20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mb, Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the eli air at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question in the continued absence of the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Then the question may not be asked.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, as the chairman of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee. Have you been a’sked officially by the Australian Broadcasting Commission or certain honorable members on the Government benches to call a meeting of the committee with the object” of curtailing or discontinuing the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings? If you have not been approached with such a request, do you intend to call a meeting of the committee, or are you prepared to assure the House that the present arrangements will not be altered until such time as the committee has met and has had an opportunity to consider the matter and report its findings to the Parliament?
-I have not been approached by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on this matter, which is just as well for that body. The Commission functions under an Act of Parliament. T have examined the act since I read its report. The commission was never authorized by the Parliament to report on the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. That is a matter entirely for the Parliament. I do not propose to call a meeting of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee unless its members ask me to do so. I hope that I am in some measure the custodian of the privileges of members of the House, and therefore, so far as lies in my power, while the present act exists, 1 am only concerned to see that every honorable member gets his opportunity to address the chamber while the proceedings are being broadcast, and not that certain honorable members are selected for special treatment, especially by an outside body.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, in accordance with your policy of progressively reforming the Parliament, you will give consideration to placing on the back of division lists a space where pairs may be inserted, instead of having them placed, as has been the practice for some years, in the book at present provided?
-The suggestion made by the honorable member and other whips is perfectly sound, and I proposer to give effect to it unless the Houseobjects.
– I should like tobring to the attention of the Prime Minister an anomaly that has arisen concerning the right of certain Australian exprisoners of war to share in the distribution of J Japanese assets. Australians who enlisted in the United Kingdom forces or in the forces of other British countries are apparently ineligible for such payments, either from the Australian Government or the Government of the country in whose forces they served. Will the right honorable gentleman examine this injustice, and consider permitting ex-servicemen in this category to share in the benefits which other Australian prisoners of war have already received, and will receive in the future?
– by leave - The problem referred to by the honorable member was raised by him in a letter, and also in certain other quarters, as he knows. It happens that a ruling has just been given on this matter. I shall repeat it to the House at once because it is of great topical interest to the people affected. The Australian Government has decided to widen the terms under which former prisoners of war of the Japanese will be eligible to share in the proceeds of the sale of Japanese assets in Australia. Former prisoners in three main categories will be affected. The first category consists of members of the United Kingdom reserve forces who were living in Australia at the outbreak of war and who were called up for service with the United Kingdom forces. . The second category consists of Australians who were temporarily overseas at the outbreak of hostilities and enlisted in the forces of the British country in which they were temporarily resident. The third category consists of persons who enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force, were trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme and were subsequently transferred to, or enlisted in, the Royal Air Force or other dominion forces. Until now, only members of the Australian Forces who became prisoners of war, or dependants of those who died in captivity, have been eligible to benefit from the distribution of the proceeds of the sale of Japanese assets. Those. who come within the’ three new categories may participate in the distribution subject to proof that they are now resident in Australia and were normally, resident in Australia before the war. If they were absent from Australia when war broke out, they will have to show that they were bona fide travellers and were not employed overseas. They will have to show also that they returned to Australia within twelve months of their ‘ discharge from the services. In every case the onus will be on the applicant to prove that he can comply with the stipulated conditions. It will be necessary to place the onus on applicants in these cases because the records of service of all those involved may not be in Australia. I lay on the table the following paper : -
Payments to former Prisoners of War - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– Will the Prime Minister tell the House on what basis the Government selects the limited number of Australian citizens who are to be admitted to Westminster Abbey for the Coronation in June? Will Australia follow the lead of the United Kingdom Government and extend invitations to trade unionists and representatives of the public in addition to those already given to parliamentarians and officials? Will the Government invite Captain Reg. Saunders, or some other- outstanding representative of the aborigines, to attend the Coronation?
– The third question includes the name of an individual and therefore is out of order.
– I shall deal with the earlier questions. There is a great deal of misapprehension about the issuing of invitations to attend the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Attendance at the Abbey for the purposes of the Coronation is a matter that is determined partly by this Government and partly by the State governments. We have been allotted a limited number of seats in the Abbey. This Government makes available a reasonable proportion of that number to each State and the State government concerned is fully responsible for the persons that it places on its list. This Government has not yet formulated the list of persons who are to have seats in the Abbey. The number is limited. I think it would be idle to pretend that there is some artificial principle that is applied in this matter. We want to have a representative body of people of some distinction in relation to Australian life, and we are working on that basis now. As for attendance at the Coronation itself, the only persons who will be Royal guests on that occasion will be, by specific invitation, a few individuals including the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of the High Court, and the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I think that is the complete list at the moment. We are not in a position otherwise to issue invitations except to this extent, that in respect of certain other people, including some members of the Parliament, the Government has indicated its willingness to accept financial responsibility for their visit to the Coronation, and in that sense we invite them. All those aspects to which the honorable member has referred will, of course, be very much borne in mind when we are settling the actual Abbey list. ;
– I direct to the Minister for Health a question that arises from the fact that I have been informed that chemists in country districts frequently suffer financial loss due to short notice of reductions of the prices of essential drugs, of which country chemists must carry large stocks. Can the right honorable gentleman investigate this position and take some action so that sufficient notice of such reductions will be provided to country chemists and so save them from suffering loss ?
– This position has been examined. It will be understood that metropolitan chemists can readily obtain supplies of essential drugs from wholesale manufacturers, and do not have to carry as large stocks of them as country chemists must. As a result of discussions with the Pharmaceutical Guild of Australia and the wholesale manufacturers it has been arranged that when any change in the costs of drugs is proposed the wholesale manufacturers will inform chemists of it on the 10th of each month and the price will be altered at the beginning of the next month.
– Is the Minister for Health making any endeavours to persuade approved organizations under the hospital benefits scheme to delete from their rules a condition which deprives contributors from insurance benefits when hospitalization occurs as the result of some illness that had been in evidence before the contributor became a member? “Will he recognize that this condition forces citizens of this country to make payments to a private organization in order to receive what is purely a Commonwealth benefit of an additional 4s. a day, which is provided from taxation ?
– The honorable member will foe pleased to learn that several organizations have deleted from their rules all reference to persons with chronic illnesses. I am glad to say that these are industrial organizations which are associated with certain industrial and mining centres. I am hopeful that their example will be followed by other organizations.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House whether the assets of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool have yet been disposed of and, if not, indicate the present position, as the negotiations interest State departments and other instrumentalities? Will he also say whether any of the assets have been offered to private organizations, and, if so, to what organizations ?
– None of the assets of the pool have so far been disposed of. Speaking from recollection I think the position may he said to be that we have circularized the various State governments and State instrumentalities to discover whether they are interested in purchasing these assets. ‘Some of them have indicated their interest, but some States have shown that they are not really interested or have not the financial means to buy. Speaking again from recollection, I do not think that any of the assets have been offered to private individuals and companies. The whole position is now being .examined by the Government and that is all I can say about the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister approach the United Kingdom authorities in an endeavour to expedite investigations into applications for war widows pensions lodged by British war widows resident in Australia? In the case of the death of an Australian serviceman, the Repatriation Department deals with the matter very expeditiously, but in the case of the death of a British ex-serviceman in Australia due to war service a very great amount of time is taken up in investigation of his widow’s claim for a war widow’s pension. I ask the Prime Minister to . urge the United Kingdom authorities to expedite consideration of such applications.
– I shall certainly do everything I can to produce expedition in such a matter.
Mr. Fitzgerald having asked a question,
-Order! The question relates to a matter of policy. Notice of such questions must be given.
Mr. Turnbull having ashed a question,
– Order ! The question relates to a matter of financial policy. The honorable gentleman is out of order.
Mr. W. M. Bourke having asked a question,
– Order! The matter raised by the honorable gentleman is outside the realm of federal politics.
– Will the Minister for Territories inform the House of the stage that has been reached in the experiments upon the use of kenaf fibres as a jute substitute? What are the prospects of further production of kenaf in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
-It is in order for the honorable member to ask a question upon territories.
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you have been appointed by the Government as Government spokesman, or whether you have appointed yourself.
– Order ! That is a distinct reflection upon the Chair. I ask the honorable gentleman to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Let me say that in this place I am nobody’s spokesman and nobody’s fool.
– I am happy to be able to inform the House that the results of the work that has been done during the last two years in Papua and New Guinea upon the growing of kenaf have been most encouraging. Perhaps I should inform the House that kenaf is an annual crop, which is planted between November and February. In the current season, on administration plots about 100 to 150 acres of kenaf will be grown in the vicinity of Port Moresby. On plots conducted by Eriama Estates, a private company, about 100 acres will be grown. The results so far on both the cultural side and the processing side lead us to look forward with a good deal of confidence to the development of this new source of hard fibres in Papua and New Guinea. From fibres produced in the last season a great deal of twine and cloth and woolpack materia], was made in mills in the United States of America, New Zealand and Australia. About 200 woolpacks weredistributed for testing. They responded to tests in a very encouraging manner. In the coming season, the private interests concerned have plans for producing about L,200 woolpacks for distribution topastoral firms and pastoralists throughout Australia, in order that they may be further tested. All the indications are that we can produce a material that will satisfy the requirements of that kind of packaging, and that we can produce it commercially as an economic proposition. So far, we have not encountered any outstanding cultural or processing difficulties. The next stage in the development of this project will be the opening up of an area in the Dobadura-Oro Bay-Buna region of Papua. We are undertaking certain public works, such as roads, bridges, and wharfs, in order to facilitate that development. I am not authorized to speak upon this matter, but I understand that the private interests concerned are organizing so that they will be able to obtain the necessary financial backing to enable them to take advantage of this opportunity. I think that we may consider the results of the past two years to be extremely encouraging.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that lectures for students at our universities are delayed to enable boys who are doing national service training in camps to attend the complete course of their lectures outside their training period? Is he also aware that students attending trade classes at technical colledges do not enjoy this privilege? Is the right honorable gentleman further aware that a big percentage of technical students who are attending technical colleges failed in their examinations last year because they were unable to attend their full course of lectures? Will he make provision for technical college students to obtain leave to attend their full course of lectures during the period that they are in national service training camps, and thus enable them to continue their valuable studies without interruption?
– I am not aware of the matter detailed by the honorable member, but I shall put myself into- a position of becoming aware. In the course of doing so, I shall discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Defence, and my colleague, the Minister for the Army.
– Will the Minister for Territories inform the House whether it is a fact that the custom of his department is to hold a school for the training of young officers for service in Papua and New Guinea? Is it also a fact that at least some of the officers wl 10, during the last war, rendered distinguished and capable service and showed considerable capacity in the handling of natives, have been failed in their theoretical examinations because of some apparent incapacity to settle down and study the theoretical side of their work? If it is correct that such officers have been passed over in preference to those who have purely theoretical and academic qualifications, will the Minister give consideration to instituting a practice that has been adopted in the teaching service of New South Wales where, in such cases, some credit is allotted to the student for his capacity in actual teaching, and his results in practical tests are taken into consideration when he is finally awarded his classification? Where men have a real capacity to handle natives, and have shown it by their work and record, they should be given at least the same status and classification as those who may have academic qualifications but may ultimately fail in their handling of natives because of their lack of practical ability.
– Part of the permanent establishment of the Department of Territories is the Australian School of Pacific Administration at Mosman, near Sydney. That school, as its main but not its sole activity, conducts a twoyear course for the training of officers in the Department of District Service and Native Affairs. The system is that a cadet patrol officer goes to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea on appointment, and after a period of service in the field, during which his capacity to handle affairs is well tested, he is sent to attend the two-year course at the school. The passing of an examination after that two-year course at the school is made one of the conditions for the advancement of the officers to the higher ranges of the service. It is not a barrier to continuance in the service if an officer fails, but he cannot advance to the higher ranges unless, in addition to his field experience, he also goes through this two-year course which takes into account such subjects as colonial administration, law and other matters which an officer must have at his fingertips if he is to do his work as a district officer or district commissioner. If the honorable member knows of any instance in which an officer’s progress has been impeded because he has not passed through the course and will furnish me with the name of the officer concerned, I shall inquire into the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister consider suggesting to the British Council, or to the proper authorities in England, the sending to Australia on loan, as a part of the Coronation celebrations, of a representative selection of pictures from the London art galleries, such as the Tate, the Wallace and the National galleries, with a view to stimulating Australian interest in classical and modern painting?
– Naturally, I shall consider the suggestion made by the honorable member. I do not know whether this is relevant or not, but we have recently given some financial assistance to the exhibition in Australia of what is described as modern French art. I have not seen the originals.
MOTOR VEHICLES. Mr. MULCAHY.- Will the Minister for Supply inform the House of the arrangements made between his department and a private hire car company in
Sydney for the use of motor cars for Commonwealth purposes? Is it necessary to use private hire cars while a n umber of Commonwealth cars remain idle in garages in Sydney? Was the number of Commonwealth drivers recently reduced in order to provide additional work for the hire car company? Is it a fact that the company concerned is owned by a large public company which operates in Sydney and Melbourne, and that the owners of taxi cabs are allowed to use facilities provided for departmental drivers and motor cars at aerodromes in the Sydney area?
– The two companies that provide motor cars for Commonwealth purposes are the same companies that have contracted to supply motor vehicles to the Department of Supply for many years, during the administration of the previous Government as well as that of the present Government. In an attempt to effect economies in this section of my department which was, on all counts, pretty extravagant, we are in process of re-organizing the section and some dismissals of staff have taken place. I am pleased to tell the House that the reorganization has already resulted in a substantial saving of money.
– And in dismissals of staff.
– If honorable members want an answer to the question they should listen to it without interruption. Commonwealth motor cars are fully occupied and we call upon contractors only when we are not in a position to supply a desired service ourselves. There were some parts of the honorable member’s question which I did not clearly hear. If he places it on the notice-paper, I shall reply to it in detail.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether it is a fact that the present price paid for linseed in Australia makes the crop uneconomical to the growers and, as a result, people are leaving the industry? Will the Minister inform the House of any action the Government can take to rectify the situation and maintain this important industry?
– I understand that the prevailing price for linseed is lower than that necessary to enable linseedgrowers to carry on the industry. The Government is particularly eager to establish the linseed industry on an expanding basis. The acreage under linseed has been increasing in recent years. Last year, some 50,000 acres were under cultivation and our objective is- 200,000 acres. Obviously, we should supply our own requirements of thisagricultural product instead of importing it. The Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Commerce and Agriculture recently arranged a conference in Sydney between the linseed crushers and the linseed growers the outcome of which, I understand, was to reveal that, due to the price level fixed for linseed oil and meal by State authorities, it was agreed that the crushers could not pay more than £65 a ton for linseed. That is not an economic price for thegrowers. I am not content to allow the situation to rest at that point. Certain factors are now under consideration by the Tariff Board but I shall try, in conjunction with the Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Commerce and Agriculture and the officers of my department, to establish a condition of affairs in which this industry will be able to carry onat a profit and on an expanding basis.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next, at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to make provision for improving the production and increasing the use of wool, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this billis to introduce amendments to the existing wool use promotion legislation. .These amendments are primarily the result of representations made by the Australian “Wool Board and the two federal organizations of wool-growers - the Australian Woolgrowers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. The Government’s decision to make the amendments was taken in an atmosphere which showed that woolgrowers, and, indeed, all sections of the community, were becoming increasingly conscious of the very real threat which synthetic fibres hold for wool. The Government, for its part, has viewed with concern for some time the growing trend of the production of synthetic fibres in other countries, and the claims made by manufacturers of these fibres. In doing so, the Government has had in mind the future interests of not only wool-growers and the wool industry, who stand most directly to suffer from any inroads made by synthetics, but also the Australian economy as a whole. The events of the past two years underline the extreme dependence of the economy of this country on the fortunes of the wool industry.
In dealing with this matter, we must be realistic. We must recognize that if wool is to meet the challenge of synthetics, the cost will be considerable, and sound organization will be required. The best possible publicity will be needed, and every endeavour must be made to improve wool as a fibre by means of research. There is no reason why we should lose our confidence in the ability of wool to hold its own in competition with other fibres. This confidence will be justified if, instead of resting content on the supremacy which wool has enjoyed for so long over other textile fibres, we meet the challenge of synthetics with the full resources of science and publicity. It is because of the importance which the Government attaches to the problem of synthetics, and the need for a vigorous wool promotion programme, that it gave the most careful consideration to the representations which it had received from the Wool Board and the organized wool industry. The first and most important step was to ensure that more money was available for wool publicity. This was done, after consultation with, and indeed at the request of, the wool industry, by legislating for an increase in the rate of the wool tax from 2s. a bale to 4s. a bale and by providing that, in future years, the rate of tax might be flexible within the limits of 2s. and os. a bale. The actual rate of tax is to be chosen within the bracket of a maximum of 5s. a bale and a minimum of 2s. a bale on the recommendation of the representatives of the wool-growers themselves.
Having thus provided for a satisfactory annual income for the Australian Wool Board, the Government decided that, so that the board would have adequate financial resources, there should be transferred to it an amount of about £2,750,000, representing the unspent balance in the Wool (Reserve Prices) Fund, and that portion of the balance in the Wool Contributory Charge Trust Account, which will remain after the wool stores owned in Australia by the Joint Organization have been purchased. By way of explanation I point out that the unspent balance in the Wool (Reserve Prices) Fund represents the interest which was earned by that fund during the time it was held by the Government, in accordance with an arrangement with the wool-growers, pending its return to them after a certain referendum. The Government also proposes that a portion of the income from rental of these stores should be paid to the Wool Board.
The wool board made a number of other suggestions which, in its view, would assist it in carrying out its functions. Briefly, these suggestions were that the board should be free from government control of its activities, and that its functions should be somewhat enlarged. These suggestions were endorsed by the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and were generally supported by the Australian Woolgrowers Council which, however, suggested certain additional amendments to the existing wool use promotion legislation. In order that the board’s approach and the Government’s decision may be the better understood, it is, perhaps, worthwhile for me to traverse some of the history of the Australian Wool Board. The Board was first established under the Wool Publicity and Research Act of 1936, which made it an entirely free agent so far as the exercise of its power and the expenditure of the proceeds of the wool tax were concerned. During the currency of the 1936 legislation, the board laid down the basis of a wool promotion campaign, particularly in Overseas countries, in which, through the agency of the International Wool Secretariat, it collaborated with kindred organizations in New Zealand and South Africa. Under the 1936 act, the Australian Wool Board was also permitted to engage in research and to take steps directed towards improving the production of wool in Australia.
In 1945 a comprehensive plan for the benefit of the wool industry covering the fields of publicity and research was inaugurated with the passage of the Wool Use Promotion Act. Under the plan, promotion of the use of wool remained the responsibility of the Austalian Wool Board, scientific research became primarily the responsibility of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture was made responsible for research into the economic aspects of the wool industry in both the national and the international spheres. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture was also given the responsibility of initiating Commonwealth and State co-operation to ensure that the results of research were applied. Co-ordination of these activities was to be effected through an interdepartmental committee on wool research set up administratively under the chairmanship of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. The Wool Use Promotion Act of 1945 raised the amount of the wool tax from 6d. to 2s. a bale and provided for a government contribution to wool research which was related to growers’ contribution through the wool tax. The act also subjected the Australian Wool Board to a degree of ministerial control, from which the board had previously been free, and it established the position of the wool adviser and set up a Wool Consultative Council.
The increased rate of wool tax enabled the Australian Wool Board to enlarge its promotional activities in Australia and especially overseas. Increased contributions from the wool boards of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa permitted the International Wool Secretariat to increase the range and intensity of its publicity work, to open branches in several countries, and, most importantly, in conjunction with American wool interests, to set up the Wool Bureau Incorporated to concentrate on wool publicity in North America, where the competition from synthetics is greatest. The representations received from the wool industry for amendment of the Wool Use Promotion Act have necessitated a thorough review of the 1945 legislation, particularly in relation to the Australian Wool Board. The Government agreed to the industry’s request that the title of the board be altered to the Australian Wool Bureau. The Australian Wool Board is one of a considerable number of boards that have been established by statute to deal with Australian primary products. Every one of these boards, other than the Australian Wool Board, has for its purpose the exercising of functions in relation to marketing. The wool board has never had any marketing function, and the wool industry is most emphatic that it does not want, now or at any other time, a governmental authority to be associated with the marketing of its clip. The growers were prompted to ask that the title of the board be changed to the Australian Wool Bureau in order to distinguish its function from that of marketing. This is in conformity with the view of the Government, which has readily concurred in the proposal. That is why the bill provides for the alteration of the title.
First and foremost, the Government decided that the Australian Wool Bureau should, so far as its promotional and publicity functions are concerned, be entirely free from ministerial control or direction. This is in conformity with the Government’s policy of according to industry authorities the fullest possible freedom in the management of industry affairs. The Government is satisfied that its views will be adequately represented on the Australian Wool Bureau by the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. It is proposed that the wool adviser shall continue to represent the Government on the bureau, notwithstanding the strong suggestion made by the Australian Wool Growers
Council that the position of Commonwealth Wool Adviser should be abolished and that the government representative on the bureau should be a wool-grower. The Government considers that its choice of a wool adviser and a representative on the bureau are matters for its own determination. It takes the view, which I believe any Australian government would take, that, so long as the economy of Australia is dependent to the degree that it is and historically has been upon the fortunes of the wool industry, it is almost unthinkable that it should deprive itself of an officer with the special responsibility of performing all those duties that are implicit in the title of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. In order that it may be able to predict the national income of the country with reasonable accuracy and foresee economic trends, the Government must have knowledgeable advice upon the situation of the wool industry and likely trends that may affect it. Therefore, it has not acceded to the request that the position of Commonwealth Wool Adviser be abolished.
The Government has also agreed that the Australian Wool Bureau may, as one of its powers and functions, take steps for the improvement of the production of wool in Australia and for the encouragement of research. However, the Government considers that it should not deprive itself of authority, through the Minister, to ensure that the bureau, in engaging in these activities, shall not duplicate similar activities undertaken by other authorities in this field. This is particularly important in the case of research where other instrumentalities are pursuing research work financed from the Commonwealth’s continuing annual contribution of about £350,000 from Consolidated Revenue towards wool research.
The Australian Wool Board also desired that the bureau should have complete autonomy in determining the terms and conditions of employment of its staff. At present these are prescribed in regulations but, in practice, the regulations are promulgated only after the Public Service Board has approved the proposed terms and conditions. In the case of some statutory authorities associated with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the legislation under which they are established provides that the terms and conditions of their staff shall be determined by the authority concerned and approved by the Public Service Board. In other legislation now before the Parliament this provision is to be extended to a number of other statutory authorities and, because this system has proved satisfactory, a similar provision has been included in the Wool Use Promotion Bill now before the House.
Whilst a more flexible system for the approval of terms and conditions of the staff of the bureau will thus result from this bill as compared with the 1945 legislation, the Government has felt unable to grant the bureau the complete freedom which was desired in this matter. I am sure, however, that in practice the bureau will find that the system is not onerous, and that it will recognize that the Government has a responsibility to preserve uniformity as between the various statutory authorities financed out of moneys raised by the Government. I should make it clear, moreover, that only the terms and conditions of employment of staff will be subject to the approval of the Public Service Board. The actual choice of personnel will be entirely a matter for the Australian Wool Bureau, which will also have complete and unfettered discretion in dispensing with the services of employees. A new provision has been inserted in the legislation to enable a Deputy Commonwealth Wool Adviser to be appointed. A further provision will empower the Commonwealth Wool Adviser to appoint staff.
– Staff for what?
– I shall proceed to that in a moment. This provision has been included primarily to meet a situation in which it may be decided that the Wool Statistical Service, formerly operated and financed by the Australian Wool Realization Commission, should be administered by the Wool Adviser.
The statistical service previously provided by the Australian Wool Realization Commission has proved of tremendous value to the wool industry and the Commonwealth. Its records were, in particular, the basis of practically all the arguments used by Australia to protect the auction system during the international wool discussions of 1950 and 1951. The authenticity of the analysis of the Australian wool clip provided by the Australian Wool Realization Commission was unchallengeable. The ‘service, therefore, has been of tremendous advantage to all those who attach importance to protecting the auction system against impairment. This experience, quite apart from the commercial and general advantages of operating such authentic and useful analyses of the Australian clip, makes it essential that the service should be continued in some suitable form.
The service previously provided by the commission was, as it were, a byproduct of great value to the wool industry from work that the commission was obliged to undertake as part of its operations on behalf of the Joint Organization. It is believed, now that the statistics are no longer required by the Joint Organization, that satisfactory results can be obtained by the continuance of the statistical service in a somewheat modified form. The basic data for the statistical analysis is derived from appraisal of wool submitted for auction. Previously, the valuing staff of the Australian Wool Realization Commission carried out this appraisal. By arrangement, the valuing staffs of the various wool-selling brokers have, for some time, been appraising wool concurrently with the appraisals of the Wool Commission’s valuers. This was agreed to at a conference between myself, with the advice and assistance of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, the president of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers, and representatives of the growers’ organizations, into the advantages of continuing the Wool Statistical Service. At that conference, I also said that, so far as the Government was concerned, if the brokers were able to provide a. service of unchallengeable authenticity, of which I was not fully confident the Government did not want to establish an organization to conduct it. I suggested that we could best be in a position to make up our minds on the point by having the old Australian Wool Realization Commission service and a service conducted by the brokers themselves run concurrently for three months, after which time we could compare the results. That is the situation at present, and in due course I shall be able to tell those who are interested what the result of those parallel services may be. This has been in the nature of an experiment to determine whether the appraisals by the various broking houses could continuously produce data which, from a statistical point of view, would be reasonably comparable with data that would result from the appraisals of the commission’s valuers.
It has been agreed that, if the appraisals carried out by brokers are shown to provide sufficiently accurate and authentic data, appraisals should, in future, be carried out by the broking houses. What have not been decided, and are really matters for further consideration by the Government, after consultation with the industry, are the administrative arrangements which should be made for the statistical service in whatever form it may be established. That refers to a central clearing house for the data flowing in from various broking houses, whether supplied by the brokers or a different staff and the final compilation of statistics. It will be appreciated that the appraisal of the wool is only the first step which must necessarily be followed by extensive statistical tabulation and analysis of the data. Regardless of who provides the primary data, it will still be necessary to continue to employ the statistical and clerical staff at present employed by the Australian Wool Realization Commission.
– What are their numbers ?
– I think somewhere between one dozen and two dozen. I hope that I am accurate in saying that. If 1 am not I shall correct it later. That number excludes the actual wool appraisers. This staff has already been considerably reduced in numbers.
Various suggestions have been made regarding the administrative location of the statistical service. One suggestion has been that it might be associated with the Australian Wool Bureau. The bill now before the House would enable this to be done if desired. A second possibility is that the statistical service might be attached to the functions of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, and it is for this reason that provision is now being made for the wool adviser to engage staff. That is, that when the bill is passed it will provide that in these contingencies it will be possible for the wool adviser to engage staff for that purpose. A decision on this aspect of the matter must await the outcome of the experimental appraisal now taking place. It is expected that the results of this trial will be reviewed in March and that, soon after, it will be possible for the Government to make a definite decision.
It is proposed that the Wool Consultative Council established under the Wool Use Promotion Act of 1945 should be discontinued and an effective replacement set up by administrative action. The abolition of the council was urged by the Australian Wool Board and the woolgrowers’ organizations, on the grounds that it was redundant and had never served any useful purpose. It will be recalled that the council was established to advise the Ministers controlling wool funds on matters concerning the wool industry. In reviewing the activities of the council the Government came to the conclusion that it had not functioned successfully. This was probably due to the fact that’ its charter was too broad to permit its members to exercise specialist judgment in regard to all of the varied kinds of matters concerning the wool industry coming within its scope. In this bill, the Government has been able to meet, substantially, the representations of the Australian Wool Board and the wool-growers’ organizations. The few major points of difference between the Government and the board have already been indicated, as well as the major points of agreement. These references do not cover exhaustively the full list of suggestions made by the industry that have been adopted by the Government and included in the measure. The additional items can bo indicated at the committee stages, as required.
Having regard to the very real threat of synthetics to our wool industry and the nation’s economy, the importance of wool use promotion and research cannot be over-emphasized. The new Australian
Wool Bureau will be entrusted with a major responsibility directed to the preservation of the wool industry and I am confident it will not fail in its task. I commend the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave bo given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Meat Export Control Act 1935-1950.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Egg Export Control Act 1947-1951.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a hill for an act to amend theDairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-1947.
SUPPLY. (“ Grievance Day”)
Employment - Television - Telephone Services - Housing - Postal Department - Primary Industries - Food Production - Roads - Taxation - Banking - Fire Insurance - War Pensions - Repatriation.
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
– I take advantage of this opportunity to bring before the House the many grievances of the electors of West Sydney. Probably no electorate in the Commonwealth has suffered more as a’ result of the advent of this Government than has West Sydney. About two and a half years ago, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department dismissed 10,000 men and women employees, many of whom lived in my electorate. The position in West Sydney went from bad to worse when drastic import restrictions were imposed. The Sydney waterfront as a whole suffered from those restrictions. Since they were imposed, many waterfront workers have received only appearance money, and we all know that in these days 12s. or 16s. a day is not enough to enable a family man to keep his home going. Some clerical workers on the waterfront average only about twenty hours work a week, and some men do not work for even that length of time.
We have heard a lot, and we shall hear more, about the necessity to introduce television into this country. 1 agree in principle that television should be introduced into Australia, but ] believe that the £7,000,000 which it Ls proposed shall be expended upon television could be expended more usefully upon many other things. Some people in West Sydney have been waiting for over three years for telephones to be installed in their houses. During that time, possibly twelve new telephones have been connected there. In 1950, some of 1 he applicants were informed that there would be a twelve months’ delay in the installation of their telephones. Naturally. they assumed that they had a reasonable chance of securing telephones in twelve months’ time, but when twelve months had elapsed they were told that there would be another twelve months’ delay. Although three and a half years have elapsed, there is still no hope of getting a new telephone in West Sydney. There is much talk about television, but it is only talk. Television is something for the Government to dilly-dally with.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman cannot deal with television on this motion. The Television Bill is on the notice-paper.
– I shall deal with unemployment in West Sydney. Every Monday morning, at least 20 or 30 men come to my office to seek work. On the 9th of this month, I visited a branch office of the Department of Social Services and I discovered that 510 men called at the office on that day. When we speak about unemployment in this chamber and on public platforms outside the Parliament we are told by the Prime Minister (Mi*. Menzies) that we are “ calamity howlers “. I am sorry to say that there is much “ calamity howling “ amongst the members of the textile industry in New South Wales, particu larly in Sydney. We were told by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that a half of the total unemployment in Australia exists in the metropolitan area of Sydney. I am glad that on the 14th of this month the electors of that area gave their answer to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service. They rejected practically every Liberal candidate for a metropolitan seat in the New South Wales Parliament. A similar fate await3 the present representatives of Commonwealth electorates such as Benelong, Lowe and Evans. They will fall when the people of the metropolitan area of Sydney are given a chance to go to the ballot-boxes again to decide who shall represent them in this House. Last Saturday morning, 300 people lined up at a place in Young-street, Sydney, seeking free breakfasts and dinners. They cannot live on £2 10s. a week. The rent of a room for a man is at least £1 a week. Who can maintain himself on 30s. a week? That is the sum on which this Government expects people in West Sydney to live and work out their salvation. You, Mr. Speaker, are just as responsible for the present state of affairs as is every other member of this Government. You are a member of the Menzies Government.
– Order ! The Speaker is not a member of the Government.
– You should give the Government some advice on this matter. I assure you that the position in West Sydney is desperate. There are 100,000 unemployed people in Australia. It is boasted openly by Mr. Menzies and Mr. Holt-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not refer to Ministers by name.
– The Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service have boasted openly that a half of the total unemployment in Australia exists in and around Sydney. Thousands of people in Sydney are waiting for houses, due to a breakdown of the housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Government.
In 1949, the State Government was told by the Chifley Government, which honoured its pledges, to build houses for the people, and that the necessary money would be supplied, but when this Government came into office the agreement ceased to exist. In Sydney to-day, there are 100,000 homeless people, including many ex-servicemen. Last Saturday morning, an ex-serviceman came to my office. He told me that he had been waiting for a house for four and a half years and that he, his wife and three children were living in two rooms. That state of affairs has been caused by the policy of this Government. It is not of much use to say to people who are waiting for homes that possibly their position will be improved in twelve months’ time, when a Labour government assumes office.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I desire to speak this morning about a matter that is giving my constituents and myself some concern. I refer to the protracted delays that have occurred in installing telephones in the upper Murray districts of South Australia. Those districts are irrigation areas in which there has been extensive settlement of ex-servicemen since the first and second world wars. The delay in the installation of telephones is not entirely the fault of the Postal Department in South Australia, but I should like my complaint to be brought to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). Many persons have applied for telephone connexions, but have been waiting for the service for two years. The initial rental has been accepted from many people, and telephone numbers have been allotted to them and now appear in the South Australian telephone directory. The matter is becoming fantastic. One reason for the delay is probably that the south-eastern division of the Postal Department, which is supposed to cover this area, is far too large. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the south-eastern division stretches from Mount Gambier, which is represented by you, hundreds of miles north to districts such as Renmark and Berri, which I have the honour to represent. As a first step, this division should be split up into two sub-divisions.
Another reason for the delay is that the Government, in a very commendable desire to reduce the number of public servants in Australia, has been too severe in its retrenchments of Postal Department personnel. There may have been a strong case for reducing the number of clerical employees in the Postal Department. I am not in a position to give a considered opinion about that, but from my experience since the retrenchments, it has become apparent that too many linemen and technicians were put off. From my investigations there is a strong case, in South Australia at any rate, for the employment of more linemen as soon as possible so that the back-lag of orders for telephone services can be rapidly overcome. I am convinced that the leadership of the Postal Department in South Australia is efficient, and I take this opportunity to pay a particular tribute to the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in that State, Mr. Fountain. That gentleman has great energy, imagination and capacity, which qualities are also possessed by some of his senior officers. However, they cannot do .the impossible. How can they fulfil the demand for telephone services unless they have sufficient men? I hope that the Postmaster-General will investigate this complaint and, if possible, authorize the employment of more linemen to obviate further delays in the installation of telephone services in these great, prosperous and progressive irrigation settlements on the Murray River in South Australia.
.-Like the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) I desire to know when the Government will stir itself out of its Micawber-like somnolence and do something about unemployment in this country. I should like to know when the Government will put some scheme into effect to overcome the results of its calamitous financial policy of the last year or two which has caused the closing down of many industries, particularly in and around about my electorate. The Government does not seem to have any plan at all to handle this situation. It is just drifting along hoping and praying for something to turn up. For the last two years I have been directing the attention of the Government to the state of industry in my electorate. It is particularly saddening to see in my electorate thousands of unemployed persons, men and women, both Australian and new Australian, going along to collect what they call the Menzies-Fadden dole. Many of these persons are becoming conditioned to unemployment. They receive the dole and they have given up hope of receiving anything in the way of productive employment in the near f uture. The sight of those people is reminiscent of the days when men were employed on the sandhills at Botany in the soul-destroying work of moving sand from one place to another. Unemployed men might potter around their gardens a bit and do a little work on their houses, but they arc rapidly losing hope of obtaining real jobs. If they are ever to play an important part in our development they will have to be given employment. Perhaps it will take another war to give them that employment, as the last war gave employment to thousands of men. When the 6th Division of the Australian Imperial Force marched down Martin -pi ace, as their fathers had done before them, and went overseas, 7 5 per cent, of its members were unemployed.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Young men are to-day leaving school but are getting no training at all in industry. This Government is just as futile as was the non-Labour government in the 1940’s when it failed to gear all our resources to war. Finally that government had to hand over to a Labour government to ensure that the war would be conducted properly. It is very well for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to say that only 2 per cent, of the working population is unemployed. It is very pleasant for the 9S per cent, to hear that, but it is certainly not satisfying to the 2 per cent, who are out of work.
– Why are there so many unemployed people in New South Wales? That State has had a Labour government for many years.
– It is this Government’s responsibility to ensure that our people are employed in useful work. The figures of the Commonwealth Statistician do not lie, and those figures show that at the end of November, 1952, 110,000 less people were employed in industry than at the end of November, 1951. Despite the Government’s promises that it would reduce the number of employees in the government service, there was an increase of more than 4,000 in government employment between November, 1951, and November, 1952, but the total decrease of all workers in private industry was 115,000. When the increase of workers in government employment is taken into account it will be seen that the overall decrease of the working force has been 110,000. However, that figure did not take into account the many thousands of immigrants who entered the country during that twelve months, because they were not employed here in November, 1951, and are now languishing in hostels. Those facts can be verified by anybody who chooses to visit the metropolitan electorates, where he will see great numbers of unemployed persons. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) asked, by way of interjection, why there are so many unemployed people in New South Wales. Many industries were set up in New South Wales by the Curtin and Chifley Governments during and after the wai-, and they played an important part in our economy during those periods. They are suffering the first effects of the Government’s policy, because the Government has no plan to develop this country. If honorable members of the Government parties went around the industrial districts they would understand why the non-Labour parties received such a reverse at the recent general election in New South Wales. They would also understand why the people round about Parramatta voted so solidly for the Labour party although those areas had previously been Liberal strongholds. The reason for what took place, there is that the electors considered that the Government had a very feeble policy to develop the country. I could name three industries in my electorate in which a total of 2,000 fewer people are employed than was the case a year ago. The Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company (Australia) Limited dismissed 900 men from its works at Granville last year. The Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, an organization in which the Commonwealth itself owns 51 per cent, of the shares, was unable to provide work for its employees and was forced to dispense with the services of no fewer than 700 of them. Vandyke Brothers Proprietary Limited, a company which conducts a prefabbrication works at Villawood, also had to dispense with the services of no fewer than 400 men. At the time when the Government was applying policies which result in the closing down of these Australian industries it was providing £23,000,000 to bring to Australia prefabricated nouses from the other side of .the world. Surely the first obligation of the Government is to assist our own industries. Vandyke Brothers Proprietary Limited, which conducts one of the best prefabrication works in Australia, was doing a very good job for the New South Wales Housing Commission. The company, like many others, has been forced to cancel many contracts for the construction of prefabricated houses. Australian industries engaged in the construction of prefabricated houses have been very adversely affected by the policies applied by this Government. Hudson and Sons Proprietary Limited, a company which is engaged in the prefabrication of timber houses at Rydalmere, spent a considerable amount of money in establishing its works, but when it was ready to go into production the axe wielded by this Government fell on it and it has been languishing ever since. The Government contends that it has no money to assist these industries. A couple of years ago industries were languishing because of the shortage of man-power and materials; now they are languishing because it is said there is a shortage of money. What is needed most is not money but a little organizing talent and imagination on the part of the Government to develop Australia and provide work for its people. The Government seems to be absolutely futile in that regard. It has sacrificed some of our great national assets and it is prepared to sacrifice what is left over to overseas financial interests. It now proposes to bring to Australia an organization controlled by an hereditary lord to run this country.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-! deplore the comments that have been made by Labour members on the subject of unemployment. It is well known to them, and to all political observers in Queensland, that it is the intention of the Queensland Labour Government, immediately after the State elections on the 7th March next, to dismiss thousands of State and city council employees for the express purpose of creating unemployment for use as a political weapon during, the forthcoming Senate election campaign. It is the intention of the Queensland Government to allow the workers concerned to remain unemployed until after the Senate election has been held and, during the period of their unemployment, to tell the people of Queensland that, the men cannot be re-employed because of the failure of the Australian Government to provide sufficient money for the State to carry on. The Treasurer in the Queensland Government, when presenting his budget to the Queensland Parliament, told the people that this year’s expenditure would be a record for the State.
I rose, not to discuss the problem of unemployment, but to repeat my request to the Government that it give further consideration to the appointment of a royal commission to investigate the operation in Queensland of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I sincerely regret that Labour members from Queensland have not seen fit to attend the sitting of the Parliament to hear the remarks that I propose to make on this subject. Unfortunately, every Queensland Labour member has stayed in that State to fight for his party in the State election and to take part in the Senate election campaign. Not one of them has considered it worth his while to attend the sittings of this Parliament.
Last year, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to appoint a royal commission to investigate the operation in Queensland of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, particularly insofar as it related to the Zillmere project. The right honorable gentleman informed me that I must produce evidence to warrant the appointment of a commission before the Government would consider my request.
– Why did the honorable member not produce it?
– As the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) well knows, I produced evidence which resulted in an inquiry being instituted by the Commonwealth. The investigating officers were non-partisan Commonwealth public servants of high integrity and great capability. In their report they stated that my request for an investigation had been fully justified and that my allegations had been fully substantiated. They also pointed out that in the carrying out of the Zillmere project there had been many instances of inferior workmanship. They contended that in the early stages of the project the Queensland Housing Commission had failed to maintain effective control of it. After I had made certain allegations it became common knowledge that the commission “ tightened “ up control to a degree that control became even less efficient than it had previously been. The final paragraph of the report reads as follows: -
There are justifiable doubts ait this stage whether the Commonwealth is getting a satisfactory result from its advances on the Zillmere project under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and £300 subsidy on imported houses.
On the Zillmere project alone, the Australian Government has expended no less than £2,215,000 of the taxpayers’ money. It has an obligation to ensure that every penny of that money has been expended wisely and that the people have obtained full value for its expenditure. If the Queensland Government has shown clearly to impartial observers, and to everybody who has any knowledge of the Zillmere project, that it was incapable of efficiently handling the project and unable properly to carry out the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, it is time the Commonwealth appointed a royal commission to investigate the whole matter. Since inspections of the project were made, first by officers of the housing division of the Department of National Development, and later by the technical officers of the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, the Queensland Government has endeavoured to effect some repairs to the houses. The most significant point in the report by the experts of the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station is the statement that the Queensland Government failed to comply with the specifications approved by the Commonwealth for houses upon which the subsidy of £300 was to be paid. In other words, the Queensland Government received the subsidy for the houses built by it at Zillmere under false pretences. Houses of the type in respect of which the Commonwealth agreed to pay a subsidy were not constructed. The ceiling structures were certified by the experts to be structurally insufficient. From an investigation of only twelve houses it was found that not one conformed to the specifications laid down, and that four different types of ceiling structure were used, not one of which was structurally sufficient. Sufficient evidence has been produced to warrant an investigation of the whole matter by a royal commission.
On top of all this, the Queensland Government, in an attempt to drag a red herring across the trail and excuse itself for its failure to carry out the requirements of the agreement, instituted a farcical police probe which involved the tabling in the Queensland Parliament of a police report which was, in fact, a politically^ dictated document. I sincerely hope that if the Government accedes to my request for the appointment of a royal commission to investigate the operation of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the terms of reference will make provision for a complete examination of everything appertaining to that police report. The situation at Zillmere is deteriorating. Rents for the houses are as high as £3 4s. a week, and in addition, the tenants are required to pay exorbitant charges for electricity. Their bills vary from £10 to £15 a quarter.
– Those conditions are occurring under a Labour government.
– That is so. The tenants earn the basic wage or only a little more than that amount. Now, they are leaving Zillmere, and are returning to the housing camps, where the conditions are sub-standard and disgraceful. That is proof positive that the Commonwealth and State Housing agreement has failed in Queensland. The purpose of the agreement is to enable decent housing conditions to be provided for the people. The
Queensland Government has failed to give them those conditions with the money made available by the Commonwealth for that purpose. This Government has provided approximately £12,000,000 to the Queensland Government for housing since the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) presented his budget to the Parliament in 1950. Zillmere is the only housing project which has been fully investigated, but we know from reports that similar conditions exist in other housing areas. When we realize those facts, we can say definitely that the amount of £12,000,000 has been completely wasted. In the circumstances, I suggest that it is the responsibility of the Government to appoint a royal commission with a view to bringing all the facts before the public. The Queensland Government should be indicted before the people for the way in which it has been squandering the taxpayers’ money whilst claiming at the same time that it was not getting sufficient money from the Commonwealth.
Zillmere is becoming a ghost town. 2To more rents are being received from the former tenants. Final certificates have not been issued by the Government in respect of the houses. The money has been expended on the erection of what will remain a ghost town. Furthermore, houses which were condemned by me in this House, by Mr. Decker, in the Queensland Parliament, and by those officers who carried out the investigations, are being torn to pieces. The roofs are being taken off, and Queensland timber is being substituted for the original wood in the structures. Who is paying for that work? The linings are being torn out and replaced, and the whole architecture is being altered in an effort to make the houses structurally sound.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Acting Commonwealth Statistician has announced the disturbing and unhappy news that the number of farms throughout Australia has decreased by 3.8 per cent, since 1938-39. Every honorable member and every thinking person in the community will be impressed by the seriousness of that situation. From time to time, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) refers to various targets for food production. Spokesmen for the Government emphasize unceasingly the need to be up-and-doing, and to make sacrifices. They stress the necessity for an increase of population in the rural areas, and declare that increased production i3 our most important objective at the present time. Members of the Opposition have little cause to disagree with those statements, but we disagree very strongly with the policy of the Government when the Acting Commonwealth Statistician has to report such an unhappy and disturbing state of affairs, and no practical steps are taken to come to grips with the problem.
Why are people leaving the land ? Why are there fewer farms now compared with the number in 1938-39 ? The whole thing comes back to the earth, and to most unglamorous and unspectacular problems. I regret to say these matters find little place here. They do not come within the category of subjects which tickle the fancy of the people and arouse the interest of the electorates, because they are too near the people. The reasons why people are leaving the country districts, and why there are fewer farms, are that roads in country districts are unsatisfactory and unsafe, and even impassable on many occasions, telephone’ communications are unsatisfactory, and there is a shortage of schools. The difficulties which face the people who reside in the rural areas are such that life in the country does not hold for them the attraction that it held in other days. I have received a letter from one of my constituents who represents a progress association. The points that he has made typify the general problem that exists throughout the country districts of Australia.
The provision of telephone facilities is a direct responsibility of the Commonwealth. This Parliament and the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) are directly answerable for that matter. A definite priority should be given to the people in sparsely populated areas so that telephones may be connected to their homes. Some progress associations and communities of people have voluntarily banded themselves together and raised considerable sums of money for the purpose of obtaining telephone services. They have been prepared to cut the poles, and do nearly all the work associated with the provision of a service, yet they have not been able to persuade the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to install telephones in their homes. The lack of telephone communications is one of the reasons why fewer people live in the country districts to-day, and why some are actually leaving the country to live in the cities. The other important reason is the condition of the roads.
It may be claimed that the construction and maintenance of roads is the sole responsibility of the States and localgoverning bodies. However, I consider that all of us who are gathered here are concerned with all the problems of the whole of Australia. If that is so, we who sit here, and particularly the Treasurer, who has official contacts with the Commonwealth Bank, and is the Chairman of the Australian Loan Council, should adopt a realistic attitude to the situation. Many roads in country districts have deteriorated. Some communities are not served by roads. In a previous debate, I pointed out that in parts of my constituency, ballot-boxes used in the last referendum, and again in the Macquarie by-election, had to be carried by pack-horse, because motor vehicles could not reach certain isolated centres of population, although they had been established more than 100 years. Such conditions do not encourage an increase of primary production. The letter I referred to came from a constituent who is a member of the Arkstone Progress Association. It reads, in part, as follows : -
A fair indication as to the condition of the road is the fact that our mail delivery has been reduced from three to two per week. This mail carries correspondence school lessons, bread .and other supplies which are very often held up. We have for one thing a very bad river in the middle of the run, which has no bridge and for the greater part of the year is uncrossable. Three times in the past few years people needing urgent medical attention have had to be carried across this river at great personal risk to ones helping. The rest of the road in many places is just a bog hole in wet weather and even in dry times is very difficult to travel. Knowing the condition of the road the people of the district are very uracil concerned about what will happen in the case of any one needing urgent medical attention during the wet seasons in future. Portion of this road belongs to the Abercrombie Shire and the rest is the responsibility of the Oberon Shire. Both of these bodies have been approached on numerous occasions and apparently sufficient funds are unavailable to do a substantial job.
That problem confronts local governing bodies throughout Australia. They urgently need funds to carry out a worthwhile road programme. I have expressed the opinion on a number of occasions that the total proceeds of the petrol tax should be ear-marked to finance the construction and maintenance of roads. If that allocation were made, people who live in country areas would have better access to larger centres, and would be able to transport their produce to market more easily than is possible at the present time. Then, we would not read melancholy statements such as that issued by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician that the recorded number of rural holdings in Australia has declined by 3.8 per cent, since 1938-39.
Many reports have been submitted to me about road problems in country districts. On one occasion, a body had to be carried some distance to a waiting hearse, because there was no road to the property on which the person had lived.
In many areas, rich land cannot be developed because of a lack of road facilities. I make a plea to-day for those people in the country districts. It is an unglamorous plea to ask for good roads, and perhaps not good roads but at least trafficable roads that will enable people who live in the country to move freely from their homes to the nearest towns. If adequate road facilities were provided, the residents of remote districts would be able to send their children safely to school, and get supplies of goods. I hope that my plea to-day will not be in vain, and that the Government will adopt a realistic approach to this problem. Perhaps it will be prepared to break new ground. I heard the speeches which were delivered at the abortive conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in this chamber last week-end, which discussed much and decided, little, but perhaps the opportunity will be taken by the Government to break new ground constitutionally, so that the Commonwealth, the States and local governing bodies will be able to meet here with the object of doing something worthwhile to improve roads in country districts throughout Australia.
.- I was amazed and disgusted that such conditions as those mentioned by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) should prevail at the Zillmere housing project in Queensland. I am tremendously pleased to learn that he intends to give us further particulars of the matter. I have had a serious grievance for a long time. It has been aggravated week after week. I refer to the inconsistent statements that have been made from time to time on behalf of the Opposition. Spokesmen for the Labour party make a statement one duy, and it is not borne out by future events. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has referred to unemployment. Naturally, all Australians would like every one to be fully employed. During the last sessional period, members of the Opposition constantly expressed the fear that an economic depression was engulfing Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member may not refer to debates that have taken place during the current session.
– I am referring to a debate that took place during the last sitting period.
– We are still in the first session since the election in 1951.
– Opposition members were forecasting last year that the economic depression would be serious by this time in 1953. Nothing can be more damaging to the economy of the country than for members of the Parliament to forecast a depression. The general public does not know the calibre of the Opposition, and takes it for granted that honorable members opposite are speaking with some authority on the subject. The Acting Commonwealth Statistician tells a different story. He considers that the Australian economy is tremendously sound to-day. He has not expressed that opinion in so many words, but the situation is indicated by the figures that he issues. Yet the moment he publishes some figures which ma.y not be favorable to the policy of the Government, an Opposition member hastens to quote them. The Parliament, and not only the Government, of th’e Commonwealth of Australia should endeavour to overcome any conditions that would cause unemployment. Honorable members opposite could best help Australia by directing the attention of the people to the present state of our economy, which results from good seasons for primary production and the flow of money from overseas for the purpose of establishing new Australian industries. Big projects like the construction of the oil refinery at Kwinana, in Western Australia, have never before been undertaken in Australia. Such works will, I believe, convert our present state of temporary prosperity into true progress. I have often spoken in this House about prosperity and progress and have tried to point out to honorable members opposite that hard work, not talk, is needed to cause progress. We experienced a certain degree of artificial prosperity when the Labour party was in power, but every body knows that that condition was largely due to the effects of World War II. It was never converted into progress. In fact, when the Labour party went out of office, that condition of prosperity was moving, by way of inflation, towards a depression. This Government has taken advantage of Australia’s prosperity in order to turn it into the channels of progress.
When this Government obtained parliamentary approval to the wool sales deductions legislation, members of the Opposition travelled about the country and told the growers that the money collected in the form of such deductions would never be returned to them. I can see several honorable members opposite who engaged in that misleading campaign. To-day every body in Australia should know that every penny that was taken from the wool-growers by means of wool sales deductions has been returned to them. Members of the Opposition do not seem to realize that they have an obligation to admit publicly that their statements were incorrect. The legislation operated for only one year instead of for many years as they forecast. They should make an apology, not only to the Government, but also to the people of Australia. This Government has rectified a major fault in the provisional tax system by introducing a provision for the self-assessment of income tax. Under the system that was instituted by the Labour Government, a primary producer who had an income of, say, £6,000 in one year, was required to pay tax amounting to £2,755 for that year, and his provisional tax payments in the succeeding year were based on that amount. Therefore, even if he suffered from a disastrous drought in the second year and earned no income, he was required to pay £2,755 as provisional tax. Under the self assessment system devised by this Government, such an injustice cannot be perpetrated. A primary producer asked me recently, “What will happen if I suffer from a drought and earn no income? How can I pay my provisional tax ? “ The answer, of course, was that he would not oe required to pay income tax.
Under the present system, a primary producer is required to assess the probable amount of his income for the taxation year, and that assessment need not be lodged before the 31st March of the year under review. Therefore, in a case of disaster due to drought or some other extraordinary circumstance, he will return a self-assessment form indicating that he will not have taxable income for that year. The anomaly that existed prior to the introduction of the selfassessment system was only one of many that had to be ironed out of the former Labour Government’s legislation by this Government. Some are of the opinion that this Government introduced provisional tax. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Labour party stands condemned because of the faulty system of provisional tax which it sponsored and which caused so much trouble to the primary producers, who constitute Australia’s best asset. Nothing has done more to drive men off the land than the form of tax legislation of the Labour Government. Primary producers to-day are thankful that this Government has removed causes of injustice so that they can look forward confidently to receiving a fair deal.
I read in the newspapers only this morning that the Labour party has decided to soft pedal on the issue of bank nationalization. Honorable members on this side of the House know, of course, that the policy, of the Labour party remains firm for the nationalization of industry, production, distribution and the means of exchange, and that members of the Opposition have declared that, although their former legislation for the nationalization of banking was held to be invalid, they will continue to pursue their objective until they succeed by some other means. No doubt they will have very little to say about the subject for the time being because several election campaigns are imminent.
– Can the honorable member not find a new theme?
– I cannot find a more important one than that. Nothing would do more damage to Australia than the nationalization of banking. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has often boasted that if a government can gain control of the money of a country it can take control of everything else. Nationalization of banking represents the Labour party’s main step towards complete socialization. The Labour party’s programme, which in this respect is perhaps not whole-heartedly supported by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), threatens the future well-being of Australia.
.- The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has said that he is very worried about unemployment in NewSouth Wales. Well may the honorable gentleman be worried, because we have just received the exhilarating news that, for the first time in history, the people of his electorate are so disgusted with him and his kind, that they have elected a member of the Labour” party to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. This is good news indeed. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) raved, as he has done day in and day out, about the housing problem in Queensland and the actions of the Queensland Government. The honorable gentleman had the assistance of the Prime Minister in this chamber one night in one of the most comical episodes that we have witnessed for a long time.
– Order! The honorable member must not reflect upon the proceedings of the House.
– The honorable member for Lilley talked about ghosts. I suggest that the only ghost of which he is afraid is the ghost of political extinction at the next general election.
My purpose in speaking on this occasion is to criticize the Postal Department for its failure to provide adequate postal and telephonic facilities in the electorate of “Watson. To say the least, such facilities as are available there are disgustingly inadequate. The people are obliged to pay high prices for Postal Department services under this Government. Postage rates have been increased by 50 per cent., and the radio listeners’ licence-fee has been increased by 100 per cent. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) threatens in the near future to double the charge for calls made from public telephone boxes. The honorable gentleman has spoken recently in glowing terms of the surplus that has been accumulated from the operations of the Postal Department during the last six months. However, the installation of telephones in the Sydney area has almost ceased. The service provided by the EE exchange in the Watson electorate, and the FJ, FX and MU exchanges, is deplorable because no maintenance work has been done recently and no new installations have been provided. There are factories in the Watson electorate where as many as 70 men are employed, yet these establishments are unable to obtain telephone installations. I ask honorable members to imagine the situation that would arise if a man employed at one of these factories were to be seriously injured. He might bleed to death from a severed artery.
– It is all very well for the honorable member to scoff, but such industrial accidents are not unusual. In the event of such a tragedy, it would be impossible to telephone for medical aid. This is a very serious matter, but the Government apparently intends as usual to laugh it off. It is interested only in giving assistance to its wealthy supporters.
The Postmaster-General, for example, is using all sorts of inducements to persuade the Parliament to authorize the expenditure of money for a certain purpose that I am not allowed to discuss at this stage. Telephone installations can go hang as far as he is concerned. I suggest that he should make use of the trading profit of his department and the abundance of materials that is available to engage some of the unemployed artisans who are walking the streets of the Watson electorate in order to improve postal and telephonic facilities in that area. These skilled workmen are receiving a souldestroying dole. They have nothing to do but walk the streets and wait until the end of the week when they can receive a pittance from the Government.
– Has the honorable member ever been on the dole?
– Yes. I know the frustrating effect of unemployment and relief payments upon high-class artisans, who are willing and eager to work. The government should find employment for these men.
The Government’s attitude towards its responsibility to provide houses for the people is shockingly neglectful. The honorable member for Lilley should criticize this Government instead of the Queensland Government, which is doing its best to provide homes for the homeless. The Government should allot more money to New South Wales under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement so as to provide houses for the large numbers of people in that State who are living in emergency accommodation. Huge tracts of territory in the Watson electorate, such as the Long Bay rifle range, are going to waste when they could be returned to the State, subdivided, and used for the purposes of housing settlements. If men were put to work on the construction of houses on such areas, the problem of unemployment in the Sydney area would be solved. I earnestly hope that this Government of fits and starts will heed my suggestions. It is a government of professors, who give all sort of abstract advice a,bout the economic situation and can provide solutions out of books for all sorts of problems, but who fail hopelessly when they are confronted with practical difficulties. It is one of the most discredited governments in the history of Australia, and I am pleased that the electors will soon have the chance to pass sentence upon it. Before long most honorable members on the Government side of the House will be drawing a meagre government dole. They will be walking the streets looking for work. There is not one honorable member opposite who will rise in his place in this House to battle for our workless people. The members of the Australian Country party claim that they represent the farmers. There is not a farmer among them. They are either stockbrokers or are working in some capacity in which they can fleece the farmer. No wonder they call wool “ the golden fleece “. They have lived on it year in and year out, fleecing the farmers.
– I rise to order. I request that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) withdraw a statement that grieves me greatly. I am. known as a practical grazier and farmer. I have been engaged in farming for most of my life, and retired from farming only within the last few months. There are in my party men who are actively engaged in farming. At least half of my colleagues in the Australian Country party have their interests on the land. The statement of the honorable member for Watson grieves me greatly because of its utter untruth, and 1 ask that it be withdrawn without hesitation or equivocation.
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson will withdraw the remarks to which the honorable member for New England takes exception.
– I dispute the honorable member’s-
– Order ! The honorable member may not dispute anything. The honorable member for New England has asked for a withdrawal of a remark that he considers to be offensive to him, and the honorable member for Watson must simply withdraw it without qualification.
– In deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the remark.
– Order ! It is not a question of deference to me. The honorable gentleman will withdraw the remark without qualification.
– I withdraw it.
– I also consider the remarks of the honorable member for Watson to be offensive to me. I am a practical farmer of the third generation of farmers in my family, and have earned my living for the most part by farming, at which I have worked hard. I demand a withdrawal of the remark made by the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Watson will withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I rise to direct the attention of the House to the unsatisfactory state of affairs that exists in South Australia in relation to claims for war widows pensions, which in certain circumstances involve appeals from Caesar to Caesar. I wish to say at the outset that I do not consider that there is anything further that this Parliament can do legislatively to protect ex-servicemen or ex-servicemen’s widows in relation to applications for pensions. The Repatriation Act, as framed by this Parliament, gives to ex-servicemen and war widows the right to apply for pensions to the Repatriation Department. In the event of such an application being unsuccessful the applicant has the right to appeal to the Repatriation Board. If that appeal is unsuccessful, the further right is available to appeal to a War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal, which is a body that is distinct from the Repatriation Department. The Parliament also provided that in the event of any doubt arising about eligibility for a pension, the doubt must be resolved in favour of the claimant. [Quorum formed.] A difficulty arises however owing to the fact that the entitlement appeals tribunals and, in fact, the Repatriation Commission, are not interpreting the Repatriation Act as the Parliament intended it to be interpreted, although the provisions of the act were made as clear as the Parliament could possibly make them I mention a particular case that has come to my notice, which is only one of dozens of cases of dissatisfaction in South Australia with the administration of the act. A widow whose husband’s death was, in her opinion, due to war service, applied to the Repatriation Commission, and later to the Repatriation Board, and still later to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal for a pension, but her applications were rejected. When she interviewed me I arranged with her to obtain from one of the leading doctors in South Australia his opinion on the cause of her husband’s death. The opinion given by that doctor, Dr. J. A. Rolland, on the 7th June, 1952, stated -
This is to certify that further to my previous certificate relating to the last illness of- I wish to state that I am firmly of the opinion that his illness was caused by the hardship of war service.
In view of that certificate I advised the widow to make further application to the appeals tribunal and on the 12th September last the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation replied to her in the following terms : -
Reviewed under Section 04 (7). The Commission decided that the further evidence submitted is not material to, nor has it a substantial bearing upon the claim.
The further evidence to which he referred was the doctor’s certificate. How can it possibly be said that the act is being properly administered by the Repatriation Department and the War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunals when a certificate signed by a leading South Australian doctor stating most definitely that a man’s death was, in his opinion, due to war service, produces only advice from the department that the evidence is not material to the case and has no substantial bearing on the claim ? The problem is that in South Australia there is only one War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal, which meant that the second appeal went before the same tribunal that had rejected the claim in the first place. The tribunal having once rejected a claim seems to be reluctant to change its mind on receipt of new and strong material evidence. It is unsatisfactory that further appeals should have to go before the same men who rejected the initial appeal. I ask the
Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J.. Harrison) to make representations to the Government and the Minister for Repatriation in an endeavour to ensure that when fresh evidence is obtained, and a further appeal is lodged with a tribunal, a different body of men will hear the further appeal. It is said that there is no alternative body to hear a further appeal in South Australia, because there is only one entitlement appeals tribunal operating in that State. It would be much better for an entitlement appeals tribunal from Victoria or one of the other States to visit South Australia periodically to hear second appeals. I must confess that an examination of the cases that come before me leaves me completely in the dark about the workings of the minds of the members of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal, in South Australia. I know that other honorable members have had brought to their notice similar instances which make them wonder how the tribunals could come to the conclusions that they have arrived at if they had properly interpreted the act.
This is not the first occasion on which this question has been raised in this House. Honorable members representing electorates in all States have raised it on previous occasions because they are completely at a loss to understand how the entitlement appeals tribunals come to the decisions that they make. It is true that when we appoint an authority to adjudicate in particular matters we have to accept its decision, hut the Parliament has specifically provided that at intervals of six months, if an ex-serviceman or a widow can get hold of clear evidence-
– The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- We have had many instances in this House of the Government springing to the defence of financial institutions. Honorable members opposite are ever ready to defend such institutions. In the few minutes that are available to me I wish to bring to the notice of the House a comment made in the last report of the Director of War Service Homes, which shows one of the most flagrant examples of exploitation of the people by financial institutions. The director says that the department’s own insurance scheme, which carries all the cost of administration that any insurance company carries, and which makes contributions to the fire brigades boards on the same scale as private insurance companies make such contributions, has been :able, as a result of its operations, to give a rebate of 62§ per cent, on all premiums charged to people who are buying their homes from the War Service Homes Division. He says that the premium rate during 1952-53 will be less than one-eighth of that charged by private insurance companies. Anybody who has examined the stock exchange records and records of insurance companies will know that in every instance this year insurance companies, most of which are controlled by overseas capital, are making enormous profits, yet here we have a government instrumentality that carries all the charges and costs that a private insurance company carries, but is yet able to make available to homo owners a premium rate that is less than one-eighth of that obtainable from private insurance companies. If that is not an example of the most flagrant exploitation of the Australian people, then I have never seen one. I ask the Government, in view of the facts disclosed by the Director of War Service Homes in his report on the operation of the War Service Homes Division’s insurance scheme, whether it will have the courage to live up to its declared policy that where exploitation was found it would not hesitate to extend socialization and nationalization. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself and every member of his party repeatedly pledged themselves during the general election campaign to take action in the way of nationalization and socialization where exploitation was evidenced. If the instance that I have given is not exploitation, then I have never seen exploitation. If a government instrumentality can provide a service at a charge of one-eighth of the charge at which the same service is provided by private institutions, then, obviously, the people are being exploited.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.1t6 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 25th February (vide page 305), on motion by Mr. Anthony -
That the hill be now read a second time.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved, by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - :”this House declines to proceed with the second reading until the matters contained in or arising from the Bill are impartially investigated and a report thereon furnished to the House and that, for such purpose, the terms of the Royal Commission on Television issued on the 11th February should if necessary be extended, its personnel increased to secure broader and more effective representation, and the evidence and the report made available to the House not later than 11th May, 1953 “.
.- Procrastination is the thief of time. The truth of that saying is well illustrated by the attitude of this Government towards television. It is now almost four years since the Government assumed office. I do not exaggerate when I say that now we are in precisely the same position as we were four years ago. The Government has wasted four precious years in which it could have made a contribution to the development of television in Australia. The reason, for that lack of action is the uncertain and changing attitude that the Government has adopted towards this very important problem. When it assumed office in 1949, a board, established by the previous Government, was already operating in the field of television. It had already let contracts, but this Government cancelled them. From then until now, we have witnessed change after change, contradiction after contradiction and uncertainty follow uncertainty in the Government’s television policy. In view of the fact that Siam has already let contracts for the erection of television stations, that South American countries such as Equador have television services functioning, and that in most other Englishspeaking countries, with the exception of New Zealand, television is an established fact, it is not unreasonable to ask: Why have not we in Australia made greater procress in the development of television? I repeat that our lack of progress in that field is a result of the oscillation and vacillation of this Government. lt is interesting to recall some of the contributions that have been made to the debate by Government members. Last night, we were treated by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to a contribution that can be described only as consisting of cliches and slogans. The right honorable gentleman displayed great dramatic prowess, but he threw very little light upon the problem. He has earned for himself a reputation in this chamber as a hatchet man. His contribution to the debate last night has ear-marked him for the unenviable position of No. 1 hatchet man on the Government benches. The speech that he delivered did nothing to restore the prestige of the Government parties outside the Parliament. He repeated a Story that he had told in New South Wales in the preceding six weeks. Doubtless, he appreciates the fact that, for this Government, time is running out. The Government is so completely discredited that he threw discretion to the winds and played the role that he played so strongly in opposition - that of the hatchet man in politics.
The next Government speaker was the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), who made a substantial contribution to the debate. At times, he damned with faint praise the Government’s television policy. Some of his remarks, particularly those in relation to the royal commission, were pertinent and worthy of consideration. His criticism of the Labour party in relation to the alleged handing out of licences calls can be answered. T wonder what the attitude of the honorable gentleman would have been if the Government parties were in proposition and the Labour party introduced a bill of the kind that this Government introduced some months ago to prevent .the sale of the Macquarie radio network to certain interests. That action by this Government was quite unprecedented. The Macquarie radio network was being purchased by an English company, which had newspaper holdings in Victoria. It was quite obvious that the action that the Government took to prevent the sale was politically inspired, because since that date the Macquarie net work has changed hands. Although one newspaper group was prevented from obtaining control of it, another newspaper group has succeeded in doing so. With regard to the handing out of licences and interference with the control of commercial radio stations, I do not know of anything in the record of Labour administration that equals the unprecedented action that this Government took to deal with the Macquarie radio network some-. time ago. lt is obvious that the’ first sale.’was prevented because the group that . wished to buy the network took an. independent line in politics, butapparently the matter became entirely different in the view of the Government when the network was purchased by a” group that supported the policy of the Government parties. All people who have an interest in commercial radio must have been disturbed by the Government’s action on that occasion. That being the uninviting record of this Government in relation to interference with commercial radio, the criticisms of the Labour party by the honorable member for Paterson made very little impression.
In my view, this bill is completely unnecessary. Only a few weeks ago, the Government decided to establish a royal commission to inquire into all aspects of television. In the circumstances, why has this bill been presented now? Is the Government attempting to anticipate the findings of the royal commission, or to forestall them? Those are questions that the Government will be called upon to answer. The composition of the royal commission has been severely criticized by honorable members on both sides of the House, and I think there is a great deal of justification for the criticisms. When the royal commission was established, the only worthwhile defence of its composition was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who stated that it would consist of six members so that all State* in the Commonwealth could be represented upon it. The honorable member for Paterson dealt with that aspect of thematter very well last night. We should, have reached the stage when we can forget about matters of that kind. If weappoint a royal commission of any kind, we should ensure that the members arepersons qualified to discharge their responsibilities, irrespective of where they live in Australia. There is no doubt that this royal commission will suffer severely as a result of the principle that the Government applied in deciding its composition. Television is a subject that calls for a great deal of scientific and technical knowledge. Although the royal commission will have to deal with an intricate and involved problem and to sift a mass of technical evidence, not one member of it can claim to possess any technical qualifications. How can it reach a decision upon the technical evidence that, by the very nature of the inquiry, it will be called upon to deal with at great length ? It is quite possible that, if there be a clash of evidence, the royal commission will have to go on calling witnesses in an attempt to resolve the question. It would have been of inestimable value if one of the members had been a person with, technical qualifications, because the royal commission, having the advice of a technical man, would have been in a better position to assess the value of technical evidence than it is now.
I am perturbed at the failure of the measure to provide for any standards at all in the field of television. Under previous governments, there were bodies that operated very satisfactorily and did much good work in maintaining the standard of broadcasts by commercial stations and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), for some reason best known to himself, abolished those bodies when he took office. I refer to the State advisory committees on broadcasting. No reason was given for the abolition of the committees. The members received a notice to the effect that their services were no longer required, they were thanked for those services, and the committee went into oblivion. Speaking as a member of one of the committees, I can say that they did invaluable work in maintaining standards of broadcasting. In addition, the members served in a more or less honorary capacity and involved the Government in no expense. Neither the commercial radio stations nor the representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission were comfortable or happy when standards were discussed by the committees. I say definitely that, as a result of the establishment of the committees, standards of broadcasting in Australia were at least maintained. Since the abolition of the committees, the standards, particularly those of commercial stations, have deteriorated. The commercial stations and the Australian Broadcasting Commission resent what they call interference with their operations. They want to be the sole arbitors of what they broadcast. They want to decide what the public shall hear or shall not hear. They always resented as interference the existence of the advisory committees which the Postmaster-General abolished, without rhyme or reason. This is the first opportunity I have had to bring this matter before the House. From my own personal experience of listening to radio programmes, I can say quite definitely that since the abolition of these committees the standard of radio broadcasts has greatly deteriorated. There is no provision in this bill for the maintenance of any standard at all in television programmes, although it is recognized that television will be a greater force than radio ever ha°. been or ever will be. When we recognize the part that it will play in the moulding of our lives, and the influence that it will bring to bear on the people, we realize that it is all the more necessary that some committee should be given the power to lift the standards of radio and television broadcasts, or at least to ensure they will not deteriorate.
At present there is no control at all over radio broadcasts. Programmes are monitored by the Postmaster-General, but I have no recollection in the last two or three years of any radio station in Australia having been rebuked by the Government for broadcasting any programme or item of a programme. I am therefore quite convinced that effective supervision has ceased. I believe that, because I have had a few unhappy experiences of hearing some broadcast plays conclude by one of the characters taking “ the way out “ of suicide. Surely that would not occur if there was a government supervision of broadcasts. Items df such a nature might have a profound effect upon the minds of young people. The lack of control or supervision over television standards is very disturbing, and radio programmes have deteriorated since the abolition of the State advisory committees. Now it seems that television standards will not be supervised any more than are radio programmes.
– State advisory committees had nothing to do with commercial broadcasting; it was their function to advise the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– I have been a member of State advisory committees, and I therefore know what I am talking about. They had no direct control over commercial stations, but they acted as advisers to the Postmaster-General. “We made recommendations from time to time, and those recommendations were, always sent to the Postmaster-General. We acted only in an advisory capacity, but it was part of our duty to advise the Minister, and the Minister concerned was the PostmasterGeneral. Television will be of great advantage to Australia. It appears to me that the same objections that are being made against the introduction of television into this country were made against the introduction of radio. Moreover, when radio was first introduced the cost of the receiving sets was much greater than the average person could afford, but with the extension of radio and the development of radio techniques the cost of radio sets has been reduced until they are now within the reach of mo3t of the people. While it may take longer in the case of television, I have no doubt that the same process will take place and that the cost of television will ultimately be brought within the reach of most of our people. In other parts of the world, particularly in the United States of America and England, television sets may now be bought for much less than they could have been bought three or four years ago. I have no doubt that in Australia there will he a progressive reduction of costs after television is introduced.
I shall support any move to introduce television because it will be a new industry of a kind that is much needed in Australia. It’s prospects are unlimited, and no one can say with any degree of accuracy how far it will go. Not only will it provide new channels of employment, but it will also be the means of giving a much needed impetus to the technical and scientific developments associated with television. Therefore, I believe that some of the fears that have been expressed about the advent of television in Australia are without foundation. Any created thing can be an an instrument for good or evil. Even man himself can be an instrument for good or evil, but I believe that the prophesies of the people who predicted that radio would be an evil have not been horn out by experience, and I suggest that the same thing will happen in the field of television. It was suggested that the introduction of radio broadcasting would kill organized sport; but it has fostered it. It was suggested that it would tend to break up home life; but it has done just the opposite. Television will have much the same effect. Properly used and controlled television can be a great influence for good, and I say unhesitatingly that I believe that television will bring to Australia an industry that will tend to promote our national development. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
– I agree in certain respects with some of the remarks of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor), and I shall deal with those remarks in due course. I am less interested in the impact that wireless has had on the country than in the impact that television will have upon us. It is very difficult to make up our minds about this matter, because very little disinterested advice has been given to the public. For a short time, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) gave us his disinterested advice about how television should be treated. Later on, of course, he was not able to maintain that point of view, which I think was most unfortunate. As well as advice from political sources, we have received advice from manufacturers and those who expect to make money out of television. There is nothing despicable about trying to make a profit out of a business, but obviously such a person would give biassed advice. As against the manufacturers, there are thousands of people, such as those operating cinemas and other businesses which are likely to suffer, who are not in favour of introducing television. Of course those interests do not put their views in so many words, they confuse the issue. One section vigorously maintains that television should be introduced to assist our war effort, and the other stresses the bad effect that television will have on youth and the home life of this country. If we are to get any benefit out of television we should try to treat the matter on a nonparty basis. If ever a non-political subject faced the Parliament this is it, because there does not seem to be a vote in the whole matter, one way or another, so that it will not have the least political significance for any party or any honorable member.
Is the present time in our national development a suitable time for the introduction of television? Television is purely a luxury, and it seems very odd that we should introduce another luxury, which will involve a great deal of capital, and the employment in a luxury field of many specialized engineers and workmen, at a time when we have not got enough schools, homes or hospitals. Moreover, television will be an activity of the Postal Department. That department is at present quite unable to meet the demands for telephones, so how will it meet the demand for television services’? I know that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has done marvels to extend our telephone services - in fact he has caused more telephones to be installed in this country than ever before in the same length of time - but the fact is that the Postal Department is not a department that should at present enlarge its sphere of activity. Television is a luxury that very few will enjoy. Australia is a very large country, and the cities large enough to support one or two television stations are very few. Therefore, the service of television will be limited to those who reside in the large cities. How many people who reside in Murwillumbah will benefit from the introduction of television? How many of the people who live scattered throughout the countryside will get any advantage from it? Will there be one television station throughout the whole of the State of Western Australia? It is quite obvious that Western Australia will not be able to operate a station at a profit. It is not likely that there will be a television station in Tasmania, or in Toowoomba or Ballarat or any of the other towns and cities of the Commonwealth with the exception of three or four capital cities. All the people will not have the benefit of television, but they will all have the privilege of paying for it because the service will have to be supported out of the general revenues which are drawn from the people as a whole.
It is very pleasant to think that the people of the outback might be able to view test cricket, plays, operas and other amusements that are now the prerogative of those in the cities, but people outside a few capital cities will have no opportunity of seeing television shows. Television will merely increase the amusements and amenities of those who already have most of the amusements and amenities. The people who need it most will get very little out of television. Only those who are near enough to television stations, and only those rich enough to afford receiving sets, will benefit. It is very strange to hear honorable members opposite putting forward the proposition that every person should be taxed in order that a few wealthy people can be given one more luxury. I cannot see the proposition in any terms other than that. Everybody will pay but only a few will enjoy.
– What about propaganda ?
– Later I shall deal with the matter of propaganda, which is the most distasteful aspect of the whole proposition. Not only will television be limited by distance and money, but it will also be limited by electricity. Television services will need much electricity. I do not need to emphasize the great shortage of electricity that exists in rural and even in suburban areas. If there are a sufficient number of technicians and electrical suppliers available to make the introduction of television comparatively capable of achievement, all I can say is that they could be very much more profitably employed in other directions. We hear a lot about the magic word “ priorities “ for public works, and for this and that. If ever there was a case of utter neglect of the need for priorities it is this proposal to introduce television into Australia without a great deal of further thought at a time when the country is in the position it is in at present.
We have been told that television has an educational and cultural value. Let us consider what has happened in other countries where television has already been established. Let us reflect on the influence on the people of radio, because much the same people will control television as have controlled radio in the past. One of the great protagonists of this undertaking is the Honorable A. G. Warner, a most distinguished Australian who has served his country very well, who has been a very successful Minister in the Government of Victoria and, by his own enterprise, has built up a very large and successful industry in that State. In an address which he delivered before the Illuminating Engineering Society of Australia on the 3rd April, 1952, Mr. Warner, discussing the appeal of television to children, had this to say -
The art of puppetry, which had nearly died out before the advent of television because of the small number of people who could view the puppets, has been revived by television, and puppets are extensively used in children’s programmes. You have possibly seen in the news that the favourite puppet of the B.B.C. “ Muffin the Mule “ is at present in Australia.
I had thought that that might be so! -
In America, the counterpart of “ Muffin the Mule “, “ Howdedode nearly drives the children crazy.
That is the appeal upon which entertainment of this sort must fundamentally rely. It nearly drives the children crazy ! I do not want to introduce to Australia something which has nearly driven crazy the children of other countries. Other things like that have been introduced in Australia in the past. We all have been warned about other things that nearly drive children crazy. Children must grow up; just think what might happen to them ! It is a great thing to say, “ Oh, yes, we will introduce television. From now on you will be able to watch test cricket and hear and see opera in the home. Television will bring high-class theatre into the home.” We must remember that it will bring other things into the home - the atmosphere of the race course, dog-racing, crime and stories of criminality - the sort of things to which the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) has referred. It will bring to us all sorts of undesirable as well as desirable entertainment. Taken at its face value I am doubtful whether ability to bring the theatre and the opera into the home will be such a great benefit to children if at the same time we bring to them things that nearly drive them crazy - the sort of things that we frequently read about in American newspapers.
I often have occasion to take American magazines from the Parliamentary Library. One of them, the New Yorker, which is generally admitted to be one of the best-written and best-informed weekly newspapers in the world, and whose editors generally know what they are talking about, is constantly publishing outcries by parents, judges, universities and schools about the undesirable influence of television in the United States of America to-day. I believe that under certain conditions television can possibly be n medium for good, but as it is at present operated in the United States of America, and as we may expect it to he operated in Australia, it is an instrument with a , potentiality for very great harm.
A royal commission has been established to examine certain aspects of the introduction of television. One of the questions which the commission has not been required to answer is: ls television in this country desirable or otherwise? That is the first question the royal commission should have been asked. It should have been told to ascertain whether or not the people of Australia want television. Instead, the Government has said to the royal commision, “We are to have television. Bring in certain findings about ways and means “. If the royal commission’s job is to be done properly, it should be given the widest possible terms of reference. I agree with some of the criticisms that have been voiced by honorable members and others about the personnel of the royal commission. I take the view, as I believe many of the electors do at this time, that whereas royal commissions are best able to conduct inquiries into technical or legal subjects, or matters in respect of which a layman has not sufficient knowledge to bring in a proper finding, members of Parliament are best qualified to decide matters of horse-sense. There is nothing in the proposal to inflict television on this country which is beyond the capacity of any of us here to judge. We are paid by the people to make inquiries into and exercise our independent judgment on matters of that kind. Au opportunity for honorable members to exercise their independent judgment on the subject of television has been wasted.
We have been told that, television is pf great defence value. I am prepared to make great sacrifices in the interests of defence. I have always maintained that viewpoint in this House; but there must be limits to the sacrifices that I am prepared to make. We have been told that in time of war the training that operatives obtain in television is of incalculable benefit in radar and other highly technical scientific inventions. That may be true, but we must call a halt somewhere. To give an illustration, if we are to have another war, it is most desirable that people should be trained in passive air defence. We must have training in rescue work. Proper arrangements must be made to rush » wounded persons to hospital ; doctors must practice the carving up of people in the best possible manner. Everybody in the community must be given realistic training as far as it is possible to provide it. But no one would suggest that in order to do so we should half wreck a city block. There is no more sense in running the risk of crippling people’s minds and harming the community through television than there is in subjecting the body to grave physical risks in order to provide against the contingencies of war-. If television is so closely linked with defence, let us at once admit that to be so and transfer control of television to the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. For a tithe of the cost which we expect to incur on the provision of television they will give us the sort of service that we demand. The arguments that have been advanced in favour of the introduction of television have not been very sound. We have been told that Australia cannot lag behind other countries in this matter. Has any honorable member received a letter from a disinterested person stating that public money should be expended on the introduction of television? There is no demand among the people for it. I invite honorable members to consider the opinion of the Council of Churches on this matter. When television is introduced honorable members will quickly see where the protests will come from. The people should realize that we cannot afford television and that there is no demand for it.
This bill is limited in scope. Its object is finally to provide that both national and private stations shall be allowed to operate. On that matter I have a fairly open mind because, to me, both propositions are equally odious. Let us consider the possibility of private ownership of television. I quote from an article entitled “ Television ; Boon or Bane “, written by Jack Gould, radio editor of the New York Times, who has made some pertinent remarks about the impact of television on American life. Mr. Gould writes -
With radio people in television’s saddle, it becomes pertinent to examine briefly and realistically, for a change, the sinister chain down which actual control of a radio station i nns. On paper and under the law, the people own the air, without which there can be no radio or television. They in turn delegate it to Congress. Congress has authorised the Federal Communications Commission to allot the space in the air. The F.C.C. licenses a person as a broadcaster. The broadcaster sells time to a sponsor. The sponsor engages an advertising agency to prepare a program. The agency hopes that the program will sell goods.
In other words, what we hear is actually decided by persons whom the public does not know and has never heard of - the agency executive. In newspapers and magazines, which understandably see no reason to give free advertising space regularly to products or sponsors, radio shows are popularly spoken of as an “ N.B.C. program )’ or a “ C.B.S. show “, and indeed the chains for promotional reasons have done nothing to discourage the practice.
That shows what reliance we may place on control of television by the radio industry. Mr. Gould goes on to deal with certain other aspects of the impact of television on the American people, which are not unworthy of attention. Dealing with the results of advertising in a television show he says -
After just finishing your own dinner, watch if you will, the preparation of a batch of macaroni garnished by superlatives from the announcer. Amuse yourself witnessing how easily this soap washes out dainties. Or eavesdrop on mine hero of the drawing room comedy commenting on thu delicious suchandsuch coffee being served and then resuming the play’s bon mots. Those are but indications from which one may draw his own conclusions when he realizes that patent medicines are among the most advertised products on the air.
In short, what television promises is the irritation, the insistence, and repetition of today’s radio advertising in a new dimension.
If we want that sort of thing here we can certainly have it, but, for my part, advertising in one dimension is amply sufficient for the present. So much for ray attitude on that matter.
I should like to refer to another aspect of this subject. I invite the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) to consider the influence that television will have on his job in this place. It is difficult enough for a whip to arrange for members’ speaking times which accord with the effect members believe they have on the listening public but to bring in an entirely new dimension would merely further complicate his task. In those circumstances it would be almost impossible for a whip to formulate a list of speakers which would please honorable members. The honorable member would undoubtedly have a difficult task in deciding between the respective claims of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and of his deputy, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
Television is unwanted, untimely and undesirable. It is merely a luxury for the few, which will have to be paid for by all. Its introduction is not unopposed. On the contrary, it is strongly opposed by the Council of Churches, and when the electors understand what they will have to pay for it they, too, will oppose it. It is a luxury which, in our present circumstances, we cannot afford. I have yet to hear one effective reason for its introduction, and I oppose going further with it at the present time.
Mr. CURTIN (Watson) fS.O].- We all must agree that the modern scientific development of television, and the great benefits that it will bestow upon the people of Australia in respect of education, culture and entertainment should be made available to the great mass of the people. However, we must be careful indeed to ensure that this modern development is not exploited at their expense. The indecent haste shown by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) in introducing this bill at this stage stresses the need for caution. Seemingly, there is a lack of unanimity in the ranks of the Government in respect of this matter. Of course, we see evidence of lack of unanimity in the ranks of the Government day after day on various matters, and it has been clear to me in the last month that there is no unanimity among Ministers about the introduction of television.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) decided that it was necessary to appoint a royal commission to investigate the whole position. The first matter that the royal commission has been asked to examine and report upon is the number of national and commercial stations that can be effectively operated in Australia, having regard to the financial and economic considerations involved, and the availability of suitable programmes. Let us briefly consider that matter. Even before the royal commission met the Postmaster-General had decided on the number of licences that he would grant. That shows the complete lack of agreement between the Prime Minister and , the Postmaster-General. The occurrence of a gap in the ranks of the Government at this early stage in the introduction of television is dangerous indeed. Let us suppose that the royal commission comes to the conclusion that it is necessary to establish only one station in the initial stages? What will happen? Will the Government set up a national television station or grant a licence to some private speculator? Already the signs are evident that private organizations, knowing that this Government is subservient to the will of private interests, have already brought pressure to hear on the Postmaster-General and other Ministers in this matter.
– Keep it clean !
Mr. CURTIN There is no need to tell me to keep it clean. I am discussing the facts. Why did the Prime Minister insist upon the appointment of a royal commission when the Postmaster-General considered that a royal commission was not necessary? Stressing again the need for caution I urge the Government to step warily in this matter, because reports from overseas suggest that the huge cost of developing television and producing programmes will mean that the advantages to be derived from the innovation will be beyond the reach of the man in the street. That fact has already been stressed by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). In addition, there could be many opportunities for the exploitation of such a valuable asset in this virgin field of development. Is the PostmasterGeneral determined, irrespective of the findings of the royal commission, to give private enterprise the right to exploit the field? The Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General are at variance on this matter. There is a dangerous gap in the Government ranks. Inspired reports in the newspapers from day to day point to the prevailing optimism in the financial circles that are interested in television. Contradictory announcements made by various interested parties and published in the newspapers prove that a. great deal of manoeuvring is going on behind the scenes in the effort to secure the first licence to televise - the first prize. The successful organization will get a monopoly and will be able to exclude all other competitors from the field. The Sydney Daily Mirror, of the 16th January last, published a statement by a Mr. Warner on television. He is a most interesting person. He has a very shady reputation in Victorian politics. He was a Minister in the discredited Liberal-Country party Government in that State. At one time, he was accused of contracting, while he was a Minister of the Crown, with Electronic Industries Limited, of which he is the managing director, to supply materials to the Government of which he was a member. Of course, that matter was hushed up. Mr. Warner went to great lengths to hush it up. Put the suspicion remains that he carries weight with a Liberal-Country party government. He is working feverishly in his attempt to be first in the field. I suggest, at the moment, that he looks an odds-on chance when the bill is passed.
– An odds-on chance for what ?
– On odds-on chance of being first in the field of television. Mr.
Warner said that a television station could be erected by private enterprise and could be transmitting within fifteen or eighteen months of the word “ go “. Nothing could be further from the truth.
– How does the honorable member know?
– I get my information from practical men who have a knowledge of the subject. Why, it would take fifteen months to survey the possibility of erecting the necessary television equipment before transmission could begin. But the purpose behind all this is to be first in the field in order to get rid of a lot of second-hand material, which is out of date in America and other countries, for black and white television. I warn the people of Australia to be very careful of the attempts which are being made to force this bill through the House.
– What about colour television ?
– That will come later. Colour television is already a fact in America, and black and white television is on the way out. If the PostmasterGeneral has his way, black and white television will be introduced in Australia. Of course the people will be told, by various ways and means, that colour television is not yet fully developed and cannot be transmitted.
– Is it fully developed?
– That is what the people will be told by the diverse interests through the press. The people will be suitably softened until they are prepared to swallow the bait. Mr. Warner, of Electronic Industries Limited, is prepared to go to any lengths, even to the extent of offering to set up a station and hand it over, after a certain period, to the government of the day. Mr. Warner knows that when he gets the monopoly in the field, he can exclude, through his patents, all competitors from it. We have to be careful. The Postmaster-General should go into these matters deeply. The Prime Minister, the honorable member for Henty, and the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) all have given warnings about television. I give another warning, and it is, “ Be careful “.
Various reports published in the newspapers make it plain that private operators are very confident that the commercial use of the medium is likely to emerge as the pioneer in the television field in Australia. Some interests claim that it will be at least two years before television stations can be established and are ready to operate. I see the possibility of an all-in brawl, with private interests trying to snatch this very valuable instrument. The financial interests concerned will be participating in a mad scramble in an effort to secure the patronage of the Postmaster-General.
What is the position in other countries ? The Postmaster-General formed a very definite opinion of the situation during his recent tour abroad. He made the following comment: -
Television in London, excellent as it is-
Of course, he was playing down the development of television in the English field- would have been better if London viewers like those of New York had a choice of programmes.
However, Dr. Cyril Garbutt, the Archbishop of York, made a serious examination of television in the United States of America, as it was his duty to do, during his visit to that country. I suggest that the Archibishop made a more serious examination of it than the PostmasterGeneral made during his three months tour around the world. Dr. Garbutt immediately said : “ NO “ in capital letters to American television programmes for children, particularly in respect of their education. The PostmasterGeneral is still at variance with other people about television. Indeed he has not a friend in the world. He is like a shag on a rock. Everybody disagrees with him bar Mr. Warner; but Mr. Warner has a lot of money at stake. He knows the solid rake-off that can be had in the television field. The PostmasterGeneral is at variance with a distinguished dignitary of the Church, a man whose opinion and integrity are unquestionable. We begin to wonder whether there is an alternative motive for the1 indecent haste with which the Postmaster-General has acted in introducing this bill. The Melbourne Age published an article on television yesterday. It reads, in part, as follows: -
As television spreads its network over the world the problem of where it is leading children and youth grows in magnitude and complexity.
Opinions differ sharply. On its educational aspects the opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Fisher) that it is “nothing less than a disaster - it drives another wedge between the teacher and the pupil has been echoed in Australia even before the advent of television.
With the Royal Commission beginning its investigations of television in Australia this survey of recent trends and studies in Britain, America and Europe has special interest.
Reference is made in the same issue of the Age to a report entitled “ Television and Education in the U.S.A. “ by Charles A. Siepmann. The report, which is published by the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization, takes the problem into the classroom and into the home. The .article in the Age states in part -
The first worry is this: -
The monopoly in education and cultural values shared for centuries by the church and schools, has ended.
That is the opinion of eminent men in other parts of the world. But the PostmasterGeneral can rise above all that ! He hopes to force his bill through this House if he can obtain sufficient support from his colleagues, which seems to be doubtful at the moment. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 4th December reported that he had said that the Government was unlikely to appoint a royal commission on television. Once again the honorable gentleman was out on his own. What has happened between him and the Prime Minister since the 4th December? Evidently they have quarrelled and the proud Prime Minister has refused to allow a minor member of his Cabinet to ride rough-shod over him. The appointment of a royal commission doubtless led the Postmaster-General to reach the conclusion that a small bite of the apple was better than none.
The honorable gentleman said, according to the report of the 4th December, that a royal commission would merely provide an opportunity for various interests to obstruct and delay the introduction of television in Australia. What are these interests? Was the honorable gentleman thinking of Mr. Warner, who is so eager to be first in the field of Australian television? He said on that occasion that Australia’s first television station was likely to be government-operated, and that Government plans were further advanced than those of private companies. But he does not say that now. What is the reason for this somersault? There appears to be a grave divergence of opinion in the ranks of the Government. That must have been uppermost in the mind of the honorable member for Henty when he violently attacked the Postmaster-General, once again leaving the honorable gentleman out on his own. In a statement published in the Sydney Sun on the 11th December, a week after the statement by the Postmaster-General had been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, the honorable member for Henty said that it was nonsense to suggest that television was a vital defence necessity and that, in fact, it was a luxury that Australia could not afford at present. He went on to say -
The Postmaster-General should not talk about television as something definite for 1.953. Australian children can well do without television. With it they will develop into non-thinking machines with their eyes glued on the television screen.
The honorable member for Paterson, not to be denied, also urged the establishment of a public committee with wide terms of reference to conduct a searching inquiry into the problems of television. This was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 10th December. We all remember that the honorable member for Paterson was first in the field twelve or eighteen months ago when he brought television to light in this House by pushing the claims of certain interests with which he was connected.
– That is quite wrong.
– These interests thought they were to be foremost in the television field.
– The honorable member’s statement is a complete misrepresentation of what I said, Mr. Speaker. My statements are plainly recorded in Hansard. I ask for a withdrawal of the statement by the honorable member for Watson.
– I ask the honorable member for Watson to withdraw his statement.
– I withdraw it. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the honorable member for Paterson said - 1 do not believe that there is in Australia any individual or group competent to advise the Government how to deal with the multitude of difficulties ahead of television in Australia.
That, no doubt, did not misrepresent the honorable gentleman’s views.
Did the Postmaster-General introduce this bill with such indecent haste in order to stifle the criticism and antagonism of his colleagues in the Government? Perhaps the truth is that he knows that tha Treasurer is not prepared to provide the money that would be needed for a governmentoperated television station. That is probably very close to the mark. I suggest that the honorable gentleman submitted a proposition to the Cabinet, which rejected it on the ground that money could not be found for this purpose. As the honorable member for Henty pointed out, money is badly needed for schools, houses, roads and all sorts of other public works and services. Cabinet probably informed the Postmaster-General that it would not waste money on television when money was so urgently needed for vital national projects.
The Prime Minister, who is a shrewd tactician, made haste to close the gap in the Government’s ranks by appointing the royal commission and announcing the names of its members. The chairman of the royal commission is Professor Paton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. The professor proposes to go to London for the coronation. He admits that he knows nothing about’ television and wonders why the royal commission was appointed. At least he is honest. Mr. R. G. Osborne, the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, is a member of the royal commission. What are his qualifiactions ? I leave the answer to the imagination of honorable members. Mr. R. C. Wilson is a member, too. Ha! Here we come to a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, who is also a member of the council of the Graziers Association of Australia. Mr. Wilson is an influential man behind the scenes in all matters that concern this Government, anc! he appears to be able to push his frame into any position that he wishes to occupy. He is all-powerful in the affairs of the Liberal party-Australian Country party coalition, but he knows no more about television than does the PostmasterGeneral, which is extremely little. He has a finger in every pie, and no doubt he was appointed to the royal commission, in the interests of the graziers, for the purpose of pulling the wool over the eyes of the people again. Another member of the royal commission is Mr. N”. M. Young, a public accountant of Adelaide. Mrs. Maud Paxton, Western Australian president of the Country Women’s Association, has been selected too. In deference to the fair sex, I shall not comment on that choice. I come now to Mr. C. B. Bednall, managing editor of the CourierMail, Brisbane. An interesting story lies behind his appointment. The Courier-Mail is one of the links in the chain of the Murdoch and Fairfax interests. Those interests have bought into 2GB, which is closely connected with big shareholders in Electronic Industries Limited. Thus, 2GB, aided by Electronic Industries Limited and the FairfaxMurdoch group, can bring pressure to bear on the Government in connexion with the granting of the first television broadcasting licence in Australia. Mr. Bednall, of course, has been appointed to the royal commission in deference to the wishes of the influential group I have mentioned.
The Prime Minister seemed to lose all sense of proportion when he chose the members of the commission. I suggest that none of them has any knowledge of this modern scientific development. The honorable member for Lawson said yesterday that technicians should not be appointed to the royal commission. Why not? They know all about radar, television and other radio techniques. They have served their apprenticeships to the science and understand all the theories upon which television depends. The honorable gentleman contended that such men should not be appointed to the royal commission because they might be prejudiced on account of their knowledge. What rot! Obviously, men who love their craft would wish above all to ensure that Australia should obtain only the best from television. That comment by the honorable member for Lawson represents one more jaundiced view on the part of the Australian Country party. This television issue contains all the ingredients necessary to start’ an all-in brawl amongst the members of the Government parties. The Prime Minister, the honorable member for Henty and the honorable member for Paterson are violently and publicly antagonistic to the proposals of the PostmasterGeneral, who stubbornly refuses to have any truck with their ideas on the subject of television. The PostmasterGeneral should be roundly condemned for his stubbornness in ignoring expert advice on a matter that is of vital importance to the community. Television, unless it is properly controlled, will become an ever-growing menace to the physical and moral well-being of our people, particularly our children. Ife establishment should be entrusted to the vigilant care of technical experts who have the welfare of the community at heart and should not be left to those who would exploit television merely for profit’.
The most outstanding feature of the discussions that have taken place appears to be the desire of private interests to scramble for profits. Mr. Warner airily brushes aside all talk of the expense of television receiving sets and says that they can be provided for £100 each. That is a grave inaccuracy which shows the lengths to which such individuals will go in the hope of acquiring a television broadcasting licence. I say, without fear of successful contradiction, that a television set could not be purchased for less than £200, which is beyond the capacity of the ordinary man in the street. Let us consider the cost of a television viewer’s licence in London. It is four times greater than the ordinary broadcasting licence-fee, which is only 10s. annually. We should remember, also, that there are 6,000,000 people in London. Let us consider what the cost of a viewer’s licence in Sydney may be. I say “ may be “, because I know of the vultures who are waiting on the doorstep. Sydney’s population is between 1,500,000 and 1,750,000. Thanks to the PostmasterGeneral, broadcasting licences in Australia cost £2 a year. Four times that charge for a viewer’s licence in Australia would be £8 a year, if there were 6,000,000 people in Sydney, but there are fewer than 2,000,000 people in Sydney, so the probable cost of a viewer’s licence might fairly be estimated at £15.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I begin by reminding the House of the purpose of the bill which is to lay down the principle upon which television services shall be provided when they are introduced into this country. The passage of the bill will not, of itself, either expedite or delay the provision of television services in Australia. The question before us is whether television is to be a government monopoly or whether free enterprise, “ capitalism “ if you like, is to have a share in the provision of television services. Passage of the bill would not necessarily mean that we shall have television services immediately. In fact, as honorable members no doubt are well aware, if a licence to operate a television station were issued to-morrow, it might bo perhaps two years before the licensee could establish a station and begin broadcasting. The idea that seems to be growing in the minds of honorable members that the bill, if passed, will immediately lead to the introduction of television is wrong. I shall quote a statement that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) used in his second-reading speech, which made that point clear. He said -
The bill is mainly an interim measure declaring the Government’s policy that we are to have a dual national and commercial television system in this country, nevertheless, the bill will provide statutory authority for the Government to take such action as may lie desirable as a preliminary to the establishment of the service and. if necessary, to make appropriate regulations to cope with situations which may arise before this measure is replaced by a more comprehensive bill. [n other words, the bill is a preliminary measure and a statement of policy. I think that it is apposite to ask where the Labour party stands in relation to the measure. It will not have escaped your notice. Mr. Speaker, that no member of the Opposition who has spoken or read a speech in this debate has referred to the question of whether television services are to be a government monopoly or are to be provided by private enterprise. Honorable members opposite wish to postpone the passage of the measure so that the situation may remain as it is. In other words, their opposition to the measure is designed merely to prevent private enterprise from ever having an opportunity to operate television in Australia. Any one who has been watching events knows that, prior to the introduction of the measure, as soon as it became publicly known that the Government intended to introduce it, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is deputy leader of the Labour party in this House, rushed into print with a statement that on no account would the Labour party consent to the granting of television licences to private enterprise. That view was promptly refuted by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and now we have the spectacle in this House of the Labour party trying to save the faces of both of them by not referring to the main purpose of the bill, and by doing their utmost not to declare their own intentions regarding television. Let nobody be deceived into believing that the attitude of the Labour party is not designed effectively to prevent private enterprise from obtaining television licences.
Although this bill merely affirms a principle it is not possible to discuss it without reference to certain aspects of television including the question of who is to operate the licences. Another question is whether or not we can afford television in Australia and, if we can, what safeguards are necessary. Such questions are intimately concerned with the question of who is to operate the services. The answers that we give to them depend to a great degree on whether commercial interests are to be permitted to take part in the provision of television services. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) expressed to the House to-day, with much force and with his usual common sense, his own view in relation to this matter, but he exhibited a circumscribed attitude of mind in relation to it. It is not merely a question of black or white, of whether we can afford television or not, or whether it is or is not a luxury. The question goes deeper than that. Television is one of the great scientific wonders of the twentieth century, and it is not just a question of whether we can or cannot afford it. We might equally well ask whether we can afford to be interested, financially or otherwise, in the developments of modern physics, yet stand aside from direct participation in research on nuclear fission? Can we afford to establish a school of physical sciences, or a school of medicine, for instance, and yet take no part in the research that is being carried on through the resources of the electronics industry? If we did so I can only say that our intellectual and scientific standards in Australia would not compare with the standards of other countries. The question is not whether we can afford television, but whether we can afford to neglect it.
– The question is also whether we could prevent its introduction even if we wanted to?
– As the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) says, could’ we prevent its introduction even if we wanted to? I was about to come to that phase of the matter. Whatever we may think about television nothing that we can say will ultimately prevent its introduction into Australia. The bill is not designed to decide these things. It is designed to decide only whether certain people will be allowed to take part in the provision of television services. That is what I mean when I say that I consider that the honorable member for Henty presented a rather circumscribed attitude of mind when he said that he, for one, was not in favour of the introduction of television. Tha problem of the introduction of television is not simple. Television is a great scientific discovery which will have a great effect on our lives. Some of the great scientific discoveries of the modern age, such as those concerned, with nuclear physics and electronics differ from the scientific discoveries of the past. Scientific discoveries like Faraday’s did not have the immediate impact on contemporary life and society that discoveries like television will have. It is obvious therefore, that, in the interests of society, these modern discoveries must be regulated, and that, the Government having decided on a principle, it is perfectly right for it to obtain such further advice by means of a royal commission or otherwise as it considers desirable.
It is beside the point to discuss during the debate on this bill the membership of the royal commission that has been appointed, and I shall merely direct attention to the rather naive remark in that connexion made by the Leader of the Opposition, whose complaint against the members of the royal commission was that they were supporters of the Government. Are we to understand from that statement that the right honorable gentleman considers these people to be so biased that they are unable to discharge their public duty? If that is his suggestion, I consider it to be a most unworthy one. It is right that the Government should take advice, and whatever views we may hold about its methods of obtaining that advice are not really connected with the present measure.
It is obvious that television will have an effect on life in the home. We in this country have already many things that affect home life. One of them is broadcasting, and another is the familiar picture show. Television, of course, will be the picture show in the home, but surely people who are ready to condemn it on that account should also pay some respect to the point of view that the picture show outside the home is more or less outside parental control, whilst the picture show inside the home will be directly under parental control. By condemning television in the home because of the bad effect it may have on children we would be saying, in effect, that we have little respect for the force of parental control in the home.
– Do not forget that the picture show outside the home is heavily censored before the public sees it.
– I have already referred to the fact that some regulating authority is obviously required to control television. The picture show outside the home may have been censored. and certain films may carry, the announcement “ Not suitable for general exhibition but does that announcement prevent children from seeing such films? It is obvious that we must have a controlling body in respect of television. There may be differences of opinion about the identity of that controlling body. Some people may suggest that it should be the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and some may suggest some other authority. That point is not germane to the purposes of this measure. We have other controlling bodies. We have censorship of films and books, but in the long run the ultimate censorship is the force of public opinion. I believe that, in the long run, not only in these other spheres, but also in relation to television, the ultimate control will be found in public opinion itself.
I return now to the question of whether commercial enterprise should participate in television services. This is not, as 1 have said, a simple matter. Commercial enterprise must realize that if it is to participate in television it must be prepared to subscribe to the standards that are laid down, to be bound by them, and to operate within their limitations. It must also be prepared to face the fact that the production of television programmes is extremely expensive. If private enterprise wishes to take part in television, it must be prepared to give adequate guarantees that it can find the necessary finance. When further measures are introduced^ as the Minister has indicated they will be, it should be made plain to private enterprise that, if it wishes to operate television stations, it must be prepared to give adequate guarantees that it will be able to continue them. It should he clearly understood that the government of the day will be under no liability, or, at any rate, under no unlimited liability, to come to the rescue of private enterprise if it fails. That is a risk that private enterprise must face. In the ordinary course of events, private enterprise takes risks of that nature every day of the week in commercial life. I believe that, if it takes risks, it should have a chance to reap rewards. Those are aspects of the matter that should be considered when licences are finally issued. If private enterprise is prepared to establish a station in a capital city, which would probably cost about £250,000, it must take the risk that the station may not be able, during the first two years of its existence, to earn sufficient revenue to make a profit. Private enterprise must not be allowed to establish a station unless it gives adequate guarantees that it is able to do so. I am certain that such guarantees will be insisted upon. I fully support the principle that, when such provision has been made, stations should be operated, not only by the Government but also by commercial enterprise.
Another risk that private enterprise must face is competition by government stations, which do not run the same financial risks. I do not think that the idea, which is being canvassed in some quarters, that television stations should be established simultaneously all over Australia, or, at least, in all the capital cities, has any basis in reality. On the ground of expense alone, that would not be practicable. It, is not, in my view, desirable that even the Government should commence operations with national television stations in every capital city, although I appreciate that if it established one or two stations, great pressure to start another one would soon be brought to bear upon it. I believe that it will be the duty of the Government, commensurate with its other commitments, to resist that pressure, but it would be another story if private enterprise were willing to go ahead somewhere else. I hope that we shall never reach such a state of mind that we shall say to private enterprise that it cannot start a television station in, for instance, Hobart, because no government station is operating there. That would be a completely unreal attitude. Provided that the enterprise which contemplated starting a station realized that the Government could, and most probably would, enter the field itself later on, it should not be prevented from proceeding.
Those appear to me to be the material considerations. It is easy to wander down by-paths. It is easy also to say something about the defence value of television. I leave that aspect of the matter to people who are better informed than myself, but I have not heard any convincing argument about the great defence value of television. It is easy to say that the introduction of television should he delayed until we have colour television. When we had colour television, it would he easy to say that we should wait until, perhaps, we had threedimensional television. There is no easy way of deciding the time when we should start, and this bill does not attempt to do so. It lays clown the principle of permitting the dual provision of television services. That is a principle to which we on this side of the House adhere, and to which I believe the people of Australia will willingly give their consent when it is expedient for the services to begin.
.- As the debate proceeds, it becomes more difficult to understand why the bill had been introduced. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), in his second-reading speech, gave a short explanation of the measure, but he did not explain the necessity for it. Honorable members opposite, whom we expect to support a bill introduced by this Government, have damned the measure either with faint praise or with direct opposition. I have begun to wonder whether the Postmaster-General is almost alone in his advocacy of it, and I should not be surprised to learn that he is.
The honorable gentleman took a trip round the world. I understand that he left Australia on some duties connected with civil aviation. When he reached South Africa, he decided that it was too soon for him. to return to this country and that he should find some other duties that would keep him overseas for a long period. Notwithstanding that he had sent technical officers abroad to investigate the latest developments in television and to report upon the possibility of its introduction into Australia he came to the conclusion that nothing would be better than that he himself, with no technical knowledge of television, should tour the world and arrive at his own decision upon it. He has told us that he viewed television in England and the United States of America. If he had been alive to the situation, he could have viewed it in Canberra a few years ago and formed some ideas upon it then. He has decided that television is the latest and best form of entertainment and education for the people of Australia. Apparently in an endeavour to do something in that field, he has introduced this bill for an act relating to the provision of television services and matters incidental thereto. In his second-reading speech, after a general resume of the position that was of no educational value to honorable members, he said -
This short bill needs very little explanation. The principal clauses of the bill are clauses 3 and 4, which will provide for the establishment of national and commercial television stations respectively, and clause 5, which provides that the Minister may direct a specially authorized authority or the A.B.C. to provide the national television programmes.
Although the Minister is asking the House to pass a bill relating to the provision of television services, he has admitted that he is not yet sure whom he will ask or direct to’ introduce television into this country. The bill provides that he may direct a specially authorized authority or the Australian Broadcasting Commission to do so, but he has still to make up his mind as to the organization that is most competent to undertake the task. I suggest that before he asks the House to agree to legislation relating to the introduction of television, he should make up his own mind on the matter. His secondreading speech shows clearly that he does not know in which direction he will go. He said also -
It will be clear from what I have said that the bill is mainly an interim measure declaring the Government’s policy that we are to have the dual national and commercial television system in this country.
The Government can declare its policy at any time. A declaration of policy is not binding upon a government or upon anybody else. The Minister decided that he would declare the policy of the Government by introducing this measure. He has declared that the Government is in favour, first, of a Governmentcontrolled television system, and secondly, of commercially controlled television stations. He has solemnly asked the Parliament to consider, discuss and vote upon that declaration of policy. When the House has done those things, and after the measure has been passed by the
Senate, we shall have a declaration of government policy, hut we shall not have a declaration as to when that policy will be implemented. Why is it necessary for honorable members to waste their time in discussing a matter of government policy which, when it has been decided by the House, will achieve exactly nothing? I should be pleased if the Minister would tell us why it is necessary to pass an Act of Parliament in order to make a declaration of policy. In his second-reading speech, he said -
I have already indicated that, as soon as it is in a position to do so, the Government will give the Parliament an opportunity to discuss its detailed plans for the regulation of both national and commercial television services.
I assume that Parliament, if it is to be given an opportunity to discuss that matter, will be given an opportunity also to make a decision upon it. That will necessitate two bills and two debates before we decide whether television shall or shall not be introduced into Australia.
Just before the bill was introduced, we were informed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that a royal commission would be appointed to consider a number of matters relating to television. There are some notable omissions from the terms of reference. Although the royal commission is to be asked to examine the position very thoroughly, and has been given permission to tour the whole of Australia in an endeavour to obtain evidence that will help it to arrive at a conclusion, two essential points that deserve the utmost consideration are not mentioned in the terms of reference. I believe that the commission should be asked, first, to say whether it would be in the interests of Australia to introduce television here at this juncture, and, if not, to recommend a suitable time. That is not included in the terms of reference. I suggest that it would be reasonable to ask the royal commission to investigate and report upon the question whether television should be a government monopoly or whether commercial stations should be permitted to enter the field. The royal commission could obtain much valuable evidence upon that question. If we are to have a royal commission, it is reasonable that it be asked to con- sider that point, hut it has not been asked to do so. It has been requested to consider -
The number of national and commercial television stations which can effectively be established and operated having regard to the financial and economic considerations involved and the availability of suitable programmes.
The Government has informed the royal commission that it has decided, apparently without taking any evidence, that we shall have television, and that two systems shall operate side by side. We formed our own conclusions about this decision. The royal commission set to work a week or so ago, and it has been stated that the chairman will leave Australia for England on the 12th May this year. I venture to suggest that if the chairman goes to England on the 12th May, he will leave his work unfinished because I cannot visualize the royal commission doing all the work that it should do between now and the 12th May. I should think that the royal commission would have to tour Australia and take evidence from technical, commercial, educational, cultural, religious, and welfare organizations. Then after it had taken that evidence it would have to sift it carefully and reach a conclusion. I suggest that it is physically impossible for the royal commission to do all that work before the 12th May. Until the report of the royal commission is available, and I do not criticize the personnel of the royal commission at this juncture, it is reasonable to suggest that any legislation on the matter of television should be held in abeyance. If the PostmasterGeneral and the Government intend to wait until the royal commission furnishes its report, and then present legislation supplementary to the bill now before the House, surely the better course would have been to wait until the report was ready and then deal with the whole matter in one measure.
The Government has decided that television will be introduced, and that there will be commercial stations and national stations. No information has been furnished to honorable members about the number or location of such stations. We have not been told whether, for instance, Sydney is to have one commercial station and no national station,
Melbourne is to have a national station and no commercial station or whether both cities are to have commercial and national stations. We know nothing about matters such as that, and I suggest that the ‘Government is waiting for the report of the royal commission before deciding important details of that sort. I tried to find some reason for the Government’s procedure in the speeches of Government supporters, but the only thing that has emerged from those speeches is that this bill is a declaration of Government policy. That is not a good reason why a measure of this kind should have been introduced. After much searching, the only valid reason for its introduction that I could find has relation to a Senate election that is to be held on the 9th May. According to the predictions of outside organizations, and also of supporters of the Government, the Government will not have a majority in the Senate after the 9th May. Consequently, it would not be able to pass legislation such as the measure now before the House. Therefore, the Government has decided to put this measure through both Houses while its majority remains. I consider that to be very sharp practice on the part of the Government.
This Government is continuously losing prestige and support throughout the country, and all its members are well aware of that fact. Whenever there is a by-election, or a general election in a State, it becomes apparent that the Government is steadily losing popularity. I can offer one example to prove that the popularity of the Government is waning. Last June an election was held in a province of Victoria for a seat on the Legislative Council of that State. The Labour candidate was defeated by 1,441. A few weeks ago a by-election was held in the same province and the Labour candidate was defeated by only 800 votes. That indicates that even in conservative districts, such as the one I have mentioned, the Government’s popularity is declining. State elections truly reflect the feeling of the people in federal matters, and the Government has lost its popularity because its actions have had an injurious effect on the majority of the people of Australia.
– Order! The popularity of the Government has nothing to do with the bill now before the House.
– I am endeavouring to show honorable members why this bill has been brought before the House at this time. I have given the only reason that I could find for that action on the part of the Government. Now it is very interesting that the Government should have declared in favour of a system of both commercial and national television. Suppose that a television station will cost £3,000,000. I base that estimate on a statement made by Mr. A. G. Warner, of Electronic Industries Limited, which was read yesterday by the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews). Mr. Warner said that he would provide the money to build a station which would cost about £3,000,000. I accept his figure. Assume that one national station is established in Melbourne at a cost of £3,000,000. The Government will then have to allow commercial interests to build another station. Therefore, it will cost £6,000,000 to establish two television stations in one capital city. On that basis the cost for the six capital cities would be £36,000,000. At present there are about 2,000,000 radio listeners’ licences current in Australia. Let us divide that by four, and assume that 500,000 people will buy television licences. Five hundred thousand television sets will have to be produced and sold, and I believe that the cost per set ranges between £100 and £200. Let us assume that 500,000 sets are purchased for £100 each. The sets will then cost a total of £50,000,000. However, the provision of programmes for television audiences is much more costly than the provision of radio broadcasting programmes. Live artist shows must be provided all the time, which will at least treble, and probably increase tenfold, the cost of production of programmes. The Government will operate its own system, which will be paid for partly by licence-fees and partly from Consolidated Revenue. The commercial stations will not receive licence-fees, and will get nothing from Consolidated Revenue. They will get their revenue from advertising fees. I have heard arguments adduced to prove that advertising reduces the cost of goods, hut I still fail to perceive how adding £50,000 or £100,000 to the cost of producing a commodity will reduce its price to the consumers. Therefore, the general body of the people will have to provide the money to run the commercial stations by paying more for the commodities that they buy. They will also have to pay part of the cost of the national stations through the Consolidated Revenue Account. Consequently, as the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said, the general body of the people will have to provide the finance for a luxury service which will be enjoyed by only a small section of the people, who could well afford to pay the whole cost of the service themselves.
Early this year the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) attended an economic conference in London. After he had returned he told honorable members that Australia was expected by the conference to produce more of the necessary commodities such as wool, wheat, dried fruits, and other food, both for itself and for the other members of the British Commonwealth who could not produce these commodities themselves. The Prime Minister has made appeal after appeal to the people to concentrate on the production of these essential commodities, and indeed it is the policy of the Government to divert labour and capital from luxury industries to essential industries. Almost immediately following upon these appeals the Government submitted a bill to provide for the introduction to Australia of an entirely luxury industry. During the next few years television may well cost ti le country hundreds of millions of pounds. In addition, it will absorb a very large labour force, not only to provide the new stations that are required, but also to construct television sets for the people. On the one hand the Government says, “ We shall take all possible steps to extricate the country from its financial difficulties and to destroy inflation. We shall concentrate our efforts solely on essential industries “. On the other hand it says, “ We propose to introduce to Australia a new luxury industry, an entertainment industry, which will cost the people of Australia hundreds of millions of pounds and still further deplete the skilled labour force required in essential industries “. The Government cannot have it both ways. It should explain to the House and to the people why it proposes to expend such an enormous amount of money on the provision of a luxury at a time when it is appealing to the people to make greater sacrifices, to work harder than ever before and to increase production. Australia has got along very- well without television in the past. Surely it can continue to do so.
It has been claimed that television is of educational and cultural value to the community. That may be so, but the educational and. cultural aspects of television will quickly disappear unless it is controlled by a government authority. If commercial interests are allowed to engage in the industry they will be forced to present a series of programmes that appeals to their sponsors and only to unthinking audiences. People invest money in private enterprise solely for the purpose of obtaining profits. If television is brought within the province of private enterprise, the operating companies will be closely concerned about the profits they reap for their shareholders and it is likely that educational and cultural programmes will not earn big profits for them. We all know the sort of rubbish that is broadcast over the ill to-day by prominent names in the radio industry like Jack Davey and Bob Dyer, whose programmes largely consist of silly quizz sessions in which prize money amounting to thousands of pounds is given away to the people every week. There is nothing educational or cultural in such programmes. They are an insult to the intelligence of the average Australian listener. If commercial interests are permitted to engage in television, the Bob Dyers and the Jack Daveys of radio will undoubtedly feature very prominently on the television screens.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I found some points of agreement with some of the observations made by the honorable member for Wills (Mr.
Bryson), but be spoiled his contribution to the debate by attacking the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) on the ground that, among other things, the Minister lacked the necessary technical qualifications to enable him to deal with such a complex subject as television. I do not think that the absence of technical qualifications on the part of the Minister is a serious matter, because, after all, television has such vast ramifications that it can be safely said that not many people in Australia, or in the world, have a thorough knowledge of it. Nobody will deny the honesty of purpose of the PostmasterGeneral in introducing this measure. The honorable member for Wills suggested that the Minister could not make up his mind on the subject. I doubt even if the Minister’s worse enemies would accuse him of inability to make up his mind on any subject; indeed, those who know him, realize that it is more often a question of asking him to change his mind than to make up his mind on any subject. The honorable member for Wills indulged in a spate of electioneering propaganda, but he failed to emphasize his faith in socialism because he knew that it would be a bad selling point for the Opposition at the present time.
The House was treated to a dissertation on culture by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). We are used to listening to that honorable member’s espousals of the cause of socialism, but on this occasion he dropped that subject, and instead, he treated the House to a liberal dose of irresponsibility by making an attack on the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). The honorable member for Watson gave credit to the honorable member for Paterson for raising the subject of television in the House two years ago, but he distorted in blatant fashion the views expressed by that honorable gentleman on the subject to-day. If the honorable member for Watson has sufficient time in the period in which he prepares his speeches, he might read Hansard and learn exactly what the honorable member for Paterson said on this subject. To say that the honorable member for Paterson did not support the bill is a gross misrepresenta tion of fact. The honorable member for Paterson supported the bill in essence but he criticized the personnel of the royal commission appointed to inquire into and report upon the introduction of television. This House has never heard more deliberate misrepresentation than it heard from the wild and revolutionary socialist from Watson who seizes every opportunity to disparage the honesty of purpose of every grazier, industrialist or person in the community who has succeeded in gathering to himself a few worldly possessions.
Having disposed of the honorable member for Watson for the time being, I now devote myself to the bill. Whether we regard the introduction of television as an approaching boon or an approaching calamity, every one of us seems to be reconciled to the fact that television will come to Australia sooner or, later. We might as well become reconciled to two other facts. The first is that the initial stages of television will involve us in huge losses, because television is new, not only to Australia, but also more or less to the world, and a great deal has stil to be learned about it. The second fact to which we must become reconciled is that unless revolutionary technical developments take place, for some years at least, only city people will benefit very much from television. Primarily televised programmes will be available only to city dwellers, and even then only to wealthy members of the community, because the cost of a television set will be very high. A television set will be out of the reach, of the average member of the community. From these facts it is fair to deduce that the Government should decide as an important aspect of sound policy to commit the taxpayers money to the project at present only with very great reserve. If private individuals are willing to take the risks involved in the initial introduction of television into Australia, and if they are prepared to meet the inevitable losses that will be incurred during the teething period, the people of Australia, particularly the taxpayers, will not object to private enterprise engaging in television. Unlike the honorable member for Wills I believe that if private enterprise is prepared to undertake the risk of launching this industry in Australia it is entitled to take any profit resulting from its operations.
The first important provision in the bill allows private interests to commence television in Australia, and it should not meet with much opposition except, of course, from ingrained socialists who are opposed to private enterprise undertaking this project or any other project. The second important provision in the bill authorizes the Minister to direct a special authority to provide government-sponsored programmes. Such a provision is innocent enough in itself but I hope that it does not forecast early government intervention in the television business. I do not want to take a purely parochial or too conservative view on this matter, but I think that it is fair for me to point out that the resources of the Postal Department, which will be charged with the control of government-sponsored television programmes and also with responsibility for the erection of television stations, are already more than stretched to the limit in handling the department’s existing functions. The department is charged with the provision of another communications instrument which science has provided for us. I refer to the telephone. It is a long time since the department was given a monopoly in the provision of telephone services in Australia and a long time will elapse before it catches up on the task. Daily, I receive letters from constituents asking me to assist them to secure telephone connexions. In many instance their livelihood depends upon obtaining a telephone service. I have received letters from unfortunate citizens telling me that they have waited for up to seven years for telephone services. Only recently one classic example was brought to my notice of a constituent at Westmead who had celebrated the eleventh anniversary of the day upon which he first applied for a telephone. He is still waiting for a telephone service. In those circumstances it would not be of advantage for the Postal Department to engage in the task of providing television services in Australia. It would be better employed if it confined itself to its existing responsibilities. It must be a case of telephones before television. While the Postal Department remains short of money, and rates of taxes continue to remain at a high level, there is no reason why the Government should venture into new fields which are singularly ill adapted for government occupation.
Despite what honorable members opposite say now, they are burning to make television a government monopoly. I earnestly suggest to the electors that they ponder over the meaning of this proposal. ^Inevitably, if the Government controls television programmes the proceedings of the Parliament will be televised. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, was the principal advocate of a government monopoly in television, until he disagreed with the Leader of the Opposition on the matter. At least it can be said for the honorable member for Melbourne that he is always looking ahead. Maybe he is looking to the day when he will lead the Labour party, and this bill is merely playing into his hands.
– He looks over his shoulder.
– Yes, when he feels the hot breath of a colleague on the back of his neck, or in. order to count the number of members who joined with him on an issue with his leader. If television becomes a government monopoly, we can well imagine the scene of this House. A character such as the honorable member for Melbourne, with his parliamentary vaudeville song-and-dance act, would monopolize the screen to the extent that he could exclude his colleagues from it. The viewers of the parliamentary proceedings would have to be content with an unrestricted view of the honorable member for Melbourne as he gave his vaudeville performance. The people who owned television sets would have no option but to accept that sponsored programme.
It is easy to understand why the Labour party is in favour of a television monopoly; but I do not think for one instant that the public wants it. The people should be given an opportunity to choose their own programmes. I know that some people who are eager to further the interests of culture or religion, or some other special cause, are inclined to favour a government monopoly of the new medium. I consider that those persons should take careful heed of the great dangers of their policy. Television is a medium of great and, as yet, unknown propaganda possibilities. It may be that television in itself could practically control public opinion. For my part, I do not admit that a government has any right to dictate to the people the kind of programmes that they should see on television screens. A government monopoly in television would lead to censorship, and would be a direct negation of the principles of freedom, for which democracy stands.
Even the expenditure of government funds for the provision of programmes of certain types is a dangerous principle, and is open to grave misuse. Behind all the contentions of those sections who want government-subsidized programmes, or alternatively, a government monopoly of television is the fear that the public cannot be trusted to select the right kinds of programmes. I entirely disagree with that view. Commercial interests, if they are given freedom of choice, will broadcast the kind of programmes that the public want. It is true that some commercial programmes have not been uplifting or educational, and that some have even been undesirable. However, I believe that, in the long run, we can trust the good sense and decency of the public to see that worthwhile programmes come to the top. In any event, we have to trust the people. They will get either the kind of programmes that they want, or a dictatorship. If they have a dictatorship, they will get, not what they want but what the Government wants them to have. There would be no middle course in that respect.
I shall now discuss briefly the financing of television programmes. The honorable member for Wills dealt with this matter. One may well wonder whether there are private individuals with sufficient capital and faith to take all the risks involved, especially as the Labour party is pledged, and has threatened, to exterminate private enterprise when it is returned to office. If private enterprise is to be frightened out of the television field, where will socialism take the Labour party in this matter?
– Back to the golden age.
– The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) must be colour-blind. He has mistaken the golden age. I advise him to have his eyes examined by the best oculist in his district. I was interested to note recently that quite a number of Opposition members apparently agreed that an attempt should be made to damp down the socialist programme of the Labour party. Accordingly, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who is, no doubt, a very astute gentleman, was called to fill the breach, and he devised a new preamble to the platform of the Labour party. I think that the 60-dollar question is, “ Do any members of the Labour party understand it ? “ The general consensus of opinion is that the brain child of the honorable member for Fremantle is not understood by members of the rank and file.
If we do not want a government monopoly of television, and if it is the avowed intention of the Labour party to stifle private enterprise, the public will be well advised to heed one warning. The socialists are not uttering it at the present time, but we should ask ourselves whether there is a possibility of a socialized radio. I suggest that there may be if the Labour party is returned to office. The honorable member for Wills described as trash the sessions conducted by Jack Davey, Bob Dyer and others in the commercial radio field. Honorable members can well imagine the reaction of Jack Davey to a socialized radio. Does any one consider for a moment that he would appear on a socialized programme ? I think he would “ Give it a go “, and empty his treasure house before the socialists could apply their policy to broadcasting. I imagine that the action of Bob Dyer would b» similar to that’ of J Jack Davey. He would ask himself, “ Can I take it? and would realize that the socialists would take everthing from him. Before they could do so, he would “ take it and go “. Can any one imagine that Terry Dear, who conducts the “ Amateur Hour “ would submit himself to a. socialized programme ? I think his reaction would be that the socialists were not amateurs, and that he should get out of it while the going was good. Oan any one imagine what that old stalwart of the stage, Roy Rene, our friend “Mo”, would say? Doubtless, he would say, “ I am awake to the socialists. I had better get into another business “. Imagine the reaction of John Dease and his Quiz Kids. I think that John would try to shepherd the Kids awayfrom the socialists. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) has had some experience of the Quiz Kids sort of programme. Does he want his intelligent thinking to be socialized as well as his political thinking? A threat by socialism to the broadcasting industry will produce an extreme reaction from those who are engaged in it. Private enterprise, if it is willing to introduce the system of television as an alternative to calling on the taxpayer to provide all the funds, should not be hindered in any shape or form by the Parliament. Whilst the present economic circumstances exist, the Government would be better advised to devote itself to the tasks already in hand without buying into the luxury business of television and creating other departments of distraction.
I support the bill, because it enables the Postmaster-General to take certain action but I wish to make it clear that I do not assent to the proposition that the Government should enter the television business at this stage in the economic condition of Australia.
Mr. DALY (Grayndler) [4.40”.- The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) dealt with a number of prominent radio artists. Unfortunately, he omitted two artists who have recently become prominent, and are evidently sponsored by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He did not mention the perfect act produced last night by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) when he spoke on this bill. This leading member of the Government endeavoured to bolster up a non-existent case and, in doing so, gave a better exhibition of clowning than has been seen in any theatre. At the conclusion of his admirable performance, I felt that Actors Equity in Sydney would send an urgent telegram to him, and in vite him to become one of its members. When he had finished his performance, we were at a loss to know whether he had given us the mystery sound of Bob Dyer, or an imitation of Johnny Ray, because his speech bore no closer relation to the subject-matter of this bill.
Another artist who will star in television is the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). Possibly nobody has turned more somersaults on this important matter than he has. He has been more agile than a trapese artist in a circus. Government supporters have commented on differences of opinion that exist among members of the Opposition. To-day Government supporters showed that they were not unanimous on this bill. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), in a splendid contribution, revealed that he was certainly not in agreement with the Postmaster-General. He was off the beam with the Minister.
What part has the Postmaster-General played in this matter? He flew to South Africa late last year in connexion with the inauguration of the new air service between Australia and that country, but this modern Marco Polo then proceeded to visit North America, Europe and other places for the purpose of investigating television. On his arrival back in Australia he had all the answers. He said that everything was in order, and that the Government would proceed forthwith with the introduction of television. When he was asked whether a royal commission would be appointed to inquire into the subject, he rejected the idea. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 4th December last published the following report of his attitude on the matter: -
The Postmaster-General, Mr. H. L. Anthony, said to-night that the Government was not likely to appoint a Royal Commission on television before deciding on the final details of its television policy.
He said a Royal Commission would merely create an opportunity for various interests to obstruct and delay the introduction of television into Australia.
This roaring lion of the Australian Country party then came to Canberra to impress his views upon the Government, but he found that his ideas were not shared by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Now, he sits in this House like a lamb, and gives lip service to a doctrine in which he does not believe, and to a policy to which he has been opposed. Yet this strong man has criticized Opposition members for having differences of opinion among themselves. But let us look a little way beyond the present scene. The honorable member for Henty, who is an outspoken man, took exception to the remarks of the Postmaster-General on his return to Australia. The Sydney Daily Mirror published the following report on the 11th December last: -
The Government Whip (Mr. Gullett) to-day clashed with the Postmaster-General (Mr Anthony) on television. He said that Mr Anthony should not refer to television as if it were something that Australia would have definitely by 1053.
It was a luxury which Australia could not afford at present, and it would tend to increase taxation, Mr. Gullett said.
Neither Government party had even debated policy on television let alone approved it. lt was nonsense to suggest that television was vitally necessary for defence. “ Nonsense.”
For a quarter of the cost it would take to establish television, radar and electronic technicians could be trained within the services.
Mr. Gullett said that, with television, Austral ian children would develop into nonthinking machines with eyes permanently glued to the television screens.
The Government and its supporters are not united on this great issue. The PostmasterGeneral does not believe in the policy that he has been forced to espouse. The honorable member for Henty to-day outspokenly stated where he stood on the issue. The honorable member for Mitchell did not say where he stood, but it is obvious that he does not support the Minister because his speech included certain reservations. The honorable member for Paterson has criticized the royal commission and its members. The Postmaster-General has referred to differences of opinion amongst members of the Opposition, but there are more violent differences between the honorable gentleman and other members of the allstar cast that temporarily sits on the Government side of the chamber.
This Government has indulged in delays throughout its term of office and has legislated only by stops and starts. It is responsible for the sorry state of affairs that exists in Australia to-day, and for its own low standing in the pub- lie estimation. The Government has introduced the bill in order to put off definite action because it cannot agree on a common policy. The bill provides for a half-baked scheme. What do average, intelligent people think of a government which appoints a royal commission to investigate television and associated matters but which, before the commission can commence its inquiries, produces a bill and declares, “ This represents the Government’s policy”? The Opposition want3 to know whether the Government intends to accept the findings of the royal commission, which was so severely criticized last night by the honorable member for Paterson. If its conduct up to the present can be accepted as a guide, we may expect it to do nothing about the recommendations of the commission. Its policy will change from day to day. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out last night, in an excellent speech, that, although the bill is supposed to provide statutory authority for the establishment of television services in Australia, it will do nothing of the kind. It has been produced after long delays as a result of the influence brought to bear upon the Government by certain pressure groups. We can detect behind this bill, as we could behind recent legislation in relation to banking, shipping and the sale of certain government assets, the hands of pressure groups which are collecting their rewards for the assistance that they have given to this Government.
The bill is intended to mollify certain wealthy radio interests and to pay them off for having helped the Government parties to gain power for a brief period. There is no plan in it to govern the conditions of operation of television stations in Australia. It represents no specific policy. It merely contains certain legal provisions which will be of no significance. The operation of government stations is to be dealt with by an authorized body. Who will be members of that body? Is the Minister to be the supreme dictator, and are the arbitrary powers that are to be conferred on him by the legislation to be a permanent feature of the administrative authority in relation to television? The Postmaster-General is not to be trusted. He removed a representative of the
Labour party from the Australian Broadcasting Commission because of bis political views. If the honorable gentleman is to administer television in the same way, we have reason to demand that the arbitrary powers for which the bill provides shall not be conferred upon him. For -what period of time will a television licence be operative if such licences are to be granted to private interests? Will those interests be content with a period of only a few months, or will they demand a longer term? Will the sponsors of television be prepared to develop it in this country when they are likely to be interfered with at any time by means of resolutions of this House, such as that which was initiated by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for the purpose of preventing British interests from gaining control of Australian broadcasting stations ? Safeguards against such unfair and repressive acts should be included in the bill, and the Minister should be more informative about the Government’s intentions. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out last night, the bill provides that the Postmaster-General shall have authority to grant monopolies to the Government or to private combines. We know that this Government, if it has its way, will grant monopolies to private interests. The people should be safeguarded against the activities of such interests.
The bill should include other safeguards to restrain the autocratic powers of the Minister and to prevent the use of television for political purposes by a Minister who might wish to discredit his political enemies. The rejection of the bill by this Parliament would not hinder the progress of television one iota. Why has the Government appointed an expensive royal commission if it does not intend to take notice of the commission’s findings ? This innocuous measure will not solve the numerous problems associated with the establishment and development of television in Australia. It represents only a political manoeuvre by the Government, and . therefore it deserves to be rejected. The royal commission has been provided with strictly limited terms of reference. The honorable member for Henty pertinently said that the terms should have included the question whether television is necessary in Australia and, if so, when it should be introduced. But such a question would be too definite for this Government of fits and starts. Therefore, it has shortcircuited the scope of the inquiry to be conducted by the commission. Themembership of the commission includes a representative of each State but leaves much to be desired. Apparently the members were selected for State reasons only regardless of their personal abilities. Probably Professor Paton, the chairman, was more astonished than anybody else in Australia when he learned that he had been selected. No doubt he was unaware previously that a knowledge of television was included among his many accomplishments. Furthermore, he is contemplating a world tour in the near future and, according to reports, he will go abroad before the commission’s inquiries are completed. Another member is Mr. R. G. Osborne. I shall not discuss his qualifications in detail, but it is obvious that he knows very little about television. One of the most interesting appointments was that of Mr. C. B. Bednall, who represents newspaper and radio interests. Having gained control, step by step, of great newspaper interests and radio networks, these interests seek now to bring television within the scope of their mighty combine. Of course, the Government could not neglect the Australian Country party. After all, that party controls the Government. It commands only a relatively small number of votes, but it dominates the major party in the Government coalition. Its pressure has resulted in a Country party member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, the Honorable R. C. Wilson, being appointed. He would be a strange man if he did not have fairly definite views on which side of the political fence he would sit in relation to the system of television to be adopted. These men have been appointed as spokesmen for the Government, but, regardless of their other qualifications, they are not qualified in most cases to deliberate on a subject of this importance.
There is no technical man on the royal commission. It has no member with any knowledge of the entertainment side of television and no member who has ever been associated with the operation of television stations. The churches, industry and educationists are not represented. Although a representative of the Graziers Association of New South Wales is a member of the commission, the trade unions, of which the great majority of Australians are members, are completely denied any representation. The commission appears to be a rigged proposition. When I listened to the honorable member for Paterson speak on this measure, I formed the view that this bill had never been presented to the Government rank and file supporters for consideration. The honorable member for Paterson had a fair case. He was the young pretender to the chairmanship of the royal commission, but he would have been out on a limb in that position because he would have been the only one on the commission who knew anything about radio. I say quite sincerely that the honorable member has a fairly sound knowledge of radio and would have been an asset to the commission. I can understand his discontent at the appointment of Professor Paton, who was shocked to find that he was expected to inquire into the subject of television. The honorable member anil other Government supporters will not receive consideration whilst the pressure groups have to be paid off by the Government. The honorable member said that if the television industry is dealt with in a slipshod manner on this occasion it will not be possible to conduct a new inquiry in the near future. He confessed that he was concerned when he read a statement of the views of the chairman of the commission. The chairman was reported to have said that the commission was not a royal commission in the true sense of the term, but merely a committee which had been set up to take evidence and advise the Government. The honorable member for Paterson said that it was important to know whether this body was really a committee or a true royal commission.
The honorable member’s questions were reasonable ones, which might well be asked by any Government supporter. They indicate the discontent -in the ranks of the
Government parties in relation to these matters. The honorable member expressed doubt concerning the reliance that might be placed on the findings of the commission. He considered that in view of Professor. Paton’s projected departure overseas the Government would have been wise not to haw appointed him, and that Professor Paton would have been wise to have rejected the appointment. The criticism of the honorable member indicated that the royal commission will not have the confidence of the members of this Parliament or of the people generally. In addition to the shortcomings that I have mentioned in regard to the qualifications of the personnel of the commission it will suffer the disadvantage of restricted terms of reference. It will lack expert advice. The Government has overlooked the necessity to bring witnesses from overseas to give evidence. It is my opinion that the Postmaster-General is not in agreement with the policy that is being followed by the Government. Opposition members believe that this is a time-wasting measure. Apparently the Government does not intend that the commission should furnish its report for a considerable length of time. What will happen if the commission’s report disagrees with the provisions of the bill before the House? Will the Government introduce amendments and proceed according to the advice of the commission ? What assurance have we that the findings of this lopsided commission will be given effect to when they are presented ? The Government has not much time in which to give effect to its policy. Its members might be termed, in the words of a recent article, “ dead men on furlough “ in the political sense. They have a limited period of occupancy of the treasury bench and it will be necessary for them to give effect to the findings of this commission immediately they are presented if they are to give effect to them at all. The purpose of the Opposition’s motion is to expedite the receipt by Parliament of the findings of the commission.
It is important to all honorable members to have the fullest inquiry made in regard to television. No more important development has had to be considered in modern times by this or any other parliament. Such subjects as costs, balanced programmes and the ability of the nation to meet the cost of television having regard to the shortage of items such as telephone equipment must be taken into consideration before a television system is established. The subject of programme costs should also be considered. Under the terms of reference of the royal commission, matters of that nature are not covered. The bill conveys nothing to honorable members in relation to the Government’s policy on television. The complete and constant reversals of form by the Postmaster-General in relation to television hardly inspire confidence even in his own supporters. What is the Government’s policy in relation to television? What is the opinion of its supporters? Are Australian Country party members constantly to submit proposals which are to be rejected by Liberal party members in Cabinet? Has this legislation been discussed among the members of the Government parties or does only the Cabinet know the details of it? Surely responsible members of the Government would not have consented to the appointment of this royal commission if they had considered in detail the wide terms of reference necessary for a commission on television ! Was the announcement that the PostmasterGeneral made when he returned from abroad in accordance with Government policy or not?
The Vice-President of the Executive Council is ohe of the few senior members of the Cabinet who made a speech on this measure and apparently he did so without having read the bill. The Opposition appreciates the problems that face the Government, but we consider that it is time that it took action in relation to this matter. The Government has deferred consideration of it from time to time and is only facing it now for political reasons. Opposition members would like the Government to allow the Postmaster-General to express his real opinion on the subject. Surely members of the Government are allowed to express an independent point of view. Honorable members are eager to hear the view of the Postmaster-General. Let the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), who have spoken in guarded terms on this measure, tell us what they really think of this proposal. Let the Vice-President of the Executive Council give us some information, apart from the clowning exhibition that he indulged in, about what he really thinks of proposals enunciated by the Government. I support the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, and I hope that in justice to the people it will be accepted by the Government. I hope that Government supporters who have expressed themselves as being opposed to the Postmaster-General’s proposals will join the members of the Opposition in voting against the document that the Postmaster-General has presented to us in the guise of a bill. I hope that the Postmaster-General himself will see the light and join this side of the Parliament in opposing the policy to which, we know, he is really opposed but which he is unfortunately sponsoring. He should support the policy of the Labour party in this connexion.
– Which policy? The policy of the Leader of the Opposition or the policy of his deputy in this House ?
– Before the Vice-President of the Executive Council entered the chamber I had dealt with the great differences of opinions on the subject of television that exist on the Government side. The Government is split asunder by that discontent, but that fact is hushed up in the press, because the press does not want the people to know of it. The division in the Government’s ranks, however, has broken out in this debate and will continue to he manifest. We have submitted this amendment in order to give those honorable members opposite who opposed the Government’s policy an opportunity to vote on this issue in a practical manner and to show the people that they are sincere.
– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has been neither constructive nor helpful to the House in his approach to this bill. The Opposition occasionally reminds me of a radio station. The disc jockeys sit at the table and the platters sit on the back shelf. The real managers sit outside this House. The statements of honorable members opposite on this bill are merely repetitious and meaningless sounds. I am often astonished by the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and not only by what he says, but also by what he fails to say. I was astonished last night that he had not gone more deeply into the legal issues that lie behind this bill. I ndeed, I suppose that the reason is that he, in his capacity as Attorney-General in the Chifley Government, endorsed things about whose legality he was doubtful and he did not want these dragged into the light. That is a theme to which I shall return in a moment, but for the present let me say there are two features of modern society which are preeminently important to the socialist. The first is banking, by means of which control can be exercised over material things; the second is broadcasting, including television, whereby they believe they can exercise control over the minds of men. We all remember that Lenin laid down the dictum .that if you want to control the economy of a people you must first control its banks. Lenin lived before broadcasting had reached any high degree of development, but subsequent dictators like Hitler and Stalin capitalized on broadcasting and television in order to produce that kind- of monolithic, totalitarian solidarity that we have to fight against. By endorsing the socialization of broadcasting or television the Labour party is, in point of fact, helping to forge a weapon that its members know in their hearts will be of great use to them if they should ever have power to wield it, because, by use of it, they hope to mould the minds and hearts of the people. The drear picture painted by George Orwell in his book Nineteen Eighty-four was one in which television and broadcasting played their part in oppression, and it is perhaps towards some such state of affairs that members of the Opposition are yearning.
I do not agree entirely with the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) that there has been a big split in the Labour party on this issue. For my own part, I doubt whether such a split has occurred. I think that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has stated honestly what is, in fact, the Labour party’s policy, but that his leader, who is sometimes a better tactician than he is, has realized that people will not vote for the outright Labour policy, and has therefore tried to cover it up with something in which I think he does not believe himself, and which is totally opposed to official Labour party policy. I believe that behind this kind of artful artlessness that is characteristic of the Leader of the Opposition in this House there is a desire to conceal the basic Labour policy on this issue. I think that the split between himself and his deputy, the honorable member for Melbourne, is not one of substance, but is one of tactics, and that the Leader of the Opposition is merely annoyed because the honest but clumsy honorable member for Melbourne has let the cat out of the bag a little too soon.
The question to which I wish to address ray mind particularly relates to the whole framework of this bill. Does the Commonwealth possess, in fact, the necessary legislative power in this field? Have we, in point of fact, power, under the Constitution as it exists, to make laws in regard to television? That is a question to which no clear answer can at present be given. As we all know, the Parliament’s powers over broadcasting derive from section 51 of the Constitution, which reads, in part -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to - (v.) Postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and other like services;
The application of this particular power to broadcasting was, as honorable members well know, tested in the High Court in 1935 in the case of Bex v. Brislan ex parte Williams. It is important for us to consider that case, because what was decided in regard to broadcasting may have reference to the ambit of the legal power in respect of television. In that case it was held that the Commonwealth had power over broadcasting, but, I remind honorable members, the court’s decision was not unanimous. Mr. Justice Dixon, who is now the Chief Justice, dissented from it, and held, in a minority judgment, that the Commonwealth had no power over radio broadcasting. As honorable members well know, the High Court is not in a strict sense bound by its own precedents, and in a matter like this, which is an inter se question, there could not be an appeal to the Privy Council except by certificate. It is possible that, even as regards radio broadcasting, the High Court may revert to the opinion that was expressed in the 1935 case by the present Chief Justice, and hold broadcasting itself to be outside the Commonwealth power. That is possible, but I regard it as a remote possibility, and I do not think that honorable members need address their minds to it. It could happen, but I think it is very unlikely to happen. When we come to the question of television, quite other considerations come to our minds, because we find that in the judgments which were given in favour of the extension of the Commonwealth power to broadcasting in that 1935 case to which I have referred, the reasons for those judgments, as expressed, were not reasons which would apply to television. I do not intend, nor would I be competent, to go into all the legal niceties of this matter, but I propose to set out some of the argument to illustrate the point I am making. In order to do so, I wish to examine, first, the reasons advanced by His Honour Mr. J Justice Dixon in holding that the Commonwealth did not even have power in regard to radio broadcasting. His Honour said -
Broadcasting provides a means by which those who secure for themselves an appropriate receiving set may hear speeches, music, entertainments, announcements and the like, addressed to the public at large from some central point. There is no intercommunication; no means is provided by which one individual can originate a message or establish communication with another; there is nothing to satisfy the purpose for which any of the enumerated services exist. It appears to me to be outside the scope and purpose of the power. It is said that carrying on such an operation performs n service to the public and that, according to high judicial authority, the adjective “ telegraphic “ may be applied because the means adopted is wireless tele- phony and “ telephony “ is included in “ telegraphy “. This does not meet the difficulty. It takes each of the two words “ telephonic “ and “ service “. It applies each of them in a manner differing from that in which they are used in section 51 (v). It then combines them and requires the combination to serve the purpose of including a quite different thing. The expression “ postal, telegraphic and telephonic services “ describes a wellknown category of public services which, in my opinion, possessed definite characteristics. The addition of the expression “ other like “ services emphasizes the fact that the category looked to those characteristics. In my opinion altogether different characteristics belong to wireless broadcasting.
That was his expressed opinion, but it was not the opinion held by the majority of the court. The other justices of the court rejected the views expressed by Mr. Justice Dixon and, in so doing, themselves put forward other arguments. I wish to explain to the House that the other arguments which they put forward did not, in point of fact, apply to television, although they did apply to radio broadcasting. The arguments they presented, which I do not intend to traverse in detail, depended on two points. First, they said that radio broadcasting was a telephonic communication; that is, from the word’s derivation, it is the carrying of sound to a distance, and it does not matter whether that sound is in the form of music, speech, or anything else. Because it is telephonic, it comes within the category named in section 51 (tj) of the Constitution. That was the first point which these High Court Justices made. The second point referred to an appeal case decided by the Privy
Council, which. I shall examine in detail in a moment. That case was In re the Regulation and Control of Radio Communication in Canada, which was decided by the Privy Council in 1932. I shall not weary the House by quoting from the judgments of each of the justices, but I assure honorable members that in each instance the nerve of the argument depended upon two words - telephonic and telegraphic. Sir John Latham, the then Chief Justice, and Mr. Justice Rich, Mr. Justice Evatt, Mr. Justice Starke and Mr. Justice McTiernan took those same two points.
If we show that television is not telephonic and does not come within the ambit of telegraphy as defined by the
Privy Council in the appeal case to which I have referred, then the arguments adduced by the judges, whom I have mentioned, to show that radio broadcasting came within the ambit of the Commonwealth power, are not available to show that television comes within the ambit of that power.
– Does the honorable member think that the act is unconstitutional ?
– I shall come to that in a moment. It is obvious that television is not telephony. It may be that it has additive sounds, and it may be that the sounds themselves are under the control of the Commonwealth under its existing power, even if they are part of a television programme; but it is obvious that a television programme itself is not telephony. Does it, in point of fact, come within the definition of telegraphy in conformity with that Privy Council case ? I wish to read to the House a passage from that particular judgment. The question was whether, in Canada, wireless broadcasting came within a category which gave the federal government power over telegraphs going beyond the limits of one province or State. The judgment’ reads -
Their Lordships have therefore no doubt that ‘ the undertaking of broadcasting is an undertaking “ connecting the Province with other Provinces and extending beyond the limits of the Province”. But further, as already said, they think broadcasting falls within the description of “ telegraphs “. No doubt in everyday speech telegraph is almost exclusively used to denote the electrical instrument which by means of a wire connecting that instrument with another instrument makes it possible to communicate signals or words of any kind. .But the original meaning of the word “ telegraph “, as given in the Oxford Dictionary, is: “An apparatus for transmitting messages to a distance, usually by signs of some kind.” Now a message to be transmitted must have a recipient as well as a transmitter. The message may fall on deaf ears, but at least it falls on ears. Further, the strict reading of the word “ telegraph making it identical with the ordinary use of it, has already been given up in Toronto Corporation v. Bell Telephone Go. of Canada.
If honorable members will turn their minds to these phrases, they will see that in order to bring television within the ambit of that definition two hurdles will have to be cleared. The first is whether television is a message. That is something which will be a matter of great legal doubt. For example, in the High Court case to which I have referred, diametrically opposite views were expressed by Mr. Justice Dixon and Mr. Justice Evatt concerning what, in fact, constitutes a message. We can regard that as a matter of very grave doubt. Secondly, there is the question of transmission by sound, signals, code or words. Whether a picture comes within that definition or not is at least a matter of very grave doubt. It seems to me that we can say, on that case as I have quoted it, that none of the judges who decided it gave any clear indication that television falls within the ambit of the Commonwealth power or would fall within it for the same reasons that they thought radio broadcasting fell within it. It seems that they gave a not very clear indication that it does not fall within the power over telegraphs, telephones and other like services. Does it, perhaps, fall within the defence power, the trade and commerce power, or the external affairs power ? I think the House will agree that,, in a time of peace, it could not fall within, the defence power. It is true that radio broadcasting might come within the ambit of .the trade and commerce power, which relates to trade and commerce extending beyond the borders of a State or into another country, but I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that the range of television is very much more limited than is that of radio broadcasts. Transmissions from a television station in, say, Sydney would not be likely to be received in Melbourne, and certainly could not be received in Melbourne as a matter of ordinary trade and commerce.
It is interesting to note that in a. 1933 case in the United States of America, the trade and commerce power was used to justify the assumption of American federal power over radio broadcasting. It is interesting to note also that, in the High Court case to which I have referred, Mr. Justice Dixon remarked that the trade and commerce power might, in certain cases, be used to justify Commonwealth control of radio broadcasting; but, in view of the much greater limits that are imposed by physical factors upon the propagation of television signals, I do not think it is probable that the trade and commerce power would be available to the
Commonwealth, in relation to television. Indeed, it might not even he available to the Commonwealth in relation to the operation of section 92 of the Constitution, which provides for the freedom of trade and commerce. If, although there might be chance interference from time to time, television transmissions emanating from one capital city could not normally be seen in another, the operation of the trade and commerce power would be a very broken reed upon which to depend to bring the whole subject within the scope of Commonwealth authority and even section 92 might not be available to restrain both Commonwealth and States in any respect with regard to television.
Does it come under the external affairs power? Is it possible that, by the operation of some treaty or convention, it has been brought within the scope of Commonwealth authority? That involves the analysis of a legal doctrine of very doubtful validity. In fact, there is great argument about it. Probably, honorable members are familiar with a treatise upon the matter that was written in 1946 by Professor Bailey, the present SolicitorGeneral. He stated -
Summing up, it may fairly be said tha.t in the Air Navigation Convention case three Justices as against two held that under the “ external affairs “ power the existence of a treaty binding on the Commonwealth will carry with it legislative authority to give effect to the treaty.
I believe that that view was somewhat, although not entirely, invalidated by remarks that were made subsequently, in 1947, by Mr. Justice Dixon in the case of Sloan v. Pollard. Mr. Justice Dixon said that the order in question in that case* could not be justified under the external affairs power because it was not with respect to external affairs. This is a matter of grave legal doubt, and we do not know what the High Court will - decide. Perhaps we can dismiss rather more summarily the possibility of the invocation of the external affairs power if I remind the House of the limited range of television, and of the fact that none of the conventions at present in force appear to necessitate the exercise of Commonwealth power in regard to it. The conventions refer to harmful interference with other radio stations and to international radio traffic. Those con- ventions are concerned primarily with radio, not with television, which has a more limited range.
The one thing that is certain is that at the present time nobody can tell in what way the High Court would determine the case. I do not think there is a person in this House or outside it who can say with certainty what the law is on this matter. We shall not know what the law is until it has been determined by the High Court. It is a matter to which the House might well turn its attention, because we do not know whether the Parliament has legal authority to act in regard to television. I believe honorable members will agree that, whatever feelings we may have about where this authority should lie ultimately, this uncertainty is bad and that some steps should be taken to remove it. “ It could be removed by a referendum, but a referendum could not be held concurrently with the forthcoming Senate election, because, under section 128 of the Constitution, a clear period of at least two months must elapse before the passing of the bill through Parliament and its submission to the people. Because barely two months remain between now and the Senate election, it would not be possible to hold such a referendum concurrently with that election, and I do not think that a technical matter of this kind is a proper subject for a referendum. It might be better to refer the matter to the States. Under placitum (XXXVII.) of section 51 of the Constitution, the States may, if they so decide, refer matters to the Commonwealth Parliament, and when they do so the Commonwealth acquires competence in regard to those matters in the States which have so referred them. It may well be that that is the best way out of the present difficulty. I do not know what such a conference would decide, but I say that the doubt that must lie in everybody’s mind must be cleared up. Until it has been cleared up, it will be possible to have competing television systems. Perhaps this may be considered to be a far-fetched conjecture, but we could have the equivalent of the railway break of gauge in our television services, with sets of different line frequencies and with different characteristics, all of which could not receive messages from the same stations. In a matter such as this, some kind of uniformity is necessary and desirable. Even if the legal authority were to remain with the States, there should be some convention that requires uniformity to be considered. The present legal doubt constitutes some impediment to the establishment of television stations. That is undesirable, because one does not want legal technicalities to be the determinant of policy.
I am not trying to advance to the House the proposition that television lies outside the ambit of Commonwealth authority. The only proposition I advance is that in law, it is quite uncertain whether it lies within or without the ambit of Commonwealth authority. I believe that in passing this measure - I think we should pass it - we should keep that point of view in mind, and that steps should be taken along the lines I have indicated to resolve the doubt that undeniably exists. I repeat that I do not know, and that nobody else knows, the way in which the High Court would decide this contentious matter.
– We are living in stirring and trying times. The last two days have been most distressing for the. Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), as he has sat at the table in charge of this measure. Quite apart from the open change of opinion that he has had to express, or the change of policy that has been forced upon him by other members of Cabinet, he has been struck repeated blows by honorable gentlemen opposite. First we had the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), who speaks with considerable knowledge on this subject. He expressed grave doubts about the policy now being applied by the Government’ in relation to the introduction of television. Then the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) had, in the parlance of the race-track, “a bob each way”. He had some doubts but, about other matters, he was quite sure. He was not entirely with the Government although perhaps he did not hit the Postmaster-General so hard as did the honorable member for
Henty (Mr. Gullett) - always a forthright speaker in this chamber and one whose views always command respect. Then, the final straw - whether it will break the Postmaster-General’s back or not I cannot say - was the entry into the debate of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), somewhat in the manner of a jovial Irish tenant with a. shillelagh behind his back. He proceeded to crack the Postmaster-General over the head with the view that the Government’s proposal might not be completely constitutional. The PostmasterGeneral must be reeling under the successive blows delivered at this measure. I do not propose to follow the honorable member for Mackellar in his endeavours to relate the words of 1901 to the facts of 1953. He wearied the House by repeating sections and sub-sections, with which, of course, we are all completely familiar to the degree of word perfection. He referred to judgment after judgment by learned justices of the High Court of Australia and other eminent legal authorities, but again they were all matters with which we have grown up and to which we have devoted considerable study. However, as solace to the Postmaster-General, I asure him that he need not fear that the High Court will hold this measure to be beyond the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, because, I remind the House, all related matters are indisputably within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member intend to charge for his advice?
– I shall make no charge. My advice is quite free, and I shall be happy indeed if what I have said is of any comfort to the PostmasterGeneral because he has had a grievously disappointing day. I shall not take up much of the time of the House on this measure. In the words of the Bard, the honorable member for Henty has “ stolen my thunder “. He made the speech that I should like to have made, and he made it more forcibly and eloquently than I could have done.
– The honorable member . is far too modest.
– I have told the honorable member for Mitchell before that it is difficult for rae to he modest; nevertheless my tribute to the honorable member for Henty is sincere. I agree with him that we are not ready for television, and that many other things are much more urgently required in this country. After all, television is just another luxury, as the honorable member for Henty has pointed out.
– Then the honorable member for the Australian (Capital Territory disagrees with his “Deputy Leader?
– I do not hesitate to declare myself on these matters, and I hope to express myself more forcibly than «did the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) who came into this chamber last night like the last of the Mohicans, and talked about everything but the measure before the House. There is no public clamour in Australia for the introduction of television. It is not a subject of conversation where men are gathered together, nor is it a subject of conversation at the home fireside. Neither the miner coming from the pits nor the wharf labourer coming from the wharfs rushes home to hear in news broadcasts the latest developments on the television front. There is no demand by the public for an opportunity to view those charming little pictures of sporting and other activities, with which the VicePresident of the Executive Council may be more familiar than I am. The introduction of this measure is premature. Many things are more urgently needed than television, particularly in the country areas. There is an urgent need for the construction and improvement of country roads, the extension of telephone services, the building of schools and hospitals and the undertaking of water conservation and irrigation projects. On these and other activities such as pasture improvement^ money could be much more wisely expended than on the introduction of television, which will have a limited application and be available only to those who have a considerable amount of money to spend on it. Admittedly, television could bring some blessings, but it could also have many effects which could hardly be described as blessings. Like the honorable member for Henty, I should not like to see the development in this country of unthinking minds amongst children. 1 have no wish to see children sitting in darkened rooms, gazing at a screen, their thinking done for them, and views being poured into their receptive little brains, often, I believe, to their detriment.
There are other difficulties that would come in the train of television. It is true that to-day the market for radio receivers is over-supplied. Manufacturers of radio equipment are finding it difficult to sell their products. No doubt it would be in the interests of those people to have this new medium introduced in the major capital cities. They would be able to embark upon a campaign of advertising and ballyhoo in an endeavour to induce people to purchase television receivers, and perhaps to commit themselves, under time-payment agreements, to instalments which they would have considerable difficulty in meeting. However, that is a minor aspect of the matter. Television is an expense the country cannot afford and a luxury the country does not need. I have devoted some study to this subject and I commend to honorable members opposite recent issues of Punch or the London Charivari, which invariably depict the house with the television aerial on the roof as the house with the garden that is neglected, the lawns untrimmed and the vegetable patch unweeded
– This bill contains several important provisions. First, it contains the major and simple provision which removes the prohibition imposed by the 1948 Australian Broadcasting Act, on the use of television by commercial broadcasting stations. That is being done in conformity with the Government’s political principles. We believe that there should be commercial television just as there are commercial radio broadcasts. That is the point on which the two sides of this chamber join issue. Not long ago, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) announced publicly that, in his opinion, the dual system of television broadcasts should operate in this country. I suspect very strongly that that statement was made for one purpose alone, and that was to seek political support, because, quite clearly, the right honorable gentleman was not expressing the policy of the Labour party. The matter was referred to also - and again outside this Parliament - by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He stated that when the provision was inserted in the Australian Broadcasting Act 1948, it established Labour policy for television. The federal president of the Australian Labour party, who is a Tasmanian, said that it could be assumed that the policy of the Labour party would be not to allow commercial interests to participate in television. The Australian Labour party platform indicates that the nationalization of radio is part of Labour policy and when a Labour government inserted the prohibition in the Australian Broadcasting Act 1948, the Labour policy on television was laid down. It is significant that the honorable member for Melbourne has not spoken on this measure, because if he had done so he would have made his position quite clear.
I join issue with those persons who say that the time is not yet ripe to establish television in Australia. That savours of reactionary prejudice, and it is a common excuse that is frequently used. When notice is taken of it, it continues to be used as an excuse for doing nothing. I believe that we should have television in Australia because it is a scientific advance. Like so many other scientific advances, it is being opposed by some people. We have received great benefits for a long time from many scientific achievements that were opposed at the time they were first introduced. I think that it is silly to reject television, as some would reject it, because the best use has not been made of it overseas. We can learn a good deal from the experience of the United States of America and England, and we can use their experience to the best advantage in our own system of television and so avoid many of the pitfalls encountered by those two countries. Tt has been said that there has been much delay in introducing television into Australia. lt is quite true that in some senses that delay has been advantageous, because Ave are now able to take advantage of the fact that colour television is well on its way. Moreover, we can now use a 625-line system of television, which is a distinct advance on the 425-line system used in the United Kingdom and 525-line system in use in the United States of America. However, I do not believe that television will be in operation in Australia for about two years, but I consider that, on the whole, the delay that has occurred in its introduction has? been of some material advantage to us..
I, in common with others, question the.composition of the royal commission: that’ has been set up by the Government. S do not criticize those who have been appointed to the commission, but I believe that there was merit in the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition that a person of the character of Sir Ernest Fisk might have been appointed to the commission. Sir Ernest Fisk is a world authority on television and is well acquainted, not only with its practical aspects, but also with the economics of television. His advice would be of immense value in interpreting the evidence that might be placed before the commission. To that extent I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that theappointment of a person of the character, quality and capacity of Sir Ernest Fisk would have been a distinct advantage to the royal commission.
– Is Sir Ernest Fisk in Australia at present?
– No, he is not.
– I. believe that he is overseas at present. Much has been said about the dangerous effect that television may have on our young children. I agree with what my colleague the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) said to-day, that the real censorship of radio or television for children lies in parental control. Television sets are within the homes, and it is competent at all times for parents to censor what their children may view on the television screens. I take it that the powers that will be vested in the Australian Broadcasting Control Board” will be sufficient to ensure a cast-iron control of any political use of the system. It is my opinion that politics should’ have no part in television.
– That matter has been referred to the royal commission.
– I hope that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be given clear power to prevent the medium of television from being used by any political party. The recommendations that will be made about the maintenance of high educational and cultural standards will also be very important. I hope that the commission’s recommendations will come before the Parliament in due course, so that we shall be able to discuss them. Those who attach political significance to television should remember that the policy of the Australian Labour party is to nationalize both radio and television. The Australian Labour party in Tasmania has recommended that even the press should be nationalized. If radio and television were combined into a national monopoly, the combination would form a great and powerful vehicle for propaganda which would be subject to the worst form of abuse.
– “What about the British Broadcasting Corporation ?
– I was about to refer to that organization. No doubt the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will remember that about three years ago a television play entitled “ Party Manners “ which was humorously critical of the then British Labour Government led by Mr. Attlee, was produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation. After the third showing, the British Broadcasting Corporation, purely on the grounds that the play had some political aspects, banned it. That is a good illustration of how television can be controlled. I suggest that on no account should politics be allowed to enter television. Otherwise, if the Australian Labour party ever gains office in the future it will have a most powerful means at hand to put the country into a position where it will be subject to political pressure by vision and voice. Honorable members in this House have a duty to warn the country of that aspect of the matter. Another aspect also needs consideration. It has been stated that about 1,000,000 people are required to support one television station. Therefore, the public need not necessarily think that when television is introduced in Australia every person will be able to see it. Of course, the expense involved is enormous. That is why such a high density of population is required to support it. A further consideration is that the range is visual. That is being overcome in the United States of America by the use of micro-wave. It is clear that the people of Tasmania and Western Australia cannot expect to see television in those States for a very long time to come. However, I believe that the people of this country should be able to have a choice of television broadcast by both national and commercial stations. I believe that to be a very proper principle, and I join issue with people who say that the time is not ripe for its introduction. We need television in this country, for a variety of reasons that I shall not go into now.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from, 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– I desire to inform the House that the Right Honorable Lord McGowan of Ardeer, a member of the House of Lords and a gentleman who is well known to honorable members on both sides of the House, is within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Lord McGowan thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– by leave - On Tuesday last, I was asked by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) to make a statement to the House on what took place at last week’s conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in relation to the very important problem of the continuance or otherwise of what has been called the uniform tax system. That system, as honorable members will recall, was evolved in 1942 as a practicable means of enabling the Commonwealth war taxation to be raised to a suitable level without imposing impossible rates of tax upon residents of those States which were previously subject to high rates of State tax. The system was at first declared to be a war-time measure, but when the war ended it was continued. As honorable members know, the uniform tax legislation was challenged in the High Court in 1942 and was upheld as a valid exercise of the Commonwealth’s taxation powers.
Further discussion on this matter took place shortly after the present Government came into office. State Premiers have repeatedly, and with great force, indicated their dissatisfaction with a condition of affairs in which the taxation revenues of the States were not’ under their own control but were dependent upon an annual reimbursement grant from the Commonwealth. During the last three years, State Premiers have, very naturally, continued to criticize the continuance of a system which was justified by emergency but which was defective in point of general principle. As it is now the fashion of some partisans to suggest that the Commonwealth has no strong views on this matter, I think that my duty to my colleagues and to those who support us requires that I should quote to honorable members my own statement of the Government’s principle, made as recently as Saturday morning.
I then said to the assembled Premiers -
I believe that the federal system will break down hopelessly if the present state of affairs continues. . . . Federal governments will come and go like autumn leaves, because there will be constant pressure from the States to this effect : “ You must find the money so that we may be able to spend it “. In the same way, there is a hig danger that confronts the States themselves. A State that is not the master of its own revenue, which has to go along every year and say, “ Please “, will, in due course, at some moment of exasperation on the part of somebody, be confronted by the fact that it cannot have it except on terms, and the terms will inevitably relate to some extension of Commonwealth authority. The Government that holds the purse-strings will inevitably, more and more, move into the centre of things. If I were a unificationist I should regard this prospect with complete philosophy but as I am a federalist . to me this point is vital: How do we keep the federal system unless we get back to the position in which governments have separate powers and separate resources and are the masters of how they use the one or have recourse to the other.
I do not desire to qualify those words. They represent a point of view on federalism which I have maintained for twenty years.
At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held on the 7th July, 1952, we reached the culmination of a series of discussions in which the Commonwealth had been repeatedly told by State Premiers that the existing position was most unsatisfactory. This problem having been revived at the 1952 conference, and I myself having conferred with my colleagues in the Government, I said to the Premiers -
I say at once that, as a government, Ave agree that this is thoroughly unsatisfactory and that, in principle, it would be most desirable for the States to be in command of their tax revenues. Therefore, I tell all the States here represented that the Commonwealth Government is abundantly and promptly willing to discuss with them the return to the States of their taxing power There are one or two aspects of this matter that Ave should all keep in mind. From the point of view of the public there is enormous merit in having only one tax return, and, in the long run, one document of assessment because such a system is simple and people 1: 1101v exactly where they are. It would be a great pity, therefore, if anything that Ave did were to produce great complexity in the field of income tax returns and assessments. I am sure that every one here has those facts very much in mind. We must endeavour to preserve simplicity wherever possible. .
We are entirely in agreement with the necessity for the States to have their own taxing authority because we believe that it would mean that the States would, to that degree, be masters of their own budgets. They would no longer depend upon a decision by the Commonwealth as to how much money they should receive out of direct taxes. The return to the States of their power to levy income tax would do more than anything else that I can think of to rationalize financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States.
A little later at the same conference 1 said -
My Government believes that the present position is completely unsatisfactory and that we should do our best to resolve it by repealing the relevant law. That would be an arbitrary act in which I should not engage in a hurry. It is far better if Ave find Ave are on common ground, for us to sit down and work out proper ways and means of effecting the transition.
I think that it would be the general view of the Premiers that the first thing to be done is for the Secretary of the Commonwealth Treasury and the Under-Treasurer of each State to come together and work out the technical problems that are involved … I think that we can make it clear to them that we do not wish to produce once more a system of multiplicity of returns and assessments, or great complexities between one State and another on the principles of taxation. From the standpoint of the public, simplicity has great merit.
In the absence of any dissent it was agreed that the officers should get together, and in the result a very lengthy report which is now available to honorable members, and in which all the relevant facts were closely examined, but no opinions on policy matters were offered, was prepared. This report having been distributed and studied, we came back to the matter on Friday last.
On behalf of the Commonwealth, I indicated to the Premiers the precise nature of the questions which had to be considered. It is quite true that in respect of these matters the Commonwealth Government did not present a cut and dried technical plan on the footing of “ take it or leave it”. To pursue that course would be quite inconsistent with our view of the co-operation which is essential to the working of the federal system. I have not failed to observe that in one city at any rate, the Government in general, and I myself in particular, have been criticized ‘ for not having produced a detailed plan. Perhaps the best answer that I can make to that rather foolish criticism is that the Premiers at last week’s conference expressed their appreciation of the manner in which we had approached the matter. After all, there are problems connected with the States of which we are not the best judges and nothing would have been more damaging to Commonwealth-State co-operation on this matter than to produce a dogmatic solution of the problem.. Our judgment was that we would best serve practical needs if we isolated the points to be determined, offered some constructive ideas in respect of them and invited the Premiers, as heads of governments, to contribute to a sensible answer.
I now proceed to state in a very summary form the nature of the proposals that we put forward. In the first place we reminded the Premiers that the Commonwealth could quite readily terminate uniform taxation by repealing the relevant Commonwealth laws and leaving each State government to make its own arrangements regarding taxation law and the imposition and collection of State income tax. We indicated, however, that, as this direct method might easily involve taxpayers in the most hopeless confusion, it should be avoided. For our part we would prefer to achieve the change-over by such agreement as would restore taxing powers to the States while, at the same time, preserving for the taxpayer the advantages of simplicity which attach to the uniform tax system. Against this background we said -
On each of these three matters we put forward certain constructive suggestions for consideration by the Premiers. On uniformity of assessment laws, for example, we suggested that the governments should agree in the first place on the contents of the standard assessment law and then bind themselves not to depart from that standard law without the consent of all governments. We suggested that such an agreement should continue for a specified period at the end of which time the contents of the law would again be reviewed. As for the possibility of securing a single collecting authority and single returns and assessments, we reiterated our desire to cooperate in securing uniform assessment laws and the other conditions under which single assessments and collections would be possible. We indicated also that, as part of these arrangements, the Commonwealth would he prepared to repeal the present provision enforcing priority in the collection of Commonwealth tax. The Premiers welcomed this intimation. We also pointed out that, in the interests of simplicity, it was desirable that Commonwealth and State rates should be similar in form. The Premiers accepted our suggestion that the present Commonwealth “ stepped rate “ system should be adopted for this purpose. On the question of pay-as-you-earn deductions, we proposed, and there was no controversy about it, that joint arrangements should be worked out by the technical taxation people, the principle of securing a coordinated result - that is, a single deduction - being accepted.
On all of these matters, contrary to a current popular impression, the Premiers substantially agreed. ~No Premier was heard to say that the advantages from the point of view of the taxpayer under uniform tax should be cast away. These, as honorable members will see, were not matters which could be brought to finality at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers since most of the Premiers required some further joint technical arrangements. Subject to the views of the Premiers of Western Australia and Tasmania, who were in principle opposed to the restoration of State taxing powers, it was felt at the table that the technical discussions should readily produce an agreed result.
The next question that arose was as to whether on a return of taxing powers, the States should have access only to individual income tax or to both individual and company tax. On this point we offered our own view that as something like 50 per cent, of the total of company tax collections is obtained from companies deriving income from more than one State, there would be clear advantages in leaving company tax with the Commonwealth. Should it go back to the States, we said, interstate companies would have to undertake the task of dissecting their incomes as between States for income tax purposes. This view, I might add, was rather strengthened by the immediate differences of opinion which arose among the Premiers as to whether such companies should be taxed upon their income in relation to its source or upon their income in relation to the locality or residence of the company. For example, many companies which are engaged in interstate trade have their head offices in Victoria. The Premier of Victoria saw some advantage in taxing those companies as Victorian companies. On the other hand, some of those companies may conduct their operations and earn a good deal of their income in the State of Tasmania. The Premier of Tasmania saw advantages in taxing them in respect of the source of their income. We felt that, in these circumstances, interstate companies might well regret the day when they came under different tax authorities. The Premiers who discussed this problem took the view that they should have access both to company tax and to individual tax. As no immediate agreement was available on this point, it was left to the various governments concerned to consider the implications of the problem.
Again, it was clear that some arrangements would need to be made to help the States in the transition period, because, during the first year, the States would presumably be able to collect little more than instalment deductions, which would be much less than the full yield of their taxation for that year. We expressed the belief, however, that suitable financial arrangements could be worked out between the Commonwealth and the States, and indicated that the Commonwealth would be ready to cooperate in making such arrangements.
This eminently fair proposal was accepted by the State Premiers. I pause at this point just to emphasize the extent of the common ground thus arrived at. It really amounted to this: that on all the points which concern simplicity from the point of view of the taxpayer and justice to the States in the temporary problems that would be associated with the change-over, the suggestions made by the Commonwealth were agreeable to the Premiers. When I say this, it is fair to emphasize that Western Australia and Tasmania did not want the new system at all ; but it is equally fair to say that, assuming that the States were to revert to their own taxing authority, those States agreed with the others in thinking that what I have called the “ common ground “ was essential.
This brings me to the one major matter upon which agreement was not reached. I can put it simply enough in a single question. To what extent was the Commonwealth prepared to reduce its tax collections in order to make room for the States to impose their own taxes without hardship? On this point some people, who apparently paid little attention to what took place at the conference or who were perhaps moved by indomitable prejudice, have taken leave to say that the Commonwealth Government, through myself, made no proposals at all. This is completely untrue. What happened was this : The Premier of New South Wales made a speech in which he put forward a series of proposals on tax reductions. To the extent to which these were recommendations to the Commonwealth as to how the Commonwealth should manage its own financial affairs, they were, of course, both irrelevant and, I am sorry to say, irresponsible. We do not presume to tell the State governments how they should manage their affairs, because they know more about their affairs than we do. Everybody in this House favours the greatest possible reduction of taxes, but it is only the Government of the Commonwealth which is responsible for dealing with that problem on a practical footing.
The New South Wales Premier put forward a politically engaging proposal that the Commonwealth should retain the sole right to impose income tax on taxpayers with incomes of £1,000 a year or less or, in other words, 75 per cent, or 80 per cent, of the taxpayers, while the States should go into the field above that figure; that the Commonwealth should reduce its company taxation for the purpose of admitting the States to the company tax field; and that the Commonwealth and States should limit themselves to certain maximum rates of tax. We at once had the taxation authorities work out the effect of Mr. Cahill’s proposals. In plain figures, they involved a reduction of Commonwealth income tax by about £268,000,000. When I point out to honorable members that the present tax reimbursements paid by the Commonwealth to the States amount to £136,000,000, it will be seen that what Mr. Cahill was proposing was that we should not only vacate the field to the extent of what we are now collecting on behalf of the States, but that we should also reduce our remaining tax yield by an approximately similar amount, namely, £132,000,000. The Premier of South Australia was prepared to reduce Mr. Cahill’s £26S,000,000 to £250,000,000. The Premier of Victoria gave no sign of supporting either of these figures; but, so far as I could judge, thought that £200,000,000 might be sufficient.
In my turn, I said on behalf of the Commonwealth Government that if, by some strange magic, the change-over could occur instantaneously the proper course for us would be to reduce our tax yield by £136,000,000, being the amount of the tax reimbursement. But I added - and said it repeatedly - that, as it did not seem practicable for the change-over to occur before the next financial year, 1953-54, it would he necessary for us to get the expert officers to collect the facts which would enable what would normally be the tax reimbursement for 1953-54 to be worked out. I indicated that, when worked out, that would be the figure by which we should reduce our taxation on the change-over to State taxes. The notion, which I have read here or there, that at this stage we should have named a figure for 1953-54 is, of course, quite absurd. As I pointed out to the Premiers, they would properly resent any attempt in February to fix the tax reimbursement for a financial year which is not to begin until the 1st July. Clearly, both they and the Commonwealth must know much more, as they will during the next few months, of their probable budgetary position in 1953-54 before any honest estimate can be made of what the tax reimbursement should properly be. In the upshot - and this has ‘been much overlooked - the Premiers agreed that their experts and the experts of the Commonwealth should proceed to direct themselves to this necessary task. When that task has been performed and we meet the Premiers again, we will be, for the first possible time, in a position to say by what amount we will reduce our taxation in order to accommodate the States, and the States will, for the first possible time, be in a position to discuss that precise offer. The principle of the Commonwealth’s offer, therefore, is perfectly clear and is well understood by the State Premiers. inow come back a little to explain to honorable members why suggestions about £268,000,000 or £250,000,000 are completely unacceptable. One or two of the Premiers made it quite clear that they would like to be able to accompany their resumption of taxing power with some tax reduction. On behalf of the Commonwealth. I agreed entirely that it would be grossly unsatisfactory to the Australian taxpayer if reversion to two taxing authorities meant a greater total of taxation. This, I think everybody will agree, would be deplorable. But honorable members of this Parliament will not fail to observe that, if the tax reimbursement figure is properly fixed - and I am bound to say that we have approached it in no niggardly fashion in recent years - the reduction of Commonwealth tax beyond that amount for the sole purpose of giving the States an extra field of income tax would lead to some very odd results.
I propose to illustrate that by one or two examples. Supposing, first, that we reduced Commonwealth taxes by £268,000,000, which is the amount the proposals put forward by Mr. Cahill have been estimated to involve. AsI pointed out earlier, that would reduce the Commonwealth’s resources by a net amount of about £132,000,000, after allowing for our saving of the present reimbursement grant. We would either have to cut expenditure ruthlessly or else issue a huge additional amount of treasury-bills, since we cannot rely upon borrowing on the market more than we now do.
Meanwhile, all the States would have been put in a position to reduce taxation. By that I mean that the taxes they would find it necessary to impose in order to finance their current services would, when added to the rates of Commonwealth tax as they would then stand, produce levels of total taxation in their respective States lower than present Commonwealth taxation. In one or two States, the richer States of New South Wales and “Victoria, taxation would be very much lower.
I shall take the case of New South Wales, the State from which this remarkable proposition sprang and in which it seems to have evoked a certain enthusiasm. We may ignore for the moment the peculiar feature of Mr. Cahill’s pro posal, which seems to draw a rigorous class distinction or income distinction between taxpayers. I shall deal with that . feature presently and discuss the matter in terms of average results. On the basis of estimated New South Wales taxable capacity, taxation in that State could be reduced by an average of 22 per cent from present levels. In Victoria it could be reduced still more than this. In other States the reduction would be less. But. let us stick to New South Wales. I said earlier that there would be some odd results from this proposition. Let me point out one or two. They are -
There is an alternative. Having abandoned £132,000,000 worth of taxation we might, perhaps, have to re-impose it - having pretended to give £132,000,000 to the States. But there is one further oddity - the oddest ofall I have kept it, as a choice morsel, to the last, and I offer it with warm commendation to honorable members opposite. In Mr. Cahill’s proposition, New South Wales taxation on individuals is to be confined to people with incomes of £1,000 a year or higher. From this it appears that, if Mr. Cahill sticks to his principle, these favoured people and only these would benefit from Mr. Cahill’s tax reductions. That is to say, his great bounty is to be showered on the relatively small class of people - some 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the taxpayers who happen to be in the middle and upper income classes, whilst the grea t majority, 75 per cent or80 per cent would get no relief from him. I know that he has recommended that the Commonwealth should reduce its taxes on these people by some 20 per cent. But in the circumstances in which we would be placed, i.e., with a loss of revenue of £132,000,000 over and above what we now pay to the States, I fear that, regretfully, we could not accept his recommendation.
I turn now to a somewhat more modest proposition, one which appeared to be favoured by Mr. Cain, the Premier of Victoria. This would be that, to give the States an adequate field of taxation, the Commonwealth should reduce its taxes by the equivalent of £200,000,000 a year. The implications of this may be fairly readily determined from the calculations in the officers’ report. I may state a few of them -
No doubt this is the policy of the Opposition. If it is it will be interesting to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) confirm it.
– It seems to be your policy. Mr. MENZIES.- If the Opposition adheres to its policy it will, as a government, issue £300,000,000 worth of treasury-bills in its first twelve months of office. The next implication of Mr. Gain’s proposal which I was about to mention was-
There, I think, you have the critical defect of these propositions advanced by the States. Put in one way, they mean that the Commonwealth should cut its expen ditures or engage in inflationary methods of finance in order that some States - but not all States - could have lower levels of taxation. To some States - those which have put the proposals forward - they hold out considerable advantages. To other States, however, they offer little or no advantage at all, or perhaps an actual disadvantage.
That brings me to an aspect of the matter, the significance of which will not, I am sure, be lost upon any member of this House. It is that if the Commonwealth Parliament makes tax reductions they apply equally to people in all parts of Australia. There is no distinction between the people of Tasmania and New South Wales or those of any other States. If, however, the State governments are to make tax reductions they will almost necessarily vary as between States. You will have the position where, say, people south of the Queensland border get the benefit of quite substantial easing of their tax whilst those north of the border might get none at all.
As I shall explain a little later, the proposition put forward by the Commonwealth was intended to prevent as far as possible this sort of anomaly arising. Political considerations quite apart, there are some quite profound reasons of economic advantage why rates of income tax in the various parts of Australia should not be allowed to vary in any significant way. The Commonwealth regards that as a highly important consideration and one which it has an obligation to safeguard. Meanwhile may I recall that my Government in its last budget made quite real tax reductions. It is no more anxious to maintain unnecessary imposts than anybody else. It has great hopes of future tax reductions. It sees no reason why it should abandon that hope in order to concede demands from the States which have no relation whatever to reality.
As the Premier of New South Wales thought fit to produce a series of bold proposals for tax reduction, which he was himself under no obligation to perform, and as he based his proposals upon the proposition that the Commonwealth was now taking a far greater percentage of the national income than it did before the war and was, in short, spending far too much., I will take this opportunity of stating quite briefly the substance of the answer that I made to him on that point.
Mr. Oahill said ; and I do not vouch for his figures ; that the Commonwealth was now getting 11 per cent, of the national income by way of taxation compared with 4 per cent, before the war. He included, of course, inour taxation the amount of approximately ?178,000,000 which we pay over to the States, to say nothing of the ?288,000,000 which, over a period of two years, we have found for the States for their works programmes. The particular answer to this allegation is that in 1938-39 the items of defence, war and repatriation payments to the States and social services were 6.5 per cent, of the gross national income whereas to-day they are 15.8 per cent. I venture to observe that no Premier proposed that we should default on our war and repatriation expenditure and payments to the States, or reduce social services. I also record that no Premier was prepared to say that our defence expenditure should be materially reduced. Since 1938-39, the defence vote has grown from ?9,000,000 to ?200,000,000, our war debt charges from ?10,000,000 to ?60,000,000, our war pensions from ?8,000,000 to ?36.000.000, our social services from ?16,000,000 to ?164,000,000, our payments to the States for other than works purposes from ?15,500,000 to ?178,000,000.
I point out, and it is a fact which ought widely to be known, that the total Commonwealth departmental expenditure represents only 5 per cent of the total of our budget; and that although we have made substantial economies, they have not only been vigorously attacked but have also been accompanied by the award of steadily rising salaries and wages. The huge figures put forward by at least two of the Premiers, therefore, as the appropriate figure by which we should clear the ground for the States, would involve either -
I should like to hear anybody in this House stand up and say that these great massive items are to be cut down -
For a time, I tell the House frankly,I thought that these figures were propounded as a disguised means for defeating the return of State taxing power. But I have hopes, having regard to the final decisions of the conference to which 1 have referred, that they can be regarded as argumentative only, and that when the officers have reasonably estimated the figures for 1953-54, we shall find that, like ourselves, the State governments do believe in federalism, and that they genuinely wish to be the masters of their own revenues.
I should like to return now to a particularly important problem which was involved in our discussions, and which I touched upon earlier. If the States re-entered the field of taxation in their own right, to replace the tax reimbursement which they now get from the Commonwealth, Victoria would be better off. for it has undoubtedly suffered disabilities under the uniform tax system. But there are some other States which would not be in this happy position. “Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania are dealt with at present by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. But Queensland, whose State income tax, before uniform tax, was the highest in Australia, would find itself at a grave disadvantage if State taxing powers were returned and nothing more were done. I made it clear from the outset, and I know that Mr. Gair, the Premier of Queensland, thoroughly appreciated it. that we recognized the gross inequity of putting Queensland back into a position in which the rates of State tax wouldhave to be much higher than in any other State. On behalf of the Government. therefore, I not only urged that there should be substantial uniformity of State rates of tax, but went further, and said that as Queensland would be under a disability, the Queensland rates of tax could be kept in harmony with those of other States only by the making, on the part of the Commonwealth, of a special compensation grant to Queensland. I stated that we were very willing to do this. I proposed to Mr. Gair that his expert officers and those of the Commonwealth should confer in order to devise appropriate machinery by which the amount of that grant could be assessed. I further indicated to him that, so that the reception of this grant should not be precarious we, the Commonwealth, would be willing to put the whole thing on a contractual basis, to give it statutory effect and to offer such further elements of security as his advisers might suggest.
In short, therefore, on all those aspects which are concerned with simplicity and reasonable uniformity it was clear that there would be no difficulty, subject to the technical working out of details, in retaining the advantages of uniform tax and in protecting adequately the special position of a State like Queensland. This is, T. should add, of great importance, because it is particularly true in Australia that some of the States of least taxable capacity are those in which the opportunities for expansion are greatest.
The one large matter which in point of principle is left not finally decided is the question as to the extent to which the Commonwealth shall reduce its taxation in order to admit the States to a proper share of the tax field. On this the Commonwealth has made its proposal. Some of the States have proposals of their own. When the facts to be elicited by the officers, who are to work on this matter over the next two or three months, have become available, the Commonwealth will be in a position to state a proposal that will be precise not only, as now, in principle but also in monetary terms. At that point of time the next conference with the Premiers will enable us all to know whether agreement can be arrived at and whether the resumption by the States of their income tax power is to be achieved by sensible mutual arrangement.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Uniform Tax Discussions - Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers - - February, 195ft - ‘Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
– Although 1 have had an opportunity to read the paper during the suspension of the sitting, I think that it is right that I should state at once certain matters that arise out of the very important statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The statement deserves close attention. I contest the matter at once, so far as the Government’s policy is concerned, by quoting from the statement that the Prime Minister made a moment ago. He said -
But Queensland, whose State income tax before uniform tax was the highest in Australia, would find itself at a grave disadvantage if State taxing powers were returned.
The Government merely wishes to get rid of uniform taxation, because it has not a firm policy on the issue. From beginning to end of the Prime Minister’s statement there is nothing settled, no definite decision made. The Government is still searching round on the fringes of the question, instead of coming to the decisive point. We have the open, frank and correct admission by the Prime Minister that, developing and sparsely inhabited States like Queensland, in which governments have to spend large sums of money for rural development and the like, which inevitably would mean the” imposition of higher State taxes than would have to be imposed in the more developed States, would suffer a grave disadvantage now if uniform tax were abolished. We now come to the real essence of the matter This is not a matter that lies only between the Commonwealth and the States. The Prime Minister says, “We did this for the States, and they only did this “. It is the more fundamental question of what services are to be performed for the people either by State or Commonwealth, and what burden has to be borne by the person who pays - the taxpayer. No genera] notions on sovereignty come into this. The Australian Loan Council is an organization through which loans are raised as a result of arrangements made between the Commonwealth and States, and in my opinion the present system of uniform taxation is the only system that can work on a basis of social equity in Australia. It is not a question of the States having this, or giving away that. It is a question of what is just and fair to Australia as a whole, because the great and more populous States like New South Wales and Victoria, with advantages that are denied to the less populous States, are under an obligation to look to the development of other parts of Australia as well as their own. That is the position we have put. What is the basis of uniform taxation? It affect3, of course, direct taxation only. That fact should not be overlooked when we talk about taxation. The Commonwealth is exclusive master of the field of indirect taxation, and it has not been idle in exercising its power. Sales tax, which all pay and very few are aware of paying, has increased, since Mr. Chifley’s last budget, by £45,000,000 a year. At one stage, of course, the Commonwealth was obliged to give to the States a proportion of indirect taxes, but that obligation was removed and the Australian Loan Council agreement substituted. Sales tax has now reached an aggregate figure which is far higher than it was in the years of greatest crisis during World War II. Indeed, I think it is now twice as much as it was then.
What is wrong with the uniform tax system? Every company in Australia which makes a profit pays tax at the same rate. Is that not just? Every individual is in the same position. The Prime Minister said, by implication, that it would be unfair if reductions of tax applied only to certain States. I agree with the right honorable gentleman. As far as it is possible to do so, reductions of tax should be enjoyed by taxpayers all over Australia. However, that cannot be done except under a system of uniform taxation. Whether the Prime Minister was a little more logical or accurate on minor aspects of the plan during his excellent debating speech may be overlooked. The important thing is that this Government has no firm policy on the proposal to abolish uniform tax. Does it intend to do so or not? In my opinion it is a matter that should be decided by the people of Australia, who will shortly have an opportunity to do so. Once more we find that the matter is to go back for consideration by departmental officers. The Commonwealth could abolish uniform taxation by means of legislation. It is certain, from what the Prime Minister has said, that the agreement of some of the States to that course cannot be obtained. Is the Commonwealth to abolish the system despite the disagreement of some of the States ? There is no answer to that question, which is the real matter to - be determined.
As I have already said, a fair analysis shows that what is wanted in this matter is an approach from the point of view of the citizens, not from that of the States or the Commonwealth. The States do not say “ Please “ to the Commonwealth, or at least they should not have to do so. The reimbursement is intended to cover the necessary services of the States, because they do not impose direct taxation. Why should they be obliged to ask the Commonwealth graciously to exercises its power and give them some money? That position should be reviewed. It seems to me that recent practice proves that the reimbursement formula is not correct. Why cannot the States and the Commonwealth form a council to review the position? For that matter, why cannot the Australian Loan Council consider the matter from the point of view of the whole economy? The solution of the taxation problem can be found only after a complete review of the uniform tax system.
– A just review,
– Exactly. If _ that is done, and a proposal comes, for instance, from Queensland or Western Australia it can then be taken into consideration. I am not aware that there has been, as yet, any substantial difficulty regarding the amount to be fixed by way of reimbursement. In any event, it should not be so. The problem should be capable of solution.
The revenues belong not to the Commonwealth but to the people. The true principle is that no tax should be imposed upon the people of Australia, whether they are regarded as citizens of a State or of the Commonwealth, unless it is necessary to do so. That doctrine seems to have been forgotten in recent years. I entirely dispute the Prime Minister’s point that this is a question of unification or federation. It is nothing of the kind. It is simply a question of what is a fair, just and equitable business arrangement to keep the burdens of direct taxation to a minimum while permitting all essential services to be performed by the States and the Commonwealth. The substance of the matter, which I am endeavouring to state from the point of view of the Opposition, was lost sight of in a number of subordinate and quite illusory points made by the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman stated that it was a good thing to have one tax return. That is true. It is a wonderful thing to have a tax return to which the seven taxing authorities of Australia - six States and the Commonwealth - can have access, but I suggest that the tax return is not important. The important thing is not what is sent out by the Taxation Branch to the taxpayer but what is returned by him. It is of little avail to deal with this matter as though the tax return is of the slightest importance. I remind the Prime Minister that a uniform tax return was in existence in some of the States before the system of uniform taxation commenced to operate. Such a return is so obviously convenient from the point of view of every one concerned that it is not difficult to confuse the question of the type of return required with the real question, which is: Do we want in Australia seven authorities with power to tax?
Let us consider the case of a company which carries on business in a number of States. Before uniform taxation commenced to operate, the Commonwealth taxed the company, and each State in which it operated also taxed it, some according to a certain system of taxation and others according to other systems. Some of the larger companies were probably obliged to meet seven tax assessments. No wonder the Prime Minister wishes to retain company taxation for the Commonwealth! But how can there be a move away from the uniform tax system if company tax does not come into it? It must come into it. If direct taxation is to be given back to the States and if the re-im’bursement system is to go, the States could not be expected to deny themselves the right to tax companies which operate within their borders. The Prime Minister was quite correct in asking, “What is the basis of taxation ? “. Large companies, such as mining and industrial concerns, operate in as many as three States of the Com mon wealth. Many of them have their head offices in Melbourne. Incidentally, 1 suggest that the people of Victoria have been somewhat misled concerning this problem by some of the agitation to which it has given rise - not by members of the Government but by commentators. Where the head office of a company is in Melbourne the tax is paid in Victoria, but if there was a reversion of taxing powers to the States, then tho tax would probably be levied in the States in which the operations of the company were conducted, not the place of residence. What contribution, for instance, would a company make to the State which is the source of its wealth if tax were based upon the residence of the company, that being in Melbourne?’ Would Victoria collect taxes on the whole of the profits ? Of course not !
Before uniform tax operated, the intolerable system obtained that every State took a share of the profits. Sometimes the taxation was, in the aggregate, more than 100 per cent, of the profits. By that I mean that 70 per cent, was regarded as profits referable to New South Wales, 40 per cent, to another State, and so on. No wonder the companies of Australia who have some appreciation of the importance of industry and development are opposed . to getting rid of the system of uniform tax. Such a course would be a burden to industry. There would be a certain rate of tax in a particular State and a different rate in another State. The whole idea of this planning or negotiation is that the right of the State to tax is pre-eminent. If the uniform tax system were to go, a company operating in New South Wales would be taxed at a certain figure by that State and by the Commonwealth. On the other hand, a Victorian company operating in Victoria would be taxed at a different figure, although its profit was exactly the same as that of the New South Wales company, simply because it was carrying on business across the border. Interstate competition would then become impossible. Industry would be threatened and, perhaps, ruined.
People such as the late Mr. Chifley, Mr. Scullin and Mr. Curtin, and indeed many supporters of the present Government advocated the uniform tax system. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) made a magnificent speech - which he seldom does - in favour of that system. I think that I am right in saying that the honorable gentleman stated that it should not operate only for the duration of the war, because he believed it to be a just system. Our present Ambassador to the United States of America, Sir Percy Spender, was on the committee, which considered the matter, together with Mr. E. S. Spooner, one of the greatest Australian authorities on taxation law. Uniform tax was practically an all-party plan. The subject was considered from an Australian point of view, not as being opposed to the federal system but as a businesslike system that would mete out justice to the people and companies of Australia. Before the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was made applicable to many industries, there were different standard hours in different States. There was a 40-hour week in one State, a 44-hour week in another, and a 48-hour week in another. Fair competition was impossible. So with taxation. I say that companies will, and should, be opposed to the abolition of uniform taxation. It cannot be justified from that point of view, and a different approach to the matter should be tried.
Let me refer to what may be called the points of detail that were made by the Prime Minister. The first was -
The Commonwealth and States should adopt and maintain, as nearly as practicable, uniform assessment laws.
That would be practicable with assessment laws in the sense of measuring taxable income. But would all the States adopt the same rate of tax?
– There are seven authorities.
– That is so. It is impossible to achieve uniformity, except under a uniform taxation system. The Prime Minister made the point that there should be single returns, single assessments and single scales of instalment deductions for those who pay under the pay-as-you-earn system. Those points are very good, but they are only minor points.
The company tax to which I have referred is an illustration of how impossible these proposals are. The Prime Minister said -
The next question which arose was whether, on a return of taxing powers, the States should have access only to individual income tax or to both individual and company tax. On this point, .we offered our own view that, as something like 50 per cent, of the total of company tax collections is obtained from companies deriving income from more than one State, there would be clear advantages in leaving company tax with the Commonwealth.
What are the States going to say about that? If we do away with tax reimbursement and with uniformity, there will be a wild scramble and the people of Australia, in the aggregate, will pay more taxes. The figures relating to the period prior to the introduction of uniform taxation reveal the disparities between the taxes that were imposed at that time upon companies and individuals in various States. They are contained in the document that has been circulated by the Prime Minister. It is a most valuable and informative document. Those figures constitute a completely convincing argument in favour of the system of uniform taxation. It has been pointed out that companies are comparatively few in number, and that it is easier to collect taxes from them than from individuals. In those circumstances, it is certain that the States will not part with what has been called access to the taxation of companies.
The real point is whether it would be fair and just that companies operating in Australia and making the same profit in businesses of the same type should pay different sums in taxes because they were operating or were resident in one State or another. Such a state of affairs would be neither fair nor just. The people who instituted the uniform tax system were wise in their generation. They contributed something to the view that there should be a common effort by the people of Australia to meet the expense of providing the necessary services of government, whether Commonwealth or State. All these tentative suggestions and proposals are subject to if s and whens.
The other day, the Premier of Western Australia said that he would not agree to the abolition of uniform taxation, and the Premier of Tasmania has adopted the same attitude. Does this Government intend to abolish the system, notwithstanding the objections of those Premiers ? We have not had an answer to that question yet.
– There is no mandate Tor the abolition of uniform taxation.
– As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) reminds me, the Government has no mandate for the abolition of uniform taxation. The matter has not been referred to the people. It would not have arisen except tor the fact that in recent years, due to the colossal burden of taxation that has been borne by the people of Australia - [ emphasize the word “ people “ - there has been strong criticism of heavy taxes. We on this side of the House have made that criticism, and we stand by it. Taxation is too high. Mr. Colin Clark has stated that taxation in a community cannot rise safely above a certain percentage of the national income, but during the last two years that percentage has been exceeded in this country. This is a difficult period, but it is not a period of war. Nevertheless, a record percentage of the national income has been taken in taxation.
Does the Government intend to go ahead with its proposals, despite the opposition to them ? I submit that it should not do so. Most unfair criticism was levelled at the Premier of New South Wales.
– Is that possible?
– It is not only possible but actual when the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) makes such an observation. The Prime Minister said that the Premier of New South Wales indicated that he might, be prepared to levy income tax upon incomes above a certain figure, and said nothing about a reduction of taxes upon incomes under that figure. Mr. Cahill’s plan is that the Commonwealth and States should agree that their taxation needs be met from a smaller total tax field by adjusting the limits of taxation. [Extension of time granted.’) It was an essential part of the plan that the present rate of incometax be reduced by 20 per cent, in respect of the first £800 of the taxable income of individual taxpayers, and by 10 per cent, on the balance. Therefore, the Premier’s plan had taken care of that situation.
– I said that he recommended that we should reduce income tax on the- income range applicable to the Commonwealth.
– All that the Premier of New South Wales did was to ask theCommonwealth to agree to his plan, but it- would not do so. I want to make it clear that I have not studied the Premier’s plan in detail, but I say that the criticism of him is most unfair. The plan represents an effort to deal with this matter, not in form only, but in reality and substance, and to ensure that the people of Australia will get the benefit of tax reductions as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister stated -
That brings me to an aspect of the matter, the significance of which will not, I am sine, bo lost upon any member of this House, [t is that, if the Commonwealth Parliament makes tax reductions, they will apply equally in all parts of Australia.
That is the position under uniform taxation. It is true that, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth cannot discriminate between the States. No such discrimination is imposed upon the taxing power of the States. They can discriminate as much as they like. The right honorable gentleman continued -
There is no distinction between the people of Tasmania and New South Wales or those of any other States. If, however, the State governments make tax reductions, they will almost necessarily vary as between States. We should have a position in which, say, people south of the Queensland border-
I presume that refers to the people of New South Wales - got the benefit of a quite substantial easing of their taxes, whilst those north of the border got none at all.
That is a perfect example of a truism. The right honorable gentleman was only saying in another way that unless we have uniform taxation there will be discrimination, and we shall revert to the bad old system that operated previously.
That system was so unfair to the people of Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania that a special commission had to be established to consider applications by three of those States for special grants. Now, lo and behold, the Prime Minister has professed himself as willing to consider the payment of compensation to Queensland because that State would suffer as a result of this proposed change. The people of Queenslaud want, not charity, but justice. They want the same treatment as the people in any other part of Australia, and that can be achieved only under uniform taxation. Could anything justify more effectively the principle of uniform taxation than the Prime Minister’s admission that, if uniform taxation were abolished, something would have to. bc done about Queensland, and that probably Queensland would have to become a claimant State like Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania ? Then he said, “ Company taxation? Of course, that is covered by uniform taxation, but it is very awkward. Some companies carry on businesses in more than one State, and whereas one State might want to tax a company by reference to residence, another State might prefer to impose the tax on the basis of source. Perhaps the States should abandon their right to tax companies “. The Government must decide cither to retain uniform taxation or to abolish it. I say that it should be retained, and that reimbursements to States should be reviewed periodically in the light of the just needs of both the Commonwealth and the States.
The Prime Minister, of course, had his little boast about the reduction of taxes. I shall add one qualification. The Treasurer did reduce income tax last year by 10 per cent., but as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has pointed out by way of interjection the Treasurer had imposed that additional 10 per cent, in the previous year. Certainly he reduced taxes by 10 per cent., but, owing to inflation, tens of thousands or perhaps nearly 1,000,000 additional taxpayers were brought within the scope of the income tax. Therefore I cannot regard last year’s gesture as a real contribution towards the reduction of taxes.
I come now to a great fallacy in the Prime Minister’s case. Unless the Government is prepared to say that it proposes to end uniform taxation, the Prime Minister need not bother holding conferences and assuring the Premiers that there would still be uniform tax returns. We must get to the heart of the matter. I ask the Government now to make a firm decision not to interfere with uniform taxation. I realize that the States have certain objections to it. They want increased grants for their services. ‘Inflation has put a heavy burden on the States as well as on the Commonwealth. Special difficulties have arisen. Why could npt the needs of the States be reviewed from year to year by some competent authority such as the Commonwealth Grants Commission ?
– They are reviewed at Premiers conferences.
– I know that; but I am speaking of a body that will report its findings to the Parliament and recommend what it considers to be adequate grants. We have had uniform taxation since 1942. It carried us successfully through the war years and the post-war years and I believe that the people generally approve of it. No government has the right to abolish uniform taxation without the Consent of the people, including particularly, in my opinion, the people of Queensland, to whom the Prime Minister has made special reference in his statement. I commend to honorable members the report of taxation officers, which shows the disparities that existed before uniform taxation was introduced. The old system made such inequalities absolutely unavoidable, and they will be unavoidable again if uniform taxation is abandoned. Australian companies will be in a difficult position. Fair competition will disappear. Individuals in the same profession, on the same income and entitled to the same social services will pay different rates of tax. I remind the House that Australia now has a much more comprehensive social services scheme than it had before the war and that almost all social services are now provided by the Commonwealth. Therefore the case for uniform taxation is stronger to-day than ever. Our social services in their modern form have come into existence only in the last eight or ten years. The assumption by the Commonwealth of the major responsibility for social services has made equal benefits available to all the Australian people. W]]v should the burden of providing for those social services not be borne equally ? The people are tired of excessive taxes. Honorable members opposite talk a lot about incentives. The people must be given incentives. Taxation has been too heavy. In these circumstances, I believe that uniform taxation, with, of course, provision for a periodical review of anomalies and of special claims for reimbursement, is an absolute essential.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hulme) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 396).
– Last night, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J, Harrison), in an extraordinary speech, made a series of unjustified, unprovoked, unfair and improper attacks on the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and myself in relation to television. He sought to emphasize what he claimed were differences of opinion between the Leader of the Opposition and myself. One thing he chose to ignore, however, was the unity amongst all members of the Australian Labour party, including the Leader of the Opposition and myself, to do our utmost to get rid of a very bad Government and to replace it with a good Labour administration. In an endeavour to escape the just wrath of the Australian people at an early date, the Vice-President of the Executive Council sought to magnify what he said were differences of opinion. It was completely wrong of him to misrepresent and distort what the Leader of the Opposition said. He ignored the principal point in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition which was that the guiding principle in television should be service and not profit. This bill does not establish that principle. It is a mass of words with no clear meaning and no honest intention. It is a bill to fool the people into believing that the Government will do something which it has no intention of doing.
The history of television in this country can be briefly stated. In 1941, at the? instance of the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Curtin, the Menzies Government appointed a committee of Parliament under National Security Regulations. The committee was headed by Senator W. G. Gibson, a member of the Country party and a former distinguished Postmaster-General. That committee made a long series of unanimous recommendations to the Parliament. Indeed, it was one of the few parliamentary committees that have had the satisfaction of seeing every one of their recommendations embodied in legislation. As I have said, the chairman of the committee was Senator Gibson. Other members were Sir Charles Marr, Dr. Grenfell Price, Senator Amour, the present honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), and myself. One of the committee’s recommendations to which effect was given was as follows : - 103. Notwithstanding anything contained in the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1036, the Minister administering that Act shall not - (<l) grant any licence for any purpose for which a licence may too granted under this Act; or (el except on the recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting grant licences in respect of facsimile, television or frequency modulation services.
The Parliament enacted that provision, as it did every other provision in the committee’s report, with very little debate and a general acceptance of the principles underlying the recommendations of the committee. It was the Curtin Government that secured the passage of the legislation because, in the period between the appointment of the committee and the presentation of its report, the Menzies Government had passed into history, and Australia had a very good Labour government instead. In 1946, the Chifley Government, bearing in mind the provisions of the 1942 act relating to television, referred the matter to the Broadcasting Committee, which made certain recommendations in its twelfth report presented to the Parliament on the 17th June, 1946. That was a very good committee, as the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) reminds me of television and cognate subjects. He certainly was a distinguished member of it. The committee took evidence from representatives of the Postal Department, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Federation of Commercial Stations, radio equipment manufacturers, broadcasting stations in which capital city newspapers are financially interested and capital city newspaper interests which do not hold broadcasting station licences. After fully investigating the matter, the committee came to the following conclusion : -
In order to test the cost aspect and to facilitate a decision on the standards which might be adopted, we recommend - as a first step in evolving adequately informed conclusions on the issues raised in our terms of reference - .that tenders bc invited, as soon as circumstances permit, under conditions acceptable to the Post Office, with a view to consideration being given to the question of arranging experimental transmissions in Sydney and Melbourne . ..
With regard to the question of issuing experimental licences to commercial undertakings at the present time, we are of the opinion that it would be preferable to avoid duplication of the heavy expenditure involved in their conducting independent trials, especially as a question^ of high policy may arise if, failing international standardization, it becomes necessary to decide whether the British or the American standards are to be adopted in Australia.
The committee then recommended - . . we recommend that such experiments us may be authorized after the tenders have been received should be confined to the national broadcasting system.
The signatories to that report were the present Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), Senator Amour (Chairman), Senator J. Allan Guy, ex-Senator Herbert Hays, the late Senator Richard Nash, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson), the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), and the honorable member for Newcastle. The Chifley Government considered the report, and in 1948 repealed section 103 of the principal act and substituted this section in its place -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1936 the Minister administering that act should not grant u licence under that Act for any purpose for which a licence may be granted under this Act or for a television station or a facsimile station.
The purpose of the present legislation is to repeal the Chifley Government’s act and set up a system which has not been recommended by the body authorized to make recommendations to this Parliament, that is the statutory body known as the Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting. The present Government will not let that committee function, and will not refer to it the questions that it has submitted for determination by a royal commission. The Government will not let any parliamentary committee consider the matter, but it has provided us with a royal commission, not one member of which, except perhaps the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, who had to learn something about television because of his position, knows anything at all about television. When the Australian Council of Churches asked that a representative of the churches should be placed on the royal commission, the. Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that the Government had selected a committee of representative people and that it did not intend to have any special interest represented. The right honorable gentleman said that with his tongue in his cheek, because one member of the royal commission is the managing editor of the. Brisbane Courier-Mail, which is tied up with the Murdoch newspapers and broadcasting stations. That Murdoch press-radio set-up is the central organization in the Major network. The Prime Minister appointed a Country party member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales to that - royal commission, and yet he argued that he was not providing representation for special interests, and he continued to ignore the churches. The churches have a view to express on television, and a right to be appointed to any royal commission that might be appointed. This Government does not see fit to allow that representation. The Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who has a number of honorific titles among which is that of Minister for Defence Production, forgot that there was a great deal of division on the Government side of the House over what should be done about television.
Before the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) visited England recently, he said that this country would not have television for another five years. While lie was holidaying in the United States of America something happened, and he had scarcely left the ship in Australia before he proclaimed that Australian television was to be handed over to commercial interests. Of course, he subsequently amended that statement and said that national stations would be permitted to televise programmes. Something happened to the PostmasterGeneral in the United States of America, and I have a suspicion about what it was. I believe that he saw the use made of television during the presidential campaign in the United States of America, and he considered that if he could hand over television to wealthy private interests to use in Australia in election campaigns he would be able to keep the Labour party out of office for ever. He decided that he would do by misrepresentation and distortion what he could not do by fair means-
– That would not be the opinion of the electors if they could -ee the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to-night.
– I am sure that if they could see the Postmaster-General to-night they would never vote for him again. The cost of television cover to the Republican and Democratic candidates at the recent presidential elections in the United States of America was between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000, and the rate card of the Canadian system is 1,300 dollars for a half-hour television programme. No democratic party like the Labour party could possibly compete with parties like the Government parties in buying television services because of the wealth at the command of (hose parties. I have no doubt that the Postmaster-General believed that if he could make television a monopoly of private enterprise the anti-Labour parties would have that medium for their exclusive use in future Federal and State general elections. After the PostmasterGeneral arrived back in Australia he said that legislation would be introduced immediately to repeal the Chifley Government’s legislation on television. The Anglican Primate of Australia, the Most Reverend Dr. Mowll, on behalf of the Australian Council of Churches, asked that an inquiry be held into the whole subject of television. The PostmasterGeneral said that there would be no such inquiry. He was reported in a Sydney newspaper to have said that -
The Government was not likely to appoint a Royal Commission on Television before deciding on the final details of its television policy . . a Royal Commission would merely create an opportunity for various interests toobstruct and delay the introduction of television into Australia.
A few days later, after the Prime Minister had returned to Australia, the Postmaster-General was obliged to eat his words. The Cabinet overruled him. It steam-rollered him, and it decided that there must be a full inquiry. Even the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who last night delivered such unprovoked attacks on myself and the Leader of the Opposition, was himself reported by the press to have stated that the views of the churches had to be respected. The honorable gentleman lined up with the churches for once, against the Postmaster-General, the declared enemy of church participation in any investigation of a matter which involves grave moral issues of much concern to the Australian people. But the Postmaster-General came back twice and said that he would not let the churches have any say on this particular matter. The Sydney Morning Herald, in its issue of the 4th December last, again reported the Anglican Primate of Australia, the Most Reverend Dr. Mowll, to have stated -
The Australian Council of the World Council of Churches expresses grave concern at the intention of the Commonwealth Government to proceed at once with television legislation. It urges that no such legislation relating to television in Australia be drafted until responsible elements in the community, particularly those concerned with the religious, moral and cultural interests of children and the community generally have been given an opportunity of expressing their views.
That was a perfectly sound and laudable observation, and we of the Labour party to-night at least stand on the side of the angels and the churches. After several other attacks had been made, Archbishop Mowll made further comments in the press, and he was not alone in that stand. We find every church in Australia expressing concern about the moral evil of unrestricted commercial television. The Catholic Archbishop of
Adelaide, the Most Reverend Dr. M. Beovich, was reported in the Adelaide News of the 5th February, to have stated -
Before my visit to the United States in 1950, I was much in favour of television, but what I saw and heard there considerably dampened my enthusiasm. Likethe cinema and radio, this great invention will eventually come to Australia, and if wisely used it can be beneficial. But we wouldbe foolish if we rushed the matter without taking all prudent steps to avoid as far as is humanly possible its many nml obvious dangers.
Television should not be . . . introduced until a body or commission of inquiry set up by the Commonwealth Government has made its recommendations and these have been considered.
It is significant that all the religious bodies in Adelaide are in harmony on this point.
The Anglican Bishop of Adelaide, the Right Reverend B. P. Robin, had this to say -
Whether we can secure the benefits and avoid the dangers of television depends on whether we, as responsible adults, demand its control by a competent and representative body.
It is up to parents of school children to demand that the Federal Government set up sucha body.If this is not done programmes may be presented by any one who happens to have sufficient money.
The cost of television is quite fabulous and, in America, programmes have been designed to appeal to mass audiences and in many instances ha ve been demoralizing and degrad-
The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition proposes that the inquiry that has been requested by such church leaders should be set up. It should be a real inquiry, not an inquiry to report to the Government as to hours of the day that television stations should operate, and a few other related questions. The Government has called it a royal commission, but the chairman who has been appointed to that body, Professor G. W. Paton, of the University of Melbourne, says that it is not a royal commission but merely an advisory body. “We want a real inquiry, either by the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee or by some other such body that is not a hoax and that is not intended to delude the Australian people. I shall now mention the opinion nf the Venerable Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr. Mannix. The argument he used is of telling importance. Under the heading, “ Call, halt on TV, says Dr. Mannix “, the Australian Press of the 15th December last, reported -
The introduction of television should be deferred indefinitely, Archbishop Mannix said yesterday. With public works held up for lack of money, television was an extravagant luxury, he said. Those setting up the stations would no doubt benefit financially, but he was afraid that the project would not promote the well-being or morality of Australia.
When answering some of the criticisms that had been made by representatives of the film industry, the Minister stated that standards in America were all right because nobody had cancelled any of the 20,000,000 television licences there. He may have his opinion of good standards of telecast in that country, but his opinion is not shared by the magazine Time, which is a well-written and very powerful journal in the United States of America. It has a huge circulation in America, Great Britain, Australia, and other English-speaking countries. Time reported recently the illuminating results of an investigation of children’s television programmes in San Francisco as follows : -
The outraged mothers saw thirteen murders and assorted killings; four sluggings; six kidnappings; five hold-ups; three explosions; three instances of blackmail and extortion; three thefts; two armed robberies; two cases of arson; one lynching; one torture scene, and one miscarriage. One mother clocked 104 gun shootings during a half-hour serial, and another found sudden death shudderingly described fourteen times in twenty minutes. The mothers themselves concluded that the gun, the gat, the rod, the six-shooter, is the prime motivator of most children’s television programmes. Life is cheaper than a cigarette hutt in the gutter. Not one episode, not one character, not one emotion do we see evoked that the children might emulate to their gain.
The Minister has told us that we have nothing to worry about in Australia, because programmes will be controlled. There is a Federal Communications Commission which is supposed to exercise control in America, but it cannot stop the sort of thing to which I have referred. In Cincinnatti recently the proprietors of a television station pulled their cameras up to the top of a 40-story building and televised a young negro about to commit suicide, with his parents, ministers of religion, and firemen pleading with him not to destroy his life. That was seen on television screens in American homes. It is idle for the Government to say that such things will not be televised here because the Minister will have the right to say what will be televised. Television is a combination of sound broadcasting and visual broadcasting. We insist on our film proprietors maintaining a very high standard in the exhibition of their pictures, but how can there be a proper broadcast from television stations if they do not have to maintain the same high standards as the film people?
This is a half-baked measure, and the debate last night was not improved by the wild gesticulations and denunciatory language used by the Vice-President of the Executive Council in relation to myself and the Leader of the Opposition. He said of me that I am an out and out socialist because of my views on this matter. That remark used to be applied by the political cheapjacks of other days to such men as Andrew Fisher, James Henry Scullin, John Curtin, and Joseph Benedict Chifley, the only four great Prime Ministers this country has produced, the only four Prime Ministers in the first half of this century whose names will live in history. If I am attacked in the way in which they were attacked - and I am a humble follower of theirs and a believer in the principles which they espoused - nothing that the right honorable gentleman can say of mo can shake my faith in the cause of Labour. The Minister attacked me for supporting a system similar to that which operates in Great Britain to-day, where the British Broadcasting Corporation has a monopoly in respect of broadcasting and television. If, in the estimation of the right honorable gentleman, I am sinning, I am sinning in the company of Winston Churchill and the Conservative party of Great Britain. I could very well have been described by the right honorable gentleman last night, not as an out-and-out socialist alone, because the Labour party supports the government monopoly in Great Britain, but as an out-and-out conservative as well.
The Government has much to answer for at the bar of public opinion in relation to this matter. If it rejects the well- conceived and well-expressed amendment which the Leader of the Opposition proposed last night, and which I have the honour to second, ‘it is flouting public opinion and trying to put something over the Australian people. It is trying to give away the wavelengths of the air which belong to the people. It is prepared to hand over the public domain to its greedy friends and in so doing it is perpetrating an anti-social act, defying public opinion and preventing the proper development of television which, if it is properly developed and controlled, can be of tremendous value to the people. If television gets into the hands of the people who have monopolized it in the United States of America, it will have the same baneful effect upon the lives of the Australian people, and on our children in particular, as it has had upon the citizens of the United States of America. For the Government to talk about developing the resources of this nation, of the need for pushing on with essential public works and the building of all the things that the people need, and at the same time to make it possible for greedy interests to squander steel, iron, timber, important instruments and other things in the making of television stations, every one of which will cost £250,000 to construct, and the operating costs of which will run into millions of pounds a year, is to do something that the Australian people do not want. We can wait for a while longer until other people with their money and resources can develop their own systems of television, and then after full inquiry, we can decide, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, whether the Australian people want television to be controlled by the Australian Broadcasting Commission or some other government monopoly, by a commercial monopoly, or by mixed system of government and commercial control. We cannot ascertain what the people want unless we give them an opportunity, through their real representatives in this Parliament, and not through the phony representatives who have been placed on the bogus royal commission, to express their views on this important matter.
Finally, the Minister has promised us that he will introduce another bill at a later date. He will not be on the Government side of the House to introduce any such legislation for much longer. The Government has introduced one of the last’ pieces of legislation it will have the opportunity to introduce. After the elections in South Australia and Queensland next Saturday week, the Government will have less reason to think that it will remain in office for much longer to carry out the promise it has made to introduce supplementary legislation after the so-called royal commission has reported to it. We, of the Labour party, know where we stand and where we are going. We are going -right back to the ministerial benches before many months have passed.
Mr. Drummond having received the call from the Chair,
– Mr. Speaker-
– I did not observe the Minister rising in his place to address the House.
– I direct attention to the state of the House.
The bells having been rung,
– I observe that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) is proceeding to leave the chamber. He may not leave the chamber while the bells are ringing. [Quorum formed.’]
– I now call the Minister for Supply.
– I am deeply grateful to the Government Whip-
– I rise to order. In the allotment of the call from the Chair, is there any choice between a second Minister sitting at the table and an honorable member on his side of the House?
– I have spent more than eighteen years in this House, during which time I have occupied various offices. Ever since I came here, it has been my experience that if a Minister rises at the table, or from the treasury bench, the Chair has invariably given him preference over a private member on his own side of the House.
– I am obliged to the Government Whip for having taken action to ensure that a quorum is present, because it will enable more honorable members to hear my remarks in reply to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the House having emptied itself during the course of his speech. One feels a little sorry for the honorable member to-night, because that customary coruscation has been absent from his remarks, and he has been patently and obviously labouring in a speech in which he does not believe. That is not to be wondered at, because he is in abnormal difficulty. The honorable member began his speech by asserting that he and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) were in agreement about the need to get rid of this Government as soon as possible, but only a few days ago, when he stated that view, he was promptly and bluntly contradicted by his leader, who indicated that it was not the policy of his party to pursue such a course. If one thing has been revealed by this debate it is that the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy, the honorable member for Melbourne, notwithstanding their attempts to cover up their differences in the amendment before the House, are diametrically opposed over this bill. Before I deal with that matter at length let me deal with the bill itself.
This is a simple enabling measure which is designed to make it possible for the Government of the day to introduce commercial television together with national television, because the present legislation which was introduced by a Labour government makes it impossible for us to have commercial television if we desire it. This bill does not propose to establish commercial television, or to work out any details of machinery.
– It does not make any decision.
– That is so. Its purpose is merely to open the door and make the establishment of commercial television possible. That arises in the simplest way. In 1950 this Government announced that it was in favour of commercial as well as national television. The Government has never deviated from that statement. From the first, it has been completely consistent in the assertion and maintenance of that policy.
– Mr. Speaker, I direct attention to the state of the House.
– Order ! A quorum was formed about three minutes ago.I ask the Minister to proceed.
– It is perfectly true that defence needs, the economic difficulties of the country and the shortage of manpower and materials have made it desirable that this very expensive venture should not be proceeded with straight away. Time passed, and a few weeks ago, the Government reaffirmed its policy regarding commercial as well as national television. It has now taken the first step to give effect to that reaffirmed policy by introducing this short enabling bill. But we also decided that, before we brought in a detailed bill, we would, in the interests of the Australian people and for the reasons given by many honorable members including Opposition members, examine where this policy would lead us. We believe that the introduction of television in Australia may create social problems if the system is not properly handled. We consider that television has enormous social implications. That conclusion is reached by any one who has observed the operation of television in other parts of the world. Therefore, to rush blindly into television, without any investigation, as the Labour Government intended in 1948 with the establishment of a station in each of the six capital cities, was, in our opinion, completely wrong. Accordingly, we have appointed a royal commission to examine some of the implications of television.
The members of the royal commission are eminent ladies and gentlemen in the community. They have wide interests, and must be trusted to exercise wise judgment in advising the Government. The royal commission will inquire into and report upon -
Australia has a comparatively small population, which is widely distributed. Some of the problems that arise are where the television stations shall be located, how many shall be constructed, and what groups of people they shall serve. Those are matters of profound difficulty and great national importance. The next matter which the commission will inquire into and report upon is -
Is the television service to be limited to the large cities, where it may be carried on presumably at a profit, or will a service be given to some of the country areas? If such a service is given to country areas, who is to pay for it? That is another matter of profound importance. Other matters upon which the commission has been asked to report are -
The last matter but by no means the least is as follows : - (/) The conditions if any which should be imposed with respect to periods of broadcasting of the television programmes;
I know from my limited experience gained when I was abroad a few years ago, that television programmes are given in England for only a comparatively short period each day. The programmes in the United States of America occupy much longer periods. What are the social implications of that? Are we to plunge blindly into this matter, and inflict upon the community something which may later prove to be uneconomic or bad for the people? Or are we to get some of the best brains in the community to advise us?For all these and many other reasons, the Government has appointed the royal commission.
– The royal commission is not mentioned in the bill.
– It may not be mentioned in the bill, but reference has been made to it by every Opposition member who bas participated in this debate. The royal commission has not been asked to report whether there should be a dual system of television services. That matter has already been affirmed as government policy. The commission has been asked to make its recommendations on the assumption that there will be national and commercial services. It is asked to inquire into the six matters which I have mentioned. That is fair enough. The Government said in 1950 that Australia would have the dual system, and we have reaffirmed that decision this year. The Government has now introduced a bill to make that possible. This is the enabling bill, and we have asked the royal commission to examine certain economic and sociological aspects of the introduction of television.
In view of all those considerations, it becomes extremely interesting to examine the Labour party’s approach to the bill. If I may paraphrase a quotation from St. Paul when he was dealing with an esoteric phase of ecclesiastical doctrine, my reply is the same as St. Paul’s, namely, “ This is a great mystery “, because nobody can discover where the Labour party stands on this matter. Opposition members speak with different tongues. As everybody knows, there is a wild brawl in progress in their ranks on this matter. They have attempted to compose their differences, and present a united front to the public by vamping up this so-called amendment, which is the biggest piece of humbug we have had in the House for a long time. It is rather like the patent medicine advertisement, “ Before and after “. Let us examine the conflicting views expressed by members of the Labour party before the introduction of this bill, and compare them with their comments on this measure. The honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, spoke with his usual passion when he said in November, 1952 -
Labour will oppose the passage of all legislation to allow private companies to debauch the minds of grown-ups and children in .the way American television companies do. The Labour party made television a government monopoly and it will keep it that way, even if greedy interests think they can change the situation to their own advantage.
As the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has remarked, we know at least where the honorable member for Melbourne stands. As the arch socialist, he speaks of the “ greedy interests “. If I may borrow a phrase without committing a plagiarism, lie is a socialist naked and unashamed. He has expressed his views on this matter again and again. When the Leader of the Opposition entered the field, the incorrigible honorable member for Melbourne repeated his views, and had the support of Senator Cameron, whose socialist ideas are unchanged and unchangeable. These two members of the Labour party issued the following joint statement : -
Labour will, we hope, be as unanimous in resisting any amendment of the 1948 act as the party was unanimous in establishing the principle that television can only be a national monopoly. In our view no organ of the party, whether it be the federal conference, the federal executive of the Federal Parliamentary party, will support any departure from the Chifley Government’s legislation.
That arose because of the gentle rebuke that had been issued by the Leader of the Opposition, who is the leader of the honorable member for Melbourne in name if not in fact. The Leader of the Opposition spoke in tones of surprised pain, because he did not like being contradicted by one of hi3 own followers, and also because he knew what the impact of this declaration would be upon the commercial community of Australia. Therefore, he rushed into print on the 26th November as follows: -
In view of the constitutional rulings of the courts it will not be permissible to set up an A.B.C. monopoly in television. Accordingly, Australia will have a dual system in which the Australian people will own a service and commercial stations will also do so. This will be along the lines of the present broadcasting system.
– And how does the Minister’s great legal mind react to that?
– My reaction is that, for once in a while, the Leader of the Opposition was pretty right on his law. But, of course, that meant nothing to the honorable member for Melbourne, who was determined that, law or no law, there must be a monopoly of television in Australia.
That was the pattern of the great brawl within the Labour party as it was first revealed. No wonder the Leader of the Opposition was heard to mutter in his beard, like a certain Henry of England, “ Is there not some one that will rid me of this turbulent priest?”! Of course, Thomas a’Beckett is no longer with us, but it may be that an attempt will be made to remove, as a source of annoyance, this modern Thomas a’Beckett. However that may be,’ the Leader of the Opposition has not been idle. Having been deeply disturbed by those recalcitrant remarks of his redoubtable deputy leader, who is knocking at the leadership door all the time, the right honorable gentleman has been moving in august circles, the very highest financial circles in Sydney and Melbourne. He may be seen at cocktail parties hobnobbing with the representatives of big commercial interests, particularly those whoare associated with electrical and television companies, and trying to explain to them, in one way or another, that he is really a mild sort of fellow. “ Take no notice of this Calwell “, he says in effect. “ He does not represent the party. We in the Labour party are really on the side of big business these days. We have experienced a change of heart. We do not want a monopoly. We shall help you with commercial television “. That - is the sort of atmosphere that the right honorable gentleman has been trying to create in the big cities of Australia. [Quorum formed.’] Three quorums called in ten minutes is not a bad record. It indicates that the Opposition cannot take the truth and that it is interested only in preventing honorable gentlemen on this side of the House from completing their speeches. As I have said, we heard muttering from the Leader of the Opposition on the one hand, and what I may describe, without offence, as a much shriller outcry from the honorable member for Melbourne on the other hand. Of course, this could not be allowed to go on for ever, and so the matter was taken up at a party meeting. We could almost feel this building shake and see the blood running under the door as the great controversy proceeded in the Opposition party room.
Honorable members opposite had to have some semblance of agreement amongst themselves before this bill was debated in the House. Therefore, they produced the great amendment. It might be described as a formula, because it is almost as good as the formulas that are compounded at United Nations conferences. This is the formula which the Leader of the .Opposition has moved as an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill - that this House declines to proceed with the second reading until the matters contained in or arising from the Bill are impartially investigated and a report thereon furnished to the House and that, for such purpose, the terms of the Royal Commission on Television issued on the 11th February should, if necessary, be extended, its personnel increased to secure broader and more effective representation, and the evidence and the report made available to the House not later than 11th May, 1953.
That means, therefore, that the Opposition proposes that the royal commission shall inquire, not only into the matters to which I have referred previously, but also into the question whether there should be a dual system or a single government system of television. Ye gods and little fishes! And it expects the commission to be able to report on such extended terms of reference not later than the 11th May.
– Teh weeks hence.
– Only ten weeks in which to conduct an investigation and report upon all of the extremely important matters to which the terms of reference at present relate and this additional proposed reference, which i3 as wide as a barn door and as high as a church steeple, and which has been the subject of argument in and out of the Parliament and in other countries for years past! The greatest bit of humbug of all is that time limit. The Opposition pretends that the commission could make a thorough investigation within that period. Everybody who considers the proposition must realize clearly that the attempt by the Labour party to cover up the irreconcilable difference between two of its elements on this, question has been utterly unsuccessful.
– Stop laughing!
– I am smiling in sympathy with the honorable member for Melbourne, who has won a victory on this issue. In effect, the Leader of the Opposition has said, “I favour the dual system “, and his deputy has said, “ To blazes with that. We are going to have a monopoly system”.
– Oh !
– Order !
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Melbourne is shocked by the phrase.
– The Chair has objected to the expression.
– Well, the honorable member for Melbourne, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, said, “ No, we will not have a dual system “. The two contestants continued to struggle and writhe together until finally their followers said, “ We cannot have this going on in public. We shall have to hush it up with a formula “. The result was the proposed amendment that is now before the House.
Everybody knows that, even if the Government accepted the amendment, no satisfactory finding could be returned by the royal commission before May this year or, indeed, before May next year. Thus the Leader of the Opposition, who has charged the Government with having brought in a bill in order to “ pretend to do something after years of delay”, now proposes a course of action which would result in months and months of delay. If honorable members opposite are as eager to prevent delay as they claim to be, why is it that, from time to time, they have not been eager to press on with the introduction of television in Australia? Why was it that the honorable member for Melbourne said at the welcome given to certain film magnates - and he looks very well in company with film magnates - on the 27th November, 1950, as reported in the film industry journal, Film Weekly -
Labour is not in a hurry to introduce television, at least before the experimentation period has passed in America. Australia has no money to spend on experimentation.
– He said that again in 1952.
– Yes, but now he says, “ We want action “. Apparently he proposes to get action by supporting an amendment which would result in no action.
This is a simple enabling bill for the purpose of removing the prohibition against commercial television. The amendment that has been moved by the Opposition might only have the effect of delaying further any action on television and I strongly suspect after listening to the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne that he himself wants action on this matter to be delayed. He mentioned the sociological consequences and the wickedness of American television oblivious of the fact . that the United Kingdom has had television for many years.
– Television is a government monopoly there.
– Yes. But a United Kingdom parliamentary committee has now recommended commercial television.
– In the sweet bye and bye.
– It has recommended it, and yet that arch-socialist, the honorable member for Melbourne, has said that it must not be permitted in Australia. If the Opposition’s proposal were adopted this country would never have television. Having decided that Australia should have a dual system of government and private television the Government is examining with care the likely consequences of the introduction of television in order to secure the be3t possible television service for Australia. Having done that it will have discharged its obligations to the people. When the Government receives the report of the royal commission it will bring a bill before the House which will ensure that in due course this country will have the benefit of the best system of television.
– It must be rarely that so worthless a bill produces so worthwhile a debate as this. This debate has been marked by a number of most interesting speeches from both sides of the House which have expressed a wide divergency of opinion. I except the speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) which was “ parrotted “ to-night by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). The speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council was marked by a spirit of malice and an attempt, which failed, to create a division in the ranks of the Opposition. The speech of the Minister for Supply, whilst expressed in almost exactly the same terms as that of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, fell even flatter than the speech of his colleague. The Australian Labour party is united on this issue as on all issues and will remain united. Differences of opinion will occur in all parties on various matters. The Australian Labour party is united in its determination to ensure the end of this Government thereby expressing the will of the great majority of the Australian people. It is united in its determination to usher in a more gracious social age with security, education and leisure for the members of every family to enjoy the arts of drama, comedy, speech and music which television can bring to us.
It ‘is, however, extraordinary that the two Ministers to whom I have referred spent so much time in emphasizing what they mistakenly believed to be a difference of opinion in the ranks of the Opposition. Differences of opinion on this issue have been expressed continually on the Government side of the House throughout the debate. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) will not deny that his public statements have been at complete variance with the decisions of the Government even jil the establishment of a royal commission. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) expressed his complete disagreement with the Postmaster-General and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) struck out on a line entirely his own and throughout this debate members of the Government parties have been completely at sixes and sevens. On this side of the House we take very little notice of that circumstance. “We do not find it necessary to direct attention to it. We know that the Government’s supporters are hopelessly divided on this matter of policy as they arc divided on all matters of policy. That is why they will not introduce television into Australia and it is why the actual introduction of television must wait ‘and will be accomplished by a Labour government. The bill before the House will accomplish exactly nothing. It cannot possibly accomplish anything because no steps can be taken to establish television until the report of the royal commission has been received. After the report of the royal commission has been considered and before television can be introduced legislation will have to be presented to this Parliament. The passage of this legislation at this stags will not bring the introduction of television into Australia one minute further forward. That is why the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) describe this bill as being entirely a shambles. Since the Government decided to establish a royal commission to examine and report to it on all the complex aspects of the establishment of a television system it is only logical that the subject of commercial television should be referred to such an impartial inquiry.
The honorable member for Henty raised the interesting question of whether the people of Australia desired the introduction of television at this stage. I suggest that it has been the duty of the Government for a long time to ascertain by taking a poll whether the people really desire the introduction of television, lt could, at least, seek the opinion of a section of the community in any of the capital cities of Australia. Surely it would be worthwhile to find out how many citizens really wish to use this new instrument of entertainment and expression. Surely it would be worthwhile to find out how many citizens would be prepared to spend £100 or more on a television set and several pounds a year on a viewer’s licence. Surely answers should have been found to these questions before the Government embarked on any programme to establish television. If a majority of the Australian people do not desire the introduction of television at present, then no obligation rests upon the Government to enter that field and incur a great expenditure of public money. The answers could easily be found by a test of public opinion conducted by electoral officers in any State. I consider it to be doubtful- whether the majority of the people are keen to have television. In my electorate, I have found no insistent demand from any large section of the people for the introduction of television, and I believe that a great number of responsible men and women in Australia, including parents, are aghast at what they have learned about the development of television in the United States of America. They are perhaps not eager to see its introduction in Australia at this stage. However, if the majority of the Australian people wish the introduction of television, and realize that they must meet the cost - because there is no way by which the people can avoid meeting the cost, no matter what system may be introduced - then it appears to me that the argument that television should not be introduced on the ground of its immense unavoidable cost, or that it is an unnecessary luxury, is invalid. Drink, gambling, entertainment generally, and women’s fashions, for instance, are all items of tremendous cost in this nation, and all of them could be described as being, in a way, in the luxury class, or unnecessary. But the will of the people is supreme. Parliament is their servant, not their master, and if they desire the introduction of this new medium, however costly to them and however great a luxury it may be, then they have the right to its introduction.
I deplore the attitude, which has been expressed in this debate, that the people cannot be trusted to attend to their own affairs and adjust themselves to new inventions or developments in our social life. I also deplore the attitude of lack of faith in the good sense and healthy minds of the Australian people. Of course, that is an attitude that has persisted, all through history, at every move of some new development. It has been evinced at every stage of the discovery or implementation of new techniques. There are always individuals’ who try to hold new developments back on the ground that the people cannot be trusted with them. We in this Parliament claim to be the servants of democracy. We are the servants of the people, and the people are the judges, and, generally speaking, ought to be the judges, of what they want to see on the television screen. Restrictions and protections placed on programmes should not be greater than the popular will itself represents. Are we in this Parliament such superior judges of taste and culture that our standards ought to be imposed on the people ? I imagine that listeners to some debates might take leave to doubt that we are.
– The honorable member’s party proposes to give the people no option in relation to television programmes.
– I shall deal later with the matter raised by the PostmasterGeneral, because the argument that I have advanced is no argument whatever for handing control of television, on a platter, to commercial interests in this country. Quite the reverse ! The purveyors of soap and toothpaste and headache powders in this community can demonstrate no superior right’ to dictate ‘ what the people shall have in the way of drama, comedy, music and spectacle’.
– Suppose the people like it?
– I have said that the people should have what they want, but a small coterie of advertising agencies, as we have to-day in radio, who represent monied interests, and monied interests alone, should not be allowed to be the judges of what the people like, and should not be enabled to enforce their will on the people. I believe, and so does the honorable member for Henty, I understand, that the standards of the people are higher than the standards that would be forced on them by commercial television interests.
– Who are to be the judges ?
– If the PostmasterGeneral will possess his soul in patience, I shall come to that. If an unlimited number of television stations could be established at small cost, so that the people would have a wide choice of the type of programme they want to see, then, and only then, could something be said for leaving the field to private enterprise. But, as the reverse is true, since physical factors and the immense costs involved will limit the number of stations to a very few indeed, the claim that vendors of nostrums should usurp this field merely because they have money and are hungry to make more is an impertinence. The television field belongs to the people and ought not to be transferred as a preserve to any special profit-making group, no matter bow keenly honorable members opposite desire to represent and serve such groups. They should have a higher duty than to serve them.
It is said that money can have no patriotism, and I suppose it can have no morality. It would be damnable if the great field of television, with all its glorious opportunities for the increase of human happiness and enlightenment - because, I suppose, there is no agency in the field of human history which oilers such great potentialities in that direction as television offers - were perverted solely to the purpose of the money-makers, which is simply to make more money, irrespective of other considerations.
– Does it hurt the honorable member to receive his parliamentary salary?
– No, it does not hurt me a hit. I am not a servant of money, and in that capacity I am not in the same category as is the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) who represents in this Parliarnent money and the money power. If we gave control of television to commercial interests, what opportunities would there be for sincere and serious Australian artists, actors, dramatists, musicians and educationists of experience to give the people the entertainment and enlightenment that they should have? The B class radio stations give us the answer to that question. Every honorable member knows that in those circumstances there would be no such opportunity given.
– Would a Labour government nationalize the B class radio stations?
– If the PostmasterGeneral will possess his soul in patience I shall come to that. The overruling object, if the field were left to commercial interests, would be to provide the cheapest programmes, cheap alike in money cost and in intellectual value, careless of the debasing of public taste, regardless of the effect on children’s minds, but concerned solely with the sale of patent medicines and merchandise at the lowest cost per bottle and per article. Yet the Government proposes in this legislation to place the power to control television in such private hands. It gives to the Minister an unfettered power to grant a monopoly over television to private profit-making commercial interests, and that is, in my opinion, a damnable thing to try to do. The people of Australia do not want it, and even Government members themselves are afraid of it, as their speeches in this debate show. Government members are slavish in proclaiming the virtues of the profit motive as the mainspring of human affairs, but when it tomes to television even they are forced to pause, to stand in horror at America’s experience of sole commercial control of this great instrument of expression. So they propose safeguards. They propose that commercial interests should have monopoly power over television, but should be subject to safeguards on public taste and the public interest, established by the Government. The very fact that honorable members opposite propose those safeguards is the greatest indictment of the profit motive, and the greatest justification for the stand expressed in this debate, both by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Melbourne, his deputy in this House, that the basis of a television system in Australia must be service to the people and not profit for a few. I hold strongly that every extension of governmental control over physical things in a planned society makes more imperative the preservation of freedom in things associated with the mind. To make television a preserve for private profit interests would not be freedom. It is a complete distortion of the argument for Government members to pretend that the handing of control of television to a small .group of financial interests would, in fact, give freedom to the television viewer. The reverse would be the position. It would be the worst kind of monopoly, because it would be a soulless, debasing money monopoly, insulting to the viewers and the minds of the people, and enslaving and suppressing everything that is best in Australian” culture and aspirations.
The honorable member for Henty was frank to acknowledge that point thi3 afternoon. He said that, as between direct commercial control and direct government control, he would be at a loss to say which in his opinion would be the more odious. This is his frank and honest opinion. I have disagreed with the honorable member on many things that he has said in the past, but I am in hearty agreement with him in this instance. The evils which may flow from direct governmental control of television, or any form of expression, are hateful and terrible to contemplate. In my opinion, such evils cannot be over-exaggerated. The tremendous influence which television may have - an influence which none of us can at present estimate or measure - intensifies the evils which might flow from direct governmental control of it. Those anti-Labour propagandists who use “ public control “ and “ direct governmental control “ as interchangeable terms display extraordinary ignorance. The evils of direct government control of a medium of expression do not always materialize. Where government is wise, enlightened and tolerant, such evils do not develop. But it is one of the many defects of the legislation before us that it proposes to clothe the Government with absolute power to grant and withdraw licences, and therefore to create absolute individual ministerial control over the whole field of television,
– That is almost Labour policy!
– Far from it. Indeed, it is the very opposite of Labour policy. No Minister should exercise such power. The temptation to mis- use it is ever present, and the extent of public injury through its misuse could be the destruction of democracy itself and, following that, the destruction of the minds of men by paralyzing the reasoning and critical powers which separate human beings from the animal kingdom. It was once possible to laugh at such fears, but that can no longer be done. Direct governmental control over all forms of expression in Nazi Germany enabled the suppression of every form of opposition and every manifestation of independent opinion. Ultimately, it drove the German people to the insane folly of world war.
In countries behind the Iron Curtain to-day, we are witnessing the same dread oppression. ,What gives the rulers of the Soviet lands their immense power over hundreds of millions _ of subjects? It is not their police and military forces. It is true that those forces are used to silence the few who still possess, and dare to exercise, that tribute of critical opinion, but their real power rests in their direct control of every means of expression. And so we are witnessing in those countries to-day the evil process of the destruction of the minds of men, the horrible process of the mass-conditioning of a whole nation, with its fatal injury to human personality, dignity, and individual freedom. To those few people still remaining who declare that it cannot happen here, I say that the Australian. Labour party certainly would not trust an anti-Labour government not to misuse direct control of this great medium of public expression, such as the PostmasterGeneral proposes to take for himself under this bill. Similarly, the anti-Labour parties in Australia assuredly would not trust a Labour government to exercise such powers. The Communists in this country are biding their opportunity to assume those powers for themselves. Because the people of Australia would not be prepared to entrust those powers to any government, we should endeavour to ensure in this Parliament .that they are not given to the present Government.
I offer these observations because, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, it will not be this Government but the ensuing Labour Government which will, in fact, establish television in Australia., The Australian Labour party is committed to public control. It certainly will not permit private money interests to monopolize and pervert this greatest agency of entertainment and enlightenment. It will be the task of a Labour government to enact the form of public control of television which will prevent its debasement for solely profit motives, to ensure its independence of manipulation by power-hungry Ministers, and to give to the viewers themselves the maximum possible say in the programmes to be presented to them. To that end, widest and healthiest examination of all possible methods should be encouraged, not condemned. For that purpose I believe the debate in this House during the last two days - although on such a trivial and worthless bill - in the course of which so many divergent views have been expressed by honorable members on both sides of the House, has been of great value.
I should like to see explored the possibility of direct election by viewers of some, at least, of the directors on the programme boards. The powers of those boards would, of course, need to be subject to the guiding rules and charter laid down by the Parliament itself. As to the possibility that there can be a sufficient number of stations, as television develops, to enable the grant of licences to some outside bodies, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) yesterday indicated some of the great social agencies, none profitmaking, whose motives and purposes cannot be questioned by any honorable member, which might well be considered for the grant of such licences, if they can be made available. Every member of the Opposition supports the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. If that amendment is defeated, the Opposition will just as unitedly vote against the bill.
.- First, I wish to comment on the speech of the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I think that, if ever this House witnessed a classic illustration of a socialist explaining his theories, it had it this evening from the honorable member. He was a supporter of a government which took two positive and complete steps towards nationalization. I wish to remind the House of the measures taken by that Government in 1945 to establish the Australian National Airlines Commission, in. the course of which it revealed plans to bring aerial transport in this country com pletely under government ownership, diretion and control. No member of the Australian Labour party can deny that that was so. The same thing applied to banking. Surely no rational person would say that each member of the Australian Labour party does not support nationalization of banking and wish to see it brought about in this country. We all know that that is one of the fundamental objectives of the party. It is my view that the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to-night clearly establish that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) were not speaking seriously when they implied that there would be some part for free and private enterprise to play in their plans for television. ( Quorum formed.] The honorable member for Eden-Monaro made it quite clear that the Labour party is interested only in governmental direction, ownership and control of television, and that it has no intention to permit free enterprise to take part in television in Australia. The honorable member suggested that financial groups that wished to invest capital in television stations would be evil groups which would set out to provide programmes that would have an injurious effect upon the minds of the children of this country. I find it difficult to swallow such an assumption. In my view, an equally good argument could be advanced against government control of television. Governments might do bad things if they owned and controlled all the television stations in this country.
– I said so.
– I agree that the the honorable member said so. Television could put into the hands of the government of the day a powerful weapon for the dissemination of political propaganda, and the opposition would have little chance to combat that propaganda. We have seen government institutions used for political purposes. Between 1941 and 1951 there is no doubt that the Department of Information was used for specific political purposes.
– That is completely wrong.
– Whether the honorable member for Melbourne agrees with me or not, there is sound evidence to support what I have said. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro made it quite clear that if the Labour party be returned, it will do in relation to television what it tried to do in relation to banking and aerial transport. There is no room for free enterprise in the plans of the Labour party for television. I hope that that willbe clearly understood by the people of this country. The Labour party stands for socialization.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Dr. Evatt’s amendment), stand part of the’ question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the hill he now read a second time.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 - (Postmaster-General may make television stations available to an authorized authority).
– This clause reads -
The Postmaster-General may make television stations available for the transmission of television programmes provided by an authorized authority.
The authorized authority is defined in the bill as the Australian Broadcasting Commission or such other body as is empowered to provide television programmes. Much has been said in this debate about television-
– I rise to order. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) is now referring to a debate which has concluded and which has nothing to do with the committee stages of the bill. He is not going to make a second-reading speech without a protest from the Opposition.
Order ! The point of order is upheld.
– I realize that to-day members of the Opposition have used every parliamentary device available to them to prevent me from replying to the various mis-statements that they have made on television. I do not propose to be continuously interrupted by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who has been the chief offender to-day. Therefore, I propose to address myself to the clause, although such a course of action may lead to the discomfort of the honorable member for Melbourne. There has been no greater humbug and hypocrite in Australia on the matter of television than the honorable member for Melbourne.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman, and I ask that the Minister should withdraw that word which is offensive to me.
– Order ! the Minister will withdraw that word.
– I shall withdraw the word “ humbug “ because I cannot think of a better one.
– I ask for an unqualified withdrawal.
– I have already withdrawn the word complained about.
– The Minister said that he withdrew it because he could not think of a better word to use. I ask for an unqualified withdrawal.
– Order ! I take it that the Minister has withdrawn the remark offensive to the honorable member for Melbourne?
– Yes. I realize that the honorable member for Melbourne is very nervous about the matter of television because he has laid himself open to so much criticism that he wants to prevent the public from being given the information to which, it is entitled about his part in the development or the nondevelopment of television in Australia. This clause is intended to enable national television stations in Australia to be established. Therefore, it is proper for me to canvass any point that has reference to that particular subject. The matter of national television was before the previous Labour Government for some time, and has also been before this Government. I became Postmaster-General on the 19th December, 1949, and when I assumed office the first papers that I found on my desk were six tenders which had been received by the preceding Chifley Government in response .to its invitation in relation to the establishment of national television stations in every capital city of Australia. Honorable members opposite who have been saying during the last few hours that the time is not ripe for the introduction of television, that we should be building houses and supplying more telephone services, and that we cannot afford the money to establish television in Australia, were prepared, three and a half years ago, to establish six national television stations in the absence of any inquiry whatsoever into their desirability. There was no consultation with the public, such as they are now calling for.
– I rise to order ! This clause deals only with the granting of licences. It has nothing to do with royal commissions or related matters. I submit that the Minister ;s getting wide of the mark.
– Order! The Minister is still within the clause because he is referring to television stations being available.
– I have referred to the national stations, not to the broadcasting stations, although I shall have something to say on that matter during consideration of the next clause. Although the Labour party now says that we should not have television, it was prepared three and a half years ago to erect television stations at enormous cost. One of my first actions after coming to office was to reject the tenders that I have mentioned. Although the former Labour Government did not know any thing about television, it was prepared to establish those stations. After this Government had been, in office for tweleve months, the honorable member for Melbourne became restive and stated that we were not doing enough about television, because we had not implemented the policy of the previous Labour Government by establishing six television, stations. He was horrified that that plans, had been .scrapped, and he went so» far as to move a formal motion* for the adjournment of the Housein order to censure me for not being; smart enough to get television going in* Australia. I have before me a copy of” Television Journal, dated December. 1950. On the front page there is a large photograph of the honorable member for Melbourne. The caption reads - Mr. Calwell: We want action.
Underneath it states -
On the 12th October, 1950, the honorable member for Melbourne moved a motion for the adjournment of the House to discuss the following matter of urgent public importance: -
The action of the present Government in abandoning the programme of the Chifley Government for the creation of six television stations in Australia and deciding instead to erect one only; and for doing other things designed to delay the introduction of television to Australia.
It was very urgent, apparently, that we should get going with television. It did not matter about providing more homes and telephones for the people. According to the honorable member for Melbourne we should get on with the job. In his opinion this Government had not gone far enough. Yet two or three years later the honorable member for Melbourne has the audacity to say “ Go slowly ; be very careful ; remember that there are other things of more importance that have to be done “. I shall outline some of the ‘ reasons for the honorable member’s change of heart. I shall not refer to the debate that has been proceeding between himself and the Leader of the Opposition on whether there should be both national find commercial television stations. The honorable member for Melbourne has had a great deal to say about the great moneyed interests that are going to milk the public. He has referred to them as “ greedy robbers “. After moving, three years ago, the motion to which I have referred, the honorable member for Melbourne urged the Government to take immediate action to introduce television in this country. In an issue of Film Weekly about three months ago, he was reported to have stated -
Labour is not in a hurry to introduce television, at least before the experimentation period in America has passed. [Quorum formed.’] I have wondered about the reason for his change of heart. Of course there are great interests opposed to introduction of television in this country. Great moneyed interests believe that their investments might be adversely affected. The picture threatre proprietors fear that its introduction will . lessen attendances, and consequently there is great hostility by those people to the proposal. The honorable member for Melbourne has stated that Mr. Ernest Turnbull, the managing director of Hoyts Theatres Limited, a great picture importing company, approached the Australian Council of the World Council of Churches on the subject.
– I rise to order! I thought that the Minister was permitted to refer only to national stations, and that commercial stations would be dealt with later.
– Order ! The next clause deals with the type of licences.
– I have not referred to commercial stations. I stated that vested interests were trying to prevent television from being introduced in this country. The honorable member for Melbourne implied that the last thing in the world that Mr. Turnbull has in mind is to protect the interests of the big picture combines, and that he desired only to guard the cultural standards of the people. Apparently Mr. Turnbull does not believe that bedroom scenes in which Lana Turner and other multiple divorced ladies appear should be seen by children.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) put -
That the question bc now put.
The Chairman having declared the question negatived on the voices, and a division having been called for,
– As only one honorable member has called for a division, the Chair cannot accept the motion. The PostmasterGeneral will continue his speech.
– I rise to order. There is definite obstruction on the part of the Opposition designed to prevent the Minister from speaking. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to use your authority to counteract such obstruction.
– The Chair will take appropriate action to maintain order.
– No doubt before I have concluded my speech the honorable member for Melbourne will again try to obstruct me on several occasions.
– Order! The Minister must deal with the clause before the committee.
– Certain interests would leave Australia in the backwoods. As long as they are able to continue to sell their film programmes they will seek to prevent the progress that will result from the introduction of television techniques. The honorable member for Melbourne has had a change of heart on this subject. While he was condemning the moneybags and raising his voice against certain monopoly interests, he was hobnobbing with the representatives of other -vested interests which were vitally concerned about the introduction of television in Australia. I have in my hand a photograph of the honorable member which shows him linked arm in arm with a gentleman named Spyros -Skouras at a cocktail party in Sydney or Melbourne. Who is the gentleman whose arm is linked through that of the honorable member? He is none other than the multimillionaire president of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a great film concern in the United States of America. We can now understand his great interest in television. We can also understand the mysteries relating to his conduct, the explanation of which has been hidden from us in the past. If the honorable member has not seen the photograph depicting him arm in arm with his distinguished friend, Mr. Spyros Skouras, and he would like an enlargement of it for the adornment of his office, I shall be glad to let him have it. When we scratch the surface of the opposition to television most unexpected things are revealed.
– Why did the Minister change his mind about television?
– Many members of the Labour party, in response to the signal given to them by the honorable member, say “ The time is not yet ripe for television. We cannot alford it for economic, physical and other reasons “-
– That is right.
– The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) says “ That is right “. I should like to know whether Opposition members still follow the principles laid down by their revered leader, the late Mr. Chifley, in regard to this matter.
– I should leave him alone.
– Not at all. The late Mr. Chifley, who was respected by every honorable member in this Parliament, is a good man to quote. The late Mr. Chifley, in a special article published in the issue of Teleview dated December, 1950, wrote the following words: -
The Labour party regrets very much the delay of almost a year which has now occurred in the establishment of television in Australia.
We are told that we have delayed the introduction of television. That is true. But we have done so only because we wanted to see what the rest of the world was doing. We wanted to reap the benefit of the development’ of modern techniques in television. We did not want the people to purchase expensive television sets which might become obsolete as the result of new inventions. After a delay of three years I came to the conclusion that Australia can no longer afford to - lag behind the rest of the world in this great technical advance.
I have before me a list of the countries in which television is already operating. It includes the United Kingdom, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Italy, Poland, Germany, Denmark, the United States of America, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Cuba. A start is now being made on the introduction of television in Venezuela, Columbia, Peru, India, Japan. Thailand and Switzerland. The world will pass us by unless we commence to provide television services which the rest of the world has either provided or is in process of providing. We can no more prevent the introduction of television in Australia than we could keep the automobile out of this country. Those who try to prevent us from so doing will be no more successful than were those people in England who, 150 years ago, tried to stop the first locomotives that were used in that country because they feared that the railways would adversely affect the stage-coach business. We have to be in line with modern scientific and industrial progress, whether we like it or not. We cannot draw a circle round Australia and say to those interested in the establishment of television, “ Keep out ! We do not want our children debauched by television. We do not want this innovation in our homes. We want to be old-fashioned folk and live in conditions that prevailed in an earlier century.” No country can follow such a policy in this modern age.
– For how much longer does the Minister intend to speak?
– I shall continue to speak for as long as I like.
– Then I shall move again, “ That the question be now put “.
– The honorable member can “ dish it out “, but he cannot take it.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– Order! The Chair will not accept the motion. It contravenes Standing Order 94.
– I realize the reason for the honorable member’s discomfiture. He wants to get this debate over as quickly as possible. No one can blame him for so doing. As a matter of fact, everybody must have a measure of sympathy for him. As I am in charge of the bill, and as I believe that many misleading statements have been made about television, it is my duty to state an opinion on some of these matters, and correct the misrepresentations. Television is a great industry in those countries in which it has become established. It is a major industry in the United States of America. Indeed, it ranks f = the tenth or eleventh largest industry in that country, and gives employment to hundreds of thousands of people. Those who are endeavouring to prevent the introduction of television in Australia say, in effect, that if the radio, cabinetmaking, glass, and plastic industries are in the doldrums, not a finger should be lifted by the Government to introduce television, although it will provide employment in those industries. Television lias also been responsible for the introduction of new techniques in many industries. Those people who are accustomed to fixing radio sets have to learn something completely different if they want to master the techniques of television.
– I remind .the Minister that the proceedings are no longer being broadcast.
– The honorable member has been trying to prevent me from broadcasting my speech for a long time. The Labour party claims that the time is inopportune for the introduction of television, because the lag in housing and in the provision of telephone services has not been overtaken. That plea is so much humbug. I assume that I am permitted to use the word “ humbug “ in relation to a plea, even if I may not use it in reference to an individual.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister entitled to use the word “ humbug “ in the course of the debate, whether in reference to a person or an a argument ?
– Order !
– I should like you, Mr. Chairman, to keep a note of the number of times I have been interrupted by the honorable member for Melbourne. The figure would be most interesting.. However, these interruptions will not divert me from my purpose.
– What did Mr. Warner say to the Minister?
– I have met Mr. Warner only once in my life, and then for a period of only five minutes. We did not discuss television. Consequently, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), when he introduces Mr. Warner’s name into the discussion, is shooting at the wrong target. If the Labour party, in its efforts to prevent the introduction of television, has no concern for the thousands of people who will be employed in this industry, they should make their attitude clear to the public. They should not return to their suburbs, and tell their electors that the Government should provide employment for the people when they exert their efforts in this chamber to prevent the introduction of an industry which has proved in other countries to be one of the greatest employing industries of the times.
It has been said that the country districts will not have television services. I hope that I am sufficiently broadminded, although I represent a country electorate, to recognize that unless city-dwellers have purchasing power to enable them to buy primary products, the man on the land will not be prosperous. Our best customer is the Australian with a full-time job. Opposition members complain that many people are unemployed, yet they are doing their utmost to prevent the establishment of the television industry, which will give employment to large numbers of persons. I have been prevented in this debate from saying many things that I should like to have said -
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) should be fair-
– Order ! If the honorable member for Wills does not obey the direction of the Chair to remain silent, he will find himself outside the chamber.
– Much has been said about my own alleged objection to the manner in which we propose to establish national television. Reference has been made to the fact that when I returned from the United States of America, I said that a royal commision should not be appointed to inquire into these matters, because it would delay the introduction of television-
– Order ! The Minister should discuss that matter on the appropriate clause-
– There has been manifest” in this community an intense and widespread interest in television. I confess that I did not realize the enormous public interest in this matter. I agree with my colleagues that the proper course is to allow every interested section to ventilate its opinion on television. I trust that this clause, which provides for the establishment of television stations, will be agreed to.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 4 (Licenses for commercial television stations).
.’ - This clause will confer upon the Government the right to license commercial television stations. It requires little explanation ; but, in defence of private enterprise, I wish to correct the numerous misrepresentations that have been published in the newspapers and otherwise since television has been under discussion in Australia. One would imagine, from the remarks of many critics and from many articles in newspapers, that Americans were the greatest morons in the world. These criticisms, in the main, have been expressed by peoplewho have never been to America and have never seen television. They would lead us to believe that 20,000,000 people who have purchased television sets in the United States of America, and who are as greatly concerned about the proper upbringing of their children as are the most enlightened Australians, have lost all sense of proportion and reason. I have visited American homes with children in them, and I have studied television programmes and paid particular attention to their effect upon children. That was one of the chief purposes of my recent visit to the United States of America. As a result of my observations I condemn as a gross libel on a great people the statements that have been made in this country about American television. The United States of America is the leader of the free world to-day. It is pouring out countless billions of dollars to help other countries. Yet honorable members opposite speak of the American people as though they were uncultured and lacking in any sense of good citizenship and decency.
– What has this to do with the clause?
– It has a. great deal to do with the clause. My remarks refer to a people who have been libellously criticized by the Labour party merely for the purpose of promoting its own argument. Who have been the Nobel prizewinners in recent years? Who are the great scientists–
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. What do Nobel prize-winners and scientists have to do with commercial television in Australia?
– I am waiting for the Minister to explain the connexion.
– I am describing the character of the people who, according to honorable members opposite, have been debased by commercial television. The criticism of honorable members opposite is sheer nonsense. A little truth ought to be brought into this discussion.
– What about Hollywood?
– I have said enough to-night to prove that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is the chief defender of Hollywood in this chamber.
– Order ! This discussion has nothing to do with the clause that is before the committee.
– I shall not allow myself to be distracted by further interjections.
The Government, with a full sense of responsibility, decided to provide for the licensing of private enterprise in the field of television. It believes, as do its supporters, that private enterprise is the greatest force for development in Australia. It provides secure jobs for the workers whom honorable members opposite are supposed to represent. The great manufacturing industries are better fields for the employment of Australian men and women than are government services.
– I rise to order. What have the manufacturing industries to do with the issue of television licences? We are now in committee, and I submit that the Minister is not entitled to discuss in general terms the merits or otherwise of Australian industry.
– I understand that the Minister is comparing the television industry with other industries.
– I have been explaining that private industry occupies an extremely important place in the economy of Australia and that it should be encouraged instead of discouraged by the honorable member for Melbourne, who is supposed to be a responsible man.
– Come to the point.
– The honorable member is interrupting my speech continually in order to distract my thoughts. I ask you to restrain him, Mr. Chairman.
– The Minister must be given a fair hearing.
– Had the honorable gentleman been interrupted as I have been interrupted by him, he would have raised his voice in protest.
The Government stands for competitive private enterprise. It has provided in this clause for the licensing of commercial television stations because it believes that the television viewer should be given a choice. He should not be compelled, if he wishes to watch his television screen, to look at a scene that has been specially prepared for him by government experts who believe that he should see only what they consider to be suitable. The viewer may like one kind of entertainment whilst government experts may think that he should have another class of entertainment. He should have the right to see what he wants to see. Provision for the licensing of commercial television stations is an important part of the Government’s policy. We believe in allowing the people of Australia to have complete freedom of choice in all such matters. Therefore, this is a very important clause. No licences will be granted until the report of the royal commission has been received. We believe that television should be carefully studied so that we shall understand all of its problems before we decide to issue licences. It is essential that we acquire a full understanding of the economics of television. I believe that it would be virtually impossible for more than two commercial television stations to operate in any of our big cities and earn sufficient revenue to finance their programmes. However, this is a matter that will be investigated by the royal commission. I ask the committee to adopt the clause.
.- It is ridiculous that the committee should be called upon only a few minutes before midnight- to discuss a clause which, according to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), will not become effective until some time in the distant future after the royal commission ha3 considered a wide variety of problems and has supplied the Government with a great deal of additional information about the operation of television. The honorable gentleman has said that the decision to introduce this clause was made by a responsible government. I believe that he has shown, by his words, that the Government is entirely irresponsible. It proposes to force this legislation through the Parliament with indecent haste.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the licensing of commercial television stations.
– That is what I am doing. If you will give me a “ go “, Mr. Chairman, I shall not wander so far away from the subject as did the Postmaster-General.
– Order !
– The PostmasterGeneral has made out a great case for commercial television. He has kept honorable members here until midnight in order to tell them how necessary it is that the people of Australia should be provided with alternative services. He has said that these services will be provided in the dim and distant future. If it is to happen in the dim and distant future why are honorable members being kept here to-night in order to discuss what is merely a statement of Government policy?
The Postmaster-General has told us of his investigations into commercial television in America. There he saw television in the homes and observed its effect on children. He did not tell us the stations that were operating or the programmes that he viewed, but American journalists who have observed the effect of commercial television in America have supplied details of what the people are given to look at. The stories of those journalists are entirely different from that of the PostmasterGeneral. The Postmaster-General forgot to tell us anything of his experience of television in the United Kingdom. Television has operated in the United Kingdom for a number of years, and I have not heard of any system of commercial television having been introduced there. I understand that television is still a government monopoly in the United Kingdom, just as broadcasting is a government monopoly there. The government monopoly of television was introduced in the United Kingdom, not by a Labour government or a socialist government, but by a conservative government and a conservative government is retaining the government monopoly of television and broadcasting in the United Kingdom because it has taken a responsible view of the situation and has not acted in the irresponsible manner in which the Australian Government is acting.
In considering the advisability of having commercial television it is appropriate to examine the record of commercial broadcasting in Australia because it is expected that the operators of commercial broadcasting stations will become the licencees of commercial television stations, I venture to suggest that the majority of listeners will agree that a large percentage of broadcasts over the commercial system are not fit to listen to. Honorable members have been told of the educational and cultural programmes that will be presented by television stations including operas and performances of symphony orchestras. But how much of that class of programme is broadcast by commercial stations? At least 75 per cent, of the broadcasts of commercial stations, particularly at the times at which the majority of people are free to listen are of unadulterated rubbish which appeals only to the most unthinking and uneducated section of the community. Members of the. Liberal party would probably enjoy it. After examining the record of commercial broadcasting stations one cannot confidently look forward to programmes of any quality from commercial television stations. “We can anticipate advertisements and soap operas. We can expect to hear about how to wash ladies’ underclothes and how a soap is exceptionally good in the bath and with such advertisements we shall see the cheapest form of entertainment. I think that this House is entitled to protect Australia from that type of rubbish and to set up a body of experts which will provide a worthy national programme.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has been operating for a number of years. I think that the Bruce-Page Government established the Australian Broadcasting Commission by purchasing certain stations from private enterprise. In nineteen cases out of twenty it is necessary to turn to the national stations in order to receive programmes of a decent standard. With the introduction of television I have no doubt that we could set up an authority composed of experts who could do as good a job in the television field as the Australian Broadcasting Commission has done in the broadcasting field.
– I rise to order. Is it in order for this committee to continue the debate without having an opportunity to eat? Is the gag which the Government is in the habit of applying intended to close our mouths so that we cannot eat? Has the PostmasterGeneral made any provision for supper?
– That matter is not within the purview of the Chairman of Committees, and I know nothing of it. The debate will therefore continue.
Friday, 27 February 1953
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 17
– The Minister for External Affairs must refrain from reading a newspaper in the chamber, since a point of order on his action has been taken.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 5 to 10 agreed to.
Title agreed to.’
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill -byleave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Fisheries Bill 1953.
Pearl Fisheries Bill 1953.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1953.
Taxation Administration Bill 1953.
Land Tax Abolition Bill 1953.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Norfolk Island - Report for 1950-51. Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
National Development - P. G. Duff. Repatriation - M. I. Michelmore.
House adjourned at 12.15 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
ne asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honor able member’s questions are as follows: - 1 find 2. The houses to which the honorable gentleman refers have now been taken over by the department administered by my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, and I understand that department has undertaken to review the question of rentals.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 February 1953, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530226_reps_20_221/>.