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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) .- This clause seems to confer on the Minister very arbitrary powers. He may, by notice in writing, suspend or revoke and determine any licence of a commercial broadcasting station " on the ground that the licensee has failed to comply with any provision of this act or the regulations or with any condition of the licence," or because he considers it advisable in the public interest to do so. If such action be taken, the licensee will not be entitled to any compensation. In my opinion, the Minister already possesses sufficient power, because he is not obliged to renew . a licence. Under clause 54, a licence shall be granted for such period, not exceeding three years, as the Minister determines. He may refuse, at his discretion, to renew a licence. Clause 57 will vest in him an unnecessary arbitrary power which may be abused. If this clause be agreed to, he will be able to close a commercial broadcasting station because he, in his own discretion, considers it advisable in the public interest to do so. Power in that form should not be given to the Minister. A commercial broadcasting station should not be obliged to close unless it commits a breach of the provisions of the act or fails to comply with a direction given by the Minister. Clause 73 provides that the Minister may require the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station to include without charge in his programme such items of general interest or utility as the Minister from time to time determines. Sub-clause 3 of clause 68 states that the Minister may from time to time prohibit the licensee from broadcasting any matter specified in the notice served upon him. If the licensee disregards those instructions, he has failed to comply with the law, and his licence may be cancelled on that ground. That should be sufficient. The Minister's power to cancel a licence summarily should be limited to cases where the licensee has broken the law, or failed to observe the conditions of the licence; but the Minister should not possess this arbitrary, unrestricted power to cancel a licence because he thinks it advisable in the public interest to do so.

Mr Archie Cameron - How does the honorable member interpret the words " public interest " ?

Mr BLACKBURN - The Minister's conception of public interest may be vastly different from the opinion of other people. Clause 110 empowers the Go vernment to control broadcasting stations in cases of emergency, but the Minister'* view of what is advisable in the public interest may not be shared by the House. Some principle should be laid down to guide him in this matter.

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