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Tuesday, 23 October 1956

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) . - With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall discuss the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4) 1956 and the Excise Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1956 together. I desire to offer a few observations on behalf of the Opposition about the customs duty and excise duty which the Government is levying on cathode ray tubes. The amount of duty imposed on these tubes, whether they have been made in Australia or imported, is to be £7 a tube. Those who hope to get very rich out of television, of course, wish that the Government would introduce no such measure. I do not object to what the Government has done. I am only sorry that the Government has not made the duty £70 a tube. I think it would be much better for the community if we did not have television at this particular time, but devoted ourselves to providing the things that are so necessary to the well-being of society. We can well do without television while we have sewerage mains and water mains to lay and roads to make.

The Government has said that it will collect £210,000 under these measures. What is that in a budget of £1,200,000,000, which is a record high? The Government is rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and yet it wants this extra £210,000. It would not matter, really, whether the Government got it or not. This amount of £210.000 is to be raised by customs and excise duties at the rate of £7 a tube, and will be payable by the only people who will have any benefit from television. They will be the 30.000 people living in Sydney and Melbourne, the capital cities, who will have installed television sets. I am told that a television set cannot be bought for less than 215 guineas. I do not want one, and I do not intend to buy one. 1 do not even intend to invoke the assistance of any hire-purchase company to enable me to get one. Most honorable members on this side of the House have adopted the same attitude and I think that quite a lot of the impecunious members who support the Government will have adopted that attitude, also. At any rate. 30,000 people are to receive whatever the benefits television may have to give. I have read enough about it in the American and English press to realize that it can be as much a menace as a benefit. However, all that was discussed when the broadcasting and television legislation was before the House. I merely wish to say that, in encouraging the establishment of television at a time when so many thousands of good young Australians are trying to raise families and establish homes we are embarking upon a dangerous experiment. These young people are in want, not of luxuries, but of amenities including roads, water supply, electricity and so on, which the State governments and the municipalities want to give them.

Mr Haylen -It is doubtful whether the Government will raise the sum estimated. There may not be as many television sets as it imagines!

Mr CALWELL - There may not be sufficient television sets to produce revenue amounting to £210,000. Of course, the Government, adept at the old game of greasing the fat pig, will give everything that it possibly can to its own supporters. It will probably try to keep them quiet by having them look at television when they ought to be thinking seriously about the future of this nation. Thirty thousand people in a population of 9.500000 are hardly worth worrying about. Even if one assumed that there would be four viewers to every television set, it would raise the figure to only 120,000.

Mr Osborne - Half the street will be there to look at each set.

Mr CALWELL - The Minister tells us that half the street will come along to the houses in Bellevue Hill, in Sydney, and Toorak, in Melbourne, where these sets will be located. I do not know how they will be able to jump over the 10-ft. walls that surround these palatial homes. If. on the other hand, the publicans of Australia believe that television will entice people into their bars, to drink more, they may get a surprise. People may come in as viewers, but they -vill not be drinkers for long.

Mr Cope - Not when they see the shows hat are being put on.

Mr CALWELL - Certainly not if the shows that we have read about are to be allowed on television. I am treading very warily in this matter because I do not know just how far I am away from the bill-

Mr Osborne - The honorable member has not discussed the bill at all so far.

Mr CALWELL - I have discussed the tact that £7 is to be added to the cost of each cathode ray tube, and have emphasized that it would not matter to me if it vere £17, £27, £37 or £70. I would not care if television did not exist here. All the licences have been given to newspaper companies - but not to all newspaper companies. The " Daily Mirror " of Sydney could not get a licence, nor could returned soldiers' organizations nor churches. A hand-picked board handed all the licences out to the Government's particular friends. lt was the pay-off for past support.

What I fear is that whatever figure we fix, those who represent the wealthy interests will, once television becomes a reality, derive all the advantages, electorally, and democracy will not be able to function as it should. For that reason. I do not care whether the amount is £7 or £70; but if we are to impose a charge at all the customs duty ought to be higher than the excise duty because everything possible should be manufactured in Australia. Let us think of the conditions that operate in the industry of other countries. England has a 45-hour week, against Australia's 40- hour week, and a basic wage of £6 1 2s.. compared with our £13 3s. or something equally astronomical - I find it difficult to keep pace with the rises since this Government came into office. The comparison is all to the advantage of the overseas manufacturer.

Hisemployees have no paid holidays and nothing like the sick leave or long service leave enjoyed by Australian employees. It is wrong to suggest that a tube manufactured anywhere else in the world, be it England, Germany, Italy or Japan, should bear no more duty than should a tube manufactured in Australia. If excise duty is £7, the customs duty on the overseas article should be £9 or £10. It could even be £10 or £15.

Mr Osborne - That is a matter for the Tariff Board. This is a revenue duty.

Mr CALWELL - The burden on the imported articles should be so much heavier, but the Minister tells us that this is a revenue levy, and that the fixing of appropriate tariffs is a matter for the Tarin* Board. Was the board asked its view before the Government brought down this legislation?

Mr Osborne - The matter has gone to the Tariff Board.

Mr CALWELL - What did the board say?

Mr Osborne - It has not considered the matter yet.

Mr CALWELL - Perhaps another one or two tariff boards should be appointed so that the Government can get really up to date on the protection of Australian industry. Dozens of matters are awaiting consideration by the Tariff Board.

Mr Osborne - What has that to do with this bill?

Mr CALWELL - It has nothing to do with the bill. I allowed myself to be led astray by the Minister, who said that the matter had gone to the Tariff Board. Now, when I asked him what the board's report was he answers, " What has that to do with this bill? "

Opposition members will allow the measure to pass unopposed, and will hand it to the Government on the end of a long fork, as it were. We do not want television at this stage, and if we had our way there would be no television in this country until the needs of the Australian community had been catered for. In any case, our policy is the nationalization of all radio and television services. 1 do not like the outmoded language that the Government uses in describing the components of radio and television sets. It speaks of " wireless " sets. The term " wireless " has long since gone out of common usage. If it is in fact " radio ", why do we not bring our legislation, and our departmental phraseology, up to date and use the word " radio ". " Wireless " means something without a wire.

Mr Turnbull - What is wrong with the term " wireless "?

Mr Haylen - The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is thinking of wirenetting.

Mr CALWELL - It is true that whenever the honorable member for Mallee thinks of wire he thinks automatically of wire-netting. We do not like the whole television set-up, or what the Government 4s doing about it. We should not be at all sorry if something happened to delay television for another few years so that, ultimately, it would be introduced, not for the exploitation of the Australian people, but for the benefit of all. It should be available to the people in every part of Australia, not merely those living in comparative luxury in two capital cities. The great mass of the people will not derive any benefit from television. The Government is doing them an injustice in allowing so much material, man-power and finance to be devoted to these inessential things, when so much remains to be done for the better section of the people - the young, hard working section.

The Minister proposes to place a duty, whether by way of excise or custom provisions, on each cathode ray tube. Just how will the Australian people purchase sets that cost £215 each? Why should they not be able to purchase them, as can be done in the United States of America, for not more than 100 dollars each?

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