24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
– I move -
That this House censures the Government for its policy in relation to the granting of commercial television licences, and states that this policy is contrary to the best interests of the community.
The Chifley Government - the last Labour government in control of the destinies of Australia - decided that television in Australia should be made a public instrumentality. That was Labour’s policy and had we remained in office it would still .be our policy. The present Government rejected that policy and in the Television Act of 1953 provided for commercial television licences on the same lines as commercial broadcasting licences.
In Great Britain a conservative’ government - apparently not as conservative as this Government - decided not to issue commercial television licences. It established an independent television authority to function alongside the government-owned system. The dual system established by the Churchill Government in 1952 provided that the stations would be owned and operated by a public authority and the programmes provided by private companies under contract. Whilst that system may not be . ideal, it is much fairer and much more desirable than the one that has been operating in Australia and about which there is so much justifiable criticism. We believe that whatever system takes the place of the present system, the present system must go. It is for this reason, among others, that I move this censure motion.
We censure the Government both for the policy it has adopted and for the manner in which it has pursued that policy. Before the royal commission on ‘ television set up by this Government in February, 1953, the late Sir Richard Boyer, then chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, urged that television frequencies should remain a public domain, stations being owned by a public authority and leased to programme companies. The air is a public domain but it is being used and abused to-day by commercial television interests not for the public good but primarily for private profit. The royal commissioners, with one dissentient, rejected the idea that television frequencies should remain a public domain. The dissentient was none other than the present chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, Mr. R. G. Osborne. He said that public ownership of all transmitters was both practical and desirable. With that we entirely agree.
Two evils that have flowed from the adoption and inauguration of the new system are pretty obvious to everybody who cares to investigate the situation. We say it is wrong that newspaper companies should have the sole ownership or any effective ownership of a commercial television station. We say it is wrong that anybody who obtains a licence for a television company should be able to traffic in that licence.
In January, 1961, A.W.A. and Email Limited sold their shares in ATN, Sydney, for £6 each to John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited. Those companies made a profit of over £1,000,000- £1,038,000 to be precise - on their investment. Yet A.W.A. and Email Limited are leading shareholders in United Telecasters Sydney Limited, the successful applicant for the third commercial licence in Sydney. When dealing with this aspect, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, whose report was tabled in the Parliament last week, had this to say on page 101 of the report -
The question of the acquisition and subsequent sale by A.W.A. and Email Ltd. of the shares in ATN was fully examined and we are satisfied that it does not in any way disqualify a company in which A.W.A. or Email Ltd. is now a shareholder from obtaining a licence for an additional commercial television station in Sydney.
What happened once can happen again. Every television licence that is issued can be sold and resold. Ultimately the public pays for these transactions.
An amendment to the Broadcasting Act some years ago necessitated the sale of shares in GTV held by Electronic Industries Limited in Victoria, the presiding genius of which was Sir Arthur Warner, who is well known to honorable members opposite as a leading and very important member of the Liberal Party in Victoria. He had to sell his shares in GTV, Melbourne, because Electronic Industries Limited was deemed to be controlled by the English Pye organization. I do not mind that provision in the act which states that outside interests cannot hold more than a certain percentage of the shares in television companies in Australia. We want the same principle to be adopted and applied to certain Australian companies whose activities could be detrimental to the public interest.
When the Pye organization sold its shares they were bought by Sir Frank Packer of Sydney, who paid £3,600,000 for them. That gave Electronic Industries Limited of Melbourne a capital profit of £3,000,000 on an investment of £600,000 made five years previously. Any system which permits trafficking of that kind is wrong. Not one member of this House could claim that it is fair, proper or just, and not one member, I should imagine, would claim that it should be allowed to continue.
Rumours have been circulating in Melbourne since yesterday that already the new owners of Channel 0 are negotiating with the Sloman group, one of the disappointed applicants, for the sale of their interests at a profit of something over £2,000,000. I am in very close touch with a lot of leading Liberals these days. They all happen to be disappointed applicants for the Melbourne licence. They tell me a lot of things, and I believe them to be very honest in what they say. There is nothing to prevent the Ansett group from selling its interest in the new station if it wants to do so. If others could do it previously, why cannot the Ansett group do it, too? I suggested last week that it was possible that within twelve months Mr. Ansett would try to make a capital gain of £1,000,000 by this form of trafficking. This may not come to anything, but trafficking in shares of this kind should not be permitted.
As I have said, the blame for this trafficking in shares does not rest on those. who make fortunes by their sales. It rests on the Government which permits such things to happen. The Government should put a stop to them. Other people in the community do not indulge in this kind of traffic. The taxi-driver who has a licence in Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide is not allowed to traffic in his licence. The public interest does not permit him to do so. He has to work his own taxi or lose his licence. If he goes out of business he returns his taxi plate to the department concerned. Honorable members opposite are interjecting. I am now telling them something. Taxi drivers cannot sei] plates in the way that some of the Government’s supporters suggest.
– They pay £7,000 for a taxi plate in Sydney.
– Very well. Trafficking in something which is granted by a government in the form of a monopoly or part monopoly should not be permitted. The only explanation which can be offered of the extraordinary report which was tabled last week is that the board is becoming completely demoralized by the confusion that has been created by the Government as to the board’s duties and functions. I believe I shall prove that as I proceed.
The board does not know what is expected of it. It does not know whether it is an independent authority or a rubber stamp. I have heard Ministers and other honorable members say that the Government acted rightly when it granted a licence to the Melbourne group that is headed by Mr. Ansett, because the board had unanimously recommended the granting of a licence to that group. I suppose the Government will argue that it has accepted the umpire’s decision. But has it always felt bound to accept the umpire’s decision? Has it not ridden roughshod over the board in the very recent past? Honorable members have only to cast their minds back afew years to find the answer to ‘that question. The only consistency which has been shown by the Government in regard to the board is that it has always served the interests and done the bidding of its powerful friends with or without the approval of the board..
As the act stands, the board is obliged to cali for applications, to hear evidence and to make reports; but the Minister and the Government need not necessarily accept the board’s reports and the Government need not necessarily grant any application but can issue a licence to somebody who has not even applied. On this very subject, I said on 8th April, 1962-
The Broadcasting Control Board has been reduced to impotence. It is being used as a rubber stamp for decisions already reached by the Cabinet in private, at the urging of its friends. The idea that the Control Board’s recommendations have any authority is a myth and a farce. The people will be shocked when, after the series of expensive hearings-
That is, the hearings which were then taking place - the farce ends with the announcement which the Government has already decided to make.
I was rather prescient in making that observation. In only one respect was I wrong - I did not predict that Mr. Ansett would get the Melbourne licence. My mind boggled at the idea that even this Government would have the audacity to load yet another benefit on the court favorite.
When applications were called for commercial licences in Brisbane and Adelaide some years ago, the board found that none of the applicants was suitable. It went further and said that in any case only one licence should be granted in each of those cities and it recommended that new applications be called for. The Government then told the board to recommend in each case the two most suitable of the unsuitable applicants. The decision by the Government to allow two commercial licences in Brisbane and Adelaide was taken in the teeth of the board’s recommendation that the Government should grant only one licence in each of those cities. When one large newspaper organization feared that it might miss out on getting a licence in Brisbane and Adelaide it influenced the Government to override the board’s decision and to grant two licences, thus assuring itself of one in each city.
Then another newspaper magnate who now owns stations in Sydney and Melbourne needed outlets in Adelaide and Brisbane for his programmes. He therefore influenced the Government to provide for three licences in each of those cities. Thus in the face of the board’s recommendation that one licence only should be granted in Brisbane and Adelaide, the Government has now decided to grant three licences in each of those cities. This decision was made without any evidence being adduced as to the economic feasibility of an additional licence in Brisbane and Adelaide and despite opposition from existing licence holders.
It may be argued that existing licence holders would want to preserve their monopoly. Of course they would! That is a very natural and normal kind of thing to do. I know of one licence holder who will have one attitude in respect of Adelaide and a different attitude in respect of Perth; but of course he has to reconcile those difficulties for himself. The truth is that whatever the Government has been doing it has never yet convinced the public concerning the reasons for its actions. The Government has left in the public mind the suspicion that it is being pushed around by its friends outside. In the first place it was newspaper interests which were granted the licences; to-day it is big business interests. But there is nothing to prevent those big business interests from selling out to newspaper interests in turn if they want to do so.
The mess that this Government has made of country television services is a result of the influence not of its friends outside but of its Australian Country Party allies. The Liberal Party is being pushed around by the Country Party in respect of the issuing of country television licences. This influence has been exerted to serve sectional, not national, interests. The interests of the country people, the ordinary farmers and the men and women who live in the towns, have been sacrificed to serve the interests of those who run the Country Party. Again with scant regard for the considered opinions of the Broadcasting Control Board the Government has decided on the very system least likely to provide country viewers with a service comparable with that available in the cities. In Newcastle the Australian Broadcasting Commission postponed the opening of the national station because that station would carry relays from Sydney whereas the commercial station in Newcastle, which had been operating for some time, could not do so. The A.B.C. station would take all the viewers away from the commercial station. That is typical of the mess which the Country Party PostmasterGeneral has made of the granting of a licence outside a capital city.
– The Newcastle people are getting only half a service.
– Yes. I received a telegram a few moments ago from an organization urging me to protest about the treatment of people in Newcastle, this great city of New South Wales which is bigger than the capital of Tasmania.
The Broadcasting Control Board, in its report on the granting of the third licence for Sydney and Melbourne, stated that it had adopted a number of criteria. According to page 65 of the report, among the questions which the board asked itself were the following: -
What are the purpose, motives and objectives of the applicant? What were the prime motives for seeking the grant of the licence; were there any motives of self-interest?
Has the applicant any real knowledge or sincere interest in the art of television, or are the sponsors of the application primarily interested in the venture as an investment?
Is the constitution of the company so arranged as to enable proprietary companies or individuals to make large personal fortunes out of the success of the application?
Is the venture of the applicant a natural extension of an existing business?
How does Mr. Ansett measure up to those criteria? The board’s report on the application made by Mr. Ansett was expressed in this way -
In fact, the application is made by Ansett Transport Industries Limited which undertook to provide not only the financial resources, but also what may be called the intellectual resources and executive capacity which would be required to establish the station. The applicant presented the application on this footing, and in effect offered its known operating organization of high standard and ability and competent and efficient business management as its main claims to be recommended for the grant of the licence.
If this section of the report is to be taken seriously, my comment on that is that any successful and established enterprise would, in any future hearing of applications for licences, have a tremendous advantage over newly-formed companies. If the old companies are to get all the advantages, the newly-formed companies that apply for licences nave no chance. Everything is to be loaded in favour of those that already have everything.
What did the Australian Broadcasting Control Board say further? At page 105 of the report, this appears -
The evidence disclosed that the application was the result of the work of an ‘ executive group, headed by Mr.- R. R. Walker, now a director of the applicant company, working under the direction of Mr. R. M. Ansett, and we were impressed by the overall grasp of the financial, administrative, technical and programme aspects which are involved in planning a television station, and the competent and assured presentation of evidence.
All that this means, Sir, is that Mr. Ansett was in a position to detail some of his top executives to take a few months off to prepare a case, and Mr. Walker was, in effect, the general manager of the new station. Mr. Ansett could do this simply because he already had a large staff. Again, it is a case of an established company starting with huge advantages over companies formed specifically to establish a television station. Honorable members opposite cannot see how much new companies are at a disadvantage if this standard laid down by the Broadcasting Control Board is to continue.
The story becomes even more interesting. The board, in its report, continued -
We attach a great deal of importance to the nature of the programme proposals of this applicant. While it was finally not claimed that the proposals were “ a revolutionary approach to programme planning “ (although this was asserted in the original application), we are satisfied that they are both realistic and economically practicable . . .
Both the board and Mr. Ansett seemed to be unable to make up their minds about the programme proposals. Mr. Ansett first claimed that his proposals were revolutionary, and later withdrew that claim.
If we examine what the board had to say at page 58 of the report, we find that the programme proposals are set out in the vaguest terms possible. Mr. Ansett stated three principles that he said would guide him in this revolutionary approach - first, to provide an overall programme pattern to foster national sentiment and pride in Australia and Australian achievements, secondly, to make Channel 0 the family station, and, thirdly, to contribute to the betterment of the community and to advance the culture and arts of the nation. Could anything be more vague? In fact, every one of the fifteen applicants in Sydney and Melbourne expressed almost exactly the same sentiments. Why should one applicant company be selected for commendation because it said something that all the others said? There is nothing in the detailed exposition of Austarama’s programming to show that it is more than sentiment. The only thing revolutionary about the company’s programme proposals is that Mr. Ansett seems to have discovered a new cost system unknown to any of the established television practitioners.
The Broadcasting Control Board said that it attached great weight to the realistic nature of Austarama’s proposals and added -
Austarama claims that, in its first year, it will present each week a 90-minute local play, a half-hour comedy, a one-hour variety programme, a one-hour Australian classical artist’s programme, a one-hour historical drama, a one-hour teenage show and a onehour filmed documentary - all to be telecast in peak viewing hours - plus at least fifteen hours weekly of less ambitious live productions. I am informed by experts who, unlike Mr. Ansett, have had years of practical experience in television that the most conservative estimate of the cost of such rich fare is £1,000,000. Mr. Ansett’s estimate of his total programme costs, for both live and film programmes, is only £1,068,000. In other words, Sir, Mr. Ansett’s proposals are completely unrealistic, and the board must know that they are unrealistic, although it gave him a licence. Yet, we are asked to believe that he has been granted the Melbourne licence largely because of the realistic nature of his approach. We do not believe it, whoever else does. That is the whole of the case for Austarama, with one remarkable exception. The exception is to be found on page 106 of the report, and here it is -
Statements by the Director-General of Civil Aviation were submitted, in very favourable terms, as to the record of the company in its operations and the calibre of its staff. We have carefully considered these submissions and appreciate their force.
By what right did the Director-General of Civil Aviation intervene in this case? Why did he come along to support Mr. Ansett’s application? Were not all the other applicants for a licence honorable and decent people? Had not they all had dealings with government departments? Were not all of them entitled to receive recommendations equally fulsome and equally satisfactory from their particular points of view? But it has never been explained why Mr. Anderson gave this recommendation, except for a statement in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ last week, after I had made my comment on this question, that Ansetts asked Mr. Anderson for a recommendation after somebody had said that Ansett could not get on well with government departments.
Whoever suggested that Mr. Ansett could not get on with the Department of Civil Aviation, for instance? We have all been reading lately of a proposal that a hot line should be established between President Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev. There is nothing new about that. A hot line between Ansett Transport Industries Limited and the Department of Civil Aviation has been in existence for years. They have been getting on so well together for so long that there was no need for a special letter to say that Mr. Ansett was a very good person with whom the Government could deal. Time would not permit me to list all the benefits - the eleven important benefits - that Mr. Ansett has received from this Government, from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), his soulmate. I was attacked last week for things I said. It was alleged that I had uttered a lot of half-truths, untruths and misrepresentations.
– That is right.
– At least, there was nothing wrong with that statement in regard to the letter from Mr. Anderson. There was nothing wrong with any of the rest of the things I said, because any criticisms offered against what I said were offered in the vaguest of terms. Let those who claim that anything I said was wrong say where I was wrong, and I will answer them.
– Here or outside?
– Here or outside, when they say what was wrong. I have not time to go through all of the matters that have been raised, but I do know that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) told this House, when East-West Airlines Limited, in New South Wales, was threatened with extinction by Mr. Ansett, that Mr. Ansett had the backing of the Minister for Civil Aviation all the way. What he said was right. Of course, nothing has been done to try to maul Mr. Donald Shand and his company since the 1961 election, because the Government just has not the numbers in this House or in the Senate with which to pass amending legislation to give Mr. Ansett any more benefits. Mr. Ansett, seemingly, is the only businessman in Australia who has a permanent spokesman in this Parliament, and that spokesman is the Minister for Civil Aviation.
It is significant, Sir, that the only reply so far offered by the Government to statements I made about television last week has been made not by the Postmaster-General, not by the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in the Senate, Senator Wade, but by the Minister for Civil Aviation. In my speech last week I barely mentioned civil aviation. My speech was about television, which comes under the control of the Postmaster-General. But simply because Mr. Ansett was involved, the Minister for Civil Aviation felt it incumbent upon himself to rush to his defence. Mr. Ansett is entitled to have his defenders and Senator Paltridge is entitled to his views. I do not mind any man expressing his views, but those who criticize are entitled to be criticized. If people want to criticize my views, I do not mind. I have settled long since for the principle that the man or the institution that claims to be above criticism is generally beneath it. Let anybody have a say if he wants- to have a say.
I come now to another extraordinary feature of the report. It is something of which honorable members might well take note. The very last paragraph, on page 107, reads -
Mr. R. A. Yeo was a member of the Board during the hearing of the inquiries into the applications which are the subject of this report. His term of office expired on 1st January, 1963, before the preparation of this report, in which he took no part. He informed the Board prior to the expiration of his term of office thai’ he agreed with the recommendations contained in this Part.
The recommendations were made before the report was written. What other conclusion can you arrive at? Let all the distinguished lawyers on the other side try to wriggle out of that one. That paragraph explains many things. I do not know why the board made the admission it did, but it explains why Mr. Ansett was able to say at Christmas time - before Mr. Yeo resigned - that he was going to get the licence.
– How childish! One would think you had no experience of these things.
– Mr. Ansett did say he was going to get the licence. He told everybody around Melbourne and Sydney he was getting the licence. The shares of his company rose from 5s. 4d. to 6s. 7d. on the stock exchanges, of Sydney and Melbourne.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. He invited his own staff to buy shares in his company. A lot of other things happened too. Mr. Ansett had a copy of the Minister’s report in his possession on Friday morning last in Melbourne. To the Prime Minister, who is trying to interject, let me say that a very distinguished member of the Liberal Party told me this. Laugh that one off, if you can. Mr. Ansett gave it to him.
In other words, the report was tailored to meet the recommendations. Recommendations first, report afterwards. The Melbourne hearings ended on 13 th December, yet by 31st December at the latest the board knew whom it intended to recommend, although the hearings had lasted for four months. The board was not alone in this knowledge of its intended recommendations. At least one other person - Mr. Ansett - knew months ago that he would get the Melbourne licence. As I have said, he boasted of it openly at Christmas parties and to several people. At the very time that Cabinet was deliberating on the board’s recommendations here in Canberra, Mr. Ansett was hawking his photograph, and those of his fellow directors, around newspaper offices in Melbourne. Let the Government inquire into that one if it likes.
In the view of the Australian Labour Party the Government’s approach to commercial television in all its aspects has been marked by lack of candour and has smacked of a complete disregard of the public interest. The Government has never been honest with the public on television, and much of what it has said and done has been hypocritical. It has ignored the Australian Broadcasting Control Board whenever the board’s recommendations have conflicted with the interests of its friends. It has cynically claimed to respect the authority of the board when patently wrong decisions by the board happened to concur with the Government’s own plans. It has over-ridden the board in the board’s area of greatest competence and, Uriah Heep-like, has accepted the board’s decision with all humility when the board has given it the recommendation it wanted.
Sir, the Government has ignored the inescapable facts that were unpalatable to it in the past, and it is now defending the indefensible when it tries to brazen its way through over the Ansett case. We need a new deal for television and for the television viewer in Australia. A series of misguided - or worse - decisions has imperilled the whole structure and future of television in Australia.
An inquiry, with the powers of a. royal commission, is required now before it is too late. If this Government will not take such action, the next Labour Government will. The inquiry should cover not only the way the existing commercial system is being operated and administered, but also the entire ramifications of television in Australia - ownership, controls, programme standards and everything else - with a view to determining what better methods could be substituted for the existing ones.
– Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has proposed a motion censuring the Government for its policy in relation to the granting of commercial television licences and suggesting that this policy is contrary to the best interests of the community. He said nothing in the 40 minutes or so that he spoke to justify the contentions in his motion. He made no real criticism and gave no justification of the suggestion that our policy is not in the best interests of the community. Nor did he offer any alternative, except in the last minute or two of his speech when he said that there should be some commission of inquiry into the grant ing of licences and the operation of the commercial television system.
He made many rather extravagant statements and some rather funny ones. He mentioned the reference to Mr. Yeo at the end of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The plain fact is that Mr. Yeo was present right through the inquiry and, before leaving the board, left a minute with the chairman expressing his views.
I found it difficult to discover anything of real merit in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition on which to set myself or to get my teeth into, but I think it desirable, seeing that the honorable gentleman is challenging the Government’s policy in the allocation of television licences, that something should be said about that policy so that the people generally - not just honorable members opposite - may determine just how sound this policy is.
Anyone who has followed the development of television throughout Australia in the last 6i or 7 years knows full well that the Government’s policy has been governed largely by the report of the Royal Commission on Television in 1954. That commission was appointed by this Government, which realized that here was a new medium about which we knew very little - a very powerful medium - and that we should get the best information available to us before we commenced its development. So a completely independent commission was appointed. That commission made a very lengthy report, and in the development of television the Government has largely followed that report - not completely; there are a few differences. The commission recommended that there should be a dual service in television, just as in broadcasting. In broadcasting the dual service had proved to be very satisfactory. It also went on to deal with the subject now before this House, that is, the allocation of licences for television stations.
In order that every one may realize just how closely the Government has followed the report from this independent body, I shall read the relevant recommendations. The report stated -
There should be a licensing system for commercial television stations similar to that which at present applies to commercial broadcasting stations. The licensing authority should be the Minister, who should exercise the functions of granting, renewing and revoking licences. In exercizing these powers he should be required to take into consideration recommendations made by a statutory authority, which should also discharge certain technical and other administrative and regulatory functions. “The statutory authority, in the exercise of its technical, administrative and regulatory functions shall not be subject to direction by the Minister.
The statutory authority referred to in the previous recommendation should be the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
Finally it says -
In the case of the original grant by the Minister of a commercial television licence for any locality, before making any recommendations, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should conduct a public hearing of the applications received for licences in that locality.
That principle, as incorporated in the legislation in 1956, is exactly the policy that the Government has followed closely since that time.
– Who were the members of the commission?
– As a result of this policy the board has done a splendid job in the hearing of applications for licences connected with the extension of television. I suppose it is not generally realized that since it first started investigating applications for television licences in 1956, under the policy of this Government, the board has had referred to it some 130 applications, of which it has already heard about 114. I believe that in all the circumstances it has done a very good job because it has realized what has had to be done.
Let me now briefly outline the normal procedure. First, when the Government decides that it is desirable that television licences should be granted in certain areas applications are called for licences for those areas. When received by the Minister these applications are referred immediately to the board - and you can take it from me that they are referred straight through to the board by me without any attempt at comment or direction by the Government. As a matter of fact, I can say of all the applications that have come through my hands and been passed on to the board that not one member of the Government parties has known at the time who the applicants were or what they were like. As the applications come before it, the board goes through all sorts of pro.edures and obtains all sorts of information from the various applicants so that it may have before it the fullest possible details to guide it in arriving at a decision. As to the criticism that has been levelled over the way in which the allocation of licences has been determined, the only really adverse criticism I have heard of the board’s operations has related to the length and thoroughness of investigations made by it into [he various applications submitted to it. Many people have asked why the board has taken so long in arriving at decisions. The reason is simply that the board has been thorough in its application of the principle that a complete public inquiry - public inquiry, mind you! - at which the various applicants are represented by counsel, the board is assisted by counsel and every possible matter which is in any way relevant to the application is considered, shall be held. Because of the thoroughness and openness of the inquiry there has been no case in which the applicant recommended by the board has not been accepted by the Government. I want it thoroughly understood that on each occasion on which the board has recommended that a licence be granted to a particular applicant, that recommendation has been adopted. That applies also to the last recommendation that we received.
– What about the Brisbane one?
– I was waiting for that. Reference has been made on several occasions to the position in Brisbane and the position in Adelaide. Although the facts about those two cities have been covered already I must state them again. When applications for the Brisbane and Adelaide licences were invited the number of licences that it was intended to grant was not specified by the Government. After considerable evidence had been presented to the board as to whether one or two licences should in fact be granted the board submitted a report setting out the position that had developed and recommended that only one licence be granted and that fresh applications be called. And that is where the Government, exercising its authority to determine policy, said: “We believe that this place will carry two licences “. Justification for that decision has been apparent in Brisbane and Adelaide for a considerable time. So the Government said to the board: “ We propose to allot two licences. Give us your recommendation, on the basis of your investigations. To whom should the licences be granted? “ The board made its recommendation, and the Government accepted that recommendation. Not once has the Government failed to accept the recommendations of the board.
This is true also in the case of country applications that have been the subject of investigation by the board, and in respect of which the board has made recommendations. It is particularly true in the case of the recent grant of licences. I say that deliberately because of certain comments that have been made. I issued a statement immediately after the decision was taken by the Government. The Government adopted the board’s recommendations in that case also.
I think the procedure that has been adopted is a proper one. I believe it is better than the British procedure. I see no reason why there should be another commission to inquire into this matter. It has already been closely investigated. We have had experience of the successful operation of the system. After all, we provide for a full and open inquiry into every application by an independent body. The proceedings are reported in the press. Everybody knows exactly what applications have been made and the arguments put forward in support of those applications. Then we have the board’s report and a determination by the Cabinet as a result of that report. I contend that any person of independent mind - that would exclude, of course, some honorable members opposite - must realize that in the operation of this system no political pressure has been brought to bear on the board, and that the Government has shown no political bias in its acceptance of the board’s recommendations. If honorable members like to study the various applications that have been made in recent years they will find that the board in some cases has recommended, and the Government has approved, the acceptance of certain applications from people who could not be considered to be particularly favourably disposed towards this Government.
– Who are they? Name them.
– Have a look at the directorate of the Ansett organization. Consider what happened in connexion with tha Wagga licence. You will see that the board has been impartial and has made its recommendations in these matters on the basis of what it believes to be in the best interests of Australian viewers, and in each case the Government has accepted the boards’ recommendations.
There has been some criticism in connexion with the recent granting of licences. We have heard criticism in various quarters concerning the United Telecasters Sydney Limited. Here we have a group of business interests of the highest standing in the community - business interests that have proved their capacity in the business world, their capacity to organize, their capacity to provide services for the people. This group said that it realized the great responsibility that would be placed on it if it were granted a licence. These people obviously intend to improve the standard of television programmes. That is a particular feature of the application. Who can challenge the standing, the capacity or the sincerity of organizations like A.W.A., Email, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, the Bank of New South Wales, the National Roads and Motorists Association (N.S.W.) or J. C. Williamson Theatres Limited? No one can.
Some mention has been made of the fact that several years ago both A.W.A. and Email sold their interests in ATN and certainly made a profit. It has been suggested by Opposition members that they will do this again with the licence now granted to them. Apparently honorable members opposite do not know that in respect of this licence and the Melbourne licence, the prospective licencees gave an undertaking that they would not sell any shares in the major company for at least seven years. The Postmaster-General, whoever he may be at the time, can make this a condition of the licence if it is thought necessary to do so. I do not think it is necessary. The undertaking is contained in the evidence of the applicants. A similar undertaking was given by the Ansett organization. I am satisfied, as the board was satisfied, that this is not an effort by people to obtain a licence so that they can sell it for a considerable advantage.
I believe that the new licencees are seized of the necessity for providing an important television service throughout Australia.
The fact that Austarama Television Proprietary Limited is a subsidiary of the Ansett organization has been stressed. This is nothing against the applicant for the licence. There has been no criticism of the fact that HSV is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Herald and Weekly Times Limited. The plain fact is that the board held that Austarama Television Proprietary Limited was the best of the various applicants for a licence and recommended that it be granted the licence. The Government accepted that recommendation just as it accepted the board’s recommendation in respect of the issue of the Sydney licence.
Honorable members opposite refer to “Ansett”. I point out that the Ansett organization has some 27,000 shareholders and that this number will increase to 40,000 by January, 1966. The company has no large shareholders at all, the largest shareholding being that of W. R. Carpenter Holdings Limited, which holds 7 per cent, of the shares. The remaining shares are widely spread throughout Australia in the way that we want to see television interests distributed. The Opposition challenges Ansett, but he is a man of great capacity and of proven drive. He is a man who, in our vernacular, has pulled himself up by the bootlaces. Many people prophesied that he would fail, but despite all that the Leader of the Opposition said a week or so ago, his finances are thoroughly sound and he has met all his commitments from the time that he took over Australian National Airways. I have here figures to prove this assertion, but it would not be proper to give them in detail now. However, I can tell the House that the debts owing by A.N.A when he took over - they were about £4,000,000 - have all been paid. He has never been unable to meet his commitments. He has proved himself to be a man of capacity, a man of drive and, most important of all, a man who can organize and who can engage capable and efficient people to provide a good service. He has provided a service in transport generally and in aviation. This has astonished every one. He should be able also to provide a good television service.
Because of some association between Ansett and government departments, the board realized that there could be some difficulties in considering the Ansett application. But when the board was quite satisfied that it was the best application and the application which met best the criteria laid down at the start, it recommended that the licence be granted to this company. The Cabinet acted on that recommendation and accepted it.
Now, Sir, I think I should make a brief reference to some sneers that have been directed at my colleague in another place, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), regarding this Ansett application and the fact that a certain letter was sent to the board. After all, he is not here to answer for himself. I need to be only brief. The fact of the matter was that in the original application by Ansett a statement was made about the way in which he had co-operated with the various government bodies with which he was associated. That was an indication of his capacity to carry out a task like this.
It was counsel assisting the Broadcasting Control Board who questioned that statement. As a result of that, Ansett asked whether the board would be prepared to accept anything in the nature of a statement regarding his association with various government bodies that he might be able to obtain. That is all. This matter originated in a question - a challenge, almost - from counsel assisting the board about whether Ansett’s statement that he was accustomed to working closely with government control was correct, whether it was too sweeping, or whether, in effect, the history of the Ansett company was one of struggle with government control rather than cooperation with it. In those circumstances, would not any of us who were putting up a proposal ask, “ May we produce an impartial statement about this situation “? Ansett did that and the board said, “Yes”. So factual letters - not recommendations - were produced by two government instrumentalities. One was the Department of Civil Aviation and the other was the Victorian Transport Regulation Board.
– A purely State body.
– Yes, but nevertheless a government body. The board was asked whether it would accept those statements. The board said, “Yes”, and they are in the transcript as exhibits. That is all there is to it. They were not recommendations; they were simply factual statements about the capacity of Ansett to handle his affairs both financially and in building up a service.
This motion is a challenge by the Opposition against our policy on television. If there was something wrong with our policy and its operation, would not that be disclosed in the record that we have established? Let us have a look at the record. Television was established in this country about sa and a half years ago. Already we have six national and 22 commercial stations operating. I know from what has been said to me from time to time by visitors from overseas that in fact we can claim that the development of television throughout Australia is the envy of other nations. In the way in which we have developed television, with technical excellence and with our dual system - the national system working side by side with the commercial system - we are the envy of other nations. It is felt that that is the best system that could be developed.
Of course, at the start we profited by the experience in other countries. That is why we went on to the 625-line system. We have also profited in the last two or three years by our own experience. We have managed to achieve a record of extension over our widespread population which is comparable with any other record in the world. Within a year or two, when we finish phase 4, we will be covering 91 per cent, of our population.
Our system is under challenge. All this has been achieved under a system which provides for open inquiry by an independent body and also provides against monopoly control. I say that because the Leader of the Opposition made some reference to newspaper control. Our system provides measures against monopoly control by vested interests and ensures the development and control of television in country areas by local interests. That is a very important part of our programme. Perhaps one reason why our friends opposite do not like this system is that it largely relies on private enterprise for its success.
Reference was made b; the Leader of the Opposition last week and again, obliquely, this afternoon, to the British system. I cannot agree with the suggestion that we could benefit by introducing something in the nature of the British system. The system in Great Britain is a dual system. There, is the British Broadcasting Corporation which provides a national service, and there is the Independent Television Authority which is a statutory body for the regulation of commercial services. That authority establishes and operates the transmitters. The programmes are provided by programme contractors who either produce their own programmes or buy them. They hire time on the I.T.A. transmitters. They charge their advertisers for programmes and they have been making a good deal of money. It has been decided that this system should be changed. Under legislation at present before the House of Commons it is proposed that the power of the I.T.A. should be very considerably increased. I can see that this is why it has been suggested that Australia should adopt a system such as this. It is proposed in the United Kingdom that the power of the I.T.A. should be increased so that it may supervise all arrangements for the buying and selling of programmes and so that it will be responsible for the shape, content, balance and quality of the services as a whole.
Now we may begin to see the objective behind the Opposition’s motion. Apparently the Opposition’s idea is to place all the commercial transmitters under the control of one body. In the United Kingdom, programme contractors are not selected by open inquiry. They are selected by the I.T.A. itself. In effect, the I.T.A. says to the programme contractor, “Yes, you can have a programme contract; we will transmit it, but you cannot “. There is no inquiry. This government body determines such things. As I have said, under the new legislation, it will be responsible for the shape, content, balance and quality of the services as a whole. What does that mean? It is only one step from there to complete nationalization of the commercial broadcasting services. The information which I am supplying is contained in a White Paper on the subject.
– That is the scheme of the Macmillan Conservative Government!
– I do not care whether it is a Conservative Government or not. I want to know what the Opposition here is after. In 1958, when I spoke during a debate on television, I pointed out that it was obvious that the Opposition’s objective was to place the whole of the Australian commercial television services under government control. It is obvious that that is still the Opposition’s objective. Every now and again since then, something has been said by the Leader of the’ Opposition - I am not too sure about his deputy - which has shown that that is still the basic objective of our opponents.
Our system is under fire. How does our system compare with the British system, which has been put up as being much better than ours? Under our system the Government decides that television, should be extended into certain areas. It takes that decision on the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is in complete touch all the time with developments and with the requirements of the people. The Government then calls applications for licences. What is the British system? LT .A. certainly invites applications from programme contractors for particular areas. But what is the next stage? In Australia the board conducts public inquiries - I have already dealt fully with this aspect - and makes recommendations. In Britain I.T.A. itself selects the contractor. There is no public inquiry. I.T.A. selects the contractor and away he goes. In Australia the Government considers the board’s recommendations and decides on the licences, to be granted. In England I.T.A. simply enters into a contract with the particular programme contractor whom it has chosen regarding the programmes it is prepared to take from that contractor, the rentals to be charged and so on.
The next step in Australia is that the licensee establishes his own equipment and operates it under his own control, guided only by the agreed standards laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In Britain the contractor sells his programme time to advertisers and is completely free otherwise. Can it be said, looking at the two systems, that there is anything in our system which could be improved by adopting another system, as has been suggested? I say: No. We have lots to learn yet about this subject. We are learning and will continue to learn. But at the same time we have lots of which to be proud. I make no apologies for our system.
Finally let me say a few words about the alleged newspaper monopoly in television. This Government has taken pretty stringent action to ensure that there will be no monopolizing of the television medium by any large organizations, including newspaper companies. This is one reason why some newspapers are critical of some of the things we do. We have legislated to ensure that no person may own or be in a position to exercise control, directly or indirectly, over more than two commercial television stations in Australia. The legislation defines control as including control as a result of or by means of trusts, arrangements, understandings and practices. It provides that any person shall be deemed to be in control of a company if he can exercise more than 15 per cent, of the total votes cast at a general meeting. No person may operate or occupy a directorate of more than two television companies. Those are very stringent regulations. They are designed to ensure that there will be no monopoly in this field, yet from time to time the Government is charged with having agreed to a newspaper monopoly of television. It has not.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about the delay in opening the Newcastle national television station. The honorable gentleman implied that the delay was designed to assist the Newcastle commercial station. The foolishness of that claim is apparent when we realize that the commencement of broadcasting by the Newcastle national television station has been delayed by only four or five weeks. Is it really suggested that a delay of four or five weeks will materially assist the commercial station? Obviously not. The real reason for the delay in opening the national station is that weather affected the installation. of some outdoor plant. Some of the. equipment for Channel 5 arrived from Japan late. The relay services could not be finished by April and we had to go over to an off-air pick-up. Also, it is natural to stagger the openings of national stations throughout the year, because this year, for instance, we will be opening ten national stations. For those reasons the opening of the Newcastle national station was postponed from the suggested date - never a firm date - for four or five weeks. That is the simple explanation, and no other point is involved.
The Opposition has made no case which in any way truly challenges the Government’s methods of granting commercial television licences. The present system has been shown, and will continue to be shown, to be a very fair and impartial way of dealing with a difficult subject. There is no need whatsoever to establish a commission to inquire into this matter.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) asks the House to believe that the present system of allocating commercial television licences is a good one because a royal commission recommended in favour of it in 1954. He also asks the House to believe that the applications that were granted a couple of weeks ago were properly granted because the Australian Broadcasting Control Board recommended that they should be granted. Neither of the Postmaster-General’s contentions is very securely founded. The present chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was one of the royal commissioners in 1954. In the commission’s report he made the following observation: -
I do not agree with the reasons given by the majority of the Commission for rejecting the proposals put to us with respect to the establishment of joint national-commercial stations and the public ownership of all transmitters. I do not think that these proposals are necessarily impracticable or contrary to principle and, indeed, they have some advantages which would, I feel, facilitate the introduction of both national and commercial services on an economic basis. However, I do not dissent from the conclusions of the Commission, since I am of opinion that the terms of the Television Act 1953 do not authorize the adoption of either of the proposals discussed in the paragraphs to which I have referred.
So, Sir, the present chairman of the board thought that alternative systems of public control and private tendering in television programmes could not be brought into operation because the Television Act 1953 did not permit that. That is, the royal commission made recommendations which it was able to make in terms of the act appointing k. Quite clearly it could not make recommendations under the act appointing it when that act precluded it from making such recommendations.
– What about the other five members of the commission?
– They recommended in terms of the present system but, as the only one who refers to this aspect points out, it was not open to any of them to make any other recommendations.
The late Professor Leicester Webb pointed out that two of the witnesses who gave evidence before the commission had in fact suggested another system. He summarized their evidence this way -
Sir Richard Boyer, chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and Sir Ernest Fisk-
More than any other man the pioneer of radio in Australia - urged that television frequencies should remain a public domain, stations being owned by a public authority and leased to programme companies.
Professor Webb also stated -
It is a matter for regret that the all-important structural decision was taken at a time when the advantages of the British Government’s commercial television scheme were imperfectly understood and when in any case the scheme had yet to be put to the test. Had the Australian decision been taken a year later, it is possible that television development in Australia would have taken a different and better course.
– What about the American system?
– The American system is completely different. My recollection is that In America newspaper companies are not allowed to own or even to control or participate in the ownership or control of television stations. In America there is some degree of action against monopoly in mass media. We in Australia certainly never have seen such action. Professor Leicester Webb mentions earlier in this article -
In few Western countries has the development of monopoly been the subject of so few checks or safeguards.
The present licences are the only substantial ones which have not been granted to newspaper companies. Until now the trend has been completely opposite to that in the American federation. We in Australia have increased monopoly control. We have ensured that television licences have been given to organizations which already owned or controlled radio stations or newspapers. Furthermore, we have permitted the television stations to be associated in chains with the all too few newspaper owners in Australia. There are not many television stations in this country but the number of owners and controllers is still fewer.
The Postmaster-General referred to the suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that the British system, introduced by the Churchill government and maintained by its successors, the Eden and Macmillan governments, of having an independent television authority would be a better system than the one which has obtained in Australia since 19S4.
– Who said that?
– The Leader of the Opposition said the Independent Television Authority system would be better than the one which you have introduced and maintained The Postmaster-General’s criticism of the suggestion is that I.T.A. sells programme time and lets contracts to companies of its own choice; that it does not conduct public inquiries; and that it does not make recommendations to the Government which then grants licences. If that is the deficiency in the I.T.A. system it could be modified. Our system is not perfect - very few people in Australia would now allege that it is - but the I.T.A. system is much better than ours. If the Postmaster-General believes that the I.T.A. system could be improved by the authority conducting public inquiries, as is done here, before contracts are granted, such a requirement could be imposed upon it. That would improve the system still further. Then the Postmaster-General would receive greater public acceptance and trust in the method of granting rights for commercial television in Australia.
The basic trouble with our system of granting television licences is that the licences so often have been given to established monopolies which, for a very small cost, have enjoyed a real financial bonanza. The annual television licence fee is, I think, £100. After the first year or two television stations become extraordinarily profitable enterprises but have still to pay only an additional 1 per cent, of their gross advertising revenue.
– It costs a lot to set up a television station.
– I said that after the first year or two they become extraordinarily profitable enterprises. There is not one capital city television station which is not making an extremely large profit and which is not paying an extremely high dividend. The worth and potential of these stations may be gauged by the huge profits which were made when A.W.A. and Email Limited sold their previous shareholdings and when Sir Arthur Warner sold his holdings. There is no doubt that television is a profitable enterprise and an extremely rewarding investment. Companies which carry on commercial television , in Great Britain tender for the programme time and the community receives some share in the rewards. That is not the case in Australia. We say that it should be the case in Australia for future licences. It is becoming a public scandal that people can traffic in these licences and can sell their monopoly at very great capital gain. Incidentally, no income tax is paid on those capital gains. All the companies engaged in commercial television are profitable and becoming more so.
– Not all.
– I thank you for the correction. In reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Barker earlier I had said that the television stations in the capital cities were profitable and becoming more so. I realize that the station to which the honorable member for Macarthur is referring - the one at Wollongong - certainly is not a profitable organization. I applaud the Postmaster-General for taking certain steps to ensure that the Wollongong station has reasonable access to commercial television programmes and that, in the meantime, it can share A.B.C. television programmes. But the capital city stations - the ones which have given rise to this censure motion and with which we are concerned now - are very profitable businesses. If we had the I.T.A. system in Australia the public would have some share in these profitable commercial enterprises and the Government, instead of receiving a licence fee of £100 a year from a station, would receive some hundreds of thousands of pounds annually in revenue from these very large monopolies and the public would receive better and more varied programmes.
The other contention of the PostmasterGeneral was that the board bad recommended that the third commercial licences be granted to the applicants whom we have mentioned and that therefore the licences were properly granted. However, it is plain from history that the board’s recommendations have not always been followed. When the board’s recommendations have not suited the Government the Government has returned them to the board for review.
– In respect of every other licence they have been accepted.
– The final recommendation has been acceptable to the Government but the Government has always returned those which were not acceptable. Let me remind the Postmaster-General of these facts: In September, 1957, on the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board the PostmasterGeneral announced that he proposed to proceed with the second stage of the extension of television and that arrangements would be made for the board to hold public inquiries into the applications for licences in each of the four State capitals which at that time did not have them, namely, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Hobart. In its report of July, 1958, the board stated that none of the applicants for the licences in Brisbane and Adelaide was adequate and that the Government should call for fresh applications for one licence in each city. The Government rejected the board’s recommendation and said to the board: “ We have now decided that there should be two commercial stations in Adelaide and Brisbane. You claim that none of the present applicants is satisfactory, so select two for each city who are the least unsatisfactory.” The board carried out the Government’s direction. Its later recommendations were accepted by the Government on 11th September, 1958, and licences accordingly were granted. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is interjecting. If he permits, we shall debate the censorship of radio stations in New Guinea for which he is responsible. Up to this stage the Minister has shown no interest in television.
The board had recommended also that there should be only one commercial station in Perth. The Government has now decided that there should be two. Furthermore, the Government received a recommendation from the board for a change in the shareholding in Riverina Television Limited. It rejected that recommendation.
From the way in which arrangements have been made for licences in the capital cities it is plain that the Government has been and is prepared to grant additional licences to meet the political exigencies of the time. The Melbourne Herald group received one licence each in Brisbane and Adelaide just before the 1958 election. It will be remembered how the Packer newspaper group extended its television interests to Melbourne from Sydney. Sir Frank Packer has wanted to extend his interests to Brisbane and Adelaide as well. In fact, he made an unsuccessful application to the board during the recent hearing that consideration of the applications for the additional licences in Sydney and Melbourne be postponed so that the applications in respect of Brisbane and Adelaide could be dealt with at the same time. Quite clearly he wanted to make programme arrangements with the lot, but in the meantime he has promoted companies in Brisbane and Adelaide under Sir Arthur Fadden and Sir Philip McBride. There is not much doubt that when those applications are heard they will receive very favorable consideration.
It is just not true to say, as the PostmasterGeneral has alleged, that, because the board has made the recommendation we are now considering, the Government must accept it. When the board has made recommendations which the Government has not liked as to the number of television stations to be established in Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, as to the number of television stations to be established in Sydney and Melbourne which were originally to have two but are now to have three, and as to the shareholding of the capital city stations and the provincial stations, the Government has rejected the recommendations and where necessary has asked the board to make others. It is plain that the Government accepted this recommendation because it was the one it wanted.
The Postmaster-General said that no political influence was brought to bear on the board, but the Leader of the Opposition had not expressly said that there had been. It is just sheer coincidence, mere chance, that the people who receive these licences can all be expected to have financial, political and social views in common with those of the present Administration. But as the Postmaster-General has stated that no political influence has been brought to bear on the board, let me recall a matter which his leader referred to when addressing the Victorian branch of the Country Party a couple of weeks ago. Who would have thought, or at least would have said, that electoral commissioners were subject to political influence or that, although they were public servants, they received instructions? But the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), who is the Leader of the Country Party, said a couple of weeks ago -
At present (he guidance to the Electoral Commissioners in the Statute is loose . . . What instructions or guidance they may get is unknown or unpublished. All of this is too indefinite and hole in the corner. So important is this the Country Party wants it brought into the open. If any guidance is given to the Commissioners it should be published.
If that deliberate, prepared comment made by the Deputy Prime Minister is legitimate, surely a similar comment in respect of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board would be legitimate.
The Deputy Prime Minister is not unacquainted with bringing political influence to bear on people. He briefed the Tariff Board. Because a former chairman of the Tariff Board did not like the briefing he resigned from the position and left Australia, to the country’s loss. That is what the chairman said, and the Deputy Prime Minister did not dispute it.
– Is that what the chairman said?
– Perhaps “ conferred “ was the word used, not “ briefed “. Does anybody think that the Deputy Prime Minister did not talk about policy matters to members of the Tariff Board? There have been occasions on which there has been more open and more readily exposed influence. I referred only a couple of weeks ago to the proceedings before the Common wealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission when arguments and, at the requirement of the commission, figures were submitted on behalf of the Treasurer. We have learned to-day that the commission has rejected those arguments. This is a case in which we are able to assess political influence, because it is open and can be examined.
Let us come closer still to the influence that has been exerted by the PostmasterGeneral. Influence has been brought to bear - this is a matter of public debate both here and in the country generally - on the Australian Broadcasting Commission in respect of Intertel, Mr. Rohan Rivett, Dr. Peter Russo, and the Bidault telecast. The last-mentioned incident was the first occasion in the history of the Australian air waves on which the Minister has ordered the banning of a telecast, and he did so on both commercial and public television stations. I remind honorable members also of the political influence, the outside influence, that was exerted by the lay head of the Liberal Party, Sir Philip McBride, in respect of the session “ The Candidates “ before the last general election. The Government has only itself to thank for people’s belief that the board is subject to influence.
Let me point out the invidious and embarrassing position in which the board has been placed by the terms of appointment of its members. The members who took part in the recent hearings had all been originally appointed for five years. When the hearing ended, two members had only two months to go and one had only three months. The appointment of Mr. Mair was to have expired on 15th March last, but on 31st January he was reappointed, not for five years as initially or for seven years as the act permits, but for two years. The appointment of Mr. Yeo expired on 2nd January last, but he was not re-appointed. The Leader of the Opposition has already quoted to the House a passage from the board’s report which indicates that Mr. Yeo knew what the recommendations would be before the report was written and that he agreed with those recommendations. In other words, he concurred in the decision of the board before the end of 1962, when his term of office expired. Mr. White’s term of office expired on 6th January last, but he was not re-appointed until 31st January. In other words, he participated in the preparation of the report for three or four weeks after his term of office expired. He has now been reappointed for one year. Honorable members may place what interpretation they like on these matters, but there is no doubt that the public is entitled to believe and to assert that the board has been put in an embarrassing and invidious position by the fact that so many of the appointments were expiring, that only some were renewed and that they were renewed for unusually short periods.
The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the results of these applications were forecast with uncanny accuracy. Let me quote from “ Radio and Television News “, the trade paper with which honorable members are quite familiar. In the issue of 8th February last this passage appears -
Strong tips for the third commercial TV licences in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively, are United Telecasters Ltd. . . . and Austarama Television Pty. Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ansett Transport Industries.
That was remarkable tipping. There were nine Sydney applicants and six Melbourne applicants, but the correct tips were given. Of course, the decision was made before the end of 1962. That information was not confined to the board. Many other persons would have known it. An investment review of Ansett Transport Industries Limited by Corrie and Company states -
A.T.I, has also made application, through subsidiaries, for the licences of the commercial television stations to be established in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and has an excellent chance of succeeding in at least one of these applications. In future years, this division could contribute handsomely to revenue.
A stop press announcement on the cover states -
A.T.I, has been granted the third Melbourne Commercial Television Licence considered to be worth £1 mill.-£2 mill.
As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, there had been an appreciation of 30 per cent, in the value of the shares between the making of the decision and the announcement of it. That was amazing prescience.
– And then a drop back.
– Unless they are sold at a handsome profit in the meantime. The Postmaster-General paid a tribute to the respectability and sense of responsibility of Mr. Ansett. It must be conceded that Mr. Ansett has faithfully carried out all his obligations under legislation passed by this Parliament. This is in marked contrast to the record of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the organization from which he took over and which for years refused to pay its legitimate dues for route charges and sales tax on aircraft purchased. Honorable members will remember that the Auditor-General reported adversely on these matters to the Parliament. It is all the more praiseworthy that Mr. Ansett, who as I have said took over that dying and disreputable company, has honoured all his obligations under legislation passed by this Parliament. The Government constantly confers benefits on Mr. Ansett’s companies. The Government is so grateful to him for having preserved the twoairline policy that it has guaranteed his airline operations and has now given him this additional bonus in the form of a television licence. I quote the following passage from the last annual report of Ansett Transport Industries Limited: -
The legislation gives the company an Australiawide aviation franchise of about 50 per cent, of the industry revenue which totals approximately £36,000,000 a year. This franchise is for another fifteen years, and its value cannot be calculated. Nowhere else in the world is there such an arrangement which ensures civil aviation economic stability for such a period. Operating within this situation, and with efficient management controlling costs, reasonable profits are assured for this same period.
On top of that, the Government has accepted a recommendation of the Broadcasting Control Board - because it wanted the recommendation - which means that there will be a further capital gift of from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000.
We saw the extraordinary spectacle of the Director-General of Civil Aviation supporting this application. What would we have said if Dr. Coombs or Sir Roland Wilson had given similar evidence in support of the application by the Bank of New South Wales whose activities they must regulate? But no one need be surprised if he looks at history, because the Director-General of Civil Aviation, in carrying out his rationalization functions, has conceded every significant application by Ansett-A.N.A. and rejected every such application by TransAustralia Airlines throughout the years.
.- We have just listened to a speech from the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. If the motion before the House were to be carried, he would be the Deputy Prime Minister. Earlier this afternoon we listened to a speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who would be the Prime Minister of Australia if the motion were adopted. I shall let the people of Australia judge, by the two speeches we have heard and the points that have been made, whether these honorable gentlemen may hope to attain to those positions.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made no attack on the granting of the television licence in Sydney. If I remember correctly, he did not mention the Sydney station. Apparently, the granting of the licence in that respect is in order. However, he made a lengthy attack on Ansett Transport Industries Limited and Austarama Television Proprietary Limited, which received the Melbourne licence. I shall deal with this matter shortly. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated that the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had disagreed with the findings of the royal commission on television. In other words, the honorable member preferred the minority of one to the majority of five. Recently, he was outside the Hotel Kingston, in Canberra, where there was a different kind of majority vote. In that instance, the vote was nineteen to seventeen, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition accepted that decision without question. On this occasion, to further a weak attack on the Government, he has said, in effect, One out of six must be right “. Yet, for public consumption at any rate, he will not accept the verdict of the seventeen members of the Australian Labour Party executive against that of the nineteen remaining members. There was a very narrow win for those members of the executive who favoured not opposing altogether the establishment of the naval communications base at Exmouth Gulf. That decision was made while he was grovelling in the shrubbery outside the hotel and lowering the dignity of the high position of Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
The honorable member also stated that television stations are profitable. He had heard the Leader of the Opposition speak this afternoon in terms of millions of pounds of profits and of capital value, but the Leader of the Opposition stated in a speech in 1956 that Australia was not ready for television. That was one of the chance remarks he throws in when he is making his wild and irresponsible statements.
– He did not say that.
– It is recorded in “ Hansard “ for anybody to read.
– When was it said?
– It was said during the debate on the Broadcasting and Television Bill. If that statement of the Leader of the Opposition was correct, anybody who applied for a television licence would be running a great risk indeed. It would be necessary for the Government of Australia to be certain that television would succeed, so it would be necessary to choose as licence holders people who had the capacity, the news-gathering services and the financial ability to operate television stations. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition was wrong when he made that statement, but that is only one of the ways in which he was wrong.
I suggest that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who stated that television stations are profitable, should have a look at the results of the provincial stations in Victoria. We only hear from the members of the Australian Labour Party when somebody makes a profit. They never mention anybody who loses money. I speak subject to correction, but I think that three of the provincial stations in Victoria have made losses of up to £70,000 a year, or £1,500 a week. They are stations which provide good programmes, but apparently the viewers want to see the programmes shown by the metropolitan stations because some kind of prestige is attached to those stations. The people who took out the licences to operate the provincial stations have incurred losses. Of course, television stations often make losses in the first two or three years of their operations. The television stations close to the Sydney area have had a very torrid time indeed, as 1 pointed out last year when I spoke during the adjournment debate.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) briefed the chairman of the Tariff Board. That statement is completely untrue. Moreover, it is unfair to make such a statement about the Minister at a time when he is abroad, doing a job for Australia. That was the third mistake which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made. There was nothing in his speech, nor was there anything in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, to justify the moving of the motion before the House, or to indicate to the Parliament and the people of Australia that the Opposition ought to be the government of this country. Let us consider some of the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition. First, he made a long, trenchant, wicked and vicious attack on Reg Ansett. Apparently, in the eyes of the Opposition, the working man is a good fellow so long as he continues to be a working man, so long as he is on the bottom rung of the ladder and a floor member of a union, but the moment he begins to make money or to break out and show that he can dp something, he is hated. He becomes the object of petty jealousy and envy.
The Opposition in the Federal Parliament hates success. Let us have a look at the career of Reg Ansett. In 1932, or at about that time, in the middle of the depression, he began to cut wood with an axe and to deliver it. He borrowed a few pounds and began to operate a motor-car service from, I think, Ballarat to Maryborough. We are now in the years of economic growth, but at that time there was little development and conditions were extremely difficult. Perhaps if Ansett were to begin his career these days he would use a Hargan saw, but in those days he cut the wood with an axe and delivered it to his customers. He then acquired a second-hand motor car for the service between Ballarat and Maryborough. I am quoting the Melbourne “ Herald “ in this respect. At a time when economic conditions were extremely difficult - a great many people may not remember it, but some of us do - and it was hard to make a living at anything, or to run a business successfully, Ansett acquired another motor car. Then he bought a truck. Slowly, painfully and patiently he saved to get that second truck and then he began to operate the two trucks. He made a success of the venture. That is his crime in the eyes df the Labour Party. He was successful because he was a hard worker, because he did not bludge on the Government, because he went out to make a few bob for himself, because he did not try to beat the employer and because he had sufficient “ go “ to start on his own. That is the crime of Reg Ansett in the eyes of the Labour Party and that is why, throughout Australia, it is running down the issuing of a television licence to Austarama.
Reg Ansett later engaged in interstate transport. Honorable members may recall having seen buses with the name “ Ansett “ on various routes. Some of the vehicles may have been quite old. Indeed, many of them were far from new. This man also conducts a truck freighting service which operates with the name “ Ansair “, I think, on the vehicles. That service carries goods in most States, I understand, and particularly between Melbourne and Sydney. I do not know whether it operates to Western Australia. Then, exhibiting the kind of courage that some of us in Australia prize, Ansett began a small airline and built it up until he reached the stage at which he could take over the giant airline, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. That concern could not meet millions of pounds of debts that it owed to many interests. Ansett took over the debts and met them all under an arrangement that he made with the creditors. Some people who were perhaps misguided in the eyes of members of the Australian Labour Party supported Ansett by buying shares in his enterprise, and those people stuck to those shares even when their value had fallen a little.
– How many has the honorable member?
– I have not any of them. I have no shares at all, but I own some land. We had better not look into the position of the honorable member for Grayndler because it may not look so good. Ansett made a success of his business enterprise, and that is why members of the Labour Party, in a most unfair way, criticize this decision to grant his television company a licence. It is pretended that this man is a friend of the Liberal Party of Australia. One of the directors of Ansett
Transport Industries Limited and of Austarama Television Proprietary Limited, is Sir George Jones, who contested the last general election as the Labour Party candidate for the Henty electorate. I have yet to hear that that gentleman is a supporter of the Liberal Party.
I have yet to hear any glowing tribute to this Government by Sir Douglas Copland, who took part in a symposium attended recently by delegates from overseas. Although Sir Douglas was supposed merely to be chairman of the symposium, he spent 40 minutes attacking the Menzies Government with a collection of untruths. He said: “ Fancy this Government talking about development! It does not know anything about that “. Sir Douglas Copland, one of two Labour knights who are directors of Austarama Television, attacked this Government and said that it was doing nothing to develop northern Australia. Similar words are, of course, mouthed by honorable members opposite, who ignore what is being done by this Government and by some committees composed of back-benchers on this side of the chamber to promote the development of northern Australia. Sir Douglas Copland is one of the most vicious critics of this Government and, as I have said, he and Sir George Jones are directors of Ansett companies. Despite this, Austarama Television is supposed to have been the choice of the Menzies Government for the third commercial television licence in Melbourne!
I notice that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is present. He announced that he would write the names of the applicants who would receive the third commercial licences in Sydney and Melbourne on a piece of paper and place it in a sealed envelope. I do not know whether he had the name of the Ansett company on that piece of paper. No doubt he had the name of another company on it. I think that the list of directors of another company that applied for the Melbourne licence included the names of five knights. The Ansett company, however, numbered only two knights among its directors - Labour knights, at that. Yet we hear a Labour attack on Ansett!
The Leader of the Opposition in the speech with which he opened this debate defended himself against what he said were charges of having uttered half-truths and distortions and misrepresentations of the facts. I did not hear any charges, although I heard the defence. The honorable member said, among other things, that the Government has relied on the report of a royal commission that inquired into television in this country. The system of royal commissions is held in high regard throughout British communities. A royal commission is an open forum where evidence is taken from anybody who wishes to give it. A very large number of witnesses appeared before the Royal Commission on Television. They were concerned about the well-being of women and children and about the cultural, religious and aesthetic attitudes of the people. The royal commission, having heard a great deal of evidence, recommended that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board lay down standards for television programmes. The publication entitled “ Television Programme Standards “, which was re-issued by the Broadcasting Control Board on 1st July, 1959, lays down extremely high programme standards for Australia. I do not say that those standards are adhered to, but they are clearly set out in that publication, and we can hope gradually to attain them.
The Leader of the Opposition criticized the procedure of appointing a royal commission to make an inquiry and then requiring the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to examine applications for television licences and recommend which applicants should be granted licences. But what do the leaders of the Australian Labour Party do. They do not go to a royal commission for direction. They go to 36 people who from time to time hold a conference at the Hotel Kingston or somewhere else. Those 36 people are not democratically elected representatives. They are merely persons who, with the approval of the Communists, have jockeyed and manoeuvred their way to positions of influence in the Labour Party as representatives of their respective States. Those are the people who decide what happens in that party. I see an honorable member opposite shaking his head, apparently suggesting that he does not believe this. But let us see what the rules, constitution, policy and platform of the
Australian Labour Party lay down. Under the heading “ Methods “, the latest copy states -
Nationalisation of -
That is the platform that binds members of the Labour Party. They are told that the party’s policy is nationalization of television, among other things. The Labour Party is interested in nationalizing the mass mediums for the dissemination of information and ideas, for those mass mediums can be used to influence people in their thinking. The party is interested in the nationalization of those means of communication, and it has said so.
In the eyes of members of the Australian Labour Party, the one trouble about the success of the application by the Ansett company for a television licence is that this is something that will be very difficult to unscramble, because 40,000 or 50,000 shareholders are involved and the members of the board of the company are representative of all sections of the community. Austarama Television Proprietary Limited undoubtedly made a good application for a licence. The Labour Party will not be able to unscramble what has been done in this instance, and that is why its members are so enraged. The Leader of the Opposition read from the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the applications for the third commercial licences in Sydney and Melbourne some of the board’s observations about the application made by Austarama Television. One passage I shall read again, because the honorable member read it in a sneering way. It ought to be read properly. The board, as appears at page 105 of the report, stated -
In fact the application is made by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd., which undertook to provide not only the financial resources, but also what may be called the intellectual resources and executive capacity which would be required to establish the station. The applicant presented the application on this footing, and in effect offered its known operating organization of high standard and ability and competent and efficient business management as its main claims to be recommended for the grant of the licence.
The board acknowledged, also, that there was no possibility of doubt as to the owner ship or control, or financial resources, of the applicant. Indeed, praise of the Ansett company fills page after page of the report.
This was a good application, and the Australian Labour Party does not like it. What that party wants was stated by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in an address to members of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union of Australia on 16th December, 1958. He said that he wanted the evils of capitalism supplanted by a system of socialism or public ownership. The Labour Party, he said, was seriously handicapped by its lack of control of the television stations, the press and the radio stations. This makes clear the reason why members of the Labour Party are furious because television licences have got into the hands of people who recognize the public interest and the requirements of the welfare of the great masses of the people, not merely the interests of the Australian Labour Party, Karl Marx or the honorable member for Parkes. Television licences have got into the hands of people who think, not of interests such as those, but of the interests of the Australian people.
The twenty-fourth federal conference of the Australian Labour Party, which was held in April, 1961, at Canberra, was particularly concerned with policies acceptable to the electorate in a federal general election that was then forthcoming, and Labour leaders were careful not to reveal to the electorate the most unpopular planks of their platform. That was the era of democratic socialism. But we have passed beyond that now and we have not heard much about it recently. That conference carried the following resolution: -
In spite of the fact that the aim of this conference was to bring out policies that were acceptable to the people, it brought out this one, showing that Labour wants to control the press of Australia and direct the mass media of communication. Of course, it wants to control radio and television services. At this stage, the Labour Party is completely infuriated by the award to Ansett of the third commercial licence in Melbourne and the award of the third commercial licence in Sydney to this very distinguished group of firms and people in Sydney.
Let me say that the award of a third licence will clear up many difficulties, including difficulties that I have had. While there are only two commercial stations in a city there can be arrangements between them which will prevent people outside from getting programmes The issue of a third licence will immediately provide a new set-up. It will start a new regime and establish a new set of circumstances. Instead of only two licensees working together there will be now a third one in the picture, and perhaps there will be more at a later stage, so there will be fairer competition.
The Leader of the Opposition said, among other things - I think in the debate in 1956 - “Australia is not ready for television “. That was only seven years ago. To-day there are 1,500,000 licensed receivers in Australia, so at the established rate of four people per set there are 6,000,000 viewers. If the Leader of the Opposition was right, we should not have gone on with telecasting. In other words, the people of Australia should have been treated as a backward people. Already in Japan there are 10.000,000 sets and 52,000,000 viewers, and the Japanese people who work through television are able to disseminate information to an enormous audience. Everybody knows how fast Japanese industry is growing and how competent and efficient the Japanese are. But the Leader of the Opposition said, as recorded in “ Hansard “, that Australia was not ready for television - that we had to wait. If he had had his way what would have happened? We would not have had this medium of disseminating information. We would have fallen behind the rest of the world if a Labour government had had the opportunity to implement that policy.
I have no doubt that if the Leader of the Opposition had been Prime Minister he would have long delayed the introduction of television, and eventually we would have had only one type of television. In the United Kingdom there was originally a national television service only, but for a long time commercial programmes from outside the United Kingdom were watched by the British viewers. In Australia we could not have done that. There would have been only one service, that provided by the national broadcasting and television authority, which would have been run by the Minister for Information or the Prime Minister, who would have been the Labour leader, Mr. Arthur Calwell.
But how wrong was the Leader of the Opposition in that statement in 1956, and how wrong is the Labour Party in this matter! The facts are that only 10 per cent, of the people watch the Australian Broadcasting Commission television programmes while 90 per cent, of the people watch commercial television. If Labour had been in power it would have catered for only 10 per cent, of the viewing public, leaving 90 per cent, out in the cold. I know that there are criticisms of programmes provided by commercial stations, but one does not have to look at those programmes. One can switch them off, or cross over to a national station if one thinks then is anything wrong with the commercial programmes or that the children should not see them. I believe that these programmes are improving and that an effort is being made to improve them further. The fact is that 90 per cent, of the public want a commercial television service, which they would not have had if the policy of the Labour Party had been implemented.
We are debating a motion of censure on the Government. If it is carried the Government must resign. But in order for it to be carried a case must be made out - and no case has been made out. Nothing that has poured from the lips of the Leader or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has shown that the motion should be carried. Of course, it will not be carried. As a matter of fact, in the division that will be held some time to-night, the Government will have the largest majority that it has had in a division during the fifteen months that it has been in power, which is a sign of the way that the Labour Party is going.
Whichever way one looks, the Government’s policies have been vindicated. There is growth in all directions. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to-day brought down a finding that the economy is strong enough to stand an extra week’s leave and an addition of 10s. a week to margins. Who put up the submission that the economy was strong enough? It was the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the men who stand behind the Labour Party, that gave the glowing account of our economy. The Premier of New South Wales has gone abroad to show how good our economy is and to sell Australia abroad. These are the short, quick answers to this impertinent motion proposed by the Labour Party.
– We have observed a curious spectacle. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has just expressed his vehement support and approval of the Government’s decision in relation to television licences. But the honorable member for Macarthur was never consulted, and he never approved, the decisions that were made. He had no idea who was going to get the licence in Sydney or who was going to get the licence in Melbourne. I imagine that every one else in Australia had a pretty good idea, but the honorable member for Macarthur had no knowledge whatever. This man is an elected representative of the Australian people.
– And a good one, too.
– Yes, a good one from the point of view of a ministerial whip, because he is prepared to support in this Parliament decisions which he had no hand whatever in making, on which he was never consulted and on which his approval was never sought. This afternoon the honorable member for Macarthur has made out a tremendous case why this licence should have been given to Ansett in Melbourne. If the Government had decided to give it to any one of the other applicants in Melbourne the honorable member for Macarthur, playing the part of a political party stooge, would equally have justified that decision. Is not this the fact: The honorable member had no previous knowledge of the decision; he was never consulted as to what the decision would be; his approval was never sought? Now, after the decision has been made and he has been given his instructions, he rises to support it and argue for it. He would equally have done so whatever the decision reached by the Cabinet majority which finally allocated this licence.
– That is not true.
– The Minister says that it is not true. I assume that the Minister means that the honorable member for Macarthur was consulted and his approval was sought.
– You know what I mean.
– No, I do not. If he was consulted and his approval was sought, that may be some explanation of the extraordinary decisions that have been reached. The second thing I should like to say about the speech of the honorable member for Macarthur is that he painted a story that may have been fanciful, and certainly was tear-jerking, about the early days of Mr. Reg. Ansett as a poor and struggling worker.
– Which was perfectly true.
– I do not know whether it was true or not. It was published in a newspaper. It may be true of Mr. Ansett as a businessman. But I know that Mr. Ansett as a big businessman was utterly ruthless in his treatment of small competitors of his airline, in his treatment of Butler Air Transport Limited, and in his attempt to destroy East-West Airlines Limited. The tear-jerking effort of the honorable member for Macarthur, seeking pity and sympathy for this struggling operator, falls pretty flat when you look at the recent record of this gentleman.
The third factor, of course, is that Mr. Ansett unquestionably has been financially supported by this Government from the moment that he took control of Ansett- A.N.A. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said, every application that Mr. Ansett has made to the Government has been granted, while every application made by his competitor, Trans-Australia Airlines, has been rejected.
– That is not true.
– That is quite true. The whole record is there. (Government supporters interjecting)-
– Order! I suggest that honorable members should permit the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to make his own speech, and that interjections should cease.
– I will be very much helped, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by the acceptance of your advice by honorable members opposite. I should like to be able to make my speech completely uninterrupted. Some one, who has very much more knowledge of television, and who is very much more closely connected with it than any honorable member sitting opposite, said a few months ago that the grant of a television licence by this Government, under present Government policy, is equivalent to a licence to print money. That, of course, is the fact. This censure motion therefore is justified by that fact alone, even if no other fact were produced to support it. It is an outrageous thing that a government can give to a company a cash gift equivalent to £1,000,000 or £2,000,000.
– It is to private enterprise.
– The honorable gentleman ought to take the advice of his colleague in the Chair. The recipients of the licence in Melbourne and the licence in Sydney have been given a cash gift, equivalent, according to the authorities on the stock exchange, to between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000. On that ground alone the policy of the Government is to be condemned. Is it not an outrageous thing that half a dozen, or a dozen, men should be in a position to confer at their will, and at their whim, a cash gift of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 upon people who may be their friends? There is nothing whatever to prevent those friends in return giving £250,000 or £500,000 to the party funds of the Government whose supporters have given them that tremendous cash benefit.
– Really and truly!
– If any honorable member is prepared to state in this House that Ansett did not give £250,000 to the Government parties’ political war chest at the last election, I will accept that denial. If any honorable member will say that a similar offer by Ansett at the next election will be refused, I will be very interested to hear that, also. Whether this happens or not, the policy of the Government is such as to allow it to happen. The Government can, at its whim, give tremendous monetary advantages to individuals and financial groups in the community, and the Government is, unquestionably, financed at election times by immense contributions from business groups and big business individuals. There is no doubt whatever about that.
But there is a third reason why the policy of the Government stands condemned. It is that under this policy there is an increasing tendency towards monopoly control of the means of communication in Australia. This is something that we have all seen developing in the last ten to twenty years. Into the hands of a few powerful men has come what amounts to the control of the dissemination of news, views and information inside Australia. To-day you have, possibly in the hands of fewer than ten men, almost complete control of the means of disseminating news, information and views in this country.
– The granting of these licences weakens that.
– The honorable member, by his interjection, shows a completely fundamental misunderstanding of what is happening. He should know that those who have just been granted these licences can sell them to-morrow and that there is nothing to prevent them from disposing of their interests, as has happened in the past.
– What about Amalgamated Wireless?
– That organization sold its interest to a newspaper company and now it has a share in another licence which again it could sell to a newspaper interest. There is not more competition, there is less competition.
I would exempt from what I am saying the country and provincial newspapers of Australia. I am very glad that in television the independence of provincial stations has been successfully protected, but I do not know how much longer that can continue. We see in Wollongong and Newcastle completely merciless and ruthless attempts by the big interests controlling television, radio and newspapers in Sydney to destroy utterly independent companies operating television services in those two cities. Is not that really the answer to the question whether the Government’s policy is tending to an increase in monopoly control?
I believe that some newspapers in Australia are conducted honorably and that their proprietors endeavour to give a fair balance of news and views in their columns. But, we have seen develop in Australia in recent years an utterly dishonorable type of newspaper - there is no honorable member in the House, I am certain, who will disagree with this - in which it is obvious that the news is being deliberately slanted, some views are being suppressed and others are being given immense and undue publicity in order to suit the business and political ends of the proprietors of the particular newspapers. Newspaper proprietors of that kind are gaining an increasing hold over newspaper and radio interests throughout Australia. If they will operate their newspapers in that way - and they are doing so - then it is quite clear that once they are in a position to do so they will operate their radio and television stations similarly. There is every reason, therefore, for the exercise of increasing control in the public interest over this instrument of communication, because the number of stations is necessarily limited by the number of air channels which can be made available. I believe that it is utterly wrong that newspaper proprietors should have any substantial control of television stations or of radio stations, but this, unfortunately, is the position which has been allowed by the present Government to develop more in Australia than it has been allowed to develop in any other country in the world. No other government of which I know has stood aside as this Government has done and allowed this monopolization of the means of communication, the expression of news, views and information to occur as is now occurring in Australia.
But the policy of the Government is to be condemned also because of the extraordinary simplicity and ingenuous camouflage which is represented by the inquiries held by the Broadcasting Control Board before it grants licences. I am not attacking the members of the board at all.
– Your deputy leader did, most explicitly.
– I am not attacking them, but they are not independent of the Government. Each of them has to depend upon the Government for his appointment and for his re-appointment, and it has been made clear by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the tenures of a number of members of the board came up for renewal during the time in which this report and recommendation were being prepared for submission to the Government. A system which permits that is an outrageous one. If there is to be an independent investigation and an independent examination of the qualifications of each of the applicants for a licence, then surely it should be made by men who are completely independent of the government of the day. But these men are not independent of the government of the day; and they cannot be under the existing set-up.
Let us look at what the Broadcasting Control Board does. It looks at the motives of the applicants to see whether they are primarily seeking financial gain for themselves or whether they have some noble and altruistic motive in desiring to provide service for the Australian people, and then it recommends that the licence in Melbourne be given to the Ansett company.
– Does Ansett control the newspapers?
– Just watch what happens in the next few weeks. I do not think there is much doubt about what Mr. Ansett will do with the immensely valuable gift that the Government has just made to him. Unquestionably, newspaper interests will be allied with Mr. Ansett, and newspaper interests will be supplying the news that goes through the Ansett television station. There is no doubt about that. The newspaper proprietor, who can control the news printed in his columns, will control also the news that comes through the Ansett television station. There is no question about that.
– Do you think the Labour directors would agree to that?
– I think the Minister smiled when he mentioned the directors of the Ansett company, and I smile with him at his very amusing reference. The Ansett company is controlled by Mr. Ansett and by financiers much more powerful than Mr. Ansett. They have provided the money that he is using to-day. However, I do not want to linger on that.
What opportunity has the Broadcasting Control Board to determine the motives of the applicants? Their motives are hidden in their minds. The board has no means of doing other than taking at face value the statements they make about their motives. And that is why we have this extraordinary silly pantomime before the Broadcasting Control Board, with rival groups of hardheaded, ruthless businessmen, each of whom is seeking solely the financial profit of his group, presenting himself to the Broadcasting Control Board - these ingenuous gentlemen - as a knight in shining armour who really wants to spend his money in promoting culture in Australia. At the same time, the highly paid legal representative of every other competing group seeking the licence is intent on tearing his application to pieces, to show how unscrupulous, ruthless, dishonorable and untrustworthy every other applicant is, except the particular financial tycoon that that legal advocate represents. That, of course, is an extremely stupid way to go about making a decision as to who should obtain the television licence, if you are really seeking the true interests of the people of Australia.
Then the board, of course, is required to attach a great deal of importance to the programme planning as set out by the applicant. If the applicant tells the Broadcasting Control Board that he plans to use a symphony orchestra of 75 Australian musicians every night in the week, that they will play the most magnificent classical music, the board necessarily takes that into account. The applicants and the witnesses representing these hard-headed financial groups, each of which is seeking nothing but its own profit, compete with each other in telling fairy stories to the board about how they plan to introduce these beautiful programmes and these magnificent features to the Australian listening public. There would be some point in it if the applicants had to live up to anything that they said; but once they have been granted the licence there is not the slightest legal obligation on them to carry out any of the ideals to which they so vociferously aspired when before the Broadcasting Control Board.
– There is no contract.
– None whatever. There is nothing to require them to live up to their professed aspirations. There is nothing to require them even to control the licence that they have been granted. They are perfectly free immediately to introduce programmes which will do all that they want them to do, that is, attract the maximum viewing audience so that they can obtain the maximum advertising revenue and make the maximum financial profit from their television investment.
Is that a fair deal to the Australian people? Can that in any way satisfy our national or cultural aspirations? Does that give any real opportunity to Australian artists, Australian authors and Australian playwrights? These businessmen are out to provide television on the cheap, to bring the standard of their programmes to the lowest common denominator so that they will have the maximum advertising audience and a maximum revenue from that advertising for the minimum amount that they can spend upon their programmes. I believe that the Australian people are deserving of something far better than that and that a system which makes the grant of television licences and the standard of Australian television programmes dependent upon considerations of that kind is indeed a system which ought to be condemned and replaced in this country by something far better.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has pointed to the United Kingdom system as at least being fairer and better than the Austraiian system. I am certain that considerable improvements could be made to the United Kingdom system, but I agree that, whatever system replaces it, the system that we now have in Australia must go. The thing that made it inevitable that this system will go was the grant of a licence to the Ansett company because, for one reason or another, the grant of a television licence to that company has aroused the disgust and cynical laughter of people from one end of Australia to the other. Therefore, possibly the grant of this licence to Ansett has done good to the extent that it has awakened the Australian people to the evils that are inherent in this system and to the way in which it can operate. Mr. Ansett was able to boast as long ago as last December that he would get this licence, and in February a reputable television and radio journal was able to forecast exactly who would get the licence in Sydney and who would get it in Melbourne. There were nine applicants in one city and, I think, five in the other, so the odds against an accurate forecast were about 50 to 1. These things show that knowledge was there. In the case of Mr. Ansett, the Government had already given him everything that it could. Because the small businessman was completely excluded from any chance of submitting a successful application, the Government’s policy has been shown as a policy of, “To him that hath shall be given “. But the day may come when it will be taken away.
.- The speech of my friend, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), was something of a paradox. He spoke in quiet, measured tones, yet his speech held within it an element of hysteria, the like of which I have not listened to in this Parliament in over eight years. The honorable gentleman made a number of extremely wild charges and indulged in wild criticism. Accepting the aphorism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that he who criticizes must be willing to listen to criticism, I invite my friend from Eden-Monaro to listen for a moment or two while I refer to some of the more glaring examples of his hysteria.
Towards the end of his speech, the honorable gentleman said that there was nothing at all to prevent any of the new licensees from breaching completely all of the undertakings given to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The honorable gentleman was completely in error. What would prevent not only the new licensees but also the older licensees from breaching any of their obligations regarding the worthiness of programmes is to be found within the Broadcasting and Television Act.
Then the honorable member for EdenMonaro asked, “ Is there any person on the
Government side who would be prepared to deny that at the last election Ansett gave £250,000 to the Government parties?” What a superb piece of nonsense! Sir George Jones, a former Labour candidate for the electorate of Henty, is a member of the board of directors of Ansett Transport Industries Limited. Would he be so incredibly stupid as to approve of £250,000 being given to the Government parties? The honorable gentleman made that charge with a specific intent. I thought he was worthy of higher and more noble things. He made the charge deliberately, realizing that, the charge once having been made, it is a little difficult to refute. On this occasion his philosophy is that if you throw sufficient mud, a little bit of it will stick.
Then the honorable member criticized my friend, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), and said to him, “You had nothing at all to do with the approval of this licence “. The fact of the matter is that a power of this Parliament was delegated to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board by an act of this Parliament. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, together with the honorable member for Macarthur, has approved of this circumstance in various forms over the years. However, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro assailed my friend from Macarthur, saying, “ You have supported a decision which you had no part in making “. Far be it from me to criticize the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, but I hope he can recall to mind that undistinguished gathering at the Hotel Kingston recently. Almost every major policy decision that the honorable gentleman supports in this place is a decision that he had no part in making, yet to-day he attacks the honorable member for Macarthur for having approved in a proper parliamentary way the delegation of a power of this Parliament to an outside body.
Then the honorable member for EdenMonaro said, “This amounts to a cash gift of thousands of pounds “. I thought that was a singularly outrageous charge to make. I remind the honorable gentleman that both the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said of Austarama Television Proprietary Limited that it was so incompetent that there was no point in giving it the licence. I invite the honorable gentleman to try to reconcile these two points of view. On the one hand, he alleges that the company has been given a cash gift, and, on the other hand, the two other honorable gentlemen say the company is so incompetent that it had to be propped up over the years by government support and that, as a consequence, it would be useless to give the company a licence.
The last part of the honorable member’s speech to which I wish to refer is his reference to monopoly of communications. There resides within section 92 of the Broadcasting and Television Act ample parliamentary power to prevent the monopolization of television. Until that section is repealed, that power will remain. But it is interesting to recall to mind that when that section was put into the act in 1960 the Leader of the Opposition said, “ It will only be a matter of time before the section is challenged in the High Court and is found to be invalid”. Another of his prophecies went to the wall. The acid test of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and every other honorable gentleman opposite is the policy of the party they support. What is the policy of the Australian Labour Party? In a few words, Sir, it is the complete monopolization of television in Australia.
I come now to the major figure in this play this afternoon - the Leader of the Opposition. There is a great temptation to become angry with the honorable gentleman. It is not only my in-built kindly disposition that restrains me from becoming angry with him. I remind myself that we are not dealing with an ordinary person. Every time a free press or a free television system is mentioned, that seems to produce a distemper in the honorable gentleman. He becomes so fierce, so enraged, that he seems to lose all control of himself. The whole of his association with public life shows a corrosive hatred of liberty of communication. I remind the House of what the honorable gentleman had to say - not in war-time, but years after the war - when he was a Minister of the Crown. This is what he had to say -
The proudest day of my life will be that on which I see the editor of the Melbourne “ Herald “ in the dock charged under that section of the Crimes Act which provides for seven years gaol without the option.
Does it still remain the honorable gentleman’s ambition to pick on a person who is not under the control of the Parliament? Is it still the height of his material ambition to put the editor of a newspaper in gaol under the Crimes Act? I remind honorable members opposite of their criticism of the bill which sought to amend the Crimes Act when it was passing through this House.
We find that there are two sources of the information upon which the Leader of the Opposition based his attacks on this occasion. First of all, he is supplied with information by one whom he describes as a distinguished Liberal. What a wonderful kind of anonymity! I only hope that no one on my side of politics will ever be reduced to such desperate straits that he will have to call to his aid any distinguished member of the Labour Party and leave him under a cloak of anonymity.
Then what is the second source of information of the honorable gentleman? It is rumour! Not proved, not tested in any court of law, not supported by any evidence - just rumour! What an ugly, wretched, miserable, contemptible source of information on which to base a charge. The whole of the honorable member’s charge, I remind you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the House and, I hope, the country, against Mr. Ansett to-day, and a few days ago, was made under parliamentary privilege. What a perfidious weapon with which to attack any honorable man! Parliamentary privilege is given on the basic assumption that those who have it will not abuse it. To-day we have witnessed a gross abuse of parliamentary privilege. Last week the Leader of the Opposition was invited by Mr. Ansett to repeat his charges outside the Parliament. The honorable gentleman said a few days ago that Mr. Ansett knew all the time that he was to get the licence. What was the source of the honorable gentleman’s information? A distinguished anonymous Liberal - and rumour! The honorable gentleman referred to Mr. Ansett to-day as the court favourite. He has not produced one scintilla of evidence with which this Parliament, or the people outside it, may test the validity of his charge. Are we now reduced to the position in which chimerical charges can be made against any man, against any institution, and no evidence to support the charge need be produced?
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition this afternoon joined his leader. 1 would have thought better of the honorable member. Not only is the Government being attacked in this matter; not only is Mr. Ansett being attacked; the Australian Broadcasting Control Board also is under attack. Members of that board have no opportunity to come here and defend themselves. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon, in the most explicit of terms, that the members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had been suborned by the Government. Surely that is a charge that requires, or should require, the production of some evidence to support it. In determining whether to recommend the granting of licences, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board acts as a quasi-judicial tribunal, calling evidence and listening to all the facts put before it. But the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition do not want to have their minds confused with facts, because their minds have been made up. Their minds have been as one from the very beginning, and that one mind has been devoted to the prejudice of every manifestation of free enterprise in this country. Because they are not in a position in which they can bring about in Australia a complete monopoly of means of communication, they have tried to make out a case for attacking the system of free enterprise.
I would have thought that if the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition believe - as they would obviously have us think they believe - that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has been suborned in this matter, the manly thing and the honorable thing for them to do would have been to present to this House a substantive motion to that effect.
The Leader of the Opposition returned to his attack on Mr. Ansett the other day, saying that all he has is “ £6,000,000 worth of assets of dubious value, and liabilities amounting to £32,000,000”. I make it clear that I am not saying this; it is the Leader of the Opposition who says this. He went on to say, “This is the company which has received a television licence from the Government “. When the television legislation was introduced in 1956 the Leader of the Opposition had this to say -
The Government’s dictum apparently is this: The wealthier you are, the more the Government will give you.
– That is right.
– The honorable member for Wills picks it up and says, “That is right”. We heard the Leader of the Opposition saying a day or two ago that Mr. Ansett was bordering on a state of bankruptcy. Yet to-day he turns around and says that that is not quite the case. But the honorable member for Wills approves of what his leader said a few years ago - that the wealthier a company is the more the Government will give it. What are the facts concerning the capital structure of the Ansett organization at the moment? The total assets employed by the Ansett group amount to £35,700,000, not the fictitious amount of £6,000,000 given by the Leader of the Opposition. Of that impressive total, £23,500,000 is employed exclusively in airline operations, and a further £2,900,000 is held by the parent company for joint use in the parent company and some subsidiaries.
The honorable gentleman made much of a letter written by the Director-General of Civil Aviation. We should have a look at this. How did this letter come to be written? The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) referred to it this afternoon. I shall briefly refer to it again. Counsel appearing for the board, Mr. Harris, had, in a very real sense, brought into question the competence of the company. He had asked this question -
Would it be too sweeping a statement to say that the history of the parent company had been largely one of struggle with government control, rather than co-operation with government control?
The reply given by Mr. Walker, executive director of Ansett Transport Industries Limited, was “ No “. The competence and character of a company had, in a very real sense, been challenged. Surely we have not debilitated our sense of the fitness of things to the point at which your competence and character can be challenged while you are not permitted to defend yourself against such challenge. The proper thing for those making the challenge to do would have been to seek to have some evidence admitted relating to the competence and the character of the company. One letter was tendered and accepted by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, as, in effect, a company reference in respect of the Ansett organization. Another was tendered by the Victorian Transport Regulation Board.
The third aspect of this attack on Ansett that I wanted to refer to is this: AnsettA.N.A. has been attacked to-day. Who will be attacked to-morrow under the cloak of parliamentary privilege? A good deal has been said about the criteria followed in the granting of licences. What are these criteria? I should have imagined that all people tolerably well educated, even to fifth grade standard, would have understood them. The first is, “ Good character and high reputation”. Does any person in this House find difficulty in understanding that? The second is, “ Directors and executive officers with a proper appreciation of the responsibilities imposed by a licence and a willingness to comply with the conditions of the licence”. That is clear enough, no doubt. The third criterion is, “ The genuine intention to commence on high standards even at financial loss “. The fourth criterion is, “ Financial stability “; the fifth is, “ A good record in allied fields “; and the sixth is, “Ability to provide a satisfactory service”. The Leader of the Opposition said to-day that he could not understand how any one of these criteria could have any force in relation to Ansett Transport Industries Limited. The fact of the matter is that the honorable gentlecan cannot dissociate his mind sufficiently from this thorough-going phobia of his which can be satisfied only by suffocating every form of free enterprise in this country.
A week ago the honorable gentleman said, in reply to a question that had been asked in this House during the course of a debate, “ No, I do not want to nationalize television “. That is a flat contradiction of his previously expressed views. It is a startling contradiction of the policy of the Australian Labour Party. This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition used a delightful euphemism when referring to the Chifley Government. He said: “We did not want to create a public monopoly. What we wanted was to create a public instrumentality.” Nothing of the sort! In 1956 the honorable gentleman said, “ The Labour Party made television a government monopoly and will keep it that way “. This afternoon he says to himself: “ Oh no, I must go carefully on the word ‘monopoly ‘. I will use the synonym ‘ instrumentality ‘.”
– Who said that?
– The Leader of the Opposition. I think the House is entitled to ask the honorable gentleman: “ Where do you stand on this issue? Do you stand for nationalization or against nationalization? “. Where a person stands in any of these matters is no cause for shame, but for heaven’s sake let the honorable gentleman stand for something. Here is the constant shuffler. We never know where he will be from one day to another. His behaviour during the course of this debate is a caricature of leadership. It is shameful, notorious and cowardly. His attack on a company whose shares are widely spread among some 28,000 shareholders is to be deeply despised. He has made savage charges; yet he has not produced one scrap of evidence to support his charges. He has attacked in an utterly unconscionable way a company that has not hitherto had any association with television. Presumably one is to imagine that he sees only virtue in complete control of television - and that exercised by the government of the day.
The people should not be deceived by his artful suggestions that there should be a system whereby the Government would establish a television authority and ‘that authority would call tenders for programmes. There would be a desperately thin line between that situation and a complete government monopoly in television. It should be clear by now, even to the dullest person in the land, that the Leader, of the Opposition has a complete contempt for free communication. To settle in his hand a general power over broadcasting and television, over the free system of communication, would be to settle for ever the free character of those institutions.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) would have been much more powerful in its plea for Mr. Ansett and Ansett Transport Industries Limited had he not committed the sin he alleges Opposition members commit - in our case that of traducing Mr. Ansett and his company in the House. The honorable member is known as a man who time and time again in this Parliament has vilified people outside. But to-day he accuses Opposition members of having, under the cloak of privilege, made statements that they are not prepared to repeat outside. Had the honorable member himself not committed that error on many occasions some honorable members would perhaps have been prepared to listen to him now.
The honorable member for Moreton asked the Opposition to say exactly where it stands on the subject of radio and television. I, speaking entirely for myself, say that the policy of the Australian Labour Party is clearly written. It has been quoted here this afternoon by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) and others. I am prepared on any occasion to go to any meeting of citizens anywhere in Australia and state that the Australian Labour Party believes that the means of communication, including television, which is a most powerful means of communication, should not be in the hands of interests that are not answerable to the people.
During the term of office of this Government television was introduced into Australia, and time and time again the people who have been granted television licences have sold their interests. The licences cost nothing, except the legal expenses involved in appearing before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, but immediately the licences are granted they are worth £1,000,000 or £2,000,000. Licences have been used by interested parties to reap profits for themselves - not ordinary profits of £1,000 or £2,000 over a year or two but profits of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 over a year or two. Those profits could be better used by the Government than by private individuals or companies.
This debate gives us an opportunity not only to examine the recommendations of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the granting of the third commercial television licences in Sydney and Melbourne but also to have an overall look at television in Australia. The opinion of the ordinary men and women in the street is that television can be vastly improved. The reports of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in the past six or seven years have constantly criticized the management of television stations. The fourteenth report of the board, which was produced to the Parliament about October last year and which covers the period up to 30th June, 1962, contains references to children’s programmes, advertising standards and the management of stations. The following statement appears at page 27 of the report -
The Board informed the Minister that each of the four licensees had complied, substantially, with all the condition’s of their licences; that they had maintained a high standard of technical efficiency; and that they were providing the “adequate and comprehensive programmes” required by the Act (see Part VII.), although this observation was, as in the Board’s report to the Minister on the previous applications of the licensees for the renewal of their licences, qualified by references to the high proportion of imported programmes which are still being used and the desirability of providing better programmes for children; in both these fields licensees had, however, improved their services in the past year.
Previous reports contain many references to the attempts of television managements to by-pass the regulations. The commercial television stations are continually breaking the regulation relating to the time to be allotted to advertising. Regulation 38 states -
In programmes which are sponsored either by one advertiser or by several advertisers jointly, the time devoted to advertising matter should not exceed the following periods: -
in programmes exceeding15 minutes in duration, a period calculated at the rate of one and a half minutes in each 15 minutes of programme, or part thereof;
in programmes not exceeding15 minutes in duration, the following periods; -
In a 5 minute programme - 1 minute In a 10 minute programme -1½ minutes
In a 15 minute programme - 2 minutes
This regulation is broken every hour that television programmes are being shown in Sydney. In the last few months a practice has grown up in relation to feature film programmes. About the middle of the film, three advertisements are shown, the word “ intermission “ is then flashed on the screen and three more advertisements are shown. But the regulation says quite plainly that no more than three advertisements may be given in any one period. These are the things that the people who watch television and who provide much of the funds that go into television by purchasing the goods that are produced by the companies that advertise on television are complaining about: Too many advertisements and the poor standard of those advertisements.
The board goes on, at page 55 of its fourteenth annual report, to say with reference to advertising -
Observations during the year by the Board’s officers revealed an increasing tendency for the televising of advertisements to a greater extent than is provided for in the Standards. Extensive use is also made by stations of the practice of televising advertisements “ on contra “ - that is, free advertisements in return for goods received for use as prizes or giveaways . . . These matters are brought under the notice of the station concerned whenever they are seen, but the Board is not yet satisfied that all relevant station personnel fully appreciate the responsibility which devolves on each licensee to ensure that the Board’s Standards are observed.
The report also shows that the Advisory Committee on Children’s Television Programmes has issued a list of recommendations on the competitions that are run by various commercial television stations and the prizes that are given. The committee makes no fewer than ten suggestions to improve the competitions section of the programmes, and nine suggestions to improve the prizes. Its criticisms are that the value of the prizes is too high for the skill that is involved and that prizes are given even to children who fail to answer the questions. All these things have been remarked upon continually in the reports of the Broadcasting Control Board.
Television is a medium which can be of use to the community, but it can be of use to the community only if the people who are controlling the licences are prepared to put public good before private profit. Unfortunately, the situation at the moment is that the -people who have television licences are prepared to give to the people only the programmes that they can buy at the cheapest possible price. Representations are made continually by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and other honorable members to the effect that the Australian content in programmes should be increased. In 1960, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) said that after three years of operation of the television stations he hoped that 40 per cent, of the programmes would be Australian. Certainly, at this stage some of the stations have this content in their programmes; but if we go through the summary that is given in the board’s report we find that very little of that Australian content does much to help the artists, actors and writers of Australia because it includes quiz programmes, women’s sessions, interviews and sports programmes. The Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, which is sitting at present, has elicited that the commercial television stations are not prepared to spend money in order to develop Australian art and culture.
In respect of the applications that have just been considered by the Broadcasting Control Board, the applicants gave the same old assurances that have been given by every applicant for a television licence up till now. Those assurances have been taken as given in some instances and doubted in others. In the case of Austarama Television Proprietary Limited, the board has taken as given the assurances on Australian content in programmes and on the programmes that will be presented. But I am prepared to stand here now and say that the programmes that will be presented by the two new commercial television stations will fall into exactly the same pattern that is being followed by the other commercial stations at the moment. All the assurances that have been given by Mr. Walker, who was the spokesman for Ansett Transport Industries Limited, and other people will be forgotten very shortly. The board’s reports for the last six or seven years have indicated that unless a very close check is kept on the commercial television stations they will continually break down the standards and they will continually show, in the children’s and family hours, programmes that are unsuitable for showing in those hours. The medium of television can cause dangers to the young children of Australia. Unless the Broadcasting Control Board’s standards are maintained by the television stations, we will find that the good that can come out of television will be destroyed by the harm that it is causing.
I shall speak now, Mr. Speaker, on the subject matter of the censure motion, namely, the recommendations that have been made by the Broadcasting Control Board on the licences for Sydney and Melbourne and the decision that has been made by the Government in this matter. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and other honorable members have made certain charges about the granting of these licences. In particular, charges have been made in respect of the granting of the licence to Austarama Television Proprietary Limited. Those charges have been made for the simple reason that for the last half dozen years it has been obvious that Ansett Transport Industries Limited has been given favorable treatment by this Government, and in this instance it appears that that company has been given preferential treatment.
The criteria that were mentioned by the honorable member for Moreton a few minutes ago were altered drastically in the consideration of the Broadcasting Control Board on this occasion. The honorable member for Moreton knew so little about the matter and had taken so little notice of the board’s report that he quoted the criteria that were used in respect of the first and subsequent licences. On this occasion, the board’s observations on the criteria occupy pages 60 to 69 of its report. It decided in the long run that the criteria would be as follows -
In order to ascertain this applicant we should look for these qualities -
It seems to me that the company that has received the licence in Melbourne does not measure up to two or three of those qualifications.
The Leader of the Opposition, in a statement that he made to the House a few days ago, mentioned the fact that Ansett Transport Industries Limited is operating its airline on a loan that has been granted to it by the Government, and that the AnsettA.N.A. airline was given aeroplanes by Trans-Australia Airlines because the aeroplanes that it had were inefficient. Those facts do not suggest good management by Ansett-A.N.A. Had it not been for the rationalization of the airlines, at this stage Ansett would not have been in the airline business as he is now. He could not compete with the nationally owned and controlled Trans-Australia Airlines until he was given preferential treatment by this Government.
The criteria have been changed, but even the new criteria that have been laid down are not sufficient to safeguard the interests of the company that has received the licence in Melbourne because some of the criteria are more applicable to other applicants than they are to the company that was given the licence. One of the points, which has been stressed on page 106 of the board’s report, is this -
Statements by the Director-General of Civil Aviation were submitted, in very favourable terms, as to the record of the company in its operations and the calibre of its staff. We have carefully considered these submissions and appreciate their force.
On the other hand, one of the directors of another applicant company - I think it was Australian Telecasters Limited - is Sir Tasman Heyes who, for many years, controlled one of our largest Commonwealth departments. Surely any of the submissions which were made by the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation about the capacity of Ansett Transport Industries Limited to work with the Commonwealth Government should have applied also to the company of which Sir Tasman Heyes was a director, because the record and reputation of Sir Tasman Heyes are unsurpassed in the history of the Public Service.
Let me speak, for a moment or two, on the submissions that were made by the Director-General of Civil Aviation. I believe that in taking sides in this issue by giving a reference to a company which had applied for a licence to be granted by the Commonwealth Government, the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation has placed in jeopardy the impartiality of the Public Service. Surely, had the people associated with other applications for licences, such as Sir James Kirby, known that a reference from a high government official was going to be taken into account to such an extent by the Broadcasting Control Board they also could have obtained many references. The name of Mr. Norman Rydge who recently was appointed a part-time commissioner of the Rural Bank of New South Wales comes to my mind. I feel certain t*-at his company could have obtained a reference from the State Labour Government of New South Wales saying that the company with which he was associated worked in close co-operation with government departments. The Broadcasting Control Board stressed that the reference obtained by the Ansett interests was taken into consideration when the licence was granted.
A licence was granted in Sydney to a company that will be controlled by A.W.A. That company has already sold at an enormous profit a substantial interest which it had in a previous television licence. There is no guarantee that it will not do the same thing again. There is no guarantee that once the new television station is established it will not sell out its interest in order to make £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 profit. When a licence of this sort is granted it should not be used by the people who get it to make a private profit. The standards that have been laid down can be maintained only by having efficient management in control of a station for a sufficient time to obtain the experience necessary for its operation.
What happens when a substantial shareholding in a television station is sold out? It means that people come in who, because they have paid £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 for their shareholding, find it essential to get their money back as quickly as they can. Consequently, the standard of television programmes decreases on that station. The prospects of Australian artists and writers obtaining some consideration from the station fade away. These are all reasons why the censure motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition was necessary. It gives us the opportunity to bring forward some of the matters that people outside of this Parliament have been complaining about for many years. It gives us an opportunity to suggest that now is the time for the Government to make a complete overhaul of television throughout Australia. Television is now developing into the fourth or fifth estate. If industry is not firmly based in the capital cities it will not be firmly based in country towns, because country television stations will follow the bad example of city stations.
To conclude, might I suggest that the Labour Party believes in the nationalization of television and radio and that when we become a government we will be prepared to see that those private interests which control this mass media of communication - the most powerful media of all - will be curbed in their endeavours? Whilst I highlight that point, may I remind the Minister that this Government has arranged for the review of capital city television licences every twelve months? This can only have been considered necessary because the Government is not satisfied that private industry is satisfactorily controlling and conducting television stations. Earlier, I read out the control board’s statement that it had certain qualifications in recommending that a licence be renewed. So whilst the Minister might balk at my suggestion that television licenses are much too powerful an instrument to be in the hands of private individuals, he should keep a close watch on the attitude of these private interests. He has only to take a step further and take away their licences - a step he is reluctant to take - and their television stations could be controlled by the representatives of the people in this House.
.- I think that most members on the Government side of the House and most people who have listened to this debate will agree that this is just another instance in which the Opposition wastes the time of the House when there is important business to deal with. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) way inaccurate in many respects. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) in devastating fashion and in his usual forthright and capable manner entirely destroyed the case put by the Leader of the Opposition. The Minister outlined the very strict procedures, Mr. Speaker, that any application for a television licence must go through and the extremely thorough principles that the Broadcasting Control Board applies during its hearings of applications for licences. The Leader of the Opposition made no suggestion whatever as to what he would do if the Opposition were in government. He stated only that a Labour government would nationalize the broadcasting and television stations; and the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) made a definite statement to the same effect. On the other hand, we hear that Opposition members do not agree with monopolies. Of course, the Opposition’s proposal would create an absolute monopoly of the mass communications media.
The Leader of the Opposition said that, at the end of the board’s report, Mr. Yeo was mentioned as a member of the board although he had left the board before its report was issued. The Leader of the Opposition indicated that Mr. Yeo could not have given an opinion before the hearing was finished and before the board had finished preparing its submissions. That is not true. The true position is that Mr. Yeo retired on 1st January, 1963, and, prior to his retirement from the board, he left an entirely independent submission which turned out to agree entirely with the board’s final recommendations.
Mention has been made of the letter from the Director-General of Civil Aviation. The Postmaster-General dealt with this subject as did several other Government supporters. Briefly, it was obvious that Austarama Television Proprietary Limited had to take this action in view of the question asked by counsel, Mr. Harris, Q.C., who was assisting the board. I venture to say that if counsel representing one of the opposition companies had asked this question there would not have been any need for the Austarama company to have approached these two public bodies as it did. But, in my opinion, the fact that the question was raised by counsel assisting the board meant that it had a most important bearing on the applications for the licence.
Another part of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition that was absolutely inaccurate was that part in which he referred to the criteria that the board used and which, he said, appeared at page 66 of the board’s report. The truth of the matter is that the criteria which appear at pages 65 and 66 are not the criteria used by the board at all. They are the criteria that were submitted by counsel for the various applicant companies. The board’s criteria are set out at page 68. In quoting from pages 65 and 66 of the report the Leader of the Opposition was not quoting the board’s criteria at all. The board’s criteria are set out on page 68.
The Leader of the Opposition cast grave aspersions on the ability of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and on its independence. He said that the board did not know whether it was an independent body or just a rubber stamp. He said also that the Government rode roughshod over the board and told it what to do in these matters. Let us see how much substance there is in those allegations. Who are the members of the board? Mr. Osborne is a Bachelor of Arts and a solicitor. Mr. Mair holds about four engineering degrees. Mr. Yeo is a Bachelor of Science and holds other degrees. Mr. Randal White is a Master of Arts. Dr. Radford is a Doctor of Philosophy, a Master of Arts and a Master of Education. Does anybody with any common sense think that the Government could ride roughshod over those men? Does anybody think that those men would continue to be members of the board if the Government attempted to dictate to them? The Leader of the Opposition cast a grave and quite unfair reflection on the board.
The honorable gentleman referred also to the board’s hearings in respect of licences for Brisbane and Adelaide. He said that the board decided that the applicants in those two cities were unsuitable and that fresh applications should be called. The honorable gentleman said that after fresh applications had been called a licence was granted to one of the two original unsuitable applicants. To show what actually happened in this matter let me quote from the report and recommendations of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in 1958 concerning applications for commercial television licences for the Brisbane and Adelaide areas. The board reported -
The Board recommends to the Minister -
That is the relevant part of the board’s recommendations. This was the only case in the board’s history in which the Government did not agree with the board’s recommendations. In fact, no fresh applications were called in respect of Brisbane and Adelaide. The Government decided that there should be two licences in each of those capitals and that the licensees were to be selected from the applicants who had already submitted their cases.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the interests of people in country areas had been sacrificed because commercial stations were not allowed to relay programmes. That is not true. In fact, the honorable gentleman’s speech is studded with statements that are not true. His remarks seem to be calculated to mislead the people.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), as usual, made many statements that would not stand up to critical examination. He compared the television system in Australia with that in Britain. I do not think that was a fair comparison because Australia is so much bigger in area than Britain and Britain’s population is so much larger than Australia’s. It would be more reasonable to compare our situation with the situation in Canada or the United States of America. I understand that the Canadian system is practically identical with ours.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also said that newspaper companies in the United States are not permitted to hold television licences. That statement is not accurate. Newspaper companies in America are perfectly free to hold shares in a television licence or to own a licence outright.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition compared the operations of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board with those of the Tariff Board. He said that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) briefed the Tariff Board, and that as a result Sir Leslie Melville, the chairman of the board, resigned. That was a deliberate untruth. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows that that is not true. He said that the Minister for Trade did not refute the allegation that Sir Leslie Melville had resigned because the Minister had briefed the board. The Minister did not refute the allegation because, in stating his reasons for resigning from the Tariff Board, Sir Leslie Melville made no such allegation.
With regard to the licence granted in Melbourne, it seems to me that the company concerned won its case on its merits. From personal experience I know that there is a tendency to accuse the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of a lack of knowledge of the true position. I recall what happened when applications for country television licences were being heard. I did not think the allocation of licences was a complicated job until I discovered that even in respect of one country area there were about 760 foolscap pages of evidence following the board’s hearing. I then began to understand just how difficult it must be for the board finally to reach a decision on these matters and to be absolutely certain that its decision is right. In the case that I have in mind it was alleged that political influence had been used to obtain a licence, but subsequently the allegation was proved to be far from true. Several honorable members opposite opposite have insinuated in this debate that political influence has been used to obtain a television licence. As other honorable members have pointed out, the charge that the Government gave a direction to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to grant a licence to the Austarama company could not be substantiated, because two of that company’s directors are Sir Douglas Copland and Air Marshal Sir George Jones. Nobody in his wildest dreams would suggest that those two gentlemen are sympathetic towards this Government. Accusations of political influence have been made on other occasions and it is good that some of the board’s decisions should show just how fantastic it is to suggest that political influence has been exerted.
I do not know Mr. Ansett at all, but, listening to speeches in this House, I am led to the belief that a good deal of the animosity directed towards Mr. Ansett is instigated by sheer jealousy of a man’s success. Many of the remarks passed about Mr. Ansett have been made with a good deal of ignorance of the man’s background. He started his career by operating a taxi somewhere in the bush, back in 1934.
How can we know of the problems, disappointments and frustrations faced by this man over the years? Nobody on the other side of the chamber seemed to take that aspect into consideration. All honorable members opposite can do is paint a picture of a wealthy fellow having everything handed to him on a silver platter. From my observation, the story of Mr. Ansett’s progress is a great one and one that we must admire. A lot of the criticism which has been directed at him stems, I am sure, from sheer jealousy and envy at his success.
The Postmaster-General told us about Mr. Ansett’s financial stability and general progress. He commented that Mr. Ansett has met, dead on time, every commitment that he has ever had with the Government. In particular he has repaid in full and within the due time the millions of pounds which were owed by A.N.A. when he took over control of that company. The picture I get of Mr. Ansett is that he is a smart, capable businessman of great courage. He is the kind of executive that we expect and want to see emerge in Australia.
The board must have had an extremely difficult task in deciding the best company to receive the additional Victorian licence because the calibre of the directors of the unsuccessful applicant companies was very high. If there is any quibble about the decision it certainly is not backed up by Mr. Don Whitington, who is regarded as a supporter of the Opposition, and who writes a column which is published in many country newspapers. Mr. Whitington’s comment about the granting of the licence to Mr. Ansett appeared in at least two newspapers, the “ Snowy River Mail “ which circulates in the electorate of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon), and the “ Parkes Champion Post” which circulates in the electorate of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England). The comment is in these terms -
Labour has never liked the Ansett establishment and is bound to use this latest situation as further evidence of Government favouritism.
In fact, the Ansett application was outstanding, and the evidence the company tendered to the Broadcasting Control Board left little doubt that it was capable of doing an outstanding job for Australian television.
That statement was made by a man who is not particularly sympathetic towards the Government.
As to the Government’s overall policy in relation to television and the results which have been achieved, it is sufficient to say that only eight years after the introduction of television in our huge, sparsely populated country, 91 per cent, of our people will receive a first-class television signal. That achievement speaks for itself. It is an answer to this censure motion - if any argument on which to base such a motion were advanced by the Leader of the Opposition or any of his supporters and this I very much doubt.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Speaker, I shall never cease to marvel at the way in which honorable members opposite seek to answer arguments that are presented from this side of the House whether they be in the form of censure of the Government or criticism of legislation it may have introduced. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) chided members of the Opposition for their attitude to nationalization and government-controlled instrumentalities. He was very hostile about any such attitude towards television. It is interesting to note that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), who is a member of the same political party as the honorable member for Indi, administers the greatest nationalized department that exists in this country. The honorable member for Indi offers little or no complaint about the Post Office being under government control, but he adopts a quite different attitude when any private interest is to have an opportunity to exploit the situation and take tribute from the general community.
The honorable member criticized our references to the principle of control over television which has been adopted by the United Kingdom and which we feel should be adopted here in Australia. He found fault with that system of control and said that the systems which are operating in Canada and the United States of America were to be preferred; but he did not advance any reasons in support of his statement. The honorable gentleman did his case less than justice by his unwillingness to give the House the advantage of any knowledge of this subject that he may possess.
The Government has a direct and challenging case to answer, but that case has not yet been answered. We are now waiting for the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to make some attempt to allay public disquiet over the recent granting of two television licences to wealthy groups, one in the city of Sydney and the other in the city of Melbourne. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in a trenchant attack upon the Government, unfolded the procedure which has been followed in the issuance of these licences. The case presented by the Leader of the Opposition must be answered categorically and convincingly if this Government is to be held as deserving of the confidence of this House. The PostmasterGeneral, who spoke after the Leader of the Opposition, sought to dismiss the motion of censure by saying that there was nothing to answer - but he took nearly 45 minutes to say even that. That kind of tactic will not suffice. I invite members of the community to read in to-morrow morning’s press the reports of the case that has been submitted to the House by the Leader of the Opposition and other speakers on this side, to read every word of the Postmaster-General’s reply, and then to ask themselves whether they can possibly be satisfied with the Minister’s statement.
The Government’s policy is open to serious challenge. The ability of a group of commercial interests to obtain a television licence means that they are able to acquire, as a positive gift, a realizable asset which after a brief time can be estimated to be worth between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000. Let it not be said that such an asset cannot realize that sum. It has already happened in two instances. In Sydney, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Email Limited sold their shares in station ATN to John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited. Those companies paid £207,000 for their shares but sold them for £1,246,000. Now those and other interests have been granted a new licence. This is a rather profitable business in which only the wealthy interests can engage. The Australian public will require a much more convincing answer than has so far come from the Government about its granting of television licences to interests which already have sought to ex ploit the present system by their misuse of an earlier licence granted to them.
This Government’s policy permits the concentration in the hands of a few financially powerful people of a medium by which the minds of the people are to be informed and the culture and practices of the people, particularly our younger citizens, are to be influenced. It is a dangerous weapon to place in the hands of any group of private interests. The Government seems to have a fetish about serving private commercial interest before that of the wider community. Let me illustrate my point. Let us suppose that the document I have in my hand is a television licence which was to be issued for the benefit of the community. Initially that licence would be held by the PostmasterGeneral; it would be the property of the people of Australia. But he would be prepared to trade it out for some nominal sum. It would then be possible for some wealthy interests in the community to obtain that licence and to exploit it either through commercial advertising and poor programmes or by selling it to somebody else for a very high sum. Is it honest dealing in the handling of public matters to adopt a practice of that kind, supposedly in the interests of the people that the Government seeks to protect?
If private interests find that it is unprofitable to operate an undertaking, we have grown to expect a government to run it at a loss. However, the people are denied the advantages that would flow from operating the undertaking at a profit. This system operates against the people all the time. If an undertaking is profitable it is given away to a few private individuals who are able to use it to their advantage and to profit from it. In the field of television, those individuals do not want to provide a service in less profitable areas which are justly deserving of consideration. The provision of a service in such areas becomes an added levy upon the taxpayers. They must be prepared to accept responsibility for that part of the provision of television services. That is not equitable nor, I feel, is it honest.
There is another very serious aspect of the provision of television services. As we know, television programmes go right into the homes of the people. They provide information and general entertainment. They exert a considerable influence on the mind and the character of every man, woman or child who watches the programmes. If the Government accepts the responsibility to ensure that the best programmes are provided, it will not do so by farming out the task to some one else. In this respect the Government has failed. I think that it is most unwise to build up individuals or groups of individuals into magnates of such proportions that they can demand concessions and special consideration from governments. That is what is happening in this country, lt is arising from the way in which the Government is allowing Ansett’s commercial interests to be built up. 1 ask myself: What spell does a man like Mr. Reg Ansett cast over this Government? He certainly has received most generous treatment in regard to his commercial aviation interests, and he seems to be laying the basis for the same kind of treatment in regard to television. Perhaps I shall be able to deal on a more appropriate occasion with the financial structure of his concerns and the concessions and consideration he has received under the policy of the Government in the field of civil aviation. At the moment, I want to show how we are allowing individuals and groups of individuals to be built up to such colossal proportions that they may begin to dictate to the people and to the Government which represents the people. As an Australian citizen, I strongly object to that kind of thing happening in a country which is supposed to be governed by this Parliament and by other parliaments, rather than by private interests outside parliaments.
Honorable members on the other side of the House have spoken deprecatingly of the system of television control which operates in the United Kingdom, although that system was initiated by a government of the same kind as that which they support. However, I think that the United Kingdom Government has displayed a little more public spirit and interest in the welfare of the people in this respect. Under the Churchill Government, and then under the Eden Government and the Macmillan Government, the television instrumentality in the United Kingdom has been publicly owned. It operates under the direction of the British Broadcasting Corporation and a subsidiary body known as the Independent
Television Authority, which, I understand, attends to the leasing of programmes for commercial purposes.
According to a statement made by the Postmaster-General during his speech this afternoon, in recent times it has become evident that certain matters affecting the administration of the Independent Television Authority need correction, and there is to be some tightening-up. Because the United Kingdom Government is seeking to protect the public interest and trying to avert happenings which would be contrary to the public interest, the PostmasterGeneral in this Parliament criticizes that position and points to it as an example of government interference. I say that where there is something which is against the public interest there should be government interference. The people should be protected, so that they will not be exploited. They should not suffer because of the way in which the operations of instrumentalities such as television undertakings are controlled.
In this country, the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s television stations are outstanding. In every department they leave the commercial stations far behind. The standard and the originality of the programmes and the artistry displayed are far superior to those of the private stations. Many of the programmes shown on the commercial stations consist of long outdated and poor quality films which have been gathered from the libraries and the agencies of the film industry in the United States of America. There is a great need to raise the standards of commercial television in Australia. The smothering of programmes by advertising is both annoying and nauseating to the average viewer. The fact that the national stations are able to operate without interruption by advertisements is a very desirable feature.
In my view, the time is long overdue for a complete examination by a royal commission of all aspects of television and broadcasting. I warmly commend the suggestion that was made this afternoon in this respect by the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that the House will follow his suggestion by instituting an inquiry at an early date with a view to bringing to Australia better television programmes which have such a vital effect and influence upon the communities of this country. I warmly support the censure motion. I believe that such a motion is more than justified because the Government has forfeited the confidence of this House if it cannot do better than it has already done.
– I must say, Mr. Speaker, that I listened, as I always do, with great interest to the words of my old friend, the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), who became, I thought at one moment, quite impassioned on this subject. I do want to point out to him with all friendliness that he fell into a few errors. He made a demand for parliamentary control in this matter. Everything that has been done - and which is now the subject of attack - has been done under statute of this Parliament and through an instrumentality set up under a statute passed by this Parliament.
I would suggest to my honorable friend that he be a little cautious about invoking the authority of Parliament when, in the case of his own party, authority has been handed over to the 36 men. Honorable members opposite may moan and groan, but the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) would not be allowed to move a censure motion here to-day unless it came within the authority of the 36. Just remember that fact. Then the honorable gentleman attacked the act of Parliament. This is a censure motion, and presumably, like its unhappy predecessor last week or the week before, is designed to defeat the Government and produce an election. It is wonderful to realize how passionately fond the Labour Party has suddenly become of an election fought on the television law. Already two elections have gone by since the law was passed, and I do not recall the Labour Party making a point of it at either; and the reason why it did not make a point of it at either election was that it was convenient on those occasions to play for the support of some, at least, of the commercial television stations.
Well, Sir, that pretence has now been abandoned. The Labour Party - with authority, I trust, from its outside 36 - has nailed its colours to the mast. In this debate it has said: “ We are for nationalization of television. If we come into office we will take the earliest possible steps to wipe out the existing commercial television licences and put the whole thing into the hands of the Government.” No longer is there any mystery about that policy. I hope it will be well remembered when in due course - some time off yet - we will be having an election.
Then, my honorable friend got rather heated, I thought - if I may apply such a word to so mild a man - about a licence being given to a wealthy group. I hope he will forgive me if, looking at this report, I point out - and I am reading the names of applicants that I had never heard of until we got the report - that Community Television Limited, under a splendid arrangement, was incorporated with an authorized capital of 5,000,000 ordinary shares of 5s. each of which 1,000,000 were to be issued to returned servicemen and returned servicemen’s clubs, 1,000,000 to members and affiliated branches of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labour Party, and, to my joy and surprise; 1,000,000 to members and affiliated branches of the Liberal and Country Party - I did not know they had this money. Then Electronic Industries Limited and holders of ordinary shares in Electronic Industries Limited are in for 1,000,000 class D shares, and practically the same people are in for 1,000,000 class E shares. Then look at the directorate. This is a poverty-stricken affair. My friend talks about the Government giving a licence to a wealthy group. Bless my soul, 2,000,000 shares out of 5,000,000, so far as I can judge from this document, are in the hands of the Warners! I thought from what I heard from the Leader of the Opposition that the Warners were anathema. Oh, no! They are rather comfortable people when the Labour Party and my party and somebody else want to get a licence. This is not a bankrupt show, I venture to say, on the face of it. Then my honorable friend says: “ Is not this dreadful? A licence is to go to a wealthy group.” I venture to say that not any of us in this House would want to sit down and concoct an application for a licence, and find ourselves called upon, by the inevitable logic of circumstances to provide £1,000,000 or £2,000,000, and have to carry a loss of £500,000 or perhaps £250,000, before we got into the profit bracket. I would become so excited at that prospect that I would become unfit for further work.
Because our time is limited I want to point out a few distinctions that have been overlooked by honorable members opposite. I do not mind them moving a censure motion about television policy, but they have directed very little attention to that. They have concentrated their venom on the recent applications and the recent decisions. 1 just want to say this: lt is one thing for any government to establish a royal commission which is designed to make recommendations on policy. We have had those. We had a celebrated royal commission on banking of which the late Mr. Chifley was a member. That commission made a valuable report. It was not binding on any government on either side. As a matter of fact, it was a long time before any one of the recommendations was taken up and put into effect. A royal commission which is designed to produce policy recommendations does not exempt the government of the day from accepting its own responsibility on policy. That goes for a Labour government, I am sure, as much as it goes for mine.
But where you have, as in this case, an act of Parliament which provides for the setting up of a broadcasting control board, for the calling of applications for a licence and the reference of applications to that statutory board, and then requires that statutory board to make a report and recommendations, it is an entirely different matter. This is not a broad question of policy. I think honorable members forget that. Let me talk about Victoria in this instance. The Government called applications for a licence. About seven or eight - I have forgotten the exact number - applications were received. The applicants formed companies and established boards of directors. They spent thousands and thousands of pounds in assembling their financial arrangements and schemes, engaging solicitors and counsel and in preparing evidence I suppose that in the case of the Victorian applications - and this goes for everywhere - there must have been scores of thousands of pounds, and many weeks, expended in the making, pursuit hearing and criticism of the various individual applications. It would be a very strange thing for a government to say, when all that was over: “ We are sorry. You have wasted your time and your money. We propose to pay no attention to the report of the board.” I give it to my honorable friend that if he had his way there would not be a board and there would not be commercial licences. I understand that, but let him accept the proposition, and let everybody accept the proposition, that there are commercial licences, that there is a board, that there are investigations and that there are reports - all provided for by the law of this land. I venture to say that in these circumstances, a government, having received a report, would need to have overwhelming reasons before it rejected the recommendation. I am putting this as a cold, hard matter of fact. A government would need to have overwhelming reasons. If it did not and it said, “ We do not like this recommendation “, what would it do then? Could it say: “ This company is out. We do not care for this recommendation. Send the matter back for another inquiry. Let everybody come along once more and have another investigation, or perhaps we will open it up for other people.” ? That is not real life. I invite honorable members opposite to consider this very carefully, and I invite the people to consider it also. If the Opposition did not like a nomination, would it say: “ Right; that is finished. We will now pick our own.” ? I wonder.
I repeat that, apart from two casual observations that were made to me a week or two before this report became available, I did not know who the applicants were in Victoria. Now I do. I have seen their names. I might say to myself that some of the reasoning in the report is quite unsatisfying to my mind - I could well say that - but should I therefore say: “I reject your nomination. On looking over the list, I am going to pick so and so.” ? I wonder what would be said then. It is very interesting for honorable members to carry in their minds the thought that the successful applicant company has a board, the chairman and dominating man of which is Mr. Reg Ansett, whom I perhaps meet once a year. He has no political affiliations that ever I heard of. Indeed, my first association with him was when I was the Victorian Minister for Railways and put through a transport regulation bill which put him off the roads.
Such bosom friends are we that that is the simple truth. That is a fact.
Anyhow, this is a man of enterprise. He is tough; he is a driver; and he has undoubtedly achieved remarkable things. When I first knew him he was very favorably regarded by the Labour Party, but now he has succeeded - and, of course, that is fatal. But he has a company, the board of which embraces, as we have been reminded by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) this afternoon, a couple of gentlemen who could not by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as supporters or admirers of the Government. One of them is, of course, a celebrated Labour candidate, Sir George Jones.
The other company, Universal Telecasters, has nine men on the board, eight of whom are, and have been for years, my very close personal friends. They did not get the licence. This is what this favoritism charge is worth. Here are men, eight out of nine of whom are close personal friends of mine, and some of whom I strongly suspect may be supporters of the party that I lead, but the board does not recommend their group. It recommends Ansett Transport Industries, a group with no political associations, or, to the extent that they are known, hostile ones. That company gets the nomination. Can we as a government now reject that nomination and substitute for it some choice of our own? If we had substituted our choice, if we had, for example, selected Universal Telecasters, of which Sir Frank Selleck is the chairman, I could imagine honorable members opposite being in such a passion of rage that they would have had seizures. Sir, the essence of this matter is that when you establish an independent board and that board conducts exhaustive inquiries, very costly to the parties concerned, you are not entitled to reject the recommendation of the board except for overwhelmingly powerful reasons - and none, of course, has been put forward.
Time runs on. I just want to turn to another aspect of this matter. The Leader of the Opposition, knowing in advance, because he is not without intelligence, the force of these arguments, thought fit to convert this discussion into what I can only describe as a wicked and villainous attack on a series of people. I was shocked by it. If it had come from other sources in his party I would have understood it, but coming from him I must confess that I was shocked by it. What has he said about the matter? First of all, he accused Mr. Ansett and his company - you cannot distinguish them for this purpose - of being bankrupt. That was a terrible thing for a man to say under the cover of parliamentary privilege. It was a remark so actionable that, if spoken outside the Parliament, the honorable gentleman would find himself ending up in a bankruptcy court. Let me remind the House and the people of what he said about a man who has battled his own way and has achieved a remarkable success. He said -
Ansett Transport Industries Limited has £6,0.00,000 worth of assets of dubious value, and liabilities amounting to £32,000,000.
If he had only troubled to look at the balance-sheet of Ansett Transport Industries Limited, he would have found that the assets were worth not £6,000,000 but £35,000,000. But he did not bother about that; he set out to create a false impression. He continued -
To all intents and purposes the man is broke.
That is a nice thing to say, is it not, about a man conducting a great service industry in this country. He would not dare to say that outside the Parliament Then he said -
Anybody who has seen his balance-sheet wonders how he carries on. He carries on only because he has the backing and support of this Government
All his obligations to the Government will have been discharged completely by the beginning of next year. Then the Leader of the Opposition went on rashly and said -
He is the only man who has borrowed money at 8 per cent, and 8i per cent, around Australia and been able to survive. Korman has crashed, Hooker has crashed . . .
When did L. J. Hooker crash? I suggest to the honorable member that he say that outside the Parliament and see what that firm will do about it. But, according to him, they have all crashed. He continued -
Ansett is the only one so far who has escaped.
It is a great pity that the honorable gentleman is so unconcerned about the facts before he makes these charges. I just want to tell him, if he needs to be told, that on the stock exchange during the past twelve months unsecured notes at the rate of 8 per cent, interest were registered on behalf of Australian Consolidated Press. I did not hear that that organization was bankrupt. Ampol Petroleum Limited had unsecured notes listed at 7i per cent. I had not heard that Ampol was bankrupt! Clyde Securities had notes listed at 8i per cent. Felt and Textiles of Australia Limited, one of the great textile industries of this country, is borrowing at 8 per cent. Then we have General Motors Acceptance Corporation Australia - how bankrupt that is! - borrowing at 8 per cent, and Humes Limited borrowing at 8 per cent. Overseas Corporation (Australia) Limited has unsecured notes listed at 8 per cent. I do not need to protract the list. The fact is that this statement by the Leader of the Opposition was a monstrous untruth. If the honorable member really wants to escape the condemnation of decent people in this country, he ought to take the first opportunity to retract his allegation. So much for his charge against the Ansett company. But he did not stop there. He made a charge of dishonesty and corruption against the Government. Let us be quite clear about this. He said that the Government had told the Australian Broadcasting Control Board what recommendation to make. He produced no evidence of such a monstrosity. I am the head of the Government and, until a fortnight ago, I had heard of no applicants at all, and then I heard of a couple by accident. Yet the honorable gentleman charged the Government with having said to the board, “This is what you are to recommend “. That is an allegation of corruption if ever there was one. I cannot imagine anything more dishonest than for a government to suborn a statutory com:mittee to forgo its duty and to make a false report, not carrying its own judgment. But that was his charge against the Government.
Then, of course, his third charge was against the board itself. The board consists of reputable men. They cannot stand up in this House and answer, and they cannot take proceedings in the courts of the land for statements made here. And these people are accused of having so far forsworn their duty as to take instructions from the Government and then go through the arrant humbug of conducting hearings, listening to evidence and making a report! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) yawns. This is his cup of tea; this is his form. But it is not normally the form of the Leader of the Opposition.
These are the charges, and I want everybody in Australia to understand that these charges have been made without a skerrick of support for them. The Leader of the Opposition talks about a royal commission. Does he want a royal commission on his charges, with no parliamentary privilege, and with himself available to be put into the box to disclose the alleged sources of his information? Of course he does not! We have had experience of that before to-day. So he says, “Let us have a royal commission, not about these foul, damaging charges that I have made, but on the general question which was investigated by a royal commission only a few years ago! “
Sir, one thing that stands out crystal clear in this debate, which I think is a valuable one, is that the Opposition, having set about the task of destroying the Government, is, not for the first time, destroyed by its own attack. In reality what emerges from the debate, and what everybody ought to take notice of in the cities and in the country, is the fact that if the Labour Party came back into office commercial television would go out; the present operators would be closed up. Their licences might be allowed to run for a year or two, but members of the Labour Party are bound by their policy, which is to close up commercial television and put all the instruments of television communication with the people into the hands of a government body, which, if experience counts for anything, would be compelled by a Labour government to bow the knee in the house of Rimmon. This is a very simple debate from my point of view and, if I may say so, it has been a very enjoyable debate. I have never felt so clearly that an attack was so futile or so doomed to disaster.
.- The Prima Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has a habit when making an address to the House, of indulging in a little humour, perhaps elephantine and ungainly, but nevertheless aimed in a barbed way at the Labour Party. Because he had no brief and no knowledge of the problems of television, living as he does at the Lodge, which was not even wired for television until within the last few months, his opening gambit to-night was to say something derogatory of the Labour Party. What could be easier and what could be cornier than to refer to the 36 men? The Prime Minister did not deal with television; he dealt with the 36 men. Honorable members on the Government side who are laughing will stop in a minute when they hear what I have to say. The Prime Minister referred to the 36 men as our masters. Government supporters have only one master and it is an unhappy circumstance for him that the Prime Minister should be taking part in a television debate to-night because, during the last election campaign, the Australian Broadcasting Commission asked all candidates, great or small, handsome or otherwise, whether they would agree to be televised and to give their points of view. One man, Sir Philip McBride, banned the whole of the Liberal Party. He said to all Liberal candidates, “ You shall not go on television at all “. So, what about the 36 good men and true as compared with one dictator in Adelaide who went so far as to say, “ You shall not go on television at all “ - perhaps a merciful thing for the electors. A button is pressed in Adelaide and the Liberals are off the air.
To-night, the Prime Minister decided not to debate the television issue. Our motion of censure contains a challenge on two points. The first is that commercial television is a horror and has failed, a-nd the second is that two Cabinet Ministers are under criticism - the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). Those two Ministers have to answer that criticism. The trouble is - and the Prime Minister knows this - that the commercialization of television has prostituted a culture that would have been extremely useful to this country. It is no good. The Prime Minister knows it is no good and, knowing his tastes, I do not think he would look at it very often. The Government is in very deep trouble over television and that trouble arises entirely from its own actions, its own intentions and its own mismanagement of the situation. Television licences have become the happy hunting ground for millionaires or groups of predatory capitalists hunting in packs and wanting to become millionaires. The rush to run a television station is, in effect, the greatest gold rush since Ballarat, Bendigo, Lambing Flat and all the other great rushes in Australian history.
The debate gets back to the point where we ask the Government to be serious about the matter, to forget the funning of the Prime Minister and to answer the questions which the Leader of the Opposition has asked because the Government certainly will have to give answers to the Australian people when the matter is put to them. The first question is, “Why should something that is a government creation, a simple television licence, worth millions of pounds, become available to a select group or coterie and to no others? “ Another is, “ What has become of the group of people who wanted some church meetings televised, some cultural content in programmes, or some Australian programmes with Australian actors? “ Television licences have become the happy hunting ground of only the predatory capitalists who have the money to coerce and force the Government. Nobody is going to kid me that the Prime Minister was not coerced or that the Cabinet was not coerced. Of course they were, and the Minister in another place, whose close association with Ansett is a scandal, was also in this racket. I designate it a racket, and I want to find out something more about it than the pallid statements of the Prime Minister have disclosed.
The Liberals opposite and the Government that they support know this. They know money. They worship money. They can smell it coming in large or small quantities, and they got plenty from Ansett. They knew, when organizations were spending in the aggregate £250,00.0,000 to put their cases before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, that this was going to be a big thing. Are we to believe the airy nonsense talked by the Prime Minister: “I never heard of it. I never saw it. Where did it come from “? Like the Holy Ghost, it descended with pentecostal fire on his head, and he discovered that the winner of the licence was his old mate, Reg Ansett.
It could not be possible! Of course not. There is the question that has to be decided in this business.
The little man is swept aside, and so are standards and tastes swept aside. How can any government that professes to be an Australian government see the worst unemployment ever experienced by the actors, writers, script-writers and technicians in Australia and say, “ You cannot have Australian television “7 If the Liberals say that, they should not be in office, because you can have Australian television. This attitude is only a result of the myth about what the public is supposed to want. The public are just getting what has been forced down their throats.
The point that I want to make is that this Government’s policy on television has resulted in Ansett entering the television field. His entry is an effect, not a cause. This policy has resulted in Frank Packer entering the television field. His entry is an effect, not a cause. When you throw open the field of television to the predatory capitalists who want money above all but who have no taste and no culture and cannot even buy those things yet suggest that they should be the custodians of television who are to determine what the people should listen to and see, you slam the door on the aspirations of all Australians. What is a television set? You have to have a television set. It is a social symbol, and it comes into the home, because it is required for entertainment. Then, into the idiot box in the lounge room comes everything that somebody else wants to tell you. But there is no good in it. That is simply because the commercial motive is the important thing. The commercial motive is already the important thing in Ansett’s application for a television licence and in all the other applications that we have mentioned, because television licences represent a gigantic jackpot. The play is not the thing; the jackpot is the thing. The man who comes through in the battle of the tycoons and wins a television licence is the man who is most ruthless and, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has said, the man who has a friend at court.
We want to prove this evening how nonsensical is the Prime Minister’s statement that he knew nothing and saw nothing. He, apparently, is a combination of the three wise monkeys in one personality. That is a lot of nonsense. He must have known of these things, and he should have been aware of the challenges that would be thrown down before him if Ansett were allowed to have this licence. Ansett has leaned on the Government and fawned on it. The whole of his organization has been put in a position of strength simply by the props supplied to him by the Government.
Let us consider the supine attitude of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It says that the criteria for success in applications are that the applicants should be men of substance and refinement with some knowledge in this field. That is all juvenile stuff, because these ravening wolves of capitalism are in there for the money. How much money is involved? Let us have a look at it. The Ansett interests were so sure that they would get the licence that they have not, even at this stage, formed their television company. Other applicants who believed in the probity of the Government formed companies and put particulars of them before the Broadcasting Control Board for consideration. Ansett now will prepare to form a proprietary company with a capital of £1,500,000. There will be no public subscriptions except through a proprietary company. Immediately Ansett gets the licence, he can pick up £1,500,000 in Collins-street any morning ?nd turn it into £9,000,000 overnight.
The Australian public should look at this: He can make £9,000,000 overnight. Does the public see what happens? Packer bought the GTV £1 shares for £6 a share, and Henderson bought out Email Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited - the lucky recipients of another licence - for £6 a share. The law says that there shall be no trafficking in shares in these companies and no transferring of licences, but the deals went through. So the only evidence that we have of the value of £1 shares in a company that has a licence and is conducting a television station establishes that they are worth £6 each. Six times £1,500,000 is £9,000,000. So Mr. Ansett has been presented with a capital aggregation of £9,000,000. If that is not rotten and bad, if it does not .stink, if it is not subversion of business in every way, I want to know what is. Where else could you see this sort of thing? Deny it if you can. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) interjects. He is an accountant who is used to adding up his rent-roll. I do not know much about economics, but I can add up to ten, and my arithmetic makes Ansett’s aggregation of capital £9,000,000. The honorable member knows that that is the amount. So the Government’s friend has obtained £9,000,000 for a piece of paper. That is the thing that the Government must answer for.
It has been said that no help has been given to Ansett by this Government and that he is not the Government’s preferred boy. Let us just have a look at the situation and see what the Government has done to. guarantee Ansett-A.N.A. First, in 1952, the Government introduced legislation to allow Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the forerunner of Ansett-A.N.A., to carry half the airmails. This traffic is now estimated to be worth £500,000 a year to Ansett. Secondly, the Government permitted Commonwealth officials on government business to travel on private airlines at government expense. Thirdly, this government, in the little horror budget of 1956, which is vividly remembered by all honorable members opposite, because they nearly lost their government ticket, made provision to exempt aviation petrol from the additional petrol tax of 3d. a gallon. This benefited Ansett-A.N.A. more than Trans-Australia Airlines whose fleet consisted mainly of Viscounts powered by kerosene. Fourthly, in 1957, the Government imposed on aviation kerosene a tax of 6d. a gallon additional to the existing primage of Id. a gallon. The immediate cost to T.A.A. was £300,000 a year, but Ansett-A.N.A., which was not using aviation kerosene, was subjected to virtually no additional cost. Fifthly, the Government refused Trans-Australia Airlines permission to buy Caravelle jet aircraft - we all know that - and forced it to switch to Electras. This immediately gave Ansett a great advantage, because his airline had already ordered Electras and obtained prior deliveries. All the time, the favoured son comes along and receives preferred treatment.
Sixthly, under the cross-charter agreement, T.A.A. was compelled to exchange three of its Viscounts for two DC6’s, although the Viscounts were known to be more popular with the public. Seventhly, this Government has guaranteed AnsettA.N.A. loans totalling £15,000,000 at low rates of interest to enable it to re-equip. Eighthly, the Government has adopted a scheme for the so-called rationalization of airlines which, in effect, guarantees AnsettA.N.A. 50 per cent, of the traffic on any route on which it chooses to operate. Ninthly, in the dying hours of the twentythird Parliament, the Government rushed through the Airlines Agreements Act 1961, which empowered the Minister for Civil Aviation to fix a profit target for T.A.A. This tied down the government instrumentality but left the other airline free to make as much profit as it liked. Yet the Government and its supporters say that nothing has been done for Ansett. Do not honor-able members think that he has had enough out of this Government, without adding more to the favours done for him? Tenthly, this Government has prevented Trans-Australia Airlines from using its superannuation fund of more than £3,000,000 in the running of its business.
Eleventhly, the Government has favoured Ansett and his company but has never shown similar favoritism to the smaller private airlines which Ansett has been allowed to gobble up. One of the survivors, East-West Airlines Limited, was threatened with extinction by Ansett in 1961. As the Leader of the Opposition said to-day, and as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has told the House, the backing of Ansett by the Minister for Civil Aviation brought this about. We all remember how Ansett crushed Butler’s airline with as much compunction as one would throw the butt of a cigarette in the gutter. This is the man who is glorified by the Government and its supporters. They say that he has not had a fair go and that he ought to have a television licence.
Special depreciation allowances given to Ansett-A.N.A. mean that, on a profit of £1,058,000, Ansett pays tax of only £9,000. This is because he has a special operational depreciation allowance which benefits him in every way. In every instance, the Government’s favorite son has been protected. He is able to use public facilities provided by the Department of Civil Aviation at low - even nominal - rental, for storage and other purposes.
Then we come to the Australian image claimed by Ansett. He claims that he rushed to the aid of beleaguered TransAustralia Airlines to give it a hand. I am very deeply concerned about the plight of the Australian who happens, unfortunately, to be a writer or actor or to be in some other way tied up with television. To-day, his plight is proportionately worse than that of any other section of the unemployed. Members of the acting profession and of Actors and Announcers Equity Association of Australia who formerly earned £80 a week are now subsisting on £5 a week. Some, indeed, are even dependent on social service benefits. Radio, to this weak Minister who administers these affairs, has become a juke box, which plays Yankee records interminably. No more Australian plays or other features are now heard on the radio. Similarly, on television they are being squeezed out. If you go to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, you are told, “ We cannot do anything about the provisions in the act “, and the stations are allowed to get away with it.
Because my time is not unlimited, I want to talk about Austarama’s claim that it will do a lot of things for Australian television. I was thrilled to hear that it was going to put on Australian plays; that it was going to work out some formula for letting Australian culture seep into our own television; that we would be able to listen to high quality Australian performances of various kinds. But after having read the evidence closely, we find that Ansett was only fooling. Like the Prime Minister, he was having a bit of fun at the expense of the Australian people. Looking at his proud boast that he would create an Australian image, we find that he had plenty of opportunity to create an Australian image but he did not take advantage of it. In the television field, in which he will be the bright star of the future, he has never - I repeat “ never “ - sponsored a single Australian production on any metropolitan station and never put on an Australian play. He uses advertising. He advertises himself here and everywhere else. He has never done anything for the Australian image. If he did, it would be a diminishing image with him looking at himself in a mirror that distorted his profits but reduced his personality. He has never sponsored a talent quest, art show, or anything else of the kind in Australia. So this promise of an Australian image snuffs out when we see the sort of image that he would hope to create.
He told the board - I got this from the transcript - that his sincere interest was in the art of television. How could he be a mate of Sir Frank Packer if his sincere interest were in the art of television? All Sir Frank Packer believes in is moneygrabbing on television - letting the public go to hell, and making them take what he thinks they should have. One has only to read the transcript of the evidence that he gave to the Senate select committee on television programmes. He just pulled faces at the committee and gave it no information. But Ansett told the Australian Broadcasting Control Board about his sincere interest in the art of television. He was going to present Australian shows, Australian revues, Australian spectacles, our great national heritage. Yet on the same day, in a misguided moment, when he was buttonholed by a pressman, he said during an interview, as reported in the Melbourne “Sun News-Pictorial” of 6th April, “If the public wants westerns, I will give them westerns “. The vision splendid is going to be the Mayor of Tombstone galloping into the middle distance, as it is on television every night, to our infinite boredom. You can forget the vision splendid on Australian television. He does not mean it and has no intention of bringing it about. His colleague, Sir Frank Packer, who will probably be buying or trafficking in his shares, went on record the same day before the Senate select committee on televsion with this statement, “ If you put Australian plays on television you will go broke”. It does not matter what our leader said about people being broke. Sir Frank Packer said that if you had to teach Australians their own language, their own country, and a culture that they believe in, you would go broke. You must take stuff that has been in the Hollywood morgue for 10, 20 or 30 years! That is what we will be given, because the Government made a terrific mistake in allowing the commercial vultures to come in and fatten on a culture that belongs to the Australian people.
I approve of what the Leader of the Opposition said in regard to television; it is in a shocking state. The Prime Minister, in an attempt to defend himself, skirted round and round1 in a most unworthy way and made no contribution. We say that the position was obviously wrong when every one knew who was going to get the licence. I would like to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), who is at the table, why the Director-General of Civil Aviation was brought in to the hearing to boost Ansett’s application. Surely Government supporters are not so stupid as to think there would not be a horrified “ Ah “ from the Australian people, and that the people would not say, “Why make a special canvass of Ansett’s application, and not that of Sir Lionel Hooke, or of any of the other applications in Melbourne with a high content of money, knights and people in business?” Why was the DirectorGeneral brought in? From the transcript we see that he just did not say that the Ansett organization was very effective. He gave it fulsome praise. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), in another place, must answer that. He must come out of the shadows and stop playing around with Ansett.
Under privilege in this House, we have to answer him, because we have a responsibility to the Australian people. You cannot tell the cynical Australian that the Minister would say, “ Go in there and ram for Ansett “, because he thought it was the sporting thing to do. Of course, that is nonsense. Honorable members opposite sit silently now, because they know that this is something that they must explain to the electors. Was the Director-General of Civil Aviation conscripted and ordered into the witness box by the Minister, or did he go of his own volition? Why do not some of the Ministers tell us that before this debate concludes? Of course, they know very well that he was ordered in there by the Minister for Civil Aviation himself.
What about the rumours? At Christmas time, everybody at every hotel in Sydney where the knowledgeable fellows were - the boys from the stock exchange, a few journalists, a few wiseacres nudging your shoulder and spilling your beer - was saying: “ Get a few shares of Ansett’s. He is getting the licence.” It was a common, open rumour all over Sydney as well as Melbourne. How in the name of goodness can all the secrecy be justified? Every club in Sydney knew it.
This is a complete challenge by the Opposition to the way in which television is conducted in this country. Commercial television has been a shocking failure, because the only standard is money for the licence holder and any sort of programme for the people. If the Government answers this criticism faithfully, it will have to get another system. The second point is that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Minister are so weak that they lean over backwards to get these ruthless men what they want. It is better to get a licence than to own a mint. By the convolutions of a few days’ activities, a licence holder is worth £9,000,000 in fresh shares. This is ridiculous and scandalous, and the criticism should be answered.
There is no truth in the statements of these new licensees that they will foster Australian television. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) should present some plan by which our actors, singers and other performers get a go on television, which they do not get simply because the Government has completely capitulated to big business - rugged, dominant, aggressive big business - of which it is frightened. Of course, the greatest scandal of all has been the allocation of this licence to Ansett. There is a little childish statement in one of the published reports of the board in relation to the Ansett organization. It is to this effect: “ We know that this organization has been eminently successful in air transport, and while that is not a full recommendation for the running of a television station, the same general secrets of success should apply “. How utterly absurd! You might as well say to a toilet tissue manufacturer: “You have been extremely successful with your product. News of your success is ringing round the world. You therefore are entitled to a television licence, other things being equal and the Government liking you. You are entitled to this, because you have been eminently successful in a similar organization.” How stupid!
The Government has yet to answer those points. What about its weak Minister over there, who lets anything go and does not care? What about its suspect Minister in the other place, who will not come out and answer but stays in the shadows? What about the strange attendance at the board’s inquiry of the Director-General of Civil Aviation, making a special pleading for a special friend of the Government?
The Government should not think that the Australian people are fools. We want a royal commission on this; we want a public inquiry, because the Government has failed to provide decent television. It has allowed the vultures and tycoons to take over because they subscribe to the Government’s election funds. When there is to be a third television licence, the Government brings in one of its friends and sees that he gets it. If that is not a complete indictment which has not been answered by this Government, I have never heard one in all the years I have been in Parliament.
These natterers who are trying to interject do not worry me. There is one particular little fellow over there who is nattering, and I remember reading in the newspaper the other day that he was elected either on Communist preferences or on the donkey vote. In view of what he said a moment ago I am heavily in favour of the proposition that he was elected on the donkey vote.
I want to make a few concluding remarks. We have made these charges and we press them. The Government has not answered them. Least of all has the Prime Minister answered them. He waddled out of the chamber in his usual fashion. He does not even pay a fellow parliamentarian the courtesy of listening to him. He leaves his yapping heelers to do what he is not game to do himself.
– If the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) had been in this House this afternoon at the appropriate time he would have heard many of the points he has raised answered by government spokesmen. But he was not in the House this afternoon.
– He was termiting.
– He was in the Library, and probably he was doing what he does on most afternoons in that place. It is quite impossible, in the time remaining for this debate, for Government speakers to pick up all the inaccuracies and all the deliberate untruths that we have heard from leading front-bench members of the Opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), and every other honorable member on the opposite side who has spoken in support of him in this debate. This afternoon the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) said that every decision by the Department of Civil Aviation in respect of rationalization procedures had been given in favour of Ansett Transport Industries Limited and against TransAustralia Airlines. The honorable member for Werriwa and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who, I think, also made this charge, know quite well that it is untrue. If those honorable members care to look at appendix 7 of the report to the Parliament by the Minister for Civil Aviation for 1960-61, they will find that four decisions were given in favour of Ansett Transport Industries Limited, four were given in favour of T.A.A., five were made as a result of agreement between the two parties, and in the case of eight others either the proposals were withdrawn or some compromise arrangements were reached that did not favour either party against the other. The honorable members knew that what they were saying was untrue, but this did not prevent them from coming into this House and using the protection of privilege to make untrue statements.
Before the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) spoke to-night the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) said that the power that television gives, as a means of mass communication, is a dangerous weapon to place in the hands of any group of private interests. I want to suggest to the House that it would be a much more dangerous weapon to place in the hands of the person who is now the Leader of the Opposition, but who was once Minister for Information in a previous government, a person who comes into this House and does not hesitate for one moment to use the protection of parliamentary privilege to slander people and companies outside the Parliament, without any proof or verification of his statements. To show how the previous Minister for Information, now the Leader of the Opposition, would behave if he had sufficient power to do so, I would like to read from “Hansard” of 13th October, 1948. The House was reminded of this speech this afternoon by my friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). On 13 th October, 1948, the present Leader of the Opposition said -
The proudest day of my life will be that on which I see the editor of the Melbourne “ Herald “ in the dock charged under that section of the Crimes Act which provides for seven years’ gaol without the option.
It was going to be the proudest day of his life - this person who aspires to be Prime Minister of this country - when he saw the editor of a great daily newspaper being sent to gaol for seven years. This is the kind of person who puts himself forward as the leader of a once great and respected Labour Party.
Earlier, on. 13 th December, 1940, the same person is reported in “Hansard” as having said -
I am no believer in the so-called liberty of the press, which actually amounts to licence for certain newspaper proprietors.
He said at that time that he was no believer in the so-called freedom of the press. If he believes in what he says, or if he believes in what he said then, how is he going to behave if he ever again, through some misfortune for this country, gains power and influence in Australia?
The honorable member for Parkes said that a great deal of government assistance had been given to Ansett Transport Industries Limited. Most of the assistance, or a large part of it, that the honorable member for Parkes mentioned was afforded to the old Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited before it was taken over by Ansett Transport Industries Limited. The honorable member for Parkes did not remind the House that the alterations made in the civil aviation set-up by the present Government during its years of office were designed simply to do away with the discrimination in favour of T.A.A. that had been practised by the Labour Government in the years before 1949, to the disadvantage of the private enterprise component of the transport industry. That discrimination had been so pronounced that it appeared likely it would drive the private enterprise airline out of business. The Government of that day was hoping to achieve nationalization as a result of the bankruptcy of the old A.N.A. That bankruptcy would have been deliberately contrived by the Government of that time.
Undoubtedly one of the reasons why the Australian Labour Party has a particular hatred for Mr. Ansett is that he is reviving the private enterprise component of the aircraft industry and the tourist industry. Now we have two profitable airlines operating in Australia. The Ansett airline is paying the normal 10 per cent, dividend, while T.A.A. last year made a profit of more than £500,000, which was a larger profit than it has made in any previous year. When the Opposition was in office the old A.N.A. was incurring losses, while T.A.A., admittedly a new concern, was struggling, despite the kind of assistance given to it by the government of that day.
A little earlier this afternoon the honorable member for Parkes betrayed a group of people whom he continually professes to support in this Parliament and whose cause he seeks to advocate. This group includes the authors and actors of Australia. Austarama Television Proprietary Limited, which is the Ansett company that has been granted the Melbourne licence, is going to make a much larger proportion of its programme time available to Australian authors and actors than any of the existing stations in Melbourne or Sydney do. About 15 per cent, more of programme time will be available to Australian actors and authors than is the case at present with the existing Melbourne and Sydney stations.
– Including the Australian Broadcasting Commission stations.
– Yes, I include the A.B.C. stations. In belittling the very fine efforts that have been foreshadowed by Austarama in its application for a licence, and in writing down its earnest attempt to help Australian authors and actors, the honorable member for Parkes has certainly betrayed the people for whom he has become the self-appointed spokesman in this Parliament.
It is worth noting that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board said in its recommendation that it attaches great importance to the programme proposals of this applicant, Austarama. The programme proposals provide, briefly, that the new Channel 0 shall become the family station, the programmes of which may be viewed by all members of the family. The board said in its report -
It was proposed that every programme shown before 8.30 p.m. would be suitable for viewing by the whole family.
This is certainly not the case with the television stations operating at the present time. The board went on -
It was further stated that programmes would be “ designed to contribute to the betterment of the community and advance the culture and arts of the nation “.
The honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Bonython also criticized the granting of licences because, they said, it was the granting of something of value to the successful applicant. Perhaps that is why the Australian Labour Party in two States - Victoria and New South Wales - made application for a licence. It was not by chance that the two most senior Labour Party members in Victoria and in New South Wales were named as directors of the companies and sponsors of the applications. If the Australian Labour Party had been given either of the television licences, this censure motion would not have been moved to-day and none of the charges would have been made. In other words, these charges have been made because a section of the Australian Labour Party has not been granted a television licence.
It has been said repeatedly throughout this debate that the Government has used undue influence in the granting of the licences. The honorable members who made this charge surely have not looked at the names of the directors of the unsuccessful companies. Taking the names at random, I see Sir William Gunn, Sir James Kirby, Sir Daniel McVey, Sir Tasman Heyes, Sir Frank Selleck, Maurice Sloman and Sir Charles McKay. These people do not belong to the boards of directors of any of the companies that lodged the successful applications. Amongst the directors of the successful company in Victoria, Austarama Television Proprietary Limited, we find Sir George Jones, who was a Labour
Party candidate, and Sir Douglas Copland, who in recent years has not been particularly flattering to this Government. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) has referred to Sir Douglas Copland as a Labour Party hack, and that may be a view that many people hold. The Prime Minister showed to-night that Mr. Reg Ansett has not in the past had any particular cause to love the Prime Minister, because when the Prime Minister was in the Victorian Parliament he introduced a bill which to a large extent put the Ansett road transport organization off the Victorian roads. This indirectly was responsible for forcing Ansett into the air and led to the chain of progress we have seen since.
The honorable member for Parkes tried to make a point of the fact that the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation wrote a letter which was tendered in evidence before the board. If the honorable member and the Leader of the Opposition had wanted to do so, they could easily have discovered the truth about the letter and the circumstances surrounding it. If the honorable member had been paying attention to the debate this afternoon, he would have heard the explanation of the letter. It is a simple explanation and if the House will bear with me for a moment I will repeat it. Mr. Harris, who was counsel assisting the board, asked a question of Mr. Walker who was giving evidence for Ansett Transport Industries Limited. He asked -
One matter that is adverted to in the material is the experience which this company, the parent company, has had in conducting what are described as “ public services “, namely transport services, and in working with governmental control in that way. How long have you been with the company, Mr. Walker?
Mr. Walker answered
Since 1948, I believe.
Mr. Harris then asked
Would it be too sweeping a statement to say that the history of the parent company had been largely one of struggle with government control, rather than co-operation with government control?
Mr. Walker’s reply was
It would be too - far too sweeping a statement.
Clearly, if the board had any suspicion that the relationship of Ansett Transport Industries Limited with government departments was one of conflict rather than cooperation, it would have been impossible for it to recommend that the company be granted a television licence. It was perfectly normal, therefore, for the company to contact the two government departments with which it had had considerable dealings and to ask them to put on paper in simple terms the record of the company in its dealings with the departments. One of the departments was the Department of Civil Aviation and the letter written by the department is known to honorable members. The letter praised the company for its cooperation in all matters relating to civil aviation.
The second letter was written by the Victorian Transport Regulation Board and is dated 3rd December, 1962. The board is an instrumentality of the State Government and not of the Commonwealth Government. It works in a field entirely different from civil aviation. The terms of this letter are almost as complimentary as were the terms of the letter written by the Director-General of Civil Aviation. All the letters did was to clear up the point raised originally by counsel assisting the Australian Broadcasting Control Board as a result of the board’s inquiries. There is nothing more to the letters than that. The honorable member for Parkes knows that this is the truth of the position but refuses to believe it and continues to distort the facts.
The Leader of the Opposition said that th-re was nothing wrong with anything he had said this afternoon. He invited us to let the people say where he was wrong and he re-affirmed what he had said. He did not make any apologies for the slanders against Ansett and Ansett Transport Industries Limited. I would like to pinpoint them again, although they were pinpointed by the Prime Minister only a short time ago. They are worth repeating. First, the Leader of the Opposition said the company had £6,000,000 worth of dubious assets and £32,000,000 of liabilities. The fact is that the company has £35,700,000 worth of assets and £25,500,000 of liabilities. It also has £10,000,000 in shareholders’ funds.
The Leader of the Opposition said that Mr. Ansett told every one that he was getting a licence. However, he did not bring forward any evidence of this. It was again a figment of his imagination. He said that Ansett was already negotiating with the Sloman group for the sale of the licence concession. He has no evidence to show that this is true. He made the statement without any wish to back it up with evidence. He was merely trying to smear and to slander a person outside the Parliament who cannot fight back and who cannot answer the allegation. The Leader of the Opposition has not the courage to say outside the Parliament what he has said inside the Parliament. He also said that the Ansett organization was broke. This is patently untrue.
These mis-statements of fact are all the worse because in his speech this afternoon the Leader of the Opposition said, “ Let us have a look at the balance-sheet of Ansett Transport Industries Limited “. This assumes that he has read the balance-sheet and knows that what he is putting forward is untrue. It is clear that the untruths he has put forward have been put forward deliberately.
There is one plain reason why the Opposition has attacked the Government on this matter. It knows full well that the Government has created a television framework on the traditional Australian pattern of a Government-sponsored network working alongside a commercial network, and it would be difficult for any future Labour government to introduce its avowed and pledged policy in regard to television. If television had been started when the Opposition was in power, there would certainly have been no commercial television; there would have been only a government nationalized, monopolistic television system run by the Minister for Information, whose views on this subject we all know. The statement of the Leader of the Opposition that he does not want to nationalize television in this country - that is recorded in “ Hansard “ of 9th April this year - is an attempt to slide away from the real position and to achieve some cheap electoral advantage. He knows that his interpretation of what has been done in Great Britain is equivalent to nationalization, and that its implementation would lead very soon to the end of commercial television.
The policy of the Australian Labour Party on radio and television is worth looking at. The federal policy and platform of the party, which was confirmed at the 1959 conference, says that radio services and television shall be nationalized. The Leader of the Opposition has said that all members of the party are bound by decisions of the conference and by the party’s platform. That is recorded in “ Hansard “ of 22nd April, 1958. The Leader of the Opposition has re-affirmed in this place that the Labour Party believes in the nationalization of television and that ali members are bound by conference decisions.
Therefore, no real faith can be put in the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that he personally does not want to nationalize television. He has not the power or the authority to do what he wants to do. He knows that. So he was safe in making that statement because if he ever became Prime Minister - which he will not - he would be able to say, “ I do not want to do this, but the 36 people in the Hotel Kingston have given me my orders and have told me that I have to stick to party policy on this matter “. There is no need for us to deceive ourselves or any one else on this matter. We all know that not a single member of the Australian Labour Party sitting on the benches opposite us is a free agent in this kind of affair. He has to do what he is told. He has promised to do what he is told. He has been told that the conference decisions are binding on all members of the party. If the federal secretary or the federal conference of the party tells members of the Labour Party to keep quiet on any matter, they keep quiet and do not talk about it. That has been done quite recently. We all know what the position is.
I have already said that the Australian Labour Party’s particular hate of Ansett Transport Industries Limited results from the fact that that company thwarted the party’s plans to nationalize the airways, merely through the old Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited going broke. It is significant to look at the growth of Ansett Transport Industries Limited since it took over the obligations and debts of the old A.N. A. company. Ansett Transport Industries Limited has paid off on the due dates debts totalling more than £3,000,000 which were incurred by A.N.A. Other debts have all been paid off on or before the due dates. The government guarantees that have been given from time to time have never involved one shilling of the taxpayers’ money because the guarantees were always backed by adequate securities belonging to Ansett Transport Industries Limited. If the company had gone broke, those securities would have been sold up before any call was made on government funds.
In more recent times Ansett Transport Industries Limited said that it did not want a government guarantee in order to purchase six Fokker Friendships and that it probably will not want a government guarantee in order to raise £5,500,000 to purchase the new Boeing 727’s. Over the last six or seven years the general public in Australia has put an extra £7,500,000 into this company. The company’s reserve for the payment of taxation was £600,000 at the end of June last year, and another £300,000 is being put into that reserve this year. The company has 29,000 shareholders and 13,000 noteholders. In 1957 it had a staff of 2,000; to-day it has a staff of 7,000. In 1957 its wages bill was £35,000 a week; to-day it is £175,000 a week. Those facts give some indication of the public confidence in Ansett Transport Industries Limited. Therefore, it is all the more shameful that the Australian Labour Party and its leader, or its supposed leader, should seek to use the privileges of this Parliament to undermine that confidence.
There is a clear lesson to be learnt from this censure motion. It is that the Leader of the Opposition has no direction and no purpose. At one moment he says that the party and he, himself, are bound by the platform of the Australian Labour Party; at the next moment he throws the platform over and says that he, personally, does not want to nationalize television. We do not know where he stands. The Australian public does not know where he stands. He is an opportunist of the worst kind. He changes his views to gain cheap electoral advantage, if he thinks a change is profitable. We do not know what he says when he goes back to report to his 36 masters - the real leaders of the Australian Labour Party - at the Hotel Kingston. They do not owe loyalty or allegiance to this Parliament or to the people of Australia. Those people who are chosen by the Australian Labour Party - six from each of the six States - are the masters of each honorable member opposite, including the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who probably will follow me in his usual fashion in a moment.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the validity of the case made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) can be judged best by the reluctance displayed by Government speakers in replying to the allegations and charges made from this side of the Parliament. This Government has become notorious for its solicitude for big business interests in this country. Even among big business interests it plays its favorites so that in many respects it is not even satisfying its own supporters. The Australian Labour Party recognizes the great importance of control of the media of mass communication, which is essential to the preservation of the democratic form of government. One thing that the Labour Party is determined to do is to use all its endeavours to ensure that in this country, whether it be per medium of television, radio or the newspapers, every point of view will have the right of expression.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) said that no such thing as political bias enters into the administration of television in this country, but the late Mr. Shand, Q.C., who, I believe, was not a supporter of the Labour Party, when appearing before either the television royal commission or the Australian Broadcasting Control Board - I am not sure which - on behalf of Mirror Newspapers Limited, said that there would always be competition between big business and the national ideals. He said that it could not be disputed that the “ Sydney Morning Herald”, the “Sun” and the “ Daily Telegraph” had political allegiance to the Liberal Party. There is no doubt in the world that the Labour Party has to watch very carefully to ensure that, with the development of the media of mass communication, Labour’s case, which is sound and reliable, will have an opportunity to be widely expressed to the Australian community.
The Postmaster-General said that the Government’s policy was based on the findings of the royal commission in 1954. Let us have a look at that royal commission. The Government seems to think that if its policy is based on the findings of that royal commission everything should be all right. I looked up the personnel of the commission. The members included a Mr. Bednall, the editor of the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “. At that time the “ Courier-Mail “ interests controlled two radio stations in Queensland and they were linked through the Melbourne “ Herald “ with radio stations in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Another member was Mr. R. C. Wilson, a director of Country Broadcasting Services Limited, which belongs to the same network as 2UE in Sydney. Another member was Mr. Young, who was the auditor for the Adelaide “ News “ and was associated with the Murdoch estate which controlled a number of radio stations.
When those names appeared, the Labour Party recognized that that was not the first time the Government had selected carefully the people who were to make an investigation. When we questioned in this Parliament the personnel of the body that was to make the inquiry the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said that the Government had not thought to examine the private affairs of the commission members. Oh! Of course not! In my opinion, that would have been the first thing that the Prime Minister would have considered, as he has done on a number of other occasions.
The Postmaster-General said that the Broadcasting Control Board had done a good job. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that the board, when allocating licences in Brisbane and Adelaide, made a certain recommendation which was not acceptable to the Government. The Government has tried to wriggle its way out of this predicament. It has tried to make us believe that the board stated that if only one licence were to be granted fresh applications should be called for. The Government would also have us believe that it then told the board that as the Government had decided to grant two licences there was no need to call for fresh applications. Two licensees could be selected from the three applications that had been received. Who would believe that? It has always been contended that the first consideration of the board in hearing applications for television licences was public interest.
In order to show whether any private interest predominates in the control of these stations I remind the House that in 1962 Mirror Newspapers Limited sought an injunction to restrain ATN Channel 7 from breaking an advertising agreement to display four “ Sunday Mirror “ advertisements. The newspaper company was told that the time it wanted was not available for sponsorship, but the company discovered later that the time had been allotted to its rival, the “Sun-Herald”. When the company went to court, Mr. Justice Myers, in finding against Mirror Newspapers Limited and in favour of the defendant, refused the injunction and awarded costs against Mirror Newspapers Limited. He said that there had been no discrimination without reasonable cause. He said -
The valuable customer in any business will always be shown preference as far as possible over customers whose patronage is to a lesser degree . . For all that I know, John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited may have been extremely valuable advertisers to the defendant since that company owns the great majority of shares in the defendant company and controls it.
Because John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited controlled the television company, according to the judgment of the court, the television company was entitled to discriminate against a competitor of John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited who wanted to use the service for advertising. Let me examine the question of television programme standards. Surely there is no member of this Parliament, and there are very few people in Australia, who would consider that the present standard of television in this country is satisfactory. In reply to a question in this chamber the following information was given concerning what commercial television stations were obliged to do: -
A commercial television station licensee hould refuse the facilities of his station where he has good reason to doubt the integrity of the advertiser, the truth of the advertising representations . . .
Did you ever hear such humbug? The Government has laid down rules but the controllers of commercial television have completely ignored them. An advertisement was displayed on a television station in Sydney attempting to induce Australian citizens to invest their money in a company engaged in coffee production in New
Guinea, I think, from which a return of 20 per cent, was guaranteed. The advertisement was not taken off the television station until the company went into liquidation. The late Dr. Mowll, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, had something to say about the standard of television in Australia. He said -
Television cannot be left to the control of unfettered commercial and other sectional interests.
That is exactly what the Australian Labour Party says. Dr. Mowll continued -
Rightly used, television represents a tremendous power for good but, as phases of American television show, its impact can be disastrous.
Does this Government worry about that? In the United States of America, which the Government often holds up as an illustration of what private enterprise can do, a congressional committee on television standards declared that crime had been overemphasized and that there had been programmes containing offensive, objectionable or suggestive material. The report was also critical of some forms of advertising. We know that most of the programmes on Australian television come from the United States of America. In the United Kingdom, Lord Simon headed a group of peers in the House of Lords who opposed the introduction of commercial television. After Lord Simon had been to the United States of America and examined what was happening in that country he went back to the United Kingdom vigorously to oppose the introduction of commercial television there.
In order to show that there is something wrong in the Government’s action in handing out these valuable licences, let me quote a former member of this Parliament and former Postmaster-General, the late Mr. Anthony. In 1953 he made a statement in this Parliament in which he said that Australia was unlikely to be able to support more than two commercial stations in any one city. One station to a million people was the economic ratio. At that time, New York, with a population of 8,000,000 people, had seven stations functioning. There is no doubt that there has been trafficking in licences. This is forbidden under section 92d of the legislation which states -
Substantial changes in the beneficial ownership of shares . . . shall not take place without the approval of the Minister.
Thus, every change in the ownership of shares in television companies has been approved by a Minister of this Government. So the Government has to take the responsibility for what has happened. Let us turn to John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited. That company bought 103,849 shares in ATN-Channel 7 from A.W.A. and a like number from Email at £6 per share. Before the purchase John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited already owned 55 per cent, of the paid-up capital, so it cannot be disputed that that company now owns this station.
Let us examine Sir Frank Packer’s interests, which have been referred to in this debate. The articles of association of GTVChannel 9, Melbourne, provided that in any sale of interests an option to purchase had to be given to the other shareholders. Sir Arthur Warner of Electronic Industries Limited, who was working in with Sir Frank Packer, could not sell shares direct to Sir Frank Packer, so they formed a fully owned subsidiary called Austral Magnus Limited and Sir Arthur Warner then arranged the sale of the shares in the fully owned subsidiary to Sir Frank Packer. It has been stated that a clear profit of £3,200,000 was made on an investment of £600,000 by Sir Arthur Warner’s company by arranging the re-sale of these shares to Sir Frank Packer at £6 per share. That is not a bad profit. It is said in Sydney that if you are lucky enough to get the ear of the Government and obtain a television licence you could be dead broke but would become worth £1,000,000 overnight. Why should the Government be handing out these direct gifts to these particular interests?
There is a very interesting point about the transfer of the shares to Sir Frank Packer. The profit of £3,200,000 which was made by Electronic Industries is tax free and can be distributed to shareholders tax free. The profit which the company made out of the sale of its television shares was sufficient to pay the then current annual dividend of Electronic Industries Limited for the next five years. No wonder the people want an investigation. The Labour Party is pressing for a proper investigation. Although we do not argue that the British system would entirely suit the situation in Australia, it would be much preferable to the system that exists here at present. The Conservative Government led by Mr. Macmillan and the British people would regard the Australian system as too hot even for them to touch.
Let us examine the situation that exists in England. The Independent Television Authority is a non-profit-making body. Believing that he was scoring off the Opposition, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) referred to new legislation that had been introduced into the British Parliament designed to control programme companies. The I.T.A. controls the stations and programme companies are formed and recognized by the authority. They then prepare and sell programmes to the authority. According to the PostmasterGeneral, the Conservative Government of Britain was setting out with new legislation to control the programme companies. Recently in Britain a committee, the chairman of which was a gentleman named Pilkington, inquired into television and reported that the programme companies were a rigidly monopolistic set-up dominated by the four major network companies. Because those four major network companies had formed themselves into a monopoly and were crushing competition, the Pilkington report recommended that certain action be taken by the Government. The “ Evening News “, a British newspaper, said that the Pilkington report was one of the most devastating political reports for many years and dealt with the almost wholesale condemnation of commercial television. Of all newspapers in Britain, only the Beaverbrook newspapers, which had no financial interest in television, gave the report unmitigated praise.
There were eleven members of the Pilkington committee. They had varying backgrounds. The committee was appointed by a Conservative government, so no member would be a Labour supporter. The committee was unanimous in its recommendations. The committee was opposed to the continuation of commercial television in its present form. Only one member of the Beveridge committee - an earlier committee which inquired into television - favoured commercial television. That was Mr. Selwyn Lloyd. All other members of the committee were opposed to the establishment of commercial television.
The subject of profit has been consistently avoided by speakers from the Government side of the House. How much is the Government getting from the millions of pounds now going into the pockets of a privileged few in the industry? Commercial television stations in Australia pay £100 a year for a licence and a tax of 1 per cent, on revenue from advertising. In 1960-61 the Government obtained from commercial stations in this country £90,284. Let us examine the position in the United Kingdom, because there the privileged few are not allowed to exploit the community to the same extent and to get away with millions in loot. In the same year - 1960-61 - Mr. Reginald Bevins, the United Kingdom Postmaster-General, ordered that £450,000 of the profits earned by the Independent Television Authority be paid into the national exchequer. The authority is a non profit-earning body but obviously in its operations it has accumulated some profit. That profit goes back into the exchequer. In the United Kingdom the programme companies pay a special tax of 1 1 per cent, on their advertising revenue. In Australia the tax is 1 per cent.; in the United Kingdom it is 11 per cent. Do Government supporters still argue that the commercial television stations in Australia have not been placed in a privileged position by this Government and that they are not receiving special favours at the hands of the Government? In 1961 the United Kingdom Government received £10,250,000 by way of tax on advertising revenue, in addition to the profit earned by the I.T.A. Compare that amount with the paltry £90,000-odd that this Government obtained from commercial stations in this country.
Let me indicate to the House the difference between control over advertising in Britain and advertising in Australia. A change to something in line with the British system would be welcomed by the viewing public in this country. In Britain commercial television stations are not allowed to interrupt programmes with advertisements. Advertisements must appear at the beginning or at the end of programmes, or at what are regarded as natural breaks in a programme. For example, if a football match was being televised advertisements could appear before the match, after the match or at half-time. That would be a very welcome change for Australian viewers.
An advertising inquiry council has been set up in England. That council has reported that between 5 per cent, and 8 per cent, of all television advertisements are false or misleading. The council has reported that those misleading or false advertisements encourage self-medication to an undesirable extent. Apparently that is one reason why greater control is sought over programme companies through the Independent Television Authority. The Postmaster-General did not tell us about these things. He declared that Labour’s policy is nationalization of television stations - that a Labour government would control television and allow only one viewpoint to be expressed. The Labour Party has never been afraid to meet an opposing viewpoint. It is Labour’s opponents who seek to suppress free speech in this country by controlling television, broadcasting and newspapers.
The Pilkington report stated that the I.T.A. had no power to prevent programme companies merging their interests, but that it wanted this power. The report stated that a transaction which results in a change in the control or ownership of a company holding voting shares of a programme company can occur without the consent or even the knowledge of the programme company. The Pilkington report recommended that the authority should plan programming and sell advertising time. It recommended that the programme companies should produce and sell to the authority programme items for inclusion in the programme planned by the authority. The report recommended also that the authority, after making provision for reserves, should pay any surplus revenue to the exchequer. No doubt the British Government is now proceeding to give effect to those recommendations. The I.T.A. and other bodies which gave evidence before the Pilkington inquiry contended that the profits of the programme companies were excessive, despite the fact that they paid a tax of 11 per cent, on advertising revenue and high fees to the Government. But in Australia, where the television companies are making millions, the Government does not regard their profits as excessive.
Let me refer to one or two further statements of the Pilkington committee, because they fit in admirably with the viewpoint of the Labour Party. The Pilkington committee reported -
We agree that the fact that such large profits derive from the use of a facility which is part of the public and not the private domain is unsatisfactory. They derive from the grant on the public behalf of a highly privileged concession. The use of broadcasting time, whether for programming or by selling it for the presentation of advertisements, is the use of a national asset. We make this point with some emphasis, because it has been suggested to us that to charge the Authority with the duty of selling advertising time would be to nationalise the service. But, since the asset - broadcasting time - is already a national one, we find it hard to see how it can be nationalised in anything like the ordinary sense of the word.
Is not that exactly the situation in respect of the Labour Party?
We want an investigation. If this Government, which is racket-ridden and so hardened by its past activities that it continually defends the racketeers in this country, has nothing to hide or to fear, let us have an investigation. But if the Government will not accede to our request at least the people of the Commonwealth will have an opportunity to pass judgment on it at the by-election to be held in the Division of Grey in South Australia. We shall see then what the people’s verdict will be. I am satisfied that they will share with us the belief that the Government and its supporters are corrupt and are exploiting the Australian community.
.- We have heard the usual extravagant speech from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who in his usual way directed his poison at big business and accused the Government of racketeering and all kinds of impropriety. But, as usual, he did not substantiate any of his charges. I do not want to detain the House for very long. This debate has provided the opportunity for a long line of Opposition members to accuse the Government of certain malpractices. The Government has had to make the same replies to their charges time and time again but the Opposition refuses to accept the replies which have been given or to listen to sound reason. The Labour Party has lost the very great political advantage that it might have gained when the
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) raised this matter in the House last week following the presentation by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board relating to the granting of an additional television licence in Sydney and Melbourne. Although he made extravagant and untrue statements then he received a very good press. Some newspapers which cannot be regarded as Government supporters gave him a very good run. But not being satisfied with the success that he achieved he raised the matter again in the House in the form of a censure motion. This has given us the opportunity to reply to his extravagant statements.
By now the Australian people must have some idea of Labour’s policy on television. The Labour Party has tried to hide behind the facade of a statement that it will not nationalize television. The speeches which have been made by members of the Opposition during this debate have demonstrated that the Labour Party does intend to nationalize television. Of course, that is part of Labour’s policy. Although it might not be the policy of members of the Opposition in this Parliament, it certainly is the policy of the 36 men who control the Labour Party. The twenty-third convention of the Australian Labour Party, which sets out the party’s platform and objectives states clearly that Labour intends to nationalize banking, credit and insurance, monopolies, shipping, public health, radio services, television and sugar refining. It is very nice to know that a few members of the Opposition have been game enough to stand in this place and admit the party’s intention. I hope that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph”, which have been attacking the Government from time to time for its policy in relation to granting television licences, which has prevented them from gaining a monopoly in the medium of television, will realize that if Labour gains its objective they will not be in business. There will be only one monopoly, a government monopoly. The honorable member for East Sydney stated that he believes in free speech and that there should not be a monopoly on speech in Australia. Surely the more television stations we have in the hands of different people the better it will be for
Australia. The Government may be criticized by the press and by television and radio stations from time to time, but we have to accept that criticism because we are expected to do so under our democratic system.
All the speeches by Opposition members have contained many inaccurate features. If we bad the chance to analyse the speeches - unfortunately we will not be able to do so until we receive our copy of “ Hansard “ to-morrow - we would be able to pinpoint the inaccuracies and - I shall not use the word “ lies “ - untruths. Opposition members know that their statements are inaccurate but they continue to repeat them. The Australian people, who have been listening to the broadcast of this debate, will have a pretty clear idea that there has been no impropriety by the Government or by the control board in granting the television licences in Melbourne and Sydney.
The Labour Party is seeking to censure the Government on the ground that the Government’s policy for the issuing of commercial television licences is contrary to the best interests of the community; but it has not indicated an alternative method for doing so. Some Opposition members have said that we should introduce the British system of an independent television authority which leases programme time to certain sponsors. Incidentally, originally in Great Britain television was completely nationalized. There was only one channel, and it was operated by the Government. But there was so much discontent with and opposition to the situation that the British Government felt it had to do something, so at introduced this independent television authority. As there was only one television station to serve a population of 50,000,000 people, commercial television would have been an extremely profitable enterprise, so probably that was sufficient justification for not issuing commercial television licences there. In addition, as the number of channels in England is limited, a very powerful medium would have been placed in the hands of only a few.
In Australia the situation is different. Our population is so dispersed that one television station could not serve it. To bring television to people scattered over such a vast area is an immense problem. It is to the great credit of the PostmasterGeneral and to the Government that when stage 4 of the programme is completed television will reach 93 per cent, of the Australian people. No other country with a small population in a vast area has a service to equal that. Furthermore, the service which is being provided is of a very high standard. Many honorable members who have travelled the world and have viewed television in other countries know that the standard of Australian television is second to none. It is as good as the standard in any other country.
The system that we have adopted for the granting of licences is a very fair one. In the first place, the Government appointed a royal commission to decide how these licences should be granted. The Government has accepted in their entirety the recommendations of the royal commission. Points 17, 18 and 20 in the summary of recommendations clearly show that if licences are to be issued the Government first must set up a statutory authority - in this case the Australian Broadcasting Control Board - it must call for applications for commercial licences and the applicants must present their case at a public hearing. The control board arrives at a decision on the evidence given at the public hearing and presents its recommendations to the Government.
In every case but one since its establishment in 1948 the recommendations of the Broadcasting Control Board have been accepted by the Government. That is true in relation not only to television licences but also radio licences. I said there was one exception. That exception needs to be explained, because honorable members opposite have tried to misinterpret what actually took place on that occasion. The Broadcasting Control Board called for applications for commercial television licences in Brisbane and Adelaide. Three applications were lodged in Brisbane and, I think, four in Adelaide. In its report to the Government, the Broadcasting Control Board said it believed that it was not wise to issue a licence to any of the applicants because the Government had not indicated how many commercial stations should be established in either of those cities. The board was of the opinion that if commercial stations were to be established only one should be established in each city. The Government believed that it would be better from the viewpoint of competition if two commercial stations were to operate in each city. The Government sent a directive to the board - this was the only directive - stating that there should be two commercial television stations and that the board was to decide who should receive those licences.
This is the only occasion in relation to which the Opposition could hope to show that there had been any impropriety on the part of the Government. There was in fact no impropriety, because the only matter in issue was whether there should be one or two licences. Actually the Government was guilty of an oversight in the first place in not telling the board how many licences it wanted to have issued in Brisbane and Adelaide. Corroboration of what I am saying can be abtained by reference to the tenth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. If honorable members look at pages 24 and 25 of that report, they will see that the board recommended that fresh applications be invited for one commercial licence in Brisbane and one in Adelaide. The board did not say who should get the licences. One of the reasons given by the board for its recommendations was in these terms -
The omission from the Minister’s invitation of applications of any definite indication as to the number of licences to be granted led to considerable confusion, and it appeared to the Board that applicants were, in some cases at least, embarrassed and possibly prejudiced in the presentation of their claims to a licence . . .
When the Government asked the board on the second occasion to recommend two licensees, the board did so. When the Leader of the Opposition said that the Broadcasting Control Board believed that the original applicants were not fit to be given a licence, he made a grossly inaccurate statement. He said that in this House only because here he is able to do so under privilege. The companies which applied for licences were genuine applicants and there was nothing irregular about the way in which they presented their applications.
I believe that Labour has proposed this censure motion partly because of sour grapes. The Opposition has complained about the policy adopted by the Government in the issuance of commercial licences. Heavens above, that policy has been in existence since the Royal Commission on Television submitted its report, but only now has the Opposition decided to propose a motion of censure against the Government. The most important step an Opposition can take is to propose a censure motion, but what poor grounds this Opposition has for proposing the motion we are now debating! I wonder whether the Labour Party would have proposed this motion if Community Television Limited, with 1,000,000 shares to be allocated to the Australian Labour Party, had received the Melbourne licence. I wonder whether the motion would have been proposed if Independent Sydney Telecasters Limited had received the Sydney licence. In that case 1,000,000 shares were to be allotted to the Labour Party. Honorable members opposite talk about profit. Of course people apply for a television licence in order to make a profit. That is the motive behind the operations of private enterprise. Before members of the Labour Party criticize the making of profit from radio and television, they should look at their own house and see what station 2KY in New South Wales is doing. That station makes a profit of up to 14 or 15 per cent. If that is supposed to be a non-profit organization, let it reduce its charges to its advertisers. But, of course, that is a different picture altogether!
The Opposition’s objectives in proposing this motion have been, first, to depreciate the value of commercial television in Australia, and secondly, to launch a vicious attack against Ansett Transport Industries Limited. Honorable members opposite seem to think that Mr. Ansett is a horrible creature. I must confess that I have not a great deal of love for him. I think he is a rather bold, brash businessman; but, heavens above, let us give him due credit. He has tremendous drive and organizing ability. Let Opposition members not forget that Ansett Transport Industries Limited is an Australian company with Australian capital. It was Mr. Ansett and his company who took over Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the capital of which had a very large overseas content. Do honorable members opposite criticize Mr. Ansett for doing that? It is great to see Australian men with Australian capital buying out overseas interests in this country. Mr. Ansett deserves great credit. When our friends opposite talk about Mr. Ansett, they talk about him as though he were the only shareholder in Ansett Transport Industries Limited and as though he were collecting all the wealth. He is merely the chairman of directors of that company. That company has issued 24,000,000 shares, of which the Ansett family holds only 641,000, or 2.7 per cent. The total number of shareholders is 40,000, and they include all kinds of people. There are not many big shareholders in the company; the shares are held by a wide range of people. When Opposition members criticize Ansett or try to break him by saying harsh things about him or blackening his name, they are also hurting all those thousands of little shareholders who form part of this great Australian company.
I believe that Australians have accepted that we want a two-airline system in Australia. If that were not so, not as many people would travel by the Ansett-A.N.A. airline. About 50 per cent, of the people who travel by air travel with Trans-Australia Airlines and the other 50 per cent, travel with Ansett-A.N.A. It is good to have this competition. It keeps both airlines honest. It keeps the government-owned airline efficient and keeps the private organization up to the mark. It is good, too, to have competition in television. Competition keeps the national stations up to a certain standard and keeps the private enterprise organizations up to a reasonably good standard. This system has worked well in the radio field, too. When the Government decided that television stations should be established, it looked to see what was going on all around the world. It looked at the systems which were operating in America, England and Canada and relied on information which had been obtained from national and commercial radio operators in this country. The Government formed the opinion that a dual national and commercial system would provide the best service for Australia.
I said that many inaccurate statements had been made by the Opposition. I wish to refer now to one made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) when he referred to the American television system. The honorable member makes many inaccurate statements and it is difficult to know what to believe if one is not familiar with the subject being discussed. He said that the American system of issuing television licences did not permit a newspaper company to have an interest in a television station. I have had that statement checked and I find that he has been completely dishonest in making it. There is no such provision in the American legislation. If a person in America wishes to apply for a television licence he makes an application to the Federal Communications Commission, and on the evidence that is presented to the commission at a public inquiry, as in Australia, a licence is either issued or not issued according to the merits of the application. Particularly in the country areas of America, newspaper companies either control or own quite a lot of television stations.
Other inaccurate statements have been made by honorable members opposite, such as that a commercial television station cannot have a relay system. Of course it can, provided it does not bind itself wholly and solely to the second company involved. I believe that this Government is deserving of great praise for having introduced television into Australia. Had the Australian Labour Party been in office, I do not think we would have had television yet, or if we had it we would have only national stations. I wonder how all the television viewers throughout Australia, all the small people who derive tremendous enjoyment from watching television, would like having to watch programmes on only one channel. Honorable members opposite know very well that if they tried to nationalize television there would be a tremendous uproar, because the people like to have a number of channels so that they can select the programmes they wish to see. Of course, the Labour Party is trying to nationalize television through the back door. It is suggesting that we should have an independent television authority, as there is in England. If we had such a system in Australia, how would we get television stations in country areas. It is difficult enough now to get commercial stations in country areas.
Why should the Government spend money - valuable capital - erecting television stations and then lease them to commercial interests if the commercial interests are willing to spend the money themselves? Why waste government money in that direction? If private industry will do the job, let it do so. Already there is delay, which is causing some heartburning to country people. They have to wait a number of years before they may enjoy programmes from national television stations. Why cannot the people in the country have national stations straight away? The provision of finance to erect the stations imposes a limitation. I think that the erection of national television stations will cost approximately £23,000,000. In addition, there is the limitation imposed by the problem of providing technicians and other employees of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to erect the stations and present programmes. The adoption of Labour’s policy would mean either delaying the extension of television to country areas, or providing more money to establish independent television authorities. Nobody can convince me, Mr. Speaker, that the Labour Party would allow two television stations to operate in a country area where it is difficult at the moment to have one station operating.
The policy of this Government has resulted in Australia having the best form of television in the world. I might add that it was the parties on this side of the House which introduced national radio into Australia in 1927. It was the Bruce-Page Government which introduced a bill in this Parliament to provide for the establishment of national radio stations. So we on this side of the House have much to be proud of in this respect. Not only did we introduce radio on a national basis, but also we have introduced television, both national and commercial, under a system which has ensured a very high standard.
So far, there have been 114 applications for commercial television licences, of which 23 have been granted. On no occasion has the Labour Party moved a motion of censure against the Government for issuing those licences. It has done so on this occasion because a licence has gone to Ansett Transport Industries Limited. I should say that that is the primary reason for the motion, and that the secondary reason is that the two applications which involved Labour interests were unsuccessful. How hypocritical can the Opposition be? It has brought forward a censure motion criticizing the whole policy of the Government in relation to television, partly because neither applicant that it supported was given a licence. I think that that is hypocrisy, Mr. Speaker. As I said previously, we have heard nothing from honorable members opposite but repetition of statements made by previous speakers. They have refused to recognize the points we have made. The outcome of this debate is that the Leader of the Opposition has lost whatever political advantage he gained when he introduced this subject in the House last week.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 697) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in negative.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker, this evening I should like to speak on behalf of physically handicapped and mentally retarded people in our society. In particular, I propose to make some critical observations about the Government’s apparent indifference to the problems of these people. I think that we all are conscious of the fact that the sum spent on social services in our community each year is rising considerably despite the limited provision made annually by the Federal Government. I contrast the policy of this Government on the rehabilitation of people who are physically handicapped as a result of injury or who were born with physical or mental limitations with the policies practised in other more enlightened countries. In 1962 the Dutch Government spent the equivalent of £18,000,000 on rehabilitating people who are regarded as invalids and who would normally receive invalid pensions. In Australia, by way of contrast, though we spend £157,900,000 a year on age and invalid pensions, we spend less than £750,000 on the rehabilitation of physically handicapped or mentally retarded persons. In other words, we spend only 0.26 per cent, of our total social services budget on the rehabilitation of these people. As a matter of fact, it is expended solely by the Department of Social Services in its rehabilitation premises. No assistance whatsoever is given to the outside bodies which are the sole organizations engaged in providing employment for people who are physically handicapped. This matter has been well covered by various articles, including a rather good one which I recommend for the reading of honorable members. It is an article by Dr. R. G. Robinson in the March issue of a booklet called “ Fortitude “, which has been received, I understand, by all federal members. Dr. Robinson sets out there in much more detail than I could possibly give tonight just why it is economically desirable for the community and for the Government to engage in a much more whole-hearted way in rehabilitating those persons who suffer injury or are mentally retarded. He not only shows that it would be obviously of great economic advantage but also reminds us that this is a humane task that should be imposed on an enlightened community or government.
If anybody who is not already convinced on this aspect wants to be convinced, all he need do is spend a few hours in some of these sheltered workshops, such as those conducted by the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association, the Aid Retarded Persons Association, and the Poliomyelitis and Physically Handicapped Society, or in one of the schools for sub-normal or mentally retarded children, at various centres throughout our metropolitan areas. There he will see at first hand what it means to these young people to be given some chance of recovering their self-respect and some independence. It is absolutely enlightening and thoroughly exhilarating to go along and see these people enjoying for the first time some opportunity of doing something for themselves. They do not want to be on an invalid pension for the whole of their lives.
This sort of disability can happen to even the most able-bodied young person in the community. Some people I saw, I think at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, will suffer lifetime disability unless somebody comes to their aid, simply because they dived into a swimming pool the depth of which was under-estimated, and fractured their spines. To all intents and purposes, if we pursue the policy that this Government is pursuing, those persons - some of them only sixteen, seventeen or eighteen years of age - will be condemned to spend the whole of their lives in a hospital or convalescent centre.
I asked the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) what the Government was doing and was prepared to do about assisting these organizations which are prepared to help the physically and mentally retarded. He indicated that the Government was not prepared to do anything about giving any kind of subsidy to these centres. He reminded me that the Department of Social Services did something, which he admitted was of a limited nature. He indicated that - apparently, in the Government’s view - only a very limited number of these invalid pensioners was capable of being rehabilitated. As a matter of fact, he told me that for the year 1961-62, out of 1,623 persons of from sixteen to nineteen years of age, the rehabilitation section of the Department of Social Services considered only 4.3 per cent, were suitable for rehabilitation assistance. I have evidence, which has been presented to me at first hand, of what some private organizations have been able to do. Of those persons that the Government has rejected, the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association in Sydney took in 500 during the past three or four years. Of those 500 that were totally rejected by the Government as unsuitable for admission to rehabilitation courses, the association has been able totally to re-employ in normal employment - totally rehabilitate - 102, or just over 20 per cent. They have been put back in full-time employment. Just think of the saving to the Government in an invalid pension payment of £5 5s. a week to a young fellow of eighteen or nineteen, for the rest of his life, if he is put back in employment. Apart from that saving to the Government, he will be earning income upon which he will pay tax into Consolidated Revenue. If we multiply this amount by the number of people who can be usefully rehabilitated into industry, we get some idea of what Dr. Robinson described as the economic motive, to say nothing of the humane motive for getting these people into employment.
Of the balance of approximately 400 persons, it was possible to rehabilitate 50 per cent, to the extent of their being up to 40 per cent, effective in normal employment. This is quite dramatic. It is something in which I should really like the Government to get interested. I think that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has been to these workshops and that the Prime Minister himself made one visit, but so far no positive action has resulted. The first thing the organizations ask is that the Government give a subsidy to these centres, as the United Kingdom Government, the Netherlands Government and, I understand, various other governments throughout the world are doing. I ask the Prime Minister to give a substantial subsidy to these people. We have always preached the gospel that we are prepared to help those who help themselves. The Government talks - with quite justifiable pride, I think - about what it does for the housing of elderly persons. It has helped organizations that are prepared to get money to build homes for those people. Why not extend that principle to this very worthwhile cause of employing physically handicapped and mentally retarded persons?
I ask the Prime Minister also to consider giving to these sheltered workshops an opportunity to tender for government contracts. There are many jobs that these people can do, but the unhappy situation at the moment is that they get nothing by way of contracts from the Government. From their testimony to me, it appears that they get no encouragement to tender.
Unfortunately, I have not time to-night to read a letter I have received from the Ministry of Labour in the United Kingdom, which sets out what the United Kingdom Government does. It not only gives equal opportunity to tender but also has established a system of priorities. In the United Kingdom, these people must be given all information about any contract that is to be let. If they can do the job to a competitive standard and at a competitive price, they must be given preference in the allocation of government contracts. Yet the Prime
Minister says that the best that we in this country can do is to give these people equal opportunity with other tenderers. That is not good enough. For the advantage of this country economically, as well as in the name of humanity, we must do much more to help rehabilitate these unfortunate people who make up a substantial part of our community.
.- In recent days I have been interested to read in the newspapers of two very important appointments that this Government has made. I refer first to a report under the heading, “Minister to U.N. Appointed”, which reads -
A senior official of the Department of Territories has been appointed Australian Minister at the United Nations in New York. He is Mr. Dudley McCarthy, an assistant secretary. He will secede. 1 Mr. J. D. L. Hood, who has been appointed ambassador to Israel. Mr. McCarthy has wide experience of the Territories Department and its administration of U.N. trusteeship territories.
About seventeen or eighteen years ago the Chifley Government was responsible for firmly establishing in this country a department which would provide opportunities for career diplomats. Consequently, I am intrigued by the fact that this very important post has been filled by the appointment of somebody outside the Department of External Affairs. I have no criticism at all to make of the qualifications of Mr. McCarthy, but as he was not attached to the Department of External Affairs I would be interested to know how he came to get this appointment. Does it follow that the officers of the Department of External Affairs, those people who are interested in diplomatic careers, were not asked to offer for this position, or is it that there was nobody in that department capable of filling the position? It is a very important appointment, and one would have imagined that the appointee would have been chosen from within the Department of External Affairs. I am intrigued to find that this has not been done.
Then I come to the second appointment. I read a day or two ago that a Mr. Richard Kingsland, who was a first assistant secretary of the Department of Defence, has now been made the departmental head of the Department of the Interior. He will succeed Mr. W. A. McLaren, who retired recently from the position of Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Mr. Kingsland has had a very distinguished career in the Department of Civil Aviation, arid he also had a distinguished career as a member of the armed forces. However, there again arises the point that intrigues me: Here is a position in a certain department filled by a person from outside that department. This is not unusual, but I think that when it happens some reasons should be given for it. It happened some time ago when the position of departmental head of the Department of Immigration was vacant and the next man in line for appointment within that department was not appointed. However, I understand that he did not seek the appointment because of health reasons. In the case I have just mentioned I just do not know why the principle of seniority was not followed. This is a particularly important post, and one would imagine that in normal circumstances when the top position in a department becomes vacant it will be filled by the man next in line for the position within the department. However, as I have said, this has not been done.
Both the positions I have mentioned have been filled by persons who were not attached to the departments concerned. I do not know whether this reflects a new policy of the Government, but I think it strikes directly at the principle of seniority. In the light of what I have said, and in view of the principles involved, I believe the House is at least entitled to some explanation why the normal procedure has not been followed in making these appointments.
.- First of all, I would like to congratulate the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) on bringing forward a matter concerning the sheltered workshops, and their long-drawn-out plea to this Government for a subsidy. On economic considerations alone, these establishments must save the Government a great deal of expense, which would otherwise have to be incurred by the rehabilitation section of the Department of Social Services. I believe that financial assistance should be provided to enable these workshops to expand and do the work for which they are fitted.
In these workshops the spirit of humanity is thoroughly established. Mr. and Mrs. Bedwin are the two leaders in this wonderful movement in New South Wales. I believe that all New South Welshmen can be justly proud of the sacrificial work of these two people, both of whom are themselves cripples. The way that the movement has expanded throughout the metropolitan area of Sydney is a revelation to everybody.
– And Newcastle.
– And Newcastle, too, as the honorable member for Blaxland has reminded me. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is in the House to-night. Although he has at times given us the impression that he is as cold as the snows of Scotland, I think there is some softness in his heart.
– You would need the C.I.B. to find it.
– Some of us have been looking for it for a long time, and now one of my colleagues has suggested that it might be necessary to call in the C.I.B. to find it. The Minister remains immobile, Mr. Speaker. I am just wondering whether there is any life in him. I put this matter to the Minister in the hope that he will again consider this very pressing problem and this very worth-while objective.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Jests are being made about the Minister, and from his appearance I believe he may be seriously ill.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– The other matter I wanted to mention does not concern the Minister, but it is a very important matter for many people. I raised it in the House last Wednesday night. I refer to the poor standard of tea available in this country. I am sorry for you chaps of “ Hansard “, who are having difficulty in hearing me. I will not yell to make myself heard.
– Order! I direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that all the noise is coming from his own colleagues.
– There is no one on the other side at all.
– Order! There will be no one on your side if you keep going.
– I do not intend to yell. I am going to speak in normal tones. If honorable members opposite want to hear me they can do so. I want to refer, as I said before, to the low standard of tea available in Australia, particularly in what we call the cheaper brands. I raised this matter on Wednesday night of last week, without knowing very much about the way in which tea is brought into this country, whether there is any proper check on it or whether there is any proper grading. None of the newspapers took any notice of what k. I said, except one newspaper in Sydney and one in Tasmania. Because one newspaper did mention something about this important matter, a reply appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, on Tuesday of this week, in the form of a letter to the editor. It was headed, “ Low-Grade Tea in Australia “, and the sub-heading was, “ Cheapest Samples Bought by Government “. Tea, as we know, is our national beverage, despite the fact that we spent about £284,000,000 oi liquor last year. Those of us who still drink tea are most concerned about the quality of the tea that is available. We are disgusted at the quality of the wretched stuff that is coming to Australia now, which is called tea and which is being sold to our people as tea. I have a sample which I now show to the House. This is sold in half-pound packets. As honorable members can see, it is filled with little sticks that have not been filtered out of the tea in the grading process. It is dusty, and when you pour this from the packet into your tea caddy the dust that rises nearly chokes you. It is fine stuff, just black dust. This is a sample of the tea that is being sold throughout Australia to-day. I mentioned this when I spoke on Wednesday, 10th April. As reported at page 608 of *’ Hansard “, I said-
It is up to this Government, through the Department of Trade which handles these matters, to ensure that the quality of tea imports is standardized. Tn other words, we should have a standard of quality that is applicable to all brands of imported tea. Obviously, we have no standards at present because this type of tea would not get into Australia if we had adequate standards.
We have standards for other foodstuffs that we import or manufacture here. Let me read a letter written to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ by Mr. K. A. H. Read, Commissioner of the Tea Bureau in Sydney. He said -
Mr. Duthie, M.P., is undoubtedly correct in drawing attention to some of the low standards of tea offered for sale to the public.
To Australians tea is their staple national drink.
Later in his letter he said -
However, I would point out that the blame for any misleading representation on the claims made in advertising or on the packets does not lie with any of the well-established tea blenders and packers in Australia, or with the importers. They would dearly love to raise the standards in all outlets, and not least in the leading hotels and restaurants.
The fact is that the Federal and State Government legislation on the question of tea quality is appallingly weak, and this is probably what Mr. Duthie had in mind. There is no such thing as first-grade tea.
I suspected that this was so, but I did not know definitely and did not mention it when I spoke last week. Mr. Read is in the tea business and he says straight out that there is no such thing as first-grade tea. His letter continues -
This was purely a convenience when the Federal Government bought and subsidized all tea for 14 years. In itself this statement is vastly misleading.
What happens when Governments purchase tea for hospitals and institutions? Their Gazette notice reads as though they wish to buy good tea, yet nine times out of 10 the order is given to the firm who submits the cheapest sample. In every case it will be up to 2s. per lb., or even more, cheaper than the average-priced tea at wholesale cost. Its country of origin is often subject to the greatest suspicion.
By the same token many very large grocery groups will refuse to stock the best grades of tea because the turnover doesn’t match their idea of what it should be.
The public who consume annually nearly six pounds of tea per head and are the world’s fourth largest tea drinkers show a great preference for the average-priced teas, but when it comes to bulk purchases, Governments could, if they had a mind to do so, reject the mixed low-grade teas, and pay a fair price for a drink, which cannot be said to be very costly at no more than id. per cup for the best tea.
That is a most revealing statement. I believe that the system of importing, grading and testing tea in Australia is haphazard and slap-dash. I urge the Government to have a good look at this matter. This situation has existed for so long now that it has become accepted. Apparently, the Government has not examined the situation for years. It is time we had a standard for tea. A standard should be set and all tea importers should be expected to meet this standard. Tea that does not meet the standard should be left on the ship or left in the country of origin.
.- When the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) decided to decentralize his department into regional offices, I congratulated him very heartily. To-night I want to speak about the offices of his decentralized department at Ballarat and Bendigo. They have been operating there for some time. When they were established, some people wondered whether they would be a success. I can tell the House that they have been the greatest possible success. They work very smoothly and results can be obtained through them much more quickly than they could be obtained before the department was decentralized.
When I spoke about this matter on an earlier occasion, I asked the Minister to consider establishing a regional office of the Department of Social Services at Mildura. The offices at Ballarat and Bendigo cover the Mildura area. Although they do an excellent job, they are at least 250 miles from the great northern city of Mildura. I think it is time that a regional office was established in that corner of Victoria. The north-west of Victoria has a big population. I appeal to the Minister to consider favorably my suggestion that he extend the decentralization of which we all approve and establish a regional office in Sunraysia. When I speak of Mildura, I have in mind a number of places that are covered by the over-all name of Sunraysia, including Red Cliffs, Merbein, Irymple and Mildura. The area is adjacent to Robinvale, which is a thriving and growing district. I believe that if the Minister investigates the position further, it will not be long before he says, “ I am very happy to be able to tell the Parliament that another regional office has been established in Sunraysia at Mildura “.
– I rise principally to say how pleased I am to learn that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) is taking some interest in physical rehabilitation. I hope that other honorable members will follow his example. But I do want to say to the honorable member for Barton that there is no analogy between the United Kingdom Government, the Netherlands Government, or the government of any other country with a unitary form of government and the government of a federation of six sovereign States. That is an error that is constantly being made in this place. I hope it is not being made deliberately with the object of gaining some specious political advantage.
It is quite ludicrous to compare the government of a federation with the government of any country with a unitary system. Any comparison between the expenditure of this Government and another government must take into account the fact that in this federation the six sovereign States all have individual commitments covering the entire field of social services and other fields, and that superimposed on them is, of course, the Commonwealth Government. Physical rehabilitation is the classic example. There was a time when no concerted effort of any kind was made towards the advancement of physical rehabilitation. It was because the Commonwealth Government realized the need for some sort of example to be set that could be followed by those interested in this matter that finally a rehabilitation scheme was devised.
The scheme was designed by the Commonwealth Government as a pilot scheme to demonstrate the practical uses of physical rehabilitation in this modern age, when the professions and the technicians have applied themselves to a study of this problem. So it was that in the fullness of time rehabilitation centres were established by the Commonwealth Government in each of the six States. These centres, largely because of the enthusiasm of the people engaged in this kind of work, have met with singular and spectacular success, so much so that they have achieved their purpose as pilot schemes. Most of the large public hospitals in all the six States now have their own rehabilitation centres. There is much that a government can do in that regard. There is much that a Commonwealth government can do, but there are greater opportunities for the State governments in this field. I remind honorable members that the Department of Social Services has no hospitals at its disposal in any part of the country. Confessedly, there are repatriation hospitals designed to meet a particular need. It is presumed that those hospitals are meeting that need. But no hospitals are available to the Department of Social Services. So our rehabilitation centres, of necessity, act as pilot centres and are ancillary to the normal health services of the States. I hope that that position will continue.
It may be of some value for the honorable member for Barton to know that on more than one occasion some of the greatest experts on physical and mental rehabilitation have inspected the work that is being done in this country. I need only refer to the man who is described as the greatest living authority on physical medicine, Professor Howard Rusk of the United States of America. On two or three occasions he has visited Australia and has inspected our physical rehabilitation centres. He has said with a great deal of personal satisfaction that they are amongst the finest in the world. I can only express my own personal satisfaction and my own personal indebtedness to the people whose hearts and minds are excited by this kind of work.
I am quite certain that the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) will give due consideration to what the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) said. May I say a few words to my friend, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). Just as the decentralization of the Department of Social Services gives him great satisfaction, so does it give me great satisfaction. The scheme for the decentralization of the department throughout the Commonwealth is practically complete. From time to time he has made representations to me for the consideration of Mildura as an appropriate centre in the general scheme of decentralization. I can assure the honorable member for Mallee that as soon as he gets an adequate population, not necessarily in Mildura but in the territory that is adjacent to Mildura, and can justify the establishment of a decentralized centre, such a centre will be established.
.- To-night I do not intend to speak about something in my own electorate. I wish to speak for a few minutes about a little place in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea which comes, I think, under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). It is a place called Buin on Bougainville. As honorable members know, in the Territory there are missionaries, teachers and nurses of all religious denominations who, quite selflessly, give their time and their energies for a number of years at very little cost to the nation. I think the nation subsidizes some of the schools to a certain extent, but, out of the goodness of their hearts, these people work on salaries which are next to nothing. I do not restrict my remarks to any one denomination. Various denominations are represented. However, I believe that some of them are penalized in spite of the very charitable work that they are doing.
One such case has come to my notice. It concerns a young lady who is working on a mission station at Buin on Bougainville. This young lady, who is a highly trained nursing sister and was a tutor sister before she went to the islands where she volunteered to stay for three years, was sent a package of sweets. The administration in the Territory decided that as it was an individual gift she would have to pay duty amounting to 12s.
– It is quite outrageous. There is no doubt about that. I suggest that the Minister for Territories is not responsible for this rather paltry and parsimonous attitude in customs administration. The action was possibly due to the misguided zeal of the public servant in that area who represents the Division of Customs and Migration of the Department of Trade and Industry in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
This nursing sister is working for a mere pittance for the advancement of the indigenes of the island. She was sent this parcel of sweets. I think it might be just as well and more pertinent if I read the correspondence that has ensued in an effort to gather in this 12s. I do not want the Government to regard this case in isolation. No d’oubt it is indicative of the general attitude taken to all missionaries by our departments in the Territory. The letter that I have before me is from the Division of Customs and Migration of the Department of Trade and Industry, Rabaul, is dated 11th March and is signed by Mr. J. C. Goad, Collector of Customs. He goes to great length to state the departmental policy. He says -
It is advised that goods in the form of small gifts forwarded by persons, whether totally unexpected or not, must be dealt with in accordance with the Customs Tariff. This applies equally whether the parcel is addressed to a Mission or to an individual on a Mission Staff or any 0’her person.
It is re-terated that “Gifts to Missions” may only be delivered free of duty to Missions when th?y have been forwarded under the procedure set down evidence of which is furnished on the prescribed form, and upon a declaration by the recipient Mission that the goods will be distributed free to natives.
You see what a public servant’s mind will do, when you read that paragraph! But there is more to come. The letter continues -
The procedure for “ Gifts to Missions “ was introduced to provide large concessions for Missions to import quite a large range of goods which are regularly collected by voluntary Mission organizations and groups and forwarded at no cost to various Missions.
Each year hundreds of cases of goods are cleared at the ports throughout the Territory under the system.
That is all right. Then he goes on to say -
There is no doubt that prior to the introduction of the P.P.C.6 Form many parcels and packets of goods were delivered from Post Offices without duty being collected. This fact has been proved by the amount of duty now being collected by Post Offices under the new system.
As duty was correctly assessed by the Customs Officer at the Post Office, Rabaul, on the P.P.C.6 Form forwarded with the parcel for Miss . . . the amount is required to be collected and the form brought to account.
All that to collect 12s.! The Assistant District Officer in Bougainville, when he received this instruction from the Collector of Customs in Rabaul, wrote to this nursing sister as follows: -
The attached memorandum has been received from the Collector of Customs, Rabaul.
It would appear that the provision for “ GIFTS TO MISSIONS “ was introduced to cover REGULAR imports of large donations of goods. There is no provision for a simpler system to cover small, relatively valueless packets and parcels.
However if you have not already completed the “ Customs Duty - Gifts to Missions “ circular dated Sth March, and would so so, we will forward the total list to the Chief Collector for approval. This will at least enable you to receive free importation of gifts from your regular donors.
That letter is dated 18th March, and .s from Mr. Hardy, the assistant district officer.
I ask this House, Mr. Speaker, how any recipient of a gift can know when he or she is to receive such a gift and thereby enable the gift to be received free of duty if the P.P.C.6 form is completed. One just does not know in advance that a gift is coming along. I suggest that this Government, which I believe has a benign approach to the administration of the Territory generally, would be well advised to give instructions, through the Minister for Territories, to the officers administering this rather pettifogging regulation in the Territory to desist, because it is not a good regulation. As I have said, there are people there who have given their services, quite unselfishly, for a number of years. These remarks apply to all denominations. This matter has been brought to my notice by a person of my own faith - the Catholic faith. But it applies to the people of all denominations. I know the people in the London Missionary Society, which works in the islands, and I know the Seventh Day Adventists who work there. This rather wilfully petty regulation applies to them, as to everybody else. I should like the Minister for Territories, whose responsibility I think it is, to look into this matter and instruct his very zealous collector of customs, who, I think, may well have taken it upon himself to do this, to revise his attitude. The present practice is not in the best interests of our territories, nor of the indigenes of those territories.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
National Health Scheme
Oddfellows Friendly Society in New South Wales, Sydney.
The Grand United Order of Oddfellows, Friendly Society of New SouthWales, Sydney.
The Newcastle and Suburban Co-operative Limited Medical and Hospital Fund, Newcastle.
Independent Order of Odd Fellows of the State of New South Wales, Sydney.
Hibernian-Australasian CatholicBenefit Society of New South Wales, Sydney.
The Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows in Victoria Friendly Society, Melbourne.
The Ancient Order of Foresters, in Victoria, Friendly Society, Melbourne.
The Victorian District No. 82 of the Independent Order of Rechabites Friendly Society, Melbourne.
The Mutual Benefit Society of the Employees of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, Melbourne.
United Brisbane District of the Ancient Order of Foresters’ Friendly Society, Brisbane.
Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australasia, in Queensland, Brisbane.
The Queensland Branch of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society, Brisbane.
Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society in South Australia, Adelaide.
The Grand United Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society ofNew South Wales, Sydney.
Commonwealth Bank Health Society, Sydney. The Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society in New South Wales, Sydney.
The Cessnock District Hospital In-patients’ Contribution Fund.
The Newcastle and Suburban Co-operative Limited Medical and Hospital Fund, Newcastle.
Wallsend District Hospital In-patients’ Contribution Fund.
Independent Order of Odd Fellows of the State of New South Wales, Sydney.
The Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows in Victoria Friendly Society, Melbourne.
The Victoria District No. 82 of the Independent Order of Rechabites Friendly Society, Melbourne.
The Order of the Sons of Temperance National Division Friendly Society, Melbourne.
The Mutual Benefit Society of the Employees of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, Melbourne.
The Ancient Order of Foresters, in Victoria, Friendly Society, Melbourne
The Queensland Branch of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society, Brisbane.
Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australasia in Queensland, Brisbane.
Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society in South Australia, Adelaide.
The total amounts paid in contributions during the financial year ended 30th June, 1962, were -
Would the following items of expenditure, included in a business firm’s expense account, be an allowable deduction for taxation purposes if ruled by the taxation authorities as having been incurred in carrying on a business for the purpose of gaining or producing assessable income: - (a) purchase of private motor cars, running and repair costs of those cars, and cost of hired transport, &c, for business executives, and (b) entertainment expenses, including expenditure at night clubs and on shows, liquor, smokes, suppers, &c?
The Commissioner of Taxation informs me that the expenses mentioned by the honorable member would be allowable income tax deductions only to the extent that the firm concerned demonstrated that the expenses - (i) were incurred in gaining or producing assessable income or were necessarily incurred in carrying on a business for the purpose of gaining or producing such income; and ‘ii) were not outgoings of a capital, private or domestic nature. Unless both of these conditions are satisfied, the law prohibits the allowance of an income tax deduction and the Commissioner of Taxation has no discretionary power under which a deduction could be allowed.
Apart from this aspect - advertising - the council affirmed the following recommendations: -
House adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 April 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1963/19630418_reps_24_hor38/>.