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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2431

Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - by leave - Mr President, before the autumn session of this Parliament closes I wish briefly to advise the Senate of the progress which one of its standing committees is making in its current inquiry. I refer to the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts and its reference from the Senate to inquire into all aspects of broadcasting and television, including the Australian content of television programmes. Honourable senators will recall that this Committee concluded its previous assignment dealing with the Commonwealth role in teacher education and put down its report in the Senate on the first day of this session. Immediately this was done the Committee took preliminary steps to commence its current inquiry which relates to broadcasting and television. Honourable senators will agree that this reference is a very wide one. The Committee took time to examine the various forms and styles which the investigation might take. It examined relevant Acts of Parliament and made inquiries of the agencies and authorities involved. An exercise of particular value was a study visit to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in Melbourne. These studies suggested guidelines for the Committee to follow in calling for evidence.

The inquiry was advertised and, by way of response, over 100 submissions from a wide range of interests have now been received. On 4th May the Committee commenced its public hearings in Sydney. It was a 2-day hearing with the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board as the only witness. Since then additional hearings have been conducted which featured representatives of the Australian PosĀ» Office. Immediately this parliamentary session concludes the Committee will meet representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial broadcasting and television interests. Arrangements are in hand for a series of hearings in the recess during which a number of witnesses from a variety of appropriate interests will meet the Committee. lt may be of interest to observe that the present inquiry is the first of its kind since the Joint Parliamentary Committee chaired by the then Senator Gibson inquired into the whole field of broadcasting in 1942. There have been other inquiries into specific and limited areas connected with the media but the size of the present inquiry will also provide for a study of the interdependence between the various facets and spheres within the total subject. This will mean that some considerable time must elapse before a final report is made.

However, the Committee expects to table an interim report during the Budget session of the Parliament. The fact that it will be an interim report only tends to highlight one of the major problems confronting Senate committees. This relates to the size and scope of the references banded to committees by the Senate. It may be that it would be beneficial if references were kept within limits upon which reports could be made within a reasonable period. An extensive reference such as the one in which we are now engaged could be divided into segments and taken one at a time. The Committee has renewed its aim to listen to various opinions and to bring out every aspect and viewpoint on the subject referred to it. It hopes to make eventually a well considered and useful report to the Senate.

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