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Thursday, 28 April 1932

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- The salary which the Government proposes to pay to the chairman of this commission will be too great if the results of the commission's operations are similar to the results achieved by other commissions appointed by the Bruce-Page Government. On the other hand, a salary of £1,500 per annum might be profitable to the taxpayers if it would prevent the appointment of some of the political friends of the Government. We shall do well to remember that although the listeners-in are required to pay their licence fees to the Government, the control of broadcasting is being taken out of the hands of the Government. In these circumstances, it seems to me that the listeners-in should be protected in some way. Who will appoint the chairman of this commission ? Will the- Minister have any power to do so, or will the appointment bc made by the commission itself? What has been wrong with our wireless administration in the past? If the listeners in are not to have any power in respect of the proposed commission, aud Parliament itself is to have no power, to whom will the commission be answerable? In my opinion, the programmes being broadcast from A class stations at present are reasonably good, although there is room for some improvement. Is it necessary at a time when the country is on the verge of bankruptcy to incur additional expenditure by paying high salaries to the members of this proposed commission? I am not prepared to vote in favour of the payment of large salaries, without knowing to whom they are to be paid. The people of this country have had a bitter experience of royal commissions. The Director of Posts and Telegraphs is receiving a salary of about $3,000. Is it proposed that another department shall be set up and that the head of it shall receive a similar salary? At a time when the Commonwealth Government and the various State Governments are doing their utmost to reduce the numerical strength and cost of the Public Service, it seems to me to be ridiculous to even think of appointing outside persons to positions such as that which we are now considering. We encourage our young people to sit for examinations to qualify for appointment to the Public Service, and yet it is proposed to appoint to an important position of this kind, a person outside the Public Service. Surely, there are officers of the Public Service who are quite capable of making a success of wireless broadcasting. It cannot be expected that any business man who has a high appreciation of his abilities will offer his services to the Commonwealth Government for £500 per annum in order to take charge of our broadcasting enterprises. Instead of providing high salaries for commissioners to control broadcasting we ought to be spending what money we have to improve the broadcasting service to the people by building relay stations to serve country districts. The people who live next door to the music halls and picture shows in our cities do not need wireless broadcasting to entertain them. On the other hand, the people who live outback do need it, and, in my opinion, they should be given the best possible programmes,1 and should not be compelled to listen to broadcast advertisements to the effect that somebody's sausages or vacuum cleaners are better than those offered for sale by somebody else. If this Government is* in earnest in its economy campaign, it will not agree to pay unnecessarily large salaries to the members of the proposed broadcasting commission. If the revenue from broadcasting is buoyant, let it be spent in providing country people with better programmes and a good news service. Let the Government appoint a qualified educationalist to provide children in remote areas and in isolated centres with additional educational facilities. If classical music is broadcast in Italian, let somebody be appointed who can explain the music to the people. Some honorable members have had something to say about the age of pianos and so on. They do not seem to realize that there are people living in our outback areas who have never seen a piano.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - Shame !

Mr RIORDAN - It is all very well for the Minister for the Interior to make a remark of that kind. He can leave Canberra at 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon, visit two or three picture shows or entertainments on the Saturday, and do likewise on Monday, and then return to his political duties; but the people in our country districts cannot do anything of the kind. Under existing conditions, it would be ridiculous for us to provide a salary of £500 for a part-time job for somebody. Then we must remember that a manager has to be appointed to take charge of this business. Will he be paid a salary of £3,000 per annum like the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, although the members of the Broadcasting Commission will receive a salary of from. £500 to £400 a year? This Government is very generous when it is spending other people's money. It is quite ready to approve of the payment of a miserable wage of £2 lis. to the workers for a couple of weeks at a time, or from 5s. to 8s. a week as a dole to the unemployed when it has to provide the money; but when the listeners-in are providing the money it favours the payment of high salaries. What redress will the listeners-in have if this commission is a failure? But, after all, any loss will have to be found not by the listeners-in but by the general taxpayers. I think that wireless should be nationalized, and that members of the Public Service should be appointed to take charge of it. If our well-trained Public Service is not' capable of managing a wireless enterprise, it should be abolished. I consider that wireless broadcasting, is being conducted on fairly efficient lines at present, and that there is no need to change the policy in a period such as we are now passing through. Let the present controlling authorities improve their programmes, and provide educational facilities for country people, and cease advertising that Antonio's pork sausages may he obtained in Pitt-street, and we shall find that the number of listeners-in will increase. If the A class stations were required to broadcast better programmes, and if additional relay stations were provided, there would be no need for so many B class stations, and no need to appoint a board of commissioners at heavy additional expenditure to the country at a time when national bankruptcy is facing us.

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