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Thursday, 24 November 1927


Senator GRANT (New South Wales) .- I move -

That immediate steps be taken by the Government to establish, equip, and operate a transmitting station at Canberra to secure the broadcasting of senators' speeches.

We are fortunate in that we are living in a wonderful age. Invention after invention of the most astounding character follow with remarkable rapidity, and of all those in recent years wireless occupies the premier position. To my mind wireless ought to be fully utilized wherever possible. Some of us can remember seeing our first locomotive, but our astonishment at that wonderful invention has long since ceased. Everyone knows now that the locomotive for railway traction is being replaced by electrically driven trains, and that within a limited number of years it may be entirely superseded. The telegraph is still a mystery to some people. I remember reading many years ago of the invention of the telephone by Dr.

Bell. It was first exhibited, I think, at the Philadelphia exhibition as a toy, but since then it has come into universal use We all know how the old windjammer has given place to the steamer, and thatcoal as a fuel is gradually giving place to oil. The dreams of JulesVerne in his Ten Thousand Leagues under the Sea have been more than realized by recent inventions. The submarine is quite common to-day; flying boats, motor cars, and other subsidiary inventions are also commonplace. It is but a few years since wireless was first," mentioned. For most of its wonderful achievements we are indebted to scientists? still living. To-day almost every schoolboy feels competent to make a receiving set, and wireless is coming more and more into use. There are new developments which may have a very farreaching effect. We are told by experts that by means of a recent invention it is possible to see the person who is speaking at the end of a wire many miles away and even the person who is speaking at a distance where there are no wires employed to transmit the waves of sound. Moving pictures have been so well developed that persons may not only see, but hear a speaker at some distance, and indeed the speech, so heard can be recorded, placed in a box, and carried from place to place. I do not know that television has yet been so developed that it is possible for those at a distance, who wish to listen tospeeches of honorable senators here to see them actually speaking, but it would be highly desirable if it could be done. There are many good reasons why honorable senators should agree to my motion, I have often listened with great interest to speeches delivered by members of Parliament in another place, in the House of Commons and in the Senate. It is remarkable how careful legislators are to see that every statement they make is strictly in accordance with facts. Those who take the trouble to examine the speeches delivered by Ministers or honorable senators must be amazed at the facts and figures they have taken the trouble to collate and place on record. If mistakes are made by them, there are others who are always willing to put them right. The result is that any one who attempts to speak ina legislative chamber takes good care to see that all his facts and figures are strictly accurate. We have a most efficient staff of Parliamentary reporters who avoid the split infinitives and other idiosyncrasies of some honorable senators. They make a wonderfully correct record of our speeches, but very rarely do those speeches find their, way into the press of the Commonwealth. To all intents and purposes the only publicity they get - except on very rare occasions - is in the pages of Hansard, which I do not suppose has a circulation of more than 15,000 or 20,000. The press has a distinct purpose in view in refusing to give due publicity to the speeches of members of Parliament. Honorable senators are elected by very large bodies of electors. I suppose that the votes recorded in New South Wales for a senator elected to this chamber number 600,000. That very fact entitles an honorable senator to express public opinion. The press, however, never fails to minimize, belittle, or sneer at the opinions expressed by legislators, Federal and State. It arrogates to itself the right to manufacture and disseminate public opinion. Speeches delivered here very often remain unnoticed in the daily press. To a brilliant speech delivered the other day in another place - a speech which occupied about one and a half hours to deliver - one leading Melbourne newspaper devoted four lines, and .another six lines. I suppose the honorable gentleman who delivered that speech was lucky to get even that amount of space. The treatment to which legislators are subjected by the daily press of the Commonwealth is not fair; but, as I have already said, it is because the press arrogates to itself the right to manufacture and to disseminate public opinion. A very deplorable result of this is to be seen in the attitude of some legislators who, for want of thought, follow the lead given to them by the daily press and treat with contempt the Hansard in which their speeches are recorded. I think it is a great mistake. It tends to lower the prestige of members of Parliament. It ought to be the aim of those whom the people have honored by electing them to -this Parliament to see that their positions are safeguarded at all times from attacks of the kind to which I have alluded. Tuc question that suggests itself is, what action can be taken to give due publicity to the speeches of members of Parliament? Every adult citizen of Australia is expected to know what takes place in Parliament, and be acquainted with every act that is passed. Ignorance of the law is not accepted as an excuse if he should commit a breach of it. Consequently all steps should be taken that will give him n greater opportunity to ascertain what is being done. Hansard does not furnish a sufficient degree of publicity. Some members may distribute copies of the speeches which they deliver, but that is a limited publicity. A newspaper that has a circulation of 200,000 copies affords a wealth of publicity that n". man in public life can ignore. It has been the boast of newspapers in the past that they have been able to make and. unmake ministries. I look to wireless to get us out of the difficulty iti which we now find ourselves. I do not know of any parliament in which the speeches of members are broadcast; but it is undeniable that the speeches which were made by Mr. Amery during his tour of Australia were relayed throughout the continent and were highly appreciated. Listeners-ill thus had an opportunity of hearing what otherwise might have been withheld from them. The time is opportune for the Senate to consider the advisability of equipping and operating a broadcasting station at the Seat of Government, so that the speeches of honorable senators may he placed upon the air, and be heard with pleasure by thousands of people.


Senator Foll - The honorable senator would probably bc nearer the mark if he limited the number to hundreds.


Senator GRANT - That state of mind is, unfortunately, typical of some members of parliament. It is a -mistaken view. In. London one would experience considerable difficulty in obtaining admission to the House of Commons. The galleries of the New South Wales Parliament are filled every evening, and those conditions obtain also in Victoria. Doubtless, that will be the experience in -this Parliament in the future. The public desires to know what is being done . Before many years have elapsed, loud speakers will be installed at various centres throughout the Commonwealth, and any person who desires to do so will be able to listen in to our proceedings. Mr. Malone, the officer in charge of broadcasting,has informed me that the number of licences issued in the various States is as follows -

 

It will be readily admitted that the es tablishment of relay stations at different centres would enable upwards of a million people to hear what their senators are saying, and the manner in which their speeches are delivered. It has even been suggested that motion picture theatres should set apart a quarter of an hour every evening to enable their patrons to listen in to the proceedings of the Federal Parliament. Very great care is now exercised by members of parliament to ensure the accuracy of their statements. If their speeches were being listened to by thousands of persons throughout the Commonwealth, they would be even more careful of their facts, and endeavour to improve the quality of their speeches. At the present time the speeches that are made in this and another place are practically lost, on account of the press arrogating to itself the right to mould public opinion. I doubt whether wireless has yet progressed sufficiently to allow of two sets of speeches being transmitted simultaneously from the one station. My concern, however, is to have a station erected at Canberra as soon as possible, in order that the speeches of honorable senators may be placed before the electors. 1. do not know whether the Senate would desire to monopolize the station. The electors might display a preference for speeches by the Prime Minister and members of another place. That, however, is a detail. One evening could be devotedto the speeches of honorable senators, and another to those of honorable members of the other chamber.


Senator McLachlan - What would happen if all the State Parliaments had the speeches of their members broadcast?


Senator GRANT - It would be necessary to have a special wave-length for Canberra, so that it would not conflict with the wave-lengths of other stations. Some years ago the Sydney Trades Hall authorities established a wireless station at the Trades Hall, which is now in direct communication with listeners-in throughout that State. If it is considered desirable to broadcast the speeches from the Sydney Trades Hall, how much more desirable is it that speeches, delivered in the national Parliament should be put on the air for listeners-in who wish to hear the views of their representatives on any particular subject? There is no reason why this proposal should not receive favourable consideration at the hands of the Senate. Recently I wrote to Mr. Fisk, the managing director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, asking him if he would be good enough to furnish me with an approximate estimate of the cost of a station that would transmit effectively by day and by night the speeches of honorable senators as far as Brisbane, Adelaide and Launceston, also an approximate estimate of the cost of a station to transmit as far as Perth. Mr.Fisk is, I suppose, the foremost authority on wireless in Australia, so that any statement made by him may be regarded as authentic. He replied to my communication in the following terms, under date 23rd instant, the letter reaching me to-day : -







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