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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (3:15 AM) . - The joint committee recommended that old-age pensioners living alone, and schools with an attendance of fewer than 50 pupils, shall be entitled to receive a free listener's licence. The committee was concerned mainly with the principle of ability to pay, but the request of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) does not take that into account. Many totally and permanently incapacitated persons are not poor, and there is no reason why they should not be expected to pay for a listener's licence.

Mr Jolly - This applies, not to individuals, but to associations.

Mr CALWELL - I was originally under that impression, but the amendment actually means that every person who is totally and permanently incapaci tated as a result of war service shall, regardless of his means, be entitled to a free listener's licence. That is a new principle, and the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) should not accept it at this stage. The proposal is worthy of consideration by the standing committee. If we once depart from the principle of ability to pay, we shall be inundated with requests for free licences. In a few years, when regional stations are established at Geraldton, Broken Hill, Longreach and other centres, the Australian Broadcasting Commission will not have sufficient money, from the revenue it derives from its share of the licence-fees, to maintain its services. Similarly, the PostmasterGeneral's Department, from its proportion of the fee, will not be able to provide land lines and other technical services. Consequently Parliament, upon the completion of the chain of national broadcasting stations, will be obliged to vote money from Consolidated Revenue for the purpose of assisting to provide those services, or to increase the licence-fee. Whilst all honorable members like to be compassionate, there should be some test of ability to pay before we accept the amendment of the honorable member for Perth.

Sir Frederick Stewart - The Australian Broadcasting Commission is now receiving more revenue than it ever dreamed of.

Mr CALWELL - It is a matter, not of what the commission ever dreamed of, but of what it requires. The facts which I have given to honorable members were submitted in evidence to the joint committee. We must not open the gate, so that various associations will ask Parliament to grant to their members this concession. I make this additional point. When the financial emergency legislation was being introduced into this Parliament, the Treasurer of the day stated that a Macquarie-street specialist.-

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment.

Mr CALWELL - This statement deals with the principle of ability to pay. The medical practitioner was earning £3,000 a year and, in addition, was receiving a war service pension. Ifhe had been totally and permanently incapacitated in the sense that he was not able to attend to his practice, but had investments in property, he would, under this proposal, have been eligible to receive a free listener's licence. I urge the honorable member for Perth not to persist with the amendment, because the joint committee, which considered the matter, did not think that the concession should be granted at this stage. If the amendment were accepted, before long the number of people receiving free licences would exceed the number of people who paid for their licences.

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