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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) . - I agree with the observations of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) about the urgent necessity for the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to interest himself in the multiplicity of activities that it must undertake; but I suggest to him that there is a difference between the chairman interesting himself in material factors of policy, and interesting himself in administrative matters that rightly are the responsibility of the general manager.

Mr Francis - How does the honorable member know that that has happened?

Mr HARRISON - The criticism that has been levelled in the past at the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is that he has. interested himself unduly in matters of administration. I have no doubt that, in carrying out his duties, he has been obliged to impinge upon administrative matters: but I venture to say that when the commission is functioning smoothly, the chairman will not find it so necessary to interest himself in staff matters.

Regarding the remuneration of the chairman, I hope that the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) will not call for a division upon his amendment. Obviously, the chairman of a commission entrusted with the control of a huge organization, which receives and expends large sums of money and provides a major essential service, is not excessively rewarded when he is paid £1,250 per annum. Indeed, other countries recognize that the chairman or governor of a corporation similar to the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be paid considerably more than the remuneration -which will be granted to th° chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. With regard to the margin between the chairman and other members of the commission, it is interesting to note that the chairman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is paid 1,500 dollars a year, but the members of the corporation receive approximately 50 dollars for each meeting that they attend, with a maximum of 500 dollars. Obviously, the chairman, who has to perform so many duties that he is constantly on the job, should receive remuneration commensurate with his responsibilities.

Mr Morgan - Why not increase the allowances of the other commissioners?

Mr HARRISON - They are not required to devote such a large part of their time to matters appertaining to broadcasting. They will have occasion to attend only those meetings of the commission that deal with general matters of policy. If the policy is laid down at a meeting of the commission, it will be given, effect throughout the organization. It does not necessarily mean that the other members of the commission must be on deck for the purpose of seeing that the policy is carried out; but it is essential that some one who is a member of the commission shall supervise the putting into operation of that policy. Who could do it better than the chairman?

Mr Sheehan - The general manager.

Mr HARRISON - The honorable member must realize that there is a difference between the general manager carrying out a policy that has been laid down, and the chairman presiding over a body that decides policy. The general manager will certainly be entrusted with the administrative work, but he has to implement the commission's views upon policy. Only through the general manager, in combination with the chairman, can that policy be worked into the fabric of the commission. Therefore, the chairman must devote a considerable part of his time to ensuring that the policy of the commission shall be carried into effect.

Mr Morgan - Would not the commissioners have to devote more of their time to the job, if meetings were held in Canberra?

Mr HARRISON - The honorable member attends meetings of this House, but he is not domiciled in the Australian Capital Territory, and he is not here every day. It does not necessarily follow that every commissioner will attend every meeting. In view of the greater responsibilities that the chairman must carry I consider that the margin between his allowance and that provided for the other commissioners is not excessive. Until a chairman is appointed who is prepared to devote the whole of his time to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, our national broadcasting system will not be so high as that of other countries. I oppose the amendment.

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