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Tuesday, 3 May 1932

Mr MAXWELL (Fawkner)

I move -

That the following words be omitted: - " but shall not engage in any subsidiary business which, in the opinion of the Minister, is not desirable or necessary for the purpose for which the commission was established ".

It appears to me that we are appointing a commission to carry on the business of broadcasting in the national interest. I believe, therefore, that the commission should be given practically unlimited powers, and that its work should be beyond the possibility of political influence. Under the clause as it stands, if the commission unanimously concluded that it was necessary to do a certain thing in order to perfect its scheme, its proposals could be vetoed by the Minister who happened to be in power at thetime. The Minister could say that, in his opinion, a particular proposal was undesirable or unnecessary, in which case effect could not be given to it. That would at once hamstring the commission, and restrict its powers for good.

The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) made an important point when he said that broadcasting was not a government business, because that term imported the idea of political influence. A government that is carrying on a business of any kind is always subject to political pressure, and that is why a government business is usually a failure; it is not carried on on strictly business lines, or having regard only to the. public interest. ' I understand that the work of this commission is to be far removed from those considerations. The one consideration that should influence * this body is the public good, because it is to control a great national service. The members will be carefully selected for their ability to do this work, and they should be given complete control of it, to enable them to carry it out in the best interests of the community. I understand that the commission will be limited to a fixed income, which is to be derived from a particular source. It will not be expected to carry on its operations at a profit, but to manage them in such a way that its revenue will cover its expenditure. If, in its wisdom, it comes to the conclusion that it is necessary to engage in a certain occupation or trans- action that could be regarded as a business enterprise, it will, under the clause, be powerless to do that', except with the approval of the Minister.

Mr GREGORY - That is hardly a fair definition of " any subsidiary business."

Mr MAXWELL - In my opinion, it is. The very term " subsidiary business " is ambiguous. I find that Webster furnishes forty or fifty definitions of " business." In one case it is defined as an occupation or transaction. Placing that definition on the word, I believe that it would be impossible for the commission to engage in any occupation or transaction that it might consider desirable in the interests of national broadcasting, unless it met with the approval of the Minister. I am sure that it was never contemplated by the framers of the bill -that the commission should undertake any electrical business, in competition with private enterprise, for supplying public wants with a view to making a profit. After all, going into a business means entering into a certain pursuit for gain or profit, and that is not contemplated under this bill as being part of the work of the commission. This body is being charged with a great mission. As was remarked by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), it is expected to render a great national service, with no idea of profit. Any surplus tha.t the commission may have is to be spent in furthering the special work on which it will be engaged. Therefore, I suggest that in the best interests of the nation, we should .not tie the hands of the commission as proposed under the clause.

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