22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at - 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– By way of preface to my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, I invite his attention to the statements made by me in this chamber recently concerning the inadequacy, and the dispersed nature, of Commonwealth Government freehold and leasehold properties in Adelaide. Considerable interest has been shown in those statements by architects and municipal authorities in Adelaide. Will the Minister bring to the notice of the Minister for the Interior my remarks and those of Senator Critchley? Will he invite the Minister for the Interior to cause the Public Works Committee of this Parliament, to investigate the problem to which I referred ?
– I shall have pleasure in acceding to the request made by Senator Laught, and will direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior to the remarks made by him in connexion with the occupancy by the Commonwealth Government of certain premises in capital cities. I will also direct particular attention to his request t!:at the matter be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether the National Health Act permits the addition to our water supplies of fluoride without the consent of the people concerned? Is it a fact that the majority of members of the British Medical Association, including Sir Stanton Hicks. Professor of Human Physiology and Pharmacology, Adelaide University, agrees that fluoride has a very limited use in the prevention of tooth decay, and is opposed to its addition to our water supplies? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to what amounts to an infringement of human liberty by the addition of fluoride to drinking water supplies?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Health and obtain a considered reply.
– Supplementary to the question that was asked by Senator Laught, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior ascertain and inform the Senate when the Commonwealth Government proposes to do something with the factory in Grote-street, Adelaide, which was purchased for approximately £130,000? For what purpose was the building secured?
– I have no knowledge of the matter raised by Senator Critchley. I shall ask my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, to have a look at the matter and, if possible, to provide a full statement for Senator Critchley’s information.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise noted the efficiency drive being undertaken by the Department of Customs and Excise in which rewards artbeing paid for suggestions leading to improved efficiency, and in which promotion is to be made by merit? In the interests of the taxpayers of Australia will the Minister recommend to the Government that a close check be kept to note the success of this drive with a view to applying it to all government departments?
– I have noticed the efficiency drive being conducted by the Department of Customs and Excise, and I shall follow the suggestion made by the honorable senator and bring it to the notice of other departments if the results are satisfactory, as I am sure they will be.
– ls the Minister ^presenting the Postmaster-General in a position to say when the form and set-up of the information page at the front of metropolitan telephone directories last received the scrutiny of the departments Will the Minister not agree that in tlieir present verbose and lengthy form, which attempts to convey a mass of detailed information, they are extremely obscure and defeat the purpose which they ave designed to serve? Will the Minister interest himself to have only information reasonably required included in these pages and to ensure that such information is presented in a form that can be more easily followed?
– I assure the honorable senator that I will bring that matter to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral an’d let him make his own observations which I will convey to Senator Byrne.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. In view of the PostmasterGeneral’s statement that he has authorized the immediate disconnexion of 46 telephones in a block of flats in St. Kilda, will he take similar action in connexion with the 23 telephones found in a building in Racing Club-lane, Melbourne, as reported in the Melbourne Herald of the 26th instant? In view of the fact that intending subscribers are unable to secure telephone instruments in some cases, will the Postmaster-General have a check made on all buildings serviced by multiple telephones in’ order to establish their necessity?
– The 46 telephone, to which the honorable senator refers were disconnected after a raid by the police, who found that the instruments had been altered by the residents and were being used for purposes other than those for which they were intended when they were installed. I do not know whether the other telephones mentioned by the honorable senator come within the same category; that is to say, I do not know whether they are used for illegal pur poses, but I shall bring that part of his question to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral and see what can be done along the lines he mentions.
– ls the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware thai Sydney faces its worst potato shortage for years and that the price of potatoes, which is now ls. 3d. per lb., is expected to rise to ls. 9d. per lb.? Has the Minister been advised that about 400,000 bags of potatoes, sufficient to relieve the Sydney shortage immediately, are available in Tasmania? Is it a fact that only one ship arrived from Tasmania on Monday and that another ship is not expected for two weeks? Will the Minister take action to ensure that sufficient shipping is made available to overcome the present potato famine in Sydney and, at the same time, assist the producers by providing adequate transport for their product?
– The question of shipping to shift the Tasmanian potato crop has been kept continually under my notice, particularly by Tasmanian senators. At the moment, I am having investigations made by the traffic committee to see whether anything can be done to increase the number of ships allocated for this purpose. I am assured by the traffic committee that, over the season, sufficient shipping is made available to lift all the potatoes, but it is not always possible to put at berth, at the precise moment and at the precise spot, the shipping needed to meet the requirements of a particular district. The problem is one of great complexity, as I am sure my colleague, Senator Ashley, recalls, but it is one to which 1 am continually directing my attention, and I hope that something can be done to relieve the position of both the producer in Tasmania and the consumer in Sydney.
– Recently, 1 asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether the Australian Government could take action to ensure that a full length feature film of the Melbourne Olympic Games would be made. The answer was, in effect, “ No.” Immediately that reply was made known, the Premier of Victoria made a statement that inquiries would be made by the Victorian Government in an effort to ensure that such a film would be made. He obviously realized the absolute need for such a record. I now ask the Minister whether he will discuss with the Minister for the Interior the possibility and the advisability of making the film unit of the News and Information Bureau available to the Victorian Government, or take such action in co-operation with the Victorian Government as would ensure the making of what would be a documentary film of great historic value.
– I am not aware of the reasons which prompted the Minister for the Interior to decline the previous request made by Senator Marriott. In view of the honorable senator’s repeated suggestion that something ought to be done, I will discuss the matter further with my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, and let Senator Marriott know the outcome.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping. Is the published statement true that, for the first time for many years, sufficient labour is now available for the necessary maintenance of the East- West and NorthSouth railways? If the Minister believes this report to be true is he in a position to say whether the repair and maintenance of both these lines, particularly the extreme ends of the North-South line, is doing carried out, or is further labour required for that part of the Commonwealth railways?
– I think it is true to say that the supply of labour for the maintenance of both the East-West and the Northern Australian and Central Australian railway lines is considerably improved, lt. would he far from co’rrect, however, to assume that anything like a state of perfection had yet been reached. Because Senator Critchley has taken a continuing interest in this matter he, 1 know, will be the first to understand and appreciate that work of this kind is not rushed. Maintenance and repair work on railway lines is sought by most worker* only after the possibilities of employment elsewhere have been exhausted. However, the position on these lines has improved, and in recent months maintenance haproceeded at a rate not before possible. I am hopeful that that improvement will continue.
– My question if directed to the Minister representing th, Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that the New South Wales Government has been granted import licences to the Value of £500,000 for the importation of aluminium prefabricated school buildings? In view of the shortage of sterling currency, will the Minister seek a review of this decision, and have these building? manufactured in Australia?
– If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall have inquirie,made and give him an answer. I wa.unaware that an import licence had been granted recently for prefabricated aluminium schools, although I know that a considerable number has been erected in recent years. It may be that the schools in this particular order to which the honorable senator refers are to become additions or annexes to existing buildings, because I should think that conditions in the building industry at the present time are such that the importa don of prefabricated aluminium schools from abroad would not be justified. However, 1 think that we have to get the facts. I shall make inquiries and have the question answered.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. upon notice -
Is it a fact that many applicant* request senators to support their applications?
– The PostmasterGeneral has now supplied the following answers : -
Senator Sheehan also asked whether I could obtain a detailed statement in relation to this matter. I have now received such a statement, and if it is in order, 1 shall read it.
– Yes, that will bo in order.
– In regard to the installation of telephones, I have received a statement from the Postmaster-General’s Department which reads -
The subscribers’ lines increased by 410,000 in the last six years. In the same period prior to December, 1040, subscribers’ lines increased by 215,000, whereas in 1948-49 the year’s increase was 40,000. The increase was 78,000, an all-time record, last year. Telephone applications have been reduced from 125,147 in December, 1949, to 83,322, despite a record public demand in recent years. Over 4,500 new trunk-line channels have been provided since December, 1949, at better than three times the annual rate of installations before that time.
To December, 1949, 192 rural automatic exchanges had been installed. Since then, a further 004 have been provided. Apart from the installation of these rural automatic exchanges, which provide continuous service, the hours of service by 1,750 country manual telephone exchanges have been increased.
Prior to December, 1949, an average of 25 private wire teleprinter services was being installed yearly. Now, the rate of installation is 100 yearly.
– On the 15th May, Senator Cooke asked a question relating to the storage of wheat in Western Australia. The Minister for Primary Industry has now supplied the following answer: -
It is true that a big wheat carry-over, plus a near record wheat crop, combined with oats and barley deliveries, taxed the capacity for grain storage in Western Australia iri the 1955-50 season, lt is understood that there were temporary delays in delivery as a result. The quantity of storage needed in the event of another big crop next season is occupying the attention of the Australian Wheat Board, the Au tralian Wheat Growers Federation and the Western Australian bulk handling authorities. The provision of adequate storage for crops is a function of the appropriate State authority and the industry itself. It is not a matter in which the Commonwealth lias responsibility. The problem has been discussed with senators from Western Australia.
– On the 17th May, Senator Wedgwood asked me a question relating to the lifting of the ban on the export of quality wool sheep. I undertook to refer it to the Minister for Primary Industry, who has now supplied the following answer: -
I assume that the honorable senator, when referring to the question of lifting the ban on the export from Australia of quality wool sheep had in mind the ban on the export of Merino breeding sheep. The export of all breeding sheep from Australia is subject to regulatory control, but in the case of Merino breeding sheep there is a total prohibition on their export to countries other than New Zealand, except in very few special c;ses, and then for experimental purposes only to approved research stations. Consideration will be given to relaxing or removing this export ban only when the Government is satisfied that any approach for its relaxation or removal represents the views of a substantial majority of the sheep industry. In the meantime the embargo will continue to be rigidly enforced.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notion -
What are the exact terms of the agreement between the Government and the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited relating to the retention by the company of stair and employees of the Australian Whaling Commission?
– I now answer the honorable senator in the following terms : -
The Nor’ West Whaling Company gave a written undertaking that purchase of the Carnarvon Whaling Station would in no way affect the security of employment of officers who had established themselves and their families at Carnarvon and had made their permanent homes there. The Nor’ West Whaling Company was given a list prepared hy the commission of sixteen members of the staff who came into this category. The company agreed to offer employment to these personnel on the basis of full-time and not (-monal work. The company reserved the right to dismiss employees should their services be unsatisfactory or should their services be no longer required for other reasons.
The company has also agreed to 0 9 er employment to two other members of the staff at Carnarvon if they wish to accept employment with the company. In addition it has given an undertaking that it will give preference in employment to suitable members of the commission’s Perth staff for any positions for which their experience and capacity qualifies them. Moreover, the company has agreed to take over the contracts of the cantain gunners employed by the commission. The extent to which the commission’s seasonal employees will be employed will be influenced by the wishes of the employees themselves and by the total number of seasonal employees required for the company’s combined operations.
– On the 22nd May, Senator O’Byrne asked me the following question: -
By -way of preface to a question that I direct to the Minister representing the POStmasterGeneral, I inform him that, in a letter that I recently received regarding tha installation of telephones,’ my correspondent, who is a chartered engineer, stated that he was still receiving the same old answer that he got in 1940 when he applied for a telephone to be installed at his residence. As he very rightly pointed out, apparently a telephone is the only commodity, apart from battleships, which one cannot get on the commercial market. In view of the great difficulty that is being experienced by people throughout Australia in obtaining telephones, can the Minister explain the position that came to light as a result of a raid on an illegal bookmaking establishment in Melbourne during the week-end, when 40 telephones were found to be connected to one establishment for startingprice betting purposes? Does not this reveal great laxity on the part of the Administration of the Telephone Branch V Can a check lie made on other nests of telephones, which evidently deprive deserving people of a socially essential service ?
The Postmaster-General has now supplied the following information: -
The telephone services referred to by the honorable senator were installed in a suite of rooms on the top floor of a block of flats in St. Kilda. Altogether there were 4(i services in eleven rooms and a cubicle.
The services in question were installed quite legitimately by the department and were leased in the names of several subscribers. There was no evidence that they wei-e likely to be used other than for normal business purposes.
Investigations made by the department following on a raid by the police showed that the services had been altered or interfered with by the subscribers without the authority of the department. Consequently the PostmasterGenera] authorized their immediate disconnexion under the powers conferred upon him by the Telephone Regulations made under the Post and Telegraph Act.
The inquiries have not revealed any reason to believe that the services were installed improperly by any officer of the department or that they were provided out of their proper turn.
Where a conviction is obtained by the police against the occupier of premises for conducting an illegal business and a request is made to cancel the telephone services, the department does so. It will also take suitable action where any services, irrespective of the nature of the business transacted, are found to have been interfered with or altered without the authority of the Post Office.
– by leave- As part of the re-arrangement of functions consequent upon the creation of the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has approved of the assumption of new responsibilities by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). The Minister will take over ministerial oversight of the work of the River Murray Commission. He will replace Mr. Kent Hughes as president of the commission. Dr. Loder will remain as deputy commissioner, and the staff of the commission will remain with him.
A second change that has been made is the transfer of the national mapping functions from the Department of the Interior to the Department of National
Development. These changes will be effective immediately. They will be the subject, in due course, of formal notification in an administrative arrangements order.
– by leave - On the 16th March, 1949, Senator McKenna, who was then Acting Attorney-General, made a statement to this House to the effect that it had been decided to issue a reprint of Commonwealth statutes and statutory rules as at the 31st December, 1950. The present Government adopted the decision and publication of the reprint of the statutes in six volumes has been completed. Chiefly because of printing difficulties, it was not practicable to undertake the reprint of the statutory rules concurrently with the reprint of the statutes. I arn pleased to inform honorable senators that it has now been decided to undertake the reprint of statutory rules and to include all regulations in force as at 31st December, 1956. As was done in 1927, when the statutory rules were last reprinted, the present reprint will include certain selected constitutional documents and other important statutory instruments.
Already a considerable amount of work has been done in preparation for the reprint. Action has for some time been taken to repeal all obsolete and unnecessary regulations, to correct mistakes and, where possible, to redraft regulations to accord with modern drafting practice. I think honorable senators will agree that the reprint is very desirable, as it will present in a few volumes all the more important subordinate legislation of the Commonwealth in a convenient and accessible form. The work is. in fact, long overdue as there has not been a reprint for nearly 30 years.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the following motion : -
That until such time as the five vacancies for Members of the House of Representatives existing on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs are filled by members of the Opposition, Mr. Chaney, Mr. Failes, Mr. Turner, Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Wight be members of the committee.
.- 1 move -
That Standing Order 08 be suspended up to ai;d including the 29th June, 1956, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
As the Senate is well aware, it is customary to submit a motion of this kind towards the end of a sitting of the Parliament. The motion for the suspension of Standing Order 68 is designed to enable new business to be received into the Senate and dealt with after 10.30 p.m. I hope that it will not be necessary for us to have any late sittings, and I hope that the practice which we initiated earlier that when the Senate sits in the morning it does not sit at night, or if it sits at night it does not sit late, will be continued. I hope that that will be so, because a full day’s sitting is long and tedious, and apart from the duty of attending the debates, in the Senate, honorable senators have their office and constituent work to attend to.
I hope, without giving any guarantee, that we shall not have any very late night sittings before the Senate rises. However, as there are only five Ministers in this chamber and seventeen in the. House of Representatives, it will be clearly seen that most of our legislation must originate in the House of Representatives. It is our function here to receive, consider and debate that legislation, and make a decision upon it. But we cannot control the flow of business; consequently, it is necessary for me to submit the motion now before honorable senators. I commend the motion to the Senate and I am quite sure that we shall now hear from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) the .traditional objection to it.
– 1 should indeed be sad to disappoint Senator O’sullivan. The motion now before honorable senators is the first link in a chain of undemocratic procedures that we may now expect for the rest of the current sittings. The Minister made no attempt tn justify the proposed suspension of Standing Order 68 by any reference to f.he factual situation. He merely indicated that we were not in control of the business coming from the House of Representatives, and something might arise. T put it to the Minister, why could he not have left his notice of motion on the notice-paper until that situation arose? He knows perfectly well that this is the kind of thing that gives instant irritation to the Opposition.
Let us consider the purpose of Standing Order 68. The purpose of that standing order is to prevent legislation by exhaustion - that is, by working the Senate through the night; and it is also designed to give to the Opposition, in particular, time to consider, and prepare to debate, new business. Above all, I believe that it is most proper in a chamber like this, which claims to be a house of review, that legislation should be considered at leisure and not at speed. The motion is, of course, as everybody knows, and as the Minister has acknowledged, the precursor of all-night sittings, and there are honorable senators on both sides of this chamber to whom all-night sittings would be, in any circumstances, distinctly unfair. Honorable senators on. this side of the chamber recognize that we have an obligation to try to make the business of the Senate tun smoothly. Consistent with our duties as an Opposition, and consistent with the decisions of the Labour party from time to time, we do that, in fact. I challenge anybody on the Government side at the ministerial level to claim, that there has not been reasonable co-operation from the Opposition to that end. Co-operation has been the general rule. I remind the Leader of the Government, however, that this is a two-way traffic, lt operates to the advantage of both sides, and it enables the business of the Senate to flow with reasonable smoothness and without undue haste.
The motion before the Senate is a piece of mis-timing on the part of the Leader of the Government. He cannot justify the motion at this stage by the imminence of any legislation. He has given no ground at all for that expectation. It would be much better had he left this matter to a common-sense arrangement between the Opposition and members of the Government. Surely the
Leader of the Government in the Senate recognizes that the only effective method of protest open to the Opposition in opposing the rushing of business introduced after 10.30 p.m. is to obstruct as far as possible the passage of measures introduced in those circumstances. This is a provocative motion. It will not help the temper of the Senate or enable honorable senators to digest the measures that come before them.
One of the tests of a democracy is the degree of consideration that majorities have for minorities. The practice of rushing legislation through in the teeth of a minority that has very substantial proportions - as this Opposition has - is far from being democratic. It detracts from the status of this chamber as a house of review. This is one more thing, on top of recent events at the instance of the Government, which is removing my very last illusions that this chamber is a cradle of democracy. I do hope that the Minister will abandon this irritating motion even at this late stage, and leave the matter to a common-sense arrangement between the Opposition and the Government as to urgent business. If he agrees to take that course, he has no reason to think that he will not meet with reasonable co-operation, and be able to give full play to the intention of Standing Order 6S. We oppose the motion.
– I support the motion, but with the distinct understanding that the business of the Senate does not proceed, in the last month before the end of June, as it has done at the end of previous sessional periods. I foresee most important legislation coming before us, and although T claim to have as much energy as any honorable senator in the chamber, I am not disposed to give all of it to the consideration of important bills after 1 o’clock in the morning. All-night sessions are anathema to me from now on, and I am sure there is no intention on the part of the Government to use the leave that will be given by this motion for the purpose of repeating performances we have had in the latter days of previous sessional periods.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (QueenlandLeader of the- Government and Minister for the Navy) [3.40J. - in reply - As 1 anticipated, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) made the speech thai he has delivered on many previous occasions. I know it almost by heart. It is not vastly different from the speeches that I made when I was in Opposition, and when Senator Ashley used to introduce this very same motion. The Leader of the Opposition has asked why we should not wait until the occasion arises, and deal with the matter ad hoc. There is a reasonable explanation. It is true that we, on this side of the chamber, have received quite a great deal of co-operation from the Opposition but that, of course, has resulted from the generous consideration that the Government and the Ministers have extended to the Opposition. I hope it will continue that way. Life U easier thus.
Senator McKenna is fully aware that at any tick of the clock, or at the drop of a handkerchief, he can hold up the business of the Senate. He knows that we require an absolute majority of the members of the Senate to suspend the Standing Orders. Two Government senators are overseas. Certainly they are paired, but that makes no difference in this context, and we have not, therefore, an absolute majority. I am sorry to say that I cannot depend upon the Opposition to meet me if I should, under perfectly normal and reasonable circumstances, ask the cooperation of the Senate to permit business being dealt with after 10.30 p.m. I have no feeling of security that that cooperation would be extended to me. Therefore, I must anticipate that situation hy having this motion passed.
Question put -
That Standing Order 08 be suspended up to and including the 20th June, 1950, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the sessional order giving precedence to general business on Thursdays, after 8 p.m., be suspended until the 29th June, 1950.
This also is a customary motion to bring before the Senate towards the close of a sitting. It is now a matter of record - indeed, I think, a justifiable boast - that this Government has been most considerate in its allowance of time for the business of private senators. Quite a number of motions have been placed on the notice-paper at the instance of private senators, and some excellent debates have ensued as a result of the matters put forward. There are some still on the noticepaper and I trust they will be completed before the Senate rises. The intention is not to attack in any way the rights of private senators to bring motions before the Senate. On the contrary, this Government welcomes such motions. The purpose now is simply to ensure that during the remaining days of this sitting the business of the Government will be carried through to finality without interruption in respect of motions brought forward by private senators. Upon the reassembling of the Senate, the rights of private senators will be fully restored, and, I trust, availed of fully and amply.
– 1 rise to oppose the motion. This is the second step in the chain of undemocratic procedures to which I referred a moment ago. The Minister for the Navy (Senator O’Sullivan) takes credit for having given private senators many opportunities to put matters upon the notice-paper. Of course, the fact is that he cannot pre vent them from doing so. He is deserving of no particular credit for that.
– Standing Orders can be suspended at any time.
– But the Minister cannot prevent a senator from, giving notice of a motion.
– But I can prevent it from coming on.
– Very true, and I think the Minister will recall the fact that of the four items still remaining under the heading, “ General Business “, only one has been debated. Three of them have been launched, but only the first one, that relating to the development of Canberra, has been debated. That many honorable senators are very interested in the report furnished by the committee which inquired into that matter is obvious from the debates that have taken place and which have been interrupted again and again.
– How many senators on the Opposition side have spoken on it?
– Quite a number, and there are still a number who wish to speak on it. Then we have the remaining three items. The first of those relates to a vastly important report submitted by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, a committee of this Senate. Without canvassing it now, I suggest that is a most important report that ought to be debated.
– So it will be.
– That remains to be seen. The motion proposes to leave that to the will of the Government.
– No, to the decision of the Senate.
– And that, too, will not take place without initiation by the Government. Senator Vincent has submitted a motion relating to the development of the north-western region of Western Australia. This again is of vast importance and it has been spoken to only by him in submitting the proposal to us. Then, we come to the final matter recently enunciated by Senator Marriott, that relating to the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. I think this matter raises a question that is fundamental to democracy itself. It is a vastly important motion. It probably assumes even more importance than Senator Marriott saw fit to assign to it.
When the motion now before the Senate is carried, all those matters may be left in absolute abeyance, whereas, without this motion, they would, in the normal course of events, come up for discussion on Thursdays after 8.0 p.m. The Minister for the Navy claimed that great consideration had been given to private senators. A comment in a sub-leader of the Sydney Morning Herald on this subject rather appealed to me as describing the present situation very well. It is headed, “ A Bow to the Backbenchers “.
– What date was that?
– It appeared on Monday last. The Sydney Morning Herald referred, in another context, to the unhealthy trend long evident in Canberra towards paring away the rights and privileges of private members. That is a principle that is involved here. It is a cutting down of the rights of private senators, and it is a tendency that should be resisted. For that fundamental reason the Opposition opposes the motion.
Question put -
That the sessional order giving precedence to genera] business on Thursdays, after 8 p.m., be suspended until the 29th June, 1950.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the How. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority ‘ . . . . 4
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
I understand that a message from the House of Representatives, transmitting another bill, namely, the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1956 will be reported to the Senate this day. That bill is closely related to the one now before the Senate, and I suggest that it would be convenient if the Senate would grant me leave to make one second-reading speech sufficiently comprehensive to cover both measures. Other honorable senators might wish to follow a similar course. The bills then could be dealt with separately in accordance with Standing Orders.
– Is leave granted ?
Honorable Senators. - Yes.
– The Senate will recall that on the 8th May last, . I tabled the report of the independent Committee of Inquiry into the Salaries and Allowances of Members of the Commonwealth Parliament. The committee which presented this report was set up on the 8th August, 1955, with the concurrence of all parties of the Parliament. In September, 1955, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) indicated in the Parliament that, having regard to the economic position, the Government would ask the committee to defer its report until the end of the financial year 1955-56. The purpose of this request was to delay any changes in parliamentary allowances until July, 1956. It proved more convenient for the committee to wind up its inquiry and submit its report, which it. did, in October last. So far no action has been taken on any aspect of the report.
The Government has decided to adopt the report entirely and the two bills before the Senate give effect to those parts of the recommendations requiring legislation. The amendments will operate from the 1st July, 1956, except in one particular which I shall now mention. The exception relates to electorate allowances between the dates of the 10th December, 1955, and the 1st July, 1956. Last year, following Parliament’s approval of the redistribution of electorate boundaries, I asked the Commissioner of Taxation to prepare a classification of electorates, taking into account the alterations. The Senate will appreciate that it was necessary, obviously, to make some provision for the new electorates which had been created and for which there was no provision under the existing legislation. It was appropriate also that the Commissioner of Taxation should at the same time give some thought to the consequences for allowance purposes of altered boundaries of other electorates.
The Commissioner of Taxation made a report and, briefly, his recommendations were these: Of the six new electorates created, the commissioner recommended that Scullin, Bonython and Stirling be classed as Group I.; Hughes and Bruce which were created from existing Group II. electorates, be classed as Group II., and Braddon, which is the new name for the former electorate Darwin, remain as Group III. In addition to the recommendations for new electorates, the Commissioner of Taxation also recommended that certain existing electorates be regrouped. His report recommended that the Australian Capital Territory should be transferred from Group I. to Group II., the electorate of Barker in South Australia from Group III. to Group IV., and the electorates of Canning and Moore in “Western Australia from Group III. to Group IV.
I emphasize to the Senate that none of these changes involves an adjustment in the rates of electorate allowances. They were merely alterations within the existing groupings. The Prime Minister authorized that payments in anticipation of legislation should be made in the case of the new electorates in accordance with the Commissioner of Taxation’s recommendation so that the members would be in receipt of the appropriate allowance for their electorates. No action was taken concerning the recommendations for changes in the old electorates.
The bill now before the Senate recommends that the rates for new electorates and the recommended alterations in old electorates be paid from the 10th December, 1955. The Government considers that it is necessary that this be done, even though it is now proposed that as from the 1st July, 1956, a new system of classifications will become operative. Clause 8 of the bill and the schedule, therefore, give effect to the recommendations of the Commissioner of Taxation in respect of the classification of electorates on the old basis for the period between the redistribution of electorates on the 10th December, 1955, and the proposed adoption, to date from the 1st July, 1956, of the new system recommended by the Richardson committee.
I come now to those parts of the bill which come into operation on the 1st July, 1956 - in other words to the recommendations of the independent committee. It ‘ is to give effect to the committee’s recommendations on members’ allowances that this legislation is now before the Senate. The committee recommendsand the bill provides - that the parliamentary allowance paid to each senator and member should be increased from £1,750 per annum to £2,350 per annum. It has recommended - and this also is provided in the bill - that the expenses allowance for the great variety of necessary electorate and other parliamenatry expenses of senators and members should be £600 per annum for city members, £800 per annum for county members, and £700 per annum for senators. The parliamentary allowance, which at present is non-taxable, will now, on the recommendation of the committee, be taken out of the nontaxable category and made subject to the normal income tax provisions. Similarly, the special expenses allowances paid to Ministers and office bearers of the Parliament will now become subject to income tax. These changes are provided in the income tax bill, which I have already mentioned.
There is one other matter covered by the bill. The report recommends that a special payment be made to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate by way of a special allowance and by way of an expense allowance. Previously, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was paid no allowance above his normal allowance as a senator. The Committee has recommended that he should have one. The Government accepts this recommendation and provision for these payments is made in the bill.
Having given the House this brief resume of the main recommendations of the report and indicated the main purpose of the bill, I should like to draw the Senate’s attention to some aspects of ihe committee’s work and to some of the views that the committee has expressed. I begin by pointing to the method by which the Government approached this problem - the establishment of a committee of inquiry. A wholly independent committee, made up of three impartial men of ability and experience, was asked to inquire into and report upon the salaries and allowances payable to senators and members and to make such recommendations as they believed to be justified. This was an entirely fair approach, none, I suggest, could be more so. The salaries of Ministers and parliamentary officers were excluded from the terms of reference. This is not to be taken as indicating a view that ministerial salaries are to be permanently pegged. The immediate effect in relation to Ministers and also, to office-bearers of the House is, of course, that the relationship between their allowances and the allowances of members generally has been upset.
In the course of its investigations, the committee interviewed many members; in fact, the report is notable for the fact that the committee virtually conducted a survey of members, through questionnaires, to analyse the existing conditions and the member of the committee obviously put themselves in a position of knowing their subject well. The committee has referred in pertinent fashion to some of the specific features of the occupation of being a member of Parliament and, while I do not need to acquaint the Senate with these all too well-known facts, I commend these sections of the report, in particular, to the public generally because, as the committee points out, the general public is often uninformed or. perhaps more accurately, misinformed on these matters.
I will not, during the course of this speech,, quote very much from the report, but I should like to illustrate very briefly what I have just been saying by reading some short passages -
Paragraph la. - During the course of our investigations we examined 81 per cent, of the members of both Houses, either by personal interview or by studying their written submissions.
Paragraph 20. - There is widespread misconception that members of Parliament devote only a fraction of their time to parliamentary duties. From our investigations we are satisfied that 84 per cent, of the members of the present Parliament devote the whole of their time to parliamentary anil electorate duties. Ninety-three per cent, of the members devote not less than 00 per cent, of their time to their electorate duties.
Paragraph 26. - During the inquiry members generally freely revealed the state of their finances to us and this showed that, again contrary to popular opinion, there are few people in the Commonwealth Parliament to-day whose earnings arc supplemented by other income from personal exertion.
In the matter of allowances for parliamentary expenses, commonly known as electorate allowances, the committee has recommended some distinct changes in the system now operating, although it has retained the principle of keeping this allowance separate from the parliamentary allowance. At the present time, country electorates are graded in four categories and the members receive an electorate allowance varying from £500 to £900 a year, according to the size of the electorate. It is now proposed that there should be one allowance of £800 a year for all country electorate members. It is recomended also, that metropolitan members should receive £600 per annum in place of the £400 per annum now paid to them for electorate expenses, and that senators who have their individual State responsibilities, should receive an amount of £700 a year instead of the current £550 a year.
It should be noted at this point that the existing stamp allowance of £72 a year to members and senators is no longer to be paid, and that stamp accounts will therefore have to be met from within the electorate allowance.
I have already said that not only the parliamentary allowances, but also the expenses allowances for all senators and members, and also for Ministers and officeholders of the Parliament, shall be subject to income tax. Previously, the electorate allowances and the special expense allowances paid had been classed as non-taxable items. That provision is now withdrawn by means of the bill now before the Senate, and members will be required, in common with other taxpayers, to claim the expenses incurred by them in earning their assessable income, that is, the expenses encountered in discharging parliamentary duties.
The Senate will understand that, apart from the matters in the committee report which require legislative action, there are recommendations which it is appropriate to handle administratively. These .include such things as air and rail travel, the abolition of the gold pass, visits to the Australian territories, and travelling allowances. All of these will be dealt with in accordance with the committee’s recommendations. I shall not refer to them in detail, except to say, so that it will be understood, that the committee has recommended that the travelling allowance payable to Ministers away from their home base and away from Canberra is to be increased, and that the President, the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition, while travelling on parliamentary business, should receive the same travelling allowance as that paid to a Minister.
The former allowance to Ministers was £5 5s. a day. It is now to be £7 7s. a day for Ministers and £10 10s. a day for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has drawn attention to the inadequacy of the existing rates. ‘In fact, I believe that most people whose duty it is to travel extensively will agree with the committee’s findings in this matter.
I should like now to offer some rather more general comments. I believe that most Australians will agree that the committee’s findings are entirely reasonable in all respects, but I realize also that most Australians will want me to explain and justify action, at this particular time, to put the committee’s findings into effect. It is well known that certain restraints of an economic character are a necessary part of the attack which we are making on the current economic problem. There are three points to which I would draw attention. The first one is that it is more than four years since there has been any change in the payments, either of salary or allowances, to members of Parliament. The previous committee of inquiry reported in 1952, and the salaries recommended then were given effect as from the 1st January, 1952. It will not he said by anybody that an adjustment after a period of four yeArs, during which prices and earnings have moved upward so noticeably, is a hasty adjustment.
But there is a second and particular aspect of this matter. I have said that the committee of inquiry was appointed in August last year and that it reported in October last year. It would have been reasonable for the committee’s recommen dations to have been put into effect immediately. But what was done? The Government decided that no action whatever would be taken prior to the 30th June of this year on the committee’s findings. This decision was a direct product of the Government’s appeal to the whole community for restraint.
The third point I would make is that what is now proposed is not something which has been thought up by the Parliament itself, but the fully considered recommendations of an independent committee of inquiry based on what the committee consider to be proper, having regard to all circumstances. The Government is well aware that the present is not a time for extravagance, and that it is still a time when the Government can be expected to give a lead in the fight against inflation, and for the protection and strengthening of our overseas reserves But none of this means that parliamentary salaries must remain static as long as there is inflationary pressure, especially in the light of the performance already standing to the credit of members of Parliament in having gone without their proper remuneration over a long period of time, and standing to the credit of Ministers and office bearers who, under this bill, will still be without adjustments on the levels of salary determined in 1952.
I add one important comment. Since the report was tabled, an impression has been created in some quarters that members of the Commonwealth Parliament are leading the way in a new race ju. salary increases. Nothing could be further from the truth. The facts establish that quite the contrary has been the case. What are the facts? In 1952, members and senators received modest increases in allowances, which brought them more or less into line with, general rates. Over the four and a half years since then, there have been no increases whatsoever, yet in that time, as the report shows, there has been a. substantial increase in the general rate of earnings in Australia. There have been specific and major increases in all salaries affected by the las’, margins award of the Arbitration Court.
Salaries throughout the Commonwealth Public Service have n>en and. as a consequence, permanent heads’ salaries have been substantially increased. Salaries in all State Public Services have increased. Salaries of many officers in public authorities have increased. There lias been a substantial rise in the salaries of High Court and Arbitration Court judges, anil there has been a general revision of salaries in at least two State Parliaments. There has been a general revision of salaries paid in banks and insurance offices and then, after all this, comes this recommendation that allowances paid to members of the Commonwealth Parliament should be increased - not an extravagant increase to put them ahead of every ona else, but, in my opinion, again a very modest increase which brings them into line once again, to some extent, with the general standard. I commend the measure to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sui.livan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As I indicated in my second-reading speech on the Parliamentary Allowances Bill 1956, the measure now before the Senate gives effect to certain provisions of that bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna ) adjourned.
hi committee: Consideration resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 909).
Clause 13- (1.) The Corporation shall, subject to this Act carry on the business of insurance . . (3.) The Corporation shall not enter into contracts of insurance under this section against risks that are normally insured with commercial insurers.
Upon which Senator Kennelly had moved by way of amendment -
That sub-clause (3.) be left out.
– It is not my purpose to repeat the reasons why the Opposition has moved the amendment. I have risen merely to express the hope that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will reply to at least, some of the observations that have been made by the Opposition in this connexion.
, - The amendment that has been moved by the Opposition is not acceptable to the Government. T shall endeavour to clarify the situation. Subclause (2.) of clause 13 provides -
The contracts of insurance which the Corporation may enter into under this section are contracts of insurance . . . against risk of monetary loss . . . for the purpose of trade with countries outside Australia.
Sub-clause (3.) modifies sub-clause (2.) by providing -
The Corporation shall not enter into contracts of insurance under this section against risks that are normally insured with commercial insurers.
Clause 14 sets out that the purpose of establishing the corporation is to develop and encourage trade with countries outside Australia.
– Are the words “ normally insured” in sub-clause (3.) to be read as “ normally insurable “ ?
– I should think that the words “ normally insured “ convey a better shade of meaning than the words “ normally insurable “. As the amendment is fundamental, the Government is not prepared to accept it. let us look at the preamble to the measure. It reads -
To promote Trade with Countries outside Australia by establishing an Export Payments Insurance Corporation to provide Insurance against certain Bisks arising out of that Trade not normally insured with Commercial Insurers.
The Opposition has argued that acceptance of the amendment would not effect a fundamental alteration, and that as the Government will provide by means of the corporation what might be called, for want of a better term, abnormal or unusual insurance, it would do no harm if the corporation also provided normal insurance; that is, insurance against normal risks, such as fire and other marine hazards.
Some of the reasons why the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment are as follows: - First, it is not our policy as a government to extend governmental activity unnecessarily. “We do not desire to extend governmental activity merely for the purpose of doing so. Other insurers are willing and able to accept the risks that the Opposition advocates should be accepted by the corporation and, as a matter of principle, the Government does not consider that any good purpose would be served by the corporation entering into that field of activity.
Secondly, from a business point of view, it is fallacious to contend that if the Government were to extend the scope of activities of the corporation to include additional risks, it would be able to reduce the premiums payable in respect of such additional risks. We must remember that an exporter is concerned only with the total premium that he pays. If the corporation enters what is in the nature of a restricted field - the insuring of cargoes subject to this export insurance cover - that would not, in the normal course of events, be good insurance business, because insurance companies favour spreading their risks over the widest possible field. If this particular type of insurance on these particular cargoes were added to the export insurance risk, it would be necessary to charge a higher premium for normal insurance than would be chargeable by an insurer who spreads his risk over a greater field.
– That is right.
– Therefore, in the final analysis, the exporter would be in no better position. He might pay a smaller premium for the special insurance provided under this bill, but that would be offset by his having to pay a larger premium on his normal insurance. That has been the experience in this connexion throughout the world. The corporations that are engaged in a similar kind of business overseas have restricted their insurance cover to the special risks which the ordinary insurance companies will not accept because of the tremendous amounts of money that would be involved if the risks crystallized. In Great Britain and Canada the corporations are government controlled, and I believe I am correct in saying that in other parts of the world only government-controlled corporations will accept the risks of this export business. Those other governmental activities, some of which have been established for a considerable period, have, in view of the test of time, continued to restrict their activities to providing export insurance proper without engaging in activities to cover other forms of insurance.
Finally, there is the point made by Senator Wright, which seems to me to be unanswerable, that it is of the essence of this scheme that cover must be provided, not only from the date the goods are placed on ship, but also, when the circumstances warrant, from the time of acceptance of the contract, in order to accept the risk that an Australian manufacturer may accept by entering into a substantia] contract overseas and, during the time the goods are being manufactured the overseas purchaser may default. Cover in circumstances such as that should be available where it is justified. Then, as Senator Wright has p ointed out, if the Government were to accept the Opposition’s amendment it would give this corporation the opportunity to engage in all sorts -of insurance transactions within Australia, such as ordinary fire insurance and workers’ compensation insurance, which is an approach to this legislation not previously conceived. To set up an insurance corporation to do a specialized job and to put that specialized agency in competition with other forms of insurance would be to put it at a disadvantage in the insurance world in which it has to live. On those grounds, the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– I thank the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for his explanation of the clause. I want briefly to traverse the first of the two reasons he gave for rejecting the amendment. He indicated it was not the policy of the Government to extend governmental activities. I know quite well that that is so, but I put to the Minister: If the Government decides to embark upon a business activity, as it does in imposing upon the authority the obligation to meet all its expenditure out of revenue, why does it impose a ukase against the corporation’s entry into a field of insurance that would enable it to comply with the statutory injunction? I could have understood the position very much better if in circumstances where the Government says, very properly, “ Here is a field of risk that private companies will not touch “ - and’ that is the Government’s excuse for entering the field alone - and it had then said rather than - what it says in sub-clause (3.) that private commercial insurers shall not enter the field filled by the Government. That would have been a logical position to take up. This new body has been told to pay its way, but immediately its wings are clipped and it is confined to one narrow portion of a field of activity, namely, the export trade. I agree with the Minister that its activities lie within a narrow compass, even if they do range from the acceptance of contract up to the time of delivery and time of payment. It really relates to export trade.
That leads me naturally to the second argument of the Minister, which I reject entirely. His second argument really supported the Opposition’s amendment. If I -understood nim aright, he said that ordinary insurance companies are able to charge low premiums in any particular field of insurance because they operate over many fields. They operate, for instance, in fire, burglary, workers’ compensation, motor car, and marine insurance and the rest. I understand the Minister’s argument to be that they can offset possible losses in one of those fields against gains in another and that, overall, that means lower premiums. If I , under.stood the Minister he argued that because insurance companies are active in a number of directions they can reduce premiums. Let us apply that argument to this body.
– In a number of directions in marine insurance.
– Whether it is on the basis I postulated or on the basis now put forward by the Minister, the broad principle is that it is better to spread risks over as wide an area as possible because that makes for lower premiums. Surely, the argument that applies to all private insurers applies with equal force to the Government when it enters one narrow field. Surely, the argument should be, “ Well, now, you will fare better; you will be able to reduce your premiums if, in fact, you spread your activities over a wider field.” That is the argument the Minister put forward in relation to private enterprise that hp should logically apply in favour of this government activity. There can be no answer to that argument.
It is quite certain that no private insurance company remains long in a field of activity in which it is a constant loser. It drops quickly out of that field. What happens in the insurance market is that if a company is consistently experiencing a loss in one field it vacates that field, and then the natural process is that the business falls into fewer hands which obtain larger revenues and, as a result, are able to make it pay. The position adjusts itself very quickly. I think the Minister will agree ‘that if insurance companies are engaging in any aspect of marine insurance and are continuing to stay in those fields, they are making profits in each .of them. From that I argue that if the new Commonwealth activity were to take up those risks at the rates of premiums that are now ruling it would unquestionably make a profit. It could do it in either of two ways. It could cut the particular premium and leave its predetermined premium for this extraordinary risk stand as originally determined, or, alternatively, it could use the profits on the wider range of business to cut down the degree of profit on this risk against non-payment, currency difficulties and the rest.
Really, I think that the argument the Minister addressed to the committee as his second argument is in favour of the proposition that the Opposition affirms. It seems to me to he altogether extraordinary that we start off a new body, enjoining it to pay its way, and then immediately handicapping it by restrictions against doing that very thing. Et is not a case of asking that the new Commonwealth activity embark in fields outside those that are simply confined to the one narrow field of export trade. The Opposition does not ask by its amendment that the corporation move over into the fields of life, fire, motor car, and accident insurance and the rest. We do not ask that at all. It seeems so silly to me to have divisible risks in respect of the one cargo. I believe that it will make it difficult for the businessman, and for the organization that is proposed to be set up under the bill. With it confined in that exceedingly narrow compass, I do not expect it to comply with the injunction that it should pay its way. After all, the very principle that the Minister and I are discussing has been expressed in relation to this bill by the Government when it says -
If in this narrow field to which the Commonwealth Commissioner is con lined, a man is exporting to a number of countries and he has one very grave risk, the Commissioner is not to take that one grave risk, he is to insist upon getting a spread of risks.
There, I suggest, is the very principle. In other words, he is expected by the Government to put in his very good export trade where there may be no risk, or little risk, and pay a premium on it where he might be quite prepared to carry his own insurance in order that the Commonwealth Commissioner will entertain some particular or grave risk that he is taking in trading with a new country or in trading with a customer whose reputation and credit may not be as good as it might be. Surely, it is an extension of that principle to say that the Commonwealth Commissioner should be free to move away from the narrow circle to which he is confined into the wider field of export insurance. It does not carry him very far, but at least it does give him a chance of showing a profit.
– I support the submissions made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in relation” to this particular clause, and I support particularly hissuggestion that the proposed corporation should be protected after it has entered into the limited field allowed to it under the clause. When the Minister replies to the speeches that have been made on this particular clause, I hope that he will be more definite in regard to the meaning of sub-clause (3.) of clause 13, where it is laid down-
The Corporation shall not enter into contracts of insurance under this section against risks that are normally insured with commercial insurers.
In replying to an interjection by Senator Byrne as to whether the word “ insured “ meant “ insurable “, the Minister was not too definite. Indeed, this very point was raised by me when speaking on the motion for the second reading of the bill. What will happen if a certain risk which it is desired to insure against comes within the ambit of the ordinary business carried on by an insurance company, and which, accordingly, the corporation will be unable to insure against unless the private companies will not accept it? For example, there are life assurance companies which will not accept every risk offered to them. One can approach such a company to have his life assured, and find that for some reason, which the company believes to be good, it will not accept the risk.
– Not many commercial insurance companies carry their own insurance risks; they insure with other companies.
– I am assuming that there is a certain risk which no insurance company will accept. Suppose a cargo of goods is to be sent to a dangerous place and is regarded as a bad risk. Commercial insurance companies will not accept that risk, and that is the sort of transaction that occurs in the commercial world every day. A. person may try to insure his house with a commercial insurance company, but if the company takes the view that because of some circumstance the insurance of the house is a bad risk, it will refuse to take the business. I ask the Minister to make a specific statement about this matter, does sub-clause (3.) mean that if a private insurance company will not accept a certain risk, the proposed’ corporation will be able . to accept it ? If the corporation is able to do so, I suggest that that is another example of the advantage of a public corporation over a private company, and is a good reason why the Opposition’s amendment should be accepted.
– Sub-clause (1.) of this clause reads -
The Corporation shall, subject to this Act, carry on the business of insurance, being insurance under contracts referred to in the next succeeding sub-section.
Sub-clause (3.) reads -
The Corporation shall not enter into contracts of insurance under this section against, risks that are normally insured with commercial insurers.
Lf ever there was a fledgling being pushed out of its political nest with its wings already clipped, this is it. As Senator Sheehan has already said, life assurance companies employ medical officers to examine people who apply to have their lives insured, and if those people are found to have certain physical disabilities or diseases, the companies say, “ “We are very sorry, we cannot take you on”. Are honorable senators being asked to support a bill which, to all intents and purposes, states that the Australian taxpayer will take on all the sick people that the private insurance companies will not insure? Is that field to be the only field within which the Export Payments Insurance Corporation is to work? That is, the field that insurance companies will not enter.
I believe that by the provision of subclause (3.) we are foisting on to the Treasury a. responsibility that it is not right to ask it to accept. I also believe that within the next three or four years there will be people, such as those engaged in various research services, and other critics of government organizations, who will say that this’ Export Payments Insurance Corporation is an example of a government enterprise losing money. It will be said that every time the Government enters into any commercial field it makes a mess of it. I suggest that sub-clause (3.) is preparing the way for that sort of criticism, and 1, therefore, strongly support the Opposition’s amendment for the deletion of that sub-clause.
If the sub-clause is deleted it will give more scope to this corporation, which .1 believe will be a very fine organization, to assist in our export drive. I hope that the corporation will help in sending more of our products to new markets. But that worthy objective will be restricted by the retention of sub-clause (3.). I also hope that the point made ivy Senator Byrne as to whether “ insured “ should be “ insurable “ will be further developed. I suggest that “ normally insured “ embraces established business; and the query is raised as to whether it is possible for the proposed corporation to enter into new fields of business. The existence of the corporation will open new fields of business, and I suggest that it would be able to enter those fields.
Perhaps the Government will let us know whether the corporation is to be excluded from future new fields of insurance business. That is a point that was well taken by Senator Byrne, and one that will cause a lot of confusion, in the future. Will the Minister enlarge upon his statement that the acceptance of normal insurance business would not lead to reduced premiums ? I believe it is not correct to assume that greater profits would not flow to the corporation, and if they did, those profits could be used in extending activities or reducing premiums. The effect of the clause will be to clip the wings of the corporation.
– I asked the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), by way of interjection, whether the words “ normally insured “ were to be read as “ normally insurable “. I do not agreethat it is a matter of fine distinction. 1 believe that it has some significance that should be explained to the committee. If the wrong interpretation has been placed on the words, it should be corrected. If the words are to be interpreted as they stand, reading “normally insured”, would not the limits of the corporation activities he determined, in effect, by the activities of commercial insurance interests? If there is a field of risk which the corporation normally does not elect to cover, that would be determined as a field that lay outside the ambit of the corporation. On the other hand, if the words are to be read as “ not normally insurable “, it would lie beyond the competence of commerce or industry to limit the field of the corporation. It is the commercial insurance companies that elect to accept or reject a risk.
I do not know what is the intention of the bill. That was behind my mind when I asked the question. To whom is the responsibility to be given? I am sure the Minister will give a little more information on that point beyond the comment that he made earlier.
Honorable senators have canvassed th, other points as to spreading the risk and lowering insurance . rates. The object of the corporation, in particular, is to foster exports to new importing countries and, perhaps, to foster new exports. This bill contemplates the sort of com pany which will open up a completely new export market - a company that, at, the moment, might not be engaged in the export business at all. If that is so, the argument advanced by the Minister is not completely relevant. Such a company will not spread its risks over all it<= trade. If it elects to open up an export trade with a mythical country, XYZ, and it has no other export customers at all, it will be limited in its premium rates to its trade with that country. If the Minister claims that a lowering of rates on that export trading would increase them on other export trading, that would be correct in the ouse of an exporting company which has seen re import customers, but that would nor apply to a new exporter who is pioneering a market. He will have only one customer in one country, and must face all the risks that are attendant upon that one transaction. That is the type of business contemplated in this bill. That is the sort of business the legislation is designed to foster, but there will be no opportunity for such a trader to spread his premium rates., because he will not have other export trade.
– The honorable senator is confusing the issue. It is not the customer who spreads his premium rates. We are the insurance company. We have to decide whether it is good insurance or not.
– That point has been taken by many honorable senators.
– That is the only point.
– I understood the Minister to say, in reply to my question, that if premiums were decreased for a man who was exporting under one transaction, the insurance company would have to decrease them in other cases. I am speaking of a man whose business would be confined to this one exporting corporation. That would be the only organization covering him in relation to that one transaction. Of course, he would have to accept cover with other companies on all other insurance risks. That is the normal practice, but it has no relation to such a confined transaction as we have been discussing, in regard to which he could not look anywhere else.
– He would shop on the best market for his normal insurance.
– And he would have to shop on the only market available in relation to this type of business. It will be a difficult situation when the Government purports to foster that sort of business, and yet would deprive the insurance company that is helping the trader of the opportunity of giving him maximum assistance. The insurance cover will protect him only up t,o S5 per cent. The venture must be an uncertain one: that is fundamental. Because it is uncertain, he will be excluded from other insurance cover, but if the venture collapses completely, the trader will be insured to 85 per cent. He will be risking 15 per cent, of his investment. Tn addition, he will have imposed upon him an insurance premium higher than the rate that would be payable if the corporation were given the opportunity to enter the insurance trade over a wider field.
If I understand the legislation properly, that is the object of the amendment that has been put forward by the Opposition. We want to allow the corporation to go into a wider field of insurance trading. In that field the business will not be attended by the severe risks that are contemplated, and are inseparable from, the type of business visualized in the bill. The wider field of business would permit profits to be made, so that the general rate of premiums could be lowered. The traders who are to be assisted under this legislation would thus have the maximum assistance at the least Possible cost. It is not sufficient to give them the maximum assistance at a high tost compared with the lower rates that would be available for a more reasonable proposition. I do not believe that the amendment is intended to open the door to general insurance trading.
– It is almost a direct negative to the bill.
– No, because the amendment would not take the corporation out of the field of export insurance. That is not the intention of the amendment. Wc suggest that, within the field of export trading, wider opportunities should be given to the corporation for general insurance trading.* I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in asking the Minister to accept the amendment. It would extend the functions of the corporation, and encourage the use of it by those whom it was primarily devised to assist and support. I shall be pleased to hear the Minister further on that aspect of the proposal, and also upon the interpretation of the words to which I have referred.
Senator SPOONER (New South Wales - Minister for National Development^ [4.55]. - I feel that there is not much more that I can add to what I have already said. The fault must lie with mo in that I have not been able to get my message across to honorable senators opposite. Let us forget for a moment the general proposition that the Government, does not want to extend its activities unnecessarily. Let us restrict our argument to the point related to insurance cover on the cargoes that come within this special category. As practical people, thy first point to which we must all direct our attention is that wherever this special insurance is provided, in no case is it accompanied by general insurance. Our purpose is to allow the corporation to provide this special cover and to enable it to trade without loss. Our suggestion follows the precedents established by similar corporations in other parts of the world. We have introduced it after 10:1- sultation with an English specialist in this type of insurance, a man whom we brought from Great Britain to advise us. The concensus of opinion and advice offered to us is that the cover must be restricted to this special activity. I go so far as to say that if the position were reversed - if the Opposition were the Government and we were the Opposition honorable senators opposite would have drafted the bill in the same terms as we have done because the purpose is to expand our export business and, in order to do that, we seek to offer the type of insurance cover that will be most CO.1ducive to the expansion of export business.
We seek also to make it financially selfsupporting. It is purely on financial grounds that the scheme has been drafted in its present form. If we want the scheme to be successful, we must be guided by the experience of organizations that are already in operation oversea.?. It must bc remembered that we are looking at this question from the point of view of an insurance company. As a government, we are going into business as an insurance company for special purposes. That being so, we must be careful to embark upon the venture in the way that is calculated to bc the most likely to succeed. If wc were to go into this venture “high, wide and handsome “ for the purpose of earning premiums from general insurance with a view to reducing the premiums on the special insurance, we should have more chance of reducing the premiums on the special insurance than if we restricted the corporation to giving general cover only on those cargoes over which it gives the special cover. However, the fact is that these special cargoes will represent only a very small proportion of our total export business. I hope I am wrong about that.
– It runs into £25,000,000.
– And that is a fair sum of money, but these special cargoes will represent only a small proportion of our total export business; a.id this corporation is- being asked to enter what is more or less an abnormal field of insurance activity. They may not be ordinary wheat or ordinary flour cargoes that are being exported. In this venture, we are asking the exporter to sell on a market on which he has never sold before ; and I repeat that it will be a comparatively small proportion of the total trade. Is it not a fact that one of the reasons why commercial insurers will not provide this cover is that the risk is restricted while, at the same time, there is the possibility of very heavy loss in certain circumstances? That is the reason why this type of business is left to governments. That same atmosphere is being introduced, although not to the same extent, when we say to the corporation that it can give general insurance cover but only in respect of certain cargoes. That is completely opposed to all tenets of insurance business.
– Ve are prepared to widen it if the Government is prepared to support that extension.
– The Opposition is prepared to do anything so long as it has an argument. The first thing any insurance company does, as honorable senators know, when it takes on a big risk, is to farm out that risk to underwriters so that there is the greatest possible number of comparatively small risks covering the insured subject. It may be likened to the insurance cover on the buildings in a certain street. If a fire wiped out the whole of the buildings, the loss would be spread river a number of insurance companies. It is only by working on that principle that insurance cover can be provided cheaply. I am sorry if 1 have not convinced honorable senator? opposite, but I have done my best and can say no more.
– In view of the attitude declared by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), there is no real point in unduly prolonging the debate. I recognize the Government’s attitude in the matter, and I rise only briefly for two purposes. One is to controvert the Minister’s statement that if we were the government we would retain sub-clause (3.). I assure the Minister that if we confined the activities of the commissioner to one single field not touched by private enterprise, our subclause (3.) would be directed as I indicated previously, to saying to the private insurers, “ You shall not enter the field that you have not touched hitherto, and we, the Commonwealth, are now going to enter it “. We should at least buttress our necessary Commonwealth activity with that protection. Therefore, I cannot accept the Minister’s suggestion that if we were the Government we would do what his Government is doing.
The only other comment I wish to make is to refer the Minister to what would happen if this clause were allowed to stand only with sub-clauses (1.) and (2.). Sub-clause (2.) would confer a general authority in relation to cargo insurance, but that would not be absolute It would still be qualified by sub-clause (2.) of clause 11 which provides that before any insurance policy can be adopted by the commission the matter has got to be approved by the Minister in relation to both the classes of insurance and the nature of the risks. Even if sub-clause (3.) were deleted and the broad field of insurance were left open to the Commonwealth instrumentality, there would still be complete power in the Government, through the Minister, to restrict the nature of those risks and of contracts that might be entered into. Tt is not even throwing the field wide on er in the sphere of marine insurance. The Minister still has an over-riding power.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Kennelly’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided.
Ayes . . . . . . 22
Noes . . . . . . 26
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
. -1 postponed my remarks on this clause until the division had been taken on the first part, of the Opposition’s amendment, but I now direct the attention of the Minister to the structure of this clause, It reads - (1.) The Corporation shall, subject to this Act. carry on the business of insurance, being insurance under contracts referred to in the next succeeding sub-section. (2. ) The contracts of insurance which the Corporation may enter into under this section are contracts of insurance with, or for the benefit of persons carrying on business in Australiabeing contracts of insurance against risk of monetary loss or other monetary detriment attributable to circumstances outside the controlof the person suffering the loss or detriment and resulting from failure to receive payment in connexion with or otherwise arising outof acts or transactions in the course of or for the purpose of, trade with countries outside Australia. (3.> The Corporation shall not enter into contracts of insurance under this section against risks that are normally insured with commercial insurers.
I do not know what is the intention of the clause or whether sub-clause (2.) or sub-clause (3.) is to be the predominant part of it. A real question of construction arises as to which of those twosubclauses is to be considered as predominant. The Minister referred to an argument which I addressed to the committee on the previous occasion on which this bill was under consideration. I prefer to illustrate my arguments by particular cases rather than deal in generalities. I ask honorable senators to consider the example of a cargo of machines which came out of a factory, were taken to the port of shipment, placed on board ship and eventually discharged at the port of destina tion. Suppose an accident or a fire occurred or marine damage was caused en route which resulted in loss or damage in the course of, or for the purpose of, trade “ with a foreign country. It seems to me that sub-clause (2.) authorized fire, accident and marine insurance in those circumstances. Is it the intention of sub-clause (3.) to provide that the corporation shall not give cover for fire, accident or. marine insurance in such a case, those risks being such as are normally insured with commercial interests? Before I make my next pointI should like some elucidation of this one.
– Hope springs eternal in the human breast, and I hope that I can elucidate the honorable senator’s point.
– I do not think the Minister can. It is inexplicable.
– I do not know whether I may be approaching my con sideration of this clause in the right legal way, but I do so in what appears to me to be a practical manner. In considering what the corporation will do in the terms of the policies that it will issue it is necessary to consider this clause in relation to clauses 11 and 34. Three clauses cover the ground. Under clause 1.1, the corporation is subject to the control of the Minister, in’ that he shall determine the classes of contract, the nature of the risks, and the countries in respect of which the insurance will apply. The contracts of insurance will have regard to whether the insurance runs from the date on which the goods are shipped, or from the date on which the order is booked.
Then we come to the nature of the risks. I think it is fair to say that subclause (2.) is in pretty wide terms. It is to be read in conjunction with clause 11, which follows the whole purpose of the scheme. That purpose is to cover risks which are not normally insurable with commercial insurers. It is for the lawyer to express definitions of what actual words mean, but 1 should think that, taking sub-clauses (2.) and (3.) together, they provide that the corporation shall not enter into contracts against risks that are normally insurable. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) reminds me that sub-clause (1.) provides that the corporation may only enter into the business of insurance subject to the terms of the legislation.
– This legislation?
Sena tor SPOONER.- Yes.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) [5.17J. - I remind the committee that during this sessional period we are going to hove the dreadful task of asking ourselves to reverse legislation which was solemnly propounded to us as very desirable legislation during the last two or three years. I refer to the immunity of the salaries of members of this Parliament from income tax and the vicious constitutional provision whereby the Governor-General and the Executive Council may alter the expenses of members of Parliament by regulation. That is a vicious thing. Do not let us accept this matter dispassionately. I am inviting the committee to consider the real effect of this clause, which is absolutely the key to the legislation. Clause 13 is the pivot upon which this measure of the Parliament revolves.
In tho first place, T suggest that clause 11 cannot alter the operation of clause 13. Tt is most unfortunate that clause 11 uses the word “policy” in an insurance bill, having regard to the fact that a contract of insurance is usually described a.9 policy. There, is no possibility of misunderstanding, hut it is unfortunate that that has been done. I mention the matter because clause 11 deals only with policy in the sense of general administrative policy. But when we come to clause 13, we find that sub-clause (1.) provides that -
The Corporation shall, subject to this Act-
I emphasize the words, “ subject to this Act “, but where, in that phrase, do we derive assistance to indicate which of subclauses (2.) and (3.) of the very same la use is to he predominant?
– Read the rest of subclause (1.). It is quite clear.
– It reads- carry on the business of insurance, being insurance under contracts referred to in the next succeeding sub-section.
– Yes. That is, made subject to this act. Therefore, it is subject to sub-clause (3.).
– I see. That, argument obviously springs from the surface of the thing. I should venture to wager that for every 50 lawyers who would take that view, there would be another 50 who would take the contrary view, because it is so intricately expressed.
– It is all right for the lawyers.
– We in this place presume to make the law. I suggest, by way of example, that if a dough-maker understands bread, he will turn out a better product.
I point out that sub-clause (2.) extends the insurance against loss or detriment from all causes or transactions in the course of. or for the purpose of, trade with countries outside Australia. Then, sub-clause (3.) provides that -
The Corporation shall not. enter into contracts of insurance under this section against risks that are normally insured with commercial insurers.
That is all I wish to say on this aspect In my opinion, the matter has been left in a completely ambiguous state. That is most unfortunate and will lead to tanglefoot. The best indication that it will do so, and that that possibility has occurred to the Parliamentary Draftsman, is the presence of clause 34.
– That is for another purpose altogether.
– I mention the matter only because I propose to discuss it when we come to that clause, and I hope that, by then, both the Attorney-General and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will be armed with some precedent for such a provision. As I say, its presence is the best evidence that it had occurred to the consciousness of the draftsman that clause 13 was filled with tanglefoot.
There is another aspect of sub-clause (3.). What is meant by the expression “ risks that are normally insured with commercial users “ ? Does it mean that it is necessary to ascertain whether an individual risk, such as the consignment of a cargo to Arabia, is the subject of insurance normally, or docs it mean that it is necessary to ascertain whether or not the, risk involved in an alteration of the rate of exchange of the country of destination o£ the cargo is the subject of normal commercial insurance? Secondly, is the Government considering the practice in Australia only? In relation to what places does the Government relate the question, “” What are the risks which are normally insured ?” when we are dealing with international trade and when we have Lloyd’s of London as the centre of world insurance? I should like to know from the Minister whether or not Lloyd’s normally refuse policies in relation to exports to foreign countries where loss arises from changes in the exchange rate. I think we should have that information. I shall be surprised to learn that Lloyd’s normally refuses such insurance.
There is a further question concerning this provision that was raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) on the last occasion that the bill was before the committee. Is it the position that this statute is to be construed as always speaking, so that, in relation to a policy taken out on the -31st January, 1960, you are to consider what is the normal scope of insurance granted by commercial insurers on the 31st January, 1960? If, before that time, the normal scope of insurance should alter, an ever-varying area of insurance will be directed to be excluded from the province of this legislation. Those are important matters, because this is the key section of the legislation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Powers of Corporation).
– As this clause defines the powers of the corporation, I think that the committee should be informed of the source from which this category of power comes, particularly as the corporation is being granted power to make contracts. Amongst other things, the clause invests the corporation with power to obtain and pay for information necessary for its business. The purpose of a clause of this sort, ordinarily, unless the exceptional provisions of clause 34 apply, is to delimit the legal powers of a corporation. Only within its specified legislative powers will the corporation be able validly to make contracts. If a corporation goes beyond its express power, a person with whom it makes a contract has a document which is null and void. The proposed corporation is to be given power to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connexion with, or incidental to the carrying on of its business, and in. particular, the things listed in this clause. They seem to me to be just a miscellaneous collection of powers that occurred to the draftsman when drafting this bill. What is the reason for such an odd assortment? What is the reason for the general provision that the corporation shall have power to make contracts? This power could enable the corporation to make a contract for an exploration for tigers in Central Africa.
– This power is granted only to enable the corporation to carry on its business.
Clause agreed to.
Clause’ 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Appointment of officers).
– This clause reads as follows: - (I.) The Corporation may appoint such officers as it thinks necessary. (2.) Subject to the next succeeding subsection, a person shall not be appointed as an officer of the Corporation unless -
– Two bob each way!
– Obviously, I do not need to make any further comment. The ludicrous situation established by the provisions of sub-clauses (2.) and (3.) is self-evident.
– I support the contention of Senator Wright that sub-clause (3.) negates the provisions of sub-clause (2.). I should appreciate an explanation by the Minister of how sub-clause (3.) will be applied.
– I think the short answer is, that sub-clause (2.) sets out the general provisions that shall govern the appointment of employees by the corporation. It must be remembered that the corporation will engage in a specialized business. It may have employees or agents overseas as well as in Australia. Sub-clause (3.) gives the corporation a general power to make appointments in circumstances when it cannot observe the requirements of subclause (2.).
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 21 agreed to.
Clause 22 (Corporation guaranteed by Commonwealth) .
– I merely direct the attention of the committee to the fact that this clause means, obviously, what it says, that -
The Commonwealth is responsible for the payment of all moneys due by the Corporation . . .
In other words, looking at the matter in the light of this clause alone, the liability of the Commonwealth is completely unlimited. The fact that, by clause 28, the corporation shall be required to keep its contingent liability at any one time to an amount not exceeding £25,000,000 does nothing to cut down the unlimited provision of clause 22. I point out to the Minister that, in the event of the corporation disregarding the statutory obligation cast upon it by clause 28 not to assume liabilities beyond £25,000,000, even if it exceeded its statutory authority, the Commonwealth would still be liable to meet incurred liabilities under clause 22. I invite the Minister to say whether I have stated the position accurately.
– The answer is “ Yes “.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 23 to 25 agreed to.
Clause 26- (2.) Moneys of the Corporation not immediately required for the purposes of the Corporation may be invested on fixed deposit with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia or with any other bank approved by the Treasurer, or in securities of the Commonwealth.
.- Senator Kennelly has circulated an amendment to this clause. On his behalf, I formally move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), the words “or with any other bank approved by the Treasurer be left out.
The amendment is directed to eliminating the provision that the moneys of the corporation may be invested with any bank approved by the Treasurer other than the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
The Opposition feels that, in circumstances where it is not a matter of accommodating the corporation’s trading facilities, enabling it to bank in remote places - doubtless it will establish branches all over Australia, where there may be no branches of the Commonwealth Bank - the need for this provision does not arise, because we are not dealing with trading or current accounts. We are dealing only with the investment of moneys not immediately required by the corporation. Surely, it is a correct principle that where the Government creates a corpora- tion, gives it £500,000 to begin with, guarantees its liabilities even if to some extent there is an attempt to de-limit them to £25,000,000 and generally sponsors the whole activity, the moneys it handles should be deposited with the Commonwealth Bank alone. There should be no objection. This is a wholly Commonwealth activity in a field untouched by private enterprise. Surely, there can be no good reason why, if moneys are to be invested, the scope for investment ought not to be restricted to fixed deposits in the Commonwealth Bank or in securities with the Commonwealth. Why, for instance, should this, a Commonwealth instrumentality, if it has moneys which may be lying idle for some time, by-pass a Commonwealth loan in order to deposit its money with a private bank and not with the Commonwealth Bank? That is the sole argument in relation to this matter, and 1 commend it to the committee for its thought.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out Senator McKenna’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. P.Reid.)
Majority . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 27 to 38 - by leave - considered together.
– I direct attention to clause 34 which reads -
Without prejudice to the duty of the Corporation to comply with the provisions of this Act and to observe the limits of its powers under this Act, a contract of insurance entered into by the Corporation is not invalidated by reason of a provision of this Act not having been complied with by the Corporation in relation to the contract or by reason of its not being within those limits.
I am concerned, in the first place, for the protection of the efficacy of sub-clause (3.) of clause 13. I can understand the reasons that divide both sides of the Senate as to the acceptance, or nonacceptance, of that sub-clause. The question is whether or not we are passing legislation which enables this new corporation to go into the general field of commercial insurance. The functions of a statutory authority like this are defined by law and if the authority enters into any improper field, then any contract it makes therein is invalid. Clause 34 says, in effect, that whatever has been stated previously in the bill, even though not complied with, so faras it affects the power of the corporation, shall not have any legal effect. Therefore, to my way of thinking, it is a most novel provision. I think it has been inserted because of the draftsmen’s difficulty in reconciling sub-clause (2.) and sub-clause (3.) of clause 13. Realizing the difficulty of understanding what is meant in a particular case he, in effect says, “ Well, having said two inconsistent things and not providing a sure solution as to which of them should prevail, and realizing the difficulty of determining in any particular case what risks are normally insured withcommercial insurers, well, anyhow, nothing of what has been said shall have binding legal effect on the corporation. Therefore, ‘we shall express them as pious expressions of policy of this Parliament that shall not be binding on the corporation “.
– Clause 34 says that it shall be binding on the corporation.
– Yes- for the purpose of creating one of those effete situa- tions of a duty of imperfect obligation, that is to say a duty that cannot be enforced.
– Who said it cannot be enforced?
– I am encouraged by interjection to think that I may get a response on this occasion. I shall await it.
Senator SPOONER (New South Wales - Minister for National Development) f 5.44]. - As to whether or not the intention is expressed in good law I claim no pretence to know. This matter was brought up during the second-reading debate, and I have pursued the problem to its bitter end. I am convinced as to its bona fides. I am quite convinced about what is intended. It is necessary to consider the hill from three angles There is the preamble about insurance risks that are not normal ; there is clause 11 under which the Minister’s approval must be sought in respect of three classifications of policy, including the kind of contracts of insurance that should be entered into; and there is clause 13 which gives the corporation its powers subject to a certain reservation. Consequently, there are three sets of circumstances, the corporation is controlled from the ministerial level according to the terms of the measure, and certain policy matters have to be approved by the Minister.
I have been informed that clause 34 has been inserted to cover the contingency that may arise when, with the best of intentions, the corporation enters into a policy to cover some risk which may be outside the powers given to it in other clauses of the bill. If that contingency should arise, the corporation would be prevented from denying liability by taking advantage of a technicality. The corporation could not say, “ Although we entered into this policy we should not have done so, therefore we are not liable “. It has to stand up to its obligation and pay in respect of the risk that it has insured against, even though the risk was not one of those thai it was intended the corporation should cover.
We must assume that the corporation will observe the terms of the measure and the policy is laid down. If the corporation deliberately accepted a risk that was not intended to be covered by the legislation, then the corporation it elf could be dealt with by the Government. The Government could remove the persons who had acted wrongly.
– Governments change.
– Yes, but there is a government all the time.
– I shall have less confidence in the successors of this Government.
– If the corporation disobeyed its instructions it could be disciplined, but there must be some protection if it should innocently issue a policy, and then somebody finds out that it was not legally able to cover the risk involved. Worse still - and this is not unknown in the insurance world - if some one were to say “ That risk is not in the bond “, the corporation would still have to pay.
– This particular clause does not stop the corporation from paying.
– This clause is designed to prevent the corporation from, in effect, repudiating a risk that it hud insured against.
Clauses 27 to 38 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
– In view of the complicated answers that have been given to various honorable senators who have asked questions about this measure, would the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) consider an alteration of the title of the bill to make it the “Export Payments Subsidy Corporation Bill “, rather than the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill? I suggest that this proposed new title would indicate more clearly the real purpose of the measure, because the bill contains provisions for the restriction of orthodox insurance business, and other restrictions which depend upon ministerial action. The title that I have suggested would in every way be more suitable, and would indicate in a more straight-forward way the purposes of the bill.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.51 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 936), 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: - . . . (vide page 803).
. - Just before the adjournment last Wednesday, I was answering some of the accusations that had been made by supporters of the ‘ Australian Labour party during the debate on this measure. They accused the Government of having failed to protect the rights of sporting bodies in the televising of sporting events. I said then that an amendment was to be moved in this chamber that would give adequate protection to all sporting bodies in that connexion. The amendment to clause 49 will read - 88a. The Commission or the holder of a licence for a commercial television station shall not televise, either directly orby means of any recording film or other material or device or otherwise, the whole or a part of a sporting event or other entertainment held in Australia, after the commencement of this section, in a place to which a charge is made for admission, if the images of the spurting event or other entertainment originate from the use of equipment outside that place.
That amendment should satisfy all Australian sporting bodies. It will prohibit television stations from putting up their equipment outside a sporting arena and televising or commenting upon a sporting event. The Government proposes to leave negotiations for the televising of specific sporting events to the sporting bodies, so that they may reach an agreement with the commercial stations or the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I believe that the needs of the sporting bodies will be adequately covered.
Earlier in this debate, I listened with interest to Senator Hendrickson, who said that the Government was purposely creating a pool of unemployed. If Senator Hendrickson believes that television will cause unemployment, he is well and truly off the mark. When this bill is passed, it will give authority for the establishment of two commercial television stations in both Sydney and Melbourne, and for the establishment of a national television station in each of those cities. Melbourne and Sydney will each have three television stations, and the cost of establishing them will be between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000. Much of that money will be spent on wages and materials. The people who want to see the television programmes will have to buy television sets, which will cost about £2.00 each. According to Senator Hendrickson himself, there “will be approximately 500,000 television sets in Australia within a few years. The manufacture of those . sets will provide employment.It will stimulate the production of tin, lead, copper and other materials that are used in the construction of sets.
A press report recently stated that, because of the decline in sales of motor vehicles in the United States of America and Great Britain, the world’s metal markets had become depressed. Lessmetal was required. The introduction of television to Australia will require the production of greater quantities of minerals, including iron, tin, manganese, lead and copper. Extra labour will be needed. Employment will be created’ for thousands of people throughout Australia.
As a mutter of fact, there is not a large number of unemployed in Australia, as Senator Hendrickson would have us believe. The Commonwealth Employment Service has reported that between the 29th March. and the 27th April last registered vacancies fell from 44,000 to 40,000, but payment of unemployment benefit declined by £1,115. Throughout Australia, only 5,379 persons were receiving unemployment benefit at the 30th April.
– There are a few more now.
– I remind Senator Tangney that we have a work force in Australia of 3,500,000, and the unemployment figures show that, for every 700 persons employed, only one person is unemployed. I hope that nobody on the Opposition side will raise the subject of unemployment again in connexion with television. If honorable senators on the Opposition side wish to contradict my figures they may do so, but I have told the truth.
Many speakers on both sides of the chamber have referred to the effect of television upon thu community, and they have created some fear and doubt in the minds of listeners. They have SUiTgested that television is not altogether good. 1 believe that it will be of advantage to Australia. It will give pleasure in homes close to the cities and towns. People will be able to sit at home and see varied programmes, which might include the proceedings of Parliament and sporting events. It would be interesting to see the effect upon the Parliament if its proceedings were televised. What would the reaction have been if the people could have seen recent events in this chamber when Senator Kennelly, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, rose and, with tears in his eyes, took a point of order because a Government senator had accused the Labour party of assisting communism in the trade unions?
– Order !
– If the proceedings of Parliament were televised it would create a great deal of interest in Australia. Again, the Australian people will have the pleasure of viewing sporting events. Where we now hear broadcast descriptions of the running of the Melbourne Cup, people will either have the thrill of seeing their horses winning, perhaps by a “ split whisker “, or be clowncast at t,he sight of their horses being beaten. Television has its good features and the Government has taken certain precautions to ensure that the best possible programmes that can be obtained shall be televised for the education of the Australian people. With this end in view, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has set up a number of standards known as the Television Programmes Standards. That board was established under the Broadcasting Act 1942 to 1954, and it will control the programmes of television stations. It will ensure that the programmes televised shall make for the better education and entertainment of viewers. The standards provide that service must be given to children. For instance, it would be foolish for the Government to allow the televising of programmes that would detrimentally affect, the minds of children. The standards will prohibit the televising of programmes that are not suitable for children before 8 p.m. After that time, when the children have gone to bed, programmes suitable for adults will be televised. The standards also lay down what shall be done by the television stations in allocating time to all political parties taking part in election campaigns.
Honorable senators opposite have accused the Government of seeking to give licences to those commercial stations which support the present Government parties. That accusation is entirely without foundation. Here, I point out that when the Australian Broadcasting Control Board advertised that it would accept applications for television licences, there were eight applicants. They were interviewed by the board and one of them proved to be Dr. Evatt. When asked by the board whom he was representing, Dr. Evatt said, “ The Australian Labour party “. When asked on what authority he represented that party, he was obliged to ask the board to wait until he obtained the necessary authority by telegram. When asked whether the Australian Labour party would make time available over its television station to other political parties, Dr. Evatt was very vague in his answer, with the result that no licence was given exclusively to the Australian Labour party. I believe that all television stations should allot certain times and give certain privileges to all political parties. When one political party owns such a station, it is difficult to see how there cun be a fair allocation of time to all political parties. Further, with the added opportunities such party would have through owning a television station, it could exert tremendous influence on the many people throughout .Australia who would view its programmes. l.n those circumstances I believe tha’ it would bo better if politics were kept out of television as much as possible. Probably it would be better for all concerned if politics were prohibited in television programmes. If we are to have them, then we must be fair to both 3ides. The Government has endeavoured to guarantee fairness to all parties under this bill. 1 understand that the three television stations in Sydney and the three in Melbourne will televise in black and white. I read with dismay the other day that in America there has been a falling off recently in the demand for television sots that are capa’ble of reproducing only black and white images. Many people in America are withholding their orders pending the time when they will be able to buy sets capable of televising in colour. However, we have to start somewhere, and I understand that we are to start with reproduction in black and white.
– We should start with colour reproduction.
– If we have to go in for that, the colour will certainly nol be red. Having decided to make a start with black and white reproduction it is probable that the people of Western Australia will be required to wait until such time as sets capable of reproducing in colour are available. The stations now to be erected in Sydney and Melbourne will be required to carry out a great deal of the experimental work in the development of television in Australia ; and cities such as Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth will benefit in the long run through having, to wait for television for the time being,, because much will be learnt from theexperiences of the original stations.
– Try it out on the dog. first.
– Somebody has to start it off, and the best cities to do so are those which have the greatest populations. Sydney has the largest population of any city in Australia and Melbourne comes next. That being so, they are thetwo logical cities in which to initiatethe experiment. I have no quarrel with making a start in those cities, especially as the royal commission that inquired into television in Australia unanimously recommended that the first stations beerected in Sydney and Melbourne.
I believe also that the Government hatbeen wise in providing for the establishment of both national and commercial television stations, .because this will create a certain amount of competition. Competition is the lifeblood of our Australian way of life, and it is needed in television as much as in any other activity. Recently, I saw an instance of the removal of competition from a particular venture, and the instrumentality involved retrogressed very seriously. That was not a government concern, so honorable senators opposite need not be apprehensive. The setting up of commercial television stations alongside of national television stations alongside of national, television programmes for Australia.
– Wait and see !
– When we have waited I am sure that we shall see that what I have said is true. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has done a wonderful job in providing broadcast programmes, but at the present time it is working under great disabilities. In Sydney, the commission has its various branches housed in no fewer than thirteen buildings scattered throughout the city, and a similar position obtains in Melbourne. In Western Australia, it occupies a very old building, which was erected before World War I. I understand that the Australian Government intends to erect new buildings for the commission in Western Australia in the near future. It is time that that was done, particularly before television is established there.
Western Australia is at a great disadvantage, also, concerning the broadcasts themselves. Listeners in the outback areas of the State have great difficulty with reception, particularly in the Kimberleys and the sparsely populated areas of the north-west, where only short-wave programmes can be received. These programmes are supplied mainly by stations VLW and VLX on the following wavelengths :- VLW9, 21.21 metres, 9,610 kilocycles; VLW11, 25.35 metres, .11,840 kilocycles; VLX4 61.25 metres, 4,897.5 kilocycles; and VLX9, J51.2J metres, 9,610 kilocycles. Although the longer wavelength of 61 metres is probably suitable for the area, few receiving sets are being manufactured which can be tuned to . this wavelength. The wavelength of 31 metres is used by a. large number of Asiatic stations, and listeners in north-west Australia are unable to receive Australian programmes clearly because of interruptions from stations in Asiatic countries. It is difficult to separate the weak signals in Western Australia from the high-powered signals coming from overseas. It is suggested that the wavelengths on which Western Australian short-wave stations operate should be reduced to the 15, 16 and 19 metre band, and that the power of the short-wave transmitters should be increased in order to cover the northwestern areas. This is a matter of vital importance to listeners in remote parts of the State, and consideration must be given to them as well as to listeners near the cities.
It is obvious that listeners in the outback areas of all parts of Australia will have to wait for many years for television, and it is the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and of the Australian Government to do everything possible to improve reception for these people. They are playing an important part in the life of the nation by producing primary commodities that arn essential for the life of the people in the cities, and everything possible should be done to enable them to obtain adequate receiving sets and to provide broadcast programmes through the short-wave stations which they will be able to receive and enjoy. It will probably be four or five years before each of the capital cities is provided with a television station, and even then, the programmes will be visible over a radius of only 40 or 50 miles. Obviously, only people within that are« will be able to view the programmes, and it will be a long while before those in remote parts of the country will have th, opportunity of doing so.
Television has taken a long time to come to Australia, but it is good to know that it has arrived. It will provide a wide scope of entertainment, and the Government has done everything possible to ensure that only the best programmes will be used. It has taken care to arrange that Australian personnel will be used to the extent of at least 5 per cent, in television programmes. I laugh and scoff at the amendment of the Labour party which seeks to have Australian personnel used to the extent of 50 per cent, in television programmes. According to a journal 1 have read, commercial broadcasting stations are able to use Australian artists in only 3.9 per cent, of their programmes, but the Labour party wants to increase that proportion to 55 per cent., which is ridiculous. If honorable senators opposite do not believe me, I have the figures here.
– We believe the honorable senator.
– Very well, then. I suggest that the honorable senator should attempt to justify the amendment which seeks to ensure that at least 50 per cent, of the artists who appear in television programmes will be Australians. It seems to me that, even in America and Great Britain, it would be difficult to have such a percentage of local artists appearing. ~No doubt, it is the intention of the Government to increase the percentage as time goes by, and as more and more Australian artists become available for television programmes. Honorable senators opposite may rest assured that we shall endeavour, from year to year, to increase the percentage. If it were possible to do so, I have no doubt that the Government would have provided for a greater percentage, but evidently that is not possible at the present time. We, therefore, propose to start off with a small percentage and to increase it as time goes by.
T believe that we in. Australia are now entering upon a new era with the introduction of television. Originally, we had silent pictures which were shown on the screen with the use of captions. Then the talkies came along. Now we have coloured films. In the field of sound recording, we started off with the gramophone and progressed to the broadcasting receiving set. Very soon we shall have television, and I am of the opinion that it will not be long before we have coloured television. All of those things are of advantage to the nation. In view of the fact that at least 50 nations of the world are enjoying television at the present, time, I believe that now is the right time for television to be introduced and enjoyed by the Australian people.
– I enter the debate at this late stage because of Senator Scott’s somewhat peculiar approach to this matter. I did not intend to take part in the debate, because I thought that most things that could be said had already been said, but Senator Scott has provoked me into speaking for a few minutes. However, in the dying hours of the debate, I promise not to keep the Senate for too long.
It was obvious that Senator Scott did not understand fully what television will mean to Australia. I do not think that it is possible to defend the establishment of three television stations in Sydney and Melbourne and not one station in any of the other capital cities. T shall be interested to hear what th«» Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) who is in charge of the bill in this chamber, has to say on that matter. Senator Scott has stated that it will be a good thing for. Western Australia, a State of which we are both proud, although we. sit on opposite sides of the chamber, to wait yet another few years, on top of the years it has already waited for television.
– Another 30 or 40 years should not make any difference.
– I ask Senator Kendall to point to one advantage that we in Australia have obtained by waiting all these years for television.
It was the Chifley Labour Government that laid the foundations of television in 1949. The present Government, having sent a succession of Ministers and other people overseas to report on the nature of television over there, has waited all this time before introducing it. Yet, Senator Scott apparently believes that Western Australia should wait still longer for television, although black and white television in America is being supplanted by coloured television.
– That is a good thing for Perth.
– I cannot understand the logic of that argument. In other words, we have waited all these years merely to reach the stage that the United States of America, Thailand and other countries had reached years ago. As a matter of fact the progress of coloured television in America is not so smooth as some people may have been led to believe it was. Apparently, the Americans are having great difficulties with, the shading of colours. There seem to be certain colours that cannot, be brought out. I have been informed by people returning from America that one of the most vital things in television - the portrayal of the beauty of women - is being distorted by high-lighting it in colour. From the American husband’s angle, he is finding that coloured television sets cost approximately four times as much as black and white sets, the prices being approximately 800 dollars for a set for coloured television, compared with 200 dollars for a set for black and white television.
As I say, I fail to see how we have obtained any benefit from waiting all these years. I was one of those persons who criticized the appointment of the royal commission which inquired into the introduction of television to Australia some years ago. I criticized it because I believed that the world knew sufficient about television, and this Government had sent overseas a sufficient number of people, from high-ranking personages down to technicians, to know what was going on in the field of television. I claimed, at that time, that the Government was setting up a commission to inquire into a matter that, largely, was in a vacuum. What was the good of adducing evidence from Australians, when the great majority of the Australian people had never seen television?
I said then, and I am sure that the evidence given before the commission bore out my contention, that the only people who were interested in giving evidence, before the commission were those with a vested interest in television. For instance, the Australian Broadcasting Commission was very keen to give evidence. I remember a ridiculous statement that was made by an advertising representative to the effect that advertising on television would not cost any more than it did on the radio. The fact is that on the west coast of America, an area that, is probably most akin to Australia for television purposes, it was costing, at that time, from four to four and a half times as much to advertise on television as it cost to advertise on the radio.
Despite all this waiting, I believe that we have learned nothing from it, because we are moving off with black and white television six or eight years behind other countries of the world. We have to decide, in the light of our own experience, how television is to be manipulated in Australia. Because of that, I am of the opinion that the royal commission which sat previously, or a. body of the same kind, should inquire amongst the Australian people after television has been established here for a period of time. What, in the name of heaven, was the use of examining and cross-examining Australians who knew nothing about television? The time to make such an examination will be after we have had some experience of television and have been able to study, not merely in an academic way, the technical difficulties, and we should use that study to improve our television stations.
I suggest that Senator Scott needs to be very careful about suggesting that the proceedings of Parliament should be televised. Having observed honorable senators opposed, I issue that warning.
I had an opportunity to see television in America just about the commencement of the last presidential election campaign, when the Americans were introducing talkiethons and that kind of thing into television. It is recorded that at one of the conventions, which are very well publicized prior to the selection of presidential candidates, a most important debate was taking place and was being televised to millions of homes in America. A certain delegate - I am sure he was not a senator - went fast asleep while the debate was taking place, and an enterprising cameraman turned his camera on him. The sleeping delegate was televised into millions of homes. For Senator Scott’s benefit, I point out that that delegate received about 20,000 telegrams the next day warning him to wake up and do his job or resign as a delegate. In passing, I remind the Senate that the Oklahoma legislature has been televising its proceedings, for a couple of hours a week, for a long time.
Senator Scott had something to say concerning the amendment moved by the Opposition to the effect that a greater proportion of Australian artists should oe employed in television programmes. I hope that, when we introduce television and get it under way, there will be a healthy Australianism about it. I arn afraid that some of our broadcasting stations do not exude the kind of healthy Australianism that decent Australians expect. Incidentally, Senator Scott got his figures somewhat mixed. The authentic figures indicate that of 4,000 live artists employed last year in Australian Broadcasting Commission programmes, only 39 might be termed foreigners. Senator Scott has apparently confused the figures in respect of musical items and other canned material from overseas with the figures for live artists. We must not compare television with the magic lantern, or even with radio, because television is something completely new in entertainment, and it grips people more thoroughly than those who have not seen it can imagine. I ask honorable senators to picture approximately 400 men standing in a bar in New York, with not one of them speaking. That gives an indication of the grip that television gets on the populace. T saw that happen time and again. So that, when we refer to an average of 55 per cent, of live artists, we must remember that in television we are considering something completely different. For instance, one of the new kinds of entertainers that came into existence with television was a person called the demonstrator. -More demonstration takes place on television than in the departmental stores. Apart from that, if the Opposition’s amendment is accepted, the Australian people will get on television a greater degree of live entertainment than is possible per medium of films.
Throughout this debate, many honorable senators have relied on their recollection of things that occured in the days of the magic lantern. But television is a completely different kind of entertainment. I should like the Minister to obtain technical advice on the very interesting aspect of the matter that was raised by Senator O’Byrne in connexion with the range of television. As he pointed out, if a television station is established on the coast - on the edge of the ocean - a large proportion of the effective range of that station is lost as far as the viewing public is concerned. This is a salient point in relation to Queensland and Western Australia. Already, concern has been expressed that one bad feature of television in Australia will be that it will tend towards centralization.
There are only two other aspects to which recurring reference has been made, and to which I want to address myself. Both Senator Cole and Senator Mattner, who represent different political points of view, have stated that they oppose the introduction of television. Their attitude in this matter savours of shutting the gate after the horse has got out. Certain honorable senators, particularly the lady members of this chamber, have expressed their apprehension regarding the effect of television in the home, because it is acknowledged that this form of entertainment makes a greater impact on the minds of young children than does any other. The question for decision now is, not whether television should be introduced into Australia - because the Government has already decided to introduce it - but how a tight grip can be kept on television programmes. It is to that end that’-the Opposition’s amendment is directed.
Let us compare the Government’s amendment with our amendment regarding sporting ‘ bodies. The televising of English sporting fixtures has reacted detrimentally against attendance at sporting events in England. That has also been the experience in other countries which do not enjoy as much sunshine as does Australia. The Opposition proposes in its amendment that sporting fixtures shall not be televised except with the approval of the promoters. It is not sufficient to have complete understanding and aproval of the sponsors, but also the approval of those who own the ground. If accepted, our amendment will protect the interests of people who frequently risk their own money in encouraging Australian youth to participate in sport. Therefore, I contend that our amendment is a sane and sensible one.
Reference has been made during this debate to the shortage of telephones in Australia. I do not quite see the connexion between that matter and television, but as it has been mentioned I shall refer briefly to it. We shall never get anywhere in Australia if we keep on saying that because of our laxity in one direction we should not progress in another. Because the telephone branch has been starved of funds, the list of waiting applicants for telephones has grown tremendously. This Government says that it favours private enterprise, but if it had a sound business instinct it would be endeavouring to encourage home-builders and others to install telephones instead of instructing its officers in the telephone branch to try to explain to waiting applicants why they cannot obtain telephones. The Government claims that the lag in supplying telephones is due to shortages of man-power and material. Actually, it is due to lack of foresight by the Government. I forecast the Government will solve this problem by increasing the cost of telephones. A lot of people who are waiting for telephones will then cancel their applications, and the Government will say, “We have halved the number of people waiting for telephones “. It is a disgrace that, so long after the war terminated, thousands of people are still waiting for telephones, and the list of outstanding applications is growing daily.
I support the Opposition’s amendment, because I believe that it makes for the better control of television in this country. I do not want the introduction of television to be delayed a day longer. Indeed, I have criticized the unwarranted delay that has occurred already. I shall finish on the note on which T commenced my speech - that is, that I completely disagree with Senator Scott’s opinion of what is best for Western Australia. Whether or not another royal commission is appointed or the Minister has to rely for advice on his own officers, there should be a re-assessment of television after a year or two in the light of our experience during that period.
– Does the honorable senator disagree with the recommendations of the royal commission?
– In a way, that commission worked in a vacuum, because no one in Australia had had any real experience in television. The whole subject should he examined again in the light of actual experience of television in Australia. If that review were undertaken now, I believe that there would be perpetuated a mistake that has now occurred in the Commonwealth Public Service. I refer to the taking of an f.a.q. standard from Melbourne and Sydney, and trying to apply it to the rest of Australia. Because of the vastness of this country, there are very different standards in Queensland and Western Australia. When the examination that T advocate is undertaken, care should be taken to obtain the views of people in various parts of Queensland and Western Australia, as well as of those in the over-centralized cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
– in reply - During this very interesting debate, which has ranged over a wide area, many different points of view have been expressed in relation to television. Quite a number of very sound criticisms have been made of the bill but, by and large, I should say that honorable senators on both sides are in favour of the introduction of television into Australia. I know that several members of this chamber have stated that they are not in favour of its introduction at the present time. However, the Government has decided to go ahead with the introduction of television. Many divergent opinions have been expressed in relation to the control of television programmes. I noticed that many honorable senators opposite criticized the Government in respect of the concentration of ownership of .the television stations. I point out that as far back as 1935 this Government announced its policy to the country and stated that it intended to prevent any concentration of ownership in broadcasting. That was in the very early stages of broadcasting. At that time, the late Honorable A. J. McLachlan was Postmaster-General. There were only 57 commercial broadcasting stations’ operating, but the Government of which he was a member decided it was necessary in the public interest to place a limitation on the number of stations which could be controlled directly, or indirectly, by one person or organization.
As commercial broadcasting station* were then controlled by regulation under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, regulations were gazetted under that act for the purpose of restricting the number of stations which could be owned or controlled directly, or indirectly, by any one person or organization. Those regulations limited such ownership or control to one metropolitan commercial broadcasting station in a State and four metropolitan commercial broadcasting stations in the Commonwealth, and four commercial broadcasting stations in a State and eight commercial broadcasting stations in the Commonwealth. Those restriction? were incorporated in section 53 of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942. Thai was done on the recommendation of the Gibson committee. Although the Chifley Government brought down a major amendment to the act in 1948 it did not propose any further restrictions on the ownership or control of commercial broadcasting stations. However, in the bill now before the Senate it is proposed to insert a new sub-section 53 (2.) to provide a check on substantial transaction? in shares which might have the effect, among other things, of increasing the holdings of any shareholder in a licensed company without the Minister’s consent.
The Royal Commission on Television expressed the view that if provisions similar to those of section 53 of the Australian Broadcasting Act were prescribed in relation to television stations, that would be sufficient to prevent . such a degree of concentration of ownership as would be contrary to the public interest. The Government rejected that recommendation because its policy is that the ownership or control of television stations should be as widely spread as is practicable. Accordingly the Government proposes under this bill new section 53a, which provides that no person or organization shall be permitted to own or control more than two television stations. So, honorable senators will see that since 1.935 it has been the policy of this Government to discourage the concentration of the holding of shares in either broadcasting or television stations. That is the policy which the Government proposes to carry out.
Senator Willesee said that Senator O’Byrne stated a few days ago, by way of a question, that if the television stations were placed in the large cities, a certain area of their range would be lost because they would broadcast over ocean instead of over land. That would probably be so if the stations were established directly on the shore, but the machinery in connexion with the television stations is not to be so placed. The selection of sites is a matter of very great importance and many factors have to be taken into consideration. It is, of course, a highly technical matter which, personally, I do not pretend to understand fully; but as I said to Senator O’Byrne the other day in reply to his question, a full explanation of the reasons for choosing the selected sites in Sydney and Melbourne is contained in the seventh annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. If either Senator O’Byrne or Senator Willesee has not a copy of that report, which gives a full explanation as to why the sites were chosen, I shall let them have a copy of it.
Sena tor O’BYRNE. - The Minister informed me that the reasons were contained in the report of the royal com mission. I am glad to know now that they are in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
– I am sorry that I quoted the wrong report; that information is contained in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
Several honorable senators have asked why the proposed stations have been limited to Sydney and Melbourne. The reason is that this Government does not believe in monopoly; it believes in fair competition. It also believes that these stations - two commercial and one national in Sydney and in Melbourne - are more or less experimental stations. Although we have had the benefit of studying television in America, Great Britain and other countries we have not had experience of television in Australia. In various countries television re-acts in different ways. Probably, the States that are not included at the present time will ultimately obtain a better television set-up than is now proposed for Sydney or Melbourne. However, that remains to be seen.
The Government has followed the same system of commercial and national stations which exists in sound broadcasting. It has seen fit to follow that method of competition between not only the national stations and commercial stations but also between commercial stations. So, there will be three stations, a national and two commercials, competing for their public in both Sydney and Melbourne. Some criticism was also raised in regard to the selection of television licensees. It was suggested that religious, educational and cultural interests should have a share in the stations. I remind the Senate that the Government invited applications for licences and had to make a choice among the applicants after all the applications had been considered at the public inquiry The Government considers that the companies to which the licences have been granted are the most suitable applicants having regard to all the circumstances. Senator Mattner asked a question, dunnar his speech, concerning the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I point out that there is only one public servant on the hoard, and he is an engineer with considerable experience in work on electronics. The chairman of the board, Mr. B. B. Osborne, has had considerable legal experience, and is also a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Other members are Dr. J. B. Darling, headmaster of Geelong Grammar School, and Mr. N. M. White, who, prior to his appointment to the board, had extensive experience in commercial broadcasting. The first two are full-time members, and the latter two are part-time members appointed last year by the Government to strengthen the board for the additional responsibilities which will be put upon it following the introduction of television. There is a vacancy on the board at prosent for a full-time member.
asked for more information about the hours during which television stations would operate. He suggested that unless they operated at much the same time, the overall hours of television would run into a great number. I have been informed that the precise periods of operation have not been determined. The stations will, however, for the most part, be operating simultaneously so as to provide alternative programmes in accordance with the well-established practice in broadcasting which has proved to be acceptable to the Australian public.
asked a question about the televising of medical advertisements. I remind the honorable senator that the bill extends to television the existing provision in regard to broadcasting, that medical advertisements shall be prohibited unless they have the approval of the Director-General of Health.
It has been said that television will lower the rate of installation of telephones, or will have some adverse affect on the rate of installation. It has been suggested that labour and material will be diverted from the telephone services to television. The Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Sir Giles Chippindall, appeared before the Royal Commission on Television and was asked questions more or less related to this particular matter. When he was asked what would be the effect of television on the production and installation of telephones, bc said -
The establishment of a number of television stations throughout Australia could well provide an impetus to the production of co-axial cable or micro-wave lengths that would facilitate the installation of additional telephone facilities.
Sir Giles Chippindall summarized his evidence by saying that if the authorities decided on television, the relatively small amount of money involved, which would be small compared with the departmental vote, and would represent but a minor expenditure in a budget of £1,000,000,000, could not, in his opinion, have a marked effect upon the provision of new telephone lines and subscriber services. It was unlikely there would be any’ difficulty from a material standpoint, and the labour involved was relatively small.
I understand that co-axial cables, needed in television, are able to provide some hundreds of communication channels for telephones whereas the ordinary cables in use at the present time provide many fewer communication channels. Therefore, there is a bright spot in this matter in that it seems that there is no reason why the introduction of television should not be a help instead of a hindrance to the provision of the telephones that are so urgently needed.
I am informed that the electronic devices used in the Air Force and the Army are similar to those used in television. Therefore, as quite a number of young people will be taking up the study of electronics and will be making careers in electronics, their services will be available when needed for defence purposes. This measure lends itself more to discussion in committee than to debate on the motion for the second reading, so I shall leave further discussion to the committee stage. The Government has examined the amendment put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), and has decided that it is not prepared to accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McKenna’s amendment), be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 13 - by leave - considered together.
– I refer to the amendments which I circulated on behalf of the Opposition last week, and direct attention now to clause 6, “ Interpretation “. I move -
That, in clause (i, after sub-section (2.) of proposed section 4, the following sub-section be inserted: - “ (3.) The provisions of this Act conferring powers, functions or duties on the Minister or the Board shallbe construed as requiring those authorities to exercise or perform those powers, functions or ditties so as to afford 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 licences and also a fair and just use of the facilities resulting from the holding of licences.”.
Speaking to the amendment, I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that both the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Minister, who are referred to in the amendment, have enormous powers. The Minister, for example, has plenary power, after considering a recommendation of the hoard, to grant a licence upon any condition and in any form. In other words, he is the complete arbiter of the terms and conditions that are applied to broadcasting or television licences. His power extends further to the suspension, regulation and transfer of a licence. While it is the function of the board to inquire into and recommend on these matters, it is the duty and within the power of the Minister to act. The board in itself has power to regulate programmes and all the conditions of broadcasting and television.
The great concern of the Australian Labour party in relation to both television and broadcasting is to prevent the concentration in the one set of hands of the means of communication in Australia. We believe that if there is such concentration in the sphere of presentation of news, ultimately freedom of speech - and so of democracy itself - will be threatened and could be undermined. The media of communication with the people could easily be made the tool of one group of persons in our community who would present only one view, or, at least, would be in a position to do that. The result could be that the indoctrination methods of the Communists could be practised in Australia, notnecessarily to further the Communist cause, but to further any cause. Quite frankly, we are alarmed at the growth of newspaper interests, particularly of those that control the metropolitan press, which artextending their activities into the country, and have a very large say in the broadcasting field, as I outlined when we were debating the second reading. Now those interests are being given major control of the television licences that have been granted in Australia.
I have given many reasons during the second-reading debate for the Opposition’s attitude, and I do not propose to recapitulate them. Four licences have been granted. Two have been granted in
Sydney and two in Melbourne. The Opposition has criticized the fact that they have been concentrated in those two cities, and have not been spread around the rest of Australia to secure the best distribution of .television in this continent. When we examine the corporations that have received the licences for television in Sydney, we find that they are almost wholly controlled - and certainly they are completely dominated - by newspaper and radio interests. They are the two bodies already in the field of mass communication. The programme is repeated with even more effect when we consider the licences granted in Melbourne. There, the Age newspaper has a big interest in General Television Corporation Proprietary Limited, which is otherwise composed entirely of radio, film and entertainment interests. The other licence is held by Herald-Sun TV Proprietary Limited. Its only shareholders are newspaper interests. That alarms the Opposition and makes us fearful as to where this new medium of television will ultimately land Australia. I would point out again that the Minister has vast powers to impose any conditions at all that he wishes. For instance, he is able to lay down the condition that the majority of the shares in any company formed to hold a licence are to be in the hands of the public. He could also provide that those who hold shares in a representative capacity must disclose who are the beneficial owners for whom they are holding. The Minister has already exercised these powers because, in the applications that were submitted to him, certain allocations to overseas newspapers were proposed. Very properly, he has exercised a power conferred upon him under the 1953 act by insisting upon those shareholdings being cut down. At all events, this Government has not prevented the concentration mainly in the hands of the newspaper, radio and film interests, of the four television licences that have been granted in this country; and it was so easy for the Government to do something quite different. I say to the committee now that the Government has either been guilty of a very bad error of judgment in granting those licences, or, it has been guilty of gross betrayal of the public interest.
In the few brief minutes I have, I want to put to the committee what the Government could and should have done. Why did not this Government go to the bodies in Melbourne and Sydney who are concerned with the business of company promotion? lt is quite obvious, from the amount of capital that is involved in the running of television stations, that the joint stock company had to be used, that the capital required could not be provided by the private individual or even a. fair group of them. Anybody who considered the practical side of the proposition knew that there had to be companies ; and there are, indeed, four company licensees. Remembering that the Minister has complete power to lay down conditions, why did he not approach the stock exchanges of Melbourne and Sydney and invite them to form a committee of their members - a thing regularly done - to promote a company to hold a television licence? He had only to lay down three conditions.
The first is that there should be a reasonable underwriting or brokerage arrangement approved by him. It would not be necessary to give them free rein to go for a great promotion interest in the formation of the company. All that was necessary was some reasonable underwriting or brokerage arrangement or, if preferred, a promotion consideration in shares or cash, whichever was acceptable to the promoters. The next condition he should have laid down was that preference should be given in the allotment to bodies, such as religious, cultural, social and political organizations. Next after them in preference should come applicants for small parcels of shares. He needed to make only one other condition. That was, again, that those holding shares in a fiduciary position, a position of trust, should make known who the beneficial or true owners were. That approach could have been made by the Government, and I refuse to believe that, with the amount of advice it has had in this matter, it was not put up and considered.
I say very deliberately to the committee that if that had been done the £2,000,000 that might have been required for any one of these companies would have been subscribed in 24 hours. There is no doubt whatever about that, and I shall prove that point. Take the company that was promoted in Sydney by Consolidated Press Limited and by the Sydney Daily Telegraph and its associates. Television Corporation Limited was given a licence and, according to the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, Consolidated Press Limited held 569,000 shares and Associated Newspapers Limited of England held 232,000, making a total of 801,000 shares. That company then went on the market to raise another 800,000 shares of 10s. each. That raising was not only subscribed but subscribed two and a half times over in five minutes, by the public. In five minutes, 4,303 shareholders subscribed 800,000 shares!
– That was private enterprise.
– Completely private enterprise; that is my suggestion. Instead of giving these licences to a concentration of newspapers and radio interests, let us do what the Minister claimed a little while ago his Government was doing - set our faces against monopoly. What a perfectly easy method was available to the Government! Why did it not do it? That is the question I pose to the Minister for Repatriation. Is it because the Government did not think of it? If it did not think of it, then it is completely blameworthy; and if it did think of it and did not do it, then it has betrayed the best interests of the people of this country.
That is the reason why the Opposition wants to write into this bill - before further damage is done to the great field of mass communication and before further things happen to the detriment of the people of this country - a provision that the Minister and the board, in exercising their great powers, in discharging their functions, must give proper consideration to giving a just share of ownership or control of licences to religious, cultural, educational, political and social organizations. That would be an infinitely better approach to the matter. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’Sullivan) whether the Government thought of that. If not, why not? If it was thought of and rejected, why was it rejected in favour of those company interests which at present control the means of mass communication ? That is the key point in the whole of this bill. It is the real gravamen of the attack that the Opposition makes upon the Government in, respect both of the bill and of its actions under the 1953 act. We feel that the Government has a lot to account for in the way it has gone about this matter. How false it is for the Government to claim that it has set its face against monopoly when it hands over control of this exceedingly valuable licence to the newspaper and radio interests that already have a stranglehold upon mass communication!
– Order ! Th* honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should like to move that Senator McKenna be granted an. extension of time.
– I do not wish for an extension. I prefer to hear the answer to what I have said. I thank the Leader of the Government for his offer.
– In rising to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) on behalf of the Opposition, I want to advert to one or two things which I think are significant against the background of the distribution of licences as proposed under this measure. “With the double system of providing television stations, we want to make up our minds on the question : Upon whom is to devolve the responsibility, in the telecasting of events, news and entertainment, for doing something more than making money? If the whole of that responsibility is to be imposed upon the national television stations and corporations, and if private people who are in that field are to be given complete and uncontrolled opportunity merely to use i* as a means of profit, then I say that this Parliament, in supporting this measure and in refusing to accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is not discharging its national responsibility. After all, we know that the prime purpose, indeed the raison d’etre of newspapers and other means of communication of events and news is to make money. Too often have we found these people, not only failing to measure up to any responsibility, but also really accepting no national responsibility whatsoever. How often and how tragically have honorable senators in this chamber and public figures in all walks of life found it necessary to comment on the fact that great newspapers, by their complete refusal to accept responsibility, or by their neglect in discharging it, have contributed to the growth in our community of aspects of life which I think are reprehensible. It is a scandalous thing that anybody should have the opportunity and the facts at his disposal to level and substantiate a charge against great newspaper organizations. Only the other night in this chamber one honorable senator exhibited a publication - not a highly reputable publication or one of the major organs of news - that contained an illustration and letterpress which would do little to assist in the elevation of public thought or of individual moral standards. On the contrary, the publication could do a great deal to lower those very things. Yet, apparently, we are being asked to relieve those who are in almost complete control already of one means of mass communication of any great measure of responsibility for anything other than to return dividends to their shareholders ; and to provide that the whole responsibility for the proper utilization of this new means of communication should devolve upon the national corporation.
The use of any means of mass communication to create a mass opinion in regard to any aspect of life can be extremely dangerous. I wish to emphasize the importance of what. I might call the standardization of modes of thought and conduct. Any society is richer because of a complexity and intricacy in the pattern of life, but where there is gradually developed mass thinking which produces an undesirable uniformity of conduct, initiative in national life will be largely destroyed, and the result will not redound to the benefit or the advancement of the community.
That is inevitable when people, who are challenged to guide public opinion, accept that challenge only in order to influence public opinion. I cannot agree that only the national television or broadcasting stations have a responsibility to educate the community, and that the private people operating in the fields of radio or television have no responsibility other than to provide entertainment. Every one has a certain duty and responsibility to keep educating and elevating the community. This amendment specifically mentions all the units in a society which, by their interest and activity, tend to make a desirable and complex pattern of national life. The amendment reads -
The provisions of this Act conferring powers, functions or duties on the Minister or the Board shall be construed as requiring those authorities to exercise or perforin those powers, functions or duties so as to afford 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 licences . . .
The amendment not only contemplates, but also specifically mentions every major section in the community which has, in a particular area, a particular degree of responsibility. Nobody can deny that in the public there is a mass responsibility, but when we particularize the various social groups within the community we come to the cultural organizations - those which foster drama and music; to the political organizations - those which give particular attention to the political and social forms that our national and community life shall take. Then we come to the great religious organizations, which devote their attention to those most important, fundamental matters on which may be founded a rich and sound moral existence.
T do not want it to be thought that this amendment is proposed merely out of a zense of dislike or suspicion of those who, to a major degree, will control commercial television in this country. That is, at the most, the negative side of the matter. The amendment is a positive suggestion to the Parliament that those who will directly participate in the ownership of the means of television communication should make a positive contribution to the advancement of the cultural, social and moral level of the community.
I remember reading a brilliant address that Mr. Adlai Stevenson delivered during the recent presidential campaign in the United States of America to the journalists of the United States. In it he spoke of the “ one-party press in a twoparty society”. He used graphic terms, which come so easily to him as a brilliant orator and said, in effect, that the press of America was 90 per cent. Republican. It was not Republican on any ground of reason or rationalization. It was Republican in the sense that dogs were against . cats. It was, he said, opposed to the Democrats just as dogs were opposed to cats, and wherever it saw a Democratic cat it wanted to chase it up an alley. In those graphic terms he posed a fundamental, national danger in any society - that is, the existence of an organization for the communication of events and news that could be mobilized to provide a means of national brainwashing. Nobody wants that to occur.
Speaking on behalf of a party which has been, in a continuous sense, a victim of mass opposition from the press in the political field, particularly at election time, I could dilate with some enthusiasm and perhaps heat on this problem at the political level, but I do not wish to do so. I say, however, that if that is the way in which the existing organs of publicity have been mobilized in one field of our national life - and bitter experience tells us that this is so - then I feel that we must not, and we cannot, afford to allow the same opportunity for these new media to be exploited and used similarly in this new field. We should be recreant to our national duty and responsibility if we allowed that to happen.
For those reasons, I strongly support the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition by Senator McKenna. In doing so, I feel that I am speaking for the groups, each one of which is specifically mentioned and provided for in the amendment - the cultural, the religious, the social and the political groups, a.s well as the general public. I am sure that these people, given adequate time and opportunity, would have been more than willing, and perhaps more than able, to play their part and accept their share of responsibility in the ownership and control of this new medium of mass communication, as it is now popularly described. Failing the acceptance of this amendment, I strongly support the suggestion made by Senator Willesee earlier this evening during the second-reading debate that the effect of this legislation must b» closely scrutinized by a commission of inquiry in about five years’ time to see how it is working out.
With those remarks, I commend the amendment to honorable senators. If it is adopted, it will satisfy a just and widespread demand in the community and, at the same time, allay very justifiable anxieties and misgivings not only on this side of the chamber, but also among large sections of the community.
Senator McCALLUM (New South Wales) [9.41 1 . - One of the great fallacies, and one often heard from the othon- side of the chamber, is the belief that because things are right and ought to be done, we should immediately pass an act of Parliament to compel them to be done. We are now in an age of experimentation. I think that the more fluid our attitude is towards television and the way it is produced, the better. We have set up a board which has produced a code. That code has been agreed to voluntarily by the private television bodies. I believe that persuasion is always better than force. If you star with persuasion you can, in the last resort, come to force, but if you start with force, you can seldom get back to persuasion. It is infinitely better that these bodies should accept their responsibilities - and they have accepted them to date. If we find that they do not live up to the provisions that have been made and do not observe this code to which they have subscribed, the board can intervene. I believe that it will be much better to have these things agreed to voluntarily, or if not agreed to voluntarily, then imposed by the corporate body that we have set up, than to have the code hard and fast in the act.
Undoubtedly, we shall have to amend this legislation, but it will be better to allow it to work for a year or two. Let us have our regulations, and so forth, on an agreed basis, or on a basis imposed by this subsidiary authority, before witta harden them all into legislation. The whole thing, I think, should be tentative.
There were a good many fallacies in the excellent speech of Senator Byrne. It is not true that there has been a one-party press. The private press, to-day and during the whole of my experience, which has been fairly long, because I took an interest in politics when .1. was very small-
Senator Brown interjecting.
– A polite gentleman the other day said that I was a convert, and an impolite man used a coarser expression, but I point out that 1 was a convert from reading the articles of William Morris Hughes in the Daily Telegraph. I suggest that honorable senators opposite should read the sober historians of the Labour party. The academic people who are following the history of the party now can consult Professor Crisp, who is a member of the Labour League. Those people know that the great succession of Labour victories in 1910 came largely from the advocacy - not in the Labour press, which few people read, but in the non-Labour press, the proprietary press - of the case for Labour by William Morris Hughes. That was the main thing that produced the great change in the floating vote and directed it to Labour. I have been told those things by no less an authority than Senator Gardiner, who was once Leader of the Labour party in this chamber.
– What did he think of Mr. Hughes?
– Ee thought much more highly of him than does Senator Grant. He thought much more highly of William Morris Hughes than he thought of Senator Grant himself, because I knew his opinion of the honorable senator. Many years ago, Senator Grant adopted an attitude of which he does not like us to remind him now, but if he persists in interjecting, or rather, tries to make a parallel speech while other men are endeavouring to speak, possibly some one will tell him the things that honest Labour men know, men whom he cannot reproach, because they never left the party, although they were critical of it. It is definitely not true that there is a one-party press.
As far as Mr. Adlai Stevenson is concerned, that is not true of the United States of America, either. The Democratic party has held its own remarkably well under the disadvantages of which Mr. Stevenson complained so well. I ask honorable senators not to be stampeded into putting into this legislation something which may be desirable, but which could be secured by better means.
– I, too, rise to support the amendment. We of the Australian Labour party appreciate that the introduction of television is inevitable and that to oppose its introduction would be to try to turn back the hands of the clock, a method to which we are not used, but we maintain, at the same time, that the introduction of this very important organ of public opinion must be watched, in the interests of the people. Once upon a time, the press was called the fourth estate, that is, a section of the ruling body of public opinion which ranked in importance with the Church and the Parliament. To-day it might be said that radio, with its dependant, television, has become the fifth estate. We want to ensure that in the introduction of television to this country we profit by the mistakes that have been made by other countries, and by the experience that they have gained.
The Opposition feels disturbed because of the manner in which the licences for television have been allocated. Despite the remarks of Senator McCallum, a man whose opinion generally I value quite highly, we find that in Australia to-day the morning and evening press throughout most of the States is controlled by one’ or two big groups of newspapers. We in Western Australia were happy when we had one or two independent newspapers which were not controlled from the other States, but to-day we cannot even claim that distinction. We find, for instance, that in Sydney, John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited, in addition to exercising a. great part of the control over the Sydney Morning
Herald, the Sun, and the week-end press, also has a controlling interest in radio stations 2GB and 2’uE. I think that that company also owns six or eight commercial broadcasting stations in New South Wales. In Melbourne, we find that there is an even greater link between the press of that city and the press of other States. For instance, the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, which controls the Melbourne Herald, also has great interests in Queensland newspapers and Adelaide newspapers, as well as in newspapers in Western Australia. That organization also exercises a controlling influence in respect of many radio stations, not only in Victoria, but also in South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia. We find that there i3 an interlocking of the directorates of these big newspaper combines and radio stations, so that the public is not getting the free and untrammelled news and broadcasting services to which it is entitled. Not only is there a service that expresses certain things; there is also one that suppresses certain things, so that it is rather difficult to get at the truth.
Although our friends on the Government side of the chamber would like us to compliment them on the fact that the Liberal party did not apply for a television licence, I point out that it did not need to do so because the big newspaper interests, which have always been favorable to that party, have controlling interests in the television licences that have been granted. The Australian Labour party did make application for a television licence. We have, in Western Australia, a broadcasting station known as 6KY, and I have known my friends in the Government parties to make broadcasts from that station. In allotting broadcasting time, that station does not differentiate between the various political parties. When Sir Ross McLarty was the Premier of Western Australia, he made broadcasts from 6KY and was given the facilities that any other commercial broadcasting station would have provided. Although the Labour party has a controlling interest in that station, it conforms to the principles and standards of the other commercial broadcasting stations. It also conforms to the requirements of the Broadcasting Act. All. that we are asking by our amendment is that all political parties shall be given equal rights in relation to time over television stations.
A great deal has been said during this debate about the educational standard of television programmes. Some of the remarks that have been made could be applied with equal force to the standard of some radio programmes. I am sure that many honorable senators on both sides will agree with me when I say that very often the prescribed standards of radio programmes are honoured more in the breach than in the observance. On one Sunday evening recently, when I had a cold and was resting, I listened to a complete commercial programme. Between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9.30 p.m., no fewer than thirteen violent deaths occurred in the various plays. That was a particularly good programme for a Sunday night! I thought that that was a particularly bad state of affairs, because the plays were not live shows, but were syndicated ones that had been imported. They were in very much the same strain as certain imported comic strips and low-class literature which has had a terrific market on the book stalls in this country, particularly during the last two or three years. I should very much like to see measures taken to ensure good, decent television and radio programmes, without’ infringing the personal liberties of the people. But no government, irrespective of its political colour or how good its intentions might be, can legislate to keep danger away from everybody. We should not, in the National Parliament, attempt to usurp the duties and responsibilities of parents in this regard, and I for one would not expect the Government or the television or broadcasting stations to remove every’ possible danger from the impact of certain presentations on the minds of children. Much has been said during this debate about the necessity for restrictions to be imposed in relation to programmes, so that children’s minds will not be adversely affected by what they see on the television screen. I contend that no legislation can control to a greater extent than parents themselves, what the children shall see. I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), because 1 believe that both the general public and various organizations should be afforded opportunities to obtain a fair and just share of the ownership of television stations and the control of licences. This ownership and control should not be centred in the present owners of radio stations, and the press.
.- The amendment that has been “moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), drafted as it is in very fine words, was rather cut back to size by Senator Tangney, who has just resumed her seat. Stripped of all its embellishments, apparently the real core of the matter is that the Opposition fears that there will not be adequate radio and television coverage for the exposition of its political philosophy. I have risen to repeat, briefly, what I said during the debate on the motion for the second reading of the bill; that is, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission adheres strictly to the principle that all political parties shall enjoy equal broadcasting time. That has not been questioned by any member of this chamber.
Specific provision is made in the hill in relation to commercial stations. Although 1 do not wish to transgress the Standing Orders by anticipating debate on a subsequent clause, I think it is relevant to refer to proposed new section 89, which provides that there will be no obligation on the licensee of a broadcasting station or a television station to broadcast political matter during campaigns for State or Federal elections, but if a licensee intends to broadcast matter relating to political issues, he will be required to afford reasonable opportunities to all political parties contesting the election for the broadcasting or televising of such matter. Therefore, this aspect of the matter is definitely covered in proposed new section 89.
I said a moment ago that this amendment, couched in fine verbiage, has concealed the real fear of the Opposition that it may not be able to disseminate to the people its political point of view. During the last general election, I believe that the radio and the newspapers gave a much wider coverage by means of advertising matter to the Opposition than : to the Government parties. The reason for that was, of course, that the Labour party had far more money available to. spend on its campaign. What I have said can easily be verified by a reference to the newspaper files in the Library. The amendment falls to the ground because provision is made in the bill to ensure that a situation such as that envisaged . by Senator Tangney cannot arise.
– It is evident that the supporters of the Government are at variance iii relation to the amendment. Senator McCallum, who has been closely associated with broadcasting, said that, although the amendment was desirable, it should not be written into the legislation.
– He did not say that.
– Far better would it be for sweet reasonableness to prevail so that, in the course of time, the powerful organizations that will control this mass means of news dissemination will themselves arrange a fair distribution.
Senator Anderson has said that Senator Tangney cut the amendment back to size. I believe that his contribution to the debate has cut him back to the size of his approach to this very big, national question. It is evident that the honorable senator’s opposition to our amendment is based on political grounds. The amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) means what it says, and when the bill becomes law its sections will mean what they say, irrespective of any promises that might be made by Government senators. In order to indicate how biased was Senator Anderson’s approach to the matter, I shall read to the committee the amendment that has been moved. It is proposed that after sub-section (2.) of clause 6 there be added the following subsection : -
The provisions of this Act conferring powers, functions or duties on the Minister or the Board shall be construed as requiring those authorities to exercise or perforin those, powers, functions or duties so as to alford 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 licences and also a fair and just use of the facilities resulting from the holding of licences.
If that were written into the act it would not be, as Senator Anderson construes it, a small political contribution; it would mean exactly what it says. The Minister and the board would be able to protect this country from having the mass dissemination of news and television concentrated in the hands of a combine which already controls almost all channels of communication to the people. It is a most important amendment, and I am sure that no senator on the Government side, having heard it read, can honestly say it is not desirable. It has been suggested that it will put a rule on these people, but surely it is necessary that they be controlled by a rule of law. The whole trouble is that the Government is not prepared to control these organizations for the mass dissemination of news and television.
The criticism of all those who have spoken against television is centred round the possibility of its getting out of control because of a lack of protection for Australian culture, artists and views. There should be a strict control of this medium no matter by whom it is operated, whether it be the Australian Broadcasting Commission or commercial stations. This amendment makes such control possible. To approach the subject from the angle from which Senator Anderson approached it is to get an oblique perspective. As I said before, the amendment means exactly what it says and if it were written into the act, no argument could arise about its operation. The suggestion has been made that the Government, the board or the commission should treat with these people, cap in hand, hoping that they will do the fair thing; but it is in our power to write into the act a provision that will give the Minister power to see that the proper thing is done in relation to the handling of this very powerful influence on the culture, education and religion of this country. I repeat that it is most essentia] that such an amendment should be written into the bill.
.- Although I have listened to Senator Cooke and Senator Tangney I must say I am completely opposed to this amendment. I feel that a proper approach to it is that suggested by .Senator McCallum when he said, “Why bind this thing at this stage ? “ We have plenty of experience to guide us in this matter. After all, we are about the fifty-first country in the world to introduce television, although Senator Cooke describes it as something new ; and we can draw on their experience. I have the highest opinion of the manner in which commercial broadcasting stations have conducted their business throughout the years. Honorable senators opposite have completely overlooked the fact that commercial broadcasting stations pioneered broadcasting throughout this country.
– Throughout Australia. They were in the field before honorable senators opposite ever dreamed about it, and they set standards for the conduct of broadcasting in Australia of which they can be justly proud. Some individuals in this world have a queer turn of mind.
– Hear, hear!
– T have noticed that fact when certain gentlemen have been present in the Senate. One particular person about whom I am speaking had the queer habit of collecting statistics of the proportion of space given to political parties in the press and the proportion of time given to them over the air on commercial and national broadcasting stations. The document is well worth studying and I wish I had brought it with me because it shows that despite what members of the Opposition have said, their party has had more time over the air and more space in the newspapers than any other party has had. As I say, those figures are quite interesting.
– The honorable senator means paid advertisements?
– That is so. Honorable senators opposite have said that the press of this country is against them ; yet. they have had more space in the press than other parties have been allotted.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna made a very interesting point when he said that the capitalist press, as honorable senators opposite call it, gave to William Morris Hughes a great amount of space in which to elaborate Labour policy, with the result that a large number of people were converted to Labour. That is something that honorable senators opposite have forgotten. If they look at one of the Melbourne capitalist newspapers, they will see that it contains a Labour and Liberal column of equal space. The real reason why the Labour party is objecting to the bill as it stands is that it will not have Labour television stations similar to the Labour broadcasting stations which it now controls. That is what honorable senators opposite are worrying about. Personally, I think it is a good thing the Labour party has not such a television station, particularly as some honorable senators opposite might have to appear on it.
The position is that the less we write into this bill at this stage the better. I know that our friends opposite love compulsion. They love to have somebody who can wave the big stick, but as I have said I am proud of the standard that has been set by the commercial broadcasting stations of Australia, and I am confident that I will be just as proud of the standard they will set in television. They have a very strong moral sense and moral tone and have ensured the maintenance of high standards. 1 am acquainted with people who have had experience of broadcasting all over the world. On their return r,o Australia they have told me that the standard set by the commercial broadcasting stations of Australia is one of which this country can be justly proud.
Senator Tangney told us that in Western Australia a Labour broadcasting station allows people of all shades of opinion to speak on its programmes. Of course, that is so. The same applies to commercial stations which people pay for time just as they do on the Labour station in Western Australia. That is the right and proper manner in which things should be done. I find no fault with that.
– lt is provided for. in the act.
– As the honorable senator says, it is provided for in the act. If the commercial stations in Australia maintain as high a standard as they have in commercial broadcasting, which they pioneered, we shall have nothing to fear in leaving the bill as it is drafted. I agree with the suggestion put forward by Senator Willesee that in three or four years’ time we should have a look at how these things are developing. That is common sense, but it has nothing to do with this amendment. That is as far as we should go at this stage. I see no sense in pursuing this very highsounding amendment which is couched in the most admirable terms. However, when one reads just one little sentence of it, namely, “ opportunities for a fair and just share of ownership or control of licences,” I think one will see the nigger in the woodpile and will appreciate the real reason for the amendment.
Senator BROWN (Queensland) [10.10’J. - I deplore the fact that under this bill we shall be encouraging private enterprise to control television. I consider that television is one of the most powerful influences that has ever been developed by man during his reign on this earth. During my recent visit to England I had the pleasure of watching television for many hours, and I can assure honorable senators that it is an instrument which is so powerful that we in this country should never allow it to come under the control of private enterprise, which is already controlling broadcasting and the press.
It was my desire to see television instituted in Australia under the complete control of the Parliament, because television is such a powerful force and can be .used as an instrument to the detriment, of the people. As far as honorable senators on this side of the chamber are concerned, we are fighting for a new form of society in which the real motive force of our actions will not be the making of money, but will be the good of the whole of the community.
No honorable senator on the Government side can deny that the real reason why the press, the broadcasting companies and those closely allied with those organizations have gained control of the press and broadcasting, is for the purpose of making money. I suggest that there is not the slightest doubt about that, and that it cannot be denied. A vehicle as great as television should never be motivated by the desire for profit.
I have seen television in action, and therefore, I can speak about it with some authority. I pay a high tribute to the British Broadcasting Corporation, which has done splendid work in Great Britain, and I believe that thousands of British people deplore the fact that private enterprise should encroach on this field with the idea of making money out of the people. Naturally, when private interests want to make money they seek to entertain the people, and we all know that the mass of the people would rather be entertained than instructed.
Therefore, if these organizations can bring entertainment to the people and get the public to watch their television shows, they can obtain more advertising contracts from those who desire to place their products before the people. That being so, there follows a deterioration in the pictures and material of various descriptions placed before the people. But, if the nation, through its Parliament, is controlling this particular powerful force we, as senators and members of the Parliament, no matter what political party we may belong to, can speak as men and women who realize the need in modern times to improve the general outlook of the people. Consequently, we shall seek to place television on a higher plane than that upon which it will be placed by commercial stations.
I am pleased to support the amendment before honorable senators, because I can see in it provision for a great measure of control of television by this Parliament. However, we know that opposition to the amendment is only in line with the policy of our opponents on the Government side of the chamber, because their primary interest is profit and not really the good of the people.
I was rather amused by the speech of Senator McCallum. I usually listen to the honorable senator with a good deal of pleasure, because he has the capacity to place a reasonable case before this chamber. After- sitting for eight years in the presidential chair of the Senate, I have reached the stage where I am very happy to listen to honorable senators who can put up a case, and who are not merely wind and froth and bubble. Senator McCallum told us- that nearly 50 years ago he was converted to the Labour doetrine by the articles of “William Morris Hughes in the Baily Telegraph of Sydney. That may be so, and it is admitted to-day that in much of the capitalistic press there are articles written by Labour men.
In the Brisbane Courier-Mail the secretary of the Queensland Labour party, Mr. Jack S’chmella, publishes a weekly article that places the Labour case before the people of Queensland. Well, of course, the Courier-Mail and other capitalist newspapers allow that sort of thing to be done on occasions, but I point out to Senator McCallum and to our friend Senator Henty, that the press of this country is, in the main, owned and controlled by vested interests which are class opponents - and I use the word “ class “ advisedly - of the workers of this country.
Day by day, and every day in the year except Christmas Day and Good Friday, that press pours out certain views coloured to meet the situation, which have an impact upon the minds of the people. To say that just because Billy Hughes published an article or two about 50 years ago, or that because Jack Schmella is p permitted to publish an article week by week in the Brisbane Courier-Mail, or because similar articles are sometimes published in the Sydney Morning Herald or the Daily Telegraph, that is a generous gesture and practically means that the workers of this country have equal rights with their exploiters, is pure nonsense. How utterly absurd it is.
Every honorable senator on this side of the chamber knows how newspapers can make or break a person, and I have particular reason to know that. Day by day when there is a fight on between the Labour unions and those opposing them, the hews is coloured. I make no bones about the fact that Opposition senators are here representing the masses of the people- organized labour such as the waterside workers, the railway workers, the transport workers, the butchers and the bakers. We represent them all, and I say to honorable senators in this chamber, and to the people who may be listening over the radio, that to-day those represented by Government senators have almost a monopoly of the press, as they have in the financial field a monopoly of banking, controlled by interests opposed to the mass of the people.
News is coloured day by day in such a way as to give a wrong impression to those who read the newspapers, whenever industrial labour is involved in a fight. Now those interests want .to go further. Not only do they want to control broadcasting, the films and the press, but they are now seeking control over television. Those seeking that control are being supported by a venal government - and I mean venal in the sense that it supports modern exploitation - to the extent that the Government is placing in their hands almost complete control of the great invention of television. We on this side of the chamber stand for control of television by the Parliament. It is deplorable that we have not that power. We are fighting for that cause to the best of our ability, and that is why I support the amendment. I believe that it would give greater control of television to the Parliament and the people, and less control to vested interests.
– I believe that we should consider dispassionately the ‘ degree to which the making of money is a corrupt power, and one that leads to evil. It depends on how a man gets his money. The great literature of the British Commonwealth of Nations was produced largely by people who wanted to make money. We would not have had Shakespeare’s plays if he had not wanted to make money, although we might have had some of his sonnets and poems. The point is that there are people who arc corrupt and who make money by bad means, but the press and, as Senator Henty has pointed out, the private broad casting companies, have not been a corrupting influence. Senator Brown wan te to put all the controls under discussion within the power of the Parliament. If there is one body that has made a bad use of broadcasting, it is the State.
I ask honorable senators to contrast fairly the State of Italy as it was, the State of Russia as it is and the State of Germany as it was with the great United States of America. The United States allowed private enterprise to develop broadcasting and, later, television. Without question, the people of the United States have had all kinds of opinions broadcast to them through their great broadcasting corporations. I revert to the point made by Senator Byrne that the Democratic party is at a disadvantage. During the whole period that Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Truman were presidents, the’ Democratic party had ascendancy in the United States, and it achieved ascendancy and maintained its position largely through broadcasting. AH that broadcasting was from private commercial stations. As I said during the secondreading debate, I have heard the “ Town of the Air “ broadcast from New York by one of the great commercial stations. Through that medium widely divergent points of view were conveyed to millions of listeners.
My belief is that if we leave the” matter as it is without the stipulation in the amendment; if we trust the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the agreements that are made between it and the commercial stations, we shall get better value and more freedom, and there will be no more danger of mass domination by private enterprise than there would be if we tried to control this medium as suggested by the Opposition.
I want to make one point very fairly. Senator Brown introduced this note, and I am not going to answer it in any party sense. He has spoken of the exploitation of the masses. I believe that we have left that behind. There is no longer a depressed class in Australia in the sense that there was even 50 years ago. That sort of class consciousness should not exist to-day, and honorable senators opposite will find that it does not exist among a large section of those persons who are labelled “ workers “.
Let us consider the suggestion that control of television should be “put in the hands of the Parliament. Honorable senators will recall that we have disallowed a regulation and forced another to be withdrawn. We have found that the power of Parliament often is not the power of Senator Brown or of persons like myself, Y»’e have to consider our powers to get anything done. Whenever the Government seeks to regulate too much, the result is too many regulations. We find then what Lord Hewitt has called “ modern despotism “. If we gave control to this Senate, we would get good standards and good decisions, but it would not be left to us. We would be allowed only to review a regulation now and then. The matter would be left to some public servant, and it is far better that such matters should be left to those who do the actual work. I repeat my plea: (Jive them a chance to prove that they have a sense of responsibility and will keep their pledged word.
Senator BENN (Queensland) [10.26 1. - Listening to some of the honorable senators on the Government side, one would believe that this amendment that has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) was submitted in an irresponsible manner, and that Senator McKenna, and the Australian Labour party which he represents, had given no consideration to the importance of the amendment. Might I say that the experience of the Australian Labour party of instruments of mass communication has forced it to submit the amendment. We know very well that if nothing is done now to have this amendment carried, we shall have no possible chance of correcting the situation in the future. We might not be in office as the government for three or four years and, therefore, we might not have a chance to make a correction.
Let us examine the existing means of communication. I referred to this matter in my second-reading speech, and T pointed out that a few newspapers, controlled by a handful of directors. manage a newspaper circulation totalling 7,000,000 copies weekly. Those directors have the power to control the viewpoints of the people who read their newspapers. They make up the minds of the people on all questions. It is not altogether what a newspaper publishes that counts when the public mind is being framed; the important factor is what the newspapers leave unpublished.
As an illustration, I remind honorable senators that, only recently, the newspapers published an announcement that Russia had decided to disband 1,000,000 troops. The newspapers merely gave us the information. They did not go further, and tell the public that, because of the development of the hydrogen bomb, it was not necessary to have armies of millions of men. They did not explain why Russia was able to disband 1,000,000 soldiers. Other countries could do the same. That is what we are facing now. If one country is able to disband 1,000,000 soldiers, it follows that other countries could do likewise. Such a matter becomes of global importance, because one of the countries to which we refer as a free country is building its economy upon military contracts. When those contracts do not have to be carried out any longer by manufacturers and producers, the economy of that country will be seriously affected. I leave it to the imagination of flip people as to what will happen to the millions employed in industries connected with defence production. We also ha”p evidence of the great influence exerted by the press and radio on the mind« of the people in respect of sonia1 questions. Now. when we are about to introduce television to Australia, the Government proposes to give these interests a further opportunity to exert their influence upon the minds of the Australian People.
It is most unfair that a mere handful of people should be given the opportunity to control the organs of mass communication in this country. I deal’ with this aspect very fully the other day and I simply repeat certain remarks nov to support the amendment I can spp the evils of placing this power in tin hands nf a. few. One honorable senator on the Government side asked a while ago why we should press for this amendment at this particular stage. This is the time to bring the matter forward. We are dealing now with legislation relating to television. It will be too late in another month or two because, as we all know, the standards that will be set for television in Australia during the first six months will be the standards that will obtain indefinitely. We have proof of that in what happened in respect of the press whose standards were established years ago and are ‘ still observed to-day. When all is said and done, the press is only a money-making business. It is conducted merely for the purpose of paying high dividends to shareholders. The sole concern of the press is to publish something that will attract customers and thus increase sales of publications. It is not concerned about the uplifting of the people, lt seeks only to charge high fees to advertisers for space in its columns. It is not concerned about the debauchery of the children with the slush that it pours out every evening in the form of serials.
Actually, the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is very mild. It refers to the functions or duties of the Minister or the board. I should like to see a Minister placed in charge of television because we would then have one. man who would be responsible to the Parliament and to the people in respect of it. At the present time, such responsibility is diffused. The board is responsible, and the hoard to control television was established mere !v for the purpose of dispersing responsibility. Blame now will be placed not upon a Minister, but upon Ihe. board T should like to see the whole of the responsibility vested in n “Minister. For the reason* I have, mentioned 1 support the amendment.
– To a large extent, the Government has anticipated the amendment that has been moved by th° Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). T remind honorable senators that, in the past, governments of a7l political colours have granted licences without any public knowledge of what was happening. In saying that,
I am not imputing any improper motive to either the present Government or the Labour party when it was in office.
This bill proposes a new licensing system which will give to the organizations mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition and to the general public an opportunity to make application for any licence that is to be granted, and to support its application at a public inquiry at which any other interested parties also may be- heard. The Government has already applied this procedure in respect of applications for licences for television stations in Sydney and Melbourne. During the inquiry relating to those applications, the Australian Labour party, the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and the Actors Equity of Australia expressed their views. We are bringing the issue of licences right out into the open. This in itself will ensure that the powers and functions of the Minister and the board shall be exercised in the public interest. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that his amendment will give the general public and religious, educational, cultural, political and social organizations an opportunity to obtain a fair and just share in the ownership or control of licences. .1 remind him that under the system of granting licences as recommended by the Royal Commission on Television, there is nothing to prevent any company from being formed by a broker with share? issued to the general public in the manner the Leader of the Opposition suggested. He said that such a company would l>e fully subscribed within 24 hours. There is nothing to prevent any broker from doing exactly what has been suggested by the honorable senator. 1 remind the committee also that any one who wished to do so had ten weeks within which to make application to the Royal Commission on Television, and I understand that no application was submitted by any company formed in the manner suggested by the Leader of the Opposition He cannot blame the Government for noi giving a licence to some mythical body that has never applied for one.
I welcome this evidence of the Opposition’s desire to secure a fair deal for everybody in the granting of licences; but I point out that the Labour government was not very solicitous for the general public or the religious, educational, cultural and social organizations mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition to-night when it granted licences to the Queensland central executive of the Australian Labour party for station 4KQ in Brisbane and to the company controlled by the Labour party of New South Wales for station 2HD in Newcastle. That Government had every opportunity to invite various bodies, such as those mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition to-night, to share in the holdings in those two radio stations. On the other hand, when we examine the record of the present Government in connexion with the granting of licences for commercial broadcasting stations, we find that five such stations have commenced operations since 1949. The licences for three were granted on the condition that the companies which were to be formed to conduct them should be comprised of local residents. The fourth licence was granted to a metropolitan broadcasting company to operate a station in a. country district where a local service was badly needed, but where no suitable local applicant was available. The fifth was granted to a company controlled by the Australian Workers Union in fulfilment of a promise made by the Postmaster-General in the Chifley Government.
The Opposition has said a great deal to-night about the granting of television licences, but not all the facts have been mentioned. Let us examine the case of Television Corporation Limited. It is a fact that newspaper companies have substantial, but not controlling, interests in it. Some 4,330 members of the general public are shareholders with a holding of 42 per cent, of the capital. Other shareholders include the Church of England, the Catholic Church, and broadcasting station 2KY, which is owned by ihe Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales.
– What interest have they got in it?
– T have already said that 4.330 sharoholders have a holding of 42 per cent. The company has nine directors, of whom only three represent newspapers. Two of them are prominent ecclesiastics, and another is the Honorable Robert King, M.L.C., a prominent member of the Labour party in New South Wales. The Herald-Sun Television Proprietary Limited is owned by a newspaper company. That is admitted, but this company, in turn, is owned by 6,000 Australians, so that its shareholders have a certain amount of say in the television company as well. In the other two television companies the shareholding is evenly spread between newspapers, manufacturers of electronic equipment, broadcasting stations, film interests and others.
In regard to the granting of licences, I have said that the Government appointed a royal commission on television and has followed its recommendations. For the benefit of the committee [ will read paragraph 355 of the commission’s report. It is as follows: -
Tn the case of the original grant by the Minister of a commercial television licence for any locality, wc think there should in all cases, be a public hearing by the Board of the applications received for licences in that locality. The decisions on the grant of licences (that is, the selection of the licensees) at the commencement of the commercial service will clearly be vital and wo feel that the public interest demands that the claims of all applicants should be the subject of investigation at hearings to which the public and press are admitted. It may be necessary or desirable for parties other than applicants to be represented at such hearings but we are strongly of opinion that, in determining the procedure, care should be taken that only bona fide applicants and other parties with a genuine interest are permitted to be heard: otherwise the proceedings mav be unnecessarily prolonged. We do not think it is necessary for us at this stage to attempt to work out the details of the procedure to be adopted. What we have suggested is consistent with the practice in Canada and the United States of America.
The Government has adopted the findings of the Royal Commission on Television, and also the procedure that ha-? been followed in Canada and the United States of America with great -success for many years since television was introduced in those countries. Every possible opportunity has been given to Australians, who wish to apply for licences for television stations, to be represented. The shares of the companies which have been granted licence1’ are owned bv a great number of people. I think I have said sufficient to show that the policy of this Government is to give a fair and just share of the ownership and control of television licences to all sections of the community. For those reasons, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment of the Opposition.
– 1 thank the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) for his contribution to the debate, and I shall review briefly the speeches made by Government supporters this evening. Senator McCallum and Senator Henty, having heard the Opposition’s amendment, had no criticism to offer of its broad principles, but both honorable senators asked why should it be introduced into the legislation at this stage. They suggested that it would be better to allow this new development to proceed, and review it in a few years’ time. There is a simple answer to that. The committee is not now considering something new, but what this Government has already done under the legislation of 1953. We are looking hack over the last two years to what, in fact, has happened, and that is the basis of the Opposition’s criticism. The argument of the two honorable senators falls to the ground and has no relevance to the position taken by the Opposition in justification of its amendment. No honorable senator has attempted to argue that, in granting the four television licences, the Government has not put them into the same hands which control newspapers and radio stations- the latter to a lesser, but nevertheless very substantial extent. The- Minister pointed to one exception, and I shall deal with that in a moment.
Senator Anderson did not criticize the broad principles of the amendment, but concentrated his comment upon one very small aspect. The Opposition asks that, in the matter of ownership and control, the Minister and the board should be obliged to have regard to the interests of social, cultural, political, religious and other bodies of that type, and also that those bodies and the general public should be given a fair share in the, distribution of broadcasting and television time. Senator Anderson seized upon one small aspect on the programme side of the amendment, and I feel that I need say no more about the point which he raised.
The Minister claims that the Government anticipated the point raised by the Opposition, and he informed the committee of what the Government had done in granting broadcasting licences in recent years. That is not relevant to the issue now before the committee, which is the question of the adoption of principles for the future. What has been done in the past has no relevance to that. The four television licences which have already been granted have been issued for five years, pursuant to the 1953 act, and they cannot he recalled, except for some grave default on the part of the companies holding them. Unfortunately - and I say “ unfortunately “ advisedly - no action can bc taken to revoke what the Government has done. We acknowledge that, and we are providing now for the future. I repeat that the whole burden of our complaint is that the Government appears to favour the concentration in one set of hands of the control of the means of mass communication in this country.
Senator Cooper, in dealing with one corporation, said that although the newspapers hold 801,000 shares out of what I call representative shares totalling 1,096,000, there were 4.330 private shareholders holding 803,500 shares. The Minister must think that I and anybody else who knows anything about company activities and management are very naive if he expects us to believe that some 4,330 shareholders, holding 800.000 odd shares, would have to say against the Woe-organ i -wl vote of two newspaper companies holding about the same number of shares. On the one hand, there is in the hands of two newspapers what is termed a bloc vote. They do not need any organization. Their interest is cohesive. In every situation in the affair? of the company, that bloc vote will go one way.
What would be the use of 4.330 shareholders, utterly without organization of any kind, if they are truly members of the public, who cannot he welded together into the cohesion that the two companies can display, attempting to act against those companies? It is the old dodge of presenting figures that appear to give to the public slight domination. Incidentally, 1 think that the Minister claimed only 43 per cent, of the shares for it, so that it is clear that of the representative shareholding, two newspapers hold just on 80 per cent. The various church bodies and radio station 2KY, owned by the Trades and Labour Council of Sydney, hold 12 per cent, between them. lt is clear that one bloc vote will dominate the whole of the determinations of the directorate and the policy of that company.
The Minister glossed over the shareholding in the Herald-Sun TV Proprietary Limited, but that, perhaps, is the worst case of monopoly. As Senator Tangney, 1 think it was, indicated earlier to-day, that company owns one of The newspapers in Brisbane, which in rums owns or controls a whole series of broadcasting stations. It also has a controlling interest in a newspaper in Adelaide, which in turn either owns or controls four broadcasting stations. That is the body that is given one of the rare television licences in all Australia. Nothing can be done about that now. Contractual interests have been based upon the granting of the licences pursuant to the !95.’( act. What the amendment purports to do is to lay down a line of conduct for the board, and for the Minister, for the future. What honorable senator, looking at this matter reasonably, fan argue against letting the general public, together with bodies that are concerned wit1! the religious social, cultural and political life, and organizations of that nature, have a controlling say in the management of this new and important social medium, the most important and most powerful medium of nil. a* Senator “R-own quite eloquently demonstrated to-night ?
– How can you give a licence to the genera1 public Will the honorable senator explain that!
– Yes. Was the Artorney-General (“Senator Spicer in the chamber when T spoke earlier to-night?
– I think I was.
– Then the honorable senator ought to know, but I do not mind putting it to him again. I suggested that the proper course for the Government to have taken in this matter, with a limited number of licences, was to have approached the stock exchanges of Melbourne and Sydney, a thing that is done by those concerned with company promotion, and to have asked them, either in toto, or through one of their underwriting committees, to sponsor two companies to take two television licences if the Government, in its lack of wisdom, was determined to concentrate three licences in each of those localities.
– Each would be a licence for a few thousand shareholders.
– Nothing of the kind. The honorable senator did- not listen to what I put, because it is obvious that one of the companies in Sydney has been floated at well over the £1,000,000 mark, and it may well be that it will run to £2,000,000. I indicated the conditions quite plainly to the Senate when 1 said that, first, the Minister, with complete power as to the conditions that could be imposed on licensees, could say, “ Well now, the brokerage, or the underwriting or promotion commission, and the profits are to be reasonable according to my own view “. Priority in allotment of the shares would go to bodies of the type I have indicated, and to small applicants.
I indicated that he need impose only one other condition, and that was that those who held shares on trust for others should indicate who were the true beneficial owners. T also proved that it could be done by citing one of the companies that has taken a licence - the one that went on the market for 800,000 shares of 10s. each and had them subscribed for, as I stated earlier, in exactly five minutes. There was an indication that the proposal that I put could easily have been adopted, so that the general public of Australia could have been interested in these licences, instead of giving them to the organizations that are at present controlling mass communication.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn, to to-morrow, at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Senator O’SULLIVAN proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to raise a matter which 1” believe is of very great importance, particularly in view of the reply that I received to a question 1 asked in the Senate some time ago concerning the future of employees of the Australian Whaling Commission. I was informed this evening that at 2.36 this afternoon, members of the office staff of the Australian Whaling Commission received orders to finish at 5 o’clock to-day. The majority of them have been offered temporary positions in the Civil Service in Perth, at salaries which will mean losses to them ranging from £90 a year to between £700 and £800 a year. During the time that they were employed by the Australian Whaling Commission, they were contributors to a provident fund. They will now receive back the money that they paid into that scheme, but they will get no other benefits. As they are going into the Public Service only as temporary officers they are not eligible to join the provident fund or the superannuation fund of the Service. Many of them are worried about their future and the fact that they will not. be able to make the provision for their wives and families that they would have been able to make had they remained members of a provident or superannuation fund.
To-day, in reply to a question of mine concerning the conditions which the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited had undertaken to observe with regard to the employees of the Australian Whaling Commission, the Minister stated that all the employees at Carnarvon would be absorbed by the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. These number only sixteen men. Recently, there was a. debate in this chamber on the need to develop the north-western part of Western Australia, and T agree heartily with what was said bv the various speakers during that debate. T think it is a tragedy that, as a result of the sale of the assets of the whaling commission, no fewer than 100 men will be displaced from their employment in the whaling industry.
At present, there are 37 men employed at the whaling station at Carnarvon. During the whaling season, 103 men have been employed there. Of the 37 nien, only 29 are being taken over by the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. There have been sixteen men employed on the’ ships in the off-season and 34 during the season. Of these, 33 will be re-employed. At present, a staff of seventeen is employed. During the season, nineteen men are employed on this staff. Of these, only three are being taken over by the company. From the figures I have cited, it will be seen that, during the whaling seasons, 156 men were employed by the commission. Of that number, only 65 have been promised employment by the company.
At question time to-day, the Minister foi” National Development (Senator Spooner) stated in answer to a question that 1 had asked that the company had agreed to offer employment to those members of the staff of the commission who had their permanent homes at Carnarvon, numbering, the Minister stated, only sixteen. He said that the company agreed, to offer full-time, not temporary, employment, to those men. That is all to the good. The Minister also stated that the company reserved the right to dismiss any of those men should their services be unsatisfactory or if, for other reasons, they were no longer required. That means, of course, that they could be taken over by the company, according to the terms of the contract, for a week or a fortnight and then dismissed. There is no real guarantee to them of continuity of employment.
As for the staff at the Perth office, the Minister said that the company had stated that it would give preference in employment to suitable members of the commission’s Perth staff in positions for which their experience and capacity qualified them. Apparently, not one member of that staff, except the chairman and the secretary, possesses the necessary qualifications for employment bv the company because, up to 5 o’clock to-night, when their employment with the’ Australian Whaling Commission ceased, riot one member of the staff had been approached by the company with regard to re-employment. Needless to say, these men are very apprehensive about their future. After giving periods of five, six and seven years’ valuable service to the whaling commission, they have received 2 hours and 24’ minutes’ notice of dismissal. In addition to losing their source of income, they will, even if they are subsequently re-employed in the Commonwealth Public Service, lose certain superannuation benefits.
I should like the Minister to tell me whether anything can be done to ensure that these men are allowed to continue their membership of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund or the Provident Fund. Will he also inform me whether the recommendation of the commission itself that about £7,000 be disbursed among certain employees, in order that they shall not suffer undue hardship, has been acted upon.
There is a persistent rumour in Perth - I am not able to vouch for its veracity - that the large whaling vessel Carnarvon, which is the most up-to-date whaling vessel on the Australian coast, having excellent, amenities for its crew, and so on, may be sold to overseas interests at a. much higher figure than the valuation that was placed on it for the purpose of the sale. If there is any truth in the rumour, in view of the fact that the Government intends to encourage the fishing industry, for which purpose the Fishing Industry Bill was recently passed by the Parliament, will it consider retaining this vessel for that purpose? I understand that, since 1949, negotiations have been on foot to purchase a vessel suitable to carry out experiments in connexion with fisheries development. I believe that Carnarvon could be used satisfactorily for that purpose. If the rumour that I have mentioned is true, it seems to me that it would be a pity if this vessel, equipped as it is with research apparatus and modern amenities for the crew, were lost to the Australian trade. Before anything is done that cannot be undone, I should be glad if the Minister would make inquiries into this matter.
– As I recollect the arrangements, the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited has said that it will provide employment for the employees of the whaling commission who live permanently at Carnarvon, that it will seek to give employment to those who are casually employed in the whaling operation, and that it will endeavour to place those who have worked in Perth for the whaling commission. I think the answer that I gave this afternoon to Senator Tangney’s question shows that the company has honoured its responsibility in respect of those who live permanently at Carnarvon. I also think that the proviso by the company in relation to unsatisfactory services was quite a reasonable one. I imagine that it is no different from the terms of employment on which they were previously engaged by the whaling commission, That is the ordinary reservation that is made.
– Does the Minister contend that if the whaling commission had continued to operate all of these men would have been dismissed because their services were unsatisfactory ?
– I do not know by what process of logic the honorable senator could so interpret my remarks. What I said was, that this is not an unusual proviso, and it is very little different from the terms on which the men were employed by the whaling commission. Of course, everybody, including members of this chamber, holds his appointment subject to his continuing to render satisfactory service. As I understand the position, there has been a big ebb and flow of casual employees of the commission each year. Some casual employees who have worked for the commission during one season have not returned in subsequent years.
– But there is a fairly stable supply.
– Yes. The position is somewhat analagous to that at various meatworks, to which men return for casual employment year after year. It has been customary for the commission to give seasonal employment to men who have been employed by it in previous years, and I think it will be found that that is what will happen with the company. I do not know any of the parties to the transaction, but this seems to me to be a logical, normal proceeding. I am not up to date as to what has happened in regard to the Perth staff.
– It only happened to-night - they are out.
– This is not the concern of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited only. The Commonwealth itself said that it would endeavour to find employment for them in the Commonwealth Public Service. I cannot say what arrangements will be made in regard to superannuation, but these superannuation schemes provide for contributions by both employers and employees. These particular employees are leaving their employment at the end of five years’ service.
– They are not leaving, they are being put out.
– It is not as though the men have had 20 or 30 years’ employment. In that event the atmosphere would be different so far as the determination of the superannuation scheme is concerned. I would doubt very much the practicability of carrying over the benefits of any arrangement into the Commonwealth Public Service scheme.
– Some of them went from the Public Service into the service of the commission. They were returned soldiers.
– Maybe, they will go back into the Public Service. It seems to me that that would make the break a little easier for them than if they were men of mature years going into the Public Service for the first time. As to the sale of the whaling ship, I have no information about that matter at all. It is just one of those rumours which one hears and instantly distrusts.
– Will the Minister inquire into it?
– Of course, I shall inquire into it; but I do not think it is fair for an honorable senator to stand up in the Senate and say she has heard a rumour that a ship is to be sold.
– If a vessel of that type is required and a rumour is current that such a vessel is on the market, why not make investigations?
– Why not go to the department and ask it quietly instead of passing on a rumour which, if it is incorrect - I think that the odds are that it is incorrect - will be only to the detriment of the purchasing company ? I shall have inquiries made into all the matters the honorable senator has raised, and if I can ascertain any useful information I. shall let her know.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560530_senate_22_s8/>.