22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present a petition from 1 1,400 citizens in the States of the Commonwealth praying that the House will take immediate action to ensure that sufficient funds are made available to each State of the Commonwealth to provide adequate public education facilities for their children and people. The petition is respectfully worded, concludes with a prayer and bears the Clerk’s certificate that it is in conformity with the Standing Orders of the House. This petition contains 11,400 signatures and has been prepared, inter alia, by the following national organizations: The New South Wales Teachers Federation; the Australian Teachers Federation; the South Australian Teachers Union; the Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsman of Australia, Victorian Division; the Western Australian Teachers Union; the Australian Journalists Association; and the Young Women’s Christian Association. The grand total number of signatures comprised in this and other similarly worded petitions that are to be presented is 130,000.
Petition received and read.
Petitions praying that sufficient funds be made available to provide adequate education facilities in the States were presented as follows: -
By Mr. BARNARD from 10,900 electors of the Commonwealth.
By Mr. BRYANT from 10,800 electors of the Commonwealth.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he can inform the House of the latest developments in connexion with the international conference dealing with the law of the sea. Is there any likelihood of agreement being reached on this subject? Will the Minister take steps to see that proceedings are not concluded if no agreement is reached, but that in some way or other discussions are satisfactorily continued?
– The conference at Geneva on the law of the sea has been in progress for a considerable number of weeks and it has still nearly a week to go. It is a very large conference of 87 delegations. The Australian delegation, led by the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Professor Bailey, is a small but strong delegation from the Department of External Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Department. Professor Bailey was made chairman of the first committee.
That is a most important committee which dealt with the breadth of territorial waters and contiguous zones beyond the outer limit of territorial waters in which the coastal state would have authority and sovereignty over the further space of sea in respect of fisheries, customs and the like. Considerable efforts were made by a number of countries to maintain the traditional 3-mile limit for territorial waters, but all these efforts failed. Subsequently, six or seven proposals have been considered, but none of them has achieved the necessary two-thirds majority. At the present time, the most promising proposal is an American one to have a 6-mile territorial limit and a further 6 miles in which the coastal state would have control of fisheries, with a proviso that any country which has been fishing within this outer 6 miles for five years or more would continue to have the right to fish there. That proposal was narrowly defeated in committee, but I understand that the United States of America is proposing to submit it again in substantially the same form to see whether it cannot be agreed to.
Australia is very interested, also, in having carried a resolution giving the right of innocent passage through straits which might infringe the territorial sea limit but which were normally used for international navigation. This matter is important to us from a geographical point of view.
Without going into detail about the other committees, I point out that the fourth committee was very important to Australia. That committee adopted a definition of the continental shelf which would give the coastal state authority and sovereignty out to a depth of 200 metres from its own shores. The proposal was adopted both in the fourth committee and at the plenary session, and the matter is to be made the subject of a special convention in respect of ;the .continental shelf. The definition would .include .the .right of .the -.coastal state to control pearl-shell fishing, which is satisfactory to Australia.
The other committees dealt with matters of lesser importance than the ones I have mentioned. The conference will end next Tuesday, in the ordinary course of events. I certainly endorse what the Leader of the Opposition has said - that it would not be right to allow .the conference to end with no decision being arrived at on the -matter of territorial waters, but that it would be much better for the conference to adjourn so that two-way discussions might take place between a number of countries in order to avoid the inevitable chaos that would result if no resolution were carried with respect to territorial waters; and our delegation has been instructed to that end. We have been in daily touch, by telegram, with Geneva and, of course, in contact at Geneva with all relevant countries in connexion with this matter.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Commonwealth Statistician has quoted potatoes as being significant in the recent rise in the cost of living, which is reflected at 5s. a week in New South Wales. I ask also whether it is generally known that potatoes are realizing for the farmer, particularly in the Burrawang-Wildes Meadow area, the lowest price since preWorld War II. days, and, in value, probably the lowest price in living memory. Is it a fact that while the farmers are unable to meet the cost of digging potatoes, the only rise that has taken place has been in charges due to high transport, power, and general distribution costs arising from socialist inefficiency in New South Wales, so that the farmer receives only a little more than lid. per lb. for his potatoes, and the cost to the housewife is 5id. per lb.?
– The movement, either up or down, in the price of potatoes, has always been a very significant factor in the C series figures which are used as an index to the cost of living. I suggest, with all due respect, that the honorable member address the latter part of his question to the New South Wales Government.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the difficulty that was experienced by the South Australian Government in serving the writ issued by it in connexion with the River Murray Waters Agreement and the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme? Does he agree that such a difficulty should not arise? Would it be possible to arrange for some person or persons to accept service on behalf of the Commonwealth? Further, in view of the importance of the .pending litigation, will the Prime Minister assure this House, and the people of South Australia, that his Government will not proceed with the proposed legislation until the court decides the issue raised by the South Australian Government?
– The question of the service of a writ is .one governed by the normal rules, and the normal rules have, I believe, been observed. The honorable member asked about the Government’s intention in relation to the legislation. The Government proposes to proceed with the legislation because it proposes to proceed with the Snowy Mountains scheme. Any delay in the carrying on of the work of the Snowy Mountains scheme, if it is sufficiently protracted, even for a few months, can readily involve the Government, and the people, in the loss of anywhere between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. We are going ahead.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. In view of the handsome profit made by the Telephone Branch last year, will it be possible to accelerate work on the installation of new telephones? In supporting my question, I mention that while there has been a gratifying improvement in the position over Australia as a whole, the case of many applicants in newly settled areas - and this includes many of my constituents - is still desperate.
– The department is constantly planning not only to keep pace with current applications, but also to pick up the lag in telephone installations which has developed over a period of years. I am glad to hear the acknowledgment by the honorable member that considerable progress has been made towards doing that during this financial year. It will interest the House to know that during this financial year more than 100,000 lines have already been connected, that the number of deferred applications has been reduced by about 26,000, that more than 100 rural automatic exchanges have been installed - they are essential, of course, for the overall operation, particularly of country services - and that the trunk lines installed this year total about 1,100. So, in this year, as a result of the increased capital made available by the Government to the department in the last Budget, there has been considerable improvement. I thank the honorable member for his mention of that. I assure him that it is the department’s desire to continue on that basis so that we may continue overtaking the lag and so that we may also provide in newly settled areas, both industrial and rural, the services that are so badly needed. I can assure him that, consistent with the amount of capital available to the department, which will be determined in conjunction with the demand on the public purse from other instrumentalities, we shall continue with that policy.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is the practice for very important visitors to this country - known as “ V.I.P.’s “ - to be accommodated at Government House, Canberra, when visiting this Territory? If so, what was the need for renovating, refurnishing and maintaining Kirribilli House, Sydney, at great expense, presumably for the accommodation of V.I.P.s’, when Admiralty House, the Sydney residence of the Governor-General, could have been made available for this purpose? Is it a fact that the Prime Minister now regards Kirribilli House as his official Sydney residence? Finally, will the Prime Minister state whether he has continued to collect the £10 10s. per day allowance with which he is provided during his absences from Canberra, for such period as he has been accommodated at Kirribilli House?
– I think that, perhaps, I had better answer the last bit first because J am sure that it will be a great comfort to the honorable member to know that, although my daily allowance is rather greater than the one that he mentioned, I do not collect it when I am in residence at Kirribilli House. Therefore, I am rather disposed to think that the taxpayer makes a profit on the deal. As to whether there should be such a place as Kirribilli House, the honorable member is the only Sydney man of whom I have heard who does not believe that it is a good idea. The idea that the Governor-General’s arrangements should be subject to what I believe will be more and more frequent visits from distinguished overseas people is a strange one. No such arrangement obtains in any other country in the world. We decided that it should not obtain here. It is a very good thing for this country that we should be able to give distinguished visitors from overseas, in the largest and senior city of this country, accommodation appropriate to them.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the New South Wales Government, by legislative action, over-rode the State arbitration court and restored quarterly adjustments to the basic wage. If it is a fact, does this political intervention in the functions of the arbitration court cost the State Government annually approximately an additional £3,500,000 in its payroll? Could not this £3,500,000 be devoted to the needs of State education, and would not this be better than for the State to appeal to the Commonwealth for more funds?
– Criticism of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States is always a very delicate matter, but I think there is very great substance in the question raised by the honorable member. Obviously, any saving in any direction could be diverted to works within the order of priority which it is the responsibility of the State concerned to determine.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether the report is correct that the Government is seeking a loan of 25,000,000 dollars on the loan market of New York? If so, what has actuated the Treasurer in turning to this financial centre from which Australia has not sought new money loan accommodation since May, 1928? Did the Government approach the International Bank for this money, which I understand is to provide for public works programmes? If not, why did not the Government first approach this international monetary authority?
– It is very sad that the honorable member, who has had such a long political experience, and who resided for so long in America, does not know that this is not the first money loan that has been obtained in the United States of America. We have received loans previously. I am sure that the honorable member will be very pleased to learn that the loan of 25,000,000 dollars was oversubscribed in 24 hours. It was a loan raised for the Australian Loan Council.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Health, who represents the Minister for Repatriation in this chamber, by saying that concert parties have been prevented from performing on Sunday nights at the Yaralla Repatriation General Hospital in Concord, New South Wales, although Sunday concerts had been given for many years. Will the Minister obtain speedily from the Minister for Repatriation the reasons for the banning of the Sunday night concert parties? Will he also ask ‘the Minister for Repatriation to make known what decision he has taken in accordance with his promise to reconsider the matter, as delay in announcing the decision may further delay the resumption of these concerts, which were greatly appreciated by the patients at the hospital?
– I understand that the ban referred to was imposed by the Repatriation Department. I also understand that the Minister for Repatriation has called for a report from the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in New South Wales, and that as soon as he has had the opportunity to examine the report on the reason? for the ban he will take what action he considers appropriate.
– Can the
Prime Minister make available to this House the information available to him arising out of which he made the statement, in Sydney last Monday, that automation would not cause unemployment? Can he say, further, what peculiar set of circumstances exists in Australia that will prevent automation from having the same impact on job opportunities here as is now so apparent in the industrial cities of the United States of America, such as Detroit, Pittsburgh, and many others, resulting in a total unemployment in the United States of America of more than 5,000,000? Can he also say whether he is aware that the flow of cheaper goods mass produced with automation leads to monopoly control of production, thus creating an urgent need for anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws wherever automation extends?
– The question is purely argumentative. I do not know whether my speech the other night was tape-recorded, but if it was I will have the full text of it passed across to my honorable friend.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. In view of the reply he gave a few minutes ago to the honorable member for Bonython regarding the over-subscribing within 24 hours of the Australian 25,000,000 dollar loan in America, does he not agree that that is an indication of the confidence that people overseas have in the economy of this country?
– The Government is trying to get another 50,000,000 dollars now.
– Opposition members are squealing now. I hope they will be squealing more when the reply is given. I also ask the Treasurer: Does not the result to which I have referred give the lie direct to the Opposition, which is continually claiming that the Australian economy is not in a state of stability?
– The answer is, of course, obvious in the results.
– Has the Prime Minister yet considered the proposals made by the Joint Council of Commonwealth Public Service Unions for an extension of furlough after 40 years’ service? I think the Prime Minister knows that the present regulations provide for six months’ furlough for each twenty years of service up to 40 years. The unions are asking for pro rata furlough for service after 40 years. If the
Prime Minister has not thought about this matter will he favorably consider it immediately?
– I shall certainly examine this proposal in discussion with the Public Service Board.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. There are reports from Washington and elsewhere to the effect that the United States of America and, perhaps, other nations which are at present performing certain functions in the Antarctic, may be considering extending their operations in the area after the conclusion of the International Geophysical Year. Can the Minister give the House any information on the matter?
– Yes. Representatives of the United States Government have been in consultation with authorities in the eleven other countries that have been participating in scientific research in the Antarctic in the International Geophysical Year. The main purpose of the consultations is to arrange a continuance of co-operation in scientific research in this area beyond the end of 1958. The Australian Government is in general agreement with this objective, provided that it can be achieved under conditions agreeable to Australia.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Will he confer with the Minister for National Development about serious matters that I raised in this House several weeks ago concerning the allocation of houses by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority? Speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House on 19th March, I pointed out that a new system adopted by the Snowy Mountains Authority provides for allocation on a points system. Under this system special points are granted for every £100 of salary above £600 a year. Special points are also granted according to the volume of work of each employee and, finally, the system provides that no unskilled man, no matter how large his family, shall get a house while ;.< skilled worker or professional employee is awaiting one. As these are important matters, will the Prime Minister discuss with the Minister for National Development the need to give some answers to these questions and to give an indication whether the Government approves of what seems to be a most un-Australian method.
– I will certainly ask my colleague to provide a full answer on the matter raised by the honorable member.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. I refer to a report on forced labour prepared by the Secretary-General of the United Nations organization and the Director-General of the International Labour Organization, and presented to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. I refer io particular to the allegation that Communist China holds 25,000,000 people in slave labour. I refer also to the allegation contained in articles 27 and 28 of the regulations enacted governing reform through labour. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether this report has received a critical examination by the United Nations organization. If it has not, will the Minister instruct the Australian representatives at the United Nations to press for such a critical consideration? Further, is the Minister aware of any official denials by the Communist Government of China of what must be regarded as the most monstrous charge ever levelled against a civilized nation?
– I do not have in mind at this moment the answers to the several questions asked by the honorable member, but I shall certainly make myself aware of them and give him a considered reply, factual and-
– I hope not. I shall obtain a reply for the honorable member at the earliest possible opportunity.
– In view of reports that the next Budget is to be the Treasurer’s last, and that he intends to make it a good election Budget by making good hand-outs in the form of reduced company taxes, will he also consider giving an increased handout to the Surf Life Saving Association of
Australia, to enable this body to obtain the equipment necessary to carry out its important work next summer?
– The honorable member’s question is based on erroneous premises. He suggests that I have something in view, and propose extending liberality in a certain direction. I remind him that the Budget is based on Government policy, and suggest that he should not try to assume the role of an inefficient clairvoyant.
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer, refers to an earlier question on the same subject by the honorable member for Bonython. Is it not a fact that, first, the loan just raised in New York was unanimously approved by the Australian Loan Council; secondly, that it will make a direct contribution to the public works programmes of the States; and, thirdly, that but for such a loan it would have been necessary to raise a corresponding sum of money by way of Commonwealth taxes?
– The answer to each of the honorable member’s questions is, “ Yes “.
– In view of the interest of honorable members in recommendations made to the United Nations organization, 1 ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he recalls that on several occasions between 1950 and 1952 that body discussed the matter of corporal punishment, whether by whip, cane or any other means, and made the following recommendation: -
That administering authorities should enforce immediately legislation with a view to replacing corporal punishment in all cases by methods of modern penology.
In view of the fact that this recommendation was carried overwhelmingly, by a vote of 48 to 4, and the fact that opinion in the civilized world is against corporal punishment, will the Minister bring the recommendation to the notice of the Premier of Victoria and arrange for a future debate upon it in this House?
– I do not recall the details of the matter to which the honorable member refers, but I shall certainly look them up and consider his request.
– I ask the Treasurer whether a further £20,000,000 has been released by the central bank from the special deposits accounts. Has the bank, or the Government, indicated to the trading banks the purpose of the release, and will more finance be available to our primary industries as a result?
– The recent release of £20,000,000, to which the honorable member refers, is consistent with the Government’s banking policy. On 12th March I explained, that policy, and the release to which he refers is but another example of its working. The use to be made of the extra credit available is a matter entirely for the banking system.
– Adverting to the matter of the loan raised in New York, I ask the Treasurer: Was the loan issued at par? What was the interest rate, both nominal and effective? What was the amount of underwriting commission?
– It is as well to mention that the loan, and the conditions attaching to it, were unanimously decided upon by the responsible constitutional body, namely the Australian Loan Council. The loan was issued at £99, and the interest rate was 4f per cent. Speaking from memory, it was underwritten at 2i per cent. I might also advise the right honorable gentleman while I have the opportunity, that in the ultimate the terms agreed upon by the Australian Loan Council were bettered, and that there was a very high subscription rate indeed.
– In view of the desirability of building up the volume of our secondary industries and thus reducing costs, I ask the Minister for Trade whether his department is developing any plan to expand our export trade by offering special incentives to encourage manufacturers in this direction.
– I am sure the honorable member has put his finger on a key point when he speaks of building up the volume of secondary production as a valuable contribution to the reduction of manufacturing costs. The Government, as I think is known, is very actively encouraging manufacturers to engage in further export. There has been magnificent success in this regard in the New Zealand market, and quite notable success has been achieved also in other markets. The Trade Commissioner Service is now very extensive, and devotes much time to aiding manufacturers who desire to sell overseas. The trade commissioners send back to Australia commercial intelligence so that manufacturers may be kept informed of marketing opportunities and the terms upon which business is done in different markets.
I think that six trade missions have proceeded overseas in recent times. At present, the honorable member for Darling Downs is leading a trade mission .of some 20 to 30 business men. We have exhibitions at trade fairs. The Export Payments Insurance Corporation has been set up to enable Australian merchants to do business in distant lands when they are not themselves able to predict with certainty that an individual customer will pay, or when they have problems in relation to the currency of a country with which they are trading. The Government has not considered the making of any special tax concession to a manufacturer who engages in export trade. To do so would open up very difficult and complex issues which would have implications over quite a wide field.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to my invitation to him to visit the north-west of Western Australia so that he may see for himself the lack of development in that area and also its potential for extensive development? If the right honorable gentleman does intend to visit the north-west, will he spend some time in that vast area and not confine his visit to one or two ports? Will he also agree to arrange an extensive tour of the area .during the parliamentary recess so that honorable members and Ministers may see for themselves the potentialities of the Kimberley district?
– I can understand the honorable member’s eagerness to get in with his question because, as he knows, I arranged three weeks ago to visit the northwest of Western Australia in three weeks’ time.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer supplementary to the question that was asked by the honorable member for Lyne in respect of the release of £20,000,000 from the trading banks’ special accounts with the central bank. In view of the conflicting rumours as to powers in this matter, I ask the Treasurer whether the Commonwealth Government or the Treasurer himself has any power to direct the manner in which this money may be channelled or used by the private trading banks.
– No. This Government believes in private enterprise and an untrammelled banking system, and it would not use such a power even if it had it. That is why this Government set up a bank board and has given consideration on every possible occasion to the maintenance of a sound economy. The use to which the banks put the £20,000,000 of credit is a matter entirely for them to decide.
– I refer to the question about the operations of the United States Strategic Air Command in making flights with nuclear bombs towards targets, which the Minister for External Affairs answered last week by saying that he was “ alarmed and dismayed by the report “. I now ask the Minister: What was there in the report that alarmed and dismayed him? Is he still alarmed and dismayed, or is his mind now at ease on the matter?
– Since I answered the question asked by the Leader .of the Opposition last week on this matter, I have made two further statements on it. I am afraid that any further statement I could make would not help any one who does not now understand the position.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware that, since the abolition of liquor rationing in Sweden, South Africa has gained a valuable market for its wines in that country to the extent of £175,000? Can the Minister say whether any attempt was made, or is being made, to gain an entry into this market for Australian wines?
– I do not know exactly what has developed there, but I have made some inquiries as a result of the honorable member making personal approaches to me on this matter. The honorable member devotes himself painstakingly to the interests of the wine industry in his State. I have been advised that the severe liquor rationing system for Sweden was abolished last year, and that at the same time a steep increase was arranged in the price of spirits to act, so I am told, as a deterrent to their over-consumption in that country. Following this development, the South African wine industry went after the market, and I am told that it has gained sales to the order of £175,000, as mentioned by the honorable member. I am not aware of what action has been taken by the Australian wine industry, but the matter is within its own hands, using our Trade Commissioner Service and the Australian Wine Board, which keeps a representative in London, to explore with the aid of the Government and its instrumentalities the Swedish market. However, I do understand that the combination of two factors - the great success of our own trade promotion activities in the United Kingdom, which has taken substantial additional quantities of wine, together with some diminution of the quantity now available - leaves us unable to go in an important way after new marketing opportunities. I am sure that the Australian wine industry is aware of whatever is transpiring in Sweden and that it will exploit the situation as soon as it can.
– Will the Treasurer confirm reports that £20,000,000 has been released from the trading banks’ special accounts held by the central bank? Is there a marked tendency on the part of the trading banks to finance lucrative hirepurchase rackets and short-term investments rather than make legitimate housing loans? Has the Government taken any steps to ensure that a substantial amount of the £20,000,000 just released will be directed to housing and, if it has, by what means will this belated reform be achieved?
– I think this is about the fourth occasion on which I have been called on to answer questions similar to this one. I repeat with emphasis - I hope for the last time - that the release of bank credit under the special accounts system is consistent with the policy of the central bank and of the Government, and that the use that the banking system makes of the £20,000,000 is consistent with this Government’s policy of encouraging free enterprise, not socialization. The matter is one entirely for the banking system itself.
– The question that I shall direct to the Treasurer deals with depreciation. I preface it by paying a tribute to the action of the Government in adopting most of the recommendations contained in the report of the Commonwealth committee or depreciation. I wish to direct attention to the fact that the recommendations relative to obsolescence have not been adopted. Believing that such recommendations, if implemented, would be of tremendous assistance to Australian industry, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether, in framing the Budget proposals this year, special consideration can be given to this section of the report.
– The matter raised by the honorable member will be, of course, considered in conjunction with proposals concerning all sorts of concessions amounting, up to the present, to about £485,000,000.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) be discharged from attendance on the Committee of Privileges, and that, in his place, the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) be appointed a member of the committee.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) be discharged from attendance on the Library Committee, and that, in his place, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) be appointed a member of the committee.
– 1 have received a letter from the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The failure of the Government to complete the Lucas Heights atomic reactor project within the scheduled period, and the delay consequential therefrom in making available to industry and the people of Australia the benefits from the peaceful use of atomic energy.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- In the first place, I desire to make the undeniable charge that this Government has failed to complete the atomic reactor project at Lucas Heights according to schedule. In the second place, I desire to make it perfectly clear that the people of Australia will suffer, and have already suffered, as a consequence, because in the great race for supremacy in the peaceful use of atomic energy Australia has missed the bus. I think that those were the words used by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in his discourse on the recent Atomic Energy Bill. Many honorable members were lulled into a false state of security in relation to this matter, and into the belief that the atomic reactor would shortly be completed according to the schedule set out in the report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. But as time went by, the completion date of the project was put back further and further, and, as we now know, the reactor was opened only last Saturday, ten months after the scheduled opening date. “ The target date for the opening of the project was in June, 1957, since when many months have gone by during which the people of Australia have been deprived of the benefit of radio isotopes, a by-product of this very important activity.
The reactor project was commenced in October, 1955. The contract for its completion was let to Hutcherson Brothers Proprietary Limited, the architects being Stephenson and Turner. I do not doubt that the contractors were most enthusiastic people. We know the type of error which the architects are capable of making in respect of these major projects. Despite the manner in which they failed to account for themselves effectively in previous undertakings, including St. Mary’s, this Government persists in giving them the responsibility for handling some of the most expensive projects being carried out in Australia. The Government and the contractors were most fortunate in having the enthusiastic assistance and support of a very large work force, which at one time numbered between 400 and 500 men. They were also most fortunate in having the enthusiastic support of the scientists, technologists, physicists, chemists, and other specialists, who are anxiously awaiting the completion of this project. However, despite all the enthusiasm behind the project, the Government has let down these people, and indeed the people of Australia generally.
The project was commenced in October, 1955, just before the last federal elections. Could it be that the Government was anxious to create amongst the people of Australia the impression that it was accepting with zeal and enthusiasm the great challenge of the atomic age? It appears to me that such was the case, because reference to the report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1956, shows that shortly after the contract was let the Government, discovered that it had insufficient funds to go ahead with this project which, as I have said, had been launched just prior to the federal elections. Obviously, it was a great political hoax. The report stated -
Early progress was rapid, and on 23rd November the Minister for Supply, the Hon. Howard Beale, Q.C., M.P., visited the site and saw the excavations for the foundations of Australia’s first nuclear reactor.
Very shortly after the awarding of the building contract, however, the Commission encountered the first and most serious of three major set-backs to the progress of the Lucas Heights undertaking.
The Commonwealth Government - in keeping with its economic policy - reduced its capital works programme, and, as a result, commencement of construction of the main laboratory buildings was deferred until 1st July, 1956, at the earliest. Without these buildings it will not be practicable to operate the reactor at full power, nor adequately to develop the research programme. This will necessitate a large Australian scientific team consisting of over 40 chemists, chemical engineers, metallurgists, physicists, engineers and others, remaining in the United Kingdom at Harwell, where laboratory space is already greatly overcrowded because of the rapidly expanding British programme of research.
I do not know what expense is involved in retaining those 40 specialists at Harwell as a result of the Government’s failure to provide sufficient funds for this project to continue, but I do know that the number of specialists has increased considerably since- this report was prepared. The Public Accounts Committee might well find scope for. its enthusiasm by examining the progress of this report. The commission’s report continued -
Towards the end of May (1956), however, it was necessary to reduce the rate of expenditure, pending a decision by the Government on the funds to be allocated to the Commission for capital works during the financial year 1956-57. This curtailment unfortunately involved retrenchment by the contractor of a portion of his labour force.
So it has gone on. Several months before the presentation of the Budget in each of the years involved, the labour force has been’ retrenched and work has come to a stand-still, although many people in this House have enthusiastically described’ the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes as Australia’s most important project.
As the- member for the area in which the reactor is located, I have taken deputations of men to the Minister concerned. First it was Mr. Beale, who is now languishing in Washington. The men expressed their great enthusiasm for the job and their desire to press on with the work. They said that they could keep progress well ahead of the programme if they were given the opportunity to do so. The Government’s failure to regulate the available amount of money caused the retrenchments, but it was completely inconsiderate in dismissing a large number of men when the money ran out. Last year, in a similar crisis, when we again ran out of money for this project, I attempted to get a deputation before the Minister for National
Development- (Senator Spooner), who is now responsible, for this work, but he was so disinterested in the displacement of the many hundreds of men involved that he refused to see the deputation. This is an absolutely shocking state of affairs. I might mention that the retrenchments from this very important project took place right at the time when there was a serious trend towards unemployment in Australia. If the Government sincerely wanted to do something to arrest unemployment, it could have demonstrated its sincerity in respect of this matter. But the work has stopped, and now only a skeleton force remains on the job. The skeleton force has been used principally in recent months to set the stage for the glamour opening of the establishment by the Prime Minister last Friday. It is an unfortunate fact that many honorable members were deprived of an opportunity to see the opening of the reactor. Members from States other than New South Wales were not given invitations to attend.
Ten or twelve more employees will be sacked from the reactor project next week, and then there will be hardly anybody left on the job apart from the scientists and specialists, who are unable to do the work which it was intended they should do. A great deal of the work is uncompleted. A great many things have not as yet been constructed, but I can see that time will not permit me to go right through the list. A short time ago, during the debate on theAddressinReply to the Governor-General’.* Speech, I referred to the fact that the physics laboratory had not been commenced. P went on to say- -
A chemistry and chemical engineering block iswithout equipment, while essential, extensive protective concrete cells are not even under construction. A. lecture theatre to be used for the training- of atomic scientists has not been commenced. Another incompleted section is the engineering- workshop and the metallurgy block.
There are a number of other important, sections uncompleted. When the Prime Minister went there last Friday, he. was said to be going to open this project. The impression was given to the people of Australia that the Lucas Heights atomic reactor was to be opened, but, of course,, the whole show turned out to be a great political sham.. It was one of the greatest political hoaxes that this country has known. The Prime Minister is reported to have pressed a button in order to put the reactor into motion. All he did, in fact, was to press a buzzer system which called on an operator inside to do the job that the Prime Minister was supposed to be doing. His photograph was taken during the process, and he capitalized to the full on the sideshow of the century. The whole thing was a complete and utter hoax.
The real point I want to come to is that the reactor has not reached the stage of completion. It is just ticking over at one watt, instead of at its ultimate capacity of 10,000 kilowatts, or 10,000,000 watts, or, as the electrical people say, 10 megawatts. It is operating at one miserable watt! One newspaper states that the reactor is operating at one-twentieth of a watt at present. The reason for all this shamming is that insufficient funds have been made available.
There are many reasons why the reactor cannot be in full operation at the present time. The first is that the temperature control unit has not been completed. I understand that although the boiler installation is near completion, the construction of the pipeline from the power house, about a quarter of a mile away, has not even been commenced. The pipeline will bring steam from the power house to the reactor to operate the temperature control unit. The uranium fuel element storage block has not been completed. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ came out with the announcement that this great reactor is now in operation, but in fact it cannot be put into operation until the storage unit for the uranium fuel elements has been constructed. The effluent disposal scheme is another arrangement which has not been completed. No Government member has come out with a frank admission of this, either in the House or at the opening ceremony. The impression was given that there was nothing further to do so far as the effluent disposal arrangements are concerned. This is a matter concerning the- disposal of radio-active waste, but at present thousands of gallons of effluent are just tipped on to the ground, finding their way under a public road and finishing up in< scrub country. The very technically desirable effluent disposal arrangements have not been completed.
The Prime Minister talked about the emergency control button, known as “ Scram “. He said that he felt like a naughty boy because he was tempted to push it, but if he had pushed the emergency control button it is likely that nothing at all would have happened, because there is no equipment in the emergency control centre. What an incredible state of affairs for a Prime Minister to participate in such a great hoax as this has turned out to be!
Frustrated as a result of these things are numbers of highly trained scientists and technicians who want to get on with the job of developing atomic energy for peaceful purposes and to make some contribution to raising the living standards of the Australian people. They sum up the position in this way. They say that if the reactor in its present condition is run at full strength, a highly dangerous situation will develop. If the reactor is not run at a greater strength than one watt, then highly skilled personnel will be left cooling their heels, denied the opportunity to do the worthwhile work for which they have been trained.
The answer is to give this project top-line priority - to re-employ the labour force necessary to provide essential safety features and to begin and complete the large number of partially built and uncommenced buildings. The stimulus to Australian living standards which would follow would more than justify such consideration. It is a crying shame that the Australian people have been misled in such a deliberate fashion with regard to this matter.
The Labour party is enthusiastic about the project. It will be recalled that it was Labour which first gave some legislative encouragement to this development, when Senator Ashley was the Minister for Supply. The Labour Government of that day made some provision whereby incentives would be given to people, to discover the element on which these great reactors operate. Labourcontinues to be enthusiastic about the project. We on this side are not prepared to sit silent in the House while the Government continues to misrepresent developments in relation to this matter. A comparison of our progress in this most important scientific field with the progress of other countries shows that the Government stands condemned for its inactivity.
-.- Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. OSBORNE (Evans- Minister for
Lucas Heights, near Sydney, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) opened a new reactor established by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. That was a very notable event in the scientific and industrial life of this country. We are well accustomed to the use of the emergency procedure by honorable members opposite for the purpose of attempting to make political capital by denigrating the work of the Government, but I do not think we have ever before seen a more mean-spirited or a more improper use of that procedure than on this occasion. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) began with the charge that the ceremony last Friday at Lucas Heights* was only an electioneering stunt. If a charge of indulging in an electioneering stunt lies anywhere, it lies fairly and squarely on the honorable member himself.
He represents the electorate in which this reactor is situated. During recent months he has made one attempt after another to identify himself with publicity relating to the reactor. He has issued statement after statement to the press, but most of those statements have not, so to speak, seen the light of day. The purpose of the statements was obvious to any pressman who glanced through them, so they got nowhere. The honorable member for Hughes has adopted several different attitudes to this matter in recent months.
What were his charges? The first was that the Government was insincere in opening the reactor. It was done in the presence of a large and representative body of the scientists and industrialists in this country. The honorable member was there himself, so he knows what the reaction of those people was. Those who were present at the ceremony, including myself, were well satisfied that a good job had been done by the Atomic Energy Commission, that it had been done fast and well and that the first stages of the operation of an enterprise very important to the Australian people were proceeding successfully.
The next point made by the honorable member was that there had been a delay of ten months - that the opening ceremony had occurred ten months later than was originally planned. The honorable member quoted from a report of the Atomic Energy Commission, not for last year, but for the year before that. Does the honorable member for Hughes take into account the fact that the first decision by the Government to build this reactor was made in September, 1954? Does he realize that the reactor is new in atomic history?
– That is all rubbish.
– The honorable member says that what I have stated is all rubbish. The nearest counterpart to the Lucas Heights reactor is the “ Dido “ reactor built by the British Atomic Energy Commission which, however, was not completed when the Lucas Heights reactor was commenced. The honorable member may shake his head and disagree with what I am stating, but I am stating facts. Is it surprising, therefore, that changes of plans have been necessary in the course of development of the reactor?
This atomic reactor, which is the latest and most up to date in the world, has been planned and built over a period of four years at a time when techniques in this field are rapidly developing and changing. Had planning in the course of the construction of this reactor not been altered, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission no doubt would have been open to a charge of excessive conservatism in not observing trends in other parts of the world. At the same time, the scientists of the commission who are now, and will be in the future, working on the reactor at Lucas Heights have also been engaged at various atomic energy establishments in the United Kingdom, particularly at Harwell, where they proceeded beyond the stage of gaining experience in the work they are to do in Australia. There were able to commence laying the foundations of the research programmes which are being continued at Lucas Heights. It will be seen, therefore, that productive work was proceeding in the field of research before the actual opening of this atomic reactor last Friday.
The next point that the honorable member tried to make is particularly misleading and distasteful. He suggested that the Government deliberately dismissed workers from the project, resulting in the work being delayed. That charge is completely false and has been publicly stated to be false. What actually happened was that the contractors, as they finished certain portions of the work, discharged the men for whom no further work was available under their existing contracts. The honorable member is aware of those facts because he has made similar charges previously which have been answered by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in another place.
– They have not been answered.
– The charges have been answered by the Minister for National Development. As the honorable member has conceded, the main construction of the reactor was carried out by private contractors who, as they completed their contracts, naturally paid off the men, thus making them available to proceed to other work. The honorable member, however, has not bothered to mention that a total of 400 scientific personnel will be employed at Lucas Heights, 200 of whom are already on duty and 200 of whom will be employed as time goes on. Yet, according to the Opposition, the reactor is not completed.
As I have informed the House already, productive research work was being done in England by the personnel of this establishment before they returned to Australia to take up their posts. Does the Opposition expect a project of this complexity, size and importance to be in the fullest and most complete stage of production now that it is expected to reach after a period of, say, ten years?
One matter, perhaps more serious than the alleged discharge of workers on the project, has been raised. The honorable member for Hughes tried to suggest that the emergency control arrangements of the atomic reactor are inadequate. I hope he realizes the seriousness of making such a charge and the effect it can have on public opinion. He nods his head indicating that he does. Let me tell him that the complete emergency control centre of the establishment will not be needed until the reactor is operating at full and sustained power. It is indeed a misnomer to call the control arrangement an emergency control because its function is limited to cleaning the sealed inside of the reactor building in the event of a mishap when the reactor is operating at full and sustained power. The emer gency arrangements, which were explained to the honorable member as he inspected the reactor on Friday last, are sufficiently complete to meet the present stage of operation of the reactor and for the stages that lie in the immediate future. The honorable member ought to be sure of his facts before he makes charges of such a serious nature. The reactor is operating as a self-sufficient research unit, and a wide range of research is now proceeding.
A moment ago I asked the honorable member for Hughes whether he imagined that a project such as this could suddenly leap into the full scale of activity expected to be reached over the years. If he expected such a thing to happen, and for the unit to remain inoperative until the stage of development had been reached at which it could do all that it will be able to do in the future, obviously time would be wasted and potential research would not be carried out. That is an absurd suggestion to make.
In a recent interview the Minister for National Development was asked questions about the state of completion of the reactor and to what extent it was capable of doing the job it is expected to do in the future. He stated in reply -
In atomic energy research, one would be foolish indeed to claim that an establishment such as ours is ever completed. Harwell, in Britain, “just growed “ like Topsy . . . until available space was used. There is a continual expansion, a continual need for more facilities, to cope with such a rapidly growing field. I think the best we can say about our own establishment is that we planned to spend a certain sum of money. That money is almost spent, and we are well satisfied with the facilities it has provided. When the need arises for more money to keep our programme growing with new developments, I have no doubt the Government will realize the value of such a programme.
That is the case. To suggest that because a reactor has not already reached the fullest stage of development and capacity that it will be able to reach in the future, and that the reactor should not have been put into operation because it has not reached a stage it is expected to reach in five or ten years - I am merely drawing periods of time out of the air - is quite irresponsible.
This project is of the greatest importance to the scientific and industrial development of Australia. In the main, it has these purposes: To carry out a ‘research (programme for the development of a type -ot atomic power reactor working to high temperatures, potentially capable of operating in areas which are <of particular interest to Australia where large water supplies are not available. That -is one facet of the research which can be carried out there. A further purpose is, generally, to foster industrial, medical and agricultural use of radio-active isotopes. More generally still, a further purpose is for it to be a centre of knowledge and experience in atomic matters in this country. The project has been completed to this stage, and is in operation at its present stage, within about three and a half years of the time when the Government decided to proceed with it.
– It is not completed.
– The honorable member has seen it himself, and he knows, in spite of what he has said, that it is in operation now. To have such a scheme in operation at all in such a short time is a very creditable achievement. It is creditable ;to the Australian Atomic Energy Commis<sion. It is creditable to the architects and the contractors who were associated with it. It is creditable to the men who did the work. And it is by no means discreditable to this Government, which is responsible for it.
.- Last Friday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) declared, when he opened the atomic reactor at Lucas Heights, near Sydney, that the project was complete. It is plain, from the remarks that we have just heard from the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who has been selected to answer the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) on this urgency discussion, that the reactor is not complete. To .recall some of the phrases which the Minister used, he said that -the reactor has not reached the fullest scale of development and operation. He referred to the present stage of operations and those in the near future. He asserted that .the emergency control unit is not required “ until the reactor is operating at full and sustained .power”. It is quite obvious, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that, if we regard this reactor as .complete -only when it can operate at full and sustained power, only when it reaches the fullest scale of development and operation, it is not yet complete. It is perfectly legitimate, therefore, to claim that the Prime Minister was indulging in a sham and a delusion when he declared, last Friday, that the reactor was complete.
We are, of course, used to people declaring a project officially open after the project - perhaps some bridge or -hospital - has been in operation for some weeks. That is a legitimate and well-known governmental technique. The official opening of a bridge, or a school, or a hospital, invariably takes place weeks after it is in operation. -Here, of course, we have the reverse process. We have gone through a most elaborate function of declaring open a project which is not complete, and the Prime Minister and the Minister for Air, who is now leaving the chamber, rely on the very natural ignorance of the .public in a highly technical field.
– The Minister for Air has not left the chamber.
– He is alighting again, Sir. The Prime Minister and the Minister rely on the very natural ignorance of the public to get away with this sham which was perpetrated by the Prime Minister last Friday.
There are very serious aspects about this project, and they can cause people legitimate worry about their safety. Let me quote from the “ Daily Telegraph “ report of the Prime Minister’s performance : last Friday. I quote from that newspaper because it is the most slavish of the journalistic admirers of the Prime Minister. Its report stated -
The reactor was set to operate at one-twentieth of a watt. Its full operating capacity is ten kilowatts.
In the report -oi the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the year 1954-55, it was stated -
It will be a .high-flux general purpose research unit operating at a thermal output of 10 megawatts. . . .
A megawatt, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, as you, among the members of this House, would ,be particularly well qualified to know, is 1,000 kilowatts, or 1,000,000 watts. If we .are to accept the most authentic report of what was done last Friday, we can see quite clearly that the project is not even one-millionth complete.
– I gave the Government the benefit of the doubt.
– The honorable member for Hughes gave the Government the benefit of the doubt in the matter. If the project is not complete, the question arises: When will it be completed, and when will it be safe to operate it at its full capacity?
I have some concern in this matter because I represented the district when the reactor was commenced, and I remember attending a meeting of the local shire council which was reassured by Sir Jack Stevens, who was then chairman of the commission, and Professor Baxter, who was then deputy chairman, as to the safety features of this reactor. In its report for the same year - 1954-55 - the commission stated -
The health and safety aspects of the Lucas Heights programme were given very careful consideration before the site was finally chosen. . . . Briefly, the facts are these: -
The report then sets out matters (a) to (f), two of which concern safety factors -
Those are the matters which the honorable member for Hughes alleges are still incomplete.
Let me reiterate the four matters which the honorable member asserted to be incomplete, and in respect of only one of which the Minister for Air has made a reply. Firstly, the honorable member says that the reactor cannot be properly operated until a temperature controlunit is in service. He says that while the boiler installation is near completion construction of the steam pipeline from it to the reactor is awaiting the allocation of additional funds. And the boiler installation is a quarter of a mile away from the reactor. Until extra funds are provided for the steam pipeline connecting them, it is impossible to have the temperature control unit inserted. My recollection, Sir, is that the Minister made no reference to that allegation. The matter is something that he can readily check. My recollection is as the honorable member for Hughes has asserted.
The second allegation which the honorable member makes is that uranium fuel elements cannot be changed, as the fuel element storage block is incomplete. Again, the Minister did not say whether it is complete or not.
Thirdly, the honorable member for Hughes says that the completion of the effluent disposal scheme is held up awaiting a Budget allocation, also, and that what effluent there is just passes under a public road and away into the bush to a river. Again, the Minister has made no answer.
The remaining allegation made by the honorable member for Hughes is that the emergency control centre is still without equipment. The Minister did deal with that, and his answer is that the emergency control centre is not required until the reactor is operating at full and sustained power. Four allegations have been made, Sir. Three are unanswered, and the fourth has been evaded by saying, “ There is no risk in this reactor as long as it does not operate “.
I have given the quotation from the annual report for 1954-55. I have heard the reassurances given by the chairman and deputy chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to the Sutherland Shire Council at the time when the reactor project was commenced. I was satisfied. Everybody who heard them was satisfied. The assurances comprised, in particular, the completion and simultaneous installation of these three features which the honorable member for Hughes has alleged are not yet installed, let alone complete, and which the Minister for Air has not referred to in any way at all.
In the last annual report of the Atomic Energy Commission, for the year1956-57, which was signed on 3rd October, last, it is stated -
The design of the main site storage and piping system is basically complete. Attention is now being directed to two main problems: -
methods of decontaminating the slightly active effluents from normal laboratory operation;
methodsof storing, andpossibly recovering, very highly active effluents which may arise, for example, from pilot plants processingirradiated nuclear fuels.
Those are two safety matters, and last October they were still being considered.
The commission’s own official journal, “ Atomic Energy “, for last month - we received it only a week ago - has a considerable number of articles devoted to this vast and valuable project. They all refer to future activity when the project is completed. Let me give an instance from the article dealing with radiochemical facilities. It refers to -
The radio-active facilities being constructed at Lucas Heights . . .
They were being constructed last month! It is quite obvious that the facilities are not yet complete. The honorable member for Hughes alleged that the project was not complete, and it is obvious from the Commission’s own publications that it is not complete. A ceremony was held to announce its completion, but that ceremony was a farce. I very much enjoyed the opening speech of the Prime Minister, who was at his iridescent and irrelevant best. I suppose that when you open a reactor you could not have a more reactionary man than the Prime Minister to open it. So far, so good! It was one of the lucid intervals that we have had from his Government.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I confess that I am not entirely surprised by the united front which has been exhibited by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). I confess, too, that I was not very much impressed by the items they put forward or by the somewhat partisan and perfunctory approach of the honorable member for Hughes and the smartie-pants approach of the honorable member for Werriwa. I was not even impressed by the interjections that came from the rank and file of the Australian Labour party. I do not think that we gain anything by trying to write down what Australia has achieved.
A few moments ago, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) said, by way of interjection, that the reactor was out of date before it even commenced to operate. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not a pure reactor; it is not a reactor that will produce significant blocks of power. It is not meant for that. As a research reactor, it is one of the best in the world, and perhaps is the best.
The purpose of the reactor is to provide a high neutron flux in which various experiments can be carried out and various materials can be tested. The flux is something of the order of ten to the fourteenth power neutrons per square centimetre per second, and that in terms of reactors is a remarkably high flux. I think there is only one reactor in Britain that would be comparable^ - the Dido reactor, to which the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) has referred. In the same bracket in the United States of America there would be the materials testing reactor at Idaho. But Australia is right out in the forefront.
This reactor cannot be put into operation straightaway at full power, because all the time we are feeling our way and have to conduct experiments to ascertain the best way of going on with the next stage. This is an experimental tool and is not like a steam turbine or something of that knd which can be ordered off the peg and put into operation straightaway. Honorable members opposite who are criticizing the Government are merely displaying the fact that they do not understand what this is all about.
When all is said and done, we do not gain anything in any way by establishing facilities before they are needed. This reactor has to be brought up to power gradually; it has to be run in. That is the only possible approach with a new and novel piece of equipment like this. As it happens, we do not need some of the other facilities which have been mentioned so egregiously by the honorable member for Werriwa until the reactor has been operating at power for some time. If we were to build them now, they would be lying idle for some time.
One thinks of the concrete cells that are needed to handle materials that have been strongly irradiated and which will be radioactive when they come out of the reactor. Those cells will not be needed until some months after the reactor has been operating at full power. What the Government is being criticized for at the moment is the virtue of not spending money before it is needed. If honorable members opposite were to criticize the Government at some future stage for not spending this money, perhaps the criticism would be justified. But that is not the position at all. The position is just the reverse of that.
I am convinced that the Government is going ahead on this reactor programme and that it will do things in their proper order so that Australia’s atomic energy programme may be pushed ahead without delay, and without waste by providing facilities out of order. There is still ample time for a start to be made, for example, on these concrete examination cells to which the honorable member for Werriwa has referred and to have them completed well before they can be used.
The Government could be justifiably criticized if it stopped the project dead now and did not go ahead with it, and I would join in that criticism. But I repeat that that is not the position. The Government is being criticized for acting with ordinary prudence. In the early stages, when we wanted to get ahead with the programme as quickly as possible, we had to adopt the cost-plus and other methods of construction which perhaps were not as economical as they might have been but which did have the virtue of getting the essential things done quickly and in time. Now, because we have had those essential things done quickly and in time, the programme can go ahead and we can proceed with the next stages which are not and cannot be needed now, because we cannot run a reactor up to full power immediately. We can proceed with those stages in a more economical way.
Only a few months ago, Opposition members were raising the roof about the St. Mary’s project being constructed - in their view - in an uneconomical and rushed way, but now they are raising the roof because the Lucas Heights project is not being proceeded with in an uneconomical and rushed way. At Lucas Heights, the Government did exactly the same as it did at St. Mary’s; it did quickly those things that had to be done quickly. Now that the urgent part is past, it is possible to place proper contracts in order to complete the remainder of the buildings which should and will be completed in accordance with more economical practice. So far from being open to criticism for this line of conduct, the Government has been acting with prudence, and that should commend itself to the House and to the country.
Now let me turn to the more serious side of the question. Australia should have a great atomic future, but we will not be able to go into that future if we are to have this silly, captious knocking for political purposes from one side of the Parliament. Let us get together and realize that we have a great opportunity before us. We must undertake not merely research at Lucas Heights but also the development of nuclear power which springs from research and which will be furthered by that research. I believe that a very wise decision was taken at Lucas Heights and that the reactor which was ordered and which has been constructed in record time was the right type of reactor to acquire as an experimental tool. This is the beginning; it is not the end. It is only a small beginning, but it will be developed into a big, constructive programme. But that cannot be done unless there is a willingness to co-operate. This captious criticism, which is made for a political motive by people who fear that their seats may be in danger at the coming election, does not do Australia any good. It is not merely that at Lucas Heights we built this reactor in record time - not much more than half the time that it took to build a similar reactor in Great Britain-
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Tariff Board Act 1921-1953, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill now before the House proposes to amend the Tariff Board Act which, in most important respects, has remained unchanged since 1921. The only important amend ment in recent years was in 1953 when the strength of the board was increased to seven members to enable it to handle an increased volume of work by sitting in two divisions. The amendments now proposed were foreshadowed by me in this House on 13th March last when I announced a strengthening of the Tariff Board’s secretariat. At that time I indicated that it might be necessary to remove certain ambiguities from the present act and to make other changes to facilitate the board’s proceedings.
As has been the case for some time past, the board is at present faced with a heavy programme of work. It currently has a fairly large back-lag of inquiries. The Government attaches the greatest importance to the elimination of delays in the consideration of requests by Australian industry for changes in tariff rates. Clause 14 of the bill proposes that an additional member be appointed to the board for a short period. This member would assist the board in overcoming the existing back-lag of work. It is expected that, as a result of action taken by the Government to strengthen the board’s secretariat, a board of seven members will be able to handle the board’s normal programme once the back-log has been disposed of.
Another amendment designed to speed up the board’s inquiries is the proposal in clause 5 of the bill that one of the members be appointed deputy chairman. Honorable members are aware that the board normally divides into two committees and that the chairman is a member of both committees. It is proposed that the deputy chairman shall assist the chairman generally, and shall relieve him whenever necessary. He would, under delegation from the chairman, exercise all the powers, duties and functions of the chairman. He would also act for the chairman in the latter’s absence through illness, leave or for any other reason.
In some respects, the responsibilities of the chairman, as laid down in the present act, are ambiguous. This is not conducive to efficiency. The chairman must be in a position to co-ordinate the work of the board, and clause 6 of the bill would make him specifically responsible for the administration and general working of the board, as well as for the control and direction of the board’s- staff.
Among other things, he would -
He would be specifically required, however, to consult the other members, to the extent practicable, before taking decisions on the time and place of meetings and the form of the board’s records.
When the departmental organization was changed in 1956, the administration of the Tariff Board Act became the responsibility of the Minister for Trade. Referencesin that act to “ the Minister “ became, by virtue of the Acts Interpretation Act, references to the Minister for Trade. Section 15 of the act lists the matters which may be referred to the board by that Minister.
Several of the matters now listed in section 15 are, however, matters which bear directly on the responsibilities of the Minister for Customs and Excise. For this reason, clause 11 of the bill gives to that Minister power to refer to the board -
Because the two last-mentioned; subjects are matters which are solely the responsibility of the Minister for Customs and Excise, clause 10’ of the bill deletes the relevant provisions from section 15 of the act. As already explained, section 15 covers the matters which may be referred to the board by the Minister for Trade.
The present act provides that at least two, but not more than three, members of theboard shall, at the time of appointment, beofficers of the Department of Trade. Suitable officers for appointment to the board from the Public: Service are not, however, to be- found only in the Department of
Trade. Clause 4 of the bill, therefore, provides that at least two, but not more than three, members shall, at the time of appointment, be officers of the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
An allied amendment is contained in clause 9 of the bill, which will delete the existing provision that one former public servant shall be a member of each committee of the board. This will permit more flexibility in the arrangements for handling the work of the board. The limitation in the number of former public servants who may be appointed to a committee of the board is, however, retained.
The remaining amendments to the act which are proposed by the bill are either drafting changes or relate to minor administrative matters. The latter relate to such things as the leave and allowances to be granted to members, the retention by former public servants of their existing rights, the presence of the chairman or deputy chairman to be necessary for a quorum of the board, and the control of proceedings at inquiries’.
I should like, however, to direct the attention of honorable members to the provisions in clauses 11 and 12 of the bill relating to the tabling of reports made by the board. The act provides that copies of the board’s annual reports and of certain other reports by the board shall be laid before each House of the Parliament within seven days of receipt by the Minister or, if Parliament is not sitting, within seven days of the next sitting of the Parliament. The Government Printer has found difficulty in printing copies of such reports within that time limit, and this has, on at least one occasion, necessitated a typed copy of the report being tabled before sufficient printed copies were available for distribution to honorable members and the general public. Clauses 11 and 12 of the bill would alter the timelimit to fifteen sitting days for each House.
In conclusion, I repeat that the bill arises out of the. Government’s efforts to speed up the work of. the Tariff Board and to reduce delays in the consideration of the claims of Australian industry for adequate tariff protection..
There is one matter relating to the Tariff. Board’s work which is not covered by the: bill, but which I should like to mention here because; it has a: considerable bearing on the, board’s ability to discharge its responsibilities. The board has power to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence, but its general practice is to rely on the voluntary submission of evidence. The Government appreciates the reasons for the board’s reluctance to use its powers in this respect. There have, however, been occasions when evidence has been submitted on a voluntary basis by only a small section of the industry producing the goods to which a particular inquiry related. I am sure honorable members will agree that, in such circumstances, it must be almost impossible for the board to present a balanced report or formulate appropriate recommendations.
I mention the matter here to indicate the importance that the Government attaches to the board’s receiving adequate evidence on the matters referred to it, and in the hope that it will induce Australian manufacturers and other interested parties to assist the board in this matter. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden). - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax (International Agreements) Act 1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal purpose of the Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill is to give the force of law to an agreement entered into last October by Australia and Canada for the purpose of relieving the double taxation on incomes flowing between the two countries. A secondary and minor purpose is to delete from section 16 of the Income Tax (International Agreements) Act 1953 reference to interest on certain government loans taxable at rates not in excess of 1930-31 rates of tax. Securities bearing this interest are not now held by the public and the reference in the existing law to the interest is redundant. In order to simplify the section, it is proposed to omit reference to this class of interest. The amendment will not apply for past years and will not detract from the rights of taxpayers.
The agreement to which it is proposed to give the force of law follows closely the income tax convention entered into with the United States of America and approved by the Parliament in 1953. The broad purposes of the agreement are similar to those adopted in the 1946 taxation agreement with the United Kingdom. Double taxation frequently occurs when income is derived by a resident of one country from sources in another country. Unless the burden of the taxation imposed by two countries is relieved, a serious impediment to international trade and investment may prove detrimental to both countries. Agreements with the United Kingdom and the United States of America have facilitated the investment of capital in Australia, and the development of this country has accordingly been assisted. It was in the light of the experience gained from the operation of these agreements that the Government concluded the present agreement with Canada.
In relation to some classes of income, double taxation is avoided by the country in which income arises agreeing to forgo its tax, thus leaving the country in which the recipient resides to collect its tax in full. The classes of income to which this procedure will apply are -listed in the explanatory memorandum which has been circulated for the information of honorable members. Other income, which constitutes the great bulk of the income flowing between the two countries, may be taxed in both countries. In these cases the country of origin collects its full tax. If the country in which the taxpayer resides also imposes its tax, the agreement places upon that country an obligation to allow a credit against its tax. By this means, the total burden of tax in the two countries is limited to the higher of the taxes imposed by the two countries.
The tax on dividends paid by a company resident in one country to a shareholder in the other country is, in the generality of cases, restricted to 15 per cent, of the dividend. This levy is additional to the tax payable on the profits out of which the dividend is paid. In the case of dividends paid by Australian public companies, all but an insignificant part of the profits at present bears company tax of 7s. 6d. in the £1 before the tax of 15 per cent, is imposed on dividends. Upon reaching the hands of individual shareholders in Canada, the dividends are also liable for Canadian tax, subject to any credit that the Canadian law may permit.
In addition to relieving undue double taxation, the agreement permits the taxation authorities of the two countries to exchange information in respect of income tax if the information is required for the operation of the agreement, the prevention of fraud or the administration of provisions against the avoidance of tax. The respective laws of the two countries enforce secrecy in relation to the information exchanged and, in any event, there is an embargo on the exchange of information relating to trade secrets or trade processes.
If the bill receives the Royal assent before 1st July this year the agreement will apply in Australia to income derived in the current financial year. Correspondingly, it will apply in Canada for the present taxation year which began on 1st January, 1958. A copy of the agreement is set Out in the schedule to the bill and an explanation of each article will be found in the memorandum circulated. Inquiries received since the signing of the agreement was announced indicate considerable interest in the efforts being made to encourage trade and investment between Australia and Canada. The Government is confident that the agreement will produce results favorable to the Australian economy and to the further expansion of industry in this country. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the application for the purposes of wheat research of certain moneys held by the Australian Wheat Board.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In the unavoidable absence of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), I have introduced the bill and make this second-reading speech on his behalf. The bill is intended to provide more money for wheat research. The moneys are the residual amounts left from the war-time wheat pools; they total £284,000. This is money that would have been paid to the growers as payment for wheat acquired by the Commonwealth, if it had been practicable. It has always been recognized that the money belongs morally to the growers; but legally it belongs to the Commonwealth as money received from the sale of Commonwealthacquired wheat. So this bill to appropriate the amount is necessary.
The wheat pools concerned are Nos. 2 to 11, covering the seasons from 1938-39 to 1947-48, and the amounts of the undistributable fractions for the pools are -
It will be noted that there is no reference to pool No. 3. That was really a part of No. 2 pool, and is included with it. Pool No. 1 1 shows no balance, as it was paid out in full, while m the case of No. 10 pool, a balance of £4,000 has been repaid to the Commonwealth against an overpayment that was made to the pool some years ago. The growers wish the money to be used in wheat research, although in the meantime, it has been held by the Australian Wheat Board and has served a good purpose by reducing the interest charge against successive wheat pools. The intention now is to combine this money with the amounts being contributed each season by growers for research.
Last year, the Wheat Research Act was passed. That act met the growers’ wish that they should be taxed, on their wheat deliveries each season, to provide regular funds for wheat research. The Wheat Research Act makes full provision for the use of the money that growers provide, and the amount covered by the present bill will be brought into the same plan. It will be a substantial addition to the regular payments, and good use can be made of it for the benefit of the wheat industry. Naturally, full consideration was given to the method of using the money. Obviously, it could have been given to a federal research body, to a State authority, or to a number of different research organizations. In fact, the advice of the State Ministers for Agriculture, meeting in the Australian Agricultural Council, was sought, tendered, and accepted.
The Australian Wheat Board was able to advise on the division of the amounts between the States. It was calculated according to the deliveries in each State to each pool; and so it gave accurately the share, of each State in the sum available. The Australian Agricultural Council recommended that the amount should be divided on the basis just mentioned, and this is provided for in the bill. The amounts to be paid to each State are set out in the schedule to the bill, and they range from £98,776 for New South Wales down to £95 for Tasmania.
Earlier it was said that the present £284,’000 is to be brought under the terms of the 1957 Wheat Research Act. The allocation for each State will be paid into a separate account, and from the account it will be paid out as approved by the committee for the State. I make it clear that growers will control the disposal of these funds, because wheat-grower members are in the .majority on each State Wheat Industry Research Committee. Those members are nominated by the State grower .organizations that are affiliated with the Australian Wheat Growers Federation.
The bill itself is simple. Provision is made for the Australian Wheat Board to pay the amount ,to Consolidated Revenue. This bill then provides that the £284,418 is appropriated The amount is apportioned among Ike State accounts; and the schedule sets -out the amount to be ;allocated .to each.
That finalizes the pool fractions; but it also starts something that will benefit the wheat industry fox -years to come. There is ,a great .scope for -research in Australia.
The need for it is known and recognized;, and here we are making it possible for more research to be carried out in connexion with one of our greatest rural industries. The Minister for Primary Industry is pleased that the stage has been reached of introducing a measure like this. The growers, the States, and the Commonwealth have combined in a worthy cause. AD recognize the benefits that have come from the research done in the past. It revolutionized our wheat industry, changed the appearance of the wheat districts, and gave benefit and profit to the whole Australian economy. All recognize the benefits still to come from research in the future; and all are anxious to provide the money that will ensure progress for the industry. Growers, States and Commonwealth are doing their parts in promoting research. This bill is one part of a big programme for our future benefit, and I know that it will be welcomed.
.- It is quite true that .not much time is available for honorable members to make a very thorough study of the contents of this measure, but I frankly admit that the second-reading speech delivered by the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) was notable for its clarity, lt explained very fully the purpose of the bill, and honorable members should be aware that the moneys which are to be appropriated from Consolidated Revenue represent part of the proceeds from the sales of wheat from the pools which were established and operated ‘from 1938-39 to 1947-48 under the Commonwealth’s war-time powers. For the benefit of honorable members who may not know, I point out that after 1947-48 wheat was no longer acquired under war-time legislation. Pools have operated since 1947-48, with the exception of two crops after the war-time period, because to-day all of Australia’s wheat is marketed by one authority, .as it was -during the war period and for -a few seasons thereafter, but with the. difference that to-day the wheat is marketed by a semi-governmental authority on which the wheat growers’ representatives form a majority. The flour-millers and employees ,-are represented also. The authority to market wheat is vested in the Australian Wheat Board by legislation of not only this Parliament but also of the six State parliaments.
The present system differs from the wartime and immediate post-wax marketing system’ “of outright acquisition of the- whole of the wheat-growers’ product. It is quite apparent that iff the marketing of a huge crop, such as wheat, when an authority deals with freights, fares, storage charges and all the other administrative expenses, balances will accrue in the final accountancy, in some cases involving decimal points. In dealing with the distribution of the proceeds of pools the authority is dealing with the proceeds of sales made from time to time.
– And assets, too.
– And assets, too. There must inevitably come a time when it is very difficult, in finalizing accounts, to obviate fractional balances which are really the property of the- people whose product has been, marketed but which it would be manifestly absurd for any authority, government or otherwise, to endeavour to distribute among growers, particularly as a proportion of the proceeds usually does not come in during the growing or marketing year. It would be foolish and futile to attempt to distribute amounts to a decimal point of a penny to the growers concerned. The end result of refraining from any such endeavour has meant that in respect of the series of war-time marketing pools and the few pools immediately after the war a balance of £284,000 has accumulated. Morally, this is undoubtedly the property of the wheat-growers, but legally it is the property of the authority which acquired the wheat under war-time legislation.
– The wheat first belonged to the growers, no matter who acquired it.
– If the honorable member had only listened’ he would have heard me say that as the wheat was acquired by the authority under the defence powers of the Commonwealth, legally it was the property of the Commonwealth Government. Surely, he does not dispute that. But I said also that, morally, the proceeds from the sale of that wheat were the property of the wheat-growers. This Government, as would any government, recognizes that fact and it is now proceeding to distribute to the industry, but not to the growers, receipts which have accumulated in the way I have indicated’. I would” prefer - as no doubt the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) and the Minister would - that if it were feasible to do so, the actual last penny or decimal point of a penny should be paid to the men who- produced the crop. But that would involve huge administrative expenses and all sorts of difficulties. I believe that the wheat-growers, as an enlightened section of the community, appreciate the fact that any government, whatever its party political complexion, which devotes the undistributable proportion of proceeds from the sale of their product to the important purpose of research on behalf of their industry, confers an eminently desirable benefit on them.
One could quibble about this type of measure. The Minister told the Parliament to-day that the wheat-growers have agreed to- this method of applying this sum of £284,000 for research purposes. But everybody knows that the wheat-growers have not, in fact, been consulted about the matter. All that we can conclude from the Minister’s statement is that the executive members of the wheat-growers’ organization, after considering this matter and believing that they voiced the wishes of the people whom they represent, have said, “ Go ahead “.
– That is really an expression of the opinion of the rank and file.
– Generally speaking, it is fairly right for this sort of thing to be done, although occasionally it is quite wrong. However, I think it is agreed that this decision is sound and sensible. I have no doubt that many of the growers, the sale of whose product has contributed to this sum of £284,000, will shuffle off this planet before the benefits of its expenditure on research become apparent. Nevertheless, those growers realize that such benefits will be enjoyed by their sons and relatives who will carry on in the industry long after they have left this earthly scene.
The Opposition has always advocated research in the wheat-growing industry. Honorable members on this side of the House realize that research which is designed to advance any industry will, directly or indirectly, also foster the welfare of the nation as a whole. Consequently, the Opposition wholeheartedly supports this measure. It is st. happy thought on the part of the industry and the Government. The money is to be distributed in a manner similar to that in which the moneys derived from the tax which growers recently imposed upon themselves are to be distributed.
In case the Government should feel that it is pioneering this type of distribution, I shall delve into history and remind the Minister of the wheat pool that operated in Victoria as part of an overall wheatmarketing arrangement during World War I. Under that arrangement, the Victorian Wheat Board sold a large cargo of Victorian wheat to the Rumanian Government. Unfortunately, so far as I know, the Rumanian Government was never able to pay for that wheat. Certainly, it had not paid for the wheat by 1931. However, each year until 1931, the Rumanian Government religiously paid interest to the Victorian Wheat Board on bonds which it had issued to the Victorian Government, those bonds being of a value equal to that of the wheat it had purchased.
Over the years, a substantial sum of money accumulated in the Victorian Treasury from this source. On one occasion, the Victorian Director of Agriculture asked me to sign a certain document. Being of an inquiring, almost inquisitive, turn of mind, I asked what it was all about. He told me that the money involved was revenue that had accumulated from the payment of interest by the Rumanian Government on bonds issued by that government for the supply of wheat during World War I. When I asked what was being done with the money, I was told that it was put in a trust fund in the Treasury. I said, “ lt is time the money was rooted out of the Treasury “. !
After some investigation had been made, it was decided that this money should be invested in Victoria upon research. As a result, we have to-day at Walpeup one of the best wheat research farms in Australia. Its work is devoted entirely to research into wheat, and its establishment was made possible by the expenditure of these accumulated moneys. I do not think even the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) was aware of how that institution came to be established. I have always felt proud of the part I played in initiating the move that resulted in taking that money out of the Treasury and putting it to active work in the interests of the wheat industry. I mention that instance as a previous example of the type of expenditure proposed by the measure under consideration. Although on this occasion the source of the money is different, the principle is similar. As I was pushed off the scene in Victoria, I am unable to say whether the Rumanian Government ever paid its original obligation.
The Opposition wishes this measure well. We support it ardently. We feel sure that the allocation of this money to the respective States for utilization in a manner similar to that in which the moneys provided under legislation passed recently are to be used will do much to develop research work calculated to benefit this industry.
There is great need for this research work. It is said by some that Australian wheats are not all that they ought to be. When that assertion is made, I always reply that it cannot be said that any wheats produced anywhere are all that they ought to be. Despite what may be said to the contrary, I hold the view that Australian wheat has many qualities which are not possessed by wheats produced in other parts of the world. For instance, it is true that Canadian wheat has certain virtues, but it lacks certain other qualities possessed by Australian wheat. I feel that it can be said with truth that there is room for improvement in all wheats. For example, there is great need for research into the development of varieties suitable for certain climates. There is great need for research into the development of varieties which are resistant to certain diseases that attack wheat at the moment and which will be resistant to other diseases that might attack them in future. Anything that can be done in these directions is a worthy contribution to the welfare of not only those directly interested in the industry but also the economy as a whole.
I do not suppose there is any limit to the directions in which research work can be undertaken for the benefit of the community. For instance, an excellent example of the benefit of research is to be found in the history of the research conducted into the prolongation of human life. It is due mainly to research by persons skilled in medicine and surgery, over the last 50 years, that the average expectancy of life has been increased by approximately fifteen years. Anything, whether it be legislation or any other action designed to encourage, extend and assert the improvement of the conditions under which the human race lives, is heartily welcomed by the Opposition as something really worthwhile. We welcome the bill and support it strongly.
.- I shall be very brief on this occasion, for all I wish to do is compliment the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) upon the explanation that he has given of the bill, supplementary to the explanation given by the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), on behalf of the Minister for Primary Production (Mr. McMahon), in his secondreading speech. There is no doubt that the bill meets with the approval of all honorable members. I do not think it likely that any honorable member will oppose the legislation, either during the debate or when the measure is put to the vote.
I take it that the moneys involved are to be distributed in the same way as the profits from the sale of wool by the Joint Organization were distributed when the owners could not be found. Legislation similar to this was passed for that purpose.
I should like to express one hope at this juncture. I hope that the Government will be able to get operating as quickly as possible the committees that are being set up in the States for the purpose of conducting research into the wheat industry. I understand that at the moment some difficulty is being encountered in setting up these committees in some States. The bill is a good one for, as was ably pointed out by the honorable member for Lalor, research into the development of the wheat industry is necessary. The higher the standard we can develop, the better it is for the community and the nation.
.- There is one aspect of the bill which can be stressed with advantage at this stage. As the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) has so ably explained, the bill provides for the payment of £284,000 which is at present held in reserve and which cannot be distributed without legislative authority. It is money derived from the sale of wheat which was compulsorily acquired during the war period. The money is to be paid by the Australian Wheat Board to the Treasury, and from the Treasury into a wheat research trust fund, which was set up by this Parliament under the Wheat Research Act. From that fund, moneys will be paid to the States in accordance with a formula based on deliveries of wheat in each State to some nine pools. Western Australia’s share will be £50,477.
The feature that I wish to highlight is that this is another instance of a self-imposed tax. Wheat-growers set a splendid example in this respect when the Wheat Research Act was first introduced. Under that legislation, the growers agreed to impose upon themselves a tax for the purpose of financing research into ways of improving both their product and their industry. Although, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has said, each individual wheat-grower who is concerned in the distribution of this amount has not been consulted in connexion with it, the leaders of the wheat-growers’ associations have been consulted and have intimated that this is the way in which this money should be used. It would not have been possible to have consulted all the wheat-growers concerned. I feel on safe ground when I say that had the Government, even without consulting the wheat-growers’ representatives, decided on this course of action, it would have received the approval of the wheat-growers because they are determined to take all measures possible to discover ways of improving their industry and its product.
This is a matter which needs finalizing at this stage because it can be accepted, and it should be accepted, as an example to the rest of the community and to other industries. Earlier this week, in this House, I had occasion to say that the remarks that are so often passed concerning the need to improve efficiency in primary industries in order to meet world competition, could well be applied to other industries. Certain industries, instead of seeking protection from competition, and instead of seeking handouts from other people so that they may continue to make profits, should themselves try to discover how they can produce more efficiently and effectively and improve their products in order to meet overseas competition. If those other industries, particularly secondary industries, were to adopt the principle that is so generously adopted by a section of the community which has not very much reason to say “ Thank you “ for the treatment that it has received generally, there would not be so much need for the Government and the taxpayer to provide assistance. As the honorable member for Lalor has said, this is not a contentious measure but it is one that can be hoisted to the highest point of the mast as an example of the self-sacrificing endeavour on the part of a section of the community which is desirous of helping itself instead of asking the Government to help it. I support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the application for the purposes of wheat research of certain moneys held by the Australian Wheat Board.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 4 (Board to pay certain undistributed moneys to the Commonwealth).
.- In clause 4 there is a reference to the undistributed fractions that are responsible, of course, for the accumulation of this great sum of money. I speak at this moment only to direct the attention of the industry to the fact that had it not been for acquisition and the system of marketing introduced at the direction of the Commonwealth Government, during the war, there could not have been any fractions available for return to the wheat-grower or for research. A similar situation will, of course, arise under the present scheme of stabilization and marketing under State and Commonwealth legislation.
I remind wheat-growers and members of Parliament that under the old order of things, in peace-time, all the fractions went into the pockets of those who dealt and speculated in wheat. Any moneys required for research came, not from the industry, but from the general taxpayers. Little research work was done, but some of it was very good. However, it was not the wheat-grower who gained the benefit from the funds provided by the taxpayer. The only persons who gained the benefit and who pocketed the fractions were the wheat dealers and speculators of this country and of other countries who came here to buy wheat.
It should be remembered that under the present type of marketing, to which this bill does not specifically refer, the same situation could arise. It should be always remembered that in marketing under governmental authority and in organized marketing provided for in subsequent legislation, the fractions all go into the pockets of the wheat-growers and not into the pockets of the middlemen. I shall leave it at that. I thought that this was an appropriate occasion to remind the industry that it should never relinquish that which has been won and that which was pioneered by a Labour government.
.- I am tempted to say a few words in view of the remarks made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I agree with him to the extent that some fractions might have gone to the dealers in wheat who also gained the benefit of the increase in the weight of wheat during its carriage from Australia to its destinations on the other side of the world. I am reminded, however, that a long time before these fractions were made possible by legislation Western Australian wheat-farmers were successfully engaging in a voluntary wheat pool. The honorable member for Lalor shakes his head in dissent. He will remember, I think, that one of the reasons for the establishment of the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank was an endeavour to finance that voluntary wheat pool in Western Australia. He will also remember that, as a result of the experience gained during that period, when the last war broke out two men who had been closely engaged in conducting the wheat pool in Western Australia were co-opted by the Commonwealth to help in the handling of wheat, not only Western Australian wheat, but Australian wheat generally. These two men were John Thompson and Sir John Teasdale.
– There was no overall Commonwealth pool then.
– I admit that; but I remind the honorable member, with whom I have battled for some years over this wheat question, that he is just a little wide of the mark when he says that never before had the growers enjoyed that protection until the Labour Government introduced the legislation.
– I did not say that.
– I join issue with the honorable member there. While these fractions will be used for wheat research, I remind the honorable member that wheatgrowers in Western Australia placed a levy on themselves for wheat research long before the Commonwealth Government, thought about engaging in any such activity.
I think that what I have said needed to be said, because I think that the voluntary pool established in Western Australia years ago was the forerunner of the present system of organized marketing of wheat. I hope that this system will continue in existence so that in future more fractions can go to wheat research, not only to benefit the farmers as a result of the experience gained but also to benefit the community because, by and large, under this organized marketing principle the community has benefited-
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed, to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22nd April (vide page 1118), on motion by Mr. Davidson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in opening the debate on this measure for the Opposition last night, did a service to the House and the community by again forcefully directing attention to the degree to which the control of television services has been placed in the hands of combines already controlling newspapers and radio services to a very great extent in this country. The shareholdings in the existing television stations are given on pages 29 and 30 of the Ninth Annual Report of the Australian
Broadcasting Control Board, and the extent to which the newspaper combines have control of this additional means of disseminating mass information is quite readily seen there. The holdings are very substantial in practically every existing television station. The lists give the names of the combines and the number of shares that is held by each. They give the direct shareholdings of these companies in television stations, but they do not, of course, reveal any indirect holding through interlocking directorates or through subsidiaries, as the case may be.
We believe that it is wrong that this means of disseminating public information should be held as it is held by the newspaper combines. It is interesting to quote from the fortnightly journal, “ Broadcasting and Television “ which, in an editorial published in its issue of 6th September last year, in discussing frequency modulation broadcasting, had this to say -
Most significant aspect of the FM inquiry in Sydney was the intense interest shown by newspaper companies in entering the field.
The way it looks to us, newspaper companies seem more interested in investing their money in radio or TV than in their own field.
Consolidated Press, ranking among the country’s biggest groups, which has the major share in TCN, seeks a city FM station licence.
So does “Truth & Sportsman”, an equally powerful independent newspaper group which unsuccessfully applied for a TV permit for Sydney and which revealed that it had sought a radio station licence for a long time.
For years, newspaper control of radio has been a contentious subject in Parliament, although happily there is still a healthy measure of independent ownership.
Newspapers have the major share in two of the four commercial TV stations, complete ownership of the third and an important share in the fourth. By contrast, radio has a relatively minor shareholding in TV, while independent radio is way in the background.
We learn that newspaper interests are also dominant in groups which are now lining up to apply for TV permits in capitals like Brisbane and Adelaide.
At the moment, radio and TV are eyeing each other warily and going about their business separately without openly - yet - warring for either business or audience.
But if newspapers open FM stations, competing in the sound medium with long-established AM outlets, there could well develop most spirited competition.
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) followed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the debate. As is his usual custom - and I am certain that he will not mind my saying this, although he is not in the chamber at the moment - he devoted the time at his disposal to an attack on the Labour party. I have heard a great number of speeches made by the honorable member for Mackellar, and they disclosed that, practically without exception, he seems to follow the precept that the best defence is attack, and devotes his time to a constant and continuing attack on the Labour party and its members. I think that there was one notable exception to this, when he made a speech dealing with the need for a unified rail gauge in Australia.
The honorable member for Mackellar referred quite definitely to the possibility of Labour’s returning to the treasury bench in this Parliament. He referred to it as a remote possibility, but his words showed a really urgent fear that the return of Labour to the treasury bench was much more imminent than he would really wish to convey to the Parliament. It may be that he has the ability, as he has demonstrated before, to read the writing on the wall and that he seeks to prepare for the change that will take place. When the honorable member spoke of the necessity for amending sections 86 and 87 of the principal act - which are the sections providing for the revocation and suspension of licences - he spoke of it because, he said, he feared a misuse of those powers by a future Labour government. I shall quote from the honorable member’s remarks as reported on page 1115 of “Hansard” of 22nd April. He said - . . as it happens, the power to control radio and television is inherent in the Federal Government, and if, by any evil chance, a Labour Government should come in at some far distant time, it would not scruple to use that power to develop a permanent totalitarian monopoly of the sources of information. Labour has tried to do that before.
Those are the words used by the honorable member for Mackellar. I remind the honorable member and any other honorable member who may hold similar ideas, or may, at this stage, express similar ideas, that when Labour was in office, with majorities in both Houses of the Parliament, it did none of the dreadful things forecast and feared by the honorable member for Mackellar and those who speak in a similar strain. If there is a danger in the provisions of the act it is, in my view, in the possibility that by some misfortune an honorable member of the outlook of the honorable member for Mackellar will be appointed to a future Cabinet and be entrusted with the administration of the act.
– God forbid!
– I agree with my friend from Grayndler who made that pious ejaculation. The honorable member for Mackellar, I think, should be reminded that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a completely socialized institution. It was established by the State, it is controlled by the State and it is financed by the State. It has no need to compete for business or for listeners. It has no need to make profits and no need to pay dividends. Indeed, it has no shareholders to whom it must report.
– And no private censorship.
– Yes, it has no private censorship. The honorable member for Mackellar should remember that this socialized institution was established by a non-Labour government, a government of the complexion of that which now occupies the treasury bench and to which the honorable member sometimes gives his support. He should have remembered, when he was dealing with certain action taken by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) during the years of war, that it was a Country party Postmaster -General, using the powers of the act which we are now debating, who put radio station 2KY off the air and kept it off the air for several days. Where power has been misused, it has not been by a Labour administration or a Labour Minister. If the honorable member for Mackellar hates socialism so much, let us ask him what he would do with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, this completely socialized institution set up by an anti-Labour government. Would he sell it? Would he hand it over to a newspaper combine, perhaps appointing Mr. Frank Packer as managing director or chairman of directors of the company?
I should like now to refer to television services in this country. I am one of those who, when the introduction of television was being discussed in this House, rose in their places and opposed it. I opposed it because I had a very real fear of the effect that television would have on the children and young people of this country. I think that fear has been largely justified, and in this regard I remind honorable members of the programme examples given by the honorable member for Melbourne last night. I opposed the introduction of television on the further ground that there was no public clamour for it at the time. Honorable members of the Country party also opposed the introduction of television services because they felt - and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Minister himself opposed it on these grounds - that there was a greater need to press on with the extension of telephone services in the country areas than to bring television services to the crowded cities of the Commonwealth. That view, I believe, was held quite properly by the Country party at that time.
I repeat that I feared the effect that television would have on the children and young people of to-day. For that reason I opposed its introduction. Now television is here. It is already established in two of the capital cities of the Commonwealth, and there is not the slightest doubt that there is now a public clamour for the extension of television services. I do believe, however, from my own viewing of television, that there is a real reason to fear the effect that the type of programmes now being shown will have on the minds of young children and adolescents. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in his speech last night, spoke of the kind of so-called entertainment that is being shown by both national and commercial stations.
– They show cast-off programmes from America.
– That is so. Of course, there are similar programme problems in that country, where television stations are showing cowboy pictures seventeen years old. I, personally, do not mind cowboy pictures; what I object to are programmes depicting stabbings and other brutalities such as were mentioned last night by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
There is, however, a real demand for the extension of television services. The PostmasterGeneral has indicated the way in which these services will be extended. I take it, from his most recent statement, that the next step will be the introduction of services in Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart, followed by an extension of services to the larger country centres. I regret that the Minister has not been more definite in setting out the stages in which this progression will take place. When he is replying on this bill he may, perhaps, feel inclined to be more definite than he has been in replies that he has given in this chamber and in another place.
I assume, from the remarks of the Minister, that he includes Canberra, the National Capital, in the larger country centres that he has mentioned. It also appears that the plans for extended television services provide for two stations in this National Capital. I assume that one of them will be a national station and that the other will be operated by commercial enterprise. It seems to me that the establishment of television services in the capital cities of Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart may well involve the Commonwealth, or those establishing the services, in very considerable expenditure. I suggest, however, that we should not delay the introduction of television services to Canberra because of considerations of expense, nor should we put those considerations forward as a good reason for delaying the introduction of television here. I am not in any way an expert on electronics, but I have been told by persons who are knowledgeable in this field that with the extension of the microwave radio link from Goulburn to Canberra, and the use of existing buildings and existing transmission masts, a national television service, a relay or repeater station, could be established in this city for as little as £5,000. This estimate envisages, of course, a low-powered station - I think a half-kilowatt station. This would give adequate service to the National Capital and the adjacent town of Queanbeyan, and would possibly enable programmes to be received on the outskirts of Yass. No excuse of expense can, therefore, be put forward for failure to introduce television services in the National Capital.
The Minister may be able to disprove the figures that I give. I should like him to refer to them when he replies in this debate, and to say whether the estimates that I have been given could be correct. I repeat that my information is that with the extension of the microwave radio link from Goulburn to Canberra, and the use of existing buildings and masts - I am told that the buildings are quite adequate and that television antennae could easily be erected on the existing masts - we could have a repeater station broadcasting, the programmes of Sydney stations for as little as £5,000. I am also told that, in the same way, with the extension of the microwave link and the use of existing buildings and transmission masts, we could establish in the National Capital an initiating television station for as little as £20,000, and that if it were necessary to provide separate buildings, mobile trucks and certain other equipment, this could be done for as little as £50,000.
If the figures given to me are correct, it is quite clear that those who are now resident in the Australian Capital Territory, and those who are soon to be transferred here from a city in which they already have television services, could be provided with television here for a cost that is practically negligible. I hope the Minister will have something to say on this aspect of the matter when he replies in this debate.
– And the people here will get bad programmes, too.
– The programmes, in my view, are bad, but the fact is that people here are demanding television services. Perhaps that fact is worth bringing to the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who is now in the chamber. I understand that many of those who are scheduled to be transferred here from Melbourne are reluctant to leave the fleshpots of that city, one reason being that the television sets on which they have spent large sums of money, and which have become part of their family lives, will be of no use to them when they come here in 1959, unless the Postmaster-General is able to arrange for the provision of television services here.
– There will be more live artist shows here than in Melbourne.
– That is a possibility, too. I now wish to refer to some aspects of the service provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I wish to refer, in particular, to what I regard as the timidity of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in regard to its news services and commentaries. It is, of course, understandable. Let me say, at once, that my criticism is directed not at the news gatherers - those who provide the news services as far as the distribution point - but at those who are engaged in the control of those services. It seems to me that, in large measure, the commission is in the same position as the large newspaper organizations. Editors and sub-editors who are handling a large amount of news fed to them from outside services quite naturally tend to re-write, to head up and so on, according to the policy that is followed by the proprietors of their newspaper. I very much fear that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in its handling of news services and news commentaries, is affected by a certain timidity - a reluctance to say or do anything that might give offence to the government of the day.
– There are one or two commercial broadcasting stations like that.
– That may be so. I repeat, it is not the fault of the news gatherers. I do not suggest that it is even implemented as an actual policy, but rather by means of inter-office memo, by casual conversation in the news room and so on, in order to tone down what might be critical of the Government, and so avoid offending, those who are providing the wherewithal. I believe that the commission is extremely sensitive to criticism and I would suggest that, so far as the news services, and the news commentaries in particular, are concerned, it would be better not to have quite so many academicians handling the commentaries but, instead, more competent,, trained journalists - men with keen minds,, who know what news is, know how to. present it and know how to interpret it. I really believe that that would lead to a great improvement in the news commentaries. Perhaps some of the forums also could be a little more daring, and put men on the air who will express a forceful point: of view and argue the situation without any limitations such as I have mentioned. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has, I believe, ceased to compete with the commercial stations in its handling of news and commentaries. There is a danger that it is becoming too remote from its own listeners.
I would pay a tribute to the commission for the work that it has done in popularizing and encouraging the playing of classical music. I believe that its expenditures in this field - these are matters well within the ambit of the bill and the principal act - have been admirable indeed, and have given a great fillip to the cultural pursuits. However, I suggest that it has been done at the expense of the variety programmes. Although the commission, as a socialized institution financed by the Government and responsible to the Government, has no need to woo its listeners, no need to show a profit, no need to pay dividends, there is, I suggest, a real need for it to compete actively with what other stations are offering; that it should aim at drawing at least 50 per cent, of the listening public. Although its work is extremely valuable in the fields that I have mentioned, it cannot really achieve its full purpose unless it attracts to its beams the great majority of the listening public.
Some of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes are really excellent, indeed, and there are some men who stand out in the field of light entertainment - men like Reg Adams, with his programme in the morning, “ Yours’ For the Asking “, or his much earlier programme, “ Music Bright and Early “ or, as he says, “ Much too early “. There is Russ Tyson and his breakfast session, and “ Hospital Half Hour “. There is the children’s session, conducted by that famous Scotsman, MacTavish, who has been conducting it for years; the “ Country Hour “; the “ Kindergarten of the Air “, and the women’s sessions. Those sessions really come up to the standard of commercial programmes and really compete, but in the main the Australian Broadcasting Commission is not competing with other stations. It is dropping behind in the race. It should aim at getting at least 50 per cent, of the listening public, so that its valuable work can really achieve widespread results. Of course, in the ultimate, if the commission is not attracting listeners to its programmes, if it is beaming programmes that are above the heads of the listening public, it might as well not be on the air at all. I hope that some of the money now being expended on classical programmes - on programmes that could be classed as highbrow - will be devoted to the variety and light programmes. It is tragic to listen to some of the programmes that are broadcast in the name of variety. The only worthwhile variety programmes are those which are first put over the air by the British Broadcasting Commission.
– Such as the “ Goon Show “?
– I must admit that while I was speaking to my younger brother in Hobart last night I heard the bells ringing and said, “ I must go into the House “. My brother said, “ Will it be broadcast? “ I said “ Yes “. He said “ I might as well listen to it. I have just been listening to the other Goon Show “. The programmes to which I have referred are the only worthwhile variety programmes put over the air by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Much more money should be spent on script-writers. 1 am certain that we have the actors and performers, but I am equally certain that you cannot hope to produce a lively and bright variety show unless you are prepared to pay a salary that will attract the really competent, brilliant and witty script-writer of the kind that writes the shows of the British Broadcasting Com. mission, which is so pre-eminent in this field.
In the minute or two left to me, I should like to say that it seems to me that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board acts in such a way as to give protection to the vested broadcasting and television interests. I say that for this reason: From time to time we have heard tributes to the pioneers of the broadcasting field - men who started on a shoe-string, worked hard to attract advertising sponsors, and finally made a success of their business venture. That cannot, of course, be done to-day because the Australian Broadcasting Control Board requires that certain conditions shall be complied with before any one is granted a licence to establish a broadcasting station. The first requirement is that a frequency channel shall be available. That is understandable. What is not understandable is the refusal of the board to give further consideration to the European practice of reducing the separation in kilocycles per second from the standard ten, used here and in the United States of America, to nine used in Europe. If that were done more stations could be fitted on the existing broadcasting band.
The further conditions which must be satisfied are -
Those conditions are a complete bar to the man who has technical knowledge, ability and enthusiasm to enter into this business as has been done in the past with stations that already exist. Those conditions mean that the only man who can enter the field of broadcasting and television is one who has considerable capital behind him. The actual result will be that the combines and the big companies that are already interested will monopolize those fields. There are country areas in Australia into which broadcasting services could well be extended by a re-arrangement of the broadcasting band.
I repeat that I am not an expert on these matters, but I have had expert advice which suggests that the spacing between stations of ten kilocycles per second is more than the separation required. It leads to sloppy broadcasting. No commercial broadcasting station needs anything like that spacing to give sharp and clear reproduction. If we did examine again the possibility of reducing the spacing to nine kilocycles per second, as is done in Europe, more than the present 150-odd stations could be fitted into the existing broadcast band.
I do not think that difficulties of this sort should be placed in the path of those who wish to enter this field. We pay tribute to the pioneers of the past, but we are killing any opportunity for pioneers to start again in this field. That proposition was put to the previous Postmaster-General and an answer was subsequently given by the present occupant of that office in the following terms: -
The possibility of using 9 kilocycles a second separation between stations in Australia has been examined but has been rejected as not being in the best interests of Australian listeners. It is of interest also that, despite the large number of stations in the United States of America, the spacing between stations of 10 kilocycles per second has been maintained.
I repeat that in the list available in publications from overseas, particularly the Copenhagen List of which the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) would have knowledge, it is stated that satisfactory broadcasting is obtained with a separation of nine kilocycles a second. I believe the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should examine this matter again because, with the improved techniques and equipment available to-day, surely sharp broadcasting could be obtained without the spacing between stations that is followed in Australia to-day.
.- The measure that is before the House - a bill to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1956 - is, in the words of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), who introduced it, more or less a machinery measure. Therefore, I do not propose to discuss it in detail; but I take advantage of this opportunity, as has been done by other speakers, to say a few words about television services and their administration and the general conduct of this great medium of publicity. I should say at the outset that a significant feature of this Parliament has been the lack of desire on the part of Government members to defend their legislation. This afternoon I have been called upon to speak directly after another member of the Australian Labour party because honorable members on the Government side are not prepared to defend this legislation as they should do. They realize that the criticism that is levelled at them by the Opposition is difficult to answer.
I am not worried about the responsible Ministers. They alone on the Government side know anything about these matters and do not care to speak. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), who has been interjecting persistently, probably has not been told anything about the provisions of this measure. Therefore, with other supporters of the Government, he sits on a back bench, while this important subject of television is under discussion, like one of the hillbillies whom we see constantly on the television screen. I am not surprised that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), who will follow me, did not want to precede me. He knows very well that he would come under strong criticism from me and he seeks to dodge it. I mention these matters because supporters of the Australian Labour party are opposing this measure, as was stated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in a splendid speech last night. The Opposition is opposing this measure for the same reason that it opposed the original act. I shall not go into the lengthy amendment that was submitted previously by the Opposition and which was read by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition last night. He made it clear to the people that this great medium of publicity should be under government control.
I was interested to receive and read a document relating to television services generally, and I want to refer to one aspect of its contents in order to clarify the position of the Australian Labour party on the issue of television which is so important to the people. In its 1955 report, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board stated -
Television is so effective as a medium that a wrong use of it would do tremendous harm, especially in the early stages before any. local standard of taste has been set, and the very novelty of the medium will encourage the viewer to look at anything. Television, on the other hand, can confer real benefits on the Australian people. Whether it does or does not will depend on the standards demanded at the start, and the willingness of the licensees to accept their responsibilities and to develop their services with proper regard to the public interest and an appreciation of the privileges conferred on them by the grant of a licence. That view was endorsed by those who gave evidence to us on behalf of applicants for licences for commercial television stations. All these witnesses agreed that the privileges which will be enjoyed by the successful applicants for T.V. station licences will be very great, and licensees should, therefore, have no reluctance to comply with the high standards which will be required.
For those reasons, among others, the policy of the Australian Labour party includes nationalization of radio services and television. We believe that this medium of publicity has such far-reaching effects upon every section of the community that, in the public interest, it should be under national control and under the control of the people’s representatives. What do we find to-day? As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has stated, the Government has set up in business with television licences the huge newspaper monopolies and combines. Since this Government came to office, every section of the community has come to realize that, in all spheres of industry, monopolies have grown bigger and bigger. That has been one development under the Menzies-Fadden Government.
The annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended 30th June, 1957, gives, at page 29, a list of companies which have been granted licences for television stations. They include: Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited, licensee of Station ATN, Sydney, whose shareholders include the Sun-Herald-2UE Group - Associated Newspapers Limited, John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited, Radio 2UE Sydney Proprietary Limited; the John FairfaxMacquarie Group - including John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited and 2GB Macquarie-Artransa; and the 2GBMacquarieArtransa Group. The shareholders of Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited also include the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Group, including Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Email Limited, G. B. S. Falkiner, W. H. Paling and Company Limited, Australian United Investment Company Limited and the Australian Record Company Limited. All of these are just battling companies with interlocking directorates which control the destinies of the people in the television field. A little later, it is stated that shareholdings are held in Television Corporation Limited, licensee of station TCN, Sydney, by Consolidated Press Limited, Associated Newspapers Limited, England, Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited, Broadcasting Station 2SM Proprietary Limited, and Paramount Film Service Proprietary Limited.
Examining the position in Melbourne, we find that shareholdings are held in General Television Corporation Proprietary Limited, licensee of Station GTV, Melbourne, by Electronic Industries Limited - the Honorable Sir Arthur Warner is a prominent figure in the Liberal party and industries associated with this company - David Syme and Company Limited, Hoyts Theatres Limited, Greater Union Theatres Proprietary Limited, and Nilsen’s Broadcasting
Service Proprietary Limited. Shareholdings are held in Herald-Sun TV Proprietary Limited, licensee of Station HSV, Melbourne, by Herald and Weekly Times Limited, and Associated Newspapers Limited, London.
So we see again how this monopoly of newspapers, film interests and others have added to their great wealth, power and influence over the Australian people by being granted by a benevolent government through its instrumentality, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, these licences which confer power, as claimed in evidence before the royal commission, to change the lives and the destinies of people throughout the length and breadth of this country.
Last night, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), said that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board intends to set up 42 new channels in New South Wales, two in Canberra, 26 in Victoria, twenty in Queensland, twelve in Western Australia, ten in South Australia, and eight in Tasmania - a total of 120 new channels. Are they to be granted to the huge newspaper monopolies in these States so that the conditions we have seen will continue? Will the Labour party be given one of the licences? I think not! This Government seeks to tie up political control as well as newspaper control through its friends that give out these licences to the vested interests mentioned in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It will be found, for instance, that there will be a further expansion of private enterprise into these avenues of publicity and these mediums of influence far beyond anything that should be permitted people with no responsibility or no rights in respect of this great medium of publicity.
It is well, Mr. Speaker, to bear in mind the growth, under a benevolent government, of this monopoly which means so much and affects the people so greatly. Why, for instance, was not the “ Daily Mirror “ given a licence at one time if the Government seeks to give licences to newspapers? It was for one reason only: The proprietor of that paper, Mr. Ezra Norton, is at times somewhat critical - and rightly so - of the collection of incompetents who make up the Government. They do not like criticism. They realized the value of television and, therefore, they were determined not to give the medium to newspaper proprietors who might use it in the public interest by presenting impartially to the people the shortcomings of the Administration in Canberra.
There is a dangerous trend in our nation. It is dangerous when interests can be given control over a huge medium of publicity whilst the Government sits idly by. Its members will not get up and defend the legislation, yet they seek to give this great power and influence to people with no responsibility, as they have done in banking and industry and other things in order that the monopolists may be served in preference to the people of this country.
These are matters that might well be considered by all and sundry because whilst to-day the Government thinks they do not matter a great deal, an additional 120 licences, when they are given out, will have a great effect on all sections of the Australian people. It should therefore be realized that the Postmaster-General and those who sit behind him are responsible for the granting of licences; they have been given to the newspaper monopolies, those who control press publicity and this medium of propaganda in Australia.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, those licences affect every section of the people, and when you realize that to-day there are over 200,000 television sets in Australia, that in America four out of five people own television sets, you will realize the power that is given to private interests.
It need not be said that the Labour party is the only one that believes in the nationalization of this service. Great churchmen have spoken on this problem and mentioned it in evidence before the royal commission that was set up on this matter. They pointed to the need for the nation to control this medium of publicity through its government, the elected representatives of the people. We find, as the honorable member for Melbourne said last night, that in all spheres of activity associated with television, from the granting of the licences to the manufacturing side as well as the propaganda side, monopolists are taking control. As he said, in 1957 there were 23 manufacturers of television sets in Australia; by the end of this year, there will probably be only six or seven left.
I shall leave that point, as my time is somewhat limited, but I should like to reiterate that the nationalization of television services in our time will prove to be the only effective way in which this great modern medium of propaganda may be administered in the interests of the Australian people. 1 say quite frankly that I like television. I have seen it in America and in Great Britain and I realize its importance and the great things that can come from it. In this country of ours with but a limited sphere of activity so far despite what has been done by those monopolists who control it, there is the average session that is well worth looking at and well worth enjoying. I enjoy, for instance, hearing the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other people as they have appeared in “ Meet the Press “ and other sessions of that nature. I think there are great things that can be brought to the people by television, but at the same time, I am not unmindful of the fact that many of the programmes require continued supervision and that something should be done to improve them.
Last night, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other speakers dealt with a number of programmes. I am concerned with the programme situation because I think it is vital that in television we should give preference to our own artists. We should see that the people have Australian productions by Australian artists. What is urgently needed in this country is an Australian sentiment in the production of entertainment. I have nothing against the American productions; they probably suit the American people. Many people here probably like them, too, but there is no reason why the television screens in this country should be cluttered up with the American type of hill-billy programmes, crime programmes and other things, when there are many stories that could be written about the development of this great nation which could be provided entertainingly, effectively, and educationally by Australian artists employed in this great industry, thus bringing some form of benefit to the country. But what do we find?
– They might provide hillbilly programmes.
– When the hill-billy session starts, the members of the Australian
Country party will all be in business, and the honorable member will be a top-line artist. Mr. Speaker, I think, quite modestly, that, having had a look at a few of the hill-billy sessions on television and realizing that some artists from overseas are evidently getting high-class fees for appearing in these productions, I would be worth a fair amount of money on television in comparison with them.
It is said in this country that our programmes are quite satisfactory, that you need to have a bit of crime, a bit of murder and a few other things which appeal to the public taste. As is always the way, people who are connected with great mediums of propaganda or banking for profit do not give a hang about what happens to the average section of the community. Private banks are in business to make money; they care not who goes to the wall; and the private interests controlling television stations do not care much what the public are seeing as long as the people will look at the programmes and they can sell their advertising space.
– The advertising space is sold at £32 a minute.
– The honorable member says there were 32 murders-
– No, I said the cost was £32 a minute.
– Oh! £32 a minute. I will be frank. I knew from the outset that the honorable member was underestimating the murders.
Let me refer again to something that is worth reiteration. It is contained in a document that was forwarded to me and to other members of this Parliament by the Australian Television Rights Council. A survey was made of what was taking place in respect of television licences. It has been quoted in this House before. It is significant that the press of this country, with one exception, that controls the television stations of Australia, leave out these facts when they are presented in the Parliament. A survey was taken by competent listeners in Sydney a few months ago. I know that the position has not changed a great deal because I watch .television occasionally when I get time away from my onerous responsibilities. I find that on ABN, the national station channel 2, there were nine stabbings, three strangulations, one attempted murder, one wounding, one suicide, three murders discussed and one murder demonstrated. That is a fairly good proposition from the national station. I have details of programmes shown by ATN, a commercial station. Government supporters have heard this before, and they do not want to hear it again, because it is dynamite. This is the type of programme that the Government is sponsoring in this country, while all the time it is talking elsewhere about cultural development. Channel 7, which is operated by the huge monopolies I mentioned a moment ago, showed six bashings, one maiming, eight brawls, one blinding, one armed robbery, eleven murders, two woundings, two killings, eighteen corpse’s and one scene where a child described how both his parents were murdered. Another commercial station, operating on Channel 9, showed two bashings, three brawls, four murders, one maiming, one armed robbery, one assault, two stranglings, one wounding, two attempts to murder a child, and a dope fiend showing his dope needle marks, and discussed four murders. This was the language which was used to enlighten the people and improve their English : “ A dirty double-crosser “; “ I’ll get that mug “; “ Let’s go find a sucker “; “ I’ll blow your brains out “; “ Shoot ‘em in the stomach - they take longer to die that way “. Dozens of somewhat similar expressions were used. These took place over a period of ten hours.
If programmes of this type suit the people of America, Italy, Japan or other countries, good luck to them. We in this country have no need to spend thousands of dollars for such programmes. Let the Government not forget that by the importation of these programmes employment is given to overseas artists. I have nothing against them, but I believe in preference to Australians. Experience all over the world has shown that Australians have had to go abroad in order to win fame as actors and artists. Many Australian artists abroad are famous. Because of governments like this, they did not get opportunities in their own country. When they went abroad their true worth was’ realized. Why is this Government not doing what the people want it to do? Why is it not employing artists and actors in order that real Australian pictures and entertainment, expressing true Australian sentiment, may be presented?
It is said that we have an Australian board which will watch these matters. Let us have a look at what has happened in other places where all kinds of boards are also looking after such things. In Los Angeles, where a board controls radio and television, in a single week 228 murders, 357 attempted murders, eleven gaol breaks, 93 kidnappings, and three cases of branding with hot irons were televised. Of these crimes, 72 per cent, were shown in children’s programmes. Probably the whole of those programmes will be sold out here on a canned basis, while Australian artists are walking the streets. It is idle to say that these programmes will not be foisted on to us by private enterprise. Private enterprise does not care what the people like so long as the turnover and profits are high. These violent crimes are reflected in American society by the number of child delinquents, and the extent of violence and crime generally. Why not write into our television programmes something that is really Australian in sentiment, so that children do not have to watch stabbings and other violence?
Let me tell the House what can be presented on television programmes. In San Francisco recently, it was reported that -
The outraged mothers saw 13 murders and assorted killings; four sluggings; six kidnappings; five hold-ups; three explosions; three instances of blackmail and extortion; three thefts; two armed robberies; two cases of arson; one lynching; one torture scene and one miscarriage. One mother clocked 104 gun shootings during a half-hour serial, and another found sudden death shudderingly described 14 times in 20 minutes. The mothers themselves concluded that the gun, the gat, the rod, the six-shooter, is the prime motivator of most children’s television programmes. Life is cheaper than a cigarette butt in the gutter. Not one episode, not one character, not one emotion do we see evoked that the children might emulate to their gain.
Under this Government, these programmes can be brought to this country and foisted upon the Australian people. If they suit the outlook of America or any other country, good luck to them, but this Government is responsible for ensuring the employment of Australian artists and writers in the production of programmes that are in keeping with Australian sentiment and outlook. Instead of using the medium of television with its great propaganda value for depicting other countries and their violence, let us write into our television programmes something that is really Australian, that the people will admire, and that will at the same time improve the culture and education of the Australian people.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I brought to the notice of the House the action of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in giving to the newspaper combines of this country, with the approval of the present Government, television licences which give those combines greater influence over the nation. I said also that the growth of monopolies in other spheres was exemplified by the action of this Government in the allocation of television licences. It is quite obvious that, thanks to the patronage of the Government, before the next federal general election the huge newspaper combines and monopolies which operate television in this country will be lined up, together with the press, in opposition to the Labour party. Television will be used to the full in an endeavour to defeat the Labour party again. The Government’s television policy is a payoff for services rendered. The Australian people must realize that, far from administering television in the interests of the majority of the nation, the members of the Government are acting for political gain and to benefit the wealthy interests which put most of them into the Parliament.
There is no doubt that the vast majority of television programmes are put on at the expense of Australian script writers and artists. At least 55 per cent, of the programme time should be allocated to productions by Australian men and women. There is no excuse for the continued expenditure Of thousands upon thousands of dollars on the importation of cheap films of the hillbilly and other types. These matters should be supervised by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, but, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, the board has thrown overboard any exercise of authority in that respect, so that those who control the private television stations in Australia -this applies also to the national stations, to a limited extent - do as they like, irrespective of the effect of the programmes on the minds of the people.
A great deal could be said about the general attitude of Government members to this important subject. As I said earlier, they adopt quite a casual attitude to the effects of television programmes on the community. I point out that not one backbencher on the Government side has been prepared to get up and defend the Government’s legislation, even though this is only a machinery measure. That proves that backbenchers - I think this applies to most of the Ministers as well - are ashamed of the Government’s policy on television, because they realize that it represents a sell-out to the huge monopolies. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has often talked in this House about child delinquency and other such matters. The Government’s television policy may result in an increase of child delinquency in Australia, yet the honorable member sits idly in his place. Why does not he get up and explain what present television programmes are doing in regard to child delinquency in this and other countries? Why does not he make a study of the problem, instead of contenting himself with occasional interjections? He is afraid to speak on this great national issue because he knows that the Government has put forward a proposition which is selling out the Australian people.
I believe that the Government has given too much power to the press monopolies of Australia by the allocation of television licences. I fear what will be done in the allocation of the 120 licences that will be issued later. I repeat that the Government’s policy on the allocation of television licences represents a pay-off to the huge press interests in this country for the favorable propaganda that they have promised to the Government during the next federal general election campaign.
Although some television programmes are good, there is wide scope for improvement, to the advantage of the people. I can see no reason why the national and private stations should not devote the majority of their time to the presentation of Australian productions. It is idle to say that Australian productions are no good, because we know that throughout the world Australian artists command top salaries as a result of their ability, which is at least as great as that of the artists of other nations. These are some of the matters that the PostmasterGeneral could well study when he is
Dot performing his part-time duties as Minister for the Navy.
The Labour party has from time to time expressed its view that television and broadcasting - particularly television - have such an effect on the minds of all sections of the community that they should be controlled by the Government. I believe that in this matter the policy of the Labour party should be followed. That policy is the nationalization of television and broadcasting services. In Great Britain, until comparatively recently, television services were controlled completely by the Government, in contrast with the position in America, where television was allowed to run riot in the hands of private interests. The British people took the view that it was necessary for such a great medium of publicity to be nationalized, in the public interest. After this Government forced its television legislation through the Parliament, in the face of opposition by the Labour party, it realized that it had made a mistake, but it has been afraid to admit that. That it made a mistake is shown by the action of members of the Government parties in refusing to speak in this debate in defence of the Government’s policy. I say that that policy requires a complete overhaul. I am fearful of what will happen when other television licences are granted. The people are again menaced by the growth of a monopoly. Undoubtedly the nationalization of television services is the only way in which to give the Australian people programmes that will entertain them and at the same time improve their cultural and educational outlook. In conclusion, 1 use the words of a man well known to us all through the radio and television - this I believe.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches of Opposition members. The only point on which they are unanimous is their desire to nationalize the television and radio stations of Australia. That is Labour’s policy. The Government and the people should be grateful that Labour has come out into the open on this issue and stated that it desires to nationalize the television and radio networks of Australia.
Therefore, we need take little notice of the comments and criticism of honorable members opposite, particularly those made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly).
We have heard on other occasions this nonsense about the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its members and about the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and its members. Tirades of this kind have been directed at the commission and the board ever since this Government came into office. These attacks have not been made because the commission and the board have been ineffective or because either body has done something with which honorable members opposite disagree. Not one of the members of the Opposition who have spoken on this occasion, or who spoke on the last occasion when a measure of this kind was before the House, has been able to bring forward any serious criticism of the programme policy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or of the control exercised by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The Labour party is dead against these bodies because they were set up by this Parliament and given power, under a statute, to control broadcasting and television in Australia. The commission and the board have charters under which they operate quite freely, without governmental control. Even if the Minister wished to control the affairs of those bodies, he could not do so. They act as independent agents, their responsibility being to present to the Australian people a medium of entertainment or education.
That is the vast difference that exists between the Government and its supporters, and the Opposition which wants to have the complete control of all broadcasting and television in Australia vested in the hands, not of the Parliament - let us be clear on that point - but of the small junta outside the Parliament that controls Labour party policy. If the Opposition returns to office, the Labour Cabinet will not decide policy in respect of broadcasting and television stations in Australia, but will be told what to do by those outside Parliament who direct the policy of the Labour party. That is where the real danger lies.
– Why did that not happen when Labour was previously in office?
– The honorable member asks why that did not happen before. We have seen it happen in the life-time of this Parliament on many notable occasions when Labour members have expressed a view that was contrary to the views of the executive of their party. We have seen men walk into King’s Hall, approach members of the executive of the Labour party, and within the twinkling of an eye Opposition members have bent the knee and come into the chamber and voted in accordance with the directions they have received from their outside controllers. That is the truth of the matter. When honorable members opposite say, “ We want to nationalize this medium “, what they really mean to say is, “ We want to hand control over this medium to our executive “. The people of Australia have a growing awareness that the Labour party to a great extent is, and is becoming more so, under Communist control and domination, as alleged by Mr. Dougherty, general secretary of the Australian Workers Union.
While this bill is being debated we should point to the menace of nationalization by a Labour party or by a democratic socialist party under the direction of a small coterie outside Parliament that has the power to direct members of that party when they are elected to Parliament by the people. The Communists realize that broadcasting and television are excellent mediums for the spreading of propaganda. Communists in the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and those in control of other spheres inside the Labour movement, are aware of the influence they will be able to exert on the thinking of Australia’s young men and women if they can nationalize the radio and television networks in Australia.
Members opposite should think seriously about this matter before they go further with their programme of nationalization, because a serious danger exists. The control exercised by the Communists over the thinking of the Labour movement to-day is a grave menace to the people of this country, and it will be a sorry day for Australia if the Labour party ever gains control of these two mediums of communication. I urge those honorable gentlemen opposite who have not yet swung to the extreme left of the Labour party - they are few now - to keep this matter in the fore front of their thoughts and consider it deeply before they proceed with their nationalization programme.
Although I dismiss the criticisms of the Opposition as mere excuses, rather than reasons, why this bill should not be implemented, I shall refer to them briefly. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) last night went into a song and dance because this Government had appointed members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for a period of seven years. He said, “What a dreadful thing to appoint, members of the board for seven years “. But when we look at the record we find that the original appointment of a member of the board for a period of seven years was made by a Labour government in 1948, when the appointments to the board were for seven years for two members and three years for one member. Those terms of office have been amended by this Government and the chairman is appointed for seven years and the other four members for five years. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, “ This is a dreadful thing”, but he was the father of the bill introduced by the Labour Government in 1948 which provided for the terms of office I have mentioned.
– Although the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made the appointment for seven years he says now that we are wrong in doing the same thing.
– That is so. A great deal of discussion has centred on censorship of films, horror programmes, unsuitable children’s programmes, and the effect of the shootings and stranglings mentioned by members opposite upon the minds of our young people. To listen to those members one would think that television in itself is a wretched thing to be discarded out of hand. They have said, “Television is a wretched thing”.
– They did not say anything of the sort.
– If the honorable member had been present during the debate he would know that what I have said is correct. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition last night said, “ I do not want to give a plug for myself, but I am on television next Sunday afternoon. You can look at me talking to Malcolm Muggeridge between 4 p.m. and 4.30 p.m., on ATN, a commercial station “. He then went on to say, “ I am open to receive offers. I want to get on television “, this wretched thing which he deplores in one breath, but in the next is only too keen to welcome as a means of placing himself before the public.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) appeared in the session, “ Meet the Press “ a week or two ago. He put on a mighty good show. Although honorable members opposite are prepared to use the medium of television and appear on commercial television programmes on which they can air their views to the public, in this place, for some reason they say that television is a wretched thing which must be guarded by the outside junta that controls their party.
Earlier in the life of this Parliament the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) complained bitterly about the introduction of television which, he said, would wreck the lives of young people throughout Australia. On three or four occasions since then, however, he has asked, “ When are we going to get television in Tasmania? We want it, and we want it badly.”
The honorable member for Grayndler read to the House all the torrid things which he alleges occur in television programmes. However, he says, “ I look at and listen to television programmes whenever the opportunity presents itself away from my duties “. Here we have a television addict, a man who loves it himself but does not want anybody else to view it.
T can repeat to the House the utterances of the various members opposite on this subject since the introduction of television was first mooted. In one voice they say, “ We do not want it “, but in another, by question and complaint in this House, they say, “ When is television coming to our State? We want it.” Whenever applications for licences are called in the capital cities of Australia, the Labour party is the first to say, “ Please, can we have a licence to broadcast and televise in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane? “ The Opposition wants to control television, but when its purposes are suited it says, “ Television is a wretched thing and we must not have anything to do with it. But, please, give it to us. We like it.”
We have heard from Opposition members a lot of complaints and a great deal of nonsense about allegedly bad programmes. I ask Opposition members: What programmes are bad?
– The Hopalong Cassidy programme.
– The honorable gentleman would probably dislike that programme. He has been bucked by his own party and leader recently, and he probably feels a little sympathy for Hopalong Cassidy. We have not heard from Opposition members of their own experience in watching television. Not one Opposition member who has discussed this measure has said, “ I do not like this programme “, or “ I saw something in that programme that I did not like “. Opposition members were content to take this wretched little document that was prepared six months ago by Actors and Announcers Equity Association of Australia in order to make for itself a case for presentation to this Parliament. That document, on the basis of six or seven days’ listening and viewing away back in September of last year, set out a list of so many murders, stranglings, and suicides, and all the other things that have been mentioned. Opposition members have been content to quote from that document, and have not drawn on their own practical experience, although many of them must be television viewers. We have not heard them point to one programme that they can say is ruining the minds of our young people.
There is a reason why no Opposition member can say, from his own practical experience, that any particular programme or item is dangerous to the mental health of Australia’s young people. The reason is that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission have gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure that the programmes presented on the various television channels throughout the day are properly classified under a system of rigorous censorship in order to make sure that no programme presented is at all harmful to the young people of Australia. The Chief Censor of the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board is a loyal and faithful servant who performs his task with great efficiency. Mr. Campbell was known to all the members of this Parliament when he served as a ministerial private secretary, and he has taken to his high and important post as Chief Censor the attributes that he displayed then. He brings to his task a clear mind, good judgment, and a great deal of courage, as is exemplified by his reports and the judgments that he makes in regard to films. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission have come to an arrangement with Mr. Campbell to have their own representatives sit in on the censoring of films for broadcasting on television. The censorship, which is aimed at completely eliminating material not suitable for transmission in Australia, depends, not solely on the Chief Censor, but also upon the representatives of the board and the commission.
This censorship entails, in addition to the elimination of undesirable material, the classification of films, as is indicated by the list of film categories in paragraph 135, at page 41, of the ninth annual report of the Broadcasting Control Board. Films that may be broadcast on television without restriction are classified in the G category. Films that are not suitable for children are placed in the A category. Films that may not be telecast before 8.30 p.m. are in the AO category, and those that are not suitable for television at all, as I have indicated, may not be broadcast at all.
I commend the whole of this report to Opposition members who have been so critical. In paragraph 135, at page 41 of the report, the board states -
During the period under review films totalling over six million feet were examined and classified by the Film Censorship Board. The majority was classified in the “ G “ or “ A “ categories, but it was found necessary to make eliminations in 401 films, and 25 films were rejected for television. Of the films examined, 75 per cent, originated in the U.S.A., and 18 per cent, were of U.K. origin.
In paragraph 136, at page 42, the board sets out the details of the procedure adopted in the censorship of films. In paragraph 137, at the same page, the board states -
It was expected that some difficulties might arise in respect of appeals against the classification of films for television as the appeals procedure under the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations applies only in respect of conditions imposed on the registration of films, and not on their classification. Arrangements have now been satisfactorily worked out which permit television stations to appeal against classification of films as well as against their rejection. . . . Although licensees claim to have selected overseas films with considerable care, and to have avoided much that was considered undesirable or inferior in type, the Chief Censor had found it necessary to reject some films, and to classify an appreciable number in the “AO” category.
I remind honorable members that that is the category for films that may not be telecast before 8.30 p.m. The report continues -
In some cases classifications of each of the groups “ G “, “ A “ and “ AO “ have been found necessary in a single programme series containing a number of half-hour episodes.
This indicates the desire of both the commercial and the national stations to present programmes that satisfy the requirements of censorship. The report states, also -
In several cases, it has been necessary for stations to remove a partly-completed film series from ono time channel and place it in another in order te comply with the Board’s Standards.
The board then goes on, in this report, to compliment the Chief Censor on the work that he has done.
The board makes no complaint there that the commercial stations or the national stations have at any time attempted to evade censorship, and have presented restricted films in violation of the restrictions. On the contrary, the television stations have changed their programmes, and the times of broadcasting programmes, in order to meet the requirements of the Chief Censor. So we can say to the people of Australia with some confidence, “ You may be sure, before the programmes are presented, which are suitable for children and which are not. No programme that is not suitable for children will be presented before 8.30 p.m., and no film that is not suitable for television audiences will be presented at all “.
The proof of this lies in the fact that the people are buying increasing numbers of television sets. In both Sydney and its suburbs and Melbourne and its suburbs, increasing numbers of people are investing in television sets. Market research indicates that these new sets are going, not into the homes of the well-to-do, but in the main, into the homes of working-class people. The average family is acquiring a television set for its entertainment, because the parents know that they have complete control of the set, and the responsibility, if any, after the initial official censorship, is upon them to see that no influence harmful to the mental outlook of their children enters the home through the agency of television. This fact is encouraging the people of Sydney and Melbourne to buy increasing numbers of television sets with confidence. The number of sets being purchased is increasing as the weeks go by and the viewing audiences become larger. Why? It is because the people like television, which has become a healthy form of entertainment in the home.
The honorable member for Grayndler, in his usual glib, blase way, said that television has contributed to juvenile delinquency, but it is interesting to note that, since the introduction of television, the police in both Melbourne and Sydney have been able to report that the peak year for juvenile delinquency seems to have passed. I do not say that television in the home has been entirely responsible for the decline of juvenile delinquency, but I do know that increasing numbers of parents in both Sydney and Melbourne are expressing their gratitude for the advent of television in Australia, because it is keeping their children in their homes, where the parents can keep an eye on them and supervise the programmes that they see. In the light of this, I say that television is not contributing to juvenile delinquency, and that time will show that, because it encourages young people to remain in their homes under the watchful eyes of their parents, it is contributing to the welfare of the nation as a whole. I urge Opposition members, who, as a result of bias and prejudice, rather than from practical experience, have expressed so much criticism of television, to read the ninth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which will reveal to them the care that is exercised in the planning and control of television programmes.
A lot of stress was placed upon the fact that the Department of Audio- Visual Aids, University of Melbourne, had presented a report on the telecasting of “ westerns “. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked the Postmaster-General why he had not obtained the report and read it. The plain fact of the matter is that not only have the Minister and members of the Broadcasting Control Board read the document but that the work was undertaken as the result of a financial contribution from the board. So eager was the board to ensure that it knew all there was to be known, about the psychological impact of television programmes upon the young’ people of Australia that it contributed to this valuable work in relation to the production of “ westerns “.
I think I have shown to the House just how spurious have been the attacks of the Labour party. Honorable members opposite have just selected arguments that have suited their case. The honorable member for Grayndler again became dilly-dally Daly, referred to America, spoke about stranglings in Chicago, and read from some document that was published in that country. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, too, quoted from a document that was prepared by the Actors and Announcers Equity, but not one member of the Opposition spoke from personal experience. All Opposition members are eager to see television introduced in the areas that they represent, as they have demonstrated by repeated questions over the years. I repeat that the arguments of the Opposition have been spurious.
The main thing that Labour wants is the elimination of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission from the radio and television fields and the setting up within Australia of a completely nationalized radio and television network. Why does Labour want that? It wants a nationalized network so that it will be able to control the radio and television programmes that are received into the homes of the people of Australia. Honorable gentlemen opposite will do a grave disservice to the people of Australia if they proceed with a policy of nationalization. I urge them to take into account attempts at nationalization that have been made in this and other fields in the cities of the world and to realize that the road to nationalization, the road to socialism, eventually leads, sometimes more quickly than is anticipated, to the communizing of a country and the destruction of the moral fibre of the people within it.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been completely misrepresented by the honorable member for Capricornia in that he misinterpreted my whole speech. In addition, he said that
I was opposed to television. Such is not the case. During my speech I said that I liked television, but that I believed good programmes suitable for the Australian people should be presented- The honorable member said, moreover, that I wish to break down the authority of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Nothing is further from the truth. I desire to have its authority built up by nationalizing broadcasting and television services.
.- As was stated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) last night, the Opposition wishes to take advantage of this opportunity to oppose the measure and to remind the Parliament and the people of Australia of the views that were advanced by the Australian Labour party when television was introduced into this country. It was interesting to note how the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) accused people of being eager to jump into the television limelight by appearing in certain programmes and obtaining some advantage from it. As you know, Mr. Speaker, it has always been the practice for speakers to rise alternately from the Government and Opposition sides of the chamber, but this afternoon not one supporter of the Government was prepared to rise after the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) had spoken. If it had not been that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) had risen, the debate would have lapsed. Honorable members opposite were frightened to rise and defend the charges that had been levelled against the Government in relation to this measure.
It is all very well for the honorable member for Capricornia to rise to-night and speak about programmes and so forth, but he did not answer Labour’s charge in regard to the allocation of licences to the vested interests which already own the press and radio facilities of this country. Instead, he spoke idly about everything else. I repeat that he did not attempt to refute that most serious charge against the Government. He, in turn, levelled against Labour a certain charge in regard to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. We believe that it is necessary to nationa lize television and broadcasting undertakings in order to lift the standard of the programmes in the interests of the Australian people. Labour’s attitude is not governed by the fact that it does not want television. It is true that we raised some doubts about the wisdom of introducing television into Australia some time ago when thousands of people were unable to obtain telephone services. Those people are still in that position. We wondered whether the Government was trying to take on too much. But television has been introduced, and all we want to do is to ensure that it functions properly in the interests of the people.
The honorable member for Capricornia spoke about what he believed would happen when a Labour .government assumed office, thereby indicating that he knows the time is drawing near when a change of government will occur. He jumped in at the glamour hour of the broadcasting of parliamentary debates in the hope of reaching some of the people in his electorate and, if possible, of wooing back many of the thousands of people who are deserting this Liberal-Australian Country party Government. He said, too, that in Melbourne and Sydney television sets were being purchased by the working class and not by the wealthy people in the community. I am sure that my colleagues from Melbourne and Sydney would be quite happy to make a tour of those cities with the honorable member to ascertain exactly what the position is. He would discover that those who are in the lower income bracket are hot able to purchase television sets. Indeed, those people find it most difficult to buy the necessaries of life for their families. This Government is responsible for a rapidly spiralling condition of inflation which is forcing up the cost of living, and the acquisition of a television set is quite beyond the hope of the ordinary worker.
Perhaps it would be worthwhile for me to remind the House of the arguments that were advanced by Labour in 1956 on this vital question of television. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to those arguments last night, but they are so important that it is worthwhile recording them once again to see just what answer the Government will offer. I repeat that not one supporter of the Government has attempted to reply to the arguments advanced by the Opposition.
– They are not worth replying to.
– The honorable member should rise in his place, if he is capable of doing so, and tell the Australian people why they are not worth replying to. The fact of the matter is that the Government has no answer to the case that was advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition last night. Supporters of the Government in this corner of the chamber are compelled to sit idly by. As my colleague the honorable member for Grayndler remarked, they are well qualified to listen to the hill-billy programmes that are telecast at the present time and which seem to constitute the majority of programmes that are presented.
We asked for specific safeguards against detrimental monopoly practices by guaranteeing to the general public and to religious, educational, cultural, political and social organizations opportunities for a fair and just share of ownership or control of broadcasting and television licences and a fair and just use of the facilities of such services. Is there anything wrong with that? Is it not preferable to see that such safeguards are implemented than to give television licences to the people who at present own the press, the radio and the motion picture industry? That small group of people is being given the right to control and influence public opinion. That is a dangerous weapon to give to any section of the community. Government supporters believe to-day that that is very good because those people are their friends and will always be on their side, but the time may come when those interests will desert them. It is completely wrong for any political party to give to such a powerful group the opportunity to control public opinion.
We also asked that specific provision be made to re-establish and assure the regular functioning of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting and Television as guardian of the public interest in those two vital fields. What is wrong with that? This House applauds the work oi: the Public Accounts Committee as watchdog for this Parliament. The re-establishment of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting and Television could only be of great value to the nation.
I spoke a few moments ago of the people who had obtained television licences. One cannot help thinking that giving the licences to those people was a big pay-off to them because they have always been on the Government side at election time. It was the pay-off for services rendered by the press, broadcasting and even the motion picture interests to the Liberal and Australian Country parties at election time. The Government has given them these licences in the hope that further services will be rendered. This is very similar to the banking legislation, which was a pay-off to the private trading banks by an attack on the Commonwealth Bank. Despite opposition from the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), the Government was forced to pay off because it owed this to the private trading banks for services rendered. Now, the Government is forced to give control of the television industry to the press, broadcasting and motion picture interests because, if it does not, it will be thrown out of office at the first opportunity. Without the support of those interests, the Government could not remain in office.
The Labour party is aware of the danger inherent in giving these interests complete control of the press and such fields. Ever since this party was born, we have had a bitter experience. The press has never been on the side of the Labour movement. It is true that, between elections, the press has criticized the Government at times, but the moment an election comes within measurable distance, the whips are out and the newspapers swing right around to support the Liberal and Australian Country parties. These people who have helped the Government so much have been paid in full, if I may use that expression, by the issue to them of television licences.
We asked that provision be made to ensure that facilities were provided, free of charge, on an equitable and impartial basis for the broadcasting and televising of matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current policies of national importance. What is wrong with that? We also asked for adequate safeguards against the flooding of Australian television programmes with low-grade syndicated overseas productions to the practical exclusion of productions by Australians, and, for this purpose, a guarantee that no less than an average of 55 per cent, of the transmission time of any television station would be occupied by Australian programmes and that in the calculation of this time no account would be taken of the time occupied by news and sporting events. We know how necessary such a safeguard is. The entertainment dished up by television stations to-day is undoubtedly cheap trash and tinned films that were produced in America 30 years ago showing gangsters and artists of the Hopalong Cassidy type. In their time, some of them were very good, but why cannot we produce films for television that would portray our country and our way of life, and so build up our own culture. We do not want to see films of Hopalong Cassidy, and I am sure that our children do not want to see them. When television was first mooted, companies were formed to produce films. They spent huge amounts of money because they believed -and rightly so - that Australian productions would be shown on television. To-day, they are gradually folding up business.
– Who are they?
– The honorable member knows who they are as well as I do, because he has had the same letters from them as I have had. There is no doubt that they have been squeezed out of this field. Before long, television stations will be forced to use only tinned programmes because the very basis of the Australian industry will be destroyed. It is the old story of the motion picture industry over again. Periodically during the last 20 or 30 years, attempts were made to build up a motion picture industry in this country, but because proper guarantees were not given the industry is gradually folding up. Instead of having an established industry, we are still struggling to produce films.
All we asked was that a guarantee be given that no less than 55 per cent, of the transmission time of television stations would be used to show Australian artists and Australian productions. Do not say that we have not the artists. The honorable member for Grayndler has pointed out that many artists have left Australia. Probably more artists have left Australia than are here now.
However, many artists are ready to take their places on television, if given the chance, and they should be given that chance. Australian-produced dramatic plays should also be shown. I have watched many shows on television and I have attended many repertory theatres. Without a doubt, many Australian amateur productions surpass the programmes shown on television. But the Government is not concerned about that. Those productions have been pushed aside. The reason is that the people who control the television stations can buy American films a little bit cheaper than they can produce Australian shows. They are concerned, not with what is good for Australia, but with the profits that they make.
We also asked that no less than an average of 7i per cent, of the transmission time of any station broadcasting musical items be devoted to the broadcasting of works by Australian composers and that in the calculation of this time no account be taken of time occupied by news and sporting events.
– Who wrote that?
– That is the amendment to the 1956 bill moved by the Opposition. That amendment is still the basis of our protest against the way in which television is being operated to-day. We believe that television is a medium that could build up a culture, a better social way of life and a better moral code in the community. But we do not believe that this is happening to-day. We do not believe that television is being used as it should be used. A great responsibility rests on this Government, as well as on the people who control television, because the future of Australia may well be in their hands. The Opposition appeals to the Government to give some thought to this matter. The mere fact that Ministers have not spoken in this debate proves that they are worried about the position.
We know that, in 1956, when this measure was before the House, the PostmasterGeneral, and Cabinet, decided to include in the act a provision that would have destroyed the sporting and racing clubs, but because the Opposition raised its voice in protest - and many backbenchers on the Government side of the House were aware of the reason - the Government was forced to capitulate and give some protection to those sporting bodies. I give full credit to backbenchers on the other side of the House who joined with members of the Opposition on that occasion in forcing a change in Government policy. We now appeal to those people to join with us again in order to rectify the mistakes that were made when the act was passed. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) was one of the leaders - probably the leader - in the move to obtain protection for sporting bodies. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) was vitally interested from the point of view of the racing clubs.
I recently had an opportunity to watch television in London. During the whole afternoon racing was televised, and I could not help thinking of this House and the struggle that was put up by members of the Opposition, supported by a few members from the other side of the House, to make the Government change its mind with regard to the televising of sporting activities. If the Government had had its way, sporting activities would have been televised all day, which would have reacted detrimentally to the sports concerned and, in the case of amateur bodies, would have very quickly put them out of business. It is not to late to bring about further amendments in the act. Just as some members on the other side of the House helped to force the Government to amend the original bill and give protection to sporting bodies, so they may now take this opportunity to rectify mistakes that were made in issuing licences to the people who control the country per medium of the propaganda in which they indulge.
The only reason why the majority of Government backbenchers support the present set-up is because they think that they will get a good run at election time if the press controls television. They believe that they have a guarantee that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party will get more than their fair share of propaganda. They can be sure, they think, that the propaganda and news will be featured in such a way as to be detrimental to the Labour party and advantageous to the parties they support. It is this thought that is influencing most backbenchers on the Government side of the House to-day. I suggest to them that they should think more along the lines of what is good for Australia, and what in the long run will be best for our children. There might then be a different tone in their speeches - if they were game enough to speak in this debate.
The honorable member for Grayndler mentioned some of the people who control television in Australia. He quoted not from some propaganda that is issued by Actors Equity, but from the official report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended 30th June, 1957. I need not go through the whole list again, but included in it are such organizations as the SunHerald, Associated Newspapers Limited, John Fairfax & Sons Proprietary Limited, 2GB-Macquarie, the A.W.A. Group, and others such as Hoyts Theatres Limited, Greater Union Theatres Proprietary Limited, and the Herald and Weekly Times. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said last night, as soon as licences are issued in other States those combines I have mentioned will be joined by the Adelaide “ Advertiser “, the News Limited, and the Queensland “ CourierMail “.
– Are there any supporters of the Labour party in that list, or any unions?
– No, licences have been issued exclusively to those people who have been supporters of the Government, and those people will not continue to support the Government unless they are paid off. That is our main opposition to this bill. We think that our protests are legitimate, and we press them in the hope that something will be done to protect the public and to promote the welfare of the country.
Some television programmes have been very creditable. I do not say that all television programmes are bad. I think that the coverage of the Olympic Games and many other features - even the one the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) was worried about - “ Meet the Press “ - are of some value. The Opposition is quite happy about those programmes. What we on this side of the House ask for is that in the presentation of these features the views of the Opposition - it is the Labour party at present; it will be the Liberal party in the near future - should be given fairly and factually.
– All rubbish!
– The honorable member says they are all rubbish, but they are not all rubbish - only portion of them. They can be improved. The presentation of weather reports and certain news items are of great educational value, but the children’s hour comes at a time when most mothers, unless they are in wealthy circumstances, are preparing the evening meal for the wage-earner and the family, and it is not possible for them to watch their children and do the necessary housework at the same time. Aspects such as that are worth considering.
I conclude my remarks by saying that the Opposition believes that nationalization of broadcasting and television would be in the best interests of Australia. We do not suggest this because we want control of a certain section of commerce and industry, but because we believe sincerely that the people will not receive the best that broadcasting and television can provide until the industry is brought under the control of the Parliament.
.- I thank the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) for reminding me of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said last night, when he made a strong attack on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He said -
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission are serving the Australian people very badly.
I rise because I believe that a statement like that should not go unchallenged. The truth of the matter is that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is an Australian institution which all Australians, except apparently the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and a few of his friends, think has done a creditable and, indeed, a magnificent job over the past few years.
– Is the honorable member hoping to resume his employment with the A.B.C.?
– I had a very close association with the A.B.C. in the years after the war, and perhaps I can speak with some authority on this subject. Through you, Mr. Speaker, I assure honorable members, particularly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that the A.B.C. has on its staff a number of men who are devoted to the cause of serving the Australian people as well as they may.
I find it very difficult to see how criticism of the kind to which I have referred could be justified, in view of the record of this organization not only in providing entertainment and in helping to raise the levels of taste in the Australian community in matters such as music and the arts, but also in providing essential services, particularly - and I speak with some feeling now - in the country areas. The services provided by the A.B.C. in the country have been of definite economic value to primary producers and others who live in rural areas. I believe that the commission deserves strong praise, not criticism, from this House.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, also in the speech I have mentioned, advocated, as did the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who spoke earlier to-day, the nationalization of broadcasting and television. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may not have referred to the nationalization of broadcasting in so many words, but it does not matter whether he did or not, because I believe that, before many years have passed, television will take the place of broadcasting as we know it today. Television is increasing in popularity at a very fast rate. I hope that technical developments will make it possible for television to cover the whole of the populated parts of this continent in a generation or less. So the nationalization of this medium would mean the control of both broadcasting and television - an extremely dangerous control if it were to be exercised by a central government without any competition whatever. In putting forward this proposal that television and broadcasting should be nationalized, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Grayndler were using the favourite socialistic dialectic of calling black white and white black. The fact is that nationalization of broadcasting and television would create one enormous State monopoly. We hear from honorable members opposite violent attacks on monopolies, but in attacking what they assume to be commercial monopolies they are really advocating the establishment of a huge State monopoly. That is the kind of Alice-in-Wonderland argument to which we have become accustomed in this House on matters pertaining to nationalization.
So far as the so-called commercial monopolies are concerned, I do not regard them as monopolies. When there is a choice of four programmes, I do not consider that each holder of a licence to provide us with programmes enjoys any monopoly. We have a choice. With four stations, we have five choices. We can have any one of the programmes presented by the four stations, if we wish, or we can have none at all. That is a pretty wide field of choice. When we learn that in the programme for television that is envisaged in the last report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, provision is made for 120 television stations in the Commonwealth - which will give us as many television stations as we now have commercial broadcasting stations - it can be appreciated that the programme contemplates a very wide field of licence holding.
– But that would not mean 120 separate programmes.
– It would mean 120 stations.
A far more serious matter dealt with by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition last night pertained to the quality of television programmes. This is something with which we cannot juggle. The quality of programmes provided by a medium such as television is an extremely tricky matter and is something which can be handled, if it is handled at all, only by experienced people, of whom there are very few. It is easy to say that a programme is unsuitable for the public because it is unsuitable for oneself. Very often we hear things on the air, or see things on television, that do not suit us personally, but to attempt to apply our particular taste to the whole community is a very different kettle of fish.
– That would be catastrophic!
– As my friend says, it would be catastrophic. I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which has had many years of experience in this field, is aware of the dangers of lowering standards in respect of both television and broadcasting and has taken very strong action to see that all licence holders maintain a high, and perhaps a rising, standard of entertainment. The films that are used-
– Are ten years old.
– They may be ten years old, but they have passed through the hands of the Commonwealth Films Censor, who is very experienced in the field of censorship. I note that, last year, he rejected 25 films for television, which indicates that he is vigilant to see that really objectionable films do not find their way on to the television screens.
From a perusual of the last report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, that for 1957, we find that the board also is conscious, not only of the danger of objectionable material being shown on television, but also of the danger in lowering standards. The board admits, quite freely and frankly, that it is not satisfied with the standard of much of the film material that has been appearing on television during the last year or so. In its report, it states -
Many are excellent productions which provide much appreciated entertainment for Australian viewers, but others are of a type which, while in general complying with the Board’s standards, do not appear to the Board to represent the type of programmes which would be desirable as a permanent feature of the Australian television services.
This question is under constant and close review by the board and the Minister, in addition to the review thatresults from consultation with the licensees of the stations.
In studying this aspect of the matter we must make some allowances, I think, for the short period during which we have enjoyed television in Australia. It is in its infancy here. There will be many problems such as this to be ironed out over the next few years, but provided that we have, on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board, men who are conscious of the requirements of their task, as are the present members of those boards, I am sure that the problems will be overcome and that the standard of the programmes put out by the television stations - I am referring to imported programmes chiefly - will continue to rise.
Some doubt was raised earlier in the debate about the Australian content of the programmes that have been presented so far by the television stations. I am pleased to see, from the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, that at least one station has used two-thirds of its total time in showing Australian material. The percentages for the other stations were 45 per cent., 61 per cent, and 45 per cent. It is true that these percentages include children’s sessions and periods devoted to news, sport, women’s sessions, religious matter, talks and interviews, variety shows and similar programmes. But what is wrong with those programmes? Do we want drama all the time? I think we get an overdose of drama on television as it is. I would be happy if we could have more live material from Australians. I am sure that we will get the opportunity to see more of it as the network spreads throughout Australia. Only recently when the Queen Mother was visiting Canberra, we had an example of what can be done in this direction. I understand that the commercial stations in Sydney really scooped the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the matter of broadcasting a live showing of the Queen Mother’s visit to this Parliament.
As the network extends over the Commonwealth and technical developments make it easier to transmit programmes, I am sure that we can look forward to a great deal more of this kind of Australian material which is not only of entertainment but also educational value. It will help this country enormously in the years to come by providing something such as we have never had before and which will be needed increasingly in the age which we are now entering. I notice that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, in its report, asks for support of television. We should give it our support and cease knocking it, as the Opposition has been doing throughout this debate. If it is necessary to voice criticism, let it be constructive. I believe that television will be the greatest boon to this country that has ever appeared in the form of communications media since the invention of the telephone.
A couple of years ago when the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) was introducing a cognate bill he said -
The objective of all stations, from the outset, should be to provide programmes that will have the ultimate effect of raising standards of public taste.
The Broadcasting Control Board expressed the view that -
Television stations have an obligation to ensure that television will be used constructively for the welfare of the community.
I believe that the licensees of these stations at present are fully aware of their duties to the community in that regard. The Broadcasting Control Board in its report said -
It is too soon to express any opinions as to the extent to which licensees have succeeded in attaining these high ideals, but it is essential thai they should be borne in mind constantly by all those who have any part to play in the production and the presentation of programmes.
I believe that as these stations gain in experience and as the plan unfolds and this medium becomes more popular, the full power of television will be realized and, as I have said, it will prove to be a tremendous boon to this growing nation. Personally, I look forward to that development.
I deplore the attacks which have been made on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, both of which have been doing a magnificent job. The system peculiar to Australia which has worked so well with broadcasting promises to work equally well with television, that is the system which permits competition between private enterprise^ - not one, but several groups of private enterprise - and government organizations. That system has worked extraordinarily well. We might regard it an example of Australia’s political genius. It is really our contribution to the western world. We have these opposing forces of private enterprise and government enterprise in a number of different fields. They operate in shipping, transport, airways and a number of selected fields, and in every case the system has worked extremely well. I see no reason why, in view of the success of sound broadcasting under this dual system, television should not operate just as successfully in the future.
– I do not propose to deal with the whole subject at length because we have debated the principles of this legislation before. But this debate has been important because it has taken place at a moment when there is a good deal of experience of television in its early stages in Australia, and some of the principles which have come into question here should be understood. First of all, the position had to be faced by the Australian Labour party, when television stations were about to be instituted in Sydney and Melbourne. The Labour party then faced the position quite frankly. It was realized, as the Federal Labour conference knew perfectly well, that it was not possible to establish a system of national ownership of radio or television stations under the Constitution. As in the case of banking, it would be necessary to amend the Constitution before that could happen. Therefore, the Labour party faced the position that, until the Constitution was amended - and it is not easy to amend the Constitution on any point - for the time being commercial radio and commercial television were to be practised in this country. This is what the party decided, and I think it is sound -
This Conference, as the supreme body of the Australian Labour party expresses its deep concern at the possibility of television licences being granted to corporations, constituting, in effect, combines of newspaper, radio broadcasting, film and similar interests which already monopolize to a large extent, mass communication for information to the people of Australia.
That is a principle which is recognized by every student, whether it is applied to newspapers, films or broadcasting. Even in the United States of America, where the claims of so-called private enterprise are put at their very highest and monopolies are in existence, I think it is recognized that combination and concentration of the power of giving information to the public is a very special thing. It must be controlled and regulated; otherwise only a few opinions can gain any currency in the community. If one is going to criticize, that system is infinitely worse than would be the case with these mediums under national control - that is, control in the interests of the people. But when the control is exercised by authorities whose primary purpose is the making of profit for private interests, private profit will come into the picture to a great degree.
– What is wrong with the profit element?
– The honorable member should listen, although he never does. In any event, we can have question time afterwards, if he so desires. Here is another proposition, stated more broadly, and I am sure honorable members will agree that it is right -
There is a grave danger to the public interest and true freedom of expression is threatened, if those newspapers which are anti-Labour organs-
It would be just the same if their politics were the opposite colour - extend their interests not only to sound broadcasting but to television which will be the most powerful instrument of all from the point of view of providing information for the people of Australia.
Admittedly that puts forward the political view of the Labour movement, but it is the decision of the conference, and that is the general principle, stated from the Labour point of view. The Labour movement is opposed to allowing control of not only the press of Australia - in almost every State with few exceptions this is the case - but also television to get into the hands of great corporations or individuals of commanding wealth, they having the supreme right of freedom of expression in what is their property.
How far can such a system be allowed to go? There must be some balance in the community so that the opposing view may be put. That is really what is behind the principle that I have outlined. It cannot be accepted that television should follow the same route as the newspapers have done. Under such a system, the community in general would have extreme difficulty in obtaining both sides of the case. There are some newspapers that make a feature of putting both sides of the case in public affairs; but there are some which do not do that. We know that to be the position. I think one of the great tragedies in these new democracies, especially the comparatively new democracies, is the absence of a bi-partisan press in the sense that one section of the press will to some extent put the views of one great section of the community while other sections of the press will publish the opposite point of view. This was the conclusion reached by the conference in connexion with television -
So long as commercial television is permitted by the law of the land-
And, of course, it is permitted; it cannot be altered except by an amendment to the Constitution - this conference declares that the Labour movement of Australia, both political and industrial, represents so large a portion of the people that it is entitled to a fair and just share in the direct control of the television medium.
We do not say that because we have any desire to monopolize television at all.
– You differ from the Deputy Leader.
– The honorable member simply will not listen. He is not trying to understand what I say; he simply will not understand. If he made a great effort, he might understand the difference between what he thinks that decision means and what it says. It says quite clearly that a fair and just share should be held by the Labour movement, both political and industrial, so that its views might be put, so that, from what might be called an editorial point of view, it might make its representations to the people. I do not think anybody who has any intelligence disagrees with that. Even a school child with only a smattering of knowledge of the subject would agree with that. That is the true basis of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is not simply the right to speak under conditions which will affect only certain people; it is the right to express an opinion before an audience such as readers, listeners, and so on. That being so, I submit ‘.hat the early Sydney and Melbourne decisions relating to television were wrong.
I understand that it was the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) who praised the members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I think it failed completely to understand its duty. It is of no use talking about the English practice, for the English law supports what I am advocating because section 3 (1.) (c) of the Television Act 1954, in dealing with the authority which controls commercial television stations says -
It shall be the duty of the Authority to satisfy themselves that, so far as possible, the programmes - that is, the commercial television programmes - broadcast by the Authority comply with the following requirements, that is to say -
that any news given in the programmes (in whatever form) is presented with due accuracy and impartiality.
It is possible to present news, either political or non-political, in a completely partisan manner. It is admitted that news can be presented fairly and justly, or with complete partisanship, and the statute passed by the English parliament imposes upon the authority controlling commercial television programmes there an obligation to present news with due accuracy and impartiality. If this is not done, the commercial television stations will not be allowed to operate.
The English law contains a further condition which comes closer to the point we are discussing. Section 3 (1.) (f) imposes on the authority the responsibility to see that the programmes comply with this requirement - that due impartiality is preserved on the part of the persons providing the programmes as respects matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy;
That is to say, the authority controlling television has a duty to satisfy itself that the programmes broadcast by it observe that condition. Consider the application of that principle to a strike. It demands that the views of both sides of the dispute shall be put in relation to “ matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy “. It provides that those views shall be put with due impartiality. Certainly, that is an ideal, but I think that it has been reached in England. I say emphatically that such matters are not treated in that way by the stations of Australia yet. Although I readily admit that in many cases there is a fair presentation, we do not get it in the way insisted upon by the English statute to which I have referred. When we tried to amend the legislation to have similar provisions included in the Australian law, the Postmaster-General and Government supporters derided our suggestions simply because the Australian Broadcasting Control Board did not understand or appreciate that unless these things are provided for in our statutes there can be no assurance that they will be put into effect.
The English law also says -
Provided that nothing in paragraph (g) of this sub-section shall prevent -
the inclusion in the programmes-
That is commercial television programmes - of relays of the whole (but not some only) of a series of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s party political broadcasts.
Mr. Speaker, I ask honorable members to note that the English Authority is entitled to include in its programmes relays of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s party political broadcasts. There might be eight or nine openly political broadcasts by one side or the other in twelve months and the television authority in England cannot select and televise only parts of them; it must include the whole series. The British Broadcasting Corporation does that with complete fairness to both sides, and I emphasize that it does this not merely for a few weeks before an election but throughout the whole year. That is the standard of political reporting and political judgment which is possible in a democracy under a provision similar to that included in the English law.
We should do the same here. I do not propose to deal with details. We submitted certain proposals which were rejected. But it will be found that in this country public opinion is ahead of the laws which this Government passes. There are signs that those controlling television in Australia have an appreciation of the justice of hearing both sides of a case, not because the law tells them to do so but because public opinion demands it. Such television programmes as “ Meet the Press “ fulfil a very important role in the community because they are really a substitute for what cannot or does not appear in many newspapers. Let me say at once that the public appreciates the modern tendency on the part of commercial television authorities in dealing with matters of political controversy to interview first a representative of one side and then the representative of the other side. For instance, they might interview the representative of a particular trade union and then perhaps an employer. Even men engaged in public affairs take part in these programmes. It might develop in a way that is satisfactory, without a statute. But there are other questions, although they may not be greater ones, because nothing is greater than the right of the individual to free expression and it is the duty of those who have control of information to see that both sides of the case are put. It can be done in television, strangely enough, although it is not so easy to do in radio broadcasting or, perhaps, even in the press. We are passing through a stage of change in this country in relation to these great matters.
Criticisms which I think are justified have been based on other aspects of television. I do not think that there is a sufficient presentation of the works of Australian writers, artists, or actors, many of whom are among the best in the world. But there are signs that, even there an improvement is taking place. It is true that in the early stages of television, the tendency is to use old films from abroad which are not at all satisfactory. I think that details of them have been given. There is also a growing trend to follow the example of England where, I think, the standard in television is the highest in the world. The trend in England is to have special performances for television. For instance, the Australian Broadcasting Commission recently reproduced on television, I think from the British Broadcasting Corporation, a dramatic account of the life of Christ. Previously, such a thing was almost impossible. It was frowned upon because of its great difficulties. But this presentation was a supreme experience and it made a great contribution to the people of this country, especially the youth. Where was there scope for that type of production before television? Only television could provide the opportunity for its presentation. The same remarks apply to the drama. Let us go back to films which provide the simplest comparison. The abandonment of standards has brought Hollywood films down in the last ten years. Despite all the technical facilities possessed by Hollywood, and despite the superb casts of actors and actresses, somehow Hollywood has failed in recent times. To-day, I think it is universally recognized that the film productions of countries such as Britain, France, Italy and Germany are superior to those of the United States which held the field for so long.
These things will have to be worked out and one cannot dogmatize about them. But it would be wonderful for Australia if the writers and artists of this country were given the opportunities that they merit. It is no use consulting figures in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and saying that the Australian content of programmes is so much. Included in what is called the “ Australian content “ of television programmes is every film of something in Australia. It may be a horse race or a sporting car test. Whilst these programmes are worth seeing and I am all in favour of them, they do not come into the realm of competition between the plays and other works of Australian writers, artists and actors, and those of their counterparts in other countries. That is my concern. It is only with respect to those activities that percentages of Australian content are relevant. A mere arithmetical calculation of the amount of time given in television programmes to horse races, or surfing contests which may last for two hours, is not relevant to the encouragement of the art of Australian actors, writers, and other artists. These people are able to take their place in any part of the world with honour and credit to Australia. Very often, it is their fate to be able to obtain employment only in other parts of the world so that Australia receives only the credit of having produced them. Some of our greatest artists in these fields are abroad.
– Their employment in Australia would save valuable dollars, too.
– That, too, is a very vital matter. I have now practically concluded what I wish to say. I am not sure that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is a suitable body to exercise the functions under this bill. I know that it is difficult to get suitable people to exercise these functions. The principles which I have suggested have been written into English legislation in which they are sacred principles. But they are elementary principles. Britain has adopted them, not because the matter has been disputed, but because everybody knows that they have to be accepted. In England, the great objection to the institution of commercial television resulted from the fear that the principles which were originally adopted by the British Broadcasting Corporation would not be observed by commercial television. So the United Kingdom Government made provision in the relevant statute for the principles to be observed by commercial television stations and they are being observed. In this country, the same end may have to be accomplished by some different procedure.
Concerning the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I do not agree, altogether, with the honorable member for Gwydir. I think that the commission, on the whole, does very important and useful work. But I think it is open to criticism in relation to both television and broadcasting, because of its selection of news and its commentaries, for instance, on international affairs. Honorable members must surely be amazed at the collection of commentaries on international affairs that the A.B.C. puts over. I invite honorable members to run through the list of people who deliver these commentaries.
Not long ago when vital debates on the Suez Canal took place here and in England, a commentator was chosen by the A.B.C. to put his views on the matter. His views were so critical of the Government that he was told that either he would have to withdraw them or he would have to go off the air. He said that he would not withdraw his remarks and he was put off the air. In this way, the A.B.C. exercises something in the nature of a censorship on some occasions. I have mentioned this before. This particular commentator was put on the air again at a later stage but his later broadcasts did not preserve the same approach. I invite honorable members to examine the list of broadcasts by the A.B.C. They will see a bias in favour of whatever the Government does in international affairs. I admit that there may be one critical broadcast out of ten.
– You are biased.
– I am biased, but I am conscious of the fact. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) is even more biased than I am.
I have suggested to the PostmasterGeneral, or to some one who was acting for him, that if there are two views to be put on international affairs, they should be put by two people. The Minister should not assume that, by selecting a long list of people, fairness and justice are preserved in these matters. It is not done in that way. It is done in politics by broadcasting both sides of a case. The public hears both sides in broadcasts from this august chamber. Although listeners can turn off the radio, if they listen for a period they certainly hear opposing views. It is only from opposing views that one can form a fair judgment. It does not matter what the judgment is; the people are free to make it. A.B.C. commentaries, on the whole, simply echo Government policy on international affairs, which is perhaps the most important subject of all. For that reason they are quite unsatisfactory.
I apologize for dealing with this subject by selecting certain matters only, but they are matters that have come into the debate. We want television and broadcasting to be successful. We want all parties to get a fair go in all mediums. We cannot ask for more, but we ought to ensure that that is so. I think there are good trends apparent in the way television is developing. We want to encourage them where they exist, and keep a close eye on what is happening. That is why I strongly favour what the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said in connexion with the old Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee. The members of such a committee are the watchdogs of the House. They can see that things which seem tiny are looked at closely, and I believe that they can render very valuable service, not only to the Parliament but to the whole of the people of Australia who want to ensure that these great mediums are conducted fairly and justly to all persons whatever their opinions may be.
.- I wish to support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), particularly those at the close of his speech. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has failed to be contentious and stimulating on many great public issues. That is one of the reasons we challenge it in this debate. It is possibly also one of the reasons why members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties have chosen to remain practically silent in this debate. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that listeners to the debates here can get two sides of a question. In this debate, that opportunity has been notably absent. I think I am the ninth speaker in the debate, six of whom have spoken from this side of the chamber and only three from the other. That fact is an indication of the position that honor able members opposite take up on great public issues. This is a great public issue.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) spent a good deal of his time in attempting to traduce the Labour party. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) tried to put us in the corner as being continuously opponents of the A.B.C. That is not so. There are many reasons on which we can criticize the general administration of the whole system of broadcasting and television in this country. However, I do congratulate the honorable member for Gwydir on some of his remarks. It was interesting to hear them spoken by a man who spent some part of his working life as an employee of the A.B.C. and who became excessively loyal to it. Here is a man who, when he becomes part of a government instrumentality becomes a socialist and becomes proud of the institution of which he is a part. The honorable member described his erstwhile fellow employees in the A.B.C. as loyal, devoted and dedicated public servants. It is great to hear such a statement from a member on the Government side of the chamber, because Government supporters continually attack the Public Service.
We say that the Government has failed to give a lead to public servants to establish a dynamic and stimulating A.B.C. with vigour in all its works and all its ancillaries. That is why we are speaking so forthrightly in this debate. I am not surprised that honorable members opposite so vigorously support the present set-up in the broadcasting and television field. Here are the remarks of one of Australia’s leading legal men, Shand, Q.C., to the Royal Commission on Broadcasting in 1955 -
It cannot be disputed that the Herald, Sun and Telegraph have political allegiance to the Liberal party, which they support. They do not support the Labour party.
Also appearing before that royal commission was the very distinguished and uprising Liberal, the present - and, at the moment, absent - honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick). Yet no attempt was made to deny the truth of these statements.
There are four or five points on which we oppose the general administration of the Broadcasting and Television Act and of the system generally. In the first place, there is not enough competition from the A.B.C. I think that there should be more A.B.C. television stations than commercial television stations. The control of our television in particular is moving into the hands of people who are, politically speaking, completely irresponsible. They are not answerable to anybody. Over the last few years we have seen that this Government has no intention of controlling its instrumentality, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. We have seen the same thing evidenced in the replies by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to questions about what the Government proposed to do with the banking system and to other questions about the Government’s intentions regarding airlines and such things. In this we have a blatant example of the failure of the Government to give any direction whatsoever to its agencies. This is fundamental to the doctrinaire position taken up on the Government side, particularly as expressed by people like the honorable member for Capricornia.
The third point on which we oppose the present administration of broadcasting and television is that the whole system is moving towards suppression of the development of natural Australian culture and sentiment. You have only to see the programmes put over the air, you have only to hear the accents of the people who play in these programmes, you have only to see what the content of most of the programmes is, in order to understand that point. You have only to look at the figures supplied from time to time regarding the Australian content of broadcasting and television programmes to realize that what I say is true.
The fourth point from which our opposition stems is the low quality of the programmes. The honorable member for Capricornia took us to task because we did not relate our own personal experiences in relation to television, so I shall give some of mine. In my electorate there is a milk bar with a television set. I walked in there one day. There was quite a do going on in the programme being broadcast. You, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, would not understand what I mean exactly, because there is no television in your electorate of Wimmera. Three or four people were shooting one another. Another two or three were poking swords or sabres through each other and dancing around. There was a great deal of banging going on. The proprietor of the milk bar, who is a new Australian, as I looked at the screen with astonishment, not being accustomed to such scenes of violence, waved his hands in the air and said, “ They are always shooting one another on that thing “. And that is the fact.
This is the type of programme that viewers are given. On Easter Sunday evening I went to view a televison programme which emanated from Melbourne. From 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. the programme was a drama session broadcast under the name “Sunday Drama”, “Sunday Playbill” or some such term. An hour was taken up in this session with some out-of-date film imported from America at low cost - a fact which keeps Australians out of work because they cannot compete in this field. This supposed drama, this entertainment, as honorable members opposite would term it, featured marital infidelity, several murders, and several brawls, and riots. The whole television network was devoted to the more distasteful and sordid aspects of human behaviour. That is my own personal observation of television on Easter Sunday night.
– I should have thought the honorable member would turn off the set.
– I was a visitor to a house in which there is one. I do not belong to the honorable member’s class, so I do not own one, but I am well-mannered and did not switch the set off. The programme I have described was followed by another called “ Gunsmoke “, which also emanates from the wild and woolly West. In this programme the participants shoot one another with great vigour and quite often. There were some ladies involved in this matter.
– I use it as a technical term. The ladies involved in this affair seemed to have a rather free and easy attitude to certain of their marital ties. That took us up to 9.30, when the “ Meet the Press “ programme began. This was a fairly well conducted programme, and is perhaps one of the reasons why television ought to exist, because it does bring this type of contentious and stimulating programme to the people. The “ Meet the Press “ session was followed by a gentleman known - I do not know whether or not the term is technical - as Dr. Christian, who took part in operations both medical and detective. This programme involved more marital infidelity, several murders and a pursuit across, I presume, America. I admit that the “ baddies “ came to a sticky end, as is always the case, which no doubt must depress members of the Government rather sorely.
That is the account of my own personal observations on one of the few nights on which I have seen television. It cannot be denied by anybody that the programmes being offered to the Australian people are exceptionally low in quality and are not fit for people to see. Incidentally, it is folly to believe that the children go to bed on Sunday nights when television is on.
We say that the things I have described are a denial of Australia’s own traditions. The accents being broadcast across the country are not Australian accents. The scenery shown is not Australian scenery. In fact, it is rather an oddity to hear an Australian voice unless it is advertising an imported product in an imported accent. This is commercialism run mad, and there is absolutely no justification for the Government’s attitude. Honorable members opposite have dedicated themselves to such a doctrinaire position on this matter that they are unable to see the dangers inherent in the present trend. I am glad that honorable members on this side at least are prepared to take the matter up here.
Another point I should like to put is the concentration of the control of mass communications mediums in Australia in the hands of very few people. That brings me back to the point I originally made about the management of the television medium falling into the hands of irresponsible people. I believe that this is an historic struggle taking place in this and every other community. The matter of political responsibility was resolved 300 years ago. That historic struggle ended with Charles Stuart meeting his just deserts outside Whitehall. The matter at issue was the divine right of kings, and the struggle culminated in victory for those who contended that political sovereignty shall be held by the representatives of the people and that the divine right of kings shall not prevail. What has interested me during the: little more than two years that I have been in this Parliament is the almost completeacceptance by those on the other side of theHouse of the divine right of the owners of’ big businesses and great property aggregations. These are the people who havemoved into control of our whole television system, and the situation now presents oneof the challenges that we must face.
I have nothing in particular, or personally, against any one who is involved in. the ownership of television or radio stationsor newspapers, but there is no doubt that the control of these mass communicationmediums is becoming monopolistic in the extreme. In Melbourne we have two newspaper firms. One of them publishes the “Herald” and the “Sun News Pictorial”. The former paper is sold in the morningsand the latter in the evenings, and about 500,000 copies of each are sold each day. In addition, about 100,000 copies of the “ Age “ are also sold each morning. The great combine represented by Herald and Weekly Times Limited owns one of the television stations in Melbourne. The other newspaper firm is a part controller and owner of the other station. Both these organizations have extensive radio networks at their control. This position is dangerous in the extreme.
Honorable members on the other side of the House who spoke during this debate challenged us to read the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Let us look at that report, for the year ended 30th June, 1957. There are four great organizations controlling commercial television in this country. Only one of these firms, the one which controls station TCN in Sydney, has its shares available for purchase on the Stock Exchange. In only one of those four great companies can a member of the general public hope to gain any controlling interest.
Who are these people who enjoy .this divine right, who have been chosen from among our population of 9,000,000 to have at their disposal this great facility?
– They are supporters of the Government.
– That is correct. There are 33 directors of these four companies. What have they got that the 184 members of this Parliament have not? What sort of responsibility have they accepted to be placed in this unique position which is denied to the members of this Parliament who represent every person in Australia except, perhaps, those living in the Northern Territory and the residents of the Australian Capital Territory, who have been denied their constitutional rights in this place.
The challenge resolves itself into this simple issue: There are the 184 representatives of our 9,000,000 people in this Parliament against the 33 directors of the four concerns I have mentioned, which own and control these means of production, distribution and communication. That is the challenge. It is a matter of self-respect. Are we prepared to admit that we respect and trust these 33 persons more than we trust ourselves? I deny that we should, and the Labour movement denies it, and if it comes to a question of nationalization or socialization, where shall responsibility lie? Responsibility, we say, shall lie in the hands of those who are responsible to the people. As I said before, this is a matter of selfrespect. It is not a matter of monopolies or anything of that kind. If honorable members opposite are prepared to hand over the control in these fields to the people I have spoken of, I will oppose any such suggestion, not because these people are who they are, but because they are irresponsible. Not only I will oppose it; all honorable members on this side of the House will also oppose it, as will the great majority of the people of Australia, when the issues are removed from behind the clouds that obscure them - clouds created by Government supporters who refer to the Labour party as “ junta-controlled “ and “ outside-dominated “, and who use other such nonsensical expressions when referring to the Australian Labour party.
One of the four firms to which I have referred is Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited, which is the licensee of station ATN in Sydney. Who are the controllers of this company, why should they be more powerful than we are, and why should they command the great respect of honorable members opposite? If we consult “ Who’s Who “, we find that honorable members opposite - disregarding their political attitudes - have backgrounds that make them men of great distinction. They even include members of the Country party, and yet honorable members of that party dare to say that they are not prepared to accept the challenge and take over control of these enterprises.
Let us consider again the company known as Herald and Weekly Times Limited, which owns and controls the Melbourne “ Herald “, which is one of the most powerful newspapers in Australia. One of the directors is Mr. H. D. Giddy. This gentleman is also chairman of directors of HeraldSun TV Proprietary Limited. From the capacity that he has displayed in his business enterprises, he is obviously a great Australian. He is also chairman of directors of the National Bank of Australasia Limited. He is attaining a position of much greater power than is enjoyed by any member of this Parliament. He will be able to stand up and defy this Parliament. 1 repeat that the Government cannot allow these things to go on.
Another firm which has a deep interest in one of the four television companies that I mentioned is Hoyts Theatres Limited. I have before me a publication entitled “ Ownership and Control of Australian Companies “, in which we find a note concerning Hoyts Theatres Limited to this effect -
This company has been classified as overseas controlled. See “ International Motion Picture Almanac”, 1956 (Quigley Publishing Co., New York), p. 444, “ 20th Century Fox has a controlling interest in the Hoyts’ group of about 168 theatres in Australia “. It is believed that holdings in the name of Minter are nominee holdings, held on behalf of 20th Century Fox.
These are facts that cannot be denied. What have these men got that the members of this Parliament have not? One of the things they have not got is responsibility to the people, and so we oppose their control of these communication mediums. They have shown their irresponsibility by the low standard of programmes that they have foisted on to the Australian people.
Let us consider some of the directors of these concerns. Sir Arthur Warner is one of the directors of General Television Corporation Proprietary Limited of Melbourne. He is a very distinguished Victorian. He is a member of the Victorian Legislative Council, and during 100 years the members of the Liberal Country party, as it is now called, have established a position in which one cannot very easily shift the Legislative Council. When one considers these matters, it is easy to understand the kind of programme that would be approved by this gentleman, because when his government was attacked recently for the flogging of prisoners in a Victorian gaol, Sir Arthur Warner said, “ What is wrong? We did not draw blood “. That is the kind of person who has moved into control of television. It is no wonder that the Liberal party denies its duty and does not face its responsibility. After all, the Liberal-Country party government in Victoria still allows flogging, and the shooting of live pigeons, arid that fact alone furnishes us with a fair commentary on the programmes that would be sponsored by members of that government who have control of television.
I should like to refer to a great number of matters, but the principal points that I wish to make are these: First of all, there is the challenge on ownership and control; secondly, there is the challenge to stimulate the people’s thinking on general lines, and the opportunity to do this is not being availed of by the present television network. Thirdly, there is a failure to develop Australian culture and to give a stimulus to Australian drama. I have some figures before me, which may be a little late, having been given in September last by the Postmaster-General in reply to a question by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). The figures give the percentages of Australian-produced drama in television programmes. The percentage for station ABN was 11, for ABV it was 10.1, for ATN 0.9, and for each of the stations TCN, GTV and HSV the percentage was nil. The Australian Broadcasting Commission at least is taking some steps towards the encouragement of Australian drama, but the people in whose hands has been placed the greater part of the power and resources at our disposal through television have accepted no responsibility whatsoever in this direction.
– What is the Government doing about it?
– The Government is doing nothing about it. This is the challenge: Australian culture should be encouraged, Australian thought stimulated, and the Australian people generally should gain some advantage from the resources that have been placed at the disposal of the people I have mentioned.
I understand that there are now about 250,000 television licences in existence, and I presume that this means that there are 250,000 sets in operation. This shows a capital investment of about £40,000,000. Great things could have been done with that amount of money, but this challenge is being completely ignored by the Government and by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is one of the auxiliaries of the Government in carrying out the will of the people. Research has shown that, generally speaking, the people demand a higher standard of entertainment, but they are not getting it. The general desire to stimulate sales, which has been seen in advertising in the press and by radio, and is now evident in TV advertising, is a powerful reason for depressing the standard of the programmes, so that the stations get the largest possible viewing audiences. They are not attempting to find critical audiences or to stimulate their thinking. All that is required of viewers is that they buy a certain shirt or motor car. We cannot expect better programmes from commercial institutions. It is the Australian Broadcasting Commission that will have to do the job in the end. Instead of having only one national television station in each of the capital cities there ought to be twice as many national stations as commercial stations. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has pointed out the constitutional difficulties in the way of nationalization of this medium, but I remind honorable members of the great resources at the Commonwealth’s disposal. I am thinking of the kind of resources that enable this Government to buy transport aircraft by the dozen at £1,250,000 each, and to have 12 tons of nails left over when a project such as that at St. Mary’s is finished. A government with such resources can surely use them to develop this important medium of communication for the betterment of the people.
I have before me a report of the Australian Humanities Research Council on the effect of television, so far as cultural activities are concerned. The whole tenor of the report is that where television networks have taken the opportunity to raise cultural standards and critical faculties there has been an immediate response. The report refers to the fact that in a recent book entitled “Top TV Shows of the Year”, which has an introduction by chief executives of the National Broadcasting Company and the American Broadcasting Company - both commercial operators - the top twelve shows are listed, and that three of them are from the Johns Hopkins University series, two are news commentaries and three are good plays- The report states -
It has been noted, both in the U.S. and the U.K., that the ability of television to increase the desire for classical literature has exceeded all expectations. Last year, 19S6, the American Federal Communications Commission reported a fantastic increase in the sales of books of the classics, of works of art and literary treasures, all of which could be traced to television sessions.
Honorable members will see the opportunities that are being placed in our hands. We should accept the challenge and use this new medium to best effect.
For many years I taught in Victorian schools. The education systems of Australia will soon have to face great pressures as a result of increased enrolments. We must raise the school leaving age and increase the resources in the hands of the teachers. We shall be able to handle the greater number of students only by using these new technical developments. We have an opportunity to turn this new communication medium to the national advantage, and we should accept it. I hope that the Minister will put pressure on the Australian Broadcasting Commission to ensure a higher quality of programmes is provided, and will examine very closely the ownership and control of television, radio and press in this country. The Minister should see whether something can be done to counteract the tendency towards monopoly capitalism - if I may use a term which will probably upset Government supporters. At present American programmes which may cost 50,000 dollars to make are put on the Australian market for £100. No organization in this country can produce a comparable programme at such low cost. In this way, Australian television production is being strangled. We may well have to subsidize local production. We can enter the field ourselves. I remind honorable members of the material available through the News and Information Bureau and the
Australian War Memorial. Such films could bc used to develop a consciousness that we can stand on our own feet in the production of television programmes. Government supporters say that we are mere carping critics of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and want to dispose of it entirely. That is nonsense. What we hope to do is make constructive criticisms of the kind that have produced, in the 57 years since federation, some of our most notable enterprises. Unfortunately, for ten years the Australian broadcasting system has been in the hands of a government which is anti the people’s assets. We must fight vigorously to ensure that the people are made aware of this fact.
– in reply - The proposed amendment of the Broadcasting and Television Act is, as I stated in my second-reading speech, relatively simple. It deals mainly with machinery matters and aims at tightening up some of the provisions in the existing legislation. However, this debate has been notable for the fact that few speakers have applied themselves to the actual clauses of the bill. The exception was the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) who indicated a wish to suggest certain amendments. I think that on an occasion like this it is understandable that the debate should be fairly wide in scope, and I accept the lead given me by previous speakers in making my remarks on a wide basis also. I shall endeavour to answer some of the criticisms which have been uttered by honorable members opposite concerning the general operation of the broadcasting and television systems.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, opened the debate for the other side. He followed his usual pattern in dealing with the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. We have come to accept the fact that, for some reason or other, he has a particular aversion to those bodies, and loses no opportunity of decrying both their personnel and activities. I find it rather difficult to understand why that should be so. We know that the honorable gentleman is a very decent fellow, who is easy to talk to and not given to decrying others. For that reason,
I am not prepared to accept the suggestion that he attacks these broadcasting bodies for personal reasons. I think that there must be an underlying, deeper reason, and that can be seen if one pays special attention to statements which he has made from time to time, and which he and other honorable members opposite repeated last night. One can see, shining clearly through their criticism, a belief that Australia’s broadcasting and television system should be under the control of a political body - of the Minister of the day. The existence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board prevents complete control of that kind. Therefore, it seems, the system now in operation must be attacked. However, Labour thinks it better to attack the instrumentalities rather than the system itself.
The honorable member has said that broadcasting and television are powerful mediums for the influencing of public opinion. It is easy to see, flowing from that perfectly true statement, the conviction that those who control these powerful mediums can, eventually, control the minds and the thinking of the people. We all remember a certain gentleman called Hitler who believed in the technique of controlling mediums of communication and repeating a false statement so often that ultimately it was accepted as true. I say definitely and deliberately that the real reason for the attitude of honorable members opposite may be found in this belief that the political party or person who controls these powerful mediums of communication can mould public opinion. I do not make that statement lightly. My belief is supported by evidence that speaker after speaker from the other side - with one notable exception to whom I shall refer shortly - stated definitely that Labour believes in the nationalization of the broadcasting and television services. There you have it. Members of the Opposition have said that they believe in the nationalization of these services.
Before I pass to some comment on those statements and what they mean, I shall refer to the rather strange and possibly significant fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) who came into this debate rather late and spoke only briefly and rather disconnectedly, was at pains to point out that the federal conference of the Australian Labour party recently had decided that it was not possible to establish national ownership of these mediums. It had decided that the present system could not be challenged except by some constitutional amendment, according to the right honorable gentleman. That seemed strange to me for a moment, but suddenly I realized, as the Leader of the Opposition had realized, that the forthright statements by his followers that they believed in the nationalization of broadcasting and television were dangerous. Therefore, the right honorable gentleman had to enter the debate and do his best to create a different impression. In other words, was the statement of the Leader of the Opposition something in the nature of a square-off? Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. They cannot have the Leader of the Opposition saying, “ We recognize that this system cannot be nationalized “, and all those behind him saying, “ We believe in the nationalization of broadcasting and television and will plan for it “.
What would nationalization of broadcasting and television mean? The people know what it would mean. They know what nationalization meant when it was proposed by the Australian Labour party with respect to banking. From time to time, they have heard of proposals to nationalize insurance and other systems. Therefore, they know that the nationalization of broadcasting and television would mean simply that there would be a complete stifling of the freedom of private enterprise, and that such stifling would prevent true freedom of expression of the people. It is rather interesting again to turn to the statements that were made by the Leader of the Opposition and to find him saying that all he seeks is a fair and just share of time on the air. All he wants is a fair and just opportunity for himself and the Labour party to give expression to their principles. My reply to that statement is that under the present system, which is not a nationalized system, better opportunity exists for a fair and just share of time for the expression of opinions than would be provided under any system that has been suggested in this debate by the Opposition.
I can produce for honorable members further evidence that I claim exists as to the real reason for the opposition of honorable members opposite to the present system established by this Government for the control of broadcasting and television. For example, it was stated in this debate that one of the objectives of the Australian Labour party was to make provision for greater political ownership of broadcasting and television stations. I agree that any organization should have a fair opportunity to control the operation of a broadcasting or television station. But what is meant by this claim that there should be greater opportunity for political ownership of stations? Does it mean, for example, that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which handles recommendations for the granting of licences, is to be instructed that priority should be given to applications from political organizations for the control of broadcasting and television stations? This Government will not accept that proposition. It believes that a fair share of control should be given, but it will not give priority to any organization. I believe that that is the correct attitude.
Again, it was claimed in the amendments which were moved in a previous debate and which were quoted again last night by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that there should be wider provision for free political use of broadcasting and television stations. The Leader of the Opposition said that there should be better provision for all sides in political and controversial matters to be presented. I say that one of the things that can be claimed for the present system is that there is complete impartiality, particularly by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in the presentation of controversial and political matters. As a matter of fact, because of the very existence of that impartiality, there are some on both sides of the political fence who claim that the other side is given more favorable treatment by the commission. If we reach a stage, as a result of submissions by our opponents, that broadcasting and television stations, both national and commercial, shall be required or forced by legislation to give unlimited free time to political parties, the time could easily come when we would have what some people might describe as Evatt Unlimited. Some would say that that is the position now. I will not support any proposal which would lead to such a state of affairs.
At present, the stations are required to make certain time available for the dissemination of matter of national import. During election campaigns, any station which gives time to one political party is required to “give similar time to all other parties represented in this House, provided the time is paid for. That is something vastly different from the proposition that all stations should be required to give a great deal more free time for the dissemination of political views, particularly if, as has been proposed by our friends opposite, the control of both commercial and national stations should pass to the government of the day.
Another suggestion that has been made by honorable members opposite provides further evidence of the real objectives of the Opposition. They suggested that representatives of the Treasury and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should sit on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is a feature of this Government’s policy that the commission, working under a general charter, should not be subject to departmental control. But it is perfectly obvious that if we were to put representatives of the Department of the Treasury and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department on the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the result would be the exercise of direct political control which members of the Opposition seek and which we desire to avoid. The final suggestion which indicated the objectives of the Opposition was that the control over broadcasting and television should be transferred from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to the old Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee. So we see that the objective of the Opposition is the development of complete political control of broadcasting and television. That is not possible under the system which this Government has developed. Our system has been applauded by many recent visitors from Great Britain and the United States of America who have examined our dual system of commercial and national stations. At least half a dozen visitors to whom I have had the privilege of talking in the last six months have told me that they have seen nothing elsewhere to compare with the system that has been developed in Australia. That is our system; but honorable members opposite seek to hide their real opposition to it.
I have tried to draw out their real objectives and to present them to this House and through the microphones to listeners throughout the country. The Opposition has tried to hide its objectives behind a smoke screen. Honorable members opposite have tried to tell the people that this Government is building up a great monopoly of broadcasting and television in the hands of newspaper interests and others. They have tried to hide the fact that the monopoly control which the Opposition would impose is of a far more sinister and dangerous nature than any other control.
It is proper and right that I should not allow the vilification that has been uttered by several speakers against the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission to pass without comment. Therefore, I want to point out exactly what is involved in the system that this Government has established and supports. First, we have the national service implemented by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in broadcasting and lately in television. Operating that service we have a number of commissioners. They are men who have given great public service to Australia. I was very interested to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) because he, more than anybody else in this House, has had personal experience of the operation of the broadcasting system.
– What experience?
– I will answer the honorable member by quoting the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He conceded the fact in his speech - it can be seen in “ Hansard “ - that because of the experience of the honorable member for Gwydir in this field his views should be given considerable attention and can be taken as representing or providing knowledge that other members in this House do not possess.
The honorable member for Gwydir, when speaking to-night, pointed out that there has been given to the nation by the members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board a very high range of service, because they are in a position to determine, as far as programmes are concerned, for instance, just what is desired by the majority of the people. He pointed out, very rightly, that many of us say that such-and-such a programme is unsuitable and should not be continued; he is able to tell us that that opinion cannot be accepted as being reliable because the services must be of a nature to appeal to a wide variety of people and no one knows more and can choose better in that regard than those people on the Australian Broadcasting Commission who have had years of experience and have given years of service to the nation.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission operates under a charter provided by the Broadcasting and Television Act. In that charter, the commission is given overall directions as to what is required of it but the Government, having laid down those overall directions, charges the commission to operate under its own authority. I make this point because under our system there is no direct control of the operations of the commission by the Minister or by the Government. That is a factor which we say is a good one in our system. There is the overall indication of what is required of the commission; the Government retains control over the general policy, and the commission proceeds to carry out that policy under its own authority. This is a factor which annoys our friends opposite because they want direct ministerial and governmental control over what the commission does from day to day, so that if at any time they come to power they can use it for their own purposes. We, on the other hand, propose to preserve that factor and, if possible, strengthen it to ensure that it will continue to operate on these lines. As a result, we say that a fair and just share which is being sought by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is available and will continue to be available under this system, but not under the one he proposes.
I turn now to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is another part of our system. This has been vilified by certain honorable members opposite, particularly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The board is composed of reputable men - men of high standing. There are men on it who are capable of presenting a variety of views on all the problems that come before it. The chairman is a competent and able man in the Public Service. We have an engineer of very high quality; we have another engineer who was drawn from the
British Service because of his high qualifications; and we have two men, Dr. Darling and Mr. White, who have given their services in part-time capacities, men who are extremely highly regarded in the community in Australia. These are men who have all the qualifications amongst them for performing the detailed and responsible activities which the board is required to carry out under the act.
Here is another important point. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board does not determine policy; the Government still determines the broad policy on which the board shall act. But the Government having determined the policy, the board is required to carry out that policy, and it is given certain constitutional powers in its own right to do so. The board determines programmes and technical standards required of commercial broadcasting. The board constantly monitors all the programmes which are put before the people so as to ensure that the overall standards laid down by the Government will be carried out. The board exercises an oversight of the quality of the services required. The board is required to deal with the many and varied problems associated with broadcasting and television.
Honorable members opposite sneered a lot when they claimed that the board had allotted 30, 40 or 50 licences for television. It did nothing of the kind. The board is required to deal with programmes, the change of power of broadcasting stations and the coverage available to them. All these things represent problems. The board is required to deal with all the investigations of the licensing system for both broadcasting and television, and in this regard it is given pretty full directions by the act. The board is, in effect, a body required to carry out investigations of the whole of the broadcasting and television services - not only investigation, but also supervision of its general operation. Further, the board is required to make recommendations to the Minister and to the Government. That is the extent of its power; it has no power to issue licences, for instance.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the board being able to issue licences to newspaper combines and other similar bodies, as though the board itself could issue licences. I repeat that the board has no power to issue licences. It is required fully to investigate applications for licences, to take into account all. aspects of those applications, and finally, to report and make recommendations to the Minister, and then the Government decides policy. The Government’s policy towards the issue of licences is well known.
The important feature about the board is that the Government has available to it the advice of impartial and independent minds. These men are not politicians. They all have their particular jobs. They are operating because, first of all, they are imbued with a sense of national interest in broadcasting and television. They have impartial minds, and consequently one of their prime tasks is influenced by those qualifications themselves. That, again, is one of the features of this Government’s policy, which is resented by our friends opposite because they do not want recommendations to be put to them which flow from impartial and independent minds, otherwise some of the recommendations might not be palatable to them if they should get into government. Finally-
– Hear, hear!
– Only on this particular matter I will go on for another half an hour if you will give me an extension of time, because this debate affords me an opportunity to say quite a lot of things, just as it afforded members on the other side an opportunity to do so.
I have said enough to indicate just how widespread, how important, how onerous are the duties of the board. Several honorable members opposite, particularly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, have suggested that we should re-constitute the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee to take over the tasks which are being carried out by the control board. Could anything be more, ridiculous than such a suggestion, from several points of view? In the first place, no body of members appointed from both sides of this House, no matter how competent they may be - and I am not questioning their competence - could carry out all the tasks now required of the control board. In the second place, it would mean that in place of this body of people with impartial and independent minds we would substitute political control in the form of a parliamentary committee, because the government 0f the day would have a majority of members on such a committee. There again is an attempt to bring in complete political control of these matters. Not only is the work involved quite beyond the scope of such a committee, but also such a committee was proved to be ineffective previously. Before this Government ever put the committee into the discard, it had been put into the discard by the leader of the previous Labour Government, who realized that it was not effective and although it was not disbanded, it was not given any work to do. 1 could also say a great deal in support of the commercial services, but my time is running out, and I content myself with saying that I am not tolerant on this question of employing Australian talent. 1 am constantly watching the situation. I have had within the last few days a report showing exactly the Australian content of programmes. Those who say that commercial television licensees are not making an honest and sincere attempt to increase the use of Australian talent and to increase the Australian content of programmes do not present the situation properly as I know it to be. I have plenty of instances to prove the truth of what I am saying, but I have not the time to give them. I know that there is a sincere and honest attempt on the part of the commercial licensees to do a national task by increasing the Australian content of programmes. But I also know, as do many other people, that if, in order to achieve that end, the licensees were told that the Australian content of programmes must be 50 per cent, or 60 per cent., that would be the worst possible thing to do. If we did that as our friends opposite suggest, and, having done it, said, “ We have carried out our obligation “, it would be equivalent to running away from the obligation because the licensees would be set an impossible task. Anybody who thinks that to pass such a resolution and to leave the matter at that is to deal with the situation has another think coming.
Australian talent is slowly building up. It is improving and will keep on improving. Our objective will not be achieved overnight. Let us not forget that the motionpicture industry has been in operation for 30 or 40 years, and still there is no film-producing industry in Australia, in spite of what tie honorable member for
Kingston (Mr. Galvin) said a little while ago. He asked, “ Why can they not draw on the people in the Australian film industry?” One of my colleagues said, “ Who are they? “ and the honorable member could not answer. I too say “ Who are they?” The more we can develop broadcasting and television in Australia, the greater will be the market available to the Australian film industry for the sale of its wares. The more that the broacasting and television industries can promote the use of Australian talent and increase the Australian content of their programmes, the more it will be possible for the film industry to develop.
One company reported two or three days ago that in twelve months the number of Australian artists employed by one commercial television licensee had increased from 30 to 102 per month. The amount expended per week in wages for Australian artists increased from £499 in March, 1957 to £1,052 in March, 1958. Those are examples of what is being done. I presume that honorable members also know that two commercial licensees are conducting a competition for a play by an Australian writer, and providing £3,000 by way of prizes. I have said before that, as a result of my experience and the attention I have given to this matter, I believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial licensees are doing more to assist the development of Australian talent than are people like Actors Equity who criticize their efforts.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– In the second reading debate, I suggested that certain amendments of the act might be included in this bill with a view to preventing an arbitrary exercise of ministerial power in the cancellation of a station licence. I pointed out that there were certain loopholes in the act as at present drawn. 1 have since had an opportunity of discussing this with the Minister, who has mentioned to me that he intends to have certain amendments brought down when the bill is in the Senate. There are some drafting difficulties - I do not profess to understand them all - but the intention of the Government is to close the loopholes to which I have drawn attention. In those circumstances, I am not going to press the amendments. But there are certain other matters to which I would also draw attention.
The first is that the decision as to what programme is to be listened to or looked at is a very easy one, and it is made by the person sitting in his house by a radio or television set, with the power to turn this or that station on or off with a flick of the switch. I believe that we must have some regard to the person who supports this industry, namely the person who owns a set, who is a listener or a viewer.
It is regrettable, perhaps, that so far, the Australian national television stations have not achieved the rating that the commercial stations have achieved. In spite of the large amounts of money which have been spent, the national stations have a much smaller percentage of viewers than have the commercial stations. This, of course, is determined not by the Government but by the viewers themselves, who have that power of turning the dial to the right or the left, to take in this station or that station. But this preference for commercial stations is not exclusive to Australia. Even the wellentrenched British Broadcasting Corporation in England tends to lose viewers to the newer commercial stations.
Also, I feel a very great sympathy for the view that as much local talent as possible should be used. That is a view which I myself have expressed from time to time in this House. I think that the House will remember that many years ago I moved that the ownership of radio stations should be in Australian hands. The Opposition spoke vehemently against that motion at the time. That is shown in the records of “ Hansard “. The House carried my motion, and that has subsequently been applied as a principle in the allocation of television licences. I would regard that as a very salutary principle. It is rather strange that the Opposition, which professes to support this principle, showed its insincerity by voting against it when it was before the House. But luckily the
House saw fit to disregard the Opposition’s view and to sponsor the Australian outlook.
I know also that it is not possible to conjure up local talent out of thin air. lt cannot be developed all at once. If we demanded too much, we would simply kill the industry in its infant tracks. Many stations are doing their best to put Australian shows on the air. I know for a fact that station TCN in Sydney, if it could get a suitable Australian show, sponsored by somebody here, which, after being tried on the air, showed a rating, would make station time available free so that the show could get a run. That I know to be the case with that one station, but it is probably true of other stations, too. There is no lack of goodwill for Australian shows. There is a desire to get Australian shows on the air, but there is a difficulty in finding Australian shows that would get a high rating from the public, which, as I have said, has the right to turn a switch to the left or to the right. Unfortunately, most Australian shows have a comparatively low rating.
Do not let us try to make political capital out of this matter one way or the other. Let us try to build up the Australian side of the industry in a reasonably constructive way. In conclusion, I thank the Government for having accepted in principle the amendments I have suggested. I am very pleased to know that they will be drafted and presented to the Senate.
.- I rise to speak again because I am perplexed. I listened carefully to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) on the motion for the second reading of the bill. In that speech he attacked the Opposition most violently and said that the bill as now drafted would enable the Labour party, if it came to power, to do the most dastardly things to television in Australia. So disturbed was he by the loopholes which he said existed in the bill that he announced his intention to move the amendments that he outlined. He was very indignant then.
Now he has risen again. No amendments have been moved and apparently he now believes that there are no loopholes in the bill. He has thanked the Government for accepting in principle the ideas that he enunciated in his earlier speech, in the course of which he said that this was a measure which, if passed in its present form, would enable the Labour party, if it came into power, to give effect to its socialistic ideas by dismissing the present members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and appointing in their places what he described as puppets of the Labour party. He said that that would be done not at the direction of the caucus of the Labour party, but at the direction of people outside the Parliament.
There is an astounding difference between the long speech that he delivered in the second-reading debate and the second second-reading speech, if 1 may so describe it, which he delivered just now. In his committee speech he said, “ I discard the utterances that I made earlier. I say now, in order to get on the band waggon, that I believe that television programmes in this country should be provided to a much greater degree by Australian artists. I say that more Australian artists should be employed in television than are employed at present.” He has tried to outdo the members of the Opposition. We proposed that 55 per cent, of transmission time should be given to Australian artists, and our proposal was rejected by the Government. The honorable member for Mackellar has gone further than that and has said that television stations should be operated only by companies that have a standing in Australia, not by companies with only a standing overseas. I welcome this support by the honorable member for our proposition that a greater percentage of the television programmes in Australia should be provided by Australian singers, Australian dramatists and Australian artists of other types. Unfortunately, as everybody knows, the television of this country is the television of America. I was in America for three months.
– What clause are you on?
– I am asked what clause I am on. When the honorable member for Mackellar spoke just now, a member of the Australian Country party remarked to me, “He has made a second secondreading speech “.
– That is what you are doing.
– I rise to order. Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Scullin has admitted that he is making a second-reading speech. I cannot find any clause in the bill to which his remarks could be considered as relevant.
Order! Clause 6 deals with the provision of facilities by the Postmaster-General. It is a pretty wide clause. I listened carefully to what the honorable member for Mackellar was saying. I hope the honorable member for Scullin will keep somewhere near that clause. He must not make a second-reading speech now.
– I admit that my remarks are rather wide, but they are no wider of the point than were the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar. If I follow his example, he at least will believe that I am not far wrong. The party to which I belong has consistently advocated the employment of Australian artists to provide radio and television programmes in this country, but that is not occurring at present. The television of this country is a replica of the television of America. I was in America for some months and while I was there I looked at television. I saw “ I Love Lucy “, “ Robin Hood “ and many other films that are being shown on television here.
– Order! The honorable member must get back to the bill.
– I have said all that I desire to say, Mr. Chairman, except that I congratulate the honorable member for Mackellar on withdrawing the propositions that he put forward earlier.
– The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has not withdrawn the proposition which he stated during his second-reading speech. No inconsistency exists between the remarks he made a few minutes ago and those contained in his contribution to the secondreading debate. The honorable member, actuated by a very keen desire to do everything possible to strengthen the principle of this act, and seeing the possibility of one or two amendments which he believed might so strengthen the act, made certain suggestions which he stated briefly during his second-reading speech and which he has since discussed with me. I have informed the honorable member that I believe one of his amendments is very sound and desirable, but further consideration of it is necessary from the drafting angle. It may be that on consideration an alternative method of achieving the result sought can be developed. I wish to have a further look at the other suggested amendments before committing myself, and I have assured the honorable member that attention will be given to them in another place.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to raise two matters which involve rather serious charges against the Public Service Board. The first relates to a matter I raised in this Parliament recently showing how the board was discriminating against ex-servicemen in favour of other applicants for positions. I quoted the case of an exserviceman with a 50 per cent, war disability pension who had applied for a clerical position in the Public Service and had been accepted. However, on perusal of his repatriation file, the board refused to appoint the applicant because it was stated that he would not be physically able to carry out the duties of the position.
The ex-serviceman concerned is of good build and is carrying out very laborious work at the present time, and has been doing so consistently since his discharge. Because of his disabilities, naturally he felt that a clerical position would be more satisfactory and, therefore, he applied for the vacancy. As I have stated, he was accepted in the first instance but was subsequently refused appointment due to the report of the Repatriation Commission.
I approached the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and in this House asked that the ex-serviceman be examined by a specialist. I received a letter to the effect that even if the man were examined by a specialist whose report was favorable, that report would have to be considered by the board and its medical advisers in the light of departmental requirements. The letter continued -
Specialists are not always completely familiar with departmental requirements, or with the circumstances governing the fixing of medical standards for admission to the Commonwealth Service. While their reports are fully considered, for the reasons stated they are not necessarily accepted as a definite guide to the final course of action.
I forwarded that letter to the person concerned and received from him a communication which reads -
On reading your extract from “ Hansard “ dated Wednesday, the 12th March, 1958, it gave me a great deal of satisfaction and a feeling that all I had sacrificed in security of a career and good health had not been in vain. At least I had a stalwart who was prepared to stand up in the proper place and ventilate to those in the right quarter my case, which I state is one of victimisation.
I had served as a cadet and constable in the New South Wales Police Force since 1937, straight from school and it was from this department I had enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy.
On my return from active service I was debarred from returning to the career from which I enlisted and supposedly had protection under the Re-establishment and Re-employment Act of 1945, through my accepted war disabilities. As I look back nowI would have been better off in both health and security if I had stayed put and had not given sway to my strong-felt patriotism to help my country in the hour of need.
Since that time my disabilities have caused me to give up my own business in which I was progressing in a very successful manner. My health was not up to the task of carrying on. These circumstances were all caused by my disabilities. And now I find the Commonwealth will not defend my case; particulars of which have been put forward, as aforementioned, to those concerned by Mr. Daly, M.H.R.
It seems that the disabilities from which I suffer will always debar and stop me from obtaining a position which will give me a career of security for the future, something which I had when I enlisted. Now when the Commonwealth is able to assist me in obtaining a position of security, it is found lacking.
The person to whom I refer was not endeavouring to obtain a position involving laborious work or one the nature of which would have seriously affected his health. The position carried a lesser salary than he was then receiving, but he was, nevertheless, debarred from the Public Service because he is in receipt of a war pension.
This is a shocking example of administration by the board. 1 cannot understand why the Government tolerates discrimination of that kind against an ex-serviceman. I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), who is in charge of the debate, whether he will again place these facts before the Prime Minister. I shall supply the name and address of the person concerned if required.
I refer now to another matter which I have raised during question time. I asked the Minister for the Navy whether security reports on certain people employed by his department were being made. On a previous occasion I asked the Prime Minister a similar question in regard to an appointment in the Public Service, but I have not received a reply to either question.
I have before me particulars of a case in which a man was accepted for employment in the Public Service in a temporary capacity. He subsequently approached me and stated that in the first place he had been advised that he had failed the examination for permanency, but on recheck it was stated that he had passed. As his appointment was not proceeded with he contacted the Public Service Board and asked whether something could not be done to hasten his appointment.
I brought this case to the notice of the Public Service Board and received in reply a letter from the Sydney office, dated 23rd October, which reads -
The present position in this case is that the Public Service Board is unwilling to proceed with Mr.- ‘s appointment for administrative reasons. Their reasons are not connected with the fact that an error was originally made in computing his examination marks.
After receipt of that letter I wrote to Sir William Dunk, chairman of the Public Service Board of Commissioners and received a letter dated 10th February, 1958, which stated, inter alia -
The question of Mr.- ‘s appointment has been reviewed and the board does not propose to proceed with his appointment. This, as already advised to you by the Public Service Inspector in Sydney, is for administrative reasons, and the board is not prepared to amplify that statement.
What are the administrative reasons? Subsequently, I asked the man concerned questions as to his political associations and other personal matters of that nature, not because of my interest in them, but in order to ascertain whether the board was taking action against him for political reasons.
I shall read now to the House a letter he forwarded me after advising that he has never at any time been a member of any subversive organization or affiliated in any way with any organization which would debar him from employment. The letter to which I refer is dated 13th April, 1958. It reads -
I ask your help in investigating the reason for the non-granting of my appointment to the Public Service. I entered the Public Service in 1955 with the intention of sitting for the Public Service examination for the position of Clerk (Third Division). I joined the International Correspondence Schools, which my wife and I could ill afford at the time as we were paying off our home. We both decided that the only way to get ahead and secure our future was to study. After failing in the 1955 exam., I enrolled at Cleveland Street Evening College and attended four nights a week through 1956, successfully passing that year’s exam. My pass was achieved mainly because of the confidence and home coaching of my wife, who has never failed to encourage me in whatever I have undertaken.
I was dux of my school, but economic necessity curtailed my secondary education, completing only first year at Canterbury High I had a few jobs up till the war, all dead-end, was unsettled after overseas service in the Army, and did not take advantage of the C.R.S. Married in 1951 and am a steady settleddown sort of chap, don’t get drunk, don’t belt the wife and am well respected apparently by the people in my street, fellow workers and friends. I am 35 years of age and have never been charged with any crime, although after kicking my brain along for fifteen months, all to (so far) no avail, I certainly feel like indulging in a little justifiable mayhem.
I have never at any time belonged to a subversive organisation, whilst firmly believing that a person’s politics should have nothing to do with appointments to the P.S. I was demoted recently in position and salary as a direct result of my lack of permanency. My work and conduct are quite satisfactory to the O.I.C. of my Section. I hope you can do something to unravel this mystery.
I submit that this man has been refused appointment on political grounds, and there must be a security file, or something of the kind, relating to him. This sort of thing could happen to any of us. The man in question may have been debarred on account of his politics, his religion, or something else, at the whim of some person who does not like him for some reason or other. This is a matter that must be ventilated. There may be many moTe such cases.
Certain Public Service associations have indicated that security files on certain members of the Public Service are kept.
I ask the Prime Minister to investigate this case personally. On the facts as presented to me, an injustice is being done to the man involved, because, although he has all the qualifications required, including that of being an ex-serviceman, he is being refused appointment. This is another example of scandalous ill-treatment, if the facts have been correctly stated to me, and I ask for an inquiry.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
i asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
On what dates and in what amounts since 30th June, 1952, were (a) calls made from the trading banks to the special accounts of the Commonwealth Bank and (b) releases made?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Commonwealth Bank has furnished the following table showing the net calls to, and net releases from, the special accounts maintained with the Commonwealth Bank by trading banks during each month since 30th June, 1952: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. As local authority matters do not come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth I am unable to express an authoritative opinion on the extent or causes of any financial difficulties which local authorities may be experiencing. 3 and 4. Successive Commonwealth governments have taken the view that, as the functions and sources of finance of local authorities are determined by the State parliaments and as the States are responsible for local authority matters, it would be inappropriate for the Commonwealth to attempt to assume financial responsibility for local authority matters. Each State government is, of course, at liberty to decide the extent to which the financial assistance provided to the States by the Commonwealth is passed on to local authorities.
k asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has replied as follows: -
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to thehonorable member’s questions are asfollows: -
d asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– There is no limitation upon the acceptance of nominations for European unmarried women between the ages of 1 8 and 35 years, whether from Italy,
Greece or elsewhere and whether related to their sponsors here or not. AH nominations for such women are accepted for screening by Australian posts abroad and vises are granted if the women are found able to meet normal immigration requirements.
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580423_reps_22_hor19/>.