13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G.H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether an inquiry to discover a new formula for fixing the cost of living is to be undertaken immediately by the Commonwealth Statistician ; if not, when will the inquiry be made?
– An inquiry has been already made. Any subsequent action to be takenwill be determined by the Treasurer.
– Did the Minister for Trade and Customs, in the arrangement which he made with the tobacco manufacturers, take steps to ensure that should the production of tobacco leaf exceed 7,200,000 lb. the smaller growers in distant States would receive a fair deal from the manufacturers?
– I shall be pleased to urge the manufacturers to give special consideration to the smaller growers in the event of the over-production of tobacco leaf.
– In regard to the arrangement made by the Minister with the British-Australasian Tobacco Company that itshall pay an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb. for this year’s tobacco crop, as against an average price of 3s. per lb. last year, which on a 6,000,000 lb. crop would represent a saving to the combine of £225,000, were the growers consulted, and was the arrangement made with their approval?
– The arrangement was made not only with the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company, but with all Australian buyers of tobacco leaf and manufacturers of pipe tobacco. No definite price has been actually fixed. On earlier occasions I gave an undertaking in this House that the Government would endeavour to arrange that, under the new duties, as much of this year’s crop would bo purchased as would have been purchased under the old duties, and that any pronounced fall from the prices paid last year would be prevented. The Government has secured from all the companies concerned an undertaking that they will pay an average price of not less than 2s. 3d. per lb. over their total Australian purchases of tobacco leaf.
Statement by Mr. Latham in London.
– Has the Prime Minister read the newspaper report that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) stated in London -
We are not likely to ask anything for wheat and wool, but may examine methoda other than a duty for meat.
Has the Attorney-General been correctly reported, and if so, does his statement. declare the Government’s attitude towards an attempt to secure, at the Ottawa Conference, some advantage for the Australian wheat and wool-growers?
– I can scarcely believe that the Attorney-General made the statement attributedto him. I shall endeavour to ascertain exactly what he did say.
– Certain newspapers’ appear to have created the impression that the Government intends to reduce the compulsory retiring age for Commonwealth public servants to 60 years. Will the Prime Minister indicate the Government’s attitude to that proposal?
– Under the Public Service Act officers may continue in the Service until 65 years of age, although the Government may require any officer to retire at 60. The Scullin Government decided that officers approaching 65 years of age should take their furlough prior to retirement. The present Government has endorsed that policy; otherwise, the retiring age has not been altered.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to the following cablegram published in the newspapers: -
NEW GERMAN SCHEDULE.
Effect on Apple Trade.
London, 10th March.
The Australian Press Association learns that the German super-tariff is likely to have a crushing effect on the Australian apple trade. The new tariff amounts to 11.85 marks per case, compared with the old rate of 2.95 marks. Importers suggest that Mr. Lyons should open negotiations with Germany, as Poland, which is similarly affected, has already done.
The German Minister for Commerce has emphasized that the super-tariff is merely for discretionary use, to meet other discriminatory tariffs. It will he held in reserve to enable Germany to exercise pressure in any negotiations which may be necessary in the near future.
– Order! Honorable members when asking questions cannot be permitted to read long extracts from newspapers or correspondence. The purpose of questions is to elicit information, and they should not contain comments or statement’s. Any newspaper statement upon which a question is to be based must be summarized.
– What steps has the Minister taken to arrange with the German Government to ensure that Australian apples will be placed favorably on the German market?
– So soon as notice was received in Australia that Germany proposed to place new super duties upon the products of countries which had no trade agreement with her, representations were made to the German Government with the object of having Australian produce exempted from those duties. I am pleased to say that our representations were successful, and that none of the super duties is being applied to produce exported from Australia.
Iron and Steel Monopoly
– Will the Government, with a view to giving relief to the rural producers, have an inquiry made concerning the disabilities imposed upon primary industries by the operation of the monopolies in the iron and steel and associated industries?
– I am not aware of the existence of a monopoly in the iron and steel manufacturing industries in Australia, but I shall be pleased to give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
Statement by Mr. Latham in London.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a cablegram in which it is stated that the Attorney-General has declared in London that, so long as he was Attorney-General, the Statute of Westminster would not be ratified by this Parliament? I should also like to know whether that is the decision of the Government?
– I propose to ascertain what was actually said by the AttorneyGeneral.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) on the ground of ill health.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) on the ground of urgent public business.
Duty in New Caledonia.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that it is the intention of the Government of New Caledonia to impose on Australian-grown rice duty at the rate of 50 francs per 100 kilos, which, at the present rate of exchange, is approximately £7 16s. 3d. per ton in Australian currency? Up to the present the rate of duty on rice imported into New Caledonia, irrespective of the country of production, has been 6s. 3d. per ton. In view of the contemplated action of the Government of New Caledonia, I ask the Minister whether the time is not opportune for preference to be extended to Australiangrown rice so far as the Mandated Territory of New Guinea is concerned.I understand that the present rate of duty on rice imported into the territory is£1 a ton. Will the Government give consideration to the question of extending preference to Australian-grown rice which is available for export to that or any” other country?
– I am not aware of the position referred to by the honorable member, but I shall be pleased to give consideration to his request. I doubt, however, if the duty said to have been imposed against Australian rice in New Caledonia, is any higher than our own duty upon rice imported into Australia.
– In view of the possibility of the commercial production of crude oil and petrol being attempted in the near future at the shale oil-field at Newnes, will the Minister for Trade and Customs give favorable consideration to the abolition of the excise duty at present chargeable on petrol produced in Australia?
– I shall be pleased to give consideration to this matter, but I doubt whether the Government would entertain such a proposal. Already the import duty is 7d. a gallon, and the excise 4d., which affords a protection of 3d. a gallon in respect of petrol produced within the Commonwealth. I might mention that the Tariff Board has recommended that a protective duty of1½d. would be ample in respect of refining carried out in Australia.
– During last Parliament a promise was made by the then Minister for Trade and Customs to refer the importation of Russian timber to the Tariff Board for inquiry. Is the report of the board available to honorable members; if not, when will it be presented to this House?
– I shall obtain that information for the honorable member.
– In connexion with the rabbit menace in Western Australia, which is assuming very great proportions, I have received from the Roads Board a letter in which it is stated that the board is advised by two leading wholesale merchants, that they cannot supply its order for calcium cyanide, as the cost of importing it is too high. The other fumigant used - carbon bisulphide - costs 13s. 6d. a gallon, and phosphorous poison, which eighteen months ago cost 9d. per 2-lb. tin, now costs1s. 6d. As the Roads Board is insisting upon the work of poisoning being carried out, I wish to know whether the Minister for Trade and Customs will make special inquiry into the supply of these requirements, and ascertain whether something cannot be done by way of competition with a view to reducing their costs?
– I shall at once give sympathetic attention to the matter raised by the honorable member.
– The Prime Minister, during the recess, considered it necessary to instruct the President of the Irish Free State, Mr. De Valera, in the way he should govern that country. Has Mr. De Valera, in turn, instructed the Prime Minister “ of Australia how he should govern this country, and in particular, howhe should deal with New South Wales? If such instruction from Mr. De Valera has not yet been received, will it, if it should come, be accorded the same courteous hearing by the Commonwealth Government as was given tothe representations of our Prime Minister when he interfered in the affairs of the Irish Free State?
– As neither I, nor any member of the Cabinet, attempted to give any instruction to the President of the Irish Free State, the honorable member’s question is just so much nonsense.
– In view of the few and inconvenient hours during which post offices at holiday resorts are open for the delivery of mails, will the PostmasterGeneral consider the advisability of arranging for holiday leave to employees of such offices at times other than the ordinary holiday periods?
– This and kindred matters are receiving consideration at the present time, and when a decision is arrived at, honorable members will be informed.
– Has the Prime Minister any comment to make on the reply given the other day by the Premier of New South Wales in answer to a question relating to family endowment payments in that State? Mr. Lang is reported to have stated that the Government of New South Wales had “£60,000 to pay the endowment to the mothers in New South Wales . Cheques were issued against that amount, but the Commonwealth Government comman deered the money. The Government was not going to pay more money in for the Commonwealth to seize. When a scheme could be devised to get the money safely into the hands of the mothers it would be paid.”
– If the family endowment payments have not been made, the responsibility rests upon the Government of New South Wales.
Statementby Mr. Latham in London.
– Has the Prime Minister any report to make regarding the interview of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) with the Secretary for the Dominions (Mr. Thomas) with whomhe discussed the subject of extending to dominion-grown sugar the same degree of preference as Britain was extending to black-grown sugar from the colonies?
– I have received a communication from Mr. Latham on this subject, stating that he has had more than one interview with Mr. Thomas. According to the most recent cable from Mr. Latham he is now making further representations on the subject. Mr. Thomas has made it plain to our AttorneyGeneral that Britain’s action in this matter has been taken with a view to relieving some of the colonies from serious economic embarrassment.
– And what about Australia?
– The financial position of the colonies more particularly concerns Britain because, in the event of their getting into serious difficulty, the Imperial Government would be compelled to come to their assistance. Moreover, it has been made evident that the British Government is concerned with the possible effect onthe revenues of Great Britain of granting the preference asked for by the dominions. Mr. Latham is continuing his negotiations, but no finality has yet been reached.
– Following the unsatisfactory reply that has been given to the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page)-
– Order ! It is out of order to state that the reply given by any Minister is unsatisfactory. I suggest that the honorable member should ask his question without any preliminary remark.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the press report of a speech that was made by Mr. Latham to the Royal Empire Society, London, a portion of which reads -
It will be relatively easy to make adjustments regarding our dairy produce and fruit. We are not likely to ask for anything for our wheat and wool.
Was the Attorney-General speaking with the authority of the Government, and did he then announce the settled policy of the Commonwealth Government’s representatives at Ottawa?
– I do not propose to offer any comment on a reported statement of the Attorney-General until I know that the report is accurate.
– In view of the fact that bicycles, because of the depression, are becoming increasingly popular, will the Minister for Customs give consideration to a request for varying the duty on bicycle pumps which at present is 45 per cent. ad valorem on imports from Great Britain?
– The honorable member must not anticipate discussion on a subject which is under consideration in the Committee of Ways and Means.
– But this is not a new duty.
– It does not matter whetherthe duty is to be increased or decreased. If the item appears on the schedule which is listed for discussion on the business paper, the honorable member may not ask his question.
– Is it the intention of the Government, with a view to effecting economy, to co-ordinate the administrations of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea?
– Consideration is being given to this matter by the Minister in charge of the administration of those areas.
– Has any decision yet been reached in regard to the proposal for reducing telephone charges?
– I am not aware that consideration is being given by the department to proposals for reducing telephone charges. Unfortunately, the telephone branch of the department is losing money, and the prospect of a reduction of fees is remote.
– Has the Government considered reducing telephone rentals and charges with the object of stimulating the desire of subscribers to maintain or add to existing installations ?
– The suggestion will receive consideration. I shall advise the honorable member later as to the result.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether an opportunity will be afforded to honorable members during this session to discuss the subject of cattle tick control on the north coast of New South Wales?
– If a suitable opportunity presents itself when the more important business is disposed of, such a discussion may be brought on, but I can- . not promise that time will be given for the consideration of the matter.
– Has anything further been done to bring about a conference of those interested in the sugar agreement? If so, when is it anticipated that that conference will take place?
– I am unable to specify any date for the conference, hut the project has not been abandoned.
– In view of the keen competition experienced by Australian shipping companies from American companies such as the Matson line, will the Government introduce legislation to protect the local industry against the unequal competition of organizations that are heavily subsidized by the Government of the United States of America, and so safeguard the interests of the thousands of Australians who are dependent upon our shipping activities?
– The matter has been and still is receiving the earnest consideration of the Government.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to inform the House what amount of money will be made available to the State of New South Wales for the purpose of relieving unemployment? Through what channels is it proposed to distribute that money? Further, will the honorable gentleman intimate whether it is intended that a portion of the money shall be expended on water supply and electric light schemes ?
– The sum of £600,000 was allocated to New South Wales to relieve unemployment in that State. The present attitude of the Government of New South Wales makes it difficult for this Government to expend that money through the channels that have been used in the past, and that problem is receiving consideration. A portion of the money will be expended on such services as water supply, sewerage and electric light, provided that they can absorb a substantial number of unemployed, are reproductive in nature, and have the approval of the council that will be constituted to deal with the matter.
– When determining how the £600,000 that has been allocated to New South Wales for the relief of unemployment is to be expended, will the Government take into consideration the use of a portion of the amount to provide country telephones, which cannot at present be installed by the postal department because of its depleted funds ?
– Largely as a result of a suggestion that the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) made to me personally some time ago, that proposal is at present receiving the consideration of the Government.
– In view of the fact that properties of the Commonwealth Bank have been offered at auction by large financial institutions, to the detriment of returned soldier auctioneer and land agents in the centres concerned, will the Government ensure that the principle of preference to returned soldiers is adhered to when future sales are made?
– The matter will receive consideration.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) advise whether the Commonwealth Oil Refineries has decided to take over the distribution of those of its products which are at present being handled by Dalgety and Company Limited?
– I have no information upon the subject, but will institute inquiries, and advise the honorable member as to the result.
– Will the Minister for Commerce advise whether, as a result of the Government’s deliberations on the subject, the wheat-growers of Australia are to receive at least the cost of production for their 1932 crop?
– The Government does not undertake to guarantee a specific price for the product of any section of producers, whether primary or secondary. The difficulties of our export industries in carrying on was dealt with fully by the committee of experts which inquired into the position with regard to unemployment, and its recommendations are endorsed by the Government.
– When considering new postal arrangements, will the Postmaster-General provide for uniform closing hours at midday in country districts?
– The honorable member’s representations will be taken into consideration.
– Seeing that when the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Hawker) was sitting in opposition he was an advocate of the imposition of a sales tax on flour, I should like to hear his present view on that proposal as a means of assisting the wheat industry.
– It is not usual to express opinions in reply to questions; but there is a vast difference between the need for assistance to an industry when the price of its product is ls. 6d. or_ls. 8d. a bushel, as wheat was last year, and when it is’ from 2:s. 8d. to 3s. a bushel, as it is this year.
– In view of the possibility of the Government giving consideration to the payment of a bounty on wheat, will it, at the same time, consider the granting of a bounty on the production of wool, seeing that wool is being produced and sold at very much below production costs?
– The position of all our export industries is receiving the constant consideration of the Government.
– Does the ‘ Government intend to take any action with the object of carrying out the provisions of the Wheat Advances Act, passed a couple of years ago by the Scullin Government, under which the farmers were guaranteed a certain price for the wheat they produced?
– We cannot undertake to repair any omissions or failures on the part of our predecessors in office.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that numerous supporters of the United Australia party in New South Wales are taking great exception to the action of the Government in sending so many representatives of that party in Victoria overseas while members of the party in New South Wales are being overlooked ?
– I cannot allow that question. I remind honorable members that questions addressed to Ministers should relate to the public affairs with which they are officially connected, or to the proceedings in Parliament or to matters of administration.
Mi-. JAMES. - Seeing that a sum of £600,000 is being allocated by the Commonwealth Government for expenditure in New South Wales for the provision of work for the unemployed, will the Government undertake to use some of the money for the purpose of extinguishing the fire which has broken out in the Greta coal seam, which, if unchecked, may destroy amost valuable asset of the nation ? I urge the Government to use some of this money for the purpose of filling in the cavities in this area. Money for this purpose could be made available immediately to the Greta Council. Unless the fire is extinguished quickly there may be an accumulation of gases which will cause an explosion serious enough to endanger life in the township of Greta.
– In reply to the honorable member’s observations on this subject last night, I said that the Government was of the opinion that this was a matter for the attention of the New South Wales Government. Apparently that Government does not realize the seriousness of the position. Otherwise it would make available the small amount of money necessary to save this coalfield.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that the budget in the House of Commons revealed that during the next five years preference to imported colonial sugar would be increased by1s. per cwt., and that a special supplementary preference of 1s. per cwt. on an unlimited quantity of sugar would be allocated by the Colonial Office among the sugar-producing colonies?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The anwers 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 : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the quantity of tobacco imported into the Commonwealth since the duly was reduced to 3s. perlb.?
– The only figures immediately available are the imports during March, 1932, . of leaf tobacco for manufacture of tobacco, cigars and cigarettes. These were -
Quantity- 727,761 lb.
Value - £35,796.
Collections - Expenses of Collection
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– 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 : - 1 and 2. The Full Court of the High Court of Australia, consisting ofat least two judges, may grant leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia from any conviction, sentence, judgment, decree or order of the Central Court.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– 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 : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the quantity of tobacco imported into the Commonwealth since the duly was reduced to 3s. perlb.?
– The only figures immediately available are the imports during March, 1932, . of leaf tobacco for manufacture of tobacco, cigars and cigarettes. These were -
Quantity- 727,761 lb.
Value - £35,796.
Collections - Expenses of Collection
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– 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 : - 1 and 2. The Full Court of the High Court of Australia, consisting ofat least two judges, may grant leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia from any conviction, sentence, judgment, decree or order of the Central Court.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
regulated by, and they are paid salary in accordance with, the provisions of the Public Service ordinance and regulations. Particulars of the names, dates of appointment and salaries of the district officers, assistant district officers, district inspector and assistant district inspector, and the names of additional persons who have been appointed to be justices of the peace, will be furnished to the honorable member.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Validityof Choiceof Senator Mooney
– On the 17th March, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked the Prime Minister the following question, without notice: -
As grave doubts have arisen as to the validity of the appointment by the New South Wales Parliament of Senator Mooney to fill the vacancy caused in the Senate by the resignation last December of Senator Duncan, will the Government refer the facts of the case to the High Court, or the appropriate tribunal, with the object of obtaining a decision for guidance in future cases of the kind?
The honorable the Prime Minister, in accordance with his statement in reply, brought the matter to my notice. I now desire to advise the honorable member as follows : -
The matter is one for the Court of Disputed Returns, and can only be decided by that court. Section 185 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides, interalia, that a petition to that court shall be signed by a candidate or by a person entitled to vote, and be filed within 40 days after the return of the writ. The writ in this case was returned on the 13th January, and it is accordingly too late for any action to be taken under section 185. There is no authority under existing legislation for the Commonwealth to refer the case to the, High Court as suggested by the honorable member.
The following papers were presented: -
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing assistance granted to 31st March, 1932.
Taxation - Fourteenth Report of the Commissioner, years 1927-28, 1928-29, 1929-30, and 1930-31.
Debate resumed from the 17th March (vide page 1258, volume 133), on motion by Mr. Fenton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The provisions of this bill were under discussion when the House went into recess about six weeks ago. The Government proposes under this measure to place wireless broadcasting under some form of national control. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Fenton) in his secondreading speech on the bill said that the field of broadcasting was so wide that the exercise of some form of control on behalf of the nation was legitimate, and he pointed out that the scope of broadcasting was ever widening* Indeed he became enthusiastic when dealing with the possibilities of intraempire programmes at no very distant date. The honorable gentleman gave his imagination full play in that regard when, he drew a word picture Of dark skinned peoples with somewhat scanty sartorial equipment listening ecstatically to grand opera* In fact he dilated .more upon that aspect of the subject than Upon the provisions of the bill’.
Admittedly it vs impossible to divorce the technical transmission services from the post office, particularly in relation to trunk line transmission, and I offer no objection to the national control of experiments in this regard. But national control Of broadcasting does not necessarily imply ministerial control of it. Unfortunately this bill as it was originally introduced, was designed to hand over the control of broadcasting to a national commission which would have been absolutely in ministerial leading strings. It was apparently intended . by the Government to place the proposed commission under a greater measure of control than that suggested by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) when he was Postmaster-General in the previous Government. I am glad that the bill may be improved, to some extent by the amendments foreshadowed by the Minister for Trade and Customs when it was previously under discussion. The amendments indicated at that time related to clauses 5 and 16 in particular, but also to certain other clauses. Clause 5, as originally drafted, provided that the commission was to be entirely subordinate to the Postmaster-General. It was also provided in sub-clause 2 of clause 16 that the approval of the Minister had to be obtained to certain things.
The amendments which have been foreshadowed have removed some of the objections which a number of honorable members had t6 the bill in its original form; but in my opinion the measure can still be very greatly improved. For instance, it is provided in clause 19 that the propo”sed commission may not spend more than £5,000 without the consent of the Minister-. Is that a reasonable limit in view of the fact that the commission will have an annual income of about £200^000? Twelve shillings per licence on the number of licences at present in existence would yield about £200,000, yet under the provisions of this bill the commission may not spend more than two and a half per cent, of its annual income without the consent of the Minister. In other words it will have complete control of only the equivalent of nine days of its income. It should be given a much freer hand than that.
Sub-clause 2 of clause 20 also makes the commission subject to the Minister in certain respects for it reads -
The location of any studios to he provided by the cOmmission in pursuance of this section shall bc subject to the approval of the Minister.
We ought to repose confidence in the commission to the same extent as we trust, for example, the Commonwealth Bank Board. The first sub-clause of clause 21 appears to be dangerous. It reads -
The com mission shall transmit free of charge from all of the national broadcasting stations, or from such of them as are specified by the Minister, any matter the transmission of which is directed by the Minister as being in the public interest.
Surely we should trust the commission to broadcast anything within reason that the Government of the day believes desirable without actually stating in the bill that this shall be done. It appears that we’ should bc whittling away the authority proposed to be given to the board by leaving clauses such as that in the bill. Clause 52 alfords another example of unnecessary ministerial interference. Clause 53 alone would be quite sufficient, if clause 52 were deleted.
The subject of the term for which the members of the board are to be appointed being inseparably associated with the matter of ministerial control, I ask honorable members to turn back to clause 7. It will be noticed that it is proposed to appoint five commissioners, the first, the chairman, for five years; another for four years, and the three remaining commissioners, for a term not exceeding three years. That would make it possible for a subsequent government to change the personnel entirely within the life of one Parliament, and I do not consider that to be desirable. One recognizes, of course, that the political views of succeeding governments will be reflected in the appointments made by them, but it is undesirable that any one government, in one term of office, should be able to make a clean sweep of a board of this character, as would be permitted under clause 7. One of the members of the board would sit until 1937, another until 1936”, and three would go out of office not later than 1935, all of which dates come within the term of the next. Parliament, assuming that the present Parliament continues for The normal period.
In making appointments to the Common wealth Bank Board, current political control of that body lias been minimized to the utmost possible extent. The board consists of eight members, comprising the Governor of the Bank, the Secretary to the Treasury, and six appointees of the Government. The latter are appointed for seven, six, five, four, three, and two years respectively, in the first instance, and thereafter they hold office for seven years. Thus a sudden, wholesale change in the personnel of that board would be impossible, and there is a reasonable prospect of continuity of policy. Of course, it is true that a government which lasted foi’ six or seven years could gradually change the character of the board ; but no government could remain so long in office unless it had the complete confidence of the people. We might well adopt the mct hod followed in appointing members of the Commonwealth Bank Board in dealing with appointments to the Broadcasting Commission. Five gentlemen are 10 be appointed to this body. Just as the Secretary to the Treasury is appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board, and a useful liaison is thus obtained between the Treasury and the Commonwealth Bank, it is desirable to appoint the Director of Posts and Telegraphs as » member of the Broadcasting Commission. This gentleman has had wide administrative experience, and he also possesses a great deal of technical knowledge and tact. I believe that he would be n very valuable member of that board. If he were not appointed to it, it is to be presumed that he would attend meetings of the board, in order that he might be consulted, and, if so, why not make him a member of the board at the outset? I suggest that in lieu of the terms of office laid down in clause 7, the Government might well accept an amendment providing that - assuming the Director of Posts and Telegraphs is to bc on the board - the members shall be appointed in the first place for five, four, three and two years respectively, and thereafter for periods of five years. That would make it impossible for any one Parliament completely to change . the character of the board. If the Government cannot agree to the Director of Posts and Telegraphs being appointed to the board, I submit that the five members should be appointed in the first place for five, four, three, two and one years, and thereafter every five years. That would minimize the extent of possible current political control.
Because of the part-time character of the work, I do not condemn the Government’s proposals for low salaries to the members of the board. Conflicting opinions have been expressed in this Parliament concerning them. One view was put forcibly by’ the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who could see no good in a board which was not composed of whole-time appointees, who would do nothing except look after the work of national broadcasting. Other honorable members spoke in favour of the Government’s proposition. I believe that success or failure could result under either arrangement; much will depend on the capacity of the persons chosen to constitute the board. ‘ My own opinion is that it would be preferable to have a part-time board functioning like the board of directors of a large business undertaking, the actual executive work being carried out by a well-paid and efficient full-time officer. The Commonwealth Bank itself is managed by a Governor. He is a full-time and highlypaid officer, and yet the general policy of that bank is laid down by a part-time beard, which meets not less than once a month. It will be admitted, I think, that the work of the Commonwealth Bank Board has been very successful. It seems to me that to appoint five full-time members of the Broadcasting Commission, and to expect each of them to fit into a suit- able niche in connexion with the executive work and practical management of this enterprise, is to hope for too much. Even if that were possible, it is undesirable, because these appointees would tend to become working parts of the enterprise, incapable of the unbiased and detached view which we would wish them to take. As I have already indicated, I agree with the proposal of the Government to have a part-time board.
I turn now to the financial arrangements proposed under the bill. The bill provides that of the listener’s fee of 24s. half shall be paid to the Broadcasting Commission, assuring to that body an annual revenueof £200,000 to cover the provision of programmes for A class stations. Of the other 12s., 9s. is to be paid to the Postal Department, presumably in payment for technical transmission services, and 3s. to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for the use of certain patents as to the validity of which there is considerable doubt. As the Commonwealth Government holds half the shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, half of the fee of 3s. received by that company may be presumed to be paid to the Treasury. Wo are entitled to consider whether the proposed distribution of the revenue from wireless broadcasting is the best that could be devised. Clauses 45 and48 refer to technical services to be provided for the commission by the Postal Department, some of them free of cost, but presumably covered by the 9s. received by the department, and others to be paid for by the commission out of its revenue of 12s. per licence. The 9s. is more than sufficient to cover the services rendered by the Postal Department to the commission.
– A considerable proportion of that amount is received by the Treasury.
– I am informed that about . £30,000 of this amount finds its way into general revenue. If the House considers it desirable that the Treasury should receive some direct contribution from this service, the better way would be to allocate a fixed amount and frankly regard it as a form of entertainment tax, instead of continuing the present system by which the Government receives an indefinite amount, which may grow to enormous proportions as wireless broadcasting develops, and about which Parliament may know very little. We have only to look back a comparatively few years to realize that some of the financial difficulties of the Australian railway systems have been caused by a similarly loose system of finance.U n til about 1914 most of the railways paid well, and large sums of their surplus receipts were paid into the Consolidated Revenues of the States. Little or no provision was made for a sinking fund, and to-day those systems are carrying huge capital costs which are not represented by real assets. It is desirable to avoida repetition of that mistake in connexion with wireless, and I suggest that we would be wise to allocate to the Government a definite amount of 2s. or 3s. per licence, and that the remaining 22s. should be paid into the fund of the Broadcasting Commission, which would reimburse the Postal Department for services rendered.
– Would not the better policy be to allow the commission to handle all listeners’ fees, utilize what it wanted for the development of the service, and pay the surplus to the Treasury?
– I do not think so. The payment of 3s. a licence to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for the use of certain patent rights is governed by an agreement having a currency of five years from the 1st November, 1927. It will not automatically terminate on the 31st October of this year because provision is made that the Government shall give twelve months’ notice of its intention to terminate the arrangement. The Government would do well to give such notice immediately. The agreement would then continue for another twelve months, which would be ample time for the Government and the company to arrange their future relations. There are good grounds for the adoption of that course. When this agreement was made five years ago, the Bruce-Page Government was more than a little dubious of the validity of some of the company’s patents, and. decided to put upon it the onus of proving its claims. The only practical method that suggested itself was to require
Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to institute proceedings in New South Wales and Victoria against private firms, and in New’ Zealand against the Government, for alleged infringement of patent rights. The schedule of the agreement required’ the company to institute such proceedings without delay, and unless it was successful in one of the three actions the undertaking to pay 3s. per licence-fee would lapse. The company took action against Farmers, of Sydney, and failed. Then proceedings were instituted against Myers in Melbourne; apparently that firm realized that it had nothing at stake in the action, and that the only interest that would gain or lose would be the Commonwealth Government. It, therefore, decided not to incur the expense and trouble of defending the action, and, apparently, for that reason alone, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was successful, judgment going by default. Action against the New Zealand Government had been commenced, but having secured a questionable win over Myers, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited decided to withdraw the third action; the inference is that it did not estimate highly its chance of success. In this way the company was able to fulfil the conditions of the agreement, which would entitle it to a payment of 3s. per listener’s licence. The sooner the Government gives notice of the termination of the agreement with a view to reconsidering the whole subject, the better.
Whether the Government adheres to its own proposals for the distribution of broadcasting revenue, or agrees to the suggestions which have been made during this debate, it would be wise to ear-mark a definite sum of 2s. per licence for the erection of new relay stations. This would make available annually a sum of £34,000, sufficient to provide one new relay station each year. This fund might be furnished by taking ls. from the 12s. to be paid to the Broadcasting Commission, and another ls. from the proposed payment to the Postal Department; or if the whole of the fees be paid to theBroadcasting Commission, less a payment in the form of entertainment tax to the Treasury, the 2s. could be set aside for the main fund.
I draw the attention of the House to the extraordinary wording of clause 24-
The commission shall, as far as possible, give encouragement to the development of local talent and endeavour to obviate restriction of the utilization of the services of persons who, in the opinion of the commission, are competent to make useful contributions to broadcasting programmes.
– Such restriction is alleged in many quarters.
– That may be so, but the mention of it in the bill is unusual. I am inclined to believe that the B class stations also- should be under the oversight of the Broadcasting Commission. Their programmes would, of course, continue to be the concern of the licensees, but I see no reason why the Postal Department should determine the granting of licences for B class stations, while another authority should be set up to control broadcasting, but only in respect of national stations. Why not place broadcasting generally under the authority of the National Broadcasting Commission, and make it a commission in reality as well as in name? Probably a better _result would be obtained by having both A class and. B class stations under the oversight of one body than by having one class dealt with by the post office and the other by the commission.
I shall now sum up briefly the different points which I have endeavoured to make. My first point related to the degree of ministerial interference which is still provided foi1 in the bill, despite the improvements that have been made under the amendments dealt with by the Minister for Trade and Customs. In clauses 20, 21 and 52 there is room for a great deal of ministerial interference. I referred also to the term of the appointments. That, I think, could bc considerably improved upon, so as to reduce the possibility of what might be called current political control. Then, again, the inclusion of the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in the personnel of the National Broadcasting Commission would be a great advantage. I also referred to the early notice which should be given to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, respecting the discontinuance of the existing agreement in regard to patents. I have already said that, in respect of the apportionment of the total amount of 24s., a definite small amount should be paid into Consolidated Revenue as a kind of entertainment tax, and the remainder should be dealt with by the commission, the post office being paid for its services by- that body. I have also suggested that 2s. out of the total of 24s. should be ear-marked for the erection of one new station each year. If these changes, and possibly others which other honorable members may suggest, were embodied in the bill, it would be legislation worth while, and I shall, when the appropriate time comes, either move, or support, amendments with the object of bringing about these changes.
. - I am doubtful whether the anticipated improvements suggested under the provisions of the bill will materialize. I do not think that the broadcasting programmes will be improved under the proposed commission control any more than under some system similar to that in existence at present, but on a more competitive basis. If the Government were to invite applications for the broadcasting of programmes, I am satisfied that many associations would be willing to conduct an improved service at a cost much lower than that operating to-day. If that were done, the licence-fee could be reduced, or if that were not deemed advisable, more money would be available as suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), for the provision of up-to-date equipment. The programmes are undoubtedly capable of improvement, but that improvement could be brought about under the competitive system quite as well as under the suggested commission control. We often hear of the merits of the methods of the British Broadcasting Corporation, hut I venture to say that under our present system we obtain a programme just as good as that provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation. The methods of that corporation are anything but satisfactory to the British Isles, as will be seen from the numerous adverse criticisms published by the British press respecting the programmes of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
– That corporation is one of the finest institutions of its kind in the world.
– Let us compare the position of the British Broadcasting Corporation with that of the Australian Broadcasting Company. In Great Britain £1,000,000 is available for broadcasting purposes, out of which £736,000 is made available each year for programme administration alone, in respect of only four main stations and five regional stations. In Australia, which has a vastly larger area to serve, there are eight independent A class stations and four relay stations. The money available is infinitely less, although many more hours are occupied in broadcasting. The Australian Broadcasting Company has to provide for approximately 33,000 broadcasting hours, while the British Broadcasting Corporation provides for only 17,000 broadcasting hours. In Great Britain, approximately £81,700 is available per station for programme administration as against £18,000 in Australia. Although broadcasting in this country is in its infancy, we have worked wonders in broadcasting. It costs five times as much to put programmes over the air in the British Isles as it does in Australia. Naturally we have complaints about the programmes just as there are complaints in every other country in which broadcasting is carried on. In Australia 2,920 full-day programmes have to be compiled and conducted every year. Surely that is a gigantic task for those associated with broadcasting. That figure is arrived at by taking 365 full-day programmes each year for the eight independent broadcasting A class stations.
A good deal of dissatisfaction exists concerning the activities of the Australasian Performing Right Association. That association is demanding from the broadcasting stations huge sums of money as royalties for playing allegedly copyright music. It demands from the A class stations in Australia 2s. per licence for the first 250,000 licences, 1s. 6d. for the next 50,000 licences, and1s. for all over 300,000 licences. On that basis the Australasian Performing Right Association has, during the last twelve months, collected over £31,000 from the
A class stations alone. In addition, it collects royalties from the B class stations, dance halls, picture halls, and all places of entertainment at which music is played. One of the worst features of the activities of this association is what is termed its double-banking tactics. It demands royalties, not only from broadcasting companies, but also from the proprietors of public tea-rooms and halls in which listening-in sets are established. In numerous instances the association is paid a dozen times for the broadcasting of one piece of music. This practice is nothing but a swindle and daylight robbery, and I suggest that the Government should take immediate steps to investigate the activities and affairs of this organization with a view to preventing it from further robbing the public. What becomes of the money which this organization collects by these questionable methods? Surely it is only reasonable that we should have that information. Recently I asked the Attorney-General the following question : -
Can he supply the following information regarding this company for the past year: -
What remuneration was received by each director?
What were the profits or the excess of receipts over disbursements, who participated in the distribution, and what amount was received by each ?
How many members are there in Australia, and how much did each receive ?
What is the average fee per performancein Australia?
I received the following answer : -
The information is not available in the department. The only manner in which this information could be obtained would be from the company itself.
I communicated with the secretary of the Australasian Performing Right Association, asking for this information, but up to date he has failed to supply the information. Another complaint is that there is a good deal of difficulty in securing reliable information respecting the copyright music which this organization controls. A good deal of bluff is indulged in by the association. It applies a rule-of-thumb method in fixing fees in certain cases. In some instances the official of the association takes85 per cent. of the items of the programme as being copyright items. But in other instances it has adopted different methods. It has charged the proprietor of one public place in which a receiving set is installed £3 3s., and the proprietor of another public place, who is providing the same class of entertainment, £2 2s. The public will not be satisfied until there is a. complete investigation of the activities of the Australasian Performing Right Association.
Mr.Fenton. - It is rumoured that the association has come to some arrangement with the B class stations.
– That is the arbitrary arrangement of taking 85 per cent. of the items as copyright.
– The system is wrong. Nothing will satisfy the public but a full and complete investigation.
– Different rates are charged at different places.
– That is so. I rose principally to protest against the scant consideration that is being given to Tasmania so far as broadcasting is concerned, and to urge the Government to take some action to rectify the most deplorable condition of reception in that State. It may not be generally known that it was a Tasmanian who pioneered wireless in Australia. In 1898 Mr. W. P. Hallam, of Hobart, at his own expense and on his own initiative, erected a wireless transmission equipment, and established communication with a Russian vessel at sea en route to Hobart. This gentleman also initiated the long-distance telephone. The following interesting quotation is taken from a speech delivered by the late Mr. G. B. Edwards, then member for South Sydney, on the 4th of October, 1906 : -
I should like to refer to the case of Mr. Hallam, a young telegraph operator in Tasmania, who has done some excellent work in connexion with the department. I asked for the papers relating to his case some three weeks ago, and I had hoped that they would be available long before this, so that I could speak with more assurance on the subject. I have taken a great deal of interest in the case of this young man, because he appears to me to have displayed singular technical ability. I am informed that about eight years ago, of his own initiative, he erected a Marconi apparatus in Tasmania, and was able to hold communications with an incoming Russian vessel. This talented young officer was sent to Western Australia to initiate a longdistance telephone system there, and he also installed the condenser system. Later on he performed similar work in Queensland, and the honorable member for Marmion has frequently made reference to the value of the services rendered by him.
I quote that in order to show that Tasmania pioneered wireless in Australia, but, unfortunately, she has been totally neglected in that regard ever since. The A class station in Tasmania, 7ZL, might as well not exist so far as reception outside Hobart is concerned. It is obsolete and low-powered, As a matter of fact, it is the lowest powered A class station in Australia, when it should be the highest if justice were to be done to items broadcast. Unusual conditions exist in Tasmania which make reception difficult. There are zones through which nothing but the most efficient and most up-to-date transmitting plant is able to broadcast. Notwithstanding this, the Tasmanian station is obsolete, and the most inefficient in Australia. Every first class station on the mainland is five or six times as powerful as that in Tasmania. Competent authorities state that for a first class radio service it is necessary for a transmission station to provide a field strength in the immediate vicinity of thu receiving aerial of 10 millivolts per metre. The reception of 7ZL produces a field strength at Launceston of only a fraction of one millivolt per metre. It is evident, therefore, that many licence-holders in the northern portion of Tasmania derive no benefit whatever from 7ZL. Perhaps the station is in the wrong place; perhaps it should be more highly powered, or perhaps the installation of relay stations might solve the problem. That is a matter for the experts to decide, but there is no doubt that Tasmania is entitled to an up-to-date broadcasting service so that licence-holders in that State may receive the same benefits as those in the other States of the Commonwealth. When representations are made on that subject, we are always told that no money is available for providing a better service. I appreciate the fact that Australia i3 at present financially embarrassed, but I observe that there appears to be money available for providing improved wireless services in .other States. Relay stations have been erected in some of the States, though broadcasting conditions are perhaps more difficult in Tasmania than they are on the mainland. Queensland has been provided with a relay station at Rockhampton; at Newcastle there is a relay station which serves New South Wales; at Corowa there is a relay station for Victoria : at Crystal Brook there is a station which serves the same purpose for South Australia, and recently between £9,000 and £10,000 has been spent on providing an improved service for Western Australia. Tasmania, however, gets nothing, although the licence-holders in that State pay 24s. a year, as do those on the mainland. When the department accepts that fee, it enters into an implied contract to provide licence-holders in Tasmania with the same A class service as is provided for licence-holders in other parts of Australia who pay only the same fee. Many licence-holders in the northern part of Tasmania get practically no return for their fees, because it is impossible to pick up the A class stations on the mainland during the day, and the Tasmanian B class station is not on the air during the clay. It seems to me that, in regard to those northern licence-holders, the Government is taking money under false pretences. I am referring now to those licence-holders who have crystal sets, or other low power sets. When the Government took over control of broadcasting, it intimated that those using the smaller sets would be adequately catered for. The fact is, however, that such licence-holders obtain no service at all during the day, arid are able to get only the B class station at night. It would seem that the department is catering almost exclusively for the owners of expensive sets, although all licence-holders pay the same fee. Frequent representations have been made to the department regarding the inefficiency of the service in Tasmania, but always we have been told that no money is available for improving it. I am gravely disappointed with, the record of the department in this respect. There appears to be nobody in the department with sufficient ingenuity, imagination, initiative or organizing ability. Always we receive the same old stereotyped reply, “ There is no money available”, notwithstanding_the fact that money is available for expenditure in other States. There does not seem to me to be any use in keeping highly paid technical officers who take up the attitude that they can do nothing because they cannot obtain all the money they want. Any schoolboy, or even a person with no training whatever, could administer the department so that all licence-holders would receive adequate service provided he was allowed to spend unlimited sums of money. What we need is some one with sufficient ability to provide an adequate service with the limited amount of money available. I shudder to think what will happen if the same policy is pursued under the contemplated commission.
Some time ago the Public Works Committee recommended that telephonic communication should be established between the mainland and Tasmania. I believe that if a telephone cable were laid to Tasmania it could be used to facilitate the transmission of A class programmes from the mainland to that State. That, of course, is also a matter for experts to determine, but it may be possible that, by establishing telephonic communication with Tasmania in this way, the department could kill two birds with one stone, as it were. It might be able to provide Tasmania with an additional means of communication which is long overdue, and, at the same time, improve the broadcasting service to licence-holders.
Regarding the disabilities suffered by Tasmanian licence-holders, I should like to quote from a letter I have received from one of the many dissatisfied listeners-in in that State. The letter reads as follows : -
As the Federal Government is now dealing with the broadcasting services in Australia, I would like to advise you of the extremely poor service we owners of low-powered receiving sets in Northern Tasmania have to put up with. In my own particular case the only station I can listen to is the B class station TLA. This station, as you know, is privately owned, and is used as an advertising medium. It is not operated during the day as we have no daylight service. The licence fee of 24s. per annum, collected by the Federal Government, goes to support the A grade station in Hobart, so that we owners of cheap sets receive no service at all. A neighbour, owning - a powerful, and, therefore, expensive set, pays exactly the same amount of licence fee as I do and can enjoy the mainland services (when the atmospheric conditions permit) and certainly does receive some sort of service for his money. I would suggest that the Launceston station 7LA bc made a part time relay station, so that the best of the mainland programmes can he rebroadcast here in Launceston, either that, or else the fees for low- powered sets be considerably reduced. A number of friends of mine who own similar sets to mine are going to cancel their licences unless some sort of service is rendered to them.
It is interesting to observe that there are more cancellations of wireless licences in Tasmania on a population basis than in any other part of the Commonwealth. For February last, there were 255 cancellations, chiefly due to the inefficient service provided. I realize that owing to the present financial position, it does not appear practicable to erect a new station in Tasmania in the immediate future. I suggest, however, that the exercise of a little reasonableness and commonsense might overcome the difficulty with very little extra cost to any one. Arrangements could be made with the local B class station 7LA to relay programmes from A class stations on the mainland during the day. Tasmania is already paying for such a service, and she should receive it. It i3 not unreasonable to ask that a small percentage of the money collected from licence-holders in northern Tasmania should be spent in providing the service to which they are undoubtedly entitled. The very small extra outlay on the part of the Government would be more than compensated for by the increased number of licence-fees which would be received. Within a radius of 50 miles of Launceston there is a population of approximately 85,000. On the law of averages there should be within this area from 7,000 to 8,000 licence-holders, but, as a matter of fact, because of the inefficient service provided, and the fact that in many cases no service is obtainable at all, only 1,800 licences are held within that area. Even the Government realizes the inefficiency of the Tasmanian A class station because, when it is desired to broadcast a message as widely as possible throughout Tasmania, the Government avails itself of the B class station. The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Theodore, Sir Robert Gibson, and others who have broadcast messages to the people of the Commonwealth, have used the B class station in Tasmania, because they realized that it was imposible to get a satisfactory broadcast by any other means. During the last federal election the B class station was used most extensively.
There should be no difficulty in bringing about a relaying arrangement such as I have suggested. The B class station, TLA, belongs to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, in which company the Government holds a majority of the shares. Surely it could use its position on the directorate of that company to have instituted a system which would provide Tasmanian licence-holders with the service to which they are entitled.
– How much would it cost?
– do not think that it would cost more than £700 or £S00 a year. All that would be needed would be the services of one or two men to operate the station during the daytime; it is already staffed during the night. The A class station at Hobart is at present allowed to rebroadcast news services from the A class stations in Melbourne, but that is. of no use to listeners-in throughout the major portion of the State. I appeal to the Government to make an arrangement which will enable listeners-in throughout the whole State to participate in A class . programmes. I trust that the Government will endeavour to give Tasmania treatment similar to that extended to the other States, and let it- have the advantages of an A class station. In the meantime I urge that favorable consideration should be given to my suggestion to allow the B class stations in my State to relay A class programmes during the day. I am satisfied that if the Government gave that proposal a trial for a few months it would meet with approval.
, - I realize that this is a bill which can best be dealt with in committee, because of the large number of clauses that it contains. However, I shall discuss briefly one or two of the fundamental principles which underlie this great national service, and I shall speak from a national rather ;han, like the last’ speaker, a State point of view, no doubt because he had special reason for so doing.
This measure deals with what is deemed to be one of the most essential and powerful services that any nation can control. Its potentialities are almost inestimable, as wireless broadcasting so greatly affects the mental outlook of every individual. I believe that the differences of opinion that may exist between honorable members on this subject largely concern the details of control. Surely it must be the universal opinion that the nature of this service is so important as to warrant its being controlled by the nation rather than by private enterprise. Many Australians appear , to be suffering under an inferiority complex as to the accomplishments of their own people. In spite of the youth of our nation and the fact that we are still pioneering large portions of this continent, we can point to achievements for which the people of other nations have expressed unqualified admiration. I instance our wireless, telephone, and telegraph services. Such men as the present Director of Posts and Telegraphs, and the general manager of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, may transcend any other of our citizens in ability, but they certainly cannot be transcended by anybody in other countries. I say that, not because of any personal association with those gentlemen, but because I know many of the things that they have accomplished.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) recently said that the potential powers of wireless broadcasting are so great that we .must be exceedingly careful when dealing with a measure such as this. I go further and point out that there are grave dangers ahead if we allow this service to be controlled by private enterprise. Experts the world over express the fear that a great deal of rivalry and hatred will be generated in the future in the fight that will occur for the control of zones of the ethereal spaces. That emphasizes the need for placing this service under national control.”
We must all agree that some sort of national control in the matter is imperative. The whole trouble appears to be how to determine the extent of that control. A number of honorable members have treated the subject rather lightly, and have expressed fear of political interference with the administration of this service. When I mention national control I mean that those who are appointed to represent the nation should determine the policy of such a. service as this. I do not believe for a moment that the representatives of the people would dream .of improperly interfering with those entrusted to administer a national service.
I favour the. original bill because it suggested a greater degree of national control than is now proposed. An examination of the way in which the great services of this country are administered leaves nothing for us to be ashamed of. This continent has a coast line which is one of the longest in the world, yet every marine expert who visits Australia expresses unqualified admiration at the way in which our lights and beacons are mapped out, and our navigation service is conducted. Take again our medical services, our quarantine regulations; they are conducted by the nation, and they are as well managed as similar services in any other country in the world. Why, then, should we be apprehensive about the control of wireless broadcasting by the nation ? The present government wants the line of demarcation in these matters determined by leaving to the nation the control of all those services which are essential to the well being of the country, but do not lend themselves to ready profit making, leaving to private enterprise the services which do lend themselves to large profit making.
A great deal of conflict exists upon the subject of the nation controlling banking. We know that a great fight was put up to prevent the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. It was claimed that that institution would be politically controlled, and we still hear fears expressed that it may become the shuttlecock of politicians. We know that that bank has proved itself of the greatest service to this country in the few years that it has existed; also that the suggestion of political interference with the administration of the bank has not been justified. There is no great outstanding service of the world, not even the Bank of England, which is not under some sort of national control, and whose policy is not to some extent directed by the parliament of the country concerned. Surely it must be obvious to every person who can eliminate from his mind the bogy of .party politics that all big national services must be controlled by the nation. If it is good that the pioneering section of our transport that develops the country, our navigation laws, the mapping out of our water highways, 30 ensuring safe approach to our shores, the administration of our docks, harbours, post and telegraph services, educational services, medical services and quarantine services should be under the control of the nation, surely this huge fundamental activity should also be under like control. I am confident that it can be successfully managed by the nation, with ministerial control when necessary, directed by parliamentary decisions. The ministerial overseeing of the administrative head of a service is right and proper, and in the interests of the people of the country. I cannot remember any person who has held ministerial rank in Australia betraying the confidence of the people in respect of his trusteeship of a department. I admit that certain activities of wireless broadcasting can well be sub-let to private enterprise. The nation need not be encumbered with such “ undignified transactions as the control of the’ advertising of socks and such like matters. However, if the people are to be charged with the cost of developing this service, some portion at least of its profit-making activities should be left to them. It is too lop-sided to provide that the difficult technical operations should be left to governments, while private enterprise is given control of the profitmaking activities. - 1 do not agree that political or national control of public services is necessarily wrong; nor do I agree that satisfactory service to the people oan be given only by private enterprise. In saying that, I do not suggest that there is anything inherently wrong with private enterprise. But I submit that essential services should not be handed over to private control, but should be directed and controlled by the representatives of the nation - the parliament of the country. Moreover, the administration of such services should bc entrusted to the most highly trained experts obtainable, who should be paid salaries commensurate with their ability. The Government should retain some of the profit-making activities of the service, in order to make possible the granting of further facilities to the people.
.- It is unnecessary to stress the importance of wireless broadcasting in this country.
This is clearly realized by all honorable members. The bill before us provides an opportunity for obtaining reforms in our wireless broadcasting services, and I am convinced that, so far as such reforms can bc achieved by legislation, they will bc achieved by this measure. 1 have always been interested in wireless broadcasting, and during the past month I have made it my business to interview as many as possible of those connected with A or with B class stations, and other persons interested in the cultural, educational, as well as other aspects of broadcasting. As a result, I am convinced that, although there has been a good deal of criticism of the bill by interested parties, there is not much wrong with the measure as it now stands. The more one considers the matter, the more firmly is one convinced of the importance of selecting the best possible personnel for the commission^ and particularly of getting the best man available for the most important post of general manager. There is- no necessity to stress that point for the benefit of the Postmaster-General ; but I suggest to him that in selecting the commission, the Government should appoint at least a proportion of comparatively young men possessing both experience and vision, but without that fixity of ideas which so frequently characterizes men of the age of those who are usually appointed to such commissions. This service, which has tremendous potentialities, should be in the hands, -to some extent at least, of men who can grow and develop with it. I also plead for the inclusion of a young and vigorous-minded educationalist. Because of the great area and sparse population of the Commonwealth, and the consequent difficulty of reaching the people out-back with ordinary educational services, wireless broadcasting is destined to play an important part in -the education of our people.
While I have every reason to respect the B class st.ar.ions in this country - and the energy and initiative of those controlling them, which is evidence of the strength and vigour of private enterprise in this country - I submit that the national broadcasting system must be the paramount entrepreneur of education and entertainment in Australia. Few will deny the scope for improvement in the present programmes issued from the A class stations. I do not mean that there is room for improvement only when these arc judged by the highest cultural standards ; there is room for improvement from the highest to the lightest of the items of entertainment.
I wish now to refer to the charter of the British .Broadcasting Corporation and to the licence and agreement entered into between that organization and the British Postmaster-General. In these documents, there is provision for at least as much ministerial control as in this bill.
– There is more.
– I do not object to the extent of ministerial control which the bill provides, although I did not agree with the bill in its original form. Some measure of ministerial control is necessary to ensure the necessary co-operation between this important commission and the Government in respect of matters in which public policy is involved. When a government has to provide for cooperation with a body such as this, the only way to ensure adequate collaboration is by making it mandatory on the com.111 1SS 1011 to consult the Minister. Therefore, I sec no great harm in providing for some measure of ministerial control. The smooth working of the arrangements in any event depends on the personnel of the commission. An inadequate commission will stultify the bill, however tightly drawn.
I should have been better pleased had the bill provided that the commission should have greater freedom in respect of its technical services. As it is framed, the commission is obliged to use the technical services supplied by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but I should Iia ve preferred that at the end of a definite period - say, twelve months - the commission should be free to establish its own technical services, or at its discretion to continue to use portion or all of the facilities and personnel placed at its disposal by the Post- master-General.
There is a clause in the licence and agreement with the British Broadcasting Corporation, the principle of which I should like to see incorporated in this bill, a provision requiring that all the servants of the commission shall be’ British subjects. Many of the provisions of the charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation have been incorporated in this measure, and I suggest that no harm would be done by including such a clause.
I think that questions relating to the Australasian Performing Right Association, as well as the relations of the proposed commission with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited .are not relevant to this bill; but they are not far removed from it. I have, on several occasions, asked questions about these matters; and I would again ask the Postmaster-General to make them the subject of investigation at an early date.
It is pleasing to me, notwithstanding my limited experience in this House, to take part in a debate in which party distinctions are not being strictly observed. This bill is not a party measure, and does not cause party rancour; indeed, there is little risk of any great difference between the various political parties regarding it. Therefore, I anticipate that all sections of the House will agree to pass this bill substantially in its present form.
.- I support the second reading of this bill, not because I think that the measure meets the desires of the House, or of the country, but because every one thinks that there should bc a national commission controlling broadcasting ‘in Australia. The. Country party agrees “with the general principle underlying this measure, even though its members are not in agreement, with all of its provisions. In its present form, the measure gives a certain measure of control to a commission. Machinery is provided which could quite as well run an egg board or a milk pool. I hope that in committee we shall be able to infuse into this anaemic production of the Government, by some transfusion of blood, provisions which will radically change its condition, and enable it. to function in the interests of the people of Australia. The bill needs a surgical operation. It reminds me of a child with club-feet, who requires some orthopedic treatment to pitt the feet straight before it can walk and perform any useful function in the community. In my opinion, the commission proposed to be set up should more nearly resemble the Commonwealth Bank Board, a body which has been removed from the possibility of political control. There is. naturally, a liaison between the Government and the board; the Secretary to the Treasury is a member of the board. I should like to see in the bill a provision to ensure that the Director of Posts and Telegraphs shall be, ex officio, a member of the commission.
I am sorry that an opportunity was not given to those associated with broadcasting to discuss fully a measure which will, for the next five years at least, control wireless broadcasting in Australia; and, since what is done in the beginning cannot easily be altered subsequently, will probably control it for many years to come. These early years of growth may determine the ultimate direction of this great utility.
I wish the Government had done something to bring under the control of one commission the whole of the broadcasting interests in Australia. If that had been done, we could have had a national broadcasting commission worthy of the name, which would have had control riot merely of the A class stations but also of the B class stations, in regard to the issuing of licences and the general approval of programmes. It is a great pity that the division of the A class from the B class stations’ is being perpetuated in Australia. In Great Britain, they have only one class of station” comparable with our A class stations, and in America only one class comparable with our B class stations. But in Australia we have in Operation a hybrid: system, and we may live to regret, the introduction of it if we do not co-ordinate the two systems. I trust that the Government will even yet consider the practicability of bringing both A and B class stations under the control of the National Broadcasting Commission, so that our lines of development may be definitely laid down. The necessity for this can be seen when we consider for a few moments the developmental possibilities of television. It is true that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has a tight hold of this invention at present, but what would be the position if a B class station obtained exclusive control of television in Australia? If that happened, the importance and value, of the A class stations would be greatly diminished. Something should be done to ensure that the development of both A class and B class stations will be brought under national supervision in regard to programmes, advertising and profit making.
The proposed commission should be made absolutely self contained financially. Later, I shall advance what seem to me to be unanswerable reasons why all the money obtained from licence-fees should be paid to the Broadcasting Commission. This body could be given power to make its own arrangements for paying the Postmaster-General’s Department adequately for any technical services that it might be called upon to render. I am strongly of the opinion that provision should be made right at the inception of this new broadcasting scheme for the commission to provide for the replacement of plant and equipment as they become obsolete. The trouble with many of our publicly owned utilities in Australia - the railways are an outstanding example - is that in the good years when revenue was abundant the profits were paid into the Consolidated Revenue, and no provision was made for the maintenance of up-to-date plant and equipment or for proper depreciation and sinking funds. The great trouble with our railways today is that they are obsolete in many respects. In the good years, all the surplus over working expenses went into Consolidated Revenue, and now in the bad years the railways are unable to carry on their undertakings profitably. I suggest that the broadcasting commission should be just as independent financially as the Comm.onwe.alth Bank to enable this to be done. We know that definite provision has been made for the allocation of a proportion of the profits of the Commonwealth Bank to be paid to the Commonwealth Treasurer for sinking fund purposes. If it is desired that a proportion of the profits from broadcasting shall revert to the Government, that could be provided for by means of an amusement tax by taking a percentage of the licence-fee, or otherwise. We hope also, that a proportion of the profits will be definitely devoted to the improvement of programmes, the reduction of working expenses, and so on.
I regard this bill as of vital importance to Australia, for wireless broadcasting, in my opinion, shares with aviation the dis- tinction of being the most wonderful achievement of humanity of the last quarter of a century. It is capable of rendering incalculable service to mankind, for it has annihilated distance, space, and time. It can be particularly valuable in Australia, because, by the expenditure of a comparatively small capital, the people in our country districts, even though they be in remote places, can maintain contact with other parts of the continent. Wireless can become the greatest decentralizing force of which we have knowledge. Already it has been of immense value to the country people in this res2>ect. Its influence on country life and development has been so great that it has changed the outlook of country people, and has added immeasurably to their comfort and convenience. The people in the cities can obtain entertainment comparatively easily, but that is not true of the people in the country. Wireless, as a matter of fact, is, to a large extent, an entertainment-giving facility in the city, but in the country it is very much more than that, for it provides the people with news, market reports, educational facilities, and pleasures which otherwise would be denied them. It can be used to elevate our national taste and culture, and it has, in fact, restored many of the former delights of country life. In the dismal years “ of depression through which we have been passing, it has proved to be one of the greatest boons that our people enjoy. It has been manifestly impossible for many country people to give their families the advantage of theatrical entertainments and the like; but if a wireless set is included in the equipment of the home, the whole family can sit round the fire and enjoy entertainments of this kind.
We should remember that wireless is still at the beginning of its development. Even now there are only about 350,000 licences in force in Australia. Yet this means. that possibly 2,000,000 people are listening-in every night. This invention has scarcely yet attained its majority, and it is of vital importance that in these early days of development we should proceed along right lines. If Ave are only one degree out at the . beginning when we reach the periphery of the circle, we may be many degrees astray. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has been discoursing on the advantages of the national ownership of certain utilities. National ownership of this utility would be quite right if we could be certain that it could not become the pawn of party politics, as certain other public utilities have been in the past. The proposed wireless broadcasting commission should, if it is appointed, place this public service upon a business basis. If this commission is appointed for five years, wireless developments and inventions may possibly occur during that period, and be so dealt with by the commission as to influence public life for the next half century. We cannot, therefore, be too careful in what we do.
Wireless broadcasting ‘ has had a chequered career in Australia. When the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) brought down his proposal years ago for the Commonwealth Government to enter into partnership with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, I suggested that it would be far better to give a private company a licence for five years and allow it to develop along pioneering lines in that period. I said that at the end of that time we should be in a much better position to make up our minds as to the probable ultimate value of the invention, which was then in its infancy. But my appeal fell on deaf ears, and the present hybrid arrangement with the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was approved. The result has been that, in the intervening period, censure motions relating to wireless have been moved in this House eight or ten times, and we have had a great deal of trouble. In my opinion, the development of wireless by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited itself has been impeded rather than helped by our association with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and this invention has not been so valuable as it might have been to Australia. The exPostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) has shown that the financial returns to the Commonwealth from this partnership have actually been less than the patent fees which the company has received from listenei’3-i.n. If the development of wireless had been absolutely divorced from Commonwealth governmental influence during that period, the progress of wireless might have been greater.
The next step was to give certain pioneering organizations A class licences for broadcasting purposes. The companies which pioneered these stations deserve every credit for the energy, activity, and vision which they displayed ; but we know that from the expenditure of very small capital they have made such substantial profits, and paid such large dividends, as to cause discontent in the public .mind. Three years ago another developmental step was taken when provision was made for the preparation of programmes to be placed under the control of the Australian Broadcasting Company. The technical side of the business was still left to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. It cannot be said that our experience of the operation of this policy has been satisfactory. Since that time B class stations have developed which, in some cases, attract far. more public attention than do the A class stations. It is still fresh in our minds that certain B class stations were able to obtain the exclusive right to broadcast reports of the cricket test matches played in England between England and Australia. The A class stations had the opportunity to secure this right, but they neglected to do so, and afterwards had to go cap in hand to the B class stations and ask for something which previously they regarded as of no great value.
I also regret that the policy of the Bruce-Page Government, which provided for the completion in the period 1929-32 of sixteen relay stations in country districts, has not been carried out. It was provided that revenue from wireless licence-fees should be hypothecated by the Government for . the provision of these first class relay stations, but only four of the sixteen have been constructed. This has caused a. very much larger increase than should have been necessary in the number of B class stations in country districts. The proprietors of these stations have been doing their best to provide country people with some entertainment in the day-time to secure which from the national broadcasting stations each of them has paid to the Government the 24s. licence-fee. In existing circumstances they do not get it. Onlythis afternoon the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) complained about the broadcasting reception in Tasmania. The position in my own district is worse than that which he described. After 7 or S o’clock in the morning for the greater part of the year in my district the sets of wireless licensees are practically useless until evening, and for throe or four months the storms which occur cause so much static that it is impossible to obtain good reception from the main stations. This also has led to a great increase in the number of B class stations, and it is worth noting that in many districts the B class stations provide listeners-in with practically the only service that they can obtain. In fact, so important have some of the B class stations become that the opinion has been expressed that, as such stations provide a good deal of the service utilized by the public, they are entitled to a certain percentage of the licence-fees. I contend that they should not. I maintain that every penny obtained from licence-fees paid by listeners-in. should be utilized for tha purpose of improving to the fullest extent a national broadcasting system, thereby enabling it to render the best possible service for the revenue it receives. What has occurred during the last three years? When the Australian Broadcasting Company assumed control in 1929 a policy was outlined under which sixteen relay stations were to be established within three years. From each licence-fee collected by the Postal Department, 9s. was to be deducted, ls. of which was to cover the cost of collecting the fees, and the remaining 8s. was to be used in maintaining eight A. class stations, in providing certain, other services, and in erecting sixteen relay stations. These stations have not been built, and I shall give the amounts which have gone into Consolidated Revenue despite the definite plan decided upon, while country 2)eople have been left without a service. In the first year the department collected £70,000 which went into Consolidated Revenue,, and one relay station was erected ; in the second year £-45,000 was paid into Consolidated Revenue and two relay stations were built, and in the third year £60,000 was paid in, and one relay station constructed. It will, therefore, be seen that £175,000 has been paid into Consolidated Revenue, the bulk of which should have been spent in providing relay stations to permit residents in country districts to have the benefit of a ‘fairly continuous service. In addition to the £175,000 received in this way £50,000 has been paid in fees to the directors of the Australian Broadcasting Company, and for broadcasting from certain theatres, thus making £225,000, which could have been spent for the improvement of broadcasting services. Provision should be made in the bill whereby the whole of the money collected in the form of licence-fees shall be made available to the proposed commission for the improvement of the broad- ‘ casting services throughout Australia, for the erection of relay stations, and also for providing for depreciation and a sinking fund, which will be necessary when these relay stations become obsolete, as is sure to happen, It is admitted by the Government that A class stations are short of money. That must be the real reason for suggesting sponsored programmes, such as are provided at times by Grace Brothers, of Sydney, and other such firms, on the understanding that when the programme has terminated they will have the right to announce that it has been supplied by them thus giving their business advertisement. Surely this indicates that, under the present broadcasting system the A class stations have insufficient money to provide their own programmes. I hope that this practice will not be persisted in, and that work of that character will be undertaken only by the B class stations. The A class stations should be given funds to enable them to operate in such a way that they would not be compelled to broadcast advertisements in any form.
– Does the right honorable member suggest that the newspapers should not be allowed to announce that certain news has been provided by them ?
– I suggest that the programmes provided by the A class stations should be devoid of all advertising matter.
– The right honorable member suggests that the programmes provided by the A class stations have not been up to the proper standard owing to the shortage of funds.
– An amount of £225,000 which ought to have been available has not been used for the purpose intended. Had that . money been spent in the direction intended, there would be no need for the adoption of the policy to which I have referred. Listeners-in could be provided with good programmes with the money that has been available, and advertising and such other matters should be left to B class stations. The A class stations have shown that if the money is available they can provide first-class programmes. Some B class stations have provided programmes as good as those supplied in other parts of the world.
– In the capital cities.
– Yes. I do not think it would PaY the B class stations to operate to any extent in country centres. Many B class stations in the country districts ire unable to operate on an economic basis for lack of. sufficient advertising, and these should be assisted in some way while the relay stations are being built. Where such stations have been erected, residents in country centres would be able to use their sets for a few hours a day, or during such periods when the meteorological conditions prevented them from receiving from the A class broadcasting stations if the city A class stations relayed their programmes to them. Last year on eight A class stations and four relay stations an amount of £410,000 was spent from licence-fees, which was not used solely in providing programmes, but for technical administration as well. The B class stations have spent £300,000 in maintaining 35 operating stations, and 45 licences, which are all supported by advertising. The activities of the present A and B class services should be co-ordinated, as they should have different functions to perform. The A class stations should handle matters pertaining to culture, education, and entertainment, and the dissemination . of news, while the B class stations should deal with commercial matters, including advertising, and other features. The B class stations should not act in competition with the A class stations, and be able to boost up the cost of programmes to the extent that happened in connexion with the test match incident which I have already mentioned. The A and B stations have four definite objects to fight for. They should agitate against the excessive charges imposed for the use of certain gramaphone records. It is scandalous that such high rates, equivalent in some instances to embargoes, should be imposed as to prevent many first class records from being used for broadcasting. If there were some authority acting for the A and B class stations, something could be done in this direction to put up a joint fight against this imposition, and better and cheaper programmes provided. There is also the question of mechanical patents. It is scandalous, if the company is really not entitled to it, that, during the last three years, listeners-in have been paying an extra 3s. to the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, for the use of certain alleged patent rights, some of which actually lapsed two or three years ago. One of the first actions of the proposed commission should -be immediately to determine the legal rights of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in this respect, and to fight the issue. It is unreasonable that this amount should still be paid, seeing that, if it were disallowed, licence-fees could be reduced, and the programmes improved.
– They obtain 3s. for every set they manufacture.
– That is the reason why they should have no right to this particular levy unless they have indefeasible grounds.
– Is it possible to overcome that difficulty by an amendment of this measure ?
– Possibly that may be done. The A and B class stations will also have to co-operate in the matter of copyright law, which, as it operates to-day, is an outrage and a scandal. That law is brought into operation in connexion with tea meetings and other such gatherings held in country halls. If a B class station wishes to broadcast a service from a country church, a copyright-fee for using some of the hymns which are sung has to be paid. This restriction is imposed even on the psalms of David. The practice is, I understand, to alter a few bars of the setting to enable the copyright law to become effective for the next 40 years. We have tolerated this practice, and the system should not be allowed to continue any longer. Some authority, such as it is proposed to set up, should act for all broadcasting services in Australia, because one can readily see what concessions to these’ interests may follow active competition between various organizations, which would give way rather than fight. There should also be some better system in the allocation of wave lengths for the various stations. It is said that there is some such arrangement at present, but it is disconcerting to a listener who is waiting for the finale of an interesting classical musical selection to find that, owing to some interruption or clashing of the Wave lengths, he is following the proceedings at a prize fight. A proper co-ordination in the allocation of wave lengths would prevent interference of that’ kind. There should be no more control over . B class stations by the proposed commission than is exercised by the Postal Department at present. I do not see why objections should be raised by B class stations if licensed under the same conditions by the proposed commission, and the fitness of their programmes determined by that body, as is done by the Postal Department at present. If that were done, there would not be a continuance of insidious propaganda by certain interests on behalf of B class stations. If the whole system should come under national control, the revenue received from advertisements would not be necessary to make up any deficiency. The B class stations should be no more under the control of the commission than they are under the Postal Department at present. The right to advertise should be taken from the national service, and every effort made to safeguard the rights and opportunities of both A and B class stations. If action were taken in the matter of defining the position of performing and patent rights, some definite progress would be made in securing more revenue for programmes. When the measure is in committee, I shall endeavour to improve its provisions, and to provide the commission with powers almost identical with those exercised by the Commonwealth Bank Board. On the hustings I said -
If broadcasting is to be removed from the exigencies of politics it must be placed under a board operating upon a charter which gives it full responsibility over both the programme matter and the technical administration, without any interference directly from the government of the day, or indirectly through the interference of the Civil Service.
– Does the right honorable member desire the PostmasterGeneral to be made a member of the commission ?
– No ; but the Director of Postal Services should be appointed to the commission, because of his technical knowledge, and because of the need for the close association of the broadcasting service and the post office.
I strongly contend that payments to the post office for its technical services should be made on a business basis, because broadcasting is required largely to provide entertainment for the people. If the post office supplied services to the commission below the actual cost price, the ordinary postal services would suffer accordingly. Country mail services and telephone extensions have had to be curtailed, and there should be a definite arrangement completely to safeguard the financial position of the post office. I do not suggest that there should be a duplication of the technical services and equipment required for broadcasting. The great bulk of the technical services should be provided by the Postal Department, but I strongly hold the view that the Broadcasting Commission should pay sufficient to cover the actual cost of those services. The national broadcasting system should not be carried on the back of the post office; it should be required to finance itself.
Something should he done to improve the quality of the transmission and the programmes, and the suggestions that I have made would, if adopted, enable funds to be .made available to ensure the provision of good programmes. If steps were taken to deal with the claims of the
Performing Right Association and of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, it would be possible to provide improved programmes. I urge that the commission should adopt a policy anning at the establishment throughout Australia of stations of sufficient power and in sufficient numbers to enable every family in the country to enjoy the benefit of wireless broadcasting. Provision should be made to safeguard the financial side of the commission’s operations by establishing a fund to cover the depreciation and obsolescence of its plant.
I should like to see a national orchestra established in Australia; but such a venture would be too costly at the present time. The fullest possible use should be made of the Conservatoriums of Music in Sydney and Melbourne. Local talent should be encouraged to the greatest possible extent. One of the principal vocalists in the operatic company now performing in Sydney is a young lady who was given by the broadcasting stations her first opportunity to gain distinction. The Government should be prepared to subsidize the Con.servatoriums of Music, so that operatic programmes might be broadcast throughout Australia. Local artists in all the big country towns should be encouraged, and should have an opportunity to perform through B class stations by reason of contributions from the commission’s funds. In committee, I hope that we shall be able to amend this measure in such a way that wireless broadcasting will progress in Australia, and that all members of the community, particularly those in out-back areas in Australia, will be able to share in its benefits.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) seems to be labouring under a misapprehension in .suggesting that the Broadcasting Commission will have the right to issue licences to B class stations. I take it that, under the bill, this power will still be vested in the PostmasterGeneral, and, I think, rightly so. The administration of the regulations under the Wireless Agreement Act will be under the supervision of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, as is the case in Great Britain and Germany. The comprehensive scheme, involving the ex penditure of £’750,000 for the building of a chain of A class stations and relay stations throughout the Commonwealth should be completed as soon as possible by the Commonwealth Government, though I realize, of course, that the exigencies of the financial position renderthis undertaking difficult. While the last Government was in office, it experienced difficulty owing to the shortage of money, and the completion of certain stations was temporarily held up; but I may mention that the establishment of a relay station at Rockhampton revolutionized wireless reception in Central Queensland. There the number of listeners-in is now about ten times as great as it was before that station was established. Numbers of persons may be seen listening-in at nearly every hotel and refreshment room to thu programmes broadcast from 4QG Brisbane, and sometimes relayed from 2FC Sydney. The house of every second farmer in Central Queensland is equipped with a wireless set, and our objective should be to bring the benefits of broadcasting to every home in Australia, no matter how remote the district in which it may be situated. .The balance of the money required to complete the comprehensive chain of relay stations should be found as soon as possible.
Australia cannot expect to have such an efficient broadcasting system as that in operation in Germany, whose area is smaller than that of Australia, while her population is much larger. In that country the annual revenue from listeners-in amounts to about £4,000,000. In Great Britain, with a population of 46,000,000, the annual revenue from wireless licences amounts to £2,000,000, while in Australia, with a. population of 0,500,000, the revenue is only £400,000; but the foundations are being laid in this country of great national broadcasting systems. We have accomplished a great deal in the last ten years. Unfortunately, mistakes have been made here as in other parts of the world, but we should benefit by the errors of the past.
I regret that the Government has not firmly stood its ground by holding to the bill as introduced by it. A couple of months ago, the Postmaster-General brought down the bill and gave it his blessing, but vested interests then became busy over the matter. There was a good deal of agitation from B class stations, and scathing articles against the Government’s proposals were published by a chain of newspapers which are interested in those stations. In that way the Minister was forced to retreat from the stand originally taken by him, aud he was called upon to introduce certain amendments to the bill, although I believe that if he had had his own way he would have insisted on the adoption of his original proposals. We read in the newspapers that he even threatened to resign if the bill were not proceeded with. Subsequently, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) announced the Government’s decision to introduce certain amendments. These are of a drastic nature, in that they do away with the A class sponsored programmes accompanied by acknowledgments . to the persons by whom they are made available, because the Government considers that these programmes would interfere with the revenue of B class stations. In my opinion, outside vested interests should never have been allowed to develop in connexion with wireless broadcasting in Australia. Unfortunately, the shortage of finance made the Commonwealth. Government hesitate about establishing B class stations, or extending the system of broadcasting to all country districts, so as to render
I hose proprietary stations unnecessary. Those which have been given licences can in future bo refused a renewal of their licences. They were given to understand, when the licences were granted, that they could noi; expect compensation of any kind when the licences were withdrawn. It will still be within the power of future Commonwealth Governments to refuse an extension of licences to B class stations, and some day we may have a nationally controlled broadcasting service similar to those in operation in Great Britain and Germany, which have proved markedly successful. Honorable members in this House who are opposed to any kind of State management or control have stated that they sincerely hope that the Australian Broadcasting Commission will emulate the work of the British Broadcasting Corporation. That body and the British Post Office have achieved wonderful success, and similar results may reasonably be hoped for in Australia.
The Postmaster-General, in introducing the bill in its original form, admitted that it followed along the lines of the measure drafted by the previous Government, and, therefore, it is not my intention to oppose it. I intend merely to offer a few comments. I strongly object to the amendments brought down by the Government at the behest, of outside vested interests. The provision for the establishment of a national orchestra is a wise one. If the Australian commission can emulate the British body in the establishment of one of the finest national orchestras in the world, i t will do good service to Australia. Every encouragement should be given to talented musicians to join a great national orchestra. A3 the right honorable member for Cowper remarked, one of the operatic artists now performing in Sydney owes her success largely to opportunities offered by the broadcasting services in Australia.
– Which station broadcast her singing prior to her appearance in opera?
– She has fulfilled engagements with a number of broadcasting stations, and her talents are such that she will be sought after, not only in Australia, but also in other parts of the world. She is a native of Bundaberg, Queensland, and the people of that State are exceedingly proud of her achievements. The encouragement given by A class stations to local instrumental and vocal talent has a very important effect, aud is in direct contrast with the policy usually adopted by B class stations, which provide practically all “ canned “ music. Although their programmes are fairly good, they do not offer to local musicians and vocalists the opportunities that are given by A class stations.
The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to receive £500 per annum, compared with the £1,500 originally proposed. I should like the Minister to indicate the nature of his duties, and to state whether the whole of his time is to be devoted to this work. It was the intention under the bill as originally drafted that lie should act in the capacity of a general manager; and devote the whole of his time to the work. Maybe the Minister will state the salary that is to he paid to a general manager ; because presumably, as the salaries of the members of the commission are only moderate, that of the general manager will be fairly considerable.
We have been assured by the Minister that the system of control of broadcasting which operates in Great Britain has been incorporated in this measure. The right honorable member for Worth Sydney, (Mr. Hughes), however, has said that this i s not even the shadow of the British legislation. We can only hope that the right men will be selected for the important work that is to be clone, because in their hands largely will lie the future of broadcasting in Australia. They must be men of considerable ability and undoubted integrity, who will give the whole of their time to this great national service, the importance of which cannot be overstressed.
I sincerely trust that the profits which are made by the commission will not be taken by the Treasury, but will be utilized in the improvement of programmes and the cheapening of services. If broadcasting is to be successful, and the number of listeners enlarged, the programmes will have to be improved, in which process additional employment will be found for our singers and musicians.
Mention has been made of the very vexed question of performing rights. I heard a great deal about this matter in 1928, as a member of a royal commission that inquired into the motion picture industry in Australia. After listening to the grievances of picture showmen in the different States, the commission was convinced that this matter should be thoroughly probed by the Government. In introducing this measure, the Minister made the following statement: -
I understand that quite a number of the charges made in Australiaare not justified and cannot be legally established. The Governmenthas the matter of performing right fees under’ serious review and it is being inquired into by the Attorney-General’s Department. I believe that we shall be able to introduce a system whereby we shall know the reasons for all claims for copyright fees and we shall know by whom they are made.
I shouldlike the honorable gentleman, when he is replying to this debate, to tell us what the Government has already done, and what it intends to do. Since the statement that I have quoted was made by him, six weeks have elapsed, and we are now entitled to a definite pronouncement. The royal commission on the motion picture industry commented on the Australasian Performing Right Association Limited as follows : -
Throughout the Commonwealth exhibitors expressed strong views regarding the demands made upon them by the Australasian Performing Right Association Limited, inasmuch as they state that they arc unable, without process of law, to ascertain whether such demands are legally justifiable. It would appear that this resentment was mainly engendered by the fact that exhibitors had hitherto been able to perform any music without fee, other than the purchase of the necessary copies of music. The association maintains that it has the right to. ask for a royalty for any music for which it holds the copyright which is played at any performance. Any demands now made for the performing rights, however reasonable they may appear to the association, are naturally exorbitant to the exhibitors. The charges operating at the present time were arrived at by arrangement between the parties concerned at a joint conference presided over by the Secretary, Prime Minister’s Department. This association is a registered company limited by guarantee in New South Wales, and is affiliated with similar associations in other countries. Its charge for performing fees for copyright music is on the basis of1d. per 100 seats per performance. As certainaspects of the claims of the association are at present being considered by the courts, your commissioners therefore consider the matter as sub judice and do notfeel justified in making any recommendations in regard to it.
It was clear to me, as a member of that commission, that the Australasian Performing Right Association Limited had a legal claim ; and a statement to that effect was made in Parliament by the AttorneyGeneral of the day, who is the AttorneyGeneral in the present Ministry (Mr. Latham). I believe that the legality of the claim cannot be gainsaid; but it seems obvious that the payments demanded are excessive, and I am glad to know that the Postmaster-General has the matter under review.
Mr.Fenton. - It is a matter for the Attorney-General.
Mr.FORDE. - I admit that it is a very complicated question, and that the solution of it is not so easy as many exhibitors think. Doubtless hardship is being inflicted on a large number of people throughout Australia. I believe that all are agreed that there is a legal claim for some fee; but the question is, what is a reasonable amount? That is the question with which the. Government should deal at. the earliest’ possible moment.
Apart from the amendments that have been forced upon the Postmaster-General - dictated, I believe, by outside- vested interests - that portion of the measure which follows the lines laid down in a bill that was drafted bythe previous Govern ment, is a good one and should be passed by this House. In committee L shall have something further to say with respect to. the alterations that havebeen made in it.
Mr. PRICE (Boothby) [5.39).- This appears to me to be a bill with which all can deal from a national standpoint and on non-party lines. I am glad to have heard the various speeches that have been delivered upon it, because they illustrate the interest that is manifested in a measure of this character.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is in favour of the bill, but objects to the removal of political control by the Postmaster-General. That is one feature in regard to which I disagree with him. A few months ago there was witnessed in Adelaide an example of what may be termed political control of wireless broadcasting. The previous PostmasterGeneral (Mr. A. Green) found himself out of agreement with an item that it was proposed to broadcast, _ and placed a ban on the broadcasting of it. I wish to guard against such a contingency, and shall endeavour to remove from the bill the provisions that enable political control to be. exercised. Broadcasting is a national question, the interest in which extends over the whole of Australia. I should like every household to have a wireless set installed. That is not possible at the moment, because all cannot procure them ; but I hope that that day may come. Those who have wireless sets know what pleasure can bo derived from them. A wonderfully keen interest is being taken in wireless by the rising generation. As an example, I may say that my own son, who is only seventeen years of age, has made for relatives wireless sets equal to any that are made in this country. I daresay that, as the time goes on, he may be able to commercialize his activities. At the presenttimehe does this work merely for the pleasure that he gets out of it. The rising generation has what may be termed a wireless sense, and derives very great pleasure from it. Wireless has also taken the drudgery out of housework. With the passage of time more and more experiments will be undertaken, and the improvements effected probably will exceed anything that we can at present imagine.
During the last election campaign the Government promised to introduce a broadcasting bill, and I am pleased that it’ has taken such an early opportunity to fulfil that promise. In my opinion, however, the bill is like the curate’s egg, good only in parte; and in committeeI shall propose certain amendments with a view to making it, conformmore closely to my ideas of what ought to be done. Ihad hoped that this legislation would be more in accordance withthe charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation, of which I have personal knowledge. While in London as Agent-General for South Australia I had many opportunities, of which I availed myself, to speak over the air on the potentialities of South Australia, and draw attention to the products of Australia which we wish to sell to the British people. I referred particularly to wool, wheat, Butter, meat and dried fruits. Broadcasting offers wonderful opportunities for effective propaganda which would be. of. advantage to both Australia and Great Britain, and I hope that this field will be fully explored in the future.
The main provision of the bill is for the establishment of a commission of five members - a chairman to be appointed for five years at an annual salary of £500; a vice-chairman for four years at £400; and three commissioners for three years at £300 each; making the total salaries only £1,800. It is important that we should have the best men available to take charge of this service, but the emoluments offered are not sufficient to attract the most qualified persons. Men with wide knowledge and experience can be found in Australia to take charge of this work. I have made a detailed comparison of the bill with the charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The bill does not disclose the names ofthe future commissioners, merely providing that they shall “ be appointed by the Governor-General, and shall hold office, during good behaviour, for the period for which they were appointed “, but the personnel of the British Broadcasting Corporation was stated in the original charter. The governors were - Right Honorable J. H.H. Villiers, Earl of Clarendon; Right Honorable J. Albert, Baron Gainford of Head lam; Sir John G. Nairne, Bart.; Dr. Montague John Rendall, and Mrs. Ethel Snowden. Their salaries are paid direct from broadcasting revenue, the charter providing -
The governors of the corporation may retain by way of remuneration for their services as chairman, vice-chairman or governor as the case may be out of the revenue of the corporation such sums …. as the corporation may from time to time resolve not exceeding the sums following, that is to say, chairman £3,000 per annum, vice-chairman £1,000 per annum, each of the other governors £700 per annum.
The members of the corporation were appointed for a period of five years. I suggest that even in the present stage of wireless development in Australia, we can afford to offer greater inducements than the bill proposes to the right men to serve on the commission.
– Should a woman be appointed to the commission?
- Mrs. Snowden did excellent work as a member of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and her success would warrant a similar appointment in Australia. In Great Britain the governors have full control of the appointments of executive officers. The charter reads -
The corporation shall appoint such officers andstaff as they may think necessary ( including any Director-General who may be appointed in succession to the first Director-General) for the official transaction of their business and shall fix such rates of remuneration as they think proper.
This ensures freedom of the personnel from political or official influence. I contrast that provision with clause 15, sub-clause 2 -
The salaries payable to the general manager and the nextsix most highly paid executive officers of the commission shall be subject to the approval of the Minister.
I would prefer that they be made by the commission.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Minister would act reasonably on the recommendation of the commission ?
– The present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Fenton) is a most reasonable man, but as a general principle I wouldprefer that the responsibility of making appointments should rest with the commission.
– The Postmaster-General in Great Britain has more control of the British Broadcasting Corporation than the Minister will have of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Does clause 15 guarantee freedom from political control? Is it not more likely to lead to the preferment of nominees of officials and politicians ?
– The Director-General in Great Britain was appointed by the Government.
– There is wide disparity between the objects for which the British Broadcasting Corporation was established, namely -
To do all such other things as the corporation may deem incidental or conducive to the attainment of or the exercise of any of the, powers of the corporation. and the intention of this bill, clause 17 of which provides -
Subject to this act, the commission may do such acts and things as it deems incidental or conducive to the proper exploitation of those things which maybe beneficial to broadcast programmes but shall not engage in any subsidiary business which, in the opinion of the Minister, is not desirable or necessary for the purpose for which the commission was established.
The British Broadcasting Corporation is authorized by its charter -
To acquire . . . any undertakings, stations, plant and assets which may be necessary or convenient for carrying out the objects of the corporation . .. to purchase, take on lease, or in exchange hire or otherwise acquire any real and personal property which the corporation may think necessary or convenient.
This bill provides that the commission -
Shall not without the approval of the Minister acquire any property thecost of Requisition of which exceeds £5,000 . . . enter into any least’ for a. period of move thanfive years.
I have picked out some examples of the contrasts between the bill and the British charter. Others may be found, but as the charter provides for the British Broadcasting Corporation to administer and control the whole of the service, whereas this bill, in essence, does no more than empower a commission to control the programmes, further comparisons are difficult. What I have said, however, is sufficient to show that the claim that the proposed commission will be similar to the British corporation, and that the bill is based on the British charter, is misleading.
A similar divergence is found again in the provisions relating to finance. The charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation requires the Postmaster-General to pay to the corporation annually a sum equal to the following percentages of all sums received by him from licences: -In respect of the first one million licences or fractional part thereof issued against payment in the year, 90 per cent.; in respect of the second million licences, 80 per cent.; in respect of the third million licences, 70 per cent.; and in respect of all additional licences, 00 per cent. A deduction of 12½ per cent. on account of the cost of collection is made before the calculation of these percentages. This bill proposes to create a broadcasting commission fund into which shall be paid from time to time out of Consolidated Revenue 12s. in respect of each listener’s licence-fee received, this amount to continue to be paid in each subsequent year unless some other amount is fixed by the Minister. On the 10th March last, I asked of the Postmaster-General the following questions, the answers to which explain the Australian position : -
I received from the Minister the following replies: -
There are many things connected with the operations of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited which should be explained, and I hope that, in the near future, the position of that company will be made quite clear.
I recently asked the Postmaster-General the following questions about the activities of the Performing Right Association : -
I received the following replies: -
– The number of licences has now increased to 350,000.
– There were 347,555 licences in force on the 15th March, 1932. and I am glad to learn that the number has been increased since then. I am not satisfied with the present arrangement in respect of performing rights, and I favour an exhaustive inquiry into the activities of the Performing Right Association. There are other matters to which I would like to refer; but as there appears to be a general desire to discuss the bill in committee,I shall avail myself of the opportunity later. I hope that this legislation, as finally amended, will operate in the interests of the people of Australia, and lead to the advancement of wireless generally.
.- I understand that it is proposed to bring down various amendments to the bill, so as to transfer the control of wireless broadcasting from the Minister to a national broadcasting commission. This measure was introduced in March last ; but, as the result of the pressure which was brought to bear on the Government, the Minister in charge of the bill was, for the time being, compelled to withdraw it. According to the press, the members of the Government were not a happy and united family, and the Minister in charge of the bill threatened to resign from Cabinet. It is now the intention of the Government to place the control of broadcasting in the hands of a national broadcasting commission which, according to the Minister, will have no political leanings, being free of political control. But we all realize that most of the previous appointments made by Nationalist governments have been of a political nature, and the appointees generally have rung true to the Nationalist party. The Labour party, when in power, has at times made political appointments, but only on rare occasions have the appointees rung true to that party. Practically every government makes political appointments. There is nothing to be gained by transferring the control of broadcasting from the Minister to a commission, the members of which must have political leanings. I shall strongly oppose any attempt to alter the bill in that direction. Clause 19 gives the commission power to acquire by lease or to purchase any land, buildings, or other property, or to sell, exchange, or lease any property acquired by it, but the commission may not, without the approval of the Minister, acquire any property, the cost of which exceeds £5,000, or to dispose of any property of a value exceeding that sum. I propose to move in committee that that sum be reduced to £1,000. No commission should be allowed to control £5,000 of the people’s money. In the past, various commissions, which have had too much power vested in them, have resorted to actions savouring of sharp practice’. Clause 22, as it stands, provides that the commission may, with the approval of the Minister, broadcast announcements, but it is now proposed to amend the clause to enable the commission to act without the approval of the Minister. The commission will therefore have full control of broadcasting and be able to prevent any individual with whosepolitical opinions it does not agree, from broadcasting them.
– May not the Minister be subject to political leanings ?
– Yes, but the commission, if it discriminates between individuals, would not be subject to the criticism that would be levelled at a Minister who penalized an individual by preventing him from broadcasting his political views. Every member of this Parliament has the right to criticize, on thefloor of this House, any political action which the Minister may take in the direction of restricting the broadcasting of programmes. During the recent elections, facilities were given to two parties in thisHouse to broadcast their policy speeches from A class stations. That privilege was granted to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and to the present PrimeMinister (Mr. Lyons). But the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), the leader of the party to which I belong, was refused permission to broadcast his policy speech from an A class station. That action was entirely wrong and unfair. Recently, the Prime Minister broadcast his views in- respect of the Premiers Conference, but the Premier of New South Wales was refused the right to broadcast his reply. That definitely shows that political control is being exercised in respect of broadcasting. While the actions of a Minister can be criticized in the House no such criticism of a commission can be expressed. Why should not the people of Australia hearthe views of Mr. Lang from his own lips, and not have to rely on garbled press reports which do not always place a correct interpretation upon what is actually said?
– Mr. Lang does not say the same thing twice.
– Mr. Lang has adhered to his statement that he intends to stand by the people of Australia who are in dire distress, rather than act in the interests of money lenders overseas. Why should not equal broadcasting facilities be given to- all political parties?During the recent election, the honorable member for West Sydney was compelled to broadcast his policy speech from a B class station which provided a service, not for the country districts, but for the metropolitan area only.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– In making appointments to commissions such as the one proposed by this bill I have yet to learn that the present Government will not follow the old policy of selecting persons whose leanings are identical with its own. political views. The censorship now exercised is bad enough. I have already shown that the Premier of New South Wales was denied the right to use the same A class broadcasting stations as were used by the Prime Minister to announce the Premiers Conference attitude towards default. I understand that the Prime Minister ordered the Postal Department to refuse the necessary permission to Mr. Lang. Fortunately, the Premier of New South Wales was able to make use of station 2KY, but its volume was hardly sufficient to reach far-flung centres of the Commonwealth, which could easily be reached by the stations used by the Prime Minister. When such things happen we can criticize the Minister on the floor of the House, but if the control of broadcasting is vested in a commission, its members will be termed public servants and we shall be told that it is unfair to criticise them behind their backs. Explaining the position following upon the refusal of the Postal Department to allow him to broadcast through the stations used by the Prime Minister, Mr. Lang said -
This morning we applied to the Australian Broadcasting Company to speak from the four stations used by Mr. Lyons last night. They referred us to the radio inspector’s office, Sydney, which wired to Mr. Brown in Melbourne. Mr. Brown got in touch with the Prime Minister in Canberra, and at 4 p.m. we were informed through the department of the Postmaster-General that it was unable to make the stations available to the New South Wales Government.
– Who said that Mr. Brown got into touch with the Prime Minister? It is entirely untrue.
– If the honorable member can say that Mr. Lang’s reported words are entirely untrue, why should he not give Mr. Lang the same facilities for broadcasting that he had the privilege of using? In fact I challenge him now to give Mr. Lang the right to state his case over the A class stations.
– If he would tell the truth we could do so.
– Let the people of the country be the judges of whether he is telling the truth or not, by allowing him to broadcast.
This latest attempt at censorship recalls the arrangements made between the then Prime Minister and the then Leader of the Opposition at the recent election, under which both were permitted to make use of A class stations, but the leader of my party was not allowed to put his case before the people through those stations.
– The arrangement was that there should be two broadcasts from each side of the House.
– Were we not on one side of the House?
– Yes, but not on my side.
– That is true, but we play an important part in this House, and, though we may be small in numbers to-day, we shall increase in size until we are the real Opposition, and, ultimately, occupants of the Government benches.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) proposes that B class stations should also be censored and placed under the control of the commission. To my mind, if any control is exercised over B class stations it should be confined to safeguarding possible interruption over the air, and preventing unnecessary competition by a control of wave length and volume. These stations are not permitted to share in any of the revenue from listeners’ fees, and they should certainly not be placed under the control of a political commission. At any rate, if there is to be any control over them it should be exercised by a Minister.
Manythings in the bill commend themselves to me. It was not a bad measure until a split took place in the party opposite, and it was decided to move a series of amendments. I should like the PostmasterGeneral (Mr.Fenton) to explain the purpose of clause 26. That clause reads -
The commission may, if it thinks fit, appoint committees to advise it in relation to all or any matters connected with the provision or rendition of broadcasting programmes, or the exercise of any powers, duties or functions conferred or imposed upon it by this act.
I want to know if these committees are to be paid, and, if so, what limit will be imposed on the commission in making payments of this nature. Again, clause 39 holds the Commonwealth liable for the payment of principal and interest on any debentures issued by the commission. Is the Commonwealth to be held liable for any financial loss made by the commission? If so, why not have the full control in the hands of a Minister who can be subjected to criticism on the floor of this House?
At one time broadcasting stations submitted their programmes to the Performing Right Association, and that body indicated by a cross each item upon which it demanded royalty. There have been instances in which it has marked and demanded payment in respect of items written and composed by people connected with the broadcasting stations. This company charges a royalty of 3d. for each side of a gramophone record in the city. I understand that the charge is reduced to approximately1d. for country sales. It is stated that approximately one-third of the revenue derived from the British Empire by the Performing Right Association comes from Australia. That is a remarkable fact when we recall that there are in Great Britain approximately 6,000,000 listeners-in, a number practically equal to the population of Australia. This bill contains no provision, so far as I can see, to curb the rapacity of the Performing Right Association. The bill should be amended so as to prevent this association from continuing to batten on the broadcasting industry in Australia.
– Thatcan be done by an amendment to the Copyright Act.
– When the bill is in the committee stage I propose to move amendments designed to give a greater measure of control over broadcasting to the Minister. As the bill now stands, too much power will be placed in the hands of the commission. That body is to be given authority to expend up to £5,000 on the purchase of property or material, without obtaining the consent of the Minister. In my opinion, that amount should at least be reduced to £1,000.
– It is very gratifying to observe the interest which honorable members have taken in this measure. They realize its importance, and understand the powerful influence exercised by broadcasting upon the national well-being. It is necessary that this matter be dealt with from a national point of view. I am not concerned with the detailed operations of the Performing Right Association, nor do I think that its activities can interfere seriously with the scheme now before us. The commission which is to be appointed will, I am convinced, be able to handle these matters satisfactorily, if, as I hope, men of outstanding ability are appointed to it.
The honorable member who has just sat down complained that the bill did not provide for a sufficiency of ministerial control. I, on the contrary, believe that, in some respects, at any rate, it provides for too much ministerial control. I refer particularly to clause 52 of the bill, which states -
I realize that, having regard to the importance of this subject, the prospect of further development in the direction of television, &c, and the fact that broadcasting is carried into the very homes of the people, some form of censorship is required, and this involves some measure of government control. We must not, however, allow too great a measure of government control. The bill, as at present drafted, provides that the commission shall control only ‘ programmes, and it will have little control over the business activities of broadcasting. In ray opinion, a greater measure of control should be allowed to the commission. This body should be composed of men possessing a sound business training, and I believe that Parliament should be informed whom the Government proposes to appoint. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who said that he would prefer to see the commission appointed as is a board of directors, acting for nominal fees, and exercising a controlling influence over the general manager. This official should be a man of outstanding ability, and should be suitably recompensed.
– What salary would the honorable member suggest?
– I should be prepared to leave that to the Minister, who would pay due regard to the revenue available, and to the importance of the position.
I should also like to have the position cleared up in respect to clause 17, which provides for a measure of competition by the department with private enterprise. I am against government competition with private enterprise in any form, and clause 17 would permit of such competition in regard to handling of wireless accessories.
The bill provides that, under certain conditions, sponsored programmes may be transmitted from A class stations. This is a direct interference with the B class stations which, in the past, have relied upon such programmes, and upon advertising generally for their revenue. The royal commission which recently inquired into broadcasting, specifically reported against the proposal that A class stations should engage in advertising in any form. If sponsored programmes are permitted the matter will not end there, and from that the A class stations will probably embark upon all forms of advertising. The B class stations have built up a sound business on this form of advertising, and no government should enter into competition with them. The majority of listeners are now interested in the programmes broadcast by B class stations, and if the A class stations begin competing in the advertising field, the B class stations will collapse from want of revenue. Moreover, there is this aspect of the matter to consider: Licence-holders who pay their fees to listen to A class stations do not wish to be compelled to listen to advertising broadcast from such stations. The proposal for sponsored programmes is an interference with the rights of listeners. The A class stations should cater for the aesthetic and educational requirements of the public. The average listener, after hearing a fine piece of music from an A class station, is not prepared to listen to a programme, the real object of which is to bring before the public the merits of Blogg’s pills. He prefers to meditate on the music he has heard. At the present time, the B class stations are growing in popularity, at the expense of the A class stations. Recently two B class stations were licensed in New South Wales, and immediately 3,000 new listeners obtained licences. This proves that the B class stations are filling a want in the community, and are being supported by the public.
I do not believe that any great success would attend the inauguration of a national orchestra as a means of competing, on behalf of the A class stations, with the programmes now broadcast by the B class stations. The cost of establishingand maintaining such an orchestra would be very heavy, and the orchestra would probably have to practise for days in order to broadcast one or two programmes. Under those conditions the orchestra could not successfully compete with the B class stations which are at present broadcasting the choicest productions of thePhiladelphia, Berlin and other orchestras.
I suggest, that the Minister should seriously consider the request of the B class stations for a revision of their wave lengths. At the present time these stations are all jammed together on the lower wave-lengths. They are separated, for the most part, by only twelve degrees, whereas the A class stations are separated by approximately 100 degrees. This tends to prejudice the B class stations in the minds of listeners. Many protests have been made by the B class stations in this regard, and the royal commission, to which I have previously referred, recommended that redress should be given to them.
I suggest that, in developing our broadcasting system, we should, as far as possible, give preference when purchasing equipment and accessories to Australianmade goods. This would be helpful to Australian industry and to the nation as a whole.We have been told that the bill has been modelled on the lines of the British Broadcasting Corporation charter. This is not strictly correct, as a number of honorable members told the House this afternoon. The framers of the measure have taken certain provisions from the British measure and have added other clauses which they deemed necessary. For example, the British Broadcasting Corporation is authorized - to do all such other things as the Corporation may deem incidental or conducive to the attainment of or the exercise of any of the powers of the Corporation.
The bill goes a little further and provides, in clause 17 -
Subject to this act, the Commission may do such acts and things as it deems incidental or conducive to the proper exploitation of those things which may be beneficial to broadcast programmes, but shall not engage in any subsidiary business which, in the opinion of the Minister, is not desirable or necessary for the purpose for which the Commission was established.
This gives the Minister wide control. The bill may have been founded on the charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation, but, in some directions, it goes a little bit too far, and in others, not far enough. I should like further enlightenment upon the Government’s proposals to ensure ministerial control. Undue interference by governments with private enterprise is not likely to be beneficial to the nation as a whole. I should also like to be further enlightened with regard to other clauses of the bill, and when the measure is in committee I may have something to say about them. Meanwhile I await the Minister’s reply.
– I do not intend to reply in detail to the various criticisms that have been offered during the debate because, as honorable members are aware, this is a measure for discussion in committee. I therefore hope that they will not hold me guilty of any disrespect if I reserve my remarks for the committee stages of the bill, when I shall endeavour to explain more fully the various provisions to which attention has been directed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) For the purposes of this act, there shall be a commission, to be known as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which shall be charged with the general administration of this act, subject to such directions (if any) as are from time to time given by the Minister.
– I move -
That the words “ subject to such directions (if any) as are from time to time given by the Minister “, sub-clause 1, be omitted.
These words were not included in the original bill, and, in view of the criticisms from honorable members, the Government has deemed it desirable to delete them.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 - (2.) The salaries of the commissioners shall not exceed the following: -
In the case of the chairman - Five hundred pounds per annum.
In the case of the vice-chairman- Four hundred pounds per annum ; and
In the case of each other commissioner - Three hundred pounds per annum.
.- I regret that the Government has thought fit to reduce the scale of remuneration intended originally to be paid to members of the proposed commission. It is said that the duties of the commissioners will be a part-time job. I do not agree with that. The chairman should be prepared to give the whole of his time to the work of the commission. The Government, of which I was a member, when considering this matter, took the view that if effective work was to be done by the commissioners, the salary paid should be adequate. The Government cannot expect effective work to be done by the chairman for a salary of £500 per annum. Apparently, the Minister anticipates being able to secure a man with the necessary qualifications and with sufficient spare time to give his services for this sum. I hold the contrary view. The vicechairman is to be paid £400 per annum - only £100 less than is to be paid to the chairman. The British Broadcasting Corporation, which has already built up its immense organization and is working efficiently, pays its chairman £3,000 per annum. I should like to know what is in the mind of the Minister. Does he really expect to obtain the services of a highlyqualified man as chairman of the commission, one capable of building up this new organization, for a paltry £500 a year ?
.- I support the observations of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). This clause, in my opinion, is one of the crucial provisions of the bill. The committee is entitled to some explanation from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Penton) as to the direction in which he will look for the personnel of the commission. Friends and supporters of the Government’s proposals have followed the Minister’s guidance unhesitatingly, and have accepted his suggestions as to the powers which should be conferred upon the commission and the powers which should be withheld from that body. Honorable members, as a whole, have shown considerable unanimity and forbearance up till now, in believing the very best of all the proposals which the Minister has put before us. I am not, for one moment, suggesting that this belief was not wellfounded; but it is clear, after the debate this afternoon, that the success of the measure will depend upon the kind of direction which the enterprise receives from the proposed commission. Doubtless the Minister has in mind certain persons well qualified to hold positions on that body. I do not suggest that, at this stage, he should furnish us with their names. That would be out of the question. It would also be quite improper to ask for such, information ; but before we pass this clause the Minister should toll us what is in his mind as to the future of broadcasting in Australia. Everything will depend upon the view of the men to be appointed to the commission. Since educational work is to be undertaken by means of broadcasting, the commission will necessarily determine its natureArtistic work is also contemplated. Again the commission will determine the standards of art which are to prevail for the next eight, ten, or twenty years, as the case may be. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) has suggested that the commission should comprise business men. One, or possibly two, business men might properly be appointed. Other honorable members, at an earlier stage in the discussion, urged that the country interests should not be overlooked. I agree that a representative of the country might well find a place on the commission. Another honorable member, having in view the educational nature of the commission’s work, has contended that an educationalist should be appointed. No doubt such a gentleman would render good service. While the Minister may not be able to supply the names of gentlemen he might have in mind, surely he can give us some idea of the direction in which he will look for the personnel of the commission, and the resources which he will exploit in order to get the best men to guide this enterprise. I join with the exPostmasterGeneral (Mr. A. Green) in urging the Minister to inform honorable members what is in the mind of the Government before asking us to vote upon this important clause.
– I propose to move an amendment to alter the remuneration to be paid to the chairman from £500 to £1,000.
– It is not competent for any private member to move an amendment which involves an increase in the amount of appropriation.
– May I point out that, at a later stage, I shall move that an appropriation, be made to meet the purposes of this bill. At that stage, I shall define the expenditure to be incurred, but, as the Chairman has intimated, it is not competent for a private member to move that the stipulated amount be increased.
– With a view to obtaining an expression of opinion on this subject from honorable members, I propose to move that the salary to be paid to the chairman of this committee be reduced by £1.
– Such an amendment would not be in order. The honorable member must specifically state the amount that he intends shall be paid.
– I move-
That the words “ five hundred “, sub-clause 2, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “four hundred and ninetynine “.
That will give honorable members an opportunity to express their opinions as to the salary they consider should be paid. I believe that this is the most vital clause of the bill, and that upon the status of the commission depends its value. I do not intend to traverse the ground that I covered in my second-reading speech, but I reiterate that it is my opinion that £500 per annum is a totally inadequate salary to be paid to the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If we persist in giving that official such a paltry sum, we shall create a position similar to that which exists in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank Board. I am aware that many honorable members do not agree with me on this issue, but I believe that members of the Commonwealth Bank Board should have full-time jobs, and that their remuneration, and particularly that of the chairman, should be greater. I do not wish to say anything disrespectful about Sir Robert Gibson, but I am strongly of the opinion that he should receive a much higher salary than the £800 or so that is now paid to him, also that he should give the whole of his time to his task, which is a most responsible one. I desire that the very best men available shall be chosen as members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If only £500 is paid to the chairman, it is probable that the gentleman selected will give 90 per cent, of his time to his business, and the remaining 10 per cent, to the affairs of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. . In that event, the £500 paid to him would be practically wasted.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– That the chairman should be paid £1,000, that the vicechairman should receive £500, and that £400 per annum should be paid to the other members of the commission.
As I pointed out in my second-reading speech, broadcasting in Australia is an undeveloped industry. In this country, only 5 per cent, of the population is represented by licence-holders. In Great Britain, the proportion is 10 per cent., while in the United States of America, where no licence-fee is charged, 40,000,000 persons listen in, representing about 30 pei- cent, of the population. It is therefore obvious that this Commonwealth Parliament is opening up a new industry that has tremendous possibilities. At present, the revenue derived from this source is about £403,000 per annum. If the commission knows its job and sets about it properly, it is not too optimistic to expect that the revenue from broadcasting will reach £1,000,000 per annum in twelve or eighteen months. In view of the magnitude of the proposal, a salary of £1,000 or £1,500 is insignificant. By being parsimonious now, we may save £1,000 or £1,500 a year, and throw away hundreds of thousands of pounds. I impress upon honorable members that Australia is the most backward of the civilized countries in respect of broadcasting.
– Nonsense !
– When he says “ Nonsense “, the honorable member is merely displaying his ignorance on the subject. It should be the endeavour of the broadcasting commission to double the present revenue. That cannot be done if its members are part-time officials, for then they will spend only a couple of hours a week on the work of the commission, and hand over control to the general manager. I do not wish to waste time in debating a proposition that is so obvious, but urge the Government to do the job properly while it is about it.
– I entirely agree with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) regarding the possibilities of wireless broadcasting in Australia during the next few years, and the necessity for the most efficient control of this service in order that the fullest advantages may be derived from it; but I do not agree with the method which he proposes to achieve that result. I understand the object of the amendment to be to provide £1,000 per annum for the chairman of the proposed board, £500 per annum for the deputy chairman, aud £400 per annum for each of the other directors. If we were to establish a fulltime board, consisting of the best brains available - men of experience, knowledge and vision, capable of realizing all the possibilities of broadcasting - it would be impossible to get them for the salaries suggested.
– I do not suggest that the members of the board should necessarily give the whole of their time to the work; but that the bulk of their time should be given to it.
– Even that would mean that every other activity in which they might be engaged would have to take a subsidiary place. We could not get men of the right kind to devote the bulk of their time to the work for the salaries suggested; such remuneration would attract mcn of only second-class or even third-class calibre. If, in the future, wireless broadcasting is to affect the lives of the people to the degree that the honorable member who moved the amendment expects, we shall have to pay, not £1,000 per annum, but £3,000, or, perhaps, even £0,000, to get the right man for chairman. In big business enterprises it is customary to have a capable mau as chief executive officer - a man worth the high salary he is paid - and he works under the general direction of an advisory board or board of directors, who, in collaboration with him, frame the policy of the concern. 1 suggest that something along those lines is bettor in this1 case than what the honorable member for New England has proposed.
– Would it not be wise to make the chairman of the board the chief executive officer?
– I do not think so. No government could have the same intimate knowledge of the business of broadcasting as would be possessed by a properly constituted board of directors, and consequently, the board would be the better fitted to appoint the right person as chief executive officer. I do not consider that the remuneration to be paid to members of the board should be high. For thi* chairman of a board of directors of over big enterprise £500 per annum is large payment, and £1,000 per annum is unusual. I have been a director of a great number of companies, and the maximum I have received in that capacity is £300 per annum. That was the amount T received as a director of the National Mutual Insurance Company, one of the biggest insurance companies in Australia.
– What did the chairman receive?
– He was paid about £500 per annum.
– What demand on the right honorable gentleman’s time did his position as director make?
– I was expected to attend all board meetings. In controlling a service of this kind we must have either a board of part time directors, to determine the broad policy to be followed, leaving it to the chief executive officer to carry out that policy, or a board of directors to actually manage the concern themselves. If the latter system is adopted we must pay the members of the board high salaries. But in my opinion, we shall get the best results by adopting the proposal embodied in the bill, paying relatively good fees to members of a board of directors to determine the broad lines to be followed, and leaving the carrying out of their policy to the board’s executive officers, the latter to be men receiving high salaries because of their qualifications for the positions they hold.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) and regret that the Government does not see its way to accept it. I should like to see the chairman of the board a full-time officer with a salary of £1,500 per annum as was suggested in the original bill.
– My proposal is a fair compromise.
– Directors of companies are sometimes chosen, not because of their knowledge of the business concerned, or, indeed, their business acumen generally, but because of their military or other titles. There can be no comparison between the director of an insurance company and a member of the board which will control wireless broadcasting in Australia. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) said that to get the right man for the position of chairman, we must be prepared to pay £5,000 per annum. I remind the committee that the British Broadcasting Corporation, with a revenue of over £2,000,000 per annum, pays its chairman of directors, who is a full-time officer, only £3,000 per annum. In return for margarine wages we generally get margarine work. That may be all right in the case of many companies; but we are now dealing with something of greater importance than an ordinary insurance company. A great deal of organizing must first be done. In that respect, the work in Australia will be harder than that now required of the officers of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Their work is now proceeding along well-ordered lines, whereas we, in Australia, will be embarking on what is largely an uncharted sea. The late Government had in mind a man eminently suited for the position of chairman, who was prepared to devote the whole of his time to the work for £1,500 per annum. There are other men possessing the necessary technical knowledge who are public-spirited enough to devote their whole time to this work for £1,500 per annum. We cannot expect them to do the work for less.
– I agree that the remuneration should be £1,500, and am willing to move to that effect if the Government will accept the proposal.
– Considering that the revenue from listeners is £403,000 per annum, it is foolish to waste time in deciding whether the salary shall be £500, £1,000, or £1,500 per annum for the important position of chairman. For the deputy chairman, £400 per annum would be a sufficient remuneration, and for the other directors £300 per annum, because their duties would be similar to those of the directors of an ordinary company.
.- I shall have to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) in order to achieve what I desire. When I spoke this afternoon I had in mind a chairman who would devote the whole of his time to this work. I still hold that view, notwithstanding the remarks of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr-. Bruce). The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), and the honorable member for NewEngland have suggested that the chairman should be paid £1,500 per annum. I consider that in these times £1,000 per annum is a sufficient remuneration for the chairman. Nor do I fear that we should have difficulty in finding a suitable man at that remuneration.
The revenue from broadcasting in Great Britain is about £2,000,000 per annum, while in Australia it is only £403,000 per annum. The British Broadcasting Commission consists of five members. The chairman of the board receives a salary of £3,000 per annum, the vicechairman, £1,000, and the other three members, £700 each. We are a young country and broadcasting has not developed in Australia to the same extent as in Great Britain. It appears to me, therefore, that, proportionately, we should be doing well if we provide a salary of £1,000 per annum for the chairman of this proposed commission. E shall, therefore, support the amendment with the object of indicating to the Government that I think the salary should be £1,000 per annum.
.- The salary which the Government proposes to pay to the chairman of this commission will be too great if the results of the commission’s operations are similar to the results achieved by other commissions appointed by the Bruce-Page Government. On the other hand, a salary of £1,500 per annum might be profitable to the taxpayers if it would prevent the appointment of some of the political friends of the Government. We shall do well to remember that although the listeners-in are required to pay their licence fees to the Government, the control of broadcasting is being taken out of the hands of the Government. In these circumstances, it seems to me that the listeners-in should be protected in some way. Who will appoint the chairman of this commission ? Will the- Minister have any power to do so, or will the appointment bc made by the commission itself? What has been wrong with our wireless administration in the past? If the listeners in are not to have any power in respect of the proposed commission, aud Parliament itself is to have no power, to whom will the commission be answerable? In my opinion, the programmes being broadcast from A class stations at present are reasonably good, although there is room for some improvement. Is it necessary at a time when the country is on the verge of bankruptcy to incur additional expenditure by paying high salaries to the members of this proposed commission? I am not prepared to vote in favour of the payment of large salaries, without knowing to whom they are to be paid. The people of this country have had a bitter experience of royal commissions. The Director of Posts and Telegraphs is receiving a salary of about $3,000. Is it proposed that another department shall be set up and that the head of it shall receive a similar salary? At a time when the Commonwealth Government and the various State Governments are doing their utmost to reduce the numerical strength and cost of the Public Service, it seems to me to be ridiculous to even think of appointing outside persons to positions such as that which we are now considering. We encourage our young people to sit for examinations to qualify for appointment to the Public Service, and yet it is proposed to appoint to an important position of this kind, a person outside the Public Service. Surely, there are officers of the Public Service who are quite capable of making a success of wireless broadcasting. It cannot be expected that any business man who has a high appreciation of his abilities will offer his services to the Commonwealth Government for £500 per annum in order to take charge of our broadcasting enterprises. Instead of providing high salaries for commissioners to control broadcasting we ought to be spending what money we have to improve the broadcasting service to the people by building relay stations to serve country districts. The people who live next door to the music halls and picture shows in our cities do not need wireless broadcasting to entertain them. On the other hand, the people who live outback do need it, and, in my opinion, they should be given the best possible programmes,1 and should not be compelled to listen to broadcast advertisements to the effect that somebody’s sausages or vacuum cleaners are better than those offered for sale by somebody else. If this Government is* in earnest in its economy campaign, it will not agree to pay unnecessarily large salaries to the members of the proposed broadcasting commission. If the revenue from broadcasting is buoyant, let it be spent in providing country people with better programmes and a good news service. Let the Government appoint a qualified educationalist to provide children in remote areas and in isolated centres with additional educational facilities. If classical music is broadcast in Italian, let somebody be appointed who can explain the music to the people. Some honorable members have had something to say about the age of pianos and so on. They do not seem to realize that there are people living in our outback areas who have never seen a piano.
– Shame !
– It is all very well for the Minister for the Interior to make a remark of that kind. He can leave Canberra at 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon, visit two or three picture shows or entertainments on the Saturday, and do likewise on Monday, and then return to his political duties; but the people in our country districts cannot do anything of the kind. Under existing conditions, it would be ridiculous for us to provide a salary of £500 for a part-time job for somebody. Then we must remember that a manager has to be appointed to take charge of this business. Will he be paid a salary of £3,000 per annum like the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, although the members of the Broadcasting Commission will receive a salary of from. £500 to £400 a year? This Government is very generous when it is spending other people’s money. It is quite ready to approve of the payment of a miserable wage of £2 lis. to the workers for a couple of weeks at a time, or from 5s. to 8s. a week as a dole to the unemployed when it has to provide the money; but when the listeners-in are providing the money it favours the payment of high salaries. What redress will the listeners-in have if this commission is a failure? But, after all, any loss will have to be found not by the listeners-in but by the general taxpayers. I think that wireless should be nationalized, and that members of the Public Service should be appointed to take charge of it. If our well-trained Public Service is not’ capable of managing a wireless enterprise, it should be abolished. I consider that wireless broadcasting, is being conducted on fairly efficient lines at present, and that there is no need to change the policy in a period such as we are now passing through. Let the present controlling authorities improve their programmes, and provide educational facilities for country people, and cease advertising that Antonio’s pork sausages may he obtained in Pitt-street, and we shall find that the number of listeners-in will increase. If the A class stations were required to broadcast better programmes, and if additional relay stations were provided, there would be no need for so many B class stations, and no need to appoint a board of commissioners at heavy additional expenditure to the country at a time when national bankruptcy is facing us.
.- While I am entirely in sympathy with the object of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) in moving the amendment, I am afraid he has diverted attention from the issue raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) in his opening speech on this clause. The honorable member inquired where the Ministry anticipated obtaining the persons who are to be the members of the proposed commission, and the type of person the Minister is seeking in constituting it. I submit that, before the committee determines what remuneration shall be fixed under this clause, it is necessary to have in our minds some clear idea of the kind of service we expect from t hese commissioners, in order that we may know what to offer to secure the right type of person. I listened ‘attentively to the whole of the debate on the second reading, and I believe that the committee has a clear conception of the service which the commission, when constituted, is to afford, to the nation. May I say at once that those services are entirely different from those rendered by the directors of a commercial company to its shareholders. The duties of directors terminate with the production at the end of the year of a satisfactory balance-sheet. When a satisfactory dividend has been declared, the board has deserved well of those who elected it to its position of responsibility. But the proposed commission is not to prepare a balance-sheet which is to be measured in pounds, shillings and pence. “No doubt it will be expected of the commission that it shall make broadcasting pay - that it shall not be a burden upon
Consolidated Revenue. That could be done by Mr. Stuart Doyle. We need not look beyond him if the sole consideration is that the enterprise shall pay. If any one could make broadcasting pay that gentleman could do it, but in exactly the same way as he has made the picture-show business pay : by appealing to the most ignorant prejudices of the community and prostituting this new and extraordinarily scientific service to the baser instincts of the poorest, intellectually, in our community. If that is the ideal, we need not have a commission at all. I could, myself, by simply throwing a brick into the crowd of theatrical managers who assemble in King-street, Sydney, at a certain hour every day, and picking out the man whom the brick hits, find some one who could make this undertaking pay in pounds, shillings, and pence. But, as pointed out during the second-reading debate, this is an opportunity to revitalize the spiritual and intellectual life of the nation. This commission is to be charged with that duty, and no other. A, business man must be included in the personnel, because, undoubtedly, we shall need business management from the point of view of finance; but a business mau by himself will be of no value in conducting this enterprise. This is not, despite the observations of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), an organization for selling sausages, but for the sale of ideas and the giving of inspiration. Surely the Minister, after the lengthy debate that has taken place, and the time he has had for meditation, should be able to give us some idea of the type of personality that he hopes to secure for the commission. I submit to the committee that the duties of the members of the proposed commission should not be confused with the functions of a general manager. The task of the general manager, T assume - subject to correction by those better informed on the subject - will be to conduct the enterprise day by day, to arrange for the broadcasting of suitable programmes, to arrange for the engagement of artists where necessary, for the reproduction of important concerts, and possibly for the broadcasting of the debates in this House, if they can be regarded as contributing to the spiritual and intellectual advancement of the community. Possibly arrangements could also be made for the broadcasting of the debates in the New South Wales Parliament ! , Such will be the- duties of the general manager. I have no doubt that, he will have to see that the necessary number of programmes are provided daily. But the duty of the commission will be to determine the general policy of the enterprise, the standards to be achieved, the kind of mental pabulum to be broadcast. Is it to undertake, as the British Broadcasting Corporation does, the teaching of foreign languages, .the teaching of history, and the broadcasting of information on foreign affairs? The conditions in Australia are quite unlike those in Great Britain, but matters such as those I have mentioned must be decided by some one, and I take it that the commission will have to determine them. This committee is entitled to ask who are to be the persons to determine these points. Are they to be university professors, gentlemen drawn from the public schools, or others who have recently occupied the attention of legislators in another Parliament? These considerations have to be determined by some one, and I understood the Minister to say that such determinations would be reached by the commission. I ask the Minister at this stage, while the question of remuneration is still undetermined, and honorable members are endeavouring to make up their minds as to what payments they should sanction, to tell us the kind of men by whom these emoluments are to be received. We shall then have a fair idea whether a person receiving £300 a year as mentioned by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) is the ideal man or whether he is not. I have not had anything like the commercial experience which the right honorable gentleman can claim; but I have met many eminently successful directors of prosperous companies who are the last men I should wish to see as members of the commission controlling broadcasting in Australia, because they have no ideas beyond those inspired by the worship of Mammon. I do not submit this as an argument against the amendment, which, if it should come to a vote, I shall support, but it appears to me premature to decide the value which should be placed
upon the .services of the commission until it is known what those services will be.
– Where shall we be if the amendment is carried?
– If it is carried before the committee receives such information, we shall be in a most unsatisfactory position. The Minister should agree to the postponement of the clause until further information is supplied, and if he moves in that direction I shall support him. He would then have an opportunity to give the committee some idea of what is in his mind concerning the constitution of the proposed commission. Everything will depend upon the brains that conduct it.
. - It is impossible for me to disclose, at this stage, the type of person which the Government has in mind ; but I may inform honorable members that the Government is in possession of a very long list from which the personnel of the proposed commission can be selected. Since the provisions of the bill, which contains the remuneration proposed to be paid have become public, quite a large number of eminent citizens have personally, or by proxy, offered their services to the country.
– As a part-time job.
– Some are prepared to devote the whole of their time at the remuneration proposed. Of course the position in Australia is unlike that in. older countries, particularly Great Britain, where there is a much larger number of well-to-do and highly intellectual citizens from whom a selection can be made. But I am glad to be able to state that there are men in Australia who think little or nothing of the remuneration proposed to be paid and who are sufficiently patriotic, and have time to devote to this important work. Speaking on behalf of the Government generally, I may say that no particular individual has been selected for appointment, and no selection will be. made until the measure has passed both branches of the legislature. As has been suggested by some honorable members, we have been guided by the policy of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The first chairman of that corporation was the Earl of Clarendon, who was Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs from July, 1925, to December, 1926. He was succeeded by the Right Honorable J. H. Whitley, P.C., who was for some time Speaker of the House of Commons. The chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation receives a salary of £3,000 per annum, and the charter under which the corporation is operating, provides that not more than £1,000 per annum shall be paid to the vice-chairman, and not more than £700 per annum for the three governors, one of whom is Lady Snowden. These persons were selected for their ability in formulating the policy of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
– Can the Minister supply the names of the other members of the board of governors?
Mr.FENT ON. - The first members were appointed under charter in 1907. I have already stated that the Earl of Clarendon, who was the first chairman, was succeeded by the Right Honorable J. H. Whitley, P.C., who was for some years Speaker of the House of Commons. The vicechairman is the Right Honorable Lord Gainford, P.C., a prominent business man, and there are three governors. Sir John Gordon Nairne has been succeeded by Mr. Harold G. Brown, who has had a wide experience in London business affairs, and the other two governors are Dr. Montague John Rendall and Lady Snowden. With all due respect to the board of governors, the tower of strength behind British broadcasting has been Sir John Reith, who was appointed by the British Government as DirectorGeneral. I understand that even the Director-General does not determine the programmes that are broadcast, for there is also a programme director. The governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation have enlisted the services of the best staff available. I realize that much will depend on the qualifications of the chairman and the other members of the commission to be appointed under this bill, and I have no doubt that the Government will exercise the utmost care in the selection of the personnel. The commission, in turn, will appoint its general manager-
– Why not follow the British practice in that regard?
Mr.FENTON. - In my opinion, the commission will be even better able to do that than the Government of the day. The Ministry will do its best to choose a commission, including a woman, which should be highly qualified to control broadcasting in Australia.
If we expected the members of the commission to devote the whole or a considerable part of their time to the work, neither £1,000 nor £1,500 per annum would be sufficient remuneration for the chairman. But the main officer under the chairman will be the general manager, to whom will be entrusted the executive duties. The criticism has been heard that Australia has lagged a long way behind the rest of the world in the matter of broadcasting, and complaints have been made concerning the quality of the programmes ; yet, in my opinion, remarkable progress has been made. I am confident that excellent results will be obtained under the new system of control. The members of the commission will, 1 imagine, be selected by the Cabinet as a whole, and I have no doubt that from the many qualified persons available for the work, a most satisfactory selection will be made.
.- Clauses 7 and8 appear to form the crux of the. bill, because the commission will determine the broadcasting policy to be adopted in Australia. Owing to the fact that I was engaged in a discussion with a member of the Government when clause 7 was under consideration, I did not have an opportunity of raising the point to which the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) has directed attention. I agreewith him that under clauses 7 and 8 the personnel of the commission will be practically determined. Clause 7 provides that there shall be five commissioners. I had hoped that clause 7 would have been so amended that the Director of Postal Services would have been made a member of the commission, so that this body would be established on the same lines as were followed in the inauguration of the Commonwealth Bank Board. I draw attention to the terms of the appointment of the directors ofthe Commonwealth Bank, and to the remuneration provided for them. The Commonwealth Bank Act provides that that institution is to be managed by “ a board of directors consisting of the Governor and seven other directors who, subject to the act, shall consist of the Secretary to the Treasury and six other persons “who are or have been actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance or industry “. The act then sets out the terms on which the Governor and the Deputy Governor shall hold office. The latter are to be appointed by the Government of the day, and I hope that this bill will be so amended that the general manager of the Broadcasting Commission will be appointed in that way as is the case in Great Britain, where both the general manager and the board of governors are appointed by the Government of the day.
The Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank are entitled to remunerations at such rates as are fixed by the Governor-General. That is to say, their salaries arc determined by the Executive, and may be reviewed by Parliament. Each director, other than the Governor, is entitled to remuneration at the rate of £600 per annum, or, if he is chairman of directors, £1,000 per annum. That amount has since been altered by reason of the 22£ per cent, reduction in salaries made last year under the economy plan. To-day, therefore, the chairman of directors of the bank receives about £800, and the other members of the board about £450 per annum. I suggest that it would be wise for the committee in determining the salaries of members of the Broadcasting Commission to take iis a pattern the salaries paid to the directors of the Commonwealth Bank, who have achieved signal success in the management of that institution. There is general confidence throughout Australia to-day in that board, and its members have been allotted such periods of appointment that their terms of office expire at different times. The Governor and the Deputy Governor are appointed by the Government of the day, and not by the board of directors. These gentlemen have been receiving rather higher remunerations than those suggested by the right honorable the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) as being the fees usually paid to the directors of business concerns ; but I contend that the management of broadcasting can hardly be compared with the handling of an estab lished business which is running on definite routine lines. Just as the Commonwealth Bank Act specifically provides that six of the directors shall be persons who are, or have been, actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance or industry, so it should be provided in the bill under consideration that the members of the commission must have certain qualifications. I agree that ability to make broadcasting pay should not alone be regarded as a recommendation for appointment, because the persons selected should have cultural attainments. The personnel of the British Broadcasting Corporation, to which the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Fenton) referred, shows that the British Government was guided by that principle. Lady Snowden was not selected because of business acumen, but because of her knowledge of artistic matters, and because of her intimate association with women’s affairs.
I suggest that it will be found that, if the members of the commission are to devote themselves wholeheartedly to the duties that will devolve upon them, they will not have other pecuniary resources which would enable them to be quite indifferent as to the amount of their remuneration as members of the commission. Therefore, I urge that the salaries should be practically identical with those paid to the directors of the Commonwealth Bank Board. That is not as large an amount as that mentioned by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), or by the exPostmasterGeneral, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). I agree with the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that we should watch every shilling we spend, but we must be certain that we enlist the services of the most competent person available for the work of chairman of the commission! This officer should be prepared to devote the maximum amount of time to the work during the ensuing five years. I should say it will be almost a whole-time job, even if it is not paid for as such, to organize national broadcasting along proper lines. No matter how capable the general manager may be, success will not be achieved unless highly qualified persons are selected to constitute the commission. Perhaps the Minister would be prepared to recommit clause 7, because, as I have said, when it was passed I was engaged on an important discussion with a member of the Cabinet. We ought to have the assurance for which the honorable member for Martin has asked. We do not know the character of the personnel to be selected. The suggestions that I have put forward are not offered in a hostile spirit, my only desire being to make the bill of real value. I take it that the Government has not made up its mind as to the individuals to be appointed to the commission. Possibly the most suitable persons available are among those who have not applied for appointment. I should like to know exactly the type of person that is to be appointed. With that knowledge in our possession we should be able to judge with greater certainty what ought to be done.
.- The analogy of the control of the Commonwealth Bank is useful in the framing of this measure; but the differences between that institution and the proposed Broadcasting Commission are so great that, in my opinion, it would be utterly unwise to adopt it in its entirety as a model. The office of chairman of directors of the bank is very much more onerous and of far greater importance to the country than that of the chairmanship of the Broadcasting Commission can possibly be. Being a purely commercial institution, it is practicable to specify that the directors of that- institution shall possess certain commercial qualifications. But broadcasting covers a very much wider field, and one that has yet to be explored, whereas banking has already been explored and proved for many years. -Any list of persons qualified by previous occupation for appointment to the Broadcasting Commission would have to be either so small that probably it would exclude many desirable persons, or so wide as to render the process impracticable.
The first principle that the committee has to determine is, what is to be the character of the principal officer of this commission? There must be one man to whom we shall look to provide the motive power for the general development of broadcasting; and the question is, whether that man should be the chairman of the commission or a subsequently appointed general manager. The Cabinet has decided that the commission shall be advisory in character, and I take it that its constitution will be followed by the appointment of a general manager possessing, high technical qualifications. Prom what I have heard, I am not prepared to say that the decision of the Government is a wrong one; therefore, I shall support it. But whatever method is decided upon should be adopted completely* The amendment is a sort of compromise between two ideas that have been put forward. If the commission is to be purely advisory in character, it seems to me that the remuneration proposed is quite adequate. In the present state of our finances, we should receive no credit from the country if we were to pay higher rates. Under the amendment the salaries would be practically doubled, but yet would not provide for adequate remuneration in the case of the technical officer to whom we must look to carry out the details of the scheme. Either one method or the other must be decided upon. I prefer that which the Government proposes, of appointing an advisory commission in the first place, and, subsequently, a general manager to carry out the details. Whether that officer should be appointed by the Minister or by the commission itself, is not of very great moment. There are considerations in favour of the appointment being made by the commission. In the first place, those who make the appointment should have the time to prosecute very considerable inquiries. In view of the many other matters engaging the attention of Ministers at the present time, I cannot agree that they are in a particularly strong position, to form the most accurate judgment as to the best man to be appointed. I should think that the members of the commission, whose one publicservice will be the control of broadcasting,, should occupy a better position to form an accurate judgment.
But there is another good reason why the matter should be left in the hands of the commission. We have heard a good deal concerning what is described as political influence. An appointment that was made by the commission would bc entirely free from that objection. On the whole, I consider that the Government has advanced the best proposals, and I shall therefore give it my support in regard to clauses 7 and S.
.- I shall support the amendment moved by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), as I consider that he lias advanced sound reasons in favour of that course. I was not at all impressed by the remarks of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) when he compared positions on this commission with directorships of insurance companies. The right honorable gentleman said that he had never received more than £300 a year as a director of an insurance company. So far as 1 am aware, the directors of such institutions meet about once every two months, when the general manager reads a report to them, and they approve of it, although some of them do not understand the nature of its contents. They do not exercise that close supervision over the management of the undertaking that I hope will bc exercised by this commission in regard to broadcasting. That is why, in the measure drafted by the last Government, provision was made for the appointment of a full-time chairman of the commission, who would be prepared to devote the whole of his time to the work. I believe that, for £1,500 a year, it should bc possible to obtain the services of a man possessing all the necessary qualifications. I trust that the other members of the commission are not going to be selected from the directorates of importing companies in Flinders-lane or York-street, men who have an aptitude for making profits, but no knowledge of music or other forms of art. No man should be selected because of his flair for making a success of big business. Those who are appointed to the directorates of companies at a remuneration of £300 a year arc usually men who have made a success of big business. An altogether different class of man is required in this case. Throughout Australia to-day may be found scores of very able musicians and theatrical managers who are earning less than £500 a year. Some of the ablest musicians in Australia are not earning £300 a year at the present time. These men and women probably possess all the qualifications needed for a position such as this. I believe that the office of chairman should be filled by a person who can, and is willing to, devote the whole of his time to the job. The other commissioners should devote the bulk of their time to the work. I believe it is possible to get five people with the necessary qualifications who will be prepared to do that. The PostmasterGeneral has not stated what salary is to be paid to the general manager, but the speech of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) indicated that the amount will be £3,000 or £4,000 a year. Having regard to the present state qf the finances, is it wise to have a board, composed possibly of friends of the Government, drawing fees without bearing the responsibility of management? I am strongly opposed to the appointment of a general manager at a salary of upwards of £3,000 a. yew: The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) advanced good reasons why the chairman of the commission should receive £1,500 a year, and by giving the whole -of his time to the job, obviate the necessity for a general manager. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said that he hoped that the general manager would be appointed by the commission, and not by the Government, in order to minimize the risk of political influence being brought to bear on the office. But if thirteen members of a cabinet are likely to be swayed by political considerations, is it not possible that five commissioners receiving salaries of from £300 to £500 would be equally amenable to undue influence? Surely it is reasonable to assume that greater reliance can be placed iti the judgment of a cabinet con.sisting, presumably, of the ablest men in the Government party of the day, drawn from all parts of the Commonwealth, and fully conscious of their responsibility. Undoubtedly, the Government should appoint the general manager if such an appointment is to be made, in the same way as it appoints the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, although the board of that institution has much wider powers than will be possessed by the broadcasting commission. I hope the amendment will be carried.
– I agree with those who hold that the success of the commission will depend on its personnel. I elaborated this point in my speech on the second reading. I have no doubt that a large number of capable persons are willing to serve on the commission for patriotic reasons, but it is evident that the chairmanship of that body calls for special qualifications which may not be possessed by patriotic volunteers. I can envisage the commission functioning very well, providing that the chairman, who will direct the undertaking, is of the right type. In the last resort, businesses succeed or fail according to the manner in which they are directed by their executive heads. Therefore, however cogent may be the contention that the ordinary members of the commission should exercise control and supervision similar to that exercised by directors of companies, the position of the chairman is on an entirely different plane. What kind of man should he be? I do not subscribe to that denunciation of business men which has been voiced by some honorable members. A successful business man may be also a man of wide reading, cultured taste, and refinement. But he is no more likely to be suitable for the chairmanship of this commission because he is a business man than is a theatrical manager. The chairman should be a man of broad vision and wide knowledge; he must have more than a nodding acquaintance with books, and know literature from trash. He should be also a lover of the arts, and be, if not a musician, at least a lover of good music. Such men do not grow on every bush. No salary will be too high to pay a man with the requisite qualifications. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) lightly said that in these times we have to look carefully at every penny ; yet upon the chairman of the commission will depend the development or decline of broadcasting. Of course, a tremendous responsibility will rest upon the general manager also, and I endorse the concept of his duties expressed by the Leader of the Country party. The general manager will implement the policy of the commission, but that policy will be fundamental and vital. The listener is not concerned with the business side of broadcasting: whether it is profitable or not, he pays 24s. a year, and, in colloquial language wants the worth of his money. But the commission may give him his money’s worth, and still be doing a wrong to the community. It may play down to the people instead of trying to elevate them. The function of the commission will be to raise the general stan-dard of knowledge and culture, but that must be done judiciously. The pill of learning must be heavily coated with sugar. A suggestion has been made that the C class stations should become the founts of culture and learning. That proposal is excellent in theory, but the practical obstacles are fairly obvious. It will be difficult to arrange for standing room for the C class stations. What wave length are they to use? If they have a wave length within the limit now set down there will be much confusion and a good deal of dismay in the minds of listeners-in. As it is, surprising results are being obtained from the C class Stations. I remember listening-in one night to a finished elocutionist who had just exclaimed -
Oh! pardon me thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am weak and gentle with these butchers !
When suddenly his flow of eloquence was interrupted, and I was informed by an entirely different voice that such and such a horse was eight lengths ahead coming into the straight. If I linger for a moment with the philosophers in the groves on a C class station, I am suddenly confronted with the news that a certain pugilistic gentleman is retreating to the corner, is given an uppercut and knocked out. So I reluctantly place the C class stations on one side. For reasons of this kind the A class stations have to provide programmes that will be acceptable to the people. I am sure that the Minister realizes the tremendous importance of broadcasting, because he spoke on this matter as one inspired. The possibilities of broadcasting are immense. It must affect public opinion and the character of the people. We live in an age of democracy and whether this country is well or ill-governed depends entirely upon the character of the people and the spread of general knowledge.
The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) referred to foreign affairs. On several occasions honorable members have asked for an opportunity to discuss foreign affairs, but it is not too much to say that no matter how honorable mem; bers plead for such an opportunity, when one is given there are rarely more than three honorable members in the chamber. In the main that is owing to abysmal ignorance of foreign affairs, except, of course, on the part of the chosen band of intelligentsia gathered here to-night, and to constitutional intolerance to become acquainted with them in any case. I am not going to say that in discussing this legislation we should concern ourselves with foreign affairs, but the business of this commission is to provide entertainment and instruction happily blended; the instruction being given in tabloid form, gradually increasing the dose; to provide the people, for example, with something in music worth while instead of jazz and ragtime, to give them some idea of literature and of art. But to do that we require as chairman of the commission a man of ripe judgment and deep knowledge. Let us suppose that we put a business man in that position. The amassing of money is, of course, an art. It is one that I have never acquired; few of us indeed have done so, but there is no doubt that it is the most satisfactory form of intellectual amusement that can be well conceived. The chairman should be capable of directing this unique commission, whose business it is not so much to show a profit, although it must do so, as to draw up programmes that will be satisfactory as well as profitable to the people. It must increase the number of listeners-in ; it must inform their minds and refine their tastes. I know that the Government has made up its mind about the board generally, and I do not intend to offer further criticism of its plan; but I suggest that, in regard to the chairman of the commission, the Government might well make a compromise with this committee. The chairman ought to give his whole time to the job. There will, of course, be a general manager, whose duties will be immensely important. I do not think that we could obtain a better general manager than the gentleman- managing the present day stations. He is a most excellent manager, but his duty will be to give effect to the policy of the commission. Who is to direct the general manager? Surely not a man who devotes an hour or two weekly to the business. What is necessary is a man who devotes his whole time to the job. I ask the Minister to meet the committee in this matter by making the position of chairman a fulltime job at a reasonable salary. What is a reasonable salary the Government must determine. We should hardly get such a mau as I have indicated under £2,000 a year, but, as to that, I shall not tie myself down. I put that suggestion to the Minister and ask him to give it serious consideration.
.- On this clause I disagree with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) and the Leader of the Country Party (Dr. Earle Page). The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) presupposes that the chairman of directors will direct the whole of the undertaking, but my knowledge of business leads me to believe that the general manager will be the responsible officer. The Government should accept the responsibility for the appointment of the general manager and not leave the selection to others, because it is most important that that officer should know the business from A to Z. The chairman of directors will have certain responsibilities, and will be the mouthpiece of the board. He will report to the general manager any suggestions of the board. If the chairman of directors were to control the whole undertaking, innumerable quarrels would arise among the members of the board and the management. The fee of the chairman should not be more than £500 a year, which, with one sitting a week, represents £10 a sitting, or with two sittings a week, £5 a sitting. That is a substantial fee. I agree with the proposal of the Government. The most important task is to dis cover managers to direct affairs in each State. Everything else should run smoothly. If I am satisfied that a proper general manager is to be appointed, I shall not worry very much about the members of the commission except to hope that they will know much more about wireless than I do.
– The diversity of opinion on this clause shows its importance. But there has been a tendency to confuse the functions of the commissioners with those of the general manager. I was interested in the exposition by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) of the duties of a board of directors. I quite agree with his declaration that it is the responsibility of a board of directors to make a business pay. But a board of directors has also other functions to perform; it has, for example, to evolve a policy ; and it has a definite duty to serve the public. The task of this commission, will be, not particularly to make broadcasting, pay, but to take into consideration the fact that it has a great revenue to expend, and that it must render a definite service to the public. It will evolve the policy to be carried out by the general manager and his staff. It will not necessarily be its function to draw up programmes or try to satisfy the public’s taste for the best music obtainable for putting over the air, but it must evolve an intricate system and network of broadcasting to satisfy and serve the general public. It must handle broadcasting in a businesslike way and on that account must consist of men of business principles, or at any rate, of men with a full understanding of the fundamental principles of business. The argument of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) that £1,500 should be paid to the chairman of this commission was unsound, because he went on to say that we could not hope to get men of any calibre at £500 a year. Is it his idea that so long as the chairman is paid £1,500 a year, any Tom, Dick or Harry may be chosen to fill the other positions on the commission? We cannot get a man with a national sense and breadth of vision who will be satisfied to work full time for £1,500 a year. But we can secure for this commission men with national ideas and breadth of vision who will be willing to act for the benefit of their country for a fee which is sufficient to recoup them for travelling and out-of-pocket expenses. It is necessary to distinguish the functions of the commission from those of the general’ manager. The commission must direct the policy of the concern, and evolve an intricate network of service for the country as a whole, but the general manager and his staff must “accept the responsibility for carrying out that policy, deciding the best method of putting it over the air, choosing the artists and so forth. I have much pleasure in supporting the Government on this clause, the intention of which, as I read it, is not to provide a sum sufficient to induce a man supposed to be worth £5,000 a year to devote his whole time for £1,500 a year.
– I should like to read a paragraph from the report of the Broadcasting Committee in Great Britain which, I understand, made its investigations, not only in Great Britain, but in other parts of the world as well. The committee was presided over by the right honorable the Earl of Crawford, and was known as the Crawford Committee. In regard to the personnel of a broadcasting commission, the committee said -
Personnel of the commission. - However, the new commission bc constituted, the problem of organizing the board or governing body and its committees seems to us identical, lt has been suggested in evidence that the board should be composed of persons representing various interests, such as music, science, drama, education, finance, manufacturing and so forth. We cannot accept this view, since compromise and even conflict might ensure owing to division of allegiance. On the contrary, we hold that the actual commissioners should be persons of judgment and independence, free of commitments, and that they will inspire confidence by- having no other interests to promote than those of the public service. We hope they will be nien and women of business acumen and experienced in affairs.
I could advance no better argument than that.
– Yet Great Britain appointed a chairman at the salary of £3,000 per annum.
– That may be so, but, I saw that paragraph, and thought I had better read it to the committee. I trust that the clause will be passed to-night.
.- I hope that the committee will accept the Government’s proposal, although from a standpoint, of expense, it does not matter very much whether an alternative, which has been suggested, is adopted. A chair- man at £500 per annum, a vice-chairman at £400 per annum, three commissioners at £300 each per annum, and a general manager at £3,000 per annum will cost approximately £5,000. A full-time chairman at , £3,000, and two commissioners at £1,500 and £1,000 respectively would cost little more. Some honorable members seem to entertain the idea that, before we pass the salary clause, the Government should announce the identity of the men it is proposed to appoint to the commission. Such an idea is absurd. The Government alone should be responsible for the selection of these men. If it makes a mistake, that is its responsibility, and it will have to answer to Parliament and to the public. So varied and lofty are the qualifications which some honorable members seem to think are necessary to qualify men for appointment to this commission, that the only hope of satisfying them, I should imagine, would he for the angel Gabriel to come down from heaven to take the job. The real question which we are called upon to decide is whether we should appoint part-time members to the commission, or full-time men at commensurate salaries. I disagree with the statements of some honorable members that the chairmen of companies usually appear at their offices only once a week. There may be some chairmen like that; but I know personally of some who attend their offices every morning to consult with the general manager. Members of the Country party must also know that the chairman of one of their insurance companies attends his office every morning. It would be a waste of money to appoint to a commission men who would give only a portion of their time to the work, as suggested by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). I suggest that we should appoint a chairman at £3,000, a vice-chairman at £1,500 a year, and another member at £1,000 a year.
.- A good deal of time has already been wasted by the committee in discussing the advisability of appointing men who would give a part or the whole of their time to the work of the commission. It has been said that the commission, to be effective, must be composed of men of high intellectual attainment; that we must obtain the services of the best brains to be found in Australia. There will have to be a central meeting place for the commission, whether it be in Sydney, Melbourne, or elsewhere. If one of these brainy men, resident in Western Australia, is appointed to the commission, and he is expected to attend the meetings of the commission in Sydney once or twice a week, his must necessarily be a full-time job, because all his time would be taken up either in travelling or sitting. Therefore, if the members of the commission are expected to give only a portion of their time to the work, we can get out of our heads the idea that the commission is to be composed of intellectual giants drawn from all parts of the Commonwealth. If it is to be a part-time job, the members of the commission must all be resident in the city where the commission is to meet, otherwise it will be necessary to set up a commission to which the members will give the whole of their time. In this respect I find myself, for the first time in my life, in agreement with the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane).
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Thompson’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
GovernmentDepartmental Reorganization : Status of Senior Officers - Senate Vacancy : Validity of Choice of Senator Mooney.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I shall be glad if the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will lay on the table of the Library any recommendations made by, or communications received from, the Public Service Board concerning recent alterations in the status of the permanent heads of several government departments, including Mr. P. A. Gourgaud, formerly secretary of the “Works Department”; Mr. H. C. Brown, who has been appointed secretary to the Department of the Interior, and Mr. P. E. Deane, who was, until recently, secretary of the Department of Home Affairs.
On the 17th of March, I asked the Prime Minister the following question : -
As grave doubts have arisen as to the validity of the appointment by the New South Wales Parliament of Senator Mooney to fill the vacancy caused in the Senate by the resignation last December of Senator Duncan, will the Government refer the facts of the case to the High- Court, or the appropriate tribunal, with the object of obtaining a decision for guidancein future cases of the kind?
The facts are, I think, well known to honorable members.
-What are they?
– A similar situation arose in South Australia following the death of Senator Chapman. That vacancy was filled by the South Australian Parliament which appointed Mr. Kneebone, but at the last general election Senator Kneebone was defeated by Mr. DuncanHughes who has taken his place in the Senate. In New South Wales, as honorable members will remember, Senator Duncan resigned early in December, and the State Parliament on, I think, the 24th of December, appointed Mr. Mooney, who at present is sitting as one of the senators for that State, although at the last general election the third vacancy “was filled by the election of Mr. Hardy, retiring Senators Cox and Greene being reelected. Senator-elect Hardy has not yet taken his place in that chamber, but, as I have explained, in the representation of South Australia, Senator Kneebone was retired and Mr. Duncan-Hughes took his place. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Parkhill), to whom my inquiry on the 17 th March was referred, to-day supplied the following answer : -
The matter is one for the Court of Disputed Returns and can only be decided by that court. Section 185 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides, inter alia, that a petition to that court shall be signed by a candidate or by a person entitled to vote and be filed within forty days after the return of the writ. The writ in this case was returned on 13th January, and it is accordingly too late for any action to be taken under section 185. There is no authority under existing legislation for the Commonwealth to refer the case to the High Court as suggested by the honorable member.
As similar cases may arise in the future, I suggest that the Minister for the Interior should apply for a direction on the subject, so that there may be no doubts as to the validity of any such appointments, whether they be to fill vacancies caused by death, as in the case of Senator Chapman, or by resignation, as in the case of Senator Duncan.
– The matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) was also brought up in another place. The answer that was supplied to the question asked by the honorable member explains the position from the legal point of- view. The obtaining of a direction on the subject is clearly a matter which concerns the aggrieved person. The Constitution provides that only a candidate or voter concerned can approach the High Court in such circumstances. The electoral administration had no duty to perform in connexion with the resignation of Senator Duncan or the election of Senator Mooney. The procedure is set out in section 21 of the Constitution, which reads -
Whenever a vacancy happens in the Senate, the President, or if there is no President, or if the President is absent from thu Commonwealth, the Governor-General, shall notify the same to the Governor of the State in the representation of which the vacancy has happened.
That procedure was followed.’ Further action is then taken in accordance with section IS of the Constitution which- provides, inter aiia -
If the place .of a ‘ senator becomes vacant before thu expiration of his term of service, the Houses of Parliament of the State for which he was chosen shall, sitting .and voting together, choose a person to hold the place until the expiration of the term, or until’ the election of a. successor as hereafter provided, whichever first happens . . . .At the next general ejection of members of the House of Representatives or at the next election of senators for the State, whichever first happens, a successor shall, - if the term has. not then expired, be chosen to hold the place from the date ‘ of his election until the expiration of the term. The name of any senator so chosen shall be certified by the Governor of the State to the Governor-General.
Prior to Senator Duncan’s resignation on the ‘1st December, a writ had been issued by His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales, commanding the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in that State to cause election to be made according to law of three senators to serve in the Senate- from and after the 1st July, 1932.
– I rise to a point of order. . Is it right for an honorable member to make a statement in this chamber affecting the validity of the representation in another chamber? I submit that this House would be properly aggrieved if similar action were taken ib another place, and, if my view is considered by you .to be correct, sir, I suggest that the Minister should not proceed further at this stage.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) is one of considerable importance/ I was rather surprised when the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) proceeded to read the reply to a question that he had asked. These replies are handed to the Clerk of the House, without being read, so that the Chair has no knowledge of. them at the time. However, I assume that the Minister has investigated, the matter, and if he believes ‘ that he is strictly within his rights in replying to the honorable member, for Richmond, I am not prepared to rule that he is out of order.
– 1 have no doubt as to the correctness of the course that I’ am pursuing. This -matter comes under the administration of the Department of the Interior, and I am of the opinion that the honorable member for Richmond is entitled to ask a question concerning the administration of that department, particularly in regard to the machinery by which Parliament is elected. To continue, the election took place accordingly, and the writ was duly returned. It is contended that the proper procedure was adopted. There is no provision in the Constitution for the withdrawal of the writ and the creation of a set of circumstances that would have permitted an election to take place for the vacancy that resulted from Senator Duncan’s resignation. Even if a new writ had been issued for the Senate elections, an expenditure of something like £30,000 would have been involved. In view of the discussion that has arisen, the Government intends to ask the Crown Law authorities to examine the matter more closely.
– In reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green); regarding the changes that have taken place among certain heads of departments, I will gladly make available in the way he suggests any papers or reports connectedwith the matter.
Question resolved in,, the affirmative.
House adjourned at . 1 1 .7 p:m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 April 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320428_reps_13_134/>.