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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr SHEEHAN (Cook) .- Some honorable members seem to have misunderstood the reasons which actuated me in moving this amendment. I was impelled to do so after reading paragraph 40 of the report of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting. That paragraph is as follows : -

The commissioners should be five in number and one of them should be a woman. They should be regarded as having a joint responsibility in the control of national broadcasting and should not consider themselves as individual units for the purpose of exercising specialized supervision over the service. Their main functions should be major matters of policy and finance.

There is nothing in the report to indicate that the chairman of the commission will require to have special knowledge, or that he ought to receive special remuneration. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) accuses me of supporting a policy of pulling down, but in that he is unjust to me. When I was fighting the claims of the firemen, cleaners and engine-drivers before the Arbitration Court, I always tried to have the amount of money available for wages spread as evenly as possible among the members of the three groups. I am now seeking to apply the same principle in the amendment which I have moved. Unfortunately, parliamentary procedure will not allow me to move that the salaries of all the members of the commission be £1,250 a year. Therefore, I have done the best I could, and moved that the salary of the chairman be reduced, and that of the other commissioners increased. The chairman and the deputy chairman may be geniuses, but they will be unable to carry a single point of their policy against the combined votes of the three other members. I do not desire to cast any reflections on the present chairman of the commission, who, it is rumoured, may be reappointed. I have it on the authority of no less a man than the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that he is a first-class man for the job, and that is good enough for me. I have nothing against him, but I say that we should give him a team that will be prepared to work in co-operation with him. This is what sometimes happens in other organizations, though I do not say that it would happen in a government body: The lower paid members are "got at" by outside interests anxious to ensure that the organization shall fail to function properly. However, if all the members of the commission are given reasonable remuneration, they will be less inclined to lend themselves to subversive action of that kind.

Mr Harrison - In other words, the honorable member is suggesting that they will vote with the chairman if they are given enough money.

Mr SHEEHAN - The honorable member has misunderstood me. The point I am trying to make is that, if the lower paid members of the commission be given no inducement to take a real interest in their work, they may be more open to outside influences.

Mr Spender - Is the chairman expected to bear any responsibility over and above that which is to rest upon the other members of the commission?

Mr SHEEHAN - No. He will have no additional responsibility whatever. It cannot be said that I am seeking to pull any one down because, at the present time, the chairman receives only £500 a year. I am proposing to give him a rise of £150, and the other members a rise of £200. My motive is to ensure better co-operation among the members of the commission.

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