22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. C. P. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether there is any basis for the suggestion or statements that allegations have been made imputing largescale frauds in connexion with the health and medical benefits scheme to members of both the medical and pharmaceutical professions.
– There is no basis for these allegations. No such investigation is being conducted, and no such frauds are being perpetrated. These allegations amount to serious imputations regarding the integrity of the members of two professions, and I, personally, find it difficult to understand how responsible newspapers could publish them without adequate investigation.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been directed to statements reported to have been made by the Premier of Queensland on the subject of sugar cane prices? The statements, as reported, are rather loose, and, in my opinion, are not in accordance with facts. Therefore, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Queensland Government has made an application, on behalf of the cane-growers, for an increase in the price, and whether there has been any hold-up in dealing with such application. In short, what is the true position in relation to this matter?
– I have heard some very curious rumours about this matter, which is really perfectly simple. The cane-growers themselves have made an application for an increase of Id. per lb. in the price of sugar. That application was made to the Queensland Government, for reasons with which the honorable member is familiar, and the Queensland Government has forwarded the application to this Government, with a recommendation that it be accepted. The appli- cation by the industry, therefore, is concurred in, in terms, by the Government of Queensland. The application must go before Cabinet. It is at present with my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry. It will shortly come before Cabinet, and we shall deal with it as we have dealt with similar applications in the past
G EN Eli AL MOT 0 H SIlOLDEN’S LIMITED.
– In view of the Treasurer’s laudatory remarks regarding the activities of General Motors-Holden’s Limited, following that company’s recent announcement of a record profit, amounting to approximately .”60 per cent., will the right honorable gentleman state whether lie believes that any limit should be placed upon profits extracted from th.’ Australian workers and consumers, and. if so, will he give details in regard to such a limit? Further, will the Treasure.state whether he has completely and finally abandoned the idea of an excess profits tax, which he so vigorously advocated a few years ago, or whether he does not regard a profit of 560 per cent, as excessive?
– I shall deal with the latter part of the question first. The Government parties, in their statement of policy for the 1949 general election, promised to investigate the possibility of introducing an excess profits tax. When this Government took office, the very first thing it did was to appoint a committee of the very best taxation and other experts that it could obtain. The terms of reference of the committee required it to investigate and consider means of introducing an equitable and workable excess profits tax. The reports of the committee have been tabled in this House, and they have been referred to on more than one occasion. The complexity of the problem was mentioned by the committee, and the inequities inherent in an excess profits tax inevitably required the Government to abandon any such proposal. The Government’s decision is paralleled by that of the Chifley Government, in which the honorable member for East Sydney was a Minister, and which, I think, in 1947, removed from Australia’s statutebook excess profits tax legislation that it had introduced during World War II. The reasons advanced at the time are recorded in Hansard. If the honorable member, who was a responsible member of the Cabinet that decided upon the repeal, is not acquainted with, and would like to refresh his mind on the late Mr. Chifley’s stated reasons, I shall be very pleased to convey them to him. With regard to the profits of General MotorsHolden’s Limited, as I have stated previously, that company, and any other, is entitled to enjoy the benefits of Australia’s industrial and other laws, so long as it observes those laws. I would remind the honorable mem!ber again - it is very evident that he must be reminded - that, exorbitant though he and his colleagues consider the profits of the company to be, they would have been £1,900,000 greater, and the dividend paid by the company would have been correspondingly higher, had the Australian Labour party, in 1954, received a mandate from the people to reinstate the initial depreciation allowance. Companies such as General MotorsHolden’s Limited with an expanding programme would have been given the great advantage that I have indicated.
– Will the Minister for Territories tell the House what the Government is doing about agricultural extension work among the native people of Papua and New Guinea and what advances they have made in the production of the principal cash crops?
– To answer the question would require perhaps more time than is available at question time, but, in general terms, as part of the Government’s policy, special attention is being given to the development of agriculture among the indigenous people of Papua and New Guinea. Honorable members will realize that their agriculture is in roughly two departments - that which is devoted to the production of food for their own consumption in their villages, and that which is directed towards the production of crops either for sale in the Territory itself or for export. We have attempted to encourage and develop both forms of agriculture by embarking upon a campaign of agricultural extension work. Whereas a comparatively few years ago little attention was being given to this side of the work, at the present time there is something in the neighbourhood of 5.0 European agricultural extension officers engaged in it and 50 or so indigenous agricultural extension officers. Recently we established a school in which about 200 of the indigenous people are undergoing training in order that they may engage in extension work amongst their own people. On the side of the production of crops for export, the main lines of activity are in copra, coffee, cocoa, passion fruit and one or two other crops of the same kind. Speaking from memory, I would say that the total production for export by the indigenous people, as contrasted with the European settlers, would now be at the rate of about £2,000.000 worth a year.
– In view of the facts that the National Fitness Council meets irregularly, with long intervals between the meetings, and that there has been no significant increase of the Commonwealth grant for national fitness since 1946, will the Minister for Health give consideration to calling the council together to meet at Canberra, with him presiding, before the next Estimates are compiled, with the object of obtaining the ideas of the directors in the various States on the problems they are facing because of the inadequate finance available to them?
– I am constantly in touch with all the facts relating to, and activities of the National Fitness Council. The financial arrangements for it will be considered when the Estimates for the Department of Health are being put together for the next budget.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, but if the Minister for Trade is the appropriate Minister, will he please answer it? Is it a fact that under the scheme approved by the Government for the stabilization of the Australian dried fruits industry, growers would not be asked to contribute to the stabilization fund until the price of the fruit was £12 10s. a ton above the accepted costofproduction figure of £90 a ton, and that the growers would receive no ‘payment whatever until the price was £12 10s. a ton under the found cost of production? “Will this plan be put to a ballot of growers for acceptance or rejection? If so, will the Government give the growers a choice between this plan and a plan whereby growers would contribute to the fund immediately the price of fruit was above the cost of production and would receive payments immediately the price was below the cost of production, in the manner now enjoyed by the wheat industry?
– Negotiations were carried on for some time between the Australian Dried Fruits Association and the Minister for Trade in order to establish a stabilization scheme for the dried fruits industry. Recently, the industry submitted a scheme to the Government, through, the Minister for Trade and myself, based upon the idea of what is called a give-and-take arrangement. That arrangement is along much the same, lines as the honorable member for Mallee has mentioned. In other words, an average cost of production is established and then, within that average cost of production, costs are established for special varieties of dried fruits. The scheme submitted by the industry was that the growers should not be called upon to make a contribution until returns were a certain amount above the cost of production and that the Government, in its turn, should not be called upon to make a contribution unless the price fell a certain amount below the cost of production. The matter was considered by the Government, which made an offer to the industry. That offer was based on much the same concept and had the same characteristics as the plan submitted by the industry, but there were some slight differences, particularly as to the percentages above and below the cost of production which would require contributions to be made. The honorable gentleman will realize that the presentation of a scheme was a matter for the industry. The industry submitted its proposal to the Government. The Government considered it, and made an offer to the Australian Dried Fruits Association based on the give or take concept. I should like to point out to the honorable gentleman that only one recommen dation, or one submission, was made to the Government. I understand that the Government’s offer will be considered on Friday by the full committee of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, which will then communicate its recommendation or decision to the Government. If the committee approves, the matter will then be submitted to a ballot of growers. In regard to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question, I think it flows quite naturally from what I have said that a proposal is a matter for the industry itself. One proposal has been submitted, and further proposals to the Government are matters within the jurisdiction of the industry itself.
– I direct a question, in three short parts, to the Minister for Immigration. Has he any information to suggest that there is an organization in Australia actively engaged in promoting the repatriation of Russians? How many Russians have returned to Russia in recent years? What does the Minister believe to be the. explanation for these departures from Australia?
– As far as is known, there is no organization in Australia actively engaged in promoting the repatriation of Russians to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but for the past nine months individual Russians, including some former nationals of the. Baltic States, have been subjected to propaganda from newspapers and letters addressed to them by a Committee for Return to the Homeland, which was established in East Berlin under Russian auspices about twelve months ago. I understand that similar committees have also been established to deal with repatriation to other iron curtain countries. However, I am able to assure the honorable gentleman that the number of persons who have responded to this kind of propaganda has been significantly small. In fact, the. substantiated cases that we have been able to trace through 1955 and 1956 total 41, out of some 21,000 persons now in Australia who came from either Russia or one of the Russian satellite countries of the Baltic States. It will be seen, therefore, that a relatively small number of persons has returned to Russia or those other countries, and I do not think that it would be reasonable to suggest that all have done so as a result of propaganda of this kind. The honorable member sought explanations for this movement. When the number is so small, I think it may be taken that a certain number returned to relatives, some have not had their qualifications accepted here, and a few have felt, either because of loneliness or some expectation that conditions have improved in their former countries, that they would be happier there. But I think it is a tribute to the success that has attended the overwhelming majority in Australia that such a small proportion has taken this course. The Government, of course, places no restriction in the way of free movement of persons who first choose to make a life here and then decide against it. We are delighted that so many have found happiness and prosperity in Australia, and we would become concerned only if we thought that improper pressure or intimidation was being directed against them in order to influence them to return to their former homelands. In conclusion, however, I would utter a word of warning to any who may be contemplating returning to their former native lands as a result of propaganda which may be directed to them. Other experiences which have come to our notice suggest that it is easier to return than to come back to Australia if an immigrant, having returned to his native land, decides that his choice has not been good. In the past we have found that such persons, even although they were naturalized Australian citizens when they returned to their former native lands, have not found it easy to come back to Australia.
– Is it necessary for registered hospitals - private hospitals in respect of which social services or health service payments are made - to advise the Government of the number of nursing staff employed so as to ensure that there shall be a full quota of nurses and that attention shall be given to all patients? If this is a matter for the State governments, will the Minister for Health ascertain details of the systems, if any, that they adopt to police the staffing of hospitals?
– Under the National Health Act the Commonwealth cannot refuse registration toprivate hospitals that- are registered under the Jaws of a State. If a State government approves a private hospital for registration this Government must approve the payment to it of hospital benefits. We have some supervisory powers, but, in practice, they amount tonothing more than asking the State government to investigate when there is reason to suspect that conditions at a particular hospital are not satisfactory.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health and is supplementary to that asked earlier by theLeader of the Opposition. Does the Government maintain a large staff of pharmacists to check claims for payment under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act?
– The payment of benefits under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act involves many millions of pounds of public funds and, obviously, the Commonwealth must maintain an adequate staff with which to supervise the correct disbursement of those funds. The staff, although adequate, is not very large. In New South Wales, for instance, it numbers about 46, of whom only six are pharmacists. I think that the total number throughout the Commonwealth is about 109 or 110.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry say whether agreement has been reached with Japan on the activities of its pearl-fishing fleet in north Australian waters during the coming season? If agreement has been reached, will he indicate the area defined for fishing, and the tonnage of pearl shell to be taken? Will he also intimate when the Japanese fleet will commence operations ?
– Negotiations are continuing between the Australian and Japanese governments on the pearling operations of the Japanese fleet in Australian waters this year. A total tonnage has already been fixed. It .will be the same as last year. The areas in which the Japanese will fish, and the sub-areas in which, they will fish, with quantitative limitations are; now in the course of negotiation. I will, as soon as it is practicable, get for the honorable gentleman both the figures and the complete details of the areas and sub-areas in which fishing will be- permitted.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask him, first,, whether in view of the crucial importance of the disarmament talks which have occurred in London recently, he is willing to lay on the table of the House a memorandum in regard to them, and give the House an opportunity to discuss them. Secondly, would it be possible to emphasize further to the people of Australia the. way in which democracies have worked for atomic disarmament, and the way in which this has been obstructed by Soviet manoeuvres? Thirdly,, would it not be desirable that as many people as possible should be seised of the truth of these matters, in order, first, that the Government’s hand toward disarmament shall be strengthened and, secondly, that the necessary precautions pending disarmament may be undertaken more effectively? Does he recall that some weeks ago I was in. touch with him regarding the possibility of having Australian observers at the American atomic tests which are taking place? Can he tell me what has happened in regard to amy approach that he may have made in that matter?
– If I may answer the last part of the question first, we have not asked the United States administration for the right to send observers to this particular test, for reasons that I need not canvass. As to the earlier portion of the honorable member’s question, I would not like to say, offhand, that any documents could be tabled because I think that they should be examined, first of all, to see to what extent it would not be in the public interest to disclose them. I do not know. I shall say nothing about that one way or the other. I will certainly have it looked at with the idea of putting before the House everything that can be put on those matters. As the honorable member knows, there is a good deal of confusion, perhaps, in some minds about atomic disarmament. I do not say that he suffers from this illusion because I know that he does not, but there is- a good deal of confusion in some minds about atomic disarmament, as if it stood by itself. Of course,, it cannot stand by itself! It must take its part in a general programme of disarmament which will not leave the world under threat by any particular group. Therefore, the two matters always have to be considered together. Conventional armaments and atomic armaments must be discussed together if disarmament is to be discussed usefully. I do not need to tell him or other honorable members that, so far as the Western democracies are concerned’, they have, from first to last, approached the problem of disarmament in complete good faith and with a genuine anxiety to bring about some workable and properly inspected scheme. After all, we of these democracies have everything to gain - to put any other consideration on one side- - from ai process of disarmament which would enable us1 to concentrate more of our efforts and resources upon the development of the ordinary life of the ordinary man and woman.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services. If the Sydney City Council undertakes to build homes for age and invalid pensioners, will the Minister grant a subsidy of fi for each £1 spent by the council on such a scheme? As the legislation operates at present, institutions that wish to secure the Government grant are unable to find land or the 50 per cent, cash which they are required to find before they will receive any money from the Government. Should the answer be, “ No “, will the Government pay its just debt of £60,000 which is owing to the Sydney City Council in annual rates ? If the first answer is to be what I expect the second one to be, 1 will ask the Minister to ask the Government to resign and allow a Labour government to come into power- which will legislate for all the people. There anr thousands of our pensioners-: -
– Order ! The honorable member cannot make a speech when asking a question.
– These people are unhoused and unfed. I appeal to this Government to do something in the matter.
– If I may preface my reply to the honorable member for West Sydney with a few words of supplication, and with great respect to Robert Burns, may I be permitted to say, “ 0 wad some power the giftie gie us to hear ourselves as others hear us! “. Now, in reply to the honorable member’s question, let me say that the act which governs the assistance granted by the Commonwealth in connexion with the construction of homes for the aged specifically excludegovernment and local government authorities. The latter part of the honorable member’s question should rightly be addressed to the Treasurer.
– Is the Minister for Social Services able to inform the House whether the Social Services Act makes any distinction between disease or disabilities in the assessment of eligibility for rehabilitation; also, whether the rehabilitation services of the Department of Social Services are available to those unfortunate people who have been afflicted with Hansen’s disease, which is the term now commonly used for leprosy, but who have been cured of it?
– The House is well aware of the intense interest of the honorable member for Moore in the question of rehabilitation, and is particularly aware of his work in connexion with the rehabilitation of spastic children. I take pleasure, therefore, in answering the first part of his question by saying that the Social Services Act, as implemented by this Government, makes no distinction between particular diseases or disabilities, faults or frailties, in connexion with the provision of rehabilitation services. The principal medical officer of the department is completely satisfied that no risks are involved in making the rehabilitation services available to people who have been cured of Hansen’s disease, commonly called leprosy, and those services are available to these people so long as they are eligible for them in all other respects.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral why his department has refused to issue a postage stamp to commemorate the meeting, on the 22nd May, 1856, of the first Legislative Assembly in New South Wales, which. State comprised at that time, as he knows, Queensland, the Northern Territory and portion of South Australia, as well as the area now forming New South Wales. Was a request made by the Premier of New South Wales, as far back as last July, for the issue of such a stamp? If that was not sufficient notice, how much time does the honorable gentleman’s department require in which to design and prepare such issues? If, however, the occasion was not deemed of sufficient importance to justify the issue of a commemorative stamp, is the Minister aware that the United States of America invariably issues stamps to commemorate the centennial and sesquicentennial of the conferring of statehood and territorial status on the individual states. Does he also agree that the centenary of the first British self-governing legislature in the Southern Hemisphere is as noteworthy as, say, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Australian Young Farmers Clubs, the fortieth anniversary of the Australian Red Cross Society-
-Order! The honorable gentleman is now giving information, instead of asking a question.
– The Minister apparently needs it. I add the fiftieth anniversary of Rotary International. All of those anniversaries have been commemorated by special Australian stamps in the last three years.
– With the permission of the questioner I shall answer this question, because the responsibility in relation to this matter, as the honorable member will realize, is only in a nominal sense that of my colleague, who has been PostmasterGeneral for a very brief time. I find that a communication was made with myself, or with me through my department, by the Premier of New South Wales. I must freely confess I think that undue delay occurred in the handling of that matter. Had it been dealt with by me, personally, at the proper time, perhaps we should not have been up against the clock in this matter, as we are now.
It went to the predecessor of my colleague, the present Postmaster-General, and it was decided that, a great deal of consideration having been given at that time to the rather plentiful outpouring of special stamps referred to by the honorable member for Werriwa, the special issue should not be made. When the matter came before the present PostmasterGeneral, quite recently, he made the very appropriate reply - indeed, he could have made no other - that in the time that remained before the actual date of the centenary, it would not be possible to issue a stamp. It happens that this year is a very important year in relation to the celebration of the first form of self-government, not only in New South Wales, but also in two other States. Indeed, 1956 is the great centenary year of self-government. The PostmasterGeneral has seen me about the matter, we have had a discussion about it, and have agreed that, although a stamp cannot be produced in a week or two or even a few weeks, under the circumstances there ought to be a special stamp for this year and that it ought to have reference to each of these acts of creating self-government in Australia. I believe that that is the most practical way of dealing with something which I confess quite freely was the subject of an error.
– The matter ought to be expedited; and do not forget New South Wales.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman, and so does my colleague, the Postmaster-General. The matter will be dealt with expeditiously, because we agree that it is eminently desirable that in this great year of celebration of the establishment of selfgovernment, the event should be suitably acknowledged by the issue by the Postal Department of an appropriate and a properly designed stamp.
– If press reports that, the Royal Australian Air Force roundel may be changed by the addition of a kangaroo couchant or rampant, or some other symbol, are true, will the Minister for Air give the House a full opportunity, in view of the interest of many members in the part the roundel plays in the tradition of the service, to discuss the proposed change?
– I understand that the Department of Air is studying the desirability of adding to the Royal Australian Air Force roundel something that is singularly Australian in character, such as a kangaroo or boomerang, but so far the matter has not gone beyond that stage and nothing has developed. As far as I am aware, it has not been suggested that the present roundel should be discontinued, but that an Australian symbol should be added to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. In view of the reported disquiet of business and industrial leaders at the long delays in the submission of figures by the Tariff Board, and in view of evidence of dissension amongst members of the board, as indicated by the failure of the Government to present to the Parliament the opinions of one of the board’s members, which have been branded as biased and misleading, will the Minister place the full facts before the House so that the matter may be cleared up without delay?
– I have not a clue to what the honorable gentleman is referring to.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. In view of the great wealth of native arts and crafts in Papua and New Guinea and the wide variety of unusual flora and fauna located throughout the Territory, and in view of the changes that are taking place with the advancement of the native people, will the Minister inform the House whether he has considered the establishment in the Territory of a museum in which suitable specimens may be housed and preserved, and, if not, whether he will do so?
– I recognize that the honorable member for North. Sydney was a member of one of the parliamentary delegations that visited the Territory, and had a good opportunity of seeing the wealth of material of this kind that if there and the changes that are taking place. The subject he has raised has received the attention of the Government. As a matter of fact, it is one in which I have taken some personal interest and for which the Administrator, Mr. Cleland, has a good deal of personal enthusiasm. A collection has begun in the Territory of native arts and crafts and various objects of historical interest, and at the last meeting of the Legislative Council for the Territory, an ordinance was agreed upon to establish a Territory museum and to appoint trustees. A board of trustees has been appointed and I assume that its first act will be to prepare proposals for the inauguration of such an institution.
– -I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise : What limitations exist at present on the importation to this country of nylon fibres or cords of the type used in the United States of America for making long-lasting motor vehicle tyres? Would the relaxation of these restrictions enable Australian manufacturers to produce in this country motor vehicle tyres that would have longwearing qualities similar to those at present available in the United States ?
– I am not aware of any limitations placed by the “Department of Customs and Excise on the import of nylon fibres for making tyres. I expect, however, that under the present import licensing restrictions the quantity of such fibre that can be imported is limited because of our need to conserve foreign exchange. I believe that such fibres are manufactured in Australia. I am sure that the Department of Trade and Customs in the past and the Department of Trade since the 30th March last, have considered the needs of Australian industry so far as our foreign exchange can , permit in allowing the import of nylon fibres of the sort to which the honorable member refers.
– My question i? directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In a recent issue of the Weekly Commodity Notes Bulletin produced by the Division of Agricultural Economics, reference was made to the disposal by the Government of the United States of America of huge stocks of farm produce and, in particular, to the fact that butter was no longer a surplus commodity. Can the Minister inform the House whether the domestic consumption of butter in the United States is now in keeping with local production and whether the United States price support policy is likely again to bring about s surplus of subsidized butter production with its consequent unbalancing effect on world prices, particularly the price return on Australia’s export butter?
– I remember reading some time ago that there had been n substantial reduction in the stocks of United States butter. If my memory holds good, the reduction was from about 100,000 tons in March of last year to 5,000 tons in March of this year. So ir oan be thought that at the present moment domestic production would just about meet domestic demands. As to the future, those who have taken any interest in commodity prices over many years would, ] think, understand why a Minister of tb, Crown would never attempt to make n forecast. What the effect of the recent decision of the United States Government to increase price support by quite a substantial percentage will be,’I would not like to hazard an opinion.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a report that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited intends to increase the price of steel by approximately £3 a ton following a previous increase of 5 per cent, last year? In view of the fact that the price of steel is an important component in the economic structure affecting primary, secondary and building industries, does the Prime Minister intend to take any action to protect the Australian people? Does he share the view of most Australians that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has done well with the assistance of the protection that has been afforded to it, and has amassed substantial fortunes at the expense of the Australian people? Finally, will the Prime Minister encourage a new company to enter the field of steel production, and, to that end, confer with the State governments to ensure that iron ore will be made available to any new company that enters the field of iron and steel production?
– As to the bulk of the honorable member’s question, I think he had better place it on the notice-paper, because my attention has not been directed to the report in question, and therefore I could merely speculate if I gave a reply now. I think, however, that tt is proper to say at once that if there is any good example of a company that has not taken advantage of a protective tariff it is the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, because I think I am right in saying that that company manages to produce, in spite of all kinds of competitive elements, by and large, the cheapest steel in the world. That is a most remarkable performance for a. company that pioneered this industry in Australia at a time when most people thought it impossible to conduct such an enterprise successfully.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has stated on several occasions that Oakey airport in Queensland can be used as an alternate landing ground to Brisbane, provided that meteorological reports are suitable. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the forecasting of weather is done by postal officers in the district and not by officers of the. Department of Civil Aviation, and, as’ a result, cannot be expected to be as accurate as if it were done by an official forecaster. In view of the distance of other alternates from Brisbane* and the large operating costs and inconvenience involved1, can consideration be given to stationing a forecaster of the Department of Civil’ Aviation at Oakey during periods when Brisbane requires an alternate ?
– I am sure that all honorable members will appreciate the interest of the honorable member for Darling Downs in the aerodrome in his own electorate, but I think I should point out that the weather forecasting service is run by officers of the Department of the Interior, and that the policy is that forecasters are stationed at the capital city airports. These men are very highly skilled, and they do quite a good job. When they think it desirable to do so, they decide on an alternate for a particular aerodrome, and it is they who produce the forecast for the aerodrome that is to be used as an alternate landing ground. At the alternate there are weather reporters. In some cases, as the honorable member suggests, they are Postal Department officials: Over the years they have done a remarkably good job. Their function is not to produce forecasts, but to forward to the forecasters at the capital cities the statistics that are required by them in order toprovide the meteorological service. The location of forecasters at Oakey airport would not increase the availability of that airport, nor would the cost of such a service be justified.
– Will the Minister for Territories inform the House of the rates of wages that are fixed for native labourers in New Guinea and Papua under the native labour ordinances? When were they last fixed? Has there been any increase in the cost of living since they were last fixed ?
– The honorable member will be interested to know that within recent months the rates for native labour have been increased^ I do not carry the figures regarding the rates in my head, but I shall obtain the information and supply it to the honorable member.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Immigration. In a reply that the Minister gave to a question asked by the honorable member for Higinbotham, referring to the return to their former countries of Russians and nationals of other countries under Soviet control, the difficulty of those people later returning to Australia was stressed. The honorable gentleman indicated that difficulty had been experienced even by naturalized Australians. Is the fact that Australia has no direct diplomatic contact with Soviet Russia a reason for a foreign government detaining Australian nationals ?
– I do not think that the absence of any direct diplomatic representation would have such an effect as the honorable member suggests. Where Australia has no direct diplomatic representation in a country, we normally make our representations to the authorities concerned through the British embassy in that country. The British embassy itself has been no more successful than we have, in relation to nationals of the United Kingdom, or persons who perhaps would not have qualified fully as nationals of the United Kingdom, and who have returned to countries under Soviet control. I do not suggest that the numbers have been considerable, but there have been individual cases that have come to our notice of persons who have taken Australian naturalization returning to their former countries, and later finding difficulty in getting back to Australia. There has been some easing of the situation in recent years in one particular country where this has previously occurred, but I mention the matter as a danger that must be guarded against by those who contemplate abandoning their Australian residence and returning to their former countries.
– Some time ago, the Leader of the Opposition asked me to arrange to have prepared by the Department of Labour and National Service a memorandum that would provide some factual material and explanatory matter tracing the history of Australia’s arbitration legislation, and informing honorable members of the implications of the decision of the High Court in the Boilermakers case. I have had such a document prepared. It is not in the form of a ministerial statement, but is purely a departmental document, and it is, so far as I am aware, entirely factual. It covers the points raised by the right honorable gentleman. I think it would be of value to honorable members to have the document in their possession before I present certain legislation to the Parliament, either later this week or early next week. Copies of the document are available in sufficient numbers for honorable members who may require them. I formally lay the following paper on the table : -
Conciliation and Arbitration - Note on some aspects prepared by direction of the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– I thank the Minister. I have looked through the document during the last hour, and I think it would be useful for honorable members to have during the debate on the proposed legislation. That is why I have refrained from moving that the paper be printed. It may now be referred to by honorable members without any preliminary debate, and I am sure that all honorable members will find it most useful.
– As Chairman, I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from the 3rd May (vide page 1787), on motion by Mr. Davidson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “owing to the fact that all existing television licences in two States have been granted by the Government to corporations constituting in effect combines of newspaper, radio broadcasting and associated interests which already monopolize to a large extent mass communication of information to the people of Australia, and owing to the danger to the public interest and true freedom of expression being caused by newspaper concerns further extending their control over mass communication including radio broadcasting and television - the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted so as to include -
specific safeguards against detri mental monopoly practices by guaranteeing to the general public and to religious, educational, cultural, political and social organizations opportunities for a fair and just share at ownership or control of broadcasting and television licences and a fair and just use of the facilities of such services;
specific provisions to effect the following purposes: -
1 ) to re-establish and assure the regular functioning of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting and Television as guardian of the public interest in those two vital fields;
to assure the broadcasting or televising, free of charge, of religious services or subjects on an equitable basis both by the commission and commercial licensees ;
to ensure that facilitiesare provided, free of charge, on an equitable and impartial basis for the broadcasting and televising of matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current policies of national importance;
to provide adequate safeguards against the flooding of Australian television programmes with low-grade syndicated overseas productions to the practical exclusion of productions by Australians and for this purpose to guarantee that no less than an average of 55 per cent. of the transmission time of any television station shall be occupied by Australian programmes and that in the calculation of this time no account shall be taken of the time occupied by news and sporting events;
to secure that no less than an average of71/2 per cent. of the transmission time of any station broadcasting musical items shall be devoted to the broadcasting of works by Australian composers; and that in the calculation of this time no account shall be taken of the time occupied by news and sporting events;
to provide for the inclusion of a representative of the Treasury and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in the personnel of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to assure that that commissionshall include a resident of each State;
to restrict the initial granting of broadcasting and television licences to three years; and
8 ) to protect sporting bodies and sport organizations against their fixtures being televised or broadcast without their consent or without fair and adequate remuneration “.
.- This bill is intended to amend the Broadcasting Act 1942-1954. Its main feature, of course, is the provision relating to the establishment of television services in Australia. In consequence, it is a very important measure indeed. It demands the earnest attention of the Parliament, which should not make decisions about it lightly, but should weigh them very carefully. I say this because the advent of television will cause a considerable change in the personal habits and the home activities of television viewers. When viewing a television programme, one must abandon all activity except, perhaps, smoking and eating. Writing, reading, sewing, housework and conversation must cease. In addition, the television programmes will have a marked impact upon the community’s social life. Reports from overseas indicate that television has re-created family life. Because of these factors, the House should consider very seriously the implications of the bill. I think it will be generally agreed that the implications of television are two-fold.
It can be a force that enriches a nation’s cultural life - I think all honorable members on both sides of the House fervently desire that it shall have this effect - or, on the other hand, it can be an influence that gradually debases all social and cultural values. Those are the implications that we must consider very carefully in our consideration of this measure. Because of the great social consequences that could eventuate as a result of initial mistakes in the introduction of television, the House should studiously examine the bill’s clauses and their apparent implications before it gives the measure the seal of approval.
I regret to say that, the further the bill is examined, the more defects are found in it, and I vouchsafe the opinion that, if it is passed in its present form - I hope the Government will accept the amendments that will he moved at the committee stage - it will perpetuate many glaring anomalies and injustices which will seriously impair the efficiency of our about-to-be television system. These faults are so glaring that I think a babe in arms could see them. If they are not corrected in the initial stages of the establishment of the television system, the Austraiian nation will not receive the obvious and complete benefits of the expenditure of the large sums of public and private money envisaged. One of the reasons why the introduction of television has been postponed for a number of years is that it was considered that we should observe the results of television in other countries and benefit by the mistakes of other countries; that we should allow television to settle down on a stable basis elsewhere, and thereby obtain a better perspective of what we desire to have in Australia. But I consider that the Government has not drawn upon the experience of other countries, because the bill has been very loosely drafted and, regrettably, shows scant consideration for the rights of responsible sections of the community.
To my mind the second-reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) was full of ambiguities and pious hopes that certain people will do the right thing in all circumstances. I am afraid the Minister is too trusting. I have not the slightest doubt that he was completely sincere in his remarks concerning the bill, but he is altogether too confident that certain people will do as he hopes. I express the opinion that his high hopes that everything will come out all right in the wash because certain groups of people will play the game will certainly not be realized.
I notice that the Government has perpetuated the principle of a dual system of television, with both national and commercial programmes, which was embodied in the Television Act 1953. I am not a constitutional lawyer, but, from the information I have been able to glean from people who profess to know something about constitutional law, it appears certain to me that, under section 92 of the Australian ‘Constitution, it is not possible to have national television alone. The Australian Labour party accepts that view. While the Constitution remains in its present form, we have to do the best we can in the existing circumstances. Labour accepts the fact that we should have a dual system, and the comments of Opposition members during the consideration of this measure will be directed towards making the best of the dual system upon which we are about to embark. We have no quarrel with the Government’s decision in favour of a dual system in the light of the present constitutional position. It may be said that the Australian Labour party stands for national ownership, but it stands also for the observance of the laws of the country as they stand at the moment. Therefore, the comments made, and the amendments to be proposed at the committee stage, by Opposition members will be directed towards improving the bill and ensuring the introduction of a better dual television system later in the year.
I am very much afraid that, although the Government has recognized the principle of a dual system, it has made mistakes that, in the future, could count against the perpetuation of this system, because a grave danger of monopoly under the commercial licensing system exists. The ‘bill proposes that no person shall own, or exercise control over, more than two commercial television stations in Australia. Obviously, that provision is included because an issue was involved. I suggest that the Minister’s statements are an admission that the power to influence people’s minds should not be concentrated in the hands of small groups of individuals. The Government recognize.0 that. Otherwise, it would not be proposed in the bill that no person or persons shall have control of more than two commercial stations. The Government recognizes the danger of a private monopoly.
That being so, one would have thought that, in issuing licences to private individuals, the Government would give effect to the view that was expressed so strongly by the Minister. But we find, that television licences have already been issued to people who control radio, press and amusement interests in this country - people who already have a monopoly so far as mass communication is concerned, in other avenues of our system of life. One would have thought that, in view of the danger which the Minister has admitted to exist, television licences would have been issued to people other than those. But no ! The Government has actually cut across the path of its own argument. If it were consistent, and if it were sincere in its protestations, it would have ensured that the licences were given to groups of people other than those which operate radio stations.
In the past, quite a lot of opposition has been expressed to the introduction of television, on the ground of its cost. Responsible men on both sides of the Parliament have raised the question whether it would be prudent to proceed with television at this stage, when numerous national projects, both public and private, find it impossible to obtain essential capital. Apparently the Government has weighed the pros and cons of the matter and has decided to proceed. But I want to point out that, whether we have a dual system or a publicly owned system, the community as a whole will have to pay for television. The publicly owned system - that is, the stations operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission - will be financed from licence-fees and taxation. The private system will be financed from increased charges made for the goods and services advertised on television screens. Advertising on television could reduce the prices of the goods advertised only if it were responsible for an extraordinary increase of the sales of those goods. But, because of the smallness of the Australian market, which consists of only 9,000,000 people, and the high cost of advertising on television, that will be impossible except in odd cases.
Therefore, the plain, unvarnished truth, which this House and the Australian people must recognize, is that television, both publicly and privately operated, will be paid for by the man in the street. Some people have argued that the existence of commercial stations will reduce the burden on the people. That is not so. The mere fact of having com mercial stations will not give us something for nothing. The cost of commercial television will be paid when we buy » cake of soap or any other product of a firm that advertises on television. It is obvious that advertisers will increase the prices of their products in accordance with the cost of television advertising.
When television is introduced later this year, it will have a tremendous impact upon the way of life and the thinking of the Australian people. Whether it will be to the benefit or the detriment of the community depends entirely upon the programmes presented. Reports from the United States of America indicate the depths to which some commercial stations will descend in order to ensure that their sessions command public support. But, as one who has not seen television programmes overseas, I must admit thai it is rather difficult for a person living in Australia to obtain an unbiased opinion of the effect of television programmes upon audiences overseas. Eminent authorities all over the world have expressed conflicting views about the social effects of television. It is quite possible that the exaggerated and extravagant statements that have been made by both supporters and opponents of television are wide of the mark, and that the truth is to be found somewhere between the two sets of statements. However, by sifting the chaff from the wheat, it is evident that if television programme planners were allowed an unrestricted choice of progammes in this country, as in other countries, very harmful effects would be felt by the community. Because of the effect by television programmes upon the community, it should be the concern of this Parliament to ensure, as far as it is humanly possible to do so by inserting safeguards in the act, that no debased material will be televised to the Australian people.
There is a conflict of opinion as to the effect of television upon the life of a community in which it has been in operation for a number of years. No conclusion appears to have been reached on that matter. That makes it rather difficult for us to be dogmatic, but, as far as I can gather, the danger in Australia is that the limited consumers’ market here - we have only 9,000,000 people, compared with about 170,000,000 in the United States and about 50,000,000 in the United Kingdom - may cause advertisers on commercial television, in a desperate effort to cover their costs, to adopt some of the worst features of American standards and methods. That is a grave danger, of which this Parliament should be aware. The Government has recognized the danger up to a point, because clause 40 of the bill proposes that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board shall have power to ensure that neither licensees nor advertisers disregard the trust that has been placed in them to provide decent and healthy programmes for the people.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, promised that the Government would stand behind the board in its administration. I hope that the Minister will stand up to that promise. I hope he will not be scared away from his duty by a hue-and-cry raised by commercial interests about a decision by the board, which might be described as typical of government regulation and the evils of censorship. I hope that, whatever happens, the Minister will stand by the board. If he does not do so, the promise embodied in his speech will not be worth the paper on which it is printed. However, we can only wait and see. We cannot be dogmatic about the matter at this juncture. Knowing commercial radio stations, I should say that such control will be necessary. I hope that, when the occasion arises, the Minister will not run away from his obvious duty to clamp down upon people who try to debase our cultural standards.
In the final analysis, television will be judged by the result of its impact upon the community. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board occupies a position of great responsibility and trust. I think I am expressing the view of the Opposition on this matter when I say that I hope that, if occasion demands, the trust that has been reposed in the board will be discharged fearlessly, and that the board will not yield to any pressure exerted upon it to permit the televising of a programme tainted with a breath of suspicion of its cleanliness.
One of the greatest problems associated with the television industry is the compilation of a balanced programme. At this stage, I should like to pay a compliment to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) for the particularly valuable contribution which he made to this debate last Thursday. I support up to the hilt the remarks that he made then. This Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that television does not become a medium for the dissemination of imported culture and ideas. There must be ample opportunity for the presentation of Australian culture and the Australian way of life. But I am very much afraid - indeed I am certain - that that will not be so. Already the indications in this country - oven a blind man can see them - are that the supporters of the idea of devoting a reasonable proportion of television programmes to Australian culture and the Australian way of life will have a very hard fight on their hands, because of the marked reluctance of this Government to grapple with that problem.
Overseas interests, contemplating the introduction of television in this country, have been paving the way for the marketing of television films and programmes in Australia. We know this on the best of authority because trade journals have already advertised that American television programmes are here in abundance awaiting the commencement day of the system. In addition, programmes being prepared this year for use on American stations will cost 100,000,000 dollars. I have no doubt that when those programmes have been televised in America they will be transported across the Pacific for use in Australia. When one considers the number of years that television has been operating in America, the number of programmes available for import to Australia at a moment’s notice can readily be appreciated. These can more than satisfy our needs in television programmes for all seven days of the week. To the number of television programmes already available here, and those being made and stored in America, available to be brought here very quickly, must be added the formidable list of old films which are now being released for television purposes by the major American film companies.
The dangers inherent in this situation were admirably expressed by the honorable member for Parkes. Unless we are careful, television can become merely a method of displaying overseas “ talkies “ in Australian homes. That is the situation which will develop unless the Parliament stands up to its responsibilities and supports the incontrovertible contentions of the honorable member for Parkes. The facts that were made known, to the Parliament by the honorable member cannot be disputed. Parliament is the only body which can rectify the position. The Minister was quite hopeful that television companies would do the right thing. As a matter of fact, right throughout his address he said that he was hopeful of- this, but what is the good of being hopeful? Provision should bc. embodied in the legislation to make them do the right thing. If we do not start on a good and fair basis, it will be extremely difficult to remedy the position once these companies obtain a vested interest in television. If, after a period, it is found that the system is not working to the advantage of Australian artists, who will be up against vested interests, it will be difficult then to remedy the position, whereas now it is easy to do the right thing.
In an endeavour to placate Australian artists and the protagonists of the Australian stage, screen and ballet, the bill provides that television stations shall devote not less than 5 per cent, of the time occupied in the broadcasting of music to the broadcasting of works of Australian composers. That is a mere bagatelle, a sop to cover the the real omission from the bill, caused by the Government’s refusal to impose a quota in distinctly legislative terms. The Labour party does not desire to harass the Government in this matter ; it desires to make helpful suggestions. “We wish to ensure that the errors of other countries are no; perpetuated here, so, in an endeavour to help the Government, an amendment will be moved in the committee stage to provide that 55 per cent, of the programmes shall be devoted to Australian artists. 1 suggest that that is a very small percentage indeed. This problem was faced in Great Britain, where there is an agreement although not embodied in the broad casting acts, between the television authority and the associations of artists and writers, that 80 per cent, of the material used for television shall be of British origin. That provision is incorporated in a distinct agreement. The system in Australia is not the same. We are not establishing a television authority like the British authority, and the only way of ensuring justice for our people is to incorporate suitable provisions in the legislation. I cannot understand why this Government, claiming as it does to represent the whole Australian community and always loud in voicing Australian sentiments, has so resolutely set its face against doing something which to the veriest tyro appears so obviously necessary. Australian artists can hold their own with those from other parts of the world, but surely the Government could have been patriotic enough to ensure that, right from the very inception of television in this country, they are given a reasonable chance to show what they can do.
– Where are the Australian artists to be obtained?
– I have in my possession a letter which I received this morning from a Liberal supporter in my constituency. He writes that he is a member of a company which for two years has ben preparing to take part in the televising of live artist shows, but the members of the company are so appalled at the provisions of the bill that they are very much afraid their two years’ preparation will go for nought, because they cannot hope to compete with’ cheap imported American films. These films were produced in America at very high cost, but because they have proved successful from a commercial point of view it is possible to dump them on the Australian market for a mere song. That is what is being done, and for that reason our artists are being grossly neglected.
– What did the honorable member’s friend intend to do on television ?
– He was a singer. I will allow the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson) to read the letter, and I shall be pleased to let him use it if he can do something for these artists.
I now come to another instance of the Government’s sophistry in attempting to whitewash its gross acts of omission. The Minister said -
It shallbe an obligation on the commission and the licensees of stations to use the services of Australians as far as possible in the production and presentation of television and also broadcasting programmes.
But without the insertion of some specific protection in the bill, our local talent will be accorded very limited opportunities to prove itself.Well-meaningsentiments expressed by the Minister - and I have no doubt they are well meant - will not be of much avail against the tremendous quantity of imported television material which will flood the television studios of this country. Adequate protection should be afforded in the bill to the Australian performer who, under the proposed organization, has no hope of competing on an equitable basis with high-cost American programmes resold here at low prices.
Before I conclude, I should like to say something about the amendment which will be moved in committee in relation to the re-establishment of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting. I had hoped that the Government would decide to re-establish that committee, because there is quite a job for it to do in the near future. Television stations are to be established only in two capital cities. The Minister said that the Government is eager to extend services to country centres when practicable. He said that the Government considers it should defer such action until the Sydney and Melbourne projects are more advanced. He went on to say -
Wo have special problems to face in providing television services for our great areas and unevenly distributed population, and we shall be able to learn much from our experience with the Sydney and Melbourne services that can be applied with profit to other areas.
I suggest that that is a job for the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, which was established to act as the watchdog of the broadcasting industry, as the Public Works Committee is to public works and the Public Accounts Committee to departmentalaccounts. This could well complete a trio of committees. The two already in existence arc doing commendable work and that which
I propose could be equally useful by examining the problems facing this country in adopting television. The committee could watch its effect in the suburban areas of Melbourne and Sydney and ensure that the mistakes which will undoubtedly be made there will not be perpetuated when television comes to the other cities, or to the country.
– Such a committee was set up under the act.
– That is so, and the Government is actually taking the provision out of the act. True, the committee has not functioned since 1948, but in the last six years there has been little for it to do. We have had an established and well-defined broadcasting system, but are now faced with an infant television system presenting numerous possibilities for examination. Such a committee would have ample scope. The Government has missed an excellent opportunity to gain the benefit of periodical reports from a deliberative body such as this, which could draw its information from a variety of sources. I have not the slightest doubt that the committee would produce a prolific flow of intelligent information which could assist the Parliament when it faced the television problems of the future. I regret that, so far, the Government has not accepted this suggestion. The Opposition has offered advice in a spirit of co-operation because it wants our television system to be something of which Australia can be proud.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The primary purpose of this bill is to provide television for the people of Australia. Television is one of the great discoveries of the age, and it is amazing how, through the centuries, discovery follows discovery. The great poet Tennyson was wont to say -
But perhaps the drama of discovery was best expressed by Keats in the famous words-
Then I felt like some watcher of the skies-
Whcn a new planet swims into his ken;
Television has been described as the greatest contribution to knowledge since the discovery of printing, which undoubtedly brought tremendous knowledge to the world. From the outset printers endeavoured to provide the very best. Amongst the earliest books were the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, the Arthurian legend by Sir Thomas Malory and, of course, the Bible. On the other hand, some printers have reviled people in high places and the ordinary man in the street, and have published other things that have been quite unworthy of appearing in print. Perhaps one of the worst results of the introduction of printing was that it rang the death-knell of the wonderful art of the illuminated manuscript - an art both beautiful and spiritual. The point that I make is that there seems to be no good without an accompanying loss.
This prompts one to “ think with wild surmise “ - as Keats said - about the future of television because, as has been pointed out, it brings certain dangers in its train. These are of all kinds and may he instanced. It has been suggested that television viewing may affect the taking of outdoor exercise ; that it may affect the art of reading; that it may affect the creative mental faculties; that it may result in the production of programmes of obscenity, cruelty and horror; and that it may dominate the minds of children and occupy the whole of their time. On the other hand, the good side has also been emphasized. It has. we are told, fine possibilities. It has been said that it will improve the art of reading by directing it along new channels; that it can stimulate the creative faculty; that it can stimulate men to consider matters of art, science, travel and exploration; that its dramatic appeal is far greater than that of sound broadcasting because one sees with the eye instead of hearing with the oar; that it has great propaganda value, great educational value and so on. Al! these things point to the importance of censorship and the need to provide the best type of programme, lt has been suggested that there is no need for censorship because the laws relating to obscenity and defamation nic adequate and that one can also rely on the self -regulation of the licensees. We have been told that television stations will ensure that only the best is provided because of the force of public opinion. Stations will, of course, fail if they are not supported by public opinion, and for that reason, it is said, they will have to provide the best programmes. That is probably an overoptimistic point of view, and when one considers that a great number of the people who will watch television will be young children who cannot be expected to have discriminating minds, one must come to the conclusion that the matter can hardly be left to the self-regulation of licensees. That being so, the Government has very wisely provided for the imposition of a form of censorship control that is much more flexible and sensible than the dictatorship which existed under the original Broadcasting Act introduced by Labour.
That control will prescribe standards. There will not bc a power to direct that a particular programme and no others shall be used, but rather an authority to insist that programmes shall comply with certain reasonable standards. That, I would submit, no one could cavil at. A further censorship provision - again, not dictatorial - provides that if the Broadcasting Control Board has reason to believe that a programme is objectionable it shall become subject to censorship. I emphasize the words of the bill, “has reason to believe “. It must be a wellfounded reason. It will not be sufficient for the board to say, “ We think that this is objectionable, therefore we shall censor it”. If no reasonable objection can be taken the matter will be beyond the power of the board. In addition, the Government has recognized the fact that, so far as it is possible, programmes should be Australian in character. It is well known that American programmes have been of a dreary type. In many instances, they have been below the deadly, dull level of mediocrity. Some have been far below flint level. To those honorable member5 who have said that, .under this legislation, only American films will bc seen on television, I say that if ever films such a? those which are shown in thu United States at present are offered to Australians, the commercial stations will not. be very popular and they will not succeed. They will be failures.
The Government has provided that Australian programmes shall be used, and that a certain proportion of the music used shall be Australian. I am somewhat amazed at the criticism that has been made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and by some other members of his party with regard to this matter. Surely they know that the words in this amending bill go much further than the words which were used in the original legislation introduced by the Labour government, which merely gave lip-service to the support of Australians. It merely said, in effect, “ Of course, we shall encourage Australians as far as possible “. The Government has gone much further than that. It has said that Australian programmes shall be used - an imperative. In addition to that, the Government has said that twice the amount of Australian music shall be used as the amount that was provided for in the Labour legislation. So when the Opposition asks for 55 per cent, of television programmes to be Australian, it is only creating the usual smoke-cloud that it uses on such occasions as this. The Opposition has hung a veil in front of this matter, but when one lifts the veil and sees behind it, one is no longer deceived. Ear more support has been given to Australian artists in this bill than was provided in the legislation of the Labour government.
I pass to the subject of sport. On that matter, a proposed amendment has been circulated .by the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), which aims at the protection of those who promote sport. I believe that the proposed amendment embraces a very proper provision. It provides that a sporting event shall not be televised without the consent of the promoters. Unless some such protection is given people will remain at home to see telecasts of sporting events, which will be carried on at a complete loss to the promoters. Once that happens, sport must immediately deteriorate. Sport must be able to carry itself. Finance, as in everything else, is fundamental to sport. Unless we are able to provide for the protection of sporting bodies, before very long the quality of sporting events that are seen on television will become poorer and poorer. This must necessarily happen if attendances at. sporting events constantly fall away.
With regard to religious broadcasts, if has been remarked that under the previous legislation it was not possible for a cleric in his pulpit properly to comment on public affairs. He could be subjected to censorship and control if he did so. I am happy to say that that provision, which was put into the original act by the Labour government, disappears under the bill. Then, again, the power given to the Broadcasting Control Board to exercise a political control was placed in the act by the Labour government because it wanted to exercise political control over its opponents. Under this bill, that provision is to be excluded from the act. The present Government does not want to exercise political control over its opponents.
The bill provides for two classes of stations, national stations and commercial stations. That is very proper because if will provide competition, and it is by competition that the highest standards can best be attained. It is true that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who speaks so often as a lover of freedom, has no love for the freedom of private enterprise.
– Private monopolies!
– As has just been indicated, his view and that of members of his party is that private enterprise is monopoly. They can consider private enterprise only as monopoly. In addition to denying freedom to private enterprise, the Leader of the Opposition, when it suits him, talks about the liberty of the press; but whenever he gets the opportunity he proceeds to attack the press. He so attacked the press the other night-
– He attacked the monopoly of the press.
– According to the Opposition, when the press is given its rights, it becomes a monopoly. Of course, when the Labour party wants to use the press in order to gain its rights, the press is not a monopoly. I shall develop that aspect in a moment. It may be that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr.
Cairns) may have some difficulty in understanding this. It would not be the first time he has been in difficulties in this House. But I come back to my subject. I was dealing with the fact that the press has certain rights in this country. The rights of the press are upheld in this country. One of the great liberties in which we believe is the liberty of the press, which my opponents can only regard as a monopoly. The truth of the matter is that they have not been able to produce a. press themselves because no one believes the nonsense that they publish from time to time in their trivial little papers. It is a tribute to the press of this country that the people have such confidence in it that it has been able to establish magnificent newspapers. It has also been able to satisfy the Broadcasting Control Board that it will be able to carry out television operations in a proper manner. The press also has the confidence of the country that those operations will be carried out in a proper manner.
I now turn to the other aspect of the matter which relates to the fact that the Labour party is so desirous of achieving a political monopoly. I do not hesitate to emphasize that the Labour party is desirous of a political monopoly. What has happened with regard to its application for a television licence ? An applies Hon was made by the Leader of the Opposition on behalf, so he said, of the Australian Labour party. He has a great habit, of course, of going to commissions and boards without getting the authority of his party, and afterwards getting into difficulties with his party. It is rather interesting to note that the Broadcasting Control Board pointed out in its report that, apparently, when he made his application on behalf of the , Australian Labour party, he had not first obtained the authority of the party, and he had afterwards to get it, for something that appeared to be an authority was later placed before the board by him in the form of a telegram. That, of course, is just an instance of the contempt with which he treats his party. He does not consult his .party beforehand; he simply goes ahead and does exactly what he wants to do. This is the great lover of freedom of the air, who says that he believes, to quote the Canadian view set out in the report, that the air should be free for the people, and so on, and that it should not be capable of being used for political purposes. What does he do> when he appears before the board? We have a report about what he intended to do politically had he been granted the licence to operate a television station for which he applied. I notice that the honorable member for Yarra is strangely silent at this stage. When the Leader of the Opposition applied for a licence, stated to be for his own political party, and for the purposes of that party, he was asked by the board about the opportunities that would be afforded by the station for the expression of points of view other than the Labour party’s point of view. And the report states -
He did not make it clear-
I emphasize those lovely words ! -
He did not make it clear whether the station would be prepared to afford equal opportunities for the expression of other points of view.
What delicate irony ! How could equivocation be more exquisitely expressed than in that passage of the board’s comments? The board did not say to the Leader of the Opposition, “Well, you came along here and tried to throw dust in our eyes, but we were awake to you “. It merely used the delightful phrase, “ He did not make it clear- “. This, Mr. Deputy
Speaker, is the lover of freedom of the air, the man who is a great believer in the principle that the air should not be used for political purposes; who holds, to quote the words used in his proposed amendment, that facilities should be provided “ free of charge, on an equitable and impartial basis for the broadcasting and televising of matters of political . . controversy “. Where is his impartiality, when he would not even make it clear that he was prepared to give opportunities for the expression of other points of view over the television station which, to operate, he applied for a licence? Of course, we know him of old in this House. We know that all this prating we hear so often from him about freedom and justice and so on is only a veil cast over his real beliefs and intentions and what he wants to do for his own convenience.- He believes that he will benefit by misleading the people into seeing him as the apostle of freedom, whereas, in fact, he is out for himself all the time.
When the right honorable gentleman’s actual performance in relation to this particular matter is contrasted with the noble sentiments contained in his speech and with the principles he states in his proposed amendment, one must ask what sincerity we can believe there is in the amendment, or in his speech. He is simply playing politics, and playing politics, to use the phrase I used earlier in connexion with American television programmes, is the dull, deadly level of mediocrity.
.- The Opposition welcomes the bill inasmuch as it sets down the date for the commencement of television in this country; but I think that that is the beginning and the end of agreement between the Opposition and the Government on the measure. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has proposed a comprehensive amendment, and I shall devote some of my remarks to it later on. Before addressing myself to the bill I should like to make some reference to the contribution to this debate just concluded by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). I thought it rather a pity that he should have marred the last fifteen minutes of his speech at any rate by indulging in a personal attack on the Leader of the Opposition, and also by making a number of completely unfounded comments about the Labour party’s attitude to freedom and about Labour newspapers. The honorable member also misrepresented an interjection that was made when he said that the Labour party did not favour private enterprise. On the contrary, the Labour party has absolutely no objection to private enterprise; but it is definitely opposed to monopoly capitalism. We do not conceal our opposition to monopolies, and it can be taken for granted that the Labour party, as the Opposition in this Parliament, and in its activities outside this Parliament, will, on every occasion, avail itself of tie opportunity to oppose and criticize monopolies in Australia and, if necessary, monopolies abroad.
The honorable member for Balaclava said that the Labour party had failed to conduct newspapers successfully. But 1 point out that the failure of the Labour newspapers in the past was due, not to the mere fact that they were Labour newspapers, but to the boycotting of them by commercial interests in the various capital cities. It is quite true that Labour newspapers have failed, but mainly because of the fact that they were not able to carry on in face of the advertising boycott that was used against them. They had to exist under a system of capitalism. Advertising is the lifeblood of a newspaper, and the commercial interests in the capital cities decided amongst themselves to boycott Labour newspapers, and withhold advertising from them. That is basically and fundamentally one of the vital reasons why Labour newspapers havefailed
The assertion of the honorable member for Balaclava that the Labour party is desirous of achieving political monopoly is quite inaccurate. In fact, the Labour party is a democratic party and upholds the traditions of democracy. But, it. does not apologize for asserting its rights in its efforts to have itself heard adequately and properly throughout this country. It is true to say that the Labour party’s point of view in the past has been misrepresented not only in newspapers but also over the air. The fact that the Labour party applied to the board for a television licence which would have enabled it to place its point of view before the people does not mean that it did anything unusual. It is apposite to point out here that when the licences for broadcasting stations were allocated many years ago a number of members of the Liberal party received licences to conduct radio stations. Members of the Australian Country party benefited similarly. It is true that the Labour party also obtained licences to conduct radio stations in different parts of Australia. The action then of the Labour party in taking the necessary steps to ensure that the people of this country would be able to hear the views of Labour from a Labour party source was not unwarranted. The application of the Labour party for a television licence was equally warranted, and was the result of past treatment of the party by such vested interests as newspapers and radio stations. It was an action that the Labour party was justified in taking.
I believe that the advent of television to Australia is to be welcomed, first, because it will provide an impetus foi great cultural advancement, and also because it will bring to this country a number of new industries, thereby extending the scope of employment here. It must also, of necessity, assist the development of our defence potential, and is especially to be welcomed on that account. Nevertheless, there is a considerable number of dangers inherent in the introduction of television, and I hope that Australia will not fail to consider the experiences and the mistakes of other countries in the initial stages of television broadcasting.
I feel that in approaching this question the Government is taking far too much for granted and is not prepared to shoulder the responsibility that rests upon it. The bill does not contain sufficient safeguards. The Government is running away from its responsibility and is saying that it will allow the interests that will control television to ensure that reasonable steps are taken. The history of broadcasting in Australia, particularly since this Government assumed office in 1949, shows that not always has a very high standard been adopted. I direct Attention to the fact that a Labour government set up State advisory committees, which did a tremendous job of work in maintaining a high standard of broadcasting. Having been a member of one of those committees, I can say quite definitely that they experienced neverending hostility from representatives of the commercial stations and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. When an anti-Labour government assumed office, the act was amended to provide that such committees “ may “ be set up. As a result, the committees ceased to wrist, and the various broadcasting interests have had the field completely to themselves.
It is true that broadcasting has done much to assist in the cultural development of this country and that, generally speaking, the standard is very high. I regret to say that in some instances the commercial stations, apparently impelled by the need to make money, are concentrating on the broadcast of programmes that feature what can only be described as murder, horror and suicide, and are not making any contribution towards cultural development. The Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, in a brochure that it has sent, to honorable members, has objected to the increase of broadcast fees by, at the most, a total £30,000. If we consider the fact that last year the Australian commercial broadcasting stations made a profit, in round figures, of £1,500,000, I fail to see how the payment of an extra £30,000 will impoverish them. For people who earn so much money and give comparatively little in return to complain about being asked to pay an additional per cent, is completely unjustified. I have very great sympathy for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which does a national job and caters for everybody’s needs. It is frequently criticized, sometimes deservedly, but it does a job that the commercial stations will not attempt to do, simply because there is nothing in it for them financially. As far as I am concerned, the complaint of the commercial broadcasters’ federation about being compelled to pay an extra per cent, falls completely on deaf ears.
One proposition advanced by the.Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in submitting his amendment particularly deserves the serious consideration of the House. T refer to the need to prevent the flooding of the Australian market with television programmes of the kind that attracted stringent criticism when they were presented overseas. There is not the slightest doubt that, because of the effect television is having upon the lives of people generally, many persons, particularly those who have only commercial minds and who believe they are entitled to make money by any means they choose, think they are entitled to publish, either in the press or over the radio, any form of entertainment they wish without taking proper standards into consideration. When television was introduced in other parts of the world, many obnoxious productions were televised, and I have no doubt that the interests that were responsible for their production overseas will attempt to introduce them to this country. I do not know just how this problem will be met, because I understand, from my reading of the report of the Royal Commission on Television, that the board that is to be constituted will act in association with the film censor, and that suitable films may be televised. What is to be the situation if, on the one hand, the film, censor says that a particular film is not suitable for exhibition, and, on the other hand, the board to be set up under this bill says that it is suitable for television? I think that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) should examine the relevant clause and have it clarified so that we shall not have two authorities with perhaps one making the other look ridiculous. The proposal that has been advanced by the Leader of the Opposition to ensure that that kind of thing shall not happen is worthy of consideration.
The suggestion of the Opposition that 55 per cent, of the transmission time should be devoted to programmes featuring Australian items is not unreasonable. It is obvious that persons who have been engaged in television for many years will attempt to capitalize the situation in Australia. We should insist that our own people are protected and that our own broadcasting industry is not allowed to languish. Those persons who depend upon television for their livelihood are not asking too much when they suggest that the quota should be fixed at 55 per cent., nor is the Opposition asking for too much when it suggests that an average of 7rJ per cent, of the transmission time should be devoted to Australian musical compositions. I understand that the figures published by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board show that the average for last year was approximately 4 per cent., and I believe that it could be pushed up considerably. I am not satisfied with the statement made from time to time by various persons that they are giving the maximum possible time to such compositions when they devote 4£ per cent, of their total time to them. ‘ A few months ago, certain broadcasting interests got into a bit of trouble over the question of royalties. Because certain overseas interests were asking for increased royalties, members of the commercial broadcasters’ federation decided not to broadcast overseas records. As a consequence, there was a considerable increase in the broadcasting of Australian records and, of course, that in itself was not a bad thing. But that situation arose because the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations refused to pay the increased royalties that were demanded, and turned to the Australian field. As a result, the Australian field received a considerable impetus. If the demand for increased royalties had not been made, I take it that the Australian industry would not have received the impetus it did at that time.
Under the bill, it is proposed that those fortunate enough to secure a licence will hold it for a period of five years. It is interesting to read the report of the royal commission on that matter. One cannot find any substantial argument as to why the increase from three to five years should be granted. One would have thought that when the commission proposed the extension of the period, as it has done in this instance, it would have given reasons for its views, but other than stating that it considered the extension reasonable - without defining what was meant by reasonable - gave no reason for the recommendation. I submit that the people who hold television licences should hold them only for the period for which broadcasting licences are held, and that is three years.
The fact that the Government has made no provision to include representatives of the Treasury and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in the personnel of the Australian Broadcasting Commission calls for comment. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department has the responsibility for the technical side of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s activities. Undoubtedly, there is a dual set-up in that field ; but I do not think that any good would come at the moment from discussing that aspect of it. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department maintains control and conducts the technical side of broadcasting, and will conduct the technical side of television, but no provision is made for the inclusion of a representative of that department on the commission. In view of the prominent part that this department plays and will play, it is logical to suggest that a representative of it be appointed to the commission.
In the amendment that has been proposed to the House it is suggested, among other things, that the Government should take steps -
To assure the broadcasting or televising, free of charge, of religious services or subjects on an equitable basis both by the Commission and Commercial Licencees.
As I have said before, this Government is not taking any action at all other than to suggest that these things should be done both by the commission and by the people who hold the commercial licences. It is unreasonable that those matters should be left completely to the holders of these licences, and the Government should take proper action to safeguard them. In other countries a provision is inserted in the relevant legislation to provide a safeguard. It is not very impressive for the Government to say that it believes something should be done. It shirks the responsibility of taking action to ensure the broadcasting or televising of religious services or subjects on an equitable basis. The Government has the authority to insist upon these things being preserved in the way that it suggests they will be. As I pointed out, governments of other countries have not left it at that. They have been quite adamant about it, and have not been timid in using their authority. They have not left it to other people to interpret their wishes but have made their attitude unmistakably clear by including a provision in the bills that they have introduced in their respective parliaments. The failure of the Government to take that course leaves it open to criticism. I suggest that the position should not be left as the Government is leaving it, and that is why the proposition that has been suggested by the Opposition commends itself.
A further paragraph of the proposed amendment suggests that the bill should be re-drafted -
To ensure that facilities are provided, free of charge, on an equitable and impartial basis for the broadcasting and televising of matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current policies of national importance.
The field of television will be rather a narrow and limited one for quite a number of years to come. The Labour party does not conceal its opposition to these people who have been fortunate enough to get commercial licences. The Leader of the Opposition demonstrated quite conclusively the monopoly trend. The newspaper-broadcasting-television tie-up is completely effected. The interests that predominate in the newspaper world and the broadcasting world are now to control television. The Labour party is asking not only that its rights but that the rights of all political parties be preserved in this matter. Here again, I submit, in view of the treatment that the Labour party has received down the years, particularly from the newspaper interests of this country, that we are justified in trying to see at least that our right to express ourselves and to get our point of view before the people is preserved. “We are not asking for anything unusual ; we are not asking for privileges. We are asking to be treated as all political parties should be treated.
The Labour party has not received fair treatment at the hands of the press and radio down the years. Undoubtedly newspapers are entitled to express their points of view in the editorial columns, but the presentation of news is an entirely different matter. When I refer to broadcasting, I base my opinion on what happens in Sydney. I venture to say that at least 75 per cent, of the commentators who are heard over the respective broadcasting stations each night in Sydney cannot be classified as being sympathetic or even impartial in politics. It. would be very hard indeed to find a person who could be impartial, in the real sense, on political matters. There are some people who claim that they are nonpolitical, but they are non-political only on matters that do not relate to the Labour party. It is asking too much to expect a person to be impartial in the heat of a political controversy or on a very important question. As a consequence, we find ourselves in the position where there is no safeguard to ensure that our point of view will be heard. We are dependant upon radio commentators and people who have written for newspapers, and they play no small part in moulding public opinion. Basing our experience on what we have suffered in the past, we have every reason to fear the future. The amendment that has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition is a reasonable one. It proposes something that will benefit not only the Opposition, but also all other parties. The considerations that affect political parties are similar to those that affect religious organizations. The Government has shirked its responsibility in this very important field. An inquiry was held in Canada some years ago which dealt, among other things, with certain aspects of television. I think I am right in saying that one of the recommendations that resulted from that inquiry was that all political parties be allowed certain time for television broadcasting. The suggestion of the Opposition in this chamber is, therefore, not unique. A precedent has been established. In fact the practice that is suggested in the amendment has already been adopted in other parts of the world. Why has not this Government faced up to its responsibilities and ensured that all political parties in this country will have their rights safeguarded in regard to television?
I conclude by saying that I hope that television will achieve certain things for this country, first in regard to cultural pursuits. Secondly, I hope that a new industry will be established in this country that will increase our defence potential. I regret very much the circumstances in which this Government has seen fit to introduce this television measure. The Government proposes to hand the control of television to a monopoly. It cannot bo denied that monopoly interests will control commercial television in Australia. This Opposition knows very well the effect of monopoly control of certain industries on trade unions and the Labour party in this country. The Government, has, in the past, failed to take adequate measures to protect what we believe are fundamental rights in a democracy. In this legislation the Government has failed to protect the interests of people who will bo vitally affected by television. For those reasons, I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. TURNER (Bradfield) [4.481.- - The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), who spoke earlier in the afternoon, portrayed himself as “s.-.me watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into ken”. In this chamber this afternoon it would be easier to see a new planet than any interest on the part of honorable members in the subject-matter of this debate. I suppose the reason is that the bill is. in large measure, noncontroversial, and that Opposition members in general, despite some criticism, of detail, agree with its main principles. Nevertheless, the fact is that it is a most important matter, and one upon which every honorable member should give the House the benefit of any ideas that hemay have.
Television opens up a new prospect.. It begins a new era in this country. The members of this Parliament will either be praised for their wisdom or condemned for their folly according to the way in which they deal with this most important sociological change. I shall read to the House certain statements that indicate how very important television can be in the lives of the people. I shall read, first, some remarks made in evidence before the Royal Commission on Television by Sir Richard Boyer, than whom, I believe, there is none more qualified to express an opinion on these matters. He pointed out the tremendous impact of television upon the viewer, and said -
There is a primitive element in sight which seems to go deeper and bc more critical than sound can ever be . . .
Sight, in addition to being the most intense of the avenues of consciousness, is probably the most primitive . . .
Progress in thought and most branches of culture moves from the visual to the nonvisual . . .
Too heavy concentration of attention upon things that may be seen force into the background, those activities of conceptual thought and reasoning to which we should all advance
A continuous diet of spectacles could adversely affect the reading, conversational and individual thinking habits of a generation.
That may seem a somewhat gloomy view, and indeed a wholesome corrective has been supplied by Professor Dallas Smythe, of the United States of America, who has said -
Here is a technique to make imagination spin. There is hardly a phase of our civilization that could not be made . . . more rich in meaning for our generation. f believe that the impact of television upon children will show very clearly what it may mean for the rising generation. A survey that was made a few years ago in the United States of America showed that, four years after television had been introduced into that country, and’ people had become accustomed to it, teen-agers, or adolescents, were spending thirteen and a half hours a week as viewers. I imagine that they would not spend a great dea more time than that in school. So that, for good or evil, this new technique must have a great effect upon their lives.
Let me show, by way of illustration, how much more effective telecasting is than broadcasting. I shall take an illustration that will be plain to the minds of all honorable members. Suppose - although I hope that this will never be so - the proceedings of this Parliament were to be broadcast by television. I have no doubt that many thousands of people are familiar with the eloquence of honorable members as heard through ordinary sound broadcasts. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) indeed does not need telecasting to make him more eloquent. Nevertheless, I think the eloquence of his eyebrows would make his speeches more forceful to those who watched him through the medium of television. No doubt when the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) steps forward to the table, having explored all avenues and left no stone unturned to dig out of Hansard something that was said in 1905, his smile of triumph would be appreciated by television viewers. I may mention, too, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) How greatly would his speeches be enhanced if one could see the gleam in his eye as he came down with some phantasmagorical statement directed against this side of the House. When the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) speaks of the doubtful doom of human kind, his efforts might even be banned as constituting the equivalent of a horror film, although I am not so sure on that score.
There is, however, another aspect of the vividness that is associated with television. If the proceedings of this Parliament were being broadcast, and a division were called, imagine the expectancy of the public;, a3 they wondered which side was going to win. It is not something por trayed after the event; it is something that is actually taking place, and no doubt great excitement would be engendered by wondering whether the Government would be defeated or not. Consider, as another illustration, the telecasting of the running of the Melbourne Cup. There would be great expectancy among viewers, because no one can really know by how many whiskers a horse wins unless he sees it for himself. The public would not merely be hearing in retrospect about the running of the event, they would be seeing it for themselves. I mention these things not merely by way of being humorous, but because I want to emphasize the fact that television has a vividness and an immediacy far beyond anything that sound broadcasting could ever achieve. Therefore, its impact upon the mind of the next generation will be immensely important to all of us. As the honorable member for Balaclava said, it can be a power for good or for evil. lt. may be, as one writer described it, a Prometheus or a Frankenstein monster. If I remember rightly, Prometheus was the mythical hero who stole fire, meaning by that all the arts and civilization, from Heaven and brought them to mankind.
– That is the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen).
– That is so. The honorable member will notice, too, that it was heavenly fire.
– Ye3. On the other hand, of course, television might be a Frankenstein monster - a mechanical monster that man devised and that, inevitably, will be the instrument of his own destruction. I think it is significant that the London Times chose the heading “ Pandora’s Box “ for a leading article on the introduction of television in England. Pandora was a mythical lady - I suppose it had to be a lady - who brought all the troubles to the world. She opened the box, and all the troubles from which we now suffer, including the Opposition in this House, were let loose. The Times foresaw that television had not only potentiality for great good - the Promethean qualities - but also potentiality for great evil. That brings me to the real issue that confronts Australia in this measure. Will it permit what is good or what is bad ? That is the central issue and theme that I wish to discuss. Do the provisions of the bill tend in the one direction, or in the other? Shall we proceed on the upward path to a better civilization, or shall we take the downward path - the easy descent to Avernus that will lead to a form of culture lower than we now have?
I begin my examination of the bill by referring to two assumptions that I make. In the first place, television has come, and there is no denying it. Up to this point of time, there might have been arguments whether television should be introduced at all. The former honorable member for Henty, Mr. Gullett, engaged in such argument with great vigour. Television has been introduced in the other democracies. We, in Australia, have delayed as long as it was possible to delay. Television is being introduced in this country very gradually, but it is here. It is no longer useful to debate whether it is wise to introduce it and whether we should devote to it resources that might better be devoted to national development. The second assumption with which I begin is that, whether we like it or not - whether or not the Australian Labour party likes it - the dual system of national broadcasting and commercial broadcasting cannot be avoided. Lawyers, who are entitled to respect, are clearly of the opinion that it is impossible, under the provisions of section 92 of the Australian Constitution, as interpreted by the highest courts in the banking, transport, and other cases, to prevent commercial television. So those two great grounds of controversy are removed. The only way in which the second issue could become alive again would be by some amendment of the Constitution which one cannot at present foresee.
A great English educationist, Sir Richard Livingstone, said that education should consist in the perpetual contemplation of greatness, because people are influenced by example more than by anything else. Whether we shall get that, or something like it, from television remains to be seen. I have before me the latest issue of the American magazine Time, dated the 7th May. In the radio and television section I see the kind of fare that is being provided by commercial television in the United States; of America. Apparently, at this time, the American people see and hear nothing but hill-billy songs. Some of the sentiments expressed in these songs are asfollows : -
I’ve been workin’ hard the whole week long-
But I’m gonna have some wine, women and( song.
If she’s a honkytonk angel, I’m the devil! that made her that way.
I mean a lot to my Mom and Pop
I just hope I mean somethin’ to you.
I do not think that indicates Promethean qualities. I think it tends in the otherdirection. I quote those titles as an illustration of what was happening last week in the United States.
– Two of the examples sounded very interesting.
– -We have not time togo into the details now. What are thepowers for the control of commercial’ broadcasting contained in the bill? That is the real issue to which we come in the consideration of this measure. In the first place, the licences granted to commercial television stations are granted subject to conditions, and, in particular, subject to standards for television programmes that have been laid down and’ circulated by the Postmaster-General, and which, by the way, contain many of thestipulations that the Opposition saysshould be contained in this measure. Whether they should be contained in thebill or in the specified standards is a technical matter. But they will, indeed, beincorporated in the conditions under which the licences are granted. Secondly, the licences can be suspended, cancelled or not renewed. In this there is a great power that will enable the Government to enforce the conditions laid down, particularly those in relation to programme standards. The only question I have in my mind is whether the sanction is Loo great; not that I would dispense with it in an appropriate instance ; far from it. If a television broadcasting station were to behave itself so irresponsibly as to merit the cancellation of its licence, I should be the first to agree that the licence ought to be cancelled.
But, in this power, we have a sledgehammer and, on occasions, we might wish to crack a nut. It is difficult to see how, with such a great power, and only that great power, available, we could ensure that programmes were good when they may fail in some relatively minor, but important, respect. For example, if we made the stealing of a handkerchief a hanging matter, we should not do much to prevent the stealing of handkerchiefs.
A third matter of emphasis in the bill is very important. I refer to the placing of the onus for the observance of proper standards in programmes fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the licensees, not on the advertisers. This means that it will be of no use for the licensee to say, in effect, “ This time was sold to a given advertiser. If he has used it for a programme you do not like, he is the miscreant, and you must punish him “. The bill very properly proposes to put the onus fairly and squarely on the licensee. In this, it will adopt a principle analogous to a principle adopted in a different way in the United Kingdom. But, although these powers to ensure proper standards of programmes are contained in the bill, one must bear in mind certain other matters. In the first place, the Minister and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are established as a pair of watch dogs to keep under control the commercial stations, which, in this regard, may be envisaged as something like dragons, because they will be immensely powerful. The licences have been granted to organizations that combine tremendously powerful interests in newspapers, radio and films. They are immensely powerful, not only in regard to their financial resources, but also in regard to the media of propaganda available to them. The question that arises is : How far can the Minister and the board be effective watchdogs when they are confronted by such a formidable dragon? I believe that the Parliament itself - not simply the Government - must stand solidly behind the Minister and the board in the discharge of their duties as guardians of the public interest.
Secondly, one has to bear in mind the tremendous pull which an advertiser must have. Television programmes are tremendously expensive to produce. The advertising revenue required must be very substantial. Therefore, the coverage, or the. appeal to the public, must be very wide indeed. That may result in an appeal to the banal and vulgar rather than to the intelligent and discriminating. That position could very well rise from the fact that the advertisers, who pay the piper, are likely to call the tune. Thirdly, if we had a national system, with an authority such as the British Broadcasting Corporation in sole control of television, it would be inspired by a positive purpose, but under the dual system - which we must have, whether we like it or not - the Minister and the control board are trying to drive a team of rather unruly horses while the reins are being jolted constantly from their hands. They cannot be inspired by a positive purpose. They are trying to control something which may run off in all directions.
Out of the dilemma arising from the necessity for control in the public interest and a desire to give as much freedom as possible, standards have been laid down. If those standards give too much freedom, there may be licence. Things that it would be better not to telecast will be telecast. On the other hand, if our standards are too restrictive, we clamp down on initiative and innovation. Looking at the standards, one finds that among the subjects that are to be handled with great care by licensees is crime. What happens to our old friend Bill Sykes? Is he to be eliminated? Suppose a modern Dickens were to write about another Bill Sykes. Would he be excluded? Violence is also something which, as we all agree, must be treated with discretion. What happens to Titus Andronicus? Is Shakespeare out of court as well?
Religious susceptibilities must not be offended. Would the film Martin Luther, that was shown recently, be permissible? A programme must not reflect upon the sanctity of marriage. I do not know whether A, P. Herbert’s works would be allowed to be telecast, or whether a play such as Clemence Dane’s Bill of Divorcement would offend some susceptibilities. Drunkenness is something that must not be portrayed in a favorable light. Of course it should not! But what will happen to our good old friend Sir Toby Belch and his merry men? They are portrayed in a most pleasant light. I know that many children have been Thoroughly enjoying performances of Twelfth Night at the Elizabethan Theatre in Sydney. .Sex relations must be treated with discretion. I do not know how Romeo and Juliet would fare.
Then the English used must be correct, although - I quote now from the standards documents - “ appropriate idiom may be employed sparingly, when necessary for special characterization”. Could a station broadcast The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, which is extremely idiomatic? It will be said, of course, that there is no intention to block out Shakespeare or Dickens, but that is not perfectly true. Suppose we have a modern writer who is not quite so well known as Shakespeare and Dickens. Will he be censored? It may be said, “ If his stuff has great artistic merit, it will not be censored “. But the real mischief is that that budding Shakespeare or Dickens, writing for television, might well hesitate to write things which the original Shakespeare or Dickens would never have hesitated to write. So we may get something that would please the heart of Dr. Bowdler. Yon will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that Dr. Bowdler edited the Family Shakespeare and that in his preface he said that he hoped that his edition would not “raise a blush to the cheek of modest innocence nor plant a pang in the heart of the devout Christian “. His name has become a word in the English language.
I do not want it to appear that I am suggesting that great liberty should be given and that these standards are too restrictive. Unless they are as restrictive as they are, we might well have matter telecast that all of us would agree ought to have been censored. All that I am doing is to point to the dilemma. The standards may be too strict, or they may not be strict enough. They may block out good work, or they may fail to block out things that ought to be eliminated.
The criticism of the British Broadcasting Corporation, until commercial television was introduced in England, was that it was too cautious, too insipid and too bureaucratic in its approach. Within the last two or three years, the Independent Television Authority was set up in England. The Government owns the station, but the time was let out to programme-contracting companies on a commercial basis. When that was done, people in England expected fullbloodedfreedom, scope for innovation, and so forth. I should like to tell the House of the experience in Great Britain since commercial television was introduced there, and also the experience in the United States of America. Mr. J. Nelson Tuck, an American columnist, tells us that the United States networks “ are moving towards programme contractor control through over-stiff resistance from the sponsors” - that is, the advertisers. He says, “Advertiser control all too often means aiming the programme at the lowest common denominator in order to reach the maximum number of potential customers “, and “ such control is responsible for many of the worst abuses of the American system”. There is an admission by an American, whose judgment is pretty sound, that advertisers have been responsible for very poor programmes in the United States. That provides some support for what this Government has done in placing the onus for a programme upon the licensee, not the advertiser. That is the trend in the United States.
Bernard Hollowood the English Punch critic, speaking of the British Independent Television Authority - that is the commercial system - has said that it has adopted lower standards than those to which Britain was accustomed when the British Broadcasting Corporation was the sole telecasting authority, and that the British Broadcasting Corporation, like Harold, has left its lofty stockade to do battle in the lowlands. In other words, since there have been both national and commercial television in England, the standard has declined. Mr. Hollowood goes on to point out how, feature by feature, the British Broadcasting Corporation has been trying to compete with the Independent Television Authority and to- outdo it. That could well happen here.
When the Australian Broadcasting Commission begins to telecast, it may find that, because it has to compete with the commercial stations its standards will be lower than they would have been otherwise.
One can draw certain conclusions from this examination of the principles involved in this legislation. First, it is clear that we must have television, whether we like it or not. The approach of the Government is a cautious one which, I think, in that respect, has the support of at least the vast majority of members of the House. Secondly, we must have television now. We cannot postpone it any longer. Thirdly, it must include both national stations and commercial stations. That is inescapable by reason of the provisions of the Constitution. I have pointed out that a tremendous onus rests upon the Minister and the control board, and I suggest that the board might well be strengthened. The Government has reduced the board’s membership by two, by removing the two representatives of government departments.
– Not from the control board, but from the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– I was under the impression that the Government proposed to withdraw from the control board the representatives of the Treasury and the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– They have been on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The control board still has five members.
– My argument is not affected. The point I am trying to make is that such a heavy responsibility rests upon the Minister and the board that the board ought to be strengthened. Unfortunately, in Australia it is so often necessary, when constituting boards and other bodies, to have representatives from this, that and the other State, and as a result it often happens that the best men are not always appointed. So, as we must have representatives from the various States, there should be a sufficient number on a board like this to ensure that, in addition to that necessary representation, we also have persons who bring special experience and qualifications to the task. In the case of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I have in mind that we have at its head Sir Richard Boyer, a man of great cultural attainments, of considerable wealth, and of high moral purpose and principle, who has given his services in this field, and towhom is due, perhaps more than to any other person, credit for the very high standard that has been achieved by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. An honorable member says, “ Hear, hear “, and I believe that what he says will be re-echoed by every other honorable member on both sides of the House..
The Broadcasting Control Board is being vested with great power and responsibility. I do not know any of its members. I am prepared to believe that they are all of very high quality, but I do believe that the membership should be larger so that provision may be made not only for representation of the various States, but also for the inclusion of men of the highest qualities. I should be glad to see the number increased by two or three, as the Minister may think fit, so> that the board may be made as strong as possible in the interests of the people of Australia, whose watchdog it must be.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Everybody in the Parliament is eager todo his best in the consideration of this, bill. I do not think that any of us has practical knowledge of the ramifications of television, but we realize that it ha? dangers as well as advantages, and we are all bent upon avoiding its dangers as fatas possible and making best use of its advantages. I have no doubt that ultimately television will be controlled by American interests, and unless the Government introduces legislation to protect Australian interests we will definitely be. in trouble. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) mentioned the televising of the Melbourne Cup. I am sure that Australians, no matter in what part of the world they may be, would love to see the Melbourne Cup televised, but if television falls into the hand’s of American interests we shall not see it;, instead, we shall have to watch the Santa Anita handicap. We should very much like to see our cricketers on the television screen, but instead we should have to watch a baseball game, in which we are not at all interested. The Australian way of life in all its aspects would be completely overlooked. Recently, a very fine athlete defeated John Landy, and American television audiences were tremendously enthusiastic as they thought an American had won the race, but when they found it was just another Australian they were not interested at all.
– The honorable member should give them credit for being sportsmen. He should be fair to them.
– They were not interested. There was wild enthusiasm when they thought an American had won, “but almost dead silence when they learned the truth. Over recent years, science has made very rapid strides, but unfortunately scientific discoveries are not being used to the best advantage of mankind. Television could be equally as destructive to our social and cultural life as could the atom bomb to our physical wellbeing. Grave dangers are inherent in it. It may be used to assist in obtaining the best from life, in which case it could be of great value, just as could atomic energy if used for the improvement of production and the betterment of mankind, instead of being converted into bombs for the purpose of destruction. “We recall that when moving pictures were first made companies were formed to exploit the new invention. Although the first moving pictures were very crude, they were most profitable because they had never been seen before. Those companies prospered and, when talking pictures came into being, they were able to control the talking picture industry. As a result, they obtained enormous power, socially and economically, and were able to inculcate new ideas and policies throughout the world.
The same procedure is being followed with television as was followed with moving pictures. Television, providing both vision and sound, has a greater potential value or danger than the talking picture ever had. Generally speaking, the talking picture has not contributed to the uplift of the people. When applications were received for television licences, it was obvious that picture show combinations, the press, international news services, and kindred bodies were all linked, and under the provisions of the bill they will have entire control of television and the subject-matter to be presented. That will be the situation unless amendments are made in the bill, and the situation will be wholly undesirable having regard to the best interests of the Australian public. We have to consider whether the Australian public should have to listen to and view programmes produced overseas by organizations which, in the past, have not been a very desirable influence. Consequently, the suggestion that Australian artists should be given an opportunity is very sound indeed.
On the political side, the Labour party’s application for a licence was refused. The national broadcasting stations will receive a licence, but the balance of the power wielded by television will be in the hands of .private enterprise. I know that the Government is a great believer in private enterprise and considers that only private enterprise can do anything properly; but one can never be positive about these things and it is very probable that the Government is incorrect in this instance. In view of the fact that television may affect our cultural and social outlook, it is very doubtful indeed whether private enterprise, which is chiefly concerned about making profits, is best able to give to the Australian public the programmes that it should have. Through television, private enterprise could control our education and indeed our very way of life. It could hold the balance between war and peace. Television is sufficiently powerful to do even that, and this emphasizes the necessity for the Government to consider the proposals of the Opposition so that Australia may be protected as far as possible when television ultimately comes to this country.
One can gain an idea of the possible influence that can be wielded by commercial television programmes if one studies the imported comic strips that appear in our press. They are all from the same source and they are written in a language that we do not know in Australia. Where they can be understood, they provide us with shocking examples of bad grammar. Rubbish of that sort could be just as easily fed to our youngsters over a television network. Governments have found it necessary to censor certain forms of imported literature because of its filth and unsuitability for the younger reading generation. It comes from the source from which commercial television will draw its films and programmes.
Paramount Pictures, which will play a leading part in Australian television, has limited Australian investment in its enterprise to 4 per cent, of the totalcapital. Unless the bill is amended, such organizations will- have complete control of the programmes submitted to the Australian .public. The social menace presented by bodgies and widgies, which is agitating the minds of many governments, is undoubtedly a product of cheap films. This menace, already substantial in America and Britain, is growing in Australia. It is quite foreign to our way of life, and has resulted from the showing of a certain type of film to our young children. “What Australian child had, until recently, ever heard of Davy Crockett ? He had certainly heard of Ned Kelly who, by comparison, would have been the better of the two. The Davy Crockett influence has been so great that more than one Australian youngster has cut up his mother’s fur to make a Davy Crockett hat. All sorts of other things have been done in order to emulate him. I only mention that to show how easily youngsters can be influenced.
Cheap and shoddy Western pictures - many of them re-hashes of former films - are thought good enough for Australian theatres. Their merit is usually judged by the numbers killed in them, and the speed with which they are killed. Are we not likely to find the same standard on our television programmes if film producers control them? This is a serious and important matter. I hope that the Government will give earnest consideration to preventing this sort of thing from impinging upon the Australian way of life.
Also very important is the economic aspect. There is no doubt that Australia produces talent equal to that found anywhere else in the world, although often our people have to go to other countries in order to gain recognition because the local press and the other organizations who make money out of talent have done very little for them. Some of our greatest writers and poets would have starved in Australia. They were obliged to go overseas. On the other hand, the Ampol talent quest has done much to encourage talented young Australians and bring them before the public. We know that certain companies are granted a remission of income tax in respect of money spent on advertisements. They have done a mighty big job in bringing before the public many talented young Australians.
Let us have a look at the soap man. Let us take the gentleman who has demonstrated very clearly his ability to catch sharks. He has caught sharks over 1,000 lb. in weight in the waters of north Queensland. But I would say that the programme submitted to the public by Robert Dyer is hardly edifying.
– One can turn it off.
– Turn it off ! Of course, one can turn it off ! But I am thinking of children and people like the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman). T am not speaking of intelligent people. T am speaking of children and people like the honorable member who cannot turn it off. I could turn it off and I do turn it off. I do not like these programmes. But we shall leave Bob there. He has given out the few quid that he has to give out, and is now saying goodnight.
Many good books have been written in Australia concerning the Australian way of life. I do not think that any member of the Parliament will deny that fact. But, with few exceptions, the writers have received little encouragement because the people to whom I have referred control even the publication of books. If they wish to boost a book, that book can become a top-seller. If they like to turn a book down or criticize it, they can kill that book. Many good plays have been produced by Australians, again with very little encouragement. I think that one of the best pictures produced in Australia was a picture named It Isn’t Done. It depicted an Australian landlord, the type of man who sits on the opposite side of the House, who inherited a title in the United Kingdom. He went to the United Kingdom, where he met a cousin who was very aristocratic and who thought that he should have inherited the title. The Australian chap did all the things that were not done in the United Kingdom.. For instance, he talked to the butler after the day’s work -was done; he followed the hunt club in a Ford four. There was a very nice touch at the end of the play when he went to the cemetery to see where his boy, who had been killed in World War I., was buried. There he met his cousin, who had also lost a boy. The Australian had become fed up with the life that he was leading in the United Kingdom and he decided to come back to Australia and let the cousin have the property. It was a very fine picture; my description of it is very crude. An American company engaged every artist in that picture, broke up the picture and never showed it. The American company gave every artist a contract, but the. picture never appeared again. In my modest opinion, it was the finest picture ever produced in Australia.
I will cite Paramount Studios Proprietary Limited as an instance of a state of affairs which is the main reason for the lack of encouragement of plays produced in Australia. The Paramount company can exhibit pictures that have very little merit. Owing to the company’s control of a large part of the distribution of films, its pictures are assured of a profit. The company has so much control over the distribution of films that it does not matter how much a picture costs, because the company can ensure that it makes a profit on every picture. The question of merit does not enter into it. One of its main lines is a lady such as Miss Monroe half concealed in a bath. The Hollywood people have no contact with the outside world. Hollywood is a private lunatic asylum. It has its own particular outlook, which is controlled by men -of not very great intelligence except insofar as the making of money is concerned. Therefore, the outlook of Hollywood will not be any good to Australia. I emphasize that fact because, undoubtedly, unless the Government makes the necessary provisions, the state of affairs that will exist in relation to television will be similar to that which now exists in relation to wireless broadeasting.
The request contained in the amendment that has been proposed by the Leader of *he Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is that at least 55 per cent, of television programmes shall be supplied by Australian artists. Is that not a fair request? Is not that a reasonable request? Should not we, as Australians, do everything possible to ensure that Australian talent is accepted throughout the world? Should we not ensure, as far as possible, that our way of life and our outlook generally is put before the children of Australia ? Should not we be able to let the young people of Australia know that we have talent, in Australia which is head and shoulders above the talent that has been presented to us from the United States of America and other countries ? I think that it is of paramount importance that we should do that. It is also of economic importance because many Australian artists depend solely on their engagements for the upkeep of themselves and their families. So, from an economic point of view, and in order to publicize the Australian outlook, we should take the necessary steps .to ensure that Australian artists are allocated the right proportion of time on television.
Another aspect of the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition is that the dissemination of our Christian religion through the various church bodies requires consideration from a spiritual point of view. We should see that our Christian way of life is given time on television in order that it may be widely disseminated amongst our people. The request for full dissemination of parliamentary debates deserves consideration in order to enable the people of Australia to see, as well as to hear, their elected representatives in this Parliament. They would thereby be helped in deciding whom they would favour with their votes in general elections. Many honorable members make excellent speeches in >x parochial sense, and it is interesting to speculate how they will look to the electors if the proceedings of the House are televised. Parliamentary speakers of the future may not only have to be very careful about what they say, but also very careful about their deportment and general appearance. However, whilst the suggestion for the televising of parliamentary proceedings should be seriously considered, there is a great danger of television being used for party political purposes. I do not say that either this side of the House or the other side would use it for such purposes hut, nevertheless, the danger would exist. Use of television for such purposes would be bad for Australia.
.- At the outset, I should like to congratulate the Postmaster-General-
Opposition members interjecting,
– Yes, I wish to congratulate the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), despite the groans from the Opposition, in that the first bill that he has introduced since assuming office will, I believe, have historic interest in the years to come. Who would have thought in the early part of this century that the human voice would, before the century was a quarter spent, be sent travelling around the world at the speed of light? Who would have thought in the early 1920’s, when programme broadcasting started, that to-day we would be facing considerable difficulty in obtaining sufficient radio frequencies for our ordinary sound broadcasting purposes, and that short-wave broadcasts initiated in Australia and beamed overseas, would be heard all over the world ? This bill marks i -a further forward step in the history of < broadcasting, and I repeat that, with its introduction, the Postmaster-General is j making history, in that in time to come it [ will be recognized that the high standard of television in this country, which I am 8111’e we shall have, will have resulted from the bill.
There is no question of the importance of the bill. Its importance was recognized by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when he opened the debate for the Opposition. He said that he doubted whether a bill more important to the life of the community had ever been introduced into this Parliament, excepting, of course, bills related to our defence. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that the interests of Australia would be better served in this House if the bill were examined in an impartial and non-partisan way and then, unfortunately, proceeded’ to discuss the bill in a decidedly partisan and biased way, and moved an amendment that suffers from the same defects. The fact is, the right honorable gentleman is seeking to attain here the objective that he failed to attain when the Australian Broadcasting Control Board rejected his application for a licence to conduct a television station. That he should do so is quite in keeping with some of the past actions of the right honorable gentleman. We all remember the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia, popularly known as the Petrov Commission. The right honorable gentleman made claims before that commission which the commission rejected and later he tried to circumvent the commission’s rejection of his claims by reiterating them in this chamber. So I suggest that honorable members will assess the sincerity of the right honorable gentleman on this occasion in accordance with their judgment of his performances in the past.
I do not like the amendment proposed by the right honorable gentleman nor the sentiments expressed in his speech, because I consider both constitute an attempt to upset the licences granted by the commission, by imposing onerous conditions on the licensees, and by limiting the term of each licence to a period during which the licensees, it is generally admitted, will be operating at a loss. So the whole case of the Opposition lies exposed in the amendment, which shows that the Labour party is attempting to gain, in a roundabout way, something that it failed ‘to gain from the authority that was established to allocate television licences.
– The amendment seeks only to tighten up a loose bill.
– It is not only designed to tighten up the bill. It is designed, as I have said, to make some of the conditions imposed on licensees so onerous that they are impossible of fulfilment and also, as I shall show, to limit the period of the original licences so that they will be tenable only during a time when, it is understood, the licensees do not themselves expect to make any profit, but expect to run at a loss. On that also hangs the condition regarding the quality of programme that the licensees should provide.
The reasons for the amendment are given in the amendment itself, which reads in part- owing to the fact that all existing television licences in two1 States have been granted by the Government to corporations constituting in effect combines of newspaper, radio broadcasting and associated interests . . .
In other words, the amendment has been moved because these particular interests have secured licences. The underlying reason for the amendments is thus blatantly displayed because, as I propose to show, the applications for licences were limited practically to those classes of interest. There were only one or two applicants who did not come within those categories, and they were considered along with the rest. One such application was withdrawn, and in another case an applicant was not able to make out the necessary case for receiving a licence.
The amendment is based largely, if not wholly, on the submissions placed before the board by the Leader of the Opposition, which, as I said before, were rejected by the board. I now propose to deal with the amendment in detail, but before doing so I should like to remind the House that the bill is in two parts. It proposes to amend the act in the light of the experience gained over a great number of years, and it makes provision for control of the new medium of television. I have been associated with broadcasting for many years, and I do not think it is necessary for us to debate the amendment to the act which the bill- proposes in relation to sound broadcasting. But, we should consider closely the other aspect of the legislation, which concerns the laying down of permanent provisions for the conduct of television in Australia. The board observed in its report that the time had passed when we should consider whether or not we were to have television, but said that it had the responsibility of ensuring that television would confer real benefits on the people of Australia. That is the problem which this House will tackle in discussing this measure. So, I repeat, we are not concerned so much with the introduction, as such, of television. We may have differing ideas on that. Country people may have ideas about whether they are to receive television soon or late. Our main concern is that this great medium shall be put to its proper use and will operate under proper safeguards.
Sitting suspended from 5.5b to 8 p.m.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I stated that the time had passed when we hail to consider whether Australia was to have television, but that we had a responsibility to ensure that it could confer real benefits on the people. Having examined the bill, I am satisfied that proper safeguards exist to maintain the high standard of programmes that are at present enjoyed by broadcast listeners, because that is what we are aiming for in the production of television programmes. I had further stated that the Leader of the Opposition seeks to attain in this place an objective that he failed to attain in an application before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and I likened his action to his approach in the Petrov incident when he fought in the Parliament a case that he failed to win before a royal commission. I also suggested that honorable members may gauge the sincerity of the amendment that he has submitted by the background against which it has been proposed. It attempts to upset licences already granted by proposing onerous conditions on licensees and by restricting the original term of the licence to a period during which the licensees will be operating at a loss.
The first part of the amendment suggests that unfair monopoly practices exist and that unfair and unjust ownership and control of television licences have been sanctioned. The preamble to the amendment is couched in the following words : -
Owing to the fact that all existing television licences in two States have been granted by the Government to corporations constituting in effect combines of newspaper, broadcasting and associated interests . . .
Before dinner I briefly referred to the criterion by which we should judge whether this so-called monopoly exists as the result of deliberate action by the Government or because of circumstances. To elaborate the point, I point out that in Sydney eight- applications were lodged for two licences and that in Melbourne only four applications were received for two licences. An analysis of the applications for the Sydney licences shows that the following interests were represented : - Newspapers, six; broadcasting stations, six; radio manufacturers, two; motion picture interests, one; and theatre interests, one. There were two other applications, one of which was lodged bv Messrs. T. N. P. Dougherty and H. V. Evatt as trustees of the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Labour party, and the other by Mr. L. Ii. Benson Greene. Mr. Benson Greene did not produce the particulars that were required, and his application was disallowed, but the application by the trustees of the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Labour party was considered with the others. The point I am making is that those were the only applications received. So when we hear that monopoly interests have been granted licences, we must take into consideration the fact that the number of applications was very restricted.
For Melbourne, the position was even worse. Only four applications were received for two licences in that city. In two of the applications, the following interests were represented: - Newspapers, three; broadcasting stations, five; programme producers, two ; radio stations, one; motion picture interests, three; and theatre interests, one. In addition, an application was submitted by the trustees of the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Labour .party to whom I have already referred, and another was an independent application. In view of the fact that almost no other interests applied for licences, the Opposition’s claim that a monopoly has been established by the granting of television licences to corporations constituting, in effect, combines of newspapers, radio broadcasting, and associated interests, is unreasonable. Indeed it is a reflection upon the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
I wish to direct the attention of the House to the qualities that were sought in potential applicants. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board laid down that the applicants were to be of good character and high reputation, and that the directors and executive officers were to have a proper appreciation of the responsibilities imposed .by a licence and to display a willingness to comply with the conditions of the licence.
– At the moment, the Australian Labour party does not fulfil those two requirements.
– It also pointed out that the directors of a company seeking a licence should have the confidence of the community. As my colleague, the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), has suggested, neither the Australian Workers Union nor the Australian Labour party can claim to have the confidence of the community. The next condition laid down was a genuine intention to commence with high standards, even at financial loss. I propose to elaborate that point a little later, but by and large, the condition refers to the period of three years suggested in the Opposition’s amendment and the term of five years proposed by the Government. I propose also to quote figures showing the cost to which licensees will be put in the first three years of their operations. The attempt of the Opposition to reduce the period of the licence to three years is an attempt to kill the licensees, financially, at the start, possibly in favour of an unsuccessful applicant.
Another condition was financial stability. The financial stability of the corporations that have attained licences is well known and unquestioned. I should say that financial stability would be a particularly important qualification because, if we want good programmes we must have licensees that are capable of producing them, and only licensees with financial stability can do so. If the period is to be reduced to three years) which is the period during which the operators will be just crawling along, and if we are to have licensees without financial stability, we cannot be assured that good and suitable programmes will be telecast. Another quality looked for was a good record in allied fields. I put it to the House that the corporations that have obtained licences - Television Corporation Limited, General Television Corporation Proprietary Limited, Herald and Weekly Times Limited, and Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited - comprise shareholders and firms which, without question, have a very good record in such allied fields as entertainment, news and reporting of sporting events. A further qualification was the ability to provide a satisfactory service.
The board asked the applicant to demonstrate special capacity to organize a highstandard television service, and to provide the necessary technical equipment and programmes. To whom else would one look if not to persons who have financial stability and the radio know-how, and who are accustomed to acquiring news and propagating, through the medium that we have known in the past, those matters that are of interest to the people? Without question, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has done a good job in its selection. It had a very limited field from which to choose, but from that field it has selected as licensees companies that I believe will earn the approval of this House.
I said that I would quote figures to show that these successful corporations have financial stability. Amalgamated Television. Services Proprietary Limited is prepared to make a capital outlay of £724,165. It considers that its operations for the first three years will cost £760,000, and that its income over that period will be only £495,040. Television Corporation Limited anticipates a capital cost of £352,000, operating costs of £750,000 and an income of £594,400. General Television Corporation Proprietary Limited has a capital cost of £480,000, and an operating cost of £670,696, and anticipates an income over the first three years of £467,220. _ Herald Sun Television Proprietary Limited expects a capital cost of £745,745, operating costs over three years of £828,163 and an income of £595,400. All these figures show a loss for the first three years.
– Public benefactors.
– Would there be any other applicant who could put up propositions such as those ?
Let us look at the application made by the Leader of the Opposition. He submitted a proposition on behalf of the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Labour party. He stated that there would be no difficulty in obtaining from members of the Australian Workers Union, members of other unions and members of the Australian Labour party, by means of a special levy approved for the purpose, the money necessary properly to establish and maintain a commercial! television station.
– What is wrong with that ?’
– There is nothing wrong with it; but I ask the House to compareit as a business proposition with the propositions of the people who have the financial stability not only to establish a station but also to operate it. A proposition of this sort would leave some doubts in the minds of members of the board. But is that the reason why the Labour party wanted the station? Is that the reason why the proposition was put up?’ I find, when I read the preamble to the proposed amendment, that it says that a monopoly is being granted and that every one should have the right of expression, and a proposition is put up. It is on ali fours with the proposition made by the Leader of the Opposition to the board. The report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board reads -
Dr. Evatt expressed the view to ns that the trend towards the concentration of theownership of newspaper and broadcastinginterests existed in Australia and that the applications for licences indicated its extension to television and this trend should be resisted’ at this stage.
Having failed to win that fight before the board, he came into the House and put his proposition all over again.
– Very properly, too !
– This is very proper, too ! Having put something before the board, an instrument of Parliament, hecame into Parliament to seek to win something denied by that board. Let us see what the board says in its report. The passage is as follows : -
The Board appreciates the force of much of what Dr. Evatt said to it on this subject, but we do not think that the grant of licences to political parties would help to solve the problem to which he referred. Indeed, it seems impossible at the present time to contemplate a situation in which, of the two commercial television stations to be established’ at the outset in one area, one would bc under the. control of a political organization.
I revert to the right honorable gentle man’s application, and I read again from the board’s report -
Dr. Evatt emphasized that the proposal dirt not envisage a station for the transmission of political matter entirely, but explained that it would operate as a public- service.
In view of what the board said, such a station would not be likely to get a licence unless it did so. The report continues -
He said, “ We would also safeguard the point of view which is expressed in the Labour platform . . .”. [ interpolate here that the Labour platform, as I know it, advocates the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange. Television, in the hands of the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Labour party would be the vehicle to propagate that view. The quotation continues - “ without making it a political station in the party sense”, but he did not make it clear whether such a station would be prepared to afford equal opportunities for the expression of other points of view.
A similar quotation was made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) this afternoon. Yet the same people would come into this House and say, “ You must have freedom. These licences must be handed out fairly and justly “. The first part of the amendment suggests that unfair monopoly practices exist and that unfair and unjust ownership and control of television licences has been granted. Yet here is an application to the board saying, in effect, “We want a station to propagate the Labour point of view “.
– Why shouldn’t it?
– The honorable member for East Sydney cannot shout me down. He knows that the Broadcasting Control Board said that it was not made clear whether such a station would be prepared to afford equal opportunities for the expression of other points of view. The application stands exposed as a deliberate attempt to propagate socialization in this country through the means of television. The Leader of the Opposition comes into this House and, behind the smoke-screen of the amendment, says that he is out to do the best he possibly can for the people. I suggest, as I have before, that there is nothing in this amendment that is not hidden behind that smoke-screen that I have mentioned. In the first place, the preamble is quite incorrect. There was (plenty of opportunity given to people to make application for television licences. That opportunity was not availed of and, therefore, the ‘Broadcasting-Control Board did the very best it could with the applications it had received.
I shall not go through all the parts of the proposed amendment. They will be dealt with fully by other members of the Government. However, I want to draw attention to one or two of them. I have made the charge that an attempt is being made so to amend this act as to make the conditions so onerous on licensees that they will not be able to carry on. I have pointed out that, as the result of limiting the period of the original licence to three years, the stations would be running at a loss - and .at a very considerable loss. They would be placed in the position of having put all their efforts into the initial and hardest part of the job and then being at the mercy of a board, or a government, or a Minister who could say, ” ~No, we will not allow you to continue. You have had your three years, and that is all “. Under the bill, they will have a five-year period, and that will give them some security.
The next part of the amendment to which I want to refer is the provision of adequate safeguards against the flooding of Australian television programmes with low-grade syndicated overseas productions to the practical exclusion of Australian productions. Who will read into those words the fact that if there is no quota this country will be flooded with lowgrade syndicated productions? There is the suspicious mind of the Opposition! Honorable members opposite say, in effect, “ If you do not do these things and conform to the conditions that we suggest, then you will have television programmes of a poor standard “. Opposition members know very well - or if they do not they will find out as time goes on - that the production of a television programme is a highly complicated and technical procedure and it is not possible simply to make a regulation and say, “ You must abide by it “. Of necessity, we will have to put up with some film productions for the time being, but as we go along there is no question that we will learn the knowhow and the production procedure.
My time has almost expired, but I shall put this point to the House. We have had in Australia over the past 30 years an excellent growth of ordinary broadcasting services. We can expect under this bill, which is presented by the PostmasterGeneral as his first bill, a television service of the high standard of that provided by the broadcasting services we are enjoying to-day.
.- This is an iniquitous bill. It is a disgraceful piece of legislation, introduced by a government that believes in monopolies, in order to give a monopoly in television to people who already have a monopoly control over newspapers and radio stations. That is the first and essential point of view.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! The whole House must come to order, or I shall have to deal with honorable members who continue to make a noise.
– The Government’s dictum apparently is this : The wealthier you are, the more the Government will give you; the wealthier you are the more you are entitled to grab; or, to return to the Scriptures -
For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not. from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
The Labour movement could raise the necessary money to establish television stations in Melbourne and Sydney, if it were to obtain permission under this legislation to start those stations, but the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is comprised of hand-picked personnel, had already decided who were going to get the licences before any evidence at all was taken. All Australia knew that. It was just a waste of time for people to send eminent counsel to argue in favour of the grant of licences to them.
It is most interesting, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to find members of the Australian Country party, your own party, being so greatly concerned about the issue of licences for the benefit of the people who live in two capital cities.
– Order ! The Chair has no party.
– I am glad to hear you say so, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was about to congratulate you on another party conversion. The members of the Australian Country party should, I imagine, be more interested in obtaining telephones and other amenities for country districts than in getting television licences for big city interests. The amendment that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has moved expresses, I believe, the opinions of the Australian people. There is no demand for television in this country. There are many things that are crying out for attention. There are roads to be made, and a lot of developmental work to be done, but this Parliament is being asked solemnly to endorse a government proposal to encourage the spending of at least £6,000,000 in the setting up of only four television stations.
– The Opposition wanted to do it.
– We wanted a national set-up, and we still want a national set-up. When we were in government times were normal, the economy was sound and there was value in the £1. The country was not in the hopeless, parlous condition that it is in to-day. If any priorities at all are applied, then the things that affect the livelihood of the people are more important than luxuries such as television. Professor Paton, the chairman of the royal commission that inquired into television, said that it was not a royal commission at all. He said that it was only a public inquiry - and so it was. This Government seeks to take advantage of the recommendations of that body when it suits it to do so, but it rejects the recommendations when they do not suit it. There is a provision in this bill to the effect that the licences are to have an initial period of operation of five years. We suggest three years. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) argues that three years is too short, but the recommendation of the Government’s so-called royal commission was for three years. If honorable members opposite care to read the report they will find that that is among the recommendations of the commission.
We say that a statutory body composed of members of this Parliament, and not the Australian Broadcasting Control
Board, should be appointed to watch the interests of television and of broadcasting. The Parliament established such a body on the recommendation of the Gibson committee. I was a member of that committee as long ago as 1941. Every one of its recommendations was passed into law, but in 1956 this Government is setting out to discredit the recommendations of the committee presided over by the late Senator Gibson, who was a member of the Australian Country party, an estimable gentleman and probably one of the best postmasters-general that this country has had. He and all the other members of that committee were seised of the importance of having a parliamentary oversight, outside the ministry, of all the things that were happening in the field of broadcasting; that body also foresaw the possibility of television being introduced some day. This Government has destroyed that parliamentary committee by not allowing it to function. Now it seeks to repeal the legislation under which it was established. Under that legislation all parties were represented on the committee. That was the position from 1942 until about 1947, when the Liberal party withdrew, while the Australian Country party maintained its membership of the committee. Since 1949 the committee has not functioned. This Parliament should insist that the Government does not repeal those provisions, and, in addition, that it make3 that committee once again the active body that it formerly was. We need such a committee, representing both sides of the House, because it will be the best guarantee that the excesses and evils of commercial television will he exposed. The Government proposes to repeal this provision in the act because it does not want any members of Parliament to have any rights of supervision of activities in broadcasting and television, either in the national or the commercial sphere.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) served on the committee, and he opposed the introduction of commercial television at one stage, if his memory will serve him aright. I shall refresh it for him later if he cannot remember.
Television is attractive, because it brings sight and sound and action into the home.
An American estimate is that adults and children spend two to three hours a day or night viewing television sets, for 52 weeks a year. There are 20,000,000 television licences current in the United States of America. Children spend almost as much time before television sets as they spend at school receiving their formal education. Some people think that television presents no difficulty and that nothing is to be feared from it. The magazine Time is not a journal that is given to scaremongery, but in its issue of the 3rd March, 1952, it reported the result of an investigation into television, as it affected children, by a committee of mothers. The magazine reported as follows: - -
The outraged mothers saw thirteen murders and assorted killings; four sluggings; six kidnappings; five holdups; three explosions; three instances of blackmail and extortion; three thefts; two armed robberies; two cases of arson; one lynching; one torture scene and one miscarriage. One mother clocked .104 gun shootings during a half-hour serial, and another found sudden death shudderingly described fourteen times in twenty minutes.
– That was one of their quiet days.
– Yes, probably a quiet day. But the mothers thought it was a little too hectic for the children viewing it. Time continued -
The mothers themselves concluded that the gun, the gat, the rod, the six-shooter, is the prime motivator of most children’s television programmes. Life is cheaper than a cigarette butt in the gutter. Not one episode, not one character, not one emotion do we see evoked that the children might emulate to their gain.
There is a danger that the cheap, the nasty and the tawdry will be introduced into Australia. I would not trust the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to protect the children of Australia. It cannot even guarantee that the provisions of the Broadcasting Act 1942-1954 in regard to the percentage of time to be devoted to Australian music and the like are complied with. It does not seem even to worry about it. Only a committee of this Parliament can do the job, and the sooner we have it, the better. The Australian Labour party demands that the parliamentary committee he retained and that the strongest possible protection and the best possible assistance be given to Australian vocalists, musicians, writers and producers, from the very beginnings of television in this country. We demand a 55 per cent, quota, of time for Australian artists and material, but the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) will not agree to any quota. He says that we. should leave it to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or to the anti-Australian Broadcasting Commission to do the necessary work.
In another part of the bill, we read something to the effect that 80 per cent, of the capital of the commercial television stations must be Australianowned. If it is right that SO per cent, of the capital should be Australian, why should an 80 per cent, quota of Australian material not be required? If there is any virtue in 80 per cent., let us have 80 per cent, all round. When the Parliament establishes this control, let us go further and compel all the English banks and insurance companies to operate their Australian businesses with 80 per cent, of Australian capital, and let us not continue to send out of this country dividends that ought to remain here. We have in Australia, in all the classes of entertainment that I have mentioned, sufficient high-class talent to provide television programmes equal, to those produced, in the United States of America and Great Britain. Although that is the position, Australian talent will find no place in television in this country if the broadcasting legislation does not stipulate a quota for Australian artists. Government supporters are suffering from twinges of conscience in this matter. They know that we on this side of the House are right in what we are. arguing for, but they will not bring pressure to bear on the Government that they support in an effort to ensure that the right thing is done by Australian artists and performers. For too long Australians have had to go overseas to have their quality recognized. Now, in their own country, they are to be denied what we call a fair go in television.
– Where does the honorable member get that idea from ?
– I know I am right.
– Where is anything about it mentioned in the bill?
– If the honorable gentleman will restrain his impatience, J shall enlighten his mind. Australia is already supplied with outdated American and British television programmes. Programmes that originally cost American sponsors £10,000 to £25,000 for each halfhour have been bought up for use in Australia at £250 a half-hour. Every one knows that is so. Those programme? will be produced on Australian television from the very beginning. I have seen lists of some that have been brought to this country. They include programme? such as Annie Oakley and Bin-tin-tin. These will be the commencing programmes on this great all- Australian medium of education, entertainment and information. These programmes, to the Americans and the British to-day, arejust so much junk. I assure honorable members that the American prices quoted were for the script, talent, and production alone, and did not include the cost of the accompanying commercials or broadcasting time charges. How can any one in Australia compete with an imported article that cost £25,000 and is now selling in Australia at £250? The hungry interests that have been given gold mines in the form of television licences, will reef off all the profits they can get, regardless of what happens to the Australians, who ought to have a major share, as performers in our television programmes, both national and commercial. These greedy people who have obtained commercial televisionlicences will exploit the Australianpeople as the hire-purchase companies have done, and will reap the same big profits for little or no service.
We on this side of the House have indicated our views in the amendment, and we challenge any honorable members who intend to speak on this subject to deny the validity of our claim that sporting bodies throughout Australia are entitled to protection against television companies, film companies and any one eis*? who want to televise sporting events without the payment of any charge. If this bill is passed in its present form, any one -will be able to enter the Tivoli Theatre, for example, or any theatre in Australia, and televise the programme. Any one will be able to do that morally, even if there are other laws to prevent it.
– The moral aspect of it would not register on the film.
– I am not worried about what the Minister thinks of this or anything else. As I have stated, the Government uses the report of the socalled inquiry on television when it suits its purposes, and rejects it when it does not suit. It yields to pressure from its monopolist friends. It has rushed this bill through because it dare not wait until after the beginning of July next. It fears that it will not then have the numbers in another place to have it passed. I have no doubt that the Government has reason to fear that some of its supporters in the Senate, as in this Souse, are antagonistic to what it -is doing. Most members of the Parliament know, from the experience of the United States of America, that commercial television is just too vulgar and should not be introduced into Australia.
The former Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), whom the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) dropped so unceremoniously from the Ministry a few months ago, wanted .to scrap the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and replace it. with a board of three full-time commissioners, but he was ousted before he could carry out his threat. Incidentally, the week after he had left the Ministry, voluntarily or involuntarily, or both in combination, the honorable member accepted a seat on the board of a large electronics company which is a shareholder in one of the television stations in Sydney for which a licence has been granted. The honorable gentleman is wealthy, and he had no need to do this. I do not blame the company. I offer no criticism of the honorable member, except to state that his action indicates that he was very friendly disposed towards this company in particular .and towards private enterprise in general. As soon as he had left the Ministry, he joined the board of one of the companies which was a partner in the newspaper set-up to which he had already granted .a television licence. This Government thinks that, if it can hand out commercial television licences to its friends it will keep the Australian Labour party out of office forever. Television is a powerful .medium.
The cost of televising the campaigns of Eisenhower and Stevenson in the last presidential election contest in the United States totalled £7,750,000 Australian. Only the Liberal party can afford to buy television time in Australia. If seasons are good, the Australian Country party might be able to do it occasionally, but, ordinarily, it would not be able to do it. The Australian Labour party certainly will not be able to buy television time. It is having enough difficulty as it is in trying to put its case to the people over radio stations at election time. Sir Richard Boyer, the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who is always difficult where the Australian Labour party is concerned, makes it even more difficult for Labour at election times. He and the commission tried to embarrass the Labour Government before the 1949 general elections by allocating time on the air to the Australian Communist party. Of course, the present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison’) was telephoned and informed what the commission was doing, and members of the present Government parties immediately attacked the proposal in the Parliament. The Labour government had to take action in order that it should not be misrepresented to the people by what the Australian Broadcasting Commission proposed to do. The commercial stations are always unfair to the Labour party. With the exception of the three or four commercial stations over which we exercise some control, we cannot get our voice heard over the air as often as do members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. I know that there are members of the Australian Country party who are substantial snareholders in some commercial stations. They should not vote on this bill.
We have other criticisms to offer of tin- anti- Australian Broadcasting Commission. That is the body that grabbed Radio Australia. It wanted to grab it in our time as a government. This Government permitted it to grab Radio Australia and to ruin it. Radio Australia is about the most useless thing there is in the radio world to-day. I listen to it. I know the purpose for which it was established by the Menzies Government in the war period. I know the good use that was made of it in putting our points of view over to the nations of the world from 1939 to 1949. I know what can be done with it now, and what should have been done with it over the last few years. But all that comes over Radio Australia now is Frank Sinatra or Johnny Ray. Where is it listened to ?
– Throughout the world.
– It is not listened to throughout the world. I was the chairman of the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee in succession to the Gibson Committee. I know that Radio Australia, until it gets a transmitting station or a chain of stations somewhere up in New Guinea or the islands there, or in Darwin or Wyndham, simply cannot compete with the flood of Communist propaganda that is pouring into Singapore, Malaya and Indonesia from Russia and from China. All that Radio Australia does is to put over such stuff as the series “ My Song Goes Round the World”. Some nostalgic Englishman in Kuala Lumpur writes to ‘Sydney and asks them to play him “ Two Little Girls in Blue “. Some American lady in California wants somebody to play for her “A Bicycle Built for Two”. I heard that one Sunday afternoon. It is a complete waste of public money. We have got to do something with Radio Australia worth while, and we have got to do it very quickly. We should take it away from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It has lost hundreds of thousands of pounds since it has had the station and made it a medium of light entertainment only.
I have another grievance against the chairman of the commission. He pandered to an imperialist government and expressed his own imperialist feelings by banning a great Australian anthem, “ Advance Australia Fair “ from national stations. He put that- anthem off the air because he thought he would not be popular with some people if he retained it. Some organizations have been cir cularizing members of Parliament about what they regard as desirable amendments. I got to-day a very nicely prepared brochure from the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations.
– I got one, too.
– I hope that you gave to your copy the same intelligent attention as I gave to mine. I find that these people are arguing in a most reactionary fashion against the bill which this Government has brought down. This is one of their observations that I underlined -
We are surprised that a Government which openly espouses a free enterprise system should, in relation to the commercial broadcasting system, perpetuate certain sections which are contrary to that principle.
That is so much nonsense to me, because this Government, with this legislation, is doing something which is retrogressive and bad, though not as bad as the federation would want. However, the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations argues against the miserable quota of 5 per cent, for Australian compositions. In the Gibson Committee, we demanded 2£ per cent. I remember that we sent a telegram to the commercial stations in 1942 and asked them if they could play 10 per cent, of Australian compositions. I think some of them had apoplexy. Even to-day, fourteen years afterwards, it is hard to get them to come up to 5 per cent. We ask in our amendment for 7,£ per cent., and that is not too much. I do not want to listen to Johnny Ray and Frank Sinatra.
– They do not want to listen to you, either.
– I could not care less. I would sooner listen to Smokey Dawson and Dusty Rankin. I would rather listen to Dusty Rankin singing “ Currabubula “, because Currabubula^ favourite son is a member of this House in the person of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), now spreading the light of Australian culture up and down the “United States. I would rather listen to Smokey Dawson singing “ Cullenbenbong “ and all those other Australian tunes. They are just as good as the stuff we are importing from abroad. The Minister should insist on at least a 10 per cent, quota for Australian compositions.
I want to make some further observations to show that the attitude we are taking up is not necessarily a socialistic attitude. I am a democratic socialist. I know where I stand on all these matters. On the 5th March, 1942, with Senator Amour and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), I signed an addendum to the report of the Broadcasting Committee, in which we said as follows : -
We have signed the above report and desire to state in our 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 sunscribed contains a plank to this effect.
But the arguments that I am advancing to-night are arguments that have been advanced by people who certainly cannot be called radical in any sense of the term. The Times newspaper of England is certainly not a radical paper. In the Times Weekly Review of Thursday, the 25th June, 1953, in a sub-leader attacking the introduction of commercial television stations in England, this was said -
Television is likely to be one of the most powerful social influences of the next 1 if t.y years. It should be as unthinkable to hand it over to sponsoring as it would be to give advertisers a decisive say in school curricula. This again is not far-fetched. Television will affect the morals, the values and the outlook of many of the children of to-day and to-morrow as much as will their formal education.
There was more to that effect. On the 30th June, 1953, the Archbishop of Canterbury, addressing his diocesan conference in Canterbury Cathedral Chapter House, said, to the cheers of 500 clergymen -
There is no desire here for commercial television. The fact that it must be strictly controlled is evidence that it is on sticky grounds. We shall be no worse off without it, and probably better off. The Government should decide it is best left alone. The fact that sponsored television would have to be strictly controlled has disposed of the argument chat if there is a free press there should also be a free TV apart from the BBC monopoly.
The Most Reverend Dr. Booth, the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, established a committee which gave evidence before this spurious body called the Royal Commission on Television. In its submission, the committee said -
There is no pressing need for the present introduction of television into Australia. Nor is there any substantial public demand for it. Despite its possibilities as an educational medium, it is primarily a form of entertainment. It may without exaggeration be classed as a form of luxury. The cost of its introduction must inevitably amount to many millions of pounds. With our small population and great distances, it will for some years to come be available only to persons living in two or three of the largest cities.
The case against the introduction of commercial television was further argued quite recently. The Presbyterian Life, in its issue of the 20th April of this year, said -
In the U.S. television hag become a major factor in election campaigns. No party or interest dare ignore it. But television time is tremendously expensive … it would be disastrous for the public life of this country if great questions involving moral issues were to be decided by the financial backing of the opposing sides. Even in parliamentary elections it would be a serious blow to democratic processes if one side were able to submerge the other in campaign expenditure . . . Every one who has the interest of good government at heart should be thinking about this problem. Can we afford to allow public opinion to bc swung by the interests with the biggest cheque. The danger has always been there, but television is going to sharpen it.
I have quoted two great church organizations. I could have quoted more, but time does not permit.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– After the act that has been put on by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I venture to state that a contract can immediately be written for the first television programme. His was a rather extraordinary speech. He spoke with a certain amount of nostalgia concerning the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting. He endeavoured to dismiss the fact that it recommended a 2i per cent, quota for Australian artists as something that happened years ago, but I remind the honorable gentleman that for the whole period that the labour party was in government - and the committee’s report was presented in 1942 - it took no action whatever to- increase that percentage. We are now increasing the percentage to 5 per cent., but the honorable gentleman considers that that is not sufficient. It is the old story of the Labour party. That party is not prepared to take any action whatever, when in office,, to give a fair break to Australian artists, but as soon as it is in opposition it seeks to pander to those from whom it hopes to be able to get some votes. It is prepared to stretch the whole matter under observation to the maximum so that it can then shed the stigma that was originally associated with its failure to take action and become the champion of. the Australian artists. The honorable member for Melbourne spoke; as I have said, with a certain amount of nostalgia. Bie even mentioned the fact that an addendum to the committee’s report signed by Senator Amour, Arthur Calwell and W. J. Riordan stated -
We have signed the above report and desire to 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.
Of course, the honorable gentleman is completely out of court with his own leader, and I hope to- be able to prove later1 in my address that he is completely out of court with other honorable members opposite who have said during this debate, “ It is not our intention to nationalize. We believe that the present system is right “. I do not know whether it was the Blackburn interpretation, the Beazley interpretation, the Evatt interpretation, or the Calwell interpretation of the socialistic plank of their policy platform, but at least they are inconsistent in what they do.. Why did the deputy leader of the party speak with that complete and broken down abandon of. his- association with the Joint Committee on Broadcasting? He sought then, as he seeks now, to have political control over broadcasting. He wanted a continuance of this parliamentary committee on broadcasting so- that it could stand over broadcasting generally to dictate what could be done politically to control the spoken, word. I shall come back to that matter later.
Honorable members will gather that I. am not greatly concerned with the criticism that has been voiced by the honorable gentleman. In order to put this matter in proper perspective, we should endeavour to parallel the measure introduced by Labour in 1948 with the present bill, because then we shall see the great difference between the socialistic conception of what should be done in a case like this and the conception that we on this side of the House have of what is necessary for the protection of the people’s rights in wireless broadcasting and in television. It is perfectly true that when the honorable gentleman introduced bic legislation in 1948 he posed as the future fuehrer of broadcasting and television. That act. set out that broadcasting and television were to be the exclusive instruments of the socialist state. They were to be controlled by a board which was to be under the direction of a Minister. It is significant that the act did not specify who the Minister was to be. This bill also does not specify the Minister, but we know that it will be administered by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), who introduced the bill. In 1948, the honorable member for Melbourne, who was then Minister for Information, introduced his bill, and took it right through all its stages. So he was to be the controller of broadcasting’ and television in. this country. This is the gentleman who told a public meeting in Sydney on one occasion that all he wanted was a little power. He said, “ If I had a little power, my word I would use it “, and he sought, to obtain that power by his legislation, but fortunately the country at that particular time had just had him,, and it threw the Labour party out of office. We came into office and we have since put this country back on to an even keel and preserved the freedom of the spoken word and the written word in the same way as we propose to do so under this bill. I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he would have been in pretty good company, because we have had some experience of these would-be dictators in the past. Both Hitler and Stalin sought to control the written word,, and they did it successfully until the Western world, had to intervene.
I have no doubt whatever that Labour intended to dominate all fields of radio transmission in Australia. The honorable member admits that they would have been socialized. He admits that he wanted power, to become all powerful. He admits, and his speech to-night makes it clear, that he is the man who would take control of broadcasting, and he and be alone would determine that which might go over the air in television. The 1948 act expressly excluded commercial stations from the field of frequency modulation. That was a step towards completely wiping out commercial stations. The act was designed to put the Australian Broadcasting Commission on to frequency modulation and all thi’ modern advancements associated with it. and to throw the commercial stations into the discard and so put them far behind the normal standards of progress in this department. As the deputy leader of his party, the honorable member is completely aware of the fact that control of radio is but a short step from the control of the free press and the regimentation of public thinking. There is no doubt whatever that the honorable member has a record which is second to none in endeavouring to enforce controls of this nature on the people. Not so long ago he directed that the distribution of certain Sydney newspapers could not take place, and he even posted men with drawn revolvers in the cart docks to prevent the distribution of a newspaper, because in his opinion certain items of the news should not be made available to the people of this country. He is a man who has posed as a great democrat and, indeed, he is a socialist tiger. He has made no secret of his future activities should providence elevate him to power. In what I might, describe as his kindergarten days in 1942 he was a signatory to the Gibson committee’s report on broadcasting. In the minority report he made it clear, as I have already indicated, that the policy of Labour and his own policy was complete socialization. That report was also signed by Senator Amour and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). Under the 1948 act there was no place whatever for private enterprise. Indeed, for good measure, on the 24th November, 1953, the honorable gentleman, in a statement to the press, said that the next Labour government would promptly cancel all television licences issued by the Menzies Government. He went on to say -
Labour will oppose the passage of all legislation to allow private enterprise to debauch the minds of grown-ups and children in the way American television companies do. The Labour party made television a government monopoly and I will keep it that way even if greedy interests think they can change the situation to their own advantage.
The honorable gentleman makes no bones about where he stands in this regard. I would point out that this Government, in contrast with the honorable gentle man’s panicky procedure, has moved cautiously and carefully, as befits a responsible administration. It decided that private enterprise should share in the gradual development of this great boon, for it will be a boon to this country if properly handled. Such safeguards as are necessary to ensure this are contained in the legislation.
In 1953 the honorable member said. “ This will be brought before the House hastily. We will not have a chance to debate it thoroughly”. I point out to him that in that year Parliament gave legislative endorsement to the principles that are embodied in this bill. If he differs from our view he has had plenty of time in which to think out amendments. Naturally, this Government deferred a final decision until the whole question had been investigated by a royal commission before which all sections of the community appeared.
I will return if I may to the year 194S because it has just occurred to me that when the honorable member brought down his suppression measure there was a palace revolution within the caucus. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was one of the revoluntaries. I do not know whether that was before or after he saw the light. If it was before he will certainly be a much thornier subject to deal with now. Both he and the then member for Perth challenged the honorable member for Melbourne upon his suppression of the freedom of speech.
– Where did the honorable gentleman get this from?
– It was well known at the time, but there have since been so many revolts in the caucus that the deputy leader may be excused for forgetting this incident. It was, of course, before matters of greater moment, such as the Molotov letter and the sectarian issue claimed almost all the time and attention of honorable members opposite. The bill is based upon the report of the royal commission, to which honorable members must give due weight. The royal commission heard 163 witnesses and drew evidence from 122 sources, representing scores of thousands of opinions. Following this, the commission made, to this Government, recommendations upon which this comprehensive piece of legislation is based. The bill is so well designed that honorable members opposite have been given no grounds for criticism and have had to revert to the time-worn and moth-eaten theme of socialization. Even on this they are at variance.
In 1952, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had to PUll his leader into line. Honorable members will recall that we were then within six months of a Senate election. His leader who had buried socialism temporarily in a very shallow grave, rendered the current Evatt interpretation of the socialist plank. He sought to woo the commercial stations by assuring them that they had very little to fear from Labour. He said - :
Australia will probably rely on a dual system in which the Australian people will own a service and commercial stations will also do this.
This afternoon the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) said something similar, but what did his deputy leader say in 1952? The very next day he publicly rebuked his leader. Of course, his star was in the ascendant then. He could see the leadership of his party not very far off. Therefore, he said, “ The leader is out of step. This is my great opportunity “. He sought the help of a former Postmaster-General and they issued this statement jointly -
Labour will, we hope, be .as unanimous in resisting any amendment of the 1948 act as the party was unanimous in establishing the principle that television can only be a national monopoly.
– Hear, hear!
– At least the honorable member for Melbourne is consistent. I have read his leader’s speech very carefully and have noticed that he has skilfully side-stepped that issue. He may have his own interpretation of the socialist plank, but he is not game to try it out here because his deputy rebuked him on a former occasion. Indeed, the honorable member for Melbourne was on much sounder ground, because it was a plank of the party’s platform. For that reason, the Leader of the Opposition went very very quietly. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, though ready to rebuke his leader for flirting with the commercial stations had no qualms whatever in essaying a romance with the motion picture industry. At its annual convention at Coolangatta in August, 1953, he said that Labour would appoint a “ proper television royal commission “. I can imagine him saying that with all the emphasis that he can command. Further, he said that it would include, above all, a representative of the motion picture industry. Clearly, if there was any possibility of killing television the motion picture industry would do it. Indeed, the honorable member for Melbourne was photographed with Mr. Spyros Skouros, the multi-millionaire president of Twentieth Century Fox. He had his arm around that gentleman’s shoulder in a brotherly fashion. For these good offices to the film industry, this Schnozzle Durante of politics was to become the Clark Gable of the television industry. He said that we could not afford television and told the picture industry, “Yon have nothing to fear, my friends, at all. You see, we cannot afford television. It is completely beyond us “.
T ask honorable members to remember how the shades of Chifley are invoked whenever the Opposition wishes to stress a point. Labour supporters always say, “ This great man said this . . .”, but when they want to do something that is completely contrary to his opinion, they conveniently forget him. No doubt, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said with a grand flourish to the picture industry, “You know, for some future -
I would say ‘ consideration ‘ - we could say that Australia cannot afford television. I will put one of you fellows on. this committee and you can kill it”. But Mr. Chifley said in an article in the 1950 issue of Teleview -
The Labour party regrets very much the delay of almost a year which has now occurred in the establishment of television in Australia.
Labour’s great leader was a man who could say that Australia should not lag behind in television, and he was sorry that he could not proceed with it at that point of time. But then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition comes in, with his heavy-footed tread, and says, “ Wo could never afford it, therefore we do not propose to proceed with it. If we do, we will nationalize L. I will control it. I will see that only those things that I want to go over will go over, and that those that I do not want to go over will not go over - not even if I have to do what I did to the press and stand them up with a revolver “.
How does Labour really stand on this matter of television? The legislation before the House represents the considered judgment of television experts all over the world. This is not a new device in other countries which we would not say are more progressive, generally, than Australia but which we have to acknowledge have been more progressive than Australia in the field of television. We have gathered knowledge from their experience; we are using that experience. In addition, to. give the matter local colour, the Government’s proposals are in accord with the expressed views of a good cross-section of the people, as given before the Royal Commission on Television.
The bill ensures that television will conform to high standards. I will not have a bar of the writing down of Australian programmes in which honorable, members opposite have indulged. I believe that there are more responsible, people looking after the cultural welfare of Australia than those who were described by the honorable member for Melbourne. It is all very well for him to talk about Smokey Dawson. It i.« all very well for him to talk about all these hillbilly numbers which I have no doubt he enjoys. They do not represent the standard that will be accepted by the control board with regard to television. When the honorable gentleman spoke about the control board not enforcing the quota of 2^ per cent., he knew as well as I did that, over a period of years, Australian artists have been used for nearly 4 per cent, of the transmission time. When the Labour Government was in office, it had the opportunity to increase from 2-£ per cent, to 5 per cent, or 7i per cent, the transmission time for which Australian artists were to be used, but he did not do it. The Gibson Committee recommended a quota of 2i per cent. The honorable member put bis signature to that recommendation and he has not been game to get away from it until he has sat in Opposition. Now, he, knows that he has no responsibility and can indulge to the full all the parades for which he is so famous.
The bill affords full community representation on controlling authorities. It provides for adequate censorship of all televised programmes. It provides for proper control of the issue and continuance of licences, applications for which will be heard before a public inquiry. It also provides safeguards against monopoly control. That is one thing with which I am in complete accord, because I believe that if we want to maintain the purity of television in this country, we must not allow it to be controlled by any monopoly. Religious and political matters have been appropriately dealt with by the Government, and Opposition members have not challenged them on a fair and equitable basis. I know full well that the honorable member for Melbourne on one other occasion imposed some restrictions on free expression in relation to the John Henry Austral series of broadcasts, because those broadeasts were factual and were doing the Labour party a lot of harm. The broadcasts told many truths and, therefore, they had to be suppressed. The Labour Government brought in an act to -suppress them, and they were suppressed.
– That is lying propaganda
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) says that this is propaganda. The honorable member is a past master in that art himself.
I now want to say something about the provisions in this bill for the employment of Australian artists, because last Thursday evening I was listening to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) who referred to something that I had said with regard to quotas for Australian artists. I am afraid - and no doubt he would agree - that a certain amount of editorial licence creeps into these matters. The honorable member mentioned a paper of the 2nd December. I have the quotations from a paper of that date, and I have a copy of a letter that I wrote on the 2nd December from which I propose to read an extract. It is addressed to the editor of the Eastern Suburbs Advertiser, and reads as follows : -
With reference to the other questions raised in to-day’s issue of the Advertiser I would again draw your attention to the fact that the existence of any Television Transmitting Station is dependent upon Licence and this Licence is subject to periodical issue. Furthermore, a Control Board will decide the suitability of all programs submitted to the public for
General viewing and you will well appreciate that this Control Board will certainly act in the best cultural interests of the Australian Public. I note your remarks about the importation of what you class as “ cheap-jack overseas film and syndicated T.V. muck that has already flooded this country “. While not in any way agreeing that this is the case because, quite frankly, I have not had the opportunity of viewing any such films at the moment, I would draw your attention again to the existence of the Control Board and my assurances that this Control Board will protect the well-being of the T.V. public. You will also appreciate in this respect that it does not matter how much of the so-called “muck” cornea into the country. What counts is the amount of it which reaches the public. If, as you say, the cost of such imports, if any, is cheap, this in itself makes it a negligible drain on the country’s resources and therefore it can bc dismissed as being of no great importance. I do, however, agree very definitely that strict supervision be exercised over the quality of Presentation Material and you may rest assured that this will be done. In my previous Article I brought to your notice the Government’s high opinion of Australian artists and its desire to use them wherever possible in T.V. and ‘Radio Programs. You will readily agree that in the field of broadcasting a very definite fair deal has been accorded to all Austalian theatrical members. Yon may Test assured that similar treatment will be afforded in the rea.lin of television.
– Who wrote that?
– That is a passage from a letter that I sent to the editor of the Eastern Suburbs Advertiser, and it clearly sets out my attitude. In a subsequent statement that I made on this subject, I said this -
My attention has been drawn to the leading article in The Advertiser of December 2, m which comment appears in relation to my published assurance that I will use my best endeavours when the new Cabinet is formed in ensure a proper quota of Australian talent on television programmes when they come into operation next year. In reply to your query as to fixation of quotas for Australian talent, f point out that representations were made by the appropriate interests to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and to the PostmasterGeneral. These recommendations were, in fact, in process of consideration by the Cabinet, but no decision could be reached pending the outcome of the election on December 10. As I have already pointed out, we are at the moment only a caretaker Cabinet and no Cabinet exists for making policy decision* until after the election. The Government proposes to amend the Australian Broadcasting Act in respect of television in the New Year, and I can assure all those whose welfare is likely to be affected by the introduction of television that their interests will be fully protected when the amending legislation is brought down.
I want to add to that that I am firmly of the opinion that a quota should be established for Australian artists. I believe that a fixed figure could be arrived at, but that it would not approach the amount that is mentioned in the proposed amendment.
– Why not ?
– That would be completely absurd. The right honorable member knows that he is seeking political advantage. I believe that the proportion of television time that could be occupied by Australian artists of a high-class standard can be found only by trial and error. A percentage quota, if established, would reveal whether that percentage could be maintained at a high level, whether it could be increased, or whether it should be reduced. The honorable member for Parkes said that such a provision as this would dispose of the “ quickies “ that some people want to use for television or broadcasting. I agree with that statement. I agree that a reasonable quota has to be established, but that is only my own personal opinion. The Government thinks that it is infinitely better to proceed in the way that it is proceeding. I support the Government. I am prepared to give the hill a go, and, if it is successful, I will applaud the Government. If it is not successful, the Government can make the necessary amendments to this legislation. But at least the Government is going to do something. It does not intend to act in the same way as the honorable member for Melbourne, who, after receiving a reportconcerning the quota of 2^ per cent., did not do a blessed thing in regard to it during the years that the Labour Government was in office, but now seeks a political advantage by raising the quota to heaven. He knows that the Opposition’s proposal is impossible. The Leader of the Opposition knows that a quota of 55 per rent, could not be discharged in Australia in a level that would be-
– “Why not try it ?
– We know that the quota in respect of musicians has only risen from 2$ per cent, to 3.91 per cent.
– That is in relation to music.
– Musicians ire artists. Is the honorable member trying to tell me that all these ham actors that we hear over the radio are going to increase the cultural levels of this country? I will not believe it. I believe we are doing the right thing by starting off to see what we can produce by the use of local talent and then, if necessary, to increase-
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) misrepresented me three times in respect of the 1944 censorship incident. He misrepresented me by not stating the facts. Any action which I took at that time was taken in support of the Chief Censor, who, in his wisdom, decided that certain matter that newspapers proposed to print would endanger the lives of Australian men serving in one or other of the three services. It was reported to me as Minister that newspapers proposed to defy him. I backed him up, and I am glad that. I backed him up. I have never regretted anything that I did then. For the VicePresident of the Executive Council to say that I went round with a revolver in my hand standing people up is merely a figment of his diseased and disordered imagination. I am proud of having backed the Chief Censor, and if ever such an incident occurred again, and I were similarly placed, I would do the same thing.
1 9.22] . - After listening to the melodramatic speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), it is time we got back to the bill and heard something about what it really means. This bill is for the purpose of amending the law relating to the administration of broadcasting and television in Australia, lt will extend to the broadcasting services most of the provisions recommended by the royal commission in respect of television services. In that context the word “most” is most important as it will allow the Minister to depart from the provisions recommended by the royal commission.
Honorable members conversing at the table,
– Order I Honorable members must resume their seats.
– It is just as well we are not on television to-night.
– Order I The honorable member for East Sydney may not continually interject at the table.
– I was not doing so.
-If the honorable gentleman continues to do so, I shall take action.
– The Minister said that television services should start in Sydney and Melbourne, and that their extension to other areas should be deferred until actual experience of the operation of the first metropolitan stations has been obtained. He did not say the first “national” stations. That is most important. What does he mean by his statement ? Since the commercial stations will be operating by July and the national stations not until November, will that mean that the commercial stations, having been given a good start in this field as a result of the good graces of the Government, can go on and expand into other fields? Or will they have to wait until the national stations catch up? Will all stations then collate all their data and decide what is to be done? While we are on that aspect I should like to ask a question that arises from the position that will result from the fact that the commercial stations will be in the field first. Since the viewer’s licence-fee is to be collected in order to support the national stations, will the owners of television sets who, in the first few months, will have only commercial programmes to watch have to pay a licence-fee while they are waiting for the national service to be opened? The Minister should clarify that point. The Minister in his speech said that the Government, on the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, authorized the granting of licences. These licences were granted as follows : - In Sydney, to Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited and Television Corporation Limited; and in Melbourne to General Television Corporation Proprietary Limited and Herald-Sun Television Proprietary Limited. He said he would not weary honorable members with the details of shareholdings and directorates in these companies. I think that we should at least have a look at them, in order to see who the shareholders and directors are. I am sure that the people of Australia will be interested in their identities. Let us take Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited first. This group comprises the Sydney Morning Herald, Associated Newspapers Limited, the Macquarie broadcasting network, radio stations 2GB and 2UW and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The Sydney Morning Herald interests - in other words, John Fairfax and Sons - are to take out shares valued at £150,000. The remainder of the shares are to be held as follows : - Associated Newspapers Limited, £115,000; radio station 2TJE, £35,000. That will make a total investment of £300,000. John Fairfax and Sons have a controlling interest in Associated Newspapers
Limited - get the tie-up! - which in turn controls radio station 2UE. John Fairfax and Sons have both ordinary and preference capital, but the control is vested in ordinary shares. The Macquarie interests are to hold £300,000 in shares. Of the total, radio station 2GB is to contribute £100,000, the Macquarie network £100,000 and Artransa Proprietary Limited £100,000. The London Daily Mirror holds a share of control in Artransa Proprietary Limited, and also holds an interest in 2GB through Broadcasting Associates Limited, with some 44.7 per cent of the share capital, and has a majority of directors on the board. Through its Australian affiliates the London Daily Mirror also holds a very substantial portion of the capital of the Macquarie broadcasting network and, by a combination of its stations, could control the voting strength of the network.
Finally, Artransa Proprietary Limited, which is the transcription and programme company, is an entirely controlled subsidiary of M.P.A. Productions Limited - the London Daily Mirror affiliate. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is to take up £150,000 in capital with the right to name interests which would contribute another £150,000 - their identity is not divulged - placing the group on a parity with the Sydney Morning Herald and the London Daily Mirror-Macquarie group. It i3 made clear that this extra £150,000 could come from the Email interests, which manufacture and market Westinghouse products in Australia.
The fourth member is the Australian Broadcasting Company, which represents the Albert music interests in station 2UW, Sydney. That company is pledged to find £150,000. The initial capital of this group is to be a minimum of £S25,000, but it has given a guarantee to find £1,000,000, with an additional reserve of £1,000,000. The directors are - Mr. R. A. G. Henderson, better known as “ Rags “ Henderson, and Sir John Butters, on behalf of the Sydney, Morning Her aid- Associated Newspaper interests; Clive Ogilvy and J. D. Patience for the London Daily Mirror-Macquarie interests; Lionel Hooke and J. Carroll for Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited; and Alexis Albert for station 2UW. Hooke is managing director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Remember that this Government sold out the nation’s interest in that company. Now we find that the Government has given some sort of control to the people to whom it sold those shares formerly held by the nation. Mr. <T. Carroll is managing director of Email Limited, which is associated with the Westinghouse corporation of the United States of America. The almighty dollar creeps in ! He is also a director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. How did the Government gather all these good friends and wealthy interests around itself? It seems to have a kind of affinity for wealth. It gathers these interests around itself and, at the expense of the Australian people, gives them all the favours for which they ask.
Now let us consider the constitution of General Television Corporation Proprietary Limited, which was one of the successful groups in Melbourne. Behind this organization is David Syme and Company Limited, owner of the Age newspaper. Argus and Australasian Limited, owner of the Argus newspaper, is another principal of the organization. Argus and Australasian Limited is owned lock, stock and barrel by the London Daily Mirror group. The London Daily Mirror seems to get in from all angles. That group is not satisfied with having complete control of a once great newspaper, the Argus, but it is now successfully attempting to get a fair share of the control of television in Australia. The other Melbourne group, Herald-Sun T.V. Proprietary Limited, is linked with the Melbourne Herald, the Melbourne Sun-News Pictorial, and the Courier-Ma.il in Brisbane. If I remember correctly, one of the members of the Royal Commission on Television was the editor of the Courier-Mail. Yet that self-same royal commission allows a group, which includes the Brisbane Courier-Mail, to participate in these very valuable concessions. Now we know why the PostmasterGeneral wanted to skip over any reference to shareholders in the successful applicant groups, which are all influential friends and supporters of this Government. It is very interesting to note the degree of foreign control of the successful companies. Australians can look forward to complete control of our communications systems, both sound and visual, by a combination of wealthy interests, which are predominantly foreign and which, as I have stated, are supporters of the Government.
Let us now consider another very important point which shows clearly the pressure that is brought to bear by these wealthy combinations on the PostmasterGeneral. The honorable gentleman stated that the Government has decided that the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall consist of seven part-time commissioners, as in the past - he gets over this particular point very subtly - but that it is proposed, under clause 14 of the bill, to discontinue the practice of appointing an officer of the Treasury and an officer of the Postmaster-General’s Department as members of it. He hastened to add that that decision should not be construed as being any reflection on the officers of the Treasury and the Postmaster-General’s Department who have been members of the commission since 1949. That decision is contrary to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Television, which stated, in paragraph 345 -
We may add that the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission suggested to us in his evidence that there was a strong case for increasing the number of members of the Commission from seven to nine, and that this would afford an opportunity for widening and strengthening the constitution of the Commission. We are much impressed with this suggestion and recommend that it should be adopted.
Why was it not adopted? That is a question that we should all ask.
The Government has suggested that the members of the commission should be so chosen as to ensure that the people as a whole are represented by a broad crosssection of the community. The Minister has stated that, if that principle is adhered to, there is little danger of the great power of the national broadcasting and television services being employed for sectional purposes. After making that patriotic outburst, he immediately proceeded to ignore the recommendation of the royal- commission by reducing the number by withdrawing the two government representatives. The PostmasterGeneral’s own representative has been sacked by the honorable gentleman himself. Why has he done this ? Was the pressure from outside, from those foreign interests, too great to resist? It is obvious that they must have brought too much pressure to bear. That action of the Government represents a craven surrender to the wealthy interests that control the Government from outside and which will control our television services. It will be interesting to see who shall be appointed to replace those two gentlemen on the commission. The Minister extols the virtues of his own representative and another member of the commission by paying tribute to the good work that they have done, and then sacks them! It reminds me of the time when we used to work in the factories; we would be told how good we were and then be sacked.
The bill requires the PostmasterGeneral to provide and to operate, free of charge, for the purposes of broadcasting programmes for the Australian Broadcasting Commission transmitting stations, technical equipment to connect a studio of the commission to the local transmitting station, technical equipment at the studios of the commission, technical equipment for the reception of transmission from other countries, technical equipment at programme pick-up points, and all other technical equipment required for those programmes. He is also required to provide and to operate, again free of charge, for television programmes of the commission, transmitting stations, all technical equipment for connection of studios to transmission stations, and all other technical equipment necessary for those programmes. The provision and operation of that equipment will mean, of course, expenditure running into millions of pounds. It is very important for the taxpayers to note that fact. But no provision is made for supervision by the Postal Department, because the Postmaster-General has sacked his representative. He did not want his representative there, perhaps because he may see what was going on. Surely that lack of supervision will lead to grave irregularities. The Postmaster-General who has introduced the bill, should give this matter very grave consideration, because he will be responsible for any discrepancies that occur, as they surely will with private enterprise having such a great measure of control. I have worked for private enterprise for more than 30 years and I know the rackets that it has perpetrated’. It will perpetrate similar rackets, on the Minister, because this slap-happy arrangement is just what it wants, and it will have an open go. I suggest that the Postmaster-General withdraw this bill and re-draft it so as “ to permit the appointment to the commission of at least one member of the Postal Department. I am concerned about the expenditure of millions of pounds by the department on television, when there is a shortage throughout the Commonwealth of telephones and of all types of postal equipment. Yet we find that he intends to spend indiscriminately all the money he can get to suit these foreign investors in television.
Now let me turn to the question of the type and quality of programmes. This is a matter that should be closely watched, as rumours are freely circulating in our community that the Australian Broadcasting Commission - again under the control of the Postmaster-General - is scouring the United States of America and buying up all sorts of material that has been discarded as worthless in America. I believe that full consideration should be given to the employment of Australian artists as far as possible. That statement means- we should grant the claims in the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition that 55 per cent, of the time should be allowed to Australian artists in the various categories - dramatic, comedy, musical comedy, variety, documentary and sporting.
Sporting, which is very important, is also mentioned in the amendment. We should protect sporting bodies against the broadcasting or telecasting of their activities without their consent and without fair and adequate remuneration. The3e sharks are trying to grab legally all the sporting programmes in the country, and transmit them without cost. Just imagine how the attendances at sporting events will fall away! If the public do not attend sporting fixtures, no money will be coming in to keep sports going. Then there will he no sport, and, therefore, there will not be any transmission. The Postmaster-General, naive and all as he is, can surely appreciate a point like that.
Children’s programmes should be of a very high class> as we do not want our children to view programmes of American trash. We see enough of that now. This “Government loves the American investors, of course, but it has not any time for the ordinary Americans. It worships the almighty dollar and, as long as it can get American trash costing dollars into this country and restrict imports in higher categories, it thinks everything is aD right. The mothers and fathers of Australia should insist that their children shall be shown decent programmes on -television. I suggest that the material for children’s programmes should be not 55 per cent, but 100 per cent. Australian origin.
All this equipment will require technicians to work it. These men, who will comprise the top men operating in radio to-day, will be expected to have extra technical knowledge. We know that the Postal Department is not too keen to pay decent wages to its employees, but it is necessary that these men with highly technical knowledge to- carry on television programmes should be paid at a higher rate. The unions covering these technicians should get in early and make claims for a higher rate of pay for their members engaged in television, which will be operating in Sydney and Melbourne very soon. This higher rate should be commensurate with the extra skill required. There is no doubt that television is one of the latest scientific developments and requires quite a high degree of technical skiLL I suggest that the Minister have a look at this point, as he usually overlooks this most important feature. He would be well advised to pay more attention to the technicians- who must do this work. Highly skilled technicians are necessary to operate highly technical television ser- “ vices. He should pay more attention to the technicians, and their claims to higher rates of pay and better conditions, and less attention to the wealthy companies, for which, he shows such solicitude in this bill. He should get down, off bis high horse and give the Australians some thought. After all, it will be the Australian technician - the greatest technician in the world - who will cover all the television programmes in Australia now and in the future.
The cost of television to the ordinary man and woman has to be taken into consideration. Firstly, there is the cost of advertising. The honorable member for lawson cried, out aloud that if the proposed amendment were accepted the television interests would receive a licence f o r only three years, and he said that they would not make any profit. That is all that Government supporters think ofprofit! We learn that the cost of televising a programme is £200 a minute. If the companies cannot make any profit al that rate of advertising, they should be out of the business. It is one of tingreatest arguments for nationalization that I have heard. The ordinary man in the street, who wants to buy a television set and thinks he will enjoy it, may open his eyes at the cost. The cost of television will be heavy and it will be out of the reach of the ordinary man and woman in the community for a long time.
Let us analyse the cost. A set will cost at least £200 and will, in most cases, have to be bought on hire purchase. Of course those companies have to be in on it ! The hire-purchase sharks must get their share of the inno vation by means of the in teres) they charge on all these hire-purchase commitments! There is also insurance. Added to that there will be the television licence-fee of £5 on top of the fee of £2 for a radio licence, making a total of £7 a year for the two licences. The cost of the purchase and erection of an aerial, of which there are three types, has to be considered. There is the in-built loop type which can be used indoors and is in most cases suitable for areas 8 to 10 miles from the transmitter. This is the cheapest form of aerial. For a set located a little farther from the transmitter, the rabbitears type of aerial will he required. It is suitable for exterior or interior use at distances from 10 to 15 miles from the transmitter. Then there is the fringe type of aerial for use in different areas, or on the fringe of the effective signal 45 to 50 miles away. This type will possibly cost £20 for installation alone.
I come now to the coat of replacement of a picture tube. The distributors in Australia will follow the United Kingdom pattern, and give 90 days’ guarantee on valves and six months’ on picture tubes. It is the old story! It is interesting to note, on a comparison of wages in the United Kingdom and Australia, that a person in the United Kingdom works for two weeks to replace a picture tube. In Australia he will work for one and a quarter weeks to do the same thing. It may interest honorable members to know that it appears to be the accepted thing in the United States and the United Kingdom for television set owners to make payments into a maintenance fund at their local retailers. Estimates made in the United Kingdom indicate that it costs from £15 to £20 a year to run a television set. The cost of cathode ray picture tubes works out at the rate of £1 an inch. Owning and running a television set, therefore, costs a considerable amount of money, and we see how far television will be out of the reach of the average Australian worker. It is freely rumoured that the first 10,000 television sets will be sold for cash. That, again, will suit the wealthy interests. The working man, although he has been paying through the nose in taxation to make television programmes possible, will be unable to buy a set simply because he will not have the necessary money. I give my full support to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.-
.- I have been preceded in this debate by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin). Unfortunately he read his material too rapidly for me to take note of more than two points. The first matter, which seemed to trouble him a great deal, was that the licensees are, as he described them, wealthy friends of the Government. I should have thought that the honorable member would have derived much consolation from the fact that the bill provides that before a licence is issued advertisements must be inserted in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, that applicants shall be referred to an inquiry in public by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and that the recommendations of that board should be sent to the Minister. [ understand that those provisions applied prior to the issue of four licences to commercial broadcasting stations.
I do not know the source of the honorable member’s information, but he alsosaid that the cost of production of television programmes in Australia would be £200 a minute. Nothing could be further from the truth. He seeks to suggest that the cost of a half-hour programme would be 30 times £200. That is quite wrong. Although I would have preferred to deal with this subject later, I must say now that the cost of production of television programmes is infinitely less in Australia than in the United States of America. It may interest the honorable member to know that Australia is developing an export industry in commercial broadcasting and television scripts and programmes to Canada, where Australian producers are competing successfully with United States producers, because they can produce at a. lower cost.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has also preceded me in this debate. On the last occasion on which that happened, I found it necessary to correct a wrong statement made by him. On this occasion he has referred to certain television programmes that are being offered to sponsors for £250. The figure, in fact, is £150.
– That makes his case all the better.
– It does not. It merely illustrates the point that, on occasion, the honorable gentleman is prone to give this House figures that are substantially incorrect. In this case whether the amount is less or more is unimportant. He said that the . amount was £250, and it is in fact £150. Then, in a. flight of fantasy and in an endeavour to raise a laugh in the chamber, he suggested that it would be perfectly in order, under the provisions of the bill, for a television company to go into the Tivoli Theatre and telecast the performance. Such a proposition, is, of course, quite ridiculous. The bill would certainly not authorize any such procedure. The honorable member for Melbourne also suggested that the bill should provide that 80 ner cent, of capital investment in the industry should be controlled by people from within Australia. The honorable member then said that 7-J per cent, of musical programmes should be composed of Australian music. Why not 80 per cent.? The Opposition asks for 55 per cent, of Australian material to be included in programmes. Why does it not ask for 80 per cent., if it is so wedded to this figure of 80 per cent.? Why has the honorable member departed from that percentage? When we consider the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, we find in the preamble the same old terms so frequently used by the Opposition. The words “ mass “ and “ monopolize “ appear. The phrase “ the people of Australia. “ appears. They are the same old terms disguised by association with different words and applied to a different field of legislation. But when we leave the general part of the amendment, with its mass-appeal terms, and get down to the particulars of the Opposition’s objection, we find that it has apparently failed to read the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Television. The amendment says that the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted so as to include specific safeguards against detrimental monopoly - again the word “monopoly” crops up - by guaranteeing to the general public and to religious, educational, cultural, political and social organizations - I can think of no other wording to make the ambit wider - opportunities for a fair and just share of ownership or control of broadcasting and television licences and a fair and just use of the facilities of such services.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, pointed out that there are some 34,000 Australian shareholders in the companies that have been granted television licences. That number is not inconsiderable. Thirty-four thousand of anything is a considerable number, and 34,000 Australian people, who have a sense of justice and fair play, are a considerable force. They have, as shareholders, the right to criticize, at meetings of the companies with which they are associated, the policies pursued by those companies.
The Opposition’s amendment then refers to specific provisions to effect the following purpose : -
I do not know what has prompted the Opposition to include that provision. Certainly Opposition supporters have presented no argument to justify it. 1 should like to point out that the bill makes provision for a statutory board, which is to be independent of political or ministerial control to safeguard these interests.
– It does not. That is where the honorable member is making a mistake.
– If the honorable member will refer to the bill he will find that I am correct. He will find that my statement is also supported by the report and recommendations of the royal commission, which constituted the foundation of this bill. In the case of broadcasting, the same provisions applied before television entered the field.
– We have no faith in that board.
– The Opposition has no faith in it, but it has offered no reason for its lack of faith. Earlier this evening the honorable member for Melbourne described the Australian Broadcasting Commission as the anti-Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– That was a masterly understatement.
– He did so for no good reason. He used that slanderous term without giving any reason for applying it to the commission. The Opposition’s amendment goes on to suggest specific provisions to assure the broadcasting or televising, free of charge, of religious services or subjects on an equitable basis both by the commission and commercial licensees. The Opposition must know that the Minister has the power to direct both the national broadcasting service and the commercial televising service in regard to material that he requires to be televised or broadcast.
The amendment then suggests specific provisions to ensure that facilities are provided, free of charge, on an equitable and impartial basis for the broadcasting and televising of matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current policies of national importance. In this respect the bill makes no material change in the position that existed while broadcasting was the only outlet for Australian licensees. The position will not be changed, and I feel quite certain that experience of this aspect in the past provides no sound basis for criticism of the operation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or of the commercial broadcasting services.
I now come to the next suggestion contained in the Opposition’s amendment, to the effect that specific provisions should be included to provide adequate safeguards against the flooding of Australian television programmes with low-grade syndicated overseas productions to the practical exclusion of productions by Australians, and for this purpose to guarantee that no less than an average of 55 per cent, of the transmission time of any television station shall be occupied by Australian programmes. By the use of the term “low-grade syndicated overseas productions “ the Opposition seeks to indicate that that is the only kind of programme that will come to Australia. Surely it must be aware of the evidence before the Royal Commission on Television of the great wealth of cultural and educational programmes available to this country from overseas. The very wording of the amendment suggests that we shall get from other countries only low-grade syndicated overseas productions. That is far from the truth, as all honorable members on both sides of the House will realize. The mere suggestion contained in that wording gives offence to friendly nations over the seas. The Opposition says that, because we shall receive this type of programme, we should provide that 55 per cent, of the transmission time on any television station shall be occupied by Australian programmes, and that, in the calculation of this time, no account shall be taken of the time occupied by news and sporting events.
Conversation being audible.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr; Lawrence). - Order! There is too much noise on the Opposition benches.
– We are the only people- in the chamber.
– The quota was considered by the royal commission. In paragraph 409, at page 81 of the report,, the royal commissioners state -
We are in agreement with those witnesses who advanced as a basic proposition thai: Australian artists should play a real and. steadily increasing part in Australian television, and we believe that there is an. undoubted obligation on the operators of television stations to ensure that the best use itmade of Australian talent. It would not liepracticable, at present, however, before any actual experience has been gained as to the amount of talent available or its capacity toprovide a good standard of programme, for any authority to lay down quotas for the Australian content of television programmes, even if the principle of encouraging the employment of Australian artists by the imposition of quota* is valid. This principle is, indeed,, open to question and there are some danger* that the quota system, if adopted, might lead’ to a deterioration in programme standards.
In recommendations 40. 41 and 42 the commissioners report -
There- is tin obligation on all televisionstations to ensure that the best use is madeof Australian talent.
Quotas for the Australian content of television programmes can only be determined after actual experience has been gained in. the operation of the service.
No general embargo should be imposed, at least in the initial stages, on the imports tion of films from other countries, but the question should be kept under review a» television develops.
In consideration of those recommendations, the following provision is included in proposed new section 88 of the principal act: -
The Commission and licensees shall, as far as possible, use the services of Australiana in the production and presentation of broadcasting and television programmes.
Concerning the quota, it is interesting to consider the point mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne, who said that a lot of syndicated American programmes are available to Australian sponsors for relatively small charges. That is true. One of the companies that deals in this kind of thing has sent out circulars to advertising agents and sponsors informing them that certain programmes are available to them. Among others available is “Rin-tin-tin “. I have ascertained that this programme was made available to its first sponsors in the United States, Quality Jewellers and
Necchi Sewing Machines, for 24,000 dollars for one week’s 30-minute programme. Another programme, “Father Knows Best “, cost its original sponsor, the Scott Paper Company, 38,000 dollars for a similar period. Those same programmes will be available in Australia for £150. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that some sponsors will not be prepared to pay the higher cost of televising a live programrne staged by Australian artists, and will prefer to pay this lesser amount instead. I have no doubt that, when this provision was incorporated in the bill, the Government had in mind the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which deals specifically with the prevention of dumping in sections 16 and 17, and, more particularly, in section18, the sidenote of which reads -
When competition deemed unfair.
Section 18 provides - (1.) For the purposes of this Fart of this Act, competition shall be deemed to be unfair, unless the contrary is proved, if -
I have no doubt that the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs will exercise the power available to him to put a brake on the importation of television films in order to protect the interests of Australian artists. But, if we require Australian television stations, from the initial date of transmission, to employ the services of Australian artists exclusively, or up to a specified quota, we may condemn the whole television service to public ridicule because standards may be limited. It must be remembered that Australian artists, no matter how great their skill, need special training in order to take part in television programmes.
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith suggested that the production of television programmeswould cost £200 a minute. I do not think the actual cost is anything like that figure. It is more likely that a normal programme will cost something like £5,000 an hour. That may be right, or it may be wrong. I understand that the cost has not been properly assessed yet. That is certainly nothing like the figure suggested by the honorable member. I have been informed that members of Actors and Announcers Equity Association of Australia and the musicians union are critical of the bill because it does not provide for a specific quota of Australian material. I have suggested to the House the reasons why such provision was not made. The most important reason is that it was specifically recommended against by the Royal Commission on Television. I feel that the best interests of Australian talent and artists would be served if Australians were able to compete openly with overseas producers, because there is no doubt whatever that Australian production is more efficient than production anywhere else in the world. It is certainly far cheaper than production in the United States of America, as is evidenced by the fact that Australian producers are competing with United States producers successfully in no less a country than Canada. As a consequence, among Australian artists and producers there are well recognized standards of what the Australian people demand in television entertainment. If Australians are allowed to compete freely with the advantage of our better cost structure, they can bring to the Australian people the programmes they want. Although the report of the royal commission suggested that consideration be given to this matter in the future, I think it will become unnecessary to consider it, because it is quite clear to every one that, in the field of sound broadcasting, Australian artists have proved themselves every bit as capable as artists from any other country.
There are other points in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I am afraid that not one of then: commends itself to the House forserious consideration, but there is a remarkable statement in paragraph (6). The proposal is that the bill be redrafted so as to-
Provide for the inclusion of a representative of the Treasury and the Postmaster-General’s Department in the personnel of the Australian
Broadcasting Commission and to assure that that commission shall include a resident of each State.
It is remarkable to find, coming from the other side of the House, even lip service to the principle that Australia is a federation, not a union, into which honorable members opposite would like to hustle us. This is a federation, and the guardians of that federation are to be found on this side of the House. No matter how frequently the Opposition puts forward a proposition such as that, paying lip service to State rights, the people of Australia, who revere our federal Constitution, will know that the guardians of it are the people on this side of the House.
In paragraph 7 of the amendment, the Leader of the Opposition suggests that we restrict the initial granting of broadcasting and television licences to periods of three years, but he has not put forward any satisfactory reason why that should be so. On the other, hand, the Minister, in his second-reading speech, gave adequate reasons why the period should be five years. The eighth paragraph of the amendment seeks the redrafting of the bill-
To protect sporting bodies and sport organizations against their fixtures being televised or broadcast without their consent or without fair or adequate remuneration.
I feel that that is an outright, blatant approach to members of such organizations to persuade them that the Labour party is the only party which will protect their rights. That is not so. Prom this side of the House there has been circulated an amendment to that effect. At this stage, I am not sure whether I am in favour of it, because I see that it covers n much wider field than would appear from a first reading. It is alleged that there is a common law right for a person to exclude television or broadcasting companies. Whether that common law right is a real right, I do not know; but certainly I feel that the problem is not quite ns simple as the Opposition would have us believe.
This bill is directed towards the introduction into Australia of television. The royal commission considered the peculiar problems applicable to Australia - a country vast in area but small in population.
The centres of population which can beserved by television first are Melbourne and Sydney. Acting on the recommendation of the commissioners, the Government has approved this bill, which provides that television shall be introduced first to Sydney, and subsequently to Melbourne. It is envisaged by the royal’ commission, as it is envisaged by thelegislation before the House, that within a short . time services will be extended throughout Australia.
Throughout this debate - and, in fact, throughout the course of discussion anywhere about the introduction of television - many undue fears have been expressed. I do not believe that the fears that have been expressed are real fears. The commission, when considering this matter, also felt that the fears were exaggerated. In paragraphs 124 to 131 of the report, the commission dealt specifically with that point. I think that the matter is summed up best in the commission’s reference, to the 1949-51 period, which is as follows : -
This period is marked by a change from vague speculation to a demand for concerted group effort to remove glaring defects and to improve the quality of programmes. The following titles illustrate the mood of this era - “ Prometheus or Frankenstein 1”: “ What shall be clone about television?”: “Television brings new challenge to teaching “. Any innovation will cause, in the initial stages, both exaggerated enthusiasm and exaggerated suspicion. Had the world been more vocal when printing was invented, we can imagine the elders expressing serious doubts whether the printed page might not subvert the foundations of English life, interfere with the physical development of the people and give to the yeoman ideas beyond his station.
So it is with the introduction of television. There are exaggerated fears. I feel that, those fears can, quite properly, be brushed lightly aside. After all, this nation is no longer immature. We are a mature people now. We are folk with sturdy good sense who were able to take the introduction of broadcasting, without letting it subvert us in any obvious way. So I think that we shall be able to absorb the shock of television on the social and domestic life of Australia, and that it will not create problems which we cannot overcome.
The structure of control will he the same as previously. There will be four responsible persons or bodies - the Minister, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Postmaster-General’s Department. Basically, they will have the same responsibilities as before, but adjusted to television. Probably the most important provision of the bill is the licensing provision. Before a licence can be granted, advertisements must be published to enable interested persons to apply for it. Then, at a public hearing, the control board must take evidence and, subsequently, make its recommendation to the Minister. The bill provides also that the Minister shall have power to suspend or revoke a licence, but it delineates quite clearly the grounds on which the Minister will be able to suspend a licence. In accordance with the commission’s report, it is provided that, if the Minister suspends a licence, he can do so only for the short period of 30 days. At the conclusion of that period of 30 days, he must give notice of his intention to move for the licence to be revoked. Then, once again, there will be a public hearing before the control board, and the board will make a recommendation to the Minister. I feel that the licensing provisions will ensure sound standards of television and broadcasting programmes throughout Australia.
The final point that I want to make relates to the reconciliation that has taken place between, on the one hand, the contention that there is a need for censorship, and, on the other hand, the contention that there is a need for self-regulation. There is some degree of censorship in that the Minister can direct what shall not be televised or broadcast. He may prohibit. Apart from that, the stations are left to self-regulation, but they know that the Minister is there at all times, armed with power to ensure that public interest, public taste and general morality will be preserved. In that respect, the bill has brought about a reconciliation between the opposing forces of censorship and selfregulation of televising and broadcasting bodies.
Mr. GALVIN (Kingston) “10.20]. - I am surprised that the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Shedden) should take honorable members on this side of the House to task for advocating an amendment, part of which is designed to protect sporting bodies. “We are quite mindful of the fact that an amendment has been suggested by the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), who achieved great fame as a sportsman and, as a sporting administrator, still takes a very active interest in the affairs of the sportsmen of this nation. In a matter such as this, we are quite happy to forget politics and work in the interests of the thousands of competitors and administrators in the sporting world who spend their time and money with no thought other than to give sporting facilities to the people of this nation. Sporting activity is their main concern, and of secondary importance is the entertainment that comes from the work that these administrators put into the game. I suggest that the honorable member is not chiding honorable members on this side, but in effect he is saying that the sporting community of this nation should not make suggestions or requests to members of the Parliament, from whom they have sought assistance and protection in the advent of this legislation.
This bill is probably one of the most important pieces of legislation with which honorable members have had to deal since the Commonwealth Parliament was founded, because we cannot foresee the impact which this legislation will have on the life of the people. Undoubtedly the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) has put much work into the preparation of the bill. He has given it much thought, but I am sure he is quite willing at least to listen to suggestions from honorable members on this side and to give consideration to their viewpoint. “We must start television on the right leg. It is of no use to start with a hotch-potch arrangement, hoping that it will be all right. The honorable member for Bruce says that our fears can be lightly brushed aside, but it will be too late to talk about brushing fears aside after television is established. It might not then be possible to rectify mistakes which we should have been careful to avoid. It is very hard to visualize just how farreaching will be the effect of the introduction of television on our way of life. The amendment advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), on behalf of the Labour party, represents a genuine attempt by honorable members on this side to assist in the launching of this great project. I am reminded by the presence of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) that there has been much talk of a battle for men’s minds and a battle of ideas. Television opens up a great field in which that battle for the thoughts and minds of the people of this nation may be waged.
– Or to pollute them.
– We know that there will be a battle, not only on the political field but also on many other fields, for the minds of people, and television opens a new avenue. We must be careful that we do not lightly place in the hands of individuals an instrument which may do untold harm to the community. In this country we are fortunate to have before ns the example of the use of this medium in the United Kingdom, the United States if America, Canada and other countries, and it is to be hoped that we shall learn from their experiences. Unquestionably we have learned much technically, but are our plans for the presentation of television programmes any better for the fact that we have come later into the field? [ have some doubts about that. I am afraid that we might allow companies to establish stations and feed to the Australian people programmes which might do a great deal of harm to some members of our community. The honorable member for Bruce mentioned films of the type of the Rin Tin Tin series and others. Of course, some films of that type which honorable members can recollect seeing in theatres long ago are quite wholesome, but many films which are on the suggested list for sale are trash which can do more harm than good to our people, and particularly to children.
Television is unquestionably the most powerful medium ever put at the disposal of man for the dissemination of ideas, the presentation of facts, and the moulding of thought and opinion. Within the next few years thousands of Australian-, homes and millions of Australian men,, women and children, will daily be subject to its impact, an impact which, it has* been proven, will far outstrip that of the press, radio, theatre, or motion pictureThere is ample evidence from other countries to show that television dominates, to. an extraordinary extent, the thoughts,, actions, and habits of the people from the moment a receiver is installed in the home. Because what is seen and heard is so unhesitatingly believed by viewers, young and old alike, television is faced! with a tremendous responsibility. Members of the Parliament are likewise faced! with the responsibility of ensuring that the programmes submitted to the people are of a suitable quality. On our acceptance of that responsibility rests the future development or debasement of Australia’shardwon social and cultural standards and the equal presentation of all political matter. Television will probably be the means of making the people of Australia think more of politics. I can imaginesome Labour supporters inviting the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) into their homes to have a chat to them. There would be quite an argument about it, but television will undoubtedly at some timebring the Prime Minister right into their front rooms to put forward his views and, whether or not they agree with him, there will be a benefit politically to the people who listen to him. In the same way the Leader of the Opposition will also go intothe home3 of our political opponents. Some of them will not be too pleased to sit in their lounge rooms and listen to a political’ talk by our leader, which in its presentation will be entirely different from theradio broadcasts to which we have been accustomed.
– One can always switch him off.
– Of course, but I believe that the majority of the Australian people will benefit in their political thinking by leaving the receivers on and taking a keener interest in political affairs-
– The honorable member has omitted mention of any benefit to the Australian people from listening to> the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr.GALVIN. - The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) is quite entitled to his views. We know that he is so biased in his political outlook that he would not listen to any one who differed from him. I am sure that his view would not be shared by the genuine “ Aussie “, who is always willing to listen to the other fellow and give him a fair go whether he agrees with him or not. We must consider the programmes that television could bring before the people of this nation. Already we have received some indication of what they will be like. As has been pointed out, many have been produced at a high figure and, having returned the initial outlay by being shown many times over, can now be sold very cheaply to Australian television interests. That might be a good thing; but itmight not. We must analyse the position and see how it will affect Australian artists. We may well ask whether it is worth while getting canned television “ on the cheap “ if the cost to the Australian nation is likely to be high in the long run. Many of the films that would be brought here would be old ones with a new lease of life. If we are to have cheap programmes I would prefer cheap Australian programmes. These, even if not up to the quality to which we have been accustomed on the radio, would at least give our Australian artists a chance to work and remain in their own country. They would not then have to go overseas for experience.
It is beyond question that this country is technically equipped to produce television programmes of a very high order, but the companies concerned would need strong protection by way of legislation. This bill does not give that protection. We must see that Australian talent is not kept in obscurity but is able to display itself in this country. If we do not, our artists will go overseas for recognition and return here in a few years time. I commend the speech of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and hope that those honorable members who were unable to listen to it will read it in Hansard. I am sure that after doing so they will be prepared to support him. Our radio programmes have reached a standard comparable with, and oftenbetter than, any in the world. What we have done in radio we can do in television. Australia has the necessary writers,actors and producers, but the industry cannot, while it is in its infancy, hope to compete on a fair and equitable basis withoverseas competition unless it is given protection.I shall leave that part of the bill in the sincere hope that honorable members will think of the future of Australia’s talent.
I wish now to refer to the position in television of Australian sporting bodies. This Parliament must concern itself with protecting them. All over Australia representatives ofsporting bodies have for a long time been organizing committees with a view to protecting themselves, and co-operating with the Government, when television is introduced. A few weeks ago they sent a deputation to Canberra to wait on the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) and put their case before him. In simple terms, they asked for the statutory right to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ when the televising of sporting functions was sought. The majority of Australians would say that that was fair enough, but the PostmasterGeneral has not seen fit to include such protection in this legislation. In his second-reading speech he said -
Although the matter of sporting events is not mentioned in the bill, I feel that I should make some reference to the televising of them. It is a subject which seems to be causing great concern to many sporting organizations. Several of these bodies have suggested to me that the bill should provide some protection for them against the possibility that a television station may, without the authority of the promoters, televise sporting events and that, as a result, attendances at those events would be adversely affected. In this connexion the royal commission stated -
We share the views of witnesses who expressed the belief that the differences which are likely to arise between the operators of television stations on the one side, and the representatives of sporting bodies on the other, should be settled by agreement on terms that will be fair and reasonable to both parties. In the event of the parties being unable to resolve their differences by negotiation, we would suggest that a solution be sought by means of arbitration.
The Government endorses these views and accordingly no mention is made of the subject in the bill.
The Postmaster-General and the royal commission seem to visualize the main difference of opinion as being over the amount that will be paid for the right to televise a sporting event, but the sporting bodies want, more than anything else, the right to say that their functions shall not be televised if they consider televising not to he in the best interests of the sport. No amount of money will compensate for the harm that may be done to a sport by television. Already television has had a drastic effect upon some sports in the United States. Baseball, for instance, has received heavy blows. It is true that a great many more people are viewing baseball matches than listened to descriptions previously, but the youth of America are not playing baseball as much as they were. No amount of money will compensate those who have given their lives to sport if the young people in the community will not participate. Australian sport is highly organized and, in many instances, sporting bodies undertake big financial commitments. Sporting officials, realizing that television is here, want to assist it. They realize that they have obligations. They realize that people in hospitals, invalids, and other persons who are not able to attend sporting fixtures are entitled to have the opportunity to see such activities. But surely it is fair for the sporting bodies to have the right to say whether their fixtures shall be televised.
I am glad to see in the chamber the honorable member for Chisholm, who has already indicated his views on this subject. As I said earlier, surely there are sufficient members in this Parliament who have participated in sporting affairs, either in the competitive or the administrative field, to forget party politics and face up to the fact that the great mass of Australians in the sporting arenas are seeking assistance from members of this House who, they hope, will help them in what could easily be their hour of greatest need. I spoke about baseball a while ago and mentioned that in the United States of America the junior clubs had suffered greatly from the introduction of television. I visualize what could happen in the Australian game of football. I shall not debate the relative merits of Australian rules, soccer, or rugby, but shall look at the matter from the viewpoint of Australian rules, which draws terrific crowds in Victoria and, to a lesser degree, in South Australia and Western Australia. No matter what amount of money was being paid to the Australian council which controls football, if the telecasting of the sport were reacting unfavorably on junior clubs, that body should bo able to say, “ Well, much as we would like to have the finance that is available to us, if we continue to take this money and build up great financial resources, we shall only kill the goose. The juniors will not be coming along to participate in the sport, and the building of national fitness, which is the primary concern of a sporting body, will not be achieved”. Everybody knows that once attendances at sporting functions decline, the standard of play ceases to be as good as it was previously. One can quite easily understand that, on a wet day, people would decide that it would be more comfortable to stay at home and watch the telecast of athletic or other championships than go to the particular match. At present, the law provides no protection for sporting bodies. So far as copyright or any similar law is concerned bodies who present sporting spectacles have no protection.
– The Davis Cup is an example.
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) mentions the Davis Cup. One could compare that with a test cricket match.
– Or tossing the caber.
– Or, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) would say, a hurling match. If the telecasting companies were able to set up their machines and televise, say, the Davis Cup and show that picture simultaneously at a number of theatres throughout the city, it must have a great effect on the attendance at the function.
– Nonsense !
– That remains to be seen. But whether it is nonsense or not, the people who should be able to say whether a sporting event should be televised are the people who provide that sport. We should not set ourselves up as a dictatorial body, or leave a loophole in the bill so that companies will be able to exploit any weakness that may be found in it. It has been said that a common law action might nullify such a clause. If there is such a prohibition, let the Postmaster-General tell us about it. Let us pinpoint it. Let us see’ whether the legal authorities can find some way out of that difficulty, because it is not very often that a body of men who have given so much to the Australian people ask for so little in return. I hope that honorable members will be prepared to give them the assistance for which they ask in return for the work that they have done in developing the youth of this nation.
My allotment of time is running out, and I regret that I cannot speak longer on this sporting aspect of the bill on which I feel very keenly. The ‘-“articular sport in which I am keenly interested is swimming. Probably that sport would benefit greatly from television because the accommodation at swimming pools is limited. The telecasting of swimming events would be a great boon and would not adversely affect the sport. I have no doubt that the Swimming Union of Australia would always be pleased to cooperate and allow swimming competitions to be televised. But, if it were found that the telecasting of these events was reacting against junior competitors coming into the sport, the swimming organization should have the right to say, “We are sorry, but there can be no more telecasting of our fixtures “. We are faced with the fact that television is here, and it is our job to see that we get it off to a good start. We are faced with the fact that education and entertainment will flow from television. Whether entertainment will finally push education over the side, we have to wait to see. But I feel that there is a great obligation on this Parliament and on the people to whom licences have been issued to ensure that television will be administered in such a way that this nation will learn from the experience of the countries that have already initiated this progress.
I conclude with an appeal to those honorable members who have achieved great distinction in the field of sport to forget party politics in their consideration of this bill. There are many such members on both sides of the House who could rally to the aid of the sporting bodies of this nation and give them the protection for which they have asked the Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Drummond) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Public Service Retiring Age.
t asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Can he furnish the following information regarding civil liberties in Malaya and Cyprus: - (a) What limits are placed on trade union activity; (6) what censorship is imposed on press, radio or public assembly; (c) what powers has the Government of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment; (d) what types of political activity are banned; and (e) what restrictions are imposed on freedom of travel by local inhabitants?
– The honorable member will appreciate that the question refers to matters which are solely within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom Government. It would hardly be appropriate for me to proffer information relating to their administration of Malaya and Cyprus. At the same time, it can be said that in both areas normal civil liberties are affected only to the extent that a state of emergency exists in each area which, in the interests of law and order, makes some curtailment of normal practice unavoidable.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions : -
d asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
i, 4 and 5. While in Europe in 1953 and in Sew Zealand in 1054 on departmental business Mr. Bland inquired into a number of matters related to the administration of the Department of Labour and National Service, including gome aspects of .the organization of waterfront labour. In the normal course he reported to me on the whole of his investigations while i broad. It is not proposed to make available any such reports. 6 and 7. As the committee is still proceeding with its inquiry, it would not be in accordance with normal practice to furnish at this stage the particulars sought by the honorable member.
d asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) The number of airline aircraft owned and/or maintained by Trans-Australia Air- lines each year since its establishment is as shown in the following table: -
(6j As at the 1st January, 1956, the fleet of 39 aircraft comprised the following units, their dates of manufacture being as shown: -
It is to be noted that the reduction in numbers is due in the main to reduction in overall work due to the transfer of the British Commonwealth Pacific Airways Limited D.C.6 operations to Qantas Empire Airways Limited, the former aircraft having been maintained by Trans-Australia Airlines, and the present policy whereby the “ Dart “ engines in the Viscounts are overhauled by Rolls Royce.
4 and 5. The system of inspection and maintenance is basically the same for all operators and is one approved by the Department of Civil Aviation. The current periods at which specific inspections are conducted in accordance with the prescribed and departmentally approved airline maintenance manuals are as tabulated below: -
No. 1 Service - every 50-60 flying hours.
No. 5 Service - every 1,200 flying hours.
There has been little variation in the inspection and overhaul system. What variations that have occurred have been where the operator has been able to prove to the Department of Civil Aviation that the condition of parts at the then specified overhaul period was such as to warrant an extension of hours for those parts. This is current world practice. 6 and 7. All airline operators are required by the Department of Civil Aviation to provide a training and checking organization to ensure the competency of airline pilots employed by them. The pilot licence of airline transport pilots must be renewed each six months and the department demands, as a condition of renewal, that each pilot shall be currently competent by producing proof of recent experience. In addition, the department demands that each pilot shall undergo in each six months flight checks to ensure proficiency is being maintained. Airline operators do conduct refresher courses from time to time as deemed necessary to ensure that pilots are up to date in the equipment they use. There have been no changes in either the departmental or airline operators’ (including Trans- Australia Airlines) policies and practices in this regard.
– On the 10th
April, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) asked the following question i -
To what extent has the Commonwealth Bank financed Australia’s exports and the various stabilization schemes and pools in relation to wheat, wool and other primary products during (a) World Wars I. and II. and (6) peacetime?
Further to my interim reply of the 19th April, the following information has now been supplied by the Commonwealth Bank : -
During World War I., total payments to primary producers from war-time pools totalled £437,500,000. As the pools were in the nature of revolving funds, the net amount of advances outstanding at any one time would have been very small compared with the figure of total payments; in some cases, the British Government paid for goods before payments were made to producers in Australia. While the Commonwealth Bank acted as organizer of these pools for the Commonwealth Government, the trading banks and the Commonwealth Bank co-operated in financing the pools. For the period of ten years from the 1stJuly, 1925, to the 30th June, 1935, theRural Credits Department of the bank provided finance for primary products to the extent of some £60,000,000 and during the period from the 1st July, 1935, to the 30th June, 1939, a further £28,000,000. More comprehensive statistics are available for the period covering World War II. and subsequent years and approximate figures of advances made by the bank to commodity boards, &c, and for exports under British Ministry of Food contracts are as follows: -
Under the special arrangements for wool during World War II., the Commonwealth Bank was not required to provide finance, except to a minor extent, but it provided extensive services to the Central Wool Committee in its capacity as banker to that body.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560508_reps_22_hor10/>.