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Thursday, 28 April 1932


Dr EARLE PAGE (Cowper) .- Clauses 7 and8 appear to form the crux of the. bill, because the commission will determine the broadcasting policy to be adopted in Australia. Owing to the fact that I was engaged in a discussion with a member of the Government when clause 7 was under consideration, I did not have an opportunity of raising the point to which the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) has directed attention. I agreewith him that under clauses 7 and 8 the personnel of the commission will be practically determined. Clause 7 provides that there shall be five commissioners. I had hoped that clause 7 would have been so amended that the Director of Postal Services would have been made a member of the commission, so that this body would be established on the same lines as were followed in the inauguration of the Commonwealth Bank Board. I draw attention to the terms of the appointment of the directors ofthe Commonwealth Bank, and to the remuneration provided for them. The Commonwealth Bank Act provides that that institution is to be managed by " a board of directors consisting of the Governor and seven other directors who, subject to the act, shall consist of the Secretary to the Treasury and six other persons "who are or have been actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance or industry ". The act then sets out the terms on which the Governor and the Deputy Governor shall hold office. The latter are to be appointed by the Government of the day, and I hope that this bill will be so amended that the general manager of the Broadcasting Commission will be appointed in that way as is the case in Great Britain, where both the general manager and the board of governors are appointed by the Government of the day.

The Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank are entitled to remunerations at such rates as are fixed by the Governor-General. That is to say, their salaries arc determined by the Executive, and may be reviewed by Parliament. Each director, other than the Governor, is entitled to remuneration at the rate of £600 per annum, or, if he is chairman of directors, £1,000 per annum. That amount has since been altered by reason of the 22£ per cent, reduction in salaries made last year under the economy plan. To-day, therefore, the chairman of directors of the bank receives about £800, and the other members of the board about £450 per annum. I suggest that it would be wise for the committee in determining the salaries of members of the Broadcasting Commission to take iis a pattern the salaries paid to the directors of the Commonwealth Bank, who have achieved signal success in the management of that institution. There is general confidence throughout Australia to-day in that board, and its members have been allotted such periods of appointment that their terms of office expire at different times. The Governor and the Deputy Governor are appointed by the Government of the day, and not by the board of directors. These gentlemen have been receiving rather higher remunerations than those suggested by the right honorable the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) as being the fees usually paid to the directors of business concerns ; but I contend that the management of broadcasting can hardly be compared with the handling of an estab lished business which is running on definite routine lines. Just as the Commonwealth Bank Act specifically provides that six of the directors shall be persons who are, or have been, actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance or industry, so it should be provided in the bill under consideration that the members of the commission must have certain qualifications. I agree that ability to make broadcasting pay should not alone be regarded as a recommendation for appointment, because the persons selected should have cultural attainments. The personnel of the British Broadcasting Corporation, to which the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Fenton) referred, shows that the British Government was guided by that principle. Lady Snowden was not selected because of business acumen, but because of her knowledge of artistic matters, and because of her intimate association with women's affairs.

I suggest that it will be found that, if the members of the commission are to devote themselves wholeheartedly to the duties that will devolve upon them, they will not have other pecuniary resources which would enable them to be quite indifferent as to the amount of their remuneration as members of the commission. Therefore, I urge that the salaries should be practically identical with those paid to the directors of the Commonwealth Bank Board. That is not as large an amount as that mentioned by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), or by the exPostmasterGeneral, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). I agree with the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that we should watch every shilling we spend, but we must be certain that we enlist the services of the most competent person available for the work of chairman of the commission! This officer should be prepared to devote the maximum amount of time to the work during the ensuing five years. I should say it will be almost a whole-time job, even if it is not paid for as such, to organize national broadcasting along proper lines. No matter how capable the general manager may be, success will not be achieved unless highly qualified persons are selected to constitute the commission. Perhaps the Minister would be prepared to recommit clause 7, because, as I have said, when it was passed I was engaged on an important discussion with a member of the Cabinet. We ought to have the assurance for which the honorable member for Martin has asked. We do not know the character of the personnel to be selected. The suggestions that I have put forward are not offered in a hostile spirit, my only desire being to make the bill of real value. I take it that the Government has not made up its mind as to the individuals to be appointed to the commission. Possibly the most suitable persons available are among those who have not applied for appointment. I should like to know exactly the type of person that is to be appointed. With that knowledge in our possession we should be able to judge with greater certainty what ought to be done.







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