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Thursday, 1 July 1926

Senator MILLEN (Tasmania) . - When this question was last before the committee, I voted for an increase in the duty on films. I appreciate the fact that picture shows have become a part of our life. There is no country centre without a picture show. The man who seeks to establish an industry such as a mining industry in the outposts of Australia cannot hold his men unless he provides them with a picture show. Seeing that the pictures have such a grip on the general life of Australia, I, in common with other honorable senators, felt that it was advisable to indicate to the producers of films that the Commonwealth Senate was prepared in a very handsome way to assist any person who would produce Australian films as desired by the public. I think we have attained the object we had in view. Senator Sampson has told us that he has received a wild and woolly telegram from some showman who objects to the vote the honorable senator gave. I would have had a method of replying to that gentleman which would probably make him think twice beforehe sent a telegram like that again. Every honorable senator is entitled to express himself without fear of comment outside, and it is a good thing for the country that senators do so. The question is whether we have already done sufficient. I know that there is a tendency to-day to attribute most of the crimes in a community to attendance at picture shows, and to declare that many of the new things which are happening are the result of children seeing pictures. But that is only a small factor in the causes which contribute to any moral decadence. The principal factor is the demand for luxuries. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not say that people should not live up to the fullness of the life the Creator has given them ; but there is a tendency to indulge to excess in luxuries, and pictures' are among the things that pander to that tendency, which is the principal cause of any ethical decadence among our people to day. Thereis no possible chance of eliminating picture shows from the life of the people of Australia.

Senator Reid - Or of any other country.

Senator MILLEN - I agree with the honorable senator, but I think it is very essential that something should be done. 1 do not think that the increased duty will effect our desires. I deliberately voted on the last occasion for the increase to indicate that I was. prepared to assist any one in Australia or Great Britain adventurous enough to produce the films that are necessary, and I believe that other honorable senators supported the increase for the same reason. A great number of magnificent films cannot be produced without highlytrained picture staffs. To-day we are getting from America pictures which are not only artistic, but also technically perfect. There has been created in the minds of Australians who attend picture shows a wide knowledge of picture technique, and they are not prepared to accept second-rate efforts. No showman could succeed who would put on a second-rate programme. He must screen the very best pictures, because the people have been educated to good films, and it is part of their lives to-day to see the very best. Like every other honorable senator, I dislike the American propaganda, but if we are to produce pictures we must go heart and soul into the business, and until we do so, and produce a sufficient number of films to keep our picture show' programmes filled, very little good will be accomplished. If we had an Australian film company producing six or seven films a year, what use would that be to a showman who has to keep a programme filled six nights a week for 52 weeks in the year ?

Senator Reid - In some States they are shown on seven nights a week.

Senator MILLEN - Yes. I have the strongest objection to Sunday picture shows. We can assume, however, that as pictures are shown on six nights a week throughout the year, it would require a very large number to be produced in order to supply the Australian demand. Moreover, artists and others would have to be thoroughly trained in order to do the work as efficiently as it is done in America. Reference has been made to patriotism ; but if Australian pictures are not of the same high standard of some of those produced in America, there will be very little demand for them. When this matter was last before the committee, I voted against the Government for the specific purpose of indicating my objection to American propaganda, and to show those prepared to produce films in Australia that they would have my hearty support, but on this occasion I intend to support the Minister.

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