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Tuesday, 3 May 1932

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- J am surprised that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), should be amazed at the attitude of the Government for he should know that it is only doing what its masters outside dictate. When the Labour party was in power its opponents said that it took its instructions from those who supported it. Had that been the case, the Labour party would not now be in Opposition in this chamber. When the House adjourned over Easter it was known that the Government would not proceed with this measure until the press had decided on certain amendments to it. After the introduction of the bill, messages were broadcast through B class stations urging the people in country districts to communicate with their representatives objecting to sponsored programmes being taken away from such stations. If the commission is to be successful, its hands must not be tied; but its highly paid manager and other officers should be given a free hand to supply listeners with the best programmes possible, whether sponsored or otherwise. The Minister in charge of the bill has always advocated the nationalization of public utilities, and the bill which he introduced was along those lines; but at the crack of the whip by outside interested parties he has accepted amendments which were framed in the offices of the Melbourne Herald and the Brisbane Courier.

Mr Nairn - That is not correct.

Mr RIORDAN - -During the term of the previous Government these very newspapers had certain members in their offices in Melbourne and elsewhere, and tried to dictate to them the policy which they should support. They quite overlooked the fact that those members were elected to Parliament to act in the interests of the people. The Government's change of front is altogether too glaring. Everybody knows that strong efforts are being made in certain directions to get members to approve of a policy which would mean a breaking away from the national broadcasting system. Every effort is being made to damage the A class stations because they enter into serious competition with the B class stations. If n success of broadcasting can be made by putting advertisements over the air, why should not the subsidy of 12s. per licence, which at present is paid to the A class stations, be diverted from them and be spent in the provision of relay stations Or placed in a sinking fund in order to recoup the taxpayers for any loss that might be incurred through the failure of the broadcasting commission to make the stations under their control profitable. If honorable members opposite would support a policy of this kind they would do something effective to assist the primary producers. Here is an opportunity for the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), for instance, not only to lift a burden from the primary producers, but also to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers generally. We had the spectacle this afternoon of twenty government supporters crossing to this side of the chamber, and of members on this side going over on the Government side. Our object in crossing over was to support a provision which would tend towards the nationalization of broadcasting. It was demonstrated to the PostmasterGeneral this afternoon that a majority of the committee favours the adoption of that policy. We know that honorable gentleman's views very well. He could not throw overboard in a moment a policy which he has advocated for a lifetime. No wonder he is hanging his head during this debate, for he knows that the proposal now before the committee is designed to bolster up private enterprise aud to protect the interests of those who have their money invested in B class stations. But what about the interests of the general taxpayers whose money is invested in A class stations? The original provisions of the bill should he retained insofar as they relate to sponsored programmes. A discretion should be left to the commission in this respect. The general taxpayers will be obliged to find the money to pay this commission, and it should, therefore, be given some power. During most of last week we discussed whether the commission should or should not' be subject to political interference. We were asked to decide whether certain tilings should be left to the GovernorGeneral or to the Minister, although it was said by some honorable members that both proposals meant the same thing. The vote that was taken was supposed to have decided that the commission should not be subject to government interference, and yet it is now proposed to dictate to it. The PostmasterGeneral told us this afternoon that he was sure that the four men and one woman who would be appointed to the commission would be thoroughly capable of running the business which would be placed in. their control. If that is so, why not leave a discretionary power with them in this regard ? I admire the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) because of his consistent attitude; but it is impossible to admire some other honorable members for the same reason. I consider that the commission should be given power to determine whether it will or will not arrange for sponsored programmes to be put over the air by the A class stations.

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