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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) (Minister for Supply and Development) . - The second-reading debate disclosed that honorable members unanimously accepted the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting. It cannot be denied that the members of the committee have a greater knowledge of the work of the commission, and particularly of the chairman, than could be had by honorable members generally. I suspect that a personal element has intruded into this discussion and that the individual and not the position is the matter at issue. At this stage honorable members are not entitled to do other than look at this question broadly. Parliament is being asked to appoint a commission of which one member shall be a woman. It is then asked to decide the remuneration of the chairman and members of the commission. We are dealing with offices, not with individuals.

Mr Holt - The commission has not yet been appointed.

Mr BEASLEY - That is so. The question is whether the chairman ought to be paid the salary recommended by the joint committee. Members of this committee know that the chairman of parliamentary committees, of which there have been many, are paid more than the other members.

Mr Archie Cameron - But not four times as much.

Mr BEASLEY - The remuneration of the chairman of any body is governed by his duties. I hope that Parliament does not wanta nominal chairman of the commission. It would be better to pay a reasonable salary and have the full services of the chairman than pay half a salary for a chairman who would give to other sources of income time that ought to be devoted to the affairs of the commission. I remind honorable members that this legislation is much more comprehensive than was the original Australian Broadcasting Commission Act. It embraces, not only the national broadcasting stations, but also the commercial stations, and, whilst the commission will not exercise direct control over the commercial stations, it will be a factor in the administration of broadcasting generally throughout Australia, and the chairman will, I hope, give all his energies and capacity to making the broadcasting system national in character. That is an aspect of this matter which I impress on the mind of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) who, as a member of the Labour party, must be interested in the establishment of a national broadcasting service controlled by the Government. If so, he should agree that the Parliament must pay to the chairman of the commission such remuneration as will enable him to devote his services entirely to the service of the country. The eventual establishment of the commission's head-quarters in Canberra does not affect the issue now before the committee. When the head office is established in Canberra, the commission will meet here, say, every month, but the duties of the chairman will not end at the conclusion of those meetings. The chairman will have to prepare the business for the commission to attend to, and, after decisions have been made, it will be his responsibility to ensure that they shall be carried into effect. He will have to follow the decisions right through.I draw an analogy between the chairman of the commission and myself as chairman of the Australian Food. Council. That council met at Canberra to-day. Certain decisions were reached. The. council ha? dispersed, and I have to see that the decisions shall be carried into effect. The real work of the council will start tomorrow and I shall have to do it.

Mr Archie Cameron - If the honorable member draws that analogy all the decisions of the Australian Broadcasting

Commission should be carried out by the Postmaster-General.

Mr Scullin - The analogy is between the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs.

Mr BEASLEY - Exactly. It would not be possible for Ministers to do all the actual work. That is why we have a public service. Ministers, however, must supervise what is done, and ensure that decisions are put into effect. If they did not do so, they would be asked why in this chamber, particularly by the honorable member for Barker. Cabinet, which Isas faith in the members of the joint committee and confidence in their work, believes that the committee's recommendation as to the salaries of the chairman and members of the commission should be accepted. A standing committee will be appointed to watch generally the broadcasting system. I am not prepared to accept the amendment.

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