13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., aci! read prayers.
Documents Seized in Police Raid - Attack on Mb. Garden.
– I ask the Leader of thi’ Senate, who is’ also Minister for
Defence, if - he has seen the following report which appeared in The World newspaper, Sydney, of yesterday’s date: -
MACHINE GUNS AND RIFLES MENTIONED IN PAPERS.
Weapon Issue to Guardsmen.
What Documents Revealed. bayonets andplans.
Documents and plans seized by the police yesterday when they raided premises in search of information relating to the New Guard were produced in Central Court’ to-day, when authority was sought to impound the papers.
Giving evidence of the raids, DetectiveSergeant Alford said that the following papers were seized in room I on the6th floor of No. 56 Hunter-street: -
Bundle of index cards.
List of documents produced.
Three pieces of paper with lead pencil writing and code symbols.
Plan of Berrima Gaol.
Plan of central control tower, Berrima Gaol.
Document setting out details of the value of certain positions in the gaol on. which to mount machine-guns, Ac. (One page only.)
Reports dated 8th March, 1932 re transfer of arms and ammunition from Victoria Barracks to Garden Island, pinned to which is memo fromH. R. Slocombe, dated 8th March, 1932, forwarding same to zone commander.
One-page report giving names and particulars regarding some of the men convicted for the assault on Garden, and occurrences at the raid.
Code of names for rifles, Lewis machineguns, and other firearms.
Two-page letter, dated May 3, 1932, from R. M. Hope, care Thomas W. Green and . Co., Cooma.
Plan of marshalling yard at Enfield railway station.
Document setting out details of the formation of the New Guard, and the names of certain persons connected therewith (two pages).
One-page report, undated, re ammunition at Long Bay rifle range.
– I think the honorable senator has read enough from the report to identify it. I shall, therefore, be glad if he will ask his question.
– The list contains particulars of further seized documents which I should have liked to incorporate in Hansard. I now ask the Leader of the Senate if his attention - has been directed to the report, and if so, what has. he to say about it?
Ihave seen the particular journal referred to by the honorable senator.I have also seen, in another newspaper, reference to certain military information alleged- to have beenin the possession of persons who are said to be members of the New Guard. I am having inquiries made into that matter.
– Has the Leader of the Senate read the report of a statement made in the New South -Wales Legislative Assembly yesterday by Mr. Weaver, Deputy Leader of the Nationalist party, to the effect that the recent attack on Mr. Garden at his home in Sydney was a “ frame-up “ against the New Guard?
– My course of reading this morning also included the statement mentioned by the honorable senator.
– In view of the present disturbed state of public feeling in Australia, will the- Leader of the Senate’ request the Prime Minister to make an appeal to the people to come together in an earnest attempt to get us out of our present difficulties? And will he also urge the Prime Minister to do his utmost to prevent public men and others from using the press and other avenues of publicity in an attempt to divide the people of this country into warring factions ?
– I certainly shall bring the suggestion under the notice of the Prime Minister, although, as honorable senators are aware, he has on several occasions himself given voice to similar sentiments.
– Can the Acting Attorney-General say if there is, in the records of the Federal Justice Department, a report by a justice of the Supreme Court, in which Mr. Weaver, the deputy Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, was described as a “ viper “. when he was giving evidence before the 1917. Royal Commission that inquired into the actions of certain industrial “scabs” in- New South Wales?
– That question is not in order. If the honorable gentleman will put it on the notice-paper I shall - examine it, and determine whether it is a proper question to ask.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to by an absolute majority of the Senate -
That the sitting of the Senatethis day be suspended from 12.45 p.m., to 2.30 p.m.
– Has the Acting Attorney-General read the report in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 11th inst., with reference to the enrolment of special police officers in Canberra, and stating that the advisability of appointing Commonwealth police officers in other capital cities is also receiving consideration? If so, will he say if that report is correct or otherwise ?
– I have seen the report, but I refuse to answer any questions relating to the subject-matter contained in it.
– More basher gangs?
– Order !
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I have nothing to add to the reply that I made to the honorable senator yesterday, when he addressed these questions to me without notice.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Loan (Unemployment Relief Works) Bill.
Financial Agreements Enforcement Bill (No. 4).
Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a statement made by Mr. N. W. Hutchinson, the president of the Australian Association of British Manufacturers, in evidence before the Tariff Board in Melbourne recently, to the effect that between January and May, 1930, John Lysaght Limited added 10,400 tons to their accumulated stocks of imported galvanized iron?
Was this fact known to the Customs Department when the prohibition on the importation of galvanized iron was proclaimed?
If so, what steps, if any, were taken to prevent John Lysaght Limited taking advantage of the prohibition to increase to the public prices on the galvanized iron already imported ?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
The matter is being looked into, and a reply will be furnished later.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions : -
In view of the serious financial problems which will confront the Commonwealth and the States at the next Premiers Conference and the meeting of the Loan Council, it is not possible for Cabinet to come to a decision at the present time in regard to the matters mentioned by the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Conviction of Members
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senators’ questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. I have read the press reports.
Statement at Sydney Stadium.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.On the 17th March, SenatorRae asked the following questions, upon notice: -
What was the original cost- of the Commonwealth line of steamships?
What was the price at which these ships were sold to the Kylsant Shipping Combine?
What were’ the dates and the amounts of the first and subsequent payments made on account by the company, to the Commonwealth Government?
What was the nature and value of the security for the unpaid balances given by the Kylsant company to the Commonwealth Government ?
What was the interest rate payable on the balance owing?
What amounts are now due to the Commonwealth for principal and interest?
Has the imprisonment of Lord Kylsant for sanctioning the issue of a false balancesheet freed the company of which he was the head from its financial obligations to the Commonwealth ?
If not, what steps is the Government taking to secure payment of overdue amounts?
In view of the statement of the judge at the trial of Lord Kylsant that the evidence proved that the shipping company of whichhe was the head “ had been living on its fat “ for a number of years, did such period cover the date of the sale of the Commonwealth ships?
In view of the slump in the shipping^industry which had then commenced, what steps were taken by the Bruce-Page Government to ascertain the solvency of the Kylsant Shipping Combine before the sale of the ships was finalized?
Failing prompt payment of amounts that may be overdue, will the Government consider the advisability of introducing legislation on the lines of the Financial Agreement Enforcement Act, enabling it to seize any ships of the company when in’ Australian waters?
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
Deposits were made on the delivery of each ship, the final payment of deposit being made on the 20th August, 1928. The total amount of deposits was £250,000. Two sums each of £165,000 were paid on account of principal on the 20th August, 1929, and 20th August,’ 1930, respectively.
Debentures which constitute a floating charge on all vessels and property acquired by the shipping company from the Commonwealth mid the goodwill in connexion with the said vessels and property.
5½ per cent.
£165,000 principal. Interest has been paid to date.
No. 8 to 1 1. I am advised that the Government of the day acted on independent opinions furnished as to the standing of the company, and that the security, representing as it did a charge on the ships themselves, was practically the highest that could have been required of the company. The position of the Commonwealth, having regard to recent developments in connexion with the company, is now being closely examined by the Government with a view to appropriate action being taken.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Line of Steamships - Particulars re cost, sale price, &c.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 36.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 42.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinance No. 10 of . 1932 - Interpretation.
Health Ordinance - Regulations amended -
Stock Diseases Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That one member of the Senate, sitting with three other members of the committee, shall constitute a quorum, provided that in such quorum both Houses shall be represented.
in committee (Consideration resumed from the 11th of May, vide page 585) : Clause 17 -
Subject to this act, the commission may do such acts and things as it deems incidentalor conducive to the proper exploitation of those things which may be beneficial to broadcasting.
Upon which Senator E. B. Johnston had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added, “ but shall not engage in any subsidiary business.”
– Yesterday I asked the Minister to postpone clause 17 in order that he might again examine it. The result of subsequent discussion in the Senate confirms my opinion that that course should be followed. The Minister has suggested that theclause should be recommitted, but I point out that if honorable senators vote for it as it stands they affirm the principle which it embodies. I believe that members of the committee should retain to the fullest extent their powers, without committing themselves in any way to the principle of the clause. It must be obvious to the Minister that the great majority of honorable senators desire specific amendments in both clause? 17 and18. I suggest that the measure would go through more expeditiously if the clause were postponed, and I should like to know whether the Minister is agreeable to that course.
– I ask permissionto withdraw my amendment. I then propose to move another more specific amendment.
Amend men t - by leave - withd rawn .
Amendment (by Senator E. B. Johnston) proposed -
That the following words be added: “but shall not engage in manufacturing or trading operations “.
– I have no objection to postponing the clause. I did not accept the suggestion last night, because I had promised to recommit the definition clause, and also clause 16, in consequence of representations made . by Senator Payne. I, theref ore, thought that it would be more convenient also to recommit cla use 17, so that we would have the three clauses in one sealed compartment, so to speak. A second reason was, that I desired to ascertain whether honorable senators were prepared to grant to the commission the incidental and conducive powers referred to in clause 17. As I sense the opinion of honorable senators, I do not think it is their desire to hamstring the commission in its operations. I point out that if clause 17 is postponed we shall be obliged to discuss it before I can frame the reconstruction of clause 16.
– We are doing that now. Clause 16 requires only a drafting amendment.
– That is so, and I take it that if clause 17 requires any alteration it will also be, to a large extent, a drafting amendment. I shall have to consider the advisability of eliminating clause 16 and embodying it in clause 17. If honorable members feel that by passing clause 17 as it stands, with a view to recommittal, they would be pledging themselves to a principle which later they might seek to deny,Iam agreeable to the postponement of the clause.
Clause 18 -
For the purpose ofthe exercise of its powers and functions under this act, the commission may compile, prepare, print,’ publish, issue, circulate and distribute, whether gratis or otherwise, in such manner as it thinks fit, such papers, magazines, periodicals, books, pamphlets, circulars and other literary matter as it thinks fit (including the programmes of national broadcasting stations and other stations) :
Provided that, prior to the publication of any programme in pursuance of this section, a copy of the programme shall be made available at an office of the commission on equal terms to the publishers of any newspaper, magazine or journal published in the Commonwealth.
. -I move -
That the clause be postponed.
I do so, because, in my opinion, it is closely associated with clauses 16 and 17, the discussion of which has been deferred.
– If we are to get this measure through it will be necessary to know where we stand in relation to these different clauses. Clause 18 confers specific powers upon the commission, and it would be most embarrassing if, after passing other clauses, it were found that the Senate was not prepared to give the commission these powers. I think that it would be better to debate the clause now. If necessary, it can be remodelled.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
– Clause 18 is closely allied to clauses 16 and 17. It proposes to arm the commission with authority to print and issue pamphlets and such like matter. The problem is to what extent the Government is to enter the industrial field in competition with private enterprise. We have on record the opinion of the late Mr. Deakin - that it is perfectly permissible for a department to dispose of surplus material produced by it. We have our own government printing works in Canberra,” which issues various publications, and even prints the telegram forms that we use.
– It does not sell them to the public.
– I am aware of that. The point is whether the commission shall or shall not engage in printing for its own purposes. I consider that it is right for any department to embark on these activities, which have been found useful and profitable in the past. It is true that we are living in an age that has brought about violent oscillations of opinion on the subject. Many staid and conservative individuals who previously considered that a department could rightly embark upon industrial pursuits provided that they were confined to ministering to its needs, have now changed their opinions. I remember how, in the past, the Victorian Railways Department manufactured locomotives, and how Western Australian governmental departments engaged in manufacturing pursuits, to the great benefit of the taxpayers of that State. Moreover, I can easily visualize how useful such an authority would be to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If it were not armed with this power it might easily be penalized by monopolies. Therefore, the clause has my approval. I know that Senator Colebatch believes that departments should not engage in outside activities. Senator Daly is of the opinion that the commission should engage in any form of industrial endeavour which will minister to “the needs of the department.
– I am afraid that provision to that effect will not be embodied in this bill.
– There is now a confusion of ideas, a variety of opinions in this chamber. I am endeavouring to untangle the skein. It is the duty of the Government to ascertain the opinion of the majority of honorable senators, for, obviously, it cannot ignore that majority. Between the two extremes which I have mentioned there lies a vast ill-defined territory, in which I reside. I believe that the department should be authorized to enter the industrial field if it thinks that course advisable in the public interests. It should be empowered to do anything that would tend to lighten the cost of administration.
– The cost might be increased.
– That is possible. I remember the time when .departmental construction proved of great benefit to the taxpayers of Western Australia; but if that system were in operation to-day it would mean heavy losses to that State. Public opinion in these matters is veering from the attitude it adopted in the past, because in many cases government enterprise has increased the burden on the taxpayers. Nevertheless, I am not inclined to deprive the commission entirely of the power to engage in industrial pursuits; I prefer to allow it a discretionary power in that direction. I would allow it to undertake these functions provided that it could show that it could compete with private enterprise. In the interests of the general public, the power should remain, even though it is not utilized. For that reason, I think that the clause should stand.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [11.35]. - Since I am of the opinion that we have already gone too far in Australia in the direction of State socialism, I move -
That the words “ print, publish,” be left out
That policy having proved unsatisfactory we must now either get back to the old system of individual competitive enterprise, or proceed along the road which will ultimately lead us to the Russian Soviet principle of complete communism. We have tried the middle course advocated by Senator Lynch, and it has failed us.
– If we delete the words “ print “ and “ publish “ we shall also have to leave out the words “ prepare “ and “issue”.
– I see no objection to the commission preparing or issuing newspapers, magazines, periodicals or other literary matter.
– Does not the power to issue a newspaper imply the power to print it?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Not necessarily. I object to this clause, first, because it contemplates the establishment of an elaborate printing office which would undoubtedly compete with private enterprise. Our experience does not suggest that that form of competition is good for the country. My second objection is that the establishment of such a printing office would inevitably lead to both extravagance and waste. The commission will probably have large revenues at its ‘ disposal ; but whether large or small those revenues will come out of the pockets of the Australian people. For ‘ that reason, it is just as necessary that its revenues shall be as carefully spent as if they were the proceeds of a form of taxation which was inadequate for the purpose for which it was imposed. The existence of large revenues is no excuse for extravagant expenditure. In recent years, many Australian governments have set up publicity departments, which issue weekly or monthly pamphlets that sometimes are printed. These pamphlets are only so much propaganda in the interests of the party that happens to be in power, and, in my opinion, they are an abuse of the privileges of government. Moreover, they entail considerable expenditure. If this power is given to the commission, I visualize a large printing establishment which will endeavour to extend its activities, employ more and more persons, and generally use up revenue which could better be spent in the interests of the community.
– Any surplus revenues should be spent in improving the service.
– I suggest that this clause should be postponed, because it is impossible to know how to vote on it until we know what is done with clause 16. We cannot say whether clause 18 is incidental to clause 16 until clause 16 has been finally dealt with. The two provisions deal with entirely different aspects of broadcasting. Once we have established a definite principle in clause 16, we should have no difficulty in making up our minds regarding clause 18. I agree with Senator Lynch that the commission should be given the fullest powers. I do not believe in putting into an act of Parliament, which enunciates one principle, any clause which gives a body to be constituted under it the right to do certain things, which might bring about a system of centralization injurious to some of the States. I know that the Labour party believes that the whole Commonwealth should be centralized; but while we are a federation, it is our duty to see that nothing is done which will be prejudicial to the best interests of the States. Should the commission be permitted to do its own printing, I foresee that while South Australia will be deprived of any chance to do the commission’s printing, it will not be compensated by being given the opportunity to construct wireless apparatus. Clauses 16, 17, and IS are so interwoven that it is impossible to give an intelligent vote on them until we know the Government’s intention in connexion with the powers of the . commission under clause 16.
– All we need is to apply the rules of syntax to the difficulties which have been mentioned. I support the amendment, because I believe that the people of Australia are looking for greatly improved programmes under the new control of broadcasting. That will not be easily accomplished ; any material improve ment of the present programmes will mean a considerable alteration of the existing system. That, in turn, will mean the expenditure of large sums of money. All the money that the commission is likely to receive could easily be expended in the improvement of the programmes; and that, after all, is what we are aiming at. The commission will be faced with a heavy task in providing programmes that will be satisfactory to listeners, and for that purpose cannot have too much money.
.- The British Broadcasting Corporation is given wide powers in this respect. It has authority to compile and print papers, publish periodicals, and distribute, whether gratis or otherwise, such papers, books, periodicals, or other literary matter as may seem to it to further the objects of the corporation. As it is not likely, however, that there will be any printing to be done, I have no objection to accepting the amendment of Senator Colebatch.
Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South
Australia) [11.46]. - There seems to me to be good reason for the proposed alteration. The Minister said that the British Broadcasting Corporation had power to engage in printing, but I remind honorable senators that, although there has been issued Ti number of printed works, representing lectures given over the wireless, those works were not printed, or published by the British Broadcasting Corporation. They were issued by private publishers in Great Britain. At ‘ any rate, I know of three or four, each of which has been published by a different publisher. Therefore, if anything is broadcast which, in the opinion of the broadcasting commission, merits publication, arrangements can be made to have it printed by a private publisher. There is no reason why such work should be done by the commission itself.
We know that, in the ordinary course of events, a book is printed by a printer and published by a publisher, but if the word “ publish “ is left in the clause, might that not be taken to confer authority upon the commission to print as well a3 to publish ?
– The Government is not determined upon retaining the word “publish.”
– I prefer the amendment of Senator Colebatch in its original form.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [11.48]. - The effectiveness of the amendment depends upon the meaning of the word “publish.” I have looked up the dictionary, and find that it is given two meanings. According to one meaning, my amendment would be sufficiently effective if the word “ publish “ were left in the clause, but according to the other, it would be dangerous to retain the word. The first definition states that the word means “ to make generally known, to promulgate, to edit.” Then a second definition states that a publisher is “ one who produces copies of books “. That might mean one who prints books. If the Minister intends to accept the principle of my amendment, and if the word “ issue “ is left in the clause, there is no reason why the word “ publish “ should not be struck out.
– I haveno objection to. that.
– I do not think that I can approve of the amendment. I do not wish the commission to be hamstrung. The Minister has stated the powers of the British Broadcasting Corporation, which I understand it was originally intended to give to our commission ; but Senator Duncan-Hughes has told us that the British Broadcasting Corporation does not,- as a matter of fact, do its own printing. That is because the authority conferred in its charter is permissive, and not. mandatory. The corporation, probably, regards it as more advantageous to get its printing done by private printers. It may happen, however, that it would be an advantage to the community for our broadcasting commission to do its own printing, and it should have authority to do so.
– Is the honorable senator not satisfied- that Australian printers and publishers can give good service?
– I am quite convinced of that. Surely it is not suggested that the British publishers and printers are incapable of giving good service; yet the British Broadcasting Corporation has been empowered to do its own printing.
– There is no need to repeat an error of the English act.
– But is it an error i
– I did not say that the British Broadcasting Corporation had employed private printers and publishers to issue books on -its behalf. I said that certain lectures given over the wireless had been published, and it may possibly have been done on the authority, and at the request of, the authors of the lectures.
– My instructions are that the commission will not be embarrassed if both the words “ print “ and “ publish “ are struck out.
– In. that case I am satisfied.
– I am opposed to the amendment. It appears to me that the whole discussion is a storm in a tea cup. Senator Colebatch described the provisions of the bill as half-baked socialism. They are nothing of the kind. In any caseI can show that much good has accrued to the community from the inauguration of State enterprises, which undertook work that private enterprise could do quite well, but in regard to which private enterprise exploited the public. In New South Wales the establishment of State brick works almost immediately brought about a reduction of 30s. a thousand in the price of bricks.
– At what cost to the taxpayers ?
SenatorRAE. - The whole of the capital cost was eventually repaid, and the brick-making combine was compelled to reduce its prices. Moreover, millions of bricks were supplied to State construction works at about half the price for which they could have been bought from private manufacturers. The State pipe works have produced a profit from the first year, besides having repaid the whole of the capital cost. I know that other State enterprises have been rank failures I am not one of those bigoted persona who believe that every Government enterprise must be successful. Some have failed, and others have been- sabotaged by private enterprise.
– And some have secured their profits by over-charging other government departments.
– In all probability, the Broadcasting Commission will not erect a printing office, expensive or otherwise. Most likely it will get its printing done by outside firms, and will continue to do so until circumstances arise which make it advisable for it to undertake the work itself. The Victorian Railways Department has for years been doing its own printing, because it can get the work done more conveniently and economically in that way.
– Is that work not done at the Government Printing Office?
– It appears that the Government Printing Office has so much other work to do that the Railways Department does its own printing. For many years now the department has done its own printing at the Central Railway Office, and I have not heard even the keenest critic of State enterprise find any fault with it. This amendment is unnecessary, and is begotten of a narrowminded prejudice against State enterprise. Moreover, I do not believe that, even if the amendment is agreed to, it will be effective in preventing the commission, if it so desires, from doing its own printing. The commission’s powers will be so wide that it will be able to undertake this work without having specific authority for it.
.- I support Senator Daly’s contention, and urge the wisdom of postponing the consideration of this clause. Clause 17 gives the commission general powers, but clause 18 confers upon it specific powers. I take it that the committee desires to give the commission such powers as are necessary to enable it to function properly as a broadcasting instrumentality. It does not wish to confer upon it unnecessary powers, or such powers as would enable it to enter the field in competition with legitimate enterprises now carried on under the law. I understand that the Minister is prepared to reconsider clause 17.
– Also clause 16.
– Merely a drafting amendment is contemplated there.
– Clause 17 is limited by clause 16 to a large extent.
– But clause 17 is specific in its terms.
– In my opinion, it should be deleted.
– Possibly the Minister will agree to that, but honorable senators on this side desire him to postpone clauses 17 and 18, and submit proposals to this chamber for endowing the commission with full power to function adequately, yet without transgressing the political principles of the party supporting the Government. If a privileged body, which is exempt from taxation, enjoys special immunities, invests no capital, and has income flowing to it automatically, competes with private enterprise in which capital has been invested, it has a great advantage. It may destroy goodwill, and the result of years of enterprise. We on this side believe that such a procedure would be injurious to the body politic, because it would arrest progress and development. We expect a Government pledged to the principle of private enterprise to introduce legislation which does not transgress a fundamental policy of the party it leads. I ask the Minister to postpone the consideration of these clauses. I do not object to what Senator Colebatch suggests by way of the omission of certain words, but I have had sufficient experience to know that amendments hurriedly made in committee, particularly amendments which have not been circulated, and not fully considered by honorable senators, have sometimes consequences which cannot be foreseen. In recasting a proposal such as is contained in this clause, I advise the Minister to obtain expert advice. He knows the purpose in view, and he should see that it is expressed in definite terms by officers whose special work it is to draft legislation. I agree with Senator Daly that the form of this clause must be influenced by the terms in which the previous clause, on further consideration, will be couched. Let us proceed to deal with some of the other clauses in the bill about which there will not be so much controversy.
– I cannot see that any good purpose would be served by postponing the consideration of this clause. It sets out clearly certain things which the commission may do. There can be no misunderstanding as to the meaning of the language employed. It is provided that the commission may compile, print and publish certain literature. That is distinct from the subject-matter of the two previous clauses. If the words “print and publish “ were struck out, the meaning would still be clear, and the clause would have little, if any, relation to the two previous clauses. It is clear to the committee that failure has attended State enterprises; even Senator Rae has admitted it.
– The failures have usually been due to sabotage by private enterprise.
– They have usually been due to sabotage by the employees, and a leading example of that, and one that will be remembered for many years, is the failure of the’ Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. That enterprise was destroyed by those whom it was intended to serve. The duty of this commission is to give the full benefits of broadcasting to the people; but the publishing and printing of necessary literary matter might well be left to private enterprise, which could give a better and cheaper service in that direction than could be supplied by the commission. If the occasion should arise, this legislation could be amended at a later stage to extend the powers of the commission to the printing and publishing of literature, but I prefer to err on the side of caution, and prevent the commission from entering into any activity which could be classed as a socialistic undertaking.
– So far as I can observe, public opinion is much influenced by the experience of the times. In the past, governments were content to abide by the traditional rule of allowing citizens freeplay within the industrial ring ; but within recent years they have stepped down into the ring, and have engaged in industrial enterprises. It appeared at the outset that this policy had certain advantages. Even non-labour governments admitted this, and with public approval departed from the accustomed groove and engaged in governmental activities.
Every part of the Commonwealth bears testimony Ho the popularity of the policy of State enterprise, and many State industrial undertakings proved highly profitable. We have travelled from that era, and now, our experience is exactly the opposite. It is wrong, however, to assert that it is permanent in its character. Senator Lawson has spoken of railways. The railway systems of the various States were established as the result of the advice of soberminded men who went to Europe and America fifty years ago to study the developments of railways in those countries. Nobody will dispute the benefit to the taxpayers of Victoria of the activities of the Newport railway workshops. I hope that the losses which are now being experienced in connexion with governmental activities are but a passing phase of our industrial life; otherwise ruin may come upon the community. In my opinion, the present temper of the times is totally wrong. We should not take it for granted that the present conditions will be permanent, and insert in our law an instruction that the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall not undertake any form of industrial enterprise. I am well aware of the failure of certain governmental activities in the past, owing to the prevalence of the “government stroke “, and as Senator Herbert Hays has mentioned, the results attending the operations of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line afford a striking example of an unsuccessful State enterprise. Nevertheless, the commission should be given the power sought under this clause, otherwise we may be made to look foolish. Why not close down the Government Printing Office at Canberra ?
– That would be a good thing too.
– Would the honorable senator favour the handing over of the railways of Western Australia to private enterprise?
– Much could be said in favour of handing over to private enterprise the running of them.
– The honorable senator would not say that in Western Australia. If the principle of government control is good in one case it should be accepted in another. It would be inconsistent to say that State-owned railways should be retained, but that the Government Printing Office should go. In this case we should follow the British precedent, and give this commission power to print and publish its own literature, if it should desire to do so. In my ramblings through literature I have read that the dominant thought of the hour is always influenced by the experience of the times; but we should not let that tendency influence our decisions in determining the powers of this commission.
We should not legislate for the present’ only. We can throw our minds back to the time when the Government took up certain enterprises with great profit to the people. Let me give an instance of how the political parties of this country have changed their minds within such a short space of time as not even to allow the public to forget their inconsistency. When federation was first established, the plumping system of voting was still in existence, and because of its operation the representatives of the Labour party first gained a footing in this Parliament. As every one knows, plumping was soon after deleted from our electoral law, but the very party which insisted upon its repeal, was the party which subsequently asked for its restoration. That is an instance of how the experience of the past teaches us to form our policy for the future. This legislation which we are now considering is intended, not for the present, but for the years to come. We should not allow ourselves to be influenced by the abnormal times through which we are now unfortunately passing, and should grant the commission potential power to be held in reserve until such time as it may be found necessary to exercise it. Do not tell the commission that it is unworthy of being entrusted with a power which has been used in the past to the great good of the body politic.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Sir Hal Colebatch’s amendment) be left out - put.
The committee divided. ( Chairman - Senator Plain. )
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 19 to 21 agreed to.
Clause 22 (Advertisements).
– I see a difficulty with respect to this clause, sub-clause 1 of which states that the commission shall not broadcast advertisements. Paragraph c provides that nothing in this provision shall be construed as preventing the commission from broadcasting, if it thinks fit, a programme supplied by any organization, firm or person, provided the programme is not in the opinion of the commission being used as an advertisement. That provision gives the commission the absolute right to determine whether any subjectmatter supplied to it for broadcasting purposes is an advertisement.
– This clause is exceedingly complicated. First of all it states that the commission shall not broadcast advertisements, and then this body is given the right to decide what matter is an advertisement. The commission may consider political speeches to be advertisements, and in many instances they are. If the commissioners were asked to permit the broadcasting of a political speech, which might be contrary to their own views, they might declare it to be an advertisement, and refuse to broadcast it. I suggest to the Minister that he add to the end of the clause the words “ the commission not to broadcast advertisements for monetary gain.”
– I hope that the Minister will strike out this clause altogether. The party to which I belong advocates the broadcasting of sponsored programmes by A class stations, but the Government, in. its wisdom, has adopted a different attitude.- If honorable senators will glance at the clause, they will see the ridiculous position in which we place ourselves if it remains unaltered. First of all, sub-clause 1 states that the commission shall not broadcast advertisements. Sub-clause 2 reads -
Nothing in this section shall be construed as preventing the commission from broadcasting, if it thinks fit -
any announcement of its own future programmes.
Obviously, such an announcement may be construed as being an advertisement. The clause continues -
Such programmes as those are excepted from the general provision that the commission shall not broadcast advertisements. The exceptions are justified. I draw honorable senators’ attention to the iniquitous system that will operate if this clause remains in the bill. Instead of the commission allowing any one to advertise by means of sponsored programmes, only certain organizations, firms or companies will have that privilege. The test is provided in paragraph c which provides that the commission may, if it thinks fit, broadcast a programme by any organization, firm or person, provided the programme is not, in the opinion of the commissioners, being used as an advertisement. Is it probable that a firm would broadcast a programme for any purpose other than advertising? Is not an announcement by the broadcasting company itself that it is putting a special programme over the air, an advertisement? The clause states that nothing in this provision shall be construed as preventing the com- mission from broadcasting, if it thinks fit, a programme supplied by any organization. Would not such a programme be an advertisement?
– Not necessarily.
– Any speech in this chamber, could be an advertisement.
– The honorable senator has not studied the principle which the Government apparently followed when it altered its original proposal,I understand that the B class stations derive their revenue from advertisements, and that it Was decided that the A class stations’ should not enter into competition with B class stations.
– Is there not competition, between them at present?
-No. When listeningin at night time I have frequently heard an announcement from aB class station that a certain oil company will broadcast the programme. No one will deny that such a programme is an advertisement.
– What about Holden’s band which broadcasts in South Australia ?
– The programme would not be supplied by Holden’s motorbody building works.
– It is.
– In that case it would be covered by paragraph b of the clause which relates to a programme supplied by an organization, firm or person engaged in artistic, literary, musical or theatrical production. The memorandum and articles of association of Holdens’ Motor Body Building Company, following the usual procedure, may give that firm the right to carry on business as artistic performers and to establish a band. Who supplied the funds out of which the band instruments were purchased? If the instruments were purchased out of the funds of the company, it must have had power under its articles of association to do so.
– The power is conferred by the welfare provisions of the articles.
– If, under its welfare provisions, Holden’s has the right to establish a baud, and that band may be used for public entertainment, the matter could easily be dealt with ‘under paragraph b. I believe in the principle of unfettered broadcasting by A class stations; but I object to the commission being given the right to decide what is an advertisement. Either let A class stations acknowledge over the air the programmes supplied by every organization, or delete the provision altogether. Holden’s band, for example, may be permitted to broadcast, even though the matter used may or may not be an advertisement; but Simpson’s band may be prohibited from announcing its programme over the air. I ask the committee, if it believes in the principle of sponsored programmes, to allow all companies to enjoy this privilege.
– “Would not the honorable senator trust the commission to act fairly?
– Of course, I would. But I do not believe in discriminating between those companies that shall and those that shall not have the right to broadcast. That would be unfair and unjust. It would be impossible for the commission to say what was, and what was not an advertisement.
– The dominating feature of the clause is the prohibition of advertising by A class stations. That is a feature to which, I think, the committee will fully subscribe. The exceptions provided for in paragraphs a and b, have not been objected to by the honorable senator. Paragraph c has been included to meet two or three cases relating to the rendering of some of the best class of band music in Australia. There is the Malvern Tramways band, in Victoria, which might bo regarded as an advertisement of the tramway system; Holden’s band, in Adelaide, which is connected with a motor-body building company, and being run by that company, might be said to advertise their works ; the excellent Newcastle Steelworks band; and a band in Tasmania, which is supported by an industrial organization in that State. We do not wish to deprive the people of Australia of the music that these bands supply; consequently it is suggested that the discretion provided for by the clause should be given to the commission. I ask the committee to agree to the clause as it stands.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 23 (Collection of news).
– I think the Minister will agree that this clause gives much wider powers than are necessary. I ask him to have it recast. There can be no objection to the commission collecting news, but if it be permitted to distribute that news in such manner as it thinks fit, it may- be empowered to publish a newspaper, or to do anything else. The clause goes on to say that the commission may establish and subscribe to news agencies. I do not know exactly what news agencies are; presumably Reuter’s or some such institution is contemplated. Every bookseller and news vendor in the country is called a newsagent. One cannot say what construction might be placed on those words. I shall not move to amend the clause at this stage, because I wish to hear what explanation the Minister has to offer-, but I suggest the deletion of the words “ distribute in such manner as it thinks fit “, and the substitution of the words “ transmit from all the national broadcasting stations “. I further suggest the deletion of the words “ establish and “.
– I understand that the word “ distribute “ was inserted in another place, and that the provision was taken from the charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation, which contains the following words : -
To collect news and all information relating to current events in any part of the world, and in any manner that may be thought fit, and to establish and subscribe to newsagencies.
There may be some misunderstanding regarding the provision relating to the establishment of newsagencies. I therefore move -
That the clause be postponed.
Motion agreed to; clause postponed.
Clause 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 (Bands and orchestras.)
– The word “ rendition “ appears also in this clause. I suggest the substitution of the word “ performance “.
– I always listen with interest to any criticism of my honorable and learned friend, but on this occasion
I believe that it is slightly hypercritical. I have had this matter inquired into, and I find that the word “ rendition “ - to which, I confess, I myself had a sort of inherent objection - is defined in Webster’s as follows : -
The act of rendering; the act of representing; setting forth; reproducing artistically; interpreting or performing.
In the Oxford Standard Dictionary, a variety of meanings are given, including the following: -
Translation; rendering; action of rendering; performing; giving out.
I notice that the letters “ U.S.” appear in conjunction with the definition in this work.
-It gives the meaning that is adopted in the United States of America.
– The meaning that I attach to it is “ reproducing artistically”, and on that ground I do not know that any objection can be offered to its use. If there is not true harmony, I shall have the clause recommitted.
– I do not consider that a lengthy explanation is required of the dictionary definition of the word “ rendition “. It seems to me that the powers and functions exercised by this chamber, and by the Commonwealth Parliament generally, are so omnipotent and allpervading that, if the definition does not suit us, we can pass a short bill to alter it. We are capable of doing whatever we care to undertake. This extreme adherence to the exact meaning of the English language is somewhat strange in conjunction with the absolute disregard of the elementary principles of British justice that has been associated with recent actions of this Parliament. Surely we need not bother so much about the letter of the law, when the spirit of it is entirely ignored! I commend these considerations to honorable senators, and urge them not to waste time upon a definition of the English language by Webster, who, after all, was an American, and might be expected to hold American ideas of justice.
– Does the honorable senator believe in the “ rendition “ unto Caesar of the things that are Caesar’s, and unto Lang of the things that are Lang’s?
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.30 p.m.
– I do not intend to discuss the wording of the clause to which reference has been made earlier in the debate, but to refer to the provision generally. I think it desirable to make it permissive rather than mandatory, by substituting the word “ may “ for the word “ shall “. There has been a good deal of discussion lately with respect to the formation of an Australian national orchestra, with which I have every sympathy. It has even been suggested that the advice of Mr. Verbruggen, who once conducted the. orchestra at the Sydney Conservatorium, should be obtained in connexion with the formation of such an orchestra. In my opinion, music has never received sufficient consideration from the Commonwealth or State authorities. . Certain general sums of money have been contributed to universities, part of which has been spent in the production of good music, but music, as such, has received very little consideration from the Commonwealth or State governments. Whatever has been accomplished has been the result of individual and private effort. Any one who knows anything about the formation or control of a national orchestra realizes that such an undertaking is exceedingly difficult. As a member of the committee controlling an orchestra in South Australia some years ago, I have had some experience in matters of this kind. The fund which enabled that orchestra to be carried on was provided by private individuals, and, as some of the contributions amounted to £100, they were made by people who according to Senator Lynch are frequently described as Shylock bondholders. I do not wish to go into the financial details of that orchestra further than to say that its funds are now very much depleted. That has been the experience whenever an attempt has been made to conduct State orchestras in Australia. We know that enormous sums have been contributed by private individuals in the United States of America towards the formation and control of national orchestras, all of which have been conducted at a loss. We are, therefore, safe in assuming that, if a national orchestra were formed in Australia, it, would not be able to pay its way. Even in Vienna, where music of the highest standard is produced, the State opera house is always conducted at a loss. In these circumstances it is only reasonable to repeat that a national orchestra in Australia would show a loss. Further, it would be difficult to determine the nature of the orchestral music to be provided, particularly in a case of this kind, where all tastes have to be catered for. Some listeners-in favour only music of the highest class. A large number possess some knowledge of music, and are interested in it. Others; who have no knowledge of music in an educated sense, like to hear a good time, even if it should be only the latest jazz number. There is the danger of concerts rendered by a national orchestra being what may be termed of a “ highbrow “ nature, and, on the other hand, of music being provided which should more properly be broadcast by B class stations. By all means let us have a national orchestra if we can afford it; but, in view of our present financial position, it does not seem that we are justified in launching out on such an undertaking. If the clause, which provides that “ the commission shall endeavour to establish . . . groups of musicians for the rendition of orchestral, choral and band music of high quality,” is passed in that form, difficulties may arise, in view of the cost that would be entailed. There are two other factors which make one hesitant in supporting the establishment of an entirely efficient orchestra. First, those listeners-in in possession of efficient wireless sets are in a position to pick up music broadcast by the best orchestras in other parts of the world. Secondly, if that is impracticable, such broadcasts can be relayed. I do not agree with the contention of one honorable senator that a national orchestra should be formed for the purpose of providing occupations for persons who have had no real musical training. A first-class orchestra cannot be formed in that way.
– That was not the reason.
– There is no more justification for supporting the clause on those grounds than there is for excluding the importation of valuable books merely because they can be published in Australia.
– Some of our be.=t’ musicians are playing in the streets v>day.
– 1 have heard a number playing in the streets in Adelaide who would not be a credit to a national orchestra. I have had the privilege of hearing some of the world’s greatest orchestras in the bes opera houses, and all I can say is thai comparing one with the other, the Adelaide street musicians have very little claim for inclusion in a national orchestra. It appears that streetmusicians are tolerated merely because of the unfortunate position in which the? are placed.
– They would play better music had they the opportunity Udo so.
– Th,type to which I refer are quite unsuitable for inclusion in an orchestra suck as is suggested in this clause. There mav be a few exceptions, but I have not heard them. The committee has already dealt with the encouragement of local talent under an earlier provision, so that in discussing this clause Ave should look a little beyond the encouragement of local performers. I trust that one of the commissioners to be appointed will be fully qualified in musical matters, and I suggest that it would be desirable if the other members of the commission possessed some real knowledge of and a taste1 for music. I have had opportunities to form an opinion as to the difficulties of compiling programmes of music to be rendered by orchestras. Those entrusted with such work have to provide music that will appeal to the tastes of all sections of the community, not merely to lovers of classical music. This is a measure under which the taste for good music may be cultivated. I do not wish to stand in the way of establishing a national orchestra; my tastes are in the opposite direction. But taking into consideration the financial- position of the country, and the fact that national orchestras are conducted at a serious loss, the best the committee can do in the circumstances is to substitute the word “ may “ for the word “ shall”, thus giving it sufficient time to consider the best policy to adopt.
SenatorFoll. - In any case will it not be the duty of the commission to pay a large sum of money to musicians?
– Yes, but under this clause it is mandatory upon it to attempt to form an orchestra.
– The clause provides that the commission “ shall endeavour.”
– The amendment I have suggested would not in any way limit the powers of the commission, and I trust that it will be adopted.
. - The words employed in this clause are capable of being construed in two ways. The word “ shall “ is mandatory, but is governed by the word “ endeavour.” The Government believes that the- commission, within its discretionary powers, should make an effort to form the nucleus of a national orchestra. [ have no objection to the substitution of the word “may” for the word “ shall “, although I think that the words “ shall endeavour “ meet the case. Senator Duncan-Hughes also referred to the necessity for appointing to the commission persons qualified in music in its highest branches. I take it that this body will consist, not entirely of musicians, but also of professional and university men, and will, generally speaking, be a well-balanced body. The commission will have regard to the factors mentioned by the honorable senator. Because of my physical infirmity - I happen to be tune deaf - I am not able to take part in the controversy regarding the quality of music provided in the streets of Adelaide or elsewhere. I understand only one instrument which, I may add, is not usually favoured at any broadcasting station.
– The amendment, if adopted, would make the provision altogether too innocuous. To say that the commission “ may endeavour “ to do certain things really means nothing at all. I would prefer to see the clause deleted.
Senator HOARE (South Australia) pass the clause in its present form. If the commission goes about the business of establishing a national orchestra it will certainly utilize the services of a considerable number of talented Australian musicians who, at present, are without, employment. I disagree with those honorable senators who assert that good music is not to be heard in the streets of our capital cities. Instead of giving encouragement to musicians from overseas, we should do everything possible to encourage local talent.
Clause agreed to.
The commission may, if it thinks fit, appoint committees to advise it in relation to all or any matters …
– I move -
That the words “ may, if it thinks fit appoint committees “, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ shall appoint a committee in each State.”
This clause provides for the appointment of . advisory committees. It is highly desirable that there should be an advisory committee in each State, but unless the appointment of such committees is made mandatory, it is not at all likely that one will be appointed in Western Australia for some considerable time to come. The. commission will probably be domiciled in this remote and bleak Federal capital city, or in Sydney, so that in actual working it will depend upon recommendations made by the managers of the national broadcasting stations. Our experience is that Western Australia is always the last State to get consideration from governmental bodies domiciled in the Eastern States. Some time ago the Government approved of the erection of five or six new regional stations, ail of which have been built, with the exception of a proposed - new station at Katanning in Western Australia. Although I have mentioned this matter on several occasions during the last two or three years, the Government will not let the Katanning contract. I, therefore, hope that there will be an advisory committee in each State, so that the interests of the more distant States will not be neglected, and also for the protection of the increasing number of holders of licences.
– In its present form, the clause will enable the commission to use its discretion in the appointment of advisory committees. The commission itself will probably be functioning from either Melbourne or Sydney, and being, as it were, at the locus in quo, it should not require the services of an advisory committee in the State in which it has its headquarters; but, doubtless, it will deem it necessary to appoint one in each of the more distant States. In addition, it may need technical assistance from some of the professors who are lecturing in the higher sciences at our principal seats of learning. I, therefore, suggest that, having regard to the circumstances which I have mentioned, the honorable senator should withdraw his amendment, otherwise it will be obligatory on the commission to appoint an advisory committee in each State, whether it be necessary or not.
– Will advisory committees be appointed in the more distant States?
– That is the intention.
– Can the Minister also promise that the projected broadcasting station at Katanning will be built?
– I cannot do that; but the honorable senator must know that a new station is being erected at Perth.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 27 agreed to.
The moneys paid into the fund shall he applied by the commission as follows: -
– I move -
That the following proviso be added: - “ Provided that no payment shall be made to the Australasian Performing Eight Association except in respect to copyrights which have been registered in Australia “.
Yesterday, when speaking to clause 16, I urged the inclusion of this proviso, but was advised that its proper place was at the end of the clause now under discussion. It is not necessary that I should repeat the arguments which I used yes terday. Similar legislation in the Dominion of Canada has given some protection to the people, because the Performing Right Association is required to lodge with the Registrar-General1s., or the equivalent in Canadian currency, for each piece of music or copyright work in respect of which it claims a royalty. It will give the broadcasting stations and the general public some protection if the wings of this mysterious association are clipped.
– In the minds of the general public there is a good deal of sympathy with the view expressed by Senator Johnston; for it is felt that something should be done to adjust the position between the Performing Right Association and the public. But the amendment asks that association to do something that is not provided for in any law of this land - something, moreover, which we may be unable to provide for in view of our international relations. If the amendment is agreed to, the Performing Right Association may put a ban on the use by the commission of any of the music of which it claims to hold the copyright. Had a law similar to that of New Zealand and Canada been passed in Australia, the amendment might be in order; but, as things are, it would entitle the commission to ask for the use of property - I use the term in its widest sense - and pay nothing for it, unless the Performing Right Association complied with a condition with which, as the law stands at present, it could not comply. I promised yesterday to reconsider the clause’ dealing with the reasons for the termination of the services of a commissioner, with a view to providing that a member of the Performing Right Association shall not hold office as a member of the commission. With that further protection, I think we may well leave the commission to look after itself. It may be that the £30,000 which last year was paid to the Performing Right Association was a reasonable sum. On the other hand, it may have been excessive. At present no one can say. In the circumstances, I appeal to Senator Johnston not to press his amendment. Whatever our individual opinions, we must recognize that the Performing Eight Association has some legal title, possesses some property, and has an undoubted right to recover from persons using the music for which it holds a copyright. We can safely trust the commission to see that it is not mulcted in greater levies than should be made on it.
– This is the first chance we have had of doing anything to obtain redress from the claims of the Performing Right Association.
– The amendment asks that association to do the impossible. This is a difficult question with which succeeding Attorneys-General have wrestled for the last five or six years.
– The association is not treating the public justly.
– Before the association was formed, composers of music and poetical works received little or nothing for their compositions. They are entitled to some payment.
– We do not question that.
– It may be that there have been abuses in the past; but if some such organization did not exist, composers of musical and other works would receive no recompense for their labours. The Government is considering the holding of a public inquiry, with the object of adjusting the differences between the Performing Right Association and those on whom it makes levies. I, therefore, appeal to the honorable senator not to press his amendment.
– There is a consensus of opinion that the public is not being fairly treated by the Performing Right Association. I can assure the Minister that this is a live question throughout Australia. The people are looking to the Commonwealth Government to protect them from what they regard as the excessive levies” made by the association. In other countries, governments have dealt effectively with this matter.
– My advice is that the action taken has not proved effective.
– In Canada and New Zealand the position is much, better than it is in Australia. So far, no attempt has been made in this country to deal with this matter. Are we to allow the long-suffering public to pay toll to this association indefinitely, without calling upon it to produce its authority for collecting fees in respect of copyright ? At present, the onus of proof is thrown on those against whom the levies are made. This is an opportune time for us to throw the onus of proof on the Performing Right Association.
– Every time a case has been taken to court, the verdict has been in favour of the association.
– It may be that rather than fight this association, which appears to have almost unlimited resources, aggrieved persons have paid the fees demanded by it; that they have been intimidated into doing . so. It is time that the Government allayed the feeling of unrest in the minds of the public with regard to this vexatious question. It seems to me that we shall go a long way if we provide that before the association can collect fees, it must register its copyright; we should throw on it the onus of proof. The royal commission which investigated the moving picture industry was informed that representations were made by the Performing Right Association to the descendants of the composers of musical and other works to give the association a power of attorney, under which authority it could levy toll on those who made use of those works in public; a small percentage of the fees so obtained to be paid to the persons giving the power of attorney. That is going on to-day. It is useless to turn to the State Governments, either individually or collectively, in this matter; it is” the duty of the Commonwealth Government to take action. I am not impatient with the Government, for I know that it has not overlooked this matter ; but I feel that it should . make some public pronouncement to the effect that it intends to throw the onus of proof on to the association in order to protect the public.
– I hope that the committee will reject the amendment, and accept the advice of the Minister. This question of copyright affects a wider field than that of wireless broadcasting. I have for a number of years been connected with certain charitable organizations in South Australia. Some time ago one of them wanted to perform one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas which had not been pre.duced in Adelaide for a number of years. Although the performance was booked to take place in a suburban hall, the- organization was asked to pay twenty guineas for the right to perform the opera. The Minister has. given an assurance that this Government is continuing the inquiry initiated by a previous government into the ramifications of the Performing Right Association. I should like a full investigation to be made by an independent committee of, say, three persons, presided over by a man with a legal training. The committee’s report should be presented to Parliament with a view to the introduction of legislation to deal with the subject of copyright in all its aspects. I am afraid that if we pass the amendment, it will appear that this mattor has been dealt with, whereas, in fact, it will be only tinkering with the subject. The position is not so easy as some honorable senators appear to think. It is an intricate and complicated subject.
– The only easy thing is to do nothing.
– It is not a question of doing nothing, but of doing something which we have Doth the power and the right to do. The Performing Right Association is not without its rights.
– “We do not seek to deprive it of its rights; we merely ask that they be defined.
– This amendment will not define them. The question of copyrights should be investigated in all its aspects, not’ alone in its relation to broadcasting. The Minister has told us that the Government has not lost sight of this matter.
– What does that mean ?
– I take it that the honorable senator accepts the word of the Minister, in which case, he must believe that the Government is investigating this matter, and that a report will be brought before Parliament at the earliest possible moment. Having given the subject a good deal of thought, I urge the Minister to consider the appoint ment of a spp nal committee to inquire into it, take evidence, and make a full report, the committee to be vested with the powers of a royal commission. In the meantime, I suggest that we do not put in this bill something which, in my opinion, is foreign to its purpose.
– I point out to Senator Herbert Hays’ that the Government has not been inactive in regard to this matter. In 1928, Professor Sir William Harrison Moore attended the International Convention on Copyrights at Rome, . and a report is” to be found on the files in the Attorney-General’s Department of what transpired there. Speaking from memory, I believe that the report is to the effect that .the governments which signed the convention were almost unanimously of the opinion that the title of the Performing Right Association was something which ought to be respected. In 1930 or 1931, the British Government held an injury into the matter, and I have recently secured a copy of the report and the conclusions arrived at. That Government hesitated about introducing legislation to deal with this very complex and difficult subject. I took an opportunity, during the last parliamentary recess, to ask some of my Canadian friends for a report, which, I believe, is just to hand, concerning the operation of the law that has been adopted in Canada with regard to copyright. I have also received a report regarding the position in New Zealand. Immediately I have a chance to do so, I shall, with the law officers of- the Crown, examine both reports, with a view to seeing whether we can do anything to remove the public doubt that exists regarding the reasonableness of the charges made by this association.
I .suggest to Senator Johnston that it would” be tremendously difficult to have hundreds of thousands of pieces of music registered. It would involve the setting up of expensive machinery, and that is one of the aspects on which I have sought the advice of the Canadian and New Zealand Governments. Upon a casual examination of the files, T gather that the position in New Zealand is not altogether satisfactory. Honorable senators who have a knowledge of the law will realize that the Government has definite limits placed upon it in regard to this matter on account of its international relations. In my examination, I have cleared the ground to this extent - that I do not anticipate any difficulty in regard to the establishment of title, and, probably, registration ; but there is a doubt in my mind whether I should set up expensive machinery in connexion with the copyright branch. Until I have that aspect of the matter investigated, I cannot make up my mind what my recommendation to Cabinet will be. If I should find that the setting up of machinery on the basis of a small registration fee of ls. would not be satisfactory, I should have to consider whether we could not deal with the matter by some rule of thumb method; and that is where my material is, at the present moment, lacking. I pointed out yesterday that about £30,000 a year is paid to the Performing Right Association by way of royalties on music that is broadcast from A class stations, and I repeat that that may or may not be an unreasonable charge. I ask honorable senators to remember that if the commission is brought into being, one of its first duties will be to regulate its own relations with that association. The commission will have to consider whether it should pay more or less for the privilege of broadcasting certain music, and it will have every opportunity to investigate the practical side of the matter.
– The Australian Broadcasting Company has been able to do nothing with the Performing Right Association.
– The commission will be an independent unit, whose sole duty will be to protect the rights of the public in regard to broadcasting. Let us assume that Senator Johnston’s amendment is accepted. It must be remembered that the Performing Right Association has been successful in every claim that it has prosecuted in Australia, with one exception, and that, I believe, was an appeal from my own State. If the commission attempted to broadcast music, over which it had royalty rights, the first action of the association would be to restrain it from doing so,, and then we should be entirely deprived of much of the music which passes over the air every night. We should thus be creating a kettle of fish which would boil up at once, for legal action would immediately be taken to restrain the commission from using this music. I have examined the subject up to a certain point, but I have not gone into it to my complete satisfaction. It is an important subject from the public point of view, and some action will have to be taken. I was in communication with the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) before he left Australia for Geneva, and have received a letter from him written when he was crossing the Indian Ocean, giving his views. I am still considering the matter at every opportunity. The amendment would create confusion, and would be, I think, a little unjust in its incidence. During the coming parliamentary recess - if there, should be such an interval - I shall look into this question, and decide what recommendation to submit to Cabinet, either on the lines suggested by Senator Daly, or on those hinted at by myself. I ask Senator Johnston not to press thi? amendment.
– It should be made perfectly clear that no honorable senator who has spoken is opposed to the association obtaining the royalties to which it is entitled. Senator Daly said, that, when a certain opera was to be performed in a suburb of Adelaide, an amateur dramatic society with which he was once associated received a demand for twenty guineas for the right to present the play; but, in that case, the licensee could show that he was entitled to demand royalty. I have sympathy with the Performing Right Association, and I consider that it discharges a useful function. What annoys the great majority of the people of Australia is that, if one asks the association for the right to perform a certain piece of music, it will not furnish a definite reply, but says in effect “ You perform it, and then we will find out whether we are entitled to collect royalty from you.” That attitude of the association is causing all the trouble, and something must be done. I am in sympathy with the Minister, and, if he is prepared to submit a definite proposal in the near future, I shall be content; but
I am not willing to let this matter go entirely by the board.’
.- I was associated with an amateur theatrical company for a number of years. When we were desirous of producing certain plays, we went to companies such as J. C. Williamson Limited, and asked to be informed. what royalty would have to be paid. Take, for instance, an opera such as Lilac Time.
– The music of that is copyrighted.
– Most of the music is by Schubert, and I should like to see the original title to that music.
– There is a copyright in the adapted music as well as in the original- master’s, and it runs from the date of the copyrighting of the adaptation.
– When Going Up was presented by the company to which I am referring, we asked J. C. Williamson Limited to make the music available to us. The company would have been prepared to show us its licence, and it replied that its charge would be say, £10 for the first night and £8 for each of the five nights following. This company was willing to show us ite title, but the Performing Bight Association refuses to give any information as to whether it holds a copyright over particular music, or how much it charges by way of royalty. In many cases it claims royalty after the performance. It holds a pistol at the head of the public, and, in almost every case in which it has gone to a court, it has obtained a verdict for the full amount claimed. Ordinary citizens cannot resist its claims by taking costly legal action, because it is well known that the association consists of a syndicate of wealthy persons who could ruin their opponents in a legal battle. This association is the only body which states that it holds copyrights, yet refuses to produce its title when asked to do so. That is the principal complaint made against it. If it were compelled to register its copyrights, as has been suggested, performers could ascertain before presenting a play how much would be charged by way of royalty. In the case to which I am referring, the proceeds were devoted to charitable causes. I doubt if it would be possible to-day to find even descendants of the authors of many of the musical numbers upon which royalties are charged.. Probably few people take the trouble to ascertain who are the authors of old music, such as “Love’s Old Sweet Song”, that enjoys a worldwide popularity, and is sung at practically every village concert from one end of Australia to the other. A charity organization may include such music in a concert programme, and on the following day have a pistol presented at its head by the Australasian Performing Bight Association. I cited yesterday the case of an orchestra that rendered musical items in a hotel in Brisbane. On one occasion no copyrights existed for the music that was being played ; but, merely to oblige a couple of ladies who entered the lounge, “ Rose Marie “, or some similar piece, was played from memory, no score being available at the moment. On the following day, it was learned that these two ladies had acted as spies for the Australasian Performing Bight Association, and a claim lodged by the association for breach of copyright had to be satisfied. If the association will stoop to that kind of thing to extract fees, to what depths will it not descend in its blackmailing practices I trust that the bill will contain an adequate safeguard against the continuance of such a state of affairs in Australia.
– It appears to me, as a sort of listener-in, that the remedy in this matter lies with the authority that issues the copyright, not with the commission. If it will not safeguard the public against being unduly levied upon, the Copyright Act should be altered so as to compel the Australasian Performing Right Association to carry out its duties a little more assiduously, and with greater consideration for the public interest. Compositions like the “ Old Village Blacksmith “ appeal to the best instincts. That cannot be said of the jazz productions of the present’ day, which Paderewski characterized as “ the triumph of the nigger over the white man”. If the Australasian Performing Right Association can show that it is armed with authority to levy on the public because of the possession of copyright, that is the end of the story.
Whether the copyright is obtained by fair means or foul, the public has no remedy.
– We are not worrying about that, so long as they have the title. The objection is that they claim copyright fees, and throw on the one against whom the claim is made the onus of disputing their right to levy the charge.
– If that be so, we can find refuge in the authoritative statement of the Minister that he intends to make exhaustive inquiries into this very important matter, with a view to seeing what may be done to ensure that the public are given a fair deal.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 29 to 33 agreed to.
Clause 34 (Compensation).
.- I should like the Minister to supply information as to what compensation may have to be paid, and the reason for it.
– Various curious accidents occur in connexion with broadcasting, and frequently cases arise in which men have to be compensated. There are also cases of breach of contract, and that sort of thing. It is considered desirable that the Minister should retain control over the expenditure incurred in this direction.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 35 -
The income, property and operations of the commission shall not be subject to any rates, taxes or charges, under any law of the Commonwealth or a State, to which the Commonwealth is not subject.
. - I notice that the next clause provides that the commission shall be financially self-supporting. This particular clause, however, proposes to exempt it and all its works from taxation. I do not know that that can be considered the right thing to do. As we know, with the inauguration of the commission a number of legitimate businesses that are now being carried on in the Commonwealth will cease to function. The professional musician, the music hall, the theatre of the low, middle, and high classes, and other agencies that in the past have satisfied our aesthetic tastes, will be displaced. The huge army of worthy bread-winners who are thus engaged are regarded by every community as a necessity, and by some of the best authorities as an integral part, and the best part, of society, because of their influence towards higher mental and spiritual development. They will be thrown out of employment as a result of this commission coming into existence, and the taxation that they otherwise would contribute will be lost to the country. If this institution is to be on a self-supporting basis, and fresh ground is to be broken, it should be called upon to pay the rates and taxes that are demanded of other institutions. It will occupy a privileged position, because it will be virtually a monopoly. No monopoly should be exempt from the visitations of the tax gatherer. The clause needs to be re-modelled.
.- I support the contention of Senator Lynch, but look at the matter from a different angle. I should like the Minister to say whether this body will be exempt from water rates, municipal rates, fire brigade levies, and charges for other social services. After all, the commission will be a money-making concern, and will collect large revenues at very little cost. Municipal councils should not be penalized by being deprived of the rates and taxes that such a body should pay. I am- surprised to find that the commission is not to pay rates, taxes or charges to meet the cost of the services supplied by local governing bodies to the properties and buildings under its control. The commission is to assume control of the studios, offices and other accommodation at present used in connexion with broadcasting, and on which rates and taxes are now levied and paid. This will place local governing bodies at a great disadvantage. They should not be precluded from collecting revenue from this source, particularly as they will have to provide certain services to enable the commission to carry on its business.
– It is difficult to understand why the Government should exempt from rates and taxes an undertaking which, to all intents and purposes, is a trading concern. It is quite conceivable that the revenue obtained by the commission may, as one honorable senator suggested, amount to £1,000,000 annually. In order to derive that revenue it must use the services provided by local governing bodies. The commission is to take over certain properties from those who are now making a substantial contribution towards the revenue of this country, but on which, under this measure, no Commonwealth or State taxation can be imposed. Is it proposed that the commission shall not pay any rates or other charges to municipal authorities? I cannot understand why the Government should withhold from State Governments or local governing authorities revenue which has previously been available to them. Unless the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan) can satisfactorily explain why this provision has been embodied in the bill, I intend to oppose it.
– This clause exempts the property of the commission from rates, taxes or charges under any law of the Commonwealth or of a State. Honorable senators will realize that the Government is merely doing what is done in connexion with other governmental instrumentalities.
– Does not the Commonwealth pay municipal rates?
– The PostmasterGeneral’s Department, for instance, does not pay rates or taxes on the properties which it occupies.
– Who pays for the services rendered?
– The commission will be in the same position as if it were not working independent of the Postal Department. A number of the studios and stations at present in use are the property of the Commonwealth, on which no rates or taxes are levied. If Commonwealth land or income taxation were imposed it would merely be taking revenue out of one pocket and placing it in another. It is for the committee to decide whether the Commonwealth is justified in levying a toll upon itself. To do so would be establishing a new principle, as all Government instrumentalities are exempt from such rates and taxes. The public will get the benefit of a good deal of the revenues collected by the commission, which is not a moneymaking concern.
– What is the position with respect to municipal rates?
– Water and sewerage rates are paid on some Commonwealth properties, but they are exempt from other forms of taxation. A railways commissioner, although an independent unit in a body corporate, does not pay rates or taxes on the property under his. control. The policy adopted in the past - that all Government instrumentalities shall be exempt from Commonwealth or State levies - is being followed in this instance.
SenatorE. B. JOHNSTON (Western Australia) [3.52]. - The Commonwealth Bank pays rates on all properties under its control.
– It makes a voluntary contribution.
– I have repeatedly read in the press of municipal councils receiving cheques from the Commonwealth Bank for the full amount of rates on the basis applied to ordinary taxpayers.
– But it is purely voluntary.
– Yes. The Commonwealth Bank does not take advantage of its legal position; it observes its duty to the local governing authorities in the districts in which it is operating. I submit that this commission will be in exactly the same position, from the public viewpoint, as the Commonwealth Bank. It will be a serious matter for the local governing bodies if, year after year, new governmental activities come into existence which will occupy land and buildings on which no rates or taxes can be imposed. It is true that, generally speaking, rates and taxes are not levied on railway property, but many of such properties are leased to private persons, and return a revenue in the form of rates and taxes.
– Which are paid by the lessees.
– In some towns there are 30 or 40 railway cottages on which rates are collected. Revenue-producing activities of the Commonwealth should contribute to local government funds. I cannot see why the commission should not be placed in a similar position to that of the Commonwealth Bank. I do not know whether the Commonwealth Bank has any legal protection.
– If it has, it is greatly to its credit that it does not take advantage of the position it enjoys, but makes its proper contribution towards the cost of the essential services, which it uses and from which it derives benefit. I do not intend to give this commission any legal right to escape from a liability which the Commonwealth Bank, in similar circumstances, voluntarily assumes.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 36 to 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 -
The Postmaster-General shall undertake the provision and operation of all technical services associated with the transmission of programmes, including any transmission and reception for the interchange of programmes with other broadcasting administrations which is mutually agreed upon between the Commission and the Postmaster-General.
SenatorMILLEN (Tasmania) [4.2].- If the clause is passed in its present form, an extraordinary position will arise, because it enacts that the PostmasterGeneral shall undertake the provision and operation of all technical services associated with the transmission of pro grammes. Why should not the technical side of the undertaking be also in the hands of the commission which, we assume, will comprise a body of practical men, competent to deal with all phases of broadcasting? If the PostmasterGeneral is to control the technical services, he will be responsible for the most important phase of the whole business. I have serious objection to this proposed arrangement. The Government has more than 50 per cent. interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, which body has been eminently successful in the carrying out of highly technical work not only in the laboratory but in the actual field of operations, and has more practical information than any other service in the Commonwealth. If the commission needs technical information it can easily obtain it from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, or failing that company, from the research department of the Postal Department, or from the British Broadcasting Corporation. The clause in its present form will hamstring the commission. I hope that it will be rejected.
– In my second-reading speech, I endeavoured to explain why it was deemed advisable to retain for the Postmaster-General responsibility for all technical services associated with wireless broadcasting. For reasons which I then advanced it has been thought advisable that, for the time being, the commission should discharge the functions now being carried out by the present body controlling broadcasting, and that the Postal Department should be responsible for the technical services. Possibly, at a later stage, the whole of these technical services will pass under the control of the commission or some other body ; but we are advised that for the present, they should remain with the Postal Department which is well equipped to carry on this most difficult work. I am informed that there are on the permanent staff of the Postal Department, 207 highly-trained engineers, having specialized knowledge of the technical side of broadcasting, 2,700 mechanics who are also specially trained for the same purpose, 15 research engineers and 12 specially selected mechanics, as well as technical apparatus, to the value of £28,000j “which may be regarded as the nucleus of the equipment required for well-developed research work. I agree that we have too many arms functioning in the realm of wireless broadcasting, and it was with a view to ensuring a* more satisfactory service to the general public that the Government introduced these proposals. B class stations are not affected by this legislation. -It is possible, as I have said, that eventually the technical side of broadcasting will pass under the control of the commission, but it is not deemed desirable to make such a complete change without fuller information.
– The Minister has told us that certain things cannot be done. I totally disagree with him. There is every reason why the change should be made. The commission can safely be entrusted with full responsibility for the technical services. The fact that the technicians now doing this work are officials of the Postal Department need not prevent this course from being followed, because the commission could, if it thought desirable, take over their services. Under the existing form of control, Tasmania and Western Australia have been placed at great disadvantage. Because of the difficulties in receiving transmissions f from mainland stations except on the most expensive sets, we were promised a new station for Tasmania.
– That was five or six years ago.
– That is so, but so far nothing has been done in that matter. Western Australia is in very much the same position. How will it be possible for the commission to provide adequate programmes unless it has control of all the national broadcasting stations? At present station 3LO Melbourne may broadcast certain programmes which, without relay stations, cannot be received ia certain portions of Victoria, situated at no great distance from that station. It should be the duty of the commission to see that sufficient regional stations are provided in all the States. A commission of business men could quite safely be entrusted with the technical side of the business, because necessary advice is always available for those who are prepared to pay for it. Unless we vest full authority in the commission, Tasmania and Western Australia will not enjoy the services which they are entitled to expect. It has been said that B class stations do not attempt to provide the higher class of entertainment. I do not subscribe to that view. The majority of listenersin in all States prefer to tune in to B class stations for the very good reason that the entertainment value of their programmes is, as a rule, higher that that supplied by the A class stations.
– It is unfortunate that so much confusion has been caused owing to the fact that many provisions in the bill have been taken from the charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The drafting of this clause is faulty. If, at this stage, I were permitted to discuss clauses 46, 47 and 48, honorable senators would see that there is nothing in the argument advanced by Senator Millen, but a good deal in the contention of the Minister. This clause provides that the Postmaster-General shall undertake the provision and operation of all technical services associated with the transmission of programmes. To that end, clause 4!6 provides that he may -
Erect, place, and maintain any electric line which is, in’ the opinion of the PostmasterGeneral, necessary for conveying electric current to a broadcasting station. . .
– The difficulty is in connexion with tenders for the erection of broadcasting stations.
– Clause 46 also provides that in order to carry out certain technical operations the PostmasterGeneral -
Shall have the same powers, and be subject to the same obligations as are conferred or imposed under Part IV. of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1923 in relation to the erection, placing, and maintaining of telegraph lines.
– That has nothing to do with clause 45; they are different functions altogether.
– Clause 45 says that the Postmaster-General shall undertake the provision and operation of all technical services associated with the transmis- sion of programmes. Another clause provides that, for the purpose of providing and operating the technical services referred to, he may do certain things, among them being the erection and maintenance of the electric lines necessary for the conveying of electric current to a broadcasting station. In the one clause we have the words “ provision and operation”, in the other “providing and operating.”
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).I am afraid I cannot allow the discussion to proceed along these lines.
– I was suggesting that the first technical service which the PostmasterGeneral will have to provide is the erection of electric lines to convey the electric current to the broadcasting stations. If the commission undertakes this work, it will necessarily duplicate the staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department. In all the States the Postal Department has its own erecting plant and gangs. The Postmaster-General would probably not be allowed to tender for the erection of these lines; and since we could not expect him to place his erecting gangs and plant under some one else’s control, a duplication would be almost inevitable. In addition to the erection of poles for the conveying of the electric current, the commission is authorized to call on the Postmaster-General to provide, free of cost, certain apparatus such as microphones, pick-up equipment, and all other necessary portable apparatus for occasional or periodical transmission from various places within the Commonwealth. There is a definition of “electric line “, which informs us that that term includes casing, coating, covering, tube, tunnel, pipe, pillar, pole, post, frame, bracket or insulator enclosing materials which are already used in other sections of the Postmaster-General’s Department. “We were told that the commission would not enter any field outside the studio; that its functions would be restricted to arranging programmes, selecting music, and generally directing the work of distributing sound over the air, leaving the provision of other things in the hands of private enterprise. Should there be any doubt in the minds of the committee regarding these things, I suggest that this clause be postponed until clauses 46, 47. and 48 have been dealt with. ‘We shall then know what is meant by technical services. Ordinarily, in an act of Parliament the definition clause is placed at the beginning, so that in the consideration of legislation honorable senators know the meaning of the various terms mentioned; but in this bill the definition, in effect, follows the main clause. Senator Millen wants the commission to call for tenders for the supply of technical services.
– I do not.
– The PostmasterGeneral must necessarily have certain men to carry out different classes of work, and if the commission also is to have its own staff to do similar work, we shall probably find a future government setting up a committee to co-ordinate the work of the two authorities.
– I am surprised at the remarks of Senator Daly. Clause 46 sets out definitely what is to be done, and how it shall be done. It provides that under this legislation the Postmaster-General shall have the same powers and be subject to the same obligations as are conferred and imposed on him under the Post and Telegraph Act. I am not interested in the erection of lines or poles to convey electric current to broadcasting stations - I do not care who does that work - but I am interested in the erection of the stations themselves. It is there that the technical services come in. It is not a question of duplicating the ordinary services of the postal department, which would be ridiculous, but of- erecting stations and locating sites.
– That is dealt with in clause 19.
– It is for that reason that I want this clause deleted. Those matters already come within the ambit of the commission, whereas this clause ties its hands. It will mean that Tasmania and Western Australia will continue to have unsatisfactory programmes.
, - Senator Daly raised a bogy when he said that the commission would have to duplicate some of the staff of the postal department. Should ever Australia be attacked by an enemy ,( we have in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, a body with a most efficient staff, capable of dealing with any situation which might arise in connexion with the transmission of messages. Under clause 19 we have empowered the commission to purchase sites. Our aim is an efficient broadcasting service throughout Australia - something which Tasmania has not yet had; indeed, no earnest attempt has yet been made to provide such a service. I should like to see this clause struck out, and the matters referred to in it left to the commission’s discretion. The government gangs which T. have seen iti the bush erecting telephone and telegraph lines are the slowest I have met anywhere. In the interests of efficiency I hope that these matters will be left to the commission. There are plenty of capable technicians in Australia who are not in the employ of the postal department.
– I hope that the committee will accept my assurance that this is only a passing phase. The Government must be guided largely by the advice it will receive from the commission, both in the matter of technical services, and the other questions which will arise. Later, we shall have to decide whether Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited shall carry out certain functions, or whether that body shall be merged into the post office, -or into the commission; or, on the other hand, whether the commission should be merged into Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and so on. On these and other matters the commission will advise the Government. We have already decided that stations which are made available to the commission shall be operated by it from time to time.
– There is a danger of Tasmania getting no benefit.
– It will be for the commission to say whether the cause of our past troubles lies with the post office or with the authorities which hitherto have dealt with programmes. It would be out of harmony with the spirit of the measure to ask the commission to take over the technical services referred to in clauses 46 and 48. The commission’s duty will be to broadcast programmes; the stations will bo erected by the postal department, and made available to the commission. This bill is not the last word on the subject. It sets up a body to make inquiries and offer advice as to the best course to pursue in the future. I urge the committee to retain the clause as it stands.
– If I were certain that what Senator Millen proposes would improve the broadcasting programmes of Western Australia, I should support the honorable senator, for there is great room for improvement in those services. Speaking of technical services, on those occasions on which I have endeavoured to speak from Canberra to Western Australia all that I could hear were some indescribable sounds which suggested that some monster had acquired the art of conducting a thunder-storm. We ought to be able to speak to Western Australia as clearly as we can speak to any other part of the Commonwealth. Our present postal, telephonic and telegraphic services have evolved from a humble beginning. At one time persons could communicate with their distant friends only by means of letters, which were carried by individuals from one place to another. Later instead of those letters being carried by individuals, the work was undertaken by governments. Then some one discovered the art of telegraphy, and as telegraphy meant that persons could communicate with each other by the new process, this service was also conducted by the same government department which, conveyed letters from place to place. Similarly, when the telephone was discovered, telephonic communication was placed under the control of the same department which dealt with the - other two means of communication I have mentioned. As in the matter of telegraphic and telephonic services, it was . decided to combine the staffs in the interests of economy, so the administrative control of wireless broadcasting was centred in the Department of the PostmasterGeneral, but it was found that the public interest is not adequately served under the present arrangement. During the transition stage of broadcasting, it is proposed to utilize the services of the Postal Department to give the newly created body a chance to get on its feet. The broadcasting department is to have the benefit of the facilities available in the Postal Department. If it is considered necessary that the commission should depend on the technical services provided by the Postal Department, I should say that this bill will enable that end to be secured. I hope that the result will be that Tasmania and Western Australia will be provided with a better broadcasting service than they now enjoy, but I see no necessity to create a new government department. If it is found, in the course of experience, that the new department can draw its sustenance from its own root system, so much the better; but at the present time, every effort should be made to economize. The present policy is to utilize State services for the carrying out of Commonwealth works, and there is no reason why the broadcasting commission should not avail itself of the technical services which the Postal Department can provide.
[4.36]. - I hope that honorable senators do not imagine that by striking out this clause they will improve the chance of Tasmania, Western Australia, or any other State, obtaining new wireless stations, or that the Postal Department is responsible for the unsatisfactory broadcasting service experienced in Western Australia and Tasmania. All departments are subject to the overriding authority of the Treasury and the Cabinet. For the last’ two or three years, each government in power in the Commonwealth has been unable to find money for the erection of the wireless stations asked for, and the responsibility for delay should not be laid at the door of the Postal Department. Portion of the revenue derived from listeners’ licence-fees has gone into the general revenue of the Treasury. That, too, is not the fault of the Postal Department, This clause has no effect on the financial relations between the broadcasting commission and the Government. I suggest to Senator Mill en that there are in Australia to-day two organizations that are capable of providing the technical services required for broadcasting purposes - the post office and Amalgamated -Wireless (Australasia) Limited. It is now suggested by Senator
Millen that there should be a third body for this purpose.
– No; I suggested taking advantage of the technical knowledge of outside experts.
– The honorable senator objected to the post office conducting the technical side of the commission’s operations. Then, either that work must be entrusted to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, or a third authority must be set up for the purpose, which would mean that the Broadcasting Commission would have to engage its own technical staff. In these days of economic stress, when governments are endeavouring to avoid the overlapping of departmental activities, the Minister proposes to allow the post office to continue to supply the technical services required. The commission can determine for itself whether those services are satisfactory.
– The commission could retain the services of the Postal Department.
– Of course. If the commission is not satisfied with its experience of the technical services provided by the Postal Department, it can make any recommendation it likes to the government of the day.
– What is the point of contact between the Postal Department and the commission?
– It is the same as that between the Australian Broadcasting Company and the department to-day. The general manager of the company keeps in touch with the electrical engineers of the Postal Department, which supplies the technical staff required.
– What is the cause of the faulty station in Western Australia?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is a matter for experts to determine. Possibly, the instruments are faulty. It may be that insufficient power is used. The new station at Perth should overcome that trouble. The unsatisfactory plant was taken over from the company that installed it. If we strike out this clause we shall be laying down the principle that we do not desire the Postal Department to provide technical services for national broadcasting. The question at issue is whether we should not provide for the use of those services until the commission has expressed its opinion onthe matter.
Motion (by Senator Dunn) put -
That the committee do now divide.
Thecommittee divided. (Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Ayes . . . . . . 6
Noes .. ….22
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I thank Senator Pearce for one or two of his observations. His was a most remarkable speech. The listeners within Australia will be more than surprised, they will be grossly dissatisfied, when they learn that they are paying largess to the Government for the privilege of purchasing a licence to listen in, and that what they contribute will go into the Consolidated Revenue instead of being earmarked for the improvement of programmes or the erection of stations.
The right honorable gentleman said that I want to set up a third body of technical experts. I want nothing of the sort. The post office employs a number of experts. I suggest that they should pass to the commission, because they will no longer have any work to do in the post office, if the commission is to assume control of the technical side of broadcasting. Let the fees and everything else go to the commission. I do not think that the Government will escape censure when the public realizes that it is seizing a considerable percentage of the fee that is paid. I move -
That the word “ Postmaster-General “, first occurring, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ commission “.
– The position put by my leader (Senator Pearce) surely is inescapable. Are we to set up, under this commission, a similar technical service to that which already is functioning in the post office? The latter must be continued, because land lines for transmission purposes, and other classes of lines, are under its control. This proposal, if accepted, probably would involve an amendment of the Post and Telegraph Act and the “Wireless Telegraphy Act, with a view to vesting in the commission powers that are now possessed by the post office. This is the foundation upon which the whole structure has been built. The commission should have control of broadcasting, so as to watch its repercussions, and to see how it operates. We do not want to be advised by those who are prejudiced in favour of nationalized or socialized control, nor by those who are actuated by self-interest. We desire to do what is best in the interests of the Australian people. That object can be achieved on sound and economic lines only by the means proposed in the bill. The amendment, if agreed to, would oblige the commission to carry on a technical service, and that would involve additional expense. Is it not much simpler to provide that responsibility shall lie with those who now control this technical service? If any fault develops in the service the commission will be able to sheet home the blame for it. Should it occur in the technical service, that fact will be made known through an entirely independent channel; but should the blame be attachable elsewhere, the post office will be able to clear itself. I cannot avoid the conclusion that the logic of my leader is unanswerable. The whole field is open to the commission for inquiry. The service is to function along the lines that are at present being followed, with the exception that expert advice will be obtainable from an independent body in the shape of the commission. I ask the committee to reject the amendment.
– I should like the Minister to explain whether the commission will have any voice in the location of sites for new stations, and in the class of station to be erected, or whether that matter will be left entirely in the hands of the post office. The honorable gentleman might also say whether it will be competent for the commission to seek other advice, if it is not satisfied with what is tendered by the post office.
– I have no hesitation in advising the honorable senator that there is to be the closest liaison between the commission and those who will deal with the location and erection of stations. At the present time, upon highly technical advice, stations have been located to serve 94 per cent. of the people of Australia, but they have not been proceeded with because of financial stringency.
– In the event of a difference of opinion between the commission and the post office what will happen ?
– The technical advisers of the post office must have the last say, because that department has control of the expenditure.
– Could not the commission review and extend any recommendations that might be made?
– It is absolutely essential that it should co-operate with the post office, in order that broadcasting may function in the best interests of a majority of the people of this country. Fading, in certain localities, has been studied very closely, and other technical questions also have been investigated by experts. The information thus obtained is in the possession of the post office, and, in the light of it, the commission may be able to determine what ought to be done. I urge honorable senators not to vote for the amendment.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out (Senator Millen’s amendment) be left out - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– After the vote just taken, the Government should realize that the representatives of Western Australia and Tasmania in this chamber are entirely dissatisfied with the service at present provided by, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) contends that it is not the fault of the PostmasterGeneral, but it is extraordinary to find that when approval was given for the erection of a number of new stations the claims of Western Australia and Tasmania were totally ignored. The only station, although approved at the same time as others, which was not erected was that at Katanning, in the southwestern portion of Western Australia. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have had an opportunity to see the extent to which wireless is used in the homes of the people. Wireless sets are installed in almost every home in the cities and country districts of Victoria and New South Wales. This enables the people to enjoy good music, and to obtain the latest news at the earliest moment. In Western Australia, the position is entirely different.
Our complaint is that in most parts of the State, particularly in the southern agricultural districts, reception cannot be received from the stations in the metropolitan area, let alone those in the Eastern States. Consequently, the number of -wireless licences issued in Western Australia and in Tasmania is much smaller per head of ‘population than in the Eastern States where licensees have the advantage of tuning in to a number of first-class stations. In Western Australia even those possessing expensive wireless sets who reside outside the metropolitan area often cannot get any reception at all.
– Was the station in Western Australia built by. the Postal Department or by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited?
– The correspondence in connexion with the Western Australian station, the erection of which was approved over three years ago, and which has never been built, was with the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Minister for Defence has proved conclusively that it is not the fault of that department. I am sure that Senator Daly, who was Vice-President of the Executive Council in the last Government, will say that it was not the fault of the Administration of which he was st member. That being so, the responsibility must ‘rest with the office boy or the office cat. Decisions in the erection df new stations are always made to the detriment of Western Australia and Tasmania. Residents in the southern portion of Western Australia, even those possessing expensive sets, can hear only the thundering and booming noise referred to by Senator Lynch when they tunc in.
– That is due to the statics, which at present cannot be overcome.
– The climate of Western Australia is just as good as that in Victoria or New South Wales. I maintain that the western State, which comprises one-third of the whole of the Australian continent, should have more than one A class station. The fault for the delay in erecting the new station approved for the south-west of Western Australia rests with the Post master-General’s Department or with the Government. I trust that the Minister will give consideration to the complaints that have repeatedly been made by the representatives of Western Australia and Tasmania. The people in those States are dissatisfied with the technical services provided by the Postal Department.
– The vote which I have just recorded should not be regarded as an indication of hostility towards the Government, but rather as a protest against the inactivity displayed by the authorities in providing Tasmania with an efficient wireless service. Listeners-in in Tasmania have not received fair treatment, and I am anxious to know if they are likely to receive more consideration in the future. If the Government is not in a position to provide the necessary funds to enable a better service to be rendered, surely it does not expect listeners-in in Tasmania to pay the same fee as is paid on the mainland. The Hobart station is a disgrace to the authorities. Many persons in Tasmania who have been paying licence-fees for years, now find that the service provided is not so good as it was three or four years ago. Those possessing valuable wireless sets, who can tune in to some of the big stations on the mainland, cannot obtain any reception from the Hobart station. In selecting the commission the Government- should favorably consider the appointment of a resident of Tasmania. I understand that until telephonic communication is provided between Tasmania and the mainland, substantial improvement cannot be expected.
– I intend to support the appeal made by honorable senators representing Tasmania. I cannot, however, agree to the suggestion of Senator Herbert Hays that a Tasmanian should be appointed to the commission. I do not wish to discuss this subject from a parochial viewpoint; but when it is remembered that two-fifths of the population of Australia are resident in New South Wales, and that listenersin in that State contribute a large proportion of the revenue, the proposal of the honorable senator cannot be justified. The Sydney City Council does as much business in one week as is done by the civic authorities in Tasmania in twelve months. Tasmania’s difficulty, I understand, is due to the fact that it has no telephonic communication with the mainland. In this respectthe service should he brought up to date. I hope, also, that there will be an improvement in the service in Western Australia, but I may add that it seems strange that a violent secessionist like Senator Johnston should be interested in any movement to improve means of communication with the eastern States. I believe that the Government will, through the commission, make every effort to provide improved services in all parts of Australia, but I strongly deprecate the parochial view taken by honorable senators in this discussion.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 46 to 51 agreed to.
Clause 52 -
– As this clause gives extraordinarily wide power to the Minister, I should like to know how it is to be. used. I am strongly opposed to this authority being vested in any politician or any other person associated with politics. Already, it has been exercised in a most reprehensible manner. The Country party has always experienced much difficulty in having its identity recognized whenever requests have been made to allow its leader to broadcast his policy speech. We were told by one arrogant government that we were merely part of the Opposition, and, therefore, were not entitled to have our policy broadcast from an A class station. Even if we do face the electors in association with another party and in support of a combined policy, we claim the right, as a separate political party, to have access to the national broadcasting stations and to broadcast our views. It is not in the best interests of the country that any Minister should have this wide control over the national broadcasting stations. A more independent tribunal is neces sary so that all parties may expect fair treatment.
– I endorse the remarks of Senator Johnston. Not only have we to fear partiality in the exercise of this power by the Minister; we have had actual experience of it. Only recently the leaders of all parties were given access to the national broadcasting stations, but the Premier of New South Wales was expressly, by direct order of the Prime Minister) denied the right to state his views in the same way. I have never heard of a more scandalous exercise of ministerial authority than on that occasion. No party in power should be in a position to treat its political opponents in this way. I regard the clause as a most dangerous one, because, while one party might be in power to-day, it might, following an appeal to the people, be in opposition to-morrow. Consequently, it might not have the same opportunity as other parties to state its views through the national broadcasting stations. Although this Government claims that part of its policy is to place all essential services outside political control, this clause deliberately provides that the Postmaster-General for the time being may interfere with programmes arranged by the commission. The common sense of honorable senators - the knowledge that, following a change in the political fortunes of parties, while their opponents may be out of office this year they may be in office next year - should preclude the possibility of any Ministerial head being vested with such authority as is contemplated in this clause. Assuming that the commission will be well chosen, it would be much better to leave this matter in its hands. I do not for a moment deny that the Government should have the power to prevent certain things from being broadcast; quite conceivably this course might be in the public interest.
– That is the purpose of this provision.
SenatorRAE. - The following clause gives the Government the necessary power. I entirely endorse the remarks of Senator Johnston. Although the party to which he belongs may, I think, be regarded as one wing of the Nationalist party, I believe that the leaders of all parties, including the rival Labour factions, and even the leaders of sub-parties, should have an equal chance to state their views over the air. Rather than deny to any one this right I would err on the side of liberality, and would not object even to a leader of the Communist party being allowed to use our wireless services for this purpose. Ignorance of a party’s aims or gross prejudice to its principles should not influence those in authority to do an injustice to any section of the people. I hope that the committee will reject the clause, because clause 53 gives sufficient power to the Minister to deal with any emergency when in the public interest, it might be desirable to deny to a particular party the use of our national air services. To allow any one political party to sit in judgment on the utterances of another, and to say that it would be against the public interest to allow its views to be broadcast, would be an unjustifiable exercise of ministerial authority.
.- Unless I have a satisfactory explanation from the Minister as to the need for this clause, I shall vote against it. I am not concerned about the Minister’s attitude towards the broadcasting of political speeches, because I think, generally speaking, any Minister can be trusted to deal fairly with his political opponents, but I believe that there should be a limit to the broadcasting of political speeches, for the very good reason that the subscribers will not be encouraged to renew their licences if they get an overdose of politics from the national broadcasting stations. I agree with Senator Rae that, if we appointa thoroughly representative and impartial committee - I believe it will be impartial - it can be entrusted with the whole of the business of broadcasting programmes. I cannot imagine that the men who will comprise the commission will attempt to put over the air anything to which a Minister may take exception on political or other grounds. We have had a good deal of discussion on the technical side of broadcasting, but the principal duty of the commission will be, I take it, to control the programmes to be broadcast. I, therefore, assume that that body will be drawn from all sections of the community, and will include repre sentatives of the musical, sporting, and similar bodies. Unless an item to be broadcast is seditious or blasphemous it is not likely that the Minister will interfere. Nevertheless, I cannot see why we should give this over-riding power to the Government. It is a dangerous weapon to place in the hands of any Minister, and it is not fair to the commission. That body should accept full responsibility for its programmes.
– This clause does not purport to deal with political questions at all. It has been copied from the charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation, in which it was inserted for reasons of international significance. No government can relinquish its right to control what is said regarding international disturbances which may arise from time to time. Clause 52 retains that right, while the following clause meets cases of national emergency within this country. It is not proposed to take from the commission the power to say what shall be broadcast in ordinary circumstances. The commission will be empowered to say whether the public shall have the benefit of listening to Mr. Jones, or Mr. Smith, or to a number of leaders of political parties. That is done with the object of ensuring that the night is not “made hideous for the unfortunate listener. In the past it has been found that speeches sent over the air have sometimes tended to create international disturbances. Clause 4 of the charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation reads -
The Postmaster-General may, from time to time, by notice in writing to the corporation, require the corporation to refrain from sending any broadcast matter (either particular or general ) specified in such notice, and the definition of broadcast matter hereinbefore contained, shall from time to time be read construed and take effect, subject to the provisions of any such notice or notices which may have been given by the PostmasterGeneral….
There is also a provision for revocation such as we have here. The PostmasterGeneral is not likely to issue a notice in relation to some political fight.
– But he may do so.
– If he did so, it would be an abuse of his power. I point out that any such notice must be given in writing, and must assign a reason. If a notice were served merely to prevent Mr. Jones from saying something to which Mr. Smith objected, the reason would be exposed immediately. This is the only form of protection for which we can provide. At this stage in the world’s history there should be some means of controlling inflammatory speeches.
– Does the Minister agree that .all political parties should have equal rights to express their views over the air?
– I can assure the honorable senator that the control sought in this clause is not directed at political speeches at all. That control will rest with the commission, which will know that it must satisfy the listeners who pay their fees. No doubt the commission will take action to prevent listeners from being nauseated by an overdose of politics. This clause seeks to control broadcasting in the way that a government sometimes has to control the press in relation to international affairs.
– “We agree to that form of control.
– In the past the passions of the people have at times been inflamed by the press. ‘ This clause aims at preventing a repetition of such happenings by means of wireless broadcasting. It is not directed at the control of political speeches. A Minister who, for political purposes, issued a notice would be guilty of a dereliction of duty.
– Has- not that been the case in the past?
– I believe that it has. Personally, I should not be afraid to place a restriction on the broadcasting of political propaganda if I thought that such action was necessary for Australia’s safety. At present the world is comparatively peaceful; but we do not know how long that, condition of affairs will continue. Those who have had ministerial office know that sometimes governments take action in matters of international importance of which, perhaps, the public knows nothing. It may be that occasions will arise when the
Prime Minister, the .Minister for External Affairs, or perhaps the Minister for Defence will have to say “Do not broadcast anything relating to this matter.” That is the purpose of this clause.
– The Minister has told us that he has no objection to political speeches being broadcast; but I am afraid that a little too much power is being given to the commission in this connexion. With Senator Foll, I fear that the power may be abused. I propose to move a new subclause to deal with the control of broadcasting -as it affects political parties. I do not forget that the Scullin Government refused Mr. Beasley the right to broadcast his message to the electors of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding that Mr. Lyons, Dr. Earle Page, Mr. Scullin and Mr. Theodore addressed the electors over the air. Nor do I forget that although the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) spoke over the air in relation to happenings at the Premiers Conference, the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Lang) was not permitted to put his side of the case. We on this side would not refuse any__ political party the right to broadcast its message to the people. I would not deprive the Communist party of that right, for it might merely want to let Australia know that the Soviet Government recently purchased 350,000 bushels of Australian wheat, some of which was, perhaps, grown by Senator Johnston or Senator Lynch. According to the Sydney Morning Herald there is every likelihood of that Government buying more of our wheat. I appreciate the definite statement of the Minister that all political parties will be entitled to state their case over the air.
– I rise to- make a personal explanation. The honorable senator has misrepresented me. In replyto (Senators Rae and Foll, I said that the commission would be absolutely independent of the Government of the day in regard to its control of political propaganda, not that all political parties would be free to broadcast their views uncontrolled.
– I should like to know if the
Minister is agreeable to the insertion of a new clause as follows: - 62a. If any political party is permitted to use any A class station for broadcasting any speech or propaganda all other political parties in the State in which such permission is given and use is made of it shall be afforded equal rights in reply as are given in affirmation.
– How would the honorable senator define political parties ?
– If Senator Brennan can assist me to see that all political parties are treated alike in this matter, I shall appreciate his help. I appeal to honorable senators’ spirit of fair play.
– I am prepared to leave the matter in the hands of the commission, which will be independent of governments and oppositions.
– I do not wish the Minister to shelter behind the commission. The present Government has been elected for three years, but other governments that were elected for a similar term have gone out of office before the expiration of that period. If this Government is not prepared to accord to all parties the right to 3tate their case when political matter is broadcast, it may find this clause to be a Frankenstein monster capable of doing it injury. I am convinced that one political party has as much right as another to the use of A class stations. Recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was permitted to speak over the air concerning the doings of the Premiers Conference in Melbourne; but the Premier of New South Wales was not granted a similar privilege. My party is anxious that no such favoritism should be shown.
– I hope that the committee- will retain intact this wise provision. There is no reason why loud-mouthed demagogues should be permitted to make night hideous for listeners. Personally, I should like all A class stations throughout the Com- mon wealth to be prevented from broadcasting political speeches. The B class stations are available for this purpose, provided the usual fees are paid. The national stations should be made use of only by leaders of governments and leaders of official oppositions. It should be remembered that the independent political candidates would regard themselves a.f one-man parties, and expect to be granted the use of the broadcasting service. I take it that the framers of the bill had in mind the necessity to prohibit the broadcasting of information which might cause panic among the people, such as news of fires or floods. The commission will be responsible for broadcasting throughout the Commonwealth, and I am not afraid that the provisions of this desirable clause will be abused.
– I have listened carefully to Senator Sampson. He has been claiming fair play for his State in regard to broadcasting facilities, but he will not support a proposal to secure fair play to all parties when political speeches are to be broadcast. I resent his nonsensical remark about the danger of certain speeches making night hideous. The commission will have power to limit the time to be devoted to the broadcasting of political matter. I would be content if the broadcasting of political speeches through A class stations were to be disallowed. My sole desire is to see that privileges granted to one party are extended to all others. This clause, if not qualified in some may, will open the way to abuse of the broadcasting service. Two instances of gross partisanship were afforded by the denial by the Scullin Government of permission to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) to broadcast his election speech, any by the refusal of a similar privilege to the Premier of New South Wales.
– The Scullin Government also refused such permission to the Citizens League in South Australia.
– I would give the commission power to refuse the use of the broadcasting service, no matter who the applicant might be, but every section should be treated alike. If the commission found that the public preferred musical -and dramatic selections to political addresses, it should refuse to broadcast speeches of a political nature. We know from bitter experience that no matter what political crime is committed by a Minister, his party will stand by him, and resist any attempt to bring him to book.
– This clause is not directed at the political arena.
SenatorRAE. - I realize that it gives the Minister absolute power to determine what shall be broadcast; butI contend that it is capable of abuse. Delicate relations may exist between various nations, and the broadcasting of an inflammatory speech may even precipitate war. I do not wish the Minister to be deprived of the right to assume responsibility in such a case ; but a qualifying clause should be inserted providing that, if authority is given to one party to broadcast political propaganda, similar permission should be granted to others. The honorable senator’s desire may be in conformity with the principles of the strictest integrity and fair play.
-What is the honorable senator’s interpretation of the words “ of any class or character specified in the notice”? Does he think that phrase has anything to do with politics?
SenatorRAE. - I say that the unlimited power which at present exists has been abused twice within the last twelve months. With this object lesson before us, we should at least provide that whatever right is given to one shall be enjoyed by all. What fault can be found with that? I offer no opposition to power being given to the Minister to prevent the broadcasting of any matters that might be considered dangerous. But when there is almost a certainty of abuse, it is not statesmanlike to wait until the abuse has been perpetrated before providing a remedy.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [6.3]. - I move -
That the following proviso be added: -
Provided that all decisions in regard to the broadcasting of political speeches shall be at the uncontrolled discretion of the commission.”
That would leave with the Minister control over emergencies and similar matters.
– It does not meet the possibility of one party being treated differently from another.
. - I understand the underlying principle that Senator Colebatch has in mind, and am not averse to it. But there is a difficulty that I apprehend. The control of broadcasting is vested in the commission. In Great Britain it was found necessary to have a clause similar to this, on the same high ground that I have already indicated to the committee. The very thing that this clause is directed against may be the subject of some political speech, and it would be incumbent, on the commission to come to a decision regarding it. I do not mind clarifying the language, so long as proper protection is afforded. Only the other day, there was on the continent of Europe a glaring instance of statements being made by a quasi-political leader which led to considerable trouble and turmoil. The same sort of thing might occur here. The welfare of the community, in its highest aspect, is what is aimed at by the clause. The language used connotes an absolute lack of relationship with politics. Senator Colebatch’s proposal is well meant, but does not quite fill the bill.
– I intend to support the amendment. If any justification were needed for it, the speech that has just been delivered by Senator Sampson furnishes it. That honorable senator is a prominent Nationalist, who, by a turn of the political wheel, may conceivably become Postmaster-General. He said that, if he had his way, only the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition would be permitted to broadcast from A class stations. In the present Parliament, the Country party is larger numerically in the House ofRepresentatives than is the official Opposition; yet this prominent Nationalist would not permit that party to utilize the broadcasting facilities, although he would accord that privilege to a smaller party. During the term of office of the Scullin Government we had an experience in Western Australia of unfair criticism of a political speech. Sir George Pearce delivereda veryproper speech in the Perth Town Hall, and, without any justification, a few weeks later a supporter of the then Governmentin another place, questioned his right to make it. In the past, this power has been used wrongly against political parties. Since it is impossible to attain perfection, it will be far better to leave in the hands of the commission the power to prohibit political speeches. as suggested by Senator Colebatch, instead of in the hands of a Minister whose office in three years’ time may be filled by a person of a very different political colour.
Question - That the words proposed to be added (Senator Sir Hal Colebatch’ s amendment) be added - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [6.13]. - I trust that the Minister will consider the possibility of adding some proviso that will have the effect of removing from party political control decisions relating to political speeches. He has suggested that he is anxious to do that. If he is, it should be by no means difficult. I fully agree with him regarding the necessity for providing against the broadcasting of undesirable matter. I have had the privilege of broadcasting from A class stations in London. Their unvarying practice is to have handed in to them a day or two beforehand a complete copy of the matter that it is proposed to broadcast. While one is broadcasting, an officer of the station follows the matter, any departure from which by the broadcaster results in his being immediately switched off. Therefore, there really is no difficulty in compelling a broadcaster to confine himself to what the commission decides may properly be broadcast.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Private business taking precedence after 8 p.m.,
Application of the Lang Plan.
– I move -
That it be an instruction of the Senate to the Minister for Trade and Customs, representing Australia at the British Empire Trade Conference to be held at Ottawa, Canada, early this year, that he should urge the conference to accept the three planks of the Lang Plan, viz. -
Reduction of interest payments to Australian bondholders to a flat rate of 3 per cent.
Suspension of interest payments to the British bondholders pending agreement for a reduction of interest to the same level as that paid by Great Britain on her war debts to the United States of America;
The abandonment of the gold standard and the substitution of a goods standard based on production.
The financial and economic depression now affecting practically every civilized country is due almost entirely to the vast expenditure and general waste of money incurred in providing armaments and other war material in order to carry on the Great War, in which the leading nations of the world were’ engaged for over four years. The United States of America, which did not enter the conflict until towards its termination, was, in the matter of trade, placed at a great advantage compared with other nations. While combatants were busily engaged in manufacturing for war purposes, the United States of America was able to secure additional trade, and by that means derive substantial financial benefit. Great Britain having decided to render financial assistance to some of the nations assisting her, was eventually confronted with serious problems, and, after the termination of the war, found the work pf financial and economic rehabilitation extremely difficult. After the Treaty of Versailles had been signed, and the nations of the world were endeavouring to get back to normal conditions, the peoples of all civilized countries were urged to stimulate production in order to rehabilitate industry. Heavy indemnities were imposed upon Germany, Austria and Turkey; but it was soon obvious to everyone that those countries could not possibly meet the payments expected of them. The reparations already made have taken the form not of currency but of goods. Owing to the extensive use of modern machinery, production has become greater than consumption, and international finance generally has for some years been seriously disorganized. The Commonwealth Government having asked the British Government to arrange for certain British financiers to advise the Commonwealth with respect to its financial position, Sir Otto Niemeyer and Professor Gregory visited this country, and after consultation with the Prime Minister and various members of the Cabinet laid down a programme which it was said would help Australia out of its difficulties. The policy which was then adopted as a result of the recommendations of those two gentlemen has since been discarded. Early in 1930, the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Lang) attended a Premiers Conference held in Canberra, and at that gathering he pointed out that unless there was a reduction in interest rates to bondholders he would not support a general scaling down of salaries and wages. He contended that there should be equality of sacrifice. Mr. Lang was not prepared to support the policy of the other State Premiers. When asked by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Soullin) as to the policy he favoured, he said that there should be a general scaling down of interest on our external debt for a period of, I think, 62 years. The basis of that suggestion was the arrangement which had been entered into with respect to the amount owing to the United States of America by Great Britain under which Britain was able ro extend concessions to Italy and Prance. Mr. Lang, who has never in Parliament or elsewhere advocated a policy of repudiation, asked for a moratorium covering a period of two years. His second proposal was with respect to interest on internal debts, which he said should be reduced from 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, to 3 per cent. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) was attending an Imperial Conference in London, Mr. .Lyons, the present Prime Minister and leader of the United Australia party, as Acting Treasurer, submitted a proposal to the Labour caucus which was supported by a majority of its members, for the launching of a conversion loan covering over £30,000,000 worth of bonds held by the Australian people. When practically the whole of that amount was subsequently converted at rates of interest lower than 5 per cent., it constituted an act of deliberate repudiation of a pledge given through the press and in other ways. Although it was originally stated that if bondholders converted their bonds they would be paid a certain rate, it was eventually found that the Government could not stand up to its undertaking and that they would have to comply with the wishes of the Government. Mr. Lang’s third proposition was the abolition of the gold standard and the substitution of a goods standard. Honorable senators will recall that about that time the Central Reserve Bank Bill was under consideration in this chamber, and, at the request of the then Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Robert Gibson, was summoned to appear before the bar of the Senate to answer certain questions in connexion with that measure. On that occasion I asked Sir Robert Gibson whether he favoured a goods standard, and he replied that he did not know what was meant by it. One would have thought that such a distinguished financier would know what was meant by a goods standard, concerning which there are numerous works in the Parliamentary and other libraries, written by expert financial authorities. I do not blame Sir Robert Gibson for evading the question.
– Will the honorable senator tell us what is meant by a goods standard ?
– If the Assistant Minister will give me sufficient time I shall do so. Sir Robert Gibson told the Senate on that occasion that the abandonment of the gold standard would seriously interfere with the efficient working of State instrumentalities, dislocate the social services of the Commonwealth, and lead to chaos. But what do we see to-day? Members in another place are discussing a measure introduced by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) to authorize the shipment of all or part of the remaining gold reserve of approximately £10,000,000 to London, to be held there, in sterling, against London commitments, so that, in the near future, we may or may not have any appreciable sum in gold in the vaults of the Commonwealth Bank. This being so, of what value is the undertaking of the Treasurer, printed on the face of every Commonwealth note, to pay its value in gold on demand at the head office of the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney? I do not know whether this promise by the Treasurer is or is not a confidence trick; but I am quite certain that if I approached Mr. Riddle, the Governor of the bank in Sydney, and asked for gold in return for a Commonwealth bank note, I would meet with a refusal, and possibly the bank authorities would suspect that I had lately escaped from Callan Park. Is the promise of the Treasurer to pay gold on demand a lie, or is it capable of fulfilment? Clearly it is a lie, because we all know that our note issue now is inconvertible. Like many other countries, we have gone off the gold standard.” From 1914 to 1925 Great Britain was off gold. In the latter year it returned to the gold standard, but a few months ago, because of serious financial difficulties, it again abandoned it.’
– Not actually.
– The honorable senator is endeavouring to split straws. It is a fact that Great Britain has gone off the gold standard, as also have many European countries, including Italy and the Balkan States. Japan lately has also been conducting a war without gold as a backing for its currency. The experience of the last few years in Australia and elsewhere has shown that the volume and value of the primary and secondary production of any country are the only true criterion of its solvency. It is probable that, in the course of a few months, following the passage of the bill now before another place to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act, the entire gold reserve now in the control of the Commonwealth Bank will have been sent to London, so we shall have to rely entirely upon the output of our primary and secondary industries for the discharge of our overseas obligations.
The matters which I have mentioned are the three fundamental principles of the Lang plan. Yet when Mr. Lang launched it at the Canberra conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers a year or two ago, he was branded as a communist, a bolshevist, a repudiationist, and ‘ everything that is bad. Time has been on his side. The political ideals which he then championed, and the arguments which he advanced in support of the three main planks of his plan, are now being adopted in many other countries. Mr. Runciman, President of the Board of Trade in Great Britain, Lord Leverhulme, and many other eminent statesmen and economists, not only in the British Empire, but in other countries, also have come into line with the Premier of New South Wales. Many of them, including Signor Mussolini, are advocating the entire cancellation of war debts so as to make possible the rehabilitation of the civilized world. Mr. Al Smith, at one time the Mayor of New York City, has lately proposed a general moratorium with regard to reparations for a period of twenty years.
– He has no official standing.
– He may not have any official standing to-day, but he certainly is an eminent citizen of the United States of America.,, so his views, which in his opinion point the way to world prosperity, are entitled to respect. Mr. Hoover,- the President of the United States of America, realizing the strain which the payment of war reparations imposed upon debtor countries, last year was instrumental in securing a moratorium for twelve months. There is ample evidence on every hand that in their hearts a not inconsiderable section of the commercial and business world in Australia and overseas approve of the Lang plan, but some in this country object that it was launched too crudely; that it might have been introduced in an acceptable form. Knowing Mr. Lang as I do, I am sure that he is animated by the best of motives, and is convinced that as the course he proposes is the right one, if Australian finances are to be restored, the shortest method possible is fully justified.
Very soon a large delegation will leave Australian shores to take part in the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa. In my opinion, that delegation is too large, and will prove to be too costly, but we may leave that matter for discussion on some future occasion. It will have important work to do, and its difficulties will not be any the lighter because of the reported statement by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) that Australia would not at Ottawa seek preferences with regard to wool and wheat. I am aware that the Attorney-General has denied the statement attributed to him, and for the moment I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt ; but when he returns to Australia I shall expect him to state definitely what he did say in Loudon a few weeks ago. If Australia is to obtain any benefit from the Ottawa Conference, its representatives will have to put up a good fight. I hope they will not neglect to press the views which I am expressing to-night. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has admitted that the interest charges on our overseas obligations must be scaled down, but his attitude is, to say the least, somewhat inconsistent. On one hand he is in violent conflict with the Premier of. New South Wales, whose principal aim is to bring about a reduction of interest payments, and, with his eyes on London, Mr. Lyons is pleading on behalf of the Australian people that something should be done to relieve this country of that burden. It is easy to predict the fate of this motion. I have no doubt that it will be defeated. Nevertheless, it will give honorable senators an opportunity to express their views as to the need for, and the method of, bringing about national rehabilitation. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave not granted.
– There being no seconder, the motion lapses.
In committee (Consideration resumed from page 656) :
Clause 52 agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted - 52a. If any political party is permitted to use any A class station for broadcasting any speech or propaganda, all other political parties within the State in which such authority is given and use made shall be afforded equal rights for the purpose of replying as were given in affirmation.
This new clause will ensure that a privilege conferred on one political party shall be the right of all other parties. The Minister in charge of the bill said that it was his desire that all political parties should be dealt with fairly. While not wishing to issue any threat, I point out that if the present Government is not prepared to treat all political parties alike, there is a danger that the precedent so established will react against it, and that a future government may retaliate.
– In this matter the commission must be vested with a discretionary power. In the event of there being ten or twelve political parties in a State, the commissionwould be obliged to allow the leader of each of those parties to broadcast a message to the electors. That would undoubtedly cause inconvenience. In South Australia where there are to-day at least six different political parties, the position would be intolerable if the commission had to allow them all the use of the broadcasting service. In England, only the leaders of the big parties are allowed to broadcast messages to the people, and then only on special occasions, notwithstanding that they have not the benefit of B class stations. I suggest that this matter be dealt with by regulation, which the Senate may disallow. I oppose the amendment for, if it were carried, the benefits which we hope will accrue to the people from this measure could not be realized.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [8.39] - I am not so much concerned with protecting the interests of political parties as with protecting the people of Australia. Under our Constitution, provision is made for the Constitution to be amended by a referendum of the people. It sometimes happens that two political parties take the same stand in regard to the matter referred to the people ; and, strangely enough, the people, instead of regarding that agreement with suspicion, areinclined to support their proposal.
– That has not always been the case.
– We should take care to avoid leaving the control of the broadcasting of political speeches in the hands of the Minister. If Senator Dunn’s amendment is defeated, or is withdrawn, I propose to move the insertion of a new clause to provide that that commission shall have the power to determineto what extent, and in what manner, political speeches may be broadcast. Unless we are prepared to trust to the capacity, integrity, and impartiality of the commission, we had better not proceed with this bill. But if, on the other hand, we feel that we can trust the commission, then we should leave to it, rather than to the Minister, the control of political broadcasting.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [8.42]. - I now move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 52a. The commission shall have the power to determine to what extent, and in what manner, political speeches may be broadcast.”
AsI have already stated, the commission, rather than the Minister, should be placed in control of the broadcasting of political speeches.
.- The chief difficulty that I see in the proposed new clause is that it saddles the commission with a responsibility which may lead it into trouble, especially at a time when the political atmosphere is tense; but, as it gives effect to the purpose which the Government has in view, I accept it.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clauses 53 to 55 agreed to.
Postponed clause 17 (General powers of commission).
– Having given this clause further consideration, I now ask the committee to vote against it.
Postponed clause 23 -
The commission may collect and distribute in such manner as it thinks fit news and information relating to current events in any part of the world and may establish and subscribe to news agencies.
– I propose to ask the committee to delete this clause, with a view to insert a new clause in its stead. The chief critic of this provision was Senator Lawson, and he has agreed to the new clause that I am about to submit. The words to which he took a strong exception were “ distribute in such manner “ and “ establish.”
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That the following new clause bo inserted: - “ 23. The commission may collect in such manner as it thinksfit news and information relating to current events in any part of the world and may subscribe to news agencies.”
Title agreed to.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That clauses 4, 13 and16 be reconsidered.
Clause 4 -
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ National broadcasting stations “ means stations made available by the Minister for the purpose of the transmission of the National Broadcasting Programmes;
– I see no good purpose in altering the definition of “national broadcasting stations.” In dealing with clause 16, the committee stipulated that the commission shall supply the programmes to be broadcast from the national broadcasting stations. A suggestion was made yesterday that we should alter the definition in clause 4, so that all stations, of whatever character, should he made available for broadcasting. I point out, however, that while certain stations, which are to be erected will, no doubt, be handed over to the control of the commission, there may be another class of stations which, though capable of being described as broadcasting stations, will carry out special experiments with regard to such matters as television. It is not desirable to include the latter within the definition of “national broadcasting stations,” and, therefore, it is better to retain the elasticity which the present definition provides. If stations designed for work in connexion with television had to be handed over to the control of the commission, it would interfere with the experimental work of the Postal Department, which is now proceeding.
.- I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation ; but I am still of the opinion that the definition clause needs amendment in the direction that I indicated some time ago. My suggestion was that the definition should read as follows : - “ National broadcasting stations “ means and includes all stations owned or controlled by the Commonwealth Government or any commission, board, or other authority set up by the Commonwealth Parliament or Government or made available ‘by the Government or the Minister for the purpose of the transmission of broadcasting programmes.
It appears to me that the form of definition I have suggested would be in the best interests of the whole community. As an alternative, the definition in the bill should be amended by the elimination of certain words, so that it would read “ ‘ national broadcasting stations ‘ means stations for the purpose of the transmission of the national broadcasting programmes.”
– What is the honorable senator aiming at?
– This matter has been referred by the Australian Federation of Broadcasting Stations to its solicitors, in order to see . whether the “position of B class stations is now definitely safeguarded. It is pointed out by those solicitors, however, that there is one outstanding weakness in the definition of “ national broadcasting stations.” Under chat definition it would be possible for the Minister, at any time while the act was in operation, to establish broadcasting stations which would not be handed over to the commission, and which, therefore, would not come within the scope of this legislation. Such stations could be set up without further legislative authority, and could, if desired by the Minister, accept advertisements for broadcasting. The Australian Federation of Broadcasting Stations has been given to understand that it is not the present intention of the Government to establish stations of that nature; but, in order to guard against such action by any future Ministry, the solicitors to the federation strongly urge that the definition be amended to ensure that it will embrace all stations owned or controlled by the Commonwealth. I move -
That all the words after “means” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the words “ and includes all stations owned or controlled by the Commonwealth Government, or any commission, board, or other authority set up by the Commonwealth Parliament or Government or made available by the Government or the Minister for the purpose of the transmission of broadcasting programmes.”
– This amendment appears to me to cut right across and to conflict with the provisions of the Wireless Telegraphy Act. If it is the intention of the committee absolutely to cramp the style of the Postmaster-General in relation to wireless telegraphy and broadcasting, let that be made plain. But if, on the other hand, it is desired that broadcasting,, which is the subject of this bill, shall be controlled in’ the manner consented to by the committee, let us not do anything that will detrimentally affect that purpose. To insist that the rights conferred upon the Postmaster-General under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, of erecting, maintaining, and using stations and appliances for different purposes, should be abrogated, would have the result of curbing the activities of the department. I want honorable senators to act with their eyes open. I did not quite see the point the other day when this proposal was first mooted.’ What is aimed at is, simply to prevent the PostmasterGeneral from erecting any stations other than those that are to he handed over to the commission. That body will have given into its control the stations that are to be used for broadcasting purposes only.
– Does the Minister mean to say that under this proposal no new stations would be erected in Tasmania?
– It looks to me very much like that. I do not know what the idea is; but it is quite clear that, once the Postmaster-General had handed over the chain of stations that has been mapped out, and those that are in contemplation, he dare not proceed further. It is difficult to explain the subtle distinctions that are drawn. It may be said, however, that a station which is fit for broadcasting is suitable also for a. number of other purposes; whereas a station that may not be suitable as a broadcasting station may be quite useful for some other purpose. Under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, the PostmasterGeneral is entrusted with the power to erect stations. This amendment would prove coercive, and there would be no inducement for him to do more than provide those stations that are required by the commission for broadcasting purposes. Where is the necessity for this proposed provision ? Everything that is needed for the conduct of broadcasting has already been planned or provided, and will be handed over. Why should all stations be made available to the commission? It appears to me that that point has been overlooked. This savours of the protection of B class stations, and I ask the committee to reject the amendment.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [9.5]. - I do not think that there is any doubt as to the object of the amendment; and while there may be something in the Minister’s objection, it is a perfectly valid object. Under clause 22, the commission is prohibited from broadcasting advertisements. It is feared that, because of the looseness of this definition, the Government itself might use stations for the purpose of broadcasting advertisements. If the Minister can suggest any other way of closing that loophole, so that the spirit of clause 22 may be given effect, I do not believe that Senator Payne will persist with his amendment.
– The stations that are required for national broadcasting will be devoted to that purpose. Is it desired to make B class stations a close monopoly’! If it is, I must oppose the proposal.I cannot see any other object in the amendment. The commission will not broadcast advertisements, nor do anything of that nature. The amendment seeks to force into the hands of a commission, under whose control they may be perfectly useless, all stations that are erected in the future.
– Are we to understand that it is the intention of the Government to establish stations for the purpose of broadcasting advertisements?
– No. But why should the right be curtailed that the Government has to-day? Are those who hold B class licences to have a monopoly granted to them? If Senator Payne’s proposal were adopted, that is virtually what would happen. The Government does not propose to engage in advertising, or to compete in any way with B class stations. The acceptance of the amendment, on the other hand, would prevent it from extending the ambit of those stations.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 -
A Commissioner shallbe deemed tohave vacated his office -
– I move -
That the following new paragraph be added to the clause: - “ (f) If he, in any way, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporatedcompany consisting of more than 25 persons -
becomes concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by oron behalf of the commission; or
participates or claims to participate in the profit of any such contract or agreement, or in any benefit or emolument arising therefrom.”
That, I think, is sufficiently elastic to afford protection against the contingencies that formed the subject of criticism by Senators J. B. Hayes and Foll.
– What would be the position of a commissioner who was a director or shareholder of a company that supplied material to, or was interested in contracts with, the commission? Would that disqualify him as a commissioner?
– If the company consisted of less than 25 shareholders, yes.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause also verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 16 negatived.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 16. The commission shall provide, and shall broadcast from the national broadcasting stations, adequate and comprehensive programmes, and shall take, in the interests of the community, all such measures as in the opinion of the commission are conducive to the full development of suitable broadcasting programmes.
– I move -
That the words, “ but shall not engage in manufacturing or trading operations “, be added to the proposed new clause.
Unless these words are added, all the objections raised under the previous clause will remain. Under the proposed new clause, the commission may, if it thinks it conducive to the fuller development of broadcasting, establish factories or engage in trading. Under the measure as originally introduced, the Government recognized the necessity for restricting the powers of the commission by providing that it should not engage in any subsidiary business without the approval of the Minister. The Minister is now asking the committee to grant the commission power to engage in trading or manufacturing. This matter has already been fully debated, and I trust that the amendment I have moved will be acceptable to the Government.
– The Minister was good enough to supply the Opposition with a copy of the proposed new clause, which, to me, seems to meet the position. Will he say whether the words proposed by Senator Johnston to be added would have any legal effect. In view of the decision of the High Court in. the Bunnerong case they seem unnecessary.
– The honorable senator believes in State trading.
– The honorable ‘senator knows my political views on the subject. As the committee has adopted the principle, I do not intend to delay the passage of the bill by discussing an amendment which has no significance.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [9.18].- I do not wish to give the commission power to open factories for the manufacture of wireless sets, or shops in which wireless parts can be retailed. But to provide that the commission shall not. engage in trading in any form, would prevent it from purchasing musical instruments, programmes or records, or engaging in any such business which must necessarily be associated with broadcasting. Some form of trading must be carried on to enable it to function effectively.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Report adopted and bill read a third time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to approve an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the State Government of Queensland with respect to the inspection of meat at the abattoirs of the Queensland Meat Industry Board, Brisbane. At the instance of this department, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) wrote to the Premier of Queensland, on the 27th J anuary, 1931, suggesting that, in order to avoid duplication and overlapping, the inspection of meat to be slaughtered at the State abattoirs at Brisbane - both for local consumption and for export - be carried out by Commonwealth officers. The question was investigated by Mr. J. S. Duncan, Commonwealth Public Service Inspector, who discussed the matter fully with the Premier of Queensland, Mr. A. E. Moore, Mr. Sunners, chairman of the Queensland
Meat Industry Board, and the State Public Service Commissioner. Discussion with the Meat Industry Board revealed the fact that the concentration of inspection of meat, whether for export or for local consumption, in one set of officers would assist in cheapening operating costs, and would enable operators at the abattoirs to find an outlet, for their produce in the export market to an extent which was not possible under conditions then existing. After considering the representations of departmental officers and the Meat Industry Board, Mr. Duncan recommended that it was desirable in the interests of the industry that the inspection of meat slaughtered at the Brisbane abattoirs should be entrusted to Commonwealth officers. Mr. Duncan’s recommendation was accepted by. the Commonwealth Government and by the Government of Queensland, and an agreement to give effect to it has been signed by the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland on behalf of their respective governments. This agreement, which forms the schedule to this bill, came into operation on the 25th November, 1931. It will remain in force for three years, and thereafter until determined by six months’ notice by either party. By this agreement the Commonwealth undertakes - (a) To carry out on behalf of the State the ‘inspection of all meat for local consumption slaughtered* at the State abattoirs, Brisbane; (o) to appoint certain State meat inspectors to the Commonwealth Public Service; (c) to re-appoint any such officers to the State Service on the determination of this agreement should the Commonwealth and those officers so desire. The State agrees to pay to the Commonwealth the cost of - (a) the salaries and allowances of five meat inspectors; (6) providing relief of “such inspectors during leave of absence; (c) superannuation and furlough in respect of these meat inspectors.
The cost of these services is estimated at £1,500 per annum, and the number of inspectors referred to may be increased should the volume of work justify it. In that case the payment to be made by the State will be increased accordingly. The proposal embodied in the bill was approved by the late Government, and has been endorsed by the present Govern- ment. As already stated, an agreement to give effect to the arrangement has been signed; but, under the Constitution, it can have no legal effect unless authorized by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and Queensland. The bill is submitted in order to obtain the’ necessary authority so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. It is understood that legislation will- be introduced into the Queensland Parliament as early as convenient to ratify the agreement.
This agreement is the first of its kind to be submitted for ratification. Others, it is hoped, will be concluded in the near future with the object of eliminating overlapping and duplication in State and Commonwealth services. In this connexion it may be mentioned that the Commonwealth and State governments have agreed that the inspection of fresh apples and pears, both for local consumption and for export, shall be carried out by officers of the State Government Service, and an agreement is now being drawn up for signature on behalf of the respective governments. Negotiations are also proceeding, and have practically reached finality, between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments whereby the inspection of butter at Brisbane, both for local consumption and for export, will be performed by Commonwealth officers.
This measure is submitted in pursuance of a policy of dispensing with overlapping in Commonwealth and State Governmental activities, which has led to unnecessary expense.
– It is not my intention to oppose this measure, which should effect economy in the matter of meat inspection. The Scullin Government proposed to introduce a similar measure. I take this opportunity to direct the attention of the Government to certain articles which have appeared in the press with respect to the Australian meat industry, and which are of sufficient importance to merit its attention. One article appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 3rd March, and another in the Brisbane Standard on the same date. That in the Sydney Daily Telegraph reads -
The stars in their perhaps slightly devious courses are fighting against Australia’s meat producers. First there waB an hysterical out- burst in the still freetrade Star against our meat. Now Sir Edmund Vestey, joint head of the Blue Star Line, pleads for Argentine meat’s vested interests, which are largely Vestey interests. As arguments these effusions need not be taken too seriously. They do show, however, the bitter fight which freetraders and foreign meat interests are making against our meat exporters.
I hope that the Government will note these statements, and see what can be done. The article in the Brisbane Standard is as follows: -
FREE TRADERS AND MEAT SCHEME.
Fighting Hard for Argentine. . ” Dominions Afraid.”
The freetrade interests papers continue barefacedly to stigmatize the meat scheme. A great deal of the meat ramp actually is the freetraders’ ramp. They deliberately issued a document marked “ private and confidential “ to freetrade papers to head the remainder of the press for the purpose of securing a flyingstart for the anti-dominion propaganda. There never was such a burst of freetrade indignation. The public was told to-day that if the scheme was adopted beef would be’ a shilling a mouthful. The freetrade Star rushed reporters to Smithfield, where they were anonymously told that it was practically impossible for Australia to fatten bullocks in less than five years. Even then theywere uneatable, and it was also emphasized that all Australian beef which was frozen might be sold with foreign beef in special shops, necessitating increased marketing costs. If the Argentine’s supply was stopped the prices would soar terrifically. The Star sneeringly asserts that the dominions are scared to death at the prospects of Argentine mutton and lamb wiping them off the market, and adds that the British organized meat trade would fight the scheme to the last ditch.
In view of the fact that the Ottawa Conference will endeavour to evolve a scheme in which British and Imperial preference shall be shared equally among the dominions, I hope that the representatives of theCommonwealth at that gathering will’ do their best to “ scotch “ the views expressed in the articles to which I have referred. I am sure that we have nothing to fear from competition overseas as regards the quality of our beef.
– I cannot allow the second reading of this measure to pass without comment. I agree that our meat industry should be amply protected. Leading Australian citizens who have visited London have been impressed by the arrangements at the Smithfield markets for the disposal of our frozen meat there. Senator Poll, who was in London recently, informed me that it was a sight worth going to see. I did not have the privilege of visiting the Smithfield market, but I nave read a number of adverse criticisms by certain Australians who have impressed our Australian producers that, if they wish to hold the market, they must pay more attention to beef production. They have told us that the Argentine producers are our keenest competitors, and are determined to capture the world’s markets by the production of what is known as “ baby “ beef.
I direct the attention of honorable senators to clause 4 of the agreement, which states -
The State will pay to the Commonwealth on or before the thirtieth day of June in each year an amount representing the cost to the Commonwealth of the work of inspection of meat on behalf of the State as herein provided. Such cost shall comprise the following items, viz. -
the salaries and allowances of five Meat Inspectors Grade 1 ; .
ii ) the cost if any of providing relief of such Inspectors during leave of absence ;
a sum representing the annual charge ascertained by actuarial computation of superannuation and/or furlough accruing in respect of the Inspectors referred to in paragraph (i) above.
In view of the enforcement legislation which has been passed through this Parliament in several instalments of late, what will be the position if Queensland defaults under its agreement?
– What has that to do with meat inspection?
– Under clause 4of the agreement Queensland will undertake to pay the salaries and allowances of five meat inspectors, provide relief for such inspectors during leave of absence, and be responsible for the annual charge necessary for their superannuation benefits. If that State defaults in the agreement, will the Prime Minister call out his special constabulary of 200 braves with their nice little batons, and instruct them to seize all the meat hanging in the Queensland meat works ? I feel sure that the Queensland senators will have something to say about this bill. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Dooley) that as the Australian meat trade is in a very precarious position, it is to be hoped that bur delegates ut the Ottawa Conference will be able to secure some concessions for our producers in the British market. Within the last few day a we have been informed, in the cable news, that Lord Vestey, who is largely interested in the meat industry of the Argentine, has declared that it intends to fight to retain its hold on the English market.
– Will the honorable senator tell us what his people did to Vestcy’s in Darwin, where capital to the extent of £1,000,000 was invested and lost?
-I should be glad if the honorable senator would discuss the bill.
– Yes, Mr. President. Mr. Moore, the Premier of Queensland, has admitted that the State is in a precarious position. This being so, what will happen if Queensland defaults under this agreement ? Will the Prime Minister use force to seize meat in the Queensland works?
. It is not’ for me to tell Senator Dunn officially what would be done by the Commonwealth if Queensland defaulted under this agreement, but I think the general attitude of members supporting the Government on the bill will be this: That until the Government of any State deliberately defaults in respect of any of its obligations, there will be an assumption that it proposes to honour its obligations. If a State defaulted to the extent not merely of the cost of five inspectors as provided in clause 4 of the agreement in this bill, but to the extent of millions of pounds, it would be very difficult for its government to get further credit from the Commonwealth. We may assume, however, that Queensland will honour its liabilities, and I only wish the same could be said of every other State in the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and - Sessional Orders suspended.
Report adopted, and bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Sir Georg* Peak ob) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until 2.15 p.m. to-morrow.
Senate adjourned at 9.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 May 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320512_senate_13_134/>.