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Friday, 1 May 1942

Senator LECKIE - I am not so sure of it, because I have been endeavouring for several hours to get a call through to Melbourne; and I know that other honorable senators have had to wait for five or six hours to get calls through to other capital cities. The commission will certainly be greatly inconvenienced if it be obliged to conduct its business with its branches over the air. This provision is governed by clause 10, which sets out the remuneration to be paid to commissioners, four of whom are to be part-time members of the commission.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Senator LECKIE - I repeat that it seems to me that the Broadcasting Commission should not be stationed at Canberra. It has three main functions - the dissemination of news, the provision of entertainment, and the education of the people. No one can say that Canberra is the seat of news, of entertainment, or of education. It is only the seat of political news for a very brief period when, by the good grace of the present Government, we are called together for a day or two. In the spheres of education and amusement, all the artists and educationists, and most of the facilities, are in the big cities. I have been engaged in some contemplation of the composite mind of Senator Gibson. In a composite mind there are two or more elements that are not the same, and in the composite mind of the committee there were elements that did not think alike.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Brown).There is nothing in the clause about composite minds.

Senator LECKIE - I am speaking of one of the reasons given for proposing to bring the Australian Broadcasting Commission to Canberra. In the composite mind of the committee the attitude of members must have been " Yes," or " No," or indifferent to the three functions I have mentioned. Can any one in this chamber say that Senator Gibson is indifferent and cannot make up his mind on any matter? Any one can assume that a considerable proportion of the members of the committee were against this provision -going into the bill. I have been wondering whether the Government has a composite mind on this matter, too. I know that the Leader of the Government in this chamber has not a composite mind, but has a monomania on this subject. I wondered whether that monomania overpowered the composite mind of Cabinet and of those directly opposed to the clause. The provision we are discussing has to be considered in relation to clause 10, which provides for the remuneration of members of the commission. I suppose the Government and the Minister would expect the chairman of the commission, who will receive £1,250 a year, to give his whole time to the work. He will not be a part-time officer in the ordinary sense of the word, and I do not think he has been a part-time officer in the past, in spite of his low salary.

Senator Collings - No one need take a position on the commission if he does not like Canberra.

Senator LECKIE - I should think that the Government would desire to have the best men obtainable on the commission. To pay the chairman £1,250 a year for being at the head of an institution whose revenue is more than £1,000,000 a year does not seem extravagant. The vice-chairman and the other members of the commission will receive £300 a year, and will be expected in their part-time jobs to come to Canberra and work thoroughly and effectively. That would be expecting too much of them. I have heard about sweating in this community, and if this proposal is not an example of sweating I do not know what it is. I should imagine that the Government would not desire to have on the commission retired persons who have no contact with the ordinary business or amusement life of the community. We need to have active commissioners, and no one who is at all active can afford to devote all his time to work at Canberra on a salary of £300 a year. The two clauses are diametrically opposed. If the head office of the commission is at Canberra and members of the commission are expected to travel here week after week at a salary of £300 a year, the Government and this Parliament have a great surprise in store for them. They will not be able to obtain the high-quality men and women that they expect to serve on the commission. I have not heard one word as to why it is desired to have the head office of the commission, in Canberra, but all the logical reasons point the other way. If there is any other reason except the superabundant monomania of the Leader of the Senate, I should like to hear of it.

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