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Thursday, 28 April 1932

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) , - I realize that this is a bill which can best be dealt with in committee, because of the large number of clauses that it contains. However, I shall discuss briefly one or two of the fundamental principles which underlie this great national service, and I shall speak from a national rather ;han, like the last' speaker, a State point of view, no doubt because he had special reason for so doing.

This measure deals with what is deemed to be one of the most essential and powerful services that any nation can control. Its potentialities are almost inestimable, as wireless broadcasting so greatly affects the mental outlook of every individual. I believe that the differences of opinion that may exist between honorable members on this subject largely concern the details of control. Surely it must be the universal opinion that the nature of this service is so important as to warrant its being controlled by the nation rather than by private enterprise. Many Australians appear , to be suffering under an inferiority complex as to the accomplishments of their own people. In spite of the youth of our nation and the fact that we are still pioneering large portions of this continent, we can point to achievements for which the people of other nations have expressed unqualified admiration. I instance our wireless, telephone, and telegraph services. Such men as the present Director of Posts and Telegraphs, and the general manager of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, may transcend any other of our citizens in ability, but they certainly cannot be transcended by anybody in other countries. I say that, not because of any personal association with those gentlemen, but because I know many of the things that they have accomplished.

The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) recently said that the potential powers of wireless broadcasting are so great that we .must be exceedingly careful when dealing with a measure such as this. I go further and point out that there are grave dangers ahead if we allow this service to be controlled by private enterprise. Experts the world over express the fear that a great deal of rivalry and hatred will be generated in the future in the fight that will occur for the control of zones of the ethereal spaces. That emphasizes the need for placing this service under national control."

We must all agree that some sort of national control in the matter is imperative. The whole trouble appears to be how to determine the extent of that control. A number of honorable members have treated the subject rather lightly, and have expressed fear of political interference with the administration of this service. When I mention national control I mean that those who are appointed to represent the nation should determine the policy of such a. service as this. I do not believe for a moment that the representatives of the people would dream .of improperly interfering with those entrusted to administer a national service.

I favour the. original bill because it suggested a greater degree of national control than is now proposed. An examination of the way in which the great services of this country are administered leaves nothing for us to be ashamed of. This continent has a coast line which is one of the longest in the world, yet every marine expert who visits Australia expresses unqualified admiration at the way in which our lights and beacons are mapped out, and our navigation service is conducted. Take again our medical services, our quarantine regulations; they are conducted by the nation, and they are as well managed as similar services in any other country in the world. Why, then, should we be apprehensive about the control of wireless broadcasting by the nation ? The present government wants the line of demarcation in these matters determined by leaving to the nation the control of all those services which are essential to the well being of the country, but do not lend themselves to ready profit making, leaving to private enterprise the services which do lend themselves to large profit making.

A great deal of conflict exists upon the subject of the nation controlling banking. We know that a great fight was put up to prevent the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. It was claimed that that institution would be politically controlled, and we still hear fears expressed that it may become the shuttlecock of politicians. We know that that bank has proved itself of the greatest service to this country in the few years that it has existed; also that the suggestion of political interference with the administration of the bank has not been justified. There is no great outstanding service of the world, not even the Bank of England, which is not under some sort of national control, and whose policy is not to some extent directed by the parliament of the country concerned. Surely it must be obvious to every person who can eliminate from his mind the bogy of .party politics that all big national services must be controlled by the nation. If it is good that the pioneering section of our transport that develops the country, our navigation laws, the mapping out of our water highways, 30 ensuring safe approach to our shores, the administration of our docks, harbours, post and telegraph services, educational services, medical services and quarantine services should be under the control of the nation, surely this huge fundamental activity should also be under like control. I am confident that it can be successfully managed by the nation, with ministerial control when necessary, directed by parliamentary decisions. The ministerial overseeing of the administrative head of a service is right and proper, and in the interests of the people of the country. I cannot remember any person who has held ministerial rank in Australia betraying the confidence of the people in respect of his trusteeship of a department. I admit that certain activities of wireless broadcasting can well be sub-let to private enterprise. The nation need not be encumbered with such " undignified transactions as the control of the' advertising of socks and such like matters. However, if the people are to be charged with the cost of developing this service, some portion at least of its profit-making activities should be left to them. It is too lop-sided to provide that the difficult technical operations should be left to governments, while private enterprise is given control of the profitmaking activities. - 1 do not agree that political or national control of public services is necessarily wrong; nor do I agree that satisfactory service to the people oan be given only by private enterprise. In saying that, I do not suggest that there is anything inherently wrong with private enterprise. But I submit that essential services should not be handed over to private control, but should be directed and controlled by the representatives of the nation - the parliament of the country. Moreover, the administration of such services should bc entrusted to the most highly trained experts obtainable, who should be paid salaries commensurate with their ability. The Government should retain some of the profit-making activities of the service, in order to make possible the granting of further facilities to the people.

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