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Thursday, 30 April 1942

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I congratulate the Joint Committee on Broadcasting upon the good work that it has done. It has submitted a voluminous report, and I doubt whether the majority of honorable senators have read the 'evidence very carefully. An inquiry into the system of wireless broadcasting in operation in Australia was long overdue, and some commendation should be given to the previous Government which appointed the Joint Committee on Broadcasting. About 90 per cent, of the recommendations of the committee have been embodied in the bill now before us. Like Senator Leckie, I am inclined to wonder whether this measure would have met with the same whole-hearted support as is evident on this occasion if it had been introduced by the previous Government. The bill effects no drastic alteration. To a great degree it is a consolidating measure, embodying previous amendments and regulations. Even the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which in the view of honorable senators opposite committed so many misdemeanours in the past, is to be retained. It is proposed to remove the head-quarters of the commission from Sydney to Canberra. To my mind that will be unwise. The commission has its head-quarters well established in Sydney, and practically 40 per cent, of its work is confined to New South Wale3. I have, no doubt that the commission finds Sydney a convenient site for its headquarters. We must remember that with its head-quarters in the largest city in Australia, the commission has every opportunity to contact world-famous artists. Another object of the hill is to remove broadcasting as far as possible from political influence. That object will hardly be achieved by transferring the head-quarters of the commission from Sydney to the National Capital of the Commonwealth.

Senator Collings - Does that apply to all Government departments whose head-quarters are established in Canberra ?

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - To a great degree, yes. However, it is not necessary to transfer the head-quarters of the commission to Canberra. I repeat that the' commission is well established in Sydney. In addition, the present is certainly not an opportune time to make such a transfer in view of the acute shortage of accommodation in Canberra.

It is also proposed under this measure to appoint a parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting. The duties of this body have not been specifically explained. I understand that it will inquire into subjects that may be referred to it by either the Minister or the commission. I submit that if the standing committee is to be enabled to function to i he best advantage, it should itself be cm powered to initiate inquiries into any matter which it deems requires investigation. The bill is somewhat vague concerning the duties of the proposed State advisory committees. These committees are to be appointed by the Minister; but no information has been given as to their personnel, either in respect of numbers or character. Are members of these committees to be representative of sectional interests?

Reverting to the provisions of the bill designed to remove broadcasting from political influence, I point out that clause 23 and clause 97 appear to be in conflict. Clause 23 reads -

Hie commission shall broadcast free of charge from all of the national broadcasting stations, or from such of them as are specified by the Minister, any matter the broadcasting of which is directed by the Minister in writing an being in the public interest.

Clause 97 reads -

Subject to the provisions of this section the commission m;iv determine to what extent and in what milliner political speeches may be broadcast from national stations, and the licensee of each commercial broadcasting station may arrange for the broadcasting of political' speeches from that station.

In the first instance, a member may obtain the permission of the Minister to make a political speech from a broadcasting station. Under clause 97, how ever, the commission is empowered to dictate how the speech shall be delivered, and what it shall contain. To the ordinary layman those clauses appear to be in conflict.

Senator Gibson - I think that the words " during an election " should be i lis g r t g{i

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That may clear up the matter; but these clauses certainly require clarification. I agree entirely with the proposal to extend the benefits of broadcasting to small schools in isolated country districts.

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