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Thursday, 8 October 1936

Senator ARKINS - I doubt if Senator Hardy could get any employee in the railway service of New South Wales to say that he was a good Commissioner for Railways.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - None of those in charge of State railways seem to have made a great success of them.

Senator ARKINS - Mr. Hartigan,tho present Commissioner for Railways in New South Wales, is making a success of his job.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Have a look at the balance-sheets of the various railway systems.

Senator ARKINS - We cannot judge these matters merely by a perusal of a balance-sheet. In my opinion considerable improvement has taken place in the management of the railways of New South Wales recently. I am not particularly interested in Mr. Hartigan. I am concerned only with giving credit where credit is due. That he has done his job well is not only my personal opinion but is also that of thousands of others.

Senator Dein - The railway men were opposed to Mr. Clear.y's appointment from outside the service, and he was never given a fair go.

Senator ARKINS - Nevertheless, when a government took office which might have stood behind him, he got out.

Senator Dein - The real trouble was that the railway men would not work with him.

Senator ARKINS - That might be so. Why did not Mr. Cleary accord to Grieves the treatment which he himself had received, although he complained that he had not received it from an earlier government? Grieves got no redress at all. He went on to say -

Will you also graciously favour me by committing to paper and reiterating the statement you made during the course of my interview with you on the 14th inst., i.e.: It is your considered and informed opinion that I am not competent to lead a large orchestra in the performance of symphonic music or grand opera !

I enclose a copy of, and an extract from letters addressed to me by Sir Hamilton Harty at the conclusion of the 1934 season of Australian Broadcasting Commission symphony concerts given under his baton at the Town Hall, Sydney.

Then he added a footnote as follows : -

The third para, should read - " It is yom considered and advised opinion, etc" Mr. Cleary actually informed me that he wa advised by the" management, and it was hi* own opinion that I was not competent to lead a large orchestra in the performance of symphonic music or grand opera.

Sir HamiltonHarty wrote to Grieve? on the 26th June, 1934, as follows: -

Before I leave Australia I do want to thank you for all the good work you did for me during our association: it was a pleasure to work with you and I feel, for my part, that the results we were able to achieve would have made on even longer and much less pleasant journey worth while.

Please accept and pass on to the other members of tlie orchestra my sincere thanks and good wishes.

In a private letter to Grieves he added -

.   . Man}' thanks once more for your splendid work; wo shall meet again.

To those honorable senators who might think I am making a good deal out of this matter, I wish to stress the fact that Grieves has all his life been a musician and by diligence and sheer merit had risen to such eminence in his profession as to be regarded as the finest first violinist in orchestra work in Australia. Despite the high state of proficiency which he had reached in his profession, he unexpectedly received a letter informing him that his services as leader were to be dispensed with and offering him an engagement as leader of the second violins. No reasons were given nor was an opportunity afforded him by Mr. Cleary for an explanation of the reason for his disrating. Such conduct on the part of a public official is a wrong to the community and certainly should not be countenanced by the Government. I am surprised that this sort of thing is tolerated in a democratic country like Australia. Vet things like this have occurred from time to time in the management of the Broadcasting Commission. Men have frequently been dismissed without explanation.

I am very doubtful if the A class ' stations controlled by the Australian Broadcasting Commission command the attention of any great volume of listeners, [f it were possible by any means to ascertain the number of listeners interested in the programmes broadcast by the national stations and the B class stations respectively, I am sure that the census would show that the former get little patronage. People of my own acquaintance who may be classed as rather highbrow in these matters and members of this Senate have informed me that they listen to the B class stations for entertainment in preference to the national stations. I think that the consensus of opinion amongst the community generally would affirm the greater entertainment value of the B class stations.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission is apparently not alive to the new developments which are taking place in connexion with the recording of sound for transmission over the air. The commission failed to take advantage of the offer of the General Electric Company of America to use a device known as wide range recording for the making of gramophone records. The right to use the device was then offered to the B class stations on the same very favorable terms and was accepted and exploited by them. Certain B class stations now have a monopoly of its use in Australia. The result is that no matter how excellent the performers supplying the national programmes may be in their own particular sphere-, listeners are not given the full benefit secured by wide range recording. Before performances are recorded in this way artists or groups of artists repeat their performances over and over again until they have reached a. state of proficiency at which the best record of their performance can be made. The same thing applies to solo artists, with the result that records are made of the performances of world celebrities at their best. The direct broadcast has to contend with the possible indisposition of the artist, or a slip in the performance which is uncontrollable. Honorable senators can appreciate how difficult it is, therefore, for the commission to compete against the B class stations for the patronage of listeners. The patronage which the B class stations command is reflected in the high charges made for advertising over the air. Having regard to this I consider that it is high time that the listener's licence-fee was reduced. At the present time nearly £S00,000 per annum is collected by way of licence-fees from listeners and it appears that a good deal of that money is wasted. Men appointed to the Australian Broadcasting Commission are not entrepreneurs some of them are not even good administrators. It is all very well for the Postmaster-General to excuse them. "We know that Major Conder, who, if my memory serves me right, was appointed to the commission at a salary of £2,000 a year, did little to justify the receipt of that princely salary. The postal department itself is deriving huge sums of money from licence-fees. I desire to see the national broadcasting venture a success, but it seems to me that great success can never be achieved under present conditions, because of the excellence of the programmes broadcast by the B class stations by mechanical reproduction. There is another aspect of thi? matter which might well be considered. Only recently Amalgamated "Wireless (Australasia) Limited manufactured a transmitter for use in "New Zealand having twice the capacity of any Australian transmitter. "Why is not such a transmitter operating in Australia? The people have every right to expect that the best equipment shall be purchased out of the proceeds of the licence-fees collected. Instead of the present wasteful and extravagant policy, the commission should give to the people the best programmes transmitted through the best equipment available. I believe that the management of .wireless should be completely taken away from the PostmasterGeneral's Department. A separate department should be formed and every phase of wireless activity in the Commonwealth should be open to discussion iu both Houses of the Parliament.

Senator Collings - Another commission !

Senator ARKINS - When I first asked the Postmaster-General about Mr. Grieves he said that he did not want to interfere with the management of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That may be quite all right from a ministerial point of view, but unless interference does come, we shall find that we have misspent hundreds of thousands of pounds on- national stations in this country without giving to listeners the quality of entertainment which they mostdesire. We should do everything to encourage Australian talent. Every one possessing knowledge of the methods of the Broadcasting Commission knows that the engagement of vocal and instrumental artists and public speakers goes largely by favour, and that the persons most suitable for broadcasting are not always given a chance. 'Will any honorable senator contend that a commission which allowed a. man like Major Conder to manage its affairs for two years war, likely, during that time, to deal fairly with artists and others seeking engagement? It is significant that no explanation whatever was made of the reasons for Major Conder'.? sudden dismissal. Mr. Cleary was asked, but had nothing to say. Major Conder also was approached, and he, too, declined to comment upon his dismissal. It is time that the representatives of the people in this chamber asserted their rights and demanded that information of this kind should be made public.

Senator DEIN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The manner of Major Conder's dismissal was self-explanatory.

Senator ARKINS - Unfortunately, that was the construction which the public put on it. The commission, in its numerous activities, gives employment to a very large number of people. I think I am right in saying that there are five directors of programmes in New South Wales alone, and all, apparently, doing the same kind of work. I regret that many persons, highly qualified in every respect for employment by the commission, are ignored. One man I know is regarded as, probably, the most accomplished musician in Australia. He gained a high place in a contest organized by the Broadcasting Commission for original compositions, yet he is among those who have been m the perpetual struggle and yet are unable to obtain engagements ft 'om the commission. Another man of my acquaintance has to his credit from 130 to 150 compositions, most of which are published under a nom dc plume, because the publishers do not wish him to become well known, fearing, perhaps, that he would become so popular as to bc able to demand his own terms.

Senator Hardy - That principle is adopted by nearly all publishing nouses.

Senator ARKINS - That does not excuse it. A man possessing talents is entitled to have full credit for any work which he produces. The Royal Commission on Performing Rights sat for many months, and took a great deal of evidence but, like the mountain in labour, it brought forth a mouse.

Senator Hardy - If a man has a patent he may sell it and it may bp placed on t the market under another name.

Senator ARKINS - I am aware of that; my complaint is that some publishers will not allow compositions to be issued under the name of the composer for the reason which I have given. That is wrong. Another ma.n I know is a very able musician. He won the highest scholarship given by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music under the late Henri Verbrugghen, yet be, also, is practically on the dole. The first man whose name I mentioned hardly knows when* his next shilling is coming from; the second man has been on the dole for several months, and the third is in almost the same position. It is not right that men lacking the same high qualifications should have " cushy " jobs with the commission, whilst other men with much greater talents are unable to secure employment. The commission has at its disposal about £800,000 a year for the encouragement of Australian artists, hut I am reliably informed that the Sydney studio is controlled by. a clique, and that unless an artist is in that clique he cannot hope for employment. It is the duty of the Government to look into these matters and if, as I have shown, there are able musicians and artists seeking engagement, they should have a chance to earn a few pounds. The function of the commission is to help qualified and outstanding artists in the community, and to discover others. That, I contend, is not being done.

Senator Foll - Mr. Cleary is not responsible for the engagement or dismissal of artists.

Senator ARKINS - Mr. Cleary, and those associated with him, control the policy of the commission. Therefore, these things are to a large extent in their hands. "We have always been given to understand that the programmes broadcast by the commission are, in every respect, superior to those put over the air by the commercial stations; that persons wishing to enjoy the best classical music, the highest standard -of public morality, and the most cultured addresses, should listen to programmes from the national stations.

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