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Wednesday, 11 November 1964

Senator HANNAN (Victoria) (1:53 AM) . - I support the Bill before the Senate and shall oppose both the proposed amendments. First, I should like to congratulate Senator Cohen upon his splendid address to this chamber. I find myself in complete agreement with vast areas of what he said. The difficulty with his amendment is that it does not do anything. It is simply a reference tacked on to the end of the Bill. As he himself has anticipated, the major criticism of it is that even if it were written into the legislation it would be vague, indefinite and ambiguous and would require too much additional administrative machinery to police it. This is not the way in which to add such an important legislative provision. I should like to congratulate the honorable senator also on the splendid tribute which he paid to the late Chairman of the Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, Senator Vincent.

I appreciate the intention of the proposed amendment, but it seems to me a great pity that this small Bill should be used as a shuttlecock or battledore for this important principle. I listened with interest to Senator Buttfield's proposed amendment and feel that I must give it some attention also. It involves a rebate of one half of fees applicable to the production of artistic Australian material. The artistic Australian material now shown, according to figures given by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, takes up 2 per cent, of programme time. Consider purely as an example, a programme costing £1,000. In the case of those stations that are paying the 4 per cent, fee, the 2 per cent, would amount to £20. This would work out, on the amount of Australian material that is shown, at about £25 a week or about £3 a day. I do not think even Senator Buttfield seriously contends that a rebate of £3 a day is likely to encourage in the slightest any worthwhile Australian production. As I recall it, Actors' Equity rates are £2 5s. an hour for minor characters, with a minimum engagement of two hours.

Senator Henty - Is the honorable senator sure of his figure of £3 a day?

Senator Buttfield - His calculation is quite wrong.

Senator HANNAN - If honorable senators wish to challenge my mathematics I am prepared to debate that aspect of the matter with them. If this amendment is seriously intended to confer a benefit on either the employing side of the industry or the employee side, I say to my colleague, for whose motives I have the greatest respect, that it will do no such thing. The mere amount of the pittance suggested is more likely to cause the people concerned to feel insulted. The way to tackle this problem - and it is a problem - is the way suggested by the Postmaster-General in another place. You do not offer a small rebate and expect to provide major encouragement for a major industry. Mr. Hulme said in another place yesterday -

I am very sympathetic towards those grappling with the problems associated with Australian television production, but as yet I have not had time to look closely at the problems. However, I have a couple of bodies looking at the problems for me and during the next few months I hope to have a careful look at them myself. I say to the Committee that this proposal does not give a solution. It does not represent any real contribution towards the solution of (he problems.

With those sentiments I am completely in agreement, although I would like to take this opportunity of dissociating myself completely, absolutely and entirely from the remarks of the Minister concerning Australian talent.

Let me now mention other aspects of the matter to which I think the Senate should briefly advert and which have been partly traversed by Senator Buttfield. The fees charged at present raise £112,000 a year. The operation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board costs £393,000 a year. Admittedly that covers radio stations also, but on the basis of the present fees it is quite clear that the taxpayer is subsidising a very profitable industry to the tune of about £290,000.

Senator Buttfield - Subsidising?

Senator HANNAN - Subsidising.

Senator Buttfield - Prove it.

Senator HANNAN - I have just shown that that is so. Even Senator Buttfield would not suggest that such a complex industry should be operated without a controlling body. The Control Board is costing £393,000 and the people whom it is controlling are contributing only £112,000 towards that control. If this does not result in a subsidy I wouldlike to know what does.

Senator Buttfield - What about the radio stations?

Senator HANNAN - I said that I realised that the Control Board covers radio stations as well.

Senator McClelland - The Board is not exercising much control.

Senator HANNAN - That may be a matter for debate at another time and place. I do not propose to enter into an argument on that score at this time. I do not think that any senator in this chamber is likely to accuse me of a lack of interest in encouraging the production of Australian television programme material. I am as anxious as anyone else to see successful licensees and successful television stations. I am anxious also to see reasonable employment given to actors, actresses and technicians in this country. This matter is far too big and far too important, as I said earlier, to be tacked on to the tail end of a mild revenue-raising measure. I want to see the full blooded remedies proposed by the Senate Select Committee introduced after the Postmaster-General has had a chance to investigate them. As he has pointed out, owing to a variety of reasons the opportunity for considering the learned and weighty proposals put forward by the Committee has not yet been presented to him.

I do not think it is necessary for me to traverse some of the matters which arose during the remarks of the two earlier speakers. I simply say that it is grossly unfair to talk of the " Whiplash " endeavour as being the only type of production capable of being made in Australia.

Senator Henty - There is nothing wrong with that programme. It is a very good programme.

Senator Buttfield - At a price.

Senator HANNAN - I am not criticising " Whiplash ". I watched most of the episodes in the series. All I am saying is that the cost of production of "Whiplash" was out of all proportion to what might normally be undertaken in a country of this size and with the viewing audience that a programme might reasonably expect to have. On the information available to me, although that programme cost in the vicinity of £750,000 to produce, it is now, despite what my colleague, Senator Buttfield, says, earning a small profit, having been syndicated in the United States of America by the owners who come from England.

The production of Australian dramatic series costing £750,000 is not, I think, envisaged by any thinking person in Australia. The shot is just not on the board. As Senator Buttfield knows, the money for the production of " Whiplash " did not come from Australia. " Whiplash " was not produced by Australians. It was not directed by Australians. The star of the production was not an Australian. For these reasons, although agreeing with the good motives behind Senator Cohen's and Senator Buttfield's proposals, and giving them full credit for good intentions, I feel myself constrained to say that both their amendments must fail because they will undoubtedly have no effect whatsoever on the purpose which they seek to implement.

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