22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to put matters right in regard to words that I used in the committee stage of the Broadcasting and Television Bill last evening. I crave your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to hear me on the matter. During the course of the debate, when criticizing the Government’s appointment of Dame Enid Lyons to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I said that she and her late husband had been well rewarded for their betrayal of or treachery to the Labour party. Those were words that I should not have used, and I regret having used them. I apologize for having used them. Had the lady been present as a member of this House she certainly would have been able to reply, but she is no longer here. It was a statement made in the heat of debate, but, after reflection, I now withdraw it. I thank the House for hearing my apology. In the committee stage of the bill I shall try to express my views on the matter in different language.
Honorable members. - Hear, hear !
– I ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service, relating to the introduction of a bill of which he has given notice. Can the Minister make available to the House any observations on the problems of the legislation that were directed to his attention by the judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration or by the conciliation commissioners or officials who have been directly concerned with the administration of the present law? I mentioned this matter before, and the Minister promised to inquire into it.
– I have discussed this matter with my colleague, the Attorney-General, and, as I intimated previously, some discussion did take place between that honorable gentleman and the judges, in the course of which the Attorney-General indicated broadly the scheme that the Government had in mind to present to the Parliament. There was a document, I understand, that passed from the judges to the AttorneyGeneral for presentation to the Prime Minister, but I gather that it was not a document related directly to the scheme of arbitration, and that it was not in a suitable form to be made available for public consideration, nor was it the intention that that should be done. I hope to indicate to the Parliament, during the second-reading debate and the committee stage, the views that have been put to me by responsible organizations, and honorable members will, of course, have their own opportunities to ascertain the views of representative elements in the industrial community. It might be convenient for me to mention at this stage that I have tried to assist honorable members as much as I could in their consideration of this very lengthy and important measure. First, I had prepared the memorandum that has already been made available to honorable members. I have had prepared also a memorandum which, as the Leader of the Opposition will notice when he sees it, is in something of the same form as the document that he prepared at the time of the 1947 legislation. This memorandum will show how the act will appear after the bill has been passed, if it is passed in the form in which it is presented to the Parliament. It will enable the measure and the debate on it to be followed much more easily. I have had prepared a comparative table showing the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and those of the new bill. This will make the clauses of the bill easier to follow. I can tell the honorable member that more than half the content of the new measure has been taken over from the present act, with nothing more than small drafting changes. The comparative table will show where the sections taken over appear in the existing act. I think all these matters will be of assistance to honorable members.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs indicate when suitable accommodation will be provided for the staff of the Soils Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization at present housed in the Waite Institute, Adelaide? In view of the importance of the work of this division to primary industry, can the Minister assure the House that the matter will be treated as urgent?
– An appreciable problem arises in respect of the housing of the head-quarters of the Soils Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which, by courtesy of the University of Adelaide, has been accommodated in the Waite Institute in the suburbs of Adelaide for, I think, the last 25 years. Owing to the shortage of accommodation at the Adelaide university, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been asked whether the Soils Division could be moved elsewhere at the earliest possible moment. It is difficult to make such a move. We have had notice of the request for the last couple of years at least, but it is difficult to establish the division elsewhere quickly. Owing to the very great deal .of building that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has had to undertake by virtue of its expanding activities, we have been able to make provision for no more than about half the staff of the Soils Division in places other than the Waite Institute, in spite of the fact that the University of Adelaide has been good enough to provide space for the purpose in the vicinity of the Waite Institute. We are doing our best to return at least half of the university accommodation occupied by the division to the university by the end of next year. I cannot promise better than that. I have no complaint about the university, which has shown the utmost consideration for the .Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization over the years. I can say only that I am not entirely happy about the situation, and that we are doing our best to meet it. The importance of the Soils Division is, I think, undoubted. 1 1 is basic to the whole of the agricultural industries, and the remarkable increase of agricultural production in Australia, 1 think, has been based largely, though not. of course, entirely, on the work of the division.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he is aware that the price fixation policy for dried vine fruits followed by the Australian Dried Fruits Association is detrimentally affecting manufacturers in Australia. Is it correct that dried vine fruits, such as three crown sultanas, can be offered by the manufacturers for export in wooden cases at £123 16s. 6d. a ton net, but that Australian manufacturers are compelled to pay £128 18s. lid. a ton net for the same quality fruit for use in a manufactured article for export? Is it the policy of the association to sell the milk of Australia’s dried vine fruits to the United Kingdom for whatever price it can obtain, and .then seek from the Commonwealth a subsidy to make up the difference in price? How can this policy be justified when it is realized that the association’s attitude to the use of this fruit in local manufacture is outpricing our products in overseas markets ?
– The question is rather complicated.
Opposition Members. - Oh !
– I doubt whether it could be answered by any Opposition member, or even by my colleague the honorable member for Mallee, who knows as much about this subject as any other person in Australia knows. ‘ But I can say, first, that the Australian Dried Fruits Association is a voluntary organization and is not in any sense controlled by the Commonwealth. The association obtains vine fruit and sells it, both overseas and on the local market, to the best advantage of the Australian dried fruits industry as a whole. It does it effectively and well. I am sure that it is not the policy of the association to dump fruit on the United Kingdom market. From my personal observations over the last twelve weeks, I am certain that it attempts to get the highest price in overseas markets that it is possible to get. The honorable gentleman might like to know - obviously he does not know it now - that by far the larger proportion of the total production of dried vine fruits produced in Australia is exported. A small proportion, about 20 per cent., is consumed here, but by far the larger proportion is exported. I shall have a look at the two questions relating to the prices charged locally and overseas, and, if I think it is practicable to do so, I shall give the honorable gentleman a more complete answer. When Australian marketing organizations are doing their best to sell Australian produce, I think it would be bad for people in this House, quite unwittingly, to use propaganda which might have the effect of prejudicing - I say this quite deliberately - the operations of a very effective organization that is working onbehalf of a very important industry.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Territories been drawn to a very caustic criticism, attributed to an Indian visitor to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, concerning the alleged policy of segregation in the schools in that Territory? Is it a fact that in Australia, wherever circumstances permit, no objection is raised to the enrolment of coloured children in the normal schools, and that such children are obliged to attend special schools only when it is beneficial for them to do so? Does that policy apply also in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, which were the subject of the criticism to which I referred?
– The implication in the honorable member’s question is quite correct. In some cases, special schools are established solely for the indigenous people. The reason for establishing them solely for the indigenous people is that that is the most effective way of advancing their welfare. To put it in a simple fashion, if persons do not have English as their native language, it is necessary to teach them English before you can proceed to teach them other things. Obviously they cannot sit in the same schools as people who already know English. For reasons of that kind, it is necessary to establish special schools for the education of children with a less advanced cultural level than our own children. But in those cases where the children have advanced to the same cultural level and the same social circumstances as our own children, they sit side by side with them in the schools. At the present time, in a number of boarding schools on the Australian mainland there are children from Papua and New Guinea attending as boarders, living in the same dormitories, feeding at the same tables and studying in the same classrooms as Australian children. They are taking their secondary education in that manner.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister, I address a question to the Treasurer concerning the action that has been taken by the Government to restrict imports to this country. I do not question the necessity for import restrictions, but I find that, in the implementation of the Government’s policy, undue hardship is being inflicted on one section of the community. I refer to the small manufacturer, who in the past has bought his supplies from Australian firms which have had import quotas. Those firms are now refusing to import the good? necessary to enable these small manufacturers to continue and there is every possibility that their factories will go out of production. I have taken the matter up with the department, but import licences have been refused to the people concerned. I should like the Treasurer to ensure that, in giving effect to the Government’s policy, every precaution shall be taken to prevent these small industries from being penalized because the firms from which they buy supplies are using the whole of their quotas for the import of other goods. Conditions should be imposed which will enable these small manufacturers to continue in production.
– Obviously, in any form of restriction there must be some apparent hardships and anomalies. However, I shall have the aspects that the honorable member has raised looked into in order to ascertain what reply I may give him in connexion with his observations.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information as to which countries are establishing bases in the Antarctic for the International Geophysical Year, and where -are the bases situated?
– About a dozen countries are establishing scientific stations in thu Antarctic for the International Geophysical Year. We have had our own well-established base for the last three years at Mawson. Going clockwise around the Antarctic continent - I hope I do not make any omissions - from our Australian base at Mawson, are the Russian, American, French, New Zealand, another American, Chilean, Argentinian, United Kingdom, Belgian, Norwegian, and Japanese bases. I think that I have not omitted any. There are about a dozen bases, nearly all on the coastal perimeter of the Antarctic continent, but with a certain number of stations in the hinterland. I;n addition, the British trans-polar expedition is attempting to go right across the North Pole from one side of the Antarctic continent to the other. There will he two stations in the Australian sector, apart from our own, namely (.he Russian scientific base, which is already established, and, I understand, an American base, not very far away from the Russian base. The International Geophysical Year starts, technically, in the middle of 1957, but the preliminary work of establishing bases has been continuing, particularly by Australia, for the las! several years.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior, now that he h.-is announced increased bus fares to operate in Canberra city : Will he give fresh consideration to proposals that have been made from time to time for the issue of through or transfer tickets, so that passengers who are required to change from one bus to another during the course of one single journey will not be called on to pay an additional primary fare of sixpence for the first section? Will –he Minister recognize that, because of the layout of this city, a single journey may involve two such transfers from one bus Co another, and the payment of two addi tional primary fares? Would the Minister consider also the introduction of workmen’s weekly tickets and would he, in giving consideration to these matters, seek the advice of the Transport Workers Union and other interested bodies? Would he, perhaps, consider making a public statement on the matter?
– I appreciate the importance of the matters which the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has raised. I shall certainly be glad to look at all of them, but I point out that if the extension of these concessions were to cause a substantial decrease in revenue, it would simply mean that there would have to be a greater subsidy or a further review of fares. However, the matters that he raises are of considerable importance to the people of Canberra, and I shall be glad to give them close attention.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Primary Industry an uncomplicated question. Is he aware of the proposal to export high-quality, pure-bred dairy cattle to Japan? If so, will he say whether this move will constitute a loss to the industry in Australia?
– The honorable gentleman will know that in the exporting of dairy cattle the Government faces two problems. The first is the need to build up our overseas balances and the second is the need to conserve the herds of dairy cattle, especially stud cattle, in this country. Both those problems are taken into consideration before a decision is made. The honorable gentleman will know that a couple of years ago, because of a drought in the drecedinig twelve months or two years, the export of dairy cattle was completely prohibited. Recently I approved of the export of 2,500 dairy cattle. I should not like to make a comment on their quality, because I do not know what it was, but I can assure him that I first obtained the consent of the dairy cattlemen’s organization and the approval of the Minister for Agriculture in the State from which the cattle were to be exported. As one who is deeply interested in this industry, I give the honorable member my assurance th:, 1 before the Government acts in these matters.it seeks the advice of responsible leaders of the industry.
– I ask the Minister for Territories: How many Australian territories beyond the mainland he has visited during the last year, and what was the duration of his visits?
– The question takes me a little by surprise and I have to search my memory for the answer. Does the honorable gentleman mean the calendar year 1955?
– I was certainly in New Guinea for about two or three weeks. I was in the Northern Territory on two occasions and at Norfolk Island once.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for External Affairs, is to some extent supplementary to that asked of him by the honorable member for Boothby. His answer related to the housing of the Soils Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in the Waite Institute, Adelaide, and indicated that though the future housing of the division might absorb some money, it had done valuable soil survey work. Will the Minister intimate whether the primary industry sections, particularly, of the organization are returning dividends in the national interest comparable to their expenditure, and therefore merit greater encouragement in the Commonwealth budget?
– I recognize the interest of the honorable gentleman in these matters. I know that recently he has visited the Waite Institute with my friend the honorable member for Boothby. There can be no doubt whatever of the value of the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and its predecessor during the generation of their existence. I made a calculation a little time ago as to the dividends that the
Australian people had had from the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization over the 30 years of its existence. I am speaking from memory, but I think that this figure is approximately true, when I say that the total cost over a generation, as I worked it out, was about £35,000,000. It is no exaggeration to say that the Australian people are getting, in each year, a dividend a very great many times more than the total cost of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization over a generation. The story is a remarkable one. I do not think that the value of intelligently directed scientific research - I do not necessarily mean politically directed scientific research - is sufficiently realized. I think it is quite easily the best investment that any country can make. We are very greatly indebted to the officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research before it, for the quite remarkable results that have been achieved over a short period of time.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Supply by explaining that the day before yesterday, the Premier of South Australia, on the occasion of the opening of the State Parliament, made the announcement that the uranium treatment plant at Port Pirie in that State was in operation and that the output of uranium oxide had exceeded expectations. He stated that to date the value of the production over a period of nine months was in the vicinity of £2,000,000. In view of the frank disclosure by the Premier of the value of the production from the South Australian plant, will the Minister now disclose to this House in an equally frank manner the value of the production of uranium oxide from the Rum Jungle plant in the Northern Territory? Will he also state whether a profit is being made on the operations of that plant, and if so, the amount? In view of the fact that security measures over the disclosure of the production and processes involved in the mining and treatment of uranium do not now appear to be as necessary as they were twelve or eighteen months ago, will the Minister make a comprehensive statement to the House disclosing as much information as possible as to the economics and possibilities of uranium projects controlled by the Commonwealth Government in the Northern Territory? “Will he state whether the visit overseas of the chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission will result in a further longterm contract for the disposal of the commission’s production at existing rates?
– There are so many details in. the honorable member’s question that I am sure that he would not expect me to be able to give a detailed reply to every aspect of it. However, it is not so much a question of security in relation to the publication of details concerning Bum Jungle production. Although security may enter into it, it is primarily a matter of contractual obligation.
– That is not what you said previously.
– In the original contract which was entered into with the Combined Development Agency, stipulations were made and undertakings were given by Australia that certain details would not be published. I shall look into the whole matter and see what information can be given,
– That is different from what you said before.
– Oh, shut up, will you?
-Order! Did the honorable member for East Sydney make a rude remark? I did not hear him.
– The Minister for Supply made a rude remark to me and you should have corrected him, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– Order ! The House will come to order. The Minister may continue.
– I am sure that what I said was unparliamentary, but it was said under extreme provocation. Continuing with my answer to the honorable member for the Northern Territory, I say that T shall look into the details contained in his question. I can say with respect to
Rum Jungle generally, that we are making a profit. We expect that, at .the end of the time of the present contract, we shall have repaid in its entirety the loan which was obtained from the Combined Development Agency. We shall, therefore, have an expensive plant, free of all encumbrance. In addition to that, “we expect to have made a substantial profit from the whole transaction.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That, unless otherwise ordered, the House shall meet for the despatch of business, in addition to the days fixed by Standing Order 38, on each Friday at 10.30 a.m. commencing on Friday, the 18th May, and continuing until the end of next month.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That Standing Order 104 - 11’ o’clock rule - be suspended until the end of next month.
Mr. Deputy Speaker proceeding to put the question, and honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Werriwa will cease interjecting when the Chair is speaking.
– I did not say a word. The Chair should withdraw that unfounded admonition. .
Honorable members continuing to interject,
-Order! Honorable members on my left will keep quiet. All honorable .members will keep quiet.
– You mean they will shut up.
– Orde ! I asked the honorable member for Werriwa to keep quiet. He will apologize to the Chair.
– I shall apologize for having disobeyed you on this occasion, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that you will have the grace to apologize for having wrongly accused me on the previous occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1955, and for other purposes.
– I rise to a matter of procedure. I am not opposing the motion, but I should like the Minister to explain briefly to the House what is intended. I gather from the contents of certain cognate measures to come before us, that all the bills are related to the main purpose of the Minister. Can the Minister confirm our belief that the bill involves amendment of the arbitration system with application right down the line? Otherwise, honorable members may think that the cognate bills deal with matters entirely unrelated to arbitration.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition for giving me this opportunity to explain the matter. I thought I had made it clear at an earlier stage that the associated measures are purely consequential on this measure. I am advised by the Parliamentary Draftsman, and by my department, that no other change of substance has been made whatsoever in the subsequent measures that will be introduced other than that required by the principal bill. I might explain to honorable members that, for their convenience, we have arranged to have all the cognate bills stapled together as one document and to have one second reading debate to cover all the bills. I gather that that arrangement is acceptable to members of the Opposition. Of course, the bills will go through the normal procedural stages, and if any discussion is desired, at the committee stage, on any one of them, opportunity will exist for it. .
In addition to the other bills that I shall now seek leave to introduce is another consequential measure which, under ordinary circumstances. I should have sought leave to introduce to-day. I refer to a bill providing for a consequential amendment to the Coal Industry Act, under which the Coal Industry Tribunal was appointed. It is the practice to confer with the Government of New South Wales to obtain its concurrence in the introduction ofsuch amending legislation. That procedure is being followed, but, in the time available, it has not been possible to obtain the concurrence of the Government of New South Wales in time for the bill to be submitted to the House with those for which I shall now seek leave to introduce. It will be introduced at a later stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill tor an act to amend the Public Service Arbitration Act 1920-1955, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power Act 1949-1955.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Navigation Act 1912-1953.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian CapitalT erritory Supreme Court Act 1933-1955.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt; agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Evidence Act 1905-1950.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Judges’ Pensions Act 1948-1951.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 9th May (vide page 1921).
Clauses 7 to 40 - by leave - considered together;
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, in speaking to my amendment . (.vide page 1913) for the second time, I wish to sum up the position and, having regard to the fact that the “guillotine “ will fall at certain periods, to indicate the course that the Opposition proposes to follow in relation to the remainder of the committee discussion. I shall not add anything in detail to what has already been said in relation to the amendment now before the committee, which seeks to increase the membership of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to nine, and provides that the membership must include a resident of each State. The Opposition proposes to seek a test vote on this amendment. If it is defeated, amendments Nos. 3 and 4 on the list that I have circulated, which are consequential, will be disposed of automatically. Then I shall be free, as you ruled yesterday, to introduce amendment No. 5, which relates to the initial licence period and to seek a vote on it.
The view that the Opposition has put is that the Australian Broadcasting Commission itself is responsible for a number of most unsatisfactory features in its organization. I shall not repeat what was said, but we feel that the commission has not carried out its duty, in connexion with controversial subjects, to have both sides of the case put. I refer to the broadcasts arranged by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on international affairs and the deterioration in the quality and impartiality. I would not mind if the broadcasts were partial and partisan provided the opposite views were put. I want to make it perfectly clear - and the study of the broadcasts of the last six months will prove it - that the one view is hammered in all the time. There may be one or two exceptions, but that statement is broadly correct. The commissioners are responsible for it. They cannot delegate that duty to mere employees or personnel.
I referred yesterday also to the reporting of the news. I indicated then that, although the Government suffered an important reverse in the Senate yesterday on the problem of aggregation of leaseholds in the Australian Capital. Territory, not a word was said about it in the 7 o’clock news. One could give instance after instance of that kind of thing. These commissioners require looking into, and one of the reasons for the Opposition’s proposal to increase the number of members is that that should be one result of the change. I ha/e indicated, too, that the objective that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be following is the objective that is pursued by the British Broadcasting Corporation in England. There, the broadcasts of parliamentary leaders, leaders outside Parliament, or representative spokesmen, on controversial issues are not limited to election periods. It is the duty of the British Broadcasting Corporation to see that the case is presented from opposing points of view at all times, and the corporation does so. That is one of the duties cast also upon the commercial television authority in Britain.
– The parliamentary proceedings are not broadcast in England. Is not that the reason?
– It is perfectly true that there are no parliamentary broadcasts in England, but the honorable member knows perfectly well that it is not only when Parliament is meeting that controversial items arise. During a recess, a great international crisis may arise, or there may be internal economic stress. Reliance cannot always be placed on the fact that the proceedings of Parliament are being broadcast at that time. The honorable member is answered not merely by that fact, but by the duty - not a mere power but a . duty - cast by practice upon the British Broadcasting Corporation and by law upon commercial television in England to present both sides of a controversy. The Australian Broadcasting Commission shrinks from that. Each time that it has to make a decision of that kind, there is something in the nature of an internal crisis. The commissioners meet, and there are consultations by post and all that sort of thing. I should like the opposing points of view to be put on the great questions that arise; there may be three or four, or six or eight of them during the year. ft is obviously essential in Australia to preserve freedom of expression under our democratic system, or it will wither.
The press is controlled more and more by great business concerns and is becoming more powerful, economically and financially, and naturally through their influence. When the same groups of people gradually extend their domain into sound broadcasting - and that is undoubted - and television is added, a critical situation arises. The Australian Broadcasting Commission can play a much bigger part than it has been playing and give a fairer account of these controversial questions.
This amendment has been sufficiently illustrated by my colleagues, and very important votes will be taken later on the appointment of a Standing Committee on Broadcasting and Television, the broadcasting of music, the percentage now fixed, and the quota of Australian productions in commercial television. The standing committee will also have to decide matters concerning the way in which the licensees and the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall deal with the question of divine worship being broadcast or televised, the broadcasting or televising of questions of controversy, and, finally, the broadcasting or televising of sporting events. I am mentioning these things only to indicate that there are half a dozen important problems to be dealt with, and the Opposition desires that a vote be taken on this clause, and then that the next clause be considered. A limited time having been fixed for the consideration of these clauses, any time gained by the method I suggest may be used in disposing of other matters, but some opportunity for debate should be allowed in respect of each one of them. I am obliged to honorable members and to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, for having allowed me to put these matters before the committee.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to he omitted (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the bill.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. g. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Amendments Nos. 3 and 4, of which I had given notice, were consequential on acceptance of my amendment No. 2, which has just been defeated. I shall not now move them, but shall proceed to my amendment No. 5.
Clause 38 covers proposed section 48, which deals with the duration of licences, and reads - “ 48. Subject to this Act, a licence continues in force -
That, in proposed section 48, the words “ five years “ be omitted, with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ three years “.
I referred to this matter incidentally last evening, when I pointed out that the object of the Opposition in endeavouring to limit the period of the licence to three years is to place some curb on the trend towards combination and monopoly in these vital services. There should be a determined effort by the Parliament to prevent the further spread of monopolies, and that is the object of the Opposition on this occasion. I think that the Minister referred to this matter earlier, from his point of view, and I now put the view of the Opposition. I do not propose to add anything to what I said last evening. My colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), has some observations to make to the committee, and we propose that a test vote shall be taken on this amendment, and that we then move ahead to the other amendments.
.- The Leader of the Opposition seems to be under the impression that I made some comments on this proposal last evening. I direct the committee’s attention to the fact that that is not quite correct. When the right honorable gentleman dealt with these amendments last night, he spoke both to the amendment that has just been negatived by the committee and the one that is now before us. I think you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, directed that separate votes should be taken on these proposals because, although I directed my remarks last evening solely to the proposal to increase the membership of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to nine, I did not give any indication of the Government’s attitude to the amendment before the committee, or of its reasons therefor. I wish to do that briefly now. The Leader of the Opposition, in submitting this proposal last evening and this morning, seems to be attempting to attribute some sinister motive to the Government in the extending of the period of the initial licence from three years to five years. He suggests that, by this means, the Government is deliberately allowing the development of monopolies in both radio and television. Just how those monopolies are to develop, I do not know, but it seems that the right honorable gentleman suffers from a monopoly complex.
– Another conspiracy.
– That is so. The reasons for the extension of the period of the initial licence from three years to five years are simple, and, I think, quite logical and justifiable. The position is, simply, that the establishment of both radio and television broadcasting stations, particularly television stations, nowadays requires the outlay of a much greater amount of capital than was needed in earlier years. It is a well-known fact that considerable capital is required for the establishment of a television station, and it is well recognized that, therefore, licensees are entitled to some security of tenure. This applies also, though to a somewhat lesser degree, to new radio stations, which, no doubt, will be established from time to time. The Government considers that, in the light of the capital expenditure and the other factors involved, it is a fair thing to give the licensees greatersecurity of tenure than they have had in the past. This matter has been the subject of considerable representation by organizations such as the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations.
I should like to point out that the first year of the five-year period for which a licence, particularly a television licence, is granted initially, will be spent in the installation of transmitters, studios, and the general equipment of the station. One year of the five will elapse without any possibility of financial return. It will be evident to the committee, also, from the statements made before the Royal Commission on Television, that it can be expected, as the licensees expect, that no profits will be made in the operation of a station for three years. Even with an initial licence for a five-year period, very little time will be left to the licensee to obtain a reasonable return on the capital expended in the provision of a service for the community generally. Those are the simple reasons for the Government’s proposal. I think they are perfectly sound.
May I add that this principle will apply also to the licensing of new commercial radio stations. The greater security of tenure that we are giving will provide more incentive for the establishment of radio stations in the rural areas where there is not the same amount of capital generally available as in the cities. Local interests need greater security of tenure to encourage them to come forward and provide the capital needed for the extension of broadcasting services,’ and the Government is providing that greater security of tenure. The greater security of tenure will promote the extension of improved services not only in television but also in radio. This is another factor that must be taken into account. For the reasons that I have Stated, the Government does not accept the amendment.
– The remarks of tho PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) would have been much more convincing if it were not for the fact that the so-called Royal Commission on Television made some observations on this very question that are completely antagonistic to the arguments advanced by the Minister. I might add that the royal commission itself recommended, in paragraph 360, at page 72 of its report, that licences for commercial television stations should be granted for a period not exceeding three years, and should be renewed for a period not exceeding one year. The amendment is designed to give effect to the recommendations of the royal commission. The Government says that, broadly, the bill is based upon those recommendations. As I remarked during the consideration of another clause, it is based upon those recommendations in the little things, but, in the big things from which big money is to be made, the Government has yielded to pressure from outside interests. In support of that allegation, I should like to read from paragraph 359 of the royal commission’s report, which deals with the views of the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations and the Australian Association of Advertising Agencies, as advanced by the representatives of those organizations. I would summarize the first part of the paragraph by saying that certain of the witnesses submitted that licences should be issued for an unlimited period, subject to compliance with the appropriate legislation and regulations. The paragraph then continues -
A number of other witnesses, including Mr. C. Ogilvy (Macquarie Broadcasting Service Pty. Ltd.) and Mr. S. R. 1. Clark (Queensland Newspapers Pty. Ltd.), also expressed the view that licences should be granted on a continuing basis.
The Government, having granted to certain companies the right to own and operate one each of four stations, is, in effect, giving them £1,000,000 to begin with. That is what the assets created by the Government for these companies would be worth. The gentlemen whose names I have mentioned, being anxious to retain what they were about to receive, wished to hold their licences for all time, without control of any sort. My good friend, Mr. W. Dunstan, of the Melbourne Herald and Weekly Times Limited, according to paragraph 359 of the royal commission’s report, suggested -
The report then continues - whilst Sir John Butters (Associated Newspapers Ltd.) felt that the initial licence should be granted for ten years with renewal periods of five to seven years.
It can be seen that the people who sought licences intended to get from the royal commission all they possibly could, and that they intended, if it did not give them enough, to ask the Government for more. Like Oliver Twist, they did ask for more, and, unlike him, they succeeded in obtaining more. In paragraph 360 of the report, we find the following observations : -
The arguments advanced in support of the above-mentioned contentions may be summarized as follows: -
Maximum initial investment would be encouraged;
licensees would be encouraged to reinvest earnings and improve standards of equipment and service; and
advertisers would be able to arrange long-term contracts.
The very arguments that the Minister used a few minutes ago were canvassed before the royal commission and were understood by its members. After giving full weight to those three considerations, the royal commission made the recommendation I have just quoted. Paragraph 360 of the report refers to the Federal Communications Commission of the United States of America, in the following words : -
Although the Federal Communications Commission on 5th November, 1953, altered its rules to provide for licences for television stations to be issued for a normal period of three years, licences in the United States of America were originally issued for one year only. This did not, it would seem, deter the investment of private capital.
There again, the Minister is answered. The report continues -
In its “ Notice of Proposed Rule Making “ dated 23rd July, 1053, the Federal Communications Commission stated that “the oneyear licence period for television broadcast stations was appropriate during the early formative period of the television broadcast service “.
Yet, the Minister tells us that we must have an initial period of five years, because for the first three years these companies are not going to make a profit. Why are they putting millions of pounds in if they are not going to make a profit? Nobody accepts the argument of the companies that they are not going to make a profit for the first three years. If they are going to buy £25,000 programmes for £250 and put them on here-
– They will cost £150.
– It may be that some of them will be bought for £150.
– Look at the price of the shares on the stock exchange. That indicates whether they will make a profit or not.
– I know something about stock exchanges, although I have never dabbled in shares. Almost anything can be worked up on stock exchanges when the right rumours are sent round. They can bull and bear on the stock exchanges in regard to the shares of these companies as well as in regard to others.
– Rough Range, for instance.
– There was Rough Range in regard to oil, the North Australia Uranium Corporation in regard to uranium and all the rest. Now let us get back to the bill. The royal commission stated also in its report -
The Broadcasting Act 1942-53 provides that licences for commercial broadcasting stations may be granted for a period not exceeding three years and may be renewed for one period not exceeding one year. We recommend that the same provision should apply in the case of licences for commercial television stations.
Let the Minister stand up and give a convincing argument as to why he turned down the recommendation of the royal commission on this issue.
– I have just given the reason.
– The Minister hasnot controverted what the royal commission said. The royal commission canvassed exactly the same arguments as the Minister has canvassed. But I have got what Carlyle would call a preternatural suspicion that some of these big vested interests pressurized the Minister’s predecessor and that the Minister found himself holding a baby in regard to this matter. Left to himself, he probably would have carried out the recommendation of the royal commission.
– May I suggest that the honorable member is influenced more by suspicion than by logic?
– Surely I am entitled to have my suspicions of this Government. I have reason to be suspicious. I am arguing before the committee that the royal commission put up a more logical case for its point of view than the Minister has put up for departing from the recommendation of that body.
The grant of licences to these companies is hedged round with all sorts of conditions that were never heard of in connexion with commercial radio broadcasting. The reason is that, having got an initial term of five years, with a renewal period of one year afterwards, the companies are determined that no subsequent government, without altering the act, will be able to take effective action against, them if they behave unfairly in regard to their use of the public domain - because the air is the public domain. They do not need to act in contravention of the legislation itself in order to commit an anti-social act.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mi>. IAN ALLAN (Gwydir) [11.39].- I do not want to engage the attention of the committee with a matter that is not serious, such as that about which we have been listening to members of the Opposition speak during the last hour or so. I wish to direct the attention of the committee to what I regard as the most important feature of the bill - something that has been completely overlooked in the debate so far. To my mind, it is so important that ultimately it may overshadow the television aspects of the bill. I refer to the ‘provision for the institution of frequency modulation. Frequency modulation is a technique which has been applied widely throughout other countries of the world, but upon which we have not embarked in this country, beyond running two experimental stations in capital cities for a few years.
Before I deal with that subject, however, I should like to mention two administrative matters of a minor nature connected with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commission is, as is generally recognized, a highly efficient organization. It is unique in the world. It runs a broadcasting network that spans the entire continent and it operates with the precision of a watch. Nothing of that kind has ever been attempted in any other country of a similar size. The proof that it is working efficiently is to be found in the high standard of programmes generally and the obvious lack of serious technical faults. However, in Sydney, where the commission has its head-quarters, a situation exists which, I think, should be corrected in the interests of general efficiency and the economy of the commission. In Sydney, the commission occupies five or six buildings, which are dispersed over a very wide area of the city. That means that a great deal of time and money is wasted in travelling and communicating between the various departments of the commission. “With the establishment of another branch of the organization at
Gore Hill, another distant suburb, this confusion and this patchwork arrangement will be made worse. There will be confusion worse confounded. I suggest to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) that he look at this matter to see whether it would be advisable or practicable to bring together all the bits and pieces of the commission’s head-quarters in Sydney and establish them at Gore Hill.
The second administrative matter connected with the Australian Broadcasting Commission to which I wish to refer is covered by the bill. There is an anomaly which, I think, should be corrected at this stage. Under the provisions of the bill, all technical work between the studios and transmitters, as well as at the transmitters themselves, both in the broadcasting section and the television section, will be carried out by officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– What has this to do with the clause under discussion?
– I am referring to clause 36. In the studios of the broadcasting section, the technical work is done by experts of the Postmaster-General’s Department, but in the television studios that work will be done by personnel of the commission. I believe that that is an anomaly. An opportunity exists now to bring all technical personnel working in the studios under the control of the commission. I believe that that would result in lower costs and higher efficiency. Those are the two minor matters to which I wished to draw the attention of the committee and the Minister.
As I have said, the important feature of the bill, to my mind, is frequency modulation. That was barred in previous years by a Labour government, for reasons known only to that government. This Government has taken advantage of this opportunity to remove the limitations imposed by the previous legislation, so the way will be clear for the establishment of frequency modulation stations throughout Australia. It is not generally appreciated that, although this is a fastdeveloping country, we have reached the stone end of the service that can be provided by amplitude modulation - that is, the existing broadcasting service. We must expect new settlements in various parts of this continent in future years. Under the present system, they will be unprovided for in the way of broadcasting, as much of Australia is unprovided for now. There are very many districts in Australia - populous districts - which cannot receive programmes from one broadcasting station reasonably well. There are only 156 broadcasting stations operating in Australia under the amplitude modulation system, whereas under frequency modulation 1,000 could operate. If we are to extend our broadcasting network, sooner or later we must go over to frequency modulation. We in the country will have to wait for many years before we benefit from television and, in fact, in some of the more sparsely populated rural areas we will probably never get television, but we are quite happy to support this bill. As a country man, I am quite happy to support the hill, because T know that the benefits that will be derived from the television industry will be spread over all the people of Australia. We shall be able to build up a large and vitally important industry which will help us in our defence and also with automation, which might interest my friends on the right. But, while supporting television in every aspect, I do appeal to the Postmaster-General to institute the inquiry into all aspects of frequency modulation, as promised or forecast by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in its last report. Now that the way has been opened for the erection of frequency modulation stations, I believe that a public inquiry should be held to find ways and means of encouraging this development, which would stimulate the electronics industry and at the same time provide a very valuable service, particularly to country people. When I speak of country people receiving broadcast news services, I mean something quite different from the broadcasting programmes and services that are provided for city folk, because in the country broadcasting has an entirely different value. It is an essential service. It is the only uptotheminute medium of mass communication. It provides the daily news for the man in the country. It is the service which gives him warning of floods, bush fires, and frost, and it brings comfort and solace to the isolated country women. It brings education to the children and it is a vital and essential service. If we desire tohave the country prosper and developfurther, we must encourage the extension of broadcasting in country areas. City people fare very well from broadcasting and, because it is a commonplace luxury, they regard it as just another form of” entertainment. I assure the committeethat the position is quite different in country areas, and some way must befound to provide more broadcasting stations there. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to examine this question and ascertain whether some way can be found, perhaps by limiting the period for which licences of amplitude modulation stations may be held in metropolitaa areas, of extending country services.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s timehas expired.
Mi”. HAYLEN (Parkes) [11.491.- The two representations made on thisclause by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) have not been answered by the Postmaster-General’ (Mr. Davidson). The matter to which we are referring is whether the existing term of three years should replace the proposed five-year term for new licences. This is a most important amendment, and the Minister should at some stageat least reply to this matter, because, although he is new at the table and ishandling an important bill with great skill, he is playing rather the roles of” Jekyll and Hyde. On the one hand he has the recommendations of the royal commission, and on the other he has. before him the bill. Either he speaks as Jekyll in regard to the bill, and regardsit as unassailable and not to be touched,, and in respect of which no amendments will be approved, or he uses the morehoneyed, hypocritical tones of Mr. Hyde to prove that this bill is the result of a thorough-paced and reasoned decision of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the recommendations of theroyal commission. Some of the arguments advanced by the Minister in support of a longer licence period seem tofavour the one thing of which we aredesperately afraid, and that is consolidating the monopoly that we charge does exist under the new set-up and in the issuance of licences. It is said, in a most pathetic way - and it will not be lost on the investors in new television companies and their directors - that a profit cannot be made under a three years’ licence. If the licence term is extended to five years, the risk is increased. We are told by this Government that business is an adventure. It has its hazards, and private enterprise depends upon the devil taking the hindmost. We are told that one has to be efficient and that this is a competitive world. We have heard all these slogans and cliches for years. If this is a difficult venture, and if these companies have to fight their way to solidity and profit in television, surely the American system of watching their infant steps for one year is better than allowing some of them to get into trouble, as they inevitably will, in the five years Keene?, period.
Another serious matter which the Government has completely overlooked is that of dollars. We know now that there will be no opportunity for local talent in that the syndicates will sell their tinned drama and horror films through commercial television. These cost dollars, no matter which way one twists it. If there is a buying service in the United States of America it is a case of direct expenditure of dollars, but if operations are conducted, as they are by so many of these syndicates, through the United Kingdom, eventually the dollars will come from the sterling pool. In any case dollars will be spent for this trash coming into the country. If five years are allowed in which to develop the buying programme and consolidation, in the long run not only will there be a total neglect of Australian talent - although just for the look of the thing some Australians might be employed - but also quite easily these companies might get into dollar trouble. I thought that at least the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) would have long since issued a warning to these companies with licences in their pockets, which are prepared for a five years’ developmental and exploitation period, that they should look at their standing in relation to dollars, because from time to time a statement is made in this House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or the Treasurer, but particularly the Prime Minister, on our monetary and dollar situation and the overseas balance of payments.
Apparently other nations, particularly the United States of America and Canada, have all had some rather carking problems concerning television. The United States of America, which propounds the free economy, in my view ad nauseam, has found it necessary to impose some control on some of these “ quickies “ and stations which spring up. In this case there is no question that consolidated finance is behind these people, but nevertheless a period of five years on a new technique, which both the Minister and the royal commission have told us is loaded with hazards and likely to be dangerous, appears to me to do only two things. First, it consolidates the monopolies into a complete, iron-clad unit to which no resistance can be made in the future. Secondly, this country in a few vital particulars is made to become monopoly and cartel bound. One can mention four or five huge consolidations which could govern the country or control governments, but another monopoly is being created and given the desired time in which to develop. I am sure that the royal commission, which took everything into consideration, reached a valid, logical, and reasonable conclusion in ‘relation to a’ licence period of three years. The Minister replied - if his speech can be classified as a reply - by implication at least that, although, as we go along, we apologize for, or denounce any objection to, the decisions of the royal commission, in this case we are not following the general decisions, because we have another view. What is the view? From where did the pressure come? To whom was it suggested and successfully proved in the finish that licences with a currency of five years should be the order of the day? I think that the proposal to extend these licences at this time is laden with considerable danger, both for the Government and the nation. Is it not normal procedure to hasten slowly with new institutions, new jobs and new ventures? In this case, the argument used is that the licensees will not make a profit for a long time. I do not see the validity of that argument. After the initial three-year period had elapsed, a licensee would be entitled to a renewal of his licence for further periods of one year. Five years is a long time in which to let a licensee do as he pleases subject only to safeguards and controls concerning programmes. If a five-year licence is granted to the commercial television companies no other company will, within our lifetime, have a chance of breaking into television. The five years “would be a period of consolidation. When it had passed the monopoly would be so strong that those who wandered outside it would be absorbed into the set-up, not as members but as people who had to be placated.
As I have said already, these companies are wealthy. I repeat, what of dollars? The Minister might tell us that and we shall leave him three or four minutes in which to do so. What of the unforeseen failures that may come ? We are told that long-term contracts are necessary in advertising. One witness before the royal commission asked for a ten years’ licence period and another suggested seven years. It is utter nonsense to suggest that this is necessary in order to take care of longterm advertising contracts. The advertiser on television, radio or any other means of mass communication switches his programme according to its current audience appeal. There is no such thing as tying up programmes for years on end. The granting of a five-year licence will both consolidate the monopoly which the issuance of these licences creates, and completely eliminate Australian television as we, on this side of the House, expected to see it. The canned programmes will come rolling into this country, and the dollar difficulty will be overcome in some way or other. Indeed, the great advertisers, such as General Motors and Colgates, the soap people, already have their programmes in tins in Sydney and Melbourne, and are merely waiting for the day when they can put them on. There will then be no work for Australian technicians; there will be no work for Australian actors. The big advertisers will merely buy time on one or all of the commercial stations, and we shall see television programmes made in the United States of America. Surely that ought to be looked at in considering whether three years should be the term of the licence. Such a period could act as a deterrent to those people who, in five years, would move in on television programmes to such an extent that there would be no future in Australian television for our own people. The Minister ought to consider those points carefully in view, especially, of the fact that the royal commission, after sitting at length and inviting any one who had any opinion on this problem to come along and talk to it, decided on the three-year period. The Government has decided upon a five-year licence for the rather fatuous reason that in a shorter period the companies will not make a profit. Honorable members can bet that this is only a matter of throwing out a sprat to catch a mackerel.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As the time limit has been reached I will not avail myself of the opportunity to speak.
– If the honorable member does not wish to speak during the short time remaining, I shall do so.
– The right honorable gentleman has already spoken for a long time on this matter.
– The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), who has just come into the chamber, knows nothing abo.ut what has happened. With his usual dogmatic attitude he is interrupting now.
– I rise to order. I rose at an earlier stage and you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, called a member of the Australian Country party.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Swan rose to seek the call last night, and was the only one to do so. Therefore, he was next in order.
– I should like to say this-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 7 to 40 has expired.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr.
Evatt’s amendment) ‘ stand part of tie clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Woes .. .. ..38
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 7 to 40 agreed to.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Is it the wish of the committee that clauses 41 to 49 he taken together?
– Yes, subject to the usual rights.
Clauses 41 to 49 - by leave - considered together.
. - I refer now to clause 46, which refers to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, and reads -
I move -
That the words “ is repealed “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof : - “ is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) of section seventy-two the words Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting’ and inserting in their stead the words Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting and Television ‘ ; and
by inserting in section eighty-five, after the word ‘ broadcasting the words ‘ or television ‘.”
This amendment is very important. The purpose of it is to establish and assure the regular functioning in connexion with broadcasting and television of a parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting and television. The object is that the members of the committee shall be direct guardians of the public interest, representing all sides of parliament on matters concerning the public interest in relation to the broadcasting and television services in this country. During the second-reading debate, I referred to the valuable work that had been done by the members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting. A great deal of whatever success has attended broadcasting in Australia has been due to its initiative and, so to speak, to its superintendence in the public interest. Having no executive power, the committee was able to discuss matters from a non-partisan point of view. It made recommendations to the Government, many of which were adopted. “What the amendment does, in effect, is this. It restores the activity of the Parliamentary Standing Committee but it deals, not only with broadcasting, but with television, and it will be called the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting and Television. Already, in this debate, honorable members on each side of the chamber have indicated points of view to which no adequate reply will be given in this debate. I suggest that the remedy is the restoration of a standing committee.
– Order ! There is too much audible conversation.
– Honorable members who are not directly concerned with governmental responsibility should favour this proposal. Strong submissions were made at the beginning of this session of Parliament by certain honorable members on the Government side of the chamber that the private member is entitled to take part in activities such as are undertaken by joint committees. Television is a subject that is eminently suitable for that purpose, and I hope that the Opposition’s proposal will be treated from a non-partisan point of view.
Some of the points that have been raised in this debate are of vital importance. There is the question of the standing of the matter to be televised. There is the question of public interest which has never been properly dealt with either in relation to broadcasting or in relation to television. This question could be brought before the proposed committee in order to ascertain whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and other bodies in which important functions are vested are carrying out their statutory duties. That is why the Opposition regards this as a very important proposal which is part and parcel of the whole scheme of efficient broadcasting and television.
The proposed parliamentary committee would not have executive power but would have power to make recommendations and to bring matters before the House, and consider matters referred to it by the Minister or either House of Parliament. It would be representative of this House and the Senate, and it could not do nothing but good. It might reproduce some of the valuable work that was done in the early stages by the committee which was then known as the Gibson committee. Therefore, without hoping that honorable members will elaborate on this, affecting as it does each part of the television and broadcasting system which is now being revised, we wish to see to it that there is some guardian of the public interest always ready to deal with these matters from the point of view of the general public. That is the purpose of the Opposition in moving this amendment. It effects every matter that has been discussed in connexion with this bill, whether in the second-reading stage, the committee stages that have been reached, or in the committee stages that have yet to be reached. “We regard it as a matter of importance and hope that it will meet with support from the committee.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in introducing this amendment, said that its object was to restore the activity of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting and to extend it to television. I hope that he will pardon me if I say in reply to that statement, “What activity?” The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting was established as the result of a recommendation by the Gibson committee’. Although it was appointed before I had anything to do with parliamentary life, my investigations have shown that the committee, in the early stages, did perform valuable work. But by the time that this Government came to office at the end of 1949 it had become very evident that the use and value of that committee had very largely disappeared and that its activities, which the Leader of the Opposition proposes should be restored, consisted, in my view, largely of finding some reason to visit north Queensland in winter and the southern part of the continent in the summer. I am not saying that as a criticism of individual members of the committee, but the fact of the matter was that there was no work for the committee to do which was not already being carried out, probably better, by another body.
It is claimed that this committee is necessary so that matters of major importance to broadcasting and television may be referred to it. I remind the committee that in 1948 a very important move was made in the broadcasting world by the previous Labour Government. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board was established. It is remarkable that this matter, which one would think should have been referred to the standing committee, was not so referred. One of the members of the present Government parties was a member of that standing committee and he asked why the formation of a broadcasting control board was not referred to the standing committee. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who, no doubt, will claim later, with heat, that we have made out no case against the Opposition’s proposal, said in reply - ft is true that the Government of the day did not consult the committee but there is no obligation on the Government to do so when it decides to place before the Parliament suggested amendments of the law.
There was no obligation, he said, to put. any matters such as this before the stand- . ing committee. If the committee i-‘ a-tt to consider these matters what would its functions be? I submit that there is no function for it at all. When the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was appointed, the same honorable gentleman said that the board was to be given very wide powers to conduct investigations. Since its inception, the board has done the task assigned to it with great credit to itself. It has carried out certain investigations. It has applied itself to the problem of developing the power, and improving the frequency and the technical equipment of broadcasting stations generally with great benefit, I think to the stations themselves and to the type of programme and service that is being given. In short, it has done a very effective job and has reported, from time to time, to the Minister, and the Government, on matters within its purview. Only recently, as is well known, it carried out the onerous task of making an investigation into the issue of television licences. So it will be seen that in this board we have a body that is not a politically controlled body, in spite of the contentions of some honorable members opposite. It is not a body similar to a parliamentary standing committee on which the government of the day would have a majority of members and of which, therefore, it would have political control. It is a body, on the contrary, which has a considerable degree of autonomy, and it has done a great deal of valuable work for the development, generally, of our broadcasting services. I say that, in view of the fact that all these developments have taken place under the guidance of the board, and as a result of its investigations since 1950, when the Government did not re-appoint the standing committee, the appointment of the board has been amply justified. In these circumstances how can it be claimed that at this late stage we would be entitled to super-impose on the structure already established a parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting. It is rather strange that we should find again in respect of this proposal by the Opposition, as we did in relation to the Opposition’s proposal to increase the membership of the commission to nine, a proposition which means the retention of a government body, or committee, which it can be shown is not justified. From time to time, I repeat, the Opposition criticizes this Government in respect of such matters. It claims that we are fond of appointing committees merely for the purpose of providing jobs, that we are prone to increase the numerical strength of the Public Service by the creation of instrumentalities. Yet now, when we take action to remove from .the act the need for the appointment of a standing committee which, in the last six years, has proved to be completely redundant, we are again criticized, and the Opposition attempts to have the committee re-instituted.
Let me say one final word. It may be possible that in the future some matter affecting Government policy will arise which will require investigation and which the Parliament might consider should be determined by a special committee. I point out to honorable members that there is nothing to prevent the appointment of such a statutory committee, which is always within the scope of this Parliament, to investigate any such particular matter, submit its report and then cease to exist. So the forms and powers of the Parliament provide a safeguard by enabling such a committee to be appointed should the necessity for it arise. I put it to honorable members that the necessity for such a committee does not exist. Therefore, we do not accept the amendment.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), which provides for the re-establishment of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, and have added to- its former responsibilities consideration of the development of television. The Opposition’s proposal for the reestablishment of the committee is not revolutionary, because the Parliament already has very tangible evidence of the value -of the two parliamentary standing committees already in existence. One of those is the Public Works Committee, of which you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, are a very honoured and effective member. I think it can be said without fear of successful contradiction that the work of that committee has contributed, in a marked degree, to the success of the Parliament’s handling of the public works programme. The committee, of which I am a member, deliberates on a non-party basis, considering projects, as they should he considered, solely on their merits and demerits. It makes recommendations to the Parliament in relation to the projects that it investigates, but the Parliament is under no obligation to put such recommendations into effect. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) submits that it is for that very reason that the amendment should not be adopted - because the Parliament would be under no obligation to carry out the recommendation of the standing committee whose .re-appointment we propose. A standing committee to deal with sound broadcasting and television would have ample opportunity to investigate all projects. It would have far more time than the PostmasterGeneral has to examine witnesses, to travel round the country gathering evidence. In other words, a Minister’s authority, in relation to the investigation of such projects as public works projects, is delegated to the Public Works Committee or a similar committee, which collects evidence and advises the Parliament and the Minister of its findings. The Public Works Committee is doing splendid work. I have not heard one word of stricture from either side of the chamber on the work of the committee. About two years ago the Government, no doubt actuated by the success of the
Public Works Committee, decided to re-establish the Public Accounts Committee. It was obvious, from reports that circulated in the lobbies at the time, that there were some sceptics in the ranks of the Governments supporters about the advisability of re-establishing that committee. Some of them said its reestablishment was not necessary. They said that it would cut across the functions of the Treasury and other departments. In spite of that criticism the Government, very wisely, decided to proceed with the re-establishment of the Public Accounts Committee, and we all know of the splendid contributions that that committee has made to the work of this Parliament, and of previous parliaments, by reporting to us the results of its investigations of the activities of various government departments. Nobody here would have the temerity to suggest that the Public Accounts Committee should be abolished. I suggest that any argument that supports the continued existence of the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Works Committee also supports the re-establishment of the Broadcasting Committee. The proposed committee would serve exactly the same sort of purpose as is served by those two committees.
The Minister admitted that the Broadcasting Committee, to paraphrase his own words, in its early stages carried out very valuable work ; but he added that, as that committee had not met in the last six or seven years, because there had been no necessity for it to meet, it should not be re-established. I suggest to honorable members that by 1948, the broadcasting system in Australia had been established and stabilized, and that there were very few problems for the committee to examine. Such problems as existed were mostly of a routine nature. Most of the problems of the broadcasting industry were settled in the early days of the Broadcasting Committee’s activities. The committee had cause to be grateful for the notable contributions to the solution of these problems made by the Gibson committee, amongst others. But to-day we are again seeing the introduction of a new system of entertainment. The problems that faced broadcasting in 1942. in the solution of which the Gibson committee gave such splendid assistance, are now the problems that will beset the infant television industry; In other words, there is now exactly the same reason for the re-establishment of the committee in order that it may consider the problems of the new medium, as there was for its establishment originally to deal with the problems of sound broadcasting. The Minister has admitted that to be so, because he said, in his secondreading speech, that the Government was establishing television stations originally in Sydney and Melbourne only, and would examine very closely the results of the operations of those stations before deciding on the necessity to extend television services to other capital cities and to country areas. In other words, there lies before the public servants who will bc concerned with television a very busy time. Extensive research has to bc undertaken on the effects of, and operation of, television in Sydney and Melbourne. All sorts of evidence will have to be taken on the impact of television programmes on the community, particularly on young people. A hundred and one other problems will have to bo considered and, if possible, solved, before the Government will extend the television services. Here is an ample field for the work that can be done by a non-party parliamentary committee, free from political bias, like the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. Members on both sides of the chamber who are members of the Public Works Committee will testify that there is no political partisanship whatever on such standing committees. The problems are examined exclusively on their merits, and the final conclusions are the result of an intelligent survey of those problems and the evidence that has been submitted. What is true of those two committees should certainly be true of a committee appointed to examine the subject of television. Numerous matters could be investigated, and the re-establishment of the committee would give to rank and file members of the Parliament, who more often than not are completely ignored in the formulation of government policy, an opportunity to express their views. I refer to both major political parties when I say that rank and file members go to the party room and are told that the Cabinet has decided to do this or that, and that they must accept the decision.
The Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee consist of rank and file members on both sides of the House, and the appointment of a similar committee to consider matters relating to television would give to its members an opportunity to make a tangible contribution towards the formulation of future television policy. It would also give to them a sense of responsibility that they are too often denied under the present parliamentary arrangement. Private members live more or less in an air of frustration, because what they say is almost completely disregarded. The Government would be under no obligation to accept the recommendation of members of a joint committee on television, just as it is under no obligation to accept the recommendations of the Public Works Committee or the Public Accounts Committee. The reports of those committees are read very carefully by honorable members who want to be informed about the problems with which they deal. The reports of the Public Works Committee, in particular, have certainly been acted upon by the various Ministers for Works, because very rarely have they refused to adopt the committee’s recommendations. The Minister is under no obligation to adopt a recommendation, but he does so because he knows the atmosphere in which the committee meets the manner in which the witnesses give evidence, and the manner in which that evidence is evaluated and recommendations are submitted. As the respective Ministers are under no obligation to accept the recommendations of the existing committees, so the Government would be under no obligation to adopt a recommendation of a joint committee on television.
The history of the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee shows that they have made a very valuable contribution to the deliberations of the Parliament. I can think of no intelligent reason why the Government should not agree to this extension of the committee system. I venture the opinion that, if a joint committee on television proved to be half as successful as the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee have been, the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition would be well worth while.
– I oppose the amendment, but I wish to take this opportunity of speaking specifically to clause 49, which seeks to insert in the act a new section 91, dealing with objectionable items. Although the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) has given an unqualified assurance that every effort will be made to ensure that television does not cause any harm to the people of Australia, I wish to emphasize the inherent danger of this modern scientific achievement if the standards are not set high enough. For once. I find myself in agreement with certain honorable members opposite who spoke, yesterday, about the detrimental effect that television programmes might have on the children and youth of Australia.
Having dealt with the problem of juvenile delinquency when I was privileged to deliver my maiden speech in this National Parliament, I am sure honorable members on both sides of the House will not be surprised at my interest in the impact that television, in my opinion, is sure to have upon the youth of the nation. Perhaps this is an appropriate opportunity for me to affirm that later in the life of this Parliament £ shall endeavour to take positive steps to place the need for action in relation to juvenile delinquency on a national plane so that Australia’s youth can be protected in this all-important field which I and others believe presents an outstanding problem. Senator Hendrickson, a member of the United States Senate committee that investigated juvenile delinquency, has said -
Television is perhaps the most powerful force man has yet devised for planting and spreading ideas. The young people, more than their elders, are susceptible, and properly so, to the magnetism of ideas be they good or evil.
In 1954 and 1955, that committee turned its attention to television as being one of the problem fields. It stated, significantly, in its report, that in 1953 a survey of 4,000 pupils in elementary schools dis closed that more than 80 per cent, of those youngsters were regular television viewers. Richard Clendenan, when giving evidence before the committee, said -
There are some 25,000,000 television sets in the United States, and these are located in homes housing some 80,000,000 American people. It would seem that we are rapidly getting to the place where virtually our entire youth of this nation, for all practical purposes, will be regularly and habitually exposed to television content.
The report also included a summary of the quality of items that were presented on television programmes. The summary was presented by Dr. Ralph S. Banay a research psychiatrist, of the Columbia University, New York. One would normally expect to find that on week days stations would broadcast programmes of the kind to which many honorable members have directed attention, but, when I discovered the type of programme that was being screened on Sundays in America, 1 was more than interested. I am sure honorable members will agree that in Australia we have taken steps to raise the quality of radio programmes on thai day, which is so important to the people of the nation for devotion and worship. Dr. Banay, in presenting his summary, stated -
The next day is Sunday, which is relatively free of crime stories.
At 10 o’clock western movies; at 11 o’clock a reluctant burglar, jilted rich girl plots revenge; at 1.30, Roy Rogers - a double-feature movie western plus an ex-convict attempt to expose loan sharks.
Five-thirty, Captain Gallant, gang attacks a caravan; at 0 o’clock, Sky King, saboteur blows up a secret desert project; 7 o’clock, Big Town, crime drama; 7.30, steamship captain robs and deserts passengers; 9 o’clock, Watch Me Die, a man seeks a perfect method of murdering his wife, divorce won’t do; he wants her money.
Nine-fifteen, Public Prosecutor, seeks out murderers and other criminals.
Nine-thirty, Front Page Detective; 10 o’clock, Ellery Queen, mystery.
That was a summary of a Sunday television programme in Washington !
In 1952, the television code, drawn up by leaders of the television industry, was introduced in America, and its contribution to the industry has naturally been considerable. My interest, which T am sure will be shared by many others, relates primarily to programme control. 1 have examined the code, which has been adopted by 220 of 373 television stations. It deals mainly with the advancement of education and culture, acceptability of programme material, responsibility toward children, decency and decorum in production, the treatment of news and public events, controversial public issues, political telecasts, religious programmes, the presentation of advertising and advertising of medical products. This code, it will be noted, has been accepted voluntarily. It is not a police protection of television. I have mentioned that, at the time 373 individual stations were on the air, only 220 of them had subscribed to the code to which I have referred. It is significant, therefore, that in this industry, as in almost every field, there will always be those who, seeking selfishly with high ambition for success, will follow their own objectives without any thought of morality. I believe that a code of this nature will be imperative in the television industry of Australia. The Broadcasting Control Board should be encouraged to draw up a code and present it to the licensees who will be coming into the industry in this early stage, and every effort should be made by the board to watch the programmes that are presented by the licensees, particularly if they do not subscribe to a code of this kind.
In conclusion, it is apparent that the Government believes, according to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), that the basic objectives of achieving proper standards of quality in television programmes can be realized by the operation of the provisions of this bill. The responsibility is being imposed on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and I am no critic of the constitution of that board at this stage. To my mind an experimental period will be necessary, but I feel that the board should include in its membership some experienced and qualified person who has led in the youth field. He should be some one qualified academically, or preferably by practical experience, in respect of the type of programme that will be most beneficial to the children and youth of the nation. Any vacancy that may occur in the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will, I trust, be filled by a prominent youth leader with this type of experience.
Mr. CHAMBERS (Adelaide) [12.37 J.- The reasons given by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) for not being prepared to accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) were most irrelevant. He made reference to certain committees that have been appointed from time to time by the Government and the present Opposition, but he should be broadminded enough to deal with each question on its merits. I desire particularly to support this amendment. It was my pleasure to serve for three years on the Broadcasting Committee. I look back over those years and remember many of the matters that were referred to it by the government of the day. The decisions of the committee on those subjects had an effect that was of great value to the Australian community. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) made reference to the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. Those two committees have rendered great service to Parliament and to the taxpayers of Australia, and I am confident that similar effects would accrue to Parliament and to the people if this amendment were carried, and the Standing Committee on Broadcasting and Television were restored.
Some of the matters dealt with by that committee, between 1943 and 1946, when I was a member of it, might be worth relating to honorable members now, because had it not been for that committee, a different slant may have been placed on those matters. I remember that an application was made to remove a broadcasting station from one country area in Victoria to another. The station, perhaps, did not have the largest listening audience in the area where it was operating, but it was providing a valuable service there. Had it been transferred to another centre it would have been a great loss to the people whom it had served, and they were worthy of having a broadcasting service. The matter was referred to the Broadcasting Committee. It visited both areas and took evidence from those who were deriving the benefits of that service and from those who would benefit if the station were transferred. The decision of the committee was not on party lines. The committee was constituted on lines similar to the Public
Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, and the members of it had in mind the interests of broadcasting alone. In the instance I have related, the station was not removed, and there is not a shadow of doubt that over the years there has never been any attempt to move it from that area.
On another occasion, a similar request from Tasmania was put to the PostmasterGeneral, who submitted the question to the Broadcasting Committee. It visited the area, and took evidence, and the Government accepted its recommendation. I remember, again, that certain persons wanted to give sex talks over certain commercial stations. That question was submitted to the Broadcasting Committee, which took evidence and thoroughly examined the whole question. Honorable members know the result of its decision. Those subjects have not been given the publicity of broadcasting, and I do not think that they should be.
– What were the subjects?
– They were sex matters. Those people wanted to disseminate over the air Dr. Haire’s ideas on sex, and I do not think that this Parliament would agree with that sort of thing. All those questions might have been given a different slant altogether had they not been submitted to people who are responsible to the electors of Australia. I agree that there is a broadcasting commission, but the members of that commission, in particular instances, are responsible only to Parliament. The Parliament is responsible to the people of Australia - to the electors, to the community. I believe that the work done by the Broadcasting Committee over the years has been a great asset to broadcasting in Australia, and informed the minds of members of Parliament on many matters.
The honorable member for Batman mentioned that after 1948, through the use of the Broadcasting Committee, the way was made easy for broadcasting. I believe that, just as the Broadcasting Committee was valuable in the early stages of broadcasting in Australia, so the proposed committee will be a great asset in the early stages of television. I appeal to members of the Government, particularly the back-benchers, not to make this a vote on party lines.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I had almost completed my remarks before the suspension of the sitting. I support this amendment because, as I said earlier, it was my pleasure and privilege to serve for three years, between 1943 and 1946, on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting. I say to the back-benchers in this Parliament that of the thirteen years that I have spent in this Parliament
– Too long!
– It may be too long in the honorable member’s opinion, but the electors have not borne out his contention. Of those thirteen years, the three during which I served on that committee were the most interesting. Just as that committee did grand work in the early stages of sound broadcasting in Australia, so would it do excellent work now, in the early stages of television. If the broadcasting committee were re-appointed, I am sure that it would be of value even to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). Having seen television in England and in America, I am all the more convinced that we should have a broadcasting committee. We have the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is responsible to the Parliament, but the broadcasting committee would be responsible to the Parliament and to the people.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr. Ev att’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt. and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
.- I refer to clause 49, proposed section 88, which relates to the encouragement of Australian artists, and which reads as follows: -
Sections eighty-eight to ninety-three (inclusive) of the Principal Act are repealed and the following sections inserted in their stead: -
” (2.) Not less than five per centum of the time occupied by the programmes of the Commission, and not less than five per centum of the time occupied by the programmes of a commercial broadcasting station, in the broadcasting of music shall be devoted to the broadcasting of works of composers who are Australians. “ (3.) In this section, ‘Australian’ means a person who was born or is ordinarily resident in Australia.
I move -
That, in proposed section 88 (2.), the words “ five per centum “, twice occurring, be omitted, with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof : - “ seven and one-half per centum “.
The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that an average of no less than 71/2 per cent. of the transmitting time of any station broadcasting musical items shall be devoted to the broadcasting of works by Australian composers, and that, in the calculation of this time, no account shall be taken of the time occupied by news and sporting events. This matter was discussed, to some extent, though not completely, at the second-reading stage. I propose to make my observations as short as possible in putting our view to the committee for consideration.
The effect of the amendment will be to increase from 5 per cent, as proposed by the Government, to 7i per cent, the proportion of the transmitting time to be devoted to the broadcasting of works by Australian composers. Surely it is not too much to expect that, in a country the people of which are devoted to music and in which there is an enormous body of musical composition, which is very difficult to publish, 1 per cent., or approximately one-fourteenth, of the transmitting time shall be devoted to the broadcasting of Australian compositions. After all, in the realm of art generally, whether it be the plastic arts, or the art of the stage, the actor or the dramatist, Australians have made a great showing throughout the world. Music is no exception. It is admitted by the Government, and by those who are associated with broadcasting, that the performances of Australian artists in broadcasting are outstanding. Wherever they go in the centres of entertainment in the world, they are recognized as being among the leaders. In music, we have only to think of the great singers and choirs of Australia and of the passionate devotion to music in this country. It w only because the local opportunities foi1 recognition are so few that Australian composers do not receive here the same attention that the composers of other nations receive in their own countries. But the position in the United States of America is different. American compositions, almost exclusively, constitute th, recorded music broadcast in Australia, and we fear that, in due course, they will monopolize television broadcasts in the same way. Oan any one doubt that Australian composers are not the equal of those of the United States? I do not think the United States would tolerate so much broadcasting of the musical compositions of the citizens of other countries as we suffer in Australia. Therefore, the higher proportion of 1 per cent, is not unreasonable.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who, of course, has been very closely associated with the business side of broadcasting, and who probably knows a great deal about it, suggested that this proposal was irrational and impossible.
It is not. The fact is that the broadcasting stations broadcast this enormous percentage of imported music, much of which repeats the themes of earlier compositions and uses classical themes without improving them in the . process. This does not add to the musical inspiration or the enjoyment of Australian listeners. All the Opposition says is that Australians must be given equal opportunities with others. For this reason, we consider that the reasonable proportion of 1 per cent, should be fixed.
I could illustrate my argument by reference to many successful Australian composers. It is undoubtedly a fact that, on the basis of quality, Australian compositions are superior to what I shall call the disc music which comes here in such enormous quantities from the United States. The object of the Opposition is to try to make our broadcasting services, as well as our television services, as they develop, Australian in character, not merely in regard to the percentage of shares in the operating companies thai must be held by Australians - I think that, has been fixed at 80 per cent. - but also in regard to performances. We want them to sound like Australian performances. At present, they often do not.
If this proposal were adopted, it could be a means of supporting and encouraging Australian composers, who do not receive sufficient support at present. An illustration of the attitude of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to this matter is that one of its first acts after the Chifley Labour Government went out of office was to discard “ Advance Australia Fair “ as the theme song for its news broadcasts. No one claims that that is a composition supreme in musical merit, but it is a good straightforward anthem for the Australian people. The commission threw it out and substituted a ridiculous fanfare, despite the fact that, through former broadcasts, the song was known to every Australian who was engaged in the great struggle in the Pacific. That showed the commission’s utter contempt for things Australian. In those circumstances, it is amazing that thu national stations still broadcast in the Sunday night “ Guest of Honour “ programme a theme song which was - and, I think, still is to a large extent - treated almost as the national anthem of South Australia. It is a beautiful tune, beautifully played, and no doubt composed by an Australian.
Why this hesitation to give to our own people, not the monopoly that is sought so greedily in this field by some Australian companies, but a reasonable share in what is broadcast? That would not be denied to them in any other country. I think it was one of my colleagues who pointed out that in the United States the percentage of American compositions broadcast is much higher than the 7£ per cent, that we suggest. The United States need not have given preference to its own citizens, but it did so. The realm of music is not a realm in which we should have regard only’ to nationality, but in this country there are people with musical ability, perhaps even with musical genius, and we believe that the absence of opportunities such as those that we suggest is retarding their development, as well as the development of Australian art and culture generally. Therefore, we say that the quota should be fixed at 7£ per cent. We think that will be just and reasonable in present circumstances, but we hope that it will be increased as the years go by.
– What is the percentage of Australian compositions broadcast to-day ?
– I cannot give the precise figure, but the Minister’s opinion is that if the quota were increased to 5 per cent, the percentage of Australian compositions broadcast would be greater than it is now. I say that the reason why the percentage is not greater is that Australian composers have not been given sufficient encouragement. That is because the broadcasting of music goes through the usual ‘ business channels. There is not much opportunity in this country for Australian composers. Even the payment of fees for performances of their compositions must be canalized, to a large extent, through the Australasian Performing Right Association. As a result, it is very difficult to get Australian musical compositions published in this country. Greater broadcasting opportunities given to our composers would encourage the development of the ability and genius of fellow Australians.
.- I think that honorable members on both sides will agree with a part of what the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said. We are all very keen to help Australian musicians and composers. I think that the previous legislation provided that %i per cent, of broadcasting time should be devoted to the productions of Australian composers. The members of the Opposition feel that this bill, which proposes a quota of 5 per cent., is unfair to our composers. They spoke very strongly on that matter in the second-reading debate: The Government says that the quota should be 5 per cent., and the Opposition says that it should be 7i per cent.
We know that deeds speak louder than words. When I heard the almost tearful references by members of the Opposition to the hardships suffered by Australian composers, I thought that it would be a good thing to find out what help the Labour party had given to them. It struck me that a good way to find out would be to ascertain how much time Labour-controlled broadcasting stations had devoted to Australian compositions. I thought that that would be a very fair way to judge Labour’s actions.
We know that the Labour party controls six radio stations. I discovered that, last year, 2KY Sydney devoted 3.55 per cent, of its time to Australian compositions, 2HD Newcastle 3.41 per cent., 3KZ Melbourne 2.75 per cent., 4KQ Brisbane 3.12 per cent., 6KY Perth 3.65 per cent, and 6NA Narrogin 3.26 per cent. That is the degree of support which Labour is giving to Australian composers through radio stations under its control. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that, on an average, the national broadcasting stations devoted 4.7 per cent, of their time to Australian compositions. The 106 commercial stations devoted 3.91 per cent, of their time. The average time for the Labour stations, 3.3 per cent., is well below the average for the commercial stations.
We remember the impassioned appeal by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). We recall what he said about Radio Australia, with its broadcasts of “Two Little Girls in Blue”. Had he directed his attention to the
Labour station in his own bailiwick, 2KZ Melbourne, he would have found out that that station devoted to Australian compositions only 2.75 per cent, of its time –probably the lowest percentage in Australia. I know that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), who is interjecting, will find it very difficult to counter that argument. That is an illustration of the way in which the Labour party would conduct its television station if it got a licence. In those circumstances, when honorable members opposite say that we are wrong in proposing that so little time should be devoted to Australian compositions, we become rather suspicious of their motives. I believe, that the proposed quota of 5 per cent, represents a genuine effort to SOlVe this problem. The national broadcasting stations, which are making every effort to support Australian composers, devoted only 4.7 per cent, of their time to Australian compositions. We have increased that percentage by a little.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) made an excellent speech yesterday in which he referred to the danger of quotas. We know that the film industry in England was set back a decade because quotas were set too high. A similar thing could happen here in respect of Australian compositions. If not enough Australian compositions are available, the constant reiteration of some Australian music that would be necessary to enable stations to fill a very high quota would do more harm than good. I support the Minister very strongly in timing the proposed increase to 5 per cent. I believe that that is a conservative and sound figure which will have the effect of greatly assisting Australian composition. When we examine the proposed figure of 7i per cent, in the light of the Australian Labour party’s own conduct we find that the proposed amendment is something against which we must vote. This figure would not be in the best interests of television. I strongly oppose the amendment.
– I find great difficulty in discovering whether the corner supporters of the Government speak from a basis of ignorance or in order to mislead. A perfect example of that problem is the speech to which we have just listened. The main’ purpose of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) was to show that the support proffered by the Australian Labour party for Australian artists was not genuine because on the broadcasting stations that the Australian Labour party owns a smaller proportion of time has been devoted to broadcasting Australian music and recordings than has been devoted by other stations. This would be a perfectly valid argument if its foundations were true, but let us consider station 3KZ, Victoria. The licence for this station was issued to the Labour movement, but the station is conducted by the 3KZ broadcasting company, a private company, and the Australian Labour party has no control whatever over the programmes broadcast. That is also true of the other stations mentioned by the honorable member for Hume. Is he ignorant of these matters? If he is ignorant, he should not be so. If he does know the position, is he trying to mislead the committee? It seems to me that all the specious arguments so often advanced by Government supporters are in one or other of these two categories.
This .proposal of the Opposition is directed to increasing the proportion of time devoted by stations to Australian music. Government supporters have continually advanced arguments against increasing that percentage and, on the face of it, surely a proposal to increase the percentage is favorable to Australian reproductions, and a proposal to decrease it or keep it down - which is the Government’s policy - must bc contrary to the interests of Australian reproductions. I should like to point out to the committee that protection has been the keynote of Australian development. Australian secondary industry, and a good deal of primary industry, have been given substantial protection from the ordinary forces of the market. It is that principle that we desire to apply in the field of musical reproduction, and so far Australian governments have been much more tender in protecting large pressure groups - on the side of both capital and labour - than they have been in protecting Australian art and similar activities. Very little has been done. Australian art has been submerged by profit and commerce. In this instance we have a perfectly good example of how it can be submerged.
Australia is quite late in entering the television field. In the United States and in the United Kingdom millions of dollars’ worth of reproductions have already been used, and as they have been a source of extensive income and profit these reproductions can be exported to Australia with no regard whatever to the cost of production. We are now five years behind in the risk we have run of being submerged by these reproductions, and we shall remain five years behind unless some special provision is made to protect the development of Australia art and music against this danger.. Australian standards are high, and it has been said as justification for adopting the 5 per cent. quota that the existing figure is only 3.91 per cent. on the average. I remind the committee that unless something definite is done op the lines we propose - I personally do not think that 71/2 per cent. is high enough - when we review the situation one, two, or threeyears hence, we shall find that the position is still the same and that Australian reproductions are awarded only a very small percentage of the. total time. The reasons for this are obvious, as I have already shown.
In the literary field, a mere £10,000 is devoted by the Government to encouraging Australian literature. We still have not a chair of Australian literature in Australian universities. Whilst we have chairs of such subjects as Semitic studies - very good things in their own way - we have not sufficient education in fields which are peculiarly Australian. We are likely to be submerged by things which are not only not Australian but are also of a peculiarly low standard. Already a considerable amount of money has been outlaid in the purchase of television films from the United States. One licensee in Sydney, for example, is offering for release in Australia programmes under these names -
Passport to Danger.
Douglas Fairbanks Presents.
Our British Heritage.
Count of Monte Cristo.
There are thousands of productions, with titles of that sort, which have nothing to do with Australian history and traditions or anything which is essentially Australian. The opposition to raising to 71/2 per cent. the quota for Australian music comes partly from persons who are so often prepared to rise in this chamber and say that they stand for the Australian way of life. In this instance they stand for the Australian way of life as interpreted by Hopalong Cassidy, and in many ways their attitude to the Australian way of life is similarly characterized.
Our position is not at all analogous to that of Canada. The other day we were told that only 40 per cent. of time was devoted by Canadian stations to Canadian reproductions. Only 40 per cent. ! I remind the committee that the Australian figure is lower than 4 per cent., and Canada was in a much stronger relative position than Australia to meet this kind of competition. Canada was in the field in 1951. It was not subject, as we are, to being flooded by imported reproductions which have been so used that the amount required to return satisfactory profits to the producer has already been obtained. The position is clear. We have put forward a reasonable amendment. We have proposed a figure of 71/2 per cent. The figure could be still higher. The Government, on the other hand, is in favour of keeping down the percentage, and it seems to me that the common-sense view must prevail. Those who are endeavouring to raise the quota for Australian musical reproductions are standing in defence of Australian artists and composers. If the Government associates itself with a move to keep down the percentage of Australian material, the difference between us is quite clear. I have pleasure in supporting the amendment.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr.PEARCE (Capricornia) [2.56].- I rise to oppose the amendment because of the double-sided attitude of Labour on this issue. As the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) pointed out before the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) spoke, Labour controls radio stations throughout Australia. These do not use the percentage of Australian compositions prescribed in the bill. It is all very well for the honorable member for Yarra to say that the Labour movement has the licences but has no say in the management of the stations. My experience of several Labour stations is to the contrary. We frequently hear such blatant announcements as, “ This is 4KQ, a Labour station “. Labour asks for a 7£ per cent, quota when its stations have not used 5 per cent. ! When . Labour was in office and had an opportunity to do something, it left the percentage at 2£.
– We carried out the recommendation of the joint committee.
– The percentage, though a minimum requirement, was not changed. If the Leader of the Opposition is anxious to put these ideas into practice I remind him that the stations over which he has control will not be limited to a maximum of 5 per cent. If the music is available, they will be able to increase their quota to 10 per cent, or 15 per cent. While the statutory minimum has been 2-J per cent., both commercial and national radio stations throughout Australia have exceeded it and I am sure that they will do their best now to use 5 per cent., and will in time exceed that figure. I emphasize that 5 per cent, is the minimum figure; that there is no maximum. One knows from sad experience that though some stations have used as much as S per cent., 9 per cent, or 10 per cent, of Australian music this has been largely hillbilly trash.
– It is Queensland opera.
– We have to get good brains from Queensland to temper this Parliament, and those who are here are doing a good job. I wish to point out the two-faced attitude that Labour supporters have adopted. When they were in office they had the opportunity to raise the quota but did not do so. They fell down on the job so that, on the legislative side, they are quite two-faced. On the practical side, though they have had every, opportunity to do the things that they claim should be done for Australian composers, their radio stations have not used more than the average percentage used by other commercial stations. The Opposition has done a disservice to the Labour movement by bringing forward this amendment. It has exposed itself to the charge of seeking political advantage and not putting into practice what it has advocated. In the legislative field, Labour has done practically nothing for the Australian composer.
.- The honorable member who has just spoken on the question of encouraging Australian composers in the broadcasting field does not know very much about the subject and, like so many others who are supporting this bill, is being fed this pap by’ the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and his publicity staff. Since the days of Prime Minister Scullin the Australian Labour party has been the only active political force in this community for the encouragement and development of Australian literature, music and drama. It has not done that by niggling about which radio station has, or has not fulfilled its quota of songs. It has done it by enactment in this Blouse. A memorable measure was, of course, that which set up the Commonwealth Literary Fund, of which the Prime Minister is chairman of the committee and the Leader of the Opposition a member. I need not mention the attempts that Labour has made to establish quotas for Australian books and films. Labour is justly proud of all these- things. The whole basis of the honorable member’s weak and pitiful argument was that the Labour party, through its radio stations - which are mostly owned by unions and are not ours in the political sense, in that they do support Australian composers–
Honorable members interjecting,
– One would not expect the Australian Country party to participate in this debate, which has for its purpose the encouragement of Australian writers. Its members are happy so long as they can export plenty of primary produce, get back as much money as they can, and buy anything that they want anywhere in the world at the cheapest price. Culturally, I dismiss them. There is a smack of the cowyard about their arguments. We seek a meagre 7£ per cent, because Australians will not, except by force of legislation, encourage the performance of Australian compositions. Secondly, it is not enough for a composer to get a song on the air and be paid for it, three guineas, four guineas, five guineas, or whatever seems proper according to the wisdom of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the particular commercial broadcasting station. It must become sheet music, and it must be recorded. These are some of the difficulties confronting the Australian composer in the face of the avalanche of overseas material that pours into this country.
Labour has a splendid record in these matters. If my memory serves me correctly it was the Gibson committee which did such a useful and successful job in the development of broadcasting and first insisted upon a quota of Australian compositions. It was pointed out at the time that the figure must necessarily be small because of the few song writers in this country. Why are there fewer Australian song writers of note than there are men who can break a four-minute mile, or score a century in a test match? The reason is that these pursuits are given much more encouragement. The song writer cannot be expected to starve while he is writing national songs. The national network itself ‘is ashamed to play our national song, “ Advance Australia Fair “. That is small encouragement indeed to the Australian song writer. Labour has had a terrific battle on his behalf. To-day a young man from Queensland has told us that there has been no encouragement of the Australian composer. That is partly correct. The only encouragement that he has been given has come from this side of the House. The minimum time devoted to Australian compositions has been low. This measure proposes that it should be 5 per cent. We are asking for 7 per cent. Honorable members must realize that this applies only to broadcasting and is in no way connected with the new television legislation. It is a good and useful thing to perpetuate our Australian songs.
We have been assailed for seeking a 55 per cent, quota in television for Australian drama and variety. We seek it because we think that it is reasonable and moderate. We have not asked for mare for Australian composers because we must first get it into the Australian mind that one can enjoy Australian compositions. They are good, and the only reason that more of them are not in use is that song writing at present does not provide a livelihood for the composer. Encouragement is needed, not advice as to how Labour should control a certain radio station. The quota provision is broken in every programme every night of the week and every week of the year.
We should be looking at the ethical side in developing our own national songs. A quota of 7^ per cent, is small indeed, but it would be useful, and all stations, irrespective of what they are and whoever controls them, should be asked rigidly to enforce it. A quota is not necessarily a good thing but it may be required when forces outside the normal ones of supply and demand operate and pressure comes from great syndicates overseas. The sheet music syndicate is a terrific thing. Getting an Australian song put on wax as a record is almost a job for Hercules to achieve. For this reason I think that the Government should support this proposal. I remind those who criticize as interference our attempts to amend this bill, that all these useful things have emanated from parliamentary committees. I refer again to the Gibson committee on which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) sat. That honorable member was instrumental in achieving the vote that brought the increased quota for Australian songs. There are many beautiful Australian songs. There is “ On the Road to Gundagai “, which is just a ballad, but it has something about it; and there are 101 other songs. “ Bless this House “, by May Brahe, is a lovely, inspirational song. Bless this house in every sense of the word - our domestic house as- well as this House. The Australian has not gone in for the tin-pan alley type of song. He has gone to the old classical type of English ballad. Many of our songs, even hillbilly songs, have a great rythm, and a great sense of the country ; and they ar» infinitely better than imported junk which concerns the click, click, click of Hollywood cowboys.
We want more Australian songs of our folk lore to be written. “ Click Go the Shears “, I am reminded by a colleague, is a magnificent song. “ The Wild Colonial Boy “ should raise in this chamber the spirit of rebellion for which Australian parliaments have been famous for many years. There is a wonderful background to Australian folk songs. There are songs of agriculture. Songs could be composed from the works of Lawson and Banjo Patterson, which would be beautiful, delightful and truly Australian. We are asking for a quota of 7^ per cent, so that some composer who does not wish to accept the Elizabethan concept that if you are an artist you can starve for your pains, may rear his family and live on at least the basic wage standard. An organization was formed recently called the Australian Song Writers Association, which is doing magnificent work. It is presenting this country, and the radio stations, with first-class songs. The Australian is the only one in active radio performance at present who imposes a censorship on himself.
Because of the struggle he has had to get expression in this country either in song writing or in drama or any other aspect of radio or television, he is his own censor and his own worst critic. He knows that he must beat something that is already in existence. For that reason, he should be encouraged. I think that any Australian song that breaks through the cordon is well worth the reception that it gets from the Australian people. The whole problem in regard to Australian compositions lies in the past. lt has always been said to Australian composers, “ You cannot do it “. There has been some flaw in the Australian makeup, some unmelodic crimp. It was considered that the Australian artist could not produce good work. We proved that to be merely commercial propaganda and, from the earliest stage, we have had great success, but artists have not been able to get the commercial medium that would make them famous and successful. AH over the country there are people with songs in their hearts, but they cannot get them on the radio.
We think that by increasing the quota, at first’ by 2i per cent, and later on by gently applying reasonable pressure, we could establish a quota that would not be high but which would be reasonable.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I feel that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in his speech on the proposed amendment, has put forward a very good case for holding to the point of view that was put forward by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). He said that the Opposition was in favour of increasing the quota by 2£ per cent, at first, and then gently putting the pressure on later. As I read the clause, that is precisely what is proposed. The act makes provision for a quota of 2-J per cent, and the Government proposes that it should be increased to 5 per cent. I think it must be realized that we cannot legislate for culture and we cannot legislate for quality. The keynote is not how much will or will not be broadcast but whether Australian artists or composers can reach such a standard of composition or of execution of compositions that they could compete favorably with competition from elsewhere; because the judges in this matter are not the members of this Parliament but the listening public or, in the case of television, the viewing public. People are highly critical of some of the broadcasts that come over the air at present and yet, in their homes, they devote hours to listening to them. So it will be seen that the judges of these programmes are not boards or commissions but the people who listen to them.
I think, too, that a ‘certain amount of confusion has arisen over this matter. The original act states that local talent is to be encouraged. The new clause in the bill refers to the encouragement of Australian artists, and the side-note to the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition states, “the provision of Australian programmes “. I appre.ciate the improvement in this’ clause’ as against section 88 of the act which, I think, was put there in order to defeat the very purpose for which it was designed. It states -
The Commission and the licensee of each commercial broadcasting station shall, as far as possible, give encouragement to the development of local talent and endeavour to obviate restriction of the utilization of the services of persons who, in their opinion, are competent to make useful contributions to broadcasting programmes.
It will be seen that no station was forced by law to do anything about it all. At any stage, the management of the station could say that, in its opinion, the people concerned were not competent to present the entertainment, whatever it might be. The new clause goes a little further than that, and attempts to make a provision which is within the limits of the supply of the talent available in Australia. That is the fundamental reasoning behind this clause. The development of local talent did not occur outside one or two States in Australia under the old Broadcasting Act, because a programme could have comprised 50 per cent, of Australian artists or compositions and because the programme originated in Sydney or Melbourne and was transmitted to other States, talent would not be developed in the other States. Therefore, in anything that is designed in this way for the development of local talent, the word local can be taken very literally; otherwise the purposes of the bill are completely defeated.
– I desire to support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I suggest that the amendment which is proposed to increase the quota of Australian compositions which are broadcast from 5 per cent, to 7i per cent, is reasonable. Whan all is said and done, all this amendment proposes to do is to put into operation n« responsible Australian broadcasting something which is already recognized by all other countries and which is insisted upon by them. Other countries require that their way of living shall be made manifest over their radio system. I find it impossible to call to mind a single country that does not insist that the musical compositions and dramatic works of its own people shall be broadcast over its radio network. So when we suggest that the percentage of Australian work for television broadcasting be increased from 5 per cent, to 7i per cent, we are simply trying to bring into operation in this country a principle that is recognized as essential in many other countries. It is idle to suggest that we have in this country neither the authors and composers, nor the capacity, to produce musical compositions and dramatic works for presentation on television. It is easy to call to mind any number of Australian musical compositions that are popular not only in this country, but also in other countries. The best example that comes to mind is the Australian song “ “Waltzing Matilda “, which is regarded exceedingly highly in Great Britain, Canada and the United States, where it is frequently broadcast. That indicates that other countries recognize the value and standard of Australian compositions.
I suggest that the Australian composer and the Australian dramatist are as entitled to protection from imported productions as are Australian manufacturers who are accorded such protection in respect of imported goods. There is a tendency, understandable in view of the fact that radio stations are conducted in order to make profits for their owners, for cheap recordings from other countries to be used. Radio stations adopt this practice in order to keep their operating costs at a minimum. Australian composers and dramatists who are assisting in the development of an Australian culture are entitled to some protection against the inroads on their livelihood that are made by these imported productions. We know that if a cheap recorded programme from overseas is available, Australian radio stations will broadcast it in preference to an Australian production which might cost them slightly more than the imported article.
I stress, also, that the present provision in the act that 2$ per cent, of all matter broadcast shall be of Australian origin, a percentage which the bill proposes to increase to 5 per cent., caused a good deal of confusion and apprehension among broadcasting executives when it was originally introduced years ago. They doubted that they would be able to fulfil that requirement; but figures have been made available which show that the content of
Australian matter broadcast by commercial radio stations is not 21/2 per cent., but 3.91 per cent., and that the content in the case of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s stations is 4.7 per cent. Let us not forget that the population of Australia is increasing, and that our cultural life is being, and will be, enriched by the musical compositions, and similar works, produced by new Australians. That increase of population is bound to increase the availability of Australian musical, literary and dramatic works coming from immigrants from Europe as well as the United Kingdom. So it is eminently right that we should make provision now for the absorption by sound broadcasting stations and television stations of a larger proportion of the increasing flow of material that will be available in this country. We should now establish a standard, and give composers and writers in this country some spur to strive to attain and, indeed, raise that standard. In order to do so we must increase the mandatory percentage of Australian works to be broadcast, because the percentage proposed by the Government may well prove insufficient to protect the interests of Australian composers and writers. For these reasons I support the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I refer, again, to clause 49 and move -
That, after proposed section 83, the following section be inserted: - “88a.- (1.) Not less than fifty-five per centum of the transmission time of a television station (whether of the Commission or. of a licensee) in any period of seven days shall be occupied by Australian programmes. “ (2.) The transmission time referred to in the last preceding sub-section does not include time occupied by the transmission of news or sporting events.”.
The purpose of the amendment, broadly speaking, is to make provision against the danger, especially in the early stages, of television programmes being flooded with low-grade syndicated overseas productions almost to the exclusion of Australian productions. It seeks to provide that 55 per cent. of the transmission time, not including time occupied by the transmission of news and sporting events, which no doubt would be quite considerable, shall be occupied by Australian programmes. In a sense, this amendment is more important than the one relating to musical compositions. It seeks to give an Australian character to television programmes by the use of live-artist shows written by Australians and presented by Australian artists, actors and producers. Opposition to the proposal comes from the same quarter that has been opposed to Australian development in letters or other forms of culture since the very early days. The Minister for the Interior (Mr.
Fairhall), I think, even with his experience of broadcasting, has stated that it would be impossible to achieve the purpose of the amendment. He said, in effect, “ Let them do what they like, and they will do the right thing”. It is like the old story about the employer who was quite willing to give his employee a fair wage as long as he was left alone. The television interests want to be left alone. They will give Australian programmes just as much time as they think fit. Such an approach is of no use to the Australian people or to Australian writers and artists.
My colleague, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), has repeatedly adverted to the great problem associated with the use of Australian writers and artists for the production of broadcasting and television programmes, and no doubt he will again deal with the matter, but in greater detail, to the satisfaction of honorable members. It is important that Australian television programmes should be kept free of the cheap muck that is seen so often on American programmes, many examples of which have been quoted by honorable members. Why cannot such a safeguard be provided ? Of course it can be provided. Under present conditions, 55 per cent, is not an unreasonable quota, and provision for it should he embodied in the act. The attitude of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) towards this matter, as with other matters, is that he does not mind Australian programmes, but that the position should be allowed to develop without interference. It will develop just as well if a quota system is adopted, and I believe that such a system would be a success.
Having referred to this matter during the second-reading debate, and other honorable members having discussed it, I shall leave it to the decision of the committee. It will be an important decision and should not be made lightly, because I believe that the future of television as a predominantly Australian entertainment service depends upon the acceptance of this amendment. Nothing is so important to the development of the stage as the rise to great importance of what I might call the television drama. As produced in England by the British Broadcasting Corporation it reached great significance quickly because nf superb production and acting, and because the actual plays represented a lot of what was the best in British dramatic tradition. The same result can be achieved here, but it cannot be achieved if, for an indefinite period, something that has been used earlier in connexion with moving picture? or broadcasting, and which comes from another country, is substituted for the stage play. The committee, in approaching this vital matter, should adopt the attitude that the programmes should be predominantly Australian. In submitting this amendment, we ask for the support of the committee, because we think that it will be for the benefit of Australia and that this country will be linked with the British tradition of television rather than with the American tradition.
Mi-. DAVIDSON (Dawson - PostmasterGeneral) [3.33].- The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) stated that the proposal now before the committee was of very great importance. I think that this is the first occasion within the last two days on which I have been in complete agreement with him, because it is indeed a very important matter. In fact, I think I can say that, in relation to this subject, there is quite a lot of common ground between all honorable members. Although I am prepared to concede to Opposition members that they are sincere in their desire to develop the use of Australian artists and Australian television programmes generally, I point out very definitely that no one on this side’ of the chamber will bow to any one else in his realization of the potentialities of television and in his determination to use those potentialities to the utmost extent for the development of Australian art and culture. Let that point be understood immediately.
The right honorable gentleman also referred to a speech made yesterday by my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), and stated that he seemed to be actuated by forbes iri the community that are opposed to the development of Australian culture. My colleague, who, I have just observed, is in the chamber, will be able to reply to that statement. I remind the committee that that speech was made by some one who, because of his experience, knows n lot about these matters. But if the advice he gives to the committee does not meet with the approval of honorable member? opposite, it is discredited. If he is a man of experience - and he is - and we know him to be a man of probity, his advice should be accepted and followed.
I said that we were on common ground. J. meant basically, but there is a great difference indeed between the methods that are being advocated on this matter for the attainment of our objectives. The method submitted by the Government is designed to ensure, first of all, that we do not commit ourselves to something that could very well wreck the development of television in its early stages in Australia and that could also very seriously hamper the development of Australian art. That is our basic attitude. I submit that the methods suggested by the Opposition amount to either a failure to realize all the factors that have to be taken into- account in dealing with this matter or simply a blind pandering to the pressure of certain groups. Opposition members are prepared to come here for the purpose of putting forward a popular conception. They say, in effect, “ Let us have 55 per cent, and, as we are in opposition, it does not matter what happens as a result”.
The Leader of the Opposition, when discussing the previous amendment, spoke of the desirability of avoiding the importation of cheap muck from America. I agree with that, but at the same time, I point out that we should see that we do not do something that will result in the production of similar cheap muck in Australia. I say that deliberately. Of course, it can be done. We are not on ii plane above our American friends and, if, as a. result of conditions, cheap muck can be produced in America, it can be produced here if we tolerate it.
I find myself in a rather amusing situation. Several times to-day 1 have been twitted on other subjects with the fact that I have submitted something that was not in accordance with the recommendations of the royal commission. I have been asked why I have not followed the recommendations of the royal commission. I point out that on the matter now before the committee, the royal commission said -
It. would not be practicable, at present, however, before any actual experience has been gained as to the amount of talent available or its capacity to provide a ;good standard of programme, for any authority to lay down quotas for the Australian content of television programmes.
Now that we are following the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Television, I suppose that we will be told by our opponents that we should not. They are consistent in their inconsistency.
Having delivered myself of those opening remarks, may 1 point out the factors that have been responsible for the decision of the Government? A great deal of attention has been given to these factors because we realize, as I said at the start, that this is an important matter and we must make no mistake in the way we deal with it. One of the factors to be taken into ‘ account in determining whether or not quotas should be imposed is the availability now of high-quality programmes in Australia. That is one of the prime factors, because the underlying intention in all this legislation is to ensure that television will start - not develop in three or four years’ time - on a high level, and that, therefore, its inherent good may be realized. We have ample evidence of the fact that those quality programmes are not as yet ava 1able in the volume required to establish anything of a quota at the inception of television in Australia.
T have the highest respect for our Australian talent, and so have all my colleagues. We know, as honorable members opposite have pointed out at an earlier stage of this debate, that Australia has already produced artists of world renown. Probably the most renowned of all happens to come from my own area in Queensland. We know that Australia has produced wonderful talent and we have every desire to foster it. At the same time, I say quite definitely that we shall not encourage something that will produce a level of talent that will lower the proud level that those people have established for Australian art.
I point out also that I have discussed this question of the availability of highquality programmes with all the elements involved in it. I have discussed it w;th representatives of the Musicians Union. They said, at the beginning, that they would like 55 per cent. However, when it has been pointed out to them, as I have done, that that percentage could lead to the development of trash, they say without hesitation that they are out to produce quality music and quality artists and that no action should be taken that would result in a flood of low-level productions. That has been stated to me within the last three days as the attitude of the Musicians Union. When I explained to that union that this Government would watch the position and if necessary would introduce quotas, the union said, in effect, “ If we know that is your policy and you will carry it out, we will go away happy “.
There is another factor that has to be taken into account, and that is cost. I have spoken to some local producers and they say quite plainly that they could not be ready to produce in any volume or at a competitive cost for some considerable time. Some information I have had suggests that at present Australian producers might be able to produce at the rate of about two hours a week. Let it be realized that the Australian market is, as yet, very limited indeed ! It cannot be compared with the United States market. This matter cannot be based on experience in America, because local producers will find that as a result of the limited audience available here, their productions will be shown only once or twice and then the market will be gone. Therefore, in order to provide anything in the nature of a quota, they will have to produce enormous numbers of new productions and unless they can sell them overseas, they will not be able to do so at competitive costs.
– What about live shows?
– I am including live shows, but there are not many of them. Our producers realize that they have to produce high-quality works. If they have to rely partly on exports for the next few years, their productions must be of high quality in order to sell overseas. They have already found that if they produce high-quality matter, then they can export, and that will enable them to build up steadily the Australian end of their production. But if we force them, more or less, by a quota, particularly n quota, of 55 per cent, as suggested in the amendment, to produce for that market, they will be compelled to produce shoddy matter. The materials are not there, and we will not be helping the producers any more than we will be helping those who really want to see the development of high-quality programmes in Australia.
Another factor to which I want to refer is the fact that producers are facing serious competition mainly from the United States of America. It has been said already in this debate that in the last week or two, a flood has been developing of cheap films of good quality from America. I am quite aware of that, and I have been taking it into account in the investigations that I have been making in recent weeks. I think it was the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) who mentioned to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that the cost was about £150. He corrected the previous estimate of £250. That correction was quite right. This sets another serious problem of a different nature, and all these factors have to be taken into account. It is no use trying to look at one, and ignore the other. The serious problem lies in the fact that these productions, because they have been distributed through the enormous market in the United States and have therefore recouped their initial cost and made some profits, can be sent here at more or less bargain rates. That problem must be taken into account, because to place a high quota means that the Australian producers are being forced into a position where they could probably not continue. The importation of American productions cannot be allowed to continue to the detriment of Australian production. At the start, therefore, we are endeavouring to restrict such importation by the imposition of import quotas. It is no secret that the television licensees have been given import quotas to the value of £A.60,000 per annum, of which no more than two-thirds may be spent on dollar imports. I understand from some of the producers that that would enable them to import material from dollar sources for about twenty hours telecasting a week, whereas the television licensees are planning to telecast, by some time next year, for up to 35 hours a week.
It may be said that this brake imposed by import licensing can be circumvented. Perhaps it can, but let me assure the committee that, while I shall view this as only one aspect of the matter, I shall continue to watch the position, and I know that if any adjustment is required I shall have the co-operation of my colleagues, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne) in effecting it.
Another aspect that must be watched is the effect on the televiewing audiences of any quota that we might impose. The majority of the people are expecting and hoping that programmes of a high standard will be provided. If we start television broadcasting in a way that forces the licensees to show a considerable proportion of low-standard programmes, not only will that react against the future development . and standing of television generally, but it will also have a very bad effect, of the kind that we are trying to avoid, on the children and youth of the country.
All those factors must be taken into account. They pose problems, and the result of the Government’s consideration has been its decision not to impose, at present, any quota on the television licensees in regard to the use of Australian talent, and to state plainly in the legislation that the licensees will be expected to use the highest practicable proportion of Australian talent in their productions. I may digress for a moment to point out that we are in good company in making that decision, because the other nations that have developed television have found this to be the most practicable way of dealing with similar problems in their countries. For instance, in the United Kingdom the television legislation was enacted in 1954, about twenty years after the commencement of television broadcasting. That legislation merely prescribed that the Independent Television Authority should ensure that proper proportions of the recorded and other matter included in the programme should be of British origin and performance.
– That is not so. The proportion stipulated was SO per cent.
– The honorable member for Parkes, who is now interjecting, said in this chamber last week that an English regulation actually specifies the proportion. I have had inquiries made into that matter, and if the honorable member can show that my information is wrong I am prepared to withdraw this comment. As a result of the inquiries that I have caused to be made, I have been informed that the responsible Minister stated in the House of Commons that the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned, by negotiations between the television authority, the programme directors and the unions. I shall now refer to the position in Canada. The board of governors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been instructed that it should endeavour at once to import the best programmes from abroad, while including, as far as possible, Canadian talent in its programmes. The Canadian Government has adopted very much the same attitude as this Government has adopted. Therefore, if we are erring at all - and I do not concede that we are - we are erring in very good company.
– Can the Minister refer to the relevant section in the English act?
– No. I wish to proceed, Mr. Temporary Chairman, after having spent some time in outlining the Government’s attitude, and the solid and sound reasons therefor, to indicate exactly how the policy that the Government has decided upon is being applied. The provision in the bill to the effect that we expect the television licensees to use the highest possible proportion of Australian talent is not merely the expression of a pious platitude. Government members have not merely said to themselves, “ Oh. well, we have got out of that one “. Already, that policy has been applied. As the Minister responsible for giving effect to that policy, I have already instructed the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to inform the persons to whom licences have already been granted, and who are preparing to commence production of programmes, that I will not be prepared to authorize them to commence their services until they are able to include a. reasonable proportion nf Australianproduced material in their programmes. That, of course, means quite a small volume at the start, because they are planning on the basis of only about fourteen or fifteen hours telecasting a week at the commencement. But in order to ensure that the Government’s policy is understood and followed, I am insisting that, right from the start, there must be a reasonable amount of Australian talent in television programmes. No quota has been laid down, but the producers are required to comply with that requirement. That instruction has been given by the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, at my instance, to the licensees on two occasions, the last occasion being at the. beginning of this week. Following the issuing of that instruction, two representatives of one licensee called on me only the night before last in order to discuss this matter and to suggest that, while they are keen on using Australian talent, they should, at the start, be allowed to show only film material. I informed them that I would not grant permission to commence until they were prepared to use some proportion of Australian talent. They then undertook to use, at the commencement of their operations, Australian material in 7 per cent, of their operating time. I shall not give the committee the names of the persons concerned. I mention the incident merely to show that the Government is proceeding to apply its policy, and that that policy is bearing fruit. I also inform honorable members that in discussions between the licensees and the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the licensees have demonstrated not only a realization of the need to help Australian talent, but also a determination to do so, and to fall in with the plans of the Government in that regard. The Government’s attitude springs, first, from a careful study of all aspects of the problem, which, I suggest, has not been made by the Opposition. Secondly, it is based on a sober appreciation of the application of those various factors, and it will be applied by those responsible for implementing it with determination, and with the idea of steadily increasing the proportion of Australian artists and compositions in television programmes. From time to time the matter will be reviewed, in order to keep in touch with the problem. If it is found necessary, either by way of regulation or by a further provision in the licences, to take any action to implement the Government’s policy, that action will undoubtedly be taken. Honorable members should not forge* that that the power always exists to include such requirements in the licences. The decision of the Government, as expressed in the bill, is sound, and the committee should agree to the measure. The adoption of the amendment would strike a serious blow at the whole of Australia’s cultural fabric.
– I rise merely on a point of procedure. I should have made it clear, in proposing my amendment, that it related only to proposed new section 88a, which ends with the word “ events “. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), and I myself, have discussed only the 55 per cent, quota. I thought I had made it clear that I proposed to move the second part of the amendment separately.
– I rise to order. It has been quite impossible for honorable members in some parts of the chamber to hear what arrangement has been made.
– Order! I shall explain the position. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has suggested that the amendment shown as No. 9 in the circulated list be divided into two parts- 9 ‘(a) and 9 (i>). He has stated that, so far, he and the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) have dealt ‘only with 9 (a), which relates only to proposed section 8Sa. Therefore, the committee is now dealing with an amendment the affect of which is to insert in clause 49 a new section 88a, and the question now before the Chair is -
That the section proposed to be inserted bc so inserted.
.- I support the amendment. The Government has put up a very weak case. It states that the 55 per cent, quota of time for Australian artists proposed by the Opposition is impracticable, but, in the next breath, it claims that it wishes to give the maximum assistance to Australian actors, playwrights and other artists. If it thinks that a quota of 55 per cent, is too great, why did it not make provision in the bill for a reasonable proportion? If it thinks a quota of 20 per cent, 15 per cent., or even 10 per cent., is reasonable, why did it not provide for it? The bill, as drafted, makes no provision for a quota of time for Australian artists, and, therefore, they cannot expect to receive even I per cent, of the broadcasting time under the provisions of this measure.
– There is no guarantee for then i.
– As the bill is drafted, there is no guarantee that even one minute a week will be allocated to Australian artists. Surely, if the Government considered a quota of 55 per cent, too great, if its protestations are genuine, and if it has a real solicitude for Australian artists, which I very much doubt, it could have made what it considered a reasonable provision, and said that it considered 55 per cent, impracticable in the circumstances. I think 55 per cent, is an eminently reasonable quota. The Government has shown that its protestations of affection and solicitude for Australian artists are entirely spurious, because it is not prepared to make tangible provision to afford practical protection to them. Its refusal to specify in the bill a quota of time for Australian artists shows conclusively that it is concerned more about the interests of its overseas friends than about the welfare of the Australians who have supported the cultural side of our life over very many years.
I suggest that Australian artists could occupy 55 per cent, of the transmitting time, because it is contemplated that the number of hours during which television broadcasts will be made in each week will not he very great for the first year or two. One would think, to hear Government supporters talk, that television broadcasts will begin at 6 a.m. and end at midnight, and that it would be impossible for Australian artists to fill 55 per cent, of an eighteen-hour day. But what is the true position? I understand that, at the beginning, television broadcasts will be made for only 20 or 25 hours a week - a very limited number of hours compared with those of radio broadcasts. Surely it is entirely practicable, and well within the bounds of possibility, for Australian artists to stage programmes for thirteen or fourteen hours of the 25 during which broadcasts will be made in each week. After all, we have had’ a practical demonstration in radio broadcasting, where Australian artists stage various programmes that occupy many hours of transmitting time. This experience has demonstrated that, in Australia, we have a variety of talent which could amply occupy the quota of time proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The bounden duty of this Parliament is to ensure that television shall not become a medium for the spreading of imported culture and ideas. Such a development seems to be the nefarious objective of the Government, since it wishes to allow an open go for the importation of films of all kinds, and the only protection for Australian artists is the stipulation of a tangible and practicable quota of time for them, whether it be 55 per cent., 9,0 per cent., 15 per cent, of 10 per cent. “We on this side of the chamber consider that Australian artists must be given every opportunity to stage programmes presenting Australian culture and the Australian way of life. The Government merely expresses a pious hope - that is all - that the television companies will do the right thing and see that Australian artists are allowed to stage a reasonable proportion of programmes. Are we to judge that hope by the degree to which earlier hopes have been realized ? During the last six months, the Government has asked various sections of industry to do this or that. Six months ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) asked the hire-purchase companies to reduce the volume of hire purchase and other credit transactions, and I suggest that the Government’s hopes in relation to the quota of time for Australian artists in television will be just as disastrously unfulfilled as were its hopes that the hire-purchase companies would do as it asked. The Government should have sufficient experience of dealing with vested commercial interests to know that their policy and doctrines are dominated by the profit motive. If it is more profitable for them to televise imported programmes dumped here by other countries, they will do so. We have often talked about dumping. In television, we are to witness the most classic example of dumping in the Australian market that we have seen since the Australian Labour party, between 1907 and 1909, fought for protection for Australian industry as a fundamental principle. The self -styled champions of Australian industry on the Government side of the chamber intend to allow dumping, stark naked and unashamed, and they will not protect the interests of Australian artists. A collection of films imported from the United States of America and other countries, but particularly from the United States, will be dumped on the Australian market at a price far below their cost of production in the United States. I repeat that this is a classic example of dumping. Already, we have in Australia- a collection of films of all types sent from the United States. Some -are good, some are of moderate cultural value, and some are of no cultural value. We find, on the admission of one Minister, that they are being sold at £150 each, although they cost probably £2*0,000, £30,000, or £40,000 to produce in the United States. Because they are being dumped on the Australian market, and because there is no legislative protection for Australians, our own artists will be denied the opportunity to make a living in television. Government supporters should not overlook this factor when they throw out their chests as the self-styled champions of Australian industry and art.
Recently, the Government adopted a series of financial measures calculated to improve our financial position in relation to other countries. We in Australia are very much concerned about dollars in particular. Yet many valuable dollars nave been wasted in the importation of American television films, which will deprive our own Australian artists of a livelihood. Surely, in the interests of financial sanity, and with the object of conserving our dollar funds, the importation of American films should have been reduced to the minimum. There is also another American development that will have repercussions in Australia very shortly. Not only is there a tremendous surplus in the United States of out-dated television films that are to be dumped in Australia, but also the major American film companies have adopted a new policy of selling to the American television companies, at low prices, films that were made five years or more ago. Consequently, we shall find that those films will be imported into Australia from America. As a result, how will television develop in Australia? We shall find that people will be able to see imported films on television for 25 or 30 hours a week, and they will not have to go to the picture theatres to see them. That is what this Government’s policy must lead to. There is no other conclusion that can be reached.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), by this amendment, seeks to assure to Australian producers 55 per cent, of the programmes that are telecast. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) has called in question the patriotism of honorable members on this side and the genuineness of their devotion to this country. That might have been an argument that would have carried some weight if it had been addressed to this chamber, say, before the Avar. But I think it is common ground - the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will bear me out in this - that, more than anything else, the experiences of two world wars have made Australians conscious of their own nationality. Australians in other lands, surrounded by foreigners, look back to their own country with pride. The experiences of two world wars, above everything else, have stimulated the patriotism of Australians and their pride in this great country. That has been accentuated still further by the tremendous development that has occurred here in the last few years. T mention those things - which may not seem to be in point, but which, in fact, are in point - to indicate that to-day there is no lack of Australian sentiment on this side of the chamber, whatever may have been the position in other years. The Australian Labour party is no longer the sole champion of Australianism. So
I dispose of that obloquy on the part of the honorable member for Batman.
The honorable member raised the question whether we are sufficiently aware of the importance of supporting Australian industry and, in this particular case, Australian actors, authors, musicians and so forth. I take the view that those who pay for television receiving licences are entitled to have good programmes and, therefore, that the interests of actors, writers and other people concerned must, quite definitely, take second place to the interests of the general public. We have become familiar in New South Wales with the idea that the transport system there is run, not for the benefit of the travelling public, but in the interests of the employees. I hope that we shall not adopt a similar attitude to television and throw the interests of the general public to the winds.
I find it very difficult to believe that the figure 55 per cent, has been put forward sincerely by the Leader of the Opposition. It appears to me to be a figure that has been plucked out of the air. It has not been supported by any evidence of the capacity of Australian producers to fill such a quota.
– It will be.
– It is getting rather late in the day for that. I hope that the honorable member for Parkes will have an opportunity to produce the evidence. …It seems to me that 55 per cent, has been chosen only becaii.se it is greater than 50 per cent. - simply to indicate that more than 50 per cent, of the programmes ought to be Australian. What has hap-pened in the field of music? I will accept the argument that, up to a certain point, demand will beget supply- that if you reserve a certain field, the demand thus created will evoke supply and writers and artists will come forward who will provide sufficient material of a suitable standard. Up to a certain point, that argument is sound. Some years ago, the figure of 2£ per cent, was fixed for music. In this bill, it has been increased to 5 per cent. It so happens that, in the interval, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has found that it can obtain sufficient Australian .music to provide 4$ per cent, of its programmes. That is a very small percentage. In the field of music it has been possible to draw upon the musical compositions of Australians for the last 100 years, or since Australia was established. But here we enter into a new field. As far as Australian productions are concerned, in the field of drama there is nothing in existence that is available for television. Yet the Opposition suggests a quota of 55 per cent. We cannot draw on the compositions of past generations. We can draw only on the compositions of people living to-day. None of the material required exists at present, yet the Opposition speaks as though it sincerely believed that what it suggests can be done.
If the amendment were accepted, I believe that the result would be precisely the opposite of what the Opposition seeks to achieve. I take, as an example, something that was said by the honorable member for Parkes in discussing the previous amendment. He lauded the song known as “ Advance Australia Fair “. If that song proves anything, it proves that we cannot ram down the throats of the public something that they do not want. Many honorable members know that when Australians are gathered together abroad, among foreigners, if their feelings of patriotism move them to music they will sing, perhaps, “ Waltzing Matilda “. But I have never heard any group of Australians spontaneously sing “ Advance Australia Fair “. The very words are ridiculous and absurd. No self-respecting man would sing the sort of stuff that is suitable only for school children.
– What do you reckon it should be?
– I can only say that we cannot ram things down people’s throats. We cannot ram Australian music down people’s throats. As far a9 the words are concerned, “Waltzing Matilda “ may not be a good national anthem, but as a patriotic song it has commended itself to the hearts of the Australian people. We cannot ram a song down the throats of the Australian people, any more than the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) could ram dried fruits down the throats of school children because that would suit the producers of dried fruits in his electorate. These are matters of taste. A provision that a high percentage of programmes shall be Australian will not of itself commend Australian productions to the Australian people. On the contrary, if the productions are exceedingly inferior in quality, as they are bound to be in the inception, they may bring about a reaction. We may find that the Australian people will have nothing to do with Australian productions.
This is a matter for practical judgment. Honorable members on both sides want to see in television programmes as much Australian material of good quality as is available. But at thi3 stage nobody knows what the proportion will be. Certainly this committee cannot determine it. If the matter were referred back to the royal commission for inquiry with a view to fixing a quota, I imagine that the royal commission would say precisely what it has said already - that in view of our lack of experience in this field, it is impossible for anybody to determine what would be a proper quota. Bo we must proceed on a pragmatic basis. We must ascertain what material of sufficient quality is available and ensure that that will be telecast.
There is a critical shortage of good television material, not only in Australian, but throughout the world. There is a ready market, both here and elsewhere, for good telefilms. Therefore, Australian producers, far from being cramped, will find that if they can produce good stuff, it will be snapped up in Australia and abroad. If the Opposition is really sincere in proposing this amendment, and is not merely seeking to get votes from unthinking people, it is surprising that it has not put forward a more practical method of achieving the objective that it and the Government have in mind - that is, the telecasting of all Australian material of sufficient quality. Why not put forward something really constructive instead of this vote-catching amendment? In England, in order to reduce the dependence-
– Order .’ The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Several challenges have been made to us on this side of the committee to prove our case for a 55 per cent, quota, and to show the genuineness of our submissions in relation to the quota and some of the statements that we have made generally. In ten minutes I shall try to answer the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and his associates. In the first place, the Postmaster-General, who is in charge of the bill, has been completely misinformed by his advisers in regard to British quotas. It is unthinkable that he made his statement without advice. The British Television Act 1954, at page 487, provides in the duties clauses that proper proportions of recorded and other matter included in programmes shall be of British origin and performance. The Minister stated that I had said during the second-reading debate that the proportion was included in the act. I corrected that statement by saying that it was part of an agreement. The agreement is between the British Actors Equity Association and the Independent Television Authority, which is a government authority in the United Kingdom owning the stations and contracting for programmes. In order completely to refute the Minister’s statement I read a letter dated the 6th January, 1956, from Mr. Gordon Sandison, the general secretary of the British Actors Equity Association, in which he says, amongst other things -
We have reached an agreement with the Independent Television Authority limiting foreign filmed material—
That is video filmed material - to seven hours per week out of a transmission time of fifty hours. Four hours of the seven may be spread over the peak period.
So the content of British material is 86 per cent., and it is arrived at by agreement. The remarks that I made were moderate and conservative in regard to the need which the British authorities felt to protect themselves from the foreign back-log of films and programmes. I think that that clarifies the position.
I am more concerned with the irresponsible statements that have been made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall). The honorable gentleman is in the radio business, but that does not make him an expert on television in the eyes of honorable members. In the realm of politics I think of him merely as a disc jockey.
– The answer to that is provided in my electorate.
– The Minister says that the answer to that statement is provided by his electorate. The honorable gentleman said he did not know how the Opposition arrived at its figure of 55 per cent, of Australian material, and that it was “ probably plucked from the air “. We are talking about the air, so that is the right place from which to pluck it. He said -
If we insist that 55 per cent, of the material broadcast on television must come from our own Australian resources, we will go far towards wrecking television in this country. [n effect the Minister said that if we allow Australians on our own television programmes we shall wreck television.
– Before they are ready to produce.
– Rubbish ! Of course they are ready to produce, as I shall prove.
– The honorable member will have a difficult job.
– Not at all. The Minister’s figures are completely fantastic. They are taken from the local film journals. His mind is fixed on the figures given to him, but they do not disclose the facts. A quota of 55 per cent, of Australian material on television would not be hard to fulfil because at the outset television programmes will be confined to four hours daily. Is that not true ?
– Or about 27 hours a week ?
– And are not the programmes to be interchangeable between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial stations? Of course they will be! Is the Minister suggesting that we cannot provide the quota? The conrent of 55 per cent, was included with knowledge and realization that during the early days we must specify a healthy Australian content if we are to have Australian television. That provision must necessarily be inserted in order to retail* the Australian character of television. The Minister’s statement about so many thousands of hours of programme material and so many films coming to this country is just a piece of commercial propaganda for which he has fallen. In his own successful career as a radio station owner he understands that sort of thing as between himself and his customer. It is good there, but it is absolutely useless here, and it is a completely bad argument to the Australian man or woman who seeks a living by acting on television.
It was then said that we could not make programmes in Australia. Could there be anything worse or more miserably made than the Californian “ quickies “. We have evidence that we can make programmes in Australia. I went to the trouble of finding out that Australian films for short television programmes are in the export trade earning dollars. The Minister probably knows that. We have made them on great Australian historical and literary subjects. Because wages and conditions are lower here than in the United States of America, and there are no big name salaries, the television set-up is by no means difficult of arrangement. There is no problem of creating complicated film backgrounds and there are no great technological difficulties. We are able to sell’ these productions at a handsome profit overseas. These lovers of American films and television in and out of season will recall that Joseph Kaufmann, who, while in Australia, made the film “ Long John Silver”, a very fine little job designed mostly for youngsters and based on the adventure epic of Robert Louis Stevenson, was so fascinated with the background and the possibilities of Australian television that he made thirteen half-hour television programmes and sold them for £2,00D each in the United States. For the Minister and his advisers to tell me that we are not ready to make our own television programmes is an absurdity.
– Not in quantity.
– There is not any question of quality at this moment.
– “Quantity” was theword I used.
– There is not any question of quantity, because of the limitations of programmes. “We have been told by the Minister that we must guide our infant steps in television. The televising hours are to be short and necessarily we must get our share of them. Necessarily the Australian quota must be high. I refute the suggestion that Australians will wreck their own television. A quota was demanded by the intelligent British people, who provide the very acme of the entertainment world. They are at the top of television, films, and the rest of the entertainment world by virtue of their long historical heritage of literature, yet they demanded and obtained a quota. The general secretary of an entertainers’ association with 50,000 members made an agreement with the’ Independent Television Authority for a high British quota for British television programmes. I ask the Minister whether he will make a similar agreement with Actors Equity, rather than rely on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, or does he believe that there is nothing but futile Opposition propaganda in the speeches which we have been making during the last few days? “Will he fix his own quota? He might give Australian artiste an opportunity in their own country by fixing a quota, or is he to depend on the windy arguments he advanced as an instruction to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board ? “We say that the provision should be included in the legislation. The British authorities realized that they had not enough protection in their statute. They had regard for their duty and a quota was fixed in a written and signed agreement.
– That is not an agreement between the parties.
– One party is a government instrumentality. Commercial television stations in Great Britain are not owned by commercial operators, but by the British people. The Government authority signed the agreement. If the Government thinks that the quota we have suggested is too high and fixes an alternative percentage for the sake of full employment for Australians, it would suit us and it would suit the Australian television actor and actress of the future. We have made a case, and we have no inferiority complex about what Australians can do. We can make good television films. We are making them and selling them for dollars. Surely such a highly successful businessman as thu Minister for the Interior must realize the existence of a backlog of out-of-date television programmes and the difficulty they will present later on. They might be all right for radio programmes but in the long run they will be bad for us. Many big overseas companies will produce free television programmes, which after three or four days transport in plane, may be televised here free of cost for the sake of their advertising value. We must watch our own interests. It is ridiculous for the Minister to say it would be an absurdity to impose a high quota. He suggested that if there was a quota on books I should be happily engaged in sylvan surroundings writing “ pot boilers “. The only thing wrong with that suggestion’ is that in those circumstances I would be writing classics. He said that it was ridiculous to suggest a quota in this country. I do not know where his new found exuberance comes from. I thought he was a good, thoroughpaced Australian. He rather shocked me. He said that our request was like demanding that among three old masters one must be an Australian. That is the very nub of the situation. We are a young country and we have not had time to produce old masters, but we should be able to produce our own television programmes.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Labour’s approach to this debate has been typical of the shoddy, sentimental approach that it always adopts when it tries to win public support. The fixing of a quota of any magnitude would do a great disservice to Australian artists. My reason for saying that is twofold. There is, in Australia, a small band of highly skilled artists who are of world class. However, they are few in number, and are now fully occupied in preparing broadcasting programmes. The making of radio plays and the like is a close preserve. Producers prefer to retain- the services of skilled personnel because their work is thus made easier, and plays are cheaper to produce. There need not, of course, be so many rehearsals, for skilled actors are more reliable. For that reason there is a strong bias against newcomers in this field, and those at present in it are fully engaged.
I have taken from the last report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board some figures, which are very pertinent and enlightening, as to the numbers of live artists at present engaged in national and commercial broadcasting in Australia. Only 4.9 per cent, of the total broadcasting time on the national stations is given over to drama. On the commercial stations the percentage is 7.7 in Melbourne and 9.23 in Sydney. These are the total percentages of broadcasting time in which the artists who would take part in television now participate. E invite honorable members to contrast those small figures with the percentage of broadcasting time that is devoted to music, and to keep in mind that, on television, music will have to be supplanted by live artist programmes. More than 40 per cent, of the time of the national stations is devoted to music and, for the commercial stations, the figures are 59 per cent, in Sydney and 53 per cent, in Melbourne. As music will have to be supplanted by live artist programmes on television, those are the percentages of live artist programmes that will have to be provided on television, but the present capacity of Australian live artists is, on the average, about 5 per cent, or 6 per cent. Therefore, when we set up an industry to produce films for television we shall not only have to find talent additional to that now used in the broadcasting of plays, but enlarge greatly both the artistic and production sides of the industry. These aspects have to be established and enlarged.
As has been pointed out, we have now a very small film industry which exports to America. That nucleus must be enormously expanded. One point that has been overlooked in all this talk of a quota is that we cannot establish an Australian film industry for television unless we export films. One must compare the cost of a locally made produc tion with the number of outlets available to it. I have been told that a good production will cost about £4,000 for each half-hour of running time, as against £250 for an imported film. As Australia will have only two outlets - one in Sydney and one in Melbourne, thelocal production will cost each station £2,000 a half-hour. That is far too much to expect of a commercial station which has available foreign films for approximately £250 a half-hour. Such an. approach is quite unrealistic and one cannot expect the commercial stations touse Australian films in any quantity while such a disparity in costs exists. Indeed, until Australia can export films and thus reduce home costs the televisionstations cannot use an established quota, or any applicable quantity, of Australian, film. I am in sympathy with Australian artists on this point and disagree solely as to the way in which the matter should’ be approached. It would be quite wrong, as I hope I have proved, to establish a quota. It would have quite the wrong result, and would limit the number of hours for which a television station could’ put out programmes of a reasonable standard because sufficient programmes of this kind would not be available. Alternatively, it would mean that the industry would have to lower its standards tremendously and produce second-rate Australian “ quickies “. I do not believe that that can be done.
The suggestion that I offer to the PostmasterGeneral in the limited time that is available to me is that we should adopt a scheme along the lines of thosethat were put into operation bv the British after the last war to protect their film industry and export more British films. There were two schemes - the Eady Fund and the National Film Finance Corporation, out of which the Eady Fund grew. The National Film Finance Corporation has, by granting loans, helped to build up the British film industry and to establish an export trade which has been valuable both in earning dollars and in spreading knowledge of the British way of” life. The Eady Fund was established for somewhat similar purposes. I need not go into the details at the moment. I refer the matter to the
Postmaster-General for his later consideration. The Government should consider it with particular reference to the activities of the Minister for Trade so that we may achieve with our films what the British achieved with theirs. We must export our television films and thus reduce our home costs. We must protect ourselves from the dumping of used foreign films in Australia, and we must also use Australian films to spread knowledge of Australia’s living conditions and attitude to life.
All this could be achieved if the Government would set up a corporation similar to that which I have described. It could promote the establishment of a television film industry here. I believe that, in that way, our Australian arts and artists could be encouraged and stimulated. We would get what we have never got through the operation of a quota system. We would also be able to take advantage of the enormous television film market in the English speaking countries of the world. America, for example, is always ready to consume more television films. We have something valuable to offer both in the way of creative talent and an attitude to life, and we should make use of it.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. DRUMMOND (New England) [4.35 J. - I wish to refer to one of the points arising from the discussion which, t think, is most pertinent to an understanding of the subject. The statement by other honorable members on this side of the House that we are as much in sympathy - if not more - with the Australian artist as the Opposition is demonstrably true. I do not query the bona fides of the Opposition in putting forward its proposals, but I do wish to protest against the continual use of a cant phrase about certain films from the United States of America which has become nauseous.
I refer to continual references to racket squads and a string of titles like that, designed to create in the public mind the impression that that is the only kind of thing that would fill the gap which could otherwise be filled by
Australian artists, but which every reasonable man who has any knowledge, of the industry knows cannot be filled. I wonder why it is .that no reference has been made to the productions of the British film industry which are ready and available in Australia from great organizations such as Pye Industries.
Arrangements have been made by the British Broadcasting Commission with certain organizations in the United Kingdom to have a number of their best films made available in Australia until we can fill the gap. Yet we have had a nauseating and continuous reiteration of references to American films, some of which are undoubtedly bad, but many of which are undoubtedly good.
Having made that point, I just want tosay that my knowledge of those who approach this matter from the Australian point of view in the broadcasting world leads me to believe that what applies to sound broadcasting applies equally to television. Those people are greatly concerned, not that they will have to use more Australian films on television or more Australian artists on the air, but that they cannot, even at the present time, get sufficient high-class material ; and they fear they may destroy the appreciation of the Australian public by having to put on third and fourth rate, or what is known as “ hill-billy “, material.
On one point, the Opposition is inconsistent, and it is well to note the fact. First of all, Opposition speakers have said that the stations ar.e out for profit and nothing else, and that television stations will be no better. Then they express the opinion that the Australian public prefer to hear Australian material. Of course, the people prefer Australian material, if they can get the material in sufficient quantity and of satisfactory quality. But one cannot have this both ways. If the companies are out for profit, they will broadcast that which will be listened to for the longest periods and with the greatest amount of appreciation by their public. The commercial stations know perfectly well that if they fail, by comparison .with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, they have to suffer. If material is available to them that will make a greater appeal than the material that they are already using, they will buy it and the fact that the commercial stations have some features which are incomparably better than much that goes over the Australian Broadcasting Commission system is proof of that fact.
I now want to refer to the claim that has been made, also ad nauseam, that Labour is the only party that has ever done anything for art and culture. I was a member of a government in the State of New South Wales, I think 25 years ago, which brought into existence the film commission which established a film quota and made other proposals for the assistance of the film industry that nobody else thought worth while at that time.
– Did it provide for the licensing of drive-in theatres?
– We did not provide for the licensing of anything without proper consideration, or hand out licences to people to sell the next day for £100,000. Nor will this Government make such an incomparable blunder as that. And I do not think that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) will make the blunder of rousing that sleeping dog again.
I pass on to a point which I think the lawyers might argue. The clause under consideration provides that not less than 5 per cent. of the time occupied by programmes shall be devoted to the broadcasting of the works of composers who are Australians. Now, “ not less “ means exactly what it says. The effect of the clause will be to increase the compulsory quota by 100 per cent. The Opposition may say, “ That is not much “. But here are two things that I think must be read and construed together. First, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) or the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is given the right to put certain conditions in licences when they are renewed. What is to prevent a provision being inserted in licences that the quota shall be 15 per cent., 20 per cent., 25 per cent., or whatever percentage one likes? I believe that it is a much more flexible provision, if I read this bill aright - and I do - than to provide for a quota of 55 per cent. That quota would not be of any practical value to the artistic and cultural world, whose in terests the Opposition claims to serve. Yet, the Opposition proposes to start with that unrealistic quota. [Quorum formed.] Mr. Temporary Chairman, it is a great pity that the time of the committee was taken up by the summoning of a quorum, because I intended to conclude my remarks shortly. It is now necessary for me to restate the point that I was making, so as to drive that point home. I have said that the bill, as drafted, provides a minimum quota and does not lay down a maximum. Since that is a realistic minimum, judging from the experience which has been obtained to date, it is quite clear that the bill contains a wider and better provission than the unrealistic proposal that has been put forward by the Opposition.
Having stated that point, and feeling that it can be sustained if the provision is read in conjunction with the rest of the bill, particularly the provisions concerning the powers of the board and the Minister, I shall pass on to one more point. Reference has been made to both the American and the British set-up. The Opposition has consistently ignored the fact that there is no regulating factor-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question put -
That the proposed new section (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) be inserted in the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I now move, in relation to clause 49 -
That, after proposed section 88, the following section be inserted: - “ 88n. The Commission and licensee shall ensure that Divine Worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast or televised for adequate periods, at appropriate times, free of charge and on an equitable basis, and that no /natter which is not of a religious nature is broadcast or televised by a station during any period during which Divine Worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast or televised by that station.”.
The amendment was referred to in the second-reading debate. The purpose of the specific provision contained therein is to make clear the duty of both the commission and the licensees. It is not intended that this should be done as a matter of direction or decision, but to have a definite principle laid down. Of course, there are matters that are not specified, such as the adequacy of the period and the fall of the appropriate times. The provision of broadcasting time for matters of a religious nature is to be on an equitable basis with no charge made, and under the safeguard proposed in the amendment. It seems to me, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that in this particular case the stage is reached, as it is to some extent reached in regard to broadcasts of political matter, where it is necessary to provide a guarantee of a statutory kind in the legislation. Although the bill as it stands may have the intention, in the broad, to act along those line3, it is important that these facilities and services shall be based upon equity, having regard to the needs of all churches and religious denominations.
– 1 take it that the Government will accept this amendment.
– The honorable member has a most charitable interpretation of the Government’s attitude.
– Order !
– That is the specific proposal, and other honorable members on this side of the chamber propose to develop the discussion on the principle contained in it.
– I do not feel that it is necessary to speak at length on this amendment, because, for one thing, we are dropping behind our time-table, and I know that honorable members wish to spend some time on discussing other clauses in the group with which we are now dealing. However, there is no need for amendment of the clause, because the bill proposes as follows: -
A licensee shall broadcast or televise from his station Divine Worship or other matter of a religious nature during such periods as the Board determines and, if the Board so directs, shall do so without charge.
There is a specific direction contained in that provision. I point out that, as a result of experience gained, the board was required to ensure that matters of a religious nature were broadcast for adequate periods and at appropriate times. Following that direction by the board, licensees have been broadcasting matters of a religious nature free of charge for a total period of 293 hours a week. That represents an average of two and three-quarter hours a week for all the 107 commercial broadcasting stations of Australia. I quote those figures to show that the position that has developed under the existing legislation is entirely satisfactory. It is proposed, therefore, to retain that system and to apply it also to television programmes.
The board has already developed television programme standards for the televising of religious matter. It has laid down that time should be allocated for the televising of matter of a religious nature to the extent of at least 1 per cent, of the normal weekly hours of service, with a minimum of 30 minutes each week, to be scheduled either as a complete unit occupying the whole time allocated, or as a series of programmes. It has further laid down that time so allocated shall be provided free of charge to the church or religious body concerned, but that reasonable charges may be made to cover costs other than those of a programme presented in, and using the normal facilities of, a studio under the control of the licensee. A third requirement provides for the allocation of time amongst the various denominations in each district in proportion to the number of their adherents in that district. The bill makes complete provision for this important matter, and there is no need for it to be amended in the manner suggested.
– I feel that the amendment moved by my leader is much more specific than is the present provision in the bill. The bill provides that the licensees shall broadcast or televise services of divine worship or other matters of that nature, but the amendment provides that that obligation shall be placed on the Australian Broadcasting Commission also. The commission is doing a very good job in the broadcasting of religious services, presentations by church choirs on Sunday nights, and daily devotional services.
I feel that, with proper handling, television could be an acquisition to the religious life of the nation. The matter before the committee is much more important than is the provision in relation to sporting bodies. If we were to follow America’s example in relation to religious services, television would be of no benefit to the religious life of the Australian people. A recent analysis of programmes transmitted by more than 300 American television stations, to which I referred yesterday, revealed that the average station devoted only .9 per cent, of its transmission time to religious programmes, and that fifteen stations trans mitted no such programmes. That is an appalling state of affairs for a country like America. I sincerely hope that at least 5 per cent, of our total transmission time will be devoted to that purpose. The moving of this amendment is necessary to impress upon the commission, and the licensees that they have a duty in the moulding of the Christian character of this country. Materialism is the driving force in the world to-day. Television is a tremendous instrument of materialism. We in Australia do not want to see greater emphasis placed on materialism through the medium of television. Opposition members feel that this amendment, if agreed to, would ensure that emphasis was placed on the Christian aspect of the Australian character, and that we would be able to prevent the materialistic approach that is almost driving religion out of American television programmes.
– Could we not still have sponsored religious programmes?
– I hope we shall have sponsored religious programmes.
– But this amendment would eliminate them,
– No, it would not. It provides that the commission and the licensees shall ensure that programmes of divine worship are transmitted free of charge. Unfortunately, commercial television interests want to make a profit before doing anything for the good of the country. It behoves the Parliament to give a lead to the commercial licensees and to the commission to ensure that the emphasis on religious programmes is not neglected in this new era of television. I conclude by stating that we should resist the temptation to make television another medium of advancing materialism, and that we should use it to advance the ideology of true democracy in Australia, to give a lead to the countries of SouthEast Asia that are looking to us for guidance, and to uphold Christian principles throughout the Commonwealth.
.- I very warmly support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I feel that it is desirable that more specific conditions should be prescribed in relation to the transmission of religious services. When my colleague, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) was speaking, honorable members opposite disclosed what was in their minds in approaching this subject. According to them, time can be made available for the transmission of programmes for the benefit of the religious life of the community if the time is sponsored - if it is paid for; if it has a money value. Those interests that are 30 greatly advantaged by ‘ having the privilege of transmitting television programmes have an obligation to maintain the moral standards of the community, and they should make available to religious organizations sufficient time to enable them effectively to provide the instruction that is necessary to help the community to resist many of the conditions that will be created by the introduction of television, including the promotion of programmes that are not of the best cultural vein. It is desirable that we should have the advantage of knowing that these people are under an obligation to the nation to see that adequate time is freely given upon their programmes for this purpose. Under the conditions of commercial broadcasting to-day, some stations are willing to give time, but others fail in that obligation and are unwilling to recognize any obligation to the community. That being so, the same thing could occur in television. It might be said by licensees that this new kind of publicity is far too expensive for them to be able to make available any time for religious services. Those people must be made to know that they have obligations as well as advantages. Therefore, I bring to the notice of the people of Australia what appears to be the viewpoint of members on the Government side towards this very important phase of television. Tt is the desire of the Opposition to protect religious bodies and to seek to advance uniformly their claims for consideration in the precise terms of the amendment proposed by the Leader of tho Opposition.
.- I feel that the interiection that I made has benn entirely misconstrued. T waa pointin out to the honorable member for
Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) that the terms nf the amendment would mean that anybody desiring to sponsor a religious broadcast or talk would be barred from doing so by this very amendment. The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) has taken it upon himself to say that we on this side are against the telecasting or broadcasting of all religious services. It is a complete fabrication, and if honorable members read this amendment, they will see that what I have said is true. The amendment reads, in part, as follows: -
The Commission and licensees shall ensure that … no matter which is not of a religious nature is broadcast or televised by a station during any period during which Divine Worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast or televised by that station.
I believe that in America to-day the most popular television programme, on votes throughout that country, is the Bishop Fulton Sheen programme, which may or may not be sponsored. A sponsor could say that he would put that show on television, and there might be an announcement, “ This show is brought to you with the compliments of so and so “. This amendment would automatically rule it out of order.
That is the point I was trying to make to the honorable member for Wilmot, and I am afraid that the honorable member for Bonython twisted it around to mean that I was against the televising of all religious services. Nothing could be further from the truth. If television could bring to the people of Australia a programme by some great religious leader I would be very pleased to see it .happen. Quite obviously, television stations have to operate, after this great capital investment, so that they can continue to bring services to the people, and by sponsored programmes they will continue to do that. It is an obvious fact that this amendment cuts right across that sort of thing.
– I shall not detain the committee for more than a moment. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) is quite wrong in his construction of the amendment. The real point of the amendment is to show the contrast between the provision that is proposed to be inserted and this provision in the bill as it will appear without this amendment. All that the bill says is that a licensee shall broadcast or televise from his station
Divine Worship or other matter of a religious nature during such periods as the board determines and, if the board so directs, shall do so without charge. No statutory right is created. There is to be some dispensation by the board, and there is a possibility of a charge for the broadcasting or televising of Divine Worship or religious matter. Our amendment, on the contrary, is more in keeping with the existing law that is to be amended, in a very careful way, under this bill, as I shall show in a moment. On page8 of the print of the Broadcasting and Television Bill in its final form, the sections that are to be omitted are printed in italics. Section 16 (2.) reads -
In exercising its function under paragraph (c) of the last preceding sub-section -
the Board shall, in particular -
ensure that divine worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast for adequate periods and at appropriate times and that no matter which is not of. a religious nature is broadcast by a station during any period during which divine worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast by that station.
We have repeated the words of the existing statute which, for some reason, have been omitted by the Government from the bill. If the omission is for the purpose of encouraging advertisements during the broadcasting of these matters, then I appeal to the existing law which, I submit, is saner and safer and more correct. The words “ The board shall ensure” mean that it has to be done and that it is the board’s duty to do it. Now a charge may be made, and there is no guarantee that it will not be made. The fact is that there is a charter in respect of churches to have their ceremonies, church services and other matter of a religious nature broadcast free of charge. Should it be charged for? There is a service that can be rendered to the public in that way and my colleagues have described it. That is the effect of this amendment. It is not correct, therefore, for the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) to say that the position is covered. The act, as it will appear if this amendment is defeated - as the Government intends it shall be - will not give to religious bodies or churches the same rights as they have under the existing law. That is the point, and we think it should be clarified and voted upon in that sense.
Question put -
That the proposed new section (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) be inserted in the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman-
– In the printed list circulated in my name, I have foreshadowed an amendment that I claim should precede that which the honorable member for Chisholm intends to move. I am quite in accord with a great deal of what the honorable member intends to do, but I think he advanced the position of his own proposed amendment after he had seen the list circulated by me.
– Order! I have called the honorable member for Chisholm.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for his support. I move -
That, in clause 49, after proposed section 88, the following section be inserted: - “88a. The Commission or the holder of a licence for a commercial television station shall not televise, either directly, or by means of any recording, film or other material or device, the whole or a part of any sporting event or other entertainment held in Australia, after the commencement of this section, in a place to which a charge is made for admission, except in accordance with an agreement with the promoter of the sporting event or other entertainment.”.
This amendment is not complicated. It is relatively simple, but, to some sporting bodies at least, it may prove vital. No one can foretell at this stage the effects of television on various sporting events. No doubt, it will assist some sporting organizations very considerably by making certain events more popular and by increasing attendances as a consequence. On the other hand, some sporting bodies may be so adversely affected that they will be unable to continue to stage sporting events. The amendment is designed merely to give to sporting bodies protection similar to that afforded to newspapers by section 64 of the Broadcasting Act 1942-1954, which reads -
The licensee of a commercial broadcasting station shall not -
broadcast any work or part of a work in which copyright subsists except with the consent of the owner of the copyright; or
broadcast news or information of any kind published in any newspaper or obtained, collected, collated, or coordinated by any newspaper, or association of newspapers or any news agency or service, except in accordance with the terms of an agreement as to payment and conditions between the licensee and the newspaper, association of newspapers, news agency or service.
Honorable members will see, at page 39 of the memorandum showing the Broadcasting Act 1942-1954, as proposed to be amended by this bill, how proposed section 63, which will become section 102 . when the amended act is re-numbered, will apply this limitation to television. My amendment merely affords similar protection to sporting bodies. I thank the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) for assistance in the final drafting of the amendment, and I thank the Ministry and honorable members on both sides of the chamber for the assistance and support that I have received. The Leader of the Opposition and honorable members generally seem to agree with me in principle, and I am sure the right honorable gentleman will agree that my amendment will achieve exactly the same purpose as he hopes to achieve. But the wording of my amendment seems to be a little more comprehensive.
I suggest that the provision to be made in an amendment to be moved by the Minister relating to the power to make regulations relating to disputes between television stations and sporting bodies about the televising of sporting events will be preferable to leaving such disputes to be decided by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board itself. Personally, I am not very keen on an amendment which gives to any government power to make regulations when there is a dispute, because I feel very definitely that the sporting body, or bodies, organize the whole of the entertainment and do all the work. Had it not been that, in the Broadcasting case, the learned judges ruled that there was no such thing as copyright in a sporting spectacle, I should have left that out altogether. Even now, I feel that, as some of us in this chamber have grown up in the gaslight age, the age of no motor cars, and have seen the automotive age, the electric age and, now, the age of electronics and jet-propelled vehicles, it is time that some of the acts, such as the Copyright Act, should be amended to meet problems which did not exist when they were passed.From memory, I think that the last amendment of the Copyright Act, for instance, was passed in 1935. However, when I inserted this provision I thought that it would provide sporting bodies with the protection that is their due.
I doubt whether any one will ever call the regulations into force because, in the first place, no broadcasting station will want to pay possibly twice as much as it thinks a spectacle is worth, nor will the sporting body want to give it away for one-third or one-half of what it thinks the spectacle is worth. It has worked out all right with broadcasting, and I should like to pay a tribute to the broadcasting stations, as well as the newspapers, for the great assistance they have been to my particular line of sport, amateur athletics. They have done a tremendous lot for us, as well as in advertising the Olympic Games beforehand. On the other hand, with television, it may be very different indeed. AH the sporting bodies that I know of, anyhow, have asked for this amendment to be included. I think that most honorable members have had a letter from the Victoria Racing Club and the Victorian Football League. Last . night, I received a telegram in the following terms: -
Meeting N.S.W. Standing Committee on Television of Sport held to-day resolved to inform yon that principles embodied in your proposed amendment are strongly supported by committee which represents all sporting bodies in N.S.W. . . . W. R. Dovey, Chairman.
It is, therefore, obvious that all the sporting bodies are desirous of this amendment and for that reason I hope that it will be included in the bill. In view of the fact that there are so many other contentious amendments, I should like to thank the Minister, his colleagues and all honorable members for having arranged for my amendment to be dealt with in this fashion, because it might easily have been lost in the “ guillotine “. I want to thank particularly the Leader of the Opposition for the arrangements that were made with the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) so that this amendment might be discussed.
Mr. DAVIDSON (Dawson - PostmasterGeneral) [5.27^1 . - I rise to state that the Government accepts the amendment-
Opposition members interjecting,
– Yes, just as we accept any reasonable proposal that is submitted to us and which we feel has some merit, the Government accepts the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes). As the honorable member stated during his remarks, it is to be read in conjunction with an amendment which I shall move later regarding the power to make regulations in the case of any failure to agree.
I wish to point out that, in considering this matter right from the inception, there was never any question in the mind of the Government concerning the potential dangers to sporting .bodies in the development of television. It was fully realized - and we have made this plain in our discussions with sporting bodies - that if television interests had the unfettered right of entry to sporting events without any quid pro quo, the position could arise whereby the sporting bodies would be deprived of so much income as to be forced to discontinue their efforts on behalf of the nation and the sporting fraternity generally. It also was appreciated that there were certain responsibilities residing in the Government, in that all those who purchase television sets and pay licencefees are entitled to expect to see the kind of filming that they desire. Therefore, there is some obligation on the Government to try to ensure that reasonable agreements are come to between the parties in this matter, so that the needs of all shall be met.
At the start, we said, “ We will see whether the parties to the matter can meet together and come to an amicable arrangement without going into the legislative field “. That means, of course, that if no agreement could be arrived at between the parties, the Government would be forced to legislate. So there is no very great alteration in our attitude now. The position simply is that honorable members such as the honorable member for Chisholm, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), and several other members on this side of the chamber, have discussed the matter with us and we have decided that it is a fair and reasonable thing to submit the amendment. The attitude of the Government towards the rights Of sporting bodies to provide facilities is to admit those rights and then to qualify that position by certain regulatory powers which would enable the Government to carry out its obligations if, at any time, there should be failure to agree between the parties to this matter. Let me say, in continuation of what the honorable member for Chisholm said, that I have very great hopes that the discussions which are to take place between these bodies to-morrow will result in an arrangement being reached and that, in the future, there will never be any need to exercise the regulatory powers which are to be provided. With those remarks, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I again state that we accept the amendment and thank the honorable member for Chisholm for his co-operation.
.Itisaveryintereting development to find the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) ready to do the fair thing in one respect only, and deciding to do it when he knows that otherwise the members of the committee are against him ; and when he has the air. I ask that what the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) is proposing, and the proposal that has been made on behalf of the Opposition, be discussed together. For that purpose, and for that purpose only, I think it will be useful if I seek to amend the amendment of the honorable member for Chisholm by inserting, as new clause 88a, the clause which is numbered89a in amendmen t No. 13 of the Opposition amendments. It is the same subject-matter. I shall then attempt to discuss the two amendments to point out the distinction.
– How is it possible to amend an amendment?
– It is in accordance with parliamentary practice to give notice of it, and then to discuss them together. I am not going to move it immediately.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! We shall hear what the right honorable gentleman has to say.
– Let me discuss the matter before we come to the forms which must yield to the views of the committee.
– There cannot be two amendments before the committee.
– I do not propose to do more than refer to the amendment of the honorable member for Chisholm. The object of the Opposition’s amendment is to deal not only with the televising of sporting events, but also with the simultaneous broadcasting of them, because there has been the gravest dispute in Australia as to whether, without the consent of those whowere organizing some of the great sports in the country, a right exists in the broadcasting stations to broadcast without authority. That right has been claimed. It was claimed some years ago in respect of certain cricket matches, and I represented the New South Wales Cricket Association. We found the greatest difficulty in getting the Australian Broadcasting Commission to recognize that the sport and the entertainment woreprovidedbythe cricket promoters, the promoters of the game. However, that matter was settled. In our amendment, we go further than does the honorable member for Chisholm, and we deal with the problem of broadcasting simultaneously. The amendment reads -
Alicensee shall not directly televise a sporting event to which a charge is made for admission, or broadcast a simultaneous description of such an event, unless -
he has first obtained the approval of the promoters of the event; or (b) he has offered to the promoters of the event a payment or other consideration which the Board has certified to be, in its opinion, reasonable compensation.
The honorable member for Chisholm, in his reference to television, has gone further and has said -
Shall not televise, either directly, or by means of any recording, film or other material or device, the whole or a part of any sporting event or other entertainment held in Australia . . .
To some extent, his amendment goes further than that proposed by the Opposition.
The other amendment mentioned is really quite trivial. All that the Government proposes is that, if agreement as to payment or compensation cannot be reached, the matter will be determined by regulation made by the Government. It could have been determined by arbitration in the courts, but there is no objection to the Government’s proposal. We should lay down the principle in relation to television - I should like it to be made applicable also to simultaneous broadcast descriptions - that the people who provide a sporting entertainment, whether it be a race meeting, a cricket match, a football match or any other kind of organized sport whether amateur or professional, shall be entitled to say either that they do not want the entertainment to be televised or that they require compensation or payment if it is televised. The promoters provide the sporting entertainment. It is a good thing if people can attend the sports ground to watch the sport, or if they can listen to a simultaneous broadcast description or see it on a television screen, but it must be remembered that the promoters have been responsible for providing the entertainment for the viewers or the listeners. Therefore, we think they should be entitled to say that they will not consent to events being televised or broadcast unless they receive compensation.
That is the principle underlying both amendments. It is a very important principle. It is quite possible, without this legislation, that that is the law of the country. An issue of this kind was decided in the United States of America 60 or 70 years ago. An attempt was made to erect, outside a certain baseball ground, a great pavilion which overlooked the ground. The building of the pavilion was restrained by the American courts on the ground that it amounted to trespass or interference with the rights of those who had put up money to provide the entertainment. In this country, it was decided that a person was entitled to erect a tower outside a racecourse and, without the consent of the promoters of the race meeting, broadcast a description of theraces from the tower. Although there was an acute difference of legal opinion in that case, that is the present law of this country.
The Labour party wishes that the principle which is now to be applied to television could be applied also to simultaneous broadcast descriptions, because a person 100 or 1.000 miles away who listens to a broadcast description of a sporting event is, to all intents and purposes, at the ground and enjoying the entertainment, in much the same way as he would be if he saw it on a television screen.
I congratulate the honorable member for Chisholm on his initiative in this matter and on his success in getting the consent of the Government to his proposal at the last moment. The Government knew that our proposalhad a wide area of agreement with that of the honorable member. I think that his amendment, in some respects, has additional qualities, but I believe that our amendment, particularly in its application of this principle to simultaneous broadcast descriptions, is broader and sounder. We shall put our amendment to the committee. If it is rejected, the honorable member for Chisholm knows that we shall vote for his amendment. Many amendments of this important bill have been proposed. The Government has said that the quotas we have suggested are too large, but no alternatives have been offered. This will be the one case in which the Government has yielded. It is good to know that, after all, this Government is so democratic that, at the last moment, it will yield to the will of the majority. If our amendment is carried, so much the better. If the amendment of the honorable member for Chisholm is carried, that will be good, because we think that an important step forward will have been taken.
I, too, have received from sporting bodies, some of them associated with sports with which I am not closely associated, expressions of their approval of what is being done, not only by the honorable member for Chisholm and those associated with him on that side of the chamber, but also by honorable members on this side. Between us, we have a majority on this matter. I therefore move -
That the amendment be amended by adding the following sub-section: - “ (2.) A licenseeshall not directly televise a sporting event to which a charge is made for admission, or broadcast a simultaneous description of such an event, unless -
he has first obtained the approval of the promoters of the event: or
he has offered to the promoters of the event a payment or other consideration which the Board has certified to be. in its opinion, reasonable compensation.”.
.- I am very glad to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. lieut Hughes). 1 am delighted to hear that the Government is prepared to accept the amendment. That shows that, when a reasonable amendment is proposed, the Government is prepared to give consideration to the views of rank and file members. On this matter, many of us have very definite views. We realized that, with the introduction of television, sporting bodies would be in grave danger, because undoubtedly television could adversely affect attendances at sporting events in respect of which, in many cases, the promoters had been put to considerable expense. I believe that the carefully prepared and carefully worded amendment moved by the honorable member for Chisholm will give adequate protection to sporting bodies, lt provides that no television licensee shall be able to televise a sporting meeting without the consent of the promoters. I think that in most cases the parties will be able to reach an amicable agreement, but now sporting bodies will have the assurance that, if agreement is not reached, attendances at their meetings cannot be affected by commercial television licensees or the Australian Broadcasting Commission televising the events from over the fence, as I understand has been done in other countries. I think that every member of the committee will be delighted to know that ample protection is to be given to the sporting bodies of Australia.
.- It is a pleasure to me and, I know, to the sporting bodies of Australia also, to learn that the Government has decided to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Chisholm, which is designed to give them some protection in regard to the televising of sporting meetings. This matter has been causing them anxiety since about two years ato, when they first began to organize their forces seek protection. T cannot agree with the statement of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson 1 that the Government has given way and accepted a reasonable amendment. It has given way only because the sporting bodies of Australia have demanded pro tection. Credit is due to the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and other members of the Opposition for placing before the Government the views of those sporting bodies. This matter must have caused a good deal of worry to both the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition because of their interest in football, cricket and other sports. I am sure that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) also has been concerned about the matter, because the failure by the Government to afford some protection to the sporting bodies of Australia would doubtless have reacted unfavorably on both city and country shows. If the televising of events in their arenas could be undertaken freely, attendances would fall. Therefore, Australian Country party members should be as pleased as sporting bodies that the Government has accepted the amendment.
As the honorable member for Chisholm has said, it is a pity that it is not possible at present, now that television is with us, for sporting bodies to copyright their functions. I hope that in the near future the copyright legislation will be amended to enable sporting bodies to copyright their functions, and so obviate the worry and trouble we have had on this occasion. It is not good enough to say that the broadcasting and telecasting companies would not attempt to televise sporting fixtures if the promoters of those fixtures did not wish them to do so. The Leader of the Opposition has reminded us of what happened previously in connexion with the broadcasting of racing information. Already, according to an article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 30th April, the the question of televising race meetings for exhibition in England is being considered. We know from past experience that if this amendment had not been accepted the telecasting companies would soon have been erecting towers and getting ready to steal the benefit of work done by the promoters of sporting functions.
I should like to repeat what I said during the second-reading debate - that the reason for protecting the sporting bodies does not relate solely to money. The promoters of sport are vitally interested in the development of physical fitness in the community. If protection were not provided for the sporting bodies, attendances at sporting fixtures would undoubtedly fall. This would discourage juniors aspiring to higher grades of sport, and likewise the promoters who are interested in sport for sport’s sake. I am glad that the Postmaster-General, even at this relatively late stage, has agreed to give to the sporting bodies the protection they have sought.
– I wish, for a few minutes, to apply myself to the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes). The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition widens the scope of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Chisholm very considerably, in that itbrings into the field the question of broadcasting stations as well as television stations. J am not prepared to say at the moment that the Government will accept it, because I think it needs a good deal of consideration. The right honorable gentleman said that some years ago trouble was experienced in connexion with the broadcasting of certain important events, but that it was found eventually that the matter could be determined by discussion between the parties. Since then, there has been developed a satisfactory working arrangement in connexion with the broadcasting of sporting events.
The complaint that has been made by tile sporting bodies is not directed against tho broadcasting of sporting events. It has arisen from their fear that television, because of it.3 far wider scope, could give them a lot of trouble. Therefore, the two cases are not parallel. If the right honorable gentleman were to ask me whether I was prepared at the moment to accept his amendment, I should have to say that I am not, because I think it should be inquired into, and its implications for the sporting bodies, as well as its possible effect in relation to broadcasting, should be studied. At the same time, I realize that there is some merit in his contention that the situation with which we are dealing is more or les3 parallel to the situation that arose in connexion with broadcasting. If the right honorable gentleman is prepared to leave the matter in abeyance, I shall have another look at it, and if something along the lines he has suggested is finally accepted by the Government, it can be implemented in another place. However, if the Leader of the Opposition wants a decision now, I am afraid I shall have to say that I am sorry, but I cannot accept his amendment.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), who has just resumed his seat, is making the same mistake in relation to television as was made with broadcasting. Only this weet, the Victoria Racing Club, after conferring with other bodies, complained that the broadcasting of racing events had caused attendances at race-courses to fall so low that a very serious situation had developed. Its complaint was not against television. I do not think that, in agreeing to the amendment that was moved by the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), the Minister was influenced by the fact that it was submitted by a government member. I think he realized that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition was gathering great support in this chamber.
– I submitted my motion first.
– I accept that. However, if it had not been apparent to the Minister that the activity of the honorable member for Chisholm, supported by the Opposition, ensured the acceptance of his amendment by the committee, the Minister would not himself so readily have accepted it, because during this debate other amendments which were submitted by the Opposition, and which were just as important as the amendment of the honorable member’ for Chisholm, have been turned down because insufficient support for them was forthcoming from the Government side of the chamber. I realize, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you will not allow me to refer specifically to a certain instance, beyond saying that a very important amendment that was submitted by the Opposition - one that would have had as far-reaching effects as the amendment that has been accepted - for the reestablishment of the Broadcasting Committee was rejected, and I should not like it to be thought that the opinion of the Opposition in connexion with this particular amendment has not been accepted. I think that the opinion of the Opposition has been accepted. I have always held very strong views concerning the protection of the rights of promoters of sporting functions if and when television was introduced into Australia. I am pleased that the amendment has been accepted. I remind the Minister that certain sporting organizations in Australia show complete hostility to sound broadcasting as distinct from the televising of events. I ask him to examine the situation, with particular reference to the complaint of the VictoriaRacing Club and other organizations. They say that they are losing attendances because of the broadcasting of racing events. He should examine the situation, as he has said that broadcasting is not the subject of complaint by sporting bodies in Australia.
– I am impressed, even at this stage, by the attitude of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). I understand that he appreciates that our amendment, although it is broader in some respects than that of the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), deals with a serious point, namely the simultaneous broadcasting of sporting events. As my colleague, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), pointed out, it has been proved in other countries, particularly in the United States of America, that simultaneous broadcasting of sporting events does have an adverse effect upon attendances. If the Minister is, as I understand he is, willing to have a look at this matter with his advisers, it can perhaps be considered by him speedily, because I should like the provision to be inserted in the bill when it is being dealt with in another place. If the Minister agrees to do that, having heard him say that he is not able to accept the amendment now, I thinkI would be prepared to withdraw our amendment. I quite agree that the provision needs some amendment. There is some overlapping. If that course is followed, I think that we could all accept the amendment of the honorable member for Chisholm.
– I desire to make quite clear that Ihave given an undertaking that I shall have another look at the matter. I have not said that the amendment will be accepted; but if, as a result of our further consideration we decide to do anything along these lines, the matter will be dealt with in another place.
– In those circumstances I consent to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment of proposed amendment - byleave - withdrawn.
– I am delighted that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has accepted the amendment, because there is not the slightest doubt that the people who organize sport should have some say in whether it should be televised. Speeches have been made all day on this subject and they have just been more or less tedious repetition, in which I do not intend to join. I desire merely to express my pleasure at the Minister’s acceptance of the amendment, which I believe will be in the best ‘ interests of sport and, finally, in the best interests of television.
Amendment agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
Thatso much of theStanding Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) from making his speech without limitationof time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I suggest that as the seven bills which I introduced earlier to-day are of a cognate nature, it might suit the convenience of the House, and might have the approval of the Opposition, if they are debated together. It will be necessary for the questions in respect of each of those bills to be put separately at a suitable time.
– The Opposition has no objection to that course being followed. Subject to the qualification mentioned by the Minister, I think that it is a convenient method.
– This bill will make some substantial changes in the Commonwealth’s legislation for conciliation and arbitration. I shall begin by explaining shortly the reasons which, in the view of the Government, have made it necessary to bring the bill forward. Industrial relations and the just settlement of industrial disputes are matters which quite obviously directly affect the prosperity and contentment of any country, but they have special importance in Australia. From a combination of circumstances they have become more controversial and more complicated in this country than probably in any other country, and the reasons for that are not hard to find. One is - and I say this in no spirit of criticism - that Australia has become the most highly unionized industrial country in the free world. We have some 60 per cent, of our wage and salary earners, both male and female, members of some appropriate union. The United Kingdom, which is a highly unionized country on standards of other parts of the world, has only 40 per cent, of its wage-earning population members of unions. Another highly industrialized country, the United States of America, has only 27 per cent, of its workers members of unions. Therefore, it will be seen that Australia does have this remarkably high degree of union activity and membership.
In addition to that, there is probably more political activity carried on by the industrial movement - that is the organized trade union movement - and individual unions in this country than in any other, and the tendency is for each major industrial issue to become a politi cal issue. We have had, over recent years, a sustained experience of full employment, and this has greatly strengthened the bargaining power of the individual employee and of the unions. We have in Australia a certain strength of Communist influence in industry. The Communist influence in the country may be weak in a political sense, but in the union movement and in certain of the key trade unions of this country it is undoubtedly strong. I do not need to elaborate that point, because it has been discussed on many occasions in this House. Many industrial disputes, it will be agreed, although they may be attributed at the time to industrial causes, have been promoted to serve the ends of the Communist party.
There is a potentiality in the industrial movement of this country for the exercise of power unsurpassed in any other democratic country, but would we claim that our industrial movement has yet developed that recognition of the responsibility which power carries with it, and which is to be found in other countries of the world? Such a responsibility is certainly not as well established here, as, for example, in the United Kingdom. Nor has there yet developed in Australia - although 1 believe there are encouraging signs of improvement in that direction - that widespread recognition that the welfare of the employer and the employee go hand in hand which I believe exists in the United States of America. It is true, however, that recognition exists in that country to a greater degree than in the United Kingdom. In Australia, management is well organized in the sense of belonging to employer organizations, and in most areas of industry it is well conducted : but for reasons which again are familiar to most honorable members, it does not function on so highly competitive a basis as in the United Kingdom or the United States.
We have a tariff protection which has enabled our own industries to grow without as much competition from overseas as might otherwise be the case. We have a much smaller population which does not encourage the extent or diversification of industry that may be found in more populous industrialized countries of the world. This has a significant bearing on this matter, when we consider the extent of industrial arrangement which has to be entered into. For example, we find the more widespread use of the collective bargaining process both in the United Kingdom and in America. In the United Kingdom a well disciplined, rather more responsible trade union leadership has developed than might be found, with quite commendable exceptions, generally in this country.
In the United States the competitive activity of industry is such that any employer entering into the collective bargaining process - and there it generally takes place at the factory level - knows that if he gets too far out of line with his competitors he will suffer accordingly. At tho same time, there is this recognition in the United States by the trade unions that the welfare of the individual unionist is closely bound up with that of the employer and consequently there is a greater readiness to have recourse to the collective bargaining process, realizing that if the demands are carried too far the industry will suffer and the employee in that industry will also suffer. We find that even so militant a. figure as John L. Lewis, of the coalminers’ union in America, has agreed to mechanization and improvements, believing that by building up greater efficiency in his industry his men will get better pay, and doing what he can to encourage efficiency and prosperity in that industry.
In the Australian picture we have to keep in mind that there are limiting constitutional provisions upon the powers of this Parliament. Our power is one of conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. Those honorable members who have examined the explanatory document that 1 circulated earlier in the week, will have noted with interest the discussion which went on in pre-federation days before agreement was reached on this particular head of power. More than one government has felt itself made less capable of dealing with industrial issues because of this limitation, and there have been six referendums placed before the people seeking a widening of the indus trial power. But the electorate has proved just as reluctant on this issue as on so many other issues that the Parliament has placed before it in respect of changes in the Constitution. All six referendums have been rejected. In this country compulsory arbitration goes back to 1904. Consequently, when people advocate major reforms of our compulsory arbitration system they should keep in mind that we have a long-established practice in that system. Notwithstanding the criticisms that may have been directed towards the system from time to time, it has received the support of all governments and all major political parties. During the period of its operation there has been, as a direct outcome of the decisions made under it, a steady and progressive improvement in real wages and conditions of employment. It has been a strong shield for the wage earner when, because of the existence of unemployment, his bargaining power has been much weaker than it is to-day. We, as a government, believe in a strong, efficiently conducted trade union movement. Nothing that I have said about the industrial outlook in Australia should be taken as implying any criticism of the way in which the industrial movement has gradually strengthened and increased its membership in this country.
We are certainly by no means opposed to direct negotiation between management and labour in an endeavour to reach an agreement on issues that may arise from time to time, provided always that agreements have proper regard for the public interest. I think that it can be fairly said that our record in office has been one of good relations and active co-operation with industrial organizations of both management and labour; but there is a public interest, which must be protected. It is not difficult to imagine, in a country like ours, where industry is not as competitive as it is in some other countries, agreements between management and labour in a particular section of industry, which are profitable to both but are likely to place an additional burden on the consumer. There is much less danger of that occurring in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America, but it is more than a theoretical danger here. A recent instance occurred in Victoria in the building trade. When there was great activity in the building industry, and labour was scarce, the employers and employees agreed upon a considerable increase of wages, but the arbitration tribunal was not prepared to certify the agreement because it considered that it was not in the public interests. The tribunal believed, no doubt, that if the agreement were put into effect there would be a general increase of building costs. That is the sort of thing against which our Australian system has been developed as a safeguard. The public interest, then, is just as much involved as is the interest of management or of organized labour.
All these considerations, which I have only been able to touch on, as well as many others which could be put forward, demonstrate convincingly the need for the most effective system of compulsory arbitration, with suitable personnel and adequate powers, that this Parliament can devise. I stress that because might without right can be tyrannous, and right without might can be futile. That applies in an especially significant sense to the industrial situation in Australia, and to the arbitration machinery of this country. The improvement of industrial relations generally in Australia has been one of my own principal objectives ever since I established the Commonwealth’s first Department of Labour and National Service in 1940. Whether I have succeeded or not, I think that my friends on the Opposition benches will agree that I have constantly striven to bring about such an improvement. I am happy to be able to say that the formation of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, and the way in which it has functioned, have been a step forward along along this road.
It is in the same spirit that, with my colleagues in the Government, I have approached the question of effecting some useful improvement in the legislation relating to our arbitration machinery. Since 1904, when the first act was introduced, successive governments have attempted the task of improvement. Indeed, 32 amending measures have been introduced since that year. However, the fact that so much amending legislation has come before the Parliament does not mean that the system has not worked reasonably satisfactorily. Indeed, in great areas of Australian industry there is a resort to the arbitration machinery instead of to the strike. Although we have made many attempts to work through to a better system, our system has, for those who have come to it with goodwill and an intention to make it work, proved useful.
At this point one may conveniently ask whether any legislative change is desirable at this moment. I believe that there will be general agreement that thenis need for a change. For some time, there has been a widespread and growing feeling throughout Australia that a review of our arbitration system is necessary. I shall mention briefly some of the reasons: First, the division of the arbitral function between the judges and the conciliation commissioners effected by the legislation of 1947, and not entirely remedied by subsequent amendments, has not, as I think its sponsor the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) will agree, produced all the results for which he had hoped. The problem of co-ordinating the decisions of the arbitrators on matters going beyond any one particular industry has yet to be satisfactorily solved. Again, the exercise of conciliation, instead of increasing under the system by which the number of conciliation commissioners has been augmented, has actually diminished. The conciliator has also been the arbitrator. Frequently, the parties before a conciliation commissioner might have been disposed to engage in conciliation, but they have always had in their minds the fact that the man to whom they were talking would finally make the determination. They have felt that if the negotiations broke down and conciliation failed, the arbitrator would decide the issue and any concession that they had made as part of the process of conciliation might then be taken only as a starting point for the subsequent arbitration. There has been a growing criticism that, over the years, especially recent years, the system ha? become unduly legalistic in form ami atmosphere. There have been valid objections to the arbitrator being given the responsibilities also of the enforcement of awards. I shall have more to say on this point a little later, but it is one of the aspects which have induced a feeling that there should be a review of the system.
Finally, although this is by no means an exhaustive list of the factors which indicate the desirability of review, there is some scope for a further streamlining of the procedures of the court. “ Streamlining the arbitra tion procedure “ has become a sort of blessed phrase in Parliament, and attempts at this have not always worked out as was intended. Gut I am putting proposals before ihe Hou.se, which, I confidently expect, will have that effect. Because of these, and many other factors which might be mentioned, the Government had announced through the Prime Minister, in the course of the last general election campaign, that we had a review in mind. We said that we would conduct suitable discussions with representative organizations, particularly the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. I have since made, from time to time, statements myself to this effect. There was a review for those reasons alone, but urgency has been given to the review by the outcome f>f the High Court decision in the Boilermakers case. By a narrow majority, the High Court - by four justices to three - decided that the judges of the Arbitration Court could not, as thai; court is now constituted, validly exercise the judicial power in addition to the power of arbitration. This has been taken to mean i hat the Arbitration Court, as at present constituted, cannot interpret awards, cannot deal with election irregularities, cannot deal with questions of law referred to it by a conciliation commissioner, cannot deal with rome of the problems nf jurisdiction which arise as between the court and the conciliation commissioners, cannot hear and determine issues relating co membership or organizations and cannot enforce the awards of t’.u court and punish contempts of its authority.
The bill, therefore, has two principal aspects. Both of them, while proceeding from different causes, one from the, normal review we would have made, and the other from the decision of the High Court in the Boilcrm.ahr.rs case, are directed to a more satisfactory system of conciliation and arbitration. We are doing this as one of the principal means in our power of bringing about better industrial relations and greater contentment and efficiency in Australian industry. The bill is, as will b? seen, a large measure. It is the product <>f much thought, much research and a great deal of discussion. The research is not, perhaps, as useful for us as it might otherwise be, because of the special circumstances obtaining in Australia which I have briefly mentioned; but there have been most useful discussions on the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. While I do not claim for one moment that what is put forward in this bill represents any generally agreed view of the council as a whole, my own thinking on these matters has been greatly assisted by the frank and responsible discussion which has occurred on that body.
It will Le convenient to refer first to the manner in which we -are dealing with the situation arising from the High Court decision. We have been told that the judicial power cannot be exercised by the judges of the Arbitration Court. Assuming, as undoubtedly is the caseand the list of items I have mentioned should bring that home to any onethat there is a need for the exercise of a judicial power in these industrial questions, by whom should it be exercised? We have’ given a good deal of thought to this. We have considered whether the High Court might not be the body to deal, in a judicial way, with these matters. We also considered the supreme courts of the States. We have rejected those courts because, as I am sure a little thought will convince most honorable members at any rate, it is entirely undesirable that those courts, the High Court in particular, which is the highest court in this country, should be projected into the hurly-burly and the emotionally charged atmosphere of industrial politics and industrial disputation. T could imagine nothing more damaging to the prestige of those courts than for them to be readily and frequently dealing with these very complex, “butt emotionally-charged, issues.
So we have decided to constitute a special industrial court to exercise the judicial function. It will be called the Commonwealth Industrial Court. It will consist of a chief judge, and not more than two other judges. It will be a superior court of record and the judges will be appointed from, the present judicial members of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It is in this Commonwealth Industrial Court that we are vesting all the powers which a majority of the High Court has said cannot be exercised by judges in the present arbitration court.
As to the conciliation and arbitration function, this will in future be discharged - subject to qualifications as to conciliators which I will mention - by a Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This commission will consist of some members with the qualifications required for judicial appointment. One of these will be the president of the commission and the others will be known as deputy presidents. The remainder will be lay members. It is intended that those judges of the Arbitration Court who do not become judges of the new Commonwealth Industrial Court will be the first presidential members of the commission, and, likewise, the present conciliation commissioners will be the first lay members of the new commission. The functions of the commission will be carried out as follows.
– Will the present conciliation commissioners alone be members of the new commission?
– Yes, at this stage, at any rate. In the past the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court has assigned industries to individual conciliation commissioners. In future, ‘ the president of the commission will assign individual industries to lay members of the commission and they will, generally speaking, attend to all industrial disputes occurring in the industries assigned to them. I say “ generally speaking “ because there is a qualification to which I shall come. There may be occasions where some major industrial issue arises when the president will feel that he or one of the deputy presidents should handle it. In addition, in much the same way as at present, the president will assign deputy presidents to handle disputes in relation to the Snowy Mountains project and the maritime industries. Honorable members will be familiar with the practice in operation at the present time in respect of those sections of industry. The presidential members of the commission will, as has been the case with the judges of the Arbitration Court - and I ask the House to note this particularly - continue to handle, and will handle exclusively in the sense that no other member of the commission will be involved, the major eases formerly reserved to them, such as the basic wage, standard hours and long service leave.
We have tried to streamline, as I indicated earlier, procedures relating to references and appeals. We are providing the opportunity to refer important matters from a single commissioner to not less than three members of the commission. One of the lay commissioners may find that the matter before him raises questions of such importance that it is desirable to have it dealt with by more than one member of the commission. An illustration of the sort of thing which could happen is to be found in the margins hearing which occurred before Conciliation . Commissioner Galvin. It was a very important issue which had ramifications virtually running through the whole range of industry. In a case of that sort we would expect the commissioner to go to the president and, in an informal discussion, indicate to him the view that there should be a reference. This will occur only when the president agrees, because we do not want to have the situation where some commissioner may find this a convenient way of relieving himself either of work or responsibility. So, we have provided that the concurrence of the president is necessary. The commission in these circumstances, will comprise at least, one member of presidential status, and one of the remaining two members will normally be the individual commissioner who has made the reference. This will ensure that the member of the commission who is expert in that particular industry will be sitting in on the referred hearing. The third member will be appointed from the presidential members, or the lay members, at the discretion of the president. Appeals from decisions will lie where the commission considers a matter of great public importance is involved, and only then it will be necessary for the commission to be so convinced, and the appeal will go to a commission constituted by not less than three members, at least two of whom will be presidential members. At least one lay member may thus be included in the hearing of an appeal. This can be very useful where a lay commissioner, other than the one against whose decision the appeal is being made, has had experience of the same industry or of the same problem in his particular industry.
Associated with the commission will be conciliators. They will, as their name indicates, be expected to exercise the conciliation function. This is not to say that members of the commission, presidential or otherwise, will lack opportunity for conciliation. On the contrary, in the course of matters coming before them, there may be many occasions on which they could usefully apply that process. But what we have tried to do is to meet the very real difficulty that the parties to a dispute, generally speaking, are not prepared to conciliate in the presence of the person who. if conciliation fails, will he the arbitrator.
– When did that arise? All the judges used to conciliate and then decide.
– The right honorable gentleman asks when that arose. T can assure him that the views that have been put to me suggest that it has been a tendency of increasing importance in recent years to refrain from any genuine attempt at conciliation, just for that reason.
– It has been a problem for the last 30 years.
– As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has pointed out, it has been something of a problem for the last 30 years.
– There is still scope for conciliation.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman that there is still scope for conciliation. I agree with him that the greatest judges are the greatest conciliators. I would add that, in my experience of the operation of the conciliation system which the right honorable member extended in 1947, the best arbitrators of the conciliation commissioners have also been the best conciliators. So, we are not excluding them from any opportunity. But, as can be explained, the work of the conciliator will not be simply to try to apply the processes of conciliation. He will be made use of by the commissioners and by the commission generally. Where a dispute is boiling up, he will be able to get to the seat of the trouble quickly. He will be able to seek to apply the processes of conciliation and if that succeeds, and to the extent that it succeeds, so much the better. But if he finds that he has only limited success, at least he will be able to go back and report on the situation to the commissioner who will subsequently be dealing with the matter.
The bill provides that these conciliators can be made available whenever their assistance is requested by the parties, or whenever a member of the commission dealing with a particular section of industry in which the dispute arises feels that a conciliator might help the parties to resolve their differences. If conciliation fails, the conciliator can only report to the member of the commission in terms agreed to by the parties. He must not seek to prejudice the subsequent arbitration. Occasionally, the parties may find that there is very little outstanding after conciliation has played its part. They may be willing, in these circumstances, to have the conciliator settle any remaining points - usually, no doubt, of a minor character - rather than involve themselves in another and more formal arbitration before a commissioner. If the parties all consent to his doing so, the conciliator may, in circumstances such as these, determine the points outstanding. Of course, any agreement arrived at out of this conciliation process will, if it is to have the effect of an award, still need to be certified bv the commission. Even from the somewhat sketchy outline I have given, some of the advantages will be readily apparent, i believe, to honorable members, and particularly to those with any experience of this jurisdiction. There will be, I hope, more flexible arrangements for hearings and less likelihood of delay occurring because arbitrators are not available; and the commission will be better informed than can be the case at present on the issues coming before it because there will be the capacity to have sitting on the commission men who are expert in that particular industry. In references at least, if not in appeals, there will be a wealth of experience to draw from, from the lay members. There will be opportunity for conciliation without the arbitrator being actually present. There will be a better prospect of a uniform and co-ordinated approach because of closer association between presidential and lay arbitrators. Questions of enforcement will be dealt with by a tribunal other than that which will be arbitrating on claims. I shall say something in more detail on enforcement in a moment or two.
The new system will enable proceedings to be conducted with less formality and with less of the litigious atmosphere which is difficult to keep separated from courts of law, functioning in the normal way. In regard to the enforcement of awards, as a consequence of a decision of the High Court in the Boilermakers case, amongst the other judicial powers which it has been able to exercise, the Arbitration Court has lost the power it formerly possessed of enforcing its awards. That power will be restored to the arbitration system by this legislation, but in a manner which I believe will work more satisfactorily and give far less cause for the more valid objections which have been directed against enforcement processes.
The enforcement power will be one of the judicial functions exercised by members of the industrial court. This will produce an improvement over the system formerly operating, in that the function of enforcement will not be exercised by the body which has the responsibility of arbitrating. The process of enforcement, as we can readily imagine, however necessary it may be on occasion, is never likely to be a happy one. Strong emotions are stirred, and. strong feelings develop which do not assist a calm, dispassionate deter mination of issues in dispute in subsequent arbitration processes. Whether the effect on the arbitrator has been exaggerated or not - and I believe that it probably has been exaggerated in some cases - at least the fear and the concern have been there that in his subsequendecision, he will be affected by his involvement in the enforcement process at an earlier stage of the proceedings. I do noi doubt that honorable members opposite will make an issue of this question of enforcement.
The Australian Council of Trades Unions has made public its own objections to the enforcement -process. At ite 1955 biennial congress, it called for an immediate campaign against the existence and use of penal powers contained in the Conciliation and Aribtration Act. the Crimes Act, and the industrial legislation of the various States. It directed, among other things, that demands should be made to the Federal Government and nil .State Labour governments for immediate repeal of all such provisions in Commonwealth and State acts. But there can hardly be serious objections, even taking into account what has been put forward by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, to the existence of sanctions in our arbitration system when it is realized that the unions would most certainly object to a situation in which the employers would be under no obligation to pay the wages or observe the conditions laid down in awards. The unions would certainly want sanctions against any breach on the part of the employers. I think it is a fair question to ask whether any union would seriously consider excluding from its rules provisions authorizing it to discipline its own members when they committed a breach of those rules. After all, this is a compulsory arbitration system which all parties in this Parliament have supported. Is it to be compulsory for one side of industry only? The Government believes that enforcement provisions are necessary,, but it also believes that they should be regarded as a reserve of power, to be applied with good sense and sound judgment only when the occasion requires them. Any one who studies the experiences of recent years will agree that, generally speaking, enforcement, powers
Lave been used comparatively rarely, and their use on those occasions has been in relation to trade unions, or members of trade unions, where a complete disregard for the public interest has been revealed. I remind, the Parliament that enforcement provisions have existed for more than 50 years in our federal arbitration system. Does the record of those years suggest that the substantial improvements in wages and conditions of employment which have occurred have been prejudiced by their existence?
The Government has carefully considered whether enforcement powers should be vested in the normal courts, that is, the High Court of Australia or the supreme courts of the States. We rejected this. It was tried before, from 1918 to 1926, and it is interesting to recall that it was as a result of the experience of those years that the trade unions themselves pressed the government of the day, in which Sir John Latham was AttorneyGeneral, to transfer the exercise of these, and other, judicial powers to the Arbitration Court itself. In the light of the known circumstances of to-day, and against the background that I tried to paint earlier, could it seriously be argued that we should project our High Court into the hurly-burly and emotionally charged atmosphere of industrial politics? There will be advantages, however, in having those powers exercised by the Industrial Court, and wo certainly do not wish to have this court concerned solely with the exercise of award enforcement. It will, as I mentioned earlier, have the full judicial powers formerly exercised by the Arbitration Court. Until the last few years these enforcement powers were rarely exercised. Their greater use has been largely attributable to Communist tactics, or to the abuse by some trade union officials of the bargaining strength that full employment has given to them. The court has acted I believe in the public interest, and in a spirit of responsibility towards the public interest, in exercising its enforcement powers. It is my own hope that, if the political parties and industrial organizations are prepared to give this new legislation a fair trial arid to co-operate, in a responsible way. one with the other, in operating its machinery, there will be few occasions in the future where enforcement will be necessary.
Now, a word on procedures and legal representation. Observers of our arbitration system, from other countries,, have been rather unfavorably struck by the extent to which conflict between management and labour enters into the picture. Frequently, however, this conflict is much more apparent than real. Our constitutional requirement that the conciliation and arbitration machinery gets into motion only when there is a dispute to be resolved, leads to the creation of a dispute in form, even where the parties, in an entirely friendly spirit, one to the other, merely require some independent, determination of matters in issue between them. Over very wide areas, industrial relations between management and labour are good in this country. The incidence of working time lost through industrial disputes is comparatively small in a country of robust, forthright and independentminded people. If we exclude the two notorious trouble areas of coalmining and the waterfront from our calculations, the working time lost per employee in the rest of industry amounts to less than one-quarter of a working day a year. But there is undoubtedly scope for much improved relations in important sections of industry, including the two I have mentioned specifically.
Ever since the establishment of the Department of Labour and National Service I have taken all the opportunities that I could to try to bring about improved relations in industry, and to bring the various sections of industry closer together. It is in that spirit that I have approached certain significant aspects of the arbitration machinery. 1 believe that there is substance in the criticism that the procedures and the atmosphere of the Arbitration Court over recent years have been unduly legalistic. I have, I hope, a proper appreciation of the importance of maintaining the solemnity, dignity and traditional forms associated with a British court of law. They can make a most valuable contribution to a just decision, and to the acceptance of that decision- by the parties concerned and by the public. But I question whether those forms and procedures, and that atmosphere, are appropriate to the exercise of the arbitral function in industrial matters, more particularly when as will be the case in the future, the tribunal dealing with them exercises no judicial function whatsoever. The Government has come to the conclusion, as a government, that in the sittings of the commission there should be far less of the atmosphere of a law court. We believe that the presidential members, while sitting with, their lay colleagues of the commission, should dispense with wigs and gowns. Lest there are those who think that this will involve some loss of dignity on the part of the presidential members, I point to the fact that in other aspects of the working of the British judicial system, where the occasion and the atmosphere do not require those more formal trappings they have been dispensed with. To make that point fully, I have only to mention to my lawyer friends in the House the sittings before the Privy Council, the highest tribunal in the British Commonwealth of Nations, where, as the Leader of the Opposition who has had much experience of this matter will recognize, formality is dispensed with without any loss of authority or dignity.
On the subject of legal representation we believe, and have so provided that there should not be an unlimited access by counsel to arbitration hearings. Again, I do not underestimate the assistance that counsel can bring to the work of the tribunals. There will be malor cases in which it will be most desirable to have them appearing. On the other hand it is unlikely that the issues raised in most hearings before a single commissioner will call for counsel specially engaged for that purpose, particularly when we have the representation provisions I have outlined. Many organizations, both of employers and employees, have officers who are trained and skilled in the presentation of industrial arguments, and who, over the years, have acquired a special knowledge of the industry to which they are attached. They get to know each other in a more intimate and friendly way than could counsel who may be engaged from time to time to appear. There is more probability of conciliation in this kind of atmosphere than in the more formal atmosphere produced when counsel are in attendance. There will, of course, be no limitation on the appearance of counsel before the Industrial Court. At the arbitral level counsel will be free to appear in any case in which the Attorney-General has intervened. In all other cases counsel will be entitled to appear where the parties consent to, and the commission approves of, their appearing. There is a further qualification, however, that in cases where the consent of all the parties is not obtained, but, in the view of the cornmission, the issues raised before it warrant the attendance of counsel, it can so approve and, in my judgment, that will certainly cover this particular requirement.
Before I conclude I want to say a word or two about the appeal to the Privy Council against the decision of the High Court in the Boilermakers case. It has already been made public that the Government is seeking leave to appeal to the Privy Council. The Government will contend before the Privy Council that the High Court’s decision imports into the constitutional law of Australia a new and serious element of rigidity, not in any way required by the previous doctrine of the High Court. The implications’ of the decision extend far beyond the industrial legislation of the Commonwealth, and that is important for honorable members to have in mind. They may affect provisions in many other acts passed by the Parliament. Illustrations are the Bankruptcy Act, the Patents legislation, the Electoral Act, and the Navigation and Stevedoring Industry Acts. All of those contain provisions which may be affected directly by the outcome of the Boilermakers case. Leave to appeal is being sought, therefore, not simply in relation to industrial legislation, but on broad constitutional grounds. With this appeal pending, it was obviously necessary, as will be recognized, not only by the lawyer members, but also by all other honorable members of the House, to keep in existence the present Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. For reasons which I need not elaborate at this sta°;e, judges of that court must be the appellants in the Privy Council proceedings, but the substantial argument for the Commonwealth will, in fact, be put on behalf of the Attorney-General.
As honorable members will observe, the bill does not disturb the sections of the act which constitute the present Arbitration Court, and under which the present judges were appointed. To conform to the pattern provided by the. bill, however, the powers of the court have been curtailed in order to avoid overlapping and conflict between the functions of the present court and the functions assigned by the bill to the new Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and to the new Industrial Court. The Arbitration Court will retain the power to interpret awards, and to perforin certain other limited judicial and nonjudicial functions. In particular, it will be authorized to complete the hearing and determination of arbitral matters it has already started to deal with. That, of course, is most desirable.
As the court, thus retained, will consist of those present members of the Arbitration Court who become presidential members of’ the commission, the practical effect will be that the presidential members of the commission will perform these functions, but in their capacity as members of the present Arbitration Court. I know that this all sounds highly involved, but I assure the House that there is a compelling legal necessity for it. I should prefer to explain it more fully at a later stage rather than take up the time of the House now in what already is proving to be a somewhat longer speech than I had intended. The lawyers in the House will appreciate thai, pending the determination of the appeal, the present court will continue to be unable to exercise any judicial functions by reason of the High Court’s decision in the Boilermakers case. From the Government’s point of view, this is unfortunate. As the decision of the majority of the High Court stand0, the judicial interpretation of awards has to be vested in the new Industrial Court. But, in practice, who could be better equipped to interpret an award than the presidential members of the commission which made the award ?
However, I want to make absolutely clear that, although obviously some of the provisions I have mentioned may have to be reviewed in the light of the Privy Council’s decision, the object of the appeal is not to permit the Government, in the event of success, to restore the present Arbitration Court set-up or, for that matter, to give to the hew arbitral tribunal - the commission - the power to enforce awards. In short, the present measure before the House has nothing of a stop-gap character about it. Honorable members will recall that when I commenced my second-reading speech I referred to certain associated bills. They are the Public Service Arbitration Bill, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Bill, the Navigation Bill, the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Bill, the Evidence Bill and the Judges’ Pensions Bill. These are amending measures which are purely consequential upon the provisions contained in the main bill. They will be before honorable members for discussion at the committee stage and will, of course, pass through the other procedural stages required. I have been assured by the draftsman and departmental officers that they contain nothing which is not directly a consequence of this measure, and raise no new issue of substance which the House would feel called upon to consider.
– Nevertheless, we will still examine them very carefully.
-I would do the same for the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and appreciate the reciprocity. In conclusion, may I say that I have referred to some of the improvements made by the bill in the working of our arbitration system. I shall mention another in particular; that is, in future, our industrial legislation will be in a much more readily understandable form. Whatever other criticisms honorable members opposite or those on this side of the House may make, I am sure that they will agree that the bill, if passed, will provide, in its final form, a clear, closely connected presentation of the Commonwealth’s conciliation and arbitration machinery. I invite honorable members to examine the memorandum I have circulated showing the final form that the bill will take.
In a period in which industrial problems are challenging the attention, and affecting the well-being, of so many people in all sections of community life, it is highly desirable that they should be able to learn quickly and accurately just what the rights and obligations of themselves and others really are. The final form of the bill will enable them to do this conveniently. But, the greatest advantage which can flow from this legislation is something intangible - namely, goodwill and co-operation. Given a fair trial and a general willingness to make the machinery work, I believe that these reforms will promote that goodwill and co-operation. In the absence of that kind of support, no machinery, however well constructed, will do the job expected of it.
We have made, as I think will be evident to all honorable members, a most thorough review of the arbitration machinery. These proposals have been carefully devised, after much discussion, to meet the needs of our special Australian situation. Every Australian household has a direct interest in industrial peace and greater production. We. have based our approach to this problem on liberal principles, and our belief that most Australians genuinely desire to deal fairly with one another. Because I firmly believe that these proposals can work justly and for the benefit of all, I com- mend them to the Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 1987).
– Proposed section 89 (1.), which relates to the broadcasting or televising of political matter or controversial matter, reads as follows : -
Subject only to this section, the Commission may determine to what extent and in what manner political mutter or controversial matter will bebroadcast or televised by the Commission.
I move -
That in clause 40, sub-section (1). of proposed section SO be omitted and the following sub-sections be inserted in place thereof: - shall, subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, provide facilities, free of charge anil on an equitable and impartial basis, for the broadcasting and televising of matter relating to questions of national importance, being questions of political or industrial controversy or relating to current policies, and the Board shall give such directions to licensees as are necessary to ensure compliance by their with this sub-section. (1a.) Nothing in the last preceding subsection requires the Commission or a licensee to provide facilities to or for a political party that is not represented in either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth and has not been so represented during the preceding period of three months
The consequential provisions of section 89 appear at page 19 of the printed copy of the hill. The Government proposal is that the Australian Broadcasting Commission may determine to what extent and in what manner political matter or controversial matter will be broadcast or televised by the Commission. Proposed section 89 (5) states -
Nothing in this section requires a licensee to broadcast or televise any .matter free of charge.
In one sense, these provisions are as important as, or possibly more important than, any others in the bill.
The Government seeks to remove from the existing law two safeguards that should never bc removed. As far as I can recollect, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) did not refer to these matters in. his second-reading speech, and I do not think that their importance has been brought to his attention by the responsible authorities. One of them, to which I referred this afternoon, relates to religious broadcasts. Under the law as it exists, the Australian BroadcastingControl Board has a duty to ensure - note the word “ ensure “ - that services of divine worship are broadcast for adequate periods and at appropriate times. But that duty will no longer exist. As far as I know, no mention of this has been made to honorable members, and the Government should not have taken steps to remove the provision without having given it the consideration that it deserves. The matter was discussed at considerable length in the report of the Royal Commission on Television, but the royal commission never suggested that that safeguard in relation to religious broadcasts should be removed. However, it will be removed as the result of a decision of the committee this afternoon, and a completely different law is proposed. “ To ensure “ means that arrangements will be made to do a particular thing, and, in this instance, arrangements to do what the Parliament ordains shall be done means that no charge shall be made by the authority giving that service to the public.
Having referred to that matter by way of illustration, I now turn to section 6k of the act. Sub-section (2) (i) of that section provides that the board shall, in particular, ensure - the same guarantee word is used again - that facilities are provided on an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political or controversial matter. The duty is imposed upon the board, not merely to give the public an opportunity, subject to any fee that the commercial stations may like to charge, but to ensure that facilities will be provided on an equitable basis - that means that both sides shall be heard - for the broadcasting of political or controversial matter. Why is that provision being removed from the statute-books? It is being removed because, clearly, the Government does not understand the matter or it has not been brought to the attention of the responsible Minister. It is a shocking thing that such a guarantee should be removed. It is not related to election periods; but is a general guarantee that, in the course of the administration of broadcasting in this country, facilities shall be given to the public on an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political or controversial matter. It is not confined to election issues. Rather is it a general principle to operate throughout the life of a parliament.
I am moving this amendment for the purpose, in effect, of keeping on the statute-book a provision that the Government has no right to touch. The subsection does not mean that the board must ensure political broadcasts on controversial matters all the time - discretion must be_ employed - lint that, if great issues arise, especially when the Parliament is in recess, two points of view shall be presented. The broadcasts need not necessarily be statements by political leaders on political matters. The requirement does not relate merely to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, about which there is no specific direction - we have included reference to it in the amendment - but also to the whole commercial broadcasting system. That is the law to-day. Every member of the public has the right to see that such broadcasts are organized and provided.
Considerable reference to section 6k (2.) appears in the report of the royal commission at page 91 and earlier pages. I shall not read those references, but they bear out exactly what I have said. It is quite clear that the royal commission looked at this matter and, without giving any final decision about the legal meaning of it, said that that obligation was cast upon this administrative authority, not for the benefit of any political party, but for the benefit of public discussion on great questions. The royal commission dealt with the history of the matter at page 86 of its report, and referred to the following statement of policy issued in Canada : -
Not merely questions related to elections -
The royal commission also referred to the famous report, in 1935, of the Ullswater committee on broadcasting in Britain, and dealt further with the matter at page 87 of its report. I shall not read the details, but I shall outline the positionin England. At election time, broadcasts are made by party representatives or leaders especially in connexion with the elections ; but during the year the British Broadcasting Corporation arranges, generally with the co-operation of party leaders or representatives, for broadcasts on controversial matters to be made, although not necessarily by political leaders or politicians. That is one of the elements of a free democracy. In this amendment, the Opposition seeks to restate the existing law, which has been more honoured in the breach than in the observance. The provision now proposed by the Government says, in effect, “ You may broadcast such matters if you like, as long as you pay for it”.
– -Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– May I take my second period of ten minutes?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No. Other honorable members have risen for the call.
– I have listened carefully to the speeches delivered during this debate, but especially to those delivered in connexion with the last few clauses that have been discussed. As usual, the Labour party has been putting to the people its policy of mistrust of private enterprise.
– That has nothing to do with this matter.
– If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will only be patient he will see in a moment that it is relevant. The Opposition also suggests that programmes could become partial. We have also heard much about monopolies and their reaction to programmes. Of course, this is the usual stock-in-trade of the Labour party. It is the usual argument used by the Labour party against monopolies and private enterprise, although it is interesting to remember that in the past the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and his friend, Mr. Dougherty, applied - not in the correct way - for a licence which was refused by those in authority. Although they complain about monopolies and private enterprise, they were prepared at that time to act as trustees for the Australian Workers Union in engaging in this so-called monopolistic enterprise. Fortunately, the application was refused. I wonder what the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition and his co-trustee for the Australian Workers Union would have been towards televising, telecasting or broadcasting programmes free of charge? I can visualize that if the Liberal party, or any honorable member on this side of the chamber, had wanted to take up time free of charge during an election campaign, or any other time, in order to put their viewpoints to the public, the Leader of the Opposition and his friend, Mr. Dougherty, as trustees for the Australian Workers Union, would have refused them space on the programme. These monopolies to which honorable members opposite refer are merely figments of their imagination. Clause 40 of the bill sets out the qualifications necessary to become a shareholder of, or to have an interest in, these companies. They are representative of many different interests. For instance, religious interests are represented in them. There are many different shareholders; they are, in fact, true examples of private enterprise, but, of course, we expect the Labour party to scoff at private enterprise.
It is suggested that the amendment provides for the allocation of time on an impartial and equitable basis. We have all seen examples of the Labour party’s idea of impartiality in the past. The Australian Broadcasting Commission now broadcasts the proceedings of this Parliament to the nation. By this means the people are given ample time and ample opportunity to hear the views of both sides of the chamber on matters of policy or any other controversial question. In fact, no other country in the world, except, perhaps, New Zealand, gives the public more opportunity to hear what is being done in the nation’s interest.
Last night, the Leader of the Opposition levelled charges of partisanship against the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He criticized the commission’s commentators on international affairs. Et must be appreciated that these commentators study international affairs. They are professors of undoubted ability, and they are well qualified to disagree with the Leader of the Opposition on international affairs. Why, even his own party cannot agree on that question. These attacks on the programmes control as exercised by the Australian Broadcasting Commission reflect little credit on honorable members opposite. Over the years, the commission has built up a fine listening audience. After all, the public are the real judges in this as in all other matters. The commission gives to the people a wide choice of programmes. It caters for all sections of the community with well-balanced programmes, and gives more assistance to Australian artists than does any other broadcasting station in Australia. It assists to promote art, music, culture and education in which the Opposition professes to show so much interest. Because the Australian Broadcasting Commission did not mention in its national news programme last night a happening in the Senate yesterday afternoon, it is attacked by the Leader of the Opposition. The incident complained of by the Leader of the Opposition referred to some minor happening in another place in connexion with a matter pertaining solely to the Australian Capital Territory. That attack gives us some idea of what the Labour party wants to do. It is clear that if given the opportunity it would dictate its own programmes and its own times in its own way, as has been shown by the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in connexion with these commentators on international affairs and the news broadcast last night. It would be fatal for Australia to make a political football of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It would be fatal to make it the plaything of any political party or any political section. It must function independently on all occasions.
I come now to the commercial broadcasting companies. They have given great service to the people of Australia over a period of 30 years. The only occasion upon which any action had to be taken against any one of them was against a Labour-controlled station. Members of the Labour party are merely putting up a sham fight for Australian artists. My friend and colleague, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), cited figures this afternoon which proved conclusively that the Labour-controlled station gave the least assistance of all to Australian artists.
– Even he did not say that.
– I repeat that the honorable member for Hume cited figures to show that the Australian Broadcasting Commission gave Australian artists a greater percentage of its broadcasting time than did any commercial station or any Labour-owned station in Australia. If honorable members opposite are earnestly concerned for the welfare of
Australian artists I suggest they could have made some effort long before this to give them a greater percentage of time on the stations they control. The very nature of the amendment smacks of further political interference. As I said earlier, we must at all costs preserve the people’s right to choose the programmes to w hich they wish to listen. “We must keep broadcasting entirely divorced from any pa rty political interference whatsoever. In any event, the Opposition itself is divided on this question of television. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) is reported in Hansard as having said that the statement made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) convinced him more than ever of the absolute menace of commercial television in this country. On the one hand, we have that statement from the honorable member for “Wilmot, and, on the other hand, we know that the Leader of the Opposition did make application for a television licence. Surely, that is a clear demonstration of difference of opinion within the party.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The purpose of this amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is to restore to this important legislation the right and protection of free speech in this community, and the facilities for expressing a point of view. The whole question is summed up, and the flaw in the argument of the Government is shown in the second-reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). In that speech he said -
Next, political mutter. At the present time, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has absolute discretion and complete responsibility in respect of the transmission, over national broadcasting stations, of political and controversial matter, subject only to the general requirements that there shall be no dramatization of current political matter.
Later, he said -
The position with respect to the broadcasting of political and controversial matter by commercial stations is that, at the present time, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is obliged to ensure . . .
The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition is that that safeguard has now disappeared. General comments were made on what constitutes a fair go for both sides of the political arena, and this amendment must be read in conjunction with the new medium of television.
The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) referred to certain things that were quite outside the ambit of the amendment, but they were interesting as the expression of a point of view.I believe this to be what has worked out in practice in regard not only to political matter, but also to the news service, that if it belongs to the Government it is news and if it comes from this side of the chamber it is propaganda. I can imagine the perplexity of the sub-editors and those trying to run an independent news service, with that sort of implied instruction from the top. It could not happen day after day, and week after week, without there having been an instruction, either deliberate or implied, that that is the way to handle news.
I use the illustration of news and the so-called independent news service which was instituted by the Labour Government of the day in order to get an impartial survey of the news at considerable length for the listeners to the various national broadcasting stations. Honorable members opposite who have been discussing political issues are getting tangled up with great issues of politics and debates relative to politics rather than political contests as to who will be the government. In the future, the question of whether Parliament will be televised or not must arise. In the meantime, the fact remains that the affairs of this chamber have been broadcast successfully.
The honorable member for Phillip says that the widest and most generous opportunity is provided for the people to hear everything that goes on in the House. We know that, because the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act was introduced by the Chifley Government. We are aware of the great trouble there was with the Australian Broadcasting Commission and. other authorities to make sure that the broadcast was a complete coverage of Parliament. Suggestions were made from time to time that only this section or that section of the proceedings should be taken.
Goodness knows what trouble there would have been if we had yielded to t,hose suggestions! I was a member of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee which was set up in order to police the broadcast of parliamentary proceedings, and the way in which everything, like Cromwell’s portrait - warts and all - went over the air is an example of what should be done in television.
In the broader sweep of television, the Postmaster-General proposes restrictions rather than the expansion of the rights of free speech and telecasting in order to give both sides of political issues. The Leader of the Opposition indicates that there will be, as there may be on the question of Cyprus to-day or other great issues, statements made by leaders, deputy leaders or men with a sense nf responsibility, lt must be implicit in the fair telecasting of events that both sides be given immediately; and they an? not given necessarily in this chamber. More than likely they will not be given here because the whole process of news reporting will be changed. Syndicated news reports will come to us from great correspondents overseas who will put out of work, I have no doubt, journalists who know more about the local st-eni: than is evident in the stuff we get from overseas in tins. But I do not want to touch on that at the moment.
On ihe general principle involved, the Postmaster-General should look seriously at (his amendment because it relates to the question of what time there is for political issues. The Australian Broadcasting Commission and the B class stations have always had a distaste for the chore of having to report political issues, particularly at election time. The general run-of-the-mill reporting is clone in such a way that the Opposition is always disadvantaged, because the corporations and those who seek profit in this country arc always on the side of the Government, or give the impression that they aru on the side of the Government.
My concern is that while the Australian Broadcasting Commission has a “forum” for the Government, it never has an “ again ‘em “ for the Opposition. I am sure that members of the Austraiian Country party can understand that statement. There is not an argument or an issue in respect of which both sides are freely exposed. That is clear. It has already crept into the news. The statutory provision that both sides shall be heard applies to on’.y elections, and the provision of financial arrangements to pay for these broadcasts or to leave to the B class stations the discretion to do what they like with them is another thing. If we give licences away for the nominal sum of £25 or £30 or 1 per cent, of turnover, surely these facilities belong to the people, and are sustained by the people, and are paid for by the people.
The whole gamut of what people want to know has to be considered. They might want entertainment in the main, and turn to the radio for broadcasts of sporting events .and plays; but giving thought to the serious matters of life, they want to know what is happening in the world. Television is the medium of mass communication. It tells them, and explains to them, so both sides of an issue must be given. The importance of the amendment moved by the Loader of the Opposition is to ensure a fair go - the Australian gospel of a fair deal. Recent events show that there is always a. tendency to give the Opposition the sticky end of reporting, and in relation to this the safeguard has been removed. In the new medium of television all sorts of strange things could happen unless the Postmaster-General takes cognizance of what he has been told from this side of the chamber.
This is not so much a controversial amendment as a helpful one for the Postmaster-General to look at. I beg of him to look at it in the light of the new medium of television and the matters that will be discussed outside this chamber. If not, the interchange of ideas and opinions will be completely lost if no restriction is placed on these people, who, goodness knows, get enough for a moderate outlay. They get a licence for five years and they get it for a modest licence-fee and the payment of 1 per cent, of turnover. As well as making money from entertainment services, they should give some cultural service, and service of a political nature. All we arc asking is that we get an equal share.
The safeguards which, in the wisdom of previous governments, were inserted in the Broadcasting Act should be restored. It is idle to go through a ponderous memorandum which shows theBroadcasting Act 1942-54, and in which the words in italics are proposed to be taken out of the act and words printed in black type are words proposed to be inserted in it. There are a lot of sections that should never have been touched.
This is an important amendment. As the Leader of the Opposition said, it is one of the most important subjects in television to be discussed in this country. That is the fair deployment of time for a man, whatever his political convictions, and provided he has parliamentary sanction under the other sections, to state his case. If this amendment, which simply restores the provision in the original act, is not accepted, grave abuses will fall on Oppositions. The Government should think of this most carefully, because assuredly one day, and apparently soon, it will be the Opposition here. In voting for this amendment, the Government will be safeguarding its interests in the future.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has quoted from page 8 of the memorandum. He stated that the Government was withdrawing a section of the bill which ensured that licensees should give certain time to broadcasts for political purposes. The right honorable gentleman forgot to read paragraph 465 of the royal commission’s report, which stated definitely-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 41 to 49 has expired.
Question put -
That the sub-section proposed to be omitted (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority .. . . 18 ‘
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That clauses 41 to 49 be agreed to.
The committee divided. (THE Temporary Chairman - MR. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
MrDAVIDSON (Dawson - PostmasterGeneral) [9.42]. - Clause 54 reads -
Section ninety-eight of the Principal Act is amended -
I move -
That, in clause 54, paragraph (a), the word “ sub-section “, second occurring, be omitted, with a view to inserting the word ‘’ subsections “ in place thereof.
This amendment anticipates the one that I shall propose next.
– The Opposition has no objection to the amendment, which merely anticipates the one that is about to be proposed.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That, in clause 54, after the proposed subsection ( 1a ) , the following sub-sections be inserted : - (1b. ) Where a television viewer’s licence is granted to a person who is the holder of a broadcast listener’s licence and the a dress specified in both licences is the same, the period for which the broadens t listener’s licence was granted may, if that person so desires, and upon payment of the fee referred to in the next succeeding sub-section, be extended so that it will expire on the date on which the television viewer’s licence will expire. (1c.) The fee payable for an extension of a broadcast listener’s licence under the last preceding sub-section is an amount which bears to the prescribed fee the same proportion as the number of complete months in the period of extension hears to twelve ‘ ; “.
I do not think the amendment will require very much discussion. Its purpose is simply to facilitate the bringing together of the due date for the renewal of a television viewer’s licence and the due date for the renewal of a broadcast listener’s licence held by the one person. It is obvious that it will be much more convenient, for the holder of the licences, and that it will facilitate the work of the department in keeping records and despatching renewal notices, if the licences arc due for renewal on the same date. The amendment means that a person who holds a broadcast listener’s licence due to expire, say, during August, 1957, and who, while that licence is current, obtains a television viewer’s licence due to expire, say, in February, 1958, may, if he so desires, have the currency of the broadcast listener’s licence extended so that it will expire on the same date in February. 1958, as the television viewer’s licence will be due to expire.
– And the fee for the broadcasting listener’s licence will be adjusted accordingly.
– That is so. It will be increased by five-twelfths if the licence is extended for, say, five months. That is the full implication of the amendment, and I commend it to the committee.
. - The proposal seems a convenient and business-like way of tackling the problem involved, and the Opposition has no objection to it.
Amendment agreed to.
– I refer now to clause 59, which reads -
Section one hundredand seven of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the words “, and. in particular, for preventing interference to the transmission or reception of the programmes of broadcasting stations or television stations “.
I move -
That, in clause59, all words after the word “ amended “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “by adding at the end thereof the words ‘, and, in particular, for -
making provision for -
the settlement of disputes as to the making of, or refusal to make, an agreement for the purposes of section eighty-eight a of this Act;
the terms of the determination of such a dispute to have the same effect, for the purposes of that section, as if they were the terms of such an agreement; and
requiring persons (including persons connected with or under the control of a party to the dispute) to comply with the terms of the determination of such a dispute: and
preventing interference to the transmission or reception of the programmes of broadcasting stations or television stations’.”
This is the amendment to which I referred earlier when the committee dealt with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) concerning the televising of -porting events and entertainments. Honorable members will recall that the new section proposed in the honorable member’s amendment reads - 88a.’ The Commission or the holder of a licence for a commercial television station shall not televise, either directly, or by means of any recording, film or other material or device, the whole or a part of any sporting event or other entertainment held in Australia, after the commencement of thissection, in a place to which a charge is made for admission, except in accordance with an agreement with the promoter of the sporting event or other entertainment.
I indicated at that stage that it was proposed to amend the bill later to provide powers specifically to make regulations for the settlement of any disputes that may arise as the result of conferences between sporting bodies and television licensees and others in relation to the televising of sporting events. Accordingly, the amendment is designed to reserve this power to make regulations. As is well known, such regulations would have to bo tabled in the Parliament, and they would then be subject to discussion, and to disallowance, if that were considered desirable by the Parliament. It will be seen that paragraph (a) of the clause as proposed to be amended deals with the settlement of disputes arising out of conferences held as a result of the provision made in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Chisholm.
Paragraph (b) gives the power to make regulations to prevent interference to the transmission or reception of the programmes of broadcasting or television stations. It is well known now that there is always a certain amount of interference to radio broadcasts by electrical devices, and I point out that the likelihood of interference to television broadcasts is much greater, and that the degree of interference is likely to be greatly accentuated. There have been difficulties in overseas countries in dealing with the problem. So far as broadcasting is concerned, there has been no power in the act to deal with it, and, quite frankly, the constitutional power to do so is debateable. In relation to broadcasting, it has always been found that when interference became extreme it was possible for either the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or other authorities to approach those responsible for the interference and make amicable, arrangements for its removal. The information that the Government has is that the extent of the interference likely in television is such that some more positive approach to the matter should be made. Therefore, as a start, so that there may be some time to consider what other action may be taken, if necessary, and also to consider the constitutional position, so far as this bill is concerned, all that it is proposed to do is to include the power to make regulations specifically for the purpose of dealing with such interference. That, I think, covers the amendment, and I submit it to the committee.
Dr. EVATT (Barton- Leader of the Opposition) 9.51. - I have looked at this amendment which, with the others, we received a few minutes ago. It seems to me that the first three provisions oi” this new clause are quite essential. They arise from the amendment adopted by the committee on the proposal of the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes). The purpose of that amendment was to prevent broadcasting Stations from taking, or, in effect, pirating, sporting entertainments run by the great cricket, football and other sporting bodies, without a just arbitration or decision as to the amount of compensation that should be paid. As the compensation has to be governed, in principle, by the regulations, these three provisions will do that very thing and will carry out the intention of the amendment that has been made.
The only sub-clause which requires, perhaps, a little more consideration when the bill reaches another place is the regulation power to prevent interference with the transmission or reception of the programmes of broadcasting stations or television stations. Of course, it is essential to prevent such interference; but expressed in that wide form, such a provision might cover power to do things in respect of buildings which might be in a position to interfere with the precise reception of the programmes of the stations. I do not say that that would be done, but, if it were, it would be a drastic power. It is well known, in connexion with television, that obstruction is caused, particularly in the city areas, by buildings.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that, if there were electric trams, they might stop the trams ?
– As this amendment is drafted, I do not see any limitation to the power. After all, when you draft your regulation, you limit it to the type of thing that you really want to do. L take it that this refers to something in the nature of wilful or negligent action cansing interference.
– Yes, and the indiscriminate use of electrical appliances, thereby causing interference.
– There again, that is very wide, if it has nothing to do with the television receiving buildings. The regulation power to impose penalties is very great and should be closely specified. The Minister knows how power put in for one purpose may be used for a purpose which would never have been approved by the legislation-making authorities. I mention this matter, not for the purpose of dividing the committee, but for the purpose of asking that it be looked at with a view to having it more precisely and narrowly defined and limiting the power to the purpose which the Government has in mind, and which is quite a proper purpose.
– But any such regulation would have to be tabled in the House, and that would be a precaution.
– Yes, but sometimes regulations are made during, recess. Sometimes they operate before the Parliament meets. For instance, there was reference to such a regulation, in another place, yesterday. The great thing is to have the regulation in such a form that it will pass muster when the House meets. I am sure that the Minister appreciates that I make that observation, not to use this matter to interfere with his performance of his duties, but to suggest to him that he look at the width of the power, because it may cover too wide a field.
– I quite agree to that.
– I, too, am concerned about the amendment, but for different reasons from those of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I think that this matter of interference, particularly with the reception of television programmes, is a serious one. We have had experience in the past of doubt concerning the constitutional power of a Commonwealth officer to stop such interference and to remove the cause of the interference with broadcast reception. I believe that it is necessary, in addition to promulgating regulations from time to time, to seek the co-operation of the State governments in order to make sure of the constitutional power.
I believe that every new household electrical appliance that leaves the shop, together with all existing appliances that are interfering with broadcasting at the present time, should be fitted with suppressors under laws passed by the various States. If that were done, a great deal of interference would be removed. This is a matter with which the Government will have to concern itself, particularly in the early days of television, because if people with inept hands fiddle with the dial of the appliance there will be interference, and there may be interference caused by the vacuum cleaner or menumaster in the flat next door. Those things will result in distortion on the screen and a bad impression.
– Some of them have pulled down factories that interfered with reception.
– And one would feel like doing so, too. There is a simple way to supress interference with television receivers, and that is for the States to pass the appropriate laws.
As the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) pointed out by way of interjection, such things as electric trams might cause interference. Motor cars also may be responsible for interference, as well as low-flying aircraft, particularly in the Sydney area. That may also happen in the vicinity of Essendon aerodrome, in Melbourne, and Eagle Farm, in Brisbane. There probably will be interference, therefore, from motor traffic, electric trams, and aircraft of the propeller type flying over from time to time. It would cost millions of pounds to have suppressors fitted to the motor cars in Sydney alone. I understand that the cost is estimated at approximately £ 5 a vehicle.
There is some doubt in my mind whether the powers that have already been allocated to the commercial stations in both Sydney and Melbourne are sufficient to blanket out this spasmodic interference caused by motor vehicles and other things that cannot have suppressors fitted to them. Therefore, I ask the PostmasterGeneral, when he is considering this1 matter, to bear in mind the fact that such interference may be overcome, to a great degree, by increasing the power of the television stations, wherever it is necessary to do so, because of interference caused by vehicular or air traffic. I believe that an increase of power in those circumstances would be warranted. I urge the Minister, as a first step, and one which should be taken almost immediately, to approach the States with a view to having legislation enacted, or even to act under existing legislation, in order to support these regulations when they are promulgated, so that at the very outset of television Mrs. Jones’s vacuum cleaner will not spoil somebody else’s new television set which is his pride and joy.
.- The Opposition feels that this power is a very wide one and that, if the committee inserts it in the bill, we may be in difficulties later on. Interference inevitably must take place in an electric age, with radio stations getting more and more power and electrical factories producing more and more confusion or interference in the atmosphere. We just do not know where ultimately we will be led in this new world which we are entering. T would like to be optimistic enough to believe that the State governments would be co-operative in a matter of this sort. However, I am not so sure that they will be, and I do not think that the Minister or anybody else in the Federal Parliament is, either. We could have a position created where some State governments would be helpful, but others would take no action at all.
– That is the position with broadcasting.
– Exactly. It has been the position for years. I piloted the first big broadcasting bill through this Parliament, I think - or I had a hand in it. I know that we were concerned with those difficulties then, lt is by no means clear that the Commonwealth Parliament has the powers over broadcasting and television that we sometimes convince ourselves it has, despite the decisions of the High Court from time to time.
– On matters such as this, I am not so sure that we have power.
– As the Minister says, we are not so sure that we have these powers. I say in passing that that is probably a matter for the constitutional committee. If we are going to exercise power by regulation, we must be reasonably certain that we will not do something that is ultra vires the Constitution.
I am concerned about the broadcasting of sporting events. I want to say, just in passing, that the people who put on sports own the sports, and that other people should not be allowed to come in, surreptitiously make films of the events and then exhibit them in some other country, or perhaps in this country. That brings me to the thought about what might be done from a helicopter in regard to these matters, and what could be done by people who hired a balcony opposite a sports ground. 1 am just wondering whether the regulations that we make under this provision will be sufficient to prevent pirating of the property of other people.
– Would the honorable member be happy if the helicopter paid an entrance-fee?
– I should not want it to be hovering too near, whether it paid a fee or not. The bigger and better the helicopter becomes, the better it will be to take photographs from. Perhaps it might be possible to use a helicopter as a transmitting station. That is quite possible. On the one hand, we have to see that we give to people who run sports the fullest possible protection. On the other hand, we have to see that the powers that the Government takes are not so wide that they could be used improperly against people who claimed the right to have a mixmaster in their house, no matter what the neighbours might do about television.
– Do not start advertising.
– I am not advertising Mixmasters or any other kind of electrical gadget. I am just using a word that was used by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). This question of noise interference is not a matter only for State Parliaments to pass reasonable laws about. It is a question with which municipalities have something to do. I am not sure that all municipalities will want to abate electricallycaused nuisances, any more than they want to abate smoke nuisances and various other nuisances that interfere with the rights and property of persons.
I want the Minister to advise me on this point, so that I can have the whole thing straight in my own mind. Tho amendment which was carried, and which has given rise to these new clauses, ensures that if a person runs a sporting function on a sports ground, that function shall not be televised or broadcast without his permission. These regulations deal with disputes that might arise out of anything that might be done under the amendment carried by the committee at the instance of the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes). Is there any possibility that a person could claim that a sports promoter must give the right to him to televise a function, if he pays a reasonable fee or fair remuneration? I take it that that is not so, and that all that these new clauses do are to provide that if a person agrees to televise an event, with the permission of the persons who are putting on the show, any dispute that might arise in connexion with the carrying out of that agreement could be covered by regulation.
– I do not think that, by the operation of this regulation-making power, a person could be compelled to agree to the televising of a function that he was promoting.
– That is my interpretation of the matter.
– It is mine also.
– I wanted to be quite sure that at a later stage somebody would not say, “ You did something by the amendment which made a person who puts on a show the sole authority to determine whether it shall be televised, but then, by further amendments, you provided a loop-hole for a long continuation of disputes”.
What the Leader of the Opposition has said about the making of regulations needs to be carefully considered. A dispute in connexion with a function might be a matter that had to be settled within a few days. On that event, if a regulation were made and a settlement were effected which was not fair, the person aggrieved could not possibly get justice or correct consideration of his grievance, even if the Parliament ultimately disallowed the regulation. We have got to see that the regulation-making power is not exercised in a perfunctory manner. If it is a real power and is properly exercised, the Parliament ought to have a real power to disallow a regulation, either in this chamber or in another place. What happened yesterday might be the forerunner of what is going to happen in future to an ever-increasing degree and in ever-increasing doses, which we hope the Government will be able to swallow. If it should so happen that a regulation, even when disallowed, afforded no relief to the aggrieved person, then it would not be worth while to have the power to make regulations.
Mr. DAVIDSON (Dawson - Postmaster. General) £10.8]. - May I comment on the point raised by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) about the effect of any regulation that might be made on the operation of the section dealing with sporting events? I am not well versed in legal matters, but I think I can settle the point by referring to section 107 of the original act, which states that the Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with the act. Does that not mean that these regulations must not be inconsistent with the intention of the clause dealing with sporting events ?
– Broadly speaking, I think that is so.
.- It is proposed that the fee for a television viewer’s licence shall be £5. We have very little information to show why the sum of £5 has been determined. The fee for a broadcast listener’s licence is £2.
– Will the honorable member indicate the clause with which he is dealing?
– Yes. Proposed section 127 relates to broadcast listeners’ licences, clause 53 of the bill to television viewers’ licences, and clauses 54 and 55 to broadcast listeners’ licences and television viewers’ licences. The point that I am interested in is why the sum of £5 hai been chosen as the fee for a television viewers’ licence. It seems to me to bear no obvious relation to the fee for a broadcast listeners’ licence. Moreover, I think it would be a sensible arrangement to have a combined broadcast listeners’ and television viewer’s licence. This question arises because in most instances a television viewer will also require a broadcast listeners’ licence. It should be a simple procedural matter to provide a combined licence for the two purposes.
– Naturally, as we are only commencing this service and have had no experience in Australia to guide us, the determination of the amount of a licence-fee must be something in the nature of an -estimate. The basis that has been taken is the broadcast listeners’ licence-fee of £2. It was decided that the amount of £5 bore what seemed to be a reasonable relationship to the cost of providing the television service compared with the cost of providing the broadcasting service. Another yardstick that was used was the practice in Great Britain. *My information is to the effect that in Great Britain the proportion is approximately two to one. I concede that it has been largely a question of establishing a proper relationship between the two services, and the Government decided that, in the circumstances, a television viewer’s licence-fee of £5 would be reasonable.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the following words be added at the end of the schedule: -
This amendment is consequential upon the amendments that have been already agreed to.
Amendment agreed to.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I do not propose to speak at any great length to the motion. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has already been good enough to have a careful look at the proposal I made in order to see whether the principle that has been accepted by him in relation to the televising of sporting contests might also be applied to simultaneous broadcasts. I should like the Minister to consider - I quite understand that he cannot give any undertaking now - to look at some of the other amendments that have been moved by the Opposition. This matter will be going before another body next week when, undoubtedy, all of these points will come up for review. I cannot believe that the Government, as a government, could have considered the amendments in detail, because they were not specified until a fairly late stage of the proceedings in this chamber.
– I take it that the right honorable gentleman is referring to his amendments?
– Yes, the ones that were moved from this side of the chamber. Some of them, I think, would be of great assistance in the actual administration of the legislation. I refer, by way of illustration, to the proposal to institute a joint parliamentary committee to deal with both television and broadcasting. Then there are the provisions dealing with the other matters, including the duty to broadcast, or to provide facilities for broadcasting and television, provision for which no longer appears in the statute. I cannot believe that the Government deliberately wanted to relieve the control board of that obligation. There was an obligation to provide facilities for both religious broadcasts and controversial broadcasts, quite apart, from electoral matters.
I can assure the Minister that this is a very important bill, and a difficult one to deal with. We cannot accept the proposition that the Minister, even with all his advisers, is infallible. I hope that consideration of the bill by the Senate will be preceded by a further consideration by the Minister of the positive proposals that we have submitted. It is appropriate to refer to these matters in speaking to the motion for the third reading of the bill. I ask the Minister to do in connexion with the other amendments what he has properly undertaken to do in order to protect the great sporting bodies of this country against having their entertainments interfered with from the financial point of view by pirating through simultaneous broadcasts. This results to them in losses as severe, in many cases, as they might suffer through television, and they should be protected. As I have said before in this chamber, the law in the United States of America, gives the protection sought, but here it does not. If protection is afforded by statute, justice will be done as between those who provide the entertainment and those who listen, as well as to the commercial broadcasting stations which profit at present, and to the commercial television stations of the future.
.- I direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) to the fact that, included in the amendments that the Opposition has proposed to the bill, there is a very important one designed to protect the producers of Australian television programme material. I sincerely believe that in this respect a serious deficiency exists in the bill. In the development of Australian industry that protection has been accepted as a general principle. We have started out with the assumption that, if Australian producers can be given a period of time in which to develop the standards which prevail in countries whose development has preceded ours, before very long we shall reach world standards. In this debate the matter has been approached from the opposing point of view. That is to say, it has been suggested that this Australian entertainment industry must first be developed so that it will find its rightful place in Australian television programmes. The position in regard to all other industries has been quite the reverse, and the situation has already reached a serious stage of development. Last week, I asked the Postmaster-General a question, to which yesterday he was kind enough to provide an answer. I asked -
What is the value, in dollars, allowed to each television operator in Australia for the purchase overseas of television programme material ; and
The Minister furnished me with this reply -
My inquiries disclose that each television licensee is to be provided with overseas exchange to a maximum of £A.(!0,(100 per annum to purchase overseas programme material subject to the condition that not more than two-thirds of this allocation l’-ay be spent in dollar areas. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, which will operate two stations, is to be pro/’1 led with £ A.120,000 under the same conditions.
This means that a total amount of £A.360,000 annually will be provided in dollars and sterling for the purchase of overseas programmes. I should like to direct the attention of the House to the ratio of two-thirds dollars to one-third sterling. Why is there such a relatively high ratio of dollars? The second part of my Question to the Minister was answered in this way -
The total remittances to date for purchases of this nature total £A.6(i,(i01 to dollar areas, and £A. 11,81(1 to other currency areas.
That is to say, over £A. 78,000 has already been allocated to the purchase of overseas television programmes. Of that amount, 83 per cent, has been spent in dollar areas and only 17 per cent, in sterling areas. If we cannot obtain for Australian programmes the quota that we sought in our proposed amendment, surely we can obtain a more favorable ratio for sterling programmes than £17 to £100 spent.
– They still have the rest of their sterling share available.
– Certainly it has not. been spent so far. As the Government was not prepared to accept our amendment in relation to a higher quota for Australian reproduction, it should, purely from the point of view of conserving dollar spending, be more conservative in making dollars available in this field. It has been suggested, and I think it is most relevant at this stage to emphasize again, that the standards already developed in the Australian industry are extremely high. So far, Australian programmes have been exported to the world market at the rate of about 100 a year. Australian radio programmes have been sold to England, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and the West Indies, and these sales have been made on a market which is extremely competitive. They have not been in any way subject to agreement; the programmes have been sold on merit. During the debate it was pointed out that we need to establish an export market for the proportionate development of the Australian industry. An export market has already been developed, lt seems to me that if the Government were a little more sympathetic to the development of the Australian industry than it is proved to be by the terms of the bill and comments during the debate, we should see a most rapid development of this industry which would be of advantage, not only in Australia but also on the export market. The principle of development of new industries that has been applied in most other fields has not been recognized by the Government in the field of dramatic and other artistic production. I ask the Government, even at this late hour, to ensure that, when it is making allocations of overseas currency for the purpose of importing television programmes, it shall exercise greater discrimination in favour of Australian-produced and sterling-produced programmes than it has in the past, as evidenced by the figures supplied to me by the Minister.
.- As the debate on this measure is just about to conclude, I think it would be appropriate - and I am sure that members of the Opposition would join with me in this - to pay tribute to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) for the way in which he has piloted this intricate and difficult bill through this chamber. The Minister, as we all know, has held office for only four months. He has encountered in this, his first measure, a bill of extraordinary intricacy, difficulty, and technicality, and although I can well understand from the shouts of members of the Opposition that they are disappointed that none of their amendments has been carried, none the less no one has any cause for complaint about the way in which the honorable gentleman has conducted the debate. All of us must compliment him on the patience and urbanity he has displayed both to his critics and to those who support him. The way in which he has conducted himself in this House as a new Minister augurs well for the future, not only of himself as an administrator but of his parliamentary career as a Minister.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Fishing Industry Bill 1956.
Whaling Industry Act Repeal Bill 1956.
Television - Statement in Debate.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- May I have your leave, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to make a statement? Last night I stated that television station TCN was not entitled to receive a licence because it had not complied with the Minister’s stipulations or with the provisions of the bill, in that the London Daily Mail still held more than 15 per cent, of the issued capital and, with the other two overseas shareholders, the Philips and Paramount organizations, held more than 20 per cent, of the issued capital. The Canberra representative of the Sydney Daily Telegraph has now assured me, both as an employee of that newspaper and as a shareholder in TCN, that800,000 shares have been issued to the public in addition to the 1,096,493 shares issued to the eight companies listed in the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s report, from which I quoted. I accept his assurance, and therefore I concede, first, that the Sydney Daily Telegraph and London Daily Mail hold only 42.3 per cent of the capital now issued ; secondly, that the overseas companies held no more than the permissible 20 per cent, of it; and, thirdly, that TCN is entitled to a licence under the law.
I was horrified to hear that in an afternoon newspaper published in Sydney - the only newspaper in Sydney which has not a substantial interest in a television station - there was an account of an incident which occurred this morning in which I was correctly stated to have said that both the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) were uncouth. Reading the report, it would appear that I had done so maliciously instead of facetiously, as the case really was. The word “ uncouth “ is not a term that I would apply seriously or deliberately to any member of the Liberal party or the Australian Labour party, still less to my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney, or the learned and honorable Minister for Supply.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560510_reps_22_hor10/>.