17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J.S. Rosevear) tookthe chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to make a statement upon thedecision of the Government in regard to Commonwealth assistance to the cotton-growing industry in Queensland after the expiration of existing legislation?
– by leave- The future of the cotton-growing industry in Queensland has been the subject of an investigation by the Tariff Board, the report of which body has been received by the Minister for Trade and Customs and very carefully considered not only by him but also by the expert officers in his department who usually deal with assistance to this industry. Further, it was the subject of an agendum that was placed before Cabinet yesterday.
The Raw Cotton Bounty Act will expire on the 31st December, 1946. The Commonwealth Government has decided to submit legislation during the present sittings of the Commonwealth Parliament for the purpose of extending the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1940-1941, so that producers will be guaranteed a net return of 15d. per lb. for raw cotton above the grade known as “ strict good ordinary “, produced in Australia during the calendar year1947 and during each year until the 31st December, 1951. Such guaranteed net return will be computed after taking into account the net return from the by-products of raw cotton. Raw cotton of “ strict good ordinary “ or lower grades will continue to receive bounty at one-half the appropriate rate tinder the existing Raw Cotton Bounty Act. This is in accordance with what was sought by the Queensland Government and the Queensland Cotton Board when the existing legislation was being framed. The total sum available for the payment of the bounty will be £170,000 per annum, and any portion of it unexpended in any year will be available for bountypayments in later years,in addition to the £170,000 provided f or each of such years, making a total of £850,000 for the fiveyear period.
The bounty has been extended, subject to the Queensland Government using every endeavour to implement certain under takings that were given during 1939-40. These were, that it would take energetic steps to improve the efficiency of cotton-growing by arranging for, first, the quickest possible conversion of cotton production from dry-farming toirrigation by the most economic means for each selected locality, secondly, the inauguration of a special campaign to ensure the adoption by cotton-growers of the best cultural methods; and, thirdly, the acceleration of scientific work on plant breeding, soil tests, measures to combat insect pests, and plant diseases, and the new problems that are likely to be encountered with production under irrigation. The objectives covered by these undertakings were designed to create the utmost efficiency in the industry, with a corresponding reduction of production costs by improving the quality and the yield per acre of the cotton grown.
Rationing - Confiscated Cigarettes
– I have been told by several ex-servicemen that they have been allotted a tobacco quota by retail distributors but, because they moved to another district some miles away, they are unable to get tobacco there, and have to rely on supplies from the original retailer. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is a fact that the administration of the National Security (Tobacco Rationing) Regulations, underwhich exservice personnel are granted a tobacco ration, passed from his department to the New SouthWales Tobacco Trade Distribution Committee on the 1st April? Is it not a fact that these regulations state that ex-service personnel may change their retailer when they move to another district, but that the committee has refused to observe this provision? If these are facts, will the Minister state under what authority this provision has been ignored, and why ex-service personnel transferred to another district for business reasons are not allowed to change their tobacconist ?
– Government rationing of tobacco was abolished, I think, on the 1st April last, but I do not know the wording of the regulations which had been in force up to that date. There had been many complaints that government rationing was an unjustifiable interference with the tobacco trade and was, indeed, responsible for . the current shortage of tobacco and inequitable distribution. Now the controls have been lifted. The honorable member himself urged that this should be done at the earliest possible date, leaving the trade to look after its own business about which, he said, it knew more than did the Government. I shall look into the complaint that certain ex-servicemen are not receiving a fair quota of tobacco under the present system, and shall prepare a reply for the honorable member.
– Several weeks ago, the Customs authorities in Brisbane attempted to dispose of millions of confiscated cigarette’s, but owing to the enormous demand and the rush of intending buyers the sale had to be stopped. Since then, some of the cigarettes have deteriorated, and have been destroyed. Will the Minister representing the’ Minister for Trade arid Customs see that a proportion of the cigarettes is made available to the services, and that the remainder is disposed of through ordinary trade channels?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the honorable’ member’s* suggestions will be taken into consideration.
– In view of the announcement that pilots are being trained for service with the National Airlines Commission, which seems to indicate that the commission plans to begin the operation of services, will the Minister for Civil Aviation impress upon the commission the desirability of including
Albury, Wagga and Holbrook in any plans for new services between capital cities ?
– I shall consider the claims of Albury, Wagga and Holbrook. An investigation will be made to see that proper services are given to places which are now without them.
– by leave - In one of the Sunday newspapers issued on the 30th June a half-page advertisement appears headed, “ Hints and Note’s for Liberal Party Speakers “. The document takes the form of alleged reproduction of page- 2 of roneoed speakers’ notes marked “ Confidential “, . and it appears over an application to the public under the name of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). I am raising the matter by way of statement, because I cannot believe that the Prime Minister was aware of this advertisement. The advertisement, which purports to be a copy of a page of Speakers’ Notes for the Liberal party, is <a fraudulent document. It is not a copy of any page of any Liberal party speakers’ notes. I shall quote two passages to indicate its character. There is a cross-heading “ Points to Remember “,. beneath which appears -
Remember that the war-time records of Curtin and Chifley Government cannot be assailed.
Government Members. - Hear, hear!_
– Do not say “ Hear, hear ! “ too soon. I recognize the hand of the author. We need not be told who he is.- Then -
Achievements too great and apparent for credible criticism.
Avoid attempts to infer the nation lacks confidence in Labour Government’s financial policy. (Overwhelming response to Government’s’ Loan appeals contradicts such inference.) “
So it goes on: I very much regret to hear honorable gentlemen opposite say “ Hear, hear ! “, because this is, without any exception, the most fraudulent advertisement that has ever been put before the Australian people. In point of fact, my, attention has been drawn to the fact that it is not only fraudulent but also a breach of the law, because the Crimes Act of New South Wales provides
– Ha, ha!
– The ‘Minister may laugh at the Crimes Act when he is in Parliament. The act says -
Any person who tenders for insertion or causes to be inserted in any newspaper anybogus advertisement, knowing the same to be bogus, shall, on conviction before two Justices, be liable to imprisonment for three months or to pay a fine of Twenty pounds.
I am not directing my remarks in particular to anybody but the Prime Minister, because this is a fraudulent document ; it is a grossly dishonest document intended to deceive the Australian people. There can be no doubt that it is intended to deceive the Australian people and that it is hoped that it will deceive a great number of them. At the foot of the advertisement there is this statement -
The Australian Labour party seeks your support in making known the truth concerning the Government’s aims and achievements. Donations may be addressed to the Campaign Trustees (J. B. Chifley or H. V. Evatt, M’s.P.), Commonwealth Offices Sydney.
This House is entitled, whatever the views of Ministers may be on this matter, to an explicit statement by the Prime Minister, as one of the sponsors of the advertisement, that the document in the advertisement which purports to be a copy of a real document is in fact a document composed by. the Government or the Labour party and is in no sense an extract from any document published by the party which I lead. -
– by leave- I do not deny some knowledge of the advertisement referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I cannot say that I examined all the prospective advertisements closely. I did know that amongst the advertisements that were to be published were some of the character mentioned. I must confess that I had not at any time thought that an advertisement containing political propaganda would stir the breast of any person as apparently this particular advertisement has stirred the Leader of the Opposition. This advertisement is addressed to the intelligent section of the community, and people who read it will have no difficulty in realizing its nature and purpose. In my opinion, this political propaganda, is much fairer, if the word “ fair “ can be applied to any political propaganda, than many of the statements that have been made about the Government from time -to time in this House and outside of it.
– But the right honorable gentleman does agree that what purports to be a copy of a sheet of directions to speakers is not a copy of the Liberal party’s Speakers’ Notes?
– There are certain aspects-
– The Prime Minister does agree with that?
– Do not be squeamish.
– If I were squeamish, 1 would not stay in the same Parliament as the Minister for Information.
– The Leader of the Opposition commented on one feature of the advertisement, which I had not studied very closely, but I shall examine it. I am surprised - I nearly said agreeably surprised - that such an advertisement should cause so much feeling.
Erection or Native Village at Port Moresby.
– Has the Minister for External Territories any further information regarding the newspaper report that the Hanuabada natives do not desire the Government to proceed with its plan for the construction of a model native village?
– Immediately my attention was directed to the newspaper report, I communicated with the Administrator and asked him to inquire into the matter. I am pleased to advise the honorable member that I have now received the following reply: -
Have been requested send you following message: - “Minister Ward, Minister of External Territories, Hanuabada people request definitely and happy looking “toward your beginning their village soon. Last night people said some pre-war white people trying spoil our village construction. ‘ People do not want return old fashion government people want new Government to stay. - (Signed) Gavera Ama, chairman, Village Council Rarua Tau, for Hanuabada Village Councillors. “
– Will the money for the construction of the model native village, the estimated cost of which is £118,000, be provided from the War ‘ Damage Insurance Fund or from Consolidated Revenue?
– The method by -which the work will be financed has not yet been determined. The Government regards the proposed work as a part of its rehabilitation plans for the territory. Some . criticism which has recently been levelled against this proposal may have led, in my opinion, to a false impression that the construction of this model native village in New Guinea will in some way hamper the programme of home construction in Australia. I assure honorable members that all the materials and all the labour for the native village will be supplied from local sources, and in no way can this project affect the building of houses on the mainland.
Shipments TO UNITED KINGDOM
– Will the Minister for Commerce and. Agriculture inform me whether it is a fact, as stated in the Sydney Sun of ‘ the 26th June last, that although an analysis of the meat shipments to the United Kingdom was prepared for the honorable gentleman, a decision against releasing them was made when the meat authorities had examined them? If so, will the Minister inform the House whether the true position regarding these exports has been kept secret because it is realized that the Government cannot honour its obligations to Great Britain in particular, and because the production of meat in Queensland has declined by more than 35,000 tons as the result of strikes? If not, what is the actual position regarding the export of meat to Great Britain?
– The report in the newspapers, on which the right honorable - gentleman based his question, is definitely untrue.
– Last week I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services to indicate the position, under the Go vernment’s hospitals benefits scheme, of persons who entered private hospitals which had not applied to become approved hospitals. Has the honorable gentlemanany information for me?
– The position is that 84 of the 116 private hospitals in South Australia have been approved under the Government’s ‘hospitals benefit scheme, so 70 per cent, -of them are covered.
Last week the honorable member for Fremantle asked me whether mental hospitals came within the scope of the scheme. I was not able, offhand, to give him a definite reply. But I can now tell him that under the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States which is now being implemented mental asylums aTe not covered.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is intended that the whole of the cost of the atomic bomb experiments now being conducted by the Government of the United States of America, are to be borne by that Government, or will governments represented by official observers also be expected -to contribute; alternatively, in view of the recently announced decision of the United States, is the future control of atomic energy development likely to become the responsibility of the- United Nations?
– I understand that the whole of the expense associated with the current atomic bomb experiments is being borne by the United States Government. The countries which were invited to send observers to watch the experiments, of which Australia was “one, will bear only the expense associated with the presence of its own observers. On the general subject of the control of atomic energy and the materials used in the manufacture of atomic bombs, a conference has been sitting for some time. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) is representing Australia. I am not in the position to say officially what final decisions are likely to be reached, but the general view has been expressed by this Government, and Has been submitted to the conference, that the control of atomic energy should be placed under the- United Nations-. Hawing regard to the dreadful possibilities, of the misuse’ of uranium and other ingredients, ki the production of’ atomic bombs,, and to- the future peace- of the world!,, our belief is that this new discovery should be: developed to produce industrial power and not bombs foi! wa-r purposes. The Minis. lei: for External Affairs is making this clear ak the conference.
Mr-.. CONELAN: - -Can- the Minister for Post-wai’ Reconstruction -say whether any provision- in the Re-esta’blishment and’- Employment Act would prevent the Liberal, party from, selecting, as a candidate for the Albury seat in. the New South Wales Parliament, a grazier who is not a returned, soldier in preference to Sapper W. A.. Hay,.* member of the Australian Imperial Force ixa. World”. War. II. ?
– In. view of the repeated attempts made, by the ‘ Oppositionto ‘ capitalize for political, purposes- the issue, of preference to ex-servicemen. I ann surprised that a-, returned soldier, candidate should be subject to such competition.. However, I assure the honorable member that the electors will show how they regard the illogical attitude of Opposition leaders.
– Has the Prime- Minister read cable- messages reporting the existence of good accord’ between Britain and Holland because of the assistance which each- rendered to the other during the war? If so, docs the right honorable gentleman not consider that the time- has arrived when good relations should be established between Australia and the Dutch by action designed to terminate the existing position on the waterfront’ in regard to the loading of Dutch ships? If he does; what action does he intend to lake?
-! am not aware of any lack of cordiality between the Dutch’ and Australian peoples. I am, of course’, cognizant of a certain degree- of feeling’ between representatives of the Dutch Government on- the one hand and myself and’ the Minister for External’ Affairs on- the ©(flier hand:, in consequence- of statements that have been published by Dutch Minis*ters. I do. not consider that . that has disturbed! in any way the- good feeling that exists, Between, the Dutch people and the people Of this country.
– Will the Minister for Commerce- and Agriculture state- the position in.’ regard’ to- the price of oats from the 1-94G-47 harvest? . I understand’ that there is a; guaranteed’ price of 3s.. a bushel in respect of all’ oats delivered to the Barley Board. Does that apply to deliveries- on trucks- art sidings and railway stations ? Will the- honorable gentleman also state the position- in- regard to” the price of eats bought by local produce merchants and. others- who are prepared; to pay- higher than the guaranteed price? Will the grower be permitted to- sell to- the highest bidder?
– I shall have an answerprepared, for the honorable1 member.
Students o;f Electricity
– What action docs the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction’ intend to take in regard to the employment of qualified ex-army electrical’ engineers and electricity students who hold certificates but cannot secure employment in their’ calling because of the attitude of industrial unions, especially in view of the published statement of Alderman W. Cook, at a meeting of the Brisbane City Council,, that, ex-servicemen who had studied electricity in the Army have been the victims of a vile and cruel hoax, and- his further statement that, although these men had been told1 through the Army journal Salt that- they would be accepted as- tradesmen, the unions were refusing to accept them as members, and the Brisbane City Council had to turn away such men every week?
– I do not accept’ the premises that -individuals who are qualified electricians are unable to obtain employment for any reason. I point out that those who are engaged in the industry mentioned1 are covered’ by the dilution agreement, which was entered into by the Government in which the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister. Without breaking acontract with those concerned, it is impossible freely to admit to training ex-servicemen who wish to enter that industry.
– A report published to-day stated that Cabinet had decided yesterday that £250,000 should be provided by the Commonwealth for distribution among sufferers from tuberculosis, in addition to any other social service benefits to which they may be entitled. As the distribution is to be made by the States, will the Prime Minister say whether they have agreed to give effect to the proposal, or will legislation be needed before the scheme can be implemented ?
– The Commonwealth Parliament has approved of the allocation of £250,000 a year among the States to assist in preventing the spread of tuberculosis. The Commonwealth had earlier agreed to provide £50,000 a year for diagnostic treatment, on the condition that the States would subsidize the amount £1 for £1, and a further £50,000 a year for after-cure treatment, on the same basis. It has now agreed to provide a further £250,000 a year to meet the circumstances of necessitous cases, such as the granting of assistance to the dependants of the head of a family suffering from the disease. Due to the nature of the drafting, it was found difficult to administer the provision. This Parliament will be asked to pass amending legislation to make the provision more workable, and to enable the money to be paid to the States on a basis to be determined by the Minister for Health in the light of all the circumstances. The matter has been discussed with State Ministers for Health, but I cannot say that a definite agreement has been reached in regard to the method by which the money shall be distributed. I shall make inquiries in relation to that aspect. The Minister for Health will make any further explanation that may be needed when the amending legislation is introduced.
Position in Queensland.
– In view of the fact that further drastic transport restrictions are being imposed in Queensland, and that the people, especially women and children, are suffering privations far more severe than those endured during the worst days of the war, following the failure of the compulsory conference called by the Premier, Mr. Hanlon, with a view to effecting a settlement of the dispute in the meat industry, and the resultant strikes by coal-miners and waterside workers, has the Prime Minister made any offer of assistance towards ending this nationally damaging state of affairs? If not, as many of the strikers are subject to awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, will the right honorable gentleman intervene in the dispute immediately?
– Last week, in reply to a question, I made it clear that the Government regarded this dispute as one that was entirely within the jurisdiction of the Industrial Court of Queensland, and that the handling of it was a matter for the Government of that State. I understand that the Queensland Government, acting in accordance with its constitutional powers, has since declared that a state of emergency exists. The Commonwealth Government considers that the matter should be left with the State Industrial Court and Government.
– The right honorable gentleman realizes that they have failed to settle the dispute?
– Regretfully, I have to confess that I do realize that up to date they have failed to settle the dispute. According to my information, very few of those associated with the original dispute are subject to awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. As to whether I have considered intervention, or whether there have been any negotiations
– Or offers of assistance.
– Last week, I was asked whether Mr. Tonkin, the Commonwealth Meat Controller, had been in consultation with various parties to the dispute.With the consent of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Commonwealth Meat Controller used his friendly offices in an attempt to bring about an agreement between the parties, suggesting certain methods by which an agreement might be reached. The Government holds the same view of the. matter as was expressed here last week.
– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction aware that the announcement that the Commonwealth Government intended to spend £320,000 a year on a national university in Canberra is causing concern among State universities lest this should exclude the possibility of financial assistance to them for research purposes? If so,” can he assure the State universities that Commonwealth assistance for this purpose will be continued?
– I was wot aware that anxiety had been caused, but I shall give the matter consideration and advise the honorable member later regarding it.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether a decision has yet been reached regarding the future of the Apple and Pear Acquisition scheme? If so will the Minister inform honorable members what has been decided ? If no decision has been reached, when will the Minister be able to make a statement on the subject?
– The whole matter is now under consideration, and in due course honorable members will be notified.
– Can the Minister for Munitions say when the report of the com.mis.sion appointed to investigate the proposed establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia will be tabled in Parliament? Will honorable members have an opportunity to debate it?
– The report, which will cover the period up to the 30th June last, will probably be presented to me within a few days, when the final tabulation of data is completed. I. shall ‘then table it in the House, and the honorable member may then take what action he chooses in regard to it.
Victorian BoARD - “ montevideo
Maru “ : Pensions tor Dependants of Victims.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation state whether it is a fact that the Government refused to re-appoint Mr. Curnow to the Victorian State Repatriation Board, although he has filled the position with credit for the last four years, and was number one on a panel of names submitted by the Victorian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia? Did the Government refuse to re-appoint Mr. Curnow because his political opinions were different from those held by the Government ? It is to be assumed from this that future appointments by this Government will be made with an eye to the political convictions of the persons concerned ?
– I assure the honorable member that political opinions were not taken into account in filling this position. At the last federal elections Mr. Curnow opposed the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman), and was defeated. He resigned in order to contest the election, and I re-appointed him afterwards..
– Why not on this occasion?
– Let the honorable member wait for my answer. A panel of three names was placed before me, and I appointed the man who, in my judgment, was. best fitted for the position.
– Was not Mr. Curnow’s name first on the list?
– Yes, but why send a list of three names if I was expected to appoint the first ?. I appointed Mr. Gray to the position, and I intend to see that he remains there.
– I ask the Minister for External Territories in respect of the approximate 300 New Guinea civilians who were taken prisoner when Rabaul fell and who subsequently lost their lives when the Montevideo Maru was torpedoed whether it is a fact that, when he announced the tragedy, he referred to those who lost their lives as having given them in defence of Australia just as surely as had those who died face to face with the enemy? In view of that statement, is it correct that the benefits of the
Australian Soldiers?RepatriationAct will be applied to the widows and other dependants of those who so lost their lives?
– Action was taken some time ago to provide pension benefits to the dependants of those who lost their lives on. the Montevideo Maru, equivalent to those paid to the dependants of privates in the Australian Army. The question of providing additional benefits under the Repatriation Act is being considered. I shall secure the latest information on the subject and let the honorable gentleman have it within a day or so.
– An export levy of1s. 6d. perlb. has been imposed on rabbit skins. Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture given instructions that buyers shall deduct1s. 6d. per lb. from the price of rabbit skins supplied to them by trappers? Will the Minister make a statement regarding the export levy?
– Never at any time did I give instructions that the purchasers of rabbit skins should deduct the amount of the export levy. The only persons who pay the levy are the exporters. Rabbitskin prices have risen to the world record of 258d. per lb. and, in addition to that, the exporters have to pay a levy of1s. 6d. per lb. Any rabbit-skin buyer who deducted the amount of the levy from the price he paid would be dealing, unfairly with the trapper.
Exports - Shortage of Supplies
– I ask the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture what quantity of steel ingots, plates, girders, angle iron, &c., has been exported from Australia to the United Kingdom in the last twelve months ?
– I shall have that matter investigated and a reply supplied to the honorable member.
– As the acute shortage of raw materials, particularly black iron and steel, is militating against the development of secondary industries, will the Minister for Post-war Recon- struction ask the Secondary IndustriesCommissionto inquire into the reason, for the shortage?
– It is true that thereis a grave shortage of certain raw materials, particularly iron and steel products, including galvanized iron and black iron. The principal reason for that is the lack of man-power to fillall the jobs which are available in the iron and steel industry, but as more servicemen are demobilized the position will be gradually rectified.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction seen the statement of the president of the Master Tailors Association, Mr. Keith Parlon, in Monday’s Melbourne Herald, that scarcely any deliveries of tailoring cloths had been made in the past three months and that some tailors had not received a suit-length for six or seven weeks ? If so, in view of the extreme difficulty being experienced by civilians and ex-servicemen in securing a suit of clothes, what action does the Minister intend to take so to regulate exports of cloth that our own people will be able to purchase much needed suits?
– I have not seen the statement, but I remember that the gentleman mentioned by the honorable member made some rash statements early in the war about the need for rationing clothing. The Government exercises no control over the distribution of cloth. That is solely a matter for the manufacturers. As I have explained previously in this House, the quantity of cloth suitable for Australian requirements that is exported is small, amounting to about 2½ per cent. of the total production. The only hope of more cloth being made available to the Australian community, including ex-service men and women, lies in increased production in the mills, and over that the Government has no control.
Pig Meats - Appointment of Inspector . in Victoria.
– On Friday afternoon I referred to the report that the Meat
Controller, who is an officer of the Department of Commerce fend Agriculture, had appointed an inspector to attend pig sales in Victoria iii order to fix pig prices and that this “gentleman’s firm had been a buyer of pigs at the sale attended by him. If the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has not already been drawn to the matter, will he examine it with a view to making an early statement on the case in the House ?
– My attention has not yet been drawn to the matter raised by the honorable gentleman. I shall order an immediate investigation and make a statement to the House as requested
– In view of the vastly differing amounts of telephonic business transacted in post office telephone exchanges, will, the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consider the possibility of grading telephonists, as is the practice with all classes of male postal employees, to ensure that girls called upon to fill the more difficult positions shall be amply compensated for their extra skill?
– I shall place the representations of the honorable member before the Postmaster-General, and ask him to furnish a reply as soon as possible.
MONTREAL Conference - Statements by Am Vice-Marshal Bostock.
– Will the Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation, whom I welcome back, soon make a state- ment on the Montreal conference from which he returned last week? Will he also soon reply to the charges made by Air Vice-Marshal Bostock?
– I have prepared a report, which 1 supplied to the Prime Minister, on the conference at Montreal. Later I hope to be able to make a statement on what was accomplished there. I have had brought under my notice a series of articles written for the Murdoch chain of newspapers by A;r Vice-Marshal Bostock. The articles appear to have been syndicated. They are published under big head-lines in several newspapers, apparently to enable Air ViceMarshal Bostock to air his personal grievances over a wide area. The articles are lengthy and cover many aspects. I am examining them for the purpose of determining the necessity for a reply and the nature of the reply that I should make if one is necessary.
– There is a necessity all right.
– Nobody here other than the honorable member (or Balaclava seems to have shown any interest in the articles.
– I have asked questions about them and so has the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein).
– Well, I apologize to the honorable member for Watson.
Inquiry into Loss of Production.
– Was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture correctly reported in Tuesday’s press as having said that he would recommend to Cabinet that a commission be set up to ascertain the cost of producing wheat? If so, will the Minister inform the House why he has not before this honoured a similar promise that he made prior to the 1943 general elections that if the Government was returned to power an inquiry would be held into the increased cost .of producing wheat?
– I did make that promise earlier this week, but the statement of the honorable member that I made a similar promise in 1943 is absolutely incorrect.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether Australia is entitled to reparations from Germany, and, if so, what is the value of them ? Are reparations to be made in machinery, and, if- so, what kind of machinery?
– Australia is entitled to participate in the reparations paid by Germany, and some time- ago an estimate was made of the value of industrial and other materials that Australia would receive. Later a fresh estimate had to be made. I shall prepare for the honorable member a statement setting out the original estimate and the revised figures.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that an investigation was promised into the recent detention of A.C.I Jones for 111 days while he was awaiting court-martial on a charge of having been absent without leave ? If so, what is the outcome of that investigation, and what compensation does the Government propose to make to A.C.I Jones for the pay which he forfeited while he was in detention awaiting trial ?Is it a fact that many members of the Royal Australian Air Force have been kept waiting months for trial by courtmartial? Did a spokesman of the Air Force estimate . that one airman, L.A.C. Smith, of the Care and Maintenance Unit, Narromine, was kept waiting for more than 100 days for courtmartial? What action does the Government contemplate to ensure that personnel shall not be kept waiting for long periods before they are brought to trial?
– Apparently this matter was raised during my absence overseas. Although I am not familiar with the details of the case, I take this opportunity to state that I disagree with any policy under which men are detained for a long period before they are brought to trial by court-martial. If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper I shall have the facts investigated and supply an answer.
Disposal of Building Materials
– I have received information that quantities of building materials, including galvanized iron and timber, are being shipped from Darwin before the residents of the town have had an opportunity to purchase them. In future, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping scrutinize proposals for the shipment of those materials from Darwin, because they are required for the rehabilitation of the town ?
– I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to supply an answer to the honorable member’s question.
– Will the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture institute an inquiry into the costs of production in the dairying industry on a similar basis to that which he recommended in respect of the wheat-growing industry?
– I have already announced that intention, and the committee is now being appointed. Probably the personnel will be completed next week, after I have discussed the whole matter with the representatives of the organization. The terms of reference will be similar to those suggested by the right honorable gentleman.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1946-47.
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1945-46.
Without amendment -
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1946.
Assent to the followingbills reported : -
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1946-47.
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1945-46.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie - Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [4.1]. - I move -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
As I intimated a few days ago, this motion will not deprive honorable members of “ Grievance Day “.
.- This motion, if agreed to, will prevent the House from considering the following notice of motion standing in my name : -
Thatno means test be applied in the matter of pensions to dependent parents of deceased servicemen; and that no means test be applied in considering the eligibility of widows of deceased servicemen for war service homes.
I have referred to this matter in the House on numerous occasions, but a notice of motion is the only satisfactory way in which a private member can direct attention to an important subject. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) will permit me to proceed with my motion to-morrow, I do not think that the debate will be protracted. My request is justified, because, acting upon advice, I placed this item on the notice-paper some time ago. If the Prime Minister insists in postponing the consideration of this business at thi3 stage, he will be treating me with unnecessary harshness, and will cause grave disappointment to those who believe that honorable members should hear the merits of the case. The Opposition supports unanimously the terms of the motion,, and many Ministerial members are in favour of it.
– Why did not the Government of which the honorable member was a supporter take the necessary action ?
– A committee investigated the subject while I was abroad, and T had no opportunity then to rectify it. t believe that the honorable member for Ballarat approves of the terms of the motion.
– This notice of motion could have been debated on the Supply Bill.
– It was already on the notice-paper and therefore could not be debated on the Supply Bill. -If I am not permitted to submit the motion at this juncture, I shall not have another opportunity to do so this session. I appeal to the Prime Minister’s better nature -
Mr. Frost interjecting,
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) has obstinately opposed this proposal. When he has received deputations representing the wives of deceased servicemen, he has promised to consider their requests ‘but has not done anything. He has a static mind. In the near future he will be - appointed Australian Minister to Moscow, and the quicker he leaves Australia, the better. If the debate is allowed to proceed the merits of the case can be stated without political heat or party bias. Both the Parliament and the general public are deeply interested in this sub ject, but the people who ave most intimately affected cannot invoke the aid of strong pressure groups to achieve . their purpose.
.- I strongly support the submissions of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), and appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to make provision for a debate on the subject. I believe that if the right honorable gentleman were fully informed of the effect of the application of the means test in this connexion
– Order .’ The honorable gentleman may not discuss the merits of the subject; he may only advance reasons in support of his claim of urgency.
– I believe that if the Prime Minister realized the degree of injustice that is being inflicted upon the dependants of deceased servicemen he would readily accede to the request that has been made by the honorable member for. Balaclava. This Parliament will shortly expire by the effluxion of time, and it is urgent, in my view, that the motion of which the honorable member for .Balaclava has given notice should be debated without delay. A serious injustice is being done to servicemen’s widows who are seeking to secure homes. The housing position in Australia is deplorable. I therefore ask the Prime Minister to allow the motion of the honorable member for Balaclava to be debated.
.- The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) comes out of this discussion relatively clean, but that cannot be said of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis).
– I shall continue to help to obtain justice for these people; I am not static.
– The honorable member is clever at making political capital; but he cannot deny that he was a member of an all-party committee of members of both Houses of the Parliament appointed by the Prime Minister in 1943 to consider this subject, and that he assented to the report of the committee.
– Order ! The honorable member is mow departing from my ruling.
– I am satisfied, Mr. Speaker, to have made my point.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Scully, and read n first time.
.. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a. second time.
The purpose of this bill, which is designed to amend the Meat Export Control Act 1935-1938, is to provide for the re-v constitution, of the Australian Meat Board, and to grant to the board additional powers necessary to enable it to carry out work in. relation to the longterm purchase agreement covering meat for export, entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United Kingdom. The Australian Meat Board, under the amending legislation now submitted, will consist of twelve members, including a Commonwealth Government representative, who will be appointed by the GovernorGeneral. Bte will be employed full-time on the business of the board and will be the chairman. Of the remaining eleven members, seven members, constituting a clear majority of the board, will be representative of producer interests.
Producer members, comprising four representatives of the lamb and mutton producers, two of the beef producers, and one of the pig producers, must themselves be bona fide producers,, and must be persons nominated by producer organizations constituted on a Commonwealth basis. The members appointed to represent the meat-exporting companies are to be appointed after consultation with representative organizations of meat exporters. The member appointed to represent - the employees will be appointed after consultation with the Federal Council of the Meat Industry Employees Union.. The member appointed to< represent, the publicly owned abattoirs and freezing works will be appointed by the GovernorGeneral.
Producer organizations have repre, seated, that the chairman of the board should be a producer member, nominated by the producer representatives on the board. During the period that the. longterm purchase arrangement for the sale of Australia’s exportable meat to the United Kingdom continues, the board will handle annually Commonwealth Government finance amounting to more than £20,000,000, and in these circumstances the Government considers that it should have the right to appoint the chairman.
The bill also gives the person presiding at a meeting the right to. dissent from, any decision of the hoard. This right is also necessary because of the Commonwealth Government’s financial interest in the operations of the board. It is essential that the chairman shall have the right to bring to the Minister’s notice immediately any resolution which he considers may involve the Commonwealth Government in any way on a point of principle or, what is more to the point, on a question of financial losses or gains. The Commonwealth Government’s financial interests in the meat industry in the immediate future are such that it is considered that these interests should bc safeguarded by a clause such as .that which has been included in this amending legislation.
It will be appreciated that it ia not practicable to have represented on. the board all interests connected with the meat industry, and that it is necessary and desirable that the membership, in terms of numbers, be limited. In order, therefore, that all sections of the industry may be in a. position to present their views on matters affecting the industry, provision has been made for the setting-up of State committees. It will be competent for any duly constituted. State organization representing a section of the meat industry to apply for representation on the State committee.
As it is proposed that the administration of the long-term purchase agreement for meat, entered into between the Commonwealth. Government and the Govern- ment of the- United Kingdom, will be a function of the board after the expiration of the National Security Act,, provision has been madefor the powers of theboard tobe extended to include the following: -
Attention is directed to the provision, of special interest to producers, feat the conditions attaching to the issue by the boardof an export licence have been extended to make it obligatoryonthe licensee, where theproducer-owner of suchstock so requests, totreat stock on account of theownerona weight and grade basis. Other amendmentsare of a machinery nature only and are necessary to give effect to the major amendments, to which attentionhas already been directed.
Debate (on motion by Mr.Hutchinson) adjourned.
Billpresented by Mr. Scully, and read afirst time.
Mr. SCULLY (Gwydir- Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture) [4.16]. - byleave-Imove -
Thatthebill be nowread asecond time.
The purposeof this bill, which is supplementary to theMeat ExportControl Bill 1946, covering the reconstruction of the Australian Meat Board, is to transfer to thatboard the powers and functions at present exercisedby the Controller of Meat Supplies and the MeatCanning Committee under the National Security Regulations. It willbe appreciated that the transfer istobe temporary,and that, with theexpiration of the National
Security Act, this actwill cease tohave the forceof law. Notwithstanding that, ithe interests of theCommonwealthGovvernment and of the meat industry, inso- far as theyrelate to actions taken bythe Controller of MeatSuppliesand the Meat Canning Committee under National Security regulations,must be protected. The hill provides that these rights and obligations shall be assumedby the Aus- tralian Meat Board. Since the rationing of meat and the control of meat prices are matters which, forthetimebeing at least,are closely linkedwith the general control of the meat industry, provision has been made for the temporary appoint- ment to the Australian Meat Board of two additionalmembers, one to represent the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, and one the Director of Rationing. These members will automatically cease to hold office upon the expiration ofthe National Security Act.
Debate (onmotion by Mr.
Debate resumedfrom the 28th June (vide page 2056), on motion by Mr. Calwell -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Ipointedout lastFridaythat the idea thatthe people shouldbe educated to take an interest in the proceedings of the Commonwealth Parliament,by means of broadcastsof those proceedings, was a very good one. But Ialsostated that two fundamental conditions should be imposed: first, thateither the wholeof the proceedings, or none at all, should be broadcast; and secondly, that all the peopleof Australia should have anequal opportunity to listen to the broadcasts Having established those fundamental principles, the next question would be whether thenecessarytechnicalfacilities were available to give effect to them. If they were, the matterof broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament could be debated on its merits. But if there is to be discrimination, either in the selection of thedebates to be broadcast or in the number of listeners, the proposal has quite a different complexion. According to- my information, although the Broadcasting Committee considered that it would be possible to cover practically the whole of the proceedings during the limited number of days on which the Parliament sits, the Government took the contrary view. The bill does not make that provision, but stipulates that there shall be only a partial cover, which in the last analysis will be determined by a committee to be appointed by the two branches of the legislature and may be selective and quite partisan. If it be agreed that on account of the present technical position it is not “possible to cover the whole of the proceedings, at all events- the debates chosen should be such as to permit of the whole of them being broadcast. If that were done, practically all the clauses dealing with the functions of the committee could be deleted. Any infringement of the general principles I have enunciated would at once have an effect on the maintenance of parliamentary privilege, which is possible only if every member of the Parliament has the right fully to express ‘his view. The law has been thus expounded on many occasions by British jurists. At page 108 of May’s Parliamentary Practice this statement is made -
But if a member should publish his speech, his printed statement becomes a separate publication, unconnected with any proceedings in Parliament. This view of the law has been established by two remarkable cases.
It goes on to cite the reports of Lord Abingdon and Mr. Creevey. On the following page this statement is made -
The Lord Chief Justice of England, in a more recent case, further laid it down, that “ if a member publishes his own speech, reflecting upon the character of another person, and omits to publish the rest of the debate, the publication would, not be fair, and so would not be privileged but that a fair and faithful report of the whole debate would not be actionable.
When the bill is in committee, I shall move for the deletion of the provision. for the broadcasting of “ any portion “ of the proceedings, with a view to ensuring that the whole of the proceedings shall be broadcast. It cannot be questioned that the attempt. that is made by clause 14 to render unnecessary the publication of the whole case for and against, contravenes another principle affecting parliamentary privilege which is of long standing in Great Britain.’ May also says -
By the Ninth Article of the Bill of Rights it was declared, “ That the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament “. But, although by the ancient custom of Parliament, as well as by the law, a member may not be questioned out of Parliament, he is liable to censure and punishment by the House itself, of which he is a member.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) intends to try to meet that position. Sir Edward Coke, who for hundreds of years has been, and still is, regarded as an authority on British juris-‘ prudence, laid it down that, although either House of the Parliament may expound the law- of the Parliament and vindicate its own privileges, it is agreed that no new privilege can be created. It seems to me that this bill, by making it possible for a portion of a debate to be published and another portion to be concealed, undoubtedly ‘attempts to establish a new privilege which has not existed up to the present time.
Mr, Falstein interjecting,
– My aim is to maintain the dignity and the privileges of this Parliament. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), like a “ snide “ lawyer, tries to raise technicalities. I wish to make certain that the rights of the people of Australia shall be preserved. This House will act very unwisely, in respect of the freedom of this country and its protection, if it impairs in any way the traditions of this Parliament and the British Parliament. If the bill, when passed, establishes a new privilege, by means of which the speeches of only one section of the House may be broadcast, it would be advisable to withdraw all parliamentary, privileges and leave to the courts of the land the decision as to whether or not a member bad outraged the rights of any person outside the Parliament. A matter of privilege can be raised in the Parliament. When I did so on one occasion the only member of the ministerial party who supported me, even though a fundamental principle was involved, was the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who views such matters in the light of what is proper and just rather than what is partisan. It would be a bad day for every British country if that principle were allowed to fall into desuetude. In such an event, all matter broadcast should be actionable in the same way as non-parliamentary matter. That would make members very much move careful of what they said, and would prevent them from impugning the character of others without justification.
The bill is being considered haphazardly. Its implications are not being debated with any regard to our international relations. In view of our international understandings, and especially our international misunderstandings, we should consider the matter very carefully. While I sat in the British War Cabinet as the representative of Australia the question arose as to whether there should be a broadcast of a speech that was to be made in the Blouse of Commons, by Mr. Churchill upon his return from a meeting with the late President Roosevelt, in which he was to deal exhaustively with the war situation. The British War Cabinet agreed unanimously, the Labour members of it being most emphatic, that such a broadcast would be exceedingly unwise in view of possible repercussions. lt was pointed out that even one interjection during the course of a speech might provoke an unconsidered retort that could imperil relations between nations for generations. We in this country have a White Australia policy’ to which all parties subscribe. It was fought for in Parliament and outside it, and is now accepted by all Australians, but to some neighbouring nations it is a matter of concern. During a-debate on this subject in Parliament, statements could be made which, if broadcast, might lead to serious difficulties with other nations. This is just one instance.
One of the functions of Parliament is to provide an opportunity for honorable members to talk to their constituents, and to show them that the views of the people are being put before Parliament. This applies to Ministers no less than to private members. I cannot see that any good purpose would he served by broadcasting speeches of that kind to the world. For instance, the other day, we were invited to listen to a recording of the proceedings in Parliament, and I heard the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) delivering a speech which, from the point of view of his constituents, was a very good one. He was dealing with conditions in the coalmines on the south coast, and some of the proposals he was making have since been put into. effect by the miners. His speech was unexceptionable so far as his- own electorate is concerned or, indeed, so far as the people in other electorates in Australia are concerned, because they understood why he was making it, but it is important that a speech of that kind should not go out to the world as an indication of what Commonwealth Ministers are thinking. The English language is not spoken all over the world, and some of those who might listen to broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings will have but an imperfect knowledge of the language, and so might misunderstand the true import of what was being said. This was brought home to me by a remark made by Philip Snowden after, an international conference in Paris during the depression. He said, “ although we used the same words, I found that we did not mean the same thing”. Every language has idioms of its own with which people speaking other languages are not familiar. I particularly urge .that no short-wave broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings be made unless the greatest care is taken to prevent them from causing international misunderstanding.
The Government . should not proceed immediately with this proposal. The technical processes are not available to give a complete broadcast of proceedings. Furthermore, the question of privilege has not yet been cleared up ; and, finally, the danger of creating international misunderstanding is such that the Government should defer the passage of the bill until it has bad time to consider the matter further.. The bill has already been passed by the .Senate ; but it is evident that the Government has had many second thoughts regarding it, judging by the sheaf of amendments which- havealready been circulated in this House. For all these reasons, I urge that more time betaken to considerthe proposal in all its aspects.
In conclusion, I desire to expressmy regret to the honorablememberfor Watson(Mr.Falstein) for anythingobjectionablewhich I may havesaidofhim in the heat of debate.
Mr.FALSTEIN(Watson)[4.36].Thisbill has been preparedas a direct result of the reportfurnished bythe Standing Committee onBroadcasting. The decision to broadcastthe proceedings of this House and of the Senate in part only wastaken because of technical difficulties.
– There wereno political reasons at all?
Mr.Calwell. -None at all. The Labour party is running this country.
– The statement of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page)that the broadcasting of only a part of the proceedings affects the matter of privilege is quiteerroneous. I may be permitted, as a lawyer, to say to the right honorable member, who is a member of another profession, that I should prefer him to confine his remarks on. technical matters to subjects of which he has some knowledge. In particular, I suggest thathe should refrain from discoursing on matters of law about which, to judge from the citations he has made, he has no knowledge at all.
The honorablemember for Warringah (Mr. Spender)has foreshadowed an amendment that clause 14 of the bill be deleted, and in its place there be substituted anothercause consisting of two sub-clauses. I hope to convince honorable members thatthere isno substance in ‘his amendmentwhich would warrant serious consideration. I hope to show, also,that thepoints raised by the honorable member come strangely from one who, enjoying the absoluteprivilegeof a court of law, made a most unwarranted attack upon the Minister for Information(Mr. Calwell) during the hearing of a case in which the Minister claimed damages for libel against a newspaper for the publication of certain matter which was highly defamatory.
The honorable member’s foreshadowed amendment proposes, in sub-clause 2, that the privilege of honorable members in Parliament shall be considered in rela tiontostatements oftruth, and tostatements ofuntruth; and he says that, in the caseof statements of truth, noaction shall lie.It istrite knowledgethat, in commonlaw,noactionshall lie in respectof a true statement made in the interest of publicbenefit, and, of course, it wouldnaturally followthat any statement made in Parliamentwouldbe made in the interest of publicbenefit. It is obvious,therefore,thattherewas no need for the amendment specifically to give privilege to statements of truth. The honorable member for Warringah must knowthat in England it is a sufficient defence against a charge of libel or slander to , provethat the statement was true and made for the public benefit.It is not necessary to invoice any further defence of privilege.So much for statements of truth. The honorable member then directs attention to untrue statements, which he divides into two classes - statements which are untrue as such, and statements which the person making them knows to be untrue, and the honorable member adds “ and words spoken maliciously “’.
Whilstitmaybe desirable to make some provision regarding privilege in such cases,I pointout that it is proposedthat theproceedingsof Parliament shall be broadcast, notin their entirety, butin part only. Moreover, it ispossiblethat some technical defect might cuta speaker off the air, and that,aftersuch an interruption, hemight be putontheair again without his knowing it. In regard to words spoken in the Parliament,andnot broadcast, no action could lie, becausethe member would enjoy absolute privilege ; yet, ifthe same words were broadcast he might he liable. There will benothing to stop wordsSpoken maliciously andwith a knowledge oftheir falseness,being published in a newspaper, provided the report is a fair and substantial report of words spoken in Parliament. Doesthe honorable member propose to restrictthis privilege inregard to newspapers in the same way as he proposes to restrict it in regard to broadcasting?
– The honorable member seems to forget that, in these circumstances, there is only one author of the slander - the person who first spoke the words.
– But responsibility for libel or slander rests, in law, not only upon .the first author, but also upon every person who publishes or republishes it. Whether the honorable member is endeavouring to mislead the House on these matters I am not clear. It is clear, however, that an anomalous situation would be created if. the newspapers were to be allowed to continue publishing defamatory matter, provided their reports were fair and accurate, whilst persons engaged in broadcasting might not, under penalty of the law, broadcast the same matter.
– I would deny privilege to any person, inside or outside this House, who maliciously and knowingly utters a defamatory untruth and this should apply to. newspapers as well as to other agencies of publicity. There is a great difference between doing a thing in the course of duty, and doing it maliciously.
Mi-. FALSTEIN.- All I have to say in reply to that statement is that’ this is a political arena. My friend ought to- know that the members of his party are not very careful of what they say inside or outside this House as long as they achieve certain purposes.
– What about the Prime Minister?
– I have some views on that matter. If the honorable member would like me to tell him some of the things that organizers of the Liberal party are endeavouring to spread in different areas-
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Watson to deal with the bill.
– It is appropriate to direct the attention of the honorable member for Warringah, who seeks to take most of my time by interjections, to a matter in which he- was not very careful. He marked a brief at a fee of 100 guineas to open the case to the jury in a certain matter. He occupied his time, in which everything he said was covered by absolute privilege, to say certain things about Mr. W. J. Smith. That case raised the ire of Consolidated Press Limited through its paper, the Sydney Daily
Telegraph, which, in a sub-editorial. headed “ Dignity said -
The Full Bench of the High Court on Monday upheld an appeal by Mr. W. J. Smith. Mr. Smith had been accused of manipulating dummy companies to swindle the Taxation Commissioner. On every count the High Court gave Mr. Smith a clean bill. In the earlier stages of this case Mr. Smith was the target” for some pretty violent abuse.
– That was not my case.
– I am coming tothat. If the honorable member will refrain from anticipating me I shall bc pleased. I am reading the sub-editorial in full. I do not need any assistancefrom the honorable gentleman. I- am quite capable of putting this matter tothe House without assistance. The subeditorial goes on -
An eminent King’s Council, Mr.. Weston,, slated him severely.
Now the High Court finds Mr. Smith, guiltless.
In another case, which Mr. Smith won, Mr.. Percy Spender, K.C., M.H.B., also took Mr. Smith’s character to bits in a savage way - then handed the brief over to some one else. Where do these eminent Counsel stand when the Courts decide that their attacks on a. man’s character were unsupported by evidence?
This is the gentleman who is proposingto the House that we should adopt a form which tests, first, whether wordsspoken in the House are true, and, secondly, if they are untrue, whether they were spoken with knowledge of their falseness and, thirdly, whether the words were spoken maliciously. The article goes on -
Do’ they hasten to make public amends? No., they are privileged, so Mr. Smith has- to carrythat mud that sticks. *
What is good’ for the goose is good for the gander. I am not in any way endeavouring to suggest that the Daily Telegraph itself has clean hands, because in very recent memory it wrote a highly defamatory editorial about the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and invited him to test the matter in the High, Court of Australia. It said, indeed,, that if action were brought, it would not plead the defence of privilege.. The paper had substantial sums of money with which to brief counsel and delay the litigation, which is the worst feature of the. matter. It could quite easily have, reached the stage at which the Minister, or any other person in similar circumstances, would have been financially incapable of contesting the action, although it is quite possible, as in the case of Smith, the court would have found that the action was justified.
The honorable gentleman’s amendment is out of line not only with his own party’s purposes but also’ with the accepted parliamentary practice. Whenthe right honorable member for Cowper was quoting some law it was quite evident, of course, that he was not familiar with what he was saying. What I have to. quote is trite to lawyers, but honorable - members will no doubt appreciate having the benefit of authoritative textwriters on these subjects. Showing exactly what the position- is in regard to these matters, in the ninth edition of Salmond on the Law of Torts, at page 419, paragraph 2, Salmond says -
If the defamatory statement can be shown to be true, the defence of privilege is not required; for it is allowable to .publish the truth on all occasions, privileged or not, and from all motives, good or bad. It is only when the statement is false, or cannot be proved to be true, that it is necessary to fall back upon, the plea of privilege, and to prove that the occasion of the publication was such as to exempt the defendant from the consequences of his error.
A very concise statement of the position of members of parliament is given on page 209 of the 14th edition of Pollock on Torts, also an authority -
Privileged Immunity?- - In order that public -duties may be discharged without fear, unqualified protection is given to language used in the exercise of parliamentary and judicial functions. A member of Parliament cannothe lawfully molested outside Parliament by civil action, or otherwise, on account of anything said by him in his place in either House.
On this accurate account of the law the honorable member for Warringah wishes to superimpose some fancy matter which he has the brazenness, having regard to his record, to put forward. Sub-clause 1 of the foreshadowed amendment proposes that the limitations on action ought to be confined to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, its servants, agents and employees for broadcasting or rebroadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament. The bill itself provides -
No action or proceeding, civil or criminal, -shall lie against any person for broadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament.
An amendment circulated by the Minister provides that power to determine’ what portions of the. proceedings shall be broadcast or re-broadcast shall repose in the hands of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, provision for the setting up qf which is made in earlier clauses. It would, therefore, be quite in order, according to the bill, as it is proposed to be amended, for that committee to decide that some other authority than the Australian Broadcasting Commission, its servants, agent and employees, should be able to broadcast the proceedings of ‘ either House. If it were considered desirable to broadcast through station 2KY,
Sydney, which- is a station conducted under the auspices of the- Wireless Committee of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, a portion or the whole of a speech delivered by the Prime Minister or some other Minister on matters affecting Labour policy, there should be no bar to the committee making n decision that station 2KY, which is not in the national network, should be permitted to make that broadcast. I suggest, therefore, that the clause be adopted in the form, proposed in the bill, because it would cater adequately for contingencies such as T have outlined.
I commend the bill to the House and say to Opposition members, who claim that they do not oppose change and that they are endeavouring to assist change) that this is one of the most progressive measures ever proposed to be put . on the statutebook of this country, because it will give to the people the opportunity of learning at first hand, without abridgment or interpretative comment, how their representatives conduct themselves and how they advance individual and national interests. That is why, instead of being delayed, the bill should be passed forthwith in order that the proceedings of the Parliament may be broadcast to the people of Australia at the earliest posrsible time.
.- I am not enamoured of the provisions of this bill. Indeed, I feel most unhappy about its implications. Any measure that does not provide for the whole of the proceedings to he broadcast cannot be satisfactory. As far as I am aware, the only parliament in the British Empire whose proceedings are broadcast is the Parliament of New Zealand. The proceedings of the House of Representatives of that Dominion have been broadcast in full since. 1936. Indeed, for six hours every sitting day the proceedings are broadcast. That is approximately 24 . hours a week, which covers all the proceedings. Broadcasting times are varied to suit the sitting times. The system has given general satisfaction, although many people have ceased to listen to the broadcast. “When the novelty of listening to the parliamentary debates passed the number of listeners dropped considerably. The proceedings in the Legislative Council of New Zealand are not broadcast. I realize the difficulty of broadcasting both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament at the same time. That would involve the use of additional stations and considerable extra expense. It is for technicians to advise in this regard, and it has been suggested that perhaps the proceedings in one House could be recorded and broadcast at some other time. That would probably enable the proceedings in both Houses to be broadcast. Despite the assertions of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), the Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting recommended unanimously the broadcasting of the whole of the proceedings of the Parliament. The report stated -
We suggest that provision be made for overall control to be vested in the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives as regards broadcasts from their respective chambers; that during the experimental periods the whole of the proceedings in the chamber concerned should be broadcast from the main national stations and from the regional stations, as well as from the short-wave stations, except during the short periods when “straight” news sessions (that is, excluding commentaries or observers’ stories) are normally on the air.
That language is unequivocal, and if the honorable member for Watson cannot understand it, he should obtain a legal opinion with which to fortify his mind. There was a minority report, which suggested that overall control should not rest with the President of the. Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, but that is not germane to this debate; The important fact is that the Parliamentary Committee, after having heard evidence and having deliberated for a considerable time, recommended the broadcasting of the whole of the proceedings. The broadcasting of a portion of the proceedings would definitely be at variance with the committee’s report. The attitude of the committee itself, which I endorse, is that all or none of the proceedings should be broadcast. As the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) pointed out last week, a most unsatisfactory position will arise if only a part of the debate is put on the air. For example, one honorable member may attack another while the proceedings are being broadcast. The person so attacked may have a most effective reply to the charges, but when he rises to defend himself, the broadcasting of the debate may have ceased. Justice demands a fair and impartial presentation of the debates to the whole of the people, and that will not be achieved by broadcasting of portion of the proceedings. “ Jockeying “ for position, rushes to speak while the cham-‘ ber is on the air, and a dearth of speakers when the broadcast is not taking place will be experienced. That will bring about a most undesirable state of affairs.
Clause 14 causes me grave concern. It provides -
No action or proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person for broadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament.
Last week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) discussed the dangers of this clause in a most informative manner. Every one agrees that in this chamber honorable members should have the right to express their views without fear of incurring legal proceedings, and the protection which is afforded to their remarks is quite satisfactory. But citizens also require protection from slanderous attacks made in this House. Clause 14 gives to honorable members absolute licence to make- false and malicious statements, and defame citizens, who- will have no redress. That licence, if taken advantage of, would bring the Parliament into disrepute; no one would have respect for the parliamentary institution. The granting of licence to slander is quite unnecessary. The wording of the clause means that any person - that expression in itself^ is very wide- can take a small paragraph from an honorable member’s speech, divorce it from the context, and broadcast’ it, for the purpose of creating in the minds- of the listeners a- misleading and untrue impression, but he would be immune from proceedings, for libel..
– That is not a fact
– When the Minister, for Information (Mr. Calwell)’ replies to the debate-, he will have ‘an opportunity to collect me. Does he pit his opinion against that: of the’ former SolicitorGeneral of the Commonwealth, Sir George Knowles?-
– I might even db’ that.
– Not with- successful results. Giving evidence before the Parliamentary Committee on this subject^ the then Solicitor-General said -
If the whole of the proceedings, not small selected portions, were broadcast, a qualified privilege would apply. This qualified privilege could only be upset by proof of malice, and. .it would be difficult to establish malice if the whole of the proceedings were broadcast.
The former Solicitor-General definitely advocated the broadcasting of the whole of the proceedings. To-day, a qualified privilege exists, and that should suffice. Clause 14 is unnecessary.
Apart from a few exceptions, this unqualified privilege, which honorable members enjoy to-day, has not been abused ; but I cannot and will not support its extension into a licence to slander people. The proposal that under certain conditions the privilege shall be extended to the re-broadcasting of any of the proceedings of the Parliament will merely aggravate the danger. Approval for the re-broadcasting of a slander on a person will be established, and the. victim will have ,no redress. The proposal for re-broadcasting speeches envisages that a record of the parliamentary proceedings will be cut. A week, a month, or even a year after the speech was delivered in this- chamber-, asn unscrupulous personcould divorce some of the honorable member’s words from their context, and rebroadcast them without fear of legal proceedings- for libel.
– That is not true.
– The Minister will have an opportunity later to- refute. my statements-.
Some difficulty” has arisen regarding the land-lines necessary: to make it possible for persons in. all parts of Australia to listen to broadcasts of the proceedings of this Parliament’,. and unless this problem, is adjusted, only New South Wales and Victoria, will get satisfactory reception. Other States may not get any reception, or have an. inferior reception. The Minister should assure honorable - members1 that the whole of the people of Australia will be> given an opportunity to listen- to the debates of this- Parliament.
As’ the right honorable, m ember for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) pointed out, the Seventeenth Parliament of the Commonwealth, will shortly cease to exist. Even if. the Senate and the. House of Representatives agree to the bill at this stage, the proceedings of both chambers can be broadcast for only a fortnight or three weeks-. The Parliament then will rise,, and honorable members will prepare for the election. In my opinion, honorable members should allow the Eighteenth Parliament to implement, if it so desires, this legislation.. Meanwhile, radio technicians will have- an opportunity’ to perfect transmission, to all parts of Australia, and the Government’s legal officers may re-examine this obnoxious clause 14. If this clause is permitted to stand, in its present form,. I shall vote against the bill.
.- I support the bill, and welcome this proposal to broadcast proceedings of the Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and other legal practitioners in this chamber gave honorable members most informative addresses on the possible legal consequences of broadcasting the debates. They also expressed grave concern that only a portion of the proceedings would be on the air. It is true that the ideal would be the broadcasting of the whole of the proceedings, but the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) has already explained the reasons why that is impracticable at this juncture. If my speeches are not broadcast, my position will be no worse, regarding publicity, than- it is to-day. Some time ago, I delivered in- this chamber acarefully prepared speech on housings and! three honorable members opposite complimented me upon it. But the South Australian newspapers’ did not even mention that I had participated in. the debate. Whether or not that .omission was intentional, I do .npt know. Most honorable .members have .their own ideas upon that subject. Later, I secured the ad(journment of the debate on the War Service Homes Bill. Seven or eight. days later, when the House again considered the bill, I submitted in my speech a. number of valuable and practical suggestions for accelerating the construction of war service homes.
– -Did the Government adopt the honorable member’s suggestions?
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) was one of those . who praised my speech. Although 1 resumed the debate, the press reports made it appear that ‘the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison.) had done so. ‘Once again, my speech was not reported in- the newspapers. ‘Consequently, the fact that only a portion pf the proceedings of this Parliament will he broadcast does not .perturb me. Perhaps I shall be ‘fortunate enough, on occasions, to s.peak when this chamber is on ‘the air, and my con.stituents as a whole will -be .able to hear me.
One objection that has .been taken to the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament is ‘that it will lower -the public’s a-esp.ect for the parliamentary institution. During the last -few weeks, press cartoonists .have -not ‘show.n much respect for this ‘Parliament. Indeed, they have held it up .to ridicule. In Australia public .men, .and (politicians in particular^, seem ito be fair game for .everybody.-; but it should he remembered that honorable members .appear .in this .House not by the mere act of walking into it but .by-election us representatives for definite electoral divisions. It is high .time, therefore, in my view, for more .respect to be paid to parliamentary representatives. I do not know whether it will -be my -fortune to have many of my speeches broadcast.; but, as one who -mixes f reely with the .electors, I am quite convinced that ‘broadcasting facilities -should -be provided to enable the general public to hear what is being said in this Parliament. From inquiries that have been made, of .me, -I am sure that the number of ‘listeners >will increase as the years .go by, I shall support the bill wholeheartedly.
-It. seems to be idle to debate, .at this stage, the merits and -demerits of this bill, for the. Government, consistent with its usual methods, has already incurred great expense .and made all provisions for initiating the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings; Having behind it the decision of caucus, and a clear majority of members in this chamber, the Government (has .npt seen fit to wait for parliamentary .approval before incurring substantial expense in preparatory -work. W.e have, in fact, been presented .with -.an accomplished fact. This bill -was initiated in the Senate, where certain amendments were made to it, but sinGe .it has come before this House numerous other amendments have been foreshadowed, in the hope rather than the conviction as far as the members of the Australian Country .party .are .concerned, that they will .have reasonable consideration by the Government. I understand that already an .expenditure of about £10,00!0 has: been incurred in preparatory .work, without troubling1 about the need for .parliamentary appr.ov.al. This procedure, unfortunately, is in accordance with the pattern that legislation has followed since this Government .has been in office, although it was unknown previously, It was quite improper for the Government to anticipate parliamentary approval in this way, particularly as an urgent need exists for the provision pf technical apparatus qf this description for other purposes. The Government should have given some consideration to more urgent needs of the community. We all recognize that broadcasting is desira’ble, and that the application of it to parliamentary proceedings is in accordance with present-.day movements for the adoption of scientific methods. Procedures acceptable in years gone by ‘have become outmoded to-day. Broadcasting is a scientific method of communication which should be applied to parliamentary proceedings in order that the people may be enabled to inform themselves in an up-to-date way of the doings of their elected representatives. But the incurring of an expenditure of thousands of pounds, and the use of large quantities of technical equipment for this purpose, which could have been applied to the provision of new country telephone services or to increasing the efficiency cf established services, would have been far preferable, at least until legislative authority had been, obtained for the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. At this period of our history the Government should have been devoting all the resources at its disposal to the promotion, of ways of increasing the productivity of the country and improving our economic conditions. I am informed that an expenditure of £50,000 will be necessary to provide even the partial parliamentary broadcasts which the Government1 envisages.
I believe in a policy of “ first things first “. The crying need of Australia to-day is a reduction of governmental expenditure as the forerunner to a reduction of taxation. A reduction of taxation would stimulate production. With an increase of production revenue from taxation would increase even if the rates of tax were reduced, as they should be. I disapprove of the proposed expenditure of £50,000 on a partial broadcast of parliamentary proceedings at a time when country people find it impossible to obtain telephones because of the lack of cable and technical equipment. No doubt a great deal of the material that has been used for the broadcasting installations that are being made in this building would have been suitable for the installation of tele-, phone services. The installations here will serve mainly city dwellers or those in the more developed parts of the Commonwealth. Each capital city already has two national stations, and regional stations have been established in various parts of the country. For this reason people in these areas will reap the maximum benefit from the parliamentary broadcasts, but those living in the outlying areas, who should be given improved amenities, will reap no benefit whatever from these broadcasts. I received a letter yesterday from a resident of Clifton- Shire complaining of the lack of telephones. I was asked to support requests made for additional telephone services on behalf of twenty to 25 farmers residing in the shire, at various distances from the township. In some cases deposits had been paid for over six months, but the hold-up was said to be due entirely to the lack of technical equipment.
In the electorate of .the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), which is by no means remotely situated in relation to some parts of the Commonwealth, the people cannot obtain any satisfactory service from existing regional stations, and very few people in the electorate of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) reap any advantage from them. I have .been informed that it is not the intention of the Government to broadcast parliamentary proceedings through Dalby, where one’ of the most powerful regional stations in Australia was constructed by the previous Government in order to give an improved broadcasting coverage to people residing in Western Queensland and central South Australia.
– The right honorable gentleman has been misinformed.
– The honorable member for Maranoa told me that he had made inquiries on this subject from the appropriate authority and had been informed that the Dalby station will not be used. I regard that as scandalous.
An honorable member has interjected that I have somersaulted on this subject. I have not done so. I informed the Broadcasting Committee that I believed in the broadcasting of parliamentary debates, but I did not consider that the’ system should be instituted for the benefit of city dwellers, at the expense of the country people, nor did I consider that partial, indefinite, and incomplete broadcasts would be satisfactory. I am favorable to the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings in accordance with the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee. In order that honorable members may be clear as to my views on the subject I shall read the evidence that I gave before the committee. I said -
I agree that it is desirable that the debates of the Parliament should be broadcast. I have given some thought to the matter, and realize that there are debits as well as credits.
On the debit side, there would be the tendency to stifle debate. I say that from my experience as the leader of a party. Even to-day in order to obtain publicity, some members are not prepared to speak at a certain hour of the night, but prefer to postpone their contribution to the debate to the following day, when they can be reported by the press. In recent times, we have had the experience of debates collapsing long before they rightfully should because some members were not prepared to proceed as the setting was not favorable to the gaining of publicity. That position would lie aggravated by the broadcasting of debates, because only a limited number of hours would bo favorable to the gaining of publicity and everybody would not be able to speak during that period. On the credit side, the broadcasting of debates would induce members to engage in greater research and to pay more attention to the composition of their speeches. These would not be so spontaneous as are speeches made from a few notes. Nevertheless that is a very desirable aspect. On the other, hand, broadcasting of debates would probably prevent members from. making certain charges which to-day are made under privilege. They are informed by correspondence that certain things are going on, and in all conscientiousness put forward those views ,on the motion for the adjournment of the House. If they were to be subjected to an effective reply by n Minister fully informed of the facts, that practice would probably break down. Senator McKenna referred to the broadcasting of questions. Those who have sat in opposition know that very often a question is more effective than a speech from the “ parish pump “ point of view in an electorate. It is easy to obtain a reply from the secretary to a Minister, but from a political point of view that is not always desirable because the member must let his informant know that he is pressing the matter in the House. Questions without notice probably could be broadcast,- but what about a question upon notice? A member places on the notice-paper a question relating to a matter that is probably of national importance, with respect to which he genuinely desires to obtain information, and the reply is furnished at a much later date. The mechanics of the matter rather condemn the practicability of the proposal. The experience in New Zealand has been cited. As Mr. Speaker has said, the conditions in New Zealand are entirely different from those in Australia. In the first place, that dominion does not differentiate between national and regional stations. I approach the matter from the standpoint of the Australian Country party. In ail the capital cities there are two national stations. What would be the position of the people in the country, who have to depend on regional stations, if debates in the Senate and the House of Representatives were broadcast simultaneously? Has anythought been given to the difference in times between the eastern States and Western Australia V How would that be overcome? I believe Mr. Speaker stated that more legislation would be initiated in the Senate, in order to overcome the objection that that chamber does not deal with the matter when it is fresh. The most important debates we have had in recent months have been those on the banking bills. These were originated in the House of Representatives and were debated for days, almost every member participating. Who would listen to a broadcast of a debate on them when they went to the Senate ? Then we have the budget, the basis of the whole of our constitutional authority. Obviously, it must be initiated in the House of Representatives. It is debated for days, mid eventually finds its way to the Senate. Who would listen to a repetition in the Senate of all that had been said in the House of Representatives. Those are pertinent considerations in determining the desirability or otherwise of broadcasting parliamentary debates. It must be realized that, of necessity, most of our legislation must first pass through the House of Representatives, because the Senate is a house of review. There are only a few measures which could be initiated in the Senate with a view to obviating the repetition there of what had been said in the House of Representatives. Mr. Speaker’s political experience and knowledge of Standing Orders are much greater than mine, but I am sure that he will agree with me that there are only few measures which could be fresh news in the Senate. Could the proceedings of the Parliament be broadcast by the -Australian Broadcasting Commission with its existing facilities? It would be all right for the city-dweller, who has two national stations, but the countryside is entirely dependent on the regional stations. Licence-holders might listen for a while to political debates broadcast over regional stations, but would they consider it more important than listening to entertainment? The amenities of people who live in the country are few. How many additional stations would bc needed to give a complete cover to both Houses continuously during the sittings of the Parliament? Whatever stations might be used, there would be a period of overloading and a period of unemployment, because the Parliament does not sit continuously throughout the year. Because of exceptional circumstances it has sat since February of this year. If stations are to be specially erected in order to overcome difficulties during peak periods, when both Houses are sitting and a full cover is needed, what will be the cost of the unemployment of those stations while the Parliament is not sitting? Whilst agreeing that it is desirable to have Parliamentary debates broadcast, I am not so enthusiastic in regard to the practicability of the proposal, having regard particularly to the cost. I should be opposed to fixation of the order of debates; in that respect I agree entirely with Mr. Speaker. If that suggestion were adopted, constituted authority would bc infringed; because, as Mr. Speaker has said in no uncertain terms, in his eyes every member has an equal right to the call . whatever may be his oratorical qualifications or his ability to handle the subject. That right has to bc preserved unimpaired. I also agree with Mr. Speaker that if you were to pick out the “ high lights “, or choose the man best qualified to discuss them, you would break down the democratic feature of responsible government. You have to consider whether the debates are to be artificially planned or delivered in a natural atmosphere from a democratic centre. The solution is yours. I would be totally opposed to the broadcasting of debates in any sectional form. Unless everybody could have the same right to listen in, I would not favour the proposal. I would also oppose the addition of one penny to the liabilities and responsibilities of the taxpayers. There is also another aspect of which we must not lose sight. The Commonwealth Parliament is not the only Parliament in Australia; there are also the six State legislatures.
Any layman who has taken an interest in this debate must have been impressed by the warnings and cautions of legal members of this House. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has stated in concise and understandable language all the disadvantages, difficulties and dangers, from the point of view of privi-lege, that would attend partial broadcasts. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) also has given to us the benefit df his expert knowledge. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) took the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) to task for having ventured into the realms of legal interpretation without being qualified to do so. He also stated that truth is an absolute- defence; if the matter be true, the defence of privilege does not arise. I remind him that that statement is not in accord with the law of libel and slander in Queensland; there, any matter published must be not only true, but also for the public benefit. As the honorable member himself is not fully acquainted with the law, he is not qualified to take, the right, honorable member for Cowper to task for having ventured to interpret the law of privilege as he understands it. Last week, .the honorable member for New England asked Mr. Speaker to state hi3 legal responsibility, and that of honorable members, as well as .the operators of the broadcasting equipment, in certain circumstances. Mr. Speaker replied that he had just received an opinion from the Solicitor-General, and that he would make it known to the House in due course.. The present is an opportune time to let us have the benefit of the opinion he has received. By clause 14 the Government is endeavouring to protect any person who broadcasts any portion of the proceedings of either House of the’ Parliament. I understand that the, broadcasting equipment is the property, not of the. Australian Broadcasting Commission, but of the Postmaster-General’s Department ; that there is a definite partition between the” mechanical facilities and the human element.
– The line is drawn at the microphone.
– I should like to know whether that equipment will be amply protected. In certain circumstances, a printing press and other equipment can be seized to defray the costs of an action at law.
This is’ not the right time, nor are the circumstances appropriate, for the making of this experiment. The broadcasting of parliamentary debates must come; but when it comes it must be undertaken completely. The proposal placed before the Parliament and the country is too incomplete and partial to ensure that value will be obtained from the’ expenditure. Public money should not be expended wastefully. The first essential at the moment is the reduction of govern- mental expenditure so as to effect desirable reductions of oppressive taxes. If the Government sincerely desires to give to- the people the benefit of modern means of communication - with which I agree - it should provide for not only a full cover of the proceedings of the Parliament but also the reception of it by every citizen of Australia. There must not be either partial broadcasts or partial reception. There are people in Australia who’ have not the- benefit of listening to national stations, and they should receive whatever amenities may be available in these modern times. .Too much consideration is paid to the city dweller at the expense of ‘ the real wealthproducers in the country districts. The basic consideration in all circumstances should be the provision of amenities for people in the remote parts of the continent, whocannot avail themselves of existing channels of communication as cheaply and as readily as can those who live in the more densely populated -areas. Having regard to- the expense involved in this- experiment of partial broadcasts, the Government would be well advised to defer the experiment and .await a decision on it by the people, at the next elections, after which the new Parliament could deal with it.
.- It is important that the people of Australia should be given every opportunity to become acquainted with parliamentary proceedings, particularly at this time when the country is faced with many difficult problems. .Some newspapers, unfortunately, do not devote to their reports of the parliamentary debates as much space as one would expect. It is important that the people should know how the Government and the Parliament are handling the many difficult problems with which the nation is confronted. If that U to be achieved by the broadcasting’ of parliamentary debates, adoption of the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee, which investigated the matter, is essential. It recommended unanimously that the whole of the parliamentary debates should be broadcast. May I refresh the minds of some honorable gentlemen who may not have read the report? The committee took evidence from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the two other party leaders in this House, the High Commissioner for New Zealand, and other persons who could give information on this important subject. Its recommendation reads -
The whole of the proceedings in the chamber concerned should be broadcast from the main national stations and from the regional stations, as well as from the shortwave stations, except during the short periods when “ straight “ news sessions (that is, excluding commentaries or observers’ stories) are normally on the air; that no provision should be made for. any prearranged selection of speakers at particular times, that is to say, there should be “straight” broadcasts of the proceedings exactly as they occur in the normal transaction of parliamentary business, with the qualification that during divisions and such like intervals, an appropriate official (who should be an officer of the commission) should broadcast an impartial description of what is taking place. Needless to say, the facilities should not bc used for other purposes when Parliament is in recess.
Ft went on to say -
Wo are aware that in New Zealand doubts have been expressed in certain quarters as to the wisdom of broadcasting the whole of the proceedings, but we are of the opinion that in Australia complete broadcasts of the actual proceedings should be tried at the outset.
That was not a qualified recommendation, but was emphatic and was made unanimously. Instead of accepting it, the Government proposes to set up another com mittee, the constitution of which is provided for by clause 5, and its functions by clause 12. Those functions are - (1.) The committee shall consider and specify in their report presented to each House of the Parliament, the general principles upon which there should bo determined the days upon which and the periods during which, the proceedings of the Senate and the House of Representatives Shall be broadcast. (2.) The committee shall, in accordance with general principles, specified by the committee and adopted by each House of the Parliament, determine the days upon which, and the periods during which, the proceedings of either House of the Parliament- shall be broadcast. ‘
There is already a Parliamentary Standing Committee to advise as to what should be done. It has unanimously recommended that the whole of the parliamentary debates should, be broadcast. The Government refused to accept that recommendation, and brought down a bill which provides for the appointment of a further committee. I venture the opinion that it will not accept the advice of that committee either.
In New Zealand; broadcasts are made of the debates in the House of Representatives only, the Upper House being a nominee chamber. As it is proposed to broadcast the debates in both branches of this Parliament it would be a simple process to follow the course of a bill through one house, and to broadcast the debate on another bill in the other chamber.
Difficulties will be experienced at the outset in providing the necessary technical services to enable the debates to be broadcast throughout Australia, but before the scheme is put into operation those services should be made available. Acceptance of the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee would necessitate broadcasting the whole of the debates, and the necessary technical equipment must first be provided. The President of the Senate (Senator the Honorable Gordon Brown) and Mr. Speaker (the Honorable J. S. Rosevear) gave valuable evidence to the committee. The President said -
In order to make the broadcasting of debates a success, and to achieve the greatest results from an informative and factual point of view, it is essential that the whole of the debates be broadcast. The broadcasts would fail in their principal aim and object if there were any curtailment of debate or preferment to certain speakers.
That is the unqualified view of the President, and it was accepted by the committee. Mr. Speaker also gave the following useful opinion: -
Therefore, if parliamentary debates are to bo broadcast, it would be preferable to alternate the initiation of legislation between the two Houses rather than divide the time.
I commend the advice of Mr. Speaker to honorable members. He had in mind the practicability of introducing more bills in the Senate.
– That might be done.
– The Minister does not know what will be done.
– The committee to be set up under this measure will decide that.
– It is appalling to hear such a weak statement. The House wants to know what is to be done.
– We are setting up a committee to deal with the matter of broadcasting times.
– Throughout the life of this Parliament the Government has been “ passing the buck “ from one authority to another. It should have a mind of its own. Mr. Speaker further said -
The people might be interested in a debate m the House of Representatives. If the broadcast were interrupted for the purpose of changing over to the Senate, and returning to the House of Representatives later, I do not think that anybody - would be satisfied. I have said that in order to give equitable treatment to both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the initiation of legislation should alternate between the two Houses. In any event, the Parliament should not surrender to the Australian Broadcasting Commission or any other authority the right to determine when its proceedings should be broadcast.
I urge the House to .implement the suggestions advanced by Mr. Speaker. The following comments were made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) : - “ I do not favour a selective broadcasting of Parliament. I would, for example, be strongly opposed to a limited broadcast for certain hours of the sitting. I would also be very strongly opposed to the confining of the broadcasting to certain selected members on each side. If the broadcasting of Parliament led to a mere building up of a few members on each side, or to a jockeying for position among members so that they might be called during some limited period when the broadcast was on, it would be most undesirable.
I therefore believe that either the whole debate each day should be broadcast, or that there should be no broadcast at all.
Here is the advice tendered by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) : -
I should be opposed to fixation of the order of debates; in that respect I agree entirely with Mr. Speaker. If that suggestion were adopted, constituted authority would be infringed; because, as Mr. Speaker has said in no uncertain terms, in his eyes every member has an equal right to the call whatever may be his oratorical qualifications or his ability to handle the subject. That right has to be preserved unimpaired. I also agree with Mr. Speaker that if you were to pick out the “ high lights “, or choose the man best qualified to discuss them, you would break down the democratic feature of responsible government. You have to consider whether the debates are to be artificially planned or delivered in a natural atmosphere from a democratic centre. The solution is yours. I would be totally opposed to the broadcasting of debates .in any sectional form. Unless everybody could have the same right to listen in, I would not favour the proposal. I would also oppose the addition of one penny to the liabilities and responsibilities of the taxpayers.
The proposals before us are modelled to some degree on the practice in the New Zealand Parliament, where broadcasting has been in operation for the last ten years. Both political parties in New Zealand supported .the’ broadcasting of the proceedings, but the underlying principle insisted on was that the whole of the debates should be broadcast In this Parliament, the Broadcasting Committee recommended a full broadcast of the debates, and this was approved by the President of the Senate, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party, but the Minister for Information, who represents the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) in this chamber, now supports the appointment of a committee which could arrange for the broadcasting of’ only certain portions of the debates. Parliamentary privilege could be preserved only if the debates were fully broadcast. The only fair and impartial way to broadcast speeches in this Parliament would be to publish the views of honorable member’s on both sides of the chamber. If the broadcasting occurred for limited periods only, honorable member’s might be subjected to unfair attacks by their opponents and be prevented from having their replies broadcast. In view of the cunning tactics of some members of the Ministry, who might have inside information as to broadcasting times, supporters of the Government could conceivably make wild attacks upon the Opposition and prevent their opponents from being heard over the air in reply. If democracy is to survive, and there is to be fair play in this matter, it is essential that the debates be broadcast impartially. The Postmaster-General’s Department should make adequate technical facilities available to enable the debates to be broadcast over the widest possible area. With the development of frequency modulation, it will soon be possible to give broadcasting services in country areas similar to those available in the large cities. That work should be undertaken with despatch. The Government is under an obligation to pay heed to the recommendations .of the Broadcasting Committee. By reading paragraphs 33 to 49 of the committee’s eighth report, honorable members will be able to appreciate some of the technical problems associated with the broadcasting of the debates in this Parliament. The Government seems to have rushed into this proposal hopelessly unprepared for its adoption. If it were implemented without the amendments foreshadowed by the Opposition, the scheme would wreck completely the organization of the national broadcasting stations. For an hour before and an hour after the broadcasting of parliamentary debates, the services to Queensland, South Australia . and Western Australia- over the national network would be disrupted. That is the advice of the experts of the department. The Australian Broadcasting Commission would -then be blamed for having failed to provide the broadcasting programmes promised, and would be subjected to endless irritation. The Government should withdraw the bill, recast the whole proposal, and implement the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee on the lines of the system adopted in New Zealand up to the present. The Government has rejected all advice that has been tendered to it.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the debate on this bill, and to the reasons or excuses advanced against the acceptance of the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for ‘ Warringah (Mr. Spender). So far as the broadcasting of the proceedings of Parliament is concerned, the question, I am convinced, is not “ to be or not to be”. Definitely, it is “to be”. The broadcasts will take place, and the only purpose in debating the measure lies in the remote possibility that we may be able to improve it.
The bill is a simple one designed to give effect to the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee. That committee recommended that the entire proceedings of Parliament be broadcast, and it is unfortunate that the recommendation cannot be given effect. It cannot be done because Parliament consists of two Houses with equal rights, and the time available must be divided between them. For that reason, it was inadvisable to proceed with the proposal until it was possible to give effect to the committee’s recommendations in their entirety. .The committee was appointed to take -evidence and upon that basis to advise Parliament, but on this occasion the Government is departing from the committee’s recommendations.
The weight of the evidence heard by the committee was to the effect that the broadcasting of the proceedings of Parliament “ should not be done in such a way as to make for the aggrandisement of any member or party. It was interesting to hear the evidence tendered in support of the proposal to broadcast. Many seriousminded persons believed that broadcasting would tend to raise the tone of- debates. That is a worthy objective, and if the broadcasts have that effect the money which they cost will be well spent. Quite a lot of people seem to have the idea that the public are awaiting with impatience zero hour so that they may turn the knobs of their receiving sets, and avail themselves of the great boonwhich it is proposed to confer upon them.
That idea seems to represent, in the words of Dr. Johnson, “ the triumph of hope over experience “.
It was certainly not the intention of the Broadcasting Committee that the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings should confer upon unauthorized persons a licence to broadcast statements which, in ordinary circumstances, would be regarded as libellous, and therefore actionable at law. I support the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Warringah to clause 14 of the bill. The clause reads -
No action or proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person for broadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament.
There is nothing ambiguous in that language. If the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) were here he would agree with me that the words “ any person “ meansany person. He has frequently said, when referring to the wording of a clause, that it means what it says. The purpose of the amendment is to limit strictly the number of persons who can claim what amounts to parliamentary privilege. In the ordinary course of events, this privilege is enjoyed by members of Parliament only. As the clause stands it would be possible for any unauthorized person to make a record for broadcasting, and to say that so and so said this or that, and then to broadcast it. I cannot see why any one should object to the amendment, and if the objection is persisted in, such persistence will merely strengthen the belief that clause 14 is intended to have the effect which we suspect. The amendment, if accepted, would not detract in any way from the merits of the Government’s proposal, and it would make the position perfectly clear. I do not like to use the term “pig-headed”; but it is a very expressive one, especially when applied to opposition to an amendment which could not fail to improve the bill. This afternoon we listened to a lawyer on the Government side defending clause 14 as it stands. Are we to assume that, in the eyes of the legal profession, any provision that is fool-proof is not a good one?
– The honorable mem ber himself, as a member of the Broad casting Committee, made the recommendation which is embodied in the bill.
– I did nothing of the sort. The Broadcasting Committee had no opportunity to investigate this aspect of the matter thoroughly. In the event of a member of Parliament making an attack on the Government or on the Opposition, as the case may be, just before broadcasting from the chamber concerned was due to cease, the all-party committee in control of broadcasts should be authorized to order the broadcast to continue until an effective reply to the attack could be made
– There is nothing to prevent that from happening.
– The Broadcasting Committee agrees that provision should be made for that. If it is not done we are going to ask why. Clause 14 will not affect me because I am not likely to abuse the privilege, but I am afraid that the same cannot be truthfully said of every member of this Parliament.
-Clause 14 does not affect the privilege of members of Parliament, but only that of persons engaged in broadcasting.
– Then let us amend the clause to make it more specific. The proposed amendment meets with the approval of the Opposition, at any rate. I, as a member of the BroadcastingCommittee, do not want to be forced into the position of voting against something which the committee recommended. We certainly did not recommend anything corresponding to clause 14, and if it remains unaltered I shall have to vote against the measure because, in its present form, it represents an abuse of the committee’s recommendation. I urge the Government and its supporters seriously to consider the advisability of amending the clause so that, while not withdrawing a privilege properly enjoyed by members of this House, the public may yet be sufficiently protected.
– I agree that the proceedings of the Parliament should be broadcast. However much some people may despise the Parliament, and there are many people who do despise the Parliament, its legislation, nevertheless, does command swift obedience on the part of the subject. I have said that people may despise the Parliament. Many do. It is quite common to hear members of the . electorate holding forth in a diatribe against members of Parliament, as though members of Parliament were a class apart. “Well, I have not found that they are a class apart at all. I have’ always understood, as the result of long experience, that members of Parliament are drawn from common and ordinary people. Looking round this chamber, I would not conclude that its members, particularly those of the Opposition, belie that impression. In any case, as I have said, broadcasting is the only way to assure the people of a complete record of the parliamentary proceedings. And I have already said that the Parliament, however much some may despise it, does in fact, command swift obedience. Whatever is put into the statute-book generally commands respect. Indeed, is is remarkable how great a respect there is for law, and my experience is that people have a great respect for it. One has only to observe the respect that exists for the law of compulsory voting. I find that there is a very shrewd disposition to respect the law which makes for compulsory voting, although we have proof that it is easy enough to .make excuses for failure to vote. That is my experience, and I am quite sure that it is the experience of others.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) said that we must not slander people under privilege. Well, like him, I think I am not accustomed, as a practice, to use my privilege in Parliament to slander others. I am not conscious that I regularly do that. On the contrary, I think that, speaking with the responsiblity of a member of Parliament, I avoid, as one is required to avoid, extravagant statements, reflecting upon others. But I find that this complaint is made, amongst others, by newspapers, in some cases enjoying a circulation of 120,000 daily, or, at least; claiming to do so, which, perhaps, is a different thing. Well, I would venture to point out that these newspapers, which make this complaint against members of the public, enjoy a privilege which, in fact, can never be overtaken, under which reputations of individuals are constantly assailed, and numbers of others outside the Parliament, who do not even enjoy the slight protection that members enjoy, are slandered vilely and to the utmost. Yet editors make these strident complaints in the columns of the daily press against members of Parliament, because they, it is said., slander other individuals to whom no opportunity to reply is vouchsafed. Members of Parliament, are subject to very strict rules asto their conduct, and those rules are often applied in a summary manner, A single vote on the part of the majority of the House can turn any honorable member out of this chamber. A single vote on the part of the majority of the House can suspend an honorable member and deprive him of the privileges which he has won at the ballot-box. In a number of ways, although apparently a member of the Queensland Parliament seems to have been .able to dodge such treatment, honorable members are subject to various forms of discipline. I have been long enough in this House to remember an honorable member being expelled, unjustly, I think; but he was ejected nevertheless. And, although the requirements of democracy are that such an honorable member may still submit himself to the electors, it is historic that in many cases - I mention, for instance, Wilkes and Bradlaugh - he has been obliged to submit himself repeatedly for re-election before he established his undoubted democratic rights, because the term of a parliament is not such as to encourage honorable members to disregard its disciplinary rules. I have sometimes succeeded professionally in marking down the newspaper slanderer and have required him to withdraw and < apologize, a fact of which I am not a little proud. It is very seldom that one finds ‘the withdrawal, or the apology, published in a position even corresponding to that in which the slander itself was published; but the fact remains that one is able sometimes to mark down the slanderer and require him to make tardy amends. When he does attempt to make amends he does so with very bad grace, and I have had occasion to point this out to many of my newspaper friends. Newspapers employ men of different types in their work of circulating news and, like members of Parliament, some of these men are scrupulous whilst some are utterly unscrupulous. I speak as one who has had a long experience of the newspaper world, and I have found that newspapers are not always particular, but I hope that the time will never come, and I ask honorable members opposite to support me in the view that it should never come, when the ages-old and very important privilege of Parliament shall be destroyed. This privilege lies at the base of popular rights. It rests upon the rights of individuals to come to the Parliament, where alone they may utter the thing that is in them because of the right which they draw from the people. The individual is returned to the Parliament, and it is his proud privilege, but not so proud as it might appear, to say in the Parliament what he cannot under any circumstances say in any other place. As I said, that right is drawn from popular rights. Sometimes the individual says something that may be unjust, but, in all circumstances, it is much better that he should say the thing which is unjust than . that he should be prevented from saying it. He says the thing - in my opinion, very properly - that he thinks should be said. Sometimes, perhaps, the statement should not be made, but the fact remains that he, at that time, considered that it should be made, and it is better that he should say it in Parliament rather than that he should bottle it up and say it privately to individuals because that might do more harm than the original publication in the Parliament would do.
The opposition to this bill has a political motive. The purpose of honorable gentlemen opposite is to stall off the’ broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings with the true and certain knowledge that they will get consideration in the daily press. That seems to be the general view. The press of the metropolis and the country districts gives to them a much better deal than it habitually gives to members of the Labour party. The Opposition derives much more support electorally from the press than do honorable members on this side of the chamber. Wealth is on their side. I remember the extraordinary propaganda inflicted on the people which resulted in my nevertobeforgotten defeat.
– Nevertoberegretted !
– The honorable member was himself so conspicuously near to defeat that I thought he was gone, and because of his genius for making quips on occasions I was almost ready to regret his political passing.
-Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I am satisfied that honorable members opposite wish to stall the bill for the purpose of working up newspaper support for the elections. I do not promise them a great measure of success in that direction.
– We shall hold our own over the system.
– Judging by the cohorts at the back of me who generally support the views which I present for the acceptance of the House, the honorable member will hold his own only until the election.
– Order ! I again ask the honorable member to address the bill.
– The bill should be generally acceptable. It is acceptable to me and I address myself to it judicially, I- hope, and with discrimination and moderation.
– And vituperation!
– Oh, no. The individual who comes into this Parliament and abuses parliamentary privilege should be dealt with by the Parliament and the electors. . I certainly do not believe that the newspapers, which in the past enjoyed a larger measure of privilege than is accorded to members of this Parliament, should be permitted to continue to enjoy that privilege unchecked. The Parliament would do well to see that the privilege of its members in respect of the words spoken in the Parliament is retained. I say this because I have heard of ‘some cases in which members of the Parliament have been denied the right to express their views. I support the bill!
– In studying this bill some events come to one’s mind; two of which are comparatively recent. During this debate we have heard a lot about parliamentary privilege; yet when we returned here on the 18th June we found that, without any prior consultation in the Parliament, all sorts of arrangements had been made inside this chamber for the broadcasting of the debates. If ever there was a serious and reprehensible breach of the privilege of Parliament it was the action of the Government in setting up these microphones we now see before us. No authority whatever has been given by this Parliament, either to the Government or to anybody else, to install this equipment.
The next event happened in the- Senate to-day. The matter that I want to canvass is the reliability of the news broadcasts of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to-day. I have been informed that one of the best speeches ever made on a certain aspect of foreign relations, whether one agreed with it or not, was made to-day in the Senate by Senator Armstrong. Yet, apparently because the honorable senator made bold to make certain critical remarks in regard to the handling of the Spanish situation by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), not one reference to the speech was made in the 1 o’clock news broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to-night.
– Order ! The honorable member is well enough acquainted with the Standing Orders to know that he must not allude to any debate of the current session in the Senate.
– We are debating broadcasts of the proceedings of the Parliament.
– Quite clearly, the honorable gentleman was referring to a debate that took ‘ place in the Senate to-day. In fact, he cited an honorable senator’s speech. He must desist.
– What was omitted from “the news broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to-night provides some justification for a closer acquaintance by the electorate with what is taking place in this Parliament. I am not opposed to broadcasting the proceedings of this House. I believe that the more closely acquainted the electors become with the truth of the position in this House, the better will it be for good and sane government. But I am not able to convince myself, and nothing that I have heard from the other side has helped to convince me, that the elector will be better informed by partial broadcasts of the proceedings of each House of the Parliament. I stand firmly in support of the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), that, if the electorate is to be fully informed, or is to have the- right fully to inform itself, either the whole of the proceedings, or none at all, should be broadcast. I see no half-way house.
– Does the honorable gentleman .mean that the proceedings of each House ought to be broadcast fully?
– I see no alternative. Under the Australian Consituation, the two Houses rank as equal in all matters.
– The honorable gentleman would have both broadcasts made simultaneously? ‘
– I see no reason why they should not be made simultaneously, the people having their choice as to whether they shall listen to the House of Representatives or the Senate. The debates in the two Houses are of equal importance. The members of the Senate, unlike the members of the Legislative Councils of the Australian States and New Zealand, the Senate in Canada, and the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, are elected. by the same people as elect members to the House of Representatives. Consequently, the electorate is entitled to be fully informed in regard to the proceedings in both Houses. But under this bill it will not be. A committee is to be set up. Doubtless the members of at will go very carefully into the time that should be allotted to each House, and, in their wisdom, with the aid of that redoubtable “ Mr. Majority “, who decides so many questions in this world, will determine when broadcasts shall be made of the debates in the House of Representatives, and when they shall be made of the debates in the Senate. It may be that certain debates will be initiated in this House, but will not be concluded before the switch-over is made, with the result that listener’s will b’e deprived tff their right to bear subsequent speeches oh a’ matter in which they are interested. The Government is not able to c’anva’ss the matter of expense, which do’es not seem to worry it in’ the slightest degree. We have had before us other bills, one of which provided for the expenditure of ,a mere £800’,000 on a national university which I am quite sure is n6t needed and will never be used. If the Government is prepared to incur the expense of broadcasting the proceedings of this House little additional expense would be involved in broadcasting also the proceedings of the Senate, particularly as that chamber is known to sit on fewer days and for shorter periods than does the House of Representatives. In these modern times we hear a lot about democracy. Not a very good set of definitions of democracy is available. There was a time, when democracy, in other parts of the world,- functioned in a way very different from that in which it functions here. In those days the free men of .the tribe met and decided, by argument if possible and, if not, by more forceful methods, what was to be done.
– It has never been practised by the honorable member.
Mr.- ARCHIE C AMERON.- Does the honorable member refer to forceful methods? The law does not permit them to be used ; otherwise^ many decisions might be made much more quickly than they are made by argument. Those days’ ii.i’e gone, perhaps never to return, at all events ill our time. We have reached the stage at which, with the spread of population, the great units of which democratic countries are composed to-day demand some form of representative government. It is only meet and just that the people who are governed from Canberra, for whom laws are made and in whose supposed interests they are administered by nineteen Ministers, should know just how this Parliament and those Ministers approach the problems with which they are confronted. My desire is that the people should become- better acquainted with the doings of this Parliament, if that hp possible. But against that I put this i: The interests of the people, their tastes an’d1 their views, a’re very diverse; consequently,’ the parliamentary broadcasts will have to compete with other broadcasts. Competition will be met from both the national stations and the commercial stations’. I should say that the commercial stations- will be by far the more formidable competitors, because they broadcast such items” as the “ Quiz Kids “ and radio plays - to which I seldom listen except under duress; I have not heard one in which there was not a murder at least every half -hour, to. say nothing of a little gun-running, and other odds and ends of adventure. Musical people will, of course, adhere to the programmes that cater for their tastes. Is it likely that a very large percentage of the electorate will desire to listen to parliamentary debates? That’ is the first question we have to resolve. The second is whether it is likely that a very large percentage of that small percentage will be able, and willing if able, to listen to a debate to its conclusion; They will be in no different condition from others who pick up a volume of Ronsard, or who happen to visit . this House, coming” in and going out when they like. I suspect that there will be occasions on which the elector will be only too happy to turn the knob, cutting off his or her reception of the parliamentary broad-1 cast and getting on to something that is more interes’ting and congenial. Furthermore, whatever may be their desires, a great part of the electorate will not be able to afford the time to listen for lengthy periods to ‘what the Parliament is doing in regard to any important matter.
Much as we may desire to have our debates broadcast, the taxpayers have certain rights, but I doubt whether, under the present governmental set-up, they are considered at all. Therefore, we should be well advised to postpone this proposal until after the general elections. It would’ not be a” good thing if our debates were put over the air for the first time just as the present Parliament is about to expire. The scheme if acceptable^ should commence when the new Parliament assembles. The closing days of the session will riot afford the electorate the best idea of h’ow Parliament functions. There is” bound to be a rush of business towards the end. In some parliaments the ‘end is rather sudden and, perhaps, undignified. It may be so on this occasion. There may he disappointment on the part of the people, if they regard this Parliament :as a forum where only first-class orator’s may find a place. “When our debates go- on the air, no doubt the electors will have their minds disabused of that idea. I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), that the Parliament cannot be much better than the people who elect it. I remember one member saying to me that in his view no ‘Cabinet could function successfully if more than one-third of its members were -first-rate men. In the case of the present Ministry, nothing like onethird fall within that category, and the best seem to be going overseas at an unprecedented rate. The surprising thing to me is that the Ministry faces the contest ahead of it with equanimity.
A good deal may be said in favour of postponing the adoption of the scheme until television is in operation. If to the benefits of broadcasting we could only add those of television, the electors would be perfectly informed of the proceedings in this Parliament. Now and again> under the stress of circumstances, I move about the country a little, and I suspect that with television in operation it might be thought by the electors that they were setting a vision of some animal munching hay. It has been said that Hansard’ dresses up our .speeches in such a way that’ we ourselves cannot recognize them. With the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) I was listening to one of my friend’s opposite during a trial broadcast. He has a weak voice, but I assure honorable members that Hansard has never done to any member’s speech a better job than the microphone did to the voice of my friend opposite. It sounded like that of a first-class orator, so he has nothing whatever to fear from broadcasting.
– -The honorable member should not say such things. They are quite incorrect.
– If the honorable member had heard the voice as it came through the microphone, he would have a different opinion. We have to answer one or two questions about this matter. The first is : Will ‘the ‘broadcasting of ‘parliamentary proceedings improve the standard of debates ? I ha’ve listened to debates in -this chamber for twelve, years, and one of the things I have noticed is the increasing tendency on the part of honorable members practically to read speeches rather than deliver them.
– Dp not look a*t me..
– The honorable member for Ballarat ha’s a certain amount of brains. Wha’t he has to say is usually said in committee, and he usually says it in a rather forthright, if somewhat challenging way. The whole subject of the standard of our debates is important, lii many instances the debate here is spoiled because there is a tendency to deliver set speeches rather than for honorable members to deal with the statements cf the speakers preceding them.
– What has the bill to do with the standard of debate?
– It has a lot to do with it. What effect will this proposal have? If we do not consider that question, the electors will answer it foi- us. If the measure will lead to a better understanding of Parliament on the part of the electorate, and a better appreciation of democratic institutions, and if it will instil into the people a much-needed respect for the rule of law, which is often discarded to-day, then the broadcasting of our debates will prove a great blessing to the community.
– The honorable mem-‘ ber is begging the question.
– I would be begging an answer from the honorable member for Batman, but I am afraid that if I did I should not get one. The matters to which I have referred ought to be considered before the measure is approved. I doubt whether the Government had given to the bill, before its introduction, the consideration which the issues at stake demand. No sooner had the bill reached this chamber from the Senate than the Minister in charge of it forecast certain vital amendments relating to privilege. I believe in the maintenance of parliamentary privilege and the rights of honorable members, but I am doubtful whether on certain occasions during this Parliament the right course was taken. I can understand that courts of law in British countries will accept the principle of parliamentary privilege, but the broadcasts of parliamentary debates will be heard in other than British countries. Once they are put on the air they will be heard in Dutch, French and American possessions very close to us. What will be the position if an honorable member were to say something that was regarded as defamatory by a Dutchman or Frenchman or American? I have heard things said in this House from time to time-
– Nothing compared to what the honorable member has said about the coal-miners.
– They, at any rate, are in my own country.
– And about the Russians, too.
– Yes, I have said things about the Russians, and I will have a bit more to say about them.
– Let the honorable member now say something about the bill.
– I am not sure what the legal position would be in respect of defamatory statements made about persons residing outside this country. ‘
– No action would lie in regard to any statement made either in this House or out of it.
– I am happy to have the assurance of the honorable member, but I have observed that lawyers do not always agree. It is possible that some other lawyer may have another opinion of the matter. I propose to reserve my further comments until the bill is in committee. I believe that certain .amendments are necessary. If they are not accepted by the Government, I shall vote against the third reading of the bill.
.- I favour the broadcasting of parliamentary debates - for better or for worse. Parliament is at present too remote from the people, and the broadcasting of debates will bring it nearer to them. The isolation of Canberra tends to create a false impression in the minds of the people regarding what happens here. For instance, any one listening to the proceedings in this chamber last Thursday night might be pardoned for thinking that they were taking place in a stadium. At the present time, the reporting of Parliament is dependent upon the press and Ilansard. The newspapers give to the proceedings of Parliament as much space as they can afford, having regard to the various items of interest which compete with parliamentary news. We may believe that we are uttering here pearls of wisdom, but the newspaper reports are often very much condensed whilst an unseemly incident in the chamber will be recorded at length and in overtones. That is a pity. On the other hand, the proceedings of Parliament are fully reported by the Mansard staff which takes great pains’ to record our speeches. However, the circulation of Hansard is, I understand, only about 14,000, and I believe that all the people, whatever their political opinions may be, should be able to hear the debates. I do not often find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) ; but I believe with him that many persons despise Parliament, and criticize the democratic way of life, because their opinion of Parliament is based on a misconception. They have not had an opportunity to see the Parliament at work, but if they were able to listen to broadcasts of proceedings they might form a better opinion of parliamentary institutions. Members of Parliament form a crosssection of, the people, and reflect1 the shortcomings and attributes of the people. After all, Parliament does matter. It is the national forum, the value of which is, unfortunately, limited by the fact that members of the Labour party are shackled by caucus discipline so that, in open Parliament, they are not permitted to speak freely. The government in office at any time is really an executive committee appointed by the most powerful party. What it decides becomes law, and the laws affect the well-being and happiness of every person in the community. If there had been a democratic governmentin Germany in 1938-39, such as that which was set up after World War I., the last war would probably never have occurred. We know that in Russia, neither now nor at any time for the last 25 years, has there been democratic government. In the eyes of the Russians, their government is democratic, but there is no political liberty there .because no political opposition is tolerated, and in elections the people may vote for the candidates of only one party. In a democracy, on the other hand, the people may vote for whom they like, and their representatives in Parliament are free to say what they choose. Therefore, * it is important that the people should be provided with an opportunity to hear their representatives in Parliament. That is what will be achieved by the broadcasting of proceedings. In this instance it will represent the application of science for a beneficial purpose instead of, as so often happens, for destructive purposes. Judging by the experience in connexion with broadcasting parliamentary debates in New Zealand, nothing but good can come of the innovation. Broadcasting should have the effect of raising the tone of debates in Parliament. A member will think twice before behaving in a disorderly manner when he knows that he can be heard by listeners all over Australia. The broadcasts should also have the effect of improving the diction of honorable members. There are so many other things’ for the radio listener to hear that he will not give his attention to members of Parliament who talk twaddle, or whose manner of speech he regards, as unbearable. I believe that, on balance, good will result from broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament. Our national and commercial broadcasting stations are of good standing, as anybody knows who can compare them with overseas broadcasting services. It is the limitation that the Government is proposing to which I object. I do not see how the Government can possibly provide that only parts of debates shall be broadcast. Although I have a motion on the noticepaper for to-morrow, I shall not be able to debate it then, because the House has resolved at the instance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), that Government business . shall take precedence. Under the system that is developing in this chamber, as private members on both sides know, Ministers make long, wearying statements at the table. And it may be that their statements will take up most of the broadcasting time, with the result that the listening public will not hear the ebb and flow of debate, and will thus not be able to form their own m conclusions. A thorough inquiry was made into the proposal that the proceedings of the Commonwealth Parliament be broadcast, and the recommendation of the committee was that -all the debates should be broadcast. For ten years all the debates in the New Zealand House of Representatives have been broadcast. The proceedings of the Upper House in N.ew Zealand are not, I concede, broadcast, but the set-up there is different from that of the Australian Senate, which is elected on the same . franchise as is the House of Representatives. You, Mr. Speaker, suggested to the Broadcasting Committee that it recommend that the . proceedings in both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament be broadcast, and to enable that to be done you proposed a simple arrangement of the programmes of both Houses in respect of the origination of legislation. Yet the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) declares that the proceedings in both Houses cannot be broadcast. ,
– The Broadcasting. Committee recommended against the simultaneous broadcasting of the proceedings in the two Houses.
– It did not.
– I think the Minister is wrong.
– If the Minister says that the Broadcasting Committee recommended against the broadcasting of the proceedings in both Houses, it is evident that he has not read the report.
– I have, and I will read it to the House later.
– At any rate, the Broadcasting Committee did recommend that the whole debate be broadcast, not just bits and pieces, as may be decided by the committee proposed to be set up under this bill.
– Nothing of the sort!
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who is a member of the Broadcasting Committee, tells me that it made that recommenda-tion, but the Minister says that it did not. The President of ‘She -Senate (‘Senator Brown) recommended the broadcasting of all the proceedings, and the Broadcasting Committee, on which the Labour party is represented strongly, recom-‘ mended it. Labour members of the committee are the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson),, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and Senator Nash and Senator Amour. They subscribed to the recommendation that the whole debate be broadcast. Yet the ..Government brings down this bill, which runs counter to the recommendations of its own supporters on the “Broadcasting Committee, Mr. ‘Speaker and the President of the Senate, and to the practice followed successfully for ten years in New Zealand. This’ is an emasculated, inadequate proposal. What the Government proposes is that a committee shall say how much of the debate shall be broadcast and how many speakers shall be broadcast.
– How little and how few !
– Yes. To broadcast only a part of the debate will be undemocratic. The people have a right to know what is happening here, but if a mere fraction of the debate is to be. broadcast or the vilification of an individual is to be broadcast without the reply to that vilification being broadcast, they will not be able to enjoy thatright and will be given only a distorted picture of the proceedings.
– Does the honorable member want the whole debate broadcast?
– Of course, I do. Does the honorable member not?
– I cannot believe that the honorable member, a former Attorney-General, will be prepared to sit back in silence if he is elbowed off the air by others whom the proposed committee might think more worthy of the right to have their thoughts broadcast. Sooner or later, he will object if that happens. Parliamentary committees have not always been the success that they should have been. I concede that many of them work in earnest and produce good results, but if the proposed committee should decide that certain groups !of Ministers should monopolize the air at the expense .of other honorable members who have something important, not parochial, but national, to say to the electorate through the broadcasting system, that would be most inappropriate. I appeal to the good sense of the Govern - ment to realize that the scheme put forward in this tbill is not . workable. Members of the proposed committee will not be able to agree on the subjects that should be broadcast or as to who should broadcast. Now is ‘the time ‘to put the service on a proper basis. I consider that honorable’ members would unanimously approve if- ‘the Government decided to have all the proceedings broad- “ cast. The troubles of Australia are manmade. This nation escaped almost unscathed during the war. Blessed by all the resources of Providence, it has no real problem that cannot be -solved if only the political parties get together. If parties dropped their party bias and said, “We will settle these problems “, what a subject that would be to broadcast, but, narrow-mindedly, the Government says, “ No, all the proceedings will not be broadcast - just snippings, clippings and excerpts “. That is robbing the people of a part of their heritage. At the cost of, I believe, £10,000 a forest of microphones was installed in this chamber during the recess, indicating to honorable members that the Government intended to carry out the recommendations made to it by providing for the broadcasting of all the proceedings’; but this inadequate, bill, under which a committee will decide how little of the proceedings shall be broadcast, will cause the people to say that the money has been ill spent. I advise the Government to look into the matter again and to agree that the whole of the proceedings shall be broadcast. Nothing short of that will receive the approval of the people.
– This bill reminds me of the decision of Sir Roger de Coverley in. a famous judgment, immortalized by Addison in the Tatler. But, levity aside, there was much to be said on both sides. I am rather diffident about supporting this bill because, not being a gifted speaker, I should be at a great disadvantage in having my speeches broadcast in comparison with ,some honorable members, particularly men on the front benches, natural orators, “who would have a greater appeal to listeners. But- in addressing’ myself to the bill 1 am fortified by the knowledge that, although my’ electors will be delighted to . listen in to the debates, the people generally are not so interested in the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings as honorable members imagine. I have very good reason to believe that they are not. That does not refer to my electorate, because the people” there are. politically minded. They have no legislature, no legislative council, not even a town council. They must be federally and politically minded, because they look to me, as their representative, to solve or try to solve, all their problems, whereas people in the -States have their State legislatures, municipal . councils, roads boards and so on to occupy their attention, and they will not be greatly interested in 90 per cent, of the purely domestic matters that are debated in this House. I admit that the “ hill-billys “ of Kings Cross, the Yarra Bank, the Sydney Domain and such places will be almost diving into their radio, sets to listen to the riotous matter that so often emanates from honorable gentlemen, but they will not be interested in the really sensible speeches that are never even reported in the press. I am delighted when my speeches are not reported, because I know that that indicates their excellence. I remember clearly that when the late Sir Littleton Groom was with me as an independent member of this Parliament he made, one morning, an excellent speech, one that was full of oratory and common sense, but not one word of it was reported in the press. He was disgusted. I mention this for the benefit of new members, and I advise ill em not to be surprised if the press does not report their speeches. Usually, that is a sign that an honorable member has made a good speech. If I had the oratory of Lord Rosebery, I should never be in difficulties. I could indulge in his mixed metaphor of which I call to mind the following example : “ I smell a rat. I see it floating in the air. I shall nip it in the bud “. And I am not .able to emulate Charles Lamb in the use of the long sentence. If I. were, I should be worth listening to. That master of paradox, G. K. Chesterton, says, “ There are some people who look upon the big things as little things, but men mistake little things for big things “. That observation
Gan. be applied in many respects to the Government. And I could quote that great lexicographer, Dr. Johnson-
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– “We are discussing privilege, and the reception pf honorable members’ voices over the air. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, the Government members will be able to dominate the times of broadcasting. They believe that this advantage will enable the Government to win the forthcoming elections. But Dr. Johnson said, “ It is a great disadvantage when self-interest coincides with an exact proposition by no means proved “. I give that advice to the Government. Its proposition in this matter is not proved/ nor is it likely to be proved. Much has been said about privilege, particularly by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I recall that when I exercised my right of privilege in this chamber in December, 1934, to expose crookedness in the mining industry in the Northern Territory, the honorable member was the very one to criticize me and my exercise of that very privilege he now professes to admire. On that occasion the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) came to my rescue, and saved the situation on my behalf.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– We should pay due regard to our privilege as members of the Parliament. We should refrain from abusing.it to the detriment of people outside who cannot speak for themselves. However, an honorable member fails in his duty if he does not exercise his privilege to expose some evil which he knows to exist. Any honorable member who fails in that respect does so because he. is not gifted with intestinal fortitude, but has the physiology of a snipe. I believe that the benefits to be derived from broadcasting proceedings in Parliament will not be commensurate with the expenditure involved. Serious-minded people, who would elect a sane government, prefer to read of parliamentary proceedings in Hansard, Honorable members are allowed a free issue of only 35 copies of Hansard. I should like to see that number increased even to 3,600. I do not believe that any honorable member would have any difficulty in distributing that number. Already, my list is full, and in addition I subscribe for copies which I make available to various people. If the Government, wished to induce seriousminded people to read Hansard, it would instead of broadcasting proceedings in this chamber in some hill-billy fashion, advertise the fact that -the yearly subscription to Hansard is 4s., and that Hansard may be obtained from the Government Printer, Canberra. I know of very many people who are hardly aware that Hansard exists. They certainly do . not know where to obtain it, and they do not know its price. If this ‘Government were anxious to serve the needs of seriousminded people in this matter it would advertise Hansard and encourage the public generally to read it. The printed report of speeches in Parliament will always be more serviceable than the broadcasting of speeches, because radio listeners will receive muddled impressions of what happens in this chamber. Honorable member’s opposite seem to be very anxious to confine the broadcasting of proceedings in Parliament to stations which serve the capital cities and more densely populated centres. I am astonished at the Government’s objection to the suggestion made by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) that the regional station at Dalby should be used for this purpose. Apparently, no provision is to be made to enable residents of Moresby, Darwin, Alice Springs and the sparsely populated areas to the north of Australia to listen to these debates. I understand that the military authorities are about to relinquish control of eight stations at Darwin, Moresby and other northern centres, which they took over during the war. if the privilege of listening to proceedings in Parliament over the air is to be given to people in the more densely populated areas, it is incumbent upon the Government to make similar facilities available to people in the outlying areas which I have mentioned. The Government, if necessary, should allow the people of Darwin to purchase the local station and operate it on a community basis as a regional station. The residents of New Guinea have no representative in this Parliament. They look to me to represent them, and to voice their needs in the difficult task of rehabilitating themselves after their awful experiences during the war. I urge the Government to provide a station at Darwin. It has been said that honorable members should say what they mean and mean what they say. If they follow that rule the broadcasting of proceedings in Parliament- may be of some benefit to the public. However, having regard to the words often spoken in heat in the course of a debate, the written -report of -proceedings is preferable to the broadcasting of speeches. Most of us, I hope, will have something worth-while to say; and I hope that most of us will mean what we say. However, maty honorable members opposite speak with their tongues in their cheek. From a national point of view I hope that they do; but from the point of view of party politics I hope that the reverse is the case, because out of their mouths will they be convicted.’ I refer honorable members to Professor Walter Murdoch’s delightful essay, entitled The Art of Writing. The Professor explained that for many years he had been delivering to university students lectures on the art of writing. He had advised them regarding the proper positions in a sentence of commas, semicolons, emphatic words, and the like. The idea of saying, what we mean, and meaning what we say, will have a direct bearing upon the desirability of broadcasting the debates of this Parliament. Professor Murdoch wrote -
Say what you mean - how easy it sounds, how hard it really is! It is, in fact, an ideal, never to. be completely realized by mere mortals. Let me illustrate by a figure of speech which I may have thought of for myself or found in some book or other. (It seems too good to be mine.) There are various ways of getting eggs to market. One way is to put them in a basket and carry them; this is a slow and laborious method, though a fairly safe one. Another way, an up-to-date and expeditious way, would be to put them down the muzzle of a cannon, find the range accurately, take good aim, and shoot them to market. Assume, for the sake of argument, that they would arrive; but in what condition would they arrive? Well, the whole art of writing is the art of getting our eggs to market without breaking them; that is, of getting our ideas to the mind of the reader without changing them beyond recognition. If you can so write that your thought reaches the reader’s mind exactly as it was when it was a thought in your mind, you are the perfect writer. But there has never been a perfect writer. If the spirit of Shakespeare could look into our minds as we read Hamlet’s soliloquy,he would say, “No, no; that wasn’t exactly what I meant; you’ve got it wrong! “
Broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament can serve only one useful purpose. The sooner the debates of the Senate and the House of Representatives are put on the air the better it will be, because I know that if the Government erects regional stations in various country districts Ministers will soon convict themselves out of their own mouths. Therefore, I say “ by all means let the proceedings of the Parliament be broadcast “.
. -in reply - When I presented this bill to the House in a very conciliatory spirit, I expected that honorable members on both sides of the chamber would debate it in a similar spirit. Unfortunately, very early in the debate, the Opposition developed a very bad attack of the “ jitters “. I do not know what was worrying them-
– The forthcoming elections.
– That must be the explanation. Honorable members opposite have not been able to address themselves to the provisions of the bill with any sense of responsibility. The tower of Babel never heard more diverse tongues than those spoken on the Opposition benches on this bill. We witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of members of the Broadcasting Committee, which made recommendations on the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament, repudiating their own signatures. I shall hot allow those honorable gentlemen to escape so lightly as they hope. The vice- chairman of the committee is none other than the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who presented to this chamber the Eighth Report of the Broadcasting Committee.
– And I read that report to the House this evening.
– The honorable member did not read it to the House this evening. He misread and misquoted portions of the report, and deliberately suppressed other portions of it. Another member of the committee is the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy). He joined with the honorable member for Moreton in saying that the Broadcasting Committee made a recommendation in favour of a simultaneous broadcast of both chambers.
– I did not.
– I challenged the honorable member on the point, and he did not denyit.
– I said “ full broadcasts “.
– The honorable gentleman spoke of a full broadcast of both chambers. Perhaps I cannot do better at this stage than read portions of the committee’s report, and indicate the general tenor of it. The chairman of the committee is Senator S. K. Amour, the vice-chairman is the honorable member for Moreton, and the other members are Senator Nash, Senator Herbert Hays, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), the honorable member for Wilmot, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson), and the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). The committee went to considerable trouble to inform its mind on the proposal for the broadcasting of parliamentary debates. The terms of reference, which the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) gave to the committee, were -
To consider and report to Parliament -
whether the broadcasting of parliamentary debates is desirable; and
if so, to what extent and in what manner should such broadcasts be undertaken.
Nearly two years ago the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith) raised this matter at a meeting of the
Parliamentary Labour party, .and .also in this -chamber. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mi-. Holt) also was very keen that the proceedings of :this Parliament should be broadcast. Having received its ‘.terms of reference, ‘ the committee took evidence from representative persons., including the Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour party, a representative of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the High Commissioner for New Zealand., the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal party, the Leader of the Australian Country party, the Acting Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the Commonwealth SolicitorGeneral, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter at Canberra, the Acting Director-General, Posts and Telegraphs, the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting’ Commission, the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the former , Controller of Commercial Broadcasting in New Zealand, the Chief Engineer, Postmaster-General’s Depart.ment, and the Chief Inspector (Wireless)., Postmaster-General’s Department. In paragraphs 3-14 of the report, the experience of New Zealand in broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament of that dominion is recorded. ‘
– Did the committee submit a unanimous report?
– The report was unanimous with, the exception of one small but important reservation made by the honorable member for Wilmot, and a provision covering that reservation has been included in the bill. The proposed Australian service is canvassed in para- . graphs 15-17 of the report, the legalaspects are considered in paragraphs 18-39. and the extent of the proposed Australian service is mentioned in paragraphs 20-32. In paragraph 34 the committee commenced to grapple with the problem. It stated that it had canvassed the possibility of using the whole of the 22 national stations for a simultaneous broadcast of the proceedings of both chambers, the course recommended by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), and other honorable gentlemen during this debate. ‘The committee made the following observations-: -
Were it not’ for the high expenditure involved, -the ideal arrangement would be the provision of .a network of ,22 national medium wave stations /capable -of serving nearly all the populated portions of .Australia. Equipment alone, however., would entail expenditure in the neighbourhood of £500.000. But apart from the cost, there ar.e insuperable difficulties owing -to the shortage of radio channels, unless the licences .of some commercial stations were not renewed at the expiration of their annualperiod of tenure, to enable their channels to be allocated for the purpose, or unless recourse is made -to the sharing of channels to -a greater extent than .at present, .with resultant degrading of service to listeners on account of the clash of simultaneous transmission fromstations operating on the same channel.
That w.as the unanimous opinion of themembers of the Broadcasting Committee. When it w.as found that because of the insuperable difficulties encountered, ‘ and the large expenditure involved, the proposal to use the 22 national stations was impracticable, the committee set out to discuss other .suggestions for the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament. It mentioned a fifth proposition. Paragraph 3S - and ‘ again this was unanimously agreed to - reads -
A fifth proposition is to use the second national stations ‘in the capital cities and Newcastle. This idea would result in the service being withheld from country districts which rely on their local regional station for national broadcast reception. On the other hand, if these regional stations were included, listeners in areas which rely on such stations exclusively for broadcast service would not have an alternative national programme.
The Broadcasting Committee then proceeded to discuss the merits of a sixth proposition, involving a .combination of three possibilities, viz., the use of the second national stations in each capital city and Newcastle, the use of short-wave stations to augment the service for listeners in the country and remote areas, and the use of selected country commercial stations willing to sell time. It rejected the sixth proposition however, and came back to the decision which it finally reached which is reported in paragraph 45 as follows : -
The only remaining proposition under present conditions is the use of the main national stations in the capital cities- and there are in each of the capital cities two national stations, one the main station, and the other an alternative station - and the national regional stations in the country districts supplemented by short-wave service to remote areas.
In framing this bill the Government gives effect to that in clause 4 which provides-
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942’, the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall broadcast the proceedings of the Senate or the House of Representatives from -
a medium-wave national broadcasting station in the capital city in each State and in the city of Newcastle in the State of New South Wales; and
such other national broadcasting stations (including short-wave national broadcasting stations) as are prescribed, upon such days and during such periods as the committee determines.
It was foreseen, at that stage, that there would be a conflict as to the times during which the proceedings of the Parliament could be broadcast. It was accordingly decided that a committee consisting of members of both Houses of the Parliament should be established. Provision for that is included in the bill. In his reservation to the report, the honorable member for Wilmot suggested that in the case of the House of Representatives a committee consisting of the Speaker, the Prime Minister, another Minister nominated, by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the “Leader of the Australian Country ‘ party should be appointed to determine matters relating to the times of the broadcasts and other matters affecting the privilege of members. The honorable gentleman also added this observation -
The Senate no doubt would feel that some similarly constituted committee should be set up. The result should be a joint committee of the two Houses.
That reservation was made by a Whip on the Opposition side of the House, and, as I have said, provision has been made in the bill to adopt his suggestion.
– But no provision should be made for any pre-arranged selection of speakers at particular times.
– I shall deal with that illusion of the honorable gentleman presently. The Broadcasting Committee unanimously recommended all that is con tained in this bill, and the honorable member apparently does not know what he signed, has forgotten what he signed, or does not care what he signed. -And any one of these, is equally reprehensible. The honorable member also agreed to paragraph 50, which reads -
We do not consider that, it would be advisable at this stage to specify particulars of the service in legislation, as experience may disclose a need for modification of the detailed arrangements initially decided upon. It would therefore be preferable, as regards this particular subject, to prescribe the details in regulations under section 107 of the Broadcasting Act, as they could be altered more readily by amended regulations than under the processes involved ‘in. amending them if they were set out in the act. Any such modifications would still be subject to the sanction of Parliament under the procedure laid down for making regulations.
The Government has decided not to hand over to anybody outside the Parliament the right to make regulations controlling the broadcasting of the debates of the Parliament. It has decided to set up a joint committee of the Parliament for that purpose. Clause 12 of the bill provides - (1.) The Committee shall consider and specify in a report presented to each House of the Parliament, the general principles upon which there should be determined the days upon which, and the periods during which-, the proceedings of -the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be broadcast. (2.) The Committee shall, in accordance with general principles specified by the Committee and adopted by each House of- the Parliament, determine the days upon which, and the periods during which, the proceedings of either House of the Parliament shall be broadcast.
Thus honorable members will be given an opportunity to debate the principles recommended by the committee and if it is thought that the committee has recommended a procedure unacceptable to the House, objections can be made. There is nothing to prevent the committee from deciding that once a bill is initiated in either chamber of the Parliament it shall be broadcast through all stages until the debate is concluded. There is nothing to justify the suggestion that there will be a partial debate or that some members will be given advantage over others. Before this bill came before the House, the Broadcasting Committee was in agreement with the general principles outlined in it, but some members of the committee apparently cannot understand the draftsman’s way of interpreting their ideas; I assure them that what the Government has done in this bill is even better than most of them desired.
– -The bill apparently does not represent what the members of the committee had in mind.
– I’ am suggesting that’ the provisions of the bill represent an improvement on what they had in mind. The members of the committee wanted to have these matters dealt with by regulation: the bill prescribes that that shall be left to the joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament. Paragraph 52 of the report reads:-
We suggest that provision be made for overall control to be vested in the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives as regards broadcasts from their respective chambers; that during the experimental periods the whole of. the proceedings in the chamber concerned- not in one chamber for the whole of the time to the exclusion of “the other chamber - should be broadcast from the main national stations and from the regional stations, as well as from the short-wave stations, except during the short periods when “ straight “ news sessions (that is, excluding commentaries or observers’ stories) are normally on the air; .
That is more likely of achievement through a committee than by any other means. How could the President of the Senate and Mr. Speaker of the House of Representatives- and this was the weakness of the report - decide the issue as to which proceedings should be broadcast if both chambers desired to have their proceedings broadcast simultaneously ?
– I suggest that the Minister read paragraph 53.
– I have no objection to reading it, though the honorable member himself declined to do so.
– I did not have a copy of the report at my disposal then.
– The paragraph reads -
We are aware that in New Zealand doubts have been expressed in certain quarters as to the wisdom of broadcasting the whole of the proceedings, but we are of the opinion that in Australia complete broadcasts of the actual proceedings should be tried at the outset, leaving the question of modification for consideration in the light of experience.
It was not contemplated that the proceedings of both Houses should be broadcast simultaneously.
– No one has suggested that.
– The Leader of the Opposition suggested it, as also did the honorable members for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and Richmond (Mr. Anthony). In paragraph 49 the Broadcasting Committee had this to say -
The difficulty of varying times could be overcome, where necessary, by recording the proceedings as they occur and broadcasting from the discs at the proper times, using land-lines, for transmission of the recordings to the local stations from which the broadcasts would be made.
Most of the criticism has been in respect of re-broadcasts. It is feared by honorable members opposite that something may be done, which will be detrimental to their interests. Yet the course mentioned was actually recommended. The members concerned did not know what they were doing, or they have now developed a fear complex in regard to the result of the elections. Strong protests have been made about clause 14, which provides -
No action or proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person for broadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have discovered in that provision a grave attack upon the privileges of members of Parliament, and a device whereby one political party will secure, an advantage over another. The honorable member for Moreton subscribed to the following recommendation ‘ in paragraph 51 : -
The introduction of legislation to provide for the application of absolute privilege to such broadcasts is also recommended-
– On the advice of the Attorney-General.
– I am reading what the honorable member recommended, not his afterthought. The recommendation continues - as an extension of the privilege conferred by legislation passed in 1935 in respect of Hansard reports.
– That is in respect of a broadcast of the whole of the proceedings.
– In paragraph 51, the committee recommended the introduction of legislation to provide for absolute privilege in respect of the broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings, in the same way as the publication of Hansard is privileged. Let me show the way in which privilege is accorded to the publication of Hansard. Section 4 (1) of the Parliamentary Papers Act 190S-1935 provides -
No action or .proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person for publishing any document published under the authority of the Senate or of the House of Representatives.
Tn the bill, those words have been repeated where they apply. I shall read them again -
No action or. proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person-. -
Here is where the change occurs - for broadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament.
The Government has’ done precisely what the committee recommended; yet some honorable members are still not satisfied !
– The Minister is evading the issue.
– That is a malicious statement. The provision made by the bill is identical with that made in respect of the publication of Hansard and other documents published under the authority of this Parliament. It was necessary to do that, in order to protect the employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the performance of their duty as broadcasters of the proceedings of the Parliament.
– That’ is all that we want.
– That is all that has been done. The provisions of clause 14 do not affect the privileges of this House. Those privileges are protected, not under any legislation of this Parliament but by section 49 of the Constitution, which reads -
The powers, privileges and immunities of the Senate and of the House of .Representatives, unci of the members of the committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and its members and committees at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
That is the source from which we derive our privileges. No parliament of the Commonwealth, from the first to the seventeenth, has passed any legislation to give to this legislature ‘any greater powers than are enjoyed by the members of the House of Commons. This Parliament has not sought to take away the privileges given by section 49 of the Constitution, nor has it sought to take to itself additional privileges. Therefore, all this talk about the privileges of members being affected by clause 14 is merely a part of the hyperbolical nonsense to which we have been listening for two days.
– According to my understanding, when privilege is extended to cover any person, it covers every person.
– Any person engaged in broadcasting the proceedings of this Parliament, just as the persons who record, print or publish what is contained in the documents of this Parliament are privileged and protected against any action in any court.
– When the privilege refers to the broadcasting of any portion there is no limitation.
– A limitation on the power to broadcast anything is imposed by the relevant sections of the AustralianBroadcasting Act. Section 63 of that act covers the matter in part, and so does section 92. I am giving to honorable gentlemen opposite a lot of cheap legal advise, and I hope that they will benefit from it. Section 63 of the Australian Broadcasting Act provides -
The licensee of a commercial broadcasting station shall not relay or broadcast any part of the programme of any other broadcasting station, whether situated in Australia or elsewhere, without the consent of the owner or licensee of the originating station and the approval of the Minister.
That at least answers the arguments of those who fear that- something sinister is being attempted under this legislation. Section 93 makes this provision -
A person shall not, without the consent of the owner or licensee of the station and the approval of the Minister, publish in any manner whatsoever any portion of the text of an item transmitted by a broadcasting station, whether situated iri Australia or elsewhere.
That would prevent any newspaper or person from taking a note of a broadcast of the proceedings of this Parliament, and subsequently publishing it; consequently, the danger of partiality, which honorable gentlemen: opposite have convinced themselves exists, has substance only in their own disordered imaginations.
– The Minister cannot convince me that “ any . person “ means other than “ any person “.
– If the honorable member is so easily convinced I am astounded that any electorate should send him to this Parliament.
– May I interrupt the Minister, in order to put a question to him ?
– No. The privilege granted by the Constitution, which protects the members of this Parliament, is a privilege that ‘ has existed from the earliest days of colonial legislation. In the legislation of the parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia there are provisions somewhat similar to that which appears in the Australian Constitution; but they give to members of the State legislatures- no more protection than is accorded to members of the House of Commons. It has remained for- an honorable member, who is not here to-night to move his amendment in committee, to rise in his place in this Parliament to suggest during the earlier stages of the bill, that the privileges which have existed in this country under all forms of representative government for over 90 years .should now be diminished. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), in making his contribution to the debate, said this -
I have for a long time been convinced that quite apart from the aspect of broadcasting, there is a need for the establishment of a committee of privileges, consisting of Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition, which, upon an honorable member rising in his place and claiming that parliamentary privilege has been abused, should have power to discipline the offending member, and, in extreme cases, te impose “penalties even as drastic as suspension from the service of this House for a. long period. . . .
The absolute privilege which applies in this House springs from ancient times. It springs from the necessity that men charged with legislating for the country shall be entitled to speak without fear or favour, and T can understand that. “However, I believe that absolute privilege does require remodelling in the light of present-day circumstances.
That is what Hitler said, and what every dictator has said. It is always said by those who .desire to whittle down the privileges of the Parliament so that wealth may bestride this country and dominate it. Honorable members are sent here by the common people, and they are protected in anything they say for the ‘common good; but, if the honorable member for Warringah had his way, there would be no protection “at all, and certainly not for members of the Labour party. There are people in this country who think that it is a breach, of privilege to say that the present system of society is based on the lie that every citizen can get social justice and economic security. Certain honorable members opposite have developed strange ideas about privilege. The Leader of the Opposition said that the proper way to correct a certain matter affecting’ privilege to which he had referred was “ not by removing the privilege of the Parliament. That would be a tremendous step and a very dangerous step “. The honorable member for Warringah remarked -
I see no reason why the privilege extended to honorable members in this House should be unlimited.
This is not a hill in which to make any alteration of the privilege of members of this Parliament, because the measure will be administered by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron). He is not the Minister to deal with questions of members’ privileges.- Therefore, much that the honorable member for Warringah has said in his contribution to the debate will probably not be .considered by the House at all. He has foreshadowed an amendment which fully complies with a definition given by the late Alfred Deakin, in describing a speech made by one of his political opponents, when he said, “It consists of a necklace of- negatives “. I have no doubt that the honorable member’s amendment will be rejected at a later stage. I have quoted from paragraphs 43 to .49 of the report of the Broadcasting Committee, to which the honorable member for Moreton referred, and have pointed out that the signature of the honorable member was appended to the report. I quoted the appropriate reference in the. report regarding the privilege, which should be given to the members of the committee to be established under the bill and any other persons engaged in broadcasting the debates. That covers the employees of the commercial .stations and. any short-wave stations- which broadcast speeches made- in this, or the other House of the Parliament from the floor, of the House. I hope later, that we- may have a. joint sitting, of. both branches of the legislature to hear the Prime Minister of Great. Britain, Mr.. Attlee. Perhapshonorable members opposite will object to . that.
– We would at the beginning of an election campaign.
-T.he- Liberal, party would, not have objected, to a. visit by Mr. Churchill; but he would not come to Australia, because obviously he did not wish to- be- mixed up, with the crowd of Conservatives here who- pass as Liberals-.
This bill should have reached the com.mittee stage early on Friday,, and that stage, should have- been passed long, ere now; but. I am obliged to reply to, the’ contention of the Opposition, which is based partly on ignorance and. partly on fear.
Mr.-. Bowden.: - Suppose an honorable member of this. House’ made ani attack on another member, which was a vile calumny… . That, could- be done under privilege; but if an honorable member stated outside, this House;, when an election was pending,, that during the debate in- the Parliament he. said a. certain thing about, the. Minister for Information, he should not be privileged! to.- make that insinuation-. What about, clause M of the bill?.
– That gives- effect, to the: recommendation in paragraph 51 of the’ report of. the Broadcasting, Committee that legislation be- introduced to. provide for the application of absolute privilege to* the broadcast of parliamentary proceedings;, as aor. extension of the- privilege conferred by legislation in respect, of Mansard reports. I cannot see, nor can any legal, officer of the Crown see, any point in the emphasis that: has. been placed on the word “ any “ in clause 14. The protection is; not. extended to any person at all, but to any person engaged in the work of broadcasting the proceedings in Parliament.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I have been grossly misrepresented by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). He said that. I had repudiated the signature which- 1, as- a member- of the Broadcasting. Committee,- had attached to its report. It is true that the committee can:vassed all possibilities of broadcasting the proceedings of’ this. Parliament, and the Minister took up most of his time in reading- the comments of the committee. But” the recommendations rather than the comments are the meat of this report. The committee was charged with the responsibility of inquiring whether the broadcasting of parliamentary debates is desirable, and’, if so, to what extent should’ such broadcasts be undertaken. In answer to that I turn to the recommendation which I claim is meat and not comment. The recommendation of the committee to which I consented reads -
That during the experimental periods the whole of the proceedings in the chamber concerned should be broadcast from the main national stations, and from the- regional stations,, as well as the. short-wave stations, except during the short periods when “straight” news sessions are normally on the air.. .
That no provision should be. made for any pre-arranged selection of speakers at particular times, that is to say, there should be “ straight “ broadcasts of the proceedings exactly as they occur in the normal transaction of Parliamentary business, with’ the qualification that during divisions and such like intervals, an appropriate official (who should be an officer of the Commission)- should broadcast an impartial description of what is taking place. Needless to say, the facilities should not be used for other purposes when Parliament is in recess.
Paragraph- 5’3’ is as follow? -
We are aware that in New Zealand’ doubts have been expressed in certain quarters as. to the! wisdom- of broadcasting the whole of. the proceedings, but we are of tha opinion that in Australia complete broadcasts of the actual proceedings should be tried1 at the outset, leaving the question of: modification for consideration, in the Light of experience.
Bearing those recommendations in mind1,. I can only assume that the Minister is unable to- understand English. I cannot provide .him with the capacity to- graspthe facts, and if he cannot understand straightforward language I must leave him in his colossal ignorance.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I have not misrepresented any one. I quoted from paragraph 45 of the report the following passage ? -
The only remaining proposition under present conditions is the use of the main national stations in the capital cities and the national regional stations in the country districts, supplemented by short wave service to remote areas . . .
– That is the comment of the committee, not its recommendation.
– That is what the bill, in fact, provides for. The incidental things are left for determination by the committee which is to he set up accordingly to the recommendation signed by the honorable member himself. I have stated the facts, and I now leave it to those unrepentant penitents who sit opposite to extricate themselves as best they can from the horns of their own dilemma.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942, the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall broadcast the proceedings of the Senate or the House of Representatives from -
a medium-wave national broadcasting station in the capital city in each State and in the city of Newcastle in the State of New South Wales; and
such other national broadcasting stations (including short-wave national broadcasting stations) as are prescribed, upon such days and during such periods as the Committee determines.
– I move-
That, after the word “ broadcast” the following words be inserted: - “the whole of”.
I do so for the reasons advanced by myself and other honorable members during the second-reading debate. The purpose of the amendment is to provide that the whole of the proceedings of this House or of the Senate shall be broadcast, instead of only part of the proceedings as proposed in the bill. I submit that to make a broadcast of only part of the proceedings would be a waste of money, and would not achieve the purpose which we have in mind.
.- The point tobe considered is whether the broadcast shall represent a fair and substantial account of the proceedings of the Parliament. As it is intended to broadcast proceedings for some hours each day, this requirement will be fulfilled.
– How does the honorable member know ? The committee which is to determine the matter has not yet been set up. Apparently, it has all been decided in caucus.
– I have no doubt that the committee, when appointed, will ensure that in the broadcasts a fair and substantial account of the proceedings is given. Therefore, it will be unnecessary to expend money on broadcasting the whole of the proceedings. Moreover, the committee has advised that technical difficulties in the way of such broadcasts are insuperable.
– The amendment moved by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) raises in a neat form one of the two principal matters debated on this bill. I have risen not merely to repeat what I said on the second reading, but to say that when the debate began I was under the impression that this was a non-party measure, that it concerned the relation of outside public authorities tothe Parliament, and I therefore express my profound disappointment that we should have been treated at the end of the secondreading debate to a purely party political outburst on the subject. The question before the committee is not to be determined by arguing about what the Broadcasting Committee said. Its views are in print, and we all have had the opportunity of reading them and we know what they are. The question involved in this clause is whether we should broad- cast the whole or only a part of the projeedings of the Senate or the House of Representatives. Some attempt has been made to suggest that honorable members on this side do not want to have the proceedings of the Parliament broadsast. Why honorable gentlemen opposite should deem this to be so I do not know. For one, I am very keen on having the proceedings of the Parliament broadcast, and I do not imagine that any more harm will come to one side than to the other asthe result of their being broadcast. But the real question, to my mind, is whether we are to broadcast only a part of the proceedings. That is a matter which concerns all honorable members, regardless of the party to which they belong. It is not a matter of government or opposition. If only a part of the debate is broadcast, we are conceding that the public may receive one side of an argument or one side of an exchange, and not the other.
– Which is just what they get in the newspapers. .
– I am glad the honorable member said that, because here is the distinction. I, for one, believe that it is the simple duty, not only in law but in common fairness, of the newspapers to publish both sides.
– If newspaper reporting was factual it would be all right; but it is interpretive.
– If a newspaper published what one honorable member of this Parliament said in a defamatory way about another and did not publish the reply that newspaper would forfeit its protection.
– I assure the Minister that if the plaintiff pursues his action the newspaper will forfeit its privilege, not just theoretically.
– If he has money enough to pursue it.
– The man who has not money enough to pursue it should not be grandiose in starting it. That is the feature of the essential distinction. We cannot take this proposal for a partial broadcast of the Parliament and treat it completely in a water-tight compartment, because we know that it has attached to it a privilege in absolute terms by a later clause.
– What the right honorable gentleman is ignoring is that a newspaper report is not necessarily a statement ‘ of the facts ; but when the broadcast of the proceedings is being made the broadcast is factual. -Mr. MENZIES. - I have been a member, of Parliament for a long time and I know all about that. I have had some experience of it both ways. While the Minister was speaking I endeavoured to ask him a question, but I was treated with the usual discourtesy.
– The right honorable gentleman shouted the question at me.
– I shouted three times before I could make the Minister hear.
– The right honorable gentleman is not entitled to make himself heard by a member who has the floor.
– Order !
– I wanted to direct the attention of the Minister to section 93- of the Australian Broadcasting Act, which says -
A person shall not, without the consent of the owner or licensee of the station and the approval of the Minister, publish, in any manner whatsoever, any portion of the text of an item transmitted by a broadcastingstation, whether situated in Australia or elsewhere.
I suggest to the Government that itshould have the Parliamentary Draftsman have a look at that. It does not matter for the purposes of this bill;, but it may involve an amendment of the Australian Broadcasting Act, because, on. the face, it looks as if debates that arebroadcast will be items transmitted by a broadcasting station, and, being items transmitted by a broadcasting station,, they cannot be reported by a newspaper. I know that that is not the intention of the Government.
– That is a mere quibble.
– It is not a quibble.. I direct attention to it, knowing that it is not intended that that should be theposition. It is worth while pointing it out because, if that proves to be the case,, it may be necessary to suitably amend’ the Australian Broadcasting Act.
– We have come early to the matter that divides the committee, the matter of whether the proceedingsof both Houses of the Parliament shall be broadcast or whether there shall be the broadcast of the one House at onetime and of’ the other at another time. In the opinion of the Broadcasting Committee, there are insuperable technical difficulties in the way of broadcastingthe proceedings of both Houses at theone time, and the cost of such an experiment would be about £500,000. The-
Government cannot accept an amendment which purports to override the insuperable. Nor can it incur the expenditure of £500,000 in tying , up 22 national broadcasting stations, because that is what is involved, instead of six national stations, one in each capital city, and a seventh in Newcastle, andsuch other regional or short-wave stations as the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings decides. It has been suggested that the short-wave and regional stations are not to be used for the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. No one has. any authority to say that. The committee will decide that, and if I understand the temper of honorable members aright, it is almost unanimously desired that the regional stations, as well as the national stations in the capital cities and in Newcastle, shall be given the opportunity of broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament. We must start somewhere, and we are making this experiment in the way in which the Broadcasting Committee itself recommended. The amendment cuts right acrosswhat is recommended, and the Government cannot accept it.
– The Minister has departed from his contention that the Broadcasting Committee did not recommend that the broadcast of parliamentary proceedings should bein full, andnow argues that the proceedingscannot be broadcast in full becauseofthe costs. The matter before us concerns not. only whether the proceedings should hefully or partially broadcast, but also whether partial broadcasting willgive immunityto the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In his second-reading speech, the Leader of theOpposition (Mr. Menzies) said that there was an obligation on the newspapers to publish a fair andaccurate report of the proceedings in theParliament, butwhat will he the position of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which will be broadcastingonly a part of the proceedings? Will the commission have the necessary privilege conferred upon it to broadcast only part of a debate? Libelous statements may be made and the broadcast stopped before they can bereplied to Itm ay happen that only one side ofa debate wouldbe broadcast. Thatwould not be a fair presentation of the cases presented in the House. The Government seeks to meet that point by providing immunity to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In my secondreading speech I raised the point as to whether a special privilege should be granted to one section of the community in respect ofthe broadcasting of speeches in the Parliament. It is unjustifiable to grant immunity in respect of a broadcast which covers only part of a debate. The Minister, seeking to rely on privilege in this respect said that Hansard, under a special act, enjoyed immunity; but Hansard reports coverthe whole of the proceedings in the Parliament. Therefore, the immunity enjoyed by Hansard is fair; it cannot be comparedwith the immunity to be provided in respect of the broadcast of only portion of the proceedings,which might contain libelous statements towhich replies made in the Parliament are not broadcast also. This matter involves more than the point as to whether proceedings in the Parliament should bebroadcast for the benefit ofthe people generally, or whether the whole, or onlypast, of the proceedings should be broadcast. Underthis provision the Australian Broadcasting Commission isto be given the privilege of broadcasting only a portion of proceedings which might be libelous. That is a privilege that is not enjoyed by the press. Any newspaper which published only portion of proceedings which contained libelous statements and failed to publish the whole of the proceedings, would lay itself open to action for damages for libel. This provision is fundamental to the whole proposal. As the amendment seeks to rectify the position I have indicated, I support it.
.- Theamendment dealswith the main point ofcontention arising in respect of the measure. If the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) accepted the amendment, he would establish unanimity on the bill.
– The adoption of the amendment would involve an expenditure of £500,000 .
– When the Minister raises technical considerations as reasons why. the Government cannot accept the amendment, he is putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Earlier in the debate be said that the Broadcasting Committee had never agreed that all of the proceedings in Parliament should he broadcast; and in support of that statement he quoted extensively from. the committee’s report. However, the Minister cannot have studied the committee’s recommendations thoroughly because in paragraph 53 of its report it states - . . but wo are of the opinion that in Australia complete broadcasts- of the actual proceedings should be tried at the outset, leaving the question of modification for consideration in the light of experience.
All of the members of the committee were parties to that recommendation, and in view of the Minister’s statement 1 wonder whether Cabinet realizes that he is acting counter to what was recommended by the Labour members of the committee. Kas he told caucus the whole story? Is he trying to .mislead honorable members in his- quotations from the committee’s report? The Minister could achieve unanimity with respect to this measure by accepting the amendment. I can see no reason why he should not do so.
.- I nsk the Minister to read carefully paragraph 52 of the report of the Broadcasting Committee - . . that no provision should be made for any pre-arranged selection of speakers at particular times, that is to say, there should be “ straight “ broadcasts of the proceedingsexactly as they occur in the normal transaction of parliamentary business. . . .
Mr. Speaker; when giving evidence before the committee, said that if parliamentary debates- are to be broadcast it would be preferable to alternate the initiation of legislation between the two Houses rather than to divide the time. He argued that that would maintain, interest in the proceedings in each chamber.
– The amendment does not propose that; it says that the whole of the proceedings in both chambers should be broadcast.
– I .appreciate the. difficulty, because of shortage of material, in the way of broadcasting’ the whole of the proceedings in. each ‘ chamber. However, the Government should’ implement the. recommendation of theBroadcasting Committee that proceedings should be broadcast exactly asthey ‘occur- in the normal transaction of parliamentary business, that is, proceedings in each chamber should bebroadcast from start to finish.
.- The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) cited the evidence which I gave before the Broadcasting Com:mittee. I do not retract that evidence. I said that there are. two Houses of theParliam’ent, and consideration should- be given to broadcasting proceedings in both Houses. I suggested that in’ order to facilitate this course being followed, more legislation should be initiated in the Senate, thus giving that chamber legisla- tion to deal with before it became stalebecause it had been debated in this chamber: I also said that means might be found to alternate the introduction of legislation between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
– And that full debates in each House should be broadcast.
– Yes;. and I take it that the honorable member agrees that proceedings in each. House should be’-, broadcast alternately? If that is his view, he should be careful not to vote for the amendment, because it proposes that the. whole of the proceedings) not the proceedings on any one day; in the Senate and the House of Representatives should be broadcast. The only way to broadcast the whole of the proceedings in each, chamber is to commence broadcasting from the moment the session opens to the closing minute of the session. Therefore, the amendment which proposes that the whole of the proceedings in the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be broadcast means that the whole of the proceedings in both Houseswould have to be broadcast simultaneously, that is, from the moment each House met until it adjourned. The. committee did not. make that recommendation. Some comment has been passed, about the expenditure to date upon the arrangements for- broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament ;; but; I invitehonorable’ members to heed the observations of: the committee about the- technical. difficulties which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has apparently overlooked.
– I read them to the Leader, of the Australian Country party.
– I shall read them again in order to make sure that the right honorable gentleman understands them. The committee stated -
Were it not for the high expenditure involved, the ideal arrangement would be the provision of a network “of 22 national medium wave stations capable of serving nearly all the populated portion of Australia. Equipment alone, however, would entail expenditure in the neighbourhood of £500,000.
I have heard comment to the effect that the expenditure of £10,000 upon the present arrangements is exorbitant, and represents a waste of public money. But according to the committee’s report, the proposal of the Leader of the Australian Country party would entail the provision of a network of 22 national mediumwave stations at a cost of £500,000.
– For what purpose?
– To broadcast the whole of the proceedings of the Parliament.
– No, to cover the whole of Australia.
– The honorable member for Dalley is going from the sublime to the ridiculous.
– Members of the Opposition will not confuse me with their loud shouts
– Probably some members of the committee did not read the report before they signed it. The cost of a network of 22 national medium-wave stations would be approximately £500,000. However, there are .other difficulties, as the report, shows -
But apart from the cost, there are insuperable difficulties owing to the shortage of radio channels, …
The Leader of the Australian Country party would not support this proposal -
If we propose to broadcast simultaneously the whole of the proceedings of both chambers, as suggested by the Leader of the Australian Country party, the cost will be approximately £500,000, and a number of commercial broadcasting stations will be compelled to cease operations.
– That is misleading.
– It is not. The information appears in black and white for every one to see. The report continues -
The only remaining proposition under present conditions is the use of the main national stations in the capital cities and the national regional stations in the country districts, supplemented by short-wave service to remote areas. This would mean the substitution of parliamentary broadcasts in place of entertainment, commentaries on current affairs, and other items normally broadcast from these stations during the period involved.
Therefore, the committee recommended -
We suggest that provision be made for overall control to be vested in the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives as regards broadcasts from their respective chambers; that during the experimental periods the whole of the proceedings in the chamber concerned should be broadcast from the main national stations . and from the regional stations, as well as from the shortwave stations, except during the short periods when “straight” news sessions (that is, excluding commentaries or observers’ stories) are normally on the air.
Obviously, the committee recommended exactly what the bill now provides. I should like to see whether those members of the committee who signed the report will now support the amendment which is entirely opposed not only to the reasoning in the document but also to the recommendations. If we adopt the amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party we shall be. obliged to broadcast the whole of the proceedings of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. I could understand the reasoning of the right honorable gentleman if he contended that the broadcasting of a debate, once commenced, should be continued until its conclusion, but the amendment provides, as I stated, for the broadcast of the whole of the proceedings of both chambers. That proposal is opposed entirely to the recommendations of the committee. If we adopt the proposed amendment the whole of the system of broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament as now proposed will be abandoned, and the suggestion of the Leader of the Australian Country party will be substituted for it. That will involve an expenditure of £500,000 and will cause an unspecified number of commercial broadcasting stations to cease to function.
.- Throughout this discussion no honorable member has opposed the principle of broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament. That point is clear, and the attitude of honorable members on this side of the chamber cannot be misunderstood. For technical reasons, however, it is easier for us to agree upon the principle than upon the actual broadcasting arrangements. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and the report have made it clear that, at this juncture, the whole of the debates of both chambers cannot be broadcast simultaneously.
– Unless we incur an expenditure of £500,0*00.
– Even the honorable member for Dalley has misread the report. For the expenditure of £500,000 we should have a complete cover of the whole of Australia on one channel. The cost of a complete cover on two channels would be nearly £1,000,000. Therefore, the Parliament is really driven to decide whether we shall concur in the’ broadcasting of a part of the parliamentary proceedings. The test there is not whether we desire the whole or a part of the debates to be broadcast, but whether we want to achieve for the people of Australia by a partial broadcast a fair presentation of the debates. Throughout the history of the institution of Parliament meticulous attention has been given to ensure that, once individuals have been elected to the Parliament and have assembled, each shall have an equal and unrestricted opportunity to express himself on every issue that arises. Now, the purpose of this bill is to embrace within the audience practically the whole population of Australia. If it is proper to provide this privilege for every honorable member within the Parliament, the same principle must apply when the representatives of . the people address themselves to the wider audience. Every honorable member can recall occasions when a certain impression would have been left with listeners if a debate had ceased at a particular point; but the continuance of the debate, and replies to the earlier remarks completely changed the impression that had been created. All honorable members have heard persons in the Parliament and outside it maligned and traduced, and quite frequently we have heard their names cleared by subsequent speeches. That is the picture of the Parliament functioning freely, as it is intended to do. If this clause be agreed to in its present form, these deliberations will be extended to an audience consisting of practically the whole nation, but the broadcasts will cease at >a certain stage of the debate. Every one of us knows that if that occurs there will very frequently be left an impression in the minds of the listening audience which would have been changed had they had an opportunity to hear the subsequent portion of the debate. We all know that only too frequently the reputations of persons are besmirched in this Parliament, but that the imputations against them are withdrawn by subsequent explanations. If such explanations do not reach the audience which listened to the early part of the debate a grave injustice is done. Surely none of us is prepared to support that state of affairs. Whilst I proclaim myself openly in favour of the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings, if I am confronted with the” choice as to whether I approve of this partial broadcast with the results I have just pictured, or, alternatively, of having no broadcast at all, I have no hesitation in saying that I distinctly favour the latter. Again, if I were asked to make a choice as to whether I would have no broadcast at all, or broadcasts of the proceedings of only one house of the Parliament, I should unhesitatingly choose the former. I remind honorable members opposite that not long ago the Senate comprised 33 supporters of the then anti-Labour government and three representatives of the Labour Opposition. Suppose we have a repetition of that state of affairs and the debates on a certain issue are to be broadcast only from the Senate. . Would honorable members opposite then feel the same about it? Would they agree to permit a state of affairs to continue in which 33 members were permitted to put the case for one side and only three to put the case for the other? It therefore becomes obvious that in order fairly to convey the deliberations of this Parliament to -the listening public of Australia it is necessary to broadcast fully the proceedings of both Houses of the Parliament. But this is both financially and physically impracticable at the present time. The proposal now before us is immature; it has been brought before us at a time when the Government can not afford to do the fair thing financially nor is the country able to do it physically. I wish to make it quite clear that if the amendment moved by- my leader be carried I am under no illusion that that would result in both Houses of the Parliament being broadcast simultaneously. I know only too well that, for the time being, there would be no broadcasts at all. I want to be perfectly straight-forward in this matter. If I am confronted with thechoice between no broadcasts and a distorted broadcast - because a partial broadcast could be nothing but a distorted broadcast - then I am against broadcasting altogether, and I support the amendment moved by my leader.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) put the case admirably when he stated that the matter boiled down to a question whether there should be a partial broadcast, with all its imperfections, ineffectiveness and consequent waste of money, or a full broadoast of the proceedings of both Houses when money and facilities are available. That is exactly what I had in mind. The present is not an opportune time to incur the enormous expenditure that would be necessary for a completely effective broadcast of the proceedings of both Houses of the Parliament. On the other hand, I am firmly of the opinion that money should not be extracted from the public purse for what must obviously be merely a partial broadcast, with all its imperfections and mechanical disabilities. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) went from the sublime to the ridiculous when -he drew attention to the fact that the Broadcasting
Committee stated that the ideal arrange- . ment would be the. provision of a network of 22 additional national medium-wave stations capable of serving nearly all populated portions of Australia, the equipment for which alone would entail expenditure of somewhere in the neighbourhood of £500,000. That envisages the most complete and perfect system of full broadcasting of the parliamentary debates of which Australia is capable. The Broadcasting Committee did not contemplate such a grandiose scheme in the initial stages of parliamentary broadcasting. Such a proposal envisages serving the whole population of Australia. The proposal now before us does not go nearly as far as that. I have already pointed out that there are many people in remote’ parts of Australia, including those in the electorates of Kennedy and Wilmot, who will never have an opportunity to listen to the partial broadcasts proposed by ‘the Government. And even the broadcasting of the proceedings of both Houses fully would not, in the initial stages, necessitate the utilization of the 22 additional stations. These were envisaged by the Broadcasting Committee as necessary only to ensure a complete and perfect system.
– In order to be clear as to what we mean when we speak about partial broadcasts we should have a clear definition of our terms. I take it that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) would regard the alternate broadcast of the full proceedings of each House as a partial broadcast.
– I would, in the circumstances. The people should have an opportunity to tune into the proceedings of either. House of the Parliament.
– I am glad the right honorable gentleman has clarified the position as far as his party is concerned and, maybe, as far as the Opposition’ generally is concerned. There are, however, certain honorable gentlemen opposite who have said that, unless the whole of the proceedings of each House were broadcast during the time allotted to the broadcasting of the proceedings of that
House, that would be but a partial broadcast. You cannot have two partial broadcasts.
– What does the Government propose?
– The amendment proposes ‘the simultaneous broadcasting of the whole of the proceedings of both Houses, and has been concurred in by the honorable members for Balaclava (Mr. White) and Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) ; but the honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and Wilmot (Mr. Guy) do not agree with that, neither does the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) i. Let us take a division to ascertain the will of the committee.
– What is the Government’s proposal?
– -The Government’s proposal is that there shall be broadcasts of the proceedings of each House at specified times to be determined by a joint committee. The report of that committee will be presented to, and, if necessary, debated ‘ in this House. The honorable member for Moreton has drawn attention to the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee that no provision should be made for any prearranged selection of speakers at particular times, that there should be “straight” broadcasts of the proceedings exactly as they occur in the normal transaction of parliamentary business, with the qualification that during divisions and such-like intervals an appropriate official, who should be an officer of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, should broadcast an impartial description of what is taking place. The honorable gentleman has also pointed out that the Broadcasting Committee recommended, further, that the facilities should not be used for any other purposes when Parliament is in recess.
– That is not what the Government proposes.
– The honorable gentleman is not entitled to say that it is not the Government’s proposal. - The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), appearing before the Broadcasting Committee as Mr. Speaker of the House of Representatives, stated that to be his view; and by virtue of his office he will be a member of the proposed com mittee. I offer no objection to the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee. But it is not for Ministers to impose their views when it is decided to set up a committee representing both’ sides of each House, to determine the principles upon which the broadcasts shall be made and the times during which, and the day3 on which, they shall take place.
– We could do without th committee.
– I do not think that we could do without the committee. Representatives of this chamber and of the Senate would have to be brought to,gether to arrange the important detail as to when the proceedings of the House of Representatives shall be broadcast and when those of the Senate shall be broadcast. The Government suggests that the committee will also arrange all the other details. I hope that honorable members will know precisely the proposal for which they are voting. The Leader of the Australian Country party . (Mr. Fadden) has made his position demonstrably clear. If the whole of the proceedings of both Houses are not to be broadcast simultaneously, he -wants no broadcast at all. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) does not want any broadcast. He said that the money proposed to be expended on such broadcasts should be applied to the erection of more national regional stations throughout Australia, and that the proceedings cif the Parliament should be broadcast when the whole of the programme of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been completed. That was merely an attempt to sabotage the bill, just as the right honorable gentleman sabotaged the Commonwealth Bank years ago. I do notthink that the Government would accept such a proposal.
.- The submission of the amendment has rendered one good service to the committee, in that it has caused the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Calwell) to read for the first time to-night the paragraph in the report of the Broadcasting Committee to which I have been referring throughout the day.. He has side-stepped that issue until now. I have asked the Government to declare its intention, but it is not prepared to do that. I have asked the Minister many times to declare exactly -what the Government proposes under this legislation. I have sought from him the assurance that, a debate having been commenced in this chamber or in the Senate, it will be kept on the air until it has been concluded. The Minister will not intimate that he proposes to do that.
– That would be difficult.
– It would. not.
– Let us suppose that an important measure was before the House, and the Leader of the Opposition secured the adjournment of the debate. If, on the following day, before the debate could be resumed, a motion for the adjournment of the House was moved, would it not be unfair to switch over to the ‘Senate and leave the Leader of the Opposition in mid-air?
– That demonstrates bow unfair partial broadcasts would be.
– What has been put by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) can be answered very simply. If the Government proposes to broadcast the whole of a debate, arrangements to that end can be made. If it were decided that the debate on an amendment which was likely to last for some time should not be broadcast, . the Australian ‘Broadcasting Commission could easily carry on with alternative programmes in the meantime. If the Government had made’ up its mind to broadcast the whole of a debate from the beginning to the end of a bill, so that everybody would have an equal right to participate in the broadcast, and to treat the Senate similarly on a future occasion, I should be in favour of the bill. That is the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee, of which I am a member. But if the Government will not give that assurance, then I take my stand with the Leader of the Australian Country party. If the Minister desires to secure my vote, let him give me an unqualified undertaking that he will do what the Broadcasting Committee has recommended - that no provision will be made” for any pre-arrangement of speakers for any time, and that there will be a “ straight “ broadcast of the proceedings exactly as they occur in the normal transaction of parliamentary business. If he will not do that, I shall have no faith in the bill and shall support the amendment.
.- The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has been a member of this Parliament long enough to know that it would be impossible for the Minister to give the assurance that he seeks. The honorable gentleman has said that unless the Minister assures him that a debate having been started in this chamber it will be continued to its conclusion, he cannot support the bill. The honorable gentleman has had long parliamentary experience, *and knows that no committee could forecast when a debate will conclude in this chamber and be commenced in the Senate. Frequently, a second-reading debate appears likely to finish before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, but a new line of -argument arouses other thoughts, with the result that the debate is continued and at the end of the day has to be adjourned until the following sitting. In order to give the assurance desired by the honorable gentleman, the whole of the proceedings would have to be conducted to a timetable.
– Of course they would. Let us suppose that the committee _ met this morning and said, “ The debate on this bill is going to finish, in the House of Representatives to-night “.
– It should not do that, because it would be contrary to the recom- 1mendation of the Broadcasting Committee.
– I am trying to prove that it would be impossible for the Minister to give the assurance which the honorable gentleman seeks, because this legislation is not - yet in operation. I challenge anybody to furnish proof to the contrary. If the legislation were in operation, and the committee, having met this morning, said that a certain bill before the House would be passed to-night-
– It would not have any right to say that.
– If it did say so, and added, “A new debate will be initiated in the Senate to-morrow. It will go right through, and the bill will be brought back to the House of Representatives what then ? It would be impossible to give such an undertaking. All that can be doneis to choose a committee of fair-minded persons who will be prepared to do what is best for both sides. Any attempt to forecast at this stage what is likely to happen, would be doomed to failure. I have had a lot of experience in this chamber. . I thought that the secondreading debate on this bill would be concluded last Friday, but it did not conclude until 10 o’clock tonight. What chance would a committee, meeting last Friday morning, have had of determining what the programme would be. this week in both chambers?
– If the Government will not agree to my proposal, how can it carry out the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee that there shall be no choice of speakers and no prearrangement of speeches, and that there shall be a “straight” broadcast of the proceedings?
– I tell the honorable member, as I told the Broadcasting Committee, that the order in which speakers are called rests with Mr. Speaker, not with any party or a committee of any party. If it were sought to give to the proposed committee the right to tell Mr. Speaker that he should call upon a certain number of speakers from each side, the Standing Orders would have to be altered very considerably. The question of the choice of speakers does not arise. The bill provides for the closest possible approach to the report which the honorable member has signed, and in order to induce him to vote for the measure I wish to convince him of the absolute impossibility of the Minister giving such an undertaking as that asked for by the honorable member. The duties of thecommittee will have to be most elastic. It must be capable of being easily called together in order to fix a programme of broadcasts in both branches of the legislature, perhaps from hour to hour. To attempt to forecast at present exactly what would happen would resemble optimism on the jazz.
.- Surely the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has raised unnecessary difficulties. He has omitted to mention that there will be a compere watching the proceedings and that he will take his cue from Mr. Speaker. The public can follow the debates in the newspapers, and . surely they will be able to follow them as the result of the broadcasts. The honorable member for Dalley spoke of the expenditure of £500,000 being necessary for a complete broadcasting service for Australia in respect of parliamentary proceedings, but we have witnessed the expenditure of much larger sums for purposes of less value to the people. I suggest that we should consent to a complete broadcast of our proceedings with such facilities as are available. We cannot force the people to listen to the proposed broadcasts. Many do not wish to hear them, but those who desire to follow the debates intelligently, and do not get all the information they want from the newspapers, should be able to hear the debates broadcast over the various networks. One can well imagine the unseemly jostling that would occur around the forest of microphones, under the proposal contemplated in the bill. If the proposed committee were abolished the scheme could be approved unanimously.
.- The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) sought to give us the benefit of his advice, as presiding officer in this chamber, as to how the system would function. If I had need of further argument to convince me that I should oppose the partial broadcasting of the debates, his speech provided it. He pictured a committee which would not be bound by regular hours of broadcasting, or any predetermined schedule, but which would decide from time to time when the debates were to be broadcast and for what period. It is quite impossible to decide such matters as that without bearing in mind whose speeches are to be broadcast. The parliamentary system which we all claim to cherish has its whole virtue in the completely unfettered freedom of every honorable member to speak, bound only by the Standing Orders, as and when he thinks fit. He should be able to avail himself of the forms of the House and formally move the adjournment of the House in order to direct attention to urgent matters of public importance. I submit to those honorable- members who claim to be guardians of our system of parliamentary government that under this bill an important step is proposed in the direction of destroying that system. It will inevitably lead, if not to regimentation in the chamber - and the honorable member for Dalley has told us that Mr. Speaker will have a free choice in saying who shall speak - regimentation of honorable members in their party rooms.
– The honorable member is playing on his imagination.
– No. Take a broadcast in which a Minister had stated a case for the Government and the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Australian Country party had secured the adjournment of the debate till the next day. Then, a3 a result’ of some act of governmental “administration, a private member desired to avail himself qf the forms of the House in order to direct the beam of publicity on some act of policy, which is an . inherent right of honorable members under our parliamentary system. Unless that privilege i3 to be preserved we may as well have a general election to decide who is to govern the country and then let the government continue without an opposition until the next election. -In the circumstances of which I speak, imagine the pressure that would be put on a private member who desired, perhaps, to move the adjournment of the House.. Every honorable member knows that if this, system were introduced it would lead to pressure being imposed on private members in party rooms to limit their freedom Pf action in the chamber. That, .would he* a most deplorable attack on the principal virtues of the parliamentary system.
– It is a form of censorship.
– That is what the effect would be. Some honorable members would be regarded as better able to state a case than others and they would remain seated to enable the speeches of others to be broadcast. That would not be satisfactory to the honorable member upon whom pressure was used to induce him to refrain from an attempt to catch Mr. Speaker’s eye. If I needed anything further to convince me that partial broad casts of the debates would constitute a deadly attack on the free use of our parliamentary system, the speech of the honorable member for Dalley. provided it. I appeal to the Government to try to understand what a serious step it proposes to take, and how it will affect the working of the Parliament.
Mr. FADDEN (Darling Downs- Leader of the Australian Country party, [11.31]. - I move- “ .
That the following- proviso be added to the clause: - “Provided that such periods shall be equally divided between the members of the Government for the time being and members of recognized Opposition parties “.
I do so for the reasons so ably advanced by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) gave honorable members his idea of how the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings would be carried out, and this prompted the honorable member for Indi to point out how the system could be manipulated to the advantage of the party in power. Since it is proposed to limit the time available for broadcasts, I maintain that it is only fair that’ the time should be divided equally between the Government and the Opposition parties.
– This matter should properly be left for determination by the committee of control. If the right honorable member’s amendment were accepted, the Opposition would, in proportion to its numbers, have twice the time on the air that Government members would have, because in the present House of Representatives the Government has 49 whereas the Opposition has only 26.” If the purpose is. to prevent the Government from participating fairly in the broadcasts, the amendment certainly achieves it. It would effectively counter and frustrate the decision ‘of the people at the last elections, and the Government cannot agree to that. No such proposal was recommended by the report of the Broadcasting Committee, to which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) affixed their signatures.
– They did not realize that only part of the proceedings of Parliament would be broadcast.
Mr.CALWELL. - The Opposition will be represented on the committee which will make arrangements for the broadcasting of debates, just as it had representation on the Broadcasting Committee itself, which framed the recommendation upon which this bill is based. Honorable members opposite seem to have something weighing heavily on their minds. They would not divide the committee on the question of broadcasting both Houses of Parliament simultaneously, although I had hoped they would, because I was curious to see how many of them would support the proposal. The present amendment, if accepted, would destroy the whole purpose of the bill, and would prevent twothirds of the members of this Parliament from being heard over the air. We are not going to help the Opposition to destroy our bill, nor to achieve anything so undemocratic as is proposed in the amendment. The amendment was not circulated before the committee met. It was an afterthought, and the Government cannot accept it.
.- The committee has before it an illconceived and illdigested measure. We have been told that the bill is based on the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee, but none of the Government members on that committeehas anything to say about it. It appears that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), who is in charge of the bill, has not even read the report of the committee. Nevertheless, we arc asked to accept his sayso, and he and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), are the only two on the Government side who have given any explanation of the bill at all. I suggest to the Minister that he should report progress now, and consult caucus about the bill to-morrow. He should say, “Look, boys, I forgot to tell you about this committee that it is proposed to appoint”. But for this obnoxious provision the Government might well have had the bill before this.
.- I have taken part in this debate only because, for the time being, I, as Speaker of the House, am the custodian of the rights of honorable members, and am charged with the duty of administering the Standing Orders. I pointed out that the things which honorable members opposite seem to fear will not take place because the Standing Orders will prevent it. Because I said this, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) said that my speech convinced him that the bill was designed asan attack uponthe privileges of honorable members. Although the honorable member for Indi and his leader (Mr. Fadden) sleep in the same bed, they do not dream the same dreams. The honorable member for Indi is concerned about the rights of private members. He expressed the fear that the tendency would be for parties to select speakers to state their case while Parliament was on the air; that pressure would be brought to bear on other members not to speak during those times. The honorable member for Indi was afraid for democracy and demanded that every member of every party should have equal right to be heard, but now his leader moves an amendment, the purpose of which is the exclusion from the air of onehalf of the Government supporters.
– Not at all.
– First, it was claimed that if the broadcast of a debate was started, it should be continued till it finished.I know of no standing order or provision of this measure that says that when the Opposition side runs out of speakers the Government’s side shall not be allowed further speakers. At the last general elections 26 members were returned on the Opposition side ; 49 were elected to this side. Now the Australian Country party says that, once the broadcast of a debate starts, that debate must be broadcast through to the end.
– But that was not carried.
– The proposal now is that when the Opposition side runs out of speakers the Government side must also run out of speakers.
– No, go off the air.
– Now we discover that, far from wanting to finish the broadcast of a debate once started, the Australian Country party wants to neutralize half of the Government’s supporters.
– On the air.
– I should like to know what honorable members opposite do want. Do they want a debate to be broadcast from start to finish or not ?
– The honorable member knows that that proposal was defeated. We want equal time on the air for the Government and the Opposition sides.
– Does it w.ant the debate to conclude when the Opposition runs out of steam? That is apparently the position.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member for Indi talked about the rights of individual members. Everything in the bill is viewed with suspicion. Members are to be gagged. They are to have pressure placed on them. Therefore he fears this bill. Yet his own leader has moved, not that members be gagged by their own leaders, but that, when the Opposition side runs out of steam, we must also run out of steam. I do not call that democracy.
.- When I first looked at this amendment,. I agreed with the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). If this measure provided for the full-time broadcasting of the proceedings of this Parliament the honorable gentlemen would be correct. But their contentions now distort the facts, because the broadcast is to be only a partial broadcast of four hours a day, and it is impossible for 75 men to speak in that time.
– Who said that the broadcasts were to be limited to four hours a day?
– A few minutes ago the committee decided that the broadcast should alternate between the two Houses.
– At the discretion of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings.
– ‘The amendment proposes sharing equally the few hours in which the proceedings of the Parliament will be broadcast.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne - Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information [11.47]. - The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) indicates that his party, is working on the assumption that the proceedings’ of the Parliament will be broadcast for only about four hours or some other limited time each day. There is no justification for that assumption. It will be possible for the proposed committee to decide that the proceedings of the House of Representatives should be broadcast for a whole day or two days. The Senate does not sit so frequently as does the House of Representatives. The proceedings in the House of Representatives must be broadcast all the time the Senate is not sitting. The Australian Country party’s proposal is that the proceedings shall be broadcast for a certain length of time, and that thereafter the Labour party speakers shall go off the air. That is absurd. First, the Australian Country party argued for a complete broadcast of both Houses. The amendment means that the Australian Country party does not want all the proceedings of the House of Representatives broadcast during, say, a week when the Senate is not sitting. They say now “ Oh, well, we have changed our minds. Although we can have the House of Representatives on the air all the time it is sitting and the Senate is not sitting, we do not want it, and the Government supporters can have only a portion of the time “.
– 13 it intended to broadcast the proceedings in the House of Representatives for the whole day when it is in session?
– The committee will make a decision and report to the Parliament, and if honorable members then want to broadcast all day they will, be able to alter the report, if necessary, to read that way.
– Why then doe3 the Minister not accept the amendment which asks for that? .
– If the right honorable gentleman wants to do the right thing, let him do it the right way, and not get muddled-headed about things.
– All I ask is Vat honorable members opposite trust the Parliament in this matter.
– The Minister will not take us into his confidence.
– I shall propose amendments later to restore the joint committee to nine members, the strength originally proposed, and the representatives of all parties on that committee will decide points of the kind raised by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden).
– The crux of the matter is the period of the broadcasts, and the Minister has not taken us into his confidence on that point.
– That will be a matter to be decided by the joint committee. I do not know who the members of that committee will be. It may not convince the Parliament of its views ; but if the members of it act as reasonably as members of the Broadcasting Committee have acted in this matter, it should be able to bring in unanimous reports. Mr. Speaker and the President will be members of the joint committee, and the Leaders of the Opposition parties in each chamber, or their deputies, will also be members of it. I ask honorable members to facilitate the establishment of the joint committee and thus enable it to get to work. It will be time enough, when that committee presents its report, to raise the matters of the kind now raised by honorable members opposite. The right honorable member for Darling Downs said that the Government was putting up “ Aunt Sallies “ ; but that is exactly what he is doing. His proposal lacks’ merit. This is the first time in the history of the Parliament that government supporters have been asked to stultify themselves in order to suit the whims of members of the Opposition when they could not carry a proposition which, because of its impracticability and the fact that it involved excessive cost, was rejected by the Broadcasting Committee on which the ‘Opposition parties have four representatives out of a total personnel of nine members.
.- The remarks just made by the Minister for Immigration. (Mr. Calwell) convince me that he does not understand the measure. He said that-he does not know what proposals will be put before the joint committee. The Broadcasting Committee recommended that full debates should be broadcast. That proposal has been rejected by the Minister in favour of broadcasts of only portion of the proceedings. That being so, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) has moved an amendment with the object of dividing the time allotted to these partial broadcasts equally between Government supporters and Opposition members. That is the amendment in a nutshell, and any one who believes in- fair play should support it. The Minister has said that he does not know how much time will be allotted to the broadcasts. That’ is another reason why the amendment should be carried. If the broadcasts are to last for, say five or ten hours the time should be divided equally between Government supporters and members of the Opposition parties ; but, in the case of full-time broadcasts, honorable members should be given such time as they consider necessary to enable them to deal fully with the particular subject under consideration. The Government has refused our requests for full-time -broadcasts and proposes to have partial broadcasts; but the Minister cannot tell (us what the duration of those broadcasts will be. In these circumstances, it is the duty of all honorable members to urge the Government to be fair by dividing the time equally between Government supporters and members of the Opposition parties.
. I have an open mind on this matter. I have listened with interest to the remarks of all honorable members who have spoken upon it, but I wish the Minister to clarify one point. It has been stated by some honorable members opposite that the normal procedure will be followed during the period of broadcasting. The normal procedure as I have observed it since I have been a member of this chamber is that, when a bill is before the chamber, Mr. “Speaker calls upon honorable members alternately from the Government side and the Opposition side, and the debate proceeds until the Minister in charge of the measure sums up after the last speaker has addressed the House. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has implied that that procedure will not be followed in respect of debates being broadcast, .but that Mr. Speaker will continue to call speakers from the Government side.
– If that is not correct, Mr. Speaker may call two speakers in succession from one side of the chamber.
– On many, occasions three honorable members from one .side get the call in succession.
– The normal procedure is that Mr. Speaker calls an honorable member from one side and then an honorable member from the other side of the chamber. Three, or four, members from the one side are called in succession only when no honorable member on the other side of the chamber rises. No one will deny that that is the normal procedure. But in. respect of debates to be broadcast the call will be given under a different system. That is the crux of this difficulty. If the Minister assures me that the normal procedure as we understand it will be followed, the period of the broadcasts will be equally divided between Government supporters and the members of the Opposition.
Thursday, 4 July 1946
– The issue is simple. The Leader of the Australian Country ‘ party (Mr. Fadden) contended that if any attempt is to be made to broadcast the debates the whole of the proceedings of the Senate and the House of Representatives should be put on the air. .We recognize that if the Government has 50 members and the Opposition has 25 members, the Government should derive the full advantage of its numbers. We have never attempted to. resist that. We have always been in favour of it. However, the committee rejected that proposal and decided that the proceedings of the Parliament shall he broadcast for only a limited period and on selected occasions. In the circumstances of this extraordinary and novel decision, the Leader of the Australian Country party contended that we should insert in this legislation a provision to ensure that the Government and Opposition shall share equally the period allotted for broadcasting in order to present their views. That is all. As soon as the Leader of the Australian Country party moved his amendment, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) interjected that the proposal would destroy the whole purpose of the bill.
– The whole democratic purpose.
– The whole purpose of the bill, as envisaged by the Labour caucus. The Minister spoke of the meetings of the committee to decide the. period of broadcasting. In his innocence, he does not know what the period will be. It has never crossed his mind. He does not know who will be appointed to the committee, but he knows that its decisions will be fair to the Government and Opposition. I do not believe it. I am quite sure that when the Labour caucus decided that the Government should introduce this bill; it had before it a clear picture of the political effect on the Labour party. Having regard to its political background, I am not so innocent as to believe that the Labour party, would agree to. the introduction of this kind of legislation without having examined minutely the- possible political repercussions. With that thought in my mind, I join with my leader in attempting to insert in the bill a precaution to ensure that both sides shall have equal access to the air. When a division is taken, we shall see who are prepared to cast a vote to- ensure, as the rejection of the amendment will ensure, that the Government shall have a partial monopoly of the air to- broadcast its political propaganda”. We seek no advantage. ‘ We ask merely for an equal opportunity to state our case.
– How can one have a “ partial monopoly “ ?
– The people did not give the Opposition equal opportunity.
– I refer the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to some- of the professors in his department. Some people have defined queerer things than a “ partial monopoly “. However, the issue is clear. We shall expose those who, having already decided that only a part of the proceedings shall be broadcast, will reject a proposal to ensure that Government and
Opposition shall have equal opportunity to state their views.
.I am surprised at the attitude which the Opposition is adopting. The clause is clear. It provides that the proceedings of the Parliament shall be broadcast. All honorable members know that under the existing system of broadcasting in Australia, the whole of the proceedings of both chambers cannot be broadcast simultaneously. This bill provides that as much of the proceedings of both chambers shall be broadcast as is possible wilh the existing equipment. The suggestion of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is so much eye-wash. The right honorable gentleman began by raising all sorts of objections to the bill. He then read evidence which he had given to the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee. It contradicted the speech that he was then making. He turned somersaults, and attempted with one amendment to provide that the whole of the proceedings of both chambers shall be broadcast simultaneously. .Of course, he is aware that at present it is impossible to carry out such a proposal. When that amendment was defeated, as he knew it would be, he submitted the proposal now under consideration. He is attempting to show that the Government is trying to “ put over “ some trick to gag the Opposition in debates. If the proceedings of this chamber are broadcast for four hours, six hours or twelve hours in any one day and the rules of debate are observed as they have been in the past, the Opposition will always have its opportunity to be heard. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have listened to considerably more speeches from members of the Opposition than from honorable members on this side of the chamber.
In my opinion, the object of the Leader of the Australian Country party is not to improve the bill in any way but to obstruct its passage, and attempt, as far as he can, to make it unworkable. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) reveals a similar attitude. Earlier, he was whole-heartedly in favour of the broadcasting of parliamentary debates, and signed a recommendation to that effect. Since coming into this chamber this evening, he has changed his mind about eight times, and has reached the stage when he does not know whether he is standing -or sitting. He is so muddle-headed about the whole matter that he has forgotten what the purport of the bill is.
– The honorable member for Moreton stated that if we could convince him, he would support us.
– He cannot be convinced, as I know from experience during the last two years. This clause provides for the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament. Other clauses provide the method whereby those broadcasts, shall take place. There are no tricks in the bill. We have not put up any “Aunt Sallies.” The legislation is clear and straightforward, and the only reason why the Leader of the Australian Country party is persisting with amendments is to obstruct its passage, and, if possible, make it unworkable.
– .The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) did not hear the earlier discussions, but I remind him that he signed the committee’s report containing the following recommendation: -
That no provision should be made for any pre-arranged selection of speakers at particular times, that is to say, there should be “ straight “ broadcasts of the proceedings exactly as they occur in the normal transactions of Parliamentary business.
Although he signed that report, he now makes all kinds of ridiculous utterances and attacks the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). The bill was thrown upon the table of the House, and apparently the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) did not inform’ Cabinet or caucus about this rather sinister committee. The Opposition’s proposal that all the proceedings of the Parliament should be broadcast has been rejected. Now, we ‘desire to ensure that the practice of Mr. Speaker of calling alternately speakers from the Government and Opposition sides of the chamber shall be observed during the broadcasting of debates. Apparently, a departure is to be made from that practice.
– It is not.
– Then the honorable member should support the amendment, which provides that Government and Opposition shall have equal opportunity to state their views. Is the honorable member for Bourke able to support that?
– The honorable member is not capable of reasoning. This amendment will test the sincerity of the Government. The Minister can accept it without loss of prestige, although he stated that it would destroy the purpose of the bill. I was prepared to accept this as a halfbaked but reasonably fair bill to bring the Parliament closer to the people. To the Minister for Information, who claims that the proposed amendment will destroy the purpose of the bill, I can only say that if that be so its purpose is one of illintent. Let us put the amendment to a vote and thus provide an opportunity to test the sincerity of honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) frankly admitted that the whole purpose of the amendment was to destroy the bill.
– That is a misrepresentation.
– The honorable member openly admitted that that was the purpose of the amendment.
– Not to destroy the bill but to destroy the intention of caucus.
– It is obvious that honorable members opposite are suffering from a bad attack of pre-election jitters. The Broadcasting Committee as a whole approved of certain recommendations upon which this bill is based. But since the bill has been before us it, has become increasingly obvious that the whips have been cracked over the heads of those honorable members opposite who put their signature to the Broadcasting Committee’s report. Can there be any other explanation of their hostility to the bill? It is admitted on all sides that a full and complete broadcast of the proceedings of both Houses of the Parliament is impossible at the present time. Therefore the object of the amendment can be no other than to destroy the bill.
– I repeat that its purpose is to defeat the intention of caucus.
– At the last election the people of Australia were asked to decide to what party they should entrust the reins of Government, and by their votes they returned to this Parliament twice as many representatives of the Labour party as of the parties in Opposition. Honorable members opposite, how mentary debates will not alter the procedure normally adopted by the Chair ever, have the audacity to claim that despite their numerical inferiority speakers for the anti-Labour parties should be allotted broadcast time equal to that allotted to members who sit on this side of the chamber. I pointed out that the broadcasting of the Parliament in calling members alternately from the Government and Opposition sides as far as it is practicable to do so. It does not always happen, however, that members of the three parties represented in this chamber are alternately called. I recollect that during a recent debate in this chamber the honorable members for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) and Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) successively received the call from the Chair. I have invariably found that more speakers rise from the Opposition than from the Government side: I fail to see any merit in the amendment, and I shall vote against it.
Question put -
That the proviso proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Fadden’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. W. J. F. Riordan.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) As soon as conveniently practicable after the commencement of this Act, and thereafter at the commencement of the first session of every Parliament, a Joint Committee of six members of the Parliament, to be called the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, shall be appointed according to the practice of the Parliament with reference to the appointment of members to serve on Joint Select Committees of both Houses of the Parliament. (2.) One of the members of the Committee shall be the President of the Senate, one member shall be the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and, of the other four members of the Committee, two shall be members of, and appointed by, the Senate and two shall be members of, and appointed by, the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause ( 1 ) , the word “ six “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ nine “.
The purpose of the amendment is to restore the committee to the number for which provision was made when the bill was introduced in the Senate. The committee will consist of the President of the Senate, Mr. Speaker of the House of Representatives, and seven other members.
.It is well to realize that there is a certain significance in this proposal. The bill 33 it now stands provides for equal representation of both Houses of the Parliament on the committee that is to be appointed to consider and report upon certain matters. Under the British bicameral system of government, the fundamental principle has been accepted that there shall be no subordination of one branch of the legislature to the other. I am sure that none of the existing procedural processes of the Commonwealth Parliament would enable one chamber to exercise authority over the other. I understand the purpose of the amendment to be to restore -the constitution of the committee to that which was provided for in the bill when it was introduced in the Senate. The Senate, taking the attitude that it should not in any circumstances be subordinated to the House of Representatives by having a minority representation on a joint parliamentary committee, insisted Upon having equal representation. I am prepared to uphold the important principle of equality of the two Houses in our parliamentary system. The Government should not submit an amendment designed to give to the House of Representatives majority representation on a joint parliamentary committee, the purpose of’ which is to exercise authority in respect of a matter affecting the, two Houses, It is taking a serious and an unprecedented step in pursuing such a course.
– I accept my share of the responsibility for the proposal to ask the Senate to amend its decision in regard to the composition of the proposed committee. I do not accept the view put forward by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that equality of representation of the two Houses on parliamentary committees has always been an accepted principle. Let us consider the composition of the joint committees appointed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Broadcasting Committee, upon’ whose report largely this legislation was based, is composed of three senators and six members of the House of Representatives. A motion proposing that representation was passed by both Houses without protest in either. . The Public Works Committee consists of three members of the Senate and six members of the House of Representatives. I have not heard of any protest having been made by the Senate in regard to its representation on that very important body.
– The money powers of the Senate are very limited.
– I am not questioning that. The Public Works Committee examines works projects of the Commonwealth Government, and makes recommendations to both Houses of the Parliament in relation thereto. The Social Security Committee, upon whose recommendations most, of the social services legislation of this Government and the last Administration was based, consists of three members of the Senate and four members of the House of Representatives. The War Expenditure Committee has on it two members of the Senate and .five members of the House of Representatives. Those are the only Parliamentary committees that are now in existence. They have made importantrecommendations to different governments, and I’ have not heard of any protest regarding inequality of representation. Equality of representation of the two chambers has never been an accepted principle. I stated in evidence to the Broadcasting Committee that it would have to make up its mind as to whether the broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings were to be regarded as having entertainment or educational value. The number of members of the House of Representatives is more than double the number of senators, consequently, this chamber ought to have greater representation on committees than has the other chamber. Those who sincerely believe that the proceedings of the Parliament should be broadcast must admit, that the broadcasts should be made of the proceedings of that House which will most appeal to listeners. In making that statement, I am not saying anything derogatory of the Senate. The interest displayed by visitors and residents of Canberra is a true criterion of the appeal that is made. Whenever there is an important debate in the House of Representatives, its galleries are filled to overflowing, whereas the galleries “reserved for strangers in, the Senate chamber are invariably empty-. That is generally the position. Politically minded people who will listen to parliamentary proceedings will be guided by the interest taken in the respective Houses in the past, and I consider that this chamber is entitled to the representation sought. I object to the argument advanced by the honorable member for Indi as to the right of the two branches of the legislature to equality of representation. In the selection of members of important parliamentary committees the two Houses have never had equality of representation.
.We do not frequently hear the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and we are reminded that he is no mean antagonist in debate. I recall that, when the Labour party was in opposition, he showed much skill in debate, and he has now demonstrated that he has not lost the art and some of the artifices of debate. One of the oldest tricks which he has presented is that of replying to a point which his opponent has not made. I claim that there is no precedent for any machinery, committee, or regulation enabling one branch of the legislature to exercise authority over the other on procedural matters. The honorable member for Dalley has shrewdly pointed out that the House of Representatives has a majority of members on the Social Ser-‘ vices Committee, the Public Works Committee, and t.he War Expenditure Committee, but those committees have nothing to do with the procedural conduct of debates in this Parliament. Had I not replied to the honorable member he might have “got away with” a shrewd trick; but it is not difficult to expose the fallacy, of his argument. He cannot challenge my contention that there is nothing in our parliamentary practice which enables one House to exercise authority over the other in- the procedural conduct of its affairs. . ‘
– To which committee does the honorable member refer as having equal representation of both chambers ?
– I do not know of any such committee. The honorable member for Dalley makes the purpose of the hill doubly clear when he says that there is greater interest in the proceedings of the House of Representatives than in those of the Senate. For what purpose does he want this chamber to have the greater representation on the proposed committee other than to ensure that it shall get more time on the air than the Senate?
– The leaders of the three political parties are members of this House.
– That is a statement of fact, but not a good argument in reply to my contention. It is abundantly clear that the purpose is to reduce the Senate to a subordinate position in the eyes of the people of Australia, thus getting nearer to realization of the policy indicated by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) yesterday, who interjected that the Senate should be abolished. One step nearerhome ! But the honorable member lacked the courage to come out with a forthright policy.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has admitted that he knows of no committee of this Parliament that has equal representation of the two chambers. As Mr. Speaker and each of the leaders of the three political parties in this cham- ber will no doubt be members of the proposed committee, there will probably be at least four members of this chamber on it. Surely the honorable member for Indi does not suggest that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) or the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) should be left off the committee. He wishes to depart from the recognized practice, which is founded on thefact that the House of Representatives, having more than twice as many members as the Senate, should have greater representation than the other chamber on all committees.
Amendment agreed to. .
: - I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), the word”four” beleftout, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “seven”; and the word “two”, second occurring, lie left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ five “.
The purpose of these amendments is to ensure that the proposed committee shall consist of five members of the House of Representatives, apart from the President of the Senate and Mr. Speaker, of whom two shall represent the Opposition and three shall represent the Government, and two members of the Senate, one to be appointed from the Government side and the other from the Opposition.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 -
At any meeting of the committee -
three members shall form a quorum;
Amendment (by Mr.Calwell) agreed to-
That the word “ three “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ five “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
The committee may sit and transact business during any adjournment or recess as well as during the session, and may sit at such times and in such places, and conduct their proceedings in such manner, as they deem proper.
Amendment (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to-
That, after the word “ times “, the following words be inserted:-“ (including times while either House of the Parliament is actually sitting) “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Delegation to SubCommittee).
.- I move -
That, at the end of the clause, the following sub-clause be added : - “ (4.) The Sub-Committee may sit and transact business during any adjournment or recess as well as during the session, and may sit at such times (including times while either House of the Parliament is actually sitting) as they deem proper. “
Under the Standing Orders it is not possible for any joint committee to sit while either House of Parliament is actually sitting. However, it may be desirable that this particular committee should sit while one of the Houses, is sitting. If this amendment were not made the committee might not be able to carry on its work.
– Will -the committee be authorized to sit after Parliament is dissolved? This is important in view of another amendment which the Minister proposes to move later.
– I imagine that when Parliament is dissolved all parliamentary committees will automatically go out of existence. No committee of Parliament can exist if Parliament itself has ceased to exist.
– But . would the committee be able before the dissolution to , make decisions regarding broadcasting which would continue to be binding on the Australian Broadcasting Commission after the dissolution?
– The difficulty conjured up by the honorable member may well be left for discussion when the proposed committee makes its first report to Parliament.
M.r. ARCHIE CAMERON.- The statement of the Minister is cold comfort to anyone interested in the matter. Once this bill becomes law, the committee will be authorized to act in the manner prescribed, and no comment byrne or anyone else can affect it.
– No broadcast of Parliament can take place until the » committee has submitted its report, and Parliament has adopted it. The appointment of the committee will not mean that the whole matter of broadcasting is handed over to it, and that Parliament will have no more control of it.
– But Parliament will not be sitting during a recess or after a dissolution. I want the position of the committee during such periods to be made clear.
– The honorable member can have the matter cleared up when the committee presents its first report to Parliament, which will be before any broadcasts take place.
– I do not like the proposal to delegate the powers of the committee to a sub-committee consisting of two senators and two members of the House of Representatives. This seems to me to be a hole-and-corner way of doing things. We have restored the provision that the committee shall consist of nine members, and the present proposal seems to be. an attempt to go back to the principle of equal representation of both Houses as provided in the Senate’s amendment. The clause provides that the committee “may” delegate power to a subcommittee, but we know that the “may” will become “ shall “ at the wish of the Government majority on the committee. It will be most unfair if a sub-committee consisting of four is authorized to make decisions which will, in effect, be regarded as the decisions of the whole committee.
– It is necessary to provide that the committee shall be able to delegate its functions to a subcommittee. Clause 12 provides that the committee .shall consider and specify in a report presented to each House of Parliament the general principles upon, which there should be determined the days upon which, and the periods during which, the proceedings of the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be broadcast. In clause 13, the committee is given power to appoint a sub-committee which shall have power to determine the days upon which, and the periods during which, the proceedings of either House of Parliament shall be broadcast. That, and that only, is the power to be delegated to the sub-committee.-
– What other duty has the committee itself to perform?
– The committee’ has the right and duty to lay down general principles and to report to Parliament regarding them. The minor duty of allocating days and times for broadcasting will be delegated to the subcommittee.
– And .’any determination reached by the. sub-committee shall be deemed to be the decision of the committee.
– Yes, in respect of the limited range of matters with which the sub-committee will be competent to deal.
– And any two members of’ the sub-committee shall form a quorum.
– Yes. The purpose of that is to allow the committee to function when the Senate is not sitting. Therefore, two honorable members representing the House of Representatives may form a quorum of the subcommittee of four. That does not say that the sub-committee shall be the same members always. The whole committee may refer to representatives of the House of Representatives the matter of determining day3 on which and times at which the proceedings of the House of .Representatives shall be broadcast, when the Senate is not sitting, and it is provided that two of the five persons from the House of Representatives shall form a quorum. The whole thing is obvious and is quite workable. I assure honorable members that the plan will not fall down because of the provision in the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 -
– In the absence of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), I move on his behalf -
That the clause be left out and that in lieu thereof the following new clause be inserted: - “14. - (1.) No action or proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against the Australian Broadcasting Commission, its servants, agents and employees, for broadcasting or rebroadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament. “ (2.) No action or proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any member’ of either House of Parliament for any defamatory matter spoken or imputation made by him and broadcast or re-broadcast in accordance with this act unless such matter or imputation be untrue in fact, in which event the immunity hereby conferred shall not apply if the matter were spoken or imputation made by such member maliciously or with knowledge :….. it was false.”.
– The amendment falls into two parts, and I should like to vote’ on them separately. Sub- clause 1 is, I think, a proper protection to give to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, assuming that we accept the principle of giving privilege to partial broadcasts. I have said what I wanted to say on that subject. If that principle is accepted, the amendment seems to be reasonable. But the second part of the amendment, which is designed to alter the privilege of members of Parliament in relation to debate, is not one that can command my support. I should perhaps add a word to what has been said on this question of privilege, which is very important. There has been some confusion about it in the .course of the consideration of this bill. The problem is not one of the privilege of the member of Parliament. As I pointed out in my second-reading speech, the privilege of the Parliament rests on an entirely different basis, one that this bill does not touch. Whether an honorable member, is reported in a newspaper or in Hansard or is broadcast, it is still true that what he says in the chamber cannot be made the subject-matter, or cause of action against him. So the privilege of a member of Parliament we can set on one side. It is not touched. All that the bill proposes to do under clause 14 is to give a new privilege to a new publishing medium, the broadcasting medium. I pointed out before that th basic distinction is a distinction between, on the one hand, the qualified privilege that we give to the newspaper, a privilege attaching to only a fair and accurate report, which, in the case of attack and counter-attack, must be balanced if it is to enjoy that protection, and, on the other hand, the absolute privilege now proposed to be conferred upon the partial broadcast of parliamentary debates. I take the greatest exception to conferring the latter form of privilege. This does not concern members, except insofar as the creation of this privilege may actually damage a- member. It may have the result of conferring on the Australian Broadcasting .Commission privilege for the transmission to the public of a defamatory statement which, in other circumstances, would enjoy no privilege at all.
– And any other broadcasting station could get a recording of the original broadcast for re-broadcasting.
– I was coming , to that.” I am taking the matter in two steps. This requires a great deal of thought. “We are creating this new absolute privilege for the broadcasting of only a portion of a debate. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has foreshadowed an amendment to insert the word “ re-broadcasting “ in clause 14 after the word “broadcasting”. So absolute privilege will attach not only to the original broadcast but to a re-broadcast of a portion of a debate, and the re-broadcast, of course, need not be a reproduction of all the matter in the original broadcast. It may be a re-broadcast of one speech or a fraction of a speech, and we are attaching abso-lute privilege to that. That seems to me most unsound. The only protection would be that conferred in ‘ the foreshadowed new clause - 13a. - (1.) The committee shall have power to determine the conditions in accordance with which a re-broadcast may be made of any portion of the proceedings of .either House of the Parliament. (2.) No re-broadcast shall be made of any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament otherwise than in accordance with the conditions so determined.
All that means is that we are putting into the hands of a committee the right to say under what circumstances a fragment of a debate broadcast to-morrow may be re-broadcast perhaps six months hence. I put it to this committee that there is no’ occasion whatever for rebroadcasts except for the purpose of alinement of times on the interstate service. If the purpose is to provide, for example, that Western Australians shall be able to listen to the debates at a reasonable hour as if the State were an eastern State, that would be appropriate, but, apart from the need to meet the convenience of listeners in that way, I see no reason why anybody should be given permission to take a part of a partial broadcast and re-broadcast it. But whether that is done in whole or in part to-day or six months hence, it will still enjoy absolute privilege. I say, with great respect to everything that has been said, that that is something about which every honorable gentleman should think. It is not for ‘ the Parliament to whittle away the privileges of ‘ the Parliament, but it is for the Parliament to protect its rights, and one of those rights is that its members shall be reported, if reported at all, fairly and accurately. It is no answer to say that some newspapers do not do that. Of course they do not. It is no answer to that to say that the qualified privilege enjoyed by newspaper reporters has been abused; of course, it has. But privilege is well defined in point of law, and they lose their privilege unless they exercise it according to the law. And that exists for our protection and the protection of the Parliament just as much as for the protection of the public. What we- are doing here is abandoning that protection by saying, in a rather light-hearted way I am afraid, that there will be absolute protection for the original broadcast, or for any re-broadcasts, of whatever section of the parliamentary debate is broadcast, or any fragment of it that may then be selected and approved. For that reason whilst I would support the first portion of the amendment as a second line of defence, my first protection is that clause 14 itself should be omitted, or, at the very least, that the privilege created by’ it should be confined to the broadcasting of Parliament and should not extend to any re-broadcast other than that broadcast within a few hours for the purpose of synchronizing interstate services.
– I suggest that in order to facilitate discussion of the proposition contained in the amendment we should take the two proposed sub-clauses separately.
– I think that that would be a good idea. .
– Subellause 1 of the amendment proposes that no action or proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against the Australian Broadcasting Commission, its servants, agents and employees, for broadcasting or rebroadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament. Clause 14 of the bill provides that no action, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person for broadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament. Whilst the amendment seeks to provide that the privilege shall be enjoyed only by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, its servants, agents and employees, the clause itself gives a protection to any person who broadcasts the proceedings of the Parliament. An amendment which I propose to move later will extend the privilege to rebroadcasts of proceedings of the Parliament. It may be thought that at some time some commercial station should be allowed to broadcast a portion of the proceedings of the Parliament, for instance, a speech by the British Prime Minister during his visit to Australia. If the clause is limited to the employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission only, protection is not given to employees of any commercial station who may broadcast a portion of the proceedings of the Parliament. I desire to cover the whole position, and I suggest that honorable members agree to the clause which provides that any person employed in the work of broadcasting the proceedings of either House of the Parliament shall be protected.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mi1. Spender), in framing his amendment, took into consideration the fact that the clause extended protection to any person, whilst the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) explained that the amendment would prevent a commercial station from re-broadcasting proceedings of the Parliament.
Mi-. Calwell - No.
– The Minister mentioned that the amendment would not extend protection to a commercial station which might broadcast, for in stance, a speech by the British Prime Minister in this building. The amendment is designed to place a responsibility upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission which is responsible to the Parliament by virtue of the .fact that it will originate the broadcasts. But if the provision is left in the broadest terms to cover any person, there will be nothing whatever to prevent a commercial station at some stage from extracting some portion of a speech and re-broadcasting it with complete immunity. We object to making the provision so wide. The point is that protection should be extended to a body which is responsible to the Parliament, but not to a commercial’ broadcasting station that may broadcast some part of a speech made six months previously.
This clause has given me a great deal of anxiety, particularly in relation tu the privileges of honorable members. I listened carefully to the speech made by the honorable member fo:- Warringah (Mr. Spender). I heard his criticism and his alternative, and from my study of parliamentary privilege,. I should say that no proposition more damaging to parliamentary privilege has been made than that contained in the amendment ‘ forecast and circulated by the honorable member when he spoke to the second reading. I note now that the honorable member has introduced another subclause into his proposition. I agree with everything that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said with regard to the danger of the. clause as it stands in the bill. The clause makes it possible for anybody, .not necessarily, perhaps, any bona fide commercial station, to tune in with a recording instrument to an “ A “ class station broadcast, if forewarned to do so by somebody who intended to make a dangerous, or malicious attack, and by mechanical means extract from that broadcast the more malicious part of it and rebroadcast it from any other station as often as he chose. He might even rebroadcast it between the time that Parliament was prorogued prior to an election and until polling day, and the person attacked would have no opportunity to defend himself on level terms. I have the greatest misgiving as to what could happen in cases of that description. As the Leader of the Opposition rightly pointed out, there is certain privilege in the publication of reports of Parliamen.ary proceedings; but when anything malicious is contained in the speech reported there is no privilege if the press, or pamphleteer, publishes the defamatory portion of the speech, or the whole- of it containing defamatory matter, and does not at the same time, publish the reply. No privilege at all applies’ to such a publication. May’s Parliamentary Practice cites many cases, particularly in Great Britain, of people having been mulct in heavy damages, notably newspaper proprietors and pamphleteers who used the method employed in those days ,to defame persons, namely by getting a member of Parliament to make a defamatory speech which they later published. No privilege attaches to that, but no limit is imposed upon the licence contained in the clause in its present form. An individual who is attacked has no means of protecting himself. Therefore, I viewed with grave misgivings the clause in its original form. I repeat that the purpose of the bill is to confer privilege upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its employees. It does not confer privilege upon members of Parliament, because that” is already provided. The proposal of- the honorable member for “Warringah is a strange mixture of ideas. First, he endeavours to introduce into the bill, which does not purport to deal with the privileges of members of Parliament, a matter entirely foreign to the intentions of the measure. He seeks to. overcome the danger which might result from broadcasting and re-broadcasting. Secondly, he introduces the matter of the individual privilege of members of Parliament. With me, this is not a personal matter, but if any honorable member has studied closely the subject of . parliamentary privilege, he will agree that this proposal makes one of the worst possible attacks on it. The Parliament itself decides a question of privilege if the occasion arises. Members of Parliament are privileged; but if, in the opinion -of the House, an individual member is guilty of a breach of those privileges, it may sit in judgment to determine, whether he has committed a breach of privilege, and, if so, the penalty for it. No one has ever recognized the authority of even the highest tribunal in the land outside of the Parliament to deal with the offending member. That right has always been jealously preserved by the Parliament. This Parliament has gone even further than that. On one occasion, it dealt with a member of the House for statements that he made outside the Parliament. Because it adjudged him guilty of a breach of privilege, it expelled him, and he never returned.
The second proposal of the honorable member for Warringah is inconsistent with the purposes of the clause, which confers privilege on the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its employees engaged in the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. The honorable member proposes to. abandon the privilege which the Parliament has always jealously guarded, namely, the right to deal with its own members for breaches of privilege. A perusal of the amendment will reveal that the intention is to make an honorable member liable to the jurisdiction of some authority outside the Parliament. The honorable member for Warringah would deprive honorable members of the privilege that they enjoy to-day, and allow some judicial authority to decide whether a breach of privilege had been committed. If that view were to prevail, the freedom of speech which honorable members now enjoy would be restricted by the fear that their statements in this chamber, which they thought were based upon excellentauthority and yet were untrue, would make them subject to the authority of a tribunal outside the Parliament. Their immunity from proceedings for statements made in this chamber would be removed.
Briefly, the proposal of the honorable member for Warringah, ‘ if adopted, will deprive the- Parliament of the right to determine privilege and exact a penalty for any breach. The honorable member is prepared to withdraw the amendment if a special committee - a “triumvirate - consisting of Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and. the Leader of the
Opposition, is constituted to determine what the House should determine, namely, whether an honorable member has committed a breach of privilege, and the penalty for it. In view of all the circumstances, I believe that that part of the amendment should not be tolerated for a moment. It represents the worst attack that I have ever known on the accepted principles of parliamentary privilege and the. manner of dealing with it.
– I should like a direction from the Chair in . dealing with this matter. Earlier, I indicated that I could not support .sub-clause 2 of the amendment for reasons similar to those which have been stated, but I am in accord with the principle of sub-clause 1. In fact,. I prepared an amendment, suggesting that the words “ any person “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ the Australian Broadcasting Commission or any employee thereof acting within the scope of his authority “. If the amendment is rejected, shall I then be in order in moving the amendment I have just indicated?
– If the amendment now before the Chair is negatived the right honorable gentleman will then be in order in moving his proposed amendment.
– Because of the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I did not expect that the second portion of the amendment would be discussed. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) would take us back to the days before the last of the Stuarts left the throne of England. As I said earlier, our rights and privileges as determined by the Constitution, are those laid down for the House of Commons unless and until such time as the Parliament otherwise determines. The Parliament has never otherwise determined, and so we enjoy the rights and privileges of members of the British House of Commons. The privilege of freedom .of speech is declared in the 9th Article of the Bill of Rights “in 16SS to be-
That the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.
No other Parliament has ever adopted the principle which the honorable membe has proposed.
– When it suits their purpose members of the Government do not hesitate to take refuge in a statute passed in the reign of William and Mary.
– That would be a comparatively modern period of time, having regard to the political ideology of the honorable gentleman from Warringah. At the commencement of every British Parliament since the reign of Henry VIII., it has been the custom for the Speaker to lay claim to the ancient and undoubted rights of th members of the House of Commons, particularly that their persons, estates and servants, may be free from arrests and all molestations, that they may enjoy liberty of speech in all their debates’; may have access to His Majesty’s royal person whenever occasion’ shall require; and that all their proceedings may receive from His Majesty the most favorable construction. I do not believe thai, forty-six years after the establishment of federation, this Parliament will agree to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Warringah, nor do I believe that such a proposition should be considered during the debate on a bill which establishes the right of Parliament to broadcast its proceedings and which vests in the PostmasterGeneral the authority to broadcast such proceedings. The Postmaster-General is not the proper authority to deal with the question of privilege. As a matter of fact the whole amendment might very well be ruled out of order.
.- I move -
That the words “ any person “ be left out and the following words be inserted in lieu thereof : - “ the Australian Broadcasting Commission or any employee thereof acting within the scope of his authority “.
Honorable members will find that clause 4 provides that the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall broadcast the proceedings of the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is the only body upon which a duty is imposed to broadcast the proceedings of the Parliament; certainly no right is conferred upon any other body to do so. That is why it is rather curious to find that, having provided in clause 4 that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to be the broadcaster of our debates, clause 14 then provides that no action shall lie against “ any person “ for broadcasting any portion of the proceedings. I believe that the giving of a privilege to a partial broadcast is wrong. I shall not labour that, as I have already stated my view; but if privilege is to attach it should attach only to the commission and its servants. It should not be given to people who are outside the commission. I see no reason why there should be re-broadcasts of portions of the debates in this House by commercial concerns. I do not understand that. If this bill is designed as a means of acquainting people- with what is being transacted in the Parliament, then the national broadcasting systemshould broadcast the debates to the people, and consequently my amendment is designed to confine the privilege to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the people who are carrying out the work for it. That, I believe, puts some limitation on the privilege conferred. It seems eminently reasonable and from my point of view it is the next best thing to having no privilege at all. I do not know whether it is contemplated seriously that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to make the broadcasts of Parliament available to commercial stations so that they may re-broadcast little bits of the debates as it suits them. I was under the impression that the idea was that we provide direct broadcasts of the debates in the Parliament. In fact I do nol know why the word- “ broadcasting “ does not cover the making of records and their replaying. The words “ broadcast “ and “re-broadcast “ are not technical terms. We are using them in the loose sense; but there is little doubt that the whole broadcast itself might be made from records. If that were done it would still be a broadcast. - The real point is that it should be done only by a body which has direct _ responsibility, as has’ the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Consequently, failing in my desire to see clause 14 omitted altogether, I propose the amendment in order to confine theprivilege to the commission and to itsemployees.
– There has been a long-standing argument between the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission as to where the responsibility of one begins and that of the other ends. If it could, the commission would acquire the control of all of the technical side of broadcasting; but up to date- the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been able to establish with every government its claim that its authority extends right >up to the microphone and that the authority of the Australian Broadcasting Commission begins only at the microphone. When the matter is one of re-broadcasting and the provision of land-lines, the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department become involved both directly and indirectly in the actual work of broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament. It is true that only the Australian Broadcasting Commission is named in the bill as the authority that will broadcast the proceedings of both Houses of the Parliament. That was necessary because the Australian Broadcasting Commission is an independent authority which could refuse a ministerial direction to broadcast the proceedings of the Parliament. As a matter of fact, the Australian Broadcasting Commission offered to broadcast the proceedings of the Parliament. But the Government considered that the Parliament’ should not be dependent upon the favour of ‘an instrumentality of its own creation, and decided instead to introduce a bill which would enable a direction to be given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to do certain things, and to apply compulsion should that body refuse to do what the Government and the Parliament wanted to have done. The officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are in a entirely different category. They are employees of the Crown, and, as such, can be directed to do certain things ; consequently, there was no necessity to make any provision in relation to them or the department except in the matter of privilege and immunity from punishment. The words “ any person “ were used to cover -all the persons who could be legitimately employed in broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament. The proposal of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) so to narrow privilege as to embrace only the officers and agents of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is, in substance, what is now proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The Government considers that everybody associated with the broadcasts should be given the same immunity and the same protection - not merely those who name the speakers and do other things incidental to malting the broadcasts possible, but also all other people who collaborate throughout the length and breadth of Australia in taking broadcasts or rebroadcasts into the homes of the nation. What the bill proposes is in accord with the provisions of the act of this Parliament, which grants immunity to those who record, print and publish the debates of the Parliament, as well as those who print and publish every other document that is issued under the authority of the Parliament.
– That relates to the whole of the debate, or the whole document.
– What the right honorable gentleman says is correct. But there is” no inconsistency between that provision and the provision that any person associated with broadcasts of the proceedings of the Parliament, whether they be partial .or complete, should be granted immunity in respect of what he does under the direction of the Government. I hope it is not considered likely that there will ever be an abuse of authority by any of the employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or of the Postmaster-General’s Department. There may be technical faults. Climatic or other conditions may cause a breakdown of the broadcasting service, and that is a contingency against which we cannot guard against. Honorable members need have no fear of any abuse under this clause. It will be for the committee which the bill proposes shall be sat up to determine how many or how few broadcasts shall take place. I do not think that any honorable member desires that the clause shall be abused, and I am sure that the committee that is to be set up Will not allow it to be abused.
– The Minister (Mr. Calwell) has made it plain that to extend privilege in connexion with broadcasts of the proceedings of the Parliament merely to the Australian Broadcasting Commission would not be sufficient, because the PostmasterGeneral’s Department also will be associated with the broadcasts. I have no doubt that the honorable gentleman ha.? given very careful consideration to the possible effect of the clause as it stands. Provision for the protection of those who will he engaged in the broadcasts authorized* by the Parliament is essential. So long as the Minister is satisfied that the clause as drafted does not go much farther than that, and confer on commercial broadcasting stations who make an unauthorized re-broadcast of portions of a debate, a licence to broadcast selected defamatory sentences, with complete privilege and immunity from punishment, then it will be all right.
– The clause, as amended, of itself, would not do that; but it would if taken in conjunction with proposed new clause 13a.
– I am interested in proposed new clause 13a, because it aims to give to the committee the power to determine the conditions under which a re-broadcast may be made. So long as the Minister is satisfied that there will be power to punish a commercial station that is known to have re-broadcast one or two defamatory sentences, or defamatory portions of a speech, after the Parliament has been prorogued and while an election campaign is in progress, the bill is satisfactory.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that under the Australian Broadcasting Act the Postmaster-General would have the power to revoke the licence of such a broadcasting station. There is one example of a Minister having put a broadcasting station off the air.
– I am glad to have that assurance from’ the Minister, because
I regard this as an extremely important matter. The complete protection of those who are engaged in making the broadcasts authorized by the Parliament is essential. It is equally important that protection should not be afforded to those who broadcast any portion of the proceedings of the Parliament, greater than is afforded to a newspaper or any other recorder of the proceedings of the Parliament. Such protection is given only when, the report is fair, and covers all phases of a debate. I accept the Minister’s assurance.
– We have just heard an extraordinary argument, and I do not profess to understand it. Are we to be told that the words “ any person “ are needed instead of a reference to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, because some employee of the Postmaster-General’s Department may be held responsible for defamation if he lays a land-line or provides some piece of plant? I might as well be told that a newspaper company could involve a person who supplied it with newsprint in liability for an action for damages. The newsboy does not furnish such a good example, because he publishes the libel by selling the newspaper, but I have not heard it suggested that the person who supplies a newspaper with printer’s ink may be held responsible for libels. Let us assume that the department supplies the equipment which makes this chamber resemble a petrified forest. Am I to be told that the operator of the equipment makes himself liable for what is spoken afterwards? The broadcasting of the debates will be done not by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department but by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its servants. The department will merely attend to the mechanical equipment. The commission will say, “ Here is the microphone; we shall distribute .the debates to the listeners “. The privilege must be confined to those who would otherwise be liable, and they are the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its employees. It is all very well for the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser) to say that he will be satis fied by a ministerial assurance, but if he agrees with me he will have an opportunity shortly to vote against the clause.
– We have no assurance that what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said is correct. Who can tell what the courts would decide? Nobody can forecast the judgment of the courts in these matters, and it is best to provide against every possibility. It might be held by the courts that the responsibility rests not merely on the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but is a joint responsibility of the department and the commission.
– Why not include the Postmaster-General and the members of his department?
– What is the objection to including any person who broadcasts any portion of the debates? They are all subject to the authority of either the Postmaster-General or the commission. The original provision in the bill was copied, as far as it could be, from the relevant portion of the act, relating to the distribution of Hansard, and is in accordance with the recommendation of the committee that privilege should be extended to the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings in the same way as it is extended to Hansard. I urge the committee to vote against the- amendment, and to accept an amendment which I intend to move- later to provide for the power to re-broadcast. Proposed new clause 13a meets the objection of those who see the possibility that privilege might be enjoyed by persons not entitled to it. It is true that the man who supplies newsprint to newspaper proprietors does not know to what use the material will be put, but the PostmasterGeneral knows that when he provides equipment for the commission it will be used for the purpose intended. He knows that things may be said which would be held by some people to be defamatory. We might get some extraordinary judgments from the courts based on the provisions of the measure if it is amended in the way the Leader of the Opposition desires. . What honorable members have thought to be clear in respect of other legislation has provided an opportunity for the highest courts in the land to divide themselves and render judgments which seem to be beyond the comprehension of laymen. This clause was drafted by the legal advisers of the Government, who do not see the dangers feared by members of the Opposition, and there is no reason why the Government should reject the legal advice tendered to it. Extraordinary powers are possessed by the PostmasterGeneral to put stations off the air when he considers it necessary to do so, and he has the right to keep them off the air for. many months. That was done during the war in respect of the station controlled by the Jehovah Witnesses organization, without reasons being given. That proved that any station which attempted to flout the law when Parliament was not sitting could be quickly penalized.
– The statement that the PostmasterGeneral has the power to put stations off the air is not quite correct, as the powers previously exercisedare now to be modified in certain important particulars. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) showed conclusively that for the protection of the privileges ofthe Parliament the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) should be accepted. Shortly afterwards the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser) took a similar stand. When two of the most acute minds on the Government side support the case presented by the Opposition, there are two courses open to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I prefer that he should tell the Minister in charge of the bill not to be so dogmatic to be, now and again, a little more reasonable. A further suggestion is that he should refer the matter back to caucus for further consideration. If this clause goes through in spite of the case made out against it by some of the Government’s own supporters, the purpose of this committee will be stultified. When in committee we should consider measures, not in a party spirit, but in a desire to do what is right in the circumstances.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Menzies’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F. Riordan.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to-
That after the word “broadcasting” the following words be inserted: - “or rebroadcasting” .
Clause as amended, agreed to.
Clause 15 consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
New clause 13a.
Motion (by Mr.Calwell) agreed to -
That, after clause 13, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 13a. - (1.) The committee shall have power to determine the conditions in accordance with which a re-broadcast may be made of any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament. (2.) No re-broadcast shall be made of any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament otherwise than in accordance with theconditions so determined.”
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted. .
Motion (by Mr.C al well) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (‘Public Service) Act - Determinationsbythe Arbitrator., &c. - 1946 -
No. 17 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 18 -Commonwealth Medical Officers’ Association.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of External Affairs -O. L. Davis; J. C. G. Kevin.
High Commissioner Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 97.
Land Acquisition Act- Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Tottenham, Victoria.
House adjourned at 2.5 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply raid Shipping has supplied the following answers : -
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
II In view of the importance of furthering the development of Australia and giving the incentive for greater production by a reduction of war-time taxation, will he inform the House what justification there was for the provision of £326,000 for the Department of Information in the financial year just closed?
What was the actual cost of the department to the 30th May last or the latest available date?
Before incurring further expenditure on this department this financial year, will he order a searching investigation into its activities with a view to a drastic reduction of expenditure?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Information should be continued and it is not the practice to discuss government policy in reply to questions. It will be evident, however, to honorable members that the Department of Information is carrying out work of high national importance by making Australia more favorably known abroad with a consequential stimulation of the demand for our primary and secondary produce, by interesting potential migrants in Australia as their future home and by advertising the Commonwealth as a field for the investment of oversea capital. To carry out this programme effectively it has been necessary to establish and maintain writing, short wave, film and photographic sections of the department in Australia and also publicity representatives at. eleven oversea points, in spite of which the Commonwealth’s national publicity service costs considerably less’ per head of population than those of any other progressive nation.
Armed Forces: Deferred Pay and Re-establishment Costs ; Destruction of Stores.
t asked the Treasurer upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Total expenditure for financial year 1944-45, £9,674,273.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Aircraft Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - -
South Australia, 1 ; Western Australia, 1 ; Tasmania, 2. The financial results of the activities, of these pools have been as follows : -
In addition approximately 230 hire-purchase machinery pools have been operating in -the States of Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Under this scheme machinery to the value of over £150,000 was allocated on a hire-purchase basis and repayments of the purchase values are being made satisfactorily.
y asked the Minister for- Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for ^Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Mr. SCULLY. - The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
e. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -
The Commonwealth Government has no power to legislate concerning the exhibition of films, which is a matter coming within the province of the State governments. Only the New South Wales Government has so far passed legislation providing for the exhibition of a certain quota of British films. The New South Wales Act lays down that, of films exhibited by every city and country theatre in New South Wales during any financial year, 15 per cent, shall be British.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
e. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
War establishments as at the cessation of hostilities on 15th August, 1945, provided for a total strength of - Officers, 205; other ranks, 750; total, 955. Posted strength of the service . on 21st June, 1940, was - Officers, 56; other ranks, 212, total, 268. 3. (a) The provision of educational facilities for members of the Australian component of the British Commonwealth occupation forces in Japan.
Division, Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction, on matters affecting the eligibility of soldiers for training under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme.
The preparation of plans for the provision of educational facilities in the post-war Army.
Wheat Industry : Drought Relief.
y.; - On the 28th June, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) raised the question of drought relief for the wheat industry.
Drought relief this season is provided for cereal growers who were affected by the 1944-45 drought, and who had another crop failure affecting the present 1945-46 crop because the drought did not break in their districts in time to save the 1945-46 crop. This was the basis of the case put up by the States for assistance, and it is not practicable to extend the scope of the scheme which was approved.
y.- On the 23th June, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) raised the question of fodder provisions in view of the present outlook for’ crops in New South Wales. The fodder position is being kept under close supervision so that all necessary provision against failure in certain districts can be made.
Conferences Abroad: Communist Delegates.
y. - On the 19th June, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked the following question : -
I ask the Prime Minister whether various Communists like Mr. Thornton have from time to time been sent abroad to represent Australia at international conferences, and whether their expenses have been paid by the Government ?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is. as follows : -
For the most part, trade union delegates travelling abroad have been sent as representatives to International Labour Organiztion conferences or committees. The general practice which has been followed for workers’ representatives in such cases is to compensate them on the basis of wages actually lost during the period of absence from Australia on the business of the conference or committee, or £10 per week, whichever is the less. Under the constitution of the International Labour Organization, each member government is responsible for the travelling and subsistence expenses of its country’s delegates. However, for delegates to industrial ‘committees, as distinct from conferences, the International Labour Organization bears the cost of travelling and subsistence expenses for both employers’ and employees’ representatives. The member government bears only the expenses of the government representatives. In addition, all governments have from time to time made some contributions towards the expenses of trade union and other representatives- travelling abroad to attend important international conferences. As regards Mr. Thornton, this Government paid hig fare when he attended the first World Trade Union Conference in London as one of two Australasian Council of Trade Unions delegates. All other expenses were met by ‘the delegates. For the second World Trade Union Conference, which Mr. Thornton attended in Paris towards the end of 1945, as an Australasian Council of Trade Unions representative, no payments of any kind were made by the Commonwealth.
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers : -
n. - On the 2Sth June, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith) asked a question concerning the continuation of the petrol pool by the oil companies.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer: -
Pool Petroleum Proprietary Limited was formed as a wartime storage and distribution measure at the request of the Commonwealth with a view to the most effective use being marie of bulk storages and as a means of conserving man-power and transport. The agreement then entered into provided that the “ pool “ should continue until six months after the cessation of active hostilities, which meant that the arrangement should have ended normally as at 31st March, 194G.
Because of difficulties then associated with the reversion to a system of competitive trading the member companies of Pool Petroleum Proprietary Limited decided to extend the life of the “pool” until 30th Juno, 1946; the companies have recently re-examined the position and in the light of continued difficulty with, drum supplies, transport, etc. the companies have decided upon a further extension to 31st December.. 1946, with provision foi termination of “ pool “ at an earlier date upon due notice of such intention being given by any member company.
The decision to continue “ pool “ trading ; was one for determination solely by the oil companies and was taken by them alone. The industry did, however, give the Minister for Supply and Shipping advance notice of such decision and the reasons therefor; the reasons advanced in support of the decision to extend “ pool “ trading are regarded as valid ones and it is not felt that the continuation of “pool” is resulting in any disadvantage to the public. Whether “. pool “ continues or is abolished has no bearing whatever ‘ on petrol rationing, which is a matter for Government decision solely and is con-, sidered in the light of the supply position alone.
The current prices of petroleum products have been based on a system of “ pool “ trading and I feel satisfied that ‘the Prices Commissioner, who is in close touch with the oil industry, will have full regard to the present extension of “ pool “ trading in considering the price structure.
– On the 20th June, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked a question requesting a statement showing the total civilian consumption of petrol during May, 1946, and the average consumption during the month of May in each of the five years preceding the outbreak of war, the total number of persons now employed and the total cost of administering petrol control.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping ‘ has supplied the following information : -
The total number of persons now employed on petrol rationing is 446. The current monthly cost of administering petrol rationing is £15,000, plus a payment at the rate of £4,300 per month to the post office for its services in distributing ration tickets.
Woollen Textiles: Exports.
e. - -Recently the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question concerning the export of woollen material to Russia. The honorable member suggested that excessive exports were causing a .local shortage of woollen clothing.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following information : -
The great bulk of exports ‘ to Russia, have been made by Unrra and have been destined for the Ukraine. In addition to Unrra shipments, the published figures include surplus army material which has been rejected as unsuitable both by the local trade and by Unrra. It should be remembered that the figures for gross exports include woollen materials of all kinds, most of which are quite unsuitable for local clothing ‘ requirements.
In the financial year 1945-4C, for example, of 3,000,000 square yards already recorded as having been exported during 1945-46, approximately 2,000,000 square yards went to Unrra. The remaining 1,000,000 square yards, the greater part of which was nonworsted piece goods, represented only four per cent, of the total Australian production of woollens and worsteds.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460703_reps_17_187/>.