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Wednesday, 11 November 1964

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) (2:20 AM) - The argument that I used in relation to Senator Cohen's amendment applies to the amendment moved by Senator Buttfield. This amendment is virtually identical with one that was moved in another place, and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme), on behalf of the Government, declined to accept that amendment. It should not be overlooked, of course, when we talk in terms of Australian content, that it is the right of every viewer to chose his own programme. If he wants to look at imported programmes, it is his right to do so. There have been indications in the debate tonight which would rather suggest that we were to force on the viewing audience willynilly a degree of Australian content regardless of its absolute merit.

The Government, the Postmaster-General and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board recognise that it is desirable to encourage Australian content. It is an historical fact that they have been insisting upon an increase in Australian content to 45 per cent, and that as from next year the figure will rise by 5 per cent, to 50 per cent. It is an historical fact that they have insisted upon a certain percentage of these programmes being shown in the peak hours which are the popular viewing times. Those are acts which are directed towards an objective. It would be fatal to suggest that the result that Senator Buttfield wants and that the Select Committee had in mind could be obtained by a form of interference in the whole structure of payment of licence fees. The Postmaster-general in another place gave the assurance to which Senator Hannan referred. He said that he was making an examination of all the problems, that he was not unaware of the desire to encourage increased Australian content but that this was not the way to do it. He also pointed out that the amendment would yield an insignificant amount of money for the purpose of encouragement. The Government is not prepared to accept- the amendment.

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