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Thursday, 8 October 1936


Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) . - On a previous- occasion I was prevented by the Standing Orders from dealing at length with the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and I therefore take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Senate certain facts which are of importance to the people of Australia. One is safe in saying that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction, not only in New South Wales,. but also in the other States, with the manner in which broadcasting in Australia is controlled. Wireless transmission possesses some unusual features in. that news and entertainment are presented in a way that is comparatively new, and it also provides a means of imposing further taxes on the people. In these circumstances the majority of theAustralian people are interested in broadcasting, and in the manner in which it is controlled. It was only fair to expect that in its early stages there would be difficulties, particularly in the form of" control; but in spite of such difficulties we should expect a display of commonsense by those responsible for managing such a huge business as that conducted' by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The activities of the commission- have been centered largely in New South Wales, owing to the fact that it is the most densely populated State of the Commonwealth, and that it is fairly central among the eastern States. At times members of the commission have been men of experience who have exhibited tact and business acumen, but there have been others who have been tactless and unfair in their methods of dealing, not only with commercial men, but also with talented artists who have come under their control. Some of the incidents to which I propose to refer occurred some time ago, but I was unable to deal with them when they were prominently before the public. Shortly after I became a member of the Senate I attempted to ventilate the peculiar happenings surrounding the -visit to Australia of Captain Adkins who was brought to Australia by the commission to conduct its military band. Adkins was said to possess remarkable talent, and stand high in the musical world in Great Britain. I listened to many of the broadcasts of the band under his baton, and I had an opportunity to ascertain that he is an uncommon and somewhat freakish individual. I was surprised, however, to discover later that he was responsible for some remarkable acts, some of which were most repugnant to me. A number of Australian musicians had been brought together to form a military band under the direction of a most admirable man named McAnally, who possessed the highest credentials as a bandmaster; and who placed at the disposal of Captain Adkins a combination of musicians that could not he surpassed in any part of the British Empire. The evidence I have concerning the character of Adkins was obtained, not from one individual, but from several. I am informed that -

Captain Adkinshas proved himself to be a man of violent temper, extreme vulgarity, who uses disgusting, unprintable language. His addiction to beer and whisky, in addition, stamp's his conduct as unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman. The importation of such a character is undeniably detrimental to the interests of Australia., in general, and music, in particular. He boasted that he intended to discipline Australians.


Senator Foll - Who made that statement?


Senator ARKINS - A man who played under his direction.


Senator Foll - Why not give his name ?


Senator ARKINS - The statement can be verified.


Senator Foll - Why not give his name? It is pretty rotten to make such a statement under the protection afforded to the honorable senator.


Senator ARKINS - The statements, methods and language used by Adkins were also rotten. I have a fairly direct knowledge of his conduct, and I am positive that the statement which I. have quoted, however distasteful it may be, is correct. When abroad as a " digger " I learned that certain British officers said that Australians would not submit to discipline.


Senator Foll - But this is all second hand stuff.


Senator ARKINS - It is not. Australians will submit to discipline when necessary. Captain Adkins came to Australia, and in running the rule over his band, used vile and vulgar language and adopted certain strange methods with the result that some musicians would not sit under his baton. This occurred during the depression when men who could ill afford it declined to play under his direction. Other men, although incensed, stuck to their work, because they could not afford to relinquish it. I maintain however, that those who left their positions should be reinstated or compensated in some form for the loss they sustained. The document from which I have quoted continued -

When he got on the ship at Fremantle, he said: "I put my fingers up to my nose and say a sailor's farewell to Australia."

I do not wish to go into all the unsavoury details associated with the visit of Captain Adkins, but in view of whatI know occurred the commission should have terminated his engagement and allowed him to return to England.


Senator Hardy - Was he a good conductor ?


Senator ARKINS - According to experts he did not possess outstanding ability. He appeared in unnecessary military uniform, and was in control of a combination of Australian musicians who for some months had been trained by an Australian. Some thousands of pounds were expended in equipping the band, and notwithstanding his unsuitability as a bandmaster, no action was taken by the commission. Although this occurred some time ago, I should like the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to say whether the men who were victimized can be compensated. I do not know why Captain Adkins' behaviour was not made the subject of comment in this chamber. I am astounded that a man of his character was allowed to travel about the country insulting Australians.

That is merely one period of the history of the broadcasting commission. I should like this chamber to take notice of other events in its history, most of which happened under the management of Major Conder. It is now generally accepted that his appointment was a mistake, and that he was a failure.


Senator Collings - All of this has been brought up in this chamber before.


Senator ARKINS - What I am about to refer to has not been raised here. Under Major Conder's management of the commission many men were relieved of their positions, and immediately snapped up at lucrative salaries by the commercial broadcasting stations.For instance, Mr. C. C. Fawkner, who, for a long time, had looked after the literary side of the commission's activities, was dismissed. I have had many chats with that most admirable gentleman, and he told me some astounding things, but, unfortunately, he asked me, notfor personal reasons, but for certain other reasons, to regard them as confidential. I learned from him many surprising things associated with the management of the national broadcasting system that certainly called for explanation. Immediately Mr. Fawkner was dismissed, another man was appointed to take his place at twice the salary. If one inquires into Mr. Fawkner's qualifications one must be astounded that he was ever allowed to leave the service of the commission. Another man who parted with the commission and was immediately appointedto a position by a commercial station was a Mr. Lyons. Captain Stevens also resigned, and was immediately taken over by a B class station.

He is regarded as one of the most outstanding men in Australian broadcasting circles.


Senator Collings - There are a dozen similar examples in Queensland.


Senator ARKINS - I do not doubt it, but atthe moment I am referring to the position in New South Wales. Frank Hatherley, who conducted the community singing for the broadcasting commission, comes into the same category as the other gentlemen I have named. Mr. Bryson Taylor met with a similar fate, as did Miss Amy Ostinga, Mr. Dion Wheeler, Mr. Humphrey Bishop, Mr. McAnally, Mr. Arthur Greenaway and Mr. F. Hansen. Practically all of them were immediately given positions by B class stations. Why they were dismissed I cannot understand, because they were absolutely efficient in their work, but my knowledge of the details of these men's services is not so extensive as my acquaintance with the history of Mr. W. J. Grieves, whose treatment by the broadcasting commission I unsuccessfully tried to ventilate in this Senate about twelve months ago. Mr. Grieves is an outstanding musician, whose career as a leading violinist extends over more than 30 years. His record shows him to be the foremost orchestral violinist in New South Wales, if not in Australia. Following is his musical record: -

W.   J. GRIEVES- VIOLINIST AND VIOLIST.

Resume of Professional Career Extending over a Period of30 Years.

As Orchestral Leader -

Blanche Arral Season.

Sydney Symphony Orchestra - Deputy Leader and Leader.

Sydney Amateur Orchestra - Deputy Leader and Leader.

Sydney Philharmonic Orchestra - Deputy Leader and Leader.

Sheffield Choir Festival - 1st Violins, 2nd Desk.

Quinlan Opera Company - 1st Violins, 2nd Desk. (Two seasons in performances of" The Ring " " Meistersingers " " Tristan & Isolde". &c.)

New South Wales State Orchestra. (Succeeding Verbrugghenregime.)

Eucharistic Congress Orchestra.

A.B.C. Symphony Orchestra.

Aldrovandi Grand Opera Season - Australian Broadcasting Commission.

Professional Symphony Orchestra.

City of Sydney Symphony Orchestra and smaller organizations, with intermittent seasons of Grand Opera (local production ) .

Under the Baton of -

Sir HamiltonHarty, Eckoldt and Knock (Quinlan Opera Company), Hazon, Bradley, Slapoffski, Marshall Hall, Zelman, All press (Grieves' master), Delaney, Dr. Orchard, Dr. Bainton, Professor Heinze, Dr. Keussler, Alfred Hill, Skalski, Dr. Coward (Sheffield Choir), D'Abravanel, Cazabon, Howard Carr, E. J. Roberts, Code, &c.

As Violinist and Violist -

Sydney College of Music String Quartet.

Allpress String Quartet.

T.   H. Kelly String Quartet.

Stael String Quartet.

Conservatorium String Quartet. (Violist.)

Austral Quintet; (Leader.)

Grieves' String Quartet. (Leader.)

A.   B.C. String Quartet. (Leader.)

Solo violinist in association with local and visiting artists of repute.

Many solo, chamber music and orchestral violinists and violists of distinction have graduated from Grieves' studio, notably Lionel Lawson, the boy prodigy, who completed his studies with Henri Marteau and Emile Sauret.

It can be easily realized front what I have read that he occupied a leading position in the Australian musical world. This man who is absolutely at the top of the tree in his profession was accorded treatment by the Broadcasting Commission which if given to a man holding a leading position in a branch of the Commonwealth Public Service would have created a furore in this Parliament and throughout the Commonwealth. Mr. Grieveswas an outstanding violinist and violist long before wireless broadcasting was inaugurated. On the 11th October, 1.985, he received the following letter from the Broadcasting Commission: -

It hasbeen decided to reconstruct our orchestra as at present constituted, and in this connexion we would like to offer you the leadership of the second violins at a salary of £7 10s. per week.

That was the first and only intimation that he received of his dismissal from the position as leader of the orchestra. What would be said if a man who held a high post in one of the sections of the Commonwealth Public Service received a letter telling him that he had to play a second role to another man? Naturally, Mr. Grieves was incensed. A musician has to devote many years to earnest study and must acquire a tremendous amount of technical knowledge and an extensive repertoire in order to become a leader in his profession. Mr. Grieves' record shows that in his 30 years of experience he gained the top of the ladder; yet the broadcasting commission dismissed him without any hesitation and without notice. On the 14th October. 1935, Mr. Grieves wrote the following letter to Mr. Cleary: -

I regard the enclosed communication from theNew South Wales manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission as a premeditated insult, motivated by a spirit of malevolence which I ascribe solely to the management. Presuming, however, that Mr. Horner has, in the main, acted upon the instructions or with the concurrence of the members of the commission - it would be incompatible with my prestige as a leading violinist of this city to consider such a ludicrous and questionable proposition. Resenting injustice, and retaining my customary spirit of independence, I experience the greatest pleasure and relief in terminating my engagement with the Australian Broadcasting Commission's orchestra.

On the next day he addressed Mr. Cleary as follows : -

Following upon my conclusive interview with you yesterday morning, in the course of which you imputed that I was not competent to lead an orchestra of symphonic proportions, whether in the demesne of the symphony or in grand opera (for personal reasons I placed a great restraint upon myself) - presuming (without offence) that you are personally fully capable of forming a just estimate ofmy professional ability - it would appear that you are excusably quite unfamiliar with my experience and reputation as an orchestral, chamber music and solo violinist and violist, particulars and records of which entirely refute your informed opinion. I append herewith a resume of my professional career extending overa period of approximately 30 years.

I have already acquainted the Senate with those details. On the 21st October he wrote -

It would bequite "constitutional" and even an act of courtesy to acknowledge my letters of the 14thand15th inst., despite the fact that their " tone " may have displeased you.

Mr. Clearydid not answer Mr. Grieves' letters. His dismissal lowered Mr. Grieves in the eyes of the whole of the professional musicians in Sydney. They were all asking, " Why has this man been dismissed"? And he had no explanation to offer except that the commission had suddenly told him that he could havea job as second violinist. It would have been better if it had taken him intoits confidence and told him that it had decided to reconstruct the orchestra, and that another man was to be first violinist. Nothing like that happened, and he received no information from the commission except that contained in the curt letter which I have read. The letter written on the 21st October continued -

Having yourself suffered grave injustice in another sphere and not in silence, did you expect mo to abase myself or submerge my personality?

Mr. Clearyhimself received much better treatment than he accorded to Mr. Grieves.- We know that Mr. Cleary was formerly Commissioner for Railways in New .South Wales, and had to overcome a great many difficulties and a good deal of organized political opposition. But with a change of government in that State Mr. Cleary found himself under the control of political heads who were sympathetic towards him. Instead of standing up to his obligations Mr. Cleary " got out." He was a defeatist.







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