24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that long service leave granted to workers in industry is for the purpose of allowing those workers to recuperate after twenty years’ continuous service? Is it a fact that the principle of long service leave is that it should be taken at the time it falls due and not be allowed to accumulate, to be used as a retiring allowance? I ask the Minister, further, whether he has seen the annual report of Qantas Empire Airways Limited for 1961-62, which states -
At the end of the year the provision in the accounts for Staff Leave amounted to £151,640. In order to provide more adequately for the progressively increasing entitlement of staff who defer taking long service leave until retirement, the surplus of £379,834 from the Insurance ReserveOther Risks . . . has been transferred through the appropriation account to increase the provision to £531,474 at 31st March, 1962. Additional provisions will be required in future years as staff entitlements build up.
Is this practice by Qantas carried out with Government approval? Will the practice of converting long service leave to a retiring allowance be continued?
– In matters of this sort, Qantas is, of course, an autonomous body. I should think that, by and large, the arrangements for long service leave are matters for negotiation between the employees and the management of Qantas. I am not aware of the circumstances referred to by the honorable senator. Apparently Qantas believes there is a need to build up its cash provision for long service leave. How that affects the times when the leave is to be taken I do not know. The most I can say to the honorable senator is that I will get in touch with Qantas and ask it to explain more fully why that provision is needed this year and why further provisions are forecast for ensuing years. I shall let the honorable senator have the answer I receive.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by pointing out that recently the Prime Minister made a statement relating to future airport developments in various capital cities. The statement included a reference to the new overseas air terminal at Mascot and to the extension of runways there. An estimated cost of £4,000,000 was referred to. Does the £4,000,000 represent the cost of the new overseas terminal and the extension to the runways, or will the cost of extending the runways be in addition to the £4,000,000? Can the Minister say when the work is to start? Are the two approaches to be constructed concurrently? Finally, is the new overseas terminal to be built on the present site, or is another site in the Mascot area to be chosen?
– The statement made by the Prime Minister in respect of airport development over the next few years related to works in addition to those which have already been approved. The honorable senator will know, of course, that the runway extension into the bay at Sydney was approved before this additional airport programme was announced. The two works to be undertaken at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, although announced separately, will together form part of a large extension programme at the airport, costing in all in excess of £20,000,000 by the time the programme has been completed. It is proposed that the new terminal building, which will contain many modern amenities and which will be worthy of Australia’s No. 1 overseas airport terminal, will be of world standard. It is intended that it should be completed in 1968. I have noticed comment to the effect that that date is beyond the date of completion of Melbourne’s terminal. I point out that if that is so, the difference in time is only a few months.
The work necessarily will have to go to the Public Works Committee, as will the runway extension into the bay. The latter work has not yet been referred to the committee. I regret that there has been delay in negotiations with various State departments in connexion with the construction of the runways. However, I believe that the difficulties which existed have now been resolved, and I am still hopeful that the proposal will go to the Public Works Committee before the end of the year. The plans for the terminal, of course, cannot go to the committee for some time yet, and for that reason I cannot give the honorable senator information on the coincidence of the dates for completion of the runways and the terminal, but as I have said, 1968 is the target date for completion of the terminal. The runways should be completed well before that time.
The new terminal will not be sited on the same location as the present overseas terminal. It will be located on the bay side of the airport. I am not entirely familiar with the details of the proposal in this respect, but I shall ascertain them and let the honorable senator have them.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I thank him for his courteous reply to the question I asked in the Senate about a fortnight ago relating to the European Air Union. On that occasion, the Minister said that he did not recall my earlier questions on this subject. On 29th April, 1959, as reported at page 1090 of “ Hansard “ of that date, he said, in reply to one of my questions, that he had no official information on the matter. However, he indicated definitely that such an amalgamation as I had then prophesied would occur would not have any effect on Qantas Empire Airways Limited or Australian aviation generally. I now ask the Minister: In the light of the most comprehensive report issued by the Department of Civil Aviation for the year 1961-62, and particularly the comments on page 1, has the Minister changed his mind about these significant developments and does he now wish to convey a serious warning to Qantas, so far as its European service is concerned? Does the report mean that integration of the airlines of Europe would bring advantages for the governments of The Six? If so, what would be the disadvantages for Australia? That was the principal purport of my earlier questions. If the British Overseas Airways Corporation and British European Airways ultimately became involved, if England joined the European Common Market, would this dominating power in world transport upset the balance of power in the air? Further, would such a European giant have a serious effect on the landing rights of Qantas in Rome and Frankfurt as well as Paris and Tahiti, and even Athens and Istanbul, and would it be able to dictate policy to Australia and so lessen the sovereignty which we enjoy under the Australian Air Navigation Act?
– The honorable senator refers to a question which he asked of me in April, 1959, and which was followed by another question from him some three and a half years later. I am sure he will forgive me if I say again that I do not recall offhand the question that he asked in 1959. He now asks whether, in view of what was published in the report of the Department of Civil Aviation for this year, I entertain serious forebodings as to the future. The answer is, “ No “. It is definitely overstating the case to use that sort of term. What I think the report does indicate, and what it is intended to indicate, is our alertness to the possibility of this sort of development. That was the point I was making when, in answer to the honorable senator’s question of a week or two ago, I said that I had been in touch with successive British Ministers for Civil Aviation, seeking their’ views as to the possibility of developments such as those which the honorable senator has in mind. I repeat what I said then. Both personally and by letter, as well as at the official level, successive British Ministers for Civil Aviation have said that at this point there is no possibility of such developments. However, be that as it may, I repeat the assurance which I gave to the honorable senator a couple of weeks ago. I propose to keep the Government as accurately informed on this matter as it is possible for me to do on information provided by the United Kingdom. From time to time, as I deem it appropriate, I shall address inquiries to the United Kingdom authorities to find out whether there is any change in their thinking, or any change in emphasis, on future developments in air transport.
It is a little early to answer with precision the question which the honorable senator asks about possible effects on landing rights, particularly at specific points. If B.O.A.C. - B.E.A. does not concern us at all - did become a partner in a European air union and, as a result of that partnership, withdrew from our pooling arrangements - which cover not only B.O.A.C. but also Air India and Tasman Empire Airways Limited - it is possible that some re-arrangement of transit rights and landing rights agreements would follow. However, it is quite impossible at this stage to forecast with any particularity what points or what agreements would be affected1. I hope I have said enough to convince the honorable senator that the matter is being watched very closely indeed.
– I have seen the article referred to by Senator Sir Walter Cooper, but I must confess that the Department of Health has no knowledge of the tests carried out in Leningrad on the value of sugar as a sleep drug. I am informed that in fact sugar is not a sedative and is not hypnotic. The title “ sleep drug “ is a misnomer. It is well known that the blood sugar level has an effect on the activity of many drugs which act on the central nervous system, but most of the evidence for that is based on animal experiments. It would be very difficult indeed to obtain clinical information on this matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to a statement by Professor E. A. Rudd, Professor of Economic Geology at the University of Adelaide, which appeared in the Adelaide “Advertiser” yesterday? Professor Rudd’s statement was reported as follows: -
The next generation should be trained to take part in the oil exploration business that foreign enterprise was threatening to take out of the hands of Australians.
The words “ empire “ and “ colony “ had been besmeared in recent years and were disappearing from use, he said, but far more sinister than the threat of colonialism was the threat of one country occupying another economically and technically. “ It would be a pity if we replaced our dependence on foreign oil merely with the foreign exploitation of Australian oil “, Professor Rudd said. “We, as Australians, are badly informed on the oil business. Australians have not yet developed the necessary faith in science and engineering to back the kind of promise of oil exploraton “ To be frank about it, oil has been discovered in Australia by foreigners. “Either we should believe in it or give it to them altogether “.
Does the Minister agree with Professor Rudd’s statement? If he does, what plans has the Government in hand to train people along the lines suggested and to inform the public more generally on the importance of this matter?
– I am sorry to say that I did not see Professor Rudd’s statement in yesterday’s Adelaide “ Advertiser “. I would have been glad to pick it up and have a chance to read it and think about it before giving an answer to this question, Apparently Professor Rudd is beating the drum of foreign intrusion into the search for oil in Australia. The first thing of which we all should remind ourselves is that so far we have found oil in only one place and we need all the help that we can get in order to prove what we all believe, namely, that there are good deposits of oil in Australia.
I believe it is reasonable to say that there is a general admission that we lack sufficient technical resources and financial resources to carry this search through unaided. I think all the companies engaged in the search for oil in Australia, including practically all of the companies with which Professor Rudd is associated, are acting on his advice when they make arrangements with overseas companies to contribute to the search for oil on the various tenements.
To train the people we want technically and scientifically will constitute a problem which, like many other problems, cannot be solved overnight. Not only do we have to get university graduates, but they will need to have practical experience. A good deal of work is being done on the problem and, as with everything else relating to the research for oil, I am quite optimistic about the prospects of success. I must say that I do not think Professor Rudd’s recent utterances have made a helpful contribution to the great task that lies ahead of us.
– My question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister has reference to the possibility of assistance for the television productions industry. Since worldwide distribution is an essential, but certainly the most difficult to obtain ingredient in the successful development of this young and struggling industry, would the Leader of the Government in the Senate discuss with the Prime Minister the possibility of the Government’s setting up an authority, either as a separate entity or as an adjunct to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, to acquire or at least to arrange for worldwide distribution of any suitable Australian productions?
– One of the disadvantages of answering questions without notice is that a Minister is expected to deal with very important matters off the cuff. In this case, I can only give an off-the-cuff reply to Senator Buttfield. I think that the industry itself is best suited to embark upon the sort of growth and development to which the honorable senator has referred. I think we can take heart from recent reports that have come from the television authorities. If my recollection is correct, they indicate that some of the Australian productions - from memory I think there were two Australian serial productions - have been sold overseas and have been successfully incorporated in programmes abroad. All these matters are somewhat like the search for oil to which I referred earlier. Success in matters of this kind involves not only the expenditure of pounds, shillings and pence but also the aquisition of business know-how and experience, and I am hesitant to think that those factors are helped by governmental authorities.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by reminding him that the Airlines Agreement Act of 1961 provides that neither AnsettA.N.A. nor Trans-Australia Airlines may place an order for jet aircraft before a certificate is obtained from the Minister approving the order. Is it a fact that this approval for current orders was not given until after 18th November? I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the usually well-informed journal, the “ Australian Financial Review” published the following statements on 23rd October and 27th November respectively: -
There is a strong rumour in aviation circles that Mr. Ansett has applied for and secured from the Boeing company definite places on the 727 line.
Ansett-A.N.A. would have assured delivery of the 727 from a big production run.
Is the Minister able to inform the Senate whether Ansett-A.N.A. has secured any priorities from the Boeing company which would enable it to secure 727 type aircraft before T.A.A.? If so, does this suggest that there has been a breach of the Airlines Agreement Act? Since a company gaining early delivery of a Boeing aircraft would gain a considerable advantage in publicity even though both are obliged to commence operations at the same time, will the Minister undertake to see that both T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. secure delivery of their aircraft at the same time?
– Neither airline applied for a certificate until after 18th November. I received the letters from both operators on Monday, 20th November, at approximately 10.15 a.m., each letter being delivered personally to my Melbourne office. I have not read the “Financial Review “; I seldom do. The honorable senator is concerned, apparently, that Ansett-A.N.A. has lodged orders and secured placements in a way that will give it some advantage over T.A.A. at the time of introduction of these new aircraft. This position was foreseen when we passed the legislation last year. The honorable senator will doubtless recall, as I remind him, that in the agreement which was annexed to the act is a provision that these aircraft shall be introduced simultaneously by both airlines. There will be no breach of the agreement. That provision will apply.
– If T.A.A. or Ansett- A.N.A. has a Boeing flying, it will have a publicity advantage, even though the aircraft will not operate to carry passengers.
– That is so. I really do not regard it as a possibility that an aircraft of this type will be brought to this country for the purpose merely of flying it unloaded. Aircraft cost too much to operate for that sort of thing. In any case, I am sure that it is not the intention of either airline to do just this. If it were, I should have to see what could be done about it.
– I desire to ask the genial Minister for Health a few questions. How many foundations are there in Australia similar to the National Heart Foundation recently formed? What are the names of these foundations? Does the Commonwealth give any assistance, financial or otherwise, to them? Has the Commonwealth any jurisdiction whatever over them? Will the Minister kindly procure for the Senate information concerning the activities of these foundations and the manner in which they are financed?
– I speak subject to correction on this interesting question when I say that I believe that the National Heart Foundation is the only truly national foundation in Australia to-day. At least, it is perhaps the most famous of all foundations. It is a national body with Mr. Warren McDonald, a very distinguished Australian, as chairman, and it has State branches. The foundation has, I understand, about £2,000,000 invested, as a result of the tremendous public support for the appeal it launched for funds for heart research. It is interesting to note that the National Health and Medical Research Council is particularly interested in the co-ordinating of the various foundations that are functioning to-day. The wise desire of the council, of course, is to see that every effort is made to concentrate the research rather than to permit overlapping, and there is a large measure of enthusiasm in both Commonwealth and State departments to achieve this very worthy objective. I cannot give any further information, Sir, concerning the other foundations, but I do know that some are sponsored by State governments and some are supported by drug houses. However, there is a very imposing list of them, and if it is possible to get the details for the honorable senator I shall do so and let him have the information.
– I preface a question which I address to the Minister for National Development by reminding him that earlier this week he announced the letting of a contract for the construction of the Murray- 1 power station in the Snowy Mountains scheme at a tendered cost of £1,602,000. First, can the Minister confirm that this new contract, like previous contracts, is to be carried out at a cost substantially below the estimated cost, and that in all a total of some £16,000,000 or £17,000,000 has been saved to date on the seven Snowy Mountains contracts that have been tendered for? Secondly, if this is so, can the Minister give comparative figures to show the total estimated cost of the contracts as against the actual cost? Thirdly, would the Minister agree that such a remarkable saving of public money stems directly from the operation of the competitive contract system which is now firmly established as a keystone of private enterprise in Australia?
– Yes, the SnowyMurray tenders have been a remarkably successful series of tenders. As honorable senators may know, the procedure is that when tenders are called the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority appoints senior officers to lodge, at the same time as the tenders are received, what is known as the engineers’ estimate. That is the calculation of what the particular works are estimated to cost, having regard1 to the overall costs of the scheme. In the SnowyMurray contracts up to this stage the engineers’ estimates of costs were for £60,000,000 and the actual tenders were for £43,500,000, which has meant a saving of £16,500,000 on those works. My computation is that the works have been carried out for 27i per cent, less cost than we thought would be the case.
What are the reasons for this? The first reason, of course, is the success of the Government’s economic policy. This has led to a reduction of pressure on resources which has meant that many materials and services are available much more readily, at lower prices and under better conditions than before. This is practical evidence of the benefit to the economy as a whole that has been produced by the Government’s policy. The second reason is that the Snowy Mountains Authority uses excellent administrative methods in dealing with these big contracts. This extends to the calling of tenders, the making of prompt payments to contractors as the work is carried out and so on. The authority administers these matters very firmly in the interests of the Commonwealth Government, but at the same time in a very business-like way. Being on the spot it is able to hammer out disputes and arguments and reach conclusions in a way that allows the work to be done quickly - and, of course, speed is of the essence of the contract when such a large capital investment is involved.
– My question to the Minister for Health has relation to the statement made by the Minister in his letter to me of 9th October last, and to his two statements made in the Senate on 16th October, to the effect that a review of the Northfield wards of the Royal Adelaide Hospital for the purpose, of deciding whether the Commonwealth should recognize them as approved hospital wards has been deferred at the request of the South Australian Government, which is contemplating some structural changes of the wards. Will the Minister consider and comment on a statement made in a letter addressed by the secretary of the Premier of South Australia to the Leader of the Opposition in that State? The statement in the letter is as follows: - . . A review of the wards of the Royal Adelaide Hospital at Northfield, which have not been accepted for full Commonwealth hospital benefits, was due to have been made in August, but has been delayed at the request of the Commonwealth Department of Health until January, 1963 . . . The changes contemplated at Northfield wards … are not structural, but organizational, following the recent appointment of two visiting medical officers at Northfield wards.
Can the Minister reconcile the apparent conflict between the two statements. Will he now proceed with the promised review?
– What was the date of the letter from which you read?
– It was dated 16th November, 1962.
– The honorable senator asks me to comment on the contents of a letter dated 16th November. It is a letter of which I have no knowledge, other than that gained from his quotation. I do not challenge the quotation, but it is only a part of the letter. It would be most improper for me to attempt to give an answer on the basis of such a quotation. However, there are one or two points that I should like to make. The implication of the question could well be that the Commonwealth Department of Health is trying to evade some responsibility in this matter. I can assure the honorable senator that such is not the case. The department would gain no advantage by trying to evade responsibility. Indeed, it is the department’s responsibility to bring into the scheme all those people who can legitimately be brought into it. That is the department’s policy, and that is what it is trying to do.
The honorable senator suggests that structural alterations to these wards are not the deciding factor. That could well be. I pointed out to him the other day, and I remind him again now, that several qualifications are required for a hospital to become eligible for what has been known as the special accounts benefit. One qualification relates to the type of patient concerned. I have said repeatedly, and I will say it again, that this Government’s responsibility to the individual is to see that the standard of hospital treatment is maintained. For that reason, the Government reserves the right to decide whether a patient is receiving hospital treatment in the normally accepted sense of the term, or whether he is a person who should be accommodated in a convalescent or nursing home. That is the Government’s responsibility, and we will not depart from it. I shall be very happy to ascertain what the present position is in this matter and to advise the honorable senator accordingly.
– My question to the Minister for National Development relates to the ineffectiveness of the Government’s campaign to stimulate investment by the Australian public in oil exploration. By way of preface, I point out that certain taxpayers have claimed as deductions in their tax returns the full amounts paid as application moneys, allotment moneys and calls to oil exploration companies and they say that the Commissioner of Taxation has rejected many such claims, either in whole or in part. The taxpayers believe that the rejection of their claims for deductions arises from circumstances that are quite outside the control of the taxpayers, and are more matters between the company receiving the Government grant and the commissioner. Do officers of the Department of National Development liaise with the Taxation Branch on these rejections? If so, do the officers of the department put up a fight to have the deductions allowed, to implement the Government’s oil exploration incentive policy? Could the Minister cause to be published now, and annually shortly after the beginning of each financial year, a list of oil exploration companies with respect to which application moneys, allotment moneys and calls are not fully deductible? In the case of those companies, could the Minister publish the percentage figure of the deductions so disallowed, so that taxpayers may know where they stand, and thereby be enabled to fill in their tax returns correctly?
– I have heard something of this matter. This question is difficult to answer. The Commissioner of Taxation has a responsibility to administer the income tax acts. As I understand it, the commissioner takes the view that some companies have not expended the capital they have raised on oil exploration activities proper. This involves a technical argument as to the definition of an oil exploration activity. It would not be possible for officers of the Department of National Development to liaise with, and make representations to. the Commissioner of Taxation. The Commissioner of Taxation has an act of Parliament to interpret and administer.
Quite apart from this particular problem, the Treasurer and myself have asked a group of our officers and officers of the Taxation Branch to have a close look at that provision of the income tax legislation. I have no doubt that we shall get some recommendations and that Government decisions will be made. I doubt very much whether this problem applies to a large number of oil companies, but I am not sure on that point. I think this is a problem that only a couple of oil companies have run into. I would be very hesitant to subscribe to the view that the Government should attempt to define which companies are eligible for the concession and which are not. A principle of income tax law, as I remember it, is that the commissioner interprets the act, the taxpayer makes his representations to the commissioner, and what happens between the commissioner and the taxpayer is a purely confidential transaction.
– Has the
Minister for Health seen a statement, attributed to Mr. Leslie Davis, the chairman of the Hospital and Medical Benefits (Management) Company Proprietary Limited, that Mr. R. J. Turner, a director of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales, was using “ unethical, high-pressure tactics” in the dispute with the medical benefits fund, in that Mr. Turner had informed the management company, amongst other things, that the hospital contributions fund had asked a firm of management consultants to assist in its reestablishment programme? Is the public to infer from that statement that there is little likelihood of agreement being reached in the dispute existing between the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia? Further, as this is a matter of great public interest, will the Minister inform the Senate of the real reasons underlying the dispute?
– Answering the last part of the honorable senator’s question first, I must confess that at this point of time I do not know the real reasons for the dispute, but I am endeavouring to ascertain them. As the honorable senator has suggested, this is a matter of great concern to the people of New South Wales. I have seen the newspaper article which referred to the alleged use of unethical and high pressure tactics by one of the parties to the dispute. I remind the Senate that on a previous occasion I suggested to the people concerned that, because of their great responsibility to the subscribers to the funds, they might be well advised to discuss their problems behind their own doors, at least until such time as finality had been reached. I also remind the Senate that the agreement into which the funds entered still has twelve months to run. Because of that agreement, the arrangements must continue in their present form for the next twelve months.
I have been advised that both bodies have nominated a committee which is superimposed on both organizations to advise on ways and means of continuing their association, even after the agreement has been terminated. Therefore, I think the interests of the people of New South Wales who have subscribed to these funds would best be served by my saying again that I have great faith in the common sense and sense of responsibility of both parties to the dispute. I am hopeful, as are many other people, that a way will be found to continue the present system.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Does he recollect that, prior to the end of the last school year, I raised in the Senate the question of the employment of children leaving school at that time, and that he informed me that the matter was well in hand and there would be no difficulty in placing the children in employment? Does he also remember that, about two months ago, in a question on the same subject, I pointed out that numerous children were being forced to return to school because they were unable to find employment, and that there were then many children on the labour market? Does the Minister recollect stating on that occasion that the position was quite satisfactory and that no concern was being shown except by the Labour Opposition in this Parliament, which was attempting to make political propaganda out of the matter? Will the Minister acquaint himself with the contents of a pastoral letter which was issued recently by twelve churches? The signatories are as follows: - The Church of England in Australia; the Greek Orthodox Church; the Methodist Church in Australasia; the Congregational Church of Australia; the Lutheran Church of Australia (U.E.L.C.A.); the Church of Christ Conference in Australia; the Presbyterian Church of Australia; the Baptist Union of Australia; the Lutheran Church of Australia (E.L.C.A.); the Salvation Army, Southern and Eastern Territories; and the Roman Catholic Church. The signatories to the letter stated that they were gravely concerned about the placing in employment of children leaving school. They pointed out, as I had previously, that between November, 1961, and February, 1962, 48,589 school leavers had registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service. Is the Government aware that that was an increase of 12,262 on the number for the corresponding period in the previous year? Also, is it aware that at 2nd March last, 17,282 school leavers were recorded as unplaced in employment? Does the Minister recognize that that number is almost 5,000 more than the number of those who were unplaced at the corresponding period last year? Does he agree that the concern being experienced in this respect is not confined to the Opposition in this Parliament, but is widespread throughout the community?
– I cannot keep pace with the question.
– I cannot make the honorable senator intelligent. I can only try to make my question intelligible to him. Does the Minister realize that, even at this time of the year, there are still 8,451 males and 10,812 females - juniors - registered for employment? Will he treat this matter as a serious one? Finally, will he elaborate his statement that the Government is well satisfied with the position, and inform the Senate of the preparations that the Government has made to provide employment for the young people who will leave school at the end of this year?
– I am not in the least prepared to accept any odd paraphrase, which emanates from the mind of Senator Cooke, of remarks I may have made in the past. The answers I have given to his specific questions are on record in “ Hansard “, in language which he may quote instead of attempting to paraphrase my remarks. I wish to make it perfectly clear at the outset that I do not accept his paraphrase of my comments. I have noted the statement issued by the Churches to which the honorable senator has referred, and I have also noted that practically all the references in it were to conditions which existed about a year ago. To the best of my knowledge, they did not refer to conditions that existed later than March of this year, which is about eight months ago. Consequently, it seems to me that the statements are considerably out of date and do not relate to conditions which the honorable senator claims to exist at the present time.
I do not accept Senator Cooke’s statement that there are so many school leavers who are unemployed. I wish to state once again that the number of people registered for employment at a given time is not necessarily the same as the number of people unemployed. It includes people who have been placed in employment since they were registered but who have not informed the employment offices of the fact, and it also includes people who are changing their employment and those who are engaged in transitory employment throughout the Commonwealth. I refer the honorable senator to the statement recently made by the Minister for Labour and National Service concerning the steps he is taking, in conjunction with employers, to see that school leavers and other people are taken on at the end of this year. The Minister has put the situation clearly. That is an up-to-date statement, not one referring to a situation which existed eight months ago, such as that to which Senator Cooke referred.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Has the Government considered staff policies arising from the reported establishment of electronic data processing equipment in the defence services? Is it a fact that 1,500 officers at present engaged on administrative and clerical duties will lose their jobs as a result of the use of such equipment? Has the Government adopted a plan to find alternative employment for officers who become redundant? In the event of officers being transferred to other departments, will thencontinuity of service be preserved and will reasonable expenses involved in such transfers be met?
– I am sure that the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Army are fully cognizant of the effect that the introduction of electronic computers will have. I am also confident that, whatever happens, the staff will be treated fairly.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service noted that work was slightly more plentiful during October in all States except Queensland? Is an improvement in this position to be expected in Queensland in the next three months? What effect does the Minister expect holiday and seasonal lay-offs and the onrush of school leavers to have on the employment figures in Queensland during those months?
– I shall bring the question to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service. I am not in a position to say exactly what effect the employment of seasonal labour in Queensland is likely to have in the next three months, the period to which I think the honorable senator has referred. So much development of all kinds is going on in Queensland at the present time under the leadership of the Commonwealth Government, and financed with funds supplied by the Commonwealth Government, that there should be more opportunities for employment in that State than has been the case in the past.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: What are the Government’s views on and what is the latest information about the economic prospects of Australia obtaining some of its requirements of oil from our deposits of coal?
– Some two and a half years ago the Government appointed a special committee to inquire into the results of the expenditure of Commonwealth moneys on research into the,- uses of coal and to suggest means by which the uses of coal could be extended. I had hoped to table that committee’s report in the Senate before now, but I have not been able to do so. I hope to be able to table it before the Parliament rises. I forget the exact words used, but one of the committee’s findings is that it is not possible to see, in the short term, any economically successful production of oil from coal. The committee turned its mind to a series of other proposals and has made recommendations accordingly.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Prime Minister whether, when addressing the annual conference of the National Farmers Union on 15th November, the Prime Minister advised the conference to maintain pressure on the Federal Government and went on so say, “ This is the age of pressure, and you must never be afraid to maintain pressure on the political mind”. Would the Prime Minister give the same advice to the Waterside Workers Federation in its just campaign to have the remaining penal clauses of the Stevedoring Industry Act removed?
– I have no recollection of the Prime Minister making that statement. I presume Senator Cavanagh is quoting from some report.
– From the “ Sydney Morning Herald “.
– I do not think there is need to give any advice to the waterside workers to maintain pressure.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen reports of statements made in Perth at the week-end by Professor Sir Mark Oliphant in the course of delivering the A. D. Ross Inaugural lecture at the University of Western Australia? He is reported to have said of the Australian education system that it is only marginally different from that of Dickens’s day, and that its form and content have failed to keep pace with the great discoveries of modern science. Sir Mark also expressed the view that education should take precedence over everything else in the future, but that it now receives far less attention than, for example, military or economic problems. I ask the Minister whether he is aware that Sir Mark’s views are shared by many other eminent and responsible citizens, and, further, whether the Government still thinks it reasonable to refuse to appoint a national committee of inquiry into primary, secondary and tech nical education so that a comprehensive and authoritative picture of Australia’s overall educational needs may be obtained.
– I confess that one of the problems of modern government is that specialists in every field of activity claim that their field of activity should take precedence over all other fields. We have to face that position, not only with those who are interested in education, but also with people who are interested in every other activity.
– I suppose the national interest comes in somewhere.
– It is the task of the Government to apportion the nation’s resources in the way which it thinks will be in the best interests of the nation. I think the best reply I can give to Senator Cohen is that the Prime Minister went to a great deal of trouble to state the position of education in a White Paper which has been tabled in the Parliament. I do not see any prospect of our debating that paper in the Senate before we rise next week but I hope that we shall debate it at some time in the future, because I think that any white paper or any statement of government policy on education is going to be subject to criticism. I express my personal view that that White Paper shows a very sound approach to the whole problem by the Commonwealth Government and indicates the assumption by the Commonwealth of increasing financial responsibilities in certain spheres of tertiary education. In that connexion, I think the Prime Minister has made it plain that he has no expectation of accepting increased responsibilities in education, for a variety of reasons, quite apart from financial considerations, at least until such time as we see the end of our tertiary education programme.
– I direct the attention of honorable senators to what I consider to be the extraordinary length of the questions being asked. Far too much information is being given in many questions, and that calls for lengthy replies. I point out that if, during that part of the proceedings which is re-broadcast in the evening, lengthy questions containing a great deal of information and requiring lengthy replies are asked, fewer honorable senators will have the opportunity to ask questions which will be re-broadcast. For those reasons, I ask honorable senators to turn their attention to shortening questions and to giving less information, thus making it possible to cover a wider field during that part of the proceedings which is rebroadcast.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What was the cost of purchase and conversion of the property in Grenfell-street, Adelaide, which is now used as a mailing house? How does the cost per square foot of available space compare with the costs of the new mailing houses at Roma-street, Brisbane, and at Redfern, New South Wales?
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following reply: -
The cost was £470,976. The cost per square foot was below the cost of the new mail exchange at Brisbane and about equal to the cost of the new building at Redfern.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows - 1, 2 and 3. The registration and licensing of hospitals is a State function and all States have appropriate legislation. The Commonwealth approves registered or licensed hospitals for purposes of hospital benefits. Virtually all public hospitals and private hospitals, convalescent homes, &c, are approved for hospital benefit purposes. All public and approved private hospitals, other than those that are in the nature of benevolent homes, convalescent homes, homes for aged persons or rest homes are recognized under the National Health Act for Special Account purposes. A qualified patient in a recognized hospital who is insured for at least 16s. per day fund benefit is entitled to Commonwealth hospital benefits totalling 20s. a day. In addition, such patients are entitled to fund benefits. A qualified patient in an approved hospital which is not recognized for Special Account purposes is entitled to Commonwealth benefits totalling 20s. a day, but generally no fund benefit is payable. In determining whether a hospital shall be recognized or not for Special Account purposes under section 82b (2) (a) of the National Health Act, a comparison is made between the standards of the hospital and the standards generally prevailing in recognized public hospitals. The main points to which attention is directed are the standard of the accommodation generally, the standard of the clinical equipment, the ratio between the bed capacity and the number of trained nurses on the staff and, most importantly, the class of patient usually accommodated.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer: -
Reports on the activities of the mission in Austria are received regularly, and migration of both Austrian nationals and refugees continues to be an integral part of our migration planning and operations. 2 and 3. Austria has over the post-war years received a large number of refugees from iron curtain countries, and the majority of these refugees have sought to re-settle in immigrant receiving countries under various migration schemes. Australia regards these refugees as good migration material, and has received for permanent residence a total of 18,677 refugees from Austria since December, 1956.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which covers amendments to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956, provides for increased borrowing power by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and brings the act into line with the practice adopted since 1957 whereby sections of legislation relating to the bank accounts of statutory authorities are prepared or amended in a form that requires the authority to maintain its account with the Reserve Bank of Australia or other banks as approved by the Treasurer. Under section 30 (1) of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956, the commission may borrow money for temporary purposes on overdraft from such bank as the Treasurer approves, the aggregate of the amounts borrowed and not repaid not to exceed £1,000,000.
In February, 1959, the Treasurer’s approval, pursuant to section 30 (1.), was obtained for the commission to borrow on overdraft from the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia. Since that time the commission has used this medium to meet its fluctuating needs for liquid funds to satisfy recurring commitments for income tax, dividends and, on occasion, progress payments for the purchase of new ships. It has become evident, however, that the limit of £1,000,000 imposed by the act is too restrictive. In June, 1959, for instance, it became necessary to seek approval for the temporary deferment of the 1958 dividend payment of £975,876 due to the Treasury.
The bill provides in clause 3 for an increase in the existing overdraft limit of £1,000,000 to £5,000,000. This figure should be adequate to meet all foreseeable demands for liquid funds. The increased borrowing power is sought primarily because of the heavy capital expenditure which will be incurred by the commission on the new tonnage construction programme due for completion progressively over the next two or three years.
Vessels already on order for the commission, including the 21,400 tons “ Musgrave Range “ which is currently building at the shipyards of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Whyalla and was recently acquired by the commission, will incur an estimated capital expenditure for the period between the present time and 30th June, 1964, £6,578,500.
The commission is expected to operate in all respects on a commercial basis and should be conceded the normal facility of access to funds to meet temporary peak demands, within an acceptable ratio as between fixed capital and outside borrowed money. Even at the top limit of overdraft of £5,000,000, it gives a ratio of better than 3 to 1. Net assets of the commission, as at 31st December, 1961, were £20,700,000 and any overdraft arrangements entered into by the commission could be adhered to, and ample security could be given.
Sections 30, 31 and 32 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956 contain references to the Commonwealth Bank or other banks approved by the Treasurer. Clause 2 of the bill provides the definition of “ approved bank “ now commonly used to provide for bank accounts of statutory corporations, whilst clauses 4 and 5 of the bill suitably amend the act to allow for the general application of the definition of “ approved bank “.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27th November (vide page 1501), on motion by Senator Wood-
That Regulations Nos. 1 and 2 of the amendments of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1962, No. 82, and made under the Customs Act 1901- 1960, be disallowed.
– I support the motion for the disallowance of Regulations Nos. 1 and 2 of the amendments of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. The regulations are designed to remove from the First Schedule in the Statutory Rules works or articles that are blasphemous, indecent or obscene. Under the First Schedule, a total prohibition is placed on the admission to Australia of 27 items which have been carefully classified as dangerous or injurious to those who may gain possession of them. The effect of the regulations in Statutory Rules 1962, No. 82, is to transfer works or articles that are blasphemous, indecent or obscene from the list of goods, the importation of which is absolutely prohibited by law, to the list of goods the importation of which is prohibited unless the permission in writing of the Minister has been granted.
I agree entirely with the First Schedule as it is drawn up. I believe there should be a total prohibition on the works and articles prescribed. The regulation which is sought to be disallowed would remove from the First Schedule one item only. An explanatory memorandum issued by the authority of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) states -
The purpose of these amendments is to transfer Item 7 - “Blasphemous, indecent or obscene works or articles “, from the First Schedule to the Second Schedule of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. The First Schedule lists goods which are totally prohibited, whilst goods listed in the Second Schedule are prohibited unless the permission in writing of the Minister for Customs and Excise to import the goods has been granted.
In transferring the item provision has also been made for advertising matter relating to blasphemous, indecent or obscene works or articles to be covered. Previously this advertising matter was covered by the provisions of Item 2 of the First Schedule.
This action is being taken to give legal authority for the release of publications which are deemed to be blasphemous, indecent or obscene for the bona fide use of Universities, the medical and other professions and certain students. Release of books to such bodies or persons will only be granted in genuine cases.
While the amendment means that the Minister for Customs and Excise will have a discretion to permit, or to refuse to permit, the importation of works or articles which are blasphemous indecent or obscene, it does not mean that the Minister can determine the question whether any particular work or article is, as a matter of law, blasphemous, indecent or obscene.
Publications which may come within the scope of the prohibition will continue to be referred to the Literature Censorship Board for its views as to whether such publications are considered to be blasphemous, indecent or obscene.
The proposal is that literature or other material may be introduced into Australia at the total discretion of the Minister. It may be made available to certain persons in the community to be used in certain circumstances if the Minister for the time being can be convinced that there is a valid reason why the articles or publications that are blasphemous, indecent, obscene or pornographic should be made available to a person or to a section of the community. I emphasize that whether the article or publication is blasphemous, indecent, obscene or pornographic is not in doubt. Its nature has been determined quite definitely and the Minister has no discretion in that regard. This is not a matter of deciding that there should be some leniency concerning a particular article because it is not particularly blasphemous or obscene or is not particularly pornographic. A properly appointed authority has already decided that the designated articles or literature are blasphemous, obscene or pornographic and that they should not be admitted to Australia.
The main point under discussion is that it is proposed to give the Minister full discretion to admit such material in unspecified and unrestricted quantities. Nowhere is it definitely expressed that the Minister shall use his discretion in limiting the quantities of material that selected persons may be permitted to obtain. Therefore, I think the proposal to amend the regulations is very dangerous. There is strong and justified public feeling in church circles and among those interested, about the distribution and availability of indecent, obscene and pornographic literature against these provisions. The interests of the community are not properly protected and therefore the regulations as drafted are wrong and should not be allowed. I say quite definitely that these regulations should be disallowed.
In making his decision, the Minister will not be limited by considerations that the material to be admitted will be used for any particular purpose. The explanatory note states what would be considered proper and it would be very nice if it were done that way, but neither the Parliament nor the public has any assurance that permission to import the material will not be granted, apart from the confidence they have in a Minister who is in office at the time. We cannot be sure that permission will not be given for the entry of an article, a picture or literature of a blasphemous, obscene or pornographic nature. The Minister is to have almost unrestricted power to release material to certain persons or groups of persons.
– He will have completely unrestricted power.
– That is correct. We feel that the explanatory memorandum is not a sufficient guarantee to the people that the measure of protection against the importation of material will be nearly as effective as it should be. Admission of the material is not to be limited to any particular purpose. If certain sections of students, professors or doctors think they should study the material they have in mind, that is all they have to prove. I should imagine that there would be very many sources from which a doctor studying pornography, indecency or blasphemy and wanting to write a thesis, could draw material for his studies, apart from literature which had been totally excluded from this country. An assurance is given, in the explanatory note, that the matter will be submitted to the Literature Censorship Board, which undoubtedly will make its determination in relation to whether the literature is blasphemous, indecent or pornographic. The point we must remember is that it is proposed that one person, the Minister, will have power to override that decision, without reference to the Parliament or to any other authority, and without restriction as to quantity or purpose or in any other respect.
Another very bad feature is that, whatever the Minister’s decision, an appeal against it will not be possible. We could raise the matter in the Senate, but this would not be a protection, apart from the fact that the Minister would make an explanation. He would have power to act in accordance with the regulation and the law, and there would be no appeal from his decision.
– You do not think that he would have to justify his action?
– He would have to try to justify it. The Minister is being misled by the recommendation. I do not know whether or not this is a validating procedure or whether the regulations have been introduced in order to change the position, but I assure the Minister that if I were in his position I would feel that it was impossible to justify an abuse. It should not be left to one individual, put higher than the Parliament, higher than the body set up to make a determination in relation to pornography or indecent literature, to consider whether there has been an abuse by any person in the community.
I do not think that the literature censorship board and the Minister have been particularly narrow in our views. A very wide view has been taken of pornographic, obscene, indecent and blasphemous literature. One has only to walk to the shelves of the Library here to see that censorship has not been applied in any narrow-minded way. But in respect of material which would offend the feelings of most people and certainly of all decent people, and which was calculated to break down the moral fibre of the nation if it were disseminated or even passed from hand to hand, we are providing much better protection by the existing regulations which prescribe total prohibition. It should not be a matter of the Minister’s justifying his action after a fait accompli. As the position stands now, a person who believes that pornographic, indecent or blasphemous literature should be available to him has an opportunity to establish his claim in an open appeal against a decision of the Literature Censorship Board.
– Where, in the amendment to the regulations, is the word “ pornography “ used?
– It is a section of “ obscenity “.
– There is a clear distinction between obscenity and pornography. It is referred to in the Second Schedule.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - -Order
– Irrespective of what the honorable senator says, I should say that indecent literature could be pornographic and pornographic literature could be indecent. If he is anxious about protection in respect of pornography, I would include that. I would not split hairs on a definition of indecency or pornography. I do not want to do that and I do not want to mislead. If I have included that word, and if the honorable senator has some legal definition showing that pornographic material is not the same as indecent material, I shall not argue with him. My objection is that it is proposed to remove a protection that was sought by every section of the Australian community. The restrictions at present are not such as to prevent fulfilling the legitimate requirements of persons who have an established reason for wanting literature of that type. Therefore, I submit that the regulations should be disallowed and that Parliament should be most careful to protect the nation in relation to these matters.
If there is to be any alteration, if there is to be a breaking down of the protection, this should be clearly set out in a statute, with provision for the right of appeal against a decision made by an individual, with the Parliament and the public being made aware of any relaxation of the prohibition of declared, indecent, obscene or blasphemous articles. The proposed alteration is not justified or good. It is bad in every sense. It would be better to maintain the existing provisions. If the Government thinks that there is not provision for sufficient flexibility, the matter should be handled in a different manner without putting the responsibility on a Minister who may be replaced from time to time. He should not have power to override authorities properly appointed to make determinations. As a result of submissions made by letter or in any other manner, which convince the Minister, he may, without the knowledge of the Parliament or of the community, under the amended regulations, allow the entry of this objectionable material in unrestricted quantities. There will be no appeal against the determination of the Minister, but the Minister says that he will have to justify his decision afterwards to the Parliament only if somebody raises the matter. In those circumstances, the Minister would try desperately to justify his decision. However, the matter would not be raised unless some abuse had occurred and was known to have occurred.
– I suggest that the Minister would not make a decision if he could not justify it.
– The Minister would suggest that. I think that in his own mind he believes that that would be so, but that is a very weak argument to justify this course, particularly when there is no provision for appeal, and especially as we know how evasive a Minister can be when publicly required to justify a course which, perhaps not intentionally, has caused damage to people and is against the will of 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the people.
I support the motion. I was not the author of the report that was brought down but I strongly support the disallowance of the regulation. I seconded the motion in the committee’s deliberations to move for the disallowance of the regulations. I leave the matter to the Senate, which can defeat the regulation and ensure that the Australian public is properly protected. If the Senate rejects our recommendation it will loosen the control that has always been thought necessary in relation to this type of literature. A crime is not a crime unless one is found out. The Minister said by interjection that he would have to justify his decisions, but his approvals and rejections of applications would not be known to the Parliament or to the public.
There is no provision for any one apart from the Minister to know of the lifting of a prohibition. If it were done, it would be done, and probably under departmental regulations would have to be done, without publicity. The Minister would not allow it to be known and his servants would be obliged not to disclose it. So I ask: Why put further into the dark something that is already pretty well hidden? Why not have it out in the open so as to enable a proper and honourable appeal to be made if there is a disagreement in relation to the nature of the literature concerned and the justification for the restrictions placed on it? If we do this we will be better served as a country.
.- A debate of this sort should be approached with our having a clear understanding of the problem that we intend to discuss. It is imperative to understand at the outset that the motion to disallow these regulations impugns nobody but is in good faith designed simply to ask the Senate to decide whether or not the regulations, in their present form, conform to the Senate’s standard of acceptable subordinate legislation. The Senate has spoken on that subject. It appointed a special committee to bring before the Senate any regulation which, to mention two of the relevant criteria, trespasses unduly on the personal rights and liberties of citizens or unduly makes the rights and liberties of citizens dependant upon administrative and not judicial decisions.
Senator Prowse made some references in his speech to a matter my own interpretation of which I should like to clarify. It is right to say that in relation to action taken about the importation of printed matter regarded as indecent, blasphemous or obscene certain persons have individual rights - pre-eminent rights arising from their specialities. I am the first to acknowledge the concern that these regulations show for the rights of people engaged in science, literature and art. I believe that a gynaecological specialist would have a legitimate right to examine, for the purpose of advancing his scientific knowledge, literature that might be regarded as obscene if it were generally available. I have no time to share the luxury of those litterateurs who can delve into marginal indecencies, but there are some people who say that such borderline works have literary qualities and should be accessible to particular students. So it is quite clear that in considering this particularized aspect of importation where it is proposed, in effect, to establish a system of import licencing under ministerial control, we must recognize that there are individual rights to be weighed. I have mentioned those pertaining to science, art and literature, but there are also rights of a commercial nature which pertain to publishing firms and importers of printed works. Needless to say, I would have no sympathy, if I were the judge, with any commercial interest that was based upon indecency. So let us understand that in this realm of importation and trading there are certain individual rights to be considered. We want to be quite sure that the regulations that it is proposed to disallow would, if not disallowed provide proper protection consonant with the rules laid down by the Senate to guide us as to the kind of subordinate legislation that we should permit to go into effect.
The second of the two criteria concerns the question, which we must consider, of whether the regulations make civil rights unduly dependant upon administrative as distinguished from judicial decisions. In this age we tend much more easily than we did when the Senate established that criterion in 1934 to give ready acceptance to decisions of administrative tribunals. But at that time even an administrative tribunal constituted to follow the processes of the court was not equipped with the independence of the judiciary. I hope that nobody mistakenly denies that the independence of the courts for over three centuries under our democratic system has been the safeguard of our liberty. There is still an important distinction between judicial and administrative decisions. But here we are not concerned even with decisions of administrative tribunals. We are concerned with a decision uncontrolled by any rule of law and incapable of examination by any judicial process. I say this objectively and apply it to no particular person, least of all the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Henty), but the decision involved in this matter is ultimately the arbitrary decision of the Minister concerned according to his personal views. It is a ministerial decision as to whether permission should be given for the importation of works regarded by somebody as indecent.
What would be the effect of these regulations? My condemnation of them, Mr. President, does not depend upon any merits of the regulations that they propose to supersede. Those regulations have so long stood that it is no credit to us or to this Parliament that they have continued to operate. But the present Minister, if I may be permitted to say a personal word, can be given credit for having evolved during his term of office a procedure which makes more acceptable the application of the schedule of the Customs Act absolutely prohibiting the importation of indecent literature. I think that we would all readily recognize that it is not acceptable to us that a Minister of the Crown - a political representative elected to represent people politically - should have the right to establish an arbitrary censorship and make an arbitrary decision on what is and what is not indecent in literature. The Minister established a Literature Censorship Board the members of which, so far as I know, are specialists in the literary field and, as far as I know, their advice is of assistance to the Minister. I have no doubt that in the majority of cases the present Minister accepts that advice. That is an improvement, but to my mind it is not sufficient.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I said that the proposal to disallow this regulation carried no personal significance whatever. I referred to the manner in which the present Minister had improved the position. In the same context, I want to make passing reference to the legislation that Senator Henty introduced on the subject of the licensing of import agents. I took the opportunity to express my approval of it. That legisla tion embodied the system of an administrative tribunal, with a right of one appeal to a judicial court.
Passing from that, let me say that as the regulations stand, unamended by the regulation that we propose should be disallowed, the law prohibits the importation of indecent literature. The Minister makes a decision with the aid of a literature censorship board, but a person who is injured by an adverse decision made in error has the right to have a court decide whether the imported material was indecent or not. I think that that is clear. I go on from there to say that if this proposed amendment is upheld by the Senate, that fundamental decision still remains. If a decision is made favorable to importation - that is to say, if it is decided that the material is not indecent - this regulation is not invoked. This regulation applies only to material that is properly decided to be indecent, but which, nevertheless, the Minister has the right to exempt from the prohibition of importation and to issue a licence for its importation. That is the vice of the proposed legislation. In the interests of people who import such material for the purposes of literature, art or science or for other legitimate purposes, a political minister is not the appropriate person to make the judgment, even if he is honest, but on some occasions you may get instances of dishonesty. To repose that power in the hands of a single executive and political person is most dangerous.
But, Mr. President, not only are the interests of these special importers to be considered. The interests of the public should also be considered. We are dealing with material which, on the argument I am submitting, has been decided properly to be indecent. There is a large section of the community which holds - I believe with a good deal of justification - the opinion that such material should not be made accessible to certain vulnerable sections of the community. I pose as no judge of the proprieties, and certainly not as a prude, but I am still impressionable enough to think that those of the vulnerable age of youth should not have the opportunity to be excited under certain cricumstance and conditions by having access to indecent literature. Their protection against that should not depend upon the single decision of a political and executive Minister. You can see, Mr. President, that the regulation proposes to give the Minister unqualified authority to license the import of indecent literature.
– If I may interject, that is not quite right. It gives an opportunity to a selected person to buy. He can buy anywhere he likes. We are not licensing commercial people.
– Not in a commercial sense. Do not let us think of import licensing only in a commercial sense. This affects the right to import and the right of the public to be protected from indecent imports. I submit that the Minister alone should not have the right to permit or license importation.
The committee has pointed out that in the third schedule to these regulations items are listed, the importation of which is prohibited except with the permission of the Minister on certain conditions. I do not quote that as a precedent. I submit that the whole of that schedule should be thoroughly re-examined, whether by a Liberal government or by a Labour government, and put upon a proper basis. I mention the third schedule to show that it would be acting within the framework of the present legislative structure to say that the importation of indecent literature is prohibited, except with the permission of the Minister and on the following conditions: - First, that only one volume shall be imported; secondly, that it shall be for university or scientific purposes; and, thirdly, that the importation shall be on the recommendation of a scientific board, literature board or some body of that sort. Then there could be a section which gave an appeal to a court against the recommendation of such a board.
It is not my office to make suggestions of that sort. I desire in no way to encroach upon the governmental function, but that is the sort of thing which, in my opinion, would not attract the adverse opinion of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. The committee is not in existence to evolve policy or pass judgment upon policy. It simply determines whether or not, in its opinion, a regulation conforms to the requirement that people’s rights should not be entirely dependent upon administrative decisions, but rather upon judicial decisions. It may be said that these matters are too technical. Let me just quietly remind the Senate that for a long time I have had an abiding, patient and restrained interest in reforming the process of import licensing generally. We shivered the timbers of this place in 1956 when we proposed that the whole of the import licensing regulations should be disallowed. As a result, wisdom prevailed and a little remedy was provided in the form of a review board, but it took five years, and an election, to show that the system of quantitative restrictions could be managed if recommended by a public tribunal - the Tariff Board - that had the duty of giving audience to all interested people. It has taken until yesterday, when an amendment was made to the Tariff Board legislation, to show that in part licences can be made public by advertisements in the “ Gazette “ giving the names of the persons in respect of whom ministerial discretion has been exercised, and specifying the goods involved. All of those, Mr. President, are steps in the direction of preventing one political mind from having the right to determine whether I should trade, whether you should trade, or whether neither of us should trade.
So long as that principle applies, let the litterateurs, the scientists, the artists, and all those who feel that the regulations will be exercised for their benefit, realize that the Minister of the day may steadfastly say, “I would not allow the importation of one of those books”. That is to say, he may absolutely refuse to permit importation. But the next thing he may say is, “ I will allow Professor A to have this book, but not Professor B “. Or he may say, “ I will allow the Faculty of Arts to have this book, but not the Faculty of Medicine “. On the other hand, he may say, “ I will allow a particular political institution which is interested specially in sociology and which wishes to know the depths of degradation that may be reached in certain sexual activities, to have this book, but I will f orbit it to others whose minds, in my opinion, are not trained to use it for such a creditable purpose “.
In other words, there is an unlimited right to discriminate, not only as to the persons who should have access but also as to the purposes for which the access may be used. That is something which cannot be tolerated in a community which enjoys parliamentary democracy. Legislation which is open to the fresh air of public scrutiny through debate in this place may be misguided, but we should never allow subordinate legislation of this kind to go through. There is always the odd chance that, from the 122 members of the House of Representatives and the 60 members of the Senate, a voice will be raised against the evils of such a system.
I wish to speak of only three other matters, each of which impels me to advocate the disallowance of these regulations. The first is a reminder of history. When we are dealing with censorship, and with prohibiting or permitting access to the printed word, one is reminded of the period between 1400 and 1700, when the printing of any matter was subject to government licence. History shows that that control was used, on the pretext of preventing seditious libel, to inhibit reform. It produced an insistence on the part of our people that the Parliament shall frame the principles upon which access to printed material may be withheld or granted.
The second comment I wish to make, Mr. President, is that this matter could never be considered in relation to legislation as between the various States of Australia, because section 92 of the Constitution guarantees the fundamental freedom of interstate trade. Our Constitution gives no guarantee of freedom of international trade, but in the exposition of interstate freedom of trade, the High Court of Australia recently has robustly said that if the Minister claims, or has conferred upon him, the right to license interstate traders, that is the very denial of freedom. To put trade in the position whereby it may be carried on only on the licence of a Minister has been held, by no less exalted an authority than the High Court, within the last ten years, to be the very denial of freedom.
The third consideration which I invoke is that the States of Australia already have laws upon this subject. If a Commonwealth Minister takes unfettered discretion to permit the importation of indecent material, and purports to authorize a professor, a scientist or, in a mistaken moment, a pseudo- scientist or a pseudo-artist, to import such material or to permit a commercial house to import 5, 50 or 50,000 volumes, he may encounter resentment such as that which has arisen between the Commonwealth and State aviation authorities over the granting of liquor licences. As honorable senators are aware, we made an effort to reconcile the conflicting views in that respect when the relevant legislation was going through this chamber, and to require that the granting of federal licences should conform as nearly as possible to State laws. Nevertheless, the matter has evoked contention in recent days.
Let me refer to the Tasmanian legislation to indicate the kind of matters which are made police offences in that State. The Tasmanian act provides that an indecent document means a book or any print or volume of an indecent nature, or which suggests indecency. It provides that no person shall sell or print such a document, or cause it to be inserted in a newspaper, sent through the post or exhibited in a public place, to mention only a few of the provisions. It will be seen that the State act gives a particular definition of the type of activity, in relation to indecent material, which is prohibited. The legislation which was evolved in Tasmania as long ago as 1935 provides that, in determining whether any document is of an indecent nature, the magistrate shall take into consideration not merely the nature of that document but also the nature and circumstances of the act done and the purpose for which the act was done, and the literary, scientific or artistic merit or importance of the document. I shall forbear to read the next section, which shows that in respect of some matters indecency exists per se.
I think I have said sufficient to show that the State criminal law in Tasmania, and which no doubt is similar to the law of other States, prohibits certain activities in connexion with indecent material. Indecent material is not defined in those words, but it is defined having regard to the circumstances which must be taken into account. The act refers to the literary, scientific and artistic merit or importance of the document concerned, whereas the proposed regulation that we are discussing leaves the Federal Minister free either to take those matters into account or to reject them. He may form his own opinion of what is indecent. The regulation purports to give to the importer a licence or authority to import the material, and it thereby comes into conflct with State laws, such as the Tasmanian law to which I have referred.
– Where does it purport to give him the power to decide that it is indecent?
– Because the regulation is only framed in terms of indecent material.
– So it is not within his power to determine it.
– I said that in the forefront of my opinion.
– That is not what you said a few moments ago.
– I stand corrected. I am obliged to the honorable senator for correcting me in that detail. What I should say is that it gives the Federal Minister the power by his ipse dixit - uncontrollable by any court and unexaminable by any authority except Parliament - to decide whether he should act by reason of the nature of the document, the nature and circumstance of the act done, and the purpose for which it was done, or by reason of the literary, scientific or artistic merit of the document, or whether he should exclude those things from his consideration, not in deciding whether the document is indecent but in deciding whether or not he should make a decision to permit the document, decided to be indecent, to be imported.
– Who decides that it is indecent?
– I want to make it clear that my conception of the position is that at the present time the Minister, in administering the regulations, as they exist unamended, decides it, but I have submitted to the Senate that that decision could be reviewed by a court If the evidence were available and if the court were persuaded that the material prohibited from importation or withheld by Customs was not indecent, no Minister would have the right to say “ Yea “ or “ Nay “ to the question whether it should be imported. The proposal in the regulations is that in a case where material has been properly decided to be indecent, the Minister should have the right to say “ Yea “ or “ Nay “ regardless of circumstances, irrespective of purpose, regardless of quantity and regardless of discrimination between persons. My submission is that the Senate should disallow that proposal.
– Once again the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has drawn the attention of the Senate to a regulation which it feels offends the spirit of the law of subordinate legislation and certainly offends the charter under which the committee works. Since we last had a debate of this nature in this place, the committee has met several times and has examined some hundreds of regulations. Whenever we have felt some concern about a regulation we have been examining, we have called before us witnesses from the particular department concerned. In nearly all cases the committee was satisfied with the explanations given by the departmental witnesses and therefore did not feel it necessary to draw the attention of the Senate to worries which had been dispelled.
In debates such as this, it is always very difficult to persuade the Senate to examine the principle which should be followed in dealing with subordinate legislation and to move away from the emotions which are aroused by that topic. I remember that when we dealt with import licensing people were running around and saying that we wanted to destroy the whole of the import licensing system, which was at that time one of the most important economic struts with which the Government was shoring up the economy of Australia.
Senator Wright has made the point, and I want to emphasize it, that policy is not the business of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. We carefully refrain from dealing with matters of policy. Indeed, it would be impudent on our part to attempt to advise the Minister how he should run his department or as to what new regulations he needed. The committee works under the four headings that have been referred to, but uses them only as a guide. That is certainly so in my case. The committee is not bound by them. They are useful as a guide to the Senate and to the members of the committee, who come and go, as to the type of thing that should be watched.
It is a little unfortunate that to-day we are dealing with the question of indecent literature, because this question is connected with that of censorship, which is a cause of much controversy between various sections of the press, the people and the customs authorities. Since this matter has been raised people have asked me, “ Do you want some blue-nosed customs officer telling you what you should read? “ That has nothing to do with this matter at all. We are not now arguing the merits or otherwise of censorship; we are merely submitting to the Senate a principle which we have submitted for its consideration on at least two other occasions. Let me quote briefly from two previous reports by the committee which were debated at length by the Senate. In the report dealing with import licensing, which at that time was the very important and delicate instrument which the Government was using to help its economic policy, we said -
The Minister may, even after the issue of a licence, vary existing conditions or, by direction in writing to the licensee, add new conditions.
The conditions may refer to requirements to be complied with by the licensee after the importation as well as before.
The scope of the conditions which the Minister may impose is limited only by the judgment or discretion of the Minister or licensing officer.
The next statement, which I think is most important, reads -
The conditions may be different for and discriminate between individuals in exactly the same position.
The Minister may revoke a licence at will. The decision of the Minister is final and not open to review.
I ask honorable senators whether they notice some similarity between the objections to this regulation and the objections we lodged to the whole of the import licensing system - not to the licensing of one individual item, but to the licensing of everything from books to motor cars, olive oil, olives and so on. On that occasion, we were dealing with the whole range of commercial imports. I refer the Senate to a book entitled “ Freedom under the law”, by L. J. Denning, in which this passage appears -
An official who is the possessor of power often does not realize when he is abusing it. Its influence is so insidious that he may believe he is acting for the public good, when, in truth, all he is doing is to assert his own brief authority. The Jack in office never realizes he is being a little tyrant. ^.
Later on, dealing with the question of export controls, we asserted this principle again. I can summarize it briefly by saying that every individual in the community should have equal rights laid down for him by this Parliament and that he should not be subjected to the whim of the person dealing with him or any person who may be dealing with him in the future. That was when we used the expression that the individual’s right was determined and finally decided by the administrators. Later on we said that that expressed bureaucracy in the ultimate. All that we are doing in asking the Senate to disallow these regulations is insisting that the conditions be laid down by the Parliament so that everybody in the community knows what his rights are; knows that his rights are not liable to change from day to day at the whim of somebody or other; and knows that he cannot be given one thing one day and his neighbour be dealt with in a different way under exactly the same set of circumstances.
Senator Prowse is the only dissenting member of the committee. I did not have the benefit of listening to his speech, but I read it very carefully in “Hansard”. He asked how we could possibly set up a right of appeal in the circumstances. For half a page of “ Hansard “ he raised all the problems that would be faced in setting up an appeal system. That has been the voice of conservatism throughout the ages. That voice has said that you cannot do anything differently from the way you have been doing it. That was the argument that was put before the committee on the import controls question. People asked how we would set up some system of appeal. But immediately the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) had our proposals put before him, he acceded to them and in fact did the very thing that Senator Prowse says cannot be done; that is, he set up a system of appeals in each of the various industries. If a person in the timber industry had a complaint, he had a right of appeal.
– What was the charter of the appeal board?
– I do not remember the details of it. Speaking from memory, I think it worked something like this -
– I understood that the appeal was within departmental policy.
– Was not an appeal board set up in each State and not in each industry?
– An appeal board was set up in each State, as I understand it. 1 am throwing my mind back a bit now. The Government brought in people in the industry. However, I do not think that point is important. It is detail. I am pointing out what the Minister for Trade did. I do not understand the interjection that it was departmental policy. The point is that for many years we operated without this system, but when the committee indicated its disapproval and pointed out the harm that could be done, Mr. McEwen immediately set up a system of appeals. Do not let us go into details.
– Nobody ever said that the system was perfect.
– No, not at all. very often some people think that we members of the committee are a little unreasonable. Nobody was ever satisfied that that system was the perfect answer. Nobody on the committee thought that it was the final answer. We realized the practical difficulties. We realized the spot that the Minister was in. We certainly found that we had a lot of common ground when we tried to assist him when he sought our advice. The point I set out to make was that Senator Prowse pointed out how difficult it would be to set up this appeal system, but the fact is that it has already been done in relation to import controls.
Senator Wright has dealt already with the question of standards. Senator Prowse seemed to indicate that they were not being offended against. To me it is as plain as a pikestaff that these regulations, if they were allowed, would trespass unduly on the personal rights of individuals. In my view they would make the rights of citizens unduly dependent upon administrative rather than judicial decisions. Unless we want it spelt out letter by letter, it certainly offends against those two principles.
– Somebody said something, but I do not know what it was.
– I just expressed disagreement; that is all.
– I am afraid that you do that frequently, and generally without much logic and lately without much argument. I have never seen a fellow deteriorate as quickly as you have.
We are not saying that the Minister is not completely within his rights in amending the regulations or laying down a new policy. There is no question of that. What we are saying is that it should not be done by subordinate legislation and it should not be left to the whim of the Minister of the day. After all, he will not be here for ever. Other people will take his place. These things should be laid down by this Parliament.
– I would trust a Labour Minister just as much.
– I am sure you would. You should trust a Labour Minister more, with your vast knowledge of politics. You have seen a few ministers in charge of your department sacked even without a change of government, so do not become complacent with that boss of yours. You may not be there for ever.
We say that these things should be clearly laid down. If we look at Schedule III., we see that the Minister has already laid down conditions in relation to various things. If I want to import certain commodities in the Third Schedule, I merely have to look at the law as laid down by this Parliament to know exactly what size the commodity is, what weight it is, and how many I can import. I do not have to go along to the Minister and ask him to give me an import licence. I know perfectly well that under the Third Schedule I will be treated in exactly the same way as my neighbour will be treated.
I did not want to refer to the matter to which I shall now refer. This matter has been discussed outside this Parliament. The discussion there has got away from the pure principle of the matter. I shall deal with what I might call the private view or the other angle of this problem, as distinct from the committee’s view. The subject with which we are dealing is indecent literature and the advertising of it. First, as both Senator Cooke and Senator Wright have said, there is no question that these books with which we are dealing are indecent beyond all reasonable doubt. The present Minister is carrying on a running fight, as previous ministers have had to do. He knows that when a book is declared to be indecent, it is definitely indecent, if we are to judge from the books that we come across when looking around the libraries. Evidently, we have reached the situation where some people in the community should be allowed to look at these books from another angle. As far as I know, no evidence exists that the medical profession, for instance, is being hampered or hamstrung by not being able to look at books that have been declared indecent. However, evidently there is some such evidence; otherwise the Minister would not have moved to amend the regulations at all.
I repeat that this is not a question of no censorship as against some censorship. It is a question of allowing some people in the community to look at literature that has been declared to be indecent beyond all reasonable doubt. Why the Minister should seek to make these regulations, I do not know, because the moment we allow a book, a paper or an article into somebody’s hands we do not attach a tag to it. There is nothing to stop that person handing on the book, or whatever it might be. If we attach a tag to it in respect of that person, we have no guarantee that a tag will be attached to it in respect of the next person. We do not know what will become of it when he takes possession of the book. There is nothing to stop him advertising it by word of mouth. Evidently there is nothing to stop him selling it because once he has bought the book it certainly becomes his property.
The only way that he would be restricted would be by State law. If he started to move into other fields, he would come within the realm of State law, unless he was able to get outside it.
We have heard a lot of talk about these books going to universities. That is all very fine. We might have special students at the universities. But I do not admit that in handing a book to a professor or a student in a university we are handing it to anybody with higher morals or a greater sense of responsibility than other people in the community have. That is one of the great difficulties that we will face. I concede that a university is probably an area to which we might feel constrained to give some special benefit. On the other hand, we have this running fight between the advocates of censorship and no censorship. Both views are held strongly by some sections of the1 community. Many say there should not be any censorship at all. The situation now is that once a book is completely banned, the Minister has no power to say that it may be handed round to anybody in the community. The proposal is that the Minister should be allowed to permit such a book to be handed out to certain persons. In such a case, what will happen when the present Minister leaves office and some other person - perhaps somebody who believes there should not be any censorship at all - succeeds to the post?
– You would not appoint him to the position.
– That is a naive suggestion. There is a big difference between getting Cabinet to agree to the cessation of censorship in the face of public feeling and allowing a Minister to take advantage of the proposed law so that an indecent book may go out to the commercial world or certain sections of it. Senator Laught must know from his years of experience that that would be one way of getting around the censorship. That is what supporters of these amending regulations are laying themselves open to. If a future Minister for Customs and Excise believes - as does a large section of the community now - that there should not be any censorship and he has the power to make the decisions as proposed in the amendments to the regulations, without coming to the Parliament, he could contravene or get around the censorship laws.
– He could allow in a book that he previously declared indecent.
– The only point I want to make is that I would have preferred to stand on the question of principle, but I feel that this issue goes further. The amendments to the regulations might just as well have been directed to some other item under the First Schedule. The first item is absinthe which is totally prohibited. I think I speak for the majority of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee when I say that we might have applied the principle to absinthe and have insisted that it was a dangerous alcoholic drink. Then we would have taken the same objection to somebody in the Department of Customs and Excise or some other department saying that some person could have two cases of absinthe while somebody else could not have any. I mention other departments because these regulations are not always confined to the Department of Customs and Excise.
These are the principles that we have argued in three reports. There should not be discrimination between citizens, depending on those who support legislation. This principle has to be guarded continually because if we depart from it, there are inherent dangers to our democratic form of government.
– Would you not be discriminating between persons if you wrote it into the law ?
– In such a case, we would not lay down any more than is done now in relation to the importation of corn sacks and other things. You lay down by law a system and conditions under which a citizen may import goods, but there is no difference in the application of the law to various individuals. Under the regulations as originally drafted both Senator Prowse and I would get completely equal treatment if we wanted to import something listed in the Third Schedule. We would not have to go cap-in-hand to Senator Henty as the Minister for Customs and Excise, or to his successor, to find out where we stand. We know, by an enactment of this Parliament, where we stand. If you remove that rule, you get discrimination. You cannot avoid it because you would then get different officers handling different people.
I suggest that the principles that have previously been adopted by this Parliament are sound. The same principles should apply to literature of the type mentioned, to physical things or anything else. The Senate will be taking a retrograde step if it allows the proposed amendments to the regulations to go through unchallenged.
I wish to make one final point which I overlooked earlier. As I said at the outset, Senator Wright insisted that it is not our job to make policy. What will happen if this proposal is rejected? The matter will not be thrown back into the field of absolute prohibition. It will be delayed only for the time that it takes the Minister to write another regulation. He can do that. He might choose to put it under the Third Schedule under which he can provide prohibitions or restrictions. He might take some other action.
– Did the Regulations and Ordinances Committee suggest alternatives?
– When the Minister for Trade asked us to confer with him, some informal suggestions were made. It is not our job to make recommendations to the Minister. He has a good staff and he can bring down recommendations. The motion for the disallowance of the regulations would not kill the situation the Minister wants to achieve. There are other ways to achieve it; but this proposal is offensive in the field of supporting legislation. The committee has followed this line consistently and it has been debated previously. The Senate would be well advised to reject the amendment to the regulations.
– I rise to oppose the motion before the Senate. As I see the position, until this regulation was promulgated, there was an absolute ban on importation of blasphemous, indecent or obscene works or articles. As a result of the amendment to the regulations, they will now fall under the heading of goods the importation of which is prohibited unless permission is granted in writing by the Minister for Customs and Excise. As I see it, that should not be offensive. There has been a good deal of debate this afternoon on the incompetence or irresponsibility of the Minister - not the present occupant of that post but of the Minister for Customs and Excise of the Commonwealth. One has only to look at the various types of articles, goods, birds and animals that are at present in the Second Schedule to see that tremendous responsibilities in the hands of the Minister have been unchallenged for many years. We in the Senate have never heard a complaint about any permission that has been given in writing by the Minister for the importation of many of the objects that are set out in the Second Schedule.
The Minister, first, under the Constitution must be elected to Parliament. Secondly, to be a Minister, he must be the personal choice of the leader of the majority section in another place. The Minister is expected to attend the Parliament every day that it is sitting and for some considerable time - sometimes for up to an hour before the work of the Parliament gets under way - he must answer questions concerning the administration of his department. So I submit that there are safeguards for the conduct of the Minister. He is a member of either House and he is charged with responsibility. He is under public surveillance at all times while in office. His actions on all matters are subject to challenge on the floor of the House and, during that challenge, they are subject to full public scrutiny. Thanks to the press and broadcasting, any wrongful or careless act of the Minister, or any act showing that he was in favour of obscenity or blasphemy, would immediately become public, and a majority of the elected representatives of the people could take action. So under the present system the actions of the Minister are under very severe and fierce scrutiny. As he is not parked away, but is always out in front in public view, I am prepared to leave to him the whole question of whether he is persuaded to admit articles of literature that in normal circumstances would be regarded as blasphemous, obscene or indecent. 1 understand that in university and medical circles it is appropriate that students*, research workers and others be trained in certain odd aspects of life. For the preservation of the normal way of life, they should know the dangers. How can they properly know part of their science, how can they be adequately prepared for their careers, if access to this type of literature for this specific purpose is denied to them? I believe it is right that there should not be an absolute prohibition in these matters. It is right that the Minister, subject to the safeguards that I have already mentioned - the publicity and the scrutiny - should be entitled to admit, by his writing, certain things that are otherwise prohibited. We would be putting the clock back unnecessarily if there were not this discretion in the Minister.
We give our Minister for Customs and Excise enormous discretion under the law. He is able to admit, by by-law, goods from overseas which in his opinion are essential for industry - of course, within the framework of the act. The admission by by-law of material that may involve the revenue to the extent of £200,000 or £300,000 is within his discretion. He acts with the stroke of a pen and he has been doing that for 62 years since this Commonwealth was founded. We admit the desirability of giving him these discretions. I believe that the admission of this literature, on proper request to him which he may scrutinize, is quite in order and in accordance with the development of a modern community.
The committee applied itself to some questions of complaint with regard to the Minister’s discretion. It said that the discretion was unrestricted in relation to quantity. I fail to understand what the committee meant by that. Whether it would be satisfied if a certain quantity were specified in a regulation, I do not know. One cannot say whether it is proper or improper for the Minister to admit two or 22 copies of a certain book or article. The committee stated that a particular purpose should be specified and that as permission in writing is not limited to any particular purpose it is thereby bad. I cannot see how it would be possible within the compass of regulations, or legislation for that matter, to set down specifically the particular purposes for which the Minister should exercise his discretion.
Then the committee stated that the procedure was faulty because it was not controlled by any condition laid down in the regulations, such as by a recommendation of the Literature Censorship Board. As far as I understand the position, the Minister has a large department of expert men. I should say that in the normal course he would refer a question of book censorship to his literature censorship officers. I should think that it would not be desirable to set out what is normal practice for any Minister of the Crown controlling a department, a man who would take advice from his expert officers.
The committee stated that the procedure was faulty because it did not provide for an appeal on the question of whether the Minister should or should not admit these objectionable articles. For the life of me, I cannot see how an appeal tribunal could be fairly constituted to hear appeals against the decisions of the Minister. The greatest court of appeal on the decision of any Minister, if he happens to be a Senate Minister, is the Senate, and if he happens to be a House of Representatives Minister, is the House.
– How would the House be made aware of the deviation from protection?
– In the same way as Senator Cooke is made aware of any matter that he brings up. I suggest that the best court of appeal would be a chamber of the Parliament. It would be a very great pity if somebody set his mind to drawing up regulations that would govern the actions of the Minister for Customs and Excise. It would be an impossible task to draw up sufficient and adequate regulations. The best way is to leave it in the way that articles in the Second Schedule are left at the moment. For instance, I understand that at one time birds were specified, and every time it was desired that the importation of a bird be prohibited, the regulations had to be amended by the addition of the ornithological name of the bird. That procedure seems quite impossible &t present. If anybody desires to import a book and is prevented by action of the Minister, an appeal may go forward. It may go to the High Court of Australia. That is sufficient safeguard for the community. If the Minister allows in an already banned book, it is not necessary to have any court of appeal other than that which relates to the banning of the book in the first instance. I should think that the scrutiny that this Parliament can give to the action of the Minister or any course followed by him would be sufficient.
– I am pleased to be reminded by the presentation of the eighteenth report of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee that that committee is still active and alert. Although we hear only occasionally from that body I acknowledge on this occasion, as always, that we are grateful for the great work that it does and for the obligation of which its members relieve us by giving constant attention to the great stream of subordinate legislation that the committee reviews. The commitee has at its disposal outside counsel to give it advice in its deliberations. I take the opportunity to thank the Minister for his courtesy in making available to me the services of two of his officers who are very helpful in informing my mind on this very interesting subject.
The portion of the regulation which is under challenge deals with the importation of “ blasphemous, indecent and obscene works or articles”. It is hard to find one term to cover all three categories of goods and perhaps if I use the word “ improper “ in reference to the works and articles concerned the Senate will understand that I am referring to works and articles which are blasphemous, indecent and obscene.
The first test that one applies when considering a regulation is whether or not it is within power, constitutionally. There is no doubt that the power of the Commonwealth Parliament over imports is complete, unfettered and dominant. I do not go into the question of how far the quality of imports will attach to goods once they arrive in the country and go into circulation. There may be a problem associated with the control of things in such circumstances. There must be a time when goods cease to be imports and become ordinary goods circulating in the community. But at all events there is undoubted power in the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws governing imports.
The next question is whether the regulation is authorized by the act. Of that, too, there is no doubt. Until 1952 Part IV., Division 1, of the Customs Act totally prohibited the importation of improper books and articles. In 1952 Part IV. was repealed and substantially re-enacted in a new provision contained in section 50 which authorizes the Governor-General by regulation to prohibit the importation of goods into Australia. So we used the method of making regulations thenceforth. In 1956 we find prohibited imports regulations made under the Customs Act, which has five schedules dealing with different matters. The First Schedule deals with goods the importation of which is absolutely prohibited. The Second Schedule deals with goods the importation of which is prohibited unless the permission, in writing, of the Minister has been granted. There is a third category which deals with goods the importation of which is prohibited unless specified conditions, restrictions or requirements are complied with. The Fourth Schedule deals with the importation of drugs, and we are not concerned with that matter now. The Fifth Schedule lists some 53 regulations, up to that point of time, which are now codified and incorporated in the law.
So we have in the First Schedule goods the importation of which is prohibited absolutely, and item 7 there uses the words “ blasphemous, indecent or obscene works or articles “. In applying a third test the question arises whether the regulation which is under challenge by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and whose disallowance is the subject-matter of the motion before us, offends against the principles for which the committee has contended. The committee says that it does. In paragraph 7 at page 2 of its report the committee says -
The Minister’s discretion is -
Unrestricted in quantity;
Not limited to any particular purpose;
Not controlled by any conditions laid down in the regulations, such as a recommendation of the Literature Censorship Board; and
Paragraph 8 says -
In the opinion of the Committee, if the prohibition of importation of blasphemous, indecent or obscene literature is to cease to be absolute, the law should prescribe proper safeguards limiting the Minister’s discretion. It is the written law, and not an uncontrolled Ministerial discretion which should regulate the importation of such works.
I agree with what has been said in the Senate to-day on the question of whether or not an article or a work is blasphemous, indecent or obscene may be challenged by any person interested in a court. No government can arbitrarily declare an article to fall into any one or more than one of the categories I have mentioned.
– The Government can declare an article or a work,but the declaration is challengeable.
– That is the point I make. It is completely challengeable. A challenge can be taken before any court right up to the High Court for determination as to whether the work or article is in fact blasphemous, indecent or obscene.
– Except where they are expressed to be in the opinion of the Minister.
– Yes, that particular matter was before the committee in 1956 and with some particularity the committee reported on it in its fifteenth report. I take this opportunity to comment on the fact that that was one occasion when the committee does not seem to have been as alert as it is on this occasion. That is just one slight reproach that I may address to the committee.
– But, to be fair to the committee, there were thousands of regulations that went before it. To miss out in relation to one is not serious.
-I realize that I do not detract at all from what I said in praise of the excellent work of the committee and the amount of relief that it accords to us. We are at the point where I think all of us can face the position that for the purposes of the regulation at issue we are talking about works that are plainly and without challenge blasphemous, indecent or obscene. We are fairly facing up to that position. We are not talking about things that might properly be regarded as indelicate or as being in bad taste. We are here dealing with blasphemous, indecent or obscene works. It is at that point that the Minister asks us to replace total prohibition with a regulation that would permit works of that character to be imported with his written permission. Let me say that not even in a moment of delirium would I think there would be any Minister who would use in any wholesale way that unlimited power to grant permission to import. He would not last for more than five minutes in the Parliament, in the Cabinet or before the electors. It is just unthinkable that that would happen. I do no think we need guard against the contingency of the Minister permitting large-scale imports of goods of the character I have described.
By putting this matter into the second schedule, and providing that permission to import may be given by the Minister, the Government has left the Minister without adequate protective powers. He can only ask himself, “ Shall I consent in writing, or shall I not?” He cannot lay down conditions on granting permission. That is not provided for. The fact that there is a third schedule under which specified conditions and restrictions may be laid down shows very clearly, if it needs to be demonstrated, that this is a decision to grant permission or to withhold it. The Minister might say to an applicant, “ I will give permission to import upon conditions “, but the fact is that if he sought to enforce the conditions he would find he was completely without power. I think the Minister ought to welcome the opportunity to redraft this regulation. He ought, in effect, to say, “ In making rather grave decisions to let works of this character come into the country, even with a limited circulation and for a very proper purpose, I should like to know that I can impose conditions. I should like to be able to say, ‘ I restrict the circulation of this book, on this particular application, in the following way.’ “ That would be a desirable power for the Minister to have.
I am suggesting that it would be desirable for the Minister to have power, perhaps, to recall a book - to lay that down as one of the conditions - if he found there was a breach of the conditions. I invite the Minister to consider the position in which he is placed. I ask him to envisage the worst kind of book that he could properly allow to come in. I am sure his officers have told him of some of the horrible things that are available. Let us imagine the worst kind of publication and assume that the Minister has granted, for a proper purpose, permission for an individual or a body to import it. Suppose the individual dies the day after the book comes into his hands. Would the Minister feel free of all moral responsibility for what would happen to the book after that event? An executor, or an outsider, might get hold of the book. We have to remember that a book of that nature could be a most corrupting influence in the wrong hands. Some books of this type deal with the most abnormal of behaviour - behaviour of which normal individuals would never conceive. I am citing an extreme case. Such a book could be used to plant thoughts in the minds of young people that they would never have had otherwise as long as they lived. Thought leads to curiosity, and curiosity to exploration. I am citing an extreme case. That kind of thing, if it occurred, could have repercussions indefinitely upon successive generations.
I should think the Minister would welcome the opportunity, when granting permission to import to a responsible person, to arm himself with the type of powers that I am talking about. I concede at once that there would be in the community persons and bodies - not many of them - who would be entitled, for proper reasons, to look at books of this type. They could be members of the medical profession - psychiatrists and gynaecologists. Members of the legal profession, in particular cases, would be entitled to such books, as would sociologists.
– And anthropologists.
– Also anthropologists, as Senator O’Byrne says, and research workers in literature and various other fields. They are all people to whom one can conceive it would be quite proper, subject to proper limitations, for the Minister to give permission.
I am mentioning reasons different from those given by my colleagues so far for my opposition to this regulation. I rely very heavily, as some other senators have done, upon the sanction of public opinion in this matter. There is no question but that the public conscience is extremely tender on the matter of the circulation of obscene books. The public is very vigilant. This is a matter that concerns all parents in the country in relation to the upbringing of their children. I feel that public opinion is so vigilant and alert that a too liberal policy would be very readily checked.
I am asking, first, that the Minister, in exercising discretion - I think ultimately we will come back to that - be armed with a little more power to impose conditions, always bearing in mind the possible constitutional limitation that I mentioned. Apparently the Government thinks that the power will extend to the imposition of restrictions and conditions, because it provides for that in the third schedule. On looking closely at this matter, one finds that some of the conditions attach after the arrival of the goods. There is the fumigation and degeneration of seeds for one thing. I do not profess to put to the Senate at what point an article ceases to be an import and turns into something else.
Whilst I concede to the Minister the right, for proper purposes, to make available books of this character to proper individuals or bodies, I think there would be very few applications. Unless a person had a proper purpose or motive, he would not put himself in the position of coming before the Minister or the department and asking for a book of that character. 1 think the applications would be very few. But I think the Minister ought not to keep the whole subjectmatter close to his own chest. I cannot imagine him allowing many of these books to come in in the course of a year, but 1 think he ought to be prepared to accept an obligation to publish annually in the Parliament a statement of what he has been doing. I would not suggest that he name the applicants or the books, lt might be undesirable if he did that. I ask the Minister if in due course he will put before this Parliament annual statements saying that he approved the entry of so many books of this character for so many bodies or individuals and stating the purposes. That is all that would be required. Then we in this Parliament would be alerted from time to time, and would know what the Minister was doing. All that we would be likely to hear otherwise would be a complaint by somebody, in a rare case, who had been denied a book. In that situation, as individual representatives we could take the matter up with the Minister. We could ventilate it in the Parliament. I think that that would be a rare case, in the circumstances.
If this regulation is disallowed and the Minister is addressing his mind to the position, I invite him to consider widening his power to impose proper conditions. I would support him in that. I also invite him to accept the obligation to keep this Parliament informed, in the broadest terms, of what he is doing.
– As I understand it, you are opposing not the principle of the regulation but the application of it.
– - That is really the position. I support the committee in its contention that the regulation is too wide.
Let me refer to the comments of the committee. I can appreciate the real difficulty at this stage, before we know what is to happen, in prescribing meticulously the number of books that the Minister may allow to come in. That may be impossible.
It is certainly exceedingly difficult to foresee the requirements. The position will vary from minute to minute.
– But the mere specification of a purpose would limit the quantity.
– That would have the effect of limiting it in some way, but I would not attempt at this moment to lay down the purposes for which entry would be permitted. I find myself all the time being forced back to the Minister’s discretion.
– And so did I.
– That is where my thinking is taking me, subject to the Minister having, first, additional powers to control what may happen - and I think he should welcome such powers - and secondly, to his accepting a public responsibility to the Parliament to inform it of the steps being taken. The matter should not be left so that honorable senators who think about it will have to ask questions from time to time to find out what is happening. It should be brought prominently under our notice.
The other point made by the committee was that there was no provision for a reference to the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board.
– As an example.
– Yes, as an example. I merely indicate that the Minister has the right, but not the obligation, to refer any matter affecting literature to that board, and I also point out that there is a Literature Censorship Appeal Board. I should imagine that if the Minister wanted to protect himself, as he certainly would in a case of doubt, he would not permit the importation of a blasphemous, indecent or obscene book unless he were very confident that it would be used for a proper purpose. He has the very nasty task of deciding whether or not he should liberate a dirty book for a clean purpose. I do not envy him the task. It is not an easy one. I am sure he will not be irresponsible in discharging it. However, I take it that in a case of doubt he certainly would protect himself by referring the matter to the Literature Censorship Board.
– And the DirectorGeneral of Health.
– No doubt the Minister would obtain all the advice he could in order to fortify himself against public criticism. I would not support the committee in insisting on reference to the board, but I think that a Minister who did not, in a case of doubt, fortify himself by referring the matter to the board would be very foolish. I think he would refer the matter to the board and, if necessary, to the appeal board established under the regulations.
I have dealt with the point, to which the committee has directed attention, that the decision of the Minister is not appealable. I merely say that in the highly specialized circumstances involved in these matters on which public opinion is so sensitive, possibly the best appeal tribunal of all is this Parliament, where we have the Minister before us. All I ask is that the Minister tell us, in perfectly general terms, what he is doing. Those are the thoughts that are in my mind when I voice my objection to the regulation as it stands.
If the regulation were disallowed, I do not think the Minister would need to feel embarrassed. He could, in a moment, restore the position, if it needed restoring.
– It would need restoring.
– Yes, I believe it would. If the regulation is disallowed and the Minister is reconsidering the position, I do not think it would be appropriate to incorporate in the third schedule the kind of thing I have been speaking about. The schedule relates mainly to the attachment of goods, descriptions, and so on. I invite the Minister to consider the framing of a separate regulation devoted to this matter, rather than to attempt to incorporate it in one or other of the schedules.
A little bird wrote to the press in 1960 to state that books of the type we are discussing were being made available to the universities of Australia. I do not ask the Minister to incriminate himself by saying whether or not that is a fact. I realize that there are very proper cases in which that might be done. I have had representations made to me in connexion with this matter. Four telegrams have reached me, two of them from university professors, asking that no action be taken that would result in a return to the former illiberal practice. Nothing that the Opposition proposed has that in contemplation.
– Nor has anything that the committee proposes.
– I am certain that nothing that the committee proposes contemplates that, either. The committee is in the inhibited position, as its members hive said very properly, in that its job is not to suggest what ought to be done but to point out defects. It has religiously confined itself to doing so. I do not suffer from any such inhibition.
– The chief defect is the unlimited power of the Minister.
– That is right. His power is completely unlimited. However, I put the view that in some directions he is not given enough power. If this Parliament authorizes him merely to give permission in writing, he cannot go further and start imposing conditions. I want him, for his own good, to accept the main moral responsibility to see that works of this nature have a string to them and that if somebody who has been entrusted with such a work should abuse that trust, something is done about it. I suggest to the Minister that, if it is constitutionally possible, it is entirely reasonable that if a person dies while he is in possession of such a book, there should be a condition that it be returned to the National Library.
– Would those restrictions be subject to the Minister’s day-to-day administration?
– Yes. I suggest that the conditions governing circulation would vary with every case. That is one reason why I am not attempting to write them in strict form into the legislation. I want the Minister to be armed with the power to do that kind of thing.
– To prevent unlimited circulation?
– Yes, and also to remedy breaches. Broadly speaking, I think that the Minister has improved the position by taking the matter out of one hand and placing it in two hands, but there are other aspects. I feel he should be armed with proper authority in suitable cases. He must take his full responsibility to impose conditions and, in the event of breaches, to take corrective action. Those are the thoughts on the matter that I leave with him.
I join with my colleagues who have expressed admiration of what the Minister has done in this field in reviewing the list of banned books and in reducing it. 1 am certainly prepared to trust his good sense and his decency in this matter. In common with everybody in the Senate, 1 have no hesitation in doing so. I mention the matter now merely to express my pleasure at his performance in this respect, and also to say that I welcome the approach that he has made to the State Governments. He took the initiative in getting the State Ministers together with a view to making a co-ordinated approach to this matter, which is covered by multiple jurisdictions. The comments that I have put to the Senate are theoretical. I am concerned more to help the Minister than to denigrate him in any way. I trust that he will take what I have said in that spirit. I am putting my own arguments in favour of the Opposition’s support of the proposal. I hope that the Minister will be prepared - I believe he is - to give consideration to the type of thing that we have been talking about.
From a casual look at the Acts Interpretation Act, I could not find what would happen to the old regulation if this were disallowed. I have been alerted to that only very recently. My impression had been that the original regulation would survive. I would be very happy to hear from the Minister on that point, as a matter of interest, if he is advised in due course. It does not worry me unduly because I realize that, whatever happens, the Minister can cure the position in a few minutes by issuing a fresh regulation.
– Firstly, 1 should like to thank those honorable senators who have spoken on this matter so far to-day. I know there are others to come. I have listened with intense interest to all that has been said to-day, because during the last four or five years I have been actively engaged in trying to build an edifice in which the regulations relating to the prohibition of the importation of literature will be administered on as commonsense a basis as can possibly be achieved within the limits of my intelligence. Having worked in this field for four or five years, it is only natural that I should be keenly interested in everything that honorable senators have said here to-day.
I want to say straight away that I do not think any honorable senator so far has mentioned anything that has not already pestered us in considering how to overcome the difficulties. Senator McKenna spoke of conditions that could be laid down under the third schedule. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that those conditions are imposed prior to importation or immediately on the landing of the import. I admit freely that the finding of a set of conditions - apart from somebody making a judgment or decision - that would be appropriate after a book had left the control of customs has caused me a great deal of difficulty. I have paid a great deal of attention to the problem. I have had a number of drafts put to me, but every one of them suggested the imposition of such restrictions or the granting of such powers to the Minister or some authority that I could not entertain them, and I am sure the Senate could not have entertained them either. By a process of elimination, after studying every suggestion put to us, we arrive at the point that, in the final analysis, somebody has to give a judgment, somebody has to make a decision. I say with great respect that I do not think that authority should be given to an outside body. To do that would be to take control of this matter away from the Parliament. I have given this problem a tremendous amount of thought and every time I have decided that control must be kept in the Parliament. A Minister can be called upon to defend in the Parliament any decision that he makes. That is one of the great protections that we have in our democracy.
Let me illustrate how careful I have been, in seeking to build this edifice, to ensure that, wherever possible, decisions made can be challenged in a court. Item 22 refers to literature which, in the opinion of the Minister, unduly emphasizes sex, horror, violence or crime or tends to depravity. If the Minister prohibits the importation of a book on those grounds, his decision cannot be challenged in a court, and I have been meticulously careful, for that reason, to base prohibitions on item 7, because then the decision is challengeable in a court. 1 emphasize that I have given intense consideration to all the problems which have been raised. I have been seeking some way to apply restrictions to the power of release, but in every instance I have come back to the point that somebody has to give a judgment and accept responsibility for it. If control is to be kept within the Parliament, then the appropriate Minister of the Crown is the person who should do what has to be done.
– His should be the ultimate responsibility.
– Of course he must take the ultimate responsibility. I agree entirely with Senator McKenna that no minister would be foolish enough to make decisions on these matters without first seeking the advice of the most competent authorities available. For instance, questions relating to medical books are referred to the Director-General of Health for advice, because the decisions relating to them must be capable of being defended in the Parliament. I agree with Senator Willesee who said that a Minister would not last very long in office if he was stupid enough to give off-the-cuff decisions on these matters without seeking the advice of every competent authority available to him in order that he might be able to defend his decision.
This question arose from a submission by the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board itself. The chairman of the board said that the board might consider that it would not be in the best interests of the public if a certain book were made available for general distribution but, as it was a medical book, it should be made available to a certain restricted class of persons. In such a case, the board has to say now, “ We will deny it to that restricted class of persons “, or “ We will make it available for general distribution “. The board has no other alternatives. The board therefore suggested to me that if I were given the necessary authority under ohe regulations, it could suggest to me - after all, it is only an advisory board - that it believed that a particular book should not be made available for general distribution but that it should be available for restricted use. At the moment, the board can only say: “We would not deny this book to a restricted section of the community. Therefore we advise you to make it available for general distribution, because we have no alternative “.
I make that point, which is a very valid one for me in making the decision on whether a piece of literature, portion of which is obscene or indecent, should be banned. That is a grave responsibility for any Minister. I have to consider this question: Am I to deny this book to people in the research field to whom it would bring great benefit, merely because it may fall into the hands of people whom it might harm? The problem that I have to face up to is this: Is the benefit that will be derived by the people whom it will benefit greater than the harm that will be done to certain people by general distribution? I come to a conclusion one way or the other; I must prohibit it or release it.
At one stage I interjected - which was completely wrong of me, of course - to point out that when I took this position and first came into the literature censorship field a vast collection of books had been prohibited. There were about 1,100. I forget the exact number. I asked the board to advise me what it thought of them. After many months the board presented a report. I will always be deeply indebted to the members of the board, including professors who gave up their long vacations, who performed this task for me. They presented a list of about 178 books, out of the 1,100, that they considered should remain prohibited. They said that the rest should be released. The Minister has the power to release these books; but the committee is not prepared to give him the authority, under regulations, to make a restricted release. I have the authority to take about 1,000 books off the prohibited list, yet 1 am not to have the authority to make a restricted release. I think that position is completely absurd and one which I do not believe the Senate will countenance for one moment.
– Nobody has said that. That is a paper man you are building up. We said that you should not have the authority in this form; that you should bring down another form of regulation.
– There is no form and nothing written on the conditions imposed on the Minister in releasing 1,000 books or banning another book to-morrow.
– You have to treat everybody alike, if you let a book go out to the general public.
– According to the committee, the Minister is not to be given the authority to release, under security and to a limited extent, a book which in his opinion, after seeking professional advice, should be available. I wish to give one or two instances to the Senate.
– If you can release 1,000 books, I do not see why you should not be able to release two.
– Senator Kendall is quite right. If it is a matter of principle, it should not be two; in fact, it should not be any. I have received a request for a book dealing with sexual perversion. It is obviously an obscene book, quite unsuitable for general sale. It is wanted by a doctor who is carrying out research into this subject. I have received a request for a book dealing with the sexual customs of certain native races. It is wanted by a research fellow in anthropology. Are those books to be denied to those people?
– Of course they are not. I have received a request for an obscene book written by a recognized figure in the field of literature and wanted by an advanced student who is writing a thesis on that author. Of course, any Minister would first check the bona fides of the applicant. Any normal, proper and responsible man would ask some body such as the Australian Medical Association: “ Is this doctor genuinely engaged in research? “ He would ask the Director-General of Health: “ Is this book a genuine medical textbook? “ In that way he would establish that the application was genuine and would release that book individually for the particular purpose.
I am the first to admit to the Senate that I have been unable to find any way to handle the matter after it has passed out of customs control. If censorship was covered by the Australian Constitution, no doubt these things would be provided for. But censorship is not in the Constitution. The Commonwealth Government operates in this field under the Customs Act. Once goods pass from customs control I can make no conditions in regard to their distribution.
– Under section 50 as now expressed, have you not ample power to impose conditions that would safeguard that situation?
– Yes, that is so.
– If expressed in the regulations.
– No, I do not think you can express them in the regulations. I wish to refer to an interesting point made by Senator Laught.
– A condition could not continue forever. It would obviously be unconstitutional once the goods ceased to be imports.
– Once goods cease to be imports, we can impose conditions but we cannot really enforce them. That is the position. Unfortunately, Senator Wright has remained on import restrictions. They have become almost a phobia with him. This matter has nothing to do with import restrictions commercially. A man may order through any commercial house in Australia. No preference is given to any commercial house. Any one who has the authority of the Minister to purchase a restricted book may do so.
– I was speaking only of the legal quality of the prohibition, which is exactly the same in each case.
– I know, but I think you tried to prejudice and cloud the issue by constant references to import licensing. Having been involved in import licensing as an importer for 40 years, I have no more love for it than you have. I do not think it is fair or proper to make the constant references that you made to import licensing. This matter has nothing to do with whether a commercial house can or cannot get an import licence. A man who has made application in the circumstances that are laid down can deal through any commercial house he wishes to deal through.
Senator Laught raised a very good point in relation to birds under item 5 in the Second Schedule. About 30 years ago the regulations specifically laid down what birds and animals could be imported. Every now and again an application was made to import a new type of bird or animal that was not on the list. All the regulations had to be brought back to the Senate to amend the relevant regulation, every time some one wanted to import a Java sparrow or some other bird. Finally the Senate said: “ For goodness’ sake, bring in a blanket regulation and give the Minister a discretion to do this “. Item 5 in the Second Schedule covers birds of all kinds. The importation of those birds is prohibited, but the Minister has full power to admit them. There is no qualification about that and it was done more than 30 years ago. Restrictions in respect of most of these things in the Second Schedule - 32 of them - have applied for between 30 and 40 years under all kinds of Ministers. Have we ever found them irresponsible? Has there been any irresponsible decision in this field?
– That is not to say that there would not be any.
– Some honorable senators are so bugged up with jamming down on the future and trying to legislate for the future that they just cannot do anything. In these enlightened days, that is one of the greatest mistakes that you can make - to try to draw up legislation that will prohibit others who come into this place in the future from taking certain action. If they have the numbers, they can alter the regulation in a day. You cannot make legislation that binds the future because a parliamentary party with the numbers can alter legislation in a day if it suits its purpose. So for goodness sake, get this bug out of your heads. You cannot make legislation to tie down somebody else. A Minister is judged in this Parliament by his actions. You can get rid of him if you want to.
– How would we know whether he should go?
– You would know in five minutes if a Minister started to make wrong decisions. He would have to justify his actions to the Senate. It is just as well that that is so. I say with great respect, and I am sure honorable senators will not hold it against me, that with its bank nationalization proposals, the Labour Party was trying to tie down the future, and that was one of the things that led to it being thrown out of office. I do not put that forward as party politics. I am just saying that you cannot tie down the future1.
– That was not obscene or blasphemous.
– I know that. I am talking about attempts to tie down the future. I have given you three examples of a number of ways in which this could happen. Some attempt might be made to limit importations by regulation, and then what happens? In such a case only recently out of the blue I received an application from a judge - an Australian - for the right to peruse a book on prison systems. It is an obscene book. Who would have thought of putting that in the regulations? Am I to bring the regulations back into the Senate and say that there are certain provisions laid down but I have an application from a judge who wants to read this book? Is that what the Senate wants me to do? Are these the decisions it wants to make? Is this national Senate frightened to allow a Minister to make a decision on such a matter, or is he to come to the Senate every time he has a decision to make?
– That comes under the heading of gaol birds.
– That is about as intelligent a remark as I would expect from you, my friend. I say with great respect that there are many other cases that nobody in this Senate would think of covering in a set of conditions. Is that not right? Of course it is. Does the Senate then suggest that every time something of this kind arises, back we come to the Senate with a new set of regulations covering all the things already mentioned but adding, for example, the Java sparrow?
Under the proposed amendment to the regulations, the particular book involved would have to be named. The application could not be made a broad one. I would not be prepared to allow all medical books to be made available to all doctors. If a doctor is engaged in a particular field of research and I am assured that a particular book is of value to him, I am prepared to give him access to it, but I would not be prepared to give a blanket cover.
– Of course not, but why not combine the two ideas to provide that a Minister may permit the importation for scientific or medical purposes? He is then confined to those purposes and makes a decision on that basis.
– Then a new one that is not covered by the regulations will crop up and the Minister will have to come back to the Senate and ask for an amendment. Then a fortnight later, he will have to make another request. This is nonsensical when you get down to the practical administration of these matters, and I do not think the Senate is really going to hold to this position.
– How many applications of that sort have you as Minister refused in the past five years when prohibition has been absolute?
– In the last year or two, I have had some applications. I really think this is the difference between the world of fantasy and the world of practical administration. I have had an application on behalf of a university which was made a gift of some thousands of books by an overseas university. I think the gift covered 50,000, 60,000 or 70,000 books. They all came into Australia. There was no invoice and no charge. Do my customs officers have to go through those 60,000 or 70,000 books to see that none of them is a prohibited import? Or is the Minister, a responsible person, to be given some common-sense powers of administration so that he can say to the university authorities: “I put you on trust and under security. Here is a list of prohibited imports. If you find any of them as you go through these books, put them aside and advise us”? I do not know how many officers I would have had to appoint to check that enormous number of books. These are matters of practical administration that must be dealt with from day to day and I say, “ Do not tie the hands of a responsible Minister of the Crown when he has to make these decisions “.
I have also had applications from universities for a book that is prohibited. A professor is prepared to certify that he wants to have this book for his faculty. The university librarian is prepared to say that he will keep the book within the security of the university library and will allow it to be issued only to students who have a chit from the professor to say that the student is a member of the faculty and needs the book. These are provisions that you must have to administer such matters properly in the public interest.
I do not find many of the reasons advanced in the report of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee to be valid. I do not think that one can state quantity. The committee complains that quantity is unrestricted. If the committee is fighting for a principle, there is no need to say anything ‘ about unrestricted quantity. If the number were two or 200, the principle would be the same.
– Do you think that two items introduced into the community could do the same damage as 200?
– I think that the principle is the same. If the committee is prepared to bend it for two and not for 200, that is its business.
– We did not say that.
– I did not say that the committee did say that. I say that if the committee is prepared to bend the principle, I am not. That is fair enough. Then the committee stated that permission was not limited to any particular purpose. I think that I have covered that. I pointed out that there were so many cases that one could not limit it to any purpose. I honestly believe that if it were limited as to purpose, we would be back time after time with some new purposes. Then the committee stated that permission was not controlled by any conditions laid down in the regulations such as a recommendation of the Literature Censorship Board. If the responsible Minister can take this action only upon the recommendation of the Literature Censorship Board, the decision will be put into the hands of the board, a body which is outside Parliament altogether.
– No. The board would have the right to recommend. The Minister would retain the right to decide.
– I thank the honorable senator very much. That is just what I wanted him to say. It is suggested that the Minister should have authority over whatever comes in.
– Only if it is recommended by the outside board.
– Then the authority is taken away from him and you make an “if” of it. The honorable senator cannot have it both ways. That is what he is trying to do. Either the Literature Censorship Board, which is outside the Parliament, recommends, and the Minister agrees, or the Minister says, “ Yes “, and it is for the Parliament to decide on his action, take him to task, and get him to defend it. The honorable senator cannot have it both ways, both inside and outside the Parliament. I go for the protection of a democracy, for the actions of a responsible Minister inside this Parliament. That is what I stand for.
The committee objects because there is no provision for an appeal. I think that I have established my bona fides and provided that wherever possible there should be an appeal to the court, by meticulously prohibiting every book under item 7. I do not think that we can establish a body of appeal from a ministerial decision such as this without again taking the decision out of the Parliament. I do not wish to take it out of the Parliament. I wish to keep it inside the Parliament, where the actions of the Minister can be challenged. That is the great safeguard. The Minister, knowing that he has to defend his actions in this chamber in the public eye, takes proper steps to enable him to justify every action before he takes it. He sees that he gets advice from expert people, so that if the matter comes up he may say: “ Yes, I made the decision, but before making it, the Literature Censorship Board, the Appeal Board, and the Director-General of Health advised me on it. I had advice from all of these competent people, upon which I rely. Having that advice, I made a judgment and I stand upon it.”
That is the protection of a democracy, without hamstringing, and without bringing into the National Parliament the matter of deciding whether the regulation will be altered to cover another Java sparrow. That would be putting the clock back, without taking cognizance of the changing times and changing standards. If the standards were not to be changed, if we were not to modernize and bring our standards up to date, does any one really believe that any Minister would have released 1,000 books that had been prohibited for 50 years, and not had one word of condemnation or criticism from anybody about the release of those books?
– Are you suggesting that the change is towards more executive control?
– The honorable senator has missed the point. Perhaps I have been talking to myself.
– An informed man would get the point.
– Perhaps you are a little better informed than others. I would not deny that. Build the pedestal a little higher. The practical answer is that 1,000 books were brought out of control by the Minister, exercising full power, which it is suggested should be limited now in relation to a minor decision. A Minister with full power was able to bring 1,000 books out of the cooler and make them generally available, because standards had changed. This pace must be kept up.
– That was because they were not obscene?
– In my opinion.
– And nobody disputed it.
– That is quite right. Nobody said a word and nobody would dispute a decision that a responsible Minister made under these regulations, because it would be made on a very minor matter and only after the closest examination and upon the advice of very responsible bodies.
– How would anybody know you had made a decision under the regulations?
– The suggestion in the report and in the honorable senator’s speech was that another Minister might flood the country with these books. If one bookseller were given ten books to sell and his competitor did not know within five or ten minutes and was not on the track of where he got them, I do not know trade and commerce. If a professor in a certain faculty of a university had a book available through the university library and another professor was denied it, the latter would be the first to ask, “Why can he get it and I cannot?” If he could not get a satisfactory answer out of the Minister, he would go to his representative in the Federal Parliament and ask him to challenge the Minister’s decision and require the Minister to get up and defend it.
– That means that we are to rely on the newspapers for our information.
– I do not know whether the professor would write to the newspapers first. Some professors are not quite as news-hungry as are some senators and would follow the normal process, I should imagine, of writing to their members of Parliament.
– Some Ministers are probably more hungry than other senators for news.
– If you want to descend in this debate to a bit of backchat between colleagues - should I use that word? - I will indulge in it with great pleasure but I do not think that this is the time.
– I will have it out at any time.
– I do not think that this is the time.
– You asked for that. You did not answer the question in the first place.
– I answered it in the second place. I have traversed most of the points I wanted to make. Senator McKenna asked whether I would be prepared to report to the Senate on this matter once a year. I would do that with great pleasure. Any Minister would be prepared to make a report on such a matter to the Senate. If that is what the Senate wishes, I shall gladly accede to the suggestion. The honorable senator suggested that the report should state what had gone on during the year, giving numbers and details.
– The general workings, types and purposes, without naming people or books.
– Yes, a report to the Senate of the work under this section. I should be perfectly happy to have a date fixed for such a report to be made every year. That would be right and proper and would keep the Senate informed. It would provide a perfect opportunity for the Senate to ask why there had been an increase over the number allowed in the previous year, and to require the Minister to defend the increase. That would be a proper function for the Senate. I do not think it is proper to try to tie the Minister’s hands on what is really a very minor part of his administration indeed. I put it to the Senate that this power in respect of the second schedule items which is left in the Minister’s hands has been there for 30-odd years. I should like to remind the Senate of a few of the items covered by that schedule. For instance item 20 deals with -
Literature in which-:
the overthrow by force or violence of the established government of the Commonwealth or of any State or of any other civilized country;
the overthrow by force or violence of all forms of law;
the abolition of organized government;
the assassination of public officials; or
the unlawful destruction of property, is advocated.
Such literature is prohibited unless the Minister gives permission, in writing, for its importation, and that has been so for more! than 30 years. I also remind the Senate of item 21 which deals with -
Literature wherein a seditious intention (as defined by section 24a of the Crimes Act 1914- 1955) is expressed or a seditious enterprise (as defined by section 24b of the Crimes Act 1914- 1955) is advocated.
Such literature is also prohibited.
– The reference to the Crimes Act is even out of date.
– Yes. The importation of such literature is prohibited but the Minister has power to give permission, in writing, to allow it to be imported. He has had that power for about 30 years. Item 22, which confers another of the powers which have been in the Minister’s hands for 30 years, deals with the prohibition of -
Literature which, by words or pictures or partly by words and partly by pictures, in the opinion of the Minister -
A prohibition is not challengeable in the court. So I want to make it quite clear that the transfer will not deny the protection of the court in relation to the prohibition of importation of a work.
Senator McKenna referred to item 18 in the Second Schedule which deals with -
Goods which, in the opinion of the Minister, are of a dangerous character and a menace to the community.
The importation of these goods is prohibited ex-cept with the Minister’s permission in writing.
– Can you give us a list of all these things?
– There are 32 items which have been there for years, and the articles mentioned are prohibited unless the Minister gives permission in writing. The provision for the Minister to give that permission is rightly there. It has not been abused, and it should be there for the protection of the public.
– Do you often have occasion to use it?
– Seldom, but there are times when it is necessary. It has been said in relation to item 18 that we should define what are dangerous goods. Something new is coming out every day which may be dangerous, and the decision as to what constitutes danger is left to the Minister, so that the matter can be dealt with immediately. If we had to wait for the Parliament to deal with a list setting out the articles considered to be dangerous, and then had to wait for a regulation to be made, the dangerous goods could be circulating in the country in the meantime.
– How long does it take to frame a regulation?
– My officers advise me that it takes several weeks at least. However, say it takes a week- I will cut it down from several weeks to one week to suit the honorable senator - that is still too long for this country to be thrown open for the entry of dangerous articles. The country is protected by giving the Minister for Customs and Excise the power to exclude articles which in his opinion are dangerous goods.
I should like honorable senators to reject this motion. I do not believe it is in the real interests of the Senate to adopt it. I think its adoption would be a case of putting the clock back, as Senator Laught so wisely said. It would impose the conservative thinking of the past on the conditions of to-day. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
It will be recalled that in February of this year the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) issued a statement on the national economy. In it he announced a series of economic measures which were planned by the Government. Included among these were certain proposals to strengthen and to speed up the operation of our machinery for granting protection to Australian industry against import competition.
The first part of the necessary legislation in those directions was approved by Parliament in April. Special advisory authorities are now provided to advise the Minister for Trade on the necessity for temporary protection of Australian industries - primary and secondary - against serious damage from import competition pending review by the Tariff Board of normal protective requirements. The special advisory authorities may recommend temporary safeguarding action by means of quantitative restriction of imports in cases where the tariff alone would not be appropriate. The power of ['’the Government to apply such restrictions, as was explained at the time, was not something new; it was one which had been held for many years under the Customs Act.
The protection of a local industry by this means is, of course, not novel. Some of the leading industrialized countries of the world - for example, the United States of America, and the ma;or European Common Market countries, France, West Germany and Italy - all find it necessary to restrict imports in certain circumstances and have practised this device continuously.
Japan and the Communist countries, of course, continuously employ protective devices other than tariff. Some countries use a variety of protective devices - the tariff, tariff quotas, multiple exchange rates, quantitative restrictions, prior deposits, import monopolies and so on. This bill will extend to the Tariff Board the power to recommend quantitative restrictions. Other provisions in the bill will assist in reducing delays in the board’s operations, and will add greater flexibility to the board’s administration.
I refer first to the matter of quantitative restrictions. I stated earlier that the special advisory authorities can recommend quantitative restrictions for temporary protection. It might well happen that the board could conclude that the removal of restrictions imposed on the recommendation of a special advisory authority could result in damaging competition from imports, notwithstanding the provision of long-term tariff assistance. It therefore might wish to recommend that the restrictions be continued or that they be gradually removed. The Government proposes to give the board the power to recommend accordingly. The board would have the right to recommend import restrictions in the special circumstances of any particular case before it, where it is of the opinion that tariff protection alone would not be appropriate.
The Government’s intention is that protection shall be effective. It is this Government’s policy that so long as an industry remains economic and efficient it has an assurance that where necessary it will receive protection. This bill gives additional weight to that assurance. It should remove any uncertainty that may have developed as a result of importing practices aimed at evading or undermining tariff protection. It should help to create an atmosphere where the expansion of local industry can be undertaken with greater confidence. A steady population increase is at the very roots of our national objectives. Hand in hand with a steadily increasing population must go solid economic growth at a rate sufficient to provide work for the growing population, and it is to manufacturing industry that we must look as a principal source of increased employment.
During the last two and a half years, the tariff has stood along as the protective medium, almost for the first time in over twenty years without the bolstering of the incidental effect of import licensing. In general it has been effective. However, this has not always been the case. Sometimes our intention of giving tariff protection has been systematically countered, and not always by means which could be regarded as being entirely legitimate. There are circumstances in which tariff protection can be undermined to an extent which can make it an inadequate medium for protection.
Similarly, modern industrial developments have created industries where the maintenance of production efficiency and a reasonable cost level requires an assured volume of output. Endeavours to avoid serious injury to such an industry by use of the tariff may not be effective where overseas competitors with tremendous advantages of scale can adopt pricing policies aimed at undermining protection. Where imports above a certain level would make an otherwise stable Australian industry unprofitable and even uneconomic, it may, on occasions, be necessary to use quantitative restrictions of imports to ensure that protection to such an industry will be effective.
It could, of course, be claimed that in any of these circumstances a tariff could be set sufficiently high to be effective. But this would mean in many if not most cases a prohibitively high tariff and that would not be in keeping with our principles of tariff making. Moreover, there would be difficulties where part of the demand must be met by imports. It is clear that there are occasions when the use of quantitative restrictions will avoid unnecessary cost increases. However, I would expect that the need to use quantitative restrictions would arise on very few occasions. But it is worth noting that the right to use quantitative restrictions in particular circumstances is a right no country has forgone, even under the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Nevertheless our policy remains that the customs tariff is the normal and accepted instrument for the protection of Australian industry. lt is therefore the Government’s intention that the Tariff Board will consider protection by means of quantitative restrictions only in those cases in which the tariff alone would not be an appropriate means of protection. In short, this bill is to authorize the Tariff Board to recommend quantitative restrictions as a last resort.
Where the board recommends the use of quantitative restrictions in particular cases it will be required to indicate in its recommendation the extent to which such protection should be accorded. Of course, unless precautionary measures are taken, quantitative restrictions can, in certain circumstances, lead to cost increases and uneconomic expansion of the protected industry. The Government therefore envisages that the Tariff Board should recommend the use of such restrictions only under conditions in which the board is satisfied that the interests of consumers would be adequately safeguarded. Moreover, under this proposed amendment, the board is required to recommend the period for which the quantitative restrictions will operate in each case in which it recommends their use.
The bill provides also that where quantitative restrictions are applied in consequence of a recommendation of the Tariff Board or an advisory authority, the Minister shall publish in the “ Gazette “ a list of the names and addresses of persons to whom licences are granted, and also the total value of all the goods covered by each list.
Minor amendments will also be necessary to paragraph (h), sub-section (1.), and to sub-section (3.) of section 15 to bring them into line with the board having power to recommend quantitative restrictions. A further consequential amendment will be made to paragraph (b) of sub-section (4.) of section 18f, which at present requires that temporary quantitative restrictions applied on the recommendation of a special advisory authority must be removed not later than three months after the date of receipt of the Tariff Board’s final report. Under the amendment, the temporary restrictions must be so removed unless the board recommends quantitative restrictions extending over a longer period.
With the Tariff Board able to recommend the use of quantitative restrictions, the protective armoury will be adequate. Adding this to the machinery for giving urgent temporary protection, i; will mean that appropriate action can be taken and with whatever rapidity the circumstances cr.ll for. Other amendments are designed to assist in reducing delays in the board’s operations, and to introduce greater flexibility in the board’s administration.
Sections 1 1 (4.) and 1 1 (5.) will be changed to allow the board to accept from a person appearing at the inquiry evidence in the form of a written statement confirmed by oath, as an alternative to the existing requirement that evidence shall be given in public on oath. This is to avoid the waste of time involved when witnesses are compelled to read, for example, detailed technical evidence. The acceptance of written evidence will be at the discretion of the board. Non-confidential evidence given in this way will be available at the inquiry to all interested parties. Section 12a empowers the chairman to determine that, for the purpose of inquiry and report, the powers of the board may be exercised by himself and such other members of the board as he decides. He has, however, only a limited power to replace one member by another once a determination has been made. An amendment is proposed which will enable the chairman to vary a determination at his discretion, and which also will permit the division of a single reference among two or more “ divisions “ of the board as constituted under a determination by the chairman.
It is proposed to delete paragraph (g) from section 15(1.), which requires the Minister to refer to the board, for inquiry and report, any proposal for the application of the British preferential tariff or the intermediate tariff to any part of the British Dominions or any foreign country. This section has never operated and is quite redundant. The bill provides also for a re-drafting of paragraph (a) of section 16 to express in clearer terms the provision for the Minister for Customs and Excise to refer to the board certain questions under the Customs Tariff (Dumping and Subsidies) Act 1961. It is proposed to delete the sections of the act dealing with indictable offences. These matters are adequately dealt with under the Crimes Act, and it is unnecessary to repeat them in the Tariff Board Act.
Mr. President, in the forefront of our national objectives are an expanding production and trade, a constantly improving standard of living and the provision of employment for a continually growing work force - and all of these firmly based on sound economic growth. An important factor in achieving these objectives is adequate protection for economic and efficient Australian industries, both primary and secondary. The proposals now before the Senate will enable us to provide that adequate protection. The Tariff Board, for its part, has a vital and important role in advising the Government in this direction. Obviously the board, in effectively carrying out its advisory duties, must keep within its sights the objectives of Government policy - the objectives I have outlined in my remarks to-day and as given in Government statements from time to time.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27th November (vide page 1S0S), on motion by Senator Wade-
That the bill be now read a second time.
, in his secondreading speech, stated that the Australian War Memorial has developed in scope and dignity down the years and has few, if any, equals in the world. I support those comments. They are borne out by the glowing references to the memorial which are made by visitors to this country.
The Australian War Memorial came into being after the First World War and was at first administered by the Australian War Memorial Committee. That body laid the foundations of the procedures and practices which have formed the basis for the excellent administration of its successors. As the concept of the memorial developed and matured, responsibility for administration passed from the committee to a board of management. Now, we are about to see the next step, which I believe will be the final one, in the establishment of a board of trustees. Since 192S, the Board of Management also has administered the Australian War Memorial Fund. While it has had full control over the fund, it has had only executive authority, subject to ministerial oversight, in regard to the memorial. This measure will correct that position.
While we are examining this phase of the history of the memorial, perhaps we should apply our thoughts to the purposes for which the memorial was erected. We should count our blessings in that those responsible for the administration of the memorial over the years have been able to give us a symbol which, by the nature of its architecture, the beauty of its perspective, the graciousness and depth of its meaning, the magnitude of its scope, and the close and loving place it has won in the hearts and minds of all Australians and, in fact, of all who have had the honour and privilege to enter its soul-stirring and mindenriching portals, is truly inspiring. This is a time to pay the respects of members of the Senate, of the Parliament generally and of the people throughout the Commonwealth, to the distinguished gentlemen who, by their dedication to the task of building a fitting war memorial, have left with us and with future generations a grand heritage. They have joined and woven the strands of our history into a wonderful concept.
Over the years, we have known of the great work of Sir Edmund Herring, the chairman of the board. He has been specially mentioned by the Minister in his second-reading speech. I have personal knowledge of the excellent service that has “been rendered by Major McGrath, the director of the memorial. Those gentlemen have put something of their own fine stature into the concept of the memorial, and I am sure that all honorable senators are sincerely appreciative of that fact. With the passing of the bill, administration of the memorial by the Board of Management also will pass. I wish to join with the Minister in recounting and recalling the excellent service that has been given, not only by Sir Edmund Herring, but also by the other distinguished gentlemen who have served so well. I refer to LieutenantGeneral Sir Reginald Pollard, Air Marshal Sir Valston Hancock, Vice-Admiral W. N. Harrington, Senator Stanley Kerin Amour, Rear-Admiral Sir Leighton Bracegirdle, Sir Gilbert Dyett, Mr. W. A. McLaren, Dr. C. E. W. Bean, Mr. E. C. Riley, Air ViceMarshal W. D. Bostock and Mr. G. M. Long. It is fitting to record the gratitude of the Senate for the great work that those gentlemen have performed over the years.
In giving this measure my fullest support, I join with the Minister in expressing the hope and belief that the Australian War Memorial will further develop and will assume still greater significance in the minds and hearts of Australians as a truly fitting memorial to the flower of our manhood who gave their lives for their country in order that we might live. No mere symbol could repay the great debt of gratitude we owe to them, but the beauty and grace of the memorial do as much as can possibly be done to remind us of that debt. We support the measure.
– I also am pleased to have this opportunity to speak about the Australian War Memorial. This is one of the few opportunities we have to discuss or to praise this splendid memorial. I want to take a different line from that taken by Senator O’Byrne. I emphasize that in no way do I want to avoid praising the board, the manager and the staff, and I do not forget the reasons for which the memorial has been erected. I want to talk more about the memorial itself, its management and its contents. I agree that it is a unique and a magnificent tribute to those who gave their lives in seven wars - the Sudan war, the Boer war, the Boxer rebellion, World War I, World War II, the Korean war and the Malayan war.
As a practical and realistic politician, I would like, first of all, to mention some of the material features of this memorial. It was built originally, at a cost of £250,000, to house the relics of World War I. Later, after World War II, another £250,000 was spent on making it the splendid memorial that it is to-day. I think most people in Canberra would know what it consists of, but not everybody outside this city would know. The memorial consists, first, of the high-domed massive Hall of Memory and a courtyard in which there is a reflecting pool, now becoming known - fittingly, I think - as a wishing pool; because, after all, a memorial should give rise to hopes for the future. It has a museum on both sides of the reflecting pool. Reflected in the pool is a brass plaque on which are the names of all the fallen. The memorial has arcaded galleries. Looking out beyond the front entrance, over the forecourt, one sees what will be the lakes of Canberra and, opposite the memorial, Parliament House. The fact that the memorial is opposite Parliament House should help us, as practical politicians, to realize just why it is there. We, as representatives of the people of Australia, have a duty to consider all aspects of the memorial.
I believe that it is beautiful and that it is useful, but I do not think it is complete. I do not think it is visionary enough. It does not excite the imagination; it does not give enough rise to thoughts of the future. It certainly commemorates 104,000 people, not all of them men. Senator O’Byrne referred to the flower of our manhood, but many of our women gave their lives for their country. I do not think the memorial always recalls to us just why those men and women died. They died, as we know, for the sake of peace, security and freedom for the future generations. We in this Parliament represent the present generation. But what of the future? What of the tomorrows? What of the future generations?
To think of these things, we have to be visionary. It is all very well to be practical and realistic, and the memorial is certainly that. It is run by practical and realistic people who perhaps have forgotten that there are other sections of the community who like to have their imaginations stretched in a visionary way. I shall stress that more as I talk in a little detail, if 1 may, about the memorial itself.
First of all, in the Hall of Memory, there is the sculpture, the 18-ft. high bronze figure on its 9-ft. pedestal which stands in the middle of an alcove of glass mosaic. It is a splendid memorial and symbolizes the spirit of those who remained proudly defiant in the cause of their country, of freedom and of humanity. The stained glass windows are full of symbolism. The first relates to World War I. The other three depict the personal, social and fighting qualities displayed by our service men and women in war. It is worth recalling that the south window portrays the personal qualities of the members of our fighting forces - resource, candour, devotion, curiosity and independence. The west window, under the A.I.F. badge, depicts the social qualities of the Australian service men and women - comradeship, ancestry, patriotism, chivalry and loyalty. The east window, again under the A.I.F. badge, depicts the fighting qualities of coolness, control, audacity, endurance and decision.
The mosaics are most commendable. I can think of only two mosaics that one could compare with them. They are the ones in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, which are 400 years old, and those in the Town Hall in Stockholm. Before remarking upon our mosaics, it is interesting to recall that in the Stockholm Town Hall, with the mosaics, there are also modern contemporary artists’ versions of the crises of their country, depicted in the modern forms of art. That is what I think is missing in our memorial. That is why I say it is lacking in the visionary sense.
– Do you want to see some Picassos in it?
– I see no reason why we should not have some. There are many people who admire Picasso - but he is not an Australian artist. There are other people who ought to be represented there. There ought to be some of the visionary ideas as well as the practical, realistic ones that are there now. In the mosaics, there are 6,000,000 pieces of Venetian glass covering 1.3,000 square feet of wall space. This was paid for out of receipts from the sale of books produced by the memorial staff. That is a wonderful achievement. Over 2,000,000 books were sold to pay for these very fine mosaics. I do not think I need go into any detail about them; they speak for themselves.
As well as the cupola - the magnificent dome - in the Hall of Memory there are fine mosaics on the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and the women’s services sections. As I have said, it is probably too late to alter or augment the form of art in this Hall of Memory. I consider that it is lacking because, although the symbolism is magnificent and has been well thought out, it has been thought out by practical people - I suppose the members of the board in particular - who told the artists what they were to do, instead of leaving it to the artists to express their own individuality, to depict things in their own visionary style. That is where I think it is lacking. I am not in any way detracting from the symbolism. I think it is excellent, but I do think there is room for further developments in the future. I hope that then the artists will be allowed to express themselves and bring to the memorial a little of the visionary creativeness which I consider is lacking now. The contents of the museum speak for themselves. They are completely representative. They range from horseshoe nails to aircraft, tanks and guns. They represent a splendid memorial of all seven wars.
But the point which I want to stress, and which is so relevant to this bill, is the management. I believe that the members of the board of directors, which is now to be known as the board of trustees, have done an extraordinarily good job in bringing the memorial to the stage at which it now is, but, while emphasising that I do not wish to be critical in any way of the individuals concerned, I do notice obvious discrepancies in the personnel of the board.
The present chairman of the board is a Chief Justice. Three representatives of the services are on the board, and rightly so. Other ex-servicemen are also on the board. The other members are Rear-Admiral Sir Leighton Bracegirdle, an ex-Navy man; Sir Gilbert Dyett, who for many years was the federal president of the Returned Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia; Mr. W. A. McLaren, a public servant; Dr. C. E. W. Bean, who was a war historian in the 1914-18 war, a journalist and a writer; Mr. E. C. Riley, who was a politician; Senator Amour, another politician - both Labour politicians, I might add; Air Vice-Marshal Bostock, an ex-Air Force man; and Mr. G. M. Long, another journalist and war historian. Thus the board includes two politicians, two war historians and at least five ex-servicemen.
I consider that the board is sadly lacking in that, for a start, it has no women on it. No representative of the women who gave so splendidly in many ways in the 1 active forces, the civilian ranks and the home forces during the war is on the board. That is an obvious discrepancy. There is no artist on the board to speak for the artists who have such an active part to play in this memorial. There is an art advisory committee on which Mr. Dargie I sits, but that is not sufficient. The artists ] must have a voice on the board. I hope that the Minister, when he sets about appointing the Board of Trustees, will give consideration to those two discrepancies - the fact that there are no women to add their thinking on what should be com- memorated in this memorial, and the fact that there are no artists to say what they think should be done and how they think it should be done.
Obviously, Senator Kendall does not like contemporary art. There are many people who do not like it, but there are equally as many who do.
– Senator Prowse is quite wrong in saying, “ No “. I will tell him why. Recently I went through the art gallery in Adelaide. The director of the gallery was describing some modern pictures. I. asked him why collectors went more for the old type of art. He said, “ You are quite wrong, madam “. So Senator Prowse is as wrong as I was. I say that contemporary artists should be represented on the board. They certainly would not have their voice carried because the representative of the artists would be one of twelve die-hard conservative members of the board. I believe that they should be represented and that the women of Australia should also be represented.
.- I enter this debate to congratulate the Government on its decision to vest the control of the Australian War Memorial in a Board of Trustees which will hold the memorial in trust for the Commonwealth and the Australian people. I do not intend to follow Senator Buttfield into the building itself because I am firmly of the opinion that symbolism and artistic concepts are but the outward expression of the nation’s gratitude to those who served it and that the true memorial to them will always rest in the hearts and minds of the people. I support Senator Buttfield when she says that there should be a woman on the board.
– We would all support that.
– That will be very good indeed. Whilst I agree with everything that has been said about the distinguished service of all the men who have served on the board of management, I believe that there is room on the board for a woman, not because she is a woman but because in Australia we have women who have rendered to their country service that is comparable with any service that has been rendered by men on the field. Therefore, I should like to see a distinguished woman included as a member of the board of trustees.
I should like honorable senators to cast their minds back to World War I, in which 2,139 women served abroad in Great Britain, Egypt, the Persian Gulf and France, and 423 women served in Australia. Three hundred and eighty-eight of those women were decorated and 21 of them lost their , lives. I venture to say that the proportion ‘ of decorations won by the nurses in the First World War has not been equalled, and we hope that it never will be.
– Do you not think it is invidious to make comparisons between the sexes?
– I am not doing that. I am directing attention to the fact that those women were decorated and that their service to the nation was recognized. Whenever servicemen have gathered since the First World War, they have paid tribute to the women who nursed them when they were sick and attended to their comrades when they were dying.
In the Second World War we find the same story. In 1939, immediately after the Second World War broke out nurses were mobilized. Early in 1940 they went with the Sixth Division and served in Palestine, Libya, Crete and Greece. A number of them lost their lives. In the Pacific War we find the same story again. When we think of those years of war, we recall with horror the privations that were suffered by the nursing sisters. We recall the 22 nurses of whom only one survived. One could go on and on talking about the service that was given by the nursing sisters and other women during the two great wars.
As Senator Buttfield said, behind those nursing sisters a great army of women was mobilized. Immediately after the War Cabinet decided what would be our all-out war effort; it established the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force. More than 18,000 women served in that force. On 17th April, 1941, the Women’s Royal Auxiliary Australian Naval Service was formed. It had 1,800 members. On 13th August, 1941, the Australian Women’s Army Service was formed. It had 19,700 members. In all, more than 52,000 women served in the Second World War. If I might make a personal reference, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin wears on her dress her ribbons for active service as a welfare officer up in the front line.
I believe that in setting up the new board of trustees to take over the control of the Australian War Memorial, it is only fitting that a distinguished woman should be placed on the board. Senator Kendall said that we all would agree with that. I hope that the Government will agree with it and either make another appointment to. the new board or extend the numbers in order to make room for one woman. If the Government does that it will please the women of Australia and its action will be a source of inspiration and pride to both men and women.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I do not wish to move a formal amendment but I direct the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise to one matter. I suggest that he have another look at the composition of the new board and that if possible one or two women should be included in its membership. In making that suggestion, I have in mind the loss of the hospital ship “ Centaur “.
– I shall be happy to direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) to the suggestion that has been made by Senator Wedgwood and Senator Kendall.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27th November (vide page 1529), on motion by Senator Wade-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- On behalf of the Opposition I move the following amendment -
Leave out all words after “That”, insert - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for the members of the Authority to be chosen by a method which will give the consumers a majority representation and allow the members of the Australian Capital Territory Branch of the Electrical Trades Union to be represented.”
As honorable senators know, the bill provides for the setting up of an authority to take over in the Australian Capital Territory the generation, supply and reticulation of electric power. It is proposed that this authority shall consist of three members - one to be a chairman appointed by the Governor-General, one a member of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council appointed or elected by the council and the third a representative of the Department of the Interior. The purpose of the amendment is to give the consumers a majority on the authority and to widen the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council representation.
I do not want to traverse to any great degree the arguments that were used when the Opposition moved a similar amendment in another place, but the thoughts of the Opposition are along the line that the proposed authority does not meet the needs of an expanding city and area like Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory. It may be remembered that in some States of the Commonwealth where electricity authorities are constituted, the value of appointing a representative of the Electrical Trades Union is readily recognized. A member of that union is a member of the appropriate board in my own State of South Australia.
We have heard a lot from the Government about the principles of decentralization. We on the Opposition side believe that the Government had a very good opportunity to show its interest in decentralization when considering the constitution of the authority to administer the electricity supply in Canberra. Unfortunately, the Government failed to take advantage of that opportunity. It might be fitting for me to remind the Senate that it is estimated that by 1969 the population of Canberra will reach 100,000. We believe it is high time that the people who actually run the civic activities of this community were entrusted with a far greater degree of responsibility in conducting their own electricity undertaking. The Opposition consequently believes this amendment is valid, and I commend it to the Senate.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Toohey’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Constitution of authority).
– The Opposition is opposed to this clause for the reasons that I have already outlined. I shall not detain the committee by restating them.
Question put -
That the clause stand as printed.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman.)
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to-
That the committee approves the statement for the year 1961-62 of Heads of Expenditure and the Amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36a of the Audit Act 1901-1961.
Resolution reported; report adopted
Debate resumed from 28th November (vide page 1537), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. -The object of this bill is to give the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory the power to define its privileges, immunities and powers, other than legislative powers, provided only that the privileges immunities and powers so defined shall not exceed those of the House of Commons that were in existence prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia. I understand that the reason for the bill is that whilst the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory sought to appoint committees with authority to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence on oath and to call for the production of documents the Government’s legal advisers considered that that could not be done under the existing law. Hence this bill. In view of the purpose of the bill the Labour Party supports the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.38 to 8 p.m.
.- I move -
The simultaneous transmission of sight and sound is one of the technological marvels of our age. By and large in this country, as a result of prudent inquiry and a substantially wise administration - I have some reservations about certain frequency matters - we have been given a television service which is technically superior to those in most of the countries of the world. However, after eight years of television in this country only about 3 per cent, of the creative drama content of our programmes is Australian. It is because of that appallingly low percentage that I have been moved to submit this motion to the Senate this evening.
This is a matter which, I think, interests all Australians, irrespective of political affiliations. It is a matter in which all parties in the Senate can collaborate. There are no ideological marks to be won. It is a matter in which the welfare of the nation can be assisted by the combined efforts of the members of the Senate. In the eight years that we have had television, on the basis of our experience, and of reports that have come from abroad television has been proved to be perhaps the most potent medium of instruction, entertainment, propaganda and salesmanship that the world has yet seen. The message which comes to people in the privacy of their own homes seems to have an impact and to possess a punch which the message more publicly displayed in the cinemas or in the newspapers seems to lack.
It is my belief that if we allow our television screens to be monopolized by foreign programmes, even the programmes of a friendly country such as the United States of America, our people will absorb a foreign culture and a foreign manner of speech. There is a danger that we will forget or denigrate our national heritage, our culture and our traditions. When Winston Churchill made his famous speeches to the British nation, when they had very little other than broken bottles with which to fight the invader, he was drawing on a bank of British heritage, British tradition and British culture. He knew that the British people would respond to the almost impossible calls that he was going to make upon them because they had a national British spirit.
This country has a magnificent record in two world wars, both of them prior to the advent of television, but it is my personal opinion that our national spirit gets very little help from our television programmes, and could well be imperilled by a continuous diet of foreign entertainment. I do not want to be misunderstood. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the Americans as a nation and for the American way of life as it affects Americans in America. All I say about the American way of life is that it is not Australian. I feel that the primary purpose of this exercise is to discover whether - I have not pre-judged the issue - there is any feasible, practical method of encouraging the production in Australia of programmes suitable for television.
I do not believe that Australia as a nation can accept, in this powerful and persuasive medium, the present flood of another nation’s culture without danger to the national identity. When we see that the proportion of Australian productions transmitted from most of the television channels is 35 per cent, to 38 per cent., we may well be inclined to say, “ That is fair enough. What more could you expect from a small nation and a small industry such as it possesses?”. When you realize that the bulk of that 35 per cent, to 38 per cent, is made up of news readings, cooking demonstrations, sporting descriptions and other things which it is very nearly impossible to import anyhow, the percentages cease to have any meaning.
– It is not as bad as that.
– I ask the honorable senator to look at the figures in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and then repeat that interjection.
– You are just antiAmerican.
– I do not think I have to answer that. What I have said does not imply criticism of American television programmes. They may be quite suitable, and they probably are suitable, for American audiences. But a programme structure which might suit the Americans certainly is not, in my view, the type of programme structure that is best for Australia. I am sorry that honorable senators opposite are not prepared to look at this serious matter in the spirit in which I am putting it forward. I am quite prepared, as I think I have shown in the past, to trade them blow for blow in any political argument or political discussion. I ask honorable senators on both sides to consider this matter, which affects Australia’s culture, heritage and traditions, in a non-party and non-political manner.
– I have never heard you talk about anything non-political.
– I have done it in the past and I shall do it in the future. 1 am not going to be diverted from my purpose by childish interjections.
About four years ago I had occasion to speak at an Anzac Day function in my home city and I saw the most extraordinary example of the powerful effect of television programmes on our young people. I was in a school about 5 or 6 miles from the heart of Melbourne, in a class room with 25 children, the average age of whom was twelve to thirteen years. I found that only two of the 25 knew what Anzac Day was. Only two of the 25 knew what the day we commemorate was all about. You may well say that with children of that age it really does not matter, but here is the rub. All 25 of those children knew who Wyatt Earp was and who Matt Dillon was - two obscure American gunmen or lawmen whom they had seen portrayed on television over the preceding two years. This took place when television had been running in our city for only two and a half to three years. Since that time the gross percentage of Australian matter on television has, in fact, declined. In the last two or three years I have been able to visit most of the major television film and programme producers in Australia. There were never very many of them, and since I concluded my visits to all of them, in Sydney and in Melbourne, four have closed because there was no outlet for their productions. They were unable to compete with the cheap but proficient imported American article. In our country at the moment the industry is kept alive by the making of commercial films - the little advertisements which we love to turn off whenever possible - about soap, breakfast foods, detergents and cigarettes. That is all the creative work which is left to the Australian film industry.
– It is a big industry.
– Commercials have their place. I am not denigrating them altogether, but it seems to me a pity that a country which played such a prominent part in the development of the film as such and which, in fact, made the first feature-length film in the world, should be relegated to a position so far behind Denmark, Indonesia, Formosa and other small countries, when it comes to making films.
I commend the Government, in passing, for the ban it has imposed on imported commercials. Without that ban, the industry might well have disappeared altogether. I think that the industry is important, both in regard to our internal programmes and to the sale of our programmes abroad. A vigorous Australian industry, if we were able to find a practical method of encouraging the production of Australian programmes, without excluding the best of the imported material would provide us with programmes of a definitely national flavour. I do not think anybody would suggest that wc should have a 100 per cent, diet of Australian material; we must still get the best of the material from abroad. In addition, it would help to keep alive our national history, traditions and culture.
I give full marks to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the courage that it showed in the production, a year or so ago, of an epic dealing with early Sydney. I forget the name of the film at the moment, but it dealt with the doings of Captain Bligh.
– It was “The Outcasts “.
– Yes. I think there was also a film called “ The Stormy Petrel “. Another film dealt with the life of the great-great-grandfather - I am not quite sure of the correct number of “ greats “ - of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Those programmes had the effect of stimulating the interest of the Australian people in their history. From inquiries which I have made at libraries, I have found that there was a greatly stimulated interest in Australian historical books which was directly attributable to the screening by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of the programmes I have mentioned. While I am on this subject, I think I should also commend one of the commercial channels for the Australian series called “ Jonah “ which is running at the moment and which also deals with early Australian history. I do not know which television station has produced the series’.
– I hate to say it, but it is the “ Daily Telegraph “ station.
– Then I have no hesitation in commending the “ Daily Telegraph “ station for the production of “ Jonah “.
I have spoken on this matter so often and at such length that I do not propose to traverse the entire field this evening, but we should not lose sight of the consideration that a vigorous Australian film industry would save’ us some millions of pounds a year in overseas exchange. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the gross figure paid for imported productions at present seems to vary between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 Australian a year. Those figures are not precise, because all the films that are imported in one year are not necessarily screened in that year. Films may be bought in advance, in package lots and the like. Therefore, the figures I have given are estimates based on the inquiries I have made. If we could save £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 a year, that would be a substantial contribution to our overseas payments position.
It is pretty well accepted that the film, whether it is shown on television or in the cinema, is the best means of making known to other countries a country’s way of life, even if the film is commercially produced. I believe that a local industry could provide attractive Australian programmes which would help to make Australia known, respected and liked, particularly in SouthEast Asia. We have only to consider the success of Radio Australia in the radio field to appreciate the force of that argument. For the last nine years, Radio Australia has topped the poll conducted by a London organization to decide the most popular short-wave transmitter in the world. Apropos of that matter, it is not my belief that the making of an endless series of documentary films and their export abroad would do us much good. I think there is a limit to the amount of information which people are prepared to absorb from documentaries. While I do not deny their importance in certain respects, I believe that if we have an Australian story to put over we should not do it by making a nut-and-bolt, or a tractorandearthmover type of picture, such as one depicting the work of the Snowy Mountains scheme; we should use Australian script writers to prepare an Australian story of heartwarming interest which our neighbours, particularly in South-East Asia, would watch appreciatively and from which they might be able to absorb the Australian atmosphere, and learn of the achievements of Australian engineers and administrations, both Labour and Liberal-Country Party, in regard to, say, the Snowy Mountains scheme.
In similar vein, I believe that a suitable Australian industry could help to lift Australia’s export trade, because it is undoubtedly true that in the middle of this century films are of vast importance. In the old days, it used to be said that trade followed the flag. Now, it is clear that trade follows films. Far more films are screened on television than on the wide cinema screens. The motion I have moved relates, of course, only to television films and video-tape films. In the early 1930’s, Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, a member of the House of Commons, made visit to the China coast. He observed that most of the manufactured goods in that area were of British origin. This was due to British interests in the area and to a long British connexion with the places he visited. By 1938-39, however, when he returned to the China coast, he found that the vast bulk of manufactured goods were American in origin. In a speech which he made in the House of Commons on the Cinematograph Bill, he attributed the change to the fact that, during the previous decade, the people of the area had been viewing almost exclusively American films showing American customs and habits and, above all, American goods such as motor cars. In this drive for exports we must, as far as practicable, take advantage of this modern weapon which is to our hand, namely, the film industry.
I come to the fifth head of interest in this matter, Mr. President. I believe that a vigorous Australian film industry would provide work and income for Australian actors, actresses and technicians. At the moment, there are many of these people - capable people - who are out of work through no fault of their own. In case Senator Ormonde is looking at me, I hasten to add that when I say “ capable people “ I am not speaking about myself. They are unable to obtain regular employment because, owing to the number of hazards involved - which I will not discuss here - nobody wishes to produce Australian productions in the quantity which would give them continuity of employment. I recall speaking (& Sydney with a small Australian producer who pointed to a couple of men leaving his place of business one evening. He said, “They are. both experienced lighting tech.nicians. When Kramer was here, both those men worked as lighting technicians with his unit and he could not praise them highly enough. When he left, there was no work for them to do and both of them went back to their old vocations, one driving a truck and the other driving a taxi.” That ^happened to the technicians, but what applies to them applies also to actors and actresses. An Australian script writer cannot earn a living by writing scripts for Australian productions, not because he cannot do it, not because he has not got the talent, but because the opportunity for using that talent is not available.
I noticed that when a visiting American or Canadian film producer was giving evidence to somebody in Melbourne last week, he commented on the lack of Australian script writers. Whilst I think that gentleman may have been almost right, I think it only fair to say that if there are no opportunities for these people to exercise their talents it is obvious that they will not remain in the field. I believe that if the committee is able to ascertain facts along that line, that will be another avenue which might well be covered. My union has taken a considerable amount of action to protect its members, as far as possible, from the hazards amongst which they move and live in this industry. Despite all its efforts, Actors Equity has not been able to guarantee reasonable security of employment for its members.
– It has a Communist member.
– I did not think you would accuse me of that. Because of the lack of outlets for their talents, Australian technicians, actors, actresses, script writers, property men and all the multitude of people who make a film production are forced to go abroad. I do not propose to recite the names, but one has only to look at the list of Australian artists who, by their talents, have made their names in foreign enterprises, both British and American. The complaint made by some of the members of our union at the quarterly meetings is that very often third-rate actors are imported and used by the television channels when first-rate Australian actors are not given an opportunity to work. I do noi blame the Australian producers. They have struggled valiantly against the cheap imported programmes. They must have a reasonable prospect that their products will find an outlet. The cast must have reasonable security of employment. Of course, absolute security of employment is impossible. Work in the industry at the moment is such a hazard that I just cannot understand how people still engaged in it can stand the risks involved. From a national point of view, all those connected with the industry, including producers, directors, technicians, actors, actresses and script writers, deserve a better deal than they are getting at present.
I am fortified in this opinion by an address given by the forthright president of the American Federal Communications Commission, which was appointed by President Kennedy shortly after he took office. Addressing an assembly of broadcast and television licensees of the United States, Mr. Minnow pointed out that in being allotted a licence they were given the privilege of exercising a great right. Whilst the licence conferred upon them certain privileges, namely, to broadcast and be paid for advertisements which were transmitted, it also involved a direct responsibility to the nation. He pointed out that if this responsibility to the nation were not observed, the prospects of renewal of their licences would be greatly impaired. He said also that people who operate on the radio frequencies of a nation are just as truly using the natural resources of the nation as are the people who mine its iron and coal or extract its oil. It is my personal belief, for what it is worth, that in this day and age the radio frequency spectrum is more important to a nation than its supply of uranium.
– You would not say it was more important than food.
– I would not say that. So far, television in Australia has not created the opportunities for Australian talent that we hoped it would. That, of course, is the primary purpose of the proposal which I am putting to the Senate to-night. When I speak of encouraging the production of films for television, I include also the video-tape film, which I suppose the purist might say is not a film in the ordinary sense. It is a picture made by electronic means and broadcast by a type of tape recorder called a video-tape machine. However, the principle is the same with all canned or recorded video and audio entertainment.
It is my hope that music, art and drama will not go down the drain of this nation to the plumber, no matter what importance we attach to that artisan. It is my belief that a vast and important job awaits this committee if the Senate should agree to set it up. It may well be that the future of the Australian content of television programmes will hang on the deliberations of this committee and on whatever action the Government may feel disposed to take as a result of any recommendations the committee might make. I regret that Senator Vincent, who has done so much research work in this matter and who has a knowledge of the production of drama which I could not hope to match, is unavoidably absent through sickness.
The final point I wish to make in commending this proposal is, to repeat the call I made at the outset, that this proposal to set up a committee of inquiry should be treated in a non-political manner. Speaking purely for myself, I would welcome the co-operation of the Australian Labour Party in a serious and genuine attempt to find a remedy for the evils which I have outlined. I want to express my personal thanks to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner), and to the Government, for giving approval to the proposal to set up this committee. Without the goodwill of the Government in these matters, everything is purely of academic interest. The goodwill of the Government is important because, by giving its approval to the proposal-
– More than its approval - its enthusiasm.
– Let us take it step by step. The Government has given its approval to the setting up of the most important mechanism that the Senate is capable of using. I regard that as a very important decision. It is one for which I personally am very grateful. I commend to the Senate the motion that I have submitted.
– Mr. President, the Opposition regards the setting up of a select committee on any subject in exactly the way Senator Hannan indicated, namely, as a matter of great consequence and as a most important piece of machinery. Starting from that viewpoint, on behalf of the Opposition I express disappointment that, when the Senate is moved to set that machinery in motion, its attention is to be confined within the very narrow compass of these terms of reference. The terms of reference of the proposed committee are -
To inquire into and report upon the encouragement of the production in Australia of films and programmes suitable for television, and matters incidental thereto.
That does not carry the scope of the inquiry even to the point where it could look into the question of the Australian content in television presentations. Senator Hannan may correct mc if I am wrong. I think he said that the total Australian content was 3 per cent, and was diminishing.
– The Australian content is 35 per cent, gross and 3 per cent, of creative drama.
– I take that to be drama of the type that would be filmed. Is that so?
– That is right.
– Creative drama represents a relatively small part of the total Australian content. I cannot join with Senator Hannan in his reference to the scope of the inquiry as vast and important. I am prepared to agree that it is important, but I claim that it is very small.
I suggest, for a beginning, that that type of inquiry might well form part of a wider inquiry directed to the whole question of the Australian content in television presentations. That would be an improvement. It occurs to me that when we are looking for something really important we should address our minds to television as a medium in the important field of education in Australia. I would have selected ahead of this reference in importance a reference relating to the part that universities, educational establishments and schools of all types, including adult educational establishments, might play in television. I suggest that that would be a vastly important inquiry. I am not denying the importance of this one.
Then we come to the question of the interlocking of the bodies that control the means of mass communication in Australia. When looking at that question, one must have regard, first, to this consideration: The strength of any democracy depends upon the degree of enlightenment of its population and the extent to which the people are adequately and properly informed. Newspapers play a great part in that. As we survey the newspaper scene in Australia to-day, we find control of the newspapers falling into fewer and fewer hands. We also find that the newspapers control vast areas in the field of radio and that they have a really dominating practical interest, if not a directly technical one, in the field of television. In the Senate to-night we had the example of a station being referred to as the “Daily Telegraph” station. Senator Hannan endorsed that and used the term himself. It is true that in the city in which the “ Daily Telegraph “ operates the two commercial television stations are known as the “ Herald “ station and the “ Daily Telegraph “ station.
– One station in Brisbane is known as the “ Courier-Mail “ station.
– One can go around the Commonwealth and find that pattern repeated. The great question, which goes to the very roots of democracy and with which the Senate might be concerned as a matter of priority, is this: How far does the influence of the press, radio and the film industry extend in the field of television? Surely that question goes to the very basis of democracy and the foundations of the means of communication to the people.
When one finds newspapers in capital city after capital city playing a major part in the control and operation of commercial television stations, each of which is the purveyor of the news service of the relevant newspaper; when one realizes that the same newspapers have vast interests in radio stations and that there are networks of great consequence covering the whole of Australia; and when one finds that the news is poured from the one source into the newspapers, over the radio and on to the television screens, there is at least cause for concern.
In the few minutes in which I have been able to address my mind to this matter, I have found that the reports of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board constantly have directed, in the most prominent way, the attention of this Parliament to this interlocking of interests. I will not weary the Senate with detail. I invite anybody who is interested to look at the seventh annual report of the board. At page 10 of that report, the board recorded that at that time - which was 1955 - fourteen of the 106 radio stations in operation were wholly owned by newspapers, and newspapers held shares in 29 other stations. They are all listed. There is also a treatise upon the interlocking interest in the networks of commercial broadcasting stations.
In the field of television one finds that the same pattern of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board constantly directing, in the most prominent way, the attention of this Parliament to the interlocking and dovetailing nature of these interests is repeated. The tenth annual report of the board for the year ended 30th June, 1958, dealt, amongst other things, with the request by the PostmasterGeneral for a recommendation in relation to the establishment of commercial television stations in Brisbane and Adelaide. The board reported to the Minister, in the first place, that none of the applicants should be given a licence and that fresh applications should be invited for only one licence in each of those cities. In paragraph 77 of the annual report the board said -
The Board’s reasons for these recommendations were explained at length in its report: they may be briefly summarized as follows: -
the main issue which arose at the inquiry was whether expansion of the interests of groups already powerful in the fields of mass communciations is to be accepted or whether, in the public interest, the local ownership of television stations and the independence of licensees is the objective to be achieved;
it was desirable to prevent any trend towards the concentration of the ownership or control of commercial television stations by such groups; this view is generally accepted in other English-speaking countries and is supported by section 91 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1956 which prohibits the ownership, or direct or indirect control, by any person, of more than two commercial television stations;
If a start were to be made with two licences, it seemed certain that a great deal of the capital would have to be obtained from the existing television interests in Sydney and Melbourne and newspaper companies.
We come right up to date with the board’s latest report for the year ended 30th June last. Again, in the most complete detail running into quite a number of pages in Appendix E are set out the principal shareholders in the licensee companies. I have marked them wherever newspapers, radio stations or networks and film interests were concerned, and there is hardly a place to put another mark. I wish I could show this to the Senate. There is not time to read it all but I can assure honorable senators that there is scarcely a place to put another mark as can be seen at a glance. I went through that exercise before I came into the Senate tonight, and I was staggered to find how newspapers dominated radio stations, film interests and allied bodies and those engaged in ancillary activities of radio and television.
So I would suggest that those interested shouldtake note of the constant way in which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board keeps pushing this information under our notice. The board does that not for any idle reason or for no reason at all, but to keep directing our attention to the facts. The Opposition has no objection at all to the kind of reference that Senator Hannan proposes, but it is a most narrow compass, and I think it has a simple answer. I think the honorable senator will find at the conclusion of the select committee’s investigations - I am working on the assumption that it will be appointed - that the answer to the problem of the Australian film industry is a matter of pounds, shillings and pence. That is the answer and no other.
We have excellent technicians, as the honorable senator has said. We have script-writers, and given the financial inducement, the field will very soon fill up. We have produced some excellent films in Australia. Quite recently, I watched the production in Tasmania of the film “ They Found a Cave “. I have watched its progress. I have arranged for it be shown in Parliament House. A preview is to take place in Canberra, I understand, in the immediate future. The sound track of this film has been translated into many languages and it is doing very well from a financial standpoint.
When one sees that film and the reception it has had from men in the game, one must accept the fact that we have a suitable climate and that those engaged in film production are technicians of quality. This film was produced by Australians in Tasmania and was processed at the finishing station in Sydney. Our climate is excellent for film making. Why, then, does not the industry go ahead? The answer is simply because of lack of finance. A lot of money is involved in taking the risk, going through all the processes of production and arranging for the acceptance of the completed film. Nice judgment is required to know what is required to make a film a success. It requires a great deal of know-how and skill. I speak from limited experience and from conversations I have had with people engaged in this field, but I would say confidently that the principal problem is finance. It also requires intelligent management in conceiving the project and making sure that the finished product will have ready acceptance, not merely in Australia but also overseas. It simply would not pay to produce a film in Australia for use in Australia alone. A film must have the possibility of acceptance through the various film exchanges of the world.
It might be thought that, for one reason or another, overseas interests would come to Australia to finance the production of films and that they would have an opportunity of speeding the film productions on their way around the world, but I venture to suggest that the select committee - if it is appointed, as I expect it will be - will find the lack of capital at the base of the trouble. If that problem were solved, I do not think the Australian film industry would have much difficulty in establishing itself and in speedily making a mark in the film world.
So I come to the point where I say we are disappointed that the scope of the proposed inquiry is so narrow. It is proposed to take one small section of the Australian field. We do not want to reject the proposal, but we hope to broaden it. We do not want to go into the story of the interlocking interests. I have indicated the sources to which honorable senators may refer to discover these facts; but surely we have to take seriously this question of whether the means of communication are to be channelled through only a few sources to the people. It is a dangerous position in a democracy. We find the channels narrowing all the time with take-overs of newspapers, amalgamations, extensions of interests and shareholdings throughout the whole of Australia extending not only through the metropolitan press but also into the provincial press. Surely that is a worthy question and one that this Senate could well be engaged upon.
It is not as if the Opposition had conjured up this sort of situation. I have indicated the constancy with which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has continually directed our attention to this aspect, and it should not be ignored. I would hope that Senator Hannan and the Government would consider the propriety of broadening these exceedingly narrow terms of reference. I would ask the Senate to take this matter very seriously. Like Senator Hannan, I approach it in a completely non-party political spirit. After all is said and done, under the proposal we are asked to acquiesce in, the Government will have the majority of members on the select committee. Surely that is a worthy form of inquiry to embark upon, and so I move by way of amendment -
At end of paragraph (1) insert the following words: - “ and to inquire into and report upon the extent and effects of the influence exercised by the press, radio, film and allied interests on the films, programmes and general development of commercial television “.
There may be some element of surprise in the amendment but I did indicate quite recently that this amendment would be forthcoming. Perhaps there has not been time to consider it at the governmental or party levels. I would suggest to the Government and to the proposer of the motion that it might be desirable not to let this matter end in the debate to-night but to give some thought to the points I have made concerning the narrow scope of the terms of reference. Important as is the subject, I think, quite frankly, that the appointment of a select committee for that purpose alone will rather tend to demean the Senate. It is important, I agree, but when one regards it against the three matters that I have indicated, and we by-pass those, I do not think we are paying much credit to the stature of the Senate. I do not say that unkindly. I say it in the hope that I am persuasive on the point. I would suggest to the Government and to the mover that they really might consider what I have put forward on behalf of the Opposition and perhaps after further discussion adjourn this debate to let the opening up of the terms of reference be considered by everybody interested on the Government side.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I do not pretend to be expert on this topic. I suppose like every one else I take an interest in it because this has been such a modern and rapid development. Still it is a field which is almost a world on its own, with all its own problems and peculiarities. In those circumstances it is a good thing to commence by acknowledging a lack of expert knowledge.
Before developing the things that I want to say, I should like to refer to two points made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). First, he referred to the tabulations that are contained in the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s report. Strange as it is, my reading - also limited - in anticipation of this debate, took me also to a report of the same body. It was the last report that the board made on applications for commercial television licences in a number of country areas. When I read the report, I underlined the statement that the board had adopted in 1960 a principle, which experience had indicated was sound, of seeking in country television stations a combination of a local newspaper, a local radio station, and local capital subscriptions. I hazard a guess that that is the reason why Senator McKenna finds so many newspaper interests in the lists that are contained in the board’s report.
In other words, the board has the responsibility of seeing that television is produced as efficiently and as advantageously as is possible. Charged with that responsibility, it has consciously adopted a policy of enlisting or desiring country newspapers and country radio stations to be part of the organizations which run country television stations. I would say that that logic in country areas is equally good for the metropolitan areas.
– I suggest that it should not be automatically applied to metropolitan areas, although it may be justified in country areas.
– I made the point that the logic seems to stand good for metropolitan areas as it does for country areas, because there is a sort of affinity or relationship between the work that is carried out by radio stations, television stations and newspapers. So we must not be harsh in our judgment on these matters. The simple facts of life are that in respect of so many industries one is an extension of another. One manufacturing activity leads to a similar manufacturing activity and to an extension of manufacturing business. I suppose that the same thing applies in show business and that in entertainment one activity has some connexion with another activity. So we have the position in which the television industry has emerged from the newspaper and radio industries.
I must say as an average sort of chap who, on the occasional night that he has free, enjoys looking at a television programme, that I subscribe to the view that I have heard expressed from time to time that the companies that have gone into television in Australia have, by and large, done a really good job. I think that the programmes that we see on television are interesting and good programmes. I speak for myself. Perhaps my tastes are not on as high a level as those of some other senators. For my part, I find that I get good value from my television set in the programmes and the choice of programmes.
– You must look at the Australian Broadcasting Commission programmes. You should see some of the others.
– I am quite impartial. I have only one aversion. That is the advertisements. But I suffer the advertisements.
– Now we know which station you look at.
– I look at all the stations, whether there is advertising or not. I search for and take the programmes that appeal to me. For instance, the other night I saw the programme to which I think Senator Hannan referred, the story of the Lambing Flat riots. I thought it was a first-class, interesting programme.
– Do you watch the court-room dramas?
– I do not think that the court-room dramas come on the Sydney programmes. I have not seen them. The first point I make in reply to Senator McKenna is that the fact that there are so many newspaper and radio interests in television stations is very largely the direct product of the conscious policy adopted by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in its endeavours to get as good television as it is possible to get. We cannot eliminate that from our consideration. That is a pertinent point.
The next point that Senator McKenna made, on which I differ from him but cannot speak as dogmatically as I did on the first point, is that it is lack of finance that holds back the production of Australian films for television purposes. I doubt very much whether that is so, because there is no lack of capital on the part of the proprietors of television stations to the extent that they are linked with the newspaper world. The newspaper world is not short of capital, nor lacking in the means of attracting such additional capital as it may desire. I would not accept the view that this is a question of capital. I think that this is a question of markets and being able to sell the films. The Australian audience is so comparatively small, in relation to the heavy costs involved in the completion of Australian films, that a market greater than that which is available in Australia is needed to recoup the costs incurred and earn profits. Again I do not speak with certainty, but I have a recollection of reading that we have reached a stage at which two or three of the features produced for television in Australia have been shown on overseas television programmes. One feature which ran in serial form on Sydney television was shown in Britain.
– “Stormy Petrel”?
– No, “Stormy Petrel “ was telecast by the national station Channel 2. The one 1 am referring to was “ Whiplash “, which was shown over a commercial channel. I was told that “ Whiplash “ had been sold and had run as a serial on London television programmes. I think it is too quick a conclusion to arrive at to say that lack of capital resources is at the root of the trouble. It goes deeper than that. It is lack of markets and, I think, lack of expert technical knowledge.
– And lack of advertising revenue.
– That is linked with lack of population in Australia. The Government parties will support the motion for the appointment of a select committee, but they will oppose the amendment, which is designed to widen the terms of reference of the committee. We have had a chance to consider the amendment and have decided to vote against it. I do not think it is correct to say that the committee to be appointed will have a small task ahead of it. I think it will have a very big task before it, even if it deals only with the encouragement of production of Australian films. There are questions involved in that matter which require answering. One is why the development in that direction has not been as fast as many thought it would be. Senator McKenna quoted a section of the act which lays down the principle regarding the use of Australian matter on television. Despite that statutory provision, despite the fact that the use of as great a percentage as possible of Australian material is the policy of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and also the policy of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) - and, what is even more important, the policy of the commercial television stations themselves - there is room for improvement in the percentage of Australian material used. I say that the use of more Australian material is the policy of the commercial television stations because in my discussions with representatives of those stations those people repeatedly make the point that they are just as keen to see development in that direction as other people are. So, there you have a situation in which there is a unanimous desire to proceed along certain lines. If I may express a personal opinion I should like to say that a good deal of success is being achieved in the way in which Australian productions are increasing in both number and quality. Yet we would like to see more done, and I think the select committee will have a pretty big task to do.
Senator Hannan referred to particular types of programme. I think the term he used was “ creative drama “. The terms of reference for the proposed select committee will embrace all types of Australian films.
– I did not intend to limit the inquiry.
– That is the point. The committee’s experience may show that there is more to be done in other types of films - for instance, documentary films, which are decried by some people but which fascinate me. I would sooner watch a documentary film than a straight play on television. There are discussion group films and science films. There is a variety of activities which inquiry may show can be encouraged so as to lead to an increase in the percentage of Australian films shown.
So I am against the amendment, first, because I completely disagree with the view that the proposed committee will not already have a big and important job ahead of it with the terms of reference as stated in the motion. I am opposed to the amendment, secondly, because it is entirely unrelated to the idea behind the appointment of a committee. The amendment in effect branches off at a tangent from the spirit of the motion proper. I suppose one could find half a dozen different directions in which inquiries associated with television programmes could proceed. We are concerned with the production of Australian films. That seems to me to be a big task for the committee. The amendment deals with something different. To those who hold certain views that, too, might be an important task, but it is quite unrelated to the main task.
Not speaking dogmatically, I suggest that if the proposal contained in the amendment were linked with the original proposal the possibilities of the committee’s functioning successfully in regard to its primary objective to improve the production of Australian films could be destroyed, impaired or reduced; because, whichever way you put it, there is some atmosphere of criticism, some attack on the existing television station proprietors, implicit in the amendment. Whether or not some honorable senators think that that is justified is one thing; but what we want to do is to get a committee that will work satisfactorily, and in this matter those television station proprietors have the same objective as we have. They also are anxious to increase the Australian content of their programmes, and we want their co-operation. We want to get the benefit of their knowledge and experience, because they are the fount of knowledge and experience in this matter, up to this stage at least. In my view we do not want this committee to enter on its work in an atmosphere other than that of co-operation.
That outlines the views that I hold. Members of the Government parties will support the appointment of the committee and will watch with great interest the activities of the committee, and wish it well. But we will oppose the proposed amendment.
.- I am rather surprised to find that the scope of the select committee to be appointed - I have no doubt that it will be appointed - has been kept within such narrow bounds, when it will be dealing with a subject of such magnitude. I was more disappointed than ever when I heard the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) say that he wants to confine the inquiry to such a narrow field. If we are going to pick out each section of the industry that needs inquiring into, we would want at least six committees to do the job. However, instead of having half a dozen committees, each dealing with one portion of the industry, why not have one committee that will cover the whole field of television and those things that are ancillary to it?
I do not think that even the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is wide enough when we consider what is going on in the television industry in Australia. I agree with Senator Spooner that there is a great variety of programmes to look at. If you do not like one programme you can switch to another. At least, that was the case until new channels began to operate and blocked out the channels we already had. New channels have been established on supposedly different wave lengths. The general public may have been interested in looking at Channel 9, but when Channel 8 was established they could not get Channel 9 and they could not get good reception on Channel 8. Although this is the case they receive no redress from the department.
If the scope of the committee were widened the disabilities suffered by viewers could be investigated. A large number of people are purchasing television sets on hire purchase. When new channels are operating viewers probably will not be able to get even one station clearly at all. It is well-known that other stations are to begin operations. When they do they will cut out at least one national station which is a pretty good station at the present time. The Leader of the Government thinks that there is no reason why the scope of the inquiry should be widened, but I say that there will be a need for half a dozen committees if the terms of reference of this inquiry are to be confined to one small detail, as is proposed.
The Leader of the Government has said that there is a good variety of programmes from which viewers may make their selections. What has he to say about the confidence tricks that are being put over people who are buying sets from salesmen or paying for repairs? Confidence tricks are being put over owners of television sets by people who call themselves technicians. There is no way in which people can get redress from these confidence tricksters. I think that the committee should inquire into all these things and report back to the Senate. If it did nothing else it would expose what is going, on, and some check could be made upon those activities. I therefore support Senator McKenna in his plea that this debate be adjourned and that Senator Hannan and the Government have another look at the position with a view to widening the scope of the terms of reference of the committee.
Some people have paid big money for a television set, and to have an antenna put up which was supposed to be the best that could be procured, and then have seen it fall to pieces on the roof of the house within two years. The company that put the antenna up has gone out of existence altogether. That is a real con. trick. Then what happens when a television set goes wrong? You call in a technician. He comes along, puts his finger on the trouble almost at once and plays with the set for an hour. Then he turns around and says to you, “ Did my mate give you any quote for this? “ You say, “No”. Then he says: “Well, it is £2 for the first quarter of an hour and £2 an hour thereafter. We have been working on this set for one and one-half hours.” On top of that he charges for travelling time. These are some of the things that the committee should inquire into. If the committee could not rectify them, at least it would expose them. Perhaps the Government after hearing the report of the committee, would bring in legislation that would protect television owners against such con. tricks and against such highway robbery as is going on at the present time.
Another thing that a committee could inquire into is the cost of insurance, which is going up and up each year. It is getting completely beyond the purse of the ordinary workman to own a television set. The moment anything goes wrong the con. men come in, and instead of putting the trouble right straight away they prolong the work. The first thing they ask you is “ Are you insured?” And then in comes a bill for £10 or £15 for a 15s. job. That is going on all over Australia. Yet insurance is going up and up and it will continue to do so until such time as there is an inquiry into such things. These costs will continue to rise until television is completely out of the range of the working people of Australia. -
In view of what is going on, would it not be possible for the Government to reconsider the position? Senator Hannan professes to have so much sympathy for the mass of the people that he is greatly interested in giving them high-class films. He says he is greatly interested in finding some way of giving work to Australians through the production of films in Australia. Is he not interested also in bringing good technicians into this industry, and putting the whole industry on a sound footing instead of letting it go to pieces from one end of Australia to another? Would he be interested also in protecting these people for whom he wants high-class programmes by ensuring that they have stations from which they can receive Australian programmes, instead of having their television sets blacked out by other channels? These are things we want inquired into. I think an inquiry into matters of this nature would be of immense value, not only to the Government, but also to Australia, and particularly to the hundreds of thousands of television owners throughout Australia who are getting it right in the neck in many districts to-day.
The Leader of the Government is a very broadminded man. I have heard him say repeatedly that he is out to assist the people and the economy of the country. He cannot tell me that he is assisting the economy of the country when he allows an industry to be carried on like this. People are being robbed and there is no way for them to get redress. I believe in my heart that he has some feeling for these people, as I believe Senator Hannan has. I class Senator Hannan as an ultra-conservative, but I still think that he has some feeling for these people who have television sets. If the scope of this proposed inquiry were broadened, the things I have been mentioning could be investigated. Then we could find out why private enterprise has fallen down on its job, as Senator Hannan has clearly shown by proposing this motion. We could also find out what is causing the other ills I have mentioned, and attempt to discover some way of rectifying them. We have had a ‘ clear admission by Senator Hannan, and by the Leader of the Government, that private enterprise in Australia has completely fallen down on its job in regard to the manufacture of films. They want this committee to be appointed in order to see whether it can find some ways and means of encouraging private enterprise to get on with the job.
– I do not think you are right in putting into my mouth things I did not say.
– Very well. I shall place another interpretation on the honorable senator’s motion. Does he want to see a state-owned, socialist film industry in Australia, or does he want to see private enterprise being encouraged to build up the industry? He cannot have it both ways. He has admitted that private enterprise is not doing sufficient for the industry. Therefore, I am entitled to ask whether he wants the Government to set up a national institution for the purpose of producing and distributing films throughout Australia and other countries.
I suggest that if a gallup poll were to be conducted throughout Australia to ascetain the wishes of television owners, it would show that they are more concerned with getting a clear picture on their television sets, without interruption from other telecasts, and with having repairs carried out reasonably well and at reasonable cost, than with improving the programmes. I therefore suggest that the scope of the proposed committee should be widened to cover those matters. It is of no use to improve the programmes if the people who watch television do not get good reception with their television sets.
– The standard of our television picture is among the three best in the world.
-; - I suggest in all sincerity, and in good faith, that the honorable senator should try to induce the Government to enlarge the scope of the proposed inquiry to cover some of the aspects I have mentioned. Under the present conditions, television viewers are confronted by difficulties, some of which arise from technical reasons and others from administrative reasons connected with the allocation cf channels and so on. In addition, they are subjected to robbery and to confidence tricks. I heard an honorable senator say during the debate that two technicians had been left without a job and were unable to obtain protection from any governmental authority. They could not do work that urgently needed to be done, although they would have been well paid for their efforts. I have no doubt that they would have done a good job and would not have robbed the people as some of the technicians are doing to-day.
I know that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) will not take any notice of my request, but perhaps he will take notice of my leader and agree to postpone the appointment of the proposed committee. In the meantime he could consult with Senator Hannan with a view to widening the scope of the inquiry so that it might achieve more worth-while results.
– I wish to take up the time of the Senate for a few minutes to support the motion very enthusiastically and to oppose the amendment. I agree with my leader that there is a tremendous field for investigation in the motion as it has been set down. I want, first of all, to correct Senator Aylett’s interpretation of the motion. I see nothing in it to indicate that assistance should be limited to the production of films by private enterprise. In fact, that is not mentioned in the motion. It refers to the encouragement of the production in Australia of films.
– It does not matter whether they are produced by private enterprise or by government enterprise.
– There is a field for inquiry in both respects. I think that private enterprise is doing a splendid job in trying to foster this young industry. It is small at present, but it is growing and I hope it will continue to grow. There are ways in which the Government can assist to encourage this young industry.
I hope that the proposed committee will not try to run before it can walk, and that it will not attempt to assist the industry before it is ready for assistance. I say that because, in listening to Senator Hannan, I was a little inclined to think that he felt, although he did not say so, that financial assistance should be given, particularly for the encouragement of creative drama. I hope to see drama establishing
Itself, but I think it has a long way to go before it is ready for any financial assistance from government sources.
– I said I had not prejudged the issue.
– Quite. I am simply giving my views on the matter. I think that television needs to walk slowly. It has to do a lot more work and gain a lot more experience before it can call itself a first-class drama-producing industry. We have first-class actors - I do not dispute that at all - but certain of the productions I have seen on television lead me to say that some of the actors need a good deal of experience before they can expect to get into world class, and it is world class that we have to aim for. As my leader has said, we have to send our films overseas before we can call our industry a thoroughly efficient one.
I disagree with my leader in one respect. This morning, during question time, I asked whether the Government would set up an authority to acquire films, or to arrange for their exhibition throughout the world, and the Minister said that it was entirely a private industry matter. It is far too large an undertaking to expect these small companies to get into the world production circuits. Those circuits are controlled by very big and wealthy companies, mainly American, and they are certainly going to do their utmost to keep out films produced by the Australian industry, if it should grow in size and increase its output. They would not want to see Australian films breaking into their circuit. Admittedly, a few of our productions have been accepted abroad and have been extremely successful.
I hope the committee will investigate the possibility of the Government setting up some kind of authority which could arrange for the distribution of our films, either by agreement with the big overseas companies or perhaps through our own trade and diplomatic posts. That, I think, would be the most constructive way of assisting this young and struggling industry. I do not agree with Senator McKenna that the only answer is money. Some of the most successful painters in the world lived on the bread line and painted the most successful of their pictures when they were doing so. I think that, for a while, that may be true of our film industry. Film-making is an art, just as painting is an art. The film industry may have to live almost on the bread line before it gets down to producing the really artistic films that we want to see. I do not think that money is the answer at present, though undoubtedly any company will put out its hand if money is being offered around.
I was surprised to hear Senator Hannan repeating his regrets that our film industry had fallen behind that of Denmark. I think he also referred to Italy, Japan and India. I give him again the answer that I gave when he made that statement on a previous occasion. We cannot expect to compete with foreign countries whose film industries have to produce films for their own people, with the dialogue in their own tongue. We have to suffer, perhaps, for the fact that we are an English-speaking country. America is producing effectively. England is producing, perhaps not so prodigiously as America, but nevertheless effectively. Because we are Englishspeaking, we shall have to fall in behind those countries and accept their films. We cannot expect to be able to produce on anything like the same scale as other countries which produce films in their own language.
– But their films are dubbed in Danish.
– That is true, but I am speaking of their own industries in their own countries.
– They have to compete with American films dubbed in Danish.
– They are never as successful when they are dubbed because the actors are speaking in a different language. They are much more effective when the dialogue is in their own language and there is therefore a greater incentive for them to produce films in which the dialogue is in their own language.
I believe that our greatest shortcoming in Australia lies with our script writing, and this is where I disagree with Senator McKenna. I do not think we have yet a sufficient number of experienced script writers to write for the productions for which we are looking. I think a great deal more experience is required by our script writers. The proposed committee might investigate the advisability of sending script writers abroad, if necessary, to study methods of script writing. As evidence of the need for good script writers, I mention the excellent documentaries produced by our own Commonwealth Film Unit. Almost invariably the only fault to be found with our film unit productions lies in the scripts on which they are based. I mention as an example the Caltex film on Australia that we saw only a few weeks ago. The photography in that film was excellent. Indeed, the photography in the whole of the Commonwealth Film Unit series of productions is excellent, but the script does not hang together in a sufficiently mature way. I suggest that if the committee is appointed it might investigate ways of encouraging and teaching script writers.
With those few suggestions, I say again that I support most enthusiastically the proposal that a committee be appointed to inquire into ways of fostering this industry which, although small, is starting in the right way. It is efficient, but it needs encouragement and it needs help to get itself into the world’s markets, for a film company is certainly handicapped if it cannot send its productions overseas and recoup its costs on world markets.
– My comments on this subject will be brief indeed because it was at very short notice that I realized that the matter would be discussed in this chamber this evening. The proposal by Senator -Hannan that a select committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into and report upon the encouragement of the production in Australia of films and programmes suitable for television, and matters incidental thereto, is of importance from the point of view not only of the propagation of programmes to the public but also of the establishment of another strong and virile secondary industry in the Australian economy.
One can envisage that one of the subjects that the proposed select committee would have within its purview would be the question of the finance required to undertake the establishment of such an industry in Australia! Allied with that is the question of the sources from which that finance will be available. Then I should imagine it would be within the ambit of the committee’s functions to consider the number of technicians that are available immediately in Australia for the establishment of such an industry and, if technicians are not available in Australia, the countries from which they might be imported, not only to advise upon the establishment of such an industry but also to train Australians to engage in the work. The availability of Australian artists and actors has been referred to already by Senator Buttfield.
Last, but not least, among the matters to be investigated by the committee would be the type of production required by the Australian viewer. On this point the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had many comments to make in its last report to this Parliament. In paragraph 106, on page 45, of that report, the board said -
Television viewers’ licences have again increased in number. This fact cannot, however, be taken in isolation, for the evidence of audiencemeasurement surveys suggests that the amount of time each viewer spends watching television is declining. This trend has to some extent been masked by the continuing increase in the total number of viewers.
So that, whilst the television service is being extended through the length and breadth of Australia, the fact is that, according to audience-measurement surveys which have been conducted, the viewing by individuals throughout the community is declining. The question to be asked is: Is this because of the poor standard of programmes offered to the Australian people? If we turn to page 56 of the board’s report, we find this in paragraph 146 - . . although it was found that there was a smaller choice in 1960 than in 19S8 the difference seemed insufficient to explain the continued decline in total ratings. However, this led to the investigation of a second theory, that the decline was related to changes in the predominant elements of programmes. A calculation was made of the amount of time occupied during the selected periods (June-July, 1958 and 1960) by the types of entertainment which were best represented. . .
From the results of the surveys, which are set out on the following page, we find that between 1958 and 1960 there was a 50 per cent, decrease in the number of adventure films but a 92 per cent. increase in the number of crime and suspense films shown to Australian viewers. We find, too, that since 1958 there has been a 41 per cent. increase in the western type films shown to Australian viewers. These facts are important in an analysis of the vast amount of work that necessarily will have to be undertaken by the select committee that might be set up as a result of this debate.
The television industry has been operating in Australia for some six years now. It is still in the process of expanding throughout our country areas, and my leader, Senator McKenna, has mentioned the fact that in Appendix E of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s report reference is made to the intrusion by the press of Australia into the organization, administration and control of this very important medium of communications. At pages 63 and 64 of a book entitled “The Structure of the Australian Economy “, written by Professor Karmel and Mr. Brunt, these comments are made -
One aspect of this situation is the extent to which the communication media are dominated by less than half a dozen firms. Indeed, in 1960 no less than 43 per cent of daily newspaper circulation throughout Australia was controlled by the one firm, the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. Australia has fourteen metropolitan dailies and thirtyfive provincial dailies, seemingly sufficient to provide some diversity of opinion. But the degree of urbanization is such that the fourteen metropolitan dailies account for 90 per cent. of the total circulation; and the leading four firms, which publish ten of the metropolitan dailies between them, are thus in a position to handle 75 per cent. of the total daily circulation. Associated with this is the fact that not one metropolitan daily presents a Left Wing point of view.
That is a most important fact. The radical point of view in the Australian democracy is not circulated or presented to the vast mass of Australian readers, radio listeners and television viewers. The quotation continues -
In addition, these four firms publish an extensive list of non-daily newspapers and magazines of which the most important is ‘'’The Australian Women’s Weekly” published by Australian Consolidated Press Limited. This must be rated Australia’s foremost national medium of communication, for its weekly circulation implies that it is purchased by one in every three families in Australia. While “ Only a woman’s magazine “, its influence in setting and unifying standards of living is of the greatest importance.
This is an important part -
In addition to their publications, these four firms control eight of the sixteen metropolitan TV sta tions and five of the thirty-seven metropolitan radio stations. The only other broadcaster of significance is the Government instrumentality, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which operates six TV stations and a dozen radio stations.
Bearing in mind the extent of the control of the media of communication by a privileged section of the community and the importance of such a position to the development of an enlightened democracy, I consider that the amendment moved by Senator McKenna is of the utmost importance. I suggest that it is strongly allied with the proposition contained in Senator Hannan’s motion that a select committee be set up to inquire into the production in Australia of films and programmes suitable for television.
If honorable senators require further evidence on why the amendment moved by my leader should be supported, I suggest that they refer to an article in the “ Saturday Review” of 11th August, 1962, which sets out the viewpoint of an American television producer after he surveyed the Australian television industry. I inquired about obtaining the publication from the Library this evening, but unfortunately it was not available. So I have not it with me. I believe that the amendment moved by Senator McKenna is of vital importance and is strongly allied with the motion moved by Senator Hannan. I support the amendment in all conscientiousness and sincerity, in the belief that it should be carried and in the hope that it will be carried.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper: -
Tariff Board - Report on glass fibre and glass fibre products; and Interim Report under the General Textile Reference on glass fibre and glass fibre products.
Senate adjourned at 9.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 November 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19621129_senate_24_s22/>.