20th Parliament · 1st Session
The Deputy PRESIDENT (Senator George Rankin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator John EDWARD MARRIOTT SWORN
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.^! have to inform the Senate that I have received, through His Excellency the Governor-General, the certificate of the Governor of Tasmania of the choice by the Parliament of that State of John Edward Marriott to hold the place in the Senate rendered vacant by the death of Senator John Hartley Chamberlain. I have also to advise the Senate that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission to me to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to John Edward Marriott.
Certificate laid on the table by the Clerk.
Commission read by the Clerk. Senator MARRIOTT made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Taxation Administration Bill 1953. Land Tax. Abolition Bill 1953. Fisheries Bill 1953. Pearl Fisheries Bill 1953. War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1953.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. Do the functions of his department include a survey of the natural resources, the planning of the development of natural resources and, in particular, the development of primary industries? Are not those functions on all fours with those of the National Security Resources Board under the Prime Minister’s Department which provide for the examination of Australia’s civil resources? Has either or both of those instrumentalities had time to examine and comment on an article that was published in the special twelve-page Australian supplement of the London Economist recently which alleged that there were real elements of instability in the Australian economy? Will the Minister ascertain from the Prime Minister’s Department the total cost of the National Security Resources Board and does he not think that the time of such high-powered executives could be more gainfully employed than in examining statistics upon which they are unable to offer any constructive comment ? With regard to the statement that was made by an officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture this week relating to primary production, would it have been more appropriate if such a survey had been made by the Minister for National Development ?
– I confess that it is difficult to answer a long question such as that framed by Senator Hendrickson in the way that it should be answered. The National Security Resources Board has given valuable assistance to the Government in its survey of problems that require attention, and I do not see any conflict between the duties and responsibilities of that board and those of my own department. I know that the board has called upon my department for its views upon various matters just as it has called for the views of other departments. I have not read the twelve-page supplement in the Economist. I do not know when the article was written. Perhaps it was written before the Government took its corrective measures which have done so much to stabilize the Australian economy and from which the benefits are now apparent. As to the cost of the National Security Resources Board, I believe that the gentlemen concerned are giving their services in an honorary capacity. Any cost, therefore, would be negligible in relation to the work that they have done.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
– On the 25th February, Senator Pearson asked the following question: -
My attention has been drawn to the fact that superannuated Commonwealth and State public servants, who are not eligible for the age pension, are as a consequence ineligible for the free medical benefits that are available to age pensioners. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health discuss with his colleague the possibility of extending the free medical benefits scheme to superannuitants particularly those on the same income level as age pensioners?
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply : -
The pensioner medical service was designed to meet the needs of that group of pensioners least able to bear the financial burden of medical expenses. Consequently, only those classes of pensions that are subject to the application of a means test, i.e., age, invalid, widows’ and service pensions, and tuberculosis allowances, entitle the recipients and their dependants to the benefits of the pensioner medical service. Superannuation pensions are not subject to any means test and therefore could not be brought within the scope of the pensioner medical service. The question whether any additional assistance should be given to these persons will be considered in the light of experience gained after the medical benefits scheme comes into operation in the near future.
– On the 26th February, Senator Tangney asked the following question : -
Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that in Western Australia, age and invalid pensioners, who are chronic sufferers from various ailments, are being charged at the rate of 23s. a day at the Perth Public Hospital as the cost of treatment is 35s. a day? Is he also aware that superannuitants who are chronic sufferers, and to whom the free medical scheme applicable to pensioners is not available, are being charged large sums for treatment? Last week I had brought to in;- notice the fact that a superannuated person, who was in receipt of only £4 a week had been charged £83 5s. for treatment at the Perth Public Hospital?
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
The hospital charges in every State are purely a matter for the State Government in that State, and all questions, therefore, concerning what is charged to their superannuitants or pensioners are a matter for the State Government, to whom the questionnaire should apply. The Commonwealth has provided 12s. a day for all pensioners who come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Department of
Social Services. This- is the maximum amount per bed per day for any patient given by the Commonwealth Government, even those who are insured. The contribution by the. Commonwealth Government ever since 1945, when the hospital benefits started, has only been a small proportion of the total cost, per patient per day for hospitals, the main charge being borne by the State Government whose constitutional obligation health is.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate of the quantity of wrapping and cover paper that is imported into Australia under licence? Is the Minister aware that Western Paper Mills, of Western Australia, which make an excellent quality cover paper, brown wrapping paper and container box cardboard, are only producing to approximately onethird of their total capacity as Australian requirements of- those commodities are met largely by imports ? Will the Minister cause a full inquiry to be made in his department with the object of providing the maximum protection and encouragement to this young but important Australian industry? If the Minister so desires I shall make samples of the Australian products available to his department.
– I thank the honorable senator for his offer. I think we already have some samples of the products he has mentioned, but, if not, I shall be grateful if the honorable senator will make some available. I cannot say offhand how much paper and cardboard of the types he has specified is imported into Australia, but I shall ascertain the figures and make- them available to him. I assure the honorable senator that I too am eager to see this industry flourish and prosper, but I remind him that the import licensing system is not the traditional method by which protection is afforded to Australian industries. When the import restrictions were introduced, the Prime Minister made it perfectly clear that they would be only temporary, and would be eased and eventually abolished as the economy of the country permitted. The traditional method of protecting Australian industries is by the imposition of a protective tariff, usually as a result of an inquiry by the Tariff Board.
If the enterprise to which the honorable senator has referred considers that the present import duty is not sufficient any representations that it may make to my department will be given the fullest consideration with a view to referring the matter to the Tariff Board.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that taxation authorities in the United States of America have established an excellent public relations system? Is he aware that the scheme includes a special service department designed to give every assistance to taxpayers on a “ good customer “ basis ? Will the Minister consider sending a small delegation of top level taxation officials to study these aspects of public administration which have been sadly neglected in Australia ?
– I have returned from my .trip abroad with a great admiration for the United States of America and Americans, but I do not think that even Americans could make taxation popular with their citizens. However, I am aware that the system to which the honorable senator referred- exists in the United States of America. I have also read in the newspapers that Mr. McGovern, the Commissioner of Taxation, will shortly go to Canada. If that report is correct, I have no doubt that he will pass through the United States of America. I shall request the Treasurer to ask Mr. McGovern to make inquiries concerning the honorable senator’s suggestion.
– Is the Minister aware of the widespread dissatisfaction at the present method of provisional, taxation? Is the Government aware that there are many cases of financial embarrassment among taxpayers who find the provisional tax beyond their capacity to pay ? .Will the Minister give: consideration to an immediate review of the imposition of provisional tax with a view to giving relief to those people who are unduly hard pressed to find the ready money to pay it pending the issue of an assessment by the. Commissioner of Taxation ?
– I have no doubt that the new senator from Tasmania will soon realize that when one senator from Tasmania asks a question in this chamber other Tasmanian senators ask questions in the same strain. Senator O’Byrne’s question concerns a matter of policy which is not usually the subject of question and answer in the Senate.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether the secrecy provisions of the Income Tax Act will permit him to obtain for my information the amount of income tax that was paid by each of the private trading banks in respect of the financial year ended the 30th June last?
– I have no doubt whatever that the provisions of the Income Tax Act prohibit the Commissioner of Taxation from making public information of the kind which the honorable senator seeks. My recollection of those provisions is that all information that is supplied to the Commissioner in respect of tax by private citizens, partnerships and companies is supplied confidentially and that the Commissioner is specifically prohibited from divulging any part of it. However, all the private trading banks are public companies which publish their balance-sheets and distribute them to their shareholders. Apparently, the honorable senator seeks information about the earning capacity of each of the private banks. He can obtain such information from the balance-sheets of those institutions.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1, 2 and 3. It is the policy of the Government, as exemplified in the 1952-53 budget, to reduce taxation to the maximum degree compatible with budgetary capacity and the preservation of stable economic conditions. In considering proposals for tax reductions the Government will always have regard to effects upon incentives and the trend of prices.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have been supplied with the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
– “Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services inform the Senate whether it is a fact that under the existing law pensioners have certain concessional rights insofar as the payment of broadcast listeners’ licences are concerned? Is this concession extended to all pensioners? For instance, does it include widowed pensioners and those widows who receive pensions from the Repatriation Department? If it does not include such pensioners will the Minister give favorable consideration .to enlarging the scope of this concession so that all pensioners will receive it?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the notice of the Treasurer.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Government has increased the issue of treasury-bills in recent months to the value of £125,000,000? Is it a fact that of this amount over £100,000,000 of treasury-bills are held by the private trading banks? Is it the financial policy of the Menzies Government to by-pass the Commonwealth Bank in order to patronize its supporters, the private trading banks, place the Commonwealth in debt to private money-lending institutions and at the same time weaken the structure of the Commonwealth Bank?
– Against my advice the honorable senator has been dabbling in figures again. I can assure him that the Menzies Government has no intention to do anything to weaken the structure or capacity of the Commonwealth Bank. On the contrary, since the Menzies Government has been in power the Commonwealth Bank has grown from strength to strength. Under our protection it will continue to do so.
– On the 26th February, Senator Wedgwood asked the following question: -
In view of the fact that gamma globulin, which is a fraction of human blood containing disease-fighting bodies, has been found to give temporary protection against the paralysis which often accompanies poliomyelitis, will the Government ensure that Australia shall be provided with adequate supplies of gamma globulin to fight any future poliomyelitis epidemic ?
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
The use of gamma globulin in the treatment of poliomyelitis is still in the experimental stage. The Government recently allocated money for the establishment of a serum fractionation unit at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Melbourne, which will work in close association with the Australian Red Cross Society. This unit will be working within the next few months. The extent to which gamma globulin will be used in Australia in the prevention of poliomyelitis will depend on future developments and results of the present investigations in this Held.
– On the 19th February, Senator Maher asked the following question : -
I should like to ascertain from the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Government has any progressive plan in operation for the transfer of Commonwealth departments from Melbourne to Canberra? It appears to me after reading the latest report of the Public Service Board that it is uncertain whether on a de facto basis the National Capital is in Melbourne or in Canberra.
The Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer: -
A plan for the .progressive transfer of Commonwealth departments from Melbourne to Canberra was approved in 1948 by a previous government. This plan has not been varied by the present Government. The rate at which the transfer can be carried out depends upon the availability of finance and material resources from time to time.
– On the 25th February, Senator Benn asked the following questions : -
I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether officers employed in the Postal Department to investigate missing property receive special training for their duties? Is there in existence a manual to show such officers how they should conduct their investigations? If so, will the PostmasterGeneral make one available to honorable senators for examination? For the purpose of removing disquieting rumours to the effect that some investigation officers in the Postal Department induce suspected officials to plead guilty to offences which they may not have committed,- will he indicate where the duties of investigations officers end and where the work of the civil police commences ?
The Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral has now furnished the following reply:-
Men with special aptitude are selected for positions of postal investigation officer and in their initial period of service work with more experienced officers and aTe not permanently appointed to the .positions until they have proved themselves to be suitable. There is no official training manual but the sections are under the control of very experienced men who guide and direct the activities of their subordinates. Employees being interrogated by investigators are entitled to have a union official .present during questioning and many take advantage of this privilege. It is unlikely that wrongful methods could be used without it being apparent to senior officers. Work of investigation officers is constantly under review and this body of men is fully worthy of the confidence imposed in it. Postal investigation officers endeavour to deal with all cases in which postal employees are involved, but in the more serious cases or where members of the public are involved or where the powers and facilities of the departmental investigators are inadequate, the assistance of the civil police is sought. Co-operation exists between the two bodies in all States.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture by stating that recently I read in a newspaper a statement, attributed to the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, to the effect that large increases in the production of several primary commodities have occurred. Can the Minister state the quantities by which the production of butter, meat, milk, eggs, wheat and sugar has increased, and in which States the increases have taken place ? Can he also inform me how much of the increases were due to (a) favorable seasons and (b) increased productive activities by primary producers?
– I shall refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, with a view to obtaining the desired information.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior aware that although Lieutenant Andrew Benns. of Caramut, Victoria, has been selected to attend the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, as a member of the Australian service contingent, he has been refused permission to attend because of a technicality regarding his residence obligation to the Soldier Settlement Commission of Victoria? In view of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding this case, will the Minister make representations to the Soldier Settlement Commission with a view to having the case reconsidered and thus give this worthy ex-serviceman the opportunity to join the contingent?
– I noticed with some interest a newspaper report concerning the matter to which the honorable senator has referred. I am not qualified to express an opinion about it, but shall place the circumstances before my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, and ascertain his views.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2. At a conference of New South Wales and Victorian State Ministers for Irrigation and Water Supply held in March, 1951, it was agreed - (a) that the construction of a weir across the River Murray for irrigation purposes above the effluence of the Marrabour or Little Murray River was desirable on the lines recommended by the Committee of Engineers representing the New South Wales Water Conservation and irrigation Commission and the Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission ; ( 6 ) that in view of the national importance of the work, it should be carried out by the River Murray Commission and under the River Murray Agreement; (c) to recommend that the States of New South Wales and Victoria approve of the proposal and ask the Commonwealth Government to refer it to the River Murray Commission.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following information in reply to the honorable senator : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions : -
I and 2. The Commonwealth is not making grants towards the capital cost of converting sulphuric acid plants to the use of indigenous sulphur-bearing materials. Where, however, it is demonstrated the capital required to effect the conversion cannot be raised by normal means within a reasonable time, the Commonwealth is facilitating the. provision of finance by guaranteeing overdraft accommodation far stated periods. The purpose of assistance in this form is to ensure that conversion can proceed immediately. The guaranteed overdrafts will be replaced by capital funds from other sources during the stated periods. Two companies have received such assistance. They are Sulphuric Acid Limited and Cresco Fertilisers (Western Australia) Limited.
Is it a fact that a considerable amount of hops used in Australia is imported? If so, what percentage?
Does the Government intend to, issue licences to hop importers this year?
With a view to the curtailment of hop importations, .will the Government encourage the growing of more hops in Tasmania and-‘ the marketing of such at a payable price?
Is it a fact that if some plan is not mu.de to secure the hop-growers’ interests, this industry could become stagnant?
Are there markets available for the sale of Tasmanian hops for the next two or three years? If so, can an assurance be given to hop-growers to the effect that their hops will be sold in order that they may plan ahead?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has furnished the following answers : -
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table the reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Flax Canvas and Flax Canvas Fire Hose. “With the exception of the report on flax canvas and flax canvas fire hose, copies of the reports are available for circulation to honorable senators.
Ordered to be printed.
– I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee : -
First report, for year 1952-53 - Supplementary Estimates, 1951-52.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Sugar - International Agreement - Protocol, dated 30th August. 1952, signed in London.
The protocol was signed in London by representatives of the governments of the Union of South Africa, Commonwealth of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, French Republic, United Kingdom, Hayti, Republic of Indonesia, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, United States of America and the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. This protocol differs from those signed earlier, in that it extends the agreement for a period of three years ending on the 31st August, 1955, whereas in recent years each protocol extended it for one year at a time.
The longer period was suggested by the American delegation to the International Sugar Council, as the practice of renewing the agreement annually gave rise to procedural difficulties and added to the already heavy legislative duties of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Delays were unavoidable. In approving of the three-year extension, the International Sugar Council, at the request of the Australian delegate, Mr. D. J. Muir, agreed to include appropriate wording in minutes and press releases in order to avoid creating the impression that the council considered a new international sugar agreement to be unlikely before 1956. The protocol also differs from previous protocols in that provision is made for withdrawal, by giving six months’ notice. This provision was inserted, in view of the longer period covered.
The protocol provides that certain articles of the original agreement, particularly those relating to limitation of sugar exports, and numbers of delegates and advisers, shall be inoperative. This is in accordance with previous practice. Signatories to the protocol recognize that revision of the agreement is necessary and negotiations for a new agreement have now reached the stage where the International Sugar Council has requested the United Nations to convene an international sugar conference, to discuss a new agreement. The conference is expected to be convened later this year in London.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator SPOONER) read a first time.
– I moveThat the bill be now read a second time. Last August the Government announced that it was reviewing the existing banking legislation and intended to propose important amendments both to the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-1951 and the Banking Act 1945. The underlying purpose of that review was to frame the amendments to the present law necessary for ensuring the preservation of the Australian banking system on the basis of fair competition. The bill now before the Senate contains the amendments that the Government proposes to make to the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-1951. Its chief object is the establishment of a new institution which is to be called the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, to take over the general banking functions at present performed by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Shortly, I shall introduce an associated measure, in which amendments to the Banking Act 1945 will be proposed. These amendments will be designed to make several important reforms in the relationship between the Commonwealth Bank as the central bank and the trading banks.
The Government considers that the present banking legislation leaves room for the Commonwealth Bank, through its central banking powers, to discriminate unfairly against the private trading banks and so expand its own trading operations at their expense. Certain major provisions in the present legislation require amendment if the position of the private banks in our banking system is to be protected in the future from unfair attack by a central bank operating under a government with socialist aims. As a government, we are, of course, deeply committed to the principle of fair competition in the banking system, and in this there is ample evidence that we are fully supported by the big majority of the Australian people. By the reestablishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board we have already taken a major step towards ensuring that, in its immensely important task of guiding the policy of the banking system, the Commonwealth Bank will not be actuated by any .spirit of partisanship. We are not oblivious of the possibility, however, that a future government could find ways and means of dominating the board for its own political purposes, and, within the framework of the law as it now stands, subject the private trading banks to unfair and unscrupulous, attack.
For this reason we have given the most careful consideration to the structure of the Commonwealth Bank. Our purpose has been to obviate the possibility that the Commonwealth Bank, at the command of a socialist government, could place its own trading activities in a privileged position through the unfair use of its central banking powers. The conclusion which has emerged from this study is that the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank should he separately incorporated as the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, and that for the purposes of central bank control the new institution should, by force of law, be treated as though it were a private trading bank. Taken in conjunction with the amendments proposed to the Banking Act 1945, these changes in the structure of the Commonwealth Bank will, in our opinion, remove grounds for the fear that the private trading banks could be victimized at some time in the future. At, the same time, the proposals will not interfere with the trading activities now being conducted by the Commonwealth Bank.
Honorable senators opposite have asserted on a number of occasions since this Government came into office at the end of 1949 that we are set upon weakening the Commonwealth Bank, especially in its trading activities. It has been contended, for instance, that the 1951 legislation, which provided for the reestablishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board, was one step in this direction. These assertions have no foundation whatsoever, and have been made for clearly political ends. While the Government considers that the primary responsibility of the Commonwealth Bank is its function as a central bank, acting in harmony with the economic and monetary policy of the government of the day and subject to ultimate control by Parliament,, it believes that the Commonwealth Bank’s general trading activities form an essential part of the commercial banking system and should be developed in fair competition with the other banks. Our policy on this matter has been consistent and unequivocal, and remains unchanged. In the banking legislation which we introduced in 1950, and which the Opposition tried so strenuously to defeat by its tactics in the Senate, provision was made to strengthen the trading departments of the Commonwealth Bank by increasing their capital by about £5,000,000. That legislation also constituted the Commonwealth Bank Board. It became law in 1951 after the Government obtained a dissolution of Parliament following the opposition of the Labour party to the proposals.
The growth of the Commonwealth Bank’s trading activities since we assumed office in’ 1949 amply demonstrates that our policy of promoting these .trading functions has produced practical results. Between December, 1949, and December, 1952, there was an increase of no less than 50 per cent, in the deposits of the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank, whilst the number of the Division’s customers increased in very much the same proportion. It has been alleged that the change of name to the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia will affect the bank’s goodwill. This is a specious argument. When the Commonwealth Savings Bank was separately incorporated in 1928, it did not suffer any loss of business. On the contrary, its deposits rose. A similar result followed the amalgamation in 1951 of the Bank of Australasia and the Union Bank of Australia into a new bank called the Australia and New Zealand Bank. These facts give the lie to the contention that the Government is bent on weakening these trading functions, and brings into the clear lightof day the fact that the Opposition is, making false assertions for party political purposes.
Before explaining in more detail the contents of the bill now before the Senate, it would be appropriate to outline briefly the present structure of the Commonwealth Bank. Apart from its central banking activities, the Commonwealth Bank conducts trading operations through four departments of the bank - theGeneral Banking Division, the Rural Credits Department, the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department. The General Banking Division carries on ordinary trading bank business. The other three departments were established to provide special facilities not generally available through the banking system. The Rural Credits Department was established in 1925, in order to provide large short-term loans at concessional rates of interest to such bodies as co-operative associations and marketing boards while they arrange the sale of primary products. In many instances these bodies cannot offer security in accord with normal banking standards for the financial accommodation necessary for their successful functioning.
The Mortgage Bank Department was established in 1943, to give effect to one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. It provides long-term loans, repayable by fixed equal instalments, to primary producers, who are .th-us protected against pressure for repayment of advances in difficult times. The Industrial Finance Department was set up in 1945, to provide assistance to industry, particularly small-scale enterprises, outside the ambit of ordinary banking practice. This department is under a statutory obligation to consider primarily the prospects of the enterprise rather than the present value of the assets it has to offer as security for a loan. The Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank are responsible for the management of these four trading sections according to the policy laid down by the Commonwealth Bank Board.
The bill provides for the immediate establishment of the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia to take over the business of the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank. The new bank will be clothed with all the powers required to carry on general banking business. In addition to the powers at present held by the General Banking Division for this purpose, the Commonwealth Trading Bank will have the powers necessary to transact business as a separate body corporate. The bill also provides that it shall be the duty of the new bank to develop and expand its business, and that it shall not refuse a person’s business only on the ground that business would thereby be taken away from another bank. In this respect the provisions in the present act are repeated. In regard to its capital structure and the disposal of profits, the Commonwealth Trading Bank will be in exactly the same position as is the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank under the present legislation. As is now the case with the General Banking Division, the debts of the Commonwealth Trading Bank to its customers and creditors will be guaranteed by the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Trading Bank will be managed by a general manager under the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The general manager will be appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Bank Board, and will hold office for a fixed period not exceeding seven years. The Government subscribes to the view that was expressed by the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems that the use of trading bank activities as an adjunct to central banking policy is in keeping with the Commonwealth Bank’s central bank functions and is to be approved. The proposals in the bill are therefore specifically designed to preserve the existing relationship between the Commonwealth Bank as the central bank, and its general trading activities in matters of policy. Consequently, policy matters concerning the Commonwealth Trading Bank will be determined ‘by the Commonwealth Bank Board. In order to avoid conflicts of interest, the bill provides that the board shall decide the policy of the Common wealth Trading Bank so that it will not conflict with central bank policy. In other words, the board is to give priority to central banking considerations in deciding policy matters submitted to it by the management of the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
The Government has not lightly rejected the alternative idea that the Commonwealth Trading Bank should be entirely divorced from the Commonwealth Bank. There are, however, good practical reasons why that should not be done. It is important for the Commonwealth Bank to have direct contact with current trends in finance and business, and thus be equipped with first-hand knowledge to reshape its central bank policy to the requirements of changing economic conditions. Through policy control of the trading activities now performed by the General Banking Division, its contacts with these trends will be of considerable value in this connexion. Moreover, the central bank derives strength from being able, when necessary, to give a lead to the banking system by the policy followed by its trading institution. More important still, the central bank will be able to direct the resources of its trading institution into investments which are relatively unattractive from a wholly commercial banking point of view, but which must be made in the national interest. The provision of finance for housing in recent years is a case in point. Accordingly, the Government has decided on the form of separation contained in the bill.
The Commonwealth Bank will be required to make available to the Commonwealth Trading Bank such officers as are necessary for the efficient pref formance of the trading bank’s operations. Officers engaged in the business of the Commonwealth Trading Bank will thus remain officers of the Commonwealth Bank, and their rights and interests will not be affected in any way whatever by the incorporation of the new bank.
It is provided in the bill that the business now carried on by the General Banking Division shall be transferred to the Commonwealth Trading Bank from a date to be proclaimed. This provision is necessary because it will probably be some months before the Commonwealth
Trading Bank has completed the legal and administrative arrangements necessary for the taking over of the business of the General Banking Division to enable it to conduct its own affairs as a separate legal entity. Until the proclaimed date, the General Banking Division will continue to operate as at present. It will then cease business. Clause IS contains detailed provisions for the transfer of business to the Commonwealth Trading Bank. These provisions will enable the transfer to be made in an orderly manner, and without inconvenience to customers. Cheques drawn on the Commonwealth Bank will be accepted by the Commonwealth Trading Bank. Customers will thus be able to use their existing books of cheque forms until they are exhausted or have been replaced by new books of forms in the name of the Commonwealth Trading Bank. Customers with overdraft accounts with the General Banking Division will be unaffected by the transfer. Furthermore, care has been taken to protect the interests of customers and other creditors. When the transfer takes place the liabilities of the General Banking Division will become liabilities of the Commonwealth Trading Bank but will not cease to be liabilities of the Commonwealth Bank. This position will continue until the liabilities are discharged by either bank. Another” provision relates to business which it will be impracticable to transfer to the trading bank on the proclaimed date. This situation will arise in isolated instances where, for example, an account is guaranteed under the law of a State which provides only for the giving of guarantees to the Commonwealth Bank, or where the rules of a particular organization preclude it from banking with a bank other than the Commonwealth Bank. In these cases the Commonwealth Bank will, with the approval of the Treasurer after receiving a report from the board, continue to carry on business of this kind until it is practicable for such business to be taken over by the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
I have already mentioned that, for central banking purposes, the Commonwealth Trading Bank will be dealt with in pre- cisely the same way as the private trading banks. The provisions to give effect to this are contained in the Banking Bill, and will be explained during the course of my second-reading speech on that measure.
The proposals in the bill before the chamber do not affect the position of the three special trading departments of the Commonwealth Bank, namely, the Rural Credits Department, the Mortgage Bank Department, and the Industrial Finance Department. These departments will continue to be parts of the Commonwealth Bank. The nature of the operations of these three departments has already been explained briefly. They provide facilities which are not generally available through other sections of the banking system. Moreover, unlike other banks, they do not rely on deposits as a source of investible funds. The activities of the special departments are, therefore, not comparable with those of the private trading banks, and it is not proposed to separate them from the Commonwealth Bank. Their work is of the greatest value to the economy, and because of their very nature they must be kept in close association with the central bank. The competitive powers of the Commonwealth Trading Bank would be seriously prejudiced if the new bank were required to shoulder the responsibilities of the business now undertaken by the special departments, and consequently these departments will continue to be attached to the central bank. The special trading departments will, however, be required to furnish statistics for publication by the Commonwealth Statistician in a form similar to that prescribed for other banks. The requirement for them to do this will be contained in the Banking Bill.
The opportunity has been taken to make certain amendments of a comparatively minor nature to the provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act. These amendments have been recommended by the Commonwealth Bank Board, and are contained in clauses 9, 10, 11 and 12. The main amendment will insert a provision in the act to authorize the Commonwealth Bank to recruit university graduates. Apart from appointments to positions of a specialist nature at present the bank can recruit officers only by means of entrance examinations at Leaving Certificate and Intermediate Certificate standard. Unlike the Commonwealth Public Service, it is thus practically debarred from appointing university graduates. The Government agrees with the Commonwealth Bank Board that, especially by reason of its central banking activities, the bank should be permitted to recruit a proportion of its officers from the ranks of graduates, and provision is being made accordingly. As in the case of graduate recruits to the Public Service, the number of graduates who may be appointed is not to exceed 10 per cent, of the number of all recruits to the bank’s service in any year. The Commonwealth Bank Officers Association agrees with the proposed amendment to permit the appointment of university graduates to the bank’s staff.
The other minor amendments relate to withdrawals from infants’ savings bank accounts, the qualifications of the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank’s Disciplinary Appeal Board, and the periodical publication of a list of the bank’s officers. Arising from the separate incorporation of the Commonwealth Trading Bank, it will be necessary to make amendments to many other sections of the net. These amendments are set out in the First Schedule to the bill. It is also desirable that the sections and parts of the act be renumbered. The renumbering arrangements are shown in the Second Schedule to the bill. A memorandum showing how the act will appear after the amendments proposed in the bill are made has been circulated for the information of honorable senators. The separate incorporation of the Commonwealth Trading Bank will necessitate amendments to certain other Commonwealth acts in which reference is made to the Commonwealth Bank. These amendments are indicated in the Fourth and Fifth Schedules to the bill. The main purpose of these amendments is to enable government accounts to be opened for the receipt and disbursement of money in branches of banks other than the Commonwealth Bank in localities where no branch of that bank exists.
Combined with the proposed amendments of the Banking Act 1945 to which the Senate’s approval will shortly be sought, the proposals in this bill will, we believe, place beyond doubt the continued operation of the Australian banking system in fair and open competition within the framework of central bank policy. The functioning of the banking system on this basis is the very essence of the Government’s political philosophy, and is a principle which events have shown to be fully approved by the Australian people. On the one hand, the general trading activities now carried on by the Commonwealth Bank will be entrusted to a separate institution which, in respect of central bank controls, will be placed in a position ho more favorable, and no less favorable, than that which applies to the private trading banks. This separation will be effected in a manner which will retain the merits of the Commonwealth Bank’s present structure with respect to the formulation and administration of wise central banking policy, and which will not prejudice in any way the continued progress and development of the general trading activities now carried on by the Commonwealth Bank. On the other hand, the position of the private trading banks in the banking system will be protected, and there will no longer be grounds for fear that a future government could, without revealing its intentions to the elected representatives of the people, attack the banks by surreptitious and undemocratic methods. In the firm belief that the principles which I have enunciated will receive the full endorsement of the Senate and the people, I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator COOPER) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The primary purpose of this bill is to provide statutory authority for the establishment of television services in the Commonwealth. It can, I believe, be said that there is common agreement that the widespread benefits which may be derived from television should not be denied to the Australian public for any longer than is absolutely necessary. In this connexion, there is no doubt that television, because of its extraordinary popularity among the public wherever it is operating, possesses tremendous social and cultural possibilities, as well as being an unsurpassed medium of .entertainment. Moreover, as has been demonstrated in the United States of America, it is an economic factor of the first magnitude which can provide employment and stimulate business generally.
In considering the introduction of television services into the Commonwealth, we are immediately confronted with the same problem that arose over 25 years ago when broadcasting was first introduced into this country. At that time, we had the choice of the British system of government monopoly or the American system of unrestricted commercial enterprise. We adopted, neither, but chose a combination of both. And who would want to change this dual system of broadcasting, which has proved to be admirably suited to our particular needs, and which provides the Australian listener with a standard and variety of programme that compares more than favorably with that available in any other country? It is sufficient to say that successive governments in the Parliament, regardless of party, have supported the present system since it was inaugurated a quarter of a century ago. There is no valid reason why the success of our dual system of broadcasting should not be repeated with respect to television. Indeed, it would be folly if we were blindly to ignore our own past experiences and deny to the people a choice of programmes which they have demonstrated they desire and, at the same time, to stifle the development of the new medium by avoiding the recognized advantages of competition. In the United Kingdom. which was the first country to introduce television, there is no choice of programmes, but this deficiency in the British system has, after many years of experience) now been recognized by the British Government, which recently announced that “in the expanding field of television, provision should be made to permit some element of competition when the calls on capital resources at present needed for purposes of greater national importance, make this feasible”. The Government of Canada. which has a dual system of broadcasting similar to the Australian system, also recently announced its intention- to authorize commercial television stations ill addition to those operated by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In the face of this overwhelming evidence there can be no doubt that, the introduction of a dual system of television is the only logical and sensible system to adopt in order, to meet the requirements of the Australian public.
The provisions of this bill relate specifically to the fundamental system of television which will be introduced into Australia. The detailed conditions in accordance with which the services will be conducted will he determined after consideration has been given to the recommendations of the royal commission which was appointed by the Government to inquire into and report upon -
Much has been said, in the past, of the extent to which Australia may, in the field of television, profit from the experiences of overseas countries. In this connexion, I remind honorable senators that in both the United Kingdom and Canada very great care was taken by the governments of those countries to ensure that their television services were planned on a basis which would permit development in a manner best suited to serve their national interests. In Great Britain, committees of inquiry were appointed in 1936, before television commenced, and also in 1943 and in 1950, to consider various aspects of television and its implications, whilst in Canada u royal commission examined the matter in 1949-50. When the royal commission has submitted its final report, it is the intention of the Government to bring down a comprehensive measure so as to give the Parliament an opportunity to debate fully its detailed plans for the establishment and regulation of the television services of the Commonwealth.
The bill before the Senate at the moment is short and needs little explanation. Clauses 3 and 4 provide for the establishment -of national and commercial television services respectively, and clause 5 provides that the Minister may direct a specially authorized authority,, or the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to provide the national television programme. The bill, therefore, is an interim measure in which the Government has declared its policy, namely the introduction of a dual national and commercial system of television. It will provide the statutory authority for the Government to take the initial action for the establishment of television services, and, if necessary, to make appropriate regulations to cope with situations which may arise before this measure is replaced by a more comprehensive act.
I submit the bill for consideration by the Senate in the knowledge that honorable senators will recognize the value of television as an enormous contribution to our well-being, -and as a medium which will instruct, educate and entertain us. I do not suggest that its dangers, concerning which much has been said and written, should be underrated, but I remind honorable senators that every innovation in the history of mankind has been accompanied by doubts, alarms and forebodings. However, if by foresight, careful planning and prudent regulation we progress in the right direction, there is no doubt that television will stimulate our thought, broaden our outlook and give us a greater share in those things which are happening about us. More important still, it will enrich our lives with tremendous social and cultural benefits. I commend the bill to the Senate. .Senator MCKENNA (Tasmania - Leader of the Opposition) [4.36]. - The bill which has been introduced by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) deals with the very important and interesting subject of television. Solely for the purpose of making a base for a line of thought that I wish to develop, I refer to the derivation of the word “ television “. It is made up of the Greek “ tele “, which means “ at a distance “, and “ vision “, which comes from the Latin “videre”, meaning “to see “. Accordingly, .the word means, in effect, seeing at a distance, or vision at a distance. Vision, which is the ability to see, is one of God’s greatest gifts to man. Only those who have had the gift, and have lost it, can realize just what a priceless blessing sight is. It is a gift which enables people to see the marvels of the universe, the wonders of creation, and the works of man, good, had and indifferent. Just as science has given us spectacles to bring defective vision up to a normal standard, and binoculars and telescopes to extend the range of normal vision, so, under Providence, science has now given us a medium that will enable the range of vision of great masses of the people to be enormously extended.
Looked at in that way, I think that I may claim that television is a very great and important, but nevertheless completely logical, extension of such equipment as spectacles, binoculars and telescopes. I at once put forward the view that we ought to welcome its advent and do everything possible to bring about quickly its establishment in this country. But just as natural vision may be perverted, abused and put to evil purposes, so also may this mass-produced new development, television, be put to purposes that are not good and, indeed, that could be distinctly evil. It is that possibility that makes the regulation of television so important. That is the possibility that imposes on governments and people in high places an exceedingly grave responsibility. Happily, however, all sections of the community and all political parties are agreed that there should be some measure of regulation and control of this important new development. But there are, and I am sure there always will be, vast differences of opinion concerning the degree of control or regulation that should be observed. “Whilst I believe that the majority of our people will insist upon certain standards of decency and morality in the matter of television, as in the case of every other aspect of our social life, I still think that there are youthful elements in the community, less discriminating elements, who need to be protected from what could be the evil influences of television. They need to be shielded from coarseness, lewdness, obscenity and blasphemy; above all, particularly in the case of the young, they need to be protected from programmes that may tend to incite to courses of wrong action. I am sure that every honorable senator will agree that television projects which may be perfectly suitable for adults in our community could give very grave scandal to our youth and result finally in what I shall describe as the tragedy of premature sophistication.
I acknowledge at once that the institution of television will impose, a much heavier responsibility upon parents in the community. As television admittedly has great capacity for both good and evil, it behoves all responsible elements in the Australian community to combine in order to ensure that its ultimate effects will be good only, and that all possible evil effects will be wholly eliminated. It is with that thought in mind that I view with some misgiving a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the 16th January last, when announcing the intention of the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into television. In the course of that statement, ,the right honorable gentleman said -
It ia clear that television will have a great influence on the life of the people. Whether that influence’ is to be, on balance, good or bad will depend, to a real extent, on the care with which television is initiated after a full, impartial and sensible investigation.
The Prime Minister’s use of that rather hackneyed .term “ on balance “ is the cause of my misgiving, because obviously there is a complacency in his statement which seems to indicate that the good and the bad elements of television are to be left in the field to fight for supremacy. I consider that that is the wrong approach to the matter. That attitude of “Just let television run along. Let the good and the bad contend, and the good will ultimately triumph “, is also to be found in speeches made by other responsible and . informed people. For instance, I found in the press of the 17th January last a statement attributed to an acknowledged television expert, Dr. J. D. McGee, who is the head of the section of Electrical and Musical Industries which deals with television camera tubes in Great Britain. He said -
Provided that television in Australia is handled reasonably well - as well as sound broadcasting has been handled here - then I think it will do more good than harm.
What I am concerned about is to discard that kind of approach and thinking altogether. There is a duty upon the Prime Minister and every other member of the Government - indeed, upon every responsible element in the community - to ensure that television is not left on that basis. In television, we are dealing with a completely virgin field, and we must take extreme precautions to ensure that the field is not fouled at the outset. .Here is one new aspect that will play a critical role in the development of life in Australia and our assessment of social and moral values. Here is an opportunity to start on the right side. I deplore suggestions that we should let the good and the bad elements fight it out and hope that ultimately the good will prevail. I find that my view is expressed very well by Dr. H. W. K. Mowll, the Archbishop of Sydney, who had something to say upon the matter on the 6th December, 1952. Dr. Mowll is chairman of the Australian Council of the World Council of Churches. He stated -
Television cannot be left to the control of unfettered commercial and other sectional interests. The high cost of television will almost certainly force commercial television to pander to the lower elements in human nature and human society. The perils of lowgrade television, which would steadily contaminate the minds of children and degrade the minds of the community, are too great to be left to chance. Rightly used, television represents a tremendous power for good; but as phases of American television show, its impact can be disastrous.
That puts my view in excellent terms. I think it is a view that will have general endorsement, not only in this chamber, but by the Australian people generally. I express a personal opinion when I say that I hope that when television is introduced, we can be kept clear of advertisements for pills, soaps, goods and services that have sickened me of commercial broadcasting and have made me a rare and very selective listener. It is a fond hope, but having regard to the cost of maintaining television, I fear that there is little chance of it being realized.
– Has the honorable senator listened to the Labour party programmes ?
– I have observed these matters rather with regard to the Liberal party programmes.
– The honorable senator is very selective.
– In the course of my restrictive listening, I have noticed that not much is being heard from the Liberal party in Australia now. Perhaps there is a good reason for that. I repeat the hope that I have already expressed although I fear that it may be a vain hope. It would be a great relief if the benefits of television could be brought to us without all the pseudo advantages of the goods and services that so many people want to sell in Australia.
Leaving that particular facet of television and having stated my fundamental objection to it, I shall pass to an even more important consideration of the subject of television. The anterior question that crops up and has not been dealt with to my knowledge by the Government or the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) or, indeed, in the Parliament, is whether this Parliament has any power at all over television. Personally I do not think that it has. I commit myself to that view, and I hope to show by a few general observations that there is, at least, a real doubt about the matter. I assure the Senate that I shall not embark upon a legal disquisition, but will put before honorable senators a few broad considerations. It will be acknowledged at once that television as we know it is a concept that was not in the minds of the framers of the Australian Constitution in 1901. Honorable senators will look in vain if they turn to the Constitution for any specific reference to television.
There has been one attack upon the . Commonwealth power to provide radio broadcasting which is another field altogether. That attack took place in 1935. When it was made the Commonwealth, in the High Court of Australia, took refuge in what we know loosely as the post and telegraph power.. The exact power is defined in section 51 of the Constitution, which states that the Commonwealth shall have power to make laws with respect to “ postal, telegraphic, telephonic and other like services “. The Commonwealth claimed successfully that radio broadcasting was something in the nature of a telegraphic service and that accordingly it fell within the ambit of that power. That view was upheld by the majority of the High Court. Five judges were in favour of upholding it and one dissented. It is rather interesting to note that four of the five judges who upheld that proposition in relation- to radio broadcasting m 1935 have left the bench. They are the- former Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, Mr. Justice Rich,. Mr.. Justice Starke and Mr. Justice Evatt. The only judge now holding office who upheld the proposition is Sir Edward McTiernan. The dissenting judge was Sir Owen Dixon. Significantly enough he is now, by the passage of time and by virtue of his own great merits, the very distinguished Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. The High Court as now constituted is free to reverse the decision on radio broadcasting at any time, and I hope that television will come under consideration soon so that doubts on the matter may be resolved. If that happens the High Court will have a completely new field to deal with in the- matter of television,, and it will approach the matter untrammelled by any other High Court decision.
It may interest the Senate to hear a1 brief story of a discussion that took place between two judges in the foyer of the Sydney Town Hall following an Australian Broadcasting Commission, celebrity concert. Some; pianist of world fame had been brought out to Australia under the auspices: of the Australian- Broadcasting Commission, and the story, for the accuracy of which I do not vouch, is that two judges met. in the foyer following the performance. One commented upon the excellence of the performance and the other replied, “ My dear sir, we have just witnessed a very extraordinary demonstration of the post and’ telegraph power “. Whatever may be said in favour of claiming that radio broadcasting* is within the power of the Commonwealth, “far less can- be said for- the proposition that television is included in- that power. On that account, I put briefly three- pro- positions. In the first place,, the technical procedures are entirely different. In the second place, while radio broadcasting had a distinctly interstate application right from the outset, that aspect is not so easy of establishment with regard to a system of television. . Honorable senators who understand the mechanics of television know that the range of any particular station is severely limited. It is true that a spot might be picked on n border between two States, such as at Albury, where a television station could be set up to serve Wodonga in Victoria as well as Albury and’ the surrounding district’s in New South Wales. That would give to that television station, if economics permitted its establishment even to be contemplated, some kind of interstate character, but normally, in the early stages of television, stations that will be established will be- few in number. They will serve a limited area and the very expensive form of transmitting programmes interstate by micro-wave relay stations may well be delayed for a considerable period. The second point that I put to the Senate, therefore, is that the claim to interstatecommunication that was obvious from the beginning with radio broadcasting will be missing in relation to television.
The third point under that heading is that while there is- plainly some element of telegraphic communication in radio broadcasting, it is far less, easy to- see that element in television. In confirmation of that point, I refer honorable senators to the speeches that have been made by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) and the Minister for Repatriation who* represents’ the Postmaster-General in the Senate and’ who introduced the measure in- this chamber. The Postmaster General said recently -
We are all- agreed that television services with their great potential benefits far education, culture and entertainment should be made available to the Australian! people. . . . There is not the slightest doubt” that with its tremendous social and1 cultural possibilities, television^ must, i-f prudently regulated, have a great, capacity to enrich our lives and broaden our vision.
The Minister for Repatriation used somewhat similar terms in his second-reading speech. He said1 -
In. this connexion there is- no doubt that television, because of its extraordinary- popularity among the public wherever it is operating, possesses tremendous social and cultural possibilities as well as being an unsurpassed medium of entertainment . . . Honorable senators’ will recognize the va.lue 15f television as an enormous contribution to our well-being and as a medium which will instruct, educate and entertain us.
Taking the two speeches’ and the extracts that I have quoted together I point but that they place the emphasis of the value of a television service upon education, entertainment and cultural facilities. I have only to add that education and entertainment are fields that lie completely outside the power and ambit of the Commonwealth. They are matters that are expressly and completely reserved to the States.
Senator KENDALL They are controlled by Censorship.
– Of course, if there is il6 power over television, censorship of television could not be exercised by the Commonwealth
– The States have not a monopoly of culture.
– No, but let the honorable senator concentrate his thoughts upon the major matters- education and entertainment. I do not believe that there is one honorable senator who would argue that the Commonwealth has any power in those fields. They lie completely within the ambit of the States;
-Could the High Court give a< decision’ on this matterwithout a specific challenge to a specific law being before it ?
-No, plainly it could not” d’o W. The High Court Will riot pronounce upon this matter in abstract. 1 ]raise the’ matter now in the public interest t’0> point out that if all those1 concerned with this- major industry proceed. on the- basis that the Comm.’©* vealth’ has this power &c& if ultimately there is an attack in the High Court upon this legislation or some later development of it and the whole thing is upset,’ tragic loss* and confusion will result for many persons, an’d manufacturers That should be avoided at all costs.
I shall be critical presently of t’he” con-tents 4i this billy But 1 see” this” virtue kv if that once> the! doubt- is raised,* it give’s ah opportunity for airy State government, or anybody interested in some phase or other of this great new industry, to go to .the court at this early stage and tes’t the validity of the measure; That is the tine great virtue I see in this bill. although I am arguing that, in my view - ‘and I greatly respect the contrary view this Parliament is not empowered to control television, 1 should not like’ anybody to believe that t am happy about that conclusion; Indeed, I should greatly deplore that lack of power if my view were proved correct I certainly Should not look forward to the prospect of six separate” State governments controlling television and perhaps adopting different technique’s arid methods. We’ Slight again be confronted by a national disaster such as the break’s o’f gauge’ in our railway’s system.
– 1 do not think the States would want the power.
Senator’ McKENNA Not only is there the question of State power’s,- b’u’t we might- well find tine State” taking (he lon’g-term view and seeing in the establishment of television stations a- very fine prospect of revenue.- Let us as’sume that a State decided to1 establish one” or two television stations and- to farm mt the broadcasting time to’ commercial interests that could be’ a very valu’able source of income to 8 State1.- I do’ Apt suggest that it would be’, readily avail1 able in all States1,- but,- although I ti& riot know a great dealt about the economies of television I should ri’ot $e surprised if a Si;ate government took the long-term view and said, “ We shall at least keep’ our bauds’ on this’”. It is- with regret therefore that I reach my conclusion about the Commonwealth’s’ power in’ the field of television^ an’d I ho’p’e for’ the” sake of every one connected with television, in-eluding the Commonwealth Government that before the field is entered, that cardinal anterior point’ wi-M be resolved-.- No government and no opposition, can resolve it it- can be determined’ only by the Sigh’ Court.-
I d<6’ n’o’t think that the’ people* 6f AUtralia are particularly’ interested as individuals *m television’,- and! I d& riot” think they wi# be really intere’sted’ in if it is1 here and they have had »’ change ‘ to appreciate its potentialities. Television, at the moment, is in the realm of high political issue and is the subject of consideration by other bodies at a very high level. My great hope is that all those bodies will see clearly their great responsibility in this matter, and will do their utmost to serve the best ultimate interests of the people. One of the things that should be encouraged rather than discouraged by the Government, therefore, is an early attack on this legislation in the courts so that everybody may know where he stands in relation to television.
I shall deal briefly with only one more legal phase of this matter before turning to the contents of the bill. Let us assume that there is power in the Commonwealth Parliament in relation to television. The next point we come to is that, having that power, we could exercise it only subject to the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution, which provides that trade, commerce and intercourse between the States shall be absolutely free. I have already pointed out to the Senate that it will not be easy to establish an interstate relationship in television, particularly in its early stages. However, it is quite certain that only very powerful financial institutions could consider entering the television field, and I have very little doubt that such interests would be sufficiently ingenious to set up their establishments in such a way that an interstate relationship would be involved. Television in Australia would not be of much use if it were confined to local areas. It would be a great pity indeed if it were confined to the two big cities of Sydney and Melbourne and there was no interstate exchange of television services. I trust therefore, that, as speedily as possible, television will develop on an interstate basis.
The next point I wish to make is that if the Commonwealth has the power to legislate in the field of television, and if section 92 does apply to that power, it will be impossible for this parliament to set up any kind of government monopoly in television. That was made completely clear by the airways case in the early post-war period and, of course, by the banking case based on the legislation of 1947. In the latter case, not only the
High Court, but also the Privy Council decided that, with section 92 in our Constitution, although the Government could enter the field of banking, it could not do so to the exclusion of others. In other words, there could be no Government monopoly-
– In the way of trade.
– In the whole sphere. If the honorable senator will take the trouble to read the Privy Council’s judgment he will find how broad it was in relation to section 92. In fact, the Privy Council’s judgment dealt almost exclusively with that particular phase whereas the High Court’s judgment dealt with many more phases. I submit to the Senate that, whether one likes it or not, if we have power over television - and I claim we have not - section 92 will apply and Australia will be committed to a dual system of television broadcasting. I only hope that the Government will move very quickly into this field so that it may know from its own experience, ahead of private enterprise, the facts and dangers of television. I should like the Commonwealth Government to explore the field first so that, armed with real experience and real knowledge of television in practical operation, it could condition the terms upon which private enterprise might enter the field.
The Government’s record in relation to television furnishes just one more perfect example of its indecision and inability to act. It proves conclusively that this Government has no capacity for action. After three and a half years of rule by this Administration, what have we in television? We have two things. We have a royal commission which has yet to hear evidence and make its report, and we have a bill which I do not hesitate to describe as a thoroughly puerile measure. I shall not develop that theme now, but I shall return to it when I have dealt with the Government’s record. Australia is not one step closer to television to-day than it was when this Government camo to office three and a half years ago.
– Why hurry?
– I do not think the Australian people should be deprived of any new developments or advantages in the scientific field. I invite Senator Kendall to listen to what I have to say about the record of the Government of which he is a supporter. Almost immediately upon its election to office, the Government announced that private enterprise would be permitted to operate television stations. The Government obtained a report from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the report made certain recommendations in relation to the licensing of television stations. That was in February, 1950, but absolutely nothing has been done about the report. On the 27th June, 1950 - still in the Government’s first year of office - it announced that it had scrapped Labour’s plan, which was to establish a television station in each capital city. We were told that only one national station would be established and that it would be in Sydney. The Postmaster-General assured the people of Australia that they would be enjoying television in two years. Those two years have come and gone. In September, 1950, the Government called for tenders for the erection of the Sydney station, but since then there has been no announcement of the acceptance of a tender, and not a brick has been laid. In December, 1950, three months later, the Government appointed a television advisory committee, and sent a delegation abroad to survey television in other parts of the world. The delegation was away for five months, and it made a complete investigation. Its report was made to the Government in May, 1951. What has been the result? Nothing whatever has been done about that comprehensive report.
– Why all the haste? There are other things more important to this country than television.
– Then why incur the expense of sending a delegation abroad to investigate television? Why amass all this information? Why send the Postmaster-General abroad for months to look at something which already had been thoroughly observed and inquired into by delegation after delegation? When the PostmasterGeneral returned and made his report, why were his recommendations discarded? The Government, instead of acting upon the abundant advice it had already received, decided to appoint a royal commission. Senator Maher wants to know if there is any need for haste. The Government of which he is a supporter certainly cannot be accused of having been in a hurry in the last three and a half years. As I have said, in 1950, the PostmasterGeneral announced that Australia would have television in two years. Apparently he saw some cause for haste even if Senator Maher does not. The PostmasterGeneral travelled around the world, but the Government apparently has rejected his recommendations. After three and a half years of expensive trips by the PostmasterGeneral and officials, all we have is a royal commission, which is about to conduct an inquiry, and this very insignificant bill now before the Senate. Clearly the Government’s record gives little cause for pride. The delay must be a great disappointment to manufacturing interests and others who are vitally concerned with television. We are not one step farther forward than we were three and a half years ago. There has certainly been very little haste on the Government’s side.
– Everything comes to him who waits.
– The honorable senator is right. If he will wait for just a little while I shall tell him something about the bill that is now before us. It will not advance television by one iota. It will not make one practical physical contribution to the establishment of television. In introducing this measure, the Government is behaving like a small boy playing Bed Indians and mowing down a whole group of imaginary enemies with a pair of toy pistols. The bill is sheer pretence designed to cloak inaction. Inability to act has been the fundamental difficulty of this Government ever since it assumed office, and that trait of its character is now well known to the people. What does the bill do? It confers upon the Postmaster-General absolute discretion to permit the Australian Broadcasting Commission or some other authorized body, the nature of which is not disclosed in the bill, to provide television services in Australia. The PostmasterGeneral will have absolute discretion to direct the programmes that may be provided. The bill also permits the Postmaster-General unfettered discretion to license commercial organizations to provide television services in Australia-
– As the Broadcasting Act does.
– The PostmasterGeneral will have unfettered discretion to grant television licences to commercial organizations on such conditions as he thinks fit. Many terms and conditions have been laid down in relation to radio broadcasting which is regulated by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, an independent body. No proposal for the establishment of such a body is contained in this bill. The PostmasterGeneral is to be a dictator. Under the bill the Postmaster-General may authorize the Australian Broadcasting Commission or an authorized body but nobody else to provide television. Or he could leave the provision of television services to private enterprise. He would be a dictator with the most complete power. This bill will confer a blanket regulationmaking authority on the PostmasterGeneral. It also provides that the Postmaster-General may set up governmentsponsored television stations. He may license government -stations and make whatever regulations he wishes. What practical contribution to television in Australia will be made by this bill ? None. It is merely a pretence that action is being taken. On the 16th January, the Prime Minister said -
I.t lias been decided, however, that television will be introduced on a gradual basis and that before decisions are made as to the various stages in the development of the new service ami the licensing of commercial stations an inquiry will be conducted by a royal commission.
If .no commercial stations will be licensed until- the royal commission presents its report, why .has the Government introduced a bill at this time, authorizing the .granting .of licences to commercial interests? What could be its purpose? Why does the Government want the PostmasterGeneral to have the powers of a dictator to license private stations, although the Prime Minister has announced that no private interests would be licensed until the completion of the inquiry of the royal commission? This bill is a futility and a pretence. On the subject of regulations the PostmasterGeneral has said -
After the report of the royal commission lias been considered the Government will make definite plans” for the introduction of -both national and commercial services and will bring- down a more comprehensive measure so as to give Parliament the opportunity to debate its detailed proposals for the establishment and regulation of those services.
The Minister for Repatriation has made a similar statement on the subject. If the Government has no plans for television ;at present, why does it wish to have regulation-making power? It does not propose to present a plan to Parliament until after the royal commission has furnished its report. Those two facts indicate that .this bill is a mere fraud. It has been offered as a sop to the public i-n_ order to make it believe that the Government is doing something. It is doing nothing. This legislation is only a .promise to bring in further legislation. I am_as sick of the Government’s promises as the people are sick of them. The Minister .for Repatriation informed the Senate of the terms of reference of the royal commission which the Government has appointed to inquire into television. Those terms are comprehensive and deal with many of the practical and technical problems that .will face the industry. Why should not the great matter that T have raised be referred to the royal commission ?
– Is the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in favour of commercial television?
– That is beside the point. I should like to know the opinion of the royal commission on that subject.
I ,have already mentioned that even if the Government had power to control television, section 92 of the Constitution would not enable any Australian government to debar private interests from entering the industry- I do not suggest that the royal commission would be completely competent to determine that constitutional question, but at least, if given power to examine the matter, it could provide the Government with advice as to what should be done if the Commonwealth has that power and what could happen if it has not that power. The Government would be far better armed if the royal commission were entitled to examine that possibility. There is very grave doubt whether the Government has that power. Again, the bill provides that the Postmaster-General may hand the management of a television station over to the Australian Broadcasting Commission or an “ authorized body “. What would be the nature of the “ authorized body “ ? No indication of the nature of such a body is provided in the bill nor was it provided in the speech of the Minister for Repatriation. The question of whether only national television stations should operate for a period might well be examined by the royal commission. The Prime Minister has announced that no action in this respect will be taken until the report of the royal commission has been furnished. Why should the royal commission not be permitted to consider the matters that arise out of this bill? Why should those matters be predetermined by the Government, particularly since it does not propose to act under the bill? The Opposition is .strongly of the opinion that the scope of the -royal -commission should be widened in order to permit whatever matters may arise from this bill to be considered. Surely that is a reasonable request.
The Opposition is critical of the personnel of the commission, not -as individuals, but from the point of view of the composition of the commission. We contend that it -would have been wise .to have somebody with judicial experience on the commission- It would have been wise,, also, to >give representation to some of the religious bodies .that have shown their keen interest in this matter. ‘Senator Pearson. - Would .one person be ‘a’b’le to represent them ?
– At least they would be encouraged “by the thought that somebody with a greater understanding of their point of view than other people might “have, would represent their viewpoint when the evidence is “being digested.
I think that the churches would be highly delighted if the Government were to offer to appoint one person to represent them so that they would have an opportunity to express their viewpoint in the report of the commission. I understand that no person who is technically qualified in television is a member of the commission. Unquestionably, laymen will find it exceedingly difficult properly to analyse a mass of technical evidence in favour of one process and against another. I cannot understand why a technical expert was not appointed to the commission. One member of the commission^ a Mr. Wilson, is a member of the executive of the Graziers Federal Council of Australia. He was as surprised as I was to learn that he had been appointed to the commission. He was reported in the press to have said that he knew of no reason why he should have been selected as a member of the commission as he had no particular knowledge of television or radio. He said that he was probably appointed because the Government considered that rural interests should ‘be represented on the commission. He said that he did not hold any views on the introduction of television and that the Government could not have chosen any one with a more open mind on the subject than he had.
– What is wrong with that? ‘Senator McKENNA - It is all right provided that his mind is not open at both ends.
– The Leader of the Opposition suggested the appointment of a judge who might have -no knowledge .of television.
– But he would be in a position to weigh evidence because of his vast training. The Government has not fixed a time limit within which the commission must make its report. Having regard to the three and a half years of inactivity on the part of the Government it might well have placed some limit .on the time in which the com*mission .must furnish a report.
– It might take a trip around the world! ‘Senator McKENNA. - Yes. A great many .people are .of the opinion ‘that the commission has been appointed in order to save the Government the embarrassment of making a decision. This is further evidence of the Government’s incapacity for action. The Opposition will make a suggestion which will get the Government out of that embarrassing position. We shall suggest an amendment to the bill which will provide that the commission present its report within a reasonable time. If the Government is in earnest in its expressed wish to provide television facilities it will support the amendment. I move -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the Senate declines to proceed with the second reading until the matters contained in or arising from the bill are impartially investigated and a report thereon furnished to the Senate and that, for such purpose, the terms of the Royal Commission on Television issued on the 11th February, 1053, should if necessary be extended, its personnel increased to secure broader and more effective representation, and the evidence and the report made available to the Senate not later than 11th May, 1953”.
The Opposition would like to have this matter thoroughly investigated and a report furnished on it as soon as possible. We would like to have safeguards instituted in order to keep all the bad features out of television as soon as possible. The Opposition asks for action on a matter on which the people of Australia are entitled to expect action.
– Honorable senators have just heard a speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) which reminded me of the curate’s egg. It was good in parts. I listened very carefully, but in vain, in order to hear a declaration of the position of the Leader of the Opposition in connexion with this measure. By interjection, several honorable senators on this side of the chamber asked him to express a definite opinion, but, for reasons best known to himself, he declined to do so. I wonder why he did not move a motion to have the bill referred to a select committee, as he did in connexion with other measures in days gone by when the Government did not have a majority in this chamber.
The Leader of the Opposition commenced his speech in a praiseworthy and dispassionate manner. He reminded honorable senators that television means “ ability to see at a distance “, and he referred to the great progress that has been made in the realms of science during our lifetime. As honorable senators are aware, both ordinary broadcasting and television have been developed within comparatively recent times. The Leader of the Opposition has warned the Senate of the possible harmful effects of television on the minds of young people of the community and I think that every member of this chamber will be in hearty agreement with him in that connexion. I am sure that we are all seized with the necessity for Australia to profit from the experience of other countries and to do all possible to protect the young people of this country from the harmful effects of undesirable television programmes. Although I was very interested in his remarks about the constitutional position, I am not qualified to debate that aspect- of the matter. However, I sincerely hope that any doubts about the constitutional position will be cleared up as soon as possible, in order to allay the -anxiety of persons who are eager to engage in the business of television.
I have not consulted my colleagues about their views on’ the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, but I am sure that it is totally unacceptable to the Government. He has suggested that the royal commission should make its report available not later than the 11th May, 1953. Apparently, the Leader of the Opposition considers that two months is a sufficient period for the royal commission to complete its inquiries and report to the Senate. One could be pardoned for believing that the Leader of the Opposition is out to defeat the objective of the amendment that he has moved, because it would be a sheer impossibility to give effect to his suggestion. I do not think that any honorable senator opposite seriously believes that the royal commission could faithfully carry out its terms of reference within such a short period.
– For what reason has the bill been introduced?
– I am not afraid to inform the honorable senator who has just interjected of my opinion of the matter. The Leader of the Opposition has complained of the Government’s delay in doing something about television, and he said that we had actually called for tenders for the construction of television stations. I understand that the previous Labour Government, of which he was a member, invited tenders for the construction of six television stations, and that the tenders were received by this Government soon after it came to office. As the Leader of the Opposition is shaking his head, I invite him to correct my impression. Indeed, I have been assured that “the previous Labour Government called for such tenders.
– That is right.
– It is evident that honorable senators opposite will have great difficulty in deciding their minds on this issue.
– Politically !
– That is so. There has been a notable divergence of opinion about this matter in the ranks of the Labour party. On the 25th November last, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) stated - -
Australia will probably rely on a dual system in which the Australian people will own a service, and commercial stations will also do so. This will be along the lines of the present broadcasting system.
Apparently the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber allies himself with those sentiments, because he has stated that the Constitution prevents the establishment of a government monopoly in this country. On the following day, the 26th November last, the honorable member for Melbourne in the House of Representatives (Mr. Calwell), and Senator Cameron, were reported to have stated -
Labour will, we hope, be as unanimous in resisting any amendment of the 1048 act as the party was unanimous in establishing the principle that television can only be a national monopoly.
That was stated on the day after the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives had expressed the opinion that the Australian people would rely on a dual system. On the 27th November last, Mr. Reece, the federal president of the Australian Labour party, is reported to have stated -
It has generally been accepted that Labour is opposed to the exploitation of television by commercial interests.
I should like the Leader of the Opposition, or one of his colleagues, to tell me of Labour’s attitude towards television. Although I listened very carefully to the exhaustive debate that took place on this subject in another place, I do not know - and I am sure that the public does not know - whether or not Labour wants a dual system of television. I am prepared to believe that Labour favors socialization, because one of the planks of its platform is the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Under the heading ‘< Methods- 4 (e) “ of that platform there is a sub-heading “ Nationalization of Radio Services “.
– That is correct.
– I am convinced that I am on the right track, because the attitude of honorable senators opposite to this measure will eventually be determined by their party’s platform, to which I have just referred, and to which every member of the Labour party, both in this chamber and elsewhere, will bow in submission.
– They believe in it.
– What about the bill?
– I have very definite views about television, and I shall support the bill because of what it will achieve. Although the Leader of the Opposition has stated that it will not achieve much, I point out that after the bill becomes law the government of the day will be empowered to license private commercial television stations. Every member of this chamber should know that at present private enterprise is precluded from entering the field of television. The Government considers that private enterprise should be able to participate in television in due course. However I make _ it clear that I, personally, hope that it will be many years before any station,, either national or commercial^ will be licensed to operate television in this country, because there is at present absolutely no demand by the people of Australia for the introduction of tele’ vision;. The Leader of the Opposition has claimed that the Government has delayed the introduction of television to Australia, and that, in view of the public demand, we should hasten it. I do not believe that such a demand has been made. Furthermore, I believe that other things1 are needed’ more urgently.
– Including a new government.
– I am sure that the. state of our economy does, not justify the introduction of television at present As* honorable senators on both sides of the chamber are aware, there is an urgen t necessity for the provision of additional telephones and other postal facilities’ in many parts of Australia. Until’ those requirements have been satisfied we should not hasten to- introduce television. I disagree entirely with the claim that has- been made that the- Government has exercised undue haste in its introduction of this measure. At least the bill makes clear the Government s- attitude in the matter, by providing for private enterprise to enter (he field- of television in due course1. Had the Leader of the Opposition moved that- the royal commission should furnish its report by the 11th May, 1954, or even later,, his motion would would have had some merit. It was absurd Soar him to. suggest that it should furnish its report by the 11th May next. There is- no> need for haste, and I sincerely hope that the. introduction of television into Australia will be delayed for some years to come - at. least until more, telephones and other, postal services have been provided for the people. I have already referred to the divergence of opinions of members of the Opposition on the provisions of the bill. Their leader has revealed the dilemma in which he has found himself.
Sitting; suspend’ed from 5.45 to 8 p.m.-
– Prior es the suspension *oi the sitting- 1 dealt with- certain statement that were m’ade’ by the Leader of’ the Opposition’. I commended’ him fair much’ that he; said1 regarding- the desirability of ensuring that television, if and when it is- introduced into Australia, shall be maintained on a high plane. The honorable senator approached this matter dispassionately. 1 also directed attention so- the difficulty which- he experienced in expressing the views of members of the Australian, Labour party, having regard to the contradictory statements that members of that party have made,, both inside amid outside the Parliament, on, this subject. I repeat that, in spite of the contentions advanced by the honorable senator, these is at present no demand for the introduction of television into Australia.. Consequently, I trust that its introduction will be delayed at least until such time as mo-re important facilities,which are urgently required in country districts, such as telephones and postal facilities generally, have been, provided
The- operation of television will be extremely costly Private enterprise in this field; will be obliged to carry considerable losses for a number of years until sufficient public support has been won to justify business houses exploiting television as a medium, for advertising. Insofar a£h Government instrumentalities participate in television-,, the taxpayers will be’ obliged to> dig deeply into- their pockets to finance the national stations. I cannot persuade myself tha’t the great majority of people in country districts will be prepared to carry that burden^ particularly as it will be impossible to enable them to share in’ the benefits, of television for many years- to- come. The* Australian Broadcasting Commission, in its last annual report, pointed- oust- that event in densely populated countries in! which tele** visions *has been established for many years St: isi confined, to* the more populous centres” owing to the fact that, television” broad-casts are limited! to a> radius Of 50’ miles From that fact we cam conclude, that if and when television! is introduced into’ Australia it will be* confined for’ many years to the- capital cities.. Consequently, people In. the country will object to- being obliged *ten bests amy portion of the expense of operating Government stations1.. I, myself, as’ one’ who has’ interest’s- in’- the’ country, do not relish such a prospect
In spite of Senator McKenna’s remarks, this’ measure seeks to effect’ important changes’ fir *Use position that’ exists at the; moment.. At present, no government has power to’ license a television station. Under . this measure it will acquire such power.. Therefore, the, hill will pave the way for private, enterprise to. enter this field.. That approach has been supported by the result of a gallu>p poll that was recently conducted on this subject.. In that poll, the following q»uestion. was; submitted. i>o> the persons who were interviewed -
Do you think- we should have only government television, stations oi only commercial television, stations, or both?
Of every 100 persons interviewed1,. 67 replied ““Bath”, thirteen, replied “Commercial stations! only”, and 110’ per cent, replied! “ Government stations only “, whilst the: remaining ten. expressed- no opinion. That poll disclosed unanimity of opinion among city-dwellers and’ country people in1 each of the States’ and also among supporters of the Australian; Labour party and supporters of the nonLabour parties. One of the objects of this measure is to give to private enterprise the right to engage in television,, and as that proposal is supported by the majority of the people- the Parliament should approve of it. I can see. no reason why we should, not establish the: dual system of television, in this country. That system has been in operation, in the United States of America,, and, as the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper)’ said in his second-reading speech, the British Government now intends to change over to it.. On that point, the Minister quoted the following passage from a statement that was. published recently on behalf of the British Government -
In the expanding field, of television’,, provision should be made to permit some element of competition, when the calls on capital resources at present needed for purposes’ of greater national importance;, make this feasible.
I remind1 honorable senators that Great Britain was the’ first country to engage in television. After having had considerable experience of the governmental system, the British Government now intends to make provision for the dual system. In embarking upon any system of television here we should benefit from the experience that has’ been gained in this field’ in other countries.
I commend the Government for its appointment of a royal commission to inquire into this subject. The members of that commission are quite competent to furnish an adequate, purposeful report on this matter and I believe that the Government will accept its final recommendations’.. Indeed, the Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that the Government would introduce a comprehensive measure after the commission had submitted, its final report. That measure- will call for the closest attention on. the part of the Parliament. I strongly oppose the amendment which Senator McKenna has moved. During the dinner adjournment, I had an opportunity to peruse its terms. I found that it was serf-contradictory,, and I am sure that nobody realizes that fact, more- than Senator McKenna himself does. On the one hand, he seeks to extend the terms of reference of the: royal commission and thereby enlarge the scope of its investigations. He also1 proposes that, the personnel of the commission should be increased. At the same time> however^ he proposes that the commission- should be obliged to- furnish, its. report by the 11th May next,, that isi two’ months’ hence: I can only conclude that, the Opposition desires, to destroy the commission and everything’ associated with it. before it even starts’ to take evidence’. Naturally, the commission will be- obliged to hear evidence in< each of the- States in order to ascertain the- opinions of. the people as a whole. In addition,, the commission may find it. necessary to arrange! for its chairman, or another member,, to investi- gat0 television’ in other1 countries^ Having’ regard to those facts. bo ©me could reasonably expect the commission to1 complete its-‘ investigation’s and furnish its report to the Parliament within a period of two months. Obviously,, the Opposition is making a party political issue of this1 matter, but I have »o doubt that the general pub-Kc as- well as Government supporters will see through such a move. The Opposition seeks to make the work of the commission futile. Yet. Senator McKenna has accused the Government of deliberately delaying’ theintroduction of television into this’ country. He has- said that fenders should be- called’ immediately for- the- erection of governmental stations. In view of the honorable senator’s remarks, it will be well to take a glance at the history of this matter. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, in its first report to the Parliament, stated -
One of the matters which received attention by the Board soon after it commenced operations was the question of the introduction of television services into the Commonwealth. The Government had previously decided that, with the object of enabling further consideration to be given to the question with due regard to the estimated cost of equipment, tenders should be invited for six suitable television transmitters and associated studio facilities.
I emphasize this passage of the board’s report -
Accordingly, the . Postmaster-General’s Department invited tenders on the 11th August, 1948, the closing date being the 20th January, 1949. Tenders were received from eleven manufacturers.
The plain fact is that the Labour Government, which was in office at that time, actually called tenders for the erection of television stations and received eleven tenders. That Government had ample opportunity to accept one of those tenders, and thus enable a start to be made in this field. Nevertheless, the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber now accuses this Government of delaying the introduction of television. My view that the Government should not proceed with this matter hastily is reinforced by opinions that have been expressed by colleagues of honorable senators opposite. Speaking in the House of Representatives on this measure on the 26th February last, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition in that chamber, said -
We can wait a while longer until other people with their money and resources can develop their own systems of television.
That honorable member was referring to overseas interests. On the same day, speaking to the same bill, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said -
I consider it to be doubtful whether the majority of the people are keen to have television.
I have already mentioned for the benefit of honorable senators the view that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) expressed when this matter was first mooted in recent months. Speaking in the House of Representatives on this bill on the 25th February, he said -
The Postmaster-General in the Chifley Government called for tenders . . . and they closed on the 20th January, 1949.
I believe that I have proved to the satisfaction of honorable senators that Labour had the opportunity when it was in office to accept tenders for the erection of television stations, but it failed to do so. I support this measure because it will give to private enterprise the right to engage in television. The bill will be supported by the great majority of the people because it will ensure that, if and when television is introduced, it will be on the basis of the dual system, and it will be the duty of all of us to provide proper safeguards to enable television to operate effectively for the benefit of the community.
– Senator Pearson made some misleading statements in the course of his speech. For instance, he said that the dual system of television broadcasting is in operation in the United States of America and also in Great Britain.
– The honorable senator said nothing of the kind.
– He said that that system is to be introduced in Great Britain. In addition, he stated that there is some doubt about, the legality of the introduction of television in this country. There may be doubt in that connexion, but if there is, surely it was the duty of the Government to approach the High Court of Australia and endeavour to have the doubt resolved before it proceeded to appoint a royal commission to inquire into television. The bill before the Senate is a sham, and the appointment of a royal commission a mere waste of time. I suggest that if the Government had had the courage to amend the Broadcasting Act it could have provided for the control of television in the same way as broadcasting and frequency modulation are now controlled.
The terms of reference of the royal commission require that inquiry should be made concerning the number of national and commercial television stations which can effectively be established and operated, having regard to the financial and economic considerations involved and the availability of suitable programmes. Senator Pearson said that the previous Labour Government called for tenders in connexion with the introduction, of television-
– Does the honorable senator contend that it did not do so?
– Not at all. That Government called for tenders on two occasions, the first lot of tenders not having been satisfactory. The honorable senator also stated that the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board refers to the fact that eleven tenders were received. It is pertinent to ask whether the board recommended to the Government that a certain tender should be accepted. Did it point out the costs that would be involved.
– The board had plenty of time to consider costs.
– The board still meets, although its chairman is now a member of the royal commission. The terms of reference of the royal commission also call for inquiry concerning the areas which might be served by television stations and the stages by which they should be established. In addition, inquiry is to be made concerning the conditions which should apply to the establishment of television stations and the standards to be observed in the programmes of national and commercial television stations in order to ensure the best use of television broadcasting in the public interest.
The standards to be adopted are clearly set out in the eleventh and twelfth reports of the Broadcasting Committee presented to the Parliament in .June and July, 1947. I suggest that there is no need to go further than those reports. If honorable senators study them they will ascertain the standards which broadcasting stations should maintain in order properly to cater for the tastes of the Australian people. Although tenders were called by the previous Labour Government for the introduction of television, this Government went no further with the matter.
The matters investigated by the Broadcasting Committee were much the same as those to be investigated by the royal committee on television. That committee examined expert witnesses from all over Australia and travelled to every State of the Commonwealth.
I remind honorable senators opposite that the Postal Department is informed of new broadcasting methods that have been adopted in other parts of the world. Even I have kept myself abreast of new ideas in the field of television in the United States of America and Great Britain. I wish to know what evidence can be adduced by the royal commission on television that was not made available to the Broadcasting Committee. Have improvements been made in the cathode ray tube? Have colour field tests been carried out? Has the use of colour been accepted by the Federal Communications Commission? Of course it has not! Black and white television is to be the order of the day. What linage is to be adopted? Is it to be the British system of 405, the American system of 515, or an Australian system that will give to the Australian people the service which they require? Has any attempt been made to photograph the television picture as it leaves the studio, before it arrives at the antenna to be radiated to the receiving set? The Postal Department could have advised the Government concerning all those matters. That is why I say that there is no need for a royal commission and that the appointment of one represents so much procrastination.
Senator Pearson claimed that the country people are opposed to the establishment of television stations in Australia. In my opinion, they are the people who are most deserving of television programmes. Television is one of the greatest amenities that have yet been provided by science. People who live in the country suffer hardship because they lack many things which city people enjoy, but I consider that television is an amenity which they should certainly receive. If a Labour government were in office it would undoubtedly set up Commonwealthcontrolled television stations in each State. A coaxial cable may be used for the transmission of television programmes between the capital cities. By that method, people -could “ plug in “ to -programmes in;Sydney and Melbourne, and also view programmes screened at Goulburn, Junee, Wagga, and “Victorian towns. By that means the -cost of television programmes could .be greatly seduced.
Lord ;Simon and other British authorities ‘have informed me that television programmes transmitted >by the British Broadcasting Corporation are regularly received at Rugby which is 90 miles away. Yet this (Government apparently does -not intend to make provision for a service for the country people. .Senator Pearson is of the opinion that the introduction of television should be deferred for a -considerable period on the score >of cost. My -reply is that governments pour money down the drain in many ways whereas (the installation of television stations, which would cost ,a relatively small amount, would .give a real service to the people. The honorable .senator also said that the people would be mulcted because listeners’ licence-fees would be increased. Honorable .senators will no doubt recollect that the present Government has increased the cost of. broadcast listeners’ licences in such a way that the person -with three four or even five radio sets is obliged to pay no more than the basic wage earner who owns only one set.
By means of this bill the Government proposes to give to private enterprise the right to conduct television programmes. I wonder to which commercial interest that right will be given. Will it be the Macquarie Broadcasting Service Proprietary Limited, Electronic Industries Limited, Standard Telephones and Cables Radio. Amalgamated Wireless .(Australasia) Limited, Pye Electronic Proprietary Limited or Electric and Musical Industries Limited? Last year, Senator Gorton was very worried because the Argus group proposed to take over the shares of the Macquarie Broadcasting Service Proprietary Limited. At that time the honorable senator stated that he believed it to be wrong for interests outside Australia to hold shares in our broadcasting companies. I imagine, therefore, that the honorable senator will not suggest that the Pye organization, Electric and Musical -Industries Limited or .an American company should get the licence for .conducting commercial .television
Stations. It seems to me that Australia will .not have television until a Labour .government is in office. When that day arrives, the Australian Labour party will see to it that, as far as possible, tenders for the establishment of television stations .are accepted from Australian manufacturers who have the ability to do the job. The cost of establishment of a television station would probably be approximately £1,000,000, and the provision of suitable programmes may cost an -additional £2-000,000 a year. Does the “Government propose that commercial undertakings in Sydney and Melbourne shall be -permitted to overcharge advertisers in order to finance poor programmes’? In a country such as Australia, the Government is the only institution capable of properly administering television. Are the studios and programmes in America to be compared with those of Great Britain? When Senator Cameron was Postmaster-General he prevented the Macquarie Broadcasting Service Proprietary Limited from buying up shares in broadcasting stations. He did that by regulation. When the overseas interests controlling the Argus newspaper were buying up the shares of the Macquarie radio network, Senator Gorton and the honorable member for Mackellar in another place -moved to prevent it from doing so, but all the time a regulation was in force to prevent the Macquarie network from selling its shares without government approval.
The royal commission will investigate the .ethical side of the proposed television programmes.. Honorable senators on the Government side jeered when the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) suggested that the churches should be represented on the commission. Who are the members of the .royal commission ? .1 believe that four of th.em have financial interests in broadcasting companies. In each State there is a broadcasting advisory committee, including a representative of the churches, whose members scrutinize radio programmes. The members of the royal commission do not include a representative of the .churches.
All the- evidence on’ television^ that1 is needed’ has already; been, taken by the Broadcasting* Committee; The Government’s decision to- set up a royal1 commission is not* in the interests of the- people and the commission should be prevented from- proceeding with its activities. The Broadcasting Committee- took evidence from’ all classes– of people who were interested in the- radio industry, in all parts of Australia) and the evidence is contained: in four- books. There- is- nothing new for the royal commission to garner. The Government has sent, numerous’ Ministers and officers- overseas to investigate- television, but all of* them from the Postmaster-G’eneral (Mr. Anthony)’ to. the; general manager of- the Australian Broadcasting Commission and post office officials will agree with my statement that there is. no better evidence than that which is already contained in the reports of the Broadcasting Committee, r have not seen the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, upon, this matter, but that board, received eleven tenders for television stations and. it. must have made a report. It must have. had. something, to say about; the tenders that, were received. Did- it reject them? Section 72 of: the Broadcasting Act; provides* -
As. soon- as- conveniently practicable after the commencement of this Act,, and thereafter at the commencement of the first session of every Parliament, a Joint Committee of nine members of the Parliament, to be called the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broad- casting (in this Part referred to as “the Committee”) shall be appointed according to the practice of the Parliament with reference to the appointment of members to serve on a Joint Select. Committee of both Houses of the Parliament.
That section has never been amended. It would have been foolish for the Post master-General to refer this matter to that committee if it existed now: because it had already investigated it and a royal- commission can do no more. The committee had power to call for papers and it could subpoena witnesses. Those who< were called submitted, evidence readily. They sent, in copies of their statements beforehand, just as the royal commission is requesting the submission of evidence in that form. When the witnesses, appeared before the committee, they were able to. amplify their, prepared statements in; their own way. H; they, had some important evidence that they- did not wish to. make- public, the committee gave them an. opportunity to present their evidence in- camera-.
The royal commission will’ waste- time. It- will, not- fool” anybody. The Broadcasting Committee examined1 so many witnesses that- their- names cover .two and a half pages and the- information that they supplied is available to the royal commission. When the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate moved that the report of the television royal commission be made to the Senate not later than the 11th May next he gave it too much time in my opinion. The commission could wind up its affairs within a week. If it read the four books to which I have already referred1, it would have plenty of information upon which to base a; report.. If there is a doubt about the legality of the Government’3 control of television, the Government should have it resolved quickly. The- royal commission that was set up by the Government is. sitting in Sydney to-day. Simultaneously, the Government is. submitting- to the Parliament legislation relating to the royal commission. That is too foolish for words> When television was introduced in England there were not many viewers because the sets were too expensive. Progress was made only when manufacturers reduced the prices. Now there are many thousands of viewers in England. The situation, is the. same in the United States of America. Television is a great home-builder. A television programme can be watched while the room is fully lighted. Television causes people to stay at. home. It is a facility that the Australian people desire. When I submitted my report- upon broadcasting in 1947 to the Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, copies were sent t.o various departments. I have not changed the views, that I expressed in that report.
.- Anybody who had sufficient patience to listen to Senator Amour would reach the conclusion that the bill- before the Senate contains some mention of a royal commission. Much of his speech was directed to an attack upon the necessity for such a commission. But there is no mention in the bill of any royal commission and that matter does not enter into .this debate. The weak and faltering attack that has been made upon the measure has been presented best by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna). Honorable senators know that they can always depend upon him to make the best of any case that can be presented against any legislation. The case that he has presented today was so extremely bad that honorable senators can only reach the conclusion that no valid argument can be advanced against this bill. I took particular notice of the heads under which attacks were made on this legislation, and although I shall not state them in their precise order, I shall endeavour to deal with them fairly. The first head of attack was that the Government should be ashamed of itself for having failed to move more quickly and that it should be ashamed of the delay that has taken place in bringing television to this country. It must be admitted that television contains within itself the seeds of evil, and that, as far as is humanly possible, the people of Australia, particularly the young people, must be protected against obscenity, lewdness, or anything else that might distort their minds. Therefore, in considering the introduction of television, it is absolutely essential that we should take just as long as is necessary to provide safeguards against whatever dangers may be inherent in television. Should we rush in, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, and throw this medium open to anybody who may wish to subvert the minds of our young people, or should vi take time to ensure that its evil potentialities shall be eliminated to the greatest possible degree? I have no apology to offer for any delay that has been necessary to protect our youth and I believe that the necessity for such protection is a complete answer to the accusation that there has been unnecessary delay in introducing television. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition, himself, refuted the argument that there should have been more haste. However, apart from these considerations, it is true to say that television is still in the experimental stage. I do not pretend that my experience of it is as wide as that of Senator Amour, but I do know that, in the United States of America, changes are still being made in the technical processes of television. Had we rushed into television, we should have adopted techni cal processes that have since become out-moded, and so involved ourselves in subsequent heavy expenditure to modernize our equipment.
The second head of the attack made by the Leader of the Opposition was in relation to the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to legislate on television. I speak on this matter as a layman, and I speak with all the diffidence that a layman must owe to a lawyer; but I also speak with the knowledge that in every case that comes before the courts in this country, 50 per cent, of the lawyers are wrong. Consequently, I find within myself the temerity to suggest that, in this instance, the lawyer - I refer, of course, to the Leader of the Opposition - is wrong. I cannot prove him wrong any more than he can prove himself right, but to use substantially his own words, the question whether the Commonwealth Parliament has power to legislate in relation to television can be decided in the High Court and nowhere else. Clearly, it can be decided in the High Court only if a law is passed and is challenged in the High Court. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it is of the greatest importance that this matter should be cleared up so that we may all know where we stand. Surely, therefore, it is absolutely necessary that this bill should be passed now so that it may be challenged by any one who wishes to do so. Only in that way can we get a High Court decision. In answer to a question, the Leader of the Opposition agreed that a law would have to be passed before a High Court decision could be obtained, because the High Court would not decide such an issue in the abstract. If the honorable senator believes it to be of transcendental importance that a High Court decision should be given, I am completely unable to understand why he has moved an amendment which is designed to delay the passage of this bill for two or three months. Surely the argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition alone is sufficient to warrant the passing of a law dealing with television because only by the testing of such a law in the courts can we ascertain whether the Commonwealth controls the field of television. My own belief is that it does, but little can be gained by me expressing my beliefs or by the Leader of the Opposition expressing his. Only the High Court can determine this matter. No alternative course has been suggested. No mention has been made, for instance, of a referendum of the people. In the absence of alternative suggestions, surely it is necessary to pass this bill.
The third head of attack is that the bill is a puny measure and completely useless because the Government has said that it will not take any action under it. According to the Leader of the Opposition, the Government has said, in effect, “ We want this bill passed, but we will not do anything under it when it is passed “. The Government has said no such thing. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) said, in his second-reading speech -
The bill therefore is an interim measure in which the Government has declared its policy, namely the introduction of a dual national’ and commercial system of television.
It is true that, so far, the Government has only stated its policy; but the Minister continued -
It will provide the statutory authority for the Government to take the initial action for the establishment of television services, and if necessary to make appropriate regulations to cope with situations which may arise before this measure is replaced by a more comprehensive act.
There, in clear English, is the assurance that this bill is not a useless measure under which no action will be taken. It is an enabling measure under which action may be taken as soon as the necessary reports are presented to the Parliament. No one will deny that unless this bill is passed, no action whatsoever can be taken. The passage of the Minister’s second-reading speech to which I have directed attention completely refutes the argument of the Leader of the Opposition that this is a useless measure. It is clearly an enabling measure to permit certain action pending the introduction of a more comprehensive bill.
Those were the three main heads of attack on the measure in this chamber, and I suggest that my answers have been sufficient to convince any reasonable per son that such attacks are completely ineffective. I come now to the bill itself and to the field of television with which it deals. Much has been said both for and against television. It is quite clear, however, that television, of itself, can be neither good nor bad any more than atomic fission of itself can be good or bad.
– It depends on how it is used.
– Precisely. If that is agreed, what is the objection to this bill, which provides that television shall be used both directly under a government instrumentality and indirectly by private enterprise under the control of a Minister? What possible objection can there be to this dual system. We know, of course, that the leader of the Australian Labour party, Dr. Evatt, has no objection. He has said so quite clearly, but we have all heard his deputy, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), say just as clearly that he has great objection to the dual system. A former Postmaster-General in a Labour Administration has also expressed great objection to the proposal. I refer to Senator Cameron, who interjected a few moments ago. We have heard nothing at all on that aspect of the matter from the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator McKenna). What really is Labour’s attitude? Are we to be guided by those members of the party who say that there should be a complete government monopoly of television; by other members, including the leader, who profess to believe in the dual system, with governmental and private television stations operating in competition; or by the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, who has said nothing at all on the subject? Let us consider what should be done in the light of the attitude of the Opposition and that of the Government on matters such as this generally. It is fair to say that the predilection of the Labour party is toward monopoly - not just a monopoly of a particular industry, but a monopoly of an entire field of industry. For example, in the transport industry members of the Labour party do not wish only to monopolize the railways. They want to monopolize the airways, shipping, and road transport so that the whole -transport industry will be brought into one great monopoly which they would call a people’s monopoly.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have no objection to the Government’s entering an industry. But we have the greatest objection to the prevention of competition. It is logical, therefore, that we should support this measure which will give the right to the Government and private people to compete in the field of television. It will also give the right to the people of Australia to choose which television station’s programme they will view. I do not think that one could :find any proposal more dangerous to the future of parliamentary government than the proposal that television should be confined to a government monopoly. I do not expect that any honorable senator on this side of the chamber would wish to prevent a fair presentation of points of view of both major parties in Australia. However, if the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) or the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Gal well) or the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr.. Evatt) were in control of such a government monopoly, I doubt very much whether they would allow their opponents the same amount of time as they would claim for themselves to present their ease to the Australian people. .In any case, ‘ if .a government were in control of such a medium which is likely to become the main medium and, indeed, the only medium through which news will be conveyed apart from the newspapers, that Government would have the power to present only its own arguments and its own proposals to the people. Regardless of personalities, that is a danger that is inherent in the policy of the Opposition and it should be guarded against despite .the doctrinaire theories which may be held by the venerable exPostmasterGeneral. Senator Cameron.
Yet there must be some reason for the Opposition’s objection to this bill. The objections that Opposition senators have put forward do not hold water. I can only believe that their objection is based on a wish to deprive the people of the right to choose their television programme. I do not know whether Opposition senators have read George -Orwell’s book, Nineteen Eighty-four. Perhaps the Customs authorities have banned it as they have banned a -couple of his other books. However, I recommend Opposition senators to read this book and, having read it, to read what Doctor Goebbels did in Germany and what , Stalin did in Russia. .Senator O’BYRNE - And what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did in Australia.
– What a pointless interjection! I recommend Opposition senators to read what dictators did in totalitarian countries in controlling news and views. They reserved the channels of information to the government and prohibited any one else from using them.
The bill before the Senate has nothing to do with ,a royal commission. Its object is to enable the Government to divide the field of television between the Government and private enterprise. It will entail to the Government the right to oversee private enterprise so that obscenities such as the Leader of the Opposition fears may be censored from the programmes. Nobody could object to such a proposition. There has grown up in the United States of America and in the United Kingdom a realization that television is a most expensive business. During the last presidential election in the United States of America millions of dollars were spent by both political parties in bringing their message to the people. I am not worried because the ‘Government parties are poor parties and the Labour party is a rich party. That does not -enter into the argument.
– The Labour party is rich in thought.
– Ji is undoubtedly rich in money. As I said, millions of dollars have been spent in publicity by political parties in the United States of America. Sponsors are now worried by the expensiveness of television programmes. I think it is doubtful whether any non-commercial enterprise could engage in television except at a tremendous loss. In Australia we need schools as we have never needed them before, although last year we built more schools than were built in any previous year. We need hospitals as never before, although more hospitals were built last year than were ever built in any previous year. Dams ,are needed in order to assist in the production of food. Are we to throw millions of pounds down the drain of another government instrumentality purely for the sake of a socialistic doctrinaire belief in the people’s assets such as the Victorian Railways which cost the Victorian people £8,000,000 a year to keep in operation? Or are we to allow private enterprise to bring television programmes to the people in competition with Government television programmes ? I believe in both. I should not like to turn the people of Australia over to the tender mercies of an organization such as the Argus network which is controlled by an allegedly British company. Anybody who objects to this bill objects to having private enterprise compete with the Government in the field of television, because this bill is only designed to permit that state of affairs.
– I am sure, Mr. Deputy President, that you will not mind if I do not follow the track of Senator Gorton because in that case you would find me attacking or defending Goebbels, Stalin, George Orwell, Senator McKenna or the subjects of hospitalization or schools. I suggest that in so doing I would not make a great contribution to the introduction of television into Australia. Apparently it is now fairly certain that an inquiry will be held by a royal commsision in order to find out the best way to introduce television into this country from the Government’s point of view. I do not think that anybody is’ in a position to be dogmatic on this subject, but my view is that the Government has -not adopted the best approach to the problem. I thought that after the Postmaster-General ‘ (Mr. Anthony) had made a tour of the world specifically to examine television he would have made firm proposals to the Government upon his return to Australia and that they would have been accepted as a basis on which to introduce television. The Government has chosen not .to adopt that course. As the Government has decided to appoint a royal commission every citizen in Australia, particularly parliamentarians, should try to do everything possible to ensure that television is introduced into this country in the most efficient manner and with the greatest safeguards possible. Therefore, I hope to make my humble contribution to this subject. The futility of such an inquiry lies in the fact that it is to be conducted in a nation which has not yet experienced television. What does the Government hope to elicit from the layman “who has never seen television?
There is the danger that most of the evidence that will be sworn before the commission will come from vested interests. If there is one sphere more than another in which vested interests should have a place and only a place it is that of television. I believe that the Postmaster-General has a golden opportunity because it is most essential to keep a rigid control over the programmes that will be received on television sets. If the royal commission receives a preponderance of evidence from vested interests it is possible that its report will be in their favour and that it will disregard the necessity for government control. Private interests will not be concerned with the type of programme that is presented but with the amount of money that they can make from this innovation. My thoughts on this subject fall automatically under four headings. First, television will make the greatest impact on the Australian people of any invention in this century ; secondly, because of its impact, particularly on people’s minds, a rigid control must be maintained on programmes.; thirdly, its introduction into Australia will present to us greater problems than .the problems that confronted the United States of America and England when it was introduced into those countries; and fourthly, that as it may accentuate the drift of population to the cities, there will hame to be an increased expenditure on radio services in country districts, particularly in our northern areas.
– -Does the honorable senator consider that the proposal should be .abandoned ?
– That is a matter for honorable senators opposite to decide, because they form the Government, at least temporarily. . I shall address myself first to the great impact that television will have on the lives of the people of this country. I suppose that America could be termed the home of radio. It became firmly entrenched in America, and the programmes reached a very high level. Statistics show that prior to the advent of television, 94 per cent, of American homes had one radio receiver installed, and in 48 per cent, of those homes there were two or more radio receivers. As the United States of America possesses all of the desirable attributes for an efficient radio service, the industry was running very smoothly. By the end of 1949 there were 3,000,000 television sets in America, and twelve months later there were no fewer than 9,000,000 television sets in use in that country. I should think that there would now be at least 18,000,000 television sets in America, because the manufacturers have been turning them out as fast as possible. L have cited these statistics to show honorable senators the demand for sets that follows immediately television sets its foot inside the door of any nation.
Radio, no matter how highly developed, is no match for television. It cannot hold back television once the people get a taste for this new type of entertainment. We should commence our considerations on a completely false base if we were to compare television with other services as we know them. It is not like pictures or talkies, which, in turn, have had a big impact on the lives of the people. In the first place, those forms of entertainment did not invade the home. This is one of the crucial aspects of television. It comes into the home and stays there, whereas whole families occasionally went to picture shows. Furthermore, the picture industry operates in a world of makebelieve. It is the intimacy and immediacy of television which makes it such a potent force. It is not like radio because, as we all know, the sensitivity of the nerves of the eyes is greater by far than is the sensitivity of the ears. We can remember things that we have seen for longer, and far more vividly, than things that we have heard over the air. It has. been estimated that only 14 per cent, of listeners’ time i3 devoted to radio, but 84 per cent, of viewers’ time is devoted to television. The viewer, or more correctly the viewer-listener, gains the maximum impression because he receives the full complement of both senses, and therefore television is a far more potent factor and a more fascinating entertainment than radio. It is not merely radio plus sight, such as is gained at a picture show. It is something new, and that is why we cannot be dogmatic about it. It has vital characteristics of its own, which have to be seen to be believed. A viewer is powerfully conscious that the event that he is viewing is happening under his own eyes at that time. How often have honorable senators listened to the broadcast description of a sporting event, and subsequently gone to a newsreel to see it? A television viewer of a horse-racing event or a football match feels that the event is happening before his eyes, and therefore he enjoys sports’ greatest fascination, which is the glorious uncertainty of the result. In order to appreciate the full significance of this observation, one really has to observe the reactions of the viewers of television.
I had an opportunity recently, while visiting the United States of America and England, to make some inquiries about television, and I was deeply moved by its impact on the people. I shall never forget my reaction to seeing from 50 to 100 men standing in a public eating and drinking establishment in New York which was conducted on the buffet principle. They were not talking, as is customary in such places, but were standing, with food and drink in hand. Their eyes were fixed on a television screen. That demonstrated to me the great impact that television has on the people. It is true to say that in many homes in the United States of America conversation is now completely dead, irrespective of the presence of visitors. On one or two occasions when I visited private homes in that country, hardly a word was spoken. The whole of the evening was devoted to the viewing of television programmes. I could quote stories about its influence on home life. I am endeavouring to impress on honorable senators the terrific impact that television makes on people, particularly on the minds of children, who are not shunted off to bed in the evenings.
– Is there any way by which we might escape from this nightmare?
– Television is not described in the bill as a nightmare. I come now to the field of advertising. I was informed by commentators in the United States of America that advertising by means of television is most effective. It costs about three or four times as much as radio advertising, but the response to television advertising is immediate. When frocks or suits are advertised by television it is customary for people to call at the stores soon afterwards to inspect the garments. Of course, the increased cost of this kind of advertising is passed on to the buyers of the goods. This is an aspect of the matter that we must keep in mind.
When the proceedings of the Security Council of the United Nations were televised, many members of the American community saw, for the first time, the clash between eastern and western delegates. Although they had read about recurring clashes, had seen them on the films, and had listened to them on the radio, the clashes had never become the topic of conversation. But immediately the clashes were televised a sense of intimacy was established and the subject became the topic of conversation in public vehicles for days afterwards.
I shall now refer to the impact of television in the world of politics. As honorable senators are aware, millions of dollars were expended in America during the recent presidential election campaign. The introduction of television had startling results, because candidates really appeared in the home for the first time. In the American marathon style, some politicians spoke from eight to 24 hours. Personally, I find it difficult at times to speak on the radio for longer than five minutes. Some relatively obscure politicians produced results which were more startling than have been the results of recent State elections in this country. In some instances they completely annihilated candidates who had thought that they were firmly entrenched. For the first time, many people studied the style of the candidates. I remind honorable senators that although some of us move around our States frequently, we are still not so well known by the public as we think we are. During a convention a member - I am sure that he was not a senator - fell asleep during an important debate. An enterprising camera-man televised the sleeping member while a vote was being taken, and he was seen in about 7,000,000 American homes. On the following day the delegate received thousands of telegrams demanding his return to his home State so that he could be replaced by a delegate who could stay awake while a vote was being taken. I understand that the proceedings of the Oklahoma Parliament are now being televised for an hour a day. If the Government has any intention to televise the Australian Parliament, I advise honorable senators opposite to remain awake, because if they wish to be considered the elite of the Parliament, they will have to stir themselves to be alert. I am not suggesting that such a provision should be incorporated in the legislation before the chamber.
I come now to the second heading that I have mentioned. Much has been said about the necessity for a rigid control of programmes. It has been canvassed and debated far more than has any other factor. The vivid sense of immediacy and intensity of impression at the same time, makes television an obvious force for enriching our entertainment and broadening our topical knowledge. At the same time, it is potentially dangerous, in that it could inveigle us into subordinating all our social and cultural values to cheap and bawdy entertainment. Although it has been said that those who supply the programme can determine the items, I believe that demand can influence and dominate drama. But demand is, of course, not the best type of thing. In some libraries there is a demand not for good books, but for cheap books that they will not stock. The same thing could happen in connexion with television. We will be liable to get a demand from vested interests, rather- than from people who know some-* thing about the influence of television. It has been suggested that the importance of drama will be accentuated by television. However, I think that it will be. agreed that as we have no national threatre in Australia we cannot encourage dramatists. Unless we have an apple tree we cannot obtain apples. Consequently, we will not have young people specializing in drama. The fact is that where television is being applied, particularly in the United States of America, the tendency is to go away from drama and live shows and to get the cheap type of film. Evidently, because of the grip on the industry exercised by films produced at Hollywood1, it is not always possible for the people to view films of the standard that they desire. In the field of outdoor sport is where television shines. If nobody had any great objection to horseracing becoming more vivid, I would not object to such events being televised. One gains a more vivid impression of a cricket match by seeing- it televised than by listening to a broadcast of the play. The same observation applies to foot-running which, because of speed of movement, is not suitable for verbal broadcasts and also to football and other forms of sport.
Much has been said about television as an educational medium. If the range of television were sufficiently extensive, it could be developed in that respect to a much greater degree. It is estimated that in the United States of America only 3 per cent, of total television time is devoted to educational programmes. I am endeavouring to place this subject in its proper perspective. Much has been said about the necessity for providing an adequate proportion of programmes of a religious character. In the United States of America, such programmes represent only .9 per cent, of total television time. One might conclude from that fact that religious programmes are not suitable for television.’ A survey that was made in the United States of America showed that in one week, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., in an area on the western coast, it was possible for viewers to see 9J. murders and 31 other crimes. Incidentally, assault and battery were not classified as crimes. The significant point in that connexion is that children constitute the greatest proportion of viewers. Therefore, regard must be paid to the effect of television programmes upon our youth. For that reason, I am pleased to know that the Parents and Citizens Federation has already taken a definite stand on that aspect.
The third point that I make is that the introduction of television into Australia will present far greater problems than were involved in its introduction into countries such as England and the United States of America. That fact becomes obvious when we remember that in Australia we have a population of only 9,000,000 scattered over an area of 3,000,000 square miles and that the range of -television does not even approach that of radio. I think that the range of television is a radius of 5.0. miles, although that range can be extended by a system of retransmissions with the aid of various technical devices. It is clear, therefore, that the operation of television will involve tremendous costs in a country like Australia. Authoritative records show that the cost of providing one originating programme for 30 hours a week in England over five transmitting stations with a radius of only 50 miles each amounts to £2,000,000 per annum, whilst in- the United States of America the operations of 106 stations cost 113,000,000 dollars and the capital cost of the stations and receiving sets amounted to 5,000,000,000 dollars. In England, television serves densely populated areas. Compared with our population of 9,000,000,, the United States of America has a population of 165,000,000 and, in addition, the Americans react more readily than do Australians to advertising, which provides adequate financial resources for the operation of television in that country. The advertising costs, no doubt, are passed on to consumers in the prices of goods. I was most interested to learn in the United States, of America that families in the lower income brackets were the greatest purchasers of television receiving sets. Evidently the family calculated that it could afford to purchase a set on time payment because it would then save the cost of admission to picture shows. Picture theatre interests reported that for .a period of two years following the introduction of television their revenue decreased, but that after that period it commenced to rise again- That fact indicates that, after a period, children, who are the greatest viewers of television programmes, tend to become somewhat blase and gradually revive their interests in picture shows.
As my fourth point, I emphasize that the introduction of television will be bound to accentuate the drift of popula<tion to the cities. In order to counteract that development, it will be necessary to provide greatly improved radio programmes for listeners in -country districts, particularly in our far northern areas. Unfortunately, we -have not sufficient channels available at present to .enable improved programmes to be made available to such listeners. Television programmes will be confined to the capital cities for many years to come. It has been suggested that even in a city of the size of Sydney there will be only one government channel and one private channel for television. Having regard to that fact. I fail to understand what Senator Gorton had in mind when he spoke about the provision of a wide variety of programmes. The Minister will decide how those two channels will be allocated, “but it is obvious that no great variety of programmes can be made available for a number of years to come. The Government must also realize that with the advent of television revenue from listeners’ licences will decline. Consequently, the responsibility will devolve upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission to provide programmes of a better type, not only to listeners in city areas, but also, for the reason I have given, to country listeners. That expenditure will be additional to the huge cost that must be involved directly in respect of television. The influence that television will exert in accentuating the drift of population to the cities’ was brought home vividly to me in the course of conversation that I had to-day with two visitors, a man and his wife, from the United States of America. Both of them -said that they liked Australia very much, but the wife said that the one thing that she really missed in Australia was her television set. She was perfectly happy in every other respect.
That was the reaction .of a person who has been .absent /from the United States of America for only a few months.
It is difficult for anybody to .-speak dogmatically on this subject. There is not much -point in arguing about what might have been, or about what is going to be. We must -realize, however, that the introduction of television into this country is a serious challenge to our .community because it offers so much for good and, at the same time, can exert a great influence for evil. Visitors from overseas countries in which television has been established have .said to me, in effect, “For goodness sake, ensure rigid control of television ‘because, in itself, it has the seed of evil “. We must ensure that .this new form of entertainment will be established on it-he best -possible basis and for the benefit of the community as a whole. At this moment, the ball is at our feet and we must make up our minds whether we shall kick it and that when we kick it our aim shall be unerring.
– This measure has been introduced for two purposes. The first of them is to empower the Government to set up television services in Australia. The bill does not stipulate when such services shall be set up nor does it provide for any of the machinery requirements consequential upon the establishment of such services. Provision in respect of matters of that kind will be made in a bill that will be introduced after the royal commission has submitted its -final report to the Government. The second purpose of this measure is to give to private enterprise, in certain circumstances, the right to operate television. In my view, that is the most important issue that arises under this measure. I listened to Senator Willesee, who made an interesting contribution to this debate. -He told us a good deal about television. I do not -pretend for one -moment to speak as .an authority on the subject. The honorable senator had an opportunity to investigate television in the United States of America when he visited that country -recently. ‘With, great respect, however, J -think that he drifted away -from the real issue that arises under -this bill, and that is whether or not, ultimately, private enterprise should be allowed to participate with the Government in the provision of television services in this country.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) referred to the importance of maintaining a high standard of programmes. Practically every Australian would agree with that view. There is no need for me to labour that point. The honorable senator then dealt with the power, or rather the lack of power, of the Parliament under the Constitution to legislate in relation to television. Although the honorable senator developed his argument at some length, I was unable to judge whether he was opposing the bill. He merely raised certain doubts about the power of the Parliament to pass legislation with respect to television. However, he expressed the hope that it would be found that it possessed such power. In that respect, I agree with him; but I failed completely to appreciate the point that he sought to make when he raised such doubts. If grounds exist for such doubts the only way to resolve them is for the Parliament to pass this measure as promptly as possible so that its validity can be tested before the proper tribunal. The Leader of the Opposition then argued that this bill contains nothing that will advance the establishment of television “ one iota “. On that point, I direct the attention of honorable senators to the terms of reference of the royal commission and to certain clauses of the bill. Clause 4 reads - (1.) The Minister may, subject to the regulations and any determination made by the Board under section six k of the Broadcasting Act, grant to a person a licence for a commercial television station upon such conditions, and in such form, as the Minister determines. (2.) Before exercising the power conferred on him by this section, the Minister shall take into consideration any recommendations that have been made by the Board as to the exercise of that power.
Under that clause, the PostmasterGeneral will be empowered to grant licences to private enterprise to engage in television. “I fail to see how the Leader of the Opposition can argue that this bill does not advance the presentation of television in Australia one iota. Surely that is its express purpose. Again, clause 5 of the bill states -
The Minister may direct an authorized authority- meaning an authorized governmental authority relating to the presentation of national television - to provide television programmes for transmission from a television station that is made available by the Postmaster-General under section three of this Act and that authority shall, subject to this Act and any directions of the Minister, provide adequate and’ comprehensive programmes for transmission from that station.
I suggest in all sincerity that the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition were neither apt nor correct. Surely this bill, in very plain language, provides the framework from which, ultimately, television programmes will be seen by the majority of Australians. The honorable senator also criticized the personnel of the royal commission and suggested that its inquiries will be ineffective because it does not comprise representatives of the various sectional interests who would be best able to put forward their views as members of such a body. I do not know where the honorable senator would end that proposal. No doubt he would advocate that representatives of the trade unions should be on the commission. He, in fact, suggested that the churches should be represented, but would he stop there?No doubt the Country Women’s Association would require representation, and if successful, I suggest that the honorable senator would have the utmost difficulty in keeping out representatives of chambers of. commerce, chambers of manufactures, and even the Australian Labour party itself. Who would attempt to deny the entry of representatives of educational bodies, such as the schools and universities? Then, the professions could not be overlooked. It would be necessary to have representatives of actors, musicians, writers, dramatists, sporting commentators, and so on. I do not know where the honorable senator would stop. Ultimately, he would have so many conflicting interests represented on the commission that the results would be chaotic. Assuming that there were 50 representatives, there probably would be 50 different reports.. The commission is not being established for the purpose of appointing to it sectional interests which can, and will, I hope, give evidence before it. The members of the commission have no educational, cultural, religious or political axes to grind. They will act as judges and sift the evidence with impartiality. They will give objective and impartial attention to the subjects of their inquiry.
Although the Leader of the Opposition dealt with the bill at some length, he omitted to refer to its most important aspect. As a matter of fact, when a certain interjection was made he deliberately ignored the real issue. It would be most interesting to hear the views of honorable senators opposite on the only question which this bill raises - the desirability oi otherwise of establishing, ultimately, television by medium of commercial television stations. On that point I wish to address the Senate. First, I propose to make some observations concerning television itself. I do not think that I need canvass the proposition that television is probably the most powerful of all methods of propaganda, and, indeed, is probably the most powerful of the cultural media. It is, perhaps, even more powerful than the press, the radio, national literature, the cinema and the legitimate stage all combined. Senator Willesee dealt with this aspect and I do not think that it is necessary for me to elaborate upon the proposition. The New York Times had this to say about the potent influence that television has become in the national life of the United States of America -
The effect upon us of a perennial, irresistible, inescapable outpouring of mediocrity from television will be not only to weaken our moral fibre but to weaken our intellectual fibre to the point where we can no longer function effectively as a democracy. Our stake in television is political freedom.
I think that we can well add to that statement that our stake in television is not only political freedom but also cultural freedom. The article continues -
Television is influencing the social and economic habits of the nation to a degree unparalleled since the advent of the automobile. Television … is having its effect on the way the public passes its leisure time - how it feels and acts about politics and government, how much it reads, how it rears its children, and how it charts its cultural future. The country never has experienced anything quite like it.
I do not wish to labour the point. It seems to me that we must accept the proposition that television is the most powerful and, fundamentally, the most impor tant innovation that has occurred in our time, even including the atomic bomb. Therefore, I suggest that we must hasten slowly in regard to its introduction. Precipitate action at this stage may end in calamity.
Television can be an instrument of great good and, equally, of great evil. To those who condemn it as a great evil, surely the illogical aspect of that argument must occur. If it is such an instrument, surely it can also be an instrument of great good. Are we to condemn all modern inventions and social innovations, great or otherwise, because they may become evil? None of our great social innovations are evil in themselves. They become so only when prostituted by man himself. Could one describe the internal combustion engine as a modern evil? I must admit that sometimes when I see a young fellow travelling at about 60 miles an hour I incline to the opinion that it is, but seriously, no one would suggest that it is evil unless it is abused. Would one regard atomic energy as a great evil merely because there is at present a danger that it may destroy some of the people of the world? Properly looked after - which is the responsibility of man - atomic power will become nothing but an influence for great good in the world.
One could go on ad infinitum merely to establish the proposition that, although television could become a great evil if abused, by the same token it could also become a wonderful power for good. Therefore, I suggest, and I think that all honorable senators will agree, that the greatest possible care must be exercised in regulating the standards of television. That, of course, is a very simple cliche to pronounce. There is a great deal more in that proposition than meets the eye. I do not contend that the regulation of standards is the only solution of the problem. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the importance of controlling our standards in order to ensure that they are of the highest possible calibre. T entirely agree with him. He also said, and again I agree, that we must be very careful that our television programmes do not descend to the blasphemous, the obscene, the licentious, or the seditious.
However., I point out to the honorable senator and others who are dealing with this matter along those lines, that it is not only a matter- of preventing obscene or blasphemous material, as the case may be, from being transmitted. It is very simple to prescribe a regulation stating that blasphemous matter shall, not be made public per medium of television. The difficulty lies, not in prescribing what cannot be televised., but. in what may be televised. Let me illustrate the point. I think that the Leader of the Opposition will agree that in certain circumstances what are referred to as “ modern horror plays “ should not be televised. But would any honorable senator argue for a moment that .Shakespeare’s play, King Richard III.. is not a horror play? Honorable senators will recollect that in that play ‘ practically every character is butchered in a most bloodthirsty manner. I think that it is one of the best horror .plays ever written. Are we to ban King Richard III. because it is a horror play? If not, what type of horror play are we to ban? That is the problem. It is not, merely a question of issuing a regulation to the effect that horror plays may not be tele? vised. When one comes to the problem of proscribing which horror plays may be televised, a very difficult situation arises.
Let me read -to honorable senators the following lines, which, are spoken Dy a female character in a well-known play : -
Thou elvish-mark’d abortive, rooting hog! Thou that wast seal’d in thy nativity The slave of nature and the son of hell! Thou slander of thy mother’s heavy womb Thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins! Thou rag of honour ! Thou detested Richard I
Would anybody suggest that that is not obscene language? I think-, there is no doubt, about it. Surely those words are quite obscene, either in or out of their context. Therefore, the problem cannot be overcome merely by- stipulating, by regulation, that, nothing obscene shall b3 televised. In my opinion, the problem resolves itself into a basic question of good public taste: which with the advantages and the assistance of adequately framed- regulations, policed by a. wise* council of- men- and. more important, with adequate’ education in our homes, schools and universities, will’ eventually reject- the. immoral obscene and. licentious, in- televi- sion as in every other form of- culture. I suggest that that is why it is important to have as much competition as possible.
I thus return, to my proposition that, it is most essential that there should, be more than one avenue through which w.e may watch television. Competition, in television will be one of the greatest, factors in educating the public to the highest possible standards. I do not; decry the advantages of regulations, which are also essential, but I consider- that an even more, essential factor is the provision of television to. the public through as many avenues as possible. Incidentally^ the public has very good taste in most things - just as good as that of honorable senators - and will, undoubtedly, decide for itself what is good and what is bad. The general public must be the final arbiters as to what is good and what is bad, not only in television but in all. fields of cultural endeavour. No one suggests that we should restrict stage presentations to the efforts of one dramatist. We need competition, in the writing of drama so that the people can have an opportunity to compare the works- of. one writer with those of another. How else can the people be educated except by competition in cultural fields? Surely that is the most important argument why we should not only have television quickly but that we should have commercial television and plenty of it.
I am concerned about the provision in the. bill relating to the- presentation of programmes by a national authority as distinct from commercial, interests. This bill envisages, either one of two government instrumentalities which may be empowered, at some- later stage, to present television programmes. They are the Australian Broadcasting Commission or some other authorized authority. It., is clear that the bill envisages, that the presentation of national, television shall be carried out either by the Australian Broadcasting- Commission or by some new. government instrumentality that is to be formed later. As with radio, tha bill’ provides! that the PostmasterGeneral shall be responsible for the actual technical services relating- to the. transmission of television,, but the presentation of programmes is- to. be the responsibility either- of- the Australian
Broadcasting Commission or some other authorized authority. This new authority or the Australian Broadcasting Commission> as the case may be, will be required to- present programmes similar to those that we now receive through radio. It will include educational features, drama,, music, news services, commentaries, and so on. I suggest in all seriousness that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is not only the best public authority for this purpose but the only one.
Frankly, I am amazed that the Government envisages, some second government authority for this purpose. In the first place television programmes are similar to radio programmes so far as production is concerned. Although they are more complicated, they require the same artists and the same kind of directing staffs. Television will require stage producers, programme directors, script and scenario writers, journalists, sporting commentators and accompanists just as they are required now for radio. There is a dearth of talent in Australia from which these qualified people can be selected. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has. its staffs already trained and experienced, and it can provide most of the people that are required now. If the Government proposes to set up some other government authority for the provision of television programmes, where does it expect to get the trained personnel? Perhaps the Minister would answer that question later. There are not sufficient persons with the required training in Australia. If they are needed for a new authority, surely there will be a duplication of services and a consequential increase of expense. Unnecessary duplication and expenditure would’ arise from the provision of studios, offices and libraries. If an instrumentality additional to the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to be set up, a further administrative staff will be required from a general manager to an office boy. That also will involve unnecessary public expenditure. Therefore I should welcome some comment from the Minister concerning the Government’s policy on several points. I should be grateful if the Minister would inform the Senate under what circumstances the Government proposes to authorize the
Australian Broadcasting Commission to present television programmes and under what circumstances would an entirely separate instrumentality be set up for the purpose. I ask the Minister also whether the proposed authority can be set up without enabling legislation. If an enabling bill is required, I shall reserve my further comment for the debate upon it. I cannot understand why there should be two instrumentalities to provide services which basically are similar in all respects. It would cause additional public expenditure and would have the unfortunate consequence of reducing the standard of programmes because of the lack of trained, personnel.
I again direct the attention of honorable senators to the main issue that has not been dealt with by the Opposition. That is whether we shall or shall not have commercial television as well as national television. I deplore the attitude of the Opposition on this point. All honorable senators opposite who have spoken upon his bill have talked around the point. Very few remarks have been directed towards the policy of the Australian Labour party on dual control of television. I do not accept the answer that the Leader of the Opposition gave to the Senate that constitutional difficulties prevent a statement by the Opposition upon television. I should like the Australian Labour party to tell the Australian people just where it stands with regard to commercial television. Does it agree with it or not? That question must be answered by the Labour party because that is the real issue in this bill. For the reasons that I have given, I support, the bill entirely.
. In introducing the bill in the Senate, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) said that the prime purpose of the bill was to provide statutory authority for the establishment of television services in Australia. He said that there was common agreement that widespreadbenefits would flow from television and that the Australian people should be allowed to obtain those benefits. He also mentioned the extraordinary popularity of television in other countries. He said that television gave to people overseas social and cultural benefits as well as entertainment. I think that Senator Vincent was- more to the point when ho said that the main issue of this bill was whether private enterprise would have the right to operate television. Senator Gorton repeated his favourite cliche in describing the Opposition as doctrinaire socialists, but the main point of the bill is the right of private enterprise to enter the television field. Would it add to the cultural and social advancement of the community? What would be the objective of private enterprise in operating television? Would it do so except with the object of making profits?
Our experience with radio has shown that commercial radio stations derive most of their income from advertising. Although I am an infrequent listener to commercial radio stations, I have often been offended by the type of advertising that is flung at listeners. If I am listening to a broadcast programme, whether it is sport or music, I do not want to hear about “ Gorton’s Gorgeous Backache Pills “ or “ Vincent’s Headache Powders “. One should not have to be assailed constantly by advertisers whose efforts only result in increasing the cost of the commodity that they are trying to sell. It is doubtful whether they should be allowed to invade the privacy of our homes.
– The honorable senator can always turn it off.
– The type of programme that is presented to capture the attention of the ordinary listener is one that will hold their interest long enough to drive into their minds whether somebody’s backache pills are better than somebody else’s. The ethics of advertising are inextricably bound up in this matter. As Senator Willesee has so ably pointed out, we are about to embark on a tremendous social experiment. Television can be a great influence of good, or it can be of a great influence for evil. As Senator Vincent has said, the issue we are now debating is whether private enterprise should have the right to provide television services. On that matter my view is contrary to that of the honorable senator. I certainly hope that if commercial television is to be permitted at all, restrictions will be placed upon advertising. Television is of far too great importance to be debased by commercial advertising of the standard that has been adopted by the commercial radio stations. 1 trust that better judgment will prevail, .and that the Government will reconsider its decision to foster the selfishness and greed of profit-seekers.
This bill is nearly merely window dressing. It has no substance. It does not mean a thing. It has been placed before the public at a time when the Government’s stocks are at a record low level. The Government is like a drowning man clutching at a straw. It claims that this measure will result in the establishment, of television services for the Australian people, but the measure is merely a mass of words. Every one knows that television cannot be established here for at least twelve or sixteen months because of physical difficulties. The Governmenthas appointed a royal commission to investigate the entire field of television in Australia. That inquiry will not be completed for some time, and not until the commission’s report has been presented will the Government be able to do anything practical towards the establishment of television services.
Undoubtedly television could help considerably to raise cultural standards in this country. Senator Vincent said that the general public must decide the standard of television broadcasts; but I join issue with him on that point. Does the pupil decide the curriculum, or is the curriculum decided by the teacher?
– Who will be the teacher ?
– Senator Wedgwood may be one of them.
– That might well be. Senator Wedgwood might be a member of the advisory committee, and I am sure she would be a worthy member. She would represent not only the woman’s point of view, but also the point of view of people of high purpose and high moral standards generally.
– Senator Vincent said that the people would work out the standards of television broadcasts.
– The poll-takers would ascertain the most popular programmes and these of course would be the ones that appeal most. to impressionable and perhaps immature audiences. Consequently, we should be inundated with hill-billy programmes, murder thrillers and so on. That would be the standard of commercial broadcasts. Commercial organizations are not interested in cultural or educational matters. They are concerned only with inducing the public to listen to their advertisements. The whole essence of this debate is whether we should allow television to be exploited by the profit-seeker, or whether it should be maintained as a power for good in the community. Television in the hands of commercial interests could alter the entire outlook of the Australian people, particularly the rising generation. One can readily imagine the impact on growing children of a never-ending series of American programmes including gangster thrillers, “ Superman “ and “ Buck Rogers “. I believe that all television programmes should be supervised by people who have the interests of the young Australians at heart. The principal aim of television should be to uplift educational and moral standards. No one will deny that that is a most desirable objective, or that in television we have one of the best possible mediums to achieve it.
Senator Gorton seemed to find it difficult to square his conscience with the conflict that will inevitably arise when television in the hands of commercial interests is compared with television in the hands of a national authority charged with the responsibility of ensuring a high standard of cultural entertainment. I only hope the contrast will be so great that commercial broadcasters will be forced to raise their standards. I believe that the introduction of commercial radio broadcasting in Australia and in the United States of America was a great mistake. I am firmly of the opinion that the British system, under which television is entirely in the hands of a governmentappointed corporation, is the best. Senator Willesee has referred to television broadcasts in America and has told us that some of the programmes are believed to be causing an increase of crime. I can quite understand that, and it is one very good reason why we should screen most carefully the programmes that are to be televised in this country.
The bill was described very aptly by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) as “ A bill to pretend to do something definite about television”. Nothing that honorable senators opposite have said in this debate has convinced me that the right honorable gentleman was not right. I have no doubt that, in the privacy of party meetings, various Government supporters have advanced views on behalf of pressure groups. The background to this bill is rather interesting. The Government was careful to sell its shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited so that the manufacture of television sets would be completely in the hands of private enterprise. I believe that this action by the Government was one of the worst injustices that have ever been perpetrated upon the Australian people. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited as a governmentcontrolled organization, had the facilities, equipment and organization to manufacture television receivers and to sell them at a price within the means of the average Australian householder. Now we do not know what monopoly or cartel exists in the industry. Apparently the Government is determined to do everything possible in its dying days to hand out plums to its supporters. It is sheer humbug for the Government to present this measure before the findings of the royal commission have been announced. Three years have elapsed since tenders were called for the erection of the first television station in this country. We realize, of course, that the technique of television is progressing rapidly, and that some equipment that may have been considered good enough in 1949, is not good enough in 1953. Great Britain was first in the field of television and the 450-line screen was the standard adopted in that country. Then, learning from the British experience, the Americans came into the field with the 550-line screen and, as far back as 1949 we were considering the introduction into this country of the 650-line screen which, at that time, was considered to be as nearly perfect as possible. However, experiments nave continued, and we can expect the royal commission’s report to refer to many innovations. I believe, therefore, that there should be no attempt to establish television in this country until the royal commission has concluded its inquiry. The history of this bill has revealed a great division of opinion amongst Government supporters. The PostmasterGeneral himself does not appear to have been completely in favour of it. I am very sorry to hear that he is not well at present. It is quite likely that the worry that he has been caused by pressure groups within his Government has accentuated his illness. I hope he will have a speedy recovery. But the existence of various representatives of pressure groups in the Government parties shows how they are trying to get in on the ground floor in this most important industry. They know that certain sections can gain from it. The airy phrases that were used by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) in emphasizing the social, cultural and entertainment values of television were, in my opinion, just a smoke-screen for the purpose of covering the Government’s main object which was to award the spoils as quickly as it could before the axe falls on its neck.
Opposition senators have suggested the appointment of a board as well as the enlargement of the present Royal Commission on Television in order to incorporate the reports of a wider field of interests who would be able to examine the subject from the points of view of different sections of the community. The board which will eventually be set up to administer television should also incorporate representatives of those who are concerned with the welfare, educational standards and ‘ aesthetic interests of the Australian people, young and old. This bill fits the pattern that has been followed by the Government. It has been described as the Government’s political philosophy. I disagree with the Government’s political philosophy practically in its entirety. This bill is in keeping with the previous actions of the Government which have been wholly negative. ‘The Government is trying to sweep back the tide but its efforts are very puny and “will be short- lived. At one time its policy of expediency may have enabled it to carry on for a year or two until the memory of the people was dimmed but the Government’s .actions now catch up with it so quickly that the people are becoming annoyed and they are waiting for the opportunity to deal with the Government at the polling booths. Every time that the Government has placed its political philosophy before the people for judgment it has found the people turning against it in tens of thousands. Yet it continues against the will of the great majority of the people to sponsor this type of undesirable legislation which I hope will eventually be eliminated and which will aid and abet the worst features in man’s make-up - greed, selfishness and profit seeking.
Senator Vincent exposed the object of this bill when he said that it had been designed to provide private enterprise with the right to operate television stations regardless of the consequences, not only to the present generation, but to the generations of people who will follow us. I hope that wise counsel will prevail in this most important matter, and that the Government will not allow this magnificent invention for our enlightenment to be used for any base purpose.
– I rise to support the bill before the Senate. I am very glad that at last some action is being taken in relation to television. “We have waited for some time for a bill such as this to be placed before the Senate. I am particularly glad that the present Government has recognized the democratic right of the people to those services which private enterprise is prepared to make available for their use. I am also glad that this Government has delivered a blunt “ No “ to those Opposition senators who believe that if existing services cannot be nationalized immediately much can be done for the ultimate achievement of socialism by making a government monopoly of each new development as it occurs. It is a negation of democracy and an implementation of autocracy for any government to determine what services the public should have or should not have. Australia is ‘a democracy -of free people who1 have won the right to choose what services they desire to use, This bill is a vindication of democracy and represents a. return to the public of the privileges that their ancestors have won for them. It also illustrates very clearly that the Government parties do not believe in the principle of nationalize ing every new industry.
This bill has my sincere support. I am particularly pleased that it provides for commercial television stations to be granted, licences and I hope that those stations will be established first. Television is reported to be a costly operation. It requires a large amount of capital expenditure. I believe that the establishment of a television station in some parts requires the expenditure of £250,000 and the cost of running such a station is also high. I cannot agree that it is just or equitable to tax a citizen of Perth in order to meet the cost of a television station in Sydney, Melbourne, or in any other city. Yet that is what would happen if national services were established in those centres. People often lose sight of the fact that Consolidated Revenue is drawn from the whole of Australia and should be used for the benefit of the whole of Australia. It is possible that the establishment of television stations in. Sydney or Melbourne, as has been proposed, would lead to the establishment of services in other capital cities but those services would not benefit country people who provide their share of the taxes which would benefit the people of the city. I presume that the money required for the interest and sinking fund on the capital expenditure for the construction of the national stations would also be paid from Consolidated Revenue. All that expenditure would have to be met by the whole of Australia in order to provide services for a section of the people. That would be a rather unfair situation. It would be far more equitable to grant licences to commercial stations first.
Private enterprise has the great virtue of being a voluntary enterprise. If losses are made they are accepted by the people who have decided to risk their money in these ventures. They voluntarily invest their money, knowing the risk that is attached to that investment. But taxa tion is a compulsory payment. In- my opinion it is not fair to levy a miner at Broken Hill in order to finance a service’ in Melbourne, nor is it fair to, levy a farmer in Queensland or New South Wales in order to finance a service in Perth. For .that reason I hope that the first step that the Government will take, in television will be to license commercial stations. I hope that national serviceswill not start until television developments permit a reasonable service to be supplied to practically every taxpayer who contributes, under compulsion, to its cost. By all means, let us have television. King Canute could not’ keep back the tides. Neither should we keep back the tides of progress I think that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) agreed with that principle. It would be quite impossible and unreal for any government to endeavour, for example, to refrain from using a diesel engine or to oppose vaccination. We should not keep back the tides of progress which must come to our country. Television is a new develpoment I presume that only a few honorable senators have seen television. Let the commercial stations start this service for the people. I do not believe that the Government should decide whether people shall or shall not see television. It is the democratic right of the individual to decide whether or not he wishes to participate in the viewing of television.
Much has been said about the. cost of operating television programmes. I am informed that a television programme of half an hour’s duration costs from fifteen to twenty times the cost of a similar programme under the present audio system of broadcasting. That could be so, but we should consider the proportion of the cost that would be loss and the proportion,, representing wages, which would be. added to the purchasing power of the community. This is an important aspect of the establishment, of a new industry in our community. I point out that most of the cost incurred is in the payment of the fees of artists and actors, and wages, which will circulate throughout the community as additional purchasing power. I consider that television will provide additional scope for Australian artists, actors, writers, producers, technicians and employees of the film industry. At present, Australian radio programmes are being sold quite freely in New Zealand, South Africa, India, Ceylon, and even in Hawaii. As I have already pointed out, just as the musicales and dramas that are being reproduced in those countries are providing employment for artists, actors, and technicians, so will television be beneficial to our artists and actors. It will provide employment also for technicians and many people who have a part in the production of programmes. “When television comes to this country 3 expect that Australian television programmes will be readily saleable abroad and the proceeds will help to develop the new Australian industry. I have been assured that Australian-made “ talkies “ are already being sold in America for television purposes. I look forward to new strengths being attained by the productive units of commercial stations when television is introduced into this country. I look forward, also, to an enlarged production personnel, more international sales, and a grand opportunity for latent Australian talent.
I remind honorable senators that far more is involved in the proposal than television production units. Many other members of the community will benefit, including the manufacturers of cabinets and receiving equipment; the manufacturers of valves and essential instruments ; the manufacturers and distributors of receiving sets - including both wholesalers and retailers - and many other people. The manufacturers and distributors of television sets will be able to contribute their quota to the cost of establishing television in this country, particularly if commercial television is introduced as the first stage of the industry. They will be able to assist, also, in the subsequent running costs of the industry. As I have already stated, I believe that this new industry will provide additional avenues of employment not only for the actors and writers and other people who take part in the presentation of programmes, but also metal workers, engineers, designers, and the many other artisans who will he employed in the industry. If honorable senators opposite vote against the passage of this measure, in effect, they will be recording a vote against increased employment. 1 believe that this Government ha? acted wisely by making it possible for commercial stations to take part in this new form of entertainment in Australia. The costs incurred in the early stages of the industry should be borne voluntarily. It would be unfair to tax all of the people in order to establish a service that may benefit only one section of the community. I emphasize the increased opportunities that television will provide for our writers and dramatists, and I cannot too strongly stress the increased avenues of employment that will be opened up by this great new industry. Honorable senators opposite who oppose this measure for doctrinaire reasons would socialize everything, because they believe in the establishment of government monopolies of everything new as a further step in their nationalization programme. I emphasize the importance to Australia of this new field of activity, and I repeat that, as King Canute could not stem the tides, neither should we stem progress. I believe that it is of the utmost importance that private enterprise should be given an opportunity to develop commercial television in order to place this new service at the disposal of democratic Australians who want it. I support the bill.
– When one examines the bill before the chamber closely, one is left in a state of wonderment why it has been introduced, because it does no more than announce the policy’ of the Government in relation to television. It makes no provision for the introduction of television into this country. The Government could have announced its policy through the press, for the information of the people of this country. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have expressed the fear that the influence of television in the community would be for evil and fears have also been expressed about, its possible impact on the economy of this country. I dismiss the first fear, because the equipment involved in television receiving sets does not constitute an evil. If there is an evil associated with television, it must rest in the control of programmes. Of course, that could be obviated by the institution of a proper system, of control from the inception of television in Australia. However, I feel sure that many people who are listening to the broadcast of these proceedings will share with some honorable senators a fear about the possible impact of television on our economy, because it is not long ago that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that sweat, blood and tears face Australia for years to come. Although conditions have not changed greatly since the right honorable gentleman made that statemen^ the Government now suggests that television should be introduced into Australia.
A number of honorable senators have referred to the enormous cost of establishing television. During the last few months I have heard many statements made about the provision of funds to the States for public works. On the one hand the Government has claimed - quite erroneously - that it has taken the initial step to introduce television into this country, and on the other hand, the Prime Minister has stated that Australia is faced with sweat, blood and tears for years to come. I cannot reconcile his statement with the Government’s intention in relation to television. One would imagine that, by the introduction of a bill of this kind, the Government intended to establish television in Australia, but the bill does not contain any evidence of any such intention. It provides merely that the Minister may cause television stations to he established and television programmes to be provided therefrom, and secondly, that he may authorize companies, firms or individuals to establish television stations and permit them to provide television programmes. The bill also empowers the Minister to license private television stations.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator George Rankin). - Order 1 In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Broadcasting Act - Australian Broadcasting ‘
Control Board - Fourth Annual report for year 1951-52. Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 13. Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act -
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board - Fourth Annual Report, for year 1951-52. Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property)
Regulations - Order - Inventions and designs.
Egg Export Charges Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1953, No. 12. Lands Acquisition . Act -
Easement acquired for Defence purposes -
Richmond, New South Wales. Land acquired for Foetal purposes - Bithramere, New South Wales. Timboon, Victoria. Land disposed of under Section 03 - Return showing manner of disposal. Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory
Rules 1653, Nos. 14, 17, 19. Nauru - Report to the General Assembly of the United Nations for year l’Jal-52. New Guinea - Report to the General Assembly of the United Nations for year 1951-52. Norfolk Island - Report to the General Assembly of the United Nations for year 1961-52.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department Civil Aviation - D. M. Blackshaw Defence - iii. C. Fallu National Development - M. C. Konecki. Parliamentary Library - A. Nolan. Repatriation - C. M. Mortal. Social Services - G. D. Banfield, N. G.
Stewart. Supply - E. M. Phillips. “Works - R. Atkins, J. E. L. Bailey, D. H.
Beck, H. M. Beck, R. S. Berglund,
M. Burke, K. D. L. Clement, A. H.
Cornish, A. S. Gow H. P. Hine B. E.
Lumb, I>. W. Moffat, L. F. Ryan,
W. Sullivan, R, S. Wardrobe, J. C.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determination - 1953 - No. 7 - Electrical Trades Union of Australia.
Quarantine Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 15.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure of the Australian Capital Territory for year 1951-52.
Spirits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 16.
Supply and Development Act - Regulations -Statutory Rules 1953, No. 18.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.mi
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 March 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1953/19530311_senate_20_221/>.