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Tuesday, 3 May 1932

Mr E J HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - This bill was obviously introduced to assist the development of wireless broadcasting in Australia as a national service. I was surprised, therefore, to find that clause 17 contained some of the provisions to which objection has been taken. We should regard broadcasting as a national undertaking, and should not, at this stage, consider the setting-up of an authority which would compete with private enterprise. I was astounded to hear the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who obviously believes in nationalization, say that, as the commission will be a business concern it should not even consult the Minister in connexion with the establishment of subsidiary industries. The only conclusion I could come to was that he realized that, as the clause would be carried, it was preferable from his point of view that the commission should handle the business rather than the Minister. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), having in mind the policy which his party favours, can see no good whatever in the clause. He considers that the Minister should have complete control because he believes in the policy of nationalization. Apparently he thinks that anything which has to do with private enterprise should be eternally damned, and so he supports absolute ministerial control. The honorable member fbr Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) sought to establish that the Lithgow small arms enterprise, which manufactures combs and cutters for shearing machines, is a parallel case to that which we are now considering.


Mr E J HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In any case the two enterprises are in no sense parallel. The Lithgow small arms factory had certain equipment installed for a particular purpose, and there was certainly something to be said for finding work for the plant, so that it could be kept in profitable operation. But the proposed wireless commission need have no plant of that nature. Its duty is to do certain things for the development of broadcasting. There is no reason why it should engage in certain activities which would bring it into competition with private enterprise. I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner. It is our duty to pass constructive legislation ; but we should not leave the way open for a governmental authority unnecessarily to undertake enterprises which should properly be left to private individuals. If the amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner is agreed to, the Broadcasting Commission could, at a later date, seek the permission of the Government to engage in subsidiary enterprises connected with "wireless if it considered it necessary to do so. Certain honorable members have argued that the placing of this control in the hands of the commission would lead to the cheapening of wireless facilities to the general public; but we know very well from experience that nothing cheapens the price of commodities and equipment of every kind more than competition. After all, private enterprise controls SO per cent, of the work of the community, and if may be relied upon, because of the competitive spirit which is abroad to keep the price of wireless or other equipment down to a figure which purchasers can afford to pay. The placing of the power to engage in subsidiary enterprises, or in general business, with commissions and boards is not likely to cheapen prices for the general public, as the recent experience of New South Wales in connexion with its honey board, its egg board and its milk board has conclusively shown. The operation of those boards has resulted in an increase in prices to the people. We should not, therefore, take any steps which might stifle competition, for it is the most effective agent in keeping prices at a reasonable level. We should not restrict the commission in any way whatsoever. If it should find it necessary at a later date to engage in certain subsidiary enterprises, the way should be open for it to ask the Government for permission to do so. The amendment' of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is, in my opinion, too drastic. I very much prefer the proposal of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), for it will enable the commission, with the approval of the Government, to do certain things if it regards them as necessary to promote the best interest's of broadcasting.

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