23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Has the report by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the issue of television licences for country areas been received by the PostmasterGeneral? If so, when will the report be released to the Parliament?
– I have made inquiries in relation to this matter and the Postmaster-General has informed me that last Friday, 12th August, he received a report from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which held a public inquiry into the granting of television licences for the thirteen country areas concerned. The Postmaster-General has indicated that, after he has examined the report in detail, he will submit it to Cabinet, together with his recommendations, for Cabinet’s decision, and that then, as is the normal practice with reports of this kind, it will subsequently be tabled in the Parliament. The Postmaster-General does not expect to be in a position to submit a report to Cabinet for at least two weeks.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. Is it a fact that at the Brisbane Exhibition there will be an exhibit from Papua and New Guinea to show the public something of the remarkable achievements of the Australian Government in that area, particularly in the social, economic and political advancement of the native people? Is it also a fact that that exhibit, in the special exhibits pavilion, will be staffed by officers of the department, including Mr. Buani Kepu, an agriculturalist field worker, and Mr. Kamea Gabe, a clerk in the Administration? In view of the recent adverse press criticism of the Government’s administration of Papua and New Guinea, will the Minister consider displaying this important and interesting exhibit in each of the capital cities of Australia so that an accurate appreciation can be made by the public of the excellent achievements of this Government in its administration of Papua and New Guinea?
– It is a fact that various items from Papua and New Guinea are being displayed at the Brisbane Exhibition. I have not seen the display myself, but before I left Brisbane at the end of last week I was told by people who had seen it that it was an excellent display. It is also a fact that two Papuan members of the Public Service of Papua are present at the display for the purpose of explaining the various exhibits to people looking at them. I shall bring to the notice of the Minister for Territories the honorable senator’s suggestion that these exhibits be displayed in other capital cities and ask him to give it favourable consideration.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport inform the Senate of the progress that has been made to date in operations that are designed to eliminate the break of gauge on the railway from Albury to Melbourne? Is it possible, even tentatively, to forecast the date on which unbroken rail services from Sydney to Melbourne will operate?
– The honorable senator no doubt will recall that last night in the Budget speech reference was made to this work. It was stated that approximately £4,700,000 would be allocated to the undertaking this year as against a vote of more than £5,700,000 last year. That indicates that by the end of this year the bulk of the allocation for this work will have been expended. Speaking from memory, I think the target date for the opening is early in 1962. I am grateful to the honorable senator for asking the question, because I am very much interested in this work. I shall ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport to give me an up-to-date account of the position and to say when it is now expected that an unbroken rail service between the two cities will operate.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation who, in addition to representing tha
Minister for Shipping and Transport, represents the Treasurer. It relates to rail standardization. As far as I can recall, in the Budget that was introduced last night, there is no provision for the standardization of the Peterborough division of the South Australian railways, and I can only assume that the Commonwealth Government has decided to postpone any action on this project until after the current financial year. I ask the Minister whether I am right in making that assumption, and can the Minister say what stage has been reached in the negotiations?
– My understanding of the situation is that the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Premier of South Australia are conducting negotiations in regard to this matter, and have been doing so for some time. I do not know what is the present position, but I shall certainly refer the question to the Minister and let the honorable senator have whatever information it is possible to give him.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I preface it by saying that for the past three years I have been addressing to him questions without notice about Australia’s position in relation to the European Common Market.N Up to the present time I have not received a positive or informative answer. Since the House rose in June last both the Prime Minister and! the Leader of the Government in this chamber have been overseas. Also, I have read in various daily newspapers statements which have been attributed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Mr. McEwen, about the effects of the market on Australia. I now ask the Leader of the Government whether he is in a position to make a statement to the Senate. If he is not, will he confer with his colleague, the Minister for Trade, with a view to having prepared a considered statement on the effects on Australia of the European Common Market and present that statement iO the Senate?
– One matter in relation to which I am in agreement with Senator Hendrickson is the importance of this subject. I hope he will reciprocate by agreeing with me about the difficulty of answering questions relating to it. I think it would be extraordinarily difficult for the Minister for Trade to make a conclusive statement on this matter, because the situation changes from day to day and from month to month. What happens, in effect, is that the Minister makes statements expressing the Australian viewpoint on developments as they occur from day to day and from month to month. I very much doubt whether much more than that can be done. There is a whole pile of literature upon what might be the effects of these international arrangements, and the experts show their invariable disposition to disagree upon what those effects might be.
By and large, there are two great considerations. I think that these economic arrangements are good to the extent that they make for higher and better living standards in Europe which could provide larger markets for Australian goods provided we maintain access to those markets on reasonable terms. The nub of the problem lies there. The second thing is that the strong economies in western Europe are a bulwark against what might happen in eastern Europe.
Another problem from what might be termed the limited Australian point of view is how these arrangements are going to affect us in Australia. I refer in particular to the great doctrines of self-sufficiency in the production of primary products by the two economies within their respective spheres. One of the reasons why the “ sevens “ as distinct from .the “ sixes “ were formed was Britain’s desire to retain easy access to markets, rather than that there should be a common customs wall against imports. If that can be achieved it will be to our advantage. The most interesting development of all is the present indication that the two groups may yet join together, Great Britain apparently being engaged in preliminary negotiations.
What we have to watch is that we maintain access to these markets for our primary products and that we maintain the benefit of our present Commonwealth preferences. Those are the two big things; but they are not matters that are under our control. If the thirteen European countries in their two separate groups make certain arrangements, we are not in the position of being able to prevent their doing so. Do not let there be any disposition towards thinking that we are not on top of the problem, that the Minister for Trade is not in close touch with the situation. I know this is one of his major preoccupations; I know it is constantly before him. I think the main thing to do is to take comfort from the thought that nothing that has happened up to this stage has been to our disadvantage. In the arrangements that have so far been inaugurated and commenced - they are only the beginning of the arrangements - this policy of self-sufficiency in primary production in the continental countries has not affected the situation. We still have uninterrupted access to the European countries without any prejudicial effect upon our three major exporting items of wool, leather and metal concentrates. I think that is about as far as I can take the matter.
– 1 ask the Minister for the Navy whether he will make available to those honorable senators who may require them copies of the new search and rescue charts introduced by the Royal Australian Navy recently.
– I do not at the moment see any reason why that should not be done. If, after consultation with the department, I find that there is not on the documents any information which should not be made public, I shall be happy to do as the honorable senator suggests.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport tell me when it is expected that the “ Bass Trader “ will be in operation?
– My recollection is that the plan for construction provided for the vessel to go into service at the end of this year. I am not quite sure what is the position now, but I shall make inquiries about it and let the honorable senator know what I learn.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the Senate how many ships are still immobilized in Australian ports for want of crews? Has the
Minister made an estimate of the addition that will have to be made to Australian shipping freights as a result of the recent dislocation? Is the Government equipped with any powers to ensure that the voluntary recruits for ships’ crews who are available to-day will not be required to comply with Mr. Elliott’s requirement of Communist allegiance before they are permitted to be picked up? What consideration has been given to the Government’s powers to ensure that ships get full crews?
– I shall ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to give the precise numbers of ships, whether they be Australian or British, immobilized from time to time around the Australian coast. I shall also ask the Minister whether he can inform the honorable senator of the addition to freight charges around the Australian coast that those figures indicate will have to be made. I shall also refer to him the honorable senator’s question in relation to the precise powers possessed by the Government in relation to the picking up of volunteers. I suggest that the honorable senator put the questions on the notice-paper.
– I direct a supplementary question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that evidence was given in one of our courts just recently to the effect that figures covering ten or twelve ships indicated that seamen’s wages averaged about £28 a week?
– I am not in a position to say whether that is strictly accurate, but I have no doubt that the honorable senator ascertained the facts before he asked me the question. I have in my mind a sum of that size as the average weekly earnings of seamen. I understand that the present reluctance of seamen to offer themselves in sufficient numbers for ships to be manned is said to have something to do with their objection to an award of an authority that is properly constituted to make such an award.
– I ask a question supplementary to that asked by Senator Wright. Has the Minister any precise information to the effect that allegiance to communism is a condition of engagement as a member of a ship’s crew?
– No. I do not have any precise information showing that allegiance to communism is a necessary prerequisite to a man’s engagement as a member of a ship’s crew. I have, however, quite precise information that the Seamen’s Union of Australia itself is dominated and controlled by Communists, and I have no doubt that they take every step they can take to see that their followers are placed in a privileged position.
– Question No. 1 on the notice-paper is in my name and was asked on 3rd May of the Minister representing the Treasurer. If a reply is not to be provided to-day, when may I expect it?
– I hope to reply to the question to-morrow. As a matter of fact the reply was on my table to-day but I wanted an adjustment made, and sent it back for that purpose.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation assure the Senate that officials of the Department of Civil Aviation will do all in their power, while repairs are being made to the main runway at Essendon Airport, to ensure that there shall be the least possible interference to scheduled commercial air services in order to protect the public from unnecessary delays and avoid diverting flights to other Victorian aerodromes?
– I take pleasure in giving the assurance sought that the department will do everything possible to reduce to the minimum any inconvenience that may be occasioned by this necessary work. The honorable senator might be pleased also to know that the fullest cooperation is forthcoming from the airlines to ensure that the work is completed with as little inconvenience as possible to all concerned.
– My question is also directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is he aware that as a result of the airlines rationalization scheme - sometimes known as the Ansettization scheme - of limiting the numbers of aircraft available to the major airlines, Tasmania has had a reduction of services on Sundays and no service is available from Melbourne to Tasmania from Saturday evening until Sunday afternoon? At present both airlines have aircraft departing at the same time on Sunday afternoons from Melbourne and at the same time from Tasmania. Will the Minister consult with the managements of the two major airlines with a view to re-establishing a Sunday morning service by either one or other, or both the major airlines?
– The subject of service frequencies is under continual observation both by the operators and by the Department of Civil Aviation. It is true that on some routes, particularly during the off-season for air travel, cancellations of some services have occurred; but in no instance where curtailment has occurred has it been brought to my notice that serious inconvenience has been caused. Indeed, the figures as to passengers carried on all the services, which I see almost daily, suggest that there are sufficient aircraft engaged at suitable frequencies to lift the traffic that is available.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it not a fact that American frozen peas are being dumped in Australia at a price of ls. per lb. less than the price of the Australian produced product? Does the Minister agree that such dumping of American frozen foodstuffs is detrimental to the Australian industry and the employment of many Australian workers and primary producers? Will he assure the Senate that adequate protection is being afforded to the Australian frozen foodstuffs industry to ensure stability of employment in the industry for employees and primary producers? Does the Minister agree that sufficient supplies of frozen peas are available in Australia to satisfy the Australian demand?
– If the honorable senator had been in the Senate yesterday this matter-
– If your wife had been sick you would not have been here either.
– I am not canvassing why the honorable senator was not here yesterday. He is at perfect liberty to do as he wishes, and there must be a good reason if he absents himself. However, if the honorable senator had been here yesterday he would have heard full answers given to every point raised in his question. I suggest that he read yesterday’s “ Hansard “, in which he will find the answers to the questions that he has asked.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In view of the importance of the Empire Games to be held in Perth in 1962, will the Minister consider issuing a postage stamp to commemorate this important event? If a commemorative stamp is to be issued, will Australian artists be invited to submit designs that will be in .keeping with the importance of the event to be commemorated and also pay some regard to the city in which the contests are to be held?
– All I can say in reply to the honorable senator is that 1 will place her suggestion before my colleague, the Postmaster-General, for his consideration.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It arises from several highly important and significant scientific discussions taking place in various Australian capital cities at the moment in which worldranking scientists are participating. The chairman of the Melbourne convention is the Nobel prize winner and Cambridge University leader, Sir Alexander Dodd, who, since his arrival, has stated that the Government of the United Kingdom has appointed a Minister for Science without portfolio whose responsibility it is to co-ordinate the activities of all governmental and private scientific instrumentalities in the United Kingdom, without interfering with their autonomy. In view of the enormous strides taking place in science in Australia, does the Minister or his Government think that a similar arrangement would be of advantage in Australia?
– Senator Hendrickson invites me to discuss the pros and cons of a matter which, in Australian politics, is one for the decision of the Prime Minister when he allocates portfolios. My personal view is that I would not like to see established here such a portfolio as the honorable senator mentions because it would put the minister concerned in isolation. Research is almost always applicable to some particular matter or some particular industry. I would not like there to be a Minister for Research who had, for instance, the handling of research into coal mining. I use coal mining as an example because it is so close to my own portfolio. I would think also that the Minister for Primary Industry would like to have the benefit of the work carried out by the Division of Agricultural Economics. Scientists must be able to work in close liaison with one another so that there will be a free flow of ideas; also the results of scientific work must be readily available to the industries and the departments concerned. For my part, I would not favour any arrangement that might make it more difficult to satisfy the latter requirement.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise whether he has read a statement made by the managing director of a company engaged in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes in which he stated that the continued blending of a proportion of Australian-grown tobacco with imported tobacco will not be to the advantage of the Australian tobacco-growing industry. At present, manufacturers, in order to qualify for a rebate of duty on imported tobacco, must use a certain stipulated percentage of Australian-grown tobacco in the manufacture of their product. Does the Minister know of any good reason why that percentage should be reduced?
– Manufacturers of cigarettes, in order to qualify for the rebate, must include at least 28.5 per cent, of Australian-grown tobacco in their product. Next year, the amount required to be used will be 35 per cent. To qualify for the rebate of ls. 5d. per lb. on imported tobacco, manufacturers will have to include 35 per cent. of Australian-grown tobacco in the cigarettes they make. I am afraid I could not give the figures off the cuff on the basis of 28i per cent., but I can do so on the basis of 25 per cent. Roughly speaking, it means that if 3-lb. of imported tobacco is used for each 1-lb. of Australian tobacco, the manufacturer is entitled to a rebate of 4s. 3d. on the imported tobacco. All tobacco grown in Australia is sold by public auction. In the article which I saw on this subject, reference was made to the fact that if Australian tobacco reached a much higher price it might be more profitable for the Australian manufacturers to use all imported tobacco. I can only say that, if that position eventuated, I think we would have to look at the incidence of the customs tariff to see whether we could bring about the desired result in another way.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Prime Minister have a statement prepared showing the number of persons in the Public Service and the various Commonwealth Government instrumentalities whose salaries or other remuneration have been increased by £300 per annum or more during the current financial year?
– I have received the following reply from the Prime Minister: -
The number of persons employed under the Public Service Act and on the staffs of the various Commonwealth Government instrumentalities whose salaries have been increased by £300 or more per annum as a result of recent margins decisions is as follows: -
What is the total amount paid by the Commonwealth by way of reimbursement of interest upon capital expenditure for nongovernmental schools in the Australian Capital Territory?
Of such amount, how much has been paid in respect of (a) primary schools, (b) secondary schools?
How many students in the Australian Capital Territory attend (a) primary schools, (b) secondary schools?
Of those attending primary schools (a) what number attend government schools, (b) what number attend non-governmental schools, (c) how, and in what numbers respectively, are those attending non-governmental schools accommodated?
What are the costs per capita per annum, respectively, for students educated at government primary and secondary schools (a) by way of provision of capital for school buildings and equipment and the servicing thereof, (b) by way of payment to teachers?
If through sheer weight of cost and economic pressure the institutions now providing education in the non-governmental primary schools are forced to close down, can the Government give the parents of the children so affected an assurance that there will be readily available adequate accommodation at government primary schools?
Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply: -
1957-58, £1,456; 1958-59, £8,393; 1959-60.
£14,216; total, £24,065.
Payments have only been made in respect of secondary schools. 3. (a) Primary and infants schools, 9,011; (b) secondary schools, 3,553. 4. (a) Government schools, 6,146; (b) private schools, 2,865. (c) There are ten nongovernment schools in Canberra accommodating the following numbers of children in infants and primary departments: -
St. Edmund’s Christian Brothers College SI 3
Our Lady of Mercy Convent School . . 493
St. Christopher’s Convent School . . 440
St. Joseph’s Convent School . . . . 406
St. Peter Chanel Convent School .. 301
St. Benedict’s Convent School . . . . 265
St. Brigid’s Convent School . . . 80
Church of England Girls’ Grammar School 200
Canberra Grammar School 146
St. John’s Infants School . . 21 5. (a) It is not practicable to dissect costs per capita per annum for students educated at government primary and secondary schools by way of provision of capital for school buildings and equipment and servicing thereof, (b) The per capita cost for the financial year 1958-59 by way of payment of teachers was £44.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following reply: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– My colleague, the Minister for Immigration, 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: - 1. (a) Yes; (b) Yes.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following reply: -
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure for year 1959-60, accompanied by the report of the AuditorGeneral.
Pursuant to section 33 (2) of the Australian National University Act, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Australian National University Act - Report of Council of Australian National University, together with financial statements, for 1959.
– 1 move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - Whilst the remarks that I shall make may not be very profound, I thought that, having done a good deal of work in relation to atomic energy matters while I was abroad recently, I would like to make a statement to the Senate in order to place on record some of the information I gathered.
Over the last year or so I have made several statements in the Senate upon the generation of power and upon the activities of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
I devoted a good deal of my time overseas to atomic energy matters and as a result I want to make a brief report to the Senate. The matter is important. We have some £8,000,000 invested in the research establishment at Lucas Heights, and a staff of 650 employed under an annual operating budget which is close enough to £2,000,000 per annum. I wanted to see how this compared with efforts being made overseas and to determine whether our effort in manpower and money is justified and not merely duplicating work being done elsewhere. More particularly, I wanted to make some assessment of the developments that had occurred in atomic energy overseas and the possible impact of those developments upon Australia.
I start by reminding honorable senators that Australia relies on close co-operation in atomic energy research with other countries, the United Kingdom and the United States in particular. I had the opportunity to meet and discuss these matters with the Ministers and senior officers responsible for the conduct of atomic energy affairs. As a result of my discussions and the work of the officers who were with me, I believe that we will enjoy even closer collaboration with their countries than in the past.
An amendment to our bilateral agreement with the United States will, I hope, be submitted to the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy within a week or two. Among other things, this will, if approved by Congress, enable us to obtain from the United States some special radioactive sources for bore logging in oil exploration and underground water surveys. These will be held by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, who will make them available to relevant bodies on request.
During my trip I had discussions with the relevant Ministers and officials in Japan, Austria, Great Britain, France, Canada and the United States of America. I think it is fitting that I should commence by recording my thanks for the information that was made available to me and the courtesies that were invariably extended to me. I acknowledge also the assistance I received from the overseas officers of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission who accompanied me. I was able to see something of the research establishments in Austria, France, Great Britain, Canada and the United States.
In France I visited the metal production plant at La Bouchet and the large research establishment at Saclay. The metal production plant at La Bouchet was established to provide the nuclear grade metallic uranium that is required for the French programme, and until 1959 it supplied the complete fuel requirements for the reactors operating at Fontenay, Saclay and Marcoule. The annual production of this plant now amounts to some 500 tons of uranium metal. In addition, considerable quantities of nuclear grade thorium, another potential nuclear fuel, are produced from the complex ores of Madagascar.
Saclay is the main research and training establishment of the French Atomic Energy Commission. It is well provided with specialized equipment. It has no fewer than five nuclear research reactors and a similar number of particle accelerators, together with a comprehensive selection of laboratories for the various disciplines. The
French radioisotopes service is also located at Saclay. It provides 90 per cent, of France’s requirements as well as catering for a substantial export market. Saclay is also the home of the National Institute of Nuclear Sciences and Techniques, which is the principal organization for training engineers and scientists in the nuclear sciences and technologies. France was later than some other countries in developing a full-scale research programme. I venture the opinion that the work which is now being done there is making a most significant contribution to the development of atomic energy.
In the United Kingdom I saw the establishment at Harwell, the now historic reactors at Calder Hall, and some of the authority’s current developmental work. Ac visit to Harwell is a particularly interesting experience. I think Harwell retains its position as the foremost establishment in research into and the development of atomic energy - a position it gained when it led the commercial exploitation of nuclear power in the United Kingdom. Sir Roger Makins, the chairman of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission, paid me the courtesy of accompanying me on my visit. Harwell numbers amongst its equipment such well-known reactors as Bepo and Dido, the latter being of particular interest to Australia as it is the prototype from which our own Hifar reactor at Lucas Heights was developed.
In Great Britain, as indeed in other countries, the magnitude of research programmes and the new avenues of approach which research work is opening up are leading to the development of additional research centres. Experience is showing that decentralization of effort gives better results. The thermonuclear research work will, for instance, be carried out in a separate establishment some miles from Harwell. The advanced gas-cooled reactor experiment will be carried out at Windscale. This reactor represents the authority’s approach to what it terms the second generation of nuclear power stations, and it incorporates several features of great interest to the Australian research programme, including the use of metallic beryllium for canning the fuel elements
The magnitude of the effort that is being made in the United States is indicated by its annual budget of £A. 1,200,000,000, a substantial portion of which, it is interesting to find, is being devoted to reactor technology. A number of experimental nuclear power stations are already operating in the United States and others are in the process of being commissioned. I went to see the Argonne National Laboratory, which is located near Chicago and is one of the leading nuclear research centres in the world. It was developed from the wartime metallurgical laboratory established under the famous “ Manhattan District “. It is operated by the University of Chicago for the United States Atomic Energy Commission and is under the control of Dr. Hilberry, who without doubt is a colourful personality as well as a great scientist. It is the principal centre for the design and development of nuclear reactors in the United States and serves as a great centre for basic research in all branches of nuclear science. It maintains a highly experienced staff which is concentrated in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, reactor engineering, radiological physics, electronics and remote control engineering.In the course of my visit I saw the laboratory’s Argonaut reactor in operation. This reactor was virtually a prototype for the training and research reactor Moata which we are currently installing at Lucas Heights.
In summing up my information and impressions, I find that they fall under the following broad headings: -
In regard to the nature of research programmes, I point out that the basic principles of nuclear fission as a source of heat for power generation are well understood, but that the practical application of these principles has been, and continues to be, an expensive undertaking. I shall come back to this point later. It is, in my opinion, basic to all thinking upon the development of atomic power.
Very large programmes of research and development are being maintained in the
United Kingdom, the United States and France, the staff and expenditure in these countries being as follows: -
Let me repeat those expenditure figures, because they illustrate the magnitude of the research programmes and in many ways the significance of atomic energy in the views of the various governments. The United States spends £A. 1,200,000,000 per annum, the United Kingdom £A. 116,000,000 and France £A. 100,000,000. The expenditure on our programme is £2,000,000.
Research and development programmes for nuclear power are directed towards “ the engineering and metallurgical problems associated with harnessing the energy released by nuclear fission in the fuel. They aim at producing greater economies in fuel utilization and smaller capital investments for the reactor installation “ - This is another basic statement. All three countries, the United States, United Kingdom and France, are engaged in substantial programmes to develop economic nuclear propulsion. In addition to its substantial fleet of nuclear warships, the United States has already launched its first nuclear propelled cargo ship, “N.S. Savannah”, which, it is hoped, will visit this country in 1961.
Radio-isotopes figure prominently in the programmes of most countries and facilities for the production and for the development of their uses are one of the immediate benefits of the national atomic energy programmes. It was interesting to me to find that medical uses account for upwards of 50 per cent. of the current demands for radio-isotopes. Opinion is against the production of radio-isotopes in normal power reactors and it seems possible that in the future special reactors will be built for this trade. Another point which I found interesting was the tendency overseas to create separate establishments to handle the marketing of isotopes and the employment of skilled staff to promote and sell radioisotopes to industry.
As a result I am sure that the recent creation of an isotopes committee within the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to act as the administrative body on all aspects of isotopes production promotion and sales is a move in the right direction and in keeping with overseas practice. Indeed I thought that generally speaking all activities of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission upon isotopes compared favorably with what I saw overseas. I cannot cover all the ground in a report like this. I made a great number of inquiries about the production and sales of isotopes. One comforting conclusion I came to was that, generally speaking, the activities of our Australian Atomic Energy Commission in this field, which is in so many ways the forerunner of the uses of atomic energy, compared more than favorably with what I saw overseas.
Whilst a great many countries have installed research and training reactors, the United Kingdom is the only country which has so far adopted a programme which provides for a substantial amount of the country’s power requirement to be generated from nuclear sources. Other countries such as the United States and France are however now building power reactors. Apart from the United Kingdom, one power supply corporation in the United States has a nuclear power station presently operated to supply electric power to its system. Another power corporation has a nuclear station under construction which should be commissioned within six months. Each of these stations is large in output around the 100 megawatts capacity. Other power corporations in the United States are planning the introduction of nuclear stations in order to gain experience in their operation. These plans provide for stations of 100 to 200 megawatts in supply systems whose total capacity is usually well over 5,000 megawatts. What I am trying to convey here is that so far as the commercial use of atomic power is concerned we are really still at the dawn of the new age. It is not yet into general operation. In France two nuclear stations are under construction in Central France. The first is of 80 megawatts capacity, the second of 170 megawatts capacity. It is hoped to commission these in 1961 and 1962 respectively. They will then take up a significant part of the base loan in Central France.
Because existing atomic power programmes are not on the scale contemplated eight years ago, .some misgivings exist amongst the United Kingdom and the United States power plant manufacturers, but, to quote from the White Paper presented to the United Kingdom Parliament in June this year, which represents the views of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Agency, and presumably the United Kingdom Government -
In the long run we shall need increasing supplies of nuclear power. In about ten years time it should be cheaper to generate base load in nuclear stations than in conventional stations provided that we achieve the technological progress that is expected.
In other words, the expectation in Great Britain is that nuclear power will be cheaper than thermal power in ten years’ time. In the United Kingdom, nuclear power will provide 12 per cent, of the total power generated in 1965 and 18 per cent, by 1970. By this date there will be seven atomic energy power stations in the United Kingdom. It is estimated that the latest station being erected at Trawsfyndd in Wales will produce power for 0.67 pence per Kwh. This compares with 0.5 pence per Kwh. from the new British thermal stations.
Nuclear power production cannot be evaluated successfully on a general basis. Each country must look at the problem against the background of availability and cost of using its own natural resources. Japan, for instance, is not well endowed with either coal or oil and is coming to the end of economic hydro power. As it depends upon an efficient manufacturing industry to provide for its great population, it is possible that the use of atomic energy will develop faster there than elsewhere. I visited Vienna and saw the International Atomic Energy Agency at work. I addressed its board of governors, inspected the research establishment, which Austria is now building, and had a series of interesting discussions with those who had come to Vienna upon the International Agency’s work. I thought that I might devote some space in my statement to outlining broadly the work and functions of the agency.
The idea of the agency was first put forward by President Eisenhower in December, 1953, with his “Atoms for Peace” statement to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Australia was a member of the original drafting committee of eight states. The Statute of the agency was ratified by 26 states including Australia and entered into force on 29th July, 1957. The executive branch of the agency is a board of governors which comprises 23 members. Australia holds its designation as a member of the board as the member most advanced in the technology of atomic energy in the region of South-East Asia and the. Pacific. In this context, Australia represents on the board not only its own interests but those of other nations in this part of the world. It must therefore continue to play an active role in agency affairs as an obligation of leadership.
The broad economic and social objective of the agency is to seek to accelerate and enlarge the practical application of atomic energy for peaceful purposes throughout the world. There are approximately 71 member nations of the agency. The agency’s principal functions are fourfold: Provision of technical assistance, international regulatory activities, exchange of atomic energy information, and encouragement of research.
Technical assistance is implemented by organization of technical missions, provision of experts, scholarships and similar means. It is in the regulatory activities that the principal benefit for Australia resides. Under its statute the agency is authorized to establish standards of health and safety in the nuclear field.
I pause to point out that the effects of a mishap in a nuclear station in one country are not confined within the borders of that country. Therefore, an international code must be developed. The agency has already considered a number of important problems in this field such as the standardization of measurements and techniques, regulations for the transport of nuclear materials, the discharge of radioactive waste into the sea and rivers systems, and civil liability lor nuclear hazard. All these problems must be solved i.nd effectively regulated on an international basis if the application of atomic energy is to advance without hindrance, and the agency, by its activities in these fields, is laying the foundations for just such international agreements.
Atomic energy, to a greater extent than most other technologies, has relied on scientific contacts at a personal level. That may not appear to be the most economic means of disseminating information but it has, in fact, paid off by ensuring the rapid and free interchange of ideas at conferences and discussions. At the Argonne 1 was told about a visit by Russian scientists. Both sides were rather on their guard in the initial discussions, but after the technical mission had settled down, the sense of humour of both the Americans and the Russians was aroused when they found that the problems were the same on both sides of the iron curtain. The agency, since its inception, has taken a prominent part in organizing appropriate scientific and technical symposia and it now occupies the preeminent position in this field.
My normal ministerial duties include the consideration of the Australian point of view on matters that come before the agency. There are some complaints that the agency is taking too long a period of time to reach conclusions upon matters which come within its sphere of activities. But they are matters of great importance and there is a natural tendency for the member nations to be careful before they abrogate their sovereign rights upon issues on which even the scientists concerned are not always in full agreement. Yet the issues are of such consequence that only international arrangements can deal with them and consequently the work of the agency will in my opinion increase in importance.
When I come to my conclusions, I ask you to remember that I stressed the size of the research programmes; the fact that the basic principles of nuclear fission as a source of heat for power generation are well understood and that it is the practical application of these principles to which research is being directed; and the fact that research programmes are being basically directed towards engineering and metallurgical problems, together with the physics of particular systems.
These statements are in words approved by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. But I want to put the position as a layman in non-scientific terms. The way I see it is as follows: -
So far as Australia is concerned, I put the position this way: Our need for atomic power is not so urgent as elsewhere, because we have such large coal resources close to our main centres of population, but we will be affected in the long run by the development of atomic power in the same way as other countries. The same influences will operate here as elsewhere. It is only a difference in degree. A manufacturing nation has to use the cheapest form of power that is available if it is to remain competitive. Research and development work is showing that there are many opportunities for reducing the capital costs of nuclear power stations and improving techniques of using the nuclear fuels. I think it is inevitable that as nuclear power costs are reduced the change to thermal power production will take place in Australia as in other countries. It is not possible to estimate how long it will take for this situation to develop. Great Britain assumes that nuclear power will be cheaper than thermal power in about ten years, lt will take longer to reach this position in Australia because we have such rich coal resources alongside our manufacturing industry.
Power generation is the largest single investment made by Australian governments. It takes some five years to build a large power station, and decisions are consequently made upon a basis of forecasts of power costs some five years ahead, lt is necessary for State officers to continue to keep in contact with atomic energy developments, as they are doing at present. I direct attention to a matter of importance, something which did not become apparent to me until my trip developed. A world power conference is to be held in Melbourne in 1962 at which Australia will act as host nation. This world power conference in 1962 will attract the leading personalities on power production throughout the world. It is going to be a most important gathering so far as Australian industry and the Australian public are concerned, and we should make certain that we take full advantage of it.
Australia needs an economical source of power for use in the outback and in particular for mining operations in those areas.
Only a small reactor would be required, and there is a gap in research programmer in this field throughout the world. Every one is, of course, intent upon the big reactor because of the large volume of power it produces and because the larger the reactor the cheaper is the cost of power produced. We want small reactors. Not much research work is going on in this field and our establishment is filling quite a gap. Finally, I make the point that nothing 1 have seen derogates from, the importance of the Snowy Mountains scheme. The Snowy produces peak load power. It is designed to operate for 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, of each day when the demand for power is at its peak. The same reasons which make this a most attractive addition to the output of thermal stations will also apply to the output of atomic energy power stations. I thank the Senate for its courtesy.
– by leave - Whilst 1 may speak only for the Opposition at any time, I think I might presume to say that the Senate generally is very much indebted to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for the statement that he has given us on this very important subject. Personally, I found his survey most interesting and informative. It was most proper for the Minister, after being abroad for a brief few months, to give in the Parliament a synopsis of his travels, investigations and conclusions on his various observations. 1 find particularly consoling the fact that legislation pending in the American Congress is likely to make available to Australia in the near future radio-active agents to help in oil exploration and boring and in boring for water. That could be of vast importance to an aspect of our economy. Secondly, it was good to hear the Minister say that activities in Australia, although obviously on a much inferior scale to those abroad, nevertheless compare favorably with what is going on in other parts of the world. It is not surprising that in what we might term peace-time it has taken so long to get atomic energy under control for peaceful purposes, lt was relatively easy to cause an explosion to do the utmost damage in one outburst; but the two problems the Minister indicated are still with us. First, there is the question of finding the best method of harnessing, controlling and distributing the energy that is generated, and then there is perhaps the even more difficult problem of finding a method of keeping the capital cost of nuclear reactors within bounds. It may well be that under the stimulus of scientific effort and the big sums that are made available to scientists to-day, a dramatic change in both these spheres may take place. One would hope that that will be the case.
The only other comment 1 wish to make is that I was very intrigued to hear the Minister explain the position of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the obvious need for international control. He pointed out, to touch one aspect only of the matter, the possibility that nuclear reactors in one State may cause vast damage in another State or States. I invite the Minister to apply that thought to Australia where we have a division of power in the matter of nuclear energy, and where the production of fissionable material is primarily one for the States so far as peaceful and industrial purposes are concerned. The very problem that the Minister sees in the international field is repeated in Australia. That is one, and only one, of the reasons why the Constitutional Review Committee recommended that there be a power concurrent with that of the States to prevail in the case of conflict in the matter of nuclear energy for all sorts of peaceful purposes. I have no doubt at all about the Commonwealth power over atomic energy for purposes of defence, but I do suggest to the Minister that the problem in Australia is identical with the international problem that he sees, and I should hope that his observations have made him a recruit to the cause of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee, at least in that particular. I congratulate the Minister on his address to the Senate. Personally, I feel indebted to him for it.
– by leave - It will be recalled that in September, 1959, and March, 1960, Lockheed Electra aircraft crashed with total loss of life in the United States due to structural failure of their wings and, as a result, the Department of Civil Aviation imposed speed restrictions on Electra aircraft operating in Australia. Since that time the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation has made an intensive re-analysis of the design of the aircraft and has determined to its satisfaction the cause of the two accidents. They have previously been announced publicly by Lockheed as being caused by structural failures in the power plant area which allowed the power plant, when initiated by gusts or other forms of agitation, to move violently in a circular motion, with the result that the wing finally failed by flutter. In addition, the re-analysis showed a weakness of the aircraft when subjected to some forms of sharp-edged gust which, although it could not have caused the accident, needs remedial action.
I would like to reiterate at this stage that at the present restricted speed of 225 knots applied in Australia there is no possibility of a failure occurring from either of these defects, but it is obviously necessary that the aircraft be modified so that ii can return to the higher cruising speed of 275 knots. Lockheed has now designed the necessary modification and a team of Lockheed executives has recently visited Australia and discussed a modification programme with Australian operators and the Department of Civil Aviation. As a result, the Australian aircraft and those of Tasman Empire Airways Limited will be returned to the Lockheed plant at Burbank, California, for modification. The programme of modification has been mutually agreed by the operators and will commence in December, 1960, the last aircraft being completed in June, 1961. The modification programme is based on each, aircraft spending twenty days at the Lockheed plant and on one aircraft a day being released after modification.
Lockheed has agreed to carry out the modification of the aircraft and affected associated spares at its own expense and to obtain Federal Aviation Agency approval for it, together with approval for the modified aircraft to return to a speed of 275 knots. The airlines are required to deliver the aircraft at Burbank in accordance with an agreed schedule. The operators have agreed to waive all future claims against Lockheed arising from this particular design weakness and from any consequences of the accidents which have resulted from it.
The modification will consist of increasing the stiffness of the power plant area and strengthening the wing. As it will involve the extensive use of jigs and tools of considerable magnitude, it is obviously best for the modifications to be carried out at Burbank rather than here in Australia, and I have therefore agreed to the Lockheed proposals that the aircraft return to America.
I believe that there is every likelihood that approval of the modifications and removal of the speed restrictions will be given by the American Federal Aviation Agency by 16th December, but before the restrictions are removed in Australia, I have said that 1 will require a complete technical justification from Lockheed. With this in mind, I propose to have a technical expert visit Lockheed with one of the first Australian aircraft, to fully evaluate the Lockheed calculations and assessment.
The nature of the accidents in America is such that no chance can be taken of their happening again and the Senate can be assured no return to the higher cruising speed of 275 knots will be permitted in Australia until I and my department have been completely convinced of the efficacy of the modifications. I should add that I am satisfied the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation has done everything possible to find the cause of the accidents and to design modifications which will make the aircraft completely safe at the higher speeds.
– by leave - I am sure the Senate wilt be pleased to learn that negotiations in Melbourne last month resulted in agreement being reached on the terms of a permanent air transport agreement between Australia and Iran.
The agreement was initialled in Canberra on 7th July, 1960, by the leader of the Australian delegation, Mr. D. G. Anderson, Director-General of Civil Aviation, and by the leader of the Iranian delegation, Major-General Isa Studakh. the Director-General of Civil Aviation for Iran. It is expected that the formal signing of the permanent agreement will take place in Teheran later this year.
The agreement will give Australia’s international airline - Qantas - permanent operating rights through Iran on its roundtheworld service. Qantas has been operating once a week through Teheran under a temporary permit since last November. In return Iran is given rights to operate air services to Australia when an Iranian airline is ready to do so.
The facility with which the recent negotiations were satisfactorily concluded admirably illustrates the extent of common interests we have with Iran, and I feel sure that the atmosphere of sincere cordiality and real co-operation that marked the recent negotiations will continue to be a most gratifying feature of our civil aviation relationships with Iran.
– by leave - For the information of honorable senators I lay on the table of the Senate the twenty-sixth annual report and financial accounts of Qantas Empire Airways Limited for the year ended 31st December, 1959. As honorable senators know, Qantas is a public company wholly owned by the Commonwealth Government on behalf of the Australian people. It is therefore of considerable public importance that I am able to announce that Qantas made a net profit of £853,963 during 1959. This is a record for the company and more than double the profit earned in 1958 and a striking indication of the company’s commercial soundness and the enterprise and acumen with which it has met the challenges of the jet age.
The profit also reflects the soundness of Qantas’ decision to buy the Boeing 707-138 jet - the smallest of the five versions of the 707. This enabled Qantas to get early delivery of seven of these aircraft and gain a distinct equipment advantage over its competitors - especially on the Pacific. The Boeing has been operating now for more than a year on the Qantas network and has proved remarkably efficient both mechanically and in passenger attraction.
After adding £124,258 undistributed profit brought forward from the previous year, £978,221 is available for distribution and the directors have recommended payment of a 5 per cent. dividend to the Treasury. This will require £596,130. Of the balance the directors recommend that £300,000 be written off the training and pre-operational costs involved in the introduction of the company’s new aircraft during 1959. The remaining sum of £82,091 will be carried forward into this year’s accounts as undistributed profit.
Finally I should add that despite the company’s somewhat spectacular increase in profit during 1959, its results, by normal commercial standards, are still somewhat marginal - the operating profit being only 3i per cent. on turnover and 7 per cent. on average capital. Additionally, the equipment advantage which Qantas achieved in 1959 is now changing considerably as more and more of its competitors re-equip with jets.
However, the Government and the management of Qantas are confident of the company’s ability to meet this mounting competition and improve profit.
I commend this report to the thoughtful attention of honorable senators.
.- I move -
That consideration be given to the following matters: -
Whether Australian national sentiment and culture are being endangered by the virtual monopoly of foreign films and entertainment screened by Australian theatres and television stations;
Whether a sound local film industry, with particular emphasis on documentary and television films, would be in the national interest as providing an outlet for Australian sentiment and culture and for earning international goodwill by distribution abroad;
In existing circumstances, is it practicable to place the Australian film industry on a sound footing by governmental financial or administrative assistance and, if so, what is the best method of providing such financial or administrative aid; and
What is the Australian potential for pictures or visual entertainment or instruction, filmed or recorded by predominantly television techniques such as video-tape.
I am grateful for this opportunity to place before the Senate these matters for its earnest consideration. In doing so, I ask the Senate, as a House of review, and as a House of mature and careful inquiry, to approach this question in a non-party manner. I appeal to all honorable senators to put aside any thought of party prejudice or sectional advantage and to examine the position in the light of what is best for Australia, for the nation as a whole, because I feel that in matters such as this, where political ideologies are not in conflict, honorable senators opposite are as one with my Government colleagues in working for the welfare of the Australian nation.
Some of the matters I wish to place before the Senate may involve criticism of what has been done by certain parties in these fields, but it is not my intention to place them before the Senate in a spirit of criticism. Even less is it intended that there should be any denigration of the great task which has been done in Australia by both the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial television licensees. The motion should be examined, Mr. Acting Deputy President, in its four sections, although, of necessity, some of them must overlap. I think it is a simple statement of fact that virtually all films, whether screened in the cinema or shown on television’s most coveted time slots - that is, between 6.30 and 9.30 of an evening - originate outside Australia, the vast bulk of them in the United States. It is no part of my thesis that those films are necessarily bad, or that television programmes are poor, although criticism could be levelled at some of them on that score. They are simply not Australian. As Edmund Burke put it a long time ago, “ If we suffer anyone to tell us his story every night for one twelve month, he will become our master “. A recent Australian analysis put it perhaps even more harshly - I think perhaps a little too harshly. Paterson’s analysis stated -
At four years of age Australian T.V. can scarcely be said to show much stamp of individuality or to display any great resemblance to the mind and face of Homo Australiensis. In sheer size it certainly bulks large but the accent is strictly mid-western, the face “Sunset Strip” stereo and home is Dodge City. Occasionally the trappings are shed to reveal a slight uncertain figure that looks local - a tryinghardtobesomeone or something - unsteady of foot, hand outstretched, bewildered by the spray of bullets from the six-guns and the voices from across the sea.
Despite that, and perhaps despite many notable exceptions, it must be conceded that crime and violence, shaped and conditioned to a way of life which is not our way of life, form the principal theme of many, though not all, imported films. It is true that the visual aid section of the Melbourne University, in a study of the effect of crime drama on children, found no harmful effects on normal children. They simply became indifferent to the nightly mayhem. But my point at the moment is not that violence in se and per se is bad or necessarily bad; it is that the material is foreign, with all that that implies to our own art, our culture, our entertainment, and, coming closer to earth, our employment.
At the moment, there is no feature film being produced in this country by an Australian company employing Australian actors and technicians. This is so, despite the fact that Australia had a very early lead in film production at the turn of this century. It strikes me as odd that a little country like Denmark, with a population less than that of the State of New South Wales, can produce fourteen feature films in a year. That was last year’s production. Japan, which of course has a population more than eight times ours, is able to produce 500 feature films a year - not television shorts, series or serials, but feature films. My complaint about the present position, Sir, is that the Australian image is not being projected on the world. Last year, two films were made in Australia by foreign companies. The American, Stanley Kramer, produced “ On the Beach “, largely in Melbourne, so far as his main shots were concerned. Instead of showing Melbourne to the world as the vibrant, pulsing heart of this nation’s social, economic, political and cultural activities, it was depicted as a city of the dead, or as a city about to die.
– After all, it was Melbourne.
– I am sorry that that is the honorable senator’s view of this national matter. The broad streets of Melbourne for the purposes of the story were shown dotted with bicycles and derelict cars. That fine city was depicted as a mausoleum. I do not suggest that Melbourne is the modern reincarnation of the Garden of Eden, but at all events, bicycles do not represent the main form of transport and derelict cars do not lie about the streets.
I pass briefly to our own story. About the year 1900 - unfortunately, I find it necessary to reiterate some of the remarks that I have made in this place before - we produced in this country, under the aegis of the Salvation Army, the world’s first screen drama, a film about the early Christian martyrs which was called, “ Soldiers of the Cross “. It was a very courageous enterprise and I think that the people responsible - long since gone to their reward - deserve the gratitude of Australians for their initiative. In 1905, we produced the world’s first feature film. Inevitably, I suppose, it had to be about the Kelly gang. Since then we have made five more pictures about the Kelly gang. I sometimes wish that Australian writers would forget their preoccupation with those gentlemen. At all events, “The Kelly Gang “, which we made in 1905, was 5,000 feet in length. At that stage, the longest film made in America was one called “ The Great Train Robbery “, which was only 500 feet in length.
We made the world’s first newsreel in 1896, covering the Melbourne Cup. An Australian director developed the technique known as the close-up. In the early films that were produced, it was the practice for the camera to be stationary in front of the actors. It had no movement. The whole of the motion and the story was unfolded from a fixed position of the camera. We do not have to think for more than a moment to realize the impact made by the introduction, by the Australian, Raymond Longford, of the technique of the close-up, by means of which a small, vital aspect of the picture or story was made to fill the entire screen. Although Longford did that - I think round about 1910 - until recently, at all events, this pioneering director was working as a tally clerk on the Sydney wharfs.
The world’s first documentary film was produced by an Australian, Captain Frank Hurley, when he covered Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition, and the first aerial film ever made was made by him when he produced a short feature called, “ Camera in the Clouds “. I merely repeat those triumphs of the past to contrast the melancholy picture which now obtains in the industry. Encouraged by their early successes, the pioneers went on and made 88 films between 1911 and 1920, and this despite the intervention of the First World War. I think it was immediately after the
First World War that the American film tycoons began their advance on this country. The Americans realized early the value of films from both the trade and the propaganda points of view, and there was a fierce struggle inside the United States itself. Certain interests wanted to make New York the film capital of the country, but more powerful interests were able to locate the film centre at Hollywood, on the west coast,
Shortly after this, the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia was formed, its members comprising American companies functioning out here. So successful were its efforts that, by 1926, 83 per cent, of the films exhibited in Australia came from the United States. The Australian industry lacked support of any kind, and although it did not go entirely to the wall, its production fell tremendously. Between 1921 and 1930, the production fell to 61 major films - a decrease of 27 compared wilh the previous ten years.
– There was no market.
– We will discuss that as we go along. The point is that there was control of our own outlets by interests other than Australian.
In 1930, sound came to the screen. The American Government and American banking institutions were siesed of the importance of the medium now more than ever. Millions of dollars were invested in the industry, and it was not surprising that the first sound film was made in the United States. But we in Australia made the second sound film in the world, a feature called “ Fellers “. I have not been able to obtain any information about it, and I do not know whether the title refers to a forestry occupation or is a corruption of the word “ Fellows “. B However, it was the second sound film ever made, and it was made here.
Some attempts were made by State authorities to impose quotas, and in New South Wales and Victoria there is still a small quota of 2i per cent, which is complied with if the exhibitor shows one Australian newsreel a week. Instead of feature films being shown, the quota is complied with by the use of newsreels. Between 1941 and 1950 the American attack on out market really gained impetus and more and more theatres went under the control of American interests. During this period we produced only 20 major films. Between 1951 and 1956 we continued to go downhill. Only eleven major films were produced in these six years, and since then only eight films have been made, five of them, I think, by overseas companies. 1 do not want to pretend that all the Australian films were very good, because that would be far from the truth, but they were the efforts of independent men, working on small budgets, in the face of intense competition by overseas interests. Some of them were very good films indeed. Some of them enjoyed world-wide exhibition.
– Some were made by British producers.
– That is so. At all events, they held up the mirror to the face of Australia. Whether the mirror was cracked or not, at least the image of the nation was projected to the outside world.
During the recent parliamentary recess, I had an opportunity to visit a number of Australian producers in Sydney and Melbourne. 1 propose later to make some specific suggestions in relation to a remedy. Speaking broadly, those Australian producers told me that we have not a healthy indigenous film industry, first, because Australia alone, of all the countries in the civilized world, gives no protection by way of quota, bounty or taxation incentive - I do not limit it to those things - against Hollywood competition; secondly, because there is no real guarantee that Australian films will be distributed or will get adequate screening on television, and thirdly, because there is no banking institution or financial house in Australia which is prepared to undertake the risky and lengthy business of financing film production. With an expensive film, even if it is successful, it is common for two to four years to elapse before the cost of production is recovered by the producer. I have been informed by some Australian producers - I do not know how correct this is - that it is very difficult at present to produce a feature film in Australia which is capable of showing a profit on the Australian screening returns alone. In other words, unless the producers are able to secure a market overseas, feature film production in Australia is more than difficult.
Perhaps at this stage it might be relevant to interpolate a reference to the British Eadie plan, which, I think, along with the founding of the British National Film Finance Corporation, has been responsible for keeping the British film industry in being. I think it was about twelve or thirteen years ago that a member of the House of Commons called Eadie worked out a plan whereby a straight bonus would be paid to any producer, based on a percentage of his gross profits. The percentage varies from year to year, and I think that last year it was 33i per cent. If a producer turned out a film in England which made a profit of £30,000, from the Eadie fund he was immediately in receipt of a straight bonus of £10,000. The Eadie plan was originally financed by a tax of Id. a seat on the seats in cinemas. The blow was relatively painless, but the encouragement to the industry was enormous.
The Americans, of course, have a long and successful history in the making of films and, as I have indicated, the banking corporations of that country undertake the financing of films. To come back to our cause of complaint, it is becoming clearer that, because of the number of American productions that are flooding Australia, the children and the adolescents of the nation are being bombarded at the cinema, and nightly on television, with the American way of life, the American accent and American morals. I want to make it clear that I admire very greatly many aspects of the American way of life, and I do not want anything I have said to be interpreted as anti-American or as an attack on our great ally. All I say is that these American films do not show the Australian way of life. I may be unduly pessimistic, but I feel that if this policy continues we will be in danger of losing our national characteristics. I think that this applies to our artists and to our writers. It certainly applies to our actors.
Three years ago, at one of the largest film functions in the world - the Cannes festival - Australia presented a film made by an Australian company. The film was called “Walk into Paradise”. The method of presenting films at this function is that they are put on, not by the producer, but by the country in which they are made. The Australian Ambassador arranged for the screening of this film at Cannes. It was commented upon very favorably by the other nations which were represented at the
Screening, but the point 1 wish to make is that 1 am informed that when the screening was finished the Australian Ambassador Slated publicly, “ This film has done more to improve French-Australian relationships than anything else of recent times. Why Cannot we have more of them? “.
I think I have said enough to indicate the importance of the film to Australia’s welfare. The nation has been well and faithfully served by the small film division Of the News and Information Bureau,
Which is administered by the Department Of the Interior. It has done a grand job for Australia. If honorable senators care to check recent press releases they will find that documentaries which do tell the Australian story have had some success abroad. A film entitled “New Guinea Patrol “ was screened in New York in theatres and on the television network before an audience of from 12,000,000 to 13,000,000 Americans. The documentaries “Story in Sand” and “Australian Diary” enjoyed the same result. One of the department’s more recent productions, a short called “ Roof of Australia “, has had an extremely good reception in the United Slates and has had an audience estimated again to be between 12,000,000 and 13,000,000 people. The department recently won an Olympic medal for its film On the training of the Konrads, the swimmers. The Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of Primary Industry, and the Immigration Department have all recently issued press releases showing the importance of films in their work.
If honorable senators care to obtain from the Library the Massey report on the arts, culture and films of our sister dominion, Canada, they will observe the great importance which that country attaches to the subject. I do not want to be in any way flippant, but let us compare the relative impacts on political and film figures. If we were asked who Senator Johnson was, many of us would not know. Of course, he is the majority leader in the United States Senate. But every one knows
Who Marlon Brando is. If we think of Italy, a country which was defeated in the last war and which had to be rehabili tated, and if we ask who Signor Giovanni Granchi is, a lot of people would not know. Perhaps that is partly because of my pronunciation! He is the President of Italy. But if we asked who Gina Lollobrigida was, every one would know. Let me go a little further. If I were to ask who Fernando Tambroni was, how many people would know that he was the Premier of that country? But we all know who de Sica is and who Sophia Loren is. It is, for good or ill, a measure of General de Gaulle’s stature that we know as much about him as we know about any French film star.
Perhaps it would be interesting at this stage if we were to examine what is required to make a film. 1 am indebted to the Parliamentary Library authorities for having been good enough to make copies for me of a block schematic, which I understand has been circulated; it deals with what goes into the making of a film. Some honorable senators may have seen on television a short feature film lasting about half an hour in which there has been a cast of about four or five people, and they may have thought that it could not possibly have cost very much to make. If honorable senators look at the block schematic, they will see that from 67 to 70 distinct functions have to be discharged in the making of the most elementary film. In many instances more than one job is done by the one man, but a glance at the chart will show that as we move on from the promoter, who is responsible for the finance and distribution arrangements, literally an army of people are needed. Perhaps honorable senators know that the chief executive below the promoter is the producer.
It would be tedious for me to go through the chart and recite the various functions, but we note that on the executive side the important people are the production manager, the people who are responsible for the story and the scripting, and the director, he being the person who gives the film its punch, its kick, its story. The executive authorities and the advertising and the publicity people are essential, even though some one may argue that in a sense their effort is not constructive. Then we come to the technical aspects of the film, which I do not propose to recite. But honorable senators will observe that a vast section of industry is represented. Transport, electricity, photographic and fuel requirements have to be attended to. The production of a film involves calling upon very many resources and provides a vast amount of employment for the community.
It is no part of my function to suggest the stories that are just crying out for filming. We recently celebrated the Northern Territory centenary. The story of the Northern Territory and of Darwin itself are eminently suitable for filming. What a vivid story could be portrayed to the world about the pioneering development of the overland telegraph, the scientific triumph of astral observation performed by our own radiophysics laboratories in the development of the radio telescope, the actions of the coast watchers, Lawrence Hargrave’s development of the flying machine, Matthew Flinders, and more recently Mary Durack’s story of the development of the Ord River valley, “ Kings in Grass Castles “!
– And Flynn of the Inland.
– The work of Flynn of the Inland is certainly worthy of a film. The list is endless. I find it galling night after night, in a country which has such a wealth of resources, that in most of the valuable time slots - coveted time slots - this material is missing.
I do not want it to be thought that I am harping continuously on a particular theme - the importance of the film industry - but let us look at two resolutions passed by the Imperial Conference held at London in 1926. One of the resolutions reads -
The importance and far-reaching influence of the motion picture is now generally recognized. The motion picture is not merely a form of entertainment, but, in addition, a powerful instrument of education in the widest sense of that term; and even where it is not used avowedly for purposes of instruction, advertisement or propaganda, it exercises indirectly a great influence in shaping the ideas of the very large numbers to whom it appeals. Its potentialities in this respect are almost unlimited.
Perhaps certain aspects of other resolutions are not material, but the conference further resolved -
In foreign-made pictures, the conditions in the several parts of the Empire are not always represented faithfully, and at times are misrepresented. Moreover, it is an undoubted fact that the constant showing of foreign scenes or settings, and the :absence of any corresponding showing of Empire scenes or settings, powerfully advertises (the more effectively because indirectly) foreign countries and their products.
Those words are just as true in 1960 as when they were uttered originally at the Imperial Conference in 1926. I do not know whether we can use a superlative form of the word “ true “ but those resolutions are even truer, or at all events are more important, now because of the impact of the far more powerful medium of television. The British Government took some heed of the resolution of the 1926 conference, even though it took some years to work out its plan. By the middle of the late ‘thirties, they had suitable legislation for the protection of their industry. It should not be thought that the importance of these matters has been overlooked by our friends in the United States either, because their appreciation was the same. Although they were on top, they realized that they had to stay there. As far back as 1937, an official publication issued by the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce of the United States said -
While the direct returns to the United States from foreign sales of motion pictures are of great importance, the indirect benefits accruing to the United States from the exhibition of American films in foreign countries is of still greater importance to the general export trade of the country.
Similarly, an official of the Department of Commerce in the United States of America said -
I do not think it is any exaggeration to say that the motion picture is perhaps the most potent single contributor to a better understanding of the United States. It is invaluable in all markets among all people, for from pictures they see they get their impressions of how we live, the clothes we wear and so forth.
I direct attention particularly to this part - hi fact, there has been a complete change in the demand for commodities in dozens of countries. I can cite you instances of the expansion of trade in the Far East traceable directly to the effects of the motion picture.
A few years after that, when speaking in the House of Commons on the Cinematograph Films Bill, Sir Phillip Cunliffe-Lister said -
In a number of places I visited during a world tour where previously British articles were sold exclusively, American articles had taken their place due entirely to the fact that the people were constantly seeing American nlms and American styles.
Sir Phillip also pointed out the effect which Canadian films had had in the Dominion of Canada. This is the medium the value of which I think is in grave danger of being lost to the people of Australia.
When speaking on a matter of this sort, one is continually digressing from principle to detail and then coming back to principle. If the Senate will pardon me, 1 shall make some reference to individual matters concerned with a particular product in Australia at the moment. I am most anxious to avoid anything in the nature of advertising for any person. I emphasize that I am interested only in the industry as a whole. But I did have the opportunity of visiting the great Artransa studio at French’s Forest where £750,000 is being spent by a company, which was British owned at that time, on an Australian western relating to the days of Cobb and Company. I had the opportunity to inspect a little village - I think it is supposed to be Bathurst of 1860 - which this company has built at its studio.
I also had the opportunity to discuss with the American producer some of the advantages of making films in Australia. He was almost lyrical when he pointed out the varied pieces of picturesque national backdrop which he had the opportunity to use in the five or six episodes he produced. As an example I point out that this synthetic village of “ Whiplash “ is set in an exceedingly beautiful valley with gumtrees all round giving a most beautiful effect in the afternoon sun. The producer said to me -
That sort of thing has never been shown on American television at all. Every set for a Western film is in the heart of a desert. We have not got a tree; we have not got anything that gives us a picturesque backdrop. This country is full of it.
He then went on to speak in much the same vein of the rough beauty of the country around Alice Springs where other incidents have been, filmed. Perhaps I can go further and say that this series will involve 39 incidents showing the development of Australia’s transport system approximately 100 years ago. One of the difficulties the company had was the training of technical staff to undertake the work. 1 am informed that approximately 230 Australian technicians, carpenters and even primary producers, as members of the
Country Party will be glad to know, are employed in the production of this Australian saga.
Let me give another example. It was necessary for the authenticity of the film that coaches used in 1860 should be used in the film. There are not very many of these vehicles in the used car lots around the cities, and the company was fortunate in securing the services of an old-time Cobb and Company driver who was able to describe in minute detail the sort of vehicles he drove. I am informed that, in order that the film might be authentic, four of these vehicles were made by the company’s own carpenters at a cost of from £750 to £1,000. Then there are the live-stock requirements for a series of this type. For instance, coach horses had to be trained so that they would not react violently to the sound of gunshot. Harness and saddles of the period either had to be found in some second-hand shop or made. In most instances these articles were made by 1960 methods and then artificially aged to make them look like the real thing. Then the company required cows, mules, donkeys, sheep, goats and other live-stock for use in its production. All in all, it is quite clear that a vast and varied range of human activity involving both primary and secondary industry is involved in the making of this particular series.
I come now to the almost immediate tragedy of the matter. These episodes are shot at the rate of about one every five days. I understand that this particular enterprise will be completed by Christmas, and I am further informed that there are no plans in hand for future productions or future development because it will be some years before the cost of this series is recouped by the company even if the project is successful. I do not know whether it will come to pass - I sincerely trust it will not - but there is the definite danger that if this outfit folds up about 200 people will become unemployed. At the moment, the Australian film industry comprises about 50 production units throughout Australia. Many of these are very small indeed, although the capital invested in the industry as a whole is about £3,000,000, and the permanent employees such as technicians and so on number about 600. In addition, a great, number of freelance musicians, writers, actors, models and so on are involved.
Unfortunately, the greater part of the activities of these people is directed to the production of commercials, to the advertising of somebody’s detergents, toothpaste, breakfast foods, cigarettes and the like. The use of Australian talent for creative purposes is very rare indeed. That is why I have been emboldened to place these matters before this chamber. When Australia was embarking upon television, very many of these people expected that there would be a good deal more work for them. I am informed that an additional £1,000,000 was spent by the people in the industry in tooling up - if I may use the expression - for television’s requirements, but the demand has not been made upon them.
Apart altogether from cinema films, most of our television films are imported from the United States. Early in the piece, of course, the limitation imposed by import licensing was of some benefit to Australia, but now, with our improved financial position and the lifting of restrictions, that little protection has gone. I understand that since television began in Australia about four years ago not more than ten or twelve film series made by Australian companies, using Australian actors in Australian stories, have been presented. By contrast, 35 imported film series are televised by Australian stations every day.
I do not say that the industry itself has been completely free from blame. Perhaps it has never put its plight to the proper authorities; I do not know. From the inquiries I have made, I believe that if the industry is allowed to remain unassisted the net result will be that there will be no film production in Australia, because no company is making a profit commensurate with the capital invested. If our own film industry dies out, the 1,800 theatres that cater for an attendance of 150,000,000 every year will become even more dependent than they are now upon the foreign product. As a corollary, television stations will become more dependent on the foreign product when the threat of local competition - to the extent that it is a threat - has gone, and we may feel certain that the vendors of imported films will require higher fees. I shall not dwell upon the injury to Australian cultural standards. Because this is a technical industry that requires great training and preparation, it is not the sort of industry that can be suddenly resuscitated or rejuvenated. If it does die and is buried, it will be a long time indeed before it can be resurrected. It is, of course, a truism to say that this would involve a heavy loss to Australia’s public relations.
Overseas film industries have been successful because they have had inducements to produce for their home markets. Very often they are protected by a quota system. They have stiff tariffs to protect them, and they have financial assistance from banking and governmental corporations. In many instances there is a subsidy plan and a general prohibition on the importation of all advertising films. I do not suggest by any means that all of these things should be done in Australia. There are very many different schemes. Italy has a scheme whereby a bonus is paid and a quota is applied. France has similar arrangements. I have already referred to the position in Denmark. Even in Japan the film industry gets some governmental assistance, and this industry makes 500 films a year. India is making so many feature films that it is fighting with Japan for top place. Indonesia, I think, produces three films a year. We cannot produce one.
I have referred to the British Film Finance Corporation and to the Eadie plan. I have had opportunities of discussing with some of the Australian producers plans for a solution of their problems. To my amazement, the scheme which seems to be favoured by the Australian Film Producers’ Association is one that requires hardly any governmental help, and no subsidy, bonus or quota. The association suggests the formation of a national film finance corporation - a public company designed specifically as a central bank to supply funds in the cinema and television film production field. I suggest - I do not know how optimistic the suggestion is - that money could be provided in one of two ways. The first way is a Treasury guarantee of loans to be obtained by the corporation from the Commonwealth Reserve Bank. The other system would have a slightly greater impact on the Treasury, and it is the system that the producers favour. They suggest the granting by the Commonwealth Government of a tax concession on money invested by the public in the corporation. This principle has already been established in the mining and oil search industries and the producers feel that the Australian public would be ready to support a local film industry if such a concession were granted. The corporation would be fully capitalized by a public appeal, backed by the Commonwealth Treasury’s assurance that all original capital subscribed to the corporation would be allowable as a tax deduction to investors. Because of the importance of the film industry, I suggest that it could well be lumped with the mining and oil search industries and given this preferential treatment.
I think it is clear that the marketing outlet available to the producers of television programme material is a good deal better than that which is available to the producers of feature films, but every effort should be made to ensure that Australia does not withdraw, completely and absolutely, from the feature film field. This could be prevented by the development in Australia of a plan such as the Eadie plan, and by the encouragement of a film finance corporation.
There are additional matters that touch obliquely on the Treasury and I think that I should refer to them. The introduction of a blocked-funds principle would require overseas producers who earned substantial revenue from the sale of their cinema and television films in Australia to re-invest some part of their Australian earnings in Australian production. This might or might not result in the production of Australian films. If it simply resulted in the production in Australia of films with an American content and outlook, it would fail to satisfy our requirements. There could be a prohibition on the importation of all overseas-produced advertising films. I do not think many of us would shed a tear over that.
– It would create a bit of a war.
– The interests concerned are able to bear the impost. We could also consider some form of quota system. Finally, we could well review the amount of money which we make available to our News and Information Bureau for the production of films that the Government needs. This would enable the bureau to increase its output.
I have not dealt with the different techniques employed in films that are photo graphed and those which are recorded or filmed by television techniques. The Senate should appreciate that the cost of production of a film for television can amount to only 10 per cent, ofl the cost of producing the same story by the techniques used to produce a normal feature film. One of the main advantages that the television technique has, apart from the use of the video-tape play-back machine, is the fact that there is virtually no editing to be done. Again, a film such as “ Whiplash “, which runs for half an hour, is shot by the camera in a period of five days together with sound. The amount of time necessary to cut the film, edit it, insert the opticals, finish it and make it ready for screening is approximately eight times that required for shooting. So, if we were to cut out the necessity for this editing and finishing we would be at once in a position to reduce greatly the cost of production.
Television, of course, like most human contrivances can work evil as well as good. It can be de-humanizing or it can be uplifting. If we have a look at our own screens - I am speaking now exclusively of television and am not dealing with theatres at all - we have to ask ourselves a few pertinent questions. Let us ask ourselves: Do our television programmes, screened between the hours of 6.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m., stimulate among Australians a consciousness of national identity, pride in our nation, and regard for our own cultural ideas and patterns?
– Definitely no.
– The honorable senator has given me the answer, so I will not argue on that point. Do our television programmes, at peak viewing times, typify Australian attitudes and institutions, Australian habits and customs, Australian manners, speech and dress?
– Again, no.
– Do these television programmes help to enrich the life of our families? Do they stimulate the life of the nation by offering opportunities for the artistic and creative abilities of Australians to develop? Do they tell us of our country’s history and traditions, its national life, and the achievements of our fellow Australians?
– I think that honorable senators have given us the answers to those questions, although it must not be overlooked that the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial licensees have, in many instances, put out material which does answer in the affirmative the questions 1 have asked. I am speaking of the preponderance of the material.
I remind the chamber that much of the material which comes from the United States of America is not necessarily the best. But it is material which has the highest popularity ranking on American television programmes. Mr. Frederick Ford, Chairman of the American Federal Communications Commission, commenting on the standard of popular American television programmes had this to say -
There is the possibility that television is cutting its own throat with the public, by the use of excessive violence to lure the crowd. Television is peddling crime as it peddles soap.
He went on to enlarge on this and said that it is not possible to sell only the product covered by the commercial message. He said that the viewer is not only influenced to buy somebody’s soap but is also influenced by the acts of violence he sees on the screen.
I ‘think that honorable senators from South Australia will be interested in the enterprising action df a South Australian schoolboy who took umbrage at the contents of the programmes which he had to witness. He wrote to the “ Saturday Evening Post “, and because his letter puts the viewpoint very well I propose to quote it in full. The boy was Malcolm Wright, sixteen years of age, of Hope Valley, South Australia. Writing to the “ Saturday Evening Post “ he said -
I hope you can put me right on a few things about the American way of life. Here in South Australia we have had T.V. for a few months only, and most of the programmes are American. These have given me certain impressions of your country. Whether they are true, or not, I don’t know.
The first impression is that almost any one can be bribed to do anything. … It also seems that everybody has just got to sign his name and he can get anything on hire purchase (instalment plan). … It seems that most marriages end in divorce courts, and that most people re-marry early, like they would discard last year’s clothes and get new ones. It seems that safe robberies are a daily occurrence, and no one takes much notice.
It also seems there are many private eyes living very colourful lives, and many beautiful girls ready to fling themselves at them. . . . It appears, also, that most teenagers fall in love before the age of seventeen. I also get the impression . . . that cattle owners run everything, and that when a dispute comes up, they just keep shooting till one side runs out of men. . . .
Is your country like this?
The editor’s footnote was simply “ No “.
– There are, of course, good reasons for the young man’s feelings. The American nation itself must feel that it is not being well served by some of the stuff which it is exporting. I sincerely hope that when our industry does get on its feet it will never portray Australia in a way which will not do this country justice. [Extension of time granted.] I am indebted to Senator Armstrong for his courtesy. I shall endeavour to finish in a few more minutes.
I refer now to the Australian content of programmes which was promised us by licensees in 1956 when they applied for licences. In Melbourne one station - I do not think it is fair that I should particularize companies - promised 70 per cent, of programmes of Australian origin, and another company promised that it would provide from 54 to 62 per cent, programmes of Australian origin. At the moment each company is providing less than 40 per cent. Australian programmes. Included in that 40 per cent, are quizzes, cookery demonstrations, sporting information and other matters that do not make use of Australian creative thought, or Australian artists. They are matters of importance but they certainly do not stimulate the creative urge among Australians. A similar situation exists in respect of Sydney stations, but it would perhaps be tedious to review the position there.
The Americans are not unaware of the type of programmes they are exporting. Ed Stern, president of the Ziv International Television Programmes had this to say -
In many countries where a television monopoly exists stations will not carry any United States filmed programmes at all. In fact, where the government controls television outlets they see to it that their own image is on television - not the imported American programme. With the growth of the market the local television system extends local programme production.
The president of the Columbia Broadcasting System in America, Mr. Merle Jones, said -
Because of nationalistic tendencies and programme restrictions, most countries are choosy about what United States telefilmed programmes they take.
Other American leaders in the industry have expressed themselves similarly.
In conclusion, I urge that licensees should be told that they must increase the Australian content of drama that is produced on television. I do not suggest an arbitrary percentage. I suggest that at least one hour a night during the coveted time slot between 6.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. should be devoted to Australian drama or Australian creative work. That might meet the difficulty.
Since I have offered some criticism during my speech it is only fair that I should congratulate both national and commercial channels on what they have achieved to date in a new industry. I do not want to exchange foreign violence for local violence. I want a more genuinely Australian profile on all our screens, whether they be the broad cinemascope screens or the small television screens. I notice that the national television stations are running a series of early American movies which they call “ Movie Museum “. I wonder whether some licensee would be sufficiently courageous to duplicate this type of production with a series about our own early efforts in this country. I think historically and educationally such an Australian series would have great appeal.
Recently, the Australian Broadcasting Commission completed an excellent historical series of twelve episodes about Governor Bligh, Macarthur and the New South Wales Corps and called “ The Stormy Petrel “. I found that series fascinating and I felt compelled, on arriving here in Canberra, to go at once to the Parliamentary Library, where I obtained a copy of Dr. Evatt’s “ Rum Rebellion “. I found that book very interesting indeed.
– You would not touch that, would you?
– I understand that it is a recognized authority on that period of our history. The Public Library of Victoria reports that there has been an 8 per cent, increase in the reading of non- fiction works this year due, in the opinion of the library, to the influence of television.
Mr. President, I believe that we must answer in the affirmative the first three questions that I have posed. Although this subject of the fourth question has not been thrashed out fully, honorable senators will agree that we have some potential for the use of television techniques in making films. I hope that a thorough discussion of these problems by the Parliament will stimulate the interest of the relevant authority, and that appropriate action will be taken to give us the undoubted blessing of a virile and healthy Australian film and television industry.
– I have pleasure in seconding the motion.
Sitting suspended from 5.38 to 8 p.m.
.- At the outset, I congratulate Senator Hannan on bringing forward the motion before the Senate. To discuss such a motion free from party political bias serves an extremely useful purpose. Honorable senators are able to put forward their views, with benefit to the film industry and to Australia. It is true, as Senator Hannan stated, that the industry in this country has rather a long history, it is also true that it has had a number .of notable successes. Senator Hannan referred to the fact that the first screen drama was produced in Australia. Honorable senators will remember he stated that in 1898 a film was made about the early Christian martyrs, lt was called “ Soldiers of the Cross “ and was made by the Salvation Army. He also said that in 1905 the world’s first feature film, “ The Kelly Gang “, was made in Australia. He said, too, that the world’s first newsreel was made in this country. Victorians are very proud of the fact that that film depicted the Melbourne Cup of 1896. I may say that Senator Hannan did not tell us the winner of that particular race.
The honorable senator also referred to another success of the film industry of this country - Frank Hurley’s coverage of the Antarctic expedition which, I think, was called “ In the Grip of the Polar Ice “. He stated that the golden years of the Australian film industry were between 1911 and 1920. It may be well for us to consider the position of the industry in other years. From 1901 to 1910, sixteen feature films were made in Australia. From 1911 to 1920, as Senator Hannan has stated, 88 films were made; from 1921 to 1930, 61 were made; from 1931 to 1940, 52; from 1941 to 1950, 20; and from 1951 to 1956, eleven. While the industry may have had a very bright beginning and enjoyed some notable firsts, the figures that I have quoted indicate that there has been a steady decline. I do not think that any one of us, or any administration, could be proud to think that, over the years, millions of dollars, which could have been used to’ foster the Australian industry, have been spent on the importation of films. I am not for one moment saying that we could have produced films in sufficient numbers and of a sufficiently high quality to enable us to bar the doors against imports from other countries, but we may have been able to save the nation a great deal of money.
Two films of note that were made in Australia were “ The Sentimental Bloke “ in 1919, and “ Robbery Under Arms “ in 1920. Although the industry has declined in recent years, in earlier years it established a tradition and left the way open for the production of masterpieces in the future. We are entitled to ask what has caused the industry to decline. I think that undoubtedly it can be said that the decline has been caused by competition from films subsidized by overseas governments, particularly and principally the Government of the United States of America. The big American companies, such as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Fox and Columbia, have formed in this country a motion picture distributors association. In 1926, 83 per cent, of the films exhibited here were produced in the United States. As the breweries have tied hotels, so the film industry has tied picture houses. Even had we been able to produce more films, it may have been extremely difficult to have them screened in Australian theatres.
I should be loath to think that the young women of this country are not as charming as the young women of other countries. In any event, it would be extremely unwise for me even to hint at such a thing. But the fact is that this industry has prospered, as Senator Hannan said, not only in the great United States but also in Japan. Perhaps some of us could not readily recall some of the actors and actresses to whom the honorable senator referred, but I am sure all of us know of the charming lady from Italy. I shall not attempt to pronounce her long name.
I make it clear that nothing is further from my mind than political bias in my approach to this subject. I mean that. 1 believe that the matter was raised by Senator Hannan in good faith. Let us keep it on that basis. I do not believe that any government in this country, irrespective of political colour, has given to the film industry the help that was warranted. In 1928, there was a move to establish national studios in both Melbourne and Sydney, but the proposal fell through. Honorable senators will recollect that during the three years prior to 1929 an empire quota was in existence. In the first year, the quota was 10 per cent. It rose to 15 per cent, in the second year, and after the third year we heard no more about it.
There is another reason why the industry has not prospered in Australia. When sound films became the vogue as the result of another step in the march of science, it was beyond the financial capacity of most of the independent people engaged in the Australian film industry to purchase the equipment they needed. As Senator Hannan said, in recent times two films - “On the Beach” and “ Smithy “-have been produced in this country, but it must be remembered that Australian actors and actresses did not play the leading roles, particularly in the former. A lot of notable people in the motion picture world were brought here for that purpose. While there may have been a good moral in the picture “ On the Beach “, like Senator Hannan I was not too pleased to see Melbourne shown in the desolate condition that the picture portrayed.
Doubtless a lot of people may be blameworthy for not developing the Australian film industry, and we ourselves cannot escape some of the blame. Although a sound Australian film industry would have saved us many millions of dollars, very little effort has been made by governments of all political colours to establish the industry on a firm basis. As the Australian film industry was not successfully established, it is now necessary for us to obtain from overseas the great bulk of the films we need. We air may have erred in the past, but T believe that, with the introduction of television into Australia, we now have an opportunity to put the film industry on a footing on which it can develop successfully. As most television viewers would confirm, there are usually about SO killings every half an hour. I never cease to marvel at the fact that neither the heroes nor the villains never run out of ammunition. I concede readily that Westerns are a popular source of entertainment, but I believe that the production of short films in Australia should be encouraged so that television viewers will be able to derive the benefit of entertainment provided by some of our own work. Virtually all of the dramatic productions presented on television to-day come from overseas. According to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, there is only a very small Australian content in dramatic programmes presented on the television screen. I think it can be claimed honestly that, but for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, very little attempt would be made to encourage the televising of Australian dramatic productions.
I acknowledge that some of the commercial stations in Victoria present live shows on television, for which I give them credit. In the main, they are very good shows. But when it comes to films - I am ignoring advertisements now - do we see, other than on the national television programmes, many films that are made here? I am delighted, of course, to note that a start has been made in this direction by presenting advertising films produced in Australia. Some of the advertising films run for from one to two minutes. I realize the limitations of the market for television films now, but when television licences are issued for country stations we may be able to offer some encouragement in this direction. At question time to-day the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) asked the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) when the report and recommendations by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in relation to applications for television licences in country districts would be tabled. From the Minister’s reply, it would seem that there will be no undue delay in the matter. It must be realized that it cannot be an economic proposition to produce, without a heavy subsidy, a film to be shown over only eight or ten tele vision programmes. Apart from what the Australian Broadcasting Commission has done in this respect, Sydney television station ATN has now acquired Artransa, which is equipped to produce films.
In both New South Wales and Victoria, picture theatre proprietors are required to screen 2) per cent, of Australian productions. As 52 news reels are regarded as the equivalent of one feature film, they comply with the requirement by screening that number of news reels.
We are entitled to look at what could be done in Australia. Let us look, first of all, at the structure of the industry. The main sources of production are the Commonwealth Film Unit, two private producers, and three producers associated with the television industry. The Commonwealth Film Unit employs 65 persons and makes between 50 and 60 short films a year. They are mainly documentary films and in my opinion are extremely interesting, but we cannot sell them to the young people. As a rule, what the young people want to see on the screen is provided for them. Although, as I have said, documentary films are very interesting, they are not wanted by the majority of viewers. Films are made by the unit upon the recommendation of the National Film Board as submitted to the Minister for the Interior.
Production figures show that the output of the private producers is as low as it has ever been. As a matter of fact, no films have been scheduled for this year, and none was produced last year. The four studios that are capable of producing feature films are unable to go ahead because of lack of finance and the difficulties associated with providing an outlet for them. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is the principal organization that produces films for television purposes, produces approximately four documentary films a year. I should like to congratulate the commission on its efforts; I wish it produced more.
I have marvelled at some of the documentary films that have been imported from overseas; but surely we, with our flora and fauna, should be able to produce documentary films as good as those that are imported. I was very interested in a film which depicted salmon fishing in the rivers of Canada. Why cannot we in this country, in which there are 1,000,000 or more new Australians who, through force of economic circumstances, no doubt will never be able to leave the State to which they were brought, show those people films on some of our industries? We should not burden them with the need to view long films. Surely a quarter of an hour film about the sugar industry, the brown coal undertaking at Yallourn in Victoria or the Snowy Mountains project would be of interest to them. I give the Australian Broadcasting Commission full credit for what it has done, and I hope it will do more in this field.
To-day, what is happening in New Guinea is of interest to us all. What would be wrong with a fifteen-minute or twentyminute film on New Guinea? I have not in mind the production of films of such length that people will become eager to see something else; let us make such documentary films good and snappy. With to-day’s techniques, a lot of people, including possibly some of us who sit in this chamber, would learn more about the habits and customs of the people of New Guinea if a suitable film were produced.
– The honorable senator shows that he has not looked at the films that have been produced. There are already in existence films about New Guinea and the Snowy Mountains undertaking.
– I remind the honorable senator that the point I am making is that such films should be of no more than a quarter of an hour’s duration. If we produce films that run for half an hour, I think we will strike trouble. This is a modern world with modern techniques, and living in it are modern young people with modern views. Let us give them these things in little doses. They are the Australian men and women of to-morrow, and sooner or later - possibly much sooner than we realize - they will have to decide what is to happen in New Guinea. Let them see what is happening there by producing a film on the subject.
May I indicate how I think the Australian film industry could be helped? First, I think we should fix a quota of Australian dramatic productions for television purposes. One marvels at the commercial enterprise of the various television organizations. I have no quibble about what those organizations have achieved, but one has only to look at the state of the share market to see what has happened in the short time that has transpired since television was introduced in Melbourne and Sydney. I repeat that I think a quota should be fixed for Australian dramatic productions for television purposes. I think, too, that we should expand the work of the Commonwealth Film Unit and should consider the establishment of national film studios. Last, but not least, we should examine the British film industry. To do that would help us in our approach to the giving of assistance to the Australian film industry.
If we were to do what I have suggested, I believe we could achieve what Senator Hannan advocated in relation to our culture. We really have not a longestablished culture because Australia is not a very old country. Most of the people who came to Australia in the early days had to cut down the trees before they could get a living. Those who now come here come from countries that are hundreds, even thousands, of years older than is this country - countries which have completed the work of development and have developed cultures of long standing. We have some. Let us help to develop them. In conclusion, I again compliment Senator Hannan on bringing this matter forward and giving us an opportunity to speak cn it.
.- I have very much pleasure in supporting Senator Hannan’s proposal. I have been very keen about the development of the film industry for some time now. It must be six or seven years ago when I first referred to it in this chamber. At that time I tried to interest the Government in the development of the film industry, but, unfortunately, I was not very successful. I am glad that Senator Hannan, who was elected to this chamber after that time, has been referring to the matter consistently. We are gradually strengthening our forces, and I hope that this debate will highlight the matter more strongly in the minds of the Government and the people of Australia.
We have very great opportunities for the development of the film industry of Australia, but if it is to be developed, it is essential that certain things be done. Like many others who are interested in this problem, I have read articles and opinions about it. The most interesting article I have seen was a feature article published in the Sydney “Bulletin” on 13th August, 1958. The title of that article aptly states the present position of the Australian film industry. It is, “The Story of a Lost Industry “, and it was written by Mr. Les Blake. The heading itself serves to indicate that this is an industry which seemed to be making headway at one time but which has now almost disappeared.
By an extraordinary display of initiative and enterprise Australia entered into the film industry very early in its development. But that initiative and enterprise have disappeared with the result that Australia is now one of the most backward countries in the world in film production. One of the early pioneers of the industry was Mr. J. H. Perry. Both Senator Hannan and Senator Kennelly mentioned that one of the earliest films was “ The Early Christian Martyrs “, a film sponsored by the Salvation Army authorities. That film was produced only four years after Armat and Jenkins had conducted successful projection experiments in New York. I mention this to emphasize that Australia was well in the forefront in the early development of the film industry. The first full-length feature film produced in the world was “ The Kelly Gang “. That was produced about 1904 and represented another “ first “ to Australia. It was another example of Australian enterprise and initiative. From 1909 onwards, both commercial and documentary films were produced in Australia with some regularity. By 1928, the year which marked the beginning of sound films, Australia had produced and distributed approximately 160 films. In the subsequent 26 years, it has produced and distributed 100 sound films. Taking the year 1957 for purposes of comparison, we find that Japan distributed 207 features, and the small island of Hong Kong, which possesses the fourth largest film industry in the world, managed to make and distribute 200 films.
Why have we in Australia lost our initiative and enterprise to the extent that a feature writer is prompted to refer to this as a lost industry? The article to which I have referred stated that Australia had one of the largest cinema audiences in the world; but to-day we are so far behind in film production that we are not even mentioned in Unesco’s 1956 list of feature film producers. I believe that it is important that we make a real effort to foster and develop the film industry. We should all be filled with a strong desire to build it up to a really good standard in Australia. It is an industry which can provide a great deal of employment. To support that suggestion, I refer to the films that have been made in the south recently. Honorable members would be surprised to know how many people - and Australian people at that - were employed in the production of such films as “ On the Beach “. Those productions serve to prove that if Australia could make a number of feature films throughout the year employment would increase considerably. Here I emphasize that the employment would not be confined to actors and actresses. I remind the Senate that cameramen, property staff, expert film manufacturers, developers and cutters all enjoy employment through the film industry.
With more work we would have more money to foster prosperity in the country. Further, the development of this industry would encourage authors to write stories for films. Again, we would save a considerable amount of the money which we now spend in foreign exchange on the importation of films. If, by producing films in Australia, we can save foreign exchange, we must enjoy a- net gain in our currency position. That is an important advantage. We have heard much about the saving that would be effected if oil were discovered in Australia. Much has been said about the improvement that would be effected in our balance of trade position. Only recently a convention sat in Canberra for the express purpose of evolving ways and means of developing our exports so that more money would flow into this country to strengthen our foreign currency position. Just as the development of exports helps our balance of trade position, so would the development of our own industries and the consequent reduction of imports improve our foreign currency position.
The three important advantages to be gained from the development of this industry are the employment it would give, the encouragement it would give to authors, actors and actresses, and the saving of expenditure on the importation of foreign films. When I spoke on this matter six or seven years ago, I had discussed the question at length with an American pro.ducer named Mr. Kauffman. He had just taken over the Pagewood Studios in Sydney. He was making a number of pictures at those studios at that time. If 1 remember rightly, he had spent about £1,000,000 in Australia setting up properties, getting into production and so on. I had a long discussion with him about the possibility of developing the film industry of Australia. He felt that there were excellent opportunities here, but very little encouragement was given to the development of the industry. I gathered from his remarks that he felt that if the industry was to be developed it would have to be given more sympathetic consideration by the Government and the banking system of Australia.
Keeping in mind what Mr. Kauffman told me then, I should say that the first essential if we are to develop film production in Australia is greater financial encouragement to producers. Bank advances should be for a long term, because the earning period of a feature film is very lengthy. Mr. Kauffman told me that our banks did not have a realistic approach to this problem. Apparently in the United States, where film production has been so great for many years, the banks recognize that when a film goes on circuit it will return revenue for at least seven years. Feature films go out on circuit on first release, then on second release, third release, and so on. They continue to be released and to go around the circuits and their earning period is at least seven years. It can be seen that when a producer is putting out a number of features his outlay may be very considerable. A big production unit would be involved in the expenditure of a tremendous amount of money, but the returns would come in over periods up to seven years. In order to develop the Australian film industry properly, it is essential for the banking system of this country to adopt a more generous approach towards people who are prepared to engage in this sort of production.
The only other way that 1 can see in which assistance, can be given to develop the industry is by a subsidy from the Federal
Government. Honorable senators will remember that we abolished the amusement tax. Since then, I have often wondered whether it would not have been to the greater advantage of this country if we had retained the amusement tax, at least in part, and devoted the proceeds to the development of this industry. The help that is given to the film industries in various other parts of the world has been mentioned. It might have been an excellent way to put our industry on a proper basis if we had devoted to it the proceeds of an amusement tax. If such a course does not find favour at present, the only other solution would be for the Commonwealth Government itself to make a direct contribution to the industry by encouragement in various ways.
People might say, as one Minister said when I was pressing this matter very hard, “Why should we help people to make personal profits? “ Somebody always benefits from anything that we do as a government. If people benefit, either individually or collectively, that is for the good of the Commonwealth. It is a gain for the Commonwealth. We must recognize that when we subsidize an industry, and help it along, and people prosper from it, employment is provided, subsidiary industries are created and further employment becomes available. An aspect that is very important from the Government’s point of view is that a vigorous Australian film industry could obviate sending money out of this country for the purchase of films, and could even bring money into the country. A point that is very often lost sight of in relation to the encouragement of an industry is that when individuals make money out of the industry, the Commonwealth Government and, through it, the State Government, always receive by way of taxation a considerable proportion of the earnings and profits. Therefore, it could easily be a very profitable investment for the Government to take a direct and substantial interest in subsidizing and assisting this industry. I heard one of my colleagues suggest that this was foolish, but I believe that it could be a very worthwhile investment for the Commonwealth Government.
An honorable senator mentioned the Eadie scheme in Great Britain. The film industry supplement of the “ Financial Times” of 23rd September, 1957, refers to the assistance that is given to the film industry in Great Britain because of the recognition by the British Government of the fact that it is of paramount importance to have a sound, prosperous and vigorous film industry. Such an industry is of great value in earning external credits for Great Britain. The British production levy was established at the suggestion of the Treasury in 1950, as an experiment for one year, to assist British film production. It was applied on a more permanent basis in 1951. That shows the trend of thinking in Great Britain. After trying the levy for a year, the authorities were convinced that it was doing good. This course was agreed to by all four sections of the industry, namely, the exhibitors, distributors, producers of feature films and producers of short films. In accordance with the provisions of the scheme, contributions have been collected from cinema box offices each year and paid into a fund from which producers of each eligible film have received an annual payment based on the gross rental earned by the film in the relevant 52 weeks.
The Cinematogaph Film Act, which was passed in 1957, converted the levy from an agreed payment into a statutory one and provided that it should continue for ten years from October 1957. That showed in clear and certain terms that Great Britain appreciated the importance of helping to establish the great British film industry on the basis on which it stands to-day. It has proved of great value to Great Britain in time of financial trouble. The fund, which averaged approximately £2,500,000 per annum during the previous seven years, was to amount to £3,750,000 in 1957-58, and in the remaining nine years to a minimum of £2,000,000 and a maximum of £5,000,000.
That shows the manner in which Great Britain set about helping to develop its film industry by giving practical assistance to the production of feature films. It put the industry on a permanent basis with an act’ applying for ten years, making provision for from £2,000,000 to £5,000,000 a year for assistance in development. That is probably the best evidence that we can get. Great Britain is a country with which we have a close affiliation, and whose thinking we understand because it is so much like our own. That is a guide for us. Just as it has been worthwhile for Great Britain to do that sort of thing, so it would be worthwhile for this nation to do likewise.
The development of this industry could mean the export of our films. There are reasons why we could export films. Mr. Kauffman said that, for various reasons which he detailed to me, films could be produced much more cheaply in this country than overseas. He felt that a very good export market was open to us. At that time I was very keen and I pressed for the development of the industry. Television was not actually here, but .was in the offing, and I felt that this country had a grand opportunity to produce a number of shorts for the television industry. It was pointed out to me that the films to be used on television would be of a very old type and that there would be a shortage of these films and a terrific demand for them. Judging by what one sees on television, from the short glimpses I have had when I have been passing through different places, a lot of old stuff has been raked up from many years back because of the shortage of films. Trying to look ahead at the time about which I have spoken I pressed the Minister concerned in this matter to try to do something.
It was impressed upon me, and I believe the person who told me was right, that if we got in early we would have the ball at our feet. We would be able to produce television films not only for our own television programmes but also for markets overseas. I know that some of the productions that Mr. Kauffman made at the time were sent overseas, but he was not encouraged and so he left the country and has not returned since. Had we been able to export films overseas we would not only have saved money from going out of this country but we would also have been able to bring more money into this country. We talk about trying to get more export earnings; this is one way we can do so. If we are really concerned about this matter we have a grand opportunity to do something because it seems that honorable senators are unanimous that something should be done.
The film industry is one that has broadened out in many respects over a period of years. I know that as each stage of development is reached there is a tendency to go back to the original types of films. I remember that when sound films were introduced we went back to the western shows which were not up to the artistic standards of the later silent films. When television was introduced we again went back to the old type of stuff, but I suppose that after a period of time the standard will be lifted just as was the case with sound films at the time when television was introduced. As I have said, the industry has broadened out considerably particularly with the introduction of television. It embraces now feature films, travelogues and documentaries which have become very important from an educational point of view. We also have newsreels. I feel that the picture industry can play a very valuable part in other ways as well. It has been mentioned by both the previous speakers that scenes of the life of this country can be featured in films. Publicity can be of a direct or indirect type. I believe that a feature film would not so much feature life in this country in a direct way, but that in an indirect way it would help to publicize this country. The travel type of picture is one which is of direct publicity value. It has been used to a certain extent, but much greater use could be made of it.
It is interesting to note that the Commonwealth Film Unit, now, I think, controlled by the Department of the Interior, but formerly by the Department of Information, has produced very effective coloured films. There is no question that the spirit of the age demands colour, and I believe that colour films will make the best impression. Now that we have processes like Cinerama, which is so lifelike, and the curved screen, we can give a wonderful impression of life in this country.
– There was the film on the sunshine State.
– That film was made in connexion with Queensland’s jubilee last year; it was a very good feature indeed. Then, the industry gives us the opportunity to develop our tourist industry. In that respect the film industry can be of real benefit not only from the point of view of employment but also from the point ,of view of advertising this country.
I have already mentioned how producers would have to be given financial help. Then there is the distribution angle. Unless we can distribute films it is not much use producing them. The two essential points are the financing of the industry and the distribution of the films. In order to help in distribution, there must be a guaranteed distribution in Australia. If there is any difficulty in arranging that, the Commonwealth should take steps to establish a quota throughout Australia for that purpose. If I remember rightly, a quota system operates in New South Wales at the present time, but whether that comes under Federal or State jurisdiction, I do not know.
– It comes under State jurisdiction.
– There is no reason why the States and the Commonwealth could not co-operate and help to build up this industry by introducing a quota system. That in itself would give us an opportunity to meet the needs of our film-going audiences. I know that television has affected the feature film houses in recent years, but these things have their phases. This could be offset to a large extent if a lot more of our films were used in television than is the case at present.
We could also bring about a wider dissemination of information about our country by making arrangements with other countries and providing for reciprocal screenings. That has been done by a number of countries in Europe, and I believe the same thing could be done here. The film industry of Australia could be developed to earn external credits for this country and enable us to reduce expenditure on the importation of films. I repeat that two things are necessary - the right type of financing of the industry and the distribution of films not only in this country but also in other countries’ on a reciprocal basis. The Commonwealth Government should play a real part in the development of this worthy industry. We showed initiative in the early stages of the industry and we should now repeat those efforts.
.- First, I should like to compliment Senator Hannan on his thoughtful submission to the Senate on this very important matter. Our national sentiment and culture are being endangered by the virtual monopoly enjoyed in Australian theatres and on television stations by films and entertainment of foreign origin. Senator Hannan has obviously made a very thorough research into this subject. After hearing him this afternoon we can say definitely that Australian national sentiment is not being considered by those people who have the responsibility to provide information and give entertainment to the Australian public not only on television but also on screens in our theatres. It is refreshing to have Senator Hannan’s mind on a new track - to hear him advocating the need for some measure of supervision over this very important medium of public education. Usually he contends that private enterprise should be allowed to operate unfettered, and that what is good for private enterprise is good for the general public. Senator Hannan’s remarks to-day prove conclusively that child delinquency will become an ever-increasing problem if films of the type at present shown on television continue to be imported into this country. This problem of child delinquency was referred to by a Canberra magistrate in a statement published in this morning’s “ Canberra Times”. The problem is also referred to in this afternoon’s Melbourne “ Herald “ in a report which states that delinquency is increasing so rapidly in Victoria that there is serious overcrowding in the Turana child welfare reception centre.
The problem of financing the film industry was thoroughly covered by Senator Hannan. He suggested that the Australian film industry should be protected in some way against competition from Hollywood. He suggested guarantees of screenings and the ready availability of finance from banks and other lending bodies. However, we are still faced with the problem that most films that are being shown in this country appeal to the worst side of human nature. With the exception of better class feature films shown at theatres, most films shown on television depict double-crossings, deceit, theft and murder in a wide variety. Apparently that type of film has the best box office attraction. Last night, we heard what the Government thinks is good for the Australian public in the economic and financial spheres, but in my opinion the morals and welfare of the youth of Australia are of greater importance than any economic measures which usually have no continuity and are changed each year.
The minds of our young people are being fed with crimes of all kinds depicted on film, and the harvest that will be reaped in the future will be a terrible one. It is appalling to read in the newspapers of the crimes that are being committed in this country to-day - crimes that were unknown in Australia until recently. But crimes of all kinds are to be seen enacted regularly on television screens. It would appear that the film producers are striving for more and more terror and horror in order to appeal to the viewing public.
Senator Hannan spoke of other problems associated with this matter. He spoke of the programmes that appealed to the majority of viewers. Apparently the advertiser on television is able to choose the programme that he sponsors to boost the sale of his product, whether it be soap, breakfast food or cigarettes. But Senator Hannan made the point that the programme sponsor is selling not only his product but also the message contained in his programme, which very often is a horror story. To illustrate the way certain television programmes influence the minds of young children I will recount the conversation that transpired between a friend of mine and his neighbour’s small son. My friend was asked by the boy where his mother was, to which my friend replied that she was dead. The little boy said: “Who shot her? “ Children to-day see so much violence depicted on television and in theatres that they do not understand the true meaning of death. Death in their understanding means drowning or shooting from behind the nearest stump. The young man from South Australia who wrote to the “ Saturday Evening Post “ raised a problem that we as a Parliament must face, namely, the impression that is being made by the American thriller films that seem to dominate our television programmes.
According to a quotation to which Senator Hannan referred, that young man asked the editor of the “ Saturday Evening Post “ whether it was a fact that anyone in the United States of America could be bribed. In most of the films that we see, bribery is the order of the day, even though the editor of the “ Saturday Evening Post “ said that the answer to all the questions that the young man asked was “ No “. Perhaps the editor does not see the films that are screened in the theatres and on television in this country, particularly those shown by the commercial television stations. Judging by the theme of many American films, dishonesty pays off.
So much time is being spent by the youth of this country in front of television sets nowadays that the situations depicted become their natural environment.
– That does not say much for their mothers and fathers.
– There is a problem involving their mothers and fathers that I want to mention. Because of conditions in this country to-day, instead of mothers fulfilling their natural functions and spending their time in caring for their children, they must go to work to supplement the income of which the family has been deprived by the Arbitration Commission. The economic situation to-day is such that many wives are forced to go to work, not only to pay the instalments on the television set but also to pay for the meat and other commodities that are required. Instead of children going out after school and getting into the mischief that normal children have been getting into for centuries, they get into the environment which the television programmes concoct for them. Situations develop such as the normal, healthy child otherwise would not think of.
Many children are placed in that environment because there is no motherly hand to guide them. Australian children are being exposed to this influence that is emanating from the United States. The mature adult who sees such films has wider vision and can absorb the material that is presented without being affected by it, but the child’s mind absorbs these harmful influences and has not sufficient balance to relate them to realities. The point I am making is that we need in this country a film organization to provide good, healthy, constructive and educational programmes for the children. We also need a government with sufficient backbone to prohibit the showing of horror films at times when children are likely to be watching television. If we had those things, we might be able to overcome the important problems that the Senate is discussing.
The young man from South Australia, to whom I have referred, also questioned the editor of the “ Saturday Evening Post “ on the subject of marriage and divorce. The heroes and heroines of films change their marital state with lightning rapidity. Many films are demoralizing to the young people and also the not-so-young. From my observations, most people are prepared to knuckle down to the everyday difficulties that they have to face in life, but there are some whose mentality leads them to take the easy way and to look for escape. They see an example in the situations in certain films, and they are influenced to take the easy way out of their matrimonial difficulties.
Senator Hannan’s point that it is necessary to present films of a high standard, thereby helping to raise the standards of the viewing public, has been very well taken, and I support the proposition that he has put forward. The honorable senator has asked whether the films that are coming to this country from overseas do not represent a threat to our national character. I should say that they are a definite threat. The American western legend is 150 years old. Time has evolved legends about the American west, and there can be no check on statements that certain events occurred there in years gone by. We have to accept the products of the fertile imagination of American novelists. Australia has not had time for such legends to grow. There are second generation, and perhaps even first generation, people here who would be able to dispute exaggerated statements about what happened in this country in the early pioneering days. As a lover of animals, I have always been interested to see how the people who take part in cowboy films treat their horses. As honorable senators know, a cowboy film will show a man galloping a horse for day after day, but the horse never raises a sweat. As soon as the rider gets to his destination he lets his horse go without giving him a feed, taking the saddle off or washing him down. I believe that films should be factual about such things.
– Why does not the honorable senator turn off his television set when that kind of picture is shown?
– On the very rare occasions when I go to the pictures I usually get trapped. Of course, there is always the odd, good production.
– What type of film do you like?
– I like a film that is authentic. Recently, I saw the film “ On the Beach “. Having read the book, I was very disappointed. I think that, had the film been made by an Australian or an Englishman, it would have conveyed one of the finest messages that mankind could receive, as well as a timely warning. Yet, there was enough slop and gravy floating about in that picture to ruin it.
– It is making a lot of money.
– That is the point, and that is why the element to which I have referred found its way into the film. The honorable senator will probably agree with me when I say that the film would have been a much greater contribution to education, international understanding and entertainment had Nevil Shute’s immortal novel been followed more closely. I believe that this is an immortal novel, but I trust that circumstances that would bring about a situation such as that portrayed in “ On the Beach “ will not occur. If people throughout the world got the true message contained in “ On the Beach “ they would realize that there is no hope for mankind unless the leaders of the great powers see the light and take steps to avoid a thermo-nuclear war. Instead, figuratively speaking, we see bristling dogs snarling at one another and asserting their own individualities while the fate of the world hangs in the balance. I believe that if the picture had conveyed the true message contained ii: the book and had not introduced sloppy romance of the American type, this country and every other country would have been better served. lt is because this kind of distortion is occurring all the time in order to boost box office sales that I have expressed myself so forcibly about the films that are being presented to the Australian public. Many aspects of our lives are becoming Americanized. Senator Hannan almost apologized for some of his remarks and said that he did not want to be accused of being anti-American. Perhaps I would say the same thing were it not for the fact that a very strong American influence is now being exercised in this country in many fields. For instance, the Americans have changed the length, shape and strength of our cigarettes, and our little cafes are adopting American habits by installing juke boxes and other things that are not necessarily a development of the Australian way of life or of Australian sentiment. They are being thrust on us in the hope of earning a quick quid, as a quick dollar is earned in America. If this tendency continues, we will have a big job to meet the challenges that will come to us from people of all colours and creeds in all parts of the world. If we. are unable to measure up to their levels of public morality and national character, it will indeed be a very poor lookout for us as a nation. The point I am endeavouring to make is that to-day many films are given a wrong slant in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The be-all and end-all in the production of films seems to be to attract people to the box office. That is not good enough in this young and growing nation.
Senator Hannan posed this question: Would a sound, local film industry, with particular emphasis on documentary and television films, be in the national interest by providing a channel for Australian sentiment and culture to develop goodwill towards Australia overseas? I say that undoubtedly it would be in our best interests. We have some magnificent scenery in this country, and I understand that the density of our atmosphere is conducive to first-class photography and the production of films. The humble and simple story of pioneers of this country, the great developmental projects that are being undertaken, the Australian individuality and the rugged digger are subjects that could be filmed and shown to the world with pride and which would develop increased goodwill towards Australia.
Senator Hannan also referred to the economic problem involved. He asked whether, in existing circumstances, it would be practicable to place the Australian film industry on a sound footing by governmental financial or administrative assistance, and, if so, what means would be adopted towards that end. My answer to him is that it is practicable to place the Australian film industry on a sound footing. The conditions under which financial aid would be offered to private enterprise by the Government would be, of course, a matter of policy, but if private enterprise were not prepared to accept those conditions and produce films of the standard required by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board and our other adjudicators on matters of art and culture, ah urgent responsibility would devolve on the Government to arrange to undertake the production of films. A tremendous amount of valuable advertising on behalf of Australia could be accomplished by an exchange of films. I have seen films produced by our own film division. The photography was excellent and the subject-matter would be most interesting to overseas viewers. These films would also provide good entertainment and be of educational value if shown on our own television programmes.
Finally, Senator Hannan asked: What is the Australian potential for pictures for visual entertainment or instruction, filmed or recorded by predominantly television techniques such as videoscope? I say that there is a great potential here. Just as the British television and film organizations operate an exchange system, so there must be opportunities ‘throughout the British Commonwealth for the exchange of good quality films for screening both in open theatres and on television.
I think that this matter, which has been so well presented to the Senate to-day by Senator Hannan, should be given the deepest consideration, not only by this chamber, but by the Parliament as a whole and by the people of Australia. I sincerely hope that the Government will take action along the lines that have been indicated during this debate to set up a virile and progressive film industry, which would, to a very large extent, mitigate the influence of American horror films on Australian youth by producing for exhibition films of a standard of which the Australian people would be proud.
– The Senate is indebted to Senator Hannan for having initiated this debate on a matter which is of great importance to Australia. The debate has been of a very high standard. I congratulate Senator Hannan upon his speech. There is no question about the fact that he gave the matter considerable attention, that his speech was well informed, and that he covered the ground extremely well. He has done the Senate and the Parliament as a whole a service by submitting this motion.
I should also like to pay a tribute to honorable senators who spoke after Senator Hannan. Senator Kennelly maintained the same high note in his remarks and Senator Wood spoke extremely well about the subject. 1 know of Senator Wood’s interest in this matter. I clearly recall a speech he made about the film industry some years ago. To-night he has again propounded some of the theories that he advanced on that occasion. Senator O’Byrne, too, is entitled to a great deal of credit for his thoughtful contribution to the debate. But I think his outlook is unduly doleful. I know that, we are debating a serious matter and I do not want to underestimate the value of Senator O’Byrne’s contribution, but I repeat that I think he looked at things rather more dolefully than he need have. I do not believe that the situation is quite as bad as he painted it.
Various honorable senators have outlined the history of the Australian film industry and 1 do not want to weary the Senate by recapitulating some of the facts that they have touched upon. But I do not think any of us can deny that the industry has had a chequered career, and that it is not enjoying any great degree of prosperity. In fact, the Australian film industry is at a rather low ebb. I suppose most of us in this chamber can recall the early days of the industry. My thoughts go back to the time when I was a boy. I can clearly recall a film produced by the Keystone film company being exhibited in the little town in which I lived. That was in the days when we used to wheel the cinematograph machine into the little institute hall. As far as I am able to recall the facts, the projector was electrically operated; but I think it was a carbon rod projector in which the blue or while flame was passed from one carbon rod to the other and the light projected through the film to the screen. That certainly goes back to the very early days of the Australian film industry. When we compare such primitive methods with the methods used to-day, there is no need to say that we have advanced a great distance along the road of picture and sound entertainment.
The facts presented to the Senate by other honorable senators indicate without doubt that the industry is in an unfortunate position. From 1951 to 1956 only eleven films were produced, whereas from 1911 to 1920 88 were produced. It is quite clear that the American film industry occupies a predominant position in the world and that it plays a very great part in the entertainment field. That is rather to be deplored. We know the history of the American industry, where it is centred, the large revenues that have been collected and the tremendous publicity the industry has brought to the United States of America. Going hand in hand with the film production industry are the organizations that control the theatres. The result is that today almost 87 per cent, of the ordinary motion sound films are American, the balance being supplied by the United Kingdom and some of the Continental countries, with Australia coming a very bad last. The same situation obtains with regard to the production of television films.
There is no doubt about the excellence of American films. I do not think any one could deny that. America is certainly more advanced than are most other filmproducing countries in the world. Although we in Australia are affected to no greater degree than are some other countries by the predominance of American films for theatre screening and for use in television, we must realize that the present state of affairs is unfortunate. We must realize that our infant industry - infant in terms of size although not in terms of age - is languishing because of the impact of American films and the control of the theatre organizations. Those organizations have their own distributors and are very powerful. We ought to do something to rectify that state of affairs.
Senator Hannan initiated this debate so that we might realize the seriousness of the situation and do something to rectify it. We have only to think of such powerful American interests as the 20th Century Fox organization - with which, of course, Hoyts Theatres Limited is closely associated - the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer organization, the Columbia film company, and many others, to realize the measure of control that exists. We know, too, about the influential Rank organization in the United Kingdom. We must remember that the Rank organization is associated, to some degree, with the American film bodies. It will be seen, therefore, that we are confronted with a very powerful wo-ld-wide organization that virtually controls the motion picture industry.
– It does not control local production.
– I concede that local production is independent, and I hope it will always remain so. But we want to build up local production to a position where it will have a greater say in the industry in Australia. I believe that this discussion will do something towards fostering interest in an industry which we all feel should be encouraged in Australia. Senator Hannan has divided his motion into four parts. I do not propose to refer to them in great detail, but I think that we all should make some comment on them. In effect, the first part of his motion asks whether Australian national sentiment and culture are being deleteriously affected by American films which form by far the greater proportion of the films exhibited in Australia. Certainly it is unfortunate that some of the pictures which are exhibited should be distributed. However I feel that Senator Hannan exaggerated the position somewhat for I cannot agree that Australian sentiment and culture have thereby been very greatly affected.
Let me refer to my young days when the motion picture industry was the predominant field of entertainment throughout the Commonwealth, lt is still an important field of entertainment. Have Australian sentiment and culture deteriorated to such an extent that we have become so immoral as to agree with the terrible things that are frequently depicted on American films? I do not think so. I believe that we look on these things more from the point of view of entertainment. I do not think they have made the impact that Senator Hannan suggests they have. For instance, I remember William S. Hart. He was a westerner, and a fine actor. In those days, the films were very well acted indeed. They had no help from sound and therefore had to be well acted. When I was a schoolboy, I got a great thrill out of seeing William S. Hart. There were also some very fine actresses in those days. One of them was in Australia only a short time ago. I refer to Billie Burke. I also remember Theda Bara. They were fine actresses, and they were not bad to look at at all. I do not think they made me immoral. I am still able to say that 1 am not so very bad as a result of the impact of American films. We look at them from the entertainment point of view. I do not think they have affected the Australian character even to a minor degree.
The same may be said of the television films we view to-day. Many of them are rubbish, but we see some very fine films, including’ westerns, on television. I rather enjoy westerns. I was talking to an eminent South Australian, the Minister for Education in the South Australian Government, the other day, and he told me quite frankly that he likes western films.
– He said he likes western films?
– Yes, and I make no apology for saying that.
– Who is the Minister for Education in South Australia?
– Mr. Pattinson, a very fine gentleman. He enjoys a little relaxation before a television set. I do not think we are likely to be deleteriously affected by viewing some of those films. We look at them for entertainment and get some relaxation from them. I really believe they have comparatively very little effect on the Australian character. I do not say they are highly cultural; but many films of a high cultural standard are produced in Australia, and I feel that if we had more Australian films on these programmes the entertainment would be improved greatly.
Films have an extremely high educational value. I have always complained that whilst some Australian films have been quite good, very often they are shot in parts of Australia which are not altogether satisfactory to my way of thinking. Very frequently the producers choose some arid area. There are many places in Australia that have a very high scenic value, but they are neglected. Frequently the outback pictures depict arid areas, and that is not very good advertising for Australia. We frankly admit that Australia is a fairly arid country, that we have wide open spaces and so on, but at the same time the choice of venue for some of these films has been rather unfortunate. In many instances the venue has not been a good advertisement for Australia. When a film is being shot I do not think it should be necessary to go to areas which, to say the least, are unattractive scenically and could create the impression that the whole of Australia is equally unattractive. Everybody knows that in the coastal areas we have some of the most magnificent scenery in the world.
I come now to the second part of Senator Hannan’s motion. He asks whether a sound local film industry, with particular emphasis on documentary and television films, would be in the national interest in providing an outlet for Australian sentiment and culture and in earning international goodwill by distribution abroad. I believe wholeheartedly in the principles he has expounded there. I differ from some of the previous speakers about one film. I refer to the Australian film “ On the Beach “. I thought that was a very gripping film. I had the opportunity to attend a preview of it in New York. It was screened by the Australian-American Association, and I was most impressed by it even though it might not be completely in accord with Nevil Shute’s story. We hear criticism of the manner in which Melbourne was depicted, but San Francisco was depicted in much the same way, as was a great oil port in California. The picture was intended to drive home a lesson to us on the danger of radio activity in a world embroiled in thermo-nuclear war. The picture certainly had such an impact on me, if not on other people.
Another good Australian picture, which should foster goodwill towards us, is “ New Guinea Patrol “ which we have seen in this building. It gives a splendid impression of the work Australia is doing in New Guinea. When I was in the Territory I went out on location to where the film “ Walk into Paradise “ was being produced. Senator Hannan referred to this film. Chips Rafferty was one of the leading actors in it and, I think, also the producer. I thought that the film was a credit to Australia. The scenic shots and the acting were extremely good. Such films make for better relations with the rest of the world, and there should be more of them.
Senator Hannan’s motion, in its third part, asks whether, in existing circumstances, it is practicable to place the Australian film industry on a sound footing. Tt then goes on to refer to methods that might be used in so doing. I believe that the proposition is feasible and that we should do something to assist the industry, which is languishing. I do not for a moment suggest that we nationalize the industry. Private enterprise is there and is able to do the job if it is given a little encouragement. Many of our industries have not started without encouragement in some form or another. We have given tariff protection to secondary industries and provided subsidies for others. We have assisted infant industries. As the film industry is languishing now, is it not reasonable for the Government to consider assisting it, if the Government really believes that the industry is worth while? I do not think that any honorable senator would suggest that the development of the film industry is not worth while. Ways and means should be found to assist it.
I was surprised to learn of the number of organizations engaged in the industry. 1 know that many of them have been established in recent months since the inception of television. We remember some of the old film studios. One, I think, was called Pagewood. Unfortunately, some of them did not survive, but quite a number of film-producing organizations are now in operation with expensive capital equipment. Senator Hannan mentioned the figure of £3,000,000, but that would not be very much for a big film-producing organization. About 20 or 30 organizations, some large and some small, are engaged in the industry. I suppose most of the smaller ones are concerned with .television productions. We have organizations which, with encouragement, are capable of developing the industry. It is incumbent upon the Government and the people to do something about it. Without a great deal of difficulty ways and means could be found of assisting the industry for the benefit of Australia as a whole.
The motion is well worth while. Much could be said about the subject, but it has been adequately covered by previous speakers, especially by Senator Hannan. I commend him most highly for introducing the subject. The debate that has ensued, and that will probably continue, will be of benefit to the nation. At least it will focus the attention of the Australian people on the subject. The fact that this National Parliament has devoted a whole day to debating the question shows that we recognize that this industry is of benefit to Australia and that with the necessary encouragement it could be of much greater benefit.
– I, too, would like to pay tribute to Senator Hannan for having brought this matter forward and for the very extensive research he has conducted in order to present to the Senate a case which has received the deepest consideration of senators on both sides of the chamber. We cannot deal adequately with it in the short time that we have available for discussing it.
A good deal of ground has been covered by previous speakers, but I think that all have started with the preconceived notion that we have already established our national art and culture on a very high level and are afraid that modern trends in television and films will undermine that national standard. The fostering of a national art and outlook does not mean the development of an insular patriotism. In the British magazine “ Round Table “ we find a criticism that I think is quite valid. It points out that Australia has so far failed to create in any art a consistent national character and continues -
The influence of the United States in popular culture is overwhelming. There is still time, perhaps, for Australia to find herself and her independence - but not much time.
With that I agree. The spate of films that we have on both the cinema and on television does not tend very much to raise our cultural standards. In this connexion we ourselves are to blame because consistently not only in films and on television but also in our literature and on our radio we give the impression that Australia is only a land of the outback where people wear corks around their hats and most men are of the Ben Bowyang type. At present, our radio stations are giving the impression that the best thing that came out of Australia in a decade is the song, “ Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport “. That seems to be symbolic of our culture. A song that proclaims, “ Let me abos go loose “ puts the whole thing on a plane which is very misleading.
The Australian film industry, as we have been told, had a very early start. During the six decades that have elapsed since the first pictures were presented the number of films produced has progressively decreased until in the last decade fewer than twenty first-class films were produced in Australia. It became so much easier to import films from other countries. Even at a time when dollar restrictions were imposed on other industries it has been customary for no fewer than 6,000,000 dollars a year to be spent on films from America. During the last year the expenditure rose to something like 10,000,000 dollars even though fewer films for screening were introduced into Australia and many more films for television were introduced. The reason for this is that the making of live shows for television is a very chancy business. Whereas films can be perfected before they are shown on television the production of a live show is a much more chancy business because anything can go wrong and defects occur too late to be rectified. Somebody can trip over a guide rope in the middle of a very tense and dramatic scene, or the hat or hand of a technician may impinge plainly on the horizon. These things do not become apparent until the scene is being viewed on the television screen. It has become much easier to import films, and the American film industry has done very well out of this because it has been prepared to sell its films at a very small percentage of the actual cost of production. Most of the films it sells us were produced over a decade ago and Australian theatrical interests compete for these films at undercost prices.
It is also a fact that the television industry in this country is in its infancy. Personally I enjoy television; I think it is really good. You can listen to the radio and go about your ordinary chores, but you simply have to drop everything when you want to look at television. I think that is quite good. I have seen a lot of rubbish on television, but I have also seen a lot of good stuff. Some of the programmes are very fine. One series called “ Medic “ is excellent. It is informative and a very good programme for any one to see. I do not mind westerns. The baddies always get it in the neck, as we think they should, and as a result there is always a moral tie-up somewhere.
This debate has disclosed that Australia has already entered the field of the production of documentary films and has done a very fine job in that respect. Back in 1946, when the late Mr. Chifley was Prime Minister, he introduced legislation to establish the Australian Film Board. Since that time many documentaries that have won worldwide acclaim have been produced. Here in Parliament House we have been privileged from week to week to see films that have been produced by the Commonwealth Film Unit. We have seen the film dealing with the correspondence school or the school of the mail-box. We have had others dealing with problems associated with the assimilation of Asian students at our universities. Many films of great value have been produced by the Comonwealth Film Unit, and two of our oil companies also have produced very fine documentaries which give a much better impression of life in Australia than some full-length films that have been produced in the past.
Before the advent of television, Australia had more theatres and more cinema seats available for members of the public in proportion to its population than any other country. Statistics proved that the Australian people liked to go to the cinema. There is therefore a big field wherein productions of a high standard can be used. Since the introduction of television many of these theatres have closed, and I understand also that the control of many of them has gone outside Australia altogether. Just as the control of many programmes are tied up with big film producing companies the ownership of many Australian theatres has passed to big companies. The tendency for the merging of big business is to be found not only in the retail world but also in the entertainment world, and this was evident even before the advent of television. In this respect I should like to say that many of these overseas firms have done quite a good job. They have made our theatres very comfortable and have brought to us some films of a very high standard.
However, we have encouraged the import of films to the detriment of what could have been a very fine industry of our own. We have the people here who can make films; we have proved that in the past. We had Damien Parer who was perhaps one of the finest photographers the world has seen. Unfortunately he lost his life in World War II. We have had Charles Chauvel whose outback documentaries are classics. I have recently seen some of the documentaries he produced years ago. They deal with the outback in an up-to-date manner and do not show all Australians as the “ Gor blimey “ type. The people who went into the outback to develop this country are not all no-hopers as would appear frsm so many books and so many radio programmes. They know how to speak the Queen’s English and they know how to appreciate the decent things of life. In many of the presentations of them that we get in the films and on the radio that is very far from being the case. The documentaries of Charles Chauvel entitle him to be regarded as the Fitzpatrick of the Australian travelogue. I am sorry that he is no longer with us to carry on the good work that he performed under very great difficulties.
It would be interesting to know how many of the 500 films that have been produced by the Commonwealth Film Unit have been released overseas. Some of those (films have received acclaim at film festivals, but this is not enough. We want those films to be shown in other countries so that people overseas may obtain a true picture of the Australian way of life.
There is much to commend the view that some assistance should be given to the Australian film industry. It is surprising to hear so many Government supporters agreeing with the Opposition in this regard and saying that the film industry cannot possibly flourish and succeed without government financial assistance. Films are one medium by which Australia can become better known overseas. Films can help to publicize our way of life and the things that this country has to offer to her people.
We have some very fine actors, actresses and producers of drama in this country. In Western Australia we have theatres of a standard equal to any in Australia. I pay a tribute to those people who have done such fine work in repertory and elsewhere. One Sunday night recently I listened to a play broadcast on the radio. It was of excellent standard. I do not think that I have heard a better play even from the British Broadcasting Corporation. I was not surprised at the conclusion of the play to hear that it had been produced in Perth by Alexander Turner, who is one of Australia’s best known producers of drama. We do not have to go outside Australia to find men and women who can act and produce plays. We also have many authors whose works are worthy of production. It is unfortunate that very often plays that are sent overseas from this country depict only extreme forms of our way of living.
Very often the way of life depicted in some plays of Australian origin is as foreign to us as it must be to people overseas.
I should like to see more done in our schools to foster a genuine appreciation of Australian literature, art and drama. This would stimulate a demand for Australianproduced plays on television and in the theatre. People who come to this country from abroad often are surprised to find that we have so many amenities here. They are surprised that we have good universities, excellent shops and a good standard of housing. Their surprise stems from the fact that they have never heard about these things in Australian-produced plays or in Australian literature. It is a pity that our achievements are not more widely publicized throughout Australia and overseas through the medium of films. An excellent film has been produced here about our National University. I do not know whether it has been shown in commercial theatres yet, but if not I hope that it will be shown on television.
I do not think that the theatre will ever die. The initial thrill of watching television in your own lounge room eventually wears off. I think many people in the community, particularly mothers of large families, like to get away from the house for a night and prefer to see a film at a theatre. Theatre-goers have become discriminating in their choice of films. They are able to make a choice, but the television viewer must watch whatever is shown on the screen. One of the difficulties confronting television stations is that films may usually be shown on television once only, whereas theatres are able to screen the same film for months. It is not unusual to hear of a film running for four or five months at a theatre but a television station may show six or seven films in a day on television, and those films are then put aside. That may be one reason why television stations have difficulty in obtaining films of a high standard. T would like to see more discrimination exercised in the choice of television programmes even if it meant a reduction in the number of viewing hours. That would be preferable to an extension of viewing hours accompanied by the showing of films that are rubbish.
The influence of television on the minds of children has been the subject of much investigation by psychologists and others. I know that many education authorities are worried, not so much by the type of films being shown, as by the fact that children are staying up late at night to watch television programmes. That is a matter that could be rectified by parents. Children who stay up late at night watching television are too tired next day to do their school work properly. Blame for this cannot be laid at the door of television. The parents are to blame in those cases. Television programmes are so arranged that the evening programmes do not contain children’s sessions. I think that the television programmes for children are good - often much better than the adult programmes. 1 am sorry that Senator Hannan’s motion did not include radio programmes. I enjoy the radio greatly. It is relaxing, particularly to people who are ill or to people living alone. It is a great comfort to be able to turn the radio on or off at will. I even enjoy the much-maligned women’s sessions and serials. As a matter of fact, I have missed, since I have been in Canberra, some episodes of my favorite serials and I do not know what has happened to my favorite characters.
– I think that most radio programmes are, in fact, Australian.
– I was about to say that. I think that most serials and plays on the radio are produced in Australia with Australian artists. Some of them may be adaptations of other programmes. I think that in time television stations will adopt the policy that has been adopted by radio stations. One thing that irks me greatly when watching a good television programme is the interruption of the programme for a commercial announcement. Without any sense of timing and without regard to the continuity of a play or other programme, you are suddenly taken from the realm of fantasy and plunged into an advertisement about somebody’s corn flakes or some other commodity, completely breaking the thread. I should like to know the amount of time that is spent on commercials, compared with the rest of the programmes. On one evening, I counted eight breaks for commercial advertisements in the course of an hour-length play. Some of the advertisements were really an insult to one’s intelligence. The standard of advertising has been lowered by television. I know that some of the advertisements provide work for our Australian artists, but at the same time, it is a poor state of affairs that artists who are capable of really good dramatic acting should have to undertake work of that kind in order to make a living. Instead, they should be able to act as they are capable of acting.
We have started to do something for our theatres through the medium of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust. We in Western Australia have a very high standard of amateur theatre. We also have a very good playhouse which is now catering for professional companies. I must say that Senator Vincent does a very good job on the gold-fields and elsewhere, too, I think, in regard to the encouragement of live theatre away from the metropolitan area. Because of Western Australia’s isolation, in the past the people of that State had to provide their own amusements. In the days to which Senator Hannan referred, there were many repertory companies and other bodies which provided quite a selection of live theatre entertainment from which the people might choose. That position deteriorated with the coming of the moving pictures, and it was thought that it would further deteriorate with the advent of television, but T think there has been a resurgence, over the last few years, of interest in live theatre.
T should like to see that revival of interest fostered, because it is one way to build up our national culture and our national standards and traditions. It is hard for us to compete against the older countries of the world, with their centuries of tradition. The countries which have produced the great poets and dramatists throughout the ages have been noted for their theatres and for their love of drama and culture. We in Australia have to build up a culture of our own. It may be rugged, but we do not want it to become common or vulgar. That is the whole point of this motion before the Senate - that the present trend in television, in the theatre and also, I might say, in our novels, is to bring the whole of our standards down to the lowest common denominator, to present Australia as a backward country and on the frontier of civilization, instead of presenting it as it really is, and showing it as a leader in a number of scientific and cultural spheres. I do not know exactly what can be done to correct this trend, beyond Commonwealth assistance for an Australian film industry, protective tariffs and perhaps other methods; but I certainly agree with Senator Hannan that if something is not done to help the film industry and the hundreds of people who have the ability to produce good theatre, it will be idle in another ten years to talk about our Australian art and culture because they will have ceased to exist.
– We are beholden to Senator Hannan for bringing forward the motion before the Senate dealing with the very interesting and topical subject of imported films. I have found the arguments that have been advanced so far to be most interesting, although, to an extent, some of them have got off the beaten track. Some honorable senators have stated that our national culture is being influenced by the poor quality of imported films and by the very bad types of films that are being viewed on television. I do not think that those considerations are quite germane to the motion. What Senator Hannan meant when he put forward the motion for discussion was that all types of imported programmes, whether good or bad, endangered our national culture if they dominated our television programmes to the extent that they dominate them at the moment. I do not think it is relevant to discuss the evils of American gangster or horror films and their impact on our youth. Even if all the programmes that the viewing public now sees were made in Australia and were of the same quality, the same alleged dangers would confront the youth of Australia.
– Have the British people ever thought about that?
– I do not know. Perhaps they have rather more culture in their programmes than we have.
In my view, the parent who complains about the quality of television films, whether imported or otherwise, and of the impact of horror films on his child’s mind, is worthy of little sympathy. There is a knob on the television set which the parent may use to turn the programme off. If the child’s mind is being poisoned against the parent’s wishes, it is up to the parent to do something about it. After all, the parent does not leave rat poison about the house or allow his child access to a spoonful of rat poison every now and again. The analogy is quite a fair one. I have no time for complaints about the evil influences of programmes which, as Senator Tangney has just said, children are not even supposed to see. Such considerations should not form a part of our discussion, which is at a different level altogether.
Senator Hannan posed a fairly serious allegation when he postulated that our culture is endangered by the large proportion of imported films in our television programmes. I agree with a lot of what he said. One cannot fail to agree with much of it. I do not agree, though, that our culture is being endangered by this large proportion of imported films. That is a pretty serious allegation to make. I should go so far as to say that our culture is perhaps not being given a proper chance to develop because of the excessive proportion of imported films, but that is not quite the same as saying that the national culture is being endangered. I do not think that it is being endangered. I do not think that we have that much to fear from it. I think that that is an exaggerated view of the whole affair. I would prefer to get a lot lower than Senator Hannan in talking about the impact of American films on our television programmes.
I think we must admit that both our stage and our screen are now, and always have been, to a very great extent influenced and, in fact, dominated by the British stage and screen, not by the American stage and screen. I go so far as to say - although perhaps nobody here will agree with me - that the American stage and screen are dominated by the British stage. Practically every play in America is measured by the Americans in terms of English drama. To that extent, I suggest that both the Americans and ourselves are, to some degree very properly, affected by British drama. After all, British drama is a very old institution. The British theatre is the oldest theatre in the world. It goes right back to the fifteenth century. The English have had more experience of the stage than the people of any other nation. Before the days of William Shakespeare, Englishmen were writing for the stage. They were doing that long, long before the Americans thought about the stage or the screen. The cumulative experience of the English stage is tremendous, and the impact of the English stage on the American stage is very important. I do not accept the argument that we are to any extent dominated by the American stage. It is really the domination of the British stage that we suffer from, if we suffer at all.
– Do we get many films from the British?
– No, but the
Westerns and the gangster films are typically British in sentiment and motive. They come right from the British theatre. That is where the Americans got them from. To that extent, American stage thinking is still influenced by the British stage.
We can apply that argument to Australia also. Take the recent stage production of “The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll”. That play was written by an Australian, lt is a very good play; I am not decrying it. I am only trying to show to what extent we are influenced or dominated by the British stage even in a play such as thai. If you changed the trousers of the two leads in that production and made them English trousers, and if you made the leads English fishermen who went away on a long fishing’ trip - to catch whales, perhaps - and then returned to their lady loves and performed the same gyrations as the two gentry in the Australian production, it would be a normal English melodrama. It is not really an Australian play; it is a typical English melodrama. We advertised it as an Australian play, but the only things that were Australian about it were some of the language used in it and the fact that it was written by an Australian. It was a typically English melodrama. I say that, not to decry the play - it is a good play - but to support the proposition that we in Australia are to a very large extent affected by dramatic thinking in Britain.
Are there any local producers of plays of any consequence who are not English? Have you ever heard of an Australian actor making good in Australia before he went to Britain and made a name for himself there?
– That has happened very rarely. Before an actor can make his name in Australia he has to have the imprimatur of the London stage. I see nothing wrong with that; I am not decrying it. I think it is a very good thing. To a very large extent, we are British in sentiment, in feeling and in culture, and it would be most extraordinary if our culture did not copy and follow the British pattern. This thought is not new; it is quite old. There is nothing new in what I am advancing. All I am doing is trying to defend the Australian stage and screen from the attack that it is Americanized. It is not; it is very much Britishized, if I may use that expression.
– Do you not draw a distinction between the stage and films?
– I do not think there is any great distinction as far as culture is concerned. Culturally, they both form a pattern. Acting on the stage, although different from acting for the screen, is still acting. Play production is still play production, irrespective of whether the play is produced for the screen or for the stage.
I would say that our national culture is not being endangered. I would say that we are at present going through a transitional stage culturally, so far as our stage and screen are concerned. Eventually we will evolve a cultural form, dramatically. I: cannot be forced. It is like a plant; it must grow. You can force the growth or encourage it, but you cannot do very much more. You cannot make an artificial plant. There must be a natural growth. It can be fostered and encouraged, and, after all, the word “ culture “, in another context, means growth. I suggest that our theatre - which is, I think, the most important element in our artistic culture - has not yet arrived. It is still under the domination of the British stage, very logically and perhaps very properly because we are still, at heart, sentimentally very, very British. After all, the whole purpose of stage work is to exhibit human emotion. If we are still not British emotionally, I shall be extremely surprised.
I would therefore go only half way with Senator Hannan and say, at the most, that our culture is perhaps being retarded by that influence. But it is not an American influence; it is more a British influence. I dr not think that that is a very bad thing. I think it is an inevitable consequence of cur being so British in other respects. The time will come when our national culture, so far as drama and the stage is concerned, will evolve into a form distinct from the British form, but that time is still a long way off. 1 shall get back to the debate and to the proposition advanced by Senator Hannan. Although I do not agree with him in his first argument, I believe that he is quite right in arguing that we should have a far greater proportion of Australian productions on our television screens. I am dealing mainly with television because 1 think it is far more important to-day in our culture than the cinema. For every person who attends a picture show, many persons see - and see more frequently - television shows. To that extent, they are more important in our national culture. I agree entirely with Senator Hannan that there should be a greater proportion of Australian work put into our television productions, particularly in the dramatic forms. 1 agree that there is far too great a proportion of overseas dramatic productions in our television programmes but I cannot leave the story there. I think there is a reason for it. This is a big problem. I have taken the trouble to read the very fine report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the subject. This body of informed people has dealt with this subject for several years. The board has no axe to grind in this matter. It knows the problem and has studied it far more than any of us - even Senator Hannan, I say with respect - have done. It has arrived at certain conclusions about the matter.
The board is concerned also about the small Australian content in television film. In its report, the board says that the problem is basically economic but that there are also other difficulties. At page 41 of the 1959 report of these skilful people the following passage appears: -
The success so far achieved has indeed been due to the determination of the directors, managers and programme officers of the stations and of a relatively few advertisers, who have had to meet the objection that, according to the audience measurement surveys, Australian programmes, with few exceptions, are apparently not wanted by Australian viewers.
That is the considered opinion of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It raises a nice problem. Are we to do as would be done in Moscow and force Australian programmes on the viewers, or are we to allow them to see the programmes they wish to see? In other words, where do we start and where do we stop? The French revolutionaries coined a phrase with regard to their policies and revolutionary tactics; they asked, “ Do we follow the mob because we lead it? “ That is the dilemma in which the Australian television licensee finds himself. Is he to follow the mob because he leads it? To what degree is he entitled, as a matter of public policy and of artistic endeavour, to insist that the general public shall see Australian productions and not overseas productions?
– It could not be done without financial help.
– The financial angle is somewhat different, and I shall come to it in a moment. At present I am stating the problem with which the television licensee is confronted in regard to the use of Australian productions. It would ‘ be very simple for the Postmaster-General, advised by the Broadcasting Control Board, to insist that all programmes should be made by Australians. But would it be wise for him to do so Would it be desirable? lt would be a foolish suggestion to make.
Where do we go from there? It may be necessary to adopt a policy that has already been adopted by the board and the Government in the past - that is, to arrive at a compromise. There are six important problems to be solved before the difficulty can be overcome, and 1 shall refer to them briefly. I have already discussed one - the fact that the public prefers overseas productions. The second problem lies in the fact that television programmes are a new form of entertainment; they are new in our culture. An actor cannot be trained overnight. A producer cannot be trained overnight; producers are born and are not made. Moreover, the technical staff has to learn new tricks, because the style of acting before the television camera is quite different from that which is necessary when producing a film for screening at a cinema or the style that is required on the stage. It takes half a lifetime to train an actor, and even then he may be a bad actor. It is not easy to produce a large proportion of our dramatic programmes with Australian talent. At the moment we just have not got that talent. Of course, we can get it, and that is what the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Government have in mind. We must give the industry a chance to train its personnel, but that will take some years to do.
A further problem arises in relation to the economics of the matter. 1 have before me a press report about a very good television programme entitled “ The Caine Mutiny “, which was produced in Melbourne. The Melbourne “ Herald “ report reads - “ Our station is constantly trying to promote Australian programmes of good standing “, Mr. Keith Cairns, manager of HSV, Channel 7, said to-day. “ But i[ is not so easy as some of the politicians seem’ to think, judging by some of the remarks made in the Federal Parliament yesterday. “ A program like the ‘ Caine Mutiny ‘ cost nearly £3,000 to the sponsor, and that was after it had been rehearsed and played in the Little Theatre. We estimate that a play of that kind would cost up to £5,000 if it had to be rehearsed and played solely for T.V. “ Despite this we are continuing to spend good sums of money on live production, and we will go on trying and experimenting. So far it has not been easy to get sponsorship for Australian production. But that should come with improving quality.”
That is a fair commentary on the present position. We are still in the experimental stage in the production of television films. It is interesting to note that the production to which 1 have just referred cost £3,000. I saw the programme; it was something we could well be proud of. When we compare that cost of £3,000 for one performance-
– For three hours.
– Yes, it lasted for three hours. When we compare that cost of £3,000 with the cost of a comparable American performance, we find that another problem arises. I have before me Hector Crawford’s interesting booklet entitled “ Commercial Television Programmes in Australia “. At page 7 he refers to the cost of American film and points out that the cost to Sydney and Melbourne television stations is from £150 to £225 per episode per half-hour. In Adelaide the cost is a low as £110 per half-hour. There is no comparison between those costs and the cost of £5,000 for a direct television performance of a production such as “ The Caine Mutiny “. The cost of such a production might be £3,000 in certain circumstances, but that is still a lot higher than the cost of American productions.
– That would be a film production as against a live production.
– As far as the audience is concerned, it is still alive whether it be a film production or a stage production. In fact, in many cases I would defy any member of the public to say whether the production was a film or a stage production. A further problem arises. Because of the public demand for overseas productions, advertisers very naturally prefer and insist on having imported programmes. It would be quite human in those circumstances for the television licensees also to prefer overseas productions, the cost of which is about one-fifth the cost of a local production.
Having presented a brief survey of the problem, I do not suggest for a moment, nor do I think the Government suggests, that nothing should be done. I believe the Minister has acted very wisely! He has conferred with representatives of the industry and has suggested that they should improve the Australian content of television programmes. In fact, that improvement has been effected. Recently, in response to ministerial requests, some television stations have increased the proportion of Australian programmes during the critical hours between 7.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. Three different stations now utilize one hour of that vital period for the telecasting of Australian programmes. That indicates the bona fides of the Australian television licensees. I think they are making a bona fide effort to overcome these obstacles of cost and buyer resistance. An even greater obstacle is the lack of know-how, and they are making a genuine effort to overcome that. There is a great lack of producers, skilled actors and technicians in Australia to meet the local demand. I suggest it will be quite some time before that demand is properly met. I mention these things because I do not think they have been emphasized to the Senate during this debate. The problems associated with the question are much more difficult to overcome than merely to postulate. It is very simple to criticize the television industry for its lack of Australian films, but that criticism is somewhat unfair in certain respects. When we appreciate the problem we can feel much more sympathetic towards those people who, I think, are making a genuine attempt to put on television programmes with as high an Australian content as possible.
Senator Hannan’s second point relates to ways and means of assisting the industry. Here again I differ from him in some of the arguments he adduced. I think it is fair to say that he argued that the lack of Australian programmes is due to shortage of money and that the money required should come from government sources. With the greatest of respect to him, I do not think the problem is so simple as that. My personal opinion is that money is by no means the greatest obstacle, especially when we realize that commercial television companies are going to gross - I emphasize “ gross “-£7,000,000 profit and the provision for the Australian Broadcasting Commission for television this year will amount to £6,500,000. Nobody will convince me that a sum of £13,500,000 is not sufficient to put on as much Australian programme as possible, having regard to the other factors I have mentioned. I do not believe for a moment that shortage of money is the reason for the lack of Australian content in these programmes. I think that other factors are far more important. The wealthy commercial stations have money to burn. This year alone, those stations and the Australian Broadcasting Commission spent £500,000 in Canada on films. I do not believe for a moment that either the commission or the commercial stations would have spent £500,000 in Canada if it had been possible to obtain programmes in Australia.
– What kind of programmes were they?
– Television dramatic programmes. The real problem lies in lack of technical and artistic skill and lack of know-how and producers, as well as buyer resistance and resistance by advertisers. All those human elements have to be overcome before we can succeed in dealing with this problem. T admit that we have a problem, but I do not think the solution of it lies in government subsidy.
Finally, I must mention one aspect of the motion which has not been touched upon to any great extent. I refer to documentary films. Here I mention the very tine work of the Films Division of the News and Information Bureau. With what is not a great deal of money, that division has been producing films and organizing production by commercial firms of documentary films in Australia for some years. It has done a magnificent job. I do not think Senator Hannan’s motion is applicable at all to Australian documentary films. I do not think there is any dearth of Australian documentaries, nor do they lack quality. They will bear comparison with anything in the world. They have won awards, and deservedly so. I pay great tribute to the division which has produced some very fine, artistic films in the last few years. May it go on doing so. It has proved that we can do these things if we have the skill and the opportunity. I do not think it will be very long before there will be a much higher Australian content in our commercial and national television programmes. I feel sure that before very long these programmes with Australian content will of very fine quality.
– In speaking to Senator Hannan’s motion, my first question is what he hopes to achieve from it. If he seeks merely an expression of the views of the Government and of the Opposition, he will certainly get them. After all, we talk all the time in this place. If there were no talk here, there would be no business. I should say that all Senator Hannan can achieve from the motion is that we will air our views on the various factors contained in it and on another dozen or so factors which it does not mention. If Senator Hannan was seeking some definite result, I should expect a more positive motion to be submitted al the conclusion of this debate. Frankly, when I first read the motion, my reaction was one of little or no interest. If Senator Hannan were seeking to suggest that after examination the Government should pay a subsidy, oi if he were seeking an investigation to bring the industry forward a little further, T should have thought he would submit a specific motion to that effect. For instance, if he wanted something definite I should think it would have been better to move for the appointment of a select committee of the Senate to examine the subject in detail. In the terms of the motion before us the matter is receiving but general consideration, and apart from patting each other on the back and complimenting each other on good speeches, nothing definite will be achieved. Perhaps, if he gets the opportunity to reply to the debate, Senator Hannan will tell us what he expects to achieve by his motion.
There is no more opportune time than this to deal with this very important problem, but the motion merely asks questions. Senator Hannan makes no statement in it; he merely asks questions and leaves us to answer them. He will get many different answers from many people. First, he is worried about whether national sentiment and culture are being endangered by the virtual monopoly enjoyed by foreign films. Perhaps we require a subcommittee of the Senate to tell us what
Australian culture is. To what culture does he refer? For instance, if we were brought up on the story “ Jack and the Bean Stalk “, the story of the terrible thing Jack did in cutting down the tree when the giant reached the top of it with the result that the giant was killed, or if we were brought up on the rhyme “ Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son “ - I suppose Tom was the first delinquent because he stole a pig and away did run -
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir
Alister McMullin. - Order! In conformity with the Sessional Order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 August 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600817_senate_23_s18/>.