18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
. -by leave - As honorable members doubtless are aware, it was my duty to make an announcement to the people of Australia this morning embodying the following information: -
His Excellency the Governor-General has requested meto inform the people of Australia that, as the result of advice, based on a very thorough examination, which has been tendered to the King by his medical advisers, and which has been endorsed by his Prime Ministers in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, His Majesty has agreed to cancel all his public engagements over a period of some months. This decision involves the indefinite postponement of the visit to Australiaand New Zealand which the King and the Queen had undertaken to pay, with the Princess Margaret, during the first half of next year.
Their Majesties wish to express to the people of Australia the profound regret and bitter disappointment which they themselves feel at the abandonment of their tour, and which they know will be shared by all those who were preparing to welcome them.
The following bulletin has been issued from Buckingham Palace : -
The King is suffering from an obstruction to circulation through arteries of the legs, which has only recently becomeacute; the defective blood supply to right foot causes anxiety. Complete rest has been advised and although improvement in the circulation has been initiated it must be maintained for an immediate prolonged period. Though His Majesty’s general health including the condition of his heart gives no reason for concern there is no doubt that the strain of the past twelve years has appreciably affected his resistance to physical fatigue. We have come to the conclusion it would be hazardous for His Majesty to embark upon a long journey which might delay his recovery and which might well involve serious risk to a limb. With deep regret, therefore, we have advised that the King’s visit to Australia and New Zealand should not be undertaken next year. (Sgd.) Maurice Cassidy;
Honorable members on both sides of the House will not only be profoundly disappointed at the inability of Their Majesties and Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret to visit Australia but also will have even deeper feelings of sympathy for His Majesty in his illhealth.
I know that Their Majesties and Her Royal Highness were looking forward to the opportunity their visit would have given them to meet many Australians and. we anticipated with the greatest pleasure the privilege of having the King and Queen and their daughter with us in this country. This prospect unhappily will not become reality, at any rate at the time arranged.We can now only hope that with an improvement of His Majesty’s health it may be possible for the Royal party to resume their plans to visit Australia at some not too distant date. In the meantime, however, the thought uppermost in the minds of all honorable members and of the people of Australia will be one of hope that His Majesty’s health will soon show considerable improvement and that it will be fully recovered in the near future. I know that other honorable members will desire to make reference to this unhappy advice, which is of such concern to us all, and I therefore move -
That the following address be transmitted through His Excellency the Governor-General to His Majesty the King: -
To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty: Most Gracious Sovereign:
We, the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, desire to express sincere sympathy to His Majesty King George VI. and Her Majesty the Queen in His Majesty’s state of health and earnestly hope that the King will be speedily restored to good health.
Members of this House record also their great disappointment at the indefinite postponement of the projected visit to Australia of Their Majesties the King and the Queen and Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret.
– The Opposition completely associates itself with the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and supports the motion he has submitted to the House. As the right honorable gentleman has said, the first consideration is that of His Majesty’s health. The untiring devotion of his Majesty to his many duties has undoubtedly weighed heavily upon him. The advice tendered by the medical advisers was given, undoubtedly, after the closest possible consideration of all the relevant factors. The Opposition joins the Government in expressing deepfelt wishes for the early and complete recovery of our Sovereign. The keen disappointment that undoubtedly is felt by every Australian is tempered by the hope that after his restoration to full health and strength, His Majesty,. Her Majesty the Queen and the Princess Margaret will be able to visit this country to receive personally the good wishes and the expression of deep loyalty of their devoted Australian subjects.
.- On behalf of the Australian Country party, I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) in expressing great regret that the Royal party has been obliged to postpone its visit to Australia and New Zealand. We have learnt with deep concern of the medical circumstances that have demanded this postponement. There is, I am sure, not one citizen who would not wish to have conveyed to His Majesty sympathy with him in his ill health, and to join in expressing the earnest hope that he will soon be restored to full and robust health. Much as we all are disappointed to learn of the postponement of Their Majesties’ visit, we all will agree wholeheartedly that the health of neither of Their Majesties should ever be jeopardized by the fulfilment of engagements of this character. Seven million Australians have been eagerly awaiting their opportunity to greet, with loyalty and affection, Their Majesties the King and Queen and the Princess Margaret. We shall now hope that we shall have this opportunity to do so in the not too distant future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
South Australian Supplies
– In the Melbourne newspapers at the week-end, I saw reports that the Prime Minister had announced that greatly increased coal shipments would be sent to Melbourne. In view of the serious situation in South Australia, where the coal shortage has not been overtaken since the recent resumption of full production on the coal-fields, will the Prime Minister do his best to enable the leeway in that State to be made up?
– The position of coal stocks in South Australia and Victoria is constantly under review, and Ihave already discussed the subject with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel to-day. Endeavours have been made by the Department of Shipping and Fuel to increase supplies of coal to Victoria and South Australia, and I hope that they will be successful. Unfortunately, this has necessitated the alteration of certain shipping schedules to the detriment of Queensland, where vessels are badly needed. However, we hope to make up the leeway quickly and to be in a position to meet the needs of Queensland again. Irrespective of the availability of coal, which has been flowing freely during the last week or more, it is not always possible to meet all shipping needs. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel assured me this morning that he is making every endeavour to meet the requirements of Victoria and South Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel as the result of numerous complaints that I have received from manufacturers and other users of iron and steel that, owing to lack of shipping, South Australia’s small allocation of iron and steel is not being delivered to that State. Local stocks are being exhausted and great hardship is being experienced. As an example, SS Levenpool, which I understand is under charter to the Australian Government, was scheduled to load a cargo for South Australia but was diverted to another run. I have since heard that Iron Knob will take a cargo to South Australia, but this will mean weeks of delay. Will th e Minister discuss the situation with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel and endeavour to provide shipping facilities so that South Australia’s very small allocation of iron and steel can be delivered promptly?
– The honorable member referred to the small allocation of steel products to South Australia. That allocation was made by the State Premiers, and the Australian Government cannot alter it in any way. The honorable member knows also that interstate shipping is no longer under the control of the Australian Government. This Go vernment charters some vessels, but the bulk of the interstate trade is carried out by vessels owned by private companies. Iron Knob, for example, is owned by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I shall discuss the question with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, who,’ I am sure, will do what he can to make shipping available.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel impress upon his colleague and the Australian Shipping. Board the urgency of transporting sugar to Hobart? The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has undertaken to make sugar available for Tasmania if ships can be provided to transport it. I ask my question because it is reported that Inchmay, which was due to take the next sugar shipment from Sydney to Hobart, is to be diverted to New Guinea with a cargo from Sydney. Why is it that the ships so desperately needed on the Tasmanian service are always chosen when vessels are required for special missions?
– I shall discuss the honorable member’s question with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. The honorable member will appreciate from the preceding question that Tasmania is not the only State from which complaints are being received about the shortage of shipping. I can assure the honorable member that the Minister will do his utmost to ensure an adequate supply of sugar for the people of Tasmania.
– I understand that buyers of Australian wool are insuring heavily with underwriters against the possibility of an appreciation of the value of the Australian £1 in relation to sterling. To dispel doubts that exist at present, will the Prime Minister state the intentions of the Government on this matter.
– I have already made one statement in this House on the possibility of an appreciation of the value of the Australian £1. On that occasion, I said that the Government did not intend to alter the value of the Australian £1 in relation to sterling while sterling retained its present relationship with other world currencies. I can repeat that statement now with even greater emphasis, because a certain degree of economic stability has been reached in western Europe, which, of course, has a very important effect on the economic situation in the United Kingdom. It is true that there have been certain currency moves in Europe, including a further devaluation of the French franc, and that pressure is being exerted in some quarters for the devaluation of the currencies of other European countries to assist in the rehabilitation of western Europe generally. My impression, however, is that, by some people at least, such a move is not now regarded as necessary. The Australian Government’s view, as I have said, is that while sterling retains its existing relationship to other world currencies, the present relationship of the Australian £1 to sterling should remain. It would take some time to deal adequately with the point that has been made by the honorable member for Richmond. It is true, as the honorable member says, that wool buyers, and people interested in certain other exports, including dried fruits, are taking steps to protect themselves against a possible appreciation of the value of the Australian fi, which, of course, could prove most expensive to them. I have gone into the matter very thoroughly, and I have had some discussions with the Commonwealth Bank on the subject, but rather than take up the time of the House now in explaining the position as I see it, and as the bank sees it, and in indicating what has been done, I shall ask the bank to prepare a statement for the information of the honorable member for Richmond, setting out its views and those of various experts. The honorable member will then have a clear picture of the position. I repeat, however, that he may rest assured that it is not the Government’s present intention to alter the exchange rate.
– The shortage of telephones in Tasmania has become acute, particularly in Hobart and its suburbs.
Continual pressure has been brought to bear upon me by various people to endeavour to secure telephones for them, but with unsatisfactory results so far. Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral ascertain the position in relation to telephone installations?
– The PostmasterGeneral’s plans provide for the overtaking of the arrears of applications for telephones in Hobart and in Tasmania generally within the next, two years. I shall ask the Postmaster-General to take note of the honorable member’s observations, to consider his request and to furnish him with a report as soon as possible setting out in full detail the Government’s proposals in respect of the provision of improved land-line, trunk-line and general telephonic facilities in Tasmania. Concerning the general position in Australia, I should like to add that between 1934 and 1939 the governments of the day employed twelve men in New South Wales and eleven men in Victoria continuously canvassing the general public to install telephones. We do not have to do that to-day. The officers of- the department are now fully employed in trying to overtake the arrears of work in connexion with telephone installations because, thanks to the good Labour Government at present in office, Australia is prosperous to-day and many more of its people can afford telephones.
– I address a question to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction relating to sections 118 and 120 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945, which afford protection to ex-servicemen from the compulsory acquisition of their land. In a recent communication the Commonwealth Director of War Service Land Settlement has stated -
The Commonwealth view is that an exserviceman who acquires land after the date of hia discharge from the forces is not entitled to protection afforded by sections 118 and 120 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945, and the compulsory acquisition of land owned by such persons is not restricted by section 118 of the act.
Will the Minister state whether that is so? if that view correctly expresses the policy of the Government in the matter, does it mean that the Re-establishment and Employment’ Act protects only the few men who were fortunate enough to own their properties before the war, and that it affords no protection for those exservicemen who purchased their properties on their discharge from the forces? As many ex-servicemen whose properties are under threat of compulsory acquisition by the Government were unable, owing to their absence with the fighting services during the war, to purchase their properties until after their discharge, will the Minister consider an amendment of the act to provide protection in such cases?
– My attention has not previously been drawn to the matter raised by the honorable member. I 3hall have it examined and shall furnish him with a reply as soon as possible.
– Has the Prime M inister seen the statement attributed to the Victorian Minister for Transport, Mr. Kent-Hughes, that the coalition government formed bv the Liberal and Country parties in Victoria has no intention of banning the Communist .party? A,s ‘ the federal counterparts of those parties are pressing for the adoption of a policy to which the Victorian Tory Government is opposed, will the right honorable gentleman, before the Christmas recess, arrange for an opportunity to be provided for the Acting Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Australian Country party, and their followers to recast the speeches they have made from time to time in this House advocating the banning of the Communist party?
– I have not seen any statement made by Mr. Kent-Hughes on the matter referred to by the honorable member for Herbert. However, as the Liberal-Country party Government in Victoria has been in office for some time and has done nothing about banning the Communist party, a. course which th’e Opposition parties in this chamber have advocated so frequently, I assume that it does not propose to do anything about the matter.
– A constituent of mine advises me that residents in the country’ district in which he resides are not able to obtain mantles for No. 11 Aladdin lamps. As the old kerosene-wick lamp is a thing of the past, supplies of these mantles are essential to people living in areas beyond the radius of electricity supply systems. I know that a similar shortage exists in many other districts. These people have written to the company which manufactures the Aladdin lamp but have not received any satisfaction from it. This matter was brought to the attention of the Minister by the honorable member for Wimmera. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel see if he can persuade the company to produce mantles for these lamps?
– I do not quite see what the Minister for Shipping and Fuel has to do with the manufacture of mantles for Aladdin lamps unless, perhaps, the use of such lamps reduces the consumption of kerosene. The honorable member knows quite well that this Government has no power over production. Indeed, at the recent referendum he advised the people to vote so that the Government should not be given any power whatever over production. Therefore it is useless for him now to blame the Government for a shortage of articles over the production of which it has no control. However, I shall ‘ask my colleague to see if he can do anything to assist in the matter which the honorable member has raised.
– Has the Prime Minister seen reports in this morning’s Melbourne Argus and Age that Sir Henry Tizard, the eminent British scientist now visiting Australia, said last night in an address to the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy at the Melbourne University that the United Kingdom has complete trust in the integrity of Australian scientists and that he, himself, has the highest opinion of them? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that one prominent speaker at this meeting is reported to have advised that it would be dangerous if the independence of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research were interfered with? Can the right honorable gentleman endorse the reported remarks of Sir Herbert Gepp at the same meeting and assure the people of Australia, andothers, that attacks on Australian scientists do not represent the opinion of the Australian people but only the opinion of a few persons?
– I have not seen the reports to which the honorable member has referred. However, I had an opportunity to talk with Sir Henry Tizard, Sir Ben Lockspeiser and others engaged in scientific research both when I was in the United Kingdom and during Sir Henry’s recent visit to Canberra. I also took the opportunity to arrange for Sir Henry to address members of the Council of Defence. In all our conversations in both the United Kingdom and Australia, he made it clear that his organization - he is chairman of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy and the Defence Research Policy committee in the United Kingdom - had the highest opinion of the work of Australian scientists, including those engaged by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and he paid the highest possible tribute to Sir David Rivett, the head of the council. I do not remember his making any special reference to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, except with respect to the Aeronautical Research Section of the council, the work of which is related to that being carried out by the Supply Department in the United Kingdom. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, when introducing the relevant measure now before the Parliament, pointed out that that section of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research would be more properly placed within the Department of Supply and Development. In our conversations he did not refer to the general departmental control or other control exercised over the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and, naturally, I did not expect him to do so. However, for the information of the honorable member, I may say that I have received letters from representative scientists and scientific bodies objecting to any proposal to place the council under the control of the Public Service Board. I do not propose to say anything further on that aspect of the matter because I may be encroaching the area of debate on a measure now before the House and, in any event, the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will deal with that matter at a later stage. Although the bill does not direct the transfer the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Public Service Board, it authorizes the Government to make such a transfer. However, that will be done only in special circumstances, and no decision to transfer any section of the council, except that which deals with aeronautical research, has yet been made.
– My question relates to the periodical bulletins or pamphlets published by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, particularly those which are of general interest to gardeners, farmers, fishermen, timberworkers and the like. I point out that many such pamphlets, are written in such technical language that those who could derive great benefit from them if they were written in more popular language, are not able to understand them fully. I ask the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research whether it would be possible to have at least some of the more popular pamphlets published in a form in which they could be more easily understood by people who are anxious to read them.
– I have not previously heard any criticism of the publications to which the honorable member has referred. I understand that these pamphlets are intended to be read by technical experts. Generally speaking, they are not intended for farmers and the other types of producers that the honorable member has mentioned.
– Why not?
– A gentleman’s agreement was made between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the State Departments of Agriculture that the application of the results of research work done by the Council for
Scientific and Industrial Research should be a matter for the State Departments of Agriculture. There is a dividing line between the work done by that council on research, and the application of the results of that research to primary production. I do not believe that the Australian Government has any constitutional power to supply the farmers and primary producers of this country direct with pamphlets on primary production problems. There is an understanding that the State Departments of Agriculture shall pass on the information on primary production made available to them by the council. That is the reason why the pamphlets mentioned are intended to be read mainly by technical experts. However, I shall draw the attention of the administrative officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the matter raised by the honorable member, and see whether the wording of the pamphlets can be simplified in any way.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether any arrangements have been made to provide for the export of rye grain which is grown in South Australia, principally in the Lameroo and Pinnaroo districts, and, if not, whether he will consider making such arrangements?
– I do not know of any arrangements having been made for the export of rye grain, and, so far as I am aware, no applications for export licences for that purpose have been received. If any such applications are received, I undertake to consider them sympathetically.
– I understand that Trans-Australia Airlines has withdrawn a Skym aster aircraft from the service provided for Western Australia on Tuesday nights because the aircraft has been loaned to British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines. Does the Minister for Civil Aviation anticipate that the purchase of four new DC6 aircraft for the Pacific service will release the Skymaster aircraft and enable the Western Australian Tuesday night service to be restored ?
– The DC4 aircraft referred to by the honorable member was withdrawn from the Western Australian service not only because it was required for the Trans-Tasman service but also because of the necessity for restricting the consumption of petrol. The reduction of the service provided by Trans-Australia Airlines is in conformity with the reductions which other airlines have been required to make to conserve petrol. However, two of the DC6 aircraft referred to by the honorable member will arrive in Sydney next Wednesday, and when the remaining DC6 aircraft are taken into service it is expected that four DC4 aircraft will be available for internal as well as external services. Consideration will then be given to providing a daily service from Western Australia with DC4 aircraft, but the decision will be considered having regard to the necessity for reducing petrol consumption.
– The following statement appeared in the press at the week-end : -
A wild life survey group may be formed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to combat the rabbit pest. Rabbits have been estimated to do more than £30,000,000 damage each year, but no authoritative survey has been made.
Because of the concern of the Australian Country party at the damage done by rabbits, will the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research say whether the foregoing statement is correct, and, if so, what steps are being taken to combat the rabbit menace?
– I think that all of us, including the members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, are aware of the tremendous damage done by rabbits every year, and the council has devoted considerable attention to evolving some method to deal with the pest. It conducted a series of experiments in the course of which rabbits were inoculated with a certain virus, in the hope that the rabbits would spread the disease amongst themselves and thereby lead to their own eradication. Unfortunately, as the experiment developed, it was found that the rabbits did not pass on the infection from one to another, and, consequently, it cannot be claimed that the experiment has been successful. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is continuing its investigations into the matter, but I am afraid that the hope of finding a method of biological or bacteriological control of the rabbit pest is rather ti forlorn one at the present time. However, the honorable member may rest assured that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is doing its utmost to discover a means by which the rabbit pest will be controlled more efficiently in future.
– Did the Minister for information hear the debate in the Heckle Hour from station 3DB Melbourne last Friday evening? In that programme, the Minister for Housing in the Liberal-Country party Government in Victoria, Mr. Warner, constantly referred to “J. Chifley” without prefix, suffix, appendix or anything else? Does the Minister consider that the “J. Chifley” to whom reference was made is the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, Prime Minister of Australia? As that debate may be re-broadcast to overseas listeners, does not the Minister consider that the refference to “ J. Chifley “, if the speaker referred to the Prime Minister, reveals complete disrespect to the leader of the Australian people? Will not such references create a wrong attitude abroad towards Australian leaders, whether they be Liberal or Labour?
– I never listen to the Heckle Hour debates. Last Saturday, I spent a pleasant evening at the Latvian National Day celebrations in Canberra among some of the new Australians who are making a greater contribution towards . the cultural development of Australia than are some of the people who talk in the Heckle Hour. Reference to the Prime Minister in a contemptuous way by any speaker is to be deplored. There is a tendency in this country on the part of many people to attempt to destroy the authority of elected representatives, and that practice is not good for democracy. The man who is the people’s choice is entitled to respect while he holds office. Nothing is to be gained by continually “ knocking “ those who hold the delegated power of the people and who are doing their best to serve the common good.
– The reference to which I referred was made by the Victorian Minister for Housing.
– His example is therefore all the more regrettable, because he should certainly know better than to speak of the Prime Minister in a contemptuous way. I presume that no attempt will be made to re-broadcast that debate over the national stations or through Radio Australia. I am sure that the good sense of the people in charge of both those broadcasting services will prevent the outrage from being repeated in a broadcast to overseas listeners.
– In the event of industrial disturbances arising in Victoria which will disrupt the trade of that State with the trade of other States, and disrupt Australian trade generally with other nations, will the Government take action under the Crimes Act against those persons responsible for the dislocation?
– Naturally; I cannot answer a hypothetical question. If the honorable gentleman will put the question on the notice-paper I shall arrange for the Acting Attorney-General to prepare a report on it for him.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister regarding the position of the Australian Government in relation to technical and university education. I preface my question by saying that it has been stated in this chamber, on many occasions since the end of the last war. that the power of a nation has some relationship to its technical and university education. According to to-day’s press some Australian universities are financially embarrassed and I therefore ask the Prime Minister whether, owing to the acute position of university finances in Australia, and to the necessity for increased technical and university education, he will consider the appointment of a royal commission to investigate the shortage of university accommodation ; how such shortage can be expeditiously rectified; whether new universities are necessary and, if so, where; and whether the financing of technical and university education should continue to be a charge on the State governments or whether it should become a new federal function?
– University education is a matter to which the Australian Government, and particularly the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, has given a great deal of thought. I have given, some personal study to the financial position of universities. The Government has made provision to subsidize the university education of the children of those in less favoured financial circumstances who have matriculated or otherwise qualified for university training. That policy has permitted the entry into universities of a great number of eminently worthy boys and girls who were denied that opportunity previously, [n addition to the increased enrolments resulting’ from, that policy, responsibilities under the Commonwelath reconstruction training scheme have also been imposed on the universities. Those conditions have thrown a very great strain upon the resources both physical and financial of the universities, and in all States, with the possible exception of Queensland, this Government has given very material assistance in relation to capital expenditure to provide additional accommodation in universities for Commonwealth reconstructon training scheme trainees and in addition it has made some other direct financial contributions. Only yesterday the Cabinet decided to provide a sum of £100.000 a year for the next three years to assist in the conduct of research work at universities. Ft is quite clear that, with the very wide development of university training and the greater opportunities ‘ now being offered to boys and girls as a result of the Commonwealth subsidy inaugurated by the Curtin Government, .the financal difficulties of the universities will become more and more obvious as time goes on. Education is not a function of the Australian Government, nor indeed has the Government any constitutional power regarding it. The provision of money by the Australian Government for education is an instance of a government making money available but having no right to decide in exactly what manner it shall be expended. The money that the Cabinet granted yesterday for a period of three years is to be devoted to research work. The Government is most anxious to provide full university facilities for research and scientific workers, because not only Australia but the United Kingdom and other dominions associated with this country are or will be lamentably short of highly trained scientific workers. I believe that it will be necessary during the next two years for all States and the Commonwealth to review together the whole position regarding universities. Because of the constitutional position I am not quite clear through what avenue the Commonwealth could assist the States in education other than by providing direct grants of money, even though it will have no control over the expenditure of such money. In one of the States there has been some complaint about the management of a particular university, although I suppose such arguments have been going on for a long time. I can assure the honorable member that the matter that he has raised will be given the closest consideration by the Government, particularly by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who .is intensely : interested in it.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that at the Canberra Summer School of Political Science in 1944, when Dr. H- O. Coombs, who, at the time was a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board, as well as DirectorGeneral of Post-war Reconstruction, was charged with producing a basic exposition of socialist philosophy, he replied that while public servants were supposed to have no politics, he did not subscribe to such remoteness, and that he had definite political views? Is the right honorable gentleman further aware that Dr. Coombs said also that we must hand over to public control the right to decide the direction of a considerable part of our economy? In view of these statements, can it be taken that the appointment of Dr. Coombs as Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is a reward for his having definite .political views in line with those of the socialist Labour party, and in order to enable him to direct our economy along socialistic lines?
– I do not suppose that any Minister, or anybody else, has worked more closely in association with Dr. Coombs than. I have done. During my association with him I have never heard him express any political views at any time. I am not aware of what he said at the Canberra Summer School of Political Science. I should have thought that any intelligent member of the community would have some political views. As voting is compulsory in Australia, it is inconceivable that people, before deciding upon preference they shall express in the ballot box. would not have given some thought to the wisdom of the politics of the party of their choice. I do not believe that people vote stupidly. Dr. Coombs has been appointed Governor of the Commonwealth Bank because of his magnificent record of service in this country and bis great personal ability. As the honorable member may know, Dr. Coombs was originally a member of the Commonwealth Bank staff. Later, as a member of the Advisory Council of the bank, he did a magnificent job. When rationing had to be introduced quickly, he became the first Director-General of Rationing. In the circumstances then existing, that was a very difficult job to carry out. It should not be necessary for me to speak of Dr. Coombs’s ability, because that has been recognized by various bodies throughout the world and especially by those associated with the international trade organization at Geneva and Havana. The Government makes no apology for appointing Dr. Coombs as Governor of the Common wealth Bank. He is a man who, irrespective of the government in office, will give splendid service to this country.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is not a fact that Dr. Coombs was appointed to the staff of the Commonwealth Bank in 1939, by the anti-Labour Government that was then in office?
– Dr. Coombs was probably appointed to the staff of the Commonwealth Bank by the Commonwealth Bank Board or the Governor of the bank. It is true that an anti-Labour government, as the honorable member so disrespectfully refers to the government that was composed of the present Opposition, was in office. Although Dr. Coombs was probably appointed by the Commonwealth Bank Board or the Governor and not by the government of the day, the fact that he was so appointed is a clear indication that a high opinion was held of his ability to carry out the important work that his appointment entailed.
– I wish to ask the appropriate Minister a question concerning Dr. H. C. Coombs, who has just been appointed Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. Dr. Coombs is chairman of the North Australia Development Committee, but has had little time in which to attend to the duties of that office, because of his important functions overseas. Mr. Carrodus, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and an able administrator, and Mr. Kemp, an engineer from Queensland, are also members of the committee. Up to date nothing of importance from a developmental point of view has been done by the committee either in the Kimberleys or in the Northern Territory. In view of the fact that Queensland has carried on with the Burdekin scheme, I ask that either Mr. Kemp, or Mr. Dumas, of Western Australia, also an engineer, be appointed chairman of the North Australia Development Committee in Dr. Coombs’s stead, in order that, a progressive policy of development of the far north may be implemented.
– As the appointment of Dr. Coombs, as Governor of the Commonwealth Bank was made only yesterday, the Government has not yet had time to consider the filling of positions held by Dr. Coombs. However, he will not take over his new duties until the beginning of next year. I shall consider the honorable member’s request that a practical engineer be appointed to replace Dr. Coombs as chairman of the North Australia Development Committee. With regard to the statement that the Queensland Government is proceeding with the Burdekin scheme, I understood that it was the intention of that Government to implement a large water conservation scheme in that area to make provision for the irrigation of over 300,000 acres of land. When the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, spoke to me about this matter, it was agreed that either the men who made inquiries in connexion with the reticulation scheme in Western Australia, or men of similar ability should be requested to examine the Burdekin area and furnish a report to the Government. I asked Mr. Hanlon to arrange for his officers to first prepare a complete and detailed report, so that when the Commonwealth officers arrived in that State they would have the advantage of such preliminary inquiry. If the Australian Government felt that it could approve of the scheme, it could be made the subject of special measures for consideration by the Commonwealth Parliament and the Queensland Parliament. But when the honorable member says that the scheme is being gone on with-
– It is being gone on with. At least I think it is. Of course, I could be wrong.
– Queensland may be doing something of a preliminary nature in connexion with the scheme, but the main scheme has been the subject of consultation between the two governments and it is now being looked into by both in connexion with a plan altogether separate from any action by the North Australia Development Committee.
– Can the Minister for Immigration say what pro portion of the immigrants who have been brought to Australia from Great Britain and from displaced persons’ camps in Europe since the introduction of the present scheme have accepted employment in rural industries-?
– Obviously, I could not answer the question offhand, but I shall obtain the information and supply it to the honorable member next week, if not before then: British immigrants are free to go where they like. I think very few have gone into rural industries, because they have come from occupations in England that did not fit them for work in the Australian countryside. We have allotted many displaced persons to rural industries. I think the proportion of them who are employed by agricultural pursuits is fairly large.
– Some weeks ago I asked the Treasurer whether he would consider the possibility of making travelling expenses to and from places of occupation rebatable under the income tax law, particularly insofar as wage-earners were concerned. In his reply, the right honorable gentleman said that certain travelling expenses incurred in the course of earning an income were allowable as rebates that had previously been allowable as deductions. That statement has raised inquiries about the circumstances in which travelling expenses of any sort can be admitted as allowable rebates. Could the right honorable gentleman clarify the position?
– I can easily understand that some confusion may have occurred. Provision is made in the income tax law to deal with out-of-pocket expenses and living away expenses. The law as recently amended, provides for camping allowances. There is a complete exemption in nearly all cases. Zone allowances are provided for. The honorable member has asked whether I can clearly define what is covered by the provision for rebates and allowances in the act. I shall have a statement prepared on the subject. Obviously travelling expenses, of which fares are typical, cannot be allowed as deductions. The Government gave much consideration to the matter, but decided that it could not agree to a rebate of tax in respect of such travelling expenses. If it did so, to remedy injustice in one direction, there would be wide scope for great abuse in other directions. The suggestion that travelling expenses should be allowable deductions from income has been rejected, I think, by all governments.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That Standing Order 70 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended until the end of the year.
Motion (by Mr. Lemmon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the War Service Homes Act 1 918-1947.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to - .
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the hide and leather industries, and for other purposes.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is complementary to the Nationality and Citizenship Bill, which is to create the new status of Australian citizenship. As was made clear during the debate on that bill, it forms part of a scheme of citizenship legislation agreed upon, by the nations of the British Commonwealth, and all the peoples of those nations are now to have, in addition to the common status of British nationality, an additional and distinctive status of citizenship of their own country. The bill which I have now introduced, proposes that the Passports Act 1938 be amended to conform to the new scheme of nationality legislation. The amendments involved are very brief and are a natural and necessary consequence of the Nationality and Citizenship Bill.
The first amendment proposed in the bill is that there shall be inserted in the Passports Act a definition of the title of “ Australian citizen “, based on the definition embodied in the Nationality and Citizenship Bill. In the second amendment, it is provided that the present definition in the Passports Act of the term “ British subject “ shall refer to the Nationality and Citizenship Act, instead of to the Nationality Act 1920-1946, which is now to be repealed. Next, the definition of an “ officer “ in the Passports Act 1938, which refers to the Department of the Interior, is to be brought up to date by having it refer instead to the Department of Immigration, which took over the administration of passport matters from the Department of the Interior in 1945. Finally, and more importantly, it is proposed that section 7 of the Passports Act, which at present authorizes the issue of passports to British subjects, shall be amended to enable passports to be issued to Australian citizens in a form which will readily enable Australians travelling abroad to secure recognition of their Australian citizenship as well as of their British nationality.
It will be observed that this bill is to commence on the same day as that on which it is proposed to proclaim the Nationality and Citizenship Bill which is, on Australia Day, 1949. After that date, each Australian citizen’s passport will declare the bearer to be both an Australian citizen and a British subject, so that there will be no mistaking his national status. It is anticipated that in due course all of the nations of the British Commonwealth will authorize their representatives in Australia to issue passports to their own citizens. However, until that stage is reached, and until all the countries of the British Commonwealth have enacted citizenship legislation, Australian passport officers will continue to issue passports to British subjects other than Australian citizens. Such passports will indicate clearly that the bearers are British subjects, and, in fact, they will be in exactly the same form as passports which have been issued in the past to all British subjects. This bill does not raise any great new questions of principle or policy which have not already been debated in connexion with the Nationality and Citizenship Bill. The amendments proposed are, however, necessary to” bring the Passports Act into line with the new nationality legislation, and to permit passports administration to be changed to suit the new conditions. I therefore commend the bill to the House for approval.
Debate (on motion by Mr. HARRISON adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The chief feature of the bill is the introduction of a number of new provisions which will enable a substantial start to be made with the Government’s scheme for the rehabilitation of physically handicapped persons. Such persons have suffered not only because of their inferior position in society but also because of the lack of any organized attempt, other than in a comparatively small way, to improve their position. Private agencies have done good work in this field, but there is an urgent need for a well-organized plan for the whole community under the control and direction of the Australian Government. An important aspect is the fact that, in this field, at present undeveloped, there is unquestionably a large potential source of man-.power which, under proper direction and guidance, may contribute materially to the productive efforts of the community.
The experience gained here and in other countries of the great value of rehabilitation schemes for ex-servicemen has proved beyond doubt that, with proper treatment and suitable training under the direction of highly qualified and enthusiastic professional and technical staff, men and women with severe physical handicaps respond readily and show resourcefulness to a surprising degree in making a successful re-adjustment of their lives. There is no reason to suppose that what has been so successfully accomplished in the rehabilitation of exservice personnel cannot be achieved with equal success in the case of the civilian community. The chief difficulty confronting the efforts of private agencies in this field has been the lack of adequate and suitable facilities. This difficulty the Government proposes to overcome by giving the Director-General of Social Services power to provide such facilities and other things as are necessary for the purpose of providing treatment and vocational training for physically handicapped persons. These facilities will include rehabilitation centres for in- patients, clinics for out-patients, psychiatric centres and other establishments. The treatment which will be provided will include medical, dental, psychiatric and hospital treatment both in-patient and out-patient, physical .training and exercise, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and other treatment under medical supervision.
It is proposed at the commencement to make use of the establishments set up by the Department of Social Services for the rehabilitation of disabled ex-service personnel suffering from non-war-caused disabilities. In carrying out this work under the authority of Part IV. of the Re-establishment and Employment Act, the Department of Social Services has established a rehabilitation centre for inpatients in each of the five mainland States and has an arrangement with the Australian Red Cross Society for the use of its establishment in Tasmania. The department also has out-patients’ clinics in Sydney -and Brisbane and is at present taking steps to establish similar clinics in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. It is also establishing a psychiatric centre in New South Wales and is negotiating for other properties in that State and in Queensland, one for an additional rehabilitation centre and the other for an additional out-patients’ clinic. The extent to which the civilian rehabilitation scheme can be undertaken at present is determined not only by the availability of suitable properties for use as rehabilitation centres, out-patients’ clinics and psychiatric centres, but also by the availability of suitable trained staff, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, education officers, nursing sisters, physical training instructors, and trade instructors. The Government intends to make increasing use of such specialists in its rehabilitation scheme, but there is considerable difficulty in obtaining them.
For the present, therefore, it is proposed to limit the scope of the scheme to invalid pensioners and claimants for invalid pensions and to persons receiving or claiming unemployment or sickness benefits who might otherwise become unemployable. It is hoped that it will be possible at an early date, as a result of the establishment of more centres and clinics and the acquirement of more specialist staff, to extend ‘the scope of the scheme to cover all physically handicapped persons in the community, including adolescents, as well as persons suffering from certain industrial diseases. At this stage I mention that, during the three years of the operation of the rehabilitation scheme for ex-servicemen conducted by the Department of Social Services, nearly 10,000 persons have received treatment or assistance, and the experience gained in that scheme will be exceedingly .valuable in carrying out the civilian scheme.
Certain provisions already contained in Part VIII. of the Social Services Consolidation Act empower the DirectorGeneral of Social Services to direct that the grant or continuance of an- invalid pension, or the payment of an unemployment or sickness benefit, shall be subject to the condition that the claimant, pensioner or beneficiary shall comply with any requirement by the DirectorGeneral that he or she’ should undertake rehabilitatory treatment or vocational training. Very little has been done in this regard in respect of unemployment and sickness beneficiaries, but during the past four or five years the Department of .Social Services has sponsored the vocational training of some 5,000 invalid pensioners, of whom nearly 1,000 have been placed in suitable employment, resulting in an annual saving on invalid pensions of not less than £100,000. At present about 350 invalid pensioners are undergoing training under these interim arrangements. The rapid growth of the invalid pension list in recent years calls attention to the need for a scheme such as that upon which the Government is now embarking. During the last three years, the number of new invalid pensions granted has averaged 12,000 annually, while the number of such pensions in force has risen in that period from 58,000 to 73,000, an increase of 15,000.
Experience suggests that about 15 pei cent, of new pensioners admitted would respond successfully to rehabilitatory treatment and vocational training. Assuming that 1,800 pensioners or claimants are successfully rehabilitated each year, the annual saving on invalid pensions would be £200,000. Having regard to the expectation of life of the pensioners concerned, this would represent a total saving of £4,000,000. This figure might well be brought up to £5,000,000 by the successful rehabilitation of many of the 73,000 existing pensioners. This does not take into account the saving which would be effected in respect of the short-term benefits for unemployment and sickness, particularly in preventing many sickness beneficiaries from becoming invalid pensioners. Apart altogether from the saving in expenditure, however, there is ample justification for the scheme in its economic return to the community in increased man-power, and its inestimable value to the individual in the restoration of morale and social standing. It is not intended that the existence of a physical or mental disability shall of itself qualify a pensioner or beneficiary for acceptance for rehabilitation. To ensure that the work shall be directed towards achieving the best results it is provided that the disability must have existed for at least thirteen weeks, and be likely to continue for a further period of thirteen weeks, that it must be a substantial handicap to the person’s engaging in employment and. yet be remediable, and that there shall be reasonable prospects for his engaging in a suitable vocation within two years after the commencement of treatment or training.
During the period of treatment, payment of the pension or benefit for which the person is qualified will be continued, but when vocational training is commenced the pension or benefit will be suspended and, in lieu thereof, the trainee will be paid a rehabilitation allowance at a rate equivalent to the rate of invalid pension, including any wife’s or child’s allowance, for which he is, or would be, qualified under the means test for invalid pensions, and, in addition, he will be paid a training allowance at a flat rate of fi a- week.
When it is necessary for a trainee to live away from home for the purpose of receiving training, a. living away from home allowance will be paid. This will be 15s. a week for an unmarried trainee for the first four weeks, 30s. for a married trainee with no children under sixteen years of age reducing to 15s. after four weeks, and 30s. for a married trainee with one or more children under sixteen years of age during the whole period of training. During both treatment and training a pensioner or beneficiary may he paid the cost of fares incurred by him in travelling regularly for this purpose. Living away from home allowances and payments in respect of fares will not be regarded as income in determining the rate of rehabilitation allowance payable. Those payments, as well as rehabilitation allowances and training allowances, will not be taken into account as income in determining the rate of any invalid or age pension payable to the spouse of a trainee. The cost of treatment and training provided for a pensioner or a beneficiary will be borne by the Commonwealth, and the value of the treatment and training will not be regarded as income.
Provision is made in the bill under which the Director-General may provide such artificial replacements, surgical aids and appliances as are necessary in connexion with the treatment or training of a person, or to assist a person to engage in a suitable vocation after his treatment or training has been completed, but a person- who retains any such replacement, aid or appliance for his own use will be required to pay its cost. Payment, however, may be deferred until the person has commenced to engage in em- ployment. There is also a provision under which the Director-General may provide such books, equipment, appliances and tools of trade, to a cost not exceeding £20 in the aggregate, as are necessary in- connexion with the treatment or training of a person or to enable a person to engage in suitable employment after the discontinuance of his training. A person who is provided with any such articles upon or after the discontinuance of his training, will be required to pay the cost thereof, but payment may be’ deferred until he has commenced to engage in employment.
Should a person, during the period of his treatment or training, become disqualified for his pension, benefit or rehabilitation allowance on account of the receipt of income or the acquirement of property, the course of treatment or training may be continued but, in that event, the person will be required to pay the cost of the treatment or training provided after the date of such disqualification. The treatment or training of a person will continue until it has been successfully completed, or until the DirectorGeneral is satisfied that the person will not derive any further substantial benefit from its continuance. Where, upon the successful completion of training, a person is unable to obtain suitable employment, payment of his rehabilitation allowance will be continued until he obtains suitable employment, but not for longer than three months. A person whose training has been discontinued and is engaged in employment or is awaiting placement in employment, may be provided with such further treatment as is considered necessary within a period not exceeding six months from the date on which his training was discontinued.
A provision has been included, on the lines of that contained in the existing legislation, under which the DirectorGeneral may decline to grant or to continue payment of an invalid pension unless the claimant or pensioner undergoes such treatment or training as the Director-General considers it reasonable for him to undergo, having regard to his age and physical and mental capacity and to the facilities available. A somewhat similar provision is retained in respect of persons in receipt of or applying for unemployment or sickness benefits. To safeguard the Commonwealth from having to bear the cost of treatment or training provided for a person who is entitled to compensation granted in respect of such treatment or training, certain provisions have been included in the bill which will enable the Commonwealth to recover the cost of the treatment and training out. of the compensation moneys. A special provision has been included in the bill under which the Director-General may make an arrangement with a Commonwealth or State authority to provide treatment and training for such persons or classes of persons as are specified in the arrangement, In such cases, none of the allowances provided for pensioners and beneficiaries will be payable, and the authority may be required to pay the cost of the treatment and training provided.
The cost of the rehabilitation scheme will be met from the National Welfare Fund, except expenditure of a capital nature, such as the acquirement of sites and buildings. The estimated cost of the scheme for the first full year is £650,000, of which approximately £310.000 will be met in the current financial year. The provisions covering the rehabilitation scheme are contained in a new Part VIII., which is inserted in the principal act by clause 20 of the bill.
The earlier clauses of the bill provide for certain other amendments to the principal act, some of which are well worthy of mention.
One or two cases have arisen where a person, after living in Australia for a long period, left this country to take up residence abroad, became permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind while outside Australia and, after a further period, returned to Australia and applied for an invalid pension. There is some difference of legal opinion as to whether the relevant section of the act, which is section 25 (2), requires the applicant in such a case to be resident in Australia for a full period of twenty years after the occurrence of the permanent incapacity or blindness, or whether any period in Australia before that event may be taken into account. It has therefore been decided to amend the section to give clear eligibility for invalid pension to an applicant in any such case where there has been a total period of not less than twenty years’ residence in Australia, whether any portion of that period was before or after the occurrence of permanent incapacity or blindness. This will enable pensions to be granted in tin1 few cases of this nature which would otherwise not have been granted.
To provide for cases where a pensioner’s home is demolished in the process of such schemes as slum clearance, it is proposed to widen the scope of the provisions in the act under which the DirectorGeneral may disregard, for a reasonable period, any fire insurance moneys received in respect of the destruction of or damage to a home, if those moneys are used within that time for the purpose of building another home for the pensioner. The proposed amendment will enable compensation for the demolition of a pensioner’s home to be similarly treated, and it will also allow such insurance moneys or compensation to be used for either building or purchasing another home. Another provision which it is proposed te liberalize is one which gives to the Director-General power to continue the pension of a class “ A “ widow where her child attains the age of sixteen years, but goes on with full-time education and is still dependent on the widow and is not in employment. Those conditions apply until the child reaches the age of eighteen years. Cases have come under notice in which a child, although continuing with full-time education, earns a little money before or after school hours, usually by selling newspapers, and as it cannot, actually be said that the child is not in any employment it has not been possible to extend the benefit of the provision. It is now proposed to give the DirectorGeneral some discretion in the matter so that he may, if he considers it reasonable to do so, disregard the so-called employment. In making his decision, the Director-General will have regard to the nature of the employment, the amount, earned by the child, and the time occupied in doing the work. I may mention that, in cases of this nature which have already come under notice, act of grace payments have been authorized pending an amendment of the act.
One or two other proposed amendments may be mentioned. Under the act as it stands an alien woman who gives birth to a child in Australia during the first twelve months of her residence here cannot be paid a maternity allowance until the expiration of twelve months from the date of her arrival, unless her husband has resided in Australia for at least twelve months. It is proposed to permit immediate payment of the allowance in instances where the DirectorGeneral is satisfied that the woman is likely to remain in Australia. Another concession is the exclusion from the definition of “ income “, for the purposes of determining the rate of an unemployment or sickness benefit, of any lump sum payment representing a reimbursement of medical, dental or similar expenses actuallypaid by the applicant. There are other amendments of a more or less minor character, mostly clarifying existing provisions, removing ambiguities and ensuring uniformity in certain provisions dealing with similar matters. I shall explain these amendments fully when the bill is in committee. I have much pleasure in commending to honorable members this further measure of social security for the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryan) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 3282), on motion by Mr. Calwell. -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In normal circumstances this bill would have deserved the warm-hearted approval of every member of this House and of every Australian. It would have marked an important stage in our transition to nationhood; it would have been accepted as another remarkable achievement in the evolutionary development of the British Commonwealth; it would have been rightly accepted as another triumph for constitutional self-government within a single framework. But it is impossible to consider this bill as having been brought forward in normal circumstances.
It is impossible to dissociate it from its sponsor or to consider it without also considering certain reactionary developments in the Government’s conception of Australian nationhood. The purpose of the bill is to make us all Australian citizens. That is a very worthy objective. Under it we shall still be British subjects. That, also is a very worthy objective. But, for practical purposes, what will the bill achieve? We all want to be proud of being Australian citizens, but we must see to it that being an Australian citizen is something of which we can justly be proud. Pride in citizenship found full expression in the time of the Roman Empire. The Roman boasted, “I am a Roman citizen “. What did he really mean ? He meant far more than merely being an inhabitant of the city of Rome. He meant that as a Roman citizen he was a free man. There were many other inhabitants of Rome who were not Roman citizens. They were bonded slaves. So, the distinction of citizenship was the difference between bond and free. The Roman citizen, unlike the slave, could travel wherever he liked. He did not have to possess a passport. He was not an indentured employee. His wife was not a slave of the government. If Caesar’s wife wanted to go to Britain, the Roman government did not tell the Britons that they had to send her back within six months lest she might fall into evil ways. Not even Caesar would have been prepared to treat his wife like that. In future, when an Australian goes abroad, instead of saying to the customs official, “ Here is my passport ; I am a British subject “, he will say, “ I am an Australian”. What will that mean? That is the important consideration that must enter into any analysis of this bill. Will the Australian abroad be able to say, “I am a free man “ ; or will he say that he is a bonded slave - a slave of the Government and of the Minister who issues his passport? Will every Australian woman who goes abroad have to carry the stigma attached by this Government to the young women who performed important secretarial work for General Macarthur? The Government and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) are doing their best to make Australian citizenship a badge of ridicule and pity throughout the civilized world. Will every Australian have tied to his passport whatever outrageous conditions the Minister for Immigration may happen to think up for the occasion? The Minister’s actions have damaged the name of Australia in almost every corner of the globe. When an Australian goes to the United States of America he should go as a friend, as one with a common destiny proved under the impact of war. To be an Australian citizen in the United States of America has until recently been a passport to being accepted as a good neighbour. But can the Australian citizen reasonably expect such a reception in the future? This Government has done everything conceivably possible to damage the reputation of Australian citizens entering the United States of America. Although bearers of valid Australian passports, they have been held up to the ridicule of that nation. The Government has allowed one of its Ministers to sully the reputation of Australian women bearing valid Australian passports, whilst another Minister has permitted his department to issue anti-American propaganda based on the current Communist hymn of hate against the American people. Those are not the views of the Australian people; they are the distorted actions of irresponsible Ministers. But once we accept Australian citizenship we must, whether we like it or not, accept also the burden of the Government’s actions abroad. If we are to be Australian citizens and to be proud of such citizenship, we must be free. This is not the time to assume the shackles of despotism. All the wordy explanations and quotations served up by the Minister from the debates in the House of Lords and all the memoranda prepared by his officials will not make Australian citizenship an object of true national pride. We need much more than that. Unfortunately, it cannot be denied that a citizen is known by the kind of government that he keeps in office. The citizen of Germany before the recent war had not the slightest chance of being judged except, on the basis that Hitler was a German and to be a German was to be a nazi. Every Italian was automatically re garded as a fascist; and every Russian to-day is carrying the burden of communism and Stalin. Therefore, the way this. Government conducts itself in office has a direct bearing upon everything contained in the bill now before the House. The world does not hear much about Australia’s social legislation; but it hears a great deal about the policy of the Minister for Information. When the Government confers Australian citizenship upon the people of Australia it should also fully realize its responsibility to see that that citizenship is a real asset and not a liability.
Another important aspect of the measure is that it confers a title of citizenship but gives nothing to go with that title. A government with imagination and real statesmanship would have realized the need to provide the skeleton with body and soul. This was an opportunity to provide the structure of Australian citizenship with the life blood of freedom that should have been accepted by a democratic government. One vital defect of the Constitution is that it does not provide Australians with any guarantees similar to those provided by the Constitution of the United States of America. There is a real need for an Australian bill of rights. Every Australian citizen should have certain basic rights and privileges, and they should be stated explicitly. The High Court of Australia in its judgments has written a great deal into the Constitution, but there is still an overriding obligation upon the Parliament to provide a real definition of Australian citizenship. This bill gives nothing except the title. The American citizen is endowed with certain constitutional rights, whilst the British citizen has not only a wealth of tradition but also the protection afforded by enactments of the British Parliament. This Parliament has not defined the freedom to which the Australian citizen is heir. If we are to forfeit our British citizenship we should make certain that we retain all the fundamental principles of British common law and British liberty. We must see to it that the privileges of this ‘ Parliament shall be maintained sacrosanct, and that no government shall be permitted to destroy the rule of British law a.nd the tradition of the
Mother of Parliaments. We have witnessed many crude assaults on both in recent times. In conclusion, I say that the bill is a challenge to the capacity of the Parliament to meet the real requirements of nationhood inside the British Commonwealth. It will be a sorry day if, in achieving what we have all wanted, we sell ourselves into bondage. The Government has had a glorious opportunity to fill a long-felt want by introducing a measure that was real, that had a body and soul; one that would have done credit 10 Australia, to the Parliament and to the people.
– The bill follows all too easily a bad example. No doubt, the Canadian and the British nationality acts suggested, and perhaps provoked, the introduction of complementary legislation. But the position of Canada, geographically and racially, is entirely different from that of Australia, which is a purely British community, isolated by distance from the white populations of the world. In any event, the measure fits smoothly into the general policy of the Attlee Government for the liquidation of the British Empire. Certainly this measure, and those upon which it is founded, must inevitably create the impression in outside countries that the unity upon which the strength and power of the Empire depended has been seriously weakened, if not entirely destroyed.
Let me show by a short reference to our history why this must be so. As the Empire was not built to a design, but, like Topsy, “ just growed”, it was inevitable that in the earlier stages the laws governing the ordered lives of the Australian people were the common law of England and certain statutes enacted by the British Parliament dealing with specific matters which were held to be extra-territorial. As those acts were ultra vires the legislative powers of the States, any measures coming within their ambit had to be sent to England for the Royal Assent, which meant that any legislation of the kind was to be looked over by the Colonial Office or the Dominions Office before receiving the Royal Assent. But British Ministers had been taught a lesson by the American War of Independ ence, which they had taken deeply to’ heart, and they pursued a policy which gave the young colonies such expanding powers of self-government as their numbers and experience warranted. The years passed, bringing many changes and everexpanding powers of self-government. Then came federaion and the first Australian Parliament, clothed with enumerated powers to make laws for the people of the Commonwealth generally, and reserving to the State parliaments legislative authority on all matters not enumerated in the Constitution. Our self-governing powers were greatly widened, but Australians still pressed on towards their goal of nationhood. The outbreak of World War I. paved the way towards its realization. In 1916-17 the British Government recognized the equality of status between the Dominions and Great Britain. But even that was not enough for some of the Dominions. At the 1921 conference in London, inter-Empire relations were discussed at some length, and a quotation from my own speech at that conference will apropriately introduce the question as the British and Dominion Prime Ministers then saw it. I said -
It lias been suggested that a constitutional conference should be held next year. . . . What does this conference propose to do? Are the Dominions seeking new powers or desirous of using powers they already possess, or is the conference to draw up a declaration of rights, to set down in black and white the relations between Britain and the Dominions 7 What is this conference to do? . . . Surely this conference is not intended to limit the rights we now have. Yet what new rights, what extension of power, can it give us ? What is there that we cannot do now? What could the Dominions do as independent nations that they cannot do now? What limitations are now imposed upon them? What can they not do - even to encompassing their own destruction by sundering the bonds that bind them to the Empire? What do they lack? . . . We were colonies, we became dominions; we have been accorded the status of nations. Our progress in material greatness has kept pace with our constitutional development. Let us leave well alone. … I know of no power that the Prime Minister of Britain has that General Smuts or any one of vis has not. . . . Our presence here around this table, the agenda paper before us, the basis of equality on which we meet - these things speak in trumpet tones that this conference of free democratic nations is, as Mr. Lloyd George said yesterday, “a living force “.
Dealing with the powers vested in the Dominions, I said -
Originally all the powers now vested in the Dominions were exercised by Britain. The present distribution is the result of voluntary surrender to the Dominions by Britain of some of the powers inherent in her as a sovereign power. This surrender has heretofore been made by -
Statutes of the British Parliament creating dominion parliaments and governments, and defining the ambit of their legislative and executive powers;
In despatches and communications passing between the British and colonial and dominion governments ;
By conferences of the representatives of Britain and of the Dominions.
The distribution of powers had been gradual, extending over a long period of time. During the last few years the distribution has proceeded more rapidly. It has never been the practice to attempt to set out in writing the precise limits of the powers surrendered by Britain to the Dominions or chose retained by her. The reasons against any attempt to delimit the respective spheres of power and define the constitutional relations between Britain and the Dominions are obvious and overwhelming. The great merit of the constitutional relationship existing between Britain and the Dominions is, and always has been, its elasticity. To this is due its wonderful adaptation to changing circumstances arising from the growth and development of the Dominions. To attempt to substitute for this a rigid constitution or to define or set out in writing the relationship between the Dominions is most undesirable. … As things now stand, it is possible in practice to reconcile that complete autonomy which they exercise by virtue of British statutes and waivers byBritish governments - with the sovereign rights of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the unity of the Umpire.
I turn now to the bill before the House. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) told us that the introduction of the bill was an historic occasion in the life of the nation, in that it establishes for the first time the principle of Australian citizenship, while maintaining between the components of the British Commonwealth of Nations the common bond of British nationality. He has said that the importance of the measure lies in the fact that it marks another step forward in the development of Australian nationhood, and therefore, is to he greeted with fanfares and joyful shouts. He talks as if Australian citizenship is something new, and that
British nationality depended upon a “ scrap of paper”. But, in fact, this bill changes nothing of substance. It gives to an Australian citizen no higher status and no greater privileges than those which he enjoys to-day, and, indeed, has enjoyed for many years. At least, it leaves his British nationality where it is to-day.
If an Australian wants to visit England, he can go any time he wishes - provided the Minister permits him, and if he can get a ship or a plane to take him there, and if he has paid his income tax and is not attempting to escape from the long arm of the Australian law. But before he can land, he will have to run the gamut of English customs officers, and generally comply with English laws and regulations. When he is in Great Britain, he will have under this bill no greater privileges than he has to-day. The Parliament of Britain alone can give him those privileges. As for the Minister’s talk about citizenship, this is pure rhetoric. The battle for Australian citizenship was fought and won long ago. When I entered the Parliament of New South Wales, many men had no votes, and the privileged few had four. Of course, women had no votes. This bill does not amplify our rights as Australian citizens, or raise our status. It does nothing to strengthen our right to British nationality, fast rooted in our ancestry, and the system of government which has obtained in Great Britain for generations. This bill weakens the ties that bind the peoples of the Empire together in that unity which has preserved us and our liberties through the years. We are here by the grace of God and our partnership in the Empire. But for Great Britain, we should long ago have been submerged, and have become serfs in the land which we now proudly tread as masters. The White Australia policy, the corner stone of our national life, would have been an empty phrase but for Great Britain. Although the White Australia policy embarrassed Britain’s relations with the peoples of its eastern Empire, and with Japan, Great Britain stood firmly behind us in this, as in all else. Throughout history, in war and in peace, Great Britain has been our champion, protector and friend. The Minister has reminded us that we have also done something for Great Britain. Yes, we have. In two world wars, Australians have proved themselves worthy of their breeding. But the relations between Great Britain and Australia owe nothing to acts of Parliament. Australians fought for Great Britain long before the Commonwealth of Australia was established, or even contemplated. A united British Empire, or Commonwealth of Nations - names matter nothing - is vital to peace. So long as America and Great Britain, as the head of a united Empire, stand side by side, there will be peace. This bill, and the measure passed by the United Kingdom Parliament, are attempts to appease certain members of the Empire. But appeasement may well be a price too heavy to pay.
I turn now to a provision in the bill which is wholly incompatible with that unity upon which the very existence of the Commonwealth rests. I refer to the admission of citizens of Eire upon a footing of equality with those of the Dominions. As is well known, the Government of Eire has announced its intention to sever the last links that bind that country to the United Kingdom, and become a republic. About this much could be said. Here, I confine myself to pointing out that, although Eire’s right to become .a republic may pass without challenge, that country cannot be at once a republic and remain within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Every government must have a head, whether he be called the King or the President. The King of the United Kingdom is the head of the British Commonwealth of Nations. As Eire has repudiated the King, its citizens cannot be received into the family of nations which are linked together by a common head, the King. Nor is there any way in which this Commonwealth of Nations, whose members are scattered all over the world, can remain united, and at the same time enjoy the fullest powers of self-government, save under the King. Here, I ought to make clear the precise relations between the peoples of the different Dominions and the King. There was a time when Kings of England were not only the fountains of honour1, but, in veritable fact, the rulers of England. Those days are gone. To-day, the King reigns but does not govern. Everything is done in his name, but nothing is done by him. The King acts on the advice of his Ministers in England. That statement applies to those matters on. which the governments of the Dominions advise His Majesty to assent, such as the appointment of a governor-general. When the King is advised to assent to the appointment of a certain person as governorgeneral, he seeks the advice of his Ministers in England, and acts on their advice. The British Empire is a monument to the genius of the British people for self-government. It may be illogical, but it works, and will go on working if those who seek to improve it will leave it alone. The Commonwealth of British Nations can remain at. once united against the outside world and enjoy full self-governing powers only under the British Crown. Long live the King!
, - Members of the Opposition have emphasized, quite wrongly, that this bill Will sever Australia from the British Empire. We must recognize that Australia, as a member of the family of British nations, has grown up. In family life, a similar situation arises. Children grow up, marry, and establish their own homes. They continue to regard their parents with reverence or respect, and to look to- them for guidance, but they claim the right to determine their own domestic affairs. The British Commonwealth is undergoing a constitutional evolution which is similar to the instance of the family which I have cited. When this bill becomes law, Australia’s loyalty to Great Britain will not be diminished in any way. Honorable members opposite who declare that the bill will sever our connexion with Great Britain are “ drawing a long bow “. The Parliament of the United Kingdom has already enacted similar legislation. Do members of the Opposition claim tha.t Great Britain has thereby severed itself from the Dominions?
– Did not the Parliament of the United Kingdom pass that legislation because it thought that we did not desire to continue our association with Great Britain ?
– I do not view the situation in that way. I regard the British Empire as the greatest that the world has known. I look upon our heritage as Britons as being second to none in the world. I recollect that when I was in New York about eighteen months ago I attended a gathering and sat beside a very important American businessman. He told me his name, which was an old English name, and said, “ You know, I used to make a point of going to England once every two years to look up the members of the family there”. I asked, “How long has your family been in America ? “. When he told me that his family had been in America for about 200 years, I began to realize what British birth, parentage and the British heritage really stand for. [ have quoted that conversation in New Fork to show that although the severance of America from Great Britain was complete and quite different from anything proposed in the legislation now before the House, I found one of that country’s most successful businessmen looking with pride upon the homeland of his ancestors.
– He was not like Sir Stafford Cripps, who wants to “bust up “ the Empire?
– I have no wish to refer to Sir Stafford Cripps or his alleged statement about “ busting up “ the Empire. 1 understand that the words used in the press were “ liquidation of the Empire “. I do not support any policy for liquidation of the Empire and I do not care whether Sir Stafford Cripps has that idea or not. I consider that the Australian people would not agree with such a policy, because they look upon the British Empire as I do, - a coalition of which they wish their country to remain an integral part. I consider that the expressions used in this House earlier to-day by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) when he gave to the House a message regarding the cancellation or postponement of the Royal visit next year, reflect the feeling of the people of Australia. They will echo the sentiments of regret expressed by the Prime Minister that they will not be able during the next few months to pay their personal respects and show their loyalty to’ His Majesty. The fact that this measure has been introduced by the Prime Minister, who uttered the expressions of loyalty to which I have referred, appears to me- to show that the Government, in introducing the measure, has no desire to cut Australia’s ties with the Motherland.
I regard the introduction of the measure as only a part of Australia’s growing-up. As a nation we shall be able to take a greater share of the responsibility. We must recognize the changing and changed conditions of both the Empire and the world. I believe that the bill, when it becomes law, will not do much more than give us what might be termed a “ double passport “, for use by Australian travellers overseas-
– A double passport is no good to any one.
– -Whether it is any good or not, the fact remains that when the present measure has been enacted and comes into force an Australian passport will still have the endorsement of British nationality upon it and will still have all the authority of any British passport. I can not accept any suggestions that the passage of this measure will act to my detriment should I go abroad. Some honorable members may be able to raise some legal aspects of this matter, and quibble over the meaning of the words that might be on a passport, but what really matters when any one goes abroad is not what appears on the passport, but the respect and the recognition given to the passport itself. Passports issued in Australia after this legislation comes into force will receive as great respect overseas as those issued in the past. I appreciate some of the difficulties that may arise. Some honorable members have raised a number of points regarding the rights of citizenship where government employment is concerned. I appreciate that there may be difficulties in that connexion that will have to be overcome, but it is always within the province of the Parliament itself to alter legislation that is unsatisfactory. The difficulties that honorable members have mentioned have been caused by enactments and can similarly be removed by enactments. They are not constitutional difficulties.
– What good will the bill do?
– I do not know whether it will do very much good or very much harm. I am like the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) and some other honorable members on the other side of the House, in that I should like to have drifted along with the tide as we did in the past. But, although I can say that candidly, I do not shut my eyes to ‘the fact that one cannot keep drifting with the tide instead of facing problems that arise.
– Is the Minister a “Canute”?
– I do not know whether he is really any more keen about it than is the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who, if he saw a dust storm coming along, would be just as powerless to stop it as is the Minister to stop the tide.
– Order ! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– Whilst I regret the passing of our old nationality, as we knew it, I know that we in Australia are still British. I do not consider that the passing of this bill will make me any less British or make it any less possible for me to travel abroad as a Britisher thanpreviously. During a recent debate on another measure a statement was made regarding imperial sentiment and an honorable member interjected to say that sentiment “ does not always count “. There is a great deal of sentiment connected with our desire to retain the old system that the bill proposes to alter. I consider that the opposition to the measure is more concerned with sentiment than with any really legal aspects of it. From the sentimental side alone, I, personally, should like the position to remain as it has been.
One important provision of the bill refers to the nationality of women of this country. Formerly when an Australian woman married an alien in an alien country she lost her Australian nationality. I know two really good
Britishers living within half a mile of my own home who will be affected by the provision in the measure dealing with the nationality of women. They are Britishers to the core and belong to the best kind of people that Australia produces, but because, years before the last war, one of their daughters married a man who was a German by birth, and the marriage took place in an alien country, the daughter is no longer an Australian. She has returned to Australia with her children, and without her husband, and lives in her father’s home. Despite that, she is, because of her marriage, an alien. I am glad that it has been possible in this legislation to make provision that Australian women who marry aliens shall not lose their nationality, as has been the position in the past. If at any time they should, through force of circumstances, return to this country, they should be able to retrieve their nationality and be Australians again, not only at heart, but also legally. I am pleased that this provision has been made in the bill. Whilst I regret the necessity for the introduction of this legislation, I believe that it will give us a distinct Australian nationality, and that it will in no way affect the British spirit and loyalty of those who want to be British. In the past many people who have come to this country and have been naturalized after about five years’ residence here, have never become real Britishers or Australians, because their heart still hankers for their native country. I am pleased that provision is made in the bill for a declaration to be made by every person seeking to take upon himself the nationality of this country. In the past many migrants to this country from other lands have accepted our nationality only because they thought they would thereby gain some advantage. I know of an immigrant who has lived in this country for twenty years and who, when, he was asked to appear before the authorities recently in order that his naturalization papers could be completed, said that he would rather forge being naturalized than travel 8 miles to the city for that purpose. That is an instance of the little value that has been placed upon our citizenship in the past by some of the people who have migrated to this country. I contend that citizenship is not something that is brought about merely by the appending of a signature to a piece of paper. To be of real value, it must be the result of inspiration from within the person, and something of which he is proud.
– I commend the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) for frankly admitting to this House that he was uneasy about this bill, and that lie would have preferred to drift along under the old system. He also expressed regret for the necessity to introduce it. I hope to he able to persuade him, if he has the patience to stay and listen to my remarks, that it was unnecessary for the bill to be introduced, and that the whole position has been misrepresented to this House. I do not propose to talk about non-controversial aspects of this bill. The provisions relating to the nationality of married women have my whole-hearted approval. Every Australian has wished for this reform for some time past. Although the British Government desired to bring it about some time ago, other elements in the British Commonwealth were reluctant to do so, with the result that the matter lagged. Now that it has been brought about, I congratulate those responsible for this reform. I offer no criticism on that aspect of the matter, but shall direct my attention to the matter of Australian citizenship and its relation to what is known as British subjecthood. I listened to nearly all of the speeches that we’re made by honorable members in connexion with this measure last week, and I noticed that all of the “ knowledgeable “ members on the Government side cf the House expressed or implied uneasiness about this bill. Sometimes, although they used words of praise, it was clear to those who were listening that they were uneasy about the direction in which this bill would carry them. Is it any wonder?
The theme that I shall develop is that Australia will not be one whit better off as a result of thi3 measure; on the contrary, I consider that this bill, and the events leading up to its introduction, will, in the long run, do Australia a grave injury. I repeat that the “know ledgeable” members on the Government side of the House indicated, I thought, a degree of uneasiness. The one distinguished exception was the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) who introduced the bill. He delivered a secondreading speech which contained a paean cf praise for the bill and a certain amount of misrepresentation about it. 1 shall refer honorable members to some of the words that he used. It is to be noted that it is proposed that this bill shall be proclaimed on Australia Day, no doubt with a flourish of trumpets apparently symbolic of a triumphant achievement by Australia as though some additional measure cf freedom had been wrung from the reluctant Imperial authorities in England. As reported in Hansard, at page 1060, the Minister said -
This is an historic occasion in the life of our nation. The bill which I have the honour to .present this evening seeks to establish for the first time the principle of Australian citizenship, while maintaining between the component parts of the British Commonwealth of ‘Nations the common bond of British nationality. The importance of the measure lies in the fact that it marks another step forward in the development of Australian nation hood.
The statement that it marks another step forward in the development of Australian nationhood is utterly erroneous, misleading and false. This bill takes no step forward. It will not give to the people of this country anything that, they do not enjoy at the moment. In saying that, the Minister misrepresented the position to the House. He continued -
The bill is not designed to make an Australian any. less a British subject, but to help him to express his pride in citizenship of this great country. That is a pride which is praiseworthy, because it is based on a belief that Australia has done as much as any other British nation to develop, expand and improve the free institutions and systems of organized society that had their origin in the United Kingdom.
As the Minister is not reluctant to give himself and his Government a little praise, it should be understood by the Australian people that a lot of things have happened in this Parliament during the last few years under this Government, from which one can draw the irresistible conclusion that far from extending and expanding the traditional liberties of our people inherited from Great Britain they have under this Government been successively diminished.
– They have all been for the benefit of Australia.
– Having embarked on a discussion of the bill in extravagant language the Minister supported hie extravagance by misrepresentation. As reported inHansard, at page 1062, he said -
Before passing to other phases of the bill,I wish to make it clear that this is in no respect a. party measure. This point was emphasized when the British bill was under discussion and was accepted by all parties, as the following quotations will show.
The Minister then quoted a statement that was made by the Earl of Perth. It is quite obvious that the Minister has sought to mislead the House about that matter, because I remind honorable members that the British bill which he said was introduced into the British Parliament and treated on a non-party basis, was introduced in the House of Lords by the Lord Chancellor and was severely attacked by members on the other side. The House of Lords inserted amendment after amendment that vitally altered the bill. Indeed, the Lords tore the bill into ribbons. It then went to the lower house, the Government majority in which was not prepared to accept the substantial and fundamental amendments made in the House of Lords. After a long debate, the bill was sent back to the House of Lords. But for the accidental fact that at the time the House of Lords was engaged in a fierce struggle with the House of Commons on the issue of capital punishment, it would have taken a stand on the amendments that it had made to the British Nationality Bill. I was in England a few days after the matter had arisen and I talked with members of both Houses of the British Parliament. Had the House of Lords not been engaged in a struggle with the House of Commons on the Capital Punishment Bill, I believe it would have insisted on its amendments. As a matter of policy, however, the bill was allowed to go through. But it was heavily fought, heavily criticized and fundamentally altered at first, and for the Minister for Immigration to say that it was a non-party measure in the British Parliament and to quote something from the speech by the Earl of Perth in support of his statement is misleading. I propose to tell the House what the Earl of Perth really did say. I cannot find his exact words, but he said he regretted that Lord Samuel, leader -of the Liberals - the Earl of Perth, himself, is a Liberal - was not there, because he was the man to deal with the bill. He, the Earl of Perth, said that he felt, himself unable to do justice to the bill, which, he said, was very complex. In another part of his speech, he said that it passed his understanding. Yet, an isolated sentence in the Earl of Perth’s speech was quoted by the Minister for Immigration to suggest that the bill was a non-party measure. I turn to the words of Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, an eminent King’s Counsel, and one of the leaders of the House of Commons.
– A Conservative!
– A Conservative, yes! My point is that it was represented in the speech of the Minister for Immigration that the British Nationality Bill was a non-party measure in the British Parliament. It was nothing of the sort.It was very heavily criticized. Sir David Maxwell Fyfe referred to the Imperial Conference of 1937. He said -
The 1937 Conference . . . passed this resolution - “ It is for each member of the British Commonwealth to decide which persons have with it that definite connexion which would enable” it to recognize them as members of its community. It is desirable, however, to secure, as far as possible, uniformity in principle in the determination by each member of the Commonwealth of the persons being British subjects-
I emphasize the words, “being British” subjects” because I shall refer to them again as the heart of my argument - to be regarded as members of its community.”
Thus there was no doubt that the basic and original nationality was still assumed to be a British subjecthood. .
After dealing with another matter, he proceeded -
What I am worried about-
And this is the man who was supposed in agreement with the bill - is that the assumption behind the principles which I have quoted from the Imperial Conferences was that British subjecthood was the basic nationality though members of the Commonwealth could define their own nationals or citizens, confining them “so far as possible” to British subjects, and British subjects within any member country had the real privilege because their basic British nationality, the common status, would be recognized “ by law “ _ throughout the Commonwealth. The Right Honorable Gentleman’s Clause-
This is the vital clause in the British bill, which is paralleled in our bill - which he is commending to this House makes citizens of any member State of the Commonwealth a privileged class of British subjects. He reverses the position. Hitherto, the operative nationality has been British. Henceforth the operative nationality in each country will be its own local citizenship. In the United Kingdom more than anywhere else, there would be no point in passing such a measure unless - and I ask the House to appreciate this - this new category of the Right Honorable Gentlemen, “ Citizens “ were to have privileges and duties more extensive than other classes of British subjects - that is, unless the old idea of the common status and our proud boast of the open door in this country to people from all the Colonies were to be destroyed.
The crux of the attack of the Conservative party in Great Britain was that the new proposal turned the whole system upside down. The common status of British nationality took a British subject right across the world.. Now the overriding principle, under which a British subject has had universal privilege throughout the British world, is to be reversed and we are to have our own citizenship and a watery British subjecthood, which does not amount to a row of beans and does not give us any rights or privileges.
The Minister and the Government claim that the bill became necessary because of the Canadian act. I contest that claim. I propose to prove that it did not become necessary because of the Canadian act. I remind honorable members that before the Canadian bill was passed into law in 1946, there was what was known as the common code. In 1914, the British Parliament passed the Nationality Act and, by arrangement, all the Dominions were to have passed corresponding acts. In 1920, the Australian Government passed its act more or less in terms identical with those of the British act. The bills that were passed in other dominions were not in identical terms. They differed on minor points, with the result that anomalies arose. They were the fault of not the common code but the failure to adopt a code based upon the British act. Nevertheless, we had a common code that meant that throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations one was a British subject with automatic British status everywhere. British subjecthood, subject to local laws, gave rights of entry and of citizenship. It worked!
– It did not work. .
– It did work. The essence of the British Commonwealth of Nations is fragmatic. It is, in many respects, an illogical system, but, at least., it has worked. The principle of the common status worked, but, in 1946, the Canadian Parliament passed its act. 1 have read the debate on that bill. Th, thing to be noted first is the strong feeling of nationality that pervades the debate. Throughout Canada there is undoubtedly a very strong sense of nationality. It manifested itself in the speeches. Not only members of the Canadian Parliament with names indicating that they are French-Canadians, but also British Canadians apparently were keen to have Canadian nationality and citizenship. The second thing is that the act is 90 per cent, machinery in nature. It declares for a Canadian citizenship, but there is one overriding section, section 26. which, after a series of sections dealing with the qualification for Canadian citizenship says -
A Canadian citizen is a British subject.
With merely that provision in the act, it was quite unnecessary for us or the British Parliament to make any change. Canada, acting as a single unit, in chang; ing the common relationship, created s slight extra anomaly. But the British Empire is founded on anomalies, #hen all is said and done. But when the doctrinaire planners and so-called experts get to work on it, they pull it to pieces and destroy it in the process of trying to make it logical. That is the tragedy of the present situation. The Canadian bill did not affect the Australian Nationality Act or the United Kingdom Nationality Act. I am concerned in this House about Australia’s relations with Great Britain. That is the main thing. How far does this bill do us any harm or any good? That is the test that I apply to it. The Canadian measure provided no excuse for any change of our own law until, of course, Great Britain passed its legislation this year. But, as soon as the United Kingdom bill was passed, and only then, the common code automatically collapsed because, by repealing the British act of 1914, it destroyed the whole system.
That leads me to inquire why the British Parliament did pass that legislation. The tale,’ which I shall unfold to the House, is a sorry one. It begins-
– “With the Statute of Westminster.
– It has nothing to do with the Statute of Westminster. The Imperial Conference of 1937-
– Of 1939.
– Of 1937, 1 said. As the quotation from the 1937 conference shows, that conference laid emphasis on the principle that we were to be British subjects. But, in 1947, along came a so-called expert committee on nationality. It met in London in February, 1947. I asked the Minister for Immigration some questions about that committee in this House on the 14th October last. I wanted to know who had represented Australia at the conference. The Minister told me that our representatives were two young gentlemen named Horgan and McEwen respectively. One is an officer of the Department of Immigration and the other is an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department.
– I corrected that information later. One of the representatives was Mr. Lyons, not Mr. McEwen.
– I accept the correction. I do not know either of those gentlemen. I am prepared to assume that they are competent civil servants. When I asked my questions previously, the Minister was at great pains to jump up, as though somebody had stuck a needle into him, and praise them as though they were marvels. They are two officers, apparently doing their job properly and efficiently-
– As they are told.
– Yes. They were sent to England to represent Australia at the conference and do what the Minister said.
The Minister was courteous enough to supply me with the names of the representatives of other countries at that gathering. I found some celebrated names amongst them. The United Kingdom representatives included Sir Alexander Maxwell, Permanent UnderSecretary of State for the Home Office, Sir John Stephenson, Deputy UnderSecretary of the Dominions Office, Sir Charles Dickson, Assistant Under-Secretary of the Dominions Office, Sir Kenneth Kemp. Legal Adviser to the India Office, and Sir Ernest Holderness, Assistant Secretary to the Home Office. Some of those gentleman are well known to me as very eminent civil servants and prominent legal authorities. Canada was represented by its High Commissioner in London, the Under-Secretary of State of Canada, and an officer of the legal division of the Department of External Affairs. New Zealand was represented by two officers, one of whom was the Parliamentary Draftsman. Three representatives were sent by the Union of South Africa. One of them was Dr. Louis Wessels, a well-known legal authority of the Department of Justice of the Union. There were no less than six representatives of Eire, although their presence at the conference is puzzling, because Eire had then declared that it was outside the British Commonwealth. India was not represented. There was one representative of Newfoundland. Southern Rhodesia was represented by its Attorney-General. Burma was represented by a justice of its High Court, although at that time Burma had been put outside- the British Commonwealth by the Attlee Government. Mr. L. M. de Silva, K.C., attended on behalf of the new Dominion of Ceylon. That id a not undistinguished panel. I should have thought that Australia, being as important as it claims to be, would have been best represented at a conference of such importance by the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, or some other eminent and senior member of the
Cabinet, or by the Solicitor-General or other high official.
The conference was held in secret. That is an important fact. I asked the Minister for information about the conference, but could get none. Then I asked whether he had any minutes of the conference. He replied, “ The bill is the minutes “. A great deal of comment was made in the United Kingdom House of Commons and House of Lords about the secrecy of those proceedings and the fact that the public was not permitted to know anything about it until the legislation was introduced to the Parliament.
– Are not all such conferences secret?
– Not when they vitally affect the future of the people, as this bill does. I say advisedly that the Government of the United Kingdom was talked into enacting its legislation by the various dominions, some of which had definitely disintegrating motives. We have been told that the decision reached at the conference was unanimous. The Minister may correct me on that point if I have been misinformed. However, if the report is correct, it means that Australia allied itself with the disintegration. The plain fact cannot be escaped. The debates in the House of Commons and the House of Lords showed that the lawyers in the United Kingdom Government reluctantly agreed to the plan. In speaking of lawyers, I have in mind such eminent gentlemen as Sir David Maxwell Fyfe and even the Lord Chancellor himself. Those gentlemen accepted the scheme very reluctantly only because they considered that they must accede to the unanimous wishes of the Dominions.
There was no prior consultation with the people of Australia on this matter. No attempt was made to find out what we thought about this revolutionary change. The decision was made at a secret committee meeting in February, 1947, and this Parliament was told nothing about it until the bill to give effect to it was presented to this House.
– That was a machinery conference following a conference of Prime Ministers.
– That is a profundity that escapes me. The honorable gentleman says that it was merely a conference following a conference of Prime Ministers. I do not care what it was. All that I care about is that the wishes of the majority of Australians were, in effect, “ given away “ at that conference, and that the first wo heard about it was when the bill was presented to this House.My views are amply supported by the debates in the British House of Lords and House of Commons. This plan was forced upon the British Government. Now it is to be forced on us. We are told that it is a fait accompli and that we must agree to it now because it was agreed to beforehand. The gravamen of my charge is that the scheme should never have been agreed upon. It should never have been allowed to reach such a stage. The conference in London in February last year arranged something against the wishes of the people of Australia. This Government forced another government to pass legislation giving effect to the plan and then dumped it in our Japs, saying, “ Great Britain has passed its legislation; therefore you must pass this bill “. That put normal democratic procedure back to front. I notice that the honorable member for Hindmarsh is no longer in the chamber, but I believe that, had he remained, my arguments would have convinced him that his reluctance to agree to the bill is justified because it rests upon the fact that the measure is unnecessary.
I now pass to a very germane question. How will the bill affect us? Will Australians be one jot or tittle better off as the result of this legislation? I remind honorable members that since 1920 the legal position has been, under section 6 of the Australian Nationality Act, that any person born within the King’s Dominions and allegiance is a British subject. That is all there is to it. There are various qualifications, but the main test is whether a person born under the allegiance ofthe King, or is the child of somebody so born. That is the writ running for our benefit throughout the British world. It has been competent, of course, for the various dominions to pass legislation limiting citizenship. Australia has done that. Under the Australian immigration policy we have always imposed qualifications upon the entry to this country of some British subjects. I use the words “ Australian immigration policy” advisedly, because I detest the phrase “ White Australia policy “ which does not do us justice in the eyes of the world. Although we have always exercised that right of qualification, by and large, a British subject, regardless of colour or race, has enjoyed the privileges and benefits of British nationality throughout the Empire. Our proud boast since the time of Lord Palmerston has been Civis Brit.annicus Sum, which has been the modern equivalent of Civis Ro,na,nus Sum. If I speak ‘warmly on this subject, I trust that the Minister will understand that it is because I feel strongly upon it. The real difficulty for Australia under this legislation is that, by losing the status of Civis Britannicus Sum, we shall lose the power, prestige and authority that went with it. Hitherto, wherever a Britisher has gone throughout the world, he has been entitled to say, “I am a British subject. I hold a British passport “. For instance, several days ago in my home I met a lady who had been in parts of China recently where bandits were looting and murdering. She said, quite simply - “ Of course, they did not touch us. We had British passports “. That was the test, and as those who travel abroad will confirm it is the test throughout the world, even in these days of diminishing British prestige. That has been the situation under the 1920 act. British nationality has carried many privileges, particularly in Great Britain itself, where the “ open door “ policy has been maintained to a far greater degree than it has been in this country. As I have said, we have qualified the entrY to this country even of British subjects, but Britain has been proud of its “ open door “ policy. An Australian going to Great Britain has been eligible, provided, of course, that he has. had the other requisite qualifications, for appointment to high judicial office, for membership of learned professions, employment in the British Civil Service, and service in the British armed forces. He has been entitled to those privileges solely because he is a British subject. That has been to Australia’s benefit. This bill, however, will cut down the rights of Australians in Great Britain.
– Somebody bawls “ No “. I shall quote the words of the very eminent author of an article on this subject which appeared in a recent issue of the Round Table. He states -
This system, had, “and has, great advantages. It gave substance to the proud boast Civis Britannicus Sum. It enabled ‘ citizens of different parts of the Commonwealth to intermarry without problems of losing or changing nationality or complications as to the nationality of their children. It fostered the growth and work of unofficial allCommonwealth associations for professional and the like purposes confined for good reasons to British subjects. It made possible official and military collaboration which would otherwise have encountered fatal legal or administrative obstacles. It opened the door of opportunity in the public services of the United Kingdom - civil, diplomatic, colonial, military - and in the professions, too, as widely for citizens of countries of the Commonwealth overseas as for British subjects in these islands. It was of great importance in the working of the diplomatic and consular system abroad, which is available to protect the interests of all British subjects and British-protected persons in the absence of a representative of their own national Government.
That is a fair summary of the very real advantages of the old system.. I am glad to see that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has returned to the chamber, because I am sure that the passage that I have quoted will strengthen his regard for the system, that this measure proposes to alter. I have outlined the position under the 1920 act. Under the 1948 measure that we are now debating, we shall have a new system. Clause 10 provides - (1.) Subject to this section, a person born in Australia after the commencement of this Act shall be an Australian citizen by birth.
The new test, therefore, is to be Australian citizenship. There are several provisions setting out ways in which a person may acquire Australian citizenship. Clause 7 then provides - (1.) A person who, under this Act, is an Australian citizen or, by an enactment for the time being in force in a country to which this section applies, is a citizen of that country shall, by virtue of that citizenship, be » British subject.
Clearly, the new test is “Australian citizenship, and then, deriving its efficacy and existence from Australian’ citizenship, is British subjecthood. That is the reverse of the previous system. Previously, one wa3 a British subject throughout the world, although as 1 have pointed out, the various parliaments have had the right to legislate in respect of local citizenship. ‘Somebody in this chamber said that, until now, there has been no Australian citizenship. That is nonsense. There has always been Australian citizenship, and there have always been statutes regulating it. The countries to which clause 1 applies are, of course, the United Kingdom and the colonies as one unit, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland, India, Pakistan, South Rhodesia and Ceylon. This change, I contend, entirely subordinates British nationality to local citizenship. I quote again from the report of the 193’7 Imperial Conference -
It is desirable, however, to secure as far as possible uniformity in principle in the determination by each member of the Commonwealth of the persons, being British subjects, to be regarded as members of its community.
That will be entirely gone under this measure. It is to be no longer “being British subjects we shall be regarded as members of any particular community “. We shall be primarily citizens of that community, and then there is a form of overriding British citizenship which has no real value at all. The primary thing in this measure is Australian citizenship. The secondary derivative, British subjecthood, is unimportant. We shall be infinitely worse off as the result of this change, because, at present, the words “ British subject “ are used throughout the act in only a formal way. Even in the British legislation there is a “ British subject without citizenship “ - whatever that means - which underlines the absurdity of the situation.
The essence of the relationship that we have had with Great Britain has been “unforeigness”. There has been a special intimate relationship between us, closer even than a “mostfavourednation” relationship. That is being abandoned. We shall not be exactly aliens, but the essence of “unforeigness” will be lost, and the link with the Crown which binds this country to Great Britain will be greatly weakened for the overriding principle of this bill which is to establish a local citizenship and a thereafter vague and meaningless British subjecthood, must of necessity weaken the link with the British Crown because it subordinates British nationality to local citizenship. It was because the United Kingdom legislation contained a similar proposal it was attacked most vigorously in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords. And we Australians will be worse off. A Maltese woman who marries a British citizen automatically acquires British citizenship, but if this bill be passed, an Australian woman who marries a British citizen will have to elect either to retain her Australian citizenship or accept British citizenship. This bill will create anomaly after anomaly. In future the residents of British Guiana, Malta, and many other colonies, will enjoy a much more favorable position in relation to British citizenship than will an Australian. For the residents of the Crown colonies the door is still wide open, but to Australians it is only ajar. Before an Australian citizen may acquire British citizenship he may have to wait for a period of twelve months. I could spend a long time illustrating the anomalies that may arise under this legislation. Once this bill becomes law there will be no opportunity to retrace our steps. Nothing is more certain than that new legislation will have to be introduced to patch up its defects, and every succeeding piece of legislation of this description will inevitably contribute towards the further disintegration of the British Commonwealth. There have always been elements in the British Commonwealth that have favoured its disintegration. South Africa, which has a large Afrikaans majority, has always been a “ centrifugal influence. As honorable members are aware, since 1921, by unilateral action, step by step, Eire has gradually severed its relation with the British Commonwealth, and has recently taken itself completely outside the Commonwealth. We have had other examples of disintegration. There has always been a strong nationalist sentiment in India, Canada and South Africa. Units of the British
Commonwealth, such as Pakistan and India are naturally not so much interested in the integration of the Empire as we are. Now this Government has shown that it has joined forces with them. At all Imperial conferences since the conference which culminated in the Statute of Westminster, Australia and New Zealand, being British by sentiment, have always attempted to stem the flood expressed by Eire, South Africa, and some other members of the British Commonwealth. In the past Australia has been reluctant to pass legislation or to adopt procedures which would tend to make any less real or more formal relations between this country and Great Britain. If we are to believe the words of its mouthpiece, Sir Stafford Cripps, the present Socialist Government of Great Britain has no Imperial sentiment. The stage is, therefore, now set for the final tragedy. Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, having governments of a similar type, have now joined the forces of disintegration. I can see in this bill nothing that will benefit my country. The test that should be applied to all legislation presented to this Parliament is whether it will benefit us as Australians. This bill does not survive that test. All it will do is to impose on us a new system which, of its very character, must take us farther and farther away from Great Britain. That is reprehensible to me, because as an Australian I believe that our security is dependent upon closer integration with Great Britain, particularly in these troublous times.
Debate (on motion by Mrs. Blackburn) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 8.2 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 16th November (vide page 2986), on motion by Mr. Calweli. -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a bill “ to amend the Australian
Broadcasting Act 1942-1946”, but the following words are added to that title : - “ and for other purposes “. Never before have those words been more aptly included in the title of a measure; and the other purposes in this instance will become quite obvious as the debate proceeds. In common with other honorable members, I have carefully studied the bill. It is a peculiar bill. Like the curate’s egg, it is good in parts, but only in parts. On the surface it would appear to be innocuous, but, stripped of its superficialities, it presents several matters of rather alarming moment. For instance, it is proposed that a board, called the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, shall be brought into being. With that provision I should have little complaint if the board were to be purely a co-ordinating body, free from political control. But honorable members who study the bill will see that that will not be the case. As the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said in his second-reading speech, the board will have to comply with government policy on broadcasting. Honorable members will see immediately that this board will not be an independent board. It will be a politically controlled board that will have to comply with government policy. Before I proceed further with my remarks, I shall mention the. instrumentalities already associated with the Government in broadcasting. There are, first, the State Advisory Committees; secondly, the Australian Broadcasting Commission; and, thirdly, the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee. This bill proposes to add to this already top-heavy system of instrumentalities a board which will be completely under political control; and on top of all those instrumentalities will be the Minister, the directing hand, the sinister force, who will direct government policy and, as he stated in his second-reading speech, direct the board to comply with that policy.
– Why sinister?
– Obviously; andI propose to say something with regard to the Minister and his sinister approach to these matters. However, the instrumentalities I have mentioned are robbing broadcasting of its essential freedoms.
First, we know that the policy of the Government is the nationalization of broadcasting, and that, of course, is not denied. Therefore, we can look to the board to take all the steps that are necessary to strangle slowly but surely all the free broadcasting stations, which are the commercial broadcasting stations. Upon examination of the bill, we find that the board will have very wide powers indeed, and that these powers can be delegated by the board. All orders of the board will have the force of law. That is a very important provision when we remember that the primary duty of the board is to comply with government policy. Directions by the board may be given orally and they must be obeyed forthwith. The board need not confirm its directions in writing until 24 hours later. As there will inevitably be a great variety of opinions on the authenticity or meaning of orders given orally, such a provision is open to serious challenge. Furthermore, directions given by the board in carrying out government policy on broadcasting need never be published. They may be made known only to the recipients of them. In a time of war it may be necessary for the Government to take the full powers that are set out under the bill, but such provisions are entirely unjustifiable in a time of peace, unless, of course, the Government has a specific reason for drafting the legislation precisely in this form. The Government’s decision to exclude commercial stations from frequency modulation broadcasting, television and facsimile broadcasting gives some indication of the shape of things to come in the broadcasting world. The Minister told us that approximately 1,750,000 listeners’ licences have been issued. That fact in itself must present to a government of socialistic and totalitarian tendencies an extraordinary attraction and irresistible temptation. One of the most dangerous developments under totalitarian governments was that revealed by nazi Germany and the Soviet when their respective ministers for propaganda controlled the spoken and the written word. They conditioned the minds of scores of millions of people to accept a given set of circumstances relating to national ideologies, national leadership or other forms of national activity, and that was done with such skill and effect that counter action was taken by all free nations to off-set the effect of the mind-conditioning that was applied under that peculiar and subtle form of propaganda. So far, we, in Australia, have not been subjected to that form of propaganda, because successive governments have up to the moment, recognized the inherent right of free people to have both sides of a public question submitted to them untrammelled by government interference. Although this measure has been passed by the Senate, I point out that we still have at the moment a national broadcasting service which, until now, has operated under a more or less independent commission. I say “ more or less “, because recently we have found that the commission has been subjected to political pressure exercised by the government-controlled Broadcasting Committee. Honorable members had an illustration of the overriding influence exerted by the committee when the transfer of a broadcasting station in the Newcastle district was made recently to the Australian Labour party. Mr. Alderman made it perfectly clear to the Newcastle Synod of the Church of England on that occasion that the committee had the right to recommend licences, but pointed out that the committee contained a majority of government representatives. Those facts were placed before the House in the course of a letter written by Mr. Alderman, who was the negotiating party for the Government-
– No, he was not. We repudiated that charge long ago.
– On behalf of the Government, Mr. Alderman also negotiated the sale and transfer of a broadcasting station in Adelaide, and he was also instrumental-
– He was the legal representative of Jehovah’s Witnesses and nothing more.
– The Minister for Information forgets that during the war the Government cancelled the transmitting licences of the stations controlled by Jehovah’s Witnesses and took over those stations. It was in the Government’s handstodispose of stations, and Mr. Alderman, who carries out all such negotiations for the Government, including the payment of compensation for war damage in New Guinea and in the Commonwealth territories, conducted the negotiations for the disposal of the broadcasting stations. It is quite clear, therefore, that definite political pressure has been exercised through the Broadcasting Committee. Nevertheless, the system under which we operate at present is sufficiently free to permit both sides of a public question to be ventilated. For example, some groups of commercial broadcasting stations have definite political tie-ups. Honorable members know that certain groups are attached to particular political parties, and that, in addition, certain broadcasting stations advocate particular religious views. Furthermore, the public has, at the moment, the benefit of a free press, which includes many groups which are actively engaged, amongst other things, in placing both sides of public questions before their ‘readers. I emphasize that general statement because of the criticism of certain newspaper groups uttered by honorable members on both sides of the House. Honorable members will realize, therefore, that, at the moment, the community is assured of a reasonably fair presentation of views on public matters, but when the measure now before the House is enacted and the new organization comes into operation, the present desirable state of affairs is likely seriously to be endangered. The present broadcasting organization for the presentation of views and the dissemination of news is to be supplanted by a board which will exercise control. In the course of his second-reading speech, the Minister made it quite clear that the board will have to comply with government policy on matters concerning broadcasting, a statement which can be interpreted to mean that the board will co-ordinate broadcasting to a predetermined government pattern. Once such a state of affairs has been brought about I predict, in the light of threats recently made to the press by Ministers, and other disclosures at the recent press conference, that the next move by the Government will be to estab- lish an “ Australian press control board “. I make that prediction, in passing, as an example of the shape of things to come. From complete control of the air it is only a short step to the elimination of a free press, to the regimentation of political thinking, and to the denial to the people of Australia of that freedom of thought and expression that was envisaged by the framers of the Australian Constitution. Freedom of speech and of expression is an essential part of the machinery of democratic government, and our right to choose our own press has always been part of our prerogative as a free people. With the development of radio broadcasting, the unfettered right of people to choose their own radio programmes followed, as a natural corollary of the right to choose their own press.
Now we are to be subjected to a dangerously wide assumption of power by the Government, for when this legislation becomes law, the Government will be able to bring censorship of opinion and expression into every home in Australia in which there is a radio set. It seems strange that the Australian Labour party, with its claim to the right of freedom of speech and a policy based on democratic ideals, should turn for inspiration to the technique of Stalin and Hitler, and use the totalitarian bludgeon on free radio broadcasting. Under the bill, the Government is seeking to change radically our present broadcasting system by converting it into a centrally operated system directed and controlled by the Government. I warn the Government that the people are opposed to any attempt to enforce a socialistic scheme of centralized government control, and, insofar as it interferes with their present freedom, will resist it. In his secondreading speech, the Minister made passing reference to the Government’s decision to introduce frequency modulation into the national broadcasting service, though not into the general broadcasting service because the commercial stations are excluded. Sub-section 2 of the proposed new section 54 reads -
The technical equipment of a commercial broadcasting station shall not be so designed as to permit the station to use any form of modulation other than amplitude modulation.
This effectively precludes commercial stations from using frequency modulation. Why should that be so? Recent surveys show that 15 per cent, of the listening public listen to programmes from the national stations, and 85 per cent, of the listening public listen to programmes from the commercial stations.
– Were those figures obtained by a gallup poll?
– No. This is a survey which, I have no doubt, has been accepted by the Government.
– I hope that the survey to which the Acting Leader of the Opposition refers is more reliable than the gallup poll which predicted the defeat of President Truman.
– I understand that the figures were obtained as the result of a recent investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Surely the majority of the listening public are entitled to the advantages that modern radio research can make available to them. In the United States of America, 581 broadcasting stations are using frequency modulation, and an additional 390 stations have been granted permission to introduce it. If we in Australia are to enjoy the benefits of scientific research into radio, the commercial stations should be allowed to use frequency modulation, because they serve 85 per cent, of the listening public. Honorable members may wonder why the commercial stations will not be permitted to use frequency modulation. The reason is that, in the Government’s plan for the nationalization of broadcasting, a chain of national stations will be established, and many of the commercial stations will cease to operate. In such circumstances, the Government does not propose to allow the commercial stations, to use frequency modulation, because their doom has already been sealed. When broadcasting is nationalized, the owners of the commercial stations will have to be compensated, and the compensation payable in respect of stations which used frequency modulation would have to be substantially greater than the amount pavable in respect of stations using amplitude modulation.” Thus the Government is protecting itself. Incidentally, honor able members have doubtless noticed that the commercial stations are going quietly in this matter.
– I have no doubt that the commercial stations remember the repercussions when local-governing bodies in Victoria refused to accept a direction from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to transfer their banking business from the trading banks to the Commonwealth Bank. The Treasurer, in a fit of pique, immediately introduced a bill to nationalize banking. The commercial stations are going quietly, because they fear that if they oppose this bill the Government will immediately introduce legislation to nationalize broadcasting. I warn the commercial stations that the Government’s policy is socialization. Whether they fight or go quietly, the result will be the same, unless the Government is defeated. It must be obvious to all that this bill is the first step towards the nationalization of broadcasting. The strategy is the same as that which the Government has used in its attempts to nationalize the trading banks and private airlines. Under this bill, the Government proposes to establish the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, to consist of three members, each of whom will be appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Government. Therefore, the way will be open for the Government to make political appointments, and the Government will appoint to the board persons who will carry out its policy of socialization. A certain appointment this week to the Commonwealth Bank is an example of the Government’s policy of making political appointments. I need not recount, at this moment, the numerous instances of political appointments to government instrumentalities. I shall content myself with saying that the bill lends itself to such a policy. The Government’s record in that respect is rather unsavoury. If honorable members opposite are inclined to treat lightly my suggestion that this bill is the first step towards the nationalization of broadcasting, I refer them to the report of the Broadcasting. Committee,- of which Senator Gibson was chairman, in 1942. That document, which is most illuminating, includes a minority recommendation. The signatories are the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), the Minister for Information, and Senator Amour.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad that, at last, the Minister for Information is in full accord with me. He knows the shape of things to come. The minority report stated, inter alia -
We have signed the above report and desire in state, in amplification of our views, that we believe that the whole of the broadcasting system should be nationalized. The platform of the Labour party, to which we have subscribed, contains a plank to this effect.
The House and the country could not have anything clearer than that statement. Honorable members will note that the bill is silent on which Minister will administer the proposed act. The only specific reference to the PostmasterGeneral, who has administered the original act, is in relation to the technical side of broadcasting, listeners’ licences and the like. The “ Minister “ mentioned in the bill is not necessarily the Postmaster-General. Therefore, I can only conclude that the Minister for Information will control broadcasting.
– The Postmaster- General may still control broadcasting.
– I have reached my conclusion because the Minister for Information controls short-wave broadcasting and has taken an active part in all broadcasting matters. I predict that he will administer this measure. As the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be obliged to comply with government policy, and will be subject to ministerial direction, I have no hesitation in declaring that this bill is the first step towards the nationalization of broadcasting. The Minister for Information has expressed himself as being in favour of it. This Minister, with his delightfully free smile - I did not say “ attractive smile “ but “ free smile “ because he uses it rather lavishly in the chamber - is a most dangerous Minister.
– I am too busy to be dangerous.
– So that the House will have some indication of how this legislation is likely to be administered, should the Minister for Information be the Minister referred to in the bill, I remind it of one occasion at a public meeting at Ashfield at which the nationalization of banking was being discussed, when the Minister said, “ I like a little bit of power “.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the bill before the House.
– The fact that the Minister for Information is the Minister in control of the bill in the House-
– Order ! I do not wish any discussion by the honorable member on the ruling I have given on this matter. The honorable gentleman is not entitled to discuss the Minister, and I ask him not to try to evade my ruling.
– I am not attempting to evade your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am dealing with the measure and saying that the Minister is in control of this bill in the House. That is the observation, sir, on which you have called me to order. The references to the PostmasterGeneral are to be erased from the principal act and the term “ Minister “ substituted.
– That is under the Acts Interpretation Act.
– Order ! I ask the Minister to cease interrupting. The Acting Leader of the Opposition is entitled to discuss the question of control under the bill, but is not entitled to engage in a personal discussion of the Minister.
– I merely made an observation to assist the honorable gentleman.
– The fact is that the Postmaster-General was designated under the principal act, but now the Postmaster-General is being deleted as the authority to administer the legislation and the term “ Minister “ has been substituted. The Minister has said that the Acts Interpretation Act is the act which determines these matters. Then why was there any need for the PostmasterGeneral to be designated in the principal act?
– He never should have been designated.
– Order !
– The Minister may seek to explain this particular aspect away, but he is committed by his signature of the minority report of the Gibson committee, in which he stated that he supported nationalization of the air, and to which I have already referred.
– Hear, hear!
– The Minister may explain anything else he may care to explain at his own leisure. I repeat, that he is a dangerous Minister. The real reason for this legislation is contained in the proposed section 89, sub-section 3, which states -
Neither the Commission nor the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station shall broadcast any dramatization of any political matter which is then current or was current at any time during the last five preceding years.
I should hate to think that the whole of this bill, which consists of a schedule and 27 clauses, had been introduced for only one specific purpose. This bill is designed “ to amend the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942-1946, and for other purposes “. It seems to me that the Minister has taken very strong action with regard to one matter, and I shall concentrate my remarks on that matter for the moment. I ask honorable members to consider the form of words used in the sub-section I have quoted. Up to the present moment we have managed to get along very nicely working on the original measure. We find that the section of the main bill that is to be amended by that provision reads -
The Commission or the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station shall not, at any time on or after the date of the issue of the writs and before the close of the poll for any such election, broadcast any dramatization of matter relating to any candidate, political party, issues, policy or meeting referred to in the last preceding sub-section.
So the House will see that that section, which gave a fair opportunity for the presentation of public questions, is to be amended to make political broadcasts subject to government control. The Government is to say just what shall go over the air and what public questions shall be presented. In fact, it is to say just what the listening public is to be dragooned into listening to. I consider that the bill has been introduced to smash the particular broadcast known throughout Australia as the “ John Henry Austral “ series. Many of the broadcasts in that series have been directly inspired by current political happenings, particularly by the overwhelming control that the Communists have obtained in key industries and within the industrial unions, which also means control, to some extent, over the Labour Government. Those broadcasts have been presented in a dramatized form so that their message may be more easily understood and be more widely acceptable, and in this they have been completely successful. It is understandable that the series has disturbed the Government. The public reaction to the message contained in the series has been widespread and unanimous. The broadcasts in the series have portrayed the Government in its true colours.
– That is really laughable.
– But the election year is approaching and the Government does not desire to be embarrassed in its uphill fight to regain the confidence of the people, so it must, perforce, smash the freedom of radio broadcasting in Australia, so as to smash this one particular broadcast.
– How much has that broadcast series cost the Liberal party?
– The “ John Henry Austral “ series represents the right of freedom of expression over the air, and the right of free criticism that is recognized in every nation in which democracy lives. It also represents something else-
– Big business.
– It represents the unfettered right of His Majesty’s Opposition to perform its function and exercise what has always been recognized as its constitutional right to criticize the government of the day and exercise a check on the Government’s activities. Destroy the “ John Henry Austral “ series and more will be destroyed than a mere series of broadcasts that criticize the activities of a government in power. A principle that distinguishes a democracy from a d ictatorship will be destroyed.
– What kind of dictatorship did the honorable gentleman’s party try to set up a few years ago ?
– The Government is seeking to destroy the right of the official Opposition to use legitimate channels to criticize the administration of the country. That right is something that is, and has been, accepted in our form of government throughout a long period. I should like the Minister, either in the committee stages or when he is replyingto this debate, to say what the term “ dramatization “, contained in the bill, actually means, so that we may know just how far the Government proposes to to go in its attempt to stifle the free expression of the people’s views. Does it mean the presentation of matter that is of vital importance to the people, or does it mean that the voices of public men must not be imitated, or that a person broadcasting must not raise or lower his voice or in any way give expression to the voice he might be purporting to reproduce? The Minister should certainly make it clear what the word actually means, and he might also explain what is meant by “ controversial subjects “. Does that term mean that we must not introduce over the air any matter that might be of a controversial nature? Does it mean that the broadcasting of speeches at public dinners and public meetings will be forbidden? Does it mean that the broadcasting of all controversial matter which might touch upon government administration is to be forbidden? Does it mean that listeners are to be dragooned to a pattern as were the people of Germany under Hitler, and as the people of Russia are under Stalin at the present time? The Government must answer those questions, because they are of vital importance to the people. This bill can arouse nothing but disgust among the people, and it is obvious that it has also aroused the disgust of some members of caucus. I have before me an article which was published in the Sunday Sun, of the 17th October of this year. It is headed “Caucus Revolt at Government’s
Radio Dictation and from it I quote the following passages: -
Younger members of the Labourparty in caucus this week revolted against Government “ political suppression “ on the radio.
They attacked a clause in the new broadcasting legislation designed to wipe out the Austral series ofplays sponsored by the Liberal party. . . .
Staging one of the bitterest rebellions in caucus in recent months, younger members fought the clause. Prominent in the fight were West Australians Beazley and Burke, who protested against ‘political suppression. They argued that, if Labour wished to offset the Austral series, it should offer the public something better. They alsopointed out that the wording of the clause would debar from broadcasting plays by George Bernard Shaw.
Postmaster-General Senator Cameron agreed to refer the clause to Acting Attorney-General Senator McKenna for possible redrafting.
Mr. Burke complained bitterly that members were not told what was in legislation.
It is significant that one of the honorable members whose names were mentioned in the article has walked out of the chamber. I expect the other honorable member, who is sitting opposite me, to tell the House what actually happened in caucus. The article goes on -
Consequently, bills were placed before Parliament that were weak and wide open to criticism. That had done more damage to Labour’s prestige than any other single factor. Legislation, members said, was drafted by officials, who, consequently, had become the real dictators of Australia.
That is what we have been saying for a long timepast, and I am glad that some of the younger members of the Labour party have also recognized its truth.. The article continues -
Mr. Beazley sought to have the broadcasting control legislation submitted to a party committee for examination.
Another complaint was that the superboard to control broadcasting would consist entirely of departmental officials, not of people with knowledge of the entertainment industry.
Mr. Beazley’s move to have the legislation examined by a party committee was defeated by 25 votes to 15. “ That’s as close as we’ll ever go to victory “, one of the rebels later said cynically. “ Except on rare occasions, like the Bretton Woods ratification, Cabinet votes as a group in caucus. With nineteen votes to start with, they have a tremendous advantage.”
That seems to me to be a factual presentation of something that actually took place in caucus, and it is good to think that there is still a remnant in the Labour party who remember that the Labour party was founded upon the principle of freedom of speech and of the individual. 1. am glad that there is still a leaven of democrats among the supporters of this socialistic Government who are prepared to challenge the Government’s abrogation of democratic principles.
.- We are indebted to the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) for his story of the Beazley-Burke bloodless revolution. L’ am dure that “ John Henry Austral “ could not have excelled or even equalled the honorable gentleman’s performance. In evading a discussion of the bill, the Acting Leader of the Opposition did everything but a clog dance, and, since we are talking of radio, I suggest that he might be able to obtain a sponsor for such a performance over one of the commercial stations. Nothing that lie said bore any relation to the bill. The plan, which was fathered and fostered outside the House to make of this bill a groat sensation, and to have every commercial radio station screaming about being victimized by the Government, has completely failed because it became necessary to abandon the original idea to smearing the bill with the charge that it was designed to nationalize radio broadcasting. Those who started off with that idea had been gazing into the wrong crystal ball, and they were called to order by none other than the B class radio stations themselves, which were supposed to be in danger of being slaughtered, while the newspapers and the Liberal party wept crocodile tears at their fate. Mr. Ridley, the chairman of the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, wrote a very friendly letter to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), saying that this was a good bill which, with some amendments, would prove very satisfactory, and he suggested the appointment of a committee through which the opinions of the B class stations might be expressed. Thus, the attack on the bill has been vitiated because the B class stations themselves have declared that this is not a dangerous measure, and was not designed to nationalize broadcasting. It is idle for the Acting Leader of the Opposition toquote from the minority report of the
Gibson Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee, signed by two very fine and very successful members of this House. That report was concerned with broad principles. There is no suggestion of nationalization in the bill now before ‘ the House, no matter how much honorable members opposite may try to twist its wording. The bill is designed to rationalize and improve our broadcasting system. The B class stations are not opposed to it and the listeners are not opposed to it, in spite of the attempts that have been made to whip up public anger. The attitude of the public is that if, by the creation of a super organization to control broadcasting, a better radio service will be available, so much the better. Under the new system, they will be able to get what they want from the A class stations, while the objectionable features of B class broadcasting will be removed. Since the radio is so popular - there are 1,783,000 licensed listeners in this country - this is an important matter, in which the public is vitally interested. Have honorable members seen any letters in the press about it? Have any letters been written to honorable members on either side of the House concerning this allegedly damnable piece of legislation. The public knows that this is re-organization and an attempt to give better service. It was forced on the Government because of financial considerations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which could not pay its way. 1 shall refer to the new method of financing the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is a matter of beneficent control. Everybody has had something to say about it. Even a columnist in Sydney, known as “Key-hole” McNicoll, has interested himself in it. After looking at it through the various key-holes, his tip to-day for the big panjandrum is very funny. If the Postmaster-General’s Department intends to appoint public servants to the control board, all the jargon that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) used was so much “ poppy-cock “. Apparently the honorable member had to lash himself into a fury to last out the 45 minutes allowed him in this debate. I have great sympathy with him, from that point of view. “With regard to the suggestion that this is a bill to nationalize the B class stations, he made untrue statements about Mi Alderman, who was nothing more than an agent for Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was never the agent of the Government. The Acting Leader of the Opposition well knows that. He then referred to the Minister as the “ sinister “ Minister That was a nice piece of alliteration. Later he said that he was the smiling Minister. Evidently the two sides of the record that he had prepared got tangled. Adding to his expression about the sinister Minister the Acting Leader of the Opposition said that there was a sinister move abroad to take control of the press, and that this sinister press will be used to take control of the air. How can it be suggested that the press is being controlled by the Australian Labour party? We neither get our ordinary statements, nor a fair and level statement of what we say in this House, reported in the press. So that if the Government controls the press, the honorable member should get up and rejoice. The secret is that it is not working, and was never intended to work. That is merely one of the things that helps to make up a speech.
The real reason behind the suggestions made by the Opposition was pointed out by the Minister (Mr. Calwell) in very moderate language in his second-reading speech. The Minister is a parliamentarian of distinction, who understands that only the broad principles of this bill can be discussed in the second-reading debate. The more salient clauses will be debated at the committee stage. There is nothing so interesting as the debates on a bill in the committee stage. The measure pointed out that radio had progressed greatly during the war and during the immediate post-war years and that no amendment had been made to the act during the last six years. Frequency modulation, facsimile - which means newspapers by radio - the development of television, and a hundred and one other adjuncts to radio, were given a great thrust forward during the war. Because those things are crowding in, and because they are in the process of being perfected overseas, they are of interest to the Postmaster-General’s Department, which does the technical work in connexion with broadcasting. People are clamouring for something less “ corny “ than the radio programmes we get now from both A class stations and B class stations, and the Government saw that something had to be done. This is not a matter of nationalization, but of service. Progress in frequency modulation, facsimile and television has been reported in the scientific magazines, and even in the daily newspapers. All of those improvements are very important to radio, and steps were necessary to ensure that they would not be provided in the haphazard manner that has previously been manifested in this country in relation to broadcasting. Procedure in this matter has been interesting. First, there was an attempt by private enterprise to handle radio, then the matter was taken over by an independent commission, and, subsequently, it came under semi-independent control. These sources are great public utilities. The public is entitled to proper service and protection. We can throw out of the window, all of the nonsense that has been spoken about nationalization, and all of the sinister suggestions about controlling the air as the press is controlled. It has never been the fortune of this party to have had adequate representation in the press. We do not make any great moan about that, because it appears to me that sometimes misrepresentation can work very favorably in the press. At least, press publicity may not be bad for the Government, even when directed against it.
I point out that there are in this country 34 national stations and 103 commercial stations, providing entertainment of all kinds. Not one of them will be put out of business by this “bill. They will be encouraged to give a better service to the public. The B class stations have decided to line up with the Government, because they fear, not nationalization, but absorption by the monopolies which may control facsimile and television. That is the answer that must be given to the people of this country. The fact is that the B class stations have come under the sheltering arms of the Government, as they feared the monster, not within, but outside of this House. That is why this is a business deal and they realize it.
Having disposed of the theory that nationalization is the object of this measure. I turn to the new method of finance against which, I point out, the B class stations have made no protest. All the “phoney” friends of the B class stations and all the customers who think they may be able to use them for talking about control of the air. have found that all of the things that have been said about nationalization in the last few years have no foundation in. fact. The engaging of h technician from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department can be defended thoroughly. In the person of the Treasurer, who is the best Treasurer ever to have graced the post in the history of federation, we have a man who watches the bawbees for the nation. It is but natural that he should desire to have a representative of the Treasury on the beard. The system of licence-fees was unsuccessful, because the proceeds from licences was ‘insufficient to provide the service, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission had to approach the Government for additional funds. In view of all these circumstances, the Government has decided to strengthen the commission, by the appointment of two experts, who will deal with the financial side. The commission, in the future is to receive a definite vote, and can cut its cloth according to the amount of money to be spent. There is nothing sinister, and nothing nationalistic or savagely sovietizing about that. The honorable member who has just spoken on this matter glossed over that point because be saw in it the basis of planning which even he could not assail. It is something that can be defended on all counts. Section 35 of the Australian Broadcasting Act is to be amended to provide for the making of an annual vote of finance to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is evident on all the points I have made that under such control, broadcasting will fulfil its function. This measure will not stop people from listening-in. It is an idle dream to believe that the control will be exercised in order to advance the Government’s policy. There will be no sinister figure directing broadcasting stations to do this or that to benefit the political fortunes of the Labour party. People will still have entertainment. They need have no fear that in the performance of their morning exercises they will be directed by Chifley to bend a little lower or stand a little higher. To suggest that anything like that will occur as a result of this legislation is the height of nonsense. Programmes, as a matter of fact, will pursue the even tenor of their way. People have no need to be terror-stricken. Let honorable members opposite not be afraid. They will still have their melodies, but they may not have their “ John Henry Austral “.
– The secret is out now!
– There is no secret about it. I propose to tell a story about that later, but I now refer to the question raised by the Acting Leader of Opposition about clause 22, which provides -
Section eighty-nine of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section : - “ (1.) Subject only to this section, the Commission may determine to what extent and in what manner political speeches or any matter relating to a political or controversial subject may be broadcast from national broadcasting stations, and, subject only to this section and to Part 1a. of this Act, the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station may arrange for the broadcasting of such speeches or matter from that station.”; and
by omitting sub-section (3.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section : - “ (3.) Neither the Commission nor the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station shall broadcast any dramatization of any political matter which is then current or was current at any time during the last five preceding years “.
That is a well-thought-out and wellreasoned amendment of the act. I notice that it does not effect my own play, Eureka Stockade, which is not a. dramatization of any political matter, but is fact. The amendments are aimed at the dramatization of political propaganda. That brings me to the protests of the Acting Leader of the Opposition about the “ John Henry Austral “ series. The “ John Henry Austral “ series has a long and interesting history. “John Henry Austral “ is the stage name of: a brilliant Australian journalist who worked for us for many years. He was our pressman, and he was on the staff of an advertising agency that was also employed by the Labour party. He left us. I overheard an honorable gentleman opposite say, “ Business is business “. Of course business is business. Mr. Cogger and Mr. Rubensohn left us to better themselves. [ do not think there was much mutual regret at the parting. We thought they were on the way out. They went to the Liberal party head-quarters in Ash-street, the ground floor of which is occupied by a well-known Communist caterer. But that is by the way. I do not want to give my opinions of the “ John Henry Austral “ dramatizations, because dramatists may be jealous of each other’s performances, but I do think that Mr. Cogger did better work for us than he has done for the Liberal party. I thought his dramatization of the voices of the Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, and the Minister for Labour and National Service was not only bad drama but also bad form. His criticisms of the Labour party amuse me because they contrast so strangely with his criticisms of the Liberal party in happier days. For instance, in August, 1943, Mr. Cogger wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald -
Certain sections of the anti-Labour press, the Sane Democracy League and the United Australia party are making a desperate and unsuccessful bid for religious bodies, by perpetrating: the lie that Labour is allied to communism.
In a few short years something has happened. The wheel has made its full cycle. It is interesting to recall these things. On the 30th July, 1943, in the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr. Cogger described the late Mr. John Curtin as the “Quartermaster of the Pacific”, and added -
The Labour Government believes in a square deal and a square meal.
He went on in a long advertisement to rel! how many people we were feeding who were not our own and how many soldiers we were feeding who were not our own. On the 3rd August, 1943, in the same newspaper, Mr.. Cogger extolled the virtues of the Curtin Government and the Labour movement thus -
Every digger remembers that Labour in its; first year of office increased pensions and overhauled the Repatriation Act, which antiLabour governments had allowed to remain for a generation with all its injustices and anomalies.
– Which was not true, by the way.
– It is an advertisement that was paid for. Then we come to the ion mot, the very finish, in which he describes himself as a miner. In the Sydney Morning Herald of August, 1943, there appeared the following advertisement written by Mr. Cogger: -
I dig the coal - I am the coal-miner.
On the eve of a war election the United Australian party is again belittling what 1 and my mates are doing for the war effort.
We dig the coal. We’ll dig till we are worn out. We ask that insults, and abuse will not be heaped on us by those for whom we make profits and by the United Australian party who treats us as an election football.
Apparently he became worn out. He went to greener pastures. He is off-side and the referee should blow the whistle.
– The honorable member is bashing a fellow journalist.
– I am not doing any: thing of the sort. He is a member of an organization willing to write copy for any one. It is non-political. The suggestion that the Government will crush Mr. Cogger is “ poppycock “. But it is intolerable that the people should have to listen to the twaddle that he turns out night and day. The commercial stations provide light entertainment and have, admittedly, the bulk of the listeners even when we are; “ on the air “. They should not have imposed upon them the necessity of listening to insidious political propaganda. If we had a similar organization producing similar publicity, I should say that it was bad. I am something of a writer, which I say with all modesty, and I declare that there should be opportunity for journalists to have their articles broadcast, but it is a different- matter when it comes’ to these paid-for advertisements, which is all they amount to. The advertisements consist of snide tricks. The trickery is paid for. The broadcasts have no real significance to listeners, as I shall show. I concede that the Gallup poll system has fallen a little by the wayside as the result of the false conclusions reached in the United States of America about the likely result of the presidential elections, when all the polls plumped for Mr. Dewey and forecast the utter defeat of Mr. Truman. But I think I am justified in presenting to the House the result of a Gallup poll taken among 500 people in the Ashfield, Enfield, Burwood and Summer Hill area of my electorate on the “ John Henry Austral” broadcasts. The usual Gallup poll methods were used. Journalists, political workers, housewives, workers in industry, school teachers, university students and transport workers were questioned. Twenty-five interviewers asked twenty people one question each in various zones, and the numbers and dissections were checked by an auditor. A simple question was asked, and no attempt was made to lead the persons interviewed. The question was : “ Do you like to hear political propaganda plays on the air?” Fifty-nine per cent. of the people said that they did not like political propaganda plays. They said that radio was for entertainment, and should not be used all the time by party politicians. Thirty per cent. of them listened to the plays if they came on the air while they were listening. They had no objection either way. Eight per cent. would bar all political talks and advertisements on the air and, of that group, some expressed the view that no political talks should be broadcast until a week before any election. That is the trend of opinion on this subject. Three per cent. of the persons interviewed did not have any opinion. The group that objected to radio plays included almost 45 per cent. who found them boring, and 7 per cent. who considered that they passed over the heads of listeners. Only 4 per cent. had ever heard of “ John Henry Austral “, this man whose head is to be placed on the political block, who is to lose his voice and disappear from human ken because a cruel government is to cut him off the air.In the group that listened to political propaganda plays, 20 per cent. of the listeners said that they would not object if the plays were not performed, and 10 per cent. did not know whether they were Liberal, Labour, or Communist propaganda.
A point that has been stressed by the Opposition in this debate relates to the freedom of the air. It would be an act of mercy to the listeners of Australia to prevent the broadcasting of politics in season and out of season. Having got on to a line, the Liberals have exploited it mercilessly, and that is why they have not been able to whip up popular appeal. A member of the Opposition has said that “John Henry Austral” is to “go off the air “. He will not go off the air any more than will any man who does not want to monopolize the air day and night. There is provision for a ratio of advertising to interest matter in the programmes of all B class broadcasting stations, and rightly so. I am sure that, if the “John Henry Austral” broadcasts are classed as advertising, the balance between entertainment and advertising on the stations which broadcast the plays must be all wrong: That must be considered in relation to the needs of the people. The statement by the Acting Leader of the Opposition that this bill represents nationalization has been proved to be utterly false. He himself does not believe it. When he does not believe anything, his technique is very apparent. He talks about Hitler and Goebbels, without realizing how near he is approaching the reality himself. The assertion that the bill will interfere with the will of the people has also been proved to be utterly false, because nobody outside the Parliament has raised a voice against it, and the people of this country have learned to be vocal on matters that affect their interests and to demand their rights. They learned from the lesson of the early struggles of the Labour party. If we were doing something wrong or highly controversial in this bill, we should have heard from the people long ago.
The assertion that the bill will do great damage to the commercial broadcasting stations is also unsubstantial. Those stations have applauded the plan and have offered their co-operation to hu Government. The Opposition has not been left much to rely upon, and so it has fastened on the declaration that the bill will interfere with the sacred rights and privileges of the press and the radio. Having had the sacred rights of the press ;ind the radio working on their side in overwhelming volume for so many years, honorable members opposite think that this measure may be the elementary beginning of a “ fair go “ in broadcasting and, naturally, they object to it. However, the whole of their regimentation of battle in the fight against the bill has fallen to the ground because they have no supporters outside the Parliament. That fact was made evident by the speech of the Acting Leader of the Opposition, who had’ nothing to rely upon but a few vague generalities. He skipped over the subject very gracefully, managing to say very little of value on the matter. The final issue in relation to this measure, which will be debated in detail later, relates to infringement of the rights of journalists, writers, or playwrights. I would protest fiercely against any such infringement and would raise my voice to protect their rights. However, this bill will destroy nothing that is vital to the existence of writers in Australia. What is to become of the syndicated features? God knows, the journalists of Australia are fighting syndication year in and year out in a losing battle which has aroused no interest from the Opposition and little enough interest from this side of the House, because many newspapers to-day use comic strips to “ uplift “ the ideals of the people and use the rest of their space for their personal vendettas. However, it is a free press and the proprietors can do what they like about it. I have no complaint about that.
To say that this bill represents a mass attack upon radio stations and the rights and privileges of listeners is absurd. I have read the bill carefully. I am not privileged to be a member of the Broadcasting Committee, and, therefore, I have approached the measure from the point of view of a journalist and a man interested in broadcasting who has written scripts. I see nothing in the bill but a scheme for the development of a real service to the people. This is a real scheme to incorporate in our broadcasting services all the scientific advances that are being made so that they may be used for the benefit of the people. I foresee opportunities for Australian writers,, script writers and others in the development of a wider range of radio broadcasting. I foresee, as the result of cooperation between the Government and the B class stations, ‘better entertainment and better programmes generally. I have no fear of nationalization. The bill is a development which wells naturally from the desire of the Government to ensure that the people shall be given what they ought to have, which is clean entertainment on the air, not smirched by the intrusions of political advertisements. When political talks are broadcast,, neither division of political opinion will be conditioned by its money value, but each will be allotted a fair proportion of broadcasting time. In spite of all the opposition talk about, cutting speakers off the air, the fact is that the bill provides that political speeches may be broadcast. It makes generous provision for us to give our messages to the people of Australia, whatever political party we may support. We should remember that the people have been long-suffering and have listened for many years to too much propaganda and too much overstatement. Primarily, the air should be used for entertainment, instruction, and education. The people think of it in that way, and if we let too many things obtrude themselves into radio we shall lose its real value. This bill will bring us back to the point we started from in broadcasting. We are scanning our plans again and furbishing up our ideals so that the original scheme of broadcasting throughout the nation for the benefit of all Australians may be fulfilled. Because that is so, because there is no qualification of that aim, and because the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has stated the facts fairly, I am proud indeed to support the measure.
.- In following a speaker from the opposite side of the House, the normal function of an honorable member is to make some reply to what his opponent has said. Although I have been a member of this
Parliament for some years, I candidly declare that I have never listened to a speech that was more difficult to reply to than that of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), not because of its intrinsic value,, but because of its inadequacies. I listened attentively to tie honorable member, but, apart from some garbled expressions of Labour policy, it seemed to me, to use colloquial language,’ to sound more like a “ belly-ache “ against the Opposition than anything that I have heard previously in this House. I do not feel happy to use that expression, ‘but it applies aptly. It appears that the radio sessions conducted under the name of “ John Henry Austral “ on behalf of the Liberal party, have so got under the skin of the Labour Government that it has brought down special legislation to suppress them. This is not the first parliament in the world in which legislation has been introduced, or a step has been taken, to suppress political opposition. Candidly, that is what this measure, means. Its purpose could not have been stated more clearly than it was stated by the honorable member for Parkes. The “ J ohn Henry Austral “ broadcasts hurt the Labour party, therefore they are to be stopped. That is no novelty. We are accustomed to this form of suppression by those upholders of democracy on the government side of the chamber. If they cannot intimidate their opponents, they suppress them, I shall substantiate that statement later by quoting some instances. Groping for some explanation of this extraordinarily far-reaching measure, the honorable member for Parkes mentioned something which rang a bell in my mind. He said that one of the reasons for the setting up of the proposed new .board, was that the Australian Broadcasting Commission had been unable to balance its budget; that it was short of funds and that it had to lean on the Treasury. I remind the House and listeners that a certain policy direction by the present Government had a most disastrous effect upon the finances of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I refer to the instruction that that reputedly independent commission should establish an expensive, unwarranted and duplicated news service which, I under stand, is costing no less than £100,000 a year.
– An annual expenditure of £160,000 to replace something which previously the commission received for nothing, and could have continued to receive for nothing! This public money is being poured down the drain at the direction of the Government. Not only is that a scandalous waste of public money, but also it is being offered now as a reason for the introduction of this repressive legislation.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the independent news service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a failure ?
– I did not say so, and I shall not say it. I said that it replaced something which the commission previously received free of charge and could have continued to receive free of charge. The “ smart Alecs “ on the Government side need not try to put words into my mouth. They will not get away with that. The purpose of this bill is to bring all broadcasting in this country under the control of the Government. It is not a bill to nationalize ‘broadcasting because, of course, the Government has not the constitutional power to nationalize broadcasting. Certainly there is no lack of will on the part of the Government to nationalize broadcasting, because the Acting Leader of the Opposition quoted to-night the signed statements of two Ministers recommending the nationalization of broadcasting.
– That is so.
– The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), who is one of those who signed that statement, confirms what the Acting Leader of the Opposition said. He believes that broadcasting should be nationalized, and I have no doubt that he and his colleagues believe that many other things should be nationalized, too. I notice that the Minister does not indicate his approval of that statement.
– Order! The honorable member must not invite interjections.
– The Minister is saved by the gong.
– Order! Is the honorable member reflecting on the Chair ?
– No, I am reflecting on the Minister for the Navy, who, at a later stage, will have an opportunity to reflect on me. An examination of the measure shows that it is designed to sail as close as possible to the constitutional wind. Its aim is to achieve everything that could be achieved by outright nationalization.
– The Government could not do anything under nationalization that it cannot do under this bill.
– Very little, except of course that nationalization could be carried out at public cost, whereas, under this measure, certain things are to be done at the cost of private citizens. That is the only distinction that I can see between the possibilities that this bill opens up, and absolute nationalization.
There is a disposition to think that the term “ broadcasting “ relates only to entertainment, whereas, in fact, its meaning is infinitely wider than that. It covers the spoken word, music, telecommunications - in other words the radio telegraph, which replaces or is a substitute for the telegraph cable - television, and facsimile reproduction, which is the transmission of a picture or printed matter by radio. Therefore, the broadcasting medium is of vast and growing importance to modern society. We use it to provide the kind of entertainment to which we are accustomed. We use it to communicate news. We use it, and will continue to do so, to communicate information, for education, for advertising, and for propaganda of all kinds. Therefore, broadcasting is a powerful instrument of politics. It covers, as I have said, the same field as the telegraph cable, and, with the growth of television, it may well replace the theatre and the moving picture. With the growth of facsimile reproduction, broadcasting may indeed change the entire technique of newspapers. I remember that when I was at the conference of the United Nations at San Francisco the New York Times was reproduced every morning in San Francisco in photostatic form, telegraphed from New York.
It was circulated daily to every delegate to the conference. This, obviously, opens up the possibility of entirely changing the whole technique of newspaper production. All these phases of broadcasting are to be brought under the complete control of the government of the day, notwithstanding that the development of this miraculous production of science is more or less still in its early stages. If this bill be passed the Government will be able to control what we may hear, what we may see, the propaganda that may reach us, the news, and the distortion of the news, that may be made available to us, and the kind of education that we may obtain through the agency of wireless broadcasting. There has been no demand for such control apart from that from within the Australian Labour party. This proposal is the brain-child of a socialist dictator who wants to mould our thinking and to organize and control our way of life. Radio, in its present state of development, and with the extensive improvements which science will make possible in the not distant future, constitutes a vast field for exploitation. The honorable member for Parkes suggested that this is essentially a measure for examination in committee. I do not so regard it and I do not intend to examine it clause by clause. I have taken a broader view of the proposal in order to see it in proper perspective and I have noted that it bears a striking similarity to other legislation brought before this Parliament by the present Government which seeks all embracing authority over every aspect of our social life. The purpose of this bill is to give the government of the day monopolistic control over all aspects of broadcasting. It comes out of the same stable as another measure which was brought before this Parliament a year or so ago which sought to repose in the Government complete control over all forms of air transport. It comes out of the same stable as a proposal, still under consideration elsewhere, which is designed to take complete governmental control over all forms of banking and credit. It comes out of the same stable as those constitutional amendments which were submitted to the people, and were happily rejected by them, which sought power to authorize the Government to legislate to control every aspect of trade and commerce, of employment, of prices and of primary production.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the subject of broadcasting.
– I believe I should be entitled to refer to the similarity between this measure and other similar proposals of the Government which have preceded it. This is not an isolated example of the Government’s bid for control; it is part of a pattern of government control and monopoly. If this proposal and the others to which I have referred be approved, the Australian Labour party will be able to go a long way towards its goal of state socialism. This proposal fits into the pattern of state socialism which is the proclaimed ultimate objective of the Australian Labour party. If the people of this country want state socialism, they are entitled to have it, but they should not have it imposed upon them by back-door methods. If they want state socialism, by all means give them an opportunity to try it, but do not sneak on them with a bill of this description which, as the Acting Leader of the Opposition has said, surreptitiously drops the word “ Minister “ from the principal act.
– And the word “ PostmasterGeneral “.
– Thinking to score a point against the Acting Leader of the Opposition the Minister said, in effect, “ Oh, all that is covered by the Acts Interpretation Act”. Of course it is. Those of us who have scrutinized this bill immediately discovered that trick. This is apparently in consonance with the Government’s studied policy of providing for ministerial control of every instrumentality it establishes. It illbecomes this Government or any other government to try to mislead its political opponents or the Australian people. If its proposals are worthy and it is not ashamed of them, let the Government submit them in a clear-cut and understandable way. If the Australian people want legislation of this sort, the Opposi tion will not squeal against it; but there should be a clear understanding of what is involved in this proposal so that no one may be misled. This bill is but one more step along the path towards the complete socialization of Australia. A more detailed examination of the measure tends to confirm that view. For instance, it is proposed that the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall be replaced by a board. A commission is normally responsible to the Parliament, but a board is responsible only to a Minister of State. In this bill reference to which Minister of State is to control the board is studiously avoided. I cannot recollect any other measure brought before the Parliament in which reference to the Minister of State who is to be responsible for its operation, has been laboriously avoided. Although that point has been canvassed in the House, we cannot get any indication from the Minister in charge of the measure as to which Minister is to administer it. Is he to be the Postmaster-General, who, of course, will control certain technical aspects of transmission, or is he to be the Minister for Information? After all, in the light of our experience, the title “Minister for Information “, is merely a courteous designation of the “ minister for propaganda “. If, as the Minister made it clear in his second-reading speech, although the bill does not do so, the board is to be subject to the ministerial direction of a minister who regards himself as a Minister for propaganda, we shall do well to understand that that is to be the condition of affairs.
– There is no definition of “the Minister” in the bill.
– The definition was in the principal act, but it has been dropped. So much for the proposed board. We have had some experience of boards appointed by this Government. Mr. A. W. Coles, who helped this Government into office, is on a board. So is Mr. Mountjoy, the former member for Swan, who lost his seat; and Mr. Martens, the former member for Herbert, is on a hoard.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– The bill is specifically designed to enable the Minister who will administer it to exclude every broadcast which the Government may fear. The honorable member for Parkes made it crystal clear that that was the dominating thought in the mind of the Government in introducing the measure. That intention is in line with the Government’s earlier suppression of the Opposition party’s political publicity. This measure says in the clearest English that the board which shall be subject to the Minister may determine what kinds of political broadcasts may be made and may entirely suppress any dramatization of political broadcasts. This proposal comes from a government which during the general election campaign in 1943 determined that no election poster was to be in measurement greater than 10 inches by 8 inches, but having passed that law because the Opposition parties had acquired a lot of space on hoardings in the capital cities, held a meeting in the Melbourne Town Hall which its leaders addressed under a banner 20 feet long. At that time, the Government prosecuted members of the Opposition parties who offended against that law whilst its own members who broke the law were never prosecuted. That is the record of the Government which now presents this proposal to control political broadcasts. Is it any wonder that members of the Opposition parties in this House who have had experiences of that kind have no confidence in this legislation but completely distrust it and recognize it for what it is? It is a political device to ensure that the Government shall be enabled to suppress its political opponents ; and what did Goebbels ever do other than that?
Under the measure the board, subject again to this happy Minister, may decide who shall be given licences for broadcasting stations and under what conditions and circumstances such licences shall be issued. That proposal sounds ;ill right taken at its face value, but again members of the Opposition parties in this chamber are obliged to look behind the mask and try to judge how it will be implemented. On that point also we have had some experience to guide us. An earlier government cancelled licences held by the organization known as Jehovah’s
Witnesses in respect of certain broadcasting stations because that organization was engaging in what was understood to be subversive activities. Those licences thus became available to be taken up by other interests, and at that happy moment the present Government was in office. What happened? On the 17th January, 1942, the organization known as Jehovah’s Witnesses and its subsidiary bodies were declared under the National Security (Subversive Associations) Regulations. Under various names, that organization held licences for stations 5KA and 5AU in South Australia and 2HD Newcastle, New South Wales. Those licences were cancelled. Negotiations for the sale of the assets of those stations were handled by Mr. H. G. Alderman, K.C., who had been, up to that time, and since has been, extensively briefed by the Labour Government. He was supplied with an office on government premises. On the 5th February, 1943, stations 5KA and 5AU were sold to the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission and the . Worker’s Weekly Herald, the official organ of the South Australian branch of the Australian Labour party. However, whilst the whole of the purchase money amounting to £8,500 was provided by the Central Methodist Mission, the conditions of the sale provided that one-fifth of the shares were to be given free to the Worker’s Weekly Herald, and further terms of the sale were that free time was to be afforded weekly to the Australian Labour party in South Australia and daily during election campaigns. Furthermore, those shares were to be held in trust by that newspaper for the South Australian branch of the Australian Labour party.
– A good business deal.
– Could not any one make as good a business deal if he held all the cards? The bill is designed to convert into a statute a political confidence trick. The Minister for Information is about to deal out a pack of marked cards, and if he cannot deal himself a hand that will win every trick then it will be an unfortunate business for him. Let me return to the story. Mr. Alderman then attempted to dispose of station 2HD, Newcastle, and he entered into negotiations with the Church of
England - churches being his speciality. l-[e discussed the matter with the Angli can Bishop of Newcastle, Dr. Batty. The bishop rejected the terms of sale and exposed them in the course of a letter to a Sydney newspaper. According to the published correspondence the bishop wrote to Mr. Alderman on the 2nd July, 1043, a letter which contained the following statement: -
You told us that our chances of securing a transfer of the licence were good, subject to -certain provisos. These provisos were: (l).that we should give the Labour party in this district a fifth share in the station and allow them to appoint one director on a board nf five; (2) that we should also give the Labour party in this district the right to broadcast propaganda. You told us that if we were prepared to agree to these provisos you thought our chance of securing the licence would be more than good, but that if we did not agree there would be little prospect, in your opinion, of our securing it, seeing that the Postmaster-General would be guided in his decision by the advice of the parliamentary committee, on which there is a majority of Labour politicians.
Dr. Batty received a letter from Mr.
Alderman which stated -
In broad outline your letter sets out what 1 expressed to you.
The Church of England Diocesan Council at Newcastle rejected the terms of sale.
– It would not pay the price.
– It would not submit to blackmail. I am glad to think that it did not submit to such terms. Honorable members should realize the position which existed at that time. The Australian Labour party, which was then in charge of the affairs of the nation, was anxious to obtain a valuable broadcasting right - indeed, that right was almost invaluable to them politically - and it sought means to obtain that right. Its members did not propose or attempt to acquire the broadcasting rights openly, preferring to use a church as a front. They said, in effect, “We shall use the Church of England as a front, and sheltering ourselves behind that church, we shall demand an interest in the station and a right to broadcast political propaganda “. I am happy to say the Church of England rejected that- proposal. Of course, we did not know previously the fact which has since been re vealed, that the station is now owned wholly, or in part, by the Parliamentary Labour party - not by the Australian Labour party, which is a corporate, constituent body-
– We have a few preference shares, but no voting power.
– All that honorable members opposite possess is some preference shares - 16 per cent, of the voting power! I remind them, that the House just recently passed a bill which provided that the wheat-growers of this country are to be given 3i per cent, of the voting power in the decisions of the body which is to control the marketing of wheat. However, the value of the shares held in the broadcasting station to which I am referring is as nothing compared with the value of the station as a propaganda medium. Before the debate concludes, T hope that some members of the Government will explain exactly how members of the Australian Labour party came into possession, or, at least, into partial possession, of a licence to broadcast - a transaction of which they must be ashamed, because of the stinking history of the negotiations which surrounded it, and which I have revealed to-night. Because of occurrences of that nature I have no confidence in the fitness of the Australian Labour party to exercise complete and absolute control over every aspect of broadcasting.
– Did not a former government of which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was a member give to the graziers for nothing the rightto broadcast from a station in Orange and a similar right to the Young Nationalists in Melbourne?
– I do not want to dodge anything. The Minister has interjected to ask whether the government of which I was a member, did not give to the graziers for nothing the right to broadcast from a station and to the Young Nationalists of Melbourne a similar right. It is true that we did give to those bodies such a right, but I point out that we also gave to the Australian Labour party for nothing, the broadcasting rights of several stations.
– The Australian Labour party bought its stations in the Newcastle district.
– The Minister is aware that the party did not buy the Western Australian Labour station, because that station was given to it by the former government of which I was a member, and I know that the rights of that station were given to it free of charge. However, I point out that the Australian Country party, of which I am a member, has never been given any free broadcasting rights in the State of Victoria, which I represent. These facts are sufficient to demonstrate quite clearly why the present Government should not be put in control of broadcasting. Obviously, the Australian Labour party has proved recreant to its trust while it has been in office. It has taken to itself surreptitiously the stations formerly operated by the Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Adelaide, which it .should have held in trust. Although that transaction occurred five years ago, the part played in it by the Australian Labour party came to light only last week. If members of that party were not ashamed of the deal, why has news of it been suppressed for five years?
Of course, members and supporters of the Government believe that they have one remaining ground of defence left to them. They contend that the commercial broadcasting stations do not object to their operating broadcasting stations; but I point out that the chicken does not object to the axe - when the man with the axe has a. firm grip on the chicken! The commercial stations have a fairly good idea of what happened to the banks when they objected to the legislation which the Government introduced last year. When the direction issued by the Government that all government commercial accounts were to be transferred to the .Commonwealth Bank, and that direction was upset by a decision of the High Court, the Government immediately introduced legislation to expropriate the entire assets of the- commercial trading banks. That is sufficient reason for me and other thinking persons to understand why the commercial stations have been intimidated and have not objected to the present proposal.
– Since 1937 conference after conference of the commercial broad casting stations has asked for the introduction of this measure.
– It is a pity that the Minister did not explain that in his second-reading speech. He will have an opportunity later to substantiate that statement.
– I shall produce the terms of ‘ all the resolutions that have been adopted by the commercial stations.
– They did not ask for the introduction of the kind of control envisaged by this measure. The bill has its origin in politics - it stinks of politics. It has been introduced within twelve months of the general elections because the Government is afraid of the Opposition, and is endeavouring to intimidate the political Opposition and the commercial broadcasting stations. Now it seeks to arm itself with absolute authority to suppress. It is following exactly the course followed by all the countries which have travelled from democracy te authoritarianism. I ask those who have interested themselves in this matter to recognize that the Government’s proposal is a threat to freedom. No one will dare to advocate that the freedom of the press should be destroyed. But this bill will destroy the freedom of a medium which is far more important than the press has ever been. No proposal which the Government has ever advanced has been more menacing to individual freedom and the true spirit of democracy than is this bill. Of course, I know what the result will be. The bill will be passed by the vote of the regimented ranks of government supporters. In future the people will be permitted to . hear only that news which the Government allows to filter through its screen, but I ask them to remember at all times that they will be hearing only the news which they will be permitted to hear under this suppressive legislation, born of tyranny. 1 urge the people to hear that fact in mind when they have an opportunity to record their views at the next election.
.- This bill is a simple but necessary measure. Honorable members opposite have sought to damage it with their attacks, but the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) made a significant admission at the beginning of his remarks, when he said that the speech by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was the most difficult to which he had ever had to reply. It is true that the honorable gentleman subsequently qualified that admission, but his confession correctly reflected the true position. The honorable member for Parkes explained in simple and unambiguous language the objects of the measure. The honorable member for Indi began weakly in a lame and halting manner to discharge the assignment that had been given to him, namely, to attack the bill. It was not until the later stages of his somewhat lengthy speech that he whipped himself into the condition of emotion to which we have become accustomed, and sought by declamation to achieve what argument had failed to do. The fact is that this bill has been made necessary by the development of broadcasting technique, and the newer developments that broadcasting offers to Australia and other countries. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has stated that the commercial broadcasting stations have suggested that the Government should establish a board to control broadcasting in Australia. The Post Office organization, under the control of the Postmaster-General, has managed broadcasting as one of its many and varied functions. Is it not in line with modern developments and in accord with common sense that a specialist organization is required to deal with broadcasting? Although broadcasting has already achieved magnificent results, it is still a new development in point of years. Is it not desirable, at the present stage, to relieve the Postmaster-General’s Department of the control of broadcasting and future developments in broadcasting? Indeed, an organization should have been established years ago to control broadcasting, and previous governments are responsible for the failure to do so. The functions of such a body should be, inter alia, to study broadcasting technique throughout the world and provide balanced programmes. The appointment of such an authority has been found necessary in almost every other country.
Although the bill is simple, honorable members opposite have claimed that the purpose of the measure is to nationalize broadcasting, and, therefore, that it will restrict the liberties of the people. ‘ Are honorable members opposite so naive as to believe that they will fool the people of Australia by such statements? The Conservative party of Great Britain, which is less conservative that the Liberal party of Australia arid the Australian Country party, nationalized the broadcasting system of the United Kingdom at its inception. The Conservative party of Great Britain, not operating under a masquerade as a liberal party, but frankly styling itself a Conservative party, and proud of its Conservative traditions, decided that broadcasting should not be entrusted to private ownership, but should be controlled as a public utility under the Postmaster-General, who would be responsible to the Parliament. Since that time, broadcasting has achieved in the world a significance which was scarcely envisaged when the Conservative party of Great Britain nationalized the broadcasting system, but the Liberal party of Australia and the Australian Country party view the Australian Government’s proposals to control broadcasting in the public interest as an attempt to deprive the people of their vital liberty. As I have stated, the Conservative party in Great Britain took a far more drastic step years ago.
Honorable members opposite havestated that the Government has introduced this bill in an attempt to silence broadcasts by “ John Henry Austral “. As the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has mentioned my namein connexion with those broadcasts, I shall tell the Parliament and the people precisely what I said to the meeting of the parliamentary Labour party when we were consideringthis bill. I stated, in effect, “ John Henry Austral “ is doing more harm to the Liberal party than any propaganda which we can prepare can do. He wholly misunderstands the spirit of the Australian people. As propaganda it is bad, as advertising it is crude, and as a political weapon it will do more harm than good to those who sponsor the broadcasts “. I still believe that a reliable poll to ascertain the views of the public on the subject would support my opinion. I also stated that one broadcast by John Henry Austral could be regarded as worthwhile. That broadcast entirely eschewed political propaganda, and reproduced one of Henry Lawson’s greatest poems. At the conclusion, the speaker merely said -
This is offered for your information by the Liberal party of Australia.
Other broadcasts by “ John Henry Austral “ are crude, cheap propaganda, which is an affront to the Australian people. In my opinion, the Government’ should not attempt to suppress them, but should encourage them, because they win support for the Labour party.
The honorable member for Indi has also stated that the independent news service provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is responsible for the serious condition of that body’s finances. Honorable gentlemen opposite have talked for too long in general terms. Henceforth, we propose to pin them down to definite statements. Do the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, if returned to office at the next election, propose to discontinue the independent news service ? Do they propose to abolish government instrumentalities such as TransAustralia Airlines? Those are genuine questions, and honorable members opposite should make their position clear. [ do not believe that they will be game to abolish the independent news service if they have the opportunity to do so. Whatever the cost, that service is a good investment for the Australian Broadcosting Commission. The British Broadcasting Corporation does not use the words, “ This news service is provided by courtesy of the British equivalent of the Australian Associated Press “. But that is what we used to hear on Australia’s national stations prior to the establishment of the independent news service. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has set up a very valuable news service, which gives news independent of that dispensed by the virtual press monopoly that we have in this country to-day. It provides a news service free from the suppression and distortion that characterises much of the news in Australia’s press, which is controlled by vested interests. That independent news service is, at times, criticized by honorable mem- bers because it takes an independent, line. If it criticizes honorable members it does so by virtue of the opinions of the members of the commission or of the journalist who prepares the script. It does not hesitate to criticize any one because the intrusion might impinge on some vested interest or other.
The measure will take away from the Postmaster-General the control over broadcasting stations that he formerly exercised. Honorable members opposite who have said that that provision amounts to giving dictatorial power to some Minister will recall an occasion in the not very distant past when a Postmaster-General, who was not a member of a Labour government, found it necessary to take a very dictatorial step. I do not believe that the gentleman to whom I refer apologized at. the time or now apologizes for the action that he took. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who is the former Postmaster-General to whom I refer, has told me repeatedly that in the same circumstances he would take the same action again. This measure takes the power then exercised by that former Postmaster-General out of the bands of any Postmaster-General. No longer will a single Minister, except by reference from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, close a radio station overnight. No longer will he have the power to act as a radio dictator. Yet, we are told that, this is a dictatorial measure. Broadcasting has reached a stage where the Postmaster-General and the administration under his control cannot adequately or intelligently control the many and varied functions of broadcasting, or carefully nurture the development of the different forms that broadcasting will undoubtedly take. We require a specialized body that can consider the whole subject, of broadcasting and plan for its future. The Government states that that is the democratic way to achieve the necessary control over broadcasting and to proceed with the development of broadcasting as rapidly as possible in the interests, not of the sponsors of commercial programmes, but of the public. The honorable member for Indi went on to speak about a number of radio stations controlled by the Labour party in this country. He said that the Parliamentary Labour party owns a station at Newcastle, 2HD. That is not true. The New South Wales branch of the Labour party owns that station. If it was wrong for the Attorney, Mr. Alderman, for the previous owners of the station, Jehovah’s Witnesses, to suggest an arrangement to them so that they could make a sale, surely it is wrong for a government to give to any political party a radio station in its own right without one penny piece of cost to that party. Yet that has been done repeatedly by the Parliament or the responsible Minister. The honorable gentleman endeavoured to criticize, without a proper knowledge of the subject, the arrangement made regarding Station 2HD and the final allocation of shares in that station. He also criticized the position regarding preference shares and the dividends attaching to them. At the same time as the arrangements regarding 2HD were made the Labour party of Western Australia was, in fact, allotted a radio frequency by the composite Liberal party-Country party Government. The Labour party then had to finance the venture. It found very great difficulty in obtaining the necessary capital because the allocation of the frequency was made during a time of war. A Labour government came to power and had to restrict advertising to the barest minimum. Very little income came to the station from that source and the Labour party in Western Australia, which had been given a frequency without one penny piece of cost to -it, had real difficulty in obtaining money to finance the erection and operation of the station. When it was erected and operations began, because of its limited range and the restrictions on advertising, it lost heavily during its early years and had to make a variety of arrangements. In fact, it has not proved very lucrative since. The simple fact is that the Broadcasting Committee of which ex-Senator Gibson was chairman, decided that radio licences in this country ought to be given to public bodies and should not come under the monopolistic control of the press barons. I entirely agree with that view. It is surely right that the monopolies built up by the press barons should not be perpetuated by giving press interests free licences to operate radio stations. I use the term “ free licences “ because every new licence must be awarded at a fairly nominal cost.
– The cost is £25 a year, plus a small percentage on turnover.
– For about two-thirds of his speech the honorable gentleman attacked the Labour party because it obtained stations without cost hut he did not attack other governments which issued “licences without cost to other organizations, many of which could make no claim to have as their purpose the furtherance of public interests but were concerned only with their own personal gain. The honorable gentleman, therefore, can be said to have amply justified his opening words that he found the honorable member for Parkes very difficult to answer, and the bill itself very difficult to tackle. I have studied the position of broadcasting throughout the world. In the United States, the home of what is termed “ rugged individualism and free enterprise “, the Government set up a Federal Communications Commission and gave it the most sweeping powers and a very high status. That body was set up to control broadcasting, and all its allied activities in the United States. In the commission’s twelfthannual report it is pointed out that one station, WOKO, which had operated for eighteen years, was put off the air by the Federal Communications Commission because it refused to give information that the Federal Communications Commission sought and also gave information that was misleading. The action of the Federal Communications Commission in putting that station off the air was challenged in the highest courts of the United States on the ground, that there might be need for the station’s service to continue and that consideration, ought to be given to the loss of invested capital involved in the revocation of the licence. The Supreme Court of the United States reversed a decision of a court of appeal and upheld the decision of the Federal Communications Commission, thereby in one stroke, taking away the rights of the station’s owner and presumably depriving him of his financial interest in the venture. In his secondreading speech the Minister made the purpose of the bill very clear. He said -
In the broader field of broadcasting . . . it is clear that the time has- been reached when responsibility for the overall control, direction and development of broadcasting in Australia, which are now undertaken by the Post Office in conjunction with its many other functions, should be transferred to a suitable authority able to devote its full time and energies -to what is, after all, one. of the most important industries in the country. Honorable members will agree, I feel sure, that in the past the Postmaster General’s Department has played a valuable part in establishing and expanding broadcasting on fairly sound lines, but the possibilities and the problems of the future are so comprehensive and vital as to necessitate the undivided attention of an appropriate body specially chosen for the task.
There, in a simple sentence, the Minister has pointed out that the time has come - that it is, indeed, long overdue - when, because of the growing’ power and influence of broadcasting, a special instrumentality should be set up to control it. Professor Taussig, who is & writer of standard works on economics, has this to say on the subject of public control of industry -
The business and well-to-do classes of all countries, and especially of English-speaking countries, rarely consider this subject with an open mind. They listen readily to all the evidence that tells against public ownership and are pessimistic about its prospects. The persons now in control of the money -making monopolies supply them freely with all sorts of distorted information and superficial arguments.
To-day, we have listened to all kinds of superficial arguments designed to distract the attention of the people from the real point at issue, and to make them believe that this Labour Government is seeking to deprive them of some of the rights and benefits which they enjoy. Many of those benefits were conferred upon them by Labour governments. Over and over again, when Labour governments have introduced legislation designed to benefit the people, interests hostile to the government have represented the proposals as an attempt to deprive the people of benefits which they already enjoy. Professor Taussig continues -
It is not too much to say that the future of democracy will depend upon its success in dealing with the problems of public ownership and regulation. The ideal solution is that the great monopoly industries should be under progressive and. efficient public management. The experiment of public ownership- and operation should be tried and every effort made lo bring it to a successful issue.
I am not greatly concerned whether commercial broadcasting is brought under public ownership, or remains a private industry. On the subject of banking, I hold strong views; but, provided that broadcasting is strictly controlled so that its worst abuses are removed, and political advertising, backed by vested interest, is checked, I do not greatly care if the control of commercial broadcasting remains in the hands of private industry. I have no doubt that, in the long run, all forms of broadcasting will be brought under public ownership. The present legislation may stave off that day by removing some of the existing abuses. We know that private ownership of industry, and particularly private exploitation of natural resources, has often led to great waste and irrevocable damage. Indeed, one may say that uncontrolled private enterprise tends to work its own destruction, because the objectionable features which develop out of the attempt to make money create a revulsion of feeling among the people, and they demand reform. So it is with broadcasting to-day. No one who listens to programmes from commercial stations can be other than appalled by the vast amount of advertising which is included. In the United States of America, the Federal Communications Commission, which controls broadcasting, insists that advertising time shall be only a fixed proportion of the total broadcasting time. I have discussed this matter with the managers of commercial stations, and have tried to convince them that the extravagant advertising of patent medicines is a bad thing for the stations themselves, because it must ultimately endanger the private control of broadcasting. Those who listen to programmes sponsored by the manufacturers of Aspro tablets and Bex A.P.C. powders will not hesitate to say that the programmes constitute almost the worst possible abuse of the broadcasting medium, which should be used for public entertainment and enlightenment. The present legislation is necessary and desirable because it provides for the setting up of an authority consisting of men who will be able to specialize in the control ofbroadcasting, and to prescribe standards which,I believe, the commercial nations themselves will welcome. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Mc E wen) asked the Minister to prove that the commercial stations wanted this legislation. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), on the other hand, asked for how long the commercial stations had been dictating the policy of the Government in regard to broadcasting. The broadcasting stations favour the control of broadcasting by a commission rather than by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I am convinced that they will welcome the method of control proposed in this measure. The owners of many of the broadcasting stations are not happy about the programmes which are being broadcast at the present time. The sponsor dictates what shall be broadcast. The worst broadcast operator may set the standard to be adopted. If one broadcasting station refuses to take a sponsored programme plenty of others will readily do so because of the money involved. Broadcasting stations are forced to take any sponsored programme submitted to them, whether it be complete trash, saturated with advertising, or a ruinous programme from another point of view. Under control by the Government, no longer will they be forced to accept the responsibility for saying “We will not accept your programme. We demand that it be put in such and such a form, so that it will afford entertainment and minimize the worse abuses of the advertising extravaganza “. The broadcasting stations have set up an ethics committee, which is supposed to discipline offending stations and ensure that a reasonable standard shall be maintained. When their representatives appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, they were questioned about the measure of control. It is no breach of confidence to say that questions were not limited to Labour members. Other members also were critical of the programmes presented. They said that all that they could do in the event of a breach of ethics was to expel the offender from the association. But expulsion carries no penalties at all. It is a dead-letter or useless cipher. The broadcasting stations themselves will welcome this move.
Another major provision of the bill seeks to strengthen the board of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. There can be no quibble about that aspect of the measure. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is in control of one of the biggest public undertakings in this country. It has an income and an expenditure of over £1,000,000. There exist great technical and financial problems, and if the best that is possible for the people of the country is to be done theboard must have those aspects uppermost in mind. There will be representatives of the public and various members appointed by the Government on the board. The Government will add to that body representatives of the Treasury and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to make it fully representative and competent to deal with the various problems involved. It was a serious omission that such representation was not provided from the inception of broadcasting or at least that the defect was not remedied many years ago. As with so many other problems, it has been left to this Government to provide the means to secure the most beneficial results. This is a simple but very necessary measure. It will do a lot for broadcasting in Australia. In my view, John Henry Austral’s dramatization of political events, whatever its purpose, has the effect of discrediting our parliamentary institutions. I do not think it is improbable that they were designed for that purpose. There are great forces operating in this country which fear the democratic process. Among them are the Liberal and Australian Country parties. Because they fear democracy in its final expression, they hate it. Throughout this country we have government of the people by the people in theory. The Liberal and Australian Country parties do not believe in democracy in its final expression because they consider that vested interests can be helped only if they can retain for themselves and the people that they represent a privileged position in the Parliament. For that reason they hate democracy in its final expression, as do all people who fear it. The forces operating behind them to-day have never even expressed the view that democracy is a desirable thing. In the operation of the great vested interests in this country, particularly the private hanking monopoly in Australia, there has never been, and never will be, while the system exists, even lip service to democracy. They resist these measures because they fear democracy in being. John Henry Austral’s programmes, despite their cheap and crude nature and the complete absence of anything artistic, are of little advertising value. They are designed to criticize individual Ministers, and to create one-sided political opinions. There is little doubt that they are intended scandalously to misrepresent the Parliament and certain Ministers. According to May, such matters have been dealt with in a most stringent manner in the Mother of Parliaments. Mr. Austral does not secure any political benefit for the party that he represents because of the nature of the programme that he puts forward, but the parliamentary institutions of this country are thereby written down. Although I consider that his broadcasts do no harm to the Australian Labour party as a political institution, their passing will be no loss and they will not be mourned by the people. As time goes on that will he proved. A3 with so many measures that have : been placed on the statute-book by the Australian Labour party, I do not think that “any other government will repeal this legislation.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) was in some difficulty because he commenced by saying that section 89 of the act as amended by the bill, which concerns political broadcasts, was not directed against John Henry Austral. That is right in the teeth of the very frank admission of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), It is not possible to reconcile the two expressions. I believe that this matter of political broadcasts is the most critical and the most important dealt with in the bill. I desire to draw the attention of the House to the wording of the original section of the act, and the proposed new provision. Sub-section 1 of section 89 of the principal act reads -
Subject to the provisions of this section, the Commission may determine to what extent and in what manner political speeches or any matter relating to a political subject may bc broadcast from national broadcasting stations, and the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station may arrange for the broadcasting of such speeches or matter from that station.
That is proposed to be repealed, and the new sub-section will read as follows : - (1.) Subject only to this section, the Commission may determine to what extent and in what manner political speeches or any matter relating to a political or controversial subject may be broadcast from national broadcasting stations, and, subject only to this section and to Part 1a. of this Act, the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station may arrange for the broadcasting of such speeches or matter from that station.
So, the first amendment of section 89 of the principal act is to be the addition of the peculiar word “ controversial “. But it does not end there. Section 89 (3.) reads -
The Commission or the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station shall not, at any time on or after the date of the issue of the writs and before the close of the poll for any such election, broadcast any dramatization of matter relating to any candidate, political party, issues, policy or meeting referred to in the last preceding sub-section.
That is to say there was a mandatory prohibition against the dramatization of political matter during an election campaign. That is to go and in its place we are to have the following: -
Neither the Commission nor the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station shall broadcast any dramatization of any political matter which is then current or was current at an time during the last five preceding years.
Instead of having a prohibition against the dramatization of political matter during an election campaign, we are to have a complete prohibition of any form of dramatization of political matter “ at any time during the last five preceding years “. There is no secret about what this proposed new sub-section means. No secret at all ! The cat is out of the bag. The honorable member for Parkes has said straight out that this is intended for the purpose of the banning of “ John Henry Austral’s “ broadcasts.
– That is not right.
– It is right. I heard the honorable member for Parkes say it
The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) was not here when he said it, for he has just come in.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini). - Order!
– I was here. I am always present when the honorable member for Parkes speaks.
– Order! The honorable member for Parramatta must not carry on a verbal duel with the honorable member for Martin.
– I concede that I have not the right to answer the honorable member for Martin, but he was a little out of order himself when he interjected. The honorable member for Parkes said that the purpose of this provision was to ban “ John Henry Austral “ and he gloated over it. He told us who “ John Henry Austral “ is. He seemed to express regret that he is working for the Liberal party after having worked for the Labour party. He told us all about him. For instance, he referred to the ethics of his journalism. The whole theme of bis speech was, “We must save the people from themselves “. They are not to have the right to turn off the radio or to twist the knob to tune in another station. Oh, no ! The people are not capable of doing that! They are to be saved from themselves and all these broadcasts are to be banned. There are several hundred B class and many A class stations in Australia. People can turn to a ny of them to get away from the “ John Henry Austral “ broadcasts. But no, that is not enough. The broadcasts are to be banned out of hand. The honorable member for Parkes has let the cat out of the bag and has betrayed the fetish of the fascist mind - because that is what it is all over the world - when he says, in effect, “People are not to decide anything for themselves. We, their masters, know better than they do and we shall prevent them from hearing something, not because it might not be good for them, for that is humbug, but because we do not like the broadcasts, which are upsetting us. Therefore, the people are not to hear them “. People do not have to listen. They can turn off the radio or tunc in another station. But that is not good enough. With all the paraphernalia of the fascist mind, honorable members opposite have decided to ban the whole series. They love banning. Oh, how they love it! Yet, if the banning of literature were suggested, the honorable member for Parkes would grow purple in the face in thundering against the infamy of people who have banned books in the past. He betrayed every principle that he should stand for, because if it is wrong to ban literature, it is equally wrong to ban broadcasts. Surely the people are capable of making their own choice. But, of course, honorable gentlemen opposite propose, to ban the “ John Henry Austral” series, not for the sake of the people, but because the broadcasts have got under their skin. The broadcasts are skilfully written and are of high quality. They have pointed out the way in which the Government is steadily going. The Government does not like the truth, and, because it does not like the truth, it proposes to take the sledgehammer to members of the Opposition or any one who dares to criticize the Government and strike them out of existence. I say with all the solemnity of which I am capable that this proposal is the most frightening that I have come across since becoming a member of this House. Never before have I seen anything that bodes so ill for the future of Australia than this blatant and barefaced proposal to ban the broadcasts because the Government does not like their political complexion. It used to be the claim of even the Labour party that our most precious possession is freedom of speech. We have inherited from Europe a long and noble tradition, that men are entitled to speak their minds freely. Generations of men have fought to develop and preserve the right of freedom of speech. Yet, in 1948, in this Parliament, where the summit and pinnacle of our ambitions should be to widen that freedom, we have a government that proposes to strike it out with one blow. Two centuries ago, Voltaire said -
I do not agree with a word that you Bay, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
That is a noble principle that should be still current, but the Labour party proposes to end it. Its members say, “ I do not like what my enemy says and therefore, I propose to strangle the words in his throat “. That is why I say that this proposal is the most frightening thing I have ever come across in my political experience in this Parliament. It is just another giant stride on the road to the police state, the fascist state, the regimented state, where men are no longer free, but have to sneak around the corners to express their opinions, and where they may no longer openly criticize the Government. Yet the quintessence of democracy is the right to criticize the Government, because democracy thrives on criticism. It is only by preserving to the widest possible degree the right to criticize that we can preserve the democracy. The Labour party pays lip service to democracy, but proposes to strike the most vicious, blow against freedom that has been struck in my experience. No wonder moderate Labour men - and there are a few opposite - are upset and anxious about this measure. No wonder some of them are in revolt. We know some who are and we may know others. We wonder how many of them, who revolted in the caucus, will eat their words. We wonder how many of them who criticized this measure in the party room as most infamous and stood up for political freedom, will, because the party whip has cracked, be guilty of a base betrayal of decent, fundamental, liberal principles.
– Somebody has been deceiving the honorable member.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who has made one of his rare, ghostly appearances in this chamber, interjects that somebody has been deceiving me. That may be so. But somebody has been deceiving the people of Australia about this matter and the attitude of the Labour party towards a fundamental freedom. It is the Labour party, with the Prime Minister at its head, that has been deceiving the people, as I hope to show.
The next point with which I shall deal is the new position of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for which the bill provides in clause 7. I hope that the Prime Minister will remain to hear we, because I shall soon come to a matter in which he is interested.
– Not many of the honorable member’s colleagues are here to hear him. He has only the Whip to support him.
– I have the Whip to support me, and I have the people of Australia who are listening to the broadcast of this debate. If ever there was an election issue in Australia worth going out and fighting for, it is this issue of the freedom of the air, not for the sake of any broadcasting station or any special interest, but for the sake of the people and their fundamental right to continue to express their opinions and criticize their government. That is the best election issue that I have come across for a long time, and, no matter who is in this chamber listening or not listening, there are many anxious Australians listening now who will be just as interested when the election comes around. The Minister for Immigration, or Information, or whatever his chameleon cloak may be at the moment, need not “ kid himself “ to the contrary. I now turn to the position of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as provided for in clause 7 of the bill. The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) said in the Senate, dropping his usual brick, “ The Australian Broadcasting Commission is now to be a government instrumentality “. Those were his very words. There are to .be two government representatives on the commission in addition to the present membership, and the Minister has said bluntly that it is to be a government instrumentality. Up to date, there has .been a sort of theoretical freedom of the commission. We know that it has been largely theoretical. We know that pressure has been brought to bear upon the commission again and again by this Government, and that the commissioners have been labouring under great difficulties and have had to compromise again and again and yield partially to the Government’s pressure in order to preserve their position. We know that they have been fighting a rearguard action in order to retain some semblance of independence, and that they have had the famous Broadcasting Committee standing over them all the time. We know, too, that government propa- ganda has been constantly seeping into the com mission’s broadcasts in all sorts of forms and has been condoned by the commission as a concession to heavy pressure applied by the Government. We know that Mr. Cleary could not stand those conditions and got out.
Now, in the fullness of time, the commission is to become a government instrumentality and. some of the members of the Government have had the impertinence to suggest in this House that there is a parallel between the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– There is not.
– I am glad that the Minister says so. Some of his supporters are less well-informed than he is on the matter. The British Broadcasting Corporation was founded by a famous first chairman, Sir John Reith, and, although it was always an instrumentality of the government in one sense, it was completely independent of the Parliament and was subject to no interference at all. Sir JohnReith was given a completely free hand, and he exercised it for years and built up a magnificent institution. There is no parallel whatever between the position of the British Broadcasting Corporation and that of the Australian. Broadcasting Commission. I am not an enthusiastic listener to the radio. I do not like the broadcasting stations and I listen to their programmes only occasionally. I do not like the broadcasts from Australian Broadcasting Commission stations very much. Therefore, I am not tied to any view in this matter. I have listened to British Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts, and I consider that they are of better quality and show more detachment than any other broadcasts I have heard in other places. My point is that the British Broadcasting Corporation is made completely independent. The Australian Broadcasting Commission will not be independent. It never has been independent under this Government and, under this legislation, it will be completely dependent upon the Government and upon the Minister. If the Minister is to be the Minister now sitting at the table, as I know it will be, God help the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and God help the impar tiality of the news service that goes out to the people of Australia ! So much for the British Broadcasting Corporation.
– Is not the British Broadcasting Corporation financed from the United Kingdom exchequer, and therefore nationalized ?
– It is partly financed from the exchequer, but the conditions which govern it do not apply in this country. There is still a tradition of impartiality in British politics which just does not exist in this Parliament. I say to the Minister, although my words will fall on deaf ears because he has a fascist mind, that there is a principle-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Parramatta is too ferocious altogether. He says that I have a fascist mind. That is most insulting. I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member’s remark was completely unparliamentary, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– If it was offensive to the Minister, I withdraw it, but I say that-
– Order ! There must be no qualification.
– I withdraw it without qualification. I say that the Minister has a typical authoritarian mind. I commend to him the words of a man about whom he may not know but who was a very famous journalist in England - Scott, the editor of the Manchester Guardian. He usedthese words, as a motto for journalists and people who write for the public -
Comment is free but fact is sacred.
I saythat, if the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its news service become subordinate to the interference of this Government, comment will no longer be free and fact will not be free. In the interests of truth and fair play to the Australian people, so that they may have a real and bona fide news service, it is necessary that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be kept away from the influence of a Minister with the temper of mind of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell).
– Order ! The honorable member must cease dealing with the Minister. The bill has no reference to the Minister, and he is not entitled to make personal attacks upon the Minister. I ask him to confine his remarks entirely to the bill.
– I now direct attention to frequency modulation, because it is provided in clause 18 of the bill that frequency modulation is now tobe the prerogative of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and that the commercial stations are not to share in it at all. One asks why that should be so, as one is entitled to do. Why should not the commercial stations be entitled to use their enterprise, their money, their inventiveness and their ingenuity in extending frequency modulation as it was extended in America and elsewhere? It is said, perhaps with some truth, that the reason is that frequency modulation, in due course, will supersede the ordinary form of broadcasting which we enjoy at present, so that, by the effluxion of time, this Government will manage to do by a trick what it is not entitled to do by law, namely, nationalize broadcasting and become the sole broadcasting authority in Australia. On this subject, I direct the attention of the House to the famous letter which the Minister for Information read a few days ago indicating that the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations was in favour of the Government’s proposals. He read only part of the letter. It is dated the 11th November, and is addressed to the Prime Minister. It commences -
Dear Mr. Chifley,
I have reported to Convention the outcome of my recent interviews with you regarding the Australian Broadcasting Bill 1948 and members have asked me to express to you their appreciation at your courtesy in seeing me on this matter which is of such importance to our industry.
I do not think that that is a worldshocking admission. The Prime Minister has a natural old-world courtesy when he chooses to exercise it. But some hangmen have an old-world courtesy in dealing with their victims.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill and to refrain from making personal references.
– Therefore, courtesy has nothing to do with the matter.
– Order ! If the honorable member seeks to take a “ rise “ out of the Chair, he will find his speech very much shortened. I ask him again to speak to the bill.
– The next paragraph of the letter to which I wish to direct attention states -
As is known to the Government, the Federation itself, prior to the war, had advocated the establishment of an independent board-
I stress the word “ independent “ because that is exactly what the proposed board will not be - to supervise broadcasting but some members at Convention are apprehensive at the wide and possibly restrictive powers that the Board now being established may exercise.
They may well be apprehensive because first, the board will not be independent, and secondly, its powers will be wide and restrictive. The writers of the letter were careful enough to say “ possibly restrictive “, but, of course, they were walking near the lion’s cage and they were treading very carefully. As I have said, they had every reason to be apprehensive. Then follows what I consider to be the most ingenuous paragraph in the letter -
Members were therefore, most gratified at the assurance received from you that, in the introduction of the Board, nationalization of broadcasting is not contemplated.
That seems to have satisfied those gentlemen, subject to the qualification that I am about to make. The Prime Minister says that he will not nationalize broadcasting because the Commonwealth Parliament has not the power to do so directly. But he proposes to do it indirectly by the restrictive methods of which the writers of the letter speak, and when frequency modulation supersedes other forms of broadcasting, the right honorable gentleman will have completed his task. The letter continues -
We were glad to have the assurance from the Postmaster-General that facilities are to be granted to our industry to have consultations with the Board on matters affecting commercial broadcasting prior to major decisions being made. At Convention, however, it was pointed out that some clauses in the Bill were either unduly restrictive or their intention ambiguous. Members therefore have asked me to submit for consideration by the Government that the following amendments be considered: -
That is the letter from which the Minister read one little sentence purporting to indicate the whole-hearted support of the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations for this wretched bill. The plain fact is that the federation, in a letter to the Prime Minister merely said, “ Thank you for being polite to us. We are glad that you are not going to socialize us; but we consider that this is a very peculiar and restrictive bill, and, in the following particulars, we consider that you should amend it “. Then follows a list of those particulars. The letter further states -
Clause 18(2). - Convention is of opinion that inclusion of this clause which primarily excludes commercial stations from participating in frequency modulation is not in the best interests of the community.
That is the bill with which the federation is supposed to have agreed. The letter continues -
Clause 22 (6). - Convention considers that the word “ controversial “ which is to be inserted in Section 89 of the Principal Act should be clearly defined as the present term is particularly broad and may be termed to include discussions on religious matters, opposing claims in advertisements and even sporting commentaries would come within this category.
That again is the bill to which the federation was supposed to have given its blessing, according to the incomplete extract from the letter read by the Minister. The letter continues -
Clause 22 (3). - With regard to the new Clause 22 (3) amending Section 89 of the Principal Act regarding the dramatization of any political matter, it is pointed out that the Federation is in full accord with the principle of excluding from such broadcasts of simulation of voices of public men. . - .
I, too, agree that the simulation of voices of public men is wrong. It is in bad taste and should not be allowed to continue. The federation further states -
The clause as drafted could have the effect of eliminating such programmes as “ The March nf Time “ which deals principally with overseas events and it would exclude dramatization of any political matters which have occurred throughout the world since the end of the. war; also it would affect the production of many programmes of a documentary or educational nature.
And so on. The federation proceeds to deal with other clauses of the measure. I concede that the federation may not have expressed a unanimous opinion about frequency modulation. I imagine that some of the B class stations have taken the short-sighted view. They realize that the introduction of the fre quency modulation system will mean an enormous widening of the broadcast band, with the result that it will be possible to grant many more licences than exist at present. Some of the commercial stations may hold the view that the restriction of frequency modulation to the national system will eliminate some troublesome competition. That, as I have said, is a particularly short-sighted view, and I think it can be said to the credit of the federation generally that, in its letter to the Prime Minister, it has protested against frequency modulation being handed over entirely to the national stations.
We on this side of the chamber are defending the right of B class stations to undertake frequency modulation broadcasts if they so desire, not because we have any interest in some of those stations, but because the granting of frequency modulation licences to the commercial stations would prevent the restriction of such broadcasts to purely propaganda channels. History shows that often the defence of a principle involves the defence of a particular institution. I have no interest in the pres.*. and I concede that sometimes what the press does is wrong, but I shall defend the freedom of the press because of the principle of freedom of speech. We on thU side of the chamber are defending the right of the commercial stations to undertake frequency modulation broadcasts if they so desire because we believe that that would widen the ambit of freedom of expression. The passing of control of frequency modulation over to the Government will mean turning it into a vehicle of propaganda.
I come now to the proposed board. If the board were to be independent it would be all right; but it will not be independent. It will be bound hand and foot to the Government. The Minister himself, in his second-reading speech, said that the board would be subservient to the Government’s policy. What sort of independence is that? It was an independent board that the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations wanted and it said so. I agree that there is much to be said for some over-all co-ordinating authority provided it is independent; but throughout the bill there is evidence that this board is to be bound hand and foot to t he Government and is to be clothed with powers that are out of all proportion to the needs of its functions. First, it is to have extraordinarily wide power of delegation. Proposed new section 6h provides - 6h. - (1.) The Board may, in relation to any particular matter or class of matters, or to any particular place, by writing under its seal, delegate to any person all or any of its powers and functions under this Act (except this power of delegation), so that the delegated powers and functions may be exercised by the delegate with respect to the matter or class of matters, or to the place, specified in the instrument of delegation.
Under that sect ion the board could hand over to any junior officer the gigantic powers that it will exercise under this measure. That is something which should be examined closely. If that wide authority were to be conferred upon an independent board, there might be some justification for it, but this board will not be independent. Under proposed new section 6k, the boardis to have very wide powers and functions. Sub-section 1 reads -
The. functions of the Board shall be -
to ensure the provision of services by broadcasting stations, television stations and facsimile stations, and services of a like kind, in accordance with plans from time to time prepared bythe Board and approved by the Minister;
to ensure that adequate and comprehensive programmes are provided by such stations to serve the best interests of the general public.
To use a legal phrase, there is always the length of the chancellor’s foot. The board will always be subject to the control of the Minister. Sub-section 4 of proposed new section 6k provides -
The Board shall have power, subject to any directions of the Minister -
to determine the situation and operating power of any broadcasting station, television station or facsimile station;
to determine the frequency of each broadcasting station television station or facsimile station, within bands of frequencies notified to the Board by the Postmaster-General as being available for such stations.
Perhaps the most interesting provision in the bill is proposed new section 6l., subsection 2, which reads -
Orders made by the Board -
shall not be deemed to be statutory rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act 1903-1939;
No provision has been made whereby these orders shall be supervised by or submitted to this Parliament or to any other body. They are not to be deemed to be statutory rules, and, accordingly, they will not be tabled in this House or in any way be subject to review. The board is to be solely under the direction of the Minister, who, undoubtedly, will be the Minister for Information. There may be justification for the appointment of a board so long as it is an independent body ; but the board proposed to be established by this bill will by no means be independent. We are moving towards the concentration of more and more power in the hands of the Government, and particularly in the hands of Ministers. I remind honorable members of the famous quotation, “ There is only one thing men love more than liberty, and that is authority over other people “. This Government is the best illustration of the truth of that saying. Another saying is that of Lord Acton: “All power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely “. We are driving steadily towards that point. To-day, we have the example of a power- drunk government saying to the people, “ We shall tell you the things that are good for you ; if we do not think they are good for you, you should not hear them “.
– The honorable member will never be power drunk.
– I was brought up in the tradition of freedom and liberty ; the Minister was brought up in the tradition of obtaining power at all costs. I regard this bill as an attack on the ancient principle of freedom of speech, which was gained by our forefathers after a struggle extending over many centuries. If this bill is passed in its present form and the power embodied in it is placed in the hands of the present Minister for Information and the present Government, a deadly blow will have been struck at freedom of speech in this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Riordan) adjourned.
The following papers were presented: -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948 -
No. 81 - Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association.
No. 82 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Health - S. Fisher.
Interior - E. A. Appleton.
Navy - D. A. Bourne.
Dairy Produce Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules. 1948, No. 141.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes -Stuart, Queensland.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Eagle Farm, Queensland.
Postal purposes- -
Cessnock, New South Wales.
North Rockhampton, Queensland.
Pennant Hills, New South Wales.
Stevedoring Industry Act - Orders - 1948 Nos.. 34-36.
House adjourned at 11.14. p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Northern Territory : Water Supply.
Mr.Blain asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Is the new water supply at Tennant Creekpumped from the bore near Franzel Deen’s battery suitable for drinking purposes?
Has any water softening plant been installed; if not, is it proposed to install a watersoftening plant?
Is it a fact that the delivery tank is open at the top enabling those who have portable pumps on their lorries simply to put their suctionhoses over the side of the water tank and pump their fill, and that those not so equipped have to wait many hours to allow the water in the tank to rise to the level of the pipe?’
If so, will he see that the tank- is enclosed at the top so that all the residents will have an equal chance of obtaining their issue?
Is it a fact that some of. the residents at the southern end of the field have to obtain their supply from Cabbage Tree Bore 7 miles south of the town, and that this water also is not suitable for drinking purposes?
Will he obtain a complete report from the Irrigation, Department in Queensland indicating’ their experience in placing concrete weirs, at intervals in the Lockyer Creekfor the purpose of forcing the water to seep, left and right and underground: to keep the agricultural’ water table at a constant level ? 7.If this scheme has been successful, will he consider placing a weir upstream, from the existing fresh water supply of Tennant Creek, so that the flood waters during the wet season may be held back and serve a dual purpose of providing a fresh water supply on the surface tor some mouths and. an underground supply for. the remainder of the year due to the natural seepage from the weir outwards in the sandy soil?
n asked the Prime Minister upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that the federal executive of the Australian Journalists Association. through the New South Wales District Committee, has conveyed to the Prime Minister a request that he inquire into certain charges made by the honorable member for Parkes on the 2nd September, 1948, and that he (the Prime Minister) make a statement to the Parliament on the matter?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
I am in receipt of your letter of the 9th November, concerning certain statements made by Mr. L. Haylen, M.P., in Parliament and have perused the documents you attached.
Mr. Haylen’s statements in Parliament are made by him as a member of Parliament and under privilege. His membership of your association is a matter between himself and your organization. I see no reason for appointing a committee such as you suggest. If this were done, any organization having a dispute with one of its members would be entitled to the same right.
y. - On the 6th May last in reply to a question upon notice, I informed the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) that I would furnish him with figures relating to (a) the number of permanent and (b) the number of temporary and exempt staff employed in Commonwealth departments at the 30th June, 1948 (vide Hansard, 6th May, pages 1548-9). These figures are -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I refer the honorable member to my reply to his question upon notice on this matter (vide Hansard, 17th November, 1948).
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) 3s. 9d. per valve; (6) The duty on wireless valves was increased from1s. 9d. per valve to the present rate of 3s. 9d. per valve on the 30th October, 1941; (c) Not payable.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 November 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481123_reps_18_200/>.