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Wednesday, 26 March 1941

Senator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western Australia) . - I am perfectly sure that all honorable senators were interested to hear of the progress being made in the various programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but, as one who has brought this matter up before, I think that this bill does not go quite far enough. In that respect I am very disappointed. In the first place, I should like to have seen the bill provide for taking over all technical services associated with broadcasting. I have advocated that course in this chamber on previous occasions. At present, the commission depends on the services of the Postmaster-General's Department for carrying on many important functions including the dissemination of the British Broadcasting Corporation's war news and various educational features broadcast from London. All phases of broadcasting, including issue of licences and technical services, should be under the direct control of a full time commission, and not merely a part time commission as we have at present. I understand that the existing commission has not sufficient work to do in regard to broadcasting, and I cannot understand why the Government proposes to increase the personnel from five to seven. In my opinion, the commission should consist of three practical men who have made, or are making, a full study of the whole subject of broadcasting. It is far too important to be guided or influenced by a part time body, however efficient or expert it may be. That applies not only to technical services of broadcasting, but also to research into broadcasting which I consider has not been given sufficient attention. In the realm of broadcasting science, changes occur almost daily, and I would like to see the Australian Broadcasting Commission give greater attention to research by the employment of experts from such advanced countries as the United States of America or Great Britain, so that we could build up in Australia a broadcasting technique which would be the envy of all nations. That will not be accomplished until all phases of broadcasting are regulated and governed by a small full-time board of say three persons.

Senator Fraser - Is the honorable senator also speaking of " B " class stations ?

Senator ALLANMacDONALD.No, I am dealing with national broadcasting. " B " class stations are in a totally different category.

With respect to the broadcast of news bulletins, Western Australia is very much handicapped by atmospheric inductions on the land line from Port Augusta to the west, and instead of the commission making profits on its operations as it has done, I should like to see some money expended on the improvement of that land line and other technical adjustments. Listeners in Western Australia are unable to tune in to stations in the other States, and, with the exception of those who are able to afford dual wave receivers, we are entirely dependent for our programmes which come over the land line from Port Augusta. Despite replies which I have received from the Postmaster-General in relation to this matter, I urge that some of the profits made by the commission be devoted to the improvement of the land line for the benefit of Western Australian listeners.

Another matter concerning news broadcasts which I have already mentioned in this chamber concerns the splitting up of the 7 pAn. news programme from Sydney, which we in Western Australia hear at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. I admit that the commission must have some regard for the Australian Associated Press to which it is indebted for news items, the collection of which has to be paid for. It is not right to impinge upon the work of the Australian Associated Press, but many Australian news items are denied to Western Australian listeners until the following morning. The news programme starts with the overseas news, which is followed by national items of general interest and a commentary upon the overseas news by some eminent authority, usually a professor at one of our universities. Listeners in the eastern States then hear the Australian news, but that is not broadcast to Western Australia. Many items in that section of the programme, including important announcements made by Commonwealth Ministers, would be of just as much interest to the citizens of Western Australia as they are to the people of New South Wales or Victoria, and I cannot understand why the programme given to the eastern States should not be relayed to Western Australia in its entirety. Many persons in the back-blocks and mining areas of Western Australia rarely see a newspaper and depend entirely upon radio for their news. Those persons are as much entitled to receive news immediately it is broadcast as are citizens in other parts of the Commonwealth. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to arrange for the entire news bulletin to be transmitted .to Western Australia.

Another matter concerning new3 to which I should like to direct attention is that of broadcasts from the United States of America. The last broadcast we heard from that country was President Roosevelt's famous speech, and listeners were thrilled to hear that wonderful radio voice saying words with farreaching international implications. There are many other interesting broadcasts which dual-wave sets receive, but which are denied to the ordinary radio listener here, and I am sure they would be of great interest and value to the Australian public. Whilst the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to be complimented on the improved quality of programmes, including many educational commentaries which are being received from the British Broadcasting Corporation, I should like to sec a similar service arranged with the National Broadcasting Corporation of America. I am sure that such a service would be very much appreciated by listeners in Australia.

I repeat that I fail to understand why the Government has seen fit to increase the personnel of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which I understand has not nearly enough work to do now, and I object very strongly to the proposal that a nominee of a political party should be appointed. I hope that the Government will maintain its policy of disregarding the political affiliations of any man who is appointed either to the Australian Broadcasting Commission or to any other commission. I would be loath to see the Government make an appointment from, say, the Trades Hall group or any other political group. Such political affiliations should not be a condition precedent to an appointment to this or any other commission. No political movement in Australia has a right to be represented on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I would sooner see a nominee of, say, the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia appointed, because Such a representative would be more entitled to a place on the body controlling our national broadcasting service than a political nominee. I would not object to the appointment of a nominee of, say, Australian journalists or literary men, but to suggest that the

Trades Hall is entitled to representation is just as logical as saying on behalf of our Scottish friends that a man of the Presbyterian persuasion should be appointed. I am opposed to the appointment of a representative of any political group or movement, whether it be the Australian Labour party or the United Australia party, and I object to the suggestion that by increasing the personnel of the commission there will be room for such a nominee. The bill does not go far enough in the matter of the technical services of broadcasting, and I hope that the Government will tackle that problem in the very near future.

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