for a Beethoven sonata, which was recently broadcast, although Beethoven has been dead for 92 years, the broadcasters were charged copyright, because five years ago the composition was reset to trio music in America.
– Would those fees be paid to Beethoven’s relatives?
– Certainly they would not. The Australian Copyrights Association is made up of the leading musichouses in Australia. If a music-house has a piece of music that it wishes to place on the market, it sends a full band score to a broadcasting station, and asks the station to play it and place it on the market; and after that it charges royalty on it. Mr. La Brie, a visitor from the United States of America, who attended the Australian Radio Conference in Sydney, said -
The demand for copyrights was an imposition, and as to patent royalties, he did not believe there was much in radio to-day that was patentable, because they were using many ideas that had been known to students of electricity since its inception.
Still the demands continue to be made, and the Government only marks time. I could refer to the demand made by Amalgamated Wireless Limited for patent fees. That company claims 12s. 6d. for every valve-holder used in a wireless set, and it is suing Davy Jones and Company,of
Sydney, in this connexion. The company is about to claim from the public patent fees on receiving sets. In the Listenerin, of 10th July, I read a paragraph stating -
It is believed that important developments are pending with regard to the payment of patent royalties and the use of master patents in the making of broadcasting and receiving sets, and that legal proceedings may ensue. The home-set builder, in Australia, up to the present, has not been asked to pay royalties to any firm, though one Australian organization controls the main British and American radio patents. It is rumoured that, in view of certain action taken by the holders of British patents, this may not be so in future. It is believed that the enforcement of patent royalties in Britain will almost inevitably have a decisive effect on the development of wireless in Australia.
It is time this Government took the question up seriously, and appointed a royal commission. As this matter is sub judice, I am not permitted to discuss it further.
– It ought to be discussed.
– I agree with the honorable member; we ought to have a day’s debate on this question. It has been emphasized by different authorities that, if the patents were valid upon which royalties are claimed, the amounts demanded are still far in excess of what is fair and reasonable. A royal commission would have the power to investigate the whole question of the validity of patent claims, and, if it be found they are valid, to fix a fair scale of payment. At the present time the demands are excessive, and if the dealers in wireless, and the public, could be assured that no retrospective demands would be made by Amalgamated Wireless Limited, much more rapid progress in wireless would be possible. The greedy methods of these patent kings are restricting and obstructing the development of Australian wireless, and are seriously limiting the spread of the economic and social advantages of radio, which plays a great part in the life of the people of Australia. If any one should rise in protest against the action of the copyright associations, of the demands of Amalgamated Wireless Limited for patent royalties, or of the monopolistic grip that 3LO is trying to obtain on broadcasting in Australia, it should be the Postmaster-General. He should support a national broadcasting studio, at which the services of the greatest artists in the world could be obtained, and in the control of which the chief consideration would not be profits; but the highest standard of efficiency.
– I shall not traverse the whole field covered by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). He has dealt with this subject on three occasions, and has spoken of the agreement brought forward by the right honorable member for North Syd; ney (Mr. Hughes), and the modified agreement of 1924. The honorable member was a member’ of a committee consisting of six members of the House of Representatives, and several members of the Senate, which was appointed to investigate the agreement submitted by the then Prime Minister, and subsequently approved by the Parliament. I agree with the present Prime Minister that the honorable member was appointed to do his utmost to assist the committee to obtain the best possible agreement for this country, wireless being then an innovation in Australia. I also agree with the Prime Minister that the honorable member practically agreed to everything that was said and done by the committee up to the last stage.
– That has been denied.
– The honorable member was chosen because of his legal knowledge, along with Senator Drake-Brockman, as a sub-committee to assist the committee in putting the final touches to the agreement. No one dreamed at that time that he would submit a minority report; but later he did so, much to the surprise of the other members of the committee.
– The PostmasterGeneral is saying what is not correct.
– I am saying what I think is correct. It would seem that the honorable member is very sceptical regarding wireless of any kind. In the GovernorGeneral’s speech of 1922 the statement was made that “ The agreement will provide adequate and satisfactory means of communication invaluable to the commerce of Australia.” When referring to that statement the honorable member for Batman as reported on page 464 of Hansard said -
I venture to say there is not a tittle of evidence before this House, and there was not a vestige of evidence before the Government, to justify them in making that statement, or in putting it in the Governor-General’s Speech. On the contrary, the only evidence before the Government was that it was a matter of the very gravest and most serious doubt whether a scheme of the kind to which they would lend themselves is in any circumstances practicable or possible.
– That statement is absolutely true to-day.
– When the honorable member made those remarks, he was referring to the high-power station, but, in a subsequent speech in 1924, he referred to the beam system. On the latter occasion he said -
Without deciding the vexed question of how long it is dark in both Great Britain and Australia, I have been led to believe that the beam system cannot be relied upon to operate for more than two to four hours each day. It follows, therefore, that it can only be useful for deferred messages at the best, and must be quite useless and hopeless in competition with the ordinary cable system.
To-day, he repeats that his statements are correct, and he says that the Government is still hoodwinking the people into the belief that impossible things can be done. On another occasion he said -
No scientific data can be given that a service could be effected. The evidence is rather in the opposite direction.
The honorable member must know, as I know, that the Rugby station, in Great Britain, is transmitting to Australia every morning news which is available to any Morse reader who has a set that will receive on the wave length of that station. During the strike in Great Britain, news from Rugby waa recorded by officers of my department in their homes, without any special apparatus, and a full statement was furnished by them to members of the Government and others.
– How many sets in Australia can receive those messages?
– Perhaps thousands, by a simple alteration of the coils to suit the wave length. If we had a corresponding station in Victoria, we should have the communication between Australia and Great Britain which the honorable member for Batman says is impossible. The honorable member said that from two to four hours’ communication was all that would be possible with the beam system. I had several talks with Senator Marconi in England, and he assured me that it would be possible to communicate for seven hours a day, or probably longer. When the sun is in the east, transmission will be in a north-westerly direction, over Borneo, India, and Russia; but when the sun is in the west, transmission will be in a south-easterly direction, across the southern Pacific, the north of South America, and the Atlantic. By that means, full advantage will be taken of the darkness in both directions. Wireless communication between Australia and Great Britain, with the beam system, will soon be an accomplished fact. If we had a high-power station, it would be an accomplished fact to-day. We have not a high-power station ; we called for tenders and it was found that the cost would be in the vicinity of £480,000. Can the honorable ‘ member for Batman tell me why South Africa, India, and Canada have discarded.proposals for erecting highpower stations, and have decided to erect beam stations?
– Is not the Rugby station a high-power station?
– Yes; and it cost some £500,000 to construct. The beam station will not cost more than £120,000. South Africa let a contract for a highpower station, and when it was more than half built. they decided to scrap it in favour of a beam station. The honorable member asked why the contract had not been carried out within the prescribed time. If that had been done, we should to-day have a beam station here, with no station in Great Britain to correspond with it. I am informed that the station in Great Britain will be completed in. October, and the station here will be ready at about the same time, so that the two stations will be operating about that time.
– Why bungle the thing ? Why does not the Minister, know what to do, and set about doing it?
– What the Government wishes to do is being done, and has now nearly reached a conclusion. The honorable member went on to say that the station in Australia is costing more than the station in Great Britain. The Prime Minister has said that, according to the agreement between the Marconi Company and the British Government, the British station is to cost about £50,000. That is for a single station, and for every additional unit necessary to communicate with Canada, South Africa, or Australia another £29,000 has to be paid. So that the corresponding station in Great Britain is to cost £50,000, plus £30,000. Here, in Australia, we shall have a station with a unit to communicate with Canada as well as a unit to communicate with Great Britain for a sum not to exceed £120,000.
– Will the Minister answer this simple question ? If we have the stations we want here and in Eng-, land, does the honorable gentleman say that he can then undertake to give the service provided for in the agreement *
– Certainly, it can be done. Under the agreement the number of words to be transmitted, as the honorable member has pointed out, is 21,000 each way. As a matter of fact, under the agreement with the Marconi Company a much greater number of words than 21,000 are to be sent.
– The number is 28,000.
– It is even greater than that. Wireless is yet quite in its infancy, and very few countries have made greater progress with the science than Australia has done. The honorable member said that we are not able to communicate with Great Britain. Honorable members will remember that we instituted a service to ships at sea, and these vessels are now getting communications broadcast each morning as far as Colombo for certain, and sometimes a good deal further.
– Where from ?
– From Sydney and Perth. As soon as this system is completed, we shall have direct communication with all boats to England as well as in England, and the reverse position from the other side. The beam system is not direct communication along a definite line. The beam widens out in a fan 5,000 miles wide by the time it reaches Australia when transmitted from overseas, so that this method of transmission will cover practically the whole of Australia. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) made some statements with regard to the revenue received from Amalgamated Wireless Company, but he distorted the facts altogether.
– Surely not!
– I do not say that the honorable member did so wilfully. Th, figures he quoted were given in reply to a question put by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) as to what was the amount paid to Amalgamated Wireless Limited for working expenses to the 30th of June, 1926. The amount stated was £251,900. The honorable member endeavoured to convey the impression that some of the money was paid to Amalgamated Wireless Limited for property, machinery, plant, or something of the kind.
– I wanted to know from the honorable gentleman what it was paid for.
– It was also stated, in reply to the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the money received from the company amounted to £106,228.
– Showing a deficit of £145,672.
– Showing a deficit according to the honorable member’s statement ; but the question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh was how much money was paid to the company for working expenses, and the reply given to him was quite correct. Honorable members will recognize immediately that many of the boats at sea have not paid the amounts due by them, and amounts are still owing to make up the balance. The whole of the nineteen coastal stations were taken over by Amalgamated Wireless Limited, and are now operated by that company. It maintains the stations, and the Government has been relieved of an annual loss upon them amounting to from. £30,000 to £40,000. The figures quoted represent simply an- account between Amalgamated Wireless Limited and the Government in regard to expenditure and revenue in connexion with the nineteen coastal stations as laid down in clause 7 of the agreement. There are several stations in the Mandated Territory that are still run under the agreement, and the adjustment of accounts cannot be completed until amounts owing in respect of those stations are also taken into consideration.
I now come to the matter of broadcasting, and here again we have an extraordinary position. Wireless broadcasting, as we know, is only five years old. The whole thing is still in its infancy. In Australia it is only three years old, and we have done remarkably good work here to have reached the stage which we have reached at the present time, with 120,000 licensed listeners-in throughout the Commonwealth. The progress made has been remarkable, and the programmes received by the people are extremely good. What happened in regard to wireless in the first stage? It was during my administration of the Post Office that wireless was brought into operation. I had people interested in wireless all over Australia asking that a conference should be held. I convened a conference in May, 1923. That was the earliest meeting of wireless interests in Australia, to try to bring the new science into satisfactory operation. Some 90 representatives of various interests were at that conference, which considered the subject for four or five days. The conference placed its recommendations before me. It come to an absolutely unanimous decision that we should adopt the sealed set system, so that people, could only receive a certain wave length, according to the listening-in set they used.
– They adopted the suggestion of Fisk.
– The recommendation was unanimously approved by the 90 persons present at the conference representing the whole of the wireless interests in Australia. Mr. Fisk must be a very smart fellow if he was able to influence the other 89 representatives present at the conference to adopt his suggestion. The recommendation of the conference was adopted, and regulations were put through. The licence fee was fixed at 10s., and those holding broadcasting sets had the right to charge what they pleased for performances and programmes. Some of the stations were charging listeners-in £3 and £4 for their programmes, although they could only listen-in to one station. That proved an absolute failure, and the amount of revenue derived by the Post Office Department was only £725. When it was seen that we had made a step in the wrong direction we immediately set to work to remedy the matter, and we brought new regulations into operation in July, 1924. Under those regulations we are now operating. I say, again, that in the short period of two years we have made extraordinary strides in wireless in this country, and have not had the confusion that has taken place in connexion with wireless in many other countries of the world. In America the position was intolerable. Many people were broadcasting, and no particular wave length, was allocated. The honorable member for Capricornia has said that we should be guided by the experience of New Zealand, but let me tell him that in the matter of the development of wireless New Zealand is not in the same street with Australia.
– What I said was that the New Zealand Government had decided to take over broadcasting as a national concern.
– The fees charged in Australia were 35s, in the zone of the first 250 miles, 30s. in the zone between 250 and 400 miles, and 25s. in the zone beyond 400 miles and upwards, and of those fees the Postal Department took 5s. We recognized in the first year that we could manage with a fee less than 5s., and immediately reduced the amount to 2s. 6d. The fees operating now are 27s. 6d. for the inner zone, 22s. 6d. for the middle zone, and 17s. 6d. for the outer zone. I have stated in this House, in answer to questions, that the regulations will come up for review in July of this year. They were fixed for a term of two years, and that term expires this year. The regulations will be revised, but what will be the result I am not at the moment prepared to say. I have been surprised that not one honorable member who has referred to the subject of wireless has made any mention of the alteration of wave lengths. The whole position in regard to wave lengths is due to a war between two interests: those who import sets into this country made to the standard of Great Britain or America, and those importing long-wave receiving sets, such as can be used with Farmer’s station or W. A. Farmers Limited. If we altered the wave lengths to-day we should bring about confusion amongst thousands of people. I do not say that we shall not alter them, but their alteration must lead to a certain amount of disorganization. If we brought the whole of the wave lengths within a band of 250 to 550 metres, only particular selective machines would be able’ to cut out a wave length that was not wanted. The honorable member for Capricornia says that we should adopt the system followed in Great Britain, and that we should also reduce our licence- fee. The honorable member forgets that in this country we have a population of only 6,000,000, and a vast, territory to cover. In Great Britain, with an area not much greater than Victoria, there is a population of 40,000,000. In that country a licencefee of 10s. might easily be sufficient, but if we retained the licence-fee of 10s. in Australia programmes could not be offered that would be acceptable to the peon le. Listeners-in are prepared to pay a reasonable fee for good programmes, and I believe that the programmes that are being broadcasted in Australia to-day are very satisfactory.
– I live a few miles out of Sydney, and I cannot receive from Farmers.
– The honorable member perhaps Has a set that is not selective enough to cut out other wave lengths. The honorable, member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) referred to the possibility of bringing about a monopoly of wireless broadcasting, and also to the fine work that is being done by the Queensland station under the control of the State Government; but the monopolies to which he is referring are not, with the exception, perhaps, of two of them, making the profits that he suggests. We have issued “A” licences as follows : - One in Queensland, one in Tasmania, one in Western Australia, one in South Australia, and two each in Victoria and New South Wales. The honorable member said not one word about the cost of erecting huge plants for transmitting purposes. The initial outlay of the companies must have been enormous, and I venture to say that for the first year the whole of their operations were undertaken at a loss. Fortunately, some of them are now coming into their own. The stations in Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia are probably losing money to-day on their - operations in broadcasting. The gross receipts of Farmers of Sydney for 1925-26 amounted to £30,433. That company has to meet interest on capital and pay its artists. Honorable members will recognize that if the same artists were used, every night there would be a great deal of dissatisfaction. The gross receipts of 2BL station in New South Wales amounted in that year to £15,865. The gross receipts of 3LO in Victoria amounted to £53,661.
– That is about £1,000 a week, .as I have said.
– The honorable member’s figures were approximately right, and they should have been, since I, myself, gave them only last week. The gross receipts of 3AR in 1925-26 amounted to £26,209, and of the Queensland station, to £10,164. It is impossible to provide a series of good programmes For £10,164 a year after incurring the expense of a fivekilowatt station, meeting the interest on capital, and paying salaries to artists. The gross receipts of the Adelaide station amounted to £17,721, and of the Western Australian station to £5,253. Those are the amounts received by the various stations after the deduction of 2s. 6d. by the department.
– What profit does 3LO make?
– I cannot say. I do not know the cost of working the station nor the amount paid to its artists. All I know is that an exceptionally good programme is broadcast. The honorable member said nothing about that station’s losses when it first began its operations. It is not possible for a monopoly to be created in Australia. The whole of the programmes are subject to the supervision and censorship of the PostmasterGeneral, or whoever represents him. I am pleased to say that on few occasions have we taken exception to broadcast programmes. One honorable member referred to broadcasting stations being used for political purposes. That is not the case.
– It is so in the case of 3LO.
– The stations are not allowed to broadcast political speeches unless the opposite political party has the same privilege. We have strictly adhered to that practice, and it has not been abused in any way.
– I heard on the wireless -the Prime Minister’s speech at Bendigo.
– In that case, the Leader of the Opposition would have had the right to reply. If he did not avail himself of that opportunity, it was certainly his own fault. We have always given equal opportunity to both political parties, and we have never had any trouble in that direction. There has been no trouble in Queensland, although the station there is controlled by a Labour Government. There is no opportunity of a monopoly of broadcasting taking place.
The division of revenue is in the ratio of 70 to 30 in relation to 3LO and 3AR in Victoria. If one company considers that the ratio should be adjusted, it has recourse to arbitration.
– 3AR is being absorbed by 3LO.
– 3AR cannot be absorbed by 3LO, because the two stations must operate, and’ the revenue must be divided between them in the ratio provided. The number of licences in force on the 30th June was: In New South Wales, 36,055; and in Victoria, 62,290. Victoria has, therefore, twice as many receiving sets as New South Wales. This bears testimony to the excellence of the programmes broadcast in Victoria. The number of licences in force in Queensland was 7,244; in South Australia, 9,410; in Western Australia, 3,874; and in Tasmania 739. It would be impossible for 7,244 persons in Queensland, for instance, to provide sufficient revenue in the way of licence fees to pay for a series of good programmes.
– The station in Queensland is efficiently controlled.
– According to the honorable member, the Labour party can do no wrong. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) referred to the monopoly of news by 3LO, but his statement was inaccurate. He also referred to discrimination taking place in connexion with advertising. I would inform him that no discrimination takes place at the stations. Advertising can be carried on only during set hours, and does not form part of a broadcast programme which is paid for by the licence holders.
– Buckley and Nunn’s, J. C. Williamson’s, and the Herald office have special advertisements through 3LO.
– If they advertise through 3LO they have to pay for it. It is open to anybody to advertise through a broadcasting station. No reasonable advertisement can be refused.
– I am referring to the Herald news.
– The honorable member referred to the Herald news, as broadcast by 3LO as being stale, but it is not so. It is broadcast early in the evening for the benefit of those living 100 miles or more from Melbourne. I, myself, receive that news in my own home 100 miles away. The Argus news is broadcast by 3LO in the morning, hours before any newspaper arrives at the country districts. I am certain that the broadcasting of news is very acceptable to out-back settlers. When the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) was taking a trip through the Northern Territory, he received news items on a receiving set which he took with him. The Age news is broadcast through 3AR. The news services are remarkably good. The honorable member for Capricornia suggested that the Government should take control of broadcasting as the British Government intends to do at the beginning of next year. I cannot conceive of any Government broadcasting a programme that would satisfy the people of this country. Under Government control, the tendency would be to use the programmes for political purposes. When a plebiscite was recently taken to ascertain the most popular item broad- cast, no one would have prophesied that church services would head the list and racing news be at the bottom. It has cost an immense sum of money to erect the broadcasting stations, and if we forced them to cease operating in twelve months’ time after having broadcast excellent programmes, we should be playing an unfair game towards those companies which hold licences. They are licensed for five years, but at the end of the second year we have power to revise the licences. During this month the whole position will be reviewed by the department.
The honorable member for Capricornia referred to copyrights. He probably was not in the chamber when the Prime Minister clearly pointed out that this matter was international in its effect, and that we had no power to regulate international law. The Government has done the best thing under the circumstances by deciding to call together all the interests connected with copyrights. The Prime Minister has said that they are to meet together in Sydney, when, he hopes, means will be devised to bring about a more uniform scale of charges. The honorable member for Capricornia believes that those holding copyrights should receive nothing for them, and that we should legislate to prevent royalties from being paid on patents. Surely he must recognize that patents are very valuable to those people who have worked them out and registered them. If the honorable member wishes, I shall include in Hansard the whole of the patents held by the Amalgamated Wireless Limited.
– The Minister might detail those patents that are claimed by Amalgamated Wireless Limited.
– The honorable member, being a lawyer, knows as well as I do that by visiting the patents office, and paying1s., he can ascertain whether the patents are being infringed by some technicality of a receiving set. The honorable member has moved that a royal commission be appointed to investigate these matters, but the Prime Minister has stated that the amendment could not possibly be accepted.
– The representative that was sent to the Radio Conference in Sydney on the 5th May was in favour of the appointment of a royal commission. Mr. GIBSON. - The committee that met in Sydney passed a resolution regretting that the amount of revenue received by the broadcasting companies was not sufficient to enable them to provide suitable programmes for the people of Australia.
– Will an opportunity be afforded the House to discuss the revised regulations ?
– We shall see at a later date what can be done in that way.
.- I would not have intervened in the debate at this juncture, but for the very unsatisfactory reply by the PostmasterGeneral, and the unbecoming attitude adopted by the Prime Minister this afternoon when he endeavoured to answer the charges made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) against those who are controlling wireless in the Commonwealth. Without desiring to be unduly personal, I consider that the attitude assumed by the Prime Minister did him little credit, and was lacking in the dignity that we. have a right to expect from a gentleman occupying his high and responsible position. His manner was, to an extent, insulting. With a supercilious air of superiority, he declared that the substantial arguments advanced by the honorable member for
Batman were arrant nonsense. More than an offhand assertion of that character is required to satisfy the minds of those honorable members who desire to do right in this matter. I congratulate the honorable member for Batman upon bis consistent endeavours to place before the House and the country reliable information in regard to the long-distance wireless contracts. Every word contained in the minority report he submitted as a member of the select committee in 1921, and every word he uttered in his speech, in this chamber two years ago, has been verified. Notwithstanding that two years ago’ the agreement with the Amalgamated Wireless Limited, which is working in league with the wireless trusts throughout the world, was extended for two years, the company has again defaulted, and no effort is made by the Go,vernment to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers whose money is at stake. Honorable members of the Opposition would be remiss in their duty if they did not offer a strong protest against the manner in which die Government is treating this matter. The PostmasterGeneral endeavoured to make the Committee believe that the position in New Zealand in regard to wireless was not on all-fours with that in the Commonwealth, and, therefore, was of no concern to honorable members. The fact is that Amalgamated “Wireless Limited endeavoured to secure control df wireless’ in New Zealand, and demanded certain patent rights and royalties, but the New Zealand Government summarily rejected these claims and decided to be master in. its own house in respect of wireless . matters. The consequence is that wireless affairs in New Zealand are on a very satisfactory basis, and the people of the Dominion are not penalized by many of the undesirable conditions that are associated with wireless broadcasting in Australia. The Postmaster-General presented a favorable view of the prospects of the beam system of wireless, but Marconi, who is the inventor of this system, and whose opinion is entitled to respect, is not nearly so confident of its immediate success as is Mr. Fisk. He - has declared that the beam system is still in its experimental stages. On the other hand, the efficiency of the long-distance service controlled by the’ British Govern ment was attested by the remarks of the Postmaster-General, who acknowledged that the high-power station at Rugby had fulfilled all expectations. When the Prime Minister was speaking, I asked him by interjection why the British Government would not licence a high-power station to communicate directly with Australia, and he frankly replied that the reason was that the Commonwealth Government could not accede to the desire of the Imperial Government that all wireless stations ‘ in the United Kingdom “should be controlled by the British Postal Department. This is. one of the few matters, in regard to which this ultra-imperialistic Government is at variance with the British Government, and the reason for its attitude on this occasion is its’ desire to serve those private interests which are so closely connected with it politically. I have been informed on reliableauthority that the Marconi trustholds shares in Amalgamated Wireless Limited, and it is well for the committee to know what influences are acting in restraint of the free exercise of those services which are so intimately connected with the convenience,, comfort, and education of the community. I find that in 1918 Messrs. Siemens, Schucker and Company, Berlin, held 40 per cent, of the shares of’ Marconi Limited, and, according to a London bank report, that firm still retains that interest. That means that Amalgamated Wireless Limited is really controlled by this British and German combine. We should be recreant to our duty if we did not protest against the patronage that is being extended by the Commonwealth Government to the trusts and combines associated with wireless. The committee should accept the amendment for the appointment of a royal commission to review all phases of wireless control in the Commonwealth. The startling information given to the committee by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) shows that the interests of the taxpayers are being subordinated to cer- tain private interests. When the PostmasterGeneral . was asked by the honor- able member for Capricornia why he did not comply with the request of the Commonwealth radio conference, held in Sydney on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th May of this year, he replied lightly that the reports presented at the conference did not justify the opinions expressed by the honorable member. For the enlightenment of the committee, I shall quote passages from the report of the proceedings of the conference to show the esteem in which the system of wireless control adopted by the British Government is held by experts, and their earnest desire that’ a royal commission should be appointed to investigate wireless activities in the Commonwealth. The president of the conference had recently toured Great Britain, Europe, and America, and his report -to the conference left a very favorable impression of the achievements of the British Government in connexion with wireless. According to a report of the proceedings -
He assured the ‘conference that the British postal authorities were doing great work in radio, and daring his visit, in 1924, when the beam proposals were placed before the British Government, the British Government determined to give it an opportunity of being tried. A contract was entered into with the authorities controlling the beam, but the work was not carried out to the time stated in the contract.
That was an experience similar to that in Australia. The British Government did not allow the interests of the people to be subordinated to those of this great trust, but decided to see that public interests were adequately protected. The report’ continued -
The British. Government then completed the high-power station at Rugby, and to-day it was working ‘most satisfactorily. The British Government well deserved the congratulatory message carried by the conference that morning, and when the discussions were concluded some information would be - placed before Australia that would prove that the British Post Office authorities were doing great work in endeavouring to link the Empire together with radio without the foreign connexions that were trying to grip it. The conference was not only to encourage the best conditions in transmission and reception, but also to emphasize the necessity for a royal commission to be called, so that earliest action could be taken upon the reports submitted and approved by the conference.
Those associated with the Commonwealth Radio .Conference are prepared to submit to a royal commission complete evidence proving that wireless broadcasting affairs are not in a healthy condition, in Australia, and that it would be. against the best interests of the people to grant further privileges to those directly and indirectly associated with wireless matters in this country. The PostmasterGeneral would have honorable members believe that the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia’ .(Mr. Forde) regarding the profits made from broadcasting should be discounted. Only this morning’ I interviewed a gentleman who is in a position to know the facts of the case, and I- understand that the exploitation taking place in Melbourne is of a’ startling character.
– -The profit is nearly 40© per cent, on the paid-up capital.
– I believe that that is the case. All public moneys spent on wireless, either to Amalgamated ‘Wireless Limited, or to broadcasing companies, should be under the review of the AuditorGeneral, and balance-sheets should be submitted to the Parliament. I was surprised some days ago when, iri reply to questions, the ‘PostmasterGeneral stated that the Government retained only 2s. 6d. out of each licencefee to meet total charges of administration. Yet we find that a certain agency that represents one of the richest combines in the world is collecting for patent rights and royalties more than the sum received by the Postmaster-General’s Department. If the Government desires to have a good name in wireless matters it will readily agree to the appointment of a royal commission. It appears that a scandal exists in this connexion similar to others revealed during the regime of the present Ministry. Until a Labour administration is appointed, I am afraid -that there is very little prospect of an improvement being brought about.
– With an income of £1,000 a week 3LO ought to be able to secure the best artists in the world.
– Yes, it is a fabulous sum.
– Church and band music is obtained free.
– That is so. Many persons regard it as an honour to be in’viter to a wireless studio to contribute items for broadcasting. They are pleased to give lectures on social and scientific matters without payment.
– I, for instance, would gladly give lectures on the cotton and sugar .industries of Queensland.
– No doubt; and the honorable member would do credit to those subjects. I was glad to be reminded by the honorable member that the British Government had appointed a special committee, which included experts, to deal with the relative merits of certain forma of wireless telegraphy, particularly in regard to long-distance communication.
– Pull him down.
Mr. Brennan. - I rise to a point of order. I call attention to the fact that a temporary chairman of committees, in the person of the honorable member for Warringah (Sir GranvilleRyrie), who, the other night, adopted a lawless course of action in regard to myself by calling on the Sergeant-at-Arms to remove me, is now interjecting in the most unseemly manner. I ask him to apologize and withdraw the statement that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) should be “pulled down.”
– I did not hear that statement.
– I give you my assurance that it was made, and I ask that it be withdrawn. I invite the honorable member for Hindmarsh to support me in that request.
– If the honorable member for Warringah made use of that statement, I ask him to withdraw it.
– On a personal explanation-
– I object to the honorable member making a personal explanation. He should be sufficiently familiar with the Standing Orders to know that his duty is to comply with the request of the Chairman for the withdrawal of his offensive remark. Now that he is out of the chair, I take the opportunity to inform him of his duty. I ask that he withdraw the objectionable words without explanation.
– If the honorable member is entitled to make a speech in asking for a withdrawal of the words complained of, I claim a similar privilege.
– I told the honorable member for Hindmarsh to sit down, because the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) approached him, and apparently urged him to conclude. I withdraw the words that I used.
– By way of personal explanation, I point out that the honorable member for Warringah misinterpreted my action. As whip of my party, I whispered to the honorable member for Hindmarsh that he had another five minutes in which to conclude his speech.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is to be commended on the case he presented to the committee this afternoon. If the Government does not comply with his request, it will realize before many months have passed that it has seriously blundered, since all sections of the community sincerely desire to have the best possible broadcasting service. They have the strongest objection to exploitation by trusts or combines.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Been nan’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . ..18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Progress reported. .
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
.- At this late how, I shall not make a speech, but I have to-day received two communications from cotton-growing associations in Queensland asking me to ascertain from the Prime Minister when the Cotton Bounty Bill will be introduced, in order that they may send representatives to Melbourne to confer with honorable members with a view to getting the Tariff Board’s recommendation of 2d. per lb. adopted. Can the Prime Minister say when that bill will be introduced?
– I am not in a position, at the moment, to Bay exactly when the Cotton Bounty Bill will be introduced. It may be possible to introduce it towards the end of next week, but I can give no guarantee to that effect.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260721_reps_10_114/>.