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Thursday, 28 April 1932

Mr HUGHES (North Sydney) . - I agree with those who hold that the success of the commission will depend on its personnel. I elaborated this point in my speech on the second reading. I have no doubt that a large number of capable persons are willing to serve on the commission for patriotic reasons, but it is evident that the chairmanship of that body calls for special qualifications which may not be possessed by patriotic volunteers. I can envisage the commission functioning very well, providing that the chairman, who will direct the undertaking, is of the right type. In the last resort, businesses succeed or fail according to the manner in which they are directed by their executive heads. Therefore, however cogent may be the contention that the ordinary members of the commission should exercise control and supervision similar to that exercised by directors of companies, the position of the chairman is on an entirely different plane. What kind of man should he be? I do not subscribe to that denunciation of business men which has been voiced by some honorable members. A successful business man may be also a man of wide reading, cultured taste, and refinement. But he is no more likely to be suitable for the chairmanship of this commission because he is a business man than is a theatrical manager. The chairman should be a man of broad vision and wide knowledge; he must have more than a nodding acquaintance with books, and know literature from trash. He should be also a lover of the arts, and be, if not a musician, at least a lover of good music. Such men do not grow on every bush. No salary will be too high to pay a man with the requisite qualifications. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) lightly said that in these times we have to look carefully at every penny ; yet upon the chairman of the commission will depend the development or decline of broadcasting. Of course, a tremendous responsibility will rest upon the general manager also, and I endorse the concept of his duties expressed by the Leader of the Country party. The general manager will implement the policy of the commission, but that policy will be fundamental and vital. The listener is not concerned with the business side of broadcasting: whether it is profitable or not, he pays 24s. a year, and, in colloquial language wants the worth of his money. But the commission may give him his money's worth, and still be doing a wrong to the community. It may play down to the people instead of trying to elevate them. The function of the commission will be to raise the general stan-dard of knowledge and culture, but that must be done judiciously. The pill of learning must be heavily coated with sugar. A suggestion has been made that the C class stations should become the founts of culture and learning. That proposal is excellent in theory, but the practical obstacles are fairly obvious. It will be difficult to arrange for standing room for the C class stations. What wave length are they to use? If they have a wave length within the limit now set down there will be much confusion and a good deal of dismay in the minds of listeners-in. As it is, surprising results are being obtained from the C class Stations. I remember listening-in one night to a finished elocutionist who had just exclaimed -

Oh! pardon me thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am weak and gentle with these butchers !

When suddenly his flow of eloquence was interrupted, and I was informed by an entirely different voice that such and such a horse was eight lengths ahead coming into the straight. If I linger for a moment with the philosophers in the groves on a C class station, I am suddenly confronted with the news that a certain pugilistic gentleman is retreating to the corner, is given an uppercut and knocked out. So I reluctantly place the C class stations on one side. For reasons of this kind the A class stations have to provide programmes that will be acceptable to the people. I am sure that the Minister realizes the tremendous importance of broadcasting, because he spoke on this matter as one inspired. The possibilities of broadcasting are immense. It must affect public opinion and the character of the people. We live in an age of democracy and whether this country is well or ill-governed depends entirely upon the character of the people and the spread of general knowledge.

The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) referred to foreign affairs. On several occasions honorable members have asked for an opportunity to discuss foreign affairs, but it is not too much to say that no matter how honorable mem; bers plead for such an opportunity, when one is given there are rarely more than three honorable members in the chamber. In the main that is owing to abysmal ignorance of foreign affairs, except, of course, on the part of the chosen band of intelligentsia gathered here to-night, and to constitutional intolerance to become acquainted with them in any case. I am not going to say that in discussing this legislation we should concern ourselves with foreign affairs, but the business of this commission is to provide entertainment and instruction happily blended; the instruction being given in tabloid form, gradually increasing the dose; to provide the people, for example, with something in music worth while instead of jazz and ragtime, to give them some idea of literature and of art. But to do that we require as chairman of the commission a man of ripe judgment and deep knowledge. Let us suppose that we put a business man in that position. The amassing of money is, of course, an art. It is one that I have never acquired; few of us indeed have done so, but there is no doubt that it is the most satisfactory form of intellectual amusement that can be well conceived. The chairman should be capable of directing this unique commission, whose business it is not so much to show a profit, although it must do so, as to draw up programmes that will be satisfactory as well as profitable to the people. It must increase the number of listeners-in ; it must inform their minds and refine their tastes. I know that the Government has made up its mind about the board generally, and I do not intend to offer further criticism of its plan; but I suggest that, in regard to the chairman of the commission, the Government might well make a compromise with this committee. The chairman ought to give his whole time to the job. There will, of course, be a general manager, whose duties will be immensely important. I do not think that we could obtain a better general manager than the gentleman- managing the present day stations. He is a most excellent manager, but his duty will be to give effect to the policy of the commission. Who is to direct the general manager? Surely not a man who devotes an hour or two weekly to the business. What is necessary is a man who devotes his whole time to the job. I ask the Minister to meet the committee in this matter by making the position of chairman a fulltime job at a reasonable salary. What is a reasonable salary the Government must determine. We should hardly get such a mau as I have indicated under £2,000 a year, but, as to that, I shall not tie myself down. I put that suggestion to the Minister and ask him to give it serious consideration.

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