22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator’ the Hon. A. ML McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and’ read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Repatriation, By way of preface I point out that it concerns former Australian prisoners of war who are being treated at the Bundoora Mental Hospital and who are being supervised by New Australian wardsmen, many of whom converse with one another in their native tongue and create, in the. minds of the mentally sick ex-prisoners of war the feeling that they are still behind barbed wire. In view of. the fact that,, for purposes of expediency, the. atrocities’, arrogance and attitude of German and Italian soldiers’ guarding prisoners of war- in European- prison camps have “been excused, will the Minister take steps to see that those ex-servicemen- still suffering £rom the deep mental scars inflicted by their imprisonment are not kept under the supervision of German and Italian wardsmen in the mental hospitals in which they are being treated?
– Although the Repatriation Department is responsible for the care and and treatment of members of the services, whose mental disorder is accepted as a war1 disability, the Commonwealth authorities have, no power of certification. Certification has to be made by doctors employed by the State authorities concerned, and although we have our private wards and facilities for looking after the patients, they are. actually under the care of State officials. As. to the attendants at these institutions, I shall take that matter up to see what is happening and to ascertain their nationality.. I emphasize, however, that these attendants are engaged not by the Repatriation Department or any other Commonwealth authority, but by the State, authorities. They come under State supervision, because- the States are the certifying authorities, whilst we provide the facilities and accommodation. I will inquire into the question of the nationality of these attendants.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether the present Government once appointed a special committee to inquire into and report, on. the present taxation laws. If it. did, what was the outcome of such action?
– This matter arose during a. debate in the Senate: yesterday;. In reply to an. honorable, senator who’ urged, the appointment of a. royal commission into taxation, I made the point that the Government had taken action already along the line which, the honorable senator desired. Unfortunately, to-day’s press report of my statement, does not convey that fact. Therefore I appreciate the opportunity- of stating that, the original committee exhaustively examined income tax law and practice in many directions, and as a result of its report and recommendations important changes were made. On its advice concessional deductions took the place of. rebates, a simplified income tax form was introduced and an alteration in the incidence of rates of tax was adopted. Altogether, no fewer than 38 reports by that committee on various taxation, matters, were tabled in Parliament.
– My question is supplementary to that just answered by the Minister representing the TreasurerIs the committee on taxation, to which he referred, still in existence? If not. will the Treasurer consider reconstituting that body for the purpose of maintaining a continual supervision on the operation of the income tax laws?
– When the committee concluded the work which it was requested to do it was disbanded, and I am not in the position, to give an assurance that it will be reconstituted. However, J will refer the honorable senator’s request to my colleague, the Treasurer.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry concerning the interstate apple trade between: Tasmania and Sydney. Doubtless, it has’ been brought to the Minister’s notice that, as a result of the perspicacity of some Sydney fruit inspectors, it was found, after 20 or 30 years of trading, that red mite existed in Tasmanian apples. Since that discovery, fumigation processes have been used in the Sydney fruit market, to the detriment of the realizations of Tasmanian apples. Will the Minister be prepared to direct an examination of this fumigation system with a view to satisfying the Department of Primary Industry that the activities in Sydney are truly directed against this disease and are not merely a weapon to protect the fruit trade in New South Wales?
– I will refer the honorable senator’s question to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, ask him to examine the important matter raised, and give an answer in the near future.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply :-
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has now supplied the following answers : - l and 2. Tax reimbursement grants to the States are financed by way of an appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund as a whole and not by an appropriation of the proceeds of any particular Commonwealth tax. 3 and 4. The following amounts have been paid to the States during the past five years to supplement the grants which have been paid under the formula embodied in the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946- 1948: -
In the current financial year, 1955-50, the supplementary grant payable to the States will amount to £15,348,000.
Senator BROWN (through Senator
Benn) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Is it a fact that certain dietitians make broadcasts relating to their business?
Is it a fact that these broadcast talks are censored?
If so, who is the censor and under what principles or methods does he work?
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply : -
Except as prescribed a person shall not broadcast a talk on a medical subject unless the text thereofhas been approved by the DirectorGeneral of Health, or on appeal to the Minister under this section, by the Minister.
The Minister referred to is the Postmaster General. The usual procedure is for the subject-matter to be submitted to the Director General of Health in duplicate. The approved copy is returned with any deletions or amendments which the DirectorGeneral or his delegate may consider necessary in the exercise of the discretion vested in him by the act. The standards of censorship used are set out in the pamphlet “Notes on Censorship” issued by the DirectorGeneral. A copy is available for the honorable senator.
– On the 1st May, Senator Courtice asked the following question : -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration whether his attention has been drawn to a recent press statement that there is a long waiting list of British immigrants who wish to come to Australia, despite the fact that the Australian immigration authorities claim that they are unable to obtain British immigrants. Does not the Minister agree that the official record is very disquieting, as it discloses that immigrants from the United Kingdom totalled 26,561, while in the same period the arrivals from Italy. Greece and Malta were three times that number, namely, over 70,000? Does not the Minister agree that this unbalanced situation is not in the best interests of Australia ?
I said at the time that I would ascertain from my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, the exact position in relation to the matter. I have now received a reply from him Although it is rather lengthy, in view of the general interest in this matter, I shall read it to the Senate. The reply is in the following terms : -
It continues to be the policy for first priority to be given in the immigration programme to the encouragement of migrants from the United Kingdom.
Figures released by the United Kingdom Board of Trade emphasize the success which has been achieved with this policy. These show that in the post war period until June, 1955 (the latest date for which such figures are available), total migration to Australia from the United Kingdom has been only slightly below the combined total going to the three other main Britishreceiving countries Canada, South Africa and New Zealand. For the latest available period, the six months ended June, 1955, these figures indicate that Australia received 48.1 per cent, of such movement compared with -
These figures speak for themselves, particularly having regard to the fact that, with the exception of New Zealand, Australia is at a disadvantage as compared with the other countries because of its greater distance from the United Kingdom.
The press report referred to by the honorable senator presented an unbalanced picture of the relative intake of British and European migrants. For instance, the figure quoted in the report for net migration from
Italy, Greece and Malta was 70,302, whereas the correct figure should have been 60,302.
In addition, a mistaken impression was given of the relative intake of British and Southern European migrants because the figure for British net migration gives an incorrect picture of the actual population gain from British migration. This is because the Commonwealth Statistician’s method of determining net permanent British migration is to subtract total permanent departures from the total permanent arrivals. But the departures, in addition to a small proportion of post-war British migrants returning to the United Kingdom or proceeding to other countries, also include -
It is incorrect to assume that these departing Australians are counterbalanced ultimately by the numbers who return each year, because Australians, classified as “permanent “ departures owing to the fact that they planned tobe away twelve months but who actually return before that time, are counted in the “ temporary “ movements. The figures for permanent “departures” of Australians and their subsequent arrival back in Australia, do not, therefore, balance, which consequently results in an apparent (but quite fictitious) loss of about 10,000 Australians each year. This means that in actual fact the net “ permanent” British migration figure is lower by approximately 10,000 each year than it should be.
The same confusion does not apply to departing foreign migrants as they, of course, are not British subjects and the movement of Australians does not affect the statistics maintained in their respect.
It is not correct that the Australian immigration authorities have said that they are unable ‘to obtain British migrants, although there have been periods when interest in Australia has slackened. What has been said is that the accommodation position in Australia is such that we are taking, at the present time, as many British migrants as possible having regard to the essential feature of the scheme which is that suitable accommodation must bo available in Australia for selected migrants.
By far the greater percentage of migrants from the United Kingdom go to accommodation provided by friends and relatives under personal nomination arrangements, and it is the Government’s firm policy to arrange assisted passages for all Britishers resident in the United Kingdom who can comply with our normal requirements and who can be personally nominated by residents in Australia. It therefore follows that if more private accommodation were to become available in Australia to accommodate British migrants, it would be possible for them to come here in greater numbers.
In addition, as many families as possible are brought out under the Commonwealth Nomination Scheme, in which case accommodation is provided in the first instance under Government arrangements. However, the number of such migrants is limited by the availability of hostel accommodation, which is being used to full capacity at the present time, and this position is made more difficult by the fact that British families arc not separated upon arrival as is the case with the majority of foreign migrants.
The position is, therefore, that whilst the policy of the Government is to ensure the maximum British intake within the overall immigration programme, such intake is to a large extent governed by the availability of accommodation, both privately and Government arranged, which can be provided for them.
At the present time there is no dearth of applicants from the United Kingdom who wish to migrate to Australia. On the contrary there are more applicants than can be accepted owing to the factors mentioned above. The Government, however, is taking full advantage of this situation ‘by using all suitable shipping and accommodation available.
– On the 9th May, Senator Buttfield asked the following question : -
Is it a fact that the selling price in the United Kingdom of Australian butter has dropped in the last four months by more than 5 per cent to 287s. sterling per cwt.? If so, will the Minister inform the Senate why that should be so in view of the extensive trade drive being conducted in the United Kingdom at present, and the efforts being made to identify Australian butter rather than continue the past policy of blending it with butter from other countries?
The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
There have been very substantial reductions in butter prices in the United Kingdom over the last four months, the price for Australian falling from 400s. sterling per cwt. in January to287s. at the endof April. Similar reductions have also been recorded for New
Zealand and Danish butter during this period. New Zealand has fallen from 403s. to 290s. and Danish from 4(i(is. to 322s. The reason for the fall in prices is due to the fact that the United Kingdom butter market has been oversupplied in the past few months through the arrival of heavy shipments from the three major exporting countries. Australian butter is being publicized through the medium of the Australian publicity campaign in the United Kingdom. The Australian Dairy Produce Board also contributes to a joint butter publicity campaign in the United Kingdom with New Zealand and Denmark. In addition, these two countries are expending large sums for the promotion of their own particular products. Despite this activity both singly and collectively by the three countries mainly concerned, the publicity in all cases has been more than offset by the abnormal supply conditions which now obtain in the United Kingdom market.
– On the 1st May, Senator Anderson asked the following question : -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question relating to the ban on the import of the drug heroin. I understand that this drug is of tremendous value, medically, in advanced cases of cancer, but the import of the drug has been banned at the request of the World Health Organization, which is a specialized agency of United Nations, on the ground that ‘it is habit forming, and is used by drug addicts. The Minister for Health is reported to have said that the decision to continue the ban on this drug was taken on the advice of the British Medical Association. I ask the Minister whether it is true that at least two State organizations of the British Medical Association are opposed to the continued ban of the drug, and that some State branches of the British Medical Association are reported to have not yet considered the question. If this is correct, will the Minister make a further statement to define the British Medical Association’s attitude to this vital question? If it is found that the British Medical Association has no clear-cut opinion on this subject, will the Minister consider the lifting of the ban, at the same time providing. as a safeguard, heavy penalties for the use of the drug other than on the authority of a certificate issued by a medical practitioner?
I have now received the following reply from the Minister for Health : -
In 1952, the expert Committee on Drugs, World Health Organization, decided that the complete abolition of legally produced heroin throughout the world would greatly facilitate the struggle against illicit use of this substance. The World Health Organization has urged all member nations to prohibit the manufacture of heroin in a concerted effort to control addiction. The prohibition of manufacture throughnut the world would necessarily involve dis continuance of the use of heroin in medical practice. . This seemingly drastic course is claimed to be justified because medical practitioners in a large number of countries, including the United States of America, have for many years been denied heroin and have found alternatives equally satisfactory, and because this drug is indisputably the worst of the drugs of addiction. Its effect is to produce a change in personality manifested by an utter disregard for the conventions and the morals of civilization. Addiction progresses more rapidly than with any other habit forming narcotic drug; all the higher faculties of the mind such as judgment, self control and attention are weakened and the victims rapidy become mental and moral degenerates. The habit is the most difficult to cure because sudden withdrawal may lead to death and the after convalescent treatment, both physical and psychical, is longer and more difficult than with morphine and relapse is the rule. The question may well be asked whether every medical practitioner should be legally in a position to introduce a patient to the use of a drug of such a character. Before the Commonwealth acted in the matter, the British Medical Association was invited to express its opinion whether heroin was indispensable in medical practice. The federal council of the association replied that heroin was not considered essential. The association’s representative reported to the National Health and Medical Research Council in May, 1953, that the profession felt that the introduction of new alternatives had reduced the need for heroin and the association had decided to recommend its prohibition. The prohibition . of importation of heroin has been operative and unchallenged in Australia for nearly three years but recently certain members of the medical profession, stimulated apparently by opposition to the proposed prohibition in the United Kingdom, have commenced an agitation tor a review of the ban. Careful consideration will be given to any case for review presented by medical practitioners qualified to express an unbiassed and informed opinion. Meantime, the control of narcotic drugs and drug addiction within Australia is a function and responsibility of the sovereign States. In some State.” it is considered the existing legislation requires amendment to facilitate more effective control. On the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Commonwealth Government has recently invited State governments to discuss with” the Commonwealth^ measures by which improved control can be achieved.
– On the 2nd May, Senator Hendrickson asked the following question : -
Is the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral able to say when the new post office building at Burwood, in Victoria, will be commenced?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information in reply to the honorable senator: -
Investigations reveal that the Postal Department fully appreciates the need for improved postal accommodation at Burwood, and it is intended to erect a new brick post office on the site secured for this purpose. The project lias been accorded a high priority in the list of building works which it is hoped can be undertaken next financial year. Sketch plans have already been developed by the Department of Works, and every endeavour will be made to commence construction work at the earliest possible date.
Motion (by Senator Arnold) agreed to-
That the notice of motion now standing In the name of Senator Wood for to-morrow be postponed until Tuesday next, the 22nd May.
.- I move-
That the .bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to re-enact the provisions of the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954, for a further three years. That act provided for the payment of subsidy on the production of gold in Australia and the Territories of Papua and New Guinea during each of the two financial years 1954-55 and 1955-56. The “fleet of the bill is to extend the operation of the subsidy scheme to cover gold produced in the years 1956-57, 1957-58, and 1958-59.
Perhaps I might remind the Senate of the main provisions of the subsidy scheme. For subsidy purposes, gold producers are divided into two categories - small producers and large producers. A small producer - defined a3 one whose output is not more than 500 oz. of fine gold in a. subsidy year - is eligible for subsidy at a flat rate of £1 10s. per oz. A large producer’s eligibility to subsidy is determined according to a formula. His eligibility, for each ounce of gold produced in a subsidy year, is an amount equal to three-quarters of the excess of his average cost of production over £13 10s. per oz., subject to a maximum subsidy of £2 per oz. His profits after subsidy may .not exceed 10 per cent, of the capital used by him in the production and sale of gold.
In the case of both large and small producers, eligibility to subsidy is dependent on gold production representing more than 50 per cent, of the value of the producer’s total mining output, and subsidy is reduced to the extent, if any, that the producer receives more than £15 12s. 6d. an ounce from the sale of his gold, this price being the Commonwealth Bank’s official buying price.
The subsidy scheme has proved of considerable benefit to the gold-mining industry, which is an important contributor to the balance of payments and upon which large areas, particularly in Western Australia, are almost entirely dependent. The industry’s financial position has not altered materially since the subsidy scheme was introduced in 1954. Despite Australia’s support in international discussions of moves for an increase in the world price of gold, no such increase has eventuated, and there has been little change since 1949 in the price received by the Australian producer. Accordingly, the Government believes that the need for the subsidy scheme still obtains, and a three-year extension of the operation of the scheme is proposed.
The bill now before the Senate does not change the provisions of the subsidy scheme in any significant respect. The opportunity is being taken, however, to repeal the provision which enabled the Treasurer to substitute a producer’s accounting year for an ordinary financial year if he thought this necessary to facilitate administration of the scheme. The use of this provision has been found to be unnecessary. A minor amendment is also being made of the provisions ‘ of the 10 per cent profit limitation test, the effect of the amendment being to liberalize the Treasurer’s discretionary power to modify the operation of the test in a particular subsidy year in special circumstances. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
– The Opposition supports this bill as it supported the principal act which was introduced two years ago. The actual position is that the subsidy that is now being paid would cease on the 30th June of this year if this amending bill were not passed. When discussing the principal act two years ago, I mentioned that one of its weaknesses was the fact that the subsidy was to be paid for only two years. It is now proposed to extend it to 1959, and we support that proposal ; but one of the weaknesses which t still see is the fact that people will not be encouraged to engage in mining when they can foresee only a limited period in which the subsidy is to be paid. I realize that the Government is faced with the fact that, flying in the face of history, there may be an increase in the price of gold in the next three years. If that should happen, the Government would be paying a subsidy when such payment really was no longer needed. On the other hand, as the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has just pointed out, the fact is that there has been no increase in the price of gold since. 1.949, despite all the efforts of South Africa and Australia.
This is one of the most vulnerable industries to increasing costs that I can imagine. The whole history of goldmining has been unfortunate. Because of the war effort, it was denuded of its manpower. Shortly after the war, it still lacked man-power and then, when it did settle down, it was caught in the grind up of costs, and, with the imposition of ceiling prices, it had absolutely no room to manoeuvre at all. It was because that position obtained that the original legislation was introduced two years ago. The Minister said that there had been no substantial increase in costs in the industry during the last two years. I do not think it is quite fair to say that. I believe that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has before him representations from the Chamber of Mines in Western Australia that there has been an increase of something over 6 per cent, even during the time that the present act has been in operation; and 6 per cent, is a considerable increase to mines as big as those being operated on the Golden Mile and at other places. Naturally, Western Australians are vitally interested in this bill. That is obvious from the fact that the last statistics I have perused disclose that the value of Australia’s gold production last year was £16,000,000, of which Western Australia’s production accounted for something between £12,500,000 and £13,000,000. I suppose it is true to say that by far the greatest number of country centres in Western Australia, excluding the very rich lands of the south-west, are dependent upon gold-mining.
I underline these matters because I feel that the Government is faced with a problem in the fact that a mine is a wasting asset. Most of the easy-to-find alluvial gold has now gone, and we have to cater now not only for those who are already in the industry but also for newcomers to it if we are to preserve the industry’s contribution of £17,000,000 towards our overseas balances about which we hear so much to-day. For that reason, it is in my opinion a weakness to say that this subsidy will be payable only for the next three years. Such methods are not calculated to encourage anybody who has capital to move into the outback areas to engage in prospecting, which is much more difficult to-day. A great deal more knowledge is required, and much deeper mining has to be engaged in if existing mines are to be developed. I repeat that people will not be encouraged to engage in these operations if the Government can offer them a subsidy of this kind for only three years. I suppose everyone can appreciate the problems associated with the world position of gold to-day. Nobody can quibble at South Africa and Australia asking for an increase of price; but, on the other hand, I do not suppose one could quibble at America’s reluctance to pay more for a product of which it is already getting an adequate supply. We can understand Americans asking why they should help countries, that are fortunate enough to be goldproducers merely by paying an increased price for the product. A further point is that to do so would have an inflationary effect in that more money would be put into circuation for exactly the same amount of production.
A very close watch must be kept on this question of costs, because an- increase of 6 per cent, in less than two years is considerable, and nobody, even in his wildest dreams, would image that this is the end of it. I sincerely hope, therefore, that the Government will not be- content, merely to- say, “ We shall have another look at this in three years’ time”. If that attitude is adopted, some of the mines that are now on the borderline1 so far as costs are concerned1, will be likely to go to the wall. I suppose that when- a mine does go to the wall1, the loss in gold production is really tile least of our worries’.. The great, worry is the fact that ghost towns: follow iia. the train of failing mines. Any one who has seen the ghost towns; of Western Australia appreciates, just, haw pitiable the position can. become.. Wiluna is a. typical example. There> out of a population of 9,000. only about 50’ men are now employed in the industry., That: is a tragedy in any type of economy but especially in. an economy so wide: and diversified as that of WesternAustralia. I mention, these, matters to underline the importance of the industry to- Western Australia and to urge the justification for increasing: the subsidy, still further. After all,, it would merely mean giving some little prosperity to thoindustry for a short period to give a subsidy of £2 to the big mines, and £1 10s.. r.o prospectors. I have pointed out tha difficulties confronting- the industry indie hope that the Minister- may see fit: f.o re-examine the position, within the next few months- with a. view to- increasingthe subsidy, or extending the- period over which it will be paid..
As I said at the outset, the Oppositionsupported the- principal1 act introduced r.wo years ago. It has proved to be of great assistance1 to- the gold mines of Australia, Papua and New Guinea, but particularly to the gold- mines of Western Australia, and I pay tribute- to the Government for providing such assistance. Naturally, as the Opposition supported this legislation two years ago, we support this measure-.
– This measure’ may be’ described as the salvation of the goldmining industry in Western Australia-
Having said’ that, I want to say further that I support it on the good old principle that half a loaf is. better than no bread. Personally, I am by no means satisfied with the provisions of this measure. It will’ extend for a further three years the. provisions of the current act but it will not increase the amount of subsidy payable to the industry. I wish to say something about both the extension of the period for three years and the amount of subsidy payable.
Before I do so, I wish to speak about gold generally. I am conscious of the fact that while this- bill1 is being discussed1 - a. measure which- the Government wishes to be passed quickly - the Senate chamber is remarkably empty., These facts leave me to draw only one inference - that most honorable senators, are displaying a grave- lack, of interest in such an important measure; and also that the Senate has not a proper appreciation of the importance of gold. I wonder how many teenagers in Australia would recognize a sovereign if they saw one? How many senators now listening to me could accurately describe a. sovereign? It seems that the less we see of. this important commodity the more prone we are to forget, its significance) not only to- Australia, but also to. the whole* world. Gold is. not a national but an international commodity. It; is- the only commodity of which the nations* are. frightened, and about which they are so> worried that they will, not, allow it to be sold in the open market except at, a fixed price-. I emphasize the proposition that gold is still, and always will, ber the governing influence on currencies throughout the civilized world. There is a. good! reason for that. Gold is still the commodity which the United States of America regards a» most important. That country backs its dollars with gold’,, and the £1 sterling is measured for value against United Statesof America dollars. These examples show the important bearing that gold has on the currencies of civilized’ countries-.
Recently, I asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) a question concerning gold, and I was; most interested to receive his reply. I asked’ what objection the Australian Government had to sales of gold to private purchasers. The Treasurer’s answer read as f ollows : -
Free sales within Australia are not permitted because gold production makes an important. contribution tor the balance of payments and it would not be in the national interest for gold to be privately hoarded in Australia.
I was amazed to receive that answer. The Treasurer regards gold as. important because, as he says, it “make an important contribution to the balance of payments “. But that is not the whole of the story by any means. Wool, which is Australia’s staple commodity, makes a far more important contribution to the balance of payments than does gold, but we do not, pass legislation to provide that wool cannot be hoarded.The same is true of many other Australian products. The Treasurer was well off the track in his explanation why gold was so important.
Not only is it a commodity which can besold overseas, thus contributing to the balance of payments, but it is also the commodity that stabilizes our currency and, with all respect, that is the answer which I suggest the. Treasurer should have given me. Australia as a nation is rapidly losing its consciousness of the significance of gold, as is indicated by the Treasurer’s reply to my question. It is a great pity that Australians are not more alive to the fact that gold will againplay the most vital of all roles in our economy when things get tough. It did once before, and it will do so again. Australia is one of the few countries without a gold reserve backing it’s currency, and one day it will pay for that deficiency.
This measure proposes to extend the operations of the existing act for a further three years only, and I endorse Senator Willesee’s criticism on that point. Two years ago, when the measure now being amended was introduced, both he and. I criticized the provision that it was to operate for only two years. Now the period is being extended to three years. That fact indicates to me that the Government has not a proper appreciation of how a gold mine or any other mine is worked. The management of a gold mine employing l,000 men plants, not foronly two or three years ahead, but for twenty years. How can it carry out developmental work for twenty years when it can depend on receiving a subsidy for only three years? Must it go on in the blind hope that the period of the subsidy will be extended, if necessary, at the end of three years? Icannot understand why this Government is reenacting the provisions of this legislation for only another three years. If a gold mine reaches the happy stage at which it does not require a subsidy, the act will have no further application to that particular mine. Consequently, the matter of time should not be an important f actor in considering the subsidy.
The Government has accepted the proposition that gold is of national significance, seeing that it desires to maintain the gold mines in production, but its action in extending the period of the subsidy for only three years is an indication to the goldmining companies thatif eitherdoes not understand the economic of goldmining or that it has not sufficient interest in them. This bill should have provided for a much longer period so as to give the mining companies some reason to believe that the Government has confidence in the industry and wishes to protect it, not for three years only, but for posterity;
I now refer to the payments provided in the bill. They have not been increased and this is a matter of some concern. Further consideration should be given by the. Government to. the amount of subsidy to be paid. This, subsidy was granted two years ago, and at that, stage file cost of production of gold-bearing ore in Western Australia was at a. certain figure. That cost has increased substantially during the last two years I join issue with the statement made by the Minister in his secondreading speech that the financial position of the industry has not altered materially since the subsidy scheme was introduced in 1954. With the greatest respect to the Minister, that statement is incorrect. It can be established quite simply that the increases of the costs of production have been substantial. If I remember correctly, Senator Willesee referred to a 6 per cent. increase. My figure is somewhat higher i, han that. I could demonstrate - although 1 do not propose to delay the Senate by doing so to-day - that costs of production in respect of mining activity generally, not only in respect of gold-mining, have increased grievously in the last two years. If the subsidy of £2 an ounce was adequate two years ago, in view of the fact that costs have increased since then, surely, on the Government’s own argument, there should be a corresponding increase in the subsidy. Alternatively, the amount of subsidy payable two years ago was too much. The Government cannot have it both ways, because, as I say, it can easily be demonstrated that costs have increased substantially.
The result of this increase of costs is that mines that are drawing the subsidy necessarily will suffer. I have been asked whether I think that some of the mines concerned will have to close down because of the present rate of subsidy. The answer to that question, of course, is “ No “. I think that the mines will be maintained, but that is not the point. The real point is that the mines will be forced more and more to carry out what is known as “selective mining”. . They will be forced progressively to select richer grade ores as costs increase. Any one who is familiar with the gold-mining industry will know that it is not possible” to return to the same workings once the ore has been extracted. The lower grade ore which the mine operator has not been able to afford to mine is then lost for ever. If the mines are forced to carry out selective mining, much gold will be lost as a consequence, and that will be rather a pity because one of the main purposes of this bill is to maintain the mines in operation, so that when the present difficulties are overcome, they will still be working, and so that posterity may gain the great benefits that result from the mining of gold.
I believe that a very strong case for an increase of the subsidy on this occasion was put up by the Chamber of Mines, and that in making the rather brief statement that the financial position of the industry has not altered materially the Government has ignored that case. How ever, as I have said, I support the measure, because half a loaf is better than no bread. I remind the Senate that this is the only Government, for many years, that has come forward with a rational and realistic approach to gold-mining. The idea of the subsidy, to be paid on a formula related to production costs, represents a realistic approach to the subject, and, of course, the Government is to be commended for having granted the subsidy in the first place. All - 1 deplore is that it is not enough.
– In supporting this measure, it is not my intention to embark upon an academic discussion concerning the value of gold as a commodity in determining the price of goods, and so on. The purpose of this bill is to provide assistance for an industry which the Government, according to the Minister for National Development. (Senator Spooner), deems to be a very necessary one in helping to correct our overseas balance of payments position. Although I stated that I did not propose to engage in an academic discussion, I do want to say that during the time that our currency was based on the gold standard during the depression years, there was great clamour in favour of dissociating the Australian currency from the gold standard on the ground that it should be based on the ability of the nation to produce goods and to render services to the community. That is as may be.
This bill has been introduced for the purpose of assisting the gold-mining industry as we know it to-day. My feeling about such assistance is that, while the Government was about it, it should have done the job thoroughly. Senator Willesee, on behalf of the Opposition, indicated that we do not intend to oppose the measure, but there is no reason why we should not make to the Government what we consider useful suggestions. Previous speakers have pointed out that the costs of production of gold have increased during the regime of this Government. Wages and the costs of commodities have risen. Senator Vincent very pertinently remarked that if the present rate of bonus is sufficient, then it must have been too much during the years that have passed. I do not think that any one associated with the gold-mining industry would agree that the bonus has been too high during the years that it has operated. In my opinion, .the Government might well have gone further. Despite the fact that, to the present, both the Australian Government and the South African Government have been unable to induce the powers that be to increase the price of gold on the open market, we in Australia may have been able to do something for ourselves. If gold is as important as the Minister stated in his second-reading speech, and if it is so necesary in connexion with our overseas trade balances, surely it is the duty of the Government to endeavour to increase the production of gold. According to the geologists and other authorities on the matter, throughout Australia there are many lines of reef which contain payable gold.
I am interested in this subject because the district in which I reside contains one of Australia’s best gold producers. I refer to the Wattle Gully mine. However, that mine is like an oasis in a desert. It stands there by itself and is the only gold producer on a gold-field which, in days gone by, when people took a greater interest in the search for gold, contained many active goldproducing mines. The reason that those mines are idle to-day is that the costs of producing gold have increased so greatly. We cannot expect young men to go out and engage in this hazardous occupation, which involves danger to life and limb, an occupation which, unless it is conducted under scientific and hygienic conditions, is likely to take a heavy toll of life. Ample evidence of that is to be seen in the old gold-mining areas of Victoria and elsewhere. At those places, there are extensive burial grounds where lie the remains of the men who engaged in this hazardous occupation in bygone years. As gold is so necessary in the carrying on of “!ir trade and commerce. worthwhile conditions should be provided for those who engage in the gold-mining industry. In my opinion, the present world price of gold is not sufficiently high to encourage the investment of capital in the gold-mining industry, or to attract the necessary labour to the industry. If a higher price for gold cannot be obtained on the world market, and the Government desires gold to be produced in Australia because of the valuable part it plays in connexion with trade and commerce, it should increase the subsidy in order to enable the gold-mining companies to install amenities in the mines, and adopt other measures to protect the health of the gold miners.
Senator Vincent said that selective mining was likely to develop. That is true. Naturally, the gold-mining companies will be prone to seek out and develop the richest portions of thenleases, because they are more concerned with immediate returns than with developing the industry over a long period of time. By the same token, there will be a tendency on their part to skimp expenditure on the installation of equipment for the proper working of the gold mines and amenities to protect the health of the gold-miners. They will install only the minimum equipment and amenities - those enforced by awards in the various States. If the Government wants a continuation of gold-mining in Australia, it should introduce conditions under which the industry might flourish. The Government should give serious consideration to the fact that the bonus is payable only for a very short period of time. It is true, of course, that the bill will extend that period. Under the original legislation, the subsidy was payable for a period of two years. Under the bill, it will be payable for a further period of three years. I think it would be preferable for the Government to make a firm announcement that the subsidy will be paid over a longer period.
I come now to another phase of this measure, on which I should like to receive the Minister’s advice. The act contains the following definition of “ mining “ -
The production of minerals from a mine or from alluvial or surface deposits, and includes the treatment and disposal of the minerals produced by the person who produces the minerals.
I understand that many people engaged in the production of gold are excluded from benefiting under the act. My information might be correct, or incorrect, but I should like the Minister to clarify the position. 1 have been informed that persons who are engaged in the process known as cyaniding, or the recovery of go’ld from battery sand, are not deemed to be producers of go’ld. If that is a fact, I think that a wrong interpretation of the law has been given. It may be .that this interpretation is based on a decision made by the Minister under the powers conferred upon him by the act. If the purpose of the measure now before us is to increase the production of .gold it should not matter from where or by what means the gold is won. To-day, gold is being recovered from dumps that were established in .the early days of gold-mining in this country when the batteries were not as efficient as they are to-day, and scientific appliances to recover gold did not exist. I cannot see why the bonus should not be paid on gold that is recovered from the old sand dumps.
I notice that the cost of production is taken into account in determining the eligibility lOt gold-mining companies for the bonus. This does not apply to the small producers - those who produce less than 500 oz. of gold a year. In their case, the cost of production is not taken into consideration; a straight-out bonus is paid. I consider that they should bc brought within the ambit of the act. I urge the Government to take steps to encourage prospectors to search for new reefs. In view of the high wages that are being paid to-day in most industries, and the high cost of production of gold, there is insufficient incentive for men to engage in prospecting for gold. Consideration, will have to be given to this aspect of the matter if it is desired to develop gold-mining in Australia. In the early days, some of the prospectors were, of course, far more fortunate than others. In those days, prospectors operated either singly or in pairs. I believe that that is the only means by which new deposits can be discovered. It has been said that a gold mine is a decreasing asset. Therefore, it is necessary to discover other deposits in order to maintain continuity of the industry. As I have already mentioned, in the district where I reside only one gold producer is active. I am sure that if the Government made prospecting worth while small mining syndicates would be formed to discover and open up new reefs. The Wattle Gully mine was idle for more than 50 years until, fortuitously, a company located one of the richest lodes in Victoria. Possibly, by prospecting, other rich lodes could be discovered. The Government should encourage prospecting for gold. If, as I said before, the price of gold cannot be increased, the only way that the Government can develop the gold-mining industry is to provide substantial assistance to men to engage in it. I hope that the Government will take notice of what has been said by honorable senators during this debate. If it earnestly desires to increase the production of gold, it will introduce measures in due course to encourage men to develop the industry.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia.) 1 4.15]. - As a senator from Western Australia I support this measure. Western Australia produces from 75 per cent, to 80 per cent, of the gold produced in Australia. Therefore this measure is of vital importance to that State, particularly as most of the gold comes from area3 that do not have a very high rainfall. As one travels through the outback areas of Western Australia one finds towns which as centres of goldmining once held large populations are now virtually devoid of people. The few which remain producing gold must ‘be kept going.
Owing to increases in costs it is essential that the Government give assistance in the form of a. subsidy to the industry. This bill will continue the subsidy that was introduced in 1954 and will give to the small producer, whose output is not more than 500 oz. in a subsidy year, a subsidy of 30s. per oz. Producers of that small quantity of gold will be paid that direct subsidy whether the mine they are working produces 1 oz. to the ton or 4 oz. or 5 oz. to the ton. For the benefit of the larger producer a formula has been, laid down. For each ounce of gold produced in a subsidy year, he will be eligible to receive an amount equal to three-quarters of the excess of his average cost of production over £13 10s. per oz., subject to a maximum subsidy of £2 per oz.. His profits after subsidy may not, exceed 10 per cent, of the capital used by him in the production and sale of gold. That is for the large producer.
We in Western Australia, and no d’oubt this applies generally throughout Australia, have seen some of our largest mines close down because of increased costs. In Cue, about 400 miles from Perth, the Big Bell mine which provided a living for some thousand people has had, during the last two or three years, to bring its mining- activities to a close because of increased costs. That mine was working on a low percentage of gold to the ton - somewhere in the vicinity of three or four pennyweights, but because there had bean no large increase in the price of gold since 1949, when devaluation took place, mounting costs year by year prevented the mine from carrying on. It has had to close down through no fault of its own. I have no doubt that throughout the length and breadth of Australia other mines are in a similar position. There has been no natural increase in the price of gold since about 19:35 or 1936. The only increase that the. industry has enjoyed was that brought about by the devaluation of the currency ; and that was only a temporary relief. Of course, it obtained some relief when this subsidy was introduced in 1954.
The Government should consider whether the introduction of this subsidy m 1954 is the answer to the industry’s difficulties. In 1954, the subsidy was 30s. per oz. and now, two years later, the Government is continuing that subsidy at the same rate although the cost of producing an ounce of gold has risen by 6 per cent. An industry which is so vital to the export income of Australia should receive an increase in its subsidy to cover its increase in costs since- 1954. But that has not been. done. As I have said, costs have increased by 6 per cent., and it has been stated in another place that the increase represents something in the vicinity of £1 an ounce. If the Government desires to keep the gold-mining industry intact it should increase the subsidy on gold. Goldmining companies have no control over costs of labour and material. They have to pay award rates fixed, from time to time, by the Arbitration- Court,, as well as any increase in the cost of living, which becomes an element in the cost of producing gold. As costs go up, fewer and fewer people will be engaged in the industry and the result will be thai; the1 marginal mines will have to close down.
Some 100 years ago the production of gold in Australia represented about 40 per cent, of world production. To-day. that percentage has dropped to between 4. per cent, and 5 per cent. We have not yet used up our gold reserves but have only touched the surface so far as gold-mining in Australia is concerned. What we have done is to use up the gold that has been readily accessible. The industry .requires a .lot of assistance, probably more than does any other industry in Australia to-day. A bill was recently introduced to sell the whaling station at Carnarvon and to use the proceeds foi- the development of the fishing industry. If the same amount of money were invested to help producers and prospectors develop the gold-mining industry it would, in proportion, bring about a greater return than the money it is intended to spend on the development of the fishing industry. Large areas in Australia, particularly m Western Australia, require . financial assistance for development. Other countries are spending money on the development of gold-mining. In America, if a prospector is anxious to- make his fortune and through luck and skill finds a gold reef which contain.-; a quantity of gold’, he may go to the mining authorities and say, “ I have discovered what I believe to be a large lod’e of gold, and I want you to give me assistance to develop it “. Then a geologist from the Mines Department would be sent out at the expense of the government to examine the find, and if that expert considered that there was sufficient gold in the ore to warrant exploitation, he would make a recommendation to his government, and’ the government would advance up to 75 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the amount required to finance the proposition. Then the prospector or the small prospecting company would not have to find a large sum of money, and the money advanced by the government would be repaid as development took place and gold was produced.
I suggest that it is in that way that the gold-mining industry of Australia should be fostered, because it is vital to this country that we should increase our export income, and it is the responsibility of the Government to co-operate with the States in making a careful investigation of the gold-mining industry to ascertain what can bc done further to develop it.
During the years from 1929 to 1931 gold production in Australia greatly increased. That, no doubt, was because Australia was suffering from an economic depression. In 1929 about 427,000 ounces of gold were produced in Australia, but in the next four years the production increased, until in 1933 about 830,000 ounces of gold were put on the market. During that time we were going through the most severe depression that we have ever known, and people went out to prospect for gold in order to obtain a living. Of course, I do not desire to see such economic circumstances again in this country, but there is no doubt that in bad times people turn to gold-mining as a means of livelihood. I remember distinctly that in those days people wandered up and down Western Australia looking for work, and if they were unable to obtain it in the agricultural areas they went prospecting for gold. Some of them made their fortunes on the gold-fields.
It is very easy for a senator to criticize the Government, but we must realize that the present Government is the only government that has ever given a subsidy in’ respect of the production of gold in Australia. Therefore, I suggest that we should congratulate the Government, and for my part I do offer it my congratulations. However, I know that unless something further is done than the payment of a bounty, within the next three years - unless America and other countries will agree to the request of Australia and South Africa for an increase of the price of gold - more and more gold mines will go out of production. Many mines that are kept in operation to-day by the Government’s bounty, and the productivity of which is only of a marginal kind, will not be able to continue. Therefore, although I congratulate the Government for its proposal to continue the gold subsidy for a further three years, I hope that it will be kept well in mind that if costs continue to increase and adversely affect the goldmining industry, the subsidy should be increased in order that the industry may survive until the” overseas price of gold is increased.
.- The bill at present before the Senate is designed to extend the bounty paid under the Gold-Mining Assistance Act of 1954. It is proposed to continue that legislation for four years from the 30th June, 1955. Probably one of the weaknesses of this measure is that its currency is liable to be extended from time to time, and it is, therefore, merely a palliative for a condition that existed in a chronic state in the industry before the Western Australian Government approached the Commonwealth to take some action in order to prevent the industry from totally collapsing.
Mr. Kelly, the Western. Australian Minister for Mines, strongly supported by the Chamber of Mines in Kalgoorlie, made representations to the Commonwealth to the effect that a gold bounty was not only necessary to place the industry on a sound footing, but would also be of great advantage to Australia as a whole. At that time, it was the inten sion to give the bounty to companies whose profits did not exceed 10 per cent. Prospectors did not enter into the picture until the Prospectors Association, in conjunction with the Minister for Mines in Western Australia and the Chamber of Mines in Kalgoorlie, made representations to be recognized, and were, in fact, recognized by the Australian Government.
Gold-mining in Western Australia and, I presume, in other parts of Australia also, has been just able to carry on by means of this bounty. A great number of persons and companies engaged in the recovery of gold from low-grade ore at Wiluna, Big Bell, and mines around Kalgoorlie, have found it impossible, even though they have received the bounty, to continue operations. The amount of gold that they could recover was not sufficient to make operations payable, and because their costs had gone up, they had to cease the treatment of low-grade ore. Companies interested in large areas of low-grade gold-bearing country cannot develop the ore unless there is a different approach to the fixing of the price of gold, and unless their increased costs of production are recognized.
The Opposition approves the continuation of the bounty by the Government, but it also realizes that the bounty should have been increased. The cost of producing gold has increased, and while there are taxation concessions in respect of gold-mining operations, quite recently the Government virtually imposed direct taxation on gold-miners, thus minimizing any concessions to which they were entitled. The production of gold, as well as the production of other commodities, will be badly affected by the imposition of additional sales taxes on petrol, motor vehicle parts and other goods. If the Government- wants to revitalize the goldmining industry, it will .not do so by a measure of this kind. This bill will merely allow the industry to continue to struggle along.
I pay a tribute to the gold-mining companies, the Chamber of Mines and the School of Mines in Kalgoorlie. The community of Kalgoorlie depends upon mining. As mining operations are reduced, the town becomes less prosperous and more people leave. The School of Mines at Kalgoorlie has trained many efficient engineers. It provides training in metallurgy, surveying and all branches of engineering. Its standard of education is acknowledged throughout Australia, and it is accepted by well-qualified engineers as equal to, and in some cases superior to, a university education in engineering. The cost of that education comes out of the gold-mining industry.
I suggest that the Government might well consider methods of providing impetus to developmental work by mining companies to open up new fields. Goldmining companies should not be pinned down to a profit of not more than 10 per cent, to qualify for assistance. It is assumed that if a company can make a profit of 10 per cent., it is a workable proposition and the shareholders can get a return, but no encouragement is given to companies to take a risk and open up new fields. If they could have that assistance, gold production would be expanded. The provisions of this measure are merely a palliative to permit mines that are in operation to continue to produce. Ultimately, they will go out of existence. Big Bell is an example. The mine produced much wealth from low-grade ore, and the adjacent town was well developed. It had electricity and a swimming pool and other amenities, but it has become nothing but a ghost town.
I am sure that the Department of Mines and .the Minister for Mines in Western Australia wish that something should be done to encourage production. While mines are denied support, the industry will die for lack of encouragement. In Western Australia, about 30,000 persons support their families from gold-mining. In Kalgoorlie, the mines have operated and produced well under the bounty, but they have not extended. They have contracted their activities, and the industry is gradually dying. I suggest that early consideration be given to am increase of the bounty which would he well justified. [ agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson) that the bounty rate of ?2 should have been increased to ?3, and the rate of ?1 10s. should have been increased to ?2. The bounty could very well be adjusted to meet rising costs. Clause 4 of the bill will amend section 12 of the principal act by omitting subsection (2.) and inserting, in its stead, the following sub-section: -
Where the Treasurer is satisfied that the ? Implication of the last preceding sub-section would cause the net profit derived by the producer from the production and sale of bullion produced by him in any two consecutive years (after taking subsidy into account) to lie less than an amount equal to twenty per centum of the capital used by him in that production and sale, the Treasurer may modify the application of that sub-section in relation to those years to such extent as he, in his absolute discretion, thinks fit.
That places great power in the hands of the Treasurer. I -should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to explain in some detail how the ‘Government proposes ~to operate that provision. . I should like “to know whether that proposed new sub-section is to. be applied generally, whether an examination will be made of the affairs of the company before the Minister reaches a decision, or whether submissions will be made to the Treasurer for beneficial treatment for a company. Is the Treasurer to act upon the word of his advisers or will action be taken to ascertain whether such a decision would he justified on the submissions of the companies ?
– It has been said that we on the Opposition side support the bill. I support the measure, and I do not believe that the Government could have acted otherwise in the circumstances. I shall refer to those circumstances in a few minutes. The .price of gold has been fixed for the same reason that the price of labour has been fixed. Profits are increased by the bankers and employers. I direct the attention of honorable senators to a statement which appeared in the Western Australian Mining . and
Commercial Review of March, 1949. This statement was made by Dr. K. B. Edwards, B.Sc, ELD.., F.E.I.C., chairman and managing director of the Boulder Perseverance Limited, before he left for London after a short visit to the Golden Mile -
The price any country has to pay -for ‘gold in a free market is an index ‘Of the value of the currency used in the transaction.
This is the explanation of the refusal to allow a free market for gold, as while it is easy to talk about the necessity for avoiding inflation, a free market for gold would tell all citizens how badly their currency was inflated. The United States, Britain and Australia with all other countries who restrict gold sales, arc merely attempting to conceal from their people the fact that war and social legislation have impoverished them all. and a better standard of living could only be obtained by hard work. Stafford Cripps is reported to have stated in parliamentary answers that the British paper pound note is now worth 7s. 2d. compared with gold standard pound before 1914. While this valuation is far above the figure placed upon it toy international economists, it shows that even this arch-priest of currency management, or manipulation, places the value of gold in British paper -pounds at ill 8s. approximately, ot ?14 5s. in Australian currency. Internationally, the valuation of gold varies between 33 per cent, and 50 per cent, higher, which agrees with the value placed on British paper currency in the open market.
This being so, the compulsory acquisition of all .gold produced by the so-called sterling block at a fictitious price becomes even more indefensible. It is enforced to evade, at all costs, the admission that the paper money is steadily getting less and less valuable and all government securities repayable in cash are being gradually liquidated.
Dr. Edwards continued ;
But into the simplest possible language, the gold industry in Australia is being sacrificed to keep up a political economic fiction that the general standard of living has been improved. Any improvement in the standard of living has been attained by dissipation of savings of the saving part of the community, but the steady rise in cost of living denotes steady depreciation of the paper money.
Before the outbreak of the second world war, anti-British alleged economists dilated at great length on the subject. These hirelings were obtained in many countries and were for the most part paid by Germany, although the anti-British element in New York were only too glad to lend their “ expert economists “ to the same end. The internal politics of that great country has been of a nature that inflation was a necessity. The great stock of useless “ gold was kept and not used because the price put on it in paper dollars could not hold it were it put into circulation. As -a creditor nation, the United Statesof America is always desirous of purchasing gold at the lowest possible price in paper dollars. Their goods cost 80 per cent to 100 per cent above pre-war prices on the average. They use their best endeavours to obtain gold at prewar price.
Finally, Dr. Edwards said -
All that is necessary to clear up the position is to free gold from imprisonment. The gold producers must take the ordinary business risk of marketing their product. The possession of gold must no longer be an offence providing it is acquired honestly. This yardstick will verify the position from the illusions of manipulated or managed currency. The citizens of Australiashould insist that they be dragged no further into the quagmire of political illusion. Let all know what they earn, save, or possess. If America will not buy gold at the proper price,others will. If not, the industrymust die, but the loss will be a serious one. The Bretton Woods Agreement entered into under considerable duress does not entail on any government thatthey must buy. the gold produced in their country. Britain must put her financial house in order and not depend on the dominions supplying her with gold at a fictitiously low price. The writing is on the wall in Canada, South Africa and Rhodesia. Let the citizens of Australia follow suit and demand a stable goldbacked currency for their security.
In effect, Dr. Edwards implies that it is intended to sacrifice the goldmining industry in Australia, so far as that can he done withoutcausing too much trouble, and that those who are playing a leading part in this manoeuvre are mainly economists representing American interests. So far as I know, those statements by this highly qualified man from Western Australia have never been challenged or refuted. I have heard honorable senators suggest that if the subsidy is not increased the goldmining industry will be more or less sacrificed. Let me pointout that if the subsidy is increased thetaxpayers of Australia will have to meet the cost and merely for the purpose of fixing the price of gold at such a. low level as will enable American hankers and those who insist upon the enforcement of the Bretton Woods Agreement to make a colossal profit. How long is the Government going to allow itself to be dominated or dictated toby Wasnington? How long does the Government propose to allow American interests to say whether the goldmining industry shall prosper in Australia or whether it shall collapse immediately?
So long as we accept thisdomination from overseas, we cannot claim to be possessed of the sovereign rightslaid down inthe Statute of Westminster.
Even if the subsidy is increased to the amount proposed then I suggest that as what I term fictitious costs increase there will be requests for still higher subsidy payments. How far does the Government expect to go in allowing prices to increase and then raising the subsidy? It is obvious that it cannot continue along those lines indefinitely. If things are allowed to go on in that way, we shall eventually reach a climax, and then those who have been giving orders from Washington in connexion with our currency will be running the country.It is interesting to note, too, that the caption of the article I have read is -
The price of gold is an Index.
Overall robbery of the public.
That is the heading given to an article by one of the highest authorities on the goldmining industry in Australia, and his statements havenot been denied by any Government senators in whose States the goldmining industry is carried on. What I have said about the goldmining industry will happen eventually to other industries, as honorable senators will agree if they read the reference to fantastic surpluses contained in the FinancialReview published last Thursday. Even now, goods are being dumped inNew Zealand and other countries in order to prevent us from selling our primary products at a profit. That is the technique adopted by overseas dictators to Australia and complacently accepted by representatives of the Government. I support the bill, and particularly the provision to pay the subsidy, but I point out that unless the Government takes a more intelligent view of the situation which has arisen, and a more courageous stand against dictation from overseas, no matter from whom, the primary and secondary industries of this country willbe managed by dictators abroad, and the living conditions of the workingpopulation of Australia will be reduced to the lowest possible level. I commend this article to the Government, and after its representatives read itI challenge them to prove that the writer has not made a forthright statement, completely in accordance with facts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Several speakers have referred to the period during which the subsidy will be paid. In the measure now being amended it was two years, and this bill extends it to 1959. The committee is familiar with the comments that were made on that matter. Can the Minister (Senator Spooner) say what would be the possibility of having the period extended with the object of helping the mines which are planning development for twenty years ahead, and also of attracting fresh capital into the mining industry?
– The period for bounties follows a pattern, and is usually for three years.
– The first period was not three years.
– That is so; it was for two years. As Senator Willesee was speaking, I tried to recall what other bounties are given for a period longer than three years. Usually the time is fixed so that the circumstances of the industry may be reviewed at the end of the period. Three years is not a long time, neither is it short, and in practice it seems to work most conveniently in the case of bounty legislation.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 15th May (vide page 721), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the billbe now read a second time.
– The bill now before the Senate seeks to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act, which is the counterpart for the defence forces of the Superannuation Act of the Public Service. As the Minister (Senator Spooner) thoroughly explained in his secondreading speech, the bill purports to serve two main purposes. The first is to give to certain officers of the defence forces an increased unit entitlement, and to provide for increased contributions to the fund by those officers. The situation arises because these officers were granted increases in pay as from the 22nd February of this year, which fact entitles them to take up a greater number of units, and obliges them to pay higher contributions to the fund. That is a normal and perfectly proper process.
The second purpose of the bill is to provide that naval ratings attaining commissioned rank since 1954, and before this bill is passed, shall have a fresh opportunity to elect to become contributors under the act. That, too, is a benefit extended, certainly for a limited period, but it gives a second opportunity to various rating who have achieved commissioned rank, to become pensioners under the scheme.
The final point is that future naval ratings, who, hereafter, will be appointed to commissioned rank, will be compelled to seek the benefit of the fund and become contributors. All those purposes the. Opposition cordially supports.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to-
That Government Business, Order of the Day No. 2, be postponed until after the consideration of General Business, Order of the Day No. 1.
Debate resumed from the 15th May (vide page 739), on motion by Senator McCallum -
That the Report of the Select Committee on the Development of Canberra, presented to the Senate on the 29th September, 1955, he considered.
– In resuming the debate, I wish briefly to state one or two points which I endeavoured to make last night so as to connect my previous remarks with what I propose to say now in conclusion. This committee which was appointed by the Senate undertook a very strenuous task. I believe that it did an excellent job and reflected great credit on the Senate. Last night I stated that, in my view, several things in connexion with the development of Canberra should be done very quickly. First, I stated that it was necessary to give the citizens of Canberra the right to have local or municipal government. Secondly, I said that the honorable member who represents the Australian Capital Territory in the House of Representatives should have all the rights and privileges of any other member who represents an electoral division elsewhere in Australia ; and thirdly, I agreed with Senator Vincent that ministerial responsibility for for administering the Australian Capital Territory should be removed from the Minister for the Interior and given to the Minister for Territories. I then went on to say that much money must be spent if this city is to be developed properly as a national capital. I pointed out that Canberra must be prepared to accept a fair share of the funds available, and that, in relation to the funds voted for expenditure on the development of Canberra, the Government should appreciate its great responsibility to spend those funds wisely and according to a specified plan which should not be varied once it had been established as the plan for the Canberra of the future.
It must be remembered, when discussing the expenditure of money for the development of Canberra, that Canberra started off with a great burden and a restraint on its growth because of its particular location, removed as it is from a seaport, or an area in which raw materials and other resources might help it to grow. As there is not available all the money that we want for the development of Australia generally, I believe that, unfortunately, Canberra’s burden because of its location will have to be carried for a number of years to come.
Whilst it is perhaps unfortunate, I think we must nevertheless appreciate that the growth of the city will be slow. Most towns and cities in Australia develop and flourish because of industrial activity, manufacturing production, and the expenditure of money by private enterprise in establishing industry. That money, of course, brings with it revenue, population, the need for shops, and also the need for amenities. But Canberra cannot hope to benefit from such revenue and such resources. Therefore, the ambitions of its people - ambitions that they hold quite rightly - must be tempered by sweet reason, and their .requests can only be made with the knowledge that they cannot all be met at once.
Australia must realize that Canberra is the national capital, that it always will be the national capital, and that anything that can fairly be done to develop the city should be done, so that we shall have a capital worthy of our nation. The report we are considering is worthy of the full attention of the Government. I sincerely hope that it will not be pigeonholed. It needs to be studied, and when the Cabinet has decided which parts of the report, and which recommendations, it is agreeable to implement, it should go ahead with them, and also with the recommendations I have already suggested. In my opinion, the recommendation that a committee of the Senate should be appointed to advise on the growth and development of Canberra in the future is a very proper one. The Senate is admirably suited to provide such a committee, which could be of help both to Canberra and the people of Australia generally. That is a recommendation that I urge the Government to adopt. Canberra is our leading city, in theory, and it is the responsibility of those in this Parliament to keep it going, and to see that it grows into a city befitting the Australian nation. Therefore, I warmly support the report of the committee.
– As a member of the committee which inquired into the development of Canberra, may I say that already during this debate much has been said with which I agree and in connexion with which I should have liked to speak to the
Senate. I do not wish to weary honorable senators by reiterating statements that have been made already by other members of the committee, but I feel that I should be lacking in my duty, and also in ordinary courtesy, if I did not at this stage pay a tribute to the wonderful work of the secretary of the committee. Mr. Bullock fired all of. us with his own enthusiasm for the subject and was, absolutely tireless in the work that he did between the meetings of the committee to make those meetings fruitful and interesting. In this, of course, he was following the. pattern laid down by the chairman of the committee, Senator McCallum, to whom I also pay tribute. I acknowledge the work of the other members of the committee, from both sides of the Senate, who gave so much of their time to the very pleasing duty of inquiring, into the possibilities of the development of Canberra on truly national lines.
Some, criticism has’, been directed against this’ report on the score of expenseSome people seem- to think that we expect all our findings Uo-be put into- being almost immediately, and that we have made recommendations for the consideration of the Senate without having regard to the financial issues involved. I should like, to say, at- the- outset, that quite a number of our recommendations, do not involve the outlay of any money at all,. Because the, main thought in the minds, of all members- of the- committee, certainly in my mind1, concerned the way in which the’ whole concept’ of Canberra as a. national capital could be- better instilled into the minds of the people of Australia to. make them) proud of Canberra as, their national capital and the centre of theirhopes and aspirations; to make therm think of Canberra,, not only as the seat, of parliamen:hairy government,. bet also, as the: cultural centre of Australia, the artistic centre^ the centre from which might emanate everything that, could, help to make Australia generally a better place in which, to live. These ideal’s, of course,, are high, but unless we aim high we cannot hope, to achieve very much..
In alT the deliberations of this committee we were activated by the idea of making the national capital worthy of
Australia,, instead of something that was just second rate. That is why we. objected very strenuously to deviations from the original plans of those who had a similar concept 30 or 40 years ago. Thirty or 40 years is a very short space of time in the life of a nation, and it is also a short space of time in which, to see the conceptof a. national capital brought to reality. Those critics who thought that the plans of 30 or 40 years ago were far too extravagant, and who have been critical because more has not been done in. the intervening years, should bear in mind that, during Canberra’s short history as. a national capital, the nation itself has faced three major disasters and come successfully through all of them. Shortly after it was decided to select this as the site of the national capital, we were faced with the tragedy of World War I., and we had just emerged from that conflict when the depression was upon us. While we were still in. the- process of emerging, from the / depression, World. War II. broke out. with all its attendant upheaval. Then came the years of post-war difficulties, including the Korean war. The period through which we are now passing ha.? seen great advances in the development of ‘ Canberra as our capital city. I think that Australian consciousness is. being, aroused in this matter.. E’ach year, more than 250,000 people from all parts of Australia as well as overseas visit Canberra. The average duration of their stay here is two days. In 1954.. visitors to Canberra spent about £1,250,000 in this city. The vast potentialities of the tourist trade should be fully encouraged, and the mst potentialities from a full awakening, of a consciousness of the importance of Canberra as the national capital should bcdeveloped. Many cynical people seem to think that the fact’ that the National Parliament is located here is the be-all’ and end-all of Canberra as a city. That is not so. Of course, those people arccynical’ of the parliamentary institution as such. They would be cynical of any place where the Federal Parliament assembled. I believe that their criticism is levelled, not so much at Canberra as at the Parliament itself:. Therefore, J do not regard their criticism as of very much validity because; after all, to be the seat of government of the nation is a very important function of any city, and we as parliamentarians exercise a big influence on whether that concept is a high one or a low one. Our conduct in the National Parliament influences the opinion of the community in relation to the parliamentary institution. Therefore, it devolves upon the members of the National Parliament to ensure that the parliamentary institution, as such, shall be held in high esteem and that we are not at fault in the development of the national capital. In past years, sufficient interest has not been taken in Canberra by members of the Federal Parliament. Unfortunately, this disinterestedness has become much more marked in recent years as a result of the development of speedier communications. The majority of members get to Canberra as quickly as they can and leave as quickly as they can. Consequently, they do not see very much of Canberra except between their hotels and Parliament House. They are not, therefore, in a position to give a fair appraisal of this report, unless they have studied is very closely.
The committee heard evidence from very many professional men and women, including architects, town-planners, educationists, engineers, and other people who were interested, not only in their own life’s work, but also in the concept of developing Canberra as a city which would be free from the mistakes which have characterized the growth of other capital cities in Australia. This was to be a city with a plan, but we have seen a departure from some of the main features of the plan in recent years. There are some parts of Canberra about which people keep very quiet. I refer to a portion of Westlake, and an area near the Causeway, to which very few tourist buses take tourists because they are areas that we want to keep out of sight. Unfortunately, they are well on the way to becoming slum areas. Of course, the buildings there were not meant to be permanent structures. They were built to house the people who came here to build the capital in 1921, but due to the exigencies of housing they have been allowed to remain. Not a great deal of money has been spent on improving these areas by the provision of amenities, roads and footpaths, or even by giving some of the houses a coat of paint because over the years they have been regarded only as temporary dwellings. But what some of the dwellers in these houses have been able to do with them is amazing. While we are awaiting the completion of our plans for Canberra, something should he done in the immediate future to make these areas more attractive for the people who live in them.
One of the great difficulties that has confronted Canberra in the past has been the getting together and keeping here of an adequate work force. In order to establish an adequate building force here, many builders labourers were induced to come to Canberra under the immigration scheme after the war. I read with great dismay in the local press recently that many immigrant families, particularly those in which the bread-winners were engaged in the building trade, were being forced to leave Canberra because of an insufficiency of work, particularly public works. A very great difficulty that not only the Department of Works but also private contractors have had to face over the years has been associated with keeping an adequate work force here once it had been established.
A great tribute is due to those who were responsible for the building of the Australian National University, in that they were able to obtain workmen of a very high calibre. Within a few short months, a magnificent pile of buildings comprising the John Curtin School of Medical Research was established. I was fortunate to be present at a function which was held to mark the occasion of the putting on of the roof of one of the buildings. It is a European custom to hold a ceremony to mark the occasion of a building reaching the necessary level for the roof to be put on. Last year, on the occasion that I mentioned, workmen of many nationalities who had worked on the building assembled at one of the happiest functions I have had the privilege of attending since I first came to Canberra thirteen years ago. They demonstrated the pride that they had taken in their workmanship. The job was completed before the contract time because they were so interested in their work. The employer-employee relationships were so good that every one of those representative employees wished to take the opportunity to pay a tribute to his employer - the contractors - for the manner in which they had been treated while working on the job. The very happy state of employer-employee relationships which existed on that job is one which could well be carried into other aspects of industry in this capital city. Indeed, it could give a great lead to the building industry elsewhere. But now we find that some of the work force is to be dissipated at a time when so much remains to be done within the capital itself. If Canberra is to become the cultural, scientific and legislative heart of Australia, we have to do far more than just talk about the erection of a new Parliament House. Other buildings are needed urgently, for which a great deal of money is not required. For instance, we need an art gallery here. As one walks through the corridors of Parliament House, he sees works of art lying around. In the years to come, many books and works of art that are in the corridors and stored in the basement - various collections that the National Library has been able to acquire - will be absolutely priceless. At present, they are housed inadequately. Some of the greatest art treasures in this country are being kept in old Nissen huts and temporary buildings. An absolute need exists all over Canberra for portions of the plan to be put into execution almost immediately. We need a national museum and a national library worthy of Canberra, in which could be housed some of the magnificent books and records that we possess. We have historical records that could never be replaced. They are housed in all kinds of temporary, make-shift places in which I am certain some honorable senators listening to me would not put their pet dog, let alone the priceless treasures that belong, not to Canberra but to the people of Australia. We are not talking just about Canberra. That, is an aspect of this matter which should appeal to every one. This is a report not simply on the development of Canberra but on the development of the Australian people as a nation; and that fact makes it a non party matter. We, as Australians, should strive to build something of which we will not only be proud from the mundane point of view, but which will also give adequate protection to all the facets of our national life which we have been able so far to gather here.
We have a unique opportunity to do so. When the capitals of the States were starting, they grew, just like Topsy. They did not have this magnificent concept. They did not have the funds behind them for their development or the vision and opportunities that have been given to the planners of Canberra to see that a worth-while job is done from the beginning. That is why the bringing of the whole of this question before the Senate deserves the highest commendation not only from the Senate but also from .the Parliament as a whole and from the people as well. It is amazing how it did come before the people of Australia. It was just because a very unaesthetic looking building seemed to grow up one night in front of the Hotel Kurrajong and Senator McCallum was wise enough and perturbed enough to question it so far as the development of the city was concerned. As a result of his righteous indignation, this committee was set up. As a member of that committee I was proud and happy to be able to see how much interest was taken in the subject. But much remains to be done to give impetus to the recommendations that have been made by the committee.
As I have said, we urgently need an art gallery and a museum in order to make of this national capital a treasure house, in which to preserve those things which we have in Australia now but which, in 50 or 100 years time, will not be available to us. We have to grasp that opportunity now because in 100 years’ time it will cost us a great deal more. We are not planning for to-day or to-morrow; we are planning for the years that lie ahead, for 50 years or 100 years, ahead. This is not just a task of one or two years but something that has to be a continuing process. That is why the committee has recommended that .a permanent allocation should be made - not just a few thousand pounds voted next year to build this or that and, perhaps, a few thousand more the year after to build something also. A fund should constantly be available in order that a continuous process of work can be carried out, all tending towards the completion of the whole pattern of the plan. Some people talk about expense and say that it will cost millions. Of course, it will cost millions; but it is not what it will cost but what it will be worth that matters. It may cost millions in the next few years, but if we leave it for 25 or 50 years it will cost many more millions. In any case, what does money matter compared with what will accrue to the nation when this plan is finally implemented ?
It is ridiculous to contemplate a national capital, in the heart of this continent, from which the higher functions of government are not directed. We have the Parliament here, but most of its administrative functions are carried out from other capital cities. That of course, as has been said by previous speakers, represents a great deal of extravagance and useless spending and defeats the whole idea of the federal system of government. The High Court does not function from Canberra, as it obviously should. All the important federal functions should naturally have their head-quarters in the capital city if this is to be, in truth, the capital of Australia. It may be said that these are dreams of the future, but let us remember that without dreams a nation will perish. These are not just idle dreams. They are concepts which must be kept before this Parliament and the people of Australia, and which can only be so kept if the Senate continues the interest it has taken on this occasion by setting up a permanent committee such as is envisaged by the report of the select committee.
I do not want unduly or unfairly to criticize the Ministers who, over the years, have been in charge of Canberra as a back-pocket of the Department of the Interior. Since the national capital was established in Canberra it has always been one of the sidelines of the Depart ment of the Interior, or the Minister for the Interior, who has many jobs to do in other parts of Australia. In looking after Canberra he has a job which normally in any other city would be carried out by a town clerk or shire council. It is a very big and very important job and a separate Minister should have the responsibility for it. He should see that Canberra is maintained and developed as the capital city of Australia and not merely carry out a job such as that which has been thrust upon him of seeing whether a bus should run to Narrabundah, O’Connor or somewhere else. That should not be the function of a Minister charged with the high and important duty of being responsible for Canberra.
Another recommendation made by the committee is that there should be a council in Canberra. It is a strange thing that the citizens of this capital city have no representation, not even on a road board level, such as exists in all the other States. Here we have a capital city without a municipal council, without a leading citizen such as a lord mayor is in a capital city, unless we view the Minister for the Interior in one of his many capacities and make him the leading citizen for a special occasion such as a Royal visit. The Secretary of the Department of the Interior, in one of his capacities, could also be viewed as a leading citizen of Canberra. Surely to goodness, the people of Canberra have the same rights as people elsewhere with regard to local government, and government in the political sphere. The Australian Capital Territory now has a representative in the Parliament, but that representative has no vote in the House except on matters affecting the Territory; and even then there is frequently some objection or difficulty in the way of his exercising his franchise. The time is fast approaching when the people of Canberra should be able to elect their representatives to a city council or a legislative council. That applies to other parts of the Commonwealth and even to some of the territories of the Commonwealth which, at the present time, are regarded as being very similar to the Australian Capital Territory.
The select committee worked for months. I have not dealt with many of the problems that have been raised in the report because other speakers have been able to do so much more adequately than I can. However, there is one point on which I should like to finish and that is that population statistics show that of the 13,864 wage-earners, or salaryearners in Canberra, more than half are civil servants. Less than 4 per cent, are farmers, and 8 per cent, are grouped in a way that I find difficult to understand. They are the workers in amusement industries, shop assistants and so on. The whole of the working population of Canberra is rather lopsided .at present, and therefore I can understand that most people may fear that if the representative for the Australian Capital Territory were given full voting rights, the public servants who live in Canberra would have an overwhelming say in who is elected, and a consequent interest in the way he votes. For my own part I believe that any such opinion is mere eye wash, because public servants in their private capacities are citizens, and have the same rights and privileges as other citizens. However, the fact remains that if the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory are grouped according to their methods of making a living, by far the largest group is composed of public servants.
That very fact brings into focus the question of how the industrial development of Canberra should be considered. We have decided against developing Canberra as a big industrial city, because there are towns better situated for industrial development close to the capital city. Some suggestions were made that Canberra should rival perhaps Goulburn and Yass as a market centre, but we did not agree with that at all. We considered that the national capital should be above such considerations, and should not attempt to rival provincial capitals, <mt that it should maintain its own function as Australia’s capital and that it would best carry out that function if there were somebody responsible for its development.
What is everybody’s business is nobody’s business, ‘ and the committee arrived at the opinion that any money spent on the development of
Canberra would be spent wisely and would not be wasted, and that the full development of the capital could , only come when responsibility for it flows directly back to the Parliament. The Senate is so often accused of not having enough work to do - I think that that accusation is levelled at it quite rightly- - and it could be one of the important tasks of the Senate to set up a permanent committee of the Senate to assist the Minister for the Interior. Such a committee could be given full powers to look after the welfare of Canberra. If that were done then we, as members of the Senate, would owe a deep debt of gratitude to Senator McCallum who brought about the establishment of the committee, and all those who in any way assisted to bring the matter of the development of Canberra before the people of this country.
– I express my appreciation to the Senate Committee on Canberra, particularly to the chairman, Senator McCallum. I desire not to canvass the remarks that have already been so ably made by the honorable senators and which have been canvassed by other speakers, but I was particularly interested in some of the points made by Senator Tangney, and I shall deal with them later in my speech. I invite the attention of the Senate to page 104 of the report, in which administrative transfers are dealt with. The committee found that -
The enormous waste of public money and lack of departmental efficiency occasioned by the carrying on of administration in the three cities of Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney, be not allowed to continue indefinitely.
I pay a tribute to the committee for focusing the attention of honorable senators upon that important matter. I am a senator from South Australia, and I am therefore well aware of the waste of public moneys and the lack of departmental efficiency in Adelaide; but I can do no more than stress to the Senate the importance of that particular clause according to my experience in Adelaide. In Adelaide, the activities of Commonwealth departments are not co-ordinated in any way, but are spread all over the city, much to the disgust of the city fathers, who are unable to collect the rates that they would collect if the Government were not in occupation of so many premises. The Australian Government holds many blocks of buildings right throughout the city.
I believe that the plan to move the administrative offices to Canberra as the years go by will be much, appreciated in all the capital cities of the Commonwealth. We should remember that we must have Commonwealth officers in the capital cities when it is necessary for them to be in contact with the public there, and we cannot have all the civil servants in Canberra, but nevertheless there is much further scope for the removal of public servants to Canberra.
There was a challenge contained in the speech of Senator Hannaford delivered last night, when he referred to sub-paragraph 11 of the committee’s recommendations, and mentioned in particular the recommendation that the High Court of Australia and the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should have their head-quarters in this city. He threw the challenge down by using these words -
And I do not think that any sensible argument can be advanced to suggest that those organizations are being more effectively operated from the various capital cities in the States.
I desire to take up that challenge, because I suggest that it would be quite impracticable to establish the High Court and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in an isolated capital city such as Canberra. It should be remembered that there are two main jurisdictions of the High Court. One is the original jurisdiction, where cases are heard in the first instance, witnesses examined and judgments delivered. Then there is the appellate jurisdiction attended by eminent barristers from most of the capitals of Australia, where there is a necessity for barristers’ chambers, libraries and all the other necessaries of an important court. I believe that it would be quite impracticable to have the High Court centred in Canberra. There is only one judge of Supreme Court standing in the whole of the Australian Capital Territory, and there is possibly not enough work here to keep him occupied. Therefore, if we have here a number of judges together with court officials, barristers and solicitors, there would certainly not be enough work to keep them all employed, and the whole thing would be a dismal failure.
It would be a dismal failure to transfer the High Court here, and an even greater failure to transfer the Commonwealth Arbitration Court here, because one of that court’s most important functions is to conciliate between parties. If the court were in Canberra it would, be many hundreds of miles away from disputes where the conciliators actually should be, and their value would thus be considerably reduced. Therefore, I consider that the recommendations concerning the High Court and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court are not well founded. I congratulate the committee on its report, and I accept the challenge of Senator Hannaford. I suggest to the members of the committee who are now present, that I hope they will sit together again to consider the development of Canberra, and that when they do they could consider the provision of a court building of small dimension, but a building which I hope some day might even house the Privy Council. For the last 100 years or so that body has met in the United Kingdom. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.4-5 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed .from the 15th May (vide page 710), on motion by Senator Cooper. -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill before the Senate is the Broadcasting and Television Bill. It serves several main purposes. It repeals two acts - The Television Act 1953 and the Commercial Broadcasting Stations Licence Fee Act 1942. It makes very substantial changes in radio broadcasting, and purports to set up a complete system of control of the new medium of television. Appropriately, the Broadcasting Act is to be renamed through this measure the Broadcasting and Television Act 1956. “We of the Opposition welcome this measure, which sets up a code for the important field of television.
I say at once that it is very long overdue, because Australia is one of the last countries in the world to have the advantage of this modern scientific development. It is almost six years since the Postmaster-General, in September, 1950, announced that television would be in operation in Australia within two years. It is nearly as long since there was an announcement that tenders were invited for the establishment of a national television station in Sydney. That was in September, 1950, but nothing more was ever heard of that project. A little later that year, the Government set up an advisory committee which toured the world, as did the Minister, and again nothing happened until 1953. In that year, a royal commission was appointed to investigate the whole field of television for Australia and, at the same time, a Television Act was passed. At the time, we on the Opposition side criticized that legislation as a mere empty gesture. Now we find that, after six and a half years in office, the Government has done nothing more tangible. There is no television in Australia, and the Government, shamed before the world with the advent of the Olympic Games later this year in Melbourne, has had to make a move at last. 1 say at once it is a shame that this important new medium should have been delayed so long. It is one more outstanding instance of the dithering and delay that have been the chief characteristics of this Government in the past six years.
The bill proceeds on the assumption that the Parliament has power over television. It relies upon the head of power in the Constitution dealing with postal, telegraphic, telephonic and- similar services. It may well be that that claim is justified, but it may be found that it is not justified. I expressed my own doubts at some length when dealing with the Television Bill 1953 in this chamber. I do not propose to traverse again the arguments that I used on that occasion, but I have been interested to note that the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has also expressed doubts about the Commonwealth power. It is true that he expressed those doubts in relation to a limited field. He was referring to the Commonwealth’s desire to legislate by regulation to prevent interference to the transmission and the reception of television. He indicated that the service could be disrupted and distorted by buildings, by electrical appliances and contrivances, and even by motor cars. He expressed doubt whether the Commonwealth could legislate as effectively as it wished without State support. I point out that, if there is power over television, the incidental power would enable legislation of that sort. So it finally comes down to a doubt, expressed ^ by the Postmaster-General himself, as to our power in this very important field in which the Parliament purports to legislate as though there were no doubt at all about its powers.
This legislation might well be tested sooner than we think because, if the Government introduces regulations affecting buildings and all the ordinary occupations and vocations of trade, industry and homes, the legislation might very soon be attacked because of those regulations. Again, it might be open to attack whenever a prosecution under this legislation is instituted. All I hope is that the constitutional committee that is now, apparently, to be set up after a procrastination of nearly two years, will address itself to the inclusion of television as a specific head of power in the Constitution. If it turns out that there is no power, that would be most unfortunate and deplorable, and I express the view that this Parliament should have power in that field beyond all possibility of attack.
I have referred briefly to the Television Act 1953. We queried its purpose at the time, and it is now quite clear that its real purpose was to enable the responsible Minister to grant commercial television licences in Australia. There was undue haste. I suggest that it would have been very much better for the country and for television if. the Canadian approach to the matter had been followed. That is set out at page 19 of the report of the Royal Commission on Television. It pointed out that a royal commission in Canada recommended that no private television station should be licensed until the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had available national television programmes. That was its first recommendation. The idea was that, in this new and untried field, there should be a period of testing at the national level to probe all the perils, dangers and difficulties before private commercial stations were permitted.
Tn December, 1949, the Canadian Government authorized the setting up of national stations only, and it was not until three years later, at the end of 1952, that the Canadian Government authorized the setting up of commercial television stations in areas not served by the national stations which were already operating. There, the government had made an effective and very sound approach to the problem.
What do we find in Australia? We find that of six licences granted at the present moment, three are in one capital city and three in another, and two commercial stations are set down alongside the national stations. Having regard to the sensible Canadian approach, I should like some honorable senator on the Government side to explain why, in these circumstances, the Canadian pattern was not followed. If there were, at this early stage, to be four commercial licences, why was not one allocated to the other capital cities where there was to be no national station? Why concentrate six of them in two cities? That is the first question that I pose to the Government.
On examining the bill that is now before the Senate, I find that it preserves the broad pattern that was set up by the Labour Government in 1942. The broad scheme is simply this: We set up a Broadcasting Control Board which had to exercise general supervision over licences and so on and, in particular, over programme standards. It had very important overriding functions to exercise in relation not only to the national broadcasting service but also to the operations of the commercial licensees. The second thing that was done, and is preserved, was the setting up of the national broadcasting service operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The third aspect was the permitting of commercial broadcasting stations. All that is preserved and not disturbed ; in fact, it has been expanded in that the controlling board will now exercise control over the two media of radio broadcasting and television, and the national service will be concerned with the same two aspects.
The bill is a most comprehensive one. It has 62 clauses, many of them highly subdivided, and they take up some 26 pages of very close print. I point out at once that this bill is a much more fit subject for discussion in detail in committee than at this stage. There are very many details, and I think the Opposition will co-operate with the Government at this stage of the debate to permit of free and full discussion in committee. We have quite a number of amendments to propose at the committee stage, and I trust that a proper opportunity will be given not only to submit them but to debate them adequately in this chamber. I admit that the bill has many necessary and desirable provisions, but I say that it fails in some very great matters of principle. Whilst it acknowledges those principles, it either fails to pay attention to them, or to apply them, on the one hand or, on the other, is too timid in applying them. The first great principle that I have in mind concerns the preservation of the very cornerstone of democracy itself. I shall not deal with that matter immediately; I should like to lead into it with a consideration of the important elements of television itself, the new medium of mass communication that has come to the world.
Television, of course, calls for a combination of two things - hearing and sight. It demands the use of the aural and visual faculties of the human being. Presentation means that the viewer is given vision quite simultaneous with the happening of the events that are in fact being screened. These are outstanding characteristics of the new medium, but it is in the fact that two faculties are called for in connexion with television that there arises the great power of television and there lies its very great danger. I put it to the Senate that the spoken word dies the minute it is born, that it dies cbe very second it is uttered and leaves no trace anywhere except in the very faulty recollection of mankind. I should say, also, that the spoken word either makes no impact, or is forgotten altogether unless the listening is illuminated or inspired by a very live, keen interest, or unless it is buttressed in some other way. The same is true, in my view, although with less force, of the written word which demands the use of the visual faculty only. It is far more powerful in effect than the spoken word, for a number of reasons. In the first place, it can be read at a place and at a time to suit the individual. Again, the written word may be read and read again until its contents and meaning are completely absorbed by the reader. It is for that reason that the written word has a very much greater impact on the mind than the spoken word. I think the Senate will agree with me when I say that it takes effort to read, but we all know that one has only got to be conscious to listen. That is perfectly true, and one sees illustrations of it in the Senate from time to time.
The new medium of television permits both listening and seeing without effort. That is the combination that makes the most powerful impact on the mind. I affirm that what is seen is far more readily absorbed than what is merely beard. Carrying the idea a little further, the same thing is true of the cinema where there is a combination of sound and seeing; but there is a vast difference between television and the cinema. The cinema audience selects from a large number of programmes the one that it wishes to see. The television audience is exceedingly vast and is most heterogeneous. Et ranges from the youngest child to the adult; and that audience sees whatever is presented entirely regardless of what is suitable for the different age groups and the different classes. In other words, people go to the cinema programme but in television the programme goes to the people. That is a vast and important difference between these two media of mass communications.
– But they have a choice.
– Yes, but the point I am making is that in the one instance the individual goes to the programme.
– But he has actually got a choice of programme.
– It is completely true that he has a choice of programme. I indicated that when I said that from many programmes he selectsthe one he wishes to see, and he goes to it. In a home, the- spread of television is continuous. It goes to the people.
– But there is a choice.
– Of course, there is a choice. One can decide not to look.
– But there is a choice of three in Sydney and Melbourne.
– And I think that is the grave fault of this legislation, as I have indicated already. But. I put to the Senate the proposition that most minds are exceedingly lazy, thai most people prefer to have their thinking done for them, instead of doing it for themselves. Most people listen or read and finish up with what I should say were only probably blurred, general impressions, or, at all events, merely general impressions. Newspapers know this better than anybody else in the whole field of communication. That is why newspapers exploit headlines - so easily and so often slanted - and often quite unsupported or unjustified by the matter that is printed underneath them. I put it to the Senate that that is a part of the conditioning of the mass mind. It is, in fact, a weaker version of the more direct brain-washing and indoctrination methods of the Communists and dictators. It is the sort of thing that in China produces in the mind, heart and belief of every Chinese child the firm conviction that the United States of America tried to invade China. That is the technique, and that is typical of the results that are achieved by that, technique.
Tt is my somewhat painful duty, I confess, to keep on scanning the newspapers of Australia from time to time, and it is most interesting to note how, at the one time, with the one theme, one gets the one viewpoint in newspaper after newspaper throughout Australia. Of course, they are different words every time, but it is the one theme, the one idea and the one viewpoint. I suggest that it may be justified from time to time by current events on some matter of general interest; but one cannot always find that reason for the theme that runs through the larger newspapers of this country in particular at the one time. So, I say to the Senate that we have the press, we have the radio at the moment and the cinema. They are the three great media of mass communication and this Parliament is now about to add to those the new medium of television. That is the medium of sight and sound, as I have already said; but it is backed by the force of the most compelling and the most powerful human personalities that can bo summoned to the screen. There is another element adding force and power to television. The Australian Labour party saw the onset of television quite a while ago, and it affirmed its outlook at the Hobart conference in February, 1952. I propose to read to the Senate what the conference then said, and I invite honorable senators to notice how prophetic was the statement issued by the Labour party at that time. It reads -
This conference, as the supreme body of the Australian Labour party, expresses its deep concern at the possibility of television licences in respect of the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne being granted to corporations, constituting, in effect, combines of newspaper, radio broadcasting, film and similar interests which already monopolize, to a large extent mass communication of information to the people of Australia.
There is a grave danger to the public interest and true freedom of expression is threatened if these newspapers, which are anti-Labour organs, extend their interests not only to sound broadcasting but to television, which will be the most powerful instrument of all, from the point of view of providing information for the people of Australia.
Further, it is noted that in the applications made by Sydney and Melbourne newspapers, overseas interests are directly interested and concerned and are prepared to join combinations in Australia which might have a detrimental effect ou the fair presentation of the facts affecting the social and economic welfare of the Australian people and the peace of the world.
Having listened to that quotation from the conference resolution, honorable senators must acknowledge that the Labour conference had a very clear vision of things to come. Unfortunately, the fear then expressed has been realized, as the people of Australia know to-day. There are four factors in the situation which alarm the Opposition and the Australian Labour party to-day. The first is the increasing growth and expansion of power of the metropolitan press of the great capital cities which, owing to improved communications, particularly air communication, are now ousting the country press and becoming more and more powerful as month after month goes by. Secondly, we are concerned with the great power and influence that newspapers have in the field of radio broadcasting. Thirdly, we are alarmed at the large measure of control and influence that these newspapers have been given by this Government in the new field of television through the first four licences which have been granted. Fourthly, we are worried about the vesting of control of television in a combination of press, radio and cinema interests.
In other words, here is control of the most powerful force yet in the world for planting and spreading ideas put directly in the hands of people who already almost - if they do not fully - monopolize that field. From that fact I argue that this measure really attacks one of the corner-stones of democracy. If only one side pf a question is put, and no conflicting or minority view at all is presented, it is incontestible that in a community where that happens democracy is dead. The next proposition is that if the viewpoint on a major issue is put fully for one side and only partially or inadequately for the other, then democracy is threatened. “Within the limits imposed by good taste and common sense, there ought to be complete freedom for minorities in a democracy, and for conflicting views to be presented on an equal basis. But we find that the Government, in granting these four television licences - the first four to be granted in Australia- has granted them to organizations sponsored by newspapers, most of which, if not all - and I believe “ all “ is right - are completely opposed to the viewpoint of the Australian Labour party, which is one of the major parties in the political field. The direct interests of newspapers are very substantial and their indirect interests are also substantia!.
It is worth while to examine the latest report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, dated October of last year, which covers a period ending on the 30th June, 1955. I wish to show the link between newspapers on the one hand and radio on the other, before I pass on to a discussion of television. If honorable senators look at page 10 of that report they will find that it points out that newspapers owned - not merely had an interest in but owned - fourteen of the 106 broadcasting stations in Australia at that time, and had very substantial interests in 29 other stations. In other words, they were interested in 43 out of the 106 broadcasting stations in Australia. If honorable senators care to examine the location of those stations they will see that they provide an Australiawide cover for broadcasting. Consequently, there can be no doubt as to the enormous potency of the influence they wield in the field of radio broadcasting.
On the same page of the report it is pointed out that in at least four of the major capital cities - Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide - a newspaper completely owns at least one station. In Perth, it has a half-interest and in Hobart a third-interest. But that is not nearly the end of the matter. The report discloses the interlocking that takes place between newspaper and radio interests. As a perfect example of this I refer the Senate to pages 8 to 10 of the report where they will find some facts recorded about the Herald and Weekly Times, a Melbourne newspaper. That company completely owns radio stations 3DB and 3LK in Victoria. It controls also the Brisbane Courier-Mail, a newspaper which owns 4BK and 4AK in the State of Queensland. The Herald and Weekly Times Limited is also the principal shareholder in the Advertiser, a newspaper in Adelaide which controls four broadcasting stations in South Australia - 5 AD in Adelaide, 5MU at Murray Bridge, 5PI at Crystal Brook and 5SE at Mount Gambier. I am not citing the results of my own research; these facts are contained in the report of recent date of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, from which I have quoted.
– And also in Dr. Evatt’s speech in another place.
– These facts establish very plainly that the press has a most powerful influence in radio. That is an incontestible conclusion. Now I pass to the subject before the Senate this evening - television. I begin by referring to the first licence that was granted in Sydney - to Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited, an organization controlled by the Sun-Herald newspaper group in that city. According to the distribution of shares disclosed in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board at page 31 the SunHerald and radio station 2UE - which is controlled by the Sun- hold 300,000 shares. The 2GB group - and the Herald - has a substantial interest in 2GB, that is, 119,118 shares. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, which owns eight stations scattered Australia-wide and is interested in five others, holds 75,000 shares. The 2UW group, another broadcasting concern, holds 75,000 shares. In those few groups alone, there are held 569,118 shares. Of the total of 794,118 shares, just on 72 per cent, is held by press and radio interests. There is a plain concentration of monopoly control, and the Government is throwing into their bag the new and more powerful medium of television.
Let me look at the second station in Sydney to which a licence has been granted. It is known as Television Corporation Limited, and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board deals with its set-up at page 32 of the report. Consolidated Press Limited - the Daily Telegraph - holds 569,493 shares. Associated Newspapers of England holds 232,000 shares. Between them, they hold
S01,493 shares, so that newspapers hold that number of shares of the total of 1,096,4.93 shares of representative shareholders. I am not speaking of the private shareholders. There are some 4,330 private shareholders who hold 803,500 shares, but of the representative shareholdings, newspapers alone hold just on 80 per cent. Is it not plain to the Senate that colossal additional power is being put in the hands of those newspapers? In other words, two newspaper groups, with their allied radio interests in Sydney, are given, at this stage, complete control of the new medium.
In connexion with that second station, it is true that small issues were made to church and other organizations; but let us see how they compare in size. In relation to the second station to which I have just referred, station 2SM, which I understand is a church station, was given 49,500 shares, the Church of England Property Trust in Sydney was given 60,000 shares, and station 2KY, which belongs to the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney, was given 19,500 shares. Combining the three, they total 129,000 shares. Whereas the press and radio receive 72 per cent, of the representative shareholding, those three bodies receive only 12 per cent. Is there not an undue proportion, and is it not clear that they have been permitted in on that small scale only to enable the statement to be made, “ Oh, the Labour party and the churches have been given interests “ ?
– It is not the Labour party.
– Of course, it is. not.
– In what company is that?
– The ohe to which I have just referred - Television Corporation Limited, promoted by Consolidated Press Limited. Those insignifi-cant interests have been given to great political parties and the churches. They have received exactly 12 per cent, of the whole of the representative shares allotted.
– Can the honorable senator say for how many shares each of those organizations applied ?
– That is not known.
– Has the honorable senator any justification for complaining that they were refused shares?
– I am taking the figures that are given here and I am showing the kind of body to which this Government has granted a licence.
– But the honorable senator should be fair enough to say that the licence was granted after an impartial public hearing.
– I shall come to that. If the honorable senator wants the Government that he supports to shelter behind the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, I say to him at once that it cannot do so. The Government has to accept responsibility for what it has done. The Minister is not bound by any recommendation of the board. He is completely free, after considering the recommendation, to make a decision. He made certain decisions. He cut down the shareholdings of overseas companies and he made other adjustments; but this is the end result, after full consideration of the whole matter. The Minister and this Government must accept full and complete responsibility for the whole thing.
– We do.
– You have to do that, too, but Senator Wright was rather suggesting that the whole matter was caused and inspired by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The Government cannot shelter behind that excuse.
Now, let me take the Senate to Melbourne and consider the two stations there in order to see the pattern repeated. In Victoria, the Melbourne Age has 246,677 shares. It is one of the two chief shareholders. The Argus, although cut down substantially by the Government, has 40,466 shares of a total of 700,000 shares. The point that I make is that that particular station is wholly in the hands of radio interests, film interests and one entertainment concern, J. C. Williamson Theatres Limited. Honorable senators may see that for themselves, if they look at page 33 of the report. There are no churches, political parties, cultural organizations and the rest represented there. The shares are entirely in the hands of the people to whom I have referred, cementing the monopoly of mass communications in certain hands. Again, let us take the Herald-Sun Television Proprietary Limited, the second successful applicant in Victoria. The particulars are not available in the report submitted by the board, which merely indicates that the Herald is to take 637,500 shares and the London Daily Mail 112,500 shares.
I think I have said sufficient to indicate that the Government has focussed entire power in this matter in the hands of newspaper, film and radio interests. That was done with complete deliberation. I say to the .Senate that, if there were to be commercial licences, it was the bounden duty of this Government to sponsor the promotion of public companies to which the public could subscribe in shareholdings not to exceed certain limits, and in which all the educational, religious, cultural and major political parties would have had an adequate section ear-marked for them. Had that been done, there would have been no doubt about the capital being subscribed in very short order. In addition, there would have been a wide spread of ownership, a democratic spread of ownership, throughout the Australian community and the individual people of Australia.
– What has gone wrong with company promoters?
– I suggest that that should have been done at the instance <»f the Government, which could quite easily have appointed provisional directors. The machinery concerned would have been easy to implement. A public authority could have been set up for the purpose, just as it could be set up for any other purpose.
– Was any application made by the Australian Labour party?
– Yes, there was an application.
– What was the result?
– The board did not grant it. It gave the licences to the newspapers, film and radio interests. That was the answer.
By tightening the spread of licences and limiting them to two cities in Australia this Government would seem to be setting its face against monopoly in the new field ; but that is a mere pretence when one finds that, of the four licences already granted, control has gone to the powerful interests that I have detailed. The Government has put into the same old hands which control mass communications a virtual monopoly of the new medium. Who really believes that newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald, which, before the royal commission, admitted that they were sponsors of the Government parties, are going to turn neutral when they get their hands on television? Does anybody believe that they are not going to espouse partially the cause of the Government parties again?
Now, I wish to refer to another matter, which is the fact that Labour, some years ago, required the Australian Broadcasting Commission to establish an independent news service so that the newspapers would not monopolize the whole field. The object of that was to prevent monopoly in the matter of mass communications. This Government, in this bill, does not attack that principle at all. Yet it is amazing to see it affirming that principle, put into the act by Labour., in relation to broadcasting, but nevertheless handing over to these newspaper and radio companies - to the very newspapers for which they seek to provide competition in another section - almost complete control of the new medium. I say that that is a threat to freedom of expression. It is a threat to democracy itself, and it opens the door wide to the indoctrination methods of the Communist-controlled countries. That is the first and the most important attack that the Australian Labour party makes upon the Government’s approach to this new question.
The second attack 1 make is in relation to the term for which the licences have been granted. The existing legislation provides that a broadcasting licence is to be granted for a term not exceeding three years. It may be for a lesser period than three years, but not for a longer one. After the first three years there is an annual renewal. That provision is to be removed, and a licence is to be given to the television companies for a fixed term of five years. I say that this is being done simply to solidify and harden the claims of the licence-holders to monopolistic rights. I think that that is quite wrong. There should be an annual review of a licence of this type, particularly in the early stages. It is done in England with many other things, and it is exactly what the royal commission itself recommended. If honorable senators will look at paragraph 360 of the report of the Royal Commission on Television, they will see that the commission recommends that a licence should be granted for no longer a period than three years. I should like to read the relevant portion of the paragraph to the Senate. It is as follows : -
The Broadcasting Act 1942-53 provides that licences for commercial broadcasting stations may bo granted for a period not exceeding three years and may bc renewed for any period not exceeding one year. We recommend that the same provisions should apply in the case of licences for commercial television stations. In the following chapter we refer to the significance from the point of view of the maintenance of programme standards, of the annual review of the performance of television stations : it would seem,-
And this is very significant - indeed, that in a licensing system, with provision for annual, or at least frequent, renewals of licences, lies the only effective administrative device for securing positive adherence to the high standards of programmes which are clearly desirable.
There is the nub of the matter. The whole purpose of having frequent reviews of licences and their operation is to preserve the high standards which, particularly in relation to television, are very desirable.
– A licence may be revoked at any time.
– It is open to revocation, ‘but only on specific grounds - only after reference to the board, lt ought to come up for automatic review by the board year by year.
– Is it not fair to say that, in the preliminary stages, the companies will probably incur a loss?
– That has been put forward, and I have no doubt that in the initial stages they will operate at a loss. But they do not fear that any government - not even the Government that Senator Wright supports - would say to a company that was doing its best and suffering a loss. “ You must drop out of the picture. We will revoke your licence.” There are safeguards against that.
In the limited time available to nif, I shall deal with several other matters. I want to deal, in particular, with the attitude of the Government, expressed in this bill; towards the broadcasting and televising of religious matters. Underthe act operating in relation to broadcasting, it is required that ‘ the Broadeasting Control Board shall ensure that divine worship or other matter of a religious nature is broadcast for adequate periods, and at appropriate times. What does this Government do? It proposes to repeal that obligation. There is to be no obligation cast on the board to ensure the televising or broadcasting of those particular matters. What have we in its place? There will be no obligation upon the national broadcasting service under the act, as amended- none whatever - but the commercial stations will be required to broadcast at appropriate times and in adequate measure such religious services as the board requires, and if the board requires, without charge. Thus half of the field will not. be covered ; the obligation upon the board is to be revoked.
I put it to the Senate that at a time when, as I sec it, the crisis of our times requires that we get our culture off its materialistic base and on to a new base, one of the cornerstones of which must, have reference to spiritual ideals, it is completely wrong for the Government not to affirm as a principle in the bill that the companies should broadcast and televise services for adequate periods at appropriate times, and without charge. That ought to be done. I pay this tribute to those in the field of broadcasting. The Australian Broadcasting Commission and most of the commercial stations do provide proper and adequate facilities on an equitable basis for the various denominations, but that is not an excuse for the Government not affirming this principle in what purports to be a code dealing with the whole matter of television and a review of broadcasting. I should say that here is a clear case where the Government is really abdicating this responsibility. Very much the same thing has happened in relation to the broadcasting of political and controversial matter. In the Broadasting Act - which is operative until it is amended - the duty was cast upon the board to ensure that political and controversial matter is broadcast on an equitable basis and there is a provision that facilities for this have iO be provided. Again, the Government proposes to revoke that obligation. “What do we get in its place? There is to be no obligation on the board, no obligation upon the national broadcasting service, and an obligation is cast upon commercial stations only at election time and only in these terms: That if they permit any political broadcasts, they are to give reasonable opportunities to all parties. I say at once that this is another abdication. The British authorities recognize parties who have candidates totalling twenty. That is a different principle altogether.
I understand that the broadcasting stations have circularized all honorable senators with matter complaining of the fact that they are asked to determine what is fair and reasonable. They look to what happened in 1949 when the Broadcasting Control Board made an order in the matter, and because it was attacked it has never attempted since to discharge its duties. The stations have asked the Government to lay down the principle to be followed, but the Government will not do that. By not doing so, it is shirking its plain responsibility. Of course, what it should do is to follow the British system. Under the British system, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer broadcasts in relation to the budget, a representative of the Opposition is afforded an opportunity to reply. During the year, twelve broadcasts are allowed, and one party has an opportunity to answer the other on an equitable basis. They are given many facilities. That is what ought to be done here. In Great Britain, a real and happy agreement has been reached. In the interests of the community, I say that all controversial matters ought to be given a fair airing on television and over the radio if we are to preserve not only the forms, but also the essence, of democracy. And here again, this Government, abdicates its responsibilities. Time will not permit me to criticize the provision that broadcasting stations must allow 5 per cent, only of their transmission time for the use of composers of Australian music.
– The Government has doubled the time allowed to Australian composers.
– It has doubled the time. It lifted it from 2£ per cent, to 5 per cent., but that is completely inadequate and it should be lifted still further.
– The stations would find it difficult to fill the time.
– There would be no difficulty. When the Government nominated 2^ per cent., the Australian Broadcasting Commission was able to provide 4.7 per cent. The same thing will happen in relation to television. Again, I say that the only safeguard to protect Australian producers in the whole field of television is to provide that licensees shall give as much time as possible to Australian producers. Here again is a complete abdication of responsibility on the part of the Government, and the Labour party will propose to the Senate that at least 55 per cent, of transmission time should be made available for the use of Australian producers; and I will not accept the suggestion that Australian producers cannot fill that quota. Let me point to what happens in Great Britain where, by agreement between the Actors’ Equity on the one side and the British Broadcasting Corporation on the other, only seven hours out of 50 are allowed for foreign matter, a matter of 14 per cent. In other words, the British producer is afforded protection to the tune of 86 per cent. . It is true he has many more things upon which to draw such as history, tradition, events and experience, but the fact that British producers can be provided with86 per cent protection for their productions should cause no fear here that at least something more than half can be provided in Australia.
We on this side of the chamber feel that the Government has made a mistake in taking away from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board representatives of the Treasury and of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department who have previously adorned that board and rendered signal service to it. We think they should be put back and also that every State should be given representation in the membership on the board. At the present time, the State of Western Australia is without representation and that may be one reason why that State is filled with grievances in the matter of radio broadcasting.
I should like an assurance from the Government, in view of its recent wanton sale of national assets and undertakings such as the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, the Carnarvon whaling station and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. If the principles recently affirmed in this chamber by a Minister that when private enterprise is ready to enter a field the Government should not put money into it, is valid, then I demand an assurance from this Government to-night on behalf of the Opposition that it will not sell the national broadcasting service or the national television service. If the principle that has been affirmed is to hold, then the Opposition will have a real fear that private enterprise will grab the whole of those organizations if given an opportunity and if this Government goes on its wanton way of disposing of the assets of the nation.
I have only one more comment to make and then I shall sum up my points in the form of a resolution. I express my disappointment that the standards circulated by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board disclose that the board has not done what has been done in Britain, namely to close down television from 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. If that is not done grave domestic problems will be created, particularly in relation to children. I commend to those who set up the standards that further thought be given to this matter so as to enable ordinary living to go on between the hours of G.30 and 8 p.m. in the interests particularly of the children, although many others also would be affected. Unfortunately, I have had to hurry the latter part of my address, but I now sum up what I have said by moving -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted, with a view to inserting the following words in lieu thereofowing to the fact that all existing television licences in two States have been granted by the Government to corporations constituting in effect combines of newspaper, radio broadcasting and associated interests which already monopolize to a large extent mass communication of information to the people of Australia, and owing to the danger to the public interest and true freedom of expression being caused by newspaper concerns further extending their control over mass communication including radio broadcasting and television the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted so as to include -
specific provisions to effect the following purposes: -
I conclude by saying that if those proposals are not acceptable to the Government, the Opposition will register its protest by voting against the second reading of this measure.
.- The introduction of this bill is an attempt to adjust the great new medium of mass entertainment to the needs of this country. I think that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) said one wise thing when he stated that we should leave our discussion and criticism largely to the committee stage, because if we turn this second reading debate into a mere party match many points will be obscured and many wrong impressions will be gathered by those listening in. To give one example only, we do not provide for the search for truth if we simply see that the two existing party points of view are put, that if one point of view is put another may be answered. Good discussion might disclose that there are not two points of view, but seven or eight, and the most important point of view may be one that is not represented by any great party.
I regret that television is to be limited to the two great metropolitan areas. I think that one of the most important things at the present time is to decentralize our population, and that means decentralizing the magnets that draw people to particular areas. I should have preferred that the smaller centres of population had it first, and that the people in the country areas, who need more than the people in the city in order to have life made more attractive to them, had it first. But in this, as in many other matters, we have relied on the report of an expert body which was set up to find out not only what was desirable but also what was practicable. It is necessary, unfortunately, to begin in the two great cities, but I think that the period during which television is confined to them will be very short, and from experience gained there, the whole Commonwealth will ultimately benefit.
I am satisfied that this bill will carry over to television the dual system of a public body, or corporation, and of private enterprise. That has been a characteristic feature of broadcasting in Australia, and it has been a pronounced success. I believe that the finest broadcasting body in the world is the British Broadcasting Corporation, and we have in the Australian Broadcasting Commission many admirable features similar to those of the British organization, or discovered by it, or thought out by ourselves more or less parallel to it. There is one very good reason for having B class stations, particularly in a country like Australia with a comparatively small population. It is that if you only have the Government institutions, then the pressure for more superficial entertainment would be so great that I doubt whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission could have done the magnificent work that it has done for general culture and education.
If we get tired of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes, we turn the dial and have the whole variety of the B class stations to choose from. That is all to the good. Furthermore, the B class stations can specialize. There are certain ventures that I would advise the Australian Broadcasting Commission not to attempt, because the B class stations do the same sort of thing so well that it is not “worth while for the national stations to attempt them. Therefore, the Australian Broadcasting Commission should try other avenues. 1 have had sufficient experience of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to know its programmes, and to be able to give praise where praise is due. I believe that it has been one of the greatest institutions that this country has ever had. It has raised the standard of appreciation for music, literature, drama and many other things. It has approached the problem of giving the different religious bodies the right to be heard and the opportunity to be heard fairly well. I shall have some criticism to make on that matter- - not of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or of ourselves - but of the method which seems at the moment the only method by which we do it.
The purely educational work of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is beyond praise. I was one of those who gave the first few tentative lessons ever given to school children of various ages, and from that poor beginning the educational programmes have grown into a magnificent service. I praise the system of news and the news commentaries, although there again I have been a witness of some of the hazards connected with those services. I wish to give special praise to three men, Mr. Cleary, Sir Richard Boyer and Mr. Dawes, not that others may not have done equally as well, but I know those three men and I know what their contribution has been to broadcasting in this country.
The first is W. J. Cleary, who was the second chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and held that position for ten years. I think we owe to him the development of symphony music, chamber music and many other things, and to his firm stand on certain occasions when pressure was brought to bear, the fact that we have an independent corporation. When I say “ independent “ of course I realize that nothing can be completely independent of the Government and the Parliament, and I mean independent of the small immediate pressures put on it. During the years when I “was a radio commentator - and I hope that no one will take exception to what I am about to say - there were covert, attempts made to influence the commentaries of people who were supposed to be independent commentators.
One attempt was made in 1939, about the time of the Munich crisis, and one was made in 1942 during a period of great national stress. Now it may be that the Government is entitled to make some sort of interference, but it should be open. If it is found that independent commentators are not giving the service required of them, then others should be appointed. If it is found necessary by the Government at a particular time to broadcast clear propaganda - and in war-time it is admitted that that has to be done - that can be done; but to have people supposed to be independent commentators whose opinions are respected because of that, and to attempt to influence them covertly as was done on two different occasions by two different governments, is quite wrong.
I praise first Mr. Cleary and, secondly. Sir Richard Boyer for the stand they took on those matters. I know well that, had we not had on each occasion a Prime Minister who had a great respect for freedom of speech, we should not have had that completely independent speech that is so desirable. The two Prime Ministers whom I refer to were Mr. Menzies and Mr. Curtin. I shall now leave that topic, because one can easily get into the realm of conjecture and perhaps imagine things being done which were not done. The two episodes are so obscure that it is impossible to drag them out into the light, but I want the Senate to know that attempts were made to influence commentators, and for that reason I believe that an independent board which can ultimately only be brought under the will of the Government by reference to the Parliament itself, is essential. Indeed, it is as essential as an independent judiciary.
When I come to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, I come to a board of a different character, and I feel that this is a first fumbling attempt to enable television to be operated without detriment to the community. If I criticize the attempt, that is not a criticism of the boards or of the governments that set them up. The function of the board in giving licences is fairly clear, and with regard to the criticism made by Senator McKenna as to the licences granted, I only say that I think that these licences were granted after an open inquiry and were granted by the Government on the recommendation of a impartial body. My belief is that they were granted because it was believed that the companies to which they were granted could handle the matter. If licences were given to some people who did not understand the business, at what point would we arrive? It might be fatal, and the whole scheme might fail. It is all very well to bring out some new system and to lay down laws and restrictions, but we believe in the operation of public companies. We believe that Certain conditions should be laid down by the Parliament and that there should be some measure of supervision by a controlling board. But we cannot, by regulation, ensure that the people will get anything like the service that they need.
It is altogether a fallacy to say that because newspapers or radio stations are controlled, by public companies, they necessarily take only one side in politics. I know that years ago when the Australian Labour party was a new party making its way, there was some measure of truth in the talk about what the party called the capitalist press. To-day any such talk is absurd. The Labour party talks of the capitalist press, but the Argus, which is presumably part of that press, is far more friendly to the Labour party than to non-Labour parties, and that is also true of a very large number of newspapers throughout Australia. This distortion by headline, about which Senator McKenna complains so bitterly, is used against supporters of the non-Labour parties just as much as against supporters of the Labour party. In many cases, it is not a deliberate attempt to distort judgment, but simply the newsman’s idea of what constitutes news value, and an attempt to draw the attention of the people to it. Recently, I and Senator George Rankin happened to vote for the disallowance of a regulation. Only one newspaper headed the report of the affair with a line that the Senate had disallowed a regulation, or that the Senate had refused to allow a limit on land leases to be taken away. Another report was headed, “ Government men aid Labour “. What could be more damaging to persons like Senator George Rankin and myself than deliberately to put us up as persons who went out of our way to aid the Opposition? We acted in a strictly non-party sense, as has been constantly suggested to us. It is said that this Senate should be a body of revision, and all we did was to send back to the draftsmen a regulation in order that they might look at it and draft it again.
That sort of distortion does take place. But I think the idea that there is some wicked plot against the Australian Labour party is entirely false. It hits at both sides and at all public men. It is part of the modern technique of newspaper production. It is quite possible for a public company, a purely capitalistic concern, to give a service to the people to enable them to find out the truth. In New York, there was - and may still be, although I have not heard it for some time - a magnificent service called the Town Meeting of the Air. Necessarily, it was sponsored by one of the capitalistic private companies, because there was no other service. I distinctly remember many of those sessions. I have hoped that we could produce something of the same value in Australia, but wc have not been able to do it. Probably, it is not so easy to get the persons required. It may not be a simple matter to collect men of the -necessary ability in Sydney or Melbourne. On that Town Meeting of the Air, I have heard American senators, men of great ability and economists of the first rank presenting arguments which would do credit to anybody anywhere. That session was put on by one of the great capitalistic companies which are supposed to be out merely to damage socialists, Labour supporters and others.
I direct my attention now to the Broadcasting Control Board. I accept that organization without question in its capacity as the body that decides to whom we shall give licences, and which controls technical equipment, but I am afraid that 1 cannot agree with some of its attempts to lay down standards. I doubt whether a perfectly satisfactory standard can be laid down on some matters. This gives me an opportunity to answer a statement that was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) about the broadcasting of divine service. I think people would gain the impression from him that this Government had more or less given away the idea of having that done, but reference to the bill shows that this proposed sub-clause is included -
A licensee shall broadcast or televise from his station Divine Worship or other matter of a religious nature during such periods as the Board determines aird, if the Board so directs, shall do so without charge. [. believe that, in this formative stage, it is good that matters like that should be at the discretion of the board. If we find that it is unsatisfactory, it can be altered easily. If we get to a stage where we find a certain practice is so good that everybody is satisfied to carry it on, possibly it would be good to put it into a statute and have it as a permanent part of a policy, but we have to feel our way. In broadcasting, we have gone along slowly, experimenting and altering, and we have gained great experience. We can get to a sound basis only by acting similarly with television. We have little knowledge of television, apart from what we have read or experienced by travel, and we can have no idea of the ultimate impact of television when it has been in operation for some time. If we try, al this stage, to lay down definite hardandfast rules, we will go astray. If we allow this body of able men to watch over television and experiment or, on occasion, to do nothing whatever - because, if a thing will work itself out without direction, so much the better - in two or three years’ time, we shall have some clear standards.
I want to say more about the religious broadcasts. The provision that has been made is not completely satisfactory to me, but I do not see any other way out. If honorable senators study the document Television Programme Standards, which has been supplied to us with the bill, they will read, at page 12, in relation to this matter -
Time should be allocated among the various churches and denominations as far as practicable in proportion to the number of adherents to each denomination in the area served by the station as shown in the latest, census. 1 am afraid that we cannot find, at the moment, any other method of determining this matter. I cannot think of one. But it is not satisfactory for this reason : It does not follow that bodies with the greatest number of adherents are necessarily those that should be heard most often. After all, would not the proposed arrangement tend to stereotype an existing situation? Would it not create quasi monopolies? There are some very small religious bodies in Australia, and for my part, among them are people to whom I would listen with the greatest interest. There is a large Presbyterian Church, known as the United Presbyterian Church of Australia, but there is a very small Presbyterian Church called the Free Church. It is sometimes contemptuously described as the Wee Free Church. It has the right to have its point of view put before the people. There is a body, very small numerically, known as the Society of Friends, but I know of no body of people throughout the world whose voice on religious matters I would more willingly lend ear to. There is a very small church called the Unitarian Church, but, intellectually, it carries great weight throughout the Englishspeaking world, if not in Australia. So one could go on.
I hope honorable senators understand the point that I am making. I do not say that this provision should be altered, or that the Broadcasting Control Board could do anything else, but I do hope that somehow - it may be by la.isser-fa.ire so far as private television stations are concerned - those concerned may be able to build up some better system themselves. It may be that, in this matter, there should not be too rigid control. I am not one of those who have felt perfect faith in the integrity and wisdom of the State. That is one of the great modern heresies. The State is merely whatever the people controlling the State lor the time being make it, and although we may set up barriers against some insolent majority in power for the moment, and though we may set up advisory bodies and statutory bodies outside, there is no guarantee that we shall find perfect wisdom in them. This brings us to the crux of the danger coming from both broadcasting and television. There was a time when it looked as though broadcasting would destroy democracy. “We all remember what it did in Italy and Germany. In this country, however, all parties were wise enough to lay down safeguards against any dictator’s seizing the microphone, refusing any one else the right to speak, and in this way conditioning the mind of the people to mass propaganda. We were fortunate, also, in having commercial broadcasting stations that were so co-operative in giving expression to different points of view. I emphasize, however, that we have not solved the problem that we are trying to solve.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has offered certain solutions, but to my mind none of them is satisfactory. We did hear expressed the fear that great political parties might be able to entrench themselves. I do not share the fear of the Leader of the Opposition that the party to which I belong, for instance, will ever be able to entrench itself to the extent that no other party can attain office. The Opposition’s turn will come. At the moment, the great danger for honorable senators opposite lies in their own internal confusion, not in anything that we may do. But there is a danger that we two parties could so stereotype or fashion things as to make it impossible for a third party to arise. There is the danger that we could so fashion them that it would be impossible for opinion outside the two party camps to express itself adequately. Perhaps, I am giving rather cold praise to this bill. Certainly, I am giving rather poor praise to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, but I feel it my duty to point out these things. We all know how easy freedom of speech was in former times. In those days we only needed laws to prevent people from interfering with one another. In those days, too, any man who could get a soap box could go to the Sydney Domain or the Yarra bank, or to Hyde Park in London, or even to any village green anywhere in the country and say what he thought. Any one wanting a seat in Parliament could go to such places, address the assembled multitude and even win an election as an independent. Why, the Honorable David Hall, a former AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales, told me that on his first, second and third election campaigns he did not spend more than £40. What days were those! But those times have gone. To-day, the Domain is not the university of the proletariat that it used to be, as I discovered when I wandered there the other Sunday afternoon and found only a few “ cranks “ speaking. We must consider, hut not in a party spirit, how we can allow any other worthy point of view some means of expression over both broadcasting and television. I believe that we shall succeed in this if we follow the model that has been found effective in broadcasting, although we must not follow it slavishly ; we must make adjustments as we go along.
I should like to refer now to some of the standards that are laid down for television programmes. Here, I may be speaking only for myself ; indeed, I may be arousing an enormous amount of opposition. I refer first to the suggestion relating to the use of foreign languages. On page 5 of the Television Programmes Standards as circulated to us, we find this argument used -
Because Australia is an English-speaking country, and because it is desirable that those persons who have migrated from other countries be assimilated into Australian life as quickly a.* possible, the use of foreign languages should hr kept to a minimum.
Then follows a large number of rules which seem to me to limit the use of foreign languages entirely to quotation? which must be followed by English translations. England and Scotland are the homes of the English language. I have listened to broadcasts in foreign language? which lasted an hour, and I believe that this fear that people from Europe will not be assimilated if they are allowed to speak or hear their own language is altogether groundless. Young people will learn the language with great rapidity. Economic necessity’ will compel most of the others to learn it. It is ridiculous that we should be so insular, so provincial in our outlook as to prevent by regulation of programmes, or even by suggestions for the laying down of standards, the broadcasting of any modern language, particularly a language that has great literary value. For instance, what on earth is the purpose of preventing the broadcasting of anything at all in French 1 We have few French immigrants. Those who are here are completely assimilated. I have never yet met a French person who did not have a good knowledge of the English language. The suggestion I have quoted is a foolish attempt to safeguard us from a wholly imaginary danger and can only mean a loss in cultural value.
I come now to the suggestion by the Opposition that we should attempt to foster Australian culture by a system of quotas. There may be something to be said for that, but I do not think we should include any hard and last or rigid method in the bill. I do not believe that Australian writers or Australian musicians need that kind of encouragement. Nor do I believe that they will be greatly encouraged by such a system. Tn my view, we have in Australia poets who rank among the finest in the Englishspeaking world. They did not need this kind of encouragement. I do not believe that the public or those who will conduct these programmes are in any way averse to furthering Australian literature and Australian culture generally. I believe that if we leave it to public opinion and the good taste of the listeners, if we allow the consumer and not the Government to decide, we shall get far better results.
– The point is that unless the public is given an opportunity of hearing and assessing programmes by Australian artists these people will never be engaged.
– They are given the opportunity now. I ha.ve heard quite a number of Australian plays of very great value. For instance, I have heard two or three plays by Douglas Stewart. He is not only a great dramatist, but also, in my opinion, a great poet. When it comes to music, I think I know all the worthwhile Australian music but I emphasize that standards are not raised by boosting what is- second-rate or third-rate and pretending it is first-rate. Standards are raised by presenting to the people all the great literature of the world : and our standards are rising. They are extraordinarily high for a country with our short history. Just as good wine needs no ivy bush, so men like Stewart, and Christopher Brennan need no boosting. They are great literary figures in their own right. I hope that as time goes on we shall be less and less concerned about regulating and issuing mandatory instructions and that, instead, we shall trust the people and those who are trying to serve the people.
– This bill deals with the introduction of television in Australia and I should like to go on record as saying that Australia is not in any way ready for television. Economically, we are not in a position to afford such a luxury. In my opinion, it will cost in the vicinity of £35,000,000 in the first year and that over the course of the next ten years that cost will rise to £200,000,000. In a young country such as Australia, great developmental works need to be carried out, and if large amounts of the national income are used for television, the development of Australia in worthwhile directions will be retarded. Television appears to me to be purely and simply a form of entertainment on which the national wealth should not be spent when a greater need exists for it to bp used in better ways.
Television is still in the experimental stage. Colour television may be introduced in the not-distant future, and also means devised to carry television broadcasts over greater distances. The Australian economy would not be harmed so much if we waited for these newer developments to be established in the television field. Another aspect is the technical work involved. Already thousands of technicians are needed for the rapidly expanding Woomera rocket range and other important national projects. If many of these men are drawn into the television field those great projects will be hindered for want of qualified men. Television will have a farreaching effect on our population.
Already much, of Australia’s population is concentrated in the cities, and television will be another city amenity that will attract rural workers from the farms and country areas to the cities. That is a vital consideration in view of Australia’s dependence on primary production.
Senator McKenna referred to the fact that there would be three television stations in each of the cities of Melbourne and Sydney. I cannot understand why those cities should each have three licences. Why could not some of the licences have been given to other capital cities if they must be given to capital cities only? London, with its huge population, has only two television stations, but television is being introduced into both Melbourne and Sydney with three stations each. I agree with Senator McKenna that the Government should explain why the licences have been concentrated in those two cities.
Senator McKenna spoke at length on the fact that licences have been given to newspaper combines or to organizations sponsored by them. Whom did he expect to receive them ? I know that the feeling is that the Australian Labour party should have received a television licence because it applied for one, but the board may have refused its application because of what happened previously in the broadcasting field. In 1930, the late James Scullin issued to the Australian Labour party a licence for a broadcasting station in Melbourne.
– That is not true.
– It is true. A licence was issued, and the Labour party formed the Industrial Printing and Publicity Company Limited, which consisted of representatives of the trade unions and the Labour branches to operate a station.
– Now the honorable senator is modifying his remark a little.
– Owing to the depression, this company could not finance the broadcasting station, and consequently leased the licence to Val Morgan and Sons Proprietary Limited - that is, to private enterprise. Since that time, despite efforts by the Labour party to gain control of that station and run it for its own benefit and not for that of a private company, the directors have refused to yield. One result has been that Val Morgan and Sons Proprietary Limited has gained thousands of pounds from leasing this licence. At one stage its profit for the year was about £20,000, whereas that of the Industrial Printing and Publicity Company Limited was about £8,000. Efforts have, been made to establish a link between that station and the Labour broadcasting station in Sydney - 2KY - so that Labour propaganda could be disseminated on practically a nation-wide basis, but the directors of the Melbourne station still believe in private enterprise and lately have leased station 3KZ for ten years. Labour has been very outspoken about the sponsorship of television programmes, but when we come to a medium by means of which Labour could have advocated the socialist viewpoint,^ we find that it’ is given over to private enterprise and run for its benefit. It is interesting to note the names of the directors of the Industrial Printing and Publicity Company Limited which has leased the radio station to Val Morgan and Sons Proprietory Limited. They are Mr.- Calwell, Mr. Stout, Mr. Clarey, Mr. Monk, Mr. Divers, Mr. Duffy and Senator Kennelly. Yet, the Labour party criticizes the Government for selling the people’s assets!
– If that is the directorate, I am not surprised that control was handed over to private enterprise.
– The reason given almost invariably for the handing over is that they could not run it efficiently themselves.
A stipulation should be made that these television licences must be used by the people to whom they are issued and shall not be leased, as has been the case in respect of drive-in theatre licences in. New South Wales. I believe, too, that all political parties should be placed on an equitable basis in respect of free time on television programmes. As honorable senators may be aware, I have asked several questions in the Senate concerning the broadcasting of political speeches. In that respect, advantages should not be given to certain political parties and denied to others. Senator McCallum dealt with the televising of religious subjects, and his remarks in that connexion, could be applied equally well to political subjects.
Although I think that television is unnecessary, I have no doubt that it will become popular in this country. In introducing it, we must ensure that it is worth while. In the field of education, it can be of great help, just as radio has been of assistance to teachers, particularly in outback schools. It is to be hoped that the benefits that have been derived from broadcasting in the education field also will be derived from television. In televising educational subjects, we should avoid showing on the television screen, teachers demonstrating as they would in front of. a class. In order to make such instruction really worth while, it will be necessary to take television equipment into factories of all knids, so that children can be taught at first-hand how various commodities are produced. If that is done. I think that television will be of great benefit to education in Australia.
On the cultural side, plays, operas and entertainment of that kind can bp tele.vized. and no doubt many of them will be suitable for children. “When we come to the moral issues involved, it is pertinent to ask how television will affect the. lives of Australian children. This important aspect must be considered very carefully. The children must learn to be doers as well as viewers. For a time, of course, it will be difficult to keen the children away from the television screen. That is. it will be difficult for the people who will be .able to afford television sets, which may be sold at exorbitant prices, to do that. As has been stated previously, television will not rock the children to sleep, and in that respect many problems will crop up in connexion with family life. An. honorable senator stated that the television stations will not close down between R.30 p.m. and 8 p.m. To my way nf thinking, it would be a good idea, if television programmes were to be suspended during those hours. Perhaps T am prejudiced when I say that, because I should just as soon see television cut out altogether. However, if the programmes ceased during those hours, at least the small children in the family would be deterred from becoming too interested in the programmes.
Because of the fact that, when this legislation is enacted by the Parliament, television in Australia will be almost certain to operate, we could well spend our time during this debate in discussing the standards that television programmes should adopt. I say that this Parliament definitely should set those standards. Wc do not want to see the gangster films, and other films of that kind, which are shown on television programmes in America. Quorwm formed.’] When T was interrupted, I was dealing with the moral outlook, as far as television is concerned. I said that I hoped the programmes put over the television screen would be worth while. I think that, in order to maintain a high standard of television, it will be necessary to ensure that there will not be a great number of small stations looking for sponsors for their programmes. Experience in America has shown that frequently inferior programmes are provided by small television stations. Ultra-high frequency has not been adopted in certain countries, so that only a limited number of television stations can be established in certain cities or largo towns. Looking to the future, T think it would be a mistake to permit ultrahigh frequency in Australia, because it would enable the establishment of a great number of television stations. If we restrict television to the broad plan that will not happen. In America, the introduction of ultra-high frequency led to a great deal of trouble in relation to th, standard of programmes and endangered the existence of certain television stations. In fact, many small stations were forced to the wall. I have before mc a cutting from an American newspaper on this subject. It reads as follows : -
One by one, small U.S. TV stations are going out of business. They cannot find sponsors to spend money on their local programmes.
The big nation-wide networks have swamped them. Sixty TV stations have stopped since 1952.
Said an executive of a Middle West station : “ There are two reasons why we small televisers find it hard to keep going - we are mostly forced to use ultra-high frequency which means man)7 TV sets have to be converted.
People don’t bother to convert them when their main network programmes are available. There has been a drop in local community loyalty - they don’t want local ideas and local staTs; they want big names and coast-to-coast entertainment.”
In 1954 small community stations said they had lost 14,000,000 dollars (£5,000,000). The figures have not been published since. ft could well be that licences have been granted only to huge financial institutions in Australia because smaller organizations would find the competition too strong. As I said before, by act of Parliament, television will soon be introduced in Australia, and it will be here to stay. We must make sure that it will not corrupt our way of life. Care must be taken to safeguard children who appear in television programmes. Although many people are looking forward to the introduction of television, I am convinced that that is not in the best interests of this country, particularly from an economic point of view. We could have used the money that will be expended on television to develop really necessary projects in order to increase our national wealth. I shall be sorry to see television become a part of Australia’s national life.
– I rise to support this bill, and I should like to congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) on the manner in which he presented it to the Senate. I should also like to congratulate the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) on the enormous amount of work he did in order to familiarize himself with the mass of technical detail involved in the presentation of a bill of this kind. I also commend him for his conscientious endeavours to find a means of satisfying the wishes of every section of the community when planning the introduction of television.
It is recognized throughout the world that television, is the greatest mass communication medium yet devised. It has tremendous potentialities for good or evil. Tt is very easy to understand, because of those potentialities, why television has evoked unreasoned and unreasonable criticism. In both Great Britain and the
United .States of America, arguments have verged on the hysterical as people have sought to decide what to do with this vast new force. Primarily, the intensity of the arguments has been responsible for the fact that the growth of television has been almost miraculous. Its post-war development in Great Britain has been remarkable. In three years of television before the war, only a few sets were sold, but immediately after the war television came into general use. On Coronation Day, over 20,000,000 persons in Great Britain saw. through television that never-to-be-forgotten ceremony with all its pageantry and all its splendour. Its influence stretched across the Atlantic. Three Royal Air Force aircraft flew the recordings across the Atlantic to an airfield where Royal Canadian Air Force fighter aircraft waited to assist in distributing the films. As one Australian journalist has written, Britain’s greatest hour was also television’s greatest hour.
To-day, television services are operating right across the world. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said that Australia is one of the last countries to introduce television. That is true. However, the introduction of tele- -ision into this country has been under discussion since 1941. It was not until 1950 that the Menzies Government decided on its introduction on a gradual scale. The outbreak of the Korean war was responsible for delaying its introduction. In 1952, as Senator McKenna has said, Mr. Anthony, who was then PostmasterGeneral, visited Great Britain and the United States of America for the purpose of examining problems associated with the introduction of television and assessing its effect on the people of other countries in order that Ave might avoid certain effects when introducing this medium into Australia. The tremendous growth of television is revealed by an article in to-night’s Melbourne Herald. which reads as follows: -
About three out of every four American families had television sets, the Census Bureau reported to-day. Thirty-five million families had one or more sets last February. There are 45,000,000 householders in the United States of America. Only about 5,000,000 families had television sets when the bureau made its first check in 1950.
On his return Mr. Anthony announced that the Government would introduce television to provide for the licensing of commercial stations so as to permit the establishment of both national and commercial television services in the Commonwealth. It was also announced that the Government proposed to appoint a royal commission. The reason for the setting up of the special commission was explained by Mr. Anthony in a statement to the effect that the influence of television was so great on community life that it should come to Australia in such a form that it would meet the requirements of the Australian people, and not necessarily in a form that was adopted abroad.
Under the chairmanship of Professor G. W. Paton, a very distinguished educationalist, the royal commission took evidence in all parts of Australia. It supplemented that evidence by gaining the most up-to-date information in Great Britain, Canada and the United States of America. The royal commission did its work with great thoroughness and produced a report that showed, despite what Senator Cole has just said, that Australia could develop television on a gradual scale with certain safeguards arid without imposing an undue strain on the moral, social or financial resources of its people. The value of the work of the members of that special committee is best recognized by the fact that the Government has, in the main, introduced their recommendations into the legislation which is now before the Senate. The bill provides the statutory power for the establishment of television services on the basis that there shall be a national and a commercial service. The bill also provides for the perpetuation of a system that has proved most efficient in broadcasting and, at the same time, it is designed to prevent the control of broadcasting and television from falling into the hands of either a government or a private monopoly. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) referred to-night to the concentration of monopoly control. That was the expression he used; but I should like to remind the honorable senator that the Labour party believes in a concentration of monopoly control, because in 1952, when television was under discussion, the honorable mem ber for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place, was reported in the Melbourne Age of the 9th December as having said that the programme of the Labour party on television proposed a monopoly as in Great Britain. Therefore, it is absolutely specious for members of the Opposition to talk about monopolies when they themselves are committed to monopolies in broadcasting and television.
The Labour party does not, and did not at that time, estimate public opinion, because six weeks after Mr. Calwell made that statement a gallup poll finding was published and in it the people stated that 67 per cent, of them preferred a dual television service, 13 per cent, of them preferred a commercial service only, and 10 per cent, preferred a national service only. The reason given by the 67 per cent, who wanted a dual service was that competition would give better service with more varied programmes; but the amazing thing is that 67 per cent, of the Australian people declared they wanted a dual service because they were against monopolies and they were used to both services with radio.
So, I believe that the Government has been very wise in accepting the recommendations of the royal commission and, at the same time, following the wishes of the majority of the Australian people in providing for a national and a commercial service. The bill, as has been explained by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), repeals the Television Act 1953 and amends the law relating to the administration and regulation of broadcasting and television. In other words, it is simply a consolidation of the law relating to both services. A very important feature of the bill, to my mind, is that it provides for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to function independently, to ensure, as in the past, that the listening public will be able to enjoy programmes of an educational, cultural and artistic nature which commercial stations may not have the facilities to provide. At the same time, it allows private enterprise, through commercial stations, to develop services in conformity with certain conditions and standards which, of course, will be determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
The Minister has stated, already, that the board will have the full support of the Government and that no abuses will be tolerated. In the introductory paragraph of the Television Programme Standards, the board acknowledges tha: its preparation has been greatly assisted by similar statements of standards or codes prepared in other countries, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The board has stated, and it has been repeated in this chamber, that children would be most vulnerable to the impact of television, and it has included special provisions for family and children’s programmes. The effect of discipline in the industry is being seen from recent overseas statements. The United States has found that television has not been responsible for the crime waves, illiteracy or the juvenile delinquency that was at first predicted. From those statements, we find the overtones of . criticism are gradually disappearing. The United Kingdom’s attitude towards television in the life of the child is best expressed by the head of the childrens’ session of the British Broadcasting Corporation, when he said -
The instrument we are using is a marvellously contrived mechanism. The children are living souls. What we do for or to them is of supreme importance. Cleverness is not enough, technical excellence is not enough. Hard thinking, imagination and a deep sense of mural consciousness must unite to see that the impact of this force is properly directed.
Senator Cole has just suggested that we should defer the introduction of television indefinitely. I believe that to do so would he to refuse to accept a service which, in many countries, is an accepted feature in the lives of millions. It would imply, also, that we are incapable of dealing with problems which are inseparable from the introduction of a service with such dynamic potentialities. “We are very fortunate that we have been able to watch experiments in other countries, that we have been able to learn from their mistakes and to see how those mistakes can be avoided. But to suggest that we would be unable to profit from the experience of those countries which have pioneered television, would be to discount the strength of the Australian character and the degree of social conscience of our people.
Organizations interested in religious, social and moral welfare, have for some time paid particular attention to the production of unsuitable comic strips, books, gramophone records and films, and I am perfectly sure that they will extend their vigilance to the field of television. Any programmes of the type which were first shown in the United States of America would, I am certain, raise such a storm of protest that those responsible for them would immediately be enforced to ensure that there would be no repetition.
It is not my intention to deal with technical aspects of the bill, but I should like to address my remarks to the con’stitution of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the remuneration of the members of it. The independent functioning of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is of great importance, and no matter what the Opposition may say, that commission has rendered great service to the public and its impartiality is undoubted. At this point I should like to express regret that the once-great Australian Labour party which enjoys the respect, if not the support, of a vast number of Australian people, should on some occasions in this debate have descended to personal attacks on people who are unable to defend themselves. Sir Richard Boyer, the chairman of the commission, is a man whose capacity and personal integrity places him in the forefront of Australian cultural readers.
– He should be sacked.
– That is the opinion of Senator Benn, but it is not the opinion of many other honorable senators. The Government and the Australian Broadcasting Commission are fortunate in having that gentleman’s valuable services. The only other commissioner whose name I shall mention is Dame Enid Lyons. She has won for herself not only in Australia hut throughout the world, a place of esteem for her great ability and rare charm. She has provided for the women of many lands an inspiration to move out into the wider field of public life, and at the same time to retain those imperishable qualities of women which can transform a house into a home.
The Minister has made it quite clear that the functions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are to be enlarged, and the responsibilities increased. Therefore I support the determination to increase the present rates of remuneration of the members of the commission. When one considers that with the exception of the payments made to the present chairman and the last chairman, those rates were fixed in 1932, I am sure that all honorable senators will agree that for the work entailed in their positions they have been grossly underpaid. The Australian Broadcasting Commission will still consist of seven part-time members. The two government nominees are to retire, and two new commissioners will be appointed. I sincerely hope that, as has been stated, the members of the commission are to be chosen from as broad a section of the Australian public as possible, and that at least one other woman will be among the new appointees to the commission.
Clause 88 of the bill provides that the commission and licensees of the stations shall, as far as possible, use the services of Australians in the production and presentation of programmes. I regret that it has not been possible to establish a quota for Australian artists, because I would have preferred that to be done. I believe that the Government was influenced by the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Television, particularly the recommendations in paragraphs 40 and 41. In that regard the commission reported that -
There is an obligation on all television stations to ensure that the best use is made of Australian talent. Quotas for the Australian content of television programmes are only to be determined after actual experience has been gained
I sincerely hope that while this experience is being gained, the Government will ensure that the undertaking given in those paragraphs is strictly honoured. To my mind it would be most improper to allow the flooding into Australia of American films, and yet find our own Australian artists unemployed. In conclusion, I say that in my opinion the Government has explored every avenue of information and advice that it could possibly obtain before seeking to embark on television.
It has been mentioned several times that television will have a tremendous influence on children, and I believe that that is perfectly true. However, I do want to say that no government can provide a legislative substitute for parental control. In the final analysis, it must be the parent who decides how the child shall spend its leisure time. Children live in a world of make-believe and so, once-upon-a-time kings, queens, princes and princesses all made their acquaintance through certain books. Later, the children met them through films, but through television those personalities will be brought to reside with the children right in their own homes. Because that is so, I do say that it must be the responsibility of the parent to determine the viewing habits of the child. We cannot place that responsibility on governments, and so I suggest that, great as the impact of television will be on the whole community, the final determination of a child’s television habits will reside with its parents. I support the bill.
.- This bill will provide for the operation of television in Australia, both by national stations and by private enterprise. It will also set up an Australian Broadcasting Commission, consisting of seven members who will be appointed for three years, to provide a national service. It will further set up an Australian Broadcasting Control Board of five members appointed for seven years to supervise commercial broadcasting and television, to provide technical services for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to make recommendations with regard to the issue of licences. There are other proposals in the bill, but I have discussed the principal provisions.
– What about the increase of salaries?
– I shall leave that to Senator Scott when that measure is presented, as I hope, before the 14th June. I shall not hide my ideas when that bill is debated. The Australian Labour party has a definite policy towards television. We believe that it should be the monopoly of the nation. The monopoly about -which Senator Wedgwood spoke, and the monopoly in which the Labour party believes, are two entirely different things. Surely no one will say that because we believe the nation ought to control television, we would support something in the nature of a monopoly conducted by private enterprise. Ever since the introduction of broadcasting, we have believed that it should be a national monopoly. Honorable senators have heard Senator McCallum praise the work of the British Broadcasting Corporation and the manner in which it has carried out the functions of broadcasting in Great Britain. We believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should control all broadcasting in Australia similarly, whether it be the type of broadcasting that we have to-day, or the television that we hope to have in some parts of Australia in the. late months of this year.
Television will have a terrific impact upon the lives of all citizens in Australia, particularly the young, and we believe that we should’ take it out of the hands of those who have only an urge for private profit. I was pleased to hear Senator Wedgwood say that the Australian Broadcasting Commission would look after culture and all the nice things in broadcasting and televising.
– Has it not done so up to the present?.
– Yes, and I was pleased that Senator Wedgwood has said that the Australian Broadcasting Commission will continue to look after the nice things in television, but that means that the commercial stations will look after the unmentionable things. No doubt they will broadcast cheap films from the United States of America and other countries. That may he culture of a questionable variety, and it will have a bad impact upon the minds of children, but those features will be cheaper.
– Who can provide a symphony concert?
– I know that the Australian Broadcasting Commission can do that, and it will continue to do so with television. We would not expect the organizations to which this Government has given television licences to worry about symphony concerts. There is not enough money in them. They will leave such cultural programmes to the nation. I agree with Senator Wedgwood on that point.
The Labour party opposes private ownership of this means of mass communication because the expressions of opinion that will be broadcast will be slanted by the commercial stations. The organizations that have been granted commercial licences are associated with the press, and they will slant the news just as they do it now in their newspapers because they want to get advertisements to keep the newspapers profitable. Naturally, they will slant views on current questions through their own television stations.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that all newspapers do that?
– I do.
– What about the Argus ?
– The Argus * Is not that amusing? I heard another honorable senator say that the *Argus supports the Australian Labour party. That is amusing. At least let us say that the Argus might give a fairer report of proceedings than the other major newspapers do, and surely it would not be difficult to do that ?
– The honorable senator still does not believe that the Argus is fair?
– I think that it is slanted against us when the pressure is on.
– Especially when there are elections.
– Yes, and that is when it tells. The Government has given certain organizations an opportunity to use the most powerful medium for the dissemination of news that science has given the world and, of course, they will slant the news. The La.bour party is also opposed to the manner of granting of these licences because they have been given principally to newspaper monopolies and other interests. I wau amused when I read a report about the nalmber of stares that were held by Electronic Industries Limited. I was certain that the Government had brought all of them in.
– Got the lot! What did the Labour party do?
- Senator Cole made a reference to station 3KZ. The Australian Labour party has 1,000 shares in it, and 17,800 shares have been issued.
– Did the Labour party apply for a licence ?
– The Labour party did apply for a licence or, rather, I should say that the leader of the Labour party applied in conjunction with the Australian Workers Union, but the people to whom they applied recommended against granting them a licence. This Government had the right to say whether a political party would get a licence or not, and nobody ever dreamed that the Government would allow a licence to go to Dr. Evatt, who submitted a case on behalf of the Australian Workers Union. Let us now consider who have licences to conduct television stations. In Sydney there are two commercial stations. One is to be run by Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited, a company that is owned and which will, no doubt, be controlled in the main by the Sun-Herald newspaper organization. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited also will have some say in this venture; and I remind the .Senate that this is the company in which the Commonwealth had an interest until a short time ago when this Government was pleased to sell that interest. The second commercial station in Sydney is owned by Consolidated Press Limited, which, I understand, is controlled by the Packer group. It will be seen, therefore, that the Government has certainly sewn up commercial television in that State. Just as the controlling interests in the New South Wales press have backed the Government, so they will back it through this new medium in the future. I can only hope that the Government will show some fairness in this direction and provide that no election propaganda at all shall be put over the commercial television stations. I can only express the hope that it will continue its present arrangement in connexion with the time allotted for political parties over the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s stations at election-time. If that system is continued, at least we shall feel that we are on an equal footing with other political parties. If the proposal contained in the bill is to be the new system, I venture the opinion that, in the main, the views of only one political party will be conveyed to the people through this medium.
– Not if others are prepared to pay for it.
– Where is the money to come from to pay for it ?
– The Labour party has the money.
– The honorable senator knows as well as I do what will happen at election-time. Although it is suggested that every station must give every political party an equal opportunity of expressing its views, the point is, if the little I have heard outside is correct, that these stations will be very fortunate indeed if they make any profit at least for the first two years. Some of them say that it will be more than two years. If they are to be allowed only a certain number of hours a week, as is provided in the bill, honorable senators can appreciate that a quarter of an hour or a half an hour on a programme over those stations will cost a tremendous amount.
– That will not, matter much to the Labour party.
– That is most amusing. The honorable senator knows as well as I do that what he says is not factual. .1 believe that we should adopt the system in operation in London, where time is allotted’ by the British Broadcasting Corporation according to the numerical strength of political parties in the Parliament. If that were done in Australia, at least it would be fair. It certainly will not be fair if the basis suggested in the bill is put into effect.
– The Labour party will have to start saving.
– We have certainly not got behind us the banks. They support the Government parties, and 1 suggest that is one of the reasons why the bill has been drafted in this way. The fairest way would be to give to all parties an equal opportunity, based on numerical strength, to put their views to the people over the national stations and to prohibit the dissemination of election propaganda over the commercial stations. In any event, I am confident that if the commercial stations were asked if they wanted the business they would admit that they prefer not to have it. Every one will agree that approaching the people through ‘ television will be tremendously effective. That being so, every political party should be given an equal opportunity of making use of it.
– If we adopted the honorable senator’s suggestion of allocating time on the basis of numerical strength, the anti-Communist Labour party would not get much of a go.
– I marvel at the fact that every time Senator Cole speaks he takes time that would ordinarily be allocated to the Labour party. We do not want him : He is the Government’s man, and I ask it to keep him. We shall have another talk about him later.
I come now to the two stations that have been granted licences in Melbourne. One will be controlled mainly by the Melbourne Age and the electronics industry. It is true that the Melbourne Argus will have some shares in it. I am not opposed to that part of the bill which gives the Argus certain rights because of its link with British newspapers. There is certainly no camouflage about the name of the second company to engage in television in Melbourne. It is the HeraldSun TV. Proprietary Limited.
Government Senators. - Hear, hear!
– One would expect our friends on the Government side to say, “ Hear, hear ! “, but I know of no more biased press in this or any other country. It certainly rivals the Hearst press of the United States for bias. I can understand why these people are given a licence. One expects the Government to look after its friends. From its point of view, it would be foolish not to give them a licence.
It is rather remarkable to find from the list of shareholders and companies the number of interests with which they are connected. In fact, those who are directors of the General Television Corporation Proprietary Limited are interested in seventeen other companies. The people who are most interested in other television concerns are mixed up also with hanking and other interests. Why did these television companies get licences? What would have been wrong with keeping this medium of communication under the control of a body which would conduct it in the same way as the British Broadcasting Corporation conducts its services? That is what the Labour party asked for.
I am concerned with other matters in this bill. The Government proposes to set up two bodies. One is the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to consist of five members appointed for a term of seven years. The other is the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and a natural question is why the seven members of the Australian Broadcasting “Commission have been appointed for a term of only three years? The Labour party is opposed to the exclusion from the commission of a representative of the Postmaster-General’s Department and a Treasury official. In view of the fact that broadcasting comes partly within the administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department it is logical that a representative of that department should be a member of the commission and keep it acquainted with the commission’s activities. The Australian Broadcasting Commission spends a great deal of the people’s money and surely it is right that one of its members should b. a Treasury official. But the Government has excluded the two departmental representatives. If the Government’s nominees to these bodies are chosen in the same way as it selected the organizations to which it granted television licences - the newspaper combines - one shudders to think of what will happen. It is obvious that the Government should appoint representatives of the two departments I have mentioned so that when questions are asked the information may be readily obtained.
I am concerned about the standard of the matter that will be televised from the stations which have received licences. A tremendous volume of cheap and nasty material will be televised by commercial companies because it will be cheap, and they will have to get a return for their money. I understand that huge sums will be required to establish television stations; consequently, the people who are interested in them will want a return. Although the Australian Broadcasting Commission will ensure that only cultural and good quality material is televised over its stations, there is room for concern about the quality of material that will be televised over the commercial stations.
In another place the clause dealing with the televising of sporting events was amended, but that amendment was almost nullified by a subsequent amendment to the bill, lt was agreed at one time that sporting events could not be televised without the consent of the sporting body responsible, particularly when a fee had to be paid for its television. I understand that later it was agreed that regulations would be brought down to provide that where there was not an agreement between the television station proprietors and the sporting bodies concerned, the issue would become the subject of adjudication. I sincerely hope that the effect of the first amendment will be restored and that sporting events will be televised only with the consent of the sporting bodies responsible for them, because such events involve considerable expenditure to run, let alone televise.
Much more will be said at the committee stage, because this is a committee measure rather than one for extensive debate at the second-reading stage.
– I agree with Senator Kennelly that this bill, in essence, is a committee measure and that it will be more fully considered at the committee stage. I was hoping that the Opposition would make a non-party approach to the measure, bearing in mind that the decision to introduce television into Australia was taken some considerable time ago. But it appears that both the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and his deputy (Senator Kennelly) have taken a critical view of the bill because they consider it has monopolistic tendencies. If I understood the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) correctly, he referred to a tie-up between radio, the press and television, which according to him, were uniting in some monopolistic v/ay prejudicial to the Labour party. I do not think that that has happened. ‘ In fact, evidence could be adduced to show that during the recent general election, insofar as commercial radio was concerned, in New South Wales the Labour party used more broadcasting time than did the Liberal party, probably for the simple reason that the Labour party was prepared to spend more money in doing so than was the Liberal party. The Australian Broadcasting Commission does not come into this argument, because its broadcasting time for political matter was worked out on a strict quota basis. Having regard to those facts, I do not think that the argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition concerning this supposed monopoly is of any significance. In any event, the bill now before the Senate provided specifically for commercial television. As I said a moment ago, this argument does not apply to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, because there is a strictly formal basis for its broadcasts of political matter. The bill provides that there shall be no obligation on the licensee of a television station to broadcast political matter during campaigns for Federal or State elections. If a licensee intends to broadcast or televise matter relating to the issue before the electors, he will be required to afford reasonable facilities for the broadcasting or televising of such matter to all parties contesting the elections. It will be seen, therefore, that despite the fears of the Opposition, the Government in its liberal way, has specifically provided that, if there is to be any broad.casting of political matter, it shall be done on a fair and reasonable basis.
It is interesting to recall that Dr. Evatt himself made a representation to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board seeking a licence for the Labour party, and it is also interesting to recall that he was asked specifically what his attitude would be in regard to allowing reasonable broadcasting time to his opponents, if he were given a licence. In that connexion, the board has merely stated, in its report, that “he did not make it clear “. Honorable senators can bet their lives that the right honorable gentleman would not make clear the attitude of the Labour party, if it had a television station and were asked to give reasonable time to another political party.
– We should do no differently from what the supporters of the Government did with 3XY.
– I do not want to embark on a discussion with Senator Kennelly now, but when I continue my remarks to-morrow I shall be happy to accommodate him. Since the honorable senator has interjected, it may be remembered that he also spoke of a monopoly to-night, but he wanted a government monopoly, a bureaucratic monopoly of television, radio and the like. Incidentally, the honorable senator suggested that television should be on a basis similar to that of television operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation. I point out to him that the British Broadcasting Corporation has now, in the light of its experience, extended its television services to cover commercial television. That being so, the argument of the honorable senator in that respect falls to the ground.
This bill provides for both national television and commercial television, the latter, of course, to be provided by private enterprise. Television, at the outset, will be introduced in Sydney and Melbourne. A matter to which reference has not been made in the debate to-night is that, at the. beginning, television will operate for only fifteen hours a week. By about the middle of 1957, it is hoped to extend the time to approximately 25 hours a week. Australia, of course, is lagging well behind other countries in the introduction of television. Already, some 50 other countries and States have introduced this new medium. It was introduced in Canada in 1952, and already there are 32 stations in that country. I had the privilege of seeing television in operation in Canada, the United States of America and Great Britain, and I shall have something to say about that later in my remarks. I had mixed feelings about what I saw in those countries, but I do not wish to develop that subject at the moment. Canada with a population of approximately 15,000,000 people, already has something like 2,000,000 television receivers at work. I do not propose to enumerate the 50 countries that have introduced television, but I point out that Thailand has done so, and even Monaco has television. Australia, therefore, is not taking hasty action or rushing ahead of the field. Instead, we have had the advantage of seeing how television has operated in many other countries. Consequently, in introducing television here, having had the benefit of the experience of other countries, we are able to do so in a very satisfactory way.
It cannot be denied that the introduction of television will make a severe impact on our economy. That is something that we have to face, but we must not stand in the way of progress. We shall have to be sufficiently resolute to solve that problem when it develops. During the last month or so, we in this Parliament have heard a great deal about Australia’s economic problems, and hire purchase and its place in the scheme of things has come in for considerable discussion. Do honorable senators realize that in Sydney and Melbourne alone, with a combined population of between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000, in a very short space of time there could be 250,000 television sets, of an estimated value of £250 each? It is obvious that many of those sets will be bought under hirepurchase agreements, on time payment, which will involve expenditure of something like £50,000,000. That is one of the problems, of course, that we shall have to take in our stride in the introduction of television. We need television not only for its cultural value, but also because of its importance in regard to the development of the country.
The introduction of television is not a matter that we can undertake lightly. I agree with Senator McCallum that it will give rise to problems in relation to decentralization. One of Australia’s greatest difficulties to-day lies in the concentration of population in our great cities. We are always conscious in the Senate of the need to provide amenities for Australians who live away from the cities, and the need to encourage people to get away from the city and suburban areas into the great primary-producing areas. In the very nature of things, by the introduction of television we are providing another amenity in two of the great cities of the Commonwealth, which will tend to act against decentralization. That bring3 me to the point that very soon we must extend television to the outlying parts of Australia, so that thu people who live in those areas also may have the joys, privileges and responsibilities that television brings.
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do row adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1] p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560516_senate_22_s7/>.