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Wednesday, 2 July 1941

Senator FOLL (Queensland) (Minister for Information) . -by leave - Some time ago, Senator Brown asked if I could give to the Senate a brief outline of the functions and activities of the

Department of Information. In accordance with that request, and in view of recent criticisms of the department, I welcome this opportunity to do so. I shall not take advantage of the occasion to enter into a political discussion.

Honorable senators are probably aware that the publicity censorship is under

Khe control of the Department of Information. In order that press cables and statements may be bandied with the least possible delay it is necessary to maintain in each State a 24-hour censorship service. Despite what is sometimes said to the contrary, it is the desire of the censorship authorities to give the fullest possible assistance to the press, and to make available the maximum quantity of information compatible with national security. All matters intended for publication are supposed to be handed in to the censors, but in practice that is not always done because of the existence of an honour system. Representatives of the press are told from time to time which matters are to be kept out of the columns of their newspapers and, with rare exceptions, the honour system has worked entirely satisfactorily. In addition to maintaining a continuous censorship service in each State, it is necessary to have in Melbourne a chief publicity censor and his staff to deal with matters in dispute between newspaper proprietors and the censorship, or between department and department. Only when there is a deadlock is a matter referred to the Minister for his final determination.

I mentioned a few days ago that all government advertising, other than what may be termed routine advertising, is now under the control of the Department of Information.

Senator Gibson - "What is the cost of such advertising?

Senator FOLL - It is difficult to say, because the quantity of advertising depends on such things as the flotation of loans, recruiting campaigns, the need for tradesmen for the Air Force, or for additional recruits for the Navy.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - To which departmental vote is that advertising debited ?

Senator FOLL - The charge may, in the first place, be made against the vote for the Department of Information; hut for work carried out on behalf of other departments, a transfer is made later. The department under my control carries the overhead costs of advertising, but the amount is small. The long overdue policy of concentrating government advertising under one control has enabled the Government to secure better rates than when each department controlled its own advertising. The Government now hae the advantage of the commercial master contract rates. In addition to advertising recruiting campaigns and such matters, the Department of Information supplies posters, and arranges for radio appeals for recruits, and for window displays aimed at encouraging the sale of war saving certificates and war bonds, and so on. Moreover, it has full control of al), short-wave broadcasting from Australia. For eight hours every day speeches and other items of information are broadcast on the short-wave system in the English, Spanish, French and Dutch languages. Until recently, the Government used the 10-kilowatt station of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, at Sydney, but now it has the use of two stations under the control of the Postmaster-General's Department. Honorable senators will remember that I announced yesterday that the Government bad decided to build ia 3-frequency 100- kilowatt station so that it could engage in short-wave 'broadcasting over greater distances. Obviously a station with a power of only 10 kilowatts has a limited range. Our programmes must be capable of being heard in other countries without difficulty, otherwise foreign listeners will not bother to listen to them. Steps have been taken by the Government to establish a short-wave station of 50 kilowatts. No difficulty is anticipated in securing the necessary apparatus for this station. In order that the voice of Australia may be heard in all parts of the world, it is hoped that ultimately the power of the station will be increased to 100 kilowatts. It is highly desirable that in times like these the voice of Australia should be capable of being heard throughout the world, in exactly the same way as we, in Australia, are able to listen in to short-wave broadcasts from -other countries. In addition, the broadcasting section monitors foreign short-wave transmissions from a twenty-four hours a day listening post. Daily and weekly reports of all incoming transmissions are prepared for background information for the press and for radio purposes. That section also arranges hook-ups with American networks to relay Australian news. Land-lines are provided nightly to one-third of the commercial stations to enable the national news to he broadcast in country centres. Certain districts of Australia cannot be reached by the Aclass stations at present, and the department pays the cost of land-line connexion to B-class stations in order that listeners in those areas may be provided with a good news service.

Senator Gibson - Does the Minister suggest that the short-wave stations will reach those people?

Senator FOLL - No, the new shortwave stations will probably " skip " them. They are not provided for that purpose. Originally, when the first short-wave station was established, its purpose was to supply news bulletins and programmes to people in outback areas; but the function of the new short-wave stations is to broadcast the voice of Australia to the world. The department also supplies every Sunday night a special quarter of an hour session dealing with the war to 94 commercial stations. In this way news of national importance reaches a large number of people. The programme time is made available by these stations free of cost to the department. The broadcasting section also supplies scripts for radio commentators and daily broadcasts in tho women's sessions. Recently the Department of Information took over from the Department of Commerce the administration of the Commonwealth Cinema Branch. That branch produces war. shorts and gazettes for exhibition, not only in Australia, but also overseas, and, in addition, training films for the service departments. As honorable senators are probably aware, the branch also maintains two cinema units with the Australian Imperial Force abroad. After the films have been exposed overseas, they are brought to Australia, developed, suitably reconstructed and distributed to picture theatres for exhibition. Copies are also sent overseas. Copies of the first Aus tralian war film, depicting .the capture of Tobruk, were sent to the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya, China, Thailand, and the United States of America, and served a very useful purpose in bringing prominently before the eyes of people of other countries the exploits of our Australian soldiers. We have had requests for more films of that kind to be sent overseas. In addition, the department makes available to the State governments and to charitable bodies 60 mm. educational films. In this way, not only do we assist charitable organizations, but we also engage in very valuable propaganda work. The department sponsored the "March of Time " film made in Australia by Mr. Jurgens. That film has been exhibited throughout the length and breadth of the world. The department also maintains photographic units to record the embarkation and return of our troops and their doings abroad. Copies of these photographs are provided for the press and other journals. This is quite an important feature of the work of the department. On the editorial side, there is a regular daily supply of editorial items to the press. These items have not been largely utilized by the metropolitan press, because they already have ample means at their disposal for gleaning and publishing news; but this service has been freely availed of by the country press. Resumes of the war position from day to day are regarded as of great value by the provincial press. The department is also responsible for the expense of maintaining the official war correspondents in the field. During the last war, this expense - and it was very considerable - was borne by the Defence Department. Now, the whole cost is charged against the vote of the Department of Information. We prepare material for release to 700 newspapers and 1,200 other publications in Australia, and make available press articles on behalf of patriotic organizations. We distribute pamphlets and posters compiled locally and in conjunction with the British Ministry of Information. We also supply an Air Mail Weekly News Letter to the Australian Imperial Force abroad, and news for short daily transmissions to Australian troops in Malaya, as well as a weekly cable of Australian news to members of the Royal Australian Navy on ships with which we are able to get into touch, members of the Australian Imperial Force wherever they are located, and the members of the Royal Australian Air Force in Great Uri tain. We dispatch daily to the United States of America an Australian news summary. The department maintains a news bureau in New York which is serving news agencies throughout that country. That bureau is supplied with services by the pictorial and editorial branches of the department. A check-up on the activities of the bureau reveals that Australian news is receiving very wide publicity in the press of the United States of America. That bureau was established only sis months ago, but already it, is doing an extraordinarily good job in publicizing Australia in that country, with which it is the desire of Australians as a whole to establish closer relations. Regular checks are made by the bureau upon the space given to Australian items in American newspapers.

The department also maintains various artists who are attached to different arms of the services. In the last war this expenditure was charged in the first place to the Army, but later such artists were attached, I think, to the War Memorial Committee. At present, we have two artists attached to our forces in the Middle Ea3t and one artist at sea with the Royal Australian Navy, as well as a number of official photographers who are making photographic and painting records of the activities of our troops abroad. When the War Memorial in Canberra is opened on the 11th November next, our people will have an opportunity to view the wonderful collection of pictures produced during the last war. All of these are from the brushes of famous Australian artists. Other well-known Australian artists are attached to our forces in order to perpetuate on canvas the activities of our troops in this war.

I have made these remarks in answer to criticism which has been levelled at the department from time to time, particularly in relation to its cost, by people who are not fully acquainted with its various activities. This brief resume of the duties falling upon myself as Minister for Information, and the officers of the department, who are doing exceptionally good work, should do much to refute that criticism. It will also make honorable senators generally more acquainted with the work of the department.

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