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Monday, 24 May 1965


Senator COHEN (Victoria) .- I support the amendment because without it this Bill has no teeth. It is an academic exercise. It will not operate adversely to any group which has acquired controlling interests in commercial television licences, even where those interests have been acquired by flouting the Government's policy. This Bill will do nothing to disturb the present control of the newspaper monopolies which, broadly speaking, substantially own the television stations and operate them. It will proceed on the assumption that what is done cannot be undone. In other words, we will all be left with the uncomfortable feeling that the Government's supporters have put it over the Government, thumbed their noses at the stated Government policy and got away with it. All that this Bill does is to put the seal of approval on what has been done in the past. It leaves the controlling interests entirely unaffected and deals only with the future.

Unless the Government is prepared to face up to that central problem, this legislation, interesting and all as it is, compli cated as it is - perhaps too complicated for what it sets out to do, as Senator Wright observes - will achieve nothing without teeth, particularly in view of the revelation we have had during the debate this morning that the Bill covers not only certain persons who were in contravention of the spirit of the law before the prescribed date but also those who may have been in contravention of the letter of the law before the prescribed date. They are the people who are contemplated in proposed section 92 (3.) (a) (ii), and whom the Committee discussed not half an hour ago. Unless we recognise this reality we shall have to pass a meaningless piece of legislation, because the consolidated and entrenched interests are not going to disgorge their shareholdings. The only people therefore, who can be in contemplation under this legislation now and in the future are those who already hold substantial interests and might come into breach of the new Act by acquiring a prescribed interest in a third station, people who have two stations and are thinking of a third, or people who are not yet in the field of having substantial interests in or having substantial control over television stations. Those people who are not yet in the field in the present situation are going to be out of the field for an awfully long time. There is just not going to be any way of breaking in.







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