18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following hills re ported : -
Appropriation Bill 1948-49.
Appropriation (Works and Services)Bill 1948-49.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1948.
– Can the
Minister for Shipping and Fuel inform the Senate whether there is any truth in the report that the Commonwealth Government issued instructions for a reduction of transport services and a drastic curtailment of power for domesticuse in South Australia last week? What quantity of coal was forwarded to South
Australia during the two months ended the 31st October?
– The Australian Government cannot order any State to restrict the use of coal. The States receive a coal allocation from New South Wales in accordance with production. Any restriction upon the use of that coal is a matter for each State. I am not conversant with the quantities of coal that have been forwarded to each State. Yesterday, immediately the Kemeira dispute terminated, I wired to the Premiers of South Australia and Victoria informing them that the strike had ended, that the New South Wales Government had lifted restrictions, and that I assumed that South Australia and Victoria would follow suit. I understand that restrictions have been lifted in those States.
– I understand that the Acting Attorney-General now has an answer to a question which I asked him on the 13th October relating to the powers of State parliaments to fix prices under State law of patented articles.
– I have now had an opportunity of looking into the matter and can state that, as indicated in my interim reply, a State act cannot validly impair any rights conferred by a Commonwealth act. If any person considers that the Queensland Profiteering Prevention Act purports to interfere with rights conferred on him by the Patents Act of the Commonwealth, that person may have the matter determined by the courts. In accordance with establishedpractice I do not propose to express any opinion on the question of law involved..
– Can the Ministerrepresenting the Prime Minister say whether the Government intends tosecure a report from Sir Patrick Abercrombie, the British authority on town planning who recently visited Australia) If so, will such report bemade available to honorable senators?
– I shall make inquiries from the Prime Minister and give the honorable senator the information he desires.
Ann ual Pilgrimage of School Children.
– On the 27th October, Senator Nash asked me the following question: -
Will the Minister for. Shipping and Fuel place before the Prime Minister a suggestion that, to cultivate a national sentiment among the younger generation, an annual pilgrimage of school children from the States to the National Capital be discussed at a Premiers’ Conference? I suggest that at least two children should be chosen from each State by competitive examination and the visit to Canberra financed by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. The State departments of education should select the children, the subject of examination being a paper based on the historical and political development of Australia.
I have since discussed this matter with the Prime Minister, who considers that the suggestion has considerable merit. He is communicating with the Premiers with a view to arranging a discussion on the matter at the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
– I preface a question which I desire to address to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel by pointing out that since 1943 the Government has provided relief to persons who have suffered considerable loss through bushfires, whilst in 1945 it co-operated with the Government of New South Wales in providing flood relief on a £1 for £1 basis. During the last week, severe wind-storms have caused considerable damage in the north-eastern district of New South Wales. Black Mountain, a village about 17 miles north of Armidale, was practically destroyed in those storms. Houses were unroofed and the linings were torn from many structures whilst considerable damage was done to railway and school property.
– Order! I suggest that when a question involves so much explanatory matter it would be preferable for an honorable senator to ask for leave to make a statement. What is the honorable senator’s question?
– Many of the people who sustained damage in those storms were age pensioners and persons in indigent circumstances. Will the Government provide assistance to such persons through the State Government to enable them to repair their property ?
– The honorable senator will appreciate that the provision of assistance to sufferers as the result of calamities of the kind to which he has referred is the responsibility of the State Government. As he has said, the Commonwealth Government on previous occasions has provided relief for sufferers from drought and other tragedies. I am sure that if the State Government concerned requests assistance from the Commonwealth in the circumstances the honorable senator has indicated, such representations will receive the sympathetic consideration which is invariably given to such requests.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel the following question : -
United States Presidential, Senate and Congress elections, in which President Truman and the Democrats scored a resounding victory over the Republicans?
Is the Australian Institute of Public Opinion, and another organization known as the Research Service conducted by the same people as those who operate similar organizations in America? Is there any safeguard against similar tactics being applied in Australia?
– The matters re ferred to in the honorable senator’s question are rather involved. Undoubtedly the prediction of gallup polls held prior to the recent United States elections were proved to be entirely wrong, although so strong was the conviction that one particular candidate in the presidential election would succeed that his chances were quoted at fifteen to one on in betting circles. I am not aware whether there is any relationship between the research service of the United States of America and those organizations in Australia which make forecasts and furnish statistics from time to time in connexion with political subjects and governmental actvities. If the honorable senator will place the question on the notice-paper 1 shall have inquiries made.
CONTROL - Frequency Modulation.
– According to this morning’s Melbourne press Mr. J. Ridley, president of the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, stated that -
The Government’s intention to monopolize the latest radio techniques will deprive Australian listeners of enjoying modern radio programmes.
Are there any grounds for the fears expressed, or is the report nothing more than another dose of anti-government propaganda?
– I do not think that there are the slightest grounds for the fears expressed. Of course, the report may correctly represent the opinion <>f Mr. Ridley, but it does not follow that his opinion is necessarily based on facts.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to die honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether the Government has taken any action towards a settlement of the bread dispute in Victoria. If so, what are the prospects of an early settlement?
– I point out that the Government of Victoria is the authority responsible for the settlement of that dispute.
– The members of that Government told the Cain Government how to settle disputes, but now they cannot settle one themselves.
– As Senator Sheehan reminds me there is a Liberal Government in Victoria now. If any dispute should be settled promptly, I think it is one that causes people to suffer from a shortage of bread.
Household Requirements - Cost of LIVING.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government call a conference of representatives of the Australian Capital Territory Trades and Labour Council, the Canberra Co-operative Society, and the Government to consider ways and means of (o) providing a more adequate service of household requirements to the people of Canberra and (6) reducing the cost of living?
– As the honorable senator knows, the matters that he has raised come within the administration of the Minister for the Interior. The Prime Minister has discussed the matter with the Minister, however, and I am informed that it is doubtful whether such a conference is necessary or whether it would have the results predicted by the honorable senator. If the two bodies referred to have evidence to support the contention that, in respect of the matters mentioned, Canberra is in a more unsatisfactory position than are other parts of Australia, that evidence might be placed, before the Government, which would give full consideration to it.
Reconstruction Training Scheme : Workmen’s Compensation
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– -The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has supplied the following answer: -
Ex-servicemen during rehabilitation training at training centres are not employees and do not receive salary or wages as such. Therefore, the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act or other similar State legislation cannot he applied to them. Under :i direction of the Government given more than three years ago, however, exservicemen injured while undergoing rehabilitation training or while travelling to or from the training centre are compensated in accordance with the principles and financial provisions of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, and any extension of those principles and financial provisions under the bill at present before the House will be applied when the bill becomes law. Trainees injured during subsidized employment are compensated in accordance with the provisions of the appropriate State Workers’ Compensation Act.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the pension of a temporarily totally incapacitated returned soldier during his period of temporary total incapacity is assessed at less than that paid to a per”manently totally incapacitated soldier; if so. what factors are taken into account in connexion with the assessment?
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answer: -
Under the 1948 amending legislation the provision covering this type of additional pension has been widened so that members who are classified as temporarily totally incapacitated will receive the same rate of pension as those classified as permanently totally incapacitated during the period they are considered to be temporarily total h incapacitated and this is reflected in the amendment to paragraph one of the fi rsl schedule to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act which reads as follows: - “ Where a member of the forces is temporarily totally incapacitated to such an extern as to be precluded from earning other than a negligible percentage of a living wage while he is so incapacitated, and where the aggregate of the rate of pension payable to that member under column 4 of the scale in this schedule and the amount (if any) payable to him under the fifth schedule to this act is less than the special rate of pension specified in the second schedule to this act, the commission may, subject to such conditions as are prescribed, gram an additional pension to the member at a rate not exceeding the amount of the difference between that aggregate sum and that special rate of pension for such period, whether in excess of six months or not, as the commision determines.”
Air Operations in Burma.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer: - 1 and 2. I have seen the press statement of the 23rd September that aircraft bearing the Australian international registration sign “ VH “ are dropping arms in Burma and have made subsequent inquiries. There is only one aircraft operating in this area which is probably entitled to display the Australian sign “VH” and this aircraft is owned by Silver City Airways, a highly reputable organization, and is not likely to be engaged in the dropping of arms. However, it is known that a number of aircraft of various types have been sold and exported from Australia for use in other countries and this applies to Lockheed Hudson VH-USV mentioned in the press article. Such aircraft are no longer registered in Australia and it would be improper for them to. fly carrying the Australian markings. However, the Australian registration marking), could still be painted on some of these aircraft. Steps are being taken to stress to the governments concerned that these aircraft are no longer registered in Australia and are therefore not entitled to display Australian markings. No doubt those administrations will take appropriate action under their own laws to deal with the operations in their territory of any aircraft that are not registered and marked with identification markings in accordance with international requirements.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Stevedoring Industry Act 1947.
Bill presented, and read a first time. Motion (by Senator Ashley) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the present bill is to amend the Stevedoring Industry Act 1947 so as to enable theFremantle Harbour Trust to be represented on the waterside employment committee at that port. Section 36 of the Stevedoring Industry Act provides for the appointment of waterside employment committees at any port, such committees to consist of not more than two representatives of employers and two representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation, except in respect of the port of Newcastle. The representation of employers on the waterside employment committee is normally made up of one representative of interstate shipowners and one of overseas shipowners, these interests being the principal employers of waterside labour in most ports. In the port of Fremantle, however, the Fremantle Harbour Trust is a large employer of labour, the position at that port differing from most other Australian ports in that the Fremantle Harbour Trust itself undertakes the work of handling cargo after it has been trans ferred from ships on to the waiting lorries or other transport. Representations havebeen made to the Government by the Premier of Western Australia asking that in view of the circumstances existing at Fremantle the Fremantle HarbourTrust should be given representationon the waterside employment committee.. The Government has considered this request and decided that the Premier’s request should be complied with. It is not desired to deprive either the interstate or the overseas owners of representation on the committee and it has, therefore, been decided to increase the membership of the Fremantle committee to six members, comprising three representatives of employers and three of the Waterside Workers Federation. The bill will give effect to this decision and at the same time the opportunity is being taken to amend section 11 (3) of the act which erroneously, included the word “ regulation “ instead of the word “ section “. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 21st October (vide page 1951), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The appropriation of revenueunder this bill would not immediately benecessary had not the Government, in a moment of pique as a result of the recent referendum decision, suddenly abandoned’ all controls before the States had had an opportunity adequately to provide themachinery necessary to carry on such controls as were still considered essential. I have no complaint to make regardingthe provisions of the bill itself. It appears that the amounts of money involved havebeen agreed upon between the Government and the various State Premiers. I wish, however, to record that very serious inconvenience and embarrassment has beencaused to the States because of the unseemly haste with which the Commonwealth has abandoned those controls,. which all parties in the Parliament had agreed could have been continued to be exercised by the Commonwealth at least until the 31st December, and after that date if circumstances warranted. I repeat, that in a moment of pique, and in complete disregard of the interests of the States and of the people of Australia, the Government acted like a spoiled boy bowled out at cricket, fairly and squarely middle stump, who picks up his wickets and the ball and runs home in a huff.
– That is all rot.
– If the Government had continued to exercise controls until the end of the year, that embarrassment to the States would not have occurred and there would have been no immediate need to present this measure to the chamber.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) has- made some extraordinary statements which are entirely in error. The history of the recent referendum on price controls should be well known to honorable senators. The people of Australia have a full realization of it and are sorry that they were misled by the Opposition. There was no fit of pique on the part of the Government. The honorable senator again took the basis of his statement from the newspapers. It was well understood what the position would be if the’ people voted “No” at the referendum.. The Opposition tried, both in this chamber and outside, to mislead the public. It succeeded and now, with the backing of the press, it is trying to retract the views it expressed prior to the referendum. What the Opposition succeeded in doing during the referendum campaign was detrimental to the economic standards of Australia. I consider that the bill is an excellent one and is another indication that the Government is following consistently along the lines of the promises it made to the States when the referendum defeat struck Australia. The Government at that time stated that it would assist the governments of the States to meet the situation that they had to meet and that they were not ready to meet and were, in fact, incapable of meeting. I rose to speak merely to correct the very wrong statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I am surprised at the attitude adopted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan in discussing this measure in such a cursory manner and in making the criticism that he made. He has not given any consideration to the merits of the legislation now before the chamber. Eather than go to the trouble of analysing the legislation he has contented himself with making some parrot-like statements which will not bear analysis. We know quite well that, when the recent referendum poll was taken members of the Opposition parties in this Parliament associated themselves with people outside to mislead the people of Australia into voting “ No “ on a proposal that was designed in the people’s best interests. By speaking on the measure as he has done, the honorable senator makes it appear that he is not only not doing justice to the people he represents- but is also doing a disservice to the political party with which he is associated. I consider that the bill is a worth-while- measure.
– Then why delay it?
– The measure indicates that the Government is endeavouring to meet the situation that is developing from time to- time in respect of State financial disabilities and has been doing so during a long and perhaps tortuous process of adjustment. The measure goes further than previous legislation of a similar nature. First. it will substantially increase the tax reimbursement payments to the States for the ensuing year and, secondly, it will adjust the basis for varying the annual amount payable to each State in future years, with the object of achieving a closer relationship between financial needs and financial resources. In that aspect alone this legislation is in line with the consideration given by the Government to the disabilities of the States, particularly the claimant States. I find that tax re-imbursements to be paid this year will total £53,680,000, or an increaseof £8,680,000 over the figure for 1947-48.
That is an indication of the degree to which the Commonwealth is endeavouring to help the .States, particularly when we remember that the amount paid to the States as tax re-imbursement grants in 1942 totalled £34,300,000. The States Grants (Tax Ee-imbursement) Act of 1946 provided for the payment of an aggregate amount of £40,000,000 to the States in respect of the years 1946-47 and 1947-4S, and in respect of subsequent years it provided that the aggregate grant be varied in accordance with a formula. That formula is set out in the bill now before the Senate but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not even go to the trouble to indicate whether he considered that formula to be good or bad. Under that formula account must be taken of variations of the population of the States since the 1st July, 1.947, and also half of the percentage increase, if any, in the level of average wages per person employed over the level in 1946-47. Early in 1947-48 it was realized that the State governments would be confronted with serious financial difficulties unless the grants made to them by way of tax re-imbursements were increased. In order to meet that position, the legislation was amended in 1947 to increase the total grants to the States by £5,000,000 in 1947-48 and to provide for an additional grant in respect of each subsequent year to cover any deficiency on the basis of an aggregate grant of £45,000,000. Although that sum was paid last year it was found to be insufficient to meet the reasonable financial requirements of the States. It was found that the formula drawn up in 1946 was not sufficiently flexible to meet rising costs and the consequent variations of the financial needs of the States. The alternative to altering the formula would have been to meet annual requests from the States for special financial assistance. This measure amends the formula to increase the basic amount on which the formula operates; and it also makes greater allowance for the effect of movements in the level of average wages. For that reason the basic amount is to be increased from £40,000,000 to £45,000,000 and the latter basic amount will be increased by the full percentage instead of by only 50 per cent, of the increase of the level of average wages. Therefore, thi? legislation will give to the States the greatest measure of assistance that they have yet enjoyed.
Although I do not propose to analyse the measure in detail, I consider it advisable to make certain comparisons. For the three years immediately preceding the introduction of uniform taxation which commenced as from the 1st July. 1942, income tax collections in “Western Australia amounted to approximately £2,523,000 in 1939-40, £2,628,000 in 1940-41 and £2,624,000 in 1941-42, whilst collections of entertainments tax in that State for those years amounted to £98,000, £95,000, and £9S,000 respectively. Combining entertainments tax and income tax, collections in “Western Australia, amounted to approximately £2,621,000 in 1939-40, £2,723,000 in 1940-41 And £2,722,000 in 1941-42. Compare those figures with the following amounts which have been paid to “Western Australia as re-imbursement grants under uniform taxation .–1942-43, £2,176,000: 1943-44, £2,503,000; 1944-45, £2,586,000: 1945-46, £3,506,000; 1946-47, £3,350,000 and 1947-48, £3,792,000. The figures 1 have just given include enterrtainmente tax collections amounting to £73,000 in 1942-43 and £98,000 in each of the three subsequent financial years. In 1945-46. the re-imbursement grant to Western Australia in respect of income tax and entertainments tax amounted to £3,506,000 of which amount £912,000 represented additional financial assistance under section 6 of the States Grants (Income Tax Ee-imbursement) Act 1942. Thus, since 1944-45 Western Australia has received considerably more under uniform income taxation grants than it collected on its own behalf prior to the introduction of the present system.
This measure is also designed to obviate the necessity for making special grants to the States. If that objective can be achieved it will be very desirable. On the first of this month a record basic wage was declared in Western Australia, when the wage was increased in the metropolitan area and the south-west lands division by 4s. 2d. a week and in all other parts of the State, including the eastern goldfields, by 3s. Sd. a week. Although those increases constitute a record, statistics published by the State Statistician show that they are due to the higher cost of food, clothing and other essential items, which are reflected in the latest, basic wage determination for Western Australia. The minimum wage fixed for the metropolitan district of that State is £6 ls. 7d., for the south-western lands division £6 ls. 3d., and for the gold-fields and other areas £6 9s. 6d. a week. The present basic wage for the metropolitan area shows an increase of 48 per cent, over that fixed on the 1st November, 1939, and the extent of the increase is a matter for serious consideration. On the 26th July last, the cost of living was further increased because of a quarterly adjustment of the basic wage, and the Western Australian railway and tramway services have to pay an additional £50,000 per annum in wages and salaries. It is obvious that if the’ cost of living continues to increase at the present rate, before long we shall encounter economic chaos. The Premier of Western Australia, Mr. McLarty, in the course of a statement to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which is, I understand, at present sitting in Perth, stated -
Although our economy shows evidence of prosperity in all branches, with the exception of the gold-mining industry, the rise in prices and wages which has accompanied our prosperity has increased rather than decreased our dependence on special grants. Unless there is a review of Commonwealth-State financial relations the responsibilities of the Commission are likely to grow.
L have made particular mention of Mr. McLarty’s recent statement because my ears are still ringing with the assurance which he gave a few months ago that if the fixation of rents and prices in Western Australia were left to the State Government the people of that State would have nothing to fear. Now it is obvious to every one that the cost of living is increasing, and will continue to increase, and that the value of wages and the purchasing power of money are decreasing proportionately. The increase >f the basic wage for Western Australia from the 1st November last, which represented an increase of 4s. 2d. in the metropolitan and south-western lands division and 3s. 8d. in all other parts of the State will cost the State railways and tramways £123,000 per annum.
Financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States have been a bone of contention ever since federation, and various methods have been adopted to satisfy the States. Whilst there may be room for improvement of the present system of uniform taxation, I am convinced that a reversion to the dual system of Commonwealth and State taxation would impose a far heavier burden on the taxpayers of Western Australia, who would be called upon to pay considerably more in taxes. Official statistics indicate that the taxpayers of Western Australia now pay less than they did under the old system. This legislation was introduced to meet the needs of the various States, and it is of particular benefit to Western Australia because that State is in special need of financial assistance. Although the State comprises approximately one-third of the territory of Australia, it is occupied by only a little more than half a million people. The present Government has a full recognition of the State’s requirements, and I am confident that proper financial assistance will continue to be given to Western Australia by the Commonwealth. I support the bill.
– in reply - This bill is purely a machinery measure intended to provide reimbursement to the States of a proportion of the money collected by the Commonwealth under the uniform tax system, and the basis of distribution proposed is in accordance with decisions reached at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The State Ministers who attended that conference expressed their appreciation of the Commonwealth’s proposals, and it is difficult, therefore, to reconcile the criticism of the measure made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) with the attitude of the State Ministers. The conference of Ministers to which 1 refer evolved a satisfactory formula for tax reimbursement, and prices control was the subject of separate discussions. Of course, it is true, as some honorable senators have pointed out, that certain States displayed considerable opposition to continued control of prices regulation by the Commonwealth, and contended that they could more adequately control prices. However, I do not think that such considerations are directly related to the present measure, which is intended to provide finance for increased costs incurred by the States such as increases associated with the operation of State social services. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was not correct, therefore, in saying that the measure was introduced because the Commonwealth had abandoned, as he contended, control of rents and prices.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 27th October (vide page 2138), on motion by Senator Cameron -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- - “We have before us a bill to amend the Australian Broadcasting Act. I regard it as the most insidious and dangerous attack upon the Australian way of life and its ideals of democracy and freedom that has ever been presented to the Senate. The ‘bill, which masquerades as a normal bill to effect changes in the Administration of broadcasting, conceals a sinister and abhorrent determination to dragoon all broadcasting to a predetermined government pattern, which will probably be used to limit still further the freedom which the. Australian people at present enjoy. It represents, in fact, one step further towards the development of a totalitarian state and the ultimate control of the daily lives and the destinies of the Australian people. One of the most dangerous developments of World War II. was a greater understanding of the manipulation of public opinion. Propaganda itself was not new, but propaganda of the quiet, insidious kind, of subtle texture and colourable logic, was produced upon such a scale, and used with such’ telling effect, that ministries for propaganda were created in many nations. The skill that was developed under pressure of war has not been forgotten. On the contrary, it has been still further developed, until to-day propaganda is shaping the lives and moulding the destinies of millions of people. Another skill that was developed during the pre-war period is known by a title that I dislike very much. . It is called “conditioning” and means the moulding of the minds of the people to this or that ideology, to the acceptance of this or that personality as an inspired leader, or to the acceptance of this or that activity as being necessary for the nation’s welfare or the Government’s survival. “ Conditioning “ was done with great skill by some ministries in pre-war Europe.
Nothing could be more repugnant to Australians than to be skilfully subjected to propaganda or to be “ conditioned “ to the acceptance of anything. So far, we in Australia have been saved from much of this because one of the first things that propagandists must have is a means of reaching the people, and one of the real requirements for “ conditioning “ on a rapid scale is control of such means over the largest possible area so as to reach the largest possible number of people. Such control has been lacking in Australia. Fortunately, we have an active press owned by many groups competing vigorously with each other, and that has ensured that both sides of public questions have been presented to the people of Australia. 1 know that honorable senators who support the Government will deny that statement, but there can be no doubt that both sides of all arguments on public questions have been presented in the newspapers. Any question on that point is merely a question of quantity. In addition, we have actively competing broadcasting groups presenting different types of programmes, which appeal to different tastes and to people of different ages and which even cater for different ideologies, as is evidenced by the existence of radio stations owned by the Labour party. All this is to be changed ! Under this bill, control of broadcasting will pass into the hands of a board which is to be subject io the Minister and according to him, one of the avowed objects of the board will be “to co-ordinate programmes “.
So, at long last, propagandists will be given the ‘” all-clear “ signal ! They will have the means of presenting their insidious ideas to the public, even ^though their powers may lie only in the right to insist that certain programmes shall not compete with national pro- sgr.am.mes. “ Conditioning “ ,cif the minds of the people will commence. It is intolerable that broadcasting should be controlled in this way. .The people of Australia do not want to -conform te a pattern. They do not want to he “ conditioned “. They do .not want -to be given homeopathic doses -of what the Government considers .to 3>e good for them. They want good., clean, bright entertainment, not homilies. The Government should .not try to bend the broadcasting services into a ‘” unified “, or centrally-operated system subservient to its will in a way that will eventually result in the Australian public being *’ conditioned “ to the acceptance -of its -decisions with docility. That sort of docility was envisaged by. Hitler when, early in his climb to power, he said -
I shall be severe. I shall heed no criticism nor tolerate .any (opposition. I ‘demand only obedience.
We do not want centralization or unification of broadcasting services. Nor is there any national need to make over our broadcasting system.
Let us think of the Australian radio industry. It has done a very fine job. It covers not only broadcasting but also the manufacturing activities associated with broadcasting. There are manufacturers of receiving sets, wholesale distributors, service men, transmitter manufacturers, valve manufacturers, loudspeaker manufacturers, cabinet manufacturers and associated tradesmen who are all part and parcel of the great Australian radio industry. Basically, all of their activities are dependent upon the degree to which broadcasting is acceptable to the public. Obviously, the people will buy receiving sets only if they get value for their money in the form of entertainment and services. Apparently the people are content with the present system. The prosperity of the radio industry, which can «be gauged by official statistics, indicates that they -are probably ‘happy with it. ‘Consider the .situation of the company known as Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. I understand that the -Government holds a (controlling interest in that organization.
– A very fine organization indeed1!
– I agree. Three government nominees sure included in its board of directors. It is generally regarded :as .being the largest manufacturer of receiving sets in Australia. J refer honorable senators to page 114 of -the latest report of the Auditor-General, which shows .that the company made a net profit of .£83,000 in 1947.. That seems to indicate prosperity. Since 1922., the Government has received from the company dividends .amounting .to £706,000. An examination of the balance sheets of other radic companies shows that they are not doing badly. In fact, it is evident that the present system of broadcasting suits them very well indeed. The development of .the radio industry has been remarkable ‘and has set an example to Australia. I remind honorable senators of the war services rendered by its factories. Those services have been recognized appreciatively again and again.
Tie Postmaster-General must admit that the .basis of a. successful .and developing radio receiver manufacturing industry is a successful and developing broadcasting service which is acceptable to the public. The prosperity of the radio industry is due to the success of our broadcasting system. I remind the Senate that there are literally tens of thousands of workers in the industry and that those men and women owe their jobs to the success of broadcasting. Does that make the Postmaster-General unhappy? Must he find in the full employment of such people in the rapidly developing radio industry something to be tampered with? Surely not. Does the Ministry derive any satisfaction from the fact that because of press statements it was apparently necessary for the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to issue a statement assuring the people of this country that amplitude modulated receivers would be satisfactory throughout their life?
Tampering with this successful industry in this manner threatens the livelihood of tens of thousands of workers in radio factories, warehouses, and shops, including thousands of ex-servicemen. In fact, it could produce, within the radio industry, a repetition of the depression that occurred in the time of the Scullin Government, and concerning which we hear so much in this chamber from members of the Labour party. Therefore, I urge the Government not to tamper with the employment level in the radio industry which is based entirely on a successful broadcasting system. Consider the public approval of our present system. The radio licence situation is eloquent testimony to this approval. In June, 1934, there were 599,000 radio licences in this country, by 1948, that number had grown to 1,730,000 in spite of the intervening years of war when radio receiver factories were engaged upon the production of war material. Since 1945, there has been an increase of 300,000 licences. Surely, that is a plain indication that the Australian people like and accept the present broadcasting system. After all, we must not lose sight of the fact that listening to radio programmes is a purely voluntary act. “Why try to alter a radio broadcasting system of which the Australian people are showing such marked approval? Is the Ministry determined, regardless of the cost, to control and regiment broadcasting in this country so that it may use this modern medium for “ conditioning” the people? It is not as if the Government had achieved any notable success with the national broadcasting service. That service costs a large sum of money but it appeals to only a small audience. As the Postmaster-General and the Australian Broadcasting Commission are well aware, there are in this country commercial organizations which carry out audience measurement surveys to determine the popularity of broadcasting stations and programmes. The resources of those organizations have been used by the Australian Broadcasting Commission itself, and I am informed that their methods have been examined by the commission in some detail. It is common knowledge that, in one capital city it was found that the proportion of the listening public which tuned to the national stations -was only 15 per cent., and that that number was divided between the two national programmes in that city. Those facts are well known, and the PostmasterGeneral, if he so desires, may readily have them verified by having the Census Office carry out a check survey. It is el eai” therefore, that the Government has been unable to secure popular acceptance of the programmes of the national stations; yet it now proposes to control the commercial stations and their programmes. Would it not be more reasonable to suggest that the Government should first earn the right to control commercial broadcasting by building up the national service and its programmes to such a standard that they will be more popular than the commercial stations? In any event, is it desirable that the Government should interfere in that matter at all?
Whilst I . realize that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has had to contend with many difficulties, I confess that [ have never heard a racing session from the national stations without feeling some dismay. Under the old act, when the Australian Broadcasting Commission was expending money subscribed by the listening public in licence-fees, there ‘might have been some excuse. The commission might reasonably have claimed that it was giving to the listener the type of service that he desired; but under the existing legislation the commission is financed from revenue, and, in those circumstances, I believe that the PostmasterGeneral should insist upon the omission of racing broadcasts. It is intolerable to think that the taxpayers’ money if being used to finance broadcasts of races. If there is a race of national interest, such as the Melbourne Cup, by all means let the commission broadcast it, but there is no justification for the broadcasting of every race, sometimes from three capital cities, together with the details of starters, riders, barrier positions, &c. That is “ conditioning “ the minds of the Australian public with a vengeance. It is quite wrong for the Government to encourage racing to this degree, and, if this bill serves no other good purpose than to rid the air of racing broadcasts by the national stations, at least it will have accomplished something.
That this measure should be presented to the Senate by the Postmaster-General is to me a matter of personal regret. The honorable gentleman has impressed me, during my relatively short membership of this chamber, by his courtesy and sincerity, and I% acknowledge publicly my gratitude for the understanding with which he has answered questions that I have asked in this chamber. We have not always seen things from quite the same angle, but he has been big-minded enough to recognize that there is usually more than one point of view on any matter. But there were three important omissions from the Postmaster-General’s second-reading speech on this bill. The first concerns frequency modulation. Proposed new section 54, sub-section 2, an apparently innocuous provision, reads -
The technical equipment of ti commercial broadcasting station shall not be so designed as to permit the station to use any form of modulation other than amplitude modulation.
When this measure becomes law, that sub-section will prevent the commercial stations from making frequency modulation broadcasts. Surely, that is a matter of sufficient importance to warrant at least a mention, if not an explanation, in the second-reading speech. Silence upon this important decision by the Government savours too much of a hope to achieve, without attracting attention, the limitation of frequency modulation to the national broadcasting service. The wording of the proposed new section is so technical that many honorable senators may have missed that point. Undoubtedly, frequency modulation broadcasting is making great headway. The latest reports from the United States of America indicate that 191 frequency modulation stations have been licensed,, constructional permits have been granted for 724, and S6 further applications are pending. Of the 724 stations for which construction permits have been granted, 390 are on the air. Therefore, in the United States of America, 581 stations are already broadcasting frequency modulation programmes, and another 330 will be on the air soon. In view of this development, it is obvious that frequency modulation will soon have to be introduced in this country ; but the commercial stations are to he denied an opportunity to assist in this development. The Government obviously proposes to limit frequency modulation broadcasts to the national stations, which already have demonstrated that they cannot entertain the bulk of the Australian people. Could anything be more unjust? The commercial stations, on the other hand, have entertained the public so well that they attract 85 per cent, of the listening public. They have built up the radio manufacturing industry to such a degree that the manufacture, sale and servicing of receivers provides employment for many thousands of men and women. In addition, I have no doubt that .the commercial stations have been largely instrumental in increasing the number of listeners’ licences from 600 to 1,730,000, and, in doing so, have actually augmented the revenue of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The banning of frequency modulation broadcasts by those stations is a serious development. Clause 25 is another apparently harmless clause. It provides for an amendment of section 103 of the principal act. The effect of that amendment will be to deprive the Broadcasting Committee of its power to recommend the granting of licences for frequency modulation, facsimile reproduction and television. Several honorable senators, including myself, are members of the Broadcasting Committee, and I feel that I can speak with some knowledge on this matter. As the act now stands, the Postmaster-General could not, except on the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee, grant licences for frequency modulation, facsimile reproduction and television. Should this measure become law - and I have no doubt that it will, despite the grave injustices that it will perpetrate on the radio industry - the granting of licences for frequency modulation will be solely within the jurisdiction of the Minister. I cannot find in the bill any authority for any one to issue licences for facsimile reproduction or television; but perhaps the Minister will enlighten me on that matter. The fact remains that the Broadcasting Committee is being brushed aside in favour of the PostmasterGeneral, and will lose its power to recommend the granting of licences. To many people this may seem to be a minor matter, but at least the committee held public sittings to discuss the various issues that were placed before it. Those sittings were also open to the press, and were frequently attended by members of the general public. The removal of that right of recommendation is significant when considered in the light of the Government’s determination not to grant frequency modulation licences to commercial stations. Obviously, the decisions are to be made behind closed doors by the Minister. That is wrong and undemocratic. The failure of the PostmasterGeneral to draw attention to those clauses when introducing the bill can only be interpreted as meaning either that he did not believe the matter to be important, in which event my fellow members of the Broadcasting Committee will no doubt have something to say, or alternatively, that he did not regard members of the Broadcasting Committee as deserving even the courtesy of an intimation of the Government’s intentions. Another indication of the manner in which the Broadcasting Committee is being ignored is contained in the reply given by the PostmasterGeneral to a question that I asked recently in this chamber. I asked what had happened to an application that had been made in accordance with a recommendation of the committee. The Minis ters reply was-r-
An application was made to the Postal Department in January, 1947, by the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations for permission to erect a station each in Sydney and Melbourne for the purpose of conducting experiments in frequency modulation broadcasting, and certain discussions then took place with representatives of the Federation in regard to the proposal.
Consideration was given to the matter by the Government, which decided that the experimental frequency modulation stations in Australia should be confined to those provided by the Post Office in each capital city, it being felt that the results of the tests from those stations, supplemented by information showing the latest developments .in overseas coun- tries should be sufficient to enable a wellinformed decision to he reached. Advice to this effect was forwarded to the Federation on the 19th May, 1947.
As the honorable senator is aware the Government has decided that frequency modulation broadcasting should be introduced gradually into the National Broadcasting Service in Australia, and plans are being prepared accordingly.
Once again the Broadcasting Committee was brushed aside. What is the use of all the careful inquiry and work undertaken by the committee when it is ignored because of the Government’s intention to achieve a totalitarian State? I shall now turn to the third omission. In very small type on the last page of the bill is an amendment to section 4 of the principal act to provide for the omission of the definition of “ the Minister”. The present definition is that “ the Minister “ means the PostmasterGeneral. The alteration of that definition will mean not only that the control of broadcasting is to be transferred from the Postmaster-General’s Department, but also that the administration of the act is no “longer to be entrusted to the Postmaster-General. Surely this is of sufficient importance for the Minister to have given the Senate some explanation of the Government’s intention. There are innumerable references to “ the Minister “ in the principal act and in this amending bill, but there is complete silence as to who “ the Minister “ will be. Either that decision will form- part of another act at a later date or else the Government will rely upon some general interpretation such as “ the Minister for the time being administering the act “ or something similar. I suggest that the implications of the Postmaster-General’s silence on those three points are serious. Here is the most modern and convenient means of reaching the Australian public, a vehicle which is capable of being used for the most subtle and corrosive propaganda to condition the minds of the Australian people. I invite the Minister to indicate the Governments intentions, and to say whether it is proposed to entrust this duty to the present Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), or who is the Minister referred to in the bill. What is the reason for the Government’s silence on this matter? Is it because it is afraid to tell the public, in view of the fact that Mr. Calwell is the Minister who demanded the return of the “ Manila girls “ ? All told the hill’s main purpose is to bring the whole broadcasting industry firmly into line with the totalitarian conception of State dominance. Even the Australian Broadcasting Commission is deprived of any independence it ever possessed. Its revenue from broadcasting licences is to be taken from it and it is to become dependent upon a grant from revenue. The number of its personnel is to be increased by the addition of two civil servants, one from the Treasury and the other from the Postmaster-General’s De.partment. Those civil servants will be placed in an awkward position if they differ from the Minister on any important matter. The commission itself will be able to secure money only for those activities of which the Minister approves. Gone for ever is any semblance of independence enjoyed by the commission, which will become just another government department engaged in broadcasting activities. If it needs more money it must .go cap in hand to the Government to get it. I can foresee some strange situations occurring. If a sum of £5,000 were required to bring a Scottish comedian out to Australia to broadcast, would the Government find the amount? The commission would submit estimates to the Treasurer and doubtless those estimates would deal with bulk figures and not with details. Or the sum of £5,000 may be asked to bring five celebrity conductors to Australia. The Treasurer might prune the estimate down to £4,000. Would that mean that only four instead of five conductors could be brought to Australia? Under this legislation the independence of the commission will disappear. From now on it must reconcile itself to undertaking only those activities of which the Treasurer approves and which the Government will agree to finance. When the bill becomes law the commission will be reduced to dependence. The commercial and the national stations will both be subject to the new board. That is a totalitarian pattern which in the long run must result in the deterioration of radio programmes. Personally, I should welcome a board to control broadcasting if it were given real control, for instance, the freedom to develop its own policy in the interests of the listeners only. For some time it has been apparent that there has been established a broadcasting policy which has never been discussed in this chamber. It is equally apparent that that policy has been heavily biased against the commercial stations in favour of the national stations. The commercial stations have been successful in spite of, and not because of, the policy. I shall cite some examples of that secret policy, and deal first with the subject of electric power made available, to broadcasting stations. Many of the national stations operate with 10,000 watts of power. The highest power which is permitted any commercial station is 2,000 watts. 3AR, Melbourne and 3LO, Mel.bourne, both of which are national stations, operate with 10,000 watts. Each of four Melbourne commercial stations has 600 watts, and one, I am told, is either now or shortly will be, operating on 1,000 watts. It should be obvious that the higher the power the greater the strength of reception within the radius served by a station. The national stations are given priority in power. This is even more noticeable in my own home district in Queensland, where the new national station at Pialba has been given a power of 2,000 watts, although the commercial station which pioneered broadcasting in that area, and has built up a considerable listening audience whilst also carrying the cost of establishing radio in the area, has been allowed, I believe, a power of only 500 watts. That policy is repeated in every capital city and country district where the national service is established, and it seems most unfair.
There is also a bias in favour of the national stations in the allocation of wave lengths. The higher the wave length the greater the area served by a station. All the best wave lengths are utilized by the national stations. There is one notable exception to that rule, which is the Labour party’s station in Brisbane, which, I understand, is temporarily utilizing one of the wave lengths reserved for the national services. It is fair to say that the policy appears to be that good wave lengths are reserved for national stations instead of being allotted in accordance with a district’s needs or the requirements of listeners. There is also the matter of shared wave lengths. Apparently only commercial stations have to share wave lengths. If honorable senators were to check on the wave lengths of the commercial stations in Hobart or Perth, I am sure they would find that those stations operate on shared channels whilst the national stations broadcast have cleared channels. It appears that the national stations, in accordance with this secret policy, must have every possible advantage. The commercial station at Gympie in Queensland, which operates on a miserable 200 volts, was refused an increase in this power, despite repeated applications which pointed out the hilly, mineralized nature of the area that the station serves. That station shares a wave length with the Geelong radio station, which operates on 500 watts of power.
I shall turn now to refusals of service. Town after town in Australia has been refused a licence for the establishment of a commercial station. In Queensland, the town of Innisfail, which is the densely populated centre of a prosperous sugar-producing district, and is about half way between Cairns and Townsville, has no commercial broadcasting station. Nor has Casino, in New South Wales, Wangaratta, in Victoria, and in any other similar towns. This chamber might not be aware of the fact that for a long time applications for licences to operate commercial radio stations have been refused on the ground that there is no wave length available. Yet, Australia has only 102 commercial radio stations and 32 national stations, making a total of 134, operating on wave lengths that in America accommodate 1,732 stations. That decision seems to be ridiculous. Despite the bias against them in the provision of power, wave lengths and in the matter of expansion, commercial radio stations have built up an industry that is a credit to Australia. I, personally, would welcome the proposal to establish a board to control broadcasting if its establishment would enable the re-opening of such matters and provide an opportunity to rectify grave injustices. I fear, however, that the hoard will act always subject to the Minister. It is obvious that all the board will do is to take over some of the duties now performed by the wireless branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and that it will not be free to formulate or implement its own decisions. It will merely make recommendations to the Minister. I hope that such recommendations will be treated with more consideration than were the recommendations made by the Broadcasting Committee, on which the Government has a majority of members.
I consider that the bill, in its present form, is suspect, and that it constitutes the prelude to the unification of radio services and is a step towards totalitarianism. I am disturbed by the way in which it has been presented to this chamber and by the fact that both it and the Minister have withheld essential information. I deplore the attempt contained in the bill to interfere with the radio industry of Australia, which has created a tremendous amount of employment, and with those employed by th<industry, who hope to continue working in well-paid positions under good conditions. I am convinced the bill is a mistake and oan only do harm. In its present form, I am completely opposed to it.
– It seems strange that somebody should write such a statement for Senator Rankin.
– I spent hours preparing it.
– The honorable senator started on the subject of propaganda and set out to say that the purpose of the measure was to take over all radio in Australia for the purpose of propaganda. Filth was first introduced into radio propaganda during the general election campaign in 1943, when the commercial stations played a record on which was reproduced a voice with a strong German accent saying, “ If you vote for the Labour Barty, veil den they won’t interfere wid Germany “. Propaganda of that type was so objectionable, that commercial stations ultimately destroyed such records. But filthy propaganda is being broadcast to-day. I refer to the broadcasts of “ John Henry Austral “, to which objection has been raised in all walks of life, in the workshops, on the farms, and in the factories. Senator Rankin referred to total government control of radio in Italy and Germany. Only people who believe in the theory that no matter what the lie so long as it is told often enough people will be led to believe it, would employ the “ John Henry Austral “ broadcasts. The original broadcasting committee, under the chairmanship of ex-Senator Gibson, determined that during election campaigns party political broadcasts should cease on the Wednesday preceding the Saturday on which polling took place. However, certain commercial stations, solely for the sake of profit, accept the “ John Henry. Austral “ records which are sponsored by the Liberal party. On those records speakers simulate the voices of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Mr. Rosevear) and other leaders of the Australian Labour party. When I and other members of the Parliament visited station 2GB in Sydney, the manager of the station, Mr. Lane, told us that those records were so objectionable that each station had determined not to use them. They were not prepared to broadcast the records in the form in which they were originally submitted by the Liberal party.
Senator Rankin said that this measure would have the effect of ruining the radio industry in Australia, and she cited several units which she claimed to be leaders in the industry. I do not know whether some representative of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited wrote the statement which the honorable senator has just read, but I was surprised when she had the temerity to cite that company as the largest unit in the radio industry in this country. I am sure that Electronic Industries Limited and Standard Telephones and Cables Proprietary Limited would dispute that claim. When the Broadcasting Committee investigated frequency modulation broadcasting, it took into its confidence the members of the radio industry. The industry’s representatives gave evidence before the committee, and invited members of that committee to examine various plants which were ostensibly preparing to undertake the manufacture of frequency modulation receiving sets. In some factories which we visited we saw lanes of tables on which we were told such sets were to be manufactured. However, even to-day one will look in vain in any radio shop in any capital city for a frequency modulation receiving set. Why has this great industry refused to follow up the unanimous recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee which resulted in the setting up in each State of frequency modulation antennae for the purpose of enabling the industry to learn the technique of frequency modulation reception ? From those experimental stations frequency modulation broadcasts were originally transmitted for about two hours daily, but to-day such transmission is continuous from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily. What effort has been made by the great radio industry to” give to the Australian people the benefit of this improved form of broadcasting? Who are these interests that they should claim that they will not manufacture frequency modulation sets unless the Government agrees to do certain things? Are they any better than the Communists when they hold up industry in that way ? They are applying the same ideas as the Communists. They say that unless private enterprise is allowed to control frequency modulation broadcasting the industry will not make frequency modulation receiving sets. I trust that even at this late hour wiser counsels will prevail with the radio manufacturers. I have always held the view that the radio manufacturing industry has let the Australian public down very badly. Receiving sets still being sold to-day for amplitude modulation programmes are of the 1939 vintage. The industry held millions of component parts of such sets before the war, and manufacturers are still putting out-of-date sets into bakelite cabinets and selling them at excessive prices. I was of the opinion that the prices of radio sets should have been controlled, by the Prices Commissioner, but, unfortunately, they were classified as a luxury item and were not subject to such control. The price being charged for these out-of-date sets, which are capable of receiving only amplitude modulation programmes, is higher than the price at which one can obtain in the United States of America, a set capable of receiving not only amplitude modulated programmes but also frequency modulation and short-wave broadcasts.
Senator Rankin declared that under this measure the Government proposes to take over complete control of radio broadcasting in this country, and she described such action as totalitarian. She said that this would mean the end of radio as the Australian people know it to-day. Apparently, she spoke without knowledge of the operations of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the American Federal Communications Commission. Each of those authorities can interfere with the operation of radio stations. At one time thousands of radio stations operated in America solely to put advertising “ puffs “ over the air. As many as four, cr five, advertisements were broadcast for every musical record played. The position became so bad that the Federal Communications Commission eliminated many of those stations, and the American Government enacted legislation to empower the commission to compel radio stations to provide a certain proportion of sustained programmes. Every day they must include in their programmes a prescribed period of entertainment, the cost of which is borne by themselves and not by advertising sponsors. Contrast that with the practice followed by commercial broadcasters in Australia. Those stations play a musical recording, which is followed by two advertisements, and another recording is played, followed by another advertisement. If the station is broadcasting a serial play more time is occupied iri relating the sponsor’s message and giving publicity to advertising matter than is devoted to the broadcast of the serial. When an entire play is broadcast in one session the play itself is preceded by advertising publicity, and the several acts of the play are interspersed with sponsor’s messages, and at its conclusion more publicity is broadcast. It is said that the commercial broadcasters pioneered a new industry. The fact is that originally commercial broadcasting licences were issued to provide entertainment and instruction for radio listeners, but in their desire to make profits the commercial broadcasters have forgotten the real pur- pose for which their licences were issued. Consider the history of commercial broadcasting in this country. When licences were first made available in 1920, they were not wanted. Then it was pointed out to the newspaper interests of this country that if they did not take up the broadcasting licences available, other commercial interests would do so, and newspapers would suffer because advertisers might be induced to use the commercial radio stations in preference to the press. Today, 62 per cent, of the commercial broadcasting stations of Australia are owned or controlled by newspaper interests. Let us examine some of the remarkable “pioneering” which those interests have accomplished. To-day there is no commercial broadcasting at Wangaratta. The original station was shifted to another place because the “ dough “ was better. Honorable senators should not overlook the fact that but for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Department of Information the people who live in the inland of Australia would receive no news or information whatever. Of the 77 broadcasting stations in Australia, it is significant that 25 are located in the capital cities. Yet in the face of all that, the commercial broadcasters claim to have pioneered an industry. The fact is that instead of rendering a public service they have amassed profits of £3,000,000. They say “ Give us a chance “ ; but they have had every chance. They are organized in a body known as the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, which meets annually, and I understand that that body is at present meeting in Tasmania. The commercial stations have had a grand opportunity to provide sustaining programmes for the people. In this country there are thousands of musicians who are walking the country seeking employment, but it is well known that the commercial stations do not employ a single musician. Any performance by an Australian musician which is broadcast is paid for by an advertising sponsor.
Senator Rankin contended that approximately only 15 per cent, of people listen to the broadcasts of the two national radio networks, but I wonder just what percentage of listeners each of the 36 individual stations in New South Wales claims. No light has been thrown on that by the Gallup poll, the McNair system or the Anderson analysis. At almost every centre at which evidence was taken by the Broadcasting Committee, the representatives of certain interests suggested that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should discontinue the broadcast descriptions of race meetings, and obviously the commercial broadcasting services would be very pleased if the commission were to do so. Of course, they would then urge that the commission should eliminate from its programmes descriptions of all forms of sports meetings. I emphasize that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is the only organization which caters for the people of the outback, the remote listeners in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Those people depend on the national short-wave broadcasts for information and entertainment, and if the commission were to eliminate from its programmes sporting broadcasts, those people, who enjoy so few amenities, would be deprived of something which means a great deal to them. Indeed, discontinuance of such broadcasts would be a retrograde step because the Australian Broadcasting Commission was established to serve the public, and I venture to say that more people are interested in horse racing than in any other form of sport.
The measure has been criticized because it does not propose to confer on commercial broadcasting stations the right to establish frequency modulation transmitters: The Broadcasting Committee carefully considered that aspect of the matter and came to the conclusion that because of the shortage of man-power it would be wrong to permit all commercial broadcasting stations to establish a frequency modulation system. I remind honorable senators that frequency modulation was the subject of a great deal of experimentation in the United .States of America where Major Armstrong first demonstrated its practicability. The detailed results of his experiments were made available to the broadcasting industry and to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which reported that the technical difficulties could be overcome and that the new system could be implemented immediately. As soon as it received the blue prints the Postmaster-General’s Department got on with the job, but the radio industry failed miserably.
Critics of the Government’s proposals contend that the measure cuts across the provisions of the present act. They argue that because licences were issued to commercial broadcasters they should be free to adopt frequency modulation and to transmit television programmes. That is not correct. The act provides that the Broadcasting Committee may examine applications for transmitting licences and make recommendations, but it is the responsibility of the PostmasterGeneral and of the Government to accept or reject the committee’s recommendations. In the final analysis the Government must accept the responsibility.
The proposal to appoint two new members to the commission has been criticized, but in my opinion, two additional members axe needed. It is intended that one of the additional members shall represent the Postmaster-General’s Department, which is vitally concerned with certain technical aspects of broadcasting, and I am pleased that that department is to be directly represented on the commission. For a long time a struggle has been going on between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Postmaster-General’s Department in connexion with certain technical matters, and also in regard to the arrangement of programmes, and the appointment of a representative of the Postmaster-General’s Department should enable the two undertakings to function more harmoniously. The second additional appointment proposed is to enable the Treasury to be represented on the commission. The appointment of a representative of the Treasury is necessary because the commission will expend large sums of public money, and some check must be exercised on it. I do not propose to say much about that aspect of the matter except to say that in my opinion it is time that a Treasury representative was appointed.
Passage of the measure will enable the commission to arrange its programme for three years ahead. Senator Rankin made some reference to the commission bringing an artist to this country to perform over the national network at a cost of £5,000. The new arrangement will enable the commission to obtain the services of expensive artists at appropriate times, and the fact that contracts can be made for performances in eighteen months or two years’ time will enable the commission by planning for the future to conserve its funds.
In reply to critics of the measure, who contend that the present proposals are socialistic, I point out that the British Broadcasting Corporation was not established by a Labour government but by an ultra-Conservative administration, and I say, without fear of contradiction, that the British Broadcasting Corporation provides a better service and brighter programmes than over any other broadcasting system in the world. In Canada also, commercial and national stations are controlled by a board, and in the United States of America commercial broadcasting stations are subjected to stringent control by the Federal Communications Commission. That body takes action which would outrage critics, including Senator Rankin, of the control proposed to be established in Australia. In the United States applications for broadcasting licences are dealt with by the Federal Communications Commission, and that body insists that applicants must prove that the operation of new radio stations will not interfere in any way with existing stations. Applicants must also satisfy the commission that they have a prospective listening public, and that they can provide sustaining programmes. “When all those requirements have been complied with the commission may issue a tentative licence for six months, at the end of which period it may order the applicant to cease broadcasting if it is not satisfied with his efforts.
The establishment of the proposed board will accomplish a great deal for the Australian public, because it will enable broadcasting stations in city areas to transfer to frequency modulation and so provide proper radio channels for country listeners. People in the remote areas of Australia, who are denied all the amenities of city dwellers, should receive special consideration from all honorable senators, and I am confident that the establishment of the proposed board will result in making available greater amenities for country residents. Although the measure will be subjected to all kinds of criticism by vested interests, I congratulate the Government on its introduction. Of course, we shall be told that the measure is socialist and totalitarian, but I refer those who may utter such criticism to the successful operation of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the American Federal Communications Commission. Members of the Opposition have at various times complained that we should do better if we modelled our broadcasting system on those which I have just mentioned, but now they are prepared to denounce the present proposals as socialistic. Of course, those proposals have nothing whatever to do with socialism. All that the measure seeks to accomplish is the establishment of a board to supervise the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations. It proposes that the board shall receive and investigate complaints from those two bodies. Instead of the commercial broadcasting stations referring complaints to the Broadcasting Committee, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission making requests to the PostmasterGeneral that the parliamentary committee should investigate its grievances and proposals, the proposed board will be able to deal immediately with all such matters; I point out that the Broadcasting Committee can function only when the parliament is not sitting and because we are a democracy the committee’s work is necessarily slow. By contrast, the proposed board of three members will sit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. It will be able to iron out difficulties between the commercial broadcasting stations and the broadcasting commission as they arise. Furthermore, no attempt has been made by either the Government or the Postmaster-General to take away from the Broadcasting Committee any of its functions.
– The honorable senator should read the provisions of the bill.
– I do not know whether the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan), who is a lawyer, has read them. The bill provides that they shall request the Minister to refer the matter to the committee but the Minister may refuse to do so.
– The present act states that the Minister “shall . . .”
– The broadcasting (join mission will have the right to exercise any of its present functions, and it can report to the Parliament any action of the proposed board to which it objects. Any direction issued by the PostmasterGeneral must be included in the committee’s report to -the Parliament, and if the proposed board interferes with the functions of the commission in any way the commission will not hesitate to report a i.i oh interference to the Parliament. Furthermore, provision is made for the submission to the Parliament of an annual report by the proposed board. What is the significance of all this talk about totalitarianism and socialism? Both words have ‘been coined merely for purposes of political propaganda.
I compliment the Government upon introducing this bill to provide for the establishment of the broadcasting control board, which will provide the people with improved broadcasting services. The people are entitled to the very best that science can give to them, and I hope that the Government will take action against anybody who tries to withhold from them the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of frequency modulation broadcasting. I compliment the Government also upon taking action to prevent “John Henry Austral “ from continuing to use and abuse the procedures of the Parliament in propaganda broadcasts.
– The honorable senator cannot “ take it “.
– No, I cannot “ take it “. I should have liked the Government to prevent the ‘broadcasting of such propaganda at all times and in all forms. T prophesy now that it will do so eventually. The Opposition parties should not forget that the Labour party could also engage in the sort of tactics which they employ. But money is not everything in life. If honorable senators oppo site believe that the propaganda of “ John Henry Austral “ is appropriate to a democracy they are wrong. Taken to its logical conclusion, it could destroy democracy. Such tactics need not be one-sided, but I should not like to think that I belonged to a party which would stoop so low as to engage in such misrepresentation as is being perpetrated by the Liberal party of Australia. It is the lowest form of political attack, and could lead only to despotism.
– It is factual.
– It is anything but factual. The Government should ban all forms of political dramatization in radio programmes. The broadcasting stations are licensed to provide a public service. They have no right to insult more than one-half of their listeners. Money alone guides their activities. Greed for money has become the motive for everything that they do. I am not proud to think that such a state of affairs can prevail in Australia. The Broadcasting Committee has condemned those broadcasts. The Labour party will stand on its own feet and will substantiate any legislation that the Government may introduce. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party are entitled to criticize the Government’s acts, but they should not authorize some “ stooge “ to broadcast the “ voices “ of members of Parliament and misrepresent the facts. Surely we have better standards than that in Australia. I thought that at least we had grown up politically, but it appears that the Opposition parties are still far down the lane. I again congratulate the Postmaster-General upon introducing this measure.
– I add my meed of congratulation to the Government upon the introduction of this bill. As Senator Amour has said, the Government will study the effect of tie legislation and will amend it from time to time if necessary. I notice with interest that the Opposition, to use a cricketing term, has changed the batting order in this debate and that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) had sent in his valiant Whip to open the score. Consistent with her criticism of other measures that have been introduced by the Government since she has been a member of the Senate, Senator Rankin declared that the bill was suspect. Honorable senators are accustomed to hearing that term from the honorable senator. Having heard it from her so often, I am ‘a little concerned as to whether Adam Lindsay Gordon was right when, in one of his morose and melancholy moods, he wrote these lines -
That lady of old caught trippin’
The fair one in fig leaves
Who damned us all for a bite of a golden pippin.
The honorable senator “ damned “ with every sentence her hostility to the measure as well as the hostility of the class which she represents.’ Upon that ground, the Opposition is to be commended for allowing Senator Rankin to open the debate from its side.
– I shall be as generous as possible to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that veritable Sir Galahad who supports his colleague so chivalrously, and say that Senator Rankin consented to open the debate for the Opposition. One of the honorable senator’s opening remarks was that the bill represented an insidious attack upon the Australian way of life. That was a repetition of her comment about many other measures which this Government has introduced in order to keep abreast of advancing times.
Whether the honorable senator likes it or not, the desire of the people for the last generation has been to bring more and more of the nation’s utilities under Government1 control. That is a fact. Therefore, her assertion that this measure represents an insidious attack upon the Australian way of life is not in accordance with fact. She also declared that the Government was trading on the docility of the Australian people. What an opinion to have of Australians! No other people in the world take a greater interest in affairs of state than do Australians. Thousands of men and women throughout the Commonwealth fought the curse of Hitlerism, about the horrors of which I am in agreement with Senator Rankin. Those people now support this Government just as enthusiastically as they resisted the doctrine of the nazis. We all realize what is at stake in this bill. If politics comes into the discussion, there can be no doubt that, because of the control now exercised by vested interests over various mediums of publicity in Australia, the Government has the small end of the stick. Considering that situation, it is remarkable that, in spite of inspired propaganda against it, the Government has been .able to remain in office during this crucial period of Australian history. Senator Rankin said that she was perturbed about the possibility of unemployment in the radio industry. She appears to fear that after seven years in office this Government will depart from the full employmentpolicy which is one of its primary objectives. There is less unemployment in Australia to-day than there has been at any other time in the country’s history, and there is no reason to doubt that the effect of the bill will be to increase opportunities for employment in the industry.
I disagree entirely with the honorable senator’s method of approaching the bill. Her outlook is quite wrong, and I deplore the tactics which she employed. I leave her to continue her genuflections before the mirror of conservatism in the hope that eventually she will learn to adopt a broader national outlook upon matters that effect the people so intimately as does this bill. Had she taken the trouble to study the admirable secondreading speech of the Postmaster-General, she would have noticed the following paragraph : -
There was an important development in July, 1928, when the Bruce-Page Government announced its intention of establishing a national broadcasting service whereby the technical services of all class A stations would be owned and operated by the Government. . . .
I cannot imagine that supporters of the Bruce-Page Government or their successors in later parliaments would have any sympathy with this Government. However, whether by accident or design, Liberals and Conservatives apparently sometimes try, even though in a halfhearted manner, to do something for the good of the nation. The PostmasterGeneral’s speech continued -
In 1932, the Lyons Government decided to establish a service still more national in character, and to that end, the Australian
Broadcasting Commission Act was passed. It provided for the appointment of five commissioners. The commission was required to take over the existing studios of the class A stations, but the whole of the technical services were to continue to be the responsibility of the Post Office, which was also called upon to provide, without cost to the commission, the interconnecting programme transmission lines needed for simultaneous broadcasting by two or more stations.
That was sixteen years ago and, as the Postmaster-General has pointed out, pronounced scientific advances have taken place in the radio industry since then. I believe that anti-Labour governments of those days were so concerned about the probability of broadcasting becoming an important link in the life of the community that they were forced to perform one of the few sound, statesmanlike acts of their careers in bringing broadcasting under government control.
The Labour party has always held the view that instrumentalities of a national character should be controlled by the Government and therefore has sought, not to alter, but to enlarge upon the work of the Bruce-Page Government and the Lyons Government, both of which were probably aided and abetted in their enlightened actions by the Labour representatives who were in opposition in those days. That statement of the facts ade- quately dispels any misapprehension that might be entertained by fair-minded people to the effect that the Labour Government is prompted by anything but the highest motives. Its endeavour is to do the right and reasonable thing for the people in the sphere of broadcasting. I find very little fault with the proposed constitution of the broadcasting control board. Its creation will be an essential departure from the existing system. I note with interest that members of the board will, for all practical purposes, enjoy the conditions which apply to permanent public servants’. That is an important provision, and I am glad that the Government has included it in the bill. I applaud the following statement by the Postmaster-General : -
In order to carry out its functions and exercise the powers proposed to bc conferred upon it by this bill, it will be necessary for the board to employ staff with technical and other requisite qualifications, and since the board is intended to become a permanent part of the broadcasting machinery of Australia, it is pro posed in the bill that the staff shall be employed under the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
I quote that passage to stress also that the staff of the new controlling authority will be under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. I realize, of course, that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will be greatly interested in this further increase of public servants, and I have no doubt that he is only too eager to have an opportunity to express his condemnation of this bill, because it provides employment for the people of this country. Dealing with, programmes, the Postmaster-General said -
It is not the wish of the Government that the board should exercise its powers in an autocratic manner . . .
As I have no doubt that the desire of the people of this country is that Labour should hold office in the Commonwealth sphere for many years to come, the danger of those powers being exercised in an autocratic manner is very remote. Any one who sought to disregard the Government’s wishes in this respect would very soon be brought to book. Therefore, the people of Australia need not have any worry on that score. The PostmasterGeneral also stated - . . the board will take such action as is necessary to ensure that programmes are of reasonable extent and variety, that adequate and appropriate times are set apart for broadcasts1 of divine worship or other ma’tter of a religious nature, that equitable facilities a”re afforded for the broadcasting nf political and controversial matter, and that the advertising content of any programme is not to be excessive.
In my opinion, that is one of the most vital statements in the speech. I agree, m some measure, with what Senator Rankin said about the broadcasting of race descriptions. It would appear that, with the commercial stations in particular, but also to some degree with the national stations, whatever else may be occurring in the -Commonwealth ‘ the policy is that, “nothing should interfere with the broadcast of races “. At present, listeners are obliged to hear the race results not only from their own State, but also from other States, and this becomes a little nauseating at times. On Saturday afternoons, one frequently finds that race broadcasts occupy the air to the exclusion of all other items of interest, including other sporting fixtures. I do not condemn entirely the broadcasting of race descriptions, because, apparently, there is public demand for those broadcasts; but there are many people who are not nearly so interested as I am in what is called the “ sport of kings “ - punters sometimes use other descriptions - and I believe that broadcasting authorities could be a little more generous to other sporting bodies when allocating programme time. It is gratifying indeed to know that adequate provision will be made for the broadcast of divine services. There will always be some listeners, of course, who will believe that the payment of licence-fees entitles them to hear only what they want to hear, and that religious’ broadcasts are an inroad on their rights and liberties. For a long time, I have been of the opinion - I am more than ever convinced of it to-day - that the people of this country can best be induced to return to a high standard of human fellowship by better moral training. I welcome, therefore, the announcement that appropriate times will be set apart for broadcasts of divine worship and other matter of a religious nature. The PostmasterGeneral also said -
There is no intention on the part of the Government to divorce the board from parliamentary control, and orders made by the board in pursuance of its powers and functions will lie placed on the table of both Houses of Parliament.
That statement should allay Senator Rankin’s fear that the proposed board might act contrary to the interests of the people.
ministerial control and not parliamentary control that we fear.
– I assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that any future experience he may have of ministerial control is a long way off. Any member of the community who feels some apprehension about what the honorable senator might do should he occupy a seat on the treasury bench, need have no fear on that score for many years to come.
In considering the Government’s decision to appoint a special broadcasting authority, one should bear in mind the remarkable growth of broadcasting in Australia and in other countries. Those of us who are approaching middle age, or perhaps are a little past it, cannot fail to be impressed with the tremendous advancement that has been made in the adaptation of broadcasting to the education of the people, particularly rural dwellers. The day has long since past when radio receivers could be regarded as household luxuries. I commend the Government for the attention that it is giving to the educational potentialities of broadcasting. The Postmaster-General said -
Since the introduction of broadcasting to Australia in 1923 it has been under the general control and oversight of the PostmasterGeneral and has grown tremendously.
I have heard no suggestion, even from anti-Labour parties or their supporters, that broadcasting in this country should be removed from government control. It is strange, therefore, to find opposition to this measure which seeks to prepare for broadcasting developments yet to come, such as frequency modulation and television. As the Postmaster-General pointed out, there are now 32 national stations and 102 commercial stations operating in the medium-wave frequency band and the number of licensed listeners exceeds 1,730,000. Surely those figures are phenomenal for a nation of approximately 7,000,000 people. The fact that to-day, only 25 years after the introduction of broadcasting, Australia has 1,730,000 licensed receivers, is surely sufficient indication even to the most biased critic, that the Government has a responsibility to ensure that the best programmes shall be available to the people of Australia. As the Postmaster-General pointed out, advertising is the only source of revenue for the commercial stations and is an indispensable part of the present broadcasting system. One can hear from the commercial stations to-day three or four serials which have been broadcast for many years. They include, “ Martin’s Corner” and “Dad and Dave”. Those programmes have many followers, and I have no doubt that even some members of this chamber tune in to them if only for a welcome change from the misery of having to listen to the criticism of this measure. To me it is a change at least to hear poor old “ Dad “ talking about Lord Montgomery or some other notable figure. The popularity of those programmes clearly demonstrates that radio advertising is a paying proposition, and that the listening public are being given what they want. I agree wholeheartedly with the following passage from the PostmasterGeneral’s speech : -
Broadcasting does not exist for sectional purposes,but is essentially a public utility service which should make its appeal inone form or another to every member of the community.
I am confident that the Government will implement this legislation in the manner described by the Postmaster-General. Should any fault become apparent when the new body becomes operative, the bill can be amended accordingly. I am confident that the fears of Opposition members that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will not perform a useful service to the community will be dispelled.
SenatorRankin referred to section 2 of proposed new section 54, which provides -
The technical equipment ofa commercial station shall not be so designed as to permit the station to use any form of modulation other than amplitude modulation.
I, too, had that provision marked, with a view to seeking an explanation from the Postmaster-General when the bill reached the committee stage. I do not pose as an expert on this matter. I am merely seeking information, and I shall be pleased if the Postmaster-General, in his reply, will explain the purpose of that provision.
The Postmaster-General also said -
At popular listening times, there is frequently a lack of variety between stations operating in the same localities. . . .
He went on to instance Saturday afternoon sporting broadcasts. I have already urged a more generous treatment of sporting fixtures other than races, but I remind the Minister that races are not the only events which on occasions monopolize the time of certain radio stations. I sincerely trust that when the bill is put into operation the remarks thatI have made concerning sessions other than sporting sessions will not be ignored and that if possible some relative amendment will be made to the bill.I agree with the Postmaster-General’s statement that the five members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission have performed a difficult task in a period of great and rapid changes. 1 agree also that it would only be human if at times they felt embarrassed because power had not been given to them by the act to exclude certain programmes of the kind instanced by Senator Amour. Whatever the future holds for broadcasting in Australia I hope that the wonderful work performed by the commission will be recognized. I shall ask for more information about the bill when it reaches the committee stage.
– In supporting the bill, I point out that its main purposes, as set out in the Minister’s second-reading speech are - . to establish a special board, which will bear the title the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, to strengthen the Australian Broadcasting Commission by appointing representatives of the Department of the Treasury and the Postmaster-General’s Department; and to provide for the whole of the expenditure of the commission to be met from Consolidated Revenue. Consequential amendments to the present act are proposed and, in addition, provision is made in the bill to cover other matters which are considered desirable by the Government.
Those are worthy objects which have my wholehearted support. The Australian Broadcasting Commissionhas not done all that it should or could have done, although I admit that its members have been working in very trying circumstances. No organization can do a good job unless it has adequate premises in which to work. The commission has inadequate premises in some of the States. In Sydney, Hobart and Launceston the premises that it occupies are not in any way up to date and new and better premises should be provided. The position of the commission’s manager should also be given greater consideration by the Government. No one can properly control a socialized undertaking unless he is a socialist himself. It is absolutely useless to appoint to a. high position in a socialized undertaking a man whose opinions are in favour of capitalism. Such a man would not give of his best in a socialized undertaking. There are times when important decisions must be made, when such a man- would be biased and’ would, do> the- wrong thing. That has been my experience throughout the whole of my political, a-nd trade union career. I believe that if we get the right men in the right- place- they will do a good job and! make this a very worthy undertaking. I recall’ two instances where the management was- very lax. The late Senator Darcey and’ I went to Sydney to interview a person in the Sydney office of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We- arrived at the office at 9.45 a.m., and sat’ there until 10.45 a.m., when a ladyran in and asked-, “ Where is the- teapot “ ? She was an hour and1 a half late, but she– had time to come looking for a. teapot. That incident was the result- of laxity in management. If such a thing can happen in one place- it. can happen right throughout the service. During the last, referendum campaign the commission’s manager in Tasmania, wrote to parliamentarians,, although he had- no right to do. SO, and informed them that he had allocated them five minutes speaking time for a talk on the referendum at 6.25 p.m. That time of the evening is the worst time anybody could speak on the air. That manager had the impudence to ask us to speak then and I am sorry to say that some parliamentarians accepted his; suggestion. Their speeches were useless because very few people would have listened to them at that time of the evening: Senator Rankin said that some of the commercial stations were compelled to share wave, lengths. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that there are 32 national stations and 102 commercial stations in Australia. Is it not right that the greatest number of stations should, when necessary, share wave lengths? I say it is absolutely right for commercial stations to share wave lengths and for national stations to have a free channel. I have a pamphlet issued by the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, which says that the programmes of the national stations, include 73 per cent, of live “ numbers “, whereas the programmes of commercial stations include only 31 per cent. I am a frequent listener to the radio, and I cannot recollect any occasion when a live speaker or a live artist has been broadcast by a commercials station-. There is something wrong with, those figures unless whoever prepared the: pamphlet, counted the. announcers- who; “ put over ‘’ the lying; advertisements, as. live- artists.. It has: been said, on a number, of occasions that- commercial stations, transmit better programmes than do the national stations. I believe* that th-at is. .an outrageous untruth. If honorable, senators wish to compare the* excellence of the programmes- provided by thenational stations with that of those provided by the commercial stations, all they have, to- do is to read the A.B.C. Weekly and compare the programmes as listed therein. The. national programmes arelistened to at certain times by up to 901 per cent, of radio listeners, and I know what I am talking about-, because I have considerable- contact with people interested in radio. The national stations* have broadcast: concerts conducted by Eugene Ormandy. It would be stupid to suggest that, people generally would listen to the> commercial’ stations, when an. Ormandy programme was being broadcast on. the national service’. The national services, also, broadcast concerts conducted by Eugene Goossens. He is a first-class conductor and his concerts are second to none in the world. When I was visiting America I heard the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and in my opinion it is no better than some of the orchestras that we have in Australia at the (present time; The Australian Broadcasting Commission Military Band is a fine organization, as any one who listens to its concert broadcasts on Sunday afternoons will’ agree. It is an excellent band and compares favorably with any in the world.
Any one who could say that the advertisements transmitted during the programmes of commercial stations compare favorably with the matter broadcast by national stations must have a very poor idea of what the people require. The Minister said in his second-reading speech -
Advertising represents the only source of revenue for commercial stations and is, therefore, an indispensable part of the present system of broadcasting. No one who has taken an interest in broadcasting or who listens to the commercial stations can deny the fact that advertisers have a live interest in broadcasting
Mid that large sponsors influence the pro grammes. The fact that the commercial stations must depend upon advertising revenue does not mean, however, that programmes should be arranged primarily in the interests of advertisers rather than that of listeners.
That is true. Some commercial programmes are planned solely and wholly in the interests of advertisers. Since the advertisers pay for the programmes, it is natural that they dictate what is to be ‘broadcast. The time has come when something should be done about silly serials. Some of the serials broadcast by the commercial stations should be censored. Action should also be taken to prevent the lying advertisements about patent medicines that are broadcast by commercial stations. That is a job that should be tackled by the British Medical Association. All honorable senators will recall the lying advertisement on behalf of “ Irish Moss “, a preparation that was allegedly made from a seaweed found on the western coast of Ireland. That preparation was never near Ireland or any other part of the world except the place where it was manufactured. Then there were the stupid and lying advertisements for “ Ford Pills “. Those advertisements were an insult to the intelligence of the people. Yet we are told that the commercial stations are doing a good job.
– The bill already provides .for dealing, with these matters.
– The provisions in the bill are insufficient.
Sitting suspended from 5.68 to 8 p.m.
– I stress the necessity to advertise the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes to a greater degree than is done at present. _ No mention whatever of the commission’s programmes is made in the commercial press. For that reason, the commission has been obliged to publish its own journal, the A.B.C. Weekly. That is an excellent publication, and I am looking forward to the day when it will be printed in Canberra and issued free to the people through the Postmaster-General’s Department. I can see no reason why that journal could not be published and distributed under a scheme whereby the cost involved could be recouped from the listeners’ licence-fees. If that cannot be done, I suggest that when listeners are paying their licence-fee they be asked whether they wish to subscribe to the A.B.G. Weekly, either quarterly or halfyearly. At the same time they could be given a circular containing full information about the publication. I believe that out of 1,730,000 listeners a reasonable percentage would subscribe to the- A.B.C. Weekly under those conditions. I commend those responsible for the production of that journal. It is a very good publication.
The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), in his second-reading speech, said that the measure was designed ta co-ordinate the services of the commercial stations and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I recall many instances when I turned from one end to the other of the dial of my set and was unable to hear a scrap of music being broadcast. That fact reveals the lack of coordination of radio programmes as a whole. On numerous occasions I have endeavoured to give some useful hints to the commission, with a view to improving its programmes generally. I have made a study of the wants of the listening public, and I believe that I know as well as anybody else what the public requires. Repeatedly, I have brought to the notice of the commission the necessity to cater for the large number of people who listen to the national news sessions. However, immediately preceding the 7 p.m. news session, which has been shown to be the most popular of all the commission’s sessions, listeners have inflicted upon them a serial in which the great majority have no interest whatever. Surely something more interesting than a serial could be broadcast to meet the wishes of thosepeople. I suggest that the commission should put on a five-minute session of music before the news. I am also amazed at the stupidity of the commission in giving its market reports immediately prior to each of the midday news sessions. Those reports should be given after the news. If the commission cannot overcome little difficulties of that kind, it is clear that it is not interested in selling its news sessions to the public.
One is often riled when listening to: broadcasts of sporting events from the national stations. On three occasions I listened to broadcasts of football premiership matches being played in Mel- bourne and in the north and north-west districts of Tasmania when the station switched over to other events at a critical stage of the matches. The last north-west Coast-triangular match final was most interesting. The scores were almost level with two minutes before full time, but at that juncture the station switched over to give a race broadcast. About 50 people wrote to me complaining about that incident.
– Many more would have complained to the honorable senator had the station not broadcast that particular race.
– The station could easily have made a recording of the race broadcast and broadcast it later rather than cut off the football broadcast two minutes before the final bell. Such instances reveal a lack of appreciation of the desires of the listening public. Those who are in control of the commission’s programmes could do a much better job if they would only exercise a little common sense. Reverting to race broadcasts, a programme controller who broadcast1! a piano solo between two races either does not know his job or is not interested in the desires of the listening public. Yet, on many occasions I have heard piano solos broadcast between race broadcasts.
I also suggest that the commission should do something to organize its women’s sessions in a worthwhile manner. “Whereas the commission devotes only 1$ per cent, of it3 programme time to matters of interest to women’s organizations, commercial stations give 6 per cent, of their programme time to such broadcasts. The commission should organize a women’s auxiliary in each of the capital cities, preferably to further the work of hospitals, the Red Cross and organizations of that kind. An auxiliary sponsored by the commission would do much to increase the popularity of its women’s sessions. Broadcasts of birthday greetings would also help to increase the popularity of the commission’s programmes dealing with matters of interest to women. At all events, the commission at present is doing very little to co-opt women’s organization in this respect, and it has very few programmes dealing with social activities which are of real interest to women.
For a considerable time past I have been urging the commission to conduct a national grand championship competition in music and singing. The commission is ideally placed to conduct such a competition. In each musical and vocal section elimination competitions could be conducted in each State, and these could be followed by the national grand championship final. Such a competition would place at the disposal of the commission the best talent available in Australia, and such broadcasts would be preferable to records, or programmes in respect of which the commission must incur considerable expenditure. I cannot see any reason why the commission could nol adopt that suggestion, particularly as it already possesses the requisite organization in each State to enable it to do the job. It requires only the will to ensure success. Such a, competition conducted annually would prove of great benefit not only to the commission itself but also to the people as a whole from a cultural point of view.
Other speakers have referred to political broadcasts. I have not heard any of the “ John Nostril “ broadcasts as they are called. At all events, I believe that political broadcasts are very much overdone. Their success depends upon the degree to which one party can provide something better than its opponents. Abuse of one party by another does not find favour with any substantial body of listeners. The Government should compel announcers to indicate who are the sponsors of political broadcasts and by whom such broadcasts are authorized. Once listeners are told the name of th, party which sponsors a broadcast they are not very much concerned about its contents. A friend of mine who was a very good worker in the Labour movement in which he is well known and well liked, suddenly got it into his head that he would make a good impression as a radio broadcaster. For three or four months before the last general elections he broadcast a series of political talks, but by so doing he sealed his political fate. He was defeated at the subsequent elections, whereas I am certain that had he been shrewd enough to keep off the air and allow the people to judge him on his good reputation in the Labour movement he would have been elected. Only people who are keenly interested in politics listen to political broadcasts, and such people listen only to broadcasts sponsored by the party to which they belong.
– The attitude of the Opposition parties to this measure demonstrates the great chasm that exists between them and the Labour party. I do not propose to deal at length with the remarks made by Senator Rankin. However, she quoted from her written speech certain statements to which I wish to refer before dealing with the measure itself. The honorable senator said she would like to see the radio conducted like the press which ahc said was an active press and impartially presented both sides of every question. I shall not give away any caucus secrets, but following a meeting of the La.bour caucus a few weeks ago a report appeared next day in the Sydney Morning Herald. It was supposed to be an accurate report of what took place at that meeting. The report, which was headed “Ward shocks Caucus; Legal Plan “, stated that at the meeting the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) submitted a motion to the effect that only Labour barristers should be briefed by the Government in cases in which the Government was involved. It went on to say -
Mr. Ward urged that the AttorneyGeneral’s Department should be combed out to find “ Nats who appointed antiLabour men to cases involving Federal prosecutions “.
No words of that kind were uttered at that caucus meeting. The report continued -
When Mr. Ward began to mention the cases of Mr. S. M. Falstein, M.P. and Mr. J. S. (Jock) Garden, the Prime Minister .(Mr. Chifley) ruled the discussion out of order lt was officially stated that the Acting Attorney-General, Senator N. B. McKenna would continue “to give briefs to the best legal men available, irrespective of their political affiliations”.
The Acting Attorney-General did not use any words of that kind. The report then implied that the motion alleged to have been moved by the Minister for Transport was put to the meeting and was ignominiously defeated. That report consists of lies from beginning to end. Seemingly, the representatives of the capitalist press are always on the go, and, unfortunately, there are certain “ pimps “ in our party ; but I suggest that the Canberra representatives of the Sydney Morning Herald should make some attempt to check what they propose to publish. Senator Rankin said that the radio should be allowed to be just as impartial as the press. I have spoken on many occasions in this chamber, and I believe that now and again I have said something of interest to the people, but during the six years in which I have been a member of the Senate the press has not published six lines of anything I have said. Three weeks ago I said that the Russians, having established a new German Communist army, would probably withdraw from Germany altogether as they have already withdrawn from Korea. No newspaper reported my remarks, but, lo and behold, a week later big headlines appeared because some one overseas had suggested that there might be war in Europe, and that became world news. According to Senator Rankin the people do not want to be conditioned. Of course, they are not conditioned now ! Instead of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) controlling the radio, critics of the Government imply that Sir Keith Murdoch should control it, and they are desperately anxious that the present, system of control of commercial radio should continue. The honorable senator said that the present system is operating very well, and that the people who are controlling it now are quite satisfied. Of course, they are quite satisfied.
– Labour is getting good dividends from its stations.
– The reason for Labour’s existence is not dividends, which supply the reason for the existence of the interests represented by the honorable senator. The political party to which I belong exists, among other things, to educate the people so that they will not continue to be dominated by vested interests. I should be obliged to my friend if he will continue to interrupt me because his interjections supply material if I am stuck for something to say.
is not likely to happen.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is always interrupting.
– He is always at it, and apparently he never learns. Senator Rankin said that if this bill is enacted it will destroy the present system of control of commercial radio. Of course it will. Momentous events are occurring in radio, but we should . bear in mind that radio does not exist merely for casual entertainment; at least, it should not. The real purpose of radio is to uplift the cultural level of the people. My only regret is that the Government did not obtain control of radio broadcasting in its initial stages. Thirty years ago when I was campaigning with you, Mr. President, Senator Morrow and the present PostmasterGeneral, we pointed out that the monopolists would seek to control even the air if they could. After all the air belongs to them, and since it follows that 7,000,000 people cannot individually control it, supervision must be exercised by the Government. That means that some responsible Minister must undertake that function. If our friends opposite contend that the Postmaster-General should not control commercial radio, then whom do they suggest should control it? A policy must be laid down to guide the future development of radio. We are on the eve of tremendous developments in the fields of frequency modulation and television. I recall that the attendance at the last contest in the United States of America in which Louis, the famous boxer took part, was very poor, and the reason for the comparatively small attendance was that the contest was televised. That is only one example of the tremendous changes which are about to be made in the radio field and- Senator Rankin merely confirmed what we -already know when she said that there will be a new orientation. Many of the newspapers which at present control commercial broadcasting in this country are afraid that a new crowd of exploiters will enter, push them out of the field and obtain control of television. If one pays any regard to the present volume of radio advertising one realizes that television will probably oust newspapers from the field of advertising, and no one is more keenly aware of that than are the newspaper proprietors. Of course, there will be disorganization of all kinds in the present radio organization, and unless planned control is instituted thousands of radio artists and employees will be thrown out of employment. Senator Rankin admits that, but she suggested that we should leave it to the. present controllers of commercial radio to adjust. That is part of the policy which those interests refer to as “ free air “, which simply means free hot air. That policy implies that the highest bidder shall, in every instance, become the purchaser. Bankers and press magnates believe that they should be able to get together at. election times and, because they have the money, purchase all the available radio advertising time. That is what they mean when they speak of “ free air “. As I say, I am sorry that the Government did not intervene earlier. We know that we have made mistakes in the past by not having control. Who runs commercial radio now? The advertisers. If the company which manufactures Colgate’s toothpaste wants half an hour on station 2TJW it demands to know not only what is to he included in its programme, but also the contents of the programme which is to precede it. The interests of such firms are not identical with ours by any means ; their only interest is to sell goods. The function of the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be to heighten the cultural level, and with all its faults - and it has some - the commission has done a good job. Of course, some of the commentators, like Mr. Black, and others, are far too much to the right. But the commercial stations do not provide anything comparable with the entertainment provided by the Amadio Quintette, the “ Musical Hour “ or the musical dissertations delivered by Neville Card us some time ago. On Sunday evenings one could listen to recordings of performances of Bach, Beethoven and other eminent musical composers. The background and orchestration of the music, the several parts played by the reeds, the strings and the brass were all expounded. It was magnificent entertainment, and it provided cultural uplift for the people. Contrast such entertainment with that offered by the commercial ^broadcasters.
If it were suggested to the advertisers that they should not be permitted to dictate to the broadcasting companies the type of entertainment which the commercial stations should broadcast they would ridicule the suggestion. When we <do listen to the commercial stations, what do we hear? “Drink McWilliam’s Wines “. “ This session was provided by courtesy of Gillette Razor Blades “. Think of the so-called radio serials performed by the commercial stations ! The only worthwhile serial broadcast is “ The Lawsons “, which is an Australian Broadcasting Commission production. After all, the function of a commercial station is to determine what the majority of morons want; that is its job. I should like to pay for our radio entertainment just as we pay for telephone calls. If I -choose to listen to wireless broadcasts two or three times a week, I should not : have to pay a guinea a year, as do the morons who have their instruments turned on all day and half the night.
– The honorable senator is suggesting the introduction of a “kind of penny-in-the-slot machine?
– Perhaps. Probably my heredity is influencing my mind at the moment, but my suggestion is only -a thought which is running through my mind. As yet, television has not accomplished a great deal. At present, I believe its radii are limited to 40 miles. However, it is sufficiently effective to “have been used in the recent American presidential elections, and the Republican forces employed it to transmit and televise their propaganda through the bars and drug stores of the United States. By the same means, the American people were able to witness a great deal of the proceedings of the electoral campaigns.
Is it suggested that the Government nas not the right to say where television shall operate? By establishing television stations in different parts of the country it would be possible to televise programmes for the people of the outback, but if the commercial interests obtain control of television then the highest bidder will become the purchaser and the people outback will not receive television at all. Surely it is our duty to determine who shall be permitted to operate radio and television stations; where those stations shall operate, and the conditions attaching to their operation. The Parliament must also determine whether radio and television time shall be sold or leased, and what the price shall be. We have reached a nice state of affairs when people can get up and talk about democracy as Senator Rankin did when she addressed the Senate this evening, and read the speech which had been prepared for her. Of course, I do not know whether she understood it, and, while I do not wish to appear ungallant to the honorable senator, I think that when she enters this arena she must be prepared to place herself on the same level as other honorable senators.
-. - Not on the same level as honorable senators opposite, I trust.
– If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition represented the level of this chamber, then I should agree with him. Senator Rankin, who advanced the Liberal party’s proposition, said, “ Let the people judge “ ; but in the next breath she said that horse-racing should not be broadcast by the national radio stations. What is the idea behind that suggestion? Obviously, it is to expand the circuit of the commercial stations. At present, as many as seven or eight commercial stations broadcast the same horse race. I do not profess to know a great deal about horse-racing, but, like Senator Morrow and others, I sometimes back horses that start at 10 to 1 and finish a quarter to five. Surely the Government is entitled to say to the manager of .one of the broadcasting circuits, “You can do the broadcasting for the lot”. Some listeners prefer to listen to broadcasts of. horse-racing, others to athletic events, and others to broadcasts of football and. cricket matches. Obviously, there must be some co-ordination to prevent unnecessary duplication. Only people who are living in the days of Queen Victoria advocate that the Murdochs, the
Bank of New South Wales, or the Sydney Morning Herald should control the sale of air. The newspaper proprietors are afraid that the tremendous revenue which they at present receive from advertising will go to another crowd of long-distance economic burblers who might obtain control of the air. Vested interests already possess most of the land and some of the sea, and now they want to get hold of the air.
I propose now to say something concerning the political broadcasts to which we are subjected by the commercial stations. What right have they r,o misrepresent the life of such a man as Sir Henry Parkes? Have honorable senators listened to broadcasts of that kind? Those broadcasts do not even tell the truth concerning r.heir subjects. In the case of the dramatized version of Sir Henry Parkes, r.be broadcasters purported to tell us what that great man did when he came here. After a series of misstatements, they concluded by saying : “ The bureaucrats in Canberra are violating all the principles of Sir Henry Parkes “. Of course, they did not tell us that in hi3 lifetime the interests, of which they are the direct descendants, attacked him, and that as a result of their activities the things which Parkes stood for are all going by the board. Those broadcasts conclude with some such exhortation as the following : - “If you believe in Parkes or Alfred Deakin you can vote out the bureaucrats at the elections which will be held next year “. They conclude by stating that the performance is sponsored by the Liberal party of Australia. Does any honorable senator believe that certain people are entitled, because of their money, to control the air? I realize that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is itching to speak, and while I have the opportunity I want to put that question directly to him.
– I shall be able to furnish a more satisfying reply if the honorable senator will address his remarks to the bill.
– I address my remarks to the honorable senator because he is the mouthpiece of the interests which I have indicated, and I am dealing with the bill, whose only fault, in my opinion, is that it. has been introduced too late - it should have been introduced earlier. However, better late than never. At the same time, I consider that the measure does not go far enough. Nevertheless, I see no reason why the legislation should not be enacted, and I shall be pleased if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition can furnish any good reason why the bill should not be passed.
Objection has been taken to the principle of ministerial control introduced in the bill, but since the Government is entitled to introduce the measure and have it passed by a majority of the Parliament, I cannot see why the Government should be compelled to hand over the control of broadcasting to a board. Of course, honorable senators opposite will criticize the measure. We expect that, because their policy is always one of negation. If a strike occurs they attack the Government for not settling it; but when the strike is settled they deplore the fact that it occurred and weep crocodile tears. This bill is in line with Labour legislation. It seeks to uplift the cultural level of the people. I trust that those who are appointed to the proposed board will do their best to raise that level. The desire to raise the cultural level of the people is one of the fundamental differences between Labour and the Liberal party. I repeat what I said during the debate on a measure introduced by the Government recently, namely, that human life means more to Labour than money. The attitude of the anti-Labour parties is consistent, and a good example of it was supplied by their violent opposition to the passage of the Banking Bill. The utterance of Senator Rankin this evening is identical almost word for word with the articles which have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald week after week in recent months. Such interests have for too long controlled the press, and that control has been to our national and international detriment. It is our job to ensure that they do not get control of the air. If political propaganda is to be broadcast, then each political party should receive an equal amount of broadcasting time, and money should not enter into consideration. Our friend, Mr. R. G. Casey, who has just returned from
England has been promised full support by large overseas interests to tie up a number of broadcasting stations in Victoria and New South Wales. The interests which he represents are prepared if necessary, to spend millions of pounds to lease the whole of the broadcasting time for the two or three weeks before the next elections. If that were done we should have a repetition of the propaganda to which we are subjected during the last referendum campaign. We were told then that the “man in the street” said, “Vote No”. The man in the street was probably somebody in the Sydney Morning Herald office. The people were told, through the press and the radio, that prices would fall and the law of supply and demand would operate for their benefit if they voted “ No “. The poor unfortunate people fell victims to the propaganda, and the result is that they now wish to God thai they had voted “Yes”.
– I shall take a very short time to impress upon honorable senators the absolute necessity for the passage of this bill. I find that, on one point, I am in agreement with Senator Rankin. We all agree with her statement that the radio indus try is very important. That is why we on this side of the Senate say that radio in Australia should be controlled by the Government. Senator Rankin also said that tens of thousands of radio employees would be threatened as the result of the enactment of this legislation, but she did not explain how or why they would be threatened. We heard somewhat similar statements from the Opposition when the Government established Trans-Australia Airlines. All sorts of prophecies were made about the dire calamities that would befall aviation in Australia. But the factis that no air transport organization has provided a better service than TransAustralia Airlines renders to the people of Australia.
The potentialities of radio, either for good or for evil, are so great that it is absolutely necessary for it to be controlled by the Government so that it can be co-ordinated and conducted on a proper national basis. With the commerical stations operating under our present system, we hear the voice of Mammon from daylight to dark drumming into our ears all sorts of insidious propaganda. We have been told by Senator Rankin that we should leave the air free, but as Senator Grant has said, freedom of the air, under the existing method of control of commercial stations, is like freedom of the press, which is not freedom of the press but freedom of the newspaper proprietors. Freedom of the air benefits only the controllers of the air - the owners of the commercial stations. The commercial radio stations., like the newspapers, are neither fair nor free. We have only to listen to the daily news broadcasts, even in the official news sessions, to realize that. How often do we hear, particularly from commercial stations, announcements that “ public opinion “ in Great Britain or somewhere else in the world says such and such. News items from overseas are frequently introduced with the words, “It is reliably reported “. We are not told by whom it is reliably reported. Most of such items emanate from the offices of the proprietors of radio stations and newspapers. We have heard references in this debate to the false predictions of the outcome of the United States presidential election that were founded on Gallup polls. In
Australia we have seen how similar polls can be used for political purposes just as they were apparently used in the recent presidential campaign in America. I recall what happened during the last Victorian State election. Previously, newspapers had reported results of Gallup surveys in small news items on inside pages. However, because of the psychology of fear that the anti-Labour parties had developed as the result of this Government’s banking legislation, it was decided to obtain the utmost political propaganda value from the result of the so-called Gallup polls. Consequently, the result of the survey of election prospects in Victoria was headlined in newspapers, obviously with the intention to influence the electors. Unfortunately for the people of Victoria, that plan succeeded. They are now learning that such expedients are used merely for political purposes.
The Government proposes to ensure that the radio waves at least shall be controlled in the best interests of every section of the community. The proprietors of commercial radio stations are not concerned with the interests of the people. They are concerned only with catering for the big advertisers, and therefore they establish their stations where the greatest profits can be obtained. By means of this bill, the Government proposes to create a broadcasting control board to co-ordinate broadcasting so that all Australians, particularly those who live in outback areas, shall have adequate radio facilities. There is nothing wrong with that proposal. The principle of the bill cannot be faulted, because every section of the community is entitled to the utmost consideration. It has been said, with perfect truth, that there have been marked advances in radio development throughout the world in recent years. Scientific developments include frequency modulation and television, which will revolutionize radio communication. When these new branches of wireless broadcasting are brought into operation in Australia, it will be absolutely imperative, in the interests of the people, that they shall be controlled by the Government. Most of the commercial stations in Australia to-day are controlled and operated by a few newspaper proprietors^ whose sole object is to make as much money as possible. They are not inrterested in the wishes of the people, cultural development, or the lack of radio facilities in outback areas. They concentrate upon broadcasting, in populous’ areas, types of programmes which will produce the greatest profits. Their de. sire for gain transcends everything else. Radio broadcasting in Australia up to the present has developed on catch as catch can lines. There has been complete lack of co-ordination. Raffertys rules, have prevailed.
Under this bill, the Government proposes to control radio services scientifically. The scheme calls for a highly technical organization, and proper Australiawide co-ordination. Radio broadcasting is a public utility just like our railway and postal services. Obviously,, such a utility should be under the control of the National Parliament. As I have said, frequency modulation and television are not dreams of the future.. They have passed beyond the experimental stages, and I understand that television will soon be brought into operation, in Australia. Imagine the perturbation of the owners of newspapers and commercial radio stations at the realization that television, with its vast potentialities for profit making, will not come under their control as they had expected! We have 32 national broadcasting stations and 102’ commercial stations in Australia to-day, and listeners’ licences have been issued to 1,730,000 people, representing a very large proportion of our total population of about 7,000,000. Because a largemajority of the people are directly interested in radio broadcasting, it is obvious that we cannot leave it under thecontrol of private enterprise. As usual, the Opposition has asserted that the Government has some ulterior motive. Such charges are always made whenever theGovernment introduces enlightened legislation. I assure- the Senate and thepeople of this country that the Government’s only aim in introducing this, measure is that radio should be controlled’ adequately and scientifically.. There is just as much- need for the protection of the public on th© air waves as there is on the ocean waves. We must not be misled” by the statements of our political! opponents.
Senator Rankin claimed that the object of this measure was to regiment broadcasting under political control. It is rather strange to hear a member of the Liberal party criticizing authoritarian methods. I remind the Senate that the Leader of the Liberal party in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), upon his return from Germany in 1938, eulogized the Nazi system. I recall also that the Acting Leader of the Opposition in that chamber (Mr. Harrison), was a member of a totalitarian organization known as the New Guard and that other members of the Liberal party advocated, during the last election campaign, that strikers should be placed in concentration camps.
In creating this new authority to control radio, the Government has provided all possible safeguards. The bill provides that a person who -
According to Senator Rankin only 15 per cent. of the listening public tune into the national broadcasting stations. That is purely propaganda. The statement has been used frequently. We have read it in the press, and heard it over the air. There has never been a proper survey of radio listeners to determine accurately the relative popularity of the commercial and national stations. Surveys of the kind to which the honorable senator referred are carried out merely by questioning individuals at random, sometimes by telephone. I suggest, however, that it would be possible for any one to produce whatever result he pleased from such a survey.
The honorable senator also stated that, should this measure become law, the Broadcasting Committee would be brushed aside. Apparently, the honorable senator is quite perturbed at the thought that that committee may no longer serve a useful purpose; but that attitude is rather strange when one considers that, in the House of Representatives recently, members of the party to which the honorable senator belongs described the Broadcasting Committee as a “ travelling circus “. They did not say who the clown was, but we know that.
Another claim made by Senator Rankin was that under the new broadcasting control provided for in this measure, the minds of the Australian people would be “ conditioned “ by radio propaganda directed by the board. At present, the minds of the Australian people are conditioned by misleading press and radio propaganda. Fortunately, in recent months, they have shown that they are becoming increasingly aware of the falsity of that propaganda. With the control of broadcasting co-ordinated under one authority, as is provided for in this measure, there will be at least some semblance of freedom and impartiality in broadcasting.
Senator Rankin expressed the fear that when this measure became law, the independence of commercial radio would cease to exist. If by “ independence “ the honorable senator means the control that has been exercised by commercial radio interests up to the present, it is time that the system was changed. There is an urgent necessity to ensure that the views of all sections of the community in this country shall be fairly represented over the air, and that can be achieved only by a measure such as that now before us. T. could amplify what Senator Grant said a few moments ago about the radio propaganda of the anti-Labour parties during the recent rents and prices referendum campaign. I happened to be in a country district in Victoria several weeks before the referendum was held, and I was told by the manager of a provincial radio station that every available minute of radio time from that date until the date of the referendum had been booked by the Liberal party. That illustrates Senator Grant’s point that, if the Opposition had its way, whoever had the most money would have most control over broadcasting. The Government realizes that broadcasting is of such importance to this country that it must be coordinated scientifically. For that reason this legislation has been introduced. In considering this measure we should ask ourselves three questions: The first is, What is this bill ? “ It has been proved beyond all doubt that the bill is designed to co-ordinate radio broadcasting in Australia. The second question is, “Why is the bill necessary?” That has been amply answered by previous speakers. It is necessary to ensure that radio broadcasting shall be as free and impartial as possible, and also that every section of the community shall be catered for. The third question is, “ What will be the result of the bill?” The result will be the co-ordination of broadcasting in the interests of every section of the community. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
. [ was hoping that, in the course of this debate, we should hear some further elaboration of the reasons for the introduction of this bill. I am sure that the full facts and circumstances associated with it have not yet been placed before the chamber. I hope that either honorable senators who follow me in this debate, or the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), in reply, will give the chamber much of the information which, at present, it does not possess. I am hoping also that, during the remainder of this discussion, honorable senators will forget their party allegiance and place the interests of their country above the fear of party tyranny and discipline. After all, honorable senators opposite have a noble tradition. There is legislation on our statute-book of which the Australian Labour party has every reason to be proud; but how disappointing it -is to see how far members of that party have departed from the traditions established by its founders. There was a time when Labour leaders were pledged to strive for and, indeed, fought for - to use the expression of a Queensland poet - “ a larger measure of right for the mass of their fellow men “. They fought, and fought hard, for that “ larger measure of right “ ; but, above all, they were actuated at all times by a keen appreciation of the value and sacredness of personal liberty. Not only did they fight valiantly, hut also they suffered in that fight for a “larger measure of right and for the assertion of personal liberty and personal dignity. What are Labour men doing to-day? There is before us a measure for which no sound reason has been given. To quote the erudite Senator Grant - and I ask that I be corrected if my quotation be wrong - “ We should have control- of the wave lengths “. I draw the attention of the honorable senator to the fact that sections 54 to 59 of the broadcasting legislation introduced by a Labour government, as a result of the recommendations of a committee appointed by the Lyons Government, give complete power of control over broadcasting to the Postmaster-General.
– Then why all the fuss about this bill?
– I am pointing out that, although the honorable senator is very voluble, it does not necessarily follow that his wisdom or his knowledge is in proportion to that volubility. If the reason given by the honorable senator for the introduction of the bill now before us is that control must be taken from those hungry commercial stations and profiteers, and reserved by an arrogant government for the people, all I am pointing out is that he is six years too late in his advocacy. However, he is at least getting more up to date, because on occasions 1 have heard him a lot more than six years in arrears with his information. The honorable senator may read for himself sections 54 to 59, but for some reason they are being amended or deleted, then quietly reenacted with an addition which gives a complete monopoly of frequency modulation broadcasting to the Government. I refer the honorable senator to those sections, and hope that he has the time to read them, although he may be one of those self-inspiring senators who, instead of going to the fountain of knowledge, prefers to concoct his own. I am sorry that he has embarrassed the Minister by giving such a futile reason for the introduction of the measure. I shall deal with the particular features of the bill relating to sections 54 to 59 as I come to them. Senator Grant said that it was not fair that one wealthy political party should be able to monopolize the air and the wave lengths. The Lyons Government thought likewise and it is pleasing to know that six years afterwards Senator Grant is coming up to date. In section 61 of the act introduced by the Labour Government in 1942, there is a provision that a licensee desiring to broadcast advertisements shall publish a tariff of advertising charges, and, except as prescribed, shall make his advertising services available without discrimination to any person.
– Provided the person can pay for them.
– What the honorable senator has stated about advertising cannot therefore be a valid reason for the introduction of this measure. Senator Amour said that the industry which makes and sells receiving sets has done little or nothing to “ provide sets for the reception of high frequency broadcasts. He then made a remark about the shortage of materials and supplies. I do not know what the cost will be. but I am informed on very good authority that the transformers necessary to convert amplitude modulation sets so that they will be able to receive frequency modulation broadcasts will be about £30. As there are about’ 1,700,000 receiving sets in Australia the purchase of trans formers would cost the listening publicabout £50,000,000. Why will that expenditure be necessary? Only because this benign, paternal Government so loves the people whom it claims to represent that ii is, by this amendment to the bill, making a monopoly of frequency modulation broadcasting. The listening public will either have to convert their receiving sets at a total cost of about £50,000,000 or be content with amplitude modulation. If that is benign .paternalism as expressed by the Labour party, then the less we have of it the better.
– I should like to know what the honorable senator is talking about.
– The honorable senator who has just interjected it not as up to date as Senator Grant. .1 shall take him back’ to about 1920. Theiris one happy expression which the Minister introducing the bill must have littered with some diffidence. He said -
This is a bill which it is hoped will commend itself to all honorable senators.
AH I can say is, there is nothing like being hopeful. I should like the Minister to indicate more fully and frankly why this measure was introduced and precisely what powers the board will exercise that the Minister does not already exercise, and why those powers are considered necessary. I shall be able to help’ him when I deal with the general terms of the bill at greater length in the committee stages. . I shall point out some very startling powers that the board will exercise and that the Minister doe? not enjoy at present. I should like the Minister to explain why those power? are necessary. The measure is in keeping with the pattern of socialistic legislation being followed by the Government. We have had the spectacle of this powerdrunk Government attempting to destroy our airways, that were established and developed by private enterprise. It wa> only because of constitutional difficulties that that particular line of private enterprise was preserved. It was .not because of any consideration by this power-drunk Government, but because we had a constitution that was interpreted by a body that could not be corrupted by the Government. I refer to the High Court of Australia.
– Some of the judges were corrupted by the Liberal party.
– Whether a person likes the banks or not it is generally conceded that throughout the century and more of Australia’s development its banks have played a magnificent part.
– They were well paid for it.
– Any one who denies that the banks have played a great part in the development of Australia is denying facts. The 1945 Banking Act was introduced by this Government and gave the Commonwealth Bank absolute and complete power of control over the trading banks, but denied it the power to annihilate them. The Government was not satisfied with that act and, because the High Court held that the power of the 1945 act was not sufficient to enable the Commonwealth Bank to completely and ruthlessly annihilate all its competitors, the Government introduced another act which it thought would be sufficient to enable it to do so. Time and the Privy Council will tell whether that act will be intra vires or ultra vires the Constitution. I have given honorable senators the pattern of socialism being followed by the Government. It has attacked the airways and the banks and now has turned its attention to the commercial broadcasting stations. Over the years we have seen what the Minister was kind, generous and polite enough to describe as “ the remarkable growth of broadcasting in Australia and the rapid strides which are being made in other countries in developing and extending techniques “. That remarkable growth was made under a system of free enterprise and not under government control. I do not intend to criticize the efficiency, courtesy or general organization of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but in passing I point out that listening to a broadcast is entirely a voluntary act, at least up to the present time. Under the law as it now stands, nobody is, or can be, compelled to listen to any broadcasting station, but the fact that the commercial broadcasting stations have been successful and have made profits indicates that they are selling to the people something that the people want. The Minister has said that there are 102 commercial broadcasting stations in Australia. Those stations offer the people a fairly wide range of choice and naturally the stations which attract the most listeners can charge the highest rates for their advertising, and consequently some of these stations have made good profits. There has been much sanctimonious talk about the profit motive. What is wrong with the profit motive, provided that the people’s rights are protected and a profit that is honestly made without exploitation is treated by the person making it with a keen sense of his responsibilities to his fellow men? Australia has been developed very largely by the profit motive, not by the motive of amassing huge wealth but by making a profit so as to ensure security for dependants. I repeat that, provided the profit is made honestly and is used by the person making it with a sense of his obligations to his fellows, there is nothing wrong with it.
– Why do not the interests which the honorable senator represents sell water? They could make a lot of money by that means.
– I shall now quote from the fifteenth annual report and balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which shows that for the year ended the 30th June, 1947, the Treasury appropriation for the commission was £172,888. That sumwas not sufficient although the commission also received as its share of licencefees more than £844,000. In order to square the ledger there was a special Treasury appropriation of £66,000 and the total grant from the Treasury in that year was £239,254 4s. 9d. The commission did not have advertising revenue, but it had a revenue of £844,000 from licence-fees and also income from other sources. ‘ The Minister went on to say that the responsibility for administering the 1942 act was imposed on the’ PostmasterGeneral, the act incorporating provisions whereby a standing parliamentary committee was set up to consider matters referred to it by Parliament or the Minister.
There has not been a complete and frank disclosure of the position, because section 85, sub-section 2, of the 1942 act provides for one very important matter. I am sorry that the chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, Senator Amour, is not in the chamber at the moment as this is a vital part of the act which states -
The Minister shall refer ‘to the Committee any such matter which the Commission or the body known at the commencement of this Act as the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations requests him to refer to the Committee.
Under that power the Minister was compelled to refer to the Broadcasting Committee any matter so requested by either the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations. That protection to both the commission and the commercial stations is now being completely removed. Why? We have not yet been told. I suggest that the Minister might let us have the answer to that question when he is replying to this debate. Under the 1942 act the commission was to be so conducted and controlled as to be selfsupporting, but to-day, in fact, it is a charge upon Consolidated Revenue and must essentially be under the financial dictatorship of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister. Incidentally “ the Minister “ mentioned in the bill is somewhat of a Scarlet Pimpernel. At one time he was the Postmaster-General, but the Minister who will administer this act is anonymous. Apparently, the Government has not yet decided who will be “ the Minister “. The Senate is entitled to know which Minister is to have the responsibility of administering this measure which will have such farreaching effects upon the lives of the people Who is this mysterious Minister? We are not told. That omission is typical of the contempt which this power-drunk Government has for the Parliament and the people.
– The honorable senator should not get excited.
– It is exasperating to think that in respect of this legislation the Parliament is given such flimsy information as to the real purpose underlying it. We are not told which Minister is to be given the responsibility of administering it. Why that information is not given to .the Parliament, I do not know. The Postmaster-General in his second-reading speech, said -
It is, therefore, proposed that the grant, renewal, suspension and revocation oi licences for commercial broadcasting stations will continue to be within the jurisdiction of the Minister, who will, however, be required to give consideration to any recommendations made by the board.
We know how the Government treated recommendations which were made recently by another board to another Minister. When the Postmaster-General is replying to this debate, I should like him to inform the Senate of the number of commercial broadcasting stations which are not now paying taxes. In his second-reading speech he expressed this pious thought -
It is, therefore, planned that the board should, with the approval of the Minister and the Treasurer, make available to any such station, financial or other assistance if the need arises.
What a beautiful opportunity that Wil provide for patronage! In effect, it leaves the way open for the Minister to say to the board over which he will have complete control, “ There is a little station out there doing a nice spot of work for the cause. You had better give it some assistance “. The bill does not set out any conditions under which assistance may be provided. There may be a need to improve the existing legislation by providing a co-ordinating authority,, or authorities, with regard to the supervision of programmes. If a reasonableprovision of that kind were put forward, the Opposition would be happy to consider it; but these are the happy words which the Postmaster-General used -
There is one weakness, however, in theexisting system, in that there is no coordination between the programmes of the national and commercial stations, and in the interests of the general public the Government feels that some authority should be vested in an independent body. . . .
Independent of what? Certainly, the board will not be independent of the Minister; and should the Ministerhappen to be a Labour Minister, it will not be independent of caucus. If that authority were answerable to the Parliament it might provide some protection, but when the authority is answerable toa Minister, who, in turn, is answerable to caucus, where is its independence? That: provision is pathetic, but that is the pattern of the measure. Unfortunately, we are witnessing the harrowing spectacle of our people being attuned to the implementation of the -socialist doctrine. Many honorable senators opposite, I suppose, are no more communistic than I am, but, certainly, they seem to hold in fear somebody who is friendly with the Communists. They seem to draw the happy line by saying, “ We are only socialists ; we are not Communists “. They do not know, or had they known they must have forgotten, the lesson of history during the last ten, or fifteen, years, because every 3tate that has started off on the happy, placid road of socialism has found it a non-stop run to the Kremlin. The train may be labelled “socialism”, but its destination is communism. The experience of every country which has adopted socialism has shown that what I say in this respect is perfectly true. It is a matter of grave concern and sorrow to consider that we are daily observing the softening-up of our people to an acceptation of socialism. It is precisely the pattern which Dr. Goebbels introduced in Germany when he attuned the people of that country by regimenting the radio and press along precisely the line of thought he desired. For that purpose, he controlled the press and the air in that once free country. Not only did he take full control of broadcasting, but, also as happened also in Russia and Italy, it was made a penal offence for any person in Germany to listen to a broadcast which was not approved by the Sate. We are proceeding along identical lines, but not all at once. Dr. Goebbels, in Germany, did not do it all at once. He proceeded slowly but surely, and the last lap was done in record time, as the unfortunate German people found out to their sorrow. The PostmasterGeneral, in his second-reading speech, also said -
Broadcasting does not exist for sectional purposes . . .
With that statement I entirely agree -
Kor this service to retain its value as a great national asset it must be controlled effectively to ensure the use of available frequencies in a manner best suited to provide adequate service to the whole nation . . .
He- also said that provision is being made for the complete control of technical equipment, of the power of the broadcasting stations, of the operation of the frequencies of the broadcasting stations, of the locations and periods of opreation of the broadcasting stations and of inspection to see’ that the wishes of the Minister shall be carried out. All of those provisions were embodied in the 1942 act. Let us see how the Minister has exercised those powers in the intervening years. In a report submitted by the Postmaster-General’s Department to the Broadcasting Committee on the 12th December, 1945, it was stated that over 900 applications had been recorded for additional broadcasting station licences. However, since that time we have witnessed the spectacle of the Labour party in Queensland being granted a broadcasting station licence with a wave length and frequency which puts it in a considerably more advantageous position than the commercial broadcasting stations which pioneered ‘broadcasting in that State. Actually, that station has been allotted a wave length which was supposed to be held in reserve for a new national station. Of course, the Minister had absolute power in that instance, and the granting of that licence to the Labour party in Queensland was a fair sample of the Minister’s impartiality. Yet, honorable senators opposite talk about fairness and lack of discrimination ! I shall give another illustration of the Minister’s fairness in this respect. According to figures issued some time ago by the Postmaster-General’s Department, the -.population within a 25-mile radius of Casino was 48,000 and 9,736 listeners’ licences had been issued within that area. Although no licence has been issued for a broadcasting station in that area, over 50 licences have been issued to stations in towns whose population is considerably less than that of Casino. The Postmaster-General, when ‘he is replying to this debate, might indicate how many licences have been issued for ‘‘broadcasting stations in areas in which only 5,000, or fewer, listeners’ licences have -been issued.
Before dealing with the measure itself, I again- draw the attention. of honorable senators to the very wide and extensive power now enjoyed by the Minister which it is proposed to hand over to the board to be set up under this measure. I should like Government supporters to give me some reason why the principal act should be amended in this way. I do not oppose control of wave lengths and frequencies. Most honorable senators have read the report of the joint Broadcasting Committee, known as the Gibson Committee, which was presented to the Parliament on the 25th March, 1942. The report of that committee which was appointed by the Lyons Government, was subscribed to by W. G. Gibson, C. W. C. Marr, S. K. Amour, A. A. Calwell, A. Grenfell Price, and W. J. F. Riordan, In a. minority recommendation the three Labour members of that committee stated -
We have signed the above report and desire to state in amplification of our views that we believe that the whole of the broadcasting system should be nationalized. The platform of the Labour party to which we have subbribed contains a plank to this effect.
Therein lies the genesis of this measure.
– What is wrong with that?
– If that is the explanation for the introduction of this measure, the Postmaster-General should say so frankly. He should tell the Parliament that the Government under this measure intends to nationalize broadcasting, and let us know where we stand. Let us know precisely where we stand. The bill was introduced with a lot of platitudinous and meaningless phrases.
– Did the honorable senator say that the minority report was signed by Senator Gibson?
– No ; is is not signed by the former senator but by three other gentlemen. I shall refer later in the debate to other parts of the document. The powers and functions of the commission, which are set out in section 18 of the principal act, are plain to all who take the trouble to read them, and I have no complaint in regard to them. Part of the Minister’s powers is set out in section 41 ‘of that act, which authorizes him to instruct the commission to refrain from broadcasting any particular matter. What wider power could a Minister possibly have? Under section 49, the Minis ter is empowered to cancel the licence of a commercial broadcasting station without awarding compensation, and he may take such action merely because he considers it advisable in the public interest to do so. That is a wide and sweeping power, yet supporters of the Government contend that the Minister should have more power. In their agitation for greater power, I smell a rat. The political party to which they belong already has control, through the Minister; and I ask myself, what more do they want? Is the real reason for their demand that a complete monopoly be given to the Government that which is set out in the minority report of the broadcasting committee to which I have already referred ? If it is, we have a right to be told of it. We should then know precisely where they stood, and we would proceed with the debate on that basis. I have already dealt with sections 54-58 of the principal act, which enumerate the Minister’s powers of control of operational and technical matters, and those are the powers which the Minister at present exercises. Supporters of the Government say, “ After all, the public are entitled to be considered “, and with that statement I agree. Sub-section 1 of section 60 of the principal act provides -
The licensee of each commercial broadcasting station shall provide programmes and shall supervise the broadcasting of programmes from his station in such manner as to ensure, as far as practicable, that the programmes broadcast are to the satisfaction of the Minister.
Sub-section 2 of that section reads -
If the programmes broadcast from a commercial broadcasting station are not, in whole or in part, to the satisfaction of the Minister, the licensee shall, if directed so to do by the Minister, vary the programmes with a view to making them satisfactory to the Minister.
The remaining sub-sections confirm, expand and elaborate . the powers of the Minister.
Senator Grant suggested, in regard to radio advertising, that the power of money would enable one section of the community to gobble up all the advertising space. That is absolute nonsense, and is similar to the other paltry reasons advanced in support of the bill. Not one of them will hold water, because adequate provision is already made in the 1942 act to cover all possible causes of complaint. I want to know the real reason for the introduction of the bill. In regard to the possibility of political parties monopolizing radio advertising, sub-section 2, of section 61 provides -
A licensee desiring to broadcast advertisements, shall publish a tariff of advertising charges, and, except as prescribed, shall make his advertising service available without discrimination to any person.
Sub-section 4, which may particularly interest Senator Lamp, provides -
Except ae prescribed, an advertisement relating to any medicine shall not be broadcast unless the text of the proposed advertising matter has been approved in writing by the Director-General of Health or, on appeal to the Minister under this section, by the Minister.
Under section 64 the Minister has complete power of censorship of the broadcasting of news by commercial stations. What wider power does the Minister want? Section 65 empowers the Minister to -
Section 67, which the bill proposes to amend, already provides that commercial broadcasting stations shall compile and maintain complete accounts in respect of their business transactions and furnish to the Minister audited balance-sheets. The present measure proposes to amend that section by introducing further powers of ministerial control, and I shall deal with that proposal in the committee stage. Section 89 authorizes the Minister to control political broadcasts, and section 91 prohibits the broadcasting of blasphemous, indecent or obscene matter.
I have repeated in some detail the principal provisions of the 1942 act, which the present measure is designed to amend, in order to demonstrate that the reasons advanced by Government supporters for the introduction of the bill are not the real reasons which have prompted the Government to introduce it. They have failed to prove that they do not already enjoy under the principal act, which was introduced on the recommendation of the commission appointed by the Lyons Government, any of the powers which they contend are lacking for proper control of commercial broadcasting. Of course, I agree that it is advisable for the National Government to control broadcasting, and if we reverted to control by the States we should have six different sets of laws regulating broadcasting.
– I wish the honorable senator had borne that consideration in mind when he advocated the termination of the National Government’s power to control rents and prices recently.
– That has nothing to do with the measure now before us. The Government, which is drunk with power, seeks to grab every instrumentality in the community. It tried to grab control of the airlines, but was prevented by the High Court. It tried to grab the trading banks, but I trust that its avarice will be frustrated. If it continues on its present course it will i force people to challenge its right to interfere with them. Some years ago important litigation arose from the refusal of a citizen of Sydney to pay the wireless broadcasting listener’s fee. The individual concerned contended that because of the limitations imposed on the Commonwealth by section 51 of the Constitution the National Government had no right to impose a broadcasting listening fee on the owners of wireless receiving sets. The matter was decided by the High Court, whose members were divided in their judgments. The result of that litigation should serve as a warning to the present Government. If it persists in attempting to pass this ruthless measure, commercial broadcasting stations will be forced to resort to whatever protection the law gives them, and the ensuing trouble will be visited on the heads of members of the Government. Under the principal act the Government has every conceivable reasonable power. If it merely desires to improve the coordination of the activities of the various broadcasting stations, its purpose could be effected quite simply. However, the present measure goes much farther.
Although I propose to deal with the matter in more detail in committee, 1 now point out that the powers and qualifications of the members of the proposed board are set out in the measure in a most negative fashion, and I should like the Minister to deal specifically with that aspect in reply. Representation on the proposed board should be of the widest possible kind, and I believe that some representatives of the wireless broadcasting industry, not necessarily some one associated with a commercial broadcasting station-
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the workers in the industry should be represented on the proposed board?
– Some one should be appointed to represent the manufacturing aspect of the industry or some one with sufficient technical knowledge to assist the board in its deliberations. Furthermore, since the proposed board is to be empowered to grant and to withhold licences and to control the industry generally, it should be empowered to summon witnesses and to hear evidence on oath. Such hearings should be open to the public and the press, as is the case with the sittings of the Queensland Licensing Commission. I understand that a similar procedure also applies to applications to operate cinematographs in that State. It is only right that matters which affect the livelihood of people should be heard in open court. It would not be fair to the commercial broadcasters, the Postmaster-General, or to members of the proposed board that applications for broadcasting licences should be determined without a hearing in open court. The chairman of the tribunal which I suggest should be appointed should possess legal training to fit him to sift evidence and determine its value.
The functions of the proposed board are rather remarkable. As I said earlier the three members are apparently expected to be more able and versatile than Mandrake himself. There are in Australia 32 national broadcasting stations and 102 commercial stations. The three appointees to the board are to be required to correlate, supervise, censor and generally accept responsibility for the production of broadcasting programmes which will satisfy the Minister. That will require a tremendous staff. It is a full-time job for one man to look after one station, and these stations are so widely separated that a very large staff must be employed in order to provide proper supervision. That means that there will have to be a great deal of delegation and that top-ranking men will have to be engaged virtually as supermanagers over stations which already are being conducted very satisfactorily from the point of view of the listening public and the people who own them.
The bill contains many vague expressions. For instance divine worship is- to be broadcast for “adequate periods and at appropriate times “. Adequate in whose mind, and appropriate at whose time? Who is to be the censor for the type of religious service that, is to be broadcast? How will the rationalists get on if they want to broadcast? Are we to have divine worship at one hour, followed by a rationalist service, or vice versa? Who is to determine these matters? People should be allowed to listen to -broadcast services if they wish, but compulsory broadcasting of religious services will place a very heavy responsibility upon some unfortunate person who Will have to decide for what periods and at what times such broadcasts shall be made. The bill also declares that there shall he an “ equitable “ basis for the broadcasting of political and controversial matter. We already have such a provision in the existing act. Here is another dangerous provision. The bill declares that the broadcasting control board may fix the hours of service of broadcasting stations, television stations and facsimile stations and may determine the extent to which advertisements may be broadcast in the programme of any commercial broadcasting station. Although, under the existing act, the Minister has absolute control over the nature of programmes and the extent of advertising, this provision is more brutal. If a commercial broadcasting station incurs the displeasure of the Minister he may, either by limitation of its hours of broadcasting or its hours of advertising, put that station completely out of business. There will be no appeal against such, an act. In such matters there should be provision for an open hearing and, should there be a feeling of injustice arising from any decision, there should be the right of appeal to a court of law.
The board will have power, subject to any direction of the Minister of course, to determine the frequency of each broadcasting station, television station or facsimile station within the bounds of frequencies notified to the board by the Postmaster-General as being available. That authority is already exercised. Under it, the Government, through the Minister, has absolute power over the very vitality of a broadcasting station. Many commercial stations would be in a position to stand up to the competition of frequency modulation broadcasts if they were allowed higher wave lengths and greater power. The PostmasterGeneral so far has not stated any good reason why higher wave lengths and greater power should not be made available to them. In closing the debate, he may be able to give some indication that these privileges are not being withheld merely for the purpose of crippling the stations, although, whatever the reason may be, that is the effect of the refusal. Another provision which requires an explanation by the Postmaster-General states that the broadcasting control board may give directions, either orally or in writing, not to the management of the broadcasting station concerned, but to a person, and that the person who receives the instructions shall be responsible for carrying them out. A business could be easily thrown into confusion because the chief executive might have no knowledge whatever of an instruction given to a technical employee or announcer. Any such officer, having been instructed by the board or the Minister, must carry out that direction even though the management may be completely unaware of it. At the committee stage I shall ask the Postmaster-General to provide in the ‘bill that any instruction so given shall be repeated to the chief executive of the company concerned. Unless he agrees to do so, there will te unnecessary confusion, and probably chaos, because an employee will not know for whom he is working and from whom he is to take instructions.
One of the tragedies of this legislation is> to be enacted very simply. Sections 54 to 58, inclusive, of the existing act are to be deleted and re-enacted in substantially the same form,’ except that something extra is to be thrown in for good measure. Proposed new section 54 provides that the board shall control all the technical equipment of a commercial broadcasting station and requires that any such equipment “ shall not be so designed as to permit the station to use any form of modulation other than amplitude modulation “. In other words, by means of that unobtrusive interpolation, the Government will take unto itself an absolute monopoly of frequency modulation. The reason for that has not been indicated. I refer honorable senators to a little pamphlet that has been issued under the title, Here are the Facts vn Frequency Modulation Broadcasting. T.t is an official statement issued by the federal council of the Electrical Radio and Telephone Manufacturers of Australia, the Radio and Electrical .Retailers Council of Australia, the Electrical and Radio Development Association of New South “Wales, the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures (Radio Section), the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, the Radio and Telephone Manufacturers Association of New South Wales, the Metal Trades Employers Association, the Radio and Electrical Retailers Association of New South “Wales and the Retail Traders Association of New South “Wales (Electrical and Radio Section). This interesting publication states -
The letters A.M. stand for Amplitude Modulation. A.M. is the standard system of broadcasting throughout Australia and the world. It “is still the most popular even in America, where F.M. is available for those who want it. Australians have over £30,000,000 invested in A.M. receivers.
They are the receivers which the Government, by virtue of that interpolation in proposed new section 54, can render practically useless unless the commercial broadcasting stations are permitted to continue. The pamphlet also states-
An F.M. receiver needs far more circuits, parts and valves than an A.M. receiver and is therefore considerably more expensive. Even in the United States, after ten years of manufacturing experience, an F.M. radio costs twice asmuchas an A.M. receiver. Another disadvantage, particularly in Australia, is its strictly limited effective range . . . approximately 30 miles.
America, after ten years of F.M., is still building A.M. stations. All authorities agree thatF.M. broadcasting is only a supplementary system. [Extension of time granted.] The fact that the Government has decided to instal 21 new amplitude modulation stations in Australia is a recognition that amplitude modulation will continue to he of vital importance.
Section 67 of the act already provides for the commercial broadcasting stations to account to the Postmaster-General in a very elaborate fashion, but the bill proposes to make a vital alteration to that section. It could possibly he loaded, and I should like an explanation from the Postmaster-General of the precise intention of the requirement that commercial stations shall furnish to the board such particulars with respect to the broadcasting activities of the licensees as the board specifics. That provision means that every conceivable phase of the activities of the commercial stations will be under the scrutiny of the board and, through it, the Minister. Thatis a grossly unfair an unnecessary intrusion into the private enterprise of the commercial stations, considering the extent of the control exercised in otherdirections by the Minister. The bill provides also for the exclusion of the dramatization of any political matter which is then current or was current at any time during “ the last five preceding years “. I congratulate the Government upon its sublime optimism in believing that a period of five years will be long enough to enable the people of Australia to forget any of its calamitous administrative acts or the arrogant incompetence to which it has subjected them. I shall have more to say about that provision in the committee stages. Section 103 of the act is to be amended again, so as to impose a further restriction on the powers of the statutory parliamentary committee. In conclusion, I ask that some bint be given as to the identity of the Minister who will be in charge of the administration of this very important legislation.
– He will be a Labour Minister.
– That will be only temporary.
I plead with honorable senators to relax for the time being the rigidity of party discipline. This matter vitally affects the Australian people. It is in pattern with much of what has happened in other places, and it represents a further encroachment upon the personal liberty of our people. Supporters of the Government should remember that, after all, they have a fine tradition. Certainly, it is a very old one, and time has not treated it kindly, but there was a time when the Labour party fought valiantly for that larger measure of right and for the sanctity of personal freedom. I ask them to bearthat in mind when they address themselves to the hill.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation ActRegulations - Statutory Rules 1948, Nos. 135, 137.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appoint ments - Department -
Health- C. C. G. F. Shellew.
Interior - J. Cassidy, S. H. Kyle-Little. J. Scherrenberg.
Labour and National Service - W. M. Hurley.
Postmaster-General - G. F. Addison. J. F. M, Bryant, G. F. Flanagan, 3. Irwin-Bellette, R. D. Slade, G. R. Thompson.
Interim Forces Benefits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, Nos. 136, 138.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes - Glenelg North, South Australia.
Department of the Interior purposes -
Postal purposes -
Kingsgrove, New South Wales.
Murray Bridge, South Australia.
Tailem Bend, South Australia.
Navigation Act -Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 140.
Stevedoring Industry Act - Orders - 1948. Nos. 17-31, 33.
War Gratuity Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 139.
Senate adjourned at 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 November 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19481109_senate_18_199/>.