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Wednesday, 3 July 1946


Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information) . -in reply - When I presented this bill to the House in a very conciliatory spirit, I expected that honorable members on both sides of the chamber would debate it in a similar spirit. Unfortunately, very early in the debate, the Opposition developed a very bad attack of the " jitters ". I do not know what was worrying them-


Mr McLeod - The forthcoming elections.


Mr CALWELL - That must be the explanation. Honorable members opposite have not been able to address themselves to the provisions of the bill with any sense of responsibility. The tower of Babel never heard more diverse tongues than those spoken on the Opposition benches on this bill. We witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of members of the Broadcasting Committee, which made recommendations on the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament, repudiating their own signatures. I shall hot allow those honorable gentlemen to escape so lightly as they hope. The vice- chairman of the committee is none other than the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who presented to this chamber the Eighth Report of the Broadcasting Committee.


Mr Francis - And I read that report to the House this evening.


Mr CALWELL - The honorable member did not read it to the House this evening. He misread and misquoted portions of the report, and deliberately suppressed other portions of it. Another member of the committee is the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy). He joined with the honorable member for Moreton in saying that the Broadcasting Committee made a recommendation in favour of a simultaneous broadcast of both chambers.


Mr Francis - I did not.


Mr CALWELL - I challenged the honorable member on the point, and he did not denyit.


Mr Francis - I said " full broadcasts ".


Mr CALWELL - The honorable gentleman spoke of a full broadcast of both chambers. Perhaps I cannot do better at this stage than read portions of the committee's report, and indicate the general tenor of it. The chairman of the committee is Senator S. K. Amour, the vice-chairman is the honorable member for Moreton, and the other members are Senator Nash, Senator Herbert Hays, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), the honorable member for Wilmot, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson), and the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). The committee went to considerable trouble to inform its mind on the proposal for the broadcasting of parliamentary debates. The terms of reference, which the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) gave to the committee, were -

To consider and report to Parliament -

(a)   whether the broadcasting of parliamentary debates is desirable; and

(b)   if so, to what extent and in what manner should such broadcasts be undertaken.

Nearly two years ago the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith) raised this matter at a meeting of the

Parliamentary Labour party, .and .also in this -chamber. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mi-. Holt) also was very keen that the proceedings of :this Parliament should be broadcast. Having received its '.terms of reference, ' the committee took evidence from representative persons., including the Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour party, a representative of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the High Commissioner for New Zealand., the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal party, the Leader of the Australian Country party, the Acting Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the Commonwealth SolicitorGeneral, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter at Canberra, the Acting Director-General, Posts and Telegraphs, the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting' Commission, the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the former , Controller of Commercial Broadcasting in New Zealand, the Chief Engineer, Postmaster-General's Depart.ment, and the Chief Inspector (Wireless)., Postmaster-General's Department. In paragraphs 3-14 of the report, the experience of New Zealand in broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament of that dominion is recorded. '


Mr Brennan - Did the committee submit a unanimous report?


Mr CALWELL - The report was unanimous with, the exception of one small but important reservation made by the honorable member for Wilmot, and a provision covering that reservation has been included in the bill. The proposed Australian service is canvassed in para- . graphs 15-17 of the report, the legalaspects are considered in paragraphs 18-39. and the extent of the proposed Australian service is mentioned in paragraphs 20-32. In paragraph 34 the committee commenced to grapple with the problem. It stated that it had canvassed the possibility of using the whole of the 22 national stations for a simultaneous broadcast of the proceedings of both chambers, the course recommended by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), and other honorable gentlemen during this debate. 'The committee made the following observations-: -

Were it not' for the high expenditure involved, -the ideal arrangement would be the provision of .a network of ,22 national medium wave stations /capable -of serving nearly all the populated portions of .Australia. Equipment alone, however., would entail expenditure in the neighbourhood of £500.000. But apart from the cost, there ar.e insuperable difficulties owing -to the shortage of radio channels, unless the licences .of some commercial stations were not renewed at the expiration of their annualperiod of tenure, to enable their channels to be allocated for the purpose, or unless recourse is made -to the sharing of channels to -a greater extent than .at present, .with resultant degrading of service to listeners on account of the clash of simultaneous transmission fromstations operating on the same channel.

That w.as the unanimous opinion of themembers of the Broadcasting Committee. When it w.as found that because of the insuperable difficulties encountered, ' and the large expenditure involved, the proposal to use the 22 national stations was impracticable, the committee set out to discuss other .suggestions for the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament. It mentioned a fifth proposition. Paragraph 3S - and ' again this was unanimously agreed to - reads -

A fifth proposition is to use the second national stations 'in the capital cities and Newcastle. This idea would result in the service being withheld from country districts which rely on their local regional station for national broadcast reception. On the other hand, if these regional stations were included, listeners in areas which rely on such stations exclusively for broadcast service would not have an alternative national programme.

The Broadcasting Committee then proceeded to discuss the merits of a sixth proposition, involving a .combination of three possibilities, viz., the use of the second national stations in each capital city and Newcastle, the use of short-wave stations to augment the service for listeners in the country and remote areas, and the use of selected country commercial stations willing to sell time. It rejected the sixth proposition however, and came back to the decision which it finally reached which is reported in paragraph 45 as follows : -

The only remaining proposition under present conditions is the use of the main national stations in the capital cities- and there are in each of the capital cities two national stations, one the main station, and the other an alternative station - and the national regional stations in the country districts supplemented by short-wave service to remote areas.

In framing this bill the Government gives effect to that in clause 4 which provides-

Notwithstanding anything contained in the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942', the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall broadcast the proceedings of the Senate or the House of Representatives from -

(a)   a medium-wave national broadcasting station in the capital city in each State and in the city of Newcastle in the State of New South Wales; and

(6)   such other national broadcasting stations (including short-wave national broadcasting stations) as are prescribed, upon such days and during such periods as the committee determines.

It was foreseen, at that stage, that there would be a conflict as to the times during which the proceedings of the Parliament could be broadcast. It was accordingly decided that a committee consisting of members of both Houses of the Parliament should be established. Provision for that is included in the bill. In his reservation to the report, the honorable member for Wilmot suggested that in the case of the House of Representatives a committee consisting of the Speaker, the Prime Minister, another Minister nominated, by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the "Leader of the Australian Country ' party should be appointed to determine matters relating to the times of the broadcasts and other matters affecting the privilege of members. The honorable gentleman also added this observation -

The Senate no doubt would feel that some similarly constituted committee should be set up. The result should be a joint committee of the two Houses.

That reservation was made by a Whip on the Opposition side of the House, and, as I have said, provision has been made in the bill to adopt his suggestion.


Mr Francis - But no provision should be made for any pre-arranged selection of speakers at particular times.


Mr CALWELL - I shall deal with that illusion of the honorable gentleman presently. The Broadcasting Committee unanimously recommended all that is con tained in this bill, and the honorable member apparently does not know what he signed, has forgotten what he signed, or does not care what he signed. -And any one of these, is equally reprehensible. The honorable member also agreed to paragraph 50, which reads -

We do not consider that, it would be advisable at this stage to specify particulars of the service in legislation, as experience may disclose a need for modification of the detailed arrangements initially decided upon. It would therefore be preferable, as regards this particular subject, to prescribe the details in regulations under section 107 of the Broadcasting Act, as they could be altered more readily by amended regulations than under the processes involved 'in. amending them if they were set out in the act. Any such modifications would still be subject to the sanction of Parliament under the procedure laid down for making regulations.

The Government has decided not to hand over to anybody outside the Parliament the right to make regulations controlling the broadcasting of the debates of the Parliament. It has decided to set up a joint committee of the Parliament for that purpose. Clause 12 of the bill provides - (1.) The Committee shall consider and specify in a report presented to each House of the Parliament, the general principles upon which there should be determined the days upon which, and the periods during which-, the proceedings of -the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be broadcast. (2.) The Committee shall, in accordance with general principles specified by the Committee and adopted by each House of- the Parliament, determine the days upon which, and the periods during which, the proceedings of either House of the Parliament shall be broadcast.

Thus honorable members will be given an opportunity to debate the principles recommended by the committee and if it is thought that the committee has recommended a procedure unacceptable to the House, objections can be made. There is nothing to prevent the committee from deciding that once a bill is initiated in either chamber of the Parliament it shall be broadcast through all stages until the debate is concluded. There is nothing to justify the suggestion that there will be a partial debate or that some members will be given advantage over others. Before this bill came before the House, the Broadcasting Committee was in agreement with the general principles outlined in it, but some members of the committee apparently cannot understand the draftsman's way of interpreting their ideas; I assure them that what the Government has done in this bill is even better than most of them desired.


Mr Archie Cameron - -The bill apparently does not represent what the members of the committee had in mind.


Mr CALWELL - I' am suggesting that' the provisions of the bill represent an improvement on what they had in mind. The members of the committee wanted to have these matters dealt with by regulation: the bill prescribes that that shall be left to the joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament. Paragraph 52 of the report reads:-

We suggest that provision be made for overall control to be vested in the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives as regards broadcasts from their respective chambers; that during the experimental periods the whole of. the proceedings in the chamber concerned- not in one chamber for the whole of the time to the exclusion of "the other chamber - should be broadcast from the main national stations and from the regional stations, as well as from the short-wave stations, except during the short periods when " straight " news sessions (that is, excluding commentaries or observers' stories) are normally on the air; .

That is more likely of achievement through a committee than by any other means. How could the President of the Senate and Mr. Speaker of the House of Representatives- and this was the weakness of the report - decide the issue as to which proceedings should be broadcast if both chambers desired to have their proceedings broadcast simultaneously ?


Mr White - I suggest that the Minister read paragraph 53.


Mr CALWELL - I have no objection to reading it, though the honorable member himself declined to do so.


Mr White - I did not have a copy of the report at my disposal then.


Mr CALWELL - The paragraph reads -

We are aware that in New Zealand doubts have been expressed in certain quarters as to the wisdom of broadcasting the whole of the proceedings, but we are of the opinion that in Australia complete broadcasts of the actual proceedings should be tried at the outset, leaving the question of modification for consideration in the light of experience.

It was not contemplated that the proceedings of both Houses should be broadcast simultaneously.


Mr Guy - No one has suggested that.


Mr CALWELL - The Leader of the Opposition suggested it, as also did the honorable members for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and Richmond (Mr. Anthony). In paragraph 49 the Broadcasting Committee had this to say -

The difficulty of varying times could be overcome, where necessary, by recording the proceedings as they occur and broadcasting from the discs at the proper times, using land-lines, for transmission of the recordings to the local stations from which the broadcasts would be made.

Most of the criticism has been in respect of re-broadcasts. It is feared by honorable members opposite that something may be done, which will be detrimental to their interests. Yet the course mentioned was actually recommended. The members concerned did not know what they were doing, or they have now developed a fear complex in regard to the result of the elections. Strong protests have been made about clause 14, which provides -

No action or proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person for broadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament.

Honorable gentlemen opposite have discovered in that provision a grave attack upon the privileges of members of Parliament, and a device whereby one political party will secure, an advantage over another. The honorable member for Moreton subscribed to the following recommendation ' in paragraph 51 : -

The introduction of legislation to provide for the application of absolute privilege to such broadcasts is also recommended-


Mr Francis - On the advice of the Attorney-General.


Mr CALWELL - I am reading what the honorable member recommended, not his afterthought. The recommendation continues - as an extension of the privilege conferred by legislation passed in 1935 in respect of Hansard reports.


Mr Francis - That is in respect of a broadcast of the whole of the proceedings.


Mr CALWELL - In paragraph 51, the committee recommended the introduction of legislation to provide for absolute privilege in respect of the broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings, in the same way as the publication of Hansard is privileged. Let me show the way in which privilege is accorded to the publication of Hansard. Section 4 (1) of the Parliamentary Papers Act 190S-1935 provides -

No action or .proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person for publishing any document published under the authority of the Senate or of the House of Representatives.

Tn the bill, those words have been repeated where they apply. I shall read them again -

No action or. proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person-. -

Here is where the change occurs - for broadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament.

The Government has' done precisely what the committee recommended; yet some honorable members are still not satisfied !


Mr Bowden - The Minister is evading the issue.


Mr CALWELL - That is a malicious statement. The provision made by the bill is identical with that made in respect of the publication of Hansard and other documents published under the authority of this Parliament. It was necessary to do that, in order to protect the employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the performance of their duty as broadcasters of the proceedings of the Parliament.


Mr Bowden - That' is all that we want.


Mr CALWELL - That is all that has been done. The provisions of clause 14 do not affect the privileges of this House. Those privileges are protected, not under any legislation of this Parliament but by section 49 of the Constitution, which reads -

The powers, privileges and immunities of the Senate and of the House of .Representatives, unci of the members of the committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and its members and committees at the establishment of the Commonwealth.

That is the source from which we derive our privileges. No parliament of the Commonwealth, from the first to the seventeenth, has passed any legislation to give to this legislature 'any greater powers than are enjoyed by the members of the House of Commons. This Parliament has not sought to take away the privileges given by section 49 of the Constitution, nor has it sought to take to itself additional privileges. Therefore, all this talk about the privileges of members being affected by clause 14 is merely a part of the hyperbolical nonsense to which we have been listening for two days.


Mr Bowden - According to my understanding, when privilege is extended to cover any person, it covers every person.


Mr CALWELL - Any person engaged in broadcasting the proceedings of this Parliament, just as the persons who record, print or publish what is contained in the documents of this Parliament are privileged and protected against any action in any court.


Mr Fadden - When the privilege refers to the broadcasting of any portion there is no limitation.


Mr CALWELL - A limitation on the power to broadcast anything is imposed by the relevant sections of the AustralianBroadcasting Act. Section 63 of that act covers the matter in part, and so does section 92. I am giving to honorable gentlemen opposite a lot of cheap legal advise, and I hope that they will benefit from it. Section 63 of the Australian Broadcasting Act provides -

The licensee of a commercial broadcasting station shall not relay or broadcast any part of the programme of any other broadcasting station, whether situated in Australia or elsewhere, without the consent of the owner or licensee of the originating station and the approval of the Minister.

That at least answers the arguments of those who fear that- something sinister is being attempted under this legislation. Section 93 makes this provision -

A person shall not, without the consent of the owner or licensee of the station and the approval of the Minister, publish in any manner whatsoever any portion of the text of an item transmitted by a broadcasting station, whether situated iri Australia or elsewhere.

That would prevent any newspaper or person from taking a note of a broadcast of the proceedings of this Parliament, and subsequently publishing it; consequently, the danger of partiality, which honorable gentlemen: opposite have convinced themselves exists, has substance only in their own disordered imaginations.


Mr Bowden - The Minister cannot convince me that " any . person " means other than " any person ".


Mr CALWELL - If the honorable member is so easily convinced I am astounded that any electorate should send him to this Parliament.


Mr Menzies - May I interrupt the Minister, in order to put a question to him ?


Mr CALWELL - No. The privilege granted by the Constitution, which protects the members of this Parliament, is a privilege that ' has existed from the earliest days of colonial legislation. In the legislation of the parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia there are provisions somewhat similar to that which appears in the Australian Constitution; but they give to members of the State legislatures- no more protection than is accorded to members of the House of Commons. It has remained for- an honorable member, who is not here to-night to move his amendment in committee, to rise in his place in this Parliament to suggest during the earlier stages of the bill, that the privileges which have existed in this country under all forms of representative government for over 90 years .should now be diminished. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), in making his contribution to the debate, said this -

I have for a long time been convinced that quite apart from the aspect of broadcasting, there is a need for the establishment of a committee of privileges, consisting of Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition, which, upon an honorable member rising in his place and claiming that parliamentary privilege has been abused, should have power to discipline the offending member, and, in extreme cases, te impose "penalties even as drastic as suspension from the service of this House for a. long period. . . .

The absolute privilege which applies in this House springs from ancient times. It springs from the necessity that men charged with legislating for the country shall be entitled to speak without fear or favour, and T can understand that. "However, I believe that absolute privilege does require remodelling in the light of present-day circumstances.

That is what Hitler said, and what every dictator has said. It is always said by those who .desire to whittle down the privileges of the Parliament so that wealth may bestride this country and dominate it. Honorable members are sent here by the common people, and they are protected in anything they say for the 'common good; but, if the honorable member for Warringah had his way, there would be no protection "at all, and certainly not for members of the Labour party. There are people in this country who think that it is a breach, of privilege to say that the present system of society is based on the lie that every citizen can get social justice and economic security. Certain honorable members opposite have developed strange ideas about privilege. The Leader of the Opposition said that the proper way to correct a certain matter affecting' privilege to which he had referred was " not by removing the privilege of the Parliament. That would be a tremendous step and a very dangerous step ". The honorable member for Warringah remarked -

I see no reason why the privilege extended to honorable members in this House should be unlimited.

This is not a hill in which to make any alteration of the privilege of members of this Parliament, because the measure will be administered by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron). He is not the Minister to deal with questions of members' privileges.- Therefore, much that the honorable member for Warringah has said in his contribution to the debate will probably not be .considered by the House at all. He has foreshadowed an amendment which fully complies with a definition given by the late Alfred Deakin, in describing a speech made by one of his political opponents, when he said, "It consists of a necklace of- negatives ". I have no doubt that the honorable member's amendment will be rejected at a later stage. I have quoted from paragraphs 43 to .49 of the report of the Broadcasting Committee, to which the honorable member for Moreton referred, and have pointed out that the signature of the honorable member was appended to the report. I quoted the appropriate reference in the. report regarding the privilege, which should be given to the members of the committee to be established under the bill and any other persons engaged in broadcasting the debates. That covers the employees of the commercial .stations and. any short-wave stations- which broadcast speeches made- in this, or the other House of the Parliament from the floor, of the House. I hope later, that we- may have a. joint sitting, of. both branches of the legislature to hear the Prime Minister of Great. Britain, Mr.. Attlee. Perhapshonorable members opposite will object to . that.


Mr Menzies - We would at the beginning of an election campaign.


Mr CALWELL (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) -T.he- Liberal, party would, not have objected, to a. visit by Mr. Churchill; but he would not come to Australia, because obviously he did not wish to- be- mixed up, with the crowd of Conservatives here who- pass as Liberals-.

This bill should have reached the com.mittee stage early on Friday,, and that stage, should have- been passed long, ere now; but. I am obliged to reply to, the' contention of the Opposition, which is based partly on ignorance and. partly on fear.

Mr.-. Bowden.:- Suppose an honorable member of this. House' made ani attack on another member, which was a vile calumny... . That, could- be done under privilege; but if an honorable member stated outside, this House;, when an election was pending,, that during the debate in- the Parliament he. said a. certain thing about, the. Minister for Information, he should not be privileged! to.- make that insinuation-. What about, clause M of the bill?.


Mr CALWELL - That gives- effect, to the: recommendation in paragraph 51 of the' report of. the Broadcasting, Committee that legislation be- introduced to. provide for the application of absolute privilege to* the broadcast of parliamentary proceedings;, as aor. extension of the- privilege conferred by legislation in respect, of Mansard reports. I cannot see, nor can any legal, officer of the Crown see, any point in the emphasis that: has. been placed on the word " any " in clause 14. The protection is; not. extended to any person at all, but to any person engaged in the work of broadcasting the proceedings in Parliament.


Mr Guy - I desire to make a personal explanation. I have been grossly misrepresented by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). He said that. I had repudiated the signature which- 1, as- a member- of the Broadcasting. Committee,- had attached to its report. It is true that the committee can:vassed all possibilities of broadcasting the proceedings of' this. Parliament, and the Minister took up most of his time in reading- the comments of the committee. But" the recommendations rather than the comments are the meat of this report. The committee was charged with the responsibility of inquiring whether the broadcasting of parliamentary debates is desirable, and', if so, to what extent should' such broadcasts be undertaken. In answer to that I turn to the recommendation which I claim is meat and not comment. The recommendation of the committee to which I consented reads -

That during the experimental periods the whole of the proceedings in the chamber concerned should be broadcast from the main national stations, and from the- regional stations,, as well as the. short-wave stations, except during the short periods when "straight" news sessions are normally on the air.. .

That no provision should be. made for any pre-arranged selection of speakers at particular times, that is to say, there should be " straight " broadcasts of the proceedings exactly as they occur in the normal transaction of Parliamentary business, with' the qualification that during divisions and such like intervals, an appropriate official (who should be an officer of the Commission)- should broadcast an impartial description of what is taking place. Needless to say, the facilities should not be used for other purposes when Parliament is in recess.

Paragraph- 5'3' is as follow? -

We are aware that in New Zealand' doubts have been expressed in certain quarters as. to the! wisdom- of broadcasting the whole of. the proceedings, but we are of tha opinion that in Australia complete broadcasts of the actual proceedings should be tried1 at the outset, leaving the question of: modification for consideration, in the Light of experience.

Bearing those recommendations in mind1,. I can only assume that the Minister is unable to- understand English. I cannot provide .him with the capacity to- graspthe facts, and if he cannot understand straightforward language I must leave him in his colossal ignorance.


Mr CALWELL - I desire to make a personal explanation. I have not misrepresented any one. I quoted from paragraph 45 of the report the following passage ? -

The only remaining proposition under present conditions is the use of the main national stations in the capital cities and the national regional stations in the country districts, supplemented by short wave service to remote areas . . .


Mr Guy - That is the comment of the committee, not its recommendation.


Mr Calwell - That is what the bill, in fact, provides for. The incidental things are left for determination by the committee which is to he set up accordingly to the recommendation signed by the honorable member himself. I have stated the facts, and I now leave it to those unrepentant penitents who sit opposite to extricate themselves as best they can from the horns of their own dilemma.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 -

Notwithstanding anything contained in the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942, the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall broadcast the proceedings of the Senate or the House of Representatives from -

(a)   a medium-wave national broadcasting station in the capital city in each State and in the city of Newcastle in the State of New South Wales; and

(b)   such other national broadcasting stations (including short-wave national broadcasting stations) as are prescribed, upon such days and during such periods as the Committee determines.







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