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Tuesday, 30 May 1939

Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) (Post master-General) . - by leave - Having regard to the various representations that have been made to it, the Government has given consideration to the proposal of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to establish a weekly journal. It desires to point out that it is improper for the Executive to attempt to overrule the will of Parliament as expressed in an act of Parliament. In the present case, the law relating to the Australian Broadcasting Commission is contained in the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act 1932. Section 5 of that act says -

For the purposes of this Act, there shall be a Commission, to be known as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which shall be charged with the general administration of this Act.

It is true that certain other provisions of the act reserve control to the Minister in relation to certain payments by the commission, the issue of debentures by the commission, the appointment of certain officers, and the like; but the fact remains that, speaking broadly, the administration by the commission within the terms of the statute is not made subject to political direction.

Section 17 of the act provides -

For the purpose of the exercise of its powers and functions under this act, the Commission may compile, prepare, issue, circulate and distribute, whether gratis or otherwise, in such manner as it thinks fit, such papers, magazines, periodicals, books, pamphlets, circulars and other literary matter as it thinks fit (including the programmes of national broadcasting stations and other stations) :

Provided that, prior to the publication of any programme in pursuance of this section, a copy of the programme shall be made available at an office of the Commission on equal terms to the publishers of any newspaper, magazine or journal published in the Common wealth.

This provision was debated and approved by Parliament, and could not be abrogated by the Government except under an amending act.

It follows that what the Government is being asked to do is either to make the Broadcasting Commission subject to political direction in the exercise of its power to publish a journal or, alternatively, to eliminate the publishing power altogether. The Government is not at present prepared to follow eithercourse:'. It believes that control of broadcasting by a com mission will be mostconducive to the proper development of broadcasting, and it sees no reason for denying to the commission the right to publish a weekly journal of a special broadcasting kind, since that right has practically all over the world been treated as being properly ancillary to broadcasting itself. The Government has been informed by the commission that the proposed journal - which will combine the best features of the two publications of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Times and The Listener - will contain a very full statement of coming programmes, reprints of talks given over the national stations, and articles of a special technical or cultural interest. In these circumstances, it appears to the Government that the proposed journal is of a kind which the commission may properly determine to publish, and it is not, therefore, -prepared to ask Parliament to prevent such publication.

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