22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the announcement made yesterday by the Prime Minisiter to the effect that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Sir Anthony Eden, and Lady Eden will visit Australia next January as the guests of the Commonwealth, will the Minister assure me that full opportunities will be granted to these most distinguished guests to visit Western Australia?
– I am sure that the Government does not underestimate the importance of such a visit to Western Australia, and will give that matter every consideration.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been directed to the subscription list opened by the Sun newspaper in New South Wales to raise funds to help Victoria Cross winners to visit London next month to attend celebrations to mark the centenary of the institution of the award? As the Government of New South Wales yesterday gave a cheque for £2,000 to the New South Wales president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia for this purpose, is it the intention of the Menzies Government to make any further contribution other than to provide fares and a sum of £75 to those going overseas? Is this miserable payment to be regarded as sufficient recognition of the valor displayed on the battlefield by those heroes?
– As usual, the honorable senator has failed to get his alleged facts correct.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister has said that what I have stated to be facts are not correct. That statement is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– If the honorable senator’s statements are wrong then they are wrong, whether the honorable senator is hurt or not.
– The Minister will withdraw the remark to which objection has been taken.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. President, I withdraw the remark that I made to the effect that the honorable senator had got his alleged facts incorrect. If I expressed any opinion of the honorable member and his presentation of alleged facts, I would be asked to withdraw my statement, and so I cannot do that. The circumstances are that this matter was treated by the Australian Government in the spirit and atmosphere in which everybody considers that it should be treated. Although I have not all the facts in mind, the Government made . arrangements which would be suitable to the average person making the trip, and the Government also has an arrangement with the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia which will permit the league to come to the Government in respect of any particular case. I have no doubt that if the league makes representations upon any particular case, the Australian Government will deal with them as the Senate would wish it to do. If citizens give amounts of money in addition to those that are being made available by the Commonwealth, it is all to the good, so far as I am concerned. I should like the men who are going on the trip to have every possible advantage. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, it has dealt with this matter in a manner which, I believe, meets with the approval of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and I do not know any better criterion of the feelings of exservicemen on such a matter.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, relates to the Australian National Travel Association. T notice that the Commonwealth has increased its subsidy to that body from £20,000 to £50,000 a year, and that it is proposed to appoint a departmental committee to confer with the association regarding the future development of travel in Australia. In view of the importance of this matter, and as the expenditure of Commonwealth funds is involved, will the Minister give the Senate full details of the status, constitution and functions of the Australian National Travel Association?
– I shall be happy to get for the honorable senator whatever information is available.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. President. In view of the statement made by Senator Cole in November last that if the Australian people returned the Menzies Government to power, he would feel obliged to support it, on what grounds do you, sir, justify your action in giving the call to Senator Cole as an Opposition senator when he should be treated as a ministerial supporter, since such action enables the Government to have three speakers in succession ?
– to order, Inherent in the question asked by Senator Kennelly is a reflection upon a decision of the Senate and, as such, it is out f>f order.
– I also rise to order. The question is distinctly argumentative and, therefore, contrary to the Standing Orders.
– I uphold the points of order, but I remind honorable senators that I am not called upon to justify my actions. If any honorable senator disapproves, he may take advantage of the forms of the House and move that my ruling be dissented from.
I say respectfully to the honorable senator that I think his question was in rather bad taste.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade been directed to a statement by the manager of the. New Zealand Snipping Company Limited which appeared in the London Financial Times of Tuesday last, to the effect that further rises in freight rates to the United Kingdom would occur unless operating costs were cut and turn-round substantially improved? The statement referred to the fact that the new Inciter rates negotiated last year did not fully cover increases in costs up to the time they were negotiated. Has the Minister seen the statement to which I have referred? If so, what steps is bo taking to learn whether the statement is true and if it is what does he propose to do to prevent an increase that would constitute a further burden on Australian export industries and a threat to our overseas markets?
– I am sorry to say I have not seen the statement in the English press to which the honorable senator has referred. As to the second part of his question concerning what steps should be taken) my recollection of the position is that the overseas freight rates between Australia and Great Britain are a matter for contract between shippers and the shipping lines. I think these contracts are so arranged to terminate on a set date at the end of August, but with, I think, some provision that if a new contract cannot be re-negotiated on. terms satisfactory to the shipper and shipping company, the Government is then called in to arbitrate. I think it was in that capacity that my colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), was called in some months ago. He was successful in arranging for new contracts to be completed at a lower rate than that which was requested at that time by the shipping company. If I am correct in those recollections, then it means that when the present contract expires there will be a series of negotiations which will culminate again . in the Government’s coming in, through its Minister, to negotiate and arbitrate and, I hope, to reach a conclusion which will obviate the difficulty foreseen by the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister responsible for the maintenance of the exterior of Parliament House. I call his attention to the coat of arms which adorns the roof of Parliament House. On it, the Australian national emblem, the kangaroo, appears to be suffering from a bad attack of mange. Will he direct thu attention of the responsible Minister to this defect with a view to remedying it?
– Order ! I remind honorable senators that the usual procedure is to direct questions relating to Parliament House to the President, and to give notice of them.
– I am sorry. I thought a Minister was responsible.
– - The exterior of Parliament House is the responsibility of the Joint House Department. I will have the matter looked into and see that the kangaroo is rectified.
– I am sorry. I did not know the position. I thought the. question should be directed to the Minister for the Interior.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, supplementary to Senator Wardlaw’s question. It relates to freight rates on overseas cargoes and I preface my question by reference to a brochure to which I referred last week and which contains a summary on these things. It states that since 1947, when ships were handed back to the control of the Overseas Ship-owners Representatives Association, export freight rates have increased by an average of only 50 per cent. It goes on to say that this is much less than the interstate freights and points out that since 1947 interstate shipping freights from Sydney to Fremantle have increased by 192 per cent, and those from
Sydney to Melbourne by 343 per cent. Oan the Minister comment upon the suggestion that interstate shipping should take over the functions of the Overseas Ship-owners Representatives Association and provide an Australian-United Kingdom service, having regard to that comparison of costs, namely, 50 per cent, as against 192 per cent, and 343 per cent. ?
– The only comment I can make is that, comparing the relative increases in the cost of shipping around the Australian coast with that of shipping overseas, it would be a brave government, indeed, that decided to venture its operations further afield in circumstances in which one of its greatest problems is to reduce our cost level:
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether, in order to assist in the promotion of wool production, he will give some consideration to the question of lifting the ban on the export from Australia of quality wool sheep.
– I will refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Primary Industry, and obtain an answer for her.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether his attention has been directed to the announcement that, the Hospitals Association of New South Wales has refused to obey .the instruction of the New South Wales Hospitals Commission to cut hospital expenditure by .1.0 per cent. Did the Menzies Government last week, through its Minister for Health, inform a deputation that New South Wales hospitals could expect no further assistance from this Government? Will the Menzies Government take acting to compel the Hospital Contribution Fund of New South Wales, which is an association connected with the Medical Bene.fi’ i Fund of Australia Limited - an organization controlled by the British Medical Association, whose funds have bren built up to many hundreds of thousands of pounds as a result of the patronage and benevolence of the Menzies Government - to disburse portion of its funds in order to prevent the closing of beds in hospitals, which ave now so desperately short in supply that at all hospitals there is a waiting list of many weeks, except for most urgent cases?
– I think the honorable senator should have addressed hi3 question to the Premier of New South Wales, as the hospital position in that State is entirely the responsibility of the State Government. 1 remind the honorable senator that the present Australian Government has paid out, through it? hospital bed cost scheme, a far greater sum than did the previous Australian government. I suggest that the honorable senator would do a greater service to the hospitals of New South Wales by sending his question to the Premier of New South Wales than by asking it in the Senate.
– I ask the Leader of the Government a question supplementary to that asked earlier by Senator Ashley in respect of the trip to England by Victoria Cross winners. Has the Leader of the Government read a statement which appeared in yesterday’s press, made by Sir George Holland, federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, in which he stated that no other government in the British Commonwealth had been so generous in meeting the expenses of its Victoria Cross winners; that all that the Returned Servicemen’s League had asked had been granted; and that the league had received from the Victoria Cross winners, many letters of thanks? Is this not sufficient proof that the Menzies Government has acted fairly and wisely in’ this matter?
– I have not seen the reference mentioned by the honorable senator, but I have been informed by the general secretary of the returned soldiers’ organization, and by other officials, that they are more than satisfied with the generosity of the
Menzies Government and with its attitude towards, and its treatment of, Victoria Cross winners in relation to their projected visit overseas.
COMMONWEALTH COURT OF CONCILIATION AM Jj ARBITRATION.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform me of the present state of construction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration building in Melbourne?
– I do not think that the construction has proceeded very far. I understand that the excavations have been completed, but as I say, I do not think that the actual construction has proceeded a great distance yet.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. 1 note that yesterday in another place the Minister for External Affairs tabled papers concerning the serious position that has arisen in respect of Singapore, and also a paper concerning the constitutional conference in relation to Singapore. Is it intended that the Senate should debate those matters at an early date?
– The papers have not been made available to me, but in view of the honorable senator’s question I shall raise the matter with my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, and endeavour to make arrangements to have the papers tabled in the Senate to-day.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport say whether he has given consideration, since his acceptance of ministerial office, to the question of establishing the head-quarters of the Commonwealth Railways at Port Augusta, in South Australia, in place of the head-quarters in Melbourne, where they are at present, having regard to the fact that Port Augusta is at the intersection of both Commonwealth railway lines? If so, can he make a statement on the position? If not, will he have a look at the matter?
– Senator Benn asked me a somewhat similar question a few days ago, to which I replied that I had given attention to this problem soon after my appointment to the Ministry. I examined the position, but my examination led me to the conclusion that it is an ever so much more convenient and effective arrangement to have the headquarters of the railways in Melbourne. It is true, of course, that the main railway activities, as such, take place at Port Augusta, but that overlooks the fact that much of the business obtained by the Commonwealth railways flows from the States and is done in conjunction with the railway systems of the States. It is equally true that the traffic control and a good part of the administrative detail are attended to at head office; but, notwithstanding that fact, it has been found, over the years, that it is more convenient in every way that the policy head-quarters of the railways should be located in Melbourne.
– My question, which is addressed to the AttorneyGeneral, relates to the construction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court building in Melbourne. In view of the Minister’s reply to Senator Wright, will lie consider ceasing the constructional work that is now in its preliminary stages in Melbourne, and also consider whether it would not be more desirable to construct the building for the court in Canberra, its proper place?
– I think it is somewhat premature, at any rate, to contemplate the possibility of the court being shifted to Canberra, although, from a long-range view, there is quite alot to be said for that being done. The fact is that, in any event, the Commonwealth is very short of court space in the capital cities, and even if the kind of movement which the honorable senator contemplates took place, good use could be made by the Commonwealth of the building which is being erected and which, at the present time, is intended for the use of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services consider simplifying the forms which have to be completed by applicants for age and invalid pensions, particularly with regard to property qualifications, details of ancestry, and so on, so that there will not be so much confusion among aged people when they come to fill in these forms?
– I suggest to the honorable senator that if she has in mind a particular proposal or suggestion for the simplification of the forms, she should send it direct to my colleague, the Minister for Social Services. I know that there has been a continuous attempt to make the forms as simple as possible and, of course, the department believes that the forms are now as simple as it is practicable to get them. However, I am sure that the department would welcome any suggestion for their further simplification. I think the honorable senator will appreciate that this matter cannot be dealt with in general terms. It is for that reason that I suggest that she should send her proposals to the Minister for Social Services direct.
Will the Minister explain the principle on which decisions were made to appoint distributing agents in Australia for the timber products of Commonwealth-New Guinea Timbers Limited ?
Have distributing agents been appointed in all States and, if so, what are their names and addresses?
I am advised by the directors of CommonwealthNew Guinea Timbers Limited that it was decided that, in marketing its product, the company should endeavour to work in harmony with the established Australian plywood industry. The company selected distributors from among companies of good standing. The company’s policy also was, as far as possible, to appoint more than one distributor in each State.
Distributors have been appointed inall States except Tasmania. There is also a distributor for the Northern Territory.
With the consent of the Senate I shall incorporate in Hansard the list of distributors. It is as follows : -
New South Wales
Amalgamated Timbers Proprietary Limited, 221 Coward-street, Mascot.
Apera Veneers and Plywoods Proprietary Limited, Namba-street, Hunters Hill.
Associated Plywoods Proprietary Limited, Duck-street, Auburn.
Leopold Barnett Proprietary Limited, 113 York-street, Sydney.
Brett’s Timber Agencies Proprietary Limited, Shed 212, Hale-street, Botany.
Cenco Plywood Distributors Company Limited, Commercial-road,Rozelle.
Crockett and Company Limited, 150 Broadway, Sydney
Dickson Primer and Company Proprietary Limited, 73 Day-street, Sydney.
Elder Smith and Company Limited, 4 Bridgestreet, Sydney
Faulds Henderson and Company Proprietary Limited. 20 King-street, Sydney.
Gibbs Bright and Company Proprietary Limited, 37 Pitt-street, Sydney.
Glebe Timber Company Proprietary Limited, Commercial-road, Rozelle.
Gollin and Company Limited, 50 Clarencestreet, Sydney
HarrisonsRamsay Proprietary Limited, 52 Clarence-street, Sydney.
Lismore Timber and Hardware Proprietary Limited, 86 Woodl ark-street, Lismore.
Moore Le Messurier Proprietary Limited, 58 Margaret-street, Sydney.
Moxon and Company (Sydney) Proprietary Limited, 10 Duncan-street, Sydney.
Oakley and Company Proprietary Limited, Storey-street, Rozelle.
Plywood Agencies Proprietary Limited, 34 Jamieson-street, Sydney.
Plywood Manufacturing Company Proprietary Limited, Piper-street, Leichhardt.
Ron Relton and Company Proprietary Limited, 3 Terrace-road, Dulwich Hill.
Union Timber Company Proprietary Limited, 16 Punch-street, Balmain.
Bretts Timber Agencies Proprietary Limited, 140-160 Marystreet, Brisbane
Gibbs Bright and Company, 406 Queen-street, Brisbane.
Harrisons Ramsay Proprietary Limited, 150 Mary-street, Brisbane.
Australian Timbers Limited, 49 King William-street, Adelaide. Elder Smith and Company Limited, Curriestreet, Adelaide.
Gibbs Bright and Company, 27 Grenfellstreet, Adelaide
Globe Timber Mills
Gunnersen Le Messurier Limited, 110 Lipson street, Port Adelaide.
Harrisons Ramsay Proprietary Limited, 02 Pirie-street, Adelaide.
Harris Scarfe Limited, 74 Grenfell-street, Adelaide.
South Australian Plywood Distributors Association, 12 Pirie-street, Adelaide.
Blockey Stone and Company, 268a Lonsdalestreet, Melbourne
Cabinet Timber Trading Company, 89 Cityroad, South Melbourne
Elder Smith and Company Limited, 499 Bourke-street, Melbourne.
Gibbs Bright and Company, 34 Queen-street, Melbourne.
Gunnersen Nosworthy Limited, 67 Yarra Bank-road, South Melbourne.
Harrisons Ramsay Limited, 4 Bank-place, Melbourne.
Chas. Rouche Proprietary Limited, 15 Peelstreet, West Melbourne
John Sharp and Sons Proprietary limited, Lorimer and Johnson streets, South Melbourne.
Gibbs Bright and Company Limited, Perth
Harrisons Ramsay Proprietary Limited, Perth
Millars Timber and Trading Company Limited, Perth
Millars and Sandovers Limited, Darwin
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– I now answer the honorable senator’s questions in the following terms:–
It is the generally accepted practice for shipping costs to be separated’ into two main categories for accounting purposes, namely - (a) Running costs or hire, which includes depreciation, interest, insurance, maintenance and survey, stores, crew wages and management, and (6) voyage expenses, which includes all port charges and stevedoring as well as bunker fuel. These items of expense are charged, as incurred, direct to and become merged in the many separate voyage accounts, as being related to the cargo working of a particular vessel. Bearing in mind this dissection of costs, the answer to the question is -
The total running costs of vessels of the Australian Shipping Board for the last completed annual accounting period was £4,997,864.
The percentage relationship between the total running costs and the cost of crew wages (including masters, officers and ratings of all departments) for the same period was 38.33 per cent.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of the concern felt for the health of the children who found a radio-active cobalt capsule in Sydney recently, will the Minister have prepared a general report setting out in non-technical tonus the extent of medical knowledge of the effects of the exposure of the human body to radio-active substances?
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply : -
Radio-active substances act by giving ofl h number of type* «f rad’ations associated with their slow disintegration or breakdown. Minute quantities of these substances occur in rocks and soil throughout the world, and give rise to what is known as natural background radiation, without observable effects on thu huiun.il body. In particular mines and in certain countries, this background radiation is greatly increased. Where radio-active substances are more .concentrated, and radiations over a minimum level, or tolerance dose, are received by the human body, there are effects on living tissue. All degrees of cell damage may be produced up to complete death of the cell. To illustrate this, small quantities of radiations falling on the skin cause inflammation and redness, with loss of hair. Larger doses cause blistering of the skin. Still largerdoses cause death of the skin with ulceration. Repeated small doses of radiations cause dryness of the skin, warts, cracks, and eventually skin cancer. Different parts of the human body are more sensitive to radio-active radiations than other parts. Among the more resistant tissues to radiations are muscles, the liver, the kidneys, nerve and fibrous tissue. The most sensitive parts of the human body to these radiations are the germ cells of the sex organs, the blood cells, the tissues that produce the blood cells, the skin and mucous membrane (or the soft internal lining skin of the nose, lungs, digestive tract, &c.). Whether the radiations affecting the human body arise from radio-active substances outside the body or are absorbed into the body bv breathing or swallowing, the blood is damaged, giving rise to various forms of anaemia.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
State Governmental Road Safety Councils. - New South Wales - Road Safety Council of New South Wales. Queensland - Queensland Road Safety Council. Tasmania - Road Safety Council of Tasmania. Australian Cap’taTerritory - -Road Safety Council of the Australian Capital Territory.
State non-governmental Road Safety Councils. - Victoria - Victorian Road Safety Division, National Safety Council of Australia. South Australia - Road Safety Division, National Safety Council of South Australia. Western Australia - Road Safety Division, National Safety Council of Western Australia.
National organizations -
Governmental. - Department of Defence ( representing the three services, Army, Navy and Air Force).
Non-governmental. - Australian Automobile Association, Australian Road Transport Federation, Auto Cycle Council of Australia, Council of Fire and Accident Underwriters, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Federation of Motor Cycle Importers and Distributors of Australia, and Transport Workers Union of Australia.
The annual cash allocations to the individual States are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Administrative Arrangements Order, that the report stressed the importance of the order and that, among other conclusions, the report recommended that the statements in the existing order should be reviewed?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board oh the following subjects: -
Chokes or ballasts used in fluorescent lighting.
Greaseproof and glassine papers.
Magnesium sulphate. “ Wibau “ bitumen-mixing plant.
– As Chairman, I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject : -
Erection of a community hospital at Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from the 16th May (vide page 793), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time..
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be omitted, with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “owing to the fact that all existing television licencesin two States have been granted by the Government to corporations constituting in effect combines of newspaper, radio broadcasting and associated interests which already monopolize to a large extent mass communication of information to the people of Australia, and owing to the danger to the public interest and true freedom of expression being caused by newspaper concerns further extending their control over mass communication including radio broadcasting and television - the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted so as to include -
specific safeguards against detri mental monopoly practices by guaranteeing to the general public and to religious, educational, cultural, political and social organizations opportunities for a fair and just share of ownership or control of commercial broadcasting and television licences and a fair and just use of the facilities of such services;
.- Just before the Senate adjourned last night, I was dealing with a certain aspect of this measure which related to the problems that it posed in regard to decentralization. I pointed out that the introduction of television into Sydney and Melbourne would be one more means of discouraging people to leave the cities for the more vigorous life of the country. I suggested that, as television was just one more amenity, in order to foster the decentralization of our people it was necessary to encourage the introduction of regional television at the earliest possible time. I do not desire to pursue that matter further and shall, therefore, pass to my next point.
Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), Senator Kennelly and speakers on this side of the chamber dealt with the matter of a quota for Australian artists. The bill at present before the Senate envisages a quota of about 5 per cent. for Australian artists. The Opposition suggests that the quota should be more in the region of 55 per cent. When the original legislation with regard to television was introduced, in 1942, by a Labour government, a quota of 21/2 per cent. was provided. My own view is that the principle of a quota is wrong. Whenever a quota is prescribed, there is a tendency to work up to the quota, but not beyond it. The real test of any entertainment is its quality, and for too long we in Australia have had an insular attitude towards entertainment. I suggest that that attitude is a form of inferiority complex. We do not need quotas in Australia, because our artists have proved their quality throughout the world in the field of broadcasting, particularly in commercial broadcasting. There is a danger in having a quota. The natural and proper thing to do is to provide the best possible entertainment for the Australian listening and viewing public. If we are required to have a quota, we shall adopt an entirely false approach in broadcasting and the entertainment provided will suffer. I suggest that if we leave quotas completely out of the question, we shall have a much higher percentage than 5 per cent. of Australian artists engaged in television and broadcasting, and their entertainment will be of high quality. Therefore, I am not very enthusiastic about the principle of quotas. All my instincts tell me that the only guide in this regard should be quality. Australia is a young country. It has made tremendous progress in all fieldsof science, and our development has been magnificent.
Honorable senators have had distributed to them a document entitled Television Programme Standards, and I was surprised to learn that the code of standards will apply to commercial television but not to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I know that the commission has set very high standards, and I am one of its admirers, but the situation might change. On some future occasion, it might be necessary to apply the code of standards to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, just as it applies now to commercial radio. I do not believe that there should be any distinction. If we have a code of standards, it should apply generally. It is not a proper legislative approach to the problem to say that, because the Australian Broadcasting Commission has not transgressed in the past, we will not make it subject to the code. The bill should include a provision that the code shall apply in all circumstances.
I can foresee, great difficulty in the interpretation of the code of standards. We should give maximum freedom to broadcasting and television stations, but, at the same time, we should avoid licence. A perusal of the code of standards shows clearly how difficult its interpretation will be, and I should like to include some portions of the code in Hansard, because I believe that it will be of great significance in the future. At page 2 of the document, Television Programme Standards, this statement is to be found under the heading “ General Programme Standards “-
Fundamentally, these standards require the observance in television programmes of -
ordinary good taste and common sense;
respect for the individual opinions of the public;
proper regard for the special needs of children; and
respect for the law and social institutions.
They are fairly broad standards, and I think that we can adhere to them. Paragraph 8, at page 3, states -
The following particular applications of these standards refer to a number of aspects of programmes on which great care is needed in production : -
Certain basic requirements must always be observed : no programme may contain any matter which is -
blasphemous, indecent, obscene, vulgar or suggestive ;
likely to encourage crime or public disorder;
All honorable senators have heard radio programmes which, in our humble opinion, could easily encourage crime and public disorder, particularly among children. The code of standards continues -
I can foresee certain difficulties. We have all been reared on a literary diet of Dickens, Shakespeare and Bernard Shaw. I could suggest certain works by those authors to which some of the standards could be applied. Some of the plays of Shakespeare are gruesome and deal with murder and crime, and they could have a serious effect upon the minds of some children. Paragraph 16, at page 7 of Television Programme Standards, contains special provision for family and children’s programmes. It states -
At certain times of day, particularly in the late afternoon and early evening, and during week-ends and holidays, the television audience is likely to contain large numbers of children and young people. Programmes to be televised at these times should, therefore, be wholly suitable for viewing by children though not necessarily directed exclusively to them. There are special problems to be faced and special responsibilities to be discharged in the production and presentation of programmes during these periods. These arise mainly from the overriding consideration that children are very vulnerable to the impact of television. The child’s education and training receive very close supervision, both by his parents and by the State, so that by the time he reaches maturity he may be able to fit into the complex adult world with a minimum of difficulty. To achieve this goal the child must gradually acquire a sound standard of values, self-discipline, and an appreciation of adult responsibilities.
I remind honorable senators that at first there will be only fifteen hours a week of television; that is, approximately two hours a day. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) suggested that there should be no television between 6.30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The problem is obvious. On one hand, we shall he required to provide special features for children, but on an average there will bo television on only two hours a day. It has been suggested that nothing should be done to disturb the peace, quiet and harmony of the home between 6.30 p.m. and 8 p.m. If we follow that plan, the children will be sitting up after8 p.m. to listen to adult programmes. or they will see very little of television. I have had the doubtful pleasure, with my wife, of viewing television in Canada, the United States of America and Great Britain. We were fascinated by it. We found that, socially, it was disastrous, because guests in the home were taken into a dark room and sat with their eyes glued on the television screen. There must be some sort of discipline associated with entertainment. The children were apparently glued to their seats while they watched television. In those countries where there is television, children have to be driven by their parents to do their homework, and then they rush to the television set.
Yesterday, Senator Wedgwood gave a dissertation upon the treatment of children in the home when television was introduced. I had the impression that Senator Wedgwood was talking about her generation when she spoke of discipline. The discipline that she described might have applied when she was a child, but there is a different attitude to children to-day. The modern form of discipline is more co-operative than it was when I was a boy. It is impossible to do everything for the children that Senator Wedgwood suggested yesterday. To-day, we do not bully our children as was done years ago. When I was a boy, I had to sit at the table quietly with my hair properly brushed, and I did not speak until I was spoken to. I did everything almost by numbers. To-day, the attitude to children is different. Discipline is maintained by moral persuasion. We try to take them into our confidence a little more than our parents did with us. It will not be as easy as Senator Wedgwood suggested. It will not be a matter of merely applying parental control and telling the children that they shall not watch television. They will watch it while their parents are out. They will watch it when they are at other people’s places ; and they go to other people’s places more than we did in the olden days. Hardly a week goes by without their going to a party at the home of some other little boy or girl. They will watch television there and then ask us why they cannot watch it at home when little Johnny or someone else down the road is allowed to watch it. It is not going to be easy. In my view, that will be the major problem connected with television.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the main question is inflation!!
– Although 1 was born and bred in a Scottish atmosphere, I must confess that I cannot understand the honorable senator. In any event, I will not be drawn away from television to inflation. The position as I see it is that in the programme of standards as circulated to us we say, in effect, that it shall have special reference to children. At the outset, I point out that we shall have only fifteen hours a week at the beginning. Of necessity, the major portion of that time will be at night after the hour when children should have gone to bed. Again, on the face of it, we are to have programmes which will be hardly suitable for children. Frankly, I confess that although I might be critical and destructive in connexion with this problem I do not know ‘ what the constructive answer is; and I do not think any of us knows it. I should think it would be a mixture of all the techniques that have been recommended here, with a little of what Senator Wedgwood suggested and a little of what is set out in the standards as circulated to us.
No doubt, they have a set of standards overseas; but one of the things I noticed with television there was that there was a terrific tendency to show programmes which deal with social problems. At the risk of being called old-fashioned, I must say that I do not think such programmes add much to the scheme of things. For instance, in New York we had the experience of viewing the sordid story of a girl who had gone bad, who had got herself into trouble, and all that sort of thing. Although they might have argued that that programme was not shown during the time allocated to children, it seemed obvious to me- that probably thousands, indeed millions, of children saw that television broadcast. If they felt half as disgusted and nauseated over it as we did, it must have done irreparable damage to their character building Here, it is interesting to note that accord ing to records and statistics in America sub-teeners and teenage children watch the television for an average of about fourteen or fifteen hours a week. If that is so, honorable senators will appreciate the tremendous impact this medium must have upon them. I hope that it will be possible to evolve a system under which there will be a definite time for children’s programmes, perhaps somewhere between 5 and 5.30 p.m. so that at least definite provision will be made for them to view television; and I hope that the programmes will be of the widest possible scope. They should be kept on a nice plane. I do not think that attempts should be made all the time to educate children by television. It should be in the form of entertainment while the rest of the programme for the evening should be kept until a period well after 8 o’clock when all kiddie3 should have gone to bed. I do not want to be regarded as a kill-joy in this matter, but, in my opinion, after weighing all aspects, that would be the better method.
One other point occurred to me last night when the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) attacked the term for which television licences were to be granted. He complained about the fiveyear period. He missed the very obvious point that if any capital expenditure is to be involved in any project, the people who risk that capital are entitled to some security of tenure from the beginning. If people are to be asked to invest capital and then work on a yearly or biennial basis, it is obvious that we cannot hope to attract the type of capital we desire in these ventures. Where a scheme involves the investment of some millions of pounds, it is obvious that, subject to their conforming to certain rules, people who risk their money should have some security of tenure right from the outset. That is as elementary an aspect as one could find in connexion with an economic problem, and I was rather amazed that the Labour party should take the view that it was wrong to give such security. People who will be speculating their shareholders’ capital on these projects should be given some security of tenure.
I conclude by saying that television is a wonderful medium on the one hand but a very dangerous one on the other. It is something that we must watch very carefully in order to prevent its taking control of our rising generation of children. We must ensure that it shall be conducted on the basis of entertainment and that it shall not be exploited on the pretext of providing education. [ have a great antipathy to people who want to be continually moralizing, who want television, plays and stories that seek to jamb some moral down people’s throats. Such programmes often defeat their purpose. My experience in America in particular, and, to a lesser extent, in Great Britain, was that they were falling for that error. They were trying to give the people special forms of television to save their souls, but, for the main part, they were merely nauseating them and setting up a situation that might be bad for any children who might be watching.
– When we reflect for a moment or two on some of the most important innovations in the world over the past decade or so, our minds settle for a while upon television and the hydrogen bomb. Television, of course, is a means of mass communication while the hydrogen bomb, as is very well known, is a means of mass destruction. To-day, of course, my remarks are not directed to the hydrogen bomb as a means of mass destruction; what I have to say relates to mass communication. I noted that previous speakers are a little fearful about the introduction of television to Australia. They have related their experiences in connexion with television overseas and recounted some . of the things they have seen ; but all that they have said has not influenced my opinion on television one iota. It is my firm belief that if we had had a’ more progressive government during the last six years television would have been operating in Australia at least since 1954. It is a modern means of mass communication, and Australia must not be allowed to deteriorate into a backward country. Other countries have had television for years. They still exist, and I feel sure that we can have it also and still proceed upon our happy way. When I hear them express their fears, it seems to me that they have entirely overlooked some of the instruments of propaganda and some of the means of communicating ideas to the public. I have in mind those small books known as comics, which are sold in large numbers by all the book stores throughout the Commonwealth. One has only to observe the actions of children when they enter those book shops. ‘ Immediately they rush to the nearest comic counter and examine what is there. If honorable senators were to look at one of those booklets they would find in greatdetail a murder fully explained on every page, and perhaps two on th< cover. That sort of thing has gone on for a number of j ears, and the books are sold mainly for use by children - although I hi. re seen some adults reading them, also. The books are delivered into the hands of the children, and their effect is definitely, deleterious and subversive of a high moral standard. Honorable senators know that the sale of that kind of literature has increased over the. years. Only one State in Australia has taken any action to control the sale of comics. No one could say that they are published for the purpose of improving the knowledge, or moral standard of children. This ruinous kind of literature can only injure their minds.
Another kind of literature is written and published with the intention that it shall fall into the hands of adolescents. An examination shows that it is pornographic to an extreme. Only recently, a journal that is published in Sydney and that emphasizes sex matters, had its sales curtailed or banned in the State of Queensland, and the proprietors of that publication protested to the Queensland Government. Their concern was not about the contents of the journal and its ruinous effect on the minds of adolescents; they were concerned lest the curtailment of its sales should result in smaller profits for them.
The cinema has operated for many years in Australia, but no one can say that the films displayed have always brought wholesome knowledge and education to the minds of the public. Recently, I asked a friend of mine whether he had been to see a certain film, the title of which I mentioned to him. He thought for a while and then replied, “ No, I have not been to the pictures since they increased the admission charge to1s.”. Let us go to the best of our talkies and enjoy the entertainment if we will, but let us think for a moment about those whom we are watching. Often the leading actress has been married five or six times and divorced as often, and in the film she is shown engaged in some great love drama, the sordidness of which becomes immediately apparent. That kind of entertainment has been available for many years:
I direct the attention of the Senate to an advertisement which appeared only this week in a newspaper which is on sale in Brisbane, and probably throughout the Commonwealth. It reads -
On sale to-morrow - New “ Week-end “ now increased to 30 pages.’
It is 36 pages of slush and filth. The advertisement goes on - 8 pages of pictures.
Probably they are like the one which honorable senators see displayed on its front page - 3 pages of sport. 4 pages of entertainment news,6 pages of fiction.
But what attractedmy attention was this passage -
Bead . . . “The Blonde from the Jungle “. The most dramatic adventure serial ever published by this - or any other newspaper. When you read it you’ll understand why!
That is the kind of literature designed purposely for the adolescent, and not for perusal by the average senator in this chamber. Over the years, the minds of the young people of Australia have withstood that kind of attack. First of all, there have been the comics with their messages of murder, rape and thuggery, all of which they seem to glorify and try to present to the children in a most interesting way. Then there have been certain publications and special literature dealing chiefly with pornography; and last if not least, the cinema. In spite of all these things we can still beproud of our Australian youth and the moral standards of the public. We see nothing wrong with them. When dealing with subjects of this kind I am reminded of the words of Shakespeare -
O benefit of ill! now I find true That better is by evil still made better.
In spite of the cataract of slush and filth that has been pouring into the minds of the children, adolescents and adults of Australia, the general moral standards have not been affected. It has not affected me in the slightest degree, and 1 know, Mr. Acting President, that I can say the same for you.
– That sort of thing was not so prevalent when the honorable senator was an impressionable adolescent.
– Television has now come into the field, and although safeguards have been suggested I, personally, have very little confidence in them. I am reminded of the standards outlined in a booklet submitted to the . Senate recently entitled Television Programme Standards. My first question is why similar standards have not been applied to radio programmes, because some of these are deplorable. If any honorable senator questions my opinion, let him tune into a radio programme between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on any day and he will hear a series of Harlem ballads. The numbers played have no rhyme, reason or music, and they cannot be classed as entertainment. Why such records are allowed to be broadcast is more than I can understand. In spite of all the talk of censorship and standards many of these programmes, as well as many records coming into Australia, contain nothing but slush.
Perhaps I can leave the future of television to television, but I have another fear, which is probably shared by many honorable senators. It concerns what this Government has done by presenting to the newspaper companies of Australia licences to operate television. It has kept radio closely associated with the newspapers over the years, and now that television is about to be introduced to Australia, the Government is allowing that medium also to fall into the laps of the big monopolistic newspaper companies operating in Australia. I propose to unfold slowly the whole sordid story associated with this matter. The Government is guilty of a social crime in doing what it has done in this respect. We speak about mass communication, but when we speak of television and the radio in that respect, we are only speaking of half the. story. We do not tell the whole story.
That is the premise of our second fear. 1 state, as a simple fact, that the Sydney Morning Herald, which is operated by John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited, which I understand is now a public company, holds approximately oneseventh of the shares issued in respect of 2GB radio station. Associated Newspapers Limited, which publishes the Sydney Sun, and in which John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited has a substantial interest, has a controlling interest in radio station 2TJE.- There we have two newspaper companies with two broadcasting stations.
I pass from Sydney to Melbourne, where I find that the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, which publishes the Melbourne Herald, has a controlling interest in Queensland Newspapers Proprietary Limited - that is, the Brisbane CourierMail and the Brisbane Telegraph. I pause for a moment to point out that in Brisbane we have two metropolitan daily newspapers, both of which are owned by the Melbourne Herald. There is monopoly in a practical form if honorable senators wish to see it. It also is the principal shareholder, with 1,149,620 ordinary shares of 2,688.000 shares, in Advertiser Newspaper Limited, which publishes the Adelaide Advertiser. The Melbourne Herald, functioning in Melbourne, owns and controls the Brisbane Courier-Mail and the Brisbane Telegraph, and has at least a half interest, 1 should say, in the Adelaide Advertiser.
The Herald and Weekly Times Limited holds the licences for radio stations 3DB and 3LK. Queensland Newspapers Proprietary Limited holds the licences for 4BK Brisbane and 4AK Oakey. Advertiser Newspaper Limited holds the licence for 5AK Adelaide and controls 5MU Murray Bridge, 5PI Crystal Brook and 5SE Mount Gambier. The Sydney Morning Herald, which has h. close association with Sydney Sun. operates two broadcasting stations, 2GB and 2UE. The Melbourne Herald, which controls the Brisbane’ Courier-Mail and the Brisbane Telegraph, and which is closely interested in the Adelaide Advertiser, is financially interested in eight broadcasting stations. They are 3DB Melbourne, 3LK Lubeck, 4AK Oakey, 4BK Brisbane, SAD Adelaide, 5MU Murray Bridge, 5PI Crystal Brook, and 5SE Mount Gambier. There is the means of communicating with the masses, if we like!
Western Australian Newspapers Limited publishes the West Australian, in Perth, and has a half interest in West Australian Broadcasters Proprietary Limited, which controls stations 6IX, 6WB, 6MD and 6BY. There is another company to be mentioned, and that is M.P.A. Productions Proprietary Limited. That is a company incorporated in Victoria in 1949. Two public companies, registered and- carrying on business in England under the names of Daily Mail Newspapers Limited and Sunday Newspapers Limited, hold equal shares of the: issued capital. M.P.A. Productions Proprietary Limited owns all of the shares in Broadcasting Associates Proprietary Limited, which has shareholdings in several companies holding licences for commercial broadcasting stations. The stations in which it holds 28,000 shares are 2GB Proprietary Limited, Sydney, 2LF Young, 2LT Lithgow, 2MG Mudgee, 2PK Parkes, and 2WL Wollongong. Broadcasting station 2GB Proprietary Limited, in which the Sydney Morning Herald holds 7,000 shares, holds 42,000 shares in the companies to which I have just referred, so that the whole of the companies are interlocked.
The newspapers, of course, have not been bashful about the introduction of commercial television. It is true that the Government appointed a royal commission to investigate the whole question of television, but that was a case of appointing Caesar to investigate a matter in favour of Caesar. The story will unfold as I proceed. The newspaper companies will take a very active part in commercial television, just as they have in respect of radio broadcasting. For instance, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sun and the Sun-Herald hold 300,000 shares of the 794,000 shares of Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited,- which will operate station ATN later this year. Nobody will doubt for a moment that the newspapers will then lack power to communicate with the people. When we speak of the power of a few people to communicate to the public their ideas on the national economy and social questions, we have in mind the power that undoubtedly exists in the hands of the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Sun and the Sun-Herald to do this. The daily circulation of the Sydney Morning Herald, is 309,000, whilst that of the Sun is 310,000. The Sun-Herald, a weekly newspaper, has a circulation of 500,000. The combined weekly circulation of the three newspapers published by the same group of shareholders is 1,209,000 copies. ‘ No wonder the Liberal party was eager to deliver into the hands of the newspaper companies licences to operate commercial television stations!
As I stated previously, those newspapers have considerable financial interests in radio stations 2UE and 2GB, the latter station holding 42,000 shares in radio stations 2LF Young, 2LT Lithgow, 2MG Mudgee, 2PK Parkes and 2 WL Wollongong. Will any honorable senator deny that the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Sun are monopolistic in their attitude and their actions? What kind of a service will they provide for the Australian Labour party, which is constantly opposed to monopolies, when they commence to operate the television station to be known as ATN? We do not expect anything from them, of course, because we know their attitude towards the Labour party. We know how they practice various forms of publicity which are directed particularly against members of the Australian Labour party and the party itself.
Consolidated Press Limited - the Sydney Daily Telegraph - owns 569.000 shares in Television Corporation Limited, which will operate station TCN. Associated Newspapers Limited of England, which publishes the London Daily Mail, is also a shareholder in this television company. The Daily Telegraph has a daily circulation of 314,000, and the Sunday Telegraph added, the weekly circulation is 846,000 copies. By granting a television licence to TCN, the Government has shown that it approves of monopolistic interests being placed in control of mass communications. Consolidated Press Limited also holds many shares in radio station 2KY, Sydney.
One of the television stations to operate in Melbourne will be HSV, and it will be operated by Herald-Sun Television Proprietary Limited. The Melbourne Herald has an 85 per cent, interest in this station. In addition, it owns the Brisbane Courier-Mail. I reiterate, that the Brisbane Telegraph owns a major part of the shares in the Adelaide Advertiser.. The Melbourne Herald has a daily circulation of 427,000, the Brisbane CourierMail, 220,000, the Brisbane Telegraph, 151,000, and the Adelaide Advertiser, 169,000. The Herald and Weekly Times Limited also publishes the Sunday Ma.il in Brisbane, which has a weekly circulation of 273,000. The total weekly circulation, of the newspapers I have mentioned is 3,513,000. T reiterate that this newspaper company now operates the following radio stations: - 3DB, Melbourne; and 3.LK, Lubeck ;’ 4BK, Brisbane ; and 4AK, Oakey: 5AD, Adelaide; 5MTJ, Murray Bridge’; 5PI,’ Crystal Brook; and 5SE, Mount Gambier. The Melbourne Agc holds more than one-third of the shares of the television station in Melbourne known as GTV, which will be operated by General Television Corporation Proprietary Limited. The Melbourne Argus is also a shareholder in this company. The Age has a daily circulation of 125,000 and the Argus. 166,000. Their combined weekly circulation is 1,746,000. TV radio broadcasting stations in which thp.se two newspapers are interested are 3SR, Shepparton; 3UL. Warragul; 3YB, Warrnambool; SAW, Melbourne, and 30V. Maryborough.
The weekly circulations of newspapers controlling or having great financial interests in radio stations and commercial television stations are as follows: - the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Sun, and the Sun-Herald group, 1,209,000; the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegrapn S46,000; the Melbourne herald, the Brisbane Courier-Mail, the Brisbane Telegraph, and the Adelaide Advertiser, 3,518,000 ; the Age and the Argus group, 1,746,000.- Ihe total WeeKly circulation of the newspapers which are interested in radio, and which will be interested in television through the four commercial television stations about to commence will be 7,314,000. So that here we have an oligarchy of newspaper men capable of really crushing the independent expression of ideas by any member of the community in respect of politics, social service questions or any other matter.
They will have their own methods of dealing with any one who for a moment questions their ideas or their business actions. If they wish to do so, they will be- able to attack him on every day of the week. Therefore, in a week, the attack would be published 7,000,000 times. It is important, 1 think, that I should bring this matter to the notice of the Senate because it is evil to place in the hands of a group of directors the power to influence, first governments, and subsequently, the people. They do control the instruments of propaganda in Australia to-day, and they certainly will not exercise that control in the interests of the Labour party.
All of these newspapers are part and parcel of the Liberal party organization, and the Labour party will not have an opportunity to set out any of its ideas in relation to any questions if these companies decide it shall not be given such an opportunity. Of course, the fact is that the Government has been a willing party to this arrangement. Supporters of the Government have asked whether the Labour party tried to get a television licence. Of course, we did. But the Liberal party did not have to try at all, because the newspapers, which represent Liberal thought and support Liberal action, were going to get, and in fact did get, television licences, and they will operate the television stations in the interests of the Liberal party.
I shall give to the Senate an illustration of how they function at present. If there is a young man in the community who is about to get married, and who has saved £1,000 and wishes to devote that money to the construction of a home, he will find that he cannot obtain the necessary additional finance from any banking institution in Australia. But will the newspapers that I mentioned a while ago, which have a combined weekly circulation in Australia of 7,000,000 copies and control twelve radio stations, attack the policy of the Government that allows that state of affairs to continue? No, they will not say a word about it. They will not even comment on it and, because of their silence, members of the Labour party are justified in assuming that they approve of it. Of course, the real fault lies in the fact that nobody knows what the Government is doing. By their silence, the newspapers will assist the Government very much. The main organs of propaganda to-day are the press, the cinema, the radio and now television. By whom are they controlled? In Australia, they are in the hands of a few people. - a group of four or five newspaper directorates, who constitute an oligarchy, as I have said before. They. could be a government unto themselves. They can start a propaganda campaign on anything, and I do know that they adopted a certain line of propaganda in order to gain the licences which the Government has so magnanimously given to them. “What will happen in connexion with future licences? I am able to tell the Senate now what will happen. Nobody thinks for a moment that there will not be a clamour for the establishment of television stations in the States other than New South Wales and Victoria. The people of the other States will not be prepared to pay taxes in order to enable national television stations to be operated only in Sydney and Melbourne. In the not-far-distant future, the Government will have to decide to whom licences to operate commercial television stations in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania will be granted. In my opinion, the Brisbane CourierMail and the Brisbane Telegraph will be the first to get commercial television licences in Queensland; the Adelaide Advertiser will get a licence to operate a television station in Adelaide, and the West Australian, another true-blue tory newspaper, will get a licence for Western Australia. I leave it to the Tasmanian senators to work out for themselves what company will be granted a licence in Tasmania.
L come now to the aspect of the matter relating to the cost of living. Who is going to pay for the advertisements that will be featured by the commercial television stations? Whatever cost is incurred must be passed on to the consumers. One cannot have costly advertisements on television, radio or in the press without the consumer being called upon to pay. All this advertising will eventually increase the cost of living. Far too much advertising is practised in Australia at the present time. It is totally unnecessary and is one of the things that the Labour party, if in government, would set out to lessen immediately because the consumers of Australia have to carry the total cost of all advertising. Every one knows that bookkeeping methods permit companies to write off advertising costs by adding them to the prices of the goods being manufactured or sold.
When television is introduced hirepurchase companies will flourish first of all in respect of the sale of sets. That will bring profit to private banks, the bosom friends of honorable senators opposite, for whom they are so solicitous. Furthermore, hire-purchase companies will profit because the ordinary necessities of life will be procurable to those who purchase television sets only by further using the services made available by the hirepurchase companies.
Senator Kendall interjecting,
- Senator Kendall has interjected about the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have no confidence whatever in the commission. If it does not function any better in respect of television than it has in respect of radio it should be abolished entirely and the whole business put into the hands of a Minister. The Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are, to-day, nothing more than adjuncts of the Liberal party. It is time they were, cleaned up.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has employees who are designated journalists but who are, in fact, only newsgatherers round the town, and whose chief qualification is that they have had a period of membership in the Liberal party. A clean-up will come some day, and the first city that I would start on would be Rockhampton. I say that from my personal knowledge. Let us have television. It should have been introduced a few years ago. Notwithstanding the great advantage it will give to the Liberal party, the Australian Labour party will still be able to defeat its opponents.
– It is with very much pleasure that I support the bill now before the Senate. First of all, I should like to congratulate the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) on his excellent handling of this measure. He has been most industrious and untiring in his endeavours to see that every section of the community and every aspect of this very important matter has been given fair and just consideration right throughout this legislation. It is a most important piece of legislation. Although we have just listened to a most depressing speech by Senator Benn, which made one feel that there can be no good in anything, I believe that television is one of the greatest instruments for good that we could possibly possess. It is the responsibility of the people who view and hear things, and the people who are in charge of the introduction of television to see that it shall operate for the good of our country. The Government accepts that responsibility and, I believe, will discharge it worthily.
This bill needs a great deal of careful consideration because legislation such as this will affect all of us very greatly indeed. Television will go right into the homes of the people. Australia has lagged behind other countries in this matter but I believe it is now taking a step forward in introducing this legislation and thus taking its place among the countries which enjoy “it. In 1935, when this matter was first discussed in the United Kingdom, the people there faced the same problems and the same arguments which we in this Parliament are facing now, and I believe that it is important that we should remember some of those problems so that we shall not suffer from the same difficulties that they experienced. We have had the benefit of the experience of other people who have been in this field for so long.
I was fortunate in that I was working in London in 1936 when some of the very early work in connexion with television, took place. I should like to tell a lttle story I read in the press concerning the birth of television. It is interesting on this occasion to be able to recall the small beginnings of this great and important factor that is becoming so vital in people’s lives. I take Senators, as the article does, to No. 22 Frith-street in London, a quiet, dimly lit house, where we meet a person who has since become very famous - John Baird, who is about to give his first television demonstration. It is a murky night. There in London, during January, 1926, came the historic day which was to witness the birth of this amazing invention. Nearly 40 scientists accepted Baird’s invitation to an evening demonstration. The article tells us that they arrived in evening dress and found themselves queueing in a narrow upstairs passage, while groups of six at a time were taken into the two attic rooms forming the laboratory. There they televised one another’s faces. This occasion, in a quiet room in that part of London, was declared by John Baird to be the first, public demonstration of true television ever given. Other scientists were, of course, experimenting, but no demonstration of any other system was made until April, 1927. We read that Baird’s first pictures were made up of thirty strips and the picture-shape was seven inches high by three inches wide. The image flickered considerably.
What a change we see now. All over the world in country after country the great adventure in this particular field has been taken. I remind honorable senators, as I think Senator Wedgwood did last night in her speech, that television during the last few years has tended to bring countries closer together. We have viewed great historical events and have perhaps learned to understand each other a little better. We remember how the great nations of the world viewed the coronation of Her Majesty and took a special interest in that great historical event, all because John Baird, on that memorable night in Soho, gave the first demonstration of what was to be such a very important invention.
Let me turn again to the story of television in Great Britain. The advent of television has not only provided new educational facilities and new forms of entertainment, but also has proved of very great defence value in the establishment of the- electronics industry. Surely nobody in this chamber will quibble at any field of endeavour which can in any way contribute to the security and welfare, of the country. I am reminded of the words of Professor Appleton, which I quote -
Britain’s work in the development of Cathode Ray T.V. on the ultra short waves before the war was an important factor in conditioning the British radio industry, for its important work of manufacturing entirely new radar equipment before and during the war.
Sitting suspended from 12.4-5 to 2.15 p.m.
– I consider that it is wise to remind honorable senators that the growth of television throughout the world has been of immense importance to the people of many nations. In some countries its progress has been truly remarkable. In Canada, the first television station was introduced iri .1952, and already there are 32 transmitting stations and more than 2,000,000 receiver? in that country. Therefore, we must, realise the tremendously important part that television plays in Canada. Before the end of 1957, Italy will have no fewer than 84 television transmitters, and Germany will have 34. According to the statistics of Unesco, there are no fewer than 58 countries in the world which have already established television or will establish it shortly. Thirty-six of those countries are already operating television stations, and many more will come into use during the present year. Therefore, in view of world events, it is right that Australia should now take its place among those countries which are exploring the important field of television.
Of course we shall have problems when developing this new entertainment medium, but we realised that, nn-1 because we did so, soon after the original legislation was brought down in 1953 a royal commission was set up to consider how best the Government’s policy could be carried out. That commission has done excellent work in arranging for our policy to be applied correctly, and consequently to-day we have before tha Senate a measure which will give effect to Government policy, and which has indeed been founded largely on the recommendations of the commission.
We are greatly indebted to the members of the Royal Commission on Television. They have done a splendid piece of work, and have gone into the whole matter of television thoroughly from various viewpoints. They have faced up to the problem involved in introducing television to Australia, and ! believe that if television is introduced gradually along the lines recommended by the commission, there is no reason why it should be harmful to the nation or why it should harm any one at all from the economic or social viewpoint. T believe, on the other hand, that television will be of great benefit to the community and to all those who may be able to take advantage of it.
T shall now devote some attention to television and broadcast programmes, because much discussion has centred around those matters. To-day, we in Australia enjoy many very delightful broadcast sound programmes. Those who arrange the programmes are to be congratulated on most of them, and on some which are particularly splendid. I pay a special tribute to the programmes of church services, bible readings, education and all those programmes which mean such a tremendous lot to people who live alone or are ill in hospital - indeed, to all the shut-ins who cannot enjoy all the things that we who are healthy and who are able to move about can enjoy. Broadcasting has brought a great many advantages to many people, and I believe that television will be just as big a boon to those people. and even to many others. When television is introduced we will more than ever realize the tremendous importance of good, programmes, and it is of paramount importance that a very high standard should be established and maintained. I stress again that high quality programmes are most important, and in saying that I am supported by the second-reading speech of the Minister, who said -
Because of the importance of this, the field of television programmes should develop gradually and in relation to the availability of high standard programmes.
A grave responsibility rests on our shoulders as listeners or viewers, because we are able to express appreciation or disapproval of programmes. All viewers and listeners have the right to say whether they disapprove of programmes, and when television arrives we must exercise that right; if we disapprove of the standard of programmes used by the various stations, we should record that disapproval. However, because of this the high standard of programmes that has developed in the broadcasting field, I believe that we shall also have a high standard in television.
Perhaps we can never really appreciate or over-estimate the great importance of programmes which children will see. It is of tremendous importance that all such programmes shall be of a very high standard, and it is a joint responsibility of parents and governments to ensure that that shall be so. Personally, I hope and believe that we shall have programmes of a very high standard. We learnt a lot from the recent visit of Miss Field, who came here from the J. Arthur Rank organization and told us of the importance of children’s films. Films are greatly enjoyed by children, and good films are good for them. I suggest that if good programmes are televised for children, the children will greatly benefit from this new medium. A great deal can be done to teach children, particularly in special programmes designed for them. At present there are special programmes broadcast for children, which teach them a great deal, and I can imagine how much more we can teach them if we develop television along the right lines.
For example, there is the important subject of road safety. A great deal could be done to teach children road safety measures through television. One learns much more quickly by seeing a thing than by hearing about it. Those remarks may be linked up with what I have said before in this House on road safety. In England in 1936, special centres were set up where children could learn about road safety through the use of small or miniature motor cars. Such centres did highly important work in the teaching of road safety. Something along the same lines could be done through the medium of television. In England it was found that children learned much more quickly by seeing than by hearing. That being so, television will become highly important as a visual aid to learning in other fields as well as road safety.
Great work has been done in the past by broadcasting teaching programmes to New Australians, and I believe that that work can be continued and improved after television has been introduced. Of course, there is a. much wider field of education than that involved in teaching children. We can all learn from television, because this wonderful invention which science has made available to us will give us the opportunity to bring into our lounge rooms the whole world and all its wonders. Thus, our horizons will be widened and our knowledge greatly increased. Through the use of television, and through its development, we shall in the future be able to see, as well as hear of, events of the greatest importance that take place in other countries of the world. People who visit this country can tell us much, but I believe that; in television we have an instrument which ran play an enormous part in the dissemination and development of knowledge.
We can learn of other countries, what they’ do and what they have done in the past, and through scripts written about our own country we can learn about current events and our past history. Taking all that into consideration honorable senators will agree that television will be of great benefit to this country. I believe that it will be an invaluable medium for improving the general standard of education.
Reference has been made in this chamber and in the House of Representatives to the participation of Australian actors and script writers in the provision of television programmes. We all enjoy the work of Australian artists, and hope that they will play a large part in this new field of television. As time goes on, I hope that Australian artists will have a greater share in the programmes. We know that when their work is good, it is received widely, not only in Australia but also in other countries. Three years ago, when I was in London, I was interested to hear on the radio a line from an Australian song. I had had the privilege of speaking with the composer when he was a serviceman. He had composed the song in the front line, and when I heard that song broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation, I had a personal interest in it. To-day, he is well known for his part in the programmes of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and his work is eagerly sought.
If Australians can give us good work and enjoyable entertainment, Ave will want to see them on our programmes as often as possible. I see a great future for Australian writers, actors and entertainers in the television field. 1 am sure that all honorable senators will wish them well in the new venture. We must remind ourselves, however, that we ought not to tie ourselves to any particular form of programme. We want the best that Australians can provide, and the best that we can obtain from overseas. The important thing is to maintain the high standard of programmes.
We must understand, also, the high costs of producing programmes for television, and that applies particularly to live artist television shows. I have been handed a newspaper cutting which states thai one hour of a dramatic show for television costs £20,000, and a show lasting half an hour, and using five or six sets, costs £10,000. Such costs must have a marked effect upon our programmes. That is one of the problems that faces the Government in introducing television.
I agree with the decision of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) to hasten slowly, but I regret that all States are not to receive the benefits of television in the early stages. I regret that only Melbourne and Sydney will be served at first and that other States, including my home State of Queensland, will not have television for some time. We have the assurance of the PostmasterGeneral, however, that other States will bo included in the television programme as soon as possible. We want the greatest number of people to have the benefit of this great new influence in the community. Commercial television depends largely upon advertising for finance, and an extension of the sources of revenue should help to reduce production costs. An extension of television, therefore, is important from that point of view.
There is a great desire among people to join the viewing public. A recent, gallup poll showed that nearly 40,000 Melbourne, homes will have television sets in the first year of television. That illustrates the tremendous interest that is being taken in television. I hope that adequate facilities will be given to telecast operators for experimental work so that every possible improvement in technique will be introduced.
Finally, I remind honorable senators that this exciting and important step forward will be of value, not only for entertainment and educational purposes, but also as a contribution to defence. The establishment of television will mean the training of technicians and other personnel who will form an important reserve in this electronic age. I believe that Australia cannot afford to be without television. We must go forward with other countries. Whether television will be introduced in our own homes is a matter for personal decision, but cannot hold back the tide of progress an> more than King Canute could hold back the waves. It is our responsibility to ensure that television works well. It has come to us, and we accept this miracle which has been passed on to the world by John Baird from his little flat in Soho. If we do not have television, that will not be the fault of the scientists oi’ the technicians.
We, the viewing public, will have the last word, and we should not hesitate to speak if we do not like the programmes that are shown to us on our television system. It is our responsibility to do so. If we accept that responsibility, and insist from the start on programmes of a high standard; if we maintain that standard, and have the best Australian artists and producers and the best works from overseas, I believe that we shall be assisting education and encouraging a greater knowledge of world affairs and, indeed, sense of kinship. Television, as it is extended, will relieve the loneliness of people in distant areas. It will bring the world to our door, and will give us a greater understanding of one another and of the other nations of the world. I. hope, therefore, that this great service will be developed on the broadest basis, and that we shall also have the advantage of television for the electronics industry in the sphere of defence.
It will mean a new field of occupation, a new field of pleasure, a new field of education and a new field of employment for Australians; and, indeed, I believe it will bring a great deal of interest and pleasure to all of us. Let us ensure, by exercising all possible care and accepting our responsibility, that television programmes are kept always at a high standard. Let us become noted in other oountries of the world as a nation that started with a high standard of programme and which has maintained that standard. Let us open great new avenues of interest to all, but let us open to the children in particular ever-widening horizons which we at their age could never have dreamt of. If we do that, we shall have a greater knowledge of the world and its people; we shall have a widening knowledge of our own Commonwealth of Nations. Through that greater knowledge of peoples and places we should develop a greater understanding and feeling of good neighbourliness between ourselves and other parts of the world. Television can be a great factor in- promoting goodwill because it should give us a greater understanding of the problems of other nations through the fact that contact with them is brought right into our homes. If we accept our responsibility to make the standard high and to keep it high, television can be of great benefit to this country.
– The Opposition does not dispute the importance of the medium we are discussing to-day. We are in full accord with the contributions that have been made by honorable senators on the Government side who have stressed the importance of this medium and the great part it can play in the promotion of culture and the advancement of the Australian way of life. Senator Anderson, however, raised the issue of quotas for Australian artists. He said that the’ Opposition should , not be too critical of that provision in the bill because, in 1942, the Labour Government -provided for a quota of only 2£ per cent. I was accused this morning of trying to misrepresent the honorable senator; it would seem that he is trying to misrepresent the Opposition in this respect. I remind him that section 88 of the Broadcasting Act, passed in 1942, the provision relating to the encouragement of local talent, says -
Tile Commission and the licensee of eac] commercial broadcasting station shall, as far as possible, give encouragement to the development of local talent and endeavour to obviate restrictions of the utilization of the services of persons who, in their opinion, are competent to make useful contributions to broadcasting programmes.
That is definite enough. It goes on -
Not less than two and one-half per centum of the total time occupied by the National Broadcasting Service and not less than two and one-half per centum of the total time occupied by any commercial broadcasting station in the broadcasting of music shall be devoted to the broadcasting of works of Australian composers, produced cither on sound records made in Australia or by artists actually present in the studio of the broadcasting station concerned.
I emphasize that these provisions related solely to the broadcasting of music and suggested that so far as it was possible to do so there should be complete utilization of Australian artists and producers.
Senator McCallum claimed that this new medium of publicity would not be used solely to the advantage of the Government and endeavoured to point out that the Opposition would in fact enjoy a greater share than would the Government. That is going a bit too far. I am not concerned about the- opportunity for publicity that will be available to political parties, because no doubt the bill will seek to ensure that there is equality in the allocation of time. The real issues are more important to Australia than the question of whether the Government has failed to give sufficient protection to Australian artists in connexion with this new medium of education and entertainment. A royal commission was appointed to inquire into and make recommendations upon the introduction of television into Australia, but it gave very little thought to the technical aspects of the question. I propose to deal briefly with those technical aspects. It would seem that the main objective of the commission was to determine who should be the holders of licences; and, on that point, suffice it to say that long before the commission had completed its deliberations it was common knowledge as to who were to be given licences. In actual fact, the commission’s terms of reference did not include technical matters, and for that reason no authority, organization or individual made any submissions on the technical aspects of television. Such technical evidence as was adduced before the commission was impromptu and was given mostly in answer to questions.
The most serious and most important point about.the issue of the licences is that they were allocated in the VHF, or very high frequency, band and this has completely hamstrung the future development of television in Australia. Experience in America has disclosed that to change over the VHF system to the dual system is very costly, and that this makes it almost impossible to adopt the much wider range of frequencies in the UHF, or ultra-high frequency, band. In considering the introduction of television to Australia we should have due regard for its future development and expansion. The need for this care is brought home to us when we realize that the Postal Department is having great difficulty now in meeting the demands for telephone services simply because of lack of foresight in earlier days. One of the chief impediments in the way of obtaining a telephone to-day is the fact that insufficient cables have been laid for the services required. A similar position exists in regard to television. So great is the impediment on the national . development of America through the use of very high frequency channels that the Federal Communication Commission in America is now considering proposals for a change embracing a dual system known as the de-mixture, which will cost the people of the United States more than a billion dollars.. It is essential, in order to avoid the very costly mistakes that were made in America, that Australia, should have a long-term plan.
The Menzies Government broadcasting and television advisers will have to produce a frequency allocation plan which will provide for a long-term expansion of television services throughout the Commonwealth without such technical restrictions as are being experienced in the telephonic field. When I refer to technical restrictions I mean restrictions that will be made because of the limitation of channels. At the outset, in order to avoid serious economic difficulties, it is essential that such a plan should provide facilities to enable people in the outback, as well as those in the cities, to enjoy television services.
Ten channels have been allocated in the very high frequency spectrum for television, of which seven are available immediately. Another, No. 3, has a limited availability, and a range of only 50 miles. Two other channels, Nos. 4 and 5, will be available in 1963. Advice has been received from radio electronic experts that seven very high frequency channels will not be capable of coping with the expansion of television in Australia. Even when the other three stations are available the service they provide will be only a drop in the ocean.
Australia should be guided by the experience of the United States, where television services have been not only very costly, but also inconvenient to the people. Indeed, services were suspended in 1948 so that the position which had developed because of the lack of channels, could be cleared up. The Menzies Government and its supporters have advocated private enterprise and competition as a means of providing service to the people at reasonable cost. They have advanced those views in this chamber and on the public platform whenever opportunity has presented itself, but the Government’s policy in regard to licences has made competition impossible, and telecasting will suffer. The result will be that, instead of having competitive services, an artificially created monopoly will exist.
At the beginning of 1946, in the United States of America, six transmitters were serving about 30,000 television receiving sets. To-day, after a decade, there are more than 450 television stations in operation, and the American people have purchased more than 36,000,000 television receiving sets. That is an example of the rapid expansion of television in that country. A nationwide network of stations has been established from north to south and from east to west. Australia with its sparse population and wide, open spaces will need more channels to reach viewers than would be required to serve the huge population of the United States. The revenue from broadcasting in America has reached billions of dollars a year, and far exceeds the income from radio broadcasting. That is another indication of how television will develop, lt will probably develop far more rapidly than did sound broadcasting.
In Great Britain, in 1946, immediately after the war, the one British Broadcasting Corporation television station resumed operations with about 25,000 prewar receiving sets in operation but despite the prevailing economic difficulties it established a network of powerful broadcasting stations, and manufacturers produced and sold 5,000,000 receiving sets which, the corporation claims, are now used by more than 9,000,000 viewers. I have described the great advances made in both the United States and Great Britain, and similar advances will eventually take place throughout the world. One can only conjecture what progress will have been made in television in Australia by 1960, or in ten years’ time. Industries manufacturing television sets in Australia will be somewhat handicapped by lack of experience.
The production of television programmes involves considerable cost. No station originating programmes can produce them at a profit. I do not mean to imply that stations will want to make huge profits, but unless they have sufficient outlets for their programmes they will not be able to produce high quality performances, because that cannot be done cheap,y. They must have facilities of circulation. If programmes are made in Australia they will be circulated to other stations. As an example, two commercial stations and one national station in Melbourne will be able to exchange programmes. Problems arise also in regard to decentralization, to which Senator Anderson referred this morning. It will be necessary to have additional channels not only to provide for the people who ‘live in outback areas, but also to ensure that the stations that originate programmes shall have the opportunity and the facilities to send their programmes throughout Australia.
American experience has proved that net-working and syndication of programmes are essential if good programmes are to be provided. Television, even when under responsible control, has its social problems. The maintenance of a wholesome programme content, together with brilliant’ showmanship, requires the expenditure of a great deal of. money, so that it is essential that all possible facilities should be available at the outset. In the interests of money-making, and in order to attract greater audiences, the originators of television programmes will demand the maximum outlet, and that will mean the provision of additional channels. If television in Australia were to be operated on a national basis only, perhaps the number of channels that have been allocated would be sufficient; but the Government, in its wisdom, has determined that a commercial system should run parallel with the national system, which will result in a greater demand for channels. We might speculate on the method of assigning the few channels that will be available after the allocations have been made. Will those channels be available to the national stations or to the commercial stations? Will the commercial transmitters be required to radiate national programmes, or will they be allowed to radiate only commercial programmes? lt is not difficult to envisage the pressure that will be brought to bear on future stations by the originators of programmes in Sydney, the national and the commercial interests struggling to obtain outlets for their pro ductions. Such an arrangement will not be very acceptable either to the stations or to the people.
The national system should be separated from the channels of the commercial stations. That suggestion may, perhaps, be questioned on the score of cost, and in that light, let us examine the costs involved. A television station in a capital city will have a huge investment, comparable to that of a soundbroadcasting station. As a matter of fact, the requirements of a television station are almost the’ same as those of a soundbroadcasting station. A capital city television station that is the ‘ originator of programmes must have all the technical requirements of a soundbroadcasting station, to meet syndication needs. A television station really is constructed on the same basis and furnished in the same way as is a motion picture studio, with all the costly equipment, sets, lighting gear and costumes that are required for filming and syndication. Therefore, it is essential that all the facilities that are necessary should be available.
Country stations will not necessarily require all the costly studio equipment that the station that originates programmes must have, but will depend largely on syndicated or network programmes and may use their cameras only for local sporting and other special events. They will be in a position similar to that of country broadcasting stations. Much of the syndicated television material will reach the country areas as special radio programmes reach them to-day, and that being so, there will be great need for the provision of adequate facilities for distribution. Therefore, T claim that the seven channels at present available will not be sufficient properly to cover the country areas.
The establishment of television stations in country areas will not be a costly process. I understand that, in America, the cost of meeting all the requirements of a country station is approximately’ 50,000 dollars. When I refer to country areas, T do not mean the far out-back, but fairly large country towns. If the city and country stations were to be linked, as broadcasting stations are, the stations in country areas would be, in effect, satellite stations. As I have said, the equipment required for such stations costs, in America, about 50,000 dollars, not including the cost of building the station, and some other items.
The lessons that have been learned from television in other countries are written on the blackboard plainly for the people of Australia to see. This Government, the technicians, and all those who will be responsible for the introduction of television in Australia, should respect those lessons, particularly those gained from the experience and the mistakes of the Americans. I suggest that television planning in Australia should include ultra-high f requency as well as very high frequency channels, and that those channels should be segregated in islands of service areas. That is to say, on the New South Wales coast, for instance, where reception might not be good, perhaps the ultra-high frequency, which it is claimed is able to penetrate anywhere, would be most suitable. If the channels were segregated and a dual system introduced, the manufacturers in this country would know the kind of sets to manufacture for the various areas. Certain limitations are being placed on the use of the spectrum under the system that is being introduced to-day. What I have suggested would enable the television sets to be tuned in to the ultra-high, f re- ‘quency band in the future.
I come now to another technical aspect of the matter in relation to television masts. Prom experiments that have been conducted - including one in Sydney only a few weeks ago - it has been found that when the mast is not high enough, what are known as ghost images appear on the screen. Engineers and experts have commented on the system known as co-masting that has been adopted in the United States of America to prevent this. Under this system, one mast is taken to a sufficient height to obviate ghost images or other forms of interference. One problem that arose in America from the adoption of this system was the inevitable disputation as to who would have the highest point, and who the lowest point on the mast. American technicians overcame that difficulty by arranging for all of the points to he of equal efficiency. This was done, I think, by means of the channel system. This system is widely Used in America, where the masts rise, in some instances, to a height of 1,500 feet. As I have said, this system has overcome the problem of shadows and ghost images appearing on the television screens. I have already suggested the separation of very high frequency and ultra-high frequency channels, by segregating them in islands of service areas, in order to achieve equality of transmission efficiency. This ‘would benefit the purchasers of television receivers.
I contend that, at each transmitting centre, there should be provided spare, but technically comparable, channel facilities for the future expansion of the national and commercial systems. In my opinion, television should be introduced on a national basis, and developed in such a manner as to be capable of expansion to include ‘ a commercial system in the future. Every care should be taken to ensure that television will operate in the best interests of the people of Australia. The spare facilities I have mentioned should be established on the basis of the estimated population of Australia in ten or twenty years’ time. We should ensure, by the foundations of the television service that are now being laid, that there will not arise in the future, difficulties and impediments such as have been experienced in connexion with the telephonic service, due to lack of channels. Up to a point, telephone cables in the telephone system are roughly equivalent to channels in a television system. If the manufacturers of television receivers were told by the Government that very high frequency and ultra-high frequency channels would be segregated in islands of service areas, doubtless they would design and supply appropriate sets to the retailers in the various service areas.
I shall now revert to the matter of quotas, with which I dealt briefly at the commencement of my speech. Senator Anderson endeavoured to ridicule the Opposition’s suggestion, based on representations that have been received from various categories of artists who will be concerned in the production of television programmes, that a quota of 55 per cent, should be allotted to Australian artists, and he stated that, in a measure that was introduced by the Labour Government in 1!)42, a quota of 2$ per cent, was specified. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has stated in another place that it would wreck television to specify a 55 per cent, quota for Australian artists. That is nonsense, because Australian artists have made names for themselves overseas, and in that way have advertised Australia.
I have before me a categorized list of artists who have declared themselves to be in favour of a 55 per cent. Australian quota. The list includes theatre artists, producers-directors, radio artists, announcers, sports commentators, film artists, popular song vocalists, song writers and composers. In it appear such well-known names as Leonard Bullen, Sir Lewis Casson, Minnie Love and John McCallum. Altogether 23 categories of artists appear in the list. 1 shall not go right through the list, which is somewhat formidable. It includes 276 names, and_ they are only the first twelve names in each section of ;i much longer list. I have before me a letter from: Gordon Sandison. who is -the general secretary of the British Actors Equity Association in London, and it is addressed to the Actors and Announcers Equity Association of Australia, 23t> Pitt-street, Sydney. It reads as follows: - i can imagine the spate of problems which face you in connexion with the introduction of commercial and national television. We have had a basinful of trouble ourselves, though we are beginning to bring the situation under control.
On the general question of the importation of foreign material, I think it essential that some barrier be erected. Wo have reached an agreement with the Independent Television Authority limiting foreign filmed material to seven hours per week out of a transmission time of 50 hours. Pour hours of the seven may bc spread over the peak period (after 7 p.m. in the evening).
That is over SO per cent.; yet we find Government supporters in another place ridiculing the representations made by those, the people concerned, and saying that 55 per cent, would be too large a quota.
Another matter I desire to touch on briefly is a statement made to the Royal Commission on Television by Mr. Moses, the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He said -
The only appropriate means of guarding against an excessive use of imported material is to stipulate that there shall be a minimum percentage of Australian material in all programmes (national and commercial) in much the same way as the Broadcasting Act provides that at least 2£ per cent, of music broadcast by all radio stations shall be Australian.
That provision, of course, was introduced by the Australian Labour party. Mr. Moses continued -
Apart from the obvious need to prevent the flooding of Australian television programmes with cheap overseas films of poor quality, it is desirable, both in the interests of our artists and writers to encourage the development of Australian drama, that all television programmes should include an appropriate minimum percentage of Australian material whether “live” or on film . . . Moreover, by giving adequate opportunities to local talent, avenues would be open for the exportation of the best Australian material, on film or as telefilms, to other broadcasting organizations, thus providing an excellent outlet for information of our country overseas which would help to develop a better understanding and appreciation of Australia. In fixing quotas, it must be realized that if they were merely to provide that an overall percentage of programmes shall be of Australian origin, stations would be free to do little or nothing in the way of developing Australian television drama or variety since the Australian proportion could easily be made up of sport, discussions, cookery demonstrations, &c. The intention of the quota would thus be largely defeated.
The recommendation of Mr. Moses is worthy of consideration. It would give an opportunity in this country to Australian artists, actors and producers who have proved themselves abroad. It would also make available programme material that could be used to advertise Australia in other countries.
I do not propose to take up further time. I urge the Government to ensure that this important medium shall be developed on the best possible basis, that a foundation shall be securely laid so that no .impediment will arise in the future. If a system of frequency modulation had been adopted in broadcasting instead of amplitude modulation we would have been able to provide for 1,000 broadcasting stations instead of the 156 stations that we have in this country to-day. That fact alone indicates that we should give some consideration to the use of the ultra-high frequency spectrum in this system, regardless of whether it is to be a dual system or solely a government-controlled system. This medium should be made available in every part of Australia, because those people who live in the ‘country have equal rights in this matter with those who live in the cities. People in the inland areas do not enjoy the amenities enjoyed by those in the cities. Therefore, a committee should be appointed to investigate further these proposals for the development of television in Australia. If that is done nobody will have ground for complaint.
A statement was made ‘the other day on the occasion of the first experiment that took place in television broadcasting. The chief engineer of Television Corporation Limited, Mr. J. N. Britton, gave the demonstration to the annual meeting of the Institution of Radio Engineers. Mr. Britton urged the institution to set up a committee to advise the Australian Broadcasing Control Board on frequency allocations for television. He said the committee should consider the following questions : -
Was it possible to provide enough licences to support a dual system of national and commercial television stations in competition using only seven channels?
Was it certain that channels four and five would still be available for television, in, say, seven years?
What additional channels were likely to become available and what might be lost?
That is not a statement made by a politician delving into the technical side with a view to seeing that the best system is introduced; it is a statement made by the chief engineer of Television Corporation Limited, and we can rest assured that he would have had the best advice possible. Therefore, in the interests of both national and commercial stations, a committee should be appointed to examine the decision that has been arrived at in regard to the allocation of channels and the possibility of utilizing the ultra-high frequency system, with a view to giving better service in country areas. If that is done,
Australia will get the service that it deserves and television will be introduced into this country on a sound footing.
– 1 rise to support this bill, and I do so with very great expectations. I feel that this is an epic occasion in the history of Australia, when we are at last introducing television into this country. Television, in my mind, is one of the most powerful engines of persuasion ever conceived. It can have an effect for good or evil according to the way in which it is managed, or mismanaged. Undoubtedly, it will have an effect on the lives of every Australian citizen, whether he owns a television set or not. One of the greatest dangers in the United States of America, in the controlling of excesses and the correcting of errors, has been those people who think they are not touched by television. They say that they never look at inferior programmes, or, maybe, that they never view television at all. But there is no immunity from television; there is no place to h:de from it. We each live alongside thousands of others, and it is not the one person who turns off the television set that counts, but the thousands of others who remain beside their sets who will make the impression in this country.
We as legislators shall be failing in our duty if we do not accept the responsibility of introducing this newest medium of mass communication, and we must ensure that it is wisely and fairly .administered for the good of the whole community. I was interested to hear Senator Cole say that he considered television was merely for entertainment. In my opinion it goes further than that’. It is a means of raising educational and cultural standards. It has numerous advantages over broadcasting. Senator McKenna said that it stimulates the eye and ear; but in my opinion it also goes further than that. It can stimulate the brain. It has the advantages of immediacy, and it provides a sense of intimate participation because the viewer identifies himself with the spectacle. It not only broadens horizons but it sharpens the awareness of events and ideas and, perhaps above all, it can stimulate discussion.
If television is to affect tie life of the nation, as it will do, honorable senators from both sides of the chamber must take the responsibility and watch carefully to see that it is an effect for good.. Television can be a godsend in a nation such as ours, which is geographically isolated, and therefore has offered limited opportunities to the masses who will now become the viewers, and also to the actors who will become the performers.
In my opinion we in Australia nave been forced in many cases to accept the mediocre. Unfortunately the appetite lives on what it is fed. I have heard commercial people boasting that they did not offer quality goods because the public preferred something else. We must realize that we accept motor cars with inferior fittings and a bad finish ; that we produce cloth that is excellently woven but spoilt by tawdry designs, cheap dyes and crude colours. We accept garments’ sewn with inferior thread, poor of cut and in limited sizes. We take shoes produced of inferior leather. We have no alternative to accepting those second-rate goods, and many manufacturers do not even produce first-quality goods in this country because they say that there is little demand for them.
I say that it is time that we overcame this national standard of “ that will do “. In introducing television we must introduce standards a little above the public taste in order to create a new demand. Sellers tell us that they give us what we want, and that sounds very democratic until we find that it is pernicious nonsense because the public has little opportunity to express what it wants, as the demand is created by the supplier and it suits him to keep up the supply of second-rate goods. If television possesses this notable power to affect our taste, we must control it with a strong hand.
We can learn from other countries which have, pioneered this field just how effective television is. It is estimated in the United States of America that the average person spends about 30 minutes a day with a newspaper, sixteen minutes with a magazine and 30 minutes a week at the movies. That is five hours a week on all three occupations. But, the average person spends fifteen hours a week viewing television. However, we find that the impact of television on children is much more severe than on adults when we compare the time that children spend at school with the time they spend viewing television. In America, children attend school five and a half hours” a day for five days a week for 36 weeks in the year. That amounts to 972 hours a year. But children view television for two or three hours a day seven days a week for 52 weeks in the year, which is 1,092 hours a year. Lt is quite obvious then that television has a much stronger effect on children than adults whose educational standards are established. However, the educational value of television does not entirely disappear with tho adult.
I therefore suggest that we must give special consideration to the programmes provided for children. We base our standard of living on family life, and television will affect family life intensely. It will change the everyday habits of the family including the habits of conversation. In England, before television, when one went out to dinner, there would be a leisurely meal and then some good stimulating conversation. To-day, if one goes out to dinner, there is a hurried meal and the rest of the evening is spent viewing television. We must see that the changes in home life are of a constructive nature and that interests are broadened and conversation stimulated.
I believe that it is important to ensure that the teachers employed to teach by television will have special gifts of personality as well as knowledge, so that they will be able to project their gifts to their audiences. We must also ensure that the subjects are mentally and physically stimulating and do not diminish interest. Unfortunately, television will occupy some of the time now being spent on hobbies, and therefore I consider that it is very important that a certain amount of time should be given to showing children how to make things for themselves in order thus to create new interests for them. Perhans they will then not want to view television as much as they used to. It is obvious that people who have many interests will not spend much time watching television.
I was interested to bear Senator Wedgwood say that the responsibility for the effect of television on children will lie with the parents. I am not ashamed to admit that my children used to bc able to beat me in matters such as that.. They are now too big for me to worry about them in that sense, -but children can beat their parents. They use intense wheedling measures to wear their parents down when they are tired. It seems to me that children are never tired when they want something. I was interested to hear Senator Anderson say that Senator Wedgwood’s remarks were related to her generation. I think that Senator Anderson is over-simplifying, the matter because in my generation I used exactly the same tactics with my parents as my children use with me. However, it is important that we should regulate the viewing hours for children.
I am sorry that the Government will not encourage licensees to give a break in the viewing time between fi p.m. and 8 p.m. I feel that young children should go to bed at 6 o’clock, and I have other views also about family life. The team spirit in family life is perhaps the most important part of it, and at 6 o’clock, when the mother is busy getting the evening meal, the children who are able to help her should be doing so rather than watching television. Apart from that, there is the homework problem, which is quite obvious. Even now it is difficult to induce children to do an adequate amount of homework. Television will be one more cross to be borne by parents when they try to get their children to do their homework.
I believe, however, that television can assist us in education as well as hamper us. I notice that the medium grade of television students in the United States of America, as compared with the students who learn only from school, are thirteen points higher in their results. Twenty-four per cent, of them reach A grade, and not one television student has failed. It is also interesting to note that, in the adult education course in the United States, the range goes from nineteen years to 68 years, with a medium of 37 years.
I am not one of those who believe that television cements family ties. Again, I revert to conversation. I believe that is one of the important things for a family - that its members can sit around a table and discuss, various subjects. Television could stimulate, such conversation if we ensure that there is a wide range of interests, and if we allow sufficient time for conversation. I repeat that it is necessary to have a break at meal times. When television is over, it could become a subject of conversation, and we must ensure that it is worth watching. We must be sure that it does not have a narrowing effect. We should, on the contrary, ensure that cultural subjects are constantly introduced.
I was interested to note in the booklet on television programme standards that provision is to be made for the introduction of current affairs for children. I suggest that that subject should be introduced for adults as well. If parliamentary proceedings are to be televised, I suggest that we, as adults, give up the idea of mud-slinging and undignified procedures, and allow the people who are viewing the proceedings to see their representatives discussing legislation with dignity. It is important, too, that we make sure that people who arc speaking over television use the best of language, accents and behaviour. That will tend to counteract some of the influences that are .current in our country at present. I know that my own children, when they were young enough, were influenced in their behaviour by what they read in comic cuts. Television will also influence behaviour and it is important that our standards should be high.
I approve the proposed dual system of national and commercial television stations. I do not agree with the Opposition that the issuing of licences to newspapers will create monopolies* I believe that there is most intense competition between the newspapers and the granting of licences to two newspaper combines in one city is the very thing that will keep the standard up. They will be competing with each other to get commercial people to advertise on their programmes. Undoubtedly, there is intense competition between newspapers and they are not, in my opinion, a monopoly. I cannot understand why we have limited overseas capital in the television stations to 15 per cent. We are encouraging overseas capital to come into Australia for developmental projects and it is a pity that we are limiting overseas capital in one sphere when we want it in others.
I am in agreement with the proposal that Australian artists should be assured a basic percentage of programmes, but I believe that it should be only a basic percentage. As good Australian artists become available, I am sure the licenceholders will utilize them more extensively. We are not lacking in talent in Australia. It is true that many of our artists go abroad to exercise their talents, and there is no reason why they should not do so, but television is a medium which could induce them to stay here and give us the benefit of their talents.
I turn my attention now to sport and television. In his second-reading speech, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) said that the possession of a licence was a public trust for the benefit of all members of our society. He said that we should exercise our responsibility to ensure that that trust was honoured. I do not think that the sporting bodies should be singled out for special treatment. We do not insist that the theatres should televise their shows. Sporting bodies have done tremendous work in pioneering the field of sport, providing facilities, and training the good players that we have in Australia, and they should be allowed freedom to decide how much of their programmes, or which programmes, should be televised. There can be no monetary compensation for the lack of spectators, ft is difficult to attract some players if no one is present to see them. In many cases, the spectators help to maintain the high standard of our sport. The sporting bodies have taught the players, and many Australian spectators, to play the game, and I am sure that they will play the game themselves, and see that the public are allowed to view sufficient of their performances through television, if they do not do so, I am sure the Government will introduce measures to meet the situation. I believe that the Government and the Postmaster-General have been most reasonable in allowing a measure of self-regulation of programmes for sporting and other bodies. I believe that they have done all possible to ensure that there will be the best in programmes, to improve taste and to stimulate the growth of culture in this rapidly maturing nation.
I think that a little more could be done to assist the parents of young families. Advisory committees are to be set up to assist the Broadcasting Control Board, and I suggest that there should be one advisory committee of young parents who could tell the board the effect of television on their children. It is useless to leave that matter entirely to educationists who rely mainly on theory. The young parents have the practical knowledge, and I suggest that there should be a special committee of young parents’ to assist the board. Our main responsibility is to see that television makes us think just as often as it makes us laugh.
– I do not desire to traverse the ground that has been covered by previous speakers in this debate. I believe I can make a contribution on one or two matters, but first I want to refer to a very important suggestion that was made by Senator Buttfield, who is also a South Australian. I propose to concur with her, to some extent at least, before the matter leaves my mind. She has suggested that an advisory committee should be appointed to advise parents on the possible impact of television ,upon Australian children. That is a very important suggestion. Whether it should be a research council appointed by the Government, or whether it should be appointed in some other way, is relatively unimportant, but the suggestion is valuable because speakers in this debate have differed sharply about the impact of television on the minds of children and of the people generally. Obviously, not enough thought has been given to that aspect of the proposal. The example we have of what has happened in other countries, particularly in the United States of America, should enable us to avoid some of the pitfalls encountered by other countries which have already had access to television. That is a very important matter, indeed. To illustrate the wide divergence of opinion on this matter, I remind honorable senators that whereas Senator Buttfield said she regarded television as a means of stimulating conversation, I have before me an. article from the Sydney Morning Herald concerning a survey, undertaken by the University of Southern California, which revealed that since the advent of television in that State conversation among children had dropped by 50 per cent, and reading had been all but forgotten. Perhaps, Senator Buttfield was quoting some other authority on the matter.
– I said it could be a means of stimulating conversation.
– It could be; but according to the experts who have investigated the matter, it acts as a barrier to conversation. That appears to be the considered view of most of the experts on this question. Then, if we are to judge from the clash that took place between you, Mr. Deputy President, and Senator Wedgwood in relation to events that occurred in your respective youth, it would appear that there is a great difference of opinion about the impact of this new facility. I reiterate that it is absolutely necessary that some consideration should be given to Senator Buttfield’s suggestion that a research council be appointed immediately to investigate and report on events that have taken place in other countries in connexion with television, with a view to preventing similar happenings in Australia.
Speaking of research, it is appropriate to point out that some time ago this Government, which has some responsibility so far as research is concerned, saw fit to dispose of a very valuable national asset that could have been of tremendous help in this field. I refer to the Commonwealth’s interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. It disposed of that undertaking at a time when consideration was being given to the introduction of television in Australia. It was obvious to the Labour party that the Government’s action in virtually giving away such a vital national asset at a time when television was beginning to take its infant strides in this country was an act of criminal folly. That organization could have been used for the purpose of experimenting and advising on all matters connected with the introduction of television. Government supporters cannot deny that. They cannot deny the fact that if that valuable national utility had been retained it could have made a tremendous contribution by advising on the introduction of television.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, outlined at length the terms under which licences are to be granted, the manner in which the various stations will be operated and many other matters; but he made no mention about what will be done in connexion with the making of television receiving sets and components. I notice with interest that the Sydney Morning Herald of the 28th September, 1954. stated that other countries were interested in this aspect of television. It is possible that at that time this Government had not given a thought to that matter. The article is headed, “ United States Firms to Fight For Australian T.V.”. It mentioned four United States firms which were interested. It referred to the Radio Corporation, the Dupont Laboratories and International Standard Electronics. It pointed out that they had studied the report of the Australian Royal Commission on Television and were waiting for tenders to he called. It said that they were ready to battle for the multi-million dollar market that will open with Australian television.’ That is very important; and it is obvious that no consideration has been given to the question of which companies in Australia will manufacture the things that are essential for the building of television receiving sets. This Government appears to have considered matters only from the wide, general point of view of the introduction of television. When television receiving sets are being built, I shall be interested to see who gets the contract and whether, as is usual, hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions of pounds, will go out of this country with the advent of television in Australia. We on this side will certainly keep a close watch on the situation ami will have no part in defending the American corporations which have already given a definite indication that they are interested in what can be made out of television in Australia. That is why it is to be regretted that the Commonwealth disposed of its interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited at a time when the technical knowledge possessed by those associated with that organization would have been invaluable in the initial stages in connexion with the manufacture of television receiving sets and the establishment of the services associated with them.
I como now to the question of monopoly. It has been stated and restated by honorable senators on this side that a monopoly will be created by the granting of television licences in the manner set out in the bill. This has been denied by honorable senators opposite, but that denial has not been convincing. It is interesting to note that the Minister stated in his second-reading speech that clause 40 of the bill imposes a limitation on the ownership and control of commercial television stations. He said - lu this connexion, I remind honorable senators that since 1935 there has been a restriction on the ownership or control of commercial broadcasting stations, no person being permitted to own or control, directly or indirectly, more than eight such stations in the Commonwealth.
If the lessons of the past are to be taken as a guide in this matter, I should say that those people who have monopolized the means of mass communication in this country for some time now will have no difficulty whatever in side-stepping what the Minister mentions in his rather ambiguous statement. We know that at the present time there is throughout Australia a net-work of corporations. Although, on the surface, it does not appear that any particular person is associated with more than one of those organizations, I venture the opinion that if we cared to follow the tortuous trail far enough we should find at some stage or other that these networks actually link up huge interests in this country; Just as that has happened in connexion with radio broadcasting, so I feel that we shall find that type of monopoly becoming the order of the day when television becomes firmly established in this country. We have an instance of what can happen in South Australia where, due to the mismanagement of a government of the same political colour as this Government, approximately 63 per cent, of the people live within 25 miles of the general post office in Adelaide. In the metropolitan area of Adelaide, there are three commercial radio stations, namely 5AK, SAN and 5AD. Two of those stations belong to newspaper interests in that State. The other, 5AK, is owned by five different bodies.
– Is not the Labour party one of those five?
– Fortunately, yes. There has never been any secret about that. Apparently, it has not been decided at this stage whether any immediate steps are to be taken towards introducing television in South Australia. I can see no reason why the initial stages of development should take place in the major States of Victoria and New South Wales, but no doubt the people behind the scenes have decided that that will be the order of the day. Perhaps I would not be far wrong in suggesting that some degree of pressure had been exerted in regard to this matter. When South Australia reaches the stage at which television is an accomplished fact, unquestionably the two newspapers, the Advertiser and the News, which at the moment have a monopoly of the means of communication as it applies to newspapers in South Australia, will extend their monopoly to the field of television, as they have already done in the field of radio. This is illustrated by the link between them and stations 5AD and 5RM. It is idle to suggest that there will be no monopoly of television in Australia.
As to the newspaper combines in Australia, I speak with no animosity towards press reporters. They have to earn their living, and are forced to apply newspaper policy, which they have had no part in framing. But newspaper journalism in this country has reached a very low ebb. That is illustrated by recent events, particularly in the State of New
South. “Wales, where newspapers have been engaging in most irresponsible campaigns against individuals and groups of individuals. Libel eases have been launched because some people have been courageous enough to thrown down the gauntlet to the big newspaper corporations, and incredible things have happened.
The scales of justice are weighted against the general public in regard to the dissemination of news in Australia. Admittedly, there is a law of libel, and people who may have been libelled by a newspaper have access to justice. But what is not generally known is that any person who wishes to sue a powerful newspaper combine as an individual citizen certainly has a job before him. The newspapers have unlimited financial resources, so that an ordinary citizen without financial strength has no redress for injury suffered at the hands of reporters sent, ostensibly, to paint a true picture. That ought to be obvious to any one who has given more than passing consideration to this matter. The position is fraught with extreme danger because of the actions of the monopolists. They have in their hands a vital means of mass communication which has a far-reaching impact on the lives of the people, but they are not prepared to carry out their duties to the public in a responsible manner. The public has scarcely appreciated how powerful they are.
I add my protest to those of others about the manner in which television licences have been issued. Some idea of the attitude of the newspapers towards the introduction of television can be gained from a perusal of an article in the Sun-Herald of the 3rd January, 1954. A member of the Labour party had commented that if a Labour government were returned to office it would insist that a commission be appointed consisting of representatives of religious bodies and motion picture interests. The newspaper’s comment was, “ Spare us this “. It is easy to imagine the Sun-Herald making such a comment, because it would not want to have other bodies intruding into a field which it regarded as its own. Obviously, the newspapers have an utter contempt for the interests of the rest of the com munity. Their desire is to strengthen their grip on the means of mass communication in order to control the thinking of the Australian people. Those who have expert knowledge of the impact of television have already demonstrated how this medium can mould the minds of people, particularly during the adolescent Stage. The great newspaper interests of Australia can foresee a situation in ten or twenty years’ time in which, by means of mass communication, they can guide the minds of the Australian people, not to their benefit, but to that of the monopolistic concerns.
Senator Anderson suggested that some consideration should be given to the establishment, as soon as possible, of regional television stations. I agree with him, but so far no thought has been given to such a proposition. It may be of interest to know that at a recent meeting of the Graziers Association of NewSouth Wales, considerable concern was expressed at the fact that many years would elapse before people in country areas would be able to enjoy television services. They have a right to be given immediate consideration. I do not know whether I am being unjust to the Government when I suggest that it is possible that it will not take any action in the field of regional television stations, because that field is being reserved for monopolistic interests which are waiting on the sidelines, as they have waited in the metropolitan area.
The question of cost in this matter is not of immediate importance. Millions of pounds have been spent on various projects in Australia, particularly during the past five years, and, to use the language of the man in the street, that money has “ gone down the drain “. Money for the provision of regional stations so that country people might have television services, could reasonably be provided by the Government. Even if the building of stations could not be undertaken immediately, at least country people could be given some indication that their needs were being considered.
I conclude by saying that everybody on this side of the chamber, at least, appreciates the inevitability of the advent of television in this country. I think I can- safely say that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have a full understanding of the impact that television will make on the minds of the Australian people. That being so, it is necessary that the Government should assume its full responsibilities in the matter. There is nothing in this bill, nor is there anything in the reports that have been given to the Senate, to indicate that the Government is prepared to accept such responsibility. I suggest that if it does not do so, Ave shall reach a stage, in the not 30 distant future, when we shall bo confronted with a situation that will require intervention by the Government. I leave that thought in the minds of honorable senators opposite, in the hope that they will consider it, and also in the hope that they will give favorable consideration to the terms of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (“Senator McKenna) last evening.
– I am glad to have an opportunity to support this measure, because I regard it as a landmark in federal legislation. In my opinion, it is an extremely important bill. I am proud to be associated with it because it .provides for the introduction of something that Australians have never previously experienced, something that is entirely new to us as a nation. I recall the earlier legislation of 1953 which, of course, may be regarded merely as a preliminary measure. The bill now before the Senate goes a great deal further than that legislation and incorporates various amendments of it. Because this bill deals with both broadcasting and television, it proposes to repeal the 1953 act. The basic policy, as_laid down in that act, however, is retained. That is, that a television service to be operated by a public authority - the Australian Broadcasting Commission - and commercial television stations, is to be provided. I commend the Government on its policy in this respect, because I think it is sound and will result in better broadcasting and television services than otherwise would be the case.
The hill before the Senate is based, as all honorable senators will appreciate, on the report of the Royal Commission on Television. Sydney and Melbourne have been chosen as the starting points for television in Australia. In each of those cities there will be a national station and two commercial stations. In view of the fact that the introduction of television is an innovation so far as Australia is concerned, it is wise to make haste slowly. The experience gained in the establishment of television in the two major cities of the Commonwealth will be extremely valuable, and as a result of that experience we shall be able to assess the pitfalls and correct the anomalies and difficulties that may occur in the early stages. I think it is wise that the Government has chosen areas in which there is a considerable concentration of population. I do not know very nuch of the technical details of television, but I understand that its range is limited. Therefore, the establishment of the first stations in areas where there is a large population .to serve, and where financial difficulties will not be so great, is prudent. I have no doubt that as a result of the experience gained in Sydney and Melbourne, television will be extended to other capital cities and, later, to the country areas of Australia.
In connexion with the commercial television stations, I point out that a thorough inquiry was conducted concerning the applications made for licences. At this point, I wish to touch upon the criticism that has been levelled at the Government in relation to the companies that have been successful in obtaining licences to operate commercial television stations in Sydney and Melbourne. I appreciate that they are comprised largely of newspaper interests. The words “ mass communication “ have been mentioned a good deal by honorable senators opposite during this debate, and I admit that newspapers are in the forefront of mass communication. At the same time, newspapers are not entirely responsible for the control of the various companies to which honorable senators opposite have referred. We know, that other interests also come into the picture. Undoubtedly, the newspaper and other interests command a great deal of capital, but surely the Opposition appreciates that it is not possible to introduce television without powerful financial backing to meet the expense of installations, experiments, and the production of programmes. Those activities associated with television cannot be undertaken without a considerable source of financial power. Therefore, T discount largely the suggestion of the Australian Labour party that the Government is playing up to the powerful newspaper interests in order to further its political ambitions. I do not suggest that the newspapers should be whitewashed, but I do suggest that the claim of the Opposition that the Government parties are sinking their pride and their principles and are going to the powerful newspaper organizations with the idea of furthering their party political interests, is incorrect.
I understand that the television service will be initiated by November next, which indicates to me that a great deal of work has been done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial interests concerned since the original legislation was enacted in 1953. The fact that television will be introduced in November reflects great credit on those concerned. During the debate on the 1953 legislation, I stated that I did not think there was any need for undue haste, and I am still of that opinion. The fact that the Government is going about the introduction of television gradually is, as I say, commendable. I am sure that that policy will pay handsome dividends, as will the decision to place the first television stations in areas where they are most likely to succeed.
I wish to comment on an interesting point raised by the Leader of the Opposition. It did not occur to me at the time, but on reflection, I recollected that he had, during the 1953 debate, thrown some doubt on the constitutional position regarding television. Perhaps, I am not in order in quoting from the daily Hansard, but I point out that the honorable senator indicated last night that there was a constitutional doubt, and that the service could be disrupted and distorted by buildings, electrical appliances and contrivances, and even by motor cars. Senator McKenna said that it might be found necessary to introduce regulations to prevent this soft of thing from happening, and that the very application of those regulations could contravene the Constitution.
– Order ! Is the honorable senator quoting from the Senate daily Hansard?
– That is in order.
– il am making only a passing reference to this aspect of the matter, because it raises a very interesting point, one to which the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has given some consideration. I support Senator McKenna’s suggestion that the committee that is to be set up to review the Constitution should consider this particular matter, because it is realized that television will have a tremendous impact on this country. If the committee finds that this measure conflicts with the Constitution, I hope that it will suggest a. means of overcoming the difficulty. I share the honorable senator’s hope that this newly formed committee will direct its attention to the inclusion of television as a specific head of power in the Constitution.
Senator Toohey, my Labour colleague from South Australia, stated that the’ Government had acted most reprehensibly in disposing of its interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Indeed, he said that the Government practically gave away its share-holding in that company. That, of course, is not correct. The Government sold its shares at considerably more than their market value at that time. The sale of those shares was in accordance with Government policy. It was followed by the disposal of the Government’s share-holdings in other concerns, and the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission.
The honorable senator stated that, by selling its share-holding in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited the Government had forfeited that company’s technical and scientific advice in connexion with the establishment and the furtherance of television. Nothing could be further from the truth. That company still exists although, admittedly, it is not now owned in part by the Government. lt has performed valuable work in relation to the development of the electronics industry in Australia. Contrary to Senator Toohey’s opinion, the services of that company are still available to the nation and, in times of emergency, they could be brought within the compass of governmental activities. Apparently, the honorable senator has overlooked the fact that other electronic concerns are operating in Australia, such as the great Dutch company, Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited. This company has, carried out a tremendous amount of scientific developmental work, not only in connexion with wireless, but also in connexion with cathode rays and other electronic matters. Therefore, Senator Toohey’s charge that the Government did the country a great disservice by getting rid of its interest in Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited is baseless. I shall not speak for very much longer on this bill at present because it is really a committee bill and, therefore, at the committee stage, we shall have an opportunity to discuss its various provisions clause by clause.
This particular matter has been in the forefront of my mind for some time, because I realized that it was only a matter of time before television would be introduced in Australia, and I considered it to be the duty of every honorable senator to familiarize himself with all aspects of it. As I said earlier, I think that the Government’s policy of first establishing television stations in Sydney and Melbourne is justified. Nevertheless, I am somewhat disappointed that, from the outset, a television service will not operate in South Australia. I believe that, in due course, the Government will consider extending the television service to Adelaide and other capital cities in Australia, and I agree with those speakers who have said that we should not forget the people who live in outback areas. Of course, a tremendous amount of technical investigation will he involved. Although I am not qualified to deal with these technical aspects, I remind the Senate that the Government has already indicated quite clearly that it will extend the television service as soon as it is practicable to do so. Therefore, I believe that before very long television will be in operation throughout Australia. As has been stated by other speakers, Australia is one of the last countries that enjoy comparable standards of living to introduce television.
– They have it in China.
– Whatever they have in China is of no concern as far as this bill is concerned. I disagree strongly with Senator Cole’s contention that television will be a financial incubus that will place a great strain on the economy of the country and that, for that reason, the present is not a propitious time at which to introduce television into Australia. If we approached a consideration of certain matters in that way we should never make any progess. We know that there is a tremendous back lag in connexion with the provision of various telephonic facilities by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. If we are to wait for all this developmental work to be done we shall certainly never have television. I would be extremely disappointed if this wonderful new service were not introduced as soon as possible. I frankly admit I am looking forward to its introduction and to the day when I can sit before my television set and take an interest in what is being depicted. I am sure that other senators share that expectation. No doubt, difficulties are associated with television but they exist only to be overcome, and I have no doubt they will be overcome one by one by our taking all the necessary and sensible precautions against the abuses that could occur with the introduction of a completely new service.
I am glad to know that a set of standards has been drawn up. That is extremely important. We know the impact that television had on countries like America and England and we have had the opportunity to consider that aspect. Some of the things that happened were deplorable, but we shall have the benefit of the experiences of those countries and therefore, we should be able, to a large extent, to avoid pitfalls. The set of standards that have been laid down will help considerably in that direction.
No doubt, the most important aspect of television is its impact on social life. I have not read the report of the Royal Commission on Television right through, but I have read certain parts of it, and Chapter IV., dealing with the social impact of television, interested me most. A large section of the Australian community felt that the unregulated introduction of television would probably have most unfortunate social effects. Heading that particular chapter one is struck by the amount of material that was placed before the royal commission in relation to the impact of television on children. Precautions that it is proposed to take to protect children are absolutely vital. Paragraph 138 of Chapter IV. of the report reads -
When television is first introduced into a home there is at first unselected viewing - what the slang of the critics has called the compulsive period. Experience in the United Kingdom suggests that for adults of reasonable intelligence this period lasts three to six months; in other cases it may last two years. But except in rare cases, the viewer then becomes selective.
The process of getting U3ed to it is gradual. The paragraph continues -
There is no precise evidence where children are concerned, though an American survey conducted by Phillip Lewis, who questioned 1,500 children, discloses that adolescents who spent seventeen hours a week in the first month of possessing a television set dropped to 13-) hours at the end of the fourth year. Early exaggerated views of the compulsive effect of television are now being modified, and we were informed that even children become bored with over-exposure and select their programmes. It is impossible to interest all children in any one programme; hence a successful children’s programme must encourage selectivity, so that each age group obtains what is specially designed for it. Thus the British Broadcasting Corporation provides special programmes for children from two to five years, for children from five to fifteen years, and is now planning a special series for adolescents.
That, of course, goes back some time but I think the same principles can still be applied and would be accepted by thinking people and those who are competent to judge the impact of television, not only on children but on adults as well. One of the recommendations of the royal commission with which I entirely agree is that there should be programmes at a suitable hour specially designed for children with the object of stimulating new interest, and that there should be a com plete break in transmission on all stations for an hour at the end of the children’s programme so that the younger children can have their meals undisturbed and then be put to bed. Even in adult programmes, care should be taken to place late in. the evening the items which would be likely to have a harmful effect on children. Those recommendations are extremely valuable because they are based on expert evidence and are couched in terms which are understandable by every person. They reflect a great deal of common sense.
We recognize, too, that television .has a great educational value. That aspect has been comparatively little developed, but, nevertheless, television could have a very important effect on the education, not only of children, but also adults. We know the value of visual education, and that in ordinary films it is an advantage to be able to see as well as hear what is being depicted. This double aspect enables one to grasp information much more effectively. Consequently, in the educational field, television will be a medium which can be used to great advantage. The bill specifies that a certain proportion of programmes shall be allotted to Australian artists and entertainers. . The suggested proportion is very good. Nevertheless, we must realize that television is in its infancy and, although we do not deny that we have excellent artists in this country who compare favorably with artists overseas, we must recognize that this is a new development in Australia and that it would be hardly right that Australian artists and entertainers should monopolize more than a limited proportion of the programmes. Therefore, I suggest that the bill is moderate in its application to this principle, and should react favorably, at least in its initial stages, towards our television service.
I recognize that this is a most important matter. Indeed, it is one that grips the imagination. Within a few short months television services will be operating in two capital cities, and the process of installing television stations will be gradually extended. Of course we in Australia, by instituting television, are only coming into line with other countries of the world.
I am completely ignorant of the technical details ofthe scheme, but I was interested to hear Senator Ashley speak about the technical aspects of television when he dealt with frequencies. The seventh annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board also deals with the frequencies that should be used for television’ in Australia. I have no doubt that the technical data supplied to this board has been very carefully considered by it, and the board recommended that very high frequency channels should be used. Senator Ashley said that in broadcasting television services on that band we should perhaps be making a mistake. I am not competent to deny or affirm what he said, but I do suggest that under the very high frequency system in contrast to the ultra high frequency system we shall get a much better service in the field applicable to Australia. Very high frequency will suffice for at least four stations in each of the capital cities and two stations in all the populated areas outside the State capital cities. Therefore, as far as I can ascertain, very high frequency should meet the situation. The seventh annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board reads, inter alia -
There are good grounds for accepting the view that four stations should be sufficient to provide a great variety of television programmes even for the large populations of Sydney and Melbourne for’ a very long time. For this reason, and because of the technical advantages to be gained from the use of V.H.F. channels, the Board has reached the conclusion -
that the Australian television service should be developed in the V.H.F. band in which ten channels will be available, and
that if in the light of developments additional V.H.F. channels are considered to be necessary, steps should be taken to secure the release of such channels by the other authorities which are using them.
I suggest that that statement by the board seems to provide an adequate reply to the suggestion made by Senator Ashley that we should not adopt a system of frequencies which will react detrimentally in the future. I am not competent to contradict him, but I am prepared to accept, on the face of it, the report on this particular aspect of television made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I appreciate the opportunity of speaking to this measure, because 1 believe that we are in the process of making history. I commend most heartily the great amount of work done by the Postmaster-General to bring this bill before the Senate, and I congratulate the Government for introducing this measure at this particular stage of our development.
– During the period that I was privileged to be Postmaster-General, that is from 1945 to 1949, I had the opportunity of discussing the proposed introduction of television not only with responsible officers of the Postal Department, but also with representatives of overseas television equipment manufacturers. I also engaged in a considerable amount of correspondence on the subject with the United States of America and Great Britain. I came to the conclusion then, and I see no reason to change my mind now, that I should be an uncompromising opponent of the installation of television in Australia at this particular time. I now propose to give my reasons for that view.
I believe, as I think all honorable senators should believe, that first things should come first, and at the time that we were discussing television, we were concerned very much with post-war requirements.Reference has been made to the leeway which has to be made up in connexion with the installation of absolutely necessary telephones, and that leeway has not yet been made up. I ask honorable senators to consider a person who is conducting a business and needs a telephone. He has to wait months before he can get it, and even when he does get it, he perhaps has to go on the duplex system. Out in the country, there is an enormous leeway to be made up in the installation ‘of new telephone services and in the improvement of old ones. Thousands of telephone lines should be underground, and they would be underground at the present time if the last Labour Government had not gone out of office. If telephone lines are placed underground we not only reduce the cost of maintenance, but also make a better job of the lines and give a better service. It should also be noted that it is important to have telephone lines underground from a defence viewpoint.
We are now asked to believe that it is in the interests of the people of this country to have something which is not essential, in preference to something which is absolutely essential. It is all very well for Senator Hannaford to say that he is greatly interested in television, but I wonder whether he would be just as interested if he were out in the country, had sickness in the house, and could not get in touch with a doctor, although, he had been waiting for a telephone for months and months. We should always try to put ourselves in the other fellow’s place, and understand his point of view as well as our own. The Government has not done that, and neither have honorable senators who have supported the introduction of television at this time.
Thousands of workers cannot get houses because the Government is not interested in them. On the platform the Government is interested, but it has no interest in the homeless in a concrete way. Thousands of workers in Victoria alone are denied homes. In Melbourne there are 8,000 families living in hovels, according to a recent report by the Victorian Housing Commission. Nothing is being done to assist them.
We need a uniform railway gauge. The plans have been prepared, and the job should be done. In the event of war, we would have the same difficulties with our railway system as those we experienced during the last two world wars, but nothing is being done by the Government to remedy the situation. It will provide television for clubs and hotels, for the rich and the privileged persons, but the Government forgets the people who really matter - the men who will be expected to do the working and fighting in the event of a war. First things should come first. An enormous amount of labour will be absorbed in the installation of television. It could be used much more advantageously for the installation of telephones and other services. Roads in Australia are in a bad state. No supporter of the Government has suggested in this debate that we should build new roadsor improve existing roads in preference to television. Those matters are conveniently forgotten.
I have another objection to the introduction of television now. It arises from interviews with representatives of overseas firms which are desirous of installing television in Australia. They wanted to unload their obsolete plant on Australia. I have told them so publicly and in private conversations. Television is merely in the experimental stage. For far too long has this country been the dumping ground for obsolete plant of all types. We remember the cable trams in Melbourne and the obsolete trams that were unloaded on Sydney. When I was Minister for Aircraft Production during World War II., an attempt was made to unload obsolete suicide aircraft on the Australian Government. Those concerned were impelled .by the same motives as are the television firms. If we are to have television, we should have it in more favorable circumstances, when we have done more important work in the interests of the people.
I am of the opinion that television should be controlled by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It should not be controlled by private firms, commercial broadcasting, stations or monopolies. I say that because of reports I have had from overseas in connexion with lying advertisements. We have many of them here, and some of them have a demoralizing effect upon the young. That advertising is in the hands of private firms. Why? The profit motive is the dominating motive. If there were no profit in television they would not be interested. If a large profit could be made from housing and social services and other requirements of the people, these organizations would prefer housing and other services to television. During World War II., to conserve man-power which was needed for other purposes, we had a number of proprietary medicines analysed. The analysis proved that advertisements were deliberately lying about the virtues and the value of those medicines. That is still the practice. If we had a censorship, it should be ex tended, to testing the veracity of those who advertise goods for sale. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) said in his second-reading speech -
There is no reason to believe that results will be of harm to the nation or the economy nf social groups.
All the experience in the past has shown that there is every reason why the laws of restraint against misrepresentation and adulteration should bc applied to protect the people. The Minister has said quite seriously that there is no reason to believe that any harm will result from television. I do not believe the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to be an unsophisticated person. I have listened to what he has to say. I believe he is sophisticated, and that he would make a better job on the stage or in the pulpit than he does in the Senate. He could make an unsophisticated person almost weep, but in this chamber he is speaking to persons with the background of practical experience which he lacks. He may have a theoretical knowledge, up to the point that suits his Government, of social science, which is different from the specialized sciences. Doctor Alexis Carrel, in his valuable work, M.an the Unknown, published in 1935, has said that the more specialized a specialist is, the more dangerous he is. He argues that outside his special knowledge, he is a babe in the woods, politically or socially, and is just as easily imposed upon and misled as is anybody else. When we talk of specialists in television, we have to keep in mind that they are not omniscient simply because they excel in a special calling. It does not follow that they know what they are talking about in other spheres. I do not accept the Minister’s statement that no harm will be done. Harm will be done. When I was Postmaster-General, I had occasion to put certain programmes off the air because of their appeal to everything that was immoral; and some programmes would be taken off the air to-day if I still occupied that position. These stations have no right to invade the privacy of our homes, where we are rearing our children, with what are . known as “blue”, or immoral stories.
– I advise the honorable senator not to buy a set.
– Unfortunately, I could not catch what the honorable senator said. He has a peculiar Oxford accent to which I am not attuned; hut his remarks convey to me the impression that although he is an authority on the fishing industry he is certainly no authority on television.
The effect of television on children has been mentioned, and I have referred to the children of America. This bill will not protect the children as it should. We have been told that the objective of all stations at the outset should be to provide programmes that will have the ultimate effect of raising the standard of the .public taste. Can any one say that the literature that is being imported from America and which has been condemned in all the .States of Australia will tend to raise the standard of the public taste? It certainly will not do that; and if it is allowed to come in and be read, it will naturally follow that some of it will be televised by commercial stations which are more concerned about making profit than about moral uplift. If it is more profitable to televise programmes that really get down to gutter level, these stations will do it. The press does it now. Take the comic strips as an example. They are calculated .to appeal to primitive minds. As for important matters such as inflation, the press, to use a colloquialism, soft pedals and side-steps the issue. Why, if our journalists wrote as many of them are capable of writing, their copy would not be required, and possibly their services would ultimately be dispensed with. The same thing could happen with television. As competition is superseded by monopolistic combine control, the programmes of commercial stations could get down to a low level. That sort of thing has happened already in the newspaper world. For instance, the Bulletin was a great fighting journal before federation and the Melbourne Age fought in those days against government from overseas and so on; but to-day, because of private monopoly control, the position is entirely different. Nowadays, we find the press getting down to the use of the hieroglyphics of the ancients in their comic strips.
Can that be said to raise the standard of the public taste? The Government has nothing to say about this policy of the newspapers, and it will have nothing to say about a similar policy in connexion with television programmes. It is not interested in the slightest in raising the standard of the public taste or in raising public morale. The morale of the people, of course, is influenced by the customs adopted from time to time. When people adopt new customs and become dynamic, as they do at times, the law is conveniently amended, or modified, to meet the new circumstances. So long as it is profitable to do so, commercial stations will televise programmes of the lowest possible standard and appeal to the baser tastes of the public, as is being done in America to-day. I admit that it is not done to such an extent in England, but this practice is prevalent in America. No safeguard is provided against that in this bill. If there were, my approach to it would be very different from what it is now.
Further, I am satisfied that no commercial broadcasting station or commercial television station will be interested in adding to the education of the people. They are not interested in doing it now. All that interests them is emphasizing what they believe to be popular or what they believe the people will accept. They have never attempted in any way to give the reasons for certain disabilities from which the people are suffering. All they do is point out over and over again that certain things should be done. They emphasize the effects but never utter a word about the causes. No education to speak of will be derived by the people either by listening to a radio broadcast or viewing a television programme. I have the best of reasons for believing that it is not intended to inform the people any more than is conveniently necessary in the interests of what is called constituted authority, that constituted authority being a political creation of the majority of the people who submit in complete subjugation to that authority. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave’ granted ; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The proposal contained in this bill is that the rates at which income tax will be payable by companies shall be ls. in the £1 higher than the rates at which tax is payable at present. This increase in the rates was announced by the Prime Minister in the course of his recent review of the Australian economy. The rates to be declared by the bill will apply to taxable incomes derived by companies during the current year 1955-56.
In the case of public companies, the ‘ proposed rates will be 7s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income and’ 8s. in the £1 on the balance of taxable income. The rates at which income tax will be payable by private companies will be 5s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income and 7s. in the £1 on the balance. There will be no additional revenue from the increase in rates in this financial year, as the new rates will apply for the next financial year 1956-57, when it is estimated that the ls. increase will yield an additional £27,800,000. In a full assessment year, the additional revenue should be about £30,000,000.
So far as companies are concerned, the bill is comparable with the measure passed annually by the Parliament declaring the rates at which income tax will be payable. Accordingly, I do not propose to explain in detail the provisions of each clause of the bill. In submitting this measure for the consideration of honorable senators I should emphasize that it will not affect the rates at which income tax will be payable by individual taxpayers.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’flaherty) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator SPOONER read a first time.
– I move -
That the hill he now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to promote Australian trade by setting up an export payments insurance corporation to enable exporters to insure against certain risks in export trading which cannot normally be insured with commercial insurers. There are a number of risks attendant on trading with foreign countries, such as insolvency of the buyer or his failure to pay within a certain period, blockage of foreign exchange by overseas governments or sudden imposition of new import controls in markets abroad, which deter exporters from increasing their trade. As part of the Government’s drive to increase exports, it has been decided to provide facilities for the insurance of payments due in respect of exports. This should enable new markets to be developed and the credit terms offered by competitors to be matched.
In taking this step, the Government is following a policy already adopted by many other exporting countries. The Export Credits Guarantee Department in the United Kingdom is responsible to the president of the Board of Trade, while in Canada the Export Credits Insurance Corporation operates under the Minister for Trade and Commerce. Prance, Italy, Germany, Sweden and other countries have similar organizations. In the last resort, the Government is responsible for the liabilities of the corporation under its policies. Governmental endorsement will add greatly to the attractiveness of these policies as security for loans from the trading banks. This insurance cover should help the exporter to finance credit terms for exports where this is necessary.
The Government for some time past has received representations from Australian exporters and manufacturers claiming that export payments insurance would greatly help them in building up export trade, particularly in face of increasing competition. These views wenclosely studied and important points were discussed with representatives of exporters, manufacturers, primary producers, commodity marketing boards and commercial, banking and insurance interests. After examining the advantages and disadvantages of different type, of arrangement, the Government decided on the main features of its proposals. Representatives of the commercial community have supported the proposals and the interests of insurance companies dealing with fire, accident or marine risks are unimpaired. I may add that on the basis of the expressed views of bankers, the Government looks confidently for the co-operation of the banking system in the day-to-day operations of the proposed corporation. I should like to acknowledge with appreciation the co-operation of the United Kingdom authorities, who made available for consultations in Australia, in December last, a senior executive of the United Kingdom Export Credits Guarantee Department.
Turning now to the substance of the proposals, it should be made clear that no exporter is compelled to insure his transaction but he can take advantage of the facilities or not as he thinks fit. However., if an exporter does choose to insure, he must offer a fair spread of risk and cannot choose only his worst risks for insurance. He will not be expected to offer to insurewhere cash is received before shipment or in respect of sales against irrevocable letters of credit.
The corporation’s functions will lit? purely in insurance of transactions and no funds will be provided for making credit available to exporters. However, the security provided by the policies of the corporation will assist exporters in obtaining loans on individual transactions. The corporation will not insureagainst risks that can be covered by commercial bodies, such as fluctuations in the rate of exchange, marine risks, fire, pilferage or other damage to goods.
In framing the bill it has been sought to obtain the maximum independence for the insurance authority whilst providing some measure of government control over broad policy. The proposal is, therefore, that there should be a statutory corporation, independent of existing government departments under the control of a single commissioner. Provision has been made for a consultative council consisting of representatives of exporters, manufacturers, bankers and commercial men generally. The council will be able to see that the commissioner is kept aware of the particular points of view of the commercial community. Clause 11 of the bill specifies the functions of the Minister for Trade in relation to the corporation. There it is provided that the corporation shall keep the Minister informed of its decisions in matters of policy relating to the conduct of its business. The Minister’s approval is only required regarding three sorts of policy matters, namely -
The classes of insurance contracts that may be entered into;
The nature of the risks that may he covered: and
The undertaking of liabilities in relation to trade with particular countries.
On these matters, the corporation has to put its proposals to the Minister and attempt to reach agreement with him, but the Minister has the last say as to thepolicy to be followed. The Minister floes not have to be consulted in relation to any particular insurance contract, nor is he to decide whether or not the corporation should enter into a particular contract. In fact, the corporation has maximum freedom in its day-to-day affairs, while Parliament retains an appropriate measure of control through the responsible Minister.
It is intended that, in the initial stages of the scheme, cover should be provided against risks of loss due to insolvency of the oversea buyer; failure of the buyer to pay within twelve months of the due date; failure of the buyer to obtain foreign exchange, or of the oversea bank to transfer funds to the Australian exporter; war, rebellion, hostilities, revolution, or other disturbances in the oversea country; and any other cause outside the control of the exporter and arising outside Australia. Later on, it may be found necessary to consider adding to the kinds of risk insured. In surance cover will be effective in most cases from the date of shipment of the goods. In some cases, however, particularly the construction of machinery or other goods to special order the cover may run from the date of the order.
The bill allows a degree of flexibility in the policies of the corporation, so that new types of risks or countries may be added to the list of those covered. Conversely, risks can he excluded if this course seems desirable. The corporation will itself determine premium rates, which will be at a level sufficient to cover outgoings and which will be adjusted to varying degrees of risk, but which will be as low as possible so as to facilitate trade. The overall aim is that premium income should cover net payments against claims, as well as costs of administration.
The maximum proportion of loss that may be covered by the corporation in any contract of insurance will be So per cent. This ensures that the exporter, who thereby carries not less than 15 per cent. of the possible loss, and in some cases will carry more, will exercise normal commercial prudence in the transaction he seeks to insure. He will also, in the event of loss being sustained, retain a direct interest in recovery action. Exporters who have not been able to match the credit terms of competitors will be significantly helped by this new facility. Ability to insure against nonpayment will give real assistance to exporters who cannot afford to have sizeable funds owing to them from countries with which they have not traditionally traded, or about whose foreign exchange position they may have doubt. In business of this sort, secrecy of information is essential. The bill forbids the disclosure of information supplied to the corporation.
As I have already mentioned, the Commonwealth guaranteed all moneys due by the corporation. The bill provides that, at any one time, the total liability for outstanding insurance contracts is not to exceed £25,000,000. The Commonwealth also supplies the corporation’s initial capital of £500,000, and further funds may be provided by Parliament by way of advances. The Government has not lightly decided to interest itself in a new field of government activity. It has done so at the request of the commercial community and in the knowledge that, for this type of risk and for this magnitude of risk, the special form of insurance contemplated is not normally obtained from commercial insurers.
The provision of this type of protection against export trading risks is of obvious value to the trader engaged in a multitude of different and disconnected export transactions, and to the manufacturer seeking to expand his export market. But it also provides all the opportunity for comprehensive encouragement to export of the great primary products. Marketing boards which export as owners of the product, and all those merchants or organizations exporting wool, wool tops, grains and other primary commodities, can insure with the corporation.
The Government is confident that the proposals will assist exporters and that they will, in due course, be used by a wide section of the commercial community. The wider the use to which they are put, the better the terms the corporation will be able to offer. The proposals are an earnest of the determination of the Government to assist in expanding exports. They must be looked at against the necessities of the balance of payments position and as one instalment of the Government’s export drive.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
– by leave - Relative to a question asked by Senator Anderson this morning, I lay on the table the following papers : -
Singapore - Ministerial Statement dated the 16th May, 1956, together with a summary of the proceedings of the Singapore Constitutional Conference.
The latter document has been made available to the Government by the United Kingdom High Commissioner’s office in Canberra and is a description by the United Kingdom Government of the course of the negotiations and the attitude taken by both sides at the recent conference in London. Copies of both documents are being made available to honorable senators.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to make a brief request of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’Sullivan) with which I think all honorable senators will agree, and to which I have no doubt the Leader of the Government will accede. I have noticed, in an afternoon newspaper, a report that there have been rather important changes in regard to ministerial responsibilities concerning two departments, and that when the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was directed to the fact that an announcement had been made only in the Gazette, he assured an honorable member that, when the changes were made, he would make an announcement to the Parliament concerning them. All I ask is that a similar announcement be made simultaneously in the Senate by the Leader of the Government.
– Senator Marriott’s point is well taken. It is usual for such statements to be made in the Senate concurrently with, but not before, their announcement in another place. I understand that, for some reason or other - perhaps due to oversight, seeing that it did not involve the appointment of a new Minister but only a transfer of duties - the announcement was made in the House of Representatives only to-day. I shall take the opportunity to make an announcement in the Senate on Tuesday.
– What do the changes involve ?
– I should be speaking from memory if I attempted to say what the changes involve, but I can say that they are not fundamental. They affect land settlement of returned soldiers and war service homes. As I say, I shall make a formal announcement about the matter on Tuesday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560517_senate_22_s7/>.