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Wednesday, 3 July 1946
Page: 2164


Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information) (1:29 AM) . - There has been a long-standing argument between the PostmasterGeneral's Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission as to where the responsibility of one begins and that of the other ends. If it could, the commission would acquire the control of all of the technical side of broadcasting; but up to date- the PostmasterGeneral's Department has been able to establish with every government its claim that its authority extends right >up to the microphone and that the authority of the Australian Broadcasting Commission begins only at the microphone. When the matter is one of re-broadcasting and the provision of land-lines, the officers of the Postmaster-General's Department become involved both directly and indirectly in the actual work of broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament. It is true that only the Australian Broadcasting Commission is named in the bill as the authority that will broadcast the proceedings of both Houses of the Parliament. That was necessary because the Australian Broadcasting Commission is an independent authority which could refuse a ministerial direction to broadcast the proceedings of the Parliament. As a matter of fact, the Australian Broadcasting Commission offered to broadcast the proceedings of the Parliament. But the Government considered that the Parliament' should not be dependent upon the favour of 'an instrumentality of its own creation, and decided instead to introduce a bill which would enable a direction to be given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to do certain things, and to apply compulsion should that body refuse to do what the Government and the Parliament wanted to have done. The officers of the PostmasterGeneral's Department are in a entirely different category. They are employees of the Crown, and, as such, can be directed to do certain things ; consequently, there was no necessity to make any provision in relation to them or the department except in the matter of privilege and immunity from punishment. The words " any person " were used to cover -all the persons who could be legitimately employed in broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament. The proposal of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) so to narrow privilege as to embrace only the officers and agents of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is, in substance, what is now proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The Government considers that everybody associated with the broadcasts should be given the same immunity and the same protection - not merely those who name the speakers and do other things incidental to malting the broadcasts possible, but also all other people who collaborate throughout the length and breadth of Australia in taking broadcasts or rebroadcasts into the homes of the nation. What the bill proposes is in accord with the provisions of the act of this Parliament, which grants immunity to those who record, print and publish the debates of the Parliament, as well as those who print and publish every other document that is issued under the authority of the Parliament.


Mr Menzies - That relates to the whole of the debate, or the whole document.


Mr CALWELL - What the right honorable gentleman says is correct. But there is" no inconsistency between that provision and the provision that any person associated with broadcasts of the proceedings of the Parliament, whether they be partial .or complete, should be granted immunity in respect of what he does under the direction of the Government. I hope it is not considered likely that there will ever be an abuse of authority by any of the employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or of the Postmaster-General's Department. There may be technical faults. Climatic or other conditions may cause a breakdown of the broadcasting service, and that is a contingency against which we cannot guard against. Honorable members need have no fear of any abuse under this clause. It will be for the committee which the bill proposes shall be sat up to determine how many or how few broadcasts shall take place. I do not think that any honorable member desires that the clause shall be abused, and I am sure that the committee that is to be set up Will not allow it to be abused.







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