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Wednesday, 26 March 1941


The PRESIDENT - If the censoring was not done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the honorable senator is not in order in proceeding on those lines.


Senator CAMERON - At the moment I am not making a charge against the Australian Broadcasting Commission other than that Mr. Mackay's speech which was to be delivered over a national station was censored.


The PRESIDENT - By whom?


Senator CAMERON - So far as I know by somebody acting on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.


Senator McLeay - That is not time.


The PRESIDENT - If it was not censored by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or at the direction of the commission, the honorable senator is not in order.


Senator CAMERON - I rang Mr. R. W. G. Mackay last Saturday morning, and the impression he gave me was that he had submitted his address to representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the ordinary way, and that it had been censored. Mr. Mackay was under the impression that the censoring had been done by persons representing the Australian Broadcasting Commission or acting on its behalf.


The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator must accept the Minister's assurance that the censoring was not done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and that being so, the point he is discussing is irrelevant.


Senator CAMERON - All I know is that a gentleman named Mackay arrived in this country from England recently, and was invited by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to broadcast an address. He agreed to do so, and prepared his address in the ordinary way. He submitted the script to persons whom he believed to be acting on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the address was censored. Honorable senators will recall that last week I asked a question in regard to this matter, and the Minister (Senator Foll), in his reply, did not indicate in any way that the Australian Broadcasting Commission was not responsible for the censoring. He said, in effect, that, in his opinion, those responsible for censoring the speech had acted rightly. He did not say, as the PostmasterGeneral now says, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission was not responsible. If the Minister's action is merely a ruse to prevent me from reading what was censored, I accept it as such, but, viewed in the light of the circumstances in which Judge Foster's speech was banned, I can quite conceive of those responsible for censoring Judge Foster's speech acting in the same way with regard to Mr. Mackay's speech. I shall observe the ruling that the matter is out of order.

I contend that the rigid censorship of broadcast matter both before the war. and since the outbreak of the war, is unduly harsh. I do not know whether the responsibility lies with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, with the .Department of Information, or with anybody else.


Senator McLeay - I again rise to a point of order. Censoring is not done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but by the military authorities in conjunction with the Department of Information. It is unfair of the honorable senator to make an attack upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the way he is.


The PRESIDENT - Senator Cameronis pursuing a border-line argument. At the moment he is dealing with censorship generally, and that has some relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.


Senator CAMERON - Surely I am in order in dealing with the case of Judge Foster.


The PRESIDENT - Yes.


Senator CAMERON - Although I am speaking under privilege, I remind honorable senators that the Australian Broadcasting Commission denied a privilege to Judge Foster, and thus abused its privilege in a. manner that cannot possibly be justified. It is necessary for me to speak under a privilege in order that these matters may be ventilated. Should the occasion demand it, I would not hesitate to speak outside this chamber and without the protection of privilege, in more forcible terms than I am now employing. The arguments which I am now putting forward in this chamber are based on facts. When the Postmaster-General tells me that the Australian Broadcasting Commission was not responsible for censoring Mr. Mackay's address. I have still to learn that that is

50.


The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator must accept the Minister's assurance.


Senator CAMERON - I accept it under duress. I should like to point out that after Judge Foster's proposed address had been censored by those responsible for deciding what is fit for the ears of the public, the Melbourne Herald and other papers published every word of it. The newspapers are supposed to reflect public opinion. ' Those in control of broadcasting in this country would have us believe that they are democrats, and are quite impartial. I think it was the late Mr. G. K. Chesterton who said that no man could be impartial without honestly confessing that he was partial. I commend that thought to Mr. Cleary. The policy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has not been to educate the people. Educate means to draw out the best that is in a person; not merely to instruct; to inform; not merely to plant in the minds of people ideas which it is thought should be held, or, in other words, to create a community of animated phonograph records, without the capacity to do independent or original thinking. But, apparently, the people are only to be permitted to listen to what these gentlement think is fit to be heard. Facts, not merely views or opinions, but facts, that they do not like, they would suppress, and listeners would become second editions or echoes of those in charge of the Australian Broadcasting Commission If the Australian Broadcasting Commission has no real idea of what, education really means, I submit this for their consideration: Education means training men and women to think for themselves; not merely to repeat their views or my views, or to express ideas which are second-hand. People cannot be taught to think unless they have the facts to study for and against. Another aim of education, is to establish the relationship between cause and effect - the pros and cons - but our broadcasting dictatorship does not propose to do that. It would not permit Judge Foster to state his case. It suppressed the facts that he would have stated.


Senator Herbert Hays - There must be discrimination between liberty and licence.


Senator CAMERON - The honorable senator's interjection reminds me of an alliterative and true statement of the late John Burns; " Most people are slaves of shibboleths and prisoners of phrases ". I suggest that when the honorable senator makes an interjection of that sort he is either a slave of shibboleths or a prisoner of phrases. If the Australian Broadcasting Commission were an educational body, it would do a great deal more than it has attempted by encouraging persons to study the problems of life in the light of the evolutionary process through which we are passing. Let one liston to speeches or lectures broadcast by the commission's stations. I do not refer to text-book lectures which are useful in their way. No attempt is made to deal with the problems of life. We are now engaged in a war unprecedented in the history of the world. The commission deals wholly with the effects of the war and not the causes. If any person proposed to give in a radio talk any idea of the causes of the war and stated the fact's ascertained from the best authorities, I suggest that that person would not be permitted to speak from the commission's stations. 'Che PostmasterGeneral stated at the conclusion of his second-reading speech -

Honorable senators will admit that during the past niue years enormous development has taken place and that despite whatever mistakes may have been made, the Broadcasting Commission has never allowed party politics to influence its deliberations. I hope, therefore, that in view of its great national and international importance broadcasting will never become the plaything of party politics.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission is not the plaything of party politics; it is the instrument of party politics. The commission is a creation of a party government. Most of its members are famous or infamous for the stand they have taken against the Labour party. In my opinion, party politics in the light of the, circumstances in which we are living, is a better proposition than a dictatorship similar to that of Germany

Or Italy. Australia would have a dictatorship if we did not have party politics.


Senator Dein - Which party had the advantage during the last election?


Senator CAMERON - The party to which, the honorable senator belongs and it got the advantage through the medium of the broadcasting stations.


Senator Dein - That statement is not true.


Senator CAMERON - The party to which the honorable senator belonged faked the records broadcast during the last election. One of its slogans was " Vote for Labour and lose the war ". Another was " Labour fiddles while London burns ".


The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is not discussing the subject-matter of the bill.


Senator CAMERON - The electors gave the honorable senator his answer in New South Wales. Party politics is a necessary state of affairs under existing conditions. In my judgment party politics originated about 1215 when the struggle between King John and the barons and serfs led to Magna Carta.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator must address himself to the subject-matter of the bill.


Senator CAMERON - I do not think that any member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission would deny that at some time or other, particularly before his or her appointment, he or she was closely associated with the Ministerial party.


Senator Dein - That statement is unfair and untrue.


Senator CAMERON - The chairman of the commission is William James Cleary, B.Ec. I have read many of the statements that he has made whileoccupying that responsible position, and I am convinced that he was closely associated with . the Government that appointed him.


Senator McLeay - On a point of order, I contend that the honorable senator is again abusing his privilege. The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has never been associated with any political, party. For tcn years he was a lecturer for the workers' educational movement at Sydney University.


Senator CAMERON - That does not make any difference. The vicechairman is Edward Charles Rigby, C.B.E. The woman member is Elizabeth May Ramsay Couchman, O.B.E., B.A. I had vivid recollections of that lady's political activities. Other members are Richard James Fildes Boyer, M.A., and Sinclair James McGibbin, F.C.A. The members of the commission should not be ashamed to admit that they believe in one party as opposed to another and act accordingly. I repeat again that I have no criticism to offer of the musical items selected by the commission. I believe it does a good job in that branch of its activity. As a medium of entertainment the musical items are very good. The news given over the commission's stations is heavily censored and that, I think, causes discriminating persons to suspect its accuracy. The text-book addresses are useful. I am prepared to give credit where credit is due, but when I am told that the commission educates the people in the true meaning of the word " educates ", I reply that the facts are otherwise. The commission may inform and instruct the people, but it does not educate them, because it attempts to suppress all ideas contrary to its own. I trust that with the passing of this hill some improvements will be made in the direction which I have indicated. In time of war there is a tendency to suppress all views which conflict with those held by persons in authority.


Senator Herbert Hays - Views which interfere with the war effort.


Senator CAMERON - That is a matter of opinion.


Senator Herbert Hays - It would not do to let the honorable senator be the judge.


Senator CAMERON - I am as capable of judging these things as is the honorable senator and my opinion is worth as much as his. All I ask is that he shall have the same privileges as I have, and that he shall be as free to place his views before the people as I am. I am content to let the people be the judges. He, however, asks that his opinions shall be stated and mine suppressed. That is what the commission is doing.


Senator Herbert Hays - No.


Senator CAMERON - What else can the interjection of the honorable senator about interference with the war effort mean? If I challenge the Government in relation to its policy with respect to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, does that interfere with the war effort?


Senator Herbert Hays - No.


Senator CAMERON - If I challenge the Government in connexion with its financial policy as I shall challenge it, does that constitute interference with the war effort? If the policy to which the commission seems to be committed is to be given full effect, we may find ourselves denied the right to speak in this chamber, in which event we should be in no better position than that which exists in the totalitarian countries, where the broadcasting stations express the views of the few who speak in support of the state and suppress all other views. The reason why the British Empire stands head and shoulders above other empires is that Britishers have fought for freedom of speech since long before the time of Milton. The result is that we have an empire for which we are prepared to fight; it is a better empire than any other. Nevertheless, some of our subordinate governing institutions would suppress the very liberty on which the empire is based.


Senator Herbert Hays - The honorable senator is drawing on his imagination.


Senator CAMERON - I am not. Mr. Mackay, a responsible member of the British Labour party, has expressed astonishment at the degree to which freedom of speech, particularly through the medium of the press and the broadcasting stations, is restricted in Australia. He says that there is nothing like so much restriction in Great Britain. Certainly, I have not heard of any woman in England with a baby in her arms being given six months imprisonment, as happened to a woman in Geraldton recently because she made some stupid statement about the integrity of the empire.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill.


Senator CAMERON - I submit, Mr. President, that my remarks are relevant to the bill, because the commission is guilty of attempts to suppress freedom of speech. I should like to know how many other addresses have been censored to the degree that Judge Foster's speech suffered. Information along those lines would make illuminating reading. Even if the Labour Party cannot obtain the information now, it may be able to do so later on. In a changing world it is possible that some changes for the better may take place sooner than some people imagine. The day may soon come when people whose views are now 'being suppressed will be able to find out these things, and as in New Zealand, may be able to suppress their suppressors.







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