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Thursday, 30 April 1942


Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - I suppose that I should follow the example set by other honorable senators, excepting Senator Leckie, and compliment the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) upon his able and interesting secondreading speech, and also Senator Gibson for his comprehensive speech, which lasted for over an hour and a quarter. I listened to both speeches very carefully. Senator Gibson certainly knew what he was talking about. It was refreshing to me to hear an honorable senator make a speech at such length, and to display such knowledge on any particular subject. Senator Leckie thought that the commendations were running too profusely, and he sought to criticize the measure. His attempt to do so was somewhat feeble. Personally, I am unable to get excited over the bill. Some of the statements made by one or two honorable senators opposite could very well be uttered by me on this occasion. I expected that the committee would bring in radical recommendations. However, it is admitted that the hill proposes no radical change. As a matter of fact, it follows closely the lines of the previous bill. It does not propose any very great change at all.


Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is a consolidating measure.


Senator BROWN - That is so. There are very few innovations.


Senator McLEAY (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Can the honorable senator make a good radical suggestion?


Senator BROWN - The trouble with me is that my suggestions are too radical. I find it useless to make any. In this connexion I am reminded of a story which T once told on an electioneering platform. We hear from many people, who are radicals, very much about what they would do if only they could get into Parliament. A gentleman once came to see me about an aeroplane which he had invented. It was an astounding invention. The machine was completely foolproof. No matter how foolish a man might be he could not possibly stall the aeroplane. The inventor claimed that once the machine was in the air, the pilot, or passengers, need have no fear whatsoever of accident. It was a marvellous machine. As one who suffers fools gladly, I took the matter up with the authorities in Canberra. The official reply was that the invention was certainly wonderful, but there was one thing wrong with it - no one could possibly get it into the air. That is the way with many radical people. We hear a lot about what they would do if they got into Parliament, but their one obstacle is that they cannot get elected. However, even if one of them did succeed, he .would find it useless to make radical suggestions. We are living in an era of parliamentary action based on the principle of compromise; and we have compromised in this measure to the degree that we have not carried out the ideals that have been promulgated for many years by the Labour party. No doubt there is a reason for that. But there should be no criticism from honorable senators opposite on that ground, because they have been telling us in the press that we should not take advantage of the war situation to give effect to our pet political ideas. We find Senator Leckie criticizing the Government to-night for failing to give effect to its policy in this measure, in spite of the continual howl from supporters of honorable senators opposite that we should not take advantage of the present situation to carry out our socialistic programme under the cover of war conditions.


Senator Leckie - This is a hill, not n regulation.


Senator BROWN - It is a bill to set up a broadcasting commission and to give certain rights and powers to that body. If we desired to take advantage of the present, war situation, we could, and rightly so, in my opinion, nationalize broadcasting completely. In this matter I agree with Senator Amour, who was a member of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting; and I suppose that he placed his views before the committee as ably as he places them before the Senate.


Senator Gibson - He certainly did.


Senator BROWN - I think that it would be a good idea to nationalize broadcasting. However, at present, it is partly nationalized, and, at the same time, we have a capitalist controlled section in broadcasting which we designate as the B class stations. Perhaps, that arrangement has some value insofar as the B class stations act as a corrective, and a spur to the national stations to prove to the people of Australia that a nationalized broadcasting station can meet private enterprise in this field on equal ground. I prophesy that the day is coming when the radical ideas which 1 express now will be carried to fruition. I should like to see the Government of Australia place a wireless set in every home in the country. There should be no question of paying this or that firm to do it, and incurring costs of advertising. Edward Bellamy, in his book Looking Backwards, referred to people who pressed a hutton and obtained music ov anything they required. The day is coming when a wireless set and telephone will be built into every home. When the war is over our greatest difficulty will be to find occupations for the people. Under the present capitalist regime, it would be impossible to do so, but we know for certain that a vast change is coming.


Senator Gibson - There is no need for a wireless set in every home. There are 200,000 people in London who have no wireless sets but who listen in to everything because they have loud-speakers.


Senator BROWN - I object to loudspeakers. I have one in my home, and there are objections in many homes that the loud-speakers installed there, or in neighbours' premises, are too loud. My ideas do not go so far as to have loudspeakers to fill the ears of 200,000 people in London or anywhere else. There is already too much noise, hut I should like to see a set in every home, without the need for salesmen vying with one another to place costly furniture in the home.


Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Does the honorable senator favour the broadcasting of parliamentary speeches?


Senator BROWN - There is one man whose speeches I would broadcast, and he is Senator Brown, because he would interest the people. I would certainly favour the broadcasting of parliamentary speeches, because there is one feature of broadcasting that appeals to me. I remember a senator saying to me, You know, senator, when I speak on the wireless I hear thousands of clicks of people turning off their sets ". I do not know whether that is true, but it is a fact that if you do not want to hear a person, and your wife agrees with you, you can turn off the wireless. You have no need to listen to parliamentary speeches if you do not wish to hear them. It would be a splendid thing for Australia if parliamentary speeches were broadcast, for then the members who make speeches would do their best to make good speeches that would appeal to the people.


Senator Gibson - Some present members would notbe returned to Parliament if their speeches here were broadcast.


Senator BROWN - I knew of one senator who became a member of this chamber because he was ill during an election campaign. Had he been well he would not have been sent here. In criticism of the measure, I see no virtue in having a plethora of committees and persons to supervise broadcasting. We have a Minister whom we all respect, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, with a lady aboard, an advisory council in every State, and now we are going to have a parliamentary standing committee. It reminds me that some years ago, when an effort was made in Queensland to reinstitute the Upper House, a member of unpleasant memories to many Queenslanders said, " If we had an Upper House we would solve half our difficulties ". I suggested that if an Upper House would solve half our difficulties by watching over the work of the Lower House, we could solve the whole of our difficulties if we had an Upper Upper House, to watch over the Upper House, to look after the Lower House. If we are having trouble at the present time with broadcasting, how can we remedy it by having a Minister, a commission, advisory councils, and a parliamentary committee? I am not very enthusiastic about it. I suppose there may be work for all of them to do, which will perhaps be desirable, but I do not see how we can solve our problems by duplication of people who exercise control of broadcasting.

Speaking personally, and not as a party man, if we had at the head of affairs a man and a commission who understood their business, and who knew what was required by the Government and the people, I should be prepared to say to them, " Go to it, and do your best ". I would go farther and say, in regard to the radical ideas it is stated that I hold, and advocate that the Government should have more time on the air to offset the lying propaganda of the press of this country. The press do not lie openly, but by inference and innuendo, and by leaving out facts that should be disclosed. I should like to see in connexion with the bill a clause dealing with propaganda, and the appointment of a Minister for Propaganda, so that a war-time government could place its point of view before the people. We can see in this chamber, in the House of Representatives, and in the country that there is very little antagonism to the Government. There is antagonism between the sections of the party in opposition, but, generally speaking, there is unity among the Labour, (Conservative, and Country parties, and the independents. That is because we are living under the shadow of a great world tragedy. We know that in order to win through in this fight, we must keep the morale of the people at a high level. We also know that the great mass of the people are subject to control not so much through their powers of analysis, as through their emotions. I believe that with the aid of broadcasting, those who understand the psychology of the people can play a great part in controlling and maintaining the public morale, and offsetting the insidious propaganda which, under our democratic control, we allow to be disseminated.


Senator Sampson - The German people are not allowed to listen to British propaganda.


Senator BROWN - That is so; but we do allow Australians to listen. The people cannot hear the truth if the source of supply is stopped. The Germans cannot know our point of view if Hitler and those associated with him say they shall not listen to the propaganda of Great Britain, Australia, or any other country. If we tackle the business of broadcasting in relation to propaganda - not propaganda in its sinister aspect, but in its educational and moral aspect - we should have to add an important provision to this hill. Senator James McLachlan directed attention to two clauses in the measure that are antagonistic to each other. They deal with the dissemination of political matter. What is political matter?


Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I refer the honorable senator to clause 97.







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