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Wednesday, 3 April 1946

Mr Harrison n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that there is not one fully operational Royal Australian Air Force squadron in Australia?

2.   Is it a fact that the Royal Australian Air Force signals communication system has broken clown during the last few days?

3.   What is the reason for the delay in formulating a policy for the Interim Air Force?

4.   How many applications to join the Interim Air Force have been received so far?

5.   How many applications have been accepted ?

6.   Has the Royal Australian Air Force Transport Command been forced to abandon temporarily many services; if so, why?

Mr Drakeford - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : -

1.   No. One Attack and one General Reconnaissance Bomber Squadron are fully operational. Five heavy bomber squadrons, which were demilitarized for the purpose of evacuating service personnel from the islands and other forward areas, have been operating for this purpose up to the present time. Up to the 24th March. 10,000 time-expired personnel had been evacuated by the aircraft of these squadrons and the Catalina squadrons. The latter squadrons have been disbanded as they are not a post-war requirement. Six transport squadrons are fully functioning.

2.   No. 3.The policy of the Interim Air Force is already defined and the organization, personnel, establishments, &c., necessary for the implementation of that policy are at present under consideration.

4.   Apart from Permanent Air Force personnel numbering 1,730,and the Royal Australian Air Force component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan totalling 1, 900 volunteers for that force, the total of applications received to date from serving personnel to join the Interim Air Force is 7,900.

5.   Although no applications have actually been accepted, action is in process to select volunteers under the various ranks and musterings in accordance with establishments and applicants will be informed in the near future of their acceptance or otherwise.

6.   The operations of some transport units were recently curtailed for a period of approximately five days so that the aircraft could be overhauled to ensure full serviceability. Transport services are being provided to meet approved commitments.

Broadcasting: Australian Broadcasting Commission, News Services, Political Broadcasts; Radio Australia.

Mr Calwell l. - On the 21st March, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) asked that copies of news items, reviews and commentaries broadcast over the national network be made available for inspection by members of Parliament.

The following reply has been furnished by the Postmaster-General: -

The matter has received consideration but it is not felt that any good purpose would be served by the adoption of the honorable member's proposal. In the event, however, of any member of Parliament expressing a desire to see a. copy of the script of a particular news broadcast, review or commentary, made through the national broadcasting network, arrangements will be made to meet his wishes as far as it is practicable to do so.

Mr Guy (WILMOT, TASMANIA) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

1.   In view of the disclosed excess of 363 minutes in the broadcasting time given to Government and departmental and union officials as compared with that allowed to Opposition members and representatives of the Opposition in the last three months, will he ascertain and inform the House if the Australian Broadcasting Commission proposes - (a) to give 363 minutes more broadcasting time to members of the Opposition and representatives of Opposition parties than to members of the Government and departmental and union officials during the next three months; and (b) to give henceforth equal time at similar hours in each quarterly period to members of the Opposition and representatives of the Opposition parties as to Government representatives and departmental and union officials?

2.   Will he also ascertain and inform the House upon what basis time is allotted for political and departmental broadcasting, and the manner in which representatives of the Government, of departments, of unions, and of the Opposition are selected to broadcast?

Mr Calwell l. - The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -

The Australian Broadcasting Commission, which under the terms of the Australian Broadcasting Act is responsible for the provision of programmes for broadcasting over the national service, has furnished the following answers: - 1. (a) and (b) No. The commission cannot agree that there is an excess of 363 minutes in relative party appearances on the air in the time referred to. Heads of civil and service departments under any government cannot he regarded as party political representatives. In the case of the appearances of union officials, all such appearances were balanced by nonLabour speakers.

2.   Broadcasts by parliamentarians of all parties for direct party political purposes between elections are not permitted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Broadcasts by parliamentarians, however, on specific subjects of general interest which are not party political are programmed strictly on the basis of listener interest. Apart from these, however, the commission must recognize that the Prime Minister and his ministers must on occasion make public announcements as government authorities of operations in their departments. In addition, the Prime Minister's official statements when speaking for the country as a whole must necessarily be broadcast. The commission, however, endeavours to keep ministerial statements within these categories and within reasonable compass of "frequency. Opposition speakers are welcomed if dealing with subjects of general interest and not on party lines. The commission appreciates the fact that Opposition speakers, not being in office and directly controlling public machinery, are at a disadvantage in respect of broadcast appearances, but this situation has always arisen equally under all governments. An examination of the talks schedules of the Australian Broadcasting Commission over a similar period during the term of the previous Government discloses a similar disparity as between broadcast appearances of Government and non-Government members of Parliament. It is because the commission has recognized this situation that it has pressed for the broadcasting of parliamentary debates as a means of more adequately meeting the political needs of the community oyer the air between elections. As to departmental officials, the programming of factual statements and explanations of a department's operation by its civil head cannot but be regarded as a public service of national broadcasting under any government and the commission cannot regard such heads of departments as being party political persons. As to union officials, the list shown indicates that in most cases union representatives were balanced by non-union persons in public debate. Where this was not the case union officials were programmed on their return from abroad as Australian delegates to international conferences, and here again the broadcasts were balanced by broadcasts from non-union speakers.

Mr Holt asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -

1.   Will he lay on the table the scripts of all talks given over the short-wave service of Radio Australia since the 1st January?

2.   Will he undertake to lay on the table each week while Parliament is in session the scripts of talks given over Radio Australia during the previous week, and, after each recess,to lay on the table the scripts of all talks given during such recess?

3.   How many writers (a) guest and (b) officials of the Department of Information, have been employed since the 1st January in the preparation of scripts for Radio Australia?

4.   How many scripts have been produced by each individual writer? 5. (i) What fees, if any, are paid to guest writers of scripts, (ii) to which guest writers have fees been paid since the 1st January, and (iii) what are the amounts paid to each?

6.   What are the names and addresses of (a) guest writers and (b) departmental officials who have prepared Radio Australia scripts since the 1st January?

7.   What are the salaries of individual members of the staff of the Department of Information who have prepared scripts for Radio Australia in the period?

Mr Calwell l. - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. I have no objection to any honorable member seeing the scripts of any talk or series of talks given over the short-wave service of Radio Australia, either before or since the 1st January. It would, however, seriously retard the work of the Short-wave Division to make available copies of all scripts, many of which are not duplicated, and I do not feel I would be justified in spending the taxpayers' money in this way. If the honorable member desires to examine in detail the output of the Short-wave Division, I will instruct the Director-General of my department to give him every facility to see original scripts in Melbourne. There is no secrecy about any phase of my department's activities. 3. (a) Fifteen outside contributors (ten paid, five unpaid) ; (b) thirteen staff (six fulltime, seven part-time). 4, 5, 6 and 7. Tabled in the following schedule : -



Aircraft Production.

Mr Makin (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Aircraft Production) n. - On the27 th March, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked a question concerning the proposal to build Lincoln bombers in Australia.

I desire to inform the honorable member that the Government does intend to build 61 Lincoln bombers at the estimated cost of £9,600,000. This is to provide three squadrons of modern heavy bombing planes, which will help to make the Royal Australian Air Force a well-balanced organization. Decision on these matters is made following a recommendation by the Air Board to the Defence Committee, which is subsequently subject to the consideration and determination of the Government. All other matters referred to by the honorable member are receiving the most urgent attention of the Government.

Motor Vehicles: Sales and Holdings by the Army and the Allied Works Council; Conditionsof Sale in the Northern Territory; Tyres and Tubes.

Mr Dedman - On the 26th March the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) asked the following question: -

Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping supply to the House particulars of the numbers of motor vehicles held by the Army and the Allied Works Council in Australia and the islands to the north at the end of hostilities, classified according to the different makes and types, about 160 in all, together with the total numbers soldand the net prices received by the Government in each classification; also the numbers and particulars of the vehicles that the Army still intends to declare surplus?

The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer: -

I confirm advice given to the honorable member that it would be impossible to provide all the information he has asked for in regard to the number of vehicles held by the Army and Allied Works Council throughout the whole of Australia and northern islands at the termination of hostilities. In regard to the surplus vehicles which have been sold, the total sold as at this date, excluding motor cycles, is 35,487, to a total value of £5,445,799. The vehicles in question include many thousands of wrecks and near wrecks scattered throughout the Northern Territory and other isolated areas. In the main the vehicles were war department types with practically no passenger vehicles and a small percentage only of utility vehicles.

Mr Dedman n. - On the 29th March, the honor able member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) asked a question concerning conditions of sale of motor vehicles by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to residents of the Northern Territory.

The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer: -

Residents in the Northern Territory are placed upon the same footing as residents in any other part of Australia in regard to the purchase of surplus motor vehicles from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Where vehicles are sold by the commission at a predetermined price the basis is the rate as fixed by the Prices Commissioner, and the same deductions in regard to cost of repairs apply in the Northern Territory as apply in all other States. As residents of the Northern Territory would normally have to pay very high freight charges on vehicles purchased by them from the south, they are placed in a very advantageous position by the decision of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission not to make any charge to cover the cost of these vehicles being brought to the Northern Territory by the holding service. Reference has been made in the press to rebates being allowed to motor firms who purchase vehicles in the Northern Territory for 'movement to South Australia and other States. The normal procedure has been for the Commonwealth Disposals Commission itself to move vehicles from outlying areas to the centre at which they would be distributed. In regard to wrecked and out-of-repair vehicles in the Northern Territory, however, the vehicles were sold as and where they were. In order to permit the buyers marketing these vehicles within the ceiling levels in Adelaide and elsewhere, a commensurate allowance was made on the purchase price to cover the cost of freight to the south. This procedure is in accordance with the accepted policy of the commission of marketing in all States on an equivalent basis and of ensuring that the ultimate sale price would not be in excess of that determined by the Prices Commissioner.

Mr Dedman - On the 20th March, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) asked the following question : -

Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen an advertisement by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission in Western Australian newspapers to the effect that tyres and tubes are now available to fit army vehicles? Is he aware that tyres and tubes are not available in Western Australia, and that many farmers in that State have had applications for them with the authorities for several months? Will he see that a fair allocation of tyres and tubes is made to Western Australia, and that goods to meet th at allocation are despatched to that State without further delay?

The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer : -

The advertisement inserted by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission followed the declaration by the Departmentof the Army of a total of 27,000 new military type tyres, and a considerably larger number of secondhand military type tyres.

Many of these tyres have not yet moved out of Army stores, and some 8,000 of the new tyres, and a large number of the secondhand tyres have not yet been taken up by the trade. Some. 2,558 War Department type tyres arc still lying in Army stores in Western Australia, and have not yet been taken up by the rubber companies.

The purpose of the advertisement was to determine the demand for these types of tyres, and to ensure that, the demand having been established, the tyres would be moved from their present locations to the States and areas in which they are required.

Action is in train to quickly liquidate the current stocks in Western Australia, and should any sizes be not available in that State, appropriate transfers will be made from other States.

A very recent fire at the Army depot at Nungarin, Western Australia, destroyed a. considerable quantity of these surplus tyres, but transfers from eastern States will, to the extent possible, overcome the deficiency caused by the fire.

Coal-mining Industry: Conditions of Employment.

Mr Dedman n. - On the 28th March, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked a question concerning the Stanford Main No. 1 Colliery. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer: -

The matter has been discussed with the miner's representatives and the colliery management. Arrangements have been made for the production manager of the Coal Commission to examine the mine and report to the Coal Commissioner. In the meantime, the company has been directed to maintain present production pending results of the investigation.

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