23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. In view of recent important developments relating to uranium supplies and the development of atomic energy, the latest of which was the sale by Australia to Japan of some 2,500 lb. of uranium, will the Minister make a statement to the Senate covering the world situation regarding uranium supplies, the development of atomic energy, the reservation of atomic power as far as possible for peaceful purposes, and any other matters of this nature about which he feels the Senate should be informed? If he is prepared to make the suggested statement, will he, in view of the keen interest of honorable senators in these matters, arrange an opportunity for the Senate to debate it?
– The question is a very good one. This matter is exercising my mind a good deal. There is now a demand for uranium. Australia needs, first, to ensure that its own requirements are safeguarded and, having done that, to obtain a share in the world market for uranium if such a market develops. There is also the question of the use of uranium for peaceful purposes. The quantity shipped to Japan - 2,500 lb. - was a sample lot for experimental purposes. I shall consider the honorable senator’s suggestion. I shall talk to Professor Baxter of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and see whether I can make a statement to the Senate next week and arrange for an opportunity for honorable senators to discuss it.
– I ask the Minister for National Development the following questions: Has his attention ever been drawn to the mortgage insurance policy that is administered by the American Federal Housing Administration, which, I understand, has been in operation for more than twelve years, and which has resulted in the building for home ownership of more than 12,000,000 houses? Is it not a fact that under this policy homes are built by private enterprise and that loans of up to 93 per cent, of the cost are granted to civilian purchasers and up to 98 per cent, to exservicemen, the money being provided by normal private enterprise money-lending corporations but the mortgage being signed on behalf of the United States Government by the Federal Housing Administration? Does not the Minister feel that this plan deserves urgent examination by the Government with a view to its adoption in Australia? Does he not agree that, if the facts enunciated by me are correct, such a plan would be in line with true Liberal policy, would give a. great fillip to the building industry, and would give an opportunity for thousands of Australians to purchase their own homes?
– I am aware of the American scheme, so far as one can become aware of such an important and intricatematter by reading about it. It was recently the subject of an article in a magazine,, which I read with a good deal of interest. The officers of my department are pretty well versed in the matter. I remind Senator Marriott that to some extent there is a counterpart of that scheme in Australia, in that State Governments guarantee the repayment of advances that are made by people and institutions to terminating building societies. State Governments also guarantee to building societies the repayment of advances that the societies make for, I think it is, 80 per cent, of the value of a property. The arrangements are not uniform, but vary from State to State. So far as I recollect, they relate only to terminating building societies. I do not recollect that any arrangement is in existence that coversthe transactions of permanent building, societies. Personally, I hold the view that it is the permanent building society movement that we want to see developed in Australia, and that we should encourage it to develop.
The point that Senator Marriott raises is. one that has been placed before the Commonwealth Government by the building, society movement in Australia. The building society movement has asked the Commonwealth Government whether it would become a party to, or would in some way join in, an insurance corporation, whereby the building societies could insure their liability with an insurance corporation which had the Commonwealth Government’s backing. That means that the building society movement has said, “ We would be prepared to pay a premium in order to get this insurance for permanent building societies, in particular “, although at the present time a guarantee is given by State Governments without charge. That matter is before the Commonwealth Government at present, but I do not think a decision has been reached upon it as yet. As Senator Marriott has,said this movement in America is an extraordinarily interesting trend in housing in America, and I think it is worthy of commendation that the building society movement in Australia is trying to inaugurate a similar scheme here.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I ask your indulgence, Sir, to preface my question with some information that will make it clearer to the Minister. The question refers to a drug or tablet, known by the registered name of Butazolidine which is used for the purpose of treating and alleviating arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It has been pre. scribed very widely for pensioners, but my request is made not only on behalf of pensioners, but also as the result of requests by responsible doctors registered with the British Medical Association. Has this drug or tablet been removed from the list of medicines available free of charge to pensioners? If so, will the Minister take action to have the position examined, with the object of having the drug replaced on the free list? Is the Minister aware that the retail price of a tablet is about ls., and that it is the opinion of doctors who treat pensioners that rheumatic pain is a very common occurrence amongst them? That is due, no doubt, to the conditions under which they have to live and the low standard of living which their present pension rate permits. It is very necessary for them to have this drug, but they are too indigent to buy it.
– I have no knowledge as to whether this drug has been removed from the list. I think the best thing I can do in order to obtain correct information for the honorable senator is to seek advice from the Minister for Health. If the honorable senator will put the question on the notice-paper, I shall get advice from the Minister for Health upon it.
– I direct to the Minister for National Development a question which has a bearing upon one asked earlier by Senator Marriott. Can the Minister supply the Senate with progress figures on home building in Australia?
– The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures for the quarter ended 30th June, 1959, are, I think, extraordinarily interesting. I made a brief press statement upon them a few days ago, but the statement apparently did not make the press in competition with the more interesting news contained in the Budget. With the permission of the Senate, I shall read this press statement, which is quite brief.
The preliminary figures of dwelling construction released by the Commonwealth Statistician for the June, 1959, quarter show that during 1958-59 more houses and flats were completed in Australia than in any previous year since the war. Dwellings completed during the June quarter, 21,730, brought the total estimated completion figure for the year 1958-59 to 84,059 houses and flats, compared with 74,585 completed in 1957-58, a rise of 12.7 per cent. The best previous effort was in 1954-55, when 82,110 units were completed. Commencement figures also remain high. In the June quarter, 21,650 units were commenced, to bring the 1958-59 figure to 81,779, compared with 73,347 in 1957-58, an increase of 11.5 per cent.
It is interesting also to see that similar development occurred in New South Wales and Victoria. Honorable senators will remember that it is in those two States that the problem is most acute. In New South Wales, dwellings completed during the June quarter were estimated at 7,853, making a total of 29,958 for 1958-59, compared with 26,445 for 1957-58, a rise of 13.3 per cent. Commencements during the quarter are estimated at 7,372,’ and bring the number commenced in 1958-59 to 29,501, compared with 25,845 in 1957-58, a rise of 14.1 per cent. Completions in Victoria for the quarter, 6,424, brought the total for the year to 25,768, compared with 22,471 in 1957-58, an increase of 14.7 per cent. Commencements in Victoria at 6,145 brought the total for 1958-59 to 24,302, compared with 23,216 in 1957-58, an increase of 4.7 per cent.
My comment was that the greatly improved building effort for the financial year just ended reflected a substantial increase in the flow of finance from private lending institutions such as banks and life assurance companies, as well as the large contributions being made from Government funds. I repeat what I said previously, that the Government looks to private institutions to maintain their present strong support of the housing programme.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government a couple of simple questions. First, did the Minister note during the recess the excellent press statement made by Senator Maher that he could never understand the Government going overseas in an effort to get loan money for the Mount Isa railway project when we had here in Australia the necessary materials and men and the means to finance it? Secondly, can the Minister inform the Senate why the World Bank refused to finance the Mount Isa railway development project?
– I think the answer to Senator Brown’s questions is that the reason - the national reason - why we went overseas to endeavour to obtain funds for the Mount Isa railway is the need to obtain as much overseas finance as we can in order to strengthen our balance of payments situation. To finance the Mount Isa project we could either get £30,000,000 from overseas or spend £30,000,000 from our own resources. That is a vast gap. The securing of that amount of money from abroad is a very rich prize at which to aim. As to the pros and cons of the reasons why the negotiations with the World Bank failed, I do not desire to enter upon a discussion of that matter except to say that the Government is very keen and anxious to see the line completed and Mount Isa come into full production, or production as great as is practicable, as soon as possible.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by inviting his attention to the report of the Auditor-General, recently released, wherein it is stated that £144,041 was the cost of charter last year of two ships - “ Thala Dan “ and “ Magga Dan “ - and ice insurance, victualling, overtime, .bunkering, and survey and dock work. The charges are stated to be £662 and £645 per day respectively. The Auditor-General concluded by stating-
It is a matter .for consideration whether, from the long-term viewpoint, it would not be more economical to buy or build suitable vessels for use in connexion with Antarctic research.
Can the Minister say whether any steps have been taken to give heed to the Auditor-General’s strictures?
– I thank the honorable senator for directing my attention to the comment made by the AuditorGeneral; I had not noticed it. I draw some encouragement from the fact that he has made the comment. As I think I said in reply to an earlier question asked by Senator Laught on this subject I have raised this matter with the Department of External Affairs on a number of occasions. The last advice I received from that department was to the effect that it is again examining the possibility of building a ship in Australia for this service. I have nothing to add to what I told Senator Laught during the last sessional period.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I point out that the Commonwealth Bank was established to serve the people, and it has come to be acknowledged as the people’s bank. Any matter or allegation adversely affecting or reflecting on the ethical practices of this national institution should be the subject of immediate and impartial inquiry and public report. As the procedure concerning a certain personal and private transaction could mar the good reputation of the Commonwealth Bank, I ask the Minister: Will the Treasurer cause an exhaustive investigation to be made into the purposes and conditions of a loan said to have been granted to Mr. C. L. Freeman, a farmer, of Scottsdale, by the
Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank, and a report thereon to be presented to the Senate? In particular, will the Minister ascertain whether the bank prescribed the sale of Freeman’s Nabowla property at a considerable loss to meet an instalment; whether the bank, to assist this sale, promised finance to a purchaser of the Nabowla farm, intending thereby that Freeman should reduce his original loan and have for use extra working capital; whether a new manager of the Launceston branch of the bank upset a contract signed by Mr. Freeman for the sale of his Nabowla property; whether the bank proceeded, in January, 1959, to sell without reserve Mr. Freeman’s Scottsdale farm, having refused him any compromise, but offering finance on generous terms to a would-be purchaser; and whether the manager of the Launceston branch of the bank personally supervised the police eviction, without notice, of Mi. Freeman, in his absence, from his Scottsdale property? If it is found that Mr. Freeman has been treated harshly in being deprived of assets, home and property, will favorable consideration be given to financing, under the provisions relating to the proposed new Commonwealth Development Bank, the re-purchase of his property?
– The question concerns an individual transaction between the Commonwealth Bank and one of its customers. I very much doubt whether the Treasurer would be prepared to examine an individual case of this nature unless, of course, it involved some major policy issues. I shall have a look at the question again and refer it to the Treasurer to see whether there are involved any major policy matters which the Treasurer would care to investigate or to comment upon.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer explain why a taxpayer with a family, when claiming income-tax deductions, is allowed £65 for each child, but only £57 each for twins? In view of our urgent need for population, does not the Minister agree that multiple births should be encouraged rather than penalized ? Will he give an undertaking to remove this anomaly?
– First, I am not sure of the accuracy of the honorable senator’s figures. I think he referred to” a deduction of £65 for each child, or £57 each for twins. My recollection is that I have been claiming a deduction of £91 for one child and £65 for another child. In making that statement, I hope I am not putting myself in with the Taxation Branch. The provision, as I understand it, is that where there is one child there is an allowable deduction of £91, and that where there is more than one child there is an allowable deduction of £91 for the first child and £65 each for all other children.
– There are eight in the family I have in mind.
– Then that seems to indicate deductions of one at £91 and seven at £65.
– There were two at £57.
– I think that if £57 only is allowed in relation to each of two children who happen to be twins, the individual case should be examined by the taxation authorities, because I am reasonably sure that the deduction is £65 for each child other than the first child.
– Which would be considered the first child if there were twins?
– That is an interesting point. I thought, as Senator Wade asked his question, that that was the point about which it was going to revolve. If there are twins, there is always, as I understand the position, one child who is considered to be the elder of the two.
Australian National Line
– 1 preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by explaining that yesterday I questioned him concerning the right of Parliament to be informed of the sale price of Commonwealth ships sold to private commercial interests. In his reply, the Minister seemed to indicate that whether Parliament could be given the information depended, more or less, on the whim or fancy of the private purchaser. I now ask the Minister whether he did intend to convey this impression. If he did not, will he give an assurance that in future no public assets will be disposed of unless Parliament or the public can be informed of the sale price at once?
– I certainly had no intention of conveying the impression that the disclosure or non-disclosure of the price was dependent upon the whim or fancy of any purchaser; indeed,. I might say that as far as the- Government and the Australian Coastal Shipping. Commission are concerned, there is no. reasonwhy the price should not be disclosed except in instances where the purchaser’ makes an offer, as he did in the case referred to yesterday,, conditional upon the non-disclosure of the price.
The commission has a’ responsibility to get. the best’ price it can for the’ ships it sells, and thereby protect the public’s, investment in those ships. In this case, the commission was faced with the. dilemma of deciding whether to accept a price which was by far a better offer on the condition that there should be no disclosure, or a lower price and disclosing the figure immediately. I mention that because I want the honorable senator to realize the particular dilemma with which the commission is faced in a situation such as this; and, at the same time I want to say emphatically that there is no desire on the part of the commission, or the Government, not to disclose the price. On all future occasions, the price will be disclosed at the earliest possible time.
I should like to make it clear that, in normal circumstances, the price would be disclosed immediately. If there are very special circumstances in which nondisclosure of the price for a short time will benefit the public interest, then those circumstances will be described fully at the time.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to a statement by the chairman of the Victorian Gas and Fuel Corporation, Dr. Andrews, to the Institute of. Mining and Metallurgy claiming that Australia could produce synthetically its emergency requirement of 70,000,000 gallons of oil’ fuel a year if a subsidy of £1,500,000 were provided? Will the. Minister investigate the possibility of such a subsidy being made- available by the. Government?
– I have heard: of the statement to which the honorable senator has. referred,- but I have not had a chance to examine it closely: The pertinent point about it seems to be- that it admits that the production of fuel from- coal requiresthe’ payment of a- substantial subsidy. That is. in. line with other information that I have received on the subject It seems that at present there is no economic way of producing motor spirit from coal: The big experiment is, of- course, taking place in South Africa. The coal used for this purpose’ is obtained at about- 7s. 6d. a ton, but the South African’ experience has not been ai happy one. I will, of course, examine Dr. Andrews’s statement closely. He is; a person- of- some authority and a member of the new-‘ committee that I have established to look at Commonwealth expenditure upon coal research. I cannot help thinking that there are? better directions in which we could make the very great capital investment that would be needed for the purpose suggested.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen reports that Ansett- A.N.A. is desirous of obtaining a third Electra aircraft? Will he re-affirm his earlier assurance that Ansett-A.N.A. will not be granted permission to purchase this additional aircraft unless the same permission is given to Trans-Australia Airlines? What is the Minister’s estimation of the “ break even load factor “ of the Electra as against the 700 and 800 series Viscounts, based on the experience of T.A.A.?
– Mr. Ansett has said publicly, more than once, that he has applied to the Government for a permit to import a third Electra.
– Under import licensing?
– No, under the Airlines Equipment Act which was passed last year. Mr: Ansett has also made public the fact that his application has not been approved. As to whether Ansett-A.N.A. will be: refused permission to purchase such’ an aircraft unless similar permission is given to T.A.A., I point out that the established policy of the Government is to take what steps it can to maintain two airlines in opposition on the trunk routes. Licences will be issued or refused in terms of the-
Airlines Equipment Act. The honorable senator strains my memory too greatly when he asks for my estimate of the “ break even load factor “ of the Electra as against that of 700 and 800 series Viscounts, but doubtless he wants to know how the planes compare. As recently as yesterday, I was speaking to the Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission on this subject. He said that T.A.A. had taken out some figures, but that experience of its single Electra was not sufficiently lengthy or diverse to permit it to say just what the load factor was. If, after T.A.A.’s second Electra has been commissioned, the honorable senator asks me the same question, I shall be pleased to let him have the information that he seeks.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, by pointing out that recently an organization has been set up for the purpose of exporting lambs on the hoof to the United States of America. A large vessel, the “ Westralia “, has been converted for the purpose of carrying out this venture, and reports state that the trial shipment has been very successful. Will the Minister inform the Senate what conditions are laid down for observation by the shippers in relation to the types of sheep to be exported? Will he give an assurance that close oversight is maintained so that the existing ban on the export of stud merino rams is not circumvented in this mass export of live sheep to other countries?
– I am not able at this stage to give precise details of the oversight that is devoted to this project, but I do know that when the shipment left Sydney recently the sheep in the vessel were very closely inspected by officers of the Department of Primary Industry and of the New South Wales Government for the purpose of seeing, not only that they were sent in what I may describe as humanitarian conditions, but also that types of sheep which should not be exported from Australia were not being exported. I shall obtain, and in due course furnish to the honorable senator, precise details as to the number of people who looked at the sheep and how often they did so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. I remind him that during the celebration of Education Week throughout Australia the slogan “ Education Builds a Nation “ was adopted. Almost coinciding with these celebrations there took place at Oxford, in England, a Commonwealth conference which agreed to help education in backward countries. But Australia admits that she is tragically short of teachers. In view of the practical interest of the Prime Minister, who has indicated that the children of this community must be equipped for life in the world beyond the school where their success will depend largely upon their education, will the Minister re-examine the question of the exemption of teachers who are called up for national service training and who cannot commence teaching duties for a number of weeks after the opening of the school year, thus seriously inconveniencing State education departments and seriously hampering the movement for educational progress?
– I shall look into the matter and furnish the honorable senator with the information he seeks. I should be very doubtful whether the calling up of teachers for national service training did in fact seriously embarrass State schools in any State whatever. The teachers concerned would be only in a particular age group and the numbers drawn from that age group are quite small. Nevertheless, I shall go into the matter more deeply.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation the following questions: Is it a fact that at the request of the Australian National Airlines Commission authority was granted for the purchase by Trans-Australia Airlines of twelve Fokker Friendship aircraft, this purchase causing a serious drain on Australia’s balance of payments? Is it a fact that T.A.A. now finds that it does not require all these aircraft for its own purposes? Is authority being granted to T.A.A. to dispose of these aircraft in Australia? Does this mean that T.A.A.. in addition to being an organization engaged in commercial aviation, is being permitted to take on the role of a retailer of new passenger aircraft?
– At the time that approval was granted to the Australian National Airlines Commission for the purchase of the second batch of six Fokker Friendship aircraft, making a total of twelve, the airlines industry in this country was in a state of some flux and the future position was not clear. But, having regard to the fact that there were some 60 ageing D.C.3 aircraft which would in the course of a few years have to be disposed of, having regard to the fact that T.A.A. had secured for itself an option to purchase Fokker Friendship aircraft at a price less, when the application was made, than the current price, and having regard to the fact that the price was shortly to be lifted, the proposition was put forward that these aircraft should be purchased at the very favorable price covered by the option on the clear understanding that in the event of their not being required by T.A.A. they would be made available to certain selected feeder airlines at the price paid by that organization. That is, they were to be sold without profit to T.A.A., in accordance with the Government’s express policy of assisting feeder airlines in Australia. In pursuance of this policy, negotiations are now taking place with two such feeder airlines for the sale to them of two aircraft at the cost of acquisition by T.A.A.
Commentary on Television Film.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Postmaster-General has furnished me with the following information: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the question is as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
In relation to claims made by Commonwealth employees under the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and subsequently disallowed by the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation, what are - (a) the number of claims disallowed during the period 1st January, 1957, to 31st December, 1958; (b) the number of appeals made, up to the present date, against these disallowances; (c) the number of these appeals which have been upheld; and (d) the number of these appeals which have been rejected?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer; -
The extraction of the statistics sought by Senator McManus would involve a very great dealof work. Every file would have to be examined to determine those with claims which were disallowed between 1st January, 1957, and 31st December, 1958. However, I think the substance of the question can be answered by statistics which are more readily available and relating to files that were created during this twoyear period. To put the question and this answer into perspective I should say that during the period of two years there were approximately 37,000 claims made by Commonwealth employees under the act. (a) Approximately 2,200 claims were disallowed; (b) 381; (c) 76; (d) 119 appeals were rejected or withdrawn by the appellants.
asked the Minis ter representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers: - 1.In accordance with the Government’s policy of developing rural areas and assisting residents in such areas to the utmost extent possible, the conditions under which country subscribers’ services are provided have been made very liberal. The basis now in operation provides for an expenditure of up to £528 to be incurred by the post office in erecting a rural subscriber’s exchange line. Previously, the maximum permissible amount which could be expended was fixed at £100. The favorable conditions have proved of distinct advantage to rural dwellers, so much so that more than 95 per cent, of country services are now provided wholly at departmental expense. In addition, proposals are currently under examination to further liberalize the conditions relating to the erection of new partylines, and, also, torender greater assistance to existing subscribers by extending the departmental portion of part-privately-erected exclusive and party-lines already in operation. Financial considerations demand, however, that some limit be -placed on the amount of line construction which can ‘be : provided by the post office and, in some cases, because of the distance of an applicant’s premises from existing departmental plant, there is no alternative other than to require him privately to erect and maintain portion of the line.
– by leave - I would like to refer to the statement which I made in this chamber on 6th May last, concerning our efforts to speed up the clearance of incoming passengers on overseas aircraft arriving at international airports in Australia. I expressed gratification on the progress which was being made with the development of “ Operation Super-Market “, designed to apply modern super-market methods of handling to the clearance of passengers’ baggage.
I am happy to announce that the necessary structural alterations have now been completed at most airports and that “Operation Super-Market” is successfully demonstrating its effectiveness in reducing delays to passengers. “ Operation SuperMarket” is, of course, not the only new idea which has been put into practice. Procedures are continually under critical examination and adjustments are quickly made to suit changed circumstances. The latest facilitation method to be adopted is the “trickle flow” system of passenger clearance. This system provides for the first passenger coming into the holding room to proceed immediately to health clearance, and then to immigration and customs clearance. Previously, passengers were held in the holding room until the last passenger was checked from the aircraft into that room before health clearance was commenced.
These changes to facilitate the clearance of overseas air passengers have been brought about as a result of the cooperation of all interested parties in discussions at meetings of the Advisory Facilitation Committees, on which interested departments - Civil Aviation, Health, Immigration and Customs - and various overseas airlines are represented. I congratulate these committees on the good work done under the overall supervision of the National Advisory Facilitation Committee.
I mentioned in this chamber in May last that I had been concerned for some time about the current policy of admitting only a limited number of press and radio representatives to the baggage hall prior to the clearance of passengers. It would cause extreme confusion to give unrestricted access to all press and radio representatives. The present system is undesirable in that it forces my officers to discriminate between press and radio representatives.
The National Advisory Facilitation Committee, on 7th May last, agreed in principle that only those people directly associated with the clearance of passengers should be admitted to the passenger clearance area, and I personally feel that a passenger is in a better state of mind to talk to press and radio representatives after all his clearance formalities have been completed. I have therefore decided that, in future, press and radio representatives will not be permitted to enter the baggage area at international airports in Australia while passenger clearance is in progress.
Debate resumed from 12th August (vide page 45), on motion by Senator Sir Walter Cooper -
That the following paper: -
Extension of Television Services - Statement by the Postmaster-General - be printed.
– I . think that last evening when the debate was adjourned . I had reached the stage where I had pointed out that the technical quality of the television picture available to the Australian viewer was in the forefront of world class. Before leaving that aspect of the matter, . I recall that, in 1925, when I was at school, I read of a challenge issued to John Logie Baird, one of the British inventors of television, in which a London journal offered to pay him £1,000 if he could transmit a recognizable likeness of any person from one room to another, by means of his new system. The inventor was unable to take up that challenge, but now, only about 25 years since that was impossible, the technical detail of television has become so good that it may be used on closed circuit for the instruction of student medical practitioners and others, to show in great technical detail the most minute acts which take place,for example, in medical operations.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has set out : in the fourth paragraph of his statement the areas to be served in this third phase of television development. I am in no position to comment on the location of the proposed transmitters, except to say that I am delighted that 75 per cent, of the population of Australia will have the benefit of television under the new schedule. It is quite obvious, however, when one looks at some of the geographical locations, that the frequency allocation authorities will be in some considerable trouble, because at the present time, by the use of suitable equipment, transmissions emanating from Sydney can be received in Canberra, and transmissions emanating from Melbourne can be received on the northern coast of Tasmania. I think it is well for the Senate to remember that only ten separate television channels are available for all our Australian stations. Let us consider the band width required by a television transmitter. In the whole broadcast band, which is used for ordinary radio transmission, about 130 or 140 individual stations operate in a band width of 1,500,000 cycles, or1½ megacycles. Each individual television transmitter requires a band width five times as much as that. In other words, one television station occupies a band width - of course, in a different part of the frequency spectrum - equal to those of five times as many radio transmitters as there are in the whole of that section of the frequency spectrum. This will therefore be a serious problem for the capable technical advisers of the Postmaster-General and the frequency allocation authorities.
I am extremely pleased to see that, despite the difficulty involved in frequency allocation to individual transmitters, the Government has decided to give first opportunity of securing licences to individual country television operators. If there is one thing in which commercial monopoly, or Government monopoly for that matter - always reprehensible - is worse than in another, it is in the spreading and dissemination of mass information and mass entertainment. I was glad to read the very strong additional statement which the Postmaster-General made in another place, in which he reiterated the Government’s determination that every step will be taken to see that local areas are served by their own individual telecasting services. For that reason, I am opposed to the suggestion, put forward by Senator Amour, that main use should be made of the coaxial cable, now under construction, linking the two major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, and that feeder services should be made to plug into that cable.
– Is that technically possible?
– There are certain difficulties, but it is possible. The main disadvantage to the country televiewer is that he would have foisted upon him, for good or for ill, the mass of the city programmes which, apart from the fact that they may or may not have an interest content for him, would mean that the opportunity to mould the minds of our citizens would be located at one or two central sources. As one who subscribes to a liberal form of philosophy, I find that abhorrent. It is good to see that the Government is insisting that the dual system be maintained, that is, the system of Government television stations side by side with commercial channels. There is no doubt that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has done a splendid job in educating the tastes of our radio listeners and televiewers, but it would be unfair to heap all the opprobrium on the commercial channels and to say that they do nothing in the way of contributing to education and general knowledge. At the present time in Melbourne - this is no criticism of the quality of the services provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but such inferences may be drawn from it as people see fit - the commission’s television programmes attract 12.4 per cent, of the televiewing audience. The remaining 87.6 per cent, is shared between the two commercial channels. I have no intention of stating which channel has the bulk of the 87 per cent.
The documentary and educational programmes put forward in such profusion by the Australian Broadcasting Commission supply a very much-needed leavening in the general programme material that is provided for our viewers. Although I have defended the existing programme material from what I regarded as excessive criticism, I would not like to be taken as thinking that it is perfect. I suppose that the very intimacy of a television programme makes anything which is offensive much more offensive than if it were seen on the stage, because the events that appear to be taking place on the screen are within 12 feet or 15 feet of the viewer, in his own home. For that reason, perhaps, violence seems to be more violent when it is seen on television, because a viewer appears, phychologically, to be closer to the event. The present preoccupation with crime in programmes is unfortunate, but I suppose that it is, in one sense, understandable, when we consider that if one excluded the news of the Budget and international affairs in the press in the last day or so, most of the matters referred to in large headlines had some element or another of crime. In the same way, crudity, vulgarity or - to use a good old-fashioned word - immodesty, appears more offensive when it is seen on a small screen in a person’s own home. For that reason, I think that all channels I have viewed have exercised a commendable self-censorship over the matter which they have put before the public. I feel that the country people to whom these programmes will become available in the near future will have little cause for serious apprehension as to the nature of the matter shown to them. Undoubtedly, some of the matters which are screening currently are not the very best for children, but usually they are screened at a late hour at night and after all, if television is to be used in the home, be it in the city or in the country, it is surely the parents’ disciplinary powers that will bc more on trial than the programme matter, to ensure that their children do not watch certain types of programmes which will certainly filter through the surveys of the sponsors and the people whose business it is to provide entertainment.
Just before leaving the methods of extending television services, I point out that recent developments by British engineers in bouncing particular types of energy off the moon, which is a development work pioneered by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Sydney, may make possible greatly extended ranges for television services, although at the present time the experimental work that has been done is not sufficient to make the ranges reliable.
If I may refer to the filming material which comprises the vast bulk of viewing at peak hours, I should like to make a criticism of the lack of Australian content, in the films which are shown. The answer to that. I suppose, is that there are no Australian films to be shown - certainly not in quantity and in quality. Therein to my way of thinking lies a real tragedy for our national expression. At the present time our televiewers are deluged with American films, excellently produced technically - films which have already earned their makers considerable sums of money in the United States and on the Continent and which, in some instances of which I. have been apprised, are landed here and sold to television exhibitors for a cost which is less than the cost of the film stock necessary in Australia to make that feature. Whilst I do not suggest that all films supplied are as cheap as that, the fact remains that the infant Australian film industry - perhaps it is an ageing infant, but it is an infant in size - cannot possibly compete against them. I do not propose at this time to canvass that particular point at length. I hope that it will be done at some later stage and that as a result of proper inquiry and action the Government will take rejuvenating measures to put the Australian film industry back on to its feet so that our Australian culture may not po down beneath the barrage of American accents, American morals and American incidents..
When 1 say this, 1 do not want to be thought anti-American. I yield to no one in my admiration of the United States of America. But I think it a pity that our Australian culture is going to be submerged, to some extent drowned, by a flood of films that are not made in Australia. Some time in the future, as I say, this point may be debated at greater length in this chamber.
I have noticed that small countries like Denmark, and even a new-born country like Israel, are capable of producing full-length feature films which are able to earn income in their own borders and to produce goodwill for their makers abroad, whereas Australia, with a population twice that of Denmark, and having incomparably greater facilities, is unable to produce feature films. I think that last year two full-length films were produced in Australia, and one of them was produced entirely by an English company. However, television seems to be a ready-made stimulus for the Australian film industry and I hope ultimately some good will come of it.
On the question of the effect of television in the homes of the people who will be receiving it as a result of the Government’s policy, 1 think some canards need to be laid. There are certain suggestions that children lose entirely their power to read and their sense of discrimination, and that they become lazy and simply want to be taught by the visual means. Despite the law enforcement methods of the popular American western marshals, two analyses have shown that the general knowledge and education of children have been improved by television. In 1957-58 a French scientific society, whose exact name I cannot at the moment recall, conducted a survey in a number of schools in Paris. The effect of the survey was to divide those children whose homes had television from those children whose homes did not possess it, and to assess in general, to the extent the investigators were able, the effect this new medium had on their education. The strange result came forward that almost invariably those children whose homes in Paris possessed television receivers were, mutatis mutandis, better than those children who did not have the educating influence of television in their homes. That seems to dispose of the theory - as far as Paris is concerned, at all events - that television stops children from reading and from studying.
I recall that that same objection was levelled, not only at children but also at adults. The suggestion was put forward that the arrival of television would stop people from reading and that the public libraries would disappear. I am indebted to an article in last Saturday’s “ Age “ which adverted to one or two of these matters. At the turn of the century there were gloomy forecasts of the abolition of libraries. Some pessimist said that the new craze for cycling spelt the doom of reading and the end of public libraries. As decade succeeded decade and each new scientific device came into use - the motor car, radio, and the cinema - the pessimists said “ This will be the end. There will be no more reading after this. Libraries will disappear.” What has actually happened has been something entirely different. Because of the novelty of the thing there was an immediate waning in reading but there was a subsequent re-awakening of interest in reading, and the final stage so far as adult analyses allow one to say is, in truth and in fact, that television increases the amount of reading that is done. The survey shows that in Great Britain when a television receiver comes into the home reading drops by an average of 15 per cent. - a pretty sharp drop. In the United States of America the drop is estimated at 20 per cent., and I think our figures are somewhat similar to the American figures. As the novelty wears off, reading gradually picks up and frequently reaches and sometimes exceeds the pre-television level. British librarians take a very cheerful view of television and regard it as an ally.
Perhaps I may give some specific figures from my own city to show how slight has been the impact of television on community reading. There are recently-established municipal free libraries in two big suburbs of Melbourne, one in Camberwell and the other in Malvern, where I live. In Camberwell, circulation figures for the last financial year grew from 335,000 to 471,000. This, mark you, was in a year during which television made its greatest strides in Victoria. At a. time when television sets were going into homes all over Camberwell, the number of books being read in that one suburb increased from 335,000 to 471,000. In the neighbouring city of Malvern, which is somewhat smaller in area and population, the library had been running for only a little over two months when 44,000 books had been lent out. An interesting commentary by the librarian in regard to the nature of the books which are lent is that threefifths are works of non-fiction, so that threefifths of the books which go out are of some educational value. I express no views on what happens in respect of readers of light romances and literature of that kind. I think that perhaps they are kicking against the wind a little.
– Literature of that kind is quite educational in patches.
– I make no comment on that. In many ways, television stimulates the desire to make personal research. You see on the television screen a snatch of something that excites your interest or your curiosity and you go immediately to a proper work of reference to follow the thing through to its conclusion.
– There are quiz sessions, too.
– They have their value. An American newspaper operating in New York has made a small survey of its own, and an article on the subject in the Melbourne “ Age “ stated that the quality of reading matter being taken by New York readers had vastly improved as a result of television watching. The article went on to say - as the Elmhurst (New York) Report points out …. people who were never more than casual readers are now almost going straight from the television sets to their public libraries and demanding, not books of entertainment, but hard-headed factual works of non-fiction in a wide variety of fields and the masterpieces of the world’s imaginative literature.
Surely that is a feather for, this. new. electronic medium to wear in its cap. The American, figures- suggest that, children’s reading follows a pattern similar to that of adult reading. There is a sharp decline immediately a television set reaches a house; there is a gradual recovery, and ultimately a stage is reached at which reading occupies an even stronger place in the lives of children than it did previously.
In this connexion I think we should bear in mind that the popularity of the horror comic,, which undoubtedly has been a stimulus to crime, has suffered. When we think- of the violence which is seen on television - and I admit that there is violence and that the programmes are not perfect - we -should remember thai, to some extent, particularly in the United States of America but also in Australia, television is helping to kill the horror comic, one of the worst blots on twentieth-century civilization. In the United States, many publishers of horror comics have had to go out of their former lucrative business because the filth and rubbish which they formerly printed has been unable to fight its way against television programmes in capturing the interest of young minds. Before I leave this subject, perhaps .1 may be permitted to make one complaint. If I may be slightly personal, I wish to complain of the far too many dishonest lawyers who are depicted on television. Last week I saw a district attorney who was responsible for the murder of two people and who was also controlling the rackets of a particular city. On the following night I saw a senior attorney, a respected lawyer in his city, guilty of two murders and of running a blackmail racket. After all, lawyers as a class are not as bad as that.
Before 1 conclude I should like to express my strong personal approval of the views which the Postmaster-General has set out in his statement. I hope that the new medium will go from strength to strength throughout Australia and that it will bring in its path great auxiliary benefits in the way of employment and education, which were not visualized when, six and a half years ago, the committee first sat to consider the introduction of television in Australia. On former occasions in this chamber I have referred to the Australian Industries Preservation Act as legislation on our statute books which is designed to help the champions of the old liberal enterprise to maintain competition in all aspects of our economic and industrial life. It is good to see that in the PostmasterGeneral’s statement the principles of this legislation, even though they will not actually be invoked, are being observed in regard to the way in which applications for licences are being called and in the strong determination of the Government to see that, as far as possible, independent private television operators will run television in the country centres.
– While I was Postmaster-General ‘the question of the introduction of television was discussed. I am speaking of the years 1947 and 194.8. I opposed .the immediate introduction of television on the ground that first .things should come first. There were then many thousands of people in the country and in ‘the cities who were being denied adequate telephone services, and I pointed out that the immediate introduction of television would mean that the time of a large number of technicians would be taken up .and that the installation of telephones would be neglected. That is exactly what is happening to-day. As an expedient, to overcome the difficulty the Government has introduced what it calls the duplex service. That is most unsatisfactory, especially where business people are concerned. At that time, applications were being made to me personally almost every day of the week and the reply that I received from the Postal Department, to which I invariably passed them, was that the department regretted that it -was .unable to accede to the request for the reason that material was not available and that labour was unprocurable.
In my opinion, the installation of telephones has always been of far greater importance than the introduction of television because telephones give greater stimulus to the people. Telephones permit of individual conversation as against the mechanical propaganda put over by television. I could not agree to the introduction of television at a time when thousands of people were being denied the opportunity of individual conversation. Senator Hannan has referred to the claim that television retards education. Lack of opportunity for individual conversation certainly retards education, as does the mechanical propaganda disseminated through television. Throughout our history it has been proved that mechanical propaganda is by no means as valuable to humanity as the stimulus of individual conversation.
I have the same objection now as I had earlier to television. On one occasion I caused inquiries to be made in America and the late Dr. Jauncey, an Australian by birth who was a graduate of the Harvard University and who was residing in California at the time, told me that the television programmes in America were having a most demoralizing effect on the people. He advised me to recommend that the Government exercise strict control over television programmes. He stated that thousands of teenagers were being attracted to third-rate hotels to view television and that the programmes they saw consisted mainly of burlesquing and vulgarizing sex and of emphasizing crime, and that these diversions did not contribute in any way to the education of the children there. 1 had similar reports from San Francisco. It was for those reasons that I, with the then Government, believed that television should be controlled entirely by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which was responsible directly to the Government, rather than by the commercial stations.
The commercial stations are not conducted for the purpose of educating the people; they are conducted for the purpose of increasing profits at the expense of the people, and it is my view that profits could not have been increased to the extent to which they have been during recent years if the people had been reasonably well educated, through an increase in the standards of living and education, as to the origin and purpose of profits.
I admit that television is an instrument that can be used and abused just as all other instruments and instrumentalities can be; and it is being abused to-day. Years ago, I was warned that the outmoded films in America and other places would be sent to Australia. That is exactly what has happened. Instead of using Australian films to the extent to which they could and should be, we are viewing American films, the idea of the commercial stations being to control the thinking of the people who view those programmes. That thinking is being controlled to a considerable extent. Senator Hannan referred to horror publications. They have had some effect, but the mind of man is influenced by external images, by what man sees. There are, of course, external, internal and conversational stimuli, and the response to those stimuli depends entirely upon the understanding or education of the individual.
What Dr. Jauncey said would happen did happen. Australia was used as the dumping ground for obsolete television sets and obsolete films. Unless there is a great change for the better, unless telephone services are brought up to date and unless commercial television stations are more intelligently controlled, I shall remain opposed to the introduction of television. I have not a television set now and I certainly would not think of installing one in my home while there were children there. Why, I think even the minds of some honorable senators on the Government side have been affected by the stimulus received from viewing American films over television, by the stimulus of what I call mechanical thinking as distinct from individual thinking.
We are living in an age of monopoly imperialism compared with colonial imperialism. Colonial imperialism allows the dumping in a country of all obsolete equipment from the imperial countries - equipment such as the cable trams that Melbourne had and the old Sydney trams, which were outmoded before we received them, as were many other things I could mention. Since the objection to television has been made and, T regret to say, has not been sustained sufficiently, there has been a gradual change to monopoly imperialism with the result that in Australia monopolies indirectly controlled from overseas are being established.
That is one of the difficulties we have in connexion with television and other forms of production to-day. In those circumstances, we should, in the first place, strenuously oppose the extension of the installation of television stations anywhere until the thousands of persons who are now desperately in need of telephone services are provided with those services. Secondly, we should not support the extension of television stations until they are more effectively controlled. Until lying advertisements, and the burlesquing and vulgarizing of sex are prohibited, we should strenuously oppose the extension of television. When T was Postmaster-General, I took action to put certain artists off the air because they were invading the privacy of people’s homes with lewd stories. Certain artists were prohibited from performing on our stages. They had been warned time and time again but they attempted to treat the Government with contempt - just as this Government has been treated with contempt. I had power to prohibit them from broadcasting, and I exercised it.
Television programmes should be controlled in a similar way. Objectionable films and lying advertisements - also filmed - should be controlled in a similar way.
We should not allow, either in television or broadcasting, anything that is likely to create a false impression in the mind of totally unsophisticated persons, whether children or adults. One pays for one’s neglect. The gaol population of every State is increasing. The same thing is happening to an appalling degree in the United States and Europe. Television is truly a double-edged weapon. The numbers of mentally ill are increasing to a far greater extent than would otherwise be the case. 1 believe that the most important thing in life is the proper training of the young - so that they will grow into capable and well-balanced citizens. There is nothing wrong with human nature as such, but there is a great deal wrong with human behaviour. Human behaviour is influenced by the extent to which young minds are indoctrinated with false and destructive ideas. In the television field the main offenders are the commercial stations. Their dominant motive is self-interest. They engage in profit-making enterprises at the expense of the people. Commercial television stations would not exist but for the profit motive. Unless their activities are controlled more effectively than hitherto we shall pay for it, because in this life none can escape the consequences of his actions. That is true not only individually but collectively. I invite the Government to take a more serious view of what is happening on television, and to act more drastically to prevent the tragic effects which I have described. It would certainly be justified in so doing where the necessary evidence was available.
From my own knowledge of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department there are in it many splendid men and women who are only too anxious to assist the Government. They are on the spot, and know what is happening from day to day. I knew hundreds of them personally at one time and 1 know that, given sufficient encouragement, they will assist the Government. In a sense, they are animated machines, under an obligation to do as they are told. Too often, they are not encouraged to express their opinions. Before I made any major decision as a Minister I called in the responsible officials and said, “ Gentlemen, my policy is consultation and agreement, where possible. I shall be guided entirely by what you think should be done in the circumstances. You have grown up in this department and know more than I or any other Minister about these problems. All I want is a frank opinion about what should be done.” It was important to me that any submission made to the Cabinet - and this applied to aircraft production also - should be the result of the collective efforts of men and women responsible, interested and wanting to do the right thing by their fellow men. .
These methods were very successful during the war. About 7,000 of our postal personnel, including about 800 technicians, went into the services. In their place, we put people who had entered different occupations, or had retired. The trainees learnt what they had to do, and then did it. We brought in people on pensions and superannuation as supervisors, and made wonderful progress. What can be done in time of war to protect a country can be done in time of peace to strengthen it. We do not strengthen our country when we allow the minds of citizens to be depraved by exposure to films and advertisements of the kind that I have described. I trust that the Postmaster-General will take the matter up and effect an improvement in the near future. I am prepared to help the Government in every way possible. Films that have a demoralizing or frustrating effect should be destroyed or censored. If that were done, it would be to the benefit of all concerned.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– There are many people in Australia who were not eager to see television introduced into this country, and for that reason I take pleasure from the fact that, although the Government has introduced this service, it has proceeded gradually with what I may describe as being one of our best educational mediums. I must admit that originally I was not very keen to see television introduced into this country. Perhaps I shall amplify that statement at a later stage. I repeat that I am delighted to note that the Government has proceeded cautiously. That caution should prove to be in the best interests of not only the public but also the telecasting stations, be they the commercial or national stations.
It is unnecessary for me to remind the Senate that the capital cities of each State have been provided with a’ television service. 1 think we all agree that that was a logical step to take. As I said earlier, not being a television fan I did not enthuse over its introduction into Australia, because at that time there was a backlag in the provision of rural automatic exchanges and other amenities which I thought the country areas needed. Television is expensive; but it is here, and I hope that it fulfils the hope of its ardent supporters that it will be an influence for good in the community. I believe that the aims of the telecasting stations are directed towards the improvement of our cultural life. We are told that Canute could not hold back the waves or the tide; but now that television services are to be extended, we should locate the stations in the most suitable areas. That remark applies particularly to the rural regions. Australia’s urban population, when compared with its rural population, is relatively large; but I am sure that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper), who’ opened this matter for discussion in this chamber, and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) will ensure that the rural areas are given the best possible service.
The Australian Capital Territory and the rural areas of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania are to be given television services before the rural areas of Western Australia and South Australia. I think it is fair to say that honorable senators from Victoria and New South Wales, and indeed honorable senators from other States who have already spoken, have expressed the view that television is an excellent medium for educational and entertainment purposes and for the development of the aesthetic taste. If that is so - I believe it is - it is only right to assume that the cultural standards of South Australia and Western Australia are so much higher than those of the other States that the country areas of those two States can afford to wait for the introduction of television services.
– Then the honorable senator is quite satisfied with the present allocation?
– I do not wish the honorable senator to put words into my mouth, nor do I think he desires to do so. I repeat that the cultural standards in South Australia and Western Australia are so high that apparently those who are responsible for the allocation of country stations believe that the country’ areas of those States can wait while the less aesthetically minded people of the other States are brought up to our standard. Have I made myself clear?
All will agree, I am sure, that density of population and’ topographical features are very important factors in the establishment of television stations. But do we place too much importance on population density? I said earlier that television was expensive. I wonder whether the Minister for Repatriation could furnish to the Senate the latest estimates of the cost of establishing a television station in a country area, the estimated running expenses of such a station, the anticipated revenue and, in the case of a commercial station, the prospects of advertising revenue.
It is reasonable to suppose that programmes telecast in country areas would include some which dealt with good agricultural husbandry. I use the word “ husbandry “ in its widest sense and cite horticulture and animal husbandry as two of many possible subjects. While I am dealing with the question of programmes, I should like to express a few words of appreciation to Senator Hannan for the excellent speech that he delivered. *’ Having heard the honorable senator, I approach the question with’ a good, deal of trepidation. It was refreshing to hear Senator Hannan, who has made a study of and has a vital interest in television, rise and speak as he did. I congratulate him most sincerely upon his effort.
The financing of country television stations capable of providing programmes of a standard equal to that of city programmes is, to my mind; a rather knotty problem. That is particularly so because it is undesirable that country television stations should be appendages to the powerful stations of the cities, some of which are controlled by press and radio interests. Because rural settlers usually have fewer amenities than urban dwellers, telecasting becomes almost a “ must “ for them. How can these people best be assisted to finance television stations? I have in mind, particularly, not the large country towns, but the outlying districts. Perhaps it is the view of a visionary, but
I am thinking of television being established in the outback areas where it would be of great importance. I should like a great deal of further information on the possibility of establishing stations in these areas at some later stage.
The outback areas have small populations, and therefore the advertising value of television programmes would not be very great. I have not the faintest idea at present of how such stations could be financed, but the thought flashes through my mind that perhaps our national stations would be able to assist the country stations with their programmes. I say that because, upholding our way of life, this Government has given assistance to people who are willing to help themselves. It has, for instance, given financial assistance for the building of homes for the aged - something that has been very welcome and very much appreciated. I find myself in a dilemma. Television would be of great value to people in the outback areas, but the cost factor virtually excludes the establishment of television stations in such areas. To my way of thinking, taking an overall view of this matter, the people of the densely populated areas must come to the aid of the people in the outback areas. If that is not done, the powerful metropolitan stations will be the only organizations able to provide television for the outlying districts. I am sure that the excellent staff of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) is considering this problem and advising him- on these matters.
There is no need for me to tell the Senate that this Government has done much for rural dwellers, and I see no reason why it should not continue to help them. The Government has the interests of rural dwellers at heart, and- has given them many benefits, so I believe that it will do all in its power to look after their interests in this matter.
In the establishment of country television stations, I hope that State boundaries will be forgotten. Sites for television stations should be selected because of their telecasting distribution value. South Australia, with its great length and breadth, presents some problems. The people in the south-eastern area, because of their occupations, have much in common with their Victorian neighbours.” If a television station were established at, say, Naracoorte - I am only giving that place as an example - it could well serve the western districts of Victoria, or a station established in the western districts of Victoria could well serve what we in South Australia call the lower south-east of the State. Whether the telecast came from South Australia or from Victoria, I think it could get over the dog-proof fence and there would be no interruption of the programmes.
I wish to deal with South Australia in a little more detail and mention some of our country towns. We have what are known as the river towns of. Renmark, Berri, Loxton and Waikerie, which are all worthy of having television. Then there is the southern Eyre peninsula, the capital of which is generally regarded as Port Lincoln. Perhaps- a site just outside Port Lincoln, say at Nott’s Hill, would be suitable. Dealing with our northern areas, perhaps Mount Brown would be a suitable site. It would certainly have to be considered. Those are- matters that our technical men must consider and on which they must give the Government the best possible advice. I am sure the Government will act to the best of its ability on the decisions and’ findings which the technical experts give to it. I join with Senator Hannan in expressing appreciation of the ability of our radio and television personnel. It is encouraging to realize the great progress that our engineers and radio specialists have made in Australia.
As I said earlier, I enter the lists regarding programmes with trepidation. I have not seen a complete evening’s television programme in Australia. Hence my diffidence in approaching this question. However, after listening to Senator Hannan and hearing his. explanation, I feel that we are well on the way towards correcting some faults which, I understand, exist. Information regarding these faults has come to me verbally. I cannot form my own conclusions on something I have never seen. To Senator O’Byrne, who is interjecting, may I say that I have not the faintest idea, of what he is saying, but I think he will agree with me that I am approaching this question of programmes with a good deal of trepidation. 1 am about to make a statement which perhaps will seem strange. The Council of Churches has done very much to assist the cultural and Christian life of the community, and I hope that it will be able to find some way of participating in television. I do not know whether it would be possible for the Council of Churches to run a television station. I know that in South Australia the council has a radio station, but 1 do not know whether it would be possible for it to go into the field of television. If it did - the council embraces all our Christian churches - it would have a very good influence on our programmes. 1 sincerely hope that such people, and also our educational institutions, will play their part in using telecasting to give to the people of Australia an all-round education. Television is here and it will grow, lt is a new field. So few of us who wish to install a receiver know what is the correct set to buy or the most suitable aerial to install. As a case in point, an Adelaide station has installed a transmitting aerial in the Mount Lofty Ranges. The aerial is 500 feet high, and 1 am told that reception from it in Adelaide and surrounding areas will be very good indeed, so good that it is not necessary for people to buy expensive aerials. 1 hope that the public can be protected in some way. One cannot protect fools from their folly, but perhaps some more information might be disseminated. We want the public to come into television. We do not want people to be disappointed. We should like to see their money spent to the best advantage. If and when television is established in the country areas of South Australia, no doubt sufficient information will then be available to guide my fellow rural inhabitants in making a correct selection of equipment for their television requirements.
I must admit that I was one of those persons who were not very keen on the introduction of television to this country- 1 am sorry that I omitted to bring with me the facts and figures that I had in relation to the number of country telephones that were required a few years ago. But I am told, and I was delighted to hear, that the Postmaster-General’s Department is gradually catching up with the backlag in fulfilling telephone requirements, particularly in country areas. One factor that is causing some difficulty to the department is that the prosperity of this country is so great that very many people are demanding a telephone. 1 do not want to be misunderstood when 1 say that I am mighty glad we have a backlag in the supply of many things. With a backlag, opportunities for employment are staring many people in the face. 1 should hate to wake up in the morning to find that all our telephone and housing requirements were fulfilled. If that happened there would not be such a happy employment market.
I support the motion, and 1 commend the Government on its introduction of the great medium of television gradually, thoughtfully and, if I may say so, in a manner which is in the best interests of the outback people of Australia.
– I address myself briefly to the motion, which I think has provoked a very interesting and informative debate, and I express the pleasure I found in the remarks of honorable senators who have spoken to it. The opposing views of Senator Hannan and Senator Cameron were very delightfully expressed and very interesting to listen to. I listened just now with interest to my friend, Senator Mattner, and I looked forward with interest to the comments of his fellow senators from South Australia when he pointed out that the country people of South Australia were not in need of culture. Apparently, on that argument, the 600,000 people in and around Adelaide are! I look forward to the comments of honorable senators from the metropolitan area of Adelaide in relation to that.
– It all depends on what you call culture.
– I am using the term used by the honorable senator himself. I confess that I am one who saw the advent of television with eagerness. It is a modern development that had to come. 1 think I was critical of the Government for the delay in its introduction. I recognize that it has great capacity for good in many directions that have been adverted to byhonorable senators. I recognize its power for evil and the bad influence that could be exerted through it. But my broad decision is based on the consideration that the great bulk of the people of Australia - the vast majority of them, in fact, I think - are decent and of decent standards, and it is their broad outlook and their standards that will determine the standards of television in the end. So whatever teething troubles we encounter in the early days of television - and the industry undoubtedly has teething troubles - I am not in the least worried. I am certain that standards of complete decency will prevail quite rapidly and that television ultimately will be a medium that is, by and large, a very interesting and helpful influence in broadening life for a vast number of the people. So from the beginning my mind has fallen down unquestionably in favour of television in Australia.
But we of the Labour Party have roundly condemned the Government from time to time for its policy of centring effective control of all the means of mass communication in the hands of a few newspaper proprietors and editors. The big metropolitan newspapers are constantly extending their activities into the country, swamping country newspapers. That has come about, of course, very largely with the advent of aeroplanes. These newspapers also have a major say in radio broadcasting. Collectively they have some 43 stations giving an Australia-wide coverage in this important field, and to date they have an almost complete and effective control in this highly potent field of television, which, in the view I take, is easily the greatest and most powerful medium of the three. We have objected, and we have been horrified to find in the early stages the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Government handing over, in Melbourne and Sydney, effective control of television in the commercial field to newspapers.
The Government’s record in relation to Adelaide and Brisbane was very bad. Pursuant to the act, applications for licences were referred to the board. There were three applicants, I understand, in both cities. The board recommended that only one commercial licence should be granted in each place and that none of the applicants was suitable. Its further recommendation was that fresh applications be called. The board supported its findings with reasons and evidence. What did the Government do? It rejected completely the recommendations of the board, the technical body which the Government itself established and whose members are its own trusted nominees, and said in a most high-handed fashion to the board, without itself assigning any reasons for the decision, “ Grant two licences in each place and grant them from the applications that are before you “. There could have been no more ruthless, authoritarian approach than that of the Government. It discarded all reason, discarded the evidence, and made a decision without assigning reasons for its rejection of the board’s considered recommendations.
– What was the reason for the board’s decision in that case?
– It gave a lot of reasons, senator. I do not want to traverse the reasons to-day, but it gave the reasons and the Government, I say, rejected them without giving in any way its own reasons for the rejection. The Government just referred it back and demanded that the board - the expert body, the technical body - obey its behest. I am not controverting the proposition that the Government should have the ultimate say in the matter. I think that the ultimate control should be there, but there should be no rejection of a body of the stature and independence of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board unless the Government, first of all, has very grave reasons and, secondly, gives the widest publicity to those reasons. We have not had that, and it was that action of the Government vesting again in companies effectively controlled by newspapers that alarmed the Opposition and led to the protests we have made. We were concerned, too, at the exceedingly contemptuous treatment of the board by the Government.
The next development was in Hobart and in Perth. Again the licence goes into the hands of a company in which the effective control is a newspaper.
– The board had a choice there and recommended those appointees.
– The board did recommend them, but I suggest to the honorable senator that the board also had a very clear view of the mind of the Government, particularly after its treatment in the matter of Adelaide and Brisbane, and it is the Government’s influence far more than the board’s that has given to newspapers the control of television in the metropolitan areas.
Before I leave the position in respect of the -metropolitan centres, .let me say that two monopolies in effect have been created in television. In the metropolitan centres, there is a monopoly of news dissemination in the hands of the one group of people, and that, in a democracy, is a dangerous thing. It permits the most insidious brain washing of the community through the newspapers, over the radio, and by the new medium of television. It is a dangerous thing in a democracy that so much power should be centred in the hands of a few people elected by nobody, responsible to nobody and, of course, professing to be knowledgable, having the last say in every issue that comes before the country, claiming omniscience in every matter. Secondly, there is the very lucrative monopoly of advertising over the air, in the press and on television. Television charges, running at something like £90 for a minute, and £75 for 30 seconds at a selected time, represent tremendous expenditure and tremendous cost, and when the initial charge of establishment and formation is over, very wonderful profits. So two great monopolies are given and the more dangerous of them is the monopoly of news dissemination and thought dissemination.
Now we come to the new development opening out into some of the country areas of Australia. It does raise acute problems. The statement made by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) on 30th April last in another place was repeated here during the week by his representative in this chamber, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper). I say frankly that I am alarmed when .1 read that statement, for a number of reasons. I am amazed in the first instance that any decisions were made by the Government at all in relation to country television until the matter was referred to the Broadcasting Control Board. I shall come back to that in a moment. Let me deal now with the decisions that were made. The Postmaster-General stated -
The Government has however decided that the number of commercial licences in any area-
He was speaking of country areas - should not necessarily be limited to one and that, subject to technical considerations and to the quality of the applicants, more than one commercial service in each area might be licensed.
There, . instantly, is a prediction or .-a predication of >the -thought :that two licences might be possible in these .areas. The next decision of the Government, as. set out in the Ministers statement, was -
It has decided that, as far as practicable, priority in the grant of such licences would be given to applicants which are local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations, -provided -such applicants demonstrate their capacity ito provide, in the circumstances prevailing in the area, a service comparable to that available to city viewers and -to conform to the technical and programme standards laid .down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
I .come to the third decision, which was -
It has further decided that the actual number of commercial television stations to be established -in any of -those areas should not be determined until a ‘report on applications .for licences has been received from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board . . .
I say at once that that was a most improper announcement. No such decision should have been made at all. I refer the Senate to sections 16 and 17 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1-942-56., which set out the functions of the board. There are many of them. Some are to be exercised only with the approval of the Minister or subject to any direction by the Minister, but the great bulk of them from this Parliament imposed obligations upon the board itself to make the decisions. And the board is directed by section 23 (1.) - -this is a rather extraordinary provision concerning a statutory board of this type - in these terms -
A member has, in the exercise of his functions as a member at an inquiry .under this Division, the same protection and immunity as a Justice of the .High Court.
This is an extraordinary measure of protection, designed to ensure the integrity, the independence, and the protection of a member of the board against coercion or intimidation of any kind in its inquiries.
What is the announcement made on 30th April, and repeated in the Senate the other day, but an attempt to intimidate the board, to shape the board’s mind in a matter that is opening before it and must be referred to it under the act, in view of later sections? Section 81 reads -
The Minister may, subject to this Act, grant to a person a licence for a commercial broadcasting station or for a commercial television station upon such conditions and in. accordance with such form as the Minister determines.
But: section >82 is mandatory. .It provides that ,the Minister shall invite applications for the grant of a licence. Section 83, .also, is mandatory. It provides -
The ‘Minister shall refer applications made in pursuance -of the last preceding section to the Board for its recommendation as to the grant of the licence.
In other words, the Minister or the Government can make no decision at all until there has been an inquiry by the board and -a recommendation by the board. I say that <the Minister has erred most grievously in making announcements and .decisions .of any type in relation to country television in the circumstances. I am a ‘bit relieved to find that ‘he -has become conscious of it at last. He said yesterday -
I feel that it would not be proper for me, as Minister, to say anything ‘which might be interpreted .as giving some personal direction to the board or as an attempt to anticipate the Government’s final decision on this matter.
Why should .any decisions be .announced at all? Yesterday, the Minister himself recognized the impropriety of the procedure and I would say that those decisions are made to colour the approach -of the Broadcasting Control Board to this problem of country television - to warn it to look out for two licensees. What an absurd position it will be if two licences are granted!
Let me refer to the populations of the areas in respect of which decisions have been made so far. The Perth area, with a population of 400,’000, is given one commercial licence. Hobart and its surrounding area, with a population of 120,000, also is given one licence. In connexion with the country areas where the Minister suggests there may be two licences, I refer to the ninth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In its provisional plan for the assignment of channels, the board deals with the country areas and takes Canberra, with the 1954 census figure of 44,000 people, Newcastle-Hunter River with 314,000, Illawarra with 133,000, the Central Tablelands with 113,000, and the Richmond-Tweed area, with 93,000. The Minister foreshadows the possibility of two licences for a population of 44,000 at Canberra, 93,000 in the Richmond-Tweed area, and, passing to Victoria, 207,000 at Ballarat, 132,000 in the Latrobe Valley, 130,000 at Bendigo and 102,000 in the Goulburn Valley; in Queensland, 107,000 tin the Darling Downs ;area, 65,000 at Rockhampton, ;and 1,000 at Townsville; and in -north-east Tasmania, 85,000. Yet, the board and the Government have decided that Perth, with a .population of 400,000, justifies only one licence.
Here we have the Minister announcing decisions, with populations of the nature I have just indicated - the figures are taken from the board’s own report - that foreshadow the possibility of two licences. That makes me think that whilst there may be independent stations, locally controlled and owned, the ‘thought at the back of the -Government’s ‘mind is that it will let the big metropolitan television people in with satellite ‘Stations alongside them in country areas. The inevitable result of that, of course, will be the -exclusion of the locally -controlled, independent body. The requirement that if the licence goes to a locally controlled body ;it must provide programmes comparable with those provided in city areas, points to the same conclusion and indicates ,the same line of thought Whilst there could be competent studios in country areas, and whilst programmes could be provided from country centres with relatively low cost of establishment compared with .the -cost of establishment in city areas, how could .country areas have programmes and a television set-up comparable with those of the cities?
In the first place, city television organizations have enormous buildings and enormous staffs. They have vast reservoirs of entertainers to draw upon that are not available in the country, and an infinitely greater sequence of interesting events. They have enormous studios where sets for different programmes can be arranged at the one time. They have almost acres of buildings merely to house the properties that they use for the presentation of programmes. That would not be necessary in the country areas. Television operators in the country could have a treated plastic screen whereby, with a little micro slide, they could present the necessary backdrop scenery at relatively low cost. They could operate with a mobile unit. I agree with those who say that in America there are scores of highly successful television stations putting out programmes of excellent quality and operating at low capital cost and low maintenance. There will be nothing to prevent all the country stations in a State or elsewhere getting together to negotiate for the purchase of film rights from abroad, or from metropolitan stations, and exchanging them amongst themselves. I understand that American interests are setting up offices in Australia now for the sale of films. There will be in this country people from abroad with whom the operators of country stations may negotiate directly.
I repeat that, seeing this line of thought being adopted, and seeing the board corralled into a corner already by the Government, one becomes suspicious that something in favour of the great monopoly that the Government itself has already established will be done by the establishment of what I suspect will be a repeater station in every country area. That is the danger we see and that we want to avoid.
Senator Mattner referred to the absence of any provision for television in the country areas of South Australia. There is no provision, either, in the present proposal for television for the country areas of Western Australia. The board has considered what should be done in appropriate areas, and at page 58 of its ninth report, in appendix C, it sets out all the country areas where it thinks that the establishment of television stations might be appropriate. In South Australia, the board selected the Spencer’s Gulf area, covering Port Pirie, Whyalla, Port Augusta, Jamestown, and Peterborough; in the south-east area, Mount Gambier, Millicent, Penola and Casterton; and the Renmark area, covering Renmark, Berri, Loxton, Barmera and Waikerie. In Western Australia it selected the Bunbury, Kalgoorlie, Albany and Geraldton areas. I shall not give details of the towns selected in those country areas, but they are to be found at page 61 of the report.
I think that an explanation is called for from the Minister as to why the Government has deferred activity in those areas. It is true that the populations to be served are not as great as those in the areas that are in contemplation now, but they are not insignificant. The population of the Spencer’s Gulf area is 67,000, of Bunbury, in Western Australia, 39,000, and so on. I think I have selected the largest populations, but as I have said, they are not insignificant.
The United States of America, as I have indicated, has developed small television studios to an excellent level of performance. The authorities there forbid tiedhouse arrangements. In other words, in the matter of the supply of programmes the various country stations cannot be tied to one supplier, but are to be left free. I am very happy to know that the PostmasterGeneral said yesterday that if there was any cornering of programmes in this country, or any attempt at it, the Government would act. It certainly should do so in the national interest.
The Australian Labour Party has a committee which has been working very carefully for some months to investigate the tie-up of newspaper, radio and television interests in Australia. When this matter again comes before the Parliament for decision, we expect to have some very interesting information to put before it. The extension of television to country areas will take time to complete. The programme is that the applications for licences for the selected areas are to be put in by the end of September, but the board will not meet until November. The hearings will carry on for some months, no doubt, and the board’s recommendations are not likely to be available until early in the New Year - probably not till after we come back next year. AH that the Opposition hopes is that we will find truly independent local bodies in charge of television in country areas, completely free to negotiate for programmes and transmissions in various forms from the metropolitan centres, but quite untrammelled, financially or otherwise, by them. We shall look very carefully to see just how big a hold these allegedly independent companies, the metropolitan newspapers or their nominees, may have because it is quite obvious that that is one of the lines they will take.
One has to be careful, having regard to the standards that ought to be preserved in relation to television, to be sure that advertisers do not dominate the programmes too much. I refer very briefly to an article I read in “ The Commonweal “, a United States journal, quite recently, which drew attention to that very danger. It reads -
The fact is that most Americans have come to accept as a part of television life a situation which would be seen as intolerable in any other medium.
Advertisers can buy space in newspapers or magazines to sell their wares; unless the publishing enterprise is a venal one, they cannot determine which stories or articles will appear and what their content will be. Yet television is apparently doomed forever to operate under a system whereby advertisers not only buy time to put across their message but actually determine what will be seen in those time periods when most people want to watch.
With advertisers calling the tune so thoroughly, it is hard to see how television can properly utilize the many talented people it employs. Television could be a window on the world, but it is a mighty odd world it looks out on to-day, populated largely by cardboard figures from vapid situation comedies and noisy with the sound of guns and drumming hoofbeats
So that we need to be careful that the advertisers of this country do not dominate the programmes as well as have their advertisements put over to the people of Australia.
I conclude with the statement that we are uneasy about the approach that the Government is making to this position. Our uneasiness is caused by the past actions of the Government, apart from the statement made by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and repeated only recently by the Minister representing him in the Senate. I merely indicate to the Government that we shall be watching developments with the keenest interest.
– I welcome with a great deal of enthusiasm the announcement that television is now to move into its third phase. It is a matter of great credit to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) and all those working in this field not only that they have been able to establish the first phase of television so successfully, but, because of that success, they have been able to move on quickly into the next phase, and now into phase three. It is also a matter of great credit to those working in this field that they have been able to establish a reputation for Australian programmes that they are not only as good as any in the world, but are better than most.
I listened with great interest to Senator McKenna’s remarks. I was particularly interested when he said that the Government’s record in connexion with the allocation of television licences in both
Adelaide and Queensland was bad. If I remember aright, we debated his point of view at great length in the last session of Parliament, and I am quite sure that every one in the Senate will agree with me when I say that, on points, the Government won that debate. Senator McKenna mentioned that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, in its report, gave many reasons why there should be one station in certain places. He did not mention that the board also gave more reasons why there should be two stations. However, in spite of that fact, the board did decide that perhaps one station would be advisable, and I presume that decision was based on the very fact mentioned by Senator McKenna - that there were not sufficient applications which the board considered desirable.
As a member of the South Australian community, I am extremely pleased that the Government has had the courage to disregard that report and not to wait for further applications to be made. It is probable that the Government would have been going on in any case because, obviously, if people were anxious to set up television stations, they would have applied at the time when the other three applications were submitted. Certainly we are very pleased that the Government did decide to forge ahead and that we are about to start on proper television production within the next few weeks.
The second point in Senator McKenna’s remarks which interested me was what I thought was his over-emphasis of the power of the press in what he calls brainwashing the minds of the Australian community. I felt that he underestimated the intelligence of Australians and their ability when he suggested that they can be impressed so easily by publicity either in the press or through advertising over television. I have a great deal more faith in the intelligence of the Australian people than that.
The important point is that we should go ahead and give the people in the outlying areas the benefits of television even if that does mean a certain amount of what Senator McKenna calls monopolistic control because it is important that the people living in the outer areas should receive television.
Frankly, I believe that television could be an extremely powerful medium for good in the community, but I also think that it is necessary that we impose certain restrictions and keep constant vigilance on television in ah its phases.
There are two aspects of the Minister’s statement about which I feel a little diffident. The first relates to his references to the areas in which the regional television stations are to be allowed to begin operations and the other has to do with his reference to the programme standards. As to the first point, I feel extremely disappointed at the fact that the country areas of South Australia have been left out of the third phase of television. It seems to me that the important thing in Australia to-day is to place emphasis on the need for decentralization. If we are to stop this drift to the cities, we must try to make country life more interesting and abolish the feeling of isolation which country people- have at present. I think that the solution of the problem of decentralization in this case lies in the hands of the Government which could quite easily establish television stations in some of the more outlying areas and so banish that feeling of isolation experienced by the people out there. For that reason, I am disappointed’ that the Government has seen fit to base its third phase in the densely populated regional areas. I realize that there are economic reasons for doing this, but I point out that there are still more long-term economic reasons for trying to keep the people of the outlying areas interested enough to stay there,
I feel also that if the commercial television stations do not consider that they can move into the less densely populated areas then perhaps it would be possible for the Government to set up either its own national stations or national booster stations in some of those places. I beg the PostmasterGeneral to- give consideration to the establishment of national stations in some of those areas.
It also causes me very great concern to note that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in making its recommendations for the establishment of television in country districts omits from its report any mention of a vast area of South Australia. I refer to the northern and west coast districts of South Australia. The people of those isolated areas are doing a splendid job, and I submit that they are the people who should be considered when country television is being established. I do urge the PostmasterGeneral to give consideration to establishing television in both the north of South Australia and on the west coast.
Here I should like to make reference to what I look upon as a mistake. The Government has set up a national radio station at Port Lincoln. I think that area was able to enjoy satisfactory radio reception from Adelaide before that station was established, but it seems obvious that this station was put there with a view to taking radio to all the people on the west coast. Port Lincoln is situated on the narrow end of the peninsula and has water on three sides. There is, therefore, only one side from which it may receive radio signals. Unfortunately, there are many areas further along, the coast that are- still unable to receive radio broadcasts from Port Lincoln. I do urge that when thought is being given to the setting up a television station there consideration will be given to establishing one nearer to the middle of the west coast area so that every one in that region will be able to receive the television programmes.
The other part- of the statement which I view with some trepidation is the allusion, to programme standards, as laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It is< important to note that section 88 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1956, under the sub-title “ Encouragement of Australian Artists”, specifies that commercial licensees- shall, as- far as possible, use the services of Australians in the production and presentation of broadcasting: and: television programmes. The wording of the section- evoked a good deal of protest from writers, actors, musicians and production companies who argued that the licensees would be free to interpret the phrase. “ as far as possible “ to suit- their own convenience. They added that licensees would tend to employ Australian talent in panel shows, interviews, talent quests and cooking demonstrations only. A similar warning was given by Mr. Charles Moses, the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission during evidence before the Royal Commission on Television. He said that the only appropriate means of guarding against excessive use of imported material was to stipulate that there should be a minimum percentage of Australian material in all’ programmes. He went on to say that in fixing quotas it must be’ realized that if an overall percentage were laid down the stations would be free to do little, or nothing, in. the way of developing Australian talent, and that the percentage could be made up of sport, discussions, cookery demonstrations and so on. Headded that the intention of the quota would thus be largely defeated.
I should like to refer to what the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) said when presenting the Broadcasting and Television Bill in 1956. Referring to clause 114, he said -
No one on this side of the chamber will bow to any one else in his realization of the potentialities of television and in his determination to use those potentialities to the utmost extent for the development of Australian art and culture. Let that point be understood immediately.
In looking at those remarks of the Minister,, and of Mr. Moses,, we need to see a little more closely just. what, is happening in regard to the Australian content of programmes. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board said in its report for 1958. that in Sydney 41 per cent, of television items were of Australian origin, and 49 per cent, were imported; that in Melbourne 43 per cent, were of Australian origin, and 47 per cent, were imported. In my opinion, those figures are misleading unless one understands how they are made up.
It is important here to ask ourselves perhaps four questions. What proportion of the programmes in the peak viewing hours between 6.30 and 9.30 p.m. is Australian in content? What proportion of the total television drama is of Australian origin? What proportion of the music heard is performed or composed by Australians? What will be the effect of the present programmes on the rising generation and the preservation of the national identity.
As for the first question, the Minister said on the same occasion in 195(5 -
The importation of American productions cannot be allowed to continue to the detriment of Australian production. At the start, therefore, we are endeavouring to restrict such importation by the imposition of import quotas. It is no secret that the television licensees have been given import quotas to the value of £60,000 per annum, of which no more than two-thirds may be spent on dollar imports. I understand from some producers that that would enable them to import material from dollar sources for about 20 hours telecasting a week, whereas the television licensees are planning to telecast, by some time next year-
The Minister referred to 1957 - up to 35 hours a week.
Since then the import quota has been increased. More programmes are coming in now, and the Minister’s hope that the viewing time available would limit the amount of American films shown has not come to pass.
It is interesting to look at the statistics concerning viewers. According to a recent survey, the national stations in Sydney and Melbourne attract only a very small proportion of the viewing public. In Sydney they attract 1 1 per cent, and in Melbourne 1 2 per cent.,, while the figures for the commercial’ stations are 89 per cent, and 88 per cent, respectively. Despite this, the commercial stations, which are watched by the bulk of the viewing public, had only one half hour programme with Australian content in 42 hours of telecasting. That half hour was devoted to a session called “Pick A Box”.
My second question concerns the proportion of drama that is of Australian origin. In this connexion it might be interesting to look at some of the programmes shown at the peak viewing time. They include, “ Maverick “, “ Brave Eagle “, “Dragnet”, “Man Without a Gun”, “I Love Lucy”, “Trackdown”, “The Rifleman “, “ Cisco Kid “, “ Lawman “, “ Annie Oakley”; “Perry Mason”, “Steve Canyon” “Wyatt Earp”, “Cimarron City”, and “ Buffalo Bill, Junior “. None of them is very elevating; certainly none is of Australian origin. We need to do a great deal to protect our viewing public from these second-rate American programmes which have flooded the market here to the exclusion of some of our own better-type programmes. If such protection were given we might see more of those better programmes, but it is extremely difficult for Australia to build up good feature material to compete with these cheap films from the United States.
As to the proportion of music which is composed or performed by Australians in the television field, figures are difficult to obtain. However, 60 per cent, of radio programmes are made up of music, and only 3 per cent, of that is serious. In Melbourne the proportions are 54 per cent, and 3 per cent. Obviously, most of the music on the radio is American jazz and such serious music as is provided comes from overseas musicians and artists. Probably the same pattern will become apparent in television if more is not done to protect our local talent.
My fourth question was as to the effect on the rising generation of this flood of American films. I believe that we are becoming a pale imitation of America and that if we continue to view these programmes in such quantity the American influence will become apparent in our attitude, dress and speech.
Being a parent of what were once two small boys, I know only too well what happened when they were passing through the comic reading stage. Practically all their speech was moulded on the “ Comic Cuts “ kind of language. They got their comics perhaps once a week; but, with this new medium in the home for seven days a week and being able to listen to far more American speech than they were able to read from their comics, children undoubtedly will mould their speech on American language. That is happening already. I discovered in Melbourne just recently that one programme being telecast features an American star called Kookie. So popular has he become that his photograph appears in the “ TV Weekly “. What is even worse is that inside that publication is a dictionary of Kookie talk, which I presume the parents are supposed to study so that they will be able to understand the language of their children. I discovered there such phrases as “ Smoke in the noggin “, which means loss of memory; “ Blowing the jets “, which means getting excited; “ Making with the Queen’s jive “, which means speaking English; “ Lid of your cave “, which means the door of your office; “Beating the bed bugs”, which means staying up all night. That is the pattern we will have for our children if we do not do something to ensure that they are treated to more Australian culture.
At this stage I should like to make a fewreferences to what the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had to say about television programme standards. The board’ said, in regard to family programmes -
Children readily imitate speech and pronunciations heard in sound broadcasting and television programmes. They should be encouraged in the art of correct speech and pronunciation, and’ slang and incorrect English should be avoided, except when necessary for characterization, when, a minimum amount of appropriate vernacular may be employed.
It seems to be that that has been forgotten, when one finds in the weekly television magazine a dictionary of Kookie talk.
We need to note what is happening in the presentation of children’s programmes. The board, in paragraph 17 of its report, at page 8, said -
It is therefore necessary to make special provisions in these Standards in respect of programmes to be televised between 5 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. on week days, and at any time before 7.30 p.m. on Saturday or Sunday.
The point I make here is that I feel it is quite erroneous to think that children are not viewing television programmes before 5 p.m. on week days. It may be said that that is the responsibility of the parents; but it is not so easy, if children have finished their homework, to prevent their viewing the programmes. It is important that what is televised before 5 p.m. should be watched carefully. It is of no use allowing adult programmes to come on then when the younger children are likely to be watching.
Dealing again with family programmes, the board said, in paragraph 16 of its report - . . during week-ends and holidays, the television audience is likely to contain large numbers of children and young people. Programmes to be televised at these times should therefore be wholly suitable for viewing by children though not necessarily directed exclusively to them. There are . . . special responsibilities to be discharged in the production and presentation of programmes during these periods.
The board further said - . . the television broadcaster must allow for the likely composition of his audience at these times of day. . . . During these periods there are great opportunities for good in television, in enlarging the horizons of children and in cementing family ties and associations. It is earnestly hoped that television stations will make the most of these opportunities.
I feel that that is a pious hope. Unless some form of control is imposed, television stations, and indeed the Broadcasting Control Board, may find that it is too late to change whatI consider to be a tragic drift towards the American culture.
Another point that I thought was of interest when I was investigating this matter was the type of programme that was being viewed by children after 7.30 p.m. I found that in Melbourne on a Sunday at 9 p.m. 62,000 children were watching “ Gunsmoke “; that on Saturday night at 8 p.m., which is half an hour after the time at which children, according to the Broadcasting Control Board, are supposed to cease viewing, 94,000 children were viewing the programme “ Sugar Foot “; that at 10.30 p.m. on Saturday 32,000 children were watching the programme “ Mike Hammer “; that on Friday at 8.30 p.m., 119,000 children were watching “ Have Gun - Will Travel “; and that at the same time on other commercial stations 62,000 children were watching another American crime programme. I discovered also that on Friday night the programme “ Texas Rangers “ attracted 158,000 children and “West Point “ attracted 54,000 children, in addition to which on Wednesday night “ Buffalo Bill” attracted 159,000 children.
– The titles have not altered much over the years.
– That is the point. Children, I think, are getting an overdose of this kind of programme.
– Are you considering it from the viewpoint of the effect of the cinema and the radio?
– In my opinion, the cinema is not as pernicious as is the television programme, because children go to the cinema possibly only once a week and they do not get the overdose that they are getting through television being available every night of the week.
– Well, the parents must be weak.
– I do not think it is a question of the parents being weak. The television programme is there, and the children will watch it. We must recognize that fact.I think the Minister recognized that fact.I am pointing out what is happening and am expressing the hope that something will be done before it is too late and before we lose our national identity.
In regard to programme standards, the board said -
Dramatic action should not be overaccentuated.
If all these “ Buffalo Bill “ and similar programmes are being watched by so many children, obviously dramatic action is being over-accentuated. I refer now to paragraph 21 of the board’s report, in which it says -
It is recommended that there be regular sessions for children designed -
to impart a broader knowledge of the history and potentialities of our country and of current affairs;
to foster an appreciation of such cultural pursuits as music, painting, ballet, the theatre and literature;
to encourage interest and active participation in simple scientific investigations such as botanical, geological and other pursuits; and
by the use of the great examples from the Bible, and from history, biography and literature, to impart a real appreciation of the spiritual values and of the qualities of courage, honour and integrity which are essential to the full development of the individual, and of national greatness.
It is further recommended that programmes be designed to cater for children’s propensities for sport and for hobbies such as handicrafts and the care of animals.
It is of no use saying that that should be done - I think the national stations are doing it very successfully - unless there is a truce between all the stations so that the children will not turn from one programme to another. That obviously is happening, because one notes that in Sydney only 11 per cent, of the viewing population watches the national programmes. We must try to obtain this truce between all stations so that they will all show similar programmes at the same time and so the children will not be placed in the position of turning from a better-quality programme to a sensational American film.
There is one further point I wish to make; it has to do with the classification of films. The censors are doing splendid work in the classification of films, but at the moment it is not compulsory for television stations, or for advertisements, to state the classification into which the programmes fall. The existing classifications are “General”, which means the programme is ‘unrestricted; “‘Adult’”, which means it is not suitable for children; and “A.O.”, which means it is not suitable for adolescents, and therefore is not to be shown before 8.30 p.m.
– Some are not suitable for any one.
– Well, they are the classifications. The point I am making is that the particular classification should compulsorily be flashed on the screen before the show starts and also should be published in all programme notices so that parents may see what their children are likely to be watching at a certain time.
– They would only get a bigger audience.
– You cannot do more than make it compulsory to indicate the type of programme. If the adults are still irresponsible, it is very difficult for the Government to ,do anything more. I am suggesting what the Government might do to try to improve the cultural standards of the younger generation.
– That will interfere with the profit motive.
– I do not think that is the point at all. I do not think that any of the people running the stations are irresponsible. What is happening is that they are giving the children what they want. I admit that my children would be exactly the same as others; they would look for the sensational. As responsible members of Parliament, I urge that, before it is too late, we take some positive steps in the direction I have indicated.
I want to make it quite clear that I have no grudge against America when I say that these programmes will make our children little Americans. I think that the good American programmes are splendid, but we are not getting enough of that type of American programme. We are getting the second rate, and that is what is becoming popular in Australia. Unfortunately, America can afford to dump these programmes on this market. I think there is a half-hour programme called “ Perry Como”, which, according to what I read in a television magazine, cost about £A.70.000 to produce but it is sold here for £200. The point is that the Americans have been able to sell the programme so many times in America that they can afford to sell it in Australia at any price, because whatever they sell it for is all profit.
I am suggesting that perhaps the customs tariff procedure or the Australian Industries Preservation Act could be invoked to protect our industry from this dumping by America. It might also be necessary for us to impose some sort of a quota system, although I know there is a danger in imposing quotas. I have read what happened over the years in England, when that country imposed quotas. There was a spate of what they called “ quota quickies “, which were absolute rubbish, produced only in order to meet the quota requirements. I do not want that to happen in Australia, but a quota system may be necessary to protect our industry by forcing Australian programmes ;on to our television stations.
– -You would then get Australian “ quickies’”.
– Exactly. In imposing any form of quota, we should have to be careful that we did not get “ quickies “ which were just rubbish.
There is a second way in which, I think, the industry can be assisted. It is by imposing a 10 per cent- charge on the revenue received by television stations from their sales of time and programmes, and using that money to assist our young and, I hope, growing industry in Australia. Senator Mattner asked what return there was to the commercial stations from their programmes. From my investigations, I have found that up to September, 1958, the gross takings amounted to £4,000,000. The proceeds from the sales of time were £2,500,000 and the proceeds from programmes were £1,500,000. It is estimated that for the current year the gross revenue will be £7,000,000. As revenue is far in excess of what was expected by the commercial television licensees, there should be no difficulty in persuading them to contribute to the perpetuation of Australian culture.
I conclude by saying that I am delighted that television in this country is going ahead so well and is of such a high standard technically. However, I urge the Minister to reconsider his decision to spread phase three only into the densely populated areas, and to assist the cause of decentralization by endeavouring to put at any rate adequate national television, stations in the more outlying areas. I hope that he will begin now, before it is too late, to impose some form of: restriction on programme standards in order that we may develop our own independent national identity.
– I have to congratulate Senator Buttfield on a very thoughtful speech, which entailed, I am sure, a lot of research. Many of the things she has just advocated have, of course, been advocated by my colleagues on this side day after day and year after year. With a little more education and a little more experience, I think that she will be able to put up a really good case, such as Labour has been putting up for a considerable time. Greater experience would, of course, prevent her from making the mistake of beginning a speech by telling us what a grand thing Australian television is, agreeing with some honorable senators opposite who have from time to time said that we have probably the best programmes in the world-
– I said technically.
– I did not say that the honorable senator said that; I said that she was agreeing with other people who had said it. I think that she intended to refer to technical standards, but she agreed, in fact, that the Australian programmes were as good as, and possibly better than, those presented anywhere else in the world.
– The honorable senator agreed with other people who had made that statement. Anybody can get up and talk about our having something better than that possessed by anybody else, but it is another matter to prove that that is so. Our lady friend did not attempt to prove it. Then later in her speech, when she made an appeal to the Minister, she told us what awful programmes we present for the kiddies to look at on television. Honorable senators on this side have proved time and time again that the Americanization of our television programmes is quite wrong, and now our lady friend agrees that that is an awful thing. I am extremely pleased that she has put forward that point of view. When she attempts to express a view of that kind in this chamber, she finds that the other people on her own: side are up in arms, interjecting and asking, “ Why this? “ and,. “Why that?” She has to answer them. I am very pleased she spoke in the way that she did. As I said at the outset, I think she made a very thoughtful speech, which entailed a lot of research to get the material together. She is to be congratulated on it.
The Labour Party and those associated with it are not against television, but I do not think any one can condemn us for drawing attention to some of the anomalies that are occurring. I do not think that any one can conscientiously condemn us for drawing attention to the things that the Government is doing in connexion with television which are leading to monopoly control. As Senator Buttfield said, an exorbitant amount of Americanism is creeping into our programmes, so I do not think that anybody can conscientiously object to our raising these matters here. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) has said that certain things will be done and that television will be extended into country areas that he mentioned. My leader, Senator McKenna, dealt with the wrong attitude of the Postmaster-General in making that statement, so I shall not go into that aspect of the matter. But yesterday the PostmasterGeneral made another statement. He had awakened to the fact that he had probably done wrong in the first place. Yesterday, he more or less apologized for the statement he made some time ago, saying that he did not want anybody to understand that his statements would have any influence on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board when it was investigating the matter. Good heavens! The very statement itself, considering the things that happened in the past, must have an effect on the actions of the board, no matter how much it is protected by the act against intimidation.
The board, in its inquiry concerning licences for Adelaide and Brisbane, went through all the ramifications of getting evidence and made its report. The report having been made, the Postmaster-General said that he would not accept it. What is more, he overrode the board altogether, in effect, telling it to reconsider its attitude, that its recommendation was not worth the paper on which it was written, that the evidence it had taken was not to be considered at all, and that it must grant two licences to two applicants amongst those who had already applied, disregarding all the evidence on which its recommendations had been based. The Minister has now made a statement on what ought to be done in country areas. Senator McKenna has dealt very effectively with the possibility of two stations being established. The Minister’s statement must have some effect on the minds of members of the board who will inquire into the matter under the act.
I think that the Minister’s statement was wrongly made. He was highly indignant at the suggestions of metropolitan people that programmes could hot be got to country areas unless the metropolitan machinery was used. The Minister said that that must not happen, and that the Government would take action to prevent it. My word it will take action! Time and again a report of the board has been brought before this Minister, showing that this or that was wrong, but the Minister has gone ahead.
I shall give the Senate one or two illustrations. The first relates to the transfer of a broadcaster’s licence from one place to another, from one firm to another, or from one company to another. The Minister is supposed to take the recommendations of the board when dealing with these matters, but somebody is either bamboozling the board, or the Minister is acting on his own, irrespective of the board’s decisions which are conveyed to him from time to time. The report of the board for the year 1958 deals with the transfer of licences and the leasing of stations. It is recorded at page 7 of the report that several transfers were made. In one instance the Minister sanctioned the transfer of a licence from one company to another company, although the shareholdings of the companies were the same. The report reads -
The licence for station 2KO Newcastle was, with the Minister’s consent, transferred by The Newcastle Broadcasting Co. Pty. Ltd. to Radio 2KO Newcastle Pty. Ltd. on 31st March, 1958: all the shares in the latter company are owned by the former company.
Somebody is bamboozling the Minister. The transfer in this instance was sought because under the act the Government is not supposed to allow more than a given number of radio stations to be under one control. The transfer was made to a different company, but the station was controlled by the same owners calling themselves by another name. The Minister was so bamboozled that he consented to the transfer. The control was exactly as it had been before.
The periodical “ Broadcasting and Television “ is, I think - although I am not quite sure - issued by commercial broadcasting interests, lt records that applications will be made for television licences in New South Wales country areas, and publishes a little graph something like one that 1 displayed before in this chamber. It states that 2GB, Sydney, which is controlled by the Fairfax company, owners of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, was linked with a network of stations at Newcastle, Wollongong, Goulburn, Canberra, Albury. Wagga, Griffith, Parkes, Young, Dubbo. Bathurst, Lithgow, Katoomba, Mudgee. Gunnedah, Moree, Armidale, Kempsey. Tamworth, Muswellbrook, Bolwarra, and Taree. That one company in Sydney, through its links with these agencies, is able to control in some degree the broadcasts from those stations and, through a syndicated channel, it certainly controls all the news that is broadcast by every one of those stations. That means, of course, that they do disseminate propaganda which has an effect upon the thoughts of the people who listen to them. The people who own those broadcasting stations are all linked with the Fairfax company. According to the statements of the Postmaster-General, they have formed several companies for the purpose of applying for television licences. This statement appears in “ Broadcasting and Television “ -
At least six different groups representing commercial radio, newspapers, motion picture arid established television interests, will be applying for a commercial television station licence for Newcastle. B. and T. understands.
As announced by the Postmaster-General, applications for country television station licences will close on 30th September. That publication then gives the history of the formation of two companies particularly - the Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation Limited, a public company with which radio station 2KO is associated. Honorable senators will recall that I mentioned previously that station 2KO is controlled by the Fairfax group. The other public company to be formed will be known as Hunter Broadcasters Limited, with which radio stations 2NX and 2NM are associated, so that this company will be associated also with station 2KO-
Let us have a look at broadcasting stations 2NX and 2NM. They are connected with the Broadcasting Corporation and 2GB Proprietary Limited, a unit of the Macquarie broadcasting network, and so linked with the “Sydney Morning Herald”. The Broadcasting Corporation holds shares in Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited which, again, is associated with John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited, the proprietors of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. They have several subsidiaries that are combining for the purpose of getting a television station licence, and no doubt they will get one because history shows that this Government has stood four square tor the newspaper interests to control the television stations in the capital cities.
According to the publication I have mentioned. Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation Limited represents the following interests: - United Broadcasting Company Proprietary Limited, which is associated with radio station 2KO; Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate Proprietary Limited, which controls the Newcastle “ Morning Herald “ and the Newcastle “ Sun “; Associated Rediffusion Limited, London, a leading British commercial television interest that is associated with M.P.A. Productions Proprietary Limited which, in turn, is linked with the “ Daily Mirror “ of London, and another English newspaper company. In addition, there is the Columbia Broadcasting System of New York, which controls one of the two top radio networks in the United States of America. As has been pointed out by a previous speaker, the Australian companies are associated with the Columbia programmes. Senator Buttfield has condemned more or less the American style of programmes. The public share issue in the new company will be underwritten by H. Clack and Company of Newcastle. It is significant to note that Mr. S. P. P. Lamb, who at present runs radio station 2KO, Newcastle, has been appointed executive member of the group. As I have said, radio station 2KO is controlled by the proprietors of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “.
The Minister is being bamboozled in this matter. Different companies are being formed by the same people who control existing companies in order to obtain television licences.
In Victoria, three more companies are going to apply for licences for country television stations. They are Goulburn Murray Television Proprietary Limited, which was registered on 16th July, with Sir William Bridgeford, S. J. A. Kemp and F. O. Cameron as directors. With one exception, they are associated in some way with Herald and Weekly Times Limited of Melbourne. The Eastern Victoria Television Proprietary Limited which also has been registered, will apply for a licence covering the Latrobe Valley. Bendigo and Central Victoria Telecasters Limited was formed at a public meeting at Bendigo on 14th July following an address by Mr. A. E. R. Fox, assistant general manager of Amalgamated Wireless (A/asia) Limited. By this means, the last-mentioned company will be associated not only with the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ but also with the Melbourne “ Herald “ as well as both broadcasting and television stations in the capital cities of Australia. Although the Minister stood on his dig yesterday, I remind him that these people have their own ways of getting around the objections that are raised from time to time. By linking newspapers, radio stations, and new companies to be formed to apply for television station licences, they have succeeded in bamboozling the Minister. The main danger that I see in the matter is from the point of view of the dissemination of propaganda.
Recently, Associated Television Limited was registered as a holding company to provide a television coverage for the whole of the country area of Victoria. The company has the support and backing of seven of the eight country broadcasting companies in Victoria which are associated with the Melbourne “ Herald “. Subject to obtaining licences, Associated Television Limited will make a public issue of shares. The companies sponsoring its flotation include Associated Broadcasting Services Limited, which controls radio stations 3SR, 3UL and 3YB and is linked with the Melbourne “ Herald “. Another sponsor is Victorian Broadcasting Network Limited, which controls radio stations 3TR, 3HA, 3CV and 3SH. These radio stations are linked with Herald and Weekly Times Limited of Melbourne, which supplies syndicated news and other articles to them from time to time for broadcasting.
Then we have Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, which, as honorable senators knows, is now a public company. The Commonwealth has no interest in it. That company controls 3BO Bendigo, and 3BO Bendigo is associated with the newspaper known as the “ Tiser “ - the Bendigo “ Advertiser “ - which in turn is linked with the Melbourne “ Herald “. It does not matter where you look, you find the Melbourne “ Herald “ linked up. Then there is the Sunraysia Broadcasting Proprietary Limited, whichowns 3MA Mildura. I understand that a syndicated news service goes to the broadcasting company at Mildura. Then there is Colac Broadcasting Company Proprietary Limited, which owns radio station 3CS. It is stated that the Victorian Provincial Country Press Association, the Victorian Country Press Association Limited, country members of the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association, and other country business interests, have been invited to subscribe. Note that the sponsors are going to form a company and that other interests have been merely invited to subscribe.
It is stated that Associated Television Limited aims to reduce the high establishment costs of a television station by operating as a co-operative venture, but of course this will be a holding company for the purpose of controlling other television stations. It already has its fingers in the pie and is controlling metropolitan stations. Honorable senators heard me refer to a man called Kemp who is the managing director of Associated Broadcasting Services Limited. He is to leave for the United States of America and Canada to obtain further details regarding the things that are necessary to establish a television station.
There we have the link all the time with the press, particularly with the press in the two main States. In New South Wales, we have 2GB. Do not make any mistake about the Fairfax crowd. They have links with Adelaide through the Adelaide “ News “ and the stations controlled by it. They have shares , also - and I shall deal with this aspect later - in organizations extending as far as Western Australia. Most honorable senators know of the ramifications of the Melbourne “ Herald “. We on this side of the chamber indicated them here not so many weeks ago. The statement has been made that the Melbourne “ Herald “ has no link at all’ with the Adelaide “ Advertiser “. I point out that Herald and Weekly Times Limited owns more than 1,500,000 shares in the Adelaide “Advertiser”. I give that figure to refute the statement that was made here quite recently in connexion with the link between the Melbourne “ Herald “ and the Adelaide “ Advertiser “.
The supplementary report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, issued in 1958, deals with the control of broadcasting stations, and no doubt the same considerations will apply to television stations. The board stated distinctly that it was not necessary for an organization to have a majority of shares to be able to control a station. That is the essence of its comment in this respect. In paragraph 9, on page 6 of the report, the board stated -
In our report of 25th July, 1958, we drew attention to the provisions of section 91 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1956, which reads -
A person shall not own, or be in a position to exercise control, either directly or indirectly, of, more than -
one commercial television station within the Australian Capital Territory or within a radius of thirty miles from the General Post Office in the capital city of State; or
two commercial television stations in Australia. and, having regard to the use in the section of the words “be in a position to exercise control, either directly or indirectly “, we made the following comments: -
It is, as the Board said in 1955 in itsreport on the applications for licences in Sydney and Melbourne, generally accepted that a shareholder with a comparatively small percentage of shares, can, in certain circumstances, exercise effective control of a company (see e.g. L.C.B. Gower, Principles of Modern Company Law, 2nd ed. 1957, p. 191 and E. L. Wheelwright, Ownership and Control of Australian Companies 1957). Apart from experience gained by the Board in the administration of the Act, some of the evidence which was submitted to us in the course of this inquiry concerning the influence of certain minority shareholders in companies which are parties to applications, leaves the
Board in no doubt that de facto control can certainly be exercised by a shareholder who has a substantial, though a minority, shareholding in a company.
That bears out my contention that these people, through their minority shareholding and links with other broadcasting and television stations, will be the controlling factor in television stations in country areas. That is the thing that we are objecting to, and we say that the Government should get up on its hind legs immediately and prevent it from happening. It is because of this danger that we are raising objection to the extension of television on the say-so of the Minister. He has already intimated what the Government is going to do in connexion with the establishment of television stations in country areas. We have seen what the Government has done in connexion with the establishment of broadcasting and television in the capital cities of Australia. In that respect, it has handed over absolute control to the big newspaper monopoly interests, which all the time use broadcasting and television for the purpose of furthering, not the cause of the people of Australia, but their own cause.
There are, of course, two things that we have to guard against. Actually, there is nothing wrong with television in itself. It represents an advance in a scientific age, and it can be a means of education and entertainment. But it also can be a bad thing. Senator Buttfield stated that television could do a powerful lot of good in the country. I say that it could also do a powerful lot of harm. I do not know whether the Minister is aware that these things are happening, but I am sure that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is. The important step is to find some means of preventing companies which already own one television station from retaining ownership in that station and obtaining ownership of a second station merely by changing their names. It is essential that the Government investigate ways and means of preventing these people from gaining monopolistic control of the best means of disseminating propaganda that Australia has yet seen. I warn the Government that it would be most dangerous to allow television to get into the control of a small group of people. The Government should appoint immediately highly qualified officers to examine our company laws with a view to closing the loopholes that are being exploited by combines and monopolies in order to obtain control of the newspapers, radio and television.
– As one who has spent a lifetime in country areas, I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity to congratulate the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) upon the rapid expansion of television to the stage we are now entering, phase 3, and the extension of this amenity to country areas. This service will open up a new era ‘to those of us -who live in the country, and I hope it will be an inducement to the younger people in particular to remain in the country, because they have been drifting to the cities in such large numbers over the last few years that in many country areas it has not been possible to hold the natural increase.
It is, ;most gratifying to know that perhaps within the next eighteen months or two years, 75 per cent, of the population of Australia will be able to view television programmes. Because we have lagged behind other countries in introducing television, we have the advantage of benefiting from the inevitable mistakes made by those other countries and so avoiding the difficulties experienced by them in the earlier days.
Senator O’Flaherty castigated Senator Buttfield, whom I should like to congratulate upon her excellent contribution, for praising the television programmes. I do not remember precisely the words she used, but I do know that Senator Buttfield was praising the presentation of the programmes. I have not had the privilege of viewing television overseas, but those people who have enjoyed that advantage have stated that the presentation of television programmes in Australia is better than is the presentation in most overseas countries. Yesterday, and again to-day, in a most informative address, Senator Hannan stated that one of the .reasons for that difference was the fact that we in Australia have decided to use the 625 lines method of presentation. I have no technical knowledge of television; I know only whether I like or dislike what I see on the screen and, unfortunately, I do not see enough good programmes. I repeat that Senator Buttfield was speaking of the actual presentation of the programmes, and, having had the opportunity to compare television here with that overseas, she has stated that the presentation here is excellent.
Much of the criticism we have heard of the Australian television programmes has been justified. Although I do not own a television set, I do view television programmes frequently and I must agree with the statement that many of the programmes presented are very poor. In all fairness, however, it must be admitted that they are improving steadily and I have no doubt that as we progress in this field the programmes will get better and better. I must admit that I was distressed upon hearing Senator Buttfield castigate one of my favourite programmes - “ I Love Lucy “, for in that programme there is good, humorous, light entertainment, and no shooting! In any event, when speaking of poor programmes does any honorable senator know of anything worse than some of the trash’ dished up to us over the radio?
If the programmes presented by the television stations are so bad, why is it that 800,000 people have taken out viewers’ licences, and this after not quite three years of operation in Australia? I understand that the first television programme was presented in Sydney in October, 1956, and up to 30th June last there were 300,779 licensed television viewers in New South Wales, 270,073 in Victoria, 360 in Queensland, 6,021 in South Australia, and 74 in Tasmania. I venture the opinion that if the programmes were so bad as some honorable senators would have us believe the growth in the number of licensed viewers would not have been so rapid.
It has also been stated that too few Australian artists are being given parts in our television programmes. I point out that there is a limit to the number of artists we have in Australia. It certainly would be very fine if we could employ more Australians in television and I have no doubt that as we progress with this medium a higher percentage of Australian artists will take part in the programmes. I remind honorable senators that television companies are bound to use a certain percentage of Australian artists in any production. No doubt as we progress that percentage will increase. We have also to remember that Australian television is in its infancy, lt could grow into a very valuable industry for this country. I am not sure what position television occupies in the United States of America at the moment, but two years ago it was one of the five big industries in that country. Even if we cannot foresee a similar expansion here it seems plain that eventually television will provide a great deal of employment for our people. That is something - quite apart from the entertainment aspect - that we must keep in mind when we set out to encourage the expansion of television throughout Australia.
Criticism has also been made of the proposed location of the new country television stations. I would remind honorable senators that this is but another stage in the long-term development of television. There will be further stages, and doubtless the Postmaster-General and his advisers have adopted the wisest course in taking into account population density. That is surely essential if we are to develop television on an economic basis.
One aspect that country retailers of television sets will have to keep in mind is the difficulty of servicing television sets after they have been sold. Country conditions are very different from those of the city, where vehicles can travel along tarred roads at any hour of the day or night for the purpose of effecting repairs. In the country it may be necessary to travel 15 or 20 miles along unmade roads and in the face of bad weather.
Opposition senators have suggested that city television is subject to monopoly control. Let us consider the position in New South Wales, which I represent in this Senate. In Sydney there is the national station, ABN, on channel 2, station ATN, on channel 7 - commonly known as the “ Sydney Morning Herald group “ - and station TCN on channel 9 - commonly referred to as the “Daily Telegraph group”. Would any one suggest that those two commercial companies would be likely to get together to form a monopoly? Those of us who live in Sydney know that about as much love is lost between the “Daily Telegraph “ and the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ as is lost between the Australian Labour Party and the Australian Democratic
Labour Party. Present indications are that several companies will be applying to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for licences at the end of September. That is a very good thing indeed.
Opposition speakers have suggested that in many country areas there will be great danger in granting two licences. In fact, the Postmaster-General has not stated that that will happen. He has merely said that two commercial licences may be granted. I feel sure that most centres would not have the potential revenue to support two commercial stations, even if two licences were granted. 1 do not think that we need worry very much on that score.
Senator O’Flaherty spoke rather disparagingly of the Postmaster-General and said that he was being bamboozled. 1 have known the Postmaster-General for quite a long time and I am satisfied that I cannot bamboozle him. After hearing the honorable senator I might be prompted to have another try, but I doubt whether I shall be very successful. In view of what has been said by Opposition senators, I propose to quote just what the Minister had to say on the subject in another place yesterday. He said: -
The suggestion has been made that the metropolitan stations may attempt to corner the film market and hire out the films to the stations in the country areas only if they are given some form of control over those stations. If that should happen, and if the Government desired to ensure the successful operation of a country station to which a licence had been granted, it would be up to the Government to see that something was done to ensure that programmes were available.
There is nothing ambiguous about that statement. I do not accept the suggestion that that was an attempt to give a lead to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in dealing with applications. I find that a similar statement was made before the first applications for television licences were called. The Minister is to be commended upon his statement. No one could have fought harder to avoid monopoly control of licences in country areas. It is my sincere hope that in each case a licence will be granted to an independent company representing country interests. I feel that it would not be in the best interests of the country people to grant licences to metropolitan companies, however worthy their objects might be. I sincerely hope that in each centre it will be possible to find a com pany having the necessary financial backing and knowledge to provide programmes satisfactory to country people. A possible alternative would be the establishment of companies composed in the main of country interests but having perhaps a small representation of these bigger concerns - with adequate safeguards to prevent future control by metropolitan interests.
I end as I began - by commending the Postmaster-General, his advisers and the Government upon the rate of progress achieved in the extension of television. I am quite sure that if the Postmaster-General follows the route that he has marked out, and has his own way in these matters, country people will get television of which they can well be proud.
– At present it is not a question of whether or not we shall have television, but how we shall develop it. After listening to this debate for a day and a half I am wondering whether we might not eventually get down to discussing the licensing of honorable senators to wander all over the field and get right away from the subject of the debate. As I understand the situation, we are debating a motion for the printing of a statement made by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) in another place on 30th April last, during the course of which he clearly and without equivocation set out the Government’s policy for the development of television in Australia. The PostmasterGeneral made his explanation because some people were worried - they had every right to be concerned - and were taking note of innuendoes and insinuations by the Labour Opposition to the effect that all was not well with the development of the television industry. Senator McKellar referred to television as being a fifth major industry in the United States of America. Television is developing in this country and may well become a major industry here. Therefore, the National Parliament has every right to debate the various aspects of the development of television.
As I indicated earlier, the statement under consideration deals with Government policy. That being so, we on this side of the chamber naturally expect, and quite rightly so, criticism and attack by the Opposition. But, in effect, the statement really re-affirms and perhaps elucidates major aspects of the Government’s, policy on this matter. The Minister said -
It has been our policy, right from the outset, to proceed with the establishment, of television services in the. Commonwealth on a gradual basis . . .
Knowing the economic implications of the introduction and development of television in Australia, we realize that that was a sound approach for the Government to adopt. Even, if: our friends on the Opposition side had been in office- at this time they would not have adopted a different attitude except, of course, that- they would have established television services more gradually and have kept them under socialistic control to the detriment of the development of this medium and of the people of Australia.
The Minister’s statement sets out the three stages of development that have been decided upon by the Government. At the present time television services are in operation in Melbourne and Sydney. At a. later stage possibly I shall answer some of the criticisms that have been offered by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber in relation to existing television services. The second stage of development covers the taking of television to the other capital cities. In Hobart at the present time, new television studios can be seen under construction at Harrington-street; and at the top of Mount Wellington, amidst the snow and clouds, technicians are proceeding with the construction of the actual transmitting station. I think all Tasmanians will pay great respect to those men for working under such conditions to give effect to Government policy and to do so within the time scheduled.
Without being too parochial, I wish to refer briefly to the installation of television facilities at Hobart. I regret the fact that the Government has not been sufficiently large-minded to incorporate the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s normal broadcasting studios and technical rooms in the building currently under construction. The citizens of Australia are paying huge and uneconomic rentals for various buildings in Hobart to house the respective elements of the commission’s activities. Only last week the commission’s news service section moved from its former office to another building in Hobart for which. I understand, an exorbitant rent is to be paid. It seems to me to be a great pity that another £500,000’ was not spent on the. building, now under construction to enable it to house: both, broadcasting and television, services. However, the Minister did not refer to that matter.
We now come to the third and important stage of the development of television - one which is most, suitable for solid debate and, examination by the National Parliament, because it is now in the throes of being put into effect. I refer to the extension of television services to country areas. We in Tasmania are interested in this stage of development, because the Minister, on the advice of his- technical officers, has decided that the north-eastern portion ot Tasmania shall be the area for the possible extension of television services in that State. The Minister has clearly set forth for our perusal the areas in each State, including the Australian Capital Territory, to which he anticipates - I use the word “ anticipates “ advisedly - television will be extended for rural communities. Those areas have been selected following solid and time-consuming technical consideration, during which considerable importance was attached to the physical features of the terrain. Another factor considered was the density of population. From my knowledge of Tasmania and my not so great knowledge of the rest of Australia, I believe that the Minister has made a wise decision and that we can give him and his advisers credit for having done a good job.
The next matter that obviously comes before us for consideration is the manner in which stations in these rural areas are to be licensed. The Minister has stated quite clearly that public inquiries will be conducted to determine which applicants are suitable. When the third stage of development has been completed, the Minister, the Government and all those who have played a big part’ in it will be able to say proudly that 75 per cent, of the Australian population has facilities for viewing television programmes - facilities that have been provided within a very few years when the development of television in this country is compared with its development in other countries. Mr. President, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 August 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590813_senate_23_s15/>.