23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Trade aware that, according to the Chief Horticulturist of the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture, there is in Tasmania a surplus of between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 cases pf apples? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the steps that are being taken to increase the sales of apples in already established markets and to find new markets for this very important product of Tasmania?
– I am certain that my colleague, Mr. McEwen, would have that position under notice and that it would not have passed unheeded by his department. I am sorry to say that I cannot give information regarding specific steps that the Minister has taken, and I shall have to ask the honorable senator to place his question on the notice-paper.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. By way of preface, I point out that it was reported in yesterday’s Melbourne “ Herald “ that members of the Antarctic Club, all ex-polar explorers, had complained bitterly that after fifty years of Australian exploration in Antarctica there is no Australian ship for such work. Can the Minister let me know whether plans have been advanced for the building of an Australian ship? I point out that the main complaint seems to be that we are hiring a Danish vessel and have been doing so for more than ten years, and that the cost of hiring that vessel could by now equal the cost of building a vessel for ourselves.
– I appreciate the constant interest shown in this matter by Senator Laught. I think that the AuditorGeneral, in last year’s report, commented on the matter to which the honorable senator refers, namely, the continuing cost of hiring a ship for Antarctic research work. The position at the moment, as 1 understand it from my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, is that discussions are continuing between the Australian Shipbuilding Board and the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs, and that the Shipbuilding Board has submitted for the consideration of the Antarctic Division preliminary plans for the design of a ship for this purpose. Agreement has been reached upon such things as the power plant necessary for the vessel, and discussions between the board and the division are at the moment along the lines of where within the vessel can be placed to the best advantage the sleeping berths and accommodation of that nature, and also the laboratories. True it is that the present position is still a long way from the placement of an order with a shipbuilding yard in Australia, but I think that the honorable senator will appreciate that significant progress has been made and that interest in the project is continuing.
– During the last sessional period I asked the Minister for National Development a question concerning the possibility of atomic radiation being used effectively to control blow flies and also fruit flies. The Minister stated on that occasion - 1 think we would all agree that the Atomic
Energy Commission should look carefully into it.
I now ask the Minister: Have any reports been received by him from the commission on this subject, and, if so, will he give them to the Senate?
– I have not as yet seen any reports upon this matter. Following the earlier question in the Senate, I discussed the matter with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. My recollection of that discussion, which is now a few months old, is that the commission told me that the experiments were being carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The commission played its part in the radiation processes, but the actual experimental work from, that stage onward was done by the C.S.I.R.O. In view of Senator Pearson’s interest in this matter, I shall get in touch with the Atomic Energy Commission and see whether the C.S.I.R.O. has anything to report.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Commonwealth laid it down that garages will not be incorporated in houses built by the Commonwealth for Commnowealth officers? If so, who is the Minister responsible for such an archaic direction?
– A variety of Ministers would have responsibilities in this matter. The Minister for the Interior would be responsible for homes erected in Canberra and the Minister for Territories would be responsible so far as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is concerned. I have not heard that the position is as Senator Armstrong alleges. I think that the only thing to do is ask Senator Armstrong to put his question on notice. I will then approach the Ministers concerned and ascertain the facts.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. In his Budget speech the Treasurer pointed out that the largest reduction in the various items under the heading “ Capital Works and Services “ was in the estimate for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. The Treasurer said that the actual expenditure by the authority last year was £28.250,000, which included £2,650,000 provided in Additional Estimates to meet expenditure due to exceptionally rapid progress on some of the major contracts. The amount to be provided this year, however, is £18,500,000, or a reduction of £9,750,000 on last year’s expenditure. Will the Minister explain whether this reduction means that the Government has decided to curtail or slow down work on the scheme?
– I can answer that question with an emphatic “ No “. The major part of the work on the Snowy Mountains scheme is carried out by private contracts. Expenditure on the scheme rises or falls from year to year, depending on, the volume of contract work. Last year the Government provided the largest amount, I think, ever provided for the scheme. Despite that the contractors got ahead of schedule. I approached the Government for an additional amount - from memory I think the sum was £2,750,000 - and I said that we could either slow down the contractors or find the additional money. The Government was good enough to find the extra money, which took the appropriation for the scheme for the year to more than £28,000,000 - an extraordinarily large support for the scheme. But quite reasonably the Government said: “ What will be the position next year? The contractors are ahead of schedule. If the Government finds the extra money this year because the work can be done this year, there would have to be a corresponding reduction in the amount provided for expenditure next year.” Of course I said, “Yes, that is the position “. We are getting the money one year and we cannot hope to get it again in a subsequent year. We have a schedule which we hope to adhere to. The schedule is determined by the contractors of the engineering works and by the amount of finance available. A target date has been set for the completion of the next big power station - the Murray 1. I think the year is 1966. Whatever the target date is, the re-arrangement as to finance between one year and another still contemplates that we run to the schedule of completing the next power station by the target date.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and it refers to claims by a number of people interested in the beef industry that there is an increasing shortage of beef on the Australian market. Will the Minister advise whether this shortage is merely seasonal or temporary or whether it indicates a depletion of our beef resources for which remedial action is necessary? If remedial action is necessary, has the Government in mind any such action?
– I can only say that my recollection is that the Minister for Primary Industry himself has indicated that there is no depletion of Australia’s beef supplies to any serious and permanent extent, but I will get his exact answer to the question in writing and send it to the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister for the Navy inform the Senate whether it is a fact that early in May this year reports were published which indicated that sabotage was suspected upon the submarine H.M.S. “ Anchorite “, which is on loan to the Royal Australian Navy, whilst she lay in Sydney? Is it a fact that these reports caused considerable distress to the officers and men of this vessel? Have the naval authorities completed their inquiries into the matter? If they have, can the Minister inform the Senate of their finding?
– It is a fact that in May, or some time around May, this year there was found in some machinery in H.M.S. “ Anchorite “ a quantity of water, and it could not be ascertained easily how the water entered that machinery. Consequently, the possibility of sabotage was not ruled out at the time and the Sydney Criminal Investigation Branch was asked to investigate the matter. That branch, in conjunction with the naval authorities, did investigate how the water came to be in that machinery. As a result of the investigation, a report hasbeen published by the Sydney Criminal Investigation Branch, which indicates clearly how the water got there, and also that there is no possibility whatever of any wrongful action by any member of the crew or any apparent act of sabotage having occurred.
– In reply yesterday to a question asked by Senator McKellar, the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service agreed that the average wage for seamen was £28 a week. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether this average wage covers a fiveday week or a seven-day week? Does it include overtime and penalty rates? What is the basic wage for seamen working a 40-hour week?
– What I actually said yesterday in reply to a question by Senator McKellar, in which he asked me whether £28 was the average weekly earnings of a seaman, was that I did not have in my mind exactly what the average earnings of seamen were but that I had seen figures which indicated that they were of that order. As to the detailed provisions of the award which has been handed down, and against which the seamen are taking action, I will get those published facts and send them to the honorable senator, or she can get them herself.
– I should like to ask the Minister for National Development whether, during his recent visit to Japan, he had long discussions with the Japanese on the question of the sale of Australian coal to Japan. What quantity of coal can Australia expect to sell to that country? Will the price be economic? Are port facilities in Australia for handling coal adequate? Is there a possibility of Western Australian coal being exported to Japan?
– I did have a series of discussions with the Japanese steel interests who are desirous of purchasing coking coal from Australia. As a result of those discussions, I am very firmly of the opinion that there is an opportunity available to Australia to conduct a large trade with Japan in coking coal. The Japanese people said in quite clear terms that they were prepared to take coal at the rate of 3,000,000 tons a year by 1965. Since my return I have been inquiring about the situation. I do not see any prospect of Western Australia joining in the business, because I do not know of any deposits of coking coal in that State. According to the information that I have at present, the trade would go to Queensland and New South Wales. Three million tons of coal is big business in any language, and there is still a lot of work to be done by way of developing mines and an organization to handle the trade. It is true to say that one of the deficiencies is that the port facilities in New South Wales are very old and are not giving satisfactory service. A good deal of water will run under the bridge before the prognostications become realities. I believe there is a good prospect of our getting this trade and that if we organize ourselves we will be able to get it.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether it is a fact that under no consideration are war pensions taken into account in the assessment of income tax. I have always been of that opinion. The reason for my asking this question is that recently there was brought to my notice a case in which a war pension was grouped with other income for income tax purposes.
– I do not know the case that the honorable senator has mentioned, but I point out that a war pension is not in any way subject to income tax. If the honorable senator lets me have the facts of the case, I may be able to help him. I repeat that an ordinary war pension is not subject to income tax.
– I asked whether under no consideration at all were war pensions subject to income tax.
– Not an actual war pension. The honorable senator may be thinking of some other allowance.
– No. 1 am referring to a war pension.
– I would not like to go into that matter unless I had the full facts before me.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs state whether it is proposed to bring before the Parliament this session for ratification the treaty or international agreement relating to territorial matters in Antarctica which was negotiated by Mr. Casey, now Lord Casey, during his last mission overseas as an Australian Minister? Can the Minister also state whether any nations have already ratified the agreement? If some have, can he state which nations they are? Have any nations refused to do so? If some have, which nations are they?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable senator’s question is, “ Yes “. It is proposed to place before the Parliament the text of the treaty that was negotiated by Lord Casey and to submit it for debate. The question of its being ratified by the Parliament is a different matter. That is a little complicated, and I shall not go into it. I do not recall offhand the number of nations that have ratified the treaty, but it is approximately half a dozen. No country has refused to ratify the treaty. All the indications are that it is likely to be ratified by the governments of all those nations which were represented at the negotiations.
– I address to the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question which follows upon a reply he gave a few minutes ago in which he said that an additional sum of approximately £3,000,000 had been made available to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to enable it to keep up with contracts in hand. I ask the Minister whether he will take up with the Treasurer and the PostmasterGeneral a request that they make available a paltry sum of approximately £3,000,000 to overcome the terrible lag in the installation of telephones throughout Australia.
– I cannot agree with Senator O’Flaherty’s description of £3,000,000 as a paltry sum, and I confess that I do not see the connexion between a reduction of the vote of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and the telephone system. All I can say in reply to the question is that what the Government proposes to do is in the Estimates and Budget Papers which are now before the Senate for debate.
– I preface a supplementary question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate with relation to coal by stating that I was in Newcastle recently and that a year or so ago I visited Port Kembla. At Newcastle recently, the view was expressed that Australia did not have adequate supplies of coking coal. Can the Minister advise me whether that statement is correct, and can he assure me that in Australia we have adequate supplies of coal to enable us to take advantage of the export market in Japan?
– I, myself, have no doubt that we have in Australia adequate supplies of coking coal, firstly, to meet the needs of the Australian steel industry, and then to cater for the export trade in the particular kinds of coking coal I have mentioned.
– Will the Minister for Customs and Excise check the statement he made to the Senate on Tuesday that the primary producers had received an increase of only one halfpenny per lb. since 1945 from the processors for peas? Is the Minister aware that for the 1950-51 season the price paid by the processors was 3)d. per lb.? Is the Minister aware that for the 1957-58 season a grading system for the purchase from primary producers of peas for processing was introduced? Is the Minister aware that for the 1959-60 season the prices paid to primary producers for peas under the grading system were 4d. and 6id. per lb.? Will the Minister agree that the figures I have quoted represent an increase of approximately 33i per cent, over the past ten years? Will the Minister disclose the source of the information which he gave to the Senate on Tuesday relating to the amount paid by the processors to primary producers for peas? Will the Minister agree that primary producers are entitled to a greater return for their products?
– When I replied to the question posed to me by Senator Lillico, I thought I made it clear that the figures relating to the increase received by primary producers were supplied by a secretary of one of the branches in Tasmania. I thought I had made it clear that he had given that figure in a letter he had written to the press. I had no factual information, and I had no details of the various prices paid to the producers under the grading or any other system. I simply said in answer to that question that the only advice I had was that an increase of only one halfpenny per lb. had been made in fifteen years.
– You had no factual information?
– I had the information which was published in the press and which had not been contradicted anywhere in Tasmania and which I checked with the branch secretary.
I understand, if I have written down the second part of the honorable senator’s question correctly, that he asked whether I was of the opinion that the primary producers should receive more for their products. I am of the opinion that the primary producers should receive the highest price possible, for their work in growing the peas and the risk they take in doing so, commensurate with what the public can afford to pay for the peas.
– I direct to the Minister for the Navy a question supplementary to that asked by Senator Hannan. In view of the seriousness of the allegations of sabotage of a naval vessel and the fact that a subsequent inquiry by the New South Wales Criminal Investigation Branch refuted those allegations, what steps were taken to publicize the findings of the Criminal Investigation Branch, which undoubtedly exonerated those against whom the allegations ware made?
– The step that was taken to publicize the finding was that an arrangement was made between Senator Hannan and myself for the question to be asked so that the answer to it could be made public. °
– I ask the Minister for National Development another question in relation to supplies of coking coal. In his previous replies, was he referring only to New South Wales coking coal, or to Australian coking coal generally, which would include Queensland coking coal? Further, was he referring to hard coking coal or soft coking coal?
– The question is a good one. Coal is not just coal, and coking coal is not just coking coal. There are varieties of coking coal with different coke contents and ash contents. Some coking coals are much more sought after than others. My answer was in general terms and was subject to the reservation that we must first provide for the Australian steel industry. We must reserve some of the hard coking coal for this industry, and that means that we have less of it to export. According to my information, the Queensland coking coal that is available for export is a soft coking coal, although I believe it to be true that the best coking coal in Australia is the hard coking coal that is mined in Collinsville, Queensland. Therefore, I give a general answer. The quantity of 3,000,000 tons that is available for export comes from both Queensland and New South Wales and a substantial proportion of it is soft coking coal.
– Asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The following answer is now supplied: -
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed construction of a new international terminal building at Perth airport, Western Australia.
This matter was referred to the Public Works Committee in May last, and evidence was taken in Canberra and Perth from various witnesses representing the civil airlines, air pilots, professional organizations, the Western Australian Government, local authorities, and the Commonwealth departments concerned with the project. The committee found that the present facilities available at Perth airport, which was constructed during the war, of wartime materials, are not suitable for the growing needs of the very progressive and virile State, Western Australia. The buildings are of a make-shift nature. I wish to compliment the Department of Civil Aviation on the way in which it has adapted the igloo type buildings to the needs of both the international and domestic airlines.
The growth of air traffic in Western Australia has been meteoric. In 1953, 78,085 passengers passed through the airport at Perth. Last year, the number had increased to 127,349. Facilities are to be provided to cater for a custom that is perhaps more developed than in other States, namely, that of friends of passengers going to the airport to meet or farewell passengers. The committee was asked to consider the provision of accommodation for visitors, and recommendations in this respect are included in the committee’s report. Facilities are to be provided at the airport for shopping, banking, postal business and dining. Although the plans make provision only for the period to 1970, the committee found, on examination of the witnesses and inspection of the plans, that adequate provision was being made for expansion in the future. A considerable degree of expansion in terms of passenger and freight traffic is expected in the years ahead. The proposed building has been planned to accommodate 1,200 people in the lounge and concourse area, buffet, dining room, cocktail lounge and other enclosed space.
Now that sketch designs have been completed, it is estimated that the cost of the building will be £450,000, made up as follows: building and internal engineering services, £342,000; mechanical services, £103,000; kitchen equipment, £2,500; and public address system, £2,500. Other engineering works will be necessary, and these will be the subject of another report of the committee which will be presented to the Parliament in the very near future. That report will relate to runways, aprons and taxi-ways.
I point out that the Empire Games are to be held in Western Australia in 1962. The committee has recommended that the proposed work should be commenced as soon as practicable, so that there will be no interference with the flow of traffic through the airport at the time of the games. Target dates have been set to make it possible to have the project completed by the time the games commence. The committee is of the opinion that there is a pressing need for a new terminal building of international standard at the Perth airport. Because of the way in which the airport has been planned, it is not possible to alter the orientation of the building. Officers of the Department of Civil Aviation engaged in meteorological briefing and other activities need the best of conditions, and airconditioning, and mechanical ventilation and heating have been recommended by the committee. The committee recommends that the time-table which will permit the completion of the building by July, 1962, should be adhered to. I have very much pleasure, on behalf of the committee, in presenting the report to the Senate.
– 1 present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Forty-seventh Report - Broadcasting and Television Services.
This report, based upon public inquiries undertaken by your committee late in 1959, deals with the programme for new transmission buildings, equipment and so forth for the national broadcasting service and, in particular, examines the substantial under-spending of the budget appropriations for this programme in the three financial years 1956-57, 1957-58, and 1958-59. These appropriations are an element of the Commonwealth civil works programme.
The report reflects a state of affairs not infrequently disclosed by your committee’s regular and detailed investigations into the under-spending of particular budget appropriations. In this instance, we have concluded that the main reasons for the underspending in the three financial years in question were deficiencies in the preliminary planning of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the failure of these authorities to comply strictly with the forward planning and programming arrangements associated with the civil works programme. Your committee is of the opinion, too, that strained relationships in these particular matters between the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Treasury have not assisted the situation.
However, we consider that with better use of the forward planning arrangements, and a greater degree of co-operation between all the parties concerned, a recurrence of the persistent and substantial under-spending of this vote should be prevented. I commend the report to honorable senators.
Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 81), on motion by Senator Hannan -
That consideration be given to the following matters: -
Whether Australian national sentiment and culture are being endangered by the virtual monopoly of foreign films and entertainment screened by Australian theatres and television stations;
Whether a sound local film industry, with particular emphasis on documentary and television films, would be in the national interest as providing an outlet for Australian sentiment and culture and for earning international goodwill by distribution abroad;
In existing circumstances, is it practicable to place the Australian film industry on a sound footing by governmental financial or administrative assistance and, if so, what is the best method of providing such financial or administrative aid; and
What is the Australian potential for pictures or visual entertainment or instruction, filmed or recorded by predominantly television techniques such as video-tape.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South Wales [11.49]. - Last night I was slightly critical of Senator Hannan’s approach to this matter because all that he has given us is an opportunity to express our views on the four aspects of the subject which he brought up for discussion. Having finished our discussion, what will be the next step? As a result of the discussion, will there be anything that we can take to the Government for further consideration and action? Or is this to be just a general conversazione that will end with happiness all around, but with no concrete result? This is a very important matter. To my mind, this is the time when we should do something about it. The film industry is vitally affected by the advent of television in Australia, and picture theatres are closing in large numbers in every part of Australia where television has been introduced. This places an extra burden on the film producers. I do not refer to film producers in Australia, because in effect there are none. A major burden is placed on the film producers of the world.
At present, television is making a great impact on picture theatres. People now are not prepared to leave their homes to go to a picture theatre to see a normal run-of-the-mill film, as they were in other days. They are not prepared to leave their homes to see a medium grade film, with comparatively well-known stars and providing bright entertainment, although such films would bring people out of their homes before television. We find now that it is only the big, almost the mammoth, film that attracts large audiences. A strange feature of the present situation is that the good, big picture now gets more box-office support than ever before in the history of the film business. In the cities of the world films like “ South Pacific “ have run for nearly eighteen months. In Sydney, “ Ben Hur “ is starting a season which the exhibitors say will run into the second year. Other great films such as “ The Ten Commandments “ and “ Around the World in Eighty Days “ have had long runs in the cities. However, the suburban theatres depend on average run-of-the-mill films which are not attracting audiences now, and in some places 80 per cent. of the suburban theatres have closed their doors.
– Even the children do not go to the suburban theatres in such large numbers as before.
– I thought that would be the biggest drop.
– It accounts for the biggest drop at the week-end, but the drop in attendances is not confined to the week-end; it affects every night of the week.
Therefore, when we talk of an Australian film industry we must bear in mind that there are not now available the exhibition facilities that were available before for Australian films. It was the object of every one who made an Australian film to get back the capital cost of the film from exhibition in Australia. If a producer could do that he was more or less content, and whatever he could make on the film overseas represented a profit. Even some of the great Australian films that have been mentioned in this debate barely earned in Australia the cost of producing them. In most instances, they were not sophisticated films. They had a particular appeal to Australians, but when we tried to sell them in England or America the people there just did not know what they were looking at. The film “ Jedda “ that was made here by Charles Chauvel was a magnificent film, showing some of the most fantastic scenery to be seen in the world, but when we tried to place that film in Great Britain it was looked upon as a curiosity. It did not receive the support there that one would have expected in view of its success in Australia, but the background to it was, of course, well known to all of us here. So when we talk of making more pictures in Australia to-day, we must not forget that at the moment the internal market has almost disappeared - and that is the market on which formerly the cost of making Australian films was recovered.
There has been a tendency in the las! few years for American film units to com*: here, spending money in a way in which the Australian film producer has never been able to spend it. I remember that when “ Sons of Matthew “ was made here by Charles Chauvel, the cost was estimated at between £50,000 and £60,000, but the final cost was, I should say, £120,000 or £130,000. When American units come here they bring with them actors who are known world-wide. They bring also their own equipment and highly-skilled technicians. They use as background, for instance, the City of Melbourne, as was done in “ On the Beach “, or South Australia, as was done in “ Kangaroo “, and Pinchgut, as was done in a recent film, but they have actors who are known world-wide and they have large sums at their disposal. I would say that Stanley Kramer must have spent well over £1,000,000 in making “ On the Beach “. The problem is to recoup that expenditure, and that cannot be done by exhibiting solely in Australia. The film must have a world market. A picture in which top-line stars appear will have a wide appeal, but the Australian producer of pictures cannot make films on that scale. To begin with, he has not got stars of world renown and, except in unusual circumstances, the star value makes a picture. So for the moment I do not think that we in Australia can build up a picture industry that can compete with the large industries overseas.
I think that our salvation lies in making films in a small way. In Australia to-day we have a competent film-making industry that has been in existence for many years. In the days of Charles Chauvel, Ken Hall and other great Australian producers there was no industry in the real meaning of the word. In those days pictures were made one at a time. The producer would make a picture, perhaps taking three months to do so, and then the production unit would be disbanded. The film would go to the cutting room and would eventually reach the theatres twelve months or more later. If the picture was at all successful the boys would get together again and start to make another picture. They would try to get the cameramen and technicians together again. Making a top-class film is a highly technical process. The producer would have to get together all the necessary manpower in order to make his next film. Once again, after the film had been made, the organization would be disbanded. Every time this happened it became increasingly difficult to re-organize the production force because some men who had taken jobs elsewhere were inclined to stay where they were rather than run the risk that is involved in making films in Australia.
I think that the industry could operate satisfactorily if it concentrated on producing films on a small scale. Our hope lies in applying the industry to the needs of television. The making of television films for advertising purposes is no small industry in Australia to-day. The industry is spread over a number of small producers but in all it amounts to a substantial industry.
– There is plenty of room for improvements in quality there.
– Yes. I do noi know what percentage of advertising films are imported. Perhaps Senator Hannan could tell me.
– There is a prohibition on imported commercial films at the moment.
– Does that mean that to-day all commercial films are being made here?
– But some that were imported earlier are still being used, I think.
– Some are.
– I think I have seen some imported commercials on television recently.
– There is a direction that they should not be used, but it is difficult to police this matter.
– Is the direction against showing them or against importing them? Having brought them in twelve months or so ago, can they now be shown?
– I think the PostmasterGeneral has given a direction that they shall not be used.
– That is a very important step forward. The advertising films that are made in this country are quite good. At first sight they may appeal to be simple types of films, but they form the basis of a highly technical operation which is employing a very large number of people in Australia.
– It is quite an industry.
– Yes, and it is providing work for many good cameramen and other technicians. A few weeks ago I was looking over the studios of Cinesound and 1 saw some young cameramen who were developing in a promising fashion. Their seniors spoke well of their capacity to make commercial and other film* for television. So there you have a small but solid foundation on which to build an industry. An advertising film has been made in colour of the capital cities of Australia. It will be used for exhibition in theatres. I do not know whether it has been shown yet in commercial houses. It was made for the Rothman company and gives three-minute views of each capital city, lt is one of the most magnificent films I have ever seen. Any country would be proud to say that it had produced it. We in this country can produce the goods if we have the opportunity and provided a market is available.
The next step, in my view, is the filming of live shows. The production of a live show is a very expensive undertaking. Some television stations, particularly in New South Wales, have been making courageous efforts in what is an unrewarding and thankless job - putting live shows on television. The national television station which televised “ Stormy Petrel “ deserves great credit for its efforts. Channel 7 in New South Wales has made great efforts and has spent substantial amounts of money in using Australian actors and actresses in live shows on television. But sponsors for such shows are hard to get because they do not think they obtain value for their money. In many cases a substantial part of the cost of production of live shows is borne by the television station. Their only chance to cut their costs is to have a wide network of stations and thus share the costs of the live shows that they are putting on television. A half-hour show on Channel 7 could not be made for less than about £3,000 and the one-hour shows, such as the Shakespearian plays, would run to about £6,000 each. Unless the initial expense of those shows is shared by several stations, the stations producing the shows are faced with a heavy burden. I compliment station ATN on its efforts to put live shows on television and to give opportunities to Australian actors and actresses. Within the last month station ATN has purchased the Artransa studios, which is an indication that it is prepared to spend substantial amounts of money to bring live shows to Australian audiences.
– That is the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ station, is it not?
– Yes. It is useless putting live shows on television in this country if the viewer simply turns the knob to look at “ Tombstone Territory “, “ Maverick “ or some of the other shows that captured the imagination of the viewing public in the early days of television in this country. But this attitude of the viewing public is settling down and we are obtaining a more appreciative audience which is more and more looking at live shows on television. This pattern will continue although I confess that some of us still like to watch half a dozen cowboys shoot it out, with the goodies always winning and the baddies always losing. That sort of entertainment is refreshing after a hard week in the Senate. But that type of programme, which has been popular with adults and children alike, is gradually losing its appeal. I do not suggest that Hollywood is running out of bullets, but it may be running out of bodies.
The problem of diversity of characters is one that will face the producers of “Whiplash”. It will be hard to obtain sufficient actors so that the same faces do not appear in scene after scene, even though in one scene they may have a beard and in another they may be clean-shaven. In some American films you find the same faces appearing week after week. One week a particular character may be a hero, next week he is the villain and a week later he is a cripple. But the same faces are emerging on American television because of the tie-up of television stations in that country. One of the problems associated with “ Whiplash “ - the only one that was made in Australia - was that in one series of television films the producers ran out of different types and so the monotony was retained. Therefore I say that, in the television field, our Australian film industry should be nurtured and developed. If the Government wants to help, of course, it can be drastic and insist on quotas and things like that. Television Channel 9 in Sydney has made a very definite movement in the last month or two towards doing more live shows. Both the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Channel ATN have always done as much, indeed more than, they could be reasonably expected to do at the current stage of development, and they are being rewarded slowly but surely. The filming of live shows is a highly technical and exciting job, involving know-how. The making available to country television stations of these films will, I think, give the industry a needed fillip.
Senator Hannan is worried about the effect of the influx of American films on Australian sentiment and culture. There is a virtual monopoly of foreign films. I do not know how that position could be changed quickly unless we had something to take their place. It is of no use changing something that the people want to see.
– They may want to see our local sort of crime.
– They , may want some other attraction for a while until the characters become typed again. Of course, it is easy to talk and to be critical of these things. If the people do not like the things provided, the films have no value. lt is of no use making a propaganda film or a documentary if there is no audience to view it; that would be a complete waste of money. The fact that a documentary film is awarded a prize at the Glasgow Exhibition or the Cannes Festival or in Venice does not impress me at all, because a film is meant to be seen, not to be put in the archives with a little label on it saying, for example, that it was awarded a prize at Cannes in 1960. Unless a film is made for people to see, why make it? I believe that the success of a film is measured by the number of people who see it. We are making a lot of films, directly and indirectly, at our own laboratories. Senator Tangney said last night that 500 films have been made there. I suppose that number includes “ Australian Diaries “.
– The “ Australian Diaries “ go to about 50 countries.
– I do not know that to be a fact but I think it is a good thing if they do. What happens when the films get there? Is it necessary to substitute the local language for our language? I think that the production of “ Australian Diaries “ over the last twelve or thirteen years has been accomplished in a workmanlike manner. I was a member of the Australian National Film Board when it first started making films for the Government. We got a gentleman from Canada named Foster, and when he left we got Stanley Hawes. He came from England to Australia via Canada, and he is still here.
That brings me to Senator Hannan’s assertion that our culture is being jeopardized because the people are looking continually at foreign films. I can only agree with Senator Hannan. I have never agreed with him so much in my life; he must be improving out of sight. The effect of films on our culture is real. I do not intend to get into an argument concerning our culture. Even the poets Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall were not Australians. I maintain that we need the influence of people from all parts of the world to develop our culture. Nobody can deny that the American way of life has an important bearing on us which it did not have 50 years ago, when the most important bearing on our culture came from the United Kingdom because 98 per cent, of the people in Australia were British. Is it a good thing to have only British culture? I suggest that, due to the great influx of new Australians, in 40 or 50 years’ time we will have a better developed and wider culture than we have now. As I have said, I do not want to be dragged into an argument on culture. The last GovernorGeneral was not in this country ten minutes before he attacked our beer and our betting habits. He seemed to think that that was all that our culture embraced. He might not have been wrong because they are a part of our way of life. The fact that we do drink beer and that we have a casual approach to betting undoubtedly influences some aspects of our nature. I am quite certain that what we see on television, whether it be American, British or European, does affect our culture. I am a very simple fellow. I do not think that merely because I can appreciate a painting, or can do one, I am cultured. I might listen to most beautiful singing by a bird in the bush and not take any enjoyment out of it at all. The culture that I admire, and which I myself try to develop, is that which leads one to be a gentleman at all times. I think that the attainment of gentleness in men and women is a big step towards culture, by whatever name it is described.
There has been a great deal of talk about the impact on Australians of American films. A young boy in South Australia wrote what I thought was a horrible letter to the “ Saturday Evening Post “ describing his reactions to some of the television programmes. I think that the reactions he mentioned were ridiculous. I listened to Senator Hannan read the letter, and I thought as he proceeded that mum and dad must have helped the boy with it. I thought it was very weak.
Is it not strange that as far back in life as we can remember the aspect of violence has been presented to us? It was first presented to us, not during adolescence, but when we were babies, by means of the nursery rhymes. Fancy in modern days any one writing about Little Red Riding Hood in the way presented in the story; about the wolf dressing in the grandmother’s clothes and then waiting in bed to eat Little Red Riding Hood.
– There were two versions of the ending to the story.
– Later, educationists devised a happier ending; the grandmother hid in the cupboard from the wolf. In the unexpurgated version, the grandmother was eaten by the wolf. Then the wolf dressed itself in grandmother’s clothes and waited in bed to eat Little Red Riding Hood when she arrived at the grandmother’s house. What an impact that story would make on the mind of a little child. So also would “ Jack and the Beanstalk “. If I remember aright, Jack stole from the giant the goose that laid the golden eggs, and chopped down the beanstalk when the giant came in pursuit and the giant was killed. I think that Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son was the first juvenile delinquent, when he stole the pig and ran away. When one thinks of Jack being at the top of the beanstalk and stealing the goose that laid the golden egg-
– All giants are wicked.
– Yes. But I do not think that justifies their destruction. Incidentally, we have even eliminated the death penalty in our modern law. Is it not extraordinary that this sort of violence is presented to children from their earliest days? But I do not believe it does the slightest harm. We see little babies playing on the carpet with guns, and almost the first words they learn are, “ Lie down. You’re dead! “ I am quite sure that the violence we see portrayed on television and cinema screens is not harmful.
– It is not harmful to normal minds.
– It is not harmful to the normal mind because it is part of the release - part of the game. The goodies always win and the baddies always lose, and in the overall picture no harm is done. Of course, a person with an unbalanced mind may go off at a tangent if he sees violence portrayed in a television film or in some other way. Trying to protect people against such things is like trying to protect people against alcohol. If one is weak, the weakness will show through, whether it be in the doing of violence or becoming a cat burglar.
We have had an opportunity to discuss what could be a matter of great importance in Australia, particularly with the development of the television industry over the next few years. I should say that a government subsidy in such fields is always welcome. I like Senator Hannan’s suggestions as to how assistance could be provided for the proper development of the Australian film industry. The industry is important in all its aspects. Films, more than any other medium, are able to depict to people overseas our way of life. We must develop in our own country a highly trained, technical industry which will be of tremendous value both culturally and economically. Although I am pleased that Senator Hannan submitted this matter for discussion, I am rather disappointed, as I said in my opening remarks, that he did not ask for the appointment of a select committee or seek a resolution of substance that could be conveyed to the Government.
– The Senate and the nation should be grateful to Senator Hannan for having brought this important problem before them. The debate has been most interesting. The Senate has functioned as I think it was originally intended to function, interest being shown in the subject without the intrusion of party politics. Senator Armstrong’s contribution to the debate, too, was very thoughtful and interesting.
One of the reasons why I have participated in the debate is that I am greatly concerned about the effect that television programmes and imported American wild western films are having on the minds of our children. It is difficult to calculate what that effect is. I have no criticism to offer in respect of American television films for American audiences. Obviously such films must suit American audiences, or they would not be produced. But I do not believe that a programme which suits America is, in the national sense, the best for Australia. The history of Australia is just as colourful and exciting as that of America and should be of more interest to Australians than the canned American western films we are getting to-day.
My objection is that crime and violence in one form or another form the principal theme of the imported product. We must always keep in mind the fact that television programmes have a very potent thoughtmoulding influence. Some honorable senators who have already spoken may disagree with me, but I believe that the programmes have an important influence on our outlook, our habits, our emotions and our interests. Television films can work for evil as well as for good, and I am at a loss to understand why so much evil and so little good is portrayed. The report of the royal commission that was appointed in February, 1953, reads inter alia -
The objectives of all T.V. stations must be from the outset to provide programmes which will have the effect of raising public taste.
Another recommendation reads -
Immediate steps should be taken to encourage the creation of programmes which will set acceptable cultural standards and further important national objectives.
A third recommendation was as follows -
There is an obligation on all T.V. stations to ensure that the best use is made of Australian talent.
I am afraid that those very high ideals have not been obtained.
– A good job is being done with Australian talent. I think the honorable senator should give full marks for that.
– I shall deal with that a little later. The standards set by the royal commission were high, but I do not think we have lived up to them. I have before me a list of the kind of programmes that are shown between 6.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. on the Sydney and Melbourne commercial stations. It includes such programmes as “ Face of a Killer “ and “ Murder Squad “.
– What about programmes like “ The Mickey Mouse Club “?
– That kind of programme is good, but I certainly do not like programmes such as “ Restless Gun “, “Face of a Killer”, “Tombstone Territory” and “Murder Squad”.
– What is wrong with such programmes as “Tombstone Territory “?
– Senator Armstrong said they were running out of bodies. That is what is wrong with that programme - with all its shooting and roaring of horses’ hoofs. It is a shocking programme. There is also the programme entitled “ Cisco Kid “.
– What is wrong with that programme? You are. sub-normal if you do not enjoy those programmes. You may grow up to become a delinquent!
– I shall leave to your imagination whether or not I am subnormal. I think I am perfectly normal in saying that that kind of programme is the wrong kind to be shown when young children are usually looking at television programmes.
– What would be the age of a young child?
– I should say between six and ten years. Perhaps I say that because I have three children in that age group.
– Do they cling around the television set?
– They certainly like television.
– The children at my place do not.
– Well, my children do. Having made that digression, may I say the important aspect is the matter of price. American programmes which cost from 20,000 dollars to 135,000 dollars - I think that was the cost of “The Perry Como Show “ - per episode to produce are being sold in Melbourne and Sydney at dump prices of from £150 to £225 per episode and in the other States at from £60 to £110. American producers recover their costs and make a profit in their home country and then dump the films overseas at any price they can obtain. The films have already paid for themselves. The American producer’s selling figures on the overseas markets have little or no relation to his costs of production. Because of the immense viewing audience in America - 46,000,000 people view the programmes of 566 television stations - the film pays for itself quickly and consequently can be dumped here at a ridiculously low price. The real problem in encouraging a film industry here is the competition from films that are dumped in Australia at ridiculously low prices.
I think it is an accepted fact that the hours between 6.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. cover the greatest number of viewers in Australia. The survey carried out by Hector Crawford shows that between those hours during the week 29th June to 6th July, 1959, there were 64 half-hours of imported programmes and four half-hours of Australian programmes in Melbourne. The position in Sydney during the same period was even worse. There were 67 half-hours of imported programmes and only one half-hour of Australian programme. And the imported films were overwhelmingly of American origin!
We have to ask ourselves some rather searching questions with respect to the effect television has on our economy and on the culture of our nation. Are our children to be Australians or Americans in character? I honestly believe that our children are becoming indoctrinated with the American way of life as depicted on television. I do not believe for a moment that it is the true American way of life, but it is the way which is presented to us on television. During the hours between 6.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. when there are the greatest number of viewers, television in Australia does very little to emphasize an Australian national identity or stimulate pride in our own nation. Nor does it do a great deal towards stimulating our regard for our own cultural ideas and wants.
The questions asked by Senator Hannan yesterday bear repeating. He asked, “ Do the programmes show our typical Australian attitude? Do they show our institutions, habits, customs, dress or manners? Do they offer anything to promote the artistic or creative ability of Australians? “ The answers given yesterday were that they do not. I give the same answer to-day. Does television, as a powerful medium, show us our country’s history and conditions? Does it show our national life and the achievements of our forebears? I do not think it does.
– Do you think it is a function of the television stations to do that? Is it their function to entertain or to educate?
– I think they have an obligation to educate as well as entertain. As I said earlier, television has terrific power to mould outlook, and I do think television stations have an obligation to educate as well as entertain.
– That was mentioned in the report of the royal commission to which you referred earlier.
– That is so.
– It is very easy to do both.
– It is. What we want, and must ultimately have, is our own film-producing industry, an industry to produce Australian programmes. Many Australians have proved in the field of entertainment that their talents compare with those of the nationals of other countries. We have the actors, the musicians, the writers, the singers and the producers, but the films they make cannot compete economically against the films which are dumped in Australia and sold so far below the cost of production. How often do we see our artists compelled to go overseas to obtain employment for their talents! Far too often, when we see figures quoted for the Australian content of a day’s transmission, we fail to realize that this Australian content is made up of news and weather reports, sport talks, interviews, cooking and dressmaking demonstrations, quiz sessions and various programmes of audience participation - all features which do nothing to stimulate, encourage and employ Australian artists. So that my answer to the first part of the senator’s motion asking whether Australian national sentiment and culture are being endangered by the virtual monopoly of foreign films and entertainment screened by Australian television stations is that I believe they are endangered.
The second part of the motion asks whether a sound local film industry, with particular emphasis on documentary and television films, would be in the national interest as providing an outlet for Australian sentiment and culture and for earning international goodwill by distribution abroad. I think there should be a local film industry. Not only would it teach our children our own colourful history but, if the pattern here follows the lines of that of the United States, it would have an effect on out overseas markets.
Senator Hannan quoted a very interesting extract from a publication issued by the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce of the United States, 1927. I think it is worth repeating. It reads -
While the direct returns to the United States from foreign sales of films are of great importance, the indirect benefits accruing to the United States from the exhibition of American films in foreign countries is of still greater importance to the general export trade of the country.
Another interesting extract quoted by him was that taken from a speech by Sir Phillip Cunliffe-Lister in the House of Commons in relation to the Cinematograph Films Bill. It, too, is worth repeating and reads -
In a number of places that I visited during a world tour, where previously British articles were sold exclusively, American articles have taken their place, due entirely to the fact that the people were constantly seeing American films and American styles.
I agree that it does have an effect on export trade.
Australia is particularly fortunate in that it has- natural advantages which encourage my belief that, despite the financial difficulties that would be encountered, a film industry could be established successfully here. The Australian scene is fresh and intriguing to overseas audiences, as has been proved by the strong demand for the loan or purchase of prints of Australian films from the film libraries of Australian overseas offices. The British audience sees Australia as a part of the British Commonwealth - the new home in many instances of friends and relatives who have migrated here. American audiences see Australia as a place where hundreds of thousands of their servicemen stayed for short periods during the last war - and I believe that they remember their stay with affection.
– We would like that to continue.
– Yes. Despite the fact that no place on earth can be considered safe to-day, Australia still appears to be the safest place, the farthest removed from the threat of trouble in Europe. A film industry would show it truthfully as a land of peace, plenty and sunshine. I was not in the chamber last night but upon reading “ Hansard “ this morning I saw that a reference was made to tourism. The impact of films portraying just what Australia is must have a marked effect on encouraging people to come and have a look at the country they have seen portrayed.
Just how assistance can be given to the film industry is debatable. It could be done in a number of ways. I shall mention just a few of them. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, under section 5 of the Broadcasting and Television Act, has power to assist. Alternatively, as I think others have suggested, a charge of 10 per cent, on the gross revenue of commercial stations could be devoted to a special fund to help subsidize the Australian film industry.
– Have you the section showing the powers of the board?
– I cannot find it at the moment; I shall come back to it. A third method of assisting the industry was suggested by Neil Beggs in a report that he compiled. He stated -
Cecil Holmes has suggested that the Commonwealth Government should set a quota of IS per cent. Australian films; which, he said, would give them twenty to thirty programmes a year. He also suggests that the duty on imported film stock and equipment could be cut, and a quota of SO per cent, of Australian material, live or filmed, could be aimed at on television. Australia is almost unique among the advanced nations for its lack of substantial protection for the native film industry.
That point was canvassed fairly thoroughly yesterday by Senator Hannan. Mr. Beggs continued - “Jedda” and “Walk into Paradise”, Holmes points out, received wide release in London. Furthermore, since they rated as British films they had more protection there than in Australia.
That is a most interesting point. He went on -
Another point, not mentioned by Holmes in his article, is that there is more extensive overseas ownership and control of cinemas in Australia than in almost any other country. . . . Australians were rated before T.V. with the highest per capita film attendance in the world. . . .
Already, some excellent work has been done in this country. The producers and cast of that excellent production, the “ Caine “ mutiny court-room scene, are to be congratulated on it. I understand that it was produced by the new video tape method. It was a credit to all concerned. The court-room scene, in my opinion, was far better than the scene in the original film produced in America. We are indebted to Senator Hannan for bringing this matter before the Senate.
.- I. commend Senator Hannan for bringing forward this motion and giving the Senate an opportunity to discuss its various features. The earnestness shown by the senators who have participated in the debate is sufficient reward for him. The motion is in four sections. In the first section the expressions “ national sentiment “ and “ culture “ are mentioned. I have wondered why some of those who have taken part in the debate have not dealt particularly with sentiment and culture. It is very easy for any speaker to have the two closely associated. I felt it necessary, in the circumstances, to consult the Oxford dictionary and satisfy myself, not only as to what sentiment actually is, but also as to what national sentiment is. You will forgive me, Mr. President, if I say that I am still a bit vague about Ihe meaning of sentiment.
– 1 will buy it. What is it?
– I shall read it.
– What is the reference?
– The Oxford dictionary. T appreciate that that is the only dictionary that should be quoted in the Senate. Sentiment is denned in this way -
A thought occasioned by feeling; opinion;, judgment; sensibility; feeling; a thought expressed in words; a maxim; a toast; emotion; an exhibition of feeling, as in literature or art; the second division of the moral faculties.
A sentimentalist is defined as one who regards sentiment as more important than reason. When we examine that definition, we realize that it is correct. Everywhere we find people who support certain games, institutions or political parties from sentiment, and sentiment alone, and who do not exercise any judgment. 1 come from Queensland and frequently I advocate the benefits arising from the game of Rugby League football. When I do so, immediately 1 am told by a Victorian listener that that is not a game of football at all, and that it is necessary to go to Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia or Western Australia to see a real game of football. When 1 try to ascertain how such people exercise their judgment on the matter and when I ask ^whether they have actually played Rugby League football or witnessed a game, they say, “ No, I would not be bothered. It is not a game at all.” They support one game out of sentiment, not as a result of any exercise of judgment.
Then we come to culture. I am embarking upon this explanation of words because, although I listened to the debate attentively, I was not clear what honorable senators meant when they spoke about culture and sentiment. Because these are important words in the first part of the motion, it is, I think, essential that all senators commence on common ground - that they understand the meaning of the two words. They can then express their different thoughts on the question at issue.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had referred to the use of the words “ Australian national sentiment “ in Senator Hannan’s motion and had submitted a definition of the word “ sentiment “. How do we come to be sentimental about anything of an Australian nature? Does it not come about through our early life in our homes, by getting to know the streets, the roads, the rivers, the forests and the fields? In fact, from everything that we see, from our foods and our transport facilities, from our knowledge of those things and by associating with our own people, does, there not arise a sentiment which is very hard to understand and to define to the satisfaction of everybody? Sentiment appears to me to have a very ephemeral quality, but when you are dealing with national sentiment, Mr. President, you are on different ground altogether. I define national sentiment as one’s belief in the people of Australia, as they are at the present time, and in the future of the Australian people. National sentiment must include one’s belief in Australia as it is at the moment and one’s faith in the future of Australia, notwithstanding the Budget that was introduced earlier in the week.
I come now to the next matter referred to in the first part of the motion, which relates to the culture of the Australian people. Again, we are not clear as to what is meant by the culture of the Australian people. 1 shall rely for my definition on the dictionary which supplied me with the definition of sentiment that I have already given. The dictionary defines “ culture “ as “ education, training, development of mental and bodily faculties and qualities; the result of mental training; refinement of taste; keenness and balance of intellect and judgment “. We have to look at this motion in the light of those definitions, because the question that we are asked is whether Australian sentiment and culture are being endangered by the virtual monopoly of foreign films and entertainment screened by Australian theatres and television stations.
Senator Hannan’s motion assumes certain facts, one being that there is a virtual monopoly of foreign films and entertainment screened by Australian theatres and television stations. I have taken the trouble to examine that proposition for myself and have found that approximately 50 per cent, of the shareholding interests in theatres in the Commonwealth is held by people from overseas, not by Australians, and that the pictures which are screened in Australian theatres and by television stations are owned by overseas interests. That being so, we can get down to the fundamental question, which is whether Australian national sentiment and culture are being endangered by the virtual monopoly of foreign films and entertainment screened by Australian theatres and television stations.
Probably . more than 50 per .cent, of the films screened in Australian theatres and by television stations come from overseas. I am one who has sufficient confidence in the Australian sentiment and culture to. believe that all the foreign films screened in our theatres and by our television stations will not impair, to any great extent, the strength of the Australian national sentiment I honestly believe that to be so. We see children going into the theatres and we see them coming out. To them, the film is only a form of entertainment. No matter how young they are they know that whatever they see in the theatre is exaggerated and does not claim to be a truthful record of anything that has happened. We all have seen children playing their little games. We know that a little girl playing with her doll often has a game of gammon and pretends that she is the mother. She may even give her doll a beating. I am speaking now of the normal child who is old enough to go to a picture theatre. Such a child knows that everything is exaggerated, and appreciates that the film is only a bit of fun for his benefit. But Australian national sentiment and culture could be endangered. As to whether that is happening at the present moment I really am not in a position to express a firm opinion. It is very rarely indeed that I go to a picture show. Therefore, I do not know the kind of picture that is being screened at the present time. We heard this morning about the so-called western pictures, which are a form of entertainment for some people who gain enjoyment from watching them. I would not deny any one the opportunity to derive entertainment from such films.
The second part of Senator Hannan’s motion asks that consideration be given to the following matter: -
Whether a sound local film industry, with particular emphasis on documentary and television films, would be in the national interest. . . .
I should prefer that part of the motion to end at that point, but it does not do so. Instead, it continues - as providing an outlet for Australian sentiment and culture and for earning international goodwill by distribution abroad.
I hold the opinion that a sound local film industry would be in the national interest, for various reasons which it is not necessary for me to enumerate. Probably, it would be to the benefit of the Commonwealth if our films, once made, were exhibited in other countries. I sometimes go to the pictures shown in Parliament House and I see films of other countries which interest me, particularly those of the United Kingdom. I have no doubt that there are many countries, with much the same kind of culture as ours, which would be pleased to have Australian-made documentary and television films.
In the third part of the motion, Senator Hannan has asked -
In existing circumstances, is it practicable to place the Australian film industry on a sound footing by governmental financial or administrative assistance and, if so, what is the best method of providing such financial or administrative aid. 1 have here a document which shows the Commonwealth’s shareholding interests in certain undertakings at the present time. Under the heading “ Commonwealth-owned shares in companies”, it discloses that the Commonwealth has shares of a nominal value of £2,000,000 Australian in British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited (in Liquidation), which cost the Commonwealth £2,000,000 in Australian currency. The nominal value of the Commonwealth shares in Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. is £13,700,000, the cost of which was £14,047,000. In International Aeradio Limited the nominal value of the Commonwealth’s shares is £126, and those shares cost £126. In Qantas Wentworth Holdings Limited, the nominal value of the Commonwealth’s share-holding interest is £160,000, and the shares cost £160,000. The nominal value of the shares held by the Commonwealth in Aeronautical Radio of Siam Limited is £10,551, and the cost was £8,770. In Fiji Airways Limited, the nominal value of the Commonwealth’s shareholding interest is £53,675, and the shares cost a similar amount. The nominal value of the Commonwealth’s share-holding in Malayan Airways Limited is £374,000, and the shares cost the same amount. In Tasman Empire Airways Limited we have a shareholding interest amounting to £1,014,000, and those shares cost £995,000. In the British Commonwealth International Newsfilm Agency Limited we hold an interest amounting to £20,000, in Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Limited an interest amounting to £750,000, and in the Southern Trawling Company Limited an interest amounting to £150,000. Under control of the Joint Coal Board is Coal Mines Insurance Proprietary Limited, in which the Commonwealth holds shares of a nominal value of £148,000. I have given that information to indicate to the Senate the companies in which the Commonwealth has a share-holding interest at the present time.
I turn now to the first of the questions which we are asked to answer. It is -
In existing circumstances, is it practicable to place the Australian film industry on a sound footing by governmental financial or administrative assistance and, if so, what is the best method of providing such financial or administrative aid?
In the existing circumstances, I would say that it is practicable to place the Australian film industry on a sound footing by governmental assistance. That is unquestionable. The Government had sufficient funds to enable it to invest in the companies to which I referred a while ago. It had to take a risk in each of those cases. When a government invests money in a company, it takes a risk that is very often difficult to calculate. If a private company established a film industry here with governmental assistance, I have not the slightest doubt that that industry would be a sound economic proposition. There would be a conflict between foreign interests and Australian interests, but I have sufficient confidence in the Australian people to know that they would lean towards the local product. They favour Australian shows and Australian pictures. I repeat, Mr. President, that it is practicable for the film industry to be placed on a sound footing at the present time.
What is the best method of providing such financial and administrative aid? I would say the finance should be provided from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. There is no need to raise a special loan for this purpose. If a company producing films at the present time were short of funds, I would be strongly in favour of the Commonwealth Government going to its assistance with funds and being allotted a suitable number of shares. This is still a young country, with a population of only 10,000,000 people. There is a future for Australia and for an Australian film industry. Any one who has witnessed television shows appreciates that television is almost the last word in entertainment. It can be conveniently watched, at convenient hours of the day. The demand for films will increase as time goes on, particularly the demand foi films suitable for showing on television.
When we see now Australian-made motor cars being driven on the roads, we recall the days when there were no Australianmade cars on our roads. If we trace the history of the Australianmanufactured car, we find that the Commonwealth assisted that industry as much as it possibly could. I am not one of those who say that because that industry is privately owned to-day, that is a disadvantage to the Commonwealth. 1 know that many Australians earn a living manufacturing the Australian car that is sold. If we did not have an Australian-manufactured, car, we would have to import more cars from other countries and so would be providing employment for people in those countries. That state of affairs existed for far too long. Similarly, we have reached the time when a positive step should be taken to establish a film industry in Australia, and I am wholeheartedly in favour of that industry being established as early as possible.
The fourth question is -
What is the Australian potential for pictures or visual entertainment or instruction, filmed or recorded by predominantly television technique such as video-tape?
No one can say that we lack talented people suitable for acting in live shows or actors who could be employed to make films. Recently we sent a team of athletes to the Olympic Games in Rome, and no one can say that they are inferior in any way to the athletes from other countries who will attend there. Australia has the necessary artistic talent, but it has to be cultivated so that it can be used. There is not the slightest doubt that we can provide the technicians also. We have proved that in other spheres and we could prove it in this industry, if it were established in Australia.
Australian scenery is comparable with that of California or of any other country. As a matter of fact our scenery probably surpasses that of many other countries. I hold the opinion that we should have our own film-producing industry here in the Commonwealth. If we were to provide the Australian people with films produced in Australia, they would be sympathetic towards these films, even if they were not as good as those imported from other countries. They would know that they were looking at something that had been created here and they would be prepared to assist in every way the manufacture and exhibition of those films.
I answer the four questions posed by Senator Hannan in the affirmative. In relation to his fourth question I say that without doubt our potential for the production of visual entertainment is unlimited. Senator Hannan has rendered a service to Australia in bringing forward his motion and providing an opportunity for us to take part in this discussion.
– At the outset I should like to say that I am very pleased to have the opportunity of taking part in this debate. I believe that the subject under discussion is of the utmost importance to all of us. I commend Senator Hannan for the tremendous amount of research that he has done on this subject and the excellent way in which he put forward his case. I agree with almost everything that he said but in one or two aspects I propose to differ from him. I hope to deal with those aspects during the course of my remarks.
I believe, as Senator Hannan believes, that the film industry can play a tremendous part in the development of a national culture. I believe that it has the power to broaden horizons and to increase our knowledge. The film industry is therefore a most interesting and important topic for discussion. I think most of us are of the opinion that foreign films being shown in this country do not endanger our national sentiment and culture. Senator Branson, like Senator Hannan, has some worries on that point. He feels that young children’s minds and thoughts will be directed along wrong channels by watching American films, particularly those dealing with crime. All I can say to Senator Branson is that if he waits until his children are a little older his fears will diminish. I have watched my children go through the stage of reading “ Comic Cuts “ when their language was coloured by the type of material contained therein. As they grew older they started to watch American films and their language became coloured by American cliches and slang. Now that they are university students they are dinkum Aussies. I agree that our children do pick up the worst in language fashions but eventually they outgrow them and, all in all, I do not think that we have much to fear in this regard.
– You do not hear too many of them speaking American slang.
– Not as they grow older. They go through that phase in early life when they are wrapped up in American adventure stories. It is not the diet but the capacity of the individual to digest and to vary his diet which will eventually form and mould his sentiment. I do not propose to go to the lengths that Senator Benn went in dealing with Australian sentiment. I know what he meant but I think that sentiment is not so much an emotion as a feeling that grows up with one about one’s country. I do not think that the entertainment we have alters our feeling of pride in our country. In other words, I do not think that our Australian sentiment is a futile thing which is affected by contact with other countries. It is a proud, tough and wholesome thing and 1 am sure that it will flourish and be strengthened by contacts from oversea*. I believe that the influx of migrants from European countries into Australia will lead to a deepening and a strengthening of our national sentiment.
I think it is important to examine whether our film and television programmes could include a greater Australian content. A greater Australian content would be desirable but this is something that we cannot hurry. I believe that Australians appreciate good Australian programmes and occasionally they get them. When they get them they ask for more. I do not think that the public wants Australian programmes just because they are Australian. It wants good programmes and I believe that we have the potential in this country to increase greatly the number of programmes having an Australian content and to make them good programmes.
Senator Hannan in his second question asked, whether there is a sound local film industry in Australia. I think we must go a little deeper into this matter than he did. Obviously it would be advisable to have a sound local film industry, but we must examine more closely what we mean by “ sound local film industry “. The word “ sound “ is the important word. Senator
Hannan did not refer to a large industry or a spectacular industry or even to a feature film industry. He referred merely to a sound local industry. I believe that we have a sound local industry. I think Senator Armstrong developed that point well. We have a number of companies here that are making films - not feature films but advertising films or documentaries. I believe that the industry will grow as television expands. I have not noticed any great clamour on the part of this industry for government assistance. I noticed with interest that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, in its report, said -
The question of some form of financial or other assistance to the Australian film industry has also been raised … It appears likely, however, that the very considerable developments in television services which are now taking place or being planned in metropolitan and country and provincial areas hold out prospects of a greatly extended market which should put Australian programmes on a better financial basis.
I agree with that statement and it is gratifying to see the board examining ways and means of assisting the industry. The experts in the field can make those examinations and then we in the Senate can look at their suggestions.
I believe that we have a sound local film industry. However, I think Senator Hannan was thinking of a feature film industry. On this point I disagree with him because I do not think the time is right for the taxpayers to be asked to subsidize a feature film industry in Australia. Senator Hannan cited India and Japan as two countries that have flourishing and large feature film industries. But there are good reasons why those countries can produce feature films. The masses in those countries are now emerging culturally. Those countries are at the stage that Australia had reached when she had a flourishing film industry. Their people, particularly the people from the villages, are just beginning to know what entertainment means and, quite rightly, they look to feature films. In India I have seen the villagers flocking to the cinemas. It is important to remember that the films shown in India, for example, are produced in the local languages of the areas in which they are shown. For example, the language used in a film shown in a particular area would be Hindi. Obviously those countries must produce their own films. They cannot obtain on the world’s markets films using their own language. India must produce her own films and it is heartening to see that she is able to do so, thus providing much-needed entertainment for her people. The people of India, in many cases do not even have radio in their villages. They certainly have not got television.
– Many American films are dubbed in Japanese.
– Some are, but not enough. When you consider there are 400,000,000 people in India, it is obvious that they must have an industry of their own. When they come to such a stage of development as we have in Australia where we have a flourishing television industry, and where our people are not looking so much to the feature film for their full entertainment, their industry may diminish a little as ours has done. I think we need to examine countries which have feature film industries to see just why they have them, or look perhaps to others and ask why they have not got a feature film industry. Australia has not a feature film industry, nor has New Zealand or Canada. Why have those countries not a feature film industry? I think it is the price we have to pay for being English-speaking countries. America has cornered the market. England, I fear, is losing its hold on the feature film industry. Her industry is in a decline because America is producing excellent films. Quite obviously it is an economic proposition for Australia and certain other countries to purchase them from America. I think it is impracticable and I think it is not sound to bolster the feature film industry at a time like this when we can purchase all the films that we require fairly- inexpensively. I believe that anybody could produce feature films if he were given the money to do so. I daresay any industry would like the Government to give it money, because it could undertake greater production. I maintain that it would not be sound at present to bolster the feature film industry in Australia.
As I say, anybody could produce these films, but he would have to get them on the screens of the world. That brings up another problem. The bolstering of the production of feature films is not sufficient. Tied up inseparably with it go distribution and exhibition- -the , other related industries.
There again, the Americans can beat anybody in this field, because they have their own distribution and exhibition set-up. When the great film magnate, J. Arthur Rank, bought up a chain of theatres in England, he did for a while have great success in exhibiting his own films in those theatres. Now, even he is having to face the facts of life; that is to say, the good old days of feature films have changed. He is facing up to the changed conditions in the most practicable way. Senator Armstrong has stressed what the change is, that is, the mammoth film. When M.G.M. spends 12,000,000 dollars on a production and Fox Films is to spend from 12,000,000 to 15,000,000 dollars on another production, we should realize that’ quite obviously Australia cannot compete with an industry of that size. Our industry is small, but it is sound.
– Would not some of the producers of feature films also produce smaller films for television?
– As far as I know, the two do not go together.
– On numerous occasions small television films have been made by the big motion picture corporation.
– I think that the serials could be coped with, but my point is that the Australian industry is sound in this respect. It knows what it needs for television and I believe it will grow with the television industry. I am trying to establish the point that I do not think it is sound at present to ask the Australian taxpayers to support a large feature film industry when we can get our requirements much more economically.
– I have not suggested that.
– Perhaps I misunderstood the honorable senator. Senator Hannan says that he has not suggested that.
– That is so.
– I think there are some who feel that we should bolster the feature film industry. I believe that is not quite sensible at the present time.
In the last part of the second section of his motion, Senator Hannan suggests that we could earn international goodwill by so doing. I believe a great deal of international goodwill is being earned through films. 1 think the honorable senator proved that by the things he said.
I believe also that a feature film industry is not the industry which earns international goodwill. The very fact that Senator Hannan quoted a letter by a South Australian boy to the “ Saturday Evening Post “ giving certain impressions he had gained from films he has seen about America, is quite typical. I think that feature films produced in Australia would create exactly the same wrong impression of this country outside Australia. In fact, we have had an example of it here. Some honorable senators, in referring to the film, “ On the Beach “, have stated that they were disgusted that it portrayed the great city of Melbourne in a wrong light. I think they missed the point. The producer tried to show, by fiction or fantasy, what would happen in the world if atomic bombs were exploded. Gradually populations perished. All activity came to a standstill. Oil supplies and materials could not be brought here from other countries. The picture portrayed Australia as being the last country in which life had not become extinct, and having to exist without these supplies of oil it returned to horse-drawn vehicles and bicycles. The picture portrayed Melbourne not as it is but a Melbourne of fantasy. The feature film producers look for successful angles - for something which will attract people into the cinema. With cinemas closing, it is obvious that stories will have to be more fantastic and sensational if they are to attract people back to the theatres. Feature films are produced, not for national publicity, but rather for economic reasons. The national publicity side of things must be catered for by governments. I believe that is being done.
Coming to the second part of Senator Hannan’s motion, I say that we have a sound local industry, and if it continues to be sound it will remain on its own feet and grow with the television industry. I think that this industry has acted wisely in placing the matter in the hands of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, an expert body, to examine. When the board submits its recommendations, I think the Senate might have a look at the matter again.
The value of this debate is that it has informed us on the subject and aroused our interest in the industry, and it certainly will be of great value when any recommendations come forward. Coming to the third part of the motion, which deals with what the Government might do by way of financial or administrative assistance, I think we have to acknowledge the truth of the matter and admit, that no government, by financial or administrative assistance alone, can put an industry on a sound footing. Senator Hannan did mention the Eadie plan h England. We all might well look at what has happened to the feature film industry in the United Kingdom. I think it is a very good example. It was a most flourishing industry - more flourishing, I believe, than we had in our earlier days - but it stagnated in war-time and in the same period the American industry got going in a big way. After the war the industry appealed to the British Government to help it to rehabilitate itself, not to bolster it indefinitely. Various ways in which the industry might be helped were suggested. One was that there should be a quota for English films. Quite a number of honorable senators have suggested the adoption of some sort of a quota for Australian films. I think there is a danger in doing so. It is the same danger as was experienced in England when a quota was introduced. What happened was that so-called “ quota quickies “ were produced. The industry turned out any old rubbish because it knew that the exhibitors had to accept a certain number of its films in accordance with the quota. The industry did not care whether they were of good or bad quality. Anything at all was turned out. It would be disastrous if we imposed such a quota in respect of Australian drama. I believe that Australian producers are beginning to produce very good drama, but that the imposition of a quota at this stage would be disastrous. We would find rubbish being turned out simply because it had to be accepted by the television producers.
– There is still a quota in England.
– I think one could go a little further in relation to the situation in England and see what happened under the Eadie plan in which it was suggested that there should be a film finance corporation. I think that is in line with what Senator Hannan has suggested. That corporation was set up and allowed a quota of £8,000,000, and was to run for an experimental period of ten years. I am not quite sure of my figures on this point, but 1 believe it has now run for seven or eight years. Already it has lost £8,000,000, and it is interesting to note that only the successful productions were given runs by the corporation.
– It made a profit of £2,000,000 last year.
– The fact remains that it has lost a great deal on their productions. To adopt that approach does not seem to me to be quite the answer to the problem. When I was in England a few months ago it seemed to me that the industry was slipping back rather than becoming more buoyant. I may be wrong, but that was the impression I gained. I believe that the artransa pattern is one that might well be adopted. I think that a good production company in this country might well be taken over by the television producers. Perhaps what has happened is the fault of our system.
It is interesting to note what the United Kingdom is doing. What is being done there may have some merit, and it is for that reason that I put it forward. The British Government owns all television stations but leases certain of them to the commercial companies. They in turn buy programmes from film production units and screen them. The sponsor does not buy the programme; he has no say in what programme will accompany his advertisement. He buys a spot of time and his advertisement is put on at that time. 1 repeat that he has no say in what programme shall accompany his advertisement. 1 think that perhaps that is a better scheme; certainly it is worth examining.
– Is it right to say that the sponsor has no say in the programme that is screened?
– He buys the time for his advertisement, not the programme. He does not sponsor the programme.
– He has no choice?
– That is the information that I obtained from the independent television authority in England. That is the way it was explained to me. I again say that a great deal of international goodwill can be won through films.
That leads me to the third point- what the Government can do in this respect. This Government is doing a great deal on this score. I think we all agree that the Commonwealth Film Unit is producing excellent documentaries. Senator Tangney said she would like to know how many of those films were being shown. Admittedly not very many are being shown in America, because the American industry has a complete tie-up. But it was stated yesterday that some of our documentaries had been shown successfully in America to some 20,000,000 viewers. Approximately 150 of our programmes have been shown in England, and at present more than 50 are being shown there. That fact indicates that our documentary films are of world standard and are acceptable throughout the Englishspeaking countries.
I should like to see the Commonwealth Film Unit concentrate on the childrens’ film section. I was very distressed, when moving about the world, to note that most countries were producing films for children but that Australia was not. Of course, it is not a paying field; there is a very limited market for children’s films. For that reason, it is not practical to expect the feature film industry of any country to produce films for children. Arthur Rank tried to do it. He set up in Great Britain the Children’s Film Foundation. He gathered together all the feature film producers and said to them, “ Let us subscribe to this fund and produce films for children “. But they are finding it rather too difficult to continue. For that reason, I think it is something that the Australian Government should do. It is very galling to people who are interested in getting good programmes for children not to be able to do so.
Next year a film festival will be held in India. Australia has been invited to submit a programme, but we have had to go to Great Britain and ask whether we could borrow children’s films and show them as belonging to the Australian type of programming. T should like to see the Commonwealth Film Unit allocate at least a small sum this year to the production of a children’s film as an experiment. Of course, a great deal of research is needed. Much research into this matter has been conducted overseas. We cannot screen any sloppy production for our children; they want the best. They want good actors. They want children’s acting, and it is not easy to train children to be good actors. Children want the best of techniques, and they want good, adventurous, wholesome stories. All those things call for specialist treatment, and I believe the only way in which it can be obtained is to ask the Commonwealth Film Unit to undertake the task.
If the unit were to co-operate with the Australian Council for Children’s Films and Television, it would get a great deal of assistance. I should like to see a representative of that body, which is voluntarily doing a tremendous lot of work to bolster the standard of children’s films and get further children’s productions, appointed to the Australian National Film Board to advise and help members of the board. Trie Australian Council for Children’s Films and Television at present is running a competition throughout Australia in an effort to obtain good scripts for a film to be pro.d ,i:ed by an Australian company. I hope it will be able to get some good scripts. Australia lacks good specialized script writers. The Children’s Film Foundation which the Arthur Rank organization started in England has frequently offered to co-operate with a producer to assure the production of a good children’s film. It has approached the Commonwealth Film Unit asking it to co-operate, but always the answer has been, “ We are very sorry, but our resources do not allow us to do it”. I hope that this suggestion, which I believe to be quite constructive, will be passed on to the Government and that the unit will be asked to allocate for this year at least a small sum to inaugurate such a project in cooperation with the Children’s Film Foundation overseas. If that were a success, I would hope that provision would be made in the next Budget for the allocation of still more funds to the Commonwealth Film Unit to produce children’s films.
I believe there is a great potential in this industry and that the time has come for governments to assume responsibility for that part of the film industry which is uneco nomic for private enterprise. I have explained which sections I believe are uneconomic. I hope that we shall be able to expand the Commonwealth Film Unit to a size comparable with that of the Canadian unit. A visit to the studios of the Canadian Film Unit is most exciting. It has a vast area of buildings, several studios for production and viewing, and every modern scientific piece of apparatus for the production of good films. I think we would do well to enlarge our own unit and move in the same direction. It is very heartening to note that next year the Australian unit will have its own studio. It seems incredible that the Australian unit has been able to produce films of the standard of those which have been produced without the aid of an efficient studio. The new studio that is to be opened at Chatswood will be of great advantage to the unit. That is a move in the right direction, and if we keep the pattern of the Canadian unit before us we will have something to work and strive for. I should like to see the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is examining ways of assisting the Australian film industry, continue with its good work and at the same time perhaps co-operate with the Australian National Film Board in order to ascertain how best it can help the Commonwealth Film Unit, thus keeping in touch with the two branches of the industry. At the same time, I should like to see with the film unit a representative from the Australian Council for Children’s Films so that all those who have reason to watch standards can work together and submit to us recommendations that we may study thoroughly and in that way bolster this very valuable industry.
.- It is only natural that I should rise with some degree of hesitancy after hearing the speeches of the philosophers, psychologists and business people interested in television. The usual course adopted by a speaker here is to deal at the outset with what previous speakers have said. During the year I have been a member of this chamber, Senator Buttfield has shown extraordinary interest in the moulding of the minds of children and the status of women, but this afternoon she adopted what seemed to me to be an extraordinary attitude. This is the attitude which indicates disunity between honorable senators opposite, a disunity which is concealed so successfully by the anti-Labour press. This afternoon, she has disagreed almost entirely with Senator Hannan, to whom all credit is due for submitting the motion under discussion.
Let me deal now with Senator Buttfield’s remarks. I pay tribute to her for the concluding part of her speech. That part of her speech was extremely informative and more consistent with the extraordinary mind that she really does possess. But I think the first part of her speech conflicted with her real beliefs concerning the moulding of the juvenile mind. She emphasized feature films repeatedly. I do not think Senator Hannan mentions feature films in his motion. He referred to them in passing in the course of his speech, just as any one would refer to matters coming within the ambit of film production, but he did not anywhere emphasize the production of Australian feature films.
Senator Buttfield suggested that we accept the guidance of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. As elected representatives of the people, do not honorable senators feel that we should determine policy, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should follow the policy laid down by us rather than that the commission should determine the attitude we should adopt and the policy we should espouse? Surely the Government must accept responsibility, when a motion like this is submitted by a sincere and capable man Surely the Government should determine the policy that should be followed by the authorities appointed by it!
Senator Buttfield says this is not the time to bolster the film industry. Frankly, I think that when she spoke of the film industry in that connexion she was referring to the colossal, stupendous, gigantic features so dearly beloved of the movie world of America. I think every one who heard her will agree that is what she had in mind. I feel that most of her speech would be consistent with the bearing of a torch for the American movie interests rather than the espousal of the development of the rugged individualism portrayed in Australian films - the individualism of which we have boasted over the years, and which has brought such credit to Australia since its foundation.
Senator Buttfield also said that no government aid can place an industry on a sound footing. I was interested to note that she did not say financial aid. There are many ways of assisting an industry other than by the mere passing over of pounds, shillings and pence. There are more ways of killing a cat than by hanging it by its tail and letting it die of exhaustion.
Let me quote a few industries that have benefited from government aid in one form or another. I remind the Senate of a motor manufacturing firm named General Motors-Holden’s Limited. I remind honorable senators of the Ansett-A.N.A. airline which obtained a loan of £5,000,000 backed by Government guarantee. I also mention Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Commonwealth’s interest in which was sold out by the anti-Labour forces, the anti-people’s government of this country. I also mention the Nor’-West Whaling Company and the Commonwealth’s New Guinea timber undertaking. Mount Isa Mines Limited received great assistance from the Labour Government of Queensland. When in the doldrums, Mount Isa Mines obtained a government guaranteed loan of £500,000 and has enjoyed concessional freights on the railways for nearly twenty years. Without that aid, Mount Isa Mines would have closed down, and would not have been working to-day. Incidentally, that mine is in operation now only because of the discovery of a copper deposit. Zinc and lead are not responsible for its continuing in operation. Furthermore, that copper deposit was not discovered until some time during the war. Do not let us speak in terms of how negligible government assistance is in these matters.
Senator Buttfield quarrels with the imposition of quotas. Surely she will admit that we have competent officers who are capable of setting a quota standard. I do not think for a moment that Senator Hannan had it in mind that we should be prepared to sponsor the portrayal of rubbish before the men, women and children of this nation. But I do feel that we have heard conflicting views from the Government side. As I have said, we have heard from the philosophers and the psychologists. We have also heard from people who have financial interests, and in saying that I do not speak in any derogatory manner of those people. Most of us have a certain amount of vested interest. We 60 senators have a measure of vested interest in the institution in which we now sit, and I think that most of those who are about to face an election have a particular vested interest in it.
We should extend to Senator Hannan all due credit for bringing this motion before the Senate. After analysing his motion, 1 must say in all frankness and fairness that I feel it is ridiculously indefinite. I consider that one of the senior members of the Government had a clear responsibility to advise Senator Hannan in this matter. Although he is not as new to the Senate as I am, Senator Hannan is a comparatively new member of the chamber and a senior member of the Government should have advised him to frame his motion in more definite terms so that real aid may be rendered to the particular phase of Australian life which he desires to serve. I repeat that the senior members of the Government parties are absolutely remiss in not assisting a junior member of the Government in that way. In no way does the motion propose anything definite. Perhaps the first part does contain something definite, but the rest of it is indefinite; and in saying that I do not wish in any way to take credit from him for putting it before us. There are one or two features of the motion with which I should like to deal.
Some honorable senators on this side and some on the Government side have suggested that character is moulded entirely by environment.
– Is that right?
– I should say that it is not right and, if given time, I shall deal with that subject in my own inimitable way. People think in terms of genetics, too. Again, we are in no small measure victims of hereditary, as Senator Mattner should realize, for he, in his own way, bases his breeding of stock on hereditary.
– Then you must be different from all the blood stock breeders of Australia, England, America and elsewhere. But, irrespective of creation, there is no small amount of the animal in our make-up. We are the victims of our parents and our ancestors together with the moulding that developed through circumstances of environment. But I do not deny our responsibility as elders to seek to ensure the right moulding of our children.
That thought reminds me, if I may digress for a moment, that when I was in general practice I was instrumental - not in a paternal way - in bringing twins into the world. When those twins were three or four years old, one of them, the girl, was a lovely little creature with an angelic face and fair, curly hair. The other, her brother, had the face of Satan and tousled hair. Whenever they played games, it was always the girl who picked up the pistol and said, “ You are dead “. It was a case of “ Annie, get my gun “. Somebody then said to me, “ Well, doctor, she must have been handed a pistol as a rattle when she was a baby “. As Senator Armstrong said, children do play games of violence, not meaning to perpetrate acts of violence in their future life.
I am not denying the desirability of fashioning circumstances to mould character, if we can do so. I am not denying the responsibility of those who exhibit films of violence, because only recently in Brisbane a bank employee of sixteen or seventeen years of age, appearing on the surface to be a desirable type of lad, wrote a letter menacing a woman and demanding money. When charged, he did not tell a lie. He said he had seen a similar performance on the television screen. Whether or not that was, as Senator Armstrong said, the triggerpoint, does not matter. Who are you or who am I to deny that if that lad had got over the dangers of adolescence he might have negotiated the ways of life successfully, decently, morally and righteously?
The history of films in Australia has had an unfortunate sequence. We have had good producers, such as Ken Hall and Charles Chauvel. American producers have come here. I think the first of these brought out a not unattractive lass named Helen Twelvetrees, who appeared in a picture called “ Thoroughbred “. The picturegoers who are present remember the name. I did not remember it, but they have plenty of time to spare. The end result that I remember was not the success of the picture, but the recording of her kissing the Lord Mayor of Sydney and the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. Then we have had visits from Anne Baxter and Ava Gardner. They are not extraordinarily talented, but although I did not look at them, I am told that they are not unattractive in any man’s eyes.
Now that we boast that we are a nation, and are to be numbered amongst the major trading nations of the world, we have a responsibility to discharge our duty to the most modern form of communication - that is, television. Through financial necessity, this is becoming a favorite form of family entertainment. We in this Parliament should not be guided only by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. We should accept our responsibility to the families of Australia. The necessary decisions should be made here and not merely on the basis of what is contained in a report. If we want information or advice from experts, we should ask for it, but we should not necessarily do what the experts suggest. Too often do we entrust our responsibility to bureaucrats. We see it occurring in the other place at the present time.
What is culture, whether it starts with a “ c “ or a “ k “? As I said previously, we are Australians with a rugged individualism, and whether or not we blend our culture with the genteel culture of the other world is for us to decide. I am not denying the desirability of that at all. I think it is desirable. All credit should be given to Adelaide, the capital of Senator Hannaford’s State, which only last year pioneered a festival of arts, which was extraordinarily successful. There were exhibitions of paintings by Hans Heysen and Turner, which were typically Australian. There were actors producing plays and declaiming Shakespeare. The only factor that vitiated the success of that festival of arts which was a pioneering effort in Australia and parallel with what occurs at Cannes, Bayreutz and other towns in Europe and other parts of the world, was the interference of the South Australian anti-Labour Government, which had no real sense of what the citizens of Adelaide were attempting to do.
– We shall repeat it, just the same.
– I hope that you repeat it next year, and I hope that it will be a great success, because you deserve great credit for this pioneering effort, which is contributing to the cultural life of Australia, not necessarily something new but something additional.
We have spoken about American films. Some have defended them and some have denied their right to come into the Australian way of life. We know that some extraordinarily good films are made in America, but there are also some particularly bad ones. In them, we see the glorification of lust, and a tribute paid to murder. There is an appeal to nepotism, bribery and corruption, the glamour of luxury, the charm of mistressing, and so on. Very often those are the films exhibited to the young and not so young in Australia. So do not let us bear a torch all the time for the American movie industry.
What are the types of films that we might espouse in Australia? I am not suggesting that the Government spend tens or hundreds of millions of pounds in developing this industry. After all, even to-day, the American (movie industry, with its gigantic, stupendous and colossal approach, is in the doldrums, not knowing what sail to raise or what way to steer, but hoping that it can move into the television field - and, incidentally, the Australian television field - with twenty-year-old briefs and other movies.
We should face our responsibility in that field and produce films which will be of real interest. We can do something substantial in the way of documentary and feature films. After all, our scenery is full of fascinating contrasts. We have the appeal of the mountains and snow of Tasmania and Victoria; we have the Jenolan Caves, the charming haze of the Blue Mountains, and other appealing features of New South Wales; we have the magnificent sunsets of central and northern Australia, which are unexcelled elsewhere in the world; and we have the extraordinary charm and appeal of Queensland, with the Great Barrier Reef, the Palmerston Highway, the tropical jungle, the contrasting soils in the canefields, and the waving wheat of the Darling Downs. Those are features that we could portray efficiently.
If we wanted to move into other fields, why could we not show the people of Queensland how the Commonwealth Government, over the last eleven years, has spent, not tens of millions, but hundreds of millions of pounds on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme? We could show how smoothly transport moves on the standardized railways of South Australia and Victoria. We could show the Bell Bay aluminium project in Tasmania. The Queenslanders would then know that they were getting value for their money. Those are the features that we should show the people of Australia. Further, the history of the Australian novel now extends over 100 years. I admit that we have not produced a really great novel, but we have produced some good books, although the early efforts were poor. These are things to which we should devote our attention. If we do that, we cannot fail.
The question that then arises is the method by which we are going to make the industry a success. The only way is to fix a quota and say that 10, 30, 40, 50 or 60 per cent, of the time of a particular station shall be devoted to Australian material. The cultivation of poor taste has been due in no small measure to the press, which, as I said before, has succeeded over the years in turning the people into headline readers and photo-lookers. There is, only one way to foster the industry, and that is to determine a quota, stipulating that certain films shall be shown at certain times on all stations within a particular area. Some people may find that suggestion distasteful, believing that it envisages a form of compulsion. I point out that compulsion is not distasteful to the supporters of the Government. For instance, they do not mind insisting on age pensioners taking £5 a week. They are not averse to insisting that the dependent wife of an age pensioner, or a wife who cannot go to work because of her husband’s disability, must accept a miserable 35s. a week, so why should they quarrel with compulsion in relation to television films? In my opinion, that is the only way to establish the industry.
I heard an honorable senator who spoke during this debate say that sponsorship of certain features could not be secured. That difficulty is not reflected on the stock exchange of Australia. All the television shares that I know of are at a substantial premium, which suggests that television stations are profit-making enterprises and that the shareholders, large and small, are satisfied that they will get real value for the money that they have invested. I suggest the imposition of a levy of Id., or a fraction of Id., a foot on all imported film, the proceeds to be used by the television stations now in existence or to be established in Australia. That would be one way to improve the industry. The money could be paid into a general fund, or a trust fund, to be utilized for the particular purpose of stabilizing or establishing the film industry, whether by loan or by subsidy, according to the decision of the people entrusted with responsibility to administer the fund.
If that were done, I think that the Government would go a long way towards meeting the wishes of Senator Hannan, who has made a real contribution to the task of developing a most desirable industry. Development is necessary in the interests of those concerned with the industry, such as people who have invested money in it and those who are employed by it. It is also necessary in the interests of the nation of which we have the honour to be citizens. I hope that honorable senators opposite, and also the supporters of the Government in another place, will realize their responsibilities in the matter. Now is the time. The way has been pointed out by one of their colleagues. It is their responsibility.
– I have followed this debate with interest and I wish to commend Senator Hannan for the time and the research that he has devoted to the presentation of his motion. I think that Senator Dittmer was rather unfair when he claimed that Senator Buttfield had disagreed with every point put forward by Senator Hannan. As we all are aware, Senator Hannan’s motion was framed in the form of a series of questions. That being so, it seemed to me that Senator Hannan hoped to gain from any honorable senator who wished to speak to his motion an honest opinion with regard to the industry. We have heard conflicting opinions from honorable senators opposite and from honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber, but taking into consideration what was behind Senator Hannan’s motion, I should have thought that the views expressed represented what most people thought desirable in the interests of the industry.
– Senator Hannan wanted us to canvass the whole question.
– Definitely. In the circumstances, I do not think that Senator Buttfield should be reproached because she expressed, after a great deal of study, her personal opinions on the various questions that were put before us.
Senator Benn, it will be recalled, sought to define the difference between national sentiment and national culture. I agree with the honorable senator that there is a difference between the two. I do not believe that national sentiment and national culture are necessarily one and the same thing. What affects one need not necessarily affect the other. I do not believe - and here I find myself in disagreement with Senator Hannan - that either is being endangered at the present time by what the honorable senator claims to be a virtual monopoly of foreign films and entertainment. T should say that it is highly probable that people are influenced by films, but I do not think that national sentiment and culture are being endangered by them. It is surely unthinkable that Great Britain, which has experienced fierce competition from American film producers, has had the unhappy experience of having her national sentiment affected in any way by the continual inflow of American films. Nor, Sir, am I one of those people who subscribe to the idea that modern youth is being adversely affected by modern entertainment.
Senator O’Byrne last night painted a very dismal picture of the way in which television films are affecting the minds and the behaviour of young people. Frankly, I do not believe that they are doing so, but in any case, I think it is the responsibility of parents to oversee the viewing habits of their children. I find it rather remarkable that the people who clamour most loudly against certain television productions and programmes are the very people who build up the viewer ratings of such programmes. If people were really sincere in their criticism of programmes, they would appreciate that the remedy is in their own hands. If they turned off the programmes to which they object, those programmes would soon lose their appeal to the viewing public.
– If you could make that universal it would be all right, but what would be the effect on the people who did not turn off those programmes?
– If everybody turned them off the rating would soon fall and the sponsors would know about it. Indeed, that happens in the live theatre. If people do not attend a play produced in the live theatre, it is very soon taken off.
– It is very difficult to do that with television.
– I still believe that, in relation to children, you cannot place on producers, exhibitors and the public in general, a responsibility that parents are not prepared to accept. I think that the co-operation of State authorities is necessary to control the types of films that are made available, but on the other hand, once a film has been passed by the censor and classified, responsibility in regard to viewing by children passes to the parents.
I agree with Senator Hannan and Senator Wood that there should be a quota system in regard to British and Australian films. I should like to see a much higher percentage of British and Australian films shown in all our theatres and on television. Some honorable senators have referred to the lack of Australian content in programmes. T agree that that is something which should be remedied as much as possible. Unfortunately, one of the national characteristics of Australians, if I may use that term, is a tendency to give very scanty support to the talent in their own country. The statement that a prophet is without honour in his own country was made many years ago, and it seems to be true now as far as Australians are concerned. Unfortunately, we do not support our own talented people. It is true that overseas experience does benefit artists greatly, but if we are not prepared to support our artists and give them every opportunity in Australia, we can hardly expect to be able to send them across the world so that they can come back to Australia as finished products.
We are deeply indebted to Senator Hannan and Senator Wood for tracing the history of the film industry in Australia. It is regrettable that, although the industry has been carried on for almost half a century, it has never been successfully established as a large commercial enterprise, although it is true that many feature films have been made. Senator Armstrong told us to-day of the spasmodic attempts that have been made from the ‘twenties to the present day to establish a solid film industry here. One of the difficulties in the past, so I have been told by people engaged in the production business, is that virtually all the films made in Australia have been sold in the United Kingdom. The trouble with the American market is that it has always been highly competitive and very selective. For reasons best known to the American people, they favour American pictures. It has been almost impossible, therefore, in the past to sell any of the pictures produced in Australia except in Great Britain.
I think that the second question is the really important one, and one which all of those who have spoken have answered in the same way. The question is -
Whether a sound local film industry, with particular emphasis on documentary and television films, would be in the national interest as providing an outlet for Australian sentiment and culture and for earning international goodwill by distribution abroad.
I do not know whether such films would necessarily be an outlet for Australian sentiment and culture, but I would say definitely that the Australian film industry would be likely to make the most headway with films of that nature, and I think my view coincides with that of Senator Hannan. We are all aware that documentaries, if they are well made, are the best method of educating our own people and of attracting people who have little knowledge of the rugged scenic beauty of this country. Documentaries and information films, therefore, provide a wide field for both Government and private enterprise. Senator Vincent and Senator Tangney dealt with the work of the Australian Film Unit, which is producing films at the rate of about fourteen a year. I have been told by many people that those films are being widely distributed abroad. At the present time the Commonwealth is spending something like £ 250,000 a year on producing information films. That is no small amount. I am not saying for one moment that Australia and the film industry would not benefit greatly if the Commonwealth Government could see its way to increase that expenditure, but it is heartening to know that not only is the Commonwealth spending this money, but, in order to keep pace with the demand for this type of film, it has been working in co-operation with private companies.
I was interested also to hear Senator Hannan and Senator Armstrong refer to the potentialities of the short commercial film and the live show telecast. The United States of America has been making short films - half-hour films - almost by the thousand. They are shown right across America in almost every city. They are not nearly so costly to produce as the longer films and are particularly suitable for television. I feel that there is great scope for them and that both the Government and private enterprise should extend this field. In addition to the commercial value of these short films, they provide a medium for the use of Australian talent, with the result that everybody benefits from their making.
Senator Dittmer said that Senator Buttfield had referred mainly to the feature films, and that he was sure the feature film had no part in Senator Hannan’s motion. Those may not be his words but that was the implication of what he said. I do not think that is correct, because it is impossible to divorce the feature film from the film industry. Indeed, if I remember rightly, Senator Hannan and other honorable senators gave the names of films which were in the feature film class when they were produced in Australia. We have to look at the film industry as a whole. We cannot exclude the feature film, and it is for that reason that I believe we must consider this matter against its economic background. Various people have informed the Senate of the cost to-day of making a feature film. I have been assured that a film capable of competing with overseas productions could not be produced for under £150,000 or £200,000. Indeed, as Senator Armstrong mentioned when he spoke about “ On the Beach “, it could very well take £1,000,000 to make a picture. Senator Hannan referred to the time that it takes to recover the cost of producing a film. I think he said that it was between two and four years.
– Depending on the success of the film.
– Overseas companies aim to recoup practically the whole of the cost of production in the country of origin.
– That is so.
– In other words, they have assessed the risk in the operation. They recognize that once a picture leaves the country of origin, although it may be a success at home it may not be a success overseas.
In view of the enormous cost of producing a feature film and taking into account our limited population, it would be very difficult or almost impossible to recover the cost of producing such a film in Australia. I think that almost the last word has been said on this subject, but it is only fair to examine the question that was posed by Senator Hannan when he referred to assistance to the industry. He asked whether in existing circumstances - I stress “ in existing circumstances “ - it is practicable to place the Australian film industry on a sound footing by governmental, financial or administrative assistance, and if so what is the best method of providing such assistance. When we speak of circumstances - I feel that Senator Hannan meant all the circumstances - I think we should take into consideration a statement that appeared in the Melbourne “ Sun “ last Tuesday by Mr. Norman B. Rydge, who is chairman of the Greater Union Theatres group - one of the big groups that have had an interest in the exhibition of films in Australia over many years. Mr. Rydge said -
The full report of the Greater Union Theatres group, released yesterday, says that the future trend of the industry appears to indicate that more pictures will close and it will be some time before a position of stability is reached.
The exhibition industry is facing many changes of pattern due to the introduction of television and to the production of fewer but more important films by overseas studios.
To-day films are coming into Australia from the United States of America, Great Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and even South America. In the face of comments like those of Mr. Rydge, who is interested in this great industry, I do not believe that the Commonwealth Government would be justified in providing direct financial assistance through subsidies or tax concessions to Australian companies for the production of feature films. Mr. Rydge said that fewer films were coming into the country. They are films of exceptional quality and are necessarily more expensive to produce than films of lesser quality. However, I com pletely subscribe to the idea that there is a wide field available in this country for short films. I hope that that field will be adequately covered by the Government through its film unit and also by commercial television operators, who are gradually building up techniques and acquiring talents. They, undoubtedly, have funds at their disposal to meet the situation.
– 1 am grateful to Senator Hannan for bringing this motion before the Senate. 1 have listened with an open mind to the discussion that has taken place. I am under the disadvantage that I see television only occasionally, usually some special feature which is almost always a good one. If I have a higher opinion of television than has Senator Hannan, that is perhaps because of my more limited experience.
I think I have seen the full growth of the film industry in this country. I can recall the silent films that were produced before the First World War. At that time they were not exclusively American productions because language did not matter. Italian and French films were quite common on Australian screens. Because of their superlative photography, even in the days of the old flickering sheet that we used to look at, French and Italian films were, I think, far better than American films. I am sure that most honorable senators know that the reason for the sudden and long-continued supremacy of Hollywood was not subsidies from the American Government. Hollywood’s supremacy was a by-product of the First World War. The British, French and Italians were engaged in the war and they had to let their film industries collapse. The Americans did not enter the war until fairly late in 1917, by which time they had built up a monopoly in the film industry which they have been able to hold ever since. 1 do not put that forward as a reproach but simply as a matter of history, so that we will not be prejudiced by thinking that the current situation was forced upon us.
I think there has been a good deal of exaggerated feeling about the effect of films on youthful minds. When I was a boy I saw quite a number of American films. 1 read an enormous number of American books, some good and some bad. But I remained an Australian. The basic influences of our own country, except in the case of children who have no home-life, no proper schooling and no other institutions to affect them, must predominate. If an Australian child has a love of nature and spends a large part of his time in the bush or the open fields, he must be biased and influenced in favour of Australia. That is borne out by the attitude of most Australians overseas. I know people who are thoroughly imbued with a love of England and the Continent, but all of them tell me that at times they get an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and a desire to come back to Australia to see her beaches and her trees.
I can recall some feelings that I have had. I remember once in northern France during the war some one brought in a bunch of mimosa which had come from Nice. Automatically, although I am not usually exuberant, I rushed across and buried my face in it, not worrying about hay fever or anything like that. The same feeling possessed me in Cape Town when I saw a gum tree. For the Australian who has properly appreciated his native land, the native influences here are so strong that the effect of films is very slight indeed. I can still remember all the gunshot battles I saw as a boy on the old silent films, and they are almost identical with some I have seen on the television in these times. It was good fun and that was all. I know there is the bad article. I think that a film which concentrates on horror, cruel suspense and certain other shocking incidents can have a bad effect, but there again I think we exaggerate the effect on the healthy child.
– As a teacher you were taught, I am certain, that what was seen by the eye was the most important thing in education.
– That applies to the majority of children. I think this has become a sort of accepted principle of the teachers, and that we have neglected the ear too much. Both the eye and the ear are important. Nevertheless, even if a child is a picture addict or a television addict, it is only a part of his experience and I have found very little evidence that, except for a brief period when the thing is a novelty, many children sit with their eyes glued to the screen and seeing and thinking of nothing else. If they are allowed to do so and no countervailing influence is brought in, there is something very wrong with the home; and if there is something wrong with the home, unless we can put the children under other charge, nothing that we as legislators can do can have much effect. We have the power to give advice to the people who produce films. Public opinion can exert an influence and, in the last resort, we have the power to forbid the exhibition of certain types of film. 1 think that it is quite sufficient. I am not convinced that there is any necessity for a drastic control of these things.
– Opinions that were expressed recently by psychologists at the University of Adelaide do not confirm that view.
– I am not very fond of the opinions of university psychologists. The sort of thing that is being said now was said continually while I was a practising teacher in secondary schools by my fellow-teachers, parents and others. I saw very little evidence that it was true. In a well conducted school the students did their homework and their studies, and these other things did not seriously detract from the effect of their work.
– That was 40 years ago.
– Human nature changes very little in 4,000 years. I think that the basic elements of human nature are there the whole time, and one of the basic elements is this tendency to exaggerate when you see something you do not like. I should like a greater proportion of British, Australian and Continental films to be exhibited, but I doubt whether the fixing of a quota or the giving of a subsidy is the way to achieve the objective in the field of entertainment. I believe that a sharp dividing line cannot be drawn between entertainment and education, but in the field of what is pure entertainment I would say, “ Let private enterprise do its best and its worst and let public opinion, public taste, and public support or reprobation determine what should be done “. When we come to the matter of education, the position is different. It is the function of the state to educate or to see that education is done well by other people. I would be quite in favour of direct government support for documentaries - films which portray our” native land. Under certain tests, admit a certain amount of fiction- the entertainment type of film might be admitted - but I think that very rigid standards would need to be laid down. 1 am not prepared to vote public money for the production of a film based on even a well-known Australian book, such as “ Robbery Under Arms “ - as was done - or to determine that sort of thing by any direct or indirect government pressure. I think those things ‘ should be left to public taste, to public support, and to private enterprise.
But with respect to something that is directly concerned with citizenship and wilh patriotism in the best understood sense, there is a case for direct government control or state-produced films, or for a subsidy. I should like to see a great many documentaries of the type that have been mentioned here by several speakers, such as “ New Guinea Patrol “. That film was so good that 1 saw: it twice here in Parliament House. When 1 had seen it for the second time, I determined to go to New Guinea to see the actual land of the people. If that was the effect on a mature and fairly unimpressionable person like myself, I think it would have a great effect on the youth of this country and of other countries. I would subsidize that type of film for exhibition not only here but also abroad. If a way could be found by which films of great artistic merit would come into that category–
– Films of Australia?
– Yes. If that could be done I would not quarrel with the decision. But it is very dangerous deliberately to promote an industry like this. We already have so many industries in this country which need support of one kind or another. And do not forget that all that support comes out of the pockets of the consumers! It is all a diversion of money from one sphere to another. None of it is done free, whether the medium is prohibition of entry, tariff duty or the imposition of quotas. There is a very particular danger, I think, in setting up a quota unless a standard is set for the sort of thing to come within the quota. We will not develop high standards in entertainment or anything else by compelling people to see a certain proportion of the native product.
– I did not suggest that a quota, simply as a quota, should be introduced.
– I am not saying that the honorable senator did suggest it; I am just arguing the general principle. If there is a quota, standards must be imposed. 1 think this point has probably been made by other speakers; I have not heard the whole of the debate. Standards, after all, are only somebody’s opinions. I like to see the box office test applied. I like to see the test of what the public wants applied, and while the public’s tastes in some respects may be low or mediocre, many of these things that have been successful have succeeded because they appealed to the public taste. That is particularly so in the theatre. I would be prepared to subsidize a state theatre, but only of an exceptional type. The ordinary entertainment place, the music hall and that sort of place, I would leave entirely to private enterprise. I am particularly afraid of any attempt on the part of the Government deliberately to cultivate what is called a national sentiment. Certainly, people are taught in the schools lessons of citizenship, and certainly standards of ethics are set up, but the deliberate cultivation of sentiment can so easily slip into the superficial and can so easily go beyond the legitimate demands of the nation. We have seen that happen in certain countries of Europe, with disastrous results. We see it now, of course, in Soviet Russia. I believe that it is only by the interplay of opinion, by public opinion itself deciding, by people saying what they want to see and what they do not want to see, that good standards will be obtained, in entertainment or in the film industry.
Sir, I do not think I have been able to say very much beyond what I have heard. I have just indicated my own attitude. I am sympathetic towards the proposal advanced by Senator Hannan, but at this stage I am not prepared to support any definite or agreed steps in the direction he has indicated. I am prepared to consider sympathetically a direct subsidy or even a direct issue by a governmental agency of documentary and other educational films. I am prepared to consider a quota provided there are adequate standards and that at some point or other we can say, “ This is not an attempt to compel our people to view the inferior simply because it is connected with our own country “. That is as far as I am prepared to go.
I believe that the over-supply of rather cheap and poor American films is not good. However, I think it is temporary and that forces are working within the United States of America to improve the quality of films. I believe that, when people have had a surfeit of the cheaper kind of production, mere public taste will bring about a much higher standard. To get away from the purely television angle, let me say that I believe the standard of films has improved considerably. Possibly decreased demand - the fact that the ordinary Hollywood film is not being seen and that suburban picture shows are closing - is having an effect. The few films that I have seen in Sydney within the last two years have been of an extremely high order from all angles - photographic, production and otherwise. I have seen three films depicting the Irish countryside. Even though I have not seen the natural countryside itself, I have felt as though I have visited it. To test the value of that statement, I mention that I have seen the English countryside and have walked through the fields, and the photographic representation that I have seen in Sydney has been as real and as beautiful as the actual scenery. Such films are of a very high order.
Senator Armstrong referred to films like “ Around the World in 80 Days “ that have had a record run in Sydney. They are of an extremely high order. The best of the Hollywood films seen to-day are good, but only the best. It is only occasionally that I see an ordinary commercial film. I might stay in the theatre for a little while and then walk out again, but I do that only when I have an idle hour to pass.
In Sydney there are at least three theatres which regularly screen Continental films. Continental films are beginning to capture a big section of the market, because a new kind has been evolved. One can enjoy them even if one does not understand a word of the language spoken. There is an admirable French film which has run for a long time in Sydney and which I think is still running, and in relation to which very little is lost if one does not understand the spoken word. The acting is so well done that one knows what the person is thinking even if one does not know what he is saying.
– That is a very cleverly produced film. It was shown in Victoria.
– Yes, it is extremely clever. I believe that the standard of films is rising. I believe, too, that the Australian film industry, like every other industry, must ultimately stand on its own feet. I have listened to the cost figures that have been enumerated, but I do not think it is a function of government to build up the industry as an entertainment industry. There are many other things on which our money should be spent before being spent on this industry.
In my opinion, the responsibility should be thrown on to the Australian people to find the money, the enterprise and the talent. I appreciate the sentiment that has moved Senator Hannan to submit this matter for consideration, but I believe we should get away from the idea that the best way to correct any fault is for either the Federal Government or a State government to do it. In Australia there are voluntary bodies which people may join and through which they may make their influence felt, and it is quite legitimate for them to use those institutions to influence public opinion. I have a definite distaste for any kind of government censorship. I admit that it is necessary in a few cases, but I have a definite distaste for government pushing of enterprises which ought to stand on their own feet. If public taste is bad, we should use whatever methods of publicity are available or whatever voluntary organizations we belong to to elevate that taste.
I believe that any bodies which tried to adopt certain standards and say to the public through the press, through written publications, or by speech, “ These are the standards you ought to observe “ would get a response from the Australian public. To think that something should be done unless the law prohibits it is a terrible attitude to adopt. The law is always below the ethical and intellectual standards of the best members of the community. One of the great aspects of our way of life which we must develop, and which is developing, is that we can influence public opinion apart from the passing of laws, apart from allocating money, and apart from laying down prohibitions. By precept and example we can set very’ high standards, and I hope that the Australian people, without being controlled by governmental action, will face this problem and do their best to establish a healthy Australian film industry.
– I rise, almost at the conclusion of this debate, to add a few comments to the wealth of information that has been elicited following the initiation of the debate by Senator Hannan. I join other honorable senators in congratulating the honorable senator upon his initiative in bringing forward this matter in the manner in which it has been presented. I note that some honorable senators have criticized the form of the motion, but I suggest that such criticism clearly displays an ignorance of the procedures of the Parliament. Quite obviously, a private member or senator cannot presume to take the management of the affairs of government out of the hands of the Government. I suggest that the terms in which Senator Hannan submitted his motion were designed to promote a nonparty debate of the subject over the widest possible field. By and large, with one or two notable ‘ exceptions that debate in this chamber was free from party politics and dealt in a proper manner with the broad issues relating to the Australian film industry.
The first question Senator Hannan’s motion asks is whether Australian national sentiment and culture are being endangered by the virtual monopoly of foreign films and entertainment screened by Australian theatres and television stations. I do not think it is easy to give a watertight answer to that question. Indeed, I think Senator Benn made it even more difficult to give an answer when he produced the “ Oxford Dictionary “ and read the definition given by that dictionary of the words “ national sentiment “ and “ culture “. By and large, I do not think that Australian national sentiment and culture, as I understand the terms - and I do not propose giving my interpretation of them - are under serious challenge.
I think there has been a tendency for some honorable senators to suggest by implication that every film and every television feature screened must be laden with
Australian sentiment. That attitude is quite wrong. Primarily, the cinema and television are fields of entertainment. If a drama is being screened, then the backstage props and everything associated with production must be consistent with drama. In other words, if one were viewing “ Seagulls Over Sorrento “, one should not expect to be viewing beautiful scenes of our magnificent Australian coastline. One should not expect to be able to sit back enjoying the plot and saying, “ What a wonderful advertisement for Australia this is! “ We do not go to the theatre to be able to do that; we go to theatres for entertainment.
We do have documentaries that feature some of the magnificance of this vast continent, and such featuring is quite good in season, but some honorable senators have suggested that everything we see on television or the movies must of necessity be an advertisement for Australia. That is not factual thinking, and some caution is required in our thinking on some of these matters. I do not think our national sentiment and culture are in real danger. 1 do feel bound to support fairly strongly Senator Hannan’s suggestion that there is serious evidence of the too frequent screening of the type of film which could do a great deal of damage to the mental outlook of the rising generation. Those of us who have made some study of advertising methods know that one of the very simple but successful gimmicks of advertising is repetition. For instance, we all know that every time we look out the window of a railway carriage at a railway station we see a hoarding with the words “ Keen ‘s Mustard “ or some reference to Vincent’s A.P.C. powders. The theory of advertising is that repetition is successful. If repetition is a good sales feature of advertising, does it not follow equally that if our teenagers are viewing “ Gunshot “, and if they are seeing six men with pistols shot before 8 o’clock every night, that must have some impression on them? I feel that there can be no doubt that this repeated emphasis of the seamy side of American life is not good for our rising generation.
In 1956, when the Broadcasting and Television Bill was introduced into the Senate, I spoke in the second-reading debate. I have been reading the report of the debate on that bill, and I am amazed at the accuracy of my prophecy. I propose to quote from my own speech to show how accurately at that time I could foretell events. At the time of debating that bill, we were given copies of a document entitled, “ Television Programme Standards “. That document was prepared by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and I propose to read some of the standards which we were told would be required of the commercial television stations and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am not criticizing the Australian Broadcasting Commission in particular here because 1 think the commercial stations are even more culpable in the screening of crime films. The document to which I have referred states -
Fundamentally, these standards require the observance of television programmes of -
ordinary good taste and commonsense;
respect for the individual opinions of the public;
proper regard for the special needs of children; and
respect for the law and social institutions.
Further on, in paragraph 8, the document sets out -
The following particular applications of these standards refer to a number of aspects of programmes on which great care is needed in productions: -
Certain basic requirements must always be observed: no programme may contain any matter which is -
blasphemous, indecent, obsene, vulgar or suggestive.
I do not say we have had anything of that nature on television, but the important part of this provision is that productions shall not contain any matter that is -
It will be seen that when the Australian Broadcasting Control Board itself set the standard for television on this continent it envisaged that there would have to be certain safeguards.
I come now to a statement made by Lord Home in the House of Lords on Tuesday, 26th July, in his capacity as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. He is now Foreign Secretary. In answer to Lord Casey, he said -
The value of television in furthering Commonmonwealth relations should receive increased attention. The British Government warmly welcomed the efforts of the British Broadcasting Corporation, which has increased its export of television material.
He went on to say that in the year ended 31st March, 1960 some 500 B.B.C. television programmes were made available, the largest proportion of which went to the British Commonwealth, Australia being the chief buyer with 278 programmes. There cannot be any doubt that what Lord Home said was right and that television can be of tremendous value in furthering Commonwealth relations. My parting thought is that while it is quite good for us to import this material we should, in the terms of Senator Hannan’s motion, be thinking about producing films for export, which would also be for thebenefit of Commonwealth relations. They would help to publicize our great continent and assist the tourist industry. From an economic point of view they would help to improve our overseas balances. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that Mr. Fairbairn had been appointed a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in place of Mr. Joske, resigned.
Senate adjourned at 4.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 August 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600818_senate_23_s18/>.