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Thursday, 30 April 1942

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) (Minister for the Interior) . - I have a particular reason for rising to add a little to the debate upon this very important bill because I have probably been one of the most severe critics of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in this Parliament. I voiced those criticisms so earnestly and sincerely that [ now wish to say how much I approve this measure. It will certainly make for an improvement of the present system of control of broadcasting. I have never said, and I have never believed, that the shortcomings that I criticized were entirely, or even to a major degree, the result of the personnel of the commission. I do not expect to get the results that we have a right to got when we appoint men only on a parttime basis. For instance, if the plumbing fixtures in my home get out of order, [ do not send for a plumber in my hour of distress and tell him that I want him to attend to the repairs for an hour to-day, and to come back at various other times to complete the job. The point I make is that we have no right to expect, any really worth-while result from a commission unless we appoint its members on a proper basis and pay to them salaries calculated to attract the right people for the job. That is imperative.

Senator MCBRIDE - 'Members of the commission will still be appointed on a part-time basis.

Senator COLLINGS - That is true; but if the honorable senator reads the hill he will find that the salaries to be paid wall entitle us to see that we get 100 per cent, service. This measure, I repeat, represents a big improvement on anything we have had before. I am rather proud of the fact that it has fallen to a Labour government to introduce it. I am particularly pleased that it is based on -recommendations brought in by a committee which was representative of all parties in the Parliament. The majority of those recommendations have been crystallized in this measure.

I have been interested during the debate in some of the remarks made by members of the Opposition. I notice now that there is a very distinct horror on their side of the chamber of anything that can be construed into a political speech. There are political speeches and political speeches. I and other members on this side of the chamber deprecate the unseemly brawl that was broadcast some time ago. It was not a one-sided affair, but was an " all-in go ". When we get into the habit, as members of the Opposition apparently have, of considering that anything in the nature of a political speech should be taboo over the air, it is time to ask ourselves where we arc drifting. This National Parliament is a place where politics are talked and translated into legislation for the good or the ill of the people of this community. There is nothing that can be said or done affecting the fate of this nation, or of the people composing it, that is not entirely political. I want honorable senators not to forget that, and to remember that while another government controlled broadcasting no attempt was made to prevent political speeches from being broadcast, not even up to the last minute on the eve of the poll. I am not touchy or thin-skinned on this point, but if honorable members opposite have not sufficient faith in their political policy or their political propaganda to warrant its being put over the air, I can inform them that members on this side of the chamber have complete faith in their political policy or programme, and are not ashamed of hearing it over the air or of seeing it in the press.

I was particularly interested in Senator Sampson's speech, because he said there were some things that we might pass over in view of the fact that we are in agreement on the bill, and are anxious to see it became law. In these debates a duty is placed upon us of not allowing statements to pass unnoticed that deserve a protest. Senator Sampson said it would be fatal if there were only national stations. He is entitled to that opinion. I think it was a famous judge who once said, "Give your judgment, but never give your reasons ". Senator Sampson's judgment seemed all right until he gave his reasons, when he said that without competition the national stations would get into a rut, and he inferred, if he did not say it, that a national calamity would result. I suppose that one of the finest examples of national effort is the Postal Department. It has never got into a rut, and no one suggests that it is in a rut. Every body has complimented the Postmaster-General on this bill, which is possible only because neither he nor the Cabinet that authorized it has got into a rut. At the moment this nation is faced with a tremendous emergency, and honorable senators know that whatever government is in control of any country while a war is on, it must all the time restrict competition, it must take control of industry, of the maintenance of the army in the field, and the production of equipment, which must be removed more and more from the hands of private enterprise where there is competition, and placed under government control where there is no competition. To saythat in connexion with broadcasting the absence of competition would result in calamity is so much political humbug and eyewash.

Senator Sampsonalso said that political speeches made the night hideous, but that any one who wanted to could shut them off. You can shut them off from one station certainly, only to find them on another station, and it is often impossible to escape them except by closing down the wireless completely. But we have to remember that there have been more hideous things than political speeches, and in that connexion I am not referring to the speeches of members of any particular party. The Labour party cannot obtain time on the commercial stations because only one party can afford to pay for it.

Oppositionmembers. - The Labour party!

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