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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr BARNARD - Evidently the honorable member believes that the Labour Government will be returned.

Mr ABBOTT - I do not fear that at all, but I am fearful that the rights of the people of Australia may be interfered with by a government, irrespective of its political ' complexion, if the clause is retained. The commission holds the -scales of -justice evenly and ' presents factual news. It should be kept untrammelled and politically unbiased. Ever juice this Government took office, it has interfered in the commission's affairs. 5£r. Calwell. - That is not true.

Mr ABBOTT - It has deliberately tried - to interfere with the commission, -and exercise political influence upon' the commission's decisions. In this bill, the nigger who has been hiding in the wood pile is revealed. This is the most iniquitous clause that has ever been incorporated in any bill submitted to the Parliament. By a proposal worthy of a Hitler, ;a .Franco or a Stalin, !this Government seeks to filch from the people their rights, and from the commission its authority to ensure that the .people's rights shall be preserved. If the Government does hot agree to delete the clause, the people will rise up in their wrath against it -on the 28th September and return to office a new government which will immediately bring down an amending bill to remove the offending section from the act.

Mir. CALWELL (Melbourne- Minister for Immigration and Minister for infor- ma.tion) [4,43 a:m.]. - in reply - Proposed new section 25, which the irrational' and erratic .member for New England (Mt. Abbott) has just quoted, appears in exactly the same language as section 22 of the act of 1932. Whilst the commission administered that provision in the spirit of the legislation, no trouble arose. Difficulties developed only- when1 the commission began «> tie itself up with the newspaper interests, whose cause has been so vociferously championed by honorable members opposite, from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) down to- the imbecile 'member for New England. Honorable members opposite have bitterly opposed two provisions; one is proposed new section 25 which will allow the commission to conduct an independent .news service, and the other is clause 18, which proposes to regulate the activities of the networks which have grown up under the control of broadcasting in this country. Proposed new section-;26 does not take away any powers from the commission ; as a matter of fact, it proposes to endow the commission with even greater power and responsibility. The story which we have heard unfolded this morning is not a spontaneous effort on the part of honorable members opposite. They have had their briefs from the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. What has been said here this morning was said, in the Senate only two nights ago. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in 'the Senate (Senator Leckie) said in respect of clause 5 -

This is the vital clause of the bill and the Opposition proposes to vote against it.

Honorable members opposite have had plenty -of time to study their briefs. The honorable- member for New England never comes into Ah is House without a brief, amd on this .occasion he has 'been briefed by the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. The story of broadcasting in this country is a very simple one-. Those who passed the original Australian Broadcasting Act through this Parliament .belonged to the same political party as do honorable members opposite. Early in the history of broadcasting in this, country, attempts were made to secure monopoly control -over the commercial station licences, and the position became- so desperate that the then Minister for Defence, Mr. - now Sir Archdale - Parkhill, who later lost -his seat to the honorable member for Warringah '(Mr-. Spender),, said

We have 'growing- up 'in this country a monopoly of newspapers and broadcasting which,, in combination, constitute a danger that thi*. Parliament cannot 'view with equanimity, and. steps should be 'taken to deal' with it. Let us consider what has happened recently. Thepress has decided that information cabled toAustrafia shall come only from one source. The people of this nation get only what the press cares to give them. That is' wrong in principle, and is a powerful' argument in favour of such a public utility as broadcasting being in the hands of the Government.

Those remarks were made by a- gentleman who has no sympathy with the political philosophy of honorable, members on this side of the House, but who was at least honest enough to face the danger which confronted this country and to attempt to do something to meet the situation. The. degeneracy of the political party to which he belonged at that time has gone so far that all we have heard in this morning's debate is a series of apologias from people who- are but the "stooges-" of the very people- whom he condemned. He was then fighting the newspaper interests, who were trying to get control of the broadcasting stations. The then Leader of the Labour party in this House, the late Mr. Curtin, supported his1 contentions, and the present honorable- member for Barker (Mr, Archie Cameron) had this to say -

I support the case" submitted by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) on this question of broadcasting. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) agreeing with the policy and the attitude of the Government on this question:, so far as it goes and T am in* full agreement with the sentiment expressed by the Leader of the Opposition when he said that broadcasting should he under national control, because I contend that broadcasting is on all fours with such public utilities as the post office, the telegraph and the telephones, which this Parliament has seen fit to place under the control of the PostmasterGeneral, and I do not know of a.ny authority in the Commonwealth more .competent to deal with thi* further public utility than the PostmasterGeneral.

* He argued in favour of the control of broadcasting as a public utility in the same way as the post office is controlled by a responsible Minister. The degeneracy of Liberalism has 'gone so' far that it is impossible to get a coherent argument from their representatives in this chamber. What the Government has done in this bill is precisely what Sir Archdale Parkhill wanted to put into die legislation in- 193."). The Gibson Committee, of which I was a member, made no recommendation for an alteration of that section of the 1932 act, which gave to the commission discretionary power to set up a news-collecting agency. The commission at that time made no complaint againsT that provision in the act, because- it" was then in favour of conducting an independent service. The commissionchanged its; mind only when the chairman became converted' to- the idea of making an agreement with the newspaper companies, and no satisfactory explanation has been given for that change of. opinion. I do not suggest thai: Mr. Cleary did not. make an honest change, but he has not satisfactorily explained it. If, at. the- time when, the Gibson Committee was sitting,, he had indicated that he wanted an agreement in. the terms suggested! to the present committee of which the honorable' member for Gippsland is- a member, 1 am certain, that the Gibson Committee w.ould have been unanimously against it.

The Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, set up the Gibson Committee, and gave it power to compol representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and anybody else it wished" to summon, to. obtain the facts about broadcasting. It was the Curtin Government which carried out the recommendations of the Gibson Committee,, including the setting. up of a parliamentary committee on- broadcasting. TheLeader of the Opposition supported that, yet he now says that the BroadcastingCommittee is interfering with" the work of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Whether there is. a committee or not, nobody can deny the right of theParliament to tell the commission toestablish an independent news-gathering * service. There is good reason why the commission's news should not be tainted, but should be free of influence from the press. The Leader of the Opposition asked, "Is it suggested that a journalist, would tamper with the news? Would a working journalist in London or Australia, colour the news?" That there is a tampering with the news is confirmed by people much more eminent than the Leader of the Opposition will be, and more eminent than any spokesman in this debate is ever likely to be. I shall quote an opinion expressed by -the Right Honorable Stanley Baldwin, in Hamilton Fyfe's, Press Parade - Behind the Scenes of the .Newspaper Backet and the

Millionaires' Attempt at Dictatorship.T find that Earl Baldwin, as he later became, stated in 1931 -

What are the methods of the press? Their methods are. direct falsehood, misrepresentation, half-truths, alteration of the speakers' meaning by putting sentences apart from their context, suppression.

Earl Baldwin was never a Labour man. He did not represent Labour thought', but his experience with the press taught him to employ those words. We on this side have a healthy suspicion that everything he said was right, and that public utilities should not be debauched at the hands of the Hendersons and the Murdochs, who, from 1944 onwards, have sought to get control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission's news service so that they could do their work for capitalism, and send representatives into Parliament like the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and his colleagues on the Opposition side.

The point has been raised that the sum of £200,000 is too much for the commission to bear, or for the country to have to pay for an independent, news service. The concession which the Postal Department makes to-day to the press in various ways amounts to £900,000 a year. If concessional rates were not given, the PostmasterGeneral would have £900,000 more in his revenues, and from that sum the amount of £206,000 can be used to maintain a really independent news service - as independent as Sir Archdale Parkhill, the honorable member for Barker, and all decent Australians want it to be.

Mr Abbott - Is there not sufficient power now?

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