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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Mr SPENDER - I asked a simple, specific question. I asked whether it was a fact that Mr. Rorke gave an explanation to a newspaper in respect of the reason why he resigned, and that that explanation was censored. If so, what were the grounds for such censorship?

Mr CURTIN - The passage in Mr. Rorke's communication which was censored was as follows : " Mr. Rorke said there had been a trend in censorship which he did not like ".

Mr Spender - What was the trend ?

Mr CURTIN - That was a reflection upon the bona fides of the censorship. Mr. Rorke was a censor, but he was not giving the whole of his time to censorship work.

Mr Spender - That is beside the point.

Mr CURTIN - Is it beside the point ? He resigned because he refused to carry out the instruction of the Chief Publicity Censor, to attend his office early in the day, soon after 9 a.m. That instruction was given because of the deterioration of the war situation. As the war came closer to Australia, its factual treatment required greater care on the part of the censor. Mr. Rorke preferred to carry on certain private activities while, at the same time, holding the office of Deputy Chief Censor in a State.

Mr Spender - That does not answer my question. What was the trend about which he spoke?

Mr CURTIN - I do not know.

Mr Spender - I can tell the Prime Minister.

Mr CURTIN - The reference that he made to the trend was struck out on the ground that no censorship in the world allows itself to be misrepresented by innuendo or by suggestion.

Mr Spender - Or by criticism?

Mr CURTIN - Or by criticism. That is also true. The honorable gentleman is quite right.

Mr Spender - Am I right in saying that the censorship cannot be criticized?

Mr CURTIN - I do not say that it cannot be criticized.

Mr Spender - Things have come to a pretty pass in this country.

Mr CURTIN - I say that it cannot he misrepresented. I say that it was being misrepresented because Mr. Rorke in this statement merely created an inference. He made no specific charge. He merely said that he had noticed a trend which he did not like. That did not necessarily indicate that the trend was bad or good.

Mr Spender - Will the Prime Minister table the statement which Mr. Rorke submitted for publication?

Mr CURTIN - I invite the honorable gentleman to peruse all the papers relating to this matter. It has never been my practice to say more than is necessary, but I approved of the decision of the Chief Publicity Censor in directing Mr. Rorke to devote the whole of his time to the work that he was entrusted to do. Mr. Rorke would not do it, and he resigned.

Mr Spender - That is not my point.

Mr CURTIN - When I was informed that Mr. Rorke had resigned I said, " That is quite all right ". That is all I have had to do with the matter. I knew the Chief Publicity Censor long before he was appointed to the position. Incidentally, this Government did not appoint him to that office. I inherited him.

He was appointed by the previous Government, of which the honorable gentleman was a member.

Mr Spender - The Prime Minister knows of the instructions that were given to the Chief Publicity Censor.

Mr CURTIN - I am the Minister in charge of Censorship and I have given no instructions to the Chief Publicity Censor.

Mr Spender - I shall name to the honorable gentleman two Ministers who have given instructions to the Chief Publicity Censor.

Mr CURTIN - They had no authority to do so, and knowing the Chief Publicity Censor as 1 do, I am positive that he would not take instructions from any one who was not authorized to give them to him. The honorable gentleman must have known of Mr. Bonney's qualifications for the office when the previous Government appointed him ; and I am quite sure that he never worked for the kind of paper that I have worked for in my career as a journalist.

Mr Menzies - He worked for the Argus, which is the chief Labour newspaper in Victoria.

Mr CURTIN - Ah ! But he also worked for other newspapers. It is no indication of any loss of professional stature for a man to be engaged on the staff of the Melbourne Argus.

Mr Menzies - I agree with the Prime Minister. I once appeared on behalf of the Sydney Labor Daily.

Mr CURTIN - The right honorable gentleman has appeared for many causes. Regarding the general conduct of the censorship, I say that there should be no political interference whatever with the censorship.

Mr Spender - Hear, hear!

Mr CURTIN - The purpose of the censorship should be related only to the conduct of that which is requisite for the security of the country. I have taken over the censorship, and I have not interfered with the Chief Publicity Censor in the performance of his duty.

Mr Spender - I accept the Prime Minister's word unreservedly.

Mr CURTIN - I thank the honorable member. I also say that no other person is authorized to give instructions to the censor.

Mr Spender - That is the important thing.

Mr CURTIN - The regulations under which the censorship operates are the National Security Regulations which are laid upon the table of the House.

Regarding broadcasting, I am not the Minister for Information and I am not very well acquainted with the functioning of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but I point out that the present personnel of the commission was inherited by the present Government. In addition, the Australian Broadcasting Commission operates not under National Security Regulations, but under its own statute. Its powers are definitely defined in the act and it has complete control over programmes.

Mr Harrison - Subject to certain direction by the Minister.

Mr CURTIN - All I know is that when certain persons on different occasions request the Australian Broadcasting Commission to permit them to deliver broadcast talks-

Mr Spender - I can produce for perusal correspondence from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, saying that it is not the master of what is said, but is subject to ministerial direction. That reply was given in reply to complaints about broadcasts of a political nature.

Mr CURTIN - I have no doubt that is true. When I obtained a return showing the number of talks that had been broadcast by members of the previous Government, compared with those which had been given by members of the then Opposition, I at once realized that some ministerial direction must have been given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, because the proportion in favour of government speakers was so overwhelming.

Mr Menzies - I assure the PrimeMinister that there was not, and I also point out that whatever we did, we never sank to the depths of the " Canberra Calling" session.

Mr CURTIN - I do not know that the honorable gentleman need be so positive about that. With the consent of the House, I shall incorporate in Hansard the following analysis of ministerial broadcasts over the past three years on national stations compared with the number given by Opposition speakers.

Mr Conelan - It would be more interesting if the Prime Minister read it.

Mr CURTIN - I am satisfied to have it incorporated in Hansard so that honorable members may study it at their leisure. It carries its own message -

AH these figures exclude election broadcasts on an equally shared basis.

I agree that broadcasting has become one of the great activities of this country, and indeed of every other country. About a year ago, the previous Government agreed, at my suggestion, to appoint a parliamentary committee so that in formulating legislation to deal with broadcasting, we should have a detached series of constructive recommendations as to how this extraordinary service to the community could be placed upon a fair and proper basis. The committee was set up. I have asked that the committee expedite its report, and I await, as I am sure the House as a whole awaits, the conclusions of the committee, because we need guidance in respect of the way in which Parliament shall legislate for the control of broadcasting activities.

Mr Anthony - Why is it that every commercial broadcasting station is compelled to broadcast the session " Canberra Calling".

Mr CURTIN - I do not know. It has been quite usual in the past for th, commercial stations to join the national stations in what is called an all-Australia hook-up.

Mr Anthony - But they have been compelled.

Mr CURTIN - They have been compelled on previous occasions.

Mr Anthony - But only on matters of national importance.

Mr CURTIN - Some one must bc the judge of national importance. I say quite clearly that, so far as the Government is concerned, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is operating under its statute and will continue to operate under it, but I do nope that Parliament will have the opportunity to deal with the report of the committee, and I am confident, having regard to the personnel of the committee, that the report will be of use to Parliament. For my part I shall be prepared to give effect to all its substantive recommendations, because I am sick and tired of the wrangling between political parties about the way broadcasting shall be organized.

The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) directed attention to the state of affairs in Canberra in regard to air raid precautions. All I can say to him is that the matter is under proper examination. Advice has been tendered to the Government in respect of not only Canberra, but also a great number of other places in Australia. There is an order of priority in this matter, having regard to the capacity of the country to make provision, and I consider that members of Parliament are quite capable of sharing the risks of the community. With regard tothe preservation of documents, [ assure the honorable member that steps have already been taken.

The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) referred to munitions and I am sure that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), who heard him, will take that matter up.

I tell the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) that I shall indeed look into the disabilities which are suffered equally by those who have volunteered for, and those who have been called into, the Military Forces as the result of their having to give up incomes much higher than can be got in the Defence Forces. Their obligations in regard to rent and hire purchase and the like are embarrassing. We shall do our best about that matter.

With respect to the matter raised by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), I have only to say that it looks to me as though it were a moneylending transaction by the life assurance society, and on the submission made by the honorable gentleman, it would appear that thesociety has acted harshly. That would be my judgment if what he has said represents the whole story, but, before I arrived at a decision, I should have to ask that the company itself should present its case. At any rate, it is a matter of great regret that this Parliament was not able to deal with life assurance in time of peace. A measure was introduced in the Senate and whatever that chamber may have thought about the bill, it was a workable plan, and, I think, could have been passed.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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