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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr SPOONER (Robertson) .- The clause under consideration deals entirely with the remuneration of the commission, and is not concerned with the question of whether the broadcasting service shall be conducted by a commission. The committee has already approved of clause 8, which deals with the setting up of a commission of five members. It is clear that the general manager will be a servant of the commission, because the bill provides that the commission shall, in due course, appoint a general manager and fix his remuneration. The commission is to be responsible to this Parliament, but the general manager is not. I am entirely in agreement with the recommendation of the committee which investigated this matter. My experience of public companies and commercial interests has convinced me that the committee has recommended the safest and soundest procedure generally for the control of such an organization.

Mr Brennan - Has it been followed on this occasion?

Mr SPOONER - Yes. The danger which I find in some organizations that deal with public affairs is that too much control gets into the hands of the general manager, and too little control is exercised by the commission or by the Parliament. That is the reason, I take it, for the recommendation of the joint committee. The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will receive a substantial remuneration, so that he may devote a considerable portion of his time to the control of the general manager, and the organization. That will be to the advantage of broadcasting and will protect this Parliament.

I have heard it said that this procedure is different from that adopted in commercial spheres. With that statement I disagree, because there is no general practice. Many companies follow different procedure. Some prefer to have a chairman who is a figurehead and who receives only a small remuneration; but many very successful companies have a chairman who is regularly on the job, controls policy, and sees that the decisions of the board are given effect That I conceive to be the position of the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He will convene meetings of the commission for the purpose of determining policy, but he will see that the general manager and his staff carry out that policy. If he does that, he must be regularly on the job for long periods. If he has only to attend to the affairs of the commission at irregular intervals, the control of the undertaking will get away from the policy of the commission and this Parliament.

Mr Sheehan - -Where does the chairman possess any measure of control when the three lower-paid commissioners may outvote him?

Mr SPOONER - The chairman will have no greater voting power than the other commissioners, but I imagine that, as he will be on the job for a large part of his time, they will give due weight to his opinions. It does not necessarily follow that they will adopt his recommendations every time; but if his colleagues have confidence in him and he supports his advice with reasons, they will listen to him. The fact that he does not possess a greater voting-power than the other commissioners does not fix the measure of his remuneration.

Mr Jolly - The Prime Minister has only one vote in this chamber.

Mr SPOONER - That is an excellent analogy. The chairman will be paid for the amount of time and skilled attention that he must give to the work in order to see that the policy of the commission, as determined from time to time, is given effect. I shall express no personal opinion upon the proposed remuneration of £1,250 per annum for the chairman, because the joint committee examined this matter. But with the principle underlying the proposed remuneration of the chairman, I am entirely in accord.

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