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Thursday, 29 March 1973
Page: 860

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - As the seconder of the motion I accept the amendment that has been put forward by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I suggest that the willingness of the Government to accept this Opposition proposal is an indication that it is prepared to look closely at something which we have not examined in detail before but which has been in existence in some other countries for many years. The effect of televised proceedings could be gauged by the installation of closed circuit television. The Minister for Services and Property referred to experiments in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. But as far as I am concerned conditions in Australia are far different from those in Europe in that we are one of the few countries which allows a continuous broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings when Parliament is in session. A study by the inter-Parliamentary Union in 1968 revealed that of a total of SO countries 29 transmit live or recorded broadcasts of daily debates and 20 transmit live or recorded television of daily debates. The study revealed also that Denmark has a full coverage on both radio and television.

Various surveys have proven that people consider what they see for themselves on television to be more authentic and more interesting than what they might read. I believe that the Parliament, the nation's political workshop, should not be seen just by those people who can afford to travel to Canberra or those who live in the immediate vicinity of the nation's capital. Parliament should be seen also by people in the far-flung areas of this country. It should be seen by the people of Perth, Cairns, Townsville and the people of Brisbane. I know that many people never have the opportunity to see what is going on down here. All they ever have to rely on is the writings of those people who sit in judgment in the Press gallery and at times a disjointed appreciation gained over the radio. Unfortunately throughout Australia today there are still places where the broadcast of parliamentary proceedings is not available.

I believe that the prime consideration of whether Parliamentary proceedings should be televised is whether or not parliamentary democracy will be strengthened as a result of our allowing the proceedings of this Parliament to go on television to the people. It is my view that parliamentary democracy will be strengthened and advanced by televising proceedings. The Minister for Services and Property, now at the table, mentioned that the experience in the United Kingdom was that the younger members of Parliament were in favour of televising the proceedings while the older members were not so much in favour of it. Looking around the chamber I do not see many honourable members whom I would put in the category of being old. I know that the Minister for Services and Property and you, Mr Speaker, have been here for a long long time, but you came in at a young age and I am quite sure that as individuals you would not for a moment be frightened of the glaring lights and the television camera. I suggest that in recent years members of the Parliament have become used to television. It is something that we do not all shy from. We are not frightened if we are asked to go on television. As long as we know the subject about which we are invited to speak we go on with considerable confidence and appearance.

There are those who say that the better looking members of the Parliament will attract the attention of the operators of the television cameras. I do not believe that this would be so. We would not have the glamour boys, like the Minister at the table, stealing all the television time because the cameras, just as the people, would be searching for those qualities of sincerity and would not wish to highlight arrogance. The television camera would soon unmask incompetence and reveal intellectual, moral and rhetorical qualities. This in itself would have the effect of a check upon members of this Parliament, because if they knew that they were to be under scrutiny they would just not loosely prepare their speeches. They would put a lot more thought into what they intended to say. I do not think that every member will regard Parliament as a stage. I do not think this will happen, because we here already take little notice of the presence of people in the galleries. I have seen honourable members at times, particularly some supporters of the Government when they were in Opposition, enjoy a full gallery and they used to play to the gallery. But they did this in a fun kind of way and the quality of their speeches really was unaffected when they did have an audience. I believe that after a time members would become used to the fact that they might be on television.

The argument has been advanced that a certain member might be dozing in his seat and that the television camera might focus on him in an endeavour to show him up and thus this would detract from the institution of Parliament. I believe that if we did implement the Danish system where the proceedings of Parliament were televised from the commencement till the end of the day people would understand that there is a possibility that some members might doze off at times. But I would not like to see a full televising of the proceedings. I would like to see televised excerpts of the day, the coverage of particularly important debates which both the Government and the Opposition agreed were the subject of such public interest that the public should be given the opportunity to see them.

Mr Kelly - Such as tariffs?

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - The honourable member for Wakefield says: 'Tariffs'. I do not think we need to introduce television for the entire nation to be aware of his interest in that subject. Heavens, I have lost my train of thought.

Mr IAN ROBINSON (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - You had better not do that on television.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - If this happens it might show the people that we are simply humans and representative of the population. In seconding this proposal I congratulate the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) for being so quick off the mark in bringing this subject before the Parliament. He telephoned me in early January and said that he would like to see this proposal considered and perhaps even introduced. He said that he still had an open mind on the subject and that while there may be some disadvantages there were many advantages. He has had a continuing interest in the promotion of Parliament as an institution. It is the institution of Parliament that preserves our democratic system. Without it the freedoms which this nation enjoys would be imperilled. In this place feelings are expressed and questions are answered. It is indeed an important institution. If there is any way that we can protect it and promote it I am in favour of it. I certainly hope, since I have stated that in my view all the members of this Parliament are reasonably young, that they will follow the example of the United Kingdom where the younger members of the Parliament voted in favour of the proposition and the older members - they are certainly in the minority here - were less inclined to favour such a scheme.

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