16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. JI. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - The House is aware than an enemy attempt was made during the night of Sunday, the 31st May, and Monday, the 1st June, to damage shipping in Sydney Harbour by means of a submarine attack. The attempt was unsuccessful. Its failure was due to the preparedness of our defences for such an attempt, and the prompt counter-attack carried out by harbour defence vessels and other warships in the harbour. It would appear that three enemy submarines participated in the attack. AH were destroyed. The total damage inflicted by them before they were destroyed was the sinking of a Sydney ferry steamer which was used as a depot ship for naval ratings. It is regretted that, of the personnel on board the vessel at the time, six naval ratings were killed, and thirteen are missing, believed killed. Their next-of-kin have been informed. In addition, ten ratings were injured.
Long before Japan entered the war, and when Australia seemed remote from the possibility of naval attack, steps had been taken to safeguard the defences of our ports. Fortunately, therefore, upon Japan’s engagement in hostilities, we were well prepared for any eventuality. The completeness of those preparations was made apparent to the enemy in his attack on Sydney. It must be recognized that the form of attack was such that it was difficult to counter. The enemy used midget submarines, which were able to make an entry to the harbour through channels that would be denied to a larger ship. Furthermore, carrying only two men and having been built for the definite object of objective destruction and self-destruction, no consideration is given by the enemy to the’ subsequent fate of the vessels; consequently, they may afford to concentrate on a single objective without regard to the consequences to themselves. That the attempt by such midget craft to enter Sydney harbour in the middle of the night was instantly detected, and that the counter measures were bo prompt and effective, reflect credit on those responsible for the harbour defences, and should prove both a disappointment and a deterrent to the enemy.
The first alarm was given by a patrol vessel at Sydney Heads shortly before 10 o’clock on Sunday night. Before 10.30 p.m. the submarine attempting to penetrate the outer harbour defences had been destroyed by being sunk without managing to get inside the harbour, and the wreck has since been located on the sea bed by divers. Meanwhile, the alarm having been given, patrol vessels and warships in the harbour were on the alert, and two enemy submarines which had succeeded in entering the harbour were quickly dealt with. One of these, at about midnight, succeeded in firing two torpedoes in the harbour. One torpedo sank the naval depot ship previously mentioned; the other ran harmlessly ashore and failed to explode. These were the only torpedoes which the enemy succeeded in firing. One of these two submarines was sunk in the harbour, and has been located by divers, lying on the bottom. A full examination of it will be made.
Although the wreckage of the third submarine has not yet been located, it has undoubtedly shared the fate of its companions. The search for it is being continued.
Obviously, it is not possible for me to describe the defence measures adopted. In the destruction of the enemy submarines, gunfire and depth charges played a part. I cannot speak of the other measures, such as those that ensure detection of the enemy’s presence, beyond saying that, as Sunday night’s events show, they are particularly effective and ably administered. They will continue to function effectively, so that any attempt which the enemy may subsequently make will be dealt with as successfully as was his abortive effort on Sunday night. Apart from the losses to personnel, there are good grounds for satisfaction at the results then achieved. The enemy, on the contrary, failed, and the measure of our success is equal to the disappointment he must be suffering.
This House, and the Naval Board, express sincere sympathy with the nextofkin’ of those who lost their lives.
– Has the honorable gentleman any information that he may give to the House in relation to the mother ship?
– A diligent search is being made for any further enemy vessels that may have been associated with this attack or that purpose making a further attack upon this country. This morning, I visited Sydney in order to acquaint myself with the circumstances of the attack and to interview the officer in charge of the defences of Sydney Harbour. I am completely satisfied with the efforts of all of those associated with such defences, for the protection of the approaches to Sydney Harbour during last week-end. The vigilance, calmness and courage that they displayed give to the Australian people the assurance that, in the present serious national emergency, the nation is being served by men of undoubted loyalty who will fully protect this country to the best of their ability.
– Having regard to the known speed and operational range of midget submarines, and the fact that those which made the attack on Sydney entered the harbour about 10 o’clock at night, does not the Minister for the Navy think it possible that they were launched in daylight by a mother ship less than 100 miles from Sydney? Is there not an aerial and naval patrol protecting the important harbours of the Commonwealth, and if not, why not?
– Technical experts attached to the Navy are to-day seeking to determine just how the midget submarines may have been conveyed to a point near the Sydney Harbour in order to carry out the attack which they made on Sunday night last. It is, of course, conceivable that they were launched from a parent ship, and everything possible has been done to discover such a ship. However, that is not the only course the enemy could have followed in order to get the submarines to Sydney. Each of those possibilities which our naval experts consider may have been exploited is being fully examined, and all the essential steps are being taken with a view to ascertaining whether such vessels are still in waters adjacent to Australia, or within range of our naval or air reconnaissance, so that we may despatch them with the same swiftness as we dealt with the three submarines that entered Sydney harbour.
– ‘Will the Minister for the Navy explain how it happened that the first official news of the attack was received in Sydney from press sources in the United States of America, the second announcement came from the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the first details were released in Melbourne? Why was the important city of Sydney overlooked in that manner in the dissemination of the news?
– The honorable member will understand that communiques are issued by the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces in the South-west Pacific. It was considered undesirable to make an earlier announcement, because a premature disclosure of the fate of the three submarines might have warned any other enemy vessels lurking in adjacent waters that we suspected their presence. The Department of the Navy considered that the successful attack on the submarines should be kept a secret for as long as possible and it was left to the CommanderinChief to determine the most favorable moment to release the news.
– In view of the fruitless search which has been conducted for the mother ship of the midget submarines which attacked Sydney recently, I ask the Minister for the Navy whether consideration has been given to the possibility of such a ship having released the submarines some days prior to the attack in order to enable it to escape? The submarines might have lurked close to the shores of Australia for several days, and their crews might even have communicated with enemy agents in Australia. Has the Department of the Navy any knowledge of the construction or use by Japan of large submarines similar to those which were used by Germany during the war of 1914-18 in order to carry cargoes of merchandise between the American continent and German ports?
– As I indicated in answer to the question asked by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), there are several methods by which the submarines could have reached Australian waters, apart from the use of a parent ship, which is the usual practice. These possibilities are under consideration, and I believe that the method which the honorable member has mentioned has already been fully investigated. The honorable member may be sure that the Department of the Navy will make full use of any knowledge that it may have regarding the use of large submarines.
Taxation of Deferred Pay - Absence Without Leave - Promotions - Youths in Forward Operational Stations - Interference with Private Property - Australian Imperial Force : Transfers from Militia - Diversion from Burma - Public Relations Office.
– Assessments that are being issued to soldiers on active service by the taxation authorities include tax in respect of deferred pay, despite the fact that such pay is withheld until the completion of service. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Government will consider relieving these men of that obligation?
– Inquiries will be made, and consideration will be given to the honorable member’s representations.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that members of the armed forces charged with being absent without leave have been escorted to Central Railway Station, Sydney, handcuffed together like criminals? Will the honorable gentleman instruct that this practice shall be discontinued and that a different practice shall be adopted?
– I was not aware of the state of affairs referred to by the honorable member, but I shall have inquiries made, and the honorable member’s representations will be taken into consideration.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it would be possible to revert to the healthy and time-honoured procedure in the Army by which promotion depended upon active membership of a unit, formation, or service, the suitability of the candidate for promotion, and the existence of a vacancy intended to be filled by the person to be promoted? In the interests of good feeling within the Army, would it not be possible to cut adrift completely from a method, which for some time has been a disfigurement of the Army, by which promotion has been gained, by all sorts of persons who have not the slightest qualifications for it?
-Consideration will be given to the honorable gentleman’s representations.
– The Minister for the Army has made various statements concerning the sending of lads under twenty years of age to forward operational stations. On the 6th March last, the honorable gentleman said that he had issued the definite order that no young man under twenty years of age and without adequate training was to be sent to a tropical station. Later, the honorable gentleman stated that any youths who had been sent to such stations would be kept in reserved occupations; and still later he stated that they would be kept in reserved positions where possible. How much farther does he propose to retreat from his original order to the “brass hats” of the Army?
– I stated in this House last week that the Government had decided that youths between eighteen and nineteen years of age who had not had the requisite training would not, in future, be sent to any forward operational stations.
– Some were sent last Saturday.
– If honorable members have evidence that this instruction has not been observed, I ask them to let me have it. I do not desire to make a lengthy statement at this stage, but I shall be pleased to discuss the matter with the honorable member for Dalley.
-Within the last quarter of an hour, I have received from Mr. Hedges, of 26 Violet-street, Punchbowl, a telephone message informing me that this morning the military authorities had pulled down fences on his property, adjacent to his home, without giving any notice or warning of their intention so to do. Will the Minister for the Army take steps to ensure that such high-handed methods shall be discontinued, and that owners of property shall receive from the Army authorities the courtesy of a notification of their intention to interfere with private property?
– Property-owners should receive a courteous notification of any such intention. I am not acquainted with the facts of this case, but I shall call for an immediate report and shall furnish a reply to the honorable member within the next 24 hours.
– Can the Minister for the Army say what is the present position in regard to members of the Australian Military Forces who wish to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force? What procedure is necessary, and how long will it be before those who have applied will be admitted to the Australian Imperial Force?
– With regard to my decision to allow members of the Citizen Military Forces to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force, I had a further conversation with the Adjutant-General, General Head-quarters, Melbourne, today, on this matter, and he told me that immediately my decision was made, a telegram was despatched to all commanding officers concerned giving them general approval of the scheme, and telling them to await instructions as to procedure. These instructions were carefully prepared, and are now in the post on their way to the Commanding Officers throughout Australia. Conditions are now different from those which obtained at the time the present members of the Citizen Military Forces were in their homes scattered all over Australia. They then enlisted at their local centres, and were sent down to their capital city to be medically boarded and attested. Because of the big concentration of these men now, largely in two or three States, medical boards and records procedure must be first established before their applications for transfer to the Australian Imperial Force can be dealt with. It is conceivable that there might be a solitary unit with one regimental medical officer. Before a medical board can be established, it is necessary to have at least two medical officers. The necessary machinery is now in motion, however, to get over this difficulty, and records are being taken in all units preparatory to the posting of the men to the Australian Imperial Force in accordance with applications received.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen the reprint in this week’s issue of the Bulletin of an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald as follows: -
Two Australian divisions embarked from the Middle East in a plan to save Burma. They never reached Rangoon, being diverted to Australia at the request of the Federal Government.
Will he ascertain upon what information that report is based ? Will he take action to prevent the publication of such speculative reports, which can onlyhave the effect of producing discord amongst the various units of the British Commonwealth of Nations ?
– I have not read the report to which the honorable member refers. For security reasons, I do not intend to make any statement in regard thereto in this Parliament.
– Will the Minister for the Army state what progress has been made with the setting up of the Army’s own public relations office? What staff has so far been engaged in connexion with this new activity, and what expenditure has been incurred to date? If the Minister is not in a position to give this information at the moment, will he make a statement before Parliament adjourns, setting forth the number of persons to be employed, the work they are to carry out, and the estimated cost?
– The information will be obtained and supplied to honorable members later.
Prosecution of Members
– On the 27th March, the Minister for the Army said that action was to be taken under the Crimes Act against members of the Australia First Movement. Are we to assume from the fact that no action has been taken against New South Walesmembers of this organization that insufficient evidence against them has been obtained ?
– In March last, I said that some members of this organization had been responsible for certain actions. The names of the members were not given. It was further stated that the Commonwealth Solicitor-General would consider the evidence, and advise the Government whether any action beyond internment should be taken. As a result of his report, certain members of the organization were proceeded against in the court.
– In Western Australia.
– Yes, they were residents of Western Australia. Certain other persons had been interned, and no action has been taken in the courts against them.
– On the report of the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, it was decided not to take any further action.
– The original statement must Lave been extravagant.
– I said at the time, and I think the Prime Minister said also, that the Government would be guided by the advice of the Commonwealth Solicitor-General as to whether members of the organization would be prosecuted as well as interned. Those who have been interned on the recommendation of the military intelligence officers have the right of appeal against their internment to a tribunal set up by the previous Government. Many of them have lodged appeal, and I’ have given instructions that the hearings are to be expedited. I made inquiries to-day, and was informed that about 3,000 sheets of foolscap had been typed, and that sixteen typists had been put on in order to hurry the work forward. Everything is now in readiness for the hearing of the appeals.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he will give consideration to the desire of taxpayers resident in provincial and country towns for provision to be made for the lodgment of stamp tax remittances in local branches of the Commonwealth Bank, instead of sending the books and stamps to the capital cities which, it is claimed, imposes hardship, as well as delay and risk?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s request.
– Has the Minister for Air been advised of the loss of a D.H. Dragon-Rapide aeroplane off Flinders Island during the week-end? If so, will he take action to ensure that the service between the island and the mainland shall be restored as soon as possible?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ Yes “, and, to the second part, that the service has already been restored.
Australian Wines : Brochure Issued to Visiting Allied Forces - Cooperation of Service Departments
– by leave - On Friday, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) brought to my notice, as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Information, a statement by an unnamed newspaper purporting to quote from a brochure issued by the Department of Information to visiting American troops. The quotation referred to a certain criticism of Australian alcoholic liquors, particularly Australian wines, and the honorable member took advantage of the occasion to criticize severely the Department of Information. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), later in the debate, referred briefly to the point raised by the honorable member for Wakefield, and made it a basis for an intemperate and extravagant attack upon the Department of Information generally. For the benefit of both honorable members, and the information of the House generally, I point, out that the publication in question was issued by the Australian-American Cooperation Movement, T. & G. Building. Melbourne, and was never submitted to. approved by, or associated with the Department of Information in any way. In fact, the first that the officers of the Department of Information knew of the publication was a reference to it in the press. It is unfortunate that honorable members seem to be disposed to decry at every opportunity the work of this department, and that, when preparing to launch an attack upon it, they do not take sufficient trouble to ascertain whether their facts are even remotely correct. The Department of Information,in association with the Public Relations Department of the American forces now in Australia, did issue a goodwill booklet to American troops. This publication struck a particularly high note of blood brotherhood between the Australian and American people. It is unfortunate that whatever goodwill it has been able to establish should he prejudiced by such an ill-timed and unfounded attack as was made in this chamber last week by those honorable members.
– Did the Minister for the Army read in yesterday’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald a statement by the Minister for Information that the public is not being given sufficient information about the war, and that restrictions imposed by the Department of the Army were unnecessarily severe? Has he also read a further statement by the Minister for Information that his department was not receiving co-operation from the service departments? If so, will the Minister inform the House why one government department is not co-operating with another government department, and will he take suitable action in order to terminate the restrictions of which the Minister for Information complains?
– My attention was directed to the statements to which the honorable member referred, and I propose to avail myself of the first opportunity to discuss the matter with the Minister for Information.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Information whether he will lay on the table of the House copies of the two pamphlets giving information to visiting American troops regarding Australia, and its people and products? One of these, he claims, had the sanction of the Department of Information while the other had not, although both pamphlets carry introductions by the Prime Minister. Will the honorable gentleman inform me which department approved of the pamphlet with an introduction by the Prime Minister for which the Department of Information disclaims any responsibility?
– I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s questions to the notice of the Minister for Information arid give him a reply as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister lay the pamphlets on the. table of the House?
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to a press statement by the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, that :as from Monday last, the prices of matches sold in capital cities would be Is. a dozen, and Id. a box, and in country districts, Is. Id. a dozen and lid. a box. Will the Minister ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to review the decision of the Prices Commissioner for the purpose of fixing a more equitable price? The increase of 50 per cent, to country people is most severe.
– I shall submit the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and J suggest that the honorable member should amplify it so that the details may be brought to the notice of the Prices Commissioner.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether it is a fact, as would appear from reports published in certain sections of the press yesterday morning, that the honorable member for Wimmera has been chosen by the Government as one of its spokesmen? If so, when was the honorable member appointed to that position ? If he has not been so appointed, will the Acting Leader of the House bring to the notice of the Prime Minister the statements in the press concerning the Government’s proposals for the wheat industry, and inform the House why such proposals were not announced to Parliament by the Minister for Commerce, instead of being announced to the public by the honorable member for Wimmera ?
– I am. not aware of all the ramifications of all the departments controlled by my colleagues, but I do know that other Ministers are very grateful for the information, advice and assistance which they receive from time to time from the very capable member for Wimmera, whose main mission in life seems to be to give service to the primary producers and the people of Australia generally.
– Will the Deputy Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that under the war damage insurance scheme local governing authorities in the States have requested old-age pensioners to insure their properties immediately? If so, how does the Government expert them, out of their meagre pension, to find the money for the purpose of insuring their properties against war damage? Will the honorable gentleman endeavour to make arrangements to relieve pensioners of the obligation to make that contribution?
– I remind the honorable member that persons who fail to insure their property against war damage will receive no compensation if it happens to be destroyed by enemy action. The rate of 4s. per £100 is undoubtedly a very reasonable premium, and will be gladly paid by all owners of houses, whether they depend upon a small income from the property from superannuation, or from a pension. Honorable members will agree that the Commonwealth Treasurer acted most wisely in introducing the war damage insurance scheme. However, consideration will be given to the representations made by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Commerce make a statement as early a s possible on what the position will be in 1943 in respect of the rationing of superphosphates, as the cereal farmers are about to commence fallowing for the 1943 crop ?
– That matter has occupied the attention of the Agricultural Council, whichis now meeting in Canberra. We have reached a definite understanding. Arrangements have been made in regard to the rationing of superphosphates and I shall make an early statement on the subject to the House.
Resignationof Industrial Officer - Conditions for Labour Corps
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether the industrial officer of the Allied Works Council has recently resigned and, if so. whether he can tell the House why the resignation became necessary?
– Immediately questions are over I shall obtain the required information from the Minister for the Interior and pass it on to the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether the Allied Works Council has drafted an award under which it desires to compel members of labour corps and others to work ? If so, was the award submitted to the Arbitration Court or to the Department of Labour and National Service, and was it made on the advice of, or after consultation with, the Government industrial officer, Mr. Blakeley? If not, who drafted the award ? Have protests been made by the trade unions concerning the award ? What is the present position? Has the Allied Works Council the support of the Government in this matter?
– I am not fully conversant with the facts and have ordered an inquiry to be made into the whole matter. I understand that a determination has been made by the Allied Works Council, but has notbeen submitted to the Arbitration Court; nor were the trade unions concerned consulted. In this respect there has been a breach of a vital Labour principle. The determination was not made upon the advice of the industrial officer of the Allied Works Council.
I understand that the assistant director of the council, Lieutenant Packer, was responsible, to a great degree, for the drafting of the determination.
– Why not the Director-General ? Why pick Packer every time?
– After the advice of the industrial officer of the council that the trade unions be consulted was rejected, he was advised that he would be transferred to a new position. He thereupon tendered his resignation because his advice had been rejected. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions has approached the Prime Minister on the matter, but I am not aware of the conversations that followed or the decision, that was reached. I make it quite clear ‘that the trade unions concerned were not consulted prior to the drafting of the determination, nor was the Department of Labour and National Service.
– Has the Deputy Prime Minister seen the statement in the Melbourne Sun-Pictorial, by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) that he had been unable to participate in the debate on uniform income taxation hecause he had been called to Melbourne on urgent business connected with clothes rationing? If so, will the Minister bring this report to the notice of the Prime Minister and suggest to him that, when members of this Parliament accept positions on commissions or committees dealing with important matters of government policy, it should be made clear to them that their activities shall not prevent them from attending to their duties as members of this Parliament?
-The uniform taxation legislation was passed by such an overwhelming majority thai one more vote for or against it would not have made the slightest difference. Furthermore, the honorable member for Henty, by his special business knowledge and by his conscientious application to his duties as a member of this Parliament, has proved that he possesses rare qualifications to <*am- out the onerous duties with which he has been entrusted.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that Lieutenant Packer, Australian Imperial Force, now seconded to the Allied Works Council, is about to be gazetted a captain ? When the war is over, will Lieutenant Packer be treated as a returned soldier?
– I am not aware that. Lieutenant Packer is about to be promoted to captain, but I should not say that the report is untrue. Lieutenant Packer was temporarily seconded from the armoured division to the Allied Works Council on the application of the Director:General of Allied Works. In fairness to Lieutenant Packer, I must state that, when the application for hi* secondment was made, he was very reluctant to accept the transfer. He has expressed the desire to go back to the armoured division as quickly as possible. Any recommendation with regard to Lieutenant Packer’s promotion would be made by the Adjutant-General, with the approval of the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land Forces.
– Has the Minister for War Organization of Industry appointed an officer in New South Wales to deal with applications for building permits? If so, what is the gentleman’s name and to where must applicants address their applications?
– A gentleman has been appointed by my department to examine applications for exemption from the building regulations. At the moment. I cannot recollect his name, but I shall obtain it and tell the honorable member as soon a.s I can. Applications for exemption should be sent to the Deputy Director of the Department of War Organization of Industry, New South Wales, whose address is at the corner of Pitt-street and Martin-place, the premises formerly occupied by the Yokohama Specie Bank.
– In view of the numerous complaints that retail clothing establishments are not reasonably meeting the requirements of the people by selling their allotted quotas, will the Minister for “War Organization of Industry order an investigation into whether the retail -tores are selling their quotas?
– I have made inquiries on this subject, but they have not revealed that underselling is practised to any great degree. I point out to the honorable member that it is not possible for the Government to issue an order compelling retailers to sell a particular quota, either of clothing or of any other commodity offered for sale.
– If the Government can fix a minimum, it can fix a maximum.
– I repeat that that is not possible. In view of the impending introduction of the coupon system, I do not consider that it is necessary for my department to take any further action in this matter.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that many primary producers, sons of primary producers, and farm labourers, who are serving in the army would be better employed in the work of primary production? Is he aware that no satisfactory machinery exists to deal with applications by such men for releases from the Army? Further, is he aware that it is unfair to commanding officers, and to men seeking releases, that claims for release should be adjudged solely by commanding officers? Will he consider the introduction of some satisfactory method of dealing with claims for release? Is the honorable gentleman aware that there are many cases similar to the one which I shall now cite-
– The honorable gentleman must be brief.
– Is the Minister aware that an application for release from the Army will be made by a man who considers that he could serve his country better as a primary producer? This man’s father owns two farms, which are 18 miles apart. The father is 52 years of age, and is in ill health. One farm has an area of 1,000 acres, and carries 800 ewes to lamb down and 80 Border-Leicester stud sheep. The other farm has 400 ewes to lamb down, 200 dry sheep, 30 stud Shropshire sheep, a Red Poll cattle herd-
– Order! The honorable member is entitled to explain his question shortly, but he is not entitled to make a statement.
– I have said enough to indicate the facts of the case to the Minister. Will the honorable gentleman endeavour to arrange machinery whereby decisions may be given promptly on such applications and with satisfaction to all concerned ?
– I am sympathetic with the view put forward by the honorable member. The Government has endeavoured to meet the convenience of primary producers, who, like other people, have suffered considerable hardship as the result of the military call-up. which is necessary to provide the fighting strength required by this country. This is not an easy problem to solve. However, it was discussed at the meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council in Canberra yesterday and to-day, and I understand that the Council, which represents all States, intends to make a recommendation to me as to the machinery that should be established in order to give fair treatment to all primary producers who consider that they are suffering a loss as the result of the military call-up.
– Will the Deputy Prime Minister direct the Agricultural Council, which is now sitting at Canberra, to give consideration to ways and means of meeting the shortage of man-power in agricultural areas by the employment of alien labour, regardless of whether the aliens are naturalized, interned, or otherwise? I ask the question because the Government indicated more than six months ago that it intended to do something in the matter. ‘
– The Government would welcome the views of the Agricultural Council on this subject, but must itself accept responsibility. Internees cannot be employed unless they volunteer for work. Such persons have been interned in the interests of national safety, and the Government would create numerous other problems if it allowed them to be at large indiscriminately in order to work on farms, for doubtless many of them would make their escape. No contribution would be made to the solution of man-power problems if a guard had to be provided for every internee on a farm.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether some direction might be given to the Central Wool Committee with a view to remedying the anomalies arising from the differences between the scales of appraisement values for low and high grades of wool, with particular reference to cross-bred wool, which the producers claim to be not getting a “ fair crack “ on present valuations ? Approximately 4’3 per cent, of the wool produced in Victoria is cross-bred.
– I am aware that the disparity between prices paid for different grades of wool calls for investigation. The table of limits which is now in use has, for some considerable time, agitated the minds of the wool-growers, especially those who produce the coarser wools to which the honorable member has referred. I shall discuss the matter with the Central Wool Committee in order to ascertain whether by a re-arrangement of the table of limits, a more equitable distribution of values can be effected.
– Will the Deputy Prime Minister inform me whether the committee appointed to make recommendations concerning the immobilization of small craft has yet presented its report? Does the honorable gentleman consider that it was necessary for the committee to travel all over Australia in order to prepare its report? Where can I make contact with the members of the committee? Is the Minister aware that many of the small craft involved in this matter are suffering serious deterioration through being continually in the water, where they are becoming infested with marine growths, and that many other boats which have been pulled up on the banks out of the water are being ruined because they are not being sheltered? Cannot something be done immediately to return boats to owners who are able to care for them better than they are being cared for at present?
– I have not yet received the report from the committee, but as soon as it comes to hand I shall inform the honorable member of its contents.
– Many cases of hardship are being brought to notice.
– I realize that, and the committee will make a recommendation to the Government concerning the compensation that should be paid in such cases.
– Can nothing be done to tide over individuals who are in a fairly desperate position because of the loss of their boats?
– The Government will give consideration to the question of whether some advance should be made to meet cases of real hardship, but the committee consists of two reputable gentlemen who may be relied upon to deal with the matter equitably. Action to immobilize small craft was taken on a recommendation by the military authorities made in the light of experiences in Malaya and other places where the enemy used available small craft to land thousands of soldiers for infiltration purposes. The military authorities requested that such small craft in Australian waters should be immobilized without delay in order that they should not be available for use by the enemy in the event of an invasion. What has been done has been for the safety and protection of Australia. Consequently, it is only reasonable that the general community, and not the owners of the boats, should bear any temporary loss that has been occasioned.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been directed to the fact that whilst the supplementary regulations issued under Statutory Rules 1942, No. 242, and gazetted on the 28th May, place a specific responsibility on the proprietors or managers of establishments doing defence work to open such establishments on public holidays, and make provision for enhanced emoluments for workers engaged on public holidays, they do not place any responsibility upon employees at such places to present themselves for duty on such days?
– I am aware of the contents of the regulations. I also know that they provide for award rates of payment, and not for extra emoluments as suggested by the honorable gentleman. I have no doubt that, with the co-operation of the trade unions, the workers concerned will attend for work on holidays so that, maximum production may be maintained.
– According to a brochure issued by the Department of War Organization of Industry one of the functions of the Production Executive which was set up in December last will be “ examine causes of delay in attaining objectives for which definite dates have been set, including such factors as machine tools,- materials, labour and industrial troubles “. What steps are being taken by the Minister for War Organization of Industry to ensure that that objective shall be attained? Who is the principal executive officer charged with the responsibility for its attainment? What steps have been taken to overcome d delays ‘and to speed up war production ?
– Consultations have taken place between the Department of War Organization of Industry and the Department of Munitions in regard to delays in production which are the result of the shortage of machine tools. A committee is at present inquiring into the matter. It is hoped that such delays as can be obviated will be obviated.
– Will the Minister for War Organization of Industry inform me who is the principal administrator, or executive officer, charged with the responsibility of inquiring into delays in war production? Or are we to assume from the honorable gentleman’s previous remarks that the scheme is still in an embryonic stage? If so, will he take up with the Production Executive the question of emulating the example of the United States of America and Great Britain by appointing a director of production, or a production board, to make a drive for greater production for victory in 1942?
– The executive officer of the Production Executive is the Director of War Organization of Industry.
– Who is that?
– Mr. Chippendall. I shall place before the Production Executive the other suggestions of the honorable member, and they will there be given consideration.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Transport to the fact that a large number of service cars and other useful motor vehicles has been put off the roads, with consequent deterioration, in rural districts. In view of the present congestion on the railways and in connexion with other means of transport to which restrictions have been applied, will the honorable gentleman endeavour to have such vehicles made available for the use of the public where producer-gas units may be attached to them ?
– I shall be pleased to have the matter investigated by my department, and shall endeavour to furnish a report later.
– Is the Minister for the Army yet able to make a statement in regard to the impressment of firearms ? Will firearms that are of no use for military purposes be returned to their owners, and will an equitable price be paid for those that are retained by the military authorities ?
– In response to an inquiry, I was informed by the Army authorities that only such firearms as are of use to the Army are being retained. If the honorable gentleman can furnish evidence to the contrary, I invite him to supply it. I shall then investigate the matter and give him a reply.
– According to report, it is proposed to alter the time-table for the running of the express between South
Brisbane and Sydney, and vice versa, and that the alteration will prevent honorable members who travel from Queensland from connecting at Sydney with a train for Canberra shortly after their arrival in Sydney, thus obliging them to depart from South Brisbane at least two days earlier. Will the Minister for Transport bring the matter to the notice of the transport organization in Sydney or Melbourne, and see that any alteration of the time-table will not affect the existing arrangements in the way that I have mentioned?
– I heard a rumour that this time-table was likely to be altered. I communicated immediately with the Railways Commissioner in New South Wales, and he informed me that no such decision had been made; and that, indeed-, no such proposal had been put before him. He assured me that there will not be interference with the existing arrangements, which have operated for many years, without careful consideration.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that it had agreed to the bill as amended by the House, at the request of the Senate, but with amendments.
Message reported recommending appropriation for the purposes of amendments to be made upon request by the Senate in this bill.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of any amendments to be made upon request by the Senate in a bill for an act to provide for the payment oi widows’ pensions, and for other purposes.
– I should like to know something of the purpose of the proposed amendments before agreeing that an appropriation of revenue be made.
– The amendments have been distributed, and will be discussed at the appropriate time.
– No vital principle is involved.
– A few days ago, there was an argument in this chamber regarding procedure in connexion with measures requiring an appropriation of revenue, and I think that what is happening now justifies what I said on that occasion. It was ruled then that the committee could not consider certain amendments because they would involve an increase of the appropriation, and that- such amendments could be introduced only by a Minister of the Crown. Now, a Minister of the Crown says that the Government wants some money, but he does not know how much, or what it is for. All that will be discussed “ in the sweet by and by “. If we persist in following procedure of this kind we shall make ourselves appear ridiculous. If the message of the Governor-General is only a matter of form, the sooner such forms are dispensed with the better. My idea of a message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation of revenue is that it should provide an opportunity for the responsible Minister to inform the committee how much he wants and the purpose for which he want it. If he is not able to give that explanation, the committee would be justified in refusing the appropriation. Slipshod methods such as those which are being applied here would not be tolerated in an outback shire council. It is ridiculous that Parliament should be asked to vote an unknown amount of money for an unknown purpose.
.- The Minister should not seek a further appropriation without giving some indication of what he proposes to do with the money. I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that procedure in this House is becoming far too lax.
– We are not attempting to do anything unusual. The purpose of the appropriation is to cover certain amendments which the Senate has made to the bill. No new principle is involved in the amendments, which are of a purely machinery nature.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 18- (1.) Where a pension ia granted, it shall be paid from a date determined by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner but the date so determined should not, subject to this section, be prior to the date or later than the pay day next succeeding the date on which the claim for pension was made.
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - Leave out or later than the pay day next succeeding the date “, insert “. or later than the due date ‘f the first instalment of pension after the .late,”.
Senate’s amendment No. 2. - After clause 11 insert the following new clause: - “21a. If a successful claimant of a pension is an inmate of a benevolent asylum, or if a pensioner becomes an inmate of a benevolent asylum, she shall not, so long as she remains an inmate of such an asylum, be entitled to receive a pension at the maximum rate, but shall, subject to this act, be entitled to receive a pension at a rate determined in accordance with this act, but not in an)’ case exceeding £22 2s. per annum.”.
Clause 29- (1.) Where an allowance is granted, it shall be paid from a date determined by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner but the late so determined should not, subject to this section, be prior to the date on which the claim for allowance was made.
Senate’s amendment No. 3. - After “ date third occurring, insert “, or later than the due date of the first instalment of allowance after the date,”.
– I move-
That the amendments be agreed to.
The purpose of the first amendment is to give effect to a suggestion by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that payment of a widow’s pension should cake effect from the first pay day after her claim was lodged.
The proposed new clause will bring the payment of widows’ pensions into line with the payment of invalid and old-age pensions in respect of persons who become inmates of benevolent asylums. When an invalid or old-age pensioner is admitted to such an institution, his pension is reduced to Ss. 6d. a week, and the balance is paid to the institution towards the cost of his maintenance.
The proposed new clause adopts a similar principle regarding widows’ pensions.
– Did not the original bill which the Minister introduced make that provision?
– No. The purpose of the second amendment is to give to the widow who is granted an allowance under Part IV of the act the same benefit as that granted in a similar amendment under clause IS to a widow who receives an allowance under Part III. of the act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 14th May (vide page 1236) on motion by Mr. Beasley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is, inter alia, to bring under one act the national and commercial systems of broadcasting, each of which is now controlled by a separate act of Parliament. The proposals embodied in the bill are based principally upon the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting, and the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley), when introducing the measure in the Senate, and the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Beasley) in this chamber made eulogistic references to its work. The members of the committee appreciate those tributes to their efforts, and are grateful to the Government for the manner in which it has acted upon their report. The committee visited every State, with the exception of Western Australia, though it received useful information from witnesses from that State, who came to the eastern States for the express purpose of tendering evidence. The report is based upon the evidence that was taken, and is not the result of the personal views of members of the committee. The useful work that the committee performed illustrates the advantage of the Government appointing a committee thoroughly to examine proposals to amend existing acts before Parliament is asked to sanction them.
The progress in the use of radio, particularly broadcasting, has been phenomenal in the last decade, and only a fool would prophesy what the future holds in this field of science. Having been associated with broadcasting and wireless telegraphy since 1902, I am able to compare authoritatively broadcasting and radio telegraphy in their infancy, with modern ‘ developments. In the last war, great progress was made in this field. Among other things, members of the Australian and New Zealand Wireless Squadron made and operated what is believed to be the first radio direction-finding instrument in the world, and devised and operated special sets for receiving enemy signals both from the air and through the earth. Those inventions were greatly in advance of the efforts in the same field of other countries. In 1916, the system of wired wireless was inaugurated, and became known as the “ phantom wave system “. When introduced into Australia in 1926, it was used commercially, particularly on interstate and intra-state lines of the Post.masterGeneral’s Department. The more one studies the science of radio telegraphy, the more one visualizes its future possibilities and how much there is still to learn. It is paradoxical that the more one learns of a science, the more one realizes how little he knows about it. Those who were engaged upon devising a system for the control of radio broadeasting in Australia in its infancy, laid a solid foundation. That is demonstrated by the fact that the Joint Committee on Broadcasting did not recommend drastic alterations of the present method of control, and the bill provides for the continuance of the present dual system of national and commercial stations, though the control of the two will be brought under one act of Parliament. In the early days, ‘broadcasting was regarded as a fad and was used purely as a means of entertainment. Now it is an essentia] public utility. Honorable members will recall the days of the crystal sets, before the use of valves became general, and the early problems associated with the granting of licences, and with determining who should listen to the programmes broadcast by various stations. A conference that was convened by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the purpose of devising methods of issuing licences, and collecting fees, led to the introduction of the sealed set, which was a failure. To illustrate the progress of radio broadcasting, I point out that only 1,400 listeners’ licences were issued in 1924, but this year the number is 1,324,000. Of course, the number of listeners substantially exceeds the number of licences in force. The national broadcasting service is financed entirely from listeners’ licencefees, hut commercial stations depend for their revenue almost entirely upon receipts from advertising. If advertising were eliminated, their revenue would be very small. When introducing this bill in the Senate, the Postmaster-General referred to the system of dual control of national and commercial stations, in these words : -
From the investigations of the committee and one’s own observations, I have no hesitation in declaring that the present system has been beneficial to the development of broadcasting in Australia viewed from the interests of listeners, and apart altogether from the valuable advantages which have accrued to industry and employment. With the experience of the last nineteen years to guide us and the valuable report of the committee to point the way to certain improvements, we are well equipped to write a charter for the broadcasting services of the Commonwealth which, whilst imposing safeguards against mis-use, will permit sufficient freedom to ensure continued progress for the benefit of the community. Not only will freedom in broadcasting achieve this objective, but it must also be a significant interpretation of the general freedom that defines democracy.
As a part of its investigation, the committee obtained information regarding the broadcasting systems operating in other Empire countries with a view to comparing their suitability for Australian conditions with the existing Australian system. Sir Harry Brown, in his evidence before the committee, very aptly stated that, before any change was made in this country, it should first be demonstrated how the present system had failed. The position in Great Britain is that the stations, eight in all, are under the control of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Listeners in Great Britain have available to them many alternative programmes from Europe, and the extent to which these continental stations are listened to may be gauged from the fact that, up to the outbreak of war, English manufacturers found it worth while to spend £2,000,000 per annum in advertising from two English-controlled stations on the Continent, namely, Radio Nor.mandie and Radio Luxembourg. In Canada, the dual system operates, as in Australia, with the commercial stations under some measure of control of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which is the counterpart of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Information was supplied to the committee, however, to show that the Canadian broadcasting system is neither one thing nor the other. Although a parliamentary committee recommended as far back as 1929 that broadcasting stations should be nationalized, because of the fear that otherwise they would be subject to control from the United States, even now there are only ten national stations in Canada, and ‘the only practicable method of having a nation-wide broadcast i3 to utilize a large number of the privatelyowned stations. In Australia the position is entirely different, as the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs informed the committee that 85 per cent, of listeners are served directly at present by the national stations and that, when additional national stations which are proposed are completed, all listeners will be able to listen in direct to national stations. Commercial stations serve 90 per cent, of listeners, and thus it will be seen that practically every listener in Australia is able to have the choice of at least one alternative programme from either a national or a commercial station. Another feature of Canadian broadcasting is its dependence upon the United States of America for its programmes, and many Canadians are also regular listeners to the large American stations. In 1940, it was stated that 34 per cent, of programmes on Canadian stations originated in the United States, where the whole of the broadcasting stations are privately owned. The system in New Zealand was also investigated, but conditions in New Zealand and Australia are so different as to make any comparison of little value. In that dominion the government owns both the national and commercial sta- tions, but there are only five commercial stations, and no attempt has been made to provide a commercial service in rural areas as has been done in this country. In addition, there are very few more listeners in the whole of New Zealand than there are in Sydney. Further, New Zealand is almost wholly dependent upon outside sources for its programme material and, in 1940, Australian recording companies and broadcasting stations sold to New Zealand a total of 5,352 programmes. In Australia practically all programmes, excepting gramophone records, which are broadcast by either national or commercial stations are produced locally, thus providing considerable direct and indirect employment. In South Africa, the stations are national, only. . The system was inaugurated by a former chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation, but the service to the community cannot be compared with that received by listeners in this country. Stations are few and in some areas the programmes, of necessity, have to be in both the English and Dutch languages. The information which the committee obtained regarding these other systems, therefore, merely confirmed the fact that the present system is eminently suitable for Australian conditions, isolated as we are from other countries so that listeners, except for short-wave overseas programmes, are dependent upon the programmes from our own stations.
The committee interrogated practically all witnesses as to whether or not they favoured nationalization. There were quite a few criticisms, mainly on programme matter and the like, but, almost without exception, witnesses- favoured the continuation of the existing dual system and were opposed to any suggestion that the commercial stations should be nationalized or that they should be under the control of the Broadcasting Commission. Expert witnesses of the Postmaster-General’s Department, including Mr. McVey, expressed similar views. Sir Harry Brown, the exDirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, submitted that no reasons had been advanced for changing the present system. Evidence was also given to the committee of the pleasant relations existing between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting stations. On most occasions, the national and commercial stations have their own particular spheres of operation, but, since the war particularly, there have been numerous occasions when the two systems have operated together in the national interest so as to provide the fullest service to listeners. It can well be said that the founders of the broadcasting system in this country showed a wide knowledge of Australian requirements, and the best evidence of the excellent manner in which the interests of listeners have been served in this country is that the committee after eight months of critical investigation has only found it necessary to formulate recommendations of a relatively minor character.
In my opinion the committee’s report has been submitted in a readable form. All the recommendations are at the beginning of the report instead of scattered through it, as is often the case with reports of parliamentary committees. The committee paid close attention to three matters closely allied to broadcasting, namely, television, facsimile, and frequency. People talk about those things freely, but without much knowledge. The committee’s inquiries were not nearly so deep as we should have liked, but, if the bill be passed and a standing committee be set up, those three matters will be further investigated. The investigations will take a considerable time - probably years. I refer honorable members to page 69 of the report, in which the committee has dealt with television. Television has been operated in several countries since before the war, but up to the present it has been more of a rich man’s toy than a. means of public entertainment. Television will never become popular until it has reached the stage at which pictures can be transmitted over much greater distances than is possible at present. Television has no attraction for the woman in the home, who at present may switch on her radio set and listen to a musical programme without having to confine her entire attention to it. She could not do this with television, because it would then be necessary for her to keep her eyes glued to the set so as not to lose the sequence of the fleeting pictures reproduced on its screen.
Another branch of the science which the committee considers to have even greater possibilities, though perhaps greater dangers, than television is facsimile reproduction. Facsimile reproduction by means of radio and telegraph already operates. Honorable members have frequently seen pictures of events in Great Britain published in the daily newspapers, or pictures of important race events such as the Melbourne Cup published in the newspapers of other States on the following day. This is done by the use of a system of reproduction involving the application of wireless waves to pictures. The system may be developed for the benefit of ordinary householders, so that printed words and pictures may be sent into every home by means of special apparatus attached to both the transmitting stations and receiving sets. It would be of particular benefit to residents of outback areas, who could turn on their radio sets before starting work each day and could return later to find miniature newspapers containing reproductions of reports ‘and pictures published in the newspapers in the cities that day. .
– The honorable member is looking far .ahead. .Sir CHARLES MARR.- The system is already in use in a small way. If an honorable member from Sydney wished to cash a cheque at >a bank in Western Australia where his signature was unknown, he could have it verified by communicating with his bank manager in Sydney and having a facsimile of his signature transmitted by radio. This system is not used extensively, but it is reliable. There are great difficulties in the way of bringing facsimile reproduction into the field of wireless broadcasting. The committee stated, in regard to both television and facsimile reproduction, that, no further licences for the use of these sciences in broadcasting should be granted until the proposed parliamentary committee had inquired at length into them. I now refer to frequency modulation. Although these words may appear to convey a great deal to the uninitiated, those who understand wireless broadcasting realize that the problems involved in frequency, modulation are very complex. There is much room for development in this field. The committee dealt with the subject very clearly in the following passage of its report: -
One of the great problems that face the Adminstration is the allocation of wavelengths for stations, there being a waiting list of 695 applications. Practically speaking, the whole of those available have been allotted or set aside for a specific purpose.
Evidence given discloses that the difficulty can only be overcome by sharing the wavelengths now operating, restricting and sharing the times of operation, or by restricting power and, as far as possible, limiting the areas to be covered by individual stations.
However, a new system has been evolved, known as frequency modulation, that may in the near future completely solve this problem. Evidence shows that this system is now applied in a moderate way in the United States of America, and, but for the war, may have been operating in Australia.
Unfortunately, new types of transmitters and receivers will be necessary for those ‘desiring to utilize this new method of transmission. Listening sets in the future will probably make provision for this by covering the three bands - short, medium and frequency modulation. (These sets are available to-day.) This system claims that many hundreds of additional wavelengths will be made available for new stations.
However, we do not attempt to prophesy what will happen in radio development in the future, nor do we propose in this report to cover the technical difficulties that lie in the way of future expansion in radio. We recommend that no licences for frequency modulation stations be issued until a full investigation has been made by the proposed parliamentary standing committee.
I believe that every honorable member has, at some time, taken an interest in the subject of copyright in relation to broadcasting, and I believe that I should be correct in saying that almost every honorable member regards the Australasian Performing Right Association, and similar organizations in other countries, as being monopolies for the collection of huge fees which ought to be payable to those persons who contribute, by writing and performance, to broadcast items. The committee heard a great deal of expert evidence on the subject of copyright, and it visited the offices of the Australasian Performing Right Association. It was thus able to see how returns are made by the broadcasting stations, the method of entering the performances of copyright music controlled by the Australasian Performing Right Association, and how the fees are paid to the composers, authors and publishers. In my opinion, the system of having one organization of composers, authors and publishers properly authorized to look after their performing rights is the only practical one. From the evidence that the committee heard, it seems that this principle is fully recognized in most parts of the world. It is not difficult to see the logic of the case because, if broadcasting stations, relying as they do on the use of a vast quantity of music, had to deal with individual owners of copyright all over the world, they would have a job involving expense far greater than they are called upon to bear under the accepted method. The committee recommended that there should be an Australian fee payable to the Australasian Performing Right Association, but it did not suggest that this should be a fee for each listener’s licence. This point needs to be made clear, because the arrangement between the Australasian Performing Right Association and the commercial stations, which has operated for many years, has been on the basis of a payment for each musical item broadcast. Thus, the commercial stations pay strictly in accordance with the quantity of music that they broadcastEvidence given to the committee on their behalf was to the effect that their agreement, which has some years to run, is satisfactory. The position of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, however, is different, because the commission receives its income from the listener’s licence revenue, and, in this case, payment of a fee to the Australasian Performing Right Association for each licence would probably be satisfactory. The “ fee-per-licence “ system has operated for many years in the United Kingdom, and it was confirmed by the finding of arbitrators, to whom the question of the amount per licence payable to the Performing Right, Society in London was voluntarily submitted for decision in 1937. In my opinion, the amount paid by both broadcasting services for the use of any of the music in the Australasian Performing Right Association repertoire is very small. Both in this House and elsewhere we have heard complaints that the Australasian Performing Right Association receives a very substantial sum of money annually, but the matter should he examined in the light of the number of stations using the music and the number of performances that they give. When that information is available, one sees, from the enormous volume of music that isbroadcast, that the payment for each performance is almost beggarly. The inquiries of the committee revealed that the Australian writer who received the largest amount in any one year was paid only about £80 for his work. Considerable numbers of composers and authors received amounts as low as 2s. 6d. for the year. That is doubtless due to thefact that Australian composers and authors are in a great minority. We discovered that they numbered less than 1 per cent. of the composers and authors whose works were used. At one stage, early in its investigations, the committee considered that it might be practicable to recommend that broadcasting stations should use not less than 10 per cent. of material derived from Australian sources, but it was not long before that opinion was revised. The committee has recommended that it should be compulsory for broadcasting stations to use 2½ per cent. of Australian material, but I fear that some difficulty may be experienced, in the immediate future at any rate, in reaching even that percentage. However, this is a step in the right direction which, no doubt, will encourage Australian composers and writers, for they will be helped by the knowledge that broadcasting stations will be obliged to use a greater percentage of Australian material than they have used in the past. Undoubtedly music is the most popular feature, and supplies, the bulk of all broadcast programmes. In fact, if music were not available the broadcasting stations would find it extremely difficult to maintain continuity of programmes. The committee was unanimously of the opinion that composers of music should be granted fair recognition and that, up to date, they had not received it. In making that statement, I do not suggest that the rights of the broadcasting authorities should be overlooked. As music is such an important factor in all broadcast programmes and therefore plays a big part in our community life, the broadcasting stations should be protected against exorbitant demands from the controllers of music, especially as that control is practically in the hands of one organization. Legal provision has been made for voluntary arbitration where a dispute arises between broadcasters and owners of copyright music, and, as I see it, our act complies with the spirit of the international understanding that was approved at the Rome Congress in 1928, but the fact must not be overlooked that it is expressly provided that the fees fixed shall ensure adequate compensation to those concerned. That does not mean, I imagine, adequate compensation in a round sum, but reasonable payment to individuals whose rights are vested in one organization.
Since the report of the committee has been made public I have been informed that it would be almost impossible for the broadcasting stations to obtain from the manufacturers of records in this country the supply of records that would be needed to maintain the quota of Australian music recommended by the committee. That aspect of the subject will doubtless require some investigation. Personally I believe that it will be practicable to obtain the 2½ per cent. recommended by the committee. If the supply of records is insufficient for this purpose at the moment, I believe that the records manufacturers in Australia will soon meet the position.
– Does not the Australian Broadcasting Commission manufacture its own records ?
– No. Only one firm in Australia is making records at present. Although the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has facilities for making recordings for the commission of speeches and other broadcasts, it does not manufacture records in the ordinary sense in which we understand the term.
I wish to refer briefly to the two systems of broadcasting in Australia. I shall deal first with the national system. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, which controls the national broadcasting stations, has proved itself to be most efficient and, in my view, it has done excellent work. I speak in the broadest sense when I say that since its inception the commission has done an excellent job. Personally, I give to the chairman of the commission full marks for his ability and leadership in broadcasting. He has endeavoured to place broadcasting on a high plane and, to a considerable degree, he has succeeded. In this respect he and his fellow commissioners deserve our congratulations on the progress that they have made. Particularly good work has been done in the educational sphere. But whilst the commission’s educational broadcasts have undoubtedly been most efficient, I regret to say that the facilities in educational institutions for receiving and making use of the broadcasts are appallingly inadequate. The broadcasts are made practically free. Educational institutions are required, in certain instances, to procure booklets to use in conjunction with the broadcasts, and these publications by the Australian Broadcasting Commission are also excellent productions. It is not too much to say that the six members of the committee were deeply impressed by the quality of the educational broadcasts of the commission. Theywere impressed, too, by the interest that has been aroused amongst school children in the performances of the symphony orchestra conducted by Professor Bernard Heinze. The committee attended several symphony concerts arranged in Melbourne by the commission, and we were surprised to learn of the competition among children for selection to attend those concerts. Extraordinarily fine work has been done by the commission in this connexion. The organizing of these symphony concerts is a monument to the leadership of the chairman of the commission.
One clause of the bill provides for the establishment of the head-quarters of the commission at Canberra. The committee made a recommendation to that effect.. I consider that the head-quarters of our government services, and quasigovernment services, should be at the National Capital. The committee does not suggest that the Government should take immediate action to give effect to this recommendation. We are in the middle of a war - we hope beyond the middle of it - but we have to look at everything with the war in mind. The committee considers that when the Government is in a position to make provision on the Estimates for the expenditure of a large sum of money for the. establishment of the permanent head-quarters of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the necessary buildings should be erected in Canberra and not in one of the State capitals.
The committee was told that undue influence was sometimes brought to bear on the commission to make appointments to its staffby back-door methods. For that reason, the committee recommended - and I am glad that the Government has accepted its recommendation - that in respect of all except the higher positions appointments to the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall be subject to the same procedure as obtains in connexion with appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service. In future, appointments will follow competitive examinations in which rich and poor will have an equal chance. Employees of the commission also asked for a board of appeal similar to that which operates in connexion with the Commonwealth Public Service.
– What is the number of the commission’s employees?
– The employees number 620, distributed in this way: Federal staff, 164, in New South. Wales 135, in Victoria 125,. in South Australia 57, in Tasmania 47, in Western Australia 41, and in Queensland 51, a total of 620. On the A.B.C. Weekly the staff numbers 24, making a. grand total of 644.
– Does that number include artists?
– No. I am speaking of the. regular staff, many of whom are engaged in arranging the various programmes tobe broadcast.
Evidence in support of the creation of a national orchestra, to travel throughout, the Common wealth, was submitted to the committee, but there was equally strong evidence against such a proposal. Persons who are competent to speak on this subject told the committee that the establishment of one orchestra for the whole of Australia would not conduce to the development of musical talent in the several States. They contended that it. would be better to form an orchestra in each State.
– How many of the employees of the Commission could be transferred to Canberra?
– About 100. Evidence was also tendered in support of the request that officers of the commission should ‘be brought under the Superannuation Act. I am glad that the Government lias acceded to that request.
– What about bringing them under the Commonwealth Public Service Act?
– The commission is only a quasi-government body. Its employees may obtain the same benefits as are open to employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and other bodies which are not at present under the Public Service Act.
The report shows that the committee took some pains to set out for the information of honorable members the ramifications of the Postmaster-General’s Department, particularly in connexion with technical matters. Appendix 12 contains a map of Australia, giving this information. Investigations were undertaken in order to ascertain where broadcasting stations should be placed in order to give the best results. The area served by each station is shown on the map. Honorable members may be interested to read in the report that whenever a national link-.up of broadcasting stations takes place - and that happens several times each day - approximately 21,000 miles of wire is utilized, and 150 officers are in attendance. It was for that reason that the committee thought that the technical services of the commission should remain with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– Up to and including the microphone.
– Although sound arguments could be advanced in favour of the commission having its own technical service, it was thought that the opportunities for the promotion of talented men. would be small, and that there would be too great a proportion of deadend jobs. On the other hand, as the Post Office controls telephonic, telegraphic, and other technical services, not only are men able to receive good training in technical matters, but also opportunities for advancement exist. Prom the Post.masterGeneral’s Department, trained men are frequently sent to various commercial broadcasting stations, as well as to national stations. These men are not debarred from rising to higher positions in the Postmaster-General’s Department. In this connexion, I quote paragraphs 183 and 184 of the report -
The Post Office is a Commonwealth-wide organization. It has highly trained professional officers in all the main centres and it possesses a large staff of competent technicians who are also widely distributed. Because of the size and similarity of other technical work which has to be done by the Post Office, there is a resorvoir of personnel on which to draw to meet all sorts of emergency conditions, providing also for holiday and sick relief.
In addition, the Post Office lias an extensive research organization in which problems presenting special difficulty are examined to find a solution, and a large proportion of these necessarily have a groat similarity to those which have to be dealt with in the other technical brandies of the department.
The committee paid several visits to the laboratory of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and met the department’s experts. Some day, this Parliament and the public of Australia may learn a little of the wonderful work that these men are doing in connexion with the Empire’s war effort. Some of their achievements have been outstanding; they are of great value to the Empire- and its allies. The activities of the department are not confined to Australia. If I were to single out one officer from, a body of men who greatly impressed every member of the committee, I should say that the officer in charge of the research laboratory, Mr. S. H. Witt, is a man of outstanding ability. In saying that, I have no desire to do a wrong to other capable officers. The department contains men who know their jobs and are able to impart their knowledge to others.
The report is not correct when it states that these various services are rendered free to the commission. I do not think that the Postmaster-General’s Department supplies anything free. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly), when giving evidence before the committee, emphasized the importance of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department presenting to Parliament each year a financial statement which can be understood by honorable members. The listening public pays £1 a year for a broadcast listener’s licence. A portion of the revenue so obtained is placed in a trust fund, from which the Australian Broadcasting Commission, draws month by month. The balance of the fund - about 50 per cent. - is paid into Consolidated Revenue. Each year the Postmaster-General’s Department prepares estimates of expenditure for the ensuing year. Those estimates, which have to be passed by the Parliament, include payment for services rendered to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. From all the investigations that were made by me personally and by my colleagues on the committee, I have come to the conclusion that the whole of the cost has been borne by the listening public. It has paid the amount required to continue the extraordinarily efficient and, indeed, brilliant work that is carried on by the research laboratory of the Postmaster-General’s Department to which I have already referred, for the examination of ships’ licences at sea, for the examination of the operators, and for the general administration of the Radio Telegraphy Act under the department. Having discharged the whole of these obligations, the Consolidated Revenue has an unexpended balance of approximately £70,000. If the payment by the public be for a specific purpose, the expenditure should be devoted to that purpose. If it be unnecessary to charge £1 Is. for the payment of these services or programmes, the fee ought to be reduced, and the charge should be merely sufficient to meet the required expenditure. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department charges the commercial stations a flat rate a mile for the use of land-lines. That, too, is in some degree a charge against the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commercial stations themselves have to meet the payment, whereas the Australian Broadcasting Commission makes it out of the proportion of the listeners’ fees which it derives from Consolidated Revenue. I agree with the evidence given by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly), and hope that he will amplify it during the passage of the bill. Experts of the Postmaster-General’s Department said in evidence that the accountancy staff would have no difficulty in. preparing a financial statement showing clearly what had been received and expended, and the manner in which the expenditure had been made. If that could be achieved, it would be a step in the right direction. I blame not the department so much as all governments for the rotten system that is associated with the presentation of, not only the accounts of that department, but also all other accounts that are presented to Parliament, and are frequently camouflaged in order that honorable members and the public may not understand them. Our accounts should be set out in a business-like way, so that the taxpayer may be able to understand how the money has been expended. This should be done also in regard to listeners’ fees. Rightly or wrongly, the practice of having Commonwealth trust funds has grown up. In the old days, when Parliament voted money for expenditure on the erection of buildings or lines of railway, any amount unexpended at the 30th June reverted to the Treasury, and a fresh appropriation had to be made for the continuance of the work, with the result that frequently six months of the ensuing financial year had elapsed before further funds were available. That was overcome by the payment into trust funds of the unexpended balances of funds voted by Parliament. In relation to broadcasting, trust funds should be established into which money could be paid and from which it could be drawn for whatever services were required.
I shall now deal briefly with the commercial stations. Evidence was placed before the committee of the excellent service provided for listeners by these stations. Their primary function is to provide entertainment as an alternative to the programmes broadcast by the national stations. Much information was received regarding the coverage of the programmes broadcast by the commercial stations, demonstrating their acceptability to the Australian public. Although no claim was made by representatives of the commercial stations, evidence given by impartial witnesses was to the effect that as many as 85 per cent, of the listeners regularly tune in to commercial stations. We had no means whatever of verifying that estimate, and it may be said to have been arrived at purely by guess work. It would be to the advantage of these stations to be able to say that they have the patronage of 85 per cent, of the listening public, because advertisers would naturally be inclined to do business with such a valuable advertising media.
– Did the commercial stations advance anything in proof of that statement?
– No. They had conducted polls, which did not convince us that the percentage was either right or wrong. The committee was given a great deal of information, apart from that in relation to lighter entertainment, of the varied nature of the programme matter which emanates from these stations. Many sessions are devoted to cultural music, drama, and the like. In addition, an extensive variety of programmes of educational value is broadcast. In the field of charity, the commercial stations of Australia have a highly creditable record. Statistics were .submitted showing the wide range of charities that have been assisted during recent years. These referred particularly to the aid given to the Red Cross and other war charities since the outbreak of war. The estimate of the amount raised directly during that period ‘is £272,000, hut that does not include the many .appeals that have been assisted by these stations by means of free publicity. The national stations cannot appeal over the air for money except in connexion, with such national funds as war loans. The commercial stations are not similarly restricted, and they have assisted appeals on behalf of war loans and the Red Cross to a marked degree. It is difficult to assess the value of the help that they have rendered to such organizations. The evidence placed before us showed, as I have said, that the amount raised directly was approximately £272,000. The. Government has been assisted in many ways by the commercial stations, which have willingly offered to it their full cooperation. An estimate of the value of the free time voted to governmental services alone is £250,000 per annum. If the commercial stations were nationalized, a greater amount of time could not be devoted to these purposes than is already riven. Apart from this support, the commercial stations have at all times assisted public departments, such as the Police and Health Departments ; and they have also been used on many occasions for giving warnings of bush fires and floods. In all, their record of public service has been very high. They have formed themselves into a voluntary organization with the title “ The Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting ‘Stations “. The value of this body is shown by the fact that, with the exception of two small stations, all commercial stations are members of it. The committee was greatly impressed with the work done by this body in devising standards of broadcasting practice and, in general voluntarily imposing a system of programme regulation in the general interests of listeners. It published for the guidance of its members a brochure which insisted upon the observance of a very high code in the procedure followed by the different stations. It was most helpful to the committee, not only in submitting evidence on its own behalf, but also in assisting to procure evidence from other sources. The commercial stations were just as keen as the commission to prevent anything of an objectionable nature from being put over the air. At the same time, they have endeavoured to raise the standard of B class programmes to that of the national stations, which is recognized to be very high, indeed. Members of the present Government as well as of the previous Government will recognize that the federation has always been prepared to give assistance whenever it has been asked to do so. Glowing tributes have been paid to the federation’s co-operation in that respect.
The committee was very unfavorably impressed with the general class of commentator engaged by all classes of stations. The evidence was that very few commentators were worth their salt. Although the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) is present, I recall that some witnesses said, in effect, “ Since you left the Adelaide station, doctor, the whole service has gone to the dogs “. All members of the committee, representative of the three parties in the Parliament, worked in the greatest harmony with the one objective of examining the subject of broadcasting thoroughly and devising the best possible system in the interest of listeners. The opinion of the committee was that only experts should be engaged as commentators.
– AH of them think that they are experts.
– While the committee was sitting it was impelled to recommend to the Government that certain classes of broadcasts by commentators should be rectified. I am glad to say that such action was taken immediately. For instance, we took records, for a certain period, of short-wave programmes, and found that portions of those programmes were very discreditable to the Commonwealth. They were not worth twopence One of these programmes, which are broadcast to overseas countries, including the United States of America, contained an item to the effect that Canberra was being overrun by hares; that there was a plague of hares in Canberra, and that the rich coastal areas were infested with rabbits. [Extension of time granted.] The committee took exception to such programmes, and on its recommendation the Government immediately took steps to improve them with a view to broadcasting only matter which would be of definite benefit to Australia. Generally, the committee was of opinion that the British Broadcasting ‘Corporation’s system of handling commentaries should be. followed, that is. that the matter broadcast be attributed not to any individual but to the particular government department concerned. For instance, such commentaries could be commenced with the statement that the Department of the Army, or the Department of the Navy, reported such and such a thing. I can see no benefit in Mr. Jones, or Mr. Smith, reporting something. Mr. Jones’s opinion is not of interest to the nation in regard to matters of national concern. Therefore, we have suggested that commentators should be very carefully selected, and that names should be eliminated wherever possible. For instance, the views of the Department of the Army, or the Department of the Navy, in respect to the recent attack by the enemy in Sydney Harbour, is of much greater interest, and, certainly more authoritative, than those of any individual.
– Is the committee of opinion that a statement should be broadcast not as a statement made by an individual who is named., but as that of a member of the Government party, or the Opposition party?
– Where a member of this Parliament speaks, say, at an afternoon gathering which is broadcast, and his speech is referred to that evening in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news session, the gentleman is referred to as a member of the Opposition. Surely, it was never intended to extend anonymity so far?
– No. It appeared to the committee that at one time members of the present Government were vieing with each other to get on the air. I am not blaming only members of this Government in that respect.
– Did not members’ of the previous Government also do the same thing?
– Not to the same degree. Our idea is that important statements dealing with government activities should be broadcast as official statements; and that comment made by any honorable member in this House should be .given as that of -a member of the Commonwealth Parliament. Does the particular party to which an honorable member belongs really matter in this .respect?
– Does not the honorable member think that every member’s statement should be copyright? . Mr. Spender. - Was any consideration given by the committee to the nasal intonation of certain speakers in children’s broadcasts from both the A and B class stations ? Any one who o .has regard, for the purity of our language must be amazed at the class of speaker who is employed to amuse the children in the sessions.
– Are they Australians?
– They are decent Australians; but there are also extremes of decent Australians. Some disgusting voices are heard in those broadcasts.
– As a matter of fact, the .committee was concerned more about the child listener than any other class of listener. It gave very careful consideration to the character of children’s broadcasts, not only from the educational aspect, but also from many other aspects.. As- will be- seen from the committee’s report, the committee takes a very serious view of the broadcasting of doubtful jokes and stories. Such passages should be entirely prohibited; because broadcasts generally go right into the home. I agree with the. honorablemember for Warringah (Mr.. Spender). Even up to as late as yesterday, I heard a children’s broadcast, portion of which was to be deplored. Some doubtful jokes which are put over the air are, to say the least of them, discreditable to the stations concerned.
The committee heard evidence from representatives of all church organizations throughout, the Commonwealth. It fan be said to the credit of those bodies that not one witness who appeared on their behalf displayed bias of any kind. The churches, generally, took im extraordinarily liberal view of our system of broadcasting as a whole, and unanimously declared that they had received fair treatment at the hands of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in respect of religous broadcasts. The committee took a serious view of the broadcasting of advertisments on Sunday. It will be generally admitted that Sunday evening is the most popular time for listening in.
– And the worst programmes of the week are usually put over on Sunday evening.
– The evidence submitted to- the committee was that all stations endeavour to put over their best programmes on Sunday evening. If good programmes are to be provided by commercial stations, they must be sponsored by some one, because advertising, revenue constitutes the only income which those stations receive. The committee was of opinion, however, thatdetailed advertising should not be permitted on Sunday. It should be sufficient to announce that the programme was sponsored by such and such a firm.
– And there should not be too much- reference- to the sponsor, either.
– That is so. It was- also felt that, in- deference to reli gious bodies, advertising should not take place on Sunday mornings and evenings during church hours. Of coursein a free democracy such as ours, it is right that the people should be allowed to select their own programmes, and in Australia there are plenty to choose- from. There were, until quite recently, 98 commercial stations, and 29 national stations. Although- I have no interest in horseracing or dog-racing, I realize that I am not compelled to listen to broadcasts dealing with those matters ; I can switch over to something else. The present choice is very wide, and it should be Billowed to remain as wide as possible. The committee did not spare itself, and travelled widely in order to hear witnesses from all parts of the Commonwealth. It sat mornings and afternoons, and very often in the evenings as well. The work was most interesting, and I am sure, that all members of the committee found it so. We were particularly well served by the officials of the Postmaster-General’s Department and by the- secretary of the committee. Mr. Groves, a quiet and efficient officer, who got through an extraordinary amount of work. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to him for the part which he played in the work of the .committee. We also received valuable assistance from officials of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and from the chairman, Mr. Cleary, who gave evidence for 32 hours. I do not think that we missed anything in our examination of him, and he had at- his finger-tips all the information which we required. He demonstrated that he was a man of outstanding ability,, who was filled with a desire to keep broadcasting on a high level. Mr. Dooley, secretary of the ‘Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations.. accompanied the committee to the various States, and was very helpful in. supplying whatever information was required, particularly the balance-sheets of the commercial stations Some of these stations, I understand, are closing down- because they find it impossible to carry on with reduced advertising revenue.
I believe that the joint committee did a useful job, and I am certain that if Parliament approves of the appointment of the advisory committee recommended in. the report, that committee will also render useful service in connexion with this great national undertaking. We must remember that broadcasting touches the daily life of every man, woman and child in the country. No other development of recent times is charged with such power for good or evil as broadcasting, and we should consider very carefully before handing over all stations, both national and commercial, to the control of the State lest we bring about the position which now obtains in Germany.
– That has not happened in England.
– England is small in area, and, like Canada, gets a great deal of its broadcasting matter from beyond its own borders. That, however, is not the case here. We know that in Germany and the other dictatorship countries the people are allowed to listen to only such programmes as the dictators approve. I believe that, in genera], great public utilities should be under national control; but I do not believe that radio broadcasting should be entirely operated and controlled by the State.
– Will the proposed committee be empowered to interfere in the control of broadcasting?
– Only in regard to such matters as are referred to it by the Minister, or by resolution of one or both Houses of Parliament. The fact that the responsible Minister knows that his administrative acts are liable to be discussed in Parliament will act as a desirable check. Moreover, any person who believes that he has been unfairly treated may ask that his case be referred to the committee.
– Will the committee have power to supervise programmes ? ,
– No ; that will remain the duty of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I congratulate the Joint Committee on Broadcasting upon its report, and upon the work which it has accomplished during the last eight months. The bill now before the House, which is based upon that report, places both the A and B class stations under the one legislative control. Previously, only the national stations came under the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act, the commercial stations being controlled by regulations. The honorable member for Parkes (‘Sir Charles Marr) referred extensively to the report of the committee, but did not have a great deal to say about the bill itself. The bill contains some novel provisions which should make for the better control of broadcasting in Australia. I refer particularly to the provision that at least 2-J per cent, of the total time occupied by the national service in the broadcasting of music must be devoted to works of Australian composers.
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission is adopting that policy now.
– The commercial stations are adopting the policy of encouraging local talent because they find that it is advantageous, but the A class stations appear to prefer second-rate importations to the encouragement, of local talent.
– Surely the artists imported by the Australian Broadcasting Commission are not second-rate. They are top-notchers.
– They are not recognized as top-notchers in their own country before they come to Australia. The commercial stations find it advantageous to encourage local talent, and some conduct talent quests regularly.
– Will the honorable member name some of the imported artists whom he classes as second-rate.
– I could name them. My remarks appear to be disturbing some honorable members. 1 would remind them, that the Minister stated in his second-reading speech that he would welcome free discussion of the bill. I am taking him at his word and I intend to comment on several clauses. One clause appears to me to be -based on the formula that everything should come to Canberra. I am in favour of the administrative departments of the Commonwealth Government being established in Canberra because the Australian Capital was established for that purpose. However, there is a proper time to concentrate administrative offices in Canberra, and the present is certainly not the proper time to transfer to this city the administrative offices of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, because chat body is still in the experimental stage. There is a desire in certain quarters to transfer all Commonwealth departments to Canberra but, no doubt, a number of departments can function more efficiently in the capital cities in which they are now established. That applies particularly to the Australian Broadcasting Commission because, being established in Sydney, it has ready access to leading theatrical agencies and artists. Another clause provides that the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall attend all meetings of the commission. If his office is in Sydney or Melbourne, the duty of attending meetings of the commission in Canberra would make a big demand on his time. I consider that Canberra would be the most unsuitable place in Australia for the establishment of the administrative offices of the commission while it is in the developmental stage. The office of the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways is not located at Canberra, because, I suppose, the railway system is developing, and greater efficiency can be secured by his office being situated nearer to the centre of development. If the commission is to be active in carrying out its duties it will need to meet at least once a month, otherwise the remuneration proposed to be paid by the Government to its members will not be justified. I have used the word “ remuneration “ because payments to members of the commission are described in the bill as remuneration due, no doubt, to the fact that all will be employed part time on the commission’s work. If the chairman of the commission is to be paid £1,250 a year and the commission is to meet only once a month, he will receive £100 for each meeting. The vice-chairman is to receive £500 a year and the other three members of the commission £300 a year each. As the bill provides that a majority of the five members of the commission is to prevail, the three members each receiving £300 a year, or a total of £900, could outvote the chairman and vice-chairman receiving a total sum of £1,750 a year. The total amount of remuneration proposed to be paid to the five members of the commission should be allocated more evenly, and I intend to move an amendment when the bill is in committee that the chairman shall be paid £650 and the other four members £500 each. If the administrative headquarters of the commission were located in Canberra, the three commissioners receiving £300 each could hardly be expected to live in the Australian Capital because it is almost impossible to live here on £300 a year. Therefore, the commission would become a one-man show, the chairman dominating it and the other four members merely waiting for him to summon them to Canberra. Therefore, as the other four members will perform almost the same class of work as the chairman, I consider that the amount of money to be provided as remuneration should be spread more evenly amongst the five members of the commission.
– “What is the salary of the present chairman of the commission?
– £500 a year, and he has recently been accepting reappointment for periods of four months on that basis. Under the terms of the bill, he is to be paid £1,250 a year, and appointed for a term of five years. As I said, three commissioners receiving £300 each would be able to outvote the chairman and vice chairman.
Strange to relate, the bill will reduce the work and functions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, because provision is made for ministerial control. That is an innovation, and the commission will be relieved of some of its responsibility.
– How will it be relieved of responsibility ?
– I shall refer to that at a later stage. The bill should provide that the commission shall meet at least six times per annum. As the legislation is now drafted, it need meet only once a year.
– Is the honorable member aware of the number of times that the Australian Broadcasting Commission meets, because of the pressure of work? It has to meet constantly.
– Presumably it will have to meet constantly in Canberra ; but the Government expects three of the Commissioners to spend a good deal of their time here for a remuneration of £6 a week. Lest an honorable member should state that the Government is unable to find a suitable man to do the job for £650 a year, I take this opportunity to state that thousands of holders of Australian Labour party tickets, who are excellent organizers and possess ability and courage, would do an excellent job on behalf of the Commonwealth Labour Government for that salary. At present, it appears that an Australian Labour party ticket now debars men from obtaining such .positions. I remind the House that the Prime Minister (Mr. Gurtin) the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) and the Minister in charge >of the bill (Mr. Beasley) occupy their seats in this chamber because they hold Australian Labour party tickets. Thousands of members of the Australian Labour party throughout the Commonwealth are competent and willing to accept appointment to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Many public servants hold Australian Labour party tickets.
– -I made the point merely to show that £650 a year is an adequate remuneration. I regret that the Joint Committee on Broadcasting did not arrange to recall or obtain written evidence from the general manager, who, I understand, was a member of the Australian Imperial Force in Malaya. Evidently the committee made ho effort to have him recalled for the important purpose of giving evidence.
– That is not fair to the committee. We discussed the matter on a number of occasions, but we did not feel justified in .asking for the recall of an officer from Malaya.
– The honorable member for Parkes directed attention to clause 17 which relates to the appointment of officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Sub-clause 2 provides that a person shall not be admitted to the service of the commission unless -
I should like to know whether that provision will debar a world famous foreign artist from obtaining an appointment on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If it will, the sub-clause .should be deleted. I now direct attention to the proviso io sub-clause 2 -
Provided that the commission may appoint to such positions or positions of such classes as are prescribed, persons who have not passed the prescribed entrance examination.
In my opinion that proviso will abrogate the conditions of appointment contained in sub-clause 2 c because the commission will still be permitted to appoint such persons as it pleases without asking them to submit themselves to competitive examination. The Joint Committee on Broadcasting ,was greatly perturbed by what it described as the “ overcentralized staff “ in the commission’s office. It stated -
We draw attention to indications that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is overcentralized in its activities. Those indications include the rapid growth of central staff, and a considerable increase of what may be termed central directors of departments “.
Sub-clause 8 is a most interesting provision. It reads -
Hie general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission constituted under the Australian Broadcasting Act 1932-1040 and all other officers and servants of that commission holding office, or employed, in the service of that commission immediately prior to the commencement of this act, shall be deemed to .have been appointed by the commission under this section as general manager, officers and servants, respectively,
Despite the complaint of the joint committee about overstaffing, the present members of the staff will retain their positions, although they were not obliged to submit themselves to competitive examination before they secured their appointment. I understand that a considerable number of employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has enlisted, and that during their absence their positions have been temporarily filled. When they return, their former positions will be available to them and, in addition, those who temporarily filled them will presumably be retained. Even now, the Australian Broadcasting Commission continues to make appointments. In a recent issue of the A.B.C. Weekly, the appointment of Robert
McCall was announced. I do not know this man; be may possess outstanding qualifications: but I mention his appointment to show that Parliament does not know how many men the Australian Broadcasting Commission may add to the staff before the bill is passed. So soon as this legislation becomes law, they will retain their positions by virtue of subclause 8. The joint committee recommended “ an investigation by an appropriate authority for the purpose of overcoming this centralization “. I ask : What is an appropriate authority? The committee recommended an “inquiry by an appropriate authority to report on the COStS of personnel and administration”. I. shall not support sub-clause S unless the Government gives to honorable members a definite assurance that this matter will be investigated.
– The Government has already promised an inquiry.
– That is excellent. What many officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission do when they are on. duty is a mystery. I shall mention no- names, but, I have in mind eight or nine high-salaried officers- whose positions appear to be redundant. The staff fairly bristles with State managers, production managers, and superintendents of all descriptions.
– The,)’ seem to be able t:o spend the money.
– That is so. Clause IS presents a difficulty to inc. Subclause % b states that the commission may make arrangements for the holding of any public concert or other public entertainment, “provided the concert or entertainment is held in cooperation with an educational, religious, or other non-commercial institution, and no charge for admission is made by the commission”. I should like the Minister to explain whether this clause will debar the Australian Broadcasting Commission from charging admission to its concerts. If it engages artists of world renown to perform in this country, it will be obliged to charge admission in order to defray the C03t of the tour.
– We understand that it will be possible, under this clause, for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to charge, for admission, to its concerts.
– That is not my interpretation of the clause. In 1939-40, proceeds from, concerts totalled £49,294, but in the following year they declined to £.1.7,364. After the war we should encourage famous artists to give performances in this country, and the commission should be permitted to charge admission to the concerts.
Clause 24 prevents the commission from broadcasting advertisements, but I see no reason why advertisements relating to charitable and patriotic activities should not be broadcast over the national stations. The same thing applies to hospital appeals. Hospitals, such as the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Lewisham Hospital in Sydney are doing a magnificent job, and they are entitled to have their appeals broadcast over the national stations.
– The commission does assist charitable organizations by giving them publicity.
– Yes, but advertisements, in the true sense of the word, are not permitted. I submit that our national broadcasting system is the best medium through which charitable and patriotic appeals can be made to the pepole
– The national stations make announcements on behalf of such appeals now.
– That may be, but under this clause, advertisements are prohibited.
Clause 26 provides -
The commission shall endeavour to establish and utilize in such manner as it thinks desirable in order to confer the greatest benefit on broadcasting, groups of musicians for the rendition of orchestral, choral and band music of the highest quality. .1 should like to see the word “ Australian “ inserted before the word “ musicians “. In my opinion the Australian Broadcasting Commission is ignoring Australian talent, and is not giving sufficient encouragement to our own. musicians. This clause gives the commission power to establish orchestras and, other musical combinations, and I suggest that these combinations should be composed of Australian musicians.
This bill also limits the number of commercial stations which can be owned or controlled! by one organization, but I should like to know how that limitation applies to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Apparently the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting is anxious that new wireless developments such as television, facsimile reproduction, and frequency modulation, should not come under the control of any special interests, because in its report, the committee recommended that before any such development could be introduced, it must be submitted to the Government. The point I wish to make is that because most commercial stations have to obtain their equipment from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, they are, in fact, under the control of that organization. In my opinion, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited should be nationalized, instead of being only 50 per cent, government-controlled as at present. Although the bill purports to limit control of commercial stations, it does not in fact, achieve that object. In some cases large numbers of stations work on what they call a network basis, ostensibly for the purpose of providing the public with cheaper and better music, plays, &c, but actually the object of this system is to maintain a high-scale of advertising fees. Any advertiser who wishes to obtain broadcasting time on a commercial station cannot do so unless he pays the fees specified for the network. ‘ I am pleased that the bill provides for the setting up of a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, but I am afraid that the activities of that committee will be limited, because it cannot act unless matters are referred to it by the Minister, either House of Parliament, or by the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, through the Minister. If the proposed State Advisory Committees are to be useful organizations they also should have power to refer matters of public importance to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. I notice also that whereas previously the appointment of State Advisory Committees was in the hands of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, that responsibility now rests with the Minister. I do not know why that authority has been taken out of the hands of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Obviously, the only matters that will be brought before the Parliamentary Committee by the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations will be matters which are to the advantage of the commercial stations. The federation will not be very much interested in the welfare of broadcasting generally. Also, the Minister will bring matters before the Parliamentary Committee only if he is obliged to do so by public pressure. The State Advisory Committees are set up with the special task of safeguarding the interests of broadcasting, and no doubt they will be composed of men of standing, representing the theatrical and music world, and, in fact, all sections of the community interested in broadcasting.
– If we start providing representation for special interests, there is no saying where it will end.
– This is a new measure which will deal with broadcasting for perhaps the next ten or fifteen years. If all possible improvements be not inserted in the bill now, it may take another ten years to have changes effected. I hope that the State advisory committees will have power to refer to the standing committee for investigation and report any matter that they consider necessary in the interests of broadcasting. On the State committees should be representatives of the artistic, educational and religious organizations. It appears that at present all that the State committees will be required to do will be to report to the Minister on .the broadcasting of objectionable items. Clause 96 reads - (1.) The commission and the licensee of each commercial broadcasting station 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 their opinion, are competent to make useful contributions to broadcasting programmes. (2.) Not less than two and one half per centum of the total time occupied by the national broadcasting service and not less than two and one half per centum of the total time occupied by any commercial broadcasting station in the broadcasting of music shall bo devoted to the broadcasting of works of Australian composers, produced either on sound records made in Australia or by artists actually present in the studio of the broadcasting station concerned.
The words “ as far as possible “, “ endeavour to “ and “ in their opinion “ should be struck out of the clause. It would then be obligatory on broadcasting stations to encourage the development of local talent. The clause should also be amended by eliminating the words “ and the licensee of each commercial broadcasting station “, because commercial stations are conducted for profit, and they should be dealt with separately in a special clause not grouped with the Broadcasting Commission. If amended in the way I have suggested, sub-clause 1. would read -
The commission shall give encouragement to the development of local talent and obviate restriction of the utilization of the services of persons who are competent to make useful contributions to broadcasting programmes.
It is a pity that sub-clause 2 was included in. the bill, but as it has been, it should be re-drafted to provide for a much greater proportion than 2£ per cent, of the time devoted to the broadcasting of music. The national broadcasting stations are on the air for about 18 hours a day, and of that time about 11 hours is occupied in the broadcasting of musical items. Two and a half per cent, of eleven hours is about 15 minutes. The playing of “ Advance Australia Fair “ occupies about 10 minutes a day. That leaves only 5 minutes in which it shall be compulsory for the broadcasting stations to encourage local talent. I now come to matters contained in the bill of which I approve. I agree that the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s share of the listeners’ licence-fee should be increased from 10s. to lis. per annum. I approve of the issue of free listeners’ licences to the blind and to schools with fewer than 50 pupils. I do not approve, however, of the extortionate prices that the schools have to pay for their receiving sets. But that has nothing to do with this measure. I also approve of the granting of licences at half rates to old-age pensioners living alone.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The A.B.C. Weekly was started by the commission because certain interests desired to compel the commission to pay advertising fees for the publication of its radio programmes. Although the journal has resulted in a financial liability, there is no reason why it should remain so. It could, in fact, be made of great value to the national broadcasting system. Already it has proved a valuable adjunct to the activities of the commission, because it has made known to the public happenings in the broadcasting arena. By the introduction of new features, it could be made more attractive to the general public than it has proved in the past. If it were published on Friday nights in the capital cities, and included features such as a racing supplement, it would become most popular. As the commission now feels safe from political interference for a year or two, I trust that it will not suddenly stop the publication of the journal.
I draw the attention of the House to the section of the report of the joint committee, at page 70, headed “ Copyright “. In paragraphs 488 to 499 a resume is given of the historical position regarding copyright in Australia, and the effect of the copyright law on both the national and the commercial broadcasting stations is outlined. The subjects of copyright and of performing right have been mentioned in this Parliament on many occasions, and a great deal of interest has been shown in the matter. Having considered the activities of the Australasian Performing Right Association with respect to broadcasting, I am convinced that some misunderstanding has arisen in the past with relation to the real functions of this organization. At present every commercial broadcasting station in Australia pays a fee to the Australasian Performing Right Association in respect of each performance. The rate is determined by the association, and each station is affected differently. The smaller stations in the country pay about 6d., and the rates range up to about 3£d. in respect of each performance broadcast by a metropolitan station. The commercial stations are working under a harmonious agreement with the association that was arranged without recourse to law. This mutual agreement is now operating satisfactorily, and it will continue in force until 1944. A different arrangement exists between the Australasian Performing Right Association and the national stations. Under an agreement reached by arbitration the commission pays a fee of 6d. in respect of each listener’s licence. The association is required to receive only that sum and to distribute it amongst those who are entitled to performing right fees. I consider that the arrangement made with the commercial stations could easily be made with the national stations, and that thus a more satisfactory agreement than that now in operation could be reached. Such an arrangement would do justice to both the composers and the owners of the copyright in the performances broadcast by the commission.
The commission, claims that it is not possible to get sufficient Australian records because there are no establishments in Australia, capable of recording performances suitable for broadcasting. The manufacture of a certain percentage of Australian records should be compulsory. Performing right associations are found in most countries, and they collect performing right fees under the various copyright acts. Those fees, less expenses, are paid to the owners of the copyright. It appears to me that the existence of such a central organization is of great benefit to authors and composers. Otherwise they would not he able to collect their copyright fees owing to the heavy expense that would be involved, and, indeed, they would have no knowledge of where their productions were being played. At the committee stage I shall seek to have amendments inserted in several clauses of the hill. I favour the nationalization of broadcasting in Australia, but, as the Government has seen fit to introduce a bill dealing with both the national and the commercial stations under one measure, we should endeavour to make it as workable as possible.
.- The Joint Parliamentary Committee is to be congratulated on the comprehensive survey that it has made of broadcasting generally. Its report will be helpful in dealing with this bill, and will provide valuable material for future reference. It is unfortunate thatMr. Moses, the general manager of the commission, was not available to give evidence when the committee was making its investigations, because I believe that he would have been able to give testimony of much value. He was then engaged on active service abroad and I am sure that I express the feelings of all members of the House when I say that we are delighted that he has returned to Australia safe and sound, after his trying experiences in Malaya. Wireless broadcasting has now passed the experimental stage, and, in view of the important part it plays in the life of the community, its control should be placed on a sound permanent basis. Australia, with its wide spaces, is vitally interested in broadcasting.
I shall confine my remarks on the bill to matters of finance and administration. I regret, that this measure does not provide for an improvement of the financial set-up of the commission. At present financial control is divided between the commission and the Postmaster-General’s Department. A portion of the revenue from licencefees is paid to the commission, and the Postmaster-General’s Department gets the balance. To ascertain the true financial results of broadcasting activities, it is necessary to amalgamate the profit and loss accounts of the commission with those of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. For instance, for the year ended the 30th June, 1940, the latest year for which I have the official figures, the commission showed a net profit of £47,254. That is not the whole story, as the department also made a profit of £13,256 from broadcasting. It would be interesting to review what has happened in recent years in the financing of broadcasting. The following table shows the profits made by the Postmaster-General’s Department and the commission respectively, from 1936 to 1940 : -
During those five years the PostmasterGeneral’s Department made a profit of £324,000 from broadcasting and the commission a profit of £307,000.
– Not wholly from wireless broa dcasting operations.
– That is so. I am citing official figures. The total profit for the five years was £633,000.
I have previously urged that a comprehensive statement should be presented to Parliament annually setting out the total revenue received from licence-fees and details as to how the money is expended. At present it is impossible for the Parliament to review the accounts in connexion with broadcasting, because it is not given an opportunity to do so. The British Broadcasting Corporation shows in its annual report the total revenue received from licence-fees, and also the total expenditure, including technical expenditure; but in Australia we have two separate divisions of broadcasting. Personally, I advocate that this undertaking should be subject to the same budgetary control as other governmental activities, and that the commission should submit estimates for the approval of the Parliament each year. The practice of granting a lump sum to the commission and saying to it, in effect, “Do the best you can with it”, is unsound. I appreciate the fact that the commission, as now constituted, has a special charter, but I can see no justification for that. It should be treated in the same way as every other governmental activity. I draw attention to the marked increases of the administrative expenses of the commission since the outbreak of the war. The staff salaries, for instance, amounted to £42,000 in 1938-39, £56,000 in 1939-40, and £65,000 in 1940-41, showing an increase in two years of 33 per rent. On the other hand the cost of programmes, including artists’ fees, which represent the chief business of the commission has practically not been increased. The marked increase of administrative expenses calls for explanation, and emphasizes the need for a review by the Parliament of expenditure of this kind. Probably the increase is due to the cost of the A.B.C. Weekly, but that is not clear from the accounts. The joint committee that investigated the matter had something to say about the administration as far as the permanent staff is concerned, and suggested that there should be an investigation; but I think that it would be in the best interests of the commission, and of the service generally, if the permanent officials were brought under the Public Service Act. There is no reason why there should be any differentiation between the commission’s employees and public servants. This state of affairs may create precedents which will cause difficulties and friction within the public service. I now draw attention to clauses 36 to 38 of the bill, which provide that the commission may issue debentures, subject to the approval of the Government. This provision should be deleted from the bill. It is unnecessary, because any loan money required by the commission could be provided through the loan estimates in the same way as funds for other governmental activities are provided. There should not be any distinction between the loans funds required by the commission and those required by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the Commonwealth railways, and other trading concerns of tie Commonwealth. The fact that the commission is working under a special charter does not affect the matter. I should like to be informed whether the issue of debentures in this way comes under the control of the Loan Council, which exercises control over both Commonwealth and State borrowings. In my opinion, the special powers to be given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission by this bill will place it beyond the control of the Loan Council. I concede that there may be good reasons why the commission should borrow money in order to carry on its work and provide expensive capital assets, but this loan expenditure should come under the supervision of Parliament.
I refer now to the A.B.C. Weekly. 1 appreciate the circumstances which led to the publication of this journal, but the experience of the last two and a half years impels me to call for close scrutiny of its affairs by this Parliament. After investigating its finances and the results that it has achieved, I say without hesitation that it has been a costly and futile experiment. It has utterly failed to fulfil the purpose for which it was established. The loss sustained on its publication to the 30th June, 1941, was £70,144. and the estimated loss for the current year, according to the parliamentary committee’s report, is £30,000, which will make a total loss of £100.144. This works out at the rate of £750 a week since the inception of the journal. I understand that the rate of loss has now been reduced to about £600 a week, but, unfortunately, the circulation has also been reduced.- This shocking loss would not be so serious if the journal were an effective means of keeping listeners in touch with the programmes. However, owing to the limited circulation, it is practically useless for this purpose. Fewer than 3 per cent, of licence-holders receive the journal. There are 1,300,000 licensed listeners in Australia and, according to the committee’s report, the journal’s circulation now amounts to 37,000 copies weekly. How many honorable members of this House, or their families, ever refer to this journal in order to study the wireless programmes?
– Here is one.
– And here is another.
– I am glad to hear that. However, assuming that every person who subscribes to the journal uses it for the purpose of studying the radio programmes, the fact remains that only 3 per cent, of licence-holders subscribe to it.
– Practically every witness who was heard by the parliamentary committee favoured the continuation of the journal.
– Probably because they were interested parties.
– They were not.
– Does the honorable member consider that it is good business to spend this tremendous sum of money on a journal which only three out of every 100 licence-holders ever read?
– It is better to use the money in that way than to pay it to the newspapers in advertising charges for the insertion of programmes.
– I have heard that the cost of advertising the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes in the leading newspapers of our capital cities and principal country towns would be £90,000 a year. That would be a more profitable scheme than the publication of the A.B.C. Weekly, because, in those circumstances, nearly every citizen would see the commission’s programmes.
– It would be profitable for the newspapers.
– I hold no ‘brief for the newspapers. Whatever their feelings may be, honorable members should agree that, for the expenditure of £750 a week on this journal, we should at least receive an effective and useful service.
– It provides an excellent service.
– Only for 3 per cent, of the listening community.
– No. Subscribers pass it on to their friends.
– I cannot believe that. This is a contentious matter, and we should examine the plain facts. It is safe to say that the A B.C. Weekly represents the most expensive form of advertising in the Commonwealth. What business concern would spend such large sums in order to obtain so small a result. In effect, every subscriber to the journal is costing the commission about £1 a year, the amount of the listener’s licence-fee. That fact alone suggests that we should discontinue the publication of the journal.
– The British Broadcasting Corporation publishes the Listener and another journal.
– I shall give some facts in relation to those publications in a few minutes. This is a deplorable state of affairs, and, unfortunately, prospects for the future are not very encouraging, as the circulation of the A.B.C. Weekly has steadily declined since its first issue. Unless some drastic alteration can be made to the journal in order to make it more effective and reduce its costs, this wicked waste of public funds must cease. The urgent need to conserve man-power and reduce the consumption of newsprint suggests to me that the whole subject of the publication of radio journals throughout Australia should be submitted to a careful review. At the present time, in addition to the A.B.C. Weekly, which has 40 pages in each issue, there are numerous other weekly radio journals, such as Radio, 69 pages; the Broadcaster, 63 pages; Family Teleradio, 75 pages; the Listener In, 23 pages ; Radio Call, 15 pages, Radio Times, 15 pages; Radio Record, 8 pages; and Wireless Weekly, 23 pages. Those with the smallest number of pages have sheets approximately twice the size of those in the other journals.
– Does the honorable member not consider that the publication of these competing journals involves a terrible waste of paper?
– I do. In addition to these journals, programmes are issued by the .Department of Information. It should be possible to evolve a satisfactory method of advertising radio programmes throughout the Commonwealth without the overlapping and duplication which occur at present. I raise this matter because, whilst on the one hand this Government is urging private business concerns to reduce their consumption of paper and the Minister for War Organization of Industry is closing down many businesses, on the other hand we have this overlapping and the wasteful expenditure of large sums of money weekly on a journal which is ineffective and serves only a small section of the community.
– More money was spent on the A.B.C. Weekly under the previous Government.
– I am not criticizing the present Government for the establishment of the journal, but it will stand condemned if it permits this extravagance to continue. I draw attention to the fact that the commission did not disclose the loss sustained on the journal in its published accounts. The figure was apparently covered up among other items of expenditure. It is significant that, in the year prior to the establishment of the journal, the published accounts of the commission showed an item “ General expenses, £17,000 “ in its profit and loss account. Even the details of expenditure involved in that figure were given. In the next year, after the journal was established, the amount given as expenditure, without any details, was £60,000. I believe that the expenditure on this publication has been distributed over various items in the profit and loss account. It may be that a substantial part of it is included in the salaries item. The revenue from the journal has, of course, been included in the revenue account. In my view, it is most improper to cover up heavy losses of this kind in our public accounts.
– The honorable gentleman is in a bad humour this evening.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr.
Martens) would justify the covering up of heavy losses in the way I have indicated. In the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended the 30th June, 1941, I find that the expenses in connexion with the journal are given as £54,863 and the revenue as £22,000. As a matter of fact, the Auditor-.General’s report is the only place where I have been able to find any real information about the finances of this journal, and it is disclosed in that document that the expenses have been more than double the revenue. I trust that in future we shall be provided with a clear statement of accounts covering the operations of this publication. We ought to know the details of such heavy losses.
– It is not a loss; it is a price for services rendered.
– The Minister may so regard it if he pleases, but it is a very heavy price to pay for the publication of a journal which reaches only about 3 per cent, of the holders of listeners’ licences.
– It is a service of great value.
– In my view, the cost of it is unwarranted.
– The committee recommended that the journal should be under continuous review by the proposed standing committee on broadcasting.
– That may be so, but I consider that something more than a continuous review is required. I do not think that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) can feel satisfied with the present position. This Parliament, and the country at large, are entitled to detailed information concerning the financial position of the publication. Unless the A.B.C. Weekly can render a better service to the community than it has rendered up to date, its publication should be discontinued.
I doubt the wisdom of the provision in the bill for the appointment of a standing parliamentary committee on broadcasting, particularly if it is intended that the committee shall interfere in any way with the control of broadcasting. The present “ set-up “ is unwieldy enough for we have, first, the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, then the commission itself, and then provision for the appointment of State advisory committees. All of these are subject to the Minister. It is now suggested that we should superimpose a parliamentary committee. The fact is that too many people already have a say in the control of broadcasting. What is needed, if we are to achieve the best results, is more concentration and less division of authority.
– What we have is a system of checks and balances.
– I direct attention to the differences between the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and that of the Postmaster-General’s Department, which is the largest as well as one of the most efficient business undertakings in the Commonwealth. Our postal services are under the sole control of a director-general, who is subject only to the Minister. In my view, broadcasting will not he improved by the appointment of a supervisory joint standing committee, particularly if the committee is to interfere with the administration of the commission. If a body of that kind is needed, what justification is there for the commission itself? Personally, I appreciate the good work that the commission has done. No public utility in this country gives such a good return to the public for the fees paid as does the Australian Broadcasting Commission We should be careful not to make the administration of this utility top-heavy.
I am pleased that provision has been made in the bill for the encouragement of local talent, although the quota of 2£ per cent, is not over-generous. I believe that this quota is already being exceeded in the broadcast programmes.
– The quota of local talent, is less than 1 oer cent.
– Probably the committee reached that conclusion on evidence based on pre-war activities. Present-day difficulties in securing artists from overseas afford an excellent opportunity to encourage local talent, and 1 believe that one result of this will be that we shall become more self-reliant.
– There are not enough records available at present.
– It must, be almost impossible for the commission to secure artists from overseas at present, and, even if they could be secured, strong reasons would need to be advanced to justify bringing them here. I trust that as the result of the encouragement to be given to local talent we shall have the opportunity to listen to the work of a greater number of Australian composers and authors.
Under clause 95 of the bill, it is proposed that advisory committees shall be appointed in each State. No doubt such committees could be of great assistance, but I regret that it is proposed that the committees shall report directly to the Minister and apparently ignore the commission. In the interests of smooth working, there should be the fullest measure of co-operation between the commission and the advisory committees.
– The advisory committees will be required to deal with commercial as well as national broadcasting.
– But they will doubtless be required to consider many matters vitally important to the administration of the national stations.
– They will deal almost entirely with programmes.
– That does not alter my opinion that they should act in the fullest co-operation with the commission and not ignore it. ‘Clause 34 of the bill provides that the commission shall be exempt from the payment of rates and taxes to local governing authorities. If this provision covers municipal rates, I trust that arrangements will be made for an ex gratia payment to be made by the commission to local governing bodies in localities where it is operating. It is only fair that the commission, which is a trading concern, should make a contribution to the local governing body which is responsible for services which it enjoys. I understand that the Commonwealth Bank, though not under legal obligation to pay rates and taxes, makes an en: gratia payment to municipal authorities in localities where it owns and occupies buildings. The Australian Broadcasting Commission should follow this good example.
– I understand that the commission pays rates and taxes in respect of buildings which it leases.
– The bill provides that it shall be exempt from such charges.
– Only in respect of its own buildings.
– Even in respect of its own buildings, it should pay rates and taxes.
I shall deal with certain other provisions of the bill when the measure is at the committee stage. I have confined my remarks on this occasion largely to the financial aspects of the commission’s operations, and I greatly regret that provision has not been made for an improvement in its financial “ set-up “. Apparently the present arrangements between the commission and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in respect of financial matters are to be continued, under which the commission receives a part of the licence-fees, and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department the balance of them. I urge, as I have done previously, that a comprehensive statement should be presented to Parliament each year setting out the total revenues from licence-fees ‘and the details of their disbursement. I regard this as an essential reform.
.- -I support, the bill and congratulate the Government upon having introduced it. I also congratulate the joint committee upon whose comprehensive and exhaustive report the measure is largely founded. Broadcasting has made remarkable progress, as we must realize when we remember that the first public broadcasting demonstration was given at the Melbourne Exhibition building during 1920. In 1924 there were 3,400 licensed receiving sets in Australia-, to-day the number is about 1,324,000. That means that in SO per cent, of the homes in the Commonwealth radio receiving sets are to be found. Broadcasting in Australia gives employment to 15,000 people, and represents an expenditure of £20,000,000. That is a wonderful development within the space of less than a score of years. When we cast our minds into the future we are astounded at the possibilities; we see in imagination not only television on a much more universal scale than at present, but also telepathy - the transference of thought - by means of radio. At the moment that may appear to be fantastic, but it is something that cannot be ruled out as an impossibility. At first, broadcasting was thought to be a toy; it is now a healthy recreation for the tired body and. jaded mind. It has become a medium for the transmission of news and views. In times of national stress, like the present, radio broadcasting is used to maintain the morale of the people. In the Axis countries it is used for propaganda purposes ; the voice of the controlled radio is the only voice that the people are allowed to hear. For weal or woe. broadcasting has come among us; like gunpowder, which can be a blessing or a curse, much depends on how it is used. Broadcasting is a valuable social amenity, especially to people living in remote and isolated places. To many whose lives are spent in the far-flung distances of this laud, radio brings many of the amenities of life. Most important of all is the possibility of using the radio to educate the nation, and it is on this phase that I desire now to speak. I regard broadcasting as a most valuable adjunct to education. It is not a substitute for the teacher or the instructor. The human mind can best be stimulated and inspired by the influence of a greater mind - one carefully attuned to the mind of the pupil or student. Let us consider broadcasting as an adjunct to education. Among English speaking peoples, there is practically no definite standard of speech, although the recognized standard is usually that of the public school man, and, of course, the Oxford Dictionary. In France, before the war, the Academy decided the correct form of speech. I regard the radio as a means of establishing a satisfactory standard of speech. It should be used more for that purpose. Honorable members know that the impression and the expression are complementary. Mental impression and oral expression are the reverse and the obverse of the same shield. ‘We should be careful of what is put over the air. At times we hear a lot of rubbish and words which no educated person would use. In this connection, great care should be taken in choosing the persons who are to do the broadcasting. They should have a sound cultural, background ; their speech should be beyond reproach; the vowels should be pure and the consonants distinct; the intonation, the phrasing, the tempo, the rhythm, the sincerity, the construction, and the grammar should be beyond reproach. If we want to know a person we have only to induce him to open his mouth. Just as the age of a horse or a sheep is ascertained by an inspection of the mouth; just as we prove whether or not a snake is poisonous by looking into its mouth or by putting our finger there; just as we visualize the size of animals which lived thousands of years ago by examining their jaws, so we judge people by what they broadcast over the radio. We should be most careful that we maintain a high standard of broadcasting in the interests of our young people. We must use the radio as a great purifying medium for our people. It is not sufficient to give to them just what they would like. The word “ broadcasting “ brings back to my mind incidents of over half a century ago, when I used to watch my father broadcasting wheat. First he made careful preparation; he selected the best grain available. Then he sifted it to get rid of the impurities. After that, he steeped it in blue-stone - to-day we would say “ copper sulphate “ - and then he broadcast it. He was careful to distribute the seed evenly over the ground. Sometimes he was rewarded with a good crop. The purpose of steeping the seed in blue-stone was to prevent smut. Similarly in wireless, I hold that every precaution should be taken beforehand to see that no smut is broadcast. Like printing, broadcasting has wrought a peaceful revolution. Printing led to the Renaissance in Europe; it brought education to the people. Someone has stated, that in printing, ideas are imprisoned behind the bars of the printed page. Oral speech may be regarded as the most natural way in which to convey thought from one to another. Speech is more natural than printing. From the very dawn of consciousness, oral speech moves us. Speech is used to convey not only our deepest and finest thoughts, but also the lowest ideas that come to our mind, as well as all the variations in between - the overtones and the undertones. Honorable members will agree that oral speech has been greatly neglected in our schools, the reason being that educational standards are tested usually by means of written examinations. I am pleased to see in the bill that appointments to the staff of the commission are in future to follow competitive examinations similar to those held for entrance to the Commonwealth Public Service ; but more than that is needed. There should be also a personal interview.
Music also is broadcast. I hold that only music of the highest standard should be broadcast. There are some who say that the people cannot understand good music, but I hold that such music has .the power to make itself understood by even the weakest and dullest mind. Its rhythm is speech that every one. can understand because it is based on the heart beat. All this talk about not understanding good speech or music, that it is above the heads of the people, should be ignored. I would rather that music or speech be above our heads than under our feet. It has been said that “ The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world “. What rubbish ! In many instances the hand that rocks the cradle muddles and addles the brain of the child. It is because that has happened in so many instances that the world is experiencing its present troubles. The hand that rocks the cradle does not rule the world; the hand that turns the radio dial does so. Just as in Midsummer Night’s Dream the fairies came when a wand was waved, so in every home in which there is a radio receiving set a turn of the dial should bring to us the cream of the world’s thought. I wonder what our grandfathers and mothers would think if they could come amongst us again and experience this wonderful thing ?
– We should be thankful that we can turn it off when we want to.
– There are in Australia 29 National broadcasting stations, and 98 commercial stations ; yet less than onehalf of one per cent, of the music which is transmitted by them is of Australian origin. Although I know that music doei not belong to any country, but is a universal language, I feel that Australian an and music should be encouraged by our broadcasting stations.
– Under this bill, the proportion is to be increased to 2£ per cent.
– That is all to the good. I am pleased that free listeners’ licences are to be made available to pensioners. This Parliament is not unmindful of the less fortunate persons in the community, as legislation providing for invalid, oldage, and widows’ pensions bears testimony. This provision of free licences to the blind is further evidence of our thought for others. I am pleased to note that there is to be prohibition of the broadcasts of political talks later than two days prior to the date of an election. The Minister has circulated a proposed new clause 96a, sub-clause 2 of which reads -
The commission or the licensee of a broadcasting station shall not, at any time prior to the close of the poll on the day on which any election for the Parliament of the Commonwealth or a State or for any House of any such Parliament or for any vacancy in any such House is held, or at any time on either of the two days immediately preceding that day, broadcast, in whole or in part, any speech or matter -
commenting on, or ‘ soliciting votes for, any candidate at the election;
commenting on, or advocating support of, any political party to which any candidate at the election belongs ; lc) commenting upon, stating or indicating any of the issues being submitted to the electors at the election or any part of the policy of any candidate at the election or of the political party to which he belongs; or
referring to any meeting held in connexion with the election.
Many of my comments in regard to this bill have been made in a commendatory spirit; but the measure has one very serious defect. It is a great pity that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has not the power to gather its news from independent sources. It should be nationalized. I hate to think, and do not like to hear, that its news is broadcast by courtesy of certain specified newspapers; because, as we know, the press is merely the mouthpiece of vested interests, and the source of the news of our national broadcasting service should be above reproach; it should be pure. There will still have to be a certain degree of dependence upon newspapers; thus the broadcasts will be a pale echo of what those journals provide. With the exception of this defect, which I hope will be amended later, I am in agreement with every provision in the bill. I have very much pleasure in supporting the second reading.
.- I support the bill, and congratulate the Minister and the Government upon their promptness in taking steps to give effect to the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting. I also congratulate the committee upon its splendid report, and the hard work and research that enabled it to make its recommendations. I am doubly pleased with the measure, not so much for what it contains as for what it connotes, namely, that honorable members of this House are capable of working in co-operation for the performance of a constructive task. If co-operation be possible in this House, I am sure that it is attainable also in the community. We should reflect the wishes of the community, particularly in an hour of crisis, when the desire for co-operative effort in the prosecution of the war should be unanimous. Having always strongly supported the setting u) of joint parliamentary committees, I am pleased at the manner in which the work of this committee has been performed, and with the evidence of good faith shown by the Government. I entertained some doubt as to whether steps would be taken by the Government to implement recommendations such as are contained in the report of the committee, because past governments which have set up committees of inquiry and royal commissions have invariably shelved their reports after thousands of pounds had been spent in obtaining the material upon which they were based. Analysing this report, we appreciate its monumental character. It is a document of 115 pages. The committee occupied nine months in the taking of evidence and in the compilation of its report. It held 113 formal and innumerable informal sittings. It took evidence from 154 witnesses, and made 71 recommendations. A significant feature of the report is that, with one exception - in respect of the nationalization of broadcasting services - the recommendations were made unanimously. A substantial step towards the nationalization of broadcasting services has been made, because they will be placed completely under government control. The Government proposes to implement 35 of the recommendations by means of legislation, and the remainder by regulation, or through the administrative machinery that is to be established and the parliamentary committee that will exercise an oversight ofbroadcasting from time to time. I disagree with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) in regard to the appointment of a standing committee. That is a step in the right direction. There should be standing committees to deal with many other matters which come under the jurisdiction of various Ministers, in order that the actions of the Administration may be closely scrutinized on behalf of this Parliament and the community. The Australian Broadcasting Commission will not be answerable to the people, because its members are appointed for fixed periods. The proposed parliamentary committee, however, will be answerable to the Parliament and the people; consequently, the whole of the administration in relation tobroadcasting will be on a completely democratic basis. In addition to providing for full government control, the bill is designed to restrict the monopolizing of broadcasting stations. In the past, certain interests have owned or controlled a chain of broadcasting stations throughout the continent. As a first step in the establishment of the administration, the committee recommends that its headquarters shall be at the national capital. The committee has thus set a worthy example, which might well be followed in other directions, with a view to making Canberra the national capital in reality, as was intended by the framers of the Constitution.
Clause 9 deals with the term of appointment of the commission. It is not desirable that persons should be appointed to administrative posts at high salaries for long periods ; that is not democratic. With an allparty parliamentary committee in control of broadcasting, this administration should he answerable to Parliament from year to year, as the directors of a public company are answerable to its shareholders. The bill pro vides for re-appointment in rotation every two years. In my opinion, every member of the commission should be obliged to submit himself for re-appointment either annually or biennially.
Clause 17 lays down certain provisions in regard to the staff of the commission, one provision being that only British subjects shall be eligible for appointment to it. That seems a very narrow and parochial attitude to adopt, particularly in a country like Australia, which needs more population and the best brains that are obtainable in the world. I appreciate that some consideration should be given to local talent. It is provided that a certain proportion of the programmes shall be provided by local artists. The spirit of that provision should be followed in connexion with the administration. The commission should not be restricted to the appointment of Australian citizens, or persons of British descent, particularly as the United nations are fighting side by side for the one cause. When peace is achieved, many of the citizens of our allies may wish to migrate to Australia. To enact that the Australian Broadcasting. Commission shall not employ on its staff any of the citizens of such countries would be contrary to the spirit of the Atlantic Charter. The position might well be met by laying down certain general principles, and leaving scope for the exercise of discretion by the administration. I feel impelled to move to have the bill amended in that direction.
The honorable member for Lilley has analysed the financial position of the A.B.C. Weekly. It is quite proper that he should do so, and that this House should satisfy itself in regard to the basis on which that journal is being conducted. As the honorable member has pointed out, the loss on it may reach £100,000 by the end of this financial year. The joint parliamentary committee has indicated that it is not entirely satisfied, and has stated that the position of the journal will be reviewed from time to time. I submit for the consideration of the Minister that the powers of the commission in respect of the journal should be defined. Instead of coming directly under the control of the commission its funds being mingled with the general funds, thus preventing u3 from ascertaining its true position at any time, it should be a subsidiary organization, in which the commission would have a certain interest with its .liability definitely limited. Under the present arrangement, the commission may continue to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds without any restriction being placed on its operations. The position has to be met sooner or later, because the general funds of the commission are steadily diminishing and the journal cannot continue to lose large sums annually. I realize that in the early stages a newspaper must be prepared to incur a loss. The whole matter could be placed on a proper basis, however, if the liability of the commission were limited, either by the A.B C. Weekly being formed into a subsidiary concern or by the commission subsidizing it annually to whatever amount might be considered reasonable.
Another very desirable provision is that which deals with broadcasts of objectionable matter, including obscenity. The committee seems to have approached this matter in a reasonable way ; and this provision should preclude a recurrence of the closing down of a radio station on the arbitrary ruling of the Postmaster.General as happened in New South “Wales not so very long ago. The action taken by the Postmaster-General on that occasion penalized not only the offending person but also the station itself, all the employees of the station, the advertisers who had contracts with the station, and that section of the listening public which looked to that station for particular broadcasts. It will now be possible to penalize the offending person without penalizing innocent people at the same time.
– But the proposed procedure is much more cumbersome.
– All will depend on the person administering the legislation. I suppose that if the “Fuehrer of Kangaroo Island “ were handling the matter the new procedure would not represent any improvement at all. This method might well be applied by this Parliament in dealing with a newspaper which is alleged to have reflected on certain honorable senators and members. Action taken by the Senate in the instance to which 1 refer penalizes not only the man responsible for the article complained of, but also his fellow employees, the newspaper organization itself, and that section of the public which looks to that newspaper for reports of proceedings in this Parliament. I am pleased that the Government has adopted this method of dealing with objectionable broadcasts; and I hope that as the result of its application the moral tone of the community will be improved.
Under this measure it is proposed to prevent the dramatization of political items. I do not quite see the reason for that. I should like further explanation of the point.
– If the honorable member recalls some of the stuff that was put over the air by his party at the last genera] elections, he will understand the reason for this provision.
– Apparently, Labour’s political broadcasts on that occasion convinced the electors of the proper way to vote. Very often the dramatization of an item presents it more clearly than announcements made in the usual humdrum style. I am not convinced that good reason exists for the total prohibition of political broadcasts on the two days preceding the date of the election. I can we’ll imagine that it might be necessary to permit a political broadcast on the last two days in order to expose a last-minute stunt by an opposing party. Attempts have been made in the past by certain political parties to stampede the electors at the last minute. Some years ago, in New South “Wales, a sectarian stunt put over at the last moment stampeded the electors, but the opposing political party had no opportunity whatever to expose the stunt. Therefore, whilst it might be wise to prohibit political broadcasts on the two days immediately preceding the date of an election, some safeguard should be provided by allowing interested parties to make an effective reply.
– It is impossible to make such a provision.
– Surely, the proposed parliamentary standing committee could work out some such scheme. .Sub-clause 4 of clause 69, and clause 101, provide that the texts of advertisements of medicines and medical talks must be approved by the Director-General of Health, or such persons in each State as are delegated by him to give that approval. That is a retrograde step. It is not in the general interest of the community that advertisements on matters affecting health, or talks of a scientific nature, must be referred to one individual who may have his own ideas on these particular subjects. The committee recognized this fact because in paragraph 434 of its report, it states - . . . In making this recommendation we desire to point out that certain unregistered health practitioners, such as osteopaths, have sometimes been in advance of medical practice, and we recommend that there be no prohibition of advertisements by chiropractors, osteopaths and similar practitioners unless their work is prohibited by legislation.
So far as I can ascertain, this bill does not give effect to that recommendation. If the Minister is not prepared to do so, I shall submit an amendment along those lines. It is important to bear in mind that the trend to-day is to give to orthodox medical practitioners a complete monopoly of health services. That trend is apparent in not only this country, but also throughout the world. “Within the last year or so, a prosecution was launched in the United States of America under the Sherman anti-trust law against the American Medical Association, which is the equivalent of the British Medical Association; also against a number of medical societies and practitioners for certain conduct which had the object of obstructing the operations of certain co-operative medical societies. Similarly, action has been taken in some of the States of the Commonwealth to place the control of health services completely in the hands of orthodox medical practitioners. I admit that the latter are entitled to preserve their rights. However, in the past, many lay practitioners have been well ahead of the times in their particular field. This fact is pointed out by the committee in its report. Even in the Australian Capital Territory, osteopaths and chiropractors are not allowed to practise their science, although they are allowed to do so in most of the States, as well as in most other countries, and their service is legally recognized throughout the United States of America, f admit that in the Australian Capital
Territory no serious obstacle is placed in their way; but the fact remains that their operations are not legalized. When a medical bill was introduced a couple of years ago, in the Parliament of New South Wales a provision similar to this was recommended, in order to preserve the rights of these classes of lay practitioners. On that occasion a definite undertaking was then given by the then Minister for Health, Mr. FitzsimonS, that that would be done. However, it was provided that regulations enacted under that measure must be approved by both Houses; and, unfortunately, the Upper Chamber so mutilated those regulations that these lay practitioners are now prevented from advertising their science through the press. The State was unable to prevent such advertisements from being broadcast, because it has no jurisdiction over broadcasting. It seems to be most undesirable, therefore, that this Parliament should now prohibit these classes of lay practitioners from advertising their science.
– Is it a science ?
– Yes; osteopathy is a science. It was practised by the wellknown bone-setter, Sir Herbert Barker, who was persecuted by orthodox medical practitioners for many years. Even during the last war, although he volunteered to do so, he was not allowed to give his services for the benefit of wounded soldiers. However, after the war, when his work achieved recognition throughout the community, over 100 medical practitioners signed a petition to the King to grant him a knighthood. His early persecution, however, debarred him from benefiting many people in need of his special knowledge. I need hardly remind honorable members that Pasteur was persecuted in a similar way. For many years, he was ostracized by the orthodox medical profession. Yet Pasteur discovered the germ theory as the cause of disease, and that theory is accepted to-day by the medical profession. The same observation applies to Dr. Harvey, who investigated the circulation of the blood. He was a medical practitioner. His theory was laughed at; and he was ostracized by the medical profession. He died a pauper. Coming nearer home, I recall the opposition on the part of the medical profession to Sister Kenny, and her special treatment of victims of infantile paralysis. She had to overcome many obstacles in order to explain her treatment to the community. If the provision in this measure dealing with medical advertisements and talks be adopted, the work of discoverers of cures of this kind may be seriously hampered. Good health is life itself; it is the basis of human existence. The trend to-day is towards the prevention rather than the cure of diseases. I appreciate the views which the committee apparently had in mind with respect to the advertising of patent medicines and quack remedies. Many years ago, a committee appointed by this Parliament exposed the patent medicine racket. It revealed that quack remedies, which actually cost a few pence, were retailed to the public at exorbitant prices. At the same time many remedies usually placed in this class may be efficacious; otherwise, they would not be so generally sought after by the public. If such matters are placed completely under the control of the orthodox medical profession, people may not be able to buy patent medicines without first securing a prescription from their medical advisers. Thus, such medicines may cost the public the usual, consultation fee of 10s. 6d. in addition to the usual retail price of from 2s. 6d. to 5s. a bottle.
– Why does the honorable member say that the safeguard of appeal to the Minister is not sufficient?
– In the first place, the Minister will be too busy to deal with these matters, and in the second place, he will not have the necessary technical knowledge. How could he determine the ingredients of various patent medicines, or the medical value of osteopathy?
– The DirectorGeneral of Health would have the necessary knowledge.
– Yes, but he would be bound by orthodox methods.
– Surely the honorable member does not complain of orthodoxy?
– People should be free to consult an orthodox medical practitioner, or an unregistered practitioner first, as they choose.
– Does the honorable member believe that laymen should be allowed to practice in the courts?
– Only laymen are allowed to appear before certain tribunals. Under this legislation the Director-General of Health will be a virtual dictator, able to prescribe what people may buy and what they may not in the way of medicine. Only recently, when the question of white bread as a healthful food was under discussion, the Director-General of Health said thai he did not regard the issue as important: indeed, the Minister for Health said that the Director-‘General had not given much thought to it, but he inclined to the belief that white bread was a satisfactory article of diet. Nevertheless, we know that Sir Raphael Cilento is of opinion that white bread is definitely harmful, an opinion which is shared by the King’s physician, Lord Horder There is also a sharp cleavage of opinion on the vexed question of immunization. Perhaps that is why this provision has been included in the bill. We know that some directors of health have fixed ideas on the subject, and are anxious that all children should be immunized against certain diseases, but a great many people think that the whole thing is just a commercial racket. As a matter of fact, a petition signed by 58 members of the medical profession practising on the Island of Guernsey stated that, in their opinion, immunization against diphtheria was valueless. I do not propose to enter the controversy, or to say whether immunization is good or bad, but I do think that both sides of the question should be heard. It is all very well, to say that the Minister will be able to hear appeals, but we know thai in practice he will be guided by his expert advisers.
– Then there will, in fact, be no appeal at all.
– It will be an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. I suggest that the term “ medical “ as used in the bill be more precisely defined. The Director - General of Health might think that certain methods of treatment ought not to he recognized, but other competent persons might differ from him. We know that Mr. Weaver resigned as Minister for Health in New South Wales because be objected to a proposal that all medical services should be controlled by the officially recognized medical profession. I believe that we should, safeguard, the rights of unofficial medical practitioners. If there are difficulties in the way of including a comprehensive definition in the bill, provision should be made for the position to be covered by regulations.
In other respects, I regard the bill as satisfactory, more especially as it brings all forms of broadcasting under the control of the Government, so that it will be possible to improve the moral tone of broadcasting, and to raise educational standards. I am glad that it is proposed to grant concessions in the matter of licence-fees to schools and hospitals, and to invalid and old-age pensioners. There is a truly human touch about that. At last it appears to be recognized that broadcasting is not something which should be exploited purely for commercial profit, but should be used for’ the benefit of the community as a whole.
– The polite custom seems to be to commend the Joint Committee on Broadcasting on the report which it has prepared. I desire to be no less courteous than my colleagues, and’ I think that the committee has done good work, because it has achieved something, which successive Postmasters-General failed to achieve - it has brought into harmony the varying opinions of members of various parties. I know that Ministers have in the past drafted bills and submitted them to Parliament, but the feeling of Parliament was such that no bill was previously regarded’ as wholly satisfactory. I do not say that I approve everything that the bill contains, but it is a notable step forward, and I would not rob the members, of the committee of the credit due to them.
Honorable members- raa.y not grasp the fact that there are two sides to broadcasting, the entertainment side and the technical side. I desire to say something about the- technical, side, without which there could be no broadcasting at all, and in this respect, I pay a warm tribute to the staff of experts attached to the Post.masterGeneral’s Department. Hitherto, their praises have not been sung, and they have received no publicity. Nevertheless, in season and out of season their services have been availed of by all broadcasting stations, national and commercial. By their researches, they have done more than any one else to bring broadcasting in Australia to its present high standard. They have introduced many innovations. They have achieved what I regard as a monumental success in that they have made it possible to construct broadcasting stations in Australia wholly out of Australian-made material. They are responsible for the policing of international conventions, a big thing in itself. The various broadcasting channels are split up among different countries, and within those countries among the several broadcasting stations. This arrangement must be policed in order- to ensure that the stations operating on a prescribed wave-length do not interfere with one another. The experts have established a standard of frequency tests, which prevent interference between stations whose frequencies are close or even the same, this being achieved by giving one station more, power than the other. In addition to this, the technicians of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are responsible for the maintenance of an even frequency on ships and, in time of peace, at experimental stations also-. They have to arrange a nation-wide hook-up when occasion demands, so that every station in Australia is brought on to the air at the same time in order to give the same programme. When one remembers that the programme has to be transmitted over thousands of miles of land line, with technicians standing by to synchronize operations to a split second, one cannot but admire the efficiency of this notable body of public servants.
Then we have the entertainment side of broadcasting, and in order to realize what has been done, it is only necessary to compare the position now with what obtained in 1932, when the Australian Broadcasting Commission took over. Then, there were only two radio orchestras, one in Sydney, consisting of thirteen members, and the other in Melbourne, consisting of fourteen members, and they were not permanent organizations. To-day, there are permanent orchestras in every capital city, besides permanent military bands and dance bands, and a chorus of sixteen or more voices. During 1.93S-39, no fewer than 263 musicians were fully employed on the national network, besides many hundreds of others who received casual employment. One of the greatest achievements of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was the inauguration of public concerts, which have done more than anything else to raise cultural standards in Australia. The educational value of these concerts cannot be over estimated. Being far removed from the cultural centres of Europe, Australians did not develop a high standard of music. We were content to rely on our own products, and we were not influenced as are the people of Europe by the penetration of music and culture from a -country a few miles across the border. When the commission inaugurated the celebrity concerts, it conferred a great boon upon the music-loving people of Australia. The concerts made the appreciation of the celebrities by teachers and students more pronounced and gave an opportunity to students and teachers to study the technique of musicians who are in the highest class of the music world. Moreover, the commission rendered a -distinct service to the music-loving public, who, possibly, would go to see a celebrity at a concert, but would not listen to the music of that celebrity without visual contact. Even though these celebrity concerts attracted large crowds, the commission made it possible for people to see for themselves the technique of the artists. The concerts also assisted broadcasting itself considerably because the advertising publicity did more to popularize broadcasting than any other effort. The commission provided for the listening public something which could not otherwise have been given, to it without direct contact with the magnetism and technique of the artist. This innovation resulted in huge money surpluses accruing to the commission and proved that this field if further exploited by the commission would result to its advantage. In view of the criticism of celebrity concerts voiced in this chamber it is interesting to note that the surplus gained by the commission from the- celebrity concerts was £2,000 in 1936, £9,000 in 1937, £17,000 in 1938 and about £32,000 in 1939. These results proved conclusively that the commission had struck a chord in the hearts of the Australian music-loving people. This enterprise had another effect. Being so far removed from Europe, we are subject to the exploitation of celebrities by entrepreneurs. Formerly they brought to Australia from overseas one or two celebrated artists a year, but when the commission inaugurated this enterprise, it co-operated to a marked degree with entrepreneurs and succeeded in establishing a demand in Australia for vocalists and musicians, with resultant benefit to this country. I would direct the attention of honorable members who have criticized the commission for its failure to make use of Australian artists to the fact that entrepreneurs had neglected to engage local singers and musicians for concerts, and had thereby failed to give them an opportunity to be heard by the Australian public. The figures that I shall quote ought to convince honorable members that the commission took advantage of this neglect. I shall give the figures for 193S-39, and I have taken that period because it was the year prior to the outbreak of war, as since then a proper comparison could not be drawn between Australian and foreign artists. During 1938-39, about 90 per cent, of the salaries disbursed by the commission were paid to Australian artists; 66 per cent, of the material, that is the script, for every programme was produced by the commission in Australia and 75 per cent, of the musical comedies and revue broadcast over the national network was the work of talented Australian writers and artists. From 1936 to 198S the commission brought to Australia from overseas a number of Australian artists. There is no need for me to elaborate this point, but I think that the figures are convincing. Notwithstanding the engagement by the commission of local artists, it imported seven Australian artists between 1936 and 1939, and made it possible for the Australian public to listen to musicians of their own blood playing to them and rendering items that had charmed the ears of cultured music-loving people in Europe.
– Was it not more a question of transportation than importation?
– The artists would hare been content to remain in Europe where their talents were appreciated and where they received large salaries.
– Australia exported the artists before they were imported.
– I shall not join issue with the honorable member on that fine point. In addition to importing seven Australian artists, the commission brought to Australia in the same period twelve foreign artists. When the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) spoke in somewhat disparaging terms of the artists brought to Australia by the commission and described them as second-rate, I challenged him to name them, but he could not. Among the twelve foreign artists brought to Australia by the commission were Lotte Lehmann Tauber, Kipnis, and Dupre - artists in the front rank of music in Europe. It would have been impossible lor us in Australia to have heard those great artists had the commission not afforded us the opportunity to listen to them and to study their technique. In the celebrity concerts, 24 local soloists were engaged, and the commission sent on tours of the Commonwealth 190 local artists who otherwise might have languished in their home towns or perhaps have had the good fortune to have an occasional concert promoted for them in a large city. I think that I have furnished sufficient information to convince critics that the commission has made available to Australian artists the whole of its organization and made it possible for them to become known in their own country. Therefore, I suggest that before illinformed criticism is levelled against the commission, honorable members should study this trend of the commission’s policy.
I cannot understand the Joint Committee on Broadcasting passing over, and I! cannot understand why the Minister has failed to take heed of the necessity for giving the commission more control of the technical side of broadcasting. The technical side of broadcasting in Australia has passed beyond the experimental stage, in which it was necessary for the commission to move cautiously. Although I appreciate the technical knowledge of the technicians of the Postmaster-General’s Department, I consider that the commission should have full control of the technical service, to the point of output. I have heard honorable members and listeners outside Parliament criticize the commission’s broadcasting performances as compared with those of the commercial stations. These critics have claimed that the technique of broadcasting has been brought to a fine art by the B class stations, but the technique of the A class stations has been crude. There might have been some ground for the criticism in the first stage of broadcasting, but a marked improvement has been noticeable in recent years. Until such time as the commission is given control of the technical service to the point of output, it will be at a disadvantage. Technicians trained in the Postmaster-General’s Department are not musicians. They do not understand the modulation necessary to get the full expression out of the music broadcast. Lacking an appreciation of tone and harmony, they cannot give full expression to the modulation of music put over the air.
– Can the honorable member give one instance where the technicians of the Postmaster-General’s Department have failed?
– No broadcasting commission can pronounce where the technicians on the control board have failed or succeeded. If a person who understood the full value of tone, volume and harmony were in charge of the control board, much better results would be obtained than if control were left in the hands of technicians possessing no appreciation of tone and harmony. There is that undefinable something which nobody but a musician can achieve, and it is the difference between a musical genius and a musical hack. I am opposed to the method set out in the bill for the setting up of a standing committee and an advisory committee to report to the Minister. In my opinion, the result will be chaos. The powers which are conferred upon the Minister are very limited. He must accept all responsibility for criticism which, is levelled at the Australian Broadcasting Commission because he administers the act, hut he will exercise no real power over that body. I can visualize what will happen. A standing committee on broadcasting will be appointed with power to investigate any matter affecting broadcasting, and will submit its conclusions to Parliament. When the Minister receives the report, he might feel it incumbent upon him to make the evidence available to the advisory committee. The advisory committee, after taking precisely the same evidence as that which the standing committee heard, will report to the Minister. One does, not have to be a seer to foretell that the standing committee will investigate the conditions in every State. As a former member for Bourke, the late Mr. Anstey once said, the committee will go north in winter-time and south in summer-time. It will take evidence here, there and everywhere, and the Minister will submit its report to the advisory committee concerned. The advisory committee will then examine the conditions in their respective States, and make their several reports to the Minister. The next step will be that the Minister will present the reports to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which will examine them and, by an exercise of its powers relating to all matters appertaining to broadcasting, will disregard them. When that occurs, the Minister will be obliged to introduce amending legislation. Thus we can expect a procession of bills, because of the conflict of opinion which must exist between the standing committee, which will poke its finger into every matter associated with broadcasting, the advisory committee that will advise the Minister, and the commission, which will exercise its powers under tie act. .From the welter of reports and recommendations, absolute chaos will arise. Members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will certainly earn their salaries, and the unfortunate chairman, who will receive £1,500 a year, would not be overpaid if that sum were increased by £1,000 per annum. I also express my deep sympathy with the unfortunate general manager, because he will have to accept responsibility for the general confusion. Frankly, I do not know how he will be able to carry on, as the burden will be almost insupportable. The Minister should give serious consideration to this subject. If he were empowered to direct the Australian Broadcasting Commission to do all the things which will be submitted to him, he would have to bear the responsibility. But if that power is not vested in him, it is obvious that the commission is not likely to act upon the recommendation of the multiplicity of committees.
In my opinion, the listeners’ licence-fee is satisfactory. Indeed, it is a handsome fee, and will cover everything that must be met under the term “broadcasting”, both technical services and entertainment. A handsome surplus has been paid into Consolidated Revenue from the operations of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and into- the reserves of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, from which it must raise money to provide suitable studios, a high standard of entertainment and equipment. The imposition of an additional fee for every additional radio set in the home or in a motor car will not popularize broadcasting. The tendency is for the Government to make more and more use of this essential service, and in the circumstances every effort should be made to popularize it. Why should the Government place an additional impost upon any person who wishes to purchase another radio set ? It would be interesting to ascertain how many Australians are employed in the manufacture of radio sets, and the value of Australian material that has been used in the manufacture of equipment. Yet this Commonwealth Labour Government, which is supposed to protect Australian industry and the Australian worker will, by this legislation, impose upon the industry a disability of the first magnitude that will discourage the purchase of additional sets. The average person now resents the payment of the present licence-fee of 20s. a year, and will be distinctly hostile towards the proposal to compel him to pay an additional 10s. per annum if he happens to instal another set in his home or in his motor car. The additional payment cannot be justified. The Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Drainage Board in Sydney does not base its charges upon the number of taps in a house; the Sydney County Council does not charge for every electric light switch in a building; and a gas company -does not charge for every gaspoint in the home. In modern blocks of flats or in hotel suites, people should have the opportunity to tune in to any broadcasting stations that they choose. I do not refer to a loud speaker in each room which broadcasts the programme received by a master set in the building. What would happen if the Sydney County Council were to impose a charge for every switch that controlled a refrigerator in every flat in Sydney?
– Is not that the position now?
– No. The electricity is supplied from the power point, and a flat rate is charged for the electricity that is consumed. The Sydney County Council does not charge for the switch that controls the operation of the refrigerator. The Government will not popularize radio, stimulate the manufacture of sets, and increase the employment of Australian labour and- the consumption of raw materials if it persists with its proposal to impose this additional charge.
Like other honorable members, I am not satisfied with the present national news broadcasts. I agree with the report of the Joint Committee on. Broadcasting that as soon as possible, ‘ the Australian Broadcasting Commission should obtain a new agreement with the controllers of the news services. Being the national service the Australian Broadcasting Commission should have power to take its news from the most suitable sources. I visualize news “flashes”, not at prescribed times, and of a stilted nature so as not to interfere with the sale of newspapers, but of national moment to the people. The control that, is at present exercised by the press over news services should be examined, because the sooner a new agreement can be made between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the press, the better it will be for the public.
The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) spoke at length about the A.B.C. Weekly, but it is obvious that he did not appreciate the real position. He stated that be did not criticize the present -Go vernment because it was not in office when the journal was first published ; but the honorable member could not, with justification, criticize any government in respect of the launching of the journal. He should criticize Parliament, because it vested in the Australian Broadcasting ‘Commission the right to publish the journal, and the .Joint Committee on Broadcasting rightly drew attention to that fact.
– The Government of which the honorable member was a Minister approved of it.
– No approval was given by Cabinet. In a statement to the House, I said that Cabinet would take no action to prevent the Australian Broadcasting Commission from exercising the powers that Parliament had conferred upon it. The honorable member for Melbourne was not a member of the House at that time, and did not know the circumstances that led up to the publication of the journal. Unfortunately, I was not one of those who gave evidence before the Joint Committee on Broadcasting, but the whole history of this journal is of such moment that it should be thoroughly discussed at this juncture. The first Minister to take any direct action in regard to the A.B.C. Weekly was the former Postmaster-General He took action because the Australian. Broadcasting Commission had been threatened by the press that advertising rates would be charged for the publication of the commission’s programmes -on and after a certain date. The commission regarded that threat as a direct challenge, realizing that about £90,000 of listeners’ fees would have to ‘be paid to the press for a service which, until then, had been regarded as having a definite news value. The commission realized that there was something more in the matter than a mere request for the payment of advertising rates for the publication of programmes; it realized that the press had wide interests in the commercial stations and in other similar publications, and that it was to the advantage of the press to discount the national stations as much as possible and thereby increase their own advertising revenue. The object was to prevent the Australian Broadcasting Commission from using £90,000 of its funds on the improvements of programmes the importation of artists from overseas, and the holding of celebrity concerts which had proved so popular in the past. Ir was an opportunity which was too good to miss. Representatives of the commercial stations approached me as Postmaster-General and said that the A.B.C. Weekly must, not be published. I shall not recapitulate the threats that were made to me then, nor the action which was subsequently taken by the commercial stations in an endeavour to carry out those threats at election time. Neither 1” as Postmaster->General nor the Government of which I was a member, would take any action to prevent the Australian Broadcasting Commission from exercising its rights under the act, and I venture to- say that had I or the Government had the temerity to bow to these magnates, and to seek to prevent the commission from exercising the privilege -conferred upon it by Parliament, Parliament would not have tolerated it for a moment.
– The point made by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) was that, regardless of the history of the matter, the A.B.C. Weekly was operating at a loss and not giving the service that ii; should give.
– I am coming to that point. I was merely endeavouring to put the honorable member for Lilley right because by saying that he did not criticize this Government he implied that he did criticize the previous Government in regard to the publication of this journal. Obviously no criticism can be levelled at any government for refraining from taking action; Parliament invested certain rights in the Australian Broadcasting Commission and no government would have taken those rights away. The responsibility rested solely with Parliament.
In my opinion, the A.B.C Weekly has not come up to expectations, due entirely to the commission’s inability to produce ii journal of sufficiently high standard to command a ready sale. I recall that nt the time when the journal was first published, I had a talk with the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and I told him that I would not countenance the use of licence-fees to finance any great loss sustained by the A.B.C. Weekly. I was just as emphatic in that regard as I was in my refusal to bow to the representations made to me by the commercial stations in regard to the publication of the journal. However, I was relieved of office before I could put my decision into operation. I say without hesitation that, in view of the fact that the A.B.C. Weekly continues to be conducted at a huge loss, its publication should be reviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I add, however, that although the journal loses £30,000 a year, that figure is considerably less than the £90,000 which the Commission would have been forced to pay had the A.B.C. Weekly not been brought into existence. What is required to place the journal on a sound foundation is somebody with a knowledge of publication values, a knowlodge of good articles, and a knowledge of all those things which are popular in the minds of readers. Incidentally, an important requisite also is a knowledge of the human approach to the reading public. If one goes to a news-stand to-day and asks for the A.B.C. Weekly, the person who is serving usually hunts around at the bottom of the stand amongst some dusty papers* and then produces a ropy of the journal, with dust clinging to the edges.’ I realize that it is in the interests of news vendors to push the sales of the journals which provide their main business, but I emphasize that there is a human approach and a value approach which should be adopted immediately by the new Commission. There is a value in the publication, and unless that value can be realized I am afraid that Parliament will not tolerate it much longer.
In conclusion, I should like to refer lo the matter of objectionable broadcasts. Every honorable member of this chamber should register his disapproval at some of the items which are put over the air. Whilst I was Postmaster-General, this matter was brought home to me unexpectedly on one occasion. My youngsters were giving a- little party at home, and were listening to a broadcast by a certain gentleman who claimed to be a monarch in his domain. He broadcast an item which would, not have been put over in the smoke-room of a men’s club.
It was a most shocking thing. These innocent youngsters were standing by, listening, and there was sufficient in the item to cause them to ask what it meant. Occasionally, when friends of both sexes are being entertained in one’s home, items of an objectionable nature are broadcast, to the embarrassment of every one present. That sort of stuff may be all right for blase and sophisticated people, but it is not satisfactory for general consumption. I had a great deal of pleasure in putting the fellow to whom I have referred off the air. I insisted that his scripts be submitted for perusal before being broadcast, but he continued to make subtle insinuations and innuendoes, by adding remarks such as “ Keep it clean, girls “. I suggest that the strongest possible action should be taken to keep broadcasts clean and preserve the sanctity of home life from the broadcasting of questionable jokes. To that end, I am strongly in favour of the clause in the bill which relates to that matter. These subtle and sinister stories with double meanings, these unclean jokes emanating like fumes from diseased minds, should not be permitted to find their way into the homes of the people. They should be expunged. The air should be kept clean and pure as God intended it to be.
– It was my great privilege and pleasure to serve on the committee which prepared the report on which this legislation is based. It was, indeed, a most interesting experience to travel around all the States of Australia, except Western Australia, which had to be omitted only because of the exigencies of the war situation, and to hear the opinions of experts on every aspect of this most important subject of wireless broadcasting. Broadcasting in Australia more or, less grew up and it was due for an overhaul. The wonder is that a committee of inquiry had not sat upon the subject previously. In Canada, not by any legislative enactment, but by practice, the broadcasting system has been reviewed on an average of once every two years, and the Canadian system has benefited accordingly. This committee, presided over by Senator Gibson, was the first, committee since the inauguration of governmental control of broadcasting in this country to investigate the Australian side of the problem. It was fitting that Senator Gibson, who, as Postmaster-General, introduced the first broadcasting bill in Australia, should in the fullness of time, be the chairman of the joint committee which inquired into the whole broadcasting system and formulated the report that was accepted in its entirety by the Government. The report itself was unanimous and the Cabinet’s decision to implement it was, I understand, also unanimous. It is certainly a unique experience for any Parliament to witness legislation coming so soon after the presentation of a report on the subject to Parliament. The committee submitted 70 recommendations, of which 27 are included in this bill. Four will need other legislation to give them effect. The recommendations affecting administration or requiring other consideration total 39. The four recommendations that will require other legislation are No. 25j governing superannuation; No. 45, governing the manufacture in this country of records to a minimum limit of 2-J per cent, of all music broadcast; No. 55, governing the licence-fee for commercial stations, and No. 64, governing the question of copyright. I understand that the Government proposes to introduce legislation which will extend superannuation rights, not only to employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but also to all other employees in government instrumentalities for whom it is desired to make similar provision. A bill dealing with licence-fees for commercial stations i3 at present before the House. But the other two pieces of legislation are not yet prepared and, therefore, will not be considered during this sessional period. I should like to be sure that the Government intends to bring down legislation on the broad matter of copyright, on which the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), had much to do when the committee was preparing its report in a Victorian country town. I hope that he, too, will deal with the question of the manufacture of Australian records. Both matters are of a legal character, of which .1, as a layman, do not pretend to have full knowledge. All governments seem timid about copyright matters.
The copyright law needs to be brought up to date, not only in respect of its effect upon broadcasting, but also generally. I am advised that for years a bill dealing with trade marks and copyright was introduced every session. It never even reached the second-reading stage, because of the fear that its complicated character would unnecessarily delay the progress of the business of the House. The committee worked most amicably under its capable chairman, and. it heard witnesses with as wide a diversity of opinions as couldbeimagined. They represented every walk of life. The relationship between the committee and the witnesses was also very amicable. If the committee was not able to meet the views or accept the opinions of witnesses, it at least satisfied them, in most cases, that there was a good answer to their submissions that prevented it from doing so. The work of the committee extended over nine months. There were frequent sittings of this House during that period, the war situation was difficult, and it was not possible, therefore, for the com- mit tee to devote to its task all the time it would have devoted in days of peace. The committee has recommended that those things with which it could not deal in the time at its disposal be referred to a standing committee before the ultimate decision is made. The only matter on which the committee did not reach unanimity was that of nationalization of the broadcasting system. Naturally, as a member of the Australian Labour party, I support nationalization. It is a plank of our platform. It is part of my political bible. I speak somewhat sadly on the question, because I cannot persuade the Government to nationalize anything. If I could only screw Ministers up to the point, I should nationalize, not only the wireless broadcasting system, but also banks and insurance companies. I should do a lot of things which, unfortunately, the Government will not do. The Government does not intend at this particular moment to nationalize the broadcasting system. When I advocate the nationalization of the broadcasting system. I do not do so in a spirit of animosity against the people who manage the commercial broadcasting stations in Australia. I think - and I signed the report in common with other members - that the commercial system has played its part in helping to develop wireless broadcasting in this country. Those controlling the commercial system claim that they have played the leading part in popularizing broadcasting. I do not argue as to what side has conferred the greatest benefit by means of broadcasting, but the commercial stations have certainly played an important part in popularizing this form of entertainment and education.
I agree with my colleagues on the joint committee that the standard of the commercial stations, like that of the national stations, is continually improving. Although the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission said that the national stations gave to the people what they ought to have and the commercial stations gave them what they wanted, I am not sure that that description correctly apportions the credit for what has been accomplished. A great deal of good work has been done by all of those engaged in broadcasting in this country. We live in an age of continual change, and broadcasting on the medium wave band will change after the war to short wave and ultra short wave broadcasting. There will be frequency modulation, and more channels will be made available by the Postmaster-General’s Department. We shall probably have all the stations in the large cities operating on the ultra short wave hand, whilst country stations will be using the medium wave band. That will result in more stations coming on the air, and the equity and standing of the stations already established will be affected. What seems to be a valuable asset to-day may not be so valuable when these changes occur. Although there was difficulty in the early days of broadcasting in persuading people to take up broadcasting licences, between 1928 and 1932 many persons and companies throughout Australia were seeking to use this much desired medium of expression. To-day there are 695 applicants for licences to operate commercial stations. Regardless of the changes that may take place, the vast majority of those persons will be disappointed, because the wave bands are not extensive enough to provide channels for all of them. Therefore those who hold licences to-day have a tremendous responsibility resting on them to see that they use their service for the national good. Money must not be the first and only consideration; the public good must be ever present in the minds of all entrepreneurs.
The history of broadcasting was stated ably by the first Director General of Posts and Telegraphs, Sir Harry Brown, and by his successor, Mr. D. McVey. The story as told by them will appear in the evidence collected by the committee, and will be available later to those honorable members who desire to know how broadcasting has developed in this country. We are all well aware of the system of control that operates in Australia. In the United States of America the commercial interests own all of the stations and another system operates in Canada, whilst a still further method of control has been adopted in Great Britain. A somewhat different system again is found in South Africa; but, in the light of Australian experience and all of the evidence that the committee could gather on the subject, it considered that the system of control in this country is suitable under the conditions that obtain here. When I began my inquiries as a member of the joint committee I had certain preconceived notions. I soon found that some of my views had to be changed. At first I was under the impression that I knew a good deal about broadcasting; but before long I found that I knew practically nothing about it. The more I heard witness after witness discuss the subject from various points of view, the more I realized how valuable is the system of investigation by parliamentary committees. I hope that when this Parliament is larger than at present there will be such an extension of the system of inquiries by committees that we shall be able to repeat what I believe is a successful innovation in this case, and shall be able to bring to the Parliament information on legislation that will be of incalculable benefit to the nation.
Broadcasting can be viewed from aspects other than those selected by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison).
I disagree with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) in some respects, but I am in cordial agreement with him that, although the committee made certain recommendations regarding medical talks and advertising, they have not been adequately expressed in this legislation. It is true that provision is made for the Minister to be satisfied on the subject of medical talks, if he be appealed to; but in my short experience in this Parliament I have found that too many ministers rely entirely on advice given by departmental heads. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) will realize perhaps better than most people that ministers are guided by the departmental officials who sit at their elbow and put forward various documents for signature. Many ministers often act merely as rubber stamps and obligingly attach their signatures at the points indicated by the officials. It may be said to the credit of the honorable member for Warringah that, when he was minister, I persuaded him to give directions, and not wait for departmental heads to advise him. Reverting to the remarks of the honorable member for Reid, there is a feeling among members of the British Medical Association that we must stand by established practice. This idea arises from an inferiority complex. It is thought that nothing new outside the text books can be found unless it be discovered by doctors or accredited specialists. Osteopathy, and various other forms of bone manipulation, are popular in the United States of America, and many people have also benefited from such treatment in Australia. I have been astounded to hear that an Australian Capital Territory ordinance prohibits the practice in Canberra of this art - if it be not a science.
– It is just as much a science as economics.
– Economics is not a science. It has been called “the dismal science”, but the only true part of that statement is that it is dismal. I hope that the Government will take steps to withdraw the archaic ordinance which prohibits the practice of osteopathy in the Australian Capital Territory. I am prepared to assist the honorable member for Reid in preparing an amendment to give effect to his desires when the bill is in committee.
The honorable member for Cook opposed the recommendation of the committee, and the provision of the bill, that the head-quarters of the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall be in Canberra. Two instrumentalities control broadcasting in this country. The Postmaster-General’s Department deals with the technical aspects and the Australian Broadcasting Commission with the entertainment aspects of the subject. At present the head-quarters of the Postmaster-General’s Department are in Melbourne and those of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are in Sydney, but both should be transferred to Canberra at the earliest possible moment. The arguments used by the honorable member for Cook against the location of the Australian Broadcasting Commission head-quarters in Canberra were entirely unconvincing, and could be used equally strongly against the transfer of the Post Office central administration to the National Capital. I do not wish to canvass the matter further at this stage, except to point out that the honorable member’s arguments in relation to the time occupied in travelling by the general manager of the commission were distorted. That officer should travel to the various capital cities of the Commonwealth in order to keep himself thoroughly informed on the problems of broadcasting. He should not ensconce himself in an office in Sydney and move only on occasions from there to Canberra or Melbourne and back again. I hope the House will approve the committee’s recommendation that the headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be located in Canberra as early as possible. It is not proposed that the transfer shall be made immediately, for every body knows that that will not be practicable until some time after the war. As soon as possible the head-quarters of the Commonwealth Bank should also be moved to Canberra. In view of the fact that the Treasury is located here, there is every reason why the head-quarters of its principal financial instrument, the Commonwealth Bank, should also be located here.
The arguments of the honorable member for Cook in relation to the remuneration of the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission were also distorted. His calculation that the remuneration works out at £100 a meeting, assuming that the commission meets once a month, was entirely unsound. He suggested that the remuneration should be about £650 a year. I consider that if it would be wrong to pay the chairman £100 a meeting for one meeting a month, it would be equally wrong to pay him £50 a meeting for one meeting a month as the honorable member suggests. The fact is, of course, that the chairman does a great deal more than attend a monthly meeting of the commission. Rightly or wrongly, he has devoted considerable time to the detailed work of the commission. He spends a great deal of his time in the office of the commission, and concerns himself with many matters in addition to policy.
– Is there not a danger of us having two general managers of the commission?
– There is hardly that possibility. At the moment I am concerned that the chairman shall be paid an amount which will enable him to come to Canberra and spend some time here frequently after Canberra becomes the headquarters of the commission. If necessary, he should be able to maintain a home here, so that he may keep in touch with the Minister. It would be a bad thing in my view if the Minister had no contact with the chairman of the commission, and had to rely solely upon advice tendered to him by the general manager. I hope that after the war the Postmaster-General, whoever he may be, will also spend a great deal more of his time in Canberra than PostmastersGeneral have spent here hitherto.
– If the honorable gentleman desires Ministers to spend more time in Canberra he will have to chain them up.
– Like the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), I am conscious of the fact that most Ministers spend too little time in the National Capital. Perhaps they fear that an outbreak of bubonic plague is likely to occur in the environs of the Capital late on any Friday afternoon, and that therefore they must get away as quickly as possible. Such an attitude will do nothing to deepen the affection of the people of Australia for Canberra as the National Capital. Ministers receive substantial salaries and enjoy many privileges, and they might reasonably be expected to set a good example by spending as much time in Canberra as practicable. I hope that when we have a bigger Parliament, and when we are able to transfer various government instrumentalities to Canberra, there will not be so much ground for Ministers leaving the National Capital on the slightest of pretexts.
– The honorable gentleman has been talking a good deal about a bigger Parliament. What about a better Parliament?
– I desire the Parliament to be both bigger and better.
The honorable member for Cook urged that the proposed State advisory committee should report to the Minister and not to the commission. In this regard he had the support of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). Provision is made in the bill for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to have a representative on each State advisory committee, and for that reason, among others, I do not think it is necessary that the committees shall report to the commission. There is a fatal objection to that proposal. A State advisory committee may deal with a charge against a commercial station that it has -transgressed the code of ethics, or the rules of decency, which should apply to broadcasting. It would be improper, in my view, for the committee to report on such a matter to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which, in the nature of things, is a rival of the commercial broadcasting stations. Such a matter should be reported direct to the
Minister, who should have power to review the penalty imposed. I hope that in such circumstances the Minister concerned will be sufficiently courageous - though courage has not been obvious in many Ministers in recent years - to impose even a higher penalty than that recommended if he should deem that to be justified. The advisory committees will have power to make recommendations concerning the improvement of broadcasting, and such recommendations should properly be placed before the responsible Minister. An exceptionally effective advisory committee is functioning in Perth, and its work has been of great value to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– It reports direct to the commission.
– That is so; but the intention of the joint committee was. that recommendations of the advisory committees should be submitted to the Minister for such action as he thought desirable. If the Minister considered any recommendation of an advisory committee of sufficient importance, he could deal with it himself or refer it to the proposed standing committee for further consideration. The suggestion for the appointment of such a committee was made by Professor Bland of the Sydney University, a leading authority on public administration, whose opinions are worthy of close attention. When subsequent witnesses were asked for their views, they almost unanimously endorsed his recommendation. Since then, Professor Bland has written to me expressing his regret that the standing committee is not to have the power to initiate investigations. He thinks that in that respect its powers will be too circumscribed. In my opinion, the proposal should be given a trial for three or four years. If that he done, I am convinced that it will be found that the system will work well and that the advisory committees will do good work also. After that time we may extend the committee’s powers, or the Minister may give the committee carte blanche to inquire into all matters affecting broadcasting. An opportunity is also provided for the Minister to obtain disinterested advice, -whereas in the past there was no one but postal officials to advise him on submissions by the commission. Had there been a standing committee in operation when a previous Postmaster-General reduced the licensing-fee, that fee would never have been reduced. Evidence was tendered to show that advice to reduce the fee was not given by the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs or by the members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– It was a Cabinet decision. Cabinet does not necessarily accept advice from every one who offers it.
– I presume that Cabinet acted on the recommendation of the then Postmaster-General; but he did not seek advice from the right people. However, Cabinet made a certain decision, and since there was no division in this Parliament in regard to it, every member of the Parliament at the time the legislation was under consideration was guilty of participating in an unfortunate decision. The effect of that decision was to rob the commission of money which it needed to further its work among the Australian community.
– Th« commission could not have gone on with its building programme at that stage.
– There were other considerations. Unfortunately, the proposed building programme was uppermost in the minds of Ministers, to the exclusion of other aspects, concerning which a standing committee would have been able to offer valuable advice. The fact that the Cabinet has accepted practically all of the recommendations of the joint committee shows that the Cabinet has trust in the committee. I am convinced that the standing committee proposed to be set up will be similarly trusted by the various governments in years to come.
The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) referred to the A.B.C. Weekly. The committee carefully reviewed the his tory of that journal. At its inauguration, it had an editor who, because of excessive optimism, issued orders to print large numbers of copies of the first and subsequent issues. The joint committee was told that the commission was not properly informed as to the sales of the journal, and was for some time unaware of the losses being made. Later, when it discovered the magnitude of those losses, it attempted to meet the situation. The committee thinks that the commission has shown a laudable desire to publish the journal at as small a loss as possible; and therefore it recommends that the experiment be continued, subject to review by the standing committee.
– Does the honorable member read the journal, and, if so, what does he think of it?
– I do read it. In my opinion the editor makes the unfortunate mistake of trying to mix a programme journal with an educational medium. The British Listener is published entirely for the benefit of those who want to read the printed reports of talks given over the air. That publication does meet a need, and it is in popular demand in England. Had the Australian journal adopted that practice, it would have been more successful. At the same time, it must be remembered that the A.B.C. ‘Weekly must advertise station times in the same way as they are advertised in England in a second journal.
Honorable members will recall that there was an attempt at blackmail on the part of certain newspaper proprietors. They gave to the commission only 48 hours’ notice that, if it did not sign an agreement in respect of advertising, no broadcasting notices would appear in their columns. The story told by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) of what happened when he was Postmaster-General is a truthful account. The only point in it with which I disagree .was his statement that no government was responsible. I think that the Government of which he was a member did the right thing on that occasion; the honorable gentleman should have stood up for it. I commend that Government for accepting the challenge of the newspaper barons. Even though there were considerable losses, a great loss would have been incurred in any case had the commission weakly submitted to the press magnates and paid £90,000 a year for advertising. The programmes must, of course, be advertised through some medium.
– Only 3 per cent, of listeners obtain the A.B.C. Weekly.
– The percentage will increase after the new commission and the standing committee have been appointed.
– It is a matter which will have to be watched.
– That will be done. There was undoubtedly an attempt at sabotage. Newspaper vendors were threatened that, if they sold the A.B.C. Weekly, they would not be allowed to cell other journals which the newspaper proprietors published. These factors must be taken into consideration. If we were to say that the A.B.C. Weekly must be published for only n. certain definite period, say au or nine months, the commission would have difficulty in arranging advertising contracts. It must have some discretionary power. Moreover, we must trust the proposed standing committee to act reasonably. Should it find that the journal cannot be made to pay, or, at least, that it cannot give value to compensate for any loss which might be incurred, the committee should, and would, be courageous enough to recommend the discontinuance of publication. Every trade union and every organization of manufacturers publishes its own journal and charges the cost of producing it against the general expenses account. Similarly, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is entitled to have its own journal. We should not be too carping in our criticism of the Australian Broadcasting Commission if, in its struggle against the power of the press, it incurs some losses.
– I am complaining, not about the losses, but about the service rendered to listeners.
– I agree that there is room for improvement there, and that the whole publication, particularly the format, should be made more attractive. It must be remembered that the commission has had to wage a continuous fight with the press regarding news services, advertising, and other matters. Persons in control of the press of this country foolishly imagined that broadcasting would be such a dangerous competitor that newspapers would eventually go out of circulation. They therefore adopted the same attitude as the Luddites did in England, in the days of the industrial revolution. When people found their occupations gone, they smashed the machinery which had been brought in to cheapen production. The newspaper magnates had the same kind of mind. However, their worst fears were not realized, and to-day they are more reasonable in their attitude towards broadcasting. For nine years the commission and the newspaper proprietors argued about an agreement. They had not reached an agreement when the Joint Committee on Broadcasting began its investigations. They are now again trying to bring about an agreement. It is extraordinary that these business men who are so prone to criticize others could not, over a period of nine years, reach an agreement upon certain stated points.
– There is another point of view - the attitude of the commission towards outside interests. It considers that it is a law unto itself.
– I am not excluding the commission from blame for what occurred. I agree with the honorable member for Lilley that statements of accounts should be set out more clearly than they have been up to date. The complaint is not so much against the statement of revenue as against the statement of expenditure, which covers a huge sum.
– That is my point.
– It was not the fault of the committee that more information could not be obtained. We asked the senior representative of the Audit Office in New South Wales to come before us, but when he did so he sheltered behind acts of Parliament and his evidence was not in the least helpful to us. We have recommended that the Postal Department shall present its accounts much more clearly, so that they may be understood by honorable members, in regard to, not only its activities with respect to broadcasting, but also its other activities. We wanted the commission to do the same. We went further, and recommended that a representative of the Public Service Commissioner’s office shall inspect the whole of the workings of the commission, in order to ascertain where savings may be effected. I assure the honorable member that if the standing committee be appointed it will attend to all these matters.
The honorable member for Reid has referred to the dramatization of political broadcasts. The report of the committee is very clear upon that point. Broadcasting is such an all-pervading agency that, in its effects for good or ill, it cannot be compared with the daily press. People may refuse to buy a newspaper, or may read only portions of it, and then throw it away. But broadcasting enters right into the centre of the family. A wireless station can send its message into the domestic hearth, and every member of the family will hear it. Honorable members may recall the effect of the publication of the Zinoviev letter in England and the burning of the Reichstag in Germany, both on the eve of an election. We argued that it would be bad if it were possible in Australia for similar happenings to be associated with broadcasting, consequently we have recommended that there shall be no dramatization of political broadcasts in any circumstances, and that all broadcasts shall end on the Wednesday night before the date of an election so that, if anything outrageous be done on that night there will be some chance of catching up with it before polling day.
– Does that apply to byelections?
– Yes ; to all elections. En this country to-day, 44 per cent, of the broadcasting licences are owned by newspaper proprietaries. If the effect of a newspaper be feared right up to the eve of an election, there is reason to fear much more the effect of a combined broadcasting and newspaper campaign up to the Friday night. If we believe in democracy, we should not attempt to snatch electoral victories by the exploitation of the emotional or by appeals to false issues. The leaders of all political parties ought to complete the broadcasts of their speeches by the Wednesday night, leaving the people free from the further influence of the wireless instrumentality when reaching their conclusions. The times selected by the committee are the right ones. It was guided in this matter by provisions in Canadian legislation which, as I said earlier, were the result of investigations that had been conducted ever since broadcasting had come into operation in that dominion.
The honorable member for Wentworth has said that the Minister will have little power. After our investigation, we decided that it is desirable that the Minister shall have little power, and that broadcasting shall never become the perquisite of any political party or any Minister. We have seen how the Hitlers and the Goebbels of other countries have misused this instrument. Therefore, it is desirable that there shall be a commission removed as far as possible from political control in the administration of its functions, and that equality shall be observed in relation to political parties. Had there not been some slight disagreement in regard to political broadcasts, we would have made a recommendation on that matter. We desire that it be referred to the proposed standing committee for further investigation; but we also desire, in principle, that legislative approval be given to an existing practice, whereby all recognized political parties shall have the right to broadcast at election times, and no Minister or commission shall have the right to give advantages to any one party as against another party. That answers the objection of the honorable member to our submission.
In regard to the fee for listeners, the committee has recommended that an additional fee of 10s. be paid for each additional set used. My only observation to the objection of the honorable member for Wentworth is that in hotels to-day a charge of 10s. is made in respect of every receiver in a bedroom, in addition to the fee of £1 that is charged for the master set. We have recommended the extension of that principle so as to embrace additional sets in private homes, and sets used on motor cars.
– There is no analogy between them. In the one case there is a commercial organization, in which each room is a separate living-room occupied by a separate person. In a private borne there would not be two sets in different rooms operating simultaneously.
– It is the case in some homes. In many instances, there is a wireless set in the home and one on the motor car. The man who wants to have a wireless receiver on his motor car ought to be prepared to pay an additional licence-fee for the privilege.
With these observations, I commend the bill to the consideration of the House, and hope that it will have as favorable a review in its committee stage as it has had on the motion for its second reading.
.- It was my privilege to be a member of the joint committee which made to Parliament a report that subsequently formed the basis of the legislation now before this House. It is very gratifying to the members of the committee to have had its recommendations accepted in the main by the Government and embodied in this measure. It is not my intention to trace the history of broadcasting, beyond saying that it has definitely passed the novelty stage, and the stage where a piece of galena was tickled with a cat’s whisker. It has now become not only a powerful medium of entertainment, but also a powerful weapon for propaganda purposes. It has been said that the motor car has brought the country man to the city. Radio broadcasting has brought the city to the country. As an instrument of entertainment it has proved a boon to the people as a whole, but more particularly to residents in the country. In times of peace, it has enabled people living in isolated areas to hear descriptions of im portant events, including the running of the Melbourne Cup, which, in most cases, for economic reasons, the average country resident could never hope to witness.
Broadcasting has also proved a valuable educational instrument. Many witnesses who gave evidence before the committee testified to the value of educational broadcasts, particularly those designed to aid the studies of children in outback areas where no schools exist, including principally correspondence students. Voluminous evidence was given to the committee on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission by leading educationalists on that aspect of its work. Booklets were furnished to the committee indicating the kind of literature distributed by the commission in order to enable children to participate intelligently in educational broadcasts arranged for their benefit. These broadcasts are now used extensively in Victoria and South Australia, and are being expanded in the other States. In Melbourne the members of the committee attended an orchestral concert for school children, typical of the concerts arranged by the commission in pursuance of its policy of improving the musical taste of the community.
Broadcasting to-day is one of the most powerful instruments which any nation can handle. Prior to the outbreak of the war, the Government then in control of Germany used broadcasting in order to create a psychology which enabled it to regiment the minds of the German people and thus build up, with the tacit consent, at any rate, of that nation, a war machine the like of which the world had not previously known. Since the outbreak of the war, broadcasting has been proved to be a powerful instrument of propaganda. We take full advantage of it in that respect in shortwave broadcasting to other countries; whilst Australian listeners with shortwave sets are able to receive entertainment, news and propaganda from overseas. Indeed, some honorable members have queried the wisdom of permitting Australians to listen in to such broadcasts from Tokio.
Dealing with broadcasting generally, I believe that when the war is over we shall witness revolutionary changes in respect of both reception and transmission. Mention has already been made of likely developments in the use of frequency modulation and ultra short-wave broadcasting. Unless a genius arises to invent an adapter for use on present receiving sets, completely new receivers must be designed for the reception of ultra short-wave broadcasts. Evidence was given before the committee that several stations had been erected in the United States of America for the purpose of experimenting with ultra short-wave broadcasting. Undoubtedly, when the war is over, attempts will be made to apply in this country the experience thus gained in the United States of America. “We may also see great developments in television, although, as one honorable member has said, it is difficult to conceive that television will become very popular because in many respects it compares unfavorably with radio broadcasting. Televised pictures are reproduced on a screen no larger than ten inches by five or six inches. Therefore, a person must concentrate on the picture; whereas today with ordinary radio broadcasts, a person may move from room to room and still hear all that is coming over the air. Evidence was given to the committee that great developments will most certainly take place in facsimile broadcasting. I believe that it was the fear of developments in that field that produced the pessimism of newspaper organizations and, perhaps, the overoptimism of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in dealing with the problem of the broadcasting of news. Station 3UZ Melbourne was granted a licence to experiment with facsimile broadcasting; but as this method did not prove popular, that station abandoned such experiments, and returned its licence to the department. Facsimile broadcasting also involves the attachment of special apparatus to the present radio broadcasting receiver. It is really a development of radio picturegrams which are published frequently in our daily newspapers. By this means, it is possible to receive in printed form on an ordinary radio wireless broadcasting set fitted with a special attachment the printed news broadcast from the transmit ting station. Thus, facsimile broadcasting is a potential competitor with newspaper organizations in the dissemination of news. For this reason, those organizations fear that radio broadcasting might very well become a serious competitor in the news field.
The committee has recommended that the dual system of national and commercial stations he retained. Its recommendations, as embodied in this measure, provide for the more rigid control of both classes of stations. Under this measure, objectionable broadcasts will be prohibited. Stricter control will also be exercised over certain classes of advertisements, such as those dealing with medicines and advertising broadcasts on Sundays. In future, only what are known as sponsored programmes will be permitted on Sundays. The reason for this innovation is. that Sunday is a day of rest, and on that day more people listen to broadcasts than on any other day. The proprietors of commercial stations have six days of the week on which to broadcast ordinary advertisements. The committee was of opinion that the name only of the sponsor should be announced. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is expected to foster musical appreciation in Australia, and I believe that it has done a good job in that regard. However, its power in this direction is governed by the amount of revenue at its disposal, and the committee, therefore, recommended that the licence-fee, or that the amount payable to the commission, be increased. The committee also recommended that the administrative staff of the commission should be appointed by competitive examination, and that the employees should be brought under the control of the Commonwealth Public Service Board. I am sure that those recommendations will meet with the approval of all honorable members.
There is a good deal of misunderstanding on the subject of copyright. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) will agree with me that there are in Australia very few experts on copyright. The committee heard evidence from one member of the legal profession who, because he had furnished opinions on copyright to various parties, was recognized as an authority. Most people seem to think that the Australasian Performing Right Association chooses to send overseas the money which it collects in royalties in Australia. It is true that most of the money is sent overseas, but the fault does not lie with the Australasian Performing Right Association; rather does it lie with those who choose the musical programmes which are performed in Australia. The association is really a kind of a trade union which watches the interests of musical composers. Because the broadcasting stations broadcast such a large proportion of music, the copyright of which is held overseas, the Australasian Performing Right Association necessarily sends overseas much of the revenue it collects. Therefore, the committee came to the conclusion that, in order to assist the Australian Broadcasting Commission in its efforts to encourage the performance of Australian music, at least 2^ per cent, of the time devoted to the broadcasting of music should be reserved for the broadcasting of Australian music. The committee was informed that the present proportion was less than one-half of 1 per cent. Australia’s most prolific composer has been receiving less than £80 a year in royalties, whilst tens of thousands of pounds have been going overseas. There is one matter which has caused me some concern. The programmes of commercial stations consist mostly of recordings, and there is nothing in the bill to compel the firms which make gramophone records to produce recordings of Australian music. Perhaps provision can be made for this by an amendment of the Customs Act.
I am one of those who signed the minority report of the committee advocating the nationalization of commercial broadcasting stations in Australia. I did so, because it is in keeping with the platform of the Australian Labour party, to which I subscribe, and because I am convinced that it would be in the interests of the people, and of broadcasting generally. Most of the commercial stations are concentrated in the capital cities. I appreciate the good work done by commercial stations, which provided a service to the public at a time when the Commonwealth Government, be- cause of the limited amount of money which it was prepared to devote to this work, was unable to give a satisfactory service. The fact remains, however, that as soon as any one obtains a licence to operate a commercial station, his first thought is to establish it in one of the capital cities. His first consideration when granted a licence is not service to the public but where he can make the greatest profit. A wireless station is a commercial undertaking. The first consideration of broadcasting policy in this country with its large area and sparseness of settlement should be to give the best service possible to the people in the outback districts. These people are contributing materially by their labour to the development of Australia and it is the duty of the Government to ensure that high-class broadcasting programmes are provided for them. Many families in outlying districts depend on correspondence schools for the education of their children and they are denied the opportunity of receiving broadcast programmes that would supplement the correspondence course. I met recently in western Queensland a man whose home is 84 miles from a railway line and whose children are being educated by correspondence. Those children were denied the benefit of the school broadcasts by reason of the absence of a national station in western Queensland. The reception of educational items by such a family would be a valuable amenity. At Longreach, in western Queensland, there is a low-powered station which broadcasts intermittently because the revenue from advertising does not permit a more regular service being given. If that station were included in the national network it would be able to broadcast celebrity concerts and other educational items which are not now available to country people who cannot afford to buy a high-powered receiving set. Why should a resident of Sydney have the choice of seven or eight stations when families carrying on essential industries in the outback districts cannot obtain a reasonable service unless they possess high-powered sets? As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) pointed out, 44 per cent, of the commercial stations are controlled by newspapers or have newspapers financially interested in them. The percentage of commercial stations in the hands of newspapers is larger in Australia than the corresponding percentage in the United States of America, where the stations are solely commercial. In that country the network has been developed to a high degree, but in Australia a number of commercial stations are bound together loosely for the purpose of buying expensive programmes. More of these programmes could be put on the air if the income of the Australian Broadcasting Commission were increased. I am in favour of the dual system of national and commercial broadcasting services being adopted in Australia, but I consider that it should be nationalized, as it is in New Zealand. The dual system would enable the commission to provide much better programmes, because, with the commercial service nationalized, more money would be available to the commission. Evidence was collected by the parliamentary committee which showed that in 1940 the. whole of the commercial stations made a profit of £81,384 on an actual capital of £860,000, or 9.4 per cent, of profit on capital invested. If the stations were nationalized the rate of profit would be increased because of consequent reduction of overhead expenses. Some commercial stations do not make a profit but most of them earn substantial profits. I shall now quote from a letter written on 16th February last by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Fraser, to the chairman of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting -
So far as users of the broadcasting services arc concerned, there is ample evidence of the satisfactory operation of both services. So far as the national service is concerned, since its operations were brought under direct Government control in 1936, the number of registered licence-holders has increased from 183,830 to 306,079, while the last published accounts of the National Commercial Broadcasting Service show that for the year ended 31st March, 1941, that service derived a revenue of £207,764 from sales of station time, &c., and made a net profit of £52,084. In the annual report of that service for the year, it is stated that the service found difficulty in finding placement in its schedules for all the business offering, and a considerable volume of very desirable business had to be deferred or rejected in order to avoid overcrowding the programmes with advertisements.
The figures quoted show that with a revenue that was only one-fifth of that of the commercial stations in Australia the New Zealand service made a profit of £52,000. The number of licences for broadcasting stations in Australia is limited. At present there are 98 commercial stations and 29 national stations operating, and there are nearly 700 applications for licences. Unless frequency modulation is perfected, only a few of the applications can be granted. The number of licences that can be granted is limited by international agreement, and other factors. In other words, the present holders of B class broadcasting licences enjoy a monopoly.
Many of the witnesses who gave evidence before the Joint Committee on Broadcasting favoured the nationalization of commercial broadcasting services. The report refers to two of them. In my opinion, the Government should give this matter serious consideration because a vested interest is being created, and unless swift action be taken, the Government that ultimately attempts to nationalize the commercial services will be compelled to bear a considerable financial burden.
Some criticism has been levelled at the proposal to appoint a standing committee on broadcasting. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) stated, this proposal emanated from Professor Bland of the Sydney University, who is a recognized authority on public administration. After he had elaborated his idea when giving evidence, the joint committee took the opportunity to ascertain the views of subsequent witnesses, and almost without exception, they supported the proposal. As was explained in the report of the committee, the principal object in establishing a standing committee is to reconcile the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission with the political conception that all actions of quasigovernment authorities should, in the final analysis, be subject to parliamentary control. The standing committee would provide a safeguard against the introduction of hasty or ill-advised legislation or regulations by the political party in power, and would establish a means of ensuring that, before important changes are made in broadcasting policy, there will be a minute investigation of the proposal, and evidence will be taken from all interested parties by members of both Houses who represent all the States. The proposed standing committee will consist of nine members, who will be as familiar with all the major problems of broadcasting as a Minister. As a member of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting, I believe that the recommendation of Professor Bland is an excellent one, and that the proposed standing committee will prove very valuable to broadcasting. I am gratified that the bill has received such support from honorable members, and I am confident that broadcasting will benefit as a result of this legislation. My only regret is that the Government has not seen fit to nationalize the commercial broadcasting services.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma progress reported.
Man-power: Employment of Aliens - Australian Army: Employment of Returned Soldiers; Soldiers on Leave ; Rationed Food -War Production - Wales Differential - Apples and Pears: Hail Insurance Scheme - Immobilization of Small Craft - Shearers’ Accommodation.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- When I rise to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House, honorable members may be sure that the matter is most important. Last January, I was invited to attend a meeting which was convened by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia, and various road boards in the southern part of Western Australia for the purpose of considering the manpower problem in the dairying, potatogrowing and fruit-growing industries. Speakers pointed out that the sons and employees of agriculturists had been called up for military service and that the principals were unable to carry on their businesses. For some years, a large number of aliens, including Italians, have been admitted to that portion of the State. Some of them have become naturalized and have acquired land; others have leasedland. These aliens are now enjoying a regular Christmas, and are making little fortunes out of our misfortune of being at war. The meeting carried a resolution in favour of the conscription of all aliens into labour corps, and directed me to convey it to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). I did so. At that time, the Government had under consideration methods of dealing with the problem of alien labour in our midst, but no practical action has yet been taken. A few weeks ago, another meeting was summoned by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia, in conjunction with other organizations, and the secretary of the Waroona-Harnel sub-branch of the league wrote to me, on the 2nd May, as follows : -
At a largely attended meeting of the above sub-branch on Friday last, the following resolution was carried: - “ That this meeting disapproves of the inactivity of the Federal Government, aud its dilly-dallying with the urgent, and necessary national safeguard of conscripting all aliens into labour corps “.
My sub-branch requests that I place same in your most capable hands.
Yesterday I received a copy of the Harvey-Murray Times, the front page of which bore in prominent type the following headline: “Whole South- West up in Arms over Alien Question “. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) will recollect that 1 have brought this matter to their notice in the past, and they promised to make investigations. When an appeal war. launched for fruit-pickers, the Government announced that it would co-ordinate and utilize alien labour for the benefit of the country in which they have taken shelter. Speakers at the second meeting to which I referred alleged that Italians had demanded 2s. a bag for digging potatoes; the usual price is1s. a bag.
Acceptance of their exorbitant demands meant that the Italians earned over £2 a day, whilst our own men were fighting and risking their lives for 6s. a day.
– In what district do those conditions prevail?
– They prevail over a large area extending from a district near Perth to Albany. This is demonstrated by the fact that the chairman of the Waroona Road Board undertook to convey the resolution to similar organizations as far south as Albany, and since that time, twenty of them have informed me that they agreed with it. The letter from the Collie Road Board, which is similar to others, reads -
With reference to the question of acute shortage of farm labour, and exploitation of the position by aliens, which was the subject of a special resolution of the Drakesbrook Road Board, I am directed by my board to fully endorse the views expressed, and trust the matter will be taken up with the right honorable the Prime Minister, Mr. John Curtin, at an early date.
Similar letters came to me from about twenty such boards. Our enemies com pel the men of conquered countries to work for them, but the aliens in Australia are allowed to earn large sums of money working for themselves. Our own people cannot sign contracts for the growing of potatoes for the Army because they cannot get the labour either to sow or to dig. About 75 per cent, of the contracts are going to aliens.
– Are they naturalized British subjects?
– Some are naturalized and others not.
– Naturalized British subjects are liable for military service, and aliens, whether they he enemy aliens or not, are subject to the call-up for labour corps.
– That is an additional reason for action.
– Action has been and is being taken.
– The Chinese, who are our allies, are being employed at fis. a day to grow potatoes. I have been told that other foreigners, when asked to assist in the dairying industry, say : “ Oh, no ! Me too busy - plenty work at my own place”. The Minister will he able to get an idea of the tone of the meeting from the report which I will leave with him. I also ask him to refer to the file on this matter. On the 9th February, I received the following letter from the Minister for Labour and National Service: -
My colleague, the Minister for War Organization of Industry, has forwarded me copies of correspondence he received from you relative to the shortage of farm labour. I note the terms of the resolution carried at a meeting of primary producers and citizens of Waroona and district held recently, and shall be pleased to take up this matter with the appropriate authority.
Since then I have heard nothing. This is entirely a non-party matter. When our boys have gone from the farms and the old people are left there without help, the aliens should be formed into a corps and employed for the general good. Otherwise, why are they in the country?
.- The time has come when we should seriously consider the position of the soldiers who, broken in spirit and war . weary, are discharged and return to their homes. We know what happened to tens of thousands of soldiers who returned from the 1914-18 war - the war which was fought to end all wars and to make the world safe for democracy. In view of the fact that many nonessential industries are being put out of action for the purpose of speeding up the war effort, and in spite of all the talk of the coming new order, there may be another man-made depression. We shall V.2 told that there is no money. There will be few who will believe that. We should, without further delay, make plans and face realities, because the problem is with us now. Recently, I was told by the secretary of a patriotic fund that, when one of the first men to enlist was discharged from the Army, there was no work for him and he became a charge on the fund. I suppose he was too burnt out to return to his pre-war occupation of shearing. That is not an isolated case. This Government should give to our defenders an assurance that until each returned man has been restored to health, strength and normality, he shall be kept on the pay-roll. When the war ends - and we trust that that will not be far distant - the hundreds of thousands of men engaged in the munitions industry and in the newly-formed labour corps will find their occupations gone and will be on the labour market. What chance will there be for the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who will then have to be demobilized and discharged? Discharged men must be retained on the pay-roll until they find suitable work. In support of what I have said, I shall read the following extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 25th February last : -
South African soldiers serving in the Middle - East have received a special message from the chairman of the Union’s Civil Re-employment Board, Major P. G. van der Byl stating that no soldier would be discharged from the Army, either during or after the war, unless, or until, he had a job. “ If you have a job ready for you, you will be able to leave the Army as soon as the necessary details are completed,” the message stated. “ If you have no job, your wife and dependants will continue to receive all the usual allowances until suitable employment it found for you.
The board is making sure that the job you come back to is a real job. Employers are obliged to keep their returned employees in employment at least six months. A special organization is being created to care for and to assist disabled soldiers to take their places again in civil life.
Younger men who gave up their training to join up will be given an opportunity to continue their training or studies.”
Every South African soldier has been asked to fill in a form stating whether he has a job to go back to, whether he wants one found for him, what his qualifications are, and what training he needs for any particular job.
It is pointed out that these regulations governing post-war employment apply to service women as well as men.
There are at present hundreds of smartly uniformed South African women serving in the various auxiliary services in the Middle East.
That which the Government of South Africa can do for its returned soldiers can also be done by Australia. I commend this vitally important matter to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who is now in charge of the House.
– Some days ago, I asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) what arrangements the Government proposed to make to ensure that soldiers on leave would receive their quota of rationed food. The reply that I received was to the effect that no arrangements had been made, and apparently no such provision was contemplated. I regard that reply as far from satisfactory. I do not suggest that the position is acute, but considerable dissatisfaction is felt among the troops regarding the present arrangements. A soldier on leave now receives a sustenance allowance of 2s. 5d. a day on certain conditions, but the allowance is of no use to him unless he can buy the commodities that are available, and one commodity that he frequently desires is tea. A soldier is entitled to two days’ leave a month or five days’ leave every two months. The Government has indicated that soldiers will be granted seasonal leave for services in connexion with primary production, and also leave for seeding operations, which will mean a considerable period of absence from their units. On these occasions, it is desirable and necessary that they should be provided with ration tickets to enable them to ‘buy the food that they will require when on leave.
– Some of the food that they would require is not obtainable.
– That is so, but I am speaking, of course, of the commodities that are available and may be placed on the list of rationed goods. In the last war, ration tickets were issued to soldiers serving in France when visiting England on leave. An arrangement should be made so that, if food is more severely rationed than at present, such men will be in the position to buy the goods that they need.
.- I was pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker), and I trust that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) will take up the matter mentioned by him. Instances have come to my notice of discharged soldiers experiencing difficulty in getting their deferred pay. I hope that action will be taken promptly to provide them with allowances until employment can be obtained. Some department should be charged with the duty of attending to the requirements of the men after their discharge.
I rose particularly to draw attention to the need for a drive for increased war production. 1 have referred to this matter on several occasions, and I again bring it to the notice of the Government before the conclusion of the present sittings. I should like an intimation that this important matter will receive immediate attention. I do not reflect on any of the service Ministers, because they and their officials are doing good work, as are also the men and women engaged in war industries generally, but we are not obtaining 100 per cent, production. We have a host of boards and governmental directors, as well as a labyrinth of government departments, yet one of the most important matters of all seems to have been entirely overlooked by this and previous governments. In the United States of America steps have been taken to step up war production by the appointment of Mr. Donald Nelson as Director of Production, whilst in Great Britain Mr. Oliver Lyttleton has been chosen to supervise the work of speeding up and co-ordinating war production generally. The Prime Minister (Mr. Our tin) has pointed out that a production committee of Cabinet has been set up to deal with the matter, and that is a step in the right direction. That committee was appointed six months ago, but Ministers cannot attend to details of administration. Some board or administrative staff is required to implement decisions reached. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) indicated to-day that delay in production will be dealt with by Mr. Chippendale, the Director of War Organization of Industry. He is busily engaged in the rationalization of industry, which involves the closing down of many industries, and also in zoning the delivery of bread and other commodities. I have in mind particularly the speeding up of existing war industries. A complete survey of industry is required to ascertain the reasons for hold-ups in industry and to decide what practical steps could be taken to speed up production. Many cases have come to my notice in which idle men and machines could be put to useful work. In one industry there are twenty machines out of use at present. In another large industry adjoining my electorate, S00 men are employed in supplying equipment vitally necessary for defence purposes. This establishment has had an order for some time for pistols. After it had manufactured 90 of the parts required for the pistol, it lacked certain machine tools, and could not complete the remaining parts. Until recently, it had not produced one complete pistol. Yet pistols are urgently needed by the Army authorities. I believe that a few have been produced lately, but that was not until the factory had held the order for a considerable time.
I could tell some hair-raising stories to honorable members regarding aircraft production, but obviously it would not be fitting for me to go into detail on that subject. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) has, however, admitted publicly that aircraft production has been delayed in this country owing to the attitude of certain vested interests. All I can say is : “ Thank God the United States of America is now with us This problem needs proper handling on the administrative side. At a deputation on this subject not. long ago the director of a branch of the Munitions Department said that he had received many applications from persons with organizing ability for work in an honorary capacity. He said. “ The place is lousy with people offering their services “. One man who had been receiving a salary of £3,000 a year prior to his retirement, offered his services and when he was told that they could not be used he said, “ I was never so insulted in my life “. Many men with organizing ability are prepared to assist in the stepping up of war production. We need both skilled tradesmen and men with executive ability who are able to place men where they could work to best advantage. This week Mr. Donald Nelson and Mr. Oliver Lyttleton are conferring on the subject of the co-ordination of Allied war industries, in order that a 100 per cent, production output may be reached to give us victory this year. It is certain that they will survey the situation in Australia. It is vitally necessary that our industries shall be working at full capacity if we are to get the assistance from abroad which the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) is seeking. Mr. Nelson said in a broadcast address recently that his object was to utilize all existing war industries on a 24-hours-a- day basis, seven days a week. By that means he hoped that the American output of military supplies would be doubled. He said, “ Idle tools work for Hitler “. He had in. mind war plants which were operating at only 20 per cent, for five days a week, plants which were closed on Sundays, and plants in which second shifts worked at only 40 per cent, capacity and third shifts at only 20 per cent, capacity. Such plants had idle machinery which could be employed with much more advantage every week-end and from eight to sixteen extra hours daily. We have plants in the same position in this country. I hope that the Production Committee will take immediate steps to bring all these plants into full production. It is essential that machines shall be working at the fullest capacity, and that they shall be working in the right place. I have visited many industrial plants in my electorate and I know that there is a lag in production which could be overtaken. The Joint Committee on War Expenditure made certain recommendations concerning the control of machine tools. In particular it advised the appointment of a committee to control machine tools. In my addendum to the report T expressed the view that a person or persons with engineering knowledge not associated with trades manufacturing supplies for the government or contracting with the government itself, should be appointed to this office. I hope that that recommendation will be adopted.
I wish now to refer again to the unsatisfactory situation in connexion with the manufacture of the Wales differential. This device, which is designed to overcome single wheelspin a major defect in conventional motor vehicles, was brought to the notice of the Army authorities a long time ago. It was thoroughly tested and approved not only by the Army but also by the officers of the Department of Supply and Development. All the experts who investigated the device have been satisfied with its technical qualities. They have formed the opinion that the device would be invaluable in the Middle East and, in fact, in all heavy or sandy country. Our own forces may be engaged in active warfare in the not distant future in North Australia and we shall be in grave difficulty if our vehicles become bogged in the heavy soils in the far north. If the Army vehicles were fitted with Wales differentials the likelihood of such a happening would be greatly reduced. The Army authorities tested a Wales differential on vehicles which travelled thousands of miles and they subsequently requisitioned for all possible supplies through the Department of Supply and Development. The device was examined by the Central Inventions Board which was functioning at the time it was submitted to the Government, and it was approved by that authority. The Department of Supply and Development placed a definite order for 800 differentials which were estimated to cost about £38 each. I have little doubt that if the device could be placed in mass production the price would be halved. This differential has also been tested by General Motors-Holdens Limited and the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited, which might be regarded, in a sense, as competitors, because the adoption of the Wales differential might mean the partial dismantling of General Motors and Ford vehicles. But this fact did not prevent the experts of those companies from issuing a favorable report. Following a speech which I made on this subject in the House some time ago I received a letter from the DirectorGeneral of Ordnance, Mr. L. J. Hartnett, in which he stated that he was quite satisfied that the device was sound, and that he favoured its adoption. Unfortunately the Board of Business Administration made an unfavorable recommendation in connexion with the device and referred to the fact that it was proposed that the inventor should receive a royalty of £2 on each differential. It is amazing to me that a man lite Mr. Sydney Myer should object to an inventor receiving a royalty on a device which he has spent a lifetime in perfecting.
I did not know Mr. Wales when this matter was first brought to my notice and C had no personal interest in the matter, but a few days ago 1 received the following letter from him, dated the 19th May-
I have refrained from writing to you earlier as I realized that you would be very busy.
However, as apparently matters concerning the differential appear to be again at a standstill, I thought that you might wish to know the position.
Some time after I saw you in Melbourne, Chas. Bingham advised me that he had been informed by a representative of the Board of Area Management, Munitions Department, that the differentials on order were No. 1 priority and that he was to expedite the completion of the order with all haste. He was told that if any delay over which he had no control occurred, he was to immediately inform the Board of Area Management, when every assistance would be given. He was, also asked if he was in a position to manufacture further units.
Four differentials were completed and forwarded to the Seymour experimental shops for test.
Then Bingham was again visited and told to cease manufacture as no more units were needed. This was done in spite of the fact that many parte were partly finished and some hundreds of pounds had been spent on tools and jigs which could have been used for future production. Bingham was also paid up for all work done to that date.
Later he was advised that he was to complete the outstanding units at hie leisure.
The four units have now been lying at the experimental shops for many months without being tested: in fact for a considerable time no advice relative to them was forwarded to the shop, although the routine practice Was to advise the shop immediately equipment was forwarded for test.
An officer who was associated with the original tests, and who was a strong supporter of the device, has recently returned from abroad- He told me that he fully expected to find my differential installed in trucks abroad and was very surprised that this had not been done. I advised him that it was the opinion of certain people in the Army that single wheel spin was so seldom encountered in actual practice that these people did not consider the use worth while. He replied that these people should have been in North Africa with him. You will recall that the four-wheel drive vehicle was adopted to attain this end amongst others, but is still very prone to single wheel spin.
There appears to be a section of the Army pushing for the adoption, but their efforts are always cancelled by a mysterious stronger opposition. It is now over four years since the Army came to me urgently.
Apart from the proven great advantages of the use of my differential, one would think that, with the existing acute position of spares and the tools and jigs already available, the manufacture of units for replacement alone would be well warranted.
It might also be of interest to you to know that as the result of my association with th« Ordnance Production directorate as design engineer I have now been appointed chief mechanical engineer of the Army Inventions directorate.
There is a specific case in which a DirectorGeneral of Production would have been able to remove a bottleneck. I hope that the Minister for the Army will look into this matter, and that if he has any doubt about it he will refer it to the new inventions board.
,1 - I bring before the House the serious condition of the growers of apples and pears in certain areas, particularly the Kentucky soldier settlement in the New England district. These men who are practically all returned soldiers from the last war, are suffering desperate poverty. Their orchards are going to ruin’; yet the Government takes no notice of requests to assist them. On the 16th January, 1941, a severe hailstorm struck the settlement. Much of the crop was destroyed and a large quantity of fruit wa3 partially damaged. Immediately after the storm, officers of the State Department of Agriculture visited the district and assessed the damage. Those assessments are still in existence and can be obtained by the Commonwealth Government. The growers claim that they could have sold a large quantity of the fruit but that they were prevented from doing so by the Apple and Pear Board. That statement is borne out by the report of the committee which inquired into the administration and financial operations of the apple and pear acquisition scheme. In its first progress report the committee stated -
The committee has found both from evidence tendered and from personal inspection that in some districts a number of crops has been rendered unmarketable under the board’s regulations although the fruit for the most part is only superficially damaged by hail. Some of these had been record crops, but there were no returns. In some cases storekeepers and merchants had backed the orchardists with credit and supplies for the production of this year’s crop. As a result, both orchardists and their creditors were now in a serious position. The policy of the Apple and Pear Board is that no fruit damaged by hail shall be sold, and although it could be disposed of in some centres growers were not allowed to market the fruit. Suggestions were made in some quarters that a system of insurance against damage by hail should be instituted on a contributory basis, or otherwise. It is obviously too late to consider the creation of any such system this season; and the committee considers that some immediate compensation should be made for the loss of this season’s crop.
Although the growers were told that compensation would be paid to them, the only amount that one grower received in respect of 5,800 bushels of fruit was a payment of £17 after eleven months had elapsed. He and other growers claim that had they been allowed to market the damaged fruit they would have received substantial returns. Conditions on the settlement are disastrous; I am informed that spraying has ceased on many of the orchards and codlin moth is taking possession of the orchards which are fast going to ruin. Of about 60 growers on the settlement, 28 have already abandoned their holdings. These and other growers in New South Wales have asked for the establishment of a compulsory hail insurance scheme. In its report the committee recommended a scheme of this kind -
That there should be a hail insurance scheme to .be financed by a percentage levy being made by the board on the assessed value of the crop in each State for the purpose of compensating growers for loss sustained by hail damage.
Notwithstanding that recommendation, nothing whatever has been done in the matter, yet the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) and the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) as well as the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), who is a supporter of the Government, signed the report. Meanwhile these growers are suffering hardship; they and their families are practically starving. I urge the Government to introduce a scheme of compulsory hail insurance for either the whole of Australia or those States which are willing to participate in it. I shall not be put off by being told that the latter scheme would be unconstitutional. I understand that there is ample power in the insurance provision in the Constitution to establish such a scheme even if one State did stand out. I urge the Minister to bring this matter before Cabinet with a view to introducing a scheme to be made retrospective to the date on which the disaster to which 1 have referred overtook the settlement.
I” refer now to the seizure of boats in various ports, particularly in the Port Stephens area. I am informed that many of these vessels have been placed in Claypot Creek, which contains the worst borer-infested waters in that area. The result is that the boats are being ruined, either by borer, or through having been drawn up on the land and left to rot. In some cases, I understand that boats have been returned to their owners, whilst others have been prevented from gaining possession of their boats. Some owners have repossessed their vessels. It would appear that there has been discrimination and favouritism.
Some of these, which are rowing boats, belong to farmers in areas which’ are liable to be flooded by the Hunter River, which sometimes rises suddenly. There is some arrangement by which local police constables can release boats when a flood is imminent, but they have first to apply to the commodore in charge of the naval establishment at Garden Island. Before a reply authorizing the release of the boats could be obtained from that source, a flood could drown numbers of farmers who could not get away. I ask the Minister to cut through the red tape and put some energy into the committee which deals with these matters. Particularly do I ask that police constables be given authority to return boats to owners, so that they will have a means of escape from rising flood waters. It is ridiculous to say that the small number of boats concerned would be of any great use to the Japanese in the event of an attempted invasion. The waterways in which many of these boats are used are situated well away from the coast. Only red tape and officialdom has caused these vessels, to be seized.
The Government of New South Wales has implemented regulations under the Rural Workers Accommodation Act, requiring that all shearers’ accommodation huts shall be flyproofed the work on which has to be done immediately.
– Quite right!
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) to say, “ Quite right ! “
– It is time the shearers were given decent conditions.
– The unfortunate graziers are not spiders; they cannot weave flyproof material on their properties. This flyproof gauze is not available at present in the quantity required. I understand that the wholesale houses which sell this gauze, as well as the manufacturers, are limited to 50 per cent, of the production in the base year, and that the reduction in respect of the material needed for window and door frames has been to 25 per cent, of the production in the base year. The graziers who are asked to undertake this work are not raising any objection to their having to do it when they are able to obtain the necessary man-power and material. But they ask that, for the present, the regulations shall be suspended. I understand that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) took the matter up with the Government of New South Wales, but was unable to obtain a reply from the Premier of that State. I ask that Cabinet be requested to suspend the regulations until supplies of material are available, and thus avoid the use of man-power and timber, which are urgently needed for other purposes. The work could well be deferred for the present.
– in reply - The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has referred to man-power in country districts, and has related how aliens are permitted to work in certain portions of Western Australia, whilst Australian farmers and their sons are called up for military service. I remind him that it was the present Government which took definite steps to compel friendly, refugee, and enemy aliens to play their part in some service, in order to terminate the favoured position that they occupied in comparison with Australian citizens. It was decided that a fortnight would be allowed to friendly and refugee aliens to enlist in one of the services. Those who did not enlist within that period were called up and were allotted to labour corps. Enemy aliens were drafted into labour units, and were used in non-combatant work. Of course, there are enemy aliens who are above the age at which they would be of service in such units. Similar age categories apply in respect of the call-ups of friendly, refugee, and enemy aliens, as apply in respect of Australians. In one district, 1,800 enemy aliens were drafted into labour units and were compelled to work on roads, approaches to aerodromes, and the like.
– That is not the case in Western Australia. I remind the Minister that Chinese, who are our allies, are working for only 6s. a day, whilst enemy aliens are making £2 a day on similar work.
– The Government supported by the honorable member for Forrest released 100 of those men to work on the wood line.
– I presume that the enemy aliens referred to by the honorable member are above the age at which they would be eligible for call-up in a labour unit. Evidently they have been working in that locality for some years, and receive the rates of wages that prevail there to-day. I have no knowledge of the Chinese to whom he has referred. Probably they were stranded seamen who had been employed on ships on the Australian coast, and. were drafted into Labour units, being paid the wages received by Australian soldiers.
– That is the point.
– I am assured that the persons for whom the Chinese are working have to pay the full award rate. Although only 6s. a day is paid to the Chinese, the balance goes into a trust fund, the allocation of which will he decided later. For a time, there was a great clamour by some primary producers for the utilization of prisonerofwar labour on farms; but when it was pointed out to them that, in pursuance of an international agreement entered into at The Hague, award rates would have to be paid, in respect of every prisoner of war so employed, their enthusiasm was considerably dimmed, because they realized that they would be assuming certain responsibilities and that some risks would have to be incurred.
– They realized that they would not get their money’s worth in the work that was done.
– That, probably, was a factor. Although the farmer would have to pay the award rates prevailing in the district for that class of labour, the prisoner of war would receive only the amount set out in the international agreement, which is approximately 9d. a day for unskilled labour and Is. 3d. a day for skilled labour, the balance being paid into a trust account to defray the cost of the maintenance of such prisoners of war, which in respect of those who have come from overseas is the responsibility of the British Government.
– There is a great body of people who are troubled in regard to this matter. The Minister is far from the scene. Will he send a responsible person to make inquiries and submit a report ?
– Absolutely nothing was done to call upon refugee and enemy aliens to do service until this Government came into office. It has taken definite steps, with the result that many thousands of these persons have been called up and are to-day serving in labour units. Surely the honorable gentleman does not suggest that all these people should be interned, whether we have anything against them or not?
– I say that the position should be examined.
– The position has already been examined. If the honorable gentleman will supply me with the name of the locality, I shall see that further inquiries are made, in order to ascertain whether anybody in that district is escaping from the obligation to do his duty.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) presented a good case on behalf of soldiers returning from the front. His representations merit sympathetic consideration. I shall see that they are brought before the appropriate Minister. As Minister for the Army, I shall do my utmost to see that his request is granted.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) referred to the rationing of tea and other commodities as applied to soldiers on leave, or engaged in harvesting duties. He raised this matter on a previous occasion. All of us are sympathetic towards the requirements of the soldiers. In view of the sacrifices that they are making, more generous consideration should be given to them than to any other section of the community. The honorable member’s request will be carefully considered.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) dealt with war production. Delays in production are of very great importance in view of our urgent necessity to step up production. We cannot afford to have one man, or one machine, idle. I was impressed by his statement that in one factory alone 20 machines are idle.
– The director of machine tools should know of such cases.
– I know that our fighting forces require an increased output of guns and munitions; and I have no doubt that the Minister for Munitions will see that these machine tools are utilized.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) presented a strong case on behalf of the apple and pear industry. His representations will be considered by the appropriate Minister. With regard to the immobilization of small craft, and the hardship caused thereby, I shall see that the report of the special committee appointed to investigate this matter is made without delay.
These craft were commandeered on the advice of our military experts, who are of opinion that grave danger exists, that an enemy landing may be attempted on our shores between Grafton and Port Kembla, and that the enemy would attempt to utilize such craft to infiltrate southwards. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) also raised this matter. “Whilst we sympathize with owners of small craft who have suffered as the result of this action, we must remember that the security of Australia is of paramount importance. However, anybody who suffers in consequence of any action taken for defence purposes has a just right to compensation from the Commonwealth Government.
– .What about farmers’ rowing boats in the flooded areas?
– I understand that the honorable member refers to craft used some distance inland, which it could not possibly be contended, could be utilized by the enemy should he attempt a landing. That aspect has not previously been brought to my notice. I shall give it careful consideration. The honorable member for New England also referred to the provision of hut accommodation for shearers. I suggest that he discuss that matter with the Premier of New South Wales, because I do not think that concerns the Commonwealth in any way.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1042 - No. 23 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia. Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Williamtown, New South Wales. National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Inventions and designs (124).
Taking possession of land, &c. (53). Use of land (31). National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (13).
National Security (Maritime Industry) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 23-25.
House adjourned at 12.45 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
PRODUCTION of Bash Metals.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
N asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is he yet in a .position to inform the House of the result of the consideration which, in reply to representations made by the Leader of the Opposition on the 27th March, he undertook to give to the suggestion that an independent commissioner should be appointed to inquire into and report upon all naturalization certificates granted during the. past five years?
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the right honorable member as early as possible.
y. - On the 28th May, 1942, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following question, without notice: -
What has been the effect of the rationing of beer this year by reducing supplies to 75 per cent, of the average January and February Bales? Is it not a fact that when the hotels run out of beer, many persons, including soldiers, consume ‘’ plonk “ and other cheap wines to the detriment of their health? Doe6 the Government propose to remove the restrictions on the sale of beer in industrial centres?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -
The actual percentage reduction in the consumption of beer under the rationing scheme cannot at present be accurately assessed, but judging from reports from all parts of tho Commonwealth as to shortage of supplies it is assumed that the consumption of beer has been considerably reduced, compared to what it would have been if no restrictions were in force. When supplies of beer have been exhausted, it is probable that some persons have purchased wine or spirits, but it must be remembered that those beverages are also rationed. I am not aware that wholesome wine taken in moderation is detrimental t” health. It is not proposed to remove the restrictions on the sale of liquor but an Increase in the beer quota has been approved.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Hidings, for the first 3,000 bushels, and 2s. a bushel net for other wheat delivered over that quantity by individual farmers, as proposed in the scheme which he recently announced, include the cost of cornsacks, or is bulk wheat to be paid for at the same rate as bagged wheat ?
– A statement of - the Government’s policy in regard to wheat wilt be made in the near future.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 June 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420602_reps_16_171/>.