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Wednesday, 4 December 1935

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . - The item relating to broadcasting appearing in these Estimates covers expenditure incurred in supplying engineering services, information of an advisory character, research into the science of radio, and engineering investigations which are constantly being made in every centre in Australia to ascertain whether channels are functioning rightly for the efficiency of the services as a whole. But this provision has no relation to the work of the B class stations except, as Senator Gibson has pointed out, insofar as those stations hire from the department lines on which to transmit their programmes. That, however, is not an item of expenditure.

Senator Gibson - What of the upkeep of those lines?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - These estimates make provision for the department's telephonic, telegraphic and radio activities. To discuss the whole subject of broadcasting at this juncture would, I suggest, be out of order.

Senator Arkins - The PostmasterGeneral has not yet actually answered my question. I agree that the section of the Estimates now under review deals with the engineering side of broadcasting. But there are two sides to this matter, and I again ask the PostmasterGeneral whether in the schedule there is any provision upon which we can review the activities of the Broadcasting Commission itself which controls and regulates A class programmes?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - 'There is no such provision in these Estimates.

Senator Arkins - That seems rather strange to me. If I remember rightly, the revenue . received from radio licences which is applied to the upkeep of A class stations, is approximately £400,000 annually. This matter is of vital interest to hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia, and as it comes directly under the jurisdiction of the Postmaster-General's Department, there is something radically wrong when we are not permitted to discuss it on the annual Appropriation Bill.

Senator Cooper - There is a reference to national broadcasting services in item No. 5, division No. 26, page 276 of the Estimates.

The CHAIRMAN - "We are not dealing with the Estimates; we are dealing with the Appropriation Bill.

Senator Cooper - Are not the Estimates covered by this bill?

TheCHAIRMA N. - In any case, the committee has already dealt with division 26 and cannot revert to it.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The item to which Senator Cooper has referred was covered by the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill which has already been passed.

Senator Gibson - Would I. be in order, Mr. Chairman, in discussing the effect of the operations of B class stations on the national broadcasting services? The Postmaster-General apparently thinks that I am antagonistic to him; but I desire to help him. Evidently, however, he does not, want my help.

The CHAIRMAN - I desire to help h onorable senators by allowing the fullest discussion within the scope of the Estimates, but. I cannot allow a general discussion on broadcasting, or a debate on the activities of A and B class stations into which such a discussion would obviously develop. We are discussing the bill, and the remarks of honorable senators must be related to items contained therein.

Senator Gibson - Surely, Mr. Chairman, the item, National Broadcasting Services, covers broadcasting as a whole, If that is so, it is competent for me to show how the national broadcasting services are being affected by the operations of B class stations.

The CHAIRMAN - I cannot allow a general discussion on broadcasting.

Senator Arkins - Is it competent for me, Mr. Chairman, to move that this Senate is of the opinion that these Estimates are not complete? If so, I shall move to that effect because I hold the view that they are not complete, when a matter such as broadcasting, which is one of the largest activities of the Postmaster-General's Department, is not mentioned in this bill.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable senator may only move a request on some item appearing in this bill.

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