23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. KEARNEY presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia, praying that the House will -
Petition received and read.
Mr. CLAY presented a petition in similar terms from certain citizens of Australia.
Mr. COURTNAY presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the House will give immediate consideration to the matter of increasing pensions to at least 50 per cent, of the basic wage.
Petition received and read.
-I present a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the House will give immediate consideration to the matter of increasing pensions to at least 50 per cent, of the basic wage. The petition is respectfully worded, concludes with a prayer, and bears the Clerk’s signature that it is in conformity with the Standing Orders of the House. As this petition is in the same terms as the petition which has just been received and read, I move -
That the petition be received.
I have informed the petitioners that I do not personally agree with their request.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. CLARK presented a petition in similar terms from certain citizens of Australia.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question arising from his answer to a question that he was asked yesterday concerning the very tense situation between North Viet Nam and Laos. I ask the right honorable gentleman: Is any action being taken by any authority - a United Nations authority, or any other possible authority, such as, perhaps, Seato - with a view to finding out the nature of the dispute and seeing whether conciliation or mediation could be brought to bear on a situation which may, as the Minister suggested, develop very serious proportions? Will the right honorable gentleman look into that?
– I think that there is not a great deal to say in addition to what I ventured to say yesterday in reply to a question. The attitude of mind of the Government of Laos at this point in time is that it has discharged all the obligations into which it entered as a result of the Geneva discussions in 1954 and that it is now a free and sovereign government. In recent weeks and months, there have been proposals that the I.C.C. - the International Control Commission, to give it its full name - of which Poland, Canada and India are the members, should be re-convened. That proposal is not acceptable to the Government of Laos which regards itself - I think properly - as a sovereign government. The proposal, if accepted, would place that Government back into what might be called, without choosing one’s words too carefully, a position of tutelage, which it would not appreciate. That is the problem that arises from the right honorable gentleman’s question.
I am not sure that public action at this time would improve the situation, but public actions are not the only steps that can be taken. A good deal of private discussion is going on between the interested countries - not excluding Australia - in an effort to solve the problem. If anything in the nature of what might be called mediation were seriously advanced publicly, I do not think the Government of Laos would be appreciative. Who would the mediation be between, the Government of Laos, an established sovereign government on the one hand, and some rebel forces which might be identified with the Government of North Viet Nam with its Communist forces on the other hand? I must add, however, that although it has not been established publicly and completely that Communist forces support the Government of North Viet Nam, the Government of Laos carries the firm conviction that Communist troops from that country have illegally entered Laos.
I can assure the right honorable gentleman that the matter is not being regarded lightly by any means by those principally concerned. A good deal of private discussion, as distinct from public action, is going on and, from my own knowledge, a highly responsible attitude is being adopted by those concerned in an effort to prevent what might be regarded as a small bush fire developing into a huge conflagration which could vitally affect us all. The geographical position of Laos is such that if anything serious should happen there, which I do not necessarily anticipate, the Governments of Thailand, Cambodia and South Viet Nam would be affected.
– I ask the Minister for
External Affairs whether the meeting of heads of Australian missions which is to open in Bangkok this week has any special significance. Have such meetings been held previously? Can the Minister give the House an indication of the extent and nature of the matters to be discussed at the proposed meeting?
– In this post-war period a number of countries have adopted the practice of holding regular regional conferences of their heads of missions in particular areas and regions. Australia has adopted this practice and conferences of our representatives in Europe were held in 1957 and early this year. In 1958 a conference was held in Singapore which our heads of missions in South-East Asia attended. The proposed meeting to be held in Bangkok is the second in that area and it will be attended by the heads of our posts ranging from Pakistan eastwards to the Philippines and northwards to Japan. The meeting will be under the chairmanship of the secretary of the department which I administer and a wide range of matters that affect the relationship between Australia and the individual countries of South and South-East Asia and the East generally will be discussed. I will attend the last two days of the meeting and will be in a position to inform those present of the attitude of the Government on a number of matters and, in turn, to hear their story on the spot of the conditions in the country to which they are accredited. The meeting bears no more significance than that. It is a useful means of obtaining information. Of course, the meeting will be secret.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that Channel 2, the national television station in South Australia, will commence shortly transmitting experimental programmes? Is the Postmaster-General in a position to indicate when that station is likely to commence regular transmission? I ask this question, Mr. Speaker, because retailers and the general public have enjoyed for some time the experimental programmes of the two commercial stations in South Australia and the people in that State are concerned at what appears to be a delay in the commencement of transmission by the national station.
– I will obtain definite information for the honorable member for Kingston regarding the question that he has asked, and supply it to him. However, I can tell him from my own knowledge that testing patterns are expected to be on the air from the national station in Adelaide quite shortly but that regular transmissions are not likely to commence until the beginning of next year.
– Will the Prime Minister, in making recommendations to Her Majesty the Queen regarding the honours that she may be graciously pleased to bestow upon Australians, give more consideration to citizens who have performed public services that they were not bound to render and less- to those who have done rather well what their duty required them to do anyhow?
– I am bound to say for myself that I always do.
– I ask the Prime Minister: When he is making the statement on external affairs that he foreshadowed yesterday, will he contrast statements made in 1957 and 1958 by himself and by the Minister for External Affairs that no good, and probably much harm, could come from summit or other conferences and that none should be held unless many important preliminary conditions were performed by Communist countries, with the statements most recently made by him in which he said that we should have summit and all other forms of conferences and in which he gave unqualified support to the proposals? Will he explain the reason for the Government’s very significant change of attitude?
– The honorable member is, I think, the fifteenth member of his party to point out this alleged inconsistency.
– Are you going to take any notice of it?
– I will take as little notice of it as I usually do, but I will, as usual, make my own statement in my own way, if I have time to prepare it for to-morrow.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Interior, by saying that I understand that there is in the possession of a former member of this House the property known as “ Lambrigg “, upon which William Farrer conducted his remarkably valuable experiments on wheat for the great benefit of Australia. I ask the Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the grave of William Farrer is on the “ Lambrigg “ property, that it has no guardian, and that it has not been preserved in the interests of the nation. Has consideration been given to placing this very important memorial to the late Mr. Farrer under the control of the National Trust, which, I am informed unofficially, is willing to accept a charge to look after it? Alternatively, I suggest that such other means as may be appropriate be adopted as a mark of respect to the memory of one to whom Australia owes much.
– I am aware that the grave of William Farrer is located on the property known as “ Lambrigg “. I saw it there myself some years ago. I will give consideration to the point raised by the honorable member about the possibility of some better arrangement being made for the care of the grave.
– My question to the Treasurer concerns the new form of Commonwealth security called Seasonal Treasury Notes. By way of preamble, I refer to a question which I asked him on 26th February last, six months ago. I then asked, in part -
First, does the Government propose that treasurybills will be issued publicly? Secondly, if so, will such bills bear interest at any higher rate than the rate now offered on such securities?
He gave no specific answer on that occasion and I now ask him further: What kind of clients is it imagined will take up these new securities? Secondly, what does he regard as “ a return in line with other market rates of interest “? Does he mean close to the present rate of 1 per cent, on treasury-bills or close to the rate of nearly 4 per cent, on short-term government securities?
– I indicated last night that the Government had agreed, in principle, to a proposal along the lines which I have outlined. The questions raised by the honorable member clearly call for a considered statement. 1 will see how far I can go towards answering the detailed inquiries he has now put to me.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the Government’s programme for the construction of new radio and television studios at Toowong is up to schedule and whether he can give an assurance that they will be in operation, as planned, before the end of Queensland’s centenary year. I ask him also whether it is true that station QTQ, which is a commercial station, will shortly commence with a coverage of the visit of Princess Alexandra to Queensland.
– Regarding the first part of the question, I think the honorable member will recall that I have stated on several occasions that it was the plan of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Postmaster-General’s Department to have the Brisbane national television station operating in time to give some coverage to the centenary celebrations in Brisbane. Now that the Budget has been announced by the right honorable the Treasurer, I am glad to be able to inform the honorable member - seeing that I made some qualification in my previous statement with regard to the availability of funds - that the funds allocated to the Postal Department and to the Australian Broadcasting Commission are such as to enable the target dates of opening to be met, not only in Brisbane, but also in Perth, Adelaide and Hobart. The target date for Brisbane is 2nd November.
A few minutes ago I told the honorable member for Kingston, in reply to his question, that it is expected to open the station in Adelaide some time early next year. That was the originally announced target date. As I have just said, we will be able to meet the target date for the national services. As a result, the Brisbane station will be able to present to the people of Queensland a television programme covering such events as the landing in the mouth of the river and other features associated with the Queensland centenary celebrations.
Regarding station QTQ, the position is that this commercial station has made a very strong drive so as to be able to give the people in south-eastern Queensland a picture of the arrival of Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra and the various functions with which she will be associated. Although this station has made that great drive, until quite recently its equipment was not quite up to the standard required by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board before permission would be given for regular services. However, as a result of this drive by those responsible for the early work of the station, I am satisfied that it is now in a position to provide the coverage of these events within the next few days. Therefore, I have agreed that it can commence an interim television service on Sunday next and this will enable the visit of Her Royal Highness to Brisbane to be covered and presented to the people of Queensland by that medium. Following that, the continuation of the service will depend on the installation of full power, because this particular service to which I am referring will be of limited power, although it will be from the main transmitter mast.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, and I ask the honorable gentleman: Is it a fact that legislation providing re-establishment and vocational training opportunities for discharged Army, Navy and Air Force personnel will expire in the very near future? Is the Minister aware that ex-servicemen from the Malaya and Korea campaigns, particularly twelve-year engagement Navy personnel, will, as a result of this circumstance, be deprived of reestablishment opportunities? Will the Minister examine the position and, even at this stage, as a matter of principle, give an unqualified assurance that no ex-serviceman will be prejudiced in the manner I have described?
– I think that what the honorable gentleman is referring to is the fact that some months ago the High Court decided that the Re-establishment and Employment Act, in its general principles, wasnow beyond the constitutional power of the Commonwealth Government. I do not want to paraphrase the decision of the High Court, because that is beyond my competence, but the court did say that, under certain conditions particular powers might still be valid. I shall have a detailed look at the honorable gentleman’s question and try to get a more precise statement for him. T should point out to him that if he is basing his question on a statement made by the New South Wales president of the Returned Servicemen’s League he is asking us to do something that is beyond our constitutional capacity. 1 should also state that so far as the Commonwealth Public Service is concerned the present position with regard to the employment of ex-servicemen is maintained, and I have been assured by the New South Wales Government that the same thing will apply in its service. Nonetheless I shall examine the details of the honorable member’s question and let him have a full reply.
– I wish to ask the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization a question without notice. The right honorable gentleman will know that the Victorian Department of Agriculture recently purchased a research station near Hamilton in Victoria. Could he tell the House whether the C.S.I.R.O. is going to participate in research at this station and, if so, in what kind of research will it participate?
– Yes, Sir, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will be interested in, and take part in, the work of the proposed research station near Hamilton. Actually, I think I am right in stating, a meeting is to take place in the near future between the Victorian Department of Agriculture and the C.S.I.R.O. to begin working out a programme of research. This matter was discussed between the late Sir Ian Clunies Ross and the Victorian Director of Agriculture some few years ago, and it was agreed that research work needed to be done in the western district of Victoria on pasture and animal problems. It has since been agreed, in discussion, that the part that the C.S.I.R.O. could most usefully play would be in investigations of plant ecology and pasture management, and nutritional matters connected with stock. That will be done, largely with the idea of evolving pasture plant and fodder crops that would add to the range of pasture available in the western district, and so increase the period of pasture growth there, with consequent nutritional benefits for stock. That is the broadest answer I can provide to a question asked without notice, but I shall obtain further details for the honorable gentleman, who, I know, is directly interested in this important matter in his electorate.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Primary Industry by saying that pineapple-growers are at present in a parlous state because overproduction and other factors have resulted in a ruinously low price. Is the Minister in a position to make a statement about the stabilization proposal which the pineapple industry has presented to him in an endeavour to avoid widespread disaster in the industry?
– The pineapple industry is essentially a one-state industry and operates under State legislation. The industry representatives have had a couple of interviews with me and we have discussed many aspects of this matter, but they have not yet presented a definite proposal for a stabilization scheme following the conferences.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to a recent statement by leading meat wholesalers in Sydney that Australia must decide quickly which is the more important - dollars or cheap beef in Australia? Is the Minister aware of the alarming increase in the price of beef to the Australian housewife, due to the export of beef to the United States of America? What action does this Government intend to take to protect Australian consumers?
– 1 have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable member. I do know of the worth of the beef industry to the Commonwealth of Australia and, more particularly, of the very good market that we have had in recent months for our third-grade meats. It has been an excellent market and has helped to build up our economy.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House when we will get the details of the increases and decreases which were mentioned in broad outline in the Budget Speech last night?
– I am not sure that I follow completely what the honorable gentleman has in mind. Any legislation that is required will be presented by individual Ministers. If the honorable member will indicate to me any particular subjectmatter on which he requires details I will either supply them myself or get them from the appropriate Minister. Perhaps he could have a discussion with me in some less formal atmosphere in which I could iron this out with him and see how much information I could supply to him and other interested members.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question in view of the statement which has been attributed to the Premier of South Australia that that State is prepared and anxious to start work immediately on rail standardization proposals on the Cockburn-Port Pirie line. Is the Commonwealth prepared to go on with the agreement which was ratified by this Parliament and which, according to the Premier of South Australia, his Government is propared to carry out, in the fullest sense? Does the Commonwealth want an alteration of the agreement? Does the Commonwealth wish to repudiate the agreement in part or in whole? Will the right honorable gentleman arrange for a statement to be made at an early date, and before the debate on the Estimates takes place, setting out the Government’s policy on the question of the standardization of the South Australian railways system?
– Since the honorable gentleman’s question appears, as I followed it, to involve a series of legal conclusions about the repudiation of contracts and so on, perhaps he will oblige me by putting it on the notice-paper.
– Has the Minister for the Army received the final reports dealing with the series of exercises conducted by 1 Brigade Group of the Australian Regular Army in north Queensland recently? Were these exercises successful in providing satisfactory training for the permanent Army group with some Citizen Military Forces personnel and some degree of Royal Australian Air Force co-operation? If so, could consideration be given to further large-scale exercises in the future, perhaps on a combined basis with the other services?
– It is not possible for me at question-time to go into too much detail on this matter, but I think it can be said in all truth that the brigade group exercises in Queensland were highly successful. I was delighted that so many honorable members saw fit to attend. They included not only supporters of the Government, but also members of the Opposition, who were very helpful. The exercise provided a magnificent opportunity for the training of the officers, non-commissioned officers and men. Unfortunately, because of illness, I was not able to spend more than one day at the exercises. However, I can say that the troops, who had been in very difficult country for about two months, were in fine fettle and high spirits. A feature of the exercises which impressed me was this: Although there were 900 or more vehicles in use on the day I attended the exercises, not one vehicle was out of commission thanks to the efficient field maintenance of the troops concerned.
In reply to the third question asked by the honorable member, I can say that these exercises will become an annual event. I cannot say now where the exercises will be held next year. I can also assure the House that the Army received the greatest possible co-operation from the Royal Australian Air Force in the exercises.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Works. Does the Department of Works contemplate issuing instructions that all urgent minor maintenance works up to the value of £25 are to be handed over to private contractors? If this is so, will it mean the dismissal of approximately 800 men, many of whom have had long service with the department?
– The honorable member has probably referred to a recent decision of the Government that maintenance by various government departments up to the value of £25 will be carried out by the departments themselves rather than by the Department of Works. That will involve some reduction in the Department of Works labour force, but I am not able to tell the honorable member the extent to which that reduction will affect New South Wales at present.
– My question to the Minister for Primary Industry is supplementary to the question that was asked by the honorable member for Wide Bay concerning a stabilization scheme for the pineapple industry put forward by the Queensland pineapple-growers. When the Minister is examining that scheme, will he make sure that New South Wales pineapplegrowers are given consideration?
– On the occasion of my first discussion with the representatives of the industry I suggested that if they intended to make an approach to me officially they should contact the New South Wales growers as to whether they were in agreement with the proposals. I might add that there is a committee, on which the growers have been working in conjunction with the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, which has been investigating a stabilization scheme for the industry. I do not know whether the growers propose to come to the Commonwealth Government with a scheme similar to that, or with an alternative scheme, and try to work through two governments at the same time. Perhaps they are trying to finalize arrangements with the State Government in the first instance.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. No doubt the right honorable gentleman is aware that the Olympic Games will be held in Rome in 1960. He will realize, of course, that a great deal of money is needed to send abroad an amateur team fully representative of Australia. Realizing these facts, and recognizing the desirability of assisting the people who are working so hard to raise the necessary funds to send our athletes overseas, will the Treasurer consider making all donations to the Olympic Games Fund deductible from income for the purposes of income tax?
– I am very conscious of the splendid advertisement for this country provided by our Australian athletes overseas. I shall examine carefully what is involved, in terms of policy, in the request put to me by the honorable member.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. In view of the regrettable omission from the list of budget concessions of any relief from sales tax on foodstuffs in general, will the Treasurer place foodstuffs, particularly ice cream and products containing dried fruits, right at the top of the list for next year?
– I think it is generally known that a very wide range of what might be regarded as basic foodstuffs is excluded from sales tax, and that this has been the case for many years.
– Not the kids’ ice cream!
– The kids are not the only people who eat ice cream in this country. There are many items used by people of junior age which are subject to taxation levied, not only by this Government, but also by the Government of which the honorable member for Melbourne was a distinguished member. I do know, however, that the items mentioned by the honorable member for McMillan are important items, and in the annual review which is made of all aspects of taxation the request that he has put forward in favour of some relief in this direction will not be ignored.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that on 27th February the Public Service Board approved a salary rise for Repatriation medical technologists, and that although a period of nearly six months has elapsed the recommendation has not been implemented? Will the right honorable gentleman see whether some action can be taken to implement the recommendation?
– I am not aware of the facts, but I will investigate the matter right away.
– Will the Treasurer supply to honorable members further particulars of the proposed alterations with regard to superannuation and defence forces retirement benefits?
– I will be pleased to examine the position and see how this can best be done. There will, of course, be a full explanation when the legislation comes forward, but if honorable gentlemen would like details before then, I will do my best to see that they are fully supplied.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Was the Minister present at the conference of the Australian Institute of Management in Canberra on Sunday last, when a policy was advocated involving the adoption by management in Australia of a plan for individual arrangements with employees, which would result in the destruction of trade union organizations in this country? Will the Minister have a look at the reports of the meeting in question, and make it clear to the Institute of Management and its members in Australia that the policy put forward by the delegate concerned, an American director of an, important company, is quite foreign to our Australian way of life, and is a policy that would not be tolerated by responsible government in Australia?
– I was not present last Sunday at the meeting of the Australian Institute of Management. I was doing something far more - or far less - interesting; I was playing my last game of golf before the House met. I did read the comments made by the United States businessman at the meeting. I can assure the honorable member that the views expressed by him are not those of the institute itself. They were the gentleman’s private views, and as a private individual he was perfectly entitled to express them.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of receipts and expenditure for year 1958-59, accompanied by the Report of the AuditorGeneral.
Ordered to be printed.
Mr. HAROLD HOLT (Higgins-
Treasurer). - I lay on the table the following paper: -
Statement for the year 1958-59 of Heads of Expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to Section 36a of the Audit Act 1901-1959 (Advance to the Treasurer).
That the Statement be taken into consideration in Committee of the whole House at the next sitting.
I have received a letter from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The failure of the Government to enlarge the authority controlling the Commonwealth Literary Fund into a Commonwealth Literary Commission, on the lines of the Canadian Literary Commission, with an annual grant of £100,000 a year, instead of £12,000 a year, so that adequate provision for scholarships, literary pensions and the sponsorship of publications of Australian writers can be made.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- The Opposition directs the attention of the House by means of this debate to the present position of Australian writers, artists and other persons engaged in literary activities. The Opposition realizes that honorable members have always been conscious of the necessity for the Government to support the infant writing industry in Australia. I am sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who is Chairman of the Commonwealth Literary Fund Committee, and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party, who are members of the committee, will agree with me that this is not a political issue but is an issue that must be faced up to sooner or later.
A great deal of literature is imported into this country from overseas. Australia probably imports more literature than any other country because of our late start in the literary sense and because Australia is a good market for literature of all kinds. This market has been enlarged with the advent of television in this country, because the Australian writer, for various reasons that we need not canvass at the moment, has been, if not actually excluded, certainly deprived of many opportunities that are available to writers in other countries. It would be foolish for any of us who are interested in literary affairs in this country to suggest that the great bulk of writing in Australia needs the assistance of a literary fund; but a great deal of it does need some fostering. Because of that, in 1932, or perhaps earlier, the then Prime Minister, Mr. James Scullin, inaugurated the Commonwealth Literary Fund. The set-up of the fund is rather odd in that a committee makes decisions and an expert body of advisers makes suggestions. The Opposition concedes that the fund has been useful in the past and has assisted some very fine works to be published. Most of the fellowships awarded of £5, £10, £12 or £20 a week on an ascending scale have resulted in the publication of first-class books, many of which have become best sellers. This is proof that it is necessary to assist certain authors so that they may get down to the job and complete the manuscript that they have submitted in skeleton form. So far, the Commonwealth Literary Fund, despite all its faults, has proved very useful. It has been watched over by the highest political sponsorship.
To-day Australia has a population of 10,000,000 and 150,000 new Australians are entering this country each year. With the growing recognition of Australian literature and the increasing sales of Australian books, our present sponsorship is of little value because the money provided by the fund is not enough. The £12,000 a year, which was useful in years gone by, is completely unrealistic to-day because the value of money has changed so sharply. The other dominions, particularly Canada, are very aware of the need to sponsor all forms of literature. Canada has entered into sponsorship of literature later than Australia and realizes that many worth-while books, studies and researches cannot obtain a market without government assistance. Canada is aware that her art is not as aggressive, let us say, or as prolific as Australian art either in literary form or in other forms such as pictures, sculpture and dancing. Canada has created a new fund to be administered by an organization called the Canadian Council. It is something like the British Council. 1 suggest that the sum of £100,000 should be set aside in Australia for a similar purpose. The Prime Minister, who has been gracious enough to remain in the House and listen to me, is vitally concerned with this matter because it affects a section of his department, and I suggest to him that we should create in this country an Australian Council. Canada has allocated 1,000,000 dollars for the assistance of writers, artists, sculptors and actors, the development of the theatre, awards to universities to provide diplomas in various branches of the arts which have been neglected in the past, fellowship awards, publishing sponsorship, the development of choral societies, investigation of folk lore, and research into the early history of Canada. I think that the Canadian model could well be followed by Australia.
Australian literature has been greatly assisted by the Commonwealth Government taking an interest in the development of Australian writers. Members of the fund committee receive copies of various kinds of works which could not possibly hope to reach the buying public but which are nevertheless of tremendous value. Research made by the Jesuits into the Arunta tribe is a masterpiece of codification of the aboriginal language. Work on Australian butterflies and spiders, and our flora and fauna, which does not sell readily, is nevertheless very valuable for reference. It is part of the background of Australia itself. Works on those matters have been fostered and published by the Commonwealth Literary Fund over the year.
We saw the sponsorship of books during World War II., when there was a shortage of newsprint and a whole series of little hand-books containing studies of Australian classics was printed. That had a great effect on the morale of the troops. Hundreds of thousands of those books were produced, sponsored, in the main, by the fund, and the men in the services were thereby enabled to obtain this form of reading matter. But, to-day, there has been a change in the Australian scene. If a visitor from outer space, or even some one from another country, were to arrive in Australia to-day, he would not be able immediately to state what makes Australia tick. He would not be able to get the essential and vital picture immediately. He would have to go searching for it and would need to undertake considerable research. We have had a great influx of new Australians, and there has been a considerable growth of the Australian community, and, with the money available in these days of prosperity, we should be able to afford much wider activity in this field.
We thank the Commonwealth Literary Fund for what it has done, but this wider work should be undertaken by a body of some other form. It could be a commission, something like the Repatriation Commission, receiving every year a standard vote of funds from the Treasury, and it could be left to the authorities - the writers, the sculptors, the choreographers and the other experts in various fields - who would be members of the commission or council, or whatever it may be termed, to deploy the funds as was seen fit. J do not think that this is properly a job only for a Prime Minister, a Leader of the Opposition, or others in public life who are earnestly interested in the development of Australian literature. It is a job for the experts who work day by day in the particular field of culture and who follow the trends and know what is doing. The present Commonwealth Literary Fund, which is administered by a committee, is not quite big enough to meet present needs. The membership of the committee is not broad enough, although the fund has done yeoman service in the past.
We find people who say, “Why give any assistance to writers? The writer ought to be almost a genius, or at least a good craftsman, and he can get by “. But that is an exploded theory. There are to-day no geniuses who die on the pallet bed for lack of recognition. But there are certain kinds of works that are not financially feasible because they are not acceptable to publishers, and for that reason the fine arts section of the community and the Parliament should evoke in the minds of the Australian people an interest in, and an understanding of, their literature and their traditions. So, I suggest, in raising this subject for discussion as a matter of urgent public importance, that we should go a little further in the things that we are doing in relation to the cultivation of the Australian novel and of the arts in Australia generally.
A few minutes ago, an honorable member suggested that we should do something about perpetuating the memory of Albert Namatjira. AH of these things press in on us. The vitality, the strength and the power of Australian culture have increased considerably over the years. In the postwar years especially, the increase has been tremendous. So, I think that, useful as it was in its day, the outmoded Commonwealth Literary Fund should be streamlined. The money that we are seeking is a small amount, because we are making a sincere application to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to have something done in this connexion. This is a subject that need not be unduly canvassed. It is something that, perhaps, could be over-canvassed. But, before concluding, I suggest to the Prime Minister that we in this Parliament, as a group of Australians, should seriously consider the development of Australian literature with a clear and practical view of what we are doing.
The first thing that we should realize is that the writer who, unaided, will make a big success - the natural genius with a practical bent for writing - does not enter into the plan. It is designed for those people who need some sort of help - those writers who are of a solitary nature and who need scholarships or some encouragement, and whose work can be published with the benefit of analysis by experts associated with the new Australian literary council, or whatever we care to call it. Those people would be a great forcing element in Australian literature. We have a big job ahead of us. We talk about our great financial gains, the increase in manpower and the influx of new people into this country, but, as a literary influence and a cultural force within the British Commonwealth of Nations, we have not told our story. We have not been able to tell it because of the pressures to which we hae been subjected day by day by the syndicated newspapers, the cheap books from overseas, and the splendidly written articles which have had wide circulation before reaching this country. With our small circulations and difficulties of publication, we run into trouble against these pressures. So it is a serious practical necessity, Mr. Speaker, that we have a literary body of the kind that I have described.
We should have sponsorship of literary works, and a proper oversight of these things. We should be able to do something about the publication lag in this country. Any practising writer will tell you that in Australia to-day it takes about twelve months to have a book published. If it deals with a topical subject, it stands in great peril of being out of date before it is printed. With the Commonwealth facilities for printing that we have, we ought to be able to sponsor creative works through an Australian literary council, or commission, or whatever it may be termed. We should be able to go into the business and break the bottle-neck in publishing in this country. There are many reasons why the Government should want to print in establishments other than its own printing office propaganda works or works on cultural aspects of Australian life. Publications of that kind could properly come within the scope of an Australian literary council. But the basic need is the same throughout, and it closely depends on the circumstance which I rose to explain: The money devoted to this work to-day is not enough to do the job.
We on this side of the House are very proud of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. The Australian Labour Party, by the very nature of its genesis, has a yearning for, and an understanding of, Australian writers. We have nurtured them and stood by them when their literature was laughed at - when it was considered bad form to produce something with an Australian background. It was a Prime Minister of great distinction who, seeing that, years ago brought this fund into being. Other Prime Ministers who followed - particularly Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley - and the present Leader of the Opposition, himself a historian of note, have followed that beam of enlightenment.
So, indeed, has the present Prime Minister, who, despite the busy time that he endures, has given careful thought to the development of literature in this country.
The first thing that we must disabuse our minds of is the idea that we shall be helping some one over a stile. We shall not be subsidizing some one in order to enable him to do better. We shall be trying to feed and put lifeblood into the infant of the writing game in this country. We shall be trying to give Australian writers the right to express their own thoughts, despite all these forces arrayed against them in the form of television programmes and syndicated publications from the outside world and the printing industry overseas. The Australian writer is in need of this assistance. It is not a question of saying, “We are going to foster or ‘ baby ‘ some other industry “. In this day and age, as we approach the close of the second century of our existence, we have to try to develop in this country a living, vital and vigorous Australian literature that can say about us the things that we want to say, not only to ourselves, but also to the rest of the world.
– Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has raised - and, to my knowledge, it has been raised for the first time - the question of a substantially increased grant to the Commonwealth Literary Fund. I have sat on the committee of that fund for many years. There has been ample opportunity for people, including our advisers, to say that more money was required. I do not recall that matter being raised. But 1 do not resent or resist the idea. As time goes by, we will probably need to spend more money; it depends entirely on the amount of work of the proper standing which comes forward, and on other considerations of that kind.
I think that perhaps I should correct the honorable gentleman on two matters. Chronologically, we may as well have this right. The Commonwealth Literary Fund was created in 1908 by Mr. Deakin, but it was created at that time primarily as a means of paying pensions to certain literary people. It was in 1938, if I am correctly reminded, that the late Mr. Scullin made a very powerful speech on it in this House. I remember it well, because I was at the time Attorney-General in the Lyons Government. As I have said, that was a very powerful speech, and it exercised a great deal of influence on the minds of all. I was strongly in accord with it myself, and the result was that the Government expanded the scope of the fund. As time has gone by, this scope has increased and the amount of money provided to the fund has increased correspondingly. It is not a vast amount of money. I should hate to think that we would have a government department of literature or a department of fine arts. Let us keep governments out of matters of that kind as far as we can. Art in all its forms is much too individual for regimentation. The committee advised by the advisory board, which has contained always a very good cross-section of writers, in fact has provided fellowships to certain people from whom it was thought that good and useful work might come if they had the means of livelihood for a year. The amount of the fellowship has increased from time to time until it now stands at, I think, £1,000.
In addition the fund, on the scrutinized advice of the advisory board, has supported from time to time the publication of new writings - sometimes in prose, sometimes in verse, sometimes in what I, in my oldfashioned state, would call completely incomprehensible verse. But still it has been done. The leading Australian publisher has been most co-operative in this matter and time after time has published works on a reasonably small guarantee by the fund and, on occasions, the guarantee has not been required.
Further, the fund has felt that it should secure the reprinting of some works which have become, in their fashion, classics in Australia and which were tending to disappear from the bookshelves because they were long since out of print. We have provided also pensions for people who have been figures in the literary history of the country. Those pensions to-day amount to £12,000 a year. I do not believe that we could spend usefully ten times that amount of money even if we had it to spend because the rules to be applied must be of a highly selective kind. It is not the function of a literary fund to promote the publication of the mediocre, the dull or the commonplace - it is the function of a literary fund to lend a hand to some man or woman of great talent or potential who, with a little encouragement with the fellowship and with some aid to print, may find a place in the literary history of Australia.
– For how long has the amount of the pension been £12,000 a year?
– Since 1953 or 1954. It has been altered upwards quite substantially in my own time. I do not wish to discuss here to-day, particularly hot on the Budget, whether the vote to the fund should be £12,000, £15,000 or £20,000- Those are not matters that need to be debated by the full House of this Parliament. I merely take the opportunity to point out that the fund, sometimes under great criticism from myself and perhaps from my distinguished friend, with some mental reservations, has done a good deal of extremely useful work.
The terms of the proposal before us refer to the Canadian Literary Commission. 1 think that the honorable member for Parkes will agree that that is not quite the correct description of that body. The fact is that there is a Canada Council but, before comparisons are instituted between that body and the Commonwealth Literary Fund, honorable members should recall that the council embraces a world of affairs quite outside the scope of any projected Australian body. For example, the Canada Council deals with university grants, the provision of scholarships and similar matters which we have dealt with - and dealt with in a most handsome manner - through other instrumentalities, in particular the Australian Universities Commission which has just been set up, and the committee which deals with Commonwealth scholarships. In other respects we have done things by separate instrumentalities which in Canada have been aggregated into the one body. For example, we assist financially the exhibition of Australian art in various countries. We have done that annually for some time. We make an annual subsidy to the Australian Humanities Council which plays a part - a very useful and valuable part - in the same field. In the case of the Historical Memorials Committee we do our best to enrich the House of Parliament and, in particular, the King’s Hall, with imperishable memorials to those who have held office as
Prime Minister, Speaker, and so on. A great deal of expenditure is involved.
– Who discriminates as to the imperishable memorials?
– I do not. The rules are laid down and my portrait is in King’s Hall because I am Prime Minister. That is the only reason why the portrait of the honorable member for Wilmot is not there.
– The Prime Minister is classified as an historical monument.
– -The honorable member is quite right. I am classified as an historical monument. I accept the honorable member’s remarks with as good grace as I can.
– The description is as good as any.
– The honorable member is quite right. I am rather attracted by the idea. Somebody may wish to have a memorial erected to me but not, I hope, too soon. Clearly this is not a controversial matter. I think that all honorable members feel that the work being done in these fields is very good and that we should not introduce a government agency or a government department into these activities of life to such an extent that literature becomes a kind of public enterprise; it is not, it never has been and never will be. We all feel that the work being done is useful work, but sometimes it gives rise to argument. Some person may say, “Why did he obtain a fellowship? “. Some other person may say, “Why did you publish that book? “ However, that will always be so while we are dealing with a matter of art which, in the last resort, is a matter of opinion, and opinions will differ.
As to whether the amount of money and the conditions ought to be varied from time to time in the future, all honorable members who have sat with me on the committee that administers, this fund will agree at once that I have been always completely open-minded on those points.
– I rise to speak briefly on this matter: I agree broadly with the description: of the activities of the fund which have, been given so frankly by the
Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The greatest point made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is that the activities of the committee should be extended. It is perfectly true that no specific demand for an increased allocation of money to cover all the fund’s activities has been made. However, as the Prime Minister will remember, cases have arisen when the money available, say, for the granting of assistance to literary magazines, has not been sufficient to cover all concerned. That is merely one illustration. As a whole, the work done by the committee is completely sound but I should welcome an extension of that work so that instead of selecting two or three out of a large number of applicants, the committee might do more. I do not think that the Prime Minister on consideration would disagree with that statement.
Excellent works have been produced through the assistance of the fund. It is perfectly true also that members of the committee have been subjected to criticism as a result of the selections that they have made but I do not think that they have been affected by such criticism. During meetings of the committee views are expressed quite frankly and the spirit exhibited always has been excellent. My colleague, the honorable member for Parkes, is passionately devoted to the problem as a whole and has always supported such movements as the Commonwealth Literary Fund, believing, as an Australian author, that there are cases in which assistance would result in publication of most valuable material which would not otherwise be published, without some delay.
I do not want to confuse what I am now saying with the administration of the fund. My colleague has referred to it and, on the whole, has paid a tribute to its administration. I hold my place on the committee simply because I am the leader of one of the three parties. I feel that it has worked in an excellent way and that everything has been done frankly. However, I should like to see. still more done because I cannot believe that the proposed works selected would cover the field. I feel that it is important to ensure that no Australian publication of real merit is excluded. Of course, if that principle were adopted, as
I think it should be, an increase in the fund would be needed. I do not wish to discuss the question of amount, but I think the spirit of the proposal of the honorable member for Parkes is sound, lt can be implemented and I believe that it should and will be implemented in due course. I congratulate him on bringing the matter forward for debate.
– I have listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). It is quite clear that this is not a question about which some political disputation arises, and I hope, therefore, that it is possible to discuss this matter with some degree of objectivity and impartiality. Speaking for myself, I would admit to some prima facie sympathy for the ideas expressed by the honorable member for Parkes, who initiated this debate. That, I should imagine, would also apply to many members on both sides of the House.
However, I do think, Sir, that a National Parliament such as this must realize that in discussing what we can do for the cause not only of literature but of the arts generally, there must inevitably be some limitation placed upon us as to what we are either willing to do or what public policy demands we should be willing to do. Otherwise, if, as the honorable member for Parkes suggests, we are to take the figure of Canada or some other country and snatch some quite large sum out of the air, we will have the prospect, unless we think carefully, of illimitable budgetary items in this field stretching out into a future which, of course, not many of us can see. We must ask ourselves where a Parliament of this nature must stop. If, for example, we agree with the honorable member for Parkes that we should increase very considerably the present literary grant and make it £100,000, unless I am much mistaken there would be an insistent demand by painters and artists for a similar subvention for painting and sculpture, and a great demand by architects - and, of course, architecture is a very important field of the arts. Likewise, Sir, there would be a loud demand by musicians. Moreover, it would be quite logical to argue that, if the National Parliament is prepared to do this for the whole ramification of the arts, then considerably more should be done for the scientists.
All I ask, I hope in a very moderate way, is that we should be deliberative and cautious in our approach and that we should be careful in not necessarily accepting the arguments of the honorable member for Parkes at first blush. In other words, we should have a good look at where we are going with a principle of this nature. I suggest that we should consider these questions: First, should in principle an increasing degree of public money be spent in these fields by the Government, and, secondly, is such expenditure likely to stimulate the cause of art? To my way of thinking the ultimate criterion is: How can the arts in general best be promoted? Quite frankly, I feel that it is very doubtful whether a real upsurge of better writing by local literary men would be forthcoming if the arguments of honorable members opposite were accepted without some qualification.
I have no doubt that our literary standards will develop and will increase most remarkably, but I feel that this will come by a series of natural processes. We are all aware, of course, in this rapidly expanding period of our national being, of our developing and somewhat changing national characteristics. We are aware, also, that we are evolving quite noticeably in our own channels towards the creation of a more peculiarly Australian idiom. The honorable member for Parkes has referred very properly, if I may say so, to the effect of the 1,000,000 and more new settlers who have made their homes with us since 1946. I emphasize that, Sir, by referring to those who have come most noticeably from the European continent. Their influence can be seen already in the whole field of painting, and I believe that, as time goes on, it will be seen in literature. Unless I am much mistaken, the next ten or fifteen years will produce some very interesting outpourings of spirit and emotion in those fields. But I would suggest to the House that this will happen irrespective of Government grants or of what this Parliament decides to do in a matter of this nature. I believe that Australia in her own time will inevitably produce a distinctive series of writers, just as she has already given the world over the last 100 years painters and sculptors of international repute.
One way in which a government can help this cause of art, to which the honorable member for Parkes and I are, in our own ways, devoted, is by ensuring a prosperous national economy. The history of the past 100 years of Great Britain and the principal countries of Western Europe shows that periods of national prosperity affected noticeably the artistic endeavours of their peoples. Let me give the House one or two examples. I ask honorable members to cast their minds back to the great efflorescence of painting in Holland in the seventeenth century - a period of quite remarkable greatness for the Dutch nation. Look back to the records of our own “British forebears in the Old World and we see what happened in the field of literature in Elizabethan and early Stuart England. A century or so later we see the superb flowering of writing and painting in the Britain, great and prosperous as she was then, of the eighteenth century, and later in the nineteenth century - although I think the right honorable gentleman opposite and I agree that we may not like the painting in England of the late nineteenth century.
We could take other examples - the rise to power of Venice, and the fine painters she produced such as Titian in the glory of the Venetian republic. Again, there were the French artists and writers in the reigns of Louis XIV. and Louis XV. in the -seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
No one can truthfully gainsay the fact that Australia has been prosperous in the last ten years, and I believe, on present indications and under the wise leadership which this Government will give, that this will continue. I say to the House that the maintenance of a stable, a flourishing and a progressive economy will, in itself, just as effect follows cause, provide the foundations which the Opposition desires. As the Prime Minister has indicated, there is nothing necessarily absolute in the sums which have been indicated-
– Order! The honorable Minister’s time has expired.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the functions of the Commonwealth Literary Fund, as outlined in the document which I have in my possession, are fourfold. They are -
All this has to be done on £12,000 a year! How can we award fellowships to writers of merit on £12,000 a year if they have to compete with all the other persons who are to benefit under the other purposes of the fund? How can we reprint manuscripts? How can we grant pensions out of this magnificent total of £12,000 a year? On a number of occasions I have said that if I could only do so, I would have every thesis submitted to every university in Australia for a master of arts or a doctor’s degree, printed and circulated. These theses are the products of great labour and research conducted by young minds anxious to contribute something to the thought of the community. But most of the manuscripts presented to Australian universities for any degree are buried away in vaults and possibly will never be printed. A former colleague, Dr. A. Grenfell Price, whom we knew here from 1940 to 1943, has written a very fine article on the Commonwealth Literary Fund. In it he said -
The Government provides the fund with an income of £12,000 a year of which a maximum of £6,000 is used to assist some thirty literary persons or the dependants of literary persons who require help, and the remaining £6,000 is used to advance literature in a number of fields.
So, we have 30 distinguished writers to whom we give £200 a year each, and seem to think that they are adequately requited for their splendid services to this nation!
This subject has been raised by the Opposition to-day because of the fact that within recent weeks Vance Palmer died - and, I think, in not too affluent circumstances - and so has Albert Namatjira. I am afraid they might both be quickly forgotten by a community which will certainly benefit from their contributions to letters and to art. I read a speech delivered last year by Adlai Stevenson, former governor of the United States of America, which was a magnificent piece of satire. In it he said that we try to defeat the godless materialism of the Russians with a more godly materialism of our own. The operative word is “ materialism “. He indicted us all for not thinking of the things of the spirit or’ the things of the mind. How can we possibly continue even to pretend to fulfil the functions of the Commonwealth Literary Fund unless we increase the amount substantially? The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who, in his own way, has made his contribution to Australian literature does not pretend that it is in the same class as that of Vance Palmer or Mary Gilmour, or Ernestine Hill, or Eleanor Dark, or of the earlier writers such as Lawson or Sorenson, or the rest, but at least he has made his own worthwhile contribution, and he knows how people I have mentioned feel, and how they have had to struggle for a living. I am mot attempting in any way to depreciate the qualities of my colleague, but, fortunately, he is much better circumstanced than they are. I hope he will long continue in that state.
The Canadian Government had, I Relieve, the foresight to appoint a commission under the chairmanship of a former Governor-General, Mr. Vincent Massey, and that body, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, inquired into all sorts of things. It brought down a splendid report in two substantial volumes. We at least ought to make a similar inquiry into Australian literature. I am not unmindful of the work of the Murray commission in respect of universities, or that by virtue of our constitutional powers we can grant scholarships to students to go through our universities, but even though the Murray commission covered some of the work which the Massey commission covered in respect of Canada, we can do a lot in Australia to help the arts and the sciences much more than we have been doing.
The literary fund is subsidizing two publications, one called “ Meanjin “ - which has raised the ire of the honorable mem ber for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), whom I hope I will not stir up too much today, on occasions - and another called “ Southerly “. There are a number of other Australian publications which ought to be assisted. I think of one called “ Overland “, which makes its own contribution to letters. I am not denying that the Commonwealth Literary Fund has assisted quite a number of people over the years, and as I speak I remember having read some of the works of Frederick McCartney, such as his essays on Australian literature. I have read also the splendid volume on Furnley Morris - which was the pen name of the late Frank Wilmot, whom I knew - which McCartney also wrote. That, too, was a worth-while project.
But how can we continue to do all we should do on £12,000 a year? The rate at which value is oozing out of the £1 necessitates a much higher grant than was in operation in 1949. In recent years, there has been no increase, so far as I can recollect - I could be wrong there - in respect of the sums available to the Commonwealth Literary Fund, and £100,000 is surely not enough to do all the things which the fund is intended to do and ought to do. I think we could spend £100,000 on encouraging the development and appreciation of Australian literature alone.
My friend the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) has spoken about an Australian idiom. The honorable member for Parkes also spoke about an Australian idiom. We ought to have an Australian idiom just as we have an Australian flag. We are Australians. We are not imitations ©f anybody else, and we ought to give expression to our own personality. We certainly ought to award fellowships to writers of merit - and there are quite a number of them in Australia. But those writers just cannot exist to-day if they devote themselves entirely to their creative art. They have to work at something else, and many of them have to work for a very small wage.
– There are only six fellowships awarded each year.
– As my honorable friend says, funds are so limited that the
Commonwealth Literary Fund can award only six fellowships a year and maintain only 30 prominent established worthwhile writers in their declining years. I think that there is nothing so pathetic as to see men of distinction, whether their service was in politics, art, science or the professions, being forced in their declining days to reduce their living standards to little above those of the most impoverished of the people. I know that that is the condition of quite a number of Australian artists and writers to-day.
So this debate, which has been conducted on non-party lines, can be of some value if it persuades the Government to have a look at the existing situation, and to make some inquiry, if necessary by a committee of this House, or by a joint committee of the Parliament - that is one function that a committee of the Parliament could usefully fulfil - so that recommendations could be considered in due course by the Government and later by the Parliament.
I assert, with my colleague, that £12,000 a year is certainly not enough, and I would urge that the splendid objectives which are set out as the purposes of the Commonwealth Literary Fund, which I have quoted, should be pursued with more vigour than has been the case in recent times. I know that it is a good thing to depict, and preserve for posterity in oils, the features of former Prime Ministers, former Speakers, and other people; but those paintings can be seen only by the few. It is the works of literature and of general art that are going to have much more influence upon the younger people of the nation. So I commend the proposal submitted to the House for discussion by the honorable member for Parkes. Even if we do not reach a final decision on the matter to-day, I hope that this will not be the last that will be heard on the subject matter of the honorable gentleman’s proposal and the arguments advanced in favour of it.
.- We have heard some thoughtful contributions on this subject of assistance to writers, but I feel that we should first make sure of just what it is we are arguing about. The proposal for discussion submitted by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) would imply that, first, the Government has been approached to enlarge this fund, or to enlarge the sphere of assistance to the arts generally, and has failed to do so, with the result that the suggestion is now made that we should operate along the lines of the Canada Council. In the first place, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that no one has asked for the amount to be increased. The question, then, is whether it is fitting that a proposal for a discussion on a matter of urgent public importance should be placed before this House, even when it deals with such an interesting and important subject, when the committee with which the proposal deals has not yet been asked to increase the amount of money it disburses. Surely the first essential when dealing with such a matter as this is to ask that the amount be increased, and then, if it is not increased - and then only - for any honorable members who think it should be increased to ask for the increase to be made.
So my first observation is that, as no increase has been asked for, this discussion initiated by the honorable member for Parkes is ill-timed.
– It has been asked for. Have a look at the minutes of the advisory board. Its members have asked for an increase time and time again. When I was on the advisory board I moved that the amount be increased.
– I am relying on the statement by the Prime Minister, which I took down, that nobody had asked for the amount to be increased. The point I wish to make is that we have arrived at a confusion of thought if we ask that the amount be increased to something like the amount disbursed by the Canada Council, because, as the Prime Minister pointed out, the functions of the Canada Council are much wider than those of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. They embrace many spheres. If the amount that is made available were increased, and if the scheme were broadened to embrace a multitude of activities, we would be doing something entirely different from merely helping writers by the provision of scholarships, literary pensions and sponsorship of publication. I suggest, therefore, that the honorable member for Parkes - and I must say that he has made some very thoughtful contributions to the debate - has confused the idea of a multiplicity of help, as in the case of the Canada Council, with the idea of increasing the assistance given to writers alone in Australia.
I propose to enunciate briefly two propositions. The first is that the honorable member for Parkes and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) are not alone in their wish that the production of literature by Australians should be helped. That wish resides in the heart of all good Australians. But I suggest that one of the examples that was given by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was scarcely apt. He pointed out that Albert Namatjira had just died. I understand that in a comparatively short space of time Albert Namatjira earned £70,000 from his paintings. I do not know whether the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wished to contend that the Government should have given Albert Namatjira money over and above the £70,000 that he earned or whether, Namatjira having earned that money and, unfortunately, I understand, being unable to retain most of it, some steps should be taken to help his dependants. We all feel extremely sorry about the death of Albert Namatjira while he was a comparatively young man, and we hope that the genius which we believe has been blossoming in his sons will come to full fruit; but I believe that the example chosen by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was scarcely apt, because it can hardly be said that Albert Namatjira’s experience demonstrates that he met any difficulty in earning money from the great contribution that he made to art, because he was able to earn a lot of money.
I will not say that Keats would have remained alive until he reached old age had he been given a- government grant, instead of dying young. I will not say that Lord Byron would have been distracted any further by female adulation had he been given a government grant. I believe that genius is a thing that will blossom in spite of all difficulties. Charles Chaplin has given good evidence of that. I believe also - and here I disagree with one of the other speakers in this debate - that the paintings that grace King’s Hall in this building will remain as monuments to the great skill of our Australian artists long after many of the subjects are forgotten.
We must get down to the issue. As I see it, the issue - and this is not the issue raised by the honorable member for Parkes - is whether we are sympathetic towards Australian writers. The answer, of course, must be that we are. I believe that if the appropriate steps are taken in the appropriate place then, just as the grant has been raised in the past, so it will be raised again after appropriate consideration. But it is wrong to confuse the issue by mentioning the Canada Council and pretending that merely by offering a lot of extra money we will get Australian writers who will enshrine for immortality the precious jewels of their thought. That is a wrong conception of what moves a great artist. It did not take a lot of money during the Renaissance to produce writers. It did not take a great deal of extra money from governments during the Renaissance to enable artists to give of their best. The Renaissance was an age in which genius blossomed. Irrespective of what payments are made at any time, I believe strongly that it will not make any difference to the outpourings of genius. I agree, however, that if our writers get more assistance the literary climate of Australia will be helped. I believe that if, in future, greater assistance is given to our writers, when the circumstances make this possible and after due application by those concerned, our Australian writers will not let Australia down. But I will not have it that if we raise the contribution to Australian writers from £12,000 to £100,000 a year we shall get eight and a half times more genius poured out in the literature of our country.
.- The Opposition’s case this afternoon is that the £12,000 which has been made available to the Commonwealth Literary Fund is totally inadequate for the assistance and development of Australian arts. Only £12,000 out of a total budget of £1,400,000,000! That seems to me to give some indication of the priority that this Government gives to expenditure of this kind.
In answer to the case submitted by the Opposition, a number of points have been raised several times on behalf of the Government. The case submitted by the Opposition is that in Australia at the present time the state of the arts is deplorable. I was present at a meeting in Melbourne a fortnight ago which was attended by 250 leading people in the arts in Victoria. I heard fifteen speakers during that evening. Every one of them agreed that, with one or two small exceptions, the condition of the arts in Australia was unsatisfactory and deplorable. These people formed themselves into what they call the “ Council for an Arts Inquiry “, emphasizing the need for an inquiry and the need for Australia, particularly Australian governments, to wake up to the deficiencies in the arts.
If the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) think that nothing has been asked for in this field they are sadly mistaken. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who was a member of the advisory board has said that on many occasions requests came for increases and that he himself fought for increases. He said that these views had been put many times before the Commonwealth Literary Fund Committee.
If the Government thinks that more money is not going to be asked for it will be sadly disappointed. All over Australia in the course of the next few months, activity will take place to get an inquiry into this matter. Repeated requests will be made for specific amounts for specific purposes. It is all very well to say that genius will come out in any case. The genius of the past has often been restricted by economic conditions. It is totally false to say that the arts were not subsidized during the Renaissance and in other periods. The honorable member for Wide Bay might not know it, but most of the people who were famous during the Renaissance were patronized by the governments of their day most extensively. They were people who lived in comfort and in wealth.
In Australia, we have a peculiar situation, We have a very limited market for most of the arts. There are no more than three musicians in Australia who maintain themselves by writing music. There are probably no more than three or four painters and writers who do nothing else but paint or write for their living. Regardless of the proportion of the Australian people who are prepared to support the arts, they are not numerous enough to provide a market which will encourage artists to develop. Australian arts are an infant industry. Even the giant industries of today such as the iron and steel industry and the chemical industry, were assisted in their time. If it was good enough for the Australian Government to pour out money and provide tariff assistance for the iron and steel industry, the chemical industry, and the motor car industry, it is good enough for the Government to assist the arts. The greatest infant industry in Australia to-day, and the most neglected, is fine arts.
It is not sufficient for the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) to say that no assistance is required. Would he make the same statement about immigration? Would he make the same statement about Australian secondary industries? Of course not. He has supported government aid in all these respects. Why cannot the same principle be applied to the arts?
Just how seriously does the Government take this matter? The Prime Minister rose slowly to his feet, a monument of the past, and said that, as time goes by, more money will be provided. That should be the theme song of the Prime Minister - “ As Time Goes By “. The Minister for Immigration, whom I think has greater alacrity of spirit in this field than his leader, approached the issue from this point of view: He said that some limitation must be placed upon grants. He is concerned with limitations. He asked, “ Where will Parliament stop? “. I say, “ Where will Parliament start? “ Let us think of where we are to start and what we are to do. Do not let us start from the proposition of the Minister for Immigration - “Let us think of where we are going to stop. It will be terrible if we go too far; we must approach this with caution “.
Then the Minister raised the question of whether expenditure is likely to stimulate the arts. He said, that there was real doubt that there would be any upsurge of writing. But we have writers and painters now. We should regard them for what they are doing. We should create a situation in which they can give the greater part of their time or their full time to their work. It is not enough, as the Minister suggested, merely to create a condition of economic prosperity. He referred to England under the Tudors and the Stuarts and in the eighteenth century and in the nineteenth century. Prosperity was very limited in England in those days. There was great poverty for the greater part of the people of England. The eighteenth century which produced some great artists also produced the gin palaces. The writings of those days were not about prosperity and the great national predominance of a small section of the community. The great writings of those days were the writings of people like Milton who were concerned about the great social and constitutional problems that existed. They were not stimulated by what the Minister for Immigration chose to call national prosperity.
The great characteristic of national prosperity to-day is the creation of less and less essential wants by advertising and their supply by things like hire purchase, and the neglect of the more basic and fundamentally objective needs of the community. Amongst those needs that are neglected, apart from material things like housing, are education, the arts and culture. This is one of the most uncultured societies in world history, in proportion to the economic resources it enjoys. It is the great deficiency of socalled full employment prosperity to-day.
The case against the proposition made by the Minister for Immigration is overwhelming. These things are sadly neglected to-day and they will not be met simply by a condition of overall prosperity in which we are concerned with aggregates of income and aggregates of employment and are not concerned at all with what happens inside those aggregates.
So it seems to me that the case made by the honorable member for Parkes remains substantially unanswered. Is £1 2,000 sufficient? It concerns only literature. What about the rest of the arts? The comparison with Canada’s council might not be valid in its entirety because the council does other things, but at least it attends to paintings, sculpture and architecture. It is not confined, as is the Australian Literary Fund, to writing. One of the main points that has been made quite clearly is this: Not only is this fund inadequate in the sense of providing only £12,000 a year from a national income of more than £5,000,000,000 and in a Budget of over £1,400,000,000. It is not only totally inadequate from the stand-point of money but also because it is confined to literature.
At the meeting to which I have referred, a statement was made by Mr. Robin Boyd that of all the buildings erected in Australia in any one year, fewer than 5 per cent, were erected with the advice of an architect. We know that architects generally have satisfactory incomes. I think it was reported at an inquiry conducted by the University of Melbourne that the expected income of architects was over £4,000, but Mr. Boyd went on to point out that although architects are perhaps in a satisfactory financial position considering that they have only 5 per cent, of buildings on which to work, Sweden has a law which requires at least 1 per cent, of all expenditure made upon buildings, private and public, to be devoted to sculpture. That means that sculpture must be included in the design. Mr. Robin Boyd was able to point out that in Australia that happens only in isolated cases.
Australia has been known for a century and a half as one of the most uncultured countries in the world. It is time we realized that unless we are prepared to take the initiative, and start something as we have for the giants in secondary industry, and are less concerned about where we are to stop, Australia will remain in its present position culturally for some time to come.
.- I noticed that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) left the chamber when the last speaker, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) rose. He had said, by way of interjection, to the previous speaker, “ Don’t be doleful “, and no doubt he knew that we would hear a doleful speech from the honorable member for Yarra. We have come to expect the honorable member to say that Australia is the worst country in the world. It is always the worst, no matter what subject the honorable member for Yarra is discussing.
– His criticism is always constructive.
– Apparently the honorable member’s criticism is supported by another honorable member on the Opposition side who also thinks Australia is the worst country in the world! Unfortunately, that view is expressed far too often from the Opposition benches and no doubt that is one of the reasons why honorable members opposite have been in opposition for so long.
– Cheer up!
– I shall cheer up the House be referring to a speech that was made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in 1950. I should like to congratulate the honorable member on his change of viewpoint. It was indeed good news to hear him say to-day that the Commonwealth Literary Fund had done yeoman service and also that it is watched over by the highest political sponsors.
– That was only come on stuff. The honorable member did not fall for that, did he?
– Well, I do not know, lt is questionable whether the honorable member for Parkes is ever sincere or whether he always speaks with his tongue in his cheek.
– Don’t be hard!
– The honorable member made a statement to-day which is diametrically opposed to what he said in 1950. That is why I have made that remark. Apparently, the honorable member is like the boy in the Mark Twain story who, on coming of age, said that when he was 12 years old, he thought his father knew nothing. It was amazing, he said, how much his father had learnt in the past nine years. In the nine years since 1950, the honorable member for Parkes has apparently learnt a great deal because on 6th December, 1950, he said -
Unfortunately, the provision of Commonwealth funds has not resulted so far in stimulating very greatly either the quality or the quantity of worthwhile Australian contemporary literature.
That is quite the opposite of what the honorable member said to-day. I was glad to hear his more recent statement and T trust that, despite his interjection, he was sincere.
– It improves. It keeps on keeping on, you know!
– In 1950, the honorable member for Parkes said also that the scheme fell down- because, in many instances, the political experts reject the advice of the literary experts.
To-day, the honorable member said the fund was watched over by the highest political sponsors, and he referred in glowing terms to Mr. Curtin, Mr. Chifley and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in that capacity, whereas in 1950 he said that the advisory board had been frustrated - because the attitude adopted towards it by the last three Prime Ministers has not always been helpful . . .
Again, that is exactly the opposite to what the honorable member said to-day. In 1950, he said also -
I do not think that under the present scheme the Government is getting value for the money that it is expending.
At that stage, the Government was expending not £12,000 a year, but only £8,000 a year. Since those are the views of the honorable member, it amazed me to hear him say, by way of interjection, that he had frequently advised this body to try to get more money. If the views he expressed then were sincere, one would have thought that he would have clamped down on the board getting more money instead of wanting it to get more. What the Prime Minister said was quite true. Until this subject was raised as a matter of urgency to-day, he had heard no suggestion that £12,000 was not sufficient.
During this debate, we have heard a lot in the nature of flashing generalization. Generalities were flashed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Yarra, but whether or not they made out a case for the expenditure of a sum of £100,000 is open to the utmost doubt. No figures were supplied by speakers on the Opposition side. Nothing at all was- said about the huge sums that are made from writing books, and not merely from writing them, but also from the royalties from screen and television performances, and so on. Though writers happen to be hard up at some stage of their lives, as Edgar Wallace was, that is often a case of easy come, easy go. These matters have to be dealt with in due proportion. It is also open to citizens, as members of the community, to form their committees and encourage the arts and literature.
This field is not wide open for governments. There are many more important fields for governments. The function of government, however, I believe, is to provide a just amount for the encouragement of the arts and literature, and the question of what is a just amount is not answered merely by plucking a figure out of the air. One cannot say, “We want £100,000”, without giving some justification for it. The Prime Minister has had nothing put to him before to-day to suggest that the amount of £12,000 is not sufficient for this purpose. Even this afternoon no figures have been put before him to indicate that a greater amount is necessary. I have not the slightest doubt that if k can be shown that a more substantial grant should be made, the Prime Minister will see that such a grant is made.
That is the position as I see it. This is a worth-while discussion in the sense that it directs the attention of the Parliament and of the Government to an important matter. Unfortunately, however, it was proposed by the honorable member for Parkes, and what the honorable member has said in the past about the fund, its efforts and the waste of money associated with it makes one feel that the question needs a good deal more examination than apparently has been given to it by the honorable member.
.- I fully support the sentiments expressed this afternoon by my colleague, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), in proposing that this matter of urgent public importance should be discussed by the House. I support also the comments made by other honorable members on this side of the chamber. At least the Government will not be able to say in the future that there has been no agitation for an increase in the amount of money provided for the Commonwealth Literary Fund.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) appears to have risen this afternoon for one purpose only - to attack the honorable member for Parkes. He made no worth-while contribution to the debate. Let me point out to the honorable member that the statement made by my colleague in 1950 had reference to a definite political trend in this country at that time. Various writers at that period told the honorable member that political pressure had been brought to bear on them through the Commonwealth Literary Fund. This was the period which has become known in this Parliament as the “ grouper “ era. There were six or seven members of this Parliament who called themselves the AntiCommunist Labour Party. This was the group that attacked writers who had been assisted by the Literary Fund. The honorable member for Parkes was merely stating his case in the House at that time. Any advance in thinking by the honorable member is to be commended. I venture to suggest that if one were to read a speech made by the honorable member for Balaclava when he first came to this Parliament, and another speech made by him at the present time, one would detect no change whatsoever in his attitude.
We on this side of the House do not suggest that the Government should dominate the literary field. We do not wish to see Government interference and Government monopoly of sponsorship such as are evident in Russia. We do not want to set up a . government department to ensure that people will write to a bureaucratic pattern or will write only what the Government dictates. We want this fund to be free from political interference of any kind, whether from the left, the right, or the centre. We simply want the potential writers of this country to get a go, to get a start, to be encouraged and assisted, to put the matter in the simplest language possible. I feel that this fund is meant primarily to encourage Australian literature.
The Prime Minister to-day acknowledged the possible justification for a review of the Government contribution to the fund. By way of interjection - and I was not ruled out of order - I asked him when the amount of £12,000 was decided upon as the Government’s contribution. He said that it was in about 1953. This means that during the past six years the figure has not been changed in any way. Surely it is not unreasonable to suggest that the amount should, perhaps, be doubled for the next year or two, and further increased after that. My interpretation of the Prime Minister’s statement to-day leads me to believe that he is not averse to increasing the amount of £12,000 in order to help the writers of Australia. I would be very surprised if the Prime Minister were opposed to such a move, because I know of his interest in literature and the arts. One thing that we probably have in common in this Parliament, no matter what party we belong to, is a desire, to see the very best literature and art produced in Australia.
In six years money values have declined, and the population has greatly increased. As the honorable member for Parkes said, we have brought 1,200,000 immigrants to Australia. In view of these two factors alone, it is quite unrealistic to suggest that the amount of assistance to the fund should remain at £12,000.
Literature is, to my mind, a nation’s heartbeat. It represents a nation’s introduction to other nations. It reflects a nation’s greatness or its smallness and meanness. It is the measure of a nation’s growth. It is a weapon in the war on ignorance and insularity. It is a mighty instrument in the battle of ideas in this ideological war that is being waged for the minds of men. We should encourage the production of the best possible literature in Australia, and one way to do so is by increasing the amount made available for the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Literature and art can be a measure either of a nation’s decadence or of its progress. Some of the stuff that is coming from America at the moment leads me to the firm conclusion that that nation is going through a period of decadence. I have made similar remarks before in this place.
Of course, the mere payment ot money to a person does not make him an artist. Unless a person’s thought and character are sound, unselfconscious and motivated by decency and goodness, all the money in the world cannot make him a great constructive artist, and especially a great writer. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”, Christ said that. You cannot write other than as you are. You cannot be a different person in your books from what you are in everyday life. Therefore, all the money in the world will not make an artist unless he has something inside him in the first place. Australian literature has a wonderful record for cleanness and decency, for rugged grandeur and sweeping horizons. There is a freshness, a spirit, a decency, a wholesomeness and a tone about our literature such as are not found in other countries - and I have read the literature of all countries.
-“ They’re A Weird Mob “!
– Apart from that, they merit and deserve government financial assistance. There are some very fine contemporary writers in this country. Vance Palmer has just passed on, to our great regret. He was an outstanding literary man. He was chairman of the Literary Fund for a long time. His wife Nettie Palmer is an authoress. Then there is Frank Clune, who wrote “The Viking of Van Diemen’s Land “, a really great historical book, which was written in conjunction with Mr. Stephenson. It was the story of Jorgen Jorgensen of Tasmania. “ 1 Can Jump Puddles “, written by Alan Marshall, is one of the finest pieces of literature ever to come out of this country. “ Sara Dane “, written by Catherine Gaskin, is a magnificent story of early Australia. “ My Love Must Wait “, written by Ernestine Hill, is a great piece of Australian literature. Other great Australian writers include Ion Idriess, E. V. Timms, William Hatfield, P. B. Stephenson, Gavin Casey, D’Arcy Niland, Dymphna Cusack, Jon Cleary, Katharine Prichard, Ray Lawler, who wrote “ Summer of the Seventeenth Doll “, and Les Haylen, who wrote, amongst others, “Blood on the Wattle”, and Dr. H. V. Evatt with his “ Australian Labour Leader “, &c. Australia has a fine galaxy of writers, many of whom have been assisted by this fund. Let us not, by our meanness or by political disagreement, in any way hinder this fund from rendering increasing assistance to those people.
– Which of those writers were subsidized?
– I do not know, but any subsidies that were given to those writers would have been well-deserved. There are countless short story writers and specialist writers who need assistance to write the specialized books that the general public may not read to a great extent. They arc the people who deserve assistance - especially writers of historical, technical and original literature. It must be heartbreaking work to write books for a living. It entails months of discipline and sheer hard labour. If the Government, through this fund, can help and encourage our writers, it will be doing something for Australia that will return dividends for many years to come.
. - I find myself in complete agreement with a good deal of what has been said this afternoon. We should be doing more to support the Australian writer and in the course of my speech I hope to make at least one substantive suggestion in that regard. I do not agree with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) that everything in Australian art is deplorable. I do not agree entirely with the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) that everything in the garden is lovely; but I do feel that “whilst art cannot be produced simply by ^providing finance, nevertheless the provision -of adequate financial resources is desirable. I think that something more should be done in that direction, and I think the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) holds a similar view.
In the past, the Commonwealth Literary Fund has been forced, by reason of the ceiling on its financial resources, to exclude from its operations works that deserved support. It is, of course, undesirable that literary patronage should be in the hands entirely of the government. It is better that it be in private hands, I think, for reasons that were submitted by the honorable member for Wilmot. We in this country do not want the kind of thing that happens in Russia, where only works that are in conformity with the purposes of the state - with the narrow party doctrine - can obtain financial support and publication. For example* we know what has happened in Russia, where artists, literary and otherwise, have found it impossible to get their works published unless they conform to the rigid state line. Art, after all, must be variegated. The person who is not in conformity with the accepted outlook must have an opportunity to present his point of view, his interpretation of realities. For that reason it is desirable that the state or the government should not be the sole or principal patron of art. But having said that, I must add that there is still a place for the government in the field of art, and I feel, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) feels, that the ambit of this fund might well and profitably be extended.
I wish to refer particularly to a periodical named “ Quadrant “. This is a periodical in the international field. It is achieving a recognition that no other Australian periodical has yet achieved. Overseas, it is getting a greater measure of recognition among people who are in the literary field than any other Australian periodical. It is in financial difficulties. It has been refused a subsidy by the Commonwealth Literary Fund. I do not know why. The first observation that I make is that the operations of the fund are too secret. I feel that not only the decisions of the fund but also the reasons for those decisions, together with some account of the unsuccessful applications to that fund and the reasons why they have been refused - not for publication necessarily but for the information of honorable members - should be placed on the table of the Library for the information of honorable members. In the case of “ Quadrant “, so far as I can ascertain the facts - and I make the reservation that the full facts are not available to me - it appears to me that a grave injustice has been perpetrated by the fund. I should like to know what are the facts. I should like to see all the papers concerning this matter. After all, honorable members are in a sense responsible for the administration of this fund because they vote the money for it, and they should have access to the facts of the fund’s operations. I do not believe that the fund should be simply a fund to subsidize conformity. Opportunities should be given to persons who are not getting universal approval,- to put forward their point of view. I should like to know more about what this fund is doing. That is the first constructive suggestion that I make, and I make it against my support of the principle put forward by the honorable member for Parkes that the financial resources of the fund should be to some extent at any rate enlarged.
It is true, unfortunately, that the wealthy patron of the arts - the individual - no longer exists in our community in the way that he existed in the past, for example, in Renaissance times, which have been mentioned by honorable members, when the very fact that there were individual patrons who had differing points of view enabled the artist who had a different point of view to give expression to it because he had not one but a number of patrons who possibly would support his work. After all, what we need for the artist is patrons without patronage. We want the position where the artist who has something to say, whether it be in the form of a literary work, a piece of architecture, a piece of sculpture, a painting, or a piece of music, even though it be not in conformity with the tastes of the majority - because the tastes of the majority to-day are not necessarily the criteria of that which will endure - can get some kind of financial support.
I therefore come to the second constructive suggestion that I want to put to the House. It seems to me that one of the great things that we might do, even more important than enlarging the ambit of this fund, is to look at section 78 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which makes gifts for certain purposes deductible for purposes of income tax. Perhaps we need not leave an open door in this respect, but if we could with proper safeguards, allow gifts to artists as deductions for income tax purposes, we might do something to resurrect the individual patron, who is better than the state or the government, because there are many of him. Individual patrons are not necessarily of the one mind, and you would not run the risk of a Soviet uniformity which you run with the Commonwealth Literary Fund or any other government or state fund. That uniformity is not just a uniformity of political outlook. It is a uniformity which is sometimes more difficult to detect and which is more difficult to combat. It is an undesirable uniformity - a Hellenistic uniformity - which is imposed by what are called artistic criteria in determining whether a work is good or bad. And too often, Sir, we make a judgment and deny a work existence, publication, perpetuity, because it does not conform to the taste of the times. The taste of the times is not necessarily the eternal criterion of what is good of bad.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am particularly struck by the fact that we are at ‘this time pleading, as you might say, for an increase of the current vote of a mere £12,000 for a fund like the Commonwealth Literary Fund. I am reminded that £12,000 is about threequarters of the price that an oil company is paying for a piece of land in my suburb with the intention of demolishing the house on it and constructing a petrol station.. That is indicative of the values that are reflected in this plea. The point that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or the Government has not previously been requested to give aid of the kind that is sought now is a reflection on the Government. Surely the Government must have the insight and the wisdom to see that, up to this stage of our history, Australian literature has been seriously neglected. Up to this time in our history, there has been, despite the productions that have been mentioned, a very great dearth of truly Australian literature and works of art.
I want to put a few thoughts to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. First, it is particularly important, at this stage of our development, to encourage literary effort in the way that is suggested. I am glad to see that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) is at the table to hear what I have to say. At this stage of our development, we are progressing at such a rate that there is a danger that material considerations and material values will greatly override considerations of social and human values. The material development that is taking place on this continent at the present time needs to be matched by social, cultural and aesthetic development. I think that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) had something worth while to say, even if he was in a destructive mood. As he pointed out, Australia has a relatively - and I say this with all due respect - crude and uncouth culture. In all the culture that comes into our schools and into our life in general, we have had to depend too much on the culture of other lands and other times. Educationists in our schools, and people in society generally, believe that it is about time that Australia was developed aesthetically as well as economically by the promotion of a distinctive culture of its own.
Besides the pressures of national development in terms of material things, we have been subjected to the pressure of other cultures brought into our midst by people of other backgrounds, and what better medium than literature and art could we have to help to resolve the problems and conflict that are part and parcel of what the Minister for Immigration has been pleased to call assimilation? Literature and art need not be something just for enjoyment; they could serve that purpose as well. How many literary personalities have given great benefit to their nation by their thought and their new ideas - ideas that are valuable economically, politically, socially and aesthetically? Such people have made their contribution in days gone by, and at this stage of our history, when we are confronted, as I have said, by problems other than material ones - by the great problem of the assimilation and the social integration of people from other lands - we should give all possible encouragement to people in the world of art and to people with creative minds, so that they may help us to solve these great and pressing problems.
Not only in Australia, but throughout the world, this is a time when the emphasis on science and technology is very great. There are plenty of scientists and technologists in the world to-day who warn us that there is a danger in relying too much on science and technology, and that these things need to be tempered by human values, by a liberal attitude, by some kind of tolerance in the world. So, those people who have created the creatures that stand to destroy the world appeal to the humanists, to the liberals in the truest sense, to the people of creative social thought, to come to our aid and help to save us from destruction by science and technology.
I should like to make the further point that, in Australia, at this dme, we should help in the way that is now suggested, especially because we have a new medium for communicating the products of artistic and literary effort - the great medium of television, which can do so much to communicate the thoughts, attitudes, ideas and values given to us by these great creative minds.
– Television can do that - in the right hands.
– In the right hands- - true enough. I wonder whether it isencouraged to do so. Television - the medium - is here, but we need the literary and artistic products for it to communicate. It is a pointed commentary on our present-day civilization that we are now quibbling about increasing the Commonwealth Literary Fund’s present allocation of £12,000, an amount which, as I have said, is only about three-quarters of the amount being paid for a block of land on which a petrol station will be built when the existing house has been demolished. This seems a great reflection on our values, and it seems to me to validate much of what my colleague, the honorable member for Yarra, had to say about our taste and our sense of values.
Fortunately, we do not have to depend solely on the Commonwealth Government in these things. It is good to see the encouragement that is given by others. This is particularly so in the district in which I live, where the local municipal council has developed a consciousness of the need for culture and art as a liberalizing force in our community. I am glad to say that that municipal council, within its own province and its means, strongly sponsors art and culture. State governments also have been adopting the same attitude. Knowing the feelings of the Prime Minister, a number of Ministers and the leaders of my own party, there should not be any difficulty in adopting that attitude on a national basis.. The amount of money allocated to the fund should be increased greatly to give encouragement and assistance to those people who deserve it. The Prime Minister has said that this assistance should be limited to the first-rate. That is not a new thought to me. I know the dangers implicit in any reference to the “ first-rate “. But I sound this warning: Who is to judge what is first-rate? That attitude of mind imposes limitations and restrictions, and a century ago was responsible for censorships of all kinds. A truly liberal, broad and generous outlook should be adopted. Reference has been made to the fact that genius will out despite the problems confronting it. Who knows whether that is correct? We see the geniuses who have been recognized, but who knows the geniuses who have failed to obtain recognition? Who knows what products of those geniuses have been denied to us?
If we do not provide assistance to our young writers and artists future generations will be most caustic in their criticism of us, but if we help in this great social and literary work future generations will benefit and will applaud us.
.- I appreciate the action of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in bringing forward a subject of the character which we have been discussing to-day. As one reviews literature and the arts and their impact upon our community mind, one becomes seised of their increasing importance in the development of a national character. Nothing could be of greater moment.
The honorable member for Parkes and other honorable members on this side of the House who have participated in the debate have stressed the inadequacy of the amount that has been allocated for the encouragement of those who seek to contribute to Australian literature and the arts. The amount of £12,000 a year is ridiculous when one considers that it enables us to maintain 30 persons of accomplishment to undertake certain literary effort. In addition, certain scholarships are provided. What, then, of the allocation remains to be devoted to others who seek to contribute to literature and the arts? Any person today who writes in an objective way receives no encouragement because he is told that his product has no saleable value. Many potential contributors to the literature of our Commonwealth not only are denied the opportunity that should be open to them, but also are discouraged from contributing, with the result that manuscript that is perhaps worthy of a place in our literature is lost for ever. Our book stalls contain so much literature that is sordid and of poor repute that instead of our literary character being enhanced it is being destroyed.
This Parliament should consider its obligations to our young people and should encourage them to appreciate literature that tends to uplift them, rather than the rubbish that comes largely from other countries that tends to degrade them. We should encourage writers to produce works of a truly national character expressive of our Australian way of life. Australian originality and ruggedness are recognized all over the world. Why should not that originality and ruggedness become a feature of the writings of our young people? We in this country fail to encourage and assist those who could contribute much to the arts and drama with the result that they must go elsewhere to find the opportunities to express their talent and ability.
The time has come when we must afford a much greater measure of assistance to those who can contribute somethingto our literature. We shall then make possible the attainment of higher ideals in the life and nationhood of Australia. If given the opportunity, ourartists and writers could become world leaders in those fields. They could make for Australia a world-wide reputation for their achievements in the arts and drama and could express capably the real nature and characteristics of our country. Some authors come here occasionally, look at the country for five or six weeks and then write about us, but they do not give the real picture of Australian life and its potential. This can best be portrayed by those who are native to the country, those who have become assimilated into the life of the country and those who help to build a great life for this wonderful country and provide a destiny worthy of a great people.
The Government should at least be seised with the importance of this aspect and should encourage the right kind of writing and the right kind of thinking in this Australian nation. I appreciate what the honorable member for Parkes has done in bringing forward this question on this occasion. I am sure that, if the Government does not give favorable consideration to these matters immediately, we will again bring under notice our regret that it has not seen the wisdom of fulfilling its obligation to the Australian people.
Debate resumed from 11th August (vide page 31), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the following paper: -
Extension of Television Services - Statement by Postmaster-General made on 30th April. 1959- be printed.
.- The third phase of the Government’s programme for television services, announced by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), on 30th April last, envisages that television will be taken to certain country areas. After examining the statement of the PostmasterGeneral and viewing some of the present television programmes, I feel that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should have listened to the debate this afternoon oh Australian literature and made some effort to employ some of our writers in providing plays for television stations, thus raising the general standard of the programmes. I shall deal with that aspect later.
The Newcastle and Hunter Valley district has been waiting for many years for television, and its introduction in the district is long overdue. Television has been available in Australia for a little more than four years, but Newcastle is still waiting for this facility. The Government must accept the responsibility of explaining to the people of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley why this unnecessary delay has occurred.
I am greatly concerned about some features of the Postmaster-General’s report. I shall deal first with the provision of a national service. On a number of occasions, I have asked the Postmaster-General to say whether Newcastle and the Hunter valley will have a national station at the same, time as it has a commercial station, but all that, he will say is that the Government’s policy is that commercial and national stations shall be developed at the one time. However, I have received information that Newcastle will not have a national stationat the same time as it has a commercial station, and I ask the Postmaster-General to give a definite assurance to the Newcastle Council, the Hunter Valley Local Government Association and other interested organizations that there will be no delay between the establishment of a commercial station and the establishment of a national station.
Another point arises on this aspect of television. I believe that the Sydney combines have attempted to infiltrate into the local companies engaged in commercial television activities. Once again, I do not find any guidance in the PostmasterGeneral’s report. In it he said - the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should be required, when inquiring into the grant of such licences, to inquire into and specifically report upon the ability and financial capacity of each applicant to provide an adequate arid comprehensive programme in the event of other licences being granted which would permit the transmission of programmes in or into the area.
I have been assured by a group of local people that they have the financial resources necessary to establish a television station, but I know that pressure is being exerted to permit the Sydney combines to intrude into the commercial field in the Newcastle district. We do not want anything to do with them. The people of the district would prefer to let Sydney look after itself. Those people in country districts who wish to invest their money in a local station should be allowed to do so and not be pushed to one side so that the Sydney octopus can extend into country areas. I hope that our friends in the Australian Country Party will exert some of the pressure that they obviously have on the Government to ensure that local people are allowed to invest in local stations.
– What about talking to your Deputy Leader and getting him on side with you?
– The Deputy Leader of the Australian Labour Pary is quite on side on this point. We in the Labour Party support the introduction of television. We are disappointed that it is not wholly and solely a national concern. We make ho bones about where we stand on this question. I am sure that honorable members are not at all proud of the programmes shown through commercial channels. An advertisement inserted in the “Sydney Morning Herald “ by Station ATN is headed, “Hey, girls and boys! This is your time on ATN-7.” It asserts that this is “ the station that chooses its programs specially for you “. Let us look at the programmes selected for Australian children. On Wednesdays, “Western Marshal “; Tuesdays, “ Waterfront “: Thursdays, “ Ruff and Reddy “ and “ Rocky Jones “; Tuesdays at 6 p.m., “ Kit Carson “; Wednesdays at 6 p.m., “ The Cisco Kid “; Thursdays at 6 p.m., “ Wild
Bill Hickok “; and Fridays “ Ramar of the Jungle “. You boys should really be proud of those programmes. That is only a part of it; yet you talk about culture.
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
-I beg your pardon, Sir. Honorable members on the other side do not know how to spell the word, let alone put it into practice. The programmes I have mentioned were advertised on 7th March, 1959. Let us come up to date. The station to which I referred also advertised its programmes for Wednesday, 12th August. It does not provide employment for those people who were eulogized here this afternoon. These are excellent Australian writers for whom the Government does nothing. It allows combines from overseas to come into this country and invest their money in television companies to ensure that their products, manufactured in Hollywood, will be given priority and that nothing of local manufacture will be put on the screen for the viewers. But for this, employment would be provided for Australian people and they would have the opportunity to develop the talents which they so obviously possess. 1 invite honorable members to listen to the television programme advertised for to-day on Channel 7. Of the total time it is on the air, 6 hours and 40 minutes, only 1 hour and 44 minutes will be devoted to the works of Australian writers and actors, unless you regard Eric Baume, Bob Saunders and similar people as actors. When I say that, I do not have anything in particular against those people.
– The Prime Minister has appeared on television.
– Has he? Part of that period of 1 hour 40 minutes is given to weather reports, commentary and the like. Turning to the programme on Channel 9, 1 find that of the total period of 6 hours and 30 minutes, 1 hour and 15 minutes is taken up with weather reports, news commentary and the like. It is really marvellous! The national station does a little better job. It provides three hours and 55 minutes for Australian works, including weather and market reports and all the rest, and two hours for overseas stuff.
I am really astounded that this Government, after four years of television, has not done something to ensure that Australian artists are given an opportunity to display their talents on television. During the last sessional period of Parliament honorable members had the opportunity, one Wednesday night, of viewing, in the Senate Opposition room, the film of a play presented on television in Sydney the previous Sunday night. All those who were present left that room lauding to the heights the artists who took part in that play. But what further action has the Government taken to advance the interests of those Australian artists? That play was presented last May and it is now August, but daily the television programmes presented are of the type which I have mentioned - American, American, American, American.
Earlier to-day an honorable member on this side pointed out that this country is fast becoming the fiftieth State of the United States of America. If that is the wish of this Government, then by all means let it proceed along that line. At election time the Government parties talk a great deal about Australia Unlimited, but in view of what I have just said, I wonder whether Australia Unlimited really means, “Australia available for unlimited exploitation by overseas interests “. They are doing it in television and radio. They are taking out of this country profits which should be enjoyed by Australians, and consequently the standard of living of Australian artists and writers is reduced. It is obvious that Australia Unlimited really means–
–” Australia Unlimited for Yankee capital”.
– That may be so. Several other points could be mentioned, one of which is what other countries are doing. On a population basis and for size, I feel we could reasonably strike a comparison between Australia and Canada. In Canada there are 15,000 artists directly employed on television. In nine cities, 111 writers contribute to the programmes. Can Australia boast anything near that figure? I am certain that it cannot. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s policy is that at least 55 per cent, of the programmes shall be of Canadian production - that is with Canadians taking part in them. This does not include news broadcasts, cookery demonstrations, weather reports and all the rest. It is a real attempt to provide entertainment for the people and employment for local artists and writers.
Earlier I mentioned the desirability of keeping country television stations clear of city interests. Sydney is not the only city whose television stations are controlled by newspapers. The same condition is found in Brisbane and Melbourne and it will apply in Adelaide also. I should like to refer to the shareholders who provide the financial structure of the commercial television stations in Sydney. The first I mention is ATN. Channel 7. In that I find that the Sun-Herald-2UE has 300,000 shares, 2GB-Macquarie-Artransa 300,000 shares, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited 150,000 shares and 2UW 75,000 shares. It is obvious that the general public had a great say in the formation of the company, Amalgamated Television Services Propretary Limited, which controls that station! We see that combines, created by this Government, have been allowed to get control.
Station TCN channel 9, Sydney is controlled by Television Corporation. I find that in this company Consolidated Press Limited has 570,000 shares. There is no wonder that this Government can never do any wrong according to the “ Daily Telegraph” and indeed the press as a whole. Other shareholders are Associated Newspapers Limited, which is incorporated in England, and the proprietors of the London “ Daily Mail “, which have 233,000 shares. Phillips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited have 116,000 shares, the Anglican Church 60,000, Broadcasting Station 2SM Proprietary Limited 50,000, Paramount Film Service Proprietary Limited 31,000, 2KY Broadcasting Station 20,000, and Tivoli Circuit (Australia) Proprietary Limited 30,000.
I notice that, in Melbourne, in the General Television Corporation, which controls Channel 9, Hoyts Theatres and Greater Union Theatres have substantial shareholdings. This state of affairs ensures that their productions, which are manufactured in Hollywood, will be guaranteed showing on this station.
In previous years, when the overseas currency position was allegedly the most difficult, this Government did nothing to control the import of television programme material from overseas, although Australians had to do without other things. The “Broadcasting and T.V. Year Book, 1958” says-
There is now no financial restriction, dollar or sterling, to buy foreign television programmes, and anybody can apply for an import licence through the Commonwealth Bank.
This is an indication of how overseas interests have infiltrated Australian television. They have bought shares in the television companies and the tripe which they produce is presented to the Australian viewing public. I have read this afternoon the programmes which are advertised, and honorable members will have noticed the large proportion of syndicated material from overseas which is being presented at the expense of Australian artists and writers. We all know that the material which our own people can produce is well able to compete with the imported stuff.
In conclusion, I wish to suggest that some pressure be brought to bear on Australian television companies to lift the general standard of the programmes presented. There is a great opportunity in the educational field to assist school children. Would it not be better during the period of 5.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. to dramatize the stories and plays that are being studied by children in high schools? We all know that children, in the five years they attend high school, have to study a novel and a Shakespearean play in preparation for the Intermediate Certificate at the end of the third year and for the Leaving Certificate at the end of the fifth year. Very little is being done to present dramatized versions of these works on television so that these students might get a better appreciation of them. The preparation of such programmes would provide employment for Australians and the material presented would be far better than the type of stuff that is dished up at present - that is the only way in which it can be described. It is only tripe and rubbish. If the Government has no power to control the standard of programme presented, at least it should demand of these companies that they provide programmes of a more educational nature which will enlighten the children and at the same time make more employment available for Australians in the field of television. With these thoughts in mind, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I suggest that the PostmasterGeneral might do two things for us - give us a definite assurance that in Newcastle we are not going to have this type of stuff prepared and put on for the viewing public in the Hunter Valley district, and that the Sydney television companies, infiltrated as they are by overseas financial interests, will not be allowed to step in and control all television throughout the Commonwealth. We should also have a further assurance that a relay station will not be permitted to operate in the Newcastle district relaying the type of programme I have mentioned from Sydney, and thereby undermining the general financial structure of a locallyowned station financed wholly and solely by local money.
I do not want my remarks to apply to Newcastle alone. I wish the general principles I have advocated to be applied throughout the Commonwealth. If it is possible to do so I want to break up this joint set-up in which certain newspapers and large overseas combines completely own and control television stations, and provide joint programmes on a nation-wide basis similar to the national hook-up system used by radio stations. I do not wish to see metropolitan interests in the television field being allowed to dominate television services in country areas. I believe that where commercial enterprise in a country area cannot provide the finance necessary for television stations, the Australian Broadcasting Commission should give consideration to establishing a national station from which local advertisers may lease or buy time.
.- Contrary to the views expressed by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) I think we on this side of the House have a record of which we can well be proud, and certainly of which we need not be ashamed. The Opposition has claimed on many occasions that under this Government unemployment would increase, but that has not been the case. We are looking forward to another ten years of “ Australia unlimited “. It is rather peculiar that although the honorable gentleman talked along the lines of “Down with these big black capitalists “, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) had already announced a policy which is designed to prevent television monopoly in country areas by city interests. The relevant part of the PostmasterGeneral’s statement on that aspect was -
It has decided that, as far as practicable, priority in the grant of such licences would be given to applicants which are local, independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations.
That is the policy of the Government. This Government does not believe in monopolistic control. It believes in a policy of strong, virile competition among private companies. In contrast with the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) about the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I should like, while the Postmaster-General is in the House, to congratulate him on the work of that body. The A.B.C. has done a wonderful job in both the radio and television fields. I believe that no criticism of it is justified in that direction. Not only has the A.B.C. given this splendid service in radio and television, but it has also given us a wonderful service in country areas in which the various symphony orchestras which it conducts make regular tours. I feel that the criticism of the A.B.C. voiced yesterday by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was unjust.
Ballarat is the first Victorian place mentioned in the list, given by the PostmasterGeneral, of places where country television licences are to be made available. I am very proud indeed to represent that area. We all know that Ballarat is the largest inland city in the Commonwealth. Yesterday my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) said that some people, perhaps a great number of people, were disappointed when they saw the reference to Ballarat. I think that these people took a wrong inference from the use of the name. I see nothing wrong with the name “ Ballarat “. It is a great historical name. However, I do not think that many people would be misled into thinking for one moment that the television station for the Ballarat area would be situated in the heart of the city of Ballarat. It would certainly be in the Ballarat district, because I know that it is the intention of the Postmaster-General and the A.B.C. to have it in the Ballarat district. We all know that the carrier wave used for television is a ground wave, and different from that used on the sound broadcasting channels. Ballarat is behind a range of mountains, and for that reason our reception of television there has been poor. Many of the television viewers in Ballarat have had to go to a great deal of expense in putting up antennas in order to get proper reception. So we are looking forward very keenly to the new station, and we hope that the time will not be far distant when this third phase of the Government’s programme has been completed.
I am certain, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we have sufficient talent in Ballarat to provide live artist programmes from a local television station. I am quite sure that Ballarat will not be found lacking in providing artists for such programmes. We all know that it is the centre of culture in Australia. For many years we have held our South-street competitions, and our St John’s competitions, and without any doubt, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when the television station is established in Ballarat that city will not be found wanting in the provision of talent for live artist programmes.
I know that it is the intention of the Postmaster-General to see that no metropolitan financial interest will gain control of country television stations. I am quite sure that is his intention, and that that is the policy he will carry out to the very last word. Country television companies will be quite capable of providing an efficient service, with programmes comparable with those provided by metropolitan television companies.
A previous speaker stated that we will have to go to the metropolitan areas in order to find the money to run country television stations. That is completely wrong. The money necessary will be found in the country areas themselves. In fact, the money is already being found in country areas for the establishment of country television stations and their efficient management.
Finally, it is the duty of the Government to guard us against any influence from the metropolitan television interests, and to see that the new country television stations are kept under local control. While the Postmaster-General is in the chamber I should like to say that if the Australian Broadcasting Commission continues along the lines it is going, and to do the very fine job that it is doing, our television programmes in Australia will continue to be equal to, and even better than, those anywhere else in the world. They are something of which we can be justly proud.
.- The honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin) seems to think that television is just a parochial matter. I believe that it is a problem that we must face not only in Ballaarat but throughout the length and breadth of this nation. We must make sure that television does not get into the control of private monopoly, just as the press and the radio of this nation are in the hands of a private monopoly. We must be quite clear on that point. I know that honorable members opposite believe that they can keep television free from private monopoly. But we know that certain people have a mania for control of the propaganda channels of our nation. They have already achieved control of the press and radio. They are striving to do their utmost to get control of television.
I am sure that all honorable members are concerned about the standard of television programmes. Even our national stations have far from what I would call the right type of programme.
– They are not bad.
– If the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) thinks that they are not bad he has not looked very much’ at television. He should have another look. Television could be a great medium for the development of our nation. But in the hands of the wrong people it could be an evil.
I have not risen in this important debate just to knock the Government. Anybody who has watched television closely must be concerned with its future in Australia. Anybody who has been to America knows the appalling condition of television there. The honorable member for Ballaarat said that Australian television was as good as that of any nation. Some years back, I saw television under the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom and it was far superior to Australian television at this stage of its development.
I have seen some programmes here that have had some educational value and have shown an unbiased approach. Within the last few weeks I saw a British Broadcasting Corporation item on West Africa which was most enlightening and broadening to one’s mind. I think we can all agree that programmes such as “ Small World “ with Ed. Morrow are good for this nation. It is unbiased. Then we have the Reverend Alan Walker’s session, “ I Challenge the Minister “. I think it is most courageous, honest and frank. Religious issues are raised on television. I think that religion, which has been dying, is being brought into the home once again by this medium.
There are many things in favour of television. Let us be frank in discussing the issue. Let us not be blind and take sides on the matter. Let us face up to the problem posed by the evils of television. What is one of the great problems to-day? World peace! It is not simply a matter of the “ goodies and baddies “. Our objective should not be to build up hate for the Russians. Recently, through the medium of television, we saw what can be done in the cause of peace. We saw Khrushchev and Nixon together, both striving for world peace. That is in the favour of television. On the other hand, we have seen other sessions of hate, smear and innuendo, fostering dis:rust between our people and the people of the Communist nations. Such sessions are not the answer to the problem. We have to use the medium of television wisely.
On this side of the House we believe that control of television should not be given to men who are concerned only with self-aggrandisement and the building up of their ego. Look at the power that Packer has and uses on Channel 9! He is an egomaniac. Giving control of television to people like that could be a great handicap to the development of Australia. I support the Labour Party’s policy which is that television should be a monopoly - a people’s monopoly. One hears of a “ government monopoly “. But what is a government? A government is the people. There is too much narrow-mindedness on the other side of the House. I am trying to speak broadly on this issue.
Under the British Broadcasting Corporation television in the United Kingdom reached a high standard. Yet, in Australia, we have this cry to deliver control of television into the hands of individuals who are drunk with power. People such as Malcolm Mackay and George Baker are reactionaries. They are no good to the community. However, I do give credit to men such as Bob Saunders, on commercial television, who is an unbiased interviewer. I give credit to some of the private television stations. Some of their programmes are more advanced than those of the national stations. Not long ago, a programme appeared on Channel 9 showing us conditions inside Russia. It was a far better and more unbiased programme than one about the Russian revolution which appeared recently on the national stations. On the latter programme, the commentator did not speak in an unbiased manner.
This is a great national problem. The future of Australia is bound up in the development of television and we must make sure that it will be free of private monopolistic control which is now exercised over the press and radio. The issues with which the Opposition is concerned are, first, freedom from monopoly control and secondly the raising of the standard of programmes.
I think that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) will find that he has a letter from me about one of my constituents. First of all, a letter was writen by that constituent to the Australian Broadcasting Commission concerning two Australian films, “ Captain Thunderbolt “ and “ Three in One “. The films are progressive but they are of a high standard and of a kind that should be put on television in Australia. To date, I have received no reply from the Postmaster-General. I know that an investigation is now going on. I hope that the honorable gentleman will make this a personal issue and deal with it without prejudice, whether the man concerned belongs to the so-called “Left” or to the so-called “ Right “. I say that if a programme is good and fair for the Australian public, it should appear on the national stations.
All honorable members will agree that programmes such as “ Gun Smoke “ and “Wyatt Earp “ and others depicting slaughter in the wild west of America are not good for the youth of our nation. Whilst these programmes are cluttering up our television screens, two good films which have been produced by an Australian company are not receiving any encouragement from our national stations.
I am not here to knock this Government. I believe the Government should push television forward. It should make sure that television is available to all Australians, no matter whether that is economic or not. All Australians are entitled to see this new medium, but we should make sure that it is operated in the best interests of the people and that it does not get into the hands of corrupt, powerful individuals who want to control the destiny of this nation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brimblecombe) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave bt given to bring in a bill for an act to approve acceptance by Australia of the International Wheat Agreement, 1959, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to seek the approval of Parliament for the acceptance by Australia of the International Wheat Agreement of 1959.
The first post-war International Wheat Agreement came into force in 1949 and covered a four-year period to 31st July, 1953. That agreement was renewed, with certain modifications, by the agreements of 1953 and 1956, each of which covered a three-year period. The 1959 agreement, to which this bill relates, provides for a further three-year extension, with some important variations, of the arrangements covered by the earlier agreements. Copies of the new agreement have been distributed to honorable members.
The text of the new agreement was negotiated at an international conference convened by the United Nations at which 38 countries participated actively and a number of others were represented by observers. Adherence to the agreement is dependent upon the deposit before 1st December, 1959, of a formal instrument of acceptance in accordance with the constitutional or legislative requirements of each individual country. In conformity with the practice followed in respect of the three earlier agreements, the Government is now seeking parliamentary approval for the deposit of an instrument of acceptance to permit Australian participation in the 1959 agreement.
In principle, the new agreement is substantially the same as the earlier agreements. The basic objective is to provide an element of stability in world wheat marketing. The agreement seeks to do this by providing that a significant proportion of wheat entering international trade will be bought and sold at prices within a prescribed range.
The previous agreements operated through a system of guaranteed sales and purchases, or quotas, for both exporters and importers. Each exporting country had an export quota, which represented the amount of wheat it was obliged to make available to member importing countries at the maximum price and which it was entitled to sell at the minimum price. Conversely, the quota of an importing country represented the amount of wheat that country was entitled to obtain at the maximum price, and which it was obliged to buy at the minimum price if exporters called on it to do so. Whilst prices were within the specified range, importers were not obliged to purchase their requirements from member exporters.
Although the principle embodied in these provisions worked satisfactorily during the time when the demand for wheat was strong, and the price of wheat sold outside the agreement was higher than the maximum price under the agreement, this has not been the case over recent years when the wheat market has been depressed.
There has been a tendency for importing countries to reduce the volume of wheat they committed themselves to purchase at the minimum price, and the 1956 agreement covered only about 300,000,000 bushels. The recent negotiating conference, therefore, examined a number of alternative arrangements with the object of devising a system which would encourage importers to put a greater volume of their wheat purchases within the agreement. As a result, the old quota provisions have been abandoned, and have been replaced by an entirely new arrangement of rights and obligations.
Under the new form of agreement, the member importing countries undertake to buy from member exporters, at prices at or above the prescribed minimum, not less than a stated percentage of their total commercial imports. These percentages are shown in the annex to the agreement. They vary from country to country, and range from 30 per cent, to 100 per cent. The average is about 70 per cent., and based on the recent level of commercial imports of these countries, constitutes commitments covering about 420,000,000 bushels.
Each importing country is entitled to purchase from member exporters, at prices not higher than the maximum, a quantity of wheat up to, but not exceeding, its average commercial imports from member exporters over a previous five-year period. Conversely, exporting countries have an obligation to supply these quantities at the maximum price. Once these entitlements and obligations have been met, exporters are free to sell at prices higher than the maximum, and importers are free to procure supplies from any source.
What this means for Australia is that whilst prices remain within the prescribed range, we will be selling in normal competition with other exporters. At the minimum price, we have the protection afforded by the importers’ commitments to purchase stated proportions of their requirements at not less than the minimum price. Should prices rise to the maximum, our commitment is limited to our average exports to member importing countries over the preceding five years. As with the earlier agreements, there is, of course, a provision under which we could seek to be relieved of this obligation in the event of a short crop.
The rights and obligations of member countries relate only to commercial transactions in wheat and flour. At the present time, a large amount of wheat is moved under non-commercial terms. This arises from the fact that, on the one hand, very great stocks of surplus wheat are held by exporting countries, particularly the United States, and on the other, many importing countries are unable, through balance of payments difficulties or for other reasons, to pay cash for all their requirements. Whilst the agreement does not attempt to regulate transactions of a non-commercial type, the participating countries have agreed that such transactions shall be recorded, and their implications for commerical trade are to be examined annually.
It will be apparent that the minimum and maximum prices are very important provisions of the agreement. The new maximum price is $1.90 a bushel for No. 1 Manitoba Northern wheat, in bulk in store Fort William/Port Arthur, the main shipping points for Canadian wheat. This is ten cents less than the maximum price under the 1956 agreement. The minimum price, for No. 1 Manitoba Northern wheat expressed on the same basis, is unchanged at $1.50 a bushel. These prices must be regarded as satisfactory in the light of present marketing conditions. Indeed, the maintenance of an unchanged minimum price, to which the Australian Government attaches particular importance, represented a very considerable negotiating achievement.
Since the basic prices refer to Canadian wheat, the new agreement includes the same formulae as earlier agreements for determining the equivalent maximum and minimum prices for wheat shipped from other exporting countries. These formulae take into account differences in transportation costs, the relative qualities of various types of wheat and different currencies.
The equivalent maximum price for Australian f.a.q. wheat, on the basis of f.o.b. Australian ports, is approximately 17s. a bushel. This figure will be altered during the course of the agreement only in the event of a variation in the exchange rate between the Australian pound and the United States dollar.
The formula under which the equivalent minimum price for Australian wheat is calculated takes into account the relative transport costs in moving Australian and Canadian wheat to the United Kingdom market. As charter freight rates are continually changing, the equivalent minimum price for Australian wheat can vary from day to day. On the basis of recent freight rates, the basic minimum price represents an f.o.b. equivalent for Australian wheat of about 13s. 6d. per bushel.
The equivalent maximum and minimum prices for Australian wheat which I have mentioned are in each case subject to an allowance, to be agreed by the buyer and the seller, reflecting the difference in quality between Australian wheat and the basic grade of No. 1 Manitoba Northern wheat. This allowance will vary from time to time and from market to market.
The membership of the new agreement is likely to be somewhat different from the old. By far the most significant change is the re-entry of the United Kingdom, which is the world’s largest importer of wheat and the biggest single market for Australian wheat. The United Kingdom participated in the 1949 agreement but not in subsequent agreements. I believe it is true to say that the return of the United Kingdom reflects the importance attached by the United Kingdom Government to the conclusions reached at last year’s Montreal conference - that is, the trade and economic conference of Commonwealth countries in September and October last year - when, largely as a result of Australian initiative, the Commonwealth countries accepted the principle of working towards greater stability of international commodity trade. Having been personally involved in the discussions which led to the acceptance of this principle, I am particularly gratified to see the United Kingdom again a member of the Wheat Agreement.
A number of smaller importers who were members of the 1956 agreement, accounting for quotas totalling 15 million bushels, have not yet signified their intentions regarding participation in the new agreement. It is expected, however, that most of these will join.
The only significant customers for Australian wheat and flour which will not be members of the agreement are Ceylon and Malaya. These countries were not members of the 1956 agreement.
On the exporters’ side, Italy, Mexico and Spain have joined for the first time, whilst Canada, Argentina, the United States, France and Sweden have indicated their intention of continuing membership.
Australian participation in the new agreement will in no way inhibit the very strenuous efforts which the Government has made, and is making, to expand and protect Australian wheat and flour exportsthrough bilateral trade arrangements.
I think all honorable members will be aware of the nature of these efforts over the last few years. In the case of the United Kingdom, for example, the tradeagreement negotiated three years ago provides an assurance of a market for at least. 28 million bushels a year,’ and is particularly valuable in view of the heavy competition which our soft wheat meets in that market. Prior to the negotiation of the Japanese Trade Agreement, Japanese importers were not buyers of Australian f.a.q. wheat. Directly as a result of the trade agreement, however, Japan bought 8,000,000 bushels in the first year of the agreement and’. 11,000,000 bushels in the second year.
Again, as a result of discussions which I had with representatives of the Ceylon Government last year, Ceylon bought 30,000 tons of flour in the second half of 1958 and has purchased 100,000 tons for delivery in 1959. Ceylon has also undertaken to buy a further 100,000 tons in- 1960. Our trade agreement with Malaya protects our sales of flour to that country to the extent of 80,000 tons a year. Recent discussions with Indonesia will, I am confident, materially assist our flour exporters in maintaining their position in this very diffi- cult market, and negotiations with the West Germany Republic, which are not yet completed, will, I believe, strengthen our selling opportunities in that country.
These are illustrations of the way in which our exports of wheat and flour are being assisted very substantially through bilateral negotiations. The continuation of the Government’s very vigorous and sucessful endeavours in this field are fully compatible with participation in the new International Wheat Agreement.
It would be misleading to suggest that the new agreement will effectively take care of all the problems confronting us in the marketing of Australian wheat. Huge stocks of surplus wheat are held by the United States and Canada. Domestic wheat production in the traditional importing countries of western Europe continues to be stimulated by high price-support measures. This has reduced the demand for imported wheat and in some cases, such as that of Italy, has resulted in the emergence of heavily subsidized exports which enter into competition with Australian wheat. Many of the food-deficient areas of Asia, where import requirements are growing, are in economic difficulties which limit their capacity to buy wheat on commercial terms.
Clearly, we must continue the strenuous efforts which we are already making, through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and bilateral arrangements, to reduce the impact of excessive protection, heavily subsidized competition and the disposal of surpluses. We cannot expect the wheat agreement to solve all these fundamental issues. Nevertheless the Government is very firmly of the view that participation in the new agreement offers benefits for Australian wheatgrowers and the economy generally.
Among the reasons for this view is that the existence of the agreement, under which a substantial proportion of world trade will take place within a defined price range, should help to stabilize prices in the present difficult marketing situation. This is the more so in view of the participation of the United Kingdom, whose purchasing policies exert a considerable influence on world prices.
In short, the Government’s view is that international co-operation is essential to the orderly export marketing of wheat. The new agreement is, necessarily, a compromise of the conflicting interests of exporting and importing countries. Having regard to all the circumstances, we believe it is the best agreement that could be obtained. We have no hestitation in preferring it to the alternative of no agreement at all which might well lead to a break in world prices and a return to the chaotic marketing conditions of the early 1930’s, with disastrous consequences for the Australian wheatgrowers and the Australian economy.
In reaching its decision to recommend to Parliament acceptance of the agreement, the Government has had the advice of the wheat industry. The general manager of the Australian Wheat Board and the president of the Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation were members of the Australian delegation at the negotiating conference. Both the board and the federation were consulted frequently throughout the negotia tions, and have expressed their support for Australian participation in the new agreement.
I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 150).
– In his statement to the House dealing with the third phase of television in Australia the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) outlined the zones where it is proposed to set up country television stations. However, it does not necessarily follow, for example, that Toowoomba, although it has been mentioned by the Postmaster-General, will be the place where a station will be set up for the Darling Downs. I understand that the honorable gentleman has taken particular care to see that the best localities will be selected for the extension of television to country areas. I have noted that a great bulk of the area that I represent in Queensland has not been included in this third phase. That does not mean that I am opposed to the extension of television. The people in my area are sufficiently broad-minded to appreciate the advantages of television, despite what we have heard here from honorable members. If we were to believe what some honorable members opposite have said about television we would think that it was a terrible octopus foisted on to the people for the purpose of disseminating propaganda against one particular party and to provide programmes detrimental to the morals of the people. I do not believe that this is so. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has a programme committee. Highly qualified men of high standing in the community, who are not public servants, review programmes from time to time in order to see that the best material available is televised in the interests of the public.
I also know that these monopolistic television stations, as they have been termed by honorable members opposite, periodically conduct a survey to find the type of programme that their viewers want to see. From time to time they discover that the actors that were mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) are most popular with television viewers. I suggest that the honorable member for Newcastle should make his own survey in his electorate to see what the people really want. He could then tell them that they are wrong and he is right and that he knows better than they what they want to see on television. I agree that in some cases what the people want is not always in their best interests, but all sections of the community must be catered for. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is doing an excellent job in catering for the wants of the public.
Similar arguments were advanced when radio was introduced into this country. Some people said that radio would be detrimental, but I do not think it has been. I think that most honorable members will agree with me that the quality of programmes broadcast by all radio stations, including the Australian Broadcasting Com. mission’s stations, is high.
Some honorable members opposite, particularly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), said that country television stations would not be able to find the capital necessary to begin operations. I think the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), too, said something like that. I can assure honorable members that if they are given an opportunity, country interests will find the necessary capital, and it will not need to be as much as was suggested by the honorable member for Wilmot. If he were to peruse the reports of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board he would see that the estimated cost of erection of city television stations ranged from £200,000 to £750,000, which is a long way short of the £1,000,000 suggested by the honorable member. Those figures that I have mentioned were the estimates given in evidence of the capital cost of the establishment of a metropolitan television station. I am advised on fairly good authority that a first-class television station can beestablished in the country for an amount not exceeding £350,000. Such a sum would be a good investment. It has been suggested that we in Australia should adopt a plan similar to that which operates in the United Kingdom, where the profits run into many millions of pounds a year. I do not have the exact figures available at the moment, but they are on record in the Library if any honorable member wishes to see them.
With regard to the quality of programmes to be televised in country areas,I am sure that country people will get what they want. We have the necessary talent in the country to put over programmes asgood as those of the city stations. I am referring, of course, to live programmes. As regards other programmes, I am surethat the city television stations will be only too pleased to allow them to be telecast in the country in order to share the expense and knowing that the country television stations will not be entering intocompetition for viewers with city stations.
– It is bad enough to have tolook at them once.
– It is bad to have to look at the honorable member at any time.
I am pleased to know that the Government intends to ensure, as far as is practicable - and I am sure that it is fully practicable - that country television stations shall be financed by capital contributed by the country people who are prepared to invest in them. I do not believe for a moment that the great metropolitan stations owned by the press will get control of the country television stations in the way that Opposition members foretell. We know the theme of their speeches. Each and every Opposition member has declared that the whole thing should be under the control of a government monopoly. We know that that is in accordance with Labour’s policy, and we expect Opposition’ members to say that.
– They do not come out in the open.
– They do not say that sort of thing in other places at other times. We expect them to say here what they have said, Mr. Speaker, but we do not believe in it. We believe in competition. We have competition in the field of radio at present, and we shall get it in television.
– What about margarine and butter?
– If you bought more butter and less margarine, we- should be better off.
Mr. Speaker, I hope that, at whatever stage of development television will be extended to my electorate, the quality of the reception of the programmes will be better than that of radio programmes in some areas. We have now had considerable experience in radio, and we know some of the problems and difficulties encountered in providing radio programmes in some isolated places. I hope that the same mistakes as were made with radio are not made with television. Television, like radio, will be one of the amusements and forms of relaxation that make life in the outback a little better. Finally, I emphasize that I do not share the anxiety that has been voiced by Opposition members. I believe that while the administration of the department responsible for television is in the capable hands of the present PostmasterGeneral, the interests of country people and country television stations will be well protected.
.- Mr. Speaker, on 30th April last the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, made a statement on television and outlined the extension of television services that was proposed for country areas. He indicated that the areas to be considered in the third phase of television development were: Australian Capital Territory- Canberra; New South Wales - Newcastle-Hunter River, Illawarra area, Richmond-Tweed Heads area. Central Tablelands area; Victoria - Ballarat and Bendigo, Latrobe Valley, Goulburn Valley; Queensland - Darling Downs, Rockhampton area, Townsville area; Tasmania - North-eastern Tasmania. I find, on looking at the map of Australia, that all those areas lie east of the one hundred and forty-second meridian of longitude, which runs approximately through the tip of Cape York Peninsula and Hamilton, in Victoria. No part of the area to which country television services are to -be extended is more than 350 or 400 miles from the eastern coastline. The whole of the country areas west of the one hundred and forty-second meridian of longitude will be unprovided for. Not one country television station is proposed for either South Australia or Western Australia.
As a South Australian representative in this House, I make the strongest possible protest at this situation, and I know that in this I speak for the Labour representatives from South Australia. We offer our strongest condemnation of the Government for its neglect to give South Australia and Western Australia at least the same consideration as it has given to the eastern States. Surely fairness demands that South Australia and Western Australia, which comprise about half the continent, should not be denied television. It is being purposely denied to them at present. Large centres such as Broken Hill, and the centres of Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Whyalla, which are in the electorate of my friend, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell), who has actively interested himself in television, might reasonably expect consideration at the hands of the Government by the extension of television to those distant parts. In Western Australia, the towns of Kalgoorlie, Northam and Albany are equally entitled to the benefit of television.
Although television is to be denied to the people of these places, members of the Australian Country Party dare to say that they have at heart the interests of country people, and they utter not a single word of protest at the fact that the people of these distant places are being denied the same facilities as are provided in the more densely populated areas adjacent to the capital cities in eastern Australia. Surely members of the Australian Country Party and members of the Liberal Party of Australia recognize the seriousness of their deliberate denial of the claims of two very important States to country television services. Let me remind the Government that, almost ever since federation, there has been a feeling that the people of the eastern States have received priority over the people of South Australia, and particularly of Western Australia. This is not unknown to Government supporters. For that reason during the early years of federation Western Australia was reluctant to participate in the Commonwealth scheme because it felt that its own interests would not be served due to the concentration of interest in and the desire to serve those people on the eastern seaboard.
While I am conscious of the fact that the greater part of the population is concentrated in that particular area, and that it should be adequately and properly served with television, the people in the distant parts of the Commonwealth also are entitled to similar consideration. If we had a government of action, capable of administering television services in the correct way, country people who are denied most of the amenities of city life would have been afforded the benefits of television long before those in the more densely populated areas. However, the people in the country areas have been denied this amenity.
No doubt the Government’s action in concentrating the proposed new television stations in the more congested and more densely populated areas has been actuated by the fact that commercial interests will serve those areas. Those organizations will secure the greatest advantages from the introduction of television because, through advertising, they will have the opportunity to make large profits. This Government should place the interests of the people before the interests of profitmaking organizations.. Mount Gambier in South Australia is a town that reasonably might have expected more consideration from the Government than it has received. What is the attitude of the honorable member on the Government side whose electorate includes the town of Mount Gambier? What does he think of the Government’s failure to afford the people in that area the most up-to-date method for the reception of entertainment, news and information?
Television programmes at present do not adequately comply with what should be the standard required to elevate the minds of our youth and adult population. The programmes are nothing but rubbish, and many films now presented were telecast in the United States of America when I was there eight or ten years ago. This rubbish is being foisted upon the Australian public simply to provide profits for the commercial interests controlling the television stations.
The proposed third phase in the provision of television for the larger country towns and country areas generally indicates that the Government has not fulfilled its obligations to the people of Australia. It must realize that people in the two States to which I have referred will protest strongly at the failure of the Government to meet their claims for this facility. They will realize that no longer can they look to- this Government for the consideration that is their due. This Government must be fairer in its approach to this matter and must serve, not only the more populated districts on the eastern coastline but also those areas in the distant parts of the Commonwealth which have an equal right to television.
I make the strongest protest at the Government’s action. If the Government looks, at the map of Australia and realizes how greatly it has failed in meeting its obligations to the people it surely will change, the programme that has been proposed by the Postmaster-General and will make the benefits of television available to the people in every part of the Commonwealth.
– I am sure that the House, and the people of Australia, will be delighted to know that the introduction of television into Australia has proceeded so smoothly and with such success that the Government now is able to move on to the third phase of television development. I am sure also that we appreciate the Government’s wisdom in staging the development of television in this country which, in my view, has provided the complete answer to the problems raised by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin).
In the period: since the introduction of television into Australia between £100,000,000 and £150,000,000 of purchasing power has been absorbed in the purchase, of television receivers. In the nature of things, that is necessarily £100,000,000 or so of purchasing power diverted from other industries. The impact of television on the economy is such that had we not staged its development in Australia, then clearly we would have run into economic difficulties. I think it can also be said that, if there is some shortage of ready funds in this country to-day, it is largely because the people are so heavily committed, principally on hire purchase, and to a very large extent because of television. The Government is, therefore, extraordinarily wise in staging out these developments. We now face the third phase. Shortly, I imagine, we will get around to the fourth phase, which will attempt to take television to smaller areas excluded from the present proposals.
Sir, I would presume that the applications for the series of licences to be issued in the third phase will be heard together. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, before it recommends the issue of any licences, should set out to analyse the capacity of the Australian economy to support additional television stations. This is a very sound provision, because the fact is that the commercial component of the next television development must be supported by advertising revenue. There is nothing to say that advertising appropriations will expand simply because a new and an additional medium for publicity is provided. However, when one looks over the history of broadcasting, it is very interesting to note that up to four or five years ago the commercial broadcasting stations were sustained almost entirely by national advertising. Yet, in more recent years, when a good deal of the national advertising has been diverted to television, revenues of country broadcasting stations have not in any way diminished. What revenue was provided previously by national advertisers is now provided by local advertisers.
The point about all this is that a few years ago nobody would have believed that the purely retail advertiser in country towns, for instance, would have been able to pay the advertising rates of commercial broadcasting. Yet the fact is that to-day he is not only doing it but he is doing it profitably. So I would presume that the revenue available for country television stations will in fact rise as these extra services are provided.
I notice that some reference is made in the statement made by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) to possible technical difficulties, particularly when it is a question of providing more than one commercial licence in some of the areas now proposed to be served. Sir, I think that is a very real concern. After all, we have available to us only ten television channels in Australia. They are, of course, capable of duplication in various centres and at various distances. This takes me back to the presentation to this Parliament of the report of the Royal Commission on Television and the decision which had to be taken by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in its recommendation to the Government as to whether we should confine our television services to the very high frequency band, providing, as it now does, ten channels, or whether we should also move into the ultra high frequency band, which would have provided, I think, from memory, another 70 or 80 channels.
We come then to the statement of the Postmaster-General in which he points out that the Government will not necessarily confine the issue of licences to one commercial station in each of the proposed areas. If there is any one area in this country which can support economically two commercial television stations, it must be Newcastle. Yet one looks at Appendix C to the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for 1956 and one finds that only two channels have been reserved for Newcastle, one of which presumably will be a channel for the national television station. When one runs down the table in this appendix, and finds that nowhere outside Sydney is there a reservation of more than two channels, one begins to understand the technical difficulties which will face the Australian Broadcasting Control Board if it is to recommend the licensing of more than one commercial television station in the new areas.
I cannot refrain from drawing attention to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Television which said that there ought to be a technical committee or some technical machinery set up to examine this problem in greater detail, nor perhaps can I refrain from drawing attention to my own remarks at that time when I urged that we look most carefully at whether we would use only the very high frequency band or both the very high frequency band and the ultra high frequency band for Australian television. As I pointed out then, and I reiterate now, the history of television in the United States of America is of an administration which believed, as our own Australian Broadcasting Control Board believes at present, that the very high frequency band provided all that was needed for the foreseeable future. Already, two or three years after the introduction of television in Australia, we are face to face with a situation in which we may not have provided sufficient frequencies for the development of Australian television services. If this is to be the position, we will find ourselves in the same situation as the Americans did a few years ago, when they had to halt the licensing of new stations to consider how they could extend the available range of frequency channels. However, that is not the point to which I wanted to direct my remarks on this occasion.
The important part of the PostmasterGeneral’s statement was that in which he said -
It has decided that, as far as practicable, priority in the grant of such licences would be given to applicants which are local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations . . .
There has been a good deal of complaint throughout the House to-day that the existing licences should have fallen almost completely into the. control of press interests. However, if one goes back to the time when applications for these licences were called, one will see that the only worthwhile and soundly based applications were those that were heavily backed by the press interests. I have a feeling that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board would have been more than delighted to have issued the licences to completely independent applicants. But as such applicants were not there, the press-backed applicants were given the licences. I am bound to say that they have done a very fine job in promoting television in Australia. Nevertheless, we have reached the point where we must look at this question of the aggregation of control over the media influencing public opinion.
I am rather delighted to see that this debate has brought forth almost unanimous demand from both sides of the House that the Government should pay very great attention to the proposal of the PostmasterGeneral that the new licences should not fall under the control of existing licensees. Those licensees have apparently chosen not to pay very high regard to the statement of the Postmaster-General, because it is very well known that they are at the present moment very busily promoting themselves into the companies which will apply for country licences. But this is not illegal, it is not immoral and it is completely understandable. If I were in the television business, I would be seeking to extend my control into the country areas, because it offers very great possibilities of bolstering the strength and the appeal of existing stations; it offers great possibility in the purchase of programme material, and so on.
It is very noticeable that press statements, which have been made widely and frequently, have pointed out how expensive country broadcasting is and how these independent country stations will be faced with great difficulty in providing the service that the public will demand. It is also noticeable that the present city stations have been very anxious to extend their hours of broadcasting at quite extraordinary cost to themselves in operating expenses and in programme materials. I cannot avoid the thought that although this could be justified in terms of giving better service to the people of this country - and I know that existing licensees want to do that - this programme padding is going on in order to make more difficult the applications from purely independent country applicants for these new licences.
A good deal of propaganda has been issued about the control of programme material and I know that certain people who are applying or are proposing to apply for licences in country areas have had it suggested to them that if they do not play ball they may find themselves without programme material. I do not believe that this is the case at all, but if, by chance, I am wrong then there is another avenue through which the Government can take care of this particular situation.
It has to be kept in mind that most of the programme material wanted for television is the production of the motion picture industry or its offshoots to this point. Knowing something of the background of the film industry I just do not believe that producers of films will have made a deal for the sale of rights of their programme material for national distribution. It is much more likely that they will have done as they have done in the theatre business, and that is made deals for the display of individual films at individual outlets. Therefore, I very much doubt whether the existing licensees have control of a great volume of programme material.
The second point is that there is a vast amount of programme material coming forward from quite independent producers.
Within the last week or two an announcement was made in Sydney of the setting up of a programme agency heavily backed by one film manufacturer and distributor. This clearly indicates that there will be ample programme material available for country licensees, whoever they may be. I believe that arrangements have already been made by many such applicants for access to programme material which may already have appeared on the capital city stations.
The other point to which I wished to refer was the answer which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) gave to a question which I put on the notice-paper last May. In “ Hansard “ of 14th May, the Treasurer answered my inquiry by pointing out that in the year 1957-58 £610,000 Australian had been made available to existing licensees for the purchase of overseas television material. For the year ended 30th April, 1959, the amount of money made available for the purchase of overseas programme material exceeded £1,100,000. I should like to believe that if there is any indication that the people who have been given this very great advantage for the purchase of overseas programme material set out to use these Government grants to club the new licensees into compliance with their demands, the Government would be entitled not only to step in and have a word to say but also be obliged to do just that.
However, I believe that the future of country television for completely independent licensees is fairly secure for those who are involved in this third phase of television, lt may well be that when the time comes to go in’.o the next stage - that is, taking television to smaller country areas - we will run into an extraordinarily difficult situation. But let the future look after itself so far as that is concerned.
On this question of programme material, a good deal has been said about the sort of features coming from present licensed stations. I could wish that we might see a little less of the intensely nationalistic American units which appear here and there through the programmes. I could wish, also, that there might be a little less concentration on violence. At the same time, I am bound to admit that although I know this sort of programme appeals to some of my friends, it is softened a little by the candlelight and the beautiful cadences of Liberace. But all that being what it is, nothing alters the fact that the public taste is satisfied with what it is getting from television at the present time.
– The honorable member would not do away with westerns, would he?
– I would not do away with westerns because we have to remember, that television is provided not as a means of education but as a means of entertainment. Speaking for myself, I am bound to say that the majority of my colleagues find that westerns provide a very useful outlet of entertainment. Of course, I may be expressing my own opinion but when it comes to programme material it is interesting to know that, although the educational and cultural level presented on the national stations is much higher than that presented by the commercials, the national stations succeed in attracting only 12.4 per cent, in Melbourne and 12.2 per cent, in Sydney of the available television audiences. Clearly the audience, with a free right to turn the dial, accepts pretty generally the programmes presented by the commercial television networks. This is the sort of programme material, which, no doubt, will form the basis of the shows to be presented by the stations which will be licensed in the near future.
Primarily I rose to say, in a few words, that I hope the Government will keep a very close watch on the suggestion of the Postmaster-General that the independent applications for country licences will receive first preference when granting new licences. Over recent years we have seen a steady aggregation of the control of public opinion vested in fewer and fewer hands. The press is all-powerful but it is concentrated in a small group. It has a very great interest in broadcasting and it is now seeking a greater measure of control in television, in which it is also very interested.
It must be remembered that through television interviews by panels of pressmen and the televising of public functions and so on, there is a very great editorial content in television - even greater, indeed, than there has been, to this point, in radio broadcasting. If these facilities in television are to be added to the very great control which a handful of people in this country to-day exercise over press and radio, then the people of this country will have less and less freedom of choice in the sort of material presented for their thinking. I suggest that if the Government will really keep a close eye on that undertaking and see that independent licensees are given control of this next phase of television, then it will be rendering a very great service to the public of this country for which future generations will be grateful.
.- I detected a rather wistful note in the remarks of the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). It appears that he does not approve of the programme standards and is rather afraid of what may happen with the aggregation of control of the television system in the hands of a few. He is not too confident about the general future of the development of television programmes or ownership in country areas. He is unhappy about the great export of Australian financial resources to purchase what are, after all, a very poor standard of television material. Yet, unfortunately, he still chooses to support the Government.
– He has not let himself go.
– That is so. Of course, he is rather weary of the somewhat worn philosophy of the Liberal Party, faced with the problem of development in keeping with its ideas of private enterprise and individual competition and all the rest of it and the fact that this philosophy produces only greater and greater monopoly control of everything.
The question of programmes has been raised. I do not know whether the great number of westerns which appear continually on television is a tribute to the Australian Country Party control of the portfolio which governs television, but that is what it looks like. Anybody who watches television programmes can only be seriously concerned at the general standard of them. That aspect has been dealt with by every honorable member who has spoken to-day, on both sides of the House. The Labour Party is especially anxious about the control of what is, after all, a very limited national resource. The Labour Party is so con cerned, in fact, that it has appointed a committee of the party to look into the general question of the ownership and control of television, radio, newspapers and allied interests. The Labour Party, I believe, in its anxiety on this score, has the support of the great majority of the Australian people. It is important, therefore, that we examine the whole structure of the television and entertainment field and the communications field, with a view to the national interest.
The remarks of the honorable member for Paterson confirm my view that there is only one organization that can carry out control of the expansion of television into areas outside two or three of the larger capital cities, and that is the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is only the Government which has the resources to do this job. There can be no alternative to government development of television services in the less thickly populated areas of Australia, other than a very poor standard of television programmes.
Then there is the question of television advertising revenue. From whom does the advertising revenue earned- by broadcasting, newspaper and television interests come? It comes from the consumer. So there will be loaded on to the cost of goods bought by the consumer the costs of the extravaganza, one might say, that goes under the name of television advertising, and which applies in almost every field of consumption. This is an extravaganza which I do not think the country can afford, and often, of course, it is simply a motive for the expansion of advertising interests.
Commercial interests have no right to control the few television channels available to us. What moral right has this Government to hand over a very limited number of channels to people who are not responsible to it? We have ten television channels - a very limited field of development for what is the only brandnew means of communication since the development of radio and one which, I suppose, has greater chances of making an impact on the people generally than anything has had since the invention of the printing press. Unlike the printing press, it is impossible for people to set up a television station independently and easily and proceed to operate it as individuals. Because of the very nature of the machinery we are using, there are only ten television channels available. What moral right has any government, or any group of people, to take seven or eight of those channels and hand them over to private interests to exploit? To me it seems like a grand lottery in which the prizes are a number of television licences in every State. In Victoria and New South Wales at the moment there are two commercial television licences. From all the millions of people in Victoria and New South Wales a number of people, have been chosen as the lucky players. They have achieved the prize without having had to pay any considerable amount for it themselves. A small group of people who happen to be in a position to control communications at the moment have been granted these great prizes.
I say that, when it is dealing with the control of such a limited resource, or so limited a field, the Government has no moral right to confer this great blessing, this great prize, this great trophy or this great power on any individual who is not responsible to it. I believe that if it is considered vital that the fields of communication be kept away from Government control, or that some of them at least should be independent fields of communication in the community, we have to find some alternative to granting control of these communications fields to purely commercial interests. I do not know at this moment what the solution to that problem is. My first thoughts are towards the development of a national broadcasting, television and printing system; but I realize that an aggregation of this kind of control in one set of hands, whether government hands or other hands, particularly in the field of communications, might well carry its own dangers. Unfortunately, we have no attempt on the part of the Government to find a new non-government medium of control in this matter, other than the granting of control of the field to people who already control great commercial interests. This is surely an important matter to people who are interested in the problems of government, communications and community life generally.
I am unimpressed by the fact that these people own, at the moment, great financial resources. That does not, in my view, give them any moral right to control these limited channels. I think that that would probably be the view of most Australians if they had the question placed squarely before them. So, particularly on the question of developing country programmes, the Government is in this cleft stick: If we are going to have independent local groups owning television stations, how are these stations to be financed, and how are the owners to develop the programming? Programming is an especially expensive item. The honorable member for Paterson, I think, quoted the figure of over £1,000,000 spent in twelve months on the purchase of overseas programmes. That is a huge sum of money for any but very large commercial interests to find.
– There is also the capital outlay.
– Yes, there is also the capital outlay in this particular case. The problem that faces an independent group, whether in Canberra, Kalgoorlie or Cairns, is how to get the capital together, and how to employ it and continue to control it, how they can continue to develop control of programmes so that the programmes can be improved both in quality and quantity. The leading articles of newspapers and the answers given by Ministers to questions admit this problem. But you cannot solve the problem unless you approach it from a completely different viewpoint. The only course the Government seems able to see is to expand the already great aggregation of power that is in the hands of present newspaper interests.
The Government, unfortunately, is unable to bring any positive new line of thinking to any political problem. I can think of lots of ways in which we could gather small groups of people together for the establishment of rural television. We could assist local-government bodies to do it. We could provide councils like the Kalgoorlie City Council - if there is such an animal - the Broken Hill City Council, the Cairns City Council or the council of any other place with the financial resources to do the job. We could do that in the same way as we have guaranteed overdrafts to other great interests - for instance, in .the airlines industry - and let them go ahead and do the job. A local council is free and independent of big interests, and is answerable to the local people. But none of those thoughts seems to enter the Government’s head. The concentration of government thinking on the people who own commercial interests as the only people with the enterprise and the right to control things is against the national interest.
The honorable member for Paterson pointed out that television viewers on the whole seemed to favour the commercial stations. In both Sydney and Melbourne, there are two commercial stations and one national station. Both commercial stations in each city are controlled by newspaper interest which have great advertising resources at their disposal and in which, to use a colloquialism, they plug their own programmes. This is the case in Melbourne. The “Sun”, the “Herald” and the “Age” newspapers feature the programmes that go over Channel 7 and Channel 9. They are being continually featured, and the people who appear in those programmes themselves become news. The programmes of these channels are highlighted in these newspapers. Channel 2, the national station, has none of those advantages and, in a way, it is a tribute to the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that, in the face of all this, it has been able to capture such a large proportion of the viewing public.
There is another disadvantage which will stem from the Government’s action. The Postmaster-General has pointed out that in Adelaide and Brisbane the Australian Broadcasting Commission will go into operation in the television field later than the commercial stations. This will get the viewers into the habit of turning to the commercial channels. This is typical of the unfair advantages that have been conferred continually on commercial interests by this Government. I believe that if the people of Australia could be brought to see this, the destruction of this Government would result. Even people who are dedicated to the idea of commercial and national competition in various fields will not agree that commercial undertakings should have conferred upon them the advantages that this Government is continually conferring. This applies to the airlines, it applies to the banks, and it applies to tele vision. The Government has no right to place national undertakings at a disadvantage.
One of the most disappointing features of the Government’s approach to television is its failure to appreciate the great educational and communication value of this medium. I think that television is one of the most wonderful educational mediums that have been invented. It is the marvel of the age. I have no idea of how it works or why it works. But I do know that, placed in the hands of educational authorities, it could be a very powerful and effective means of carrying on their professional pursuits.
I think it was the Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University who recently suggested that educational authorities, under the leadership of Melbourne University, should have a television channel of their own. I understand that the PostmasterGeneral raised some opposition to this and, of course, there was opposition from other quarters. Nevertheless, I consider that it is one of the first enterprises that a government would foster if it were concerned with national interests rather than commercial interests. In France and in America, the educational aspect of television has been widely developed, but in Australia the field remains wide open.
We are short of educational institutions. We are short of teachers. Here is a great medium which is particularly suited to the task of education but, as far as I know, not a single step has the Government taken to sponsor its use in that way. This is one of the greatest contributions that the Commonwealth could make to education. The Commonwealth has the resources. It has the ability to gather the world’s best programmes; but it does not do so. On that score alone we oppose the Government’s general television policy. There are other aspects of television development in Australia at which we look askance. But let me return to the question of programmes.
There is a television set in my home. Yet, unless I continued to remind them, I do not think my children would realize that Australia took part in the last war. There has been no attempt to develop Australian programming, even from the resources available to the Commonwealth. I understand that 2,000,000 feet of historical film was taken by the various Australian film units in the last war. These films are under the control of the Australian War Memorial authorities. What has been done about editing that material and developing some consciousness that we have played our part in this field? We have the films, and the resources, technical and professional, to present them but, as far as I know, nothing has been done. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is at the table might well show his pride in the armed services which he controls by seeing that some initiative is taken in this matter. This is only one very small field in which the Commonwealth could develop Australian programmes.
This afternoon, we discussed the Commonwealth Literary Fund. This subject is complementary to that. Here is a medium which could be used to develop pride and national spirit, but it is not being used for that purpose. These are matters upon which this side of the House differs greatly from the people opposite. I believe that, particularly when resources are limited, as they are in television, we have no right to hand them over to non-representative and non-responsible private individuals. I suggest that if we must farm our authority and power out to other people we should do so by delegating authority to representative institutions such as municipal or State governments. Local authorities are able to control and develop such public enterprises as water supply. Why could they not develop television with the financial support of the Commonwealth Government?
We oppose very strongly the monopolistic control of the whole system. Therefore, I take a very poor view of the PostmasterGeneral’s handling of this medium. I hope that members on both sides of the House will turn their full attention to the development of a national television system with some spirit of Australianism in it and with a control that is not in the hands of a few. I hope they will turn their attention also to the removal of the extravagances in television advertising in order that this new and magnificent medium may be used for the national well-being rather than for the development of a commercial empire.
.- I appreciated the concern of the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) when he spoke of the country areas in South Australia, particularly those which I have the honour to represent. Because I believe in the veracity of the honorable member for Bonython, I can only assume that he did not realize that he left the impression with honorable members that his contention was that because the people in these areas would not get television in this phase, they would not get it at all. As the honorable member would have found out if he had looked a little more closely into the matter, the fourth phase, in which these areas will almost certainly receive television services, will almost certainly follow very soon after the phase which we are discussing.
I would not be surprised - and I know that this is the hope of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) - to find that these areas receive television services almost as quickly as the areas which are at present under examination. I say that for this reason: The process in this stage in relation to the country areas is a pioneering one. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, for the first time, is bending its mind to the problem of television in country areas. The process is necessarily prolonged for that reason. By the time the board finishes examining this question it will have laid down certain well-defined principles which will apply also to the next phase. Therefore, there will not be that long, protracted examination in the next phase. The principles and the criteria will have been established and that will result in those areas which are not included in this phase receiving television services almost as soon as the areas now under examination.
I listened with interest to the remarks of my friend from Wills (Mr. Bryant). The things that he and his party have said on this question have demonstrated to me, once again, that Labour has no faith or trust in the judgment, the good sense and the taste of the ordinary man or woman. They claim to represent ordinary men and women and yet, as they have demonstrated on this and many other things, they do not trust the people. They always want to decide these things for the people. They want the Government to make the decisions. It is a kind of big brother approach to these problems.
Surely, the answer to the points that have been raised by the honorable member for Wills and other members of the Opposition is that the ultimate safeguard in television and broadcasting is an alternative service so that the viewer or the listener can make a change purely and simply by putting out a hand and twisting a dial. I have enough faith in the ordinary men and women of Australia to believe that if they are given that alternative, the rest will take care of itself.
There have been two elements in this debate in relation to the establishment of television in country areas. One relates to the desirability of independent and competing television stations in the country. The other point - and I believe it is separate - relates to the extension of television to the country and the requirements of the country areas in relation to television. Those two elements have been consistently run together in this debate by speakers on both sides of the House. Personally, I believe they should be considered separately. Obviously, Sir, it is desirable that the sources of information available to the public should be dispersed. There is no greater danger to our democracy and our basic way of life than the present concentration of sources of information in a few hands. I believe this danger is potential, but nevertheless it is very real. I am not going to enlarge on this point because I think it is obvious that the sources of information are there ready to be used irresponsibly when anybody gets control of them who is so pre-disposed. Any general action to widen the control of the sources of information would have my unqualified support.
But, Sir, it is one matter to meet that problem; the provision of television in the country areas is another. For the type of television station to be set up in Australian country areas, there should be only one criterion, in my opinion. That criterion is that the station should be the type that will best serve the needs of the country areas and not the type which will best conform to a general principle such as the one I have just laid down and which has been consistently mentioned in this debate. It may be that, by that criterion, independent country stations will be the best to serve rural interests. Independent stations are more likely to cover matters of local interest and local advertising. In so doing, they would perform a vital function in community life which means so much in the rural areas.
But are such independent television stations capable of providing programmes of the same general overall standard to viewers in the country as are enjoyed by their city cousins? That, in my view, is what country people are entitled to get. That is what they must get. I do not know whether independent country stations are capable of providing such programmes. I assume it is largely a matter of economics, but that is what the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is inquiring into currently in deciding the successful applicants for licences in the present phase and in deciding on the principles which relate to the extension of television to the country areas. I will await its report with much interest.
In the meantime, I believe that the Government has been wise, as revealed by the Postmaster-General’s statement now under discussion, in making the qualification expressed by the Minister in relation to independent television stations. It may well be that we will end up in the long run with a mixture of the two systems in the rural areas, and that some rural areas with a large population will carry independent stations while others, in order to get programmes of the necessary standard, will need to have them relayed from elsewhere. I make this suggestion to the Postmaster-General: If such a course becomes necessary, why can we not set down as a condition of the licence that stations which are given the right to relay programmes must include a certain percentage of matter in their programmes of particular interest to the area receiving the relay, and also a certain proportion of local advertising?
Above all, I believe it would be quite wrong to sacrifice the interests of the country people on the altar of a piece of dogma about the concentration of the sources of information in a few hands. As I have said, that is a vital matter; but the placing of a few country television stations in different hands will not solve the problem. Somebody should have thought of it before. In any case, remedial action requires a far deeper and broader approach than would be provided simply by placing independent stations in the country. What the country dweller requires and must have are television programmes as good as, or better than, those provided for metropolitan viewers. That should be the only criterion. The method of producing programmes which satisfies that criterion should be the one adopted.
– I should like to address myself to the statement made by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) on television for country areas. In doing so, I propose to refer to parts 4 and 9 of the statement he presented to the House. The first deals with the areas to which the second phase of the television development programme will be directed. The other refers to the policy the Government has decided to adopt on this matter. I want to make it clear that I am speaking to-night on behalf of the very large section of the community which resides in the New England district. Those people are strongly interested in the provision of television for country areas. One computation suggests that a television station could provide an adequate service for a population of 100,000 persons or, on another basis, for probably not less than 200,000. The northern tableland and the north-western district of New South Wales have not been included among the areas to be effected by this stage of television development, according to the statement of the Postmaster-General that the House is now discussing. I have been inundated with letters and resolutions from all sorts of organizations, such as pastures protection boards, shire councils and local government bodies, pressing their claims to be allowed to develop television facilities in these districts.
I do not intend to develop that theme any further, however. I shall confine myself to-night to a discussion of the implications of certain portions of the statement made by the Postmaster-General. In doing so I want to make it perfectly clear that I congratulate the Postmaster-General upon his forthright and decided statements, not only the one made in this House, which has been referred to, but also statements made in the press on behalf of the Government. He has said that it is the purpose and intention of the- Government to ensure that country people shall control the country television stations.
I was very interested to-night to hear various speakers, not least of them the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), raise questions as to the capacity of country areas to bear the responsibility that they would accept if they were to go ahead with the- establishment of television stations. Let me direct the attention of the House to a section of the Minister’s statement, in which he said -
It has decided that, as far as practicable, priority in the grant of such licences would be given to applicants which are local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations.
Certain speakers on the Opposition side were inclined to doubt the honesty of the Minister and of the Government with regard to that statement, particularly as itcontained the qualification “ as far as practicable “. I should like to make some comments on this matter and other matters contained in the statement.
The first question that I would ask is this: Is the Postmaster-General, and is the Government, serious in announcing the policy that country interests must control country television? My reply is that to my mind there is no doubt as to the honesty of purpose and intention of the Minister and the Government in advocating that policy.
Now I proceed to the second question: Has the phrase “ as far as practicable “ been used genuinely, or is it merely an escape clause? It has been suggsted by the Opposition that those words, used in qualification of the Minister’s statement, are in the nature of an escape clause, or, as some may perhaps less politely describe them, a political trick. Let me say that I do not believe this phrase was intended by the Minister as an escape clause. I believe that the Minister wanted to make it clear that if the country interests show, by their purpose, their will and their capacity, that they can look after their own television development, then the Government will undoubtedly fulfil, to the fullest possible extent, the promise contained in the Minister’s statement.
Now I proceed to a third question, which stems from the words in the Minister’s statement that followed those I have already read - provided such applicants demonstrate their capacity to provide, in the circumstances prevailing in the area, a service comparable to that available to city viewers.
I ask this question: Is it possible for a country television station to give such comparable programmes? I would say without the slightest hesitation that within a very short space of time the country stations would be in a position to provide programmes that would be almost 100 per cent, as good as those given by the metropolitan stations. Any one who has looked at television programmes, either from the commercial stations or the national stations, must have been struck by the fact that a very considerable portion of those programmes are provided by films, and it is just as easy for a country station to show a film as it is for a Sydney or a Melbourne station. On Sunday afternoon I saw a most delightful presentation of a story called “ Tom Brown’s Schooldays “. I read the story with great enthusiasm when I was a youngster, and I would still find pleasure in it if I read it again to-day. This very interesting show was broadcast on a national television station, and undoubtedly it was a filmed programme. A country station could put that programme over just as easy as a national station in one of the cities could. Similarly, it is just as easy for country stations to broadcast western film programmes, if they are wanted, as it is for metropolitan stations to do so.
Now we come to another aspect of the question: What about the great national sporting events? There are two ways in which these can be shown on television. Sooner or later, either by microwave link or by coaxial cable, it will be possible for these events to be relayed to the country districts. But even before such a development, there is nothing to prevent a film being made of such a sporting fixture. Such films, perhaps of the running of the Melbourne Cup or of a great national football match, could later be shown on country stations. But when we are discussing sport, I am quite sure that honorable members will realize that people in country areas are infinitely more interested in local events. In my own district, for instance, they are far more interested in knowing whether Armidale has walloped Tamworth in the great football final than in the result of some metropolitan fixture. This is perfectly natural, and it leads me to another point. Country stations will be able to secure mobile units very soon after they have been established, and they can use such units for the broadcasting of local events.
Although I do not have many chances of looking at the metropolitan television programmes - very few members have - I have noticed that a great many studioproduced programmes of a minor character are shown from those stations, for advertising or other reasons. There is not the slightest reason why that could not be done by a country station. The programmes are not really costly. It is only when big casts are involved that programmes become costly, but as I have said, many splendid films are available apart from the poorer types that have been referred to in this house to-night. There is no difficulty in that regard from a technical point of view. The cost problem may arise also in relation to mobile units, but even this type of programme should not be beyond the capacity of a country station.
A great deal of doubt has been cast on the capacity of country people to secure and develop programmes. What is behind all this? What is the practice of country radio stations? I venture to say that the average country radio station to-day broadcasts programmes at least equal to and often better than those broadcast over metropolitan stations. More than that, they broadcast excellent reviews of country events. Country stations devote time to local features such as eisteddfods and concerts, which appeal to people in country areas. They get good national programmes as well by entering into arrangements with the great metropolitan networks for landline transmissions. The country stations can get those programmes, if they are wise, without in any way sacrificing their independence. They simply enter into a contract to take the city programmes as and when it suits them - not necessarily every day of the week at the same hour. It is quite true that some country stations unwisely have entered into contracts to sell very important parts of their time, and so have allowed that time to go out of their control altogether. That is a pity because it interferes with their freedom to serve the districts in which they are situated. However, they need not do that and I suggest that when a country television station commences operation it should be allowed freedom to purchase the programmes that it wants from other television interests or from independent interests. I believe that will happen because it will be good business for the large metropolitan television interests to sell some of their programmes to country stations. So on the score of programmes I think a great deal of talking at large has taken place.
Has the Government been wise in its policy of preventing the great metropolitan interests from gaining control of country television stations? A certain amount of adverse criticism has been directed at powerful interests that have secured control of television in the metropolitan areas. But it must be remembered that when television was started in this country many people were afraid that it would be a losing proposition for a long time. It was a new venture and only financially strong interests can risk suffering a loss. So I give them full credit for having tackled television. But having said that, I want to ask honorable members to consider - as I am sure the Postmaster-General has considered - whether it would be in the national interests for any influential individual or group of individuals to secure complete control of the organs of public expression in this country, of which television will be the most powerful. I would reply emphatically that under no circumstances would any government with a sense of responsibility permit such a thing to happen. I think that this Government has acted with courage and common sense in insisting that country people shall be given the fullest opportunity and encouragement to run their own television stations and so express their own opinions. I am not now speaking in terms of politics. I am speaking in terms of public interest, and irrespective of political creed. It would not be in the interests of Australia for the great metropolitan television interests to shape all our national thinking. So I feel that the Government has acted most wisely in this matter.
The Postmaster-General, in his statement to the House on 30th April last, made this proviso about applicants for country television licences -
I am quite certain that the populous country areas that will be able to stand the cost of television will be able to deliver the goods. I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral on having courage and faith in the people with whom he has been so closely associated.
One other matter arises for consideration. Is it possible that once the independent country stations have commenced operations there may be, to use the common phrase, a ganging-up of powerful interests to deny them programmes, or to prevent them from getting technical assistance and so on? If that should happen I suggest that the Government would be fully justified in placing all the resources at its command behind the country stations in order to enable them to function properly. In fact, I think it would be in Australia’s interests for the Commonwealth to place at their disposal now such assistance, technical and otherwise, as would ensure their success. I leave that thought with the Postmaster-General.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think this debate has been of great value and I am glad that the opportunity has been available to honorable members to address themselves to the third phase of the development of television in Australia - its extension into country areas. May I commence by outlining the present situation? Some time ago the Government, having applied itself to the problem of a further extension of television, decided on the form of the third phase. In considering this phase it was obvious that there were some difficulties of a different nature to those faced in the first and second phases which provided for the establishment of television in city areas. I think the honor- able member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that there were difficulties in this third phase that were greater than those previously experienced, and I am inclined to agree wilh him. Therefore the Government confined itself to its decision to proceed with the extension of television and simply indicated the scope of this third phase. That was done by indicating, in general terms only, the areas to which the third phase would be applied. I shall have a little more to say on that angle in a few minutes.
Having decided to proceed with the extension of television to certain country areas, the Government authorized me to call for applications for the various areas determined and to instruct the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, whose job it is to function as specified in the Broadcasting and Television Act, to inquire into the applications, when they are received, so that, eventually, the board will be in a position to advise the Government fully on all these matters which the Government will consider in making its determination as to what licences should be granted. The difficulties which the Government foresaw, and which the board will take into account and inquire into and report upon, are difficulties such as those which have been mentioned in this debate, with respect to the availability of capital for the extension of television to country areas, the availability of programmes of a standard comparable to that of programmes broadcast in city areas, and the frequencies available for the extension. This last matter was touched on, I think, only by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), but it is a very real problem. There is also the question of the availability of relay links and of suitable sites for transmitters in the various areas concerned. All these are problems on which the Government requires the advice of the Broadcasting Control Board. Therefore, the board has to inquire into those matters.
Let me point out, Sir, that, in this statement on the third phase of television development, the Government set out certain important basic principles. It pointed out, for instance, that the extension of television in any particular area need not be confined solely to one commercial station. That does not mean to say that the Government has. taken a decision that there shall be two commercial stations. The chief basic principle set out in this statement - a principle which has been mentioned by most speakers in this debate - is that, in the granting of licences, priority shall be given, as far as is practicable, to applicants which are local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations. That is the crux of the statement, as has been pointed out by other speakers. I simply mention it for the moment in these introductory remarks outlining the present position, and I point out that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is now proceeding with its task. It is a big task, and it will take a considerable time to accomplish. The applications close on 30th September. The board expects to commence its investigations and inquiries probably towards the end of October, when it has had time to look at the applications. I shall be very much surprised if it is in a position to submit its report on these applications - and it will report on them in toto - before a time early in the New Year.
In these circumstances, Sir, I feel that it would not be proper for me, as Minister, to say anything which might be interpreted as giving some personal direction to the board or as an attempt to anticipate the Government’s final decision on this matter. But I believe that I can quite properly deal with some of the criticisms that have been made by various honorable members in this debate. I shall deal first with the criticism by Opposition members that paragraph 9 of the statement really either amounts to a deliberate attempt to mislead the people about the Government’s intentions or else is evidence of the fact that we in the Government are more or less kidding ourselves in thinking that these proposals can be put into effect. The reasons given by the critics for adopting that attitude were these: First, that there would not be sufficient local capital available in country areas to finance a local station; secondly, that suitable programmes were not likely to be available to a local independent station; thirdly, that, generally, rural interests are not capable of putting on programmes comparable with those available to city stations. I challenge those criticisms and say that they will not stand investigation.
Strangely enough, as was pointed out, 1 think by the honorable member for Paterson, these are the stories that are being peddled - and 1 use the- term “ peddled “ deliberately - by those city interests which Opposition members state that they wish to see removed from the control of television. Incidentally, I was very much interested to note that almost all speakers on both sides of the House agreed that it was highly desirable that the control and operation of country television stations should be in the hands of country interests. That unanimity was very interesting indeed. The point is that the metropolitan interests are attempting - and I do not question their right to do so - to create throughout the community, and especially in the minds of those in country- areas who desire to invest in television, the impression that country television cannot succeed unless it is financed, controlled and programmed by the existing metropolitan stations. That is the story that is being put out. It is rather strange to find that our friends on the opposite side of the House are putting forward the same story although they claim that they desire to keep the metropolitan interests out of the control of television in country areas.
Let me deal with the various criticisms that I have mentioned. On the matter of capital, the honorable member for Wilmot stated that it would cost more than £1,000,000 to establish a television broadcasting station in the country. That statement has been corrected by other speakers. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) and others have stated that the true figure is between £300,000 and £400,000. That is quite correct. In order to confirm that, Mr. Speaker, I should like to give the House the actual estimates of the cost of essential equipment for the stations at Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart. These stations are not so big as those at Sydney and Melbourne, but they are nevertheless of considerable size and are much bigger than would be needed in the country. The transmitter for the Brisbane station is to cost £238,000. That for Adelaide is estimated to cost £218,000. The Perth transmitter is estimated to cost £199,000, and the Hobart one £189,000. The cost of a transmitter for a normal country station would be somewhat less. It would not be necessary for a country station to have elaborate studio buildings like those required by the big city stations. A country station would require what is called an O.B. unit, which is used for outside broadcasts, and which would probably cost about £50,000. A country station would also need tele-cine equipment.
So it can be seen, when actual costs are considered, that the charge that sufficient country captial will not be available does not bear investigation. The actual figures that I have cited indicate that the estimate of between £300,000 and £400,000 given by the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for Wannon as the cost of establishing a country station is completely correct under present conditions. We should remember, too, that the cost of the requisite equipment is falling steadily all the time because of the experience being gained in the manufacturing industry.
I go on now to the criticism with respect to programmes. Here is the vital point to which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will have to apply itself in order to be able to advise the Government on the availability of programmes. What I have to say now is simply my own opinion. I have given the matter a considerable amount of attention, and what I have to say should not be regarded as in any way influencing the board. Nor does it in any way commit the Government. But I am certain that this fear that country television stations will not be able to obtain programmes comparable to those available to city stations is completely baseless. It has been pointed out already that there is really no reason why country stations cannot obtain programmes from overseas in the same way as programmes are acquired at present by the metropolitan stations.
The suggestion has been made that the metropolitan stations may attempt to corner the film market and hire out the films to the stations in the country areas only if they are given some form of control over those stations. If that should happen, and if the Government desired to ensure the successful operation of a country station to which a licence had been granted, it would be up to the Government to see that something was done to ensure that programmes were available. I believe - and the inquiries that I have made substantiate my belief - that programmes will be available to country interests in the same way as they are available to metropolitan interests.
It has been stated that television programmes are costly. That is quite true. A country station would not be able to meet the cost of programming, even if programmes were available, in the same way as the larger metropolitan stations do. However, I cannot see any reason why two, three, four or five country stations should not form a network system for programme procurement and distribution on a basis similar to that in operation in radio - I am not suggesting that networks should be formed for capital investment or control - and in that case the act would not be breached. We could have a system of completely independent stations helping each other, not only in the purchase of programmes and films but also in the sharing of programmes of local interest. They could also share an O.B. unit. If my suggestion were adopted the country stations could operate at a cost much less than that entailed in the operation of large metropolitan stations.
My next statement may give rise to comment. I do not see any reason - and there is nothing regarding it in my statement - which would debar a country station from acquiring from ‘a metropolitan station a certain programme that it desires to telecast. In my statement of 30th April, 1959, I mentioned that as far as practicable priority in the granting of television licences would be given to local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations. In that context the words “not associated “ mean “ not associated financially “. They would not be debarred from picking and choosing from the programmes available from city stations. I believe that the city stations would be only too glad to make programmes available on that basis.
Honorable members may be interested to learn that the licences granted to Perth and Hobart commercial stations contain a clause which states specifically that the stations may not enter into any exclusive arrangement with any particular metropolitan station for programme procurement. The door is thus left open to the Perth and Hobart stations to acquire programmes from other licensees if they so desire. This ensures that they will not be likely to come under the control of other stations.
We should remember that television in Australia is still relatively in its infancy. Australian films are not yet produced for television in great numbers although local companies are producing practically all the film required for advertising purposes. There is no reason why the industry should not be built up. If this were done, country stations would not have so much difficulty in meeting their programme requirements.
I turn now to a few matters which make independent stations all the more desirable. An independent country station will provide in its particular area the kind of programme which the people there wish to see. That is important. The local radio station provides a service which is more than comparable with that available in the city areas, and an independent country television station could operate in the same way. A great deal of capital would not be required. Local sports and, as the honorable member for Wannon has said, local concerts could be televised. Such shows would not be available to the country people if a metropolitan station were piping its programmes from the city.
Some protests have been made that certain areas have not been mentioned in my statement. I have already said that we are now discussing the third phase of television development in Australia and that the fourth phase will follow. The Government is adhering to its original policy of progressing in stages. The honorable member for Paterson has pointed out the wisdom of that policy. When the third phase of development is well under way attention will be given to the fourth phase, the introduction of which will be so much easier as a result of the extensive investigations that have been and will be carried out by the control board into the applications for licences.
I have received numerous letters from people informing me that Mount So-and-so is the best site for a television station in a particular area. That is a matter for determination by the engineers of the board and the stations, and it will be left to them.
The concluding paragraph of my statement of 30th April is in these terms -
Regarding the national service, the Government has decided to maintain its policy of providing dual national and commercial services to viewers.
We have stated that until the problems arising from the extension of the commercial services - the availability of frequencies, for instance - have been solved, we shall not proceed with the introduction of a national service. We shall proceed with that programme in conjunction with the extension of commercial services because we adhere to the policy of providing a dual service.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) has stated that I have been somewhat evasive and have not given answers to all the questions involved in this matter. My answers are in the statement to which I have referred. A newspaper in his district, in commenting on a remark made by the honorable member regarding my evasiveness, pointed out that the answers were included in my statement.
This debate has been of great value in indicating the strong body of opinion throughout this House that it is desirable to proceed as far as practicable with the extension of television into country areas in a way which will leave control of country stations in the hands of country interests. The country licensees are equally as capable of performing their tasks as are city licensees.
.- I shall not take up the time of the House for very long. I represent a rural electorate and congratulate the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) on the assurances that he has given to people in the country areas. We are all very concerned that the country press, which provides such a wonderful service to country areas, shall be protected. If I felt for one moment that when television came to the country there was a chance that the country press would be controlled by city interests, I would raise the strongest objection to the whole idea. We must give the people the opportunity to choose their programmes.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial stations have set a very high standard in broadcasting. I have seen some of the television programmes of the metropolitan stations and I am not well impressed by them. However, in a free country we must give people the opportunity to choose the programmes that they want. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) said that 12 per cent, of viewers tuned in to the programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am sure that everyone will agree that people in that 12 per cent, are the salt of the earth and that it is worth spending many millions of pounds to give them programmes of a high standard.
My concern is for the young people in country areas. People with splendid brains and talents who have played an important part in our history had their beginnings in the country. The opportunities for children in the country to acquire ideas and material for the development of their talents are limited. I am sure that when the Australian Broadcasting Commission extends its television services into rural areas it will fill a long-felt need.
– Put on “ Dad and Dave “.
– I would say that “ Dad and Dave “ played a very big part in the development of Australia. We should be very proud of those characters who went out and battled against very difficult conditions in earlier times.
Another factor that should be borne m mind is the very low standard of information and news disseminated in this country. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has the opportunity through its news gatherers to provide a good service. We have representatives overseas in trade and diplomatic posts. Those sources could be used to provide most interesting and informative material for our programmes. I conclude by congratulating the PostmasterGeneral. I believe that all rural interests will support the principles set out in his statement on television.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) left no doubt in the minds of honorable members to-night as to where he stands on the control of rural television. He said very definitely that he believed that it should be independently controlled by country people. If country television stations are controlled by country people, there need be no fear that the programmes will undermine the nation. The country people will keep their programmes :to a high standard.
Speakers in this debate have dealt largely with programmes that are shown on television throughout Australia, but the statement made by the Postmaster-General really did not touch on that aspect at all. He dealt with what is called the third phase of television development, and he named certain places in the vicinity of which television transmitters would be established. In Victoria - of course, I am most interested in that State - he named Ballarat, Bendigo, the Latrobe valley and the Goulburn valley. In a later part of his statement, he said -
The location of the transmitters in these areas, as well as areas to be covered, has not yet been determined.
I am very pleased about that. He mentioned Bendigo and Ballarat as the approximate location of transmitters, but added that the location of the transmitters would be fully considered before any final action was taken. I want to make one or two remarks about the location of the transmitters, and I shall take Bendigo as an illustration. The Goulburn valley is to the east of Bendigo and Melbourne is to the south. I believe that the transmitter for this area should be placed as far west of Bendigo as possible without depriving the people of Bendigo of the services of the station. Bendigo is approximately 100 miles from Melbourne. People who live 50 miles from Melbourne would continue to tune into the metropolitan stations and the people in the area to which I am referring could tune into a transmitter west of Bendigo. The coverage to the west of Bendigo would be very great, and the people in the city of Bendigo would not suffer.
Much the same position would obtain with Ballarat, which is some 70 miles from Melbourne. People 35 miles from Melbourne would still tune into Melbourne. I want the transmitter to be as far west of Ballarat as possible, so that it will encompass the population of Ballarat and spread further afield. Commercial station 3DB in Melbourne thought it should have a greater coverage in radio broadcasting and decided to put its wireless transmitter at Lubeck, which is south of Murtoa. I have travelled by car from Melbourne, through Lubeck and on to Hopetoun. I stayed tuned to
Station 3DB as I .passed through Ballarat. I had clear reception then but it became faint as I went north-west from Ballarat. However, I immediately tuned into 3LK, which I received with good volume. Moving further north, I travelled at least 150 miles, or perhaps 200 miles past Lubeck before station 3LK started to fade.
The situation, therefore, is that if the transmitters are =placed in the correct positions they will cover a considerable area. 1 am sure that the Postmaster-General has that point in .mind because when he mentioned Ballarat and Bendigo he said .that no final decision had been made to put the transmitters in those cities. However, Opposition members, including the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) who is muttering all the time, thought immediately that the transmitters would be placed in those very areas. I hope that will not be so. I believe that a scheme such as I have outlined would serve the best interests of television generally in western Victoria until stations are established at say Mildura and Swan Hill.
In another part of his statement, the Postmaster-General said, referring to the Government -
It has decided that, as far as practicable, priority in the grant of such licences–
That is, country licences - would be given to applicants which are local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations, provided . such applicants demonstrate their capacity to provide … a service comparable to that available to city viewers ….
I support that decision wholeheartedly. I believe that it is in the best interests of this country. I also want to put the point that one of Australia’s troubles is the movement of population to the metropolitan areas. People have been speaking about decentralization until it has become a catch-cry which does not mean anything. Here is a chance to put it into practical effect. My colleague, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), pointed out that people in these remote areas want entertainment such as they can get in the cities. Even if the Government were to subsidize a country television station to some extent it would not be out of line with true logic. There are many examples of rural residence being fostered in distant areas by railways which did not pay. But the authorities who were responsible for those railways knew that they would return a dividend that was not measurable in terms of money. They encouraged settlers to go out and establish some of our great primary industries.
I have the greatest faith in the PostmasterGeneral. He is a country man with a country viewpoint and I believe that he will do everything possible to bring television to country areas at the earliest possible date in such a way that it will benefit the whole of the Australian community.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– J wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to a peculiar situation which exists in regard to the administration of the Commonwealth national health scheme. Certain hospital and medical benefit organizations are obliged to register with the Commonwealth but evidently at that stage the Minister wipes his hands completely of further responsibility. Although these organizations are registered under the Commonwealth national health scheme, when criticism is directed against them the Minister says that the Commonwealth has no responsibility in respect of their administration; yet, in effect, they are a section of the national health scheme.
I propose to refer to a most extraordinary case. An old lady - she is approximately 90 years of age - took ill and it was believed that she was suffering from acute appendicitis. She was unable to gain admission to a public hospital and eventually was admitted to St. Vincent’s Private Hospital on 1st September, 1958. It was then discovered that she was suffering, not from acute appendicitis, but from shingles. At the request of the private hospital authorities, on 1st October this lady was transferred to the Sacred Heart Hospice because the bed she was occupying was required for a person who was seeking admission urgently on account of illness. The old, lady met the requirements of the hospital authorities and agreed to transfer.
When application was made to the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales - an organization which is registered with the Commonwealth Department of Health under regulation No. N.21 - that body decided it would pay the expenses incurred by this lady for the 26 days she had been in the private hospital but refused to pay her for the period in which she had received further treatment in the Sacred Heart Hospice. The organization, in several letters, advanced a number of reasons for this action, and honorable members will note that it changed its reasons.
I have here the file of correspondence relating to this matter and I wish, briefly, to give the House an outline of how this organization changed its ground from time to time and refused to pay this lady the benefit for which she had contributed. On 13th January, 1959, when the application for payment was first rejected, Mr. T. Wharrie, Claims Controller of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales, wrote -
As 26 days Fund benefit plus the Commonwealth Additional Benefit was paid to you for your admission to the St. Vincent’s Hospital no Fund benefit but only Commonwealth Additional Benefit will be paid to you for your admission to the Sacred Heart Hospice, as the period in St. Vincent’s Hospital was a fair and reasonable one for the acute stage of your illness.
It is news to me that benefits are to be paid to the contributor only when the hospital fund decides that the period of treatment is adequate. I imagined that the hospital authorities would determine that matter, or whether the treatment was to continue. When the matter was further taken up with the organization it changed its ground and in a letter dated 13th February, 1959. stated -
We would advise that we have again submitted this claim to our medical referee, but it is regretted we can only confirm the original assessment of Commonwealth Additional Benefit only, as the condition for which she was admitted is regarded as chronic and therefore no longer eligible for payment of Fund benefit.
She was admitted by the doctor on the ground that she was believed to be suffering from acute appendicitis but later she was discovered to be suffering from shingles-
Although she is approximately 90 years of age she has now been returned home and, according to her own doctor, has been completely cured and is in reasonably good health. How could she be regarded as suffering from a chronic ailment?
When further efforts were made to obtain payment the organization changed its ground again. In another communication from Mr. Wharrie, the relatives interested in this old lady’s case were invited to obtain additional medical evidence to show that she was not suffering from a chronic ailment. They obtained a certificate from Dr. A. L. Baccarini, the doctor who originally obtained her admission to the hospital. He declared that she had completely recovered from her ailment, but the organization still refused to pay. Again the relatives made representations and the organization returned to its original argument. In a communication dated 8th April last Mr. Wharrie wrote -
The 26 days paid for the admission of Mrs. M. Buckland to the St. Vincent’s Private Hospital, Sydney, on 4th September, 1958, was a fair and reasonable period for the acute stage of this illness.
So she was to receive the hospital benefit only after the organization decided that she had passed the acute stage of her illness, although she was still obliged to remain in the hospice! Anybody who knows the Sacred Heart Hospice recognizes the conditions under which people are usually admitted. They have to be in a very serious condition, unlikely to recover, and there has to be medical evidence to that effect. This was not the case when she was admitted because this old lady had been requested to transfer from St. Vincent’s. She did not remain very long before she was discharged as being completely cured. The Hospitals Contribution Fund then wrote on 7th May, as follows: -
The transfer from St. Vincent’s Private Hospital to the Sacred Heart Hospice was, in our opinion, due to the age of the patient and not the illness for which she had been admitted. Our opinion is substantiated by the fact that the doctor who had her admitted did not attend her in the Sacred Heart Hospice, and we understand that she had no medical treatment while in that institution.
That was an utterly ridiculous statement. First of all, if the organization had bothered to make inquiry it would have discovered that the Sacred Heart Hospice has its own panel of doctors and unless a doctor is on that panel he does not treat any of the patients in the Sacred Heart Hospice. The hospice has its own doctors attending and they give treatment and attention to the inmates.
Would any reasonable member of this chamber believe that such a situation existed - that patients would remain in the Sacred Heart Hospice without receiving any medical treatment at all? But that is what the Hospitals Contribution Fund is endeavouring to establish. The fight to get what we believe this old lady is entitled to has gone on, but the organization still refuses to pay. So we find that in a communication dated 20th May of this year a Mr. R. Miller, a director of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales, repeats that the fund refuses to pay because it considers that under the conditions of membership this old lady is not eligible to receive benefit.
I think that the Commonwealth has some responsibility in this matter. You can see how the fund shifted its ground. On one occasion it refused to pay the benefit because, it said, she had received adequate benefit for the treatment for the acute stages of her ailment. Then it said that the ailment was a chronic ailment, and later it said that she was admitted to the Sacred Heart Hospice because of her age, not because of her ailment. The facts could have been checked with the hospital authorities, and it would have been discovered that the old lady met the request of the hospital authorities to transfer to the hospice, in order to make her bed available to a person who was more urgently in need of it. I think that in these circumstances, and having regard to the fact that the fund is a registered organization that is helping to administer the National Health Act, the Commonwealth Government has a responsibility in the matter. So I look to the Minister to take the necessary action to see that the position that I have spoken of is corrected, and that this old lady will enjoy the benefit for which she contributed to the fund for many years.
– I, of course, have no knowledge of the details of this case. If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) wished to have the case investigated, one would have thought that the simple and normal way of going about it would have been to send the particulars to my office in a letter and ask me to investigate it. If the honorable member likes to do that, I shall have the case investigated, but I am not quite sure whether he really wants it to be investigated or whether he is really only using it as an excuse for attacking the Hospitals Contribution Fund.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The Royal Australian Air Force has some 450 aircraft formed into squadrons and units as follows: - Three squadrons of jet light bombers, three squadrons of jet fighters, two maritime squadrons, three transport squadrons, five Citizen Air Force fighter squadrons equipped mainly with jet aircraft, and various basic, advanced and operational training units.
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following reply: -
The successful tenderer was Clyde Construction. Variations may be necessary in the course of the contract, and it appeared that these would cost more under the rate schedules of Nover Construction than those of Clyde.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s question: -
Sydney, New South Wales; Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited, Adelaide, South Australia; Commonwealth Fertilizers & Chemicals Limited, Melbourne, Victoria; Cresco Fertilizers (W.A.) Limited, Adelaide, South Australia; Cuming Smith & Mount Lyell Farmers Fertilizers Limited, Perth, Western Australia; Sulphide Corporation Proprietary Limited, Boolaroo, New South Wales; Sulphuric Acid Limited, Port Adelaide. South Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 August 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590812_reps_23_hor24/>.