18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. I. J. Clark) ‘took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received the following telegram from the Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures : -
Following resolution of Annual Conference Associated - Chambers of Manufactures of Australia is hereby transmitted : “ That this annual meeting of Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia deprecates the action of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia in proposing to ratify the general agreement on tariffs and trade and expresses its considered opinion that such action is a complete- abrogation by Australia of its sovereign rights to manage its own affairs and is based on a vain hope that a commercial and trade Utopia can be manufactured from international action of the kind contemplated and further expresses its unyielding opposition to the Government’s proposed action “. “Will the Prime Minister, even at this late stage, withdraw the International Trade Organization Bill, which is , now before the House, so that he may consider the points raised in the telegram from the Associated Chambers of Manufactures ?
– I do not know of any measure that had greater consideration by the Government than was given to the International Trade Organization Bill. It was the subject, of discussion at dozens of Cabinet meetings. I respect the views of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures on this subject, but I have not the slightest intention of withdrawing the bill.
– by leave- Certain of my remarks in this ‘ House having been misreported I desire to make a personal explanation. I refer to a report in this morning’s press in which it is alleged that, in a speech in this House on J apanese trade, I made a derogatory reference to General MacArthur’s head-quarters: The Australian Associated Press-Reuter message reads as follows : -
A spokesman for- General MacArthur to-day criticised the behaviour of members of the Australian; Parliamentary delegation to Japan after their return to Australia.
The spokesman said : “ We thought, when the delegation was here, they would have behaved decently when they returned to Australia? How wrong we were “.
The spokesman was commenting, after General MacArthur had received press clippings of a statement made by Mr. L. C. Haylen (Lab., N.S.W.) in . the House of Representatives on November 12.
In his statement, Mr. Haylen alleged that “ international harpies “ were “ hanging around “ General MacArthur’s headquarters waiting to get into Japanese trade.
Mr. Haylen was leader of the seven.man Parliamentary delegation which visited Japan this year.
The last paragraph of the message mentions the names; of the other members- of the delegation. The- simple fact is that no attack was made on General MacArthur and his staff. My reference to traders hanging around General MacArthur’s headquarters, was reported by the- Sydney Morning Herald, the only newspaper to report the matter, as “ traitors “. This gave a shockingly inaccurate twist to the story. StrenghtenEng the error, a subheading to the story also contained the word. “ traitors “ instead of “ traders “. It waa an obvious error.
– I rise to order. The House has already heard a personal explanation from the honorable member with regard to the publication of the word “traitor” instead of “trader”. The report in which he now claims to have been misrepresented, that which he has just read, contains no reference to that misreport. I submit, therefore, that the honorable member should confine his personal explanation to that statement.
– The honorable member is entitled to show in what respect he believes that he and the other members of the parliamentary delegation that visited Japan have been misrepresented. It would appear that the report to which he has referred purports to be a report of statements that he made in this House. The honorable member is in order in correcting any inaccuracies in that report.
– I have purposely made this explanation in defence of the members of the parliamentary delegation and myself as concise as possible. I am sure that there was nothing more than a pardonable error in transmission, and not an error in actual reporting. The word “ trader “ was recorded in the shorthand notes of the Sydney Morning Herald reporter and later was mutilated in transmission and was published as “ traitor “. This error caused me grave concern because it completely, although I believe innocently, misrepresented my attitude to General MacArthur and his head-quarters in Japan. Since I have never criticized General MacArthur and have nothing but the liveliest and warmest appreciation of his hospitality to the parliamentary delegation which visited J apan and of the great, inspired work that he is doing in- that country, I hastened to make a personal explanation in the House.
That brief, but, I hoped, adequate statement appeared in Hansard. A correction along the lines of my statement in the House appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and I believed the incident to have been closed with dignity and without rancour. However, the original garbled message got to Japan and was presented to General MacArthur for comment. The spokesman’s reply is as I have just read it to the House from the Australian Associated Press-Reuters cablegram. I should like to inform the House that I saw the original cable message last night by courtesy of the Melbourne Sun before it had appeared in any newspaper. I immediately prepared a statement setting out the facts as I am now giving them to the House. I saw the reportersof both the Sydney morning newspapers and told them of my statement being available in the press gallery. Neither the Sydney Morning Herald nor the Sydney Daily Telegraph used a word of it. In fact, the cablegram from Japan was entirely rewritten ia order to emphasize the point that there had been an attack on General MacArthur whereas there was in the offices of the newspapers concerned substantial evidence to the contrary. Since the garbled message has caused distress to me and to the members of the delegation I trust that this correction will be given as much publicity in ‘ Japan as was given to the original inaccurate statement. However, as I am not naive enough to believe that any cooperation in this matter will be given to me by the press I have arranged with Radio Australia . and the Australian Forces newspaper BOON to publish the facts in Japan. Because of the great public which these two Australian news mediums have in Japan, I am satisfied that the Supreme Commander and his staff will eventually know the truth.
– Is the Minister fer the Navy yet able to give any information with regard to the payment of prize money and when it is expected that such payment may be made? I ask this question at the request of the Ex-Naval Men’s Association of Tasmania.
– Questions similar to that asked by the honorable member have been addressed to me on several previous occasions. I am not yet in a position to announce when prize money will be paid. As I indicated on previous occasions, payment is dependent upon the outcome of certain litigation now taking place in Great Britain. Immediately that litigation is finalized due consideration will be given to the amount to be allocated to each member of the naval services entitled to payment of prize money.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether there is any truth in the statement which recently appeared in the press that all army nursing sisters are to be discharged at the end of December next ?
– There is no truth in that statement. Army nursing sisters are still engaged on duty in hospitals with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan and in training depots in Australia and they will be retained. However, some army nursing sisters who were sufficiently patriotic to agree to remain in the service of the Repatriation Commission until it could replace them with civilian nursing sisters, are anxious to be discharged, and that has probably given rise to the rumour mentioned. They will be discharged at their own request when they can be replaced.
– In view o°f the important statement of government policy on Palestine recently made by Mr. Hood, a departmental officer, can the Prime Minister say whether the Government intends to make similar important announcements on foreign policy in future at the United Nations or in the Australian Parliament? Before this important statement, which conflicted with British policy in regard to Palestine, was made by Mr. Hood, did any preliminary discussion take place with the United Kingdom Government? If not, will the Government ensure that in future the Government of the United Kingdom, will be consulted before statements are made on such important matters? If some of the present grave international issues led to war, we should undoubtedly fight shoulder to shoulder with Great Britain. Will the Prime Minister consider making a full report to the Parliament of important statements on foreign policy that are made at. the United Nations so that the Parliament and the people of Australia may know exactly what are the commitments of Australian policy instead of having to depend on condensed newspaper reports?
– The United Nations is concerned with the settlement of disputes in various parts of the world, and disputes come before it for discussion in Paris and at other places as they occur. The situation in Palestine and the future of that country have been the subject of a constant exchange of views between the Governments of the United Kingdom and Australia. Consultations on the matter have been proceeding since even prior to the decision of the President of the United States of America, Mr. Truman, and Field Marshal Smuts, of South Africa, to extend diplomatic recognition to the state of Israel. Australia, in concert with the Governments of the United
Kingdom and New Zealand, refrained from doing so. Many considerations affected our decision, but I do not think it would be wise at this stage to enter into such a lengthy detailed explanation as would be required to acquaint the House with them. The latest information I have received indicates that there is a very good possibility of a solution of the problem being devised. Considerable difficulty has been presented by the. disposition of the Negev area, which has been the subject of particular dispute between the Arabs and the Jews, but negotiations are proceeding which I hope will lead to a solution of even this difficult problem. I trust also that the differences in Greece will be settled amicably. I assure the right honorable gentleman that there has been a constant exchange of views between the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and myself concerning the Palestine situation. When I was abroad some months ago I took the opportunity to discuss the matter with the British Foreign Secretary. Mr. Bevin, and other Ministers. The adoption of the suggestion of the right honorable gentleman that statements should be made in the Parliament on all issues as they arise, would result in almost the entire time of the Parliament being thus occupied. It might even cause confusion and prove a hindrance to international discussions. [ have been asked to prepare a statement dealing with a number of international developments. I am examining that request, and hope to make a brief statement to the House before the forthcoming recess.
– I ask the Prime Minister to say whether the Australian Government has endorsed the action of its delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in affirming the right to freedom of expression and of opinion by every medium? Has the Government agreed to subscribe to the recommendation of the SubCommission on Freedom of Information and of the Press, including the right to gather, transmit and publish new? everywhere without fetters?
If so, will those principles be binding on the proposed Australian Broadcasting Control Board in exercising its powers under the Australian Broadcasting Act when it has been passed by this Parliament ?
– The Government does not need to subscribe to the recommendation of the United Nations SubCommission on Freedom of Information and of the Press or of any other body in order that Australians may be assured of those rights, because the Australian Labour party has always advocated and supported liberty of the subject and the principle of freedom to disseminate accurate information te- the people. At the same time, the Labour party has opposed licence, and the abuse of that right including the supply of misinformation to the public by persons who are expected to protect the liberty of the subject and freedom of expression. There has been no departure from that policy. If there isone principle more than any other that this party has stood for down the year.= and other people have tried to- suppress, it is that of complete freedom to express the truth, particularly when such expressions are backed by sincerity. I assure the honorable member for Reid that the Australian Government is entirely in accord with the recommendation of the SubCommission on Freedom of Information and of the Press, and agrees with tho action of its delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rightin affirming the right’ of freedom of expression by every medium. But it doe? not stand for licence to supply to the public misinformation, of which thi* country has had an undue quantity.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that yesterday, the Seamen’s Union decided to ban the transport of coal by sea to Victoria, and that th, Communist president of that organization, Mr. Elliott, has stated, in words reminiscent of those used by Lord Nelson while off Toulon, that Victoria will be blockaded? As this is a Commonwealth matter, will the Prime
Minister consult the Acting AttorneyGeneral with a view to prosecuting Mr. Elliott under an appropriate section of the Crimes Act, possibly section 24c or section 30c,, which deals with incitement? Meanwhile, will the Prime Minister take action to ensure that supplies of coal for essential services in Victoria will be maintained?
– I understand that Mr. Elliott, to whom the honorable member has referred, is the secretary of the Seamens Union. I do not know the name of the president of that organization, and I have not read any statement attributed to him, although last night I heard someone remark that Mr. Elliott had allegedly made a certain comment. The Minister for Shipping and Euel and I have no official knowledge of a threat to blockade Victoria by sea, or to an attempt to hold up deliveries of coal to that State. Large quantities of coal are arriving at the Dyke, at Newcastle, and are being loaded into ships that will transport it to other States.We shall certainly utilize those ships to full capacity. If coal cannot be unloaded in Victoria in a reasonable time, it will be sent to South Australia and other States.
– But Victoria requires coal.
– We shall not allow the ships to be idle. I am sure that the owners do not want them to be idle. The large quantities of coal that are being unloaded at the Dyke must be shipped without delay to other States. I shall certainly ask the Acting AttorneyGeneral to ascertain whether a statement threatening a blockade of Victoria by sea has been made, and, if it has, whether legal action can be taken against the person who has made it.
Training at Schofields Aerodrome.
Mr. WILLIAMS. I direct a question to the Minister for Air, in consequence of complaints that I have received from some of my constituents who live in the vicinity of the aerodrome at Schofields, which allege that aeroplane practices are being carried cut over a residential area and that aeroplanes are constantly “stunting”. Residents in the area ask that the Minister will take steps to ensure that aircraft exercises will be carried out over another adjacent area where there are thousands of acres on which there is neither property nor human life to be endangered. Will the Minister take steps to have this nuisance abated, and ascertain what can be done to ensure the safety of the people who live near the aerodrome?
– I have not heard previously of any complaint regarding “ stunting “ or low flying in the Schofields area. Men are constantly in training at the Royal Australian Air Force station at Richmond. During their training they naturally have to do all sorts of manoeuvres which people who live in the area probably regard as “ stunting “. The general rule is that trainees must keep aircraft beyond a specified minimum height and distance from built-up areas near their training field, and it is the duty of the commanding officer of the station to enforce observance of that rule. In view of the honorable members’ remarks I shall have inquiries made with a view to ensuring that air force orders shall be stricly enforced so that the people in the district will have no cause to complain of any nuisance.
– I base a question to the Minister for Repatriation on a published report that the British Government is buying motor cars and making them available free to certain temporarily and totally incapacitated ex-servicemen. Has the Minister or the Government considered making a similar gesture ? If the Government is not prepared to go as far as the British Government has gone, will the Minister at least ask it to consider waiving the imposition of import duties and/or sales tax on cars imported for such a purpose ?
– I have seen some press reports about a car of a new type that is being supplied free to British exservicemen who are double amputees and who have some special claim to have means of transport provided for them. I have received some information regarding the matter from the Australian
High Commissioner in London and I am studying it at the moment to see whether something can be done along similar lines in Australia. The problem here is the difficulty of obtaining motor cars that would be suitable for such a purpose.
– There is the Tait manual control equipment.
– That is so, but the existence of that equipment does not overcome the difficulty of obtaining motor cars, which are in short supply. However, as I have stated, I am studying the whole matter. Later I shall discuss it with the Cabinet and shall probably make a recommendation that something should be done for our incapacitated ex-servicemen similar to what is being done in Great Britain.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction state how many scholarships a year are being made available by the Australian National University? Are any such scholarships to be offered to State undergraduates as well as to graduates? When is it expected that building of any part of the Australian National University will commence?
– I cannot offhand supply the honorable member with the information he seeks about the number of scholarships that will be offered by the Australian National University, but I know that they will be available to undergraduates from all Australian universities. I shall obtain the information, and supply it to the honorable member as soon as possible. The first part of the building programme will be commenced this year, and the work will be carried through in stages. The rate of construction will depend upon the availability of building materials in the years to come, but it is hoped that great progress will be made towards the completion of the building during the next four or five years.
– In the absence of the Minister for External Territories, who is elsewhere, and of the Attorney-General, who also is elsewhere, I direct a question to the Prime Minister, and I shall be obliged if he can give me a short answer. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the ordinances of the Territory of Papua are in a chaotic state; so much so, that those officers who have to administer them are experiencing the greatest difficulty in doing so? What is being done to codify the ordinances or to consolidate them or put them into such a condition that not only officials, but also ordinary citizens, may know what are their legal rights and liabilities? Will the Prime Minister give what information he can on the subject? Will he, if necessary, appoint departmental officers to undertake the work of codification or consolidation, and if necessary appoint a committee of this House to supervise the whole work ?
– The ordinances of the Territory of Papua have been the subject of discussion between the Minister for External Territories, the Administrator of the Territory of Papua-New Guinea, Colonel Murray, and myself, on a number of occasions. I think it is true that some of the ordinances are out of date or require modifying in order to make them suitable for modern conditions. There has been delay because the bill dealing with the administration of the Territory of Papua-New Guinea, which we had hoped to put through the Parliament this session, has been held up because of certain matters which arose at the last meeting of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, and were later referred to the United Nations General Assembly. Last week, I examined the objections that had been raised, and the legislation, with perhaps some slight alteration, will be introduced either before the end of this sessional period or at the beginning of the next. However, if it is introduced during this sessional period it will not be carried past the second-reading stage. After the legislation has been passed, it is hoped that the ordinances will be remodelled where necessary.
– What is being done in the meantime?
– The position is being examined by the Administrator, and by the Minister for External Territories and his officers. As the honorable member knows, there is a large number of ordinances, and I have no doubt that some of them need modernizing and, in some instances, modifying.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House why it is that when a permanent officer of the Commonwealth Public Service is obliged to take furlough at short notice, there should elapse a period of six weeks before leave pay is approved, and a period of ten weeks before leave pay is paid? Is it not realized that such lengthy delays may cause anxiety or embarrassment to such officers, in the event of domestic emergency or illness? Would it not be possible to improve the manner of handling such approvals and payments, in order to obviate the long waiting periods?
– The general provisions relating to furlough, leave and associated matters are administered by the Public Service Board, having regard to the standards and conditions that have been laid down from time to time. It is desirable, of course, that both an officer’s department and the Public Service Board shall receive timely notice when an officer desires leave of absence for a lengthy period. In some instances, of course, special concessions are granted. I have not heard of any complaints having been made in this connexion. Doubtless the matter has now been raised in consequence of representations having been made to the honorable member. I shall be speaking to the chairman of the Public Service Board later this morning, and shall then ask him to look into the- matter generally and to let me have a report. When that report comes to hand I shall pass the information on to the honorable member.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statement that the Australian Agricultural Council considers it to be preferable to send Australian experts overseas to study soil conservation methods, rather than to bring over seas experts to this country, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether any Australian experts have yet been sent abroad for that purpose, and, if so, with what result? If Australian experts have not yet been sent abroad, when is it anticipated that the Commonwealth will take positive action in that regard in view of the urgent need for dealing with soil erosion on a national basis?
– As far as I am aware, no Australian experts have yet been, sent abroad foi- the purpose of studying soil conservation exclusively. However, the Government? of at least two of the States have recognized their responsibilities in this matter, and have appointed soil conservation boards. An obligation rests on the States to send their experts overseas to study methods for combating soil erosion, which is morta State than a Commonwealth function. The State Governments are in close contact with the immediate problem. The function of the Commonwealth is that of co-ordination and of assisting the States, all of which desire to retain their functions and oppose the intrusion of any Commonwealth authority, particularly in connexion with agriculture. The Commonwealth respects that point of view.
– The position in relation to water supplies for Townsville is becoming almost disastrous. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel recently advised me that the pipes that are required for the Townsville water scheme would be completed in three sections. The first section has been delivered to Townsville and the second section will be ready for delivery in the course of a few days. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel ask his colleague to do everything that lies within his limited powers in regard to shipping with a view to ensuring that a ship will be available to lift that section of piping as soon as it is ready for delivery?
– I shall be pleased to discuss with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel the provision of transport to convey the piping to Townsville as soon as it is made available by the manufacturers.
-Although I realize that the Commonwealth does not exercise any direct control over shipping, I nevertheless ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel to say what are the present functions of the Australian Shipping Board. Will the honorable gentleman also say whether the board can influence in any way the direction of Australian coastal shipping?
– That is a matter that requires a long explanation. I shall be pleased to have one prepared for the honorable member as soon as possible.
Australians in Japan.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether members of the Royal Australian Air Force serving with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force are being discharged in Japan? If so, upon what terms and in what circumstances are such members discharged and, in the case of married men, is it always necessary to have their wives’ consent ?
– I have not heard of any members of the Royal Australian Air Force serving in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force being discharged in Japan. However, I shall ascertain whether they are. The honorable member has asked me whether it is necessary to have the wives’ consent, but he has not said to what they should consent.
– To the discharge of their husbands in Japan.
– I shall ascertain the facts and furnish a reply to the honorable gentleman.
– Before I address a question to the Prime Minister, I desire to give particulars of a case that I have had to deal with in my electorate. A man, after many year in the carrying business, decided to go on a farm. He approached a trading bank and was told that it could not finance him in the purchase of a farm because he possessed two houses, the combined value of which was about £2,000. He was informed that he would have to sell his houses before he could approach the bank, because of the restrictions imposed upon the bank by Commonwealth policy. I now ask the Prime Minister: Is it Commonwealth, policy to prevent people of small means, such as the man I have mentioned, from acquiring farms? Is it the policy of the Commonwealth Bank, through the Government, or of the Government through the Commonwealth Bank, to compel people to dispose of a couple of small houses and such like in order to become eligible to obtain a mortgage from an ordinary trading bank? If that is Commonwealth policy, will the Prime Minister have it reviewed in order to ensure that these inequities shall not be allowed to persist ? The property owner to whom I have referred was compelled to sell his houses at a price much below their real market value at the time.
-The Commonwealth Bank, as the central bank controlling the over-all issue of credit, consulted the private banks and finally laid down a standard policy to be followed by them in the making of advances. That, so far as I know, does not relate to small advances such as that referred to by the honorable gentleman, but was intended to arrest the wide expansion of credit that was occurring and was having a strong inflationary effect. I do not think there is any disputation between the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks, or any of those qualified to express an opinion, about the desirability of some limitation being imposed on the expansion of credit. The statement of the policy sent by the Commonwealth Bank to the private banks has been in their hands for a considerable time. As far as I know, there has been no complaint about that policy. The policy has, indeed, been defended by some of the people who are associated with the private banks. The honorable member has referred to a man who is not financially sound enough to purchase a farm without financial assistance. I cannot imagine that what the honorable gentleman has’ said represents the facts of the case.
– They are the facts, all right. I shall supply the Prime Minister with the details.
– If the honorable gentleman will give me in confidence the name of the man concerned I shall have full inquiries made and supply him with a confidential answer.
– I shall do so.
– It is not my business to inquire into the private affairs of people.
Lossof Aircraft “ Lutana “ : Report of Air Courtof Inquiry.
– by leave - I lay on the table the following papers dealing with the loss of the DC3 aircraft Lutana owned and operated by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited near Crawney Pass in New South Wales on the evening of the 2nd September, 1948 :-
Attached to the report is a plan showing the course which, in the opinion of the court, was followed by the Lutana on the night in question.
At paragraph 34 of the report, the court expressed the opinion that the pilot of the Lutana could not have got on the course that he did without at least two of the aids available to him having misled him. The aids referred to are -
The reasons given for the belief that the radio range at Kempsey was wrongly broadcasting an “ on-course “ signal arises from an experience when such did happen on the 15th September, thirteen days after the accident. This particular circumstance resulted, it was found, from the failure of a broken spring operating a plunger contact. The radio range equipment throughout the Commonwealth has been in operation for over nine years and in the whole of that time this particular fault has not previously developed and neither its effect on the resulting signal emitted from the transmitter nor on the control meter was known. However, it was observed and reported by a pilot when it occurred on the15th September, and the troublewas soon found. The suggestion by the court that this particular fault developed on the night of the 2nd September can only be logically accepted -
I find it very difficult to believe that captains of aircraft who relied on the radio range for their passage in bad weather conditions that evening and reached their destinations without incident could all have failed to notice, had Kempsey been broadcasting a signal which the court suggests might have contributed to putting another pilot on a’ wrong course. It is to be noted that the court states that it is not justified in saying more than that this was a strong possibility, and in these circumstances I feel that the findings of the court in this respect must be said to be inconclusive. For these reasons, and because the court made certain recommendations in other matters which came to its notice during the inquiry, I directed that its report should be carefully examined.
As to the accident itself, I am now advised by the Director-General of Civil Aviation that, with the further evidence now available to him as the result of the court’s inquiry, he can only find one set of conditions which would logically account for the course taken by the Lutana and the action and reports of its captain on the night of the 2nd September. That set of conditions is that not only was the magnetic compass in the aircraft out of adjustment but that the radio range receiver was also out of action, and that the captain of the aircraft was without its aid throughout the flight. The court, at paragraph 25, -states that the principal navigation aid available to a captain of an aircraft is “ of course the radio range “. The radio range receiver is fitted in the aircraft and it is not possible to say from the parts recovered whether it was working. The court at paragraph 35 concludes that the radio range receiver was working correctly -
Because if it were not working, Captain Drummond would have, I think, reported that he was not receiving the radio range transmission and would have asked if the transmitter was out of order. He sent no such message.
Yet on the course which the court finds the Lutana followed, there was a period of some 36 minutes during which the aircraft was flying between Kingston and Bundella and when the captain of the Lutana was in an area where neither Kempsey nor Mascot radio range transmissions could possibly have reached him ; but he made no report of the fact that he was not receiving radio range signals. No other condition than that the radio range receiver in the aircraft was not functioning can explain the fact that having proceeded for a distance of 170 miles from Kyogle, which should have placed him in the vicinity of Kempsey, and therefore receiving signals of maximum strength, the pilot was in fact at Kingston some 110 miles further west where he was outside the “broadcast range of* Kempsey and could not have been receiving signals therefrom. Further, after reporting his position as at Williamtown, obtaining permission from Flight Control at Mascot to descend from 6,000 to 4,000 feet, and being instructed to do so “ on the range “ he made no reference to not receiving radio range signals, although we now know that he was at that time some 135 miles west of the track and could not receive radio range signals, and he did descend whilst flying in a direction almost at right angles to that of the range. Further, whilst following that course, Control at Mascot inquired from him whether he was endeavouring to contact them, and he replied that he was not. At this time he could not have been receiving the range signals but made no comment on it to Control at Mascot.
The court suggests, at paragraph 63, that for the period when the Lutana should have been south of Kempsey, and was not receiving radio range signals, the pilot probably believed himself to be in the gap between the southern leg of the Kempsey range and the northern leg of the Mascot range. This is not understandable for the reason that at a height of 6,000 feet, at which he was flying, there is no gap between these two radio ranges. A further suggestion that the radio range receiver on the aircraft may have been out of action is found from the fact that when the Lutana landed at Brisbane on its flight from northern Queensland, the captain reported that the radio range receiver was not working properly. The instrument then fitted was removed and another substituted. That which was removed was subsequently found on test to have no fault. The new one installed in the Lutana for its flight to Sydney was tested on the ground and found to be working correctly. In other words, both receivers, when tested on the ground, functioned correctly, but the first, when in the air, failed to do so. The failure of a receiver of this kind is not necessarily limited to the receiving set, and there is a strong suggestion in this case that as the receiver itself revealed no fault, its failure to receive signals on the journey to Brisbane was to be found in the wiring and other fixtures fitted permanently into the aircraft, which, of course, would not be removed when the receiver was replaced, and the captain of the aircraft would not be aware of such a fault until he was in the air.
It is interesting to observe from the transcript of evidence that counsel assisting the court, in his final address, referred to the defects of the Kempsey range as being merely a remote possibility, and counsel for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited thought that little reliance could be placed on the theory that the radio range was not functioning on the night of the accident. In view of all these facts, I find it difficult to believe that the Kempsey range failed to function normally on the night of the 2nd September, and believe that there is evidence to support the strongest possibility that the second navigational aid which had failed was the radio range receiver in the aircraft.
At paragraph 120 the court makes certain recommendations on matters arising out of the hearing of the court in the present case. As to these, dealing with the provision and operation of navigational aids from the ground, in relation to the monitoring of the radio ranges, at paragraphs 51 and 53 the court refers to the steps taken by the radio operators to ensure that the radio ranges continue to function correctly and recommends that a monitoring system be immediately installed which gives a positive alarm when any fault occurs, particularly when such faults cause the range to bend or circumscribe the station. At present, radio operators are required to check their equipment every 30 minutes and to make an entry in their log that this has been done, and indicate the results. The court suggests that it would be possible for the equipment to go out of action immediately following a check and, without being noticed by the operator, to return to normal functioning prior to the next half-hourly check.
A reference is made at paragraph 49 to the means for making this check and to the use of lights for that purpose. The lights referred to were fitted in the design of the original equipment for purposes to which it is not applied in Australia and were never intended to indicate the correct operation of the apparatus under the conditions dealt with in this report. These lights are not in a circuit which would give such indication, and in fact it would be possible for the lights to indicate that the equipment was functioning in a normal condition whereas the equipment could be broadcasting the “ on-course “ signal to all points of the compass. The only means of noting correct operation is by observation of the milliamp meter built into that portion of the set designed for the special purpose of monitoring. As already stated, this equipment has been in use for over nine years and nothing has occurred previously which would indicate the necessity for more frequent monitoring; but in view of the court’s recommendation, steps have been taken, in consultation with Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited, to produce an alarm which will indicate malfunctioning immediately. In the meantime, a quarter-hour monitoring has been instituted. The new equipment now being installed throughout the Commonwealth contains an automatic monitoring device.
In respect of the use of modern radar aids in lieu of relying on pilot’s reports and consideration of what navigational aids should be substituted for the present radio ranges, at paragraph 88 the court levels a criticism at the department for -
Not using the modern scientific aids which were discovered and used during the war, that they are requiring information from the pilot which should be known to them or which could be obtained by them accurately and instantaneously from the ground without choking the communications channels.
The aids referred to are the radar and other applications of the cathode ray tube. As is well known these aids were developed during the war to meet the needs of war and without regard to cost of production or operation and irrespective of the manpower demand involved. These considerations, however, cannot be similarly ignored in peace. To install these aids to cover the extensive airways network in Australia would involve expenditure and man-power of such a magnitude as to make it impossible for any nation of 7,500,000 people to consider.
Australia, favoured as it is with good flying weather, would hardly find justification to be the first to install aids such as are referred to. No other nation has yet attempted to do so. In any case it is very doubtful, and by no means accepted by aeronautical authorities, whether it is wise that the responsibility for the navigation of an aircraft from one point to another shall be transferred from the captain of that aircraft to a ground control. Such a process is entirely opposed to all experience.
At paragraphs 103-105 the court makes reference to the radio aids and recommends that before any further installations are made by the department, a committee of experts from both within and without the department be appointed to advise it. The court is here referring to the approval already given by Cabinet and work now under way to replace the present 33 megacycle radio ranges with radio ranges operating on 112 magacycles.
There is some suggestion by the court, and this was given considerable press publicity at the time of the hearing of the court, that the new equipment now being installed is already out of date, and it is suggested by the court at paragraph 104 that it is-
Left with the impression from the evidence that now the main reason for their installa tion is that they have been obtained and are in Australia.
It is obvious that the matter of radio facilities must be considered on an international basis, for it would not be in the interests of air transport as a whole nor of the local aeronautical authority if one system of radio communication or navigation were established and maintained for domestic services whilst another was provided for international operation. The matter has, therefore, been the subject of considerable discussion and examination in the International Civil Aviation Organization, which has given thought to not only what may be desirable but also what is already in existence and practical. It is realized by the aeronautical authorities of the world that an equipment of this sort manufactured to-day to a specification which has been the subject of trial and experiment may be termed obsolete tomorrow by reason of the results of continued experiments that, have taken place in the laboratory during the time of manufacture of the equipment now in existence. For these reasons, the International Civil Aviation Organization has decided that a particular equipment, once’ adopted for general international use, shall be retained for ,i stated period before replacement. The International Civil Aviation Organization has recommended the 112 megacycle equipment to be standard for international purposes until 1955. The equipment which is now in Australia’s possession and being installed to replace the 33 megacycle ranges is the 112 megacycle radio range.
The court in its report refers to (a) the 112 megacycle four course range: (&) the American omni-directional range; and (c) the Australian multiple track range. As to the latter, this was set up by representatives of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Canada last year, when the International Civil Aviation Organization was conducting trials in order to come to a decision as to the type of equipment it should recommend. As a result of those trials, the 112 megacycle ranges were recommended. This leaves the court’s reference to the 112 megacycle fourcourse range and the American omnidirectional range giving the impression that the latter is of a frequency different from that of the former. This is not correct, for both of these equipments are of 112 megacycle frequency and the character of their signal is the same, the only difference being in the method of direction of the broadcast. The first transmits a signal or track in four directions, the latter in a number of directions according to desire.
This question of the number of tracks along which a signal for the purpose of guiding aircraft is transmitted is obviously related to the nature of the traffic to be handled.
It must be borne in mind that the omni-directional range involves the addition to the present four-course range of certain components and alterations to the aerial which would result in a more complicated mechanism, and obviously there would be no call to install such equipment at places such as those on the route between Adelaide and Darwin or between Adelaide and Kalgoorlie and many other places where the needs of the traffic are fully met by the simpler four-course transmitter. On the other hand, the omni-directional broadcast is the one agreed upon for international use and as far back as February, 1947, the Commonwealth agreed with the International Civil Aviation Organziation to provide this system of broadcast at the agreed international airports and alternates. This agreement covers most of Australia’s points of dense traffic, but in any case the ‘four-course range can be modified to omni-directional at little cost whenever or wherever traffic so demands.
It is quite wrong to suggest that the equipment now being installed is either obsolete or is being so installed merely because it is already in the possession of the Commonwealth. It is the type of equipment which has been recommended as standard for international purposes until 1955.
Dealing with minimizing the records that should be kept by radio operators the court makes reference to the amount of work involved in the recording cf messages received over the aeradio system. In so far as these are concerned with air traffic control they will be almost eliminated on the institution of the new system, and whilst such messages must berecorded by radio operators there is noneed for their duplication in the signal log. It would appear that instructions already existing are not being observed at Mascot, and steps have been taken toeliminate such duplication.
Regarding the installation of mort radio beacons, the court considers thateach reporting point should be one at which the pilot is able to fix his position by radio and recommends that radio beacons should be installed for such purpose (paragraph 89). This matter is being examined in conjunction with the recommendation of the court that the number of position reporting: points should be reduced (paragraph S9 (b) (&).)
With reference to air traffic control, after discussing certain details of the operation of the air traffic control system now in operation at Mascot, the court recommends at paragraph 80 that a new and better system be installed immediately. Reference is made to the use of” blackboards, report forms, &c. The problem of air traffic control has existed for many years, but it was not until the conclusion of hostilities that it was possible for the Department to build upanything more than a very bare nucleus of staff to deal with it. Consequently, the principal work’ in this connexion hasbeen accomplished during the last twoyears as personnel with the requisite experience became available from the fighting services. This development has had to take place during a time when there was a tremendous growth in civil air transport services, and the court draws attention to this fact at paragraph 100.
The problem of providing for thesafety of the increasing air traffic operated with fast modern aircraft is one that has faced most nations of the world and none has yet devised a scheme which can be said to be thoroughly satisfactory toitself or to anyone else. The most extensive experience has been obtained in the United States cf America where airtransport services have been widely developed. Realizing that the system in use, although meeting the needs of Australia, to the extent indicated by the- freedom from accidents over the past several years, was becoming inadequate to meet the ever-increasing traffic, the department took steps some six months ago to replace the present system with a more efficient one. In August cf this year, officers of the department were sent to examine the system in operation in the United States, and the civil aeronautics administration there sent an officer to Australia to assist in its development here. A staff has been employed on the details of this system which must necessarily include instructions for everyone employed in it, so that an immediate and efficient change-over from the present to the new can take place. Because of the decision to introduce a new system of control all available personnel have been applied to it and it is hoped to replace the present system completely within the next six to nine months. Consequently, although certain statements by the court as to the usefulness or necessity, for their purpose, cf particular parts of the present equipment cannot be agreed with, it is recognized that the system, as a whole, must be improved to handle increasing traffic and steps are in hand towards that end.
At paragraph 96 the court states -
It would appear that the department is more concerned with the separation of traffic in the air with the view to preventing collision than with the safety of individual aircraft - and at paragraph 84: -
That the lessons learned from the Kyeema inquiry have been forgotten.
The Kyeema inquiry dealt with conditions existing ten years ago, when there were no navigational aids and the court at that time endeavoured to indicate a plan under which pilots in the air could get assistance from the ground. Since then, captains of aircraft have been given the means, first, to maintain their track by use of the radio range and, secondly, to check their position by means of the radio compass and by V.H.F. marker beacons. The conditions which were considered at the time of the Kyeema inquiry therefore no longer exist.
The statement that the department has lost sight of safety in its attention to avoiding collision is difficult to understand. The air traffic control organization established by the department has one aim only - that is, the safety of aircraft. This control system is based on a general division of responsibilities into two parts - (a) that which handles the traffic departing from and arriving at terminals, that is, that in the vicinity of airports; (b) that which deals with traffic en route, that is, that which has left the vicinity of airports.
The duties of the staff referred to at (a) are carried out by means of verbal contact with individual aircraft until they have left the vicinity of the airport or have landed at it. As to those at (6), having installed radio ranges, it is obvious that traffic making use of them must follow a similar track and consequently the predominant problem then is avoidance of collision. If the radio range is used by aircraft on the principal air routes, they must of necessity be proceeding in a space control by the width of the beam, and so long as there is no failure of equipment the only problem confronting the control of staff is that of collision. This staff does, in addition, redirect traffic to alternate aerodromes when necessary, but whilst the duty of avoiding collision is ever present, the second duty develops only under conditions of bad weather.
The whole idea of air traffic control i3 safety and nothing else. There are nine flight information centres in the air traffic control system covering the Commonwealth, and the work of that staff is devoted entirely to safety as distinct from traffic separation and avoidance of collision. The general problem of air traffic control is not so simple as may be inferred from paragraphs 94 and 95 of the court’s report. It is not the department’s responsibility to control the detailed schedules of every operator which must be considered by operators with regard to traffic offering, the convenience of the travelling public as to times of departures and arrivals as well as the comfort of passengers. The suggestion that captains of aircraft may, under suitable weather conditions, be permitted to leave the radio range could only be applied if good weather could be guaranteed throughout the whole route; and it also suggests discarding what the court has already referred to as the principal navigational aid. However, the daily traffic of operating companies must be handled on those occasions when consideration could not possibly be given to allowing captains of aircraft to leave the radio range course. The suggestion is not one which, in my opinion, having regard to public safety, could he generally accepted.
With respect to the reconsideration of reporting stations, the court at paragraph 89 of its report suggests that the number of points at which pilots are required to report should be reduced to a minimum consistent with safety. The number of such reporting points on any particular route must necessarily be decided after having regard to the density of traffic and the nature and performance of the aircraft on that route; that is, the introduction of the Convair, with a much higher speed than other aircraft previously in use, demands a reconsideration of the numbers and places of necessary reporting stations. However, the principle is sound and one which will certainly be followed by the department. The suggestion by the court that broadcasting stations might be used in lieu of transmitters installed especially for air traffic purposes seems to introduce grave possibilities of misdirection, especially when programmes are relayed from other stations, but this matter, as well as that dealing with the question of additional beacons, is being examined.
The closest approach to a system which, in effect, is a three-dimensional display of aircraft as suggested by the court at paragraph 92 was that developed in the United Kingdom for the air defence of Great Britain. This is a system designed for bringing our own aircraft into a position to attack hostile aircraft. It involves a most elaborate system of radar stations with communications therefrom to a central point and the employment of large numbers of people. It has been tried in London, since the cessation of hostilities, in handling civil air transport traffic there; but our latest information is that it is being abandoned. It is difficult to understand why the court says that -
There is nothing at Mascot which will disclose to the flight control officer visually the position of aircraft when they are flying a diversion from the radio range at the commencement of their journey.
There is installed at Mascot a radar equipment developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research which does just that, and on several occasions pilots have been checked by it when not following the correct course.
Dealing with the necessity for a flight checking officer with new duties, the court at paragraph 96 suggests that the present organization might be improved, if there were an official at the major aerodromes whose duty was to watch the flow of traffic as known from the ground thus separating that duty from that of collision prevention. Proposals for such an appointment were discussed with representatives of the Public Service Board in March last, the plan being to establish the post as from the 1st January, 1949. Steps will be taken, in accordance with the recommendation of the court, to do so earlier.
At paragraph 116 of its report the court recommends that the present practice under which reference is made to the operating company before an aircraft, operated by it is considered lost and a search and rescue procedure instituted, be eliminated. The original idea of this provision was to ensure that the department and the operating company cooperated in the search but there is no objection to its being eliminated insofar as domestic services are concerned. In passing, I should explain that as far as international services are concerned it is essential to provide air search and rescue under the provisions of the International Convention on Air Navigation. At paragraph 90 the court recommends that the Manual of Awr Traffic Control be amended to provide that action be taken to obtain position reports from aircraft “ as soon as possible and in any case, within (some determined period) “ in place of “within a reasonable length of time “. The department concurs in that recommendation and action in this direction has now been taken. Efforts are continuously being made to improve the accommodation of staffs which have been built up since the war and for whom adequate accommodation is not already available.
At paragraph 107 the court comments on the height marking on the present aeronautical maps issued in Australia. The general nature of maps for aeronautical purposes was decided after discussion by the International Convention on Air Navigation in 1919, and it was decided that the method of showing heights should be by layer tinting. Insofar as Australia is concerned these maps had necessarily to be prepared from surveys carried out for other purposes, and the information contained on them has been derived from various sources. On to these maps were superimposed layer tinting and information regarding radio aids and landing grounds and, in addition, heights were inserted where they were known. No authority claims that all, or even the highest peak in the district, are so marked. The court recommends that the highest peak in the vicinity should be marked and this is considered thoroughly sound and every endeavour will be made to adopt this principle. However, the question arises as to whether or not any heights should be shown when there is any doubt as to its being the highest. This matter is being further investigated. It may be of interest to note here that, recognizing that the information on the present maps is incomplete, the department some time ago took steps to prepare what are known as terrain clearance charts for each of the approved air routes, and for similar reasons it is a practice to approve flight under instrument flight rules at not less than 1,000 feet above the highest ground within 25 miles on either side of the route. 1’t is also of interest to note that on the particular route which covers the area under consideration by the court, that is, that from Sydney to Tamworth, operation is approved only on visual flight rules.
At paragraph 112 the court refers to the withholding of certain evidence from the court, by a witness, on the instruction of a senior officer. The court subsequently agrees that this advice did not emanate from any desire to mislead the court but was given in the belief that the evidence concerned was irrelevant and I mention this reference only because a great deal of publicity was given to the matter during the hearing of the case.
At paragraph 114 the court recommends that provision be made for an air accidents investigation committee to be presided over by an officer of another department, and suggests that this might be an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department. It is stated that this recommendation is in no sense intended to be a criticism of the Air Accidents Committee, which investigated the Lutana accident most thoroughly, most promptly and in the fullest detail. The present organization provides within the Department of Civil Aviation certain accident investigation officers who must necessarily be officers of wide flying experience. In addition, there is provision for the setting up of an Air Court of Inquiry such as the present one in cases where the reports of those accident inspectors do not adequately cover the investigation of an accident, and when it is considered that some useful purpose might be served by a further inquiry by a court.
It is obvious that to carry his responsibilities, one of which is to endeavour to ascertain the reasons for any aircraft accident, the Director-General of Civil Aviation must have available to him officers with the necessary experience and with the knowledge of the department as well as of the whole field of civil aviation within Australia. The recommendation is made on the grounds that the inspectors of accidents may be influenced by senior officers within the department to whom they are responsible. The fact is however, that those officers are responsible to no officer in the Department of Civil Aviation, except the DirectorGeneral himself, to whom they report direct. The causes of the majority of accidents are comparatively clear to experienced airmen, and in such cases’ there is no need to set up an investigating committee. The present organization in Australia is similar to that established in the United Kingdom, and it has been proved satisfactory over a. period of many years. It would be quite unwieldy and unnecessary to have (<z) inspectors within the department, (b) an air accidents investigation committee and (c) an air court of inquiry.
At paragraph 117 the court recommends that consideration be given as to whether an airline aircraft should carry two magnetic compasses. This matter. will be pursued having regard to all the facts which led to the recommendation.
At paragraph 119 the court recommends that the facts reported in Incident Reports should be compared with the logs of transmitting stations, &c, when appropriate, and that the submission of these reports be strictly policed. This matter is now being pursued, and for that purpose an Assistant Superintendent of Air Accident Studies has been appointed. The explanation given and information furnished in the statement I have made does not purport to embrace every detail but does cover, I think, the main features of a very lengthy report.
I move -
That the papers be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Brief Review of Australia’s manufacturing economy in the post-war period.
The review has been prepared by the Division of Industrial Development of my department. It gives details of the actual development which has occurred in each of the important classes of Australian industry since the end of the war. It shows that plans for new capital investment in manufacturing between September, 1945, and June, 1948, involved expenditure which totalled approximately £144,000,000. Among the overseas companies which became associated with new or expanding enterprises in Australia during the period were 129 from the United Kingdom, 87 from the United States of America, five from Canada and two from Sweden. New manufacturing projects announced between September, 1945, and June, 1948, totalled 1,672. By far the greatest expansion occurred in heavy industry, in which class 522 new projects were announced.
The development of Australia’s manufacturing strength is shown by an increase of 29 per cent, of the number of factories in this country between 1938-39 and 1946-47. During the same period the number of persons employed increased by 42 per cent. The value of factory production in 1946-47, which amounted to £412,945,000, was an alltime record, and doubled the value of factory production in 1938-39.
The review gives a great deal of valuable information regarding the decentralization of industry, economic trends in manufacturing, technical and financial assistance to industry, research and overseas markets. I, therefore, warmly commend this document to honorable members on both sides of the House. It gives a picture of remarkable expansion, and shows that manufacturers, both here and abroad, have every confidence in the stability of this country and in its future as a progressive industrial nation. Whilst most of the expansion has come from within Australia, the number of overseas companies which have become associated with new ventures here is highly significant, particularly as some of them are among the most important manufacturers in their class of industry in the world and are makers of products of wide reputation. I move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to continue the operation of the National Security (War Damage to Property) Regulations for the purpose of the completion of matters arising under those regulations.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to continue in operation the existing National Security (War Damage to Property) Regulations, which are at present in force by virtue of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act 1946-1947. Further legislative authority is necessary to cover the period during which the War Damage Scheme is to be wound up, and as some outstanding matters may not be brought to finality for some considerable time, it is thought that substantive legislation is preferable to a further extension of the regulations under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. Until the end of September last, the scheme was administered by the War Damage Commission, which was established shortly after the regulations were promulgated early in 1942. As, by September, the volume of outstanding claims did not warrant a continuance of the commission, it was disbanded, and its powers and functions were transferred to the Treasurer. The claims on which action is incomplete will be finalized by a war damage section within the Treasury. The final report of the commission will be tabled in the House as soon as possible. I commend the bill to honorable members for favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
– I move -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
I have explained to the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) that an opportunity will be given as soon as is practicable to debate the motion of disagreement with a ruling of Mr. Deputy Speaker that appears on the notice-paper.
– In order to place the matter in its proper perspective, I inform honorable members that I have discussed this matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who has given an assurance that before the House rises for the Christmas recess it will be given an opportunity to debate some of the notices of motion under general business, including the motion of disagreement with a ruling of Mr. Deputy Speaker that appears on the notice-paper. However, I respectfully point out to the right honorable gentleman that that is not the most important notice of motion included in the general business on the notice-paper; the most important matter in the opinion of members of the Opposition is decidedly the notice of motion of want of confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– I include that matter in the assurance which I have already given to the Acting Leader of the Opposition.
– Then I am quite satisfied. The Prime Minister has given an assurance that we shall be able to debate both the motions which concern Mr. Deputy Speaker, and, in return, the Opposition will be pleased to assist theright honorable gentleman to-morrow,
Mr. ANTHONY (Richmond) [11.55J. - The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) should make a statement to the House about the proposed course of business during the next week or fortnight. Yesterday, he submitted a motion for the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule, and the implication of that action is that honorable members will be asked to sit late at night and possibly all night before the recess. As is well known, debates during an all-night sitting lose a great deal of their point and interest. It is legislation by exhaustion. I realize that the Government has the problem of disposing of its business in a certain time, but the Opposition is entitled to an opportunity to discuss controversial matters of public importance. The Opposition expresses the views of a large section of the community, and, therefore, should be given an adequate opportunity to express . itsopinions on controversial measures, such as the redistribution proposals, at a time when the people are able to listen to the broadcasts of proceedings.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are outside the scope of the motion.
– I do not propose to wander from the point. I ask the Prime Minister to confer with the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader df the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) with a view to arranging that important bills shall not be discussed late at night.
– in reply - I assure the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) that an opportunity will be provided for a debate on the objection that has been taken to a ruling by Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am perfectly willing to accede to the request by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that I consult with the Acting Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), provided that the purpose of such consultation is to expedite the despatch of business.
– Members of the Opposition are prepared to sit until Christmas in order that the business of the House may receive proper consideration.
– I am prepared to try to make Christmas a movable feast, if necessary. A number of bills have yet to be received from the Senate, but I consider that only four or five bills on the notice-paper will be the subject of great interest or lengthy debate. It was hoped at one time that the House would rise by the 3rd December, but that does notseem possible at the moment. I am not anxious to encourage all-night sittings. The parliamentary staffs, particularly the Hansard staff and the Government Printer, have had a long and strenuous session. Somebody told me that this session has been in progress for about three months, but the fact that we have been meeting on four days a week, and Wednesday is a long day, makes the period seem much longer than. that. A heavy strain has been imposed on the parliamentary staffs, and I am not anxious to burden them further with all-night sittings, if they can be avoided. Of course, there is no reason why we should not have a supper at midnight occasionally, and continue the sitting for several hours. At the moment, it does not seem possible to dispose of the business on the noticepaper before the 10th December. I am quite willing to consult with the Acting Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party about the advisability of dealing with hills of considerable public importance during the day or in the evening rather than in the small hours of the morning. Some bills, such as the War Damage to Property Bill, are merely machinery measures, and should not require discussion. I am in favour of any consultations which will expedite the business of the House.
– We shall take a vow of silence on the minor bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Egg Export Control Act 1947.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave-I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This amendment is designed to preserve the rights of any permanent officer of the Commonwealth Public Service who may be appointed as a member of the Australian Egg Board constituted under the Egg Export Control Act 1947. A similar provision is already incorporated in the act in relation to employees of the Australian Egg Board, and, in fact, of all statutory boards and commissions. It has been found desirable, in a number of instances, to permit a departmental officer, who, in his official capacity, has been closely associated with the development and formation of an industry organization, to continue with that organization in an executive capacity. The officer so concerned with the Australian Egg Board has been acting as the chairman, and, therefore, it is desired to make provision for his continuing in such a capacity without prejudicing his rights as a permanent officer of the Public Service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend section 38 of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1947 in order to provide, should the ex-serviceman or his widow so desire, for the continuance of the insurance of a dwelling house effected in pursuance of the act after the liability of the purchaser or borrower has been repaid. It will also permit the reinsurance of a dwelling-house in respect of which the liability has been repaid and the insurance terminated in consequence, provided the ex-serviceman or his widow remains the owner and desires again to insure the home under the war service homes insurance scheme. Provision is also made for the personal representative of a deceased exserviceman or of his widow to continue the insurance until such time as the property is disposed of in accordance with the laws of administration or probate. In proposing the extension of the provisions of the act in the manner which I have mentioned, the Government has taken into consideration requests made by individual ex-servicemen, and ex-servicemen’s associations for the continuance of the insurance, or the reinsurance of their homes under the act, which affords a satisfactory comprehensive cover against damage or loss. The bill will add a further benefit to ex-servicemen and their widows, and I feel sure that it will meet with the unqualified approval of all honorable members.
This bill will enable ex-servicemen or their widows who have built homes under the War Service Homes Act, and have discharged their liability, to effect a financial saving. At present, the act provides that such persons must discontinue insuring their homes under the war service homes insurance plan. The insurance rates under the act are approximately 50 per cent, of those charged by the tariff companies for a comprehensive cover. It is greatly to be regretted that when I endeavoured to move the second reading of the bill after I had introduced it yesterday, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who always claims that he desires to assist ex-servicemen, used the forms of the House to prevent me from proceeding.
– That is a despicable statement.
– I rise to order. Is it not a fact that the- honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) used the forms of the House to object to the Minister proceeding with the second reading of the bill at that stage because he was not ready to consider it?
– No point of order is involved. It is a pity that an honorable member should attempt to prevent the introduction of a measure, but such matters can be answered in later debate.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 23rd November (vide page 3344), on motion by Mr. Calwell -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I support the bill and shall make some observations on it, -but before dealing with it I desire to make a few remarks concerning some of the statements made last night by honorable members opposite. Honorable members heard the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) refer to “ nationalization “, “ socialization “, and “ dramatization “ in a most dramatic and Shakespearean fashion. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) commenced his speech by making what I regard as an unparliamentary expression. All I have to say at the moment regarding that is that I suggest that he should have an X-ray of himself. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) was the only one of the three Opposition speakers whom I mentioned who confined his remarks to the bill. The other two honorable gentlemen made only passing reference to it. I support the bill because I am conscious of the fact that we in this country are on the eve of great developments in radio broadcasting. Honorable members know full well that no consideration has been given to any change in the control of broadcasting in this country since its inception about 25 years ago and as we are on the eve of great developments, it is essential for the Government to review the whole subject of broadcasting control. Is it to that end that the present measure has been introduced. It will amend the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942-46, and will have as its purposes, first, the creation of an Australian Broadcasting Control Board; secondly, the improvement and strengthening of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and, thirdly, the financing of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the future, having regard to the work that that body will be expected to perform.
By establishing the Australian Broadcasting Control Board the legislation will set up machinery to provide for the efficient, co-ordinated control of broadcasting in Australia. The board will assume some of the functions that have been and are still exercised by the PostmasterGeneral. The board, which will comprise three members, will co-ordinate broadcasting in Australia and place it on a proper footing. It will also deal with the installation and operation of the technical equipment of all stations, both national and commercial. Its purpose will he to see that the interests of the listeners are protected. That is indeed the primary purpose for which the board is to be created. It will ensure that the listening public shall receive the service from radio to which it is entitled. The hoard will also supervise programmes. The protection of the interests of listeners will be the major function of the board, to which exception has been taken by honorable members opposite. Before I conclude my speech, I propose to deal with developments in broadcasting in other parts of the world. The board, while performing its function of supervising all broadcasting in Australia, will be available for consultation by both the national and commercial stations. If the board, for instance, considers that certain improvements in broadcasting are necessary and what it proposes to take action which will effect the national and commercial stations, those interested can come forward and make suggestions to the board, and the whole matter can be ironed out there and then and dealt with expeditiously. The board will .take action to ensure that programmes shall be reasonable both as to duration and to variety and above all to ensure that adequate provision shall be made for the broadcasting of divine worship. Honorable members know that at times a number of stations broadcast the same event. As I have said, the listening public is entitled to the best service that can be provided by broadcasting, and it may be necessary for the board to consider whether or not a certain number of stations should broadcast the same event. The board may decide that the broadcasting of that event shall be confined to one or two stations, while the other stations provide an alternative programme for listeners. In brief, the purposes of the bill are: (1) to see that the interests of the listeners are protected by ensuring the provision of programmes that a.re varied and of adequate duration ;
In the early stages of its career, it suspended hundreds of licences. It has controlled broadcasting in the United States with an iron fist, to the great benefit of the American listening public. It is not correct to say that because under the present measure, the power to cancel or suspend a radio station’s licence is to remain with the Minister, the democratic control of broadcasting in this country will he interfered with. The power to say whether or not some particular body shall take part in this public utility will remain with the Minister who is responsible to the Parliament. The Minister will be responsible to the Parliament if he should suspend or cancel the licence of a commercial station.
Another advantage of the new arrangement will be that the board may make national programmes available to commercial stations. That is similar to the Canadian system under which the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation may exchange programmes with B class stations. It is also provided in the bill that the Treasurer may, on the recommendation of the Minister in charge of broadcasting, grant financial assistance to commercial stations that are financially embarrassed. Commercial radio stations situated in the cities have no financial worries, because they are able to get plenty of advertising, but in the outback areas, such as some in the electorate which I represent, radio stations find it extremely difficult to carry on because of the small amount of advertising available.
The purpose of the bill is to co-ordinate the control of national and commercial broadcasting, and to improve programmes. We are on the eve of great developments in radio, including frequency modulation, television, and facsimile broadcasting. Honorable members opposite have complained that the commercial stations are not to be allowed to use frequency modulation. The establishment of frequency modulation broadcasting stations in the capital cities and other large centres will make it possible to transfer some amplitude modulation stations to country districts, thus improving the service available to the public. I know of one commercial station in Queensland that has been financially embarrassed for some time because the revenue obtained from local advertising is inadequate. Offers to buy the station have been made, but only on condition that it may be transferred to a large provincial town within 40 miles of the capital. Whilst the transfer of the station to that town would give its residents a better service, the people in the outback district, where the station is now situated, would be deprived altogether of a commercial service.’ Financial assistance to enable that station to continue to serve those outback people may be justified. Frequency modulation broadcasting has only a limited range, and will be controlled by the national authority, so that the establishment of frequency modulation stations will not reduce the number of licences available for amplitude modulation stations.
Television and facsimile broadcasting like frequency modulation, are, past the experimental stage. Of the present commercial broadcasting stations, newspaper proprietors control, or are interested in, 62 per cent. They realize that facsimile broadcasting offers an alternative method of distributing news to the public, and if the stations which make facsimile broadcasts have independent news gathering services, the listener will be able to select the news he wants. He will not have to accept what is supplied to him by the newspapers.
The bill provides for the strengthening of the Australian Broadcasting Commission by the addition of two new members an official of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department possessed of technical knowledge, and a Treasury official, whose duty it will be to watch the financial side of the commission’s operation?. The commission now operates 32 stations, but the number will soon be increased. The Government, in the interests of listeners, has decided to finance the commission out of Consolidated Revenue, which make’s it desirable to appoint a Treasury official to ensure that the money shall be wisely expended.
The commission has been successful in giving the public balanced programmes. The Acting Leader of the Opposition said last night that only jo per cent, of the public listened to the national broadcasts. I do not know whether the investigators who chose the figure of 15 per cent, were any more reliable than those who conducted the public opinion polls in the United States of America on the recent presidential election, but I am convinced that their estimate of 15 per cent, is just so much “ hooey “. There rests on the Australian Broadcasting Commission, under its constitution, an obligation to present balanced programmes, having regard to the tastes of all sections of the community, and to assist in the development of culture and education. I know that in the outback schools in my electorate, the educational talks received on the school radio sets have been of considerable interest to the children, whilst the booklets on education issued by the Australian Broadcasting Commission have provided valuable reading matter for teachers and children alike. But, above all, entertainment must be provided in the broadcast programmes. I venture to say that the standard of entertainment that is being provided by the national broadcasting stations is far superior to that of the commercial stations, although it must be agreed that the commercial stations supply programmes in keeping with the tastes of some sections of the community. Personally, I regard the national programmes as being more in keeping with current trends than, generally speaking, are the programmes of the commercial stations.
The most important of the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is the provision of a news service which, unlike that provided by the newspapers in this country, contains almost straight news, uncoloured and unbiased. It is possible for such a service to be provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission only because it has neither to pander to vested interests, nor to accept the dictates of advertisers. The news service provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is the best in Australia.
It is true that the commercial stations have played an important part in the development of broadcasting services in this country. In the early days of broadcasting there was little demand for licences to broadcast. When, subsequently, the profit-making possibilities of broadcasting were realized, many hundreds of applications for such licences were received. I contend that the B class stations were established primarily for the purpose of making profits; the provision of a service to the public was only a secondary consideration. Logically that must be so, because the proprietors of the B class stations are business men, not public benefactors. The organizations of commercial stations favour this bill, and, in fact, have been working towards the introduction of such a measure for a long time. They have already indicated that, with some amendment, the bill will meet their wishes. As a result of this legislation the control of commercial stations will be vested in the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
It is interesting to recall the action that was taken by the Government of the United States of America to overcome the chaotic condition that developed in the broadcasting industry in that country. A Federal Communications Commission was established to inquire into all aspects of the matter. The commission found that in many instances commercial stations would broadcast four or five “ puffs “, or announcements, then play a musical record, and then make further announcements. The commission insisted that those stations should provide sustained programmes of entertainment, without interruption, and that, for at least part of their broadcasting time, the stations should be required to present unsponsored entertainment items. Honorable members are well aware of the ruthless manner in which the commission slashed existing licences in the United States of America, and of the very strong control which to-day is maintained over broadcasting in that country. As a result of the exercise of control by that allpowerful commission, the broadcasting services in the United States of America have been vastly improved. It was recognized by the commission that the grant of licences to operate on the freedom of the air, as the matter has been described by honorable members opposite, whilst conferring certain rights on the licensees, also imposes certain obligations on them to provide programmes for the entertainment of the public. It is but right that such obligations should be borne by public utilities.
In his speech on this measure last night, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) made an impassioned plea on behalf of “Mr. John Henry Austral “.
– I did nothing of the sort.
– Or, at least, on behalf of the type of broadcasts that are made by “ Mr. Austral “. The honorable member worked himself up into a great passion, and declared that the freedom of the air is to be taken away.
– Perhaps the honorable member is “ John Henry Austral
– I hope not. I shall review the history of “ Mr. Austral “. On the eve of the general election in 1943, during the period of the war, listeners to the programmes of some of the commercial stations were surprised to hear the announcer, in a simulated German voice, say, “ If the Labour party is elected, ve vill help Germany to vin the var “. That was followed by filthy propaganda. It was subsequently learned that that propaganda was so bad that, when some of the commercial stations heard the recordings, they refused to broadcast them. From that genesis we come to the era of “ John Henry Austral “. He is in business to make money and is employed to do a certain job. But filthy as the broadcasts of 1943 were, his are filthier, and it is encumbent upon any government, regardless of its political colour to protect the interests of those in the community who may listen to the broadcasts. I use the phrase “may listen to”, because the broadcasts are so nauseating that the average fair-minded person-
– Anybody that does not like to listen can turn the knob.
– The honorable member may follow me if he likes. The Labour party objects to the “ John Henry Austral “ broadcasts, but the bill has not been brought down, as has been suggested, primarily to suppress them. The Government, however, has the responsibility to empower the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to protect the people against being offended by matter put over the ether. I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) that the “ John Henry Austral “ broadcasts are so nauseating and degrading that they may have the ulterior motive of destroying the parliamentary institution. In the depression years, certain interests which we regard as “ rightist “ endeavoured to destroy the parliamentary institution. It is our duty to ensure that such people shall not be allowed to pursue their evil course of destroying the democracy that we all love and for which many Australian soldiers gave their lives not very long ago. It has been suggested by honorable gentlemen opposite that this bill is designed to interfere with individual freedom. Nothing of the kind! It proposes to prohibit the dramatization of certain incidents within a certain period. It is nonsense to claim that power could be taken to prohibit the broadcasting of plays by Bernard Shaw.
I propose now to reply to some honorable gentlemen opposite who preceded me. For instance, the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) talked about nationalization, socialization and dramatization, but made only a passing reference to the bill. He claimed that Australia had a totalitarian government that proposed to regiment political thought and condition the minds of millions of people. I made a note of what he said because his statements were utterly ludicrous. Either the honorable gentleman does not know what has happened abroad or he was endeavouring to mislead the people. The Government proposes to continue the dual system of radio entertainment through national and commercial broadcasting stations. We have the constitutional power to nationalize broadcasting should we desire to do so. The best illustration of our ability to do that was supplied by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who, as PostmasterGeneral, closed down station 2KY. If the Postmaster-General has the power to close down one station, he has the power to close down the lot.
– The honorable member for Barken- had a good reason for his action. Stations could not be closed down without a good reason.
– I am dealing with the suggestions that the Government proposes to regiment political thinking. The Acting Leader of the Opposition forgets that Great Britain has a national broadcasting service supplied by the British Broadcasting Corporation as the only authority allowed to broadcast in that country. The British Broadcasting Corporation was established by the Conservative party when it was in office in Great Britain. The supposed Liberal party of Australia is ultra-conservative and it probably objects to the British system.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition also complained about the political tie-up of stations. My answer to him on that point is that 62 per cent, of the commercial stations are linked in some way with the newspapers. The honorable gentleman also made much of the fact that the bill does not stipulate the Minister who shall administer this legislation. Broadcasting is making such rapid strides that we do not know when it will be necessary to take its control from the Postmaster-General and place it in the hands of a “ Minister for Broadcasting”. If we stipulated in the bill that the Minister in charge of it should be the Postmaster-General, we should have to come back to the Parliament and effect a purely machinery amendment of the act, should we ever decide to transfer the control to a “ Minister for Broadcasting “. The Acts Interpretation Act covers the situation if we leave the ministerial control unspecified. The honorable member for Indi started his speech with an unparliamentary expression about a Government member’s speech. He spent nine minutes of his time in talking about “ the Minister “ as provided in the act. His whole speech showed that he knew nothing about the subject. My advice for what it is worth, is that henceforth he confine his speeches to such subjects as wheat-growing, about which I give him credit for knowing something. Most of the honorable member’s remarks dealt with the alleged desire to suppress the “ J ohn Henry Austral “ broadcasts because they were getting under the skin of the Labour paTty. My point in reply to that criticism is that so offensive to the ears of listeners are the broadcasts that they are doing a mighty fine job for the Labour party. We do not object to “ John Henry Austral “ from the party political point of view, but we do object to him because the matter he broadcasts is offensive to a large section of the listening public and, more important, because it may have an ulterior motive. The honorable member for Parramatta, who is striving to throw me off my path with interjections, showed distress at the treatment to be meted out to “ John Henry Austral” and made an impassioned plea about the freedom of the air. People who enjoy freedom have obligations as well as rights. Some people abuse their rights and forget their obligations. The honorable member said that the Government proposed to take away the right of any one to criticize it. The right to criticize the Government will still exist, but the criticism must be expressed in decent language and within reasonablebounds. I am happy to give the bill my blessing.
Sitting suspended from 12.1& to 2.15 p.m.
– Three features of the speech made by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) particularly interested me. The first washis statement to the effect that there would be no diminution of commercial broadcasting under the terms of this bill. The second was his declaration that the Government would provide financial assistance for country ‘broadcasting stations which could not afford to operate unaided. The third was his expression of concern on behalf of the Labour party about the advertisements that are broadcast by the Liberal party. The first statement was at least an admission which no Government speaker had previously made in this debate. However, it only goes half way towards meeting the wishes of the country. We certainly do not want any diminution of commercial broadcasting. On the contrary, we want an increase of it. We consider that the commercial stations should have the same right to use frequency modulation and other mediums of broadcasting as the governmentcontrolled national stations will have. I shall discuss the proposed financial aid for country stations later in my speech. At the moment I direct attention to the Minister’s references to the”John Henry Austral” series of advertisements. The serious concern of the Labour party at those broadcasts was made evident beyond doubt by themanner in which the Minister took up thecudgels on behalf of the Government. My own view is that, if I were sponsoring aseries of advertisements, I should select some other form than that of dramatization. However, the Government’s decision to suppress such broadcasts shows that it is badly worried by “ John Henry Austral “.
Broadcasting has developed within our lifetime from a novelty to a necessity. Science has made it essential, in every sense of the word, to the nation. Because of, that, I admit that there is a need to maintain a check on the activities of what I shall describe as the broadcasting industry. A review of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942-1946, which this bill will amend, indicates how well the industry has been legislated for in the past. It has been allowed freedom of activity and freedom of speech. Both the national stations and the commercial stations have been adequately catered for. Now the Government proposes to change the system, and it has declared its intentions in this measure. In effect, its declarations read well. Nevertheless, it remains to he seen whether they disclose the true purpose of the Government or are merely a form of propaganda designed to condition the minds of the people and camouflage the Government’s intentions. The measure appears on the surface to be reasonable, but its effects may be very far-reaching.
The Australian Broadcasting Act embodies a policy which provides for the control of national stations by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which draws its finance from listeners’ licence fees. The commission is responsible for the management of national stations and for the quality of the programmes which they provide for the public. The act also provides for the existence of commercial, stations, which are dependent for their revenue upon income from advertising. That system has proved its worth and it will be continued, under this bill, at least in relation to finance. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is required to manage the national broadcasting system efficiently and to provide programmes capable of meeting the competition of the well-managed commercial stations. Efficient management is essential because the commission must budget within the limits of its income from listeners’ licence-fees. It is not able to draw upon unlimited financial resources and therefore has no chance to waste its funds. The programmes which it organizes also must he acceptable to the public if the national stations are to survive in the face of competition from commercial stations. The bill proposes to retain the Broadcasting: Committee, representative of all parties in this Parliament, which has occasionally tripped around the country. The committee has taken evidence in relation tobroadcasting from various sections of thecommunity in the course of inquiries instituted by the Postmaster-General. Itsreports and recommendations have been regularly tabled in this Parliament, but just as regularly, the Government hasignored them. In spite of that, the committee is to remain in existence, although its duties will be confined in future toreporting upon such matters as may bereferred to it by the Postmaster-General.. The Minister will no longer be required torefer matters to the committee upon therequest of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations.. The views of the commission and thefederation will be no concern of the Government. Government policy will be carried out by the proposed broadcasting control board, which will be subservient to the Government. Apparently, that is all that matters in the mind of the Government.
There will be broadcasting committees in all States, but they will be only advisory in character. The membership of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be increased by the. addition of two public servants, one representing the Treasury and the other representing the Postal Department. When the Minister for the Navy said that the Treasury representative would watch finance, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked the pertinent question whether that officer would be appointed merely for the sake of economy. In other words, will he be there to prevent expenditure that would give an efficient service to the public? This vital alteration of the method of financing the commission, under which, m effect, it will be another government department which will be called upon to submit its budget to the Treasury for approval, will detract from rather than contribute to its financial responsibility. Instead of the commission being financially self-supporting - reference is mad* to that matter in the hill - it will become more dependent upon the Treasury. One speculates upon the meaning of the term “ financially self-supporting “ when one realizes that, in fact, the commission may draw upon the Treasury, ad lib, so long as it has the approval of the government of the day. This bill makes the Australian Broadcasting Commission subservient to whatever government may be in office. The existence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will depend upon finance from the political throne. Only to the degree to which the commission carries out the policy of the Government, will it be provided with finance. [ contend that an independent commission would serve the community to much greater advantage ; but with the inclusion on the commission of government nominees who will be able continually to dictate government policy, even the commission’s present independence will be lost.
When this measure becomes law, broadcasting, both national and commercial, will operate only on government sufferance. Not only will the Australian Broadcasting Commission be dependent upon the Government for finance, but also the commercial stations will be on the sufferance of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Over and above the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Government is to constitute a board of three members whose terms of office will be up to seven years. These will be full time jobs - in other words, political plums. The chairman will be the equivalent of a departmental head. What are to be the functions of this board ? First, the board will be called upon -
I imagine that the last phrase “ approved by the Minister “ is considered ‘by the Government to be vital. The second function of the board will be - (ft) to ensure that the technical equipment and operation of such stations are in accordance with such standards and practices as the Board considers to be appropriate; and
The third function will be -
Those involved provisions may mean anything or nothing at all. One of my maiD objections to this bill is that the powers of the board are so wide and varied. They are also so obscure that the government of the day will be able to do exactly as it pleases. As previous Opposition speakers have pointed out in this debate, the board will have over-riding powers. It may be able to ensure better broadcasting services, but, on the other hand, it may mean a dictatorship in accordance with government policy. In future, the expert opinion of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be subservient to the opinion of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which may be composed of experienced men, public servants - I do not use the words in a derogatory sense - or political friends. The Australian Broadcasting Commission will be subservient to the board except in regard to the provisions of section 89 of the act, which provides that the commission may determine to what extent and in what manner political speeches, or any matter relating to a political or controversial subject may be broadcast through the national broadcasting stations. I am glad that the commission is to retain that authority.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be able to dictate the policy of the commercial stations on programmes, technical equipment and advertising. Not only will it be able to determine how the commercial programmes shall be constituted, but also it will be able to place a limit on advertising and so cripple the finances of the commercial stations which, I remind the House, do not receive any part of the listener’s licence-fee, that they will not be able to carry on.
The Minister for the Navy referred to the subsidizing of country stations. According to this bill, the board will have power to subsidize selected commercial stations - for the purpose of ensuring that programmes of adequate extent, standard and variety are provided in the areas served by those stations.
If the Minister’s views are to be the guide, well and good, but that power could be abused. The Government could, for instance, at the expense of the taxpayers, subsidize a station or a group of stations to the detriment of others which might be driven off the air. Such powers are open to the gravest political abuse.
Broadcasting has made wonderful strides, and it can be said with every justification that sponsors of commercial radio stations can claim some credit for that. I do not suggest for a moment that some credit is not due also to the national stations. However, in claiming justification for the continuance and expansion of commercial radio stations, I refer honorable members to the history and performance of those stations. Truly they merit the confidence that the public lias placed in them. Yet in spite of that expansion, and the confidence of the public, no one will suggest that the present system is perfect. As one who has had some experience of commercial stations, I admit that advertising should be limited to a proper proportion of the programme time. The improvement of broadcasting has been continuous, and will remain so. The guarantee of that lies in the dependence of commercial radio stations on public approval of their programmes. It is competition between commercial radio stations - and I suppose to some degree with the national stations - that keeps the standard high. Commercial radio is exceedingly competitive, and stations are forced to strive constantly for betterment. All these steps that are being taken to improve programmes and to bring about greater efficiency and up-to-dateness do not cost the listening public one additional penny. If this bill be passed, however, programme-making will no longer be in the hands of the commercial stations. The board will have power to ensure “ reasonable variety “ and its orders will have the force of law. If its orders or instructions are confined to the betterment of programmes and of their presentation, well and good. It may be found, however, that because the commercial stations are providing better services than are the national stations in any field, the commercial stations may be hampered by the board in such a way as virtually to confer monopoly on the national stations. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) referred to the results of a Gallup poll which had been taken to ascertain the percentage of the listening public interested in the programmes of the national stations. In spite of his ridicule of the Gallup poll as the means of ascertaining public opinion on any matter it is undeniably true that the number of people who tune in to the national stations is not nearly so great as that of those who listen to commercial stations. That is accounted for by the much greater variety of programmes made available by such stations. If the board so desires it will be able to force the commercial stations to broadcast programmes arranged, not by experts in this field of entertainment, but by government appointees or civil servants who may have no knowledge or experience of radio work. In that way the audiences of the commercial stations could be very considerably reduced. The worst feature of this bill is that it prevents commercial stations from adopting new technical devices without the approval of the board. If there are marked improvements in broadcasting technique the Government could force the commercial stations to remain in a state of obsolescence. My principal objection to this bill is that it enables the Government to exercise a monopolistic control over all improvements in the field of facsimile broadcasting, frequency modulation and television. Provision has also been made to regulate the networks of the commercial stations. I believe that the existing protection in the principal act should be sufficient to guard against the wrongful use of the network system. Whilst it is not suggested that nation-wide hook-ups are not to be permitted, any interference with existing arrangements for extensive hook-ups of commercial stations must result in great hardship. Suitably controlled networks enable the commercial stations to provide their listeners with high-class programmes which it would be too costly for individual stations to finance. Under the system of extensive or nation-wide hook-ups, programmes broadcast in one State may be heard in all States. But for this system country broadcasting stations would be severely penalized. Too much frustration and interference, and too great a limitation of the rights of the commercial stations could place them in a disadvantageous position and even force them out of business. To the degree that officiousness is withheld, and the powers of the board are used in the interests of the public, this bill is welcomed by me. If it results in the elimination of the many objectionable broadcasts from race-courses, such as we hear almost every Saturday afternoon throughout the year, I shall welcome it. Listening to these broadcasts one would think that all the announcers employed on them had been trained by an expert in nasal twang. If this bill results in the improvement of their speech a service will be rendered to the community. Experience of this Government, however, leads me to the belief that Ave cannot always take the statements of Government spokesmen at their face value. Our greatest heritage is our freedom. We boast of our democracy, our right freely to express our opinion and our right to exercise the franchise. One of the statements made by the Minister for the Navy which rather intrigued me was his reference to the “ John Henry Austral” broadcasts and his suggestion that the Liberal party were taking away our democracy. The socialist Government of this country is the only force which threatens to take away our freedom. This Government has given us much cause to fear that our freedoms will he filched from us. In attempting to nationalize the financial system - and finance is the key to al] material controls-
– Order! The honorable member must return to the bill.
– If, in addition to controlling the financial system, the Government also succeeds in robbing the people of their inalienable right of freedom of speech, we shall become slaves to a system in every way equivalent to the Russian or nazi socialistic systems. If freedom of speech or expression he controlled by the Government, freedom will no longer be ours. The people of Australia do not want to conform to a pattern shaped by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), nor to be made to accept government decisions with docility. The honorable gentleman suggested that, for all he knew, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) might be “ John Henry Austral “. I should prefer to listen to the honorable member for Parramatta broadcasting over the air than to have the Minister trying to force Australians to conform to a pattern fashioned by the Government in its attempt to take away our freedom. We do not want nazi-socialism to be practised here. What is required is good, clean, healthy and bright entertainment, and a watchful eye should be kept upon the broadcasting industry to ensure that such entertainment is provided. Basically, the livelihood of the many employees who are engaged in the broadcasting industry and in the manufacture of transmitters, receivers and the like, depends upon the matter that is broadcast being acceptable to the public. Judging by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, a company in which the Australian Government has a predominating interest, and by other manufacturing companies, and also by some of the commercial stations, the industry has been successful. Financially, they have not done too badly. The greatest charge for which the broadcasting stations have to provide is obsolescence, for the public demands uptodateness. If the Government prevents the commercial stations from taking advantage of the latest advances in radio technique, it will force them into the background and they will become secondary stations. I charge the Government with intending to grant to the national stations a monopoly of all that tends to the advancement of this industry. Many national stations have had their power increased to 10,000 watts, yet the highest power that is allowed to commercial stations is 2,000 watts. At least some commercial stations cater for country interests only, and they need’ increased power. Obviously reception is better when higher power is available within the radius of service of a station. National stations have priority of power. They also have priority of wavelengths or frequency. It must be conceded that the higher the wave, the more effective is the propagation of the programme. All the best wavelengths are allotted to national stations; with the exception of the Labour party station in Brisbane. National stations also have priority of channels. They have cleared channels within which to operate, but many of the commercial stations, with powers ranging from 200 to 500 watts, have to share channels.
My first objection to the bill is that by preventing the commercial stations from making use of the latest tech.nical developments it will allow the Government to place such stations in such a condition of obsolescence and outofdateness that they will not be acceptable to the listening public to the same degree as government-controlled stations. The commercial stations will be slowly strangled and forced into a secondary position. I do not know whether the Government is seeking to exercise this monopolistic power because it is disappointed that the national stations have not hitherto been as acceptable to the public as the commercial stations. My second objection to the bill is that it will give vague and wide powers to the board. My third objection to it is that public servants will serve on the commission. My fourth objection is that the commission will be financially dependent upon the Treasurer. To the degree that (he bill seeks to better the industry, I support it, but I feel that, in regard to the objections that I have raised, the Government is not honest in its intentions.
– For months past, Opposition speakers have been demanding the refusal of the right of free speech to sections of opinion in this country to which they object. The chief spokesman of the Opposition parties in demanding a ban on the expression of opinion by other sections of the Australian community has been “ John Henry Austral “. To-day, when it is proposed to place some restriction upon his activities, which are most deceptive, honorable members opposite rise and, in the name of the principle of free speech, insist that he should be allowed to continue to voice his demand that his opponents should be suppressed and prevented from expressing their opinions. There is no doubt that the broadcast matter written by “ John Henry Austral “ and delivered by another paid spokesman have been, if not designed to deceive the Australian people, at least calculated to deceive them by the simulation of voices of men who are at present engaged in public affairs in Australia.
– The honorable member obviously does not know what he is talking about. “ John Henry Austral “ has not written the matter.
-Order! The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) should set an example to the Opposition parties. I ask the honorable gentleman to cease interrupting.
– They have been calculated to lead those who listen to them to think that they were listening to the actual voices of persons taking part in public affairs in the Commonwealth to-day. That is obviously wrong, and should not be permitted by any broadcasting system. It may be that the clause of the bill which relates to this matter can be described as a steam-hammer being used to crack a nut. It may be that political dramatization of that crooked kind could be dealt with without taking such wide powers, but that is a matter of which the Government and its draftsmen must be the judges. It is ludicrous for the Opposition to contend that by means of this bill broadcasting will be made entirely subservient to the government of the day. It was an anti-Labour government and not the present Administration which set up the national broadcasting system in 1932, and which established complete political control of broadcasting. The Australian Broadcasting Commission Act 1932 was introduced by the Lyons Government. Section 20 of the act empowered the Postmaster-General to order the broadcasting by every station of any matter whatever which he directed as being in the public interest. There was no right of appeal from such an order, and no limitation of any kind was im-r posed on the programme control that the Postmaster-General could exercise. To make the broadcasting service entirely subservient to the government of the day, section 51 of the act empowered the Minister, without any qualification, to prohibit the broadcasting of any matter of any class or character whatever. There was again no right of appeal from his order. Without having to give any reason, the Minister could peremptorily 3top any broadcast, and order any other broadcast to be made. He could censor the national stations, and refuse them the right even to state that they had been censored. When the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was Postmaster-General, and did not like the programmes of certain commercial broadcasting stations, he shut them down completely at a moment’s notice.
– I have done every one of those things.
-The honorable member’s words are worth repeating. He admits that he has done every one of those things. Yet he is a leading member and one of the most brainy members of a political party which, to-day, is so stupid that it cannot see that the political control of broadcasting in this country sprang from it and from no other source.
– What do the Frasers want from the Camerons to-day?
– It could be argued that broadcasting should not be subservient to the government of the day. It could be argued with equal force that broadcasting should not be subservient to any private financial interests in this country, but should operate freely and independently without fear, and subject only to specific and clearly stated laws. It is quite impossible for members of the Opposition to maintain that position, because the Opposition, when it constituted the government, was the father of the legislative measure which imposed complete political control of broadcasting in this country. The statement of the father of the bill, the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), is explicit. He said -
The allegation that this measure is a piece of socialization is entirely without foundation. The Government does not propose to nationalize radio. It proposes merely to license commercial broadcasting stations on conditions similar to those which obtain at present.
That statement may be a complete answer to the charges which the Opposition has advanced in that respect, but those words will have no inspiring ring in the ears of tens of thousands of supporters of the Labour party. It is a ground for valid criticism of this bill that it perpetuates, not establishes, the objection able features of subservience to the government of the day, and the exploitation of B class wavelengths for private profit, which were established by antiLabour governments in the past. But it is hopeless for the Opposition to pretend that the bill takes a further step in political control of the air. The Opposition, when it constituted the government, took that step. It not only took the power hut it also used it brazenly. In the words of the honorable member for Barker, anti-Labour governments used every one of their powers of political suppression. As evidence by officials of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has since confirmed, they used their powers to the extent of putting Labour broadcasting stations off the air. Indeed, it can be said in favour of the bill that it represents an improvement in the sense that it replaces, at some points, direct ministerial control, by control by a body possessing a large degree of independence. The valid ground for disappointment with this bill, which will be felt by tens of thousands of supporters of the present Government as well as by many other Australians who are interested in the working of democracy, is that the Government is permitting the continuance of bad procedures and has not embraced the opportunity to establish genuine freedom of the air. I refer to freedom both from domination by the government of the day and domination from powerful financial interests.
The Opposition is also on poor ground when it objects to the control of broadcasting being vested in a board which includes some government officials. No Labour government has ever created so many boards as the Liberal-Australian Country party administrations did when they were in office. They were so bankrupt of political thought that their answer to every problem was to hand it over to a board. They created the power to control the national broadcasting service. They appointed so many boards of every variety that they named the authority to control national broadcasting a commission - the Australian Broadcasting Commission - and subject to the domination of the Minister, they made that body .the all-powerful arbiter of what the listener should get in return
Cor the payment of his licence-fee. They made sure that the listener had no rights whatever. He had to pay the piper, but he would not be allowed to call the tune. The tune would be called by the expert commission which knew so much better than the listener what he wanted to hear and what was good for him to hear. That commission has operated the national broadcasting system ever since. The result is that, to-day, most listeners get nothing at all in return for their licencefees. They pay the licence-fee because they have to, but they do not listen to the stations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission because they do not have to, and because they are sufficiently misguided still to have minds and wills of their own and are not yet ready to accept what officials say is best for them. Equally the Government has overwhelming facts to refute the charge that, in this bill, the Labour party is actually practising socialization. The Government may be flattered by the soft impeachment, but honesty requires a denial. There is no socialization in this measure. I have already quoted the statement by the father of the bill, the Postmaster-General, to that effect, and the Government is prepared to cite and does, in fact, cite additional evidence that its proposals are comparable with the British Broadcasting Corporation system established in the United Kingdom by an ultraconservative government, with the Federal Communications Commission established in the United States of America by a “big business” government, and with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, also a product in that country of an entirely anti-Labour government. Those are the models on which the Government has relied for its new legislation. In such circumstances, would any honorable member opposite expect socialization? The answer to that question is the same as the celebrated reply which was given by the young lady in Pygmalion, by Bernard Shaw, a topical political dramatist whose new works we shall hear over our radio after a decent interval of five years has remove their topicality.
Yet another charge which the Opposition has levelled against the Government can be strongly defended. I refer to the charge that there is a sinister intention in framing this bill, and that the measure conceals, under references to co-ordination and variety of programmes, a deliberate purpose to muzzle the Australian people. I believe that that charge is utterly false. I am certain that there is no such sinister intent or deliberate purpose on the part of the framers of the bill. Of course, I have to take that on faith. I was not present when the bill was framed. It was not framed in the room of the Parliamentary Labour party. That is no secret. It was officially announced to the press by Cabinet before it was submitted to the Labour party. At that time, Cabinet added that it intended later to seek the party’s approval of the measure. However, I have complete faith in the good intentions of t§e Ministers and officials who framed the bill. I believe that they had enough good intentions to pave many miles. They believe in free speech, and are champions of democracy. They set out with no other objects in view than those which the bill professes, which were to overcome weakness in the broadcasting structure and to co-ordinate and improve programmes. That the way may be left open for suppression, muzzling and gagging by another government in the future would not occur to them. How lovely to be able to share their starry-eyed trustfulness! However, this world is harsh and real. I am sure that as long as the present Ministers remain in the Government, no machinery will be used for suppression, and all honest means of free expression will be respected. The history of the Government during the seven years in which it has held office is the best guarantee of that. It inherited from its predecessors, complete powers of radio suppression which they had shown how to use. In the words of the honorable member for Barker, they had used every one of those powers. This Government inherited those powers; yet, during the last seven or eight years, it has left them unused, while commercial stations, broadcasting sponsored programmes, have gotten away with political murder against the Government. “Was there ever such an example of tolerance? I think it was Hastings who said, “I am amazed at my own moderation”. In the Senate, recently, the Postmaster-General said, “ I am amazed at my own leniency “, and so he should he. However, I cannot share the sublime optimism of Ministers that they are destined to be political everlasting daisies, nor do I share their belief that their successors will not abuse the great powers exercisable under the act since 1932, and perpetuated in the present bill. If there is a fault in this legislation it is not in the intention and the purpose, which are good, but in the fact that it will provide opportunities for Ministers and officials to become, not the servants of listeners, as the Government intends, but their masters. The real responsibility taken by the Government to those who support it is that it may be sharpening a weapon for use by some future fascist-minded government. Australia to-day suffers from press misrepresentation, but there exists a powerful counter in the independent news service operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That service was established, let it he remembered, by the present Government, in the face of bitter opposition from honorable members opposite, from newspapers and even from inside the Australian Broadcasting Commission itself. We know that there are those who to-day want nothing better than to smash the independent news service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We heard the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) say last night that the money expended on the news service was wasted, and that exactly the same results could be obtained if the commission once more obtained its news from the newspapers. This legislation will leave it open to a future government to co-ordinate the national news service with radio news programmes supplied by existing newspaper services. If that situation should arise, the public, once again, would not he able to rely upon the news it heard. That is clearly the objective of the honorable member for Indi. That is what he would do if he had the opportunity. The honorable member for Barker has surely studied -this bill very closely. He must lick his lips at the opportunities which have been preserved to him to indulge his urge once more to ban and suppress all opposition. As Postmaster-General, he banned station 2KY Sydney by arbitrary order.
– His action was fully justified.
– I do not know about it being justified, but he did not have to state any reason for his action. Having given his decision, he retired to Kangaroo Island, swelled by a sense of his own power, and it was very difficult to get in touch with him. He had to be spoken to humbly, and he did not relent, nor allow the station to resume broadcasting, until he was satisfied that the Labour movement had been sufficiently humbled that it had been taught its place, and would not do the same thing again.
– Hear, hear !
– Honorable members opposite say, “ Hear, hear ! “ They claim to be the champions of the doctrine of free expression, but when they are told the story of a broadcasting station which was not allowed to broadcast until those who controlled it had been humbled and made to promise not to offend again, they say, “ Hear, hear ! “ No doubt the honorable member for Barker would do exactly the same thing again in the same circumstances.
– I would.
– He would consider himself qualified to act as judge, jury and executioner. He would consider himself justified in silencing any radio voice, of which he personally did not approve. This legislation would enable him, if he were restored to office, to behave in exactly the same way again. It would enable him to put every Labour broadcasting station off the air, and to stop the mouth of every radio critic. Whowould trust him not to do it if he had the opportunity? Why should we trust any Minister not to do it?
A typical example of the way in which these powers are regarded by the Opposition was provided by itsspokesman in the Senate when thebill was under consideration in that chamber. She insisted that the Board’s powers should be used to stop all racing broadcasts. She declared that the legislation would serve a good purpose- if it rid the air of racing broadcasts. One- does not have to enjoy racing broadcasts in order to recognize the menace in such an intolerant statement. It springs from an attitude of mental superiority, from an itch to run other people’s lives and from a disrespect for other people’s right as human beings to do that of which one disapproves. Yet the honorable .senator who opened the debate for the Opposition demanded that the powers provided in the bill should be used in that way, and left no doubt that that was how they would be used if she could have her way.
One of the most ridiculous arguments used against the bill is that everything in the broadcasting world is all right, and that no attempt should be made to dictate the programmes of commercial stations. As though they were not already dictated by the advertisers! Listeners who pay approximately £1,000,000 a year for the provision of national programmes, which most of them do not choose to hear, will not agree that everything is right as it is. The very fact that commercial stations, which receive no licence fees, exist, and are highly prosperous, shows that the national stations do not meet the public need. Payment of a licence-fee is compulsory, but listening is voluntary, and there is still freedom of dialling. Most listeners regularly tune out the national stations. There may be argument about the exact proportion of listeners who listen to the national prolamines, but there can be no denial of the fact that the commercial stations have a majority of listeners, despite the disadvantages of irritating and boring advertisements from which the national programmes are mercifully free. The failure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission itself illustrates the failure of the board system, which is due partly to the policy of divorcing the control of broadcasting from direct contact with listeners and partly to the grafting of a group of high-minded, amiable and cultured amateurs on to the top of an entertainment organization, and giving them power to control it. Finally, the failure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is only what one might expect when the high-minded and cultured group has a guaranteed revenue, and never has to come down to earth to worry about results. I know that some Australian Broadcasting Commission officials are dismayed because their highly intellectual programmes are heard by so few and are missed by so many who would benefit so greatly by them. They are annoyed that commercial stations, broadcasting rubbish with no moral uplift, are attracting listeners from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Some of these paternal officials think that it would be for the common good if the commercial stations were prevented from broadcasting such deleterious rubbish, so that listeners would turn their dials back to the Australian Broadcasting Commission programmes. The philosophy of those who adopt this attitude is that there rests upon them the serious duty of ensuring that this great gift of science to mankind is utilized in such a manner as to advance the common good. That sounds splendid, and no doubt there is a good deal in it. Basically, however, there is no justification for an assumption by one adult human being of a right to decide what his fellow adult human being ought to hear, and shall bear. While we accept the right to impose education and instruction on children, it would be an intolerable usurping of right to apply the principle to adults.
– How does the honorable member propose that broadcasts shall be heard only by adults? Children also turn the radio on.
– Yet, intolerable or not, it is the growing habit of mind of benevolent planners and of well-meaning officials. Boards given such powers as this one is to have would certainly feel that they must use them to uplift their fellow men by giving the public what was good for it, rather than what it wanted. While the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s stations and the commercial stations were under separate direction, there were obvious limits to that tendency. With all broadcasting under the final control of one superior board, however, those limits will disappear. I accept the assurance of the Government that the board will not use its powers in -his way, but we are legislating now. not only to give power to this excellent Government, but also to any government of the future. If you, Mr. Deputy Speaker are a lover of the music of Bach and Beethoven, as I believe you are, you may deplore the delirious joy that your neighbour derives from the crooning of Crosby or Sinatra. If your neighbour will permit you to do so, you may go into his house and seek to educate him to the enjoyment of better music. But without his permission, neither you nor any board has any right, except impertinence, to impose your standards on him. T believe that that view is so oldfashioned to-day as to be laughed at by some officials with a missionary zeal to condition the people to their standards. But it is a view which needs vigorous reasserting, with a vigorous kick to emphasize it if necessary. A lover of the great classics of English literature may deplore the foolish happiness that his neighbour gets from listening to the “ Crossroads of Life “, a serial of eternal love. “With his permission, you may take a volume of Shakespeare across to his house, and attempt to open his eyes to the superior enjoyment that he may find in the works of the immortal bard. Without his permission, neither you nor any board has any right, except impertinence, to endeavour to impose your standards upon him.
– Why not take a copy of Bobby Burns over, and both “joy yourselves?
– It must be remembered that, primarily, broadcasting is t.o-day the most important means of entertainment for the great mass of the people. Whilst it is valuable as an educator and as a means of spreading information, it is, above all, a mean9 of entertainment. It is the only form of entertainment that many poor, lonely and sick people, and people living in the outback areas, possess. They have a right to the kind of entertainment over the air that they like best. They should not be restricted to the kind that a board thinks is best for them. If the singing that they like best is Frank Sinatra’s, if the orchestra that they like best is Spike Jones’s, and if the drama they like best is “ Crossroads of Life “, they are entitled to their share of that kind of entertainment. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has never met the popular taste in Australia. It may be said that it is entitled to give people the opportunity of discovering that they can enjoy something better. That is right. It should be able to say to the people, “ Try this, you may like it better “. Of what use is it for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to put over programmes which may encourage people to listen to something better, if it has already driven them away from its programmes? Its first task is to get those listeners back. The fatal mistake of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is that it has failed to hold the mass of listeners.
– Would the honorable member say that “ The Lawsons “ is over the heads of listeners?
– I should not think so. Although I do not have much opportunity of listening to that serial. I do not suggest for a moment that all the programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are dull. Some of them are splendid entertainment, yet I I have heard many dull programmes broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and many which are completely over the heads of the ordinary listeners. I have heard musical programmes broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission at great cost, which could be appreciated only by expert musicians?
– Was the beauty so deep that the honorable gentleman would have to dig a tunnel to see it?
– If listeners regarded the Australian Broadcasting Commission as representing nationalized broadcasting, the majority of listeners would not have nationalized broadcasting because they will not have the Australian Broadcasting Commission. A most urgent task, therefore, is to re-organize the national broadcasting service, to cut out the deadwood, and to replace cultural highbrows dwelling in ivory castles by men experienced in the fields of entertainment and with an appreciation of public taste. Direct representatives of listeners and of members of the commission’s staff who have actual experience in the entertainment field should be given a share in the day-to-day control and management of the national broadcasting service. If that service gave listeners better and more enjoyable programmes than the commercial stations give them the commercial stations would cease to exist. Nationalized broadcasting could be achieved by that means alone. The national broadcasting service has tremendous advantages over the service of the commercial stations in that there is available to it higher power, better wave-lengths, best technical facilities, and a huge guaranteed revenue. It does not need to broadcast advertisements. Those who run it should be told that they are expected to provide programmes which at least half of the licence-holders will wish to hear. If they cannot do that, they should make way for others who can do it. This bill proposes to strengthen the Australian Broadcasting Commission by appointing to the commission direct representatives of both the Treasury and the Postmaster-General’s Department. It will be very interesting to see how this experiment works out. If those representatives infuse into the commission a spirit of bold adventurousness, and the ability to produce brilliant entertainment, the result will be as pleasing as it will be astonishing. So much for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
The service of the commercial broadcasting stations is also unsatisfactory in many respects. Honorable members opposite appear to be satisfied with it; and, at least, they do not think any alteration should be made in the control of commercial broadcasting. Certainly the service is satisfactory as a dividend producer for private profit-takers, which is the angle from which the Opposition judges these things. There are many abuses in the field of commercial broadcasting that need remedying; and this bill is justified in that it seeks to apply such remedies. Honorable gentleman opposite talk about the dictation of commercial programmes as something to be avoided, but those programmes are dictated by advertisers, who compel the stations to broadcast their ideas of what the public wants. As a rule, such advertisers have no interest in broadcasting other than as a means of selling their products and making profits. Whether public taste is debased or insulted is entirely a secondary consideration. The control of commercial stations is entirely unsatisfactory in that respect. It is particularly unsatisfactory in the way in which brutal and wicked patent medicine advertisements are blazoned through the air by loud voices, which hammer in the ears of sick people that they should go out and spend a few shillings on this nostrum or that patent medicine. Worse than that is the fact that people who are ill cannot listen to commercial broadcasting stations without being constantly reminded of their illness. They are urged to put their hands in their pockets and bring out the money to buy a bottle of this or that patent medicine that will give them relief. The procedure is callous and brutal. It is entirely wrong that advertisers should be able to choke the air with programmes from various stations appealing to only one type of listener, while all other listeners are shut out. There is an obvious need for co-ordination of programmes to prevent the occurrence of that kind of thing. It is also entirely wrong that the power of money should be the power to decide how much political information and propaganda is to be mixed into the entertainment programmes of the commercial stations. I believe that broadcasts of political ininformation and propaganda should be allowed without charge and that equal time should be allotted to all the major and recognized parliamentary parties in Australia. It is a reproach to the commercial stations that though thousands of Australian musicians are seeking opportunities to broadcast, they do not employ one. The only Australian musicians broadcasting are dependent on contracts with advertising sponsors. It is a disgrace that while hundreds of Australian writers are seeking a creative outlet many commercial stations prefer to draw largely on the cheap syndicated writings available on discs from overseas. It is a damning fact that if the provision of radio programmes were left entirely to private enterprise, listeners in the outback would hear none at all, listeners in remote country towns would hear few, and the “ Voice of Australia “ would never he heard overseas. All those unprofitable services have to be provided by the national service.
The bill may certainly he justified as a temporary measure to co-ordinate programmes and to end serious abuses, but, in considering this matter, the Government also needs to take a long-range view. Fundamentally, the legislative change needed is to place the control of broadcasting not in fewer and fewer hands but in more and more hands. Under the existing act, one man, the Postmaster-General, has been able to say what his 7,000,000 fellow Australians should hear and should not hear. No matter how wise the Minister is, that is a tyrant’s power. The power was created not by this Government but by the Lyons Government in 1932. The present Minister may not use that power as a tyrant, but it is the power first sought and exercised by every tyrant, lt is a power that Ave should be most careful in entrusting to the hands of any man. Broadcasting is already the most important means of entertainment and expression in this country. With the coming of television and facsimile, its power and importance will grow greatly. The bill is an improvement in that instead of the power being exercised completely by one Minister, it is to he exercised by the Minister in conjunction with a board, which will have independent powers and be subject to some control by the Parliament. The Government would perform an outstanding service to a healthy democracy if it legislated to ensure that no Minister, or official or any private financial interest should have the power to shackle public expression or to dictate to the population what it should hear and what it should not hear. That object will not be achieved by transferring the control of national stations from the Australian Broadcasting Commission to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or by transferring the control of the programmes of commercial stations from the vendors of medicine to a handful of officials. Frequency modulation will provide hundreds of additional channels and with the provision of new channels every community could be given the control of its own broadcasting station. I trust that the Government will bring down a bill that will ensure that broadcasting shall be divorced from direct governmental control. The Government may not be able to claim for that bill the support of all the commercial stations in Australia, as it can for this bill, which must be disturbing to the Opposition although that claim cannot be welcomed with great enthusiasm by the people outside, when they know that 62 per cent, of the commercial stations are directly associated with the leading newspapers of this country. Neither may it be able to claim for that bill as it can for this one that it is based on the legislation of anti-Labour parties in Great Britain, Canada and the United States of America. But such a’ bill will be welcomed by all the Australian people.
.- I must congratulate the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) on his excellent and thoughtful speech. He analysed* the bill very thoroughly. I doubt whether any honorable member on this side could have given a better exposition of the need to divorce broadcasting from political control. Probably the honorable member will be given an opportunity in the committee stages to support amendments having that purposein view.
– I will not support any amendment from the Opposition side.. The honorable member can bank on that.
– I thought thefearless honorable member for Eden Monaro, who has denounced the political implications of the bill, and also denounced planners and those who would’ foist one mind on the people of Australia in the person of the Minister or someother authority might back up his words- with deeds. I see that I was mistaken. Doubtless, he will tell his radio public on Sunday night that what he has said’ represents his views. Yet, when offered the chance, he flatly refuses to support any amendment that would give effect to the principles that he claims are held by him. Despite the fact that the honorable member will talk in oneway and vote in another, what he hassaid is right to the point. Right through; his speech, there flowed one train of thought to which he came back time and time again. It was that to give one person authority to impose his views on the whole community was too great a power to be entrusted to any Minister. The honorable member said that although he had some confidence in the Minister who is to exercise such a power in relation to broadcasting while the present Government remains in office, there was a danger in vesting in one person such wide authority. The honorable member placed his finger squarely on the danger. We do not yet know which Minister will control this legislation because by this bill reference to the Postmaster-General, who has been in charge of broadcasting, has been expressly deleted from the principal act. For all we know, broadcasting may be controlled by any Minister. It is accepted,- of course, that it will be controlled by the Minister for Information, who is in charge of the bill in this House. For the sake of the community and in the interests of freedom of expression, I hope that it will be controlled by a gentleman, who is more tolerant of the opinion of other people than is that honorable gentleman. By all the odds that we can calculate politically, however, it would seem that he will be chosen to mould the thinking of the listeners of Australia.
– The honorable gentleman may be surprised.
– I should be surprised if the Minister were not selected, because I recall that at a time when he was not occupying ministerial office the honorable gentleman was a member of a committee, known as the Gibson Committee, which investigated broadcasting activities in Australia. The committee, which was presided over by Senator Gibson, sat late in 1939 or early in 1940.
– It sat in 1941 and 1942.
– At any rate it very thoroughly investigated various matters in relation to broadcasting which are affected by this bill and the honorable gentleman made a great contribution to its deliberations. The committee consisted of Senator Gibson, Sir Charles Marr, Dr. Grenfell Price, Senator Amour, the present Minister for the
Navy (Mr. Riordan), and the present. Minister for Information. Its recommendations give point to the observationsmade by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), and it is interesting to read what the Minister then thought about political interferencein broadcasting. At that time, the then Postmaster-General, Senator McLeay,. had brought down a bill to amend theAustralian Broadcasting Act, which contained certain provisions enabling political control to be exercised over broadcasting. As honorable members will recall,, the war was then in progress and, in thenational interest, certain controls were necessary to guard against the dissemination of undesirable propaganda over theair. Commenting on the amending bill introduced by Senator McLeay, which among other things sought to give powerto the Postmaster-General to veto the decisions of the Australian BroadcastingCommission, the Gibson Committeeunanimously reported -
Such a provision is, in our opinion, likely toload to political control of broadcasting. Itspurpose was designed to give the Minister a power to override the commission in the exercise of any of the powers conferred on it by the act. We disapprove of such proposed, amendment.
Nothwithstanding that that report wassigned by all members of the committee,, including the Minister for Information,, the honorable gentleman has presented tothis House a bill which is designed togive effect to a provision almost identical in terms with that of which he so strongly disapproved in 1943.
– The independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to be preserved under this measure.
– Its independencewill be preserved only to the extent that it will be made subservient to the board, which, in turn, will be subservient to theMinister. The bill provides that theboard shall have power to do certain, things “ subject to any directions of the Minister “. Under this bill there is to beerected a pyramid of direction, management and power. At the top of thepyramid will be the Minister. Next comesthe board of three members. We do not know at the moment who they may beor what remuneration they will receive
Next comes the commission itself consisting of seven members. Then, finally, at the base is the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Why cannot a business such as that of the Australian Broadcasting Commission be run with sufficient competitive efficiency to enable it to hold its own against other commercial enterprises without holding such an edifice of control? The honorable member for Eden-Monaro was quite right in saying that broadcasting should be controlled or managed to some degree by the people who have been trained in that field of entertainment and in the provision of broadcasting services for the general public. Under this proposal broadcasting will be controlled completely by amateurs, and the greatest amateur of them all will be the Minister.
– Which Minister?
– The honorable gentleman may well ask, “ Which Minister ? “ I shall allow him to nominate the Minister of his choice. A great deal has been said by honorable members opposite, notably by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), about the justification for banning their political opponents from the air because they dramatize their political propaganda. Honorable members opposite attempt to justify suppression of speech of that kind, notwithstanding that listeners to the sessions which they criticize have merely to flick a knob on their wireless sets in order to switch to another programme if they object to the matter to which they are listening. Honorable members opposite seek to justify censorship of this description, yet they have been most vociferous in this House in proclaiming that obscene plays such as Rusty Bugles and books such as Love Me Sailor should be allowed to go into every home in Australia and to fall into the hands of the young and the old in every part of Australia. They have been the champions of that kind of freedom, yet, by a remarkable somersault, they now say that the “ J ohn Henry Austral “ broadcasts are so misleading, damaging and wrongful that the people must be protected against them, even though they are not forced to listen to them. I do not think that honorable members opposite have ever been more hypocritical or inconsistent than they have been in this connexion. I believe that there is justification for a bill relating to broadcasting and for some greater control than that which is being exercised at the moment over . the proportions of programmes which should be devoted to advertising matter and to entertainment. We know that practically the whole of the broadcasting time of commercial stations is bought by manufacturers of soap, patent medicines and so on. They have to some degree obtained a monopoly of radio, which is one of the greatest instrumentalities for the dissemination of entertainment and information, but this bill is not designed to correct that situation. In my view, its main purpose, although I do not say that it is its only purpose, is to give effect to the provision in it which states that neither the commission nor the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station shall broadcast any dramatization of any political matter which is then current or which was current during the preceding five years. It is obvious that the Labour party feels that the manner of presentation of the “ John Henry Austral “ broadcasts, which does not make them tiresome to listen to and which is different from the presentation of the Prime Minister’s Sunday evening dissertations
– Very much different.
– I am afraid that the Prime Minister’s dissertations are listened to but very little. Even the outstanding contribution that is made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro every Friday evening-
– Sunday evening.
– It is probably written on Friday. I have had the privilege of listening to one or two of them, and I should say that it must be very hard upon the unfortunate people of his electorate if they have to suffer his broadcasts month after month.
I propose now to refer to the lack of action by the Government in connexion with the Australasian Performing Right Association. I have referred to this matter in the Parliament from time to time for a number of years. I have received assurances from the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and former Prime Ministers backed by recommendations signed by the Minister in charge of this bill, that action would be taken along the lines requested by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. For many years the Australasian Performing Eight Association has received an annual sum which the commission claims to be approximately £17,000 in excess of what it could equitably claim. For many years the association has been allowed to get away with £17,000 a year without the slightest challenge.
– The £17,000 is nonsense.
– I shall refer later to a statement on this matter that was made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. All that is being requested is the appointment of an independent arbitrator. The Australasian Performing Eight Association is supposed to exist to protect the rights of Australian composers and authors, and others ‘Overseas.
– And it does so exist.
– I ask the House to take note of that interjection. The Minister says that it does so exist, for the benefit of Australian composers and authors.
– And overseas composers and authors.
– I am unable to trace the way in which the funds that go overseas are disbursed, but in 1939 T secured, as a result of a question directed to the Postmaster-General of the day, a statement from the association showing how it disbursed its revenue in Australia. The statement is to be found on page 1.569 of Hansard of the 8th and 9th June, L939. At that time, the Australasian Performing Eight Association was receiving approximately £44,000 a year from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. After certain deductions were made, £19,496 was available for distribution. It was supposed to go to Australian authors and composers and to authors and composers overseas. Of the £19,496, £10,149 was remitted to the Performing Eight Society Limited, London. There was approximately £9,000 available for distribution in Aus tralia, and I shall indicate the trifling amounts that went to hard-working Australian authors and composers. Chappell and Company Limited, the music publishers, received £2,658. The company filed a statement showing how that sum was distributed. It reads as follows: -
I suppose that that is Alfred Hill, the famous Australian composer. The statement continues -
Frank Hutchens, a famous Australian composer, received 5d. ! The statement goes on -
We all knew that very much-beloved figure, Jack Lumsdaine who was the composer of many of our popular Australian songs. He received 2s. 5d. of the £2,600 that was paid to Chappell and Company Limited. The statement concludes -
Of the £2,258 that was paid to Chappell and Company Limited, £5 10s. 2d. was paid to Australian composers. Nevertheless, the Minister says that the Australasian Performing Eight Association is ably looking after the interests of Australian authors and composers. I do not know how much was disbursed overseas by organizations similar to Chappell and Company, but approximately £10,000 went to the Performing Right Association in London.
– In this capitalist world people can assign their rights in a copyright.
– I am giving the figures that were supplied by the Australasian Performing Right Association. I have criticized the fact that they receive an undue proportionof the listener’s fee, but I should not make that criticism if I thought that the money was going to people who were properly entitled to it.
– If it did not go to the association it would go as extra profits to the broadcasting stations.
– The Minister and the Government have made a number of promises in respect of this matter. There are powerful influences at work which seem to be able to prevent any action from being taken by this or other governments in this connexion. In the twelfth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which was issued in 1944, and in which attention was directed to this question, the following passage appears: -
Despite repeated representations by the Commission, no action has yet been taken.
The action that the commission requested was that the Australasian Performing Right Association should be placed on the same footing as the Canadian Performing Right Association, that a general assessment of fees should be made and that there should be an averaging of those fees as between the national stations and the commercial stations. The Australian Broadcasting Commission said that, despite repeated representations, nothing had been done and that it had perforce to continue to pay to the association an annual tribute which, according to the evidence in its possession, was at least double the sum that could be justified, which meant that the excess payment was at least £17,000 a year. That statement is contained in the twelfth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Since that time the commission has renewed its agreement with the association.
– It had either to do that or forgo the reproduction of these items in its broadcasts. The present Prime Minister made a promise to me as Treasurer, before he became Prime
Minister. I asked a question of Mr. Curtin on this matter. It is recorded at page 471 of Hansard of the 8th March, 1945. The reason that was given for lack of action at that time was that the Statute of Westminster had not been ratified here and that, owing to the complications of international copyright, it was not practicable, until the statute had been ratified here, to bring down the appropriate legislation. The Minister remembers that, because he was a member of the committee to which Dr. Evatt explained the whole situation. I asked Mr. Curtin the following question : -
Will the Prime Minister give effect as soon as possible to the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee in February, 1943, that legislation be introduced to empower the Australian Broadcasting Commission to compel the Australasian Performing Right Association to arbitrate on the matter of fees payable by the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
The Prime Minister promised to furnish a replyat a later date. However, the reply was given by the Treasurer on the 8th May, 1945, as follows :-
On the 8th March, 1945, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked a question relating to compulsory arbitration in connexion with the payment by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of fees for performing rights.
I desire to inform the honorable member that before any action can be taken in this matter, it is necessary for certain legislation to be passed by Parliament. The drafting of the necessary bill would entail considerable work, and pressure of more urgent and important matters, particularly those relating to the war, has prevented the task from being undertaken. A suitable bill will, however, be drafted as soon as practicable.
That answer was given three and a half years ago. The Australian Broadcasting Commission contends that it pays annually to the Australasian Performing Right Association £17,000 in excess of a fair and equitable sum, but not a finger has been lifted to remedy the position. The Minister for Information, when he was chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, agreed to a recommendation that action should be taken to give effect to the Gibson Committee’s recommendation on this matter, which was that there should be one Australian fee payable by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, to he shared in a proportion to be determined. The fee was to be fixed by agreement between the parties. If the parties were unable to agree on the amount, the matter was to be referred to >an arbitrator acceptable to them. If they were unable to agree upon an arbitrator, he was to be appointed by the Governor-General. The arbitrator’s terms of reference were that he should fix a fee that was fair and equitable, and determine the proportions to be paid by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial stations. The Minister for Information and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) endorsed those recommendations
– The Minister for the Navy wrote them.
– I congratulate the Minister for the Navy on having written them, but I cannot congratulate the Government on having acted on them. I have revealed the small amount which Australian authors ,and composers receive from the huge sum of money which the Australasian Performing Right Association collects from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. According to the latest report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, it pays to the Australasian Performing Right Association nearly 4 per cent, of its revenue. Each year the Australian Broadcasting Commission pays between £40,000 and £50,000, not for the benefit of Australian authors and composers, as far as I am aware, but for the benefit of those who have been able to obtain possession of the rights. The Jack Lumsdaines and Alfred Hills, who, as the authors and composers, are really entitled to the money, are not receiving it.
There has been a good deal of fencing in connexion with this matter, and it appears that some one is exerting powerful influence to prevent the situation “from being remedied. I am not suggesting any wrong-doing on the part of the Government. The situation has existed for a long time. However, the matter came to a head when this Parliament ratified the Statute of Westminster. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who gave evidence before the Broadcasting Com- mittee when the Minister for Information was the chairman of it, stated, inter aiia -
In Canada, there is compulsory fixation of such fees. It may well be held that in Australia such a system of compulsory fixation, by compulsory arbitration or otherwise, would not be a mere modification or dealing merely with procedure and remedies. If section 2 of the Statute of Westminster were in force here, no difficulty on this score could possibly arise, and I have so advised the Broadcasting Committee. No such difficulty . exists iri Canada, because the Statute of Westminster was applied there in 1931.
The Statute of Westminster was not in force when the Attorney-General gave that evidence. Evasive answers were given to questions on this subject prior to the ratification of the Statute of Westminster, but they will no longer be accepted in the face of the Attorney-General’s advice on the matter. The Australian Broadcasting Commission complains that finance is one of its principal difficulties, and that it has to come to the Government cap in hand at the end of each financial year for a subvention. Therefore, I was most interested in its claim that it paid £17,000 a year some years ago - the amount is probably more to-day - in excess of a just and equitable fee to the Australasian Performing Right Association. As I have pointed out, a meagre percentage of the amount which the Australasian Performing Right Association collects from the Australian Broadcasting Commission is paid to Australian authors and composers. The situation should be remedied. Of £19,000 which was disbursed through the Australasian Performing Right Association in a particular year only £163 was paid to Australian authors and composers. The Government should act on that information.
– There has never been a disagreement between the Australasian Performing Right Association and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and, therefore, the Government has never been called upon to appoint an arbitrator.
– Nearly every year, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has complained about the amount of money which it has to pay to the Australasian Performing Right Association. It has asked the Government to tai’ action because it claims that it is powerless in the matter. The Australasian Performing Right Association will not agree to an arbitrator. In such circumstances, the Government should introduce legislation to compel the Australasian Performing Right Association to agree to the appointment of an arbitrator. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has been asking for such legislation for a long time. I could quote a good deal more evidence in support of my submissions, but I shall he satisfied with reminding the Prime Minister of the promise which he gave to me in May, 1945, that legislation would be drafted as soon as practicable to deal with the matter. The time has arrived when the Government should have a “ look-see “ in order to ascertain the reason for the delay.
– An international copyright conference is either meeting at present or will meet in the near future. When its report is available, the time may be opportune to consider action which the honorable member has suggested.
– The Minister has probably made a bona fide suggestion, but I remind him that the matter has been postponed repeatedly for many years.
– It goes back to the day when Sir John Latham was AttorneyGeneral.
– I agree. I do not claim that all the sins in this matter rest on the shoulders of this Government, but an excuse has always been offered for not taking action. The original objection was that copyright complications prevented action, and subsequently, it was that the Statute of “Westminster was the obstacle. .1 am certain that if the Prime Minister faces this problem with the same degree of determination that he devotes to other problems, he will soon be able to solve the difficulty. I leave him with the promise which he made three and a half years ago to introduce legislation as soon as practicable.
– This bill will make great changes in the system of broadcasting in Australia. Its provisions are based largely on the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee, of which Senator Gibson was chairman in the period 1940-42. One of the principal changes which the bill proposes is to increase greatly the powers of the Minister. An Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be established to take over and coordinate various functions which, up to date, have been exercised by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Postmaster-General’s Department. In this bill, as in many other bills which this socialist Government has introduced, there has been erected a facade which ostensibly places control in the hands of a board that is supposed to safeguard the interests of the public, yet that board is to be always subject to the direction of the Minister. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be subject to the direction of the Minister. Some members of the, Opposition, who have spoken on this bill, have stated that the Minister who will administer the proposed act is not specified, and that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) will have the responsibility of implementing its provisions. However, 1 have studied the definitions in the principal act, and as the definition of Minister has not been changed I presume that the Minister contemplated in the bill is the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) ; but no doubt, later, the administration of the act will be taken out of his hands and placed in the hands of the Minister for Information. Therefore, we must examine the bill most carefully. Subsection 4 of proposed new section 6k states - (4.) The Board shall have power, subject to any directions of the Minister - (n.) to determine the situation and operating .power of any broadcasting station, television station oi facsimile station;
to determine the frequency of each broadcasting station, television station or facsimile station, within bands of frequencies notified to the Board by the Postmaster-General a* toeing available for such stations;
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) has stated that the Government has no intention of socializing broadcasting in Australia, but under proposed new section 6k, the Government may deprive the commercial stations of all advertisements, and thereby utterly destroy them-
– Why should the Government take that action ?
– Other totalitarian governments have done so, including the Soviet government and the former nazi government of Germany. One of the ways that totalitarian governments made themselves all-powerful .was by preventing freedom of discussion, even through the commercial broadcasting stations, about matters of which they did not approve.
– What about Great Britain, where there are no commercial stations ?
– It is true that there are no commercial stations actually located in Britain, but in the Duchy of Luxembourg there are commercial stations whose sole purpose is to broadcast programmes to British listeners, and the Government of the United Kingdom cannot stop them.
– The honorable member said, that it was only socialist governments which sought to prevent private broadcasting, but it was a Conservative government that inaugurated the present national broadcasting system in Great Britain.
– I do not care what government it was. If the system is wrong, does it matter what government was responsible? Because the present system was initiated by a Conservative government, I should have thought that it would be the last system that a socialist government would imitate. The bill also forbids the broadcasting of dramatizations of political events which occurred within the preceding five years. That,
I believe, would be a very dangerous provision. It represents an attempt to deny a right that has ‘been fought for in Great Britain over the centuries. Now, in the twentieth century, we have a government which proposes to abrogate it. If a law of this kind had been in force when Dean Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels, it could have been invoked to prevent the radio broadcasting or televising of dramatizations based upon that story, had such facilities existed at the time. In the same way, Dravier’s Letters, which were written in the reign of George I., and published in the Irish press, could have been banned. Those letters drew attention to the great scandal associated with the issue of copper coinage in Ireland by a person named Wood. The coinage yielded a profit of 40 per cent., which was divided between Wood and the Duchess of Kendall, who was the favorite of the reigning monarch, George I. The Government is seeking to reintroduce the state of affairs which existed when Laud was one of the functionaries behind the Star Chamber in the reign of James I., and afterwards in the reign of Charles I. That was the tribunal which condemned William Prynne to have his ears cut off. Prynne was writing a book against play acting. He had a licence to do so, but before he finished the work, the Queen and the ladies of the court gave a performance of Walter Montagu’s Shepherd’s Paradise. Later, a passage in Prynne’s book was construed as an aspersion on the Queen. Certain other passages referred to tyrants and to Nero, and they were taken as an attack on the King. Totalitarian governments, drunk with power, never hesitate to read into writings or dramatizations of political events meanings which were probably never intended. After Prynne had been already imprisoned in the Tower of London for a year, he was sentenced to imprisonment for life, was fined £5,000, expelled from Lincoln’s Inn. and had his ears cut off. He was also branded on the cheek with the letters “ S.L. “, standing for the words “ seditious libel “. Under such legislation as this, the cartoons of Gilray, which powerfully attacked the administration under the later Georges, would have been, forbidden. I maintain that the broadcasting of dramatizations of political events and of other matter should be permitted so long as they are not obscene or blasphemous, and do not advocate the overthrow of the government of the day by revolution or force of arms. It might be necessary to adopt some other safeguards also, but the widest possible freedom should be permitted.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Eraser) alleged that certain writings by “ John Henry Austral “, which were dramatized over the air, were responsible for moving the Government to forbid presentations of the kind. No such provision was considered to be necessary in earlier legislation, and Ministers have gone back to the days of the Star Chamber for a precedent to .justify it in preventing the publication of matter criticizing the government of the day. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro pointed out several times that this legislation will be available for use, not by this Government only, but also by those that succeed it. A subsequent government could use the powers in this legislation to prevent freedom of expression over the air by the Labour party. The present Government has been so long in office, and is so drunk with power, that it proposes to insert in legislation a provision which cuts right across the ancient rights for which Englishmen have fought. On that ground alone, this must be regarded as a had bill.
The bill also empowers the Minister to tell the board what kind of programmes commercial stations may broadcast. The honorable member for EdenMonaro is a frequent radio broadcaster, and is, apparently, a keen student of broadcasting. He told us that the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes were very bad, and that the programmes of commercial stations were not much better. There are some persons, and probably the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is one of them, who would not permit the people to choose the programmes they want. Such persons must always be educating the people, and giving them what they, the planners, think is good for them. That sort of thing is being done in Russia to- day, just as it was done in Germany under the nazis. The people are not to be given what they want, but only what somebody thinks is good for them. The test of the matter is that a majority of the publiclistens to the commercial programme. Most of the authorities on broadcasting admit that the commercial stations, which have to depend for their existence on revenue from advertising, are able to attract a majority of the listeners. This has been established by such tests as the making of numerous telephone calls tofind out how many persons have been listening to a particular programme.” The commercial stations give the publicwhat it wants. The Government is attempting to crib, cabin and confinepublic expression, and “to give the people only those radio programmes which the Government wants them to hear. That tendency should be resisted.
.- The Government says that it needs another board to control broadcasting. Boardsappear to possess a strange fascination for this Government. Apparently, it .believes that the existing machinery forthe control of broadcasting has failed. I should like to know whether it believes that the Minister in charge of broadcasting has failed to do his job, and whetherthe Postmaster-General’s Department has failed. Does the Government admitthat the Broadcasting Committee is a wash-out? If so, it can probably justify the appointment of another board. When this Government finds that a job is too big for its own Ministers, it invariably sets up a board to do the work, and I suppose we must be prepared to accept the bill on that understanding. The Government wants to set up a board, and the Government will be responsible foreverything that the board does. I, for one, am not prepared to relieve it of any of its responsibility.
There may be justification for the appointment of another board if it satisfies certain conditions. A board should be independent, it should be free from political interference, and it should replacethe system of multiple controls at present hampering the broadcasting industry. Properly administered, such a board could, help broadcasting. Badly administered,. it would retard and hamstring broadcasting. I agree absolutely that broadcasting should be conducted in the public interest. It should give the people the kind of service that they want and not a service foisted on to them by a dictator of broadcasting or a group of dictators who seek to satisfy their own whims and their own prejudices. The safety valve of broadcasting is the retention of vigorous competition and the rigid suppression of monopolistic interests. The more competition there’ is the better will be the service. It is much better to have a hundred people planning competitive programmes than to have >one man, or even three men as members of the board, centralizing all programmes under the one control. That would be regimentation of the air. There can be two kinds of monopolies. One would be a government monopoly, similar to the British Broadcasting Corporation. That would be bad, because it would give the Australian people the monotonous kind of programme for which the British Broadcasting Corporation has become so notorious. The other, equally vicious, would be a monopoly established through the network system such as operates in the United States of America to-day. That kind of monopoly means that all of the stations that are members of the network are more or less controlled by the big monopolistic network. That type, also, is bad, because the network can squeeze out the independent stations. It means that they can extort monopolistic conditions in return for their programmes, and that they can exact a toll on station revenues through discounts and selling commissions. Australian broadcasting has been able, so far, to keep comparatively, free of both of those undesirable influences. Only one attempt is being made to operate a network in Australia on the American system. That is with the Macquarie network, over which the Prime Minister speaks every Sunday evening. The board proposed under the bill should see to it that broadcasting does not fall into the hands of monopolies. It should see that the requirements of the Australian Broadcasting Act governing licences are honoured in the spirit as well as in the letter, and it should remove broadcasting from political interference.
It should see that the system does not pander to sectional interests. All these conditions call for high qualifications on the part of .the members of the proposed board. If it can fulfil the obligations the board will be good for broadcasting. If it falls below the requirements of its responsibilities, the board will be a disastrous experiment. This proposal appears to have started out as a bid by the Minister for Information to grab dictatorial power over all broadcasting. If he succeeds, we shall have a regimentation of the air similar to that operating in dictator countries throughout the world. But since the bill was first proposed, other members of the caucus appear to have had something to say. I am waiting to see whether the views of the rank and file members have had any weight at all with the Government. Certain assurances were given to caucus that the Government’s motives were to be helpful to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to the commercial stations. Members were told that political hacks and “ Yes “ men would not be appointed to the board. Up to now the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) has been in charge of broadcasting. He is a member of the Australian Labour party whom I have always regarded as possessing a fair understanding of Labour principles. He has stood up for those principles on many occasions. Any man who holds principles above expediency is a man who should be given a chance to prove himself. If the Postmaster-General is to be responsible for the appointments to this board, and if he does not allow himself to be dominated by the Minister for Information, the members will be appointed to the board on their capacity as administrators and their judicial outlook. They would have a fair chance of being reasonable and proper administrators. But if this is to be another board consisting of political hatchet-men, out to do a job for the Government on a party basis, broadcasting in the future will be infinitely worse than it is at present. If this bill is to establish another instrumentality like Trans- Aus tralia Airlines, the board jobs will be plums for other camp followers like Mr. W. C. Taylor, Mr. A. W. Coles, and Mr. A. Wilson.
That would make broadcasting the plaything of party politics and board membership might become a game of the “ ins and- outs “. That is an aspect of which all parties must be careful. I point out that the Government has far more to lose by such a game than has the Opposition. The Australian Labour party controls a number of large broadcasting stations, most of which earn big profits. Whilst these Labour-controlled stations remain independent, Labour cannot be blanketed off the air, irrespective of whether it he in office or in opposition. That is in accordance with the spirit of democratic government. The real danger of this bill is that it might not he a Don Cameron bill ; it may eventually turn out to be a Calwell bill. The Minister for Information appears to have been obsessed with the method of the totalitarian propagandists. It is for the Government and its supporters to see that he does not realize his objective. If he does, the only ones to suffer will be members of the present Government. If the board ever comes under the thumb of the present Minister for Information, neither the Australian Broadcasting Commission nor the commercial stations will be safe. There will only be Calwell stations, dedicated to the greater glorification of Arthur A. Calwell. That state of affairs’ would be as dangerous to members of the present Government as to any ‘one else. There should be no illusions about the conditions. In considering the bill on its merits we must assume that the Government will resist the demand to hand over these powers to party hacks or “ Yes “ men of the Minister for Information. The board is to be under the Minister. To-day that means Senator Cameron; to-morrow, it may mean the Minister for Information; next year, it may mean the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I have an idea that the honorable member for Barker would enjoy to the full exercising the powers contained in the measure now being debated. Too often has a Labour government passed an act that has been against the Labour movement when its administration has fallen into the hands of anti-Labour governments. That has happened before and it could happen again. One Cameron might be bringing in this bill for another Cameron to use.
– Of course the Camerons work together.
– Labour stations might find that instead of being handled with a kid glove, they might have to put up with a mailed fist. If that happens 2KY, 2HD, 3KZ, 4KO, 5KA and 6KY; the Labour stations, will not be passing any vote of thanks to the authors of this bill.
Up till now the technical control of broadcasting has been in the hands of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Despite suggestions to the contrary by members of the Government, that administration has done a .very good job. The present dual system of broadcasting is the result of the foresight of Sir Harry Brown. He was a man of vision and an impartial administrator. The more he saw of overseas broadcasting, the more he was satisfied with the system he had created for Australia. He was followed by men like McVey, Panning, Malone and Martin. All have been conscientious administrators, with a proper regard for the traditions of the Public Service of this country. The Government, in introducing this bill, was remiss in its failure to pay full regard to the achievement* of those men. Most of the mistakes thar have been made, can be traced to political interference. In that regard this Government has been no different from any other government. It has played politics in broadcasting. This bill retains political control through the Minister. That is essential under our system of responsible government. It is the right principle. If the Government abuses its powers, then it must be held responsible for such abuses by the people. If we are to believe the arguments put forward by the Government, the only reason for the bill, is that broadcasting and its future have become so important that they call for. more than part-time administration. When we look at some of the other departments,, and then consider the ramifications of the Postmaster-General’s Department, I am inclined to agree. But. if that is to be the approach, the real difficulty will he to get the right men to do the job. It will he hard enough to find one man with the necessary qualifications. It will be a really major problem to find three men with the necessary objective and judicial temperaments, without any preconceptions about broadcasting policy and without an axe to grind. Still, the Government has taken on the job. It is prepared to dump its present radio administrators in the Postmaster-General’s Department. If it makes n. mistake on this, then it will certainly be answerable to the electors. If the board starts interfering with favourite broadcasting programmes, the members on the Government benches who sponsored this proposal will have to answer for it. I am quite prepared to allow them to accept that responsibility. For example, we are told that there is too much sport on Saturday afternoons. “What are the facts? There are more listeners on raceafternoons, either on Saturdays or weekdays, than on any other afternoons. The number of people listening must be some indication of what the public needs. In Sydney there are eight broadcasting stations, two national and six commercial. Of these, on Saturday afternoons, five broadcast sport, and three others have general entertainment. One commercial station, 2SM, has an afternoon’s programme provided by live artist talent, encouraging young Australians. Obviously, listeners have ample alternative programmes available to them. I should be surprised to hear that the Government has received any substantial protests regarding too much sport. Suppose the new board decides that there are too many stations broadcasting sport. Even if it is only one station too many, what will happen? Granted that the national station is allowed to continue, which of the commercials will be called upon to give up its racing description? “Will it be 2GB, key station of the Macquarie network, over which the Prime Minister loves to speak, or will it be 2KY, owned and controlled by the Labour Council? What will happen if the board decides that 2GB or 2UE have to abandon their racing descriptions? There are many thousands of listeners who have decided preferences. Many want to hear Cyril Angles. Others want to hear Ken
Howard. Which group will be asked to forfeit its preferences? Whether it be Cyril Angles, or Ken Howard, the people affected will not blame the new board. They will blame the Government for interfering with their freedom to listen to the commentator they prefer. Then there is the other sticky problem of religious broadcasts on Sundays. The Broadcasting Committee had the idea that every station should have a religious programme at the same time on Sunday mornings. But if the spirit of this bill is carried out, the board may decide that there are already too many religious programmes on the air on Sundays. I think we are entitled to some explanation of the meaning of the clause in the bill dealing with religious broadcasts. That provision could be very dangerous, especially if read in conjunction with the following subclause regarding broadcasts of controversial matters. If the new board takes evidence, or conducts a survey, it may find that 50 per cent, of the listeners want sermons, and 50 per cent, want music. Which stations will be asked to alter their programmes? That could be a very serious matter and place a heavy responsibility on the Government. One Sydney station, 2CH, on Sundays has no commercial advertising. It is conducted on that day by the Council of Churches. When the board starts out to correlate programmes, it may decide that 2CH should be no different from any other station, and that it should cater for the needs not of one section but of all listeners. If it had a temperance talk, would it have to give equal facilities to the liquor trade? If it did, the Government members would then be certain to hear from the Council of Churches. Then there is 2SM, broadcasting on behalf of the Catholic Church on Sundays. What would be the Government’s view if the board interfered with the rights of that station ? On the other hand 2KY broadcasts a popular non-religious programme. On Sundays it earns its biggest revenue of the week and has the largest audience of any Sydney station during the daytime. If the board interferes with its broadcasts, 2KY will lose a great deal of its profits. The New South Wales Trades and Labour Council will not welcome that kind of interference.
We are told that the board will reduce the volume of advertising matter. That will hurt most stations like 2KY and small country stations, which depend largely on what are called “scattered announcements “. The network stations have more sponsored programmes. Big advertisers running programmes such as the “ Amateur Hour “ can buy time by the hour, and in that hour use no more than three or four minutes of advertising. The stations depending on small advertisers have to use more advertising in order to obtain anything like the same amount of revenue. Will the board penalize stations like 2KY and the smaller advertisers in favour of the larger stations and larger advertisers? The bill contains a proviso requiring broadcasting stations to supply facilities on’ an equitable basis for political broadcasts. With one exception - 2KY Sydney - commercial stations make time available equally to all political parties. Station 2KY broadcasts only Labour propaganda. If this bill be passed, will 2KY have to take Liberal party and Australian Country party propaganda? At present no amount of money can buy time on station 2KY. Is this really a bill to deal with 2KY and the other Labour stations? The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) pointed out that that should be given very careful consideration. Wo government goes on forever, but the power conferred by an act of Parliament continues. I have looked carefully at this bill. I am not surprised that the commercial stations support it. Indeed, I am not surprised that honorable members opposite support it-
– We do not support it.
– It has received a measure of support from some honorable members opposite. At least it is receiving a good deal of support from anti-Labour sources, which makes me fear that there may have been something sinister in the minds of those responsible for its drafting. Labour stations are likely to be the chief sufferers from the provisions of this measure.
Instead of generalized statements, I should like to hear how the Government proposes to tackle these practical problems.
Is it intended to pass the responsibility over to the board? These problems are not easy of solution. If the board is to operate successfully, I am at a loss to understand how it will co-ordinate all the many other authorities that have a finger in broadcasting. What possible justification is there for the continuation of the life of the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee ? If . the committee is* to remain, whose recommendations will the Minister accept? Will he accept the advice of the board on a particular problem, or will he discard the’ board’s advice and accept the advice of the Broadcasting Committee? If both the board and the committee are to continue, he will find himself in an impossible position. On the one hand, he will have his board of experts, and on the other he will have a committee representative of both Houses of Parliament. Whichever is rejected will be offended. If both always agree, .then one represents a damnable waste of public money and time. Or is the Postmaster-General to he placed in the position of Solomon? Will he accept the board’s advice on the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the committee’s advice on the commercial stations ? If the board is expected to look after such problems as broadcasting ethics and good taste, what will happen to the State advisory committees which were established under the 1942 act? At present the members of those committees serve in an honorary capacity, and act in the nature of censorship boards, investigating any complaints on behalf of the Minister and making recommendations to him. Under this new system, will they continue to do all that work, only to have their advice dropped into the wastepaper basket when the board sends along its recommendation? Consider the position of the Director-General of Health, who has the final say on all broadcasts on health topics. What will happen if the board wants to broadcast a play on tuberculosis and the Director-General of Health bans it? Then there is the rather strange position of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Its members are not full-time employees. They were appointed by the Government, because they were regarded as the outstanding men and women of the community, who were beat fitted to run a national broadcasting system. The commission has had in its membership some very distinguished citizens who have devoted a great deal of time to the study of broadcasting. On the present commission are members appointed by the Labour Government, including the chairman, Mr. Boyer, and the deputy chairman. The general manager of the commission is at present expected to take his orders from the commission. What will be the position in the future? Will the board override the commission? The commission may decide that it wants to stage a play every Sunday evening at 8 o’clock, and the board may say that, as there are already two plays on the air on Sunday at that time, the commission should broadcast a church service. At present the commission is supposed to be an independent body. How independent will it be after this bill becomes law? Mr. Boyer will probably tell Mr. Moses that he has to do one thing, and the chairman of the board may tell Mr. Moses that he has to do something altogether different. What, then, will be the position? The greater the interest the board takes in the work of actually controlling broadcasting the more it must come into conflict with the commission, unless that body is altogether supine. If the commission is doing its job, then it is certain to have different ideas on many subjects from those of the board. These are the kind of problems I should like to see the Government clarify.
Then there is the rather thorny problem of dramatized political broadcasts, about which other honorable members have spoken. The Labour party was the first to use political dramas in an election campaign. We used them in New South Wales during the 1932 election campaign. We did not win, but they caused a lot of controversy. The United Australia party at the time was very hostile to their use and wanted them banned.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Anthony) negatived -
That the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) be granted an extension of time.
.- This bill proposes to alter the whole basis of the control of broadcasting in Australia. It contains many dangerous provisions. As the result of great improvements’ in the technique of broadcasting, particularly in the field of facsimile broadcasting, frequency modulation and television, it seems likely that broadcasting will become a most potent agent for the dissemination of propaganda. Broadcasting will, no doubt, in many respects take the place of the newspapers as a medium of informing the public mind. Many of the provisions of this bill which are so dangerous may at some not distant date have a boomerang effect against the Government. Provision is made in the bill for the establishment of a board to control broadcasting in Australia. Although we do not yet know who are to be appointed to the board, we know from past experience that, as in the case of many other boards appointed by this Government, the majority of them will be people whose political philosophy coincides with that of the Government. The Government may try to save its face by appointing one or two people to the board who are apparently neutral, but the great majority of the members will be its own supporters. When the men of the Australian Imperial Force were in the field, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) spent £70,000 on what he called post-war education. That education consisted of the most blatant misrepresentation of the political situation in Australia that has ever been made by any political party in this country.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) knows very well that it is correct. He also knows that the Attorney-General of New South Wales at that time, whose name was, I think, Martin, was appointed as a captain, although his only experience of soldiering was” when he tried to dragoon the members of the Labour party into following-
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehan). - Order! The honorable member for Bendigo must deal with the bill.
– This man was sent among the members of the Australian Imperial Force to spread propaganda similar to that which will be spread by the Government if this bill is passed. He was given the rank of captain and was sent out with a number of other men who were appointed by the Government to spread propaganda.
The broadcasting stations have a fair amount of liberty now. I am satisfied that the great majority of the people of Australia do not listen to the programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is, to a certain degree, run by the Government but they do listen to amateur hours and many other programmes which are broadcast by the commercial stations. The people are entitled to the kind of entertainment that they appreciate most, and I do not agree that the Government is entitled to appoint a board to dictate the form of radio entertainment to which they should listen. The Government has no right to appoint people to disseminate political propaganda of. the kind in which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) indulges on Sunday nights. I should not be surprised to find that many people in Eden-Monaro are so disgusted with the honorable gentleman’s broadcasts that they would commit suicide rather than listen to them again.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has an 80 per cent, listening public.
– I do not know how that figure is assessed. If I were in Eden-Monaro, or anywhere else in Australia for that matter, and could not turn off my radio set when the honorable gentleman was speaking, I should smash it. The bill provides that one of the members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall be an officer of the Department of the Treasury, and that another shall be an officer of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and that neither of those commissioners shall be the. chairman or vice-chairman of the commission. Those two officers will be able to exercise a great influence upon radio programmes, especially as the expenses of broadcasting will not be paid from listeners’ licence-fees but from an appropriation by. the Treasurer. I daresay that a fee will still be demanded from listeners, and I have no doubt that the Government will use broadcasting as a means of taxation. It will possibly increase the listener’s licence-fee to £5 5s., and give some of the proceeds to the loafers around the wharfs. These commissioners will be able to exercise a great influence on the policy of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, first, because the Treasury will supply the funds and, secondly, because broadcasting will come within the jurisdiction of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. At the present time, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) is, in my opinion, doing quite a good job. He is using some of the tremendous income of the Post Office to provide some services for the Australian people, although he is, unfortunately, spending too large a proportion of it in the big cities. Although the Postmaster-General is doing a good job, he does not impress me as being fitted to decide the kind of programmes that the people of Australia want, and I do not consider that he should be able to exert any influence on the board.
– What does the honorable gentleman suggest should be done?
– If there must be a board, there are thousands of people in Australia who, provided they have complete independence, are qualified culturally to suggest programmes that would be in the best interests of the people and fair and just to all political parties and all sections of the community. I do not believe that a man who has been associated throughout his adult life with one political party, and who has been a rabid member of that party, should have any voice in deciding the programmes to which the Australian people will be forced to listen and which will have an effect upon them, whether it be a good or bad one. I am strongly opposed to this bill, although I believe that there is room for some changes. The Government should deal, for instance, with the gang of parasites which is demanding a proportion of the proceeds of every little show that is run for charitable purposes. Although the Australasian Performing Right Association is supposed to act in the interests of copyright-holders, it is demanding payment for the reproduction of music and plays which .were written centuries ago by people who have no descendants. Its actions constitute one of the worst instances of commercial robbery that has ever been tolerated in any country. I do not say that the Opposition is without blame in this matter. The present Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, and Viscount Bruce of Melbourne were, in their time, responsible for allowing this cancer to grow on the body politic of Australia, and for permitting this parasite to suck the blood of the people of this country. The Australasian Performing Bight Association should be compelled to act in the interests of the authors and musicians who can still derive some benefits from their works, and, in my opinion, any government which permits it to continue as at present is not worthy of the name of government.
I believe that the people of Australia should be the judges of the programmes that they want. It is essential that there should be competition in broadcasting, but, by means of this legislation, the Government is trying to create a monopoly. I believe that it is acting wrongly in attempting to give the party that is in power a deciding voice in what radio programmes shall be presented to the Australian people. If the members of that party are unscrupulous enough, and human nature is fairly unscrupulous, they will be enabled to put forward their point of view, and to ignore that of any other section of the community. I oppose the bill in its present form.
– I do not know of any other measure that has been discussed in this House about which so much nonsense has been talked. It is evident to any one who has studied the development of broadcasting that it is now entering into a new era. Television, frequency modulation and facsimile broadcasting are coming into general use. The opinion of all the experts is that the development of television will be very rapid. It is developing rapidly in the United States of America now, and will doubtless do so in all other countries. It is evident that the appropriate section of the Postmaster-
General’s Department, although it may have been adequate in the past to conduct the oversight of broadcasting, is not now adequate for the purpose. Some other organization or body must be established, and I suggest that one of the kind that is referred to in the bill is best suited to meet the needs of the situation.
I agree that the members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board must be of a high standard of personal integrity, and ability, because people without ability could not do the work that the members of the board will be called upon to do. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) said that the members of the board might be unscrupulous. Some funny things were done in regard to broadcasting in days gone by. It amuses me to hear honorable members opposite referring to this bill as a step towards nationalization. As a matter of fact, it has nothing at all to do with nationalization. It proposes to set up a body to control and have the oversight of the broadcasting systems of Australia. Such a body would, perhaps, not have been so necessary a few years ago as it is now, but modern technical developments makie it essential that there should be established some authoritative body that can exercise oversight of broadcasting. The first act of naturalization of broadcasting in this country was that of the Bruce-Page Government, which nationalized the A class stations. Those who have any knowledge of this subject will recall that the people who went to a great deal of trouble to acquire shares in various broadcasting stations in Australia and formed the Dominion Broadcasting Company squealed for years about the unfair treatment to which they were subjected by the Bruce-Page Government. The company claimed substantial compensation from the Commonwealth. It complained that it had been misled by the Bruce-Page Government into agreeing to a unified system of A class stations. After that Government had paid an excessive price for the shares, particularly for shares in Tasmanian A class stations, it nationalized them. The Dominion Broadcasting Company claimed substantial compensation, and the then Attorney-General, who is now Sir John
Latham, resisted the claim most strongly. The claim was submitted to various committees of inquiry, and many lawyers were engaged in the negotiations. Finally, the Lyons Government rejected the claim.
The Dominion Broadcasting Company also complained that it had reason to believe that it would be given the right to supply the programmes, and that the Government had hopelessly misled it, because that right was granted to Mr. Stuart Doyle. Until the day of his death, I am sure that Sir Robert Best, who represented the claimant, was the strongest denouncer of the Bruce-Pago Government, because, in his opinion, it had robbed the company. As I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee at the time, I have some knowledge of the subject. I still believe that the Bruce-Page Government acted properly in nationalizing the A class stations. I said frankly, many years ago, that I did not consider that the control of broadcasting should have been allowed to get out of the hands of the Government. However, all that water has now run under the bridge.
The British Broadcasting Corporation, to which the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has referred, is a government-owned institution, and no other broadcasting company is allowed to compete with it. The British Broadcasting Corporation is financed entirely from consolidated revenue and not from listeners’ licence-fees. Neither a Conservative government nor a Labour government would consider altering the present system of the control of broadcasting in the United Kingdom. As a government instrumentality, it has the same kind of independence as the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways have, but, finally, it is responsible to the government of the day. Sir Harry Brown, who was Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, recommended to the BrucePage Government that it should establish a C class broadcasting system which would, be owned by the government and provide sponsored programmes.. However, the government of the day did not adopt that proposal. Probably it had enough troubles on its hands at the time with some of its friends as the result of nationalizing the A class stations, and did not desire to add to its difficulties. Nobody would accuse Sir Harry Brown of being a radical socialist. He has been a magnificent public servant, and nobody has a higher respect for him than I have, but I should be greatly surprised if his political views during the years have coincided with those of the Labour party. Yet he recommended to the Bruce-Page Government that it should establish C class broadcasting stations as I have indicated. Many people object to some of the broadcasts from commercial stations. I do not propose to refer to the entertainment value of some of their programmes, but I consider that some of their advertisements leave much to be desired. How frequently do we hear that a citizen of “ Yarrabunda “, a hypothetical place, had suffered from pains in the back for many years, but had obtained immediate relief after taking the nostrum that the broadcasting station was advertising. I do not believe that such advertisements are satisfactory, or in the best interests of the public. It is true that the commercial broadcasting stations depend for their existence on the revenue that they receive from advertisers, but I do not think that the public should be forced to listen to many of the advertisements. A few days ago, I spoke to the general manager of a commercial broadcasting station about an advertisement for some pills. Apparently they were an elixir of life,, because, according to the claim, they would cure every ailment. I have never been impressed by some of the programmes of the commercial stations, but I recognize that they derive their revenue from advertisements. Broadcasting in Australia would have benefited had the Bruce-Page Government adopted the recommendation of Sir Harry Brown, because the kind of programmes to which I have been referring would not then have been inflicted upon the long-suffering Australian public. In my opinion, advertising matter of that kind could well be omitted from newspapers and from broadcasting sessions. Many of the patent medicines which are advertised are complete frauds.
The honorable member for Bendigo has claimed that the public should be given the kind of entertainment that it wants. If the honorable member’s idea were adopted, listeners in country towns, when switching on their radios on a Sunday afternoon, would probably hear a description of a football match in Melbourne or a cricket match in Sydney. Under present conditions, some one in authority decides that such -broadcasts shall not be made on a Sunday. People are not allowed to have all the time -exactly the sort of entertainment that they want. The Chief Secretary of New South Wales, Mr. Baddeley, banned a play, Busty Bugles, although I suppose “that some people desired to see it. The people do not always get the kind of programmes that they want. Conservative governments have been in office in Victoria for many years, with a short break when a Labour government was in office, but the form of entertainment which the public of Melbourne are said to desire on Sundays has been denied to them for decades. The honorable member for Bendigo has adopted a ridiculous attitude. Melbourne has not a Sunday newspaper, yet reading the Sunday newspaper is a form of entertainment. Sydney has three Sunday newspapers, and I do not suppose that the people in that city are less moral than are the people of Melbourne; The statement that all the people should have what they want all the time is utter nonsense. If an entertainer at the Tivoli Theatre cracks a joke which is too “ blue “, an inspector of police intervenes and forbids a repetition of it.
– Nobody objects to that.
– The honorable member has stated that the people should get the kind of entertainment that they want. The position is that not in any country are the people allowed always to have the kind of entertainment that they want.
For reasons of administration, some authority must be established to deal with the phenomenal development of broadcasting. Progress in radio will also be rapid in future. Some honorable members opposite have asked why the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the Government should have a monopoly of frequency modulation and television. My reply to them is also a question. Why should not the Government have the monopoly? Frequency modulation and television belong to the people, whom the Government represents. I recognize that honorable members may have different views on this matter, but if the Government considers that great developments in broadcasting, such as television and frequency modulation, should be reserved for a governmental instrumentality, why should not the people have what really belongs to them? Television will probably progress more rapidly than frequency modulation in the next few years, and the financially weaker commercial stations may be crushed out of existence by the powerful monopolies. The Acting Leader of the Opposition has said that the commercial stations have not been game to protest against the bill. I remind the honorable gentleman that in 1937 the commercial stations asked the Government to appoint a board to control broadcasting. I know that they do not agree with all the provisions in this bill, but they have expressed themselves in favour of the appointment of a board such as the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The commercial stations do not fear this bill. The financially weaker ones realize that they will be mopped up or driven out of existence by the powerful monopolies, should the commercial stations be given the right to use television and frequency modulation. The introduction of television and frequency modulation will cost many millions of pounds, and the less wealthy commercial stations will not be able to afford the expense of converting from amplitude modulation to frequency modulation. Without the safeguards provided in the bill, the smaller commercial stations would be mopped up by the bigger organizations which would eventually secure a complete monopoly. I believe that if a monopoly is to be established., the people as a whole, who own the rights, and not commercial interests who desire to exploit the people, should have control. The bill has nothing to do with the nationalization of broadcasting. It deals with the control of broadcasting.
Reference has been made to the dramatization of political events. I have not listened to any of those broadcasts, but disinterested persons, who are not supporters of the Labour party, have informed me that they are disgusted with some of the material. A few days ago, I had a conversation with a clergyman who had listened to a political drama. Apparently, words were put into the months of the players who were supposed to represent members of Parliament or Ministers which those individuals had never uttered. Should the broadcasting system be used in an attempt to deceive the people into believing that a Minister uttered certain words? I am informed that even the presiding officer of the House has not been immune. Such tactics have disgusted people who are not interested in politics. The banning of political dramas is not new. Mr. Mackenzie King, who led Conservative governments in Canada for more than twenty years, approved of the ban on ali dramatizations of political events. This bill will impose a ban on dramatizations of political events which have occurred in the last five years. The honorable member for Bendigo has referred to the appointment of a representative of the Treasury and a representative of the Postmaster-General’s Department to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. “We hope to provide for the Australian Broadcasting Commission a long-range programme similar to that which the Government has endeavoured to provide for all departments, including the Department of Defence. Hitherto, a wrangle has occurred every twelve months about the developmental programmes for certain departments for the following financial year, and no department had a long-range programme. To-day, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has a long-range programme.
– It is a long way in the distance.
– It is not. Current developments in postal installations are the most rapid in our history. Plans are now being given effect to which will provide trunklines in country districts, so that country telephone subscribers may have a reasonable intrastate and interstate service. Such a project has never been attempted before.
– I think we had better get back to the bill.
– I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I have transgressed. I was merely pointing out that more facilities are being provided for the people than ever before. The objective of the Government is to plan longdistance programmes for all departments. A five-year programme has been drawn up for the Department of Defence and a four-year programme for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Even in the Australian Capital Territory, contracts have been let for a building programme extending over five years.
– Not many houses- havebeen built.
– The contract has been let to a private contractor, and if the bouses fail to materialize, it will be a reflection upon private enterprise. The Government does not wish the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be coming to the Government every three months to ask for more money. When this bill is passed, there will be drawn up for the Australian Broadcasting Commission a programme extending over a number of years, so that it will know precisely what it can do. That is one of the reasons why it is proposed to place a representative of the Treasury on the. commission. During the seven years that I have been Treasurer, I have found that most Ministers realize the value of having a first-class Treasury official in their confidence. Even some of the semi-private organizations upon which there are Treasury representatives appreciate the value of such representation. A man is a fool who thinks that, because he knows something about politics, he is qualified to deal with statistics and accounts. The function of the Treasury official on the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be to deal with such matters, just as the function of the official of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will be to give advice on technical matters. Those officials will not be called upon to advise the commission on programmes, or to say whether “ Billy Blue “ or somebody else should be on the air. It is not intended to take away from the commission the right to decide who shall be given free political broadcasts. No government has ever had trouble with the commission on that matter. The present Government kas never tried to get more time for free political broadcasting than is given to Opposition parties. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) once got a double dose of time because somebody cut the line he was using during the first five minutes of his broadcast. Therefore, the commission, being completely fair, gave him his time over again. The Government was not concerned in the decision.
The purpose of the bill is not nationalization of broadcasting, but the setting up of an authority to control broadcasting effectively, including the utilization of available channels. I do not make any bones about saying that; I think that some supervision of programmes is desirable, but by that I do not mean arbitrary control. The chairman of the board will consult with the managements of commercial broadcasting stations, and come to an arrangement with them about programmes. I know that it is impossible to satisfy everybody when arranging programmes. I am told that the Leader of the Australian Country party sometimes gets a line more over the air than t do, but I do not complain. Probably be deserves it. I believe that, on one occasion, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was given five minutes over the air, while the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who followed him, was given only one minute. There were a lot of complaints about that, but I do not ‘become excited over such matters. The Government is concerned about creating an organization which will control the great developments taking place in broadcasting, and which will give the best possible service to the public. It must be remembered that the commercial broadcasting stations have no rights. They have been granted licences for a limited period. They are using something that belongs to the people, and the people have the right to ensure that the assets which they own shall be used to the best advantage. As for the kind of entertainment offered, we know that a concerto in E minor may be followed by some of the most modern dance music, which many people do not like. Our purpose is to ensure that, at any time of the day, a listener shall be able to get what he wants from some station. 1 make no reflection on the officials of the Postmaster-General’s Department when 1 say that, in view of the impending developments in broadcasting, control can no longer be left in the hands of that department. Having regard to the prospective introduction of frequency modulation, and to the many new channels which the introduction of that system will make available, we believe that it is necessary to establish a first-class organization to control broadcasting.
.- It will not take me long to say what 1 have to say about this bill. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) rose to speak, he probably conveyed the impression to any one just entering the House that he intended to explain the bill thoroughly, and clarify the whole position. However, he did nothing of the kind. As usual, he discussed many trivial matters, and attempted to distract the attention of hi.= hearers from the real substance of the bill. In this he succeeded to some extent. He spoke of pills and .backache cures, of trunk telephone lines and monopolies. If he really meant what he said about monopolies, he would have dealt long ago with a monopoly of taxation that is crushing many exservicemen who own small businesses.
– The honorable member should discuss the bill.
– I am replying to the points raised by the Prime Minister.
– The Prime Minister spoke to the bill.
– He spoke of trunk telephone lines and monopolies. May T not discuss those subjects?
– If the honorable member does not obey the Chair, his speech will be much shorter than he expected.
– The Prime Minister spoke of trunk telephone lines, and claimed that the Government was extending them into outback areas. For a long time, I have been asking for certain telephone facilities in my electorate, but without success. This bill proposes to set up a board to control broadcasting, and the Government, through the Minister chosen for- the purpose, will control the board. The policy of the Government is socialization, and there is not the slightest doubt that that policy will be applied, through the Minister, and through the board, to broadcasting. This bill is followed on the notice-paper by two others, one dealing with nationality and citizenship, and* the other dealing with an international trade agreement. All these bills have a common aim. Other speakers in this debate have pointed out how broadcast matter can be phrased so as to convey certain meanings. Let me refer to a broadcast made by the Prime Minister last Sunday week over a station which he frequently uses. It is not only “ John Henry Austral “ who can dramatize political issues. The Prime Minister said that he was tired of listening to Opposition members disparaging the Public Service. Everybody knows that the Opposition has never at any time in this House found fault with public servants. What they have condemned is the action of the Government in appointing so many public servants in order to carry out its socialist programme. The Prime Minister suggested that the Opposition was finding fault with public servants.
– I should like the honorable member to express an opinion about the bill.
– I waited for the Prime Minister to express an opinion about the bill, but I heard him mention a number of other matters to which I am now attempting to refer.
– I am trying to keep the honorable member on the rails.
– It is not usual for me to sit on a rail. I am usually to be found on one side or the other of it, and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, cannot keep me on the rail on this subject or any other. My objection to the bill is that it gives the Government complete control over an important advertising medium. We do not know yet who will be appointed to the board. I am sure that the people do not approve of the proposed alterations in the method of controlling Australia’s broadcasting services, but the Government, having the numbers, will do what it likes. Not until the next general election will the* people have an opportunity to express their opinion.
– I call the Minister for Information. The Chair will be resumed at 8 o’clock.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party was on his feet seeking the call.
– 1 did not see the Leader of the Australian Country party, who was not in his place. The Minister rose, and I called him. However, I shall deal with the matter on the resumption of the sitting.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– If the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) wishes to speak on this matter, I shall call him. There was some misunderstanding prior to the suspension, of the sitting.
– I do wish to speak. I thank the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the consideration extended to me, following a.n oversight on my part regarding the call. I appreciate that consideration very much.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in his speech made what, to my mind, were two significant remarks. One was evidently intended to assure the Opposition and the country that there was no nationalization in this measure. The right honorable gentleman stated that this was a simple bill in conformity with the long-range planning of the Labour Government. In the latter respect I thoroughly agree with his remarks, but to endeavour to assure the Opposition that there is no nationalization in this simplelooking measure is asking us to accept too much, in view of past experiences. I remind honorable members that similar remarks were made by Government members repeatedly when the now famous banking acts were before this House. In the light of after events, I think that the Opposition can be excused for any suspicion that it might have in regard to this measure, particularly when we consider and analyse it, having regard to the fundamental principles of the policy of the Australian Labour party, which are the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The Government claims that this bill is intended to effect the more efficient and coordinated control of broadcasting in Australia, to strengthen the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and to introduce a different system of financing the national broadcasting service. However, I regard this measure as one of the most subtle and dangerous pieces of legislation that has been introduced into this Parliament in recent years. Under the guise of being an apparently harmless and innocuous administrative measure, the bill is, in fact, the latest and most dangerous step towards the regimentation of Australian thought and action that has yet been attempted. It is in keeping with the decision of the recent triennial conference of the Australian Labour party to retain the objective of the socialization of industry, distribution and exchange. It will be recalled that that conference, which was held as recently as last September, reaffirmed planks in that party’s platform, calling for nationalization of banking, credits, and insurance, monopolies, shipping, public health, radio services, and sugar refining. The Prime Minister told the conference that in effecting nationalization the Government had been making a selection of really essential activities and services. Obviously, broadcasting is in the forefront of these essential things, because no one recognizes more than does the Prime Minister and the Minister for Information the tremendous value of radio as a vehicle for government propaganda. This legislation evidences, if evidence were required, the Government’s determination to introduce the Goebbels technique into the Australian way of life. It wants to give the Australian people a taste of the undemocratic propaganda methods which have been the outstanding characteristics of totalitarianism. While it should be recognized that government control of broadcasting has, for a great many years, been one of the planks of the Australian Labour party, it must be recognized that in Mr. Scullin’s policy speech in 1928* he promised nationalization of broadcasting. In 1937 the late Mr. John Curtin declared that broadcasting must be essentially and exclusively a publicly controlledutility. The decision to embody that matter in this bill must be obvious toevery one. Therefore, I agree with the Prime Minister when he stated that thismeasure is consistent with the longrangeplanning of the Australian Labour party.
As honorable members are aware, thePrime Minister has made no secret of thefact that he is smarting under criticism that has been meted out by thepress and otherwise to his Administration. It is not surprising, therefore, that, realizing that there will be a general election next year, he wants to gain complete control of this very important vehicle of news and propaganda. Notwithstanding frequent denials, a section* of the Cabinet has repeatedly indicated its support for the nationalization of broadcasting. For instance, the Minister in charge of this bill, who has been in the forefront of the campaign to gain control of commercial stations, has stated publicly that he looked forward to the day when B class stations would be nationalized. It now seems that, by the introduction and the certain passage of this measure, his dream will come true.
This bill places in the hands of a board which, both honorable members and the public should bear in mind, will be subject always to the control of the Minister, the power to regiment one of the newest and one of the most successful media for influencing public opinion. It is yet another of the Australian Labour party’s onslaughts upon the democratic institutions that we have cherished up to the present. Once this bill becomes law, freedom of the air will he gone. Programme policy will be under the control of the Minister, and, on the admission of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), “Programmes “ includes “ News “. From now on, news services, both national and commercial, and programme plans, will be subject to the board’s approval. The board is empowered to direct broadcasting employees, without being obliged to notify the managements of its orders. Could there be a more shocking assault on the citadel of liberty?
This legislation marks the passing of the grand old ideal of freedom. In future listeners will hear only those things that come within the limits of the Minister’s programme policy. More than a century ago, Thomas Jefferson said -
Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.
Since then radio has become an important vehicle for the dissemination of news and it has helped to preserve the principles of our democracy. However, in future it is to be strait-jacketed, so that this newest and most powerful organ will be subject to ministerial direction through a board legally subject to the Minister’s policy. Obviously, commercial stations are to be compelled to conform to the Government’s pattern. This board will lay down plans which, in effect, will include the development of a programme policy. It is utterly foreign to the Australian way of life, and to our citizens generally, that the people should be made to conform to any pattern, yet the bill provides that the board shall ensure that adequate and comprehensive programmes are provided for within the definition of the Minister’s ruling. Freedom of speech was never intended to be freedom to talk, one with another, with hushed voices. It included freedom fearlessly to express one’s views to the largest possible audience. The radio method obviously provides that audience. We have enjoyed also freedom of choice in listening, but now the Government intends to deny us that freedom, and to limit the listening within the dimensions of its own policy.
There can be little disagreement with the necessity for the control of broadcasting to be vested in a board. In fact, several months ago, I favoured the setting up of a board, and I know that the radio stations have themselves asked for this before. In asking for a board, it was not contemplated that that body would perform functions other than those which would be largely advisory in character. One idea was that the board should be similar to the Tariff Board, that it would openly deal with applications for licences, hear evidence for and against, analyse such evidence, and make recommendations to the Minister. But what will this proposed broadcasting board be? It will be nothing but a star chamber committee. Under the bill it has no power to hear applications for licences. The Minister has carefully retained that power. It will not matter that there is no broadcasting service at Southport, Innisfail, and scores of other places. None of these communities that are starved for broadcasting services can make application to the board. Applicants for new licences receive the stock reply that there are no wave length, available. Apparently all our wave lengths are utilized in providing for 134 stations. The United States of America on the other hand, has 1,700 stations on the same wave-band. Yet the Minister retains power to issue or refuse licences. He is doing so to ensure that independent broadcasting does not grow to a point where he cannot bend it to his will. Underlying this seemingly innocuous bill is a grim determination to prevent any further growth of independence in the broadcasting field. Though it lacks power to issue licences, this board has authority to control wave lengths, technical equipment, operating power, and programmes. In other words, it has power over the usage of the licences, once they are granted, including those of national and commercial stations. It is a case of a committee working behind closed doors and making decisions within the ambit of the Minister’s policy. I shall cite a case in point. There is a radio station at Gympie, Queensland, licensed with a power of 200 watts. It shares its wave length with a station at Geelong, but the Geelong station has a power of 500 watts. Naturally, the Geelong station compresses the area over which the Gympie station can give service, which is particularly difficult at any time because of the mineralized nature of the country around Gympie. Despite repeated applications, the Gympie station cannot secure from the authorities parity with Geelong. In what way would this board deal with such a station? If an application came from Gympie, would the board hear evidence openly from the Gympie people ? Would it grant to Geelong residents the opportunity of being heard? It would not. If I read this bill correctly, the Gympie application would be discussed behind closed doors, and it is open to doubt whether Geelong would know anything about it. Such matters should not be dealt with behind closed doors. There are now at least 900 applications for commercial licences, many from capable and reputable organizations which would be able to give good service to listeners, but none would secure a hearing from the board.
Then there is the question of frequency modulation. Opinion is divided about it. Many people contend that, if existing stations were given increased power and the frequencies were better arranged, listeners would get reproduction equal to that of frequency modulation. This would also cheapen receivers, and bring them more easily within the worker’s reach. One Australian manufacturer has just produced an electric receiver to sell at about £.11 lis., but, unfortunately, it is mainly for use close to high-powered stations. If increased power were granted to existing stations, more receivers of this type would be made. It is doubtful if frequency modulation will be within the average worker’s purchasing power for some time. One manufacturer has produced a frequency modulation converter to be fitted to an existing receiver at a cost of £30, and it could not be attached to the normal mantel type receiver, even at that price. An ordinary frequency modulation receiver would cost about £50, if any were available, according to evidence given to the Broadcasting Committee by the experts of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Will the average citizen receive benefit if some of the money lie pays in taxation is devoted to the provision of a frequency modulation service which he cannot use because of the high cost of receivers? Is it fair i.o use taxes to provide a service that only the comparatively well-off can afford? The PostmasterGeneral recently stated that there were over 150 applications for frequency modulation licences. Frequency modulation must come to Australia, even if only because of its comparative freedom from static and man-made interference. But, why not let it come in the natural way. through the commercial stations?
The commercial stations should be helped to that end to the greatest possible degree. If commercial stations are prepared to spend some of their profits in establishing this new service, it will be available to listeners who are sufficiently interested to pay £50 for a receiver, without cost to the taxpayer. The idea of confining the service to the national stations is entirely wrong. The introduction of frequency modulation should not be financed with taxpayers’ money, especially while taxes are maintained at the present unreasonably high level. There is no common sense behind the proposal, which is a sinister and ill-conceived idea of controlling radio, and, through radio, of controlling the people. Frequency modulation should be developed on the basis of free, independent, competitive enterprise.
Then there is the question of who will administer the act. The schedule on the last page says, somewhat coyly, “ omit definition of the Minister “. The original act and this amending bill contain repeated references to “ the Minister “. The identity of the Minister has not been disclosed. If the Government has nothing to conceal, it would say quite openly that “ the Minister “ means the Minister for Information but, apparently, it is unwilling to state this publicly. Perhaps the Government has some other intention, but it does seem, from my reading of this bill, that the new board will control all broadcasting stations. . These obviously include Radio Australia, the Government short-wave station, which at present operates under the control of the Minister for Information. That station will, therefore, have to present to the listening world both sides of every controversial subject and of every political question, adequate divine services, and so on. I feel confident that the present Minister for Information will willingly place that station at the disposal of the Opposition leader, and, perhaps, myself, to enable us to state our views on the various subjects we deem controversial, including, particularly, foreign affairs. Also, if this anonymous Minister is to he the Minister for Information, he will presumably be able to allot to Liberal and Australian Country party members, without charge, the same time on the Labour party stations as. is given by them to the Labour speakers. The original act provides for limitation of ownership of broadcasting stations. The amendment proposed now reads : “ A person shall not own “,. &c., and it goes on, as in the original act, to limit ownership and so control four capital city stations and four States. That provision needs careful watching, and it should be clarified. It seems to make the whole clause ridiculous. What will1 happen if the licenceholder is a political party and an incorporated association which does not come within the legal definition of “ person”? In any event, will the Labour party disclose its broadcasting position? It apparently owns 2KY Sydney, 3KZ Melbourne, 4KQ Brisbane, 6KY Perth, and has interests in 5KA Adelaide, 2HD Newcastle, and other stations. Just how close does this come to the original act? Does the alteration conceal an intention to secure more Labour broadcasting interests? Apart altogether from this point, the Labour party stations under this bill will be compelled to apportion their time so as to present both sides of any political question fairly. I ask the Minister if, following the passage of the bill, he will ensure an equitable allocation of time to both sides in every controversy. Incidentally, that would undoubtedly mean that time would be used by the Communists to present their side of each controversy over the Labour party stations.
The legislation has been drafted with the sole object of enabling the Government to place its power-greedy hands upon the whole broadcasting industry in an effort to spread its propaganda over the whole community. It is yet another attempt to dragoon a free people into the acceptance of a socialist government’s control of all they are and have. This impudent invasion of yet another sphere of private enterprise should awaken even the most lethargic Australian to the menace of a continuance of Labour-socialist rule. The silence of the , commercial radio stations in the face of this serious attack upon their liberty will doubtless be advanced by the Government as justification of its action. To this, I retort that it is very evident that those interests have been intimi- dated. They realize that the ruthlessness of the. Government is such that organized opposition to the legislation would mean drastic retaliatory action by the Government in one form or another.. I conclude by issuing a warning. I do not for one moment pretend to be able to- foretell the future,, but, considering the Government’s present frame of mind and many of its recent actions,. I believe that, within the next twelves months, Australian newspapers will find themselves also controlled by a board similar to. this one. What is more, it, too, will be a board subject to. ministerial direction. The Government will then be in a position to compel both radio and press, to function as media for its party and socialistic propaganda.
– in reply - Honorable members opposite in their treatment of this bill have whipped themselves into frenzied fury. They have kept away from the real provisions of the measure and have merely painted the horrors that they have conjured up in the most lurid colours and have said to the people of Australia, “ This is what will follow once this legislation is enacted”.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to hear the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) applaud, because I shall deal with him personally and also with people who were members of the Government of which he was a member in 1941. The truth of the matter is that this bill gives effect to recommendations and to policies that have won more or less general support in this Parliament, no matter what government has been in office, over the years. The bill sets out to establish a board to co-ordinate, in the public interest, commercial, programmes as between commercial stations, in the first place, and programmes as between commercial and national stations, in the second place. We have any amount of justification for taking this action because of events over the years. There was a statement about the control of broadcasting in 1935 by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), with which I do not disagree, when speaking on the question of broadcasting in Australia. On the 3rd December, 1935, according to Hansard, volume 148, at pages 2370-71, he said -
I am in full agreement with the sentiment expressed by the Leader of the Opposition when he said that broadcasting should be under national control.
He said further -
The ownership of a certain wave-length for broadcasting is certainly a monopoly.
He went on -
As we cannot have several people operating on the same wave-length for broadcasting an authority should be set up to decide front, whom the best interests of the community will be served. At present, the first company which, happens to come along and pay £25 per annum for the use of a wave-length is presented with an opportunity to make thousands of pounds a year out of the sale of advertising time over the wireless.
He added -
Consequently, there is some obligation on the part of the Government to ensure that -the programmes that come over the air are of ji type which should be at the disposal of the people who are prepared to listen.
He went on -
If this Parliament does not take this little -giant in hand and control him, it will not be long before wireless broadcasting will control this Parliament.
That was said in 1935, and if it was true, in 1935, it is true in 1948. The honorable gentleman does not repudiate his sentiments, to his credit.
– I had .my Isaiah’s mantle on.
– The honorable member was certainly a prophet then. He went on -
As we know, the Labour party had very little support from the press and not much from the wireless.
That shows where the monopoly was. The honorable member added -
I would rather have the people of this country listening to programmes approved by the Postmaster-General than to programmes formed by vested interests and forced on the people to the exclusion of everything else.
– He is right again !
– He is right again! The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) had this to say on :the 3rd December, 1935, according to page 2374 of the same volume of Hansard -
The Government should not be influenced against the public interests, but should ensure to the public the best possible broadcasting service by the introduction of an act of Parliament to control wireless broadcasting.
That was in addition to the act already on the statute-hook. The honorable member for Wide Bay wanted to go much further than we have gone in this bill. This bill does not seek to nationalize broadcasting. It still allows commercial stations to continue to function. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), in 1932, speaking on the second reading of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Bill, which was not satisfactory to the honorable member for Wide Bay or the honorable member for Barker, three years later said -
I wish the ‘Government had done something to bring under the control of one commission the whole of the broadcasting interests in Australia.
I do not know where the right honorable gentleman is now. He continued -
If that had been done, we could have had a national broadcasting commission worthy of the name, which would have had control not merely of the A class stations but also of the B class stations, in regard to the issuing of licences and the general approval of programmes.
There was no more thorough-going “socializer” or “ socializationist “ - I do not know which is the right word to use - than was the right honorable gentleman in 1932. If conditions were bad in 1932, they are immeasurably worse in 1948, when there are many more stations on the air than were operating at that earlier period. The right honorable gentleman continued -
In Australia we have in operation a hybrid system, and we may live to regret the introduction of it if we do not co-ordinate the two systems.
– Who said that?
– That was said by the right honorable member for Cowper. Those are the very sentiments which his followers repudiate to-day. They never read anything; they never think back about what they said in the past; they simply adopt the catch-cries which they learn from the newspapers and the vested interests which they serve, and make fools of themselves about this and every other piece of legislation. The right honorable gentleman continued -
Something should be done to ensure that ihe development of both A class and B class stations will be brought under national supervision in regard to programmes, advertising ;ind profit-making.
And profit-making! These excellent socialistic ideas came from the former Leader of the Australian ‘Country party. That right honorable gentleman is a more intelligent member of this Parliament than are those of his party who have joined us for the time being since then. Many other comments were made in other days which I could quote for the benefit of honorable gentlemen generally. Let me deal now with some statements made by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale).
– Do hot be too hard i’>ri him.
– I am a’ Christian and I suffer him; but I am not a perfect Christian and so I do not suffer him gladly. Last night with an arrogance that amazed me, even coming from a member of the Liberal party, the honorable member said, in effect, “ The British Broadcasting Corporation is an independent body. It is not a nationalized body. It can do what it likes. It is not even financed by the British Government”. I happen to know something about the British Broadcasting Corporation. Speaking in the British House of Commons on the 19th February, 1947, which is not so very long ago, the Assistant PostmasterGeneral, among other observations regarding the control of the British Broadcasting Corporation, said -
The corporation will be asked to furnish the Postmaster-General each year with estimates of expenditure covering the three subsequent years with forecasts of capital expenditure for a longer period.
That shows that the Postmaster-General in Great Britain is responsible for the control of the affairs of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The honorable member sought to make a comparison between the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He said, in effect, “ Here is the British Broadcasting Corporation; it is an ideal organization, and a much more democratically controlled body than the Australian Broadcasting Commission “. Let me inform the honorable member that on the 29th November, 1946, an agreement was made between the Postmaster-General of Great Britain and the British Broadcasting Corporation, which was established by an act of the British Parliament, and as has been remarked by other honorable mem/hers, it was. sponsored, not by a Labour government, but by a Conservative government. That agreement contained the following provision: -
The Postmaster-General may, from time to time, by notice in writing to the Corporation, require the Corporation to refrain from sending any broadcast matter, cither particular or general, specified in such notice. . . . Any such notice may specify whether or not theCorporation may, at its discretion, announce that the notice has : been given.
The Postmaster-General could, at any time, instruct the corporation what “it was to broadcast and what it was not to broadcast. Such a power does not exist in the Australian legislation. In 1941, an attempt was made to insert such a provision in the Australian Broadcasting Act by the Menzies Government. Honorable members will recall the words I quoted from the agreement between the British Broadcasting Corporation and the British Postmaster-General. In 1941, the then Postmaster-General, Senator McLeay, introduced an amending bill into the Senate. Clause 17 of that bill contained the following provision: -
The Governor-General may, if he is satisfied that it is necessary in the .public interest so to do, by notice in writing, direct the Commission to refrain from taking any action in the exercise of any of its powers conferred by this Act.
That provision is merely a paraphrase of the provision in the British legislation. The Menzies Government tried to defeat the intention of the Australian Broadcasting Act at that time by weakening it in that way. When the bill was presented to this House members of the Australian Labour party opposed it vigorously and as a result the Gibson. Committee was established. The Gibson Committee reported that that provision was wrong in principle. The committee’sreport was signed by Senator Gibson, as chairman, Sir Charles Marr, Dr. Grenfell Price, the present Minister for the Navy- (Mr. Riordan), Senator Amour and myself. If any group of persons rescued broadcasting from the efforts of the Menzies Government to destroy the power of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, it was the members of the Gibson Committee. Those members of the Eighteenth Parliament who in 1941 set out to destroy the power of the commission were the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride), the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), and the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), who in concluding his speech a few minutes ago said that once this bill becomes law freedom of the air will be gone. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) was also a Minister in 1941 who sought to destroy the power of the commission. May I say parenthetically that at a certain time in the pre-World War II. history of this country when the Acting Leader of the Opposition was a Minister, he telephoned the chairman of the. Australian Broadcasting Commission and informed him that the government of the day objected to the criticism of “ the Watchman “, whose real name was Mr. E. A. Mann, a former honorable member for Perth. The honorable gentleman told the chairman that the Government wished the commission to stop “ the Watchman “ criticizing the anti-Labour government of the day. That telephone message is now history. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was another member of the Menzies Government who wanted to commit the dastardly act of crippling the commission. Last on the list is the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who skated so nicely over thin ice when he talked about the McLeay bill. The honorable gentleman said that something had happened, but that the Gibson Committee had set everything right. He even wanted to take credit for what the Gibson Committee did, but it is well known that the Gibson Committee recommended to this Parliament a course of action which would prevent the doing of a wrong such as had been attempted by a government of which the honorable gentleman was himself a member. The Gibson Committee’s report was presented to the Parliament in the days of the Curtin Government, because, fortunately for Australia and for posterity, the non-Labour government of the period was relegated to obscurity and the Curtin Government was given the task of implementing the Gibson Committee’s recommendations. The recommendations of the committee were implemented in their entirety. A bill founded on the committee’s report was subsequently unanimously accepted by the Parliament. Every clause of that measure was passed by the committee of the House without alteration. All the nonsense that has been voiced, all the stupidities that have been uttered in recent days about the dreadful things that this bill will do, will not convince anybody. I am satisfied that every honorable member opposite who has so far participated in this debate has spoken with his tongue in his cheek. This Government proposes to rationalize and not to nationalize broadcasting. That rationalization process should have been commenced in 1932 when the right honorable member for Cowper first .drew attention to the need for improving the control of broadcasting. Because past governments neglected their work in this field, as they neglected it in so many others, a long time has elapsed before we have had an opportunity to do the very things that, not only some lion or able members opposite said needed doing, but also that the commercial broadcasting stations said in 1937 they wanted done. In 1937 the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations wrote to the then Prime Minister, stating that at a convention which had just concluded at Southport in Queensland, the federation had resolved that it desired some authority to be established “ to regulate all commercial broadcasting in Australia”. The federation suggested that a board consisting of three members should be appointed for that purpose. Provision for such a .board is made in this bill. The federation further suggested that the members of the board bc appointed for a definite period and that the board should not report to the PostmasterGeneral. The federation, however, recognized that some court of appeal should be established and accordingly it suggested that a select committee of the Parliament be established to deal with all matters about which some difference of opinion existed between the federation and the board. The government of the day, which was the Lyons Government, did not establish such a board. In his policy speech delivered at Deloraine, in Tasmania, on the 28th September, 1937, the then Leader of the United Australia party, the late Mr. J. A. Lyons, dealing with the subject of broadcasting, said -
The Government proposes to continue the present method of control of commercial stations - the B class stations - hut with safeguards against monopolies by individuals or corporations.
After its re-election to office the Lyons Government did nothing about it. That was merely a pious promise to the electors. The late Mr. Lyons in his policy speech continued -
The Government recognizes that a greater measure of security of tenure should be afforded to licensees of broadcasting stations and proposes to interpose a board for the purpose of granting or refusing licences-
That was important enough, but still more important was the addition of this rider -
With the right of appeal to the PostmasterGeneral.
So, the Postmaster-General was to be kept in control, and quite rightly so, because if ministerial authority disappears in relation to the control of broadcasting, just as in relation to the control of wheat, we would soon have anarchy in this country. Ministerial control is absolutely essential. In 1937 the members of the present Liberal party were definitely committed to the establishment of a board, with the emphasis that the Board should be under the control of the Postmaster-General. The Acting Leader of the Opposition said that this board will have to comply with government policy-
– The Minister said that. I merely repeated what he said.
– The honorable gentleman said many other things. He said that I was a sinister Minister with a disarming smile.
– I did the Minister full justice.
– He also said that, the bill should not be passed because I was a dangerous Minister. I have a lot of work to do. I have the privilege and the honour to hold one of the most important portfolios in this Government, and I am so busily engaged upon it that I have not the slightest ambition to be the Minister in charge of broadcasting. If it will help honorable members opposite to sleep easily to-night, they have my assurance that that is so. They have my further assurance that if the system of assistant Ministers was now in existence I would be asking the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) for the services of an assistant Minister rather than be looking around for some other important responsibility to undertake.
The honorable gentleman’s statement that the board will have to comply with government policy was only partly true. The functions of the board are clearly set out in the bill, from which it will be seen that the board will beauthorized to exercise many wide powers without reference to the Minister at all. We are taking away some of the powerswhich the Minister has at present and giving them to the board to exercise without any reference to him. The board will be required to ensure that adequate and comprehensive programmes are provided by national and commercial stations toserve the best interests of the public,, and that the technical equipment andoperation of such stations are in accordance with modern engineering practice. It will also be required to prepare comprehensive plans for the provision of broadcasting stations, television stations and facsimile stations, and to see that plans approved by the Government are implemented. The board will have tocomply with government policy in regard to the provision of those services, but that is different from saying that theMinister himself will make a decision in regard to all of those matters. TheMinister will have an obligation placed upon him to see that the board does its duty to the public in the directions that I have mentioned. That is in accord’ with the attitude of successive governments since the inception of broadcasting: in this country. The hoard will, however, be subject to the control of Parliament because, under proposed new section 6l (3), it will be required to lay any orders that it makes on the table in both Houses of the Parliament.
In one of his more rational moments, the honorable gentleman said that the powers of the board will enable the Government to bring censorship into every home. The powers of the board in respect of censorship of programmes will be the same as that which was. conferred upon the Minister by legislation enacted, in the first instance, by governments which were supported by honorable gentlemen opposite. There is, however, this difference. The Minister previously had absolute powers in this regard, but now any orders of the board will have to be tabled in both Houses of the Parliament. Whatever the Minister did in the past need never have come to the notice of the Parliament, but anything that is done in the future will be made the subject of orders. Honorable members will have a greater control of broadcasting through this legislation than they had previously.
The honorable gentleman also said that
At the present time both sides have an untrammelled right to present their views over the commercial radio. That may be right in theory, but in practice many stations have not made appropriate arrangements to ensure equitable facilities for the presentation of different points of view. The bill imposes an obligation on the board to ensure that facilities are provided on an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political or controversial matter. That does not mean that a commercial station will be forced to give so much time to the Labour party and so much to the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. It means that if it has time to sell for political broadcasting it is bound to make equitable arrangements for the use of that time by those who want to buy it. If some people cannot buy it, or do not want to do so, it will “be free to do what it desires with it. All that we are providing for is an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political or controversial matter. Is there anything wrong with that? Will any honorable member opposite say that that is an unfair provision?
– It is in operation today in the major radio stations.
– It does not operate to-day, and the honorable gentleman knows that it does not.
– It operates on every station other than the Labour party stations.
– The honorable gentleman also said that the bill is a step towards nationalization, and that commercial broadcasting is to be strangled. If commerical broadcasting and the smaller stations are strangled, it will he because of the operation of large vested interests. In theory, a commercial station licence is owned by the person to whom it is issued, but, in practice, the licence is the property of the biggest advertisers. They select the station on which they want to advertise, and, unless the owner of the station is prepared to sell blocks of time and to agree to the conditions imposed by people who have thousands of pounds to spend annually on broadcasting, he gets no opportunity to sell his time, and the offer goes somewhere else. The result is that, over the years, some stations have grown into bigger and bigger organizations, while other stations are struggling for an existence.
– In Perth, advertisers forced a certain broadcast off the air.
– I have not the slightest doubt of that. Just as advertisers can boycott newspapers that they do not like, so they can boycott radio stations that displease’ them. We are going to break that stranglehold, hut it will not be broken in the way that the honorable gentleman suggests, that is, by a plan of nationalization. Briefly stated, our desire is to create order out of chaos and to see that these channels, which are the people’s property, are utilized in a way that suits the public interest. Honorable members opposite seem to think that the possession of a commercial station licence gives the owner of that licence almost a freehold title to some property, but neither the holder of the licence, nor anybody else, were ever granted a commercial licence of more than twelve months tenure. The licences are all renewable annually. Every government has followed that practice, because it is recognized that events are moving rapidly in regard to audio-broadcasting, television and all the other new inventions that are coming on the market. One would imagine, from the speeches of honorable gentlemen opposite, that if a man owns a commercial radio station licence entitling him to broadcast on the medium wave band by the amplitudinal modulation system, he has some kind of prescriptive right to a frequency modulation licence or some prior claim to the issue of a licence to telecast, as the Americans say. No man or company owning a commercial broadcasting licence to-day has any better claim to a licence for facsimile broadcasting, television or frequency modulation broadcasting than any of the unsatisfied applicants for commercial station licences. Approximately 1,000 people who want these licences have filed applications for them over the years with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but they cannot get them. The Postmaster-General has already received 150 applications for frequency modulation licences. “When television comes to this country, as it will in a very short space of time, there will be many applications for the right to televise into the homes of the Australian people. In America at present 40 television stations are in operation, 500,000 licences have been issued and 35,000 people are employed in television activities. In the course of some light reading over the week-end I scanned the pages of Harper’s Magazine of September last. ‘ In an article dealing with the future of television some rather extraordinary statements are made. The writer of the article is Bernard B. Smith, a frequent contributor to the magazine: He is a New York lawyer, who represents a variety of interests in radio. He says, inter alia -
Furthermore, the startling prospect is that within four or five years, when some” eleven million television sets will adorn the living rooms of America, many a motion-picture theater owner will begin defaulting on his mortgage, as large numbers of people who have been habitual movie-goers decide to stay at home and take their entertainment in their own living rooms. Moreover, newspapers and magazines will find advertisers decreasing their space commitments, or in some cases deserting these media altogether in favor of. the new and more effective advertising medium that television can offer them. Even a few book publishers are beginning to express very definite fears for the future, as yesterdaysbook purchasers spend their evenings with eyesglued to the television screen instead of to the pages of the latest novel. . . .
Nor can radio-station owners laugh off television on the ground that only those in the upper income brackets can alford to buy television sets. Studies made of the financial status of purchasers of television sets indicate conclusively that a. majority of them comefrom families with incomes of less than five thousand dollars.
That is less than £1,500 Australian. If that is the prospect in regard to television in America, a similar prospect will open up in this country a year or two later. All the radio sets of to-day will probably be scrapped by that time and will be put into the garage or the storeroom. Very few people will listen when they can watch a screen in their own homes and get the picture aswell as the story. It may be that when that time arrives this bill will be found to be quite out of date. “We have decided that it is in the public interest to control television in this country through the national stations. We are not going to allow the same conditions to grow up under television as have grown up under the present system of broadcasting. That system grew up without any plan and without any order. If the Bruce-Page Government had taken the advice of Sir Harry Brown, who was the Director of Posts and Telegraphs at that time, therewould never have been any commercial stations at all in Australia, and we should have had an organization like the British Broadcasting Corporation. The Prime Minister told that story this afternoon. We live in a rapidly changing world in respect of all forms of broadcasting, but we are trying to control .the system of broadcasting that we know, because it operates in the public domain and the profit-making interests of those who own stations are not even secondary to the public interest. The public interests have been entirely neglected.
On the 1st May, 1947, the Broadcasting Committee presented a report to the Parliament regarding the co-ordination of programmes. That was a good day on which to ^present it, because May Day is always a good day.
The report was signed by a number of distinguished people. They were Senator Amour, the chairman, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), the vice-chairman, Senator Finlay, Senator Herbert Hays, who has since left public life, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley), the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). The honorable member for Warringah added a little face-saver afterwards, but he signed the section of the report that I am about to read, as did each of the other honorable gentlemen to whom I have referred. The passages to which I direct attention are as follows: -
The Australian Broadcasting Commission would like to see a move made towards placing national broadcasting in Australia on a footing similar to that in Canada. The Commission considers that in a country where there is a double system, as in Australia, there should be some means by which it can be co-ordinated, and has pointed out that in the United States of America the Federal Communications Commission looks over the whole broadcasting field and indicates what in its view any broadcasting authority, as a public utility, should be required to do. In Canada, where there is a dual system which, with some modification, is like Australia’s, the commercial stations are compelled to adopt certain standards and to do a certain amount of public interest broadcasting.
Apart from criticism of the general level of programme standards in the commercial service it is undeniable that there is much economic waste in the multiplication of the same types of sessions by various stations serving the same listeners. For example, as one witness has pointed out, there are no fewer than five stations in one of the capital cities which devote practically the whole of Saturday afternoon to the broadcasting of the same sporting events, involving multiple costs of broadcasting personnel, land-line facilities and other equipment for relays to other groups of stations, which might, in other circumstances, lie diverted to productive purposes clamouring for much more deserving priority in moderate essential needs, without depriving listeners of non-duplicated sport broadcasts.
Every honorable member who has signed that report 19 speaking. Could the Government have any better justification for this legislation than the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the finding of members of the Broadcasting Committee, at which latter body honorable members opposite now sneer, and which they say is useless ? If the Broadcasting Committee had never made another recommendation, it would have done a useful job. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) and the honorable member for Warringah submitted separate add end urns to the main report. The honorable member for Warringah did not say, “I concur in the views which the honorable member for Deakin has expressed “. The honorable member for Franklin made a brief report, in which he generally supported the recommendation by the honorable member for Warringah, which was to the effect that we should ask the commercial stations to discipline themselves for a year or two years, and, if they did not succeed in doing so, the Government might intervene. The members of the committee also said later -
A somewhat similar situation, with some exceptions, is experienced in other types of programmes, especially at peak listening hours in the evening, when, if adequate public service, in its highest sense, were the aim of all stations, a reasonable portion of those hours would be universally devoted to sessions which vitally affect the well-being of the community and the future of this nation.
Noble sentiments! But when we introduce a bill to give expression to those noble sentiments honorable member? opposite claim that the measure will strangle broadcasting, that it is the thin end of the wedge, that it heralds the end of the freedom of the air, and that, within twelve months, I shall be looking around for fresh fields to conquer or, having tasted the blood of the commercial stations, I will go out after the newspapers. Those criticisms are so much nonsense and persiflage. With honorable members opposite, such criticism passes for logic, but it is nauseating to people who have studied the problem and know the facts, the right answers and the right thing to do in the public interest. Paragraph 49 of the report, which the honorable member for Deakin has signed, states -
An acceptable scheme of co-ordination could ensure, for example -
Concerted and effective resistance ti> “ sponsor interference “ with desirable programme and advertising standards.
Elimination of the economic waste involved in having so many stations broadcasting the same kind of programme simultaneously.
– That was before sponsor interference with the Liberal party.
– It may be, but those two recommendations have been incorporated in the bill. “We have not adopted the precise verbiage of the report, but in the language of the parliamentary draftsmen, we have empowered the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to do those two things. We have also accepted three recommendations by honorable members opposite and included them in the bill, and therefore the board is to have the following powers: -
No power which we seek to transfer to the board is antagonistic to the public interest. We are not asking for any additional authority. All the powers which we are transferring to the board are in the present act, and may be operated by the Minister. However, the Postmaster-General’s Department, which, in the past, has administered the act, is not now in a position to cope with the broadcasts on a medium wave band which we have used to date. We have a recommendation from the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs to that effect. Frequency modulation will be on the ultra-short wave band, facsimile will come later, and television is approaching rapidly, and, therefore, we propose to establish under the board a group of public servants who will carry out its directions. The board will consist of persons possessing particular qualifications. We shall seek the best men we can get for the job. The Government hopes that it will be able to find men of the same calibre as Mr. Coles, the chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission. He is a man of great acumen, if one is to judge by his success in the business life of the country. He is also a man of the highest integrity, who has served Australia with distinction in many spheres. We are looking for men of capacity who will carry out their functions with credit to themselves and advantage to Australia.
I do not know that I should answer much more of the criticism which honorable members opposite have advanced, because it was wild and furious. In their protestations, they did not even attempt to be genuine. They showed no desire to be helpful. Their sole purpose was to misinform and mislead the people. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has referred to the Australasian Performing Right Association. He has mentioned that subject on other occasions, and I do not deny him his right to express his views. He has quoted extensively from the reports of the Gibson Committee and the Calwell Committee. I do not need to withdraw any recommendations which I have signed in those two documents. As the Prime Minister has explained, the collection and distribution of moneys by the Australasian. Performing Right Association on behalf of overseas and Australian authors and composers is most complicated. The honorable member for Richmond knows the story, because we have furnished him with statements from time to time in connexion with the adoption of the British Copyright Act and other matters. I have two things to say to the honorable member on the subject. The first is that he should accept the invitation of the controllers of the Australasian Performing Right Association to inspect their books and search all their documents. They have offered him that facility, but I “understand that he has not accepted it.
– That is absolutely incorrect. I had no intention of inspecting their “books even if the invitation were extended to me. I am not an accountant.
– The honorable member has the right to decline the offer. I am entitled to answer his criticism by suggesting that he should accept the invitation of the Australasian Performing Right Association because he will then be in a better position to judge whether his statements are true or otherwise. The second thing which I desire to say to the honorable member is that the drafting of a separate Australian copyright bill will be a task of some magnitude. The Government has not yet had time to undertake it. General amendments of some magnitude -of the copyright law may be required as the result of a recent worldwide conference on copyright held at Brussels, and of a further conference which will be held under the sponsorship of the “United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The honorable member has been good enough to supply me “with the copy of Hansard from which he has quoted, showing what is seemingly a meagre distribution of moneys by some Australian publishing houses to some Australian authors and composers. [Extension of time granted.^ £ thank the House for its courtesy, and shall not trespass for long on its time. The position is better now than it was in 1939. I am certain of that, because of the investigations which I made as a member of the Broadcasting Committee of which Senator Gibson was chairman, and of further investigations which I undertook when I was chairman of the Broadcasting Committee. There is. on the face of it, a case for the Australasian Performing Right Association to answer, but there is the additional fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations have made continuing agreements with the Australasian Performing Right Association. If they were dissatisfied with the arrangement, they could have made a joint plea to the Government and asked for the introduction of copyright legislation. It is true that a deputation, which was not authorized by the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations and the Australian Broadcasting ‘Commission, came to Canberra to discuss the matter. The members of the deputation -were Mr. Charles Moses, the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting ‘Commission, Mr. Ridley, the chairman of the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, and, by some queer mischance, a gentleman who operates the two stations owned by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). However, the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting ‘ Stations, at its next meeting, disowned its representatives, and, therefore, it cannot be argued that the federation is feeling so outraged about the matter as is the member for Richmond.
– I have never suggested thai the commercial stations were involved. I stated that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has frequently directed attention to the matter.
– The report of Hie Gibson Committee, -which I signed, recommended that one fee should be paid to the Australasian Performing Right Association jointly by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial stations. We cannot make an agreement, in respect of the use of matters over which the Australasian Performing Right Association claims some ownership, for the national stations only. We have to cover all the broadcasting stations. T(he honorable member may be concerned with the position of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but that is only one facet of the case. There are two facets, and the Government is examining both of them.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has criticized the bill. I suggest that it is rather indelicate of him to participate in this debate, because he is personally interested in the ownership of a station at Kingaroy, in Queensland. No honorable member who has a personal financial interest in any matter before the Parliament should criticize the Government’s proposals in relation to it because, in so doing, he is liable to be misunderstood. People will think that he is putting self-interest before the national interest-
– Does not the Australian Labour party ownradio stations?
– I have criticized the honorable member for Maranoa mildly. The action of the honorable member for Reid, who personally owns two broadcasting stations, in participating in this debate is like the behaviour of certain other gentlemen in another sphere who, in recent times, in spite of protests by the Crown, participated in the discussion and settlement of another matter when they or their families were personally interested. I shall leave any conclusions or deductions on that subject to the imagination of honorable members.
I believe that the Australasian Performing Right Association renders a good service to all those who have composed the songs which are sung, or written the stories which are broadcast, or who have done other creative work for which, under our law, they are entitled to claim payment if they possess the copyright. I cite the classic example of McCormack, the schoolteacher in New South Wales who composed “Advance AustraliaFair”. He received very little money in royalties during his lifetime, and bequeathed to his widow all his possessions, including the copyright of the song. She received very little money for her interest in it either, but a residuary beneficiary was the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales. Since this Government has made “ Advance Australia Fair “ the theme song for the news service on the national broadcasting system, and I have persuaded Mr. Norman B. Rydge to have “ Advance Australia Fair “ played in all motion picture theatres controlled by Greater Union Theatres, the royalties payable to the Presbyterian Church have been considerable. The church is still receiving payments, and will continue to receive them during the lifetime of the copyright, which is now drawing to a close. The period of the copyright subsists for 50 years. If that church had not been made a beneficiary by the late Mr. McCormack’s will, and there was no organization such as the Australasian Performing Bight Association to protect its rights, the use of “ Advance Australia Fair “ would have been possible without any cost to the commercial or national broadcasting stations. If the performing right fees were not paid to the beneficiaries, their representatives or assigns, the commercial broadcasting stations would have added more money to their profits. The costs of the Australian Broadcasting Commission would certainly have been less, but the swollen profits of the commercial stations would equally certainly have been greater. The turnover of the commercial stations during the past year was about £3,000,000, the net profit being about £400,000. I have thought of lodging a claim with the Presbyterian Church.I have certainly added to its financial strength, and I think it might at least reward me one of these days my making me one of is patron saints.
– I rise to order. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has questioned the right of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) to vote on the motion for the second reading of this bill. Earlier in this session, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) disclosed to the House that he was a trustee representing every member of the Australian Labour party in the ownership of station 2HD-
– Order ! I am able to rule on the point of order without hearing the honorable member further. The honorable members referred to are interested financially in the ownership of certain commercial broadcasting stations, but only jointly and severally with other people. Therefore, they are entitled to vote on the measure now before the House.
– But you have not heard my argument.
– There is no need to hear the honorable member further. I have ruled.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. j. j. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
– I should be glad if you would indicate, Mr. Deputy Chairman, how the bill is to be considered in committee. Some of the clauses contain a large number of proposed new sections. Is it proposed that such clauses shall be considered as a whole, or will the proposed new sections be considered one by one?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - The Standing Orders provide that when a bill is being considered in committee it shall be dealt with clause by clause. The fact that some of the clauses consist of a number of proposed new sections does not affect the matter. The clauses will be taken one by one, no matter what their length is.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Definitions).
– Clause 5 begins as follows: -
Section four of the Principal Act is a mended -
by inserting in the definition of “ broadcasting station “, after the word “for” (second occurring), the word “aural”;
The effect of this proposed amendment of section 4 of the principal act will be to exclude the commercial broadcasting stations from participation in such new developments as frequency modulation, television and facsimile broadcasting, and the proposal is causing grave concern both inside and outside of the Parliament. Only to-day, I received a telegram from the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, an organization which does not usually concern itself with matters outside its own direct interests. The Associated Chambers of Manufactures are now holding their annual conference in Sydney, and they have sent me the following telegram: -
Following resolution of annual conference Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia is hereby transmitted : - “That this annual meeting of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia views with deep concern the determination of the Government to withhold from commercial broadcasting stations in Australia access to new methods of radio transmission such as frequency modulation and regards this step as a political move to prevent commercial stations from taking advantage of normal technical developments in broadcasting techniques in the hope that (1) in time the quality of transmission from commercial stations will be inferior to the quality of transmission from national stations; (2) there will be a gradual transfer of listeners from commercial to Government owned and operated stations; (3) the value of the assets of commercial stations will be gradually reduced; and (4) the nationalization of commercial stations advocated by those who politically oppose participation by free enterprise in broadcasting in Australia will be rendered less costly through the gradual obsolescence of the equipment they will be compelled to keep in operation. This annual meeting of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia therefore requests that the Government give all licensed broadcasting stations equal rights and opportunities to use any or all the latest developments in radio transmission which may give better service to the listening public.”. - -WITHALL, Director Associated Chambers of Manufactures, Sydney.
As I have said, it is evident that the Government intends to exclude the commercial stations from participating in such developments as frequency modulation, facsimile broadcasting and television. Its purpose is to strangle the -commercial stations slowly by monopolizing for the national stations all modern developments. That proposal alone would have warranted the Opposition in dividing the House on the motion for the second reading of the bill, if there were no other reasons for doing se. The technique -of the Government in this respect i9 exactly the same as was its preliminary approach to the banking legislation. Before bringing in its principal legislation to nationalize the banks, it took certain preliminary steps to pave the way for ultimate nationalization. The Government knows that if it is able to render obsolescent the equipment of the commercial broadcasting stations, it can avoid paying just compensation to them when it finally nationalizes all forms «of broadcasting. If the commercial stations can be gradually forced out of business because they have become obsolescent the Government will achieve its purpose without having to pay out one penny in compensation. This is a step towards nationalization. The Govern., ment proposes to prevent the commercial stations from participating in advanced scientific technique in broadcasting. I oppose the clause. It is proposed to insert after the definition of “ Commissioner the following definition : - “Departmental Commissioner” means a “ Commissioner who is an officer of the Department of the Treasury or of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
It is proposed to include a representative of the Treasury and a representative of the Postmaster-General’3 Department on the commission. I shall have something to say on that aspect when consideration is being given to that clause, but I cannot let this definition pass without making some comment. I believe that the commission’s duty is to develop national broadcasting so as to give to the people an acceptable national network. For example, the commission arranges for celebrity concerts. It brings to Australia world celebrities to give performances to the people of this country. Time and time again that procedure hae been financed out of the money made available from the broadcast listeners’ fees. A subvention is now to be made from Consolidated Revenue. It will be said by the Minister, I suppose with a certain amount of effect, “If there is to be a contribution, from Consolidated Revenue the Government musthave its officers there to protect its interests “. I object to the principle, because I can see that when the commission lays down a plan for bringing into Australia accepted overseas celebrity artists, the Treasury official may say to the Treasurer, if not to the commission, “ There is going to be an expenditure of tens of thousands of pounds for celebrity artists “. Because the funds are to come out of Consolidated Revenue, and because, as we know, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is not given to lavish expenditure, the right honorable gentleman may say, “Let me have a look at that one “. I venture to say that with the introduction of public servants on to a commission whose job is to attend to the entertainment of the people, the result may be the complete emasculation of the programmes that the people will he provided with. I look with regret at this departure, because I believe that the function of the commission 13 to present entertainment to the people. When public servants are placed upon the commission there will be one or two factors to consider. There will be the overriding hand of the Treasurer on expenditure which may have to be incurred, and, secondly, reports will be presented by the public servants to the Minister. It will be easy for any departture contemplated in educational matters or in entertainment proposals, to be vetoed by the Treasurer by reason of his unwillingness to make finance available, or by the Minister because he, forsooth, will have an overriding power in regard to these matters. The reason why the commission was made a body independent of political control was because it was believed that it should have the right to set up its own entertainment, to bring out its own artists, and to present to the people programmes that would be acceptable to them. When we find that a Minister or a public servant, who may have no knowledge of the entertainment value of artists or of good programmes, is likely to veto programmes of this nature, I can only view with abhorrence the result that will flow from such an arrangement. I believe that the insertion of the word “ aural “ in the definition of “ broadcasting station “ will destroy for all time the commercial stations. This amendment will effectively prevent the commercial stations from taking advantage of the current trends of technical development in broadcasting. By placing public servants upon the commission, who will act as watchdogs for the Government, we destroy the true purpose of the commission, which is to give entertainment to the people.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has raised two points, one concerning the board and its activities, and the other concerning the Australian Broadcasting Commission. There is nothing new in governments placing public servants on governmental authorities. Public servants have been appointed, for example, to the National Airlines Commission, and also to directorates of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. As a matter of fact, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is a government representative on that organization. He is there by some extraordinary process, which makes him irremovable. Attempts that were made by a former Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) to remove the right honorable gentleman ended up, under some article of the agreement, by the appointment of an arbitrator, who promptly decided that the right honorable member for North Sydney should remain where he was. Although the right honorable gentleman is supposed to represent the Parliament, the government of the day could not remove him, and there he stays, and will stay, even if he does not become the right honorable member for Bradfield. I think, however, that he is a better bet for that seat than somebody else that T know. We have representatives on
the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, and they have done good service there. There have been complaints about wastefulness by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and there have been statements by members of the Broadcasting Committee from time to time that the finances of the Australian Broadcasting Commission ought to be investigated. The Gibson Committee said so; the Calwell Committee said so; and the Amour Committee has repeatedly referred to this matter. Who could better look after the finances of the country than Treasury officials, particularly under the present Treasurer, who has such a fine record to his credit. We shall put a representative of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department on the Australian Broadcasting Commission to see that the technical services are safeguarded. If those public servants have to make decisions in regard to celebrity artists, I presume they will be just as competent to do so as are any other members of the commission, all of whom have come from different walks of life, and had no knowledge of celebrity artists or arranging entertainment programmes prior to becoming members of the commission. That remark relates to the members of the first commission which was appointed when the Menzies Government was in office. They were estimable people. Some were not reappointed by this Government, which appointed other people who were just as well, or just as ill, qualified as any of their predecessors, or any honorable member of this House, to determine the value of celebrity artists. The truth is that artists are selected, in practice, on the recommendation of the experts of the commission, who pay full regard to the financial implications. The ability of the artists themselves is probably not made the subject of any serious debate. The recommendations submitted to the commission are carefully studied in the same way as” Cabinet generally studied recommendations of the permanent heads of departments. In accord with the general line of policy this is laid down.
Although the manufacturers of radio equipment have made a complaint, 1 point out that we will always get these complaints-. In the days of the industrial revolution in England, there were the Luddites, who objected to the machinery introduced into spinning mills. They saw their jobs going and tried to wreck the machines in some instances. This is what I learned when I was at school, and I suppose that the story is still right. There have been people ever since who have never wanted mankind to enjoy the benefits of the work of the creative geniuses of the race. When people get a vested interest they fight very hard against any change. Every radio manufacturer in Australia will fight to retain the present system of aural broadcasting. If a manufacturer were asked if he wanted to see facsimile presentation or television introduced, he would say that he does not, because its introduction would mean that he would have to change the whole of his plant, get a new set of machinery, and scrap the old. New improvements will come along. It is easy for the Associated Chambers of Manufactures to say, “ Give to the present owners of commercial licences the right to add all the new systems that are brought out, give them licences in the new fields, because they are already established”. As I have said before, the 102 holders of commercial station licences have no better rights than the other 1,000 people who want licences, but so far cannot get them, to be given these additional facilities. If the Government decided to let commercial stations or private enterprise have the use of these new inventions, perhaps the fairest thing would be to say to the owners of the present commercial station licences, “ You have had your day. You have made a lot of money. It is time to let somebody else have a chance “. The manufacturers seem to think that it is a good thing to maintain the present little circle that has benefited so greatly. These commercial stations will still operate, ‘probably for some years to come, and people will still build radio sets. It may be that television attachments will be made so simple and will cost so little, that they will be attachable to the present sets. The manufacturers have probably no case at all on which to base a complaint abou the provision in this clause.
If the national stations introduce television the manufacturers will have the right to manufacture equipment for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That commission does not place its orders with only one group of manufacturers. The stations that will need equipment will be supplied by people in association with the Associated Chambers of Manufactures. They certainly have no ground for complaint’ at all. Honorable members opposite have misled the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, which apparently bases part of its complaint on the assumption that this measure will lead to nationalization, whereas it will do nothing of the sort, though it will lead to rationalization. Therefore, the Associated Chamber of Manufactures has nothing to complain about.
– 1 support the remarks of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison). One of the strong points made by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) in his second-reading speech was that the Australian Broadcasting Commission would be out of its financial difficulties after the passage of this bill because il would be wholly financed according to its needs from Consolidated Revenue. The Minister painted a glowing picture, lie said that, with its financial difficulties removed, the commission would be able to give a better service and present better programmes by imported and local artists, than it hae been able to present hitherto. Now we find that a representative of the Treasury and a representative of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are to be appointed to the commission. With all due respect to the representative of the Treasury, I do not know why he should be appointed. Why should he stand as a kind of policeman over the commission while it is trying to provide the best artists and programmes that it is possible for Australia to get?
– Has not the ordinary man an equal right to entertainment with the man who is specially trained?
– Yes. The trouble is that the Treasury representative will no doubt be anxious to please his departmental head. The result may be that, instead of having presentations by artists from the great theatres of the world, we shall have a. chorus from the London School of Economics singing such delightful songs as “The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street” and “ Wails ‘from Wall Street”.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable member’s remarks must be connected with the clause, which provides for the appointment of a representative of the Treasury and a representative of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. No dissertation about Threadneedle Street or any other subject wide of the clause may be indulged in.
– I point out that the Treasury representative would not necessarily have the essential artistic training that the present members of the commission have. The chairman, Mr. Boyer, had a distinguished university education. He is well read and has great musical knowledge. The qualifications of the other commissioners are similar. What the representative of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will have to do on the commission, heaven only knows! If anything goes wrong with the technical equipment it will be a job for the technical officers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, because we were told by the Minister for Information in his secondreading speech, that it is essential to take out of the hands of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department the technical operation of the national broadcasting service and to place it in the hands of the staff of the technical branch of the board. So, goodness only knows why we are to have a technical officer from the Postmaster-General’s Department on the commission, which will be mainly engaged in laying down programme policy. Why the Treasury is to be represented on the commission also passes my understanding. Can the commission not be trusted to get the best possible programme value for the people? I suspect that the function of the Treasury representative will be to cut down expense in connexion with the importation and employment of artists and that the result will he second- rate and third-rate programmes when the commission would rather achieve its ambition of presenting the best programmes. It is extraordinary to say that the Parliament should vote money to the commission and then declare it to be so untrustworthy that a Treasury officer must be always present to watch expenditure and ensure that the commission shall not spend two-pence or threepence more on artists than is necessary. That is a pinch-penny policy that must perpetuate the poor programmes that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) complained so bitterly about. Artistic people are wanted to conduct the affairs of the national broadcasting service, not economists, tabulators of figures, tax-gatherers and publicans. Let us have artistic people. Otherwise the programmes will be detrimentally affected and we shall have a continuance of the state of affairs so vigorously condemned by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
Mr. BEAZLEY (Fremantle) [9.49 J.The clause confines to the Australian Broadcasting Commission television, facsimile and certain other technical developments. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) expressed concern at the dead hand of a Treasury official being placed on new developments in radio. I wish to balance his argument by saying that he ought to express concern at the dead hand of a sponsor on television programmes conducted by commercial broadcasters. The first thing to be said about television is that it involves an enormous capital outlay. Only the Government, or the largest financial interests, or conglomeration of such interests, in Australia could afford the immense amounts of money that must necessarily be invested in this new development. That means that if it were operated by commercial radio stations, advertising rates would be enormously expensive. In the United States of America at present very heavy advertising fees are charged to manufacturers and others who wish to sponsor their products on televised programmes. The effect which was brought out very clearly in a recent March of Time film on American broadcasting, is harmful. It is so expensive to advertise over commercial television stations that the advertiser concentrates his advertising as closely as possible in the time available to him, and a new form of “ soap opera “ is interspersed with advertisements, the standards of some of which are causing great concern to the American people. Either the Australian Broadcasting Commission must control the type of entertainment that is to be put over on television, or our homes will be made a new medium for a new kind of “ soap opera “ sponsored by the makers of “ Lifebuoy “, or some such people. The fact cannot be escaped that if television is to he a new commercial venture, the heavy outlay must mean that the stations will recoup themselves by heavy charges to advertisers. That means a concentration of sponsors’ advertisements within the time available. The contrast between the programmes of the Alexandra Palace, which is the British television experimental station, and those of the private enterprise television stations in the United States of America is instructive. I has caused considerable dissatisfaction in the United States of America. We have thrust upon us in the arguments of the Opposition such absurdities as that the representative of the Treasury on the Australian Broadcasting Commission will supervise the spending of twopence here and threepence there. The Acting Leader of the Opposition was constrained to admit that the commission has brought to Australia all the world’s celebrities that matter and are available. The same group of people as has brought them here will be responsible for the standard of television entertainment. Educational films without advertising will be broadcast by an institution without any axe to grind. It is absurd to contend that the Government controls the programmes broadcast by an independent commission. It would be just as ridiculous to suggest that the Minister for Information would write to officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and tell them what they should put in their daily programmes. There may be ministerial intervention to a certain point, but it would be rare. We must choose between the overriding hand of sponsors of advertisements in the commercial radio field and the overriding hand of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which employs many hundreds of the most cultured people in Australia. The commission will become the purchaser of films, the importers of ballet celebrities and, as at present, of celebrity artists of the vocal type. The commission will have behind it grants from the Treasury. The Treasury must be represented on the commission in order to check the expenditure of the grants. We are much more likely to receive good standard programmes from the Australian Broadcasting Commission than from commercial interests. We have had enough of advertisements being pushed into our hemes. The English people are fortunately immune from that fate. Under the arrangements that we are making to-day, we shall be free of having advertisements televised into our homes under the sponsorship of some manufacturer or other. Honorable members opposite are supposed to be concerned with political interference with commercial stations. I know one man who is forbidden use of the air to make political broadcasts because advertisers would not continue to advertise if he were allowed to continue. It is useless to talk about the freedom of commercial broadcasting because it does not exist. The Australian Broadcasting Commission which is independent of the Government and has a wide autonomy will choose the best films and ballet dancers and the like for its television programmes. The programmes will be of the type that the Alexandra Palace in England presents. The commission will be well advised. Its managers in the various States have a large measure of independency to decide their own programmes in the broadcasting of sound and will have it in the broadcasting of television. I come back to my original point. These new developments are enormously expensive. They must be financed by the Government or by powerful vested interests. Honorable gentlemen opposite said that if they were financed by the Government there was danger of interference with freedom. 1 say that they are financed by vested interests, the financiers must recoup their capital by charging high advertising races, and the effect will be that advertisers will get the utmost advertising out of the time they buy. That will lead to debasement of television.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [9. 59 J. - This clause, in dealing with definitions, raises two or three important questions that this committee ought to consider. On this side, there are two honorable members, the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and myself, who have occupied the position of Postmaster-General and who have administered the broadcasting law. We two must have made certain investigations and must have certain ideas about the principles to be applied. I think the most important question that we have had to resolve is the alleged one of the nationalization of the air. Let me point out to the committee that the ownership of every wave length is rested in the Commonwealth of Australia at this time. I trust that I shall never see the day when it will be otherwise, [t is so by international agreement. All that happens when a broadcasting licence is granted to a broadcasting company or an individual is that the company or individual is given an exclusive right to use for a specified period a certain wave length, and no other, subject to the right of the PostmasterGeneral to change the wave length from time to time if he considers it desirable in the interests of the proper functioning of broadcasting. Furthermore, under the law passed by this Parliament in 1942 - and there are some parts of that law with which I do not agree, even though it was passed by the Senate in which the parties 11OW represented on this side of the chamber were then in a majority - any broadcasting licence may be revoked at will by the Postmaster-General. Section 49 (a) (1) of the principal act reads -
The Minister may, by notice in writing, . . . revoke and determine any licence for a commercial broadcasting station in the ground that -
he considers it advisable in the public interest to do so.
No more conclusive or comprehensive power could be granted to any Minister than is conferred by that section. It is important to note that this bill does not propose to amend that section. So, we must consider this threat of nationalization from the standpoint of what the Government proposes to do in regard to the holding of a licence by a commercial broadcaster. Many broadcasting licences, are held by the Australian Labour partyitself. My personal view about the holding of such licences by the Australian. Labour party is that it constitutes the greatest safeguard that the other licensees possess. Let us consider the position of station 2KY. At my request a former Treasurer, Mr. Casey, supplied me with certain information relating to the operations of that station. Amongst other things that information showed that the station pays no income tax to the Commonwealth whatsoever. As a money spinner for the Australian Labour party the station is unexcelled. I have a strong feeling that in giving effect to his policy of socialization the Prime Minister will stop short of nationalizing station 2KY and other broadcasting stations in which the Parliamentary Labour party is interested for the simple reason that the profit motive will influence his consideration of their future. Socialists are never blind to the advantages of profits when those profits come close home to them. Television and facsimile broadcasting are similarly the property of the Commonwealth. When the Government is changed - I hope it will be changed very soon - it will be a matter of policy for the incoming government, formed by the honorable members on this side of the chamber, to decide what it will do about the leasing of facsimile broadcasting and television rights. I have a strong suspicion that when that time comes there will be no drastic alteration of the provisions of the bill now before us, for, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said a few minutes ago, the initial cost of installing apparatus for facsimile broadcasting and television will be so great that only the Commonwealth or some very wealthy organization prepared to run great risks will be willing to enter those fields of radio broadcasting.
Reference has been made to the members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I may have ideas somewhat different from those held by other honorable members about the future of broadcasting during my time. In an appendix to the famous Gibson report are to be found column after column of extracts from bills prepared under my direction. So that there shall be no doubt about it let me say at once that they were prepared by Mr. H. G. Alderman, K.C., of Adelaide, and free of charge, too. At the time I relinquished office Mr. Alderman was engaged in the preparation of yet another bill to deal specially with commercial broadcasting, because I believed at that time that the commercial broadcasting stations should be dealt with by a separate enactment. I have changed that view. I believe now that both commercial and national stations can be dealt with in a single act. One of the changes I then advocated in the constitution of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was that the general manager should be styled the director-general and that he should be made as responsible to the Postmaster-General as he is to the commission. My experience of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was not a happy one. I thought it was an inefficient body; that its direction was hopelessly incompetent and that it was extravagant. I believe that on too many occasions the commission was prepared to spend a “ tenner “ in order to save half a crown. I have reason to believe that its methods have not changed greatly since then. I know of the effect of what has been called “ the numbing hand of the Treasurer “ on government departments. In spite of the fact that on occasions I had had quarrels with the Treasury, I think that seme benefit may accrue to the Australian taxpayers and the broadcasting services of Australia from the inclusion in the membership of the commission of a Treasury representative. From my experience as Postmaster-General I am well aware that representation of the Post Office view in the deliberations of the commission is badly needed. One of the matters with which I had to deal was a demand by the commission that it be cut adrift from the Postmaster-General’s Department and that it be given the right to establish mechanical and research sections, and the Lord knows what, which would have cost the country millions of pounds. One of the great ambitions of certain members of the commission in my time was that the commission should be completely freed from political control. I do not believe that any board or commission established by a government should be free from political control. Under the democratic system of government every officer of the Public Service and every board or commission established under the laws of the Commonwealth must be responsible to members of this Parliament. That is a simple basic principle, in democratic government as it is generally understood in all British communities. I am not prepared to depart from that principle. The appointment to the commission of representatives of the Treasury and of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is not likely to do any harm. Speaking from my own experience, for what it is worth, it L? possible that these representatives will do a lot of good.
Something has been said during thin debate about programmes and the importation of overseas artists. To those honorable members who were not here when 1 was Postmaster-General, I readily admit that I occupied that office for only a little more than five months. At that time there was a long succession of changes in the Ministry. That is why there are to be found at the back of the Gibson report so many extracts from bills prepared under the instruction of different Ministers-
– At that time the Menzies Government was playing musical chairs.
– That may well happen in a Labour government. In the past I have seen the Labour party fall to pieces. The extracts from various bills printed in the appendix to the Gibson committee’s report show thai at least three Ministers, if not successively, at least very closely in succession, were so dissatisfied with the status of the commission that each of them prepared legislation to vary it. On the subject of the importation of overseas artists, my own view, and it may be without full justification, was that in my day the commission placed a very high value on the services of some people as well as on its own service. It was prepared to go into the market for talent, and on more than one occasion it was sold a pup.
– And the pup howled over the air.
– There may have been the strain of the dingo in the pups as there is in the kelpie, but the pups were not so useful as the kelpie. At all events I believed that the commission needed overhaul and reconstruction and by the time I relinquished office I had listed the names of the people whom I proposed to appoint to the commission in place of those who were then members of it. That is an indication of what I thought of the commission at that time. I am unable to agree that by this bill the Government will do any grievous harm to the body politic. In any case, as far as the future is concerned, let me say that according to the report of the Gibson committee, and the reports on television and facsimile broadcasting, so much experimentation has still to be done that mme considerable time may elapse before we will be ready to operate in those fields except on an experimental basis. [ have a strong suspicion that before that time comes this Government will have gone out of office and the future, whatever it may be, will be in the hands of honorable members on this side of the chamber.
.- I would not have spoken on this clause except that I feel compelled to answer some of the observations made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). The honorable gentleman said that under the present system there is no freedom for the commercial stations. He suggested that the programme sponsors and the politics of the station dictated the kind of news service and entertainment that it provided. Does the honorable gentleman imagine that there will be any more freedom in a single government station ?
– In a single government station? That is absurd.
– Nobody said that. I have more than a little respect for the honorable member’s knowledge in certain fields, but I suggest that his views will change on this subject when he knows it a little more widely.
– How can the honorable member suggest that only one government station will televise programmes to the whole of Australia? That is absurd.
– I admit that in the present experiments in Great Britain the range of television programmes extends for only from 50 to 100 miles. Thousands of stations may be established for broadcasting of televised programmes, but all of them will be under one control, the Government–
Mr. Beazley interjecting,
– I have no desire to be impolite to the honorable member.
– The honorable member may bc as impolite as he likes.
– The honorable member for Fremantle has a closed mind. He will never learn anything because of his fanatical socialistic conception that only the state should be permitted to run anything. The point I wish to make is that there is a wider principle at stake than the interests of the commercial stations. We should build an edifice which will enable the individual citizen to get the freest and best possible broadcasting service. I hold no brief for the commercial stations, nor have I any particular respect for them. I do not like their news services and I rarely listen to them. That, however, is purely a matter of taste. When 1 do listen to radio programmes, which is not often, I listen mostly to the national stations. The commercial stations have been getting along fairly comfortably. I regard the letter from the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations to the Prime Minister, which I read in full recently, as a somewhat “ wishy-washy “ sort of letter because the members of the federation did not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the right honorable gentleman who, they feared, might he their executioner. I should like to think that there were a few John Hampdens among their members, but unfortunately that is not so. Having said that, however, I still say that I think this country will be better served if it has something more than a government instrumentality to broadcast news and information to the people. [ suppose there are many honorable members who have seen television in operation. I saw it myself for the first time a few weeks ago, and I was amazed.
– The honorable gentleman did not see it at its best.
– Does the right honorable gentleman mean technically?
– That may be so. 1 suppose that it is at its best technically in the United’ States of America. In a room in an English home I saw opera and comedy. I 3aw the fifth test match on a television screen much better than I saw it when I went to Kenington Oval, In my opinion, television is the modern miracle, and it will change the face of Australian life. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) admits that, technically, it is more advanced in America than in England, but although the British television station is supposed to have a range of only 50 miles, I saw television sets working well on the borders of “Wiltshire, over 100 miles from London. Improvements are being made rapidly. The reason why television is more technically advanced in the United States of America than anywhere else is that in that country all the genius of private enterprise has been devoted to improving it. There is’ no doubt whatever that in the United States of America it is private enterprise that has done so much for television. I will go part of the way with the honorable member for Fremantle and say that I imagine that I should prefer television as transmitted from an English station to television as transmitted from an American station. Having been brought up in the way in which I was, I should prefer the English presentation to the more blatant one that I might see in the United States of America. On the other hand, if I took the trouble to turn a knob and to switch from one American television station to another I should probably find an absolutely first-class programme. It is a matter of taste. If we limit television entirely to our national stations, we are liable to lag in development. If television requires the expenditure of large sums of money, and I do not agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that it will involve the expenditure of enormous sums and that nobody will be able te afford to take the risk-
– In this case, the honorable member for Barker happens to bfcorrect.
– The Prime Minister says that the honorable member foi Barker is correct, and I know that in many matters the right honorable gentleman is omniscient.
– I was speaking of thi cost. I think that that is admitted by all the experts.
– I agree that it will be expensive, but it is rubbish to say thai there are any risks involved in it. Once television comes to Australia, it will race ahead. Having regard to itf attractions, it cannot fail to do so.
– I was speaking of tinexpense associated with it.
– The honorable member for Barker referred to the risks attached to it and said that no private firm would be able to take them. Of course that is not so. “What would it matter if a large capitalistic enterprise developed television in Australia? All the check? and balances that are required are contained in this measure. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be able to co-ordinate the activities of private enterprise and prevent any undesirable practices. That is the answer to the honorable member for Fremantle. There is no exploitation that cannot be dealt with by the powers that will be vested in the Government by this bill, when it is passed. If private enterprise is permitted to share in the development of television, the people will have a wider choice of programmes and there will be less danger of propaganda from one side only. The Australian Government will not always be a Labour party government. Honorable members opposite should not forget that this measure may be a rod with which to beat their own backs, and when a change of government occurs they will howl to high heaven about how that Government is using this vehicle of propaganda. I know that some members of the Labour party, notwithstanding what the Prime Minister says to the contrary, are asking what the Labour party is to do when another party is in power. The Government should spread the power, and allow private enterprise to share in this development. I am not sure that commercial stations are enthusiastic about frequency modulation. They are a little half-hearted about it, because it will widen the wave band so that they will have more competition, but I do not care about them. I should like to see some share in these new developments reserved for private enterprise generally, with appropriate controls, which are conrained in this bill.
.- It was pathetic to hear the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) criticize the suggestion that a Treasury official should be appointed as a “member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. On every occasion in recent years when the commission has been discussed in this chamber, honorable members opposite have criticized its expenditure, as they have continually criticized the Government for its expenditure upon certain activities. Notwithstanding that, the honorable gentleman had the audacity to rise in this chamber and criticize an appointment that will be made for the express purpose of keeping a watchful eye upon the commission’s expenditure. C could not see any rhyme or reason in the honorable gentleman’s criticism.
– Honorable members opposite did not want a Treasury official on the commission, because the government of which they were members did not make grants to it.
– This Government will make grants to it. There is, therefore, good reason for this proposal. Recently an American comedian named Chico Marx visited this country. As far as I [ know, he is no relation to Karl Marx. The Australian Broadcasting Commission decided to put him on one of their programmes at a moment’s notice, and I understand that his one appearance cost the commission £400. That was, in my opinion, an amazing waste of money. If there were a Treasury representative on the commission to watch its expenditure, such moments of fantastic extravagance would probably be avoided. I cannot see anything but good arising from the appointment of a Treasury official.
– What is the use of watching the money after it is expended ?
– He will be there to see that it is not expended.
– The honorable gentleman said that the decision to employ Chico Marx was made at a moment’s notice.
– There are too many interjections from the Opposition benches. They must cease.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) said that by not granting the B class stations facilities for facsimile broadcasting, frequency modulation and television, the Government was proposing gradually to strangle them and to force them out of existence. It is the advertising of pills, soap and other articles that keeps the commercial broadcasting stations in existence. If it were not for that, we probably should not have them at all. The national stations, however, have nothing to do with advertising, and we can listen to their programmes without interruption. Even if television and frequency modulation go to the national stations, will there be any diminution of radio advertising? There would be no stations other than the B class stations that would broadcast advertising material, and they would still have 100 per cent, of the radio advertising of this country. There is, therefore, no likelihood of their going out of existence. The crocodile tears that were shed by honorable members opposite for these stations were wasted.
.- It has been said by the Minister and other Government speakers that the commercial stations are in complete accord with what the Government proposes to do under this bill.
– I do not think that that was said.
– As a matter of fact, it was said. I propose to quote from a letter that was sent to the Prime Minister by Mr. Ridley, the president of the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, in connexion with the matter which is now under discussion.
– I rise to order. I have only recently come into the chamber. I understand that the committee is discussing clause 5 of the bill. I should like to know what reference the remarks of the Acting Leader of the Opposition have to that clause. Can you, sir, give me some guidance on that, and also on how wide the debate is to be?
– Clause 5 is very wide. The Acting Leader of the Opposition has not transgressed the Standing Orders.
– If the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) had remained in the chamber he would possibly have been able to follow the debate more clearly. In his letter, Mr. Ridley said -
Convention is of the opinion that inclusion of this clause, which primarily excludes commercial stations from participating in frequency modulation, is not in the best interests of the community. If it is the intention to establish frequency modulation in Australia, it is felt that it would retard its development, and it is urged that such exclusion should not be stipulated but it should be left open for reconsideration by the board in the light of future developments.
That shows clearly that the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations is not in complete accord with the Government on this matter. I felt that that should be said, because the commercial stations are putting up a fight to protect their rights. It is a half-hearted fight, but they know the way in which they are going.
I listened with interest to the various statements to the effect that the Government, on behalf of the people, controls wavelengths, and that it can cancel or refuse to renew a broadcasting licence. That is true. By an international convention we have our own wave band, and the Government controls it. Nobody denies that. However, it is entirely wrong to argue that the Government has, therefore, nationalized the air. The granting of a licence to an individual im poses certain obligations upon the Government. The issue of a broadcasting licence to an -individual immediately commits him to huge expenditure on studios, plant and equipment. The obligations which the Government incurs by granting such a licence must be observed. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that a government cannot grant to an individual a licence thai commits him to a vast expenditure in order to discharge his obligations, and then peremptorily withdraw the licence.
– The Government in which the honorable gentleman was a Minister took that action.
– In the interests of national security during the war, it was necessary for the Government to cancel the licences of certain broadcasting stations. Under this bill, the Government proposes to make commercial broadcasting stations obsolete and thereby put. them out of business. The Government claims that it has the power to control the wave band. The Government has also claimed that, under the Constitution, it has power to nationalize banking. It has endeavoured, by legislation, to liquidate the private banks.
– Order! The honorable member may not discuss the private banks under this clause.
– I am not discussing the private banks or banking.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable gentleman is skating on thin ice.
– With your protection, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall not break the ice. Under the Constitution, the Government has power and is exercising it. By legislation, the Government seeks to deprive the private banks and commercial broadcasting stations of the function which they have hitherto exercised. There is no difference in principle. The Government is completely illogical.
.- I am grateful to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) for his patronage, which he extends to every honorable member at one time or another. He has made some completely inaccurate statements. After having accused me of being a doctrinaire socialist, he proceeded to be quite doctrinaire on the subject of private enterprise and research, and stated that American private enterprise had produced a superior technical result in television to that achieved by the government service in Great Britain. Sis statement was entirely untrue. Before the outbreak of war in 1939, Great Britain was far in advance of the United States of America in television. Indeed, there was television in Great Britain when it did not exist in the United States of America. That is an historic fact. The honorable member referred to researches by private enterprise in the United States of America. Actually, the researches are conducted by the universities in America as they are in Great Britain, but prior to the war American researches in television were well behind those of their British counterparts. The British had to abandon television during the war, because Alexandra Palace sent out a signal which was perfect for guiding enemy bombers to the heart of London. However, the United States of America was able to proceed with the technical work.
The British Broadcasting Corporation, in all its technical work in 1939, was far in advance of the United States of America and in most branches which it continued, with the exception of television, it remained in advance of America, which had to accept one byproduct of the research workers of the British Broadcasting Corporation, radar, holus-bolus from the United Kingdom. There is no merit whatever in the particular argument which the honorable member has advanced. His statement was historically untrue. The national broadcasting system of - Great Britain, except for war exigencies as I have explained, has nothing to apologize for in respect of its record compared with that of the United States of America. I do not know whether the argument was particularly germane to the hill, but the honorable member for Parramatta imagined that it was, and. therefore, it was necessary for me to refute it.
.- I have not spoken on this bill, and I would not have risen now except that the young member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has put the emphasis in the wrong place. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) took him to task because he said that the commercial stations were stealing the freedom of the people. Those were not his precise words, but he intended to convey that meaning. He implied that the listening public was subjected to a kind of tyranny in that they were compelled to listen to commercial stations. Other speakers have expressed dissatisfaction with the advertising of patent medicines and the like from the commercial stations. The honorable member for Fremantle is too quixotic. He is tilting against windmills which he has erected. A person is not compelled to listen to a broadcasting station. If he is dissatisfied with the programme from one station, he may tune in to another, or switch off his set. The Government is making a colossal mistake in claiming a monopoly of television The honorable member for Fremantle was right in one respect. When I was in Great Britain, in 193S, I saw televised programmes of sporting events and plays, but the programmes were restricted to a radius of 50 miles. I believe that the honorable member was incorrect in stating that signals from Alexandra Palace would have guided German bombers to the heart of London. The German airmen were perfectly familiar with the route to London, because, before the war, some had been pilots on the civil air routes and could not have missed the heart of London.
Television was the forerunner of radar, and, at the outbreak of war, Great Britain was ahead of any other nation in that branch. American technicians came to England in order to study radar. It was a good thing for Great Britain, and civilization generally, that it possessed radar, because radar was a chain around the British Isles, just as much as the fighter aircraft, which enabled us to win the Battle of Britain.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the clause.
– I realize that this subject is technical. Radar and television are similar, and I am confirming to some degree the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle. I claim the right to reply to statements which he has made. Television for commercial purposes ceased in Great Britain during the war. If the Australian Government persists with its present proposals, it will be adopting a short-sighted view. It will be committed perhaps to one type of set, although it is true that independent manufacturers may offer various types of television cabinets. In 1938, the Philips company operated a mobile television service in Holland. The equipment was carried in a truck from village to village. “When a hamlet was deep in snow, the people could remain in their homes and view the film which was shown in a hall or in a small street. The attitude of the Government towards television may cramp the style of an inventor or broadcasting station. This is a great danger. Et is characteristic of the socialist or the dictator to believe that he can run things better than other people can. The socialist is not always right. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has made a pass at the banks.
– Order ! The honorable member may not refer to the banks.
– The Government has also endeavoured to obtain a monopoly of air services in Australia.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member’s remarks are =till out of order.
– The attitude which the Government has displayed towards the banks and aviation is again revealed in this bill. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who will probably administer this legislation, has already pushed the inoffensive “ Manila “ girls around.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! If the honorable member does not relate his remarks to the clause, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I shall make no further reference to those sidelines. The late Dr. Goebbels was Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment in Nazi Germany. The Minister for Information has informed us that the
Government will control broadcasting services excellently. No doubt when television is introduced, he will appear in a number of disguises which you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, will not allow me to mention. Every one admits that there is room for re-organization in the whole business of broadcasting. It is never static, and, consequently, legislation relating to it must be amended from time to time. But any attempt to revolutionize it as this bill proposes to do is wrong.
It is time that at least one honorable member said a good word for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Man, speakers in this debate have condemned it, and have stated that nearly every one listens to the commercial stations. As a fairly constant listener, I believe thai no commercial stations gives such a satisfactory service as the Australian Broadcasting Commission does. I enjoy the musical broadcasts from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and hope that such programmes will he increased. The Australian Broadcasting Commission gives its listeners good entertainment, and its news service is unpolluted and as good as any other news service. I exhort the Government to go slowly in this matter. “When appointing members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Government should not select people for whom it has taken a fancy politically. The members of the board should be as independent as possible. The Government should also permit competition from other broadcasting sources, because competition encourages greater efficiency. If television becomes a government monopoly. Australia will not get the best service. The Government, in this bill, is going too far, and should amend it.
.- I have no desire to resume my private brawl with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), but I should like to answer one comment which he has made. I am sorry if I have hurt his feelings. He did become a little “ crabby “ about my reasonable comments. However, I consider that his quarrel if with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and not with me. I merely used an interjection by the Prime Minister to prove my case. Replying to a comment which 1 had made about television, the right honorable gentleman said that, technically, there were greater developments in the United States of America than in Great Britain. That remark substantiated my point that, because private capital and private enterprise had been able to do the mechanical and technical work in a better way than it had been possible to do it in Great Britain, enormous advances had been made with television in America. The honorable member for Fremantle has not answered that point. It is perfectly true that the Alexandra Palace was closed during the war, which hampered British inventors. Nobody will contest that. But it is also perfectly true that when the Baird and other British inventions found their way to the United States of America, engineers and mechanics, working for private enterprise, made it possible for television to go ahead by leaps and bounds. That is what I said in my original statement, and my remarks were supported entirely by the Prime Minister’s interjection.
– As this debate is developing into a party, all honorable members might as well speak.
– Members of the Opposition are deliberately stonewalling the bill.
– The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) hasnot been here for a fortnight.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I ask the honorable member for Richmond to ignore interjections and deal with the clause.
– My opposition to this bill is based on my general opposition to monopolies as being opposed to the best interests of the people. The purpose of this clause is to confer upon the Government a monopoly of television, among other things. Only through competition can the public be assured of the best service, whether it be in the field of entertainment or in a departmental store. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that television was too big to be undertaken by a private organization and that so much capital would be needed that no private firm would be able to give a television service. If that be so, why is it. necessary to provide in this bill for the exclusion of private enterprise? Economics alone would be sufficient to exclude them. Under a government monopoly, the unfortunate owner of a television set might have to gaze upon the features of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) as he stands at the head of Man-o’-War Steps, in Sydney, to welcome the “ Manila girls “ back to Australia; or he might have to watch the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) as he reads out a declaration to the waterside workers on Australia’s foreign policy; or he might have to look at the Prime Minister reading one of Lincoln’s more famous addresses. Some incident in this Parliament might be televised, and although it might prove of interest and educational value, the fact remains that the spectator would have no alternative but to view those scenes, or shut off his television set. Competition makes for efficiency, and efficiency should be our aim in the interests of the public. The best way to ensure efficiency is to encourage competition, something which is not possible under a government monopoly such a? that provided for in this bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) After Part I. of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted : - “ Part1a. - The Australian Broadcasting Control Board. “6k.- (1.) The functions of the Board shall be -
.- I move-
That, in proposed new sub-section6k, after sub-section (1. ), the following sub-sections be inserted: - “ (1a.) The Board may inquire into matters in relation to broadcasting, television and facsimile either on its own initiative or by reference from the Minister. “ (1b.) Inquiries conducted by the Board under this section shall be held in public and evidence in such inquiries shall, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, be taken in public on oath. “ (lc.) If any witness objects to giving any evidence in public which the Board is satisfied is of a confidential nature, the Board may take such evidence in private if it considers that it is in the public interest to do so. “ (1d.) The Board shall, by advertisement published in two newspapers circulating in the State in which the inquiry is to be held, give reasonable notice of its intention to hold any inquiry under this section, the subject of the inquiry and thetime and place at which the inquiry is to be held. “ (1e.) Any person who is interested in such inquiry may appear and give evidence before the Board.”.
I stated my reasons for the amendment in my second-reading speech. The text of the amendment, which is taken from the Tariff Board Act 1921-1934, lays down the same procedure in regard to the holding of inquiries and the taking of evidence.
– I am not convinced of the validity of the honorable member’s claim that what is good for the Tariff Board must necessarily be good for the board which is to be set up under this legislation. This board is to be given very wide powers to conduct investigations, but it is not intended that the board should take evidence on oath, or should be able to compel people to give evidence. It is to be empowered to investigate and report to the Minister. Under the Australian Broadcasting Act as it stands, the Minister has power to compel commercial stations to give information about balance-sheets, to furnish lists of shareholders and information about the holdings of each shareholder, and also to supply all information relevant to the purposes of the act. That is in accordance with one of the recommendations of the Gibson Committee. It is proposed to delegate to the board some of the powers at present exercised by the Minister. I cannot accept the amendment. All I can promise is that I shall ask the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) to consider it to see whether there is any value in it. The Government will not be averse to bringing down amending legislation to embody good ideas.
– But the Government has never done anything of the kind.
– As a matter of fact, when I was in charge of the Life Insurance Bill, I accepted amendments proposed by the Opposition. The amend ment of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has been sprung on us, and we have not had time to consider it.
Question put -
That the sub-sectionsproposed to be inserted (Mr. Fadden’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. H. P. Lazzarini.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I am concerned about the length of time which individual members will have to discuss this clause which consists of 75 proposed new sections, sub-sections and paragraphs. Each honorable member is allowed only two periods of fifteen minutes each to discuss each clause.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - The Standing Orders provide the rules, not the Chair.
– We shall each have only 30 minutes to discuss 75 proposed sections and sub-sections of this bill.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The Chair has already drawn the attention of the honorable member to the fact that the Standing Orders that have been adopted provide the rules under which the bill shall be debated. The honorable member should direct his attention to the clause, not the Standing Orders.
– I am pointing out that I cannot deal with every clause with which I should like to deal. Therefore, [ propose to select one or two that may have some relevancy. The first with which [ shall deal is paragraph b of sub-section 2 of proposed new sub-section 6k, which reads -
The Board shall, in particular -
ensure reasonable variety of programmes ;
Mi) ensure that divine worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast for adequate periods and at appropriate times and that no matter which is not of a religious nature is broadcast by a station during any period during which divine worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast by that station;
My first observation is that I believe that this provision is far too ambiguous. The Minister should make his intentions clear to the committee. Honorable members are perfectly well aware that on Sundays there are what may be termed Pleasant Sunday Afternoon broadcasts, particularly from Melbourne, lt is possible that during that session there may be something of a political or (Controversial nature discussed. Is it the intention of the Minister under this particular power to prevent any of the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon broadcasts? It is possible, as has happened in totalitarian regimes in Europe, that a minister of religion may, from the pulpit, deal with matters of a controversial nature, particularly when his session is being broadcast. I should like to know whether, if a minister of religion should touch on matters of political moment or matters of public importance that may be controversial, the Government proposes to prevent that minister from making such broadcasts! All of this is inherent in this clause, and I think that the Minister should clarify the position so that people will know where they stand under these amendments. The next matter that I shall deal with is the provision contained in paragraph d of sub-section 4 of proposed new section 6k, which provides that the board shall have power, subject to any directions of the Minister - to regulate the establishment of networks of broadcasting stations and the making of agreements or arrangements by licensees of commercial broadcasting stations for the provision of programmes or the broadcasting of advertisements.
We know that the commercial stations have a hook-up through a network which extends over a vast portion of a State, and may, indeed, be a nation-wide network. Is it the intention of the Minister or the board, under this particular power, to say to such stations, “You shall not exercise a hook-up over a nation-wide network, because we feel that there will be too many stations broadcasting thatparticular sponsored programme or advertisement “ Again I say that it should be made perfectly clear to the committee, what control the Minister or the board proposes to exercise with regard to various networks. The board or the Minister should have power to regulate the establishment of networks of broadcasting stations, and the making of agreements or arrangements by licensees of commercial broadcasting stations with regard thereto, and also with regard to the broadcasting of advertisements.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has asked pertinent questions. I propose to tell him briefly what is the mind of the Government in this matter. It would be highly improper for “John Henry Austral “ or anybody else, in the middle of a religious broadcast to talk on purely political matters If the public domain is to be used for a religious service, the people using it should guarantee i hat it will be preserved for religious purposes. They should not try to mix politics with religion. They should not crowd into it remarks in favour of any political party. The Acting Leader of the Opposition has asked what will happen with relation to the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon broadcasts from, say, Wesley Church, Melbourne. Those broadcasts are not, in my view, of their essence, religious broadcasts. Hymns are sung, and perhaps something else happens of a religious nature, but they are essentially what they claim to be, Pleasant Sunday Afternoon performances or programmes, during which public men give their views on public questions. In fact, people of all political parties express their views during these broadcasts. That has been the history of these functions, In other days they had much more time on the air than they have to-day. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, by virtue of its independent powers, made arrangements which affected detrimentally the broadcasting from Wesley Church in Melbourne. That, however, is another story. What the Government fears is that some people are inclined to play politics in religious broadcasts, and it is a bad thing for commentators, in the middle of what has been advertised as a religious session, to make statements which seem to identify a particular church or denomination with the views of the commentator. There is no objection to the commentator expressing his views at any time other than in a religious broadcast, particularly since those periods are made available under special conditions. Special advantages are given to people who- broadcast church services over the national network. With regard to the situation posed by the Acting Leader of the Opposition in regard to broadcasts over national stations, all I can say is that from out of the past we can visualize the future. There has never been any objection on the part of any listeners, so far as I am aware, to any of the broadcasts made over the national stations from churches of any denominations in any States of the Commonwealth on any Sunday in the year on the ground that the preacher has said something which might offend somebody’* political susceptibilities. Generally, ministers of religion take a very serious view of their responsibilities, and although they make comments from time to time in criticism of public policy, as far as I know not one has ever misused his pulpit to advocate the claims of one political party as against another. We seek to prevent that happening, because it would not be a good thing for democracy. The board will have powers of definition and discrimination in respect to commercial stations, and I cannot conceive of anything that would cause the Pleasant Sunday Afternoons from Wesley Church, Melbourne, to be adversely affected by the operation of this provision.
On the matter of variety of programmes, the board would certainly be entitled to investigate the operations of networks, of which there are two in Australia, the Macquarie network and the Major network. They could operate dangerously. The board will be empowered not only to protect the public against the undesirable operation of networks, but also the networks themselves against the demands of big advertisers. The Macquarie network lost a very big contract at one period because one big advertising firm in Australia demanded the right to choose stations from both the Macquarie network and the Major network, and certain other independent stations to create a network of its own to advertise its own products. The Macquarie network certainly was not open to criticism for what it tried to do in that particular activity. The board should be entitled to secure variety in programmes. The present Broadcasting Committee has recommended -that, as also did the original Gibson Committee. The public interest should he served first and last. It is undesirable that five broadcasting stations in one capital city should all broadcast racing fixtures on Saturday afternoons, and that persons who are not interested in racing should have no facility to hear anything else. The board can be trusted to ensure a better deal for the public by a better variety of programmes than can the commercial stations themselves. Each commercial station is an independent concern and has to get a sponsor for its racing sessions. If there is a good listening audience, the sponsor is forthcoming and will pay well for the advertisement. The section of the public that 19 interested in racing is well served on Saturdays, but the section that does not want racing is entirely neglected, overlooked and ignored. The board could bring about some better treatment for the public than has operated previously. Neither the Acting Leader of the Opposition nor any other member of the Liberal or Australian Country parties, or anybody else, has anything to fear from what the board will do in these matters. The board can be trusted to do a better job than individual stations, which have neglected their opportunities in the past.
.- The aspect of this matter that I shall deal with is the provision contained in proposed new section 6k (2) (6) (ii) that the board shall - ensure that divine worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast for adequate periods and at appropriate times and that no matter which is not of a religious nature is broadcast by a station during any period during which divine worship or other matter of a religious’ nature is broadcast by that station.
As I see it, that provision may work very wrongly against churches, in certain circumstances. The Minister is perfectly familiar with the points of view which exist in the church communities of Australia, and for that matter throughout the world, on the part that they ought to play by way of leadership on public questions. As the Minister is familiar with that aspect of the matter, I hope that he will listen to what I think will be a useful contribution to a serious debate. I ask the Minister to picture a public crisis or a great public issue of a political nature arising, in which the moral interests of the people are deeply involved, [f the provision remains as it is, it could be used by the board to prevent the leader of some church from making a pronouncement on it. The Minister belongs to one great church. One of his own archbishops, in the course of a sermon or a religious address, might desire to give what he considered to be a lead to the church on a great public issue. It might take the form of criticism of, or an attack upon, something that the Government was doing. One of the losses of our community is that our churches have withdrawn from leadership in matters of this sort. Or it could happen that a clergyman in a Protestant church, an Anglican archbishop, perhaps, or the leader of some other church, wanted to make a pronouncement on a great public question. He would normally make it during a church service. It may be that, say, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, addressing not only the people in his cathedral but also the whole Roman Catholic community in Australia, would consider it his duty to criticize or attack something the Government had done or was doing. That might be the right thing to be done by a church leader in Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad that the Minister agrees with me.
– The Government does not object to church leaders voicing the stand of the church on moral issues.
– A political issue might involve a moral issue.
– The moral issue could impinge on politics. Church leaders have a perfect right to broadcast the views of their churches on such matters.
– I am grateful for that remark, too, but I remind the Minister that the bill states that the board shall ensure that -
No matter which is not of a religious nature is broadcast by a station during any period during which divine worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast.
That might be used to gag a church leader who denounces some great political matter. Therefore, I say that we should leave the provision as it is in the principal act. The Minister has said that he knows of no case in which church leaders or clergymen have transgressed or been unfair.
– That applies to broadcasts over the national stations. However, over some commercial stations there have been offences.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order ! The Chair cannot allow a conversation between the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) and the Minister.
– The Minister said that what he meant to say was that church leaders have been fair over national stations, but that he did not mean that statement to extend to commercial stations. I know of no instance of clergymen acting improperly in conducting religious services that have been broadcast by commercial stations, and I warrant that he does not either.
– I did not refer to clergymen, but certain laymen have obtruded themselves.
– The Minister has admitted that he knows of no matter of an objectionable nature having been broadcast during religious services. So let us leave the provision as it is, for it has proved to be satisfactory. If it is restricted, church leaders will be inhibited from giving a lead on moral questions. We need not deal with the difficulty until it arises. It will not arise, of course.
– There is not and could not be any objection to church leaders giving the opinions of their churches on moral issues, and these often impinge largely upon political questions. Good government must be based upon the moral law, which is based upon the Ten Commandments.
– Could a pronouncement on communism be broadcast?
– If a sermon dealt with a public question and was of a religious nature it would be all right. If the question were dealt with from an entirely non-religious angle, the position would be different. It happens in the case of one religious broadcast that a secular commentator comes along repeatedly and delivers political tirades of all kinds against all sorts of people. That creates the wrong impression that the views expressed by the layman are necessarily the views of the religious organization. The religious group of our community that tolerates that is acting detrimentally to its own interests. If that position became general, we should have a lot of people attacking the Government and the Parliament generally because certain people were abusing their authority. If a sermon deals with a matter from a purely religious point of view, no matter what criticisms are uttered, it remains of a religious nature. We have had no national stations offending, and some strong statements have been made from time to time in the course of sermons on public questions by ministers of religion. That will continue. I join with the honorable member for Parramatta in hoping that all religious organizations will give a lead on moral questions, and there is no intention to obstruct, frustrate or interfere in any way with what has happened insofar as national station broadcasts are concerned. But we do not want certain evils that have crept in in recent years in respect of commercial stations to continue or grow. That is the purpose for which the amendment is to be made.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) having been given the call,
– This is the second time 1 have risen and been ignored by the Chair.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The last time the honorable member rose I indicated with a nod that I proposed to give him the next call on the right-hand side of the Chair. But the Minister rose and took precedence.
– I should have been called after the Minister had sat down.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member must not interrupt when the Chair is stating its views. The call is taken by custom alternately on the right and left sides of the Chair. The right side was next in line. The Minister took precedences as is provided for by the rules of committee. If the Minister had not risen, the honorable member for Reid would have received the call. As the Minister did rise, the honorable member could not receive it. The call now goes to the lefthand side, to the honorable member for Deakin.
– If the Minister keeps on rising I shall never get the call.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- That is perfectly true. But it is the rule.
– -Proposed Part Ia, which relates to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, contains, perhaps, the most important provisions in the bill. In the second-reading speeches, and since we have been in committee, constant references have been made to “ public interest “. I am not sure that the bill is designed to serve public interest or that if it were referred to the public for acceptance or rejection, the public would accept it. I do not think the people want the proposed new set-up for the control of Australian broadcasting; nor do I believe that it will operate in the public interest. When new problems in broadcasting arise in Great Britain, they are investigated by commissions that take evidence in public aud present a report to the British Parliament. Members of the public are at liberty to express their opinion on any new proposals in relation to the British Broadcasting Corporation. Nothing like that has happened in this instance. I’ do not know where the conception of the proposed new board originated. The idea may have been hatched in some public servant’s mind or in the conclaves of the Australian Labour party, but that if a matter for mere speculation. At all vents, the Government has determined i-o create a board of three. The chairman is to have a deliberative, as well as a casting vote, and he will, at all times, be subject to the wishes of the Minister who administers control of broadcasting. The present commission of five members is to be retained, but the powers of that commission are to be seriously curtailed. Power to interfere with programmes is to be transferred to the new board, which will be a kind of inner body, and will represent another example of the enlargement” of bureaucracy. Of course, the new board will have an adequate staff of secretaries and other employees. Under its aegis the present commission will continue to function, but its powers will be seriously curtailed, including even the activities of programme managers and other people who arrange the commission’s programmes. Of course, the commercial stations will also fall under the hierarchy of the new board. Is the ap pointment of such a super body necesary? There has been no public inquiry into the matter, and no reason for this action which is acceptable to me has been advanced in the Parliament. I do not believe that it is necessary to have both a board and a commission, and, in any event, if some new organization is required I do not believe that the type of organization envisaged by the measure is the kind which we need.
I have not had the opportunity to make full inquiries into the control of radio broadcasting, but for some time, I have been of the opinion that technical matters should be controlled by the commission. The reason why the control of technical matters has been left to the PostmasterGeneral is that radio broadcasting in this country has, like Topsy, “just growed’ No real justification can be advanced for the continued division of control of programmes from control of the necessary technical facilities. For one thing, the officers of the Postmaster-General are not primarily interested in the development of broadcasting. I should imagine that from 75 per cent, to 85 per cent, of their time is devoted to attending to matters concerned with the postal service, and they have only a fraction of their time left to devote to radio broadcasting. There does not seem to be any real reason why the control of the technical aspects of broadcasting should be divorced from the other aspects, and I can see no reason therefore, to justify the establishment of the proposed new board.
I believe that the present commission should be reconstructed, and undoubtedly the commission could function to greater advantage if its membership included, in addition to technical experts, such as those which compose the British Broadcasting Corporation, a number of men of sound business and general experience who could formulate policy. It is obvious that the establishment of the proposed new body will enable the Government to influence the controllers of broadcasting. Undoubtedly, the present Government hopes that it will be returned to office after the next election, and through control of this kind to ultimately nationalize broadcasting. Such a course was advocated by the Labour members of the Gibson Committee and that is the declared policy of the Labour party. If the Government is successful in introducing regimented control of the kind which it now proposes, free broadcasting as we now know it will undoubtedly cease if it is returned to power after the next election. I advocate the establishment of an enlarged commission on the lines of the British Broadcasting Corporation, which has functioned so successfully. From time to time new comets come within the ken of radio technicians, and every encouragement should be given to the implementation of new ideas such as frequency modulation and television. Undoubtedly the present . system of control can be improved, but the matter should have been reviewed by the Broadcasting Committee, or some independent inquiry should have been made, as is the custom in Great Britain and in other countries. Members of the Parliament would then have had some real evidence of the necessity or otherwise to establish a board to control broadcasting in this country, [n my opinion the present legislation is suspect in almost every home in Australia, and on each occasion that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has spoken, [ have become more convinced that the Government’s purpose is to exercise ministerial control over broadcasting programmes so that the Government can tell the people just what they must listen to.
I turn now to the subject of coordination of radio programmes, about which quite a deal of misconception has arisen. The Minister twitted me to-night with having signed the principal report of the Broadcasting Committee last year. The convention is that all members of that committee sign the principal report, but submit minority reports on matters on which they disagree with the majority of the committee. That happened in that instance, and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and I submitted a minority report, with which the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) also concurred in some respects. The present legislation contains sufficient power to enable the Government and the Parliament to take advice on the control of broadcasting in Australia and to effect any improvements that may be desired. There is no need to resort to extreme expedients such as those that ar< proposed in this measure. One of thi arguments advanced by supporters of the bill is the need for greater co-ordination of radio programmes. Much of their comments is sheer nonsense, because we already enjoy more co-ordination of radio programmes than many people realize. This evening I borrowed from the library the only available copy of The Listener In, which is the best radio magazine available in Australia. Incidentally, 1 consider that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should examine that magazine, because it would profit the commission to follow its example. The publication sets out very clearly all the radio programmes, both national and commercial, that are to be broadcast at each hour of the day or night. An examination of that synopsis shows that there is a greater diversity of programmes than people realize. It i9 obvious that each radio station deliberately endeavours to present something different at a given time from any other station and to avoid a clash of similar programmes. For instance, in Melbourne three stations.. 3LO, 3KZ and 3XY do not broadcast horse races on Saturdays. That fact disposes of the criticism that all commercial broadcasting stations in Melbourne broadcast the same events. I understand that in Sydney there are two commercial stations which do not broadcast horse races. An examination of radio programmes also reveals that even in the broadcasting of horse races there is considerable diversity. One station, I believe, gives a complete broadcast of the principal races of the clay in Sydney and Melbourne, whilst others broadcast on ‘ the main events, so that light musical programmes are interrupted for only about two minutes in every half hour. An examination of the programmes also reveals other diversities of entertainment. Strange to relate, however, nearly every radio station has a children’s hour at 5 p.m., although 1 do not know why, as many children are still out playing at that time. That remark does not refer to 3LO Melbourne. Apart from children’s sessions, however, there is a very wide diversity in the programmes transmitted by the various stations. Any one who glibly speaks about the same programmes being broadcast over different stations at the same time is talking nonsense. I shall not say that there is no need for further co-ordination, but I do not see any necessity for committing the country to the expense of establishing a new board. Co-ordination could be dealt with by the Minister in cooperation with the broadcasting stations. The establishment of a board to control broadcasting is a very expensive method of control. I can foresee, as time goes on, that the Minister will interfere more and more with the right of the people to determine what they shall listen to. The chances of abuse under this system are, I believe, very great, and are fullyrecognized by the public. I have found recently that there is very great concern among the people about the provisions of this measure.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Subsection 2 of the proposed section 6k reads - (2.) In exercising its functions under paragraph (c) of the last preceding sub-section -
the Board shall, in particular -
I have no doubt that when the Parliamentary draftsmen prepared this clause they succeeded in doing what they were instructed to do, but I think that they have also done things which they were not instructed to do. They have set a net. to catch some particular fish, but in that net will be gathered up a lot of other fish that were never intended to be taken in it. To my mind this clause if an attack on the religious freedom, not of any particular sect or church but of thepeople of Australia.It is an attempt to dictate to religious bodies how and what they may broadcast. It denies to them the right to use their own time on the air in the manner that they think fit. Take the in stance of 2CH, which broadcasts a Sunday afternoon service. During that service that station also conducts a forum on public questions. It permits representative people to expound their particular point of view. Sometimes representatives of the temperance movement speak. This proposed sub-section lays it down that - no matter which is not of a religious nature is to be broadcast during any period during which divine worship or other matters of a religious nature is broadcast by the station
As a Sunday afternoon session is essentially of a religious nature, the temperance advocates would be silenced. The Pleasant Sunday Afternoon broadcasts from churches would have to cease. If there were a broadcast from St. Mary’s Cathedral or St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, only matters of a religious nature could be broadcast. If the cleric delivering the sermon desired to speak on any subject - and this is what I wish the committee to understand clearly - which the board did not regard as being of a religious nature, the broadcast would not be permitted. The board would not stop the broadcast while it was on, or take action after it bad been made. The religious body concerned would have to submit the script and the clergyman would not be allowed to enter his pulpit to say what he might feel his religious convictions constrained him to say. Persons might be appointed to the board who had no particular political views but on the other hand others might be appointed who were “ fellow travellers “. Such members might decide that no attack could be made over the air on communism in any period - during which divine worship or any other matter of a religious nature was being broadcast.
Imagine the Archbishop of Canterbury entering his pulpit to denounce communism on behalf of the British nation. and his statements not being permitted to be broadcast. If station 2SM had a broadcast from. St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, it would not be possible to broadcast any matter relating to church meetings or functions or any of the usual announcements made by a cleric when lie first enters the pulpit. If 2CH had a broadcast from a Methodist church of an industrial suburb such as Balmain, in Sydney, it would not be possible for the preacher to deliver a sermon on current industrial problems. The board would have the right to say that that was a political and controversial subject and not a religious subject. This proposed sub-section takes away the religious freedom- and churchmen and church leaders. That is a very dangerous step. The board will be able to direct a station that it must broadcast divine worship and other matters of a religious nature for adequate periods and at appropriate times. Most stations already do that. There are a few that do not, and one of them is 2KY in Sydney. Is it proposed that the board shall tell that station that it must broadcast a divine service from some particular church? If so, is the board to select a church ? Does it mean that on Sunday mornings every station will have to broadcast a divine service at the same time? Will there be nothing on the air at that hour excepting religious broadcasts ?
At present, one religious body pays for the broadcasting of its faith from the profits that it makes in the commercial world. The profits that it earns on week-days are used to propagate its religious faith on Sundays. Will that organization be denied the right to spend its money in the way in which it thinks fit? This clause could be most damaging to religious bodies operating broadcasting stations. I should not give to any board, to any person or to any body of persons the power to interfere with the religious freedom of the Australian people. It is all very well for the Minister to say what he thinks is the meaning of this provision, but the board or the courts may interpret it differently, [f all members of the committee were asked their interpretation of it, I am sure that there would be a variety of opinions. The Minister should be very careful to avoid the slightest suggestion that theAustralian Parliament has put into a bill that will eventually become an act of* Parliament anything that has even theremotest chance of interfering with thefreedom of religion in this country.
It will be interesting to see how theboard applies the provision in the proposed section 6k (2) (6) (iii) and what it will regard as “ an equitable basis “ for the broadcasting of political or controversial matter. What is an equitablebasis? Does it mean that because the Macquarie network gives free of charge to the Prime Minister a ten minutes’” broadcast every Sunday, that it will have to give the Leader of the Opposition a similar free broadcast? That is something that the board will have to decide. Does the provision mean that if 2KY gives time to the Labour party,, it must give an equal time to the Liberal party? The board will also have to decide what is a controversial matter. The decision will not be made by the Parliament. Does “ equitable “ imply equality of time? If it does not, what does it mean ? Would 2SM be required to give the same amount of time to the Communists as it gave to a cleric who attacked the Communists? Would Dr. Rumble be given the right to speak over 2CH on Sundays? If 2KY allowed a union to state its case over the air during an industrial dispute, would it also have to give the same amount of time, at an equally favorable period, to the spokesman of the employers? If the miners’ federation stated its case over 2KY, would that station also have to give Mr. Gregory Forster free time?
– Certainly not.
– It would be a grave injustice if it had to do so. That might not happen under this Government, and I do not think the board would have enough courage to let it occur under the present Administration, but it would certainly happen if the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) were interpreting the provision.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment : -
Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill (No. 2) 1948.
United Kingdom Grant Bill 1948.
States Grants (Administration of Controls Reimbursement) Bill 1948.
States Grants Bill 1948.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1948.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time..
Thefollowing papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - AppointmentDepartment of Civil Aviation - G. P.Fullarton.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Department of the Interior purposes - Mr Gambier, South Australia.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Regulations- 1946- No. 6 (Motor Vehicles Ordinance ) .
No. 2 (Darwin Administration Ordinance).
No. 5 (Darwin Administration Ordinance ) .
House adjourned at 11.54 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as. follows: - 1. (a) Sales tax is not payable upon edible oils for medicinal purposes sold in containers holding over 26 oz., if they are sold to medical practitioners, hospitals and dispensing chemists, or if sold to retail grocers who certify that they intend to sell the oil exclusively in bottles, the contents of which do not exceed 26 oz. Oil so sold comes within the exemption of drugs and medicines. Other sales of edible oils in containers holding over 26 oz. would bo primarily for culinary purposes and are subject to tax at the rate of 10 per cent. (b) Canned meat with cereal is subject to tax at the rate of 10 per cent. (c) Imported nuts are taxable at the rate of 10 per cent. (d) Mixed dried fruits of Australian production are exempt from tax. Mixtures of Australian and imported dried fruits arc subject to tax at the rate of 10 per cent. on that part of the sale value which relates to the imported fruits.
b asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -
Innisfail Post Office.
l. - On the 18th November, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) asked the following’ question : -
Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether provision would be made for a new poetoffice at Innisfail. The Postmaster-General subsequently informed me that a new post office would be built at that town. There seems to be some delay. Innisfail is a rapidly growing town and the existing post office is both inadequate and shabby compared with other buildings in the town. I have not been told when it is intended to erect the new building. Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral endeavour to have the buildings provided as soon as possible?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
The department appreciates the necessity for providing additional accommodation for both postal and telephone purposes at Innisfail and has included two items on its rehabilitation programme for the erection of a new telephone exchange and new poet office building. The erection of the telephone exchange building will be undertaken initially and when completed and equipment installed a start will be made on the post office. The priorities for all buildings to be erected in Queensland have just recently been reviewed and those for Innisfail have been advanced substantially. There are, however, many other works of an urgent nature associated with telephone services which must of necessity receive priority over the Innisfail projects, hut the honorable member may be assured that the work will be put in hand immediately circumstances permit.
– On the 12th November, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr.
Edmonds) asked a question concerning additional shipping to move sugar from North Queensland ports. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
It is estimated that approximately 710,000 tons of sugar will be produced in North Queensland this season and that at the end of the year the Taw sugar stocks then to be shipped will be approximately 245,000 tons. This figureis somewhat higher than normal in consequence of the estimated higher production. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has contracted with private shipping interests to clear raw sugar stocks from North Queensland. The allocation of tonnage for all trades is made throughthe Combined Traffic Committee, which is a joint body consisting of representatives ofthe associated steamship owners, independent steamship owners and the Australian Shipping Board. This committee is kept fully informed by the contractors to the sugar company of the shipping required for the clearanceof sugar. The Australian Shipping Board has from time to time made available ships owned orchartered by the Commonwealth to assist in the shipment of sugar as required by the Combined Traffic Committee. The honorable member may rest assured that I will do everything possible to assist in lifting sugar in order to avoid any hardship or unemployment in the sugar-growing areas.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 November 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481124_reps_18_200/>.