22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply and refers to the committee appointed by the United Nations to study the effects of atomic radiation, of which Dr. Eddy, of Australia, was appointed chairman. Can the Minister tell the House whether that committee has met and, if so, whether it has issued any report?
– The committee has met, but it has not presented any report, because it has not finished its work. I am told by Dr. Eddy that what has happened has been this : The authority given to the committee by the United Nations was to inquire into the effect of radiation on man and his environment. The committee met during the month of March, and inquired into a number of matters such as genetics, medical exposure to radiation, occupational exposure to radiation, and what is known as “ natural “ or “ background “ radiation. They quickly became aware of the fact that they could not come to any conclusion about the effects of radiation as a result of atomic experiments until they knew a great deal more about what [ have described as natural radiation, to which mankind is subjected all the time. . Accordingly, they prepared a questionnaire. That has been distributed to all member countries, which have been asked to send in, by the 1st August, such information as they have. Australia will receive a copy of the questionnaire and, because we have special sampling and observation posts in Australia and throughout the islands, we will be able to give a good deal of information. When all that information is to hand, the committee will meet again and later will submit its report, which I am sure will be beneficial to all concerned.
– I direct to the Minister for Labour and National Service a question in relation to the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and
Arbitration which froze the federal basic wage at least two and a half years ago, and which has recently been reviewed by the court. Can the Minister tell the House when the court’s new decision is likely to be announced? The matter is one of great urgency and was supposed to have been heard as an urgent matter. Mr. HAROLD HOLT.- I have no information on the matter. I shall refer the right honorable gentleman’s question to my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, to ascertain whether I can obtain any information for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that the previous government of Ceylon invited all Colombo plan countries to participate in a Colombo plan exhibition to be held in Colombo in February of next year? If so, what was the purpose of the proposed exhibition? Has the Minister seen a report that the new government of Ceylon has decided to postpone the exhibition indefinitely ? If the report is correct, what is the reason for the postponement ?
– It is true that the previous government of Ceylon had proposed and had made arrangements for a Colombo plan exhibition early next year. As I understand it, the purpose was, first, to highlight the Colombo plan and, secondly, to coincide with the two thousand five hundredth anniversary of the establishment of Buddhism in Ceylon. So, because a very large proportion of the population of Ceylon are Buddhists, it was to have had a very distinct national significance. It is reported that, because of the immediacy of the work confronting the new government, the new Prime Minister of Ceylon, Mr. Bandaranaike, has postponed indefinitely the holding of the exhibition. It had been proposed that the Queen Mother should open the exhibition, but Mr. Bandaranaike has announced that, when he goes to the Prime Minister’s conference, he will explain in person to the Queen Mother the essential governmental reasons for the postponement. Australia had welcomed the opportunity of participating in the exhibition, and a good deal of consultation had taken place between certain departments about the necessary arrangements.. We naturally regret that the exhibition has been postponed. I do not think any money has been spent on arrangements for participating in the exhibition, but we still hope that it will take place in due course.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the recent financial restrictions imposed by the Government have meant a curtailment of such capital works as post offices, postmasters’ residences, automatic exchanges and cables. Have such works been cancelled or have they been merely postponed until the next financial year ? Will the postponed works affect next year’s programme and/or the budget estimates of the Postal Department for capital works?
– The. honorable member asks whether the recent financial restrictions, have had any effect on expenditure within my department. The reply is “ No, it has had no effect “. On at least one, and I think two, occasions I have informed the House that the action taken by the Government last October to preserve the stability of the economy, when an overall reduction of capital works expenditure by £10,000,000 was made, had some effect on the expenditure of the Postal Department on new capital works. But, some time ago, as a result of the slowing up of some of the works planned for this year and the operation of this October provision, I made arrangements for the re-adjustment of some of the votes in the department and, as a result, some- of the works that had been held up have come to commencement within the last month or so. That means that a number of works listed for commencement in this financial year have not been commenced. The honorable member asked what was the position with regard to these works. The answer is that they will be considered and will have some priority in the determination of next year’s programme. What effect that will have on the total works’ to. be. done next year isi a matter far determination when we- axe discussing the budget.
– I wish to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question concerning the. recent internal’ trouble in the Republic of Korea. Is the right honorable gentleman in a position, to inform the House of the circumstances of the riots which centred around the death of the Democratic party candidatefor the presidency?
– It is true that there has been some rioting in South Korea- bt connexion with a campaign for the election of the president, which is to take place, I think, within about ten clays. The Democratic party candidate died recently. I am assured, on objectivereports, that he died of cerebral haemorrhage and from no other cause. I am also- assured that the rioting has no particular political significance in respectof the election.
– I desire- to prefacea question which I direct to the Minister for Labour by stating that “ automation ‘” is a word prominent in the press at thepresent time and that it is of great concernto many- people that some well-known British factories have introduced an automation programme, apparently without the education and preparation of employees which have characterized the developments in this field in the’ United1 States of America. Will the Ministeradvise whether, by conference or some other suitable action, industry in Australia may be protected from any unnecessary detrimental impact when automation receives more- specific attention by major companies?’
– I am able toassure the honorable gentleman that the Department of Labour and National Service has been watching developmentsin this field very closely for the last two years. Indeed, we have listed for discussion at the next meeting of theMinistry of Labour Advisory Council this very topic. Information will be circulated to members at that time and I hopethat there will he a: useful, exchange of views. We should guard against the danger of using the term “ automation “ to cover any process, in order to suit a- convenient purpose. We should not confuse it, for example, with the normal processes of replacement of activities by machinery which have bean going on, in one form or another, right through the period since the Industrial Revolution. The term has come into vogue in more recent times because of the development of the science of electronics. There is, however, some evidence that, on the one hand, there is a disposition on the part of union officials to use any mechanical innovation as a justification for seeking an upward adjustment in wages. On the other hand, there is a tendency on the part of management to use such innovations as an excuse for inability to increase production. We may, I believe, expect great industrial benefits from a more extensive development of automatic processes in industry. The responsible trade union officials and representatives of management with whom C have already discussed this matter on an informal basis are all agreed that it can be a great boon to industry. The real problem will be to decide upon an equitable distribution’ of the fruits of any increased production flowing from automation, or of additional leisure that may be made possible as a result of these processes. Australian union officials whose statements on this matter have been pre.ported in the press have, so far as I am aware, all expressed the view that it is likely to benefit working men and women, provided that some equitable arrangement can be made with management. I do not despair of that being accomplished.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that a decision has been made to close the Wollongong office of the Taxation Branch, and that, as a result, the existing staff, involving approximately 40 female clerical employees, will lose their employment unless they are prepared to leave their homes, families and friends to reside in or near Sydney. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that employment in tha Wollongong-Port Kembla area for female clerical workers is not plentiful at present, and the closure of the Taxation Branch office will result in hardship for many of these workers? If a decision has been made to close this office, will the Treasurer take urgent action to cancel the decision and save the jobs of all employees involved? Furthermore, will the Treasurer agree that the policy of decentralization of all government departments under his control should be retained and actively pursued? In this respect, will the right honorable gentleman agree to extend the activities of the Taxation Branch at Wollongong by arranging for a permanent advisory staff to be stationed at this centre of national importance, to provide much-needed service to the taxpayers of the district throughout the year, in. place of the present method of providing a couple of advisory officers for a few weeks only each year ?
– Thu matter concerns administration. I shall consult with the Commissioner of Taxation and shall endeavour to give the honorable member an adequate reply. 1 should like to emphasize the fact that it is not the function, nor has it been the practice, of any Treasurer to interfere with the very efficient manner in which the Taxation Branch is managed.
– Ha3 the Minister for Health noticed that several regrettable casualties have occurred recently in Sydney as a result of children handling radio-active cobalt containers? As the New South Wales Government is reported to be contemplating bringing down legislation to ensure that greater precautions are taken in handling these substances, I ask the Minister to state the attitude of the Australian Government on this matter.
– The honorable gentleman will be glad to know that the Commonwealth has done quite a lot in this matter. As far back as 1951, the Department of Health arranged with the Department of Trade and Customs for the control of the importation of radio-active substances into Australia. This control is exercised by a delegate of the Director-General of Health. It is of a nature that ensures that importers understand the proper packaging of these substances for transport, and the dangers attendant on their use. As these materials. have been brought into the country also for use by the medical profession and for scientific purposes, therapeutic trials committees, which supervise their use for these purposes, have been appointed in each State at the instance of the National Health and Medical Research Council. As the policing of the precautions required in the use of radioactive substances within Australia is a matter for the State governments, the National Health and Medical Research Council has suggested to the State governments a draft radio-active substances act. Two State governments have already taken steps to implement enactments of the kind proposed by the council, and the others have similar legislation in contemplation. I notice that the degree of public awareness of the danger of radio-active materials was tested yesterday by the students of the University of Sydney in their commemoration festivities.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. Has the Minister read the report and the conclusions of the coroner who inquired into the unfortunate deaths of three Army trainees near Barrington Tops recently?
– Speak up.
– He is not asking the VicePresident of the Executive Council.
– Order ! If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) persists in making a comment every time a question is asked, I shall order him out of the chamber;
– I wonder whether, if the Minister has read the coroner’s findings, he can do anything to ensure that, in future, greater care and better supervision will be exercised to make certain that such unfortunate accidents shall not happen again; and, further, whether, in this instance, he will confer with the appropriate Minister with the object of ensuring that just compensation is paid.
– The honorable member for Newcastle refers to a most unfortunate tragedy that occurred at Carrow >rook, near Singleton, on the 1st March last. I have read the findings of the coroner who conducted the inquiry, which, I understand, ended a few days ago. He returned a verdict of accidental death. A comment that there may possibly have been some error of judgment was made. This matter has been inquired into by the Army also. Although I cannot disclose the evidence, I can say the Army found that the occurrence was accidental in every respect and that no one was really culpable. The circumstances of the accident were that the troops were returning from Mount Royal during flood time. The camp was to break up on the 2nd March, and certain materials had to be taken from Mount Royal to Singleton. On the 29th February, the vehicles set out, but the creek was in flood and it was considered too dangerous to cross that evening. They waited until the next morning, and a vehicle then succeeded in crossing the ford. The young lieutenant in charge was informed that other vehicles had crossed on the day before. The drivers of the vehicles, and the other men concerned, were quite satisfied that they could cross. There appeared to be some doubt, but, eventually, the officer in command was convinced by the drivers and the men that a crossing was practicable. I may say that the men were not ordered to cross the stream. The lieutenant agreed with them that they could make the crossing. He must take the responsibility, of course. He was persuaded that the ford could be crossed successfully. Unfortunately, this tragedy occurred. Previously, in this House, ] have expressed my regret, and the regret of the Parliament, to the relatives of these unfortunate young men. The honorable member raised the matter of more care being taken. Instructions have been given, in relation to this and other matters, that the greatest possible care must be taken in the presence of this typo of danger. I think that this was a case where any one of us in similar circumstances might well have acted in exactly the same way as did the officer in charge. The matter of compensation, of course, comes under the administration of my colleague the Treasurer, and I have no doubt that justice will be done to the relatives of the men concerned.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that certain primary producers’ organizations, realizing the urgent need to improve the quality of our wheat, have approached the Government and asked that a small levy be placed on wheat, the proceeds to - be used for research into protein improvement? Will the Government assist in implementing this proposal?
– I do not think that it is correct to say that certain primary producers’ organizations or industry representatives have approached the Government in order to ascertain whether a small tax could be placed on wheat to assist scientific research. Nonetheless. I do know that the problem has been discussed over the course of the last six or nine weeks, or possibly even longer, and certain reports on this problem have been submitted by the department to me. I assure the honorable gentleman that the matter is receiving consideration anc! that as soon as a final decision is made by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and by the Government 1 shall communicate the decision to him.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that postal employees are obliged to work in poE’ offices on Saturdays at ordinary rates of pay. As a result of a refusal to pay penalty rates for such work, and to adjust rates of pay and margins of employees generally, does great unrest exist throughout the Postal Department? Is it a fact that a 24-hours’ stoppage of all employees of the Postal Department, with the exception of those engaged on such work as is performed by line faultmen, telegram boys, telegraphists, and telephonists, is to be held at an early date, failing any action in the meantime to remove the cause of complaint? What action has the Minister taken to have the employees’ claims expeditiously examined and justly determined ?
– The question refers to a subject which has been discussed previously in this House. The honorable member has asked what action has been taken to have the claims of em ployees expeditiously examined and determined. I remind him that an approach has been made by the union concerned to the Public Service Arbitrator, and opportunity has been afforded to the union to establish some degree of urgency in the hearing of its case. I assure the honorable member that the department intends to assist, if it can, in any way in promoting within the department relationships which are conducive to good work, but at present the responsibility is on the union to establish a case for urgent determination of its claim. If any assistance can be given in that regard, I shall be only too glad to give it, but the responsibility rests with the union. Let me assure the honorable member that I am watching this matter, because I am aware that it is one which it is desirable to clean up so that work may once again be restored to a stable basis.
– In the absence of the Minister for Trade, I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. As the Minister knows, I have the privilege to represent the most important wheat-growing centre in Australia. Therefore, I am greatly interested in the new International Wheat Agreement. Does the Government consider that the new quota laid down under that agreement is satisfactory in view of the limited price? Is that price fair?
– I do know that the honorable member for Calare represents all his constituents very effectively. I have had the great good fortune to go to Calare with him and I have always felt that I have had with me some one who was respected in every square inch of the territory that he represented.
– I rise to order. Is it in order for an honorable member to ask a Minister for an expression of opinion ?
– If the honorable member will wait a moment, I will deal with that.
– I suggest that that is certainly out of order.
– The opinion was given involuntarily. The Minister just could not help coming out with it.
– -It is usual for Ministers to answer questions in their own way, but what the Minister has said so far is hardly an answer to the question. The preamble to the question was a little out of order, and so, too, was the preamble to the answer. I suggest that the Minister should merely give any facts for which he has been asked.
– The honorable gentleman will forgive me if I do not express an opinion, but I can give him some facts, The Australian quota under the International Wheat Agreement has been reduced from 45,000,000 bushels to 30,000,000 bushels. This can be largely attributed to the fact that two new countries, Sweden and the Argentine, have come in as exporters. The price range in terms of Manitoba No. 1 Northern wheat is between 2 dollars and 1 dollar 50 cents. Translating that into Australian terms, and taking into consideration the difference in quality and transport costs, it is, roughly, a maximum of 18s. and a minimum of 12s. 9d. a bushel. I think that it can be generally conceded that the accession to the International Wheat Agreement of both Sweden and the Argentine is favoured by most signatories to that agreement. Transactions within the maximum and minimum price differentials are a matter for the Australian Wheat Board. I think that, on the whole, it can be said that this was the best that could have been achieved under the circumstances.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. On the 28th February, I placed on the notice-paper a question seeking information about any restriction of civil liberties in Malaya and Cyprus. I have before me an answer to the effect that it would not be appropriate for him to proffer such information. Would he not agree that it is reasonable for members of this Parliament to look to his department for this sort of information - especially as Australia is so heavily involved in Malaya, and Cyprus is so important in the Middle East? If he does not agree that that is the task of his department, can he tell me where else honorable members can get that sort of information?
– I authorized the reply to which the honorable member has referred by reason of the fact that it is not the practice of this Government to make comments on the intimate affairs of another government, particularly in circumstances of such - I think they can be called - a crisis nature that exist in Cyprus to-day. I do not believe that it would be right for me to give any other reply than the one that I have given.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he has received any representations from the New South Wales Citrus Growers Council asking that certain fruit juices be supplied to school children to supplement the free milk scheme. If he has received such representations, or when they do arrive, will he consult with the honorable member for Mitchell and myself because of the interest that we have taken in that matter over the past years? Has he had an opportunity to study what I said concerning this matter on last Grievance Day?
– I have ot received any representations from tho New South Wales Citrus Growers Council, but if I do, I will be happy to consult with the honorable member for Mitchell and the honorable member for Robertson on the matter.
– Some time ago, I asked the Minister for Supply a question referring to the storage of refrigerators by General Motors-Holden’s Limited in the stores of the Department of Supply at Maroubra. Has the Minister received the information that I desire?
– Yes. I had the matter examined and I find that this is the position. In his question to me, the honorable member rather suggested that there had been some favouritism towards General Motors-Holden’s Limited by the Department of Supply. I am glad to be able to assure him that there has been no favouritism in the matter. What has happened is that in each of the capital cities of Australia, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, the Department of Supply has very large storage spaces in which it houses defence equipment and strategic materials from time to time. That space, of course, must be pretty considerable to cope with peak conditions and emergencies, with a result that space is available for a good deal of the time. From time to time, private firms have applied for permission to use that space for a limited period and the department has sometimes agreed to do this upon the conditions that rent is paid, that the private firms vacate the space when required and that they give their assurance that they cannot get any commercial space anywhere else. I think about a year ago General Motors-Holden’s Limited had a problem of storage with respect to a large number of refrigerators, and the department consented to house them temporarily in the space that was available at Maroubra. Rent has been charged at the rate of about £77 or £78 a week and the taxpayers of Australia have benefited to the extent of £4,000.
– How much space?
– I cannot tell the honorable member, but I think some thousands of feet of space was provided and that some 1,000 nr 2.000 cases of refrigerators were stored.
– How much a cubic foot?
– The honorable member must not be too microscopic about this matter. All I do is to assure him that as a result of the arrangements that were made, the taxpayers of Australia have benefited substantially.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. As this is the year of the centenary of the Victoria Cross, will the Prime Minister give consideration to enabling there to be written, through perhaps the medium of the Commonwealth Literary Fund, a complete and official volume incorporating the names and deeds of all Australian winners of this award since its inception?
– The suggestion has not been made to me before. I will be glad to have a look at it.
– My question to the Minister for Air relates to the Flinders Island aerodrome. The Minister is possibly aware that in recent weeks some of the regular flights to the island have had to be cancelled, through no fault of the airline concerned, but because of the condition, due to adverse weather, of the aerodrome at Whitemark. I ask the Minister, therefore, whether he will consider having the aerodrome so converted as to make it capable of being used in all weathers.
– I do not think that there is an airport in the world that can be used every day in the year. I regret to say that I believe the Hobart airport was closed for two days this week. Flinders Island is well catered for by the airline that serves it. At certain seasons of the year, very substantial cargoes are lifted by that airline. At the same time, it would not be justifiable to spend an enormous amount of money to make an all-weather aerodrome there.
– That is the only way to get out of the trouble.
– Yes, but what would be the result? Flinders Island is one case out of, perhaps, 500 other cases. There are more than 500 aerodromes now in Australia, and every day I am being asked to put down gravel, all-weather strips, concrete runways and so on - and, frankly, it is financially impossible to do it. There is no place on earth where it would be possible for an aerodrome to be fully usable on 365 days of the year, and I consider that Flinders Island is as reasonably well served as anywhere else, consistent with the traffic that it carries.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say whether an, of the countries to the north-west of Australia have taken steps to ban the Communist parties within their borders or, rather, the Russian Communist parties operating within their borders, and to protect themselves otherwise from Communist subversion? Can he give the House any details in regard to this?
– I cannot give the honorable gentleman, offhand, an account of the Communist party’s situation in all the countries of south and south-east Asia, but I know that there is what one might call a “ geographical region “ containing a number of countries that have banned the Communist party. Those countries are Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, Malaya and Singapore. As I understand it, there are complete bans on the Communist party in all of those five countries. I am not quite certain of the position regarding the other countries of south and south-east Asia, but I shall take steps to find out and let the honorable gentleman know the result of my inquiries.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Can he inform the House, and the country, of what the Government has done to end the lock-out - I insist, “lock-out” - at Bellbird colliery, where 650 men have been locked out for the past six weeks, and are cadging food throughout Australia to-Jay ? WhaI has been done about this matter?
– But that colliery is in the electorate of the honorable member for Robertson.
– Yes, it is in his electorate, but he gets to Toronto and no further. However, what I desire to ask the Minister is whether the Government has done anything to end this trouble. Or is the trouble to be allowed to go on until it assumes the proportions of the lock-out that occurred in 1929 and 1930, soon after I became a member of this Parliament? Further, I ask the Minister what has been done to avoid the forcing of the Elrington miners to work a second shift. It was the working of a second shift that caused a .big upheaval in the coal-fields 38 years ago, after which the second shift was abolished by Chief Justice Higgins, in an award handed down by him in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The Minister should be aware of the violent trouble that will result on the coal-fields if an attempt is made to re-institute this second shift.
– I have already answered questions in the Parliament, over the last few weeks, bearing on both the collieries mentioned by the honorable member. To restate the position briefly, I remind the House that I indicated that, so far as Bellbird was concerned, at the conference at which my colleague, the Minister for National Development, and I attended with representatives of the industry and of the Joint Coal Board, reference was made to the Bellbird difficulty. There had been discussions, a few days before that conference, between representatives of the mine management and of the men. The employment problem is not now of anything like the dimension mentioned by the honorable member for Hunter, as several of the former Bellbird employees have secured employment elsewhere. Plans were discussed which, if accepted by the miners, would have resulted, I understand, in virtually all those remaining out of work now being engaged at the mine. My colleague is to meet again, on Monday, with the working committee that was set up, and possibly the matter will be raised again at that meeting. However, I have no fresh information on it to convey to the honorable gentleman. As to the Elrington matter, I pointed out that there had been a decision by the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. Justice Gallagher, a man well respected in the industry, and, without myself having any close knowledge of the merits of the matter in issue, I think it is sound counsel to the miners to adopt the decisions of Mr. Justice Gallagher whenever given on a matter that bears on their problems.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to-
That leave of absence for one month be given to the Speaker (Mr. A. 6. Cameron) on the ground of ill health.
Debate resumed from the 8th May (vide page 1851), 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 “ he omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - . . . (vide page 1798).
– The measure now before the House deals with the rationalization of broadcasting and television in Australia. Also before us is the very lengthy amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to the motion that the bill be now read a second time. The amendment is so comprehensive in nature, and so completely at variance, in many respects, with the measure itself, that it almost constitutes a new bill. I propose, however, to address myself to the measure, and to speak from the stand-point of one who had some association with broadcasting in the early days of its introduction to the country districts of New South Wales. I realize that in speaking to the measure I might be open to some suspicion of speaking as an interested party. That is a rather difficult point that arises from time to time. For instance, on occasions there are brought into this House measures concerned with primary production. I have voted on such measures. I have spoken to them, because I have had some personal and intimate knowledge of the subjects with which they dealt. Indirectly, I may have benefited as a result of such legislation. When a measure of this kind comes before the House it is an interesting speculation whether one should remain silent or whether one should endeavour, impartially, to put so much of one’s own experience before the House as the circumstances and one’s judgment and sense of fair play will permit. To suggest that those persons who have no personal knowledge of a particular subject should always speak and that those who may be expected to know something should remain silent is an utterly unreasonable and unrealistic approach to the question.
As I see it, the bill proposes that three different authorities shall have a major say in the control of broadcasting in Australia. To a certain degree, that is the position that has obtained up to the present; but I think it is desirable that such matters should be brought into focus. First, there is the Postmaster ^General’s
Department, which has controlled and, in a sense, developed broadcasting in this country. In many ways, the development of broadcasting has been intimately bound up with the activities of that department. Secondly, there is the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which was called into existence for the purpose of regulating and improving the standard of broadcasting, and of trying to provide balanced programmes that would appeal to the people. Thirdly, there is the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which was established for the express purpose of bringing into focus the work of the commercial stations and of dealing with such matters as frequencies, broadcast standards, and technical efficiency, which hitherto had been dealt with by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The comprehensive measure now before the House seeks to bring those three authorities into a new relationship, or, if not a new relationship, a more regulated relationship. That statement leads to certain matters to which I shall refer as I proceed.
The Postmaster-General’s Department services the stations that are controlled by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commission controls, not only the standard of its programmes, but also the presentation of those programmes within the studios. So far as I know, it has no control over the technical activities within the studios, which are the responsibility of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I shall again refer to that later. The department also provides land lines, which are a very important part of broadcasting activities, to the national and commercial stations. I think that, generally speaking, the manner in which that work has been carried out is not seriously challenged. My impression, formed over a period of more than 28 years, is that the department, through its officials, has been fair, reasonable and co-operative in its approach to the problems involved.
I have already referred to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which deals with the allocation of frequencies and the technical efficiency of stations, and which, since its inception, has worked very well. My experience, and I think the experience of others, has been that, in relation to reasonable proposals that have been submitted to it, the board tas been able to advance reasons why they should or should not be carried into effect. The board has evolved with the growth of the broadcasting system. First, there was the Postmaster-General’s Department, which was a kind of foster mother; then the Australian Broadcasting Commission; and, later, with the tremendous growth of commercial broadcasting, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The intrusion of commercial television into the field raises new financial and technical questions, and all those matters have been discussed from different points of view. Honorable members have displayed a clear apprehension about the new field that is opening and its likely impact upon the national life of the community. Whatever opinion is held by honorable members, about other aspects of the matter, I think we all acknowledge that television is a tremendous power for good or ill in shaping the national character. The bill has been designed to take some control - and I believe effective control - over this new force that is about to be developed in Australia by using the experience of such countries as the United Kingdom, which have had long experience of television, and of others that have had lesser experience, so that we may avoid some of their mistakes and strengthen our own approach to the question.
A review of the various aspects of Australia’s broadcasting system naturally leads to a consideration of the proposed new policy and of the factors that have led to its adoption. We must consider, first, why a certain policy was adopted by past governments and why we should retain the main aspects of it. The development of past policy has been marked by the following three main factors: - First, a determination, through the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to maintain good programmes and to improve them; secondly, to give all political parties impartial treatment; and, thirdly, to maintain, by indirect pressure, and if necessary by indirect action, a good standard of commercial broadcasting. I think that is a fair statement of the policy that has been adopted in the past. A consideration of the development of commercial broadcasting brings us to the subject of nationalization or socialization, which has been raised directly and indirectly during the debate by Opposition members.
The policy of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party is expressed in .the general purpose and intention of the bill before the House. That general purpose and intention is that a national broadcasting system, either for sound or television, shall be maintained on a bash that will free it, as far as is humanly possible, from direct political control: and secondly and concurrently with this, that there shall be a commercial system for the same reasons. The one react? upon the other. I think that that statement can be adequately sustained.
The question which would arise among members on my side of the House and among a great many people in the community would be, “Does the bill adequately provide for the continuation of those principles? “ I believe that, in the main, it does. When I say in the main “, 1 mean that I do not believe that any act of Parliament cannot be amended by some subsequent Parliament and, in the final analysis, the operation of any measure that is passed by this House, apart from an amendment to the Constitution, must depend upon the decision of parliaments which the people themselves may elect in the future. If a party which represents a certain school of political thought is represented in sufficient numbers in this House and in another place it will have the power to alter any legislation that we pass. Fortunately, it is the general practice under the British system of parliamentary government that when a measure is working well it should not be altered. But if a certain party were swept suddenly into power, particularly if it had a majority in both Houses, it could undo anything that we have done.
That brings me to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). Whilst I disagree with that honorable gentleman profoundly on certain matters, I always admire the rugged honesty of purpose which, characterizes his utterances on statements of principle. He says bluntly and without any hedging, “I am a socialist and I believe in the nationalization of this and other industries which have an important bearing on the life of the community “. I give the honorable member full marks for that. I think that any man -who stands as solidly on what he believes as that is not beyond hope. Sooner or later, his experience and thought will bring him to the recognition, which he is probably arriving at, that, after all, complete socialization and nationalization are not the answer to, and the end of, all evil. Consequently, I think that the Government is infinitely sound in its acceptance of the principle of freedom from political control as far as it is possible to ensure it in the control of broadcasting in “this country.
Broadcasting, either by sound or by television, is one of the most powerful weapons that can be put into the hands of any person or group of persons. Just -as control of finance in a completely socialized system would give a strangling power of repression and tyranny over every human being in the country, so the absolute control of sound and television broadcasting would give rise to those conditions of absolute power, absolute ambition, and ruthless tyranny which would wipe out every principle that we possess as described by George Orwell in one of his novels. That is dear to members on the Government side of the House. I congratulate the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) because he has had regard, in bringing down this measure, to the basic principles that are inherent in the policy of the parties >on this side. If the present system achieves its purpose of ensuring a rising standard of broadcasting, both television and sound, it will confer great benefits on the public. The bill itself deals with that matter.
I set out briefly to examine the machinery which has operated in the past, the machinery which is operating to-day, and the machinery which will operate when this measure is passed by the Parliament. However, I am not sure that the final word has been said on the perfection of that machinery. Whilst the Australian Broadcasting Commission has done a great job, and whilst the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is developing its own tradition and working out its plan for handling its share -of responsibility, I am -of the ©pinion that the day is not far distant, when both bodies could be far less dependent for technical assistance upon the Postmaster-General’s Department than they are at the present time. That department has a tremendous task in front of it in handling the development of this country and may find it very much to its advantage to give to the Australian Broadcasting Commission a greater degree of control over the technical equipment and technical development than the commission has at the present time. Although we are taking a step forward and that step is a good one, I doubt very much whether it is the final step.
Derogatory remarks have been made by some members of the Opposition concerning the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its chairman. I want to say emphatically that I think that they have done a magnificent job and that this country has every reason to be proud of the decision that it made to allow commercial broadcasting and national broadcasting to work side by side. The national broadcasting system puts a brake upon certain tendencies in the commercial broadcasting system. The commercial broadcasting system is compelled to approximate to the standards of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in order to get a hearing audience.
The same state of affairs will apply to television. If the standard of commercial television tends to drop, its audience will go, provided the national system maintains, or even increases its standards. Honorable gentlemen have mentioned what has happened in the United States of America. As far back as 1936, I discussed this matter in Radio City and elsewhere with Americans and they said, “ You have the best system in the world because you have neither the open slather that we have nor have you the stodgy repression of the British broadcasting arrangement “. They said, “ The Australian dual system is the best system, where one acts and reacts on the other and, consequently, we think that you people have been wiser than we have “. We are now launching television in Australia, and commercial stations will be subject to the pressure of competition from the national stations. 1 suggest that such competition will be beneficial to both classes of stations. I wish to inform the PostmasterGeneral that I entertain some apprehension about the future of country broadcasting stations unless the greatest vigilance is observed by all the authorities concerned, including the Minister. Television is a very costly process. The country broadcasting stations at present provide valuable services to the community. They give firstclass information regarding matters of rural interest, such as droughts, fires and various seasonal troubles. They have been of great assistance in times of flood. I know of a northern city in my own electorate in which a broadcasting station maintained contact with Sydney when the telephone and telegraphic services were out of order for a period of weeks because of floods. The radio station was the only means of direct and swift communication between that city and other parts of the State. The people in control of the radio station provided that service to the community free of charge.
There is another aspect of this matter that deserves attention. At election time the metropolitan areas have the benefit of newspapers and other media in obtaining information regarding the policies of the contesting parties. In the country centres, however, the broadcasting stations do sterling service by allowing all political parties opportunities, at reasonable hours of the day, to put their cases before the people. Admittedly, that time is paid for. but there are other broadcasting stations that will not sell broadcasting time at any price to political parties, except at fag-end times, because they have yielded to the temptation to make profits irrespective of the public good that they are supposed to serve.
Another aspect of this measure that deserves more consideration by the Government is that relating to taxation. The bill proposes to increase rates of tax imposed on the operating companies. I have no objection to that, because services must be paid for, but it should be remembered that the companies that will operate the television stations pay the ordinary company tax. I submit, too, that a tax on the actual turnover of station time can and may be a form of capital levy, if the station does not make a profit, and it may therefore add to the financial difficulties of the companies concerned. In this regard I believe that consideration should be given to the type of station concerned and the extent of its profits, as is the practice in the application of some other forms of taxation. I did not like taxes such as the land tax, which was very often equivalent to a capital levy, nor do I like this proposed tax. When I speak of a capital levy, I mean a charge that is imposed whether the persons concerned make a profit or not.
Honorable members opposite have had a great deal to say about the enormous profits made by broadcasting stations. I know of one station which, during 23 years of existence, paid only two dividends. That station rendered excellent service, and certainly it did very well in later years. I submit, however, that television is a highly speculative and very technical and difficult form of enterprise. Equipment quickly becomes obsolete and frequent changes are necessary. Adequate reserves must be laid aside so that the service may be kept at a high standard. Within a few years it may be necessary to scrap the whole of a station’s equipment. As to country broadcasting stations, I fear that, unless their interests are carefully safeguarded by the authorities, many of them will be forced to become part of larger organizations, when it would obviously be better for them to remain independent and free, as are the country newspapers, to speak for all sections of the community and allow all sections of the community a chance to speak.
I shall oppose the amendment, not because I am opposed to everything in it, but because I think it defeats its own object, and it is, generally, not in accordance with the real purpose and intention of the bill. I shall support the bill itself because it does recognize the desirability of maintaining the national system as well as a commercial system, and it endeavours to hold the scale fairly between the two.
.- The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), who has just made his contribution to the debate, is not unlike several other Government supporters, who have piously referred to principles that have been laid down in the past in regard to the control of broadcasting, and which, it is said, are to be followed in relation to television, but which have, in reality, never been followed in this country in their application to certain great organizations which have a good deal of influence in forming public opinion. Let us consider the field of radio broadcasting. It appears that, at least on the surface, various members of this Parliament agree with the viewpoint that it is essential that no monopoly should be established in respect of the control of the press and radio, and now television. What are the facts? We know that such principles as these can be laid down, but whether they are adhered to is an entirely different matter. The legislation relating to broadcasting lays down certain conditio”governing the control of radio stations. It is provided that no one organization or person may control more than- one metropolitan station in any State, or four metropolitan stations throughout Australia, or four stations located in any one State, or eight in total throughout the whole of Australia. Let us take the case of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. According to the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, that company has to-day a controlling interest in nine stations. I shall enumerate them. It holds the licences for 2AY Albury, 3BO Bendigo, 4CA Cairns, and 4TO Townsville. It owns all the shares in the operating companies that run 2GP Grafton and 2GN Goulburn. It holds 4,400 shares, of a total of 5,000 shares, in 4WK Warwick. It conducts, by agreement with the licensee, 2CH Sydney. It has 10,000 shares, of a total of 20,000, in 7LA Launceston. There are nine stations directly controlled by one organization, and no action is taken about it. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) gave many instances of the interlocking of directorates and the controls exercised over various radio networks, which make it impossible for any small country station to act independently, even if it desired to do so. It must subscribe to the policies laid down by the large organizations in the capital cities.
Now let us consider the position with television. A Royal Commission on Telvision was appointed not so many years ago. Honorable members will remember the criticism by members of the Opposition in this Parliament, and by other people in the community, who considered that the members of that commission had been selected with a view to their arriving at certain findings desired by the Government. Later, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board investigated the applications for television licences. There was not a child in this country with any knowledge of these affairs who could not have foretold, before the investigation began, the organizations that would get the licences. We find that these gentlemen on the board, who say that we must not have a monopoly, have allowed what is a monopoly from Labour’s viewpoint to come into existence. There may be one or two radio stations controlled by trade unions in remote areas, and one or two in the capital cities, but all the major stations are under the control of people who are opposed to Labour. As a consequence, a form of monopoly control that makes it difficult for Labour to make its voice heard already exists. Mr. J. W. Shand, Q.O., who is not a member of the Australian Labour party, made some very outspoken remarks, during the investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, in stating what the position would be if the people who he imagined were to receive the licences eventually succeeded - and they have succeeded. Mr. Shand said -
It would not be right to give two licences to two newspapers which were wedded to the one political party . . . There would always be competition between big business and the national ideals . . .
Referring to the applications for licences in New South Wales, he said further -
It could not be disputed that the Herald, (inn and Telegraph had political allegiance to the Liberal party . .
That was admitted by some witnesses under cross-examination by Mr. Shand. Therefore, it is quite obvious that, if the present control continues, Labour will not have an opportunity to state its case to the Australian people adequately.
There is one other very important taa ttter to which I wish to direct attention. Not only have the two commercial licences granted in Sydney and the two granted in Melbourne gone to Liberal newspapers - to private interests opposed to the policy of the Labour party - but also we find that the Government has made a very important decision. It has decided that those television stations shall restrict their activities for the moment to what is known as the very high frequency band. By restricting activity to this band, the Government is making it almost impossible for any subsequent government, either a Labour one or one of «ny political colour other than that of the present Government, to issue licences to organizations other than those that have already obtained them, because, in the very high frequency band, according to the highest figure that I have heard piloted, only ten channels are available, if three licences have already been granted in Sydney and three in Mel.bourne, it must be obvious to every one that there is not a great deal of scope for any one to come in later and obtain a (-.flannel for the transmission- of television programmes.
The latest development of colour television will be virtually ruled out in Australia if the Government adheres to its present intention to issue licences for Transmission only in the very high frequency band. In the granting of these licences, the Government is giving to transmitting stations a band of seven megacycles, which I understand is the technical term. According to the latest technical advice, a band of ten megacycles is required for the effective and efficient transmission of colour television. The Government has made no provision for progress in the future. The Australian “federation of Broadcasting Stations favours the dual system. It considers that the Government should have made full use of both the very high frequency band and the ultra-high frequency band. According to the Government, the dual system would make television receivers more expensive. Therefore, claiming once again that its sole consideration is for the unfortunate individual member of the public, it says that it must not introduce the dual system because receiv ing, sets required for it would be somewhat more expensive. However, it conveniently skips over the fact that, if the dual system is eventually adopted, and the people wish to. take advantage of it, the cost of adapting their receivers will be infinitely greater than the additional cost of sets designed for dual reception if they were originally purchased.
Experts in this field declare that a national plan for complete coverage of the continent is necessary. Every one must be aware that the Government’s initial programme will serve only a very limited field. The position is much the same as with frequency modulation in radio transmission. The Government was not prepared to introduce that very admirable development in radio broadcasting because it was afraid of the public reaction that would follow if people had to convert their sets to the new system. It feared that the change would have been so expensive for the owners of radio receivers as to be embarrassing for it.
What has been the experience of the United States of America ? That country has obviously had much greater experience in the field of television than we in Australia have had. The United States set out with the idea of establishing television without proper national planning,, but, after a few years, the Americans realized their mistake, and introduced what they termed a freezing period,, which lasted, for four years, in which no additional television licences were granted. The purpose was to enable the authorities to investigate and to introduce a comprehensive plan for future allocations of licences. It is estimated that the change that has now been forced upon the United States will entail an expenditure of almost 1,000,000,000 dollars. It has been proved that, if a government decides to grant licences to stations to operate in the ultra-high frequency band when many stations have operated for years in the very high frequency band, many of the new ultrahigh frequency stations become bankrupt because they cannot function successfully unless the people within, transmitting range have sets of the type required to receive their transmissions.
Lt has been stated on behalf of the Government that the owner of a receiving set will be put only to an inconsiderable expense in having his set adapted to receive ultra-high frequency transmissions, but I point out that it costs from 50 to 100 dollars in the United States to have the conversion to the dual system made. Why does the Government not wish to use the ultra-high frequency band? It is because 50 channels are available in that band. So many channels would make it possible for subsequent governments to grant additional licences and to give other organizations the opportunity to establish themselves in the field of television. I shall now illustrate the difficulties that the Government’s policy will cause in the future. In June, 1.954, 30,000,000 television receivers were in use in the United States. Of these, only 2,700,000 were equipped for dual reception. As a result, the United States Congress has been compelled to appoint a sub-committee to study the problem, but so far it has not been able to find any solution.
I turn now to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall). The Minister is in the chamber now, and it. is rather interesting to note that, so far, he has made- no attempt to participate in the debate. I should like to remind him of some of the things he said before he became a member of the Ministry, when he was an ordinary Government backbencher and was criticizing the Government’s television plans. I have taken several short extracts from his speeches, because time will not permit me to quote him more fully. The Minister said -
Australia would be heading for folly of the worst kind if the Government limited television to the very high frequency band.
T entirely agree with that opinion. But, if the Minister really believes that the Government is leading Australia ‘ into folly of the worst kind by its policy on television, I invite him to say what he proposes should bc done to prevent such a. calamity. He previously advocated a committee of inquiry into important technical matters that had been overlooked by the Royal Commission on Television. It is perfectly true that the royal commission had very little technical evidence before it. In my opinion, the committee of experts advocated by the Minister should be appointed to investigate these technical matters. That is the opinion of radio experts. On the 27th April last, the- Sydney Daily Telegraph published the following report: -
Radio engineers last night saw the first public demonstration of television broadcasting in Sydney . . .
The chief engineer of Television Corporation Limited (Mr. J. N. Briton) gave thi» demonstration to the annual meeting of the Institution of Radio Engineers
Mr. Briton urged the Institution to set up a committee to advise the Broadcasting Control’ Board on frequency allocations for TV . . .
Mr. Briton said Australia would, unless it considered frequency allocations for TV now. fmd itself in the same difficulties as the U.S. experienced.
Be said the committee should include the most expert brains in the field,, with power to co-opt expert? from abroad.
Mi1. Briton continued in that strain, saying that radio engineers, who ought to be the men competent in these matters, recognize that the Government is making a colossal blunder, to use the most generous term to express my view, in planning only for transmissions in the very high frequency band. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, when examining applications for television licences,, ruled that no evidence on technical matters would be allowed. This was a most astounding ruling for the board to make, because surely it ought to have been prepared to accept evidence on technical matters- affecting such an important decision concerning the introduction of television into Australia. An interesting question which I should like answered is: Who gave this ruling to the Australian Broadcasting’ Control Board? I could not imagine that it would make the decision on its own initiative. Somebody must have made the decision for the board and the board must have been- so directed. ‘I suggest that the person who directed the board was the former Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). A. few rather interesting matters arise.. The former Postmaster-General, who played such a great part - in the sensethat he was the man in control at the time - in formulating plans for the introduction of television to this country, has not, as far as I know, been in the Parliament since the debate started; he has not taken any part in the debate and it seems that he does not intend to do so. But since he vacated the office of PostmasterGeneral, what has happened ? He has now become a director of Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited, which is interested in one of the organizations that has obtained a television licence. It is rather interesting to note that Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited, of which I understand the former Postmaster-General is now a director, has no patent rights in respect of either ultra-high frequency receivers or Transmitters. That means that if the ultra-high frequency band is used, Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited cannot participate to the same degree in the profits to be obtained in the industry. It might be just a coincidence that the former Postmaster-General was in charge when the decision was made to exclude the use of the ultra-high frequency band, and it might be just a coincidence that since the organization in which Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited is interested has obtained a licence, the Minister has retired from his position and become one of the board of directors. It is rather significant that the former Minister has not taken part in the debate.
Everybody knows what happened in regard to this Government’s action in disposing of Australia’s shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. We were told at the time that the Government was striking a good bargain and that the price it obtained for those shares was a good one, but the Government did not tell the people of Australia that it knew, from its plans in respect of the introduction of television and the great scope there would be for the development of the electronics industry, that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited would reap great profits as a result of this governmental activity. That has proved to be the case and the Government’s sale of the people’s assets in this great organization is to be condemned and deplored.
Now let us examine the Government’s bungling in regard to its plans for the introduction of television. Mr. Ray Allsop is regarded as an expert in this field of activity. He was formerly a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, appointed by the former Postmaster-General. At the time of Mr. Allsop’s appointment, the honorable member for Richmond described him as one of Australia’s greatest authorities in the broadcasting field. If the Government so regarded him, it ought to have paid some heed to his criticism of its plans for introducing .television into this country. Let me tell the House of some of Mr. Allsop’s criticisms. First, he criticizes the decision to erect, at Gore Hill, the three aerials for the three stations which will be operating shortly. The aerials are to be within 1 mile of one another. According to Mr. Allsop, it is a mistake to have three separate transmitting masts and to erect them at Gore Hill. He says that the height of the masts from which transmission is effected is important in respect of the coverage of each station. A 500 feet mast gives the station a radius of 68 miles, and a 2,000 feet mast a radius of 100 miles. Gore Hill, he says, is only 250 feet above sea level, and he considers that Wahroonga, which is 750 feet above sea level and would so give a wider range and coverage for the stations to be established, is much to be preferred.
Mr. Allsop says, further, that Gore Hill is in what is known as the glide path of aircraft using the KingsfordSmith aerodrome at Mascot, and he is quite satisfied that the Civil Aviation Department will not permit masts higher than 500 feet to be erected in this area because of the danger to aircraft approaching the airport. He says that the stations should operate from one transmission mast instead of three. This is the practice which prevails in America, and as a result it is possible to eliminate from the receiving sets what are called ghost images. According to Mr. Allsop, who is an expert accepted by the Government, to operate from three masts, even though only a mile apart, will create in the cheaper and inferior receiving sets in particular a problem in regard to the elimination of ghost images, but the Government has taken no notice of him. As an illustration, there are eight television transmitters in the Empire State building in New York, and three frequency modulation transmitters operate from that building. The Americans have found, as a result of their experience, that they obtain the greatest advantage by operating from one transmitting mast. I do not claim to know a great deal about technical arrangements for television, but I am prepared to accept the opinions of persons who are competent to speak and who have been engaged in this activity for some time past. I was amazed to learn from one such gentleman, with whom I had a conference, that in order to have successful operation transmission must be from one mast, because the aerial at the receiving point must be regulated to each transmission station to obtain the best results. Therefore, in order to eliminate ghost images, the householder would be continually going round to adjust his outside aerial. This gentleman criticizes the entire scheme for that very reason.
I desire to say a word or two, in the limited time at my disposal, in respect of programmes. I join with some of my colleagues in their support of the application of Actors Equity, and others who are interested, for the fixing of a quota for Australian productions and artists on television. Unless that quota is fixed, one can imagine what will happen to Australian culture. 1 was very interested to hear the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) speakin g last evening. He quoted from a newspaper, the King’s Cross and Eastern Suburbs Advertiser, which reported a statement he had made during the last federal election campaign. He did not tell the House why he had made the statement, but I shall do so. He made the statement at that time because Mr. Hal Lashwood, a well-known and recognized radio actor, was one of his opponents, running as an independent candidate in the Wentworth electorate, and he was pressing the right honorable gentleman very closely, because in that area a great number of persons engaged in the theatrical business are resident. As a result, the right honorable gentleman was forced into making a statement, but let us see how he now tries to subtract from what he said during the federal election campaign. After quoting from the newspaper, lie said, “I believe there ought to be a quota “. When challenged to state what the quota should be, he refused to indicate any percentage at all. After having said that he believed in the fixing of a quota, he said, “ But I hasten to assure you that I support the Government “ - and, let honorable gentlemen remember, the Government does not believe in a quota - “I think that my colleagues are right “. After having saidthat he believed in the fixing of a quota, he said that he supported the Government and thought that his colleagues were right. What sort of double talk is that?
Some of my colleagues have referred to the trashy television programmes that Australia is buying overseas, and which will be inflicted upon the Australian community. I want honorable members to look at Time magazine of the 9th April, 1956. On page 44 under the heading “ Radio and Television “ they will find the following comment regarding a Mr. Robert Cummings, who is, I understand, an American actor : -
Bob was one of the hundreds of actors dropped by the Hollywood moviemakers in 1947 as they cut budgets in fear of T.V.’s inroads. He then signed up for a filmed T.V. series called My Hero, in which he played the role of a nutty real estate salesman named Beanblossom. The show was so bad that not even an agent would come near him after it was released.
I tu’rn now to an American journal called Variety, which circulates in the theatrical world. Under the caption, “Aussies on U.S. Telepix Buying Spree “ the following appears : -
Buying is being done on several fronts, but mainly in New York by Talbot Duckmanton, executive of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who’s on a filmbuying spree. Duckmanton lias talked to several distributors, but more important, lie’s already set a couple of deals, largest of which is seven-show buy from CBS Television Film Sales. Included in the CBS purchase for Sydney-Melbourne exposure are “Under the Sun” (the new “Omnibus” rerun package), “The Search”, “See It Now”, “You Are There”, “Amos * n * Andy “, “ Gene Autry “ and “ The Whistler “. Duckmanton also set a deal for “My Hero” with Official Films. “ My Hero “ was a production which could not be disposed of in America - one which the agents refused to touch. They would not take it off the producers’ hands. That is the sort of tripe that is to be inflicted upon the Australian community. I take it that Government supporters will have gathered from my remarks that the Labour party is not at all satisfied with this bill, or with the Government’s policy on television. But, when all has been said and done, we have always realized that what the Government was seeking was a monopoly of the opportunity to form public opinion in this country. I join with the Leader of the Opposition in suggesting that it is not sufficient to lay down in legislation that a certain period shall be allowed for political broadcasts at the time of general elections. We want provision, not only stated, but adhered to, to ensure that Labour’s point of view will be expressed on every important subject on which the Government wants to make a declaration. As the bill stands, Ministers will make statements over the television network, but they will not describe them as political statements. They will say that they are statements on matters of national importance and national interest. On the plea that they aTe making such allegedly non-political statements, they will, by means of subtle propaganda, influence thinking in this great Commonwealth. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that television was the most subtle form of propaganda. He recognizes its importance. What is needed in this country is impartial treatment of this very important subject of television.
We want the Government to reestablish the all-party broadcasting committee, which has not been allowed to function for some time, so that the operation of this great service can be watched. We want a committee of television experts to go into the technical details. Nothing will be lost by delaying the introduction of television, because it is doubtful whether, having regard to our economic difficulties, this is the proper time to introduce it. Nothing will be lost by averting the great blunders which the technical experts say we are liable to make now. I appeal to the House to examine in an impartial way - though for Government supporters this may be difficult - the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, and then to vote for it. Only by giving effect to it can we get a system that will be satisfactory to every section of the community.
(4.15].’ - The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who has just resumed his seat, suffers the eternal misfortune of finding a conspiracy behind every door and in every decision. The Government has been charged with creating a monopoly, but if we look at the picture of commercial sound broadcasting in this country we find that it is the Labour party which has a monopoly oi the opportunity to influence public opinion. Through its various agencies, it can control a number of stations, some of which it acquired under most doubtful circumstances when it was in office. If there is any one thing that makes me feel happy about the extension of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s functions to include the hearing of applications for licences and renewals, it is the prospect that this sort of thing will not be continued in , the future.
The honorable member for East Sydney, who has made a great study of American television, must know that it is a big money industry. Having attended the hearings of the applications for television licences in Sydney, I am quite satisfied that if any soundly based organization had applied for a licence, the board would have bent over backwards to see that it was granted. However, the community will be well served because of the great diversity of interest of the licence-holders. Their interests cover the theatrical business, church, press, radio manufacturing and broadcasting worlds. This diversity of interest, and the fact that the companies concerned have a sound financial basis, is the best guarantee that television will get off to a good start. The honorable member sought to support his monopoly charge by quoting some technical facts. He said that only ten channels are available on the VHF band. What he does not understand, and has skipped over, is the fact that these channels are capable of duplication in quite a number of places. Therefore, for a considerable time to come there will be no real limitation of the number of television stations that can be established in Australia.
I am very grateful to the honorable gentleman for drawing attention to statements that I made and opinions that I expressed in this House. They were based on sound technical knowledge and experience. If he expects me to retract any of’ them because I have moved from the back benches to a position of, perhaps, greater responsibility in the Government, he will be bitterly disappointed. Everything that I had to say at that stage of the game I still believe. No one will doubt that. However, those views are not exclusive to me. There are other people who understand the import of these things. I propose to leave it to the PostmasterGeneral to speak for himself in regard to them, because at present machinery is being developed to deal with that sort of situation. I assume that, whatever is done, the honorable member for East Sydney will be a most violent critic of it. That is something for the future, but the start that we are making in television in the meantime will not present us from correcting technical deficiencies later. I do not subscribe to the idea that we ought to delay the introduction of television while we look at these matters, or on economic grounds or on «ny of the other specious pleas that have 1>een advanced so often in this House. I am very glad that television is to become ja charge on the national revenue. which will, in turn, be reimbursed from licence.fees. Those who enjoy the benefits of television will pay for them. Those benefits of television will flow to the entire community and economy of Australia. There are very great and valuable by-products of this industry which will outcrop in the field of industrial development and particularly in the field of defence. However, I do not propose to say much about them at the moment. I support this bill and oppose the amendment on grounds that I shall refer to in a moment.
I believe that it is a step in the right direction to consolidate broadcasting and television under much the same set of conditions and under much the same control. But there are a number <of matters of very great significance con tained in this bill, which the Opposition, with its preoccupation in attempting to protect the programme producers, the actors, the writers and others, seems to have overlooked. One of those matter” to which I shall refer is completely well known to the Postmaster-General. Wihave had lengthy discussions on these points. There is growing up in Australia n division of the radio spectrum between two organizations, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and thi’ Australian Broadcasting Control Board. There are two acts, the Posts and Telegraphs Act, which deals with the purely telegraphic side, and the Broadcasting Act, which deals with the broadcasting activities under the Broadcasting Control Board. Between these two extremes thenis a volume- of use for the radio principle which is properly attachable neither to one nor to the other of these agencies.
I merely leave the suggestion to bc dealt with in time to come - not now. because these things are of very gre: moment and have to be looked at very carefully for some time. In due course, there will have to be some re-orientation of the machinery of control over the- whole radio frequency spectrum, but, a? I pointed out, that is not a. view unknown to the Postmaster-General, and it is noi a view that is denied his sympathy. However, because of his great responsibility in this field, the PostmasterGeneral insists on knowing where he is to put his feet in this territory and on knowing that he is on safe ground. Whilst the honorable member for East Sydney is complaining about deficiencies in what we are doing at the moment, I invite the House to speculation what would have been the technical position and the financial position to-da if the Labour party had had its way in 1948 and had implanted television in each of the six capital cities. We would have had a frozen television system - frozen technically and in every other way - which would have put us perhaps twenty years behind developments that are taking place in other countries.
I have drawn attention to the provision that is made for public hearings by the Broadcasting Control Board. That provision has everything to commend it, and certainly nothing to condemn it. At the same time, I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will find it possible in the very near future to make an appointment to the third full-time position on the Broadcasting Control Board, for reasons that, to those of us on this side of the House, will be perfectly obvious. I hope that the third member of the Broadcasting Control Board will be a representative not of private interests but of the commercial points of view. Here we have an industry the whole development of which is to be controlled by the commercial application of its principles. I believe that we could profitably and safely bring into the Broadcasting Control Board the experience and knowledge of an independent and competent man who knows the engineering side of production, and the administrative side, and who appreciates the problems that the board will have to consider in detail when it has these very weighty matters before it.
I am pleased that some amendment is proposed of the provisions for charging the licence-fee for Australian commercial broadcasting. In times past, in addition to the licence-fee of £25 a year, stations have paid one-half of 1 per cent, of their gross revenue. However, as stations are engaged not only in the business of broadcasting, but also in the work of making and selling programmes, promoting productions and so on, and they have all of those things that are now coming into the television field, there has always been some difficulty in assessing the limit of gross revenue for purposes of striking the one-half of 1 per cent, additional licencefee. When the fee is increased to 1 per cent, of the revenue, it will not be the gross revenue of those stations but only the revenue from the sale of station time that will be taken. In other words, it is derived only from the sale of that commodity for which the licence is actually granted.
There has been some objection - quite mild, I think - from the stations themselves that the principle of paying a royalty on revenue should extend not only to those stations that have had profitable operations but, indeed, to all stations. I see no objection to this principle at all. It must be remembered that the possession of a broadcasting licence confers a near-monopoly on the individual who is fortunate enough to secure it. I say nothing of the great responsibilities that also descend upon the individual with his licence. If an organization, an individual or a company is to be given this opportunity of profitable operation in this public domain, then it ought to pay for that privilege; and the payment ought not to be based on the ability brought to it. In many places in this country two or three stations are competing in the same city area. I have not seen the figures, but I know something from experience of the revenues of the stations. Where two stations are operating in the same area under the same technical conditions and one has a revenue perhaps 100 per cent, or 150 per cent, more than that of the other, the difference is in the ability and the enterprise that entrepreneurs bring to the operations of their stations. It is’ wrong that one should escape a licence-fee and the other should have to pay. I believe that a new feeling of equity will be introduced into the industry when all operators of stations must pay on something equivalent to the same licence basis.
I am glad that it has been found possible to remove the prohibition against frequency modulation. Tremendous difficulties exist in this country because of the scattered population, vast distances and the tropical nature of much of the country to be covered, with the consequent problems of radio interference that arise with the location. Frequency modulation will offer a new opportunity to solve many of those problems. There will be some difficulties in the early stage, but those difficulties will be more than compensated for by the improved service that will be given, in general terms, to the Australian people. Henceforth, the number of stations in this country will be controlled only by economic limitations and not by some technical limitation that the Government has now wisely set aside.
I come now to the hard core of the Opposition’s objection to this bill - that is to say, many of the matters embodied in the long amendment that the Leader of the Opposition has proposed. Before I deal with the question of the protection of Australian programme production, I draw attention to the cloud of conditions proposed in the first few parts of the amendment, which would all but strangle television before it really started. The Opposition wants the broadcasting or televising, free of charge, of religious services or subjects on an equitable basis, both by the commission and commercial licensees. That is not so bad. Then the Opposition wants to ensure that facilities will be 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 bill provides that matters of national importance shall have access to this near public service that operates in the public domain, and nobody would complain about that. An Opposition member asks, “ What are they? “ They are in the bill, and I invite the honorable member to read it. The point is this : If we are to have all of these things, and if the licensees are to provide «11 of these services free of charge, how does the honorable member propose that commercial television will operate on anything like a reasonable economic or profitable basis? I know, of course, that they would be delighted to strangle it, and it is for those very reasons that they are attempting to place these provisions in the bill.
Now I turn to the question of safeguards against the flooding of Australian television programmes with low-grade, syndicated material from overseas. The right honorable gentleman has done some digging, at which he is completely expert, on this matter, and has come up with some comments which, indeed, I would not quarrel with. They may be perfectly right. But I take the House back to the early days of sound broadcasting in this country, during the 1930’s to the 1940’s, when the backbone of the whole of the broadcasting system in this country was supplied by American transcription programmes. I venture to suggest that in those days we brought in a bit of poor stuff, but we have outlived that defect. One good service those American transcriptions rendered for us in the early days of broadcasting in Australia was to set programme standards which later became the basis, the standard of measurement of value, used by our own Australian producers, enabling them to transfer what was of value in those programmes into the Australian idiom. 1 suggest to the House that broadcasting in Australia in the 1930’s and 1940’s would have been an infinitely poorer proposition than it was had we not been able to rely on those broad sources of material from overseas, which thoroughly experienced people had produced, at a time when we did not have the capacity to produce such material ourselves.
We are facing the same sort of situation in regard to television to-day. I wish to direct the attention of the House to the fact that, whereas in the 1930’s and 1940’s the great bulk of our broadcasting feature programmes were made by the American transcription companies, to-day an American transcription programme is a novelty on the air in Australia. We have had this growth of broadcasting from dependence on material from outside to complete dependence on our own material. The amendment is so phrased as to attempt to decry the value of the sort of dramatic material that we received from overseas in the early days of broadcasting. I do not deny the right honorable gentleman’s complaint that some poor material will be introduced from now on. The film theatres in Australia have the biggest audiences in the world, because we are one of the greatest, movie-going nations in the world. There is some pretty low-grade stuff seen on the screen in Australia, but we manage to live through it and, little by little, the standard is going up. The Opposition suggests that we ought to be protected against low-grade syndicated material from overseas when television starts in this country. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) put before us the fact, which he apparently regards as something of a crime, that we are now being offered, at a cost to us of £250, television programmes which were produced in America at a cost of anything from £10,000 to £50,000. In other words, we are to have the good fortune to be able to buy for £250 programmes which cost many tens of thousands of pounds to make in America. Where one could get a better bargain in entertainment than that, I do not know. I have looked at this situation pretty carefully, and have had the advantage of seeing the best and the worst that American television is si bie to produce, and I must say that I saw very little stuff that anybody cOUld say definitely ought, not to be on tele- vision. I saw a tremendous amount of what one might call “ pot-boilers “,. which was fair average quality entertainment. 1 also saw some magnificent productions which, we, from our own resources in this country, may never hope to equal. If we can get some of that high-quality programme material into this country to leaven some of the poor material that we will also receive, I would regard that as not a bad sort of bargain.
– That is the purely commercial outlook.
– I shall come in a moment to the commercial outlook. The Opposition has proposed that we give to Australian authors the protection of a provision that 55 per cent, of the material broadcast on television shall be Australian material. I. shall produce some figures in a moment which, I hope, will convince the House that there will be no denial of opportunity on television toAustralian producers; because the voracious appetite for programme matter which television will present in Australia will be such that I doubt whether we shall be able to find overseas, under conditions of which we could take advantage because of currency restrictions, anything like the programme material’ that we would want. I do not believe that we shall be able to provide a continuing large amount of programme material from overseas for our television system and, therefore, there will be almost unlimited opportunity for anything that Australians can produce. I think that in the early stages, when we are laying the foundations1, we shall be glad to have the benefit of overseas experience and ability in this field, so that we shall be able to set standards for ourselves. I venture to predict also that in the course of a few years we will do in television what we did in sound broadcasting - we will very largely replace the overseas product -with the product of our own television writers and producers. The Leader of the Opposition will no 107bt
Lin satisfied then.
I do not know how this figure of 55 per cent, of Australian material was arrived at by the Opposition. It was probably plucked out of the air, having no relation to anything.. I suggest that,, if we insist that 55 per cent, of the material broadcast on television must come from our own Australian resources,, we will go far towards wrecking television in this country. For my part I stand completely and quite happily by the undertaking given by the Government, and by the views expressed by the Postmaster-General in introducing this bill, when he said, in plain terms, that not only does the Government understand the need to foster Australian production, but also that it has served! notice on the licensees of television stations that they will be expected to use to the greatest possible extent materials coming from our own Australian production resources.
Sow let us have a. look at some figures. We axe to have three television stations in Sydney and three in. Melbourne. Assuming that programmes are used, twice in Sydney and’ Melbourne the three stations in each eity will use four or five hours of programme material a day. If the same programmes are used in both cities we shall have a demand for about 5,500 hours of programme material a year. It is interesting to note that ro the fast year we imported 1,275 films, which, in all, produced only 770 hours of programme time in cinemas. The fact is that television in Australia will use,, in two months, the whole of the programme time provided by films which went into maintaining the cinema industry for an entire year. Those figures wilt give some idea of what is involved in feeding’ the appetite of this consumingmonster,, television. It ought to be kept in mind that none of the films that provided those 700 hours of programme time is available for television, but are all booked for the cinema industry. So we have to tap new resources for the equivalent volume of programme time.
The output of the Australian film industry is estimated at 100 screeninghours a year. Once again, the 100 hours of screen entertainment that we are producing in the Australian film industry would not provide more than a week’s programming for television. That is a first-class indication of how rapidly and how wide has to be the expansion in our television-producing facilities to enable us to fill even a minor percentage of the programme time. So, an immediate and vast expansion of our production industry is absolutely essential. I think it is rather fortunate that the difference in production techniques for films for cinemas and films for broadcasting on television will mean that the latter will be a little cheaper than those produced for the cinema alone.
I personally welcome the enormous contribution which television is capable of making to the general level of culture in Australia, and to the growth of a sense of nationhood and pride in our achievements which, I know, will result from this medium under careful handling. In passing, J might refer to the fact that a good deal of material for sound broadcasting to-day, from our own protected sources, does not reach what I would hope would be a reasonable cultural standard for Australia. There is some pretty poor stuff of Australian origin coming over the air. Some of it results from the protected nature of the radio entertainment industry. My own view is that a great danger of depressing the standard of material lies in the imposition of a quota of locally produced material. If we are to protect local television production sources in this way, 1 do not know why we should not go a little further and impose a quota in relation to books stocked in Australian libraries, by insisting that a certain percentage ‘of theam be the works of Australian writers. If that were done perhaps *he honorable member for Parkes would go into honorable retirement from membership of this House and turn out some “ pot-boilers “. I do not know why we should not logically go even further and impose a qnota in regard to the display of oil paintings in our art galleries, insisting that a certain percentage be the works of Australian artists. Australia versus the old masters! The same principle could be applied to any art form, and I am ‘Confident that if it were it would lead to n. depressing of the standard of the (productions concerned.
The imposition of a high quota in relation to the ,UBe of television material might have the same result. Then the question arises whether the quota should be imposed in terms of time or in terms of quality. That is the hard core of this problem. Then I ask the honorable member for Parkes whether he would like to b<; a member of the board that is to decide the quality of the things that will come in. I suggest to the House that the Australian people are pretty discriminating in their choice of films and radio programmes, and I believe that they will be equally discriminating in choosing television programmes. I am prepared to suggest also that they will very quickly convey that attitude to those persons who have the responsibility for producing the programmes.
I have only one other thought in relation to quotas to leave with honorable members, and that is to remind them of what happened in the ‘thirties, when the film industry of Great Britain suffered one of the worst tragedies that has ever befallen such an industry. For the very same reason that has been advanced here, a quota was applied. The purpose was to protect home production, but almost immediately there sprang up in the film industry a lot of people, inadequately financed and without experience, who produced what came to be known as “ quota quickies “. In the course of a few years they did such damage to the British film industry that it has not recovered to this day. If honorable members opposite want to inflict such a tragedy upon the Australian television industry, let them impose a quota, and, in particular, a quota of the kind they have suggested. I do not think I need to labour that point.
The Government is fully alive to the situation. We are stepping on to new and untried ground. We want to develop our experience without the inhibitions of quota systems, rules, restrictions and regulations applied simply because we think such restrictions may be of advantage. Let us ascertain by experience to what degree they will be of advantage. If the need for a quota arises, I have no doubt that, in view of the assurance of the PostmasterGeneral on this most important matter, the Government would have no hesitation in applying one. Let us not destroy the television industry or the prospect of promoting sound, good quality television programmes in Australia by over-protecting and encouraging television “ quickies “.
.- Discussion on the introduction of television in Australia has taken place for many years. A royal commission was appointed, and, arising out of the recommendations of that commission, the Parliament is now discussing the Broadcasting and Television Bill 1956. A decision lias been reached, and it is hoped to have Television in Australia by the end of this year. Many arguments have been advanced for and against the introduction of this medium of communication, but. as it is to be introduced, no good purpose would be served by retracing the ground that has already been covered. However, members of the Parliament have a grave responsibility to ensure that the introduction of television to Australia shall have no adverse effects.
The vast majority of Australians can not realize the effect of this new medium of communication on our children, our politics, our reading, our family life, and society generally. It is the biggest force to have been introduced to this country for many decades. The introduction of radio fades into insignificance when comparisons are made. The impact of television will be so great that Australia and Australians will wonder what has hit them. It is the greatest means of communication known to man, and has great potential as a force for good or evil. Men, women and children will be subject to the triple impact of sight, sound and motion. What they see and hear will be believed. For that reason, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which will be the authority governing the type of programmes to be presented, is charged with a serious responsibility, and no less serious is the responsibility of the commercial stations, which have a certain degree of latitude in the presentation of programmes.
To give an illustration of the tremendous possibilities of television and of the developments that can be expected in this field in Australia, let me quote some statistics relating to television in the
United States of America. Televisionwas introduced into America in 1946r and by September, 1955, two out of every three families owned a television, set or were paying it off. Thirty-two million homes have television sets, and: in those homes television dials are flicked on and off or from channel tochannel no less than 100,00.0,000 times between 8 a.m. and midnight. Since- 194G, American families have spent’ 15,000,000,000 dollars to look at television programmes. Seventy-nine per cent, of the families with one or twochildren, and 83 per cent, of those with three or more children, own television sets. Usually, families with modest or medium incomes are- the first to buy sets. A questionnaire survey of 1,462 homes with television sets and 391 homeswithout sets disclosed that 71 per cent, of viewers watched television programmes for from one to two hours a day, 20 per cent, for more than two hours a day, and 9 per cent, for less than one hour a day. Children between the ages of six and ten years watched television for the greatest length of time. Those figures serve to illustrate the tremendous effect of television that can be expected in Australia.
As Australian children can be expected to react similarly to American children, it is the moral duty of those persons who control television to ensure that programmes are of a high standard, that this medium of communication will be used in the interests of society generally, and, more particularly, that children are given programmes that are educational, clean and wholesome. In America, various surveys have shown that children watch television programmes for from three to four hours a day or from twenty to 30 hours a week. After acquiring television sets, 59 per cent, stayed home more, 53 per cent, read less, 24 per cent, made fewer things with their hands, and 13 per cent, played less in groups. In the U.S. News & World Report of the 2nd September, 1955, are published extracts of interviews with parents of children. An executive of New York City, with two children, was asked, “Do the children still look at television much ? “ He replied, “ I think that they look at it too much. It seems to be it is an emotional outlet for them. I don’t know if it is especially healthy “. A New York broker, with four children, who lives in New Jersey, was asked, “Is it surface knowledge they get from television ? How deep does it go?” He replied, “That’s hard to say. Certainly they don’t read much. In fact, they can’t”. He was further asked, “Do you mean that they don’t want to read?” He said, “I mean that they literally cannot read - or, if at all, just barely. My thirteen-year-old boy doesn’t know how to read hardly at all “. Then he was asked, “Do you mean that he can’t read a newspaper ? “ and he replied, “ He can read it with the greatest of difficulty”. To the further question, “ What is the answer to this sort of thing, then ? “, he replied, “ I just don’t know. Maybe we are getting into a new era of education - it will have to be by television. Ct seems to me that, if you are going to teach children to read these days, you’ll have to find some way to do it on television. Same thing with arithmetic. They simply won’t sit still with a book “. With such drastic changes in children’s habits, and in view of the amount of time spent in watching television programmes, it is imperative that the programmes presented should be designed, not only to entertain, but also to educate. We do not want to follow the example of some programmes that have been shown in the United States, to which the following reference has been made by the Royal Commission on Television at page 68 of its report: -
Figures published in January, 1953, collected by a Parent-Teachers’ Association of Chicago do show that certain programmes seem to be rather unbalanced.
Every children’s programme in Chicago was monitored between Christmas morning and New Year’s Eve. There were 295 violent crimes including 93 murders, 78 shootings, 9 kidnappings, 9 robberies. 44 gun fights, 2 knifings, 33 sluggings, 2 whippings, 2 poisonings and 2 bombings. These were included in* 134 children’s shows- mostly of old film. lt may be said by some people, such as the’ sponsors, the advertisers, or the station managers, that the control of children in their viewing habits is the sole responsibility of parents. Certainly, there is something to be said for this argument, but no parent can be expected to “ vet “ every programme that is presented. In Australia, with the dual system of television operating - com mercial and national stations - it will be as much the responsibility of station managers and staff to ensure the protection of the minds of our children as it will be the responsibility of the parents. No parents can be expected to keep full control of their children while they have such a medium as television in their homes - action, words, and sight, all offered on the same programme. Every parent, no matter how patient he or shi’ might be, has reached the stage when he or she has said to a child, “ Go and play in the back-yard “. When television is introduced the parents will possibly say, “ Go and watch the television “. Because of the fact that the children will be drawn to this medium, it is the imperative and necessary duty of station owners and programme producers to see that the programmes presented on television are clean and wholesome. Commercial stations will have to play their part by presenting programmes which will develop the minds of our children along the right lines. Children’s programmes and educational and historical programmes cannot be left solely to the national stations. The profit motive cannot override the national good.
The subject of programme standards was covered by the Postmaster-General in his second-reading speech when he said -
There will be problems to face, mainly arising from the social impact of television, but these all revolve around and depend for their solution on, the overriding question of the establishment and maintenance of satisfactory programme standards.
Clause 16c of the bill provides for this aspect of programme control. It reads -
To ensure that adequate and comprehensive programmes are provided by commercial broadcasting stations and commercial television stations to serve the best interests of the general public.
However, neither the Minister’s words nor the section in the act will be any safeguard unless the community as a whole plays its part in ensuring that cheap, shoddy programmes shall not be allowed to become a feature of Australian television. One American writer, Mr. Robert Lewis Shagon, in a book entitled Television and Our Children, has likened television to the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Television can take our children away from us, but let us not be like the Mayor and council of Hamelin who, in the words of Robert Browning -
As if they were changed into blocks of wood,
Unable to move a step or cry
To the children merrily skipping by.
We can ensure the presentation of good programmes and the development of television in Australia along lines which will be in the best interests of the nation. As members of Parliament, as parents, and as citizens of this great south land, we have a moral duty to develop this mass medium of sight, sound and motion accordingly
One other aspect of the bill that I desire to discuss relates to the failure to offer any safeguards to sporting bodies. Hundreds of thousands of Australian men and women participate in active sport such as cycling, football, cricket, tennis, and hockey. The administration, control, and organization of all these sports is mainly in. the hands of voluntary and honorary officers. The organizations that undertake the running of sporting competitions, the organization of international tours, and the development of juniors into seniors, deserve some consideration in the field of television. Televised sporting programmes in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France all rank highly on the list of programmes applauded by the public. In the bill that is before us at the present lime no safeguard is given to the sporting organizations. Any television station will be able to televise any sporting event. It will not do so out of the goodness of its heart. Some sponsor will offer the station an. enormous amount of money in order to. get the rights to advertise its product on the programme. But the men and women who have organized that spectacle will receive no consideration at all if the television station does not desire to pay them anything. The general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has said that this position would be covered. He has said that the television stations would not televise sporting events without the authority of the sporting bodies. But that is not sufficient because, in the past, various stations have decided to broadcast sporting functions without giving any consideration to the sporting, bodies.
The Postmaster - General (Mr. Davidson), in his wisdom, and the Government, in its wisdom, should remedy this defect in the bill by having included! in it some protection for sporting bodies. The men and women who participate i» sport do so mainly because they aresportloving Australians and desire tokeep their minds and bodies healthy. But whereas broadcasting whets the appetite for sport, television will satisfy that appetite. In the United States of America, many junior baseball leagues are finding it difficult to get juniors to participate in that sport. Something similar will occur in Australia unless some safeguard is given to the sporting bodies. The sporting bodies have no intention of asking exorbitant prices for the right to televise their sport, but they do desire to have some protection against the actions of television companies which may televise their sport without authority or without giving the sporting bodies any remuneration. I implore the Postmaster-General to consider fully the aspects and arguments that were advanced by the sporting bodies when they interviewed him a few weeks ago.
The sporting bodies deserve the same consideration that is given to other people who present entertainment. If they do not receive some protection from this bill, something similar to that which happened in New York will happen here. The classic example is that of the famous Macy store in New York which advertised, “ Why go to the circus ? Come here and see it and then buy a television set and see it at home”. The Barnum and Bailey circus people quickly felt the impact of television. The same thing would happen to our sport. Much money is spent in bringing international football, cricket and tennis teams to Australia. Unless the people who organize those sporting functions have some say asto whether those functions will be televised, they could operate at a financial loss. I ask the Minister to consider an amendment to the bill in order to provide adequate protection to sporting bodies.
Television can be of great, benefit to the community,, but we must all endeavour to. ensure that television programmes arekept on a. high plane. The people who control television stations must try to provide programmes which will maintain a high standard of entertainment, aud will be a source of education not only to our children, hut also to every other member of the community. In conclusion, I ask the Minister to discharge faithfully his responsibilities in the administration of the act, and I hope that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will -ensure that the pro- gi-ainni.es of the national stations are >f a high standard.. In. that connexion, i he people who will present television programmes in Australia should have learnt from the experience of America, the United Kingdom,, Canada and other countries where television has been operating for- some time. The introduction of television in Australia will have fi profound effect on our social and economic life,, and in the interests of this country I earnestly implore the men and women who will be responsible for the operation of television stations to use their influence in the cause of good.
.- I find it very difficult to understand the platitudes of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), who has just resumed his seat. He spoke of the programmes that he expects will be shown, by television stations. If his speech had been made before the Royal Commission on Television had presented its report, or if it had been made in this House when the Parliament decided on the introduction of television, perhaps I could have understood it. But all the arguments that he has advanced have been advanced before. They have been given full consideration by the royal commission, and also by the Parliament itself before it decided on the course of action that has resulted in television being practically an accepted thing in the community.
I can never understand why people in Australia look upon Australian parents as morons, as the honorable member has suggested that they are. There is no comparison to be made between the way in which entertainment is derived by the children of America and by the: children of this country. The children of the two countries have different fields of entertainment. Their standards arequite different. Honorable members need only to look at the standard of the comic books that came from America in earlier years, and which gave rise to a. wave of protest throughout this country^ a protest that was voiced even by honorable members in this House, to understand what I am suggesting. Those horror books sold in quantity in the United States of America, but their importation into this country evoked protests’ from, the parents of Australia, the- same- parents that the honorable member for Lang now says cannot control their own children andcannot decide what television programmesthey shall look at in their own homes. I do not accept that suggestion. I .have a higher regard for the parents- of Australia. I believe that they will protect their children. I invite- honorable members to consider the position- in the- film industry. Tear in and year- out endeavours are made to import certain films from the United States. They are turned back by the censorship authorities, or they have portions- excised before they are admitted to this country. Everybody knows that if films or books of a low standard were brought into Australia there would be no demand for them at all. The Australian people have a high moral standard, and a full sense of responsibility to their children.
In any case, who would1 show such television films if they came here* Would they be shown by the Australian Broadcasting Commission or by the commercial television stations? The Australian Broadcasting Commission has a splendid record. It has maintained one of the highest standards in the world. In fact, no honorable member who ha* studied the record of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, both in connexion with children’s programmes and general programmes, can say that it has broadcast any material that could be dangerous to the minds of children or adolescents. The Government, and, I believe, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, do not intend to allow any programmes to be shown on television that would be detrimental to the mental growth of our boys and girls.
The honorable member for Lang bolstered his argument by referring to an interview in America with the parents of a thirteen-year-old child who could neither read nor write, and who spent his time looking at the television programmes. I do not think there are many thirteenyearold children in Australia among those who would have access to a television set who cannot read or write.
The honorable member’s arguments all fall to the ground. I have faith in the commercial broadcasting stations and in the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and I have every reason to believe that the high standard that has been maintained over a long period of years in sound broadcasting will be carried on with television. Television stations would not be able to function, because they would not have a sufficient audience, if they broadcast the programmes that evidently are shown in the United States. I cannot understand why there has been so much criticism of this measure by Opposition members. I do not know why the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen)-
– What about the sporting aspect?
– Let us get away from sport, and deal with the honorable member for Parkes. I cannot understand why he suggested that 55 per cent, of programmes should be the product of local talent. Why 55 per cent.? Why not 60 per cent, or 65 per cent., or 85 per cent., or even 35 per cent.? No one has told us why it should be 55 per cent. That figure is suddenly plucked out of the air. I do not know how the honorable member arrives at it. I invite honorable members to consider the position in other countries. Television was introduced in Canada in, I think, 1951. In that country, there is a government owned and controlled television undertaking. The Government announced its firm intention to use Canadian talent to the fullest extent in television programmes, because there was some expressed resentment about the encroachment of United States ideas in Canadian community life. The Govern ment said that it would use as much as possible of local talent. In 1951, the first television signals were broadcast. To-day. five years later, the Canadian Government is using only 40 per cent, of local talent in its programmes. Therefore, 1 ask: Why does the Opposition suggest 55 per cent, in Australia? In an endeavour to bolster his argument, the honorable member for Parkes said thar the television regulations in Britain require that 80 per cent, of programmes shall be produced by local talent. I have consulted authorities on this matter and. as far as I can gather, there is no such regulation under the British television legislation. The honorable member’? argument is based, therefore, on false assertions. This Government is very sympathetic towards local talent. It i.determined that local talent will be used to the fullest extent. As the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) pointed out earlier in this debate, there is no limit to the demand that will be forthcoming for television programmes. The Australian producer, actor, composer and author will have ample opportunity to enter the television field and do well out of it as the industry progresses. If we are sensible about it, and if we consider the quota system with an eye to the future, we must see that there is no surer way of wrecking television at the outset, and closing down the commercial stations particularly, than to say immediately that 55 per cent, of their programmes must be staged by Australian artists. At the present time, there are not enough Australian artists available to produce the programmes that would be required.
I suspect that a sinister motive lies behind the Opposition’s proposal for a quota of Australian artists. There can be no doubt in the mind of any one that the Australian Labour party is firmly set against commercial television in Australia. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, made it perfectly clear last evening that he is a socialist - ia democratic socialist, he said - and that he considers that the entire television scheme should be socialized and nationalized. The Australian Labour party firmly believes this, so long as it cannot get a licence for a television station, as it tried to do. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) ran away to the Royal Commission on Television, applied for a licence for a Labour station, and then pulled the Australian Labour party by its nose into the arena. As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) very rightly pointed out yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition failed to make it clear to the royal commissioners how much of the broadcasting time of the Labour station would be made available to people of political beliefs other than his own. Labour, by virtue of its socialist, pro-Communist outlook upon these things, is committed to a nationalized television scheme. That is the view of Government supporters. The honorable member for Parkes knows as well as I do that, if his proposal for a 55 per cent, quota of Australian artists were implemented, no commercial television station could operate in Australia for at least fifteen years.
– That is complete rubbish. The honorable member has been sold a lie.
– I ask the honorable member to look at the matter fairly. He was not in the chamber when I recounted the experience of the Canadians, who, after five years of preference to local artists, are still able to produce only 40 per cent, of their programmes with local talent. If the honorable member for Parkes looks ahead, he will realize that it will be at least fifteen years before we in Australia can stage 55 per cent, of our television programmes with local talent. Labour would clamp down on the commercial stations and kill them. Every one who believes in the socialist principles of the Australian Labour party would then be happy.
I turn now to the Opposition’s arguments about the concentration of ownership. This old cry of the anti-Liberals has been re-echoed during this debate by the honorable member for Melbourne, who had much to say about the concentration of the ownership of radio and television broadcasting stations. Labour has been talking about this subject for years, but what action has it taken? It has been content merely to talk and to leave it to governments composed of the
Liberal party and the Australian Country party to act. Labour has had ample opportunity to improve the law in this regard, if it so desired when in office. In 1935, when the late Sir Archdale Parkhill was Postmaster-General, there were only 57 commercial broadcasting stations in Australia. He saw that it would be in the public interest to limit the number of radio stations that could be conducted under the one ownership, and he promulgated the regulation that was read earlier by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward) to restrict the number of radio stations that could be owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by any one person to one metropolitan commercial station in any State, four such metropolitan stations in the Commonwealth, four commercial stations in any one State, and eight such stations in the Commonwealth. That action was taken by a government formed by a party that was a forerunner of the present Liberal party. After the antiLiberals had taken office in the early years of World War II., they incorporated these limitations in section 53 of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942, on the recommendation of the Gibson committee. When the Chifley Government consolidated the act in 1948, it stated that it did not propose to limit further the ownership or control of commercial broadcasting stations. The present Government proposes to consolidate the principal act again, and to insert, in section 53, a new sub-section (2.), the purpose of which is to provide a check on substantial transactions in shares which may have the effect, among other things, of increasing the holdings of any shareholder in a licensee company. The transactions are not to take place without the Minister’s consent. Although Labour talks about these things, it does nothing about them when it is in office. It is always left to a Liberal government to take action.
– There is a prescribed quota of Australian capital for radio and television stations, but the Government will not agree to an artistic quota.
– The Labour government incorporated the limitations of the regulation to which I have referred in the Australian Broadcasting Act in 1942, but, in 1948, it -made it perfectly clear that it did not propose to restrict broadcasting stations further in this manner. The statements made by ‘Opposition members sound very well to them when they are in opposition. I wish they would look back upon their own record. The proposed new sub-clause (2.) in section 53 of the principal act will tie things up.
Since the present Government took office in 1949, licences have been granted for a number of new radio broadcasting stations. I think it is worth while to consider the Government’s record in the licensing of new stations. Licences were granted to three stations on condition that the companies to be formed to operate them should consist of local residents. The licences were granted when that condition was met. A country station in Western Australia - station 6BY - was licensed for operation by a metropolitan broadcasting company only after inquiries had been made to ascertain whether local residents were prepared to take control of the station. A licence for a fifth station was given to a company controlled by no less a body than the Australian Workers Union. This licence was granted to honour a promise that had been made by the PostmasterGeneral in the Chifley Government. That is the record of the present Government over the six and a half years during which it has held office. No honorable member can point an accusing finger at Government supporters and say that we have sold out to vested interests and to monopolies. This Government has made no concessions r.o vested interests or to monopolies, with the one possible exception that it has granted the Australian Workers Union a licence to operate a radio station in Western Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the substantial interests of English newspaper companies, and the like, but he forgot to tell the House that, in 1951, the present Government required those companies to transfer to Australian residents sufficient of the Australian shares the companies had acquired to reduce their former controlling interests in some ratio stations to mere minority interests. As I have stated, proposed new. sub-section (2.) of section 53 of the principal act is designed to give the administration some measure of control over substantial transactions in the shares of broadcasting stations. The limitations of that section, which were introduced by regulation in 1935, and which were confirmed by the Curtin Government in 1942, by incorporation in the Australian Broadcasting Act, have been strictly enforced by the present Government, which has resolutely refused to grant certain licences that have been sought, because it was considered that granting them would be contrary to the spirit, if not to the letter, of section 53.
Throughout the debate, we have heard from the Opposition a great deal about the Gibson committee. It is interesting to consider the views of that committee on this matter. The report of the committee, which was made in 1935, states -
The inherent danger of allowing the control of broadcasting to become a monopoly or a partial monopoly became apparent and engaged the attention of the government of the day.
I believe that what I have said during the last few minutes .clearly shows that the present Government is just as solicitous of the public welfare as the Gibson committee considered a government should be.
I turn now to another criticism made by members of the anti-Liberal party that sits in Opposition. That criticism relates to the constitution of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I should like to refer again to the Gibson report. The Government has been attacked because it has decided to discontinue the appointing of representatives of the Treasury and the Postmaster-General’s Department to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This course is supported by the views of the Gibson .committee. Let me read to the House a paragraph or two from the report of the Gibson committee, which has the approval of the socialists -
We consider that the commissioners should not “be specialists or representatives of particular interests or localities, but that they should be persons of acknowledged capacity, experience and judgment, imbued with high ideals and sensible of a responsibility to contribute to the moral and intellectual wellbeing of the community. The commissioners should be five an number and one of them should be a woman. They should be regarded as having a joint responsibility in the control of national broadcasting and should not consider themselves as individual units for the purpose of exercising specialized supervision over the .service. Their main functions should “be major matters of policy and finance.
In that respect, the Leader of the Opposition, and other socialists who have followed him in this debate, conflict with the report of the committee, which they uphold as the standard to which we must refer in relation to these matters. If clause 14 is agreed to, the act will provide for the appointment by the GovernorGeneral of seven members. It would then be practicable to contemplate the appointment of a representative from each State, as proposed in the suggested amendment. The Government will certainly keep that matter in mind when appointments are being considered.
As I listened to the Opposition praising the work of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, and suggesting that these matters should have been referred to it, I was afforded a great deal of amusement. The House will remember that the Gibson committee said, in relation to the suggested appointment of a parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting -
The proposal will mean that there will be nine members of Parliament who will be as familiar with all major problems of broadcasting as any member of the Government could be. This may influence any action that the Government may take. Control will still remain with the Government under the act, and in that sense ministerial responsibility for policy will be unimpaired but the Minister and Parliament will have the assistance of the Standing Committee as a consultant and as a sounding-board for gauging public opinion throughout the Commonwealth.
This pleased the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), who was at that time a member of the Gibson committee, and in a speech to the Parliament he said -
The standing committee would provide a safeguard against the introduction of hasty or ill-advised legislation or regulations by the political party in power and would establish a means of ensuring that, before important changes are made in broadcasting policy, there will be a minute investigation of the proposal, and evidence will be taken from all interested parties by members of both Houses who represent all the States.
What happened? A committee was appointed in accordance with the recommendations of the Gibson committee’s report. The honorable member for Melbourne was a member of the committee, and all was fun and games, but in 1948, when the Chifley Government introduced legislation to consolidate the Broadcast- ing Act, it approached the Parliament without even consulting the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting. That illustrates how little the Chifley Government thought of the committee at that time. That is borne out by the words of the honorable member for Melbourne, who said in 194S -
It is true that the government of the day did not consult the committee, but there is no obligation ou the Government to do so when it decides to place before the Parliament suggested amendments of the law.
I suggest that that disposes of the arguments of members of the Labour party in support of the proposal to appoint a parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting. They had the benefit of the Gibson committee’s report. They established a committee, and with much blowing of trumpets they announced to the world that before they made any amendments, before they altered broadcasting policy, they would consult the committee, which was composed of men from every State. But in 1948, at the time of the greatest major change in broadcasting until the introduction of this present measure, the Chifley Government neglected its own committee and acted without even seeking the committee’s advice.
I think it is abundantly clear to. the House and to the people of the Commonwealth that Labour stands only for nationalization in the field of television, as indeed it does in the field of broadcasting. Labour looks forward to the day when it will again form the government and can control the destinies of people in a socialized state. That has always been the socialist objective. In socialist countries where television is established, the people are not permitted to have receiving sets which allow them to flick from this channel to that. Their sets are tuned to the national propaganda station, and they are brainwashed with insidious propaganda day in, day out. Of course, it is the Communist and socialist technique to permit only one national station in order to implant its socialistic views upon persons who do not support them at election time.
I am quite satisfied with the developments which have taken place in connexion with the introduction of television to Australia. Television must come. I have no doubt that it will be of benefit to the Australian people. I have real confidence in the integrity of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in formulating programmes, and I have a great deal of faith in the commercial interests which will engage in television, because in return for the monetary gain which they hope to make they must produce programmes of a very high standard. The Australian people have high standards, and would not tolerate a television station which displayed rubbish in their homes for their children to view. I believe that the Australian people have high ideals. I know that the Labour party doubts this proposition. It regards the people as morons, and believes that the Government must stand over the people with a big stick because they will not exercise proper parental control. The Australian people have a substantial sense of their own responsibility to their children, and I for one am quite content to leave control of the sets in the safe hands of the mothers and fathers, who after all know what is right and good for their children. “We have responsible people to conduct stations and arrange programmes. In the homes are responsible men and women who, viewing programmes, will ensure that children and young people are properly protected. I am quite sure that economics will determine whether in the future we shall have very high frequency or ultra-high frequency transmission. I do not think that economic considerations will permit the establishment of very high frequency stations in country areas at a cost of £250,000, as compared with a cost of £40,000 or £50,000 for ultra-high frequency transmitters. Economics will ensure a complete mixture of ultra-high frequency and very high frequency transmissions, operating harmoniously on the Australian network.
We are making steady progress. Television is to be introduced first in Sydney and Melbourne. Before the services are extended to other capital cities the matter of frequencies will be examined in the light of experience, and having regard to the economics involved. The matter will be sorted out, and we shall have fre quency allocations within the Commonwealth over both the ultra-high frequency and very high frequency bands. I refuse’ to believe that the technicians and advisers of the Postmaster-General’s Department are as addle-brained as the Opposition makes them appear. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) says that we are getting into a muddle in this matter. The persons who advise the Postmaster-General are fully trained men, and in this country at present we have some of the best men engaged in the television field. I am quite sure that they have learnt far more from the mistakes of television authorities in other countries than have the socialists who sit opposite me. I am content to leave it to the good judgment of the Minister and of our technical experts. I am sure that honorable members will agree with me that the Minister is to be greatly commended for producing such a substantial measure so soon after his appointment. He has clarified the whole situation for us and is to be complimented.
.- This Broadcasting and Television Bill in effect repeals and re-enacts the Television Act 1953 and recasts the Broadcasting Act of 1942-1954. It leaves the national and commercial broadcasting services unaffected. Its main interest, as would appear from yesterday’s and to-day’? debates, lies in the fact that it now confirms the decision already made concerning commercial television stations. The Opposition’s amendment draws attention to the fact that the four commercial television stations - two in Sydney and two in Melbourne - which alone have been given licences, will extend and perpetuate the monopolistic interest which has hitherto been exercised in other mass media by the companies which have joined in setting them up. I refer to the biggest newspapers and the biggest radio stations in these two largest Australian cities. I propose to discuss the four commercial television stations and show how they are controlled by those newspapers and by the radio stations that are their subsidiaries.
Station ATN, which will be operated by Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited, has 794,118 shares. Of these, 300,000 are owned by the Fairfax interests - the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Sun and the Sun-Herald - and by station 2TJE, which they own. A total of 119.118 shares are owned by the 2GB Macquarie Artransa group, which is owned by those and other newspapers, and rad;io stations dependent upon them. A controlling number of shares will, therefore, be held by associated newspapers and radio stations.
The English Daily Mirror and Sunday Pictorial hold half the shares in 2WL Wollongong. Through their interest in the Melbourne Argus, they control 3SR Shepparton, 3UL Warragul, and 3YB Warrnambool. With the Sydney Morning Herald they control 2GB Sydney, and through that station, 2CA Canberra and 5DN Adelaide. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Mirror and Sunday Pictorial interests will therefore jointly hold a majority of the shares in station ATN. The remaining shares are held by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and 2TJW. As the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) pointed out earlier this afternoon, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited owns 2AY Albury, 3130 Bendigo, 4CA Cairns and 4TO Townsville. It also owns companies which operate 2GF Grafton, 2GN Goulburn and 4WK Warwick. It conducts 2CH Sydney and owns half the shares in 7LA. Launceston. Station 2UW owns 4BC Brisbane and controls 4GB Toowoomba, 4MB Maryborough and 4BO Rockhampton. One can see, therefore, that station ATN is controlled by the Sun-Herald interests in Sydney and by those radio stations which they own jointly with the English Daily Mirror and Sunday Pictorial.
Station TCN is owned by Television Corporation Limited. It is the only operating television station which is a public company. It is, therefore, the only station about whose shareholders one can gain definite information. The issued shares in that company total 1,096,493. Consolidated Press Limited - the Sydney Daily Telegraph - own 569,493 of those shares. In other words, it already has a controlling interest. The other shares are held by interests of a like kind. I refer to Associated Newspapers Limited of England, which conducts, the London Daily Mail, and various radio, film and electronic enterprises like Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited and Paramount Film Service Proprietary Limited. A year ago, on the 19th April, 1955, the then Minister stipulated that the Daily Mail, Philips and Paramount should reduce their interest in the proposed shareholding from 32.7 per cent, to 20 per cent.; moreover, that none should have more than 15 per cent, of the issued capital. However, on the 24th October, 1955, the date of the Broadcasting Control Board’s report, the London Daily Mail had still not reduced its shareholding to 15 per. cent. Indeed, it held more than 21 per cent, of the shares, and the three companies, instead of having reduced their shareholding to 20 per cent., still held more than 36 per cent, of the shares actually issued. Therefore, the station has not complied with the Minister’s stipulations and, according to the bill that we are asked to pass, is not entitled to a licence at all.
I move now to a consideration of the Melbourne commercial television stations. Station GTV is operated by General Television Corporation Proprietary Limited. The Melbourne Age holds more than one-third of its shares and a similar number is held by Electronic Industries Limited, which is completely controlled and largely owned by the Honorable A. G. Warner, M.L.C., who is also known to control the Liberal party in Victoria and is believed to exercise an undisclosed control over many other activities in Melbourne. The minority shareholders include the Argus, whose three subsidiary radio stations I have already mentioned, and stations 3UZ, 3KZ and 3XY.
The remaining television station is station HSV, which is operated by Herald-Sun TV Proprietary Limited. This is owned, as to 85 per cent., by the Melbourne Herald which, in turn, owns 3DB Melbourne and 3LK Lubeck. Through the Brisbane Courier-Mail, it owns 4BK Brisbane and 4AK Oakey. It is the principal shareholder in the Adelaide Advertiser, which owns 5AD Adelaide and controls 5MTJ Murray
Bridge, 5PI Crystal Brook and 5 SE Mount Gambier. The other 15 per cent, of the total shares in station HSV is held by the London Daily Mail. One sees therefore, that the four commercial television stations in Australia are each owned by the large metropolitan newspapers of Sydney and Melbourne.
– What about station 2KY?
– Station 2KY has the smallest shareholding in Television Corporation Limited. The Sydney Daily Telegraph holds more than a half of the shares in that company. To demonstrate the great impact which station 2KY will have on the television world, I need only mention that it holds 19,500 of a total of 1,096,000 shares already issued. Obviously station 2KY was induced to come in as a sop to the board as an aid to getting a licence. In every case the metropolitan newspapers own the majority of shares, and the residue is owned by their satellites, the radio stations. One would have thought from observing the number of radio stations owned by the metropolitan newspapers, that proposed section 90 - formerly section 53 - which is designed to limit the ownership of commercial broadcasting stations, has had singularly little effect. One would expect that proposed section 91 of the act, purporting to limit the ownership of commercial television stations, will be similarly ineffective. They are born in monopoly; one would expect them to breed monopoly. Even when we read proposed section 91, there seems to be no bar to a company as distinct from a person owning or controlling more than one commercial television station in any capital or two commercial television stations in Australia as a whole. As a matter of fact, the constitutent companies which already own the metropolitan daily newspapers and the large metropolitan radio stations merely have to combine to form other companies and then obtain other television licences.
It is plain that the very persons who, up till now, have had, if not a monopoly, at least an increasing share of mass communication in Australia, will have an absolute monopoly of commercial tele vision. We know quite well that with the improvement in transport communica tion, the metropolitan daily newspapers have largely displaced the local aud country newspapers. They now have an incomparably larger influence on opinion in this country than they had, say, 20 or 30 years ago. It is quite wrong, in the view of the Opposition, that those very interests which are bulking larger and larger in the newspaper field should have a monopoly in the television field, which will be in many ways the most attractive and influential of all means of mass communication.
The mischief that the Opposition feels - and that any democrat ought to feel - is that those people who have through the years consistently and blatantly supported an anti-Labour line will have monopoly control of television. It is impossible surely to imagine that the people who have always been anti-Labour in newspapers and over radios will cease to be anti-Labour over television. Satan does not reprove sin ; they will follow the same line. It is true that there is a provision regarding political matter in proposed section 115 of the bill, which was the old section 89, but it imposes no compulsion or obligation on any commercial television station, just as it has hitherto imposed none on any commercial broadcasting station, to give to all political parties reasonable opportunities for the broadcasting or televising of political matters, except during an election period. Between elections there could be a completely onesided presentation of views; there could be a completely one-sided conditioning of the Australian public.
Already in Australia we have the most one-sided metropolitan press in the world. Our metropolitan press is becoming more and more influential throughout the continent. Now we are inaugurating a com pletely one-sided commercial television service in our two biggest capitals. It is surely no answer to say that newspapers have always been able to be one-sided, and, therefore, television stations should also be permitted to be one-sided. We should provide, as has been provided, both as regards national and commercial television services in the United Kingdom, that throughout the year there shall be frequent debates on matters of public controversy - that is, largely matters of political controversy and that the commercial television services should be compelled to broadcast, as the British Broadcasting Corporation does conspicuously and as the Australian Broadcasting Commission does somewhat timidly, both sides of controversial political, religions and other issues that arise.
It is not sufficient to take, as the Government does, an entirely commercial attitude towards television. The persons who have the commercial television licences are, in fact, exercising a. monopoly which only this Parliament can give them. They are entrusted with all the advantages; they should therefore take some of the responsibilities which rest on any monopolistic utility. It is monstrous that between elections, television stations should have a completely free Hand, and should not be compelled to undertake some responsibility in enlightening and guiding the Australian people. Let Australians learn both sides, at least on television.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (‘Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr.c. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Broadcasting and Television Bill 1956 is an urgent bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) pro posed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the committee stage -
to the end of clause 6, until 10 p.m. this day.
to the end of clause 40, until 12 noon, Thursday, the 10th May.
to the end of clause 49, until 9.30 p.m., Thursday, the 10th May.
remainder of committee stage, until 10.30 p.m., Thursday, the 10th May.
For the remaining stages, until 11 p.m., Thursday, the 10th May.
. - The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric
Harrison) was courteous enough to indicate that the “guillotine” procedure would be adopted. It has been proven over and over again that it is more advantageous to do that than just to fix the total amount of time available without reference to the clauses that are likely to be debated. Once it is decided that time shall be limited in such an important debate, it is correct that it should be divided with relationship to the matters that are likely to become crucial points in the debate. To that extent, I accept what has been done as being some contribution towards dealing with the bill in an orderly manner.
But, because of the supreme importance of this bill, I object to the limitation of the total amount of time available for discussion. The limited time proposed is not sufficient, although it is perfectly true that, in relation to certain parts of the bill, it will be sufficient The second-reading debate was truncated by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but there was no reason why that should have been done. Many honorable members wished to continue the debate and were willing to speak, and I think that that remark applies to both sides of the House. In the committee stage, we shall bring down to earth the various points that have been mingled together, so to speak, during the secondreading stage. Supporters of the Government may think that no case has been made out in relation to some of the proposals, but in relation to others they cannot come to that conclusion but must agree that they were advanced justifiably, even though, because of party obligations, they did not support them.
I have risen, not to occupy an unnecessary amount of time, but to protest against the limitation of the committee stage of what is essentially a committee bill to a period that will expire at some time to-morrow. The Vice-President of the Executive Council will correct me if [ am wrong, but I understand that the debate on this bill to-morrow will be interrupted by second-reading speeches in relation to certain other bills. So we shall not have a full day to-morrow to debate this bill, and to-night we have only a comparatively short period of time left. On behalf of the Opposition, I object to the proposed limitation of time, because we hold that the bill tends towards the creation or entrenchment of monopoly interests in relation to the communication of information and it saa to the public, and that it does not nuke sufficient provision for the guaranteed employment of the services of Australian artists in the television field. The quota system and other matters of equal importance are involved. I do not wish at this stage to debate the merits of the amendment submitted by the Opposition during the second-reading stage, but I again indicate to the House that it set forth eight points of great importance. I am only indicating the scope of what is to take place in the committee stage when I ask honorable members to be good enough to look at the proposed amendments, which, because of certain unavoidable delay in printing, are only just now being circulated. Those proposed amendments cover all the points-
-Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The application of the “ guillotine “ at any time is a frustration of the democratic processes of the Parliament, but to use it during the debate on such an important bill is completely scandalous. Because so much time-wasting occurred in the early stages of the session, the time for debate at the end of it has become cramped. Every honorable member knows that in the early stages of a session, when the Government is either too lazy or its draftsmen are not ready, a liberal amount of time is available for debate, and then suddenly we rush into a situation of this kind. The amendments that the Opposition proposes to submit are varied and important, but the limited time that we shall have under the “ guillotine “ will not make for a discussion that is worthy of the importance of the bill. As the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has stated, the question of quotas and other aspects of the bill, including the abolition of the statutory committee that had previously been set up, are subjects for a long and considered debate. When this legislation has been passed, we want to have a television service that will he worthy of Australia, and which has a smack of Australianism about it. This measure is being hurried through. The Leader of the House seeks an allotment of time that will give us only until 11 p.m. to-morrow, without allowance for interruption caused by the introduction of other bills. If this sort of thing is to be repeated until the end of the session, the pressure that will be placed upon the Opposition in examining the various bills, in submitting them to various committees for report and the preparation of amendments, will lead to an absolute frustration of the processes of Parliament. If a little more imagination were shown by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Erie Harrison), we would be able to discuss these matters more fully.
There are at least three items with which the Opposition would like to deal, but because of the time at our disposal, the debate will be a patch-work. It has been said by many people - it has become almost a bromide, a truism, or a cliche - that television will affect our way of life, [f that is so, have we not a responsibility to the electors and to the Australian community generally to take the bill piece by piece and examine it with caution? Who will suggest that the Government, in its haste to rush this measure through, may not be committing errors of which later it will feel thoroughly ashamed ? The “ guillotine “ will descend in a moment and we shall proceed to discuss the proposed amendments, but we must voice a protest against the limitation of time for the consideration of a bill that affects the livelihood of artists in this country, the kind of culture under which we shall exist, and a medium of entertainment that comes to this country at great expense, at what is, perhaps, not the best time to introduce it. All those matters are involved in this debate, but the right honorable gentleman allows us a paltry amount of time that will give us no opportunity to discuss them at the length that they deserve. The brutal majority will roll over us in a moment, but we must voice this protest. I am sure the leader of the House is thoroughly ashamed of the manner in which he has sought to curtail the debate during the committee stage of what is essentially a committee bill.
,- T join with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in offering a very serious protest against the action of the Government in curtailing the opportunities for honorable members fully to review the legislation that is before the House at this present time. There are many aspects of this subject which call for a very full examination.
Personally, I should like to have had an opportunity to say something regarding the experiences that I had while in the United States of America. There I saw this kind of business actually in operation and I know something of the effect that it had on the public mind. I know the general conditions which affected the conscience of the American nation as a result of this kind of service. Furthermore, I should like to have indicated something about the general organization in the United States of America and the monopoly that operated in this class of business. However, the action of the Government precludes an examination of these facts and precludes honorable members from ensuring that full protection will be given to the Australian community in regard to the whole affair.
I am very concerned as to the technical aspect that is involved in the introduction of this form of television which fails to take advantage of the more scientific and up-to-date methods that are possible.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot discuss the merits of the bill.
– These are things that I should wish to have brought to the notice of the House if the opportunity had been provided.
In view of the number of members who constitute this Parliament, I feel that greater opportunities should be given for debate. We are sent here to represent the constituencies throughout Australia and the people expect that we shall have a voice in this kind of matter which is so vital to the home, the general community and the nation. In the circumstances, I feel that a very strong protest must be made against the action of the Government in rushing this legislation through, and in seeking to deny to honorable members a reasonable opportunity to advance their claims regarding this matter and ensure that due safeguards will be provided in respect of all aspects of the legislation. The Government has failed to appreciate that aspect of the debate. There can be no justification for the action of the Government in denying, even to its own supporters, the opportunities that are essential for the expression of the views of honorable members. I join with the Leader of the Opposition in his protest. In the name of the people whom I represent in this Parliament, I offer the strongest possible objection to this most undemocratic way of dealing with legislation in this chamber.
.- It is incomprehensible to my colleagues and myself why the clauses of. a bill which is so revolutionary as this should, be put through the Parliament like sausages through a machine. We have only had eleven hours of actual debating time on the second reading of this momentous bill. The Government considered, two other matters during this session to be so important that 115 speakers addressed themselves to one of them, and 84 members addressed themselves to the other. But those subjects were not nearly as important to the welfare of the Australian people as this bill is. Yet, only eleven hours have been allowed for speakers on each side of the House to address themselves to the second-reading stage of the bill. Why the haste? I understand that television will not be set up in this country until the end of the year. We will be sitting here until nearly the end of June, judging by the way that we are going. I cannot for the life of me see why the Government needs to rush the bill through in this manner. There are 133 clauses and proposed sections to be dealt with in the committee stage, plus the amendments moved by the Opposition concerning eight different sections, plus the amendment of the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes). Yet the Government has provided only nine hours for the consideration in committee of this great measure. Many honorable members were prevented from speaking during the second-reading debate and it is doubtful whether, they will, all be able to speak in the committee stages. It is a wicked thing that the Government should try to stifle discussion on a measure that will affect us more than any other measure that has been introduced into this Parliament in the history of Australia. We cannot protest too strongly against the action of the Government.
Let us have a look at the proposed allotment of time. For the consideration of the bill in committee as far as the end of clause 6, we have until 10 p.m. this day. For the consideration of clauses 7 to 40 we have until 12 noon on Thursday, the 10th May. We have nine hours only for the consideration of the whole measure in committee. I feel that we will regret our action in approving of the limitation of this debate more than we have regretted anything that we have ever done in this country, for I am absolutely convinced that television, when introduced, will create more evil in this country than good. It is my opinion that we shall regret having done what we shall do during the next 24 hours in regard to this measure. To put the- bill through as the Government proposes will be to belittle the intelligence of the Parliament and put television on a level that is not worthy of it. This is a matter that should be treated most carefully, yet the Government proposes to rush the bill through in this short time. I add my protest to that of other honorable members on this matter.
– At the commencement of his remarks a few minutes ago, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that it was incomprehensible to him that the Government should impose a time limit on discussion in the committee stages of this bill. I confess to feeling exactly the same regarding the attitude of the Opposition in view of the sham fight in which Opposition members are engaging. It is incomprehensible to me that they should be wasting time, which they say is valuable to them, in this debate which every one knows is nothing more nor less than skirmishing.
As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in the course of his remarks, admitted that the Vice.President of the Executive Council (Sir
Eric Harrison) had conferred with him on this matter. Therefore, the Opposition was well aware of the fact that the “ guillotine “ would be introduced. In addition, I happen to know that, in the circumstances, the “ guillotine “ is welcomed by the Opposition because, as a result of the allotment of time to certain sections of the bill, the Opposition can be assured that those clauses to which it wants to move amendments will come up for consideration and Opposition members will have a chance to talk about them. Had the bill been taken as a whole, and had some honorable members spoken on the earlier clauses for a considerable length of time, Opposition members might have been deprived of the opportunity to speak to the later clauses in which they are particularly interested. The “ guillotine “ will enable them to speak on those clauses.
Regarding the time available, may I remind the House that I delivered the secondreading speech on this bill on the 20th April? That is now a fortnight ago. There has been all that time for the consideration of the bill. There has been all that time for the Opposition members to obtain from various committees concerned the necessary information. Consequently, there has been ample time for the consideration of the bill. However, there will be three hours left us to-night and seven and a half hours to-morrow, for the consideration in the committee, making a total of ten and a half hours. Therefore, I repeat, it is incomprehensible to me that at this time, at twenty minutes past eight o’clock, we have not yet begun that stage of the consideration of the bill.
.- I have noticed that the honorable members who have spoken to the motion were all in this House before 1949. If some of these remarks had been made by a new member, or one who came into this House in recent years, I should not be so concerned. But all the members who have spoken know very well what happened when Labour was in power. The time allowed then for debating bills was much less than it is now. It is merely for political purposes that Opposition members, like the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), say now that this is a wicked procedure. Their ‘ remarks are uttered merely for political expediency, because we know quite well that when a Labour government was in power it cut to the minimum the time allowed for the consideration of legislation when it was declared an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 1890) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C.F. Aderm ann.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
– Might I suggest, for the convenience of the committee, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that, instead of taking individual clauses in the groups set out in the “ guillotine “ time-table, the whole of the clauses in a group might be discussed by the committee, and the clauses then carried en bloc, rather than individually.
– I think that that is a convenient procedure, so long as it does not result in introducing a general debate on a group when there are specific amendments before the Chair. Does the right honorable gentleman follow me?
– Just what does the Leader of the Opposition mean by that?
– It has been decided, for instance, that clauses 1 to 6 will be the first group of clauses to be debated, and the time has been fixed for the debate on that group. I propose to move an amendment to one of the clauses included in that group. It would suit me equally well to go quickly through the clauses until the committee reaches the clause to which I intend to move an amendment, and to confine my remarks to that clause. 1 understand that the right honorable gentleman does not propose to depart from that procedure, because the early clauses, for the most part, are simply definition clauses, although they include the clause upon which I intend to move this important amendment.
– I shall explain what I mean by this suggestion. I can visualize that some honorable members may wish to talk about a clause upon which no amendment has been foreshadowed. Therefore, if they talk for the whole two hours on that clause, the amendment that the right honorable gentleman wishes to move cannot come before the committee. He may not have an opportunity of moving it until the earlier clauses have been disposed of. Therefore, for his convenience and the convenience of any other honorable member who may wish to move an amendment, I suggest that we take the clauses en bloc. Amendments may then be moved to the individual clauses. The amendments may then be disposed of by the committee.
– I accept the Minister’s proposition.
Clauses 1 to 6 - by leave - considered together.
– A list of amendments which will be moved on behalf of the Opposition has been distributed to the committee in my name. I refer to the first amendment in the list. It relates to clause 6, “ Interpretation “. I move -
That, in clause 6, after sub-section (2.) of proposed section 4, the following sub-section be inserted : - “ (3.) The provisions of this Act conferring powers, functions or duties on the Minister or the Board shall be construed as requiring those authorities to exercise or perform those powers, functions or duties so as to afford to the general public and to religious, educational, cultural, political and social organizations opportunities for a fair and just share of ownership or control of licences and also a fair and just use of the facilities resulting from the holding of licences.”.
This is a specific provision which was foreshadowed at the second-reading stage when the Opposition raised the point that the television licences granted in Melbourne and Sydney have, in effect, been granted by the Government to corporations that constitute combines of newspaper, radio broadcasting and associated interests - organizations that are already in possession of the means of communicating information, propaganda or ideas to the general public of those two cities. Further, these groups constitute, in substance, monopolies of the means of mass communication in those cities, and their monopoly endangers the freedom of expression of the general public, because it concentrates power, influence and control over matters vital to the public in the hands that I have mentioned. I suggest that the general principle enunciated in the amendment should be embodied in the section of the statute that relates to interpretation, so that the Postmaster-General, in the exercise of his power to grant licences, and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, in its exercise of control, will always be bound to deal equally with all sections of the public and with all kinds of organizations, so as to afford opportunities, first, for a fair and just share of ownership or control of licences, and, secondly, for fair and just use of the facilities resulting from the holding of licences.
There are two aspects of the matter. First, in the future, the general public should not be gradually prevented, by the exercise of any of the powers under this legislation, from sharing fairly in these enterprises, which will be trustees of the people in relation to vital means of communication without which democracy cannot exist in Australia. Secondly, in the use of facilities such as broadcasting and television, there should not be anything but a bona fide and determined attempt to deal equally with all sections of the people. I would here mention political matter, because, at the second-reading stage, some honorable members derided the idea that opinions on international and political controversies, and matters of national moment, should be broadcast by commercial television stations or by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. They seem to think that would be a dreadful thing, and they want to limit the right to broadcast such comments to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and to the period of election campaigns. In the limited time at -my disposal now, I cannot cite all the passages in the report of the Royal Commission on Television that support my argument. Their substance is clear : The air belongs to the people. It should not be the prerogative of an ordinary capital enterprise. Government supporters from both the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have propounded the theory that, the wealthier a corporation or a group of people is, the more right it has to extend its area of control. This would result in monopoly becoming giant monopoly, and would deny the ordinary people even a little share in television. I apply the principle that I have mentioned to political controversies. Is it not in the public interest to follow the example of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and to allow various views to be discussed, not only at election times? Positive arrangements should be made so that various opinions on industrial, political and international affairs may be broadcast. Such broadcasts should not be subject only to the discretion of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to which my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), referred last evening.
I have mentioned earlier the fact that the one-sided broadcasts of the Australian Broadcasting Commission on international affairs are a definite scandal. For many months, I have not heard one such broadcast that has not nui completely parallel with the Government’s policy on international affairs, which, in instance after instance, has been proved, to the satisfaction of the Australian people, to be wrong. But, altogether apart from that, the opportunity for any one to broadcast views contrary to those of the Government is not freely given. Any such opportunity is granted as if it were a favour, and payment is required from the various political parties, which are interested m broadcasting their views on important matters, when they are allowed to broadcast them at election time. Let the various views, whether or not they are accepted by the public, be broadcast, not merely within the arbitrary time limits allowed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission at election time, but from time to time ‘through the year whenever an important matter arises, as is allowed by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Have the Australian people ever been allowed to hear broadcasts of opinions on atomic energy and such matters? They have not. It should be mandatory, not merely on the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but also on commercial television stations to provide these opportunities for broadcasts of opinions. Some commercial broadcasting stations are in a stronger position than others and are willing to organize debates. But such broadcasts should be mandatory. In accordance with a democratic way of life, any alternative views expressed should be broadcast to the people of Australia. I have given merely one illustration of the principle involved. Many more could be given.
– Will the right honorable gentleman tell us on this side of the chamber about it, too? He has been addressing himself only to his own supporters.
– It is nice to look at friendly faces sometimes, but I shall defer to the honorable member’s request. I apply the principle that I have mentioned, not to political broadcasts in the sense of electioneering broadcasts, but to controversial matters, which, of course, affect politics. Politics play a very great part in the life of the community, because opinions differ in this country. All shades of opinion should be represented in broadcasts on controversial matters, and broadcasting time for these purposes should not be simply doled out by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, by commercial television stations, or by the Postmaster-General, at their discretion. I wish to see the principle that I have enunciated embodied in the law, so that all these authorities will be bound by a principle essential to a democratic system. Therefore, I have proposed this amendment so that the whole question will be considered in a crucial form. It is not sufficient to allow both sides of political opinion to express their views only for a few weeks before an election. The proper time at which to discuss these matters is when the controversy arises. The provision of the opportunity at the proper time involves the duty of encouraging and organizing the free expression of ideas over the broadcasting system.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– The Government does not accept the amendment. It appears, from the drafting of the amendment, that the Opposition has failed to understand the provisions of the bill. If ever a measure ‘relating to broadcasting ensured that there should be fair and just share of the ownership or control of licences, and fair and just use of the facilities resulting from the holding of licences, this bill does. S’o one feels inclined to look at the proposed amendment in order to determine exactly its real object. Having done that very carefully, I submit to the committee that this amendment is dangerous in its generalizations and implications. It calls on the Minis ter or the board to exercise certain functions. Just what is meant by “ a fair and just share of ownership and control of licences “ ? Surely it means that these important phases of development of broadcasting and television are to be under the control of a Minister and a board. If that is to be so, we can very easily see the opportunity for abuses creeping in. We can see the opportunity for these functions to be used for political purposes, and we can see the reason why the amendment is desired by the Opposition to break down those later provisions in the bill which will ensure that certain important features shall be included as a statutory provision and not left to the determination of either the Minister or a statutory body. Therein lies the danger of the amendment. It would break down certain provisions which we are including and which are essential for the fair and equitable operation of the whole broadcasting and television system. Therefore, we will not have anything of this amendment.
May I point out, too, that this Government already has established a pretty fair record for fair and honorable dealing in the issue of licences. What, for instance, is the Government’s record in the granting of licences to commercial broadcasting stations since it has been in power? Since 1949, five commercial broadcasting stations have begun operations. The licences in respect of three of those stations were granted on condition that the companies which were to be formed to operate them should consist of local residents. This met the requirement of a fair and just share of ownership, which appears in the amendment. The fourth licence was granted to a metropolitan broadcasting company to operate a station in a country district, the reason being that in that district there was urgent need for a local service but there was no suitable local applicant. In that respect obviously the Government was taking action to try to ensure a fair distribution of licences so that all could benefit. The fifth licence was granted to the Australian Workers Union, in fulfilment of a promise made by the Postmaster-General- of the Chifley Government. A political aspect is introduced into the amendment proposed by the
Leader of the Opposition, but this Government’s record will more than bear comparison with the record of the previous government, of which the right honorable gentleman was a member, which did not display any great solicitude for the general public, or for religious, educational, cultural, or social organizations. That government granted a licence to the Queensland central executive of the Australian Labour party for station 4KQ, in Brisbane, on a wave length reserved for a national station, and also a licence to the Australian Labour party in New South “Wales for station 2HL), in Newcastle. With that record behind us, is it not to be expected that this Government is doing all it possibly can through this legislation to meet a situation which it has handled so well so far with the aid of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, by placing beyond the possibility of complete political control the provision of licences and the control of television and broadcasting generally ?
Let us examine the provisions which we have inserted in the bill in order to ensure that there will be a fair share of the ownership and control of broadcasting and television. I shall not deal with these provisions in detail, because they will come up for consideration later. Instead, I shall mention them in passing to indicate that the proposed amendment is completely redundant because we are doing much better in the bill as it stands. We are providing, for instance, that no television or broadcasting licence will be granted in any district until the Minister has advertised in the Gazelle and in newspapers his intention to grant a licence, if required, in that district. That will enable everybody in the district to consider the matter and make application for a licence. Applications, when received, will not be determined by the board or by the Minister in a hole and corner way which would prevent anybody outside from knowing what was going on. First, there is to be a public inquiry into all applications. At that public inquiry any interested person, whether an applicant or not, may appear. Applicants may be represented by counsel. The result will be that a complete inquiry will be had into all applications. Can we have anything better to ensure a fair and just share of the ownership or control of licences? When the control board is considering applications it will be required to investigate certain important features of the applicant. The Government is determined that the standard of both television and broadcasting shall be maintained as high as possible. The board must, therefore, be sure that the applicants are capable of providing a service of the standard required. Applicants will be required to have a certain financial standing. They will be required to have, either personally or available to them, the technical know-how. They must be in a position to present programmes of the highest quality to the people of the country. The board is required to investigate such matters in order to ensure realization of the Government’s policy. The board’s recommendations will be made after a consideration of those matters, and it will not be concerned with whether the applicant is a political body or any other type of organization, but only with whether he is capable of fulfilling the functions and responsibilities required of him. In the clauses which will be debated later are ample provisions to ensure, under a control which is not directly subject to political influence, a fair share of the ownership and control of licences and a fair and just use of the facilities resulting from the granting of those licences. Surely it will be evident to anybody who has read the bill that it contains nothing to prevent anybody who so desires from obtaining time from either television or broadcasting licensees. If the Leader of the Opposition, or any one else, desires to press a particular viewpoint, all the opportunities exist for him to do so. He has shown the country that they are there, because he has used them on many occasions.
The right honorable gentleman spoke about the need for spreading the ownership. That comment indicates his lack of knowledge of the provisions of the bill, because we have provided very carefully for the spreading of ownership as far as possible. In reply to his criticism of the shareholding of companies already granted licences in the television field, let me point out to him that, for instance, in
Television Corporation Limited, newspaper companies Lave substantial but not controlling interests. They hold 43 per cent, of the capital, but the other shareholders include the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church - the honorable gentleman spoke about opportunities to religious bodies - and broadcasting station 2KY, which is owned by the Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales. In the shareholding of that particular company is evidence of the fact that the implications in the right honorable gentleman’s proposal are entirely unwarranted. I could go through the others, but I think I have said enough to indicate that there is no need whatsoever for the amendment proposed by the right honorable gentleman, and we do not accept it.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has done exactly what this side of the House wanted him to do. He made a vigorous defence of the monopoly situation in this bill, and this proposed amendment of clause 6 is to bring out, so far as we can do so in the limited time, just what a horrible situation has developed. This bill, which we are seeking to amend, is a bodgie bill, a sort of gunshot wedding between big business and bureaucracy. The resultant television licences which have been the feature of this debate show how completely and thoroughly the monopolies have achieved the cartelization of communications in this country. We have tried to make that point in every speech that we have made. For the Minister to get up and say that every one has been well served is to insult the intelligence of every one in this House. It is easy to put a sort of verbal curtain round the applications and to say, “ You can get a licence “. We are told with a splutter of language how easy it is to get a licence, and how many have been issued. Yet, at the same time, member after member on the Government side gets up and, in effect, says, “ Big business alone has the money to get these licences, and big business gets them “. Therefore, the struggle that we have - it will be a continuing struggle - is to tell the Parliament and the people of Australia that our television will not be Australian in character. There is no hope of that, because there is in the bill no provision for Australian programmes. It will not even be, as we should like, British in character. We will be given the output of the syndicates, which sell their stories en masse to newspapers and their complicated serials to radio stations. We shall be given cheap and nasty entertainment because we have been sold into the hands of the organizations which have the most money and the most persuasive power.
The Minister read us a long list of the things that he had done in the ordinary work of caring for his department. He told us how he had issued licences here and there. Then he made the gibe that one of our organizations, a union, is associated with station 2KY, and that that station, in turn, is tied up with one of these applications. It is a pity that we did not realize the implications of this thing. The control board demands that applicants shall be reputable, possessed of the necessary finance, and men of high prestige. If that is so, why should not prospective licensees ask for licences in their own name or in the name of one company ? But they go canvassing the country to get in a little church unit here and a labour organization, a social organization or a benevolent institution there. That is done so that they can present a front and, when they apply for a licence, be able to say, “ We do not represent only big business, or commercial interests “. If they were truthful they would say, “We do not care what sort of programmes we provide so long as we make money”. That is a technique that is as old as combines and as ancient as cartelization. It seeks to put up a front which will appear spectacularly decent and honest.
This is one of the most important amendments that have been moved in this House, because it relates to the sort of entertainment, culture and background that Australia will have in the future. It will affect our very way of life. So this amendment, which has been carefully prepared but broken down somewhat by the language of the draftsman, merely asks that special consideration shall not be given to big business - letting the rest go hang. The only way in which the small, honest group can become associated with television now or in the future is to team up with the big bad wolf. What chance had the churches ; what chance had the Labour party; what chance had the little-monied but highprincipled organizations, of getting these television licences? Nothing was more cut and dried. There was a pious, longwinded, useless royal commission on the matter. We have been subjected, through the bill, to the lobbying of big business. We have also been subjected to a new and frightening feature - lobbying by the bureaucrat - when we have tried to fight this measure. Now we have had a statement from the Minister that is completely unworthy of the amendment that we have put before him. All that we have asked for - and it is worth repeating - is this -
The provisions of this act conferring powers, functions or duties on the Minister or tho Board shall be construed as requiring those authorities to exercise or perform those powers, functions or duties-
Here are the operative words - so as to afford to the general public and to religious, educational, cultural, political and social organizations opportunities for a fair and just share of ownership.
That is exactly what the Australian people want. That is what they think they are getting. But what a surprise they will get! What a dusty answer they will get when they sit down to look at these programmes. Do honorable members think that any religious organization will be delighted when its members see the following line-up, which will have cost thousands of dollars - “I love Lucy “ ; “ Line Up “, a police documentary; “Hopalong Cassidy”; “Annie Oakley’” ; “ Rin Tin Tin “-which must1 be older than I am ; “ Gun Law “ ; “Passport to Danger”; “Texas Rangers “ ; “ Jungle Jim “ and “ Racket Squad”? Those are only a few of the programmes that are already scheduled. What of the church organizations, which are pleading for a just share in television, or the welfare organizations? What will they say if they are smothered with these things? Is there not” validity in their demand that television be not muddied at the source?
It is easy for the Minister to say, “Everything humanly possible has been done. We have looked at it in this way and that, and we have asked this fellow and that fellow all about it”. The operative word is “ money “. Only the monopolies have the money. Only the newspapers, the radio stations and the cartelizers of communications had a chance of getting a licence. The whole thing was a “fix”. If this is to be the beginning of television in this country, television will be ushered in under very ugly auspices indeed. Our amendment, which we will push to the finish in the limited time at our disposal, asks only for those things which should be inherent in any bill. We are left with the almost ineradicable suspicion in our minds that something is rotten in the State of Denmark. We are led to feel that the Government’s attitude is biased and platitudinous. The point of the matter is that the licences were given to the combines.
What are we getting out of this? We seek a better approach to the future allocation of licences - an approach that has been lacking so far. I cannot understand why the Minister should become so perfervid in defence when all that we are asking is that the Government shall give to the general public, and to religious, educational, cultural, political and social organizations the opportunity for fair and just share of ownership and control. That is the Australian way of doing things. We should not have to demand it. It should be implicit in any legislation. But the Government is caught up by the sweeping trend of big business. It is not, in common parlance, “ in the race “ to control this Frankenstein monster that it has created. If it is sincere, it will accept this amendment and try to atone for the sins of the past.
The Leader of the Opposition drew attention to the question of political broadcasts, but the Government swerved away from that, because there it has a monopoly. If it had any doubt, it would have been looking for some legalistic and honourably worded amendment ensuring that it would have a fair share of television time. When television comes, it will not be so much a telecasting of the House as a pronouncement by leaders of the different sections of the nation on matters of importance. We are pressing for a fair share of news and views, as is allowed by the British Broadcasting Corporation in England, but not allowed fully here by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It gets back to my original remarks. There are other speakers, and the time is limited, but I want to say that the first thing that should be done is to consider seriously this most important amendment. It recognizes the sovereignty of the people and gives them the right to have the sort of television programmes they would like to view. That is not permitted, because the monopolists have taken over the whole show.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) read a most amazing speech - I do not know who prepared it for him - in reply to the criticism of the Opposition, but he certainly has not convinced anybody. He. said that as a result of the passage of this legislation, the administration of television in this country would be strictly impartial. If the Minister believes in everything ‘that is contained in the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition - and his statements suggest that” he does - why not accept it? Do Government members give anything away by putting in the form of an amendment things in which they say they believe? When the Minister talks about an impartial investigation of the applications of those people who were seeking licences, it becomes n regular joke to those who know exactly what happened. I would have liked to get set myself if I could have bet on who would get the licences, but I could not get set because everybody in Australia knew who would get them.
Let us examine what the Minister said. He talks about people who have the experience and the finance available. Who were the experienced groups that got these television licences that will eventually become, not only very valuable as an investment, but very valuable and important to the Government by creating a monopoly over political broadcasts ? They were Mr. Packer and Mr. “ Bags “ Henderson of the Sydney Morning Herald group. Mr. Shand, Q.C., who is not a member of the Labour party, when crossexamining witnesses before the inquiry to which the Minister has referred, was able to extract from them admissions that these newspapers were really in effect Liberal newspapers presenting the Liberal viewpoint. Is it to be imagined that in the field of newspapers they will be espousing the cause of the tories and the Liberal section of this community and in television will be strictly impartial?
The Minister said that the television facilities would be available to every section of the community, just as the radio system is. The facilities will be available to those who can pay for them. According to what Ave are told, it will cost £200 a minute to put it across. How will the trade unions or the members of the Labour party have their viewpoints expressed if it is to cost them that amount of money? There is no doubt there will be a gentleman’s agreement between the various television transmitting companies and the Government so that, whilst the Government nominally may be expected to pay the fees, that money will go back as party donations, and the Government will actually be getting the broadcasts for nothing at all. What was wrong with giving the Labour party one of the television licences if the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was dealing so impartially with this matter? The application of the Leader of the Opposition and the general secretary of the Australian Workers Union, who had the great’ power of that organization, the trade union movement and the Labour party behind them, was rejected by the Broadcasting Control Board. Why? The Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Dougherty would have, as much experience of television as Mr. Packer and Mr. “ Bags “ Henderson, of the Sydney Morning Herald. Therefore, it is a lot of rubbish to say that these matters have been dealt with in a strictly impartial manner.
It may be that if the Broadcasting Control Board had been left alone to conduct its investigations and make its decisions, it’ may have been impartial. But who is to know that the Minister at that time and members of the Government were not in contact with members of the Broadcasting Control Board and in a conversational way conveyed to them what the views of the Government would be. It would not be the first time that we have heard of this Government favouring big business. It is rather significant that the exPostmasterGeneral, who has not been present in the chamber and has not taken part in the discussions, retired from his position as Postmaster-General and then almost immediately became a director of Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited. That company is interested in one of the groups that obtained one of the television licences. Every one knows that all this talk from the Country party corner about these men being public benefactors, and losing large sums of money until television is established in this country, is all rubbish. They are long-headed businessmen and are not worried about any initial losses that they may suffer in the first year or two. They know that these licences will eventually pay well as an investment and will give, as I have said, great power to the political organization to which they belong.
Let me mention just one other factor. The Minister, no doubt, is trying to suggest that there is no possibility of a monopoly in television. He suggested that the service will be operated on similar lines to the broadcasting field. Government supporters may, for the purposes of a debating point in this Parliament, try to establish that there is no monopoly in the field of radio. But with one or two exceptions - stations controlled and owned by trade union organizations - every major radio station in this country is controlled and owned by anti-Labour interests. Those in the country districts that might be regarded in some sense as being independent rely so much upon the great networks that have been set up for the distribution of radio programmes that they are just as much at the mercy of the major antiLabour stations in the city as if they were actually owned and controlled by them. A great monopoly does exist to-day and the same thing will apply to television.
I repeat this to the Minister: This Government has not given an adequate answer to the criticism of the Opposition that, by restricting the issuance of licences to the very high frequency band, it is perpetuating the monopoly. Once the system is established by the use of that band, on which there are but ten channels, if the Government in later years decides to use an ultra-high frequency band, it makes it increasingly difficult to put those stations on a payable basis on the new system. Experience has shown what has happened with this bungling. In America, where they have had to use the dual system, many transmitting companies that have come into existence in later years on the ultra-high frequency band have gone bankrupt. At the moment a Congress committee is trying to find some way out of the difficulty. It has already cost them one billion dollars because of their blundering in the initial scheme.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to refer to the amendment.
– I was referring to it. I was pointing out to this House exactly what was happening as a result of the bungling of the Government and its action in purposely adopting this system because it wants to continue the monopoly it is now establishing by this legislation. If the Government fails to take action now to use the dual system - both frequency bands - it is doing a great disservice to the people of this country. It is making it quite plain and blatant that what it wants is a Liberal party antiLabour monopoly of television. I believe that in the interests of Australia that ought to be resisted by every fairthinking member of the community.
– I have listened with the very greatest attention to the arguments advanced by members of the Opposition. I am rather astonished to find that they are so grievously concerned about the way that television licences may be granted and the work conducted. Apart from the fact that I do not think that their remarks have very much relevance to the actual terms of this bill, it appears to me that the suggestion of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) that they have not read the bill is supported by a study of its clauses. Surely all the talk by honorable members opposite about the effect of the Government’s policy on television is just a smoke-screen to cover certain things that have happened in New South “Wales, where a man was granted a licence to establish a drive-in theatre, and within a few days that licence was sold for about £100,000. On the other band, I notice that five such licences were granted to one picture theatre company in New South Wales. There may be perfectly good reasons why the New South Wales Government should have given that particular form of assistance to that theatre company; but it seems strange that the State wing of the Labour party - a very important wing of that party - should follow such a course, while the federal body’s Parliamentary Labour party attacks the Postmaster-General on the ground that he has not provided adequate safeguards in the bill against the coming into existence, in relation to television, of the same conditions that exist in New South Wales, with the cooperation of, or the tacit consent of, the Labour Government of New South Wales, in relation to drive-in theatres. Perhaps the members of the Labour party in this chamber are suffering from the pangs of conscience. It may be that they are warned by the dreadful example of what has happened in New South Wales.
Now let us look at the bill itself. Proposed new section 60 provides as follows : - (I.) A licensee shall provide programmes and shall supervise the broadcasting or televising of programmes from his station in such manner as to ensure, as far as practicable, that the programmes are in accordance with standards determined by the Board.
– Order ! We are at present dealing with clauses 1 to 6.
– I quite realize that, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but those points have been raised, and I am simply pointing out to the committee that provision is made in proposed new section 60 by which- the Minister can direct, and the board also can direct, that the terms of a licence shall be carried out. The same thing applies to advertising under proposed new section 61. Proposed new section 64 provides that a licensee shall broadcast or televise from his station divine worship or other matter of a religious nature during such periods as the board determines. It appears to me that the attack made by the Opposition on the bill, and the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) entirely disregard the fact that the Minister is right when he says that safeguards are provided in the measure to ensure that every section of the community shall get a reasonably fair deal.
I now turn to the point raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) regarding the establishment of the television stations. On the one hand, as I pointed out in my second-reading speech, the national television broadcasting system will set a standard. That system is under the direct control of the nation itself. The commercial broadcasting stations will have to provide a tremendous sum of money to establish themselves in the television field, and the fact is that only combinations of very great financial strength could possibly bring into existence, and maintain, such a service, and sustain the inevitable losses that will be incurred during the pioneering period. People who have had anything to do with the pioneering of radio stations know that people who established stations in the early days of sound broadcasting in this country had to face losses for years until they got on their feet. In fact, in the establishment of such an enterprise, it is quite possible for the persons or interests concerned to lose all their capital. I have known that to happen in connexion with two stations of which I had some experience. These enterprises, the capital investment in which runs into the realms of £1,000,000, are of such a nature that only combinations of capital can engage in them.
Now, what safeguards have we against the abuse of television? First, the national system, which is designed to raise the standard of television. If it fails, then this Parliament also has failed, because it directly controls the Australian Broadcasting Commission in respect of television. If, on the other hand, it succeeds, then the commercial television stations will have to come somewhere near the standard set by the national system. That was the point I was making right through, and for the honorable member to suggest that it is possible for small groups to carry out this tremendously expensive work is beside the point. One aspect that has been emphasized is in regard to the smaller, isolated stations which will have to take their programmes from the big concerns after they have been used in the larger centres. It is the special duty of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to ensure that those stations shall receive a fair 3hare of television programmes, and the stations have to ensure, under their charter, that those programmes shall be of a reasonable quality. I want to utter a word or two of warning that if those who enter the commercial television field do not maintain high standards, public reaction will destroy them. That is a perfectly natural thing. It applies to everything in the community. If any activity is not carried out in a reasonably satisfactory way, the community itself takes action. To agree to the amendment is to ignore the whole purpose and intention of the measure and, consequently, I shall have nothing to do with it.
.- Now that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has given us the benefit of his knowledge of this matter, I am more frightened of commercial television than I was before. I hope that the committee noticed one particular point that he made, which was that commercial television stations could bc established in Australia only by combinations of great financial strength. May I point out to the honorable member that in respect of the six licences to operate television stations which have been already granted out of the ten that it is possible to grant, this financial strength is badly loaded one way - one way politically, one way financially. The honorable member’s statement convinces me more than ever of the absolute menace of commercial television in this country. I have seen commercial television at work in America. I have seen it in Japan. I saw the start of it in Great Britain. As a result, I am absolutely positive- that we are heading on the same road in this country as that on which America has headed, in relation to commercial television. The statement of the honorable member for New England about combinations of great financial strength alone being capable of establishing television stations emphasizes, if anything does, the menace of commercial television. I shall read again to honorable members the groups mentioned in the Opposition’s amendment. They are - religious, educational, cultural, political and social organizations. These groups should have opportunities to have television operating licences. In my opinion, they will have to have a direct share in television stations or they will be absolutely swamped, absolutely strangled, as far as commercial television is concerned. We are dealing with ruthless big business when we talk about this matter; and let ils not forget that big business does not worry about the morality or humanity of a situation. The Government is living in fairy land if it sincerely believes all the rubbish talked in this chamber about what big business will do, or what the Government hopes big business will do. The fact is that specific provisions should be included in the legislation to make big business do the things it should do.
In America Mr. Wayne Coy of the United States Government’s instrumentality for controlling the allocation of wavelengths, the licences of stations and general broadcasting, when addressing the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters last year, reminded his audience of the failure of American television to make any positive offering in the fields of religion, agriculture, primary and adult education. He gave some most enlightening figures to the conference. He revealed that the average American station devoted 72 per cent, of its time to entertainment, that one station devoted 92 per cent., another 90 per cent., and nine others between 80 per cent, and 90 per cent, of their total time to that type of programme. I am very concerned about the broadcast of religious programmes, but in this country religion will not be advanced one degree by commercial television interests. He further stated that, the average station devoted .9 per cent, of its time to religion, and fifteen stations carried no religious programmes whatsoever. The average station devotes .2 per cent of its time to agricultural programmes, but seventeen stations carry no programmes of that type. Government supporters have been talking in an airyfairymanner about education. In America, the average station devotes 3 per cent of its total time to programmes of an educational type, and eight stations have reported that they carry no programmes of educational value. The average American station devotes 3 per cent of its time to discussions, seven stations have reported that they carry no programmes of that type, and ten other stations have stated that they devote only 2 per cent of their time to such programmes.
To talk about big business interests dealing with these important features of our national life is poppy-cock. They are interested only in profits. Money and materialism will dominate television in Australia. Who is to control the type of programmes that will be telecast? The advertisers will do so, just as they have in America, England and Japan. The advertiser is the king when it comes to television. What he says goes. He calls the tune, and programmes that he sponsors will be screened. He is paying £200 & minute for it. Honorable members opposite talk just poppy-cock when they speak about what they are going to direct the commercial stations to do, or what they hope they will do. Six months after television has been established in Australia, supporters of the Government will wake up and discover that they have brought into this country the worst evil ever brought to it. There is nothing good about commercial television nothing whatever.
The medical people of Los Angeles conducted a survey and ascertained that in one week 852 crime incidents were depicted on television screens in thatarea alone, and that 75 per cent, of the crime deluge was on programmes that had been designed for children. Seventysix per cent of a group of more than 150 children showed increased nervousness from watching such programmes, 85 per cent, suffered from disturbed sleep, 94 per cent, gave indication of increased fears, and 51 per cent, were found to be nail biters. It was noted that as early as the seventh year habitual exposure to television often produced a callousness to the suffering of others and an atrophy of sympathy and compassion for those in distress. That is what television is doing to the children of America. Why cannot American runners beat John Landy? They cannot do so because they are doing too much viewing and not enough on the running tracks.
Government supporters interjecting,
– How many honorable members opposite have seen American television programmes ?
– I have.
– Very well. I want to give the honorable member a warning about what will happen if the Government hands over television to big business, or a combination of great financial interests, as an earlier speaker has described it. Very soon there will be a deterioration of the cultural, spiritual and moral standing of the Australian people. I shall do all that is possible to support the proposed amendment as being the only safeguard or guarantee that the cultural, religious, political and educational organizations will get a chance to provide the right type of television programme. Reports from all over England have indicated that, following the introduction of commercial television in that country, the standard of programmes suddenly took a tail-spin. Television is a great and wonderful invention, but, like the atom bomb it will help to destroy civilization.
.- If the recital of the Honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) is any indication of what he gleaned during his trip overseas, I can only think that he had a very much misspent voyage.
– A misspent youth, too.
– Hardly a misspent youth, but a misspent voyage, because he has come back with stories about all the unpleasant aspects of television that he saw. I am reminded of the fact that there is a great number of burglars in the world and a lot of people in gaol.
– And a lot who ought to be in gaol, too.
– Possibly so, but we have a police force which keeps some people out of gaol by keeping them on the straight and narrow path. Likewise, we have an Australian Broadcasting Control Board which will prevent abuses of this great medium, and which will keep it on the straight and narrow path. I have not any doubt that the freedom that will be given to the licensees to play the game will not be abused. The bill contains plenty of provisions to ensure that this medium will be used to the best advantage.
Let us examine the amendment that is before the committee. Frankly, I think it is just as frivolous as was the amendment that was submitted during the second-reading stage. It does no more than give to the Labour Opposition an opportunity to air its views about television services in other countries. To start with, the amendment really makes certain charges, because it suggests that the authorities should be required to ensure a fair and just share of the ownership or control of licences, and also a fair and just use of the facilities available as a result of the holding of licences. I put it to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that to suggest that certain controls should be introduced to ensure a fair and just share of ownership, and a fair and just use of facilities, is to beg the question. What is unfair or unjust at the present time? So far, I have not heard any remarks that have led me to believe that there has been an unfair or unjust control of the ownership of licences or of the use of facilities resulting from the holding of licences. I direct particular attention to the word “ licences “.
There are two branches of broadcasting and television activities - the national branch, which is conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the other branch, which is conducted by commercial organizations. The amendment makes no reference whatever to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which has been strongly criticized in this place and which, I feel sure, will be the subject of further criticism before the debate concludes. As I have indicated, the amendment makes no reference to placing any sort of control on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The only control that is proposed is the control of licences held by commercial organizations. Both broadcasting and television licences are involved. We have had experience in broadcasting extending over approximately 30 years, but, although I must confess that I have not been in the chamber for the whole of the debate, I have not heard any speaker complain about the present broadcasting set-up in Australia. It seems to me that the committee generally is satisfied with it. Therefore, the only complaint is in relation to what honorable members opposite expect to occur when television is introduced in Australia. I am prepared to grant that television is capable of doing more harm to people than is broadcasting, but the same conditions exist with respect to television as exist with respect to broadcasting. If people do not wish to listen to the programme, they can switch off their sets just as they can switch off their radio sets or tune in to another station when they do not like the radio programme. The proposed amendment provides -
The provisions of this act conferring powers, functions or duties on the Minister or the Board shall be construed as requiring those authorities to exercise or perform those powers, functions or duties so as to afford to the general public and to religious, educational, cultural, political and social organizations opportunities for a fair and just share of ownership or control of licences and also a fair and just use of the facilities resulting from the holding of licences.
So we have five classifications - religious, educational, cultural, political, and social. Apparently, organizations within those five classifications have to be given the opportunity to obtain a television station when licences are provided. Is it suggested by the Opposition that five commercial licences shall be granted and that there shall be a religious station, an educational station, a cultural station, a political station and a social station? It has already been suggested by the Opposition that there should be a political station. In the application that was made for a television, licence by the trustees on behalf of the Australian Labour party and the Australian Workers Union, it was stated that they would operate the station in order to safeguard the point of view expressed in the Labour party platform. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board remarked that the trustees had not made it clear whether “ such a station would be prepared to provide opportunities for the expression of other points of view “. That quotation was given also in the second-reading debate. It is frivolous to suggest that facilities should be provided for the types of organizations mentioned in the proposed amendment to express their views on commercial television stations. It would be absurd to expect any such organization to maintain a continuous programme which would necessitate its obtaining sponsors. If sponsors could not be obtained for the programmes of these organizations, it would be the height of absurdity to require that they should be allocated facilities on television stations. So I say that the Opposition’s proposal is quite frivolous.
If the Opposition claims that the Labour party did not have a fair opportunity to obtain a licence, I shall read to honorable members a passage from the report of the Broadcasting Control Board, The application which was submitted by Mr. T. N. P. Dougherty and H. V, Evatt as joint and provisional trustees for the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Labour party was commented on by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board as follows : -
This application (which included applications for licences for stations in both Sydney and Melbourne) did not include the particulars required by the application form but was accompanied by a letter in the following terms : -
A short letter accompanied the application. What cavalier treatment was meted out by the Broadcasting Control Board! Is that the way to secure favorable consideration of an application? An application was invited on the prescribed form, yet the applicant said, in effect, “ Oh, disregard the form. Let us write them a letter So the letter was written. The letter stated in its last paragraph -
In view of the nature and time of this application in other words, they were in a hurry - the above particulars are a sufficient indication of what is requested in the official form of application,-
Only an indication, mark you. The letter did not answer the questions that were sought by the control board in order to enable the board to sum up the application in a reasonable manner. The letter continued - but should further particulars be required they will be furnished.
I have no doubt that the trustees did supply further particulars to the board. But I invite honorable members to compare that slap-happy application with the applications that were made by practically every other applicant for the two licences in Sydney and the three in Melbourne.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition concerns the control of television and radio stations and the way in which the time of those stations shall be allocated. The Government has put its case as though the methods of controlling television and radio proposed in this bill accord completely with the experience of overseas countries in this matter and as though no one but a few members of the Opposition disagree with the Government’s proposal. I should like to invite the attention of the committee to the report of the Royal Commission thatwas set up by the Government to investigate this very matter. When one examines that report, one finds that the proposals for the control of television in Australia submitted in this bill are similar, perhaps, only to those which exist in the United States of America. In no other country in the world is there a system of control which is similar to the one proposed in this bill.
In the United Kingdom, television was not something that was lightly entered into in a short space of time. A committee began to investigate the matter in 1935, and made a report. Again, a committee was at work in 1944. In 1949 there was the Beveridge Committee of inquiry. Each of those committees recommended that the British Broadcasting Corporation should have exclusive control over broadcasting and television. Then, in 1952, there was a slight change, so it might appear on the surface, and a committee recommended that commercial television might be introduced when men and materials became available. Although this report was adopted by both Houses in the United Kingdom, it was subject to serious and severe criticism from both sides, particularly in the House of Lords. In November, 1953, no doubt as a result of this almost spontaneous uprising of opinion against this method of commercial control of television, a system of public corporations which would hire out television facilities to those people who could pay for them was introduced.
What was the position in Canada? In 1949 the Government decided that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation should have control of television. In 1950 the Massey Commission went into the matter at great length, and submitted an unqualified recommendation that no private television station should be licensed in Canada.
In France, a public instrumentality controls television and there is no advertising whatever. In Italy there is a public company in which the Government is the main shareholder. In Germany thereis a public instrumentality. Even in the United States of America a very extensive inquiry was made in 1941 in order to discover the best thing to do, and eventually the Government set up commercial television.
The Government has given us the impression that the principles expressed in this legislation are in accordance with experience all over the world. As I have shown, the royal commission that was set up by the Government has given us a very different and contrary view. The Government has given the impression that the opposition to this method of selling out television to a private business concern has come only from a few socialists on this side of the chamber. On page 9 of the report of the Royal Commission on Television appears a record of the organizations that opposed the very thing that the Government is doing in this bill. The report of the royal commission sta tes -
Another substantial body of evidence advanced the view that if television services were tobe provided in this country they should be operated solely by a government authority.
Let us see what that substantial body of opinion was. It included the following organizations : -
Arts Council of Australia (Victorian Division ) .
New South Wales Teachers’ Federation.
Australian Council for the World Council’ of Churches.
New Education Fellowship, New South Wales. Branch.
Australian Culture Defence Movement.
British Drama League (Australia).
National Council of Women of Australia.
That is hardly a socialist body -
United Churches Social Reform Board.
Methodist Church of Australia - South Australian Conference.
League of Women Voters of South Australia.
National Council of Women of South. Australia.
Film and Television Council of. South Australia.
Women’s Service Guilds of Western Australia Incorporated.
Fellowship of Australian Writers (Western Austral ian Section ) .
New Education Fellowship, Australian Federal Council.
Archbishop of Melbourne’s Committee on Television.
Council of Churches in Victoria.
Tasmanian State School Teachers’ Federation.
National Council of Women of New South Wales.
Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Housewives Association, Victorian Division.
Australian Council of Trades Unions.
Postal Telecommunications Technicians’ Association (Australia).
They were the organizations that opposed the method of control of television that is contemplated in this bill. The members of the Labour party in this Parliament who likewise oppose this measure are in very good company. As is the case in many other matters, the type of public responsibility for which the Labour party stands is the type for which a great many other people in the business community stand.
Let me direct the attention of the committee, in conclusion, to a matter of which the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) is evidently quite unaware. The commercial broadcasting stations, in my view, have a more impartial record in politics than has the press. Nevertheless, let us consider their record, as shown by the report of the Royal Commission on Television that was appointed by this Government. In 1949, 71 per cent, of the time of commercial broadcasting stations in New South Wales that was devoted to political broadcasts was used by the Australian Country party and the Liberal party, and 27 per cent, by the Labour party.
– That is what honorable members opposite call equal sharing.
Mi-. CAIRNS.- That is the kind of equal sharing that the Government is relying upon under the provisions of this bill. In Victoria, 62 per cent, of political broadcasting time was used by the two Government parties, and 36 per cent, by the Labour party. For Queensland the relevant figures are 67 per cent, and 28 per cent. The figures that I am giving to the committee can be found at page 110 of the report of the Royal Commission on Television. In South Australia, 58 per cent, of the time was used by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and 39 per cent, by the Labour party. For Tasmania the figures are 61 per cent, and 39 per cent. For the whole of the Commonwealth an average of 67 per cent, of political broadcasting time was used by the two parties whose members sit opposite, and 31 per cent, was used by the Labour party. It is fairly clear that the same kind of thing will happen with regard to television, although in that case the disparity will probably be even greater.
What has happened in regard to the control of television? Not just a few big business concerns that at present run the press and radio stations are involved. The Government, by its method of issuing licences, has caused those people to come together in an amalgamation so that there are four big groups. That has the effect of encouraging the growth of a monopoly of the irresponsible kind that the Labour party opposes. A monopoly that is responsible to this Parliament is a monopoly that is consistent with democratic principles. Here we see the point of difference between the Government and the Opposition in this committee, which has divided them in so many other matters. It is obvious in this matter, as it was obvious in all the other matters that the Parliament has been debating during this sessional period, that the parties opposite stand for big business organizations that have acquired powers of great social and political significance, powers which, if they continue to grow as they have grown in the past, will call into question the democratic nature of our society.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has just given the committee some very interesting figures, but either his mathematics or mine are bad. He told us of the proportion of political broadcast time used by the various parties, and in each case that he cited the proportion seemed to be about one-third to each party. For instance, he said that in New South Wales 71 per cent, of the time was used by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and 31 per cent. by the Labour party. That seems to give a proportion of about one-third to each party. Similar ill-founded arguments have been advanced throughout this debate by honorable members opposite, and they amount to complete claptrap, if I may use that expression. We heard the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) alleging that big capitalists are responsible for many of the problems that we are facing to-day. Again he produces the bogy of big business, but no Opposition member has ever told us of one bad thing that has been done by big business. The big business interests are supposed to grind the faces of the poor into the dust, but let us consider the position in the United States of America, where big business is most powerful. Is there any country in which working people have better conditions than are enjoyed in the United States of America? Eighty-seven per cent, of the people of that country own television sets, and they are expensive items. However, that is the country where big business is supposed to grind the poor into the dust. Big business can make money only if there is money in the pockets of all the people. Therefore, I say that all the talk that we have heard from the other side of the committee on that aspect of the matter is so much hooey.
The honorable member for Yarra said that the socialists are not the only people who are opposing commercial broadcasting. Then . he read a long list of organizations. Those are the organizations that would oppose drinking, for instance. Most of them are composed of wowsers. Generally speaking, they are composed of people who oppose anything new.
In regard to the allocation of television licences, we have been told that Labour receives little publicity, and that because newspaper interests have been allotted commercial television licences the Labour party will not be able to have its policy placed before the people through this new medium. During the time that I was out of this Parliament I followed political controversy with the keenest interest. I took it upon myself to write to Mr. Warwick Fairfax, of the Sydney Morning Herald, pointing out that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was using his newspaper purely as a propaganda machine. Very frequently I found that publicity was given to the utterances of the right honorable member for Barton on the front pages of that newspaper. Is it not a fact that matter relating to the right honorable gentleman has appeared on the front page every single day in the last two weeks? On every single day the Labour party has had its views expressed on the front page. Therefore the contention of honorable members opposite that the metropolitan press is anti-Labour is complete nonsense. One of the biggest obstacles that this Government has had to face during its period in office is the metropolitan press. Honorable members should consider the way in which the press attacked the Government during the economic crisis of 1951-52, in order to realize how the job of government was made difficult at that time.
– Order! The honorable gentleman will deal with television and not with the press.
– I am linking my remarks with the subject before the committee, because honorable members opposite have been suggesting that they have not had a fair deal from the press.
I shall now refer to the statement made yesterday by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), that the people who have been given television licences will abuse their trust. We have, in this chamber, a forum continually used by the Opposition to slander business interests. Any one,- except trade unions, who has business interests is always slandered here by Opposition members. They continually criticize big business, and they seem to regard every one of 24,000 shareholders in a company as a a big businessman. The fact that each shareholder has only a small interest apparently means nothing to Opposition members. They maintain that big business has obtained, control of commercial television and, therefore, that commercial television must be banned. They hold firm to this view in spite of our experience of commercial radio broadcasting over so many years. Has it been bad for Australia? Why should it be not bad for radio, but be bad for television? The whole fight put up by the Opposition is nothing but the usual sort of nonsense that we hear from Opposition members. I think it was the honorable member for Wilmot who said that the radio stations are controlled by anti-Labour interests. Opposition members can never state one instance in which a radio station has deliberately sought to damage Labour interests. They say that big business does that, and that the anti-Labour interests do this, but they never mention a concrete example to sustain their case.
There is considerable interest in television, and there are high hopes that it will prove good. I do not think it will prove to be the danger that the Opposition says it will be. Yesterday, I had as guests, listening to the proceedings in this chamber, two friends who had spent three years in the service of the Australian Embassy in the United States of America. For three years they had watched television in America. After listening to the debate in this chamber, they told me they were shocked by the absolute nonsense talked by Opposition members. It is very interesting to note that McCarthy was destroyed by television. His appearance on television awoke the American people to the danger that he represented and, as a result, he has completely lost support in the United States. The honorable member for
Kingston (Mr. Galvin) mentioned horror programmes yesterday, and he stated that it would even be possible for politicians to go right into one’s home. I think that, if some of the politicians I know were likely to enter a home, the women and children should be sent to the hills and the silver should be locked up. Labour’s opposition to this measure is based on a lot of theory and nonsense. I strongly support the bill and equally strongly oppose the amendment.
.- The almost incoherent remarks of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) were extremely surprising, particularly in view of his ready admission that he had been responsible for an attempt to deny the right of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to express his views upon a public question and to state the policy of the Australian Labour party. If ever there were an admission of an attempt to stifle the free and democratic expression of opinion, surely the honorable member for Hume made such an admission. It demonstrates what he would do if he had an opportunity, by means of a measure such as this, or by any other means, to diminish the time and the opportunity afforded to Labour members to express their views.
The point that I wish to emphasize particularly to the people of Australia is that, for some time now, there has been a trend towards the greater concentration of means of publicity and public commentary in the hands of the newspapers, under the control of a steadily diminishing number of people. In other words, there are clear indications of monopoly in both the press and radio media for informing the community. This development has occurred because press and radio interests have been given very generous consideration for the purpose of damaging the political fortunes of the Australian Labour party. I have no doubt that the facilities and concessions afforded to commercial broadcasting interests over the years by this Government are being repaid by the extending to the Government of what is almost a monopoly of the opportunity for the public expression of political opinions. We have now reached a position in which it is necessary to protect public bodies and associations, including political parties, so that all may share fairly and equitably in the opportunities afforded for the dissemination of news, information and public comment for the informing of the public mind. That being so, I remind the committee that, this afternoon, a Minister indicated that television is an industry for the big business and the big man. No doubt it will be representative of the wealthier sections of the community.
I know something about the concentration of the influence and wealth of broadcasting interests in the United States of America. Control seems to be ever concentrating in the hands of a diminishing number of people whose influence in the life of the nation is ever extending as a result of their growing business interests. We in Australia must guard against such developments. The amendment is highly desirable, because it will ensure that all interests will be protected. It is designed to assure the people of a fair share in the ownership of television enterprises. That is the matter to which the arguments advanced by Government supporters, in their criticism of the Opposition’s case in support of the amendment, have principally been directed. The amendment is designed also to ensure the fair and just use of the facilities resulting from the holding of television licences by requiring television stations to discharge their obligations to afford to the various acknowledged bodies in the community the right, to state their views to the people. The United Kingdom broadcasting legislation contains certain provisions relating to television.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 1 to 6 has expired.
Question put -
That the amendment (Dr. Evatt’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Tempor ary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That clauses 1 to6 be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. g. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 7 to 40 -by leave - considered together.
– I wish to refer to two matters in connexion with my next group of amendments. I shall move amendment No. 2. Those numbered 3 and 4, are consequential. Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are consequential to a later amendment. The first of this group relates to clause 14, and deals with the composition of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That clause reads - (1.) Section eight of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (2a.). (2.) A member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission who, at the commencement of this section, is an officer of thu Department of the Treasury or of the Postmaster-General’s Department shall cease to hold office. (3.) The first appointment of a person as a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to fill one of the vacancies caused by the operation of this section shall be for a period not exceeding one year and the first appointment of a person as such a member to fill the other vacancy so caused shall be for a period not exceeding two years.
I move -
That the clause be omitted and the following clause be inserted in place thereof: - “ 14. Section eight of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following subsection: - (1.) The Commission shall consist of nine members, at least one of whom shall bc a woman and wllo shall include a resident of each State.’.”.
The purpose of specifying the composition of the commission is to provide for the retention of a representative of the Treasury and of the Postmaster-General’s Department, to ensure that the membership of the commission shall be sufficiently numerous as to include a resident of each of the six States, and to continue the provision that at least one of the commissioners shall be a woman. No reason has been advanced for the omission from the commission of government officers. They are, I should say, more independent in exercising the discretionary rights of the commission than are most of the other members. They are not political appointees or persons with particular political views. They should be retained in order to ensure that the commission will be fully representative. The amendment seeks to increase the size of the commission to nine members. It seems to us to be a retrograde step to interfere with the previous form of composition of the commission.
The other group of amendments involved in the set of clauses we are considering seeks to restrict the initial term of broadcasting and television licences to three years, instead of five. That is in line with our view that to increase the term will lead to the further entrenchment of monopoly. It will be more difficult, especially where television is concerned, to get further licences if the first group is able to continue as a monopoly in Sydney and Melbourne for that lengthy period. I do not think it was ever intended that the period should be longer than three years.
– The royal commission recommended a three-year period.
– That is so. It would be detrimental to public interest to do otherwise. This debate raises the whole question of the composition of the commission and the part that it plays in this country, although one need not deal with individuals. I repeat that one of the purposes of setting up an independent statutory commission was that where there were controversies on matters of public moment, the Australian Broadcasting Commission should’ organize the expression of rival views. It has done that to a minor extent only. The attitude of the commission’s commentators on the great events of the day does not bear the stamp of fairness and impartiality. We have had complaints from all over Australia about the deterioration in the Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcasts on matters of opinion.
– They are “Yes” men.
– That is so. Those who are critical must change their tune a little or they will not remain-. A study of these broadcasts in the last twelve months will show something worse than political interference. It will show that it is impossible for these people to remain with the Australian Broadcasting Commission unless their comments are in line with what the Government wants. That means that there is insufficient independence at the commission level. If there are rival views in connexion with national, international or industrial affairs, they should be put over the air. I invite honorable members to look at the- way in which the Australian Broadcasting Commission treats the news. I have heard over the air selections from statements in the House in connexion with the dispute in the shearing industry which were most unfair to the union, and did not clearly represent what had been said. To-night, in another place, the Senate voted on a very important matter - the prevention of the aggregation of leasehold interests in this Australian Capital Territory. The Senate was asked to revoke a regulation passed by the present Government, and the Government was defeated. Not a word was said about that matter on the Australian Broadcasting Commission news to-night, but all sorts of trivialities were mentioned. There is no fair transmission of matters of public dispute. That is my point. I am not discussing matters outside the realm of controversy. The idea of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to keep off controversy, “except in the sessions that I have explained, where individuals give personal accounts of their views on international affairs, conditioned to the circumstances of the time and very often, I fear, to the views of the Government. But in the news itself there is often not a fair presentation of the important events that take place, even in Parliament itself. People cannot listen to the whole of the parliamentary debates, nor are they available-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Government supporters have been talking to themselves so much that they cannot tell who is speaking at any time, nor are they in a condition to follow or understand it. I refer to an honorable member who is a temporary chairman and who has been interfering all the evening.
I have been pointing to the need for & commission to restore complete impartiality on all these controversial matters. It does not exist to-day and I ask that varying and opposing views be expressed in commercial broadcasting and television and national broadcasting and television. It is not adequate to-day.
In England, on the contrary, the British Broadcasting Corporation, in respect of both its broadcasts and television, deliberately organizes a statement of the rival views, quite irrespective of election broad.casts. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is not interested in doing that. It should do what is done in England where the two great parties in the House of Commons are consulted and speakers appointed according to the subjectmatter. Both views are broadcast over the national station and that is what should be done here. It was intended also that the same thing should be done with commercial broadcasting. There was a section binding the Broadcasting Control Board to ensure that these varying views were put on commercial broadcasts. Of course, their own statement shows that they have neglected that duty. They say that the Parliament should state what it meant by that provision. The Parliament did say what it meant. It meant clearly that all views should be expressed on controversial matters, but that duty has not been carried out.
Turning again to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I think that blame lies on its management and on members of the commission for failing to discharge that duty, which is part of the charter in England of commercial television and part of the practice.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Do I understand from the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that he is now moving the two amendments that stand in his name?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair can deal with only one amendment at a time.
– The right honorable gentleman is dealing with the first amendment only?
– The Art amendment deals with the number of commissioners, and the second deals with the period of the initial licence. I thought that the idea was to treat them as a group for the purposes of this debate.
– The right honorable gentleman has moved, in effect, that the number of members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall be nine instead of seven, as is provided in the bill. It is correct that the Royal Commission on Television recommended that there should be two further appointments to the broadcasting commission, which would have brought the number up to nine. But I submit that the Royal Commission felt that there should be an increase in the number of commissioners drawn from the general public for the purpose of enabling the Australian
Broadcasting Commission the better to deal with the wider responsibilities that it is shouldering as the result of the introduction of television. Obviously, the royal commission would hardly feel itself competent to recommend to the Government that it should withdraw its two departmental representatives, because that is a matter of Government policy into which, I suggest, the commission would not feel itself entitled to intrude. Therefore, for the purpose of carrying out its desire to widen the representation from the general public, the Royal Commission recommended the appointment of two additional commissioners. That is, in effect, what we have done in this provision. We are interpreting the spirit of the recommendation of the royal commission by taking from the broadcasting commission the two departmental representatives, and thereby making room for the appointment of two new commissioners who will represent a general cross-, section of the public.
As I have stated in my second-reading speech and as has been stated on occasions by other Ministers, it is the policy of the Government that the broadcasting and now the national television service should be conducted by a commission that represents as wide a cross-section of the public as possible - not members chosen to represent sectional interests, not members chosen primarily to represent areas, but people of capacity, people of considerable breadth of vision and experience, people to whom can be entrusted the very important task of watching the development of our national broadcasting and television services.
In withdrawing the two departmental representative’s and making provision for the appointment of two commissioners from the general public, the Government has taken, not a retrograde step, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, but a forward step. Some years ago two departmental representatives were appointed. As I stated in my secondreading speech, those two representatives have done a very fine job, and I repeat that the fact that they are now being taken off is not to be interpreted in any way as criticism of the work that they have done. Particularly in the early stages of the development of the commission, when financial problems were important, they gave very fine service to the commission, and consequently, to this Government and the nation. But we feel that, that early stage of the development of the commission having passed, it is now time for the Government to extend its policy of putting the control of this service more and more into the hands of the representatives of the people, and relieving it from any possible suggestion of unnecessary control.
The Government, because of its responsibilities in respect of a high standard of programmes and technical work, must retain some form of control over the general administration. However, considering the stage reached by the commission, the Government need not now have day-to-day control of its actual operations. Therefore, we say that we can at one and the same time extend the policy I have just outlined and also refrain in so doing from increasing the numbers on a government body.
It is strange to me to hear members of the Opposition criticize the Government for not increasing the number of members of the commission. From time to time the Opposition has accused this Governent of desiring to increase the numbers on various commissions and other government instrumentalities. No doubt honorable members will remember that, whenever the Opposition gets a chance, it chides us with making jobs for friends. Yet, when we take action which means that we are actually reducing the number recommended to us, we are chided for not increasing the number, although previously, in other instances, we have been criticized for doing just that. I suppose it is simply that whatever we do is wrong. Had we gone beyond the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Television and set the membership of the commission at nine, the Opposition would have attacked us on that, ground, saying that we had no right to increase by two the number recommended, because we would only be adding thereby to the cost of government-controlled facilities. Whichever way we had gone, it would have been the wrong way according to the Opposition. For these reasons I must say that I find it difficult to understand the real reason behind the Opposition’s criticism, and the Opposition’s amendment unless it be that, despite what the Leader of the Opposition said a few minutes ago about desiring to keep clear of political control, the Opposition feels that departmental representatives on the commission, irrespective of their personal probity, would have more control over the operations of the commission than would appointees free from any association with government work. That is a suggestion which, in the circumstances, I think I am entitled to make. In dealing with this subject the Leader of the Opposition questioned the independence and impartiality of officials and commentators of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Frankly, I do not see that that has any particular bearing on the matter we are discussing, which concerns the number of commissioners. But, in brief reply to him, I point out that, in my opinion, and in that of many other people, the right honorable gentleman’s criticism is not justified. If any proof of the impartiality of the officials and commentators of the Australian Broadcasting Commission were needed, I think it would be supplied by the fact that very often indeed we have had criticism from honorable members on the Government side of the chamber to the effect that the Australian Broadcasting Commission gives a great deal too much consideration to the Leader of the Opposition and those who sit behind him, whose expressions of opinion are heard more often over the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s stations than are those of the Government. I invite the opinions of my colleagues on this side of the chamber as to whether or not we on this side of the chamber feel from time to time that the position is as I have described it. I am not saying that the criticism to which I have referred is just, but I am saying that when criticism of the commentators comes from each side to the effect that it is getting unfair treatment, surely that is an indication of the impartiality of the officials and commentators. So I think it is nonsense for the right honorable gentleman to level, in connexion with a clause that deals with the membership of the commission, some criticism of officials, which cannot be sustained.
In conclusion may I point out that the Gibson committee, to which honorable members opposite referred a great deal in a previous debate said -
We consider that the commissioners should not be specialists or representatives of particular interests or localities, but that they should be persons of acknowledged capacity, experience, and judgment, imbued with high ideals, and sensible of a responsibility to contribute to the moral and intellectual well-being of the community.
That is a very fine expression. Departmental officials possess these qualities in good measure, but we felt that they could be classified as representing some particular interest or body. Therefore, the proposal of the Government is a good one, and we do not accept the amendment, moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- I am astonished at the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) for side-tracking the issue, as he did in the last few minutes of his speech. The Minister has alleged that the Opposition is fighting for men to obtain jobs on the commission. He seems to be under the misapprehension that if the Treasury and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department were represented on the Australian Broadcasting Commission their representatives would be men who would be occupying positions apart from the positions they already held in their respective departments. As I listened to the Postmaster-General support the provision in the measure which excludes the representatives of the Treasury and the Postmaster-General’s Department from the commission, I began to realize that the financial mess that this Government has put us in to-day is very largely the result of the fact that, in contradistinction to the Chifley Goverment, the Government has deprived itself of advice in connexion with the administration of Government instrumentalities that representatives of the Treasury and the various technical departments of the Commonwealth could give it were they represented on such instrumentalities. I know, as a former Minister of the Crown, that whenever the department I administered was about to undertake expenditure in relation to any public matter there was always the intrusion of a representative of the Treasury - who was, in fact, a representative of the Treasurer, who has the final responsibility to this Parliament when he presents his budget at the beginning, of the financial year. After all, public servants are independent men, They are trained in the techniques of their respective departments. The representatives of the Treasury are trained in the techniques of finance. The representatives of the Postmaster-General’s Department are trained in the techniques associated with the technical side of television. Here we have a very great instrumentality established to control plant and equipment valued at millions of pounds. The top men in this instrumentality will become the controllers of programmes broadcast over television stations constructed at great expense by the Government. They will be using the technical equipment provided by all the people of this great Commonwealth, yet the Commonwealth is not to bc represented on the commission by a Treasury expert who could advise the Government on how the people’s money was being utilized and on how the valuable plant and equipment provided by the people, and controlled by this commission, was being used. The Government will be deprived of advice from the Treasury on the amount that should be expended on additional stations in this or that part of the Commonwealth. There will be nobody on the commission to give that advice to the Government - nobody to be the watchdog of finance; nobody to criticize the commission; nobody to tell the Government what is going on. The PostmasterGeneral himself cannot attend the meetings of the commission.
Now let us look at the technical side of the matter. We have here plant that is to be erected, I understand, under the supervision of technicians of the Postmaster-General’s Department, who, over the years, have taken the trouble to gain the special skill in order to be able to erect in this country what we hope will prove to be the finest technical equipment ever established by any government anywhere in the world. But in the institution of a commission to have direct control of this valuable equipment the Postmaster-General’s Department, of all departments, is robbed of representation on. that body, despite the fact that it is a highly efficient department and has the technicians who know all about television. Is not that a strange state of affairs ? Whilst on practically every governmental or semi-governmental instrumentality in this Commonwealth there are ‘representatives of the Treasury, either as members of the instrumentality concerned, or as observers with the right to be present at its meetings, there is to bc none on this instrumentality. The presence of such representatives on the commission would enable them to report to their ministerial head on the activities of the commission and to tender valuable advice on such matters as the necessity for further extension of television services, the satisfactory, or otherwise, use of the people’s money involved in the capital expenditure on plant and equipment, and so on. Consider that very successful instrumentality, the government airline, Trans-Australia Airlines. What is the source of inspiration of Trans- Australia Airlines to-day? A former treasury official, Mr. Watt, presides over the instrumentality that governs the operations of both Trans.Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. He is, in effect, a Treasury watchdog, although he is not at the moment a treasury official. I believe that, in view of the fact that the other members of the proposed commission will be drawn from sources outside the Public Service, it is essential that there should be present at meetings of the commission, and always available, at least representatives of the Treasury, which will find the money for all sorts of purposes related to television, in order that the Treasurer may have the full facts when he wishes to budget for expenditure by this very great concern. Representatives of the Treasury on the commission could bring their practical knowledge to bear at its meetings and could advise the Treasurer, as their ministerial head, on what was being done and what should be done. Surely, also, it is essential that the men who have supervised the building of the stations should be members of such bodies so that they may glean practical information or even learn of some of the mistakes that they may have made. Surely, in a young country like this, with only two stations functioning initially under the control of the commission, and with necessarily many more to be established, such persons should be representing the Commonwealth in the technical and financial sense and keeping their respective Ministiers fully informed. I am astonished to think that a government that gained office amongst other things with an assurance to the people that it would maintain very strict control over the expenditure of their money, should at this stage submit a proposal for handing over this valuable instrumentality to representatives of almost everything but public departments such as the Treasury and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Under those circumstances, I very strongly support the argument that was advanced by the Leader of the Opposition a few minutes ago when he spoke to the amendment.
.- I rise to speak on just two points raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). If we were to accept the idea behind the proposal to increase the membership of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to nine and apply it to representation in this place, there would be less need for Western Australian members to press the case for that State. If the representation in this chamber were to be on the basis of one-for-one for each State, I am quite certain that, in relation to many things, Western Australia would get a better deal. I cannot see why the system of representation that is accepted by the Parliament cannot be applied to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, just as it applies successfully to other bodies throughout the Commonwealth. I think that, in forming boards or committees, the idea should be, not to limit the choice of members in the way suggested, but to get the very best brains that are available regardless of the State to which the persons belong. Surely people have reached the stage where they are sufficiently nationally minded in their outlook to conduct their deliberations from the point of view of what is best for the whole of Australia.
I feel that the change proposed by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) might be of advantage to Western Australia, because he proposes to remove from the commission two persons who are limited by the narrow or departmental outlook, and suggests that it be composed of persons who have a much broader outlook. I realize that the control of the commission over television is only in the experimental stage. I cannot foresee the time when it will have to make any decisions in relation to television in Western Australia, but there is something that it might well consider in relation to the north-west of Australia. In the Kimberleys, which is a sparsely populated but very important area, the reception of broadcast programmes is by no means satisfactory. There are two shortwave transmitters that are supposed to give an adequate coverage to that area but, with due respect to those who determine the wave lengths, they are not doing the job for which they were designed. The following four stations operate on the short-wave band on the wave lengths indicated - VLW9, 31.21 metres; VLW11, 25.35 metres; VLX4, 61.25 metres; VLX9, 31.21 metres. The longer wave length of 61 metres, theoretically, is suitable for the area, but very few manufacturers make sets that will receive programmes broadcast on that wave length. So many other stations with more powerful transmitters operate on the 31-metre band that competition cuts out the availability of that band for Australian broadcast listeners. Highpowered overseas stations also operate on that wave length. As a result, it is very difficult to separate our weak signals from their strong ones, and from those of the other high-powered transmitters within Australia.
The people who are pioneering this area are getting a pretty raw deal in relation to radio programmes,, in spite of the fact that steps have been taken to do what has been regarded by certain experts as the right thing. It seems that it is desirable to change the wave length to 15, 16 or 19 metres in order to give to them the service to which they are entitled. I know that the PostmasterGeneral, who has the interests of country people at heart, will consider the matter and ensure that the commission shall give it very early consideration.
– Is the honorable member sure of that?
– Yes, I am quite positive about it. The Upper and Lower Murchison areas also experience bad reception. Indeed, it is the type of country in which the problem is one of great magnitude. The proposed change in the composition of the commission might react favorably to “Western Australia. If a “Western Australian were appointed to it, an even stronger case could be presented, but I have sufficient faith in the ordinary members of the public, with their national-mindedness, to believe that the deliberations of the commission will follow national lines in the best interests of everybody. To increase its membership to nine would make it unwieldly. Most of us who have had experience on committees know that, the bigger the committee is, the less work is done by individual members, and the smaller it is, the faster are its decisions made.
In relation to the proposal for a reduction of the period of the licence from five to three years, I think it is only fair and just that anyone who invests the amount of money that will be involved in the establishment of a television station should be given adequate time to prove his ability to make the station worthwhile. In the whole history of radio broadcasting in Australia, I think only one station has had its licence cancelled. From memory, I think it was a Labour station, and its licence was cancelled because it did not give the service that it was supposed to give under the terms of its charter. As I have stated, I think it is only fair and just that anyone who invests a colossal sum of money in the establishment of a television station for the benefit of the Australian people should be given an adequate time in which to prove that he can operate it to the satisfaction of the Commission. I oppose the amendments that have been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has seized on the second amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), which seeks to reduce from five to three years the initial tenure of television licences. The Opposition based its case on the recommenda tion of the royal commission - or the alleged royal commission - that was appointed by this Government that a period of three years be prescribed. Why has the Government made provision for five years? It has done so only because it has been pressurised by the financial interests that it serves in the Parliament. All this specious pleading about five years as opposed to three years sounds nonsensical when one reads the recommendations of the Government-appointed royal commission. It was a hand-picked royal commission. It was not a royal commission at all. The chairman, Professor Paton of Melbourne, said that it was not a royal commission but that it was merely a commission of inquiry. That hand-picked body, which consisted of number of people whose names will never again be known in Australian political history, recommended a period of three years, not five years, but this Government has decided on five years. I want to know why it has decided on five years.
– Must the Government automatically accept the recommendation?
– The Government has said, in effect, that all that it has done in regard to this bill is to follow the directions of the royal commission which the Government itself appointed.
– My word it did. Where it has deviated at all it has deviated in the interests of big financial vested interests in Canberra and Sydney.
– I said that, in a large measure, we had followed the recommendations.
– Wb at does that mean? In the little things, yes. In the big things, no. Where the two stations in Melbourne and the two in Sydney are affected, the Government did not follow the recommendation of its royal commission and it has given no convincing reason why it departed from those recommendations. That makes me say that this Government is merely the stooge of big vested interests in Sydney and Melbourne. I am amazed that a member of the Australian Country party who occupies the position of Postmaster-General should be so concerned with the interests of Sydney and Melbourne broadcasting stations and of Sydney and Melbourne newspaper interests, instead of looking after the welfare of the people of Australia who want telephones and roads.
– He will be a director of Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited next.
– If he does what his predecessor in office did, as soon as he leaves office he will join the board of one of the companies that have an interest in one of the Sydney or Melbourne licences. I do not think that he will.
– Order ! The honorable member will relate his remarks to the clause.
– I was invited to express an opinion by one of the Government’s supporters, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and I am always willing to oblige.
Let me talk about the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the increase of the membership of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or, as I prefer to call it, the antiAustralian Broadcasting Commission. The Gibson committee recommended that the commission should have five members. The commission had five members before the Gibson committee was appointed. The commission system of management of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has always seemed to me to be a failure. Whether the present Government had five members out of five or whether a Labour government had three members out of five, the commission form of control never worked. The Chifley Government increased the number of members from five to seven. We appointed a representative of the Treasury in order to stop the Australian Broadcasting Commission from wasting money on imported artists ant? then asking the Treasury to pay for the loss afterwards. We appointed a representative of the Postmaster-General’s Department because the PostmasterGeneral is interested in the transmission lines and other technical facilities. We wanted to have two departmental representatives on the commission in order to ensure that money was not wasted and that time was not lost. The chairman of the day appealed to us not to give these people a vote. We insisted that they ought to have a vote because we wanted them to be watch-dogs in regard to public expenditure.
This Government has decided to get rid of those two watch-dogs because it does not want to have people on the commission unless they will do what the government of the day wants them to do. The Government has one Labour representative on the commission. It has Sir John Medley from Melbourne, who, I believe, has an independent outlook. The rest of them are merely stooges for the chairman, Sir Richard Boyer, and the general manager, Mr. Charles Moses. They are concerned with keeping this Government in power. They are concerned with denying equitable treatment in regard to broadcasting, time to the Leader of the Opposition. I have not the slightest time for Sir Richard Boyer, whom the Government recently had knighted for his services to the Government. I have no faith in the other people who serve on the commission.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) made a plea for somebody from Western Australia to sit on the commission. There was a lady on the commission. She was Mrs. Ivy Kent. Because she was a Labour woman she was removed and Dame Enid Lyons, who had been very well rewarded by the present Government and the previous Menzies Government for the betrayal by her husband of the Labour party who had him elected to Parliament-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member will come back to the clause.
– I am coming back to the bill.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I will not allow attacks such as that on people who cannot defend themselves.
– I say that the Government deliberately removed Mrs. Ivy Kent and appointed Dame Enid Lyons because Dame Enid Lyons would serve the interests of the Government better than Mrs. Kent.
– The honorable member had better come back to the clause that is set down for consideration.-
– We are discussing the clause which provides that the commission shall consist of nine members at least one of whom shall be a woman and that it shall include a resident of each State, I say that the Government was wrong in removing Mrs. Kent and:-
– Order ! The honorable member is talking about the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Well, I shall let it go. I have made my point very effectively.I want to come to the subject of the people; whom this Government has employed on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It has employed as a broadcaster a gentleman named Denys Jackson from Melbourne, a reactionary, a gross tory who came to Australia some twenty years ago, who is a supporter of the Anti-Communist Labour party and who once said that if he were a. Frenchman he would be a royalist. Anybody who would be a royalist in France must be almost antediluvian in his outlook. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has had Mr. Santamaria broadcasting on its stations. They have had Massey Stanley and Frank Chamberlain of the Melbourne SumNews Pictorial.The commission does not want anybody to put a democratic point of view over its stations and we protest against that.
– Mr. Santamaria wrote the policy speech of the honorable member’s party.
– He did not write the policy speech of our party. Mr. Santamaria has always been concerned with every move to remove me from any office of importance in the Labour party in the State of Victoria. I have no love for him and he has no love for me.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following replies : - 1. (a) Yes. In 1910, Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson, K.C.B., was invited to make a recommendation in regard to the general administration, organization, distribution, &c, of the naval forces of the Commonwealth. In his. report, dated 1911’, Cockburn Sound’ was one of sixteen Australian ports recommended as being suitable for a naval base, (b) No. But quite possibly similar views, have been expressed.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The attached statement gives the information sought by the honorable member, with the exception of the “ total amount of rent paid since the Commonwealth took over the tenancy in each instance”. To ascertain these figures would involve considerable work in all States. Apart from the cost involved, staff is not readily available to undertake the task.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560509_reps_22_hor10/>.