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Friday, 29 April 1932

Sir LITTLETON GROOM (Darling Downs) . - I have followed the debate with much interest, althoughI have not previously participated in it. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) drew rather a false analogy in suggesting that the members of the House are directors. The members of this Parliament are elected to legislate within their constitutional powers, to criticize acts of administrations, and make and unmake ministries, and to discuss matters of policy; but it is hardly within the province of a Parliament to select officials and administer. This Parliament makes laws in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth, and as the listeners-in cannot be organized as a corporate body, and as broadcasting is a matter of public interest, it is advisable to establish a commission for the purpose of controlling the business ofbroadcasting. The vital principle to be observed in the appointment of the commission is the prevention of political influence. Parliament cannot, of course, divest itself of its responsibility, and there must always be a Minister to answer for any legal body set up under the authority of Parliament.

The bill as it stands seems to safeguard us against the dangers of political interference; but ministerial responsibility must be exercised in the appointment of the commission. The government of the day will be responsible to the Parliament for the commission that is appointed. If the personnel of the commission is not such as that indicated by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), this Parliament can call the Ministry to task for its failure to secure the best men available, and if it were subsequently found that the commission was not carrying out its duties satisfactorily, the Ministry would be responsible. Parliament will always retain control; but the commission, once constituted, should be free from political interference. The commission can surely be trusted to appoint the officers needed to carry out the service of broadcasting. Therefore, I consider that it would be wrong to make the general manager an appointee of the government of the day. That might well lead to a conflict of authority. The general manager would naturally look for the approval of his conduct to those who had appointed him, and would expect direction from them.

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