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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 1234

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - When this debate was adjourned last Wednesday night I was about to deal with the documents on the question of Jetair Australia Ltd that Senator Wright had tabled on that day as a result of Senator Turnbull having raised the subject during the first reading debate of this Bill. When the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) replied at a later hour of the day he tabled a number of documents setting out the Government's position in relation to Jetair. Today other documents have been tabled and I understand that later in this session a full scale debate will be waged on the subject. So at this stage for the purpose of this discussion I cut my remarks on that subject to a minimum. To say the least - I am only going on the documents that were tendered by the Minister for Works last Wednesday, not having had the benefit of seeing those that were tabled-

Senator Greenwood - Under the Standing Orders, Senator Wright tabled only those documents that he quoted from last week. Today there has been a full scale tabling.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am just saying that I am going on the documents that he tabled last week and not on the documents that he tabled this week. Frankly, I hoped last week he would table all the documents at that stage so that we would have been given an opportunity to look at them then in view of the chronology of the events that took place arising from Senator Turnbull's remarks. Speaking about the documents that Senator Wright tabled last Wednesday - not the documents he tabled today - it would appear from my reading of them that to say the least they clearly indicate that the then Minister for Foreign Affairs gave his approval to the transaction from wrong - indeed, incredibly wrong - information supplied to him by his

Department. The ministerial statement made by the Minister for Works causes me further concern on the subject. But again I say that that is a matter for another debate at another time.

The matter that I wish to raise during the first reading of the income Tax Bill 1972 is in relation to a question that I directed to Senator Cotton on 18th May 1972. It concerned the situation of the textile industry in Australia. On 18th May, during the last sessional period. I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry:

Is the Minister aware that Courtaulds (Austra'ia) Ltd, which is situated in the Port Stephens Shire of New South Wales and which is one of the largest decentralised industries in N:w South Wales, employed 1,500 persons 5 years ago but now employs only a little over 800, the number of workers having been reduced by about 300 in the past 9 months-

That is, the 9 months preceding last May - . . due to reduced production following increased imports of competing products of manmade fibres from Asian countries? .... Is the Minister aware that great concern is felt about the future of the Australian textile industry by both management and textile : unions? Will the Government, declare whether the industry is to be allowed to develop or is to be stultified by uncontrolled floods of imports from low wage countries

The Minister, Senator Cotton, replied to my question without notice, which appears on page 1783 of Hansard. He said:

I know the Courtaulds factory at Tomago, lt has been going for quit- a long time. My recollection is that it was established towards the end of World War II as an Austraiian enterprise to produce fabric for the motor tyre industry, plus other things. Those who have followed its career as a decentralised industry would agree, I think, that it has had a long period of ups and downs. I know it has been a problem for the people who were in charge of it. The general pan of the question -

This is the particular matter that I wish to raise at this stage -

.   . relating lo the whole Australian textile industry is under review by the: Government. It is a long question and I think it ought to be looked at by the Department and a fully prepared answer should be given.

That was on 18th May. On 1st June, immediately after that sessional period had concluded for the winter recess, I wrote to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) drawing his attention to my question directed to Senator Cotton on 18th May and to Senator Cotton's reply.

In addition. 1 attached to my letter a copy of my question and a copy of Senator Cotton's answer. I said in my letter of 1st June: . . You will know that amongst other things Senator Cotton said 'lt is a long question and I think it ought lo be looked at by thz Department and :i fully prepared answer should be given'.

J drew the matter to the attention of the Minister for Trade and Industry in the hope that the Department would be able to furnish me with some detailed information on the subject. I received no reply to thai letter. So on 16th August 1972 - 2i months after I had written my first letter and nearly 3 months after I had asked the question - I again reminded the Minister for Trade and Industry. I wrote:

I refer lo my letter of 1st June drawing your attention to a question that I directed on 18th May. . . .

J further said:

As 1 have not as yet received a r-ply to my letter. I would appreciate your advising me whether your Department is now able to furnish me with detailed information on the subject.

That was on 16th August 1972; today is 27th September 1972. I have not even received a formal acknowledgment of that letter. I can tell the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), and I would request him to convey this to the Minister for Trade and Industry, that it is a pretty sad state of affairs that this should happen when a question is asked in the Senate, when the Minister sitting at the table says he will refer it to the Department. I, taking out a double indemnity policy, as it were, wrote to the Minister on 1st June. Receiving no acknowledgment 1 wrote again on 16th August, and again received no acknowledgment. If this is the manner in which the Government is treating not only the problems of the workers, who are very concerned about retrenchments in the textile industry and the build-up of unemployment in the industry, but also the problems of management, it is a pretty poor state of affairs.

I plead with the Minister for Civil Aviation to take this matter up with his colleague in another place and draw his attention not only to the protracted delay but also the complete ignoring of the matter after it had been raised in this chamber and on 2 occasions by me by way of correspondence. The situation I outlined applies not only to Courtaulds (Australia) Ltd on the north coast of New South Wales but to the textile industry generally. I know that officials of the Australian Textile Workers Union and of the Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia are very concerned about the large number of importations coming to Australia that are competing with products produced and manufactured in this country. The imports are creating substantial unemployment. At least the Government has the responsibility of stating where it stands so that the management and the workers involved in the industry will know what their future is.

I now wish to raise a matter which I seem to raise annually, if not more frequently. I refer to the great difficulties being encountered by Australian artists and Australian entertainers in securing the right to work, let alone work, in their own country. I believe that the Government has to give very careful consideration to the situation affecting the great number of people who are being deprived of the opportunity to display, exhibit and portray their skills and talents - their undoubted skills and talents - to the Australian community. Not so long ago Senator Hannan raised by way of a question in this place the proposal of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to cease programming the Australian children's television programme Adventure Island' at the end of this year. I raised that matter also in the course of the debate relating to the education of isolated children that took place recently.

I have received a large number of letters from people in many areas of Australia suggesting that this programme should be kept on the air, not only because it is an Australian programme but also because it is a high quality one and, probably more importantly, because it is a high quality Australian children's television programme which informs children, educates them, entertains them and imparts to them some knowledge of their own country. A great number of the people who wrote to me pointed out that throughout many of the imported children's programmes there is a predominant theme of violence, vengeance, American flag waving, the portrayal of American attitudes, American values and American solutions. They said that Adventure Island' gave a very refreshing Australian point of view which educated, informed and entertained Australian children.

I hope that not only I but all members of this Parliament will plead with the Australian Broadcasting Commission to review the decision to remove this programme from the air. Again I emphasise that I make that plea nol only because it is an Australian programme. I am one of those people who do not want merely quantity in terms of Australian programmes; 1 also want Australian programmes of quality It seems strange to me that this programme which attracts a large viewing audience has to be taken off the air while its counterpart, for want of a better term, 'Sesame Street' - I think it is an American or Canadian production - is retained. If that sort of thing continues to take place there is no hope for children's programmes on Australian television. After all is said and done, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was so concerned about the dearth of decent children's television programmes in this country that it appointed a children's programming advisory board. I do not know the outcome of that board's recommendations but I know that it sat for at least 2 years to consider the problem. I hope that this matter relating to children's television programmes will receive attention.

Yesterday the annual report for 1971-72 of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was tendered. 1 noticed at page 7 of that report a reference to this aspect of Australian content. The Board said:

In some departments, such as drama, science programmes and education, the ABC has now developed skills and talents to a level where significant and high-quality programmes could be produced in greater quantity. However, unless more money is made available for the development and exploitation of these resources of expertise and experience, they will be largely wasted. Deterioration in the quantity and quality of Australian programmes because of a continued lack of adequate funds for programme development would be unfortunate.

If lack of adequate funds for programme development is the determining factor causing the ABC to remove 'Adventure Island' from its children's television programming, I hope that it will consider removing some of the foreign stuff in order to continue this programme. Indeed, I go further and say that the Government should consider increasing the subvention to the ABC to enable it to expand sufficiently.

I now wish to refer briefly to the recent report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to show how opportunities for professional variety entertainers have been greatly restricted and impeded. If one peruses the graph on pages 98 and 99 of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board's report one finds that the number of viewing hours of Australian drama on commercial television stations has increased from 35.7 hours in 1964 - that was about the time of the presentation of the Vincent Committee's report - to 215.6 hours in 1972. That is a substantial and very welcome increase. I do not say for one moment that all the Australian dramatic programmes presented are of high quality but at least an opportunity has been given to Australians working in this area of drama to display and to exploit, for want of a better term, their skills and talents. I hope that gradually as this opportunity is given to them to develop their skills and talents not only will the quantity increase but also the quality. I am very confident that the quality will improve. Undoubtedly these people have enormous skills and talents. Those in authority are responsible for developing a somewhat similar skill in our producers and directors. Our writers and our actors are first class; it is the production and direction side of our programmes that needs assistance.

In 1964 there were 173.4 hours devoted to professional variety programmes on commercial television, but in 1972 - 8 years later - the number of hours of variety had been reduced to 92.4, which was a drop of nearly 50 per cent when there should have been an increase. On 12th September the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) supplied me with an answer to a question about the number of applications that had been received by the Department of Immigration for working permits to be issued to foreign entertainers to perform in Australia in each of the last 3 years and as to the number that had been approved. The information supplied by the Minister was staggering. From 1st October 1969 to 30th September 1970 - a period of 12 months - the number of work permits issued to foreign entertainers amounted to 525; from 1st October 1970 to 30th September 1971 there were 516 work permits issued to foreign entertainers; and from 1st

October 1971 to 12th September, the date the question was answered, there had been 592 work permits issued to foreign entertainers lo perform in Australia.

So in addition to a reduction in the number of hours of variety programmes from 173 in 1964 to 92 in 1972, in the last 3-year period Australian entertainers have had to compete with 1,600 foreign entertainers who have come to Australia merely to entertain Australians. Yet the vast bulk of those who come in are nowhere near as good as the Australian entertainers. 1 believe that the Government should be taking action to protect the skills and talents of Australian entertainers and should be giving them an opportunity to exhibit their talents for the benefit of Australia, both here and overseas. If the same percentage of Australian entertainers were given work permits to go to the United States, calculated on the American population and on a pro rata basis 16,000 Australians would have work permits issued to them to enable them to work in that country. Calculated on the population of the United Kingdom, on a pro rata basis 7,500 Australians would be able to work in the United Kingdom each year.

I appeal to the Government not only to take steps to see what can be done to increase opportunities for Australian performers in professional variety on commercial television programmes but also to tighten up considerably the number of foreign work permits issued to entertainers to come to Australia. I wanted to make those remarks at this stage rather than speak in the debate on the adjournment as I believe they are matters of great importance to Australia if we are to have an awareness of our history, our heritage and our future. The Government should be taking action to ensure that such a policy is implemented.

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