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Wednesday, 8 March 1961

Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) .- Mr. Speaker,this side of the House has listened to the speech of the Acting Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) about his new trade plan and the export drive. We shall examine it with a conscientious approach to the problem that he is trying to overcome. We cannot help reminding him and the Government that many of these measures were suggested by this side of the House six or seven years ago. We suggested that there ought to be a revival of trade by means of better public relations methods, issuing trade literature, and sending trade commissioners to new and resurgent countries which were buying more goods and the standard of living of which was rising. Because the Minister has just made his statement on a new policy, we will leave it at that for the moment and I shall turn to the Address-in-Reply and make some general comments of another nature. The Government's position is undoubtedly a difficult one. The chaos from which it is trying to rescue the economy has been brought about by delayed action thinking and a stopstart way of doing things. However, we shall reserve judgment on the Minister's cure-all - the trade drive - until a later occasion.

In the years in which I have been in Parliament I have found that the most unusual document ever presented to the House is the address which is delivered either by the Governor-General or, in this case, due to unfortunate and regrettable circumstances, the Administrator of the Commonwealth, whom, nevertheless, we welcome. It has always been a wise habit of all governments, including our own, to issue a most portentous document which usually manages to exclude anything of importance. After having listened patiently to this for half an hour honorable members are left to discharge their " high and important duties". As no important duties are mentioned in the address, honorable members may attend to other matters immediately, placing the Government's plans for the future in the waste-paper basket. I thought that we might have heard some high comment on the international situation, the crisis in unemployment, or the crisis in trade. I thought that we might have heard something about that great international tourist, the Prime Minister, who is now winging his way across the world, or is just landing, or is just taking off for somewhere. I thought we might have heard something about his contribution to tourism.

The Minister for Trade believes that a lot of money can be made out of tourists. He has a great protagonist of his policies in the Prime Minister who is always making great leaps forward. Nobody can say that his jumping is not delightfully accurate because when it is getting hot here you find that he is having a yarn with President Kennedy; and if things become too pressing there, he is soon to be found in London with his friend, Dr. Verwoerd, fixing the affairs of South Africa.

When you look through the Administrator's Speech you see what an empty .thing it is to present to the Parliament. On the lighter side, I thought we might hear something about "Lady Chatterley's Lover" Not a word about 'that! That romance has been deadened, not by the Literature Censorship Board, but by a decision of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) which was based, not on whether the banning of the novel was morally right or wrong, but on the belief that the Government might lose votes if the book were not banned because its release would offend the Democratic Labour Party whose assistance the Government requires in another place. T would say that if " Lady Chatterley's Lover" would offend the Democratic Labour Party let it be released at once. But on the serious side of this matter, this kind of action decries us overseas. It indicates that we have some sort of intellectual hill-billy idea that we must prohibit things, just as free discussion on foreign affairs was stultified during the last session of the Parliament. Instead of adopting a human grown-up approach to the question of what books the people of Australia should be able to read, this Government resorts to prohibitions.

I come to a point that gives me a great deal of concern and that is the complete deterioration of our television programmes. When this great benefit to humanity, this new and wonderful adjunct to home entertainment was introduced into Australia we on this side of the House had high hopes that the Government would realize what an important part this medium could play in the national welfare - that it could be a great educator and that it could provide a high standard of information and entertainment. But despite protestations from this side of the House programmes have deteriorated and to-day many people are horrified at the programmes that are imposed on them.

One of the most serious aspects that the Minister will have to attend to - I am sorry he is not here at the moment; he was here a little while ago - is the matter of advertising on television. Not only is advertising material used with murderous cunning, a programme being cut off at the psychological point, particularly when a play is being performed or a speech being made, but the whole of the entertainment is directed towards making money for the advertisers or those who exploit the public. It has developed into a notorious and scandalous practice, and something will have to be done about it. From time to time the Minister has promised us some reforms in this direction. I understand that six minutes an hour is supposed to be the limit of the time during which you can be tortured by these advertisements, but we find that they are so skilfully interlarded in the programme that they seem to appear practically all the time.

A suggestion - and perhaps a very good one - has been made that one should not look at the television programme, but should settle down and look at the advertisements, because they are really good. In other words, you have no chance of getting a sequence in the performance of a play, so you may as well try to enjoy the advertisements. You might ask Doris where the Kwit is. You may as well concentrate on the advertisements, because you will not get any intellectual entertainment.

This would be bad enough, but worse still is the fact that we have made consummate asses of ourselves in regard to the control of television. After we were told by the Government that it was to be a kind of people's entertainment, with one organization only, we find that it has been grabbed by the great press organizations of the Commonwealth, such as Consolidated Press, the " Sydney Morning Herald " and the Melbourne press. The enormous newspaperowning companies, through interlocking directorates, have television by the throat. Despite the fact that the statement was made in this House that it would be an offence to hold more than one licence, we find that these companies have plenty of them. Then when we of the Labour Party want to have some propaganda item broadcast we find that we are up against a brick wall.

But let us not concern ourselves with that point. The important matter is that the entertainment ingredient of television has been badly degraded under the present Administration. Why in the name of Heaven have we created the Australian

Broadcasting Control Board, charged with the duty of looking after and controlling television, when it does absolutely nothing in this direction? The board always has an alibi, of course, but it does nothing in the way of producing a plan to help us.

Recently we have seen reports that certain television advertisements were fraudulent. They were put over television to inveigle people into investing money, not in Commonwealth bonds, the proceeds of which could be used to carry on government and industry in Australia, but in some kind of a plan which would return them 20 per cent, on their investment. Of course, they could never get anything, and the whole scheme has now collapsed. We should ask the Australian Broadcasting Control Board how it came about that these advertisements were accepted. We should ask the board whether the scripts were studied and investigated, and what sort of relations exist between the television managements and the advertisers. Can any thug or exploiter have access to television to put over advertisements of this kind?

The particular company I refer to is the one concerned with vending machines. Its activities have become one of the scandals of the age. Now there are other firms, such as coffee firms and paint firms, which are authorizing dubious advertisements in order to get their products to the people. You are told that you can have your house painted, or that you can get 20 per cent, on your investment. These and other fantastic propositions are made, and none of them can work out. The television channels are being used to pressurize the people of the country, in their own homes, in a most questionable manner. It is completely scandalous, and the Government should do something about it immediately. The Minister should be able to give us some explanation of these things. It is regrettable that they have happened, and these dubious practices must be cleaned no. because they are contrary to the law. lt is a kind of immorality that is being practiced, and it must be cleaned up in the legal sense.

Now let us look at the television programmes themselves. Despite protestations from the Government benches that we would, in due course, have fewer overseas programmes, and that the Australian artist would be allowed to get through, we now find that the Australian artist has practically disappeared from the television screens. There is unemployment in the entertainment industry. While our professional entertainers and theatrical artists find themselves without employment, more and more cheap overseas junk is being shown on television than was the case in the early days.

Here is another point: Viewers are faced with replays of comedies, dramas or revues, not once but three or four times. So careless and contemptuous of public opinion have these monopolies become that they do not care whether the people like the practice or not. So a mediocre film, which you would prefer not to see even once, is presented two, three or even four times. There is a game played by viewers - spotting the one you saw last week. In view of the fact that you pay £5 for a licence, and having in mind the fact that programmes have so greatly deteriorated, how can the television companies hope to ram down our necks the proposition that overseas talent is so exquisite, so refined and so brilliant that there are no opportunities for Australians? They have tried every way of getting around the requirement to use Australian talent. They will put on a so-called Australian live show, but they will import artists for that show, who, in many cases, are not within cooee of our own entertainers so far as talent is concerned. Yet we mildly accept them. They come in by plane every day, but they disappear from the country just as quickly, because they do not click. It seems that we have not the moral integrity to demand that our artists get a chance.

It is a sad fact that the percentage of Australian programmes has gone down and down. In the original battle that we waged in this House on the matter, the Leader' of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), his Deputy (Mr. Whitlam), I and many other honorable members tried desperately to have some kind of quota fixed. We believed then, as we do now, that it is no use giving lip service to the principle, and that it h:is to be tied up with the question of actual employment. We were told, " Leave it alone and it will work itself out. In time the Australian artist will be seen regularly on television." Well, he is not seen.

The Australian people must feel outraged at the kind of rubbish they have to look at. Every cowboy in America, it seems, has ridden across my television screen, and the job of getting rid of the bodies in the morning has become quite a difficult chore in the household. All the cowboys seem to be dirtier than the ones in real life that I have seen. All the plots follow the same theme. If you shut your eyes, loll back and listen to the different programmes, you will find that the same hill is being raided by the same Indians, the same sturdy man will shoot from, the hip and the same girl will scream in despair, only to ride off later on the same old horse. Well, it is a bit of fun, I suppose, but should we not grow up in our television entertainment and expect something better?

There is a new Australian series, which has been criticized as having an American slant. Perhaps it has, and perhaps that is because of Australian insistence or demand, or the conclusion that the acquiescence of Australian viewers indicates that they like these western shows. I found " Whiplash ", as it is called, saved from mediocrity by the magnificent photography of the Australian outback. It is for this reason that I consider it one of the best of the television programmes at the present time. The outdoor scenes shot around Sydney and elsewhere have been really remarkable. It is refreshing to see something of our own country on our own television, even if it is tied to a Yankee script.

I suggest to the Minister that he should consult with his Broadcasting Control Board and have a good look at this matter of better television. Television is great entertainment. The people like it, the youngsters like it. It is something new to our civilization, and it has come to us as a great amenity. But we have slaughtered its potentiality by accepting the rubbish that is shown to us. Are we too easy going? I suggest that honorable members should take a good took at the programmes on the next occasion they view television, and count the ones that do not insult the intelligence. If an honorable member can find more than three in one day, I will be prepared to retract my statements.

We have been outdone in regard to two matters. First, we have not got Australian programmes of decent standards. We have not employed Australian theatrical workers, artists, script writers and others associated with entertainment. We have left them for dead and we have submitted to all sorts of exploitation. We have accepted, for instance, old-fashioned American films. How many morgues have been raided in America for these dead programmes? I saw a programme some weeks ago in which a film was shown, every leading actor in the film being now dead - and dead for about ten years in each case.

Mr Curtin - Were they from the Liberal Party?

Mr HAYLEN - They were on the screen, and they had a little more life than the members of the Liberal Party. We thought, when we were originally accepting these junk programmes that had been buried in some archives in Hollywood or elsewhere, that they would work themselves out. But there seem to be thousands of them, and our television programmes are being debased as a result. It is of no use to tell the viewer that you cannot get better programmes. It is quite useless to say that it rs too expensive a proposition, and that the viewers will have to wait until the television stations get organized. The reason why you will never get better programmes, and why you are getting all this trash, is that a monopoly has been created. We will never get better programmes while we have these interlocking directorates and composite ownerships, because their aim is to put on the programmes that they want and to make enormous profits. Profits of £300,000 have been made after an existence of only two or three years. That is a pretty good cop and all they had was a licence from the Government. But a licence is not irrevocable and unless the standards laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are observed, some of these people in a few years' time will be wondering whether they will get a licence. That is not a threat; it is an accurate summation of what people think.

I have raised the matter of poor programmes. It is true that we do have some exceptionally good programmes. I congratulate the Australian Broadcasting Commission on its magnificent cricket test series programmes. When the technician is allowed to go out and record the drama of daily life, we have superb entertainment. That is the point that members of the Opposition have been making for many years. We do not want overseas slop and synthetic rubbish when we can have our own good shows. Racing, tennis and cricket come to mind, and 1 believe that this year we will be able to see football on the television screen, particularly in New South Wales. These programmes will provide valuable adjuncts and will be an important advance in television programmes.

This proves our point, that the Australian technician is brilliant. By boosting, he has been able to send programmes over many hundreds of miles. In a more sombre context, we know what was done in telecasting the funeral of Lord Dunrossil. The way that that was televised in New South Wales was a piece of great technical skill. In the same category are our script writers and people who understand Australian humour. But they are not allowed to sell their wares here because this junk from overseas is pushing them out of the market and they must look elsewhere for work. Does this not drive home to the Government that if it desires to create employment it should examine the television programmes now being shown? Australian artists, who have demonstrated that they have talent, should be given a chance to show what they can do. This would be better than showing all these reruns five or six times. Some programmes have been shown as often as ten times, T am told.

We should also consider the content of the programmes. Some people may like a western, but westerns cannot be shown all the time. Then we have infuriating advertisements that pop in to interrupt the whole of the series. The viewers are treated with utmost contempt and pressure is applied to them. People on television practically leap out of the screen forcing goods on the viewers, saying, "You must have this kind of chair in your sitting room ", or " You must drink this kind of beer" or "You must buy this kind of car! " There is nothing subtle about it and there is no attempt at sales talk. It is a proper verbal hash, and surely the viewers must at times feel that they should give television away. Perhaps the Government is now getting a verbal bash. The Minister realizes what a verbal bash is, and we will soon be giving it to him. No control is exercised over television stations. What is the point to which we return? It is that this marvellous technical advance which provides us with television has been woefully degraded instead of being built into the wonderful medium that it could have been. It has no artistic significance here, but instead all this cheap rubbishy entertainment is shown. We have heard talk of the banning of books, but there is more of the worst kind of slop, more bodgie music and more inferential smut on television than could be found in a thousand copies of " Lady Chatterley's Lover ", which was a work dealing with the preserving of game, but which went a little haywire in the writing, as we all know.

I ask the Postmaster-General, who is a very capable and sincere man, to do something about television programmes. An election will be held soon. The Government cannot do anything about the motor traders or about the investing public. These people have given the Government away. All the Government can do is to give the Australian voter a few services, and it can achieve this purpose by providing a few real Australian television programmes.

The point I make is a serious one. We should look at television as it now exists, because we have been very remiss in not ensuring that the programmes contain an adequate Australian content. What is the good of a book to read if it does not contain some Australian thought? What is the good of a film if it precludes any attitude to be found in the country we all love? If day after day and year after year we have television programmes which contain only Yankee idiom or perhaps scenes of travel through overseas countries but which proscribe the- Australian from his own country, what will we get? What influence will this have on the migrant? What sort of youngster will we have growing up? Our children will have some high-grade inferiority complex. All this will arise simply because control is not being exercised over television programmes.

The other point concerns advertisers, ls it not disgraceful that gangsters are able to defraud the public by persuasive methods used on television? I do not criticize the announcer, who is a member of Actors Equity and is only doing his job. We should be able to see the scripts and tapes of matter concerning the International Vending Machine organization. We should be able to examine the commercial advertising concerning these vending machines and several other branches of commerce which are very suspect. It is a pretty sad state of affairs when the Australian people can be canvassed not at the door but right inside their homes by a persuasive voice, using statements which are not completley true to arouse the cupidity of the public with promises of a return of some substantial amount on the money invested. This company, which has now gone into liquidation with a loss of £1,000,000, was using the money raised through television advertisements to pay those who had invested during the previous week. This is a classic example of a dog chasing its tail and was bound to have the same result - collapse!

We must ensure that we have reasonably good television with a reasonable Australian content. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board and others associated with television must ensure that proper standards are observed so that we will have suitable television programmes. We would then have some control of this shy-poo advertising. Tt will be extremely bad for us all rf the present standard continues. I say to the Minister that this is a serious business even in all the welter of unemployment and other problems that face us at the moment. Other points must be considered, and one of these is the cultural aspect. Our cultural level can be utterly degraded if monopolists are allowed to sell their muck to us. It can be degraded by inefficient bureaucracy frightened to take action or by a Minister who adopts the views of his bureaucrats rather than examine the problem himself. If the Minister and other members of the Government, were to sit down in front of a television screen they would realize the truth of my asseverations. He would see the scandalous advertising which is planned to rob the viewer. He would realize that the programmes contain too many westerns and provide too much low-grade entertainment. Even a boy of six years would eventually be revolted bv these programmes. We are treated with insolence by the owners of television stations who think that they are there only to make money out of the Australian people and who do not give a fig for the development of our culture or of an Australian way of life.

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