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Thursday, 28 April 1932

Mr CASEY (Corio) .- It is unnecessary to stress the importance of wireless broadcasting in this country.

This is clearly realized by all honorable members. The bill before us provides an opportunity for obtaining reforms in our wireless broadcasting services, and I am convinced that, so far as such reforms can bc achieved by legislation, they will bc achieved by this measure. 1 have always been interested in wireless broadcasting, and during the past month I have made it my business to interview as many as possible of those connected with A or with B class stations, and other persons interested in the cultural, educational, as well as other aspects of broadcasting. As a result, I am convinced that, although there has been a good deal of criticism of the bill by interested parties, there is not much wrong with the measure as it now stands. The more one considers the matter, the more firmly is one convinced of the importance of selecting the best possible personnel for the commission^ and particularly of getting the best man available for the most important post of general manager. There is- no necessity to stress that point for the benefit of the Postmaster-General ; but I suggest to him that in selecting the commission, the Government should appoint at least a proportion of comparatively young men possessing both experience and vision, but without that fixity of ideas which so frequently characterizes men of the age of those who are usually appointed to such commissions. This service, which has tremendous potentialities, should be in the hands, -to some extent at least, of men who can grow and develop with it. I also plead for the inclusion of a young and vigorous-minded educationalist. Because of the great area and sparse population of the Commonwealth, and the consequent difficulty of reaching the people out-back with ordinary educational services, wireless broadcasting is destined to play an important part in -the education of our people.

While I have every reason to respect the B class in this country - and the energy and initiative of those controlling them, which is evidence of the strength and vigour of private enterprise in this country - I submit that the national broadcasting system must be the paramount entrepreneur of education and entertainment in Australia. Few will deny the scope for improvement in the present programmes issued from the A class stations. I do not mean that there is room for improvement only when these arc judged by the highest cultural standards ; there is room for improvement from the highest to the lightest of the items of entertainment.

I wish now to refer to the charter of the British .Broadcasting Corporation and to the licence and agreement entered into between that organization and the British Postmaster-General. In these documents, there is provision for at least as much ministerial control as in this bill.

Mr Fenton - There is more.

Mr CASEY - I do not object to the extent of ministerial control which the bill provides, although I did not agree with the bill in its original form. Some measure of ministerial control is necessary to ensure the necessary co-operation between this important commission and the Government in respect of matters in which public policy is involved. When a government has to provide for cooperation with a body such as this, the only way to ensure adequate collaboration is by making it mandatory on the com.111 1SS 1011 to consult the Minister. Therefore, I sec no great harm in providing for some measure of ministerial control. The smooth working of the arrangements in any event depends on the personnel of the commission. An inadequate commission will stultify the bill, however tightly drawn.

I should have been better pleased had the bill provided that the commission should have greater freedom in respect of its technical services. As it is framed, the commission is obliged to use the technical services supplied by the PostmasterGeneral's Department, but I should Iia ve preferred that at the end of a definite period - say, twelve months - the commission should be free to establish its own technical services, or at its discretion to continue to use portion or all of the facilities and personnel placed at its disposal by the Post- master-General.

There is a clause in the licence and agreement with the British Broadcasting Corporation, the principle of which I should like to see incorporated in this bill, a provision requiring that all the servants of the commission shall be' British subjects. Many of the provisions of the charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation have been incorporated in this measure, and I suggest that no harm would be done by including such a clause.

I think that questions relating to the Australasian Performing Right Association, as well as the relations of the proposed commission with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited .are not relevant to this bill; but they are not far removed from it. I have, on several occasions, asked questions about these matters; and I would again ask the Postmaster-General to make them the subject of investigation at an early date.

It is pleasing to me, notwithstanding my limited experience in this House, to take part in a debate in which party distinctions are not being strictly observed. This bill is not a party measure, and does not cause party rancour; indeed, there is little risk of any great difference between the various political parties regarding it. Therefore, I anticipate that all sections of the House will agree to pass this bill substantially in its present form.

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