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Thursday, 4 May 1939

Mr MAHONEY (Denison) .- The time is ripe for the re-organization of the Australian Broadcasting Commis sion. I am most dissatisfied with the failure of that body to carry out its promise to provide an up-to-date broadcasting studio at Hobart. Some years ago the commission bought a block of land in Macquarie-street for- the purpose, at a cost of about £2,000. At the time there was a house on the block occupied by a medical man who paid £4 a week as rental. In its enthusiasm, the commission had the building . demolished, but it failed to proceed with the erection of a studio. The result was that the revenue from the residence was lost. The fence on the block is now in a shocking state of disrepair. A portion of the land is used by private enterprise, possibly without any payment being made for it. The commission has wasted thousands of pounds of the taxpayers' money; it has failed to reveal sufficient business capacity to administer an important public utility in the interests of the people who have paid many thousands of pounds in fees, and are entitled to the best service that can be provided. After it had bought the land in Macquarie-street, and had had the building on it demolished the commission bought another block of land in Davey-street which it thought would be more suitable for a broadcasting studio. The second block of land cost about £2,300. There is no evidence of any intention on the part of the commission to fulfil the promise of its chairman, Mr. Cleary, when he visited Tasmania about two years ago. Tasmania is entitled to more consideration by the Commonwealth Government than it has received in the past. The Minister would do well to inquire into the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and learn for himself how the money obtained as listeners' fees is being expended. The members of the commission hold their positions because they are friends of the party from which the Government is formed. The people of Tasmania do not get the programmes which are available to people in other parts of the Commonwealth.


Mr MAHONEY - Although Tasmania has not a representative in the new Ministry, it has good representatives on the floor of this House. You, Mr. Speaker, although not able freely to voice your protest against the treatment meted out to Tasmania, are aware of the way in which that State is treated. Legislation should be introduced to re-organize the control of broadcasting throughout the Commonwealth. That control should be retained by the Parliament. When the chairman of the commission visited Hobart he promised that a studio would be provided in that city. He said that men were being sent overseas to get the latest information as to the design and equipment of studios, and that when they returned the work would be proceeded with. The men who were sent abroad have returned to Australia, but nothing has been done to give effect to the promise of the chairman. Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide have been provided with studios, but Hobart has been neglected. Unfortunately, that has been the fate of Tasmania under federation. 1 do not blame the present PostmasterGeneral for the delay, because he has been in charge of the department for only a short time. I hope that during his term of office he will look after the interests of all the States and not give attention only to the larger ones. Tasmania's geographical position has led to that State being neglected. The works which I have mentioned should be proceeded with immediately. Moreover, the people of Tasmania have to be content with whatever wireless programmes are pushed on to them by the other States. When I made representations to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in this connexion, it said that insufficient lines were available to transmit to Hobart the programmes required, and that the use of additional lines had been refused by the Postmaster-General's Department. All the wireless programmes received in Tasmania come over telephone lines, and if the lines are being used for other purposes it is impossible for listeners to hear any items of importance. In order to overcome the difficulty and give the listeners in that State the programmes to which they are entitled, an up-to-date regional station should be erected in Tasmania through which all the best programmes could be received. It is a disgrace to the Government that the conditions of which I complain should exist in any State of the Commonwealth. Various Ministers have spoken in this House concerning the millions of pounds that are being expended in various parts of Australia, but the Tasmanian people have to be satisfied with " the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table." Tasmania, which is an important part of the Commonwealth, is entitled to greater consideration than it is receiving to-day. As Tasmania is not now represented in the Cabinet, its interests will probably be neglected. Apparently, all the other States will receive what they require, and Tasmania will be ignored. The time is fast approaching when Tasmania will receive its due because a Labour government will be in power and only Labour men will represent that State in this Parliament. The revenue collected by the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be distributed on an equita'ble basis, and the service provided should be such as to keep the people of Tasmania in close touch with what is happening on the mainland and overseas. The PostmasterGeneral should make it his business to see that sufficient money for this purpose is made available from the huge profits received by the commission; those profits, according to his annual report, amounted to over £1,000,000 last year. Sufficient money should be made available to erect a modern broadcasting studio in Hobart, and I earnestly trust that the necessary provision will be made on this year's Estimates. I understand that the commission is not altogether to blame because it has failed to get sufficient money to carry out the work required; but the Government must fulfil its obligations to the Tasmanian people. They are not content with only recorded programmes when listeners on the mainland receive news and important items direct. Events on the mainland are sometimes recorded and Tasmanian listeners do not hear them for two or three days. The Tasmanian people should receive information concerning important events at the same time as other listeners. In the opinion of some, anything is good enough for " Tassy." We do not benefit to the extent that we should from the expenditure of money for defence purposes, and it seems that the women and children of Tasmania do not require protection. Representatives of other States are continually urging the expenditure of large sums of money, but when the representatives of Tasmania ask for necessary works to be undertaken they are informed that sufficient funds are not available. I know that the Postmaster-General will heed the requests which he receives from New South Wales and other States, and I earnestly appeal to him to pay close attention to the needs of Tasmania. In the past, Ministers have disregarded the claims we have made, but we shall always fight for our rights. If there are any people in Australia entitled to greater consideration, they are those in Tasmania, who have suffered in silence.

I urge the present Postmaster-General to visit Hobart and authorize the erection there of a new store for the post office, which was promised by his predecessor. The present building is damp and in many respects obsolete and when it was inspected by the former Postmaster-General he said that he considered that it should be condemned and a new one erected. Those who advised remodelling the present obsolete structure did not know their job, because such renovation would be uneconomic, and in any case would not provide sufficient facilities for such an important city. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) have been informed that their requests will be favorably considered, and I urge the Minister to give immediate attention to the representations which I have made on behalf of the people of Tasmania.

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