20th Parliament · 1st Session
The Deputy PRESIDENT (Senator George Rankin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that berry fruitgrowers in Tasmania, particularly in the Lachlan Valley, are in a precarious position, some having already left their farms because there is no sale for their fruit? Does he know that if practical action is not taken in the immediate future the industry will be in danger of extinction? Is he also aware that berry fruitgrowers arc forced, in the main, to sell their fruit to the firm of Henry Jones and Company Limited, jam manufacturers, of Hobart, and that that firm practically controls the industry, purchasing from farmers only the fruit which it requires? Many farmers are thus unable to sell their crops. As the total production of berry fruit, if sold in Australia, would provide each citizen with a little more than 1 lb. a year, and since there is little hope of markets being found outside Australia, will the Minister start a campaign to publicize berry fruit and encourage production? As berry fruits, once picked, ferment quickly, they must be sold without delay. To overcome this, and to assist farmers, will the Minister, instead of allowing berry fruit to rot on the ground, take action to prevent a repetition of .this occurrence next year by building deep freeze factories? If the Government does not desire such responsibility, will it supply the requisite financial assistance to the farmers at a very low rate of interest? I point out that the amount required in that connexion is estimated to be considerably less than £100,000, which was the amount provided by the Government last year by way of compensation to berry fruit-growers, and its provision would permit the farmers’ organization to provide such plant, so that the fruit could be kept fresh and remain on sale for most of the year.
– No doubt the honorable senator appreciates that the matter to which he has referred is very largely the problem of the Labour Government of Tasmania. The Australian Government has already made available to the Tasmanian Government approximately £150,000 by way of assistance to berry fruit-growers. If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall be pleased to refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and endeavour to obtain a considered reply.
– Does the Minister representing the Postmaster-General know that because of unsatisfactory working arrangements in the mail sorting section of the General Post Office at Brisbane, electors in some of the State electoral districts in the Brisbane metropolitan area were unable to vote in the election held on Saturday, the 7th March, because they did not receive postal votes that were posted to them by returning officers o:n Friday, the -6th March’? Will the Minister investigate the existing working arrangements so that all electors will be enabled to exercise their democratic rights at future elections?
– I am not aware of the existence of a state of affair’s in the General Post Office at Brisbane such as that .mentioned by the honorable senator. I shall be pleased to bring his question to the notice of the Postmaster-‘General and furnish him with a reply.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service give to the Senate the latest figures with regard to the number of unemployed persons in Australia and the number of persons who are drawing unemployment benefit?
– I have not the figures that the honorable senator has requested available at present. I believe that the press this morning published a statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service to the effect that the figures mentioned would be available within a few days and that it was anticipated that they would indicate a fall of about 8,000 in the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit. As soon as the figures are available. I shall supply them to the Senate.
– Has the Leader of the Government noted that the Tasmanian Government is giving consideration to the employment of a firm of efficiency experts to examine and analyse Government departmental efficiency? Has he noted the “ try before you buy “ terms that they are offered by the efficiency firm under which a survey of a department is made and presented to the Tasmanian Government before any decision is made about employing the firm ? Will the Minister give consideration to a similar proposition with a view to instilling into all Commonwealth departments the maximum efficiency with the minimum of red tape ?
– I have not noticed the report that has been mentioned by the honorable senator, but I shall refer his question to the appropriate authorities. In the Public Service there is a great deal of efficiency and courtesy. Particularly with regard to the head men in the Public Service, we are as rich as any country in the world in the service that we get from them. Perhaps here and there there is a lack of efficiency and sense of service. That is not because the persons concerned are public servants, but because they are human beings, and they would probably be as unco-operative wherever they were employed.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Air say whether it is true that national service trainees are receiving very little suitable instruction in the Royal Australian Air Force? Is it a fact that their training consists mostly of cleaning out the hangars and a little rifle drill? As these boys are, in many instances, chosen because of their academic attainments, will the Minister ensure that their capabilities shall be fully availed of in the Air Force, and suitable training provided for them? Will the Minister obtain for me a copy of the training syllabus?
– I shall be pleased to take this matter up with the Minister for Air and to provide a considered reply to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
– I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to the fact that the long standing practice of restating the news headlines at the end of news broadcasts has been abandoned by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This causes considerable inconvenience in the home at busy times, such as 7.45 a.m., when perhaps the husband is shaving. He may miss an important news item and be unable to hear its main points restated at the end of the broadcast. I believe that the practice of recapitulating the news headlines at the end of each broadcast as is done by the British Broadcasting Corporation in Great Britain should be reintroduced. The extra broadcasting time necessary is only a couple of minutes, and the service is of some importance to the listening public. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he will give consideration to my request.
– I shall be pleased to bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General-
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that a considerable quantity of coal has accumulated at grass on coal-fields at St. Mary’s, Tasmania? Will the Minister indicate what guarantees the Commonwealth Government is prepared to give to the miners that their employment is secure? As the miners have always believed that they would be clumped on the industrial scrapheap when a surplus of coal had been achieved, has the Government any arguments to dispel that belief?
– I am sure that the honorable senator shares the Government’s pride at the increased coal production and the happy industrial relations now existing on the coal-fields. I ask him to place his question on the notice-paper.
– I am informed that a 26 years old ex-serviceman trainee employed by a master painter at Hobart receives only his weekly allowance of £8 10s. from the . Repatriation Department, although the Wages Board in Tasmania has prescribed a rate of £16 12s. a week for all adult workers in the painting trade. When this employee asked for additional payment, he was informed that the rate was fixed by the Repatriation Department under the Repatriation Act. Can the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether regulations governing the payment of trainees prescribe a rate of only £8 10s. a week, and whether such regulations override determinations of the State “Wages Board, thereby relieving the master painter to whom I have referred of his obligation to pay wages to the trainee?
– As the matter referred to in the honorable senator’s question will require some investigation, I shall bring it to the notice of officials of my department, and obtain a reply to the honorable senator at an early date.
– I desire to preface a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by saying that I have read a little book in which the Government has claimed to have ended shortages. As there is no shortage of man-power because there is a considerable number of unemployed, could the Minister expedite the installation of telephones in respect of which deposits have been paid for up to nine months. As there are now no shortages, according to the Government, and as there is ample man-power, what is delaying the installation of telephones?
– The honorable senator has made a very broad statement. He has given no particulars of the various telephones that have not been installed. I should be in a better position to answer his question if he would give me that information. However, I shall bring his question to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral and obtain a considered reply for him very quickly.
- Mr. Deputy President, is it a fact that certain electors of the Commonwealth were admitted to this building yesterday at the request of members of the Liberal party whilst other electors were not allowed into the King’s Hall? If this is true, will you inform the Senate under what authority the electors of Australia, which boasts of being a democracy, were debarred from entering their House of Parliament?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I have no information in regard to this matter.
Debate resumed from the 11th March (vide page 811), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved, by way of amendment -
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, 1953, 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.”
– One of the matters that were discussed by the Senate yesterday was the control of television by the people. It was explained by some honorable senators that a degree of control would have to be exercised over the programmes of the television stations. When television is introduced into Australia it will have a very important influence upon the minds of the people. Consequently, we must consider what form of control should be exercised over the programmes and how that control should be implemented. It is my belief that the control should be exercised by the Parliament and that the Parliament should lay down in this bill how the control should operate and to what extent Parliament should have control over the programmes. The Government should have inserted in the bill provisions to the effect that programmes of a certain nature should be provided and at certain periods. An examination of the bill discloses that the Government has failed in its duty. I consider that the Government should have provided in the bill for the appointment of an authority to control television programmes, as well as specific directions to that authority. I was greatly disappointed, on reading the bill, to find that it makes no mention of these matters. When the measure becomes law it will be known as the Television Act 1953, and it will be regarded as meagre and comical legislation by the people of other countries where television is in operation. As I said last night, the bill goes no further than to announce the policy of the Government on this subject. I also mentioned last night the influence that television has on the minds of the people.
Yet, when we examine the bill we find that it does not contain a provision that religious services shall be televised. This is a very serious omission, because television can have an equal influence for good or for evil. The bill contains no specific direction to a controlling authority designed to ensure the preservation and development of the moral fibre of the Australian people. Neither does it contain any provision to further the education of the people. There is no gainsaying that television could be a most important instrument in the life of the students of our schools, colleges and universities. There should be a specific provision in the bill that there shall be made available to our educational institutions programmes that will be of benefit to the students. Although the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) stated in his second-reading speech that Australia would derive benefit from the introduction of television into this country, he left the kind of benefit that he had in mind to our imagination. I am sure that all honorable senators agree . that considerable educational benefit could be derived by our young people from suitable television programmes, but the bill is entirely silent on this most important aspect of the matter. One must conclude, therefore, that the Government has paid no attention to this phase of television. The bill does not contain a direction to any controlling authority to ensure the provision of appropriate programmes that the people may view in their homes. One calls to mind the many subjects in which the housewife could receive instruction in an entertaining way. Offhand, I mention cooking, needlework and various crafts and hobbies. Television could also be used as a medium of instruction to trade apprentices. With the working week reduced to 40 hours, moralists never tire of urging the people to make the greatest use of .their leisure. A serious omission from the bill is the absence of any direction to the board that will control television that it must provide sensible instructional programmes and entertainment of a type that differs altogether from that which one seeks at the theatre, or cinema. Definite provision should be made .to give the people the benefits of television in that respect. We should not expect all television programmes to be entertaining. Unfortunately, we are prone to think of television invariably in terms of amusement only. I trust that the programmes that will be provided will not be confined to that type. One can readily imagine the good that can be achieved through television by the provision of instructional programmes for trade apprentices of whom there are many thousands in this country. Apprentices in many trades are obliged to study complicated processes, particularly in precision work. Television could be made a great force for good as a medium of imparting such instruction in an entertaining way.
Another serious defect in the bill is that it makes no reference whatsoever to the location of stations. That is a serious omission. Prior to the actual introduction of television most people will be eager to know where stations are to be established and whether they will be within reception range of a station. Many will be willing to save sufficient money to purchase a receiving set, but beforehand they will naturally require to know where the stations are to be located. The selection of sites, in itself, will be a difficult problem, particularly as our population of approximately 8,000,000 is scattered over an area of 3,000,000 square miles. From what I have read on the subject, it would appear that an audience of 8,000,000 people is regarded as a normal ordinary television audience. That fact emphasizes the economic problems that will be involved in the establishment of television. If country people are to be obliged to share the cost of providing television for the convenience of city folk only a serious cleavage will develop in the public mind on this matter. One basic requirement is that television must be provided for all sections of the people. Having regard to the cost that will be involved, I should say that Australia ‘ need not seriously consider the introduction of television for at least another three or four years. We have several production problems to overcome at the present time. Until our economic and trading conditions have more or Ieas settled down, television might very well be left in the background.
Another serious omission from the bill relates to the purchase of television receiving sets. Television is already operating in many countries, and because of that fact, receiving sets have been manufactured in such countries. It has frequently been claimed that television is still in an experimental stage. That being so, it is reasonable to assume that as the methods of transmission of television programmes have improved so also have receiving sets improved. It therefore follows that, at the present time, in many of the countries with which Australia trades, there are television receiving sets which could be classed only as redundant. I wonder what protection is to be afforded the Australian people against the purchase of such sets? This country could easily become a dumping ground for obsolete sets. The bill before the Senate makes no provision for the protection of the Australian people in that connexion.
A standards association exists in this country, and I suggest that the assistance of that body should be sought in relation to television. I should like to see something in the nature of a standards association set up for the main purpose of examining all receiving sets which enter Australia. If that were done, the Australian people would be assured that every television set which entered the country would be an efficient one. Perhaps the Government could overcome that problem by setting up a body similar to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for the manufacture in Australia of suitable television receiving sets.
Senator Annabelle Rankin referred last night to the beneficial effect which the introduction of television will have on employment. That, to me, seems to be a matter of considerable doubt. I think it was Marcus Aurelius who said, “ Observe constantly that all things take place by change The introduction of television in this country will cause a change in industry. For instance, there will not be the same demand for radio services as there is at present, and it is possible that a depression will occur in the radio industry. It is doubtful whether the employment which television will bring about will compensate for the loss of employment which will result in the radio industry.
The second-reading speech of the Minister for Repatriation contained the remarkable promise that at some, future date the Government proposes to introduce a comprehensive bill. I have referred to serious omissions from the legislation before the Senate, and although the Government has made a promise concerning a comprehensive bill, I prefer to believe, in common with more than 60 per cent, of the Australian people, that no reliance can be placed on the promises of the Government. It has made many other promises, particularly in relation to putting value back into the pound. I do not expect that at any future time another television bill will be introduced. Indeed, clause 4 of this bill confers unlimited power on the Postmaster-General to deal, by means of regulations, with all matters relating to television. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) pointed out yesterday, the bill, in effect, proposes to make the PostmasterGeneral the Lord High Executioner of television.’ At the present time, the Postmaster-General’s Department is unable to meet satisfactorily all the demands for telephone services. Yet that department is to be given the administration of television in Australia. In my opinion, we should do the things which require to be done before we even think about this innovation. The Government should withdraw this bill and, if it is still in office in 1954 or 1955, then introduce comprehensive legislation in relation to television. In that way it might be able to deal with the subject in a worth while and effective manner.
– If one result has been made apparent during the debate on this measure so far, it is the urgent need for some authoritative statement on all aspects of television, because each honorable senator who participates seems to have different ideas on the subject from those of other honorable senators. I admit, at the outset, that I have little or no knowledge of television other than that acquired from a few articles which I happened to read during the last few days in view of the fact that the subject was coming up for discussion. I am opposed to’ the bill. Probably I am the only person on this side of the chamber who is opposed to it. I am quite unable to see why the Government has brought the measure forward at this time, particularly in view of the fact that it has appointed a royal commission to investigate all aspects of television and report to the Government and, eventually, to the parliament. I wish to commend the Government on the appointment of the commission because I think that that was the proper course to adopt. When we have the results of the royal commission’s inquiries we shall then be in a position to judge adequately and properly whether television should be controlled by ‘ a national system, by commercial interests, or by a combination of both. But to bring forward the legislation now and to make provision for control of television by commercial interests before the report of the royal commission is available is, I think, quite wrong.
At the same time, I cannot agree with the amendment that has been moved by’ the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). Unfortunately, I was called out of the chamber in order to fulfil a prior engagement and was therefore debarred from hearing his speech. However, the fact that the amendment proposes that the report of the commission should be made before the 11th May impels me to oppose it. I should place no time limit on the investigations of the commission, within reason, because it may be found necessary for it to go overseas. When the subject of television is viewed in relation to the effect that it is likely to have on the public in the future, I think that it warrants- the fullest investigation. Consequently, I am not inclined to accept any curtailment of the time to be allowed to the commission to prepare its report. Neither do I believe that other interests should he represented on the commission. The more the members of the commission are free of sectional interests, the more likely are we to get an unbiased report. There is nothing to prevent any sectional interests from making representations to the royal commission. Any such representations will be taken into consideration.
I should like to have definite technical information upon the operation of television because many of the statements that have been made in the course of this debate are at variance. One honorable senator spoke of cables that stretched from New York to Philadelphia and added that cables could extend from Melbourne to Brisbane, leading us to believe that the range of television is almost unlimited. It may be so, but the only information I have been able to gather is that its range does not extend beyond 25 or 50 miles. That would necessitate a series of television stations and studios with consequent expense. The Governor of the British Broadcasting Corporation has reported that if the system is established in Australia, it will be available only to the more populous eastern States for many years and that it is unsuitable for transmission to country areas. If that is so, there is urgent need for more authoritative advice upon the subject.
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has indicated that another bill to give effect to the installation of television is to be submitted. The time would be more appropriate for honorable senators to devote their attention to this matter when that bill is before the Senate. The bill that is being considered now only provides authority for commercial interests to install television. What will happen if the royal commission advises against a privately operated television system ? Will the Government permit its introduction against the expressed opinion of the royal commission? We should wait for that opinion before we consider the matter further. The debate has developed into an argument as to whether television should be controlled by commercial interests or by the Government or by a combination of both. At present I am opposed to the bill. I believe that television is in the experimental stages and we should wait longer to discover how it will operate, whether it will cover large or small areas and whether it is suited to conditions in Australia where the population is so widely spread except in a few big cities.
Senator Willesee has referred to the possibility that television may have the effect of collecting people in greater num- bers in certain areas. This is an important matter. We must try to visualize also the effect that it will have upon the people and particularly the children. Information that I have gathered indi”cates that television is having a most detrimental effect upon the children in the United States of America. I would be strongly opposed to its introduction to Australia under similar conditions. An honorable senator said last night that those who are opposed to the bill are socialists who want everything controlled by the Government. I am not a socialist and I certainly do not believe in the control of everything by the Government.
– What does the honorable senator mean by being a socialist ?
– That is my affair. There are only a few things that I believe should be controlled by the Government. Most activities should be carried out by private enterprise. I do not believe that shipping should be controlled by the Government or that the supply of water should be controlled by private enterprise. Television is one of the services that might better be controlled by the Government. On the other hand, further investigation may show that it could be controlled by both interests or by commercial interests alone. The point is that I am not opposing this bill simply because I think that everything should be controlled by the Government. I have no illusions about the limitations of private enterprise. Commercial interests conduct their activities for the benefit of their shareholders, and possibly those interests may not be in line with the cultural development of the people of the country when they are applied to television. That is why I have serious misgivings about the results if private enterprise is allowed to operate television services.
I can see no point in comparing television with diesel engines, as one honorable senator has done. The diesel engine was a mechanical invention which has proved to be a necessity and can be controlled. Television cannot be controlled in the same way. I would not care to see many of the programmes that are heard by radio broadcast put before an audience of school children on television. I was interested in the speech made by Senator Willesee because he has travelled throughout the United States of America and investigated the matter, whereas I have not had that opportunity. However, I was able to obtain exactly the same information that was given by Senator Willesee, even to the figures, within an hour by inquiry at the Parliamentary Library. The library staff was able to supply me with an interesting booklet which contains all the information that Senator Willesee collected so industriously while he was overseas. The booklet shows that television is having a most detrimental effect upon the children of the United States of America. They are neglecting their homework to such an extent that school hours have been extended to ensure that the work is done. Immediately they go home the children go to the television set. They even watch it while they are having their tea and at 10 o’clock they wander off, bleary-eyed, to bed. They spend more time before the television sets than they do at school. Can honorable senators imagine bringing such a system into Australia when it will have such a detrimental effect unless it is efficiently controlled? Professor Priestley, a previous Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, has stated that the proper control of television programmes will be a major headache. So much for commercial control. I am not very much more enthusiastic about the prospect of governmental control. It is true that the Parliament would have some measure of authority over television broadcasts, but the Parliament has that authority now over radio broadcasting and, judging by the abominable programmes one hears on the wireless all day, the control is not exercised very effectively. We could very well do without most of the radio programmes that we hear to-day. I seldom turn the wireless on for anything but news broadcasts. If I remember rightly Senator Benn wanted to know how religious television broadcasts would be dealt with, but, according to American authorities the televising of religious programmes and classical concerts has been virtually abandoned because of expense or techni cal difficulties. Apparently, therefore, television has its limits, and generally speaking, is not a medium through which any substantial uplifting of cultural standards can be expected. Therefore, mainly on the ground of expense, I am totally opposed to the introduction of television for some time at least, particularly under governmental control. Here again I shall quote from the booklet to which I have referred. It states -
There is little doubt that the Australian community could afford television if it is prepared to go without other things. Whether it would be a wise choice to make at this stage of national development when so many other urgent public and private fields of investment are lacking necessary capital, deserves the same careful inquiry that other aspects merit.
That is my objection. Many developmental undertakings in this country are much more urgent than television. I was struck by a statement reputed to have been made recently by Sir Ernest Fisk, who, as honorable senators are aware, is regarded as an authority on many matters associated with broadcasting. According to newspaper reports, Sir Ernest made the extraordinary assertion that the introduction of television would be a great boon to outback people. I wish he would cite some authority in support of that claim, because my information is that television would be confined to the thickly populated cities. If that is so, how could the introduction of this medium contribute anything at all to the settlement of remote parts of this continent? .Surely it ‘would have the opposite effect. It would make people now living in rural areas more envious than ever of city dwellers and would tend to accelerate the drift to our cities. If money is available to be expended on developmental projects, it should be used on water conservation schemes, the construction of new roads, and the provision of additional telephone services in outback areas. What is the use of urging people to produce more food when the development of our country areas is being retarded through lack of capital? How can we talk glibly about bringing television to Australia when, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation, the provision of programmes totalling 30 hours a week in closely populated Great Britain costs £2,000,000 a year?
– It would cost much more here.
– Of course it would. That is all the more reason why no action should be taken until the fullest information on the subject has been obtained. The Government would be well advised to abandon this measure until the royal commission has made its report. Not until then will we be able to assess whether television should be under private or governmental control, or whether it should be introduced at all. I am opposed to the bill.
– I rise to support the amendment. The advice that Senator Seward has given is very good. I speak as one who, from 1945 until 1949, was Postmaster-General, and knows something of the inquiries that have been made into this very important subject. The bill provides for the dual system - commercial and national. Why does the Government favour that system? Obviously it is not convinced that complete control by private enterprise would be adequate or desirable. Apparently honorable senators opposite- realize what has happened in the United States of America. My inquiries, indicate that television under private control in that country has had a most demoralizing effect, particularly on young people. The private owners of television stations are much more concerned about profits than about the welfare of the community. The profit motive predominates. Enormous sums of money are expended on advertising, and all that expenditure must be recovered through higher prices. 0 I am certain that most television advertising, like most radio advertising, is unnecessary and that much of it is misleading. I can imagine that the Government favours the dual system because it has in mind the extent to which commercial television is abused in America, and commercial radio is abused here. Radio advertising in Australia is similar to that in the United States of America. Its. only effect is to increase commodity prices and so to place an additional burden on working, people who have to pay more for commodities in proportion to their wages tha-n. d’o other people like ourselves. Money iS. obtained by many advertisers under false pretences*- Governments should step in and take action in the matter.
Senator Gorton said that there was nothing harmful in television itself. I interjected, “ Everything depends on the way it is used “, and Senator Gorton agreed with me. That applies, not only to’ television, but . also to all kinds of enterprises and activities. The dual control system is not confined to broadcasting or to television. We have dual control of education. We have our public education system, and our private schools. Obviously the public education system is necessary because private education cannot do the job itself. If education were left entirely to private enterprise, most of our young people would be illiterate because private enterprise, no matter how well intentioned it may be, has not the means at its disposal to educate the whole community. Therefore we have the dual system in education. Similarly, other essential services cannot be left to private interest. There is, for instance, the Postal Department. Private industry could not provide the postal services that are now made available by the Postal Department under governmental control. Roads, too, have to be provided by public authorities. In accepting dual control the Government has made a virtue of necessity, realizing that only the Government can protect people, against poor programmes and exorbitant charges. The Government’ will have to step into the breach progressively later on.
In view of the controversy that has taken place on television and of the extent to which it has been condemned by persons who are well qualified to express an opinion, I think that the Government acted wisely when it appointed a royal commission. My only objection to the commission is that its membership is not sufficiently representative. In my opinion, the proposed amendment should be carried. The Government has nothing to lose by it. After the royal commission has presented its findings, the Government may have to introduce another bill.
– That is what the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper,) said that the Government intended to do.
– Then what a* the Government’s reason for introducing this bill? According to the press, Mr. Boyer, the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, said that rigid control of television services would be necessary. He based that opinion on his experience in America and in the United Kingdom, and he gave reasons for his statement. Therefore, the Government would be wise to hold its hand and agree to the proposed amendment.
When I was privileged to be the Postmaster-General, the Labour Government decided to establish six television stations, one in each capital city, in order that Australia might have the best system of television available. My department sent senior officers overseas in order to make inquiries. When their recommendations had been submitted to Cabinet we decided to introduce what was known a.the 625 standard line system, instead of the 525-line system, which is used in America, or the 450-line system which is used in the United Kingdom. Tenders for the construction of the six stations were called for on the 11th August, 194S, and closed on the 20th January, 1949. We estimated that the service would commence to operate in Sydney about January of 1951. We proceeded to make arrangements accordingly through the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In February, 1950, a report was submitted to the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), but he did not take any action. The Government is not justified in claiming to have done all that was reasonably possible to enable television services to operate in Australia. I think that it has had the same doubt on the matter as I had. It probably thought that an attempt would be made to supply Australia with obsolete equipment from overseas. On the 27th June, 1950, the Postmaster-General announced that instead of establishing six stations he had proposed that one station should be established in Sydney by private enterprise. The Government’s next step was to appoint a roYal commission, and in the meantime it will not take any action.
The Chifley Government intended to proceed with the job after being reasonably well. satisfied that the equipment that would be installed would be up to date. This Government has delayed the commencement of television. This bill can only result in wasting the time of the Senate. Surely the Government has brought enough discredit on the Senate already. Honorable senators have :been told that if the findings of the royal commission are very much in conflict with the provisions of this legislation it will hu replaced by another bill. The proposal to establish television in Australia is far more important than many honorable senators opposite realize. If television is not properly controlled and managed it will affect posterity - probably in the same way as it has affected the people of America-. America holds the record for crime of all kinds. There is a murder there every 40 minutes. There are more barmaids in hotels than there are college girls. There is more pornographic literature circulating in America than in any other country, and it is all circulated by private enterprise. A good deal of it finds its way to this country under the management of private enterprise. Television could result in a similar state of affairs in Australia to that which exists in America. Young minds are impressed much more than those of people such as ourselves. There is what is called perceptual knowledge which is the imagery in the mind. When it is not fortified by study or rational knowledge, young men and women commit all sorts of anti-social acts that they would not commit in other circumstances. This demonstrates the part that television will play in influencing the younger members of the community, on whom we depend to a greater degree than on elderly people. We depend very largely on properly trained and properly cared-for young men and women. Australia still has- a long way to go to develop an educational system worthy of the name. In both the United States of America and Great Britain lunatic and gaol populations are increasing at a most alarming rate. We must ensure that television, when introduced into Australia, will raise the intellectual and moral standards of our young people, and not keep them on a primitive level as it has done in the United States of America. I remind supporters of the Government that they, will have to bear the consequences of their present attitude to this problem, and I advise them to hasten slowly in the introduction of television.
Why has the Government brought down this measure before the sittings of the Royal Commission on Television have been concluded? What does the Government expect to gain from the measure ? Is it just so much window dressing by the Government in an attempt to convince the people that it is doing something in relation to television when, in fact, it is doing nothing? Is it merely shadow sparring, intended to deceive the unfortunate people who do not know better? The Minister’s second-reading speech was composed of a mass of generalities. He was not specific in any way. Its wording astounded me. I should like him to explain why the bill has been introduced at this time. If he is unable to do so, lie will admit, by implication, that this debate has been so much waste of time and shadow sparring.
Quite apart from abstract considerations, I am convinced from my experience as Postmaster-General in a former Labour government that, in addition to establishing a rigid control of television programmes, we should exercise a rigid control over programmes that are broadcast by commercial stations. During my term of office it came to my knowledge that some artists, whose names I shall not mention, were repeatedly telling over the a ir what are colloquially known as borderline stories. On examining the files, I found that they had already been warned against that practice. For all practical purposes, they had thumbed their noses at the Government. I thereupon exercised my power to put them off the air, and I subsequently received many letters, some condemning my action, and others approving of it. Convinced that I had done the right thing, before I permitted the artists to broadcast again I obtained written undertakings from them that they would not commit further offences of that kind. Had they not honoured their undertakings while I was in office, I would have taken steps to put them off the air altogether. I do not know whether they continued to do so after the Labour Go- vernment relinquished office. Radic artists have no right to intrude sexual and pornographic suggestions into the privacy of the homes of people who are rearing families. The Government should protect the homes of respectable members of the community from any such invasion by means of radio. Although the artists that I ha.ve mentioned called themselves comedians, it was the proud boast of the famous Scotch comedian, Harry Lauder, that he had never told a joke that would in any way offend the sensibilities of either men or women. Yet these so-called comedians descend to the lowest depths unless checked. Of course, I agree with the contention of some honorable senators opposite, that selective listening should be applied in the homes.
Senator Seward has stated, by interjection, that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are opposing the measure because we are socialists. When I asked the honorable senator what he meant by socialism he declined to offer a definition or explanation. There is not a. socialist proposition in Australia, or anywhere else, as far as I know. What we have is governmental control, which is merely control by State capitalism. Supporters of the Government frequently resort to the misuse of terms in order to deceive people who do not know better. Socialism could be defined as the political superstructure on an economic foundation in which all things that are socially produced are socially owned with equal freedom of access to the means by which people live. For instance, the Postmaster-General’s Department is making a profit by overcharging its customers.
– Did not that happen during Labour’s regime?
– No! When I was Postmaster-General, all of the profits of the Postal Department were applied to constructional works. My aim was to break even. I considered that we should not charge the people more for postage stamps, the transmission of telegrams, and other postal services than was absolutely necessary to enable the department to carry on. I am reminded of the late John Burns’ alliteration -
Most people are either prisoners of phrases or slaves of shibboleths.
That is a truism. Supporters of the Government continually use phrases or shibboleths in an endeavour to influence people who do not know better and do not endeavour to ascertain the meaning of them.
– I support the bill, which will provide statutory authority for the establishment of television services in Australia. I shall not deal at length with the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the Parliament has not power under the Constitution to legislate in respect of television. Last night, Senator Gorton said, rightly, that the Parliament should pass this measure if only for the reason that it will enable the Parliament’s power in this sphere to be tested and completely clarified before the appropriate tribunal. Much has been said in this debate about the high cost of television. High costs in conjunction with relatively limited audiences present the first and probably the greatest problem in this matter. We cannot say from actual experience what the overhead cost would be likely to be in this country. American authorities, in .their latest reports, set the cost of operating television at from four to five times higher than the cost of operating radio. Last night, Senator Annabelle Rankin cited figures that indicated that the cost of operating television was as much as fifteen times higher. However, we must face the inescapable fact that the pattern of television in this, or in any other, country must conform to the requirements of the national economy. I was interested to hear the remarks of Senator Cameron because, very strangely, he chided the Government for acting too precipitately in introducing this measure. On the other hand, his leader said that the Government had not given due consideration to this matter and implied that it was delaying the introduction of television. Honorable senators opposite cannot have it both ways. Either we should have taken action long ago or no real proof exists for anything that Senator Cameron said when he urged that we should leave this problem to the future. The honorable senator also asked why the Government favoured the dual system. Senator Pearson cited the find ings of a gallup poll which was conducted in January last. In that poll the persons who were interviewed revealed in a convincing manner that they favoured the dual system. Furthermore, they gave their reasons for holding that view. Does not Senator Cameron take any notice of public opinion? Does he believe that members of the Parliament are above public opinion? If that is his view, it is certainly not mine. The persons who were interviewed in the gallup poll .to which I have referred said that they favoured the dual system for the following four reasons : - -First. competition would produce better services; secondly, programmes would be more varied; thirdly, they had an innate dislike of monopoly; and, fourthly, they were already used to the dual system of radio broadcasting. That representative expression of public opinion is proof that Australians have been well served by the dual system of radio broadcasting. In spite of anything that Senator Cameron, or any other honorable senator opposite, may say to the contrary, I believe that the commercial broadcasting stations in Australia have provided excellent amusement programmes. The fact that most people prefer to listen to the B class stations is proved by the size of the listening audiences of those stations which, it is claimed, represent SO per cent, of the listening public. At the same time, the national stations, through the Australian Broadcasting Commission, have provided entertainment in the form of cultural and educational programmes which the commercial stations may not have given to the public. Therefore, the approach that the Government is making to the introduction of television under this measure is completely justified.
I remind the Leader of the Opposition that there is great wisdom in hastening slowly, as his colleague, Senator Cameron, has advised the Government to do. Honorable senators opposite can, no doubt, recall some of the reports that were made to the Government which they supported on the merits of frequency modulation broadcasting as a result of which that Government set up at considerable cost, experimental stations at East Melbourne and North Sydney. Although, I do not profess to have any knowledge whatsoever of radio technique, as a technique, it would appear that as a result of experiments conducted here and elsewhere, frequency modulation broadcasting has been found to be not so attractive as it was at first thought it would be. Having regard to that experience, the Government is definitely acting rightly in taking every opportunity to examine the problems of television, compare the systems that are in operation in other countries, and assess the effect that television has had on the peoples of those countries and the effect that it is most likely to have upon our own people. I do not accept for one moment the claim that the people of Australia are not particularly interested in television. They are vitally interested in it, and they are seriously concerned about the impact that it may have upon the community. For that reason, a grave responsibility devolves upon, the Parliament to consider this matter thoroughly. The Government cannot afford merely to sit back as members of the Opposition have so blithely advised it to do. Television must come sooner or later. Consequently, the Parliament must shoulder its responsibility in respect of it.
Conflicting opinions have been expressed on this subject both inside and outside the Parliament. All of us agree about the power of television but definite conflict of opinion has been expressed with respect to its uses and abuses. Whilst some people have contended that it will tend to demoralize home life, others have said that in the United States of America and Great Britain it has had a tendency to keep people at home and in so doing has fostered a livelier social and home consciousness. Senator McKenna referred to the derivation of the term “ television “. He implied that it would enormously extend the range of vision of the great mass of the people. I agree with that view.. Whilst it has often been said that radio has run a highway to every home, television will do much more than that; it will bring the world to every living room. Consequently, we must, ensure that a high standard of television programmes shall be maintained. Television is a great educational medium. It will give to viewers the opportunity to witness events, outstanding ceremonies and personalities. In the countries in which it is now operating it has had the effect of breaking down barriers between peoples and states. But that is not the full extent of its power. Senator Gorton was correct when he said that television could become the most powerful instrument for propaganda that the world has ever known. I do not think that that can be refuted. Neither do I believe that any honorable senator would be prepared to leave in the hands of a government unchallenged an instrument which could be used solely for the dissemination of propaganda. I believe- that because the Government appreciated the enormous problems associated with television it appointed a commission of inquiry. In announcing the appointment of the royal commission, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that he had been influenced by the concern of responsible religious, educational and cultural bodies regarding the possible effects of television. I understand that persons from all walks of life will be invited to give evidence before the commission, so that its findings will provide a basis on which the Government may frame future legislation.
Senator Willesee referred to the challenge provided by television. With that contention I do not think that any honorable senator would disagree. Television provides a challenge to the Parliament to see that this great instrument of propaganda is not allowed to become a monopoly and that the opportunity to give an infinite variety of amusement and education is not crowded out by emphasis on commercial broadcasting. As Senator Cameron has said, the control of television provides a challenge to all Australians who regard the subject as a matter of supreme national importance. T have no objection to control, as long as such control shapes television to our needs, so that it may become - as I believe it will become - the finest instrument of education and enlightenment that th, world has ever known. That, in my opinion, is the immediate requirement of the Parliament. The answer to the challenge will come from this Parliament And from the great body of people outside, in whom.. I believe, resides the final capacity to shane to Australia’s ends the great benefits of television. I support the bill.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). In doing so, I think that it is interesting to note the terms of reference of the royal commission that has been appointed by the Government to inquire into television. Senator Gorton stated last night that the bill now before the Senate is not a matter for inquiry by the commission. However, I feel that I am in order in drawing the attention of honorable senators to the terms of reference in order to show that, either the commission or this bill i« superfluous. I do not think that both are necessary. The royal commission was appointed to enquire into and report on, first, the type of television Australia should have; secondly, who should operate it and at what times; thirdly, the standards to be observed, and, fourthly, the areas to be served. Those are comprehensiveterms of reference, and it therefore seems to me to be superfluous that whilst those matters are being investigated this premature bill should have been introduced.
With regard to the royal commission itself, I wish to commend the Government on the appointment of Mrs. Foxton, the president of the Western Australian branch of the Country Women’s Association, which is the most important women’s organization in Australia. It really gets things done quickly. I have the highest personal regard for its work. If Mrs. Foxton is not swamped by the other members of the commission, she will be able to speed up the inquiry and thus enable its report to be made available by the 11th May, the time referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. It has been suggested that the commission would gain worthwhile experience by going overseas. I should not quarrel with that suggestion if it were not for the fact that this matter has been fully investigated by all kinds of people, over a number of years. Recently, the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission returned from a visit to the United Kingdom, America and other countries, where he investigated fully the subject of television. The Broadcasting Committee, which was dissolved by this Government, al’so made extensive inquiries in this field. The members of the royal commission will not be able to adduce better evidence than that which has already been placed before the responsible authorities by that committee. I should have not quarrelled so greatly with the appointment of the commission if I considered that all its members are as open-minded in relation to television as we know that some of them are. However, I feel that certain very biased interests are represented on the commission, which will make the furnishing of a fair report extremely difficult.
Much has been said and written about television generally, but I, like most honorable senators, know very little about it fram practical experience. However, when I was in London I was privileged to see some television programmes. I am not amazed to learn that of the thirteen countries where television is already established, in only one - the United States of America - does a dual system of control operate. In all the other countries television is on a government level only, the reason being mainly the initial cost of installation. The outlay involved does not return quick profits to any one. In addition, there are the great social and other problems connected with its establishment. In America, where the dual system operates, we have been able to see all the disadvantages of television. In that country, disadvantages appear to outweigh the advantages. A survey conducted at Cambridge, Massachusetts, revealed that almost twenty hours a week are devoted by children to viewing television programmes. On some of those programmes an average of 40 murders or deaths by violence were screened weekly. The effect of such programmes on the minds and pursuits of children is obvious to those- who have had anything to do with the education of the young. Each week, twenty hours are being taken from the free time which ordinarily they would spend either with their playmates or about their homes. Normally- their activities during such time would be an important factor i-n building- up their characters, their attitude towards life and their mental set-up generally. I suggest that children cannot see an average of 40 crimes a week without a deleterious result. We all know that visual impressions gained in childhood have a definite influence upon subsequent character and outlook upon life generally.
That, of course, is not the only aspect of the effect of television on children which must be borne in mind by a government seeking to introduce television. I do not wish, of course, to stop the wheels of progress, but I think that there are many other forms of progress of which we are in vital need at the present time and which, as Senator Seward has said, should be provided before television is introduced. The great geographic difficulties which beset those who wish to see television established in Australia can only be fully appreciated when the area of Australia is compared with that of the United Kingdom, for instance. I know from experience that anything that is estimated to cost a couple of million pounds will cost probably 200 per cent. or 300 per cent. more by the time it becomes a reality. Therefore, I contend that any innovation that is going to cost even £2,000.000 to establish should be considered very carefully. After all, one of the drawbacks about television is the fact that its range is so limited. It will provide entertainment for people who really do not need it, whereas there are many other amenities which could be provided for the people of the outback at much less cost.
The royal commission may be able to find solutions of some of the problems associated with television, but, in my opinion, it will not be able adduce better evidence than that which was obtained by the Broadcasting Committee to which I have referred. I repeat that it is a pity that the Government, for its own purposes, saw fit to dissolve a committee which had conducted so much research in relation to broadcasting. After all, broadcasting and television are inter-related. I cannot for the life of me see why, when the Government thought it desirable to appoint a body to report on television, it did not reconstitute that committee with members responsible to the Parliament, who could have presented a report which the Parliament could discuss. We all know that the fate of most reports of royal commissions is to go into the archives and very seldom re-appear. Apparently this royal commission is to be given a kind of “ Kathleen Mavourneen “ ticket and is to be unlimited asto space and time. In the interests of everybody, particularly those concerned in the television industry, a time limit should be placed on the deliberations of the commission. If that is not done, I suggest that it will become merely one of those never-ending factfinding bodies. Perhaps it represents nothing more than a sop to a few people in order to make them think that the Government is interested in television. Is this the Government’s way of getting out of a difficult situation, or has it appointed this royal commission in order to cover up its lack of effort and decision during the last couple of years?
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill now before the Senate contains the amendments proposed to be made to the Banking Act 1945 as a consequence of the review which the Government has made of the present banking legislation. It is an associated measure to the bill which I introduced yesterday to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-1951. In its review of the Banking Act 1945 the Government made a close and detailed study of the many complex problems connected with the relations between the Commonwealth Bank as the central bank and the trading banks. Although there is no cause for belief that the Commonwealth Bank has used its powers under the act otherwise than in promoting economic stability and in carrying out its other central bank responsibilities, the Government concluded that the present law contains a number of important powers which go far beyond the requirements of proper central bank control. In the hands of a government bent upon dominating the central bank for its own political ends, these excessive powers would be a potent weapon for attacking the competitive nature of the Australian banking system.
Great political issues are involved in these banking matters. This Government is pledged to preserve competition on a fair and equitable basis as an essential ingredient of the banking system in this country. Events have shown that this policy has the support of the overwhelming majority of the Australian people. The Labour party, of course, espouses the socialist theory of a government monopoly of banking. This concept attacks the very roots of our democratic freedoms. It excludes the individual’s right to exercise a free choice, extends the power of the government, and, finally, results in total domination by the government over the financial affairs of the community. When in opposition, we fought the evils of bank nationalization by every constitutional means at our command and, as a government, we have set ourselves the task of laying a block across the path to this socialist goal. Honorable senators need only reflect back over the events of recent years to see how notorious the Labour party is for its inability to judge the people’s wishes in relation to banking matters. Never in the history of this Parliament was a bigger political blunder made than its decision to assault the banking system in 1947. It had no mandate for its nationalization proposals, but judged that these proposals would be acclaimed from one corner of this continent to the other as the greatest social reform since federation. The Australian people did not react in the way the Labour party judged they would. To its consternation and alarm, it found itself confronted with a storm of public protest and resentment which became the key factor in its defeat at the election in 1949. Banking policy again figured as a fundamental issue in the election of 1951. The Labour party suffered a. second resounding defeat as a result of its misjudgment of public opinion on banking. I need not recount all the history of the events surrounding the Government’s banking legislation of 1950, which was the issue involved in the election of 1951. For present purposes it will suffice to recall that when, in 1950, I introduced the measure to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board - the measure for which this Government had secured public approval not six months previously - the Labour party attempted by all the devices it could contrive to frustrate the passage of that legislation, but discovered to its misfortune that the Government was determined to overcome this opposition. The Labour party got the greatest shock of its life when the Government was granted a double dissolution and it had to put its banking theories to the test of a second election. There was no doubt in the mind of the people what they wanted and that this Government was giving effect to policy backed by the people’s desires.
Having suffered these ignominious defeats at the polls the Labour party now represents itself as a reformed character. It asserts that bank nationalization i? a dead issue, and it would have the Australian people believe that within its ranks there lurks in nobody’s mind any sinister plans to get hold of the private trading banks.
– Will the Minister say something about the bill soon?
– I shall say a good deal about the bill following upon my introductory remarks. To the world is presented the picture of calm acceptance by the Labour party of the existing banking structure. No one will be misled by these assertions. The sinner cannot redeem his past misdeeds by simple public protestations of future good faith. The past endeavours of the Labour party leave no doubt that, at the propitious moment, it would not hesitate to take advantage of existing legal powers to strangle the banking system. The Labour party tries to allay the fears of the people by saying that it can never happen again because the courts declared that party’s bank nationalization legislation invalid. This does not necessarily mean that the issue is at an end. It may be that the verdict of the courts means that bank nationalization cannot be accomplished by direct legislative means. But that does not mean that socialization of the banks cannot be achieved by other means. All the protestations of goodfaith do not remove the dangers of slow and deliberate strangulation of the banks by administrative action within the powers contained in the existing laws. The administrative weapon is deadly and not easy to parry by counter thrusts in the courts. This is the way of attack which this Government is resolved to block by the reforms in the legislation now before the Senate. This is the real issue on which the Labour party should come out into the open and reveal its inner intentions.
– Does the Minister suggest that the Government’s legislation could not be repealed?
– In the strongest possible opposition to the socialist aims of the Labour party, this Government holds that the’ law should protect the position of the private banks in our financial system.
– In accordance with the fundamental canons of our political philosophy, we say that, while the Commonwealth Bank should have adequate powers for fulfilling its vital role of directing banking and monetary policy to the best advantage of the Australian people, these powers should not be so widely drawn as to be capable of use as a means of suppressing the private banks and expanding the Commonwealth Bank’s own trading activities. Amid the confusion and vacillations of the Labour party, this Government is steadfast in its policy on banking. We are pledged to fair competition within the banking system and have maintained this pledge as a cardinal plank of our platform. The sole purpose of the measure now before the Senate is to give further effect to that plank - a plank which in very clear and positive terms has been endorsed by the Australian people on two occasions.
In order to bring about a just and proper reconciliation between the powers and functions of the Commonwealth Bank and an appropriate measure of protection to the trading banks, two far- reaching amendments are therefore proposed in the bill. They are -
In addition, the bill proposes a number of other important amendments, the main purpose of which is to bring other provisions in the present legislation into harmony with the concept of competitive banking. The opportunity is also being taken to amend the Banking Act in several minor respects, and to repeal section 48 of the act - the section which was declared invalid by the High Court in 1947.
I now turn to a detailed explanation of the provisions of the bill. The job of guiding the lending operations of the banking system and regulating the volume of credit made available by that system is, without doubt, the primary function of the central bank. The banks themselves, trading under the strong stimulus of competition, cannot alonebe responsible for deciding what credit policy should be followed in the national interest. These vastly important decisions concern the stability of the whole economy and hence the well-being of every member of the Australian community. To enable it to discharge this basic central bank responsibility, the Commonwealth Bank must necessarily have substantial powers over the use the trading banks make of their investible funds. The problem of the Government has been to decide how far those powers should go and in what form they should be conferred upon the Commonwealth Bank. We believe our present method of controlling bank credit is best suited to Australian conditions, and its essential features should be preserved. Through a system of special accounts, our form of control is directed at the use to which trading banks can make of the growth in ‘their investible funds. This system had its origin in the arrangement made by the Commonwealth Bank with the trading banks in 1941, during a previous term of office of the right honorable A. W. Fadden as Treasurer. In order to remove dangers of excessive lending at a time when government expenditure was adding to bank deposits, the trading banks agreed to open special accounts with the Commonwealth Bank and lodge to the credit of those accounts increases in their funds due to war finance. By this means, wartime accretions to the trading banks’ investible funds were immobilized, and thus prevented from becoming a source of secondary inflation. The broad features of the present system, which had its beginning in this voluntary arrangement, were embodied in regulations under the National Security Act made after the Labour party assumed office in 1941. The same system was adopted in the Labour party’s banking measure of 1945. We have considered an alternative system of control that is exercised by some central banks overseas. Under this system, the law fixes a maximum percentage of customers’ deposits beyond which the central bank cannot require its member banks to make lodgments with it. We have given close attention to the possibilities of a system of this kind under Australian conditions, but have decided against it. In the first place, a statutory maximum percentage could not be set high enough to give the Commonwealth Bank the necessary powers for the purposes of credit control in this country and, at the same time, afford the trading banks an appropriate measure of protection. If, on the other hand, the statutory maximum were fixed at a figure low enough to afford them the protection to which they are justly entitled, only a relatively minor part of any increase of their investible funds could under most circumstances be immobilized by the Commonwealth Bank. Secondly, there are some simple facts which must be recognized in connexion with credit control in Australia. Our economy is not static. It is subject to rapid changes and wide fluctuations. The dependency of our principal primary industries upon seasonal conditions and world prices mainly accounts for the variations in our export income year by year. Fluctuations also occur during the course of a year. The larger part of our export income flows into the trading banks during one period of the year, while the outflow on imports follows a different pattern.
Those factors have a direct and important bearing upon the broad pattern of the system to be adopted for regulating credit here. They underline the need for a considerable degree of flexibility, and. for a substantial degree of control over the trading banks’ investible funds. If we were to adopt a system based upon a statutory maximum percentage of deposits, inflexibilities would be introduced into the administration of credit control. It may well be that these inflexibilities would so curb the powers of the Commonwealth Bank as to render it ineffective at a time when a central bank action was most needed.
On the other hand, the powers now contained in the special account provisions of the Banking Act are clearly excessive, and beyond the legitimate requirements of central bank control. The act at present provides that the maximum amount which may be called up from the trading banks is the amount actually held in special accounts on the date when the relevant sections of the act came into operation, namely, 21st August, 1945, together with the whole of the increase of the trading banks’ assets since July, 1945.
Honorable senators will appreciate the significance of those provisions, if I quote the relevant figures. When the Government reviewed the working of the present special account provisions last October, the assets of the trading banks had increased by some £4S0,000,000 since July, 1945. As the balances held in special accounts in August, 1945, amounted to about £220,000,000, the Commonwealth Bank could, at the time of the Government’s review, have required the trading banks to lodge with it a maximum of about £700,000,000, a sum no less than £540,000,000 in excess of the balances then held in special accounts. In the bill, we propose to wipe out this enormous uncalled liability, and to ensure that the Commonwealth Bank’3 powers of call will in future be sufficient only for the purpose of maintaining stability in the economy. As expansion in the trading banks’ liquid resources occurs through increases in customers’” deposits, future lodgments to special accounts will be related to movements in deposits and not, as at present, to movements in assets. The balances in special accounts on the 10th October last will be taken as a new starting point. On that date, those balances amounted to £171,000,000, including the sum lodged by the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank to the special account which some time ago the Commonwealth Bank Board decided that the division ought to maintain with the central bank.
The bill then provides that during the period up to the 30th September next, the maximum amount which a bank may be called upon by the Commonwealth Bank to hold in its special account will be the balance in that account on the 10th October last, together with three-quarters of any increase of customers’ deposits since September, 1952. In respect of the period after the 30th September, 1953, the bill contains an important provision for the adjustment once a year of a bank’s uncalled liability so that it will never assume the fantastic proportions which the operation of the present law has produced. On the 30th September, 1953, and at the end of each subsequent September, a bank’s uncalled liability will be automatically reduced to 10 per cent, of the level of its deposits in the previous month if the uncalled liability exceeds that figure - that is, if the difference between the maximum amount the bank may be required to hold in its special account and the amount actually held in that account is more than 10 per cent, of its deposits. To illustrate the significance of this provision, I mention that, last October, the banks’ uncalled liability under the existing law was no less than 52 per cent, of their total deposits. The maximum amount which a bank may be required to hold in its special account at the end of any month during the ensuing year will be the amount actually in special account on the preceding 30th September, plus its uncalled liability on that date after adjustment in the manner described, plus or minus three-quarters of the increase or decrease in the level of its bank deposits since the beginning of the period.
To avoid the possibility that in certain exceptional circumstances the adjustment provision could operate to reduce the special account power too drastically, the bill provides that the maximum amount which a bank may be required to hold in its special account shall not, so long as the level of its deposits exceeds 90 per cent, of the September, 1952, level, fall below the amount actually held in its special account on the 10th October, 1952. If a bank’s deposits fall below 90 per cent, of the September, 1952, level, the maximum amount which a bank may be required to hold in special account will be the special account balance on the 10th October, 1952, less three-quarters of the fall below this figure. I am circulating for the information of honorable senators, a statement, which explains these technical features of the new special account provisions in detail.
Under the proposed legislation, the Commonwealth Bank will be obliged to make repayments from a bank’s special account whenever the maximum amount which the bank may be required to hold in special account is less than the amount actually held by it in that account. If, however, this is not the case, withdrawals may be made only with the consent of the Commonwealth Bank, which will continue to have power to attach conditions to these withdrawals. So that the trading banks may plan their lending and investments ahead as far as possible, the Commonwealth Bank will in future be required to inform them of the movements that, in its judgment, are likely to occur in the deposits and liquid assets of the Australian banking system. As a further aid to the banking system in the planning of its lending and investments programmes, the Commonwealth Bank will be required to give reasonable notice of the calls and releases that are likely to be made to and from special accounts.
With regard to the interest payable by the Commonwealth Bank on special account balances, it is proposed to remove the present limit of 17s. 6d. per cent, per annum. The Commonwealth Bank ought not to be restricted in this way in its determination of the interest payable on special account balances. The bank’s determinations will, of course, continue to be the subject of the Treasurer’s approval.
As I mentioned in my introductory remarks. the Commonwealth Bank Bill will provide for the establishment of the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia to take over the business at present conducted by the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank. The functions of the new bank will be the same as those of an ordinary trading bank. The Government has decided that the Commonwealth Trading Bank shall be obliged by law to conform to the requirements of the special account provisions of the Banking Act and, also to any directions given by the central bank as to the policy to be followed in the making of advances to customers. In addition, the Commonwealth Trading Bank will be obliged to observe regulations issued by the Commonwealth Bank under its powers to control bank discount and interest rates. For the purpose of mobilizing our international reserves, the Commonwealth Bank is empowered to require the banking system to surrender surplus earnings of foreign currency in exchange for Australian currency. The Commonwealth Trading Bank will be subject to these powers. It will also be required to maintain an account with the Commonwealth Bank for the settlement of debts due to other banks arising out of cheque clearances. Although not obliged to do so by law, the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank has been observing the requirements of the central bank with respect to these matters. On the establishment of the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the informal practices of the past will be replaced by the statutory obligations proposed in the bill.
In its review, the Government decided that a number of other important sections in the Banking Act ought to be amended or repealed. Some of those provisions are inconsistent with the concept of a competitive banking system. Others clearly place undue restriction upon the banks, while two sections dealing with offences under the act are objectionable te the accepted principles of justice. Section 13, which is a part of the machinery for the protection of depositors with the trading banks, provides that, if the Commonwealth Bank is of opinion that a bank is likely to become unable to meet its obligations, the Commonwealth Bank may assume control of the affairs of the bank concerned. As a safeguard against arbitrary action, it is proposed that this power shall be made subject to the condition that it may be exercised only after the affairs of the bank concerned have been reported upon by the Auditor-General. The Commonwealth Bank will, however, continue to be empowered to act without observing this requirement if a bank ceases to meet its obligations or informs the Commonwealth Bank that this is likely to occur.
Another section dealing with the protection of depositors requires the banks, except with the authority of the Commonwealth Bank, to hold assets in Australia at least equal to their deposit liabilities. Except for short periods during the year, while the funds of the banking system are employed in financing our seasonal export trade, the assets in Australia of the major trading banks at least match their deposit liabilities. In relation to these banks, this power over the situation of their assets is unnecessary and could be misused at the appropriate opportunity to disrupt the legitimate conduct of banking transactions between this and overseas countries. The power will, of course, be retained to regulate the affairs of the banks which do not normally hold the bulk of their assets in Australia, and of new banks which may conduct their affairs so as to leave Australian depositors unprotected.
Section 2S prevents the banks from purchasing government securities or securities listed on stock exchanges without the approval of the Commonwealth Bank. This is an unnecessary power, and its repeal is proposed in the bill. This power to control the investments of banks was first taken during the war. It may have then been justified, but co-operation between the central bank and the trading banks can be relied upon as the means for achieving the less restricted objectives of this control under peace-time conditions.
Under Part VI. of the act the private trading banks are required to furnish regular statistical statements to the Com-, monwealth Bank and to the Commonwealth Statistician and, under sections 12, 49 and 50, to make available certain other information. These provisions are to be amended to safeguard against the disclosure of unpublished information to the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the three special trading departments of the Commonwealth Bank. In future the Commonwealth Bank will be under a statutory obligation to use only for central banking purposes the information not published by the Commonwealth Statistician under the powers already contained in the act. In addition, the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the three special departments of the Commonwealth Bank will be required to furnish statistical returns to the Commonwealth Statistician. From these returns statements comparable to those already published with respect to the affairs of the private banks will be made available regularly for public information.
Section 49, which deals with reports by the Auditor-General upon the affairs of banks, is to be amended so as to provide that the Treasurer may direct special investigations only on the recommendation o’f the Commonwealth Bank. Clearly, the Treasurer should not be empowered to direct special investigations by the AuditorGeneral unless the Commonwealth Bank considers they are necessary on central banking grounds. The provision requiring regular investigations by the Auditor-General into the books and transactions of the banks will remain unaltered.
Under section 51 banks cannot beamalgamated or reconstructed unless the Treasurer gives consent after receiving a recommendation from the Commonwealth Bank. It is proposed to remove from this section the necessity for a recommendation by the Commonwealth Bank and to add a provision that the’ Treasurer’s consent may not be unreasonably withheld. Under the present provision, the central bank could render the
Treasurer’s power ineffective by refraining from making a recommendation. As the Treasurer would, in the normal course of events, consult the central bank before consenting to an important matter of this kind, his power should not be limited in this way. The requirement that the Treasurer’s consent may not be withheld unreasonably will prevent the power from being used for purely political reasons. It will not, however, preclude the Treasurer from withholding his consent to an amalgamation or reconstruction which may not be in the national interest.
The bill provides for the repeal of the section which makes the chief executive officer of a body corporate personally liable for offences by that body under the act. The provision that a certificate given by the Governor or Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank relating to an offence under the act shall be accepted by the courts as evidence will also be repealed. These provisions are unnecessary and are repugnant to the accepted principles of justice.
Several minor amendments of the Banking Act are proposed in the bill Two of these amendments will remedy defects in the present law concerning the forfeiture of gold, currency and securities which have been the subject of an offence under the act. Two others will facilitate the institution of ‘proceedings against persons who have committed offences against the sections in the act dealing with exchange control and transactions in gold. Another amendment will protect the position of the Commonwealth in relation to the refund of unclaimed moneys. A new provision will be added to enable the Treasurer to declare a bank holiday without notice. This provision will not, however, derogate from the powers of the States to declare bank holidays. For the information of honorable senators I shall circulate a memorandum showing how the act will appear after the amendments proposed in the bill are made.
In conclusion, I wish to restate briefly the principles underlying the major proposals being made by the Government in this legislation. We believe a strong^ competitive banking system to be one of the pillars upon which rests the economic freedom of the individual, and are resolved to remove the potential threat to that system at present inherent in the law. At the same time we recognize the vastly important part played by the central bank in the economic and financial structure of this country, and the need for it to have adequate powers for fulfilling this role. In order to give effect to these principles, the proposed legislation has been framed so that there will in future be a just and proper reconciliation between the powers of the Commonwealth Bank as the central bank and the protection necessary to preserve the position of the trading banks in the banking system. I commend the bill to honorable senators in the belief that, when the economic history of this period is written, this legislation as well as the associated measure I introduced yesterday will be acknowledged as wise and timely reforms.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 894).
– I agree whole-heartedly with the opinion that was expressed yesterday before the Royal Commission on Television by the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who stated that no one should be entrusted with the grave responsibility of the operation of television unless he was prepared to put the public interest before his own personal, political, financial or social advantage. That has been proved to be so in connexion with radio. The system of radio control in this country has given us very good service. The national broadcasting stations, in particular, have maintained a very high standard. The commercial broadcasting stations have not the means or the will to introduce to the people overseas artists of the high calibre that the national stations have made available. Because of the high-powered advertising programmes and the big prizes that are given, away in all kinds of shows, the cost of the products of radio advertisers’ have soared without resultant, benefit to the community. Without any control of television the increase in prices charged and the decrease in services rendered by advertisers would become more apparent.
I do not believe that there is any great urgency for this measure. It is redundant in view of the fact that the royal commission is now sitting. If ,the Government was quite sincere in its wish to develop television it would withdraw this bill until the royal commission had furnished its report, or disband the commission and. reconstruct the former broadcasting committee of the Parliament which has already accumulated a vast wealth of information that has been available for some years and upon which the Government could act immediately. I support the amendment.
.- I support the bill. I have an open mind on this matter. Honorable senators are now treading new ground and making history because they are legislating for an industry concerning which this country has no experience. Television is a comparatively recent innovation throughout the world. Whilst I am somewhat in sympathy with Senator Seward I cannot oppose the bill because I recognize that it is an interim bill in which the Government has declared its policy, namely the introduction of a dual national and commercial system of television. I think that Senator Seward has legitimate grounds for his contention, but I do not see that there is any harm in my supporting this bill because it does not conflict with my principles. The Government has acted in accordance with the policy speech which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made prior to the general election of 1949. In that speech the Prime Minister said that the Liberal party did not favour a government monopoly of frequency modulation or television. This bill has been drafted in accordance with that principle. It is an interim measure, which will doubtless be followed by comprehensive legislation at a later date. At the least, this bill will make possible the introduction into Aus*tralia of a dual system of television, similar to the system that has obtained in connexion with radio over the years. “With proper safeguards, this system, under which television may be operated by both national and commercial stations, should meet the demands of the public. There is no doubt that there has been a certain amount of delay in connexion with this matter. However, I have no quarrel on that score because, since this Government came to office, there has not been a great demand by the people of this country for the introduction of television. In any event, we should hasten slowly because of the tremendous effect that television will have on the people of this country.
Previous speakers in this debate have shown that it will be an extremely costly innovation, and therefore we should tread cautiously in order to avoid the mistakes that have been made by other countries. As a result of the delay, we shall obtain the benefit of new techniques, which are constantly being evolved. In common with most honorable senators, I have little practical knowledge of television. However, I have read about what has taken place, and is taking place in this field in other countries, and I am convinced that further scientific advances will be made in connexion with television as time goes on. By postponing for a while the introduction of television into this country we shall undoubtedly benefit- from the enormously costly technological work that is being carried out overseas. By and large, I do not consider that we have suffered unduly by the delay. As Senator Annabelle Rankin has pointed out, the tide of progress cannot for long be stemmed, and eventually television will become a part of the Australian way of life. We should give the closest consideration to all aspects of the matter before we embark on the provision of television services.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has referred to the validity of the proposals contained in the bill. At this -juncture, I should like congratulate Senator Gorton on his excellent analysis of the position. It is not very often that I can honestly say that an honorable senator on this side of the chamber has plucked the feathers out of the tail of the
Leader of the Opposition, but on this occasion Senator Gorton did so very effectively. Although there may be a doubt about the constitutional power of this Parliament to make laws in relation to television, I feel sure that the validity of any such laws would soon be challenged by the legal profession. I am not making any reflection on the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer).
The Leader of the Opposition contended that television will be intrastate, rather than interstate in nature. I am sure that a good lawyer could soon show that television is not confined to the fields of education, culture, or entertainment, and that, therefore, its operation would be interstate rather than intra-state. I consider that the contention of the Leader of the Opposition in this connexion is completely pointless. If Labour were in office and intended to introduce legislation to provide for a national system of television, I am sure that it would take the bull by the horns and go straight ahead, regardless of whether that was constitutional or otherwise. That would be in keeping with its banking legislation. Furthermore, before Labour relinquished office, it had called for tenders for the construction of six television stations in this country. Apparently the former government was not concerned with the constitutional position. I think that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber realize that legislation must be tested in the High Court in order to establish whether or not it is valid. I therefore consider that we should reject any suggestion that might flow from the contention of the Leader of the Opposition in this connexion.
I have made a close study of the impact of television on the people of other countries, and I have considered its possible effect on the people of this country. Recently there was formed in South Australia a body called the South Australian Film and Television Council. The president of that body is Mr. Justice Sir Herbert Mayo and its members include Mr. A. P. Rowe, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, Professor Jeffares also of the University of Adelaide, and other prominent citizens. The council has engaged itself actively in a very close study of the problems associated with the introduction of television into Australia, and it has collated a lot of information - which it makes available readily to interested persons - about the impact that television has made on the people of America, England, and other countries. In a short manifesto it has summarized the beneficial effects that may accrue from television, as well as its objectionable influences. I am convinced, after reading the manifesto, that television is fraught with tremendous possibilities and dangers. Therefore, I am sure that the decision of the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into this subject was supported by every worthy citizen.
I believe that it is generally recognized that television has an enormous impact, not only on adults in the community, but also on children. Senator Willesee has mentioned some of the ways in which television has, to a large degree, altered the national outlook of many American citizens. As television embraces potential danger as well as potential good for the community, it is imperative that its every aspect should be considered fully. I have no doubt that the findings of the royal commission will be of considerable assistance to us. Doubtless the Government will act on them. It has been contended that full information on this subject was already available to us, but I am sure that the royal commission will elicit further valuable information. It is not suggested by the Government that there will not be over-all control of television. I think that it is implicit in the terms of reference of the royal commission that that will be so, whether television is operated by national stations or commercial stations, or both. An effective control will be essential, in order that the harmful effects of television shall not be transmitted to the’ people, particularly the children of this country. I am sure that when the royal commission has completed its inquiries and furnished its report, the observations of the South Australian Film and Television Council, as contained in the manifesto that I have mentioned, will be substantiated. Amongst other things, the manifesto states -
The Council considers that, with control of programmes by any Government in power, the dangers to our democratic ideals are obvious, and that the control of programmes by commercial organizations in order that they may sell their goods, would be unworthy of our national life . . . the producers of mass entertainment do not give the public what it wants - they sell their product.
There is plenty of room for compromise. Because of the tremendous cost of television, the body responsible for programmes may need to sell advertising time. Advertisers should not control programmes any more than they should control the newspapers in which they advertise.
Although those things are undesirable, the manifesto states that a sensible compromise is possible. I am sure that an effective control of programmes would result in the emergence of a satisfactory system. However, as has already been pointed out, this bill is only an interim measure. The report of the royal commission may give rise to the introduction of more comprehensive legislation in due course, and that will entail a fuller debate on the subject. The measure now before u3 deals only with general principles. It does not contain any hard and fast provision on which the Government will be forced to act.
I am not clear on the policy of the Opposition in relation to television. From time to time Labour conferences have resolved, and members of the Australian Labour party have stated in another place, that television must be carried out on a national basis. That is generally accepted as being the Australian Labour party’s policy on television. However, conflicting opinions have been expressed on the subject by prominent members of that party. I do not need to remind honorable senators of the difference of opinion on this matter that arose recently between the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition in that chamber. Whilst the former said that he would support the introduction of television on the dual system, the latter said, unequivocally, that Labour’s policy was that television must be established as a government monopoly.
– They have kissed and made up.
– I do not know whether it will he the kiss of political death.
– It will be for this Government.
– I should like to know just where the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate really stands on this issue. So far as I could gather from his remarks, he did not give the slightest indication one way or the other. Perhaps we can best attribute that fact to diplomacy. It is impossible for the people to discern where the Australian Labour party really stands in respect of television.
I strongly oppose the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I do so principally because I believe that the royal commission should not be restricted in the slightest degree in its investigations .of this most important subject. There are so many facets to television that I cannot imagine that the commission will be able to complete its investigations for many months to come. As the average member of the Parliament knows very little about television, it becomes increasingly important that the -commission should make the most thorough investigation of this subject. Regardless of the cost that might be involved, I should readily agree that the commission, if it deemed it necessary to do so, should prosecute its inquiries in other countries in which television has been established. The implications of television are such that this problem might very well rock the nation. I oppose the amendment because it would have the effect of curtailing the royal commission in the work that has been entrusted to it. I support the bill. As the Minister, hi his second-reading speech said, it is an interim measure. When the royal commission presents its final report, the Government will introduce a further measure to deal with the subject of television in detail. Despite the taunts of honorable senators opposite, I can see no need for haste in this matter. Indeed, I should like to see the introduction of television delayed at least until more urgent problems, involving considerable expenditure, have been attended to. Perhaps the manufacturers of television receiving sets have been mainly responsible for the agitation for the introduction of television as soon as possible. I am not in a position to judge whether that agitation is justified. However, the Australian people will not suffer any injustice as a result of the delay that must ensue until the subject has been thoroughly and expertly investigated. That delay will have been thoroughly justified if, ultimately, we shall be enabled to eliminate the evils that are, all too obviously, associated with the operation of television in other countries.
– I supp’ort the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). Government supporters have adopted an extraordinary attitude in their approach to this bill. Senator Seward, at least, expressed what was really in his mind. He did not indulge in humbug. He said straight out that he could see no reason for the introduction of this measure. Senator Hannaford admitted that he could not see any reason for haste on the part of the Government. He implied that he would not like to see television introduced for a considerable time to come. Indeed, he would be satisfied if the royal commission extended its investigations to other countries. Apparently, he would be prepared to support any proposal that would tend to delay the introduction of television in Australia. This measure will not bring television one step nearer for the Australian people because it does not deal in any way with the real issues that must be faced in this matter. It merely expresses in a new form another promise of the kind that this Government is notorious for making and breaking. Are we to conclude that the Government now finds itself in such straits that it can impress people with the genuineness of its promises only by. expressing them in the form of measures of this kind? Under this bill, the Minister will be empowered to issue licences to private interests to establish television stations; but the Government knows full well that it will very soon be ejected from office and thus will not have the responsibility of administering this measure. In recent months in five State elections the people have shown in a convincing manner that the Government has forfeited their confidence. In those circumstances we must conclude that the Government has introduced this measure not only in order to appease interests which have been its political friends in the past but also to indicate to them; in the hope of retaining their support, that there are still many plums left in the locker. Consequently, I regard the introduction of this measure as an act of political dishonesty. As I have already said, the Government realizes that it will soon be ejected from office and will not have the responsibility of administering this legislation. The measure has been introduced simply as a bait for greater financial support from certain interests.
I cannot regard the second-reading speech of the Minister as being any more honest than is the bill itself. The Minister said -
The Government of Canada, which has a dual system of broadcasting similar to the Aus tralian system, also recently announced its intention to authorize commercial television stations in addition to’ those operated by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Government supporters have endeavoured to lead the Senate and the people to believe that television is being operated on the dual system in those countries in which it has been established. The fact is that of the thirteen countries in which television is operating, only one has failed to retain direct government control of television, and that is the United States of America. In spite of the Minister’s endeavours to lead us to believe that Canada has the dual system, television is operating in that country under direct government control. This subject was debated at length in the House of Commons at Ottawa on the 20th November last when the main issue considered was whether licences should be granted to private enterprise to operate television Stations. However, no measure has yet been introduced into the Canadian Parliament for that purpose. I firmly believe that television should not be introduced into this country unless steps are taken to ensure that it shall be kept under close public control. That is the policy of the Australian Labour party on this subject. Many points must be cleared up before television can be introduced here. The Government has appointed a royal com mission to investigate this subject. The terms of reference of the commission charge it to inquire into and report upon -
If the Government were acting in the public interest it would await the report of the royal commission. It sent the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) overseas and also charged the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to go overseas and investigate the matter, but nevertheless it has appointed a royal commission. Apparently it believes that the report of the commission may not be to its liking and has therefore introduced this interim measure.
– The appointment of the royal commission is not in conflict with the introduction of thisbill.
– The report of the royal commission has yet to be made’. Therefore, the honorable senator does not know whether or not that report will conflict with the proposals contained in this bill. For all he knows, the royal commission may recommend that there should be no commercial television stations. The interjection of the honorable senator makes me think that the report of the commission may conflict with government policy in relation to television. If we are to take notice of what Mr. Boyer has had to say, there is” a” likelihood that the evidence given before the commission will conflict seriously with. government policy in this connexion. I believe that television, if properly handled and organized, can be a great influence for good in this country. It also can be a great influence for evil. If commercial interests are to be permitted to operate television stations so that, according to the Government, television can be made available “ on the cheap “, it will be commercialized and sold for profit without proper regard for the public interest or morality. It may then become a method of dissemination of insidious propaganda, which the minds of our children will soak up in their own homes day in and day out. In my opinion the Government has not considered the public interest in this matter. On the contrary, it has shown an unholy haste in introducing this bill.
It seems that television is to be used as a gift to a pressure group which is at the Government’s door. I believe that Senator Annabelle Rankin was sincere when she said that commercial television stations should be allowed to operate, and that the Government should not even operate a station but merely experiment with television. Tremendous governmental expenditure would be necessary to make it possible for private companies to operate in that way. In addition, the private companies would no doubt stake their claims to the most lucrative areas, and probably no facilities at all would be provided for the country people. When the private companies had acquired all the profitable field the residue would be handed over to the Government. I have no doubt that a position would arise similar to that which at present obtains in relation to civil aviation. In that field the Government provided facilities for private companies to operate. Those companies then repudiated their responsibilities to the Government. When the government-owned airline commenced to operate at a profit, this Government applied a typically Liberal policy and said that no government instrumentality should be permitted to operate profitably in competition with private enterprise. The airline was then whittled down until its efficiency was endangered.
– If the honorable senator were honest he would admit that Trans-Australia Airlines has never really shown a profit.
– I was not speaking of Trans-Australia Airlines specifically, but of government-controlled instrumentalities generally. However, next question time in. the Senate I shall ask the Minister who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation to present the latest balance-sheet of Trans-Australia Airlines.
If television is to be introduced in this country it should be under close government supervision. Indeed, it must be introduced only by the Government. If the taxpayers’ money is to be expended on its introduction, it should be used in a manner which will provide an equal standard of service for all sections of the community. Television should not be introduced at great expense to the Government and then made available for the use of private stations. Television should be primarily a government responsibility, because it is a medium which can have a very marked effect on the whole outlook of Australia. When honorable senators ask questions in this chamber concerning pornographic literature and matters of that kind, as I do from time to time, they are told by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) that the Government has no control over such matters. Yet honorable senators opposite have spoken of ethical practices, and the Government has purported to give an assurance that private enterprise will be able to handle properly this very dangerous method of disseminating amusement, education, advertising and propaganda. In my opinion the amendment should be carried. We should discharge altogether any idea of dealing with this matter until we can do so in a proper way, with the aid of the information which the Government itself is seeking and to which the Parliament is entitled. I therefore support the amendment and oppose the bill.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) [3.38’J. - Like my colleague, Senator Cooke, T rise to support the amendment which, in my opinion, states the expressed and implied views of all honorable senators on this side of the chamber as well as those of many honorable senators on the other side. I say that because the basis of the amendment is that there exists a very wide field of doubt and uncertainty concerning television. That field is so vast and the degree of uncertainty so great that common sense dictates that the matter should he approached with great caution and that no precipitate step should he taken. That comment reflects the views of all honorable senators who have spoken on the Government side of the chamber. Nobody knows what is inherent in television. To agree that that is so, and then to resist an amendment which proposes that the whole subject should be approached with the greatest caution, seems to me to be a complete denial of logic. That is why honorable senators on this side of the chamber consider that they should receive the physical support of individual supporters of the Government if, and when, they force this amendment to a division. Otherwise honorable senators opposite will be speaking with one voice arid acting in a completely contrary manner.
As I say, honorable senators opposite and those on this side of the chamber are largely on common ground in relation to this matter. That ground includes, first, the question of the dangers that may be inherent in this new form of transmission and projection of ideas and the dissemination of knowledge. “We are all conscious of the dangers involved, the extent of which cannot be assessed. We are equally aware that very great benefits may be obtained from television. Possibly, we also share a common recognition of the inevitability of television. No person who has any sense of practicability in his being could take a stand and say that we should prohibit television or resist its introduction to the death. It is impossible to halt the march of progress or to prevent the intrusion of modern scientific ideas into even the remotest communities of the earth. Australia is not such a community. Therefore, it seems that on three grounds honorable senators share common views.
None of us can assess the full implications of television. Even in those countries where it is operating, such as Great Britain and the United States of America, its full effects will not be known in this generation. Indeed, the full effects of films cannot be assessed to-day, although a generation or more has passed since a moving picture first came on to a screen for the delight of the people of the world. Social research workers in the United States of America, Great Britain and Australia, such as criminologists who are interested in criminal institutions, are trying to assess the effects of films on juvenile crime and delinquency. The comic strip is something new which has come into the field of entertainment and distraction. The full effects of it also are not known, and investigators are trying to assess to what degree it influences human conduct, particularly adolescent conduct. Those are matters which have been current in our lives for some time. Television is completely new and has had a life of not more than ten years in any country. In Australia it has had no life at all. Therefore, any approach to its problems necessarily must be made on an a priori basis, because wa lack the facilities to make a dogmatic statement concerning its effects. That is why the problem is completely complicated and is one that requires a most cautious approach.
The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has been put forward because the Opposition shares the anxiety of the Government concerning the dangers of television.
– Does the honorable senator honestly think that the royal commission would be able to complete its work in two months?
– I shall come to that later. Allied to this general anxiety and justifiable fear is the question of the acceptance err rejection of modern developments. No progressive nation, such as Australia, likes to resist for too long, or interminably, any modern scientific advance. A balance must be struck between the things that I have mentioned and the desire to bring this modern development to Australia in the interests of its people. That is the reason why the Opposition suggests a deadline for the royal commission, to furnish its report.
When aviation was in its early stages, nobody could possibly foresee what its impact would be upon every sphere of life. It has had a revolutionary international effect. One would not be placing the impact of television in a different category if he said that it is likely to have a similar effect but that it will be within the confines of Australia. The effect of television will not be international. It will benational. How it will work and what its influence will be are matters for grave and wide conjecture. It is beyond the possibility of any of us to make a pragmatic conclusion upon it. When we consider the action of the Government in presenting this bill, we must consider it against the general individual and mass uncertainty about television. Nobody can state with authority how it will work. A restrictive body of scientific workers in this country can speak of the scientific advancement of television and its application to televised programmes in Australia, but nobody can speak of any other field, economic or moral, in relation to television because our problems and our people are different from those of other countries.
Into this general atmosphere of complete uncertainty, the Government has presented this bill. It is interesting to consider whether there is any existing legislation which provides in any way for television. I have not had the opportunity to hear every speaker in this debate. Perhaps reference was made to the Broadcasting Act. I propose to refer to it in some detail because there is an expressed authority and an expressed mandate written into that legislation of 1948 for the Australian Broadcasting Board to provide for a television service. I believethat they are provisions to which honorable senators may not have given their attention. Section 6a of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942-1948, which is now amended with the title of the Broadcasting Act 1942-1951, states - (1.)For the purposes of this Act, there shall bea Board, to be known as the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which, subject to this Act, shall have and may exercise the rights, powers, authorities and functions conferred upon itby this Act and shall be charged with and perform the duties and obligations imposed upon it by this Act.
There is authority for the formation of a board and a directive to it to carry out the duties and obligations imposed upon it by the act. Section 6k of the act, which is referred to in the bill that we are now discussing, states that the functions of the board shall be -
Significantly, the term referred to in paragraph (c) of section 6k with reference to the provision of “ adequate and comprehensive programmes “ appears in almost identical words on line 20 of clause 5 of the bill that we are discussing. Section 6k of the act concludes, in setting out the functions of the board - and shall include such other functions as are prescribed in relation to broadcasting stations, television stations and fascimile stations.
That is a statutory requirement placing on the board the obligation to ensure that television services shall be provided. I mention that because we are faced with the fantastic position that with the presentation of this legislation, the matter is being considered from three sides. In the first place there is the Broadcasting Act, to which I have referred. Then there is the completely new legislation and, finally, the royal commission on television. Senator Cooke referred to the royal commission and the terms under which it has been asked to inquire and report. I shall refer to that later. Section 6k of the Broadcasting Act continues - (2.) In exercising its functions under paragraph (c) of the last preceding sub-section -
the Board shall, in particular - (i)ensure reasonable variety of programmes:
The section goes on to state in sub-section (3.)-
The Board shall have power subject to any directions of the Minister -
to determine the situation and operating power of any broadcasting station, television station of facsimile station. …
The point that I am making is that there is provision for a board which is charged with a responsibility and has its functions set out specifically. The matters that come within its cognizance are detailed in the statute. It is significant, when we turn to the particular clauses of the bill that we are considering, that reference is made to section 6k of the act to which I have referred. The impression that would be given on reading clause 4 of the bill is that the whole of section 6k of the Broadcasting Act is caught up in the bill in that clause. If honorable senators read closely the section to which I have referred, however, they will notice that many things that are contained in section 6k of the act are completely excluded from the bill. Most of the provisions do not apply to television although it is covered in the general terms of section 6k. The words “ to ensure adequate and comprehensive programmes “ do not refer to television. la the reference in section 6k to ensuring that “ divine worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast for adequate periods “, the term broadcast must have some specific meaning. Similarly there is the r eference to ensuring “that facilities are provided on an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political or controversial matter “ and again “ to determine the extent to which advertisements may be broadcast “. Those references apply exclusively to broadcasting and the same meaning remains until we read sub-paragraph (v) which refers to “ the hours of service of broad- casting stations, television stations and facsimile stations “. The specific reference to television in sub-paragraph (v) obviously points to the fact that television is not contemplated in the other references. The Government claims to take up the whole of section 6k of the Broadcasting Act in clause 4 of the bill but obviously that section does not apply to television. The Leader of the Opposion in the Senate referred to the bill as “ a futility bill “. If my interpretation is applied to clause 4, the bill becomes not only one of futility but almost one of fraud.
Against this background of uncertainty, suddenly one bright flash emerges from the murky sky of indecision. That is the clear enunciation by the Government that we shall have commercial television stations. In the circumstances, it is extraordinary how such a clear indication could suddenly emerge. In the section of the Broadcasting Act to which I have referred in detail, there is the provision to which I again draw the attention of honorable senators. It states -
The functions of the Board shall be -
to ensure the provision of services by broadcasting stations, television stations and facsimile stations and services of a like kind, in accordance with plans from time to time prepared by the Board and approved by the Minister.
I would say that that part of section 6k, which is referredto in clause 4, is taken up in this bill. In coming out with its firm and clear declaration in the vague atmosphere prevailing in all other quarters, is the Government acting on any report of the board? That is the statutory authority to keep its eye on television and report to the Minister who may introduce television in accordance with plans prepared by the board. If the Government has not been acting on the advice of the board, it must have made its declaration in response to pressure from interests outside the Parliament. That would appear to be the only alternative conclusion. I believe that the Government should tell the Parliament whether it has received a report from the board. That is the statutory authority upon which it should rely. If it did so, what are the terms of the report? If such a report has not been presented, I want to know what the board has been doing because, apparently, it has had a continuous responsibility to inform the Government on television and its plans for it. The Government should say whether it is acting upon the advice of the board or whether the board has not been carrying out its statutory authority to advise the Government of any plan for the provision of television.
The Government, having arrived at a definite decision, has appointed at the same time a royal commission to investigate the whole matter of television with one cardinal exception. That is the vital question as to whether Australia should have television at the present time. The terms of the royal commission are interesting and particularly the term of reference (a,.). It states that the royal commission shall inquire into and report upon -
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.
As Senator Cooke has very wisely pointed out, it would be competent for the commission to decide that, considering the availability of suitable programmes, television, whether national, private, or under dual control, would not be an economic proposition in Australia at present. It may be argued that, by so doing, the commission would be bringing in a finding that it was not specifically authorized to bring in, because it is not being asked whether or not television should be introduced into this country, but I believe that the commission could, by drawing inferences from the term of reference to which I have referred, decide that television would not be a financial and economic proposition in this country. In that way the commission could negate the Government’s policy as it is expressed in this legislation. It is inconceivable that any government would allow itself to be placed in such a position; yet that is what may happen. This Government has made a firm declaration of policy on television and, at the same time, it has referred the whole matter to a royal commission which could, in effect, completely negate that policy. What would the Government do in those circumstances? When the commission has conducted its inquiry within its rather limited terms of reference, and to the best of the ability of its rather limited personnel, it may make recommendations that would embarrass the Government.
– The Government will not be embarrassed.
– If the commission were to recommend, in effect, that television should not be introduced into Australia at this stage, how would the Government explain its precipitation in introducing this measure? Surely no government should make so clear a pronouncement of policy as is contained in this measure without having some justification for its view. When one considers the fantastic position in which the Government may find itself as the result of the introduction of this bill and its apparent failure to consult the statutory authority that it set up to advise it on television, one is inclined to wonder under what pressure the Government is acting. Surely it will be conceded that the Government must be acting under some pressure. Senator Hannaford referred to pressure from manufacturers and purveyors of television sets. Admittedly, that could be merely a general indication of the interest there is in the introduction of television to this country, but the significant question is whether that general desire has been actually translated into political pressure to which the Government is responding. In the absence of any justification for this legislation and in view of the facts to which I have drawn attention, including particularly the terms of reference of the royal commission, the conclusion that the Government is responding to pressure is inescapable. That is why we are pressing our amendment. The Government had not attempted to justify its haste. Indeed, nobody could possibly justify a rapid and unthinking approach to important problems such as those involved in the introduction of television into this country. The royal commission could do valuable work, but we believe that its report should be made much sooner than the Government contemplates. I realize that, in the view of the Government, that would not be altogether practicable, but the commission obviously will not be able to obtain very much evidence in Australia about the effects of television. It will be able only to hear opinions expressed on the probable effect of television in this country. It will be impossible for any witness to place before the commission facts about the effect that television will have, and that limitation will necessarily reduce the quantum of investigation by the commission. In relation to the economic, moral and social effects of television, the commission will be able to hear only the evidence of observers who have seen television operating elsewhere or who have read about it. Necessarily the great bulk of the investigation will be technical. I contend, therefore, that the presentation of a report within the terms set out in the amendment would be quite practicable. Indeed, it might be possible at an even earlier date for the commission to make an interim report. I see no reason why the amendment should not meet the wishes of the Government. We believe quite firmly that acceptance of the amendment would ultimately be in the best interests of the Australian people.
We are considering this matter in an atmosphere of complete confusion, but we believe that, in sponsoring this measure, the Government is actuated by motives that it has not disclosed in this chamber. That is a matter upon which we are compelled to comment with the greatest severity. No speaker on the Government side has been able to justify the bill, and our suspicion of it will persist until some justification is offered. We support the amendment, first, because the Government has decided to give legislative effect to certain proposals without previously giving adequate thought to them, and certainly without justifying them in this chamber. Secondly, we support the amendment because the Government has failed to consult the Australian Broadcasting
Control Board, the statutory authority constituted to advise the Government on matters such as this. Thirdly, we say that the appointment of a royal commission, the findings of which might well negate the legislation now before thi; Senate;, makes a complete farce of the whole matter. Finally, we contend that the general atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty, coupled with the desire for reasonable speed in introducing this modern scientific development into Australia, justify the appointment of a royal commission with wider terms and more representative personnel. We believe, too, that the commission should make its report within a reasonable period. I am not so much concerned with the eminence of the personnel of the commission, as with the imminence of its report. We strongly support the amendment in the hope that honorable senators who share our anxiety will join us in ensuring that the best interests of the people shall be the first consideration of this Parliament.
.- p[ost aspects of this bill have been dealt with adequately by previous speakers. I propose therefore to confine my speech to a few personal views on television. I have been prompted to speak on this measure by a very significant sentence in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). The honorable senator said that television was virgin soil in the entertainment field. We must be sure that the ground is not already fouled when this new industry is founded. I shall not deal with the technicalities of television. That phase of the measure was well covered by Senator Byrne. ‘ I should like to see the introduction of television delayed as long as possible, but I realize that we cannot halt scientific progress. Ultimately, television must become an important medium of education and entertainment in Australia, but the programmes will have to be strictly censored. That will be the responsibility of the Government. Only the best programmes should be permitted. Undoubtedly, television could be a wonderful aid to education, particularly the education of the children, but I have no doubt that, in wrong hands, television could- also Have horrible effects on rising generations. Moral considerations are of great importance. Undoubtedly, television has reached great heights of popularity in the entertainment field of the United States of America, but it is because of the need for strict censorship of television broadcasts that I criticize the Government’s decision to allow commer cial interests into the television field. 1 realize, however, that the Constitution clearly indicates that the Commonwealth has.not sole control of television. Therein lies the great weakness. The primary objective of commercial television broadcasts is to ensure that advertising shall reach the community. In the absence of stern censorship there is danger that commercial television broadcasts will be very much like commercial radio broadcasts. That would be to the great detriment of our young people. We, in Australia, do not fully grasp the potentialities of television. It is entirely different from radio broadcasts. Imagination plays a very important part in wireless broadcasts, but with television nothing will be left to the imagination. All the horrible facts will be before the eyes of the child.
– Surely the honorable senator does not believe that the Government would provide television broadcasts of that kind.
– We need have no fear on that score, because the Government will not be relying on profits from advertising to provide programmes.
– The Government’s programmes might be worse than the commercial programmes.
– That will depend upon the individual point of view. Some people do not regard the chamber music that is broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission as good entertainment. Nevertheless, from the cultural point of view the Australian Broadcasting Commission does broadcast the bestprogrammes. Australian Broadcasting Commission stations do not broadcast any immoral’ matter of any advertising matter. They do not have to make broadcasting pay. They can present educational programmes which are worthwhile. The Boya! Com mission on Television should visit the United States of America or send for the findings of committees of educationists who have examined- television there. With that information in its possession the Government would be careful not to license television programmes indiscriminately. Of 150 children who were interviewed in the United States of America, many suffered a physical effect from television. At least 40 per cent, have developed the habit of biting their finger nails and they experienced nightmares. In that way television has had an almost immoral effect. We shall have to guard against that possibility in bringing television to Australia.
According to a report that I have read, of 856 programmes that were televised in Los Angeles or San Francisco in one week, 75 per cent, dealt with crime. About 60 per cent, of the programmes were shown during hours when children would be watching them. It is obvious that there must be a stern control of television. Although we cannot confine the televising of entertainment to the Australian Broadcasting Commission or a similar body we must be very wary in granting licences to commercial broadcasting stations. I should like the Government to examine carefully all television programmes. I would prefer the sole control of television to be with the Australian Broadcasting Commission or a similar body so that all programmes could be carefully examined and presented at suitable times. I should like television to be kept solely as an educational medium which would uplift the children of Australia instead of having a demoralizing effect. It has been estimated that children in the United States of America spend from three to four hours a day watching television.
I have always maintained that too many people watch sport in this country and that not enough take part in it. The introduction of television will add to that trend. At least in attending sports- people have the exercise of walking to the grounds and at a football match they may indulge in a couple of fights. But they will only sit and watch television and. will not even get the fresh air that they would get at sporting events. A lot of people will sit, as people sit in America, in bars consuming beer and watching in a very muggy atmosphere. That might be all right for some people but it is not a suitable activity for the youth of Australia.
As I said before, I do not wish to deal with technicalities or with the legal aspect of television which has been dealt with very well by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Byrne. I simply want to make my plea to the Government to ensure that when this entertainment comes to Australia it will be carefully supervised. I am sure that the censorship will be of the highest order in the Government television stations. I am pleased that television will be introduced by a Labour government which I am sure will be responsible for the introduction of worthwhile programmes. I shall support the amendment although I am a little against its timing as I desire the measure to be introduced by a soon to be elected Labour Government.
– This legislation appears to me to be completely unnecessary. It will give the right to private enterprise to share television with the government authority. Why legislation is necessary for that purpose I am not certain. However, this legislation has provided the Senate with the opportunity to hold an interesting debate which has ranged over all aspects of television. The matter of primary importance in connexion with television is what is presented to the people who view it. The Government must accept the responsibility of ensuring programmes of a reasonably high standard. I was in London for about seven weeks in 1948 and I had a television viewing set in my room all that time. Not many honorable senators have had as great an opportunity to view television as I had in those weeks. During that period the greatest television subject, of all times - the 1948 Olympic Games - provided television entertainment of the very highest order. One was able to view the swimming, the foot racing, and the marathon race, and witness the intense drama of the final 400 yards of that race. As most of the television time was occupied by the Olympic Games, only a few hours were left each day for studio programmes and one would expect, in view of that fact, that the standard of those programmes would have been very high. In fact, the quality of the rest of the programme was extremely low. The Australian public is entitled to much better television programmes than the British public received at that time. How they will secure such programmes lies in the dim mists of the future.
Television is designed for the general utility and benefit of those people who buy television sets and view it. So we must work out a system whereby the buyer of television sets can view programmes of a reasonable standard. In the great cities there will be two channels. It has been decided that one will be a government channel and the other a commercial channel. I do not think that the wisdom of Solomon could cope with the problem of allocating the second channel. Newspaper interests, churches, sporting interests, commercial interests, and big advertisers will bid for it and whoever it is given to the Government will be criticized. I think that the Government will have to establish a second station under Commonwealth control and auction the time available on it to private interests. I do not think that it will be possible to allocate the second channel to a single individual because such a course would add tremendous difficulties to television.
I shall now direct, the attention of honorable senators to the tremendous importance of the industries that develop and sustain the television industry. Television involves the use of electronics, and therefore it has great defence significance. There has been an almost negligible development of electronics used in the radio industry of this country during the last ten years, and further development depends on the establishment of the television industry. It will be necessary for us to train technicians, because of the increasingly important: part, that the electronic industry plays in wartime. There has been a tendency to place more emphasis on the development of proximity fuses and guided weapons. As honorable senators know, scientists have developed rockets which are guided from the ground, and will catch and destroy the target. The basis for further improvement is the electronics industry, which is now the bottleneck. Modern aircraft, such as jet fighters, travel so fast that the human reactions of the pilots of attacking aircraft are too slow to enable them to aim orthodox weapons. Consequently, the weapons are actuated by electronics. Scientific development has thus been concentrated on electronics. There is not in Australia to-day any appreciable commercial reserve from which we could draw if we were plunged into another war and had to develop our electronic industry quickly. When the last war broke out our radio industry, which was well developed, was expanded to an extraordinary degree. .Servicemen and women were taught the art of radio signalling, and in addition many hundreds of employees of the radio industry were quickly trained, and subsequently they contributed materially to our war effort. Unfortunately, that is not the position of the electronics industry in Australia to-day. It is for that reason that I consider that it is important to commence television here as soon as possible. Then, if war should materialize, we would have available a moderate electronics industry, which could be developed. Let us not forget that, in the event of war, the odds would be against our being able to obtain from America many essential items of technical equipment, particularly if other countries were ahead of us in the queue. In 1941 and 1942 we experienced great difficulty in obtaining technical equipment overseas. Our only hope is to try to make ourselves reasonably independent in this connexion.
In conclusion, I want to emphasize that the Australian Labour party is the only political party that has shown any indication of goodwill and honesty in its approach to television. The previous Labour government invited tenders for the erection of television stations in this country, and had it not been defeated at the general election of December, 1949, television would now be a normal part of the life of the Australian community. The present Government has deliberately frustrated the development of television in Australia, and the bill before the chamber is further evidence that the Government is not honest in its approach to television. There are too many problems associated with it, and the Government has shown since it has been in office that it does not like problems; indeed, by its actions, it has shown that it cannot solve them. lt now seems inevitable that Labour, which made the first great step towards the introduction of television in this country, will ultimately bear the responsibility for providing the Australian people with television services.
– Although I did not intend to participate in this debate, I have been impelled to do so in order to try to provoke the Government to state a justifiable reason for the introduction of this measure at this juncture. Very little more than has already been mentioned could be said about the advantages and disadvantages of introducing television into Australia. The Opposition does not want to stem progress, but it wants to-know why the Government has seen fit to bring down this legislation before the sittings of the Royal Commission on Television have been concluded. As the terms of reference of the royal commission are very wide, this bill cannot possibly have any effect until its recommendations have been furnished. For that reason, I consider that the Government should accept the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), the effect of which would be to allow this bill to stand over at least until the report of the royal commission has been received.. I support the contention of my leader that a limit should be imposed on the time for ihe completion of the taking of evidence. As television will be an innovation for Australia, I agree with previous speakers that conceivably the royal commission will want to obtain as much evidence as possible from other countries where television is an accomplished fact. We want to learn from the experiences of those countries. As some honorable senators have mentioned, the impact of television on the community will be vastly different from the impact of radio, because television will provide visual education for our young people. If television is to be introduced into Australia by the haphazard method of permitting commercial stations to decide their own programmes without being subject to rigid supervision, I consider that the air will be polluted as it has already been polluted by the commercial broadcasting stations. When we consider the inferior quality of some of the commercial broadcasting programmes, it is obvious that we should not permit television to be operated by commercial interests without very strict and rigid supervision. From the point of view of defence, it is essential that the evidence that will be obtained and collated by the royal commission should be carefully considered. I am sure that honorable senators appreciate the dangers inherent in a television system in Australia not subject to rigid control.
I cannot understand why the Government has hastily introduced this legislation. Having gone to the trouble and expense of appointing a royal commission to inquire into television, at least the Government should have refrained from introducing legislation on the subject until the report of the royal commission had been received. Obviously, a time limit should have been imposed on the royal commission; it should not have given a blank cheque in that connexion. As matters stand, it could take many months for the royal commission to collect and collate evidence. Conceivably the royal commission may wish to take evidence in various parts of Australia, and also to travel overseas to obtain information.
The Leader of the Opposition has moved the amendment in an attempt to obtain finality on this matter. It should be supported by honorable senators opposite, if they are sincere, but the results of recent State elections show that the Government is held in great disrespect. I consider that this bill is merely political window dressing. It has been introduced by the Government in an endeavour to convince the people of this country that it is doing something towards introducing television services. In point of fact, the measure is only make-believe. I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to explain the necessity for this measure at the present time, and what the Government hopes to gain from it. As far as I can see, all that it will do is to give the Government additional regulationmaking power. It is somewhat ironical that, although the Government is unable to make available to the States sufficient money for urgently required hospital and education facilities, it is rushing through this legislation to provide for the introduction of television, which will be much more costly, than was the establishment of the radio industry. The Government should do first things first. The depths to which television programmes will descend if television is introduced into Australia without proper safeguards and rigid control, can well be imagined. Commercial interests would be able to manipulate the television programmes just as they have manipulated the radio programmes. It has been suggested that some of the existing commercial radio stations may be converted to television stations. In the absence of safeguards, television programmes could have a very detrimental effect on the children of this country. Senator Willesee has mentioned some of the effects of television on American children. As honorable senators know, television is operated by private companies in the United States of America.
It is obvious, from the dearth of Government speakers on this measure, that the Government has no sound reason for introducing this bill. Some honorable senators opposite who are usually vociferous in proclaiming that the Government has a mandate for this or that have remained silent in this debate. That is because they realize that they cannot possibly justify the Government’s action in rushing this bill through. The Government’s only concern is that it has the requisite numbers. Consequently, its supporters, instead of stating the Government’s reasons for introducing the bill, are prepared merely to sit pat and bludgeon it through when the vote is taken. Government supporters are under instruction not to participate in this debate. Fortunately, members of the Opposition are able to express their opinions freely. I urge the Minister, when he is replying to the debate, to state the Government’s reasons for introducing this measure at this time and for refusing to accept the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I should also like to know why the Government is not eager to expedite the commission’s inquiry by obliging it to report by the date proposed in the amendment and, at the same time, postpone further consideration of this measure until the commission has presented its final report. The Government should give serious consideration to the Opposition’s amendment which, I repeat, is reasonable.
. -^Television, possibly, -is one of the most important subjects that this, or any other Parliament has had the responsibility of considering. This wonderful invention, which has been in the experimental stage for many years and is now approaching perfection, is of great public importance. Its impact upon the life of the community raises complex problems. However, this measure is possibly the mo.st ineffectual bill that has been introduced into the Parliament since I have been a member of the Senate. One would have thought that the Government would accept the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and would be prepared to postpone further consideration of the bill until the royal commission had presented its final report. If the Government objected to the date by which it is proposed in the amendment that the commission should present its report, it could fix a different date, but no Government supporter has advanced any argument on that aspect of the amendment. Senator Seward made one of the most useful contributions to this debate. He -expressed much common sense, and showed that he had thoroughly studied the implications of television and its possible effects upon the community. The Minister, in his secondread ing speech, said that the Government had appointed a royal commission te examine important aspects of television. Tt is true that he said that the bill relates solely to the fundamental system of television which the Government proposes should be introduced into Australia. He went on to say–
The detailed conditions in accordance with which the services will be conducted will be determined after consideration has been given to the recommendations of the royal commission which was appointed by the Government.
When the royal commission has submitted its final report, it is the intention of the Government to bring down a comprehensive measure sp as to give the Parliament an opportunity to debate fully its detailed plans for the establishment and regulation of the television ser-vices of the Commonwealth.
Does not that statement indicate that, at the moment, the Government does not know its own mind on this matter and that it has no idea of the actual conditions under which television will operate in this country? The Government has simply introduced the bill and said that it lay3 down the fundamental principles upon which television will be conducted in Australia. As no reason has been given to the Senate for the Government’s attitude, its supporters cannot blame me when I draw the conclusion, which, no doubt, they will loudly deny, that certain vested interests are eagerly awaiting some indication fr.om the Government that when television is in operation in this country they will be permitted to engage it in .order to earn profits for themselves.
– From what facts does the honorable senator draw that conclusion ?
– I draw it from the fact that neither .the Minister nor any Government supporter has yet indicated to the Senate the Government’s reason for introducing this measure after it has appointed a royal commission to investigate television in all its ramifications. ‘Furthermore, the Minister, in his second-reading speech, informed th<*. Senate that -the Government intends to introduce a comprehensive bill on this subject at a later date. This bill, like other measures which the Government has introduced in recent months, is just a pay-off .to the interests which supported the candidates of the Government parties during the general election campaigns in 1949 and 1951. In view of the facts that I have mentioned, one can draw no other conclusion than that this measure represents a benefit which the Government is offering to interests which supplied the requisite cash to help candidates of the Government parties fight the last two general elections. However, I doubt whether those interests will be able to derive much comfort from this measure, because it is obvious that this Government’s days are numbered and that it is now tottering to its political grave. It may be that some of its friends outside the Parliament will feel happier because this measure, when it is placed on the statute-book, will provide that television will be introduced into Australia on the dual system and that not only national stations, but also private interests will be enabled to establish television stations. Possibly, some of the interests which this Government serves may draw solace from the fact that a future Labour Government will, at least, be obliged to go to the trouble of repealing this piece of legislation.
The Leader of the Opposition made a notable point when he suggested that it might be as well for the Government, before it proceeds any further in this matter, to ascertain whether the Parliament has power under the Constitution to legislate in respect of the subject of television. The Government should take such action before the royal commission makes its final report. If it did so, the Parliament would know exactly where it stood. Our deliberations on this subject will be rendered futile if it is subsequently found that the” Parliament does not possess such power. Another reason why the Government should postpone further consideration of this matter until the royal commission has presented its final report is that the commission, in its wisdom, after hearing all sides of the question, may recommend that conditions in this country necessitate the establishment of only one television service. That is one of the functions which the Government has delegated to the royal commission, which has been asked to inquire into and report upon, amongst other things, the number of national and commercial stations which can effectively be established and operated, having regard to -.the financial and eco nomic considerations involved, and the availability of suitable programmes. After investigating the first of those matters, the commission may find that there are no facilities available in Australia for the establishment of a number of commercial television stations in addition to the national stations. We do not know the exact number of commercial interests that are clamouring for the right to establish television stations. I suggest that by introducing a measure of this kind the Government is able to say to its friends, in effect, “ We are bringing down a bill which will make provision for the establishment of commercial stations. You can all feel satisfied for the time being that you will get a share of whatever is going-the plums -that we have to offer “. It is possible that, at the moment, the Government does not care to tell its numerous -friends that there will be only one or two commercial television stations available.
Another reason why I believe the introduction of television should be delayed is to be found in the advice that has been tendered to the royal commission by the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Boyer. That gentleman is probably one of the most authoritative and impartial witnesses whom the commission will have before it. He gave some very good advice yesterday when he warned us that we should proceed very cautiously in regard to the establishment of television in Australia. He also pointed out most effectively the falsity of the idea that once television is introduced into Australia it will become available to the community at large. I. remember the discussion which took place in this chamber during the regime of the Chifley Labour Government, when i’t decided to go ahead with the introduction of television. As has been stated during the course of this debate, the ‘Chifley Government proposed to set up at least six stations throughout Australia, including one in each of the capital cities. During the discussion of that legislation it was pointed out that the range of television stations is very limited, and that only the residents of larger cities would be able to participate. The people in outback areas -would not have television facilities readily placed at their disposal because of the high costs that would be involved. At that time the costs of installation would have been a great deal less than they are at the present time. All costs have increased and will continue to do so unless there is a change of government. The idea that the great boon of television, if properly handled, can be made available to areas away from the centres of large populations is a mistaken one.
In the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Europe, where there are many densely populated areas, it is possible for large numbers of people to participate in television programmes. But Australia has only about 9,000,000 people, the majority of whom reside in the metropolitan areas. It can therefore be appreciated that the people in our outback areas will not be able to witness television broadcasts of great events, such as sports, or lectures and demonstrations. The cost of establishing television in such areas would be enormous. I should think that those people would much prefer that the Government should introduce legislation to enable them to enjoy a few more of the ordinary amenities of life than they have at the moment. Only, last week I made inquiries concerning the telephone facilities available to people in the outback. I understand that some thousands of persons in Victoria have not yet been supplied with telephones. I introduced to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs a deputation on behalf of a number of country residents whose telephone services had been cut off because the people who had been in charge of the little temporary post office in the area had passed the time of life when they could be bothered with it. “We asked for an automatic exchange to be installed so that the residents, who are producing commodities which the people of Australia and other countries of the world require, might again enjoy a telephone service. However, that amenity is not available to them. Yet the Government proposes to expend millions of pounds to superimpose this particular form of amusement, or whatever it might be called, on the entertainment enjoyed by certain members of the community, while others are languishing for more homely amenities.
– Is the honorable senator presenting a case in favour of the introduction of television by private enterprise ?
– If the honorable senator is of the opinion that any private or commercial undertaking in Australia would be prepared to provide telephone services in outback areas, all I can say is that she has some queer ideas.
– I referred to television.
– Television is such a potential influence for evil that we could not possibly allow it to develop uncontrolled. Would Senator Wedgwood suggest that the Government should hand over the control of television completely to commercial interests and allow them to present programmes that, perhaps, have been condemned in other parts of the world? That should not be done. The Government must accept responsibility for the introduction of television into this country. I am not opposing its introduction; I merely wish to see it introduced in a proper way. First things should come first. Do the people in the sparsely populated areas of Australia desire more efficient services such as better telephone facilities and letter deliveries, or do they want to see millions of pounds being expended in the metropolitan areas in order to superimpose another form of entertainment upon those already available in such areas? People who live in the metropolitan areas may go to the pictures two or three times a day, if they wish to do so. They can see on the screen the best actresses and actors of the world. If television had been perfected in such a way that the best forms of entertainment could be disseminated to the people in outlying areas I should say, “ Go ahead with it “. But we know that the limited range of television programmes at the moment makes it impossible for people in such areas to enjoy a service. The royal commission is also charged to inquire into the standards to be observed in the programmes of both national and commercial stations, in order to ensure the best television broadcasting in the public interest. That is very desirous and is another reason why this legislation should be delayed until the commission has investigated all aspects of television. It is well known that television may do much harm in the home. Greater authorities than any in this Parliament have spoken upon that very important matter. Reference has been made during this debate to the number of hours which children in America spend before television sets, and how violent death is frequently portrayed on the programmes. It is also well known that children become callous as a result of witnessing such programmes. Possibly, it would be a good thing if certain other events could be televised so that people could see them in their true perspective.
I repeat that the introduction of television should be delayed until the royal commission has investigated the matter and presented its report. It has been suggested that certain people should be brought from overseas to give evidence before the commission, and I think that that is necessary. It would be a better course to pursue than for the taxpayers to be called upon to provide funds to send the commission overseas. If this Government is still in office when the commission makes its report I suggest that it will then be in a position to frame legislation to deal with television in a proper manner. The Government has failed to justify the introduction of this measure. I cannot conceive of any reason why the legislation should be agreed to and I support the amendment that, has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator George Rankin.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– in reply - I have followed the lengthy debate with interest for the speeches of honorable senators have covered many and varied problems that are associated with the introduction of television. One of the main purposes of the bill is to ask the Parliament to endorse the principle that television should be developed in Australia along the same lines as those that have proved so successful in sound broadcasting. The, dual system of broadcasting in Australia has won the approval of listeners over a long period, and they have expressed, through that approval, their wish to continue the system of alternative programmes. The Government proposes that the Royal Commission on Television should pursue its investigations with the knowledge that Parliament has endorsed the same principle for television. That is the reason why the Government was unable to accept the amendment that was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). Through the amendment, it was proposed to withdraw the bill and give the royal commission a definite time within which to furnish its report. I believe that the honorable senator was not really serious in submitting his amendment. On the one hand, it expressed the view that the already wide terms of reference should be enlarged. On the other hand, it required the royal commission to complete its inquiries and submit its report within two months. I am in agreement with many honorable senators and I support the proposal that the royal commission should report upon certain questions. They are the standards to be observed in programmes of national and commercial stations to ensure the best use of television broadcast. I think honorable senators on both sides of the chamber are agreed on that point.
The Leader of the Opposition charged the Government with inaction in connexion with television. Apparently he wants television to be introduced into this country quickly; but not all his colleagues share that view. Quite a number of them have expressed the opinion that the introduction of television should be delayed. Indeed, Senator Cameron, Senator Sheehan and others have said that we should not embark upon television until outstanding applications for telephones and other essential services have been overtaken. The Government believes that television should be made available to the Australian people as soon as possible, but that we should not enter those uncharted waters without caution and prudence. We shall have more knowledge of the subject, particularly of problems that are peculiar to Australia, when the royal commission has concluded its inquiry.
asked for some information in relation to clause 5 of the bill which provides that the Minister may direct an authorized body to provide programmes through national television stations. He wanted to know in what circumstances the Australian Broadcasting Commission or some other authority would be selected for this important task. The Government believes it desirable to leave, this question open for the time being because it considers that it will be in a better position to reach definite conclusions after the report of the royal commission has been considered. The bill as it stands does not authorize any organization other than the commission to provide national television programmes if directed to do so. Further legislation would be necessary to establish another, authority for this purpose. The attention of the Senate has already been directed to the fact that this measure is the forerunner of a bill that will be brought in when the Government has studied the report of the royal commission and final arrangements have been made.
Senator Seward suggested that this bill should not have been introduced until the royal commission had made its report. As I explained at the beginning of my speech, this bill has been brought in to express the policy of the Government on television. The commission will have this policy declaration before it when it conducts its inquiry. The commission’s job will not be to advise the Government on policy. The Government has declared through this measure its belief that television should be under dual control as is radio broadcasting. The royal commission will act in accordance with its terms of reference and advise the Government on the matters that have been referred to it.
The Leader of the Opposition cast some doubt on the constitutional right of the Commonwealth to legislate on television. The Government knew that there might be some doubt on that score, but it will meet the difficulties as they arise. As the Leader of the Opposition is well aware, the constitutional position could be clarified in at least two ways. Either the States could decide to hand control of television over to the Commonwealth, or the Commonwealth could obtain that authority as the result of a referendum of the people.
The speeches on this measure have been many and varied. If the bill has served no other purpose, it has provided the basis for a wide discussion of this important subject in both Houses of the Parliament. Some speeches have been very good. I have listened carefully to them, and I can inform honorable senators that the Government is quite prepared to consider, at the appropriate time, any worthwhile suggestions that have been made.
Question put - ‘
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator George Rankin.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definitions).
– There are two matters to which I invite the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). The definition of “ authorized authority “ is - an authority of the Commonwealth that is empowered to provide television programmes or the Commission;
In other words, the commission - the body which already is completely defined - is placed second to some new body, the composition of which is not disclosed in the bill. Can the Minister give me any information about this “ authorized authority “ that may be charged with the important task of providing television programmes? What will be the composition of that body? Are its functions, powers or composition defined anywhere in the bill ? “ The definition of “ television station “ is as follows : - a station for the transmission of transient images and associated sound intended for reception by the general public.
It is quite conceivable that a television station might be concerned only with the transmission of images. Therefore, if this legislation relates only to television stations which transmit images and sound in. conjunction, it will not have any application to a station that concentrates on the sending of images alone. Why has that possibility not been foreseen?
– A “ station “ within the meaning of the bill could be a station for the transmission of images only. i Senator McKENNA. - Is there any provision in the bill for a situation in which images are transmitted divorced altogether from associated sound? It would appear from this definition that sound must be associated with an image. What kind of association must there be? Does the definition apply only to a sound which is associated with an image by its nature? For instance, in transmitting the picture of a rhinocerous what would be the “ associated sound “ ? Would it be soft music ? Or would’ it be the sound of a rhinocerous?
– The “ authorized authority “ to which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has referred will be constituted in a future bill. The nature of the “ authorized authority “ will be explained in that bill. It will have to be established.
– It has been established under this bill.
– The “ authorized authority “ has not been established. It has yet to be established. Clause 5 of the bill reads -
The Minister may direct an authorized authority …
The “ authorized authority “ has not yet been constituted. The subject of the association of sound to which the Leader of the Opposition referred must be regarded from a practical point of view. The definition has been taken from broadcasting legislation and I have been informed that it is internationally accepted.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) inform the Senate whether an enabling act will be necessary in the event of some authority other than the Australian Broadcasting Commission being established for the purpose of providing television programmes?
– I understand that that is so.
– In referring to the “ authorized authority ‘’ i lie Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) mentioned clause 5, so I presume that I also may refer to that clause. In view of the explanation of the Minister, it appears that he has asked the Senate to enable the Postmaster-General to appoint a completely undefined body to provide television programmes for transmission. I do not think that it is fair to ask the Senate to enable the Parliament to authorize the establishment of a body the nature of which is not known. If the Minister claims that the Postmaster-General has power to constitute such a body under clause 10, I reply that that power should not be exercised by regulation. If somebody other than the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to be authorized to provide television programmes the Senate should be informed what kind of body will be set up. Is the Senate to act quite blindly in that matter? Such action would be wrong in principle. Can T have the assurance of the Minister for Repatriation that no body other than the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be so authorized pending the introduction of further legislation?
– I understand that that is so.
– Oan I have that assurance ?
– As far as it is within my power to give it, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) can have it. My advisers tell me that that is the position.
– ‘That information does not satisfy me. The Minister for Repatriation can speak on behalf of the Government and if he gives the assurance that I seek the Government would be bound by it.
– The Government does not contemplate setting up any authority without discussing the matter in Parliament. I presume that an empowering bill will be introduced for the purpose of establishing such an authority.
– If the Government does not contemplate using an authorized body apart from the Australian Broadcasting Commission before it introduces further legislation why is there any need to refer to an authorized body in this bill? What useful purpose can that possibly serve?
– I understand that the Government will not confine itself to one authority. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is the only existing broadcasting authority. It is the Government’s intention to have other authorities to handle television.
– That is the Government’s intention ?
– Possibly. The reference to an “ authorized authority “ has been included in this bill in order to show that there is a possibility of the Government having other authorities than the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– .What type of authorities ?
– I cannot say what type of authority will be established until the Government has decided that matter. It is awaiting the report of the royal commission.
– I think that the Senate should authorize the PostmasterGeneral to establish authorized bodie.3 when he tells the Senate what type of bodies will be established.
– They will be authorized bodies.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Licences for commercial television stations).
– 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 . . .
Will the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) tell the Senate the meaning of the term “ determination “ in reference to section 6k of the Broadcasting Act? I want to know whether the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) considers himself hound by the whole of section 6k or only a part of it and, if only by a part of it, by what part. Section 6k defines the functions of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It reads as follows : - (1.) The functions of the Board shall be -
Paragraph (a) of sub-section (2.) appears to apply exclusively to broadcasting stations. Paragraph (b) of subsection (2.) reads as follows: -
The Board shall, in particular -
ensure reasonable variety of programmes ;
I do not know whether that provision applies to broadcasting programmes, television programmes or both. The subsection continues -
Although the word “ broadcast “ is not defined in the Broadcasting Act the words “ broadcasting station “ are defined. They mean -
A station for the transmission of matter intended for reception by the general public. “ Television station “ is defined in the bill. Obviously therefore there is a difference between broadcasting and televising. Although there is provision in the principal act to ensure that divine worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast, there is no reference to television in that respect. In other words parts of section 6k refer exclusively to broadcasting. Clause 4 of the bill seems to apply to the whole of section 6k of the Broadcasting Act. But if the whole of section 6k does not relate to television the Minister will have a very much wider power than he would appear to have on the first reading of the clause. For example, in issuing a licence to a commercial television station he will not be required to ensure that religious, political or controversial matter is included in television programmes. Sub-section (4.) of section 6k of the Broadcasting Act reads as follows: -
The Board shall have power, subject to any directions of the Minister -
to determine the situation and operating power of any broadcasting station, television station or facsimile station;
to determine the frequency of each broadcasting station, television station or facsimile station, within bands of frequencies notified to the board by the Postmaster-General as being available for such stations.
I do not know whether the word “ determination “ in clause 4 of the bill is intended to refer exclusively to that subsection of section 6k. Clause 4 is so worded that I presume that it would refer also to the inclusion in programmes of religious, political and controversial matter. If that is so, then, obviously, clause 4 of the bill does apply to the substantial part of section 6k of the principal act. For that reason I consider that the clause will restrict the powers of the Minister more than they were restricted before. Would the Minister be good enough to comment on this position?
Debate resumed from the 29th May, 1952 (vide page 1048, Volume No. 217), on motion by Senator Guy -
That a joint committeebe appointed to consider and report upon the electoral laws of the Commonwealth.
That five members of the Senate be appointed to serve on such committee.
That a report on its deliberations be submitted by the committee to both Housesof the Parliament within four months after its appointment.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament; and have leave to report from time to time the evidence taken ;
the committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, and any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report;
five members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee;
the chairman of the committee have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote;
a message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting its concurrence and asking that six members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
.- Mr. Acting Deputy President, I object most emphatically to the adjournment of the debate. Under the Standing Orders–
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McCallum).- Order ! As a motion has been moved, the honorable senator may not address the Chair at this juncture.
– Will the Chair advise me when I may protest against this vacillation and procrastination ? I moved my motion almost twelve months ago.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator may do so on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. He is precluded by the Standing Orders from doing so now.
– As a protest against this unfair, cavalier, and unreasonable treatment, I shall vote against the motion.
Question put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The Acting Deputy President - Senator J. A. McCallum.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay on the table the interim and final reports of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
Copies of the final report are not yet available for circulation to honorable senators.
Ordered to be printed.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 923).
Clause 4 (Licences for commercial television stations.)
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, the committee had commenced consideration of clause 4, which authorizes the Minister, subject to the regulations and any determination made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, under section 6k of the Broadcasting Act, to grant to any person a licence for a commercial television station, upon any condition? that the Minister determines. Clause 4 (2.) of the bill provides that before the Minister exercises the power conferred on him by that section, he shall take into consideration any recommendations made by the board. I shall address myself to the important word “ determination “, which involves a consideration of section 6k of the act. I point out that the issue that I shall raise in connexion with that section is different from the issue that was raised by Senator Byrne. Subsection (4.) of section 6k of the Australian Broadcasting Act provides that the board shall have power, subject to any directions of the Minister, to determine certain things. As clause 4 mentions the word “ determination “ we must refer to section 6k of the act to ascertain the matters that the board may determine. I shall paraphrase the four very important items that the board has power to determine. They are, (1) the situation and operating power of any television station; (2) the frequency of each television station; (3) the conditions upon which programmes of the National Broadcasting Service may be rebroadcast; and (4) the establishment of networks. The board’s power to determine those vastly important matters is subject to the directions of the Minister.
As clause 4 provides that the Minister may grant a licence to any person upon any terms he likes, subject to the determination of the board, I point out how completely futile is the clause, because section 6k of the Broadcasting Act provides specifically that the board can only make a determination subject to directions of the Minister. For the sake of convenience, I shall paraphrase the clause as follows: The Minister may, subject to the regulations, which, in effect, the Minister makes, and subject to any determination made by the board, which is also subject to the directions of the Minister, grant a licence to any person upon any conditions. Why has the Government adopted the pretence of including in the clause a provision that the Minister’s power shall be subject to a determination made by the board under section 6k of the act? The effect of the clause is that the Minister may grant a television licence to any person on any terms and conditions that he thinks fit. The interpolation of the reference to section 6k of the act is merely a piece of make-believe, because under that section the board can only function or make a determination subject to any directions of the Minister. There is the face-saver in sub-clause (2.) of clause 4, which does not carry the matter any further, to the effect that the Minister must take into consideration any recommendations of the board. I submit that I correctly paraphrase the clause when I say that it provides that the Minister may, subject to the regulations, which, in effect, he rnakes, and. subject to the determination of the board, which he in turn directs, do as he likes. I submit that this clause, more than any other clause of the bill, demonstrates the futility of the whole measure. The clause means that the Minister will have power to do as he likes. That is what supporters of the Government are sponsoring. At this stage of the development of television, I consider that that is an exceedingly dangerous power to place in the hands of the Minister. I think everybody wishes to ensure that if there is to be commercial television in this country - and I cannot see that being avoided, in the light of my opinion of the .constitutional position - it shall be properly controlled.
Although the Government has appointed a royal commission to further inform its mind upon the precautions that ought to be taken in connexion with the introduction of television, the clause vests absolute power in the Minister. I do not want the Minister to resort to the technical explanation that the regulations are made by the Governor-General, and that the matter has to go before the Executive Council. It is - or ought to be - common knowledge in this chamber that regulations of that kind are made by the Minister, although Cabinet must accept responsibility for them, and that the Governor-General signs them in the presence of only two Ministers. The members of this chamber know that the regulations will stem from the Minister himself. I repeat that, in effect, the clause vests absolute power and discretion in the Minister to grant any number of television licenses, on whatever terms and conditions he sees fit. He can determine the situation of them, the frequency upon which they shall operate, the technical procedures that are to be used, the hours, and conditions in relation to the broadcasting of political and religious matter. I expect the Minister to say, “We are not going to use the ‘power. We are going to tear up the act after we receive the report of the royal commission, and we will then introduce another bill. Therefore, do not be afraid of this vast power vested in the Minister “. The obvious rejoinder is, “ Why have it at all ? “ The Minister has assured the committee that nothing is to be done under the clause. The Prime Minister gave exactly the same assurance in the statement that he made on the 16th January in which he said that no television station would be licensed until after the report of the royal commission had been received. In those circumstances, one asks why the Government has introduced the bill at all and, particularly, why it has inserted in it this clause which confers such vast power upon the Minister.
– This provision is similar to that made in section 6k of the Broadcasting Act, and it has been inserted in the bill to serve as the basic authority for the grant of licences for commercial television stations just as the somewhat similar provisions of the Wireless Telegraphy Act provided initially the basic authority for the grant of licences for commercial broadcasting stations. The licences for commercial television stations were granted under regulations made under the Wireless Telegraphy Act for a period of eighteen years, and even now licences granted under the Broadcasting Act are, in accordance with section 46 of the act, granted upon the conditions determined by the Minister, except insofar as certain specified conditions relating to the period of licences, the revocation of licences, transfers of licences, &c, are concerned. The reference to determinations made by the board under section 6k of the Broadcasting Act is necessary because under that act the board is already empowered to determine the location, the operating power, the frequency and the hours of service of television stations. I add that after the report of the royal commission is received, it may be necessary to amend this and other provisions of the bill.
– I point out that the cases cited by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) are not at all comparable. For instance, under this clause no obligation is placed upon the Minister to have any regulations at all. Under the prior proceedings to which he referred when a similar provision obtained, there were on his own statement regulations that defined the whole thing. At this moment there is not a single regulation, but the committee is being asked to give a completely blank authority to the Minister. No regulations have yet been made. The Minister has just put it to the committee that this position is comparable with what happened in respect of radio broadcasting. He also said that in that instance there were complete regulations under which the Minister acted. All the incidents in relation to radio licences were detailed in the regulations. Thus the two cases mentioned by the Minister are not comparable at all. I have indicated that the Minister himself will make the regulations. None of the sections to which the Minister referred is identical with the sections I quoted.
– A Labour government introduced those provisions.
– That is so, but in the Broadcasting Act the subject matters were at least detailed whereas in this measure we have not one incident of television detailed. Yet, there are many incidents, such as, the number of television stations, their frequency, their hours of broadcasting and the class of programme that they may broadcast. In passing this clause, the committee will be handing an instruction to the Minister to do what he likes about commercial television stations. That is exactly what we are being asked to do. The Minister has simply replied that, under the clause, the committee is giving to him a completely blank cheque without limiting him by any regulation in respect of any matter relating to television. He might add, as the Prime Minister has done, in effect, “Do not worry about that. We are not going to do anything under the clause at all “. That proves the point that the Opposition has been making that this bill is a sham. It merely pretends to the public that something is going to be d jue. As I said earlier, the only single virtue about the clause is that it will afford a very good opportunity to any one who desires to challenge the validity of this measure in the courts. I cannot see that the clause has any other virtue. It is dangerous, and both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Repatriation recognize that fact, because they have assured the Parliament that nothing will be done under it. That being so, I ask again what reason exists for inserting it in the bill. I shall leave it at that.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (National television programmes).
– This clause is just another instance of the lack of care and haste with which this measure has been prepared. The clause reads -
The Minister may direct an authorized authority
And we are obliged to the Minister for telling us that the authorized authority is an authorized authority - 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.
When we refer to the Broadcasting Act, we find that one of the fundamental functions of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is set out in section 6k to which reference has already been made. Sub-section (1.) of that section reads -
The functions of the Board shall be -
to ensure that adequate and comprehensive programmes are provided by such stations to serve the best interests of the general public -
That refers to both broadcasting and television stations. I underline the words “ to serve the best interests of the general public “. That is a function that is committed under the Broadcasting Act to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. But under this clause, not only is the authorized authority to be completely divested of power to determine what are adequate and comprehensive programmes, but also all power, again, is to be vested in the Minister, who may direct the authority to provide adequate and comprehensive programmes for transmission from the studio. I ask the committee to note the omission from this bill of the words, “ to serve the best interests of the general public “. That is a significant omission. The power to provide adequate and comprehensive programmes is vested in the Minister, and the function that wa3 committed to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is by-passed and completely overridden. The obligation that was placed on the board in providing programmes to serve the best interests of the general public is not imposed on the Minister under this bill. Surely, if the Government is concerned, as it expresses itself to have been, to serve the best interests of the general public in introducing television, should it not, as a part of that policy, be bound in determining the programmes, as they are the main bone of contention, to serve the best interests of the Australian public just as the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is bound in the provision of radio programmes? The Minister may say that such a provision is not necessary, because he will serve the best interests of the general public, and that that will be done automatically. But that is evidence of haste in the preparation of this measure. It is a grave omission. This clause vests complete power in the Minister to control programmes. Again that is dangerous. The Minister merely tells the committee that no television stations will be established until after the comprehensive bill has been introduced, that nothing will be done under this measure and, therefore, there is no reason for the Minister to direct anybody in this respect. I readily believe that nothing will be done under this bill. That has been the case for a period of three years, and I believe that it will continue to be the case under this Government for a considerable period. If nothing is to be done until after the comprehensive bill has been dealt with, “1 again ask the Minister to explain the reason for the insertion of this clause.
; - I direct the attention of the committee particularly to the words “ provide adequate and comprehensive programmes for transmission from that station “. Significantly, those words are used only in this clause, which applies to national stations only. However, section 6k of the Broadcasting Act applies a similar phrase in respect of both national and commercial stations. Under that section, the latter are required to provide adequate and comprehensive programmes ; and the conditions with which they must comply are definitely set out. Reference has already been made to some of those conditions. The point I make is that under this clause only the national stations, and not commercial stations, will be obliged, in express terms, to provide adequate and comprehensive programmes. Furthermore, the meaning of the words “ adequate and comprehensive programmes” i# expressly set out in the Broadcasting Act. That fact gives additional significance to the omission of those words from this clause. The conditions that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board must observe relate to variety of programmes, broadcasting of divine worship, political and controversial matter and the proportion of advertisements. Significantly, no provision is being made in this bill in respect of such matters, whereas specific provision is made in respect of them in the Broadcasting Act. This departure is so pronounced that it warrants the closest attention by the Minister; and I have no doubt that the committee will expect him to give an acceptable explanation of the fact that, whereas the corresponding provision in the Broadcasting Act covers both national and commercial stations, this clause, as drafted, will cover national stations only.
– I shall reply first to the comments that were made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). When I was replying to the debate on the motion for the second reading, I said that the Government was expressing in this bill its policy in respect of television, and that provision was being made for the introduction of television on the dual system. The authorized authority to be directed by the Minister will first have to be granted authority under a further bill to be introduced in the Parliament. The Parliament will thus have a full opportunity ‘ to discuss, at that time, matters relating to the authorized authority referred to in the clause.
It is considered desirable that, for the time being, the authority which is to provide the national television programme should bo required to consult the Minister and accept his directions before developing any organization or expending substantial sums of money in connexion with plans for the provision of programmes from national television stations. The British Broadcasting Corporation was, until recently, subject to a similar requirement in respect of television. The licence under which that organization operated until the end of 1951 prescribed that “ the corporation shall observe and perform such stipulations, conditions and restrictions, and do such acts and things in relation to the television broadcasting station, or the television service, as from time to time may be prescribed by the Postmaster-General in writing “.
The matters to which Senator Byrne referred this afternoon are covered by the terms of reference of the royal commission. When the report of the commission is received, I suggest that the Government will have in its possession a worthwhile basis on which to proceed.
– I think that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is in error in informing the Senate that clause 5 deals with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It does nothing of the kind. Clause 5 states, inter alia, that the Minister may direct an authorized authority. According to the definition clause contained in the bill, that authority may be either the Australian Broadcasting Commission or some other body set up by the Government. The Minister has given us no information whatsoever concerning the composition of that body. We do not know whether, it will be composed of one man or ten men. If it is to be composed of more than one person, what interests will the representatives on that body serve? We have -been given no information inn t&at respect.
To the claim of the Minister that this bill is declaratory of the Government’s policy, let. me say that this is the most extraordinary medium that I have seen for that purpose. I recollect an honorable senator this afternoon, with great glee picking, up the joint policy speech of the present Government parties, made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in 1949, I believe that that was the first time that any honorable senator on the other side of the chamber has had the courage to produce that policy speech in three and a half years. They have been ashamed of it, and with very good reason. On this very point, an honorable senator on the other side of the chamber rose with pride and pointed out how the policy of the Government in relation to television, and private interests being allowed to enter’ the field, was declared in 1949. Why, therefore, the sham ,and the pretence that this bill is intended to declare government policy ? Why choose- this particular medium with which to take up the time of the Senate? I suggest that if the1 Government wishes to announce its policy, a more appropriate method would be to make a statement in the Parliament or a press statement outside it.
It is obvious, from the explanations which the Minister has made, that the whole bill is complete humbug. The purpose behind it has never been revealed by the Government. Every clause that we have dealt with so far has been shown to be a hollow sham. For the Minister to try to tell us that this is a proper medium for the declaration of government policy is asking the Opposition to believe something that it cannot accept. Nor, I believe, will the public accept it.
I should like the Minister, or any other honorable senator opposite, to point to one effective thing which this bill1 will do in relation to the introduction of television in Australia. The Government has been most careful to say, in effect, “ We shall do nothing under the legislation but’ will wait till we hear from the royal commission. Then we shall bring in a comprehensive bill, which will deal with all the details “. I think that the Minister had better find some explanation for the introduction of this bill’ other than that it is merely an announcement of Government policy. I wonder whether some other honorable senators opposite would care to have a shot at trying to tell us why the bill has been introduced.
– It is of little use my attempting to tell the honorable senator the purpose of the bill if he will not take any notice of what I say. ife knows as well as I do that the “authorized authority” referred to in clause 5 cannot be described or explained at the present time. That is clear to everybody who takes the trouble to read the bill. I have already informed the honorable senator that no such authority will be appointed before the matter comes before the Parliament again.
– ‘Then why refer to it in the bill?
– I have already told the honorable senator why. It is futile to repeat the reason if he will not take any notice of what I say. It is clear that the “ authorized authority “, about which he is making so much fuss, will not be declared by the Minister before the matter is discussed by the Parliament.
– Clause 5 refers to “a television station that is made available by the Postmaster-General under section three of this Act . . .” I take it that that reference is to a national television station only. It thus appears that the Government is prepared to make rules for national television stations and to incorporate such rules in legislation at the same time as it appoints a royal commission which is charged with the duty of inquiring into and reporting upon the standards which national television stations should observe. It is pertinent to ask whether the royal commission isto be governed by this legislation or by its terms of reference.
.- The royal commission will be governed by the terms of reference which it has already received.
– I have been listening very intently to the attempts of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to answer the queries raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) concerning the “ authorized authority “ referred to in the clause. I must say that I have been learning more and more about less and less. I do not think the Minister knows the answers to those queries, but it seems to me that certain powerful representatives of private interests have been promised something by this discredited government. I think that it has said to them, “ This is like the appointment of the Commonwealth Bank Board personnel. We cannot tell you who the representatives are going to be, but you can be sure that certain private interests will be represented. We cannot yet tell the country who they are going to be; indeed, we cannot even tell the Minister for Repatriation “. If the clause does not mean that, I suggest that it means nothing. When my friend, the Opposition Whip, Senator Critchley, asked me several times during the last few days to speak on this bill, I told him that I think it is a fraud and means nothing. We have heard a great deal about the technical difficulties involved in the introduction of television. Much has been said about costs, what has happened in England and other countries, and about the moral and ethical aspects, all of which is really extraneous. We have not yet been told why television is to be introduced.
– I wish to know whether the Government proposes to tender its point of view before the royal commission, because, under the first of its terms of reference, the commission may find that television is not practicable in this country for the reasons that it is contrary to the financial and economic considerations involved. The Government, of course, is the custodian of the economic situation of the country. I therefore consider that it has a moral obligation to go before the commission and, if necessary, give evidence that television is not practicable at this stage.
Does the Government intend to assist the commission by putting forward the point of view represented by the measure we now have before us? In my opinion, it is under an obligation to both the commission and the people to do so. I should like to have an assurance from the Minister one way or the other on that point.
– The answer is “ No “.
– The Minister has stated that further legislation on this subject will be introduced by the Government after the royal commission has taken evidence. Why, then, is it necessary to provide, in this clause, that “ the Minister may direct an authorized authority . . . “ if such an authority does not exist? Can the Minister answer that question?
– I have already answered that question.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Powers of commission).
– This clause in effect states that where a Minister directs the Australian Broadcasting Commission to provide television programmes, the commission is to have all the necessary or financial powers to enable it to carry out that instruction. Then certain particular powers are to be conferred without limiting the general grant of power. The broad ones are that the commission may deal with land, buildings or other property and rights and secondly it may pay costs, charges and expenses. This clause relates to the Australian Broadcasting Commission only. The bill is a farce. The Minister may set up an authorized body and then the commission is given power only if it is directed to provide programmes. In other words, if, instead of empowering the commission to provide the programme, the Minister, under the authority previously taken in this bill, empowers an authorized body to do so, this bill does not confer a single power or authority on the authorized body. Can I prove in any other way the futility of referring to an authorized body in this bill? It explains the brilliant answer that came from the Minister to-day when he said that an authorized body is an authorized body. I point out that the power that is conferred by this clause applies only if the Australian Broadcasting Commission is authorized to provide certain programmes but if the Minister in his wisdom decides to authorize another body, no powers are conferred on that body to carry out its duty although he is free, under this bill, to impose them upon the authorized body. There could not be a clearer indication of the stupidity and futility of the bill.
– I point out to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that an enabling act would cover adequately the problem to which he has referred. This clause attempts to widen or alter the powers of the Austraiian Broadcasting Commission to cover television programmes in addition to its existing powers with regard to broadcasting services. Section 48 of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942-1948 gives the Australian Broadcasting Commission the right to spend £5,000 without reference to the Minister. I understand from clause 6 of the bill that the Australian Broadcasting Commission cannot spend one penny under the provisions of the bill without the consent of the Minister. It could not even buy a pen. Will the Minister explain why the Australian Broadcasting Commission is given power under the Broadcasting Act to spend £5,000 without ministerial consent but that under the bill it will not be allowed to spend a penny without his consent ?
– In reply to the comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) with regard to powers for other authorities, I point out that the necessary powers will be given in the legislation under which any such authority is to be set up.
– Does that not show the futility of referring in the bill to an authorized body which can have no powers?
– The honorable senator is entitled to his point of view and I am entitled to mine.
– This clause states that the commission may have such powers as are necessary or convenient for the purpose of enabling it to comply with the preceding section and without limiting the generality of those powers. Does that apply also to an authorized body or only to the Australian Broadcasting Commission ? Whether it be one or the other, is the power unlimited? Once the Minister gives the signal, apparently the relevant authority will have unlimited power without further reference to the Minister.
– Clause fi deals with the Australian Broadcasting Commission only.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Offences).
– The clause now before the committee reads -
A person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of this act or the regulations, or with a condition of a licence granted under this Act, is guilty of an offence against this Act punishable upon conviction by such penalty as is prescribed.
Would the Minister indicate what offences can arise under this measure and what penalties the Government has in mind? If major penalties are contemplated, does he not think that their extent, particularly if they involve imprisonment or substantial fines, should be indicated in the measure and not left solely to the Minister to determine under regulations?
– This again is a clause that will be added to under an act when there is a definite authority to deal with. The offences will then be made more clear.
– I am glad to know that something will be made more clear at some time. I have had no specific answer to the questions that I have asked. What offences are set up under the measure? What penalties has the Government in mind? Does the Minister think it proper that a Minister, inamatter carrying very grave penalties, should have complete power to determine those penalties?I have had no answer to those questions. The Minister has stated that ata later date inanother bill all will be made clear. In the meantime, the Minister takes complete power to create offences by regulation and then to fix penaltiesof anunlimited amount and extent by regulation. Those penalties might be not only pecuniary amountsbut imprisonment.Dohonorable senators know that they are putting that power into thehands of theGovernment? The truth behind the Minister’s statement is that this clause, like all the others, will notbe used at all. Bitby bit, the pattern is emerging. The bill does not mean a thing. It is complete window dressing. That is proved by every clause. I ask any honorable senator on the Government side to justify this clause and then go to the electors and say, “I have voted for a clause which will enable the Minister of theday to fix offences and determine penalties, including imprisonment, and I am completely happy about it”. Is any honorable senator on the Government side preparedto declare that he supports that clause?
Clause 10 (Regulations).
.- This clause provides that the GovernorGeneral may make regulations not inconsistent with this act and it continues -
Prescribing all masters which by this act are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act and, in particular, for prescribing the fees payable in respect of the grant of licences under this Act.
Taking the phrases in the clause singly, they mean that the Governor-General may make regulations to prescribe all matters which are required or permitted to be prescribed by this act, may make regulations to prescribe all matters which are permitted to be prescribed by the act, may make regulations which are necessary to be prescribed for carrying out the act, may make regulations which are convenient to beprescribed, or may make regulations for prescribing fees that are payable. The words that are worth noting are “may make regulations which are required “and,in the second part of the clause, the words “ which are permitted to he prescribed”. Theclause continues “which arenecessary to beprescribed” and then”whichareconvenient to be prescribed “. I should like tohave an expression of opinion fromthe Minister as to the meaningof the word “ convenient “ as it is used in the clause. It can apply to any setof circumstances at all. It as one of the most useful words ever drafted into a clause for the purpose of preparing regulations. It would allow theGovernor-General to makeregulations dealing with mattersoutside the measure altogether.
SenatorMcKENNA (Tasmania - Leader of the Opposition)[8.58] . - As Senator Benn has pointed out, clause 10 confers the most complete authority upon theGovernment to legislate by regulation. I understood that it was a part of the policy of the ‘Government parties to oppose government by regulation. In this clause, however, the most complete and ample power is to be vested in the Governor-General inCouncil and, in effect,upon the Minister incharge. How many honorable senators on the Government side are prepared to stand up and justify the conferring of such complete and ample power upon the Minister of the day?On the second point that power is taken to prescribe the fees that are payable in respect of the grant of licences under this act, the bill contemplates the granting of licences and the charging of some fees. I ask the Government why it is limiting this clause merely to extracting fees ? The fees would be something in the nature of an -annual impost. Television, as it is developed down the years, will become a great profit-makingconcern. How can the Government determine now the fee that will be reasonable? If it is going to take complete power, why limit itself on that point to the charging of fees? “Why should it not reserve power to insist upon either a fixed amount or a certain proportion of the profits that are made, whichever is the greater? Why should there not be some flexibility in the charging of fees to commercial television stations? Why should the Governmentcommit itself, in the early ‘days, to a low annual fee which may be exceedingly difficult to increase ? The .one matter on which the Government delimits itself is licence fees. .1 should like to see the provision widened to prescribe charges or other amounts payable. Let us have a little breadth in this matter. There is too much breadth in the rest of the bill and not .enough in this matter. The Government might well consider having .a fluctuating charge that would vary with the development of television down the years. Again the Minister may .answer that the whole matter will be reviewed again in the next few months after the royal commission lias made its report; that the bill will never be implemented, and therefore the regulation making power will never be needed. I should be glad if he would say that quite frankly. We have considered this measure to-night clause by clause, and despite challenges that have been made from this side of the House not one honorable senator opposite has risen to justify the .measure. I have made two challenges.
– The Leader of the Opposition himself has been challenged to declare his party’s policy.
– We are not the Government. Any one who listened to my second-reading speech with any interest at all must know that I declared my position quite clearly. I claimed first that the Commonwealth Parliament had no power over television. I may be wrong about that. Nevertheless, it is my claim. I also said that if the Commonwealth did have power in this field, it would have to be exercised subject to section 92 of the Constitution which clearly would prevent a government monopoly. In these circumstances, a demand that we declare ourselves against nationalization would be as futile ‘as .are this bill and the Government’s arguments in support of it. Even if the Government wants to embark on futility, members of the Opposition certainly do not.
– If the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) does not mind, I shall intervene in this debate merely to deal with a minor point. Senator Benn criticized clause .10 and I think his criticism was supported by his leader.
– I do not pretend to be familiar with all the intricacies of drafting bills, but I suggest to Senator Benn that if lie examines other measures in his folder he will find, for instance, precisely the same clause in the Banking Act of 1945 and in the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1945. I have not carried my research any further 1;han that, but the probability is that if Senator Benn were to look through other acts ‘he would find in them the same regulation making clause as appears in this measure. In other words it is merely a drafting provision which apparently has been approved over -a long period. Presumably legal officers have decided that this is the best method of including the regulation making power in legislation.
– It is most unusual.
– If .that is so, 1 must plead complete ignorance. All I can .say is that I have found a .similar provision in the only two other acts that are before me. They were both passed by the Chifley Government. Indeed the bill now before “us contains one notable improvement on the other two measures. The penalty prescribed for non-compliance with the provisions of the Banking Act is .£100, and for non-compliance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act £50. No penalty is prescribed in the Television Bill. Therefore, the Liberal party is, indeed liberal more than in name.
– I was most interested to b.ear the Minister’s explanation of this dragnet clause which, I admit, appears in -most bills. The purpose of such provisions is to permit the making of regulations to cover deficiencies in the legislation itself and to facilitate administration.; but I have never seen a bill which itself prescribes so little and left so much to be prescribed by regulation. It is true that the bill provides .no penalties. This Government, which professes to oppose government by regulation, has left the penalties to be prescribed by regulation ! It is most noticeable that industrial legislation passed by this Government nas prescribed severe and .sometimes vicious penalties. The Government does not take the risk of leaving penalties to be prescribed by regulation in such instances. Throughout the entire committee stage of the bill, the Minister has assured us that its provisions mean really nothing at all. We have been led to believe that as a royal commission has been set up to inquire into television this measure will never be implemented. If that is so, why is there any need for this dragnet clause under which regulations may be issued prescribing penalties, licence-fees, and other important matters? It is indeed an extraordinary measure, coming as it does from a Government which claims to be opposed to government by regulation. If we are to accept the Minister’s explanation that the clauses of this bill mean nothing at all, there will be no restriction whatsoever on the regulations that may bo issued under clause 10. The clauses mean nothing, and so the regulations must mean everything. Regulations issued under other legislation such as the Banking Act must be consistent with the terms of that legislation. Regulations are reviewed by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and may be disallowed by either House of the Parliament if they are ultra vires the parent legislation; but there is nothing in the Television Bill to which a regulation issued under clause 10 could be ultra vires. In effect this clause is the bill. We take the strongest possible exception to legislation of this kind, and in so doing we should have the support at least of honorable senators opposite who have stated their dislike of government by regulation.
– I rise because of the entry of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) into the debate. There are so many departures from common practice in the drafting and presentation of this bill that, in the view of the Opposition, the measure has some special significance. There are many provisions that cannot be explained and cannot be understood. The Minister for National Development, replying to Senator Benn, said that clause 10 was word for word the same as other regulation-making clauses in legislation already on the statute-book. I draw the attention of the Senate to that portion of clause 10 which provides that regulations may be made prescribing the fees payable for licences. It is significant, I suggest, that since 1942 fees payable by commercial broadcasting stations have not been prescribed by regulation. Indeed, they are not prescribed in the Broadcasting Act. They are contained in a separate statute, the Commercial Broadcasting Stations Licence Pees Act of 1942. It is most extraordinary indeed that, in the concluding words of this unsatisfactory measure, the prescribing of fees payable in respect of the grant of television licences should be left to regulation. That is another one of those inexplicable departures from standard practice that the Government has made in presenting this measure. We appeal to the Government, even at this late stage to put its cards on the table, and to tell us the real purpose and import of this bill. We have been trying for hours to get that information, but the Government is unwilling or unable to provide it. Either the Government does not know the purpose of the bill or is not prepared to disclose it.
– I welcome the intervention of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in this debate because at long last I have heard one sentence from the Government side that I can accept. The Minister said that this was a liberal Bill. It truly is a liberal bill. If it does anything at all, it says to the Minister of the day, “Do as you like “, and the Minister in turn says, “ I will do nothing “. Presumably we can accept that as a true enunciation of liberal policy. Let us test the Minister’s liberality. He referred to two measures in which penalties of £100 and £50 respectively, are prescribed, and claimed that this measure was an improvement in that it did not prescribe any penalties at all. It is clear however, that, under clause 10 regulations may be issued prescribing penalties of any amount. The penalty foi1 non-compliance with the provisions of this legislation could be, if the Government so desired, 21 years in gaol or a fine of £10,000. That would be exceedingly liberal indeed. It is time that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) was quite frank about this measure. It has been tested before him clause by clause. It culminates in clause 10 which gives to the Government complete power to control the whole field of television by regulation. That power will be unrestricted. I should like the Minister to tell me of any other bill of any substance which leaves the determination of maximum penalties to be prescribed by regulation. I do not suggest that the bill should set out in detail the maximum penalties for individual offences that have not yet been particularized. That could not be done; but how easy it would have been for the Government to state in clause 9 just what is in its mind. Unfortunately, the Government apparently has nothing in its mind. I see no reason why the bill should not have specified the maximum penalties that could be prescribed by regulation. W hy does the Government want unlimited power to impose penalties in relation to television ? He may give us the usual unsatisfactory answer that the Government will not do anything under this bill, and if he says that I shall certainly believe him.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 11th March (vide page 775), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– According to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) the major idea behind the Commonwealth Bank Bill is to separate the trading activities from the central banking activities of the Commonwealth Bank. During his second-reading speech the Minister followed the same course as Ministers have followed in delivering second-reading speeches on other bills in this chamber. First, he castigated the policy of the Labour party; then he told the Senate a part of the purpose of the bill. As usual, he omitted to explain the main objects of the legislation. Ministers have invariably omitted reference to the destructive objectives of. the Government in the course of their speeches in this chamber. I cannot understand why the Government has introduced this bill. In 1936 a Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems was appointed by the Lyons Government, which was a nonLabour administration. The members of the commission included Mr. Justice Napier, then Chief Justice of South Australia, Professor R. C. Mills, and Messrs. E. V. Dixon, J. B. Chifley’, H. A. Pitt and J. P. Abbott. Most of the member? of the commission had similar political opinions to the Government which appointed them. However, even as late n? 1936 there were some real Liberals who applied their minds to the benefit of the people of Australia. The members of the commission were unanimous in some of their decisions. Dealing with the ramifications of the Commonwealth Bank as a central bank, they said in their report -
The present structure of the Commonwealth Bank, consisting as it does of a central bank with trading bank powers and a savings bank, is, in our opinion, essential to the official exercise of its functions as a central bank.
Why, then, has the Government now proposed to separate the trading bank activities from those of the central bank? Conditions have not altered very much since 1936. In another paragraph of their report the commission made the following recommendation : -
Although it is unusual for a central bank to carry on trading activities and control a savings bank, we consider it desirable that the Commonwealth Bank should do both. Through its trading bank activities it possesses powers of competing with the trading banks which can be exercised as and when required. Similarly, its savings bank activities add to its ability to regulate the volume of credit and enable it to compete, if necessary, with the State savings banks. We are of the opinion that the use of its “trading bank activities as an adjunct to central banking policy is in keeping with its central bank functions and is to be approved.
The only information that would lead honorable senators to believe that it is necessary to alter that policy has been supplied by some of the backers of the Government who have stated that they believe in a different policy. The associated banking institutions of Australia have suggested certain curtailments and separations of. the powers of the Commonwealth Bank. Quite recently they announced that, from their point of view, the Government had not sufficiently separated the trading bank activities from those of the central bank. The chairman of the associated banking institutions of Australia said that it was necessary to separate the functions of the Common- wealth Bank in order to protect the interests of the private banks. I admit that prior to the last general elections the Government announced that it would form a small Commonwealth Bank Board. It installed a big Commonwealth Bank Board which represented anybody but the people. The board represented mostly business interests although it had some Government representatives.
– The intention to appoint the board was announced in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
– Does the honorable senator believe that a good bank board was appointed?.
– Then let us hear what, that board said about the separation of the functions of the Commonwealth. Bank. The Commonwealth Bank Board, which was appointed by the present Government in order to. prevent the socialization of banking,, made the following statement in its 1952 report: -
This concentration of activities under the control of the central batik, is unique in central banking but affords strength to the central bank. Through trading departments the central bank has been able to maintain contact with business- and the market and to give its staff a. wide and diversified banking training. Further, through the direct lending operations of. this department and through the Commonwealth Savings Bank the central bank is able to exercise a- positive influence on the economic situation.
That statement was made by the Commonwealth Bank Board that the Govern. ment appointed. Yet the Government has now introduced a bill to separate the functions of central banking from the’ trading bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank..
– They will not be separated any more than the Common wealth Savings Bank is now separated front the Commonwealth Bank.
– There is a vast difference between the Government’s present proposals and its proposals relating to the Commonwealth Savings Bank in 1928. In the course of his secondreading speech the Minister for National Development referred to important amendments of the Commonwealth Bank A.ct and the Banking Act of 1945. This bill seeks to1 amend only .the Commonwealth Bank Act, not the Banking Act. The Minister said that the chief object of the bill was the establishment of a new institution which would be called the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia for the purposes of taking over the general banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Is that the chief objective of. the bill? I doubt it. The Minister also stated -
The Government considers that the. present bunking legislation leaves room for the Commonwealth Bank, through its central banking powers, to discriminate unfairly against private .trading banks and so expand its own trading; operations at their expense.
Apparently that is the chief reason for this measure-
– Does the honorable senator consider that the private trading banks should be unfairly treated?
– It is not a matter of their being unfairly treated. As the Minister has not stated that the private trading, banks are being unfairly treated, that question does not arise. But the Minister has stated that “ the present banking legislation leaves room for the Commonwealth Bank … to discriminate unfairly against the private trading banks “. I emphasize the phrase “ the present banking legislation leaves room “’.
– Would they be fairly treated by any future Labour government ?
– I challenge the Minister, to prove1 that there was. any unfair- treatment of the private trading banks during the regime of the former Labour. Government. Subsequently the Minister stated in his. second-reading speech that,, although it. was not suggested that the private, trading banks had been unfairly treated, they might he so treated by a future Labour government. Yet the Minister had admitted that the private trading banks were not unfairly treated by Labour-
– Yes they were.
– I have wondered whether this bill is a part of a long-range plan to ultimately get rid of the trading section of the Commonwealth Ba.uk. Honorable senators opposite claim that the Government believes in fair competition–
– The intention of the measure is to place the trading section of the Commonwealth Bank on the same basis as the trading banks.
– Some honorable senators opposite have stated that the Government believes that private enterprise should be bolstered.
– Nonsense !
– During the last sessional period of the Parliament the Government brought down legislation which discriminated against TransAustralia Airlines, in favour of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Almost every clause of that measure provided for an advantage to private enterprise. The board that the Government established was loaded against TransAustralia Airlines.
– What about getting back to the bill before the Senate?
– Supporters of the Government are continually stating that they believe in private .enterprise.
– Of course we do.
– Because of Labour’s policy, the Minister seizes upon every opportunity to accuse members of the Opposition of being Communists.
– On their own admission, they are socialists.
– Not Communists, but “ fellow travellers “.
– Do supporters of the Government deny that their policy favours private enterprise?
– Of course not.
– That is why the bill before us discriminates against the Commonwealth Bank - the people’s bank - to the advantage of the private banking institutions of this country. The Government has bowed to the dictates of private banking institutions of this country. Because of the fears that were expressed by honorable senators opposite during the 1949 general election campaign, the people were shocked into returning them to office.
– And they have been shocked ever, since !
– The Government parties were apathetic to the subject of banking for a considerable period after they were returned to power. 1 remind supporters of the Government that the reaction of the people to complaints about socialization during the next general election campaign will .be entirely different from their reaction in 1949. According to a balance-sheet of the Bank of Australasia, which was printed in Great Britain after this Government came to office, that bank contributed £500,000 to assist the anti-Labour parties to defeat the Chifley Government at the 1949 general election.
– You are a liar !
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, I heard an honorable senator on my left say that Senator O’Flaherty is a liar. As that remark is offensive to me, I ask for it to be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! I did not .hear the alleged remark, but if Senator Benn presses his objection, I shall take further action.
– The balance-sheet to which I have referred was printed in Great Britain in 1950, and published in Australia. Confirmation of what I have said is contained in the chairman’s report, which accompanies the balance-sheet. I am convinced that the Government’s reason for bringing down this legislation .is to provide an advantage for private enterprise. Just as it is the policy of the Government parties to favour private enterprise, so is it the policy of the Labour party-
– What is that partes policy?
– Labour does not believe in private enterprise to the extent that the anti-Labour parties believe in it. It is apparent, from the statements that have been made by honorable senators opposite from time to time, that the Government does not favour any government enterprise, but believes only in private enterprise.
– That is complete nonsense !
– I base my assertion on the fact that the present Government has disposed of government instrumentalities to private enterprise, which has thereupon made huge profits from their franchise. Although the Minister claims that the Government wants to remove discrimination against the private trading banks, he has not revealed any instances of discrimination. I have never heard of a claim by a private trading bank in this country that it has suffered as a result of discrimination in favour of the Commonwealth Bank. It is true that during the war period some irksome restrictions were imposed on the private trading banks, and recently the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) claimed credit in that connexion. The force of the contention of honorable senators opposite that the restrictions were imposed by Labour lacks conviction, because the present Treasurer claims that he entered into an agreement with the private trading banks prior to the 1945 banking legislation.
– Rightly so !
– I have no quarrel with that statement, but I point out that honorable senators opposite should not claim that restrictions imposed by Labour discriminated against the private trading banks. It has not even been suggested by the private trading banks that they suffered from discriminatory treatment during the terrible period following 1951 when runaway inflation commenced to develop in this country. I believe that the word “ discrimination “ was used by the Minister in an endeavour to make the people believe that Labour has the sinister objective of gaining control of the private trading banks. There is no such intention. The Minister also stated in his second-reading speech -
In its immensely important task of guiding the policy of the banking system, the Common wealth Bank will not be actuated by spirit of partisanship.
There, again, the Minister makes the sinister suggestion that the Commonwealth Bank, at some time or other, had shown a spirit of partisanship. The bank has never been guilty of anything of the kind, and Government supporters have not advanced one tittle of evidence to substantiate that implication. The Minister came to the real point at issue when he said that a future socialist government might set out to dominate the Commonwealth Bank Board to serve its own political purposes and, within the framework of the law as it stands, subject the private banks to unfair and unscrupulous attacks. From his remarks, anybody would be led to conclude that the Chifley Labour Government made an unscrupulous attack upon the private banks. Government supporters know that it was not the Chifley Government that made a stand against the private banks.
– Was it the executive of the Australian Labour party?
– No. The private banks challenged the 1945 act as a whole and thus made the first attack in the legal struggle that occurred between them and the Chifley Government. In making that challenge, the private banks challenged regulations that were passed at the beginning of World War II. and which had operated throughout the war and during the post-war period. When those regulations were embodied in the 1945 act, the private banks made their onslaught on that legislation and the High Court held that certain sections were outside our powers. It was then that the Chifley Government decided to attempt to nationalize those institutions. In doing so, it gave them something to talk about. Labour has always held the belief that, in due course, the Commonwealth Bank will again come into its own. The High Court found that certain sections of the 1947 act were ultra vires the Constitution. The Chifley Government took the matter on appeal to the Privy Council which found that the 1947 act conflicted with section 92 of the Constitution.
I remind the Senate that the very restrictions which the private banks challenged were passed by the first Menzies Government and that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who was Treasurer at that time also claimed great credit for the fact that the private banks themselves voluntarily accepted the imposition of such restrictions. However, when the Chifley Labour Government embodied them in the 1945 act the private banks set out to defeat that Government. They said that they wanted to revert to the controls that had operated before the war. The Chifley Government replied that it was necessary to retain some of the restrictions that had been embodied in the 1945 act. Subsequently, from 1945 to 1949, the private banks expended a mint of money with the object of defeating the Chifley Government. Unfortunately, the courts have ruled that the Parliament has no power under the Constitution to pass a measure along the lines that the Chifley Government had sought to have enacted, and it is now clear that the Parliament cannot exercise such power unless the people approve, at a referendum, of an alteration of the Constitution, particularly of section 92, in order to enable it to do so. That does not alter the fact that, some day, Labour will obtain that power from the people. The “ unscrupulous attack “ to which the Minister referred in his second-reading speech was made not by a socialist government but by the private banks. I qualify that by saying that I do not think that the banks’ attacks was unscrupulous; it was a fair attack, because they had the right to challenge the validity of the 1947 act. They did so and won the day; but they have not yet won the day so far as the controls that the Chifley Government placed upon them are concerned. The Government is now seeking under the Banking Bill to remove those controls. Under clause 13 of this bill, the trading hank activities of the Commonwealth Bank will be circumscribed, just as under the Banking Bill the powers of the central bank similarly will be circumscribed. Of course, the Minister made no mention of that fact in his second-reading speech. Section 13 of the Commonwealth Bank Act reads -
The Commonwealth Bank shall have power to carry on the business of a central bank and shall, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, have power, in addition to any other powers, conferred on it by this Act -
Clause 13 of this bill seeks to amend that section by adding after the word “ shall “, second occurring, the words “ for that purpose, and “. Thus, the Commonwealth Bank will be empowered in the future to exercise its present general powers only for the purpose of carrying on the business of a central bank. Section 8 of the Commonwealth Bank Act reads -
It shall be the duty of the Commonwealth Bank, within the limits of its powers, to pursue a monetary and banking policy directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia, and to exercise its powers under this Act and the Banking Act 1945 in such a manner as, in the opinion of the Bank, will best contribute to -
the stability of the currency of Australia;
the maintenance of full employment in Australia; and
the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.
Although Government supporters claim that the functions of the Commonwealth Bank, as set out in the 1945 act have been retained, the point I make is that under this bill the central bank will not be enabled to exercise those functions, because of the intention of the three words, “ for that purpose “, in proposed new section 31. It will be prohibited from exercising them as a central bank, as it has done hitherto.
The Minister referred to the separation of the trading bank activities from the central bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank. That will be achieved under this measure. The Commonwealth Trading Bank is to be set up as a separate entity. In the second-reading speech, the following words appear: -
More important still, the central bank is able to direct the resources of its trading institution into investments which are relatively unattractive from a purely commercial banking viewpoint but which must be made in the national interest.
For a time, finance was made available, through the general bank section of the Commonwealth Bank, for housing purposes. However, because of the wish of the Commonwealth Bank Board, which this Government appointed, a considerable portion of such business has been- transferred’ to the Commonwealth Savings Bank. The passage from the second-reading speech to which I have just referred means that the central bank can now tell the Commonwealth Trading Bank to go back into the housing sphere. The Commonwealth Trading Bank will not then be able to compete quite as efficiently with the private trading, banks. Such competition h.as: not been unfair in any way, and I do not think that even the private trading banks claim that it has been so-. Certainly they would not make that claim publicly- because it would be challenged. But even privately, I do not think it is whispered that the competition has been unfair., It is true that, they complain about the encroachment of the general banking section- of the Commonwealth Bank into what they consider their preserves^ but even that intrusion was in the course of fair competition. They ako complain that when their assets- were called up into the special deposits accounts they could’ not draw them out again, although they could borrow against them. In accordance with usual banking practice, they were- obliged to. pay a little more interest on their overdrafts with the- central bank. Of course, the poor fellow who places some of his money on fixed’ deposit and then wishes to take some of it out is told that he has entered into a contract to- leave his money there- for- a certain period. In such cases the bank will, usually advance money on overdraft, and although it may pay the client only 2-jr per cent., or 2£ per cent, interest on his fixed deposit,, he may be charged 5$ per cent., or even 7 per cent, on the amount of his overdraft. That is ordinary banking practice.
– What bank would charge interest on overdraft at the rate of 7 per cent. Surely it would be more like. 4£ per cent-
– The honorable senator may be correct, but the principle is not altered, whether the rate of interest is 4^ per cent, or 6 per cent. The principle is that a lower rate of interest is paid on -money placed on fixed deposit than is charged on money lent on overdraft.
The- private trading banks agreed to the special deposits account system. The-
Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden.) admits that they did’ so> and claims credit for the fact. The- private trading- banks are not complaining .about that matter, but they are> complaining about- having to pay an additional rate of interest, on money which they require from the central bank in order to- carry on other phases of their banking business.
The Commonwealth Bank Board established by this Government has said that because of the particularly uncommercial nature of housing finance, such business has been transferred to the Savings Bank section- of the bank. However,’ in the bill now before the Senate, provision is mad’e- whereby the trading- bank may be required to transact, such business^ thus restricting its ability to compete with the private banks. Indeed, the chief object of this bill is to- restrict tha activities of the trading bank section in competition with the private banking institutions. If that is not so, why has the bill been introduced? I suggest that that objective could have been achieved by a simple alteration of the wording of the Commonwealth Bank Act. Instead, the Government proposes to wipe out altogether section 4 of that act; and to. insert a. whole bundle of new provisions, all of which are designed to be used for the prevention’ of competition with the private- banks. The only other explanation of the- proposal t» remove the general banking section oi’ the Commonwealth Bank from the central bank and to set: it. up as- a. separate entity is to enable future amending legislationto be introduced for the purpose of selling or giving away the bank to private, enterprise.
The Fourth Schedule to .the bill contains a list of acts which- it is proposed to amend. I suggest that the- effect of such amendments will be- that bodies such a? the- Wheat Industry Stabilization Board and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board may open accounts with banks other than the Commonwealth Bank. Such undertakings are either- governmentcontrolled or government-sponsored. They are guaranteed by the government, andin some instances money- has been made available by this Government to enable them to carry on their operations.. It seems to me that the only reason for theproposed change .is to give the private banks an opportunity to profit by the opening of such accounts. The Government says that it believes in private enterprise and fair competition, but does it really consider that such a proposal is fair? If a person owns a property and approaches a bank for an advance on that property, he is obliged to open an account with that bank if the advance is. made. He is not expected to go away and do his banking business with some other bank, That is ordinary banking practice. Why, then, does the Government propose to depart from. such practice in respect of the accounts of governmental and semigovernmental instrumentalities? Such a course is most unfair, to the Commonwealth Bank and represents discrimination against it. I have shown that there has been a limitation of powers of. the cental bank in the banking legislation. Thereare also methods by which the activities of the trading, banks can be limited. The Government has introduced unfair tactics against the trading bank and also against the central bank. The Minister has stated that the Commonwealth. Trading Bank will be dealt with in precisely the same way as the private trading banks. [Extension of time granted.] The true significance of the alterations is given in the schedule to’ the bill. The memorandum does not show the clauses that have been omitted. It shows only the clauses that have been added. So even in the handling of this hill, the Government has adopted unfair tactics simply for the purpose of help- ing private enterprise.
The only alteration that has been made in the Audit Acts 1901 is the addition of the words, “or to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia “. In the Broadcasting Act, provision is made now for the opening and maintaining of an account with any other prescribed bank. Under the Broadcasting Act, fees are paid by everybody who has a licence. That is a part of the Consolidated Revenue. Millions of pounds are paid for the upkeep off broadcasting, yet the money that is involved is to be allowed to go through at private bank.Inthat way the Government is benefiting the private banks. A similar position applies to the hides andleather industry under the relevant legislation.Inthe case of the wheat industry stabilization legislation-, advances of large sums of money are made for the stabilization of wheat prices and marketing. The relevant authorities are to be allowed to open an account in any prescribed bank. It is scandalous that this Government should be transferringsums of money of such a volume so that it can be taken away from the Commonwealth Trading Bank and placed in the hands of the private banks. It is- not in accordance even with ordinary hawking practice. If a. man obtains an advance from a, bank, the money is kept with the bank that made the advance. Under this proposition, advances may be obtained from the central bank or from the coffers of the Government to finance the next wheat harvest and handed over to private banking institutions. The Commonwealth Trading Bank will not handle it. It is to be shared with the private banks. Is. that not discrimination against the Commonwealth. Trading Bank? The private banks will use the money to gam commercial remuneration for handling it. A similar practice applied in the case of Trans-Australia Airlines when Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had its landing fees remitted. Honorable senators on the Government side should declare that they believe in government enterprise as well as private enterprise. They cannot back out now after the speeches that they have made to-day. The Government is hamstringing Commonwealth activities, not for the benefit of the people, but for the benefit of private enterprise.
Debate (on motion by Senator Henty)’ adjourned.
Motion (by SenatorO’Sullivan) proposed -
That the Senatedo nowadjourn
– I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to a reply that I received from the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) through the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who represents him in the
Senate. I asked a question upon notice a fortnight ago concerning a statement that was made by the Minister for the Navy regarding the powers of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. In that question, I referred to the report of a statement by the Minister that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 3rd February last. I asked -
Was the Minister for the Navy correctly reported in the Sydney press on 3rd February, 1953, as advocating the removal or reduction of the powers of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration?
In the second part of my question, I outlined the powers of the court, which are rather restricted, and I asked the Minister which of those powers he intended should be removed or voluntarily forgone. I also asked whether it was the policy of the Government or the intention of the Government to take any action on this matter. The reply that I received was a strange one. The Minister stated -
The honorable senator will appreciate that the first question is based upon a misreading of the article.
In reply to that section of the Minister’s answer, I wish to inform the Senate that [ do not appreciate that I misread the article. I have the article before me and it states -
The Minister for the Navy and Air, Mr. W. McMahon, said yesterday that the Arbitration Court would improve relations between labour and management if it voluntarily relinquished some of its powers.
At present by exercising these powers, the Court, in effect, heightened disputes between managements and the Trade Union movement . . . The Arbitration Court should consider making some move to place on management and unions more responsibility for settling their own affairs . . . “For this reason, I think the Arbitration Court should consider withdrawing from some of the functions that it now exercises to see whether these functions could not be exercised better by the disputing parties themselves.”
Although I am taking the statements out of their context, I am trying not to misconstrue the Minister’s meaning. He dealt with the question of employment and said - “I don’t say you can completely eliminate the problem so that at every moment of every day you can have more jobs than people to fill them. “ With reasonable indirect controls, however, such as credit controls, control on capital issues, interest rates, imports and such like, you can reduce unemployment to a level at which it should not be a great social problem.”
The Minister, in his reply, further said -
I did not make any positive recommendations or advocacy.
That refers to the court relinquishing its power. He continued -
Emphasis is upon action by the court itself;
I had asked whether the Minister had advocated the removal or reduction of the powers of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The point on which he was trying to spin around was whether 1 suggested that the Government would take powers from the court, or whether the court would relinquish powers voluntarily. It is clear that the Minister at least advocated that the court should have fewer powers. The argument that the court should voluntarily relinquish some of its powers is too stupid for words. Does this presumably responsible Minister suggest that a special authority set up by the Commonwealth Parliament, in this instance a court of law, should turn around and say, “ Never mind what duties have been allocated to us. Never mind what the National Parliament says. We shall not exercise the powers that have been conferred upon us “ ? It is indeed a very strange proposal, and I have merely sought to ascertain which of the powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the Minister considers should be relinquished voluntarily. What are the court’s powers? They are necessarily not very wide because of constitutional limitations. The court has power over the basic wage, both male and female. Does the Minister consider the court should relinquish that power, and throw the basic wage back for determination by the two parties to industry? The court has power also over standard hours and long-service leave. Does the Minister believe that the determination of those matters should go back to the parties ? This Government itself has conferred an apellant jurisdiction upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court so that it may hear appeals from decisions of conciliation commissioners. Incidentally, only in this connexion does the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court handle margins. Does the Minister suggest that that new power should be relinquished voluntarily by the court? Does he believe that the court should no longer exercise control over trade union ballots? I am merely seeking an elucidation of the article that the Minister wrote. I am sure I have not misrepresented what the Minister said in that article. The Minister, in his answer to my question, merely repeated what he said in his article about the court, and I should like him to be more specific. Does he want the court to be abolished completely and so deprived of all its powers, or does he suggest that one or more of the matters now within the jurisdiction of the court should be returned to the field of power bargaining? It is significant that the Minister also mentioned the employment position. That is a matter about which we have already heard quite a lot, and about which we shall hear much more in the next few months. It is impossible to divorce the question of power bargaining from the question of employment. In a period of full employment there is some advantage to employees in the field of power bargaining. Similarly, in times of economic adversity, there is some advantage to the employers. That is why we have a Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Its task is to take the determination of industrial matters away from the law of the jungle so that economic trends shall no longer be a determining influence. Was the Minister for the Navy speaking on behalf of the Government when he made those very peculiar utterances? If he was not, the Government should say so. I sincerely hope the Government does not support the Minister on this very important matter. It is significant, that, on this occasion, the Minister has not claimed to have been misreported by the press. For once apparently the press has been completely accurate. Indeed, the Minister, in his reply to my question, reinforced what he had said previously. Therefore I ask that a responsible Minister in this chamber should stand up and answer my questions. I should like to know whether the Minister for the Navy was speaking on behalf of the Government on the occasion to which I have referred, and whether he is prepared now to give us some idea of the thoughts, if any, he had in his head about which powers the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should relinquish voluntarily. Incidentally the court also has power to punish for contempt - a power that was fiercely contested by the Opposition when the relevant measure was before the Senate. I should be indeed grateful if the Minister would give me some enlightenment on this matter.
– I take this opportunity to make a brief comment on certain criticism that has been directed at members of the Parliament - ana quite obviously members of both houses of the Parliament - who have the temerity to leave Canberra at weekends to carry out their duties among their electors. It surely must be obvious to everybody that members of the Parliament have duties that extend beyond Canberra. Electors often wish to bring to the notice of members matters that they desire to be placed before the Parliament. Quite apart from that, if this country is to function as an informed democracy, it will be agreed that it is a part of the duty of a member of the Parliament to move among his electors and inform their minds on the questions that are being discussed by the Parliament. It is surely not only the right, but also the duty of a member of the Parliament, to take every opportunity to fulfil those obligations. If that is so - and I suggest that most people believe it to be so - are members of this Parliament from Western Australia and South Australia to be criticized because they do not remain in Canberra for, perhaps, four months at a time and not see their electors or the members of their families? That any responsible person should utter criticism - phrased with the delicacy and tactfulness to which we have all become accustomed - of those members who have the temerity to keep in contact with the people who send them here, is monstrous. I am not a Scot. Nevertheless, I have lived long enough and have come into contact with enough Scotsmen to realize that there may be an inducement for a member of the Parliament to remain in Canberra at week-ends. An allowance of £2 10s. a day is payable while members are in Canberra, even though there are no parliamentary duties to be carried out.
However, if a member chooses to remain in Canberra at week-ends, that is his own business. On the other hand, if a member by leaving Canberra at week-ends chooses to forgo the £2 10s. a day to which he otherwise would be entitled, there is no reason in this world why he should be attacked by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) or any one else. Therefore I protest against this childish, ill-informed, and unwarranted criticism..
– I enter this debate with my usual ],e,luctance and I have been prompted to speak only because of the reference to Scotsmen made by Senator Gorton. Not only am I a Scotsman, but also my maternal name happened to be Cameron. I, too, have read with some concern the press reports that have been published throughout Australia during the last few days. In my simple way I understood that men who occupy the high and mighty position of presiding officers in the two chambers of this Parliament are the proud servants of the Parliament and have no ears to hear with, eyes to see with, or tongues to speak with save as the Parliament directs. Apparently that ancient tradition has gone by the board in the last 48 hours.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator George Rankin). - The honorable senator may be presuming too much on that point.
– It is a matter of some importance to honorable senators that their status under the Constitution as members of this chamber should be recognized. It has not escaped my observance that, over the last two years, the position of President of the Senate, far from maintaining its equal status with the position of Speaker in the House of Representatives, has become of less and less importance in the affairs of this Parliament. It seems that there has been assumed in another place a power of right and privilege which begins to menace the rights of the Senate. In my opinion, the time has come when this trend should be stopped. The Senate should assert its right in domestic matters at least. The episode that has been reported in the press in the last 4S hours is fantastic and is an affront to me. No member of the House of Representatives, whatever his position may be, has the right to speak on behalf of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Certainly, he has no right to speak on behalf of the Senate, and I look to you, sir, in the absence of the President, to ensure that the rights of the Senate shall be asserted. By some grace which I do not profess to understand, I have been selected as a representative of the Senate at the coronation of the Queen and I should expect to be instructed about my behaviour at that ceremony by you, sir. Indeed, I cannot think of any one from whom I should accept instruction with better grace; but there has been brought to me by a messenger an instruc-“ lion from a gentleman in another place about how I should behave.
– Elastic-sided boots?
– No. A brief examination of the document has revealed no mention of elastic-sided boots or any other fantastic characteristic that I have learned to associate with directions on the conduct of honorable members in this Parliament. At this late hour, I register my most emphatic protest against the usurping of the Senate’s authority by a member of another place. I only regret that the manners and behaviour of the Parliament do not allow me to indicate the person I mean.
, - I desire to refer briefly to considerable delays that have taken place in printing at the Government Printing Office. Towards the end of 1951 the Government Printing Office issued a consolidation of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Act. In 1952, this Parliament passed three amendments to that act, and I was requested by taxpayers associations of Western Australia and South Australia to have the printing of the consolidated act expedited. About three months ago the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) informed me that the consolidation of this very important act had left his department and was in the hands of the Government Printer. I was confronted to-day with the information that it is still in the hands of the Government Printer. I have received many requests for copies of this consolidated act. About three months ago I drew the attention of the Treasurer to the possibility of having this important consolidation printed by private enterprise. Honorable senators will recall that copies of the last report of the AuditorGeneral were made available to the Parliament within a few days of its issue by a private firm of printers. I can see no reason why the Government should not engage private enterprise for the printing of other important matter if the Government Printing Office is overloaded with work. Constant appeals have been made for copies of this consolidated act by thousands of taxpayers and taxation agents and others whose business requires them to advise people on important amendments that were made to this legislation last year. I protest emphatically at the long delay in the printing of this consolidated act and I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to do all that he can to expedite its printing.
SenatorHENTY (Tasmania) [10.48]. - I want to support the remarks of Senator Gorton and Senator Cormack. The statements to which those honorable senators referred were completely unjustified in view of the duties which members of the Parliament have to perform when they return to their electorates. I went home during the last week-end. I fulfilled an engagement in my electorate on Friday night and another on Saturday morning in addition to interviewing various electors. I fulfilled another engagement on Saturday afternoon and another on Sunday afternoon and I returned to Canberra on Monday. I believe that the necessity for senators to attend to matters in their electorates has been overlooked by the person who suggested that we cannot do our duty to our electorates if we do not stay in Canberra. Having concurred with Senator Gorton and Senator Cormack, I now desire to invite Senator Cormaek’s attention to the instructions to which he referred. Under the heading of “Westminster Abbey “ in relation to dress, the instructions read -
SenatorCOOPER. (Queensland - Minis take to bring to the noticeof the persons concerned the matters that have been brought forward to-night.
TheDEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator George Rankin). - With regard to the complaints of honorable senators concerning statements that have been made by some one from another place, I point out that those statements express that man’s opinion. He was giving evidence before a committee of the Parliament. I am sure that he did not ask the press to be present. I assure honorable senators that I will resist any attempt by any one outside the Senate to interfere with its privileges as I am absolutely certain that our President would resist such attempts. I can assure honorable senators that during the brief period that I occupy this position no one will tread on the tail of our coat. I think that the interests of honorable senators can safely be left in the hands of the President and his deputy for the time being.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.51 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 March 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1953/19530312_senate_20_221/>.