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Tuesday, 3 May 1932

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- Does the Minister intend to give some reasons for the deletion of the words " sponsored programmes accompanied by acknowledgments to the persons by whom they were made available," and the insertion of certain other words?

Mr Fenton - I gave the reasons when the committee re-assembled after the di nner adjournment.

Mr RIORDAN - In the original measure provision was made for the broadcasting of sponsored programmes by A class stations, but the proposed commission, which is to cost the country a large sum of money, is now to be prevented from allowing such programmes to be broadcast. If the commission is to control broadcasting, why should such restrictions be imposed? The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that the measure as originally introduced was drafted by the Government of which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) was a member, and that this Government had really been too busy to give it proper consideration before it was introduced into this chamber by the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Fenton). The Government is now endeavouring to amend it to meet the wishes of certain outside interests.

Mr Stewart - We are. trying to wash its face.

Mr RIORDAN - If that is so, the face-washing should be done at less expense to the people of Australia. Apparently this Government gives little attention to the legislation which it introduces. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that he did not know what the bill contained until it was brought before the House; but when the whips were cracked he immediately fell in behind the Government. To-day certain honorable members opposite crossed the chamber in an endeavour to keep the promises they made to the electors that if returned there would be no interference with private enterprise. We have been told that private interests should be given every opportunity to get this country out of its difficulties. Paragraphs b and c of the amendment -read - " (b) a programme supplied by any organisation, firm or person engaged in artistic, literary, musical or theatrical production or in educational pursuits ; or

(c)   a programme supplied by any organization, firm or person, provided the programme is not, in the opinion of the commission, being used as an advertisement."

There are not many firms in Australia which can afford to give sponsored programmes unless they obtain some advantage by way of an advertisement. Honorable members opposite who profess to be endeavouring to remove broadcasting from political control are now restricting the powers of the commission. The honorable member for Balaclava stated that the members of his party were not consulted before the bill was introduced, and that the Minister in charge of it was the only person who had any knowledge of its contents. Was the responsibility of piloting it through the House placed upon the Postmaster-General, because as an exmember of the Labour party, he believes in a policy of nationalization? Apparently the measure met with the approval of the Government until the representative of the Melbourne Herald, the Adelaide Advertiser and Brisbane Courier interviewed the Minister. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) said that certain representations were made on behalf of the principal newspapers in this country. I asked the Prime Minister at the time, whether the interview that he had with the chairman of the Associated Press had resulted in the dropping of the bill, and the Prime Minister replied that there was no intention of dropping the bill. He side-stepped the issue. Nevertheless the provisions of the bill relating to advertisements are being altered in accordance with the suggestions of the Melbourne Herald and the Adelaide Advertiser. Those newspapers acted in the interests of private enterprise with a view to the destruction of nationalization. The attitude of the Associated Press is in keeping with the policy of the supporters of the Government.

Mr White - The honorable member put his question to the Prime Minister some days after criticism had been levelled at the bill by members on this side of the chamber.

Mr RIORDAN - -The bill was introduced on the 10th March. The next day was private members' day and we discussed tobacco duties.We met again on the 16th March, as was stated by the righthonorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) after the bill had been, dropped.

Mr White - The right honorable member for North Sydney spoke on the 12th and 13th March.

Mr RIORDAN - It does not matter when the right honorable member for North Sydney or the honorable member himself spoke. Their policy is directly opposed to nationalization. The policy of the Melbourne Herald and the Adelaide Advertiser is to bring about the destruction of nationalization. Those newspapers used their influence to limit the scope of the National Broadcasting Commission, because both of them are operating B class stations. For that reason the supporters of the Government received telegrams instructing them to object to A class stations having anything at all to do with sponsored programmes. The Government should give the commission a free hand. If it is to be composed of business men, the broadcasting service will, no doubt, be used for educational purposes. It will not enter into violent competition with B class stations. The bill does not state to what extent the service must be used for educational purposes, but the power of the commission in regard to programmes is to be restricted under the amendment. This clause is far better as it stands.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Bell - The honorable member's time has expired.

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