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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr HAYLEN (Parkes)

I have listened with keen interest to the subtle phraseology and clever terminology of the 'Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I- suppose that the flight of the bumble bee over the beautiful landscape' would be comparable . to the oratorical flights . of the right honorable gentleman in relation to thi* bill. He did not come down to earth, as is his usual practice. With great skill, he made certain points regarding journalists and what they should do in regard- to the overseas news service. This is a simple proposition. Why in the name of goodness, cannot the wireless listeners of Australia have an independent news service? Is there any reason why a man starting a newspaper tomorrow" should not say, "I do not want the combine. I want to see whether 1 can get independent news". .There are sources of news, as there are source* of other things that are gathered. Naturally, a man of enterprise and skill can get some additional news. Because the Broadcasting Committee, in its- wisdom, has recommended that there shall be an independent news .service, it is ' attacked. As is its duty, it has considered the future of the wireless-listening public. This controversy has raged for a very long time, and a lot of sinister implications have grown' up round the matter. If the question were simply whether there was to be a news service from London, I do not believe that that would create any deep problems. But other features have been injected into the proposition of the news service, and these require some investigation. My reply to the challenge of the Leader of the Opposition, who said, ,in effect, " Do you suggest that the news coming from overseas is coloured ? " is that, in the main, because of the pressure of the job and not because of the ethics of the journalists, it is not coloured; but in some instances it is sufficiently coloured to be highly dangerous to the' people of Australia, because often 4he ''account -is loaded against the Australian Labour party and the Commonwealth Labour Government.

Mr Menzies - I should like the. honorsable gentleman to give an illustration of that. I thought that most of the accounts were in favour of his party !

Mr HAYLEN - When the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), now on his way to America, was the first chairman of the United Nations organization, the reporting of his activities was disgraceful. It was coloured and biased, and made me feel ashamed of the journalists responsible for it. Insinuations were made in regard to his competency as a chairman. The accusations were so small as to have been .insignificant had they not been disseminated by a news agency serving millions of people and commanding the attention of the world. The cables sent to this country cleverly made it appear that they expressed the views of a Canadian correspondent at the conference of the United Nations. In my experience, I have found both Australian and overseas journalists to have a code of ethics which does not permit them to do such things. Only a small group has those instructions.

Mr Menzies - That is a very queer code of ethics. Does the honorable gentleman mean that they would not voluntarily invent the story, but would invent it if they were told to do so?

Mr HAYLEN - I have said that they represent a. very small section. The same features have been associated with the reporting of the statements and actions of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). He has been the victim of coloured misreporting.

Mr Menzies - That is to-day's funny story. He has been boosted. He is " the world ".

Mr HAYLEN - Because this great Australian is making the head-lines overseas members of the Opposition seem to be disturbed. I maintain that he has been grievously misreported. I shall exert a quietening influence on the Opposition by referring to an incident that occurred quite recently - the misreporting of the Gibraltar incident. I am not to be silenced by the Leader of the Opposition asking, "Will you say in front of your fellow . pressmen that ^ there are any coloured stories from overseas?" I should say that, there are coloured stories from overseas. These professional exservicemen of the old school, who think in terms of the Battle of Omdurman, did not voice any protests when I mentioned in this House that the affray at Gibraltar had been the subject of a bad piece of misreporting.

Mr Bowden - Where did the honorable member learn that?

Mr HAYLEN - What I then said has been justified by a report published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, a newspaper for which I have no great affection, regarding the experiences of a man who went to Gibraltar to investigate the case. I repeat that there was then no attempt on the part of ex-servicemen who are members of the Opposition to come to the defence of the Victory Contingent, because they were thinking of the kind of press they would get at the general elections.

To return to the draft agreement: I listened with considerable interest to the declaration of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that he was speaking for the Australian Journalists Association on some matter relative to the draft news agreement: So far as any knowledge of news or of that agreement is concerned, he is completely at a loss. I would say, in regard to some of his statements, that if, as a journalist, I were asked to write his political epitaph, it would be, " Here lies the honorable member for Moreton - as usual ". The honorable member made one statement concerning the attitude of Mr. Hanlon to the draft agreement. It is perfectly obvious, from the evidence, that Mr. Hanlon, having protested against that agreement as a journalist, decided eventually that he would democratically go with the majority when he had been out-voted. At no time did he withdraw from the position that he was violently opposed to it. In support of the attitude of Mr. Hanlon I read the following extracts from an article written by Kim in the Australian Worker of the 9 th May, 1945, a few weeks before he became a member of the commission : -

The right that is now being- waged so bitterly by the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association for a monopoly of the news broadcasting services of this country is just another aspect of the fight that the chairman and hia fellow conspirators waged, more or less successfully, for the monopoly of the news which is now being published in the newspapers controlled by them in nearly every capital city .in Australia. . . . The plot of the members of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association to secure a monopoly of Australia's -news broadcasting services is obvious. Having by various and devious means secured control of the overseas :and .most of the interstate news services for publication in their newspapers, they now by hook or 'by crook are desperately anxious to secure control of the air for the same sinister purpose. . Herein then lies the reason that the newspaper monopolists in Australia - the members of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association - are manoeuvring so cunningly and so brazenly for the monopoly of the air.

A man who would write in that fashion just before" being appointed to the commission indicated fairly clearly his attitude to the agreement. It seems fair and reasonable that there should be an independent news service. It is the desire of every one who starts a newspaper to get such a service, rather than to use the existing services with all their, disadvantages. At this point, there enters the sinister figure of Mr, Henderson, chairman of the Australian 'Newspaper Proprietors Association. First, he did not want to have anything to do with the matter. Tie became derisive of the suggestion, and said that the service would be " political ". That phrase might be taken from the style-book of the- Sydney Morning Herald, where the belief is held that any thing which differs from the opinion of the Sydney Morning Herald must be political. Mr. Henderson said that he did not care whether or not there was an agreement with his organization, and that even if there was it would not mean anything. In the meantime, he had increased the price of the proposed service by 250 per cent. ! At one time Mr. Cleary, a former chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, was a rabid advocate of an independent news service. Then be suffered a change of heart, probably after he had a talk with representatives of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. He became a violent opponent of an independent news service", and was all for getting news in the nice, easy way from the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. His change of heart may not have been

Ifr. Haylen. ' unassociated with the appointment of Mr. Deamer as editor of the A.B.G. Weekly. The Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association was moving in the background. Look how its hand has crept out to .get control of the B-class broadcasting stations. The almost childish innocence of the honorable member foi Moreton (Mr. Francis) is pathetic. After having sat as a member of such an intelligent committee for so long, he emerges with a minority report, which, I believe., must have been written for' him, because ite inanities would be -beyond even him.

The present allegedly independent broadcast ,news service is of the sausagemachine type. This is what it boils dowD to - " This is by courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald ". There is a story about some one who broke his leg, and the leg is always broken in exactly the same way and at exactly the same time. News gathering of that sort destroys all initiative in journalism. Evidence was given before the Broadcasting Committee by Mr. Dixon, news editor of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who is an expert in his line. The technique in handling news for broadcasting, is different from that in handling news for publication in a newspaper. News for broadcasting must be compressed within a specified time, yet honorable members opposite say that it is absurd to go anywhere else for news than to the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. The institution of an independent service was advocated by Mr. Dixon, by Mr. Hanlon, with 40 years' experience behind him, and finally by the Austraiian Journalists. Association, which believed that the sausage-machine kind of journalism' was dangerous and harmful to journalists. The Australian Journalists Association is always pleased to see another newspaper begin publication. Under the present .system, .a sensitive journalist starts out with enthusiasm, but be gets into the hands of an unsympathetic management or board of control, where he quickly loses that "first, fine careless rapture" that makes a good journalist. It is evident that Mr. Dixon wanted to handle an independent news service, and he was supported by Mr. Hanlon. The proposal was opposed by Mr. Boyer, whose principal claim to speak on the subject appears to be that he a grazier. He might he qualified on some grounds to serve on the commission, but- not oh the ground that, he knew anything about news-getting. The proposal was also opposed by Mr. Moses, general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Coinmission, who was a good cricket broadcaster at one time, but of whom nothing has been, heard as a news man since he used to speak of the lengthening shadows on the lawn at the cricket ground. The other opponent was Mr. Dawes, a Labour man,, who might he described as a weak sister. ' An independent news service was sought by those associated with broadcasting who knew what they were talking about. There was nothing political in their attitude, but they wanted' to break the newspaper combine,, just as the broadcasting of the proceedings of this Parliament have in some measure broken the power of the combine to disseminate parliamentary news in a fashion to suit itself. Somebody moved quickly, and induced the honorable member for Moreton to act for nam. This is too important a matter ti rest upon the reports of a minority and a majority in the Broadcasting Committee. We are now dealing with the most powerful medium of news dissemination in the world - .radio broadcasting. Let us examine some of the witnesses who ' gave evidence before the committee. First there was the journalist Dixon and the old 'editor Hanlon, who could be easily led into the trap by the suggestion that it would be nice to get a staff ready made a:nd wrapped up in cellophane. No journalist would say that that would not be a very interesting job. Then we had the president of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association, Mr. Henderson, who cut a very sorry and pathetic figure before the committee. He made such amazing statements that when I first read the report I could hardly believe them. He said that the committee was political, that broadcasting political, and that the commission itself was political in its news broadcasts. He even referred to the fact that on seven Sundays out of nine, I had made broadcasts over -the national station in New South Wales-. He characterized those broadcasts as- inconsequential and said they .should, not have gone over the air. I have' very limited facilities for reaching my electors through the newspapers, because of " the Haylen case " which honorable members will perhaps remember, and naturally I used the air to. convey messages to . my electors. As for inconsequentiality, after a check I found that the matter contained in six of my broadcasts, used by the Sydney Morning Herald on the following Monday morning. As a matter of' fact, the only item not reprinted' in that journal related to additions to Mr. Henderson's luxurious residence which were made during the darkest days of the war and about which ' there was some comment in this House. If there was anything political in that, the polities' were certainly not in favour of Mr. Henderson. Every word of his evidence before the committee was full of spleen and Mas. He lashed this way and that; he did not want parliamentarians to examine him because he regarded himself as a little dictator. How dare they bring him before them and question him ? That was his attitude despite the fact that his activities have caused the Fairfaxes to pull the blind down early in the mornings. It is obvious that the Fairfaxes are worried about the future of their newspaper and we can assume what they will do before very long. Mr. Henderson also made other serious statements about this agreement. He referred to a conversation which had taken place between himself and our late revered Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, in which Mr. Curtin is alleged to have said in effect, " Had I given a line to the politicians they would have been boosting themselves over the air." That statement shocked the committee,, and when it was subsequently published it was characterized as views, not news. That, of course, was sufficient to condemn it. Mr. Henderson led the committee to believe that it did not matter to the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association what kind of news service' the commission got; he was not concerned about it. If it .did not matter anything to Mr. Henderson, why did -he become so mad about it; why did he lash himself into a veritable fury over- it? I. understand that after he had completed, his evidence he wrote a. series-, of letters to other witnesses -who had given evidence before the committee asking why they had attacked him. He has the fuehrer complex and fights the people about him, which makes us think he believed there, was more behind the proposal for an independent news service than he would have us know. It is obvious that he feared an independent news service because something might be brought out into the light of day which he would rather should remain hidden. He would prefer to have over-all coverage of news by one organization in which he would act as a kind of commercial entrepreneur, the very thing that has brought journalism down to the level that it has reached to-day. City newspapers are " smarming " the whole thing over with misrepresentation, and the advance guard is led by the. president of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association who has condemned the independent news service. Either news is to be reported faithfully or it is to be "cooked up " to suit this one or that. In the main, journalists do the job for which they are paid and present the news fairly; there are others, however, who are prepared to do what they are told. The average reporter is sick and tired as is also the public of sausage-machine journals with their comic strips and sexy cartoons. If an independent news service will give a fresher approach to the news whether from overseas or local sources, we shall have achieved a highly desirable objective. The question of price is a matter of pure speculation. It has been said that this service, may cost £200,000. A sensible news editor who had been accustomed to handling news in his own way said that he could supply such a service for £80,000. If an independent news service will bring freshness, warmth and clean reporting into the air and into the 3,000,000 homes throughout Australia in which radio receivers are installed its cost will be fully justified.

There are many aspects of the bill that I should like to discuss, but owing to the lateness of the hour, I conclude by saying that the minority report of the Broadcasting Committee is entirely- lacking in judgment and knowledge of the subject. Generally, minority reports are courageous; they are brought forward by men who believe that the majority may be brutally wrong. But the minority report of the Broadcasting Committee is the most arrant piece of "stoogery" that I have ever read. The evidence shows in parts that the chairman or his deputy cross-examined witnesses in the tersest terms, but it was obvious that such terseness in examination was only in fun. The minority report was written in the twinkling of an eye. and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis and his colleagues, who signed it, sought to sabotage the independent news service. I exclude the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) who misunderstands rather than seeks to mislead. If we have this independent news service, who cares if it costs £50,000 or £60,000 more than- the present service, provided the people of Australia get the kind of news they want presented in the way they like it presented !

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