23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Petitions praying that the House will pass legislation to ease the means test and increase social service benefits payable to civilian widow pensioners and their dependent children were presented as follows: -
By Mr. Reynolds from certain citizens of Australia.
By Mr. Lucock from certain citizens of Australia.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question without notice. Is he in a position to make an informed and informative statement on the collapse of the Summit talks? If not, when will he be in a position to do so? Also, will he give an assurance that while the present crisis in the international sphere continues Parliament will be called together whenever necessary during the forthcoming winter recess in order that it may be kept informed of the course of events and Australia’s position in regard thereto?
– For reasons of time which, I. think, will be obvious and are implicitly understood in the honorable gentleman’s question, I am not in a position to make any full statement about the recent incidents at the Summit conference, but I am able to give to the House the statement which has been issued by the heads of the three Western governments this morning. According to the latest information in my possession the heads of the three Western governments have issued the following statement in Paris -
The President of the United States, the President of the French Republic and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom take note of the fact that, because of the attitude adopted by the Chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers, it has not been possible to begin, at the Summit conference, the examination of the problems which it had been agreed would be discussed between the four Chiefs of State or Government. They regret that those discussions, so important to world peace, could not take place. For their part, they remain unshaken in their conviction that all outstanding international questions should be settled, not by the use of threats or force, but by peaceful means, through negotiation, at a suitable time in the future.
That is the statement that was issued, Mr. Speaker.
The Australian Government very greatly regrets this turn of events. A meeting on which millions of people al] over the world - not only of the free world - placed high hopes has now collapsed before it had begun its work. After all the careful preparation by many governments, the visits exchanged between the four leaders themselves, and most serious and full consultations by Mr. Macmillan with the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth countries in the preceding two weeks, the disappointment is even more profound.
Although we will still allow ourselves to hope that the extensive preparatory effort will not, in the ultimate, be completely wasted, the Australian Government had certainly believed that the Summit meeting might bring a new atmosphere in international relations in which, instead of tensions and threats, we would see established a practice of reasonable negotiation on differences between the East and the West. We still believe that that is essentia] and we still hope that, in time, this will occur. We know that the Western governments share this view and are ready to continue working towards that realization. One fact is clear in this unhappy situation: It is that it was Mr. Khrushchev who walked out and broke up the conference, notwithstanding the fact that he had stated in Moscow as recently as 12th May that he would not allow the aeroplane incident to spoil or to prevent the planned conference from occurring. The events in Paris have to-day re-emphasized the unfortunate truth that there are two worlds - the Western world and the Soviet world. It is quite clear to the Australian Government that the wellbeing of the Australian nation is inseparably bound up with the future of the Western world - the free world.
– Nobody would dispute that.
– I am very glad that the Leader of the Opposition associated himself with that view, as I had not doubted he would. I can now state it as the view of the Australian people, expressed in the Australian Parliament. The Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, of course, will be keeping very closely in touch with events in London. Returning to the honorable member’s question, if, to-morrow, I am, as I expect and hope to be, rather more fully informed than I am at this moment, I will be prepared to make a further statement in the House. If circumstances should develop which would warrant the recalling of the Parliament because of any crisis in international affairs, neither I, as Acting Prime Minister, nor the Prime Minister, on his return in a few weeks’ time, would hesitate to call the House together.
– I ask the Minister for
Health whether the National Health and Medical Research Council, at its recent meeting, expressed itself as strongly of the opinion that cigarette smoking was a contributory cause of lung cancer. Did it consider that steps should be taken to publicize this fact? Has there been an increase in the incidence of lung cancer in Australia in recent years?
– PerhapsI should first of all remind the House that the National Health and Medical Research Council has been set up to advise, not only the Commonwealth Government, but all State governments. It has considered the relationship between smoking and lung cancer on several occasions. At its meeting in Canberra last week it again considered this question and expressed the opinion that there was strong contributory causal relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Perhaps it is fair to say that some authorities do not agree with this view, but the body which advises the Government believes that smoking is a very important contributory cause. There has in fact been a steep increase in the incidence of lung cancer in Australia in recent years both relatively and absolutely. The National Health and Medical Research Council went further than that. It was of the opinion that these facts should be publicized and, indeed, that it might be advis able for Australian governments to consider whether steps should be taken to control in some way advertising designed to promote smoking.
– I desire to direct my question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that donations to the Save the Children Fund and to the World Council of Churches Service to Refugees are regarded as allowable income tax deductions if made during this year, which has been named World Refugee Year? If so, should I be correct in assuming that a donation made to the Save the Children Fund for the express purpose of sponsoring a homeless child in Korea ought to be regarded as an allowable income tax deduction? Finally, will the Treasurer consider the extension of this income tax privilege in respect of this worthy cause beyond the current World Refugee Year?
– The matter raised by the honorable gentleman brings up an issue of policy. To the extent that he put questions as to facts, I shall see whether 1 can give him precise answers, but the policy aspect must await consideration of the Budget.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question without notice. In view of the fact that all members of the Australian Light Horse and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles contributed one day’s pay to meet the cost of the statue which was erected at Port Said and which, it is now proposed, shall be re-erected at Albany, Western Australia, does not the Government consider that those who contributed to meet the cost should be asked for their opinion as to where in Australia the statue should be placed, rather than the executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which probably represents other arms of the services which did not contribute to the cost? Has one group of Light Horse men already requested that the statue be placed in Canberra as being a more appropriate site? If other cavalry associations are of a similar opinion - I ask this as a member of the first convoy of the Australian Imperial Force in World War I. - will the Government consider erecting at Albany another statue more representative of the first convoy of the First A.I.F.?
– Frankly, I had not comprehended that the cost of this statue, which is so well known to many Australians as well as to members of the units in memory of which it was erected, had been paid for by subscription by members of the Light Horse of the First Australian Imperial Force.
– Not entirely, but substantially.
– Yes. I had not understood that at all. Frankly, I had thought that the Anzac Memorial, as I think it was known, was a memorial to the First A.I.F. rather than to the Light Horse, although it depicts a mounted trooper.
– A Light Horse man.
– Yes. I know that it depicts a mounted trooper who is representative of the mounted troops of such glorious memory. The Australian Government consulted with the New Zealand Government as to the most appropriate site for this memorial if it were transferred to Australia, and I think the Australian Government assumed that the New Zealand Government would consult with the appropriate ex-servicemen in New Zealand in the way in which our Government consulted, as it thought, the appropriate exservicemen’s organization in this country. The choice of Albany - the final point of departure from Australia of the first convoy of the First A.I.F. - resulted from an agreement between the two governments after these consultations. I make no comment on the suggestion by the honorable member for Chisholm that a second memorial be provided, but I shall convey it to my colleagues.
HOSPITAL BENEFITS SCHEME. Mr. COSTA. - I ask the Minister for Health: Is he aware that aged invalids and chronic sufferers who are committed to convalescent homes which are registered orga nizations for the purpose of Commonwealth hospital benefits are deprived of the Commowealth subsidy of £1 a day unless they contribute to a hospital benefits fund at a rate covering the intermediate ward charges? Does he know that in some cases the sufferers are informed by the Department of Social Services, when applying for a pension, that there is no need for them to contribute to a hospital benefits fund because pensioners are entitled to free hospital treatment in public wards? Is the Minister further aware that it is rare for a person suffering from a chronic ailment to obtain admission to a public ward in a public hospital? Will he see that age and invalid pensioners are properly informed of their rights under the Commonwealth health acts, so that they will not suffer financial embarrassment? Alternatively, will the Government take the more just step of amending the act to provide for payment of the full Commonwealth subsidy of £1 a day when a free bed in a public ward is not made available to such sufferers?
– That was a very long question. If the honorable member will put it on the notice-paper I shall give him a detailed answer. I do not understand what he means when he refers to public wards in these institutions. They are not public hospitals. If the honorable member will let me have all the details, I shall see that he gets a detailed answer.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Will he inform the House of the steps that will need to be taken by the Government in order to effect the change recently decided upon in the price of sugar? I might add that this change is greatly appreciated by many primary producers in the Wide Bay area.
– The increase in the price of sugar adds one penny per lb. to the retail price. The Commonwealth Government is satisfied that such an increase is warranted, and that the necessary amendment should be made to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government. Pending the preparation of a supplementary agreement, the increase will be put into effect by letters passing between the two Governments.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the rent component in the Commonwealth Statistician’s C series and interim price index largely ingnores the rising cost of land and house construction, excludes the rent of flats and furnished houses and does not take into acount the greatly reduced proportion of houses which are now available for letting. I ask him whether, or when, he can tell us what progress the Commonwealth Statistician has made in evolving a more representative and accurate means of measuring the increasing cost of accommodation in Australia.
– Like the honorable gentleman, but perhaps for somewhat different reasons, I have had some interest in this item as it affects the C series index. It has seemed to me for some time to be curious that in a community where. according to the last census, something over 70 per cent, of the people are in possession of their own homes or are in the process of acquiring their own homes, we should have a C series index item determined basically from the rent aspect rather than from the ownership aspect. I do not know how it would work out or whether it would involve some alteration in the method of computation but, as the honorable member has raised the matter in this form, I shall take it up with the Commonwealth Statistician and give the honorable member such information as I can.
– I have been informed that the Treasurer has stated that the Government has no intention of removing pay-roll tax. Is this the correct interpretation of the right honorable gentleman’s statement?
– The honorable gentleman probably has based his question on a misleading headline which appeared in one of to-day’s papers. It was misleading in the sense that-
– If the question is based on a newspaper report it is out of order.
– It is not a newspaper report, it is a newspaper headline. At least, that is my assumption, which may be incorrect. But whatever the basis for the question, let me attempt to make the position clear to the House, as I sought to do in some detail in the paper on pay-roll tax which I made available to the Parliament last night. 1 am not being critical of newspapers which find it necessary to put in a very abbreviated form what it takes us somewhat longer to say or to write, but I did select with some care the phraseology of a particular paragraph dealing with payroll tax which made it quite clear that while the Government was setting out in that document some basic facts, some arguments, and some analyses of arguments, we were not indifferent to considerations advanced to us by various people. We do give consideration to the views which are put forward to us - I used the phrase that the Government did not possess a closed mind on the matter. That, I think, makes it evident that while I, for one, might have to be shown the other directions from which revenue could be suitably raised if revenue from pay-roll tax were to be forgone, at least I am certainly willing to examine the arguments put to me and to hear what people have to say about an alternative source of revenue. The purpose of the paper was not necessarily to end argument on this matter but to narrow argument to what are the acknowledged facts and the relevancies of the issue.
– I address my question to the Acting Prime Minister. Has the Joint Coal Board power to provide funds for harbour and stevedoring facilities which are necessary to develop the coal export trade? Is it true that the Minister for National Development, who is in charge of the Joint Coal Board, has been attacking the Government of New South Wales for not providing sufficient funds to improve the harbour facilities at Newcastle and Port Kembla, in an attempt to cover up the Commonwealth Government’s failure to assist with this essential national development? Will the Government, instead of playing politics, use the statutory powers which were conferred on it by the Joint Coal Board agreement to make sufficient money available to develop Newcastle and Port Kembla harbours so that our coal export trade may be increased?
– I had thought that there were some politics in the question. I am not departmentally responsible for administering the Joint Coal Board, and I do not pretend to be fully cognizant of its statutory situation. But 1 am aware, as the honorable member is aware, that the Joint Coal Board is the creation of the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government. The Commonwealth Government has stated its view through the responsible Minister, the Minister for National Development. Perhaps the honorable member should state his point of view to the Labour Government of New South Wales, which is the other party to the agreement.
– My question to the Treasurer relates to what I presume to be an authoritative statement which was made by the Leader of the Opposition when he was in Central Australia recently. There, as I understand it, the Leader of the Opposition indicated that it is the policy of his party to increase the funds made available to the Northern Territory Administration to an amount in the vicinity of £60,000,000 over a period of approximately twenty years. I therefore ask the Treasurer: First, how does the amount of money allotted to the Northern Territory in the last year of the Labour Administration compare with the moneys made available to the Northern Territory in the last financial year by the present Administration? Secondly, what effect would the raising of the proposed amount of money have on the budgetary position?
– I was interested to see the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition, because it came at approximately the same time as one from his colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, whose generosity was branching out in another direction. As I understand it, the Leader of the Opposition stated that the grant to the Northern Territory for capital purposes should be built up to this very considerable sum of £60,000.000 a year. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made his statement to a Melbourne audience. He told his listeners that whilst this Government was providing only £1 in every £1,000 of national income for Afro-Asian development - an inaccurate estimate, but it will serve for the purpose of illustration - the Labour Party, if it was returned to office, would provide £1 in £100, or even £1 in £50 for the development of Afro-Asian countries. I took out some figures in order to see the effect of that proposal. The allocation of £1 in £50 would make an addition of £100,000,000 to the Commonwealth Budget and, if we were doing this at the same time as the Leader of the Opposition was providing £60,000,000 to the Northern Teritory - we do have in addition our other development commitments - the Commonwealth would have a major budget problem on its hands. However, the dreams that honorable gentlemen opposite have when in opposition contrast remarkably with the realities when they are in office. There was no Colombo Plan when they were in office - we originated that plan - but there was some provision for the Northern Territory which amounted to £600,000 a year. The provision we make at present is some seven times that amount, although it still falls very far short of the sum of £60,000,000 a year which the Leader of the Opposition has proposed.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Health, has reference to the proposed ban on the importation of pigs from New Zealand and from Ireland because of the prevalence of rhinitis in those countries. According to the press the Minister proposes to impose the ban on 16th June next. If there is any risk of spreading this disease among the herds in Australia, why not impose the ban immediately instead of letting a month go by?
– The reason for the delay is that this ban will inflict some hardship on the importers here and the exporters in New Zealand. The disease has not yet appeared in New Zealand, but New Zealand is allowing imports from Northern Ireland where the disease is present. It is, therefore, thought quite safe to allow a certain period of time to elapse during which pigs may be imported from New Zealand before infection can be conveyed there from Northern Ireland and from New Zealand to Australia.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the New South Wales Government has written down the railways capital debt by £73,000,000 and saved itself approximately £3,500,000 per annum in interest payments? Will the Treasurer explain whether the action of the New South Wales Government can adversely affect the national economy? If such is not the case, will the right honorable gentleman take similar action to reduce the £4,000,000,000 national debt on a proportionate basis and thereby, in saving considerable interest payments, provide additional funds for public works such as housing, roads, harbours, water and sewerage works? I point out that in the process of absorbing the unemployed, such action would increase the Consolidated Revenue Fund through the various sources of taxation.
– I did see a report in the press to the effect that some arrangements had been made between the New South Wales Treasury and the New South Wales Department of Railways with a view to reducing the nominal indebtedness of the New South Wales railways to the Treasury of that State. I cannot give any precise information on the matter as I have not pursued it, but since the honorable gentleman has shown some interest, I shall tell him what I can about it. As to the remainder of his question, I have heard of some frenzied finance in my time, but surely his were some of the most fanciful ideas that have ever been expressed in this place. If we could simply resolve the financial problems of Australia by knocking a couple of noughts off the national debt, I should be only too pleased to do so.
– I direct a question to the
Minister for Air. Is the Minister aware of the continuing complaints by sergeants and airmen at the Richmond Royal Australian Air Force station about the prices charged in the canteens? Has any attention been givento these complaints? Have they been investigated, and has anything been done to meet anv reasonable objections?
– The objections by the sergeants and airmen to canteen prices at
Richmond arise primarily from the pricing policy adopted by the new Australian Services Canteens Organization which took over the service canteens last year. The former R.A.A.F. canteens pricing policy was to make very small profits and give the immediate advantage to servicemen across the counter. The policy of the new organization, broadly, is to trade competitively at capital city prices, thereby making over a period quite considerable profits which will be used entirely for the benefit of the servicemen. Individual complaints of pricing anomalies at Richmond have been investigated by the canteens organization and by R.A.A.F. officers, and they will continue this check. I am quite convinced that in the long run, there will be great advantages for the members of the services from the new canteens policy, and I believe that the attitude towards the new canteens organization at Richmond is shortsighted. I hope that the personnel at Richmond will realize this themselves. The new canteens organization to serve all the Australian armed services has been set up in accordance with considered government policy, and even if the airmen at Richmond should indefinitely maintain what is, in fact a boycott of the canteens, the new organization will not be replaced by any other.
– I ask the Attor ney-General: Is he able and willing to provide the House with figures concerning the number of letters and telegrams that have been intercepted for security reasons in recent years? If so, may I suggest to him that the information could be given to the House in the form in which the British Government provided similar information in 1957, and in the form in which the AttorneyGeneral has already provided it for the House in relation to telephone calls?
– I do not propose to give the information sought by the honorable member. In this, I shall follow the policy of the former Prime Minister and of the present Prime Minister. There is nothing comparable between my refusal to give the information for which I am now asked and the disclosures which were made to the royal commission in England or in my second-reading speech in this House on the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Bill. I was then giving one figure for a particular purpose at a time when it had no security significance, and this also was the position when figures were given to the royal commission in England.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question. It refers to the application of sales tax to the freight charges on goods sold in country areas. Will the Treasurer consider removing this portion of the sales tax when forming the next Budget and thus remove an unfair discrimination against country residents?
– The imposition of sales tax on the freight element is a matter that has exercised the attention of Treasurers for many years now. Of course, if it were practicable to find some formula that would take account of freight - I have not yet seen one that would satisfy any practical test - then budgetary consideration would still be necessary on the financial implications of a decision to remove sales tax on this element. I do not think I can do more at the moment than say that I shall see what information I can supply to the honorable gentleman regarding the general problem to which he has alluded and then see how far further examination would be warranted when we come to our Budget consideration.
– My question, which is directed to the Postmaster-General, deals with a radio programme broadcast over Station 2GB last Thursday. It was based on the killing of two Australian patrol officers at Telefomin in New Guinea. Will the Minister do all in his power to ensure that there will not be a repetition of this hurtful type of broadcast and that suitable expressions of regret are extended to the widowed mothers of the victims, whose feelings have been outraged by the distressing programme? I ask the Minister, also, to direct the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to ensure that a more careful scrutiny will in future be made to spare the next of kin the agonizing and gruesome details contained in such broadcasts.
– I shall be glad to inquire into the matter raised by the honorable member for Macquarie. I have stated before in the House that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has a monitoring system which it uses to keep an oversight on programmes provided in the broadcasting and television fields, with the object of ensuring that they conform to the standards laid down by the board and accepted by the licensees. There have been only a few occasions on which it has been necessary for the board to take some action about a programme which has been offensive to certain classes of people or to individuals. On each occasion, the board has acted promptly and has seen that the programme has been removed. I can recall one such programme in Brisbane and one, I think, in Melbourne. In addition to seeing that any such programme is taken off, the board requires the licensee to exercise a tighter supervision of its own programmes than would have been the case had such an occasion not arisen. Licensees generally cooperate well with the board in ensuring the presentation of a good variety and the maintenance of the quality of programmes and it is very rarely that such action has to be taken. I shall certainly refer this case to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to ensure that it makes a particular study of it.
– I preface my questions to the Postmaster-General by directing his attention to the various trunk line rates now operating, particularly those in the higher bracket of 100 miles to 400 miles. First, is the Minister in a position to explain why the subscribers in what I call the group between 200 miles and 300 miles pay double the rate for the last 100 miles that is paid by those in the brackets of 100 to 200 miles and 300 to 400 miles, on their last 100 miles? Secondly, is he aware that some subscribers - as in a case at Dimboola - have had their trunk line rates to Melbourne increased from 6s. 6d. to 10s. as a result of the introduction of the district charge compared with the previous principle of charging? Thirdly, will the Minister investigate what appears to be an anomaly with a view to having this matter so altered that these subscribers are not asked to carry such a heavy increase?
– Previously 1 have explained in this House the general position resulting from the movement by the Postal Department into the automatic field in providing telephone services. The case which the honorable member now states to me arises from that movement. I have pointed out that because of the introduction not only of automatic dialling, but also of automatic metering and accounting, it has become necessary to reduce the number of mileage divisions in determining trunk line rates. Prior to this forward movement, there were 22 mileage divisions under which the rates were determined and charged. Last October, these 22 divisions were reduced to eleven, and now they have been reduced to eight. This movement will greatly simplify the operation of the whole automatic system and is an essential part of its development.
We realize that in the alteration of the 22 divisions to eight, cases must have occurred in which rates increased. On the other hand, there must have been a corresponding number of cases where the rates decreased. It will be realized, also, that certain anomalies will develop in some areas which are just on the fringe of the mileage division. I have said before, and I repeat now, that in developing this new system the department is prepared to deal with any anomalies which become apparent. Obviously, there must be some anomalies in such a wide-scale development. The department will investigate them and, where possible, adjust the rates. As a matter of fact, quite a number of adjustments have been made already.
– My questions to the Minister for Primary Industry concern the price of sugar. Who fixes or determines the price of sugar in Australia? Does the Commonwealth Government have any say in the matter, and if so, is it exercised? If it was exercised recently, did the Government take into account the fact that, during the last eight years, the company concerned made profits amounting to £14,000,000 and also added £21,000,000 to its reserves?
– The case for the sugar industry was submitted by the industry to the Queensland Government which, in turn, passed it on to the Commonwealth Government. The Department of Primary Industry was responsible for the investigations into that case and for the checking of the figures submitted on behalf of the industry. Officers of the department spent three days in going fully into not only the costs of the industry itself, but also the costs pertaining to the sugar mills. Consequent upon those findings the Government felt that the increase was warranted. I think that that is all I need to say, because of the fact that the Queensland Government, of course, is a party to the 1956-61 agreement with the Commonwealth. As I have said in answer to a previous question, this agreement will need amending and, in due course, when the provisional agreement is available it will be submitted to the Parliament for approval.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That Standing Order No. 104-1 1 o’clock rulebe suspended for the remainder of this month.
.- I oppose this motion, because I feel that the Government once again is using a device in order to get bills through this House without due and proper consideration having been given to them by the members of the House. To me there seems to be no reason at all why this Parliament could not sit for another week. At the moment we have no fewer than twelve bills on the notice-paper, some of them very important bills, yet this motion will allow the Government to introduce new business after 11 p.m. The long hours that the Parliament will be expected to sit - perhaps going well into the early hours of the morning - will cause lack of concentration on the part of members, and we will have legislation passed through this House without due and proper consideration, because of the fatigue of members.
One bill in particular - the Broadcasting and Television Bill 1960 - is a measure on which many hours of debate could be spent; but. because this House will be sitting into the early hours of the morning, we will find that many of the clauses in that bill will be allowed to pass without proper consideration being given to them by either members on the Government side or honorable members on this side of the House.
It should be the duty of this Parliament to devote its attention to legislative affairs and to do everything possible to see that proper consideration is given to any bills placed before it. As a result of the adoption of this system of suspending the 11 o’clock rule, we will find that many members, particularly the older members, will be unable to bear the burden of the long hours and will take themselves off in order to have a rest.
During question time, Mr. Speaker, I happened to look at the benches where sit the members of the Australian Country Party, some of whom are now making such a roar in the corner. No fewer than five of that party’s elder members were sound asleep. So what will be the position at 2 o’clock in the morning? We will not be able to find any of them awake - not that that will matter much, because their efforts in debates in this House are not worthy of consideration.
The same procedure as is now being adopted has been adopted on a number of occasions previously. The last occasion on which it was used was at the end of the last session when the Matrimonial Causes Bill was debated until half-past two or three o’clock in the morning. That was a particularly important bill, and many members voted on it without realizing what was involved in some of its clauses.
The proposed suspension of the 11 o’clock rule indicates that the Government has no planning in relation to the business it brings before the House. For the past two or three weeks the Labour Party has been keeping the House going with proposals for urgent discussion. Time after time we have had to fill in in order to help the Government out of a dilemma and now, in the last week of the session, in order that Parliament may be able to adjourn tomorrow, we are faced with the suspension of the 1 1 o’clock rule to let the Government pass through all the business that it has on hand. The Government should have had all this business, which is still to be dealt with, on the notice-paper early in the session so that proper consideration could have been given to it.
There is another point that I should like to mention. Next week many schools will be still on holiday. It was only necessary to look at the public gallery during the last two or three days to see how many children from schools on holiday, and how many parents, have taken the opportunity to come to Canberra in order to see the Parliament in session. But, because of the fact that Parliament intends to sit until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, or even later, a lot of children, together with their parents, will be unable to see this House in operation.
I believe that, for the reasons I have advanced, the suspension of Standing Order No. 104 should be opposed.
.- I support the remarks made by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). From the viewpoint of our side of the House there is a very serious aspect of this hurried gathering together of legislation of importance towards the end of a session and then, after having allowed it to go through - or, rather, after having forced it through by means of the guillotine and other methods - amending it. This Parliament’s records are full of bills which have been amended and amended and amended, because either the Leader of the House, or the bureaucrats, or the Parliamentary Draftsman, or somebody in control anyway, is not giving the Parliament a reasonable chance of getting at these things. I do not blame the present Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt), who is a reasonable man; but he, too, has to have a look at this question.
There are important pieces of legislation coming before us which we say, quite frankly, we have not had time to examine. There are, for instance, the Broadcasting and Television Bill 1960 and the bill concerned with civil aviation. You have to remember, if these things are just rammed down our throats, that through the last three weeks in this House we have been ambling along just making sea-way and no more, wasting our time here because there was no business before the House. Because of the generosity and kindliness of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), we let you on the Government side amble along, but it is not fair then, at the conclusion of your halcyon days, your three weeks of do-nothing, to give us suddenly a great volume of business which is important to the community and which should be properly analysed.
I support with great fervour the suggestion of the honorable member for Lang that in future legislation must come down in a reasonable flow. If we cannot handle it adequately now, well, let us sit for another week or two in order to do so.
.- The members of the Opposition are at this late hour starting to complain at the suspension of Standing Order No. 104 to permit the introduction of new business after 11 p.m.
– You have just wakened up.
– No, I was listening to you - unfortunately, because some of your comments were, I think, ridiculous to say the least of them. The honorable gentleman who just interjected, and others who sit with him, have wasted the time of this House not only with their so-called matters of urgency but also in other respects. Only last night we had an exhibition from them in regard to legislation which went through this House, and the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) quite ably demonstrated that the Labour Party, as an Opposition, was being dragged along at the heels of a couple of members who intended to waste the time of the House regardless of what other honorable members wanted.
Now it is the desire of this Parliament to complete the business of this sessional period this week. This is not something new. My information is that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) have known for some time of the intention that the Parliament should rise on or about 19th May. The members of the Australian Country Party, I will inform the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), are not opposed to coming back next week or the week after if Opposition members want to do so. However, 1 understand that some Opposition members would like to go to Queensland because the State Government, which is led by a Country Party Premier, ably supported by a Liberal Deputy Premier, will face the electors at the end of next week.
– Order! The honorable member had better come back to the motion.
– I am trying to demonstrate, Mr. Speaker, that there is a bit of a skirmish to try to throw the onus for this Parliament’s rising to-morrow or on Friday or Saturday, on to the shoulders of the Government. It is well known throughout this House and its precincts that some members of the Australian Labour Party are more anxious than any Government supporters to journey to the warm clime of Queensland to take part in the election campaign there. I do not blame them for that. I agree that that is part of their job. But they should not try to shelve the responsibility for the termination of this session on to Government supporters, particularly members of the Australian Country Party, as the honorable member for Lang did. It is not correct to say that we have wasted the time of the House.
I ask Opposition members to look at the record of the debates held since this session began early in March, and see what their own tactics have been. They have employed delaying tactics with a view to keeping the business of the House as much in arrears as they possibly could. Now the Government and its supporters are applying the pressure which was applied by Labour governments when there was no necessity for it. On one occasion in my first year in this Parliament I sat here continuously from Wednesday morning to Friday morning. Delaying tactics were never employed by the then Opposition. In view of what the present Opposition has been doing over a period I think that we should complete the business of this Parliament this week. But if Opposition members want to come back next week, the members of the Country Party are willing to do so.
.- The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has tried to shift the blame on to the Opposition for this Parliament’s going into recess, although the responsibility f >r conducting the business of the
Parliament rests solely on the Government. The motion before the House has been introduced because of the faulty arrangements made by the Government for the conduct of the business of the Parliament and the laxity of Ministers in preparing bills. The honorable member for Canning said that the Australian Country Party would be quite prepared to continue the present sittings. If that is so, I would like to see him support the Opposition.
The fact that members on this side of the House or on the Government side may have commitments in Queensland need not stop us all from assembling here the week after next or the week after that. There is plenty of time. I have no objection to sitting next week. I have no objection to sitting on Saturday or Sunday because I believe that when there is legislation to be debated it is the duty of members to be here and debate it in a reasonable time and in an orderly manner, to ensure that the legislation receives the consideration that it deserves. The legislation will not receive the consideration that it deserves if this motion is passed and we are directed to sit here in the early hours of the morning.
I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to have some consideration for the health of members. The Treasurer himself is a very energetic man. We know that his skindiving activities keep him very fit, but let him look around the chamber at some of the elderly members. Let him also remember members who are not present at this time perhaps because of sickness contributed to by late sittings of this Parliament. Nobody can say what might happen to several members of this Parliament, including myself, if sittings are held in the early hours of the morning.
The Government has failed to marshall its business in an orderly manner. As the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) pointed out, it has been left to the Opposition to keep the business of this Parliament going. Now the Government is frantically pushing business through, gagging legislation, and denying members the right to express an opinion on most important questions. 1 suggest that we could well sit for one, two, three, or four weeks more, if necessary. We should not allow these sittings to be terminated by Ministers who are jealous of their numerous colleagues who are at present overseas enjoying warmer climes and probably hope that they, too, will soon leave our shores or trip to Queensland, not to fight an election campaign, but to laze in comfort and enjoy the warm climate. If proof were needed that this Parliament cannot sit in the early hours of the morning we have only to look at the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who is now asleep in this chamber.
– in reply - Surely there is a limit-
– Order! The right honorable gentlemanwill close the debate.
– That was my hope.
– The honorable member for East Sydney rose to get the call.
– If the Minister speaks he will close the debate.
– Mr. Speaker-
-I had the answers to the arguments advanced by the Opposition, but if honorable gentlemen who are interjecting do not wish to hear them, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Patents Act 1952-1955.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
State Grant (Special Assistance to South Australia) Bill 1960.
Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Bill 1960.
Debate resumed from 4th May (vide page 1385). on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, the amendment to be made to the Judiciary Act 1903-1959 by this bill was sought by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on 24th September last year, when he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition. His request has been fully met. We thank the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) for meeting it, and we do not oppose the bill.
Hitherto, persons wishing to sue the Commonwealth had to do so in the High
Court of Australia or in the Supreme Court of a State; or, pursuant to an amendment of the Judiciary Act made last year, if they lived in a Territory, they could sue the Commonwealth in the Supreme Court of the Territory without having to go to the High Court. Grave and expensive anomalies arose from the practice, because, very often, the amount sought to be recovered from the Commonwealth would be very muchless than the costs inevitably incurred in suing in the High Court or in a Supreme Court. This bill will permit the Commonwealth to be sued in a court of any status in the States or Territories, and we believe that this amendment of the principal act is significant and desirable.
The bill contains seven clauses. The first two are purely formal and three of the remaining five replace or amend sections of the principal act which were amended by the Judiciary Act 1959. The Judiciary Act 1903-1959 is the act under which the Commonwealth makes itself susceptible to actions by private citizens. Except in its own ten Territories, the Commonwealth has no general power to legislate on matters of substantive or adjective law. Under the Judiciary Act, however, the Commonwealth can promote reforms in law and procedure over a wide field. I propose to illustrate some of the inadequacies and inconsistencies which will be left in the principal act after the passage of this second amending bill in successive years.
Section 68 of the principal act provides that the laws of each State respecting, among other things, the trial and conviction on indictment of offenders shall apply to persons who are charged with offences against the laws of the Commonwealth committed within that State. Thus, a person who is charged with an offence against Commonwealth law will be tried in New South Wales by male electors and by such female electors as have volunteered for jury service.In Victoria, he will be tried by male electors. In Queensland and Western Australia he will be tried by male and female electors for the Legislative Assembly who are between 21 and 60 years of age. In South Australia, he will be tried by male electors for the Legislative Council who are not above 65 years of age. And in Tasmania, he will be tried by male electors for the House of Assembly who are between 25 and 65 years of age and by female electors for the House of Assembly who are in the same age group and who have volunteered for jury service.
Under section 70 of the act, when an offence against the laws of the Commonwealth is begun in one State or part of the Commonwealth and completed in another, the offender may be dealt with, tried and punished in either State or part of the Commonwealth in the same manner as if the offence had been actually and wholly committed therein. The Commonwealth could thus send an interstate offender for trial in the State where it believed that, because of sex, age or means, jurors were most likely to convict. There can be no justification for differentiating between jurors in Commonwealth criminal cases on the basis of sex, age and means. The Commonwealth should no longer wait until the more backward States modernize the administration of justice within their borders. The Commonwealth can take the lead in modernizing and co-ordinating criminal procedures, and it should do so by appropriate amendments to the principal act.
Section 79 of the act provides that State or Territory laws on procedure, evidence and witnesses shall be binding on courts exercising federal jurisdiction in a State or Territory. Section 80 provides that, in the absence of Commonwealth laws, the common law as modified by State or Territory law shall govern courts exercising federal jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters. Section 82 provides that penalties may be recovered either in the State or Territory where they accrue or in the State or Territory where the offender is found. Section 83 provides that taxes may be recovered either in the State or Territory where the liability occurs or in the State or Territory where the debtor resides.
In some States, therefore, federal matters would be tried in the normal course by a jury, and in others without a jury, and in still others by a jury on the application of a party or by direction of a judge. The qualification of the jurors will vary from State to State, as I have just described. Tn six of the ten Territories, there is no provision for trial by jury, and in two others there can be trial by jury only in capital cases. In the remaining two, trial by jury is optional. All other laws relating to procedure, evidence, witnesses, remedies and punishment will vary from State to State and Territory to Territory. The Commonwealth, in many important ways, will have the right to institute proceedings in a State or Territory whose laws best suit its purposes. It is anomalous, archaic and anarchic to have the laws of this Parliament administered in different ways in the six States and ten Territories of the Commonwealth. Here again, the Commonwealth can provide a uniform code of procedure throughout Australia. It should do so by amending the principal act.
The code I have suggested could apply, pursuant to sections 75, 76 and 77 of the Constitution, in matters in which the Commonwealth is one litigant and a private citizen or a State the other, or in matters in which two States are litigants, or in matters in which residents of different States are litigants, or in matters in which a State and a resident of another State are litigants, or in matters which arise under any laws made by this Parliament or in which claims are made under the laws of different States. This Parliament could provide the machinery for this great variety of cases to come before courts which it itself establishes, or it could provide the machinery by which they are to be tried in the courts established by the State parliaments.
Adoption of the foregoing suggestions for further amendment of the principal act would be a great initial step in implementing the plea made by the Chief Justice of Australia on 18th July, 1957, at the tenth legal convention of the Australian Law Council, in these words -
Is it not possible to place law reform on an Australia-wide basis? Might not there be a federal committee for law reform?
In spite of the absence of constitutional power to enact the reforms as law, it is open to the federal legislature to authorize the formation of a body for inquiry into law reform. Such » body might prepare and promulgate draft reforms which would merely await adoption. In all or nearly all matters of private law there is no geographical reason why the law should be different in any part of Australia. Local conditions have nothing to do with it. Is it not unworthy of Australia as a nation to have varying laws affecting the relations between man and man?Is it beyond us to make some attempt to obtain a uniform system of private law in Australia?
Question resolved inthe affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I notice that clause 3 proposes the repeal of sub-section (2.) of section 3a, which was inserted by the act of last year. The subsection being repealed is in these terms -
Reference in this Act to the Supreme Court of the Territory of Norfolk Island shall be read as including a reference to the court of Norfolk Island sitting in its full jurisdiction.
That provision has been superfluoussince the Norfolk Island Act, 1957, was atlast brought into operation last month. When the bill for that act was introduced in this House by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) three years ago, the Minister said -
It is intendedto continuethesystem under which the judge of the Supreme Court of the AustralianCapital Territory willalsohold a separateappointment as judge of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island.
In view of the statement thatwas made to the Parliament by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) a week ago, to the effect that there is to be no appointment to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory under the act which covers that court, but that there will be appointments to that court of judges who hold commissions. or who are about to be given commissions, in the Commonwealth Industrial Court. I ask whether he can say what judicial arrangements are beingmade in Norfolk Island.
One other pointI notice in the Norfolk Island Act is that thejudge who is appointed there can hold office only until he is 65 years of age. I am not suggesting that it is not possible for the Commonwealth to make limited appointments in its own Territories. TheAttorney-General might state what judicial arrangements will be made for Norfolk Island if all thejudges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court attain 65 years of age.
– When moving the second reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill a few days ago,
I said that what was proposed was that the judges who were appointed to the Commonwealth Industrial Court would also receive commissions under the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act. We propose to do that. Those judges will also receive commissions under the Norfolk Island Act, so that that court may be serviced by the same group of judges.
– By any one of the four?
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11th May (vide page 1577), onmotionby Mr.McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.HAYLEN (Parkes) [3.54].- This bill is designed to do the mopping up that is involved in bringing to an end the Government’s unfortunate national service training scheme. For some time now, national service training has been a dead letter. It has been on the way out, andthis bill will put a period to its sufferings. It proposes that by 30th June, 1960, all obligations so far as universal training is concerned shall be discharged. Arrangements will be made to absorb into the Citizen Military Forces those national service trainees who have elected to remain in the forces, and in other ways the Government will do what is required to be done before the scheme passes into the limbo of forgotten things.
The fact that 30th June has been fixed as the final date on which this special kind of national service training will operate is important. Federal members in particular know that there has been some confusion in the minds of parents and of the young trainees about when the obligations under the scheme cease. When they have been called up they have come to see us and have asked, “ Is this thing not over yet? Didn’t I read something in the press about it months ago? Why should we still be pestered with this call-up? “
– Some of them do.
– Don’t speak for all of them.
– 1 did not say all of them. I am just reporting, factually, what has happened when people have come to see me. Perhaps you have a retinue of loyalists who have a different point of view and who are rushing into camp, but, because of the inefficiency of the whole scheme, some of the boys, without being unwilling to undertake their training, felt that they were being pestered unduly. Others felt that because a date had been set for the completion of the national training scheme they should not be required to attend certain camps. For instance, in my electorate one unit was expected to go into camp early in June and there was considerable trouble because school teachers, university students and teachers in special subjects in high schools were finding difficulty in getting out of universal training altogether.
This bill will resolve all those problems because, on 30th June, 1960, the national service training scheme will cease to exist. But a few matters remain to be tidied up. The National Service Act reveals now - I suppose it always has - that in relation to universal training extending over so many days in camp and so many night parades, there is an obligation upon the trainee to be what can be termed loosely a reservist for five years. That obligation is inherent in the act. This bill will make it possible for him to discharge that five years’ service as a reservist, or to be a recessive member of the forces without being called upon to complete the five years’ service as originally proposed because, in due course, he will be discharged altogether.
According to the Minister’s statement, about 81,800 servicemen have not completed their five years’ reserve service from the date of initial call-up. In normal circumstances, by the effluxion of time it would be about 1964 or 1965 before these reservists would be informed by the Department of Defence that their services were no longer required and that they were discharged from their responsibilities under the act; but because the Army to-day - again I use the Minister as my authority - has streamlined itself and has adopted new techniques, particularly on the administrative side, the Government wants to get all these things done in one feil swoop, as it were, so that these young men who have done their stint of national service and who have attended their night parades and camps and are reservists within the meaning of the act, will now become entirely free of any obligation to their country in relation to this form of service. That seems to be reasonable and fair in cleaning up the scheme.
According to the bill, certain other things remain to be done. Of the young men who have been called up and who have done their training, 4,000 have elected to remain in the Army in one field or another. First, they will be discharged as national servicemen. The procedure is rather complicated, so I shall read the relevant portion of the Minister’s second-reading speech. He said -
In the case of the Army, a national serviceman, after completing his training, and within the fiveyear period, may be discharged in order to enlist in the Citizen Naval Forces or the Citizen Air Force, but he cannot voluntarily enlist in the Citizen Military Forces as he is already a member of those forces by virtue of the National Service Act.
Now, as the scheme will no longer exist, the national serviceman may re-enlist in the Citizen Military Forces. The Minister has stated that about 4,000 young men are likely to do so.
There is the bill in its simplicity. It marks the end of an experiment which we on this side of the House, and many honorable members on the Government side, opposed from the start. I have been reading a 1951 volume of “ Hansard “ which indicates that the Government of the day charged the Labour Party with being unpatriotic, narrow-minded and shortsighted in regard to defence. The then Leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. Chifley, and his deputy, Dr. Evatt, together with many honorable members of the Opposition, in all sincerity made certain statements about their general desire to get some kind of universal training into swing, but they were ignored. Their prognostications about the Government’s proposals have proved to be correct, first, because it appears that the continuous diversion of man-power from industry could not be sustained, and secondly, because there seemed to be no real vitality in the plan. There was the C.M.F., the A.R.A. and the whole hotchpotch which developed. According to the reports from some trainees - not all of them - they had a bit of a holiday. They had not taken seriously the fact that they were being equipped for the defence of the country, and they thought it rather a great joke.
As was pointed out at the time, the statistics indicated that the scheme would fail because the man-power which was available was not being properly handled. However, members of the Opposition were referred to as ratbags and commos who were likely to spoil the defence of the country. The fourth point in the constitution upon which we have built the Australian Labour Party deals with the necessity for a citizen army but, when the then Leader of the Opposition stated the reasons why the scheme would not be successful, he was ignored.
– What about the twenties?
– I am talking about what has happened since 1951, and what I have said has been borne out by the fact that this was not a good scheme. It was not originated with enough imagination and was not prosecuted with enough zeal. The unfortunate thing is that it has taken so long for the Government to do something about it. The scheme has cost the country between £130,000,000 and £160,000,000-1 cannot recollect the exact figure - and we have got nothing very important out of it.
– We have not got anything important out of it because it was a half-baked training scheme. Does the honorable member suggest that there has been a really thorough plan which has resulted in young men receiving a great deal of training? That may be so in some States, but certainly not in New South Wales. I have plenty of authority for my statement among the trainees and their officers. If the scheme has been so successful, why has the Government now decided to drop it altogether? There have been some violent debates in this House on national service, and we of the Opposition have been on the receiving end of a lot of unpleasant and unfair criticism. It has been alleged that we have criticized the scheme because we are a lot of pacifists who do not desire to protect our country. But we have been pointing out logically that, from the financial and industrial angles, the scheme was doomed to failure because it was badly conceived. And we have been proved to be right. As I have said, the scheme has cost us between £130,000,000 and £160,000,000 - far too much to be spent in an abortive attempt to train young men for the defence of this country.
When we have had debates in the House about the realinement of the Army the Government, in defending itself against the Opposition’s criticism of the scheme, has said that strategy is more or less in a state of flux; that really we do not want this kind of serviceman any longer; that war is now all rocketry and strategic know-how. Yet at the same time the Government had the good old Duke of York force being trained in some paddock at the back of nowhere. The scheme was an abject failure which cost us a good deal of money. If the Government has any scheme which it wants the Opposition to support, the scheme must be streamlined, up to date and built on something more than just a desire to have some kind of a sloppy service. It must provide for the application of man-power to the requirements of the forces. All our strategic and operative forces of defence have to be created and moulded into cadres which have some relation to the amount of man-power which we, as a small community, can spare.
Apprentices were very badly treated in the early days of the national scheme. Later it became possible for them to attend their schools as well as their training sessions. Then there was the harsh way in which some of the courts applied the letter of the law. The Government will not set a successful scheme and will not get the Australian community behind it unless the scheme is based on a fair method of enlistment. I know that young men cannot be allowed to escape the call-up because of certain sympathetic considerations, but there are carking and grievous reasons why some young men must be exempted. The courts which dealt with applications for exemption became a bit tough, and when the matter was referred to the Minister he passed the buck. And the Government never knew and I never knew whether I was dealing with the Army or with the Department of Labour and National Service or what metamorphosis took place in regard to the trainee when he became transubstantiated as it were. One day he was a body for the Army and the next day he was a file in the Department of Labour and National Service. At one stage, if you did not grab him, he would disappear into limbo and you would not see him again until his service was completed, although he might have a case for exemption from service.
I will not delay the proceedings of the House with a long discussion of the bill. If honorable members opposite have the leisure, they should look at the debates of 1951 and they will see how accurate and fair our statements were. They will note the understatement of the Labour Opposition then in relation to the uselessness of this scheme because of the basis upon which it was introduced. I refer particularly to a statement by our former leader, Dr. Evatt, and a reference by General Rowell and others who saw in this a hotch-potch scheme. National service training never had the final and generous approval of all the top brass in the community. They saw the inherent difficulties in the scheme and, after a number of years, mainly because of its own heavy weight, it has broken down. It would have broken down in any case, although circumstances may have accelerated the breakdown. We merely point out that in anything involving the expenditure of millions of pounds and the efficiency of our troops the Government ought to get in some experts and seek their advice. The Government ought to be sure that it has a useful scheme which will stand up to the stresses of time and then go to it, and defy everybody, if it believes it is right. The Government will be surprised to see how much support it will get from this side of the House if the scheme is something which will work. But the Government implemented the scheme, found it was a failure, looked for alibis and kept knocking the Opposition by saying, “ You do not want this scheme to work “, “ You are denigrating servicemen “ and so on. The national service training scheme is dead because it was not efficient and it was not properly administered. It is dead, involving the Australian community in a loss of £150,000,000.
.- Mr. Speaker, I did not intend to speak in mis debate but I am moved to do so by the fact that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has used what is, after all, just a machinery measure to wind up the national service training scheme and make its ending easier and more efficient, to open up the whole question of national service and indeed to say that the very fact that the Government has decided to do away with the scheme indicates that it was a failure from the beginning. The honorable member went on to claim that the introduction of this bill is a vindication of the opposition which, the Labour Party has maintained in this House to the national service training scheme right from the beginning. Although I think most members on this side of the chamber believe that the winding up of the national service training scheme is necessary, I do not think any one of them believes that in its time and place, and in response to the circumstances of the day, that scheme was not necessary and that it did not perform a very useful and, indeed, vital function. One thing about the statement by the honorable member for Parkes which seems extraordinary to me is that I never heard him once mention the strategic situation, in response to which we plan our defence forces.
The honorable member never gave a thought to the possibility that the strategic situation might have changed since the time when the national service training scheme was first introduced. It has been made perfectly clear by the Government that it is in response to a change in the strategic situation that it has reluctantly decided to discontinue the scheme. This decision has not been reached because national service training no longer has any value, but because in response to a change in the strategic situation the scheme has a lower priority. The scheme can only be brought into the existing plan by the use of man-power which we have not got and by the expenditure of more money. We feel that those demands do not fit in with the overall development. But that does rot imply for one moment that the national service training scheme was not necessary at thetime when it was brought into being. I mentioned this particular point whenI spoke on the defence statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) earlier in thissession. I will not go over that ground again now except to say that at the time when the national service training scheme was brought in the Government felt, on the best information available to it, that it was vital that this country should prepare for global war in the near future. Global war was the type of war which we havehad in 1939-45 and in 1914-18, a warinwhichwe would be required to expand into a mass army, as we have in the past.
The only difference between that situation and the situation which existed prior to the First and Second World Wars was that the Government estimated that, with new weapons and new methods of com- munication we would not have anything like thesame amount of time available. So the Government decided that we must have the national service training scheme in response to that particular strategic situation. Later, because of the development ofthenuclear deterrent, global war, in the estimateofthe Government, became unlikely. The situation which the Governmentestimated that this country might well havetoface to an increasing degree was alimitedwar. The requirement for that was well-trained, well-armed and mobile forces ready to move at a moment’s notice. That is the explanation and no further explanationis required of the reason why, inan earlier period national service training was introduced into this country, and the reason why. in a later period national service training was discontinued.
Before concluding I wishto comment on one matter which appears to me tobe vitally important and which 1 have never heard mentioned by the Opposition members in this House.I have never heard them do anything but condemn national service root and branch, and the honorable member for Parkes followed that course this afternoon. I have never heard them pay a tribute to the social value which national service training has had in producing a disciplined and self-reliant nation in this country. I believe - and I think my view is shared by other members on this side of the House and by a large majority of the people outside as well, and in this matter the Opposition is out of touch with public opinion - that there has never been anything introduced by a government in this country which has done as much for the youth of Australia as the national service training scheme did. Virtually every member of this Parliament, if he kept his ears open and wanted to hear them, must have heard an extraordinary number of testimonies to the value of this scheme from individuals and parents. It is obvious that the lad who has done national service training will begin to take a purposeful and disciplined approach instead of drifting aimlessly in the sea of temptations which is a feature of our modern society.
I cannot understand why the Opposition will not recognize that self-evident fact; or perhaps this reaches the heart of the problem: Can it be that the Opposition realizes that socialism flourishes in a society where there is a lack of discipline and sense of purpose, and where people arc encouraged to drift along and let the state look after them? In such a society, there is no need for incentive to behave in any other way. I believe that that has been the basic reason for the Labour Party’s opposition to national service. Its members fear that in a disciplined, self-reliant and forward-looking society such as national service training helps to create, the outmoded, reactionary and socialistic doctrines of the Australian Labour Party can never take root. Perhaps, from the point of view of honorable members opposite and on that basis, they are right inopposing national service training; but they arc not right from the point of view of the nation. We on this side of the House areproud of the effect that national service training has had on the youth of Australia.
– I desire to make some observations on the question of national service.
– Are you going to speak on this bill? We agreed to one speaker on each side.
– I have no knowledge of any arrangement that only one speaker should speak on each side. 1 wish to reply to the arguments of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) and some observations that have been made by other honorable members. I have the “ Hansard “ for 30th November, 1950 before me, and I can tell the House that the Australian Labour Party did not oppose the bill to introduce national service training, as is shown by the division list. We moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill which was defeated. After that, we did not oppose the second reading. We are not opposed to the principle of national service.
It is all very well for honorable members on the Government side to talk about our attitude to this matter. Let it never be forgotten that it was a Labour government - a socialist government, if you like, but a truly nationalist Australian government - that marshalled the full resources of this nation - physically, financially and materially - to prevent a Japanese invasion of Australia. That was after a Liberal Party government had fallen down on the job. It had to be scraped off the treasury bench because of its failure to provide the nation, after nearly two years of war, with aeroplanes, artillery and a navy that would have enabled this country to be defended.
In every time of crisis - in World War I. and World War II. - a Labour government had to be called upon to pull the nation out of danger. It was the Fisher Labour Government which pledged Australia’s last man and last shilling to the Empire’s cause in World War I. and marshalled the resources of the nation in that dreadful period. The story had to be repeated in World War II. If, unfortunately, a third world war should break out - and we pray it will not - it will be a Labour government that will be called upon to take charge of the affairs of this nation from a lazy, incompetent and inefficient collection of political failures of which the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), who is sitting at the table, is a prime example.
When we are considering the question of national service, do not let us fail to remember the Morshead committee which was appointed by this Government to examine the national state of defence. The late General Sir Leslie Morshead was one of our most distinguished generals. He recommended the unification of the ministerial control of the defence services. He wanted a Minister for Defence with the other three service Ministers subsidiary to him; but political considerations being what they were, the Government completely ignored the Morshead recommendations because it desired to placate the Australian Country Party members and wanted to find ministerial posts for persons it would have been disadvantageous for the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to remove.
– The Government did not have the necessary constitutional power. The Prime Minister explained that.
– The Prime Minister is n°t the High Court of Australia. All legal knowledge does not repose in the Prime Minister. When the Prime Min;ster makes a pronouncement on any matter oi importance, his is not the final word on the subject. If the Government feels that there is any doubt about the constitutionality of appointing assistant Ministers to a principal Minister, let it make the appointments, state a case in the High Court and h;iv_- t1-1.- issue determined that way. The Prime Minister has been so wrong so often on constitutional matters.
– Oh, no!
– Oh. yes! He was the man who lost the James case before the Privy Council. The present AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) russ had more failures than successes in his career, both before the High Court of Australia and the Privy Council. But let us return to the question of how much this Government has wasted with its inefficient ministers. We have an Army of three brigades that exists only on paper. Because the Army has been reduced to nothing, we have to get rid of national service training. We are as defenceless to-day in 1960 as the summit talks collapse as we were on the eve of war in 1939. If you listen to the Government and its spokesmen, the country is organized and ready for any emergency in peace and in war. We do not believe it and the nation does not believe it. The only people who believe it are those who delude themselves into doing so.
This Government has collected £1,200,000,000 for defence in the past tcn years. It has wasted most of that money and has nothing to show for it. There are no aircraft in Australia capable of going into action to-morrow except a few Sabre jets - just a handful of them. That is all we have in the Royal Australian Air Force. As for the Royal Australian Navy, you can see it in Athol Bight in Sydney Harbour if you fly over it. It is in moth-balls. This Government cannot find officers to command the ships or men to man them. More men are leaving the Navy than are coming into it; yet the Government tells us that everything will be all right if we abolish the national service training scheme and that we will be ready if war should come.
We have said that we will not oppose this bill. We will not oppose it because the national service training scheme in recent times has not fulfilled the purpose for which it was intended. It has been far more costly than it has been beneficial. We ask the Minister for Defence to provide some better reasons than those that have been advanced so far for the termination of this scheme. This is an important occasion in the light of what is happening overseas and we ask him to state clearly to the people of Australia, through their elected representatives in this Parliament, how prepared we are in the event of hostilities.
What are we doing at present about civil defence for the welfare of the people of Australia? Not one warden has been appointed. We have spent scarcely any money on the defence of the civil population. We have a radar station that works part-time and shuts down at week-ends. Yesterday, the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) told us that the radar station does not work at week-ends. I think the men there take time off for lunch and also cease operating during smokos. Here we have the Minister for Defence, a lone, pathetic figure who is supposedly responsible for the defence of the nation. He knows in his heart that we have no defence, and that he is really the Minister for no defence.
While this Government remains in office, the world may stumble into another war. If it does, the people will again look to the Australian Labour Party to extricate them from their difficulties and to restore the country, when the war is ended, to solvency and stability. When that happens, we will repeat the record that is our proud heritage - the record of the Curtin and Chifley Governments in World War II. and in the post-war era.
.- The bill before the House makes provision for the discharge of national service trainees and the most important part of it is clause 4 (1.), which provides -
A person to whom this Act applies may, before the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and sixty, offer himself for voluntary service in the Citizen Naval Forces, the Citizen Military Forces or the Citizen Air Force, and be enlisted accordingly.
I think it is a tribute to my colleague, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was forced to come into the House to reply to his very well delivered speech. I thought that the honorable member answered rather forcibly the accusations of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). As the honorable member for Barker said, most honorable members on this side of the House, and 1 add many honorable members on the other side of the House, have seen much value in the national service training scheme. It is ridiculous to deny that statement. He also said that we should be aware of the strategic situation. The honorable member for Parkes suggested that the Government should get some expert advice, instead of deciding what it should do and then finding out that it was wrong. Does he suggest that the Government should call in himself, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and one or two other Opposition members whom, no doubt, he would classify as experts? The Government has in the past obtained the best expert advice available here on the question of the defence of Australia.
I believe that the money has been well spent on national service training, which, as honorable members will remember, was considered by the expert advisers to the Government, at the time it was introduced, to be a necessary adjunct to our defence forces. I do not believe that any of the money has been wasted. Apart from its military value in terms of the number of men to whom it has given basic training, it has had a very high value in the field of citizenship.
– What has been the total cost?
– That has been given two or three dmes, and I do not intend to go over it again. I want to refer to a statement of the honorable member for Parkes. He said that it was the prediction of the Opposition when the scheme was introduced that it would totally upset industry. That, I believe, is a completely false charge and has been proved to be false during the operation of the scheme. The situation is, in fact, quite the reverse. Boys have been taken at the age of eighteen years from every walk of life - from industrial undertakings, from educational institutions and from executive or junior executive work - and have been placed together in camps for varying periods. They have learnt one fundamental thing that is of importance: They have learnt that there is no such thing as a class wai or class distinction in Australia. They know that the fellow who works at a lathe, the apprentice engineer, and the lad doing a university course are all the same type of Australians, all of the same basic stock, all with the same feelings and all with the same habits. This has done a tremendous amount of good for Australia and has helped Australia to nationhood.
– That is why the Opposition does not like it.
– Perhaps that is true. It one looked at the overall cost, keeping in mind the worth of the scheme to the defence of the country, particularly in the strategic situation that existed in 1951, one could not quarrel with the Government’s policy of commencing the scheme and of continuing it. If we accept the fact that the Government has taken the most expert advice available and has had due regard to the strategic situation in 1960, we must agree that the policy of winding up the national service training scheme is wise. Honorable members opposite say that they do not disagree with the bill, but in the circumstances they should agree with it for the reasons that have been put before the House.
.- This is one of the many bills that come in towards the end of a sessional period and with which both sides of the House agree. However, we agree with varying emphasis. We are now winding up the national service training scheme, which has been a feature of the last decade, and we should make some assessment of its work. I am not one who would say deliberately that it has done no good at all to Australia’s national life. I think such an assertion would be quite wrong. After all, we could not possibly have had 100,000 young men in these camps without some good resulting. I know many of the young men who have had this training and I have heard their opinions. However, I feel that criticism of the scheme is justified in that it did not reach the heights envisaged for it when it commenced.
The scheme was introduced by the Government under a cloud. We on this side of the House did not condemn national service training as such, but we did condemn the methods of choosing the young men. Later, when the Government altered the act, confusion was worse confounded. It introduced the ridiculous ballot system. Bill Smith was chosen, but Tom Jones, living in the same street, was not chosen. Tom Jones could continue with his apprenticeship or whatever his occupation was, but Bill Smith had several weeks cut right out of his apprenticeship when he went into camp.
– Do you know that Tom Jones often volunteered?
– In some instances, he may have volunteered. Good luck to him!
Right at the beginning, we believed that if the scheme was to be a success, it would have to be a matter of all in or none in. In other words, no distinction should be made. All eligible young men should be trained or none at all should be trained. Labour’s greatest criticism of the scheme was that discrimination existed between the young men in the same street, or even in the same home. Of two or three eligible boys in the same family, one was chosen and the others were left. This reminds me of the biblical saying that many are called but few are chosen.
This scheme has resulted in enormous cost to the country. Over £150,000,000 has been spent on it. It was the most expensive national fitness programme ever undertaken, for, after all, it was basically a national fitness scheme. That is how it finished. It also had a good effect in teaching these young men some discipline, but this was done at tremendous cost. The only military training given them was very elementary, and I wonder what we will be able to show in a few years for this tremendous outlay of public money. Boys forget these things very easily, and some of them have admitted to me that they had forgotten. When they have gone for a refresher course they have felt that they have forgotten all that they had learned previously. Much of the actual instructional work is lost in the months afterwards and in a few years’ time it will be gone for ever. I except from that statement the boys who go right on into the Citizen Military Forces.
The basic statement in the secondreading speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) when he was introducing this measure on 11th May was this -
The proposed legislation will enable a national serviceman to enlist as a volunteer in the Citizen Military Forces by freeing him from his residual obligations under the National Service Act at 30th June, 1960, or earlier if he volunteers and is accepted before that date. There are at present some 4,000 national servicemen in the Army who have volunteered for further service.
I give full credit to those young chaps. This bill will make it easier for them to become members of the C.M.F. without going through their full time. The Minister also said -
The number who have not yet completed the period of five years from the date of initial callup and held on strength is Navy, 2,500, Army 72,000 and Air Force 7,300; a total of 81,800 for the three services. Discharge action for these personnel would in the normal course be required at intervals up to August, 1964.
They will not have to wait so long for their discharge. I hope the Minister will enlighten me on whether the figure of 4,000 represents the total number of volunteers from the 81,800 national servicemen listed in his speech. If it is, it is not a very high percentage, although we appreciate that this number is going on into the service.
My leader has spoken on this aspect of the proposal in the light of the whole defence pattern and I do not intend to enlarge on what he said. Various aspects of the defence programme have been discussed as matters of urgency and members of the Opposition feel that there is precious little indeed to show for an expenditure of nearly £2,000,000,000 on defence since this Government came into office. Part of that great expenditure was on the national service programme.
I feel that the attitude of this Government to defence is still in the bowandarrow stage. The changing pattern of defence, as new types of weapons are produced, and the great annual expenditure on defence, are quite beside the question. This Government allocates about £200,000,000 a year for defence irrespective of the fact that new weapons are being produced and new methods are being introduced. It would be far better to pattern our defence expenditure on the new types of weapons which come into being each year. This might result in an expenditure of £100,000,000 one year and £180,000,000 in the next. But merely to pick a figure out of the air–
– Order! I think the honorable member is getting a little wide of the bill. I ask him to relate his remarks to it.
– I will come back to the bill. I was interested this week to notice a statement by a representative of the returned servicemen’s league in which the name of the old military forces - the Australian Imperial Force - was used. There is considerable appeal in that and I agree with the league in forging again a link with the military forces who served in World War I.
– Where is that subject mentioned in the bill?
– The honorable member mentioned many things in his speech that are not in the bill.
Members of the Opposition agree with that part of the bill which winds up the national service training scheme because we feel that the results of that scheme have not justified the enormous amount of expenditure on it. We admit that there has been some gain and that the young men who underwent training gained some advantage from doing so. But that was mainly by way of discipline and national fitness rather than training in methods of warfare. We hope that this measure is an indication that in the future we, in common with other nations, might be able to dispose of arms and turn present expenditure on defence into constructive channels for the good of the nation, such as the eradication of disease and the building of education facilities. We hope that this money will be spent on projects that will be advantageous to the nation instead of pouring it wastefully down the drain year after year in defence expenditure.
I conclude by saying that members of the Opposition support the bill and are really glad that the national service training scheme has now been completed.
.- It is all very well for the Government to seek to speed the passage of this measure. 1 suggest that it should have been speeded on its way about five or six years ago. Let us evaluate what the national service training scheme has cost, especially in view of our experience, and see whether this will give us some guidance for the future. We have talked about the cost of the scheme in terms of money, but I could tell the story of the cost to many young fellows in our community in terms of what they lost in respect of their future because of lost education opportunities. I could bring evidence of many young men who had to lose years in their courses of education, both technical and tertiary, because of the interruption to their careers caused by the national service training scheme.
If this national service life had been really worth while no young men would have begrudged the sacrifice they had to make, but in the majority of cases the testimony of these young fellows has been - as honorable members could confirm by the stories they have been told by many national service trainees - how unreal was the training they were given and how unrelated it was to any kind of concept of effective defence. The Government has acknowledged this because over the last three years it has whittled down to about one-third the intake of national service trainees available and has conducted a lottery to determine who would go in and who would miss out. Many young men were drafted when it would have been much more to their own advantage and that of the nation if they had been left to pursue their course of training for civilian life. Other young men were not drafted, or were not included in the lottery, who could have benefited by the training they would have received under this scheme.
The cost of this scheme in money alone was £150,000,000. I invite honorable members to contemplate what use might have been made of that £150,000,000 for the benefit of technical education, let alone any other kind of education, throughout Australia. During the last war the Commonwealth had to come to the aid of the States and create new technical institutions and courses and provide teachers. All these services were regarded as an urgent necessity of war and they were provided substantially by the Commonwealth.
We are invited to-day to contribute to the real defence of this country. Last year I went to Woomera where one of the highest ranking officers disclosed to us the short-range policy in scientific training in which Australia was engaged. In fulfilling the needs of science at Woomera they are having to take teachers-
– Order! I think that the honorable member for Barton is again getting away from the basic principle of this bill. Whilst certain arguments may be used on occasions to justify an opinion in regard to the bill, discussion by the honorable member should not be centred upon things that are not concerned with the bill.
– I am not concerned about making political capital out of this, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is nobody listening to this debate over the air to-day. I think I warrant being given the credit for sincerity when I say that I am very concerned about the education of youngsters in this country, both with respect to their own opportunities and to the needs of Australia in regard to national development and national defence. So I invite this Government - and it will be invited on Saturday next at a conference of 300 delegates
– Order! I am afraid that has nothing to do with the bill.
– I am only about to mention the point that the Government ought to have a system of priorities. I am only regretful that when the Government announced last year that the national service training scheme was to be terminated the Government did not terminate it as quickly as possible thereafter. Instead, it allowed the scheme to continue and it is to be terminated on 30th June next. Why 30th June? That date just happens to be the end of the financial year. I should say that millions of pounds could have been saved if the scheme had been terminated months earlier than this, and certainly much nearer than 30th June is to the date on which the Government announced that the scheme was to end. All I am asking is that in future the Government does not spend money in an unreal way just in the name of defence rather than on providing real defence for Australia and on schemes for national development and other worthwhile activities, to which this money could have been devoted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11th May (vide page 1593), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure proposes to extend, from 30th June, 1960, to 31st December, 1960, the period during which a bounty shall be payable on the production of sulphuric acid from indigenous sources. Honorable members will recollect that, in 1954, this House passed a measure to provide for the payment of a similar bounty. The Opposition is not opposed to the payment of the bounty, because we long ago became aware of the fact that, in the event of vital necessity, unless local enterprise and local concerns had established efficient producing plant in Australia for the production of sulphuric acid - in the main from pyrites, and also from sinter gas - Australia would find itself in the unenviable position in which it found itself during the last war, when we became almost wholly dependent on imported sulphur for the production of sulphuric acid. Sulphur from overseas sources was at that time in exceedingly short supply, and the difficulty of transporting such bulky products in war-time was very great indeed.
It was during the last term of office of the Chifley Labour Government that negotiations were commenced with the firms in Australia which control the mines from which, almost exclusively I think, supplies of pyrites are obtained. These negotiations were directed to reaching some arrangement whereby those firms could, on the one hand, be given a measure of assistance emanating from the people of Australia and, on the other hand, be protected against competition from perhaps cheaper, imported products, should they become freely available. The present Government followed that policy in 1950, and continued the negotiations. After a report was received from the Tariff Board, the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill was introduced in the 1954-55 session. That measure provided, in the main, for the payment of bounty, at specific rates, to the producers of sulphuric acid made from pyrites, with certain exceptions in cases where the rate of profit on production operations exceeded 10 per cent, per annum.
From 1954-55 onwards, the Government from time to time has brought down proposals to extend the period for which the bounty would be payable. It is continuing that practice now, but instead of proposing that the period be extended for twelve months or thereabouts, as was the case on previous occasions, the extension is limited to six months. The reason advanced by the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) for any extension at all is that the Government awaits the report of the Tariff Board on protection of the sulphuric acid industry. What I should like to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is how long it is since the Government referred to the board the matter of holding further inquiries into the justification for an extension of the bounty. Perhaps it is a case that will prove to be somewhat similar to one which I cited here the other night, when I pointed out that the Tariff Board had taken anything from twelve months to two years to report on many appeals from manufacturers for extensions of tariff protection.
If that kind of thing happens now, we will find ourselves in the invidious position that, due to the delay on the part of the Tariff Board, or, alternatively, on the part of the Government in dealing with the report of the board, we have paid more bounty than is necessary - that is, if the board reports that it is no longer necessary to pay the bounty. Should it so report, we would find that we had committed ourselves to the unnecessary payment of bounty for a period of six months - from 30th June to 31st December, 1960. The amount of bounty in the current year is £1,400,000, and bounty paid for that extra period of six months, at the same rate and on the same quantity of sulphuric acid, would be a very considerable sum to the payment of which we would be committed unnecessarily.
The Minister has given us no information as to when the Tariff Board’s report may be expected. He has given us no advance information as to whether the industrial concerns which produce sulphuric acid are producing it at a lower cost than in the preceding twelve months. He has given us practically no justification at all for agreeing with the bill although we ail realize that if the industry cannot live without the payment of a bounty and we were to refuse that payment, it would be a catastrophe, not only for people in Australia who depend on supplies of sulphuric acid, but probably for the men who are employed in the mining and treatment ot pyrites and in the manufacture of sulphuric acid.
Honorable members will realize how important to Australian industry sulphuric acid is although probably the man in the street does not. There probably could be no breaking down of phosphatic rock at the fertilizer works for the production of superphosphate, which is the life-line of primary production in Australia, without the utilizaton of sulphuric acid. As a matter of fact, 80 per cent, of sulphuric acid used in Australia goes into the production of superphosphate; 5 per cent, is used as a fertilizer in the sugar industry; and 15 per cent, goes to industry generally. Tt is used extensively in the production of tyres, textiles and in a very wide range of secondary industries.
If it became unprofitable or unattractive to produce sulphuric acid from Australian pyrites, thousands of men might lose their jobs and Australia would be dependent on sulphur imports, probably from the United States of America, or perhaps from Sicily. There are very few sources of sulphur in the world. The great bulk of it comes from the southern States of the United States of America. There, by forcing steam through tubes into the porous earth, sulphur, many hundreds of feet underground, is liquified, forced to the surface, and runs out into tanks where it again solidifies and becomes available for export all over the world. The United States is probably the only country in which that process is used and in which sulphur is available in, such great quantities.
– It is available in Mexico, too.
-I include Mexico, particularly that region adjoining the U.S.A. In the last nine years or more Australian industries have spent £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 in converting existing plant and installing new plant for producing sulphuric acid from pyrites. This Government has made available to these industries, through bank guarantees, substantial capital funds which, perhaps, were beyond the resources of the companies themselves.
Whilst it is true that the Labour Opposition, is supporting a measure which will continue financial assistance to what one might term, in the main, very wealthy companies, we are not unconscious of the fact that those companies, in producing and processing raw materials, provide a great amount of employment for people in, Australia. Not only do they provide direct employment but they provide the very life blood of many important centres of population in Australia. As illustrations I could mention. Mount Morgan in Queensland, Mount Lyell in Tasmania, and other metal producing centres such as Broken Hill.
As I have said, the Opposition, perhaps from sheer necessity, supports this practice of giving assistance from public funds to firms which, in some cases, are very wealthy and prosDerous. But perhaps we are justified in asking on what grounds the Government pays hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Broken Hill Proprietary
Company Limited in respect of that company’s production of sulphuric acid when, from its other activities, the company makes most handsome profits and is able to distribute bonus shares to its shareholders. The one-man grocer who handles a wide variety of lines has to offset losses on the sale of certain products with the profit that he makes on other lines. The people of this country must sometimes feel inclined to ask why companies such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the big fertilizer companies, and the Mount Lyell company, which are making very handsome profits from other forms of production, are not asked to take the same risk as the grocer - to produce their sideline, sulphuric acid, at a loss, and pick up on the roundabouts what they lose on the swings? That is a pertinent question.
These people are strong enough and prosperous enough, in general, to be able to say to this country, “ We do not feel disposed to produce an unpayable sideline or by-product “. I suppose that, under our economic system in which profit is the prime motive, especially with big people, we have no alternative but to see that they obtain a price for their product which enables them to continue the production of a commodity which otherwise would have to be imported.
Let us look at the result of this assistance to indigenous production. In the first year in which bounty was paid, Cuming Smith and Mount Lyell Farmers Fertilisers Limited, a company which has its offices in Perth. Western Australia, but which is a combination of the great Cuming Smith fertilizer interests and the Mount Lyell mining company in Tasmania, produced 30,000 tons of sulphuric acid and drew from the people of Australia, under this legislation. about £50,000. Another company engaged in this industry is Commonwealth Fertilisers and Chemicals Limited, which consists of three firms that amalga- matedmanyyearsago - the Cuming Smith, MountLyellandNobelconcerns,Ithink. whenthenewcompanywasformeditan- nouncedthattheamalgamationhadbeen intheinterestsofefficiency.Nodoubtit asw.Butittendedtocreateamoreclosely knitmonopoly,andtherewasnonotice- ablereductioninthepriceofitsproductto the consumers as a result of the increased efficiency. Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited produced 52,288 tons of sulphuric acid in 1954-55 and drew £130,063 6s. 6d. in bounty. A.C.F. and Shirleys Fertilizers Limited -I do not know with whom that firm is linked, but it is a Queensland concern - drew £16,203 17s. Cresco Fertilizers (W.A.) Limited produced 29,033 tons of sulphuric acid in that year and drew £50,836 3s. in bounty. Australian Fertilizers Limited received £59,084 7s. 2d. in bounty. Those companies were paid those amounts in order to assist them to get into this very important line of production.
I do not intend to quote the figures for the intervening years, but I shall quote those for the financial year 1958-59 - the latest for which returns have been submitted to this House. We find that the payment of bounty to these great local concerns has indeed had some of the effect desired, because production is increasing and the number of claimant firms coming into production also has increased. In 1958-59, A.C.F. and Shirleys Fertilizers Limited received £48,267 in bounty. Australian Fertilizers Limited received £131,123. We then find a newcomer in the list. It may have been in the list for the year before, but it was certainly not in that for 1954-55.I refer to Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited. You could not call that a poor show. Apparently, that concern is not prepared to share its production losses on sulphuric acid in the way in which the grocer has to share his losses on some lines. It came in for its share of bounty, and drew £235,977. Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited drew £333,615. Cresco Fertilizers (W.A.) Limited received £96,796 in bounty. Cuming Smith and Mount Lyell Farmers Fertilizers Limited, which I do not think has reached poverty point, received £155,295. Sulphide Corporation Proprietary Limited, of Boolaroo. New South Wales, received £142,768. And Sulphuric Acid Limited. Port Adelaide. South Australia, drew in bounty £274.243.
I suppose it is quite true that, from those drawingsofbounty,thesecompanies recoupthemselvesforinterestonthevast amountsofcapitalthatsomeofthemhave expendedontheequipmentnecessaryfor theprocessingofsulphuricacidandno doubt averygreat proportion of the bounty goes in the payment of wages and salaries. Indirectly, the people of Australia are probably recouped by virtue of the fact that the bounty affords Australia the protection of having available, in order to assist industrial production in a crisis or at any other time, this most important chemical product obtained from the processing of our own materials. It is true, also, that the payment of these bounties helps to protect us against scarcity of supplies of sulphuric acid in the event of war and that the overall impact on the economy is good.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) may agree with me that it is unfair to criticize comparatively wealthy firms for drawing these bounties when, perhaps, similar criticism is not offered with respect to other industrial enterprises that enjoy tariff protection. A concern which derives benefit from tariff protection invariably raises the price of its product to a point just below the price of a comparable imported commodity. The manufacturer is able to operate profitably at that price and he takes out of the community the benefit of the tariff protection, but seldom passes on any of that benefit directly to the Australian community. He is in exactly the same position as is the manufacturer who receives a bounty, except in one respect. Under tariff protection, the people who pay the piper are the people who buy the particular commodity that is protected by a tariff. In the case of a bounty such as this and the copper bounty, in respect of which this House will later consider another measure, the people who pay the piper are the people who contribute in accordance with their ability to pay, as well as the people who contribute to the Australian Consolidated Revenue by way of indirect taxes. So, in respect of bounty payments, everybody pays his portion of the bounty. I think that, generally speaking, where any Australian industry needs protection, a bounty payment often has a good deal more to commend it, if it is a national proposition, than does tariff protection, which, in many instances, results only in the consumer of the product concerned paying an increased price.
Having said all those things, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I suggest that the House support the bill. But T do not withdraw one word of my criticism of the Government, which, apparently, has referred this matter belatedly to the Tariff Board. Or perhaps the board, owing to overwork caused by a vast number of references to it, has not been able to deal expeditiously with this matter. If the cause of the delay is neglect on the part of the Government - which appears to be the case - we may find, at the end of the six months following 30th June next, that we have paid away about £500,000 when there was no need to pay out this sum. That would be a deplorable state of affairs with respect to the government of this country. Surely the Government knew that work had proceeded on many of these sulphuric acid plants and that many of them had been completed. If it knew that, it should have known that production was increasing, and it should have been sufficiently wide awake to refer this matter to the Tariff Board for a determination early enough for a report to have been available before the existing bounces expired. Had that been done, we mav hive said no more of it, or perhaps we could have provided for a bounty at a lower rate than we now propose to pay.
I add this further criticism: The alacrity with which this Government comes to the aid of private enterprise - -certainly. it is true, in order to assist the national economy indirectly - is remarkable. There is a notable change when we consider the Government’s attitude towards enterprises owned bv the taxpayers. Tt allows such undertakers to die. As an illustration, I mention the disgraceful example of the closing down of the sulphate of ammonia plant at Mulwala, in New South Wales. The story, of course, is that thi>. plant was producing at a loss. [ remind the House that, since 1954. we have been paving a substantial bounty to firms which are producing sulphuric acid Rt a loss. Surely the Government could have continued production for a time at the Mulwala plant, which was making a loss that could be regarded as being, after all. only the equivalent of the cost of a bounty to these private concerns that at present .-re incurring losses on the production of sulphuric acid. But no! The Government was ready to get o’‘t quickly and sell the Mulwala plant to private enterprise, alone with three other plants at Ballarat, Albury and Villawood.
Each of these plants is capable of producing 12,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia per :annum. But, because their product competes with that of privately owned steel works or gas works, the Government says, “ We cannot compete with commercial production or with imports. So let us close these plants down and sell them.” It is willing to let the people of Mulwala and of Yarrawonga, in effect, partly perish. True, the Government has said that it will find jobs elsewhere for the workers who are dismissed. But everybody knows that if those workers go to Albury or Villawood or somewhere else they have not a hope in the world of getting a house. Apart altogether from the desperate situation of the workers who will be dismissed, the closing of the plant at Mulwala will not help the shopkeepers or the people generally at Mulwala and Yarrawonga.
There is another important aspect of this problem: Substantial imports of a product known as urea are coming into Australia. As far as I know, the only advantages of this commodity over sulphate of ammonia is that it is more compact and easier to handle, because a package of urea has two and one-half times the potency of the same quantity of sulphate of ammonia. If that is urea’s only virtue, surely there is no reason in the world why its importation from overseas should not cease and why Australia should pay a bounty on the production of 48,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia, which is the equivalent of the annual production at the four Commonwealth plants which I have mentioned. If these plants were retained, of course, the Government would be maintaining enterprises directly owned by the people.
I leave the matter at that. We support the bill.
.- I do not think this is a bill which requires much discussion, but the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said one or two things which might create a false impression. For instance, he said that the Broken Hill Company Proprietary Limited will receive a benefit under this legislation. I cannot agree with that. Then he said that Cuming Smith, and Mount Lyell Farmers Fertilizers Limited, Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited, Cresco Fertilizers (W.A.) Limited and Australian Fertilizers Limited had, between them, received many hundreds of thousands of pounds by way of bounty. I think I should point out that the bounty was not paid to the manufacturers of sulphuric acid merely for the purpose of enabling them to carry on; it was paid to them in respect of their use of indigenous materials. There is no doubt that the manufacturers of sulphuric acid would have made the acid in any case, but possibly by using imported brimstone, to the detriment of the producers of our indigenous materials. One of the producers of indigenous material is operating in the Kalgoorlie electorate, and I think it produces most of the pyrites used in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. I refer to the Norseman gold mine.
In his second-reading speech, the Minister said that the Government recognized its obligation to the producers of indigenous materials, and I am pleased to see that it is honouring that obligation now. The obligation arose in the first instance, I think, during the war years, when supplies of brimstone and other sources of sulphur from overseas were hard to get. Eventually, the manufacturers of sulphuric acid adapted their plant to the use of pyrites, and one gold mine ceased mining for gold and concentrated on the production of pyrites in order to meet the demands of the manufacturers. Now that supplies of brimstone are more plentiful, there is a big temptation to the manufacturers of sulphuric acid to use this cheaper material, but in order to keep in operation those businesses which made a sacrifice during the war and concentrated on the production of indigenous materials, the Government pays a bounty to the manufacturers of the acid who will use indigenous materials. This is not a matter of Cuming Smith, Cresco or any of the other big organizations profiting from the bounty, because I understand that, despite the provisions of this bill, it would still pay the manufacturers of sulphuric acid to use brimstone. The fact is that they are paid a bounty for using a certain quantity of the indigenous materials, and this is the Government’s way of keeping faith with those who produce those materials.
I think it is a very good thing that the Government is endeavouring to keep the indigenous materials industry going until the Tariff Board’s report comes to hand. I hope I shall have an opportunity to elaborate the position further when the Tariff Board’s report has been submitted and considered by the Government. I hope, too, that the Government will renew the bounty for another period of one or three years, as the case may be. In the town of Norseman, which has a population of 2,500 people, the payment of this bounty has had a beneficial effect in that it has kept in operation the gold mine which concentrated on the production of pyrites in the interests of the country’s war effort. There are only two mines in the district. If one were to close down, unemployment would result, and we do not want that. I congratulate the Government upon this measure, and I trust that I shall be able to deal with the matter further on a long-term basis when the Tariff Board’s report comes to hand.
.- There are two matters with which I should like to deal. They both show that the Government has not been efficient or frank in dealing with this problem. This is the fourth bill relating to the payment of a bounty on sulphuric acid which the Government has introduced during its term of office. Both this bill and the bill which was introduced last year are interim measures, having for their purpose the continuation of the payment of the bounty until the Tariff Board produces a report which is acceptable to the Government. In May of last year, the Tariff Board’s report was presented to the Parliament by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who stated that the Government was not satisfied with it and would be asking for a further report. The bounty was then extended for a period of twelve months from 30th June. Since the Government has not yet received the report which it then sought, the bounty is being extended for another six months, to the end of this calendar year.
The time-table is revealing. On 6th May, 1957, the Tariff Board was asked to make a report. The board gave its report to the Government on 18th September, 1958, but the Government did not table the report, nor did it announce a decision upon it, until 12th May, 1959. There was a period of eight months during which the Government had the board’s report and did nothing about it. In May of last year, the Minister for Trade stated that a further reference would be made to the Tariff Board.
– It was a quite different situation.
– Which had arisen many months before.
– Last year, the Government said that it was going to ask the Tariff Board for another report, in the light of another situation that had arisen. We still have not received that report. On the 11th of this month, the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) said that the board had completed public inquiries on the matter, but had not yet presented its report. The delay on the first occasion may have been the Government’s fault, it may have been the board’s fault, or it may have been the fault of both. However, in view of the delay of the board in making up its mind on the first report - it was asked to make the report in 1957, but did not present it until 1958 - and in view of the further delay by the Government in tabling that report, I submit that we are entitled to know the timetable on this occasion. We should be told when the Tariff Board was asked to make a further report, when it conducted the public hearing, and when the Government expects to receive the report. Considerable sums of money are involved, and the amount has increased each year. The Government may not be satisfied with the new report when it is received.
The second-reading speech of the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) is not satisfactory because he has not taken the Parliament into his confidence and it may well be that the Government has again been laggard in considering this matter. If the delay is not the Government’s fault, it is the Tariff Board’s fault. Perhaps the Tariff Board has so much on its plate that it cannot promptly consider and report on these matters. If that is so, as the Tariff Board is our creature we can set up a second board or can regulate the existing board’s procedures in a more satisfactory way.
The other matter which I do not regard as satisfactory is that we are unable to- ascertain the profit of the beneficiary companies. In May last year I asked a question relating to this matter, and on 12th August I received a reply in the following terms: -
The accounts for the financial year ended 30th June, 1959, have not yet been examined.
That is in respect of companies which received the bounty. The reply continues -
In respect of earlier years, in all cases the profits on the production of bountiable sulphuric acid were below the 121 per cent, limitation provided by the act.
That is relevant to the matter which was raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. We know that there is a considerable variation in the need for bounty among the various companies which process pyrites, first, because the pyrites vary in sulphur content and, secondly, because the transport costs vary between the point of production of the pyrites and the point of conversion into sulphuric acid. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie very properly mentioned Norseman which depends so largely for its life on the use of its pyrites which has to be railed 400 miles to Perth. Some of the other companies which process pyrites send it by rail for much shorter distances. For instance, it is transported from Captains Flat to Port Kembla, and one company which processes pyrites at Yarraville receives it by sea from Strahan in Tasmania whither it comes 18 miles by rail from Mount Lyell.
I realize that under the Constitution any bounty which the Commonwealth Government pays must be at the same rate throughout the Commonwealth. I have suggested on the last two occasions when this bill has been before us that we make a specific grant to the relevant States and resolve that they be permitted to pay differential bounties. The present position is unsatisfactory. We have reached the stage where some companies receive a disproportionately high subsidy so that other companies may receive the minimum incentive to produce sulphuric acid which otherwise they could not produce economically. Honorable members will see the parallel when I refer again to the fact that in some cases the pyrites has to travel 18 miles by rail, and in others 400 miles; in some cases it has to travel 100 miles by sea, and in others 1,000 miles. Despite this dispro portion, the Government has refused to give us information upon which we can make an assessment of the effect of the bounty.
As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has pointed out, we are being asked to pay increasing sums by way of bounty on the production of sulphuric acid. No one doubts that Australia needs sulphuric acid and no one doubts that Australia has the raw materials within its own shores to produce sulphuric acid, if that is desired, but at least we ought to know the economics of the position and whether it is necessary to pay handsome profits to some companies to secure very moderate profits for others. The Minister should give us the information which we seek: First, what is the time-table in the present reference to the Tariff Board? Secondly, when shall we receive decisions from the board and the Government, seeing that a delay of one year has already occurred? Thirdly, what are the economics of the position? Fourthly, how much is it necessary to pay to ensure that the existing sources of supply are used properly?
– in reply - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has raised some points about the earlier Tariff Board report and the report which is now being sought. He has covered much the same ground as his colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The earlier Tariff Board report, which was made in 1958 and tabled in the House in May, 1959, was made when the Government was still encouraging the producers of sulphuric acid to convert from imported brimstone to the Australian indigenous material. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows the background of that policy very well. When this bounty was first introduced, there was a shortage of brimstone in the world which appeared likely to last for many years. The Government decided that, as a matter of national necessity, it should encourage the production of sulphuric acid from indigenous materials so that Australia would not be denied the essentials for making fertilizers for its primary industries if we should be unable to import brimstone. The Tariff Board’s report was made against that background. It was completed in 1958 and tabled in the. House in May, 1959.
That situation changed completely. New deposits of natural brimstone were found and the world’s supply became plentiful. As a matter of policy, the Government then decided not to encourage Australian producers of sulphuric acid to convert from imported brimstone to the indigenous material. Consequently, in May, 1959, the Government asked the Tariff Board to inquire and report again on the sulphuric acid industry against the new background. The board was asked to recommend rates of bounty which would not be designed to encourage further conversion for the use of the indigenous materials, but which would honour the Government’s obligations - I am sure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will not cavil at this - to manufacturers who had co-operated in the past by installing plant to produce sulphuric acid from Australian sulphur-bearing materials.
Both the honorable member for Lalor and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have asked for the time-table of this new report. When was the board asked to inquire into the industry? When did it conduct its hearings and when will it present its report? The matter was referred to the board in May, 1959. The board concluded hearings on 31st October, 1959. The inquiry is a very complex one from the nature of the reference and because of the difficult situation in which the board has to advise. It is understandable that the board would take some time to separate the many difficult issues which are involved and to reach appropriate conclusions. We do not know when the board will present its report, but the short extension of six months for the payment of the bounty, which we now seek through this bill, indicates that we have a reasonable expectation that the board will report in time for the Government to consider and act upon the report within the six months.
In conclusion, I acknowledge the thoughtful and helpful contribution which was made to this debate by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) whose interest in this subject is well known and stems from the importance of the industry to the town of Norseman in his electorate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 11th May (vide page 1594), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is very similar to that of the measure we have just passed. We find that the measure now before us is designed to extend for a period of six months, from 30th June, 1960, all the existing bounties paid in respect of the production of refined copper of Australian origin sold for use in Australia to the Australian community. The criticism which I offered in my speech on the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill 1960 concerning the delays in tariff board reports applies equally to this bill. Here again the Government says that the question has been referred to the Tariff Board, that no report is yet to hand and that it will extend the payment of the bounty for an additional six months. In view of the fact that the bounty payable in the current financial year is £897,000 in round figures, we could be committed to the payment of something over £440,000 in copper bounty if it should so happen that the Tariff Board says that the payment of the bounty is no longer justifiable. It is most unfortunate that these delays take place and the result is that bounties to which concerns operating in Australia are not entitled may be paid.
The Opposition thinks that protection for the Australian copper-producing industry, to the extent that it is applied to copper consumed within Australia, is justifiable. The alternative form of protection would be per medium of tariffs, and the end result of that would be that people in this community, many of whom had just established themselves in homes would have to pay higher prices. In every home a great quantity of copper is used - in hot water services, taps, bathroom and kitchen fittings, radios, kettles and all sorts of electrical apparatus.
We can extend the situation further and take into consideration the cost of manufacturing cables for the purposes of the Postmaster-General’s Department, electrical installations, power plants and the enormous range of goods in which copper is used in Australia to-day. Some of our industries make for export goods which contain copper, and they are already struggling against very strong competition in some of the markets overseas. An increase in price would restrict their trade opportunities. I think the Government, in this case, has considered the matter rightly. Last year rather than protect the industry by tariffs, the Government decided to protect it by the payment of bounties, in order to avoid increasing price to the individual who uses copper.
– It is only a temporary measure.
– Everything this Government does is temporary. It is ruthless in some things but rather dilatory about this sort of thing. I think that these matters should be brought to the attention of Parliament. Industries are left in a state of uncertainty on both the production and utilization sides. However, to the extent that this measure will assist our export industries and the people who use the goods the manufacture of which involves the raw product, the Opposition does not object to it. But we do object to, and firmly insist that in future this practice of temporarily extending a protection or bounty to an industry because of some failure on the part of the Government or one of its instrumentalities to deal promptly with a matter for inquiry can no longer be condoned. I ask the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who is in charge of the bill, not to expect us again to be a party to such a procedure, because it is altogether wrong. In both these measures we are asked, in effect, to give support to the payment of a sum involving, in half a year, anything up to £1,000,000. It is not right or fair that the people of this country should have to pay for these bounties through their taxes.
– The money flows into very few hands.
– That is true. There are the indirect benefits which I have listed. These are the direct benefits. The beneficiaries in this financial year from the payment of the bounty are Lake George Mines Proprietary Limited at Captain’s Flat in New South Wales, which is fairly close to here. That company will receive no less a sum than £36,000. Peko Mines N.L., which I understand is in Central Australia near Tennant Creek, is to receive £159,000-
– Is that the company’s subsidy?
– That is the bounty. The Mount Lyell Mining Company, which has been paying very handsome dividends, will receive £411,000.
– You do not object to that.
– I say we are faced with a situation from which we cannot escape, but I am pointing out that this is a practice which the Government does not extend to the community at large. The fellow in a small business may have to sell a product at times almost at cost and cover his losses by other sales. The Government does not say to the Mount Lyell company in regard to its production of sulphuric acid, “You are doing handsomely out of your production of copper, have paid, a dividend of so much for many years, and have issued so many bounty shares, so you do not need assistance “. The Government benevolently says to the companies, “ Because we are caught up in a. dragnet in regard to one of your subsidiary operations which is of national importance,, and on which you are at the moment showing a loss, we will pay you £411,000 thisyear “. The Mount Morgan company will get £261,000 and the Ravensthorpe copper mine £6,201 out the pie.
I have frankly admitted that the reason why we are caught up in this conflict is that these people have only to slide out of any unprofitable production in which they are engaged, and the end result of that isfailure to have protection against imports, and, worse still, probably the almost instant dismissal of a very considerable number of men who are dependent upon that particular industry. Surely all this sort of thing presages the day when the economy of this country may be so well managed’ that anybody who is given a mining right over a hole in the ground and the deposits thereunder will have placed upon him as a condition of his lease an obligation to extract from the raw material which he brings from the earth every by-product that is required by the community. That would” give protection against this sort of thing, because while the Mount Morgan company for instance, might make a profit by the extraction of gold from its ore, it might lose something from the treatment of pyrites which is obtained from the extracting the gold, silver and so on, although overall the profit is a handsome one. We would not be in the position we find ourselves in to-day of paying a subsidy to those who should have had imposed upon them a national obligation to produce from the raw material everything the country needs, However, despite my criticism, I am faced with the inevitable duty of supporting the measure on behalf of the Opposition.
– in reply - I hope that I can satisfy the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that there has not been undue delay on the Government’s part in dealing with this matter as he has suggested. The question of what further assistance, if any, should be given to the copper industry after the expiry of the present bounty was referred to the Tariff Board on 24th September last year. The reference was not made before then because the Townsville refinery of the Mount Isa company came into production only in June, 1959. The Government thought that any reference to the Tariff Board would be premature until some knowledge had been gained in practice of the effect on the industry of this refinery.
– That is a thin excuse. A fair indication could have been given.
– It is not an excuse, but a sound reason for the Government doing what it has done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Townley) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make provision for the control of surface traffic within Commonwealth airports. The movement and parking of vehicles on Commonwealth aerodromes is at present controlled by regulation 315c of the Air Navigation Regulations made under the Air Navigation Act 1920-1950. This regulation, which was originally promulgated in 1954 and amended in 1957, contains detailed rules relating to the parking of vehicles, and provides for the imposition of parking fees not exceeding 2s. for each hour during which a vehicle is left standing, and for the removal of vehicles left standing in contravention of the regulations.
With the increasing volume of traffic using major aerodromes, the number of staff necessary to administer the regulation has steadily increased, with a corresponding increase in the financial cost. Even when sufficient staff can be provided, defects in the existing system have, in many cases, made it impracticable to enforce the provisions of regulation 315c. Quite frequently, drivers of vehicles take advantage of the fact that by refusing to divulge their names and addresses, any effective action in respect of an offence is extremely difficult. Deliberate contraventions of the regulations are becoming more frequent, especially by persons employed within the airport. To meet this situation, the bill adopts the system based on the service of a parking infringement notice coupled with owneronus.
Owner-onus in connexion with traffic offences is, of course, no novelty in Australia. I understand that a system of owner-onus is in force in certain areas of all the mainland States. Under a typical State system of owner-onus, where there is a parking infringement, the owner of the vehicle is deemed to be guilty of the offence in all respects as if he were the actual offender, unless the court is satisfied that the vehicle was stolen or being illegally used.
Parking infringement notices are also familiar in a majority of the States. This is not a method of arbitrarily imposing fines on alleged offenders, but gives the offender the choice between paying a relatively small prescribed fine - £2 is proposed in the case of Commonwealth-owned airports - and defending a prosecution in the normal way. In the case of more serious offences or repeated offences by the same owner, the offender would not, of course, be given the opportunity to expiate the offence by payment of a penalty of £2. On this point, attention is invited to sub-clause 11 of clause 12 of the bill, which makes it clear that a person can be prosecuted without first having been served with a parking infringement notice. It is, of course, of far greater importance that an alleged offender is always free to defend thepr oceedings in the ordinary courts if he feelsthat his interests will be best served by doing so.
While the bill makes special provision in relation to all parking matters which it is considered require special treatment to ensure the proper functioning of aerodromes, it is recognized that a significant part of applicable State and territorial traffic laws is quite adequate, and that it would be both costly and administratively unwarranted for the Commonwealth to attempt to develop a self-contained traffic code for Commonwealth airports. Clause 18 ofthe bill, therefore, provides that, except where otherwise provided, expressly orby necessary implication, in the act or regulations made thereunder, applicable provisions of State and territorial traffic codes will continue to apply and, in particular,any such law relating to the registration and equipment of vehicles, the licensing of drivers of motor vehicles and therules to be observed by persons driving or in charge of vehicles on roads within airports.
There are also the normal type of provisions relating to delegation of powers and functions, the making of regulations not inconsistent with the provisions of the act, butnecessary to supplement those provisions and provisions dealing with evidentarymatters. The bill also authorizes arrangements to be made with the States fortheco-operation and assistance of State policeandpaymentbytheCommonwealth forsuchservices. The fact that the bill is closelyrelatedto the Air Navigation Bill andspringsfromthe overhaul of the voluminousairnavitgationregulationsin highlightedbythefactthatclause21ofthe billprovidesthattheannualreport to Par- liamentontheadministrationofthe Air NavigationAct 1920-1960 and regulations mustalsoincludeastatementsettingout detailsofprosecutionsandparking infringements under this bill.
Years of experience in the management of Commonwealth aerodromes have shown the need for control of vehicular traffic in the manner contemplated by this bill. Without such controls, the proper functioning of aerodromes is jeopardized. The bill has the great merit that it quite clearly includes all the main requirements relating to parking infringements in the act. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. James Harrison) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 12th May (vide page 1711), on motion by Mr. Davidson -
That the bill be now read a second time. [Quorum formed.]
– The Opposition does not regard this bill as satisfactory at all, and I move the following amendment: -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ consideration of the bill be deferred until after presentation to the Parliament of a report from the Broadcasting Control Board on its provisions with particular reference to the practical effects of those provisions purporting to limit or restrict control of companies owning or operating broadcasting or television stations “.
The Opposition is not satisfied that the bill is “ within powers “, as the lawyers say. It provides for a system of price control. It provides that anybody who owns films shall be obliged to sell those films at a reasonable price and, if they will not sell them, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will decide the issue. We think the Government should have cleaned up that point before the bill came before the House. Either the Government has the power to impose a form of price fixing or it has not. We wish that the Constitution did provide power for the Commonwealth to fix prices. We think it would be far better in the interests of the economy if this Parliament could pass valid laws for the fixing of prices. The Government can ensure that the workers’ wages are fixed - and wages, of course, are the price of labour - but the price of no other commodity can be fixed by the Commonwealth. No other commodity or service can have its price determined by any Commonwealth authority.
The Government in this legislation proposes to do a certain thing. We believe that the Liberal Party is merely taking the Australian Country Party for a ride. We think that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) not only drafted the bill but also wrote the second-reading speech for the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). The poor old gentlemen in hillbilly corner think that they are obtaining something that is really worthwhile, but they are doing nothing of the sort.
– lt is another form of telephone tapping.
– Yes, tapping the more expensive telephones. We had a complaint from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) to-day about the effect of the bill which increased telephone charges. He voted for the bill but now finds that it is acting to the detriment of primary producers.
The Liberal Party has taken the Australian Country Party Postmaster-General for a ride once. It took him for a ride on the bill that I have just mentioned, and it is taking him for a ride on this bill. Everybody knows that, as soon as the legislation is passed, the powerful interests that are supposedly being attacked by it will take action in the High Court to have the legislation invalidated. That is as plain as a pikestaff. If that does not happen, the Government will be bound to bring down legislation to fix the prices of commodities and services in the interests of the Australian people. We know that, at a later stage, the Government proposes to accept a Liberal Party amendment to the legislation, and that the Australian Country Party will vote for it. This amendment will substitute a judge for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to determine what is a fair price to be paid by a station for films supplied to it.
The Attorney-General, who is a brilliant lawyer, but a completely hopeless politician, has no objection to reversing his attitude even within the short space of 24 hours. He will accept this amendment, although last night he said that he would not have a judge determine whoso telephone should be tapped. On that occasion, he said he did not want judges doing the dirty work of politicians. However, under Liberal Party pressure, with the Australian Country Party concurring, provision will be written into the legislation to permit a judge to determine the price of films. I ask members of the Australian Country Party to stand up and be counted on this issue. They have been forced into position after position, just like so many dumb, driven cattle, at the behest of their Liberal Party masters. They are being told that, if two senators move along the lines upon which surrender is to take place in the Senate, the Australian Labour Party will line up with the rebel senators and help the Liberal Party. 1 do not know who gave any assurance to anybody on that score. We of the Labour Party have not determined any attitude to amendments that may be moved in the Senate by some senators who are not concerned to ensure that independent country stations are established so much as they are concerned to protect those people who own films and control the stations now owned by newspapers in capital cities. We of the Labour Party, of course, do not agree with the present set-up, and neither should anybody else who has the interests of this country at heart. Every capital city television station throughout Australia, with the exception of one in Melbourne, is owned and controlled by a newspaper interest.
– A city newspaper!
– I have said every one of them is owned and controlled by a newspaper interest, and that would be a city newspaper interest, of course. We think that there is a monopoly growth which threatens the liberty of Australians. On® group is controlling the newspapers and radio and television stations, and that does not happen anywhere else in the world. Members of the Country Party are quite prepared to accept that dangerous, and perhaps ultimately disastrous, state of affairs, provided that they can get what seems to them to be an independent set-up in country districts.
– What do you want, nationalization?
– Yes, if I can get it, but I cannot. If I must have a monopoly, I would sooner have a monopoly that is under the control of the elected representatives of the people than a commercial monopoly that is controlled by boards of directors who are answerable to nobody except to shareholders, even a minority of shareholders. They are not concerned with the public interest so much as they are with making a profit and in order to make a profit, maybe debauch the standards of the people by pandering to their lower instincts.
Members of the Country Party say, “ Let us have this bill, because thereby we will prevent those who own two stations in two States, under the regulations which exist to-day, from establishing an effective ownership in a third station anywhere in Australia and presumably, of course, in a country district “. This bill stipulates a figure of 15 per cent, in respect of voting power and beyond that figure any person able to control it is said to have an effective control of a station. We think that is not good enough. We have to start from the beginning and if we cannot get what we want - and it is very doubtful that we can because of the rulings of the High Court over section 92 in the banking case and the airlines case - then we are not going to settle for the present unsatisfactory situation.
– What figure do you suggest?
– I am not suggesting any alteration from 15 per cent. My complaint, and that of the Labour Party, is against the effective ownership by newspaper interests of all the commercial television stations in the capital cities. No member of the Country Party can object to that complaint. But where we fall out with the Country Party is that its members are prepared to accept that situation and give endorsement to it and then say, “ Let us protect ourselves from any incursion of the octopus control of these organizations into country districts “. We say that that hope to the contrary is illusory because once this bill is passed and newspaper interests are able to own and control their present equities in capital city stations, it will not be long, no matter what is in this bill to protect country interests from a take-over or a merger, before ultimately the city stations will own and control the country stations. It is a vain hope.
Country Party members are relying on a very weak reed if they are relying on the present Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) to protect them, because he does not want to protect them. But he is a very clever man; he is a very brilliant man; he wants to get this legislation through Parliament and then he will say, “ I gave you my opinion about the matter but the High Court holds a different view”. So, in the end, the Country Party will find that all these country stations will not be independently controlled but will be dominated and controlled by big city interests, and that is not a good thing in the national interest.
– That is your opinion.
– Yes, and it is a very sane and sound one. I would hope that the honorable member would agree with me. To the extent that he disagrees with me, he is hopelessly wrong. I have a pretty shrewd idea that this may be a Packer benefit bill because Consolidated Press of Sydney owns only one station. No matter what is done in this bill that organization can still get control of another station in New South Wales, and it may be after the control of the Wollongong station and then it can have that control, no matter how much more than 15 per cent, of the shareholdings it has. That is not a good thing.
What does the Country Party propose to do about that particular situation? Of course, there is the Melbourne “ Herald “ group, which has the control of a Melbourne station, Channel 7. The group has effective control of a station in Adelaide also and although it says it does not have the control of the Brisbane station, to all intents and purposes it does have such a control. This bill does not disturb its ownership of three stations.
– Of course it does.
– The PostmasterGeneral says it does. I will guarantee that in any contest between the Melbourne “ Herald “ and this Government the Melbourne “ Herald “ will win and we will make a final settlement as to our respective positions after the High Court has given its decision on the matter. This Government will not take the matter to the Privy Council. Pontius Pilate-like, it will wash its hands of responsibility and somebody else will have to tackle the problem at a later stage.
The Conservative Government in England is much further advanced in its thinking, and is far more radical than the present set-up in Australia. The Conservative Government, in addition to maintaining the British Broadcasting Corporation, set up what it called an independent television authority. That was an independent concern which built stations and then asked private interests to tender for time on the television screen. That system in Australia would be preferable to the present system. It would not be as good as nationalization, but it would be much fairer and a much more reasonable system than the present one. The independent television authority in England is responsible to the British Parliament. Those who own and operate television stations in Australia are using the public domain for the dissemination of their signals and their messages. The ether is the public domain, but once we licence private interests, as we have done under our television legislation to date, we have given almost the ownership, or some right, to the use of the ether. As a National Parliament we should never part with it.
I can see the head-on crash that is coming between ourselves and certain big vested interests in this country. I do not mind it. Sooner or later the High Court of Australia will have to decide what are the powers of this Parliament in regard to radio and television, and I think that court will decide satisfactorily. If the court does not, it will be up to the Government to secure powers by referendum to enable this Parliament to pass effective laws in regard to radio and television. If we cannot pass those laws then we will come under the dictatorship of press combines which are not responsible to the people of Australia. The press combines can do what they want to do regardless of public opinion or anything else. They can make or unmake governments, if my worst fears are realized, and that is not a good thing in a democracy. This is antagonistic to every concept of what democracy stands for.
We will press our amendment and if the Government will not defer consideration of the bill then we will vote against the second reading and we will carry on that procedure in the Senate. We give no guarantee now to any Liberal Party rebels in the Senate that they will be able to use us in the pursuit of their designs. They may be convinced that they can use other people. We do not like, and we never did like, the legislation under which television stations have been set up in this country. We have never liked the way the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has operated. We think that there are great public interests in this country whose claims have been completely ignored by the Broadcasting Control Board and the Government. Only the profit-making instrumentalities have ever been considered. The universities and other organizations such as returned soldiers’ organizations and trade unions which do not exist to make money or to exploit the public have the right to have their views presented to the people. There ought to be provision in this legislation and in similar legislation by which the universities and similar bodies with no interests but that of education to serve can present their stories to the public. This Government is dedicated to what it believes to be the interests of private enterprise. The Government makes a fetish out of a principle. But it is not really concerned with private enterprise, because in the bill itself it has provided that those people who have films may not exercise their rights under the doctrine of laisser faire capitalism. They may not buy on the cheapest market and sell in the dearest market. They have to accept the dictum of a government instrumentality on the prices at which they sell their films. To that extent the bill contains a socialist provision, and the Australian Country Party is prepared to swallow it. As my very distinguished colleague the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) once said about the Australian Country Party because of its dealings with the Commonwealth Bank, and its insistence that the Commonwealth Bank should finance all agricultural pools at the lowest possible rates of interest, “ the Country Party is prepared to socialize its losses and capitalize its gains “.
– That is a hackneyed phrase.
– It is not a hackneyed phrase. It is one that the honorable member for Canning, as an ex-trade unionist, does not want to be reminded about. It is a perfectly true and trite statement of the Australian Country Party’s position. Members of that party want the best of all possible worlds. They try to use anybody and everybody in the pursuit of their objectives. They are completely unprincipled when it comes to public policy. They are the greatest catchascatchcan merchants who have ever come into this Parliament, always seeking something for themselves, at the expense of the public interest if necessary, and allying themselves with their political enemies in order to get positions in the Ministry and i.i order to get legislation of this sort. Members of the Australian Country Party, Sir, believe that the big fish of the cities will not swallow the little fish in the country. Well in natural order of things the big fis!. ;i’.viivs swallow the little fish, and no mr ter what the provisions of this bill may be those so-called independent country television stations will not be independent for very long. 1 believe that the Postmaster-General should have resigned when the Liberal Party took him for a ride on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill. I think he ought to resi«n because of the scurvy way the members of that party have treated him over this particular legislation.
– You will have to do better than you are doing.
– Well, of course, I do not often take notice of the minnows in this House, but if that is the best that the honorable member for Wannon can offer by way of interjection, he should not be in this Parliament after next year. As a matter of fact, he has been here too long. The Postmaster-General did bring down a bill of this sort in 1958. It passed this House.
– To what party did the Minister belong?
– What is the Chairman of Committees saying by way of disorder?
– To what party did the Minister who brought down this bill belong?
– The present PostmasterGeneral brought down the bill in 1958. It passed through all stages in the House of Representatives, but for some reason or other it was dropped in the Senate. The Postmaster-General said in his secondreading speech on the present measure that the 1958 bill had not been proceeded with in the Senate - and I quote - “ for reasons which I need not elaborate at this stage “. We would like him to elaborate the reasons why the Government did not proceed with that bill in the Senate.
In another part of his speech the PostmasterGeneral said that there were matters in this bill which could be more fully dealt with in committee. But we are not to have an opportunity to debate the bill in committee. The measure is to be rushed through with about three or four speeches on each side. The debate on the secondreading will be gagged, and the bill will be gagged through committee. It will then pass to the Senate, and the Senate will be told to pass it forthwith or else come back in a fortnight’s time to consider it further. If the Government really thought that there was any merit in this bill, if it had nothing to hide, it would have brought the bill to the second-reading stage then let its further consideration stand over until we come back for the Budget session, so that all outside interests could have something to say about the worth of the proposals in the bill.
– You know all the political tricks.
– I know all the political tricks! I wish I did. The honorable member for Canning would not be here if 1 knew them all. The Parliament is asked to pass this bill in the short space of about three hours, and this is a bill of considerable importance and considerable volume. There are 35 clauses in it. We will be asked to pass it in three or four hours, although it has taken the Australian Broadcasting Control Board six months to prepare it. lt was slapped down on the table of this House last Thursday night and within a week it is expected to be passed by both Houses of the Parliament, and one day later it will be presented to the Governor-General for the Royal assent. The Postmaster-General said in his second-reading speech on the measure -
The bill, which I now introduce, incorporates all the matter dealt with in the previous bill, except for one item, and also includes additional provisions which experience in the Held of broadcasting and television since 1938 has shown to be clearly desirable.
He just makes statements but never produces proof to show the desirability of what he urges. This statement was to some extent misleading in that it implied that the present amending legislation was similar to that presented in 1958 and not proceeded with. Mr. Speaker, that is not true. The 1958 bill consisted of four pages. The current bill consists of no fewer than 22 pages. The 1958 bill was described as a machinery measure. The present bill is obviously much more important than that.
No reference, Sir, was made in the 1958 bill to the ownership and control of commercial television stations, which is the real core of the present legislation. This bill seeks to limit the ownership and control of commercial television stations by any one company or concern to two only. Proposed section 92b defines the meaning of control in terms which I shall read for the benefit of honorable members. It says -
For the purposes of this Division, a person who is, or who, by any application or applications of this section, is deemed to be, in a position to exercise control of more than fifteen per centum of the total votes that could be cast at a general meeting of a company is deemed to be in a position to exercise control of that company and of any voting rights of that company as a shareholder and of all acts and operations of that company.
Now, even a pettifogging lawyer could alter the articles of association of a company to enable big interests to escape from the operation of that provision - that clumsily prepared provision. Yet it is cleverly prepared. It is sufficiently cleverly prepared to delude members of the Australian Country Party. The key words in the clause are “ in a position to exercise control “. The interpretation of the word “ control “ is contained in proposed section 91 (2.) which states - control ‘ includes control as a result of, or by means of, trusts, agreements, arrangements, understandings and practices, whether or not having legal or equitable force and whether or not based on legal or equitable rights.
The phrase “ in a position to exercise control “ becomes more important when the opinion of the Attorney-General, who drafted the legislation, given to the Herald and Weekly Times company of Melbourne, is brought into consideration. On 14th October, 1958, the Melbourne “Herald” published a statement answering allegations by members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board about that company’s “ control “, or alleged control, of other companies. The “ Herald “ sought the opinion of two Queen’s Counsel, one of whom is now the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, who has drafted this legislation.
– A good man.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay need not remind me that the Attorney-General is a good man. As a matter of fact, I think he wears a halo. He is a very good man and a very clever lawyer, but I think he is a political failure. The Broadcasting Control Board’s interest in the matter arose from the grant of television licences in Adelaide and Brisbane by this Government in which the honorable member for Parramatta is now the Attorney-General. The “ Herald “, in its statement, declared that the company had interests of 37 per cent, in Advertiser Newspapers Limited, Adelaide, and 37 per cent, in Queensland Press Limited, the holding company for the “ Courier-Mail “ and the Brisbane “ Telegraph “.
The statement continued that the Advertiser company had agreed to take up 40 per cent, of shares in Television Broadcasters Limited of Adelaide, and that Queensland Press Limited, through its operating companies, had agreed to take up 28 per cent, of the shares in Brisbane T.V. Limited. The “ Herald’s “ statement continued -
Through these links The Herald and Weekly Times will have an interest of 14.6 per cent, of the Adelaide television company and 10.5 per cent, in the Brisbane Company.
That is the way in which the Melbourne “ Herald “ is able to control three television stations - one in each of three important capital cities - no matter what appears in this legislation.
The annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, published in
June, 1959, sets out the shareholdings in all the television companies operating at that date. From this information, which appears on page 27, it can be seen that of the 1,500,000 shares in Brisbane T.V. Limited, Queensland Newspapers Proprietary Limited, publishers of the “ Courier-Mail “, hold 240,000 shares and Telegraph Newspaper Company Limited holds 156,000 shares, a total of 396,000, or 36 per cent. For the Adelaide station of Television Broadcasters Limited the position is that, of the 3,000,000 shares, 900,000, or 30 per cent, are held by Advertiser Newspapers Limited. With this confusion as to the actual position of the “ Herald’s “ interests, the interpretation of the words already referred to becomes all the more important.
The opinion of Sir Garfield Barwick, Q.C., as he was known in those days, was based upon the phrase in the existing section 91 and was reached after an examination of the more recent cases bearing on the question before the British court of appeal and the reasoning of the justices of the High Court of Australia. The present Attorney-General stated then, when he was counsel to the big television organizations, that the construction of the words “ in the position to exercise control “ was, to use his own words -
He said that the control of a company and, through it, of its assets, was a matter to which other statutes had been addressed and that some of them had received judicial consideration which had “ yielded a fairly consistent result “. He went on to state that one must credit the draftsman with familiarity with such decisions when approaching the legal construction of the phrases in the existing statute. That is the statute which this legislation proposes to amend. He described it as follows: -
After stating that, I ask honorable members how much wiser they are as to the meaning of the language of the existing law and what might be thought of the language in the present legislation. The present Attorney-General’s next comments have an important bearing upon the present legisla tion. Referring to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which, to-day, is still the board of 1958, he said that the board “ appears to reject “ what, to his mind, was the accepted legal construction of such words and to conclude that a shareholder with a comparatively small percentage of the shares of a company might in certain circumstances which remained unspecified effectively control a company. He said -
The Board then appears to think that that company is in all circumstances debarred from holding a commercial television licence, or at least so long as the shareholder himself holds such a licence.
He maintained that the critical word was “ control “ which, to his mind, could - only be used by force of the position of the person himself and not by force of the inactivity of other persons where that inactivity cannot be compelled .
So many legal technicalities in the opinion which the present Attorney-General gave in this case two years ago are in conflict with the language of this bill and the argument of the Government that the House would be justified in carrying the amendment that I have moved for the purpose of deferring consideration of this legislation by the Parliament until all interested parties can make submissions and until the people of Australia are better informed of its contents.
I hope that other honorable members who follow me will point out some of the injustices that are operating in regard to country districts and that they will point out some of the evils that could flow from precipitous action by this Parliament in rushing this legislation through. I understand that the Broadcasting Control Board wants an affirmation of a principle by this Parliament as to whether there should be independent country television stations. The Opposition is prepared to vote for any resolution that will affirm that principle. But the Broadcasting Control Board says that it does not want to make decisions in regard to country stations and all the matters before it until Parliament passes the legislation. We of the Opposition say that we will affirm the principle if that will help the Broadcasting Control Board to make up its mind. Then, in the Budget session, the Parliament can consider the legislation after the Broadcasting Control Board has decided which companies are to obtain the licences that are available around Australia.
– Do you believe in independent country stations?
– I have made my position clear beyond all reasonable doubt. 1 have suggested the affirmation of the principle by a resolution of this House, following the withdrawal of this bill.
– You want to nationalize only the city stations.
– I make the best possible use of any situation, in accordance with right principles. If I cannot get all that I want, I do the next best thing, but if I were to vote, as the honorable member for Canning suggests, for independent country stations, I would expect the Country Party to vote for independent city stations. I cannot guarantee that it would proceed so far. It always seems to have some vested interest or other to serve. Its members live precariously; they live dangerously. Their party should never have come into existence and the sooner it disappears from the political scene in Australia, the better it will be for the health of Australian politics.
Is the amendment seconded?
– I second it.
– Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has let the cat out of the bag this evening. When my colleague, the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), asked him what he would do about television if he got into power, the Leader of the Opposition said that he would nationalize it. I cannot say that hearing that sort of thing is any new experience for us, because, on looking through the records, I find that the present Leader of the Opposition said exactly the same thing in 1952. He said that the Australian Labour Party would make television a government monopoly and would keep it that way. I should like, on behalf of the Government parties, to thank the honorable member for the remarks that he has made to-night. I can assure him that they will be used with great effect at the general election next year.
We all know that Labour’s policy is nationalization - nationalization of this and that. The Leader of the Opposition said, at one point, that he was using a hack neyed phrase. Perhaps I may use one and say it is a pity that the Labour Party does not nationalize crime in order to ensure that it does not pay.
– I hope that observation was original!
– It was original about ten years ago, but it was not thought up by me.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to say that if there has to be a monopoly the Opposition would prefer a government monopoly to a private one. We say that there does not have to be a monopoly and that this bill has been designed to ensure that there is not a monopoly. Let us see what this measure will do. Really, it will only put into effect in law principles which have been Government policy for very many months. It will implement a decision which was taken by the Government a long time ago, because it will prevent one company from having a controlling interest, in more than two television stations. A company may own two completely, but it will not be able to go further than that except to have a shareholding of less than 15 per cent, in a third company or more companies. This means, in effect, that a company will not be able to control more than two television stations.
This bill will also prevent any one man from being a director and sitting on the board of more than two television companies. In order to ensure that programmes will not be tied up, the measure will require television programmes to be sold on just terms where it is reasonably believed that the owners of programme material are trying to tie it up and prevent a station from getting it.
How on earth can the Leader of the Opposition - who, I am sorry to see, has left the chamber - honestly call this a Packer benefit bill?I suggest that if any criticism is levelled at this measure it ought perhaps to be made on the score that we as a government have moved too much into the control of television. In that, perhaps, we have come too close to the Australian Labour Party. I should say that if any criticism is forthcoming it ought to come from the true-blue Liberals, not from members of the Labour Party.
Personally, I am not completely happy about the Government’s decision to limit the controlling interest of any one company to two television stations. I can see the possibility of a television company saying, “ If we are allowed to control only two stations, we shall establish them in the most profitable places”. In other words, they will seek to control stations in Sydney, Newcastle or other areas where there are large accumulations of population, and where television stations are likely to be most profitable. When we come to the area which I represent, and to the outback areas, we shall probably find that television companies will say, “We should like to have established a television station at Wagga Wagga or somewhere like that, but we are limited to controlling two stations and we cannot establish a third “.I foresee a situation in which no one will be willing to apply for a licence to operate a television broadcasting station in certain country areas when applications for licences are invited. However, we shall not know for certain about this until the time for the allocation for licences in those areas arrives.It will be agreatpity if as a result of this measure, theextension of television in country areas is limited.
At present, part of my electorate is servedby quite alargebroadcasting network known as the Macquarie network.I do not know howmany radio stations it controls, butI can say that we have had excellent service from that network. On no occasion has there been any sign of the tying up ofprogrammes or of monopoly controlby that organization,andI believe thatthesethings would not occur even if one company controlled more than two television stations.
The Government’s decision to force the sale ofprogramme material onjust terms iscertainly a new departure from recognized Liberalthinking. I am well aware of the reason for it.Although so far. we have not been riven any evidence that a television station has on any occasion been unable to obtain films or otherprogramme material.I should be happv to agree with this principle if such evidence were put before the House. There are many television programmesavailable at present, and I do not think it matters verygreatly if “The Mousketeers “ or “Wyatt Earp “ or any other particular programme is not available to one station, because other material which is just as suitable and which will entertain people just as well can easily be obtained.
I have already mentioned the Leader of the Opposition’s forthright statement in which he let the cat out of the bag completely by saying that the Australian Labour Party wanted to do only one thing - nationalize all television stations in Australia. Apart from that, the honorable member seemed to take up half his time with abuse of the Australian Country Party. This may be a useful, humorous diversion to practise when one has not anything else with which to fill in his time, but the honorable gentleman’s performance rather reminded me of the story about a person making a public speech. One of the notes that the public speaker had jotted down was, “ Weak point. Shout! “ I felt that the Leader of the Opposition, too, had some very weak points and that he tried to get over them by resorting to abuse of the Country Party and otherwise filling in his time.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the Government was shamming. His only argument in support of that contention was the statement, “This reads all right on paper, but we know that it will not work “. We on this side of the House know that the Government’s proposals will be made to work. We do not know what the legal position is, of course, and no one can know that yet. But we do know that any government which legislates in this field must run the gauntlet of possible legal challenge. We do not yet know whether or not there will be a challenge. If there is, we shall cross our bridges when we come to them.
– You have the AttorneyGeneral on your side.
– All I can say to the honorable member is that the present Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) would be by far the best man available for any appeal to the High Court of Australia. In fact, he almost has a vested interest in that court, I might say, because he knows it so well. I am sure that if there is any one who can win a case for the Government in the High Court it is the present Attorney-General.
The Leader of the Opposition, at the conclusion of his speech, bogged down in a long piece of legal jargon which he read at great length, but which he did not seem to understand particularly well. I do not propose to say any more in reply to the observations made by the honorable gentleman, but I wish to make a number of points in relation to matters which affect my electorate in particular and most of Australia in general. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), in his secondreading speech last Thursday evening, rather patted himself on the back and said that 60 per cent, of the population is now served by television. My feeling is that it is wrong 60 per cent. I come from the country. I ask honorable members whom they would prefer to see enjoying the benefits of television. Would they prefer television to be available to the city resident, who only has to catch a tram going to the city to have an opportunity of viewing films at half a dozen different theatres and who has an opportunity of watching sports events, of going to plays and of hearing lectures all within a very short distance of his home? Or would honorable members prefer television to be available to the person who lives in the back-blocks, the person who in some cases may not see any one else for days or weeks on end, the person who may be living 40, 50 or 60 miles from the nearest town?
– On your argument, the station should be erected at Ayers Rock.
– That would be a good idea if we could cover the whole of the continent from there. There are, of course, areas in which there are not enough people to warrant the erection of a television station. The point I make is that the people who should be considered first are those who do not have the amenities that people in the cities have. This Government believes in decentralization, but the tendency in the development of television so far has been towards centralization.
People in the country districts are becoming sick and tired of the delay in hearing the claims of people wishing to set up television stations in country centres. Television has been operating in Australia for five years now. Late in 1954, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board mapped out a programme for the assignment of television channels in Australia. The Board said that 55 areas would have to be catered for, but as yet only five areas have television stations. At this rate, it will be 55 years before all the 55 areas are catered for. I am not referring to the back-blocks, or to such places as Ayers Rock. The smallest aggregation of people mentioned by the board is in Geraldton, where there are 15,000 people. I say it is high time that we got cracking. I feel that the Government should impress upon the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that it is not happy with the progress that is being made and say that it expects the board to give it within the next few months a time-table for the allocation of channels in every area of Australia, so that those who are now waiting the opportunity to do so may be able to go ahead and erect television stations.
I emphasize that in this instance we do not ask the Government to spend any money; all we ask is that private citizens or companies shall be given the right to spend their money. My colleague, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray), who is not here to-night, told me that only one company applied for the provisional licence in the Townsville area, yet the hearing of this company’s application has had to be delayed until the New South Wales applications have been dealt with. That took four of five months. No doubt there will be a delay for a similar period while the Victorian applications are being heard, unless something is done to hurry the Australian Broadcasting Control Board along.
– It is nearly finished with those.
– I am glad to have that assurance. When there is only one applicant for a licence, as is the case in Townsville, surely to goodness it should be possible for a competent person to decide within a week whether a licence should be granted to that applicant. Having decided that a licence should be granted, for heavens sake let the applicants go ahead and get into operation with the least possible delay.
After the introduction of what I think is called the third phase of television, when a large number of licences have been issued simultaneously, there will be a tremendous demand for electronic parts for television transmitters made either in Australia or abroad, and people will be rushing in hundreds of thousands, seeking to buy television sets. All of that will be happening at once. Surely it would be much more sensible to space out the granting of licences and so spread this demand. Surely it would be much better for the board to notify applicants as each decision is arrived at, so that the erection of television stations may be spread over a period. I repeat that we are not asking for Government assistance or Government finance; all we ask is that private citizens be given the right to spend their own money. What does it matter if one or two of these people go bankrupt? They will be losing their own money, not the Government’s money. For heavens sake, let us cut out this cautious approach by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
In conclusion, I hope the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) will do his utmost to see that a time-table is produced for each and every area in which there is any likelihood of the development of television, so that the people concerned will know that on a certain date they are likely to have this amenity.
– I thought that I would be completely in disagreement with the contribution offered by the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), but I am pleased to see that he, a member of the Government parties, has the same complaint to make as I have. He complains about the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s delay in concluding its inquiries and publishing a decision. As I see it, the board should have been able by this time to conclude its inquiries in New South Wales and make known its decision as to whom should be allocated licences in the various districts of New South Wales included in the third phase of the plan. The residents of the various areas of New South Wales should have been well on the way towards enjoying the benefits of their own television channels by now. Even at this late stage, I urge the Postmaster-General to abandon the dogmatic attitude he has adopted in this House in connexion with this matter during the last twelve months. I ask him to reconsider the policy under which there is to be one decision of the board covering a number of applications. In view of the evidence it has heard from various applicants for licences, the board should be able to decide now, in those cases it has heard, the applicants to whom licences will be granted. I make this urgent appeal in briefly supporting the remarks of the honorable member for Farrer to-night.
Let me quote the experiences of my own electorate in recent days. Last Saturday night, the reception of the programmes of the three Sydney channels was nowhere near perfect. I should say that the best reception of any of those channels would be in the vicinity of only 50 per cent. On occasions, there were complete blackouts. The same thing applied on the Sunday night and on the Friday night. In those circumstances, I feel that the thousands of people who live in my electorate, and those who live in the Shortland and Hunter electorates, are entitled to the benefit of an early decision from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
There is one other point connected with this bill on which 1 feel that the PostmasterGeneral has let down the broadcasting world. I have been advised that, over a period, various broadcasting companies have asked the Postmaster-General to do something about the libel laws as they affect broadcasting. I am advised that if a person libels another and the statement is published in the press, the person who is offended has a right to take action only against the person to whom the statement is attributed. He has no right at law to sue the newspaper in which the libellous matter is published. The broadcasting companies have asked that they be accorded similar protection. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to take the earliest possible opportunity of doing something to protect broadcasting companies and so eliminating what is now an anomaly. To illustrate the anomalous position in which broadcasting stations can be placed, I mention the occasion when the leader of a political party is broadcasting his policy speech over a nation-wide hook-up. If, during the course of that speech, he libels any person, the person who is offended has the right to take action for libel against every radio station involved in that nation-wide hookup. Some protection should be afforded a broadcasting station which innocently permits a libellous statement to be made from it. The Postmaster-General should have honoured his promise to the broadcasting stations that an amending clause would be included in the first relevant legislation to be introduced.
I should like to deal now with the legislation as it affects television. I am sorry to say that the Government, through the Postmaster-General, is attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of the people and is definitely making possible the monopoly control of propaganda, entertainment and the like in Australia. Let us examine the present set-up. I should like to read an extract from a book which is circulated in the business world and conveys information relating to companies in Australia. The book, in dealing with the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, one of the biggest propaganda machines in the Commonwealth, had this to say -
The company heads the largest publishing group in Australia. In addition to owning the “ Herald “ and “ Sun News-Pictorial “, Melbourne, the company prints seven magazines, has large share interests in Queensland Press Limited (which owns both of the Brisbane daily newspapers), Advertiser Newspapers Limited, Adelaide-
I believe its Adelaide holding is 37i per cent. - and is the principal shareholder in Australian Newsprint Mills Holdings Limited. The company also owns two Victorian radio stations and has an 85 per cent, interest in one of Melbourne’s two commercial television stations - HSV Channel 7.
We know that the Adelaide “Advertiser” has a controlling interest in a commercial television licence. The same thing applies in Brisbane where the “ Courier-Mail “ and the “ Telegraph “ are the principal shareholders in a commercial television licence. We know also that every application which has been made for a country television licence in Victoria has had behind it the influence of the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. The same thing may well apply in Queensland. We know that in New South Wales there is obviously a hook-up between the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and the “ Daily Telegraph “, and that those organizations appear to have an agreement with the Melbourne “ Herald “ to keep out of that State.
I followed fairly closely the evidence which was submitted to the Australian
Broadcasting Control Board when these newspaper interests appeared before it in an endeavour to obtain country television licences and I found that either the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ or the “ Daily Telegraph “ was the principal shareholder in the applicant companies which included the local broadcasting station and the local newspaper. In his second-reading speech the Postmaster-General said -
Mr. Speaker, there may, of course, at times be a dearth of available television films, and I do not propose to enter what is perhaps a controversial field of discussion as to whether that is or is not a prevailing condition at the moment, but the Government has decided that it will take its stand against any endeavour to monopolize television film - to corner it, to use an old and wellunderstood phrase - and to use it, not as an item of commerce but as an unwarranted source of power.
That is the way in which we view it too. The Postmaster-General really let the cat out of the bag in saying and laying bare his personal opinion of what he thinks will take place. The film industry could well control the programmes to be shown on television. A similar danger exists in the whole field of propaganda because the propaganda machine of the nation is owned and controlled by a minority group - the various newspaper combines.
I have indicated what has happened as a result of the machinations of the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. A similar state of affairs has been created in Sydney by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and the “ Daily Telegraph “. So the dissemination of information in the four major capital cities of the Commonwealth is controlled by three newspaper combines. Obviously they have put their heads together and have reached agreement as to what the position shall be.
– They control the information which goes out to about 60 or 70 per cent, of the population.
– That is correct, and if they have their way as I believe they will, they will by various manoeuvres infiltrate into and control, if not entirely then to a great extent, the information and entertainment mediums in the country centres.
In October, 1958, the Melbourne “ Herald “ sought an opinion from Sir Garfield Barwick, Q.C. - this was before he entered politics - because of the allegations which had been made by members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board about the company’s control of other companies. The question related to the part which the small investor plays in the control of various companies or combines. Sir Garfield Barwick advised in this way -
For my part, as a legal proposition I find the conception of minority shareholders being in a position to exercise, control of a company quite untenable ana contrary to the relevant and consistent decisions of the courts. 1 remind honorable members that that opinion was expressed by the present Attorney-General who, under this legislation, will have to prosecute any company which may breach the conditions as laid down in the bill. What hope have we that he will administer justice when he has already made up his mind and given his opinion?
It is impossible for the penal clauses of the bill to be implemented. The provision that possession or control of more than 15 per cent, of the voting power of a company will be regarded as control of that company cannot possibly be policed. The only way to prevent any organization breaching the law is to insist that no one shall have any interest in more than one television licence. We all know how one company can control other companies through interlocking directorates and by the making of agreements between the organizations.
I am afraid that the whole propaganda machine of this nation will be controlled by a minority group. We have seen in world politics what happens when a minority group gets control of the propaganda machine. We saw Mussolini and Hitler control their respective countries because they controlled the propaganda machine. We have seen the same thing in Russia where the minds of the people have been conditioned. We do not want that position to arise in Australia. We do not want small powerful financial groups to control the minds of the Australian people. If you keep on telling the people something day after day and continue to emphasize it you can get them to believe it and convince them it is right. I ask the Government to reconsider the conditions laid down in this legislation. We find that a company is permitted to own two television licences and have further interests in other television channels provided it does not own 15 per cent, of the total share capital. But by owning perhaps 14 per cent, of the share capital and by means of agreements and the like the company can effectively control another channel and in that way ultimately bring about the suppression and destruction of democracy as we see it. That has always been my objection to the Government’s policy when I have spoken in this House on television. I have been afraid of the small minority groups getting control of television in this country and in that way controlling public opinion. Take, for example, the Sydney “Daily Telegraph”. The Labour Party - whether State or Federal - has never in the eyes of that paper done anything right. I challenge any member of the Government to bring me, in this House, a copy of the Sydney “Daily Telegraph “ which eulogizes or congratulates the Labour Party on something it has. done.
– That is why Sir Frank Packer was knighted.
– Yes. He was knighted for service to this Government and other Liberal and Country Party governments in Australia. That was the pay-off to Frank Packer. What has he ever done to justify that honour being conferred on him, other than to give service to this Government and to other Liberal and Country Party governments throughout Australia? As T have said, let us take the control of entertainment out of the hands of such people.
I know what took place in my own district. The present combine in Sydney went to one of the companies in my area and said, “ Unless you are prepared to give us a considerable interest in your concern, you will not get any films”. Certainly the Government is attempting, in this legislation, to overcome that sort of thing, but that was the attitude that combine was prepared to adopt. It said, in effect, “ Stand and deliver! Give us permission to take out a certain number of shares in your company or we will not give you any films.” The result was that the manager of the companyhad to go overseas in order to make arrangements and enter into fresh contracts there so that his organization would have the necessary films to place before the viewing public of that particular station. This, therefore. takes us into the whole question of entertainment as far as television is concerned. I have spoken previously on this question and I continue to raise my objection to the syndicated material which is being brought here from America. I feel that additional assistance should be given to Australian people and Australian artists in order to develop local talent and assist talented people in the entertainment world in Australia. We have here people quite capable of providing the public with entertainment of a standard equal to if not better than that which the Yanks put up, and the good Lord knows that you would not wish some of their stuff on to your dog, let alone your kiddies. Therefore, I feel that Australians should be given the opportunity to entertain Australians. That should be a condition imposed on those who are granted television licences by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
I conclude my speech on that note. I ask the Minister to do the things that I have asked him to do, namely, to carry out his promise on the question of licences; to get on with the job of terminating this inquiry which has been dragging on for some months and decide who is to get the licences in order that the stations can be built and all the necessary materials can be spread in an even flow so as to avoid a shortage; and to do something about the syndicated canned music and entertainment which are pouring into this country from overseas.
.- I think it would be fair comment to say, without any wish to hurt the feelings of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) that during the time he was talking I did not notice any one approaching the point of collapse through excitement. The fact is that he made one or two arresting observations and I want to dwell on them for a moment or two. He complained with characteristic vigour that this measure further entrenches monopolism in Australia and the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), who is the flute obbligato in these matters, confirmed it. I want to put this simple proposition to honorable gentlemen opposite.
– You will never make television.
– Looking at this thing relatively, I think I would have a greater fan mail on television than would the honorable member. By the time I have finished I think I will have been able to fit any one into some sort of role on television, including that touching figure from Kingsford-Smith. He is the gentleman who is well known to us and whose dulcet tones fascinate us and those outside every time he rises in this place.
But let us get back to our muttons. I want to deal with the proposition put by the honorable member for Newcastle. There must be no sign of monopoly interest - that would be the central theme of his proposition. We have had a remarkably modest speech this afternoon from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in reply to an interjection, which I am bound to say came with characteristic courtesy from the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton). The honorable member asked the Leader of the Opposition, “ Would you nationalize television? “ The honorable gentleman said, “ If I could get it “ and then he hesitated momentarily and added, “ But I cannot “. Let us ignore the additive in his sentence and look at the dominant proposition in what he said in reply to the honorable member for Canning. “ If I can get it - “ and one is at liberty to paraphrase that - “ I will nationalize television in Australia “. If the honorable member for Newcastle is genuinely complaining about the monopoly influence in this country and supports his leader in seeking to establish government monopolies of television, would it not be a far more agreeable programme, a far simpler process for them, to have the monopoly well under way? They would not have the mechanical difficulties of reaching out in order to destroy things here and there and elsewhere. But, of course, that is complete nonsense.
Furthermore this bill, rather than setting out to support monopolism, sets out to break down any suggestion of its influence and, as such, it is a most important measure. For my part, I regret very much that there has been haste - not parliamentary haste - in this matter. I suppose that, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, one can read through a bill of this nature without pretending to comprehend it in all its facets, but to grasp, as it were, a workaday knowledge of what it is about in a matter of half a day. I want seriously to put to the House that it is not simply this Parliament which is concerned with the bill. There are many thousands of people outside this House whom the bill touches directly and vitally. So I say to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) that the unseemly haste does not impact itself directly upon this Parliament but it does involve, in a direct and vital fashion, many tens of thousands of people outside this House. I would not be disposed to support this miserable and divided amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, but I think it would have been thoroughly appreciated by the outside world if the passing of this bill had been delayed for at least another week.
Within 24 hours of seeing this bill, some people who find themselves directly and vitally interested in it have looked at it and said to me, “We would like to consult with a few of our business colleagues and shareholders on this “. I see nothing improper or indecent in a director or a company manager wanting to discuss the full ramifications of this bill with the people who are involved. Some people have seriously canvassed the proposition that if this bill is delayed for a week, we will be subjected to all sorts of outside influence and exposed to the guile of the lobbyist. I am not impressed by that argument. Even though there may be some people who are easy prey for the lobbyist, I think the great majority of members who sit in this place are prepared in the final analysis - at least on some isolated occasions - to make up their own minds. I say that with no sense of personal spleen or any wish needlessly to embarrass the Postmaster-General. That is a consideration that should not be tossed to one side as being of no account.
This is a most important measure. There are some 850,000 television viewers’ licences in Australia to-day and they are increasing at the rate of 1,000 a day. The figures, as honorable members will instantly recognize. are reaching an extremely important level. The influencing of people, the presentation of news, the play upon emotive forces all can be achieved bv the medium of television. That being so. no bill relating to television or, indeed, to the newspapers or to broadcasting should be considered hastily and as of little consequence.
I want to devote some time to what 1 regard as an essentially repugnant provision in the bill. I refer to clause 28 which proposes to insert new section 105a in the principal act. This clause purports to prevent any monopolizing of television programmes. As the House will see when the bill is considered in committee, it deals with property rights. Now, Sir, I want the House to consider seriously whether it is at liberty to deal in an offhanded way with legislation involving property rights. I am one of those who is driven to the conclusion that liberty has, in very great measure, to be equated with property rights. I know it is distasteful - pure Locke - to some honorable gentlemen opposite, but they think in the opposite doctrinaire direction. They do not believe in property rights, but I am one who passionately believes in property rights. When you destroy property rights - the right of an individual or a company or a group of individuals to have property - you are destroying liberty. That is the ground upon which I stand, and despite the protestations of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), I am not prepared to compromise on this point. That is my proposition; if honorable members opposite do not agree with it, I do not mind. I do not ask them to agree. In his second-reading speech, the PostmasterGeneral said of clause 28 -
Let me briefly indicate what it is designed to do. It provides that when a person who has a right to sell or hire a television film refuses to make it available to a licensee of a television station, or to do so except on unreasonable terms and conditions, the television station seeking to obtain the use of the television film has the right to apply to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for an order that the film may be made available, and the board may after due inquiry, order it to be made available on just and reasonable terms.
The Government proposes to embody that provision in proposed section 105a. It would vest the Australian Broadcasting Control Board with enormous power. It would mean that the board, which is already an administrative and, in many respects, an executive body, would be transformed into one acting also in a judicial capacity. I have no disrespect for the law. Indeed, my respect is such that I have been driven to seek an understanding of it; but I must confess with some childish innocence, that 1 have yet to understand how it was that Moses managed to go up the mount and come down with the laws when he did not have with him a parliamentary draftsman or a lawyer.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the power that is to be given to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I believe the House should look at the proposition not in any casual fashion but very carefully. Dealing further with the proposed powers of the board, the Postmaster-General said -
The proposed new section endeavours to protect all these sound commercial reasons.
The honorable gentleman was alluding to what are regarded as certain safeguards relating to proposed section 105a. I put it to the Opposition, and above all to the Postmaster-General, that it will be a very sorry day for this Parliament and this nation if we transform an administrative body into a purely judicial body; and that is what will happen, in many respects, under this bill. The board will be called upon to determine the qualifications for the discharge of a film held by a city television station to a country television station if an applicant satisfies the board, among other things, that the making of the order would - enable the film to be used in Australia before there had been a reasonable opportunity for it to be used by that particular station or all those particular stations;
The phrase “ reasonable opportunity “ may be a phrase of reasonable precision so far as a judicial body is concerned. There I am thinking of a judicially-trained body - a body that is working and operating in harmony with judicial instincts and traditions - but I cannot believe that this board will act in that fashion. Is it going to consider an application judicially? Is it going to give its own particular interpretation of such phrases as “ reasonable opportunity “? Sir, I must confess my philosophy goes quite in opposition to clause 28. T can only hope that some move will be made to modify the proposed section 105a.
It has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition that a few Liberal rebels in another place - that is an interesting contemplation - will seek to modify the bill in some respects. What is wrong with this
House modifying the proposed new section during the committee stage? The fact that the board will determine the future property rights of a large company without that company having any right of appeal, frankly, is completely foreign to my instincts and I should hope that it would be completely foreign to the instincts of the PostmasterGeneral. The proposition is simply that, if a country television station wants a particular film from a city television station, which perhaps has brought it in under particular circumstances at great cost to itself-
– No, it would not be expensive; it would be syndicated material.
– I am posing the proposition that in certain circumstances this could happen. The city station may bring in a film at great cost and may show it for a fortnight or three weeks. The country station could then make application for the film to be made available to it. It may so happen that, for prestige purposes or for advertising purposes, the city station did not want to make the film available to any other station. In his second-reading speech, the Postmaster-General set out to try to convince the House that these commercial considerations had been taken into account Sir, I have looked in vain for them, and frankly I cannot see that they have been taken into account.
If the philosophy resident within clause 28 of the bill is valid, it should apply with equal force to the press and to radio stations. In the final analysis, if an article is written for a city newspaper and a country newspaper wants to publish it, what does the country newspaper do? It makes application to the metropolitan newspaper asking whether it could, possibly for a consideration or possibly as a favour, use the article written by Mr. X or Mr. Y. If the country newspaper wants that article badly, it will go to all sorts of ends to get it. However, it remains the prerogative of the city newspaper to say, “ No, it is our property “. Equally with a radio programme, if a radio station does not want to make a programme available, I fail to see why it should be compelled to do so. T well understand what the Postmaster-General is trying to do, but I think that the proposed new section 105a is essentially a clumsy section. It sets out in a rather ham-fisted way to achieve something that may be thoroughly desirable. That is one ground upon which people outside the Parliament are entitled, or should be entitled, to the right to consider it a little further.
As illustrative of the fact that we are dealing with something of great consequence, may I tell the House this: It has been represented to me that a television star known as the Cisco Kid arrived in Australia. He is well known to tens of thousands of children. Some over-zealous civil servant took from the Cisco Kid his much ornamented gun. Even to a cursory glance, it could be seen that the gun simply was not capable of firing a bullet; yet the Cisco Kid had his gun taken from him and for some time he was “ gatless “. That disturbed the children. They had become accustomed to seeing the gun and when he appeared in his various programmes minu this particular gun, they found something missing. That is the sort of zeal that I think no one wants to encourage, but it is the sort of zeal which, frankly, would find some degree of sponsorship if this power reposed in the hands of what should be an entirely administrative body. It would be transformed, at the very best, into a quasijudicial body.
May I make one or two further comments, not in relation to clause 28 but in relation to other matters pertaining to this measure. I want to refer to the situation where two suitable applicants in a country area apply for a television licence. It has been the habit of the board to date to incline towards recommending one licence. The metropolitan cities have two commercial stations, and I seriously suggest to the Postmaster-General that where, in a country centre, two applicants are able to discharge the technical requirements in a satisfactory way, both should receive a licence. That would simply mean putting country towns on a par with the cities. I thoroughly agree with my colleague, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), who referred to the difference between country television and city television. The Leader of the Opposition, I thought in a rather childish way, tried to wipe to one side the views of country people and the need for them to have television. I have been on some properties where you would not see any one for a month; the honorable member for Farrer said that you would not see any one for a few weeks. I would say that these people are more entitled to have television than are those who live in the large cities. I suppose a very strong argument could be made to support the view that television in Australia has been phased in the wrong way, that greater preference and encouragement should have been given to the installation of television in country areas.
I can find nothing in the bill to suggest that country television stations will have the right to edit their own news. I think this is a great imposition. I well understand the concern of some people at the growth of monopoly influence in the dissemination of news, and I think that this should be looked at in a very careful and very serious way by this House. Some newspapers, unfortunately, have been disposed to show an absence of intellectual honesty in regard to parliamentary debates and the presentation of news. I do not say for one moment that that is a characteristic of all newspapers, but it is definitely a characteristic of some. It would be a matter of grave concern if that characteristic were to find its way into country television stations. I ask the Postmaster-General to make some reference, during the course of his summing-up, to what provision is being made or can be made to ensure that news is presented by country television stations in a way that could be regarded as completely wholesome, as far as the truth is concerned.
I have said what I want to say, but I do implore the House and the PostmasterGeneral to consider carefully the consequence of clause 28. Looking at the matter philosophically, this is one provision that I cannot support. I believe that it is pregnant with great danger to liberal interest and to liberal tradition; and there I am not speaking in any partisan sense but am using “ liberal “ with a small “ 1 “. I hope that the Postmaster-General, by the time this debate is moving towards its end, will be able to assure the House and the nation that provision will be made for an appeal from the decisions of the board regarding the control and protection of television films.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Government is living in cloud cuckoo land in relation to this question of television. There has not been one speaker who has not differed in essence from what the preceding speaker has said and the dilemma of the Government is well known. It has been well warned about the matter, because if you issue to capitalism a licence to perform a certain function, in no time the capitalists will be performing acts of cannibalism upon each other.
That is the dilemma to-day. We find that we have monopoly interests serpenting around everything to do with communications - radio, newspapers and television, some bigger than others and the smaller ones just as voracious as the big. So we come to the problem that the Government is facing to-day. That problem is, “ What are you going to do to control the position? “ The protests come from the other side. I heard the question put to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) several times, “ What would you do? Nationalize television? “
That is what the Government will have to do in due course if, eventually, this juggernaut of profit and concentrated propaganda rolls down hill. It has to be stopped by some means. It is rolling over the liberties of the people. It has to be contained in some way. You might call it something else, but in essence you will have to nationalize it to curb it. What is the Government doing in its paltry attempt to meet the position? One monopoly swallows a company, then it swallows a second and, being like a python, sets out to swallow a third company. But it is to be restricted to 15 per cent, of that chicken and is made to digest it slowly. Any novice - any boy who has had his first lesson in arithmetic - would know that despite the 15 per cent, limit in respect of shareholding the control would be expanding. Indeed, less than 15 per cent, might, in effect, be the title holding.
The Government’s perplexity is obvious. The Government has come up against its followers. It has trusted ravening monopoly capitalism to do the fair thing, and capitalism has let the Government down. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), an honest member of the Australian Country Party, is perplexed. The Government is worried because the people of this country are no longer going to put up with nothing but cheap Yankee films that are fobbed on them or anything else the television stations care to give them, or the radio stations care to give the people, or any sop the newspapers care to throw to them.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) prates about liberties. He talks about the liberty of the men who make money. The man who has not anything else within him but liberty to make money is nothing at all. But the liberty to misinform and misinterpret and to destroy by intellectual speech is the greatest crime against civilization. This may have had its effect already on the Summit conference which has collapsed overseas this very day.
We look at this trifling approach the Government has made to an enormous problem. We say to the Government, as people who have been in government and who are socialists in outlook and concept, “If you do not get hold of this Moloch, it will devour you “. But the Government proposes a trifling limit of 15 per cent. The Government says to a company, “ It is all right for you to own a huge concern and get a profit of £130,000 out of an under-capitalized company in three years, and another, and another, and obtain profits in all directions “.
The Australian Labour Party in Its amendment challenges the Government to say that it knows and feels and hopes that this bill is an exit visa for it; that this bill is unconstitutional; and that it will not be put into effect. The Government hopes to save its face and the great monopolies will roll on. The people in Australia who want decent television with selective programmes must have some say. I suggest that they will get nothing because this medium will be in the hands of a completely close-knit and undivided monopoly. These people who protest, are fighting each other and will fight each other until the common enemy, the Australian men and women, come in and ask for a fair go. We say that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition raises that challenge.
Is it not a fact that the Government is lost in the wilderness of television and does not know which way to turn? In a world of takeover an estate agent can take nearly the whole of the Northern Territory or the most successful and progressive stations in it. By a piece of commercial legerdemain or jiggery-pokery, no income tax is involved between the agent and his partner in Melbourne - the whole thing is entered into by ‘telephone - mercifully, in those days, because the bill had not yet passed through the House. The two fix it up to take over this enormous part of Australia’s life blood and heart - cattle stations and land - and they say, “ This can be done by manipulation; this can be done under a supine Government “. I use that illustration because the Country Party knows what I mean. You cannot cut this place up piecemeal and give it to any Dick, Tom, Harry or Johnny Come Lately. There are certain basic regulations about land. Destroy land and you destroy everything. Members of the Country Party know that without my having to lecture them on something they know a good deal about.
But takeovers have other aspects. Everybody is being kidded by the great television takeover. To-day if an honorable member opposite asks the tiniest question he is reported in full by the press and if he makes a speech in full he is embarrassed by the lovely coverage he gets. We know from the years we have been in this place that if a member such as the honorable member for Moreton spoke sometime ago his words would have been confined to about five lines. But to-day he gets a lot more than that because the press are kidding to him. The press wants a licence so that it can get into the country fields. The press sees the lush pastures of new licences and is prepared to open its columns to us. If members of the Country Party cannot see they are being taken over then they are being taken for a ride.
So we come to the question, “ What is the true position in regard to country licences?” This is something for the Country Party members to ponder. I am with them in their desire to get a local autonomy, to get some small capitalists within their own ranks or their own district - the local newspaper man or the local grazier - in charge and not have the big tycoon from Sydney taking over. Is it not a fact that the Australian Broadcasting
Control Board is aware of this to-day and also of the great mounting anger of the Australian people who will not have any more huge takeovers and will not agree to the newspapers - the wealthy bloated newspapers - having any more television. They cannot put their fingers on it any more.
The Broadcasting Control Board is prepared to grant these licences to the country but it is afraid. It is a government instrumentality and it does not know what the Government will do to it. It is waiting for this House to rush this bill through in the late hours of the session to vindicate its action. Then it can say, “ We did not do it. The Parliament of the nation did it because it came to the realization that the Postmaster-General, pressed in this matter by his conscience, knew that the tycoon must not have any more control of television “. He honestly, like ourselves, would like to see the country get a fair go.
So along comes this bill. Why have all this posturing about it? Why have the nonsense which the honorable member for Moreton talks, about protecting the interests of the investor. The little investor, yes, but is he concerned about what is happening to the Melbourne “ Herald “, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ or Consolidated Press. They are doing very nicely, thank you. They are running all over the country ravaging it for profit and gobbling up television as they can and where they can.
The argument that we put from this side of the House is that the Government is completely hypocritical when it asks, “ What would you do if you did not nationalize the service?” The Government sometimes wishes it had something as definite and courageous in its programme. Piecemeal it steals from us little socialist devices which it applies to its own programme. It is the same as the old lady, broken down in health, who wrapped a serviette around a bottle of brandy and drank the contents slowly so that the population would not be scandalized by her conduct. The Government will come back to the strong drink of nationalization in the long run. The Government will realize that in the fight against the monopoly capitalist, it can be taken over in the long run.
What happens about takeovers in the overall general results? Think of all the propaganda about General Motors-Holden’s Ltd. The Government cannot stand an hour against the aggregated and accumulated forces of propaganda if they say, “ We are finished with the Liberal Party, we will give somebody else a go “. So in a belated attempt to do something about it, they have decided to introduce this bill. And is it not a joke? First, they say, “ We cannot touch the company that is making money and has been established. It has its Sydney and Melbourne stations and perhaps its Adelaide and Queensland stations “. Then they say, “ You have been a devourer of the national asset; you have been monopolistic in every way. You have stolen the birthright of the Australian people - decent clean Australian television “. They hold up the little tiny cane as a warning and say, “If you take more than 15 per cent, of anything else that is created, we will deal with you “.
What a weak and miserable bill! No wonder it has been handed to us at a time when we have no opportunity of studying every devious line of it. But we can see through a blank wall as well as most people, and we realize that the Government is in a big mess over television - but no bigger a mess than the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is in. The board has thrown up its hands in pious horror and said, “ Come to our aid. We are not going to give the big monopolists these stations. We dare not. Public opinion is too vociferous about it. We want to do something for the country stations, but we must have it done by the power of Parliament.” Well, we on this side of the House are quite prepared to help the Government out of its dilemma. We realize that it has to tighten up its controls, and gradually and slowly impose them on the monopolistic forces which are strangling television in this country.
That is the story. Anything else that is said about this clause or that clause is purely irrelevant. The mystique of television has for a long time been something that has amazed me. Analysed, it is simply the most naked case of aggressive capitalism I have seen in my lifetime. It is shocking that television - a wonderful new medium of entertainment in our homes, given to us by the inventiveness of man - should be taken over, first, by the exploiter and by the profiteer, and then by the man who makes the indifferent film and spoils the entertainment of the family units which will, by their numbers, make television highly profitable in the years to come.
The reason why the Labour Party rejects this bill may be questioned. Some one may say, “ If there has to be some control, and you believe in control of entertainment and of the machinery of propaganda, why do not you support our infantile efforts to do something about it? “ Our answer to that is that it is too little and too late. It is too weak, lt is shocking. It is an alibi and it does not mean anything. The Government is trying to get out of an appalling situation by, as I said before, doing two things. First, it hopes that the 15 per cent, provision will be effective - which, of course, it will not. It is just like spitting on a bushfire. Secondly, it hopes the appeal made by the tycoons to the High Court, and eventually to the Privy Council, will result in the bill being declared to be ultra vires the Constitution on the ground that it is putting an impress and a force on industry. Is it not funny? Is it not amusing for us on this side of the House to find that the great protectors of capitalism, the great lovers of monopoly, the strong-minded criers of “ Industry must go free! “, are hoist with their own petard, and that the ravening monopolists have caught them in such a way that if they do not fight now they will go under. That is the position. There is nothing else in this bill except capitulation. Faced with the fact that they have to fight, they are only able to fight the monopolists with the very small amount of revision which the Minister says is in the bill.
I believe that the independent stations will come eventually, and I think they can be made most useful if the provision in regard to the programmes that the country stations desire is carried out with the greatest strength. If you want a replica of what happens in the country radio stations to-day, you could have it. Every little station in the bush is owned by some big company in Sydney. It is a sort of magpie repeating the song from Sydney. You may get the stock sale reports, and you may get a few local titbits here and there, and you may get a little bit of other local news, but essentially you are listening to the syndicated voice of the city, and paying through the nose for it. If we do not have a provision to safeguard television programmes, we will have the same problem there.
Here is another case in which a Liberal Government - the defender of the rights of the monopolists and the conservator - has broken down. It is going to say to the owner of the films and the news, “You have to sell to the country stations at a reasonable figure”. When we tried to acquire land for ex-servicemen at a reasonable figure, we were called thieves and pirates. Yet now, in order to placate the members of the Country Party in this House - and we agree with them in what they are trying to do - the Government has brought in this bill. The Country Party is now saying, “ The programmes we get from Sydney - and we will pick the eyes out of them - we want at cut rates “. How long will that continue before the big tycoon is at the Government’s throat? The country people are not going to have second-rate programmes. They are going to have the best that is available, even if it is a poor best, but if the Government says that it is to be also cheap, then it is making an impact on the monopolistic television stations in Sydney. It is saying, by inflection and by an insidious play on words, that they are making too much money, that they are monopolistic, and that they are going to be cut down in the way that a socialist government would certainly cut them down.
So on two scores the Government has lost this fight against the television interests. Tt has lost it on the score of being faithful to the trust that those interests place in it. and on the score of the weakness of its remedies. I hope that the country remains true to itself and insists upon high-class programmes. It does not want this syndicated rubbish which has flown over the face of the earth and has at last found a resting place in Australia. This Government made a mistake in lifting the ban, so that this horrible television material flows in without end, with the result that we are completely Yankeefied. If you look through a magnifying glass at a programme that is running in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, or Brisbane to-night and find tuppence worth of Australian sentiment, I will be very surprised. ‘
Not only has the Government made a horrible mess of television, but it stands indicted of the greatest crime of all - thai it has not made Australian television Australian. It is afraid to take a risk with our own artists. It is afraid to take a risk with our own people, with our own country, with our own aspirations. We will not gel into Australian television our own idiom, the feel of our own country, until the Government does something to put it there. No matter how many tycoons we have, no matter how many bills we have, no matter how many programmes we have; we have not got Australian television. We have just got a weak echo of something and the Government has not got the guts to stand by our own country and our own writers. If a moon man, a visiting American or somebody else came to this country and asked what makes Australia tick, we could not tell him through the medium of television, because we would only take him to Hollywood. We could not show him anything in our television that had an Australian content, as we could do with an Australian book or an Australian home or an Australian pound of steak. Television has been grabbed by the international monopolists. That is the charge that we make to the Government.
Finally, it is quite clear what has happened, and it is quite clear what is being done. It is quite clear that a government instrumentality is cramped after months of inaction but is frightened to make a decision. As I have asked before, what do we get when we do take action? The country districts are waiting for television. They have been waiting for months and months. What will they get? Actors Equity, of which I am a member, made a check some weeks ago. In the composite programmes in Sydney we found in a period lasting between fourteen and seventeen days, that there were 22 murders, 16 stranglings and 33 shootings in which a six-chambered revolver was discharged sixteen times without re-loading. That is just the thing that is going to please the dear delightful countryside! I have seen horses being mounted from the front side instead of the back side, as it were. I have seen a horse being harnessed by a novice, apparently. All these things will give a laugh to the countryside. But I am talking about the effects on the country children and the country people. There were 33 shootings, as I said, in which a six-chambered revolver discharged sixteen shots without reloading, six screams in the night, three fatal car smashes, two poisonings, one death by gassing, and one death by falling earth. They are certainly going to have a lively time at Possum Flat from now on! They are going to have a most thrilling experience, but they will not see Australian programmes.
I suggest that people in the country who have been waiting for television are going to get the same horrible deal as we have had in the city. They are going to get something alien and capitalistic which will not give adequate service. But because it is a new game - a gimmick - we all love to sit in front of a television set. There may be special features such as interviews, but the whole concept of television has been muddied over by the pale cast of capitalism, and it is no good any more. I am proud, indeed, that the Opposition will not have a bar of this legislation because it is indecent, it is not faithful, it is not true and it represents only an attempt to get out of an intolerable proposition.
I repeat the charges that 1 have made: The licences are ready to be issued to the independents out of fear of what the public will say, and despite the teeth gnashing of the capitalist tycoons who own other television stations throughout Australia. Like a good servant, the Broadcasting Control Board has come back to the Parliament and asked us to stand by it. We will. We will say, “ Of course. It is something, but we do not approve entirely because you do not go far enough.” The Government has the majority; let it stay with its own problems. No doubt the Government hopes, if this legislation is not effective, to fall back on the efforts of the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) and others to see what can be done in the courts. But while there is a battle in the Supreme Court, the High Court or the Privy Council, as to what is what, and who is who, there will be no television in the country.
A matter which has been brought forward in this debate, although it is not mentioned in the bill, is the character of television programmes. In this respect, the Government is living in bewilderment. It has been caught up, as laissez-faire governments will be caught up all over the world, in its own lazy stupidity. It cannot trust the people who vote for it. It is not the master of the situation. It leads no one except from behind and when its bosses, the monopoly interests, say, “ We want more television stations and we do not care how we get them “, it has to crawl out of the difficulty in this crude and simple way or accept its punishment and take its whipping.
In matters of communications just as in social services, defence, and all matters which involve the care of the nation’s character, the Opposition believes that there should be a take-over. That is the position in relation to television as we see it, without using the sometimes frightening word “ nationalization “. The Opposition feels that, by voting against the measure, lock, stock and barrel, we shall make a better cause for Australia, for ourselves, and for television than can be made by the Government, which is wallowing in problems to which there is no answer except to go along with the tycoons who support it and are now ready to assassinate it.
.- What are we to gather from the diatribes that have been uttered by some members of the Opposition in this debate? One of the things that we can extract from their remarks is the claim that the High Court will decide against this amending legislation or against the particular clause which has as its object the prevention of monopoly control of television services. Another claim made by members of the Opposition is that the legislation will lead to monopoly control by companies. But at the same time, they have advanced the argument that monopoly control by means of nationalization is desirable.
Obviously without legal advice, Opposition members argue that the High Court will decide against this bill which has been carefully drawn on legal advice. It is not for me to argue the legal merits or the demerits of the legislation. I am merely pointing out that the Opposition has argued the merits of this bill without having taken any legal advice. Obviously, Opposition members are not in a position to say whether the High Court will or will nol hold that it is valid. Surely, if Opposition members wish to attack the Government on the ground that the bill may not be valid, they should first find out what the law is, not enunciate a series of principles of their own, out of thin air, and say, “ We do not believe in finding out what the law is. We think that the High Court will decide that this bill is invalid.” This argument will not assist the Opposition. If Opposition members argue that the High Court will decide against this bill, they must argue that the High Court will take a similar stand with regard to broadcasting.
Finally, they claim that we should hold a referendum in order to get additional powers for the Commonwealth. This bill cannot be the cause of its own destruction, nor can it cause the destruction of the act which it amends. So far, the High Court has not decided that the act is invalid, and until the High Court so decides, it is, for our purposes, valid, and any amendment to it is likewise valid. No attempt to discredit the amending legislation will have the slightest legal effect on the act or on the amending legislation) itself until the High Court decides on the validity of the legislation. The Opposition has merely attempted to attack the bill by introducing a fanciful proposition.
Opposition members have spoken about the public domain. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) claimed that it was perfectly justifiable to nationalize in the public domain. Obviously, then, the Opposition is in favour of nationalizing the aeroplanes that fly over the public domain of the air. They must be in favour of nationalizing the land which they call the public domain - the land used by the farmer. That was emphasized by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). Similarly, Opposition members would nationalize the mines. The question is: Where are they going to stop?
– There are only two Liberals listening to you.
– I would not expect the honorable member who has interjected to understand anything that I say. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) made a point, as he thought, regarding propaganda. He argued that what he regarded as various capitalist concerns would finally control propaganda in our country. He gave us some very horrifying examples of what could happen under a man like Mussolini. A very interesting point arises out of this argument. The honorable member took time to establish the point that monopoly control of propaganda is a very bad thing. Yet his own colleagues in this House advocate monopoly control of propaganda by governments. If monopoly control of propaganda is a bad thing, monopoly control of propaganda, by a government, is a bad thing. So, the honorable member for Newcastle has done us a service in this House, because he has stressed that any monopoly, whether government or otherwise, of the control of propaganda is a bad thing and that any government which introduces it does a great national disservice.
I thank the honorable member for stressing that point. However, I remind the House that the British Broadcasting Corporation - the B.B.C. as it is commonly known - about which one honorable member spoke, refused, before World War II., to allow Winston Churchill to speak over its network. It is quite possible that if the corporation had allowed him to address the British people over its network before the last war he would have been able to persuade the British nation to take certain measures which might have avoided the war. Every one will admit that Winston Churchill is a very fine man and has a very eloquent voice, but the B.B.C. - a monopolistic concern - refused to allow him to speak over the United Kingdom national radio network.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) spoke about a monopoly of news. I feel that I ought to discuss this point with him quietly, because it is totally incorrect to say that all the newspapers in this country provide biased and unfair news services. I am primarily concerned with country newspapers, because I represent a provincial area, and, without wishing to cast a slur on any other newspapers, I pay tribute to the provincial newspapers for the very fine news services that they provide.
– They are unbiased.
– They are unbiased and fair, and their news is as complete as the available space will permit. I go further and pay a similar tribute to the country broadcasting stations. Every day, the broadcasting stations in my electoral division give up a good deal of their time to national news and plenty of time to local news. In addition, they give up a considerable amount of their time to local services. In fact, we in the provincial areas do not know what we should do without the country newspapers and country broadcasting stations. Surely, therefore, it is only right that we recognize the excellent service which they are rendering. We should recognize it despite the fact that they have been accused by Opposition members of being part and parcel of a monstrous monopoly. We have been told in this House that the monster will devour the little stations. I refer honorable members to section 88 of the Broadcasting and Television Act, sub-section (1.) of which provides -
A licensee may, with the consent in writing of the Minister, but without that consent shall not, transfer the licence or admit another person to participate in any of the benefits of the licence
In short, no licence may be transferred without the express consent of the PostmasterGeneral. That disposes of any suggestion that all that a big company has to do is swallow up a little company in order for the licence, in effect, automatically to be transferred to the big company. Things do not work that way. That is not a device which can be employed by a big company in order to get control of a television station.
I should like to deal now with another section of the act which was mentioned by my friend the honorable member for Moreton. I give him credit for expressing his opinion. He believes that private rights should not be interfered with. But I suggest to the House that proposed section 105a in the bill is specially designed to interfere with rights when such interference is necessary in the interests of the community. We have a police force in this community in order that a person may be prevented from behaving as he wishes in complete freedom and committing or continuing to commit an offence. A policeman may take him in hand and arrest him if what he is doing is in conflict with the interests of the public. I suggest, therefore, that proposed section 105a will have the same effect as does the presence of a police force in the community because it will safeguard the interests of the public, which are paramount. The proposed section refers to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and subsection (1.) states -
The Board may, upon the application of the licensee of a television station, by order addressed to a person who -
has the right … to make a television film available, or to procure another person to make a television film available, to that licensee for use by that station; and
has not complied with a request . . . that he make the film so available, or procure the film to be made so available, . . . direct that person to make the film so available, or to procure it to be made so available, in accordance with the order and on terms and conditions specified in the order, being terms and conditions that appear to the Board to be just and reasonable in all the circumstances.
What is there to complain about in that? The sub-section provides that something shall be made available. After all, it is a question of great public concern that good things shall be shared. What is unfair about providing that television programmes shall be shared on just and reasonable terms? The Australian Constitution enshrines the principle that the Commonwealth Government shall not take any property from any person except on just terms - except on the payment of just compensation.
– The Labour Government in New South Wales does not agree with that.
– The honorable member for Parkes said that when the Commonwealth Government tried to get land for war service land settlement it was accused of being unfair to the owners. May I remind the honorable member that only the efforts of the Commonwealth Government made the New South Wales Government pay fair and reasonable compensation to people from whom land was taken for soldier settlement. Queensland would not come into the war service land settlement scheme as an agent State for the Commonwealth, and in that State a Labour government induced the State Parliament to pass a statute which made it possible for the State government to take land from people at what amounted to one-third of its fair value at the time when it was taken. Those were not just terms. That sort of thing could not have been done in the Commonwealth sphere under the terms of the Australian Constitution, but it was done in Queensland where there was a Labour government. So it ill behoves any Labour member in this House to talk about just and reasonable compensation. Proposed section 105a, which will be inserted in the principal act by this amending bill, will require reasonable payment for any television programme material that one enterprise is forced to supply to another.
I suggest to the Minister that under our British system it is only fair, when the board makes a decision which either of the parties does not think is just and reasonable, that the dissenting party should have the right to appeal to a higher authority. That right is accorded in many other directions. The principle is by no means new in our land. For example in Queensland, if the Land Court fixes the rental for a Crown lease at a figure which either the Crown or the lessee does not think is fair, then the dissenting party, whether it be the Crown or the lessee, has the right of appeal to the Land Appeal Court, which is presided over by a judge. Even though the Crown is a party to the original transaction under which the lease was granted, once the Land Court determines the rent, either the Crown or the lessee has the right to appeal to the Land Appeal Court if dissatisfied with the Land Court’s determination. I submit to the Minister that it would be only fair to apply that principle here. It is already adopted in many other directions.
I suggest also that it might be possible for the Government to consider the right of appeal against suspension of a licence. We all know that any board which is set up by the Government always tries to work in a fair and equitable manner, but it does not follow that, in the view of the parties concerned, complete justice is done on every occasion. I suggest that if a licence is suspended by the board then the person or company concerned should have the right to appeal to some higher authority against that suspension. I submit that right could begiven on the same basis as that contained in my suggested amendment to proposed section 105a. Perhaps the Government will find it possible to amend the bill to grant such a right of appeal.
We have heard a great deal about monopolies. Here I propose to cite an example of how big business does sometimes go too far. This bill is designed to prevent big business from going too far, and surely that is fair enough. Some years ago in Queensland, when the proprietor of a movie theatre hired motion picture films he had to take everything that the distributor offered him, or he got nothing at all. In other words, if he wanted to get three good films, he probably would be required to take with them a fourth film which was either bad or very poor. The government of the day in Queensland considered it only fair that the exhibitor of the film, the proprietor of the theatre, should have the right to reject a reasonable proportion of the films offered to him.
– What government was that?
– It was the Queensland Government. That was only fair. Similarly, the Commonwealth Government has attempted - I submit successfully - to ensure fairness in connexion with various aspects of television.
I should like now to make two more suggestions. With relation to the first, I quote the following passage from the PostmasterGeneral’s excellent second-reading speech -
From the stations already in operation, services are available to more than 60 per cent, of the population and those which are contemplated in country districts will increase this to 75 per cent. The further extension of the services to other areas will receive early consideration by the Government.
I suggest that this bill, which deals with broadcasting as well as television, contemplates that people all over Australia are entitled to the best possible broadcasting and television services, and to receive them as soon as possible. I mention broadcasting because, even now, in one part of my division, the people do have difficulty with the reception of some of the excellent broadcasts coming through the ether. They experience this difficulty in summer in particular. I suggest that it is vital, in the interests of residents of country areas, that they be able to enjoy excellent broadcast reception. I know that to ensure this would cost a good deal of money, but I suggest to the Minister that it is only fair that the people in country areas should have the benefit of good radio reception at all times.
My second suggestion is that television should be extended to the far outback areas as soon as possible, and I agree with the honorable member who said to-night in this chamber that under the present arrangements the provision of this amenity could take too long. I appreciate that there are many tremendous difficulties associated with a venture such as this, and I have no doubt that the Minister will do everything possible to extend the benefits of television to those people who need it so much - the people who live many miles away from the amenities enjoyed by the more fortunate residents of the city areas.
Finally, I want to refer to the statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that the Country Party is completely unprincipled. Those honorable members opposite who appear to be in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition clearly are not qualified to give concentrated thought to such a matter, because they are allowing their reason to be blinded by emotional adherence to their leader. Their leader adopted the old debating tactic - when you have no argument, abuse your opponents. He abused his opponents, the Country Party in particular, on this occasion. That was the sum total of his contribution to this debate and, like faithful followers, the members of the Opposition have trotted along behind their leader, basking in his slender shadow. I regard it as a reflection on the Australian Country Party for any one to suggest that we are completely unprincipled. I would regard it as a reflection on the Australian Country Party if the word “ completely “ were omitted. The Australian Country Party has a long and honorable history. It has performed good work in the past, and it will have many more years in which to render great service to the people by pointing out daily, weekly and yearly that those who live in the provincial areas are just as entitled to a fair deal as those who live in the overcrowded cities. The Australian Country Party will never let up in its efforts ti obtain for the people of the provincial areas the justice which is their due.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) has kept us entertained in a lighthearted way for the past half-hour. I feel that he did not mean most of what he said but, instead, was merely filling in time and supporting the Country Party Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). The Australian Labour Party opposes this bill chiefly because it does not believe that the bill goes far enough. In our opinion, it is a weak attempt to curtail the monopolistic interests which are developing in this country, not only in the television sphere but also in the press and radio spheres.
Honorable members who have participated in this debate have indicated that the personal freedom of individuals and companies should not be interfered with. They have spoken about the small shareholders in many companies. I have here the list of shareholders in Television Corporation Proprietary Limited, Sydney, and Amalgamated Television Services Limited, Sydney, which I obtained from the files of the RegistrarGeneral in Sydney about the middle of last year. I have listed those shareholders who have shares of a face value of £1,000 or more. In Television Corporation Proprietary Limited there are only 35 shareholders who came into that category. The nominal capital of the company is £2,000,000 and the issued capital is £1,900,000. The company is controlled very substantially by Australian Consolidated Press Limited, 168 Castlereagh-street, Sydney. Among the 35 shareholders who hold over £1,000 worth of shares, the following shareholdings are worthy of note: - Australian Consolidated Press Limited holds 138,900 shares; Color-Tone Proprietary Limited, 168 Castlereagh-street, Sydney - the same address as Australian Consolidated Press Limited - holds 32,000 shares; Conpress Printing Limited, of the same address, holds 32,000 shares; Consolidated Press Holdings, of the same address, holds 15,000 shares; Consolidated Press Holdings, Northbourne-avenue, Canberra, holds 32,000 shares; and Wilson’s Laundry Proprietary Limited, 168 Castlereagh-street, Sydney - again the same address as Australian Consolidated Press Limited - holds 35,300 shares. If you add the shares which are held by companies which give the address of 168 Castlereagh-street,
Sydney, you will see that the great preponderance of shares in Television Corporation Proprietary Limited is held or controlled by Australian Consolidated Press Limited. The small shareholders - those people who have a few shares in the company - are completely outvoted in every direction by the large shareholders whom I have named.
The same thing applies to Amalgamated Television Services Limited, a company which is controlled by the “ Herald “. Associated Newspapers Limited holds 125,000 shares, and John Fairfax & Sons Proprietary Limited, and members of the Fairfax family, hold 700,000 shares. To speak of the interest of the small shareholder, particularly in relation to television stations, is so much nonsense because the man who has 150 or 250 shares cannot possibly make his voice heard or have anything to do with the control of the company which is run by the large shareholders.
Before I mention the shareholdings on other television stations and their association with broadcasting stations and newspapers, it is interesting to consider the newspapers which are printed daily in Australia. Companies owned or controlled by Herald and Weekly Times Limited of Victoria sell 47.4 per cent, of all papers sold in Australia. John Fairfax and Co. Proprietary Limited, or companies owned or controlled by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, print 73.6 per cent, of all papers sold in Australia, and companies owned or controlled by Herald and Weekly Times Limited print 76.6 per cent, of all papers sold outside the Sydney metropolitan area.
When we bear those figures in mind; when we remember the organizations which control the newspapers in Australia, and when we look at their shareholdings and their control, either directly or indirectly, not only of newspapers but also of radio and television stations, we find that Herald and Weekly Times Limited controls such newspapers as the “ Sun News-Pictorial “, of Melbourne; the “ Herald “ of Melbourne; the “Advertiser” of Adelaide; the “CourierMail” of Brisbane, and the “Telegraph” of Brisbane. The company controls, either directly or indirectly through associated companies, shareholding in the “ HeraldSun “ television station in Melbourne, Tele vision Broadcasters in Adelaide and Brisbane Television Limited in Queensland. The company’s interest in radio stations was revealed in a search of the registers in the various cities. It has an interest in 3DB Melbourne, 3LK Central Victoria, 4BK Brisbane, 4AK Darling Downs, 5AD Adelaide, 5MU Murray Bridge, 5PI Crystal Brook and 5SE Mount Gambier. The ramifications of the Herald and Weekly Times Limited in the field of mass communication can be judged from the information which I have just supplied.
To say that the newspapers, with their interests in the press, radio and television, will not be able to control the propaganda of this country is a figment of the imagination to any person who holds the contrary view because it is easy to see that any company which controls newspapers, radio and television stations to the extent that Herald and Weekly Times Limited does is in a wonderful position to develop and foster any opinion in the mind of the listening or viewing public.
Let me now pass to John Fairfax Limited which controls the “ Sydney Morning Herald”, the Sydney “Sun”, and is also suspected of being associated with Truth and Sportsman Limited which produces the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “. It is associated with Amalgamated Television Services Limited in Sydney and controls Queensland Television Limited in association with Truth and Sportsman Limited. In the radio field the company owns 14 per cent, of shares in the organizations which control radio stations 2GB Sydney, 2AD Armidale, 5DN Adelaide, and 2CA Canberra. In Western Australia the same thing applies. West Australian Newspapers Limited controls the “ Daily News “, “ The West Australian “, television station TVW Perth and, in association with Musgroves Limited, it owns 50 per cent, of 61X Perth, 6MD Merredin, 6WB Katanning and 6BY Bridgetown. In Victoria, David Syme and the Victorian Broadcasting Network control “ The Age “ and are a minority shareholder in television station GTV and radio station 3CV Maryborough, 3HA Hamilton and 3PR Sale are controlled directly or indirectly. In Sydney, Consolidated Press Limited controls the “ Daily Telegraph “ and Television Corporation Limited. Davies Brothers Limited in Tasmania controls newspapers, television and radio stations. The company controls the Hobart “ Mercury “, TVT Hobart and 7HO Hobart. In Adelaide, News Limited controls the Adelaide “ News “, Southern Television Limited and radio station 2BH Broken Hill and is a minority shareholder in 5DN Adelaide. It is the same wherever you go or wherever you look in the country or city areas.
In Newcastle, for instance, the Newcastle “ Herald and Miners Advocate “ owns or controls, directly or indirectly in that city the “ Newcastle Herald and Miners Advocate “, the “ Newcastle Sun “ and, in association with Singleton Angus, 2MW Murwillumbah and 2NX Bolworra
In the field of television and radio you will see that the association of newspapers with companies controlling radio and television stations is rampant the whole way through. If we look at the list of directors of some of the companies we find that they are associated with many companies. A name well known to all of us is R. A. G. Henderson, who is a director of Queensland T.V. Limited, a director of Amalgamated Television Services Limited, a director of Associated Newspapers Limited and of John Fairfax Limited, registered owner of the “ Daily Advertiser “ in Wagga. Mr. P. H. Palmer, secretary of John Fairfax Limited, is alternative director of John Fairfax Limited for Mr. R. A. G. Henderson and is director of Associated Newspapers Limited, Amalgamated Television Services, TCN 7, and of broadcasting station 2GB. Mr. John D. Patience is a director of broadcasting station 2GB, a director of Young Broadcasters, a director of Canberra Broadcasters and a director of Amalgamated Television Services Limited.
Mr. Ernest Higginbotham is a director of New England Broadcasters, a director of 2MO Gunnedah, a director of Moree Broadcasting Development, 2VN, and a director of Tamworth Radio Development, 2TM. Sir Frank Packer is managing-director and chairman of Australian Consolidated Press Holdings, Australian Consolidated Press Limited, Conpress Printing Limited and Television Corporation Limited. The same applies to Neil H. Mclntyre, Stanley R. Clarke, Angus H. McLachlan, Mr. J. O. Fairfax and Mr. W. O. Fairfax.
The reason why I have given all this information is that it was not given to us by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) when he brought down the bill. I think that honorable members after hearing the things which I have read out have an indication of why this bill was introduced by the Postmaster-General. It is because he fears the ramifications of these monopolistic interests in the field of our mass communication and has found it necessary to curtail them as he is endeavouring to do in the amendments which he has brought down. I support him in the efforts he is making, because at least he is making some attempt to control the position and is endeavouring to do something about it.
The information which I have given is only a small part of the information which would be available to him, particularly after having had discussions with the Director of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the subject of the television licence inquiries which have just been concluded. And it is because of the information which has been given to him by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board about the further efforts of the men and the companies I have mentioned to obtain television licences in most country areas that the Minister has seen fit and found it necessary to bring down the legislation which we are discussing. The fact that he has limited the ownership of television licences to two for any company and has stipulated that no more than 15 per cent, of the shareholding can be held in any other company and that no man can be the director of more than two television stations is an indication that he is convinced that these people who have control of radio and television facilities in this country at present are endeavouring to control the new licences which are about to be issued.
I feel that it is up to the PostmasterGeneral to bring into this House the information which has been made available to him by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. If he does so, every member of this House will be informed of the facts, as he is, and will be able to appreciate far better whether the limitation to 15 per cent, of the shareholding in a company is sufficient to curtail some of the activities which are being carried out at the present time in the field of mass communication. I feel that this bill should be supported by any one who desires to see that the control of this country is kept in the hands of the elected parliaments and is not allowed to get into the hands of any section of individuals who control mass mediums of propaganda.
– Do you support the bill?
– I support the bill as it stands at the moment, because I realize full well that we have no opportunity of carrying our amendment. I realize that the Country Party and those members of the Liberal Party who know that these things are going on and who are now aware of some of the dangers which are apparent in the issue of new television licences are not prepared to go far enough. They are not prepared to come into the House and say that the press, the radio and the television stations of this country are being controlled by a few people. As far as we are concerned, the bill does not go nearly far enough. We feel that the people who hold these interests in the television stations and radio stations at present should be curtailed, should not be allowed to hold any further interests, and should even have to give up some of the interests that they hold at the present time, rather than that some of the companies should be allowed to obtain a further television licence in country areas.
The full and proper effect of television has not been felt in this country yet because we have had television approximately only since the end of 1956, and because of inexperience in the field the propaganda aspect of television has not been used to the full extent to which it has been used in other countries. But if we allow the control of these television stations to get into the hands of a few people, who at present have far too much control in the propaganda and mass communication mediums of Australia, we will live to rue the day. I agree wholeheartedly with the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. The information which is now in the hands of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should be placed before this Parliament, so that every member of this Parliament will have the opportunity to judge for himself, in the same way as the Postmaster-General has had to judge for himself, whether it is possible for the mass mediums of communication to fall into the hands of people who already have control over a great portion of them. For that reason I support the amendment.
.- Mr. Speaker, we are called upon to give urgent consideration to this important bill in order to obviate delay in the issue of licences in phase three of television expansion in this country. I say that because the Australian Broadcasting Control Board can hardly deal with the applications betore it in the absence of this measure. It knows what the Government has in mind, but it has no legal power to make recommendations which will agree with this bill. In this situation, the responsibility clearly lies with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I want to make it clear that, for myself, I take no pleasure at all in criticizing the board or any of its officers, who cannot answer back. Nevertheless, 1 believe when the public interest demands it, a member of this House should stand in his place and say what appears on good grounds to deal equitably with this sort of situation. It is rather a pity, to my mind, that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board cannot answer back. For myself, I would like to hear the defence that would be put up to the sort of things that I shall bring before the House in the next ten minutes or so.
We face in Australia to-day, on this question of television, an extraordinarily serious situation, which I believe has been brought about wholly by lack of foresight on the part of the board. It is the board’s responsibility to make recommendations to the Government on the issue of television licences, among other things. It is also the responsibility of the board to set the conditions under which these licences shall be operated. I want to deal with two important aspects of this matter. The first of them, with which I have dealt on previous occasions, relates to the technical field. Over a long period of years - since 1953. indeed, when the Government set up an inadequately equipped royal commission to deal with this subject - I, and many others, have been urging the Government and its instrumentalities - the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board - to deal with the important question of channel allocation, but in every case we have been met with a round “ No “. The board has failed to deal with this matter, despite the fact that, since 1935, in its annual report it has been publishing - a knowledge of its own responsibility in this field.
It is particularly unfortunate that we have to wait until applications have been called, and until they have been given a good deal of expensive consideration, before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will move for the holding of the technical inquiry without which, on its own admission, it cannot proceed to recommend the issue of licences. All this adds up to a delay in the extension of stage three of television in Australia, which will be related particularly to country services.
Now, Sir, I want to move on to the question of the ownership of companies licensed to operate television stations. In this field, the advantages of multiple ownership surely began to appear in broadcasting as early as the 1930’s. It seems that any prudent administration, knowing this, would have understood quite clearly that the conditions which developed in commercial broadcasting would, for the same reasons, appear in television at no distant date. If that prudent administration had done the right thing, it would have settled long before this the matters to which the House is turning its attention to-night; but the result of the failure to foresee that development is that we must pass this bill before this sessional period ends, or there will be another insufferable delay in the extension of television in Australia.
– That is bad enough as it is.
– That is quite true. If delay were the only consideration, the position would be bad enough, but there is another much more serious matter to which I direct the attention of the Government, because I cannot believe the Government has given it enough study. Certainly, I should like to direct the attention of the House to this proposition: For the past six months, applicants for licences have lodged applications with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and have supported them “in many cases on a basis which will be pre- included from consideration by the board as a result of the passage of this bill. Proposed new section 92e provides -
A licence shall not be granted to a company where the circumstances are such that, upon the grant of that licence to that company, a person would be contravening section ninety-two or ninety-two C of this Act or the condition specified in the last preceding section would be contravened.
So I should like to know from the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) whether it is a fact that, on the passage of this bill, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will not be able to give further consideration to a number of the applications that are now before it, as they will be found to be in contravention of this legislation. How does the board propose to deal with this situation? Does it propose to re-assess the evidence and apply some figure of merit created by itself to the evidence and so correct the mistakes? Is it going to invite those who have applications before the board and have supported them most expensively to take them away and rewrite them?
Surely that sort of situation would lead us to believe that the only equitable way to deal with this matter would be to wash up the whole procedure in respect of those areas - and indeed those States - where the applicants contravene the provisions of the measure by having a series of applications before the board which would give them more than 15 per cent, of control in more than two stations. If we invite them to rewrite the applications, surely the evidence should be heard all over again, because if new applications are to be admitted, they must be on an entirely different basis from those that the board has been considering for six months. I question whether, at the end of this exercise, there will be any real occasion to believe that the matter has been dealt with fairly, reasonably or in a business-like way.
Before leaving this matter, I want to go back to this technical side. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is at present, I believe, in the closing stages of a technical inquiry which I. for one, hold to be unsatisfactory. However, putting that aside as only a personal view, it will be recalled that from 1953 onwards, we went into television in Australia on the basis of using the ten channels in the very high frequency spectrum. It was popularly supposed and stated that in those ten channels we would have enough to provide television services for the reasonable future. The fact is that a few years after the introduction of television services, we have found ourselves running out of frequencies. We must have a technical inquiry.
Now I come to this point: I know that there are before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board at this time proposals that some extensions of television should go into the ultra-high frequency spectrum, where there are 50, 60 or more channels available, but of lesser technical value than those in the very high frequency section. On behalf of my constituents in the Hunter Valley, and perhaps, for the same reason, on behalf of the thousands of television viewers along the south coast of New South Wales, I want to know what protection will be given to them and to the proposed television stations in Newcastle - and in the Hunter Valley - and the south coast of New South Wales if they should be given a licence to operate in the ultra-high frequency section. If that should happen - and it is a possibility - we would find ourselves in the position that was reached in the United States of America in 1948.
Having believed that they had enough room in the very high frequency channels to provide a national competitive service, the Americans discovered in 1948 that they were wrong, just as we are finding that we are wrong. In 1948, the Americans were obliged to put down a four-year freeze on the issue of television licences because it was shown that, where there was an attempt to mix ultra-high frequency and very high frequency stations, the ultrahigh frequency stations went out of business because they had no audiences. People could not be persuaded to spend the amount of money required to change their very high frequency sets. In Newcastle at this moment, it is estimated that there are 14,000 sets capable of responding only to very high frequencies. If there is a move to licence a Newcastle station to operate in the ultra-high frequency section, it will be immediately robbed of a major part of its audience.
– How much does it cost to convert the sets?
– I do not know; it might cost £20 or £30, depending on the manufacture of the set.
If the Government is going to tolerate the sort of incompetence - I use the word advisedly - inherent in the past behaviour of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and if it intends to amend the provisions through this sort of legislation, which was brought in during the last hours of the sessional period and which we are asked to pass with completely inadequate time to consider it properly and without time for interested parties to put before members or the Government their points of view on matters that vitally affect them commercially and which deeply affect the public interest, the Government will be responsible for the near chaos that may well result in the telecommunications field, and we will be found to be accessories before and after that particular fact.
I should now like to deal with the rest of the bill. The changes affecting the powers of the board to control, or to exercise greater control, over hearings before it in the future will, I hope, be entirely beneficial, although for myself I have not had time to look at the full import of them. However, anything that will preserve this country from the fiasco that we have enjoyed through two sets of television licence hearing surely must be of benefit, and I hope that the board will really take control of future hearings.
I should like to refer to that portion of the bill which deals with the changed conditions for the Australian Broadcasting Commission under which, in general, the Public Service Board will have some say in the conditions under which the commission’s staff is engaged. I understand that the commission will be rather happy about that, because it will have certain benefit from the advice of the Public Service Board, and I make little pronouncement about that. However, I want to refer to the arrangement under which the Postmaster-General’s Department provides and maintains the technical facilities for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I understand that a situation of that kind which operates in sound broadcasting has been broken down a good deal in television, in that the commission has control of its studio technical facilities. For my part, I believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be a self-contained authority and should have complete control and responsibility for the provision, the maintenance and the operation of its own technical equipment. There are certain advantages to come out of that, but I do not think that I need deal with them here. I have an idea that this subject is under discussion between the commission and the Government. However, I would urge that if the commission wants that sort of control of its facilities, the Government should hasten to agree with it.
I am very glad that the PostmasterGeneral is in the House. I have raised this point because I have been complaining for some time about the technical services available to my constituents in the Lower Hunter from the national stations 2NA and 2NC. This situation was to have been rectified almost twelve months ago by the erection and operation of a new radiator. That radiator has been standing up in the air at Beresfield for some six or eight months. I have asked the Postmaster-General on a number of occasions when it was proposed that this radiator would come into service and when my constituents might expect some better national broadcasting. Up to now. the radiator still stands there, it is still inoperative, and I am still wondering who is responsible. The Australian Broadcasting Commission will not accept responsibility; it does not own the radiator. I have been singularly unable to obtain any information from the Postmaster-General’s Department, and from the PostmasterGeneral himself, I have received only assurances that leapfrog from month to month that the radiator will soon come into operation. I ask the Postmaster-General to look into this matter urgently. I do not know what the trouble is, but whatever it is. it ought to be rectified so that my constituents can obtain the sort of radio service that I believe they are entitled to receive.
The hard core of this legislation, of course, is the prevention of the development of monopolies in television. The motive has not been particularly stated.
However, if we want to prevent the development of a commercial monopoly, that is one thing and I am certainly in favour of it. But I believe that the real motive - it was suggested in the Postmaster-General’s second-reading speech - is to prevent the centralization of the control of this means of mass communication in a few hands. That is a process which is well developed, and I certainly applaud any effort aimed at preventing such growth. What we must look at is the question of methods. How do we propose to bring this about? The bill suggests that the 15 per cent, shareholding will henceforth constitute control for purposes of licences and for purposes of the restrictions mentioned in the bill. I am particularly in favour of this, with one question only in my mind. 1 shall deal with the programme side in a moment, but the question in my mind is whether that limitation is sufficient to prevent the commercial control, the effective control, of more than the two television stations that any company or individual is entitled to control.
One point on which 1 should like some clarification is whether the 15 per cent, referred to as control for the purposes of licences extends from proposed new section 92b to proposed new section 92d. On an examination of these provisions, I doubt whether we have provided for the retention of control of Australian broadcasting in Australian hands. I freely admit that the proposed new sections are a little involved. There are more words there than 1 care to juggle with, and perhaps my interpretation of them is wrong. However, the PostmasterGeneral might be good enough to deal with this point in the committee stage.
Sir, when we come to the question of programme control, I want to express my complete opposition to the provisions on two grounds. The first is that I believe these provisions to be completely unnecessary, and the second is that I believe that they represent an invasion of private property rights. It is quite clear to me that the Government is considerably scared of evidence given by applicants before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on these section 3 applications. I think everybody knows quite well that the licensees of existing television stations did not hesitate to let it be known amongst other hopeful applicants that they could not look for assistance from city stations if in turn they did not allow the city stations to have an interest. I am not going to argue whether that is legitimate or not. I merely say that by the provisions to which I have referred - that is the limitation of ownership in television licences - the Government has taken care of that situation so that monopolies cannot develop.
If there was a dearth of programme material in this country, the move to force people in the way we propose in the bill might be acceptable, and I underscore the word “ might “ in that context. But I am yet to be convinced that there is not an adequate supply of material in this country. At this present moment, programme agencies are hawking a very considerable volume of programme material around licensees and those who hope to be licensees. The proper approach to this will surely be for the Government to make certain that every possible assistance is given to ensure the availability of an adequate supply of programme material. Of course, if we are going to talk about cornering programmes and monopolies in programme holding and so on, I think we must be realistic. We are not dealing with radio programmes that may cost £100, £200 or £300 an episode to produce; we are dealing here with films that cost tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of pounds, and, in some instances, millions of pounds to produce, and, of course, the hire of them in this country will be on an equivalent basis. I just do not believe that any commercial television station in Australia could corner enough of these programmes and that the results would be economically satisfactory to it. I offer the opinion that when further licences are made available, television stations now holding materials will hasten to do a deal to offload some of their programme costs and thereby reduce their operating expenses.
But the whole bill seems to overlook the fact that there are other programme agencies in the country. I understand that at the present time there are quite a number of American agencies, either producers of television material or retailers of it who are expecting to open offices in this country or have already done so. In this context I should like to look at the provision contained in proposed new section 105a (5.) which is part of clause 28. It reads -
Any person who, either in or outside Australia, acquires (whether by purchase of the film or otherwise) power to grant rights to the use of a television film for television purposes in Australia shall not–
And I will leave out a few words - at any . . . time make an agreement that could prevent him from granting such rights to the licensee of a television station on reasonable terms and conditions.
If I read this provision correctly it means that if Mr. Alfred Hitchcock, a great producer of television programmes, who acquires the ownership of a programme by production and therefore the right to offer it in Australia, cannot make an agreement for the wholesale distribution of his output in this country. In other words, under this bill he cannot make an agreement which would prevent him from dealing individually with any licensed station in Australia. This is surely a gross interference with the ordinary channels of trade in this particular field and I believe ought not to be accepted.
Time will not permit me to go into these proposed new sections in detail, and indeed the committee stage may be a very valuable opportunity in which to discuss it more fully. It seems to me that the provision contained in proposed new section 105a (7.) (a) gives power to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to act in saving the issue of an order to deal in a particular programme, but this will depend on the interpretation of the word “ serve “ in relation to a television service, and also the words “ substantial extent “. The legal fraternity may tell us that these words are used every day in court and that they are easily and reasonably interpreted by courts. But in this particular field we are dealing with broadcasting coverage which can be measured most precisely and if we are to save ourselves future trouble in the administration of this particular provision we would be wise to use some very specific terms with which to state what is intended.
Paragraph (b) of the same sub-section calls for the same consideration, because the expression “ reasonable opportunity “ will have to be interpreted. In other words the Broadcasting Control Board may not force the owner of a programme to release it until he has reasonable opportunity for it to be used. There may be vastly differing interpretations of what constitutes a reasonable opportunity. The board is not likely to suffer any loss if it makes a mistake but the owner of a programme who may be preserving it for a period of years, as often happens, until a national sponsor buys that programme for release all over the country in connexion with some national advertising campaign may suffer if the integrity of that programme is broken because he is forced to sell it to one outlet. Its value would thereby be grossly impaired. I hope the Government will give some consideration to that particular matter.
When we talk about dealing with programmes on the basis of whether one station covers the territory of another, a very explosive situation might well develop, particularly on the New South Wales central coast where there could be a good deal of intrusion by three stations into each other’s territory. I am referring to the stations of Wollongong, Sydney and Newcastle. At the moment, Newcastle hears Sydney so well that something like 14,000 people there have licences. But when the Newcastle station is established on the spot which I believe will be suitable for it, there is not the slightest doubt that Sydney will be able to get from Newcastle reception comparable to that which Newcastle is getting from Sydney to-day. There will be a good deal of over-lapping of territory and consequent difficulty in interpreting this particular provision. I believe that this provision dealing with programme material might well interfere unnecessarily with administration and I hope that it might be dropped completely.
On the question of the licensing of hired receivers, there is only one point. From the definition of “ lodging house “ and also of “ receiver “ - which means a broadcast receiver or a television receiver - it appears to me that private hospitals will be called upon to have an individual licence and pay a licence fee for every loudspeaker or pair of headphones attached to a radio receiver. Hospitals, and particularly private hospitals, are not profit-making institutions as far as I know and I hope that either in this bill or in some other appropriate measure the Government will be able to relieve private hospitals, already doing a magnificent job from this unwarranted impost.
I now come to another matter which is the last I shall mention, but I think the most important, particularly for country areas. This is the provision contained in proposed new section 130a under which the Post Office, rather reluctantly, I am afraid, is surrendering its exclusive rights to the use of telegraph lines. This will enable the operation of community antennae and the development of a system which is popularly known as re-diffusion on a smaller or greater scale. However we arrange our frequency channels in Australia, there must inevitably be a greater number of people living in what are called “ fringe “ areas with inadequate signal strength to provide a good service. There must also be a considerable number of dead spots. All I can hope is that the board, in its recommendations, and the department in its approvals, will not be niggardly in allowing country areas the means of getting improved service.
This brings me to my last point. There is one important matter not mentioned in the bill. This is other means of boosting television coverage in country areas. This is achieved by the use of a system of translators by which the signal picked up from V.H.F. transmitters can be amplified and re-radiated for purely local consumption by a television station on the V.H.F. section of the band. This may be a very workable and indeed a very necessary part of the machinery to bring television service to the scattered population of a vast country like Australia. But as I have pointed out there is no provision for this in the bill. In other words, we will have to go all over this ground later. The reason that this has not been included in this bill is that the board has not yet been able to make up its mind on this matter. Therefore I repeat that I am unhappy about quite an amount of this legislation. Many people would have been much happier if the board had earned the greater confidence of this House and of the people of Australia by exercising considerably more foresight than it has evidenced up to date.
.- If this debate to-night has not proved anything else, it has certainly proved that the provisions contained in this bill are of very great importance with respect to the future of television and broadcasting in this country and also that these provisions will affect a very large number of people. Together with other honorable members, I am only sorry that this bill has been brought down in the dying hours of the session. The Government is apparently determined that the second reading of the bill shall go through to-night and that, in spite of what the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) said when introducing the measure, it is to be pushed through the committee stage to-morrow. I say that any parliament that holds the people in the contempt that apparently we are holding them in, will itself be held in contempt by the people.
The people who are affected by this legislation, whether or not we agree with them, have a right to be given enough time to learn what is in this bill, and to make representations about it through members of Parliament - either the members representing their constituencies or other members - and to have such representations considered. I have been in parliaments before and I know that there are times when emergency legislation has to be put through quickly. There are other times when either the Opposition or minority sections have used the forms of the Parliament to prevent the passage of important legislation. Nobody can accuse any member of any party of having held up legislation during this session. It has not been a very busy session. I think it is entirely out of accord with the traditions of British democracy to produce a bill like this, which is not an emergency measure, at this hour, late in the session, and say that it has to go through before the session ends.
The Opposition has made much of the fact that a number of big people and big companies will be affected by the legislation, and it may be felt that pressure will be exercised on members if the bill is not passed hurriedly. That may be so. On the other hand, there are many much smaller people throughout the community who are going to be affected by the measure, and they have rights as well as the others. In any event, I feel that we are doing a great disservice in this day and age when we use modern methods to pass legislation almost by stealth in the night.
Some people on the other side have referred to rebels. Well, if a rebel is one who is willing to draw the sword in defence of the traditional practices of British democracy, I shall remain a rebel for a very long time. How can you win the battle for the minds of men if you pay no heed to what men want with regard to legislation, or deprive them of the opportunity to make their representations about legislation through the proper channels?
The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) is probably the greatest expert in this House on television and radio. The speech he has just made was full of substance. Yet how will it be treated? The Government has said “ Let the members talk. They will get tired and then we can put the legislation through “. What did the Minister say in his secondreading speech? He said that he had not time to explain various things in the bill. He said -
This is not the place to explain the provisions in detail, but may I sketch for the benefit of honorable members their broad import.
Almost immediately after he made that statement he said -
I do not pause here to speak in detail of the manner by which the clauses ensure that this provision cannot be evaded by the interpolation of a company or a series of companies between the person seeking to control the television licence and the company which has it. In due course, this provision, which is proposed new section 92b of the principal act, will be further examined in committee.
Later he said -
Honorable members will be able to discuss the whole of these provisions in commttee
And later he said -
Honorable members will find three sub-sections numbered (5.), (6.) and (7.) of proposed section 105a which will need to be explained in committee. They are designed to prevent persons who buy television film from tying up themselves and others so that others may not get access to the film’.
Later there was a statement that this was a brief account of a tremendously important part of the bill, yet the Parliament has neither the time nor the opportunity to deal properly with the measure. As the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) said, it would not matter so much if we did not have the time and the opportunity, so long as the people who are going to be affected by the bill had the time and the opportunity to understand what is in it, and to make their representations about it. If that were the case we would perhaps be treating the thing in a proper manner. But they have not got that time and that opportunity.
– But this legislation was before us in 1958.
– Then why is it necessary for a bill of 35 clauses to be brought in at this stage of the session? It could quite easily have been introduced in either the second or third week of the session, and we would have had time to study it. We have had two bills introduced to-day, one of 31 clauses and another of 22 clauses. One dealt with the Patents Act and the other was to make provision for the control of surface traffic at airports.
– One is an amendment of the Patents Act, and the other simply puts into legislative form what has been in the regulations for years.
– What the Treasurer has said might be true. Nevertheless, this bill has 35 clauses, and we are given only two days in which to pass it through the Parliament. I say that it is not in accord with the best practices of British parliamentary democracy to treat bills in this fashion. Parliament is not a sausage machine, and even if it were we should be entitled to know what material is in the sausage. One knows that on occasions the rights of minorities have had to be curtailed in order that the business of government might be proceeded with. That has happened time and time again during this century. If they read “ May’s Parliamentary Practice and Procedure “, honorable members will see that extra powers have been given to governments - such as those being exercised at the present time - because it is believed that members of Parliaments are trained, to use the words of May, in the spirit of the traditional practice of British democracy and, on the whole, will use discretion in the exercise of thesepowers. I hold that we are not using discretion in the exercise of the powers, nor are we improving the stature of Parliament in the eyes of the community by dealing with legislation in this fashion.
I now turn from procedure to the substance of the bill. In the first place, the administrative system of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is to be completely altered. That may be correct. The largest part of it is to come under the Public Service. That, I understand, is entirely, or very largely, a new system with regard to the board itself. It is also another instance of the importance of this bill.I would like to join again with the honorable member for Paterson with respect to the clauses which deal with television and broadcasting in hospitals. I do not know whether it is right or wrong, because I have not had time to give it much consideration, that private hospitals should be forced to pay a full fee for every television or radio instrument which they use. Hotels probably have loud speakers.
Sirring suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 12 midnight
Thursday, 19 May 1960
Before the suspension of the sitting I was rather aptly referring to the clause which deals with the licensing of every television set and every speaker in every room of an hotel. It may be quite a sound proposition. On the other hand, I am wondering whether it would not be much better, as we are trying to attract tourists to this country, if the Government would consider putting hotels on a pro rata basis. I doubt whether sets in hotel rooms would be in use for 50 per cent, of the time. I suppose that the people who want to use them will have to pay their proportion of the licence-fee. However, this is not a very important matter.
The important aspect of the clause to which I have referred is that which concerns private hospitals. I have scarcely had time to read the bill, but I understand that private hospitals will have to pay the fees, although public hospitals will not. I do not suggest that private hospitals should have licences granted entirely free, but I believe that the Government should consider allowing them to pay on a pro rata basis. I think there will be considerable complications, as a result of this clause, in relation to hotels that already have all rooms wired for sound.
More important matters were referred to by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), who dealt with restrictive practices in relation to the control of programmes. I feel that if the Government intends to deal with restrictive practices it should deal with them as a whole rather than experiment in the limited field of broadcasting and television. I am not at all satisfied with clause 28, which deals with this subject, because I think that it could have certain results which apparently have not received consideration. I have not really had time to investigate the position properly, but it seems to me that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which is, in effect, in control of the national broadcasting and television stations, will be the authority which determines the reasonable pries that shall be paid for a programme which it wants to use. 1 do not think for one minute that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) intended that the purchaser should be able to decide his own price.
– A judge in his own case!
– That is so. This is one effect that will flow from this clause. There are many others. I think that it will operate not only with regard to restrictive practices, but with regard to the author or creator of a programme. If it is right to put a clause of this nature in broadcasting and television legislation, why should the Elizabethan Theatre Trust have the sole rights for “ The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll “, which I understand it has had for a very long time past. If it is right to fix a price to be paid to somebody who creates - the author of a programme or a film that is to be used on television - why should it not also be right to fix the price of a book which may be considered to contain material of great educational value which should be distributed as widely as possible? Where will this control of restrictive practices end? I know that members of the Opposition, being socialistic, will be in favour of this provision, but I ask honorable members on this side of the House how many of us understand the implications of this clause. It may be that the Attorney-General (Sir
Garfield Barwick) and the draftsmen are excellent on legal theory, but we are not dealing only with legal theory. We are dealing with practice and with the results that will flow from this clause.
I hope that the Government will do something in regard to the problem of the revocation of licences. I understand that it is giving this matter favorable consideration. I do not believe in the Minister having the final say as to whether a licence shall be revoked. I do not think that members on either side of the House would agree for one minute that this authority should be entirely in the hands of a minister of any political party. I hope that the Government will give very favorable consideration to amending the bill to give the right of appeal to an individual who has had his licence revoked or who has been told that his licence is to be revoked. There should be a right of appeal to a judge against the Minister’s decision, and, as the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) said, a right of appeal against a direction to make a programme available to another station at a certain price. 1 repeat that I have not had time to look through every clause in this bill, but these are some of the more important matters which have been mentioned at greater length by other members and I would like to support their recommendations.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) spent the whole of his time in pointing out that certain companies in Australia were monopolizing the control of newspapers, broadcasting and television. In this country, we try to restrict that but we do not try, as other countries have done, to prevent newspapers from owning broadcasting or television licences. That is an entirely separate matter which does not come into this bill at all. According to figures given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), this bill will not affect the holdings of most of the major companies in other companies at the present time. I think that the Leader of the Opposition said that one company held a 14.4 per cent, interest in a Queensland licence as well as a 10.5 per cent, interest in an Adelaide licence. These are matters which do not really come into this bill.
Our policy in this country is to have both commercial and national broadcasting and television stations. Many people feel that, with the two, we have the best system of broadcasting and television in the world. Whether that is right or wrong I do not know, but the fact remains that that is the settled policy in this country. Therefore, commercial companies cannot exercise a complete monopoly. If we feel that the quality of entertainment, news or educational programmes on the national stations is not sufficiently high the remedy lies in our own hands. I do not see that much is to be gained by criticizing that settled policy which I understood was favoured by practically every member of this House.
I do not want to talk just for the sake of talking out time, Mr. Speaker, and I have now covered the main points that I wanted to mention. In themselves, they all are important. In addition, we have the fact that the Postmaster-General himself left about six of the important clauses of the bill to be explained in committee. I want to add one final word of protest against the kind of parliamentary procedure into which we seem to have fallen. Towards the end of a sessional period in which, earlier, we have had little business before us, it is characterized by the Government’s bringing in bills of this kind and saying, “ You must pass them in two days “. There is no necessity for this sort of thing to be done.
– Mr. Speaker, I think that at this point in the debate it would be well for us to get back to the Opposition’s amendment. We have heard from the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) an expression of strong opposition to the rushing through of this kind of measure in what are being proclaimed as the dying hours of a sessional period. We on this side of the House have been accustomed to this Government’s policy of bringing down contentious legislation from time to time in the last hours of a sessional period. We have seen this sort of thing happen in the past with amendments to the Public Service Act and the like which have affected particular sections of the community. It seems to us that this bill is being approached by the Government in the same way in which it has on previous occasions brought in legislation in a hasty manner at the end of a sessional period. The honorable member for Chisholm, who preceded me in this debate, was quite right. I suppose that we have never had a sessional period in this Parliament in which less effective work has been accomplished than has been accomplished in the few weeks of this sessional period. Then, at this late hour, we are asked to pass a measure that will affect in an intensely human way the lives of almost all citizens of Australia. The minutest care is called for in any legislation on the subject to ensure that the human touch is retained in television.
– If that is so, why has not the Australian Labour Party put up any speakers over the last three hours?
– It is not correct to say that the Opposition has not put up any speakers over the last three hours. Only one Opposition speaker was missed in rotation. Furthermore, the attacks launched on the Government by three of its own supporters in relation to the very subject-matter with which I am dealing may be more effective in bringing the Government to its senses than would be anything that we on this side of the chamber could say. And it is always important, in parliamentary government, to bring a government to its senses when it attempts to do something of the kind that the Government now seeks to do. If some back-benchers on the Government side are protesting strongly - even though, perhaps, for reasons different from those on which the Opposition bases its protests - it may very well be good tactics for the Opposition to watch the effect of those remarks if it wishes to persuade the Administration, even at this late hour, to accept the proposition that is contained in our amendment.
– What about getting back to the bill?
– I prefer, first, to look at the amendment before getting back to the bill. The amendment is in these terms -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “consideration of the bill be deferred until after presentation to the Parliament of a report from the Broadcasting Control Board on its provisions with particular reference to the practical effects of those provisions purporting to limit or restrict control of companies owning or operating broadcasting and television stations”.
Surely nobody who heard the secondreading speech made by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), will be misled in any way by the suggestion that limiting to15 per cent, the shareholding in a company held by any existing television company with a controlling interest in two television stations will prevent the swallowing up of smaller companies by others.
– The limitation is on voting power, not only on shareholdings.
– If the limitation is on voting power, the process of swallowing up another company is so much easier. In company with the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), I have examined the directorates of companies and the ramifications of the controls exercised, both alone and in double harness, over the television and radio stations conducted by newspaper interests. It is no wonder that even leading members on the Government side of the House, including the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick), feel that the time has arrived for some form of control of monopolies to be exercised in this country, even by this Government. As I understand it, during the next parliamentary recess, the Attorney-General will be examining the problems of monopoly control in Australia. I believe that the PostmasterGeneral and the Government would be well advised, therefore, to put this bill aside until the inquiries which obviously are being made by the Attorney-General are completed, in order that we may see how far the ramifications of monopoly control are involved in this measure before the Government takes one more step in the direction that is proposed and licenses further television stations in this country.
Monopoly is a factor that has developed in Australia to the point at which protests are raised immediately the Attorney-General attempts to restrict monopolies. Over the last fortnight, in the “Sydney Morning Herald “, attacks have been made on the proposal that legislative enactments be adopted in order to deal with monopolies and monopoly control in Australia. That newspaper is not worried so much about the ramifications of this bill, and that causes me to wonder whether the PostmasterGeneral, with his simple belief that this bill will protect television against monopoly, is not in point of fact sponsoring a measure that will be so twisted by monopoly interests in this country as to permit large television monopolies to swallow up smaller undertakings. Surely the Government does not think that monopoly interests will take lying down an attempt by the Administration to force the owners of television films and other programme material to make programme material available to television stations other than those within their own control. Something stronger than a bill of this description will be needed to break the grip that has already been gained by monopoly interests in this country in the field of television.
– You would vote for this bill, but you would like something better!
– Our proposition is that the Government put this measure aside for the time being and give us an opportunity to examine it more thoroughly. The Administration should hasten more slowly. If the matter was so urgent, why was not this measure introduced a month ago?
– Because we have been working on it for six months.
– If you have been working on it for six months, another fortnight will not make any difference. The Postmaster-General ought to go to the Attorney-General and find out how far he has gone with his investigation of monopolies in this country. The whole problem should be dealt with, not only part of it. Surely the Government does not think that, by one measure, it can break the grip on television exercised by Herald and Weekly Times Limited with its control of wide interests.
– Our purpose is to prevent a monopoly.
– That may be so. I believe that the Government or at any rate some of its Ministers have kidded themselves into the belief that, by one halfhearted, half-baked legislative enactment they can deal with organizations like Herald and Weekly Times Limited.
Let me mention all the undertakings that the Herald and Weekly Times Limited controls. They are the “ Sun News Pictorial “, a Melbourne morning paper, the “ Herald “, the Melbourne evening paper, the “ Advertiser an Adelaide morning paper, and the “ Courier-Mail “ and “ Telegraph “ in Brisbane. And these are the people whom the Government believes it can force, by piecemeal legislation such as this, to hand over films to somebody else! This organization also controls television stations Herald-Sun T.V., Melbourne, Television Broadcasters, Adelaide, and Brisbane T.V. Limited. Then, just for good measure, it controls radio stations 3DB Melbourne, 3LK Central Victoria, 4BK Brisbane, 4AK Darling Downs, 5AD Adelaide, 5MU Murray Bridge, 5PI Crystal Brook and 5SE Mount Gambier. And it has been suggested that the Minister is so naive as to believe that a bill such as this will break the grip held by this organization on television films! The Opposition argues that legislation of this type should never be rushed through a free democratic parliament. Honorable members on this side, supported by some honorable members on the Government side, strongly resent the way in which this bill is being rushed through the Parliament in the early hours of the morning. Even the Minister has admitted that the measure affects so many important principles that he prefers to wait until the committee stage to explain its provisions. In other words, the Minister is admitting that he has had to be briefed on the measure, and that he must wait until it is being discussed in committee before he will have the complete brief, and that that is the reason why he was unable to present a properly balanced explanation on the second reading.
– Do not be silly! That is always the practice.
– At least six times you indicated to us that you did not intend to explain the bill further on the second reading. Make no mistake, it is of no use thinking that the 15 per cent, voting strength provision contained in this bill will break the grip of a monopoly such as that of Herald and Weekly Times Limited. I hesitate to think that even the Postmaster-General would believe that for a second. We oppose the bill because we feel that this Parliament should be con sidering many more important principles. After all, when a measure such as this comes before the House responsibility for the final decision does not rest entirely with the Minister; it is the responsibility of this Parliament to decide what is in the best interests of the people of Australia, and Parliament is the place where every aspect of a measure such as this should be fully ventilated.
Why have we not been given the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the manipulation of the people whose activities it is now desired to curb? Every honorable member of this Parliament is entitled to have before him whatever reports are available to show the necessity for a measure such as this. When we analyse the ramifications of the Herald and Weekly Times Limited we get some appreciation of the power held by this organization over every medium of publicity in Australia. Already it has virtually established a monopoly by syndication of the news being disseminated to the people of certain States.
One honorable member on the Government side has roundly condemned the proposal that power should be taken to force monopoly groups to hand their films over to smaller organizations at a price to be fixed. Nobody knows better than the Minister himself that this Parliament has no authority to fix prices. Therefore this provision is merely an effort to draw a red herring across the trail and lead us to believe that the bill is really worth something. When an important measure such as this is brought before the Parliament so late in the session, two important principles are involved. We say–
– You are saying too much.
– I am paid to have my say.
– The Australian Broadcasting Control Board will not be reporting on this matter and has nothing to do with it.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service says that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will not report on this matter and has nothing to do with it.
– It is reporting on the issue of new licences.
– If there has been no report by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board relating to the limitation of shareholdings to 15 per cent. - the provision which we are led to believe will break the grip of monopolies such as the Herald and Weekly Times Limited - then we are entitled to see whatever reports the Government does rely upon for justification of this measure.
– We do not rely on others in these things.
– Surely the Minister does not just pluck these matters out of the air and say, “ This is good enough for us “? It may be good enough for him but it is certainly not good enough for this Parliament.
Honorable members on the Government side, particularly the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes), complained that they had not had sufficient time to study the full implications of the measure. We have submitted an amendment because we have not had time to study the bill thoroughly.
– The honorable member for Chisholm could have done it over the week-end, but he went to the football.
– Let me say to the parliamentary secretary who is sitting on the sideline that it would take more than a week-end to study all the ramifications of this “ Herald “ organization. I have heard about lost week-ends and good week-ends, but one thing that honorable members on the Government side are forgetting is that we are now considering a bill which will affect the home life of the whole of the Australian community. Any piece of legislation that is likely to affect the home-life of the people should never be hurried through Parliament in the way in which this bill is being rushed through. We can understand the discomfort of honorable members occupying the back benches on the Government side, two or three of whom have bitterly criticized the haste with which this legislation is being rushed through, especially when we remember the time wasting that has taken place in this House over the past few weeks. We have had thrown in front of us a most important piece of legislation containing 35 clauses, and we are asked to pass it within a short period of its introduction. The bill is so complex that the Minister himself has admitted that he must wait until it is being discussed in committee before he can offer a full explanation of its implications. After all, this is a parliamentary institution, not a debating society. Sometimes I think we members of this Parliament are inclined to forget our responsibilities. I have had practical experience in organizations which operate on an Australia-wide basis, and I have found that in such organizations you must always bear in mind that any decisions you make will affect every home in Australia. If that principle were applied to legislation which affects every home in Australia, the Government would not be hurrying a bill as important as this.
The Opposition has submitted an amendment to the Bill. If the Minister for Labour and National Service is correct in saying that the reports of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will not play any part in the implementation of this measure, then it becomes all the more important that honorable members on the Government side should give serious consideration to the principle behind our amendment. No one could ever convince even the most stalwart supporter of the Minister that there is any necessity to rush legislation of this character through the Parliament in its present form when so many avenues remain to be explored.
I have heard it argued that as only one application for a licence in a particular locality has been lodged, therefore, there should be no delay in granting that licence. If the Government views the matter on that singular basis, it will need more guarantees than are included in this measure to stop an organization such as the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, which already controls numerous stations, from controlling every television station in Australia. The honorable members on the Government side who are interjecting will find that I will be proved to be correct. This is another reason why the Government should allow more time for this matter to be debated fully. If the Government has noted the reaction of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ during the past fortnight to the suggestion that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) will work on the legislation in relation to monopolies, it will realize the importance of hastening slowly with legislation such as we have before us. I repeat that the Government should put first things first. Monopolies should not be tackled piecemeal; we should deal with them as a whole and, in dealing with them as a whole, we should pass legislation designed to protect the country people from the ravages of the organizations that are gradually getting a grip on every means of communication in Australia.
The Government should not think that this means of mass communication will always be on its side. At some point of time it will decide that the Government is of no further value to it, and once a means of mass communication decided to oppose any form of government, it could destroy not only that government but also the Parliament. Let us remember what happened in Czechoslovakia. When the changeover in government took place in Czechoslovakia–
– By guns.
– You are wrong, it was not done by guns. When the changeover took place, the control of the means of communication was so complete that from that hour only that which the Communist government in Czechoslovakia wanted to be distributed was distributed. Make no mistake about this - every day of the week and every month of the year we are getting closer and closer towards that kind of control in Australia.
The amendment which we have proposed is a realistic approach to this problem, and members on the Government side, instead of criticizing it should be giving it the closest consideration. The Government should let us know the basis upon which the organizations to which I have referred will be permitted to intrude into the sphere of television in the country. Let there be daylight on the transactions which will take place in the setting-up of country television stations. The Australian Country Party should be on its feet clamouring, not for haste but for the security of the people whom it represents. The maintenance of decency in home life is much more important than anything else. With all the vigour that I possess I support the amendment which has been proposed by the Australian Labour Party in the belief that in the long run we will be proved to be right. Let the light of day shine on this problem. Let us have information about the alleged value of the measure. Do not let us walk into something which will leave us wide open to further extension of monopoly control. Instead, let us make secure the decency of home life in Australia and ensure that the people will not be subjected to a monopolycontrolled system of mass communication.
.- I have been listening with interest to the speakers from the Opposition side, quite a few of whom have tried to attack the Australian Country Party. The attack was led by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) who was, I thought, even more critical of us than usual. It occurred to me that perhaps something unusual was disturbing him, apart fromthe worries which he has in his own party. It could be that the honorable gentleman, who is a patron of the well-known football team of North Melbourne, is very concerned because the team has lost all of its games this season. I think that is worrying him more than is the political situation. I suggest that he send the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to Melbourne to give the team a pep talk. When people attack the Country Party, I feel that we must have a lot of good in us and that this makes out attackers envious.
This Parliament, and the people of Australia, are most fortunate that this measure has behind it two men of the calibre of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). This is unusual legislation for a LiberalCountry Party Government to introduce. It is the first step towards preventing monopoly control in various industries, and is just another phase of the enormous job of governing this great country of ours. If this Parliament, and Australia, did not have the services of the two able Ministers who have had the courage to introduce this legislation, knowing full well the storm of criticism which they would have to meet, the measure would not have been seen for many years. There has been a lot of talk about various companies having to alter their cases, but I consider that the PostmasterGeneral gave fair warning in his speech on 30th April, 1959, when he said that in this phase of television preference would be given to locally-owned, independentlycontrolled stations that could provide programmes comparable with those of city stations. In my opinion that was a fair warning to any one who wanted to form a company and apply for a licence.
No Australian likes controls, no matter in what activity or sphere they are applied, but one must bear in mind that legislation such as this concerns human nature and regard must be had to the fact that some people, perhaps unthinking and not realizing the effect on other people, want to gain control of every possible source of propaganda and publicity to satisfy their own desire for power. Because we are human beings we all need controls of some sort. We must strike a balance between necessary controls and freedom, and this is what the Government has tried to do in this legislation. It has been said that big city television stations are the only organizations that have all the technical equipment, knowledge and finance necessary to provide suitable television programmes for the country people. After all, the country people deserve only the best. I appreciate that more finance and more extensive knowledge are needed for television than for radio broadcasting, but one needs only to appreciate the standards established by various radio stations in country areas, such as 3NE, 3SR Shepparton, and 2AY Albury, to realize that country organizations have proved that they can conduct these means of communication efficiently, successfully and with good taste. The Country Party has always maintained, and every sensible person must agree, that decentralization is essential if we are to become a great nation. Decentralization of population involves not only the building of houses and the establishment of industries in country districts; the decentralization of the various administrative authorities is also essential to its success.
Regarding the 15 per cent, limit on a shareholder in a third company, I consider that the Government would do well to keep its eye on the success of this limitation. I doubt whether it is low enough. I should favour a lower figure than 15 per cent. However, as the Postmaster-General and the Attorney-General have said, this legislation will not necessarily stand for all time. The fact that we agree to this bill now does not mean that we cannot alter it if the Government finds that it is not working successfully. I hope that when country television stations are established the national advertisers will play their part in supporting them. Few honorable members have mentioned the important part that the national advertisers play in the success of television stations. I am certain that they will support the country stations as they have supported stations in the cities.
Speaking more directly of the Indi electorate for a moment, some doubt has been expressed whether Wangaratta, with a population of 14,000 people, Wodonga, with about 6,000 people, and Myrtleford, with 3,000 or 4,000 people, and many other people in the outlying districts to the east of Wangaratta, will get satisfactory reception from a television station on one of the proposed sites. I hope that the Broadcasting Control Board will pay due regard to this important aspect, because many thousands of people live in this great primary producing area which plays an enormous part in the economy of Australia.
This legislation is a genuine, sincere attempt by the Government, led by the Postmaster-General and the AttorneyGeneral, of whose capabilities there can be no possible doubt, to give country people high-class programmes and at the same time maintain a balance of control in this very important education medium.
– T agree with the honorable members on both sides of the House who have said that we have not had enough time to consider the bill properly. I am opposed to the measure because I believe that it is wholly bad in that it allows for the control of two stations by one body or firm.
– Tell us the constitutional position.
– Constitutionally, it may well be that the Government has not the power to control the prices of programmes, as proposed in the bill. Indeed, if I know anything about the previous decisions of the court on the pricefixing powers of the Commonwealth Government, I should be entitled to come to the conclusion that the Government has not the constitutional powers to do things that the bill sets out to do, namely, to control the prices which the stations that own film rights can charge to other television stations for the use of those films.
One of the things that I think is worrying certain television interests in this country is not that they have not had enough time to consider the provisions of the bill - they are wealthy enough to employ Queen’s Counsel to study it for them and they have had ample time to look at it since it was introduced - but that they have not had time to lobby and bring pressure to bear on their supporters on the back benches on the Government side. They are worried because they have been caught unawares as it were, and the Government has put through something in the form of a very slight - I emphasize the words “ very slight “ - attempt to prevent further monopolistic control over television in Australia. They are concerned that their hopes of completely controlling the country stations, as well as the metropolitan stations which they already control, may be thwarted by this bill. I know that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) said that he considered that the rights of property were the most sacred rights in the world–
– I did not say that.
– Well, words to that effect. He said that the rights of property were more sacred than the rights of man and the rights of life itself.
– Be fair!
– The honorable member said this bill cut across the sacred rights of property. I do not have the same feeling, as between the rights of property and the rights of man, as the honorable member for Moreton seems to have. I think he very truly stated his attitude towards the rights of property when he made it clear that if he has to choose in this matter he will put the rights of property above all other things.
– You are putting words into his mouth.
– No. A moment ago the honorable member agreed that that was substantially what he meant to say. I am inclined to think, from the interjections, that that is the attitude which the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) adopts. It is the attitude which the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) adopts. His criticism was not that the Government was not protecting the rights of the little people but that it was doing something to give them too much protection. That was his chief complaint. He objected, as did the honorable member for Moreton, to the fact that the Government sought to give the little country broadcasting or television stations an opportunity to compete with the big metropolitan stations, by having the right to call upon the use of their films when they attempted to tie them up.
Every one knows that as soon as the big metropolitan television stations had their licences granted to them they sent their representatives overseas to tie up all the worthwhile television programmes for their own exclusive use, knowing that if they could succeed in that regard they could eventually weave their way into all of the country areas in respect of which licences might eventually be granted and they could commandeer the market for advertising time. I think it is entirely wrong that these metropolitan stations should, by virtue of their enormous wealth and their worldwide facilities to get control of programmes; have the right to gain unfair advantages over weaker opponents. The country people are just as much entitled to decent television programmes as are the city people, and they cannot have that right now except on one condition. The only condition upon which the country people can now get the right to see decent programmes is if the Broadcasting Control Board is forced, out of consideration of the fact that the big metropolitan television companies have a monopoly of the good programmes, to give the whole of the country television licences to those companies, and I think that is entirely wrong. I think that the board’s report ought to be before Parliament. We do not yet know what the board contemplates in regard to the allocation of country licences. We do not know what findings it has come to after these long drawn out legal proceedings before it.
I believe that the Parliament is being asked to make its decision on this matter very much in the dark. It would be ever so much better, as the Opposition proposes in this amendment, to let the debate be adjourned until such time as we know what is in the mind of the board. But that is not to be done. I believe that what we are witnessing to-night in this Parliament - it is a clear split between the Country Party back benchers and the Liberal Party back benchers - is really a contest between Country Party interests and Liberal Party interests. The Country Party interests are determined that the country newspapers, which normally support the Country Party in their presentation of news, are to be given the opportunity to share in the lucrative operation of television broadcasting in country areas, whilst the Liberal Party back benchers want their Liberal Party friends, living in the city areas, to have the country profits as well as the city profits which they now enjoy.
I can understand the Country Party wanting to maintain control over television in country areas. Why, already we can see the Liberal Party making great inroads into Country Party strongholds in practically every State in the Commonwealth where they operate as separate political units. The Country Party can see that it will not be long before men like the honorable member for Moreton will be supporting Liberal Party candidates against the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson). If they thought that they could elect a Liberal member against a Country Party member they would not hesitate to try to bring into this Parliament the same complete control as the Liberal Party has obtained in the Victorian Parliament. We have witnessed a great struggle between the two parties in Wimmera. A Liberal Party member, Mr. Lawrence, pinched what the Country Party regarded as its seat and there was a bitter conflict which was resolved only at the last election by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) winning the seat for the Country Party. We see the same thing in Indi. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) succeeded in wresting back from the Liberal Party what was geographically a Country Party seat, so that it is once again a Country Party seat. There is, therefore, great bitterness between the two parties and it is vital to the Country Party that country television licences should go to those who are favorable to the Country Party rather than those who favour the Liberal Party. Every one knows the terrific impact that television makes on the minds of the viewers and we can imagine how much longer the Country Party could survive if all the country television stations were passed over to the control of the Liberal-inclined city-owned newspapers.
– And to the control of Sir Frank Packer? What quarter would the Country Party get from him?
– Of course! What quarter would the Country Party get from Sir Frank Packer? I do not blame the Postmaster-General for having realized at last the danger into which his party has walked and in which it has found itself almost engulfed by allowing through the old measure, city interests representing and strongly favouring the Liberal viewpoint to be given control of country television stations as well as the city stations. I congratulate him, as a crafty, shrewd and cunning politician for having seen at long last the danger that his party faces in this regard. It seems to me to be rather odd that you can say, “ We do not mind one person or company controlling two stations - that is all right - but you are not allowed to have even a 15 per cent, control of a third station.”
What is the position at present? The Herald and Weekly Times Limited owns, or at least controls - and I will deal with the question of ownership in a few moments - three metropolitan television stations. These are the Channel 7 station in South Australia and their stations in Victoria and Queensland which are owned or controlled by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. I am pleased to see that this bill will at least reduce the number of stations controlled by that company from three to two, but I would be very much happier if the bill went further and corrected a great weakness in the original piece of legislation, by preventing the Herald and Weekly Times Limited from owning any television stations at all. I think it is entirely wrong that a giant newspaper monopoly, already exercising complete control over the medium for influencing public opinion by means of the written word, should have the right to control another instrument for influencing public opinion in the form of a television station.
I think the Labour Party’s original point of view, in the days of Ben Chifley, was correct. It was the opinion of the Labour Party, as expressed by Mr. Chifley - and, indeed, it was also the opinion of the British Labour Party - that television was a medium which could so influence, either for good or for evil, the thinking, the psychology and the very nature of the people of a nation, that it should be placed under the control of the Parliament and of the Government, which is another way of saying the people themselves. In this way we could give to the people the very best possible programmes. We would not have to worry about the cost of providing Australian programmes. The programmes put over Australian television stations would be really Australian, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) contends they should be, putting forward the Australian viewpoint in the Australian idiom. Everything that was Australian would be presented through the medium of our television stations.
Let us have a look at some of the programmes that are seen on television to-day. I looked at a programme before I left home the other night, and I was surprised to see a hippopotamus dressed in scanties walking around the stage - and this is supposed to be entertainment.
– Who put the scanties on the hippopotamus?
– I do not know who put them on the hippopotamus, but that was the kind of programme being shown. This is the kind of utter nonsense that is being put over the commercial television stations. The honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack), who does not often speak in this Parliament, but who occasionally nods, is now nodding his complete approval of what I have said in this regard. I thank him for it. As a matter of fact, I feel that he nods more wisdom than all his colleagues put together speak.
Before I leave the subject of the monopolistic control which is now exercised over the metropolitan stations, I would like to have something to say about the station in Adelaide known as ADS Channel 7, which is controlled by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. I shall give honorable members some information about the shareholding in that station. Advertiser Newspapers Limited owns 900,000 of the 3,000,000 shares, and that company is controlled by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. For this reason the Herald and Weekly Times Limited is able to tell the representatives of Advertiser Newspapers Limited how they shall vote at any of the meetings of the shareholders. Radio station 5KA owns 300,000 shares, and another 300,000 are owned by Midlands Broadcasting Services Limited, representing the Advertiser Broadcasting Network. This presents a situation that should be further examined. Advertiser Newspapers Limited owns 900,000 shares, and that company is owned by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. Radio station 5 AD owns 300,000 shares, and Advertiser Newspapers Limited owns SAD. This makes a total of 1,200,000 shares owned by these two companies, which in turn are controlled by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. This company then has control of over 1,200,000 of the 3,000,000 5s. shares. Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited owns 225,000 shares, and then, in order to make the position look a little better, there is what is described as a public issue of 900,000 shares.
I took the trouble to find out what happened to this so-called public issue, and I discovered that the major portion of it was set aside specifically for allocation to employees of Advertiser Newspapers Limited. Depending on the service that an employee had with that company, he was entitled to 100, 200 or 300 shares. I think some senior employees were entitled to 400 shares. In what way does any one think an employee of Advertiser Newspapers Limited would vote at a meeting of shareholders of which Sir Lloyd Dumas was chairman, he being the managing director, or managing editor - whatever you like to call him - and the effective controller and boss of everybody employed by the company?
– And they do not have a court-controlled ballot, either.
– No. That is a very important point. The result is that the great majority of these 900,000 shares are also virtually controlled by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited.
– Did you get any of them?
– No, I did not get any, but I know one of your colleagues who made an application for 500 and received only 100. He was told that was all he could have. This was a public issue, and he was very upset about the matter. He complained to me, and I said, “ I am an expert in checking share registers. I will go to the office ofthe registrar of companies and have a look at the share lists, and see where they have gone “. I discovered, and I was able to tell him, much to his ill-content, that the major portion of the public share issue went either to employees of Advertiser Newspapers Limited or to employees of 5AD - which amounts to the same thing.
Other shares went to Jimmy Martin, the managing director in Adelaide of Myer Emporium (S.A.) Limited, to Ian Hayward. a leading member of the Liberal Party and the managing director of John Martin and Company Limited, to the managing director of Charles Birks and Company Limited, which is owned by David Jones Limited, to the managing director of Miller Anderson Limited, to the managing director of J. Craven and Company Limited, or to the managing directors of various other firms that engage extensively in advertising. I went through the whole of the so-called public share lists, and I discovered that the shares had been carefully allocated by the management of the company to the various people who bad done a good deal of advertising with Advertiser Newspapers Limited.
What do you think it is worth to have 4.000 or 5,000 of these shares allocated? Jimmy Martin received 4,000 shares.
– Who is Jimmy Martin?
– He is the managing director of Myer Emporium (S.A.I Limited, which is one of the firms which advertise most extensively with Advertiser Newspapers Limited and on television. Martin, of course, did very well out of these 4,000 shares. The
House may not know it, but although the company has been operating for only about a year, shares that cost 5s. to purchase are now listed on the stock exchange at 16s. 3d. or 16s. 9d. each. These listings can be seen in the copies of the Adelaide “Advertiser “ that are now on display in the library. Shares that were worth 5s. only a year ago are now worth something more than 16s. What does that represent in total amount? For the 3,000,000 five shilling shares I talked about, there has been an increase in their stock exchange value of £1,650,000 in the space of one year. In fact, the people to whom the five shilling shares were allocated found that they were quoted at11s. the first day they appeared on the stock exchange.
– No wonder they wanted a licence!
– Exactly. That is a very relevant interjection and it brings me to another important point. When the licences were being allocated in Adelaide, a rather remarkable turn of events characterized the proceedings. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board sat for a long time, and finally brought down the decision that it would allocate only one licence to South Australia. It took the view that South Australia was not a State which at that time could justify two licences. The licence was to be given to the Adelaide “News”. What happened? Sir Lloyd Dumas flew from Adelaide to Canberra and had a talk with somebody in a high position. I know his name but I will not mention it.
– Was it Mr. Somerville Smith?
– No, I do not think Mr. Somerville Smith had the same influence with the Government then that he has now. Sir Lloyd Dumas had a talk with somebody in a high place in the Cabinet. As a consequence of that talk, which was just prior to the last general election, the Government decided to direct the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to review the whole thing and bring down another report. It was not satisfied with the report recommending one licence, which was togo to Mr. Rupert Murdoch of the “News”.
Obediently, the board did as directed. It conducted a further inquiry and,to and behold, it discovered that its first opinion was entirely wrong! It found that it had made a great mistake in recommending only one licence for South Australia, so it said, “ We will recommend the issue of two licences”. One went to Mr. Rupert Murdoch, as originally intended, and the second went to Sir Lloyd Dumas. So the people in Adelaide continued to receive two newspapers - the “Advertiser “ and the “ News “ - both of which sang the praises of the Government and gave reasons why the Government should be returned at the general election. One does not have tobe an Einstein to understand why the people who benefited saw such good reasons for the Government to be supported.
The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) seemed to find great fault with the fact that the Minister will have the final say in whether a licence should be revoked or not. I do not see anything wrong with that. The Minister is elected by the people as a member of the Parliament, and then is appointed as a Minister who is answerable to this Parliament for every act of omission and commission. But the honorable member for Chisholm evidently wants to put this matter under the control of somebody who is not answerable to the Parliament.
– I wanted the right of appeal.
– It is the same thing. There should be no right of appeal from the people’s representative, except to the people.I see nothing wrong with this Minister, or any other Minister who is answerable to the Parliament, being the person to take the responsibility and make decisions like this. I do not like any Liberal minister making decisions of this kind, but while the people are foolish enough to elect them and allow them to remain here, they have to put up with the stupid and foolish decisions the ministers sometimes make. The right of appeal lies with the electorate every three years at election time.
It is all very well for the honorable member for Chisholm to take umbrage at this provision, but if it is right that the Minister should have no say in a thing like this, let us take away from ministers generally the right to determine anything, or let us go through the whole circuitous process of a right of appeal from the decision of every minister. If it is proper to have a right of appeal from the decision of a minister - who is responsible to the people who sent him here - what about having a right of appeal from the decision of the body to which you have a right of appeal from the Minister’s decision? Who is to say that the body to which you will appeal will be any less fallible than the Minister? At least you can get to the Minister if he does something wrong; but you cannot get to a judge.
– The Commonwealth Industrial Court helped you.
– It is an exceptional body, but the honorable member for Chisholm does not propose that we should give a right of appeal to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. What is wrong with some of the back-bench members on the Government side, particularly those who have been so vociferous, is that some of their friends are missing out on the gravy train. It is about to move off, and it appears that it will go out into some of the country areas and that some of the tiny country newspapers will get some of the rich rewards that now are confined to the city press. What is worrying the people on the back benches on the Government side, particularly the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), who is probably one of the biggest share-brokers in Sydney, is that some of their influential and wealthy speculator friends are disappointed that the members of the Australian Country Party, seeing the danger they had allowed this Government to drag them into, have at last decided that they will keep the country areas free from the Liberal Party taint.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
As the hour is now well past midnight, I shall be very brief. It is a long while since we heard the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in such a cocky vein. Mr. Dougherty having been thrown into the union ashcan, the honorable member is beginning to feel that he is a man of some importance again. I do not want to deprive him of his pleasure. Let him enjoy it while he may. It will have only a short life, since I do not believe Mr. Dougherty will allow him to get away with it, and his shadow will be over the honorable member for Hindmarsh for a long time.
With a complete disregard for the truth, the honorable member for Hindmarsh misquoted the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). The honorable member for Hindmarsh should not deny to the honorable member for Moreton the right to his own opinion, but with the characteristic attitude of the socialist he believes that only his own opinion is of importance. With the intolerance that has always been the stock-in-trade of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, he ascribed to the honorable member for Moreton words which he did not use. Far be it from me, as one who is not a student of the law, like the honorable member for Moreton, to quote from his speech, but we should put the record right. The honorable member for Moreton said - 1 want the House to consider seriously whether it is at liberty to deal in an offhanded way with legislation involving property rights. I am one of those who is driven to the conclusion that liberty has, in very great measure, to be equated with property rights. I know it is distasteful to some honorable gentlemen opposite, but they think in the opposite doctrinaire direction. They do not believe in property rights, but I am one who passionately believes in property rights. When you destroy property rights - the right of an individual or a company or a group of individuals to have property - you are destroying liberty.
How the honorable member for Hindmarsh could twist a statement of that nature for his own vicarious pleasure, I do not know. Of course, the honorable member has been through a lot recently. I would not like to have the hot breath of a man like Dougherty on my neck for all the seats in South Australia. But let us leave the honorable member for Hindmarsh with his distorted idea of those people in the world who do not agree with his opinions. 1 now turn to the bill. It is difficult, in the time which the Government has afforded, to absorb all the phases of the proposed legislation. The possibilities of its effectiveness in the future are hard to estimate. I find myself submerged in a wave of words, in a bill which covers 22 pages; but when one surfaces it becomes apparent that the bill is designed to set up a wholly new administrative machine as between the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Public Service Board, with the Australian Broadcasting Commission thrown in where appropriate. The big question which poses itself to me is whether the new authority to be given to the Minister and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will create harmony, and whether that authority will lend itself to a conflict of ideals in administration.
In addition, the bill itself is hard to comprehend. It refers to previous acts, and without those previous acts, taken side by side and in conjunction with the bill, a true appreciation of the intention of the bill is impossible. There seems to be a predilection, in framing new legislation, for the draftsman to take a short cut and leave the legislator stranded in the woods of deletions and additions. The first ten pages of the bill are concerned with a completely new administrative structure. With tedious repetition, the bill states that section soandso of the principal act is amended, and so on. Surely there should be some means of printing a bill, for the consideration of the House, to show the portions of the old legislation that are being omitted and, by the use of different print, to outline the new provisions. But nobody seems to worry about that. The bill as a whole may be a good one, but it is obvious that it has its weaknesses. That being so, it should be subjected to a closer scrutiny than the Government has permitted.
As I see it, the bill appears to provide for variations in the organization of staff associations. It proposes to bring the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, as well as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to a stage at which their independence, in respect of staff, will disappear, and to establish conditions comparable to those which obtain in the Public Service. This may be a good thing, but it will destroy the independent character of the commission and the board which hitherto have been able to control their staffing affairs. As far as the Australian Broadcasting Commission is concerned, it has previously been free from ministerial interference. Yet, all the way through the bill the Minister appears to emerge triumphant.
Clause 28 is fairly hard for a Liberal to swallow. To my way of thinking, that clause is far too arbitrary, but how it may be altered I do not know, as I have not had sufficient time to consider the whole matter. Perhaps in the more benign atmosphere of another place adequate consideration will be given to this aspect of the bill. Clause 28 proposes to invest the board - an administrative body - with judicial power. It provides the board with a responsibility far beyond its capacity to discharge without fear of the consequences. That is a highly dangerous thing to do. The board is an administrative body, or a technical body if we wish to so term it, and now it is proposed to make it a judicial body. Let us have a look at the complement of the board as it is at present constituted. The chairman has the background of a solicitor and a parliamentary draftsman, with little business experience. One member was a communications engineer, and another member has similar qualifications. One member is a school teacher and another a retired commercial broadcasting station manager who represents the only hope that the board might appreciate the problems involved in dealing with programmes.
With the very best intentions in the world, one must question the wisdom of placing on those persons the responsibility to determine questions of a judicial nature. The House may remember that I spoke in this chamber of my reactions after I visited Melbourne in February last and had seen the board at work. At that time, the board was engaged, as it is now, in conducting the television inquiry. I was not impressed with its handling of the inquiry. It was obvious that it had lost control of the inquiry, and it was only when the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), accompanied by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), went to Melbourne and spoke strongly to the board of the conduct of the inquiry that some semblance of control was established. It is to that board that the bill proposes that judicial power should be given. That is too fantastic for words.
I now turn to proposed new section 92g. It strikes me as an odd sort of business that the Government should be dictating what shall appear in the articles of association of a company holding a licence. I shall not be surprised if, as time goes by and the pressure decreases, the Attorney-General, with his infinite capacity, presents the Government with a model set of articles of association which, like the celebrated “Tiger” salve, will be the cure-all for all complaints.
Overall, the second-reading speech of the Postmaster-General was rather disturbing;
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, as the honorable member for Mitchell is making a number of good points, could you arrange for an attendant to go amongst the Government benches and wake up Government supporters?
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will resume his seat.
– I thank the honorable member for East Sydney, who has had his usual afternoon nap. I point out that my colleagues have not been so fortunate. He must excuse them. As I was remarking before the honorable member’s intervention, the speech of the Postmaster-General was a rather disturbing one. On several occasions he referred to certain matters, but contented himself by saying that he would leave the actual details of them for discussion at the committee stage. If the committee stage is as jet propelled as the discussion that has taken place during the second-reading stage, it is obvious that adequate consideration will be impossible. From time to time in this place I have said that the functions of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are too diversified and are beyond the capacity of one Minister to administer. Obviously the time has come to separate the functions of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Certainly there is a need to separate telecommunications from the ordinary run of postal business.
– I will explain if the honorable member will listen. I am glad that he is awake. Telecommunications is unquestionably a technical department and requires the full-time attention of somebody having legal and technical experience.
I conclude by saying that the bill seems to drag the board out of a mire that it has created by jumping up and down in the one place for far too long. I hope that the board will be able to function more successfully, but little imagination is required to predict that before long the Government life-savers will again be required to extricate the board from its next set of difficulties.
I will support the second reading of the bill because 1 believe it has some very good features which should be retained. However, I reserve my right to further thought on certain clauses of the bill.
.Mr. Deputy Speaker, could I at this stage appeal to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) to adjourn the debate so that honorable members may go away and have a few hours’ rest? They could then return to the chamber and take an intelligent interest in the debate that is now taking place on this most important measure. The manner in which the debate is being conducted holds up democratic government to ridicule. It is no wonder that when people look in on the proceedings of this Parliament they go away absolutely disgusted and losing faith in the institution of democratic government. It is disgraceful that at this late hour members of the Opposition should be forced to sit here and listen to the violent attacks being made by Government supporters on the Australian Labour Party.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) made a vicious attack on the Labour Party because it had had the audacity to criticize the Australian Country Party. Let the honorable member for Indi take warning. At the last election he was able to beat a Liberal Party candidate only because he obtained the preferences of the Labour Party candidate. When we let it be known in Indi how he has repaid tha* support in this Parliament, I have no doubt that he will suffer a serious reverse at the next election.
The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) attacked the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), claiming that he had misquoted the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I listened very attentively to what the honorable member for Mitchell read to us and if it did not mean exactly what the honorable member for Hindmarsh said it meant, then I know nothing about the English language. The honorable member for Hindmarsh claimed that the honorable member for Moreton had said, in effect, that private property must be put before every other interest, even that of humanity. The honorable member for Moreton has a reputation for making reckless statements in this Parliament. No sooner has he made them than he wants to retract them. I recollect that he made a statement wherein he attributed all the trouble in Israel to the Jews. When he realized how much trouble he had stirred up in certain sections of the community he wanted to retrace his steps and say that he had not meant what he said.
I am interested in this legislation. I was impressed by the excellent speeches delivered on the bill by my colleagues. Last night the House passed a piece of legislation which the Opposition described as a step towards the police state. If you want oneparty political control in any country it is necessary first to have a monopoly over the medium of propaganda. The party that controls television, radio and the newspapers is almost impossible to shift without a revolution because it is able through those media to sway the opinions of the community. We all know that clever propaganda, continually disseminated through those media, can have an enormous effect on the attitude of the public to various questions. Why is it that the Labour Party does not control any television stations? The party tried to gain control over some stations. It applied for a licence. I recollect that the present Chief Justice of New South Wales, Dr. Evatt, and Mr. Dougherty of the Australian Workers Union, applied on behalf of the Labour Party for a television licence, but they did not receive any consideration. When they applied it was common talk within the ranks of the Labour movement that they had no chance of getting a licence.
Whenever this matter is raised Government supporters say that no television stations are owned by the Liberal Party. That is a lot of rubbish. The Liberal Party does not need directly to own a television station because all the television licences are held by people who support the Liberal Party. So, in effect, we have a monopoly of Liberal Party interests controlling television in this country. Liberal Party interests control, almost exclusively, radio stations with the exception of one or two that are controlled by the trade union movement and the Labour Party. Supporters of the Liberal Party also control all major newspapers in this country.
What can the Labour Party do to break this monopoly? I say that we must nationalize television in this country. By that I do not mean, as is implied by Government supporters, that only one political point of view would be permitted through the medium of television. The Labour Party would aim to make the control of television stations a national control and ownership. Time on those stations would be sold to various sections of the community desiring it. The party would see that every recognized political thought in the country had the opportunity to express its views on television. But what is the position to-day? Time on television stations is so expensive that the Labour Party is practically excluded from using television. The savage penalties inflicted on the trade union movement by the court, at the instigation of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), have deprived the trade union movement of funds with which at election time it could have paid for time for the Labour Party on television stations. This is part of a campaign to destroy the Labour Party and to prevent its voice being heard by the people.
I am not worried about this legislation. It is a sham. The Governor-General’s Speech contained a statement that the Government proposed to do something about monopolies. Even a child in kindergarten knows that this country has been practically handed over to monopolies, which are now in almost complete control. It is well known that this Government is the political mouthpiece of those monopolies. Is anybody naive enough to believe that this legislation is aimed at breaking up monopolies? Does anybody believe that the newspapers are putting up anything other than a sham fight? I will tell honorable members why the newspapers are conducting a campaign of a kind against this legislation. They think that the Labour Party will be foolish enough to believe that because the newspapers appear to oppose the legislation, the party should support it. It should be obvious to every Government supporter who has any knowledge of the constitutional situation in this country that this legislation cannot stand.
The Government knows that the first time the legislation is challenged in the court it will go overboard. If the Government genuinely and seriously wants to do something about this matter, why does it not bring forward the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee, which would give the Parliament - and the Government - the opportunity to ask the people at a referendum for the power to deal with monopolies. This measure will not give that power to the Government because, as I have said, it is quite obvious that the measure is wide open to challenge in the courts if the people affected by it want to challenge it.
What does the Government say? It says that it has sufficient information available now to justify this type of legislation. I tell the Minister that there is not even sufficient information in the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s report. We would like a proper search to be made of the share registers, because I should not be at all surprised to find, if we had a proper, minute search of the share registers, that many Government supporters and their relatives would be shown to have their tentacles stretching into this field, just as is the case in regard to many other commercial interests in this country.
So, before we start to talk about the type of legislation we ought to introduce, we should have a most thorough examination of the share lists. We ought to try to discover whether there are any dummies acting for other people. In these matters, that is the only way in which we can get that information.
Why does the Government want to rush this legislation through? Why does it not give the Parliament an opportunity of considering the legislation properly? Why does it not accept the amendment moved by the Opposition and send the bill back for further investigation? I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) was greatly concerned because under the power given in the bill the Minister, if he wished, could cancel any licences which had been issued, or fail to renew them. That is one of the redeeming features of the present situation, because I can imagine, in other circumstances, a Labour Postmaster-General having a look at licences to see whether a Labour government would be justified in renewing them, or whether it could provide an effective means of breaking up the monopolistic control that exists to-day.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh must be complimented on the excellent way in which ne dissected the various interlocking controls of television, radio and newspapers in this country. He must have been very painstaking and have put in a tremendous amount of time in securing this information which, up to this point, no member on the Government side has been able to challenge or contradict.
This canvassing amongst Liberal Party interests for the placing of shares in various companies in my opinion was a real revelation to every member of this Parliament this evening, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh is to be complimented on his work.
I do not think we ought to have an appeal provision in the bill, as the honorable member for Chisholm suggested. This is not said in the way of any personal attack on judges, but surely everybody in this Parliament recognizes that even a judge has his political viewpoint. He has his inclinations to support one line of political thought or the other. When elections come round he exercises his right to vote, and if we had the opportunity to know how judges vote we would probably find that they vote unanimously for the Liberal Party. So, when they are dealing with such matters as this it is quite obvious that their tendency would be to support the same people who support the Liberal Party in this Parliament - the great wealthy interests who also own or control these great television organizations.
The honorable member for Chisholm said he favoured the present system of having national stations running side by side with commercial stations. I am not an authority on the quality of the programmes put over by either the commercial or national stations. I have seen programmes on both which I found enjoyable, interesting and educational. I have also seen some programmes that I regarded as a lot of rubbish. What I am more concerned about than the quality of the entertainment provided - what I am more worried about - is the political influence that television stations can have on the people. That, in my opinion, is much more important from the Labour viewpoint than the quality of entertainment, important as that also may be.
I am hoping, therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Government, even at this late hour, will do something to see that the monopolistic control of television is broken up. I know, when I appeal to the Government, that it is useless appealing to certain of its supporters. But surely in the Government’s ranks there are people to whom that statement does not apply. Surely if the members of the Country Party really represent country interests they ought to be seeing that something more effective is done about breaking up the monopolies than is proposed in this legislation.
This legislation will, in my opinion, give a monopoly control to one organization - and that is without taking into account interlocking directorates and interlocking shareholdings. We know that if the interlocking of directorates and shareholdings were properly examined it would be found that great monopoly control exists not only of the medium of propaganda and entertainment but also of private industry. At least we ought to have some effective measures produced in this Parliament to deal with that position.
The Country Party ought to be doing something about the establishment of really independent country stations. Who falls for this talk by the Government about the legislation providing that preference is to be given to local interests? According to the Government local interests are to provide the capital and are to establish the country stations. But what is the use of having a country television station if you have not the programmes to transmit over it? You may have the station but the other people, who control the programmes and bring the films and other material into this country really exercise the control.
The Government knows because it is kidding the Country Party that unless it does something to make it appear that it wants independent country stations it will lose the support of the members of the Country
Party. So what does it say? It says that programmes must be made available to the country stations and at reasonable prices. Who will determine what a reasonable price is to be? Will that be determined by a Commonwealth public servant, or by the Minister? The Government knows full well that the Commonwealth has no constitutional power to fix the price of anything. So the Government is only pretending that it is going to do something about monopolistic control.
I am hoping that the people of this country will be able to see through this sham legislation and that they will realize that this Government will go on talking of doing something about monopolies, but will never act. Honorable members should take their minds back to the general election of 1949. Then, the Prime Minister, when talking about the growth of monopolies in this country, and about excessive profits, proposed to do something about them. He was going to introduce an excess profits tax. In the same way, the Government now promises to deal with monopolies. But what happened to the excess profits tax? In answer to. question after question in this House, we were assured that the Government had not lost sight of its electoral promise of 1949. We were told that all we had to do was to be patient; that the legislation was in the hands of the Parliamentary Draftsman and eventually would be introduced. But nothing happened. I well recollect the Prime Minister telling me on one occasion that I had nothing to worry about because, he said, when the legislation was introduced it would be made retrospective. Where is the excess profits tax? We have not seen it to this day. We are not likely to see it, because the former Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, was sent into the House - the Government having to do its best to save face - to say that the committee dealing with taxation had discovered that there were certain constitutional difficulties which prevented the Government from doing anything about excess profits.
We asked for the production in this Parliament of the minutes of the committee on taxation, but the Government would not produce them. I have had a look at them. They were confidential minutes. I have even had an opportunity to look at one or two other things that are regarded as confidential. I had an opportunitiy to have a look at the minutes of that committee and I shall tell you what they contained. They contained a report that the committee had told the Government that it was impossible to frame legislation to deal effectively with excess profits, not because of constitutional difficulties, but because of the restrictions imposed upon the committee by Sir Arthur Fadden, in his position as Treasurer, in a letter which he had written to it. He had, in effect, made it absolutely impossible for the committee to draft or to prepare effective legislation to deal with excess profits. That is what the Government did with regard to excess profits. Is anybody in this Parliament foolish enough to believe that this Government has any genuine intention of doing anything to deal effectively with the great monopolies of this country? They are the very people who provide the sinews of war for the Government parties. I invite honorable members to read the “ Hansard “ reports in this connexion.
We have heard the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) and other honorable members talking in very respectful terms about a former Prime Minister, the late Mr. Chifley. They have said what a great Australian he was, although when he was alive, supporters of the Government stated that he was a near Communist, if they did not go to the point of saying that he was a Communist. Since he died, he has become a great Australian, and Government member after Government member talks of him in these terms. If he was a great man, we can accept what he said about the great monopolies supporting the anti-Labour parties in this Parliament. It is on record in “ Hansard “ that after the 1949 general election, Mr. Chifley declared that he knew that the Government parties had been financed by the private banks of this country, and he challenged the Government to have an investigation into his allegation. If Mr. Chifley was unable to support his allegation, or if there were no evidence to substantiate it, why did not the Government seize the opportunity to have an investigation which would have proved his statement to be completely at variance with the facts? Mr. Chifley knew what had happened. Is it to be supposed that the private banks are the only monopolies in this country which are supporting this Government?
– I rise to a point of order. It appears to me that the honorable member for East Sydney is not touching the bill at all. I appeal to you, Sir, to see that he directs his remarks to the bill. I have listened intently to his speech, and for the last twenty minutes or so he has not referred to the bill at all. He has followed his usual line of abuse and he has revealed that in the past he has been snooping and looking at private documents.
– There is no breach of order involved at the moment. The honorable member for East Sydney has been discussing the matter of monopoly control, which is covered by this bill in general, if not in specific terms. However, I ask the honorable member not to spend a great deal of time on that aspect of the matter.
– I should like to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your excellent ruling. I believe that you have displayed such great ability that you ought to be given a more important post in this Parliament. I return to the question of monopolies. Government members have made it a feature of their speeches that this measure is designed to break up monopolistic control. I shall show that the Government has no intention of breaking up monopolistic control. As a matter of fact, it has not the power to do so. It dare not do so. Where is it going to get the sinews of war if it does anything to offend the Packers, the Murdochs and the Hendersons? Do honorable members imagine for a moment that the Government parties will continue to get considerable contributions to their funds at electiotime if they do anything against the wishes of these people?
I remember that Lord Casey, when he was the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and we were going to deal with banking legislation, convened a meeting of private bankers. He conferred with them to ascertain their wishes and later he admitted in this Parliament that the intentions of the Government had been modified. The Government at that time intended .to. carry out certain of the recommendations of the royal commission on banking which it had appointed. It intended to legislate in respect of certain of the recommendations, but Lord Casey, in his position as Treasurer, had a conference with the private bankers and he then decided to amend the Government’s legislation.
If monopolies have such great power in this country that they can influence legislation, how are we to know that the Government has not had a conference with the newspaper proprietors and with those who control television and radio? They are all in the one circle. I would not be a bit surprised if the Government has had a secret conference with them and discussed how it should handle this matter. How often do we find the Government passing ineffective legislation? We have heard about legislation to protect Australian industries, but how much action has been taken under that legislation? How much action has been taken by the Government to restrictive trade practices?
– This bill should be withdrawn until we have the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
– That is perfectly true. It is likely that the board’s report will be so adverse that the Government must rush this legislation through before the board announces its judgment. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) tried to ridicule the board. I do not know enough about it to be able to say whether I favour its personnel, so I am not criticizing it. All I am saying is that it is a public body and that up to this point there has been very little criticism of it. The honorable member for Mitchell went right through the membership of the board and talked about the occupations of its respective members, evidently working on the assumption that because they had been engaged in other activity previously they could not handle effectively the work on which they are now engaged. In this connexion, it is not a question of what you know. If you are a member of a board appointed by this Government, you are expected to bring down the report that the Government desires. Evidently this board is not doing that, because the Government is afraid to delay this legislation until we have ascertained what, the board has said with respect to it. . Why cannot we have a little delay? There is no hurry about this legislation. In my opinion, we have ample time. It is a wellpaid occupation on which we are now engaged, so we ought to be devoting our full time to it. I know that most of the Government members want to get away to their private businesses, but they are being paid to carry on the business of the nation. What does it matter if we have to sit on Friday or over the weekend, or to come back next week or for the next couple of weeks? We are well-paid for this particular occupation, and therefore legislation that is presented to this Parliament–
– Why did not the honorable member say that when the Parliamentary salaries legislation was before the House?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service is interjecting. He has never worked in his life. He thinks that work is a disease, but he has the audacity to interject while I, a Labour representative, am putting my considered opinion in respect of this matter before the House. The honorable member for Mitchell has said that the bill is difficult to absorb, and he has referred to the fact that some of the clauses are vague and repetitive. Government members have an opportunity to learn something about a measure before it reaches the Opposition, because I assume that it is discussed in the Government Parties’ rooms. Or do they not have any discussion of legislation in their party room? Is the form of legislation determined by the select few in the Cabinet? This is supposed to be a democratic government.
The Australian Labour Party is not going to be a party to the Government’s arrangements to try to get legislation rushed through this Parliament because it wants to finish the session by next Friday. The Opposition has no arrangement with the Government. We want proper and full discussion of legislation in this Parliament. Everybody knows that for weeks we have been twiddling our thumbs in this place without having any real work to do. Then the Government introduced a bill to tap telephones and gagged it through this Parliament so that members who wanted to voice their viewpoint on it could not do so. If we are to have democratic government, every member of this Parliament, irrespective of whether he is a member of the Opposition or a Government supporter, should have the right to express his point of view on important legislation. As the Minister for Labour who is interjecting appears about to have a stroke I am going to conclude. I would not like the honorable member to be affected in that way because Opposition members have had the audacity to criticize Government legislation. But let me tell the Government that as far as my colleagues and I are concerned the game of kiss-in-the-ring is over for all time.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been grievously misrepresented on two grounds. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said, in effect, that I had stated that I believed that property rights were greater than human rights. As the honorable gentleman has not trodden the paths of righteousness I want to make the position completely clear. I said, inter alia, that I am one of those who have been driven to the conclusion that liberty has in very great measure to be equated with property rights. That relates to the first ground of misrepresentation. The second ground is that the honorable gentleman said that I had accused the Jews of Australia of being responsible for all this. That is monstrously untrue. I invite the honorable gentleman to lay on the table of this House any evidence that he can bring in support of that monstrous allegation. I hope the honorable gentleman will accept my invitation.
For once in my political life I find myself in agreement with a very small section of what the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has said. He said that this is not an appropriate hour for the Parliament to discuss a bill which deals with the life and affairs of the community. With that I agree. It is not possible to deal with this bill effectively for the simple reason that it is the most comprehensive piece of legislation that has been brought down this session. It requires very careful thought and consideration. I do not think it is possible to give it that thought and consideration in the closing stages of the session, particularly in the early hours of the morning.
The bill has been introduced because, as the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) stated, it is realized that the rapid expansion of broadcasting and television has brought problems with which it is desirable to de:;l in amending legislation of this kind. The time has come for careful consideration to be given by the Government to the vast ramifications of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The more one studies the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the more one is convinced that those two bodies have grown to a considerable size. The commission now has an annual expenditure of well over £6,000,000, whilst the board affects the destinies of many very big commercial institutions. Consequently, I cannot see how it is possible for the PostmasterGeneral to keep careful check and control of the technicalities that exist in the Postal Department, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the Broadcasting Control Board which covers these various television and broadcasting authorities.
The bill provides for a completely new division 3 which, I understand from the Minister’s speech, replaces division 3, of part IV. of the principal act. I do not propose to discuss it at great length for the simple reason that I have not been able to examine it closely enough; but two principal things are sought to be done under the new division. Sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 92 reads -
A person shall not be in a position to exercise control, either directly or indirectly, of - . . .
more than two licences in respect of commercial television stations in Australia.
That is the first purpose of the proposed new division. Its second purpose is to provide that 80 per cent, of the share capital of a company holding a licence shall be held by residents of this country and that no non-resident shall hold more than 15 per cent, of the capital. I think that we can all see very great virtue in that; but these two provisions must have some very far- reaching effects on television companies. I could imagine the share registers being very closely examined to see how they complied with this bill. It is quite possible and understandable that the companies concerned might have had some approaches to make to the Minister and some amendments to recommend which might help !o strengthen the bill, but they will not have an opportunity to do so. I do not think it is fair and equitable that these people, whoever they might be, big or small, should not be given the opportunity to look into this bill and see how it affects them and their future development. Even the Postmaster-General seems to be in some quandary as to the effect of some of the clauses of the bill. If he is in a quandary, how much more difficult must it be for honorable members who have seen the bill more recently to understand its implications?
The Minister has not yet told the House what paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 92 means. He has said only that it will be further examined at the committee stage. When we are told, in committee, what this means we will have to make up our minds on the spot as to whether we accept the proposed new section. I do not think that is quite reasonable and fair to the House because we may desire to add something to the bill in order to strengthen it or we might possibly suggest some amendment. We should not have to wait till the committee stage to know about these matters. It is not quite fair and reasonable to treat the House in this way.
Clause 28, which has probably been well described as a “ programme “ clause, rather alarms me for many reasons. I agree with those who have expressed the opinion in this debate that it involves interference with the property rights of the individual. The liberty of the individual is, I believe, a very important requisite of good democracy, and I do not think that it should be trifled with in any way lest precedent be created, because from that precedent might flow very great changes from conditions that we have accepted. This provision should please those persons who believe that there is in the community an unwarranted power which is being used for the purpose of cornering and monopolizing the use of television films. No evidence of the existence of that power has been produced. I have heard that that kind of thing does go on. Whether the reports are based on hearsay or gossip, or whether there is any truth in them, I do not know. No evidence has been produced by the Minister or by any other member of the Parliament during the debate to show that the ring that is supposed to exist in the community does in fact exist. Such evidence should have been produced, if it was possible to produce it, at the inquiry that is now taking place into broadcasting and television. I attended the inquiry because it was very convenient for me to do so. It is being conducted just outside my electorate, in the electorate of Melbourne Ports, and it has been going on for some considerable time. Out of curiosity, I was present while evidence was being taken. It was a very interesting experience and I propose to refer to it later on.
I would be rather surprised if cornering of television films did go on. I support the statement that was made to-night by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). Those who are engaged in the industry say that there is at present no dearth of television films and no difficulty in getting them. I understand, in fact, that agents are going round television stations in an effort to get them to accept the films that the agents have for sale.
The matter of monopoly control of entertainment was raised. I am reminded that the Government is not without sin in this matter of monopolizing and using restrictive practices. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) mentioned the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, in which the Government has a very great financial interest. As honorable members well know, the trust has the entertainment rights of “ Summer of the Seventeenth Doll “. The Government’s interest in the Elizabethan Theatre Trust is not only financial. It also has two representatives on the trust, namely, the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and another nominee of that commission. I sincerely hope that the Government will bring before those two representatives its desire, as expressed in the bill, that monopolies should be stopped. 1 hope that the Government will induce its two representatives on the trust to use their influence to make the entertainment rights of “ Summer of the Seventeeth Doll “ available to all of those repertory theatres which are at present so anxious to produce it.
The bill will make it impossible for any owner of a television film to withhold it from the licensee of a television station. Obviously, this provision is intended to prevent monopoly control of the market. if as we are told, there are monopolies, and it is difficult to get television films, there is a great deal of substance in the provision and it is entitled to our support. But I have not yet heard anybody give factual evidence about this mysterious ring that is said to exist in the community and to control the use of films. The Minister said that there was real virtue in the provision. 1 personally see great inequity in the action that may well flow from its inclusion. I believe that it will inflict great injustice on the small playwright whose play is televised or filmed for the purpose of television. I see him being paid much less than his ability and merit, because any television licensee would pay a playwright much more for the exclusive rights to his play or to the film of it than if the licensee knew that the play could be used by any other person. Therefore, the value placed upon the art and property of the playwright will be discounted considerably by the passage of this clause. Initiative will be immediately handicapped by this discounting of the highest reward that a playwright may get. Those people who work on films have many disappointments. It is only the thought that some day they may crack the jackpot, if I may use that expression, and will be paid their full reward for all the hard work they have done, that encourages them to continue. This bill will undoubtedly cut right across their prospects of getting the reward which they rightly deserve. After all, if it were not for them, we would be without much of the good entertainment that we enjoy to-day.
There is another aspect of the provision to which I wish to direct attention. The finer feelings of the owner or author of films are not considered. A number of things could happen. An ecclesiastical owner of a film might object to having his film associated with the advertisement of a product that is distasteful to him.
This product might be the product of a brewery. One might say, “ The answer to that is quite easy. The licensee would not use it for that purpose “. But the films go into the library of a licensee, and the advertiser, who is not concerned one bit about the propriety of using a particular film, contracts with the licensee. Therefore it is quite possible that the ecclesiastical owner of a film who is concerned about the manner in which it is to be used, may well find that it is being used in relation to something that is completely distasteful to him.
That is the effect of the bill. I believe that much more consideration should be given to clause 28. The final arbitrator will be the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which will decide the just and reasonable terms upon which a playwright must make his film available to a licensee. As I have said, 1 have seen this board in action, and, with very great respect to its chairman, I must say that it appeared to me on the day on which 1 went along to the inquiry that the witnesses were subjected to treatment to which they would never be subjected in a court of law. I believe that any playwright or any owner of a film would not want to be dragged before this board so that the board could try to find out whether or not he should be compelled to hand over his television film. I believe that the very fear of that would probably induce the owner of a television film to make it available at a much lower price than he would have asked in normal circumstances. For that reason, Mr. Speaker, I consider that clause 28 deserves further consideration by the Government.
I must say that I have no confidence in the Australian Broadcasting Control Board as a final arbiter of just and reasonable conditions or terms. It is not a judicial board, and I consider that only a judicial board should exercise this function. Proper control should be exercised over the application of the law of evidence in inquiries as to just and reasonable terms, and it should be exercised by some body which is in a better position to control these things than is the existing authority. I hope that the Minister will reply to this debate and assure us before the bill goes into committee that he proposes to consider this clause further. I see in it the likelihood of a great deal of inequity and unreasonableness, and I believe that it will cause a tremendous amount of trouble.
I propose to vote for the bill at this stage, but I hope that it will be amended in committee. I hope particularly that clause 28 will be amended.
.Mr. Speaker, I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I am sorry that the Government has not listened to the pleas of honorable members of both sides of the House that the consideration of this important measure by the Parliament be deferred in order to afford honorable members an opportunity to examine it more thoroughly. It contains 35 clauses, covering 22 pages, and contains approximately 1,000 lines. As some honorable members have quite openly stated, we have received very little explanation of it, and it is therefore very difficult to understand. The observations made by honorable members who have challenged various parts of the measure in this debate are worthy of the Government’s consideration.
Early this evening, the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the opinion given by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) when he was in practice at the bar before he entered this House - an opinion which had been sought by Herald and Weekly Times Limited and which seems to raise grave doubts as to whether this bill, which seeks to limit the control of television stations will, in effect, be of any real worth. One would have thought, Mr. Speaker, that the Attorney-General would have come into the House and given us the benefit of a statement as to where he stands in the matter. Or is he prepared to give a legal opinion only when he is paid for it 200 guineas or some like amount? He certainly gave the newspaper interests an opinion willingly when he was paid for it. As I have said, that opinion appears to indicate clearly that this bill, which is designed to limit monopoly control of television stations, will have little effect.
The House in indebted to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) for the excellent speech that he made this evening - a speech in which he placed on record the ramifications of the monopoly control exercised by newspaper companies which control practically all the mediums of mass communication in Australia, including the press, radio and television. We are indebted, also, to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) for an excellent address. He has been described by one honorable member as the watch-dog of democracy, and he pointed out the need for eternal vigilance, which, he said, was the price of liberty. So well did the honorable member for East Sydney speak that he roused members of the Australian Country Party, and particularly their energetic Whip, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) who took a point of order. It is easy to understand why the honorable member for Mallee raised a point of order. The reason was that the honorable member for East Sydney was pointing out the danger, at the political level, of control of television and other mediums of mass communication getting into fewer and fewer hands. We know that the honorable member for Mallee objected to this being pointed out because he knows full well that the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, through its official organ, “The Land “, is attempting to gain control of several country television stations. Strangely enough, one of the leader writers for this official organ of the graziers’ organization, which is affiliated with the Australian Country Party, is none other than “ Peter Snodgrass “.
– Who is he?
– “ Peter Snodgrass” is really the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who, by another strange coincidence, is on record as saying that he does not believe in social services. Yet he is now Minister for Social Services! So we have the graziers’ organization and the Australian Country Party attempting to get control of television as a medium of mass communication.
As I have said, the honorable member for East Sydney warned the House of the dangers associated with these great monopolies that are gradually gaining control of the mediums of mass communication with the people - the press, radio and television. For the benefit of those honorable members who are not asleep, I should like-
– You cannot blame those who are asleep for dropping off.
– That is right; one cannot blame them. One must blame this Government, which denies to many the right to express their views, and which keeps us here in order to make us consider legislation in the early hours of the morning. Nor do I blame those honorable members who have had to go home because they are in ill health. A number of Government supporters have had to stretch themselves out on various couches. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) was so distressed this evening that he had to lie down with his feet up on one of the benches in order to recover. That reminds me that while the Minister was in that condition we were waiting for the Attorney-General to come into the House to assist us in this matter, and we were informed that he was doing the job that the Minister for Labour and National Service could not do, for he was trying to soften up Mr. Healy, the well-known Communist, who is leader of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. I think that we were entitled to expect the AttorneyGeneral to give us legal advice on this important measure.
Sir Richard Boyer, who is well known to honorable members, has expressed some thoughts on democracy and mass communications, and given warnings that this Parliament would do well to heed. In an address given in Perth on the occasion of Royal Perth Hospital Week, in October, 1959, Sir Richard spoke of television and said -
Television, of course, is too young to be charged seriously with the sins associated with the tragedy of World War II. and the Cold War which followed it. I have no doubt that if it had covered Germany, Italy and Russia as radio did, its record would have been equally black, but it is a post-war infant, too young for much sin. It was the fate of Radio, however, to come to maturity in the inter-war period, between the twenties and forties of our tragic generation.
While we of the more sedate and experienced democracies were trying to fit this new force into our liberal conceptions, the revolutionaries of Germany, Italy and Russia eagerly grasped it as a major, if not the major, weapon of dictatorship.
Television is a far more powerful weapon than the radio, because with television we have the picture as well as the voice. If it is used in the future as radio was used in the days to which Sir Richard Boyer has referred, it could well bring disaster to many democracies. Sir Richard goes on to say -
I shall personally never forget the time which I spent in Germany in 1935 when Hitler and his party–
– What has this to do with the bill?
– I hope that it will shock Government members out of their lethargy and serve as a warning of the danger of allowing the control of television, radio and newspapers to get into the hands of a few people.
– There are safeguards in the bill.
– I do not believe that there are safeguards.
– How can there be a monopoly when there is a national and a commercial service?
– It is very entertaining to hear that remark from the honorable member, who is a constant interjector. Of course, he is well known in the graziers’ association as the man who moved a resolution that the wage of shearers be reduced by £1 a week.
– I have never spoken on that subject.
Order! The honorable member for Hume will remain silent.
– Well that is the report which we received.
– What a liar!
- Mr. Speaker, I ask that the honorable member for Hume withdraw that remark.
– Well, do not tell lies about him.
- Mr. Speaker, I ask that the Minister withdraw that remark also.
– Order! What is the statement to which the honorable member refers?
– The honorable member for Hume said, “ That is a lie “, and the Minister said, “ Do not tell lies “. Both remarks are offensive to me.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Hume to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw and apologize.
– What about the Minister?
– Order! The Minister should exercise a little restraint.
– I ask for a withdrawal, Mr. Speaker.
– Order! Did the Minister make the remark to which the honorable member has referred?
– The honorable member for Kingston made a remark about the honorable member for Hume and I said, “ Do not tell lies about him “. I am not disposed to withdraw in view of the remarks which the honorable member for Kingston made.
– Order! The honorable member for Kingston will continue.
– Very well.
– You had better take that advice.
– Order! We will get on much better if honorable members remain silent.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I agree with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that we are paid to do a job. If honorable members opposite want to interject, if they do not want to listen to the debate, if they have no interest in this Parliament, let them go home to bed. Do not make a mockery of this Parliament by trying to intimidate Opposition members into sitting down. I object most strongly to the unruly interjections which have come from the Government side. I shall now continue to inform honorable members of the warning which was given by Sir Richard Boyer.
– Order! I hope the honorable member will not draw too much on the report of Sir Richard Boyer. He can make a passing reference to it.
– We are unable to obtain an opinion from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Am I not allowed to refer to a warning, issued by one of the best- informed men in Australia, as to the danger of allowing the control of television stations to fall into the hands of newspaper interests? If you say, Mr. Speaker, that I am not allowed to read from the report of Sir Richard Boyer, if you do not want to hear it because you think it is not important -
– Order! That is not the point. The honorable member must not allow the report to supersede the subject before the Chair.
– I did not intend to, but I believe that the report contained an opinion which the Parliament is entitled to know, and should know.
– Order! The honorable member will proceed with caution.
– Sir Richard Boyer referred to the dangerous position which could arise, and explained how the medium of radio was used to influence the revolutionaries in Germany, Italy and Russia. He pointed out that they were the first people in the electronic era to realize the full power which lay in the radio medium to persuade, to terrify and to influence national passions.
It is remarkable that the newspaper interests which have gradually built themselves into a monopoly have always been opposed politically to the Labour Party, but despite that opposition we have been able to win electoral victories. The Government, by allowing control of the means of communication to fall into the hands of a select band of Government supporters - the newspaper proprietors, through their interlocking companies, have, as the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) pointed out, gained control of the radio stations - has had a weapon with which to campaign against the Labour Party. The control of television stations is -now passing into the hands of these monopoly interests. But the time may come when those interests will sell out to a political party other than one of the established parties in this country. The warning which has been given by Sir Richard Boyer as to how dictatorships come into being by allowing the powerful media of mass com munication to fall into the hands of a few, should be well heeded.
I support the amendment which has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) asking that the passage of this legislation be deferred until we hear the opinions of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. We are entitled to know the views of the board. In fact, we are entitled to know much more than we have been told by the Government.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to a legal opinion, given by Sir Garfield Barwick, Q.C., before he entered politics, that legislation of the kind which is now before us can have no real effect. To-day Sir Garfield Barwick is the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth. It could well be that any prosecution launched under this legislation would be launched by the Attorney-General. What will happen when litigation takes place? What will the Attorney-General say when he is confronted with the opinion which he expressed some time ago on behalf of Herald and Weekly Times Ltd.? Does he stand by that opinion now? If he does not, he should tell us so. He is no longer the hireling of the newspaper interests of this country who paid him 200 guineas to express a legal opinion. He is a Minister of the Crown and a servant of the Parliament. The Parliament is entitled to know his opinion and, even at this late hour, he should rise in his place and reply to the criticisms which have been made by the Leader of the Opposition. Because, as the honorable member for Chisholm has pointed out, the bill is most difficult to understand, honorable members are entitled to receive more information about it. Indeed, the Postmaster-General himself does not appear to understand it. Speaking of the bill that was previously introduced, he said that it had not been proceeded with for reasons that he need not elaborate. When does he intend to tell the House those reasons? He went on to say that this bill incorporates all the matter dealt with in the previous measure, except for one item, and that it includes also additional provisions which experience in the field of broadcasting and television since 1958 has shown to be clearly desirable. The bill seeks to limit the ownership and control of commercial television stations by any one company or concern to two only.
– What is wrong with that?
– The honorable member for Canning is entitled to his opinion, but as he has been sleeping for most of the afternoon he could well keep quiet now. If he does not want to listen to me, at least he could rise in his place and give the House the benefit of any knowledge that he might have. However, I believe that although he is the understudy to the Postmaster-General he knows nothing about the bill. If he does know something about it I should be pleased to stay here even later to hear what he has to say.
– The honorable member should not try me out.
– I sincerely hope that the honorable member does tell the House what he knows about the bill. Proposed new section 92b defines the meaning of control in these terms -
For the purposes of this Division, a person who is, or who, by any application or applications of this section, is deemed to be, in a position to exercise control of more than fifteen per centum of the total votes that could be cast at a general meeting of a company is deemed to be in a position to exercise control of that company and of any voting rights of that company as a shareholder and of all acts and operations of that company.
The key words of that proposed section are “ in a position to exercise control “. The interpretation given to the word “ control “ are set out in proposed section 91 (1.) as follows: - control ‘ includes control as a result of, or by means of, trusts, agreements, arrangements, understandings and practices, whether or not having legal or equitable force and whether or not based on legal or equitable rights.
That is the provision on which we are anxious to hear the views of the AttorneyGeneral, because on 14th October, 1958, the Melbourne “ Herald “ published a statement answering allegations by members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board about the company’s control of other companies, and the “ Herald “ then sought the opinion of two Queen’s Counsel, one of whom was the Attorney-General. The Broadcasting Control Board’s interest in the matter arose from a grant of television licences in Adelaide and Brisbane. The “ Herald “ in its statement declared that the company had an interest of 37 per cent, in Advertiser Newspapers Limited, Adelaide, and an interest of 37 per cent, in Queensland Press Limited, the holding company for the “ Courier-Mail “ and the Brisbane “ Telegraph “. The statement continued that the “ Advertiser “ company had agreed to take up 40 per cent, of shares in Television Broadcasters Limited of Adelaide, and the Queensland Press organization through its operating companies had agreed to take up 28 per cent, of the shares in Brisbane Television Limited. Accordingly, the “ Herald’s “ statement continued -
The annual report of the Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended June, 1959, sets out the shareholdings in all the television companies operating at that date. I mentioned earlier in answer to an interjection by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) that the Country Party has been seeking television licences in country areas through the federal council of the Graziers’ Association and per medium of its official organ, “ The Land “, one of whose feature writers is none other than the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who writes under the nomdeplume of “ Peter Snodgrass.” That shows the ramifications of the actions of this energetic man. I compliment the Country Party Whip upon rising in his place as the outstanding spokesman of his party to try to answer the points that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made. However, we know why he rose; he did not want the attack to be forced home on the Country Party.
The annual report of the Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended June, 1959, sets out the shareholdings in all the television companies operating at that date. Of the 3,000,000 shares in the Adelaide station of Television Broadcasters Limited, 900,000 or 30 per cent, are held by Advertiser Newspapers Limited. With this confusion as to the actual position of the “ Herald’s “ interests, the interpretation of the words already referred to becomes all the more important. Sir Garfield Barwick’s opinion at that time was based upon the phrase in the existing section 91 and was reached after an examination of the more recent cases bearing on the question before the British Court of Appeal and the reasoning of the justices of the High Court of Australia. He stated that the construction of the words “ in a position to exercise control “ is a legal question, not to be resolved by references to speeches or answers to questions made in Parliament.
Whatever the Postmaster-General may tell us to-night or at other stages of the bill, the Attorney-General has already pointed out that once this question reaches the court the opinions expressed here in speeches and answers to questions will have no bearing on the issue. I should like the Attorney-General to inform us later whether an opinion expressed by him in this House as Attorney-General of this nation, would have any bearing in litigation concerning interpretation of legislation.
– The honorable member could have two bob on it.
– I am afraid we would not get an opinion from the AttorneyGeneral for two bob. The honorable member for Wide Bay, who is a solicitor, gives advice for a fee; but the PostmasterGeneral profers his advice without any fee at all, so one cannot expect it to contain much wisdom. However, all honorable members must agree that careful consideration must be given to the opinion of the Attorney-General who has been able to command such a grand fee for his services from these newspaper companies and others. The point he made was that the answers to legal questions could not be resolved by reference to speeches made or answers given to questions in Parliament. We will anxiously wait to see what he has to tell us about that particular reference. The control of a company and, through it, its assets, is a matter to which other statutes have been addressed and some of them have received judicial consideration which has yielded fairly consistent results. Sir Garfield Barwick went on to state that one must credit the draftsman with familiarity with such decisions when approaching the legal construction of the phrase in the present statute. He said -
An instrument prescribing precise legal rights, duties and inhibitions in the language of the law and not in the jargon of the business man.
His next comments have an important bearing on the present legislation. He said that the Board “ appears to reject “ what to his mind was the accepted legal construction of such words, and “ to conclude that a shareholder with a comparatively small percentage of the shares of a company might in certain circumstances which remain unspecified “ effectively control a company.” He said -
The board then appears to think that that company is in all circumstances debarred from holding a commercial television licence, or at least so long as the shareholder himself holds such a licence.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) said I had moved in the graziers council for a reduction of £1 in the wages of shearers. I have never been a delegate to the graziers council. There is not a skerrick of truth in that ugly and unpleasant insinuation made on the spur of the moment.
– If I have reflected on the honorable member I apologize, but I have only repeated a story which circulated throughout the Australian Workers Union.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak to the amendment. Last night, in leading the debate on this bill for the Labour Party the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) used the measure as a vehicle to vent that particular hate which he always seems to exhibit when talking about broadcasting or television - a hate against the boards that are responsible for the administration of those services. He used the bill also to peddle his particular theme - the nationalization of broadcasting and television. It is just as well for us to realize that that is still the objective of the Leader of the Opposition and no doubt, in this matter at any rate, he would receive the support of those who sit behind him. He admitted quite frankly that he had never liked the legislation that set up this dual system of broadcasting and television. It was perfectly obvious that, should he ever again get into power, the commercial service which we have built up would be in danger of being wiped out and the television service would be in danger of nationalization.
He said that the Opposition would prefer a government monopoly. Let us be quite clear on the point. We believe in neither a government monopoly nor a commercial monopoly. This bill is directed to the prevention of any possibility of a commercial monopoly developing and yet I find it very hard to understand the attitude of some Opposition speakers to-night. The Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) and several others have referred to the danger of commercial television getting into the hands of the big newspaper interests and so on, and yet they are indicating their intention to vote against a measure which would obviously prevent any such monopoly from developing. That is completely irresponsible and inconsistent. It is inconsistent, even for the Labour Opposition, which attempts to make a virtue of inconsistency.
In the case submitted by some Opposition speakers there is another point to which I wish to direct attention. I heard with surprise - -almost amazement - that it was being contended that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was responsible for this bill, that in some manner it had drafted the bill and had got the Government to bring it down in order to help the board out of its difficulties. That is a fantastic suggestion. I advise the House that the Broadcasting Control Board had nothing whatsoever to do with either the inception, the initiation or the development of this bill. It is a bill produced by the Government, as the result of the experience gained in the last four years from the development of television.
Then the Leader of the Opposition put forward an extraordinary proposal. He said that he wanted to move an amendment to the second reading motion. He had previously - and other Opposition members have since followed him - roundly condemned the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and then, in his amendment, he put a strange responsibility on this board, of which he professes to have little opinion. I think that not many members in this chamber have realized the fact. The amendment reads -
That consideration of the bill be deferred until after the presentation to the Parliament of a report from the Broadcasting Control Board on its provisions . . .
Those are the provisions of the bill which we are putting forward. He then suggests that the bill should be referred to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, of which the Opposition speaks in such very poor terms, for a report - on its provisions with particular reference to the practical effects of those provisions purporting to limit or restrict control of companies owning or operating broadcasting or television stations.
What an amazing proposal, coming even from the Labour Opposition, that a bill of any sort should be referred to a board and for the board to report to the Government on the provisions which the Government has put in the bill. It is an utterly fantastic suggestion and I do not think the Opposition realized what it was doing in the matter.
I pointed out just now that this bill arises from nearly four year’s experience of television, of the movements in shareholdings which have taken place in licenced companies, of the companies’ financial agreements which have been worked out from time to time and of certain other developments which we felt would inevitably lead to monopoly control of this medium of communication. Experience has shown us that according to a legal interpretation of “ control “, one person can control two television licences in Australia. We say that is proper and the position is not altered in any way in this bill. At the same time, according to a legal interpretation of the provision dealing with the control and ownership of licences it would be possible for that person or company, already controlling or owning two television stations to hold 50 per cent, of the shares of any number of licences and still not be in control of more than two licences. That, in brief, is the position regarding the bill as it stands and it is that provision which we have set out to rectify. Yet some speakers complain because we have taken action to define “ control “ as consisting of the holding of more than 15 per cent, of the voting power of a company.
– In a third station.
– Exactly. We are not altering the right of any person or company to control two stations. We think that is a fair proposition for the Government to provide. Every one knows that the ownership of 50 per cent, of shares, or just under 50 per cent., must constitute control. That is as matters stand at present. The Government has realized, further, that there are other methods of control which can be quite as effective as shareholding or voting control. There are methods such as financial agreements which can be entered into between individuals or companies, which would give, in an indirect way, control of a company that was holding a television licence. There are also directorships which could be utilized for the purpose of control, and there could also be programme control. So this bill, which deals with all those possible methods of control, is, as I say, a sincere attempt to halt the development of monopoly control while there is still time.
I say this deliberately because I want it to be understood that there has not been that development towards monopoly control which occurred in the early stages of broadcasting, and which placed my predecessor, in the early stages of his occupancy of this portfolio, in the position of having to confer for quite a considerable period with various companies, and get them to cut down shareholdings and sell out some of their interests for the purpose of holding in control the monopoly which was developing in broadcasting. We set out to halt any such development in television before it reached that stage.
In the debate last night and this morning I have noticed that there has been little criticism of the first three methods of control which we set out to deal with - that is to say, the shareholding, the financial agreements and the directorships. But there has been some considerable criticism of the provisions that we have put in this amending bill to ensure that there can be no cornering of programmes. The Government firmly believes that if that avenue for evasion of our proposals was left open, then the other attempts that we have made, with respect to shareholding, directorships and so on, would be quite ineffective, because an effective and adequate control could be exercised, by the holder of one licence, over other stations, simply through the process of programme control.
It has been said that this method of programme control is now unnecessary because there is evidence that ample programme material is now available. I am prepared to concede that there is, to the best of my information, more programme material readily available than there was six or nine months ago. But I am also fully aware of the fact that at least one of the reasons why that is so is that the Government made it plain, in respect of the investigations that it was about to carry out into the extension of television into country areas, that it would require the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to inquire into the availability of programmes, and it made this one of the board’s terms of reference. Certain practices were being indulged in at about that time. I know this was so although there was no admission of it in black and white; people do not put that sort of thing on paper. Persons holding licences were going round the country, telling intending applicants that unless those existing licensees gained some form of control over the stations - assuming the applicants were successful in obtaining licences - those stations would not get programmes. I know that this practice was being indulged in, and I say that it is not so widespread now, simply because it became evident that the Government would not tolerate it.
I say, therefore, that although there may not be a great need for this provision just now, the Government still considers it wise to retain the provision, to ensure that the situation which was developing six or nine months ago will not develop at some time in the future.
I want to point out that the Government has gone to considerable pains in this matter to protect the proper rights of the owners of television films or programmes, because the Government acknowledges the fact that a person who has taken the trouble to acquire a programme has some right in regard to it, and that those rights should not be infringed.
– What rights have you with regard to price-fixing?
– The honorable member knows very well that we have nol any rights with regard to price-fixing. We acknowledge the rights of the owners of films and other programmes, but we also recognize the fact that there is a responsibility on the Government, which has provided an applicant with a licence, to ensure that the benefits of such a licence are as widely spread as possible, and that through some form of programme monopoly the control of licences or stations should not rest with only a few. For that reason, and in order to protect the proper rights of the owners, the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) and I went very carefully into this matter, and we set out to devise a list of qualifications which would exempt the owner of a programme from being required to make that programme available on fair and reasonable terms to another applicant. Those qualifications will exempt the owner if a person makes an application for the purchase of a film.
I think it was the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes; who asked where this would lead. The position is this: These provisions are drawn in such a way as to deal with television only. There is nothing in the bill which suggests that the provisions would apply to a film like “ The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll “ or programmes of that kind which have been mentioned. The provisions of this legislation have no relation to some of the other matters that have been mentioned.
– Why not?
– Because, for one thing, the Government is dealing with people to whom it has granted licences for television, and it is dealing with television programmes solely. It is within the competency of the Government, as it has given out a licence, to ensure that programmes, which are essential to the success of the licence, are available to the person who has been granted the licence.
As to the provision for a board such as the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to act as arbiter in the case of a refusal to make a programme available on just and reasonable terms, it has been suggested that this is of such basic importance that there should be some provision for an appeal against the determination of such board.
As I indicated this morning, and as has been stated to a few persons privately, the Government has had a look at this matter and is prepared to agree to the inclusion of a right of appeal to a competent court. The appeal would be available to the owner of a film in the event of the board giving an order that he should make the film available. There will be no right of appeal for the applicant whose application is refused; the right of appeal will exist to protect the owner.
While dealing with the amendments, I should also announce that it has been suggested that there should be some protection for the invested capital of licensees who have been given a licence, who operate it for some time, and who, for some reason or other, have the licence suspended, and who are in danger of having the licence revoked. In the act at present there are provisions governing the actions of the Minister in such cases, but there is no right of appeal against a decision of the Minister that a licence should be revoked. We are including two amendments to the clause dealing with this matter. One is to the effect that the Minister cannot act in the revocation of a licence unless the board, having investigated the case, actually reports to the Minister and recommends that the licence be revoked. The second amendment provides for the right of appeal for a licensee to a competent board. These amendments are now in draft, and I expect to have them ready to submit to honorable members at the committee stage.
I want to refer briefly now to some of the various points that have been made during the debate. The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) spoke, as he has done previously, on the need for the extension of television to country areas. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who supported the honorable member for Farrer, said the development of television in his opinion had been phased the wrong way. While I agree that it is highly desirable to get television into the country areas as soon as possible, I cannot agree that the method adopted by the Government in developing and extending television has been wrong. As was stated at the beginning, the Government adopted a policy of introducing television in a relatively small way in the larger city areas where there is a great volume of capital and large viewing audiences giving the new companies all the opportunities to develop successfully and gain knowledge and knowhow which would be available and valuable to other licensees following them. If it had been the other way about and we had started in the smaller country areas, we would not have got nearly so far as we have, either technically or in the programme field. I believe the country areas will find that they will benefit greatly from the way this matter has been tackled by the Government.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Killen) put -
That the Postmaster-General be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
A question was asked about private hospitals. Such, hospitals do not come within the provisions of rule 19, but after inquiry, I am glad to be able to advise the House that such hospitals have always been treated as private homes. They are not included in the provisions of rule 19 because they have already been treated as private homes, and consequently, one licence was enough to service the sets therein.
In regard to the licensing of sets in hotels, the question was asked whether things like ear-phones or the parts of a public address system in a hotel would come within the scope of the requirement of a licensing fee for every broadcast set. That is not the position, because it will be noted that the relevant part of the bill is headed “ except as prescribed “, which means that such cases are covered by the staff rules which govern these matters, to which I have just referred in the case of hospitals.
I have only one more comment. It has been stated on several occasions to-night that either I or the Government was attempting to bulldoze this legislation through and to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. Honorable members on this side of the House know that the matter has been under discussion for several days and that an undertaking was given that we would decide just how long we should give to it, depending on how long the debate lasted, and that there should be no attempt to curtail the debate. There has been no such attempt, and so far as I and the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) are concerned, there will not be such an attempt. It is a matter for honorable members opposite to decide whether they want to finish the business of the Parliament to-morrow, to stay until Friday to do so, or to come back next week. We are prepared to continue in accordance with the undertaking that was given previously and which still stands.
.- It must be a great comfort to the assembled multitude to know that there is to be no curtailment of this debate. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) has just made an admission. We informed him, four years ago, that monopoly was going to develop in this field, as it did with radio and the newspapers. He now has the brass, Mr. Speaker, to tell us that he is contemplating three more amendments of the bill. I ask the Minister why he did not model himself on the treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his handling of the banking legislation. It will be remembered that in that case we received a memorandum and a bill printed in such a way as to indicate how the act would look when it was finally passed. Instead, we have this hotch-potch which every honorable member admits is difficult to follow, and in which some of the definitions are completely vague. I come now to the reply of the Postmaster-General to the suggestion that he was attempting to bulldoze the bill through.
– Be brief.
– I intend to continue in the footsteps of the honorable member’s master, the Postmaster-General. We shall deal with the matter as it comes. As far as we are concerned, there is a question of public responsibility involved in the subject of this legislation. We are discussing the disposal of a very rare commodity - the granting of television licences in the community. I think that, so far, there are only seven or eight such licences in the whole of Australia. I know that the Father Christmas department that runs the Liberal Party does not realise what it is doing in this field and does not appreciate that it is taking a valuable community commodity a licence which is the property of, and in the possession of, the community generally and granting it to a number of lucky players who happen to be the proprietors of television stations. There is no doubt that, by doing so, the Government is conferring great fortune on the lucky players. Therefore, we shall give full consideration to this measure and we will see to it that it is considered down to the last comma and the last full stop.
We on this side of the House believe that this legislation is just a part of the Liberal Party and Australian Country Party facade of intention to attempt to control monopolies and so on. We know that in most instances in the past they have either not been dinkum in their attempts, or have played the game with kid gloves. They have made no real or adequate attempt to control monopolies, and that being so, it is fair to assume that their future activities will be no more effective. I do not mind whether we meet here at 25 minutes past three in the morning or at 25 minutes past three in the afternoon. I represent 44,000 of the ordinary citizens of this country who have not one earthly chance of getting a television licence. They are excluded, under the system which the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and his mates support, from participation in this grand game of largesse.
The Postmaster-General chose to intervene at this late hour of the debate, claiming that he had been misrepresented from this side if the House. He had some very hard words to say about the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). He chose to ignore, of course, the opposition that is coming from his own side. It will be interesting to see whether the honorable members for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), and Moreton (Mr, Killen), vote their opposition to the clauses of the bill about which they feel passionate in the extreme - I think that was the phrase used by the honorable member for Moreton. I suggest that if the. honorable members feel so passionately about principles which are affected by this bill, they have a duty to come over to this side and vote with us.
The amendment which has been moved on behalf of the Labour Party seeks reconsideration of the measure. We should prefer to await the production of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, so that we might have more information before we proceed. The bill is an important and far-reaching document. 1 want to know why the Minister, after four years of hesitation, dilatory behaviour and pondering, has produced a bill which is not explanatory, which contains provisions that will be explained, he says, at the committee, stage, if he can get round to it, and to which three amendments are to be moved from his side of the House. I think he has at his disposal the largest organization in Australia and probably one of the largest in the world, with about 80,000 employees. Why could he not have produced a bill in a more satisfactory fashion?
This bill is not just an ordinary piece of legislation. It relates to the welfare of the employees of the board and covers a whole host of matters. It deals with the powers and functions of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, as would normally be expected. It deals, too, with the term of office of the commissioners, dismissals and vacation of office, the appointment of officers, the reclassification of officers, the penalties that may be imposed on officers, and the need to obtain the approval of the Minister for certain classifications. There are provisions in regard to licensing and programming, and there is the very contentious, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the very vague provision which describes how this Government defines the control of companies. As I have said, the legislation is far-reaching. It reaches into the habits and customs of the Public Service Board in the handling of its employees. It proposes to introduce a new attitude towards the control of private property. That is offensive to some honorable members on the other side of the chamber. The bill seeks to define exactly what is meant by the ownership and control of public companies.
Any of those matters could form the subject of major legislation. They should not be lightly considered at this hour of the morning, but should be discussed after due consideration. I think it is only six days since the bill was introduced in the House, and we have been away from the Parliament for three or four days since then. We now have to proceed to discuss it. After weeks and weeks of very little Parliamentary activity on the part of the Government, we suddenly have to rush through a matter such as this. We on this side object to such a procedure.
The Postmaster-General raised several matters in the course of his intervention in the debate. One of those matters was nationalization. It is interesting to note the failure of the Minister to see exactly what is meant by government control of an institution such as television. The PostmasterGeneral seems to look upon government control as something completely foreign to this Parliament and the Australian people - something that has dropped in from outer space and achieved a monopoly that is in the same terms as ownership and control by commercial interests. This is a complete denial of the facts.
The Government monopoly directly represents 10,000,000 shareholders and if the Government is doing its duty the monopoly is under proper and strict control. The Postmaster-General seems to imagine that there is only one way to deal with these matters and that is to hand them over to commercial control and monopoly. We believe that monopoly interests in this country are a menace to our present way of life. Four years ago we pointed out what would happen and now we have the classical admission by the PostmasterGeneral that six or nine months ago these cads broke their trust and attempted to railroad other television interests into handing over the management and control of their stations. But such things have been going on ever since the dawn of time. The Postmaster-General has been asleep regarding the control of broadcasting and television.
Several interesting points were raised by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr.
Haworth) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). The honorable member for Moreton said that he was passionately dedicated to the rights of property. He said that he would object to any direction of property. Why is he not consistent? Why does he not extend the same argument to matters concerning industrial legislation? Is it such an infringement of liberty to say that a man who owns a certain television film must make it available on just terms to a person who wishes to use it on a television programme? But the same honorable member supports the penal clauses in industrial legislation affecting trade unions. Apparently there is no effect on the freedom of the trade unionist or the employee if he has to give his labour where and when the court decides. In all these matters the Government and its supporters are inconsistent.
I want to bring to the notice of the House the manner in which television, radio and newspapers are owned and controlled in Victoria. What I am about to say is related particularly to that provision in the bill which we may call the 15 per cent, clause. In Victoria we have the “ Herald “, the “Sun” and the “Age” - three large newspapers. The Herald & Weekly Times Limited owns the “ Sun “ and the “ Herald “, radio stations 3DB and 3LK and television station HSV7. David Syme and Company Limited owns the “ Age “, radio stations 3CV, 3 HA and 3TR and is closely associated with radio station 3AW. It is also a shareholder in the other television station. Associated Broadcasters Limited owns radio stations 3SR, 3UL and 3YB. In all we have six organizations almost in complete control of the distribution of all communications to a population of 2,500,000 people in the wealthiest State in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. That is a menace to the community and there should be a more passionate attempt to break it up.
Let us examine the position of the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, and its ownership and control of a television station. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is a man skilled at law, should give some consideration to the development of remote control in industry and commerce. He should also look into the matter of holding companies and the ramifications of the ownership of large blocks of shares by one particular company. It is impossible to trace who is in control of these companies. The attempts that are made to defend the ownership and control of television stations are designed to act as a smoke-screen. We must establish a governmental trusteeship over individual stations under which the shareholders and the management are responsible and under suveillance all the time. Such action would not be novel although the Postmaster-General has taken four years to wake up to the fact that takeovers are going on everywhere. In the Herald and Weekly Times Limited 1,250,000 shares are held by Advertiser Newspapers Limited. Other companies own shares inside that organization. For instance, Queensland Newspapers Proprietary Limited owns 500,000 shares. This is an impersonal intrusion into Australian commercial life. I suppose it is natural in commercial life everywhere but I believe that it will have a serious effect on any possibility of controlling industrial enterprises. The Government should turn its mind to this matter. How are we to control these impersonal relationships within commerce and industry? The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited owns 46,000 shares and A.N.Z. Pensions Limited owns 40.000 shares.
Dealing with David Syme and Company Limited we find that 600,000 shares are held by the Estate of the late David Syme. The ownership and control of the television stations are in the hands of these people. I do not know why we should be so dedicated to the principle that only newspapers should have major interests in television stations. The remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) this evening with regard to South Australia should be read by everybody. Once you become the owner of a newspaper you seem to have a vested right to lay down the law and to own and control valuable community assets. In regard to television station GTV9 in Melbourne, 628,881 shares are held by Electronic Industries Limited; 188,169 by David Syme and Company Limited; 58,848 by Greater Union Theatres Proprietary Limited; 58,847 by Hoyts Theatres Limited; 35,290 by Nilsens Broadcasting Services Proprietary Limited; 17,646 by Val Morgan and Sons Proprietary Limited; 13,759 by
Efftee Broadcasters Proprietary Limited; and 560 by Radio Corporation Proprietary Limited. Recently some extra allocations of 100 shares have been made to certain interested firms, including Allied Bruce Small Proprietry Limited, Bruce Small Proprietary Limited, General Accessories Proprietary Limited, Homecrafts Proprietary Limited, Electronic Industries Imports Proprietary Limited, Eclipse Radio Proprietary Limited, Servex Electrical Company Proprietary Limited, A. W. Jackson Industries Proprietary Limited, Extrusion and Dry Batteries Proprietary Limited, Vending Machines Proprietary Limited, E.I.L. Service Proprietary Limited, Gainsborough Furniture Proprietary Limited, and Lugon Electric Lamps Proprietary Limited. The list of directors is here. I could of course read it out, but the question that arises in one’s mind is: Who actually are the persons owning and controlling a concern in which all the shareholding is held in the names of impersonal public or proprietary companies? I say that it would be almost impossible, under those conditions, to determine just who has control of this company. This is a question to which the Government, and the Attorney-General in particular, ought to address themselves.
This bill is just part of the Father Christmas attitude on the part of this Government. In the four or five years that I have been in this Parliament I have seen community largesse scattered amongst the friends, large and small, of this Government. First the assets of the whaling industry were disposed of to people, principally in Western Australia, who were able to recoup all their expenditure out of the profits of the organization in the first few years. The next great effort was, of course, the banking legislation. There are two means by which the Government provides for its friends in the banking field. The first is, of course, by the suppression of the Commonwealth Bank itself, and the second is by the development of a completely usurious system of finance in which greater and greater dividends are being paid to people who lend money. Then of course, currently there is the notorious case of Mr. Ansett and his multi-millions of Government support by guaranteed overdraft, by rationalization, and by every other procedure of which the Government is capable. Oil search is another field in which largesse is being given to the Government’s friends, and in the present instance we have television. I believe that we have no right to shed our parliamentary and national responsibility and give it to any group of irresponsible persons. I have no particular grudge against the individuals whoare directors of any of these companies. I do not believe that they are bad citizens or bad Australians. But the point is that they are being handed irresponsible power. As we sought to make clear in the debate on the security service, it is not a matter of whether the people concerned are good people or bad people, but that in effect, they are irresponsible, politically and commercially.
– That is a nice thing for you to say. You do everything you are told to do and at the direction of the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour Party.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service could develop a nice theme on that. We are not directed about what we should do. The Minister can come along - I suppose I can take the risk of inviting him - and see the 300 or 400 members of the Victorian Labour Party conference assemble to make their decisions.
Television is a national institution and we believe that it has to be brought under strict parliamentary control. But all we see going on in this field, and indeed in every other field of commercial enterprise and in relation to all the national resources, whether they are on the ground, or growing in the ground, or in organizational or administrative things like banking and television, is that great slices of the community’s welfare and services are in the hands of the people who are responsible to nobody but themselves. This offends me as a socialist and as a democrat and just as an ordinary person, too! I object to being kicked around by people who are not answerable to anybody in the long run.
The essence of the argument, as I see it, is that while for three years, the GovernorGeneral willing, we can proceed on our merry way, eventually we have to answer directly to the people for whom we make laws, so that if we kick them around in any direction they can kick us back in three years’ time.
– That is common knowledge.
– Yes, but the interesting part is that I do not seem to be able to get it into the honorable member’s mind that just as we fought for centuries for parliamentary power until we actually chopped off Charles I.’s head some three centuries ago, so to-day we have to fight against irresponsibility. Political responsibility means that you have to answer for your actions to the people. The same principle should apply to every other activity, commercial and otherwise, which have control of large parts of the community’s activities or assets. Such activities must be answerable to the community as a whole, as is the Parliament - and that, I think, is the very spirit of socialism. It is not a radical or revolutionary doctrine. It just appears to me to be common sense. But as far as I am concerned it is a matter of self-respect. No self-respecting person will allow himself to be kicked around by anybody without answering back. We cannot answer the television station owners back; we cannot answer the bankers back; we cannot answer the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited back. The same applies to the shipowners. At the present moment they operate on the coast of Australia and internationally. They can do what they will with our affairs. They can place whatever tax they like on the people of Australia. They can put their fares and charges up and are answerable to none. But they must be answerable, or should be answerable, to the people of Australia through this Commonwealth Parliament. The same thing applies to television. The people on the other side of the House usually show some spirit in their approach to various matters, but when they come to consider matters of national interest which affect property, commercial enterprises, finance, investment and so on, they become completely spiritless and say, *’ We are incapable of handling this. It is not for the Government. It would be a dreadful thing if you handed television over to a monopoly. I may say what I think about this Government, but unfortunately some 51 per cent, of the people of Australia are foolish enough to think that they can put their trust in it. However, the interesting point to me, at the moment, is that honorable members opposite do not seem capable of trusting themselves.
If we can keep this debate going, with another half dozen speakers, until 10.30 a.m., we will save the Serjeant-at-Arms the trouble of removing and replacing the mace. Therefore, with these few cheery words, Mr. Speaker, I should like to advise the Government to see the error of its ways. If it realizes that those who control commercial television are completely irresponsible it will be on the way to doing something in the national interest.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker. Earlier in the debate I made a statement that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) had blamed the Jews for all the trouble in Israel. The honorable member for Moreton, in a personal explanation, questioned my veracity. I have had an opportunity to look up the records, and I shall quote a couple of passages from them, although I do not want to detain the House for very long. As reported in “ Hansard “ of 6th August, 1958, at page 107, the honorable member for Moreton said -
The fundamental cause of the dispute in the Middle East to-day, as I see it - and this is simply a sighting from an historical point of view - lies in the creation of the state of Israel.
On 7th August, the next day, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), in the course of his remarks, said -
Yesterday the honorable member set out to blame the Jewish State of Israel for the whole of the trouble in the Middle East.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) interjected -
That is very true.
I think that that should satisfy any member of the House that I was speaking the actual truth when I made that claim in my speech.
– As the Opposition has decided to keep us here until this time of the morning to deal with the bill, I would like to make some comment on it. I have quite a few things to deal with. As I may not be able to cover all of them in my alloted time, the House might give me an extension of time.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) when commencing the debate on behalf of the Opposition last night, said that the Australian Country Party was being taken for a ride. He also said that we were being dragged along by the heels in this matter. I thought that that would be the last thing that the Leader of the Opposition would say, having regard to the display that was put on a couple of days ago by himself, his deputy leader and other members of the Australian Labour Party. As the debate developed, the Opposition took up the theme of the necessity for the control of television. I shall remind honorable members opposite of what they had to say in 1956. The present Leader of the Opposition claimed in those days that television should not be introduced into Australia because what had been going on in the United States of America was too vulgar to be introduced here. Most of the Opposition members have taken every possible opportunity, even though television is conducted largely by private enterprise, and vulgar though they say it is, to get on to television programmes. I would like to know, in view of the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition on my interjection that he believed in nationalization, how he and his colleagues can favour the idea of independent country stations, as he said last night. Do they mean that they are prepared to let the country districts have independently owned stations and to have the national stations in the cities?
I shall deal with one other thing before I sit down. I shall not detain the House for too long. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), when dealing with the clause of the bill that is intended to stop the cornering of programmes, charged the Government with wanting to indulge in price fixation. That is not the intention. Any price can be asked for a film. All that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will do is to decide whether the price asked is just and reasonable.
The honorable member for Parkes accused this Government of not endeavouring to get land for war service land settlement on just terms. He knows full well that that comment should have been directed to the activities that occurred in New South Wales. I would like to remind him - because he was atacking the members of the Country Party at that time - that the New South Wales Government, after consultation with this Government, saw fit to alter its legislation so that for land that that Government acquired for war service land settlement the owners would receive a just price. I only bring this matter up because the honorable member for Parkes and his colleagues have concentrated their attack on honorable members in this corner, because we support this legislation. Members of the Opposition have kept this debate going for as long as they possibly can by getting on the backs of some members of the Government parties who have said that this legislation is being rushed through. I will keep the debate going, if they would like me to do so. I have sat in this Parliament from Wednesday morning until Friday morning without having any sleep. I can see that my colleagues of the Country Party are much more awake than are honorable members in other sections of the House. If honorable members want us to do so, we are quite prepared to keep the debate going, but in view of the fact that somebody has something to do later this day, I shall conclude now.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Calwell’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
House adjourned at 4.2 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– I do not propose to depart from the sound policy instituted by Mr. Chifley and consistently followed by the Prime Minister of not disclosing details of the operations of the security service.
s asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– I have already disclosed in my second-reading speech in this House when introducing the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Bill that 182 intercepts have been made since intercepts were first made in 1949 under the authority, and during the regime, of Prime Minister Chifley. In that speech 1 gave my reasons for taking that particular course. I do not propose to depart from the sound policy instituted by Mr. Chifley and consistently followed by the Prime Minister of not disclosing details of the operation of the security service. The Prime Minister has informed this House on a number of occasions that no interception of a telephone of a member of this or any parliament has been made at any time by the security service. I gave the same assurance in my second-reading speech.
h asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Which local government authorities in Western Australia have taken advantage of the Federal Government’s local ownership plan for aerodromes, and which aerodromes are involved?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The following aerodromes previously owned by the Commonwealth have been taken over by Local Authorities: - Norseman by Dundas Roads Board, Southern Cross by Yilgarn Roads Board, and Leonora by Leonora Roads Board. In addition the aerodrome at Wallal has been taken over by the station owner. In the three further cases of Gascoyne Junction, Morowa and Sandstone the appropriate roads boards have been reimbursed for the cost of their aerodrome development while retaining ownership of their aerodromes. All these local authorities now benefit under the aerodrome local ownership plan by being eligible for Commonwealth grants of 50 per cent, towards aerodrome maintenance and subsequent development. At Morowa developments are already being carried out and financed in accordance with this plan.
n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The following are the answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Excise Duty on Petrol.
a asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 May 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600518_reps_23_hor27/>.