16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Use of Militia
– Will the Leader of the Senate statewhat is meant by the report published in the press, and attributed to “ a Government spokesman “, to the effect that the whole of the combat forces in the south-western Pacific had been assigned to General MacArthur ? Does it mean that he can send the Australian Militia to territories outside Australia, without an amendment of any existing statute ?
– The Government has no knowledge of the authority to whom the Leader of the Opposition has referred, and therefore it is unnecessary to reply to the remainder of the question.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.During the recent sittings of this chamber I asked questions regarding mail arrangements at certain points on the TransAustralian Railway, and the PostmasterGeneral undertook to investigate the position. Since then I have received further complaints, especially from Kalgoorlie, of the non-arrival of mails and parcels from the eastern States. Will the Minister give an assurance that he will do his best to see that the ordinary mail and parcel deliveries between the eastern States and Western Australia are expedited, because at present they are deplorable?
– I understand that a reply to the honorable senator’s question has already beensent to him, but I shall make further investigation, to see what can be done in the matter. The people of Western Australia, like those in other areas similarly situated, expect regular deliveries of mail matter; but. owing to the restrictions in regard to railway transport, this is not always possible.
– Will the Minis ter representing the Minister for Commerce state whether, in view of the increase of the cost of production in the wheat-growing industry; and the obvious limitations placed on acreage as the result of the shortage of superphosphate, the Government will give early consideration to increasing the guaranteed price of wheat to the farmers? When does the Government propose to pay to the farmers the balance of the guaranteed price in respect of the 1941-42 crop?
SenatorFRASER.- The matters referred to will be brought to the notice of the Minister for Commerce, and a reply will be forwarded to the honorable senator.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General whether instructions would be issued that all Fascist houses in Australia be searched for a secret Japanese wireless transmitting set, and, it’ so, whether a commencement would be made at the premises at 44 Bradley’s Head-road, Mosman, and at the Bulletin office, 252 George-street, Sydney. Will the Minister transmit that question to the Acting Attorney -General for action?
– Yesterday I ruled a similar question out of order for the obvious reason that it would not be in the national interest to publish a reply to it. Therefore, I repeat that the question is out of order.
– Some time ago I directed a question to the Leader of the Senate in relation to recognition by the Government of the services of the Official War Historian, Dr. C. E. W. Bean, on the completion of his work entitled Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18. Have any steps been taken by the Government to recognize the completion of that great work?
SenatorCOLLINGS. - I have no record of the question to which the honorable senator refers. I ask him to see me later about the matter.
Air-raidPrecautions Expenditure - Deductions.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The honorable senator’s attention is invited to the recommendations of the Taxation Advisory Committee on the above-mentioned subject of air-raid precautions expenditure. The recommendations of the Advisory Committee have been made public and a copy circulated for the information of all honorable senators. The Government has yet to give its final consideration to the recommendations of the Taxation Advisory Committee.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
Branches at Mingenew and Kondinin.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for War Organization of Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for War Organizationof Industry has supplied the following answer: -
Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for War Organization of Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry has supplied the following answer : -
Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Branch at Port Hedland.
Minister representing the Minister for War Organization of Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry has supplied the following answer : -
Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Use ok Private Homes - X-ray Examinations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that private homes are being commandeered for the use of fighting services in Australia and compensation paid on a basis of 4 per cent. on an assessed capital value plus payment of rates and insurance?
SenatorFRASER.- The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
– On the 26th March, 1942, Senator Lamp asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions upon notice: -
The Treasurer has supplied the following reply:-
2.I do not consider it desirable to publish the names of the individual radiologists to whom this money has been paid, but if the honorable senator cares to see me on the matter.I will make the desired information available to him.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
In the proposed legislation to increase the invalid and old-age pensions owing to higher cost of living, will the Government, for the same reason, consider increasing the pensions of the dependants of those whose breadwinners were killed in the Great War and in this war. or have died since as the result of disabilities directly attributed to service in these wars?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
This matter is at present under consideration by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the question asked by Senator Collett on the 6th March relating to the cost of parliamentary committees and to the answer supplied to this question, does the information as to the cost of these committees include the amount of salaries and allowances paid to members of the Public Service assisting in the inquiries t
– The Prime Minister has submitted the following answers : -
The information as to the cost of the joint committees furnished to the honorable senator on the 25th March, 1942, with the exception of the Committee on Social Security, included the amount of travelling expenses paid to the secretaries and other officers .assisting the committees but did not include the salary of such officers. The cost of salary in each instance was borne by the parliamentary or public service department of which the officer was a member.
In the case of the Committee on Social Security the cost shown in the reply furnished to the honorable senator included the secretary’s salary and travelling expenses for the period that he was exclusively engaged on work for the committee.
asked the Minister representing the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The Acting Attorney-General has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for War Organization of Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry has supplied the following answer: -
Certain steps in regard to the reorganization of shearing activities have been taken by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. I am arranging for the necessary information desired by the honororable senator to be secured, and will let him have it as early as possible.
Debate resumed from the 29th April (aide page 582), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- After the second-reading speech delivered by the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) I desire to express, on behalf of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting, our thanks for the compliment he paid us for the work done by the committee. Members of the committee worked whole-heartedly, and I can say that I have never been associated with any committee that applied itself so well to its task. It opened up a great deal of matter with which its members were not previously acquainted, and it has placed on record what has taken place in the ‘broadcasting field from the inception of broadcasting in 1923 to the present time. I should also like to thank the Minister for the kind remarks he made about me. Most people have the motto in life, “ Do a thing yourself if you want it done well “, but my motto is, “ If you want a thine: done well, have it done by some one who can do it better than yourself “. Because of that, we have a good foundation for broadcasting in this country. I say so because Sir Harry Brown .was then Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, and he possessed much experience and had wide knowledge of broadcasting. The staff associated with him in the Postmaster-General’s Department consisted of capable men and women, some of whom I have heard Senator A. 3. McLachlan speak of as “ wireless wizards “. I think all honorable senators will agree that at the start the foundation, at all events, was well laid.
I do not propose to make any historical survey of what took place, except to say that I convened the first meeting of wireless representatives in Melbourne in April, 1923. Some 70 or 80 men attended that conference, and they represented all the radio interests. Great Britain started to broadcast only a few months before Australia, so that at that date wireless broadcasting was quite new in the world, or, at all events, in the English-speaking world. Those men met for several days and drew up recommendations, which they submitted to me as Postmaster-General. I had discussed the matter with the head of the department, and we came to the conclusion that what was known as the “sealed set “ could not he other than a failure. When their report was presented to me, I said, “ We will put into execution the recommendations you have made, hut I feel sure they will not be successful. If they are a failure, the responsibility is yours “. As a matter of fact, only 1,400 persons applied for licences under that system.
The representatives came back later and asked the Government to rescind the previous decision, and to establish a different system. The new system was that referred to by the Postmaster-General. It continued until 1924, when the present system was inaugurated. Under the present system there are A class stations, known as national stations, and B class stations, .which represent commercial interests. The one section provides programmes and receives for its revenue licence-fees; the other section receives its revenue only from advertisements. Although there have been ten PostmastersGeneral since then, and although some of them were bubbling over with ideas, the system has been successfully assailed only once, or probably twice, notwithstanding that many hills have been drafted to amend the act of 1932. The first amendment was proposed by a former PostmasterGeneral, Mr. Thorby, who succeeded in knocking £132,000 off the superstructure erected on the foundations so well laid. He wiped out one-sixth of the revenue of the commission. The next’ move was made by the honorable member for Wentworth ‘(Mr. Harrison) when PostmasterGeneral, who brought down a bill which will be found in the appendix of the report submitted to Parliament by the broadcasting committee. His ideas did not see the light of day, and the bill to give effect to them did not reach the second-reading stage in the House of Representatives. The next effort was by the present Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) who had a few novel ideas, and who was more successful than his predecessors. He, at least, managed to pilot his bill through the .Senate, but it advanced no further.
– I was probably responsible for the committee being appointed.
– Then we had another bright idea from Mr. Archie Cameron, the honorable member for Barker in the House of Representatives, who drew up an elaborate bill without the knowledge of the commission, and, I think, without the knowledge of postal officials. He thought he was going to revolutionize broadcasting. His bill was not even read a first time in Parliament. He failed completely. Had his bill seen the light of day, I think there would have been much criticism of it both in this chamber and in the House of Representatives. This is the first time within my knowledge, and I have been in Parliament for 22 years, that the whole of the recommendations of a parliamentary committee requiring implementing by act of Parliament have been adopted by the Government and incorporated in a bill. 1 feel sure that this bill will, in due course, become an act.
I should like to say something in regard to the bill itself. In the first place, there will have .to be an amendment of the definitions clause. It is not stated which Minister shall be in charge of the broadcasting regulations. That point may be covered by the Acts Interpretation Act. The committee .recommended that the Minister for this purpose should be the Postmaster-General. I emphasize that recommendation, because instructions have been given in the past to the commission by Ministers who were not connected with the Postmaster-General’s Department. Methods like that are impossible. The Minister controlling the department should give all instructions to the commission; two, three, or four Ministers should not be permitted to do so. The channel should be through the Minister administering the act. An amendment should be made in the bill stipulating that the Postmaster-General shall be the Minister administering the act. The first portion of the bill deals with the repeal of the principal act. I am glad the Government has adopted that procedure, for if there is one thing I detest more than another, it is an act which has to be read in conjunction with amending acts. More than once, I have indicated what I consider to be the correct procedure that should be followed when an act is amended. Every amending measure should show what the law actually provides. At present, only a lawyer can trace the various amendments to acts extending back for perhaps ten or twenty years. The cost of printing acts in consolidated form would not be very great. In this case, the Government is repealing the original act and bringing in a bill for a new act, and there is more than one reason why it is advisable that such a course should be followed. This legislation affects more than 1,340,000 licence holders and probably an additional 2,000,000 people.’ For that reason, the bill should be made as simple as possible. It should not be necessary to peruse old acts in order to understand what amendments have been made. There is another reason why it is advisable to repeal the principal acf. Previously, the commercial stations did not operate under an act of parliament at all. They worked under regulations and it is very doubtful whether those regulations were valid. This measure will validate those regulations and in future, the commercial stations will operate in a similar manner to the national stations. That in itself is a worthwhile reform and. justifies the principal act being repealed and new legislation placed upon the statute-book.
After careful investigation, the committee came to certain conclusions in regard to the existing personnel of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and in fairness to these people, it is only right that I should quote portion of the committee’s report in that connexion. Incidentally, these statements apply also to the Australian Broadcasting Company which operated prior to the inauguration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Australian Broadcasting Company undertook the foundation work of broadcasting in this country and carried out the very difficult task of providing programmes in the early days. The committee’s report states -
We have given careful consideration to every aspect of the work of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the various criticisms of their services.’ We feel that the Commissioners have done excellent work in the face of many and grave difficulties, some of which appear to have been quite unnecessary. In our opinion, the Commission has maintained a high sense of duty and of the obligations and functions bestowed on it by Parliament, and we are satisfied that it has been completely impartial politically.
The committee made that statement because newspaper proprietors strongly opposed the expansion of broadcasting. They believed in those days that the -broadcasting of news would eventually do them injury or displace them altogether. To their surprise, however, they were wrong as they now admit.
– The honorable senator should not be too confident that they were wrong.
– They were wrong, although at a later stage I shall refer to something which will probably affect the press of this country. As I have said, the press opposed the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Newspaper proprietors were not at all helpful and it was impossible to secure a satisfactory agreement between the commission and the press in regard to the broadcasting of news. Newspaper interests tried their best to foist upon the people of this country the broadcasting of news at times when most people were going out to theatres, so that they would have to buy newspapers. However, all that has now gone. I believe that those controlling the press to-day are broadminded enough to recognize that broadcasting has not injured their interests. Notwithstanding the fact that the times of news broadcasts are such that the people of this country are able to listen to them conveniently - I refer particularly to the 12.30 p.m. and 7 p.m. broadcasts - the circulation of newspapers is as large as ever. I mention that fact ‘because I consider that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been confronted with a very difficult task. Considerable criticism has been voiced, particularly in regard to the chairman of the commission. It has been suggested that it was because of the chairman that no satisfactory agreement could be reached between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the press, hut I can assure honorable senators that the chairman has ‘been standing up for a solid principle and we have to thank him for maintaining that principle, namely, the right of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to broadcast its own news, independent of the press. A slur has been cast upon the chairman of the commission by representative ‘bodies of men who should have known better
Honorable senators will note that the committee has recommended that the numbers of the commission should be the same as at present, namely, five. That is contrary to the view held ‘by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), but T feel sure that when he examines the natter closely, he will agree with mc now just as T agreed with him previously. The committee has also suggested that the period for which individual members of the commission are appointed should be staggered in order to ensure continuity of policy. In the past, there has ‘been no continuity of policy and when I think of what has taken place, I am amazed that the commission has accomplished such good work. I refer particularly to two members, the chairman, Mr. Cleary, and Mrs. Couchman. Mr. Cleary was appointed on the 3rd July, 1934, for a period of three years. When that period had elapsed, he was reappointed for one year. His subsequent appointments have been for four months, two months, six months, six months, one year, six months, six months and six months respectively, his final appointment expiring on the 30th June this year.
– He must have served under a number of Ministers.
– Yes. I do not know how many, hut that is what has happened. Mrs. Couchman’s appointments have been similar to those of Mr. Cleary. The other members of the commission are in a somewhat different category, having been appointed at a later date. Can honorable senators imagine a body doing such good work as has been accomplished by the Australian Broadcasting Commission under such conditions - practically monthly appointments? The commission has had to make huge contracts and enter into agreements of a very important character. Many of these contracts and agreements have been for terms exceeding by far the appointments of members of the commission. Such a state of affairs is absolutely wrong and the sooner the commissioners are appointed for definite extended periods, the better. The committee has suggested therefore that the periods of appointment should bc staggered in order to make possible a continuous policy. The periods of appointments suggested by the Minister are not what the committee recommended ; but are quite acceptable to the committee and I am sure to the Senate. In fact, probably they are better than those which the committee suggested.
In regard to the remuneration of the commissioners, the committee has recommended that the chairman be paid £1,250 per annum, the vice-chairman £500 per annum, and the other three commissioners each £300 per annum. It may be suggested that there is too wide a disparity in those payments, but I ask honorable senators to visualize the vast volume of work which has to be carried out by the chairman of the commission. If the Government wishes to consult the commission, it is usually the chairman who undertakes the job. Similarly, correspondence is usually directed to the chairman, and if complaints are made over the head of the management, they also are dealt with by the chairman. Honorable senators will realize that the clerical work involved in those activities Ls tremendous. The work of the deputy chairman is second to that of the chairman, but is not so heavy. Another point which actuated the committee in fixing these remunerations was this: Advisory committees are to be set up in all States, and I take it that it will be the duty of the chairman and vice-chairman to confer with these advisory committees and ascertain their recommendations in regard to improvements in broadcasting in their respective States. I am sure that these two men will have to do a great deal more travelling than they have done in the past. It is not suggested that every member of the commission should visit each State, but the chairman and the vice-chairman at least should keep in the closest possible touch with the advisory committees. The committee ha? made a further suggestion that the manager should attend all meetings of the commission. Some sections of the press have taken exception to this proposal. They claim that in details the manager will be influenced by the commission. Nothing of the kind will happen. What the committee has suggested is that the manager should be present, when policy is being formulated so that he may work in the closest co-operation with the commission. That is a sound proposal. One clause of the bill safeguards the employmont of the whole of the existing staff of the commission.
The A.B.C. Weekly has been a bone of contention, and no doubt many honorable senators hold strong views in regard to it. However, if they knew all of the facts relating to the publication of that journal, I believe that they would cease (hair criticism of it. The newspapers of this country announced to the people thai the annual loss sustained ‘by the A.B.C. Weekly was £60,000 - some even said £70,000 - and that the journal was useless. As a matter of fact, the actual loss is £32,000 a year. One can usually arrive at the truth by halving the estimates published in the newspapers. I have stated the amount of the loss. The important question is : What caused this loss ? The newspapers of Sydney caused it, because they made a definite demand upon the commission for payment at advertising rates for the publication of the commission’s programmes.
– What would thai amount to?
– More than £60,000 a year. That estimate is based upon the cost of advertising in the Sydney newspapers, and in fifteen country newspapers. If anybody, has to take any blame for the establishment of the A.B.C. Weekly, a group of four Sydney newspapers should be held responsible.
– Who reads the A.B.C. Weekly ?
– Anybody can buy it.
– But who does?
– The newspapers that were responsible were the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sun, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily News. Three of those newspapers were represented at the conference of Australian newspaper proprietors. Had they not demanded payment from the commission for publishing its programmes, it is unlikely that, in these times, the A.B.C. Weekly would have been published. Compare what has happened in Australia with what happened in Great Britain! Some of the British newspapers adopted towards the British Broadcasting Corporation an attitude exactly similar to that adopted toward? the Australian Broadcasting Commission by the Sydney newspapers. However, one British journal continued to publish daily free of charge a full quarter-page of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s programmes. It brought the other newspapers to heel immediately, because of the effect on their sales. The committee is not satisfied that the commission ha? made the best possible effort in regard to the publishing of the A.B.C. Weekly. It. could be presented in better form, and should publish for each State a supplement setting out the programmes for that State. The A.B.C. Weekly should ‘be printed in New South Wales, and the appropriate supplements should be included in the issues for the different States. It is essential that Australia should have a journal similar to that published by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Many extraordinarily interesting talks are broadcast over our national stations, and when they are published in the A. B.C. Weekly they have a high literary value. The publication of the A.B.C. Weekly should be continued, except inWestern Australia, which has one of the finest radio journals in the Commonwealth. From my examination of that publication I imagine that it is conducted profitably. Of course, the newspapers considered that the A.B.C. Weekly was encroaching unfairly upon their publishing preserves, and they feared that they would lose some of their profits.
– What is the circulation of the A.B.C. Weekly?
– Approximately 40,000 copies.
– Yes. That figure excludes Western Australia. The members of the committee maintain that publication of the journal should be continued because, if the commission had to pay for the printing of its programmes in the newspapers, the consequent expense would be much greater than the loss now sustained on the A.B.C. Weekly. Provision is made in the bill that, when the Australian Broadcasting Commission is forbidden to broadcast certain items, the instructions to this effect must be given in writing. The members of the committee also contend that, when instructions are given for the broadcasting of specific items, they also should be given in writing. It should not be sufficient for a Minister to say to the commission, “ You shall not broadcast this “, or “ You shall broadcast that “.
On page 10 of its report the committee has submitted a very interesting statement of the revenue and expenditure of both national and commercial radio stations. This should be an eye-opener to the public. The Australian Broadcast ing Commission’s share of revenue from listeners’ licence-fees in 1939-40 was £700,071. Its miscellaneous receipts amounted to £73,795, making a total revenue of £773,866. Commercial stations received from the public, not from licence-fees but from advertising charges, an amount of £1,100,000. Many people have demanded from time to time that a certain amount of the revenue from listeners’ licence-fees should go to the commercial stations, but if they will examine these figures they will see that the commercial stations are taking from the public, not wrongly, but rightly, a large annual income. During 1939-40, the Postmaster-General’s Department received a share of £531,450 from listeners’ licence-fee revenue. The department’s receipts from the leasing of certain telephone lines, &c, amounted to £16,489, making its revenue from broadcasting £547,939. Thus, the total revenue from broadcasting within Australia in that year was £2,421,805. The commission’s expenditure was £726,611, and the Postal Department’s expenditure on services to commercial and national stations was £516,874. The commercial stations expended an amount of £1,020,000. making a total expenditure by broadcasting services of £2,263,485. The Australian Broadcasting Commission had a surplus of revenue over expenditure of £47,255. and the Postal Department’s surplus was £31,065, whilst the commercial stations showed a surplus of £80,000, making a total for all services of £158,320. Nobody is likely to say that a surplus of £158,320 from a total revenue of £2,421,000 is unreasonable. It seems to me to be fair and reasonable. When a former Postmaster-General, Mr. Thorby, brought down his bill in September, 1940, he proposed that onesixth of the revenue of the commission should be taken by his department. According to the statement yesterday by the present Postmaster-General, the1s. to be returned to the commission will give to it an extra £66,200, so Mr. Thorby in one fell swoop, took from the commission £132,400 without consulting it.
– Did that go into revenue?
– That is the point. The commission was deprived of1s., which went to the Postal .Department. A huge concern of this kind had naturally budgeted for a certain expenditure, and knew nothing about this cut, with the result that, at the end of this year, it may have a deficit of £20,000. An extraordinary position arose. The commission had built up certain reserves which I consider should have been provided. When Senator A. J. McLachlan was PostmasterGeneral, he laid down definitely that the commission should put aside from 10 per cent, to 12 per cent, of its revenue for a building programme; but Mr. Thorby used that as an argument as to why the reserve fund should be wiped out! He said the commission did not deserve the revenue it was getting, and the result to-day is that the broadcasting stations and buildings generally cannot be compared favorably with those of the commercial stations. I am glad that it is now proposed to give that ls. back to the commission. The committee thought that it should be returned by the increase of the licence fee to 21s. There is no doubt that the present broadcasting service is the cheapest service that anybody can get to-day.
A great deal of misunderstanding has occurred with regard to the broadcasting service and the Postal Department. The whole of the revenue from listeners’ licences is collected by the Postal Department, and this amounts to a large sum.. The share belonging to the commission is paid into a trust fund and, in accordance with the law, the share of the Postal Department is paid directly into Consolidated Revenue, instead of being appropriated by Parliament annually. Payments from the trust fund are made from month to month to the commission for its share; but the proportion that the Postal Department gets by parliamentary appropriation has no connexion whatever with the listeners’ licence-fees. It has been said that £1,000,000 more has been paid into Consolidated Revenue than has been paid out; but, if we examine paragraph 54 on page 14 of the report, we find that that is not the case. The actual sum paid into the Consolidated Revenue of the Postal Department and not paid out is £958,000, but that does not take into account the fact that £744,000 was paid for the technical services, stations, &c, provided, and the huge sum that the department has had to expend on telephone lines of a high standard throughout the country, in order to provide the services required by the commission. As a matter of fact, I believe that more money has been paid by the Postal Department than has been received by it in connexion with broadcasting services. The position is even worse when we have regard to future needs. To-day, we have not completed the whole chain of stations throughout Australia. When these have been completed, it will be found that the Postal Department will expend about £24,000 a year more than it will get in revenue. When we consider the finances of the commission, we find that the position is clearly set out in the balance-sheet of 1940-41, and also on page 15 of the report.
The committee is of the opinion - and I think that honorable senators will hold a similar view - that the technical services should remain with the Postal Department. That is not the opinion of every body, for, in Great Britain, the technical services are conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation. However, comparing Australia with Great Britain, we find that the British Broadcasting Corporation can afford to put in the whole of the telephone lines required by it. If we asked the commission here to provide its own telephone services, which it now receives free, I do not know what the cost would he. There must he a line of demarcation to show where the responsibility of the Postal Department commences and ends, and I contend that that responsibility should begin at the microphone and extend throughout the length and breadth of the country. We should then know that, if the technical services fail, the fault lies with the Postal Department. The interior of the broadcasting studios would have to be fitted up in conjunction with the Postal Department, so that the acoustic properties and so forth would bc suitable for broadcasting purposes. I consider that the Postal Department has done remarkably good work. Many of the telephone lines throughout Australia are not suitable for broadcasting, and the Postal Department has been confronted with the cost of providing improved trunk lines throughout the Commonwealth. What that cost has been is hard for me to say. The committee has made a recommendation that the cost of wireless broadcasting, as far as the Postal Department is concerned, shall be kept separate from the other accounts of the department. Personally, I do not think it can be done; but the postal authorities consider that it can. It will be difficult to discriminate between the duties of a man in charge of a section, say at Ararat or Ballarat’, of a trunk line system, when one part of his duties is connected with broadcasting and the other with the telephonic services. On a trunk line broadcast for which the whole of the lines are linked up, it requires a staff of 150 men, besides those engaged on ordinary postal duties. I think that the Postal Department is doing good work in providing the present technical services in connexion with the broadcasting system and most harmonious relations have existed between the commission’s employees and those of the Postal Department. There is a big reservoir of technical officers in the department whose services can be drawn on. When a linkup is made for the purpose of broadcasting a speech by the Prime Minister of Australia throughout the Commonwealth, 26,000 miles of telephone wire is used, showing what a heavy responsibility rests on the Postal Department.
– Would the commission pay the Postal Department?
– The commission does not pay the Postal Department anything whatever. But if a station wishes to make a broadcast from some particular place the station would be charged if it did not make the broadcast from its studio. The Postal Department believes that the station should go to a studio rather than that it should bring the studio to the station.
The 29 national stations now in operation throughout the Commonwealth do not give complete coverage of the continent. Complete coverage can only be provided when all of the proposed regional stations are erected. That will take considerable time and will cost a considerable sum of money. The existing stations, however, are supplemented by two short-wave stations, which reach areas which are not covered by the national stations, and give a service to people in certain districts who would not otherwise receive a service. However, that shortwave service is not satisfactory in Western Australia and in many other parts of the Commonwealth, particularly in the north-eastern areas of Queensland. We are hopeful that when all of the stations which are now plotted are erected, complete coverage will be given to the whole of the continent.
I pay a tribute to the work which is being done by the Postal Department. That great organization maintains a research section which is proving of eminent value to broadcasting. In this work, 77 officers are now employed. They occupy a fairly large building, and the value of the laboratory equipment is estimated at about £45,000. As honorable senators are aware, that section is now doing very secret work for the Defence Department. I go so far as to say that it has a staff of experts who are capable of doing anything in their sphere of research. I think that they have done something that no other country in the world has done in that they have plotted the whole of Australia in order to find the areas which can best be served by A class stations and commercial stations respectively. That work has not cost the commercial stations anything, although the total expenditure on it to date is nearly £9,000. The whole of Australia is plotted in this respect. Honorable senators will obtain complete information on this matter in one of the appendices to the committee’s report.
The committee has also made particular reference to the work of the commercial stations. Those stations have done remarkably well in this country. They have organized themselves in a body known as the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, which is elected by the holders of commercial licences. That body lays down a code of ethics under which its members work, and that code is fairly closely observed. I have no doubt that now and again a station may make a slip just as a national station might do; but such lapses are not frequent, with the result that complaints to the Postal Department are few and far between.
The committee examined the balancesheets of most of the 99 commercial stations and has recommended the preparation of the accounts of these stations in uniform balance-sheets, and that balances be struck as at the 30th June each year. I am sorry to note that the Postmaster-General has allowed to slip into this measure a provision which will enable commercial stations to close their balance-sheets at a date other than the 30th June each year. I urge him to apply that date to all stations. One advantage will be that in respect of any investigation which may be conducted into the accounts of stations by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department or any other authority, all stations will be on the same footing. I repeat that the commercial stations have given very good service to Australia. I have no doubt that many people are of the opinion that they are giving just as good a service as the national stations.
– Some people say that their service is better than that of the national stations.
– That is so. Complaints have been made with respect to the multiple ownership of commercial stations. Provision is made in the existing regulations to prevent multiple ownership. I do not think that any reasonable person will complain about the organization of several stations in a chain solely for the purpose of certain broadcasts. That system is very advantageous to the listening public in that it enables many stations to give a first-class programme which they could not possibly provide were they left to their own resources. We must remember that all of the revenue of commercial stations is derived from advertising. I can see no reason for interfering with this system of networks. Multiple ownership is a different matter entirely, and is provided for in the existing regulations which are now incorporated in the bill.
In regard to Sunday broadcasting, the committee has recommended that only sponsored programmes should be permitted on Sundays. The best English dictionaries give no definition of the word “ sponsored “. Consequently, it is not possible legally to make provision of this kind. We learn from the Minister, however, that provision will be made that, whilst commercial stations will not be able to advertise any particular item on Sundays, they will be able to broadcast what are now known as sponsored programmes on Sunday. That arrangement is sound. Further, any company which might think that it is being unfairly treated in this respect has a right of appeal to the Minister.
I think that the proposal to establish a parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting is one of the most important of the recommendations made by tin1 committee. As a result of our very complete investigation, I can say that broadcasting is only in its infancy. What the future holds for it no one can say. When the war is over, I have no doubt that many new devices will be introduced into this country and that scores of people will be clamouring for licences to introduce and exploit these new methods. Take, for instance, television. It would be unfair at present to license a few persons to control television because we should then exclude many others from this field in the future. To-day there is a waiting list of 600 applicants for broadcasting station licences. Consequently, the committeerecommended that no licences should be granted in respect of television until this matter has been thoroughly investigated by the proposed parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting, and through that committee considered by the Parliament. Our view is that not only the PostmasterGeneral’s Department but also the Parliament should have a voice in this matter because it is so important. Personally, I have little faith in the future of television. If you can imagine witnessing a picture of the running of a Melbourne Cup in a space of, say. 5 inches by 5 inches, that is television. I do not think that television sets will be within the financial reach of people of moderate means. Something very different from television, however, appears to have an excellent future. I refer to facsimile reproduction. No doubt, Australian newspaper companies will be seriously concerned with this development. Facsimile reproduction means that by attaching an instrument to an ordinary wireless set and installing another instrument in a ‘broadcasting station, a listener can turn on his wireless set in the home at night and the’ next morning he will find the news portion of his morning newspaper reproduced for him in print. Thus instead of listening-in to the morning news, he will read his news in print. Obviously, we should be acting prematurely if we issued licences at present for the operation of facsimile reproduction. Such reproduction is actually in operation in other parts of the world, lt has passed the experimental stage. I recall that when I was PostmasterGeneral in 1927 it was in operation then. To-day, it is operating daily between Melbourne and Sydney, the United States of America and Australia, and between Great Britain and Australia. Daily the public see pictures in the press which have been transmitted in a flash from overseas by this means. People in the outback will some day be able to read their newspapers by pressing a button. I hope that the press of this country will not make the same effort to stifle these advances as they did to stifle broadcasting in its early stages. They might as well try to stop the tide as to stop the progress of civilization.
There is a broadcasting system known as high-frequency modulation. I know nothing of the technicalities of broadcasting, but high-frequency modulation operates throughout- America. Applications have been made here for broadcasting on that system, but we have said that licences shall not be issued for that, for facsimile work, or for television until the committee has thoroughly investigated the facts and Parliament has had a say. A sound foundation must be laid for these new devices, which will certainly come into operation after the war. It is said that high-frequency modulation will make available 600 or 700 new wave lengths in Australia, and it is supposed to have advantages not enjoyed by the present system. If for no other reason than to consider these questions, a parliamentary committee is essential, and I have no’ doubt it will do good work.
These remarks notwithstanding, I intend to move an amendment to clause 93 of the hill. The recommendation was that the committee should deal only with matters submitted to it by a resolution of either House of Parliament, by the Minister, by the Australian Broadcasting Commission through the Minister, or by the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations through the Minister. The Minister, or someone else, has excluded the last two recommendations, which I regard as absolutely necessary. We have safeguarded the proposed committee to the extent that no one can submit a complaint to it. The only matter* that can be submitted are those that must be submitted through the Minister or through Parliament, but the commission should have the right to say, “We are not satisfied with the decision of the Government unless Parliament endorses it”. Take the Thorby incident, when £130,000 was struck off the revenues of the commission. Had the ‘ commission been able to say, “-Submit this to a committee of Parliament “, the revenue would not have suffered. The same argument applies to the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations. If the federation - not individual stations - considers that a certain matter should come before Parliament or the proposed parliamentary committee, it should have the opportunity to submit it. The parliamentary committee should report to Parliament and the application should go before the Minister.
– Why not before the committee ?
– The commission’s request would go through the Minister to the committee.
– The federation should be allowed to go to the Minister. It could do so now.
– We say that the four bodies I have enumerated should :be the only ones permitted to take such action. We do not want to say that every broadcasting station should have the same right. We have suggested that the advisory committees for which provision was made in the act should he compulsory. There should be an obligation to appoint a committee in each State. In Western Australia there is an excellent committee which is working well and giving great assistance to the commission; in South Australia there is an excellent committee doing nothing; but in the other States I doubt whether there is a committee at all. There should be a committee in each State with a complete link with the commission. We suggested that the committees should be appointed by the Commission, but it. is provided that the responsibility should rest with the Minister, rather than with the commission. To that we have no objection.
It may be thought that the committee’s recommendation regarding political broadcasts is drastic, but I do not think so. We have adopted the Canadian system, by providing that the broadcasting of political speeches should not be permitted after the Wednesday prior to an election. That is to prevent any one jumping in at the eleventh hour and buying up all the time of the stations. The committee made certain suggestions that are not included in the bill ; they have been omitted for special reasons to which I shall refer. Regarding medical talks, we had evidence given on behalf of the British Medical Association in Sydney, and we learned that excellent lectures were being given to the people. In our view those lectures should be continued, and :is far us possible extended, but we state that certain subjects,’ which are taboo in the legislation of the different States, should not be referred to in them, iti the matter of the licence-fee, the Government has taken the alternative that we suggested and has reverted to 21s. by taking ls. from the Postal Department and giving it to the commission, that means that the commission will receive an extra £66,000 a year. We accept the alternative proposal. Another matter relates to licences at half rates for certain people, and we have also suggested that free licences should be given to schools where there are fewer than 50 scholars. The outback school should be given first consideration. Many educational broadcasts are of tremendous advantage to country children who are being educated by correspondence, and we wish to see that system extended. There should’ be closer cooperation ‘between the departments in the States, the Broadcasting Commission, and the commercial stations. I am glad to see that the Minister has accepted our recommendation regarding objectionable items. Many items broadcast were anything but satisfactory and the only penalty that could be imposed was to deprive the offending station of its licence. By doing so innocent people would be penalized. [Extension of time granted.) The present proposal is that the person who is responsible for broadcasting the objectionable item should be penalized, and not the station. I am glad to see that the Government has made provision for this.
I should like to refer to one or two matters -which, although not directly associated with the bill, will be the subject of regulations issued under the bill. The first matter concerns the Canberra news service. The committee was very much concerned about this matter, and representations were made- to it from various sources. We immediately wrote to the Prime Minister, and I am happy to say that in its new form, the Canberra news service is acceptable to most people. The committee pointed out to the Prime Minister that it was the practice of the British Broadcasting Corporation never to mention the name of a Minister, but merely to state the name of the department from which an item emanated. The announcement of the names of Ministers in. the Canberra news session created very bacl feeling in this country, because it appeared that Ministers were endeavouring to get as much publicity as possible. I. admit that one Minister refused to allow his name to be used in these broadcasts, and that is to his credit. The position has now been rectified and I need say no more on the subject.
I compliment the Postmaster-General upon the introduction of the present hours of local news broadcasts. The alteration has enabled tens of thousands of workers in factories to hear the midday news service. The position in South Australia and Western Australia is, however, somewhat difficult, and the committee has suggested that the disadvantage be overcome by recording the original news broadcasts, and rebroadcasting them to those States at the same hours, allowing for the difference in time. There should be no difficulty in doing that, and I trust that it will be done. lt is a sorry state of affairs that al though the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act has been in force since 1932, two representative bodies of citizens, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the press, each a leader in its own sphere, have been unable to reach an agreement in regard to news broadcasts. The committee has suggested that there should be compulsory arbitration in regard to that matter, although personally, I do not think there is the slightest need for it, because I am certain that both parties will be willing to reach hh agreement immediately they meet again. The press of this country is entitled to payment for the news it collects, and although the committee has suggested that the payment of £200 should be continued, we do not necessarily believe that £200 is the fee that should be paid. We hold that a fee should be paid for the news that is supplied to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but the bugbear has been that the commission has maintained the right to collect its own news. The press representatives say, in effect, “You must take all or none; we shall not give you any if you will not take the lot”. That is the position to-day, but I am confident that a solution can be found. I trust that an agreement will be reached which will enable the national stations to carry on under the same conditions as the commercial sta.tions. The commercial stations have an agreement with the press but they do not keep it. As a matter of fact, I have heard commercial stations broadcast, extensively from newspapers, although they are supposed to be operating under exactly the same restrictions as the national stations. However, the principle involved is one that the commission has been fighting for all along, namely, tlie right to broadcast its own news. It would cost the Australian Broadcasting Commission approximately £60,000 a year to collect all its own news independently, and I do not consider that such expenditure would be warranted. However, I believe that the commission should have the right to collect whatever news it can. The appointment, of an Australian Broadcasting Commission roundsman at Canberra and at other centres was one of the difficulties which prevented an agreement with the newspapers. Difficulties also arose in connexion with the overseas news, but in a different form. The British Broadcasting Corporation was broadcasting to this country news which the national stations considered that they had a right to rebroadcast. On the other hand, the Australian Associated Press claimed that part of the British Broadcasting Corporation news was Reuter’s copyright news for which the Australian Associated Press had a contract, and therefore it could not be used. However, an agreement was reached in that matter, but. unfortunately, it was never signed. The Australian Broadcasting Commission pays £3,000 a year for the use of that copyright news, but it recoups £1,500 a year of that expenditure from the commercial stations, so that the service is costing the Australian Broadcasting Commission about £1,500 a year. The Australian Broadcasting Commission obtains news from three sources, namely, the Australian Associated Press, the British Official Wireless, and its own representatives abroad.
I should like to refer also to our overseas short-wave service. I contend that this service should be run by the Government; it should not be a charge on the Postal Department or on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Actually, it is propaganda which is being sent out to counter propaganda from enemy nations. To that end, the Department of Information has established what is known as a “ listening post “, which picks up overseas broadcasts, so that counter measures may be taken. .Unfortunately, so few people have short-wave sets that the service is of little use. As honorable senators will see from a perusal of the committee’.0 report, it had occasion to find fault with the matter which was coming from the Department of Information. If we trod on people’s toes it was not with a desire to hurt, but with a desire to wake them up. I am sorry that one person connected with the Department of Information has seen fit to write to the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General protesting against the committee’s report, stating that the recommendations are inconsistent, and so on. I should like to point out that our authority was Sir
Keith Murdoch, who gave evidence upon his return from Great Britain. The committee looked upon Sir Keith’s evidence as some of the best evidence that it received. Sir Keith made an investigation of the position in the United States of America, and came to the conclusion that Australian short-wave broadcasts in that country were not being received by a sufficient number of people, lie suggested that the Australian shortwave broadcasts should be recorded in the United States of America and then rebroadcast on their popular wavelengths. The committee considers that to he a very good suggestion. The cost of such a service should not be charged against the Postmaster-General’s Department or the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Department of Information has a staff in that country which is capable of handling the matter and arranging for rebroadcasts.
The committee’s report sets out very clearly the position in regard to performing right in Australia. I hope that the Government will introduce a measure dealing with copyright so that there will be one performing right charge in the Commonwealth, as is the case in most other countries. An apportionment could then be made between the commercial stations and the national stations. The committee suggests that if an agreement cannot be reached the dispute should be the subject of arbitration. I hope that the Government will bring in another measure to give effect to this proposal. The law operating in Canada provides that the performing right companies shall submit a list of the items upon which their charges are based. These companies claimed to have a total of 2,000,000 items, but the largest number that they could show on a list was 160,000. A similar state of affairs might exist in Australia. However, that is a matter to be dealt with by the Government.
The committee has suggested that employees of the commission should be granted superannuation rights and placed in the same position as employees of the Repatriation Commission and other similar bodies. That also should be the subject of another bill. The committee considers that appointments to certain sections of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s staff should be subject to the same conditions as apply to appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service. I believe that every body will agree with that recommendation.
The committee’s recommendations on the subject of the broadcasting of religious services should be acceptable to most denominations. We have suggested that the broadcasting of services at 9.30 a.m. should be discontinued and that religious broadcasts should be given at the regular hours of services, and we have received commendatory letters from representatives of many religious bodies for doing so. What was not recommended in our report, but what I had intended to include in it, was a recommendation that the principal churches of the Commonwealth should fit out their choir stalls as broadcasting studios so that broadcasts from those churches should be of the highest possible standard, the commission to bear a portion of the expense thus incurred. I. understand that this has been done in Great Britain. Having explained this measure as fully as I consider to be necessary, I commend it to the Senate.
– The chairman of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting (Senator Gibson) delivered a very comprehensive and eloquent address, and I compliment him upon the manner in which he has handled this complex subject. In his secondreading speech, the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) paid a tribute to the committee for the manner in which it had prepared its report. However, he said, among other things, that the committee had done nothing towards bringing about any radical change of broadcasting practices in Australia. I say that the bill itself provides for some radical changes in connexion with broadcasting. Nevertheless, I fa’il to understand why, after reading the committee’s recommendations, the Government took the line of least resistance in regard to several phases of its investigations. The committee suggested the granting of free listeners’ licences to schools, but the Government decided to grant free licences only to schools with fewer than 50 pupils. A paragraph on page77 of the report reads -
We have signed the above report and desire to state in amplification of our views that we believe that the whole of the broadcasting system should be nationalized. The platform of theLabour party to which we have subscribed contains a plank to this effect.
– That was signed by only three members of the committee.
– Yes, but the committee was unanimous in stating on page 55 that -
At least two alternatives are open -
To nationalize the commercial system and place it under a commission (which might be the Australian Broadcasting Commission) or a director.
To provide machinery by which the commercial stations themselves would assist in guiding, controlling and developing the industry.
We are divided as to the advisability of nationalizing the commercial stations as in New Zealand.
That is a plank of the Labour party’s platform.
– What edition is that?
– This is the platform, as amended at the Labour party’s federal conference at Adelaide in July, 1936. It has not been amended since. The platform advocates the nationalization, among other things, of wireless transmission, including broadcasting. I cannot understand why the Government failed to give effect to this plank of its party’s platform, particularly in view of the favorable recommendation made by members of the committee. If the Government will not nationalize broadcasting now that it has the opportunity to do so, I imagine that there is little hope of it nationalizing the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, as has been advocated by one Minister. The committee investigated the problem of nationalizing broadcasting very fully, and in order to gain information on the subject, it wrote to the Prime Minister of New Zealand. In his reply he made the following statements: -
So far as users of the broadcasting services are concerned, there is ample evidence of the satisfactory operation of both services. So far as the national service is concerned, since its operations were brought under direct government control in 1936, the number of registered licence-holders has increased from 183,830 to 366,079, while the last published accounts of the National Commercial Broadcasting Services show that for the year ended the 31st March, 1941, that service derived a revenue of £207,764 from sales of station time, &c., and made a net profit of £52,084. In the annual report of that service for the year, it is stated that the service found difficulty in finding placement in its schedules for all the business offering, and a considerable volume of very desirable business had to be deferred or rejected in order to avoid overcrowding the programmes with advertisements.
Previously the committee had been told in evidence that the New Zealand broadcasting system had been unpopular since it had been nationalized. However, that letter, which is dated the 16th February, 1942, indicates that letters came from all parts of New Zealand expressing appreciation of the improvements which the change had accomplished. Although the Government has not seen fit to nationalize the broadcasting system in the Commonwealth, I support the bill, and compliment the Postmaster-General on the Government’s proposals to give effect to the recommendations of the committee. These contain a semblance of socialjustice, for, although the old-age pensioner will not receive a free listener’s licence, he will be able to get a licence at half rates, and schools with fewer than 50 pupils will get a free licence.
When I became a member of the committee I confess that I did not know a great deal about wireless broadcasting, but as a result of the committee’s investigations its members soon realized how vast are the ramifications of the broadcasting system. The committee had most valuable assistance from the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. McVey, and from his predecessor, Sir Harry Brown. The valuable information furnished by them should be appreciated by the people of Australia. Men. in the Postal Department like Messrs. McVey. Whitt, Martin and Malone have shown genius in regard to wireless broadcasting, and I do not know of any men or organization throughout the world who have done as good a job with regard to broadcasting services for the people of Australia as has the Postmaster-General’s Department. I am hopeful that the loss of1s. of its share of the revenue from the listeners’ licences will not mean that the department will be robbed of the sum of £66,000 which is required to enable it to continue its investigations with regard to radio developments. I trust that the Government will give to the department whatever money is required by it for this important scientific work, such as developments with regard to television, frequency modulation, and facsimile broadcasting. The fact that Australia could not counteract propaganda from Japan and Germany was not the fault of the Postal Department, but was due to the actions of past governments having failed to erect in Australia broadcasting stations capable of replying effectively to that propaganda. As Senator Gibson has said, overseas broadcasts should be picked up, recorded and then broadcast over the most popular wavelength. Following the representatives of the Postmaster-General’s Department, evidence was taken from Mr. Cleary, the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who has been villified by ill sections of the community. For years the press advocated his dismissal, but, at a nominal salary of £500 a year, lie has rendered service that has not been excelled by any other public servant. He saved this country thousands upon thousands of pounds, because he refused to be stampeded by those who made demands upon him. It. should be realized that Mr. Cleary has done good work for the Parliament and the people.
Senator Gibson referred to the A.B.C. Weekly, and said that Mr. Errol Knox had denied that any member of his association had written to the commission demanding the payment of advertising rates for the publication of its programmes. It was stated by Mr. Knox that the Sydney Morning Herald, which was outside his organization, might have done so. “When the committee began to prepare its report it received the original letters which had been sent to the commission from the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily News, the Sydney Sun, and the Sydney Daily Telegraph. The three last mentioned were members of the organization of newspaper proprietors, and they had claimed that they desired to be paid advertising rates for the publication of the wireless programmes. The commission estimated that it would cost between £70,000 and £90,000 a year for the publication of the programmes in the metropolitan newspapers and fifteen country newspapers. That would have meant that immediately the programme was printed every body in an outback country town would have demanded that the programme be printed in the local newspapers, and the cast would have been tremendous. The coinmission put the case before the then Postin aster-General (Mr. Cameron), and. it was decided to inaugurate the A.B.C. Weekly. Although that journal was established on a very poor basis it has now been stabilized. It is losing a certain sum of money annually, but it is not large compared with the amount thai would have been paid to the newspaper? of Australia for publishing the programmes.
– Neither can the circulations be compared.
– Had the commission been of a more permanent character, and been sure of a continuity of appointment, a better agreement might have been reached in regard to the printing and publication of the journal. The committee’s report records that members of the committee made a general investigation of this matter. They visited various bookstalls and newsagents’ shops. When they asked for the A.B.C. Weekly, the vendor produced it from under the counter, or from under copies of other periodicals. Whilst the newsvendors displayed many copies of the Wireless Weekly, they did not display copies of the A. B.C. Weekly. At one place in Victoria, a newsagent informed the members of the committee that he had been threatened by a newspaper company that if he sold the A.B.C. Weekly the company would not supply him with its ordinary daily newspaper. It is no wonder, therefore, that the A.B.C. Weekly was not given a fair run. However, I am very hopeful that it will come into its own in the near future, and will serve the purpose for which it was established. No one can dispute the fact that it is an excellent journal.
The committee recommends that the commission to control broadcasting consist of five members, one of whom shall be a woman. That is the basis on which the present commission is constituted. We believe that very many people in Australia are well qualified to undertake the duties of a member of the Broadcasting Commission. I sincerely hope that the Government will re-appoint Mr. Cleary as the chairman of the new commission. Senator Gibson, who was the chairman of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting which investigated the subject, has covered the matter very fully in his speech. Anything which I could say in respect of the committee’s report would be but repetition of the honorable senator’s observations. Therefore, I do not propose to deal with the report.
The bill now before the Senate will achieve many changes in respect of broadcasting generally in this country. The committee’s recommendations have been acclaimed by the press as a whole, and by all sections of the community. I trust, therefore, that the measure will lie given a speedy passage to enable the Government to appoint the new commission in time to assume its duties on the 1st July next.
.- I also offer my congratulations to the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) for’ his very lucid explanation not only in regard to the history of broadcasting in Australia, but (dso the various details in the measure now before us. We are also indebted to my colleague, Senator Gibson, for his elucidation of the committee’s report, and for the valuable work which he and his colleagues have performed, ft is gratifying to note that the committee’s recommendations have been accepted by the Government, and have been embodied in this measure. I also join with other honorable senators in paying a tribute to the work which is being done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That body came into being under somewhat difficult conditions. Through no fault of the gentlemen who have been chairmen of the commission, appointments to that position have been changed rather frequently. The relationship of the commission with the Post.masterGeneral’s Department was not understood, because no official of that department; was directly attached to the commission. However, as soon as the commission really got to work, it made rapid progress. 1 take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work performed by Mr. Herbert Brookes, who at one time was vice-chairman of the commission. His enthusiasm and interest in the science of broadcasting, which is doing so much good or so much harm, according to the way one looks at the matter, is extraordinary. He is no longer a member of the commission. Australia is under a great debt to him for the work which he did in the field of broadcasting, not only inside, but also outside Australia.
We are dealing with a subject that is of extraordinary interest to our people as a whole. But broadcasting is a subject which science has not yet thoroughly understood. Consequently, it behoves us to walk warily as we have been doing so far in dealing with the matter. I do not propose to indulge in higher criticism but to confine my >remarks to certain proposals which I placed before the committee when I gave evidence before it. I feel that these proposals will improve the measure. I agree that the relationship between such a body as the Australasian Performing Right Association and the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a fitting subject for legislation under our copyright law. If the Australasian Performing Bight Association and the commission cannot agree, I think, as I said many years ago, that the differences between them with regard to the payment of royalties should be settled, by compulsory arbitration. I feel confident that such a system would meet with a. substantial measure of success, and would achieve finality instead of having these proceedings drawn out year after year and certain tentative arrangements arrived at which are not satisfactory to either party. There is another aspect of the matter which 1 brought to the notice of the committee, and upon which the committee reported. It is of very great importance, particularly in the light of the extension and expansion of broadcasting into those realms mentioned by Senator Gibson this afternoon. No less an august body than the High Court of Australia has given a decision to the effect that a broadcaster can, from a neighbouring block. broadcast a spectacle such as a race meeting or a sporting event. The particular case considered by the High Court was the broadcasting of a race meeting by a station without the permission of the body which actually arranged the spectacle, and charged the public for admission to its arena. The court’s decision rested broadly on the ground that there is no property in a spectacle; and, therefore, no injunction could be given by the court against the broadcasting station concerned. I have always felt that that was one of those cases where the High Court, as the highest judicial tribunal in the land, might have acted as the old common law judges of England did, and made the law themselves; that is, a law that no broadcasting of a spectacle should be allowed, unless the station concerned obtained the permission of those arranging the spectacle. I recall that the present Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) dissented from that judgment. I have no doubt, therefore, that my proposition would appeal to him if he were with us to-day.
– Did not that case go to the Privy Council ?
– No ; leave to proceed was refused by the Privy Council, which held that the issue was a matter for domestic legislation. The Privy Council pointed out that the law had been determined by the High Court; and that the matter was purely of local interest and might never arise in any other country. Consequently, it was one for determination solely by the Australian courts. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he should embody in the bill a provision that broadcasts of that kind shall not be allowed, either by national or commercial stations, without the consent of the persons arranging such spectacles. The present position is iniquitous, and the rights enjoyed by certain broadcasters may become a tremendously powerful weapon in the. hands of outside, unscrupulous people. Consider the arrangements that maybe made for the future. Radiograms and picturegrams may be sent over the air, and the rights of people may be seriously impaired. The Minister should try to incorporate in the bill while it is before Parliament a provision to cover this matter. It would improve the measure, and it would provide justice for those people who, it appears to me, are suffering injustice. In this bill, and in no other place, should this suggestion be given effect to. A condition of the licence should be that the persons to whom it is granted shall not engage in these sort of practices. With regard to the national stations, there should be an inhibition on them. I commend that point to the Minister because I think it is of sufficient importance to merit action. I know that it has given rise to much feeling throughout the length and breadth of the country. Resentment is felt that such practices can be engaged in with impunity, without regard to the law.
There are one or two other minor items in the bill to which I think I should refer. There does not appear to be any call for consideration of the first point made by Senator Gibson, with regard to the use of the word “ Minister “, because I notice in the Acts Interpretation Act that - “The Minister” shall mean the Minister for the time being administering the act or enactment in which or in respect of which the expression is used.
I take it that no Minister other than the Postmaster-General will ever administer the Broadcasting Act, so that in that connexion the position is probably safeguarded. I welcome, in conjunction with Senator Gibson, the retention of technical services by the Postmaster-General’s Department. There are few persons in this country who know of the extent of the technical work done, and I am sure that the Postmaster-General will bear me out when I say that it is of considerable magnitude. We had on the Radio Research Board no less a person than Sir Harry Brown, when he was Director of Posts and Telegraphs. The contributions made by men not only from the Postal Department, but also from the universities, were of benefit both to radio and the people of this country. The financial contribution of the Postal Department in the old days was not exceedingly large, but it served to provide some funds for research work, which is very important in this new science that has come to civilization. Instead of trying to have two technical bodies, we would he well advised to expand, concentrate, and assist the technical services under the control of the Postal Department to-day. Those services may not be operating to the same extent as before the war. The staff formerly included some extraordinarily skilled technicians, whose activities may now be concentrated in a direction tending to the destruction rather than the education and benefit of mankind.
There is one more minor item of which I hope the Minister will take cognizance. I refer to clause 49, which provides that “ The Minister may, from time to time, by notice in writing, prohibit the Commission …” That power should be enlarged slightly so as to provide that “ The Minister may, from time to time, provided his prohibition 13 afterwards confirmed in writing, prohibit . . .” Circumstances may arise in which there would be no time to carry out the provisions of the clause. Radio waves travel as fast as electricity, and in the event of an emergency, the Minister or the Government should be able to say, “We shall not have that stuff broadcast”. It might be necessary for the Minister to confer with the executive head of the commission and say, “ This is to be prevented “. The only safeguard in the public interest that I can see is to provide that the commission shall be protected by having the prohibition confirmed later in writing.
– That is in the old act.
– It would be better in this bill than in the old act. There is provision in the measure that the commission shall be located in Canberra. Telephonic communication may be necessary in giving a direction, and if the executive head knows that the direction must be confirmed in writing, he will be protected. Unless this provision is made, great mischief could be done before an instruction could be given in writing. Eventualities of all sorts might arise. While I am all for protecting the commission, I assert that the first thing we have to think of is the country itself. It is said that “ The welf are of the people is the highest law “. At times, emergencies arise - not such as are contemplated in the later clauses of the bill, where the Executive Council may step in - and if the Minister would care to see me later, I can give particulars of some that have arisen.
I welcome clause 54, which gives to the commercial stations a degree of security of tenure which they should always have had, and which perhaps, by the placidness of various administrations, they have had to a minor extent. It is extremely difficult, and it may become more difficult still in view of the improved science applicable to radio, for a man to establish a broadcasting station. The conduct of the commercial broadcasting stations during the time I was Postmaster-General was such that I can pay a high tribute to them. They did a good job for this country, and some of them did not receive very much for the service rendered, although others may have basked in the sunshine of higher revenue. They have rendered excellent, service to Australia, particularly in thu country districts. On the whole, we can congratulate ourselves on their existence.
Whatever differences there may have been between the press of Australia and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I, with Senator Gibson, hope that they will be satisfactorily settled. It is unfortunate at a time like this that we should have to embark on the issue of a publication like the A.B.C. Weekly. The chairman of the commission has said that the commission has no alternative but to publish that journal in order to make the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes known to the public. Surely, in this dispute, wiser counsels will prevail. The attitude I adopted was that I believed, as I still believe, that the greatest competitors of the press in the next half-century will be the broadcasting stations. Consider the matter of advertising, from which the press derives the major part of its revenue, and also the method of news presentation. A large section of the press is now presenting its news in tabloid form. Why? They know that the news has already been broadcast to a large section of their readers earlier in the day. I have always
Felt that the newspapers should be connected with the broadcasting of news wherever possible. They are accustomed to gathering news and are able to present it in a way that is attractive to the public.
I congratulate the Australian Broadcasting Commission upon the work that it has done. Many vexed questions have arisen, but fortunately most of them have been of a minor character. For instance, some trouble arose in connexion with the sponsoring of programmes on Sundays, and occasionally some one has overstepped the limit of decency or propriety. In every such instance, however, the people controlling the commercial broadcasting stations required no pressure at all to take action.
We are now considering a measure which may and I hope will last for many years. We are considering it in the knowledge that we are dealing with a progressive science which may be used for good or evil. The evil potentialities of broadcasting are amply demonstrated by its use in those countries in which it has been drummed into the ears of people that they are the salt of the earth, and that the rest of mankind should be slaves. Such abuses of broadcasting can be avoided only by careful control by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the application of sound management and good judgment by the commercial stations. The future of broadcasting rests in their hands.
Senator Gibson referred to the tenure of office of thepresent chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and of the woman member, Mrs. Couchman. I t is true that some of the short appointments to which the honorable senator referred were made during my term of office as Postmaster-General, but I should like to point out that, as the PostmasterGeneral is no doubt aware, there are as many views concerning broadcasting as there are members of a Cabinet. However, I point out to Senator Gibson that both members of the commission to whom he referred are still connected with that organization, and to the best of my belief are still giving excellent service to Australia.
I commend the bill to the Senate and congratulate the Government upon its introduction.
– Like other honorable senators I was pleased to hear Senator Gibson’s comprehensive statement regarding the work of the committee of which he was chairman. When the committee visited my home town of Hobart I personally was acquainted with every man and woman who gave evidence before it. Upon reading the reports appearing in the newspapers I found that it was the view of church people that there should be more church services broadcast; that sporting associations felt that more time should be devoted to their activities; that music-lovers believed that they were entitled to more musical programmes, and so on. In regard to church broadcasts, it is gratifying to know that many churches throughout Australia are fitted for broadcasting. Broadcasting should have a tremendous educational value, but to-day it is not being used to any great degree in this direction, although, as Senator Gibson pointed out, addresses are given from time to time on health matters. Many years ago, when the late Kaiser decided to instil into the youth of Germany the belief that they were by God appointed to lead the nation in its campaign of military conquest, he sent for the schoolmasters and instructed them along those lines. When Hitler came into power he stipulated that every home must have a wireless set, because it was by means of radio broadcasting that he proposed to speak to his people, and to tell them what he wanted them to believe. There is another important aspect of educational broadcasts. Unfortunately, most of us are resigned to the fact that large numbers of the flower of our youth will meet death in the course of this dreadful war. Should that happen, then only the children and the aged will be left. It is too late to start educating the old people because, owing to the trend of events in their lifetime, they are already military-minded. In order to reap the full benefit of education in the future we must start on the children and educate them, not in the ways of war, as is the case in Germany and Italy, but in the ways of peace. Recently I met some people in Melbourne - some of them were university graduates - who apparently realize this, because they asked me to place before the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) a request that a broadcasting station be set aside entirely for the education of children. I sincerely trust that the Postmaster-General will see his way clear to accede to that request. As I have said, church people are demanding more time for church services. This unfortunate world of ours seems to have lost its moral tone. There is little international morality, and it is said that there is little or no business morality. We require moral talks which will bring home to the people the fact that the state of the world to-day has been brought about, as I have said on many occasions in this chamber, by incompetent and corrupt governments calling themselves democracies. If we had a real democracy in Australia the present dreadful state of affairs would never have arisen. The people of this country must be made to realize that it is up to them to alter conditions, otherwise there will be no new world order. To that end the radio could have a tremendous influence. In Melbourne a group of people with whom I am well acquainted, and who occupy high positions in the commercial and educational life of that city, started a movement, and, with money taken from their own pockets, they have the right to use station 3AK Melbourne, for half an hour every Sunday night. I was disappointed to find that reception of 3AK in Sydney and other parts of the Commonwealth is not very satisfactory, because, in order to get the full benefit of the movement, broadcasts will have to reach all parts of the Commonwealth.
Reference has been made to the Australasian Performing Right Association. In my opinion, that is the greatest blackmailing organization on earth. I quite understand that people who own copyrights should be paid for the use of them, but I cannot see any justification for collecting royalties on works which are in some oases 100 years old. Obviously the present holders could not have bought those copyrights 100 years ago. I know of a lady who went to Sydney from another State in order to continue her musical studies. She wanted to make a record and send it to her people in Tasmania. She went to the local broadcasting station and was told that, if she made a recording in that office, she would have to pay the Australasian Performing Right Association 7s. 6d. for the right to do so. If that is not a form of blackmail, I do not know anything about blackmail. The people could derive much greater benefits from both the national and commercial broadcasting systems if this pernicious practice were stopped. Compulsory arbitration has been suggested as a means of overcoming the difficulty. I agree that the sooner such a plan is implemented, the better it will be for all of us. I know that many broadcasting stations are paying very unwillingly for (performing rights. I am glad to notice that the commission is to include one woman member. The influence of a woman on the commission’s broadcasting programmes will undoubtedly be good. One honorable senator mentioned the name of a man whom he hoped would be appointed as chairman of the commission, but we must not forget that Major Moses, who went overseas with our armed forces and had the good fortune to return, is still available. It is only fair that, if he is able and willing to do so, he should be given the opportunity to take up the work again. The Nazi Fuehrer insists that every German family must have a radio set. It is useless for Germans to profess ignorance of edicts that are issued from time to time because it is compulsory for them to listen to the official radio programmes. That is an indication of the important effect which broadcasting can have upon the civil population. I had thought that the committee would have recommended the appointment of a numerically smaller commission. However, I altered my opinion after hearing Senator Gibson’s account of the committee’s researches throughout Australia, and after hearing Senator A. J. McLachlan remind the Senate that, in future, radio will have a tremendous effect upon the morals and general educational standards of the people. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
– I express my thanks to the chairman of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting (Senator Gibson), Senator Amour and their fellow members, who have worked exceptionally well on a very difficult and intricate problem. Having read the committee’s report, we have concrete evidence of the length of time and the amount of work involved in delving- into the problems that were referred to the committee. When I was PostmasterGeneral for a brief period, I had die opportunity to examine the work that was being done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and by commercial stations, and I realized the extraordinary development that had occurred within a few years in the science of broadcasting. I could not fail to appreciate the splendid work that the commission was doing. I was pleased with the advances that had been made in the science of radio. particularly on the part of the technical employees of the Postal Department. When the joint parliamentary committee was appointed, I was anxious to learn whether it would come to the same conclusions that I had reached as the result of my casual observations. Therefore, it gave me much pleasure and satisfaction to learn that the report contained tributes to a wellbalanced commission and also to its chairman, Mr. Cleary, for the work that he has done over a number of years. It is well known that the remuneration received by Mr. Cleary for his work is a mere honorarium, and I believe that the people of Australia, particularly those who are interested in broadcasting and the development of our cultural and educational life, will have good cause in years to come to thank Mr. Cleary for his services. I appreciate the fact that the Government proposes to appoint a parliamentary standing committee to deal with wireless ‘broadcasting. Such a committee can do valuable work, but it can also have a bad influence on broadcasting. If all members of this Parliament do everything in their power to prevent broadcasting from becoming the plaything of party politics, we shall do a great service to the nation. I was glad to learn that the members of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting had worked together very well and had been unanimous on many of the subjects handled. Therefore I suggest to the Government that, in view of the enormous amount of research that has been carried out by these honorable gentlemen, the members of that committee should he selected as the nucleus of the standing committee. If the new committee starts its work on sound lines it can be a valuable guide to future members. We all know that frequent changes occur in the personnel of parliamentary committees, and I am sure that the members of the joint committee, who adopted an unbiased attitude towards the problems which confronted them, could perform a useful service in educating other members of Parliament on the subject of wireless broadcasting. They could prevent misrepresentation, which often occurs when members of Parliament fail to study the facts of a case very closely and are led astray by persons endeavouring to serve their own ends. I am pleased with the work that has been done by the broadcasting systems in Australia to educate children generally, and particularly pupils attending outback schools. I notice that the Government now proposes to issue free listeners’ licences to schools attended by fewer than 50 children. I have no objection to that, but I point out that it would not be very difficult for the parents of pupils attending any school to contribute to the cost of a listener’s licence. The expenditure would ‘be well worth while, taking into consideration the great benefits to be derived from educational programmes. However, I support the Government’s proposal, and I trust that, in future, the Australian Broadcasting Commission will pay even more attention to the educational and cultural life of the community than it has paid in the past. I take this opportunity to say that,- when I was Postmaster-General, I found that the representatives of the commercial stations were always willing to help me. During this period of war they have been ready at all times to make valuable suggestions to the Government regarding the dissemination of facts concerning the war to the people through our broadcasting systems.
– I support this measure and I compliment Senator Gibson and his fellow members of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting on the excellent report which they have submitted. I am a strong believer in the nationalization of broadcasting services, and I see no reason why the Government should not follow the good examples of Canada and New Zealand by legislating for the complete nationalization of wireless broadcasting in Australia. Several honorable senators have referred to the wonderful work that is being done by the Postal Department. In that department, we have a great national undertaking which shows how valuable a nationalized industry can be. If we had a complete national broadcasting system, we should not be pestered with the lying advertisements or the coloured news broadcast by the commercial stations. I can well remember the scurrilous propaganda that was spread by the commercial stations when a previous government proposed to introduce a bill to enable the commission to put over sponsored programmes. If they would do that, they would be prepared to do anything to serve their own ends. I see no reason why at some future date a Labour government should not introduce legislation to provide for national control of the broadcasting services. “With Senator Gibson, I believe that it is much better to publish the A.B.C. Weekly than to pay the commercial press to advertise the commission’s programmes. Although I consider that journal to be one of the best publications in Australia, it is a costly production, having regard to the purpose it is designed to serve. It merely needs to provide the radio programmes for the listening public. In my judgment, a weekly journal should be issued free to all who pay for a listener’s licence. It should be printed in Canberra by the Government Printer, and distributed free through the Postal Department to every licensed listener. A copy of the journal would then he received by 1,324,000 persons throughout Australia. Therefore it wo iri d become . the greatest advertising medium in the Southern Hemisphere, and its circulation should enable it to return a handsome profit. If I were permitted to embark on the enterprise, and pocket the sushis, I should be glad to give up my parliamentary job immediately.
The bill provides that the commission shall be empowered to collect its own news; I endorse that principle. I can foresee the time when the commission will become the chief supplier of news in Australia for the general public. As an independent body, it would be able to publish uncoloured new3 in an impartial, manner, as all news should be presented to the public. I have on previous occasions referred to the censorship of serials broadcast by commercial stations. I hope that the Postmaster-General will see whether it is possible to include in this bill the power to censor serials that are immoral and indecent, and make an unsavoury appeal to a certain class of people.
The proposal for the establishment of a parliamentary standing committee to make recommendations regarding wireless broadcasting is a commendable one. I am also greatly in favour of the appointment of State advisory committees. On behalf of the people of Tasmania, I have on several occasions suggested alterations to the programmes put over the national stations in that State. The people of Tasmania, as a rule, dine from about 0 p.m. to 6.30 .p.m., whilst in the mainland States the more usual hour is from 6.30 p.m. to 1 p.m. In Tasmania, dinner music is broadcast on certain nights and on other nights that period is occupied with rifle club notes and market reports. Many people in Tasmania turn on their wireless sets five or ten minutes before the news is broadcast at 12.30 p.m. and 1.30 p.m., and at that time would be glad to listen to a few attractive musical items, but they hear only market reports and weather information. I suggest that the programmes should be made as attractive as possible during the periods when listeners are waiting for the news.
I have always advocated the use of local musical and literary talent for broadcasting purposes, because I consider that there is a vast reservoir of untapped talent in this country. There is no organization in Australia that conducts competitions for musical and dramatic artists which entitle the prizewinners to call themselves the champions of the Commonwealth in their respective sections. If the commission would conduct such competitions in each of the States the winners would, I venture to think, be we’ll satisfied if the only prize awarded were a certificate, bearing a reproduction of the fine example behind your chair, Mr. President, of the Australian Coat of Arms. The commission would then he able to obtain all the talent it required without having to pay for it.
Senator Darcey has referred to the claims of the Australasian Performing Right Association, which charges certain sums for the manufacture and copyright of musical records. I suggest that records should be made of the performances of the leading artists of Australia who are employed from time to time by the commission, as well as of the orchestras and bands, particularly military bands, for sale to the general public. I see no reason why this field should be left open to the commercial firms, thereby enabling them to exploit the public. We have good musicians and other artists in Australia, and Ave should make use of their services. I commend the Joint Committee on Broadcasting and the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the good work they have done. The bill has my hearty support, and I hope that it will goon become law.
.- -I am pleased to associate myself with all honorable senators who have spoken in support of this bill. I congratulate the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) upon his second-reading speech, and upon the bill now presented.
I believe that the measure will stand as a monument to him and to this Government. It is indeed an achievement to consolidate in this way the multifarious regulations which, in the past, have proved the bugbear of all who were concerned with their administration. The measure also unifies the organization and control of broadcasting in this country. That is an important step forward. I also congratulate the chairman and members of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting on their investigations. This bill is based upon their recommendations. All of us realize the energy and time which they directed to their duties. We know that the committee travelled to the four corners of the Commonwealth in the course of its investigation. The committee finally made over 70 recommendations; and so sound was its investigation that the Government has adopted practically all of them. In passing, I might remark that the appointment of parliamentary committees to investigate various subjects of national importance of this kind, and the willingness of the Government to accept essential recommendations made by such committees, represent one of the most advanced steps this democracy has taken since federation.
The bill is all the more important in view of the rapid developments which have taken place in the field of broadcasting. All of us admit that broadcasting is an essential service, and under present conditions, it must be operated as smoothly as possible. To-day, 1,324,000 persons out of our population of 7,000,000 are licensed as listeners. They represent 80 per cent, of the homes of the Commonwealth. We now have 30 national stations and 99 commercial stations devoted to satisfying the broadcasting. appetite of our people. This progress is most striking when we realize that a few years ago broadcasting was practically unknown in this country. In view of this progress the Government is to be complimented upon the embodying in one comprehensive measure all that is at present needed in respect of broadcasting.
A very desirable feature of the bill is the provision that each broadcasting station shall set aside a portion of its time for the broadcast of Australian music; 2£ per cent, of the total time must now be allotted to Australian music. This improvement is long overdue. I know the problems that have faced many young Australian playwrights and music composers in the past in endeavouring to have their compositions published. Undoubtedly, Australian publishers look at the matter purely from the financial point of view. They have told these young Australians that they would simply be wasting money if they accepted Australian songs, because the market for Australian song-writers is practically non-existent. Consequently, our publishers have consistently refused to publish songs by Australian composers, even though such compositions may compare more than favorably with imported songs. Under this measure these young
Australians will be given an opportunity to test their talent. It will provide them with a wedge to prise open the door of opportunity. I have no doubt that it will help to place Australian music on a much higher plane than is the case at present. The need for such opportunity is emphasized particularly at this time of crisis when our people are looking for songs which will cementthe relationship between Australia and its American allies. I have complete confidence in the ability of Australians to produce such compositions. We know that great songs are born in times of national stress. For instance, the Marseillaise emerged from the French Revolution. As a musical composition it is not of a very high standard; but it struck the hour and the day, and it will live for ever. I sincerely hope that, in a similar way, an Australian song will emerge from the present crisis. This measure will give encouragement to young Australian composers to produce such a song, which so far we have searched for in vain.
Another welcome feature of the bill is that closer control is to be exercised over advertising matter broadcast by commercial stations. Unfortunately, this supervision has not been so strict as many of us would like to see it. In this respect I refer particularly to the advertising of patent medicines. I am informed on good authority that the revenue received by many B class stations from the advertising of patent medicines represents an extraordinarily high percentage of their total revenue. No doubt those stations will suffer considerable loss in this respect; but like most business people they will soon find ways and means of making up in other directions revenue lost to them in a particular field.
I also welcome the provision restricting advertising in relation to political election campaigns. This kind of advertising has been responsible for many abuses in the past. For instance, honorable senators on this side, and their party political colleagues, have experienced the utmost difficulty in obtaining time in which to broadcast on commercial stations. In addition, we have been handicapped by lack of funds to pay for such advertising. On the other hand, because of the funds readily available to our opponents the latter have been enabled to blanket the commercial stations, and thus prevent us from getting on the air. Perhaps, this was one reason for our success at the last general elections. Apparently, our political opponents overdid broadcasting in this way, and thus lost the sympathy of the public. Nothing did the Labour party more good in the last federal elections than the fact that when the wireless was switched on there came the announcement that some aspirant for parliamentary status would fill the air with his vowels and consonants to such a degree that only the brave would dare to keep the instrument switched on. What did us the most good was that we could not afford to buy the time of the broadcast stations.
Regarding the A.B.C. Weekly, I am pleased that the committee has recommended that it should be continued. I have always felt that a journal of that kind in the hands of the Government could be very valuable as a means of propaganda.
– That is at least frank. Now we know the reason for the continuance of the journal.
– As Senator McBride objects to the word “ propaganda “, may I say that the journal could be of wonderful value in preserving the morale of the people. We know that the morale of the people is seriously in need of a boost.
– I hope that it will not have to rely on the A.B.C. Weekly.
– I have always felt that the journal could be improved. It has a ready-made public.
– The records to-day do not prove that.
– The readymade public is there. I am not by any means saying that the journal has played its part in the past, because I am of opinion that it has been sadly lacking. The bill, however, will give it a new lease of life. Every radio listener wants to know what is on the air.
– He does not look at the A.B.C. Weekly to find out.
– That is as much the fault of the honorable senator’s party as of any one else. When he opens his mouth, he condemns himself. The previous Government was in charge of this journal for months and did nothing but receive complaints; the present Labour Government has done something. It has brought down a bill which will make the journal not only profitable to the Government, but also valuable to the community. I feel that when Senator McBride has the opportunity to look back in six months’ time, he will find the words I am speaking in the Senate this afternoon will have come true. In those days we cannot overestimate the value of good propaganda and morale-building for the people. The A.B.C. Weekly can take its place as an educational influence. It can tell the people what they should know, and thus bring out the best in them.
Reading the daily newspapers from day to day is the worst possible cure for a had morale. One day, they raise the reader’s morale to the skies by emphasizing successes here and successes there ; but the next day they take generals or the Commonwealth Government to task. There is no stability of purpose in what they do. It is no wonder that in some portions of the country, the morale of the people on some occasions has been low. I am glad that public morale has been improved in the last month or six weeks. The question is whether the newspapers are acting in the best interests of the community, or whether they are presenting news in such a way that the people are misled. The people do not know from week to week what position the country is in ; they do not know what to expect or what measures they should take in these days of comparative security to prepare for days of insecurity. With the A.B.G. Weekly given a new lease of life, it can educate the people and become a profitable journal of value to the Government as well as the people.
The bill co-ordinates all previous acts, including amendments and regulations, that have been promulgated to control the broadcasting industry. It sets them forth in a way that can easily be understood by the general public, and it solidifies the whole organization. It will be of value to the commission, which will know where it stands, and to the community, which will become aware of the foundation of the organization and of how it operates. In these days, when radio reveals itself as the greatest single avenue of propaganda, it is good for the community that the bill has been brought down. That is particularly true in .country districts, where previously news was slow to arrive, but where now, by the simple switching on of a wireless set, reports of international and internal news can be received without delay. Its rapid growth has shown that radio is important in the life of the community. We know that our A class stations have been far from perfect, and that B class commercial stations have been open to keen criticism; but I feel that the bill will now start the industry off on a brighter future because it will go forward well organized and well controlled in a way that will bring credit to the Government and will earn the undying thanks of the community at large.
.- I was inclined to give some approval to the hill, but when I had listened to the paean of praise from both sides of the chamber and had remembered the criticism that had been put forth for years by the men who are now praising the bill, I began to have some doubts about it. There is no doubt that one result of the committee’s report has been to justify the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I notice that members of the commission are in the public galleries of this chamber to-day, and I am sure that their ears must be burning because of the praise that has been voiced concerning them. For years, the commission has been the stalking horse of every body with a grudge. But now, suddenly, every body lauds the work of the commission and says that this is a magnificent bill. As a matter of fact, with the exception of one or two small items, this bill makes very little alteration to the original legislation. The committee in its report says in effect : “ This commission is a good commission. It has done remarkably fine work and it should not be interfered with “.
– The bill contains some improvements.
– I doubt it. In my opinion, several clauses require explanation, and close scrutiny. One of them is clause 17 which deals with the right of the commission to employ certain people. That clause states : -
A person shall not be admitted to the service of the commission unless -
Does that mean that a Melba or a Caruso has to go through a medical examination before being employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission ? Will a worldfamous conductor such as the leader of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra have to satisfy the requirements of that clause?
-Such a person would not be an employee of the commission.
– Why not? Why does not the bill define the term “ employee “ ? It appears to me that in accordance with the provisions of clause 17, no overseas artist could be employed without first undergoing an examination, taking the oath of allegiance and presenting a clean bill of health. Is that the intention of the clause? We must bear in mind the fact that we are not now legislating merely for war-time but also for the future. The clause which I have mentioned is only one of several which require close examination. I can mention many people who would be unable to secure employment with the commission if the terms of this clause were strictly adhered to.
Despite the fact that every body apparently is in agreement that the existing commission is a good one, this bill seeks to superimpose upon the authority of the Minister and of the commission a parliamentary committee which I am convinced will interfere with the natural work of the Minister and of the commission. I ask honorable senators how the commission will be able to function properly if it is subject to supervision by a parliamentary committee which in fact knows very little about broadcasting. Every action that the commission takes, and every contract which it enters into, will be subject to supervision by that committee. In effect, the bill shows lack of confidence in the commission and in the Minister, despite the fact that the work of the commission has been loudly acclaimed.
– The committee will be responsible to Parliament and through it to the people.
– Is not the Minister responsible to the people, and is not the Government responsible to the people? Of course they are. The Minister is supposed to be an expert in his particular job, and I see no reason why it should be necessary to superimpose a body which will merely run around looking for complaints in order to bring them before Parliament, and to endeavour to upset the operation of the commission.
This bill will stand for years to come and we do not want it to go through Parliament without knowing exactly what it means and what it involves. For instance, clause 36 refers to the right of the commission to issue debentures. Certainly the exercise of this right is subject to the approval of the Treasurer, but it exists nevertheless. In my opinion, the provision that was laid down by Senator A. J. McLachlan, when he was PostmasterGeneral, that a certain amount of the commission’s revenue should be set aside each year for a building fund was a much better proposition. As soon as this bill becomes law the commission will doubtless want to issue £50,000 worth of debentures.
– It has that right now.
– I consider that it should not have that right. I am surprised that the Government, even though it acted on the advice of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, should have included in the bill the provisions relating to the licensing periods for B class stations and the right of the Minister to cancel licences. Every body must recognize that commercial broadcasting in Australia, involving as it does an annual revenue of more than £1,000,000, is of great importance to the country. The commercial stations are always endeavouring to improve their technique and equipment, but now they will probably be deterred by the fact that, after their first licensing period of three years has expired, subsequent licences will apply for only one year at a time, and will be subject to cancellation at the will of the Minister. What improvements are the B class stations likely to make if they have no security of tenure? They will not spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on new equipment unless they are sure of retaining their licences. In view of the political faith of the Labour party, I could have understood the Government deciding to nationalize broadcasting services and close down the commercial stations, with or without compensation according to their various degrees of “ redness “ or political unreasonableness. But the Government apparently approves of commercial broadcasting. Surely, then, it must agree that provision should be made for the B class stations to keep abreast of modern developments in broadcasting, which is a progressive science. The Government has failed in this connexion by saying that, although it is composed of “ dyed in the wool nationalizationists “, it will not nationalize broadcasting. The natural reaction of the people is to believe that the Labour party has abjured its faith. The suspicion arises in one’s mind that the B class stations, for the present at any rate, are wielding a lot of power. They have a great deal of political pull a nd advertising value. Does that account for the fact that a government, which has proclaimed from the roof-tops its advocacy of the nationalization of industry, has denied its faith?
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
– I have indicated that some of the clauses of the bill require clarification and careful consideration. I know fairly well what is intended by the measure, and in some respects I have no objection to the intentions of the Government, but what counts most is what is stated in the bill itself. I have chided some honorable senators opposite regarding their change of attitude to the principle of nationalization.
I cannot understand why a party which advocates nationalization generally should, in the matter of wireless broadcasting, turn dog on its own principles. It is difficult for me to reconcile the chorus of approbation of this bill from honorable senators opposite. It is proposed to superimpose on the commission a parliamentary committee which will supervise the work of both the Minister and the. commission. Under clause 57 the Minister is to be given the right to cancel the licence issued to a commercial broadcasting station. Does he then put it up to the parliamentary committee to say whether the Minister has acted rightly or wrongly? If the Minister refers such a matter to the committee, does the station go back on the air in the meantime or does the cancellation stand? I would not impute improper motives to the Minister in charge of the bill, but it seems to me that the powers to be given to him under paragraph b of sub-clause 1 of clause 57 are far too drastic. Under that paragraph the Minister may cancel a licence if he considers it in the public interest to do so. I am discussing the bill as though a war were not in progress, since this is a peace-time measure. The Minister might legitimately use that power in time of war and I would not object to his action. Suppose the committee decided that the station whose licence has been cancelled must be put back on the air. Is the responsible Minister to be at the beck and call of a committee set up to supervise his administration? This seems a departure from the principle of parliamentary responsibility.
SenatorFoll. - Is it not more in the nature of a right of appeal?
– There is no right of appeal under this bill, unless the Minister chooses to refer the matter to the parliamentary committee. I should say that such a committee would be constantly interfering with the Minister in the discharge of his duties under the act. I am bound to say that the Joint Committee on Broadcasting did good work in presenting its lengthy report in a short period. The report justifies the operations of the commission and indicates to the Minister that the commission does not desire any alteration of the personnel of the commission. It would be monstrous if the Minister were now to dismiss certain members of the commission, and I believe that the Minister will be canny enough to leave well alone. Clause 100 states -
A person shall not, without the consent of the owner or licensee of the station and the approval of the Minister, publish, in any manner whatsoever, any portion of the text of an item transmitted by a broadcasting station, whether situated in Australia or elsewhere.
– In speaking to the second reading of a bill, it is not usual to deal with its clauses in detail. At the committee stage the honorable senator will have an opportunity to discuss the clauses separately, but he is not in order in doing so at this stage.
– I was about to refer to a broad principle. Clause 100 provides that any matter broadcast in Australia or overseas, may not be rebroadcast or published without the consent of the owner of the station and the approval of the Minister, and any person who offends in this respect is liable to a penalty.
– He may be evading the Wireless Telegraphy Act.
– That may be so, but a person might innocently broadcast or publish an item heard over the air. I do not know whether this clause was inserted to protect the revenue of the Postal Department or of the cable companies, but I think it goes too far. News might be given over the air and published by an outback country newspaper which happened to hear it a few minutes before going to press. The publication of such an item of news, even if the exact words were not repeated, would make the publisher liable to a severe penalty. Although on general principles this bill may be desirable, I felt somewhat suspicious regarding it when I found that nearly all honorable senators were loud in its praises. It is not sufficient for us to say that we believe in this measure or that it is practically the same measure as that which has been in operation for years. Nor is it sufficient to say that the commission has done its work well. Our job is to scrutinize its provisions closely. I consider that the slight criticism that I have offered is thoroughly warranted. I thought it necessary to refer to the change of attitude of certain honorable senators opposite who, in the past, have condemned the commission and all its works.
– I congratulate the Joint Committee on Broadcasting upon the good work that it has done. It has submitted a voluminous report, and I doubt whether the majority of honorable senators have read the ‘evidence very carefully. An inquiry into the system of wireless broadcasting in operation in Australia was long overdue, and some commendation should be given to the previous Government which appointed the Joint Committee on Broadcasting. About 90 per cent, of the recommendations of the committee have been embodied in the bill now before us. Like Senator Leckie, I am inclined to wonder whether this measure would have met with the same whole-hearted support as is evident on this occasion if it had been introduced by the previous Government. The bill effects no drastic alteration. To a great degree it is a consolidating measure, embodying previous amendments and regulations. Even the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which in the view of honorable senators opposite committed so many misdemeanours in the past, is to be retained. It is proposed to remove the head-quarters of the commission from Sydney to Canberra. To my mind that will be unwise. The commission has its head-quarters well established in Sydney, and practically 40 per cent, of its work is confined to New South Wale3. I have, no doubt that the commission finds Sydney a convenient site for its headquarters. We must remember that with its head-quarters in the largest city in Australia, the commission has every opportunity to contact world-famous artists. Another object of the hill is to remove broadcasting as far as possible from political influence. That object will hardly be achieved by transferring the head-quarters of the commission from Sydney to the National Capital of the Commonwealth.
– Does that apply to all Government departments whose head-quarters are established in Canberra ?
– To a great degree, yes. However, it is not necessary to transfer the head-quarters of the commission to Canberra. I repeat that the’ commission is well established in Sydney. In addition, the present is certainly not an opportune time to make such a transfer in view of the acute shortage of accommodation in Canberra.
It is also proposed under this measure to appoint a parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting. The duties of this body have not been specifically explained. I understand that it will inquire into subjects that may be referred to it by either the Minister or the commission. I submit that if the standing committee is to be enabled to function to i he best advantage, it should itself be cm powered to initiate inquiries into any matter which it deems requires investigation. The bill is somewhat vague concerning the duties of the proposed State advisory committees. These committees are to be appointed by the Minister; but no information has been given as to their personnel, either in respect of numbers or character. Are members of these committees to be representative of sectional interests?
Reverting to the provisions of the bill designed to remove broadcasting from political influence, I point out that clause 23 and clause 97 appear to be in conflict. Clause 23 reads -
Hie commission shall broadcast free of charge from all of the national broadcasting stations, or from such of them as are specified by the Minister, any matter the broadcasting of which is directed by the Minister in writing an being in the public interest.
Clause 97 reads -
Subject to the provisions of this section the commission m;iv determine to what extent and in what milliner political speeches may be broadcast from national stations, and the licensee of each commercial broadcasting station may arrange for the broadcasting of political’ speeches from that station.
In the first instance, a member may obtain the permission of the Minister to make a political speech from a broadcasting station. Under clause 97, how ever, the commission is empowered to dictate how the speech shall be delivered, and what it shall contain. To the ordinary layman those clauses appear to be in conflict.
– I think that the words “ during an election “ should be i lis g r t g(i
– That may clear up the matter; but these clauses certainly require clarification. I agree entirely with the proposal to extend the benefits of broadcasting to small schools in isolated country districts.
– I suppose that I should follow the example set by other honorable senators, excepting Senator Leckie, and compliment the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) upon his able and interesting secondreading speech, and also Senator Gibson for his comprehensive speech, which lasted for over an hour and a quarter. I listened to both speeches very carefully. Senator Gibson certainly knew what he was talking about. It was refreshing to me to hear an honorable senator make a speech at such length, and to display such knowledge on any particular subject. Senator Leckie thought that the commendations were running too profusely, and he sought to criticize the measure. His attempt to do so was somewhat feeble. Personally, I am unable to get excited over the bill. Some of the statements made by one or two honorable senators opposite could very well be uttered by me on this occasion. I expected that the committee would bring in radical recommendations. However, it is admitted that the hill proposes no radical change. As a matter of fact, it follows closely the lines of the previous bill. It does not propose any very great change at all.
– It is a consolidating measure.
– That is so. There are very few innovations.
– Can the honorable senator make a good radical suggestion?
– The trouble with me is that my suggestions are too radical. I find it useless to make any. In this connexion I am reminded of a story which T once told on an electioneering platform. We hear from many people, who are radicals, very much about what they would do if only they could get into Parliament. A gentleman once came to see me about an aeroplane which he had invented. It was an astounding invention. The machine was completely foolproof. No matter how foolish a man might be he could not possibly stall the aeroplane. The inventor claimed that once the machine was in the air, the pilot, or passengers, need have no fear whatsoever of accident. It was a marvellous machine. As one who suffers fools gladly, I took the matter up with the authorities in Canberra. The official reply was that the invention was certainly wonderful, but there was one thing wrong with it - no one could possibly get it into the air. That is the way with many radical people. We hear a lot about what they would do if they got into Parliament, but their one obstacle is that they cannot get elected. However, even if one of them did succeed, he .would find it useless to make radical suggestions. We are living in an era of parliamentary action based on the principle of compromise; and we have compromised in this measure to the degree that we have not carried out the ideals that have been promulgated for many years by the Labour party. No doubt there is a reason for that. But there should be no criticism from honorable senators opposite on that ground, because they have been telling us in the press that we should not take advantage of the war situation to give effect to our pet political ideas. We find Senator Leckie criticizing the Government to-night for failing to give effect to its policy in this measure, in spite of the continual howl from supporters of honorable senators opposite that we should not take advantage of the present situation to carry out our socialistic programme under the cover of war conditions.
– This is a hill, not n regulation.
– It is a bill to set up a broadcasting commission and to give certain rights and powers to that body. If we desired to take advantage of the present, war situation, we could, and rightly so, in my opinion, nationalize broadcasting completely. In this matter I agree with Senator Amour, who was a member of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting; and I suppose that he placed his views before the committee as ably as he places them before the Senate.
– He certainly did.
– I think that it would be a good idea to nationalize broadcasting. However, at present, it is partly nationalized, and, at the same time, we have a capitalist controlled section in broadcasting which we designate as the B class stations. Perhaps, that arrangement has some value insofar as the B class stations act as a corrective, and a spur to the national stations to prove to the people of Australia that a nationalized broadcasting station can meet private enterprise in this field on equal ground. I prophesy that the day is coming when the radical ideas which 1 express now will be carried to fruition. I should like to see the Government of Australia place a wireless set in every home in the country. There should be no question of paying this or that firm to do it, and incurring costs of advertising. Edward Bellamy, in his book Looking Backwards, referred to people who pressed a hutton and obtained music ov anything they required. The day is coming when a wireless set and telephone will be built into every home. When the war is over our greatest difficulty will be to find occupations for the people. Under the present capitalist regime, it would be impossible to do so, but we know for certain that a vast change is coming.
– There is no need for a wireless set in every home. There are 200,000 people in London who have no wireless sets but who listen in to everything because they have loud-speakers.
– I object to loudspeakers. I have one in my home, and there are objections in many homes that the loud-speakers installed there, or in neighbours’ premises, are too loud. My ideas do not go so far as to have loudspeakers to fill the ears of 200,000 people in London or anywhere else. There is already too much noise, hut I should like to see a set in every home, without the need for salesmen vying with one another to place costly furniture in the home.
– Does the honorable senator favour the broadcasting of parliamentary speeches?
– There is one man whose speeches I would broadcast, and he is Senator Brown, because he would interest the people. I would certainly favour the broadcasting of parliamentary speeches, because there is one feature of broadcasting that appeals to me. I remember a senator saying to me, You know, senator, when I speak on the wireless I hear thousands of clicks of people turning off their sets “. I do not know whether that is true, but it is a fact that if you do not want to hear a person, and your wife agrees with you, you can turn off the wireless. You have no need to listen to parliamentary speeches if you do not wish to hear them. It would be a splendid thing for Australia if parliamentary speeches were broadcast, for then the members who make speeches would do their best to make good speeches that would appeal to the people.
– Some present members would notbe returned to Parliament if their speeches here were broadcast.
– I knew of one senator who became a member of this chamber because he was ill during an election campaign. Had he been well he would not have been sent here. In criticism of the measure, I see no virtue in having a plethora of committees and persons to supervise broadcasting. We have a Minister whom we all respect, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, with a lady aboard, an advisory council in every State, and now we are going to have a parliamentary standing committee. It reminds me that some years ago, when an effort was made in Queensland to reinstitute the Upper House, a member of unpleasant memories to many Queenslanders said, “ If we had an Upper House we would solve half our difficulties “. I suggested that if an Upper House would solve half our difficulties by watching over the work of the Lower House, we could solve the whole of our difficulties if we had an Upper Upper House, to watch over the Upper House, to look after the Lower House. If we are having trouble at the present time with broadcasting, how can we remedy it by having a Minister, a commission, advisory councils, and a parliamentary committee? I am not very enthusiastic about it. I suppose there may be work for all of them to do, which will perhaps be desirable, but I do not see how we can solve our problems by duplication of people who exercise control of broadcasting.
Speaking personally, and not as a party man, if we had at the head of affairs a man and a commission who understood their business, and who knew what was required by the Government and the people, I should be prepared to say to them, “ Go to it, and do your best “. I would go farther and say, in regard to the radical ideas it is stated that I hold, and advocate that the Government should have more time on the air to offset the lying propaganda of the press of this country. The press do not lie openly, but by inference and innuendo, and by leaving out facts that should be disclosed. I should like to see in connexion with the bill a clause dealing with propaganda, and the appointment of a Minister for Propaganda, so that a war-time government could place its point of view before the people. We can see in this chamber, in the House of Representatives, and in the country that there is very little antagonism to the Government. There is antagonism between the sections of the party in opposition, but, generally speaking, there is unity among the Labour, (Conservative, and Country parties, and the independents. That is because we are living under the shadow of a great world tragedy. We know that in order to win through in this fight, we must keep the morale of the people at a high level. We also know that the great mass of the people are subject to control not so much through their powers of analysis, as through their emotions. I believe that with the aid of broadcasting, those who understand the psychology of the people can play a great part in controlling and maintaining the public morale, and offsetting the insidious propaganda which, under our democratic control, we allow to be disseminated.
– The German people are not allowed to listen to British propaganda.
– That is so; but we do allow Australians to listen. The people cannot hear the truth if the source of supply is stopped. The Germans cannot know our point of view if Hitler and those associated with him say they shall not listen to the propaganda of Great Britain, Australia, or any other country. If we tackle the business of broadcasting in relation to propaganda - not propaganda in its sinister aspect, but in its educational and moral aspect - we should have to add an important provision to this hill. Senator James McLachlan directed attention to two clauses in the measure that are antagonistic to each other. They deal with the dissemination of political matter. What is political matter?
– I refer the honorable senator to clause 97.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing in detail any clause of the bill at this stage. He will be in order in dealing with the general principles of the measure and in making a passing reference to such provisions as he so desires.
– I shall not quote any particular clause, i admit that there are clauses in the bill that are somewhat limited in scope, and there are some that need further elucidation by th<» Minister. I ask the Minister, when itcomes to his turn to hold the floor, to tell me what he means by “ political speeches”. I understand from the bill that the commission will have certain powers of limiting the political speeches of certain people. It will have to say what is political and what is not political.
– I think that there has been an omission from the bill. The provision should be restricted to election periods.
– That throws some light on the subject, and may give us an understanding of what the bill really means in this connexion. The point I would make is that the word “ political “ is a broad expression covering much ground, and I do not agree that a commission of supposedly political or nonpolitical people should be able to say to a government, or to certain other people, “You cannot say this or that”. That strengthens my argument that a government controlling millions of people in war-time should have the means, apart from the limitations provided in the bill, of engaging in educational propaganda that will appeal to the masses and offset the propaganda issued from inside and outside the camps of the common enemy. I know of the propaganda that has been . carried on during the last few months among certain sections of the working class people by those individuals who exploit the workers and control them economically. I know that the truth has not, been told. I am not here to condone the stupidity of men who so far forget their nation as to conduct themselves on the industrial field in a manner which is detrimental to the welfare of their fellow citizens. I know also that certain employers, because of their control over the machinery of production, have been conducting themselves in such a way as to prejudice the best interests of this nation, but we have not heard the trinh in regard to these matters from our national broadcasting stations. It is the right of any government, particularly in war-time, to tell the people the truth. To me this restriction on “political speeches “ is mere humbug. The fact that certain men wish to cling limpet-like to the treasury bench does not interest me at all. The important question is: Are we defending the interests of Australia against the machinations of those who would attack the mentality of our people by means of propaganda? We are all aware that our people are being attacked by weapons other than bombs and bayonets. They are being attacked through their mentality, and a broadcasting measure such as this should make the fullest provision to meet such an attack. That is my argument, which I contend is reasonable. We should have the finest instrument of propaganda in the world in order to maintain our morale and unity in the face of a common enemy. Why all this namby-pamby about, political speeches? After all, the welfare of our people depends upon politics. The idea that the two can be separated, and that men must be prevented from broadcasting this speech or that speech is ridiculous. Now, more than ever, there is need for men with strong minds and wide understanding, not merely to ape Goebbels and Lozovsky, but to use propaganda to safeguard and defend the people of this nation against the machinations of an enemy who would destroy them. That is why I say that I do not accept this bill in the ordinary way. No doubt some honorable senators regard me as a radical, but I cannot help holding these views. A great feature of our democratic community is our freedom to express ourselves. Freedom of speech is a splendid thing, and I hope that the time will never come when Australians will be denied that right. I have the right to express my opinions and honorable senators opposite have the right to express theirs. Af ter all, we are only in Canberra for a few weeks of the year, and every one who has something of importance to say should be permitted to say it.
– They usually do.
– I realize that at times parliamentary procedure and political expediency curb the loquacity of some speakers, but a man may be called loquacious, and at the same time have something of interest to say. I believe that the views which I have expressed are of interest, and that I am propounding something which if taken up and carried to its logical conclusion, would redound to the benefit of Australia.
This bill shows up in a clear light the constant clash between the social theories of Labour and the practices indulged in by those individuals whom honorable senators opposite represent in this chamber. Supporters of honorable senators opposite are interested in profits, and I do not blame them, because it is their life. However, there are others in the community whose aim is to organize society on social lines, apart altogether from profit-making. Therefore it is necessary to compromise, and we have compromised in regard to broadcasting. I venture to suggest that some honorable senators opposite, and thousands of people whom they represent would, if they had the opportunity, destroy our national broadcasting system, and leave the commercial stations unchallenged in the broadcasting field.
– I remind the honorable senator that it was not the Labour party that established the national stations.
– I am not saying that it was. I concede that there are some honorable senators opposite - Senator Gibson is undoubtedly one - who favour modern evolutionary developments, and who are prepared to lay the foundation for the change which they realize is inevitable. Senator Gibson knows that after this war those members of society who believe in social justice and cooperation will far outweigh the individualists, capitalists arid profit-makers, and will thus facilitate reform in our broadcasting system. To-day we have to listen to fearful bilge about so-and-so’s pink pills for pale people and so-and-so’s beer. Thousands of listeners are fed-up with radio advertising, and are seeking a change. It is appalling to listen to such broadcasts especially on Sundays. Usually the listener just gets into the mood of a broadcast when it is interrupted by some advertising nonsense. I understand that there is a clause in the bill which is aimed at curbing the activities of those who would desecrate the Sabbath by putting nauseating advertising propaganda over the air. No matter how holy the occasion or how sacred the day,, certain individuals cannot refrain from voicing mundane ideas. It reminds me of the story of the social credit advocate who attended a funeral at a crematorium. Unfortunately, the clergyman did not arrive in time for the service and during the period in which the assembled were waiting, a social credit advocate rose and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, while we are waiting for the parson 1 arn sure you will not mind if I address “you on the burning question of social credit”. We are told in the Bible to remember the Sabbath Day, and to keep it holy, but that does not restrain profit-seekers from advertising beer, wine and spirits, pills, potions and cough remedies. The time will come when these people will not be able to sit in their offices and invent all kinds of slogans aimed at getting people to buy what in many instances are worthless products. To-day they are permitted to obtain a living from such products, and by means of the commercial stations they fight for that living. But surely the day is coming when those who seek to listen to sweet music or educational broadcasts will not be assailed by this objectionable advertising ‘propaganda. In my opinion the bill is like the curate’s egg, good in parts, but I am sure that all honorable senators will support it. I am looking forward to the time when we shall be able to carry out our peacetime programme and make broadcasting an instrument for uplifting the public, disseminating modern ideas, educating our young people, and bringing enjoyment to all.
– -After listening to the very interesting historical survey of wireless broadcasting and the masterly analysis of this bill by Senator Gibson, one feels rather diffident about speaking at length on the measure. Apparently, all honorable senators agree that the ‘bill is a good one and that the Joint Committee on Broadcasting has done an excellent job. The Government has done a good job by adopting practically all of the committee’s recommendations. Broadcasting is a fascinating subject. I remember an interesting experiment in broadcasting that was conducted about 24 years ago when I . was at the Senior Officers’ School at Aldershot, in England. One evening, we all assembled in the gymnasium to listen to a .broadcast arranged by the Signals Section of the Royal Engineers. Recorded music was transmitted from the House of Commons in London to Aldershot and the reception was very clear. That was in Decem[ber. 1918, and what has happened since then is a romance of modern science. Yet wireless broadcasting is still in its infancy; none of us can forecast what the future holds for it. What Senator Gibson told us this afternoon about television does not altogether appeal to me because I fear that it might embarrass some of us. However, we shall take that jump when we come to it. I have not heard much to-night about the B class stations. Most of us are opposed, or say that we are opposed, to monopolies. I believe that it would b.e extremely bad for Australia if broadcasting were nationalized, because when competition is removed, a business undertaking usually becomes lazy and self-satisfied and falls into a rut. That is why Australia should have B class stations. Some honorable senators have referred to the profits of the commercial stations. But the figures quoted this afternoon by Senator ‘Gibson disclosed no excessive profits; the labourer is always worthy of his hire. Some of the programmes broadcast by commercial stations are extraordinarily good. I have heard more cursing than blessing in this chamber with regard to broadcasting programmes generally, but it is utterly impossible to present programmes that will satisfy all tastes. We have a wide choice of programmes from our broadcasting stations to-day, and we are always at liberty to switch off our receiving sets if they do not please us. This is a great blessing very often when political talks are being broadcast, because, with modern loud-speakers, the night air can be made hideous by these speeches. I now direct attention to an aspect of wireless broadcasting that the joint committee apparently overlooked. About two years ago, 1 had the misfortune to be living in a bachelor fiat in Melbourne, where my next-door neighbour would turn on his radio set at full volume at all hours of the night. I should like to have some penalty provided for nuisances of that sort. Many fiats are jerry-built and it is most embarrassing when neighbours create a din with their wireless sets.
All of us have at times criticized the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but I am glad to know that in future the commission will have security of tenure of office. Appointments will not he on a month-to-month basis any longer. Any intelligent, fair-minded person must’ admit that the commission has been as impartial as it could have been. It has. resolutely refused to bow the knee to Baal. No matter which political party has been in power, it has held steadfastly to its policy with regard to political broadcasts from national stations during election campaigns. I give full credit to it for that. All of us have at times been “mad” at the national stations and the commercial stations, but. I recall one incident last year that made me both “mad “ and sad. At that time I was Director of Recruiting, Southern Command, and we were having great difficulty in securing recruits for the Australian Imperial Force. There was grave danger that we would not bc able to enrol sufficient recruits to replace wastage in the Middle East in order’ to keep fighting units at full strength. We were conducting daily lunch-hour meetings outside the Melbourne Town Hall. I had a good team of volunteer speakers, all of whom had served in the war of 1914-1S, and each clay a national station broadcast one of their speeches for a period of eight minutes. One day I was broadcasting, and I flattered myself that I was doing very well, but when I had finished I was t.cld that I had been cut off the air two minutes after I started to speak. I was extremely annoyed, and I communicated with the broadcasting station and asked “ why the hades they had’ cut me off “. T waa told that a most important race was being run at the time when I was speaking. It was the first race at Kyneton. 1 was told that the officials were extremely sorry but the race was an important one. The implication was that it was much more important than getting recruits for the Army. My language was more forceful than polite to this gentleman, but lie assured mc that I was in error, that it was necessary to maintain the morale of the people and that one method of doing this was to broadcast descriptions of these races for third or fourth rate crocks. Morale is a matter of the spirit; it comes from within men and women, not from without. I admit that morale can be helped and stimulated by wireless broadcasts and by the newspapers. However, I considered that the broadcasting station’s action on the occasion mentioned waa too arbitrary, and when I raised the matter with the proper authority I secured what redress was possible and there was no repetition of such incidents.
One prevision of this bill which I welcome calls for a tightening of control over broadcast advertisements. Objec-ti on able advertisements have been broadcast more than once, particularly on Sunday nights. I do not claim to have a greater regard for Sabbath peace than any other man, but I maintain that on this one day in seven the air should be free of advertisement5, and other undesirable broadcasts. While I am discuss ing the subject, I should like to refer briefly to advertising in general, and particularly to objectionable advertisements which appear in newspapers throughout Australia. We might turn our minds to this problem and endeavour to remedy the unsatisfactory position that exists. I speak particularly of advertisements for contraceptives, such as pills, and other things. They are flaunted blatantly in the newspapers, and are tantamount to incitement to murder in many cases - murder of the unborn foetus. We ought to suppress this sort of thing. Many of” us have laughed at Goering’s slogan, Guns before butter “, but this country might have been better off to-day had it adopted a slogan, “ Cannons before contraceptives “. There are other matters dealt with in this bill which I should like to mention, but I shall deal with them at the appropriate committee stage. In conclusion, I repeat t hat the joint committee of which Senator Gibson was chairman, and the Government are to be congratulated upon this measure.
– Like previous speakers, I am glad that we have a consolidating broadcasting bill before Parliament which will soon become law. I agree with Senator Sampson that the time is overdue for granting greater security of tenure of office to the body which administers the national broadcasting system. Unfortunately, a series of short extensions of office has been granted to members of the commission. With all its imperfections, this body has undoubtedly clone .some good work; it has had a difficult task in endeavouring to satisfy the p i.i hlic, to build up programmes to please the greatest possible number of listeners, unci it has not been helped in this regard by rue fact that its members had nosecurity of tenure of office. They may not have wanted the jobs, but they have wanted to he able to plan ahead and know that, if they introduced some policy, they would remain in office lone enough to see it safely launched. This unsatisfactory position has been due largely to the rapid changes that have taken place in the office of PostmasterGeneral from time to time. The different Ministers who have held that portfolio have had different ideas, and governments have had to deal with many other problems which did not allow them enough time to deal adequately with national broadcasting. During the regimes of governments of which I was a member, we had great difficulty in finding time to consider a new policy for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
I had intended to say something on the lines followed by Senator Sampson with regard to the activities of the B class stations. Unlike honorable senators opposite, who have deplored that the Government has decided against the nationalization of the broadcasting system, I consider that the chief merit of the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting is that it has not recommended a government monopoly of broadcasting. Such a monopoly would be just as bad as having only one newspaper and allowing it to be controlled by the Government. Then Australia would be in a similar position to that of the people in countries ruled by dictators where only news of the kind the governments of those countries desire to reach the ears of the people is published through the press. I regard a free press and a free broadcasting system, subject to the control provided for in this bill, as necessary in a democracy such as ours.
I pay a tribute of praise to the commercial broadcasting stations for the assistance that this country has received from them in relation to our war activities. During the time when I was privileged to be Minister for Information, I saw at first hand how valuable was the help given by the commercial stations. Even at periods when high advertising rates were obtainable, the department never appealed in vain to those stations for space in order to advertise war loans, make requests for recruits, or broadcast matter calculated to uplift public morale. The fullest support of the stations was always received. The assistance also given by the sponsors of various sessions at peak listening periods were most valuable to the Government. The commercial stations and the advertisers in the various sessions gave to the nation assistance which would have cost it scores of thousands of pounds a year had the time made available to be paid for. The commercial stations and the programme sponsors are still doing this valuable work. I agree with Senator Sampson that the fact that the commercial stations were prepared to present excellent and costly programmes has resulted in a vast improvement of the programmes presented over the national stations in the last two years. There was a time when the broadcasts from the national stations were listened to by very few people. The programmes were of poor quality and Gallup polls taken from time to time showed that the majority of the listeners had a distinct preference for the B class stations. However, when the British Broadcasting Corporation news service was introduced, it undoubtedly increased the number of listeners to the national stations, and in the last couple of years their programmes have improved out of sight.
I am also glad to notice that the Canberra news sessions have taken on an improved tone as compared with the broadcasts in the early stages. Honorable senators will remember the disgraceful discussion over the national stations when a dispute occurred between the former Treasurer (Mr. Spender) and the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). I give credit to the present Minister (Senator Ashley), who said that he would not tolerate such political disputes over the national network. As the result of the Minister’s intervention, the Canberra news sessions have shown a much needed improvement.
– They are still drab.
– No doubt there is still room for improvement, and there always will be. Very often there is a dearth of news of outstanding importance, and the sessions have been carried on for too long a period. When news of value is available, the Government should see that the people are made aware of it ; but. when there is insufficient news of interest to enable the session to be continued for the customary period, the session should not be drawn out by the inclusion of items of minor importance. The Government of the day is entitled to use the national broadcasting stations to tell the people matters of public interest, but not to gain party political kudos.
– The “ spooksman “ is the man we object to. We do not know who he is.
– I have not heard him lately, but I thought that considerable improvement had occurred since the Minister closed down on the unfortunate episode to which I have referred.
I agree with Senator Brown as to the propaganda value of broadcasting, and particularly short-wave broadcasting. When I was Minister for Information, Senator Gibson discussed with me ways and means by which the short-wave service from Australia to other parts of the world could be improved. He brought to my notice some articles of a poor type that had gone out from the department at that time. As Minister, I could not possibly keep a check on everything that went out, and undoubtedly many of the articles broadcast were not worthy of Australia. Fortunately, the power of the station then used was so low that scarcely anybody overseas heard the broadcasts. There is now a great opportunity for the use of the short wave in broadcasting from Australia to listeners abroad. I believe that the short-wave system is only in its infancy, and when the new and more powerful stations being erected in Australia have been completed, I hope that the Government of the day will see that nothing cheap or nasty is permitted in connexion with the system. We have to pay a good price in order to get high quality broadcasts. Our own people may be inclined to overlook the broadcasting of poor programmes or even misleading information at times, but similar mistakes in short-wave broadcasts for overseas listeners would do incalculable harm. The short-wave transmitter has enormous power for good or evil. Australia has an extraordinarily good story to tell the rest of the world. This is a young country, and it should use the short-wave broadcasting system to make its attractions known in other countries. I urge upon the Minister not to be niggardly and not to allow his colleagues to impose financial restrictions upon him with regard to the development of a short wave system. It is essential that a correct start should be made in this matter. In the early days of the Department of Information, when Mr. McMahon Ball was first appointed, he had a small staff and little Australian precedent to guide him in his work. He had little on which to build up a system. He had experience in lecturing on international affairs, and also some experience of broadcasting. It is difficult to obtain the services of experts who can write matter suitable for overseas broadcasts, particularly articles that have to be translated and made readily acceptable in the language of the country to which they are being broadcast.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has done good work for Australia. It has had a difficult task and no commission could satisfy all requirements : but, during the last two years, there has been such a marked improvement of the national programmes that I should like to see the present commission carry on for a further period. There was a time when I should have had the greatest pleasure in voting the members of the commission out of office; but in view of the improvement of the programmes the commission should be congratulated upon its work. Senator Gibson and the other members of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting have rendered excellent service to Australia. They did their work enthusiastically, irrespective of their party affiliations. Senator Gibson, who had a lengthy period as PostmasterGeneral, has made a good come-back in taking on the important job of chairman of the committee. I hope that this important bill will soon become law.
– The general approval accorded to this measure is an indication of the usefulness of the parliamentary committee system in a democratic government. The Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting was representative of all parties in this Parliament, and it thoroughly examined the whole subject of broadcasting. The members of that committee heard the whole story of broadcasting. They ascertained the facts from all parts of theCommonwealth: and from the evidence placed before them they hammered out a plan which has met with the general approval of the Parliament. The reception accorded this measure is a tribute to the work performed by that committee. Many features of the bill itself clearly warrant that approval. However, I do not believe that the bill contains all that it should contain. Great Britain and South Africa have recognized the importance of broadcasting. In 1936, the South African Government decided that broadcasting was a public utility and should be nationalized in the interests of the nation. [ regret that this Government has not provided in this measure for the nationalization of the B class stations. Undoubtedly, the importance of broadcasting will increase as the years go by. It is a public utility which should bc used solely for the benefit of the nation as a whole. It should not be exploited in the interests of any section of the community. The power of the press is on the wane. In the past, powerful sections of the community which possessed abundant funds to advertise in the press were thus enabled to impose their own political opinions upon the people. Indeed, any newspaper which wished to maintain its advertising revenue, the very lifeblood of its organization, had to be amenable to the political opinions of those people from whom it derived that revenue. No reasonable person will dispute that fact, lt is made very obvious to any person to-day who has some hundreds of pounds to expend in advertising. Such a person will invariably receive the guarantee of the business manager of the newspaper concerned that no views will be expressed editorially that are distasteful to the advertiser. The same sections of the community, who in the past provided the advertising revenue of the press, now provide the great bulk of the advertising revenue upon which B class stations depend for their existence. These interests can very well afford to buy time on the air; and they realize that they are indispensable to those stations. It is only natural, therefore, that the stations will be amenable to their political views. However, if we are to have real democratic government, it is essential that the people as a whole be enabled to hear the views of all political parties. If any particular section monopolizes propaganda over the air, it will be impossible for democratic government to function. For these reasons, and particularly in view of our experience with the press in this respect, I believe that the Government would be well advised, even at this stage, to take the bit in its teeth and nationalize B class stations in the interest of the people as a whole. Nationalization of broadcasting must come in the near future. The radio is becoming increasingly the only effective medium of .propaganda ; and, unless equal opportunities are available for the broadcasting of the views of all political parties, we cannot hope to have real democratic government.
In many respects, this measure represents a considerable improvement upon the present act. It is proposed to appoint a parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting. I can only wish that provision were made in this measure to undertake adult education over the air.
– The committee made a recommendation along those lines.
– I am glad to hear that. I sincerely hope that the proposed parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting will give serious consideration to that matter. Undoubtedly, the radio can play a most important part in the education of our adult population. Any decline in the educational standards of our adult population is invariably reflected adversely in the curriculum of our schools, which, to-day, is hopelessly antiquated. However, it is impossible to improve our school curriculum because sufficient adults in the community, possessing the necessary standard of education, are not prepared to do anything about the matter. I urge the proposed standing committee to take up this subject earnestly with a view to evolving some system of utilizing the radio to inculcate a higher standard of culture and education in our adult population.
I whole-heartedly approve of the provision in the bill to give to the Minister more direct control over broadcasting. The Minister, who is responsible to Parliament, can thus ensure that the wishes of the people are carried, out. The proposal to stagger the terms of office of commissioners also commends itself to me..
This will provide continuity of policy on the part of the commission by enabling incoming commissioners to avail themselves of the experience of the colleagues whom they join on the commission. I also approve whole-heartedly of the proposal to recruit the permanent staff of the commission through the Public Service Board. I support the bill, and hope that it will be given a speedy passage.
– I have a particular reason for rising to add a little to the debate upon this very important bill because I have probably been one of the most severe critics of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in this Parliament. I voiced those criticisms so earnestly and sincerely that [ now wish to say how much I approve this measure. It will certainly make for an improvement of the present system of control of broadcasting. I have never said, and I have never believed, that the shortcomings that I criticized were entirely, or even to a major degree, the result of the personnel of the commission. I do not expect to get the results that we have a right to got when we appoint men only on a parttime basis. For instance, if the plumbing fixtures in my home get out of order, [ do not send for a plumber in my hour of distress and tell him that I want him to attend to the repairs for an hour to-day, and to come back at various other times to complete the job. The point I make is that we have no right to expect, any really worth-while result from a commission unless we appoint its members on a proper basis and pay to them salaries calculated to attract the right people for the job. That is imperative.
– ‘Members of the commission will still be appointed on a part-time basis.
– That is true; but if the honorable senator reads the hill he will find that the salaries to be paid wall entitle us to see that we get 100 per cent, service. This measure, I repeat, represents a big improvement on anything we have had before. I am rather proud of the fact that it has fallen to a Labour government to introduce it. I am particularly pleased that it is based on -recommendations brought in by a committee which was representative of all parties in the Parliament. The majority of those recommendations have been crystallized in this measure.
I have been interested during the debate in some of the remarks made by members of the Opposition. I notice now that there is a very distinct horror on their side of the chamber of anything that can be construed into a political speech. There are political speeches and political speeches. I and other members on this side of the chamber deprecate the unseemly brawl that was broadcast some time ago. It was not a one-sided affair, but was an “ all-in go “. When we get into the habit, as members of the Opposition apparently have, of considering that anything in the nature of a political speech should be taboo over the air, it is time to ask ourselves where we arc drifting. This National Parliament is a place where politics are talked and translated into legislation for the good or the ill of the people of this community. There is nothing that can be said or done affecting the fate of this nation, or of the people composing it, that is not entirely political. I want honorable senators not to forget that, and to remember that while another government controlled broadcasting no attempt was made to prevent political speeches from being broadcast, not even up to the last minute on the eve of the poll. I am not touchy or thin-skinned on this point, but if honorable members opposite have not sufficient faith in their political policy or their political propaganda to warrant its being put over the air, I can inform them that members on this side of the chamber have complete faith in their political policy or programme, and are not ashamed of hearing it over the air or of seeing it in the press.
I was particularly interested in Senator Sampson’s speech, because he said there were some things that we might pass over in view of the fact that we are in agreement on the bill, and are anxious to see it became law. In these debates a duty is placed upon us of not allowing statements to pass unnoticed that deserve a protest. Senator Sampson said it would be fatal if there were only national stations. He is entitled to that opinion. I think it was a famous judge who once said, “Give your judgment, but never give your reasons “. Senator Sampson’s judgment seemed all right until he gave his reasons, when he said that without competition the national stations would get into a rut, and he inferred, if he did not say it, that a national calamity would result. I suppose that one of the finest examples of national effort is the Postal Department. It has never got into a rut, and no one suggests that it is in a rut. Every body has complimented the Postmaster-General on this bill, which is possible only because neither he nor the Cabinet that authorized it has got into a rut. At the moment this nation is faced with a tremendous emergency, and honorable senators know that whatever government is in control of any country while a war is on, it must all the time restrict competition, it must take control of industry, of the maintenance of the army in the field, and the production of equipment, which must be removed more and more from the hands of private enterprise where there is competition, and placed under government control where there is no competition. To saythat in connexion with broadcasting the absence of competition would result in calamity is so much political humbug and eyewash.
Senator Sampson also said that political speeches made the night hideous, but that any one who wanted to could shut them off. You can shut them off from one station certainly, only to find them on another station, and it is often impossible to escape them except by closing down the wireless completely. But we have to remember that there have been more hideous things than political speeches, and in that connexion I am not referring to the speeches of members of any particular party. The Labour party cannot obtain time on the commercial stations because only one party can afford to pay for it.
Oppositionmembers. - The Labour party!
– I admit that my friends opposite are distressed, because by co-operation, and not by competition, our organization is now able to purchase something like equality on the air.
– Then what the Minister said was a smoke-screen.
– What I said was a fact.
– The Minister cannot have it both ways.
-I will tell the honorable senator why I can have it both ways. I was anxious to take advantage of propaganda in the last election because I wished to come back to this chamber. I like this work; I spent a lifetime trying to achieve the position 1 hold, and I did not do it for any personal reason, because when I started there was no payment of members. In consequence of that, I could not get within cooee of my objective. At any rate, we have become intelligent since then and in this regard have defeated our opponents. We are in this chamber on terms of equality as to salary, even if members of the Opposition are short of some of the essentials which we have for successful political careers. As I was anxious to have some propaganda that my organization could not afford, I decided to be reckless and pay for a quarter of an hour over a B class circuit. I thought it was worth the cost, but it hurt, and it would have hurt still more if, after having been prodigal in that way, I had been defeated at the poll. We have to keep in mind in these discussions the fact that we ought not to talk merely for the purpose of making speeches, but for the purpose of saying things that can be justified in any circumstances whatever. We in this National Parliament have no right to talk about political speeches as something discreditable, and I shall never allow statements to that effect to pass without protest.
I should here like to repeat what I said to Senator Gibson this afternoon immediately on the conclusion of his speech. That speech taught me more about the bill than I could have learned by the closest possible reading of it. It was one of the finest speeches we have heard in this chamber. It crystallized the whole subjectso that all of us could understand what is in the bill and how its provisions compare with the report of the joint committee. The whole procedure has been an education. The committee was appointed, and it travelled over Australia to take evidence. Its report and the bill crystallize its conclusions. The report is one of the first efforts of its kind that have come to fruition. We have had inquiries over and over again, and elaborate reports have been prepared time after time on the same questions, but they have been pigeon-holed without action being taken. This time the work has been done splendidly, and the result is to be found in the bill.
Even if the measure is not all that some of us desire, it is nevertheless a highly desirable piece of legislation. The criticism of some members of the Opposition shows that they would like to soo further provisions in the bill, while other members would like to delete some of its provisions. We are making progress, nevertheless, and wireless, with all its achievements, is still in its infancy. As the years go by we shall realize what a wonderful force we have at our command, and what a wonderful moulder of public opinion it can be. We should use it more and more for the uplifting of the people, for I believe we have no other engine, not even the mighty engine of the newspapers, that can he made such a powerful force for the good of the people. It can be used without regard to politics, race, or creed. One thing we can compliment the Australian Broadcasting Commission on is that the national stations controlled and operated by it have done more to raise the cultural tone of the Australian community than has anything else. They have popularized classical music, although sometimes I have been inclined to think that they have popularized the other kind of music too much. That, however, is only my personal bias. They have practically driven the playerpiano out of existence by providing real music simply by turning a switch. Mechanical contrivances like playerpianos never produced music. Further, the commission has brought to this country artists which the common people would never otherwise have been able to hear. That applies particularly to people in outback regions. In addition, the commission has encouraged local talent which otherwise might never have been developed. Those things should be kept in mind. Senator Brown and Senator
Arnold said quite a lot about propaganda. I would point out that propaganda is not necessarily something which is improper. Here we have at our disposal a wonderful service which even now is merely in its infancy. None of us can visualize what developments there will be in broadcasting, even during the next ten years. This wonderful service can be employed in the schools, and for disseminating adult educational lectures; it can bring great enjoyment by broadcasting high-class music and, of course, the other kind, if the public demands it. There is talk of a new order after this war, hut unless we are prepared now to make up our minds to use every instrument of propaganda in order to prepare the people for a new conception of life, a new standard of culture, and a new idea of what democracy really means, there is little hope of abolishing the old order and establishing a better one. The radio service must be used to stimulate the imagination of the people in such a way that it will bo possible to wipe out the evil things of tin; earth, such as war, for the rest of time.
– In my opinion, it is correct to say that this bill represents a compromise between honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. The redeeming feature is that honorable senators opposite have seen fit to go part of the way towards the Labour party’s policy. Obviously this measure does not represent that policy in toto.
– It is not even a second-cousin to it.
– Honorable senators opposite have gone part of the way towards our policy because this bill provides for a greater measure of control over broadcasting than existed previously. I attribute that concession to the fact that the opponents of nationalization of broadcasting are being educated, not by a process of abstract reasoning, or study, but by self-revealed facts which are the outcome of practical experience. It is obvious, after listening to Senator Gibson, that as our opponents gain more and more experience they can see in a clearer light the value of the policy for which the Labour party stands. I think that it was an Italian philosopher who said, in about 1898, that there were times when we had to wait for- the hard school of disillusionment to educate where our reasonings had failed. So, gradually but inevitably, our uncompromising opponents on the other side of the chamber are beginning to realize the value of the policy for which Labour has stood for many years and stands to-day. I have no apology to make for this compromise. Frequently, when addressing public meetings, I have said that in time of war I should much rather compromise on minor issues with the enemy within than take the slightest risk with the enemy without. Lt is not the desire of this Government to make a major issue of what, for the time being, is a minor matter. We have compromised all along the line. We have compromised with respect to the reduction of wages, taxation, dilution of labour, and on many other issues in regard to which we should not have been prepared to grant concessions in times of peace. We have compromised because we realize that the war is the major issue. Senator Leckie has suggested that we have “ turned dog” on our principles, but that is not correct. Our opponents asked for a compromise; they asked for the abolition nf party politics, but when we grant these requests they object. Obviously it is quite useless to endeavour to please them. Senator Foll referred to what he termed a free press. In fact, the press is not free in the absolute sense. It is free to its owners but to nobody else. It is only with the greatest reluctance that the privately owned newspapers allow their political opponents to present their case. Take the question of invalid and old-age pensions. I well remember the time when hardly a line appeared in the press in regard to invalid and old-age pensions, but now that public opinion has changed because of experience, argument and criticism, we find that the press, by force of necessity, allows space for the expression of views in regard to invalid and old-age pensions which previously were denied expression. I agree’ that it would be better had the hill provided for the nationalization of our entire broadcasting system rather than allowing part of it to remain in the hands of capitalist monopolies. In my opinion, if broadcasting were completely nationalized, the views of minorities would have a better chance of being heard. Under existing conditions, there is far too much censorship, and I say that realizing fully that those individuals who are in charge have to pay some heed to that intangible and undefinable thing that we call public opinion or public feeling. If it is felt that a minority would strike a note which would antagonize the majority, then that minority has very little chance of being heard. If there has been any improvement in recent years, it is because of criticism directed against those who quite unjustifiably acted in the capacity of censors. It will be recalled that some time ago I had occasion to draw attention to the fact that drastic censorship had been applied to an address which was to have been delivered by Judge Foster. That gentleman held a responsible position in Victoria, and no doubt he prepared his address in the full light of his responsibility; but, to his amazement and disgust, when he submitted his manuscript to’ the individuals in charge of the Australian Broadcasting Commission at the time, it was emasculated and blue-pencilled to such a degree that it had practically no meaning. If that policy be continued, and broadcasting matter is confined to expressions of the views and ideas of people who are acceptable to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, then, as the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) has said, there can be no raising of the cultural or intellectual level of the people. If the commission continues to censor broadcasts as it has done in the past, we can expect very little in the way of improvement. If it gives just reasonable consideration to the views of the minority, then I have no doubt that an improvement will be effected. It does not necessarily follow that if those who represent the .minority join issue with the majority, an unseemly harangue must develop. If reasonable care is taken in the choice of words it is quite possible to broadcast the sharpest difference of opinion without imputing motives, or indulging in undesirable expressions. One phase of broadcasting of which I am afraid is its tendency to encourage people not to endeavour to think for themselves. I seem to see, rightly or wrongly, a deterioration in the art of intelligent conversation and debate. Opinions are now often second-hand, whereas, before the advent of broadcasting, one could find people at almost every little gathering in any part of the country who were concerned more with expressing their own views than with expressing the views of others.
– Especially on the Yarra Bank.
– Yes, and probably the honorable senator’s education would have been considerably improved had he attended more meetings on the Yarra Bank. Some of the finest speakers and most intellectual men that I have ever met have spoken under the canopy of Hea ven on the banks of the Yarra and in the Domain in Sydney. Unfortunately, they are not appreciated by the kind of people who could be classified as the “educated ignorant” or the “literate illiterate”. That is one of the effects of broadcasting. We are now fighting one of the bloodiest wars that the world has ever known. When werecall how broadcasting has been used in Germany to create a feeling of mass antagonism to the allied nations, we see that it can be an instrument for ill. Had it notbeen for the facilities for communication provided by wireless broadcasting, I venture to say that such a feeling could not have been aroused in Germany, or anywhere else. Therefore, an instrument such as broadcasting is what we make it; it can be used either for good or for ill.
SenatorFraser. - The same as a razor.
– Exactly ! You can use it to cut the other fellow’s throat or you can shave your own chin with it. You take a risk both ways. That brings me to the point of my argument. It is beyond question that broadcasting can be a useful instrument. But everything depends on the way in which it is used. A policy or a scheme on paper may be the very best that the human mind can devise, but in the hands of ignorant, unscrupulous or ill-balanced men, it can easily become the worst policy or the worst scheme. That is why I emphasize the importance of management.
Now I come to the question of listeners’ licences. I agree intoto with Senator Brown that wireless should be free; it should be installed in every house and no direct charge should be madefor the broadcasting service. That is exactly what will be done in the future. As an illustration, I point out that at one time we wore charged for the privilege of travelling on the roads. Every few miles, the traveller had to pay a toll, and that levy went towards the upkeep of the roads. At that time, members of the parties now represented by the Opposition said that they could not conceive of the day when roads could be used free of charge. They called that idea a dream of the Utopians, just as the Opposition now refers to the conception of a free wireless service. However, as time passed, and as the requirements of the people became such that they could no longer tolerate a system of that kind, the roads became free, so that the person without a penny in his pocket now has the same right of access to them as has the person whose pockets are overflowing with money. There we see how we have evolved from a restricted economy to a free economy with respect to roads. The cost of the national broadcasting service could come out of Consolidated Revenue. What would that mean? It would mean that those with the biggest incomes - those who draw the most, from the wealth created by the people - would pay the most towards the maintenance of our wireless service. That would be as it shouldbe. Why should a man on the basic wage - or as it was before the war, a man on the dole, because then the nation had no use for some men - be compelled to pay the same fee as gentlemen in the position of honorable senators and others who are even more favorably situated financially? The whole thing is preposterous. We should have free installation in the same way as we have free roads, free parks and free libraries. All of these institutions, which are free to the people and paid for indirectly, have evolved from the lessons of practical experience learned by people who could not bo taught in any other way. For these reasons, I say that Senator Brown has an excellent case in support of his advocacy of a free wireless service.
We should have free wireless, not just in schools with fewer than 50 pupils, but in all schools. This ignorant, narrow view of the economic position that is entertained .by most honorable senators is doing more to retard the progress of this country than anything else. I trust that when next a bill relating to broadcasting is brought forward, the government of the day will keep these facts in mind. Senator Brown referred to a free telephone service. That should be in the same category as a free wireless service. The people should have telephones paid for out of Consolidated Revenue, into which those who draw, most from the common fund pay the most, and those who draw the least pay the least. That is the only way in which we can finance instrumentalities such as this with justice to all people. Senator Gibson said that people who are poor and ignorant, tl rough a combination of circumstances in which they play a conspicuous, but not sufficiently conspicuous, part could all listen to wireless broadcasts through community loud-speakers. They should have ideal cottages, or flats with soundproof walls, with a wireless receiving set built into every wall and telephones and other modern conveniences. These homes have been paid for, not by the rich but by the working people, who build up a fund out of which the rich draw huge salaries and incomes. Senator Brown’s vision is not Utopian, but I regret that the conditions that he envisages will not be brought into being merely by talking about them. However, I am optimistic enough to believe that one of the outcomes of this war will be a big move, not only in the direction of free wireless and telephone services, but also in the direction of free transport and other facilities. The war, as I have said in this chamber before, is acting as an accelerator on economic development. As the Leader of the .Senate has pointed out, it has taken one of the most tragic wars in the history of mankind to’ bring people to a realization of -what they have to gain by collective effort instead of cut-throat competition, which impoverishes all but a few and causes duplication of services and enormous waste. The war is compelling people to close down on these things and to rationalize industry. This involvesthe organization of industry on a more efficient and more economical basis, and, in turn, the increased production of wealth by fewer men and women working under existing conditions. After the war, there will be no such thing a3 the restoration of the status quo ante - a return to the old conditions. The war will constitute a driving force which will bring into being the improvements to ‘which 1 have referred. Positions will have to be found for the fighting men who are demobilized and the workers who are thrown out of work when -war-time industries are closed down. They must be given opportunities to earn a livelihood, and opportunities cannot be provided under conditions similar to those which existed in pre-war days. The Government in power at that time, ‘whatever its political affiliation may be, will be compelled to make the improvements which I have mentioned. This will require a greater measure of nationalization of industry than exists to-day. We can never have nationalization true to name and at the same time increase our national debt. Take as an example the position of the Victorian Railways Department; it is similar to many other examples which I could mention. Twothirds of the department’s revenue goes to pay the interest due to bondholders, and already the payments of interest are almost equal to twice the amount of capital expended on that railway system. The financial obligations of a government, or the authority in charge of the railways in this instance, determine its policy. Therefore, a government cannot give effect to a national policy which is true to name, and at the same time continue to pay out huge sums of revenue to private interests. This is another aspect of the problem, but it all has a bearing on the bill now before the Senate because the suggestion that we should nationalize the broadcasting system leads to the suggestion that there should be complete control by the people of an essential utility. There can never be complete control by the people of any essential utility whilst they are under the obligation to pay enormous sums of interest as they are to-day.
The best-paid writers, and those in whom I believe least, are those who write advertisements. We hear advertisements broadcast from the B class stations, extolling the merits of all kinds of articles which are known to be not true to name. The owners of the stations are not concerned as to whether the articles advertised are true to label, whether the price is reasonable, or whether the public would benefit from their use. All they are concerned about is how much they can get for advertising various concoctions, and the result is that many people are grossly misled. The credulity of the public or those members of it who suffer from various kinds of ailments, either real or imaginary, is capitalized. I can well conceive of a time when advertising will not be allowed unless it is proved to the satisfaction of those in charge of the stations that the commodity advertised is true to name and that the price is as it should be.
– That matter is regulated in the bill.
– What appears on paper may be beyond question, but we should consider how the law is to be administered. If we have persons in charge who take everything for granted, all the good intentions of the Minister will be nullified. The fact is that, through the medium of the press and of broadcasting, the public is robbed. If broadcasting were nationalized it would be under greater control than it is under the present system. Then those in charge of the commercial stations would not depend on the revenue received from advertisements, but would be interested only in telling the people the truth. As 1 have said, the bill represents a compromise, and provides for improvement of the system that has been in operation in recent years. In view of that fact, the Government is to be commended for the introduction of the bill. It is not fair to say that the Ministry has departed from any principle that it has espoused in the past, because the implication is that it, would prefer a political upheaval to giving the necessary attention to the prosecution of the war.
– It is hard to believe that a little over twelve months ago the knotty problem of broadcasting had to run the gauntlet of the Senate. Before the subject is further debated, I ask leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by SenatorCollings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I bring to the notice of the Government the fact that the supply of food is becoming a problem of the utmost importance.I am afraid that within the next couple of years, Australia will be faced with a food famine if the position is not arrested at once. At present, there are three forces in this country to which labour has to be supplied. There are the lighting forces, those engaged in the production of munitions and armament, and those required for the production of foodstuffs. A tug of war is in progress in securing labour for these forces. Ever since the outbreak of war, and even at the present time, the forces producing food are being drawn upon, not only for the fighting forces, but also for the manufacture of munitions and armament. The farmers are now faced with the position that they are sometimes called up for military service. They are told to sell their goods and chattels and enter military camps. If they have no time to sell their properties, they have to leave them unattended. Men have had to leave crops such as potatoes in the ground, because they have not had sufficient time in which to dig them. Yet Australia is 30,000 acres of potatoes short of its requirements this year !
– Does the honorable senator say that men have been taken from their farms, and that nobody has been left in charge of their properties?
– Yes. This is my only opportunity to draw attention to the drift that is taking place, and it must arrested immediately, or we shall be faced with further difficulties. We are likely to be short of food with which to feed the workers engaged in the munition works and in the fighting services. I have travelled from one end of Tasmania to the other, and I am in communication with various organizations and farmers by letter and telephone almost daily. I do not believe that anybody in Tasmania is better acquainted with the position in that State than I am. If there is such a person, he has my sympathy in view of the large number of requests that have been made to me in the last few weeks. We must double up on our acreage of potatoes for next year. We must increase the supply of vegetables to a degree unheard of in Australia previously, and we must maintain our production of flax, peas, oats and many other commodities.
– Including bacon.
– There are a dozen different commodities that could be mentioned. Judging by communicationsI have received, and from what I have heard, this is an Australia-wide problem. We have no hope of producing next year what we have produced this year, on account of the shortage of labour on the farms. As I have said, men are being taken from their farms for military service. I suggest that, as a sub-committee of the Cabinet has been established to go into problems of this kind, it should take the earliest opportunity of interviewing members of Parliament who have a first-hand knowledge of what has taken place in their States. I suggest that the sub-committee should furnish an opportunity to representatives of the primary producers’ organizations to attend before it if they so desire, and place their case before it.
– What about the Joint Committee on Rural Industries ?
– As a member of that committee, I travelled in five of the six States and secured first-hand information regarding the problems of the primary producers. I realized immediately we began our inquiries the position into which Australia was drifting. That committee submitted an interim report to Parliament, but up to the present it has not been acted upon. I urge the Government to take cognizance of the recommendations regarding farm labour.
– We wrote to the Prime Minister at length on this matter a month ago.
– I recall that that was one of the principal points dealt with in our interim report.
To-morrow is the first day the regulation regarding the restriction of meat deliveries will operate. According to the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), no deliveries of meat will be allowed in any State to any person who resides within a radius of a mile of a butcher’s shop, but I point out that an anomalous position arises in Tasmania. Recently Mr. M. S. Wilson issued the following statement, which was published in the press : -
It is not expected that the federal regulation prohibiting deliveries of meat to customers within one mile radius of a butcher’s shop will apply in Tasmania.
Mr. Wilson is Commissioner of Transport, Deputy Director of Man-power, Chairman of the Liquid Fuel Control Board., Director of Emergency Road Transport, Tasmania’s representative on theCommonwealth Coal Board, Tasmania’s representative on the Shipping Control Board, and a member of the State executive of the Civil Defence Legion. So far as I know, Mr. Wilson is administering this regulation on behalf of the Minister for War Organization of Industry. If all deliveries of meat within a mile radius of a butcher’s shop are to be prohibited, I should like to know how the munition worker, or the miner, who, in many instances, is the only man in the home, will be able to take home his parcel of meat when butchers’ shops are closed not only when he is on his way to work, but also when he is on his way home. In many homes of the kind to which I refer the housewife may be laid up with illness, or may be unable to leave the home because she must care for a number of small children. I also desire to know whether the regulation makes any provision to enable the aged, sick or infirm, who cannot go to a butcher’s shop themselves, and cannot usually obtain a neighbour or a messenger to go for them, to get their meat. My object in asking a question on this matter earlier to-day which was disallowed was to discover whether the regulation makes any provision to allow deliveries to be made to persons who, through no fault of their own, are unable either to collect their purchases of meat or to obtain anybody else to collect their parcels for them. If such provision has been made I shall have no objection to the regulation. I should like an immediate reply to my query because several butchers in Tasmania communicated with me yesterday and are anxious to know whether they can make deliveries as from to-morrow within a mile radius of their shops. They are anxious to know whether they must be guided by the Minister’s statement, or by that made by Mr. Wilson. It is possible ‘that, having so many other jobs to attend to, Mr. Wilson has not been able to give sufficient attention to this matter, and, consequently, may be mistaken. At all events, the butchers in Tasmania, and the people generally, are confused on the matter. They are waiting for an authoritative statement.
.- I call the attention of the Senate to a matter which I consider to be of first-rate importance. Some time ago I asked the following question : -
Were the machines in the tool room at the Government munitions factory at Lithgow kept going fully 24 hours of the day?
I received a reply to the effect that they were kept going to the degree that men were available to operate them. As’ an ex-Mini ster for Munitions, I fully appreciate the very difficult problems that confront my successor, and the Government, in this department. However, as the Government has now been in office for six months. I think that we are entitled to expect from it greater expedition than it has evidently achieved in dealing with the dilution of labour in the tool room at government munitions factories in Victoria and New South Wales. This problem was very acute when I was Minister for Munitions. It will be recognized that tool-making is a highly skilled occupation, and that, in peace-time, the demand for toolmakers is limited. Before the outbreak of war, sufficient toolmakers were available to meet the needs of government factories. However, it was recognized very early in the munitions programme laid down by the previous Government that the number available was not anything like sufficient to meet our increasing requirements. Consequently, as Minister for Munitions, I had several conferences with representatives of the engineering unions ‘ with a view to making some arrangement by which we could dilute labour in the tool room. Those conferences were very fruitful up to a point. It was agreed by the representatives of the engineering unions that the number of toolmakers envisaged in our programme, which was placed very frankly before them, was unobtainable in Australia, and the required number could not be trained in the time at our disposal. It was also agreed that, with modern automatic and special purpose machines, a very large proportion of tool-making could be undertaken by semi-skilled, or process, workers. The precise proportion of tools that could be made in this manner, and also the number of toolmakers that could be made available to us, were agreed upon. The additional number that we required could be obtained by using semi-skilled or process workers. At that time a hitch in our negotiations occurred in relation to conditions under which the unions would agree to this dilution.. On that matter we had several conferences, but I am sorry to say that -we could not reach agreement. Had I continued as Minister for Munitions I should have referred the matter to the Arbitration Court for decision. I point out that I, as Minister for Munitions in the previous Government, conducted negotiations of this kind direct with the unions concerned. Whether that practice is being followed by this Government I do not know; but from a reply given to a question which I asked recently, I take it that at present the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) deals with matters of this kind, even in respect of government munitions factories. It is rather interesting to note that honorable senators opposite are continually clamouring for the nationalization of industry. They assert, in support of such a policy, in season and out of season, that it would solve all our industrial problems.
– We have never said that.
– I do not wish to misrepresent any honorable senator opposite; but that is the inference I drew from the very strong and, in some cases, extravagant statements made on the subject by honorable senators opposite. I point out that what we sought to achieve in the government munitions factories, namely, dilution in the tool room, is at present in operation under industrial awards in private industry. Yet, in government munitions factories, in which no question of competition or profit arises, we have been unable to reach agreement on this point. That disagreement is still acute; it was acute six mouths ago. In a reply which I received yesterday from the Minister I was informed that -
Negotiations are proceeding with the engineering union concerned in connexion with the utilization of unskilled labour in the mass production of tools and gauges, and there have been several conferences and discussions. Certain preliminaries in which agreement was necessary have been cleared up.
I do not know what those preliminaries are; but when I was Minister I cleared up the preliminaries arising in this problem, and it was only in connexion with the additional rates of pay and conditions demanded by the unions that agreement had not been reached.
– The honorable senator knows, of course, that we have dilution of labour in the government factories.
– Yes ; but according to the answer supplied to my question dilution of labour in the tool room is still the subject of negotiation. I have no information in addition to that answer, and I accept it as being accurate. Therefore, I am surprised to hear the Leader of the Senate (Senator Ceilings) make that interjection when I am officially informed that negotiations in respect of dilution are still proceeding. I know that the number of skilled men available is not sufficient to meet the requirements of government factories, and that our present munitions programme would Be seriously held up if it were not for the fact that the Government is obtaining tools from outside factories for use in its own factories. It is about time that the
Government made some real endeavour to settle this problem. It can be easily settled. The proper way to do so is, failing prompt agreement, to refer the matter to the Arbitration Court.
– Get rid of Thorpe.
– Mr. Thorpe has nothing whatever to do with government tool rooms.
– He decides priorities.
– He does not decide priorities at all in respect of government tool rooms. It is about time this Government, which is continually shouting about its war effort and the speeding-up of production, did something to remedy this trouble. A settlement is required so that the munitions programme can go ahead as planned.
– It is going ahead now.
– It has gone ahead so far that a bottle-neck which existed six months ago is still a bottleneck. I am sorry to know that after six months this problem, which could have been settled in a month if it had been referred to the Arbitration Court, is still unsettled. The practice followed by Government munitions factories in the past was to settle industrial disputes by negotiation, and the previous Government was able to settle in this way the various problems that arose from day to day. Before 1 left the department, the question of war loading in munitions factories had been referred into court. It was adjudicated on, and a decision was given promptly. The dispute I am now discussing could have been dealt with in exactly the same way.
The Government is not showing any real desire, or making any real endeavour, to settle the dispute, and while that is so it is futile for members of the Government to tell the country it is making a 100 per cent. war effort and extending the programme laid down by its predecessors. That programme cannot be achieved until the important dispute with the toolmakers has been settled. I hope even at this late hour the Government will take its courage in its hands and refer the dispute to the Arbitration Court, where the parties can obtain an unprejudiced decision. If the Government will do that, those unions which at present are refusing to come to an agreement, in some cases for reasons not related to this dispute, will be prepared to abide by the decision of the .tribunal.
– Yesterday I submitted a question to the Government regarding dried peas. I asked whether 8,000 bags of blue peas had been landed in Sydney and sold at 2Ss. 6d. a bushel. I think in reading the quotation I made a mistake regarding the quantity of blue peas. I wish to correct that mistake so that the Minister, when answering my question, will have the facts before him. The statement in the newspaper reads : -
New Zealand dried peas (about 8,000 bags) are selling at: Blue, 28s. 6d. ; grey, lis. 3d.; marrowfat, 28s. 6d. ; greenieast, 23s. Cd.; and Massey, 37s. (id. per bushel.
My statement was correct as to price, but not as to quantity, and if the Minister will make the necessary correction I shall be glad.
.- In connexion with the Government’s uniform taxation proposals, I desire to bring to notice the possible effect on Victorian State public servants. They are much concerned as to what will happen when the only revenue available to the State Treasurer is a fixed grant from the Commonwealth Government. It is a certainty that, deprived of his power to tax the general public, he will, to balance his budget, levy a special tax on State employees. At present there is no independent tribunal governing their salaries or wages and conditions of employment. The Treasurer is the sole arbiter in such matters. The National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations prevent a direct reduction of present rates of salary, but this levy can be effectively imposed by other means.
Unlike the salaries of almost every other group of employees in the Commonwealth, the salaries of Victorian public servants do not automatically rise with the fluctuations of the cost of living. Further rises of the cost of living are inevitable. The wages and salaries of all other employees will keep pace with the rise, whereas the public servants in Victoria will find the purchasing power of their salaries and wages steadily shrinking. No one but a super-optimist would suggest that they had the slightest chance of prising a cost of living increase out of a State Treasurer situated as he will be under the uniform taxation scheme. He may find himself unavoidably committed to certain expenditure not covered by the Commonwealth grant. To “ raise the wind “ he will turn to the public servants, who will be made the “ chopping block “ every time he is short of funds. To ensure that they shall not be so affected or attacked I suggest that the Government, either by a National Security regulation or by the proposed uniform taxation legislation, gives Victorian public servants access to an appropriate tribunal or to the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator. Their salaries will then be regulated automatically by the fluctuating cost of living. There may be constitutional difficulties in the Commonwealth Government legislating for State officials, but these are abnormal times. Taking from the States the right to levy taxation is an abnormal procedure, so why not take the action I suggest when such procedure is likely to prejudice the well-being of a large section of the community. I consider that this is a fair request, especially as many public servants have given a lifetime’s loyal service to the Crown.
– In reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in another place yesterday, I noticed that the Minister for the Army (Air. Forde) said he would make an investigation into a suggestion to provide a new pattern for Australian soldiers’ uniforms. I urge the Assistant Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) to stress the need for providing soldiers with what is known as battle dress. The battle dress, which is of the jumper type used by our American allies, the British and New Zealand troops, is smart and businesslike in appearance and should effect a saving in cloth. I know that the Government is seriously pressed to secure enough material for the civil and defence requirements of the community, so much so that the variety of materials that wil be made available for civil requirements will be reduced to a very small number.
The mills are being sorely pressed to provide sufficient uniforms. I consider that the change suggested will he of great value to the troops and will save a considerable quantity of cloth. From personal experience, also, T oan say that too much cloth is used in some of the military overcoats. Recently, I saw some coats made for a 5-ft. 6-in. man, but no man of that height would wear them without cutting several inches off the bottom of them. It may be that the coats sometimes are wrongly marked.
– Following on the statement of Senator Aylett regarding the shortage of foodstuffs and of labour for primary production, I wish to say, as a member of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, that as long ago as last year we saw difficulties arising in every State and tabled an interim report early in the new year drawing the attention of the Government to this matter.
– There is not a shortage of foodstuffs.
– There is a shortage of labour. It has not yet had its effect, but we can foresee a grave situation, of which the Minister probably knows. The committee tabled an interim report early this year, and since then it has visited New South “Wales and South Australia, and has found that the difficulty is becoming even more acute. The members of the committee are sure that very great danger will arise with the further influx of troops. There will be difficulty of transporting foodstuffs from one city to another, and there ‘w,ill be accentuated trouble in New South Wales because of the shortage of fodder caused by the drought. Another factor is that this is the planting season, and unless the Government takes notice of the facts, this country will be faced with a shortage of foodstuffs. During the last session of Parliament the committee sent in a further recommendation to the Prime Minister again pointing out that a serious position could easily arise. I hope that these facts will be brought to the notice of the Government.
– in reply - Having risen several times,
I hope that honorable senators will not think that I was in a hurry to close this debate. I had a particular reason for wishing to speak, although I knew that that would mean closing the debate. It is raining heavily, and every one in Canberra is glad of that fact, for the rain is very much needed. A bus was waiting at the back door of Parliament House, and when I saw honorable senators leaving the chamber one by one, I endeavoured to inform them of that fact in order to save them walking to their hotels in the rain. That was the reason for my apparent haste in rising to close this debate. The bus is still waiting and honorable senators are at liberty to make use of it if they wish.
The matters raised by various honorable senators on the adjournment have been noted carefully and they will receive attention. .Senator Aylett said that- he had to have an answer to his question regarding meat delivery to-night, but I am afraid that that cannot be given. With all respect, I suggest that many matters such as that raised by Senator Aylett could be settled by means of a quiet talk with the Minister concerned.
– I tried that.
– In any case, it is impossible for the honorable senator to have an answer to-night.
There is another matter to which I should like to refer briefly. I suggest to Senator MoBride that we shall not get anywhere by saying unkind things about the Government which is now in office, or about its predecessors. Surely, it is possible to deal with matters such as that to which the honorable senator referred without indulging in recriminations. It cannot be denied that the previous Government was not confronted with such a grave situation as exists to-day, and for that reason, it is useless to compare what was done then with what is being done to-day. It is also wrong to suggest that there has not been a speeding up of production in every direction.
– There is no sign of it in this case.
– There is; hundreds of men have been trained.
– Not as toolmakers.
– Yes. They are being trained at. the technical school at Canberra. Nothing is to be gained by broadcasting these matters, and that is the effect of ventilating them in this chamber. I suggest to Senator McBride that he have a talk with the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions. Had the honorable senator done so earlier in the day he could have ascertained just what the position was. The Minister representing the Minister for Monitions was sitting alongside me when Senator McBride was speaking, and bc said to me, “ I have a complete answer to the statements that are being made”. I told him not to give the answer to-night because it was the duty of the appropriate officers to take note of matters raised, in order that they might be attended to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Broadmeadows, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Rathmines, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Wynyard, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1 to 9) - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 176.
Senate adjourned at 11.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 April 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1942/19420430_senate_16_170/>.