25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3.20 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen in today’s Press a statement attributed to Sir Philip McBride, the outgoing President of the Liberal Party, at the opening of the party headquarters, to the effect that the building cost £65,000, which was met from donations by Liberal Party supporters, including many who were present at the time? As Mr. R. M. Ansett was present, would it be right to assume, as most people now believe that he holds a first mortgage on the Department of Civil Aviation, that his donation would give him a second mortgage on the Department?
– The honorable senator poses a supposititious question. I would say to him that those who believe in Liberalism are always prepared to support the Liberal Party. Those who believe in the basic principles of this Party are always prepared to support it. I say to him with great effect that we do not have to write to people who support us and say: “ This is chicken feed, brother “. We do not have to do that. I recall the honorable senator getting up in this chamber and saying that donations to the Australian Labour Party from another Party - the Communist Party - were chicken feed. I say to him in all seriousness that those who support our Party support it because they believe in our principles, and 1 hope they will be long with us.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Have any applications been received for licences to operate television translator stations in Queensland? Is it proposed to establish any national translator stations in Queensland? What areas are proposed to be served by national and commercial translator stations in that State? What is the prospect of an early commencement of the service?
– The PostmasterGeneral, at my request, has given me the information sought by the honorable senator. Only one application has been received for a licence for a television translator station in Queensland, it being from the Northern Electric Supply Authority for the Cardstone area. I understand that Cardstone is 32 miles west of Tully. This application has been approved and the station, which will relay the programmes of commercial station TNQ Townsville, should commence operations within a few months. There have been inquiries regarding the possibility of establishment of translator stations in various other centres in Queensland, but no definite applications have been received. There are at present no proposals for national television translator stations in Queensland, but investigations will be made in due course in that State, as in other parts of the Commonwealth, to ascertain whether improvements in service might be effected by the establishment of national translator stations. It has to be borne in mind that the television stations in the Mackay and Cairns areas in Queensland are not yet in operation and that the possible need for translators to relay the programmes of those stations cannot be determined at this stage.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs a question. What were the circumstances in which the Soviet Union’s representatives at the United Nations sought to amend a resolution condemning antiSemitism by including in it condemnation of Zionism which is equated with Nazism? What attitude was expressed to the Soviet amendment by Australia’s representatives?
– The circumstances surrounding this matter were that the Third Committee was considering, item by item, a draft convention for the condemnation of all forms of racialism. The United States of America sponsored a clause urging specifically that anti-Semitism should be attacked by the resolution and should be eliminated from all territories under the control of all those taking part in the convention. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics objected to this specific condemnation of anti-Semitism and instead sought a general condemnation of anti-Semitism, Zionism, neo-Nazism, colonialism, and a number of other things of that kind. The Australian delegation supported the move of the United States of America for a specific condemnation of anti-Semitism, but I believe that the resolution was lost.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry. What tariff is imposed on peas imported from the United States of America? What tariff is imposed on beans imported into Australia? Has an application been made during the last year or two for a review of the tariff on these imports?
– I presume that the honorable senator is speaking ‘ of frozen peas and beans.
– Because the rates of duty on different types of imports occupy many pages I have not made that research, but on imports into Australia from the United States of peas and beans, frozen, fresh and dehydrated, there is a duty of 18d. per lb. less 664 per cent, of the f.o.b. price. The answer to the last part of the question is that no application has been made recently for a review of the tariff on these items.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Has he seen reports of the shipment of undersized crayfish to America from Australia? Has he received any reports from American importers of the shipment of undersized crayfish? What action does the Government take to ensure that exports are of standard quality? Are the shipments inspected and, if so, where are the inspectors stationed? What action do they take to protect Australian exports?
– I have not read the articles to which the honorable senator refers. It is a tragedy if what is suggested is true. I shall certainly direct the question to the Minister for Trade and Industry and obtain an answer for the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator was good enough to indicate that he would ask this question and I was able to get from the Minister for Housing the following information. The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation will not, itself, make loans. Its function is to insure approved lenders against the risk of loss on housing loans. The rate at .which individual borrowers repay insured housing loans to approved lenders will depend, of course, on the rate of interest and the period’ of repayment -of the particular loans. The rate of interest and the period of repayment, however, must be within the maxima determined by the Corporation. Honorable senators will recall that the Minister for Housing recently announced that he had concurred in the Corporation’s determination of the maximum permissible rate of interest. The maximum period of repayment and other operating criteria will be determined and announced before the Corporation begins its business operations about the end of this month.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been drawn to a statement in a Sydney newspaper that a confidential report by a specialist committee now in the hands of the State Government of New South Wales recommends a new international jet airport for Sydney situated less than two miles from Mascot at Towra Point? If he has any information, can he give us details?
– Yes. I read the article with a great deal of interest. The report caine from a committee which was set up some IS years’ ago, I understand, to consider the development of Botany Bay. At that time the Department of Civil Aviation, realising the probable growth of Sydney and of Mascot as an international airport, and anticipating the saturation which would be reached by about 1990, made representations to this committee that it had an interest in Towra Point and wanted that area to be kept in mind for an additional airport. According to the article, this report is supposed to be confidential. Apparently, the writer of the article has only just found it. I point out to the Senate that the Department of Civil Aviation, anticipating the development of Mascot, approached the committee to which I have referred 15 years ago and told it of its proposals so far as Towra Point was concerned. This State committee merely incorporated these long range .plans of the Department in its report to the New South Wales Government on Botany Bay development.
– It would be difficult to do this after 15 years.
– No. Towra Point is still there and when we want a new airport that is where we will put it. That will be round about 1980. As the honorable senator knows, there will be a duplication of the existing facilities at Mascot in about 12 to 15 years time. When we reach saturation point at Mascot, we will move to Towra Point. That is what we told the committee 15 years ago when it began examining this area. There is certainly nothing confidential about it and there is nothing new about it. It is certainly not something that the State Government has just found out.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise inform the Senate whether goods seized by his Department were sold at auction last week? If so, can he give the Senate information about the nature of the goods and about the sale?
– I thank the honorable senator for asking this question. I recall that during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Customs and Excise this matter was canvassed quite extensively by a number of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. An auction sale of seized and unclaimed goods was ordered by the Collector of Customs and was held in Sydney on 27th and 28th
October. The 1,791 lines offered included 1,230 radios, 118 watches, 53,000 cigarettes, 8 lb. of tobacco, 200 cigars, 5 dozen bottles of mixed spirits and 406 lines of general merchandise comprising textiles, metals, tea, paper, foodstuffs, toys, chemicals, tiles, apparel, etc.
The total proceeds of the sale amounted to £25,259, with price levels being generally comparable with those of previous sales. The prices obtained for radios ranged from £7 to £26 according to the make and type. The prices received for watches averaged about £7 for ladies’ watches and £9 for gents’ watches. The price of cigarettes varied between £7 and £11 10s. per thousand, according to the brand. The bidding on general merchandise was good and reasonable prices were obtained.
– Is the
Minister representing the Minister for the Army aware that Citizen Military Forces units are established at only seven country centres in Western Australia and that as a result many who would join the C.M.F. are discouraged from doing so owing to the long distances they would have to travel to take part in training activities? Will the Minister make investigations with a view to extending greatly the number of centres for C.M.F. training and so make it practical for those who desire to serve to do so?
– I contacted the Minister for the Army in relation to this matter and he has given me the following information: It is true that there are C.M.F. units at seven country centres in Western Australia. The Army authorities in Western Command are currently examining the possibilities of extending the radius of country depots to cope with this problem of volunteers having to travel long distances if they desire to serve in the Citizen Military Forces. The honorable senator will be aware of the recent re-organisation of the C.M.F. in Western Australia and resultant considerable increases in units and headquarters in the more densely populated parts of the metropolitan area. If the honorable senator knows of any country area in Western Australia in which there are 50 suitable volunteers of military age who are prepared to serve, if suitable accommodation is available to house unit stores and provide for administrative requirements, and if there is available in the area a suitable officer who is prepared to command the unit, the Minister will be pleased to look at the matter.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister seen a Press report about an American investor buying a property of 1,400 square miles in the Northern Territory? Has the Minister seen statements which indicate that 20 per cent, of the total grazing area of the Northern Territory is now owned by American interests overseas? As this process has taken only 10 years to develop, may we assume that these foreign interests will own Australia body and soul by the end of this century and that good Australians will become the hewers of wood and drawers of water for our new overseas colonial landlords?
– I read briefly the statement to which the honorable senator has referred. I think it is a good thing at this stage to see capital coming in from overseas to develop outback areas of Australia. Great development is taking place in Australia as a result of Australian investment and, of course, by far the greatest amount of development has been undertaken by Australian firms and Australian individuals. The additional development which results from overseas capital is of great value to Australia. No doubt any Australian Government would keep an eye on such development. I do not hold the views which the honorable senator apparently holds, concerning what might happen in the years ahead. We will cross those bridges when we come to them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Was the Minister surprised to learn that, according to today’s Press, Qantas Empire Airways Ltd., which is Australia’s overseas airline, appears to have carried a box larger than the size of a human being from the
United States of America to Australia without the charge of £178 being prepaid and without being satisfied as to the contents of the box? Does the Minister not think that a more thorough investigation of cargoes for Australia should be made by a carrying airline than was the case recently? Particularly is this important, as I see it, in relation to compliance with Australia’s laws regarding quarantine, immigration and health.
– I read the article to which the honorable senator has referred. If I remember correctly, this was an export from Australia to the United States of America. I noted with a great deal of interest and approval the fact that Qantas has said that it is going to take the very step which the honorable senator rightly suggests should be taken, that airlines should thoroughly examine cargo of the size referred to before accepting it on a C.O.D. basis. In this case, the cargo was addressed to someone who did not exist. If I remember correctly, the fox had a free ride.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Defence. By whom, where and when was a declaration of war made on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia in connection with Vietnam? Was the Commonwealth Parliament given an opportunity to support or reject such a declaration? If not, why not?
– This question seems to be based on the same kind of legal approach which we had in the form of a question from Senator Murphy previously. The basis of it is a belief that unless there is some legal declaration of war that can be pointed to, no conditions of war can be said to exist. Previously I stated in reply to this kind of question that I did not know, though I could find out - Senator Murphy has a question on the notice paper which seeks the information from the responsible Minister - the legal position regarding a declaration of war in this area. I have also pointed out that there are Australians in the area who have been sent there on behalf of the Government, who are defending this country, who are being shot at and who are shooting: I think that in most people’s minds this would be a pretty clear indication of the conditions existing there, whether there is or is not some formal legal declaration.
– 1 direct a question to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to yesterday’s report of an announcement by the Australian Wheat Board that Australia has sold another 500,000 tons of wheat worth about £13 million to continental China. I ask the Minister: For how long does the Government intend to continue to follow the cynical double standard of selling our produce to China, while refusing to recognise the Government of that country and opposing its admission to the United Nations?
– The trade in wheat with China is carried out by the Australian Wheat Board. As I understand it, the Board owns the wheat as agent for the wheatgrowers. The Board sells in the markets of the world to many countries. This is just another trade deal by the Australian Wheat Board. Apparently it is a profitable deal and one which maintains the constancy of the markets we have developed in all parts of the world.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the Minister’s wide knowledge of road safety gained as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety, of which I was a member, will he inform the Senate whether there has been a general acceptance by the States and the Commonwealth of the recommendations of the Committee? Because of the Minister’s close personal experience of the need for greater road safety, will he use all his good offices to see that the recommendations of the Committee are implemented?
– I can speak with some feeling on this matter. Perhaps I could have your indulgence, Mr. President, since you were with me when an accident occurred this morning, to permit me to say that I do not feel any worse for that accident than I would have felt after a hard game of football in my youth. It is true to say that the States, which carry the main responsibility for road safety, have in various ways adopted numbers of recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety. They have not, of course, adopted all the recommendations. I am sure that nobody would expect them to do so, because measures which might be appropriate for one State might not necessarily be appropriate for other States. During the current debate on the Estimates, I have said that, in my view, faced as we are with the deplorable toll of the roads, the States should experiment to a degree with propositions that have been advanced, not only in Australia but across the whole of the world - particularly the free world. Nobody would blame governments which introduced road safety measures under a classification of the three E’s- education, engineering or enforcement - if in the event- those measures over a period proved unsuccesful. I do not think that, as a nation, we can afford to ignore the road toll. I think the States, which carry the main responsibility, should be taking steps - even on an experimental basis - to see whether some mitigation of this tragic toll might be effected.
– I direct my question, which is supplementary to that asked by Senator Cohen, to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Government approve or disapprove of the Australian Wheat Board’s policy of selling wheat to Communist China?
– We do business with many countries in the world - with anybody who can pay for our goods. I think that in the disposal of our foodstuffs overseas, the Australian Wheat Board is a very good judge of where it should sell for the benefit of the Australian wheatgrowers.
– Following the question asked by Senator Cohen, I ask the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate the following question: Does Communist China lay down as a condition of recognition the withdrawal of recognition of Formosa by the Australian Government?
– I understand that that is one of the conditions that Communist China lays down.
– My question, which follows the important question asked by Senator Kennelly, is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that Mr. Ansett attended the opening of the recently constructed headquarters of the Liberal Party of Australia as a private person representing the important private enterprise section of the community? What part has that section of the community played in Australia’s rapid development? Can the Minister tell me the year in which the Australian Labour Party used its best endeavours to enforce its socialistic policy of a single Commonwealth owned airline on Australia? Is the operation of a single national airline also the policy of the Communist dominated countries of mainland China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? If it is not, how many private companies are operating in those countries?
– The honorable senator’s question answers itself. Of course, the Labour Party has always supported the proposition of one airline. That is why at every tick of the clock it tries to damage private enterprise, to drive the private enterprise airline out of the skies and to implement its one airline policy in Australia. That is its policy and, of course, it is entitled to that policy. But the people of Australia know its policy so well that they will not give it an opportunity to implement that policy for a very long time.
(Question No. 610.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers - 1. (a) The objects of the Australian Forestry Council are -
To promote the welfare and development of Australian Forestry.
To arrange mutual exchange of information regarding the production and utilisation of forest products.
To ensure the maintenance and improvement of the quality of forest products and the maintenance of high grade standards.
To formulate and recommend a national forestry policy for Australia directed in particular to the development of Australian forests to meet the national requirements for timber and other forest products, both for domestic use and for export.
To promote and co-ordinate research into problems affecting the establishment, development and management of forests and the utilisation of forest products.
To examine methods of obtaining adequate finance for the development of forests.
To consider matters submitted to the Council by the Standing Committee on Forestry.
The present constitution of the Council is -
Commonwealth - The Minister for National Development (The Hon. D. E. Fairbairn, D.F.C., M.P.) Chairman. The Minister for Territories (The Hon. C. E. Barnes, M.P.)
New South Wales - The Minister for Conservation (The Hon. J. G. Beale, M.L.A.)
Victoria - The Minister for Housing and Forests (The Hon. L. H. S. Thompson, M.L.C.)
Queensland - The Minister for Local Government and Conservation (The Hon. H. Richter, M.L.A.)
South Australia - The Minister for Agriculture and Forests (The Hon. G. A. Bywaters, M.H.A.)
Western Australia - The Minister for Forests (The Hon. W. S. Bovell, M.L.A.)
Tasmania - The Minister for Housing and Forests (The Hon. S. V. Ward, M.H.A.) (Secretary: Mr. C. S. Cree, O.B.E., Forestry and Timber Bureau.)
In addition to the proposals regarding softwood plantations, the Council has examined a number of proposals connected with the improvement of native forests, the maintenance of fertility in existing plantations, and the fire protection of all Australia’s forest resources.
(Question No. 627.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
Under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act the amount of the advance which may be made to an eligible person on the security of a mortgage is limited to 90 per cent. of the total value of the property but no such advance may exceed £3,500. If the security is a contract of sale the purchaser must pay by way of deposit -
A review carried out earlier this year of the loans granted disclosed that 86.9 per cent. of applicants purchase or build homes with finance under the war service homes scheme without obtaining secondary finance.
Eligible ex-servicemen seeking to own their own homes benefit from the offer of housing loans at a concessional rate of interest and the many services that may be provided under the War Service Homes Act. An extension of these benefits is a matter to be considered within the context of this legislation which is being reviewed by the Government.
(Question No. 637.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– I now provide the following answers -
These figures are preliminary and may be subject to amendment.
(Question No. 641.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 669.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
Does the Government have any immediate plans to provide beef roads between Bourke, Hungerford and Thargomindah?
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
The Government has under examination a report on the future of the beef roads programme prepared by the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. The assessment contained in this report included areas in the Queensland Channel country and northern New South Wales leading to Bourke. The question of any further beef road development in these areas is receiving consideration in the examination of the full report.
(Question No. 677.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The Minister lor Air has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
R.N.Z.A.F.- 6 Canberra bombers.
U.S.A.F.- 6 F105 fighter bombers. 2 RF101 photo reconnaissance aircraft.
R.A.A.F. - 8 Mirage all-weather fighters 8 Sabre fighter bombers. 14 Canberra bombers.
R.A.A.F. Sabres and Mirages use cannon ammunition which cannot be used for the cannon in the United States F105s. The other aircraft are not armed with cannons. Other armament such as rockets, bombs and missiles may be fitted to the aircraft of other countries as well as to. those of the R.A.A.F. 5. (a) New improved air defence radars arc currently being procured in the United Kingdom for installation, one at Williamtown in July 1967 and another at Amberley.
(Question No. 679.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
In the light of the answers given by the Minister for Primary Industry on the details of kangaroo meat exports - vide Question No.510 of15th September - which included an admission that some cargoes of this commodity to the United Kingdom and West Germany had been condemned on arrival in those countries, will the Minister inform the Senate -
What were the total exports of kangaroo meat for the whole of 1964-65?
Did the rejection of some kangaroo meat cargoes to Great Britain and West Germany damage the general image of Australian meat exports?
Have discussions been held by officers of the Department with meat exporters’ representatives to avoid a repetition of this unsavoury form of trading?
Will the Government consider a total ban on the export of kangaroo meat rather than have disreputable elements associated with this form of export besmirching the general meat export trade?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
(Question No. 680.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following replies -
(Question No. 684.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply -
(Question No. 685.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers - 1, 2 and 3. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board was not concerned in the development in question nor am I aware of the circumstances of the matter which is solely the concern of the station.
(Question No. 686.)
Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 688.)
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 692.)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 701.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers -
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Currency Act 1963 I present the following paper -
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has asked me to inform honorable senators that this report is tabled in its present form so that it might be available for honorable senators to read prior to the resumption of the debate on the Decimal Currency Board Bill in the House of Representatives. The delay in presenting the report to the Senate has been occasioned by the necessity of preparing a supplementary report which covers the activities of the Board in the period from 5th July to 30th September 1965. This supplementary report is attached to the annual report now presented.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following proposed work -
Provision of buildings and services to terminal complex, control and equipment buildings, Department of Civil Aviation maintenance area, fire station, etcetera, at Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The recommendations and conclusions of the committee are as follows -
– by leave - The Commonwealth has adopted a new policy to assist independent schools in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory to finance the construction of primary and secondary school buildings and associated facilities. For the last ten years the Australian Government has been helping this construction in the Australian Capital Territory by paying a subsidy up to the long term bond rate towards meeting the interest charges incurred by independent schools when they borrowed money for construction. This assistance was first paid for construction of facilities in secondary schools and, more recently, has been paid for both primary and secondary schools.
In future the Government will continue to meet interest charges on approved borrowings of capital, but will also repay the amounts of capital borrowed for approved projects. Capital repayments will be made by equal annual instalments over a period of twenty years. The same assistance will be extended to schools in the Northern Territory, with the exception of mission schools, which have special characteristics and for which special Commonwealth assistance exists already. The Government believes that this arrangement will assist independent schools in the two Territories both by removing the necessity for such schools to repay capital themselves and by enabling them to borrow at reasonable rates of interest.
The increased assistance will apply to both approved projects constructed or be gun over the next ten years and also a group of projects now under construction or on the point of starting. For schools in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, the new form of assistance will replace, for the future, assistance now available to provide science teaching laboratories and equipment. In each case where assistance is given, the Australian Government will need to be satisfied that the proposed facilities are needed and will require that details such as the standards of construction, the area of land around the school, and the borrowing arrangements, be approved by it. The increased assistance will not apply to projects already built under the previous scheme.
Motion (by Senator Henry) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.
Consideration resumed from 9th November (vide page 1381).
Department of Shipping and Transport
Proposed expenditure, £13,303,000.
Proposed provision, £14,990,000.
Proposed expenditure, £6,996,000.
Proposed provision, £5,000,000.
Proposed expenditures and proposed provisions noted.
Department of Trade and Industry
Proposed expenditure, £6,003,000.
Proposed provision, £35,700.
– I refer to Division No. 500, Administrative. Recently I had occasion to visit some of the islands of the Pacific. I am rather concerned about the fact that Australia’s trade image in these islands is not as good as it might be. I refer particularly to the recent visit of a trade ship to the Pacific islands. I understand that the ship went to Papua and New Guinea, then to New Caledonia, and then to the New Hebrides and Fiji. I understand that the Department of Trade and Industry gave considerable thought to the obtaining of the ship and to advance publicity, and that the ship had on board representatives of various manufacturing concerns.
I met a number of people in Vila, in the New Hebrides, who offered some criticism of the effectiveness of this mission. I invite the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), who represents the Minister for Trade and Industry in this place, to this criticism. First of all, they said that the representatives of industry who were on the ship were very clubable people but that they did not seem to push the lines that they were sent out to push with anything like the energy that it would be reasonable to expect. The main criticism revolved around the fact that the people who received the orders did not service them in a way which would make for good trade relations. An illustration given to me concerned an excellent stenographer’s table that was available on the ship for inspection. One person in Vila ordered two of these tables. I understand that the tables were of steel construction and that the legs could be easily unscrewed. However, when the order was supplied from Australia the legs were not unscrewed but the tables were sent out completely assembled, with the result that the cost of the freight to the purchaser in the New Hebrides was greater than the actual cost of the tables. When we consider that the freight to the New Hebrides is £15 per ton, the fact that purchasers have to pay freight on articles which are packaged in a completely uneconomical way is a very serious matter.
– The freight is charged by measurement?
– Yes. If the supplier had unscrewed the legs and folded them up, the freight would have been considerably less. It appears to me that the Department of Trade and Industry , should instruct the manufacturers and the suppliers of goods which are sold from Australia as a result of these missions in packaging goods when they are sent forward in execution of an order. On more than one occasion when I was there I heard this story of the faulty packaging of goods that were being sent from Australia. The point I wish to make is that all the energy that is put into the exercise of selling goods and the enthusiasm which the visit of a trade ship creates in foreign ports could be negatived within the succeeding weeks or months when the buyers come to pay the freight on goods that they have purchased from Australia.
I urge the Minister to discuss with the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) the possibility of informing exporters, if they do not already know, of the pitfalls in packaging goods in such a way that they attract the maximum freight instead of the minimum freight. I have discovered that it is the freight charge which really kills the export of Australian goods to areas such as the Pacific Islands. The New Hebrides, as honorable senators may know, is a condominium. There is joint government by the United Kingdom and France and there is a very big French influence. The freight on goods consigned from Marseilles in southern France is less than the freight on goods from Australia, even though the distance from Australia is four or five times less than it is from France. It seems to me to be a pity that the Department of Trade and Industry and those who travel in trade ships advertising Australian goods are not instructed about, or do not pay attention to, this important item of packaging in order that the highest rate of freight is not attracted.
I compliment the Department for what it is doing in attempting to advertise Australian wares by means of trade ships, but unless the final act of packaging is carried out so as to make the freight economical, I fear that a lot of the expense and work that goes into organising trade ships will be futile. The reputation of Australia as a supplier of goods suffers severely by virtue of uneconomical packaging and the consequent very high freight on articles consigned from Australia, particularly to areas in the south Pacific.
– I want to direct the Minister’s attention to the Trade Fair that was held in Sydney on 22nd October. I have here Press cuttings which deal with the Fair. They mention the opening of the Fair on that date and refer to the fact that 20 flags were raised on the opening day. Many countries had trade exhibits at the Fair. I attended it. My first criticism of it as a shop window for Australia’s goods is that it was held at the wrong time of the year. It was held at the Sydney Showground, which can be a very lonely place to wander around unless the entertainments are packed closely together and are properly organised.
– What is the trade display to which the honorable senator is referring?
– The Sydney Trade Fair. It was held a month ago.
– It was a State show.
– That is the point I am coming to. My first criticism of it is that it was held at the wrong time of the year.
– Should not the honorable senator tell that to the New South Wales Government?
– No. I will develop my story. When the Fair ended I was surprised to hear criticism of it from international visitors. Some of the complaints I heard broadcast over the air were to the effect that governments, particularly the Commonwealth Government, should have been interested in the management of the Fair. I have here notices of other fairs in different parts of the world. I raised the matter of the Canadian Fair in the Senate about a fortnight ago. Invitations to these fairs are sent out by the various governments.
The fairs are semi-government organisations. The governments of the countries concerned regard them as important and are really interested in them. The governments appoint their representatives to the fairs. This is what the Commonwealth Government should do in the interests of Australia’s good name overseas.
International exhibitors complained bitterly about the Sydney Trade Fair. They spent a lot of money in bringing their exhibits here, but when they got here they found that the Fair had not been advertised extensively enough and that the prices of admission were too high. It cost 26s. a seat to see the Asian pageant, with the result that attendances on the public nights were down 110,000 on attendances at previous Fairs. The Fair was not a great success. To me that reflects discredit on the
Commonwealth Government. I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should not leave it to a small organisation of public relations people to take on the development of a project like the Sydney Trade Fair, lt is in the interests of Australia that the project be undertaken in a proper manner. As 1 have said, it was a very small public relations organisation. I am not suggesting that a small organisation should not help to conduct a trade fair, but when we consider that a trade fair is a massive project which has to compete with trade fairs in other countries where international exhibitors can evaluate what a trade fair should be, it is important that the Commonwealth Government should take an interest in its organisation. If the Government did so and if it saw that the fair was not being properly advertised through lack of funds, it could do something about it. I know of no better way of displaying or selling Australian goods than by the trade fair method. I think it is quite wrong that the Commonwealth Government should have no promotional interest in such an Australia wide trade fair as was the Sydney Trade Fair. It should not be left to private individuals. The Government, through one of its departments, takes an interest in the organisation of trade ships which sail overseas. I think a similar interest should be taken in activities such as the Sydney Trade Fair.
I again remind honorable senators opposite that overseas visitors were very critical of the organisation of the Sydney Trade Fair. Of course, they were critical of the Commonwealth and not of the private individuals who were in control of the trade fair. I understand that the people in control were not even members of the major trades. A committee of individuals was formed in Sydney and the promotion was undertaken by a public relations organisation which, so far as I can make it out, was not of sufficient stature to do a real job for Australia.
.- I refer to the items in the estimates for the Department of Trade and Industry relating to trade promotion and the Commercial Intelligence Service.
– What is the nature of the Commercial Intelligence Service?
– I am not aware of that. Perhaps the Minister could answer that question later on. I wish to express my keen disappointment at the very limited coverage we give to South American countries by the establishment of trading posts. I regard South America - or Latin America, if we include Mexico - as one of the coming continental areas of the future. I think it is most regrettable that in Australia we are giving so little attention to that continent, particularly because it is on the other side of the Pacific. In a sense, the countries of Latin America are our neighbours in the Pacific.
Australia is represented in South America through the establishment of trading posts in Argentina, Peru and Venezuela. If my reading is correct, it means that we are not represented in countries such as Brazil and Mexico. We have an Ambassador in Brazil and it could be that we have there a trade attache, but if so, he is not mentioned in the estimates for the Department of Trade and Industry. I believe that the attention given by the Department of Trade and Industry to Latin America - to Mexico and South America - is paltry and disappointing. By comparison, we are represented in Bahrain, Kenya, Lebanon, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Arab Republic. I have no objection to our representation in those countries. No doubt it is a very good thing that we are so represented but I suggest that there are countries in South America which would be far more important in the scheme of things than some of the countries where we are represented.
First, the countries of Latin America are our neighbours in the Pacific. I have always been an advocate of Australia’s having the best of relations, trading and otherwise, with other countries in the Pacific area. Secondly, it is probably easier for us to establish economic and other relations with some South American countries than with some countries where we are represented, because, in most cases, the South American countries are European in their culture. I think the possibilities of our doing well with them are far better than they are with some of the countries where we are represented in Asia and Africa.
From a diplomatic and external affairs point of view, the establishment of good relations with South American countries would do a good deal for the causes that we represent on such bodies as the United
Nations. I close my few brief remarks by saying again that I do not think the Department of Trade and Industry is giving sufficient consideration, in the establishment of trading posts, to the importance of South America, and its certain importance in the years ahead. I therefore express the wish that when we next debate the Estimates, we will see more provision for Australia’s Department of Trade and Industry to be represented in that vital area of the world.
– In addressing myself to the estimates for the Department of Trade and Industry, I am old fashioned enough to bear in mind the proposal that the Parliament should use the occasion to examine the justification for present expenditures and the shortcomings, deficiencies and merits of the appropriations. I believe that this is the occasion for Parliament to make any contributions that occur to its members towards improvements for the coming year, or to voice criticisms of any difficulties that we have experienced.
I think the Department of Trade and Industry is one of the significant departments of Commonwealth administration. I believe that the Government can take great credit for having foreseen, in 1956, the increasing importance of overseas trade to the Commonwealth economy. The Commonwealth Government took the decision to separate the Department of Trade and Industry from the revenue collecting Department of Customs and Excise and establish it as a department charged with a particular mandate to improve overseas trade. I have great pleasure in saying that under the guidance of the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), who has held the portfolio since the Department of Trade was established, that Department has been conducted with drive, energy and a comprehensive understanding that is unmatched by any other figure in the Australian administration at the present time, from the point of view of assessing and arguing the dynamics of world trade.
I take particular pleasure in registering my assessment of the progress of the Department and the contribution of its Minister. I do not forget that the Minister has been preoccupied with recurring changes in tariff administration. I defer any comments on that aspect of the Minister’s administration until I have had an opportunity to absorb fully the contents of the Vernon report. Neither do I forget that the Minister has been in the position of having to expand external trade despite the fact that for four years following 1946 there was an increasing upsurge in internal costs. That is now being renewed and is eroding at its base the possibility of Australian manufacturers competing abroad. I believe it is a matter of great concern that industry should be affected by increasing costs as well as the other factors that are militating against production at present. I refer, for example, to the drought. Overseas prices for our products are not experiencing the same upsurge as Australian prices.
What 1 have said is by way of preface to the subject upon which I rose to speak. That is the subject of overseas freights which must be a component of any consideration of the Department of Trade and Industry. Various facets of this matter vitally affect us and our responsibility for the future prosperity and expansion of our overseas trade. Shipping for the European trade is made available under an arrangement with the Conference lines which arrange their freights year by year by negotiation with Australian exporters and importers. In return, the Conference lines guarantee to Australian traders the availability of shipping services year after year. The first aspect of this matter that needs our careful consideration at the moment is that by the conjoint efforts of the Bruce and Scullin Governments in 1931 special arrangements were made to approve that arrangement as being consistent with the Australian Industries Preservation Act. Some announcements have been made to the effect that, in view of the submission of restrictive trade practices legislation to the Parliament, that situation will be revised. I ask the Minister whether he is in a position to indicate when the necessary legislation will be submitted to the Parliament and the broad substance of that legislation insofar as it affects overseas shipping freights.
Secondly, I remind the Committee that in recent months the Minister for Trade and Industry and, more surprisingly, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) have referred to the possibility of creating at some time an alternative snipping service to that provided by the Conference lines. My requests to the Department for background information on this matter have been met with the response that a study of overseas shipping freights has been conducted by the Department but, inasmuch as the views held by the officers of the Department are based to some extent on confidential information, they are not able to be communicated to members of the Parliament. I say right at the outset that I have a significant appreciation of the wealth of experience and knowledge that officers of the Department have on this subject. But I am a little resentful that mere information of this sort should be withheld from a House of the Parliament which, I believe, we should still assume is purposeful in the public interest. I believe that this House of the Parliament should have available to it from departments all public information that is relevant to a subject which is as important to the public as this one is.
Finally, I ask the Minister whether he can confirm the information that I have to the effect that a reorganisation of overseas shipping services is being planned in Australia with the object of making a dynamic saving in the shipping costs that our overseas trade has to bear. Can the Minister give the Committee any information on activity within the industry in this respect? I understand that the activity is designed to create an institute of shipping - or a body with a name of that sort - and that reorganisation of the shipping industry, designed to eliminate antiquated methods and to reduce shipping costs, is being actively considered by the people who manage the industry. I would.be most obliged if the Minister could give us some real information from the Department on these matters in which most of us are very interested.
– I refer to the item “ Overseas investment in Australia - Publicity “. Last year the appropriation for this item was £41,500 and the expenditure was £37,403. This year it is proposed to set aside £38,900. Can the Minister give me details of this publicity? Is it for the purpose of attracting overseas investment in Australia? What type of publicity is covered by this item? I also direct attention again to the grant to the Australian National Travel Association. Last year £350,000 was appropriated and expended. This year the grant has been increased by £31,000. By way of comparison, I point out that for trade promotion visits £50,000 was appropriated and only £9,389 was spent last year, and that this year the appropriation is £30,000. Can we have details of the trade promotion visits that will be made this year?
Last year the appropriation for trade publicity was £1,185,000 and the expenditure was £1,162,584. This year £1,348,000 is being appropriated. That represents an increase of about £186,000 over the expenditure last year. In addition, this year £3,500 is to be appropriated for contributions to Australian trade missions overseas, whereas last year the expenditure was £5,345. I am interested in increasing trade and building up our overseas credits. I spoke on this matter in my speech on the Budget. I believe that the importance of gaining overseas credits needs to be emphasised and re-emphasised. We spend quite a lot of money on trade publicity. I presume that it is primarily publicity of secondary industries. Perhaps the Minister could tell us * whether trade publicity includes publicity of Australian manufactured goods or only of primary products.
The increase of £186,000 in expenditure on trade publicity is about half of the total appropriation of £381,000 for the tourist industry. Only the other day the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) mentioned the necessity of achieving a higher standard of education in primary industries in order to maintain and increase primary production and so to increase exports, because of the importance of earning overseas credits. We go to a lot of trouble and expense in respect of trade and secondary industries. I believe that that is a much more difficult way of earning overseas credit for Australia than through the tourist industry.
I press strongly for an increase in the grant to the Australian National Travel Association. I believe that we are losing a golden opportunity to increase the tourist industry at a quicker rate than at present. We need to spend £1 million a year on this industry. I believe that in supplying money to places such as Indonesia we are throwing money away. Spending money on the tourist industry would be of much greater advantage to Australia. With modern inventions, the speed of aircraft and the easy and comfortable forms of travel, today it is much easier to attract overseas visitors to this country than it has ever been before. Are we cashing in on the opportunity tbar is presented to us? I do not believe we are doing nearly as much as we should. Money that comes into Australia through the tourist industry is important to the economy because this is one industry where we sell our product and still retain it.
The proposed expenditure represents a considerable increase on the amount provided some years ago but we are not increasing it quickly enough. The accommodation position in Australia is changing rapidly. We have bigger and better hotels in the capital cities and other areas. In addition the development of the motel industry has transformed the countryside. Tourists are now able to visit the outback places where they could not go previously because accommodation was inadequate. We have an urgent need to earn more overseas credit. When we visit tourist places overseas, we realise that we have only scratched the surface of the tourist industry in Australia. There is a great future for Australia in this direction if we have drive and determination and spend more on the promotion of the tourist industry. An Australian who travels overseas finds that we have more attractions here than we realise.
Senator Wright has referred in glowing terms to the interest in this matter of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen). The Minister has drive and imagination and I hope he will agree to a speedy increase in this grant. Through the tourist industry we can develop out of the way places where we would like to see faster progress. I ask the Minister to compare the amount that is provided for the tourist industry with the money available for the development of our export trade, presumably in primary and secondary products. We must remember that when the Chifley Labour Government was in office, representatives of the Commonwealth and the six States met in Canberra and agreed that the tourist business was an industry. We are missing a great opportunity by not promoting it more than we have done in the past.
Recently I read in the Press a report of an interview with the Director-General of the Queensland Government Tourist
Bureau, Mr, J. Wilson. He said that the tourist industry was of more value to Hawaii than the sugar industry which has always been important in the economy of that part of the United States of America.. When we see the size of accommodation places and the trade that tourists take to the shops in Hawaii we realise just how valuable this industry can be. The Government proposes to grant £381,000 this year to the Australian National Travel Association but this is not a straight out gift that will not yield a return, lt will be devoted to publicising Australia overseas. This promotion of the tourist industry will bring to Australia people who will spend money on accommodation and travel, in shops and in other ways. This money will percolate through the business community and the Government will get back a share of this revenue in taxation. I saw statistics recently which show that there is a substantial return to the United States Government from the tourist industry in Hawaii. If we develop this industry in Australia everyone will benefit.
.- In speaking to the proposed expenditure of the Department of Trade and Industry I wish to praise the work of this Department. It is one of the most important and progressive departments in the Federal sphere and its development in recent years has led not only to the promotion of trade in Australian goods but also to the generation of new ideas in relation to commerce within Australia. These include not only productivity and the handling of goods but also the packaging and consignment of our products to diverse markets. I am delighted to see that the Government proposes to make a grant of £45,000 this year to the Industrial Design Council of Australia. This compares with actual expenditure last year of £18,281. I have been most interested in the work of this Council. I congratulate it on the work it has done and I commend the decision of the Government to more than double the grant to this organisation.
I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) to inform the Committee on the work that is being done by the Department of Trade and Industry towards decentralisation. This is probably the only Department in the Federal sphere whose officers are paying attention to. this important matter. The question of decentralisation is often discussed in the Senate and in another place. We appreciate that the States must play an important part in the distribution of population and industries. Indeed, the State Governments would take offence if the Commonwealth were to direct where some development should occur. But the Department of Trade and Industry has done excellent work in the past few years in supplying information relevant to the. encouragement of decentralisation. This information has shown what is required and the disadvantages and bad effects of centralisation under the administration of various political parties.
It has been said that the duty of the Commonwealth Government in this matter is to create an understanding of the disadvantages to Australia of centralisation in metropolitan areas. These include the rising cost of production, waste of manpower in congestion and delay, and the cost of transportation in the provision of services. Research into these problems has shown that there is important work to be done to reverse the centralisation of industry and to encourage decentralisation. I congratulate the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) on the work his Department has done in this field. I would be pleased to be informed whether departments other than the Department of Trade and Industry are giving service in this area.
– We had some valuable, firsthand criticism from Senator Laught, who recently visited the New Hebrides area and kept his eyes open with a view to providing assistance towards our trade in that area. In my own business life I have suffered from having people consign articles other than in the smallest size containers. A nest of saucepans consigned tinnested costs two or three times as much in freight as when it is sent in nested form. This is a very relevant consideration. The ship to which reference was made was privately run and had nothing to do with the Department of Trade and Industry. This was a private venture in the area. I only hope that the people concerned will read the valuable contribution that Senator Laught made and benefit from his criticism, so that these faults will not be repeated.
The trade fair in Sydney was a small, privately run enterprise and had nothing to do with the Commonwealth Government or the Department of Trade and Industry. I hope that the honorable senator’s comments in this connection, too, will be read by the responsible authorities. This was not by any means an Australian trade fair.
Senator McManus referred to trade with South America and I agree entirely with the views he expressed. South America has a tremendous potential for us. Our big trouble has been in getting an adequate shipping service. One cannot do business in these areas effectively without a regular shipping service. There is nothing worse, after getting goods into a country and having agents sell them, than to find, when the repeat business comes along, that the Australian goods are not available and the customers have to go back to the old brand. We are subsidising the shipping service, to South America. The appropriation last year was £190,500, and the expenditure was £139,467. This year we expect to spend £215,000 to provide financial assistance by way of subsidy for two years to ensure a regular shipping service. Unfortunately, we are not getting sufficient freight to make the voyages pay without subsidy or to provide a greater number of voyages than are made at present. In this area we are represented by Trade Commissioners at Lima, Buenos Aires and Trinidad, who cover all of South America. We had a post at Caracas, which was closed in December 1964.
I am unable to give Senator Wright the information he requires on matters of policy. Only the Minister- for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) is in a position to make this information available when these matters have been discussed by the Government and Government policy is determined. The honorable senator referred to some research which the Department had undertaken in the field of modern shipping methods with a view to their introduction at Australian ports. This research is, I understand, being undertaken by the Department in conjuction with the shipping companies. I have no information on the stage that has been reached. This may be made available only by the Minister. Senator Wood spoke, on the last day of meeting,- about some of the matters that he has raised today and I have obtained answers for him.
He repeated his speech today and I have no doubt that he did it with the best of intentions.
– One has sometimes to repeat a speech here to get an answer.
– In this case, the answers would have been forthcoming if he had not done so. Sometimes one has to repeat something half a dozen times and even then is not successful. I refer first to publicity in relation to overseas investment in Australia, which is covered by Division No. 500, sub-division 2, item 08. This appropriation is provided to enable the promotion of overseas capital investment in Australia. The media used includes advertising, publications, films, commercial agencies and seminars in the United Kingdom, Europe and America. Senator Wood also asked the reason for the increase from £1,162,000 in 1964-65 to £1,348,000 in 1965-66 in the provision for trade publicity under Division No. 500. The trade publicity programme extends to most areas of the world where Australia mounts trade fairs, exhibitions, advertising and other trade promotional campaigns. The increase is mainly due to increased matching contributions by the Commonwealth to join government and marketing board promotional campaigns in the United Kingdom, Europe, South East Asia and Canada. The increase in this respect is £113,000. Increased expenditure is also proposed for trade fairs. Two major projects are the Pacific International Trade Fair in Lima, Peru, and the South East Asian Convention of Builders and Contractors in Hong Kong. For these purposes a provision of £87,000 is proposed.
Reference was made by Senator Wood to the Trade Promotion Visits Fund, which is covered by Division No. 500. He sought an explanation of the underspending last year and the reduction in the appropriation this year. The Trade Promotion Visits Fund provides for visits by prominent businessmen and officials to Australia to encourage trade promotion. Invitations are restricted to senior executives or officials who can actually influence or write export orders. In 1964-65, 14 visitors were received, against the original estimate of 40. Difficulties were experienced in interesting suitable prospects and arranging convenient times. Considerable industry contribution after guests arrived reduced Commonwealth costs. Forty visitors are expected this year, as the value of the scheme becomes more widely appreciated by Trade Commissioners who initiate proposals. Industry contributions are expected to remain high, reflecting the importance that industry attaches to this promotion scheme. Reference has been made to the Asian International Fair, for which provision is made in Division No. 960. The Fair is to be held in Bangkok from 17th November to 10th December 1966. Australia will provide a national pavilion costing more than £100,000. An amount of £25,000 will be spent in 1965- 66 on preliminary expenses, planning, fees, and advance publicity, and the remaining £75,000 will be spent in 1966-67.
asked why the increase in the provision for trade publicity is relatively greater than the increase in the Australian National Travel Association grant, which is provided for in Division No. 500. The grant to the A.N.T.A. is assessed in the light of a total programme of activity proposed by the Association. In previous years, the grant has increased at the rate of 8 per cent. For 1965-66 an increase of 9 per cent, has been provided. The Commonwealth is the major source of funds for the Association, the balance being subscribed by the tourist industry. The Association’s activities are confined to the promotion of the tourist industry, whereas the appropriations for trade publicity, which increased by 16 per cent, in 1965-66, are devoted to promoting exports over the whole range of Australian production. Senator Webster referred to the Industrial Design Council of Australia. The contribution to the Council for the year 1965-66 has been approved on the basis of a base grant of £20,000, a matching grant up to a maximum of £15,000 on a £1 for £1 basis with donations to the Council’s funds from non-government sources, and a special grant of £10,000 towards the opening of a design centre in Sydney.
– I feel sure that we would all agree on the importance of the work of the Department of Trade and Industry. Indeed, those charged with the responsibility of administering this Department have in their control the lifeblood of the body economic of this country. They are charged with the responsibility of administering the trade transactions that mean so much to the economic life of Australia. They are confronted with many influences that are important to the decisions they have to reach. That is particularly so today when, because of drought and because of the falling prices of many of our primary products such as sugar, our overseas balances are diminishing very rapidly - alarmingly so, I would say. Up till now I have not heard from any Government spokesman any positive solution of the problem of our fast diminishing overseas balances. On the other side of the ledger we have the almost free entry into Australia of manufactured goods. I do not subscribe to the belief that Australian manufacturers should be protected to the extent that they can enjoy a licence to exploit the Australian public. I do not subscribe to that view. I believe that, in the interests of the employable people of this country, our manufacturers should be given protection, particularly now when we are endeavouring to balance our overseas trade budget.
In addressing myself to the Estimates, I do not intend to make what might be described as a second reading speech. I am new to this chamber and to its methods of dealing with the Estimates. Because of that I hesitate to make any observations on the Senate’s methods of handling the Estimates as compared with the manner in which we dealt with them in the State Parliament from which I came. I do not want to presume or appear audacious, hence I will refrain from making any suggestions on the matter at present. I will leave that to a later date.
As I have said, the Department of Trade and Industry has a great responsibility, and I believe that the Senate should be told by the spokesmen for the Government exactly what the Government’s policy in relation to imports is to be. Is the importation of goods going to continue to be as free as it has been up till now? With rapidly falling exports and diminishing prices we could very soon find ourselves in queer street from an economic point of view. We are facing a serious challenge and the time has arrived when the Government has to make up its mind and make a declaration as to what is going to happen in this connection.
Trade representatives overseas are more important to us than diplomats and consuls. They should be reservoirs of expert knowledge of Australia’s resources, Australia’s potential and Australia’s production. 1 gather from the interjections of an honorable senator that he does not agree with me that trade representatives are more important than ambassadors or consuls. I repeat that they are, because they are more vital, more active and more virile. Too often ambassadors and consuls are mere figureheads and social representatives. I have heard Federal Ministers say that they could obtain more information from a State Agent-General’s office in London than they could get from the High Commissioner’s office there. I know that there have been occasions when we have had trade commissioners to other parts of the world who had never been outside pf Canberra, Melbourne or Sydney, who had never been to Western Australia and who knew nothing about the sugar industry, for instance. One or two of them confessed to me that the only knowledge they had of sugar was what they had read in books. That is not good enough. More than that is expected of them, not only by us, the taxpayers, but also by the people with whom they come into contact overseas.
I commend the Department of Industrial Development in Queensland which, in recent years, recommended to the Government of that State to invite to Queensland trainee, trade commissioners, at the expense of the State Government and as its guests, so that they could be provided with opportunities to see the sugar industry and other industries in Queensland, thus obtaining at first hand information that they would otherwise have to gain from textbooks. I .commend the present Queensland Government for that. The invitation was availed of and I understand that a group of young men who were about to represent this country abroad came to Queensland and learned by personal contact something of the State’s industries.
Honorable senators know as well as I do - particularly those who have lived as long as I have - that personal contact is all important. One can read a lot about a thing, but one can learn more about it if one sees it for oneself. I hope that the practice of sending our trainee trade commissioners to all the States so that they may learn at first hand something about the potential of our industries and about what is going on in other parts of the Common wealth,’ will be adopted. It is almost useless for these men to go abroad and talk about something they have never seen for themselves. Unfortunately, when one speaks to many people in this country about the importance of seeing Australia they cannot see the necessity for this. But public servants and others who are to have the responsibility of representing this Government and this country overseas have to be possessed of the character, capacity, ability and first hand knowledge necessary to put Australia’s case in a first class manner to those who are likely to invest in or trade with Australia.
Honorable senators might think that it is an exaggeration to say that there have been trade commissioners abroad who have never been to Queensland, lt is not an exaggeration. I have never had the facility for telling lies or overstating a case. I hope the position will be remedied - if it has happened in the past - and that it will never happen again. Men have gone overseas in the capacity of ambassadors - for those who might plead the case of the exalted - and consuls who have had very little knowledge of the distant States of Australia. They have had, probably, an election meeting at one place in a State once every six or nine years and have claimed to know the State concerned merely because of that. This is too ridiculous for words. Any one of us who goes abroad should see to it that we are as well informed as possible so that if we are asked questions we will be able to do justice to Australia and will not make fools of ourselves by the replies we give to the innumerable questions we will inevitably be asked.
Let me retail an experience I had in 1953 when I represented Queensland at the Coronation. I was being entertained in Vintners Hall in London by a distinguished Englishman, Mr. Denys Lowson, former Lord Mayor of London, who had big interests in Queensland in sugar and beef. He had been to Queensland during the period that I was Premier and I had extended to him a few small courtesies. In return, he insisted that I should be his guest at a luncheon. He said he and a few of his friends would like to entertain me. They did. His few friends numbered about 200. On my right, at the top of the table there was a distinguished gentleman, whose name I do not reveal, and he said to me: “ I was speaking to your Prime Minister a week or two ago “. I said: “ I do not think that could have been possible because I read in the newspapers that Mr. Menzies returned to Australia via Cape Town about three weeks ago”. He said: “ I do not mean Menzies. I mean Holland “. I said: “ Mr. Holland happens to be Prime Minister of New Zealand “. He said: “ Yes, I know. Isn’t New Zealand a part of Australia?” I said: “ No, it is not “. He then said: “ Is Queensland a part of New Zealand? “ I said: “ Queensland is seven times the size of New Zealand and it is the north eastern State of Australia “. That gentleman sitting at the top of the table at the particular function in England had no knowledge as to where Queensland was and I do not blame him entirely for that. I blame our service.
– Was he occupying a post in our service?
– No. I blame our service because a man in that position should have been properly informed. If our people had been on the job - our agents-general, ambassadors, high commissioners or trade commissioners - that man would not have been as ignorant as he disclosed on that occasion. 1 will tell of an experience I had on my way back from overseas. I went to the United States of America. I travelled from New York down to Washington to deal with certain business there. I was leaving the State building in Washington when the gentleman who was taking me around said: “Would you like to see Mr. X?” I said: “ Who would he be?” He said: “ He is the chief administrative officer here. He came in with the Eisenhower Government “. Looking at my watch, I said: “ It is a quarter to one. The time might not be propitious for Mr. X to see me”. He said: “I will tell you in a minute “. He walked a distance equal to that from here to my room, then came back and said: “ He will be happy to see you”. I went in to see him. He had had no warning of my coming and had had no chance to refer to any text book or any other records. He was able to tell me that I represented a State that produced almost everything but oil at that time, and he prophesied that we soon would produce oil.
He said: “You produce beef, sugar, wool, rutile, zircon, tin, copper,” and enumerated all of Queensland’s production.
– Order! the honorable senator’s time has expired.
– There is one thing I want to assure Senator Gair about and that is that today there is a six months visiting course for all assistant trade commissioners throughout Australia. They have to spend six months in every part of Australia before they can qualify to go overseas. That is apart from the course that they do in relation to various commodities. I think that will relieve the honorable senator’s mind on this point.
– I listened with a considerable degree of interest to Senator Gair because I agree very much with the points he made. I know that the familiarisation course referred to by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) is proving very satisfactory. 1 have risen because I am quite curious about one item and would like to ask some questions about it. I refer to the Department of Trade and Industry and to the report of the Auditor-General on this Department. I refer particularly to page 107 of that report. In clause 149 under the heading “Publicity and Trade Promotion” there is a list of- the expenditure by the Department for this purpose. I feel very much in agreement with this expenditure. Some of these items have been referred to by previous speakers. However, one has not been referred to and it is one which, it seems to me, is worthy of some explanation. It is the third last item in this tabulation and it is entitled “ South American Shipping Service - Subsidy”. I notice that in 1963-64 the sum of £152,250 was spent under this heading. In 1964-65 the sum spent was £139,467. This interests me. First of all, I would like to know why we in Australia are required to subsidise such services. Secondly, I would like to know the purpose of the service. I can well recall efforts that I made over quite a considerable period to obtain a subsidy very much smaller than this for a certain shipping service in Queensland - one which also would have helped the Northern Territory. I hadto battle very hard to get that assistance. Consequently I cannot conceive of the value accruing to us for providing this amount for this purpose in view of the refusal of the one for which I applied. That is the reason why my curiosity is aroused and I would like an explanation.
– I answered this question about the shipping service about half an hour ago.
– I am sorry but I had to leave.
– I can give some further answer to the question. There are two companies which operate this service to South America. Under the subsidy agreement, provision for the subsidy is regarded as a temporary expedient to enable the establishment of a shipping service to the South American area and to permit the service to obtain commercial viability as rapidly as possible. As soon as that is achieved the Commonwealth subsidies will cease.
– I desire to ask a question which follows upon one asked by Senator Morris in relation to the shipping subsidy that is paid to companies which operate between Australia and South America. The subsidy has been increased from one year to the next. I ask the Minister to what extent our trade with Peru, Argentina and Brazil has increased in the last two or three years.
.- Earlier I spoke generally about overseas freights. I now want to show that there is a practical purpose in my request for information.I relate my remarks to Tasmania’s overseas apple trade and bring to the attention of the Minister a specific occasion of which no doubt he is aware. In the 1964 season the cost of freight in respect of apples rose by 6d. a box, bringing the rate up to 13s. 3d. Despite the fact that in May a delegation from the trade went to England to get the very best trading terms, in the coming season there will be a further increase of1s. a box, bringing the rate up to 14s. 3d., subject to possible adjustments of surcharges. Those increases have been made even though, despite adverse seasonal conditions last year, the volume of our exports remained remarkably high. The trade just cannot stand that degree of increase in costs.
– I cannot give to Senator Scott off the cuff the information that he desires. However, I shall forward it to him as soon as it is available. Earlier in the debate on the Estimates, Senator Marriott asked for a progress report on the implementation of the recommendations of the. Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications. I promised that I would try to get a statement for him. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has now furnished me with a statement which I hope will dispel any belief that the progress which is being made, and which Senator Marriott acknowledged, is too slow. The Committee’s recommendations, as the Treasurer has stated in another place, are thoughtful and helpful. But, as the Committee itself said, if they are accepted “ some years must elapse before they can become fully effective “. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate the following statement in “ Hansard “ -
A Government Publisher
Recommendations 1-6, 14-19, 32-33, and 55
This group of recommendations relates to the
Committee’s main recommendation for the establishment of a central Government Publishing Office. This would involve major changes in existing statutory and administrative responsibilities, e.g., section 20 of the Census and Statistics Act 1905-1949 requires the Commonwealth Statistician to publish the statistics, or abstracts thereof, collected pursuant to that Act. These recommendations are being studied and will be carefully examined by the Government.
Style and Format
In October, 1964, the Treasurer established a committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Dudley Erwin, M.P. to produce a style manual for Government publications. The committee hopes to complete the text of the manual early in 1966. As the Committee acknowledged, “the services of a competent and imaginative typographer with adequate supporting facilities and staff” are essential to an improved standard of publications. The Committee was advised of the endeavours which commenced in December, 1958, to recruit a qualified typographer and culminated in an appointment from Her Majesty’s Stationery Office in February, 1964. After the arrival of this officer proposals for the establishment of supporting staff were formulated in August, 1964, and recommendations have been made for these further appointments.
A Publications Branch has been established in the Government Printing Office to improve the distribution of publications. Additional equipment to improve the mail order service has been installed and other equipment is being ordered. The first monthly issue of a list of Commonwealth publications available from the Government Printing Office was distributed on 5th November, 1965. Negotiations are proceeding for the use of the facilities offered by the New South Wales Government in Sydney. The recommendation for a capital city bookshop will be considered in conjunction with the recommendation for a central Government Publishing Office.
Publications of Other Governments
Her Majesty’s Stationery Office was unwilling to grant an agency but has agreed to the sale of its publications by the Government Printer. Negotiations have been commenced with Canada.
Recommendations 30 and 31
The Australian Advisory Council on Bibliographical Services has been asked to nominate the libraries which might be designated as depository libraries.
Parliamentary and Ministerial Papers
Recommendations 34-41, 46-54, 56 and 57
The Presiding Officers have made alternative suggestions concerning the sizes of parliamentary and ministerial papers and the President of the Senate wishes to consider further the proposed binding of the papers in one series. Otherwise these recommendations will be given effect from the commencement of the next Parliament. Advice on imprints has been sought from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
A separate “Treaty” series will be retained but, pending ratification, those treaties in the making of which Australia has participated, will appear in the “Select Documents” series.
Distribution to Senators and Members
Although periodic lists of publications available from the Government Printing Office are now being issued, these recommendations will be considered in conjunction with the recommendation for a central Government Publishing Office.
The committee which is preparing the style manual is drafting a statement on the copyright existing over Commonwealth publications.
Acts and Statutory Rules
Figures are now being used in place of words In the references to sections in legislation. The Parliamentary Draftsman endeavours’ to arrange the reprinting of Acts in pamphlet form, and advice on the frequency with which statutes and statutory rules are consolidated has been sought from the Attorney-General’s Department. “Hansard”.
On an earlier occasion, following the report in 1954 of the House of Representatives select committee on “Hansard”, the Presiding Officers, after the Leaders of the parties had been consulted, concurred in their rejection of such a proposal.
A Continuing Parliamentary Review
This will be considered in conjunction with the recommendation for the establishment of a central Government Publishing Office.
.- The Minister said that he intended to reply to Senator Scott in relation to the South American shipping service. I should like to refer to the matter just once more. I note that the proposed expenditure on the subsidy for this year is £215,000. That is higher than the sum we expended last year or in the year before that. If the purpose of the subsidy is to establish a shipping line, we seem to be going downhill rather than in the direction we want to go. I am eager to ascertain the kinds of cargo that are embraced by this service.
– I shall send to Senator Morris a copy of the answer that I forward to Senator Scott. The increase in the proposed appropriation for this year flows from the fact that we are making more voyages and the subsidy is payable on a voyage basis. We are making more voyages with a view to ensuring a greater continuity of supply.
Proposed expenditure and proposed provision noted.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Proposed expenditure, £135,730,000.
Proposed provision, £91,600,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services
Proposed expenditure, £20,104,000.
Proposed provision, £4,013,000.
– I rise on the estimates relating to broadcasting and television services.
I address my remarks to Division No. 83 which deals with, the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to make very critical comments concerning the failure of this Government and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to promote the encouragement of Australian productions for television. I have read of a Japanese documentary that was shown in Japan recently allegedly depicting Australian conditions and the Australian way of life. I believe that this was a shocking indictment of this Government and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for their failure to do anything in this matter.
– What right did the Board have in the matter?
– Under section 114 of the Broadcasting’ and Television Act, the Board has a duty to see that a great number of Australians are employed in the television industry. I intend to amplify my remarks in this regard. Every honorable senator knows that a very important select committee was appointed by the Senate in 1962. After taking evidence from a great number of witnesses - approximately 140 - and after hearing detailed and voluminous evidence, a report was tabled in this Parliament in October 1963, which is over two years ago. But despite that fact very little, if anything at all, has been done by those who are in charge of this aspect of Government policy or by the commercial television stations to produce anything tangible, so far as Australian drama productions are concerned. This is illustrated by the reports of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that have been tabled in the Parliament and to a lesser extent by the annual reports of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
I intend to be critical of the Government and of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board because of the policies that have been pursued. I say frankly that big business has been allowed to further bulge its already bulging pockets. Despite the increase that has taken place in the last 12 months in the number pf commercial television stations operating in Australia, and apart from the effort of the Channel 7 network with its dramatic production of “ Homicide “, there has been no increase at all, as can be seen from the figures in >, the report of the Broadcasting Control Board, in the volume of Australian drama shown to viewers. Certainly the Australian Broadcasting Commission is trying to do something about this problem, but it is not doing enough.
There are now 31 commercial television stations in Australia and there are 24 national television stations operating compared with 24 commercial stations and 19 national stations last year. In other words there has been ah increase of 7 commercial stations and 5 national stations. But because of the lethargic attitude of the Broadcasting Control Board on this subject and because of the failure of the Government to take heed of the report of the Senate select committee, although there has been an increase in the number of stations the direct result has been the showing of a greater number of imported programmes at much higher cost. If one needs evidence of this, one need only refer to page 5 of the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission where it is stated that the creation of additional commercial channels has contributed to this great increase in costs. The Commission has also said that the general effect of the increase in the number of stations, both commercial and national, has been to make Australia a seller’s market. Intense competition has developed between; Australian stations for the limited number of better-class programmes that are available. As I have already stated it cannot be denied that the creation of additional channels has contributed to the increase in cost of imported programmes. This is a very serious and important matter.
Recently the President of the Australian Screenwriters Guild pointed to the high incidence of foreign drama compared with Australian drama on Sydney’s commercial television stations each week between 7 p.m. and closing time. The President of the Guild stated that in a vast number of cases commercial television stations were devoting their time to the presentation of overseas productions. Therefore, I might ask rhetorically: Is it any wonder that Australian writers, producers and actors are critical of this Government? About 12 months ago the Minister in charge of this important matter said in this Parliament -
In relation to this problem of Australian production - I believe that the principal problem is the shortage of scriptwriters. 1 do not think wc have many good scriptwriters in Australia … we have not many good actors in Australia. You do not find people who will practise, practise, practise to become good actors unless they have some worthwhile instruction.
The answer to this argument of the Minister is found in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, lt is reported that four years ago the Commission was receiving about 200 scripts a year for consideration as television plays, but that this year the figure has increased to 600. So how can it possibly be said that there are insufficient script writers in the Australian community? 1 believe that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) is very wide of the mark in this regard. I suggest that he would only have to read the evidence presented to the Senate select committee to find this out for himself. If good Australian scriptwriters and actors are not available in Australia, they are overseas because of the attitude of .this Government which is directed at protecting the commercial television stations.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has said in its report that there is evidence of continuing interest in the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television. That reference appears at paragraph 261 of the Board’s report. It is also said that the question of televising Australian programmes is being examined by members of the Board and that the Minister hopes to be able to make a statement on this matter before the end of ‘this year. Two years have expired since the report of the Select Committee was tabled in this Parliament. Everyone interested in this subject seems to be pushing the Government to do something about it. Everyone is doing something except the Government.
In order fully to acquaint themselves with the situation of commercial stations and their managements, officers of the Board are visiting key producing people and having full discussions with them. The Postmaster-General has said that he would like to be able to undertake this task, but cannot do so because of pressure of ministerial duties. Because of the searching inquiry conducted by honorable senators into this important subject and because of the detailed and voluminous report presented to the Parliament - a report now generally referred to as the Vincent Committee report - I suggest that the inquiry embarked upon by members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is a complete waste of time.
The Senate Select Committee gave an opportunity to everyone interested in television to come forward to present his views. The opportunity was given not only to individuals in the community and to people representing organisations that are vitally interested in television, but also to station managements. In the event, station managements accepted the opportunity. Despite this fact and the recommendations that were laid on the table of this Parliament over two years ago, the procrastination of the Government goes on and on. Whilst the Government delays, as was said by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) in the Senate about 12 months ago, the profits of commercial television stations continue to rise. When introducing a bill in the Senate in November of last year, the Minister for Customs and Excise pointed out that the gross revenue of commercial television stations in 1956-57 was about £1.2 million. In a period of six or seven years, to 1962-63, the gross revenue of commercial television stations had risen to £18.8 million. The Minister pointed out that the gross revenue of the 10 metropolitan television stations for 1962-63 was £16.8 million. Profits, before payment of taxes and licence fees, were about £3i million, which represented a profit margin of about 20 per cent.
The Government has done nothing but protect the interests of commercial stations. To the credit of some people in the community, an attempt has been made to give Australians an opportunity to use their skills in their own interests and in the interests of their profession and this nation. I have referred already to the Channel 7 production of “Homicide”. A film entitled “They’re a Wierd Mob “ is being made and will employ between 150 and 200 artists. All the artists except the producer, director and one Italian star are Australians. A dramatic programme to be called “ Seaspray “ is being filmed in Fiji at present. The leading role is being played by an Australian, Walter Brown. Lloyd Lamble, a former president of Actors Equity Association of Australia, returned to Australia and was at once engaged by the company concerned to take part in the production of “ Seaspray “.
Despite these laudable activities, only a ripple has been made on the pool of the talents of those artists who are anxious to exercise their skills in the interests of this country so that dramatic programmes could bc made by Australians, of Australians and for Australians to be shown in Australia and sold overseas. As the PostmasterGeneral has said that he hopes to be able to make a statement on this matter before the end of the year and as the estimates for his Department are now being debated in this Parliament, I suggest that now is a very appropriate time for the Minister to make a statement on such an important matter.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator
Drake-Brockman). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to direct attention to the appropriation for the broadcasting and television services. Under the major heading of “Australian Broadcasting Commission” an amount of £151 million is appropriated for expenditure under the Broadcasting and Television Act. This amount represents a slight increase over the provision of £13,640,000 for the previous year. I wish to refer only to a small part of this major item. I wish to refer, also, to the report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the year ended 30th June 1965. At page 25 of that report appears a statement of net expenditure for the year ended 30th June 1965. For news services - radio and television - salaries of over £688,000 and expenses of over £488,000 were paid. This amount is a slight increase on the previous year’s expenditure. I imagine that has been the general trend throughout the Commission’s activities. An expanding activity of this nature must of necessity cost more money. I imagine that in the coming year an even greater amount will be expended.
We are people who live very close to the gathering and dissemination of news which must involve rising costs. We want the best news services obtainable. 1 pay a tribute to the news services of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Its news gathering probably differs rather much from the ordinary newspaper pattern of news gathering, yet I think every honorable senator would agree that the A. B.C. news carries with it a note of authority and enjoys the status, to a certain degree, of official pronouncements. It is associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation news services and therefore has a great world connection.
I wish to pay a very high tribute to the people in charge of the news services of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in regional areas. The residents of many parts of this country are extremely grateful for the character and quality of the personnel who make up the A.B.C. regional news staffs - the writers, editors and readers. The regional staffs bring the whole organisation close to a wide range of people. At this time, when the presentation of radio and television news is pretty competitive, the pace is fast and in many instances it is necessary to broadcast the news as it happens, as they say. I hope that the A.B.C. will retain the present pattern of its news presentations. Although sometimes it may be charged with understatement or with being ultra-conservative, by retaining its present pattern it preserves a difference that gives variety to our radio and television broadcasts.
For some time now in South Australia the A.B.C. television news has been presented at half past six each evening, instead of at the previous time of seven o’clock. This has produced widespread dissatisfaction. I think all South Australian senators have received many representations on this matter. This is the burden of one of the questions that I put to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. For how long is this procedure likely to be retained? Is there any reason for it? It means that in South Australia today the three commercial television stations and the A.B.C. television station all present their news sessions at the one time. The inquiries that I have directed to the Commission have yielded the information that this procedure is being followed for only a trial period. My membership of the A.B.C. advisory committee in Adelaide has yielded similar information from that committee’s discussions.
I submit that by changing the time of its evening news session the A.B.C. has lost a certain amount of its distinctiveness. I claim that it has lost a considerable number of its viewers and listeners. I repeat my question to the Minister: Is this alteration related to costs? Is it to be retained for any considerable time? I plead for a return to the seven o’clock time slot for the A.B.C. news. I do not think the reason for the alteration is related to the rest of the evening programme. I believe that a return to the seven o’clock time slot would be an added advantage to many thousands of rural people and shift workers.
I refer now to the buildings and works appropriations for ‘ sound broadcasting transmission and sound broadcasting studios and other purposes. In respect of the first item, the expenditure last year was £233,335 and this year the appropriation has been reduced slightly to £225,000. I ask the Minister whether that is an indication that there is to be a slackening in the provision of equipment for sound broadcasting.. Is there to be a decline in service or in the hours of broadcasting? By way of contrast, I point out that the expenditure on sound broadcasting studios and other purposes last year was £67,983 and that this year the appropriation has been increased to £96,000. Here again I plead for an improvement of A.B.C. equipment and ask that the standards be improved all the time. The increased appropriation in the second instance would seem to indicate that the Commission has such an improvement in mind.
I plead for a considerable improvement in the A.B.C. studios in South Australia. The studios in Adelaide are situated in Hindmarsh Square and various other places. They are not a very good presentation or representation of the A.B.C. in that city. I know that the provision of studios and equipment for television and radio involves high expenditure. I have no doubt that that has some influence on the present position. But this has been the position for a long time. I make this plea in the light of the fact that radio has returned to a place ‘of great importance to the public. Therefore, it should be appropriately housed. I would be pleased if the Minister could let me have information on the two matters that I have raised and particularly on whether there is any provision in the two buildings and works appropriations for improved conditions at radio stations 5GL and 5AN in Adelaide.
– I direct my remarks to the powers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to control the recently developed spate of columnists who broadcast on radio stations.
– Their broadcasts are referred to in the annual report of the Broadcasting Control Board as gossip sessions. - Senator ORMONDE. - I did not read that, but I accept the honorable senator’s definition. For a long time I, as a layman, have wondered what right radio stations have that newspapers have not to take away people’s characters. There are probably half a dozen people on’ the radio who cater for the women at home or for the mums and dads, as they are called. These people say almost anything about anybody but they have a particular hatred of the Labour Party. Their sessions have become propaganda sessions against the Labour Party.
– They have no special immunity from the defamation law.
– No, we accept that. Being in politics, we accept the fact that we have to be the butts of the columnists’ humour and venom. I suppose that members of the Government parties get their share on occasions, too. But that is not the main point of my case. I want to know what the Broadcasting Control Board can do to protect individuals who are hurt by this sort of criticism.
I refer particularly to the columnist Andrea. I name her because I do not propose to pull any punches on this matter. I refer to what happened on the day after a young man named Glen Fingleton died. He was the secretary of the mechanical section of the Waterside Workers Federation in Sydney. He had been a member of the Labour Party for about 1 8 years. He was as anti-Communist as any man could be. He was very loyal to the Labour Party. He died addressing a meeting. He belonged to a great sporting family - the Fingleton family.
His brother, Jack Fingleton, represents one of the big news agencies here in Canberra and was a famous Australian opening batsman. Two members of his family are in religion. He was also related by marriage to one of the Governors of New South Wales.
– One member of his family was a great swimmer, too.
– That is right. Another was a very important member of the Liberal Party. This family is of mixed politics. It is a deeply religious family. I am certain that the members of this family resented greatly what happened on the day after Glen Fingleton died.
This is what happened: This lady, Andrea - 1 will call her a lady - took Glen Fingleton as the subject of her discussion. Why he had to be talked about I do not know. I am not a shorthand writer. If I were, I would have taken down what she said. Of course, on radio, broadcasters have an advantage over you because they have the libel out before you can catch up with them. The theme of her 10 minutes discussion about Mr. Fingleton was that he was well involved with those “ Commos the wharfies “. This man’s family may well have been listening. He had a wife and four children. He was not even buried at the time of the broadcast.
– Was this programme pre-recorded?
– I will finish my speech. I am coming to that point. I was disgusted and so were many other people. The waterside workers were naturally interested in this matter and this is the point that I want the Minister to answer, if he will. The union approached station 2GB, as I have done many times to protest against this type of broadcasting. The union officers asked for the script so that they could study what they called the filthy libel they had heard about their late member. They were informed by 2GB that under the Broadcasting and Television Act the station had to destroy all scripts within 24 hours. I do not know whether that is true, but it is what they were informed. First, they were informed that it was not the station’s business and any complaints should be lodged with the advertisers who paid the columnist. Then it was said that under the Act the station had to get rid of the scripts. I would be horrified if that were true and 1 want to get the information on that point from the Minister.
What right do the radio stations have that a newspaper has not got? A newspaper can be sued months or years after publication because the copy is there and you know what was said. But statements made on the radio or television are merely passed over the ether. This family was grossly libelled, in my opinion. The dead man to whom I have referred was never a Communist and could not possibly have been a Communist. The broadcaster did not actually say that he was. She even referred to Lady Street, one of our liberal women who took part in socialist activities as do so many other great ladies of the world - no more and no less. The broadcaster hinted about her, too - “ Sheepskins for Russia, you know “. Most listeners, 1 am sure, were left with the impression that here was a fellow who was a Communist. That was in effect the theme of her session.
I want to know from the Minister: is it a fact that there is no provision in the Broadcasting and Television Act to make this sort of thing impossible? Frankly I do not think the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is very interested because character assassination of this sort is pretty general on the radio, particularly in the early morning sessions. The Board should look at this. Even politicians ‘ should not be sniped at all the time by propagandists using material which is in bad taste. 1 think that even politicians are entitled to some protection. The gossip columnist is a new development in radio and people who suffer the shafts of the radio gossip columnist are entitled to our protection.
.- I refer to the provision under Division No. 820 for allowances for the conduct of business of non-official post offices, including railway offices. I am interested in this item because most of these post offices also conduct telephone exchanges. The relevant statistics show that there are about 7,000 telephone- exchanges in Australia and 3,300 of these are on restricted hours. It is these offices which work on restricted hours to which I wish to refer. Nearly half our telephone exchanges give a service of 50 to 55 hours a week. Some years ago, continuous service exchanges were provided only when revenue reached a certain level. Then a figure was plucked out of the air and a continuous service was provided when 40 telephones were connected provided somebody could be found to conduct the service. That arrangement has operated for some time. The position has been alleviated by the small automatic exchanges but these have some limitations. I understand the lines cannot exceed 25 miles in length and the exchange must be somewhere near a place where mechanics are available. Climatic conditions interfere with them, such as when the weather is extremely wet or extremely dry.
The time has arrived when the number of telephone ‘ connections necessary for a continuous service could be progressively reduced to, say, 30 subscribers along with the acceleration of installation of automatic exchanges. People in many parts of Australia have been on these restricted hours for many years. I know some of them who have had restricted hours since the First World War and they still cannot telephone on Saturday afternoons or Sundays. In some places there are groups of small exchanges within a radius of 20 miles and they could be merged into one exchange to give a continuous service. It is cheaper to sling overhead wires on existing poles. I make a plea for more continuous telephone services for people in areas which have been denied this service for so long.
I know it will be said that there is a big lag in the installation of telephones in some of the cities. It has been said that there are many thousands of outstanding applications for telephones in Sydney but the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) stated recently that the Department expected to catch up with the lag in the next couple of years. I suggest that the Postal Department should endeavour to reduce progressively the number of post offices with restricted telephone exchanges and give to people all over Australia as soon as possible the same telephone facilities as those provided in the bigger centres of population.
I turn now to Division No. 842 and the proposed expenditure on the maintenance and operation of transmitting stations for sound broadcasting and television. We have had a series of extensions to our television services. I know the last phase of the plan has not been completed but completion is in sight. I make a plea for the extension of television services particularly to the inland areas of Queensland. They seem to have no prospect of getting television in the foreseeable future. A typical area is Mount Isa and Cloncurry where there are 20,000 people in a comparatively small area. Surely they are entitled to some service after all the bigger centres along the. coast and the closely settled areas have, been provided with television. There are parts of central and western Queensland such as the Longreach and Charleville areas which merit consideration also.
I understand that two television studios will be almost redundant when the relay line goes on to Cairns. Studios and equipment have been built up in Townsville and Rockhampton which will be of very little use when the relay is completed. Perhaps some of that staff and some of the facilities could be made available to provide a service in the areas I have mentioned. They richly deserve it. Much of our wealth is produced there and I make a plea on behalf of the people living there.
.- I make a plea in regard to the perennial question of telephone services. As everyone knows, the telephone is one modern amenity in respect of which many Australians are finding an almost impossible situation facing them. I know that the Postal Department has been doing its best to deal with the telephone lag but I ask the Minister whether he can give us any figures on the present situation and an indication as to when it is likely to be overcome. We all get complaints from business people and others who require telephones and who are finding difficulties in that respect. I also hope that the Postal Department, in the interests of decentralisation, will have a look at the question of evening up telephone charges. We all talk about decentralisation and trying to get business firms to go to the country. One inducement that could be offered to them would be to ensure that the difference between telephone charges for a firm operating in the country and for one in the city is not so great. The Government has recently done something to even out petrol charges throughout the community. In the interests of country people generally and in the interests of decentralisation, I should like to see it have a look at the evening of telephone charges.
I want to refer also to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In my previous term as a senator, I repeatedly referred to the differential treatment which the Commission gives to candidates at elections. In my view, in elections candidates should be equal before the law. There would be violent objections if the Government decided that in an election campaign one set of candidates should be given £2,000 towards their expenses, another set of candidates given £2,000 towards their expenses, and others given nothing. Yet in each election campaign today the Australian Broadcasting Commission will give facilities worth thousands of pounds to certain groups of candidates but will deny these facilities to other groups of candidates. The Commission is a body that is using public money and should give even-handed justice to all candidates. I ask here and now that representatives of the Commission give consideration to broadcasting in future election campaigns only the policy speeches of the parties which have a significant number of candidates and are represented in the Parliament. Let it broadcast the policy speeches only and then let the political parties that want other time pay for it. At the last election T was a candidate. Candidates opposing me enjoyed very considerable facilities from the Australian Broadcasting Commission and my supporters had to pay considerable sums to even things up on the commercial stations. I do not see why my supporters should have to provide these large sums of money - sums which they are still paying off and will be paying off for a long time - while other political parties are given extensive facilities in television and radio by a corporation which is spending public money. I ask it to give fair play in future elections.
I want to refer also to something to which 1 referred in my previous term and in respect of which there has been no improvement. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, which protests violently at the suggestion of any form of censorship being operated, operates its own censorship in those sessions which deal with talks and discussions on political affairs. When I was a senator previously I asked, over a period of about 5 years, for the list showing the occasions on which members of the various political parties had been given the opportunity to comment on political affairs. It was revealed that all the other political parties had had opportunities and the Democratic Labour Party had had none. Senator Cole, at my request, some time ago asked that question again. It was revealed that the facilities were available to other parties and we were told that one lone D.L.P. member had been given an opportunity to comment. We are still trying to find out who he was.
I watch these talk sessions a great deal and I notice in them that members of the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party, the Australian Labour Party and the Australian Communist Party, are given opportunities to comment, but the Australian Broadcasting Commission operates a censorship against the D.L.P. and is apparently determined that no representative of it shall ever be given the opportunity to put his Party’s views. As an example of what this leads to, I want to read a statement that was made on the session “ Any Questions “ on 13th December 1963, following the House of Representatives elections. Mr. Ted Wheelwright, a Sydney economist, was asked an obvious Dorothy Dixer in regard to the D.L.P. These are his remarks -
Not only is this a party which is, in the current jargon, a veto party, but it’s a party which i regard as an incipient fascist party, which is working on fear and ignorance and religious prejudice to confound Australia and to drag it deep into the depth of greater ignorance as it confronts what’s happening in the rest of the world. And i can think of nothing worse than for this party to gain greater power and greater sway over the people in Australia, who don’t think about its future relations with the rest of the world. And to me it’s a very sorry day that the forces of this satanic darkness have triumphed at this recent election.
I do not object to his saying that, because I am a believer in the freest possible political expression and I uphold Mr. Wheelwright’s right to say that on the air if he wants to. But I say that if he can say it in a session from a publicly owned television station my Party is entitled to an opportunity to reply. If that had been said about the Australian Labour Party, or the Liberal Party, or the Country Party, it would have demanded the opportunity to reply and would have got it. I wrote to the Commission the following letter -
A loaded question to Mr. Wheelwright on whether a minority party should have power to determine governments produced a violently abusive attack by Mr. Wheelwright on the Democratic Labour Party, which he described as a fascist organisation. The Democratic Labour Party is becoming accustomed to being insulted on A.B.C. sessions. Early this year, Mr. Calwell in the promotion week of his book was interviewed by the A.B.C. and was permitted to abuse the D.L.P.
On the Tuesday after the recent election, on a news telecast, he was allowed to abuse and insult the D.L.P.
In the latest example, Mr. Wheelwright, a noted D.L.P. hater, was invited by a hand-picked antiD.L.P. audience to insult the D.L.P.
When protests are made about this kind of thing, one is accused of wanting to stifle free speech or hamstring the A.B.C
Yet one notices that the A.B.C. talks and interview’s sessions are open at times to members of the Liberal, Country, A.L.P. and Communist Parties, but not. to the D.L.P. Free speech does not extend that far.
Not being a fascist organisation, the D.L.P. does not want Mr. Wheelwright or anyone else muzzled. The D.L.P. merely suggests that if it is attacked on A.B.C. sessions it be given the right to reply under similar circumstances.
Alternatively, if a panel is to discuss controversial political issues, all parties should be represented.
That is my view. I never mind what anybody says about me in politics. I welcome their attacks as long as I am in a place where I can reply. Let us have the freest possible discussion in politics, but do not let us have a situation where a government owned organisation, from which station time, cannot be bought, repeatedly allows one political party to insult another and then refuses the latter party an opportunity to answer. I received a reply from the Chairman of the Commission, Dr. J. R. Darling, in the following terms - 18th December 1963.
Dear Mr. McManus,
Thank you for your letter which I have sent to Management for formal answering.
As you know these programmes are not rehearsed, and it is possible for individual members to get out of hand, and if this happened I am very sorry. However, I shall have the matter inquired into and a fuller answer sent to you.
Having waited four months for the reply that the Chairman had promised me, on 5th March 1964 I wrote to him as follows -
Dear Dr. Darling,
I refer to my letter of last year regarding references to the D.LJ>. by Mr. Wheelwright on the “ Any Questions “ programme.
In your reply of 18/12/63, you said, “I shall have the matter inquired into and a fuller answer sent you “.
I have not received the answer promised.
Today, 15 months later, I am still waiting for an answer to that letter. I think this is a scandal. An organisation is abused in the most insulting way in a session on a publicly owned television station; when it requests an opportunity to reply, it is told that the matter will be considered; it writes, four months later, asking for the answer that it has been promised and does not even receive the courtesy of a reply to that communication. I can only say in conclusion - as I have said before - that I do not care what anybody says about me or the D.L.P. I am used to being roughed up in politics and, to be quite candid, I enjoy it; but I say in the interests of the people whom I represent that if they are insulted they are entitled to reply. If this incident had occurred on a commercial station we would have asked for time in which to reply and, if necessary, we would have paid for that time, but with the A.B.C. one has no redress; it is its own master. I register my emphatic protest against the fact that in its political comment sessions the A.B.C. gives time to every political party, including the Communist Party - if it is a party, and I do not think it is - but denies the D.L.P. which, after all, represents 480,000 people in this country, the right to comment. The Commission allows personalities in politics to insult the Democratic Labour Party repeatedly, then denies that party the right to reply and will not even answer its letters.
– I propose at this stage to reply to some of the points that have been raised in the debate so far. We are all very much aware of the great interest Senator McClelland has taken in television. He was a member of the Senate select committee on television and was a signatory to the report submitted on behalf of that committee. Tonight he was critical of the delay in dealing with the recommendations of the committee. I remind him that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) has promised that the report will be considered by the Government in due course. It is quite a difficult matter. It is not nearly as easy to deal with as it might seem, and as I think the honorable senator knows by now, the Minister has given a lot of attention to it. Regarding the Australian content of programmes, I have a note to the effect that the A.B.C., in addition to providing its own Australian programmes, has spent something like £270,000 on material from Australian producers to make up the Australian content of its programmes.
I have information on some of the matters Senator Davidson raised. He said that the A.B.C.’s studios in Adelaide were not very modern. The Department recognises this and hopes to erect more modern studios in the future. I am told that there is no provision for this item in the 1965-66 estimates, but that modern facilities will be provided as soon as that can be done. We know that a huge sum - something like £90 million - has been made available to the Postmaster-General’s Department this year for its works programme. The honorable senator also referred to the alteration to the time of the evening news service in Adelaide. This will be referred to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am informed that the change was made for a trial period and apparently that period has not yet ended.
Senator Ormonde raised a question of considerable importance. He referred to a matter that he considered to be libellous and asked whether it was correct that under the Broadcasting and Television Act stations could keep recordings of proceedings only for 24 hours. The Act is clear in this regard. Section 117a. states - (1.) Where the Commission or a licensee broadcasts or televises matter relating to a political subject or current affairs, being matter that is in the form of news, an address, a statement, a commentary or a discussion, the Commission or the licensee, as the case may be, shall cause a record to be made, in writing or by means of a device for recording sound, of the matter or, if the matter is televised, of the matter in so far as it consists of sound. (2.) Subject to this section, the Commission or a licensee, as the case may be, shall retain in its or his custody a record of matter made in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section for a period of six weeks from the date on which the matter was broadcast or televised or for such longer period as the Minister, in special circumstances, directs. (3.) Where a person considers that a record of matter made in pursuance of sub-section (1.) of this section is admissible in evidence in proceedings instituted, or proposed to be instituted, in any court, being a record that is in the custody of the Commission or a licensee by virtue of the last preceding sub-section, he may serve on the Commission or the licensee, as the case requires, a notice in writing informing the Commission or the licensee that the record may be required for the purposes of the proceedings.
For Senator Ormonde’s benefit I will also read section 124. It is as follows -
For the purposes of the law of defamation, the transmission of words or other matter by a broadcasting station or a television station shall be deemed to be publication in permanent form. 1 am advised further that, provided commercial television stations comply with the principles of the Board’s programme standards it does not interfere with their selection of programmes. Persons who consider themselves to have been defamed would have recourse to the processes of the law. The Minister and the Board have no power to require a station to supply a script to a third party. I hope that clears up the matter Senator Ormonde raised.
– I think that is pretty poor and I will quote a case in a moment.
– All right. Senator Lawrie had something to say about television and telephone facilities in the north and north-western areas of Queensland. Most of us know from personal experience that radio reception in many parts of Queensland has been bad for many years. Telephonic communication, too, has been inadequate in some areas. Unfortunately, in such large and sparsely populated areas I think it is only to be expected that television facilities cannot be provided quickly. However, this is gradually being done. Extension of television to inland areas of Queensland and to remote areas generally has many problems, both technical and economical. The Postmaster-General has referred to these on a number of occasions. It is not clear when television will be brought to most of these areas. However, the Australian Broadcasting Commission will make a report to the Minister on the general question of further development of the services when studies now being made are completed. I will bring to the notice of the Minister the representations made by the honorable senator but there are serious difficulties about inland Queensland.
The honorable senator also mentioned hours of attendance at telephone exchanges. It would cost an extra £2.4 million each year to provide continuous service at all exchanges. The Postmaster-General has said that the Department is progressively extending automatic telephone services but a large amount of work is involved and the Department must balance improvements in service against the heavy demand for new services. Referring to the question of the connection of telephone services, the Department expects to provide 323,000 gross connections this year compared with a demand of 306,000, and will spend about £8.4 million more than in 1964-65 to do so.
Senator McManus also brought up the question of telephones. I would like to refer him to a news release put out by the Postmaster-General on 29th October, in which he said that the Department expected to reduce outstanding applications for telephone services from 85,631, which includes 29,853 deferred applications at 30th June last, to 73,600, including 17,800 deferred applications, by the end of the current financial year. This is based on the estimation that 310,700 new applications for telephones will be received this financial year. The expected results will give important relief to New South Wales by reducing the number of deferred applications by 5,800 to about 15,000. It was hoped that by the end of 1 966-67 the number of deferred applications in New South Wales could be reduced to about 6,000 and that the Department would be close to providing the demand for service in many areas throughout Australia. Senator McManus also brought up once again a question which many of us have heard him refer, to from time to time. I refer to his complaint that his political party does not receive what he considers to be a fair deal in regard to television facilities. I cannot make any comment on that matter. In regard to his feeling that there is bias towards his party in as much as it was not given an opportunity to reply when attacked, I think all I can say is that I will bring the matter before the notice of the Postmaster-General.
.- In Division No. 838, item 01, £15,500,000 is provided for expenditure under the Broadcasting and Television Act. I have no argument against that amount of money being spent. 1 am not suggesting that it be varied by one penny but I want to make a request in relation to some of the conditions laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board with respect to country television services. I speak of my own State but I wholeheartedly agree with Senator Lawrie and the remarks he made about Mount Isa in Queensland.
I am concerned about Geraldton and Kalgoorlie. Honorable senators who have been in this chamber for some time will know that for five and a half years 1 have been advocating with all the force I have that translator or package type stations be used in these two areas which have been left in the wilderness and are not taken into account at all in any of the future plans for the extension of television. Unfortunately I have got nowhere with this suggestion. It was distressing for me to read last week that the two television stations in Perth, T.V.W. Ltd. and Swan Television Ltd., have withdrawn their applications for country television licences. The two companies have told the Postmaster-General that they consider that it is not economic to cover Western Australian country areas under the present conditions laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. These conditions provide for the establishment of self-contained or relay stations with high power transmitters. The decision of the Perth companies means, of course, that country areas outside the Bunbury district and possibly the Albany-Katanning area will not get commercial television for many years.
– They will get the national television service, will they not?
– Yes. But the two major population centres outside the metropolitan area, those of Geraldton and Kalgoorlie, are not to receive national television yet and when they will receive it has never been announced. Mr. Cruthers, manager of T.V.W. Ltd., who has bent over backwards in efforts for his company to do something, has said that his company had been making investigations since 1959 into the practicability of extending television to country areas of Western Australia. He has said that investigation showed that it was not economically possible to extend commercial television to the central agricultural areas in accordance with the requirements laid down by the Government and the Broadcasting Control Board. He was not just being destructive. He went on in a constructive way and, to my own satisfaction, finally agreed to some of the proposals that I put forward in this place three years ago. He said that alternatives could take the form of small low powered package stations for Kalgoorlie and Geraldton and translator systems to cover the Northam- York area and possibly some other areas.
The manager of the other Perth station, Channel 9, Mr. Mercer, said that package stations would cover a much smaller area than Perth television stations but the picture 5 to 10 miles around such stations would be of high quality. That was the point I made some time ago when I asked the Board to consider this proposition for the two areas to which I referred because a station on top of Mount Charlotte would only need a radius of three miles to cover the entire population of Kalgoorlie and Boulder; and a station on the one major hill feature at Geraldton would not need a radius of three miles to cover that population. Mr. Cruthers backed me up on this point, although he probably did not know that I had mentioned it. He estimated that the cost would be £50,000 compared with almost £100,000 for transmission from a high powered station. His figure is rather high because, from inquiries I made while overseas, I think it would cost considerably less. The mayor of Geraldton, Mr. EadonClarke, recently made a special trip overseas for the express purpose of studying television suitable to cover the Geraldton area. He has just returned after having made exhaustive inquiries. I freely admit to the Minister and to his advisers that Mr. Eadon-Clarke may not have technical knowledge, but he went and inspected these stations in operation. When he returned he said that a package station seemed most suitable for Geraldton and that one capable of covering a radius of six miles could be set up for about £37,500. That was the figure I was given for the Marconi type station. The Press report that I have before me states -
The same type of station could give good transmission in a 180 deg. arc from Dongara and Mingenew to beyond Mullewa and as far north as the Murchison for about £60,000.
This is a slightly larger type. Now we come to the subject of costs. The report continues - “It ls a question of programming, the costs of which are very high. “But if I could be assured that a package station at Geraldton could be fed programmes from an established station-
That is, either of the two in the metropolitan area that I have mentioned - there would be no difficulty in raising the money to cover the capital cost of the transmitting facilities.”
I am not asking the Government to put one penny into this. I am asking it to examine the granting of permission to use package type stations in these areas that are not covered by the future plans for television. I am asking the Government to allow such stations to be used by the existing companies or by any new company that is set up for this purpose. Of course, a company specially set up would run into the difficulty of obtaining programmes. In my opinion, any station undertaking this sort of project would have to be associated with an existing station in order to get programmes. The Press report of the comments of Mr. Harris of the Kalgoorlie Chamber of Commerce states -
The Goldfields was not included in any area for future television expansion, he said.
The chamber considered that a small package station costing about £50,000 to £75,000 and replaying “ canned “ programmes-
From the existing stations - would provide an adequate service for the Kalgoorlie area.
However, this would not be permitted under the present planning.
I was not very impressed by the advice that the Minister was given and on which he had to rely in replying to Senator Lawrie. Neither of us has asked for anything that would cost the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or the Government any money. We have asked the Government to look at these isolated areas with a view to permitting package type stations to be operated so that people in those districts may enjoy this amenity.
There is a wealth of material that one could use in advancing an argument on this matter. It is exceedingly difficult to get people to live out in the country. It is difficult to get young people to go out and settle in localities that lack some of the amenities that their fellow workers enjoy in the metropolitan areas. The existing television stations in the west are prepared to provide this amenity, but because of the conditions that have been laid down they cannot do so. If in replying to me the Minister will feel obliged to give exactly the same answer as he gave earlier, 1 ask him not to bother replying but to direct the matter to the attention of the Postmaster-General.
– I intended to enter this debate to support remarks that have been addressed to Division No. 835, Australian Broadcasting Control Board. But my entry is fortified by the rather disappointing answer that Senator McKellar gave earlier in relation to the right of redress that an injured party has following utterances made on television and radio programmes. I propose to mention two cases to justify the assertion that the lack of a consistent policy on the part of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is creating a situation that could get quite out of hand.
The first case, which occurred approximately 12 months ago, concerns the New South Wales Branch of the Electrical Trades Union. During a certain commercial station programme Caroline Bernstein interviewed the spokesman of one faction of the union. Quite naturally, this chap developed his theme as though he were a trade union Moses leading the rank and file to the promised land. That is fair enough, if a man can get away with it. On this occasion he did. But when the controlling faction of the union, which represents quite a number of extremely responsible trade unionists in Sydney, approached the station and asked for the right to reply, it took that faction 12 days of incessant lobbying, telephoning and all sorts of threats to gain the right to put its viewpoint. The important aspect of the matter is that 12 days elapsed. Honorable senators will appreciate the damage that can be done in that time when a postal ballot is being held.
Caroline Bernstein had exhorted wives to tell their husbands that the Electrical Trades Union wanted a new deal and so on. Just how much of that indirect propaganda was successful may be debatable. As a matter of fact, justice did triumph; the con,trollers of the union were returned to office. But the matter of getting an even break arose, and it still arises. This sort of thing could happen to another union tomorrow. Senator McManus referred to paying for time. If one group in a trade union battle gets free, time, I think it is pretty raw if another group has to pay the station concerned in order to get its message across. This is one classic illustration of the fact that the Rip Van Winkle attitude of Mr. McNamara and the Board is leading to all sorts of reprisals. The fact that when a union is not given a fair go it has no constitutional right to redress may incite it to take other measures.
The second case I wish to quote is one in which I participated. It involves another lady who is known as Andrea. She is a very strange woman. I leave it at that. This person made an extremely impolite reference to my Party. Like Senator McManus, if I had had the opportunity to reply to her, I could give her the same back with compound interest. But, of course, it is not as easy as that. We reported the matter to Mr.. McNamara. Perhaps I was a bit luckier than was Senator McManus, because I did receive an answer nine or ten weeks later saying that that lady had been censured. That was rather poor consolation to the Labour Party. The insulting remark had been made and the matter was left there. The remark had been made to a very important segment of the public who listen in the day time. The fact that this woman had been censured was not worth tuppence to us. In most other spheres people would be stood down or subjected to some other form of punishment. This person did not even have to say over the radio: “ I have made a dreadful mistake “. This sort of thing is just not good enough. We have heard stories of the old colonial days when the law was a bit slow in its operation, about people horsewhipping editors because they could not get the right to reply. I am a peaceful sort of person and I would not like to see that sort of thing happen today. But sometimes if people cannot get justice they tend to resort to some other means in order to get their viewpoint across.
Let me say quite unmistakably that I blame Mr. McNamara and the Board for the kind of treatment people are being subjected to. Let me say something else about people getting an even break. When my good friend Cyril Wyndham was, I think, Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labour Party, he tried to get tough and give nearly as much as we were receiving. But he ran into virtual strong arm tactics. He was pulled up and told that he had to stop. I do not squeal about this sort of thing, but I do think that Senator McManus’s party got a fair crack of the whip. I am not exonerating the Board, though. During one election campaign the honorable senator’s party used some material which depicted Khrushchev and a skull and cross bones. It is ali very well for members of the D.L.P. to argue about the totalitarianism of the left but if we had been able to produce something relating to the Nuremburg congresses of Adolf Hitler or about dangers from the far. right, they would not have got to first base.
I have found during election campaigns that on Sundays the Australian Labour Party has always seemed to be bracketed with the Australian Country Party, the Liberal Party and the Democratic Labour Party. If the Board wants to extend fair play to us, let it ensure that these programmes are spaced out and that some of the commercial television stations do not come up with stories about advance bookings that are not true. Senator McManus probably had in mind the “Four Corners” programme and similar productions. I would be reasonably happy if all parties could get equality of treatment for six weeks before a Federal election.
I am not holding Senator McKellar responsible for what has happened in the case of the Electrical Trades Union and in the case in which I was involved. We want the Board to adopt a positive policy so that we may get an even break in the real sense of the term.
– I ask honorable senators to keep their remarks as concise as possible. There seems to be a lack of inquiry about the particular estimates under consideration. I point out that we have now noted the expenditure for 26 items, but there are 40 items still to be considered. Unless honorable senators shorten their speeches on the various items, a number of honorable senators will not have an opportunity to speak on the Estimates,
.- I draw the attention of the Committee to two matters dealing with the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. I ask the Minister to give me an explanation on the points I raise. The first matter refers to real estate management. I would like to know the reason for the altered position in relation to rental of leased premises. Last year the expenditure amounted to approximately £1 million. The figure is estimated at £1,117,200 for this year. But this year there is the additional provision of £114,800 for the rental of Commonwealth premises. I would ask the Minister to clear up that point.
My second query relates to broadcasting and television services, which have been mentioned by other honorable senators. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board shows that the expenditure last year amounted to £401,756. I ask the Minister to give me the reason why the expenditure in the document we have before us is shown as £381,000. There is probably a transfer of figures which the Minister can make clear. An amount of £450,000 is provided for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board this year. No doubt it is the wish of the Government that the expenses of the various departments that it controls should be kept within reasonable limits. The service that is provided by the Board is of expanding interest and benefit to the community.
I think that the report of the Broadcasting Control Board for 1962 gave the expenditure for that year as £308,000. In the previous year it was £250,000. The expenditure of the Board, which is under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department, is increasing quite rapidly. I would like, to know the benefit that the community is obtaining from the operations of the Board. Generally, I would say that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department gives excellent service to the community. I note from the Estimates that it spends the second greatest amount of money of the departments with which we have to deal. The fact that the sizable amount of £450,000 is to be spent by the Board this year should give an indication of its importance to the community. Originally the Board was set up to allocate licences in a correct manner, to control and investigate programme content and to deal with a number of matters that have been mentioned in its reports over the years. lt is worthwhile mentioning that the Senate select committee was not set up to investigate television in Australia. It was specifically set up to investigate the encouragement of Australian productions. I refer particularly to that matter, as other honorable senators have done. The quality of programmes, the subject matter of programmes, the variety of programmes, the overall balance of programmes and the Australian content of programmes are matters that come within the range of the powers of the Broadcasting Control Board. At least, that was the view of the Senate select committee. The Chairman of the Board at that time, Mr. Osborne, had some other views. It would be interesting if the Minister could say whether a decision has been made on this matter because Mr. Osborne at that time appeared to be under the impression that the responsibility for this matter should be accepted by the Minister. I invite attention to that point.
I query the benefit that the people of Australia will gain from the expenditure of £450,000 by the Board this year. As I have said, there are a number of matters which come within the control of the Board. They include the Australian content of programmes, the granting of licences and the matter of television productions, particularly dramatic productions, which is the main source of employment within the Australian television industry. I shall make one or two points to demonstrate what I am saying, and I ask the Minister to comment on them. In the latest report of the Broadcasting Control Board there are some observations which may, perhaps, indicate some ineffectiveness on the part of the Board. I go back to the report of the Board in 1960. At page 38 it is stated that the Minister had said that after three years television stations should have 40 per cent. Australian content in their programmes. That is most important in the encouragement of this industry within Australia. Table 3 on page 46 of the Board’s report in 1961 shows that two major stations within Australia had not met this requirement. I mention these matters because I would like to know who makes the decisions in this matter - the Board or the Minister.
It is interesting to note in paragraph 252 on page 69 of the 1965 report of the Broadcasting Control Board that the Minister instructed the stations that they should have a 50 per cent. Australian content in their programmes as from 18th January 1965. If we look at the schedules attached to that report, it is interesting to note that 8 out of 10 stations did not meet the Minister’s requirement. It should be remembered that the principal stations, when they originally applied for their licences in 1955, gave serious undertakings regarding the Australian content of their programmes. How important does the Government believe the encouragement of the Australian television industry is? I ask the Minister to give us details of the money that has been spent in the last two years in the purchase of overseas film. Perhaps it is an indication of the amount that could have been saved by greater encouragement of Australian productions, or at least an insistence that the stations should hold to their promises.
Originally station HSV7 in Melbourne undertook to provide programmes with an Australian content, of 72 per cent, in its first year; GTV9 promised 54 per cent, in the first year, 56 per cent, in the second year and 63 per cent, in the third year. ATN7 suggested that it would provide an Australian content of 67 per cent, in the first year; TCN9 promised 50 per cent, in its first year. At page 69 of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s report for the year ending June 1965 it is said that, despite the Minister’s request that commercial stations should provide programmes with an Australian content of 50 per cent., HSV7 was providing 47.9 per cent.; GTV9 43.5 per cent.; ATN7 44.4 per cent.; and TCN 9 49 per cent. It appears that the Minister’s request - or the Board’s request - had very little weight.
A classic instance of promises made when applying for the grant of a licence is that of ATV0 in Melbourne. It promised a most ambitious Australian content of programmes for which it should be greatly complimented, both as to quality and quantity. ATVO undertook in its first year to provide an Australian content of 58 per cent. I refer honorable senators to page 58 of the recommendations of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the granting of the third commercial licences in Sydney and Melbourne. At page 106 of that publication the Board, in its wisdom, said about the proposals -
We are satisfied that they are both realistic and economically practical and give real evidence of an appreciation of the problem of reconciling high standards with financial stability and of the means by which this may be achieved.
At paragraph 255 on page 65 of the Board’s current report it is said that ATVO Melbourne and TEN 10 Sydney will be required to achieve 50 per cent. Australian content after 12 months. Honorable senators may be interested to know that to June 1965 ATVO had achieved Australian content of 26.3 per cent, instead of 58 per cent, as promised. In August last ATVO had been operating for 12 months. It will be interesting to see whether the Minister or the Board can induce ATVO to honour its promise.
The reports of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are quite mystifying when dealing with Australian produced television drama. At page 37, paragraph 121, of the Board’s report for the year ended June 1958 it states -
There is still some hesitation on the part of stations to attempt live dramatic productions.
In its report for the following year the Board used precisely the same words at paragraph 102. Despite these mild protests in 1958 and 1959, a review of Australian produced drama indicates that the Board has taken little action to implement what it considers to be important. At page 81 of the Board’s report for the year ended June 1962 it states-
The portion of Australian time devoted to Australian produced drama was 3.11 per cent.
I shall cite some figures upon which the Minister may wish to comment. They relate to the expansion of the local television industry and particularly to the production of local drama. The report of the Board for 1961-62 shows that in that year Australian produced drama represented 3.11 per cent.; in 1962-63 it was 3.6 per cent.; and in 1963-64 it was 2.1 per cent. At page 101 of the current report it states that the present percentage is 1.7. I appreciate the difficulty involved in suggesting to people that they should be more interested in local productions than they are in package programmes that can be bought and put on television very quickly. It is much easier and a better business proposition to purchase films in bulk than it is to produce films in Australia, but I believe something must be done in this direction.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to take up time unnecessarily in discussing the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. However, I wish to refer again to Division No. 835. I support the remarks of Senator Webster. Such comments have come from honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I point out to the Minister that recently in Australia an organisation was formed known as the Australian National Television Council. It is composed of people from all walks of life - from various christian denominations and from all political parties. I remind the Minister and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that the question of Australian productions for television is more than a matter of- politics.’ It is a matter of Australianism. Figures taken out for one week of dramatic programmes shown between 7 p.m. and the closing time of about 11 p.m. on Sydney’s then two commercial television stations showed that 55 hours were occupied by American material, 8 hours by British material and 1 hour by Australian material.
In reply to my earlier remarks, the Minister indicated that the PostmasterGeneral has given a lot of attention to this matter. He said that it is a difficult matter and that the PostmasterGeneral has promised to put a proposition to the Government in due course. I hope that the phrase “ in due course “ does not mean that he has extended the time contemplated in his previous statement which appears in paragraph 261 of the current report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, where it is said that the Minister hoped to make a statement on the matter before the end of this year. The Minister also said that the Australian Broadcasting Commission had spent about £270.000 on Australian produced material. Certainly the A.B.C. has done something, but in my opinion it has not done enough to cater for the needs of Australian producers, actors, writers and those people who should be engaged in the television industry.
At page 62 of the Board’s current report it is stated that the total amount of drama shown on capital city television stations during the last financial year was 51.2 per cent. At page 103 of the same report it is stated that the total amount of drama of Australian origin amounted to a mere 1.7 per cent. The very severe diagram on page 25 of the report shows that 28 per cent, of the transmitting time of commercial broadcasting stations is taken up by the playing of what the Board calls transient music, which is generally referred to as pop music; that 21 per cent, is taken up by light music; and that 14 per cent, is taken up by advertising. The total under those three headings is 63 per cent. The percentage of time devoted to “ other programmes” is a mere 3.1, and less than .1 per cent, is devoted to educational programmes. This matter is within the ambit of the Broadcasting Control Board. It is within the Board’s province to deal with it. Yet, as Senator Webster, who sits on the opposite side of the chamber to me, has said, year after year the reports of the Board show that the situation is going from bad to worse. Something has to be done and done quickly if the situation is to be satisfactory for Australian professional people.
I wish to add to the remarks that were made by Senator Ormonde in relation to some of the gossip sessions that are broadcast daily by radio stations. The Minister, in his reply to Senator Ormonde, referred to section 117a and section 124 - that section relates to the law of defamation - of the Broadcasting and Television Act. He said that, provided the commercial broadcasting stations comply with the principles of the Board’s programme standards, the Board does not interfere with the selection of programmes and that persons who were defamed would have recourse to the processes of law. That is so; but such persons would first have to make application to a court in order to obtain a script or replay of the broadcast that was made.
As I mentioned previously, I can give the Minister a specific example. I refer, .as my colleagues Senators Ormonde and Mulvihill have, to the Andrea session. About the middle of last year I put on the notice paper a question complaining about certain things that had been said by this gossiper on station 2GB.
– Do these sessions have a very big audience?
– I would not know what their rating is, but this session is on every day. On 22nd September last year the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) replied to the question that I put on the notice paper. In short he said that he had asked the Broadcasting Control Board to inform the management of the station, namely station 2GB, that care should be taken to ensure that no words or phrases to which reasonable exception might be taken are used. That is fair enough. I assume that the Board transmitted that information to the station.
At about the beginning of December last year people had occasion to complain not only to me as a member of the Parliament but also to lawyers about the content of programmes that had been broadcast. After this matter had been referred to a particular lawyer, on behalf of his client he wrote to the station asking to be permitted, at his client’s expense, to hear a re-run of the tape of the broadcast and, if possible, to be supplied with a copy of the transcript of the broadcast. The station’s reply was signed by Mr. S. R. I. Clark of broadcasting station 2GB and was as follows -
In reply to your letter of 8th December I have to advise that it is the policy of this Company not to make available scripts, recordings or auditions of any matter broadcast.
That is the policy of the station despite the fact that the Postmaster-General, told the Broadcasting Control Board to ensure that no words or phrases to which reasonable exception might be taken were used.
When this matter was referred to me after the lawyer had received that reply from the station, I took it up with the Postmaster-General. His reply, in short, was that he could not help me in this matter. He said -
The Broadcasting and Television Act does not authorise the Minister to obtain scripts other than for purely official purposes in connection with the administration of the Act.
Accordingly it is the established policy followed by successive Ministers that scripts secured officially’ should not be made available to third parties.
That virtually means that, unless a person is prepared to make an application to a court for production of the script or for a replay of the broadcast, he must sit beside his radio every day and, expecting that something defamatory will be said, make a tape recording of the programme so that he can take it to a solicitor and say: “ Will you examine this tape recording and see whether in your opinion I have been libelled or defamed?” Frankly, this is a shocking state of affairs. For a provision to the effect that the transmission of words or other matter by a broadcasting station or a television station shall be deemed to be publication in permanent form to be written into the Broadcasting and Television Act is sheer boloney, having regard to the facts as I have stated them.
The only way that redress can be obtained is for the Board to give a direction to the stations that in the event of complaints of this nature being made the stations should make available to people who allege that they have been defamed the scripts of the programmes concerned. After all, if a person alleges that he has been defamed in a daily newspaper, he has the evidence there in black and white. But under these circumstances a person has to make application to a court, which costs money, to obtain a copy of the script and to see whether he has been defamed. It is a matter for the court to determine whether it will make the script available. Otherwise he has to sit beside his radio day by day with a tape recorder recording as these gossipers go their merry way. Frankly, this is a ludicrous situation. I believe that this Parliament has to condemn the Broadcasting Control Board for not facing up to its responsibilities in this respect.
Now let me deal with the administration of the Post Office. I refer particularly to what I suggest is maladminstration of a large government department in New South Wales. Generally speaking the Post Office does very valuable work in its mail services. But I frankly and honestly believe that the posts and telegraphs section in New South Wales really needs a shaking up. There is no doubt that in some parts of the State mail services are most unsatisfactory. Only in the last three or four weeks I had occasion to make representations on behalf of people in the Tea Gardens-Karuah area about shocking delays that were occurring in their mail services. I pointed out that it took longer to receive a letter from Sydney at Tea Gardens, which is about 120 miles from Sydney, than it took to receive a letter from Sydney at Gunnedah, which is about twice that distance from Sydney. I spoke to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs and he said the matter was being investigated but because no alternative to the existing arrangements could be found, they would have to stand. This is most unsatisfactory. I also complained that a letter posted to me from Tea Gardens had not been received by me. The only reply I received was that the matter had been investigated and the letter could not be found. The delay in connecting telephones in New South Wales is absolutely astounding having regard to the numbers of de:ferred applications in other States.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– As we have been discussing these estimates for nearly two hours, I shall reply briefly to honorable senators. Senator Branson suggested that I should not reply to his questions unless my reply could be more satisfactory than the one I gave to Senator Lawrie. I am afraid I cannot give a more satisfactory answer. On the other matter to which he referred, no detailed proposals about package stations have been received from Perth television stations for country areas in Western Australia. Senator Mulvihill covered a lot of ground that had been covered by Senator Ormonde and Senator McClelland. The policy about which he complained is the policy of the commercial stations and there is not much we can do about it. Most of us have been subjected to criticism through these stations from time to time. I know I have had some criticism. It is something we have to expect, but we do not have to like it. However, I have quoted the relevant portion of the Broadcasting and Television Act and I cannot do more than that. Senator McClelland expressed dissatisfaction over this matter and several points were raised by Senator Ormonde and Senator Mulvihill. I will bring them to the attention of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme).
asked about expenditure on overseas films. That information is not available. Senator Webster also referred to the provision of £114,800 for real estate mangement and asked why there was no provision under this heading last year. This has resulted from one of the recommendations of the ad hoc committee on Post Office accounts. The Post Office is now required to pay rental for space it occupies in buildings owned by other Commonwealth departments. It also receives rentals when other Commonwealth departments occupy Post Office buildings. Senator Webster asked about the Australian content in television programmes but I have already dealt with that and do not propose to go over it again. I have also dealt with the matters raised by Senator McClelland.
– I refer to the proposed expenditure for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and in particular I direct attention to the provision of television in South Australia. At present, we have television services in the metropolitan area, in the northern area centred on Port Pirie and within a few hours I hope we will have television for the Mount Gambier area in the south east. But I was interested to hear Senator Lawrie refer to the surplus television stations in Queensland. He mentioned that stations at Townsville and Rockhampton would be surplus.
– Studios, not stations.
– I stand corrected. The honorable senator referred to studios. In South Australia there has been a shortage of both television stations and television studios. In particular the River Murray area has no service at all. I was interested to hear from Senator Branson about the Kalgoorlie and Geraldton areas. In South Australia we have exactly the same problem. The River Murray area is the Cinderella of television in South Aus tralia. The area is rather thickly populated by primary producers most of whom occupy irrigation fruit blocks along the River Murray. There are three large centres of population in the northern part and two large centres south of the river. All these five centres of population are within a radius of about 40 miles and that is the exact requirement for an adequate television service. I suggest that the Postmaster-General’s Department should have another look at the provision of television in the River Murray area of South Australia.
Senator Branson referred to the translator method of sending television signals and I suggest that the Department look at the possibility of using the translator method for the River Murray area if it is thought that the normal orthodox station is not essential. I should also like to know from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) when a translator service is likely to be used in the far west coast area of the Eyre Peninsula. There are some smaller centres of population there which deserve a television service;
I wish to compliment Senator Davidson on his reference to the inadequacy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission headquarters in Adelaide. I have mentioned this matter from time to time in the Senate during the debate on the Estimates and in questions. The old type of building that is in use by the A.B.C. is really shocking. I believe it was one of the famous city churches erected about 100 years ago on the corner of Hindmarsh Square and Grenfell Street and has been converted by the A.B.C. The conversion was done in slapdash manner. Obviously it was designed to be temporary but it has been temporary now for 20 years. The A.B.C. owes it to the city of Adelaide to erect a building on one of the city’s famous squares that would be adequate for the technical side of broadcasting and at the same time be something of an adornment to that part of the city. I pay tribute to the staff which is working under shocking conditions.
One section of the A.B.C. in Adelaide is on the other side of Hindmarsh Square. Employees moving between the two sections have to pass through six lines of busy traffic. Apart from the dangers, there is loss of time and the. working conditions are the most unsatisfactory imaginable. It does the A.B.C. no credit to be continually postponing the erection of an adequate headquarters building. The Minister, when replying to Senator Davidson, gave the same answer as has been given year after year, namely, that the matter is under consideration, but nothing is provided in the current Estimates. I ask the Minister to take this matter up with the Postmaster-General and the officers who advise him on the question of structures for the A.B.C.
I ask the Minister to inform the Committee when it is expected that the new transmitter in the Darwin area for Radio Australia will be ready. I stress the importance of Radio Australia in supplying Australian news and information to the vital areas of South East Asia and the Pacific. On the occasions when I have been privileged to move in the South East Asian area, I have received great encouragement from the fact that Radio Australia programmes are received in such places as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The indigenous people in those parts appreciate Radio Australia from the standpoint that it does not run a strong propaganda line. The Voice of America, coming from Manila, is often criticised by indigenous people for being too loaded as a propaganda vehicle. The same is true of Radio Peking. But these people say that Radio Australia is just suitable for them as it gives, in an unbiased and informative way, news of this continent in which they are so interested. They complained to me that it was a pity that the station was not as strong as Voice of America and Radio Peking, so I was very glad when the Government decided to provide a stronger transmitting unit in the Darwin area. Not much has been said about this lately. I should like the Minister to let me know when this plant near Darwin will be available for the transmission of the signals of Radio Australia to South East Asia.
– I refer to Division No. 842 and Division No. 838. The first matter that I bring before the Minister is the future of station 5PA at Penola in South Australia. This matter was brought before the Minister by me in a question last month, as a result of rumours in the district that the station, which has been operating for some years, might be shifted to a new locality or more populous centre. Local people and community bodies protested to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme). I support these protests and ask the Minister to convey these representations again to the PostmasterGeneral. I ask that the location of a new station be considered as a separate matter altogether. The local people have suggested that either station 5PA should have its power increased or a new station should be located at the site desired by the PostmasterGeneral or the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Station 5PA has become an asset to the district. Reception in the district is good. It has served a useful purpose and it is rendering good service in a community sense.
When we raised this matter, the Postmaster-General said that while the matter had not been decided it was under consideration, and that if in the future any alteration in the site of the station was proposed provision would be made to provide suitable reception for the Penola district. He said, that he considered that any increase in the power of the station at present would not be the most effective means of improving the service to the south east of South Australia. Before this station was sited at Penola, a survey was made and it was agreed that this was the appropriate place for a station to serve this district. We believe that there should not be any alteration in the location. I hope that the importance of retaining this station at Penola will be acknowledged by the Minister. If the provision of an additional service or improved reception near Bordertown or Keith is contemplated, the provision of a new station could be considered. We have a difficulty with very poor reception in some areas of South Australia. I hope that the Minister will convey my representations to the Postmaster-General and that this matter will not be quickly determined by shifting the station.
I should like to refer to another matter, which I raised last year, namely, reception on Eyre Peninsula. In one month, 309 persons were prosecuted for not having listeners’ or viewers’ licences. The magistrate reported in the Press that the general complaint of the persons charged was that reception was so bad that they considered they were not required to have ordinary licences.
There is a zoning system on the west coast. Most of the people in the populous areas are subject to ordinary licence fees. It might be argued that iron deposits in the area are partly responsible for the very poor reception, together with distance from transmitting stations. I suggest that in relation to Eyre Peninsula, consideration ought to be given to what Senator Laught has said tonight and what Senator Toohey proposed earlier to the Minister. Senator Toohey is not here tonight only because he is sick. He represented to the Minister that consideration should be given to installing translators in the Murray area. He communicated with the people who manufacture these devices and they assured him that the apparatus would operate satisfactorily in this area. I should like the Minister to inquire into what has happened in relation to Senator Toohey’s representations.
In view of the very poor reception, there is obviously a case for translators or a reduction in licence fees in the area round Whyalla. The 309 persons who were prosecuted were fined £4,000, and the magistrate made a point of reporting to the Press the circumstances of the penalties and the fact that in a majority of the cases the persons charged had said they believed they were not required to pay any licence fees because of the poor reception. While this might have been merely to argue a defence, there is no doubt that on the west coast of South Australia there is a very good case for a rezoning or, alternatively, for the provision of better services. Can the Minister say whether there has been any determination on the application for a new commercial television station in the north of South Australia? The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has conducted a hearing on the application.
.- In the early stages of this debate, after the suspension of the sitting, Senator Ormonde and Senator McClelland raised matters which seemed to imply that commercial and national broadcasting and television stations enjoyed some immunity from defamation law which did not attach to newspapers and to ordinary people. I challenge that and suggest that if a station were to broadcast damaging comments about any individual or organisation and then refuse to give equal publicity to an answer offered bona fide, it would expose itself to the imputation of malice, and any defamation would be actionable in the courts. I mention that because I was not very much impressed with the argument that Senator Ormonde put forward, but hot knowing the subject matter to which he referred I refrain from further comment. I only make these remarks so that the honorable senators concerned will acknowledge that I have an interest in this matter. Senator Ormonde suggested that there was a provision in the Broadcasting and Television Act which prevented the disclosure of material that had been broadcast. He said that the station concerned had claimed that, it was required by the Act to destroy within 24 hours its record of the material used.
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) has made it clear that so far from the Act requiring destruction of material within 24 hours it requires, in section 117a, the preservation of material for at least six months. Then, if any party concerned has given notice that the material is to be the subject of proceedings in a court the licensee of the station is obliged to preserve the material until the proceedings have finally been determined. I mention this matter only to bring to the consideration of the Senate the fact that, in the terms in which section 117a is couched, the provision is confined to matter relating to a political subject or current affairs. That is a pretty broad description and it may be that there is some need to expand the spirit of the section to the protection of the individual, reference to whom may not come within the terms of the provision - a matter relating to a politicial subject or current affairs.
Other matters referred to invited a wide debate on freedom of comment and I was particularly pleased that Senator McManus, who gets his fair share of criticism in poli-‘ tical life, stood up like the philosopher he is and claimed for his adversary the right to deliver fair comment. He also ruggedly proclaimed the right of the recipient of tha comment to reply, and I join him in both those claims. Arising from those matters is a question that has been exercising my. mind for some years now. I refer to section 99 (3.) of the Broadcasting and Television Act which is couched in language which I think the fourteenth century would have repudiated. It says -
The Minister may, from time to time, by notice given by telegram or in writing, prohibit a licensee from broadcasting or televising any matter, or matter of any class or character, specified in the notice, or may require the licensee to refrain from broadcasting or televising any such matter.
One observes the wording “ from time to time “, and sees that the notice is to be given by telegram or in writing. It is an absolute power of prohibition as to any matter. The section does not say “ any offensive matter “, “ any subversive matter “, or “ any objectionable matter “; it says only, “ any matter “. It says that the Minister may prohibit matter of any class or character which he specifies in a notice. That is a degree of suppression of communication which would have prevailed in the provincial community of Caxton in 1422, and perhaps for another 150 years. But after that attempts on the part of governments to suppress people like Wilkes and Junius were completely abhorrent. Yet here, in a modern statute, we have an unqualified power for a Minister to prevent the broadcasting or televising of any matter or any class of matter. I think this attracts the interest of the Senate because section 101 states -
Where the Board has reason to believe that any matter (including an advertisement) which it is proposed to broadcast or televise is of an objectionable nature, that matter shall be subject to such censorship as the Board determines.
There the Board’s power is confined to matter of an objectionable nature, but the section gives an administrative board, from which there is no appeal, such powers of censorship as it determines. I think those two sections should excite the thought of any person representative of modern democracy in Parliament.
.- I rise to support the protest made by Senator McManus about the flagrant discrimination on the part of the Australian Broadcasting Commission against the Australian Democratic Labour Party. This has been so pointed over the years that one is entitled to believe that it is deliberate and designed. Whatever explanation the A.B.C. may offer of the treatment meted out to this political party, it surely has no justification for the discourtesy of not replying to the organisa tion’s communications of protest and complaint. Common courtesy demands, particularly from servants of the public - the A.B.C. is nothing more and nothing less - a reply to communications written by responsible people on a matter of importance. However, I will content myself with those few remarks in support of my colleague.
I turn now to Division No. 820, item 04, “ Allowances for conduct of business of non-official post offices, including railway offices”. I understand that the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department in these offices are officially referred to in some cases as contractors and in others as agents, but their appointment is as postmasters. I believe that the conditions of employment of these people, particularly those who are conducting postal services in remote parts of Australia, are unfair. Indeed, the conditions of employment smack somewhat of a system of cheap labour. Most honorable senators would know that the allowances are determined on what is called a unit basis. These appointees, according to their contracts, are required to be in attendance from Monday to Friday of each week from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. On Saturdays they are required to be present from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Easter Saturday they are required from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. On Sundays, and on other holidays they are required from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. They are expected to provide the necessary accommodation, lighting and office furniture for the transaction of departmental business and I understand they receive a nominal allowance for this.
I particularly stress the case of agents in remote centres because I realise that in some cases where the volume of business is great enough the appointee could earn a reasonable income. But in the more remote places the appointee or postmaster - call him what you will - is required by the contract he makes with the Postmaster-General to be in attendance for the hours I have mentioned. For that time he is paid a very poor allowance having regard to the hours he is required to give to the service of the public.
The public expect and are entitled to this postal service and these people carrying out the duties of a postmaster or postmistress in these places are entitled, I believe, to better remuneration than they are receiving now. They could never hope to earn a reasonable income on the present basis of the assessment of the allowance. I believe that greater regard should be had in assessing their allowance to the time they are, required to put in for the convenience of the public and for the convenience of the PostmasterGeneral. I appeal to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) to give this matter sympathetic consideration. I say that because if he desires to maintain and to give the public the postal services to which they are entitled he might find it necessary to spend money on the construction of post offices and staffing them with full time employees. These people receive nothing in the way of annual leave or sick leave. They receive only a straight out allowance assessed on a unit basis. I do not think their conditions are in keeping with present day working conditions. I hope the PostmasterGeneral will favourably consider improving them.
– I will be very brief in the remarks I want to make on two subjects. First, I want to refer to the summary of estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department which shows a total proposed expenditure of £135,730,000 for this financial year. Turning to the report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30th June 1965, at page 153 total revenue for the Department for the 1964-65 financial year is shown as £186,324,001. If business is maintained in the coming year there could be another profit of approximately £59 million. In view of the full effect of the operation of the charge of 6d. for each telephone call, the high increased cost of installations of telephones, and other charges that have been made in this Department, it would appear that it is becoming a big source of revenue for the Government - far outside its purpose. I believe that the time has come when another review should be made of the impositions placed on the public because of the Government’s policy relating to charges made by the Postmaster-General’s Department.
The other matter I wanted to refer to is one that the Auditor-General drew attention to again this year. I refer to telephone debtors. At page 154 of his report the Auditor-General said that additional staff was obtained by the Department in 1964-65 on a temporary basis to cope with the volume of accounts arising from terminated services. We find that 41,138 services were terminated and the value of outstanding debtors accounts amounted to £1,213,422. This was for the year ending 30th June 1965. This was an increase on the previous year when there were 39,303 telephone debtors, involving a sum of £1,099,930. Extra staff has been employed on a temporary basis but both the total indebtedness and the number of debtors has increased. There must be something radically wrong. It is known that in hire purchase organisations and other places large amounts of money are being written down for bad debts. In a Department such as this there must be some better method for keeping bad debts down. The sum of £1,213,422 now represents bad debts from telephone debtors even though additional staff has been engaged. The sum has increased on that for the previous year. The Auditor-General has referred to the 70th report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts in which it was stated that an investigation should be made. I understand that one was to have been carried out. I would like to ask the Minister whether the investigation has been made and whether some formula has been arrived at so that a better situation can be reported to the Parliament in the coming financial year.
– In reply to Senator Laught - and I think Senator Bishop also raised this question regarding television in South Australia - as far as the Eyre Peninsula is concerned there may be a possibility of providing a service by means of translators from the television stations in the northern Spencer Gulf area. However, the distance is such that more than one translator unit would be required to relay programmes and due to financial consideration and other commitments it is not practicable to consider the matter at present in respect of the national service. The question of a commercial television translator cannot be considered until a commercial station is in operation in the northern Spencer Gulf area. A service could not be provided to the whole of the Eyre Peninsula by means of translators. There are a number of areas beside the Eyre Peninsula which have not yet been provided with television. Unfortunately, a number of technical and economic difficulties are involved in the extension of television services, especially to areas of low population density. The Postmaster-General is unable to say at the present time when a service will be provided to the Eyre Peninsula, but the matter is being kept under review. The representations that have been made in regard to the River Murray area will be brought to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
asked about the progress of the work on the booster station at Darwin. Construction is proceeding and equipment has been ordered for delivery in 1967. It will be installed to provide for transmission in 1968. I have already replied to some of the matters that were raised by Senator Bishop. The report of the Board on applications for a television licence in the northern Spencer Gulf area has been submitted to the Minister for consideration, but so far no decision has been made. The honorable senator’s queries about station 5PA will be brought to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
Senator Gair’s remarks have been noted. I shall bring them to the notice of my colleague. SenatorO’Byrne requested a review of charges in the near future and sought some information in regard to telephone debtors. The only information I have on the latter subject is that the number and value of telephone debts will rise, because the volume of telephone business is rising.
Proposed expenditures and proposed provisions noted.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, £4,884,000.
Proposed provision, £1,358,000.
– I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) to give me a breakdown of the proposed contribution of £277,500 to the World Health Organisation. Are reports and balances made available to the Parliament to enable a sub-division of this sum to be made? I refer now to the proposed expenditure on the control and eradication of the sirex wasp. Evidently a sum of £100,000 is to be paid to the credit of the National Sirex Fund Trust Account. I should like the Minister to give me some idea about how this work is progressing and whether the Department believes that the eradication campaign is proving to be successful. Another important activity that comes within the administration of the Department of Health is the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, for which a grant-in-aid of £140,000 is to be paid this year. This represents a considerable increase on the grant of £94,984 that was paid last year. Most certainly this money was applied to a very good cause, but I should like the Minister to give me some information about the proposed increase for this year.
The Parliament is being asked also to appropriate a sum of £6,150 as a grantinaid to the Australian Pre-school Association. Does this body operate on a Commonwealth-wide basis, or is the sum in question to be split up amongst the various States? I note that no provision is made this year for a contribution for the supply and repair of aids provided for thalidomide affected children. Is that because responsibility for these children has been transferred elsewhere or because the Government has not found it necessary to make any provision for the coming year?
– I relate my remarks to Division No. 250, Administrative, and refer to the item “Hire of, and repairs to, vehicles, launches and aircraft”. Last year a sum of £10,300 was appropriated and expenditure amounted to £10,206. However, the proposed allocation for this year is £37,000. I should like to know why an additional sum of £27,000 is sought for the current year. I note that last year a sum of £268,400 was appropriated for payments to the States and medical practitioners for quarantine services rendered, but that the proposed appropriation for this year is £320,000. I should like to know why the sum is to be increased.
– I direct attention to Division No. 250, Administrative. I do so intentionally, because people in the top positions must accept certain administrative responsibility. Sometimes, of course, they are not to blame for what happens. When all is said and done, the Government must accept responsibility for the receipt and expenditure of public money. I am not trying to have a shot at the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz). I know that he is limited by the policy of the Government and that the administrative officers in turn find themselves in a similar situation. When I recall that more than £30 a year is spent on behalf of every man, woman and child in Australia in an effort to maintain an inefficient health service, I sometimes wonder whether our administrative officers do not feel frustrated. Everyone knows that this is a humbugging Government. I pay a tribute to people who are sincere, intelligent and competent in the performance of their duties. I know that the Minister in this chamber, who represents the Minister in another place, is aware of the fact that the officers in the Department of Health are particularly competent officers. Sometimes I wonder whether the Government, through its Ministers, is prepared to listen to the competent advice that is tendered to it.
Does the Government ever get down to serious thinking about the enormous costs that are involved in pharmaceutical benefits, medical benefits, hospital benefits and the pensioner medical service? I do not think it does. On one occasion it had a concept of how it would run the pensioner medical service, on another occasion of how it would run the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, and on another occasion of how it would run the health services. It never thought in terms of the ancillary services. It never thought in terms of how much this would cost the people. That is the reason why I am posing this question to the Minister. I am certain that many of his administrative officers must have thought likewise. This is a most extravagant way in which to run a medical service.
– Why does the honorable senator say that?
– Does the honorable senator know that this service, inefficient as it is and insufficient as it may be, costs more per capita than does the British medical service? This is an inefficient and incomplete service. The Government does not pretend to provide a dental service. The ancillary services are not as complete as they are in England and in many other countries. I think that the administrative officers of the Department must have tendered certain advice to the Minister only recently in relation to the enormous expenditure on this service.
I read recently in the Press that the National Health and Medical Research Council proposes to advise the States that they should establish a system of trained dental nurses. I take it that they are going to follow an idea that I espoused many years ago and on which I wrote a feature article which appeared in the Press some 12 months ago. I referred to the training of dental nurses for two years. I said that girls who had probably obtained their senior or leaving certificates could train as dental nurses and could give dental attention to children. This Government and its predecessors have done nothing regarding the dental health of children. They have done nothing to alleviate the financial burdens on the parents of the children. They have not been concerned about the incidence of dental caries in this so-called modern nation. Repeatedly the representatives of this Government and its predecessors have come forward and said that Australia is one of the 1 1 great trading nations in the world. Yet we have one of the worst records for the incidence of dental caries. I think that the Minister has a responsibility to answer for the enormous expenditure on medical benefits. Are his administrative officers prepared to accept willy-nilly the terrific expenditure on medical benefits?
I admit that the Government, with its limited vision, thought that the national health scheme was worthwhile. I am certain that the previous Minister for Health also thought in his own mind that it was worthwhile. I express my appreciation of his great ability. He visualised many schemes. They have in the process of time meant great things for Australia. I would not have espoused such a scheme because I realise that health, like education and employment, is something for which the nation must accept complete responsibility. He, as the representative of the Government of the day, espoused a system which, through the insurance and through the Government’s contributions, was to meet near enough to 90 per cent, of the cost of medical treatment. But the scheme has never met that percentage. It has met little more than 63 per cent, to 65 per cent. In the future it is going to mean much less to the unfortunate people who happen to become sick.
As honorable senators know, medical fees have been increased. I am not quarreling with the right of medical practitioners to determine their fees, but I say that when a person insures himself he thinks in terms of the financial protection that he will receive. People are not going to receive adequate protection. The Government is doing nothing about the situation. I ask the Minister, as the representative of the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz): What is to be the attitude of the Government regarding these particularly unfortunate people, whether they contribute to the higher or the lower table? It is no use saying that the Constitution prevents complete protection from being afforded. I have sought expert legal opinion because I would not pose as an expert in this field. But this matter does not involve civil conscription. Is the Government prepared to say that it will not contribute towards the medical benefits scheme unless medical practitioners charge a particular fee? People who insure themselves cannot be protected unless we know what is going to be paid out.
A contributor to a fund should know how much will be paid by that fund and how much will come from the Government. Thus he would know how much of the expense he would have to pay. That is the only way that an individual who is insured can be protected. The Government has not enabled that to be done since the system was established in 1953. I know that officers have discussed this problem with the Minister as recently as last year, when the suggestion was put that the Government should pay an increased amount. The Government’s contribution was increased from 6s. to 8s. for attention by a general practitioner as from 1st April of this year. The contribution in respect of attention by a specialist was similarly increased. The Government knew at that time that it was inevitable that medical fees would be increased as from 7th November of this year, but made no real endeavour to make its contribution commensurate with the likely increase in medical fees. It has made no real endeavour since that time to do so. There has been no suggestion that the Government will now increase its contribution in respect of expenses incurred by insured patients.
I am wondering what will happen in the next year or two. The administrative officers of the Department appreciate the financial disabilities of the people who are insured with medical and hospital benefits funds, but the Government is proposing to do nothing. The unfortunate people do not know where they are. The object visualised by the former Minister for Health, the late Sir Earle Page, of protecting people financially who were prepared to pay into an insurance fund, ultimately will be defeated. If I am given an opportunity I shall deal with hospital expenses. The people in receipt of lower incomes feared the financial burden occasioned by medical attention. Sir Earle Page hoped that they would insure themselves. His object is being defeated because the Government is not prepared to meet adequately its financial responsibilities.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator O’Byrne referred to the cost of Commonwealth assistance for thalidomide children. The cost is being met by the Repatriation Department. In previous years it was met by the Repatriation Department and then recovered from the Department of Health. Senator O’Byrne also referred to the sirex wasp and asked whether the methods being used to combat it had been successful. The activities against the wasp continued throughout the year. The Committee concerned met six times and sub-committees met on several occasions. The work of containing the sirex wasp in Victoria has been largely successful and destruction of Sirex infested trees continued to prevent an explosive population of the wasp. Senator O’Byrne also referred to an increase in the amount of subsidy for the Flying Doctor Service. I think everyone in Australia is very pleased that the Government saw fit to act in this way.
Senator Scott referred to expenditure in connection with the hire and repair of vehicles, launches and aircraft. Particulars of the increased appropriation of £26,794 for this item are as follows: In accordance with Treasury decision, expenditure on and from 1st July 1965 on motor vehicles hired from a Commonwealth authority, which was previously charged to item 01, is now to be charged to item 05. The amount involved is £18,864. Hire rates for the quarantine launch hired from the Fremantle port authority were increased from £1,000 to £2,500 per annum as from 1st January 1965. The increased provision of £933 for 1965-66 reflects the full year cost of the rise in rates. A survey by the Department of Civil Aviation of the launch “ Wangadir “ based at Townsville recommends the replacement of the engine at a cost of approximately £7,000. These increases add to the additional requirement of £26,794.
Senator Dittmer had an enjoyable few moments in attacking the Government on what he alleged were its shortcomings. He referred to the Government as a “ humbug government”. I do not agree with that expression. I am quite sure that in his own mind, even if he sees fit to criticise the Government tonight, he gives the Government credit for the great benefits that have come about because of the activities of those people connected with the Government.
– I want it to be quite clear that I do not give the Government credit. I gave credit to a former Minister, the late Sir Earle Page, who visualised an objective that may have come about but has not. Sir Earle Page was a great man with a great concept who attempted to accomplish an objective in his own limited way. He wished to provide a financial defence for people who might have been subject to financial blackmail in the emotional process of sickness. This Go vernment has not attempted to achieve that objective. Sir Earle Page hoped that the Government would provide 90 per cent. of medical expenses. I am quite certain that administrative officers of the Department have pointed this out repeatedly to successive Ministers for Health. Sometimes I wonder whether they have listened. I think perhaps they have, because the Ministers for Health I have known since I came to this Parliament have been extraordinarily decent people. The Minister who acts in this chamber for the Minister for Health in another place is a particularly decent and competent man. I wonder where the pressure comes from.
I wish that honorable senators opposite could see the people as I see them and realise what it costs them to provide for health services, dental attention and other ancillary services. I do not think honorable senators opposite realise how much the people pay into medical and hospital benefit funds, or how much they pay to dentists, to nurses and for other services.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Chairman having reported accordingly) -
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 November 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19651110_senate_25_s30/>.