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Friday, 1 May 1942

Senator McBRIDE (South Australia) . - There is only one condition under which I should be prepared to oppose the amendment. I was very interested to hear Senator Amour's statement, which I accept completely, that this sub-clause is in accordance with a unanimous recommendation of the committee. That undoubtedly strengthens the case for the inclusion of this provision in the bill, but I am sure that whatever the committee may have considered to be necessary, it did not think that the move to Canberra should be made in war-time. That is the important point. Senator Amour has said quite correctly that the commission would travel from one State to another, and would hold meetings probably in all capital cities, but he added that the commission had to have a staff at its headquarters, and that is what I fear. Despite the fervour with which the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) supported the development of Canberra during his long term as Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, since he has been in his present position he has not been able to provide sufficient housing accommodation at Canberra to meet present requirements. Therefore, I suggest that it would be quite wrong in time of war, when man-power is one of our greatest problems, and materials cannot be obtained except for high priority work, to transfer the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its staff from its present head-quarters at Sydney. If additional accommodation is required, it can be obtained more readily in Sydney than in Canberra.

Senator Collings - Has the honorable senator read the sub-clause to which he is referring?

Senator McBRIDE - Yes.

Senator Collings - It does not specify that the transfer must take place next week.

Senator McBRIDE - I realize that, and I shall deal with that matter at a later stage. It would be iniquitous to ask the people of this country, who are burdened with extremely heavy taxes and constantly urged to lend money for defence purposes, to bear the cost of transferring the head-quarters of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to Canberra and of providing the additional housing accommodation that would be necessary. I assure the Leader of the Senate that I have read the sub-clause, and I realize that it will become operative only at the discretion of the Minister, but throughout the term of office of this Government we have had conclusive evidence that, under the guise of coping with war emergencies, the Labour party has introduced its policy, piece by piece, into the legislation and administration of this country. I shall not be prepared to allow this clause to remain unless Ireceive an assurance from the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) that, for the duration of the war at least, nothing will be done to disturb the existing head-quarters of the commission. Unless such an undertaking is given, I shall certainly support Senator Spicer's amendment.

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