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Thursday, 30 April 1942

Senator McLEAY (South Australia) (Leader of the Opposition) . - I express my thanks to the chairman of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting (Senator Gibson), Senator Amour and their fellow members, who have worked exceptionally well on a very difficult and intricate problem. Having read the committee's report, we have concrete evidence of the length of time and the amount of work involved in delving- into the problems that were referred to the committee. When I was PostmasterGeneral for a brief period, I had die opportunity to examine the work that was being done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and by commercial stations, and I realized the extraordinary development that had occurred within a few years in the science of broadcasting. I could not fail to appreciate the splendid work that the commission was doing. I was pleased with the advances that had been made in the science of radio. particularly on the part of the technical employees of the Postal Department. When the joint parliamentary committee was appointed, I was anxious to learn whether it would come to the same conclusions that I had reached as the result of my casual observations. Therefore, it gave me much pleasure and satisfaction to learn that the report contained tributes to a wellbalanced commission and also to its chairman, Mr. Cleary, for the work that he has done over a number of years. It is well known that the remuneration received by Mr. Cleary for his work is a mere honorarium, and I believe that the people of Australia, particularly those who are interested in broadcasting and the development of our cultural and educational life, will have good cause in years to come to thank Mr. Cleary for his services. I appreciate the fact that the Government proposes to appoint a parliamentary standing committee to deal with wireless 'broadcasting. Such a committee can do valuable work, but it can also have a bad influence on broadcasting. If all members of this Parliament do everything in their power to prevent broadcasting from becoming the plaything of party politics, we shall do a great service to the nation. I was glad to learn that the members of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting had worked together very well and had been unanimous on many of the subjects handled. Therefore I suggest to the Government that, in view of the enormous amount of research that has been carried out by these honorable gentlemen, the members of that committee should he selected as the nucleus of the standing committee. If the new committee starts its work on sound lines it can be a valuable guide to future members. We all know that frequent changes occur in the personnel of parliamentary committees, and I am sure that the members of the joint committee, who adopted an unbiased attitude towards the problems which confronted them, could perform a useful service in educating other members of Parliament on the subject of wireless broadcasting. They could prevent misrepresentation, which often occurs when members of Parliament fail to study the facts of a case very closely and are led astray by persons endeavouring to serve their own ends. I am pleased with the work that has been done by the broadcasting systems in Australia to educate children generally, and particularly pupils attending outback schools. I notice that the Government now proposes to issue free listeners' licences to schools attended by fewer than 50 children. I have no objection to that, but I point out that it would not be very difficult for the parents of pupils attending any school to contribute to the cost of a listener's licence. The expenditure would 'be well worth while, taking into consideration the great benefits to be derived from educational programmes. However, I support the Government's proposal, and I trust that, in future, the Australian Broadcasting Commission will pay even more attention to the educational and cultural life of the community than it has paid in the past. I take this opportunity to say that,- when I was Postmaster-General, I found that the representatives of the commercial stations were always willing to help me. During this period of war they have been ready at all times to make valuable suggestions to the Government regarding the dissemination of facts concerning the war to the people through our broadcasting systems.

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