18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m.. and read prayers.
– In view of the disastrous gale and hail-storm in Tasmania, which destroyed approximately 1,000,000 bushels of apples, and large quantities of berry fruits, representing a loss of approximately’ £2,000,000 to the growers, will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel urge the Government to cooperate with the Tasmanian Government iri providing financial assistance to the growers who have suffered this severe loss?
– The honorable senator will appreciate that responsibility for this matter rests primarily upon the Tasmanian Government. However, the Commonwealth Government has at all times given tangible evidence of its sympathy with people who suffer severe losses in such calamitous circumstances, and I have no doubt that similar consideration will he given on this occasion.
– “Will the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration have a statement prepared showing the number of prospective migrants in the United Kingdom and in European countries, who are awaiting transport to this country? “Will he also indicate whether there is any possibility that this lag will be overtaken in the near future ? ‘
– I shall ask the Minister for Immigration to supply the information sought by the honorable senator. The Minister confidently expects that in the next three years 250,000 immigrants will be landed on our shores. Details of the Government’s proposals will be supplied to the honorable senator.
-Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether any action has yet been taken to appoint a parliamentary committee to investigate complaints that have been made about the failure of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited to meet the sugar requirements of Australian housewives ?
– -by leave- 1 have endeavoured on several occasions recently to make clear the reason why refined sugar is in short supply, hut it is apparent that the facts are not yet fully recognized. The supply of refined sugar has been hampered by many of the industrial hold-ups that have occurred in recent years, particularly those affecting coal, waterside labour and shipping. During the past few years, the southern refineries have not had reserves of coal. The shortage of coal, together with transport and other difficulties, has prevented those refineries from operating to their fullest capacity and establishing reserve stocks of refined sugar, as was the prewar practice. I have been informed by no less an authority than Mr. “W. Forgan Smith, chairman of the Queensland Sugar Board, that an additional 100,000 tons of sugar could have been refined if it had not been for the shortages of various kinds that have handicapped the operations of the refineries in recent years.
Intermittent deliveries of raw sugar to refineries have had a serious effect on the output of refined sugar. Sydney and Melbourne have the two largest refineries. The former has a capacity output of 4,500 tons a week, and a storage capacity of 71,000 tons, whilst the latter has a capacity output of 3,400 tons a week, and a storage capacity of 63,000 tons. Stocks at present held at the Sydney and Melbourne refineries are only a fraction of their storage capacity but, even so, the present stocks are higher than they have been for some months. The crippling strike which occurred in Queensland early this year had a serious effect on the availability of raw sugar at the refineries. It will be remembered that, for more than nine weeks, no ships left Queensland ports with sugar. That meant that during that time the public was supplied, as far as possible, with sugar from reserve stocks held at the refineries. At the main refineries, those stocks were exhausted either some time before, or upon the resumption of supplies following the conclusion of the strike, and inadequate shipping, port facilities and wharf labour have prevented those reserve stocks from being built up to normal bulk since that time. In addition, several stoppages, particularly on the Sydney waterfront, have seriously delayed the continuity of raw sugar supplies and the return of vessels to Queensland for reloading.
It is obvious that an industry which is called on to meet demands for about 4,000 tons of refined sugar a week in Sydney and 3,000 tons in Melbourne cannot hope to operate satisfactorily when it ‘has not been assured of the regular delivery of adequate raw sugar. Refined sugar cannot be produced without fuel, and the coal shortage has affected sugar refining quite severely. Actually one ton of good quality coal is required to produce 5 tons of sugar, but with poor quality coal, the output is reduced to about 3 tons of sugar for each ton of coal. In an effort to increase production, certain substitute fuels have been used, but it is not possible to get efficient results from substitutes or poor quality coal.
The shortage of labour is the greatest and most persistent problem affecting the refineries, and is particularly severe at Melbourne. It is estimated that about 700 tons of refined sugar are being lost to production each week at that refinery due to the labour shortage. In a period of labour scarcity it cannot, of course, be denied that the limitation of hours of labour, however desirable that may be, does cause the plant to be in operation for a shorter period of time than it would be under pre-war conditions, unless compensating overtime is worked.
The consumption of refined sugar in Australia has increased greatly since prewar years, particularly for manufactured commodities. For instance, jam manufacturers in Australia are now producing more than 190,000,000 lb. of jam a year compared with 85,000,000 lb. prior to the war. As jam is approximately 60 per cent, sugar, the effect of this increased production on sugar supplies will be quite obvious. However, during the financial year 1947-48, sugar, including raw sugar, delivered for domestic consumption was 467,000 tons compared with 347,000 tons during 193S-39.
As far as possible, the sugar refineries, particularly in Melbourne, are endeavouring to reserve stocks of refined sugar for fruit processing during the coming summer months, and that, of course, means that certain supplies have to be withheld at the present time from domestic consumers. If this sugar were not reserved for use when the fruit ripens, growers might suffer severe losses as there would be no satisfactory outlet for their products. It is confidently expected that raw sugar production this year will be not less than 900,000 tons, and that our domestic consumption may approach 500,000 tons. The balance, after allowing for reserve stocks to be maintained in Australia, will be exported, principally to the United Kingdom.
Some suggestions have been made that additional refining capacity is necessary, but I point out that the maximum annual capacity of the existing refineries is 550,000 tons, which exceeds our present consumption. The full utilization of this capacity depends upon continuous fuel supplies of good quality coal and raw sugar, and full and efficient manning. Arrangements have been in hand for some time to increase refining capacity to meet normal development and the expansion of Australian consumption, in order to preserve the safe margin of capacity over consumption which is the practice of the industry. I have had full information supplied to me by the Queensland Sugar Board on this subject. Increased capacity was under consideration prior to the war, and, since then, the plans for expansion have been extended in the light of the increased demand. The difficulties in obtaining the essential plant, and the shortage of labour, have prevented the plans from being fully implemented, although some progress has been made. The full plan envisages the expenditure of no less than £2,250,000 progressively up to 1952. Refining capacity will then have been increased by an additional 130,000 tons annually. Of course, adequate supplies of coal and other . materials and manpower will be necessary to facilitate the increased output of refined sugar of which the additional plant will be mechanically capable.
From time to time particular reference has been made to sugar supplies in Tasmania. In that connexion I can only repeat what I stated previously in. reply to a question on this subject, namely, that Tasmania, in the year ended the 30th September, 1948, received 24,000 tons of sugar, which exceeded the quantities supplied in any previous year by some thousands of tons. Further, because of the irregular shipping service, particularly from Sydney to Hobart, an endeavour is made to give priority to that State in the allocation of refined sugar when shipping space is available. Tasmanians have fared no worse, and have probably fared better, than have consumers in the other southern States.
I can see no reason for an inquiry into the sugar position, as the facts relating to the shortage are generally well known and are kept under regular review by the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Sugar Board. Such an inquiry would therefore serve no useful purpose.
I have endeavoured to show that the present position cannot be related to any one factor. The supply of refined sugar to the public is dependent upon the closest co-operation of the management and employees of this particular industry, and upon the co-operation of other industries, and the desire and willingness of labour and management to perform their allotted functions. Any one- of those fallling down on the job means: that the supply, not only of this- essential commodity, but also of other indispensable goods, will not be sufficient to meet, the community’s needs. Therefore, it behoves all to work in the interests, of Australia and for the public welfare. In conclusion, I again emphasize that the shortage of refined sugar in Australia, cannot, be laid at the door of the1 raw sugar producing, industry.
– Will, the Minister for Trade and Customs make available to honorable senators as soon as possible, copies of the interesting statement he has just read?
– I shall be pleased to- comply with the honorable senator’s request.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether, in view of the present stringent butter rationing, he can hold out any hope that between now and the festive season there will be any possibility of relaxing the severity of the restrictions? Can he indi- cate what is the supply position of fats generally, including pig meats?
– I fear that nothing further can be done in relaxing butter restrictions than what the Government has already done. The alteration in the values of coupons for this month’s ration will mean that i lb. of butter will be made available to every holder of a ration card. In the aggregate that will make a considerable amount. The Government has given consideration to the matter of a general increase of the butter ration, but,, in view of the needs of Great Britain,, it is impossible at present to make amy greater allocation of butter to the people of Australia.
– I direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the wide margin between wages and salaries earned By skilled’ officers in his department, and those that can be obtained by men performing similar classes of work outside the Public. Service.” I ask him whether, in order to achieve more efficient work in his department by skilled officers many of whom are leaving the service for higher remuneration in other’ employment, he will consider’ bringing about as early as possible the following increases which would assist the department to retain its staff’ and give justice to an honest body of public servants : - 1. An increase of all salaries by at least £1 per week, on £52 per annum as an immediate act of simple justice to remedy the deterioration of previously inadequate salaries to a still lower level in terms of the goods and services, such salaries can purchase, independent of any specific claim that might be made to the Public Service Arbitrator by any particular union for any particular class of work. 2. Minimum increments of £26 per annum so that employees may proceed from- minimum to maximum salaries in a shorter period than at present. 3. An increased rate of salary for junior officers to encourage recruitment to the Commonwealth Public Service and so that junior officers may be able to live adequately without requiring, a subsidy from their parents. 4. Equal pay according to the job performed regardless of the sex of the employee?
– That matter is outside my ministerial jurisdiction. The improvement of wages and salaries, and of conditions of employment, is a matter for the Public Service Board or the Public Service Arbitrator. The Government has already granted considerable increases, which amount to about £3,000,000 per annum in the aggregate, to the employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, including the ‘non-official postmasters. Those increases have been granted without prejudice to any claims that the authorized bodies representing employees may see fit to make. The department is well aware that to attract and retain the very best workers it must provide the best conditions of employment, and is endeavouring to do so. Conditions of employment have been improved considerably since the present Government took office. I suggest that the honorable senator advise the organizations concerned to submit a claim to the Public Service Board or to the Public Service Arbitrator. The department itself will give sympathetic consideration to any claims they may make.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel endeavour to have supplies of white spirit and methylated spirit for use in Western Australia expedited, and, if possible, have them shipped direct to Fremantle? I am informed that there is an acute shortage of white spirit and methylated spirit in Western Australia, the latter spirit being used extensively in hospitals. I understand that in course of transport shipping companies have to unload and reload these spirits at every port for safe storage, unless they are consigned direct to their destination.
– I am not aware that there is a shortage of such spirits, but if the honorable senator will give me specific instances I shall have my department attend to the matter immediately
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister foi External Affairs. In view of the numerous press statements that the United States Government has determined to develop Japanese economy a* quickly as possible, will he make a statement to the Senate setting out the Australian Government’s policy on the subject, and, if there has been any change,, indicating what has led to such a change?
– I have seen references in the press in the terms mentioned by the honorable senator. I shall convey his request to the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, and shall advise the honorable senator of the result.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs. Last night I handed to him a letter from a manufacturer of jelly crystals and like commodities, in which the manufacturer made an allegation that the arsenic and lead content of some imported gelatine was such as to endanger health. I now ask the Minister if he has had an opportunity to peruse the letter and whether be will, in view of the serious allegation contained therein, make full inquiries, and, if necessary, forbid the importation of these goods?
– I received a letter on that matter from the honorable senator yesterday and I immediately arranged for an investigation to be made of the serious allegation to which the has referred. I shall inform the honorable senator of the result of the investigation when it is completed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will the Government give instructions foi action to be taken to conduct a competition for plans and designs for a new Parliament House on Capitol Hill. Canberra T
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer: - la connexion with the developmental programme for Canberra for the next ten years, which is now under consideration, the requirements for buildings in the governmental area must receive consideration, and this review will include the question of the general planning for the permanent buildings in the governmental group, including Parliament House. The information obtained at the review will assist the Government in determining at what stage the construction of the principal buildings should be undertaken and on what basie a competition, if any, should bc conducted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read h first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This ‘bill contains a number of amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act, which, for the most part, relate to the special provisions in that act for the assessment of tax on the undistributed profits of private companies. Provisions of this nature have been included in the act since the inception of Commonwealth income tax in 1915 and have caused tax to be paid at the shareholders’ graduated individual rates on the undistributed profits of companies. In the Commonwealth taxing system which levies tax on the total income of an individual at a progressive graduated rate, special provisions for the taxation of the undistributed profits of private companies are essential. Without this safeguard to revenue, any taxpayer whose individual rate exceeds the flat rate paid by a company could, by converting his business into a company, defeat the principle of r.be progressive graduated rate.
Under the present law, a private company has been interpreted departmentally as one which is controlled, or is capable of being controlled, by or in the interests of seven or fewer persons. However, it is apparent from observations by the High Court, that some companies do not come within this interpretation although they are of the nature of private companies. The defect that has been made evident in the present definition of “ private company “ is that, before a company may be classified as a private company, actual control of the company ‘by a group of seven, or fewer persons, must be demonstrable by the Commissioner of Taxation. Actual control of a company is generally difficult, and frequently impossible, of proof by the Commissioner of Taxation, and the consequence of the court’s interpretation of the definition is that many companies, which should be taxed as private companies escape that form of taxation.
In determining whether a company should be classed as a private company, a comparison may be made between -a company and a partnership. Companies frequently represent incorporations of partnerships, the businesses of the companies being conducted in exactly the same manner as they were by the partnerships prior to incorporation. With immaterial exceptions, the laws of the several States of the Commonwealth provide that the maximum number of persons who may carry on business collectively in the form’ of a partnership is twenty. If more than twenty persons desire to be associated in business, it is necessary, under the various State laws, for those persons to incorporate a company in which they are the shareholders. On this ground there is reason for regarding any company which is comprised of twenty or fewer shareholders as being a private company. Accordingly, under this bill, a company, all the issued shares of which are held by twenty or fewer persons, is to be classified as a private company. In respect of companies with more than twenty shareholders, the main factor to be taken into consideration for the purpose of deciding whether a company is in the nature of a private company, is the number of persons who are capable of exercising control of the company, more particularly in respect of its dividend policy.
The need for a special form of taxation on the undistributed profits of private companies arises principally from the fact that by withholding distribution of its profits, a company would deprive the revenue of the taxes that would be payable by the shareholders if the profits were distributed to them as dividends. The number of persons who are capable of controlling the dividend policy of a company is, therefore, a matter of primary importance in determining whether a company should or should not oe taxed as a private company.
In those companies in which the public are substantially interested and whose shares are dealt in on recognized stock exchanges, it may be expected that the dividend policy of the company will nol. be greatly affected by consideration of the amount of tax payable by individual shareholders. Generally speaking, the influence of shareholders on the directorates of these companies is exercised to ensure that reasonable distribution of profits is made. The Government affirms the principle applied in the present law that the special private company provisions of the taxing measures should not apply to companies in which the public are substantially interested. Accordingly, it is proposed that these companies and subsidiaries of public companies shall be specifically excluded from the scope of private company taxation. Apart from companies in which the public are substantially interested and the subsidiaries of public companies, there are, however, many companies with more than twenty shareholders which are operated substantially in the interests of relatively few persons, who control the major portion of the voting power of such companies. To maintain the broad principle on which the present definition is based, it is con sidered that those companies should be included as private companies. It is accordingly proposed that a company which is capable of being controlled by not more than seven persons shall be classified as a private company, unless it is a company in which the public is substantially interested or a subsidiary of a public company.
Another class of company which requires to be brought within the ambit of the private company provisions is the company which represents the incorporation of family groups. In this type of company it is generally found that, irrespective of the number of shareholders, the real control of the company, including itsdividend policy, is exercised by a comparatively small group of persons. Members of a family ordinarily exercise their voting power in accord with the leadingmembers of the family group, or, alternatively, allow their voting power to be exercised by those leading members of the family. Correspondingly, nominee shareholders, in the exercise of the voting power in a company, follow the directions of their principals. The bill proposes to retain the provision of the present law that a person and his relatives and their nominees shall be regarded as one voting unit. “Where persons and their relatives and nominees are regarded as one voting unit and, in the result, it is found that a group of seven or fewer persons is able to exercise not less than ‘75 per cent, of the voting power of the company, that company will be classified as a private company. As already explained, companies in which the public are substantially interested are to be excluded from the compass of private company taxation. Those are companies whose ordinary shares, as distinct from preference shares, have, in the course of the income year, been quoted in the official list of a stock exchange. Provided that threequartersof the -voting power of a company of this type is not, directly or indirectly, in the hands of twenty or fewer persons, the company will not be classed as a private company.
It is possible that some companies whose ordinary shares are quoted in the official lists of stock exchanges will now be classified as private companies. Special provision has been made in the bill to preserve to those companies the right to be taxed as non-private companies in respect of the year ended the 30th June, 1948. In effect, these companies and their shareholders -will be afforded, until the 30th June, 1949, the opportunity to dispose of a sufficient number of shares to the public to qualify for assessment as non-private companies.
It is also proposed to make alterations of the basis upon which companies classified as private companies, according to the definition which I have just explained, will be assessed to undistributed profits tax. Under the present law and in fact, since the inception of the present system of taxing the undistributed profits of private companies, those companies have been allowed deductions on account of payments of undistributed profits tax in the ascertainment of their distributable incomes.
The allowance of this deduction has led to serious inequalities in the incidence of taxation on private companies generally, and has conferred an undue advantage on large income-earning companies with shareholders in the higher income brackets. By refraining from distributing its profits, a private company incurs a liability to undistributed profits tax which becomes a deductible amount in ascertaining the distributable income of the year in which the tax was paid. Individual taxpayers do not get any comparable deduction on account of taxes paid by them in respect of the income of prior years. After close examination of the subject, the Government has come to the conclusion that there is no sound principle upon which the continuance of this deduction can be defended. Accordingly, it is proposed that the deduction of tax paid on undistributed profits of the year ended the 30th June, 1948, and subsequent years shall be withdrawn. Any private company which has not so far paid tax on undistributed profits of the year ended the 30th June, 1947, and prior years will continue to be allowed the deduction. of those taxes in calculating the distributable income of the year in which the tax is paid. At the same time, it has been found possible to allow to private companies a measure of freedom from undistributed profits tax, varying according to the level of the company’s profit, whilst ensuring that the tax payable by private companies will approximate the tax payable by partners in a comparable partnership.
The allowance proposed is on a graduated scale commencing at 30 per cent, on the first £2,000 of the distributable income and decreasing to 25 per cent, on the second £2,000 of distributable income, 20 per cent, on the third £2,000 of distributable income, 15 per cent, on the fourth £2,000 of distributable income and 10 per cent, on the balance of the company’s distributable income. In the the case of a company with a distributable income of £2,000, on the application of the graduated scale distributable income to the amount of £600 may be retained by the company free from undistributed profits tax. A distributable income of £10,000 will be free to the amount of £2,000, and at the level of £50,000 of distributable income the amount of £6,000 will be free of undistributed profits tax. The scale of allowance of distributable income free from undistributed profits tax has been drawn up so that the allowance will, in conjunction with the withdrawal of the deduction on account of undistributed profits tax, restore the equitable? balance of taxation as between all private companies and generally cause the measure of taxation payable by private companies and their shareholders to be in harmony with the taxation liabilities of other classes of taxpayers.
These amendments effect the major changes in the liabilities of private companies to tax on undistributed profits. A survey that has been made indicates that approximately 750 private companies will be required to pay a larger amount in taxes in the future than they have paid in the past. These are the large private companies in the profit range above £20,000 per annum whose shareholders, as a general rule, enjoy large personal incomes. These companies received the greatest benefit from the deduction of undistributed profits tax in calculating the distributable income of the year in which the tax was paid. The withdrawal of that deduction will be only partly offset by the partial freedom from tax on distributable income proposed by the bill. In the profit range ‘between £10,000 and £20,000 there are approximately 1,250 private companies which, it is estimated, will not be affected appreciably. Although the tax on undistributed profits depends to a great degree on the number of shareholders in a private -company and the size of their personal incomes, it is considered that, generally speaking, the partial freedom from tax on distributable income will offset the withdrawal of the deduction of undistributed profits tax. In the profit range up to £10,000 there are 10,000 private companies, most of which, it is estimated, will either benefit, or be in a position to benefit, from the new proposals. The remaining 8,000 private companies will not be affected as, after payment of remuneration to the working principals, there is no income remaining to be subject to primary tax or undistributed profits tax.
It is also proposed by the bill to specify the amount of profits available to a private company out of which it may pay tax-free dividends to its shareholders. The position under the present law is that, when a company has paid undistributed profits tax, dividends >paid wholly and exclusively out of the profits so taxed are received by the shareholders free from tax in their hands. The amendment proposed by the bill is based on the principle that a tax payable on profits is a charge against those particular profits. Only the balance of profits remaining after deduction of the tax payable on the profits will in future be available to a company for distribution in the form of tax-free dividends to the shareholders.
Other provisions affecting private companies have the purpose and effect of nullifying devices which have been employed by many private companies so as to avoid or minimize the liability to undistributed profits tax intended by the legislation. It is also proposed to provide for simplification of the calculation of the undistributed profits tax. For the purposes of calculating undistributed profits tax, rebates of a concessional nature such as are allowed in respect of dependants, insurance payments, medical expenses, &c, will be disregarded, and the incomes of the shareholders in private Companies will be treated as being derived wholly from property. Tests that have been made in actual cases indicate that, whilst the calculation of undistributed profits tax will be greatly simplified, there will be no material difference in ohe aggregate amount of undistributed profits tax payable by private companies. I mention, in final reference to the amendments affecting private companies, that the objective of the legislation is to establish a proper balance between taxes payable by private companies and other classes of taxpayers.
Among the other provisions of the bill is a clause which will have the effect of extending the concession instituted in 1946 for the purpose of encouraging industrial experts to come to Australia in the interests of the development of Australian industries. By the 1946 provisions, the earnings of these visiting experts were exempted from Australian tax during the first and second years of the visit to this country, provided that those earnings were subject to tax in the country in which the experts were ordinarily resident. It has now been found advantageous, and in some instances necessary, to retain the services of certain of these visiting experts in Australia beyond the two-year period. To meet these cases it is proposed that during the third and fourth years of a visit to Australia, an expert will not be obliged to pay in Australian taxation any amount in excess of the tax that would nave been payable by him in his own country on an amount equal to his Australian earnings. It is also proposed to modify the taxation imposed on allowances which are paid to employees who are obliged to work away from their homes. Under the present law those allowances are taxed to an amount of 15s. a week. In 1945. when the present provisions were included in the Income Tax Assessment Act, the sum of 15s. a week was regarded as the average of saving in the domestic budget consequent on the employee being away from his home. However, the Government has considered representations that in many instances industrial tribunals in fixing the rates of payment of such allowances have taken into account the domestic saving gained by the employee. In those cases, if the allowance is paid in money, it cannot fairly be said that there is any saving by the employee after he has met the expenses for which the allowance was granted. It is proposed that away-from-home allowances not exceeding 50s. per week granted by industrial tribunals and paid in money will be free of tax.
A further provision in the bill extends the concessional allowances to gifts made to the United Nations Appeal for Children. This concession is proposed by way of encouraging donations by taxpayers to the United Nations Appeal for Children to which appeal the Government is itself h contributor.
In the interests of governmental administration some amendments are proposed to the secrecy provisions of the act to authorize the communication by the Commissioner of Taxation of essential information to the Director-General of Social Services and to the Universities Commission. These amendments are necessary because of the altered adminitration of social services which are now concentrated under the control of the Director-General of Social Services and in respect of the Universities Commission, because the authority previously granted to communicate information to this commission was provided by National Security Regulations which have now expired.
Other clauses in the bill state that an income tax rebate is not allowable in respect of social services contribution. There has been a misunderstanding in some quarters that the social services contribution is a rebatable amount for in- come tax purposes but, in fact, no rebate has ever been allowed tinder this heading, lt is considered desirable to make this fact expressly clear so that taxpayers generally will be saved the inconvenience and expense of making claims for the allowances. The bill is of a very technical nature and, therefore in order that its provisions may be better understood, memoranda explaining its clauses have been prepared and circulated by the Treasurer. Those clauses may most appropriately be considered in the committee stages. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
By this bill, it is proposed to effect reductions of the rates of income tax for the current financial year. By a separate bil], it is also proposed to reduce the social services contribution. The reduced rates of income tax and social services contribution will apply to the taxable incomes derived by individual taxpayers during the current year ending on the 30th June, 1949. The reduction of income tax will apply to the taxable incomes derived by companies during the preceding year ended the 30th June, 1948. The reductions of the rates of tax and social services contributions on salaries and wages have been anticipated and, since the first pay-day in October, the instalments deducted from earnings have been adjusted to reflect those reductions. The instalments during the months of July, August and September were made at a higher scale, but any over-deduction that has accrued during those months will be adjusted as between the Commissioner of Taxation and the employees when the returns of the employees have been lodged . and assessed. With regard to individual taxpayers engaged in business or deriving income from property such as rents, dividends and interest, the reduced rates will be taken into account in determining the provisional tax that will be payable in respect of the current year ending the 30th June, 1949.
The annual cost to revenue of the reduction of the income tax rates for individual taxpayers is estimated to be £18,000,000. The total relief granted by the combined reductions of the income tax and social services contribution rates will approximate £26,000,000 in a full year and £20,000,000 in the current financial year. Under the proposed new scale of rates for income tax, as distinct from social services contribution, liability to income tax will not commence until the income reaches £351, instead of £251, as formerly. The new rates, therefore, will commence at an income figure of £351, and will be graduated to 13s. 6d. in the £1, so that the combined ceiling rate of tax and contribution will be retained at 15s. in the £1. On personal exertion income, however, the ceiling rate will apply to that part of the income in excess of £9,000 instead of the present figure of £5,000:
The usual practice of declaring a separate scale of rates to be applied to income from property will be followed. The tax payable under the property scale will be higher than the tax payable on a corresponding income from personal exertion. On the lower incomes, the margin of difference is relatively small. As the taxable income increases, the property rate becomes proportionately greater than the personal exertion rate. At an income of about £1,000, the tax and contribution on property income is approximately 25 per cent, more than the tax and contribution on personal exertion income. The ceiling rate of 15s. in the £1 on property is the same as on personal exertion income. On property income, however, the ceiling rate applies to that part of the income in excess of £5,000, whereas, in an income from personal exertion, the ceiling rate applies to that part of the income in excess of £9,000. Although the ceiling rate is not being reduced, taxpayers to whose incomes it applies will benefit by the reduction of tax on the first £5,000 of property income, and the first £9,000 of persona] exertion income.
As I have already indicated, liability to income tax under the bill will not commence until an income of £351 is received compared with £251 yast year. That applies where the taxpayer is not maintaining any dependant. Where taxpayers have dependants, however, approximately the same increase is being made in the level of income before there is a liability to income tax as distinct from social services contribution. Compared with exist- ing scales, the proposed schedules extend the freedom from income tax to higher income ranges as follows : -
I .emphasize that that table has relation to income tax only. The social services contribution will be dealt with in a separate measure. Honorable senators may gauge the extent of the proposed reduction in individual income and social services contribution by examining the tables that were circulated with the budget papers. Those tables compare the amounts payable for the current financial year with the amounts payable at war-time rates and at the rates’ applicable last year.
It is also proposed by the bill to reduce the tax payable by companies. Those companies deriving taxable incomes of £5,000 and under will pay tax at the rate of 5s. in the £1 instead of 6s. in the £1 as at present. Companies deriving taxable incomes in excess of £5,000 will pay 5s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 and 6s. in the £1 on the balance of taxable income. The reduction of the company rate represents an annual cost to revenue of approximately £1,500,000. The bill retains the super tax payable by companies at the rate of ls. in the £1 on the excess of the taxable income over £5,000. The exemption from super tax that, in the past, has been allowed to private companies, co-operative companies and mutual life assurance companies is being continued. There are a few companies, however, which are being brought within the scope of the super tax provisions. Those are companies in receipt of large dividends from other companies. Since 1940, those companies have been relieved of liability for super tax because of a general exemption that was intended to apply to small companies whose taxable profits for war-time company tax purpo’ses did not exceed £1,000. The exemption from super tax was fortuitous as dividends received by companies .were excluded in determining whether a taxable profit was derived for war-time company tax purposes. There is no sound reason for preserving the immunity from super tax that these companies have been granted in the past. Dividends are liable to super tax only to the degree that super tax has not already been paid on the income out of which the dividends were distributed. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’SULLIVAN adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 9th November (vide page 26.27), on motion by Senator Cameron -
That the bill be now .read a second time.
– In his second-reading speech on this measure, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) said that the object of the bill was to set up machinery to provide for more efficient and co-ordinated control of broadcasting services in Australia, to strengthen the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and to introduce a different system of financing the national broadcasting service. . The PostmasterGeneral traced the development of broadcasting in this country. He pointed out that in November, 1923, the first broadcasting station in Australia was established. The “sealed set” system then in operation did not appeal to the public, and in 1924 a new system was introduced. Later, in July, 1928, the Bruce-Page Government announced its intention to establish a national broadcasting service. That was an important development, and the Australian Broadcasting Company was formed. Subsequently, in ‘1932, the Lyons Government decided to establish a service still more national in character. The next important development arose out of the recommendations made by a joint parliamentary committee which was appointed by the Menzies Government. The Australian Broadcasting Act was passed in June, 1942. In 1946, after amendment in some minor respects, the act was put into operation. . Those various step’s have been important and have been taken during the gradual development of Australian broadcasting services, which are fundamentally national services. Some valuable, as well as some critical, contributions have been made to the present debate, but I consider that the foundations of the bill have not been shaken by any contribution from honorable senators opposite. Senator Rankin used some terrifying phrases. She said that the object of the Government in introducing this measure was to “dragoon all broadcasting to a predetermined government pattern”. It is a favorite habit of hers when any measure comes forward which she does not like to endeavour to cause confusion by indulging in some witchhunting. I would say that she gave a phenomenal demonstration of platitudinous verbosity in her discussion of the unimportant negative aspects of amplitude and frequency modulation arid facsimile reproduction. The Senate should attempt to find out the object of the attack made on the bill, which is nothing more nor less than an important step in the development of broadcasting. In delivering her attack on the bill, Senator Rankin’s voice was frequently modulated to make her story sound very convincing. With her winning and disarming smile and her carefully modulated voice sheexpounded the virtues of private broadcasting stations, but that did not ring: any bell.” The objects of the measurewere made clear by the Minister. As I have said, they constitute another step in the development of broadcasting in Australia. The honorable senator also described the bill as an insidious and dangerous .attack on the Australian way of life and on the ideals of democracy. The Deputy Leader’1 of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) in Lis references to the history of the Labour party and its objects said that it had often introduced very constructive and beneficial legislation into this National Parliament. The attack that has been made on this measure by the Opposition is not in keeping with those other remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on the history and objects of the Labour party.
– T is in keeping with tradition.
– It is in keeping with tradition in this respect, that it takes steps to avoid the control of the air by monopolists. If those whom the Deputy Leader of the Opposition represents, the captains of private enterprise and the entrepreneurs, were allowed to. control the market for fresh air we should be buying it at four breaths a bob and taking it in short pants. Australia must avoid allowing any individuals to have a monopoly of the airwaves, because broadcasting is too big and grand in concept to be exploited by people who have as their object the garnering of private profit.
– The honorable senator should read the 1942 act.
– As I have stated, the bill is another inevitable development of the technique of adapting ourselves to the basic needs of our times and using the newest inventions with which the bill deals, including television, frequency and amplitude modulation, and facsimile reproduction. Those inventions were established and developed during the recent war and their potentialities are just beginning to be realized.
Senator Amour pointed out that newspaper proprietors already control 62 per cent, of the commercial broadcasting stations in Australia, which in itself is not a very good advertisement for them. If the newspaper proprietors claim that there should not be any concentration of power over broadcasting in the hands of the Government, they should look within and put their own house in order before they start screaming out through that other instrument of alleged education and propaganda, the press, about the faults and disadvantages of this measure. Senator Rankin also spoke of “ conditioning” the minds of the people. In this country we have a very great need for another instrument to condition the minds of the people to .offset the viciously biased attitude that some sections of the press adopt. A great deal of unrest and discord in our society has been caused by the one-sided presentation of information that should be made available to the people. Biased presentation of information is leading to a gradual loss of respect for parliamentary institutions and recognized authority, and if this bill can assist the dissemination of reliable information ] am certain that it will perform a great service. There is in process of development a press policy of criticism, vilification and defamation of public men and the Public Service. That policy is a disgrace and is breaking down civil discipline and causing unrest. Those people who scream the loudest against any reform such as that provided in the present measure do so because they fear that it will have a neutralizing effect on their own actions. The economic features of the bill are sound. The press and the radio, particularly the privately owned radio stations, have recently embarked on a political campaign in preparation for the next election, and instead of the Government, a young country, having the co-operation of our public services - after all, regardless of who owns a radio station it is still a public service and should be operated in the interests of the public if we claim to be democratic people - it has to face repeated attacks that are often completely without foundation and are, in essence, attacks on democracy, since the Government was elected by a majority of the people. It is the Government’s job to govern and it should therefore receive the co-operation of everybody to make our democracy more virile and better able to carry out its functions. Instead of that co-operation, however, we either hear from commercial radio stations trashy advertisements or the most venomous political attacks. The existence of that unfair political bias is one of the reasons why I support the bill, which only carries further a process that has been developing over the last twenty years. To say that by the bill the Government is dragooning broadcasting into a government pattern is the same thing as saying that governments dragooned the horseandbuggy interests for the benefit of the motor car interests. The bill is a developmental step. Just as society must impose certain rectrictions on the unscrupulous motorists who would take up all the available parking space to the exclusion of other motorists, so also in any field of enterprise or human endeavour it must restrain those who would overstep the mark. There must be some form of supervision to ensure that they are not permitted to do anything anti-social. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the Government is so alive to its responsibility r.hat it has introduced this timely measure. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition put forward as good as a case as possible against the bill but I had already read in the press practically everything that he had to say. He faithfully followed the same train of thought us the press did. I once called him an “ old grey mare” because of the colour of his hair, but I hope that I shall never have to refer to him as “ the old party back “. I hope that he will not always subscribe to the views of the press and make that title applicable to him. We are indebted to him on this occasion because he has revealed his own free opinions, as well as those sterotyped strings of abstractions that the members of the political party to which he belongs offer, as a rule, as their contribution to such debates as the present one. When the honorable senator does occasionally allow his intelligence to break through the torrid, turbulent thunderclouds which always seem to be present in the atmosphere around those who belong to the Opposition parties, we find his basic logic expressing itself. He said that a co-ordinating authority is necessary and that amendments should be made to the act. That is what the present bill does. I appreciated his remarks regarding the early founders of the Labour movement, and I am quite certain that many of them were well meant. They were accepted in the spirit in which they were uttered. The early founders of the Labour movement were magnificent people, who made a great contribution to the development of this nation. The sinister motives attributed to those responsible for this measure by the honorable senator are figments of his imagination and are a part of the witch-hunting complex that I have mentioned. The continual suggestion that the Government is power-drunk and power-hungry must surely re-echo in the worried minds of those who must bear the full guilt of dispersing and virtually wrecking prices control in this country. When the price of .pumpkin reaches ls. per lb., those who advocated a “ No “ vote at the referendum should reflect on their rash step and take measures to rectify it at the earliest opportunity. They should repent of their former folly, in which they were assisted by the commercial broadcasting stations. When Senator O’sullivan stated that the reason for the bill had not been stated he gave us to understand that he believed that there was a sinister side to it, but I point out that to press forward at the right time after due forethought is as important in government as it is in military’ strategy. Now is the time to co-ordinate before we erect a modern Tower of Babel, which would certainly be the result if operations in this wide and new field of radio development were not co-ordinated. If this measure in any way compromised freedom of speech or conscience I should not support it; but it does not compromise those essentials of democracy. The great Labour movement is not actuated by motives of the kind about which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has expressed his fears. The measure, fundamentally, is moral and just. It represents another step towards the true estate of democracy; it is designed to protect the interests of Australians as a whole. It is ethically correct. Being a progressive measure, it will be met with the usual resistance which all legislation of an evolutionary nature evokes. I assure those to whom the measure is not welcome for financial reasons that the field is wide, and that if they play the game there will be plenty of scope to absorb the energy and brains of those directly associated with the industry. We are on the threshold of epochmaking developments in radio, television and facsimile broadcasting. As a nation we hope to reap much benefit from the work which our scientists and radio experts accomplished during the recent war. This field cannot be left to the mercy of those who struggle higgledypiggledy for personal gain. It is too important to be left in the hands of any group of persons who are not answerable directly to the people. The measure represents a substantial contribution to the prosperity and cultural development of the nation. There should be no miserable squabbling on national issues of this kind which can make or mar success in the wonderful new field in radio perhaps for decades to come. I wholeheartedly support the bill.
– This measure is in line with Labour’s policy. It is designed to improve a national service for the advancement of the people. Of course, it cuts sharply across the interests of private enterprise which in the past has, to a large degree, neglected the requirements of the people and has failed to keep abreast of developments in this field overseas. Much of the matter which I propose to place before the Senate is based upon my study of the various reports of the Broadcasting Committee. In its comparatively short history, broadcasting has progressed from the position of a novel source of entertainment to the status of an essential public service. Its influence on the lives of the people is now so far-reaching that its control has become a problem of major national importance.
The Australian broadcasting services bad .their beginnings in experiments, official, commercial and amateur. Systematic broadcasting may be said to have commenced in 1923, following a conference of representatives of all interests associated with radio which had been called^ together by the government of the day. That body recommended the introduction of what is known as the “ sealed set Under that proposal, licences were, granted to approved, companies in approved areas, .and listeners were required to pay an annual subscription of- ‘from 10s. “to £4 4s., ‘depending upon the number of stations the listener desired to hear. The receiving sets were sealed to exclude other programmes. When the scheme was initiated, the postal authorities expressed doubt about the likelihood of its success. However, four stations began service under the plan, two in Sydney, one in Melbourne, and one in Perth. Experience soon showed that the departmental view was correct, and the scheme was abandoned as a failure after only 1,400 listeners had applied for licences.
In 1924, a new plan was introduced. It provided for two classes of service by private enterprise, under government licence, from stations known as class A and class B. The former received their revenue from listeners’ licence-fee3 and the latter derived their income from advertisements. By 1929, there were eight class A and twelve class B stations providing programmes to 300,000 licensed listeners. At the present time, there are 1,730,000 licensed listeners. However, experience disclosed a weakness in the 1924 plan, which had been recognized in the early stages. The people controlling the class A stations had to obtain their revenue from subscribers in the areas served by their stations, and, naturally, they wanted them to be located in centres of greatest population density. The result wa3 that no stations were established to serve country areas, particularly remote districts where the people have many hardships to contend with. They have few of the amenities of life, and before the days of broadcasting they suffered drawbacks from the long delay in receiving news and information of value to them. Yet, the settlement of those areas is vital to the welfare of the nation. Right at the inception of broadcasting it had been recognized that at some stage it would be necessary to establish broadcasting on a national basis. All the regulations issued from time to time revealed a basic consideration which led up to the partial nationalization of the service. In 1927, a royal commission was appointed to investigate all aspects of broadcasting, and, following that commission’s report, the government of the day asked the companies concerned to consider an amalgamation of their interests. The idea was that the larger companies could help the smaller ones in the provision of a satisfactory service throughout the Commonwealth. However, the reply from the companies was not considered to be in the best interests of listeners generally, and, in 1928, it was decided to establish a partially national scheme. Under that scheme, A class stations, which private enterprise could not run at a profit, were taken over by the Government. The technical services were to be owned and operated by the Government, and the programmes were to be provided by private enterprise under contract, as this function was not considered to be one for a government department. No change was proposed in respect of class B stations. I emphasize that point. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan), in his criticism of the measure and his comparison of the national stations and the commercial stations from a business point of view, completely overlooked the fact that one of the primary duties of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to raise the cultural standards of the community. “With that object in view it must provide costly broadcasts from which it receives no financial return. On the other hand, the primary object of the commercial stations is to make a profit, and they do so by subordinating their standards to the wishes of advertisers. For that reason, anti-Labour governments in the past nationalized the cultural side of radio, but permitted private enterprise to retain the cream of radio from the financial point of view. I admit that the commercial stations render a service to the community, but if their standards were to be taken as the best that should be offered to the people the outlook for this nation would be very poor indeed. Implementing the policy whereby the Post Office took over the A class stations and studios as licences expired in 1929 and 1930, up to which date very little real advance had been made in radio, the Postal Department commenced the erection of new regional stations in provincial centres, and after it called tenders arranged a programme contract with the new organization, the Australian Broadcasting. Company, which did excellent pioneering work. That company concentrated to some degree upon unpayable programmes. Three years later the government of the day decided to establish a service still more national in character, and to that end the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act was passed in 1932. It provided for the appointment of five commissioners - a chairman for five years, a vice-chairman for four years, and the remainder for three years, whilst each further appointment was to be for a period of up to three years. The commission was required to set up studios and be responsible for the provision of programmes. The whole of the technical services, including studio apparatus and transmitting stations, continued to be the responsibility of the Post Office. The latter was also required to provide, without cost to the commission, the- interconnecting programme transmission lines needed for simultaneous broadcasting from two or more stations. Complete nationalization of the class A stations was thus accomplished.
Multiple ownership of broadcasting station licences is practically confined to newspaper interests. In the early days of radio the influence which radio was to exercise upon the lives of the people was not visualized. As that. influence became more apparent, however, those who controlled the main medium of propaganda up to that time, namely, the press proprietors, realized the propaganda value of radio whilst they also feared the popularity of radio as a competitor in the news field. Consequently, the newspapers gradually acquired interests in radio stations until to-day, directly and indirectly, they control 63 per cent, of commercial stations. The passage of time has not justified all the fears of the controllers of the daily press. The evidence show “that the universal popularity of the radio throughout Australia has not caused any diminution of the sales of newspapers or any reduction of their profits, except, perhaps, in a few minor instances. On the other hand, the- newspaper interests have derived profits from the operation of broadcasting station licence’s and have thereby strengthened their position in the field of propaganda. The advertisers and the vested interests exploited both the newspapers and the broadcasting stations, and the public was bombarded from both sides. Members of the Opposition complain of the Australian people being “processed”: they are being “ processed “ all right. During the recent campaign on the proposal to control rents and prices they were “ processed “ by the opponents of Labour through the press and the wireless, and the same thing happened in the recent Tasmanian elections. However, the excessive use of publicity by the opponents of Labour, who monopolized the press and the air during that campaign, made it quite clear that the same hand was controlling the gun. A similar revelation was made in the United States of America, when the results of the recent presidential elections confounded the interests which thought they had convinced the people that Mr. Dewey should be elected president. Indeed, so intensive was their propaganda that they had even convinced themselves that Mr. Dewey would be elected, and many of them lost substantial sums which they had wagered on the results. Although the election results proved that American big business interests had failed to achieve the effect which they desired, their propagandist efforts were undoubtedly a “softening up “ process intended to condition the minds of the people, and they furnish some idea of the power wielded by those interests. The spokesmen for those who wield similar powers over the press and the radio in Australia urge that the present controllers can safely be permitted to continue to exercise their present power. Those interests are supported, of course, by the members of the Opposition in the Parliament, who say they have some doubt or suspicion of the Government’s motives in introducing this measure. Actually their suspicions are not of the <t measure, but of democracy.
The purpose of the bill is to amend the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942-1946, to provide a better service for the listening public, and to ensure that the Australian public shall be able to enjoy, at a minimum cost, the benefit of overseas developments in broadcasting. The bill seeks to place two additional members on the Australian Broadcasting Commission, one of whom is to represent the Treasury and the other the Postmaster-General’s Department. From time to time members of the Opposition have criticized the expenditure of the commission, and the manner in which its funds are expended. Whilst supporters of the Government do not subscribe entirely to that criticism, we believe that the commission should have done a better job, and one objective of the measure is to establish a commission which will do a better job. However, the Australian Broadcasting Commis-sion will continue to operate, and I am confident that it will be a more efficient body when this legislation is enacted.
The measure also provides for the establishment of a board to be known as the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which will be responsible to the Minister, who will in turn, be responsible to the Parliament. That is a thoroughly democratic provision, but I suppose that members of the Opposition prefer that commercial radio interests should continue to be responsible to no one but the financial powers which at present control their policy. The board will be an administrative authority, and I assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that his fears that its members will require to be supermen is quite unfounded. If the board is to fulfil its functions impartially and effectively it is essential, of course, that no member of that body shall have any financial interest in broadcasting, or in the manufacture or distribution of broadcasting equipment. The Opposition may object to that provision, but I think that it is quite fair and reasonable. The development of broadcasting along sound lines will demand the full-time services of the members of the proposed board, and care will be exercised by the Government to ensure that men of the right type, who possess outstanding qualifications, shall be chosen. In order to carry out its functions and exercise the powers conferred on it by the bill, it will be necessary for the board to employ staff with technical and other requisite qualifications, and since the board is intended to form a permanent part of the broadcasting machinery of Australia, it is proposed that the staff shall be employed under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. By that means they will enjoy the benefits available to other officers of the public service in regard to hours of duty, recreation and sick leave, superannuation and furlough, and their salaries will be subject to relevant arbitration awards. En addition, they will be subject to the overall authority of the Public Service Board, which will be able to check any undue expansion of staff. It is clear, therefore, that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had not given any serious consideration to the measure before he spoke. He simply rose in his place and effervesced about the iniquity of the Government’s action in removing the control of commercial broadcasting from the interests which he represents. He criticized the proposal to appoint three members to the board, and he said that to discharge their functions effectively, one member would have to be the counterpart of “ Superman “, and another of “ Mickey Mouse “, and the third “ Mandrake “, or some other newspaper character in whom he is interested. His criticism is futile because the members of the board will obviously be provided with an adequate staff of qualified assistants, to whom they will delegate some of the powers which the bill confers upon them.
Except in instances in which privileges are being abused or the public interest neglected, the proposed board will not restrict broadcasting in any way. It will, however, provide much-needed coordination of the services at present rendered by the national and commercial stations, and will extend the scope of broadcasting into fields which have not hitherto been exploited for the benefit of the listening public. The proposed board will also protect the listening public against exploitation by any interests which might desire to “ cash in “ on broadcasting and television. Furthermore, it will endeavour to provide a better service for the settlers in the remote areas of this country. No immediate prospect of financial gain is presented to commercial broadcasters by the provision of broadcasting services for people in remote areas, and for that reason the commercial broadcasters have not provided any adequate service for them. Recently, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wanted to know why a particular commercial radio station was moved from one country centre to another. The reason is obvious. -The commercial interests which were operating the station in one town found that it was not profitable for them to continue to do so. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department then granted a licence for the station to be operated in another town, where private interests thought they could make some money from its operation. The attitude of the commercial interests in that instance is typical of their attitude generally. If they cannot make a profit they do not care about the public whom they are supposed to serve. For that reason, the Government is particularly anxious to provide a proper service for country residents. Only recently, the PostmasterGeneral (.Senator Cameron) opened a national station at Manilla to serve the people of northern New South Wales. The Government proposes to continue to provide services for the people and to make available for the enjoyment of listeners the latest technical developments, such as frequency modulation, television and other innovations. The dispersion of national broadcasting stations is a matter which T commend to the particular attention of honorable senators and of the people generally. The majority of national stations are located in country areas. The Government also operate? five short-wave stations, which provide services to people in remote areas which would never be served by commercial broadcasters, because there is no profit in such service. The Government also provides special services for people in the Pacific and in the Far EastRadio Australia is providing an excellent service, which is appreciated and applauded by its listeners. Fortunately, the high standard of Radio Australia has not been polluted by private investors, who operate other commercial stations for profit. Of course, the reason why commercial interests have not invaded the particular field covered by Radio Australia is that it returns no profits except to the nation. Since no pecuniary gain would be derived from serving the remote dwellers of the Northern Territory and the islands to the north of Australia, the Government has had to provide a service foi’ them. When Labour decided to provide that, service there was no howl of “ nationalization “ or “ socialization “ by the Opposition parties. They did not care because there was no money to be made in providing such a service. But it is an entirely different matter when the lucrative fields exploited by metropolitan commercial broadcasting networks are affected.
Of the 141 national and commercial stations which operate throughout the? Commonwealth, 102 are owned by commercial interests, and it is significant that the commercial stations are concentrated in the thickly populated areas. Those stations derive their revenue from advertisements, plagiarization of books and plays, the dissemination of political propaganda and the broadcast of dramatized versions of political happenings. Incidentally, those dramatizations in many instances have no relation whatever to fact or truth, and the leaders of the nation are libelled to the scandal of the nation. Although it is doubtful from what source commercial radio undertakings obtain their greatest revenues, we know that they are used by wealthy advertisers and vested interests, which use them as their hired mouthpiece. Whatever their most lucrative field of exploitation may be, we know that last year commercial broadcasters made profits of more than £3,000,000. Yet, on reviewing their activities, we find that they have done very little to improve the quality of their broadcasts or the standard of their services to listeners. We know that they have certainly detracted from the high standard of broadcasting set by the national stations.
The bill provides for the establishment of a very necessary control. When critics of the Government complain that the broadcasting services of this country are to be nationalized or socialized, I remind them of the splendid activities of the British Broadcasting Corporation. During the recent war, when broadcasting became a matter of first-class national and international importance, the Empire was magnificently served by that corporation. Had the British broadcasting service been under private control it would have been exposed to the evil intentions of the big interests in England which were not favorable to Britain being at war with the Nazi powers and des- perately wanted to obtain control of the nation’s propaganda. Had they been able to do so, untold damage might have been done. The influence of radio broadcasting is even greater than that of the press, because it extends beyond the country in which the message originates, and so to protect the nation it is necessary to impose as rigorous controls over broadcasting as are necessary to be imposed upon other forms of propaganda. The censorship of radio broadcasts is, therefore, a national responsibility. The bill does not in any way minimize the Government’s responsibility to ensure that all broadcast matter shall be properly supervised. At the same time, it is not intended to interfere unnecessarily with commercial broadcasting stations, which will be free to provide the most attractive services that they can render to their listeners. The control to which they will be subjected is, after all, no greater than the control exercised over members of the community by the marriage laws. In conclusion, I heartily support the bill and congratulate the Postmaster-General on its introduction, and particularly on the voluminous information which he supplied and the comprehensive nature of the written explanations which accompanied it.
– Many good reasons prompted the Government to introduce the present measure, and they may he summarized as follows : First, the Government is anxious to ensure that radio listeners get a fair deal for their wireless receiving fees and for the money which they expend in the purchase of wireless receivers. Secondly, the Government intends that Australia shall be in the forefront in the implementation of the most modern developments of radio and television. Thirdly, it desires to alter, enlarge and improve the services now being rendered by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial stations. Fourthly, it is necessary for Australia to enter into international agreements in regard to wave lengths, radio frequencies and the exchange of scientific and technical data. Finally, the Government desires to encourage the development of Australian music and to stimulate Australian m musicians. Those are all important considerations, and, in my opinion, any one of them should be sufficient to commend the bill to honorable senators. We need a stronger spirit of Australianism in this country. We should encourage Australian folk songs, Australian choral singing, Australian literature, Australian art, and allied cultural activities. We have many potential great artists in this country and we should encourage their progress and development by sending them abroad. Let us be proud of them. None of the commercial interests can aid our cultural development in this way, but a national organization such as this bill envisages can promote the Australianism which is so worthy of cultivation. There is no reason why we should not have great symphony orchestras in Australia with great auditoriums in which they could perform. We should have places like the Rose Bowl at Los Angeles, in California, in which some of the best musicians of the world could give concerts. Under the control of the new organization, such performances could be given frequently, and, for the benefit of people who could not attend them, they could be broadcast to the nation. In fact, in the near future, it should be possible to televise them. We should do everything possible to establish an Australian cultural background. We should not follow and imitate the worst features of jazz, boogie-woogie and the “soap operas” that are broadcast in the United States of America and Europe.
There are many other reasons why 1 welcome the bill. For instance, the news which is broadcast by our radio stations is often not authentic. It is clouded and coloured. Many people who live in our outback areas are anxious to hear stock and station reports and meteorological information, all of which are of great importance to them. They are not able to hear such broadcasts under present conditions, but, when this bill is implemented, they will be provided with a. service appropriate to their needs. The broadcasting of advertisements will be permitted under this bill. It is the intention of the Government not to nationalize radio broadcasting and television, but to rationalize it and alter the existing unsatisfactory pattern which the Labour party took over from a Nationalist government. The bill provides for the lifting, of the burden of a great deal of the administrative work that is now carried, by technical and administrative officersof the Postal Department. Those officialshave their hands full in providing greater telephone and postal facilities for whichthe country is crying out. They areexpected to carry out a huge programmeof works. Under the bill, our broadcasting system, whilst remaining technically under the control of the advisers of thePostal Department, will become theresponsibility of the proposed broadcasting control board.
Do radio listeners get a fair deal under existing conditions? I contend that they do not. There is no systematic coordination of commercial broadcast programmesOne can twiddle the dial of a radio set at certain times and find that almost every station is broadcasting horse-racing descriptions. I am not opposed to racing or to any other sport, but I should like to have a little variety in the broadcasting programmes available to me. Serials, too, sometimes virtually monopolize interstate radio networks. Very- often one finds that the same serial is being broadcast from half a dozen or more stations in different States. I do not know what the average listener thinks of our serials but, in my opinion, although some are good, the majority are not so good. We should like to have some relief from the mass organization of commercial broadcasting networks, which are controlled by sponsors who seek to sell their soap, “ Gritty Granules “, or other products by constantly advertising them through the medium of radio serials. The owners of commercial broadcasting stations try to run their businesses as best they can. They have invested money in the undertakings and therefore it is only reasonable to suppose that they try to obtain the greatest possible returns from their investments. They must please their sponsors in every instance. The periods allotted to the broadcasting of music, news, or interesting talks from commercial stations depend entirely upon the advertisers’ demand for such sessions.
Commercial broadcasting is closely linked with the press in Australia. Of a total of 102 commercial stations, 60 are either directly or indirectly under press control. Therefore, the news that is broadcast from them emanates in the first instance from the principal newspaper chains. The dissemination of news in this way tends to create a mass psychology. The listeners have no choice of independent news services. In amplification of the second reason which I stated, it is essential, in the light of modern developments in radio throughout the world, to have some control of broadcasting so as to avoid confusion and chaos. Who is to exercise control? Obviously we cannot allow individual stations to do as they please. That would be a system of “ dog eat dog “, of the amalgamation of groups, and lack of general co-ordination. Some authority must be appointed not only to determine how frequencies and broadcasting licences shall be allocated, but also to control research and zoning. We must have a form of control which will provide listeners with an opportunity to satisfy their own wishes by means of direct representation on the principal authority, as is provided in the bill. We must have some form of organization which will replace the haphazard system of the survival of the fittest. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) spoke of the profit motive. In the United States of America, the profit motive is of paramount importance in the conduct of business. It has led to the growth of one of the worst systems of commercial broadcasting that could possibly be imagined. The Australian Government does not intend to emulate any such bad example. We have watched the growth and expansion of broadcasting. We have listened to broadcasts from other countries, and we have sent experts abroad to study modern radio practice. Mr. Fanning, of the Postal Department, has just returned from a trip abroad during which he studied the latest available technical data.
Our object is to avoid the mistakes that have been made in the United States of America and other countries. The development of a series of commercial broadcasting networks in the United States has created such keen competition that the controllers are vieing with one another in transmitting the worst type of horror serials in order to catch the attention of the public. This practice is detrimental to children who hear the broadcasts and to people who accept as gospel truth anything that they hear on the radio or read in the press. The conditions which will be eliminated by this bill constitute a legacy from antiLabour governments, whose interests the Deputy Leader of the Opposition represents. It is not generally known that, when the Labour party came into power, there were in operation 102 commercial stations which had been licensed without regard to any system of zoning. Naturally, those stations had been concentrated in the areas of greatest population density where they could secure the widest listening field and thereby attract the patronage of advertisers. The owners paid no attention to the farmers, the cattle men. the graziers and the miners who live in isolated areas. They wanted to attract sponsors, and therefore they ignored the wants of the people in the outback who. in my opinion, carry the greatest burden of Australia’s productivity. Of the 102 B class stations in Australia when the Labour party took office, four had been suppressed by the preceding nationalist government. Their licences had been suspended. If that was not control, I should like to know what control is. Those stations belonged- to Jehovah’s Witnesses., and later they were sold to other interests.
– To the Labour party, for instance!
– Only two new stations have been licensed since the Labour Government has been in office. What a mess the Labour party had to take over! There was no system of zoning. Anybody who could get a licence rushed in where he thought he could get the most money.
Only a few years ago, radio frequencies were being used without restraint or regard for the needs of other countries The situation was so confused that an international conference was called and the representatives of various countries agreed upon a system that eliminated overlapping. Various frequencies were allotted to different countries. Only 107 frequency channels are available in Australia at present. Who is to use them, and who is not to use them? That is the question. Unless the Government controls broadcasting and allots those channels equitably, chaos will prevail. The development of frequency modulation and television opens up a great new field, [t is not generally known that investigations have already been made in Aus tralia to determine the most satisfactory means of allotting various areas to television stations. Television is gradually morning into its own in the United States >f America and the United Kingdom. The largest television audience yet assembled anywhere in the world listened to and watched the television broadcast of the world championship boxing match between Joe Louis and Joe Walcott. It was estimated then that 50 per cent, of die people who owned television sets tuned in to the broadcast of that fight. The coverage which can be secured with television broadcasts is indicated by the following news item : -
A new television station near Birmingham will serve the central area of Britain. Twice as powerful as the original transmitter in london, its range will be 50 miles, and its programmes will reach some 6,000,000 people.
Since the inception of radio broadcasting, there has been a fight -between press and radio because of their conflicting interests. The newspaper proprietors feared that the broadcasting of new.s would result in reduced newspaper circulation. For a long time the war between press and radio was bitter. It was a fight for supremacy. But the problem was solved when the press of this country and of the United States of America secured control of their own radio stations, and converted them into what may be termed aerial newspapers. There has been ample evidence of the length to which the press is prepared to go in its attempt to force its political opinions down the throats of the people with a view to causing changes of government. In Tasmania a few months ago the Labour party, then holding office in the Tasmanian Parliament, was subjected to one of the most intense newspaper and radio propaganda ‘barrages that had ever been attempted in this country. The result, unfortunately for Labour’s political opponents, was not in keeping with the effort that they put into their publicity campaign. The people of Tasmania were awake and saw through the lying and distortion which characterized the propaganda of the Opposition parties, with the result that Labour was returned to office. The people of the United States of
America had a similar experience last week. For months before the presidential elections, most influential American newspapers and periodicals showed pictures of Mr.. Dewey and his satellites meeting to decide who would be their key men when Mr. Dewey had been el’ected President. For instance, the magazine Life, o-n the 2.7th September,, depicted members of the Republican. party viewing the suites of offices which they confidently expected to occupy within a few weeks. The remarkable thing was that, despite all that propaganda in the press and over the air,, the people realized what was behind the campaign and relied upon their own common sense as a guide to what. was right and wrong. They reserved to- themselves the right to determine by whom they should be governed. Whilst the radio and the press are: the two greatest mediums for the dissemination of ideas, those who abuse those instrumentalities now realize that they are up against the common sense of the ordinary man and woman, and in my opinion, the average Australian is blessed with a generous quota of common sense in his ordinary everyday affairs, and in the el’ection of his political representatives.
– Mr. Dewey offered a? an excuse for his defeat the explanation that he had underestimated, the intelligence of the people.
– That is quite true. I come now to the part that broadcasting can play in the development of Australian culture. I have before me the seventeenth report of the Broadcasting Committee, which deals with some very important matters, including the establishment of cn Australian music composers’ fund, and the use of Australian music and other Australian programme material. Do the commercial broadcasting stations provide funds to foster those objectives?
– Of course they do; what about the “Amateur Hour”? They have given opportunities to hundreds of talented Australians.
– Yes, by advertis- ing chairs and pianos. In view of the honorable senator’s interjection, it is interesting to note the submission made to the Australian Broadcasting Commission on behalf of the Australian Natives Association. The association stated -
There ai:e many young; people in Sydney and other Australian- cities who devote much of their leisure to intensive study of. dramaticart, but who find it extremely difficult to obtain an1 opportunity of developing any talent they may possess for radio acting. Two such amateur dramatic; clubs are the Kuring-gai Theatre Guild and the Old Drury players attached to the Nellie Stewart Memorial Club.
The association also- stated -
Jokes that play on abnormality and: perversion should be rigorously exorcised and some of the homosexual by-play put over on certain shows should never be permitted on the air.
Such broadcasts, are never made over the national stations. On behalf of the Fellowship of Australian Writers and Script Writers^, the following, submission was made: -
I quote those submissions in support of my arguments in favour of this measure. I do not pose as a technical expert but I believe that the people of Australia have not been given a “ fair spin “ by the commercial stations in regard to entertainment. I believe too that some control must be exercised over new technical developments. Also, there must, of necessity, be some organization which will extend the opportunities that are given to the Australian people, including musicians, writers, authors, artists and journalists. Australian talent must be encouraged so that we may build up our own Australian background. It is not generally known that many stations, if not owned outright by newspapers, are controlled by them. The profits of the commercial stations in the last financial year amounted to £300,000, which in these days of high taxation, can not be regarded as insignificant. Obviously commercial radio interests will fight this bill tooth and nail. The press also will oppose the measure. I believe, however, that the bill provides a co-ordinated plan which will do much to correct the present unsatisfactory situation which is a legacy of the poorly organized broadcasting system that was established when radio was young and not very much was known about its potentialities. During the regime of anti-Labour governments radio broadcasting licences were granted without due regard for the requirements of people living in outback areas. Applications were granted, because they were regarded as reasonable many years ago, and little was known of the technical ramifications of broadcasting. The bill provides for new and better facilities, and more adequate control in which the people of this country will have some say. At present the Australian people do not have a voice in the control of commercial broadcasting and radio propaganda, I am convinced that the measure will be of great benefit to the people of Australia generally.
– I support this bill, because I believe that it is necessary, particularly in view of the developments that have taken place, and are taking place, throughout the world in frequency modulation broadcasting, television and facsimile reproduction. The Australian Broadcasting Act was passed in 1942. In the years that have elapsed since that time, many developments have occurred. In the early days of broadcasting in this country, anybody who wanted to open a broadcasting station had an “ open go “. I recall that when broadcasting was in its infancy there were many amateur stations in various parts of the world. It was interesting to listen on crystal sets which were then in vogue to the efforts of those amateurs. From those crude receivers, the modern radio set has developed. It was not long before the commercial possibilities of radio were realized. A number of people found employment in radio advertising accompanied by programmes. They operated without any suggestion of restraint until 1928 when the Bruce-Page Government, which was not a Labour government, was in office. That Government realized that it was necessary to act in the interests of the people to regulate broadcasting, and it introduced a bill giving some control of broadcasting. Later, in 1932, the Lyons Government, which also was not a Labour government, realized the necessity of taking more positive action regarding the activities of commercial radio stations, and established the Australian Broadcasting Commission. From that period up to the present time the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been operating the national stations of Australia, but there has been no interference with commercial radio stations. With the development of frequency modulation, television and facsimile reproduction, there is a possibility that unless control is maintained by this Parliament, we shall have a repetition of what occurred in connexion with commercial radio in the early days of amplitude modulation. I submit that this legislation is necessary in the interests of the people because it will control the introduction of frequency modulation. I do not profess to have a practical knowledge of radio, but I do understand that frequency modulation will mean that the listener will receive a more distinct reception than he does from an amplitude modulation broadcast. The static and other interference now experienced with amplitude modulation receiving sets will be eliminated. Such interferences are to, a very large degree caused by the nature of the country over which the radio signal is transmitted. The bill is an honest effort to do something practical and useful in the interests of the people. I emphasize that when the companies which have combined to form the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations were originally established they had practically no opposition, and many of them were able to obtain the best air channels that were available. Some of them were not concerned with giving any service to the people in remote parts of Australia. They were concerned only with giving service to the people in the cities and the densely populated provincial areas because the people of those areas bought the preparations advertised by the commercial radio stations on behalf of the sponsors who provided the finance for their programmes. The commercial radio stations gave no consideration to the people in the north-west of Western Australia and the Northern Territory and in other outback portions of Australia, so it became necessary for the Australian Government to take a hand in the matter and as a result it created the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It decided that the Austalian Broadcasting Commission should provide the programmes and that the Postmaster-General’s Department should attend to the technical side of the business. The Australian Broadcasting Commission and Postmaster-General’s Department’ have done a job that is par excellence and compares more than favorably with the accomplishments of any other radio system operating anywhere in the world. Let us consider the motivating force of the commercial broadcasting stations. Primarily they are in the radio business for profit only and it is not of much use talking about the achievements of commercial radio as the Opposition has done during this debate. If there were no profits there would be no commercial radio stations, and the’ only way those stations obtain profits is by transmitting sponsored programmes which bring them in very lucrative returns. It must also he recollected that there is a great tendency on the part of commercial radio stations to create what are known as networks “. When an advertiser makes a contract with a radio station he gets a cove]- over all the radio stations associated in the same network. Whether the Opposition will adm.it it or not, commercial radio is becoming monopolized.
– Those advertising contracts are already subject to the approval of the Postmaster-General snider the existing act.
– I am not disputing that. The fact is that in their essence, whether they have the permission of the Postmaster-General or not, they are an embryonic monopoly or partial monopoly. Because of the position they have obtained, the commercial radio stations are fearful that something might happen to interfere with their plans for the development of radio in the future.
– Not under a Labour government!
– Under any government, because no government which has at heart the interests of the people of this country rather than the interests of profitmaking radio stations, could do other than the present Government is doing. As a result of the sponsorship of programmes transmitted by commercial radio stations and the accompanying advertising, there is developing in this country an impossible position for people who desire to buy radio time at an hour suitable to them. First of all, some would-be purchasers find that a sponsoring company ha9 already taken up the desired time. I know, as a member of the Labour party, that during an election period it is always most difficult to obtain time for Labour broadcasts over commercial stations at a suitable time, but strangely enough that time always seems to be available for the Opposition parties. Let us study what commercial radio is giving to the people of Australia. Where has it done one single thing to further the cultural outlook of the people? Where ha3 it made any effort to present orchestral works of a high character? Is it not a fact that some years ago there were hundreds of musicians who could not get a job or a. contract with any commercial radio station; but could obtain some consideration from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, because that body was financed by the public? All that commercial radio has given to Australia up to. date is a series of gramophone records and a preponderance of advertising matter and serial stories. Many of those radio serials are of the most doubtful value to the growing youth of this country. I have listened to some of them and am amazed that the censorship allowed them to be broadcast. Yet we complain of child delinquency. The basis of child delinquency might well be found in radio serials. Surely there should be some control of the programmes broadcast to the growing youth of Aus-: tralia.
– That control is already contained in the 1942 act.
– I do not desire the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to keep on interjecting, because his interjections are not of much value. Senator Rankin made a very good effort to try to establish the points she wanted to place before this chamber, but I deplore some of the remarks she made. She stated that she regarded this bill as a most insidious and dangerous attack on the ideals of democracy, and also that it was a step forward towards the development of a totalitarian state. I have searched the bill from end to end to find any justification for her remarks, but without success. She had an excellent opportunity during her address to justify her remarks but she did not take it. Where is there any possibility of an insidious and dangerous attack on democracy in legislation providing for a system of control to overcome that very evil ? Some of the matter transmitted by commercial radio stations in recent times has been of the most insidious and dangerous kind, and prejudicial to the future of democracy in this country, but honorable senators opposite did not say anything about that. That kind of matter was apparently all right so far as they were concerned when it came from a certain source. The honorable senator went much further and said that the bill was designed to condition the minds of the people to some particular ideology in the same manner as was practised by some of the ministries in pre-war Europe. If the Government proposed that no commercial interests should he allowed to broadcast at all in this country, or that no commercial station could broadcast any matter other than what the Government prescribed, there would be some logic in the honorable senator’s argument. However, no such provisions are contained in the measure. What does the bill do in effect? I do not propose to traverse the ground already covered by other honorable senators who have explained many of its details. The bill provides machinery for the more efficient and co-ordinated control of broadcasting. What is wrong with that? All honorable senators will agree that we require a more efficient broadcasting service. The programmes now broadcast by commercial stations consist predominantly of advertising matter. Indeed, one is often surprised at the lengths to which some stations are prepared to go in the advertising field. For instance, last Tuesday week I tuned in to a commercial station to listen te a description of Australia’s classic horse-race, the Melbourne Cup. When the horses were lining up at the barrier for the start of the race and listeners were waiting expectantly for the words, “ They’re off “, another voice interrupted the broadcast to tell listener? about the virtues of some patent nostrum. To my mind, that is prostituting radio, and such actions indicate the need for improvement. Room for improvement also exists in the services being rendered by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commission could do more to meet the wishes of all sections of the community. Some of its musical programmes are too “ hifalutin “ for the average listener who does not understand classical music. In that respect, the commission could vary its programmes to a. greater degree. However, the programmes of commercial stations consist of records, advertising and serials ad lib.
There are now in Australia 102 commercial stations and 32 national stations. Most of the commercial stations are located in densely populated areas and. consequently, people residing in the far north must rely solely upon the national stations for their radio news and entertainment. Their alternative, if they possess sufficiently powerful receiving sets, is to tune into short wave broadcasts from other countries. The development of frequency modulation and facsimile broadcasting and television demands that steps be taken to ensure the equitable distribution of the stations which will provide programmes in those fields. Frequency modulation broadcasting will involve the establishment of many additional stations. Whereas on amplitude modulation wave lengths broadcasts can be heard up to a radius of thousands of miles, frequency modulation broadcasts can be heard only within a very restricted radius depending upon the topography of each area. It is estimated that three frequency modulation transmitters will be required to serve an area which is now served by one amplitude modulation transmitter. The establishment of frequency modulation broadcasting will involve the establishment of many additional stations if a proper service is to be provided for the community as a whole, and in such circumstances it is the duty of the Government to ensure the equitable distribution of such stations. It must also ensure that those interests which already hold broadcasting station licences shall not secure a monopoly in the frequency modulation field. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) and his colleague, Senator Rankin, contend that under this measure the Government will assume complete control over broadcasting in this country. I remind them that their criticism could be applied to the British Broadcasting Corporation and the system of control of broadcasting in Great Britain. There is no commercial broadcasting at all in Great Britain. However, its people are given one of the best broadcasting services in the world.
– That system is free from government control.
– The British Broadcasting Corporation controls the system on behalf- of the Government. During the war years, most Australians became familiar with the standard of the British Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts. Very few Australians failed to tune in to the British Broadcasting Corporation news because that news was always factual. It was not merely conjectural as are the news bulletins, which are compiled by “ nosey-parkers “ whose one object is to create a certain psychology among the people. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission exercises a greater degree of control over broadcasting than the Government proposes to exercise under this measure. In Canada, where commercial and national stations operate under a system very much like our own, the Government exercises complete control over the activities of commercial stations. And in New Zealand the Government operates not only the national but also the commercial broadcasting services. In view of those facts the arguments of the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition that this measure is designed to implement the Government’s policy of socialization, or nationalization or some other “ ization “,. falls to the ground, because so far as I know no serious objection is raised against the systems of control in operation in thecountries which I have mentioned.
The bill empowers the PostmasterGeneral to provide financial assistance tocommercial broadcasting stations in certain circumstances. I recall that the Broadcasting Committee, when I was a member of it, dealt with a proposal to transfer the commercial station at Deniliquin to Wangaratta. Evidence submitted to the committee showed that the station could not be carried on as a payable proposition at Deniliquin, and that the controllers of it were in a desperatefinancial position because they were unable to obtain sufficient revenue from advertising. The management of thestation submited a proposal to the local business people that they should pay 5s. a week in order to enable the station tosurvive, but they rejected the proposal on the ground that they could get better results from advertising over another station which was situated outside the area. At the same time, the residents of Deniliquin were anxious that the station should carry on. On the otherhand, the. residents of Wangaratta whore a powerful station was operating objected to the establishment of another station in that area. In those circumstances, theBroadcasting Committee had no alternative but to recommend that permission be not granted for the removal of the commercial station at Deniliquin. I mention those facts in order to illustrate the kind of problem which will arise from time totime in the broadcasting field. Such problems can best be handled by an authority of the kind proposed to be set up under this measure. The proposed board will consist of three persons and will be given sufficient power toenable it to operate in the interests of both the national and the commercial broadcasting stations. The bill provides that before the board can take, any action which may affect the interests of any radio station it must first consult with the station concerned. I believe that I havesaid sufficient to refute the argument that the Government has introduced this measure for some ulterior purpose. The measure is designed to render service to the people of this country.
It is also proposed to increase the number of members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission from five to seven. The two new appointments proposed will be made from the Public Service; one member will be appointed to represent the Treasury and the other to represent the Postmaster-General’s Department. In recent times many complaints have been made concerning the finances’ of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Not very long ago the Parliament agreed to appropriate for the finances of the commission a sum which was greater than the amount which the commission waa entitled to receive from its proportion of radio listeners’ fees. That appropriation had to be made by the Parliament to defray the’ expenses of the commission. The demand’s of the commission have become intolerable. Quite recently the commission expressed the view that the entire receipts from listeners’ fees should be- paid to it, although the commission is not responsible for- the expenditure incurred in the provision of its’ technical and mechanical equipment, which is provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department.. This measure proposes that a radical- departure shall he made in regard to, the finances of the commission,, and the commission is to be- required to1 place before the Parliament an annual balancesheet of its receipts and expenditure and its estimates of expenditure for the forthcoming financial year: In that way the Parliament will be afforded an opportunity to determine what appropriation should be made from public revenues to. meet its requirements. In ona sense, therefore, the pass-age of the measure will accomplish something which has been advocated by the Australian. Broadcasting Commission for a long time. However, the Postmaster-General’s Department will continue to be responsible for the provision of technical services associated with the activities of the commission. Reform of control of the broadcasting commission is overdue, and for that reason alone the measure should commend itself to the Senate.
Reference was made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to the ambiguity which surrounds the employment of the term “ the Minister “ throughout the bill, and I agree with him that the Government should clarify the meaning which it attaches to the use of that term. What particular Minister is contemplated? When the PostmasterGeneral replies to the debate I should like him to make a definite statement, and I. should also like him to inform the Senate whether a Minister is to continue to be responsible for the general control, of broadcasting in this country, or whether some portion of his responsibilities are to be assumed by the proposed board* Whatever explanation may be given,. T assume that, the PostmasterGeneral, will continue to exercise certain prerogatives in regard to- the general control of broadcasting. Special benefits will be- conferred on school children by the measure-, which, will delete from thepresent legislation the. provision which, requires, that a school moist have at least 50’ scholars enrolled before- it is- entitled to- receive a radio receiver’s licence free of charge. In. my- opinion that is a splendid proposal,, because it. will ensure that all school children,, no matter how remote their schools may be from the cities, willi receive equal treatment with’ children! in thickly populated centres.
In. regard1 to: tha more- important aspects- of the- measure’, I propose to say something concerning- political broadcasts. Clause SMS of’ the bill proposes toamend section 89 of the principal act by inserting im lieu of the present subsection 3 a new subjection, which is- as follows: -
Neither the Commission nor the- licensee of m commercial broadcasting station shall broadcast any dramatization of any political matter which is then current or was current at any time during the last five preceding years.
Some controversy has already taken place concerning that provision, and, whilst members of the Opposition may have a great deal to say about it in committee, I point out that it merely continues the principle which is already embodied in the present act. Sub-section & of section 89 of the act provides -
The Commission or the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station shall not, at any time on or after the date of the issue of the. writs and before the close of the poll for any inch election, broadcast any dramatization of matter relating to any candidate, political party, issues, policy, or meeting, referred to in the last preceding sub-section.
When the proposed legislation is compared with the present act it will be realized that the prohibition of dramatization of political matter is not new. All that the new legislation will accomplish is to increase the present prohibition of dramatization of political matters to prevent completely any such occurrence in the future. I think that honorable senators will agree that that is necessary in view of the experience we have had in the last few months of the broadcast by commercial stations of organized political propaganda. If I thought that such a provision would in any way restrict freedom of political expression or free speech generally I should be the first to oppose it, but there is a difference between freedom of expression of genuine political convictions and the right to free speech, on the one hand, and the right to indulge in deliberate misrepresentation of the utterances of members of the National Parliament, on the other hand. lt is entirely wrong for any one to dramatize the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives. a.nd whilst I do not know that the President has been presented in dramatized political performances, I believe that the Speaker of the House of Representatives has been subjected to such treatment. We do not want that kind of thing to continue, and whether such cheap dramatization is employed by the commercial broadcasters or by the national broadcasting organization it is equally objectionable. Reference has been made to the propagandist activities of Goebbels during the recent war, but it seems to me that the interests which are prepared to exploit the National Parliament in their propagandist attempts are those who are seeking to emulate Goebbels. When the parliamentary institutions of this country are exposed to insidious propaganda of that kind we should become alarmed because the foundations of democracy are threatened, and its place may be taken by some “ ism “. If we desire to preserve the ideals and aspirations of Australians it is of the highest importance that the parliamentary institutions should be held in national respect, and any attempt by broadcasters to exploit them as political propaganda is fundamentally wrong.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– I see nothing in the bill as a whole about which the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations need have any fears. I have been unable to find in it anything which indicates that any of the rights or privileges which they now enjoy will be taken away from them. It seems to me, therefore, that all the outcry on those grounds is a mere storm in a teacup. I point out that the broadcasting control board which will be created under the bill will be subject to the will of the Parliament. Those who declare that the bill has been designed for some nefarious purpose associated with the moulding of public opinion should remember that the Parliament i» here to safeguard them against anything of that sort. If the proposed board makes any orders in accordance with its powers and functions, those orders must be laid on the table in each house of the Parliament. The public interest is preserved by the provision that the Parliament shall have the right to veto any action of the board.
I conclude by referring to the secondreading speech of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron). He said -
It must be borne in mind that the essentia] qualities of radio give it a form of natural monopoly or a series of partial monopolies.
I have already dealt with that aspect of broadcasting. The speech continued -
All countries recognize the principle of th* public domain of the air waves and, as there is only a limited number of frequency channel? available under international radio regulations, it is essential that they should be used to the best advantage in the interests of the general community.
The bill exemplifies the Government’s desire to give effect to that pronouncement. The Postmaster-General also said -
Broadcasting does not exist for sectional purposes, but is essentially a public utility service which should make its appeal in one form or another to every member of the community. For this service to retain its value as a great national asset, it must be con trolled effectively to ensure the use of available frequencies in a manner best suited to provide adequate service to the whole nation, the equitable presentation of political and other controversial matters, and the broadcasting of programmes of acceptable quality.
That portion of the Postmaster-General’s speech summed up the contents of the bill.
– This bill will establish machinery to provide for the more efficient and coordinated control of the broadcasting services of Australia. Unlike members of the Opposition in the Senate and others outside the Parliament who have criticized the measure, I have approached the subject rather cautiously. They, on the other hand, have approached it in a spirit of prejudice. 1 approached it not only cautiously but also from a critical stand-point. I do so because the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), in his second-reading speech, lauded the conduct of broadcasting by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Whilst I appreciate the great advantages that have resulted from the broadcasting activities of the commission, I am inclined to be critical of the manner in which it presents its programmes. Therefore, when I noticed that the bill provided for the establishment of a board to control and co-ordinate broadcasting, my critical faculties were aroused. I studied the Postmaster-General’s second-reading speech and the bill in that spirit.
If the Australian Broadcasting Commission has a fault, it lies in the fact that it is endeavouring to do too much. It considers that it must try to satisfy the requirements of all listeners. That is impossible. One occasionally feels somewhat resentful of the interruptions that occur in the presentation of certain items by national stations. Sometimes the commission’s programmes include performances of the works of great composers. Very often such a programme is arranged so that only the second half of a performance is broadcast. The hour may be fairly late before that part of the broadcast begins. On other occasions, broadcasts of this nature occur early in the evening. People who have musical taste and appreciate the works of great musical masters must either sit idly during the early part of the evening waiting for the broadcast to commence or suffer the disappointment caused by the interruption of the performance when it is only partly completed. For a radio programme to be successful, it must capture the attention of its hearers practically for the entire evening. Listeners are then able to. settle down and say to themselves, “ Well, to-night we can enjoy a musical treat”. Unfortunately, broadcasts of performances by many eminent Australian and visiting musicians are frequently interrupted or presented only in part. This afternoon, Senator Nash complained of a break during a broadcast by commercial stations.
– At the time of the Melbourne Cup.
– Yes, he mentioned that during a Melbourne Cup broadcast, the announcer had his listeners keyed-up awaiting the beginning of the race when somebody interpolated a suggestion that it would be a good idea to take a course of some patent nostrum. Probably it would have been more appropriate to make that announcement at the end of the description of the race. I think that the many listeners who were disappointed by the result would have appreciated it more then. Sporting broadcasts are often interrupted in an annoying fashion. In this respect, the Australian Broadcasting Commission if a greater offender than are the commercial stations. Many thousands of people listen to descriptions of the great game of Australian rules football on Saturday afternoons. Often, at the most exciting period of the description, the broadcast is interrupted and a voice announces that the broadcast is being transferred to a description of a whippet race or something else. One can imagine the disappointment of listeners when an interesting broadcast is cut short at a critical moment. In trying to serve too wide a field of interests, the Australian Broadcasting Commission merely falls down on its job. Therefore, if this bill provided only for the creation of an authority to co-ordinate programmes, it would serve a very useful purpose.
Members of the Opposition and some newspapers have suggested that the Government has introduced the bill solely for political purposes. They declare that the Government is anxious to suppress certain broadcasts which are obnoxious to it. I believe that, had the people taken any notice of the political broadcasts that have been made in recent years with the object of destroying the Labour movement, this Government would not be in power in Australia to-day. Such propaganda has failed to impress the people. They have become dissatisfied with it. They have said, “ This sort of thing is no good to us “, and, instead of having the results desired by its sponsors, the propaganda has had the opposite effect. It has been said that the bill is intended to prevent somebody by the name of “ Austral “ from broadcasting. I confess that, ‘like thousands of other listeners, I have never heard the man. If those broadcasts are as effective as the Opposition claims, why is it necessary for the Liberal party to engage in extensive advertising in the press to try to secure an audience for them? One frequently reads in the newspapers announcements that, at a certain time, “ John Henry Austral “ will broadcast. The answer to the Opposition’s suggestions lies in the ineffectiveness of the propaganda that is broadcast on its behalf.
– Is that why the Government is banning it?
– As I have said, like thousands of others I have never heard “ John Henry Austral “.
There has been some criticism during this debate of the programmes provided by B class stations. In the main, I have no quarrel with the commercial stations regarding their musical programmes. Certainly I sometimes become annoyed when I have a surfeit of jazz and other hideous noise that is .supposed to be music. I am inclined to be resentful of that kind of broadcast.
– That is due to the honorable senator’s age.
– That may he so. I was reared in a very scientific age, when things were more pure than they are to-day. I was reared in an age of politics, when politics was more pure than it is to-day. I believe, however, that organizations which spend huge sums on radio advertising do so under a misapprehension. I am convinced that the commercial stations have not the huge listening audience that they claim. I have no illusions about the tastes of Australian listeners. I do not believe, for instance, that very many of the holders of the 1,730,000 licences that have been issued in the Commonwealth are sitting with their ears glued to their radios listening to what I am saying tonight. The same may be said of advertisements such as “Pale pills for pink people “, and so on. Many radio advertisers apparently believe that the entire universe is hanging on every word that is uttered.
I have no doubt that this measure, the aims of which have been outlined by the Postmaster-General, will serve a most useful purpose in the development of broadcasting. Since the days when the famous Italian scientist Marconi first discovered that it was possible to transmit sounds through the ether, radio broadcasting has developed with amazing rapidity; yet 1 believe that even to-day it is still in its infancy. The Postmaster-General said that one of the aims of the bill was to develop broadcasting. Those who champion the cause of the commercial stations to-day cannot truthfully claim that those institutions have done anything to .assist in the technical development of broadcasting. The commercial stations exist for one purpose alone, and that is to earn profits for those who have been fortunate enough to secure broadcasting licences. In fact, in the early stages of broadcasting in this country, commercial interests did not want to have anything to do with the remarkable new discovery. They looked upon it only as an interesting experiment ; but it was not long before they realized that from this new invention there might arise a new medium that could be exploited. Newspaper proprietors began to see that there was a competitor in their field, and so they formed syndicates to take over commercial stations. They allied themselves with theatrical companies, and other organizations, not so much with the idea of developing broadcasting, as of ‘Controlling it in their own interests. The theatrical people realized that their investments would be threatened if people could sit at home and be entertained instead of going out to theatres. The newspaper owners realized that radio listeners could hear the news of the world without buying newspapers. So, those interests combined, and secured financial interests in broadcasting stations. Honorable senators will recall that, in the early days of broadcasting in Australia, some most obnoxious programmes were transmitted by the B class stations.
It is suggested by honorable senators opposite, and by other opponents of this measure, that the Government’s action in introducing a measure to control broadcasting is something new. As a matter of fact, every government since the Bruce-Page Government of 20 year9 ago has introduced into this Parliament at various times legislation to control broadcasting. It was the Bruce-Page Government which first brought broadcasting under governmental control. It is true that that Administration did not create an authority to provide broadcast programmes. The contract for that work was left to private enterprise, but that system proved so unsatisfactory that very soon the Australian Broadcasting Commission was established. The Lyons Government appointed a joint parliamentary committee to investigate broadcasting, and the submission of that committee’s report was followed by the introduction of a new system of control. From time to time since those days, various improvements have been made. To-day we have the national broadcasting service, which is entirely free from advertising, and the commercial network which, so far, has been allowed to manage its own affairs, subject, of course, to certain controls imposed by the Australian Broadcasting Act. It is not very long since a Postmaster-General had to compel, not only broadcasting stations, but also certain individuals associated with those stations, to refrain from broadcasting obnoxious matter. Therefore, as I have said, government control of broadcasting i3 not new and the introduction of this bill by the present administration is in keeping with the times. In Great Britain, for instance, broadcasting is under the complete control of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and in Canada, there is a similar governing body. In the United States of America - the land of commercialism - broadcasting is of course entirely in the hands of commercial interests. I think that it was Senator Cooke who pointed out that, during the war, it had been necessary for broadcasting to be under governmental control. The spoken word when broadcast knows nu limit. It is possible that with the development of broadcasting technique speeches made in this Parliament will be heard in -many other countries. Once a sound is sent on the air waves, it travels on and on. Possibly it never ceases to travel through space. Honorable senators will recall that, during the war, all amateur broadcasting stations were dismantled, and strict control was exercised over stations that continued to broadcast. Just as broadcasting required control in those days, so it has to be controlled even in peace-time. But there is something else which makes it necessary for the Government to pass this legislation. I have pointed out that commercial broadcasting interests have not done anything to develop the technique of broadcasting. Much has been said in this debate, and in the press, about the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting. That is a new broadcasting technique, and it is hoped that with the introduction of that system reception difficulties that are encountered to-day, even with the most expensive sets, will be overcome, and listeners will enjoy programmes free from interference. Then there is television, which has passed the experimental stage. It is a reality. The commercial broadcasting stations have not done anything to develop television. Another development that is awaiting practical application is facsimile reproduction. That, too, has great possibilities. It is a system for transmitting the written word. An attachment to an ordinary receiving set enables a person to receive printed matter even though he may be absent from his home. He leaves his radio tuned to a particular station and when he returns he finds a written record of the news of the world, or whatever other information may have been sent to him. It is conceivable that with a continuance of the present rapid development of radio, it will be possible within a few years for a listener who wishes to hear two concurrent programmes, to have one recorded to- bc reproduced at his leisure just as tc-day, on gramophone records, we can hear the world’s best artists including many who have long since ceased to walk this planet. All those things are possibilities. Do honorable senators imagine for one moment that if the development of radio were left entirely to the commercial stations, those technical improvements would continue? Certainly they would not. The greatest developments in broadcasting in this country have occurred since the technical staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department assumed control of broadcasting.
– That was done as the result of the recommendations of the parliamentary committee set tip by the Lyons Government.
– I have already said that the Lyons Government was compelled to impose governmental control. I also said that the Bruce-Page Government had been compelled to take certain action in regard to broadcasting. I do not seek to take from those governments any credit that may be due to them for the broadcasting legislation that they introduced; but I object to press articles stating that this measure is an attempt to introduce totalitarianism into radio broadcasting; that it i3 socialism and an attempt to confine the thoughts of the people within the ambit of one wireless station ; that the Government will be able so to control the very thoughts and actions of the people that they will think and act as one. Senator Rankin suggested that the bill was an attempt to destroy the Australian way of life. I suggest to the honorable senator in all modesty that if any one section of the community has made an attempt to destroy the Australian way of life that section has been the commercial radio stations, which, by broadcasting wonderful advertisements, attempt to relieve members of the fair sex of the cash that they now earn as a result of their emancipation and of the increased wages that they now enjoy because of the Labour party’s administration and the formation of industrial unions for female workers. From time to time honorable senators opposite have suggested, as have those who contribute articles to the press, that this bill has a covert purpose. They make no mention of the proposals contained in the bill to set aside money for the purpose of developing radio in Australia and of the wonderful service that is given practically gratis by the technical staff of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– That was provided for in previous legislation.
– The commercial radio stations that have been defended so eloquently by both the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and his colleague and by the press outside have taken full advantage of the service rendered by the Postmaster-General’s Department in past years. I do noi know that they have contributed anything towards the cost of the service they have received. They are like all commercial institutions. They want the Government to find the money to develop the technique of an industry and then they desire to step in and take the profits. It has been suggested that the bill will establish a monopoly. Supposing the technical side of this development is a monopoly. If there is to be any monopoly is it not better for it to be created to control a service that is provided for the people than for that service to be conducted for profit? There are more than 1,000,000 holders of listeners’ licences in Australia and there are millions more radio listeners. Is it not better for those people that their servants, the governments and the Public Service should be the controllers of the service? Under this bill the Minister and the Parliament are_ in the final analysis responsible for’ the administration of the act.
– It is not different from the act of 1942.
– Then why is the honorable senator making so much noise about it?
– Of course, the Minister was in control under the 1942 act. Like Senator Grant, I wonder why all this noise and criticism has been caused by this measure, since all the provisions regarding control of commercial radio stations were contained in the old act. There is nothing new in the bill except its provisions to control the future development of radio in this country, regarding which the Government is taking certain powers. The Government has decided that certain discoveries shall be utilized by the board to be established under the bill.
– The bill only amends the 1942 act.
– That is so. If there is to be a monopoly then the control of the monopoly will be in the hands of those who serve the people and who, if they fail to give satisfaction, can be removed by the people. But of course honorable senators opposite do not like chat. They speak for those who desire to corner every service in which there are huge profits to be made. That is why chey would like to have the monopoly of broadcasting. “What do those interests care whether or not the people in the outback are provided with up-to-date broadcasting and receiving sets? What have chey done to develop broadcasting in the outer areas ? As other honorable senators have pointed out, many of the small B class stations outback have almost ceased to exist whilst the wealthy stations in the metropolitan areas are able to earn enormous sums by gulling certain manufacturers into paying huge sums of money for advertising.
– Like the Labour station in Newcastle.
– Many companies are using that advertising expenditure to get rid of their profits, because as a result of the Labour Administration the prosperity of this country is such that their profits are so great that they do not know what to do with them. As I said at the outset of my remarks, I originally’ considered this bill rather, cautiously. After studying it I am quite satisfied that it is iri the best interests of the community. I am pleased that the Government has introduced it, and I know chat it will give satisfaction to all concerned, except those who desire to make a profit out of the people. A pleasing feature of the bill concerns the feature of amateur broadcasting station operators. I was previously rather apprehensive of their future. I understand there are 3,000 operators of amateur radio stations in Australia, and f am pleased to know that every en couragement is being given to them under the Wireless Telegraphy Act. The present bill will not in any way affect the work of the amateurs. I consider thai the measure is one that honorable senators can with every confidence support.
– wi reply - First, I desire to thank honorable senators, particularly those who supported the bill, for the very interesting and informative contributions they have made to the debate. Secondly, I point out that I intend to answer as many of the points that have been made in opposition to the bill, as I possibly can. Senator Rankin amongst other statements said that the bill tended towards the establishment of the totalitarian state. When she made that remark, and subsequently when Senator O’sullivan made a similar remark, I thought of the statement of the late john Burns, who was a member of the British Cabinet in the 1914-18 war, that most people were either the prisoners of phrases or the slaves of shibboleths. Honorable senators opposite use phrase* without any attempt to , define exactly what they mean. They have read the same taradiddle in the columns of the press day after day until they have become more or less “ sloganized “ and are incapable of a constructive thought.
– That is liberalism.
– Let us see how much totalitarianism there is in Australia compared with England, as a result of the legislation of an anti-Labour government. This comparison was referred to by the former legal director of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the B.B.C. Quarterly, of January, 1947. He said -
In many respects the British Broadcasting Corporation appears to bc under a more explicit control than some of the broadcasting organizations of the Dominions. Thus, under the terms of the Licence to the British Broad casting Corporation, the Postmaster-General, apart from being the authority for regulating all wireless traffic, is empowered to veto the broadcasting of any particular item without the Corporation having any right to publicize the exercise of the veto. He is able to control by the working of this Licence the shape of- the broadcasting service to approve of broadcast ing hours and to control the operation of thi* television service . . .
There we have .100 per cent, government control imposed by an anti-Labour government. It should be evident that thai government did not trust private control of radio broadcasting in England. Speaking from the experience gained as Postmaster-General, I consider that it had a very good reason for its action.
Senator Rankin referred to “ conditioning the minds of the people “. The position is that national and commercial stations will still have substantially the same freedom in the selection of programme material, but provision is made in the bill to ensure that facilities shall be provided on an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political and controversial matters. There is no restriction of that freedom at all. For all practical purposes the bill provides that there shall be a more balanced and up-to-date presentation of their programmes. The duty of the board will be - to see that all sections of the community get the fair play which “they do not receive to-day. That is very far from conditioning the minds of -the people in the manner adopted at present *by many commercial radio stations ‘controlled by the press. The press would excell in that activity. The fact that there are respecta’ble persons like my colleagues in this chamber 1>o-night shows that the press has not been ‘so successful ‘as it expected. What Senator Rankin has ‘apparently overlooked is that %he -whole purpose of the bill is to give ‘a better service and to ensure that the listener’s interests shall not be subordinated to the making of profits. “Where the profit motive is the dominant motive, obviously the service .motive is subordinated. Senator Rankin claimed that the commission would be robbed of its independence. The appointment of a Treasury expert and a Postal Department expert to the commission will not rob that body of its independence. Those two experts will bring to the commission’s councils valuable experience and knowledge. I recall that when the Government assumed office in IS 41, we found the aircraft production organization practically in a state of chaos. To remedy the position, we formed a body known as the Aircraft Advisory Committee, whose members included representatives of the Public Service Board, the Treasury, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the trade unions, the major contractors and other in- terests, and as the result of the weekly conferences of those experts order was restored out of chaos and within a short period the organization was working efficiently. When the commission has available to it the expert advice of the Treasury and Postal Department representatives it will be enabled to short-circuit much of its present procedure and to operate more effectively. In future the commission will be financed wholly from Consolidated Revenue. That is a realistic approach to the matter. Dp to date, the commision has been financed by the allocation of a certain proportion of the listener’s licence-fee. However, as the result of the commission’s increased operational costs, the Government was obliged to make special grants to it from time to time. The amount originally allotted to the commission is not now sufficient to meet its needs in the face of rising costs. The commission, when it is able to budget for a three-Years period, will he able to plan a/head and enter into contracts, and in that way it will operate more effectively than it could under the existing system. The commission will now be able to arrange continuity of contracts, with the result that there will be no break in its programme. Therefore, it will be not only more effective but also more independent than it has been up to the present.
A proposal was submitted to -the Broadcasting Committee that the listener’s licence-fee should be increased, but that committee, ‘rightly in my view, reported against that proposal. In view of developments taking place in the field of broadcasting, the listener’s licence-fee, even if it were increased to a reasonable degree, would not be sufficient to meet the commission’s total expenditure. Rather than increase the fee, the commission’s finances should be provided from Consolidated Revenue. All this talk about the loss of independence of the commission is so much empty assumption on the part of members of the Opposition parties who have not produced one fact in support of their contentions.
Senator Rankin claimed that the measure was directed against the interests of the commercial stations in respect of the allocation of power and the sharing of channels. Commercial stations are licensed to serve local areas, whereas national stations form a network to cover the whole of the Commonwealth. However, operating conditions with respect to power and the sharing of channels are the same to-day as those determined by anti-Labour governments when they controlled broadcasting for many years before 1941. The Government intends that the board shall make a comprehensive survey of power and frequencies. Possibly a lot more sharing of channels will have to be arranged among commercial stations. Low-power commercial stations, which are widely separated, can share the one frequency. National stations, which have a high power to serve a wide area, should not be required to share frequencies. However, because of the shortage of frequencies, some national stations have been forced to operate on shared channels. If it is a fact, as honorable senators opposite claim, that the existing policy operates against commercial stations, how is it that numerous applications for station licences are still being received, whilst none of the existing licensees shows any inclination to withdraw from the field of broadcasting? The department is receiving applications for new station licenses almost daily.
Senator Rankin referred to what she described a.?- three important omissions from my second-reading speech. First., she said that I had failed to mention thai frequency modulation is to be limited to the national service. The Government decided recently, as I indicated in a statement I made to the Senate on the 16th September, that the development of the frequency modulation system can best be achieved by the national broadcasting service. When we remember what has been clone in England in this sphere, the Government has the” best evidence to support that belief. It has no intention to allow this latest development in sound broadcasting to become the plaything of monopolistic influences, particularly the capitalist press. It is obvious that the capitalist press is endeavouring, directly and indirectly, to establish private monopoly control of broadcasting.
The second omission which Senate: Rankin mentioned was my failure to mi] refer to tb t denial ot the right of the Broadcasting Committee to make recommendations concerning licences for frequency modulation, television and facsimile stations. The Parliament having already received a report from the Broadcasting Committee concerning frequency modulation, television and facsimile broadcasting, there is no need to request the committee to submit a further report on those matters. The committee has already dealt with them. It was never the intention that the Broadcasting Committee should have the power to determine the grant of individual licences for those services. The bill does not give authority for the grant of licences for frequency modulation, television, c facsimile stations, and the Government does not propose that licences should be granted for such services.
The third omission to which Senator Rankin referred was the absence of any definition of “ the Minister “ in the hill. I can imagine the honorable senator being anxious about my future! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also talked a great deal about the omission of such a definition. The explanation of that omission is simple. The definition h already covered by the Acts Interpretation Act, and the procedure followed- in this instance is the customary procedure. This procedure also has the advantage that, if, in the future, broadcasting developments justify the appointment of a special Minister, it will not be necessary to amend the act for that purpose. My experience during and since the war has convinced me that government departments must tend to increase to act as a. check against attempts by private monopoly interests to increase their domination of the people. The war has forced the creation of additional departments. The real fight behind the scenes in Australia as in the United States of America and other countries is whether private monopoly which controls the means of production will control the country as a whole or whether that control, through the medium of the democratic franchise, will rest with the people through the Government. The recent presidential election in the United States of America revealed the fight going on all the time behind the scenes between private monopoly interests and the representatives of the people. For the time being big business in the United States of America has received a set-back as the result of the votes of millions of American workers, who, possibly, did not bother previously to take any interest” in politics at all.
Senator Rankin said that the radio industry is dependent upon the acceptability of radio programmes. I do not dispute that. The radio industry is one of the largest and most important in Australia, and there is no danger of its activities, being retarded as the result of the passage of this measure. In fact, the appointment of the hoard will give new life to the broadcasting industry and will lead to its expansion in a manner which will benefit not only those engaged in it but also the general listening public. The honorable senator also claimed that the increasing number of listeners’ licences indicated public appro.val of the broadcasting system as it exists at present. Apparently, she overlooks the fact that the healthy licence figures have been due in no small measure to the development of the national broadcasting service which supplies programmes throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth and does not restrict them only to centres of population where there is money to be made by advertising. The increase of listeners’ licences is one of the main reasons why the Government has made up its mind that listeners shall be given a better service than formerly. The Government adopts the thesis that all listeners are not now receiving a satisfactory service. Senator Rankin also referred to listeners’ surveys which, she said, proved the popularity of the commercial system. This is one of the misrepresentations that is continually being made by interests opposed to the national broadcasting service. It is assumed that the manager of a commercial station is is in n position to tell with mathematical accuracy the number of listeners who listen to his station. Such an assumption is entirely unfounded, because such an estimate has never been made accurately. It is not possible to gauge accurately the extent to which listeners tune-in to particular stations.
This was borne out in a recent controversy in the Melbourne daily press when a leading commercial station in that city, through the medium of a paid advertisement, refuted the claims of another leading commercial station regarding the extent of its listening audience based on alleged reliable surveys. The worth of such surveys can be judged by Dr. Gallup’s failure to forecast the result of the recent presidential election in the United States of America. Therefore, the claim that 90 per cent, of listeners tune-in to commercial stations and only 10 per cent, listen to national stations is a figment of the imagination and is publicized simply in an attempt to discredit the national stations in the hope that intelligent persons will be led to believe it.
The honorable senator also said that control of national broadcasting will pass from the commission to the proposed board, which will be subject to the Minister. The’ Deputy Leader of the Opposition also referred to the wide powers which are already held by the Minister. Many existing aspects of broadcasting will be left undisturbed. The board will have wide powers to ensure that adequate and comprehensive programmes shall be provided by national and commercial stations to serve the best interests of the public and to ensure that the technical equipment of such stations shall be in accordance with modern engineering practice. The board will not tolerate the use of obsolete equipment when modern equipment is available, particularly where profits arc being made at the expense of listeners and purchasers, who must pay increased prices for products advertised over the air. The board will also be required to prepare comprehensive plans for the provision of services by broadcasting stations, television and facsimile stations and to ensure that plans approved by the Government shall be implemented. The Government will not merely take it that this, or that, has been done. Under the measure, a more effective method of supervision and enforcement of the Government’s plans will be applied.
Senator Rankin also said that listeners require variety. Possibly her remark was inspired by the old saying, “ variety is the spice of life “. The Government is fully conscious of that fact, and, accordingly the bill imposes upon the board the obligation te ensure a reasonable variety of programmes in both the national and commercial spheres. In future, listeners will not be obliged to listen to all racing, all jazz, all political speeches, or all anything else. The pro grammes will be of a variety to appeal to the intelligence of listeners, to whom the greatest possible choice will be given. To-day, however, one often hears practically the same type of programme at the one period from several stations. Reference was also made by the honorable senator to the broadcasting of horse races. I point out that one function of the proposed board will be to coordinate programmes and prevent unnecessary duplication of broadcasts. Senator Rankin must have overlooked the fact that the imposition of a prohibition on the broadcast of races by national stations would deprive many listeners in outback areas of hearing descriptions of the sport in which they are most interested. We must admit that interest is the motive power of life, and that where there is interest there is progress, even if the subject of the interest be one with which we do not agree.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition contended that insufficient reasons have been advanced by the Government for the introduction of this measure, but I am convinced that he could not have read my second-reading speech as closely as I should expect him to read a brief if I delivered one to him. He obviously relied more on his wit than on his wisdom, otherwise he would not have made such a statement. He asked why this bill had been introduced, and later in his speech he complained that several country towns, including Casino, had not been provided with broadcasting facilities. .As a Queenslander, he could have mentioned Southport where conditions render the reception of amplitude modulation broadcasts almost impossible. The board will review these matters and I trust that before very long a frequency modulation transmitter will be installed in Southport, and it should be possible to connect such a station with metropolitan stations by land line. The honorable senator also referred to the transmitting power and frequency bands of commercial stations, and suggested that commercial stations were not being fairly treated by the Government. However, I remind him that when the present Government assumed office 96 commercial stations were operating, and that since then the Government has issued only two new transmitting licences and restored four other licences. Of course, Labour inherited the mistakes and anomalies created by its predecessors, and many of the technical difficulties which the present Government has not yet been able to remove were caused by anti-Labour administrations. However, members of the Government hope to remain in office long enough to rectify those anomalies and difficulties. The Government considers that the entire plan of national broadcasting needs to be reviewed. That will be an unusually complex and difficult task, and it will be one of the first duties of the proposed board. If members of the Opposition require any further justification for the introduction of the measure they have only to read the functions of the proposed board set out in the bill. Of course, I admit that it is not very pleasant reading because it contains technicalities which are even more difficult of comprehension than the dialectics employed by my honorable friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
The honorable senator complained that I made no reference in my second-reading speech to the right of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations to refer complaints to the Broadcasting Committee. However, the speech which I delivered contains adequate reference to that matter and I must assume that the honorable senator has completely overlooked that portion of it. The honorable senator criticized the proposal in the measure to grant financial assistance to commercial broadcasting stations in certain circumstances. He said that the proposal was a sinister one, and he imputed to the Government a desire to exercise political patronage. Apparently he was again guilty of an oversight, because the measure makes it quite clear that the power to provide financial assistance to commercial stations is vested in the hoard proposed to be created, subject to the approval of the Minister and the Treasurer. I point out that neither of those Ministers can grant assistance unless a prior recommendation has been made by the board. The subsidy paid to wheatgrowers and financial assistance given to distressed people are not regarded as patronage, and it is obviously the duty of the Government to assist anyone who renders useful and necessary- service to the people and requires financial assistance. “When the honorable senator referred to political patronage he must have been thinking of the exercise of the prerogatives of the Royal patronage, which include the conferring of titles.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition contended that the measure is a piece of socialization, and complained that it was similar to the Government’s alleged efforts to socialize banking and civil aviation. Those allegations are entirely without foundation. The Government does not propose to nationalize radio; it proposes merely to license commercial broadcasting stations on similar conditions to those which obtain at present. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the proposal that commercial broadcasting stations shall be made to serve the public because, after all, they are using air channels which belong to the people. I repeat what I said previously, that it is necessary to exercise proper control over those interests which in the past have been concerned not so much with rendering service to the public as with the profitmaking motive.
The most amazing statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was that the proposed changeover to frequency modulation reception will cost radio listeners £50,000,000. I listened in amazement to that statement, and I can assure honorable senators that it is as faulty as were most of the other allegations made by the honorable senator. I have already explained on numerous occasions that frequency modulation transmission will supplement and not supplant amplitude modulation transmission. I have assured listeners that they can purchase amplitude modulation models which are now on sale with the knowledge that they will not be rendered obsolete by any action of the Government. Indeed, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition himself quoted from a pamphlet prepared for manufacturers and retailers which clearly emphasises the point which I am now stressing and contradicts his own argument.
Senator O’Sullivan said that power and frequency conditions are having a crippling effect on commercial stations, but that statement is hardly supported by the balance sheets of commercial broadcasting stations for the year ended the 30th June, 1947. Those documents show that the commercial stations, on their own figures, made an aggregate profit of £375,000 during that year. Criticism was also made of the proposal that commercial stations shall furnish details of their activities to the Minister. After all, there is nothing new in that provision. Section 53 of the present act requires a licensee to furnish to the Minister such information as he shall require.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wash). - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6. (Australian Broadcasting Control Board.)
. As indicated in the speech which I made on the second reading of the measure, I am concerned with the constitution of the proposed board. Apparently negative qualifications - if there are such attributes - are to be required. There are no positive requirements, but there are. certain negative ones which may disqualify a person from being a member. The powers of the board, subject always to the almighty and overriding powers of the Minister for the time being, will be very considerable. Apart from means of livelihood, certain property rights will be at stake. That being so, and especially as the board will be subservient to a parliamentarian, it is most important not merely that justice shall be done but also that justice shall patently be done. Therefore, meetings of the board should be held in public, the press should have the right to be present, the chairman at least should be versed in the rules of evidence and qualified to determine the value of evidence, and the other members of’ the board should be such as would give the board an all-embracing representative character. For instance, there should be a representative of the general public. After all, this legislation is supposed to be designed in the interests of the general public. There should also be a representative of the radio industry. By that I mean a representative of the industry as a whole, not of any particular section. In view of the very onerous duties that will be imposed upon the board, I submit that a membership of three will be entirely inadequate. I ask the Minister to give earnest consideration to my suggestions.
– The proposed duties of the broadcasting control board appear to conflict with those of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The clause provides that the board shall prepare certain plans from time to time regarding broadcasting programmes and that the commission shall consult with the board in preparing programmes. Will the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) indicate more clearly the functions of the board in relation to those of the commission? Is the commission to prepare programmes which will be subject to veto by the board, or is the board merely to lay down general principles and then allow the commission to prepare its programmes according to- those principles ?
– I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) that a membership of three for the broadcasting control board will not be sufficient. There should be at least five members. Their task will be heavy. They will have to bear a lot of responsibility, and will have a great deal to do. I also suggest that one member of the board should he a woman. That would be of very great value. The Australian Broadcasting Act already provides that the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall consist of five commissioners, of whom at least one shall be a woman. That provision has been very valuable. I should like a similar provision to be inserted in the bill in relation to the membership of the board.
– I am not quite prepared to accept the suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) that the numerical strength of the board should be increased. The matter was very carefully considered by men who are highly qualified to judge such questions and they decided, after many meetings had been held, that, in the circumstances, a membership of three would be sufficient. The members must possess the highest qualifications for the work that they will be expected to do. In reply to Senator Arnold’s question, I point out that the board will act as a co-ordinating authority. The commercial stations and the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be free to compile their own programmes. However, if any multiplication occurs, or if it should be considered that there is not sufficient variety in programmes, some agreement can be made, as the result of conferences between the board and the representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or of the commercial stations as the case might be, to effect a more varied presentation of programmes so that half a dozen stations will not simultaneously broadcast the same types of programmes. As I have already said, I am not prepared to accept any suggestion that the membership of the board should be extended and, at the moment, I am not prepared to accept the suggestion by Senator Rankin that one member of the board should be a woman. I know that many women employed in the aircraft industry, for example, are highly qualified engineers, but I doubt whether any women would be able to carry out the work that will be required of members of the broadcasting control board. This is a new undertaking, of course, and in the light of experience the Government may be prepared later to modify the membership of the board or to provide for the inclusion of a woman as Senator Rankin has suggested.
Senator LARGE (New South Wales) 9.23]. - There is nothing in the wording of clause 6 which would prevent the appointment of a woman to each position on the broadcasting control board. If Senator Rankin seeks to lay down a hard-and-fast (provision that there shall be ono woman member of the board, she may prevent the possibility that, at some future date, women may gain a majority on the board.
– I should like to have a further assurance from the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) regarding the relative duties of the broadcasting control board and the. Australian Broadcasting Commission. I assume that the powers of the board will be greater than those of the commission. The Postmaster-General lias said that, if the board should be dissatisfied with the commission’s pro- grammes, it may call a conference and reach agreement. I hope that that will be so. But what will happen if agreement cannot be reached? 1 assume that the board will have power in that event to order the commission, or the commercial broadcasting stations to carry out its directions. Will the Minister explain the position in that respect?
– I shall clarify my suggestion for the benefit of Senator Large, who apparently misunderstood it. I suggested that the wording of the clause should be amended along the lines of the section of the Australian Broadcasting Act which provides that at least one member of the Australian Broadcasting, Commission shall be a woman. I do not particularly want to restrict the number to one but I consider that the clause should provide that at least one member of the board shall be a woman.
– In answer to Senator Arnold, I point out that, in the event of disagreement between the broad.casting control board and the commission or the commercial stations, and strong objection being taken to any action of the board, the matter could then be referred to the Minister. One purpose of the Board will be to bring about greater co-ordination than exists at present. In the event of the Australian
Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations or the Australian Broadcasting Commission refusing to obey an order, thu board will have power to give a direction that certain things must be done. [ point out to Senator Rankin that the Labour party, which I am privileged to represent in this chamber, believes in equality of the sexes. That is one reason why she is an honorable senator. We do not declare that “ at least one woman shall be a senator “. That would be discriminatory, and we do not believe in discrimination. We believe in equality of opportunity. One could not ask for anything more than that in a democracy.
– The clause provides that each member of the board shall be appointed for such term, not exceeding seven years, as the Governor-General determines. That is a very important provision. As Senator Lamp suggested yesterday, the success of the board’s operations will depend largely upon the kind of persons appointed to it. That is why I approach the provision governing the term of office of members of the board in a critical frame of mind. I consider that the term of the original members of the board should be for a shorter period than seven years. This is a very important experiment and perhaps the original members, who will have great power, may have special “ hobby horses “ to ride. They may have unusual ideas about the types of programmes that will be suitable for the public. They may insist upon the presentation of programmes that will be quiteunacceptable to listeners.
– Would that contingency not be covered by proposed new section 6o, which provides for the termination of the appointment of members of the board?
– It would be most difficult to dismiss a member of theboard. I believe that, in the experimental stages at least, members of the board should be appointed for a relatively short term, say three years. The act provides for the re-appointment of members, and should the services of a member be satisfactory, I have no doubt that he would be re-appointed.
– Members of the board would be at the mercy of various governments. They could be sacked at any time.
– I agree that members of the board must have some independence, but they will be exercising most important functions in the broadcasting world. They will have power to call before them representatives of the commercial broadcasting stations or members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. They will be able to determine the types of programmes that should be broadcast by both national and commercial stations. If they have no idea of what the public really requires, the board may be a greater nuisance than are the bad programmes that are being broadcast to-day. I believe, therefore, that at least in the initial stages, great care should be taken in the selection of members of the board, and that they should not be appointed for long terms.
– I believe that the provisions of the. bill relating to the terms of office of members of the board and to their efficiency, are adequate. The measure provides that members of the board shall be appointed for terms not exceeding seven years. Then, proposed new sub-section 6o states - (I.) The Governor-General may terminate thi’ appointment of a member for inability. inefficiency or misbehaviour.
I believe that people who are appointed to high positions should be given some security of office provided their services are satisfactory. As I have pointed out, the bill makes ample provision for the dismissal of any member who proves to be inefficient, or misbehaves. After all, public servants are as much entitled to security as any one else.
– The members of the board will not be public servants.
– They will be employees of the Government, and as such will be entitled to security. I believe that the bill as at present drafted provides adequate safeguard for both members of thu board, and the Government.
– The position is as has been explained by Senator Morrow. The Government is empowered by this measure to decide the terms of office of members of the board. The bill only specifies that the term of office shall not exceed seven years. As Senator
Morrow said, in the event of any member of the board being found to be unqualified, or unsuitable for the position, action can be taken to replace him.
– The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) has not yet replied to my suggestion that, in view of the important nature of the deliberations of the board, its meetings should be held in public so that justice will not only be done, but also will patently appear to be done. The press should have access to meetings of the board. The board’s authority is similar to that of a licensing commission. It will be able to call witnesses and take evidence on oath. Not only will the board have power over the livelihood of large numbers of people, but also substantial amounts of property will be involved, and I urge the Postmaster-General to give consideration to the constitution of the board in such a manner that it will act as a judicial authority.
– I disagree entirely with the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan). I believe that the functions of the board will be such that its meetings will require the greatest protection, and even secrecy. A perusual of the bill shows that the. board will have to undertake some onerous tasks. For instance, it will have to determine an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political or controversial matter. It will have to ensure that no political party shall be refused access to broadcasting facilities merely because it has not sufficient money to pay for that service. In the past, certain political parties in this country have had sufficient funds to purchase all available broadcasting time to the exclusion of other parties. The Board will be called upon to adjudicate on such matters, and its judgments will be of considerable significance to the people of Australia. The Board should not bc prejudiced by having its discussions thrown open to the press which, as we all know distorts even its reports of the proceedings of this Parliament.
I am interested in the provision in this measure which casts upon the Board the onus of ensuring that all political parties shall have equal broadcasting facilities. I have no doubt that the intention of the measure is that it should no longer be possible for a rich organization such as the Liberal party to monopolize radio broadcasting time on the commercial stations as it has done in the past. I take it that the Board will endeavour to preserve a balance, and that the Labour party’s meagre funds will not preclude it from an opportunity to present its case to the people. The Board will also be charged with the duty of ensuring that an opportunity shall be given to all sections of the people to express their views on controversial questions. Hitherto, radio broadcasting has been a close preserve of privileged sections of the community.
Senator MORROW (Tasmania) 1 9.39]. - I entirely disagree with what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) has said. Most of the commercial stations are owned by newspapers.
– What authority has the honorable senator for saying that?
– I could name the stations. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows what I have said is true. Through their ownership of broadcasting stations, the newspapers would be able to get into board meetings through the back door. As the press of this country has resorted to distortion, misrepresentation, half truths and whole I lies, I believe that it should be kept away from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board entirely. It representatives would have an axe to grind, and they would grind it very enthusiastically.
– I, too, disagree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan). Senator Rankin said last night that she would like to see the new board constituted in such a way that broadcasting would be administered fairly as the press is to-day. Last night 1 spoke on this measure for 20 minutes, but not one line of my speech appeared in any of the newspapers, yet it is suggested that broadcasting should be free like the press. The newspapers are forced to take an interest in this matter because with the introduction of television, advertisers would use that- medium and the newspapers would not bc able to compete. Unless we are careful, the same thing will happen with this board. They will set up a group to control it as they controlled the newspapers. I said last night that the very idea of controlling the air was so monstrous to me that it was beyond the imagination that anyone could suggest control by private enterprise. I demonstrated the necessity for the co-ordination of radio broadcasting, including frequency modulation and television.
– Order! The committee is dealing with the terms of office of members of the board.
– Thu point I am endeavouring to make is that unless we arc careful in choosing members of the board we shall find that broadcasting will be in the hands of the monopoly which controls the press to-day. Senator Rankin has suggested that the radio industry should be controlled as the press is controlled to-day. In the six years that I have been a member of this chamber, my speeches have been given about six lines in Australian newspapers, and I am delighted indeed that the press monopoly is to be excluded from broadcasting. Should broadcasting fall into the hands of the press monopoly, our last position would he infinitely woree than the first. I take it that the aim in creating the board is to counteract the power of the capitalist press. By virtue of having money, wealthy individuals have been able fo start newspapers. We do not want: such people controlling broadcasting and determining what the people of A u.- tra Iia shall listen to in accordance with the wishes of advertisers who have no cultural outlook or desire to uplift the. people.
– Order ! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the matter now before the committee.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I repeat, however, that we must be careful to prevent the. control of broadcasting by newspaper interests. No doubt members of the Opposition would like to see representatives nf the press on the board, but I hope that the board will consist only of people whose sole object. is tn mire the cultural level of the Australian people.
– I do Hot think that the position has been put quite fairly. In refutation of what Senator Arnold and Senator Grant have said about unfairness in radio advertising, I refer the committee to section 61 of the existing act, which provides, in sub-section 2, that a licensee desiring to .broadcast advertisements must publish a tariff of advertising charges, and, except as prescribed, must make his advertising services available without discrimination to any person. There is a further provision in the act that the PostmasterGeneral may, without assigning any reason at all and without paying compensation, cancel a broadcasting licence.
– I cannot see anything in the bill relevant to the subject that the honorable senator is discussing.
– I am referring to the reaction to my suggestion regarding the desirability of holding the sittings of the board in public. That question was raised in relation to the matter of decisions by the board on the form of advertising, particularly political advertising to be permitted, and it was suggested by supporters of the Government that such matters should be dealt with in secret. Under the act as it now stands there must be a fair basis of advertising without discrimination towards any person. I am pointing out that the reasons that have been urged against my suggestion have no basis in fact, because the relevant provision is already in the act. I urge that the light of day never does any consultation or deliberation of such a nature any harm. The Government claims that the public interest is the activating consideration in the bill, and I urge that such matters should be considered in public.
– In the light of experience Senator O’Sullivan’s suggestion is unreasonable and impracticable. Would the honorable senator suggest, for example that the meetings of a Cabinet or of a board of directors of a- big company should be held in public? The boards of directorsof big companies deal with matters vitally affecting the public but the honorable senator would not suggest that their meetings should be open to the public.
– The m of bodies that dispense a form of justice should be held in public.
– If the licence of a broadcasting station were cancelled the station could have recourse to the law to challenge the action.
– I should like the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) to give the Senate some further information to indicate just what additional powers are sought by this bill and why are they sought. The Minister’s powers under the 1942 act are very wide. I should like the Minister to explain those points, in reply, and to sayin effect, “ This is what is enjoyed under the 1942 act. This is the extra power we are now asking for, and these are the reasons we are asking for it “. Those mysteries have not yet been unfolded to the chamber. The honorable senator might also give some indication as to the size of the staff that will be required to perform the Herculean duties that the board is to perform ; what types of people are to be employed ; and what will be the necessary qualifications. After all, the board will be a charge on Consolidated Revenue and the Senate is entitled to know approximately to what extent Consolidated Revenue will be charged.
In addition to other duties the board will have a duty to ensure that divine worship or other matter of a religious nature shall be broadcast for adequate periods at appropriate times on an equitable basis. Sub-paragraph iii of paragraph a of sub-section 2 of proposed new section 6k then deals with “political or controversial matters.” I am anxious to know, and I am sure the people are also anxious to know, who is to be the judge of what is adequate, and appropriate and equitable? What is the yardstick to be? Will the yardstick.be the irascibility of the Minister in charge, who is the master of the board, or his political colour, form and temper? If the Minister dictates to the board in such a fashion that grave injustices are done, will there be any appeal other than to the people at the ensuing election? What proportion of radio time is to be made available to Buddhists and Mohammedans? I believe that the Rationalists now broadcast for a certain period. Will they precede or succeed divine worship if they want time on the air ? Above all, what genius will work out an appropriate formula whereby things will be done for adequate periods at appropriate times and on an equitable basis?.
– The general functions of the board will be to undertake a comprehensive review of the broadcasting system throughout Australia and to prepare for consideration by the Ministera fundamental plan for the development and expansion of both the national and commercial broadcasting services. The review undertaken by the board will embrace television and facsimile as well as amplitude and frequency modulation. It will be a function of the board to implement the approved plan. The board will be required to ensure that national and commercial stations shall be maintained and operated in conformity with sound engineering principles. It will be the duty of the board to ensure the broadcasting of adequate and comprehensive programmes by both national and commercial stations and to exercise overall supervision in respect of matter that is broadcast. In this connexion, certain particular obligations are being imposed on the board.
Provision is also made for additional functions to be entrusted to the board from time to time, by regulations under the act, in the event of the Government deeming such a course desirable. The board will have discretionary powers. It will be in a similar category to a judge who has a discretionary power in addition to the powers he enjoys under a particular act. It will be the function of the board to say what is adequate and appropriate and what religious services shall be broadcast. At the moment there are certain stations which broadcast political matter in the guise of religious matter. Such practices will not be tolerated in future. A station that desires to broadcast religious matter will be allowed to do so but it will not be allowed to broadcast political matter in the guise of religious matter. In the event of any station transgressing it will be the duty of the board to ensure that such transgressions by that station shall not recur.
– I should like the Minister to give an explanation regarding proposed new section 6L, which states, in part - “6L - (1.) For the purpose of exercising its powers and functions under this Act, the Board shall have power to make such orders, give such directions and do all such other things as it thinks fit. “ (2.) Orders made by the Board -
Rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act 1903-1939; and “ (3.) The provisions of sections forty-eight and forty nine of the Acts Interpretation Act l901-1947 shall apply to orders made by the Board in like manner as they apply to regulations.
I desire to know if the board will be subject to the issue of any statutory regulations issued under the act. Apparently it will not be so, and the board will therefore not come under the surveillance of the committee which deals with Statutory Rules. Can the Minister inform me what is the effect of sub-section 3 of proposed new section 6L, which refers to the Acts Interpretation Act of 1901-1947 in relation to orders of the board. I consider that whilst the board should be given all necessary power there must be some medium by which the Government of the country can control its activities. There should be some means for the Parliament to have an over-all supervision of the board which should not entirely be divorced from parliamentary control.
– In view of the powers which it is proposed shall be conferred upon the board the Government considers it desirable that any orders which the board may make in pursuance of its powers shall be subject to disallowance by the Parliament. Under subsection 3 of the proposed section 6l the board’s orders must be’ laid on the table of both Houses of the Parliament and may be disallowed as if they were regulations. It is necessary to empower the board to give all necessary directions. Situations might- arise which would require immediate action. A case in point would be when a. radio station was operating off its normal frequency. In the interests of listeners it would be essential to give the technician a direction by telephone for an appropriate adjustment to be made immediately.
. Although I have not yet received it, I have asked on several occasions for a satisfactory explanation of the distinction between the provisions now proposed and the corresponding provissions in the 1942 act. I refer particularly to subsection 4, of proposed section 6k under which the board may determine the extent to which advertisements should be broadcast in the programme of any commercial station. I refer the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) to section 60 (1) of the 1942 act. Under that sub-section there is an obligation placed upon broadcasting stations to ensure as far as practicable that programmes broadcast shall be to the satisfaction of the Minister. In the next sub-section of the existing act it is laid down that if the programme” broadcast are not wholly or in part to the satisfaction of the Minister the licensee shall, if directed so to do by the Minister, amend the programmes with a view to making them satisfactory to the Minister. Under sub-section 3, the Minister may from time to time, by orders given orally or otherwise, issue certain directions and prohibitions. Under the 1942 act every conceivable reasonable power is already vested in the Minister. “Why are those powers being varied and enlarged? The proposed new section as it stands is open to a very sinister interpretation. Apart altogether from the completely arbitrary powers vested in the Minister under the 1942 act, it is now provided that the board as the servant of the Minister, may determine the extent to which advertisements may be broadcast on the programme of any commercial broadcasting station. That places in the hands of the Minister, through the board, the plenary, arbitrary power of saying, in effect to any station, “ You may have only 5 per cent, of your time devoted to advertising “, or “ You may devote only 1 per cent, of your time to advertising”, or “ You may not devote any of your time at all to advertising”. The object of giving the powers vested in the Minister under the 1942 act was to ensure full protection of the interests of the public. Why is this extra arbitrary power being vested in the Minister? . Is it because under the 1942 act the Minister would have to be more or less on the spot to say to a commercial station, “ I object to your broadcasting this or that, programme “ ; and in common decency the obligation would rest upon the Minister to state the reason for that prohibition, and the matter would thus be brought into the light of day. The provision under this measure suggests a back-door method to enable the Minister to curtail the advertising period of any broadcasting station without having to give any reason at all for such prohibition. I should like the Postmaster-General (.Senator Cameron) to state what is lacking in the power conferred upon the Minister under section 60 of the 1942 act, and why those powers are being extended now. Is the reason other than to give the Minister complete power over broadcasting stations? If there is any other reason, I shall be glad to hear it.
– The explanation of the matter raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) is simple. Under the 1942 act this power was given to the Minister, whereas under this measure the board will exercise it. The board will be required to determine the extent to which advertisements may be broadcast. Although advertising represents the only source of income of commercial stations and is, therefore, an indispensable part of the present broadcasting system, there is little doubt that some stations engage in advertising excesses which are incompatible with their responsibility to provide a properly balanced and acceptable programme service to listeners. It is desirable that not only should the amount of time devoted to advertising bear a reasonable relationship to the time devoted to programme material, but also that the irritating qualities of many commercial announcements should receive attention. There is need for a thorough review of current broadcast advertising practices with a view to the establishment of sound and proper standards and it is proposed that the Board should also investigate this aspect of the matter. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which controls both national and commercial stations in Canada, has power to make regulations “ to determine the proportion of time which may be devoted to advertising in programmes broadcast by stations of the corporation or by private stations and to control the character of such advertising “.
– I assume that the reason for this provision is to ensure that people who have unlimited finance shall not be allowed to advertise over commercial stations to such a degree as has been done in the past. For instance, during the last referendum campaign the announcement “ Vote No “ was broadcast over commercial stations practically every minute of the day and night. A political party could solicit funds from people whose interests it alleged to be at issue during an election campaign, and that party could use such funds to obtain unlimited advertising over commercial stations. All honorable senators are aware that that practice has been followed in the past. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) asked a question although nobody knows the answer better than he does. Mr. Casey has returned with a bagful of money from the entrepreneurs of Europe for the Liberal party, and no doubt that party will be able to finance advertisements continuously over commercial stations. I am very glad that this provision is being made to limit the proportion of time which radio stations may devote to advertising. Such limitation will not ‘be. applied as it is now; -it will be applied by a just board which will ensure that even the Nationalists shall receive a fair go.
– I am interested to know whether the provisions of the 1942 act to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) has referred have been applied effectively. Was any competent authority set up to report to the Minister or to take action to apply those provisions? I do not think that those provisions have ever been applied effectively. I should like an assurance that the board will have authority to delegate its authority to certain persons to ensure that the law shall be observed by commercial broadcasting stations.
– I refer to sub-section 4 of proposed new section 6K which provides that the board shall have power, subject to any directions of the Minister, to determine the “ situation and operating power of any broadcasting station, television station or facsimile station “. Under section 57 of the 1942 act, the “ location “ of a commercial broadcasting station is subject to the approval of the Minister; and that section is not being amended. However, proposed new section 55 provides -
A commercial broadcasting station shall be situated at such place ns the board, subject to any direction of the Minister, determines.
What is the difference between these provisions in respect of the determination of the situation of a commercial broadcasting station? Is there any difference between the “ location “ and the “ situation” of a commercial station? Other alterations of a similar nature have crept into the measure, and they add to one’s confusion in endeavouring to interpret the provisions affected. For instance, linder sub-section 4 (b) of proposed new section 6k the board, subject to any directions of the Minister, shall have power “ to determine the frequency of each broadcasting station . . . “ That provision to hand out frequencies places in the hands of the Minister power of life and death over commercial broadcasting ,stations. because through the board he will .have. power to place any station on such a frequency that it will have no chance of competing with another station towards which the Minister may turn a friendly eye. Thus, the former station can be practically put off the air. In that instance the Minister or the board would not be under any obligation to come out into the open and lay a definite charge against a station. The Minister, for instance, will not be required to say to any station, “ I charge you with gross misdemeanour or a breach of the privilege enjoyed by you under your licence, and I call on you to show cause why your licence should not be forfeited “. That would be the proper procedure to be followed, but the board, under the direction of the Minister, can put any station on to such a frequency that would render its licence valueless. Or, under another provision to which I have already referred, the Minister may without compensation or without giving any reason, if he thinks it is in the public interest to do so, cancel a station’s licence. Thus, we see on what a slender thread commercial broadcasting station licences will depend in the future. Under sub-section 4 (d) of proposed new section 6k the board shall have power, subject to the directions of the Minister - to regulate the establishment of networks of broadcasting stations and the making of agreements or arrangements by licensees of commercial broadcasting stations for’ the provision of programmes or the broadcasting of advertisements
That provision has been hailed by some recently enlightened senator as a bold move against monopolies. The PostmasterGeneral knows as well as I do that all such network agreements at present are subject to his approval or are contingent upon his consent, and that there is nothing new in that provision at all. Apparently, that provision has merely been put in for good measure, because although it purports to be enacted for the first time under this measure it has been in operation for many years past. Yet, it is now suggested that this is a move against monopolies. All of these provisions indicate the substance of my earlier objection that the Senate has not been told the real reason for the introduction of this measure. Sub-section 5 of proposed new section 6k provides -
The Board shall have power, subject to the approval of the Minister and of the Treasurer, to provide financial assistance and other assistance to commercial broadcasting stations, for the purpose of ensuring that programmes of adequate extent, standard and variety are provided in the areas served by those stations.
We are entitled to considerably more ininformation on that point than the Postmaster-General has so far deigned to give to us. Under that provision, the Minister in charge of the measure will be enabled to hand out largesse to a commercial station which renders good service to the cause. No standard, or criterion, is provided as to what is, or what is not, a deserving station. But, apparently, the understanding will be, “ You serve us well, and we will reward you well “. The standard which should be provided is a standard whereby the service rendered by a station to the public will be the criterion of its claim to financial assistance and not the service which a station may render to the party. This is to be determined by a board which, under the measure, will essentially be servile to the Minister, and the Minister in turn, so long as he is a Labour Minister, will be servile to the caucus; and the caucus will see that the friends who serve it will be rewarded.
– Quite right.
– If that is the spirit in which the bill is to be administered the unfortunate taxpayer of Australia has even more to worry about than I thought he had. Sub-section 1 of proposed section 6l provides -
For the purpose of exercising its powers and functions under this Act the Board shall have power to make such orders, give such directions, and do all such other things as it thinks fit.
Sub-section 2 provides -
Orders made by the Board -
shall be in writing;
shall have the force of law.
A further sub-section provides that directions of the proposed board, which may be given orally or in writing, must be complied with by the person who receives such directions. I point out that it is quite possible for such directions to be received by an announcer, a mechanic or an engineer employed by a broadcasting station, and the executive officers of the station may know nothing about the order. I urge the Government, therefore, to amend the clause by providing that any order so given by the proposed board-
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I assure Senator Cooke that the Government intends that commercial broadcasting shall be policed more effectively than it has been hitherto. The Government is aware of the tremendous increase of radio broadcasting which has occurred and realizes that more effective control is necessary. I assume that the proposed board will carefully supervise the broadcasts of commercial stations by intercepting them so as to ensure that its directions shall be carried out.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) referred to subsection 4 of proposed new section 6k. Paragraph a of that sub-section provides that the board shall have power, subject to any directions of the Minister -
To determine the situation and operating power of any broadcasting station, television station or facsimile station;
Those matters must be considered in any general plan to control broadcasting, and the proposed board, it is to be noted, will exercise its powers subject to direction by the Minister. Paragraph b authorizes the board, subject to any directions of the Minister -
To determine the frequency of each broadcasting station, television station or facsimile station, within .bands oi frequencies notified to the Board ‘by the Postmaster-General as being available for such stations.
The board’s power in regard to frequency assignments will be exercised subject to the stipulation that any allocations made will be within those bands of frequencies notified as being available to the board by the Postmaster-General. This condition is necessary in order to ensure that frequencies shall not be allotted in conflict with the provisions of the International Radio Regulations to which the Commonwealth Government is a party. Paragraph c states that the board shall have power, subject to any direction of the Minister -
After consultation with the Commission, to determine the conditions upon which a commercial broadcasting station may broadcast a programme- of the National Broadcasting Service ;
That paragraph is intended to empower the board, after consultation with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to determine the conditions upon which a commercial broadcasting station maj broadcast a programme of the national broadcasting service. The desirability of permitting commercial stations to broadcast certain national programmes, such a?news and educational sessions, has been considered from time to time, and the conclusion has been reached that the proposed board should have power to make suitable arrangements in this field after consultation with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In certain circumstances the public interest would be served by making such arrangements, especially in connexion with commercial stations hi remote areas, which, in some instances are not yet served by any national stations.
Paragraph d which relates to the establishment of networks of broadcasting stations and the making of arrangements for the broadcasting of programmes or advertisements by commercial stations, will empower the proposed board to supervise the. activities of broadcasting stations which operate under network agreements. It is realized that the operation of networks often results in the production of excellent programmes, bat care must be exercised to prevent any monopolistic trends. It is necessary also to watch closely the effect of networks on the operations of stations in country districts, which, because of non-membership of networks, may be unable to attract lucrative national advertising. Section 107 of the present act provides for the making of regulations relative to agreements or arrangements by licensees of commercial broadcasting stations for the provision of programmes or the broadcasting of advertisements.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition criticized sub-section 5 of proposed section 6k which provides that the board shall have power, subject to the approval of the Minister and of the Treasurer, to provide financial or other assistance to any commercial broadcasting station should the need arise. In the past some broadcasting stations situated in remote areas have experienced difficulty in providing a satisfactory service for adequate daily periods because of lack of sufficient income. In many instances those stations have provided the only reliable broadcasting service available for hundreds of listeners. , The Postmaster-General’s Department has not had authority to take effective measures to prevent curtailment of the periods of operation of those stations or the deterioration of the standard of their programmes. It is envisaged that in special circumstances where the board is satisfied that such a course is justified in the public interest, financial or other assistance may be rendered to ‘ broadcasting stations to ensure the maintenance of a reasonable and regular service despite adverse business conditions.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also criticized the proposal that the board shall be authorized to issuing binding orders to commercial radio stations and their servants. In view of the powers which it is proposed to confer on the board, the Government considers it desirable that any orders which the board makes in pursuance of those powers dial! be subject to disallowance by the Parliament. The effect of sub-section 3 of proposed new section 6l will be that any of the board’s orders must be laid on the table of both Houses of the Parliament and be subject to disallowance as though they were regulations. Sub-section 6 is inserted because it is necessary to empower the board to give oral directions to meet situations which may demand immediate action. A case in point would be a station which was operating off its normal frequency or wave length
– I agree with all that, but will the Postmaster-General give an assurance that the subjection will be amended to provide that any direction given by the board to a servant of a broadcasting station will also be given to the chief executive of the company?
– If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would be good enough to listen to what I am saying he would not need to interrupt. In the interests of listeners it is essential that the board shall be empowered to issue directions, by telephone if necessary, to the technician on duty that an appropriate adjustment be made immediately. The honorable senator suggested that the board might abuse that power because, he contended, the board would be merely an instrument of caucus. Of course, that is purely a figment of the honorable senator’s imagination, or an instance of the wish being father to the thought Neither I nor my predecessor in office, the present Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), has ever abused his powers. Indeed, we have been far too lenient with some commercial stations, whose conduct has been responsible, as much as anything else, for forcing the Government to introduce the present measure.
.- I think that the point that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) was endeavouring to make by way of interjection is that an instruction issued by the board to a mechanic or other servant of a broadcasting company may not be conveyed to the chief executive of that concern. However, my experience of both metropolitan and country broadcasting stations is that any instructions or requests conveyed to their servants are immediately relayed to their executives. In any event, the board can be relied upon to ensure that such orders shall be conveyed to the management of the stations.
– I desire to ask the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) a question concerning paragraph c of sub-section 4 of proposed new section 6k. I ask the Minister, does the term “ programme “ include the news service? Three commercial stations which serve sparsely populated areas of Queensland are providing a regular news service for those people, who are completely dependent upon those stations for news. I understand that those stations are able to render that service because of a special arrangement with the Australian
Broadcasting Commission and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. If a programme includes news is it intended to be covered by the measure? I suggest that after the word “programme” in paragraph c of sub-section 4 of proposed new section 6k the following words should be inserted : “ and/or the news service “.
– We are now becoming accustomed to the pattern of the tactics adopted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan). In this instance he has concentrated his attack on paragraph a of sub-section 1 of proposed new section 6k, which enumerates some of the powers and functions of the proposed board. Incidentally, although the honorable senator referred to my “gross demeanour “, I do not know what sort of an animal that could be. Of course, the use of such epithets is part of his professional equipment. He raises the same cry in opposition to every measure introduced by the Government. He voices the argument of the monopolists. The reason why it is necessary to appoint a board to determine the matters referred to in the bill is that, after all, we are dealing with air waves. In my opinion private monopolists should never have been allowed to obtain control of them. If a television station is to be erected someone must determine what area it is intended to serve and where it is to be located. Of course, commercial exploiters would establish stations only where they could obtain the greatest revenue from advertising, and they would not be interested in providing services for the outback. Furthermore, they would not display any interest in the cultural development of the people. If the allocation of licences is not to be left to the proposed board or to the Minister, then to whom should it be left? I know that Sir Keith Murdoch and others who believe in so-called freedom have a whole chain of broadcasting stations. There are networks throughout Australia. It may be true that, on paper, the stations belong to different people, but the fact is that there are monopolies amongst commercial stations. That sort of thing has been allowed to continue for too long. Control of commercial broad casting stations runs parallel with control of the press, and I am sorry thai this Government, or some previous government, did not act along the lines of this measure long ago. If the dead could only rise from their graves, I wonder what they would say if they learned that the air waves, which, incidentally, were discovered not by Marconi, who only commercialized them, but by a brother Scot, were controlled by private individuals for the purpose of lining up the greatest possible number of morons in order to make profits from them. Senator Rankin has said that we should . cater for the people. Under the bill, the Government will give the people what they want. It has determined to raise thecultural level of the people. The attitude of honorable senators in opposition reminds me of a great faker called Sequoia, who travelled about the world with a crowd of attendants and was heralded by brass bands wherever he went. He extracted teeth, sold all sort? of things, advertised this and that, and made a tremendous amount of money in the process. One day, we are told, he was at the Savoy Hotel in London-
– Order! Are the honorable senator’s remarks connected with clause 6?
– I am setting out to show that the object of the measure is to place broadcasting under the control of a board so that the air waves will not be used merely for the purpose of appealing to morons. As an illustration, I am referring to Sequoia, who when he was in London, was asked by a Harley-street specialist how much money he made in a year. When he replied, “ I make £10,000 a year “, the doctor said, “ I cannot make £1,000. I am qualified, but you are not. How do you do it ?” Sequoia said, “ Come to the window. Look down at the Strand. How many intelligent people oan you see there?” The doctor replied, “About 2 per cent, of them are intelligent.” Sequoia said, “I am after the 98 per cent., and you are after the 2 per cent. That is why I make ten times as much as you do.” The policy of the Labour party is to raise the cultural level of the 98 per cent, as close as possible to the level of the 2 per cent. That is why the clause provides that the board shall have power, subject to the directions of the PostmasterGeneral, to determine the situation and operating power of any broadcasting station, television station or facsimile station, and to determine the conditions upon which a commercial broadcasting station may broadcast any national programme. Who else should determine such matters? The air waves belong to the people, but such decisions cannot be made by 7,000,000 people. They can be made only by the Government and therefore they can be made in the final analysis only by the PostmasterGeneral. What is wrong with that? The Opposition is kicking now for the same reason as it kicked against the Government’s banking legislation and other measures. It objects because the Labour party is winning all along the line. The Government will not hand over control of broadcasting to a monopoly like that of the press. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and his vested interests will not be permitted to monopolize the air any longer.
– It is very tiring to have to explain things to one of the 9S per cent, mentioned by Senator Grant. I repeat again that I do not object to the inclusion of the powers specified in proposed section 6k, about which the honorable senator has been declaiming. However, I point out that the Australian Broadcasting Act already contains a similar provision. The bill which we are now considering contains the same provision twice. Why should it be included three times? The honorable senator may have given us a clue. Perhaps a thing must be pointed out three times before any one of the 98 per cent, whom he mentioned can appreciate it. My point is that the whole of sub-section 4 of proposed section 6k is already provided for elsewhere. [ hope that is perfectly clear. For good measure, this bill adds the same provision twice. I object to sub-section 5 of proposed section 6k because it states that the broadcasting control board shall have power, subject to the approval of the Postmaster-General and the Treasurer, to hand out the people’s money to any commercial broadcasting stations to which they may take a fancy. No criterion of behaviour or merit is specified to entitle a station to a grant of largess in that way.
.- I think that, if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) appreciated the reason for the inclusion of that provision, he would not raise any objection to it. As previous speakers have explained, many parts of Australia are so sparsely populated as to offer very slight revenue-producing possibilities to commercial broadcasting stations. Consequently, it would be necessary to subsidize commercial stations which served outback areas, and even some isolated communities relatively close to our capital cities. Glen Davis, for instance, is situated in a valley in which it is difficult to obtain clear reception of broadcasts. Residents of that town could be served properly only by a local station, but the advertising revenue available in such a small settlement would not enable a commercial station to continue to operate there. Such a station would have to be subsidized. I do not think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would object to that.
– It would be all right if that were the only motive.
– All parts of Australia should be served. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will not take exception to a provision which will enable radio services to be extended to isolated centres.
– If service to the people, not to the party is the criterion I shall be happy.
– That is the situation.
– Senator Rankin suggested that the word “ news “ should be included in the provision that the board may determine, after consultation with the commission, the conditions upon which a commercial broadcasting station may broadcast a programme of the National Broadcasting
Service. The word “ programme “ includes news. Therefore, the provision should satisfy the wishes of the honorable senator.
– Proposed new section 6q provides for the appointment by the Minister of a Broadcasting Advisory Committee in each State to advise the board with respect to any matter relating to the programmes of broadcasting stations, television stations or facsimile stations. Will the membership of such committees remain unaltered, or will it be changed from time to time in order to meet peculiar instances? What will be the numerical strength of the committees, and what remuneration will be paid to members ?
– Most of the members of the existing broadcasting advisory committees were members when I was appointed Postmaster-General. Those who have resigned for various reasons since I came to office have been replaced by others whom I have nominated. The members are not paid. Each committee consists of the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs of the State concerned, a representative of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, a representative of the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, and four representatives of the public. Each appointment is made for a period of three years.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Operations of Commission to be financially self-supporting).
– This is one of the most regrettable features of the bill. Under section 35 of the principal act, the commission was obliged to be substantially selfsupporting. The section provides - (1.) The Commission shall exercise the powers mid functions conferred and imposed upon it by this Act in such a manner that its operation will be financially self-supporting.
In the years that have elapsed since the passage of that legislation, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has deserved extremely well of the Australian people. It has served them without fear or favour and has upheld the highest traditions of a very good Australian public service; but it has not been a public service in the sense of being subservient to any particular Minister. It has been financially independent. To that degree, it has borne some resemblance to the British Broadcasting Corportation. the seven governors of which are answerable to the Parliament. The British Broadcasting Corporation enjoys a certain dignity arising from its independence, and through its dignity and itsindependence, it enjoys tremendous pre?tige. So far, the Australian Broadcast ing Commission has enjoyed great prestige in this country, but now, the dignity arising from its independence is tobe destroyed. The commission is to be a. mere department, dependent entire ‘ upon “ handouts “ from the Treasury. What ability will the commission have from now on to carve for itself a path of independence? It will be merely t> sub-department. It will be under tin- control of the yet unnamed Minister, who will administer this act. It is sad indeed to contemplate the passing of what independence the Australian Broadcasting Commission once enjoyed.
– The original Australian Broadcasting Commission was granted 12s. out of every licence fee. However, far from being independent, the commission has had to seek additional funds from the Government. Its allocation has been increased during the last three years until now it receives approximately 17s. out of every licence fee. The commission is not as independent as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan), would have us believe. Realizing the true position, the Government has decided to introduce this amendment. The commission will still be dependent upon the Government as it has been in the past, but under the new system, it will be able to extend its operations and carry out long-range planning. It was unable to do that previously. Therefore, far from being less independent under this measure than it was previously, the commission is actually being made more independent.
– I am glad that an alteration of the method of financing the Australian Broadcasting Commission is being made. The new system will raise the dignity of the commission which, since its inception, has done a wonderful job. It has brought io this country the best British conductors, including Sir Malcolm Sargent and Sir Hamilton Harty. ft has also brought Swedish and Finnish conductors. Almost every great pianist in the world to-day, except Rachmaninoff, has visited this country under the auspices of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Wo have also been favoured by visits from nome of the world’s leading singers, including Tito Schipa and Richard Crooks. The world’s greatest violinists too have toured this country. As the Minister has -laid, the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be able when this measure becomes law to carry out long-range planning. It will be able to uplift the cultural level of the people of this country. There arc many people who are only too willing to depreciate the cultural standard that this country has already attained. One frequently hears the suggestion that most Europeans are familiar with the works of all the classical masters. That is not so. Even in Germany prior to the rise of Hitler only a coterie of the people were familiar with those works. I seldom liston to the commercial stations but, putting myself in the position of a member of the commission, I ask. myself whether it would be more dignified for the Government to undertake the financing of the commission, or whether the commission should continue to scrape along from year to year wondering where its next penny is to come from. J. have mentioned before in this chamber that it was I who, as a member of the Sydney City Council, moved that a grant of £10,000 be made to establish a State orchestra. The Australian Broadcasting Commission also contributed £10,000, and I believe that the Government of New South Wales followed suit. Certain promises were made by the Commonwealth Government but I do not think that they were fulfilled. I hope that the time will come when we shall have orchestras in every State of the Commonwealth. Like the Italians, the
Australian people’ have the temperament which produces great singers and musicians, and I am sure that the work of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be placed on a higher plane altogether when it becomes no longer necessary for that body to “ cadge “ funds as it has done in the past.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 14 to 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Technical equipment and operation).
– Replying to the second-reading debate, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) said that much of the broadcasting equipment of the commercial stations was out of date, and that no attempt had been made to replace it, with ‘the result that the service given to the public, by those stations suffered. That utterance is unworthy of the Minister. Although I do not always agree with him, I can usually see a great deal of fairness in his attitude. Under the 1942 act, the PostmasterGeneral has complete control over the type and form of technical equipment used by broacasting stations, and that equipment cannot be changed without his consent. Therefore, we have the PostmasterGeneral holding down the commercial stations with one hand, and with the other slashing them for not getting up. That is most unfair. I suggest that the Postmaster-General should take this opportunity to elaborate, withdraw, or explain his remarks.
Clause 18 provides for the repeal of sections 54 to 58 of the principal act, hut then it re-enacts them almost word for word. As one who is accustomed to reading acts of parliament, I see no substantial difference between the sections that are to he repealed and the sections that are to bc enacted, except that the following provision is to be inserted : -
The technical equipment of a commercial broadcasting station shall not he bo designed as to permit the station to use any form of modulation other than amplitude modulation.
Therein we see the grasping hand of State monopoly. The commercial stations are to be for ever precluded from frequency modulation broadcasting. No monopolies are attractive andI have always been under the impression that one of the most rigid planks of the platform of the Labour party is that proclaiming opposition to monopolies. There is no worse monopoly than a government monopoly. Whether in the hands of private enterprise or a government a monopoly is’ still a monopoly in the eyes of the people, and as such is intrinsically bad and offensive to the sense of freedom which we, the Australian people, cherish and enjoy. Now, this power- drunk Government is grasping with both hands for further powers at the expense of private enterprise, which is already rigidly controlled under existing legislation. I oppose strenuously the restriction upon the use of frequency modulation broadcasting by the commercial stations. The other provisions, as I have said, are merely a re-hash of the sections which are being repealed.
– Monopolies may be either good or bad. They are good if everybody participates in them, but bad if they are operated by the few to the detriment of the many. I do not think, for instance, that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) would suggest that the Government’s monopoly of postal services is undesirable. There are other instrumentalities, too, that are more efficient under government control. The Government believes that frequency modulation, television and facsimile reproduction should he under government control, and as I have already explained, experimental frequency modulation stations have been built. The results of the experimental transmissions which, so far, have been made in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, together with the report of the investigations made in the United Kingdom and North America by the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, were examined carefully and critically, following which, the Government decided that frequency modulation stations should be introduced into the national broadcasting service in Australia. As one honorable senator has pointed out, a previous administration established the Australian Broadcasting Commission in this country because the services that were being rend - dered by private enterprise were considered inadequate.
Clause agreed to.
The following papers were presented : -
Aluminium Industry Act - Third Annual Report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, for year 1947-48.
Commonwealth Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways operations for year 1947-48.
National Fitness Act - Commonwealth Council forNational Fitness - Report of Tenth . Session, November, 1947.
Norfolk Island - Report for year 1946-47.
Senate adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 November 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19481110_senate_18_199/>.