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Thursday, 26 November 1931

Mr THOMPSON (New England) . - I wish to join with other honorable members in paying my tribute to you, Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of Committees, and the officers of the House.

My object in rising is to impress upon the Government the great necessity, in view of the fact that we are to have a rush election, for allowing all parties the freedom of the air. At election time, and particularly during a record short campaign, the people of Australia want to know more than they do at any other time about the issues that have to be determined, and if there is any undue restriction upon the use. of the air, it will be very unfair to them and to the parties which will suffer as a result of foolish interference with the liberty that belongs to all political parties. I am not speaking with any knowledge of what may be the Government's intention, but in view of the fact that this will be the last opportunity that honorable members on this side of the House will have of placing their views before the Government on this important subject, I earnestly hope, and I think, that all honorable members on this side will join with me, that the Government will be as generous as possible to all parties, and not take up the stand that only its supporters, and say, the official opposition, shall have the right to address the people over the air through the A class broadcasting stations. During the recent election in Great Britain practically the whole of the publicity, and all the policy speeches were put to the people over the air. It has now become the recognized practice in all countries that have established well organized broadcasting systems, to allow the utmost freedom, not only to political parties, but also to candidates, in placing their views before the electors. This country has not reached the stage at which candidates can expect to be given that privilege, but we certainly can expect that any party which is recognized by the electors as a party - and I am speaking particularly of the Country party - shall have the right that is given to any other party to broadcast its views. It is a question not of the size of the party, but whether every party is to be given an opportunity to use this magnificent means of placing its views before the people. In the coming election we shall have practically three weeks' campaign, which will make it utterly impossible for country members to travel throughout their electorates and personally place their views before their constituents. It will be comparatively simple for the representatives of metropolitan constituencies to get into contact with their electorates. We can safely say that the majority of the countryelectors will not have personal interviews with their candidates, particularly with the leaders of the parties. For that reason I strongly urge, on behalf of the Country party, the fairness - I shall not express it otherwise - of extending to the representatives of all recognized parties the privilege of addressing the electors of Australia in this way.

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