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Wednesday, 2 March 1927

Senator THOMPSON (Queensland) . - The few observations that I wish to make on this subject are not in the direction of encouraging the proposal to appoint a royal commission, because I am afraid that that would be not merely costly, but an absolute, waste of money. Rather do I think that the remedies lie along the lines of increasing and tightening the picture film censorship by giving the censors more power, and by providing more funds for the department so as to enable it to exercise its functions much more liberally than is possible at present. I hope it will not be thought that I am complaining of the film censorship. I feel that its work has been exceedingly well done, but very often it is a matter of trying to make bricks without straw. I believe that the censors want more assistance and more money to enable them to discharge their duties with complete satisfaction to all concerned. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) omitted to mention one very pertinent point in discussing the quality of the American pictures presented to Australian audiences. I refer to the descriptive language used in connexion with them. It is not a language, but a hybrid sort of thing which is particularly demoralizing in its effects on our young people. I should like the film censorship to devote its energies in a restrictive sense to this descriptive matter. It is not typical of any language with which we are acquainted. We have enough slang of our own without importing in this way the dregs of American slang: Whether a royal commission is permitted to function, or whether we increase the powers of the censorship, some effort should be made to deal with this evil, which is crying out for a remedy. Another objection that I have to American pictures is the liberties which the producers take with the original book, or the historical incident on which a picture is baaed. Those who have witnessed pictures founded upon good stories or historical events will admit that, in almost every instance, extraordinary liberties are taken. I believe the position has now become so acute that English authors in disposing of the film rights in any book written by them are insisting upon an inspection of the picture before it is publicly screened. That, of course, is a matter which we cannot control; the remedy lies with the authors themselves. It is very annoying to readers of a good original story to see it mutilated, as is so often the case, when it is reproduced on the screen.

I agree with what Senator Pearce had to say on the subject of unfair criticism. There has been far too much criticism of that nature concerning pictures displayed in this country. Objections have been taken in some quarters that were not apparent to the average' picture theatre patron. Honorable senators will recall, for instance, the way in which a picture entitled " The Big Parade " was criticized in the Senate last year. I saw the picture, and, in my opinion, the attack made upon it was quite unjustifiable. It was declared to be anti-British, and foreign to British sentiment. As a matter of fact, it was merely a pretty love story. The hero happened to be an American soldier in the Great War, and consequently he had to be depicted attached to an American battalion, and following it through its various activities at the Front. I cannot imagine how the story could be construed as being contrary to British sentiment, or as belittling the British Army. These are criticisms to which I was glad to hear Senator Pearce take exception. I have also heard during this debate criticisms levelled against certain Australian productions. The Australian pictures I have seen have been based on good dramatic stories with a good moral tone; they have been exceedingly well photographed, and the women appearing in them have dressed as attractively as those appearing in any American production. I witnessed one a little while ago - at the moment I forget the title - in which there was a mannequin parade, and some of the dresses were very beautiful. I have not seen anything more attractive in any American film. When we can produce pictures of that character, and since our women-folk are quite as attractive as those shown in American films, it is our duty to do all we can to encourage the Australian picture industry. I do not see, however, that any assistance in that direction can be given by the appointment of a royal commission. Senator Reid put his fingers on the weak spot in our efforts to build up the picture-film industry when he said that the Australian picture producers have not the vast distributing area that the Americans have. The Americans secured control of the world's market during the war, and it will take a good deal of effort to wrest that control from them. Working in conjunction with other portions of the Empire, however, we should be able to secure a wider distribution, and in time should get our share of the world's distribution.

I have heard some damaging comments on British pictures; but I have not seen any to which justifiable exception could be taken. I recently saw one based on Ian Hay's play, " The Happy Ending." It is one of the most beautiful

I have witnessed for a long time, and bears more than favorable comparison with the best American films. .British producers are as fully conversant with the position as we are, and are making a determined effort to recapture the place they occupied in the cinema trade before the war. That being the case, I hope to see, before very long, a very much wider distribution of British pictures in Australia, [t is open to the States to assist to that end by allowing only a percentage of foreign pictures into Australia. That may be done by the States, although not by the Commonwealth. I understand that efforts have been made in that direction, and if something definite is done, it will be very helpful. I do not think, however, that the proposed royal commission would get us anywhere at all. I suggest that we save the cost, which would be not only considerable, but an absolute waste, and devote a much smaller sum to strengthening the hands of the film censorship by giving it the additional financial assistance which it undoubtedly requires.

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